Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Keep on Pluggin' Away (or... How To Turn The Corner)

My poor husband was sooooo worried about me last night. He's not a very vocal guy, so if you didn't know him well, you probably wouldn't notice that he was even the slightest bit concerned. But, I knew. He kept coming into our room, "pretending" to get stuff, or check on stuff. But really, he was checking on me. And he had just cause to worry. I've been worried, too.

This dang cold has knocked me off of my feet. LITERALLY.

Yesterday was no exception. My mother (of all people) took my girls downstairs to play in our driveway. They were downstairs for quite some time, leaving me alone to rest. When they finally came upstairs for good, they were wet from playing with the hose, and tired.

I dried off my littlest little and put clean clothes on her. She was so tired she insisted on lying down without me drying her (soaking wet) hair off a bit. So, I towel dried it as much as I could, and shut off her ceiling fan completely. She was out like a light in about 10 minutes.

I took complete advantage of the situation, and went back to bed myself. I was sooooo sleepy, from coughing my fool head off and dealing with a raging sore throat for two days, that I wasn't sleeping well. I fell asleep about 10 minutes after she did.

My husband came home about an hour later, and that was the first time he came in to check on me. He came in again, about an hour later, to check in on me again, under the ruse of asking "what's for dinner?". (Thank GOODNESS we had enough leftover lasagna from the night before that he could re-heat for the kids and him... all I wanted to do was sleep).

He checked in on me a few more times, sometimes stroking my face, or one of my feet, sometimes pretending to do something or look for stuff.

I forced myself to get up so I could take some more medicine. When I finally emerged from our bedroom, it was 10:40 p.m. I'd been asleep for almost SEVEN HOURS! No wonder he was so worried about me!

I took my medicine, sat up with my husband for awhile, and then headed back to bed. I was still pretty bleary-eyed and wanted to rest some more.

Whatever this crud's trying like HELL to win the fight. Which is okay, as long as I can ultimately win the war.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Throat's Better... but Now I've Got Another Quandry

So... my sore throat finally "broke" earlier today (and believe me... I'm INCREDIBLY thankful for that! It was so bad that my back molars hurt, and the pain went all the way up to the bottoms of my earlobes! YIKES!). But, my new predicament is this: Every time I eat something, it makes the sides of my throat all scratchy, and I wind up nearly coughing up a half a lung!

I've been taking my inhalers regularly (I'm asthmatic), and taking cough syrup every four hours or so, too. I've also been taking my husband's prescription strength Ibuprofen (oh, hush... he never uses it!), and he even found some perfectly fine, leftover amoxicillin (he's so bad... he only takes the stuff until he feels better, then he stops -- which actually worked out in my favor this time, but I still don't like him doing it), so I just began taking those, rather than try and squeeze in a doctor's appointment with at least two kids in tow (and for those of you who've done that before, you KNOW what I'm talking about!).

I've been lounging in bed for the better part of two days, and not feeling the least bit fidgety about it yet, which is a clear indicator that my body's still not functioning right. But, I believe, as of this morning, I've turned a corner. At least I hope so.

Hopefully, I'll be back to my old writing self soon. Thanks to all of my blogger buds for my get well wishes. You guys are all so sweet! :0*

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Am I Sick, or is That Just A Wad of Cotton in My Throat?

You know that feeling when you swallow a big hunk of chicken, and it gets caught in your throat just a bit too long before finally being sent down the shoot? That rough, hurting feeling is what the left side of my throat has felt like for the past two days. It KILLS to swallow. Which, of course, makes me want to swallow more.

I've been in bed for most of the day, and snoozing off and on. I so wanted to leave this house today (I realized today that I haven't gone out anywhere since this past Monday. Pathetic.), but I don't even have the energy to take a shower, which I desperately need. I just give myself a monkey bath later on, I guess.

Okay... back to bed. I just wanted to let you all know that I'm not leaving you hanging on purpose. I promise.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

We Interrupt This Broadcast... for a Little Vent

Okay.... so I know I've got you guys on pins and needles, and I'm sorry about that. Seems that I contracted the cold and crud my daughters have had all week long, and I feel like sh*t on a stick.

Does that make any difference to my darling daughters this morning? The same daughters that I took care of when they were sick. You're darn tootin' it doesn't. Not one little speck. They're both working really hard to pull out all the stops this morning... fighting with each other, spilling raspberry juice all over the dining room table (and a shirt, which I had to promptly rinse out in the bathroom sink...that stuff stains like nobody's business!), and leaving their trail of mess all over the house. Ugh.

Think anyone will notice if I go back to bed and hide under the covers?


I'm going back to bed in a few.

I promise to continue with my saga really soon. Maybe this afternoon, if I feel better. Or, if I can pawn my daughters off to the highest bidder. Or both.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Things Just Went From Bad To Worse. Much, Much Worse. (Part 4)

So it was decided. My sister would go back to the city to keep my mother company while my father was recuperating from his surgery, and she'd send my brother Jackie back to recoup some of his vacation. He, Pam, and the kids, just like my husband and I, arrived during the middle week. And, with all of the upset over my dad, we hadn't done much "vacationing" yet.

With the discussion over, and plans firmed up, we let the girls pick out one of the many kids movies they'd brought along with them, popped a big bowl of popcorn for everyone, and settled in to watch the movie.

About 15 minutes into it, the clunker of a phone rang in the living room. I think we'd all forgotten that there was actually one in there, and we jumped a mile when it rang. Then we all looked at each other for a moment, knowing that whatever it was, it probably wasn't good.

My sister picked up the phone. She mouthed the words "It's Jackie" before listening to whatever update my brother had to deliver. My sister's normally a real talker -- you'd be hard-pressed to get off the phone with her without having at least a 20 minute conversation. So, when she sat, almost in complete silence, listening to the information filling up her ear, and her head, and turning completely pale in the process.... I knew it wasn't good at all. It wracked me with even more fear when she went from being a motionless receiver (except for the occasional, "Uh huh" and "Yes" she sputtered out here and there), to a woman wrought with sorrow and pain, as she began sobbing almost uncontrollably while listening to the rest of my brother's information.

Not good. AT ALL.

She finally croaked out a tiny little, "Okay, see you then. 'Bye." and placed the receiver gently back on its cradle. It was only then that she came back from whatever world she'd placed herself on -- that single, solitary world of "bad information" that no one really likes to set foot in -- and realized there were five pairs of eyes looking at her, waiting for her to relay the (NOT GOOD) information that she'd just received.

She wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands, and told the girls to go upstairs and play for a bit. That everything was okay, but she just wanted to talk to the grownups for right now. Danielle and Jacqueline hesitated at first -- as young as they were at the time, they realized they'd just been given a big load of manure, and wanted to stick around to find out if their beloved Grampie was okay.

"Sure", my sister said, "He'll be fine. He just has a few problems that need to be worked through, and I have to talk to the grownups here about it for now, okay?"

"Go ahead upstairs" Pam told them. I think she felt, as well as I did, that somehow those "problems" my sister talked of couldn't be worked through, no matter how hard we wanted them to.

The girls dragged themselves up the stairs, and started playing with something in their bedroom above our heads. Lord, how I wished I could have gone upstairs with them, happily playing, and oblivious to all of life's miseries and woes. It was times like these when being a child was definitely a blessing.

My sister sat in silence for a few moments, trying to collect her thoughts (and probably trying to fight the urge to take off running like a raving lunatic and screaming like a banshee). The suspense of the moment was almost too much for me to bear. I was just about to pop out of my seat and shake her by the shoulders when she opened her mouth to speak.

What she said made me regret ever wanting her to hurry up about it.

"Jackie said that the doctors at Mt. Auburn thought it best that they operate on Dad right away. They concurred with the doctors at the clinic here, and agreed that he probably had a really badly bulging hiatal hernia.

"When they opened him up, they found it was no hernia at all. His stomach is completely distended, and his liver is full of cancer. There was nothing more they could do, but sew him back up.

"They're giving him 3 months, tops."

After she uttered that last sentence, she slowly lifted her body off of the chair, walked past all of us, through the kitchen, and out through the sliding glass doors onto the back deck. My sister was "Daddy's Little Girl", and had always been the apple of his eye. I didn't much mind, 'cause I'm the baby in the family, so I got spoiled by everyone. But Margie... Margie always had this special, cherished relationship with my father. To find out that her knight in shining armour, her hero, was nearing the end of his life -- it was just too much for her to digest.

The silence in the living room was palpable. You could cut it with a knife. I hadn't even realized that my eyes were streaming down tears. I turned to my husband and said, "Let's pack up and go home."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some Stayed, Some Went....and Everything Went Spiralling Downward (Part 3)

I tiptoed into a room that my husband and I finally claimed (after another brother and his wife went back home when their week-long stay was over -- before this fiasco had ever begun to unfold), and quietly got ready for bed.

The room we were in was huge, and yet there were only two twin beds in it. Two TEENY twin beds. My guess is, that many a young child camped out on the floor, scooped up by a slippery, warm, down-filled sleeping bag. I wanted to feel that kind of warmth at that particular moment; to be nestled within something, and to have something or someone revive my heart and keep the chill away that was invading my very soul. I felt so lost, and so helpless.

I got up off of the teeny twin bed, and went to the far end of the room. Although it was probably around 3:00 a.m. at that point, and my body was physically exhausted, my brain was swirling with way too many thoughts and worst case scenarios to let me shut down enough to sleep. And, since my husband was sawing a serious pile of wood in his own teeny twin bed, I didn't want my rustling and fidgeting, and general restlessness, to wake him up.

I sat down in the big, handmade Adirondack chair in the corner of the room. It was fitted with a really lovely, soft cushion, and felt like a beautifully worn in glove underneath me. Someone had enough smarts to place this chair beneath the window, which had the most beautiful view of the marshes and the vast stretch of sky. It was a clear night, and there were 56-gazillion stars. I strained my eyes to pick out the biggest, plumpest, shiniest one and made a wish. If there was ever a time when that little-girl promise needed to come true, now was certainly it.

I began to pray. I prayed to God that the worst was not happening to this man.... a man who'd done so much to be so strong for all of us. I prayed that this was somehow something a lot less menial than my worry-wart mind was trying to convince me of. I prayed that my dad would be allowed to stay with all of us for a long time to come. And, I prayed that nothing would hurt him any worse than he was hurting earlier that evening. I honestly didn't know if I could muster up enough courage and strength to endure it if it got any worse for him.

I must have dozed off in that chair, counting those stars, and making my wishes. I woke up to bright sunshine streaming on my face. At some point in the night, my husband got up and pulled the blankets off of my teeny twin bed and put them on me. I guess he felt, too, that some things were better left alone.

I had no idea what time it was, but I noticed the sound....or lack thereof....right away. When you're staying in a house that's chock full of people, you tend to notice when there's NO noise much faster than when there's a buzz of people all around you. I sat up, allowed myself to stretch for a brief moment (just enough to get the kinks out... there were no indulgences allowed on that day), got up and bolted down the stairs.

The house appeared empty.

My heart sank even lower.

The last thing I'd said to my dad before we parted ways the night before was, "Dad, just promise me if you don't feel any better in the morning that you'll just suck it in and go see a doc so Ma doesn't drive us all ballistic?" He let out this tired little laugh, and said, "Okay, Cheryl. If I'm feeling this bad tomorrow, I will go. I promise."

I'd half hoped that it was all a terrible, terrible dream. That the wonky position I'd put my tired body in in that chair made me dream a funky, horrible dream, and that I'd wake to the smells of coffee brewing, bacon and sausage sizzling, and eggs cooking. I'd hear the sounds of the adults engaged in various conversations, and the kids playing a game of tag, or dodgeball, or street hockey out in street in front of the house.

But it was quiet. Too quiet. Deathly quiet. And that made the reality of the situation just reach up and smack me in the face all over again. Dad had kept his promise, like he always did, and the caravan took him off to the clinic to find out what could possibly be wrong.

I walked out to the kitchen, and made myself the first of what must have been 10,000 glasses of iced coffee in those coming days, and sat down at the farmhouse table, in the very seat my father occupied several hours before. It was then that I saw the note, written in my sister's perfect Catholic school girl handwriting:

"Jackie, Ma and I went into Dennis with Dad to take him to the clinic. Alison and Pam took the kids down to the beach. We'll be back as soon as we can. Margie."

The note had an air of lightness to it, that felt totally wrong for the situation. It was as if my older sister was in complete denial about the possibility of there being anything tragically wrong with my father. Maybe she was right. Maybe I was the one that was worrying too much. Maybe she knew something I didn't. And maybe she was Chicken Little, and the sky was falling.

I went back upstairs to my bedroom, sat on my teeny twin bed, and began to get my bathing suit on. My husband heard me walking around, and rolled over to greet me. "Any news?" he asked. "Yeah. My Dad did go to the clinic, after all. I have no idea when they left, and so I have no idea when they'll be back."

I finished getting my suit on, and started packing a small bag for the day. I asked my husband if he wanted to come with me, and he said yes, and he began searching our suitcase to find his swimsuit, too. I added another towel, his sunglasses and a baseball hat in the bag.

I knew I didn't have to pack a lunch... my sister-in-law, who's almost all Italian, probably packed enough food to feed the entire array of beachcombers who wandered down to the beach that day. When she stressed, she cooked, she baked, she ate. It was her thing.

I threw my hair up in a ponytail, handed the bag off to my husband, and walked down the stairs and out into the bright sunshine. We opted to walk to the beach, not saying much the entire time. I was afraid to talk about my Dad, 'cause I didn't want to start crying, and I didn't see any point in talking about much else. I don't think my husband wanted to upset me either. So the entire walk to the beach was silent, except for the "click click click" sounds that my flip flops made as I took each step.

My heart lifted a little when I spotted my nieces, knee deep in the sand, working on the moat to their fairly elaborate sandcastle. They ran up to me when they spotted me, squealing with delight. "Cheryl! Wanna come help us build?" They knew I was a sucker for their big blue eyes and chubby cheeks. "Sure," I said. "I'll be happy to." Maybe if I dug a hole big enough, I could jump in and disappear.

My sister-in-law caught my glance, and uttered one word: "Anything?" I just shook my head no, biting the inside of my mouth to keep from spewing a fresh display of tears.

We spent most of the day at the beach. We finished our sandcastle (a masterpiece), and then the girls set their sights on my husband, who, before long, was buried up to his neck in the sand. We then went to play in the cold salt water for awhile, before coming back to the blankets and the feast that Pam brought with her. Strangely enough, I was hungry. It was salt water air does to you. Makes you hungry.... and tired. At that point, I didn't need much help with either.

After lunch, my husband took the kids off for a walk down the shore, to hunt for shells.

It was only then when my sister-in-law felt comfortable in talking about the craziness that had evolved over the past 12 hours. She wanted me to recount what had happened before she and my brother showed up, and asked me if there were any health issues that I knew of. She said, "You think someone would come down here when they got back, to let us know they were home?" It was then that I realized I hadn't left a note of my own on the kitchen table. I said, "I would like to think so, but maybe we should start heading back after the kids get back...just in case."

And with that, we got up and started shaking sand out of everything and packing it away. We'd take turns bringing things to my sister-in-law's car, leaving one of us behind to watch out for the shell-gatherers.

When my husband and the girls came back, we reviewed their bounty, then told them it was time to head back. Instead of bawking or crying, the girls got really quiet. It was if even those little babies understood the complete brevity of the situation.

We arrived back at the cottage soon after. It was still empty. I didn't know whether to feel relief or frustration. Since this was the age before cell phones, all we could do was wait.

We all got washed up, and then my sister-in law and I started dinner while my niece and my husband played a board game with the girls, and the baby crawled playfully around them. Every once in awhile, we'd hear one of the girls shriek, "Michael! Give me that piece back!" Even at a year old, he was already a little stinker (and he still is).

About a half hour before dinner was ready, the front door opened, and my sister walked in with her two girls, and bags full of all the fixin's to make hot fudge sundaes. It was quickly obvious that my father and mother weren't with her.

As she was putting all of the ice cream in the freezer, she told my sister-in-law and me all that had happened with our dad at the clinic. Of course, because it was an ER, he had to wait forever. My sister said that at one point, he grew so impatient, that he and my mother practically got into a screaming match in the waiting room. He wanted out of there, and she was making damned sure he going anywhere but on an examining table.

He finally got seen, not by one, but two doctors. They deduced that he had a hiatal hernia, and a pretty bad one at that, and told him that he needed to go back to the city and have surgery pretty urgently, before it burst. So, my mom, dad, brother and brother-in-law headed back towards Boston, to meet with doctors at Mt. Auburn Hospital (my mother's preference). His surgery was tentatively scheduled for the following morning.

I can't begin to tell you what kind of weight was lifted off of my shoulders when I heard the news. Thank GOD... it was only a hernia! Granted, it was a doozie, but it definitely explained all of his recent symptoms.

We sat around in the living room after dinner, enjoying our sundaes and trying to figure out who was going back into Boston in the morning.

Mom and Dad....and The Beginning of The End. (Part 2)

Fast forward 42 years. My mom was 58, and my dad was 62. He'd been complaining (for quite some time) of stomach issues that he couldn't quite shake. He'd even been calling off of work here and there because he was feeling so ill (something he NEVER did).

We all should have seen the signs then, but none of us dared to even begin to stick that whole mess under a microscope and examine it for what it really could be. I think we all just assumed he was stressed out at work (Dad's current boss was a real drill-sergeant, and was driving him three seconds shy of completely batty!), and he was carrying it all in his stomach. I can remember very clearly talking to my dad several times about getting checked for a possible ulcer. Little did I know. Little did anyone know.

That summer, we all did what we usually do... we got together as one BIG family, and took a vacation together. My parents always rented a place near the ocean, and all of us would come and go, as work and vacation time permitted. It was so crowded the first night my then-husband and I arrived, that we'd wound up sacking out on lawn chairs in the garage! I kid you not.

We'd arrived on the weekend between the first and second weeks, and I noticed right away that my dad wasn't looking so hot. He'd been complaining of yet another stomach ache, and was drinking -- A LOT of beer -- to pacify himself.

One night my husband and I had come from dinner, and as usual, Dad was sitting in the living room, watching some sporting event. One of my older nieces was sitting in the room with him, chatting him up about the different plays of the game. I went out into the big, farm-style kitchen, and she followed behind me.

"I don't think Grampie's feeling so well," she started. "He's been complaining that his stomach hurts all night, and he doesn't look too well." I peeked around the corner and looked at him. She was right.

She was babysitting her newest cousin for my brother and sister-in-law, and wanted to go out with some of her friends who were staying at another house close by. She was always one of those kids who had a really special relationship with my Dad, and she was afraid to leave him alone. I told her to go ahead and go out with her friends. I'd hang out and watch the baby, and keep an eye on Grampie, too.

As the evening wore on, I could tell my dad was becoming more and more restless. He kept walking in circles, from the bathroom, to the kitchen, back to his chair, all the while mumbling under his breath that his stomach was killing him. Then, without warning, he darted as fast as he could to the kitchen sink, holding his hand to his mouth in a futile attempt to keep the bursting contents from thrusting out before he was in front of an appropriate vessel. He made it to the sink just in time to vomit profusely.

This one act made me realize just HOW sick my father might be. You have to understand.... this man was one of THE strongest men I knew. He NEVER complained about anything, NEVER admitted to an illness, and NEVER, EVER let it defeat him like that, especially in FRONT of anyone. That, to a man like my father, was a cardinal sin.

After his somewhat violent expulsion, he looked as if he'd shrunk about three sizes. His embarrassment was all-encompassing, and he immediately began apologizing to me for allowing me to see this particular brand of "weakness". I told him, as gently as I could, "It's okay, Dad. Everyone gets sick. It's no big deal." But, all of my gentle assurance didn't mean a lick. He was still just as embarrassed about it, and I could tell.

At that particular point in time, several other members of the family began trailing in from wherever it was they'd decided to go. One of my brothers and his wife came in first, just as my father wretched in the sink for a second time. My brother, who was definitely cut from the same cloth as my Dad, quickly assessed what he thought the situation might be, then ran back out to the store, and came back with an arsenal of Pepto Bismol, warm ginger ale, and Tums. He gave my Dad a dosage of Pepto, which he promptly vomited back up in a big pink spray all over the sink. I told him to leave him alone and let him keep his stomach empty. He told me (as a big brother usually does) to mind my own business. We started bickering back and forth about what my Dad's current health plan should be, when my mom walked into the house with my sister right behind her, fresh on the heels of a winning night at Bingo.

My mom's happiness over the extra cash she'd just obtained turned to extreme worry very quickly, as the events of the evening were unfolded to her. Our vacation spot turned into a triage facility, as my brother and I quickly and efficiently let my mother in on all that had happened with my dad up to that point. My oldest niece had come home early (she wasn't enjoying herself too much with her girlfriends; she was too worried about Grampie), and relayed her observations, too.

The rest played out like a scene from a movie.... all of the children, husbands, wives, and grandchildren who were present, were standing at the enormous threshold that divides the living room from the kitchen, watching (but pretending not to) our mom/mother-in-law/grandmother take delicate and precise steps up to her husband, who was lurched over the kitchen sink, vomiting up his shoes, and unable to remove himself from that particular spot.

She rested her hand on his back, and started rubbing gently. The simplicity of that single, loving gesture, shared between two people that had lived close to a lifetime together, caused the tears to well up in my eyes. It was then that the strength that I'd tried so hard to maintain just melted away in me. I instantly became "the baby" girl, and wanted nothing more than to have this whole mess just go away, and have everything that was right and good about us all being together in this house return.

I somehow felt safer, though. My mom was here. She would take care of him now.

My dad's stomach finally settled enough (or emptied out enough, whatever the case may be) for him to be able to sit and relax for a bit. As was customary in our many previous evenings in the house, someone picked up a deck of cards that was left in the middle of the farm table, and began a card game. As people entered and exited the kitchen, and various bodies vacated and filled the seats around the table, different games transpired throughout the remainder of the evening.

Eventually, everyone pooped out, and called it a day. We'd decided, during one of our many, many hands, that Dad was to be taken to a local clinic the next morning. It was also decided who would go with him, and who would stay behind to help watch the children. I was elected to be one of the babysitters.

As the card players weaned off, and everybody started retiring to their respective rooms, with their brains full of what could be ahead of them in the day ahead, my dad and I were the only two left playing a game of Rummy 500 at the table.

I was afraid to leave him. I was afraid to end the evening, knowing, deep in my heart, that this would be the last night of normalcy. Somehow I knew, even then, that after my dad was seen by a doctor the next day, our lives as we knew them would be turned upside down. We were finally forced to look into that microscope. And what we saw wasn't pretty.

He asked me to stay with him, too. I think he knew that something horrid was about to unfold, and I think he wanted this last night to be the last wonderful memory he remembered. I was happy to oblige.

So, I forced myself to stay awake, and play cards, and talk with my Dad. I stayed at that table with him, hand for hand, and match for match, until he finally folded, both literally and figuratively. He said he thought he was tired enough to try and go to sleep, and he thanked me for keeping him company.

I got up, and began shutting everything down, and I watched him shuffle off to bed. As I stood there, in the near dark, finally able to let the tears I'd struggled to hold onto loose, I knew that my wonderful, sheltered, carefree, childhood life was over as I knew it.

All About Mother (Part 1)

A few posts ago, I hinted at the fact that my mother has been very clingy and needy lately. I must correct myself by saying that's a MILD understatement.

There have been a couple of recent developments with her, that I have to say have got me a bit concerned....not only for her well-being, but for mine, as well.

You know what? Before I continue to go into wretched detail about this whole mess, I suggest that you stop reading, go get yourself a beverage and/or some food, get a GOOD comfy chair, and come back when you're ready, 'cause this one's gonna take awhile.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

All set now?


Now, where was I?

Well....I've heard say that the best place to begin is the beginning, so I guess I'll just start this story there. (And I promise I won't go into every single explicit detail, but I'll add enough to make you readers understand what life has been like for my mother up to this point).

My mother was born in 1930...plopped somewhere in the middle of seven kids, and born to parents who, from what I can gather, never really loved one another. There was a lot of emotional and financial turmoil in the house she grew up in. Her parents' dislike of each other became strong enough for them to eventually divorce (a BIG "no-no" back in the day), and Grandmother moved out and moved on with her life. Apparently, she was such a hard-ass that none of the children wanted to move out with her, opting instead to live with their father.

Grandmother also didn't seem to put up too much fuss with this decision, and she went on to make a whole new life for herself, eventually re-marrying.

Meanwhile, my Grandfather was struggling to raise seven children on his own, and, along with everyone else, was hit quite hard financially as a result of The Great Depression. He went from being an incredibly wealthy man, to one who found it a daily struggle to make enough money to put food on the table consistently. Eventually, Social Services intervened (there was no such thing as "single parenting" back then), and was about to farm out several of the children to foster homes, including my mother, who remembers clearly being taken to meet a man named Alex, and standing on the front porch of his home, and gaping up at the huge pillars that helped to support the second floor, while he, my Grandfather, and the SSI worker discussed her plight.

I guess, at that point, my grandmother decided to move back in for the "sake of the children". Her second husband had died, and she took her place back in the home as mother to these children, so my grandfather could go find work and the children could be cared for at home.

Details of all of this are very sketchy, at best.... my mother tends not to elaborate on any element of her childhood. She only gives the vaguest of impressions, but will always say "We had it rough".

My mom, at around the age of 6 or 7 (circa 1936).

She makes no bones about saying that she detested her mother, though, and hated it when she moved back in with them. She adored her father, and I guess this move rattled him immensely. He was a proud man, and to have to resort to asking for help from a woman who'd "abandoned" him was probably almost too much for him to bear. But, it was either that, or have all of his beloved children taken away from him, quite possibly for good. He must have felt he had no choice.

She escaped from that kind of harsh, loveless, emotionally wrecked environment, when she and my dad eloped when she was 17 and he was 21. Her mother was furious to find out this information, and threatened to annul the marriage. My mother told her to go ahead... she'd just wait until she turned 18 and re-marry him anyway, and continued that if she did such a thing, my grandmother would never see her, or any future grandbabies, again. My stoic grandmother let the marriage stay, but made no bones about telling my mother how much she hated my dad, as often as she could.

A year later, my mom and dad started spitting out babies, having four kids in four years. Their fifth child came five years later, and their sixth (me) came seven years later. She had a difficult labor and delivery with me, and after three days of struggling with the whole process, she was finally able to deliver me. Soon after, her doctor approached her with some "bad news". He told her her body would no longer allow her to bear children. (Every single time she tells this story, she also adds that she didn't think this was "bad news" at all... she was totally elated). Years later, when I was a Mama myself, and I understood more fully the complexities of the female anatomy, I questioned her, and more specifically, her doctor, on the details surrounding this outcome. I asked, "So, what happened to make him say this to you?" "I have no idea, Cheryl", was her reply, "We didn't ask questions back then!" "Well.." I pressed, "Did your uterus fall out???" "No! Of course not!" "But, there has to be some rational explanation for his diagnosis!" "Cheryl, I honestly could care less how he came to believe I couldn't get pregnant anymore... I was just so happy that I couldn't have anymore babies that the reason why didn't matter!"

That one baffles me, to this day. I know, for sure, if my doctor ever told me I couldn't carry babies anymore....even if it prompted me to do cartwheels up and down his office suite, I'd still be curious as to the reasons my body took this new "turn".

Wouldn't you?

Anyway... I digress.

So, this woman quickly shifted gears from being someone's daughter (for which she had a lot of responsibilities), to someone's wife, and then someone's mother (again...lots of responsibilities). As a young couple with four babies, their financial situation wasn't a whole lot brighter than the one they'd both left when they went and eloped. I have no idea how, but they both made it through somehow.

My mom and dad, with my sister Margie (circa 1955). My mother had to work an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift for three months to be able to afford the First Communion dress my sister's sportin'. My mother said "It was all worth it though... she looked so beautiful."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tired Tuesday, After A Day of Changes

I have no idea why, but I'm completely wiped today. I think it's my impending "womanly time" that's making me feel like I've been scraped off the asphalt after being nailed by a Mack truck.

I think it also has something to do with my mother, who's been very clingy and needy lately, and is acting like a fourth child. It's a long story, but the moral of it is that it's never a good thing.

But, I'm doing my fair best to plow through it, getting the mounds of laundry done that I need to (I swear my laundry breeds like rabbits in our hamper while we're asleep!), and cleaning up around here, so it doesn't look like who did it and ran.

My son has it made this summer. I wish, for at least a few days, I could switch places with him. I sent up my oldest daughter to go rouse him out of bed... after all, it WAS 1:30 in the afternoon! It's partly my fault, though... I didn't have her hightail it upstairs at, oh, say 9:30 to get him up and at 'em. And I KNEW he'd be pulling a late-nighter after we took a run to K-Mart so he could buy a new headset for his 360. I'm sure he and all of his dueling buddies (his "clan", as he calls them) were up until the wee small hours of the morning. Demolishing evil forces, and saving mankind are hard work, after all.

On the ride there, I had him call one of his best buds, to see if he'd like to tag along. I figured that we'd be driving right by his house anyway, so maybe they'd like to hang out and act like goofy teenagers together. Here's the gist of the conversation:

N: "Hey"
(to which his friend must have replied "hey" back. So profound, aren't they?)
N: "My mom's taking me to K-Mart to buy a new headset. Wanna come?"
(to which, I believe his friend joked with my son about his blatant stupidity on breaking his old headset in the first place.)
N, to me: "Corey says you're a good mom for taking me."
Me: "Yeah, especially when you were such a nimrod for getting your plug stuck in the thing in the first place!"
N: (Repeats what I said to his friend, then shouts) "And DON'T respond the way I think you're going to respond! Okay, see ya. 'Bye."

At that point he turned to me and said something so completely off-balance that it took all I had to keep from turning the car off the road.

"In case you're wondering, I was expecting Corey to say, 'That's what she said' as his response. That's why I told him not to say it."

I had to catch my breath for a minute, and really remember that this was a young man I was talking to... not my powered butt, sweet cheeked little baby with his face full of dimples and that humungus, goofy, toothless grin. I turned to him and said, "I don't want you thinking those kinds of things... you're too young." His response made me white-knuckle the steering wheel even tighter.

"Too late, Mom. I already do."

I so felt like someone punched me in the gut and knocked the wind right out of me, that I tried to control the tone of my voice, so it didn't come out as a high pitched squeal when I spoke. I said, "Well, I suppose you are old enough to have lustful thoughts about girls. But, you're way too young to ACT on any of them just yet."

"I know, Mom!" he said, all embarrassed. Which was a good sign.

I have to say, I'm really proud of myself with the way I handled that conversation! :)

Earlier in the day yesterday, I took my oldest daughter and my son to the Club to hang out for a bit. I got tired of seeing both of them wandering aimlessly around the house. My daughter squealed with delight when I told her to go put her bathing suit on; that she could go to free swim, as well. She LOVES playing in the pool, and it was so stifling out yesterday that I figured it would be a good thing for her to do.

I pulled up to the front of the Club, and my daughter bounded out of the car, with her $2.00 for her snack and drink in one hand, and her membership card in the other. She said to me, "Mom, can you wait one minute? I think I just saw my new friend, and I want you to meet her." What??? Did she say her???? You have to daughter is a self-proclaimed, all-encompassing, bonafide tomboy. I think it came as a package deal, seeing as how she and my son were each other's constant playmates for the first six or seven years of my oldest daughter's life. She wants NOTHING to do with anything pink or pretty. There are no Barbies within a 10-mile radius of her room. She's all about Pokemon, and Power Rangers, and Transformers, and messed up hair hanging all in her face, and playing in dirt, and digging up worms, and wearing the most mis-matched outfits she can find, and climbing trees, and roughhousing, and hanging out with BOYS.

So, to have her even suggest that she's befriended a girl... well, that's definitely a recent development! She brought her friend over to the car to say hi, and I thought she was as cute as a button. A little shy, but friendly enough to be willing to make small talk with me. After a brief bit of politeness, they scampered off together, hand in hand, and I could hear my daughter saying, "C'mon... my mom is letting me go to free swim today...let's go play in the pool!", and a pang hit my heart so hard, that I didn't really expect it.

I wondered how long it would take before she'd go running off hand in hand with a boy instead, saying "My Mom said I could stay out until 11:00"? It was just one of those trajectory thoughts that passes through almost every mom's brains, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. My tomgirl is starting to change, both in physical appearance, and in her preference in style and interests. She's getting more into clothes. She's starting to care about what her hair looks like. And she's hanging out with GIRLS, who are inevitably going to rub off on her. I shudder at the thought.

I'll tell you one thing. If I have to bypass the boy section in a toy store, and head straight for the Barbie aisle whenever I'm out with her, then I'll know I'm in BIG trouble.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Funnies, Part II (or, a Five-Minute, Hysterically Funny Conversation with my Little Smarty-Butt)

I was all cozy in my bed, watching "The Langoliers" on TV, when my little one climbed up next to me, with her ever-lovin' "good girl" calendar, clutched tightly in one of her pudgy little hands.

She got so close to my face (as she often likes to do, especially when she feels like she's got something gut-shattering important to tell you) that we were practically nose to nose. Here's how our five minute conversation unfolded:

S: "Mama, I don't want this calendar anymore."
(Mind you, this sentence was made even more profound by the fact that she had her best, pitifully-sad-puppy-dog-face on.)
Me: "But why, sweetie?"
S: "Because I don't."
Me: "Why don't you want your calendar anymore? You and I picked out the Belle picture together, and it's so pretty."
S: "I know. I don't want anymore stickers."
Me: "Why don't you want anymore stickers?"
S: "Just 'cause."
Me: "Is it because it's too hard for you to be good enough all day to earn one?"
S: "Uh huh."
Me: "Well, I really think you should try hard to be good anyway, but you don't have to have the calendar in your room anymore, if you don't want to. But that'll mean no treats, either."
S: "Okay, Mama."

And with that, she was off like a shot. Probably to hunt down her older sister and unleash all of the mischief she'd been holding up inside her for three whole days.

My Smarty-Butt is just too darn funny sometimes.

Sunday Funnies (or.. Groovin' on a Sunday Afternoon)

So here we all are, on a rainy, gloomy Sunday afternoon. Just hanging around the house because it's either been scorching hot, or raining down cats and dogs, with thunder and lightning that I don't want to be anywhere near (in fact, we're in the midst of a thunderstorm right now, and I'm surprised I'm not up to my eyeballs in bed covers!).

My kids are insanely bored, and frankly.... so am I. But, with only a half a tank of gas, limited funds, an the ridiculously high heat and humidity we've had around here... well, our options are pretty sparse.

I did get out for a bit yesterday. I ran to the bank to deposit our insurance reimbursement check that came in the mail yesterday, and went to the grocery store to get potatoes for our yummy dinner last night. I made meatloaf (or, as my littlest little calls it, "meatlove"... I personally like her title better!), sour cream mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob... all made possible by our ever-cranking a/c. Can't WAIT to see our electric bill next month ::note the sarcasm::!

My son came downstairs from his "Den of Inequity", and announced to me that he wanted to go to GameStop to buy a new microphone for his XBox 360 Live. It appeared as if he broke his old one, and the explanation varies, depending on who you talk to. He told me that, when his "computer" lags, he typically unplugs the headset from the console, then plugs it back in. When he did it yesterday, he jammed the plug into the console, and now he can't get it out. My oldest daughter later informed me that he told her that she made him so mad by playing with his Guitar Hero guitar (when he'd asked her not to) that he jammed the plug into the console too hard, and when he tried to pull it back out, the head of the plug came loose and got stuck in his console. Of course, he added it was "all her fault" that the thing is now broken. Ehem.... clarification here, mister... it's all YOUR fault for being way too hard on your game system, regardless of the reason why!

So, he came trotting down the stairs, with his halo polished bright and shiny, and mosied on over to me, asking me basically if I'd drop whatever I was doing and drive him to the mall, and essentially BUY HIM a new headpiece.

Uhm.... WRONG!

I explained to my clearly demented 13-year-old son that it is NOT my life's ambition to chauffeur him around and dole out cash on stupid crap that I could care less about, especially when it was his fault that he broke the thing in the first place! I told him if he wants a new headset, HE'S to pay for it, not me. He then chimed in with his "Plan B" (always the strategist, that boy of mine). He wanted me to take him to the bank, so he could close out his savings account (which only has $35 dollars in it, because he keeps dipping into it for all these games and game systems that he "has" to have), and then he'd have the money to buy his new headpiece.

I think it was about that time when I did my very best Linda Blair impersonation. My head started spinning around in circles, and I vaguely remember a trickle of pea soup trailing out of the sides of my mouth. I told him that, even if I could help him to take out the remainder of his savings account (which I can't, because his father's the co-signer of that account, not me), I absolutely would NOT do it. I know we're hard up against it now, but I'd really like to think that sometime in the near future, I'd be able to start putting something back into it again, so we could build his account back up. And, when he got a JOB, he'd be able to do the same. I would not be even REMOTELY willing to close out his savings account for something so trivial as an accessory for his stupid game!

He skulked away from me, and disappeared back up into his cave, probably cursing me up, down, and sideways the whole way there.

My oldest daughter is still "on punishment" for the catastrophe she called her room. She FINALLY got everything clean (and whattya know... she actually has a FLOOR!), and I told her, if she kept her room clean for an entire week, I'd allow her to have her TV back. So, to compensate for her lack of white noise, she's been plopping herself down on a chair or the couch in the living room, curling up into a nice little comfy ball, and falling asleep down here. One of us will wake her, and prompt her to go upstairs to bed. She'll stay up there for about 15 minutes, and then appear back downstairs, and the whole episode will then repeat itself all over again.

Yesterday, I spent an exorbitant amount of time (probably more than I would even care to admit!) on here, reading through a new blog buddies love story between her Rancher man and her (she's a phenomenal writer, and quite the hoot. If you want to go check her out, click on "Ree" on my friends' list). That left my husband in full charge of the remote in the living room. And, that's not necessarily a good thing, because he's a "clicker"... if he's not even remotely interested (sorry... no pun intended!) in the TV program he's landed on, he'll quickly change the channel. While "surfing" my daughter caught a mere glimpse of something that she really wanted to watch. She came to me and asked if she could please go watch it in my bedroom. Those big, ice-blue eyes just slay me every time, so I caved and said yes.

After I peeled my hind side off of this chair, I went into the bathroom to hose my tired, weary and soaked body off in the shower. It took me about 20 minutes to complete all of my "girly work", and in the time it took for me to exit the steamy bathroom, she was completely and totally sacked out on my side of the bed.

There's still something so heartwarming about seeing my babies sleeping. I couldn't bear to disturb her, plus I need about 3498382749237432432 hours for my hair to completely dry anyway (I have the thickest hair, and for those who don't... hey... God had to bless me with something, so he gave me thick hair, beautiful babies, and a good sense of humor! :), so I came back out here to continue reading the self-proclaimed Harlequin Romance that is on PioneerWoman's blog.

Husband started dozing off and on in the living room chair, his snoring sounding like an idling motorcycle (oh, sure... chuckle all you want, but YOU try sleeping next to it some night!), and when he finally roused himself enough to get ready for bed, I knew it was time for me to get this hair dry once and for all, and hit the hay myself. I let him pry our daughter out of our bed, because honestly, I don't ever have the heart to do it, and then I went in, dried my hair, caught up in watching "Drive-Ins, Diners, and Dives" on the FoodNetwork. That Guy Fieri...he's such a hoot!

My littlest little is still struggling with a cold/allergies. She's actually started complaining a little that her throat hurts and her left ear hurts, so I think that warrants a trip to her pediatrician's office tomorrow. Sigh.

Last night, because she wasn't feeling all that well, she took a little while to finally settle into bed for the evening. While we were having our usual "goodnight" ritual (me filling up on lots of kisses and hugs to sustain me through the night, and her telling me she's going to have happy dreams about Mama and Daddy and Sissy and Brother, with no crabs and no spiders in it).

In the process of this routine, she looked over at the calendar I'd printed out for her, which she hung proudly on her closet door. This new "suggestion" from a dear friend of mine was devised as a way to keep my 3-year-old from being the obnoxious little deviant she's turned herself into. The deal is, if she's a good girl for the entire day, she gets to put either a smiley-face or a star sticker on that day of the calendar. If she earns enough stickers in a week, I'll take her for some sort of treat (an ice cream cone, a Happy Meal, a toy at the Dollar Tree.... something along those lines). If she's a BAD girl, Daddy throws one of her "pup-pups" (pacifiers) away in the trash, and she WILL NOT get it back. EVER. To a 3-year-old kid who cherishes her pup-pups almost as much as life itself, this is a major traumatic experience!

After one first horrible evening of dealing with the mourning of a single lost pacifier (which wasn't really lost... Daddy "pretended" to toss it, and stuck it in his pocket instead. Hey, at $3.50 a pop, I don't feel like re-stocking her supply on a steady basis, you know?), she earned two stickers in two days.

As our evening ritual was coming to a close last night, and my hand was on the doorknob, ready to shut her door, she popped up out of bed, took a sideways glance at her pretty Belle calendar, and said, almost to herself, "I hope I get another sticker tomorrow."

It was all I could do to keep from busting a gut! After all, this sticker-earning business is VERY serious to her!

I told her that all she had to do was continue to be a good girl, and I'm sure she'll get to put another one on her calendar. She smiled her apple-cheeks smile, laid back down, put one of her beloved pup-pups in her mouth, and began methodically rubbing the tip of her nose with another (don't ask). All was right in her little world.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Arianne's "Pay It Forward"

Like I just stated in my comment on this particular post from Arianne, "Pay It Forward" has been one of my mantras ever since I read the book. Therefore, it's only natural to me to TOTALLY sign up for something like this:

Go check it out, if you so desire. Perhaps you'll meet a new friend. And, if you're really lucky, you'll win quite the indulgence! :)

Every Day

Every day I wake up.

Every day I put my feet on the floor.

Every day I rub my eyes.

Every day I stretch a little.

Every day I wish for a little more sleep.

Every day I use the toilet (usually more than once! ;).

Every day I fix breakfast.

Every day I get dressed.

Every day I get someone else dressed.

Every day I change diapers.

Every day I brush hair.

Every day I brush teeth.

Every day I drive.

Every day I do dishes.

Every day I sing little kids' songs.

Every day I sing "grown up"songs, too.

Every day I sweep floors.

Every day I pick up toys.

Every day I make beds.

Every day I do laundry.

Every day I use the computer.

Every day I study for my certificate.

Every day I get the mail.

Every day I clean house.

Every day I fix lunch.

Every day I wipe hands and faces.

Every day I give hugs.

Every day I give kisses.

Every day I give medicine.

Every day there's love in my heart.

Every day I am loved.

Every day someone else depends on me.

Every day I smile.

Every day I worry.

Every day I talk.

Every day I help with dinner.

Every day I eat.

Every day I drink.

Every day I feel tired.

Every day I get washed.

Every day I take my medicine and vitamins.

Every day I put on my glasses.

Every day I turn on the TV.

Every day I go and lie down.

Every day I count my blessings.

Every day I close my eyes.

Every day I fall asleep.

Every day I end this day.

Every day I start all over.

Every day.

~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on November 6, 2006

Edward "Eddie" Sperry

This piece was originally entered onto the Online Guestbook in the Boston Globe Obituaries section on October 22, 2006.

I've known Eddie Sperry since I was a young girl, when he and I attended Peabody Elementary School together. He had boundless energy and was full of life. We clicked from the second we met...we were even both voted "class clowns" in our 8th grade yearbook! :)

One of my all-time favorite memories of Eddie was in photography class. We had to have been in 7th or 8th grade, and were learning how to manipulate the cameras, and to see images as art through that tiny little frame. Our group was brought over to Radcliffe Field, and he and I were hanging out, taking a break, lying on our backs in the grass on a warm spring afternoon.

He rolled over from his back to his stomach, picked a blade of grass, and said to me, as he was examining it, "Did you ever really look at one of these things? They're funny looking and beautiful". I rolled over then too, and grabbing the camera, snapped a closeup of a single blade, sticking up at an awkward angle....up and away from its gazillion grassblade brothers and sisters, as if declaring its immediate and imperative independence.

I still have that picture somewhere, and whenever I look at it, I always think of Eddie. Funny looking and beautiful... and free.

My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Sperry family, all his loved ones, and his fans... like me. A shining light has been snuffed out. Plucked from the universe like a blade of grass on a warm spring afternoon.

Edward L. Sperry, or "Eddie", as I always knew him, died sometime in early September, 2006 in Bankock, Thailand. He was 43.

~~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on October 8, 2007

From Typical to Magical with One Phone Call

For the first time in a LONG time, I was given the opportunity to feel pure, unadulterated joy. It happened, quite by accident, while my daughters and I were in the car yesterday afternoon.

As is typical on Friday afternoons, I'd picked my oldest daughter up from her elementary school. She climbed into the back seat, greeted her baby sister and me, and (as is also typical) asked me to change the radio station I was currently listening to over to Radio Disney. Unless there's a good song on the station, or I've got a CD in for the baby to help entertain her while we're waiting, I typically don't mind. In fact, I really do get a kick out of hearing my daughter singing along with all of the teeny boppers "du jour" who are chiming out from the car's speakers.

It's also pretty typical on Fridays that, after picking up my daughter, I swing by the middle school to pick up my son. Then, I take both of the older children to play at our local Boys and Girls' Club, so they can meet up with friends and (hopefully) blow off some steam before coming home for the evening.

The wait for my oldest daughter can be pretty intense... she's got ADHD, and it's VERY difficult for her to be in one place for too long, which is yet another reason why I turn the Disney station on for her...better to keep her entertained than to have her climbing the walls of my minivan!

Just as we pulled up in front of my son's school, the station's current DJ announced a new contest. Again, as is typical of my daughter, she BEGGED me to call for her. There are times when we're sitting and waiting for something that, again, I don't mind. It makes her happy and gives me something to do, too. As I dialed the number, I went through my typical schpeel about how it's so hard to get through to this station (especially where it's one of the few that's broadcast nationwide), and that she shouldn't get her hopes up. My lecture was followed up with a litany of "I know, Mom, I know, I know, I know!".

The first time I dialed the phone was busy... as usual. I dialed again. Busy. I looked at my daughter and said, "Okay... I'll try one more time". Wouldn't you know it... the phone started RINGING! What was even more surprising is that shortly after, someone PICKED UP!! :)

Apparently, it was the DJ's assistant, who, after obtaining some preliminary information from me, wanted to speak with my daughter (one of the golden rules of this particular radio station is that you must be 14 or under to enter any contest! :). Of course, I had no real idea what the complete conversation was, because I was only hearing her one-sided version. All I know is that her squeals became louder and louder, and she suddenly turned to me and said, "Mama! I'm the RIGHT CALLER!!" I don't think either one of us could truly believe it!

The premise of this particular contest was that the child playing had to be in their car with a parent, and said parent had to honk the horn of their car. The DJ was to then guess either the make of the car, or the color of the car. Based on my daughter's answers, I could tell the DJ's guesses were completely off the mark, when suddenly, my daughter cried out again.... "Mama... I WON!!!" This of course was followed by squeals of delight and tons of giggles.

Soon after, the phone was passed back to me, so the DJ's assistant could get my daughter's complete name, our address, and our telephone number. Once I hung up, I found out what the REALLY cool prize was that she won... a copy of the newly-released Twister Dance video game, personally signed by Monique Coleman (of "High School Musical" and "Dancing With The Stars" fame).

Because she won this contest, she was also qualified to win five tickets to a Disney sponsored contest, which featured oodles and oodles of her VERY favorite, bubble-gum, teeny-bopper singers! She was just over the moon (and was making plans about whom she was going to invite!).

I watched her face with sheer glee as the entire conversation between her and the disc jockey replayed over the car radio. She could barely contain herself as the DJ announced over the radio that she'd won her precious loot! :)

She HAD to call Daddy (who was working at the time) and her Nana (who was home at the time) to tell them what had just happened to her. And of course, she couldn't wait for her brother to get into the car so she could recount her exciting adventure to him, as well.

I swear, that little girl of mine was acting like she'd just won the lottery! But, I suppose, in an 8-year-old's mind, winning a prize as treasured as the one she's about to receive, and having her "15 minutes of fame" on her VERY favorite radio station, was probably just as wonderful as any grown person winning Megabucks.
And, you know what? Seeing that beautiful little face, with those big apple cheeks grinning from ear to ear, and hearing those giggles and squeals of delight, and seeing those joyful tears as she turned to me and thanked me ("SOOOOOO much, Mama!") for allowing her to call into the station.... that wonderful, exhuberant moment was worth more to me than being given buckets of money from the State lottery commission, as well.

~~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on November 4, 2006

I Guess Charity Really DOES Begin At Home

You know, it's a horrible thing to admit, I guess, but I always seem to overlook, or take advantage of the fact that I live in a nice home, have a terrific husband and three good kids, so I don't often "brag" about much. Not only am I truly grateful for all of that, but I can also brag about the little things: the fact tjhat my husband (who had the day off from work today) let me go back to sleep this afternoon after waking me up this morning in the nicest of ways; or that he's behind me right now, not only making dinner for all of us, but baking cookies too! :) I can mention that my little one, who's not quite two, says "please" and "thank you" when she asks for and receives something. I can say that my oldest two really do try to help each other out, and play nicely together -- for the most part! ;) (They're not perfect, but they are good kids.)

But that's not my real brag. Here's what is. I needed to run errands one day last week, and I dropped my son off at the Boys and Girls Club first (to let him spend time with his friends), and took my girls with me. We did a bunch of stuff, which took us to several different locations, the last of which was the grocery store, to pick up a few things for dinner, and to yet another grocery store to pick up my prescription (that was a last minute decision... if I had thought about doing that in advance, I would have combined those last two trips into one!)

Perched in front of the first grocery store we stopped at was a middle-aged man, ringing a Salvation Army bell, and sitting next to the big, red, cast iron bucket. My oldest daughter immediately turned to me and asked for some change, which I just so happened to have in my wallet (and believe me.... that's RARE these days!). I gave her fifty cents, and she took pure delight in dropping the coins in the bucket. Kerplunk. Kerplunk.

When I decided to stop into the next store to pick up my prescription, just for the mere fact that I could be DONE with everything and not need to do anything else for the week (see....there was some rationale behind two trips to two different grocery stores! :), there was yet another gentleman parked next to yet ANOTHER Salvation Army kettle. 'Tis the season, after all.

Without hesitation, my oldest daughter reached into her OWN coat pocket, and pulled out one of her own quarters. She'd gotten a book from Barnes and Noble earlier in the day (on one of our stops), and I told her she could keep the change, which amounted to two shiny new quarters. Now, here she was, a few hours later, giving up some of her precious loot to this man's red bucket.

When she walked back to me, I told her she didn't have to do that....that we'd already given some money tonight and that could have sufficed as enough. She said, "I know, Mama...but we're helping people. And that's what we're SUPPOSED to do."

Out of the mouths of babes....

~~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on November 30, 2006

Instant Karma Gonna Get You

You know the old saying, "What goes around comes around?" Well, if you've ever had any doubt of its validity, let me give you a fine example of how karma came back around and hit me right in the face.

Friday night, after his full day at work and my day of general insanity, my husband and I met up to go grocery shopping. This undertaking is normally done by me alone, but because we needed EVERYTHING (not only were the cupboards pretty much bare in our house, but we also needed to replenish cleaning supplies, toiletries, and various other items), I knew that this particular venture was going to be a two-carriage ordeal. Therefore, I needed an extra set of strong hands to push what I only assumed would be bulging carriage number two.

We'd managed to drop off our oldest child at the Boys and Girls' Club before we headed out. However, we still had our two daughters. On the drive to the grocery store, I all but prayed the Novena, hoping that both of them would behave. We had the end of the day exhaustion to deal with – we didn't need cranky, fighting kids on top of it.

The good news about going grocery shopping late on a Friday is that the place is almost deserted. Still, after almost two hours of walking up and down the aisles, we chugged up to the register with our two VERY full shopping carts, only to have two people behind us by the time we'd finished unloading the merchandise, waiting to pay for their own goods.

After all the ringing up, and coupon scanning, the grand total came to a whopping $297 and change. I pulled my trusty ATM card out of my wallet, and swiped it through… and almost keeled over when the cashier said that the card was declined due to insufficient funds. The problem was all mine… I'd COMPLETELY forgotten that the bank we do our business with recently cut their daily ATM withdrawal limit back from $500 a day to $300, and earlier in the day, as I was running around doing some errands, I'd taken some cash out of a local ATM machine.

At this point in time, not only were my girls starting to get grumpy and fussy, and VERY hungry, but the people behind us started grumbling to themselves, as well. The moaning and groaning increased as the pimply-faced, "assistant" manager was called over to assess the situation. The way I figured it, the solution was simple… I'd just write the grocery store a check. No can do, Mr. 17-year-old Assistant Broom Sweeper told me. I needed a store-brand variety check-cashing card. And of course, I'd never thought of obtaining one 'cause I'd never run into this particular problem before. He called Mr. Head Honcho Manager guy over to verify his decision, and yesserie… we needed that little piece of plastic to write the store a check. He also informed me that if we'd come to the store during the day, they could probably have accepted the check by verifying the available funds in the bank. However, because it was 8:00 in the evening (no WONDER our kids were so grumpy AND hungry!!), and the banks were closed, there was no way they could do that. Gee Mr. Head Honcho… too bad we didn't have a container of salt in our grocery cart… I'd have dug it out and poured it all over the gaping wound I had in my gut, made even deeper by your sharing that little gem of information with me!

So, my husband and I had one of two decisions to make. We either needed to use the cash I had on hand, and combine that with the remaining funds I was allowed to extract from the bank using the ATM card to purchase what we could with that. The problem with that particular fix was, in order to accomplish that, we'd need to pick through the groceries and pull out about $80 worth of stuff. Just about as overwhelming as being told we had to climb Mount Everest at that particular point in time. Solution number two wasn't much better: leave ALL the stuff there, and go through all of the picking and choosing and ringing up ALL OVER AGAIN on Sunday, with three children this time. Now we were looking at the hike up Mt. Everest and Mt. Fuji, back to back.

Throughout all of this, I was trying to pacify my increasingly grumpy daughters, and ignore the people behind me all together, who I'm sure were pretty ticked off, and were probably considering coming back another day themselves. Just then, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the man standing directly behind me, waiting to pay for his TEENY grocery order. I thought for sure he was going to ream me out for being so inconvenienced, but what came out of his mouth instead was nothing short of miraculous. "How much cash are you short?" The suggestion he was making was so incomprehensible to me, that I must have asked him to repeat himself, because he re-stated; "I can loan you some cash to get your groceries. How much would you need to buy everything in both of your carriages?" I stood there for a moment, just blinking at him (and probably catching flies with my mouth gaping open). I honestly couldn't believe that someone, besides my own little family, could be so incredibly HUMAN as to even suggest such a thing! I choked up the words, "About eighty bucks." To which he replied, "Oh, I'm sorry. I don't have that much cash on me." I'll have to admit, even though I couldn't possibly consider accepting such a kind offer, I still felt a bit deflated when he said it.

Okay. Back to the business of deciding what to do. My husband had all but convinced me to just leave the groceries behind, and have us give it another go on Sunday, when the man behind me spoke up again. "Why don't you let me pay for your groceries, and you can write me out a check?" I turned around to face him, in what felt like slow motion, and blurted out, "Are you sure you want to do that? You don't even know me!" He said, "Sure I'm sure. You can't leave all that food behind, when it's obvious you've got little kids to feed. Tell you what… if it'll make you feel better, you can give me some cash, and pay me the rest with a check, if that's all right with you." If that's all right with ME??? Was he kidding me? Here was this guardian angel, willing to trust a total stranger in this world full of uncertainty and doubt, and he was asking me if it was all right??!! Again, I asked, "Are you sure you can afford to do this?" I think I was just waiting for Alan Funt to pop out with his camera crew, or more realistically, for this man to tell me that he was just playing some kind of cruel joke. With our current track record of disappointment and disillusionment, that would have been more appropriate. But, instead, he took out his (Platinum!) Discover Card, ready to swipe it through the machine for us… people he didn't even know… and said, "If you can afford to spare $100, I'll take that, and you can make the rest out in a check to me, okay?"

My husband and I both just stood there for a moment, completely dumbfounded, and then snapped out of it enough to shake his hand, and thank him profusely for his generosity. Once I realized the full depth of the situation that was playing out before me, I took him in my arms in an embrace, trying like heck to hold back the tears of joy and gratitude, as I went about the business of writing a check out to this amazing man.

So… Jim Cataldo… if you're out there, reading this, please know that because of you, I now firmly believe in karma. I'm finally convinced that what I've fought so hard to believe in my heart and preach to my children - by making charitable contributions and bestowing goodwill, without wanting or needing any kind of reciprocation - have all been paid back by your random act of kindness. We thank you, Jim, for not only allowing us to leave the store that evening with our bounty intact, but much more importantly, for restoring our faith in humanity, just in the nick of time. Thank you, so very much.

~~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on May 9, 2007

Sometimes It Takes Getting Bonked Over The Head With A Brick

We were at a similar point in our marriage as lots of other people. Stuck. Stagnant. No clean air. Not moving forward.

Well, geez... what did I expect, after 15 years of "togetherness"? Still, it left a hole in my gut the size of Cleveland. No, I didn't expect to reinvent the fireworks and chamber music. But a loving glance my way, or a pat on the behind as he walked past me would have brought back enough of the old times to make me feel like it was a start.

Then I saw a special on TV, speaking about our very to spruce up a marriage in a rut. Most of it was fluff, really. But, there was one sticking point.... don't focus on your partner's negative points. Look more at the positive things they do. Simple enough, right?

So, I did just that. I started to sum up ALL of the good parts of the man I'd married. Not only the traits he had that made me fall in love with him in the first place, but all of the other gems I'd uncovered as we moved forward in our life together. I began to make a mental list, including everything from the ridiculous to the sublime, some of which include:

He makes a sincere effort to call me at least once a day, just to see how my day is going.

He cooks dinner almost every night.

He's a really likable guy.

He helps with the kids when he gets home from work.

He lets me sleep in on his days off, even when he's tired himself.

He really cares about my feelings, whenever I'm upset or angry.

He helps with the laundry.

He helps with the housework.

He still knows how to make me laugh.

He's still the first person I go to when I'm upset or angry.

He's still my very best friend, and I truly couldn't imagine my life without him.

I continued to add to this list, and was delighted each time I re-discovered another wonderful thing about my man. And, an amazing thing happened... I found myself feeling LUCKY again. Lucky to have him in my life, lucky that he chose ME to share in his life with him, and to be the one to have children with, lucky to know such a decent, caring, sweet guy. Lucky to have smartened up.
Don't get me wrong... we were never really in trouble. We were just stuck, like I said. But, I have to tell you... it feels a whole lot better, being "un-stuck"! And, I couldn't think of a better person to be "un-stuck" with.

~~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on July 24, 2007

My Recent Homework Assignment

My son came home from school one day about a week ago now, and told me that either his dad or I had a "homework" assignment to do for his science teacher.

The assignment was to write (in a million words or less! :), a description of my child. I could write anything I wanted. Here's what I chose to hand in:

September 26, 2006

I think there comes a time in everyone's life where they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they've crossed the threshold from childhood to adulthood, and there's no turning back. EVER. That day officially came for me on September 30, 1994, when a bright, beautiful, pink little boy was delivered up onto my stomach, still wet and warm from being inside of me, and he looked at me with those big, soulful eyes as if to say, "What was THAT all about?"

I say "officially" because that moment of reckoning really came for me when my husband and I were FINALLY told, after dealing with month after month of infertility, that we had succeeded. That a new little life was finally going to be delivered to us. That I was going to become what I'd dreamed about and longed for since I was a little girl - a mother.

The pregnancy itself wasn't without trouble and strife. I spotted almost every month like clockwork almost the entire time I carried him, and a miscarriage even loomed once during the end of the first trimester. But I knew that my love for this tiny person nestled deep within me would be enough to sustain us both. Somehow, it just HAD to be enough.

So, when I saw that beautiful little boy face-to-face for the very first time, I knew that my life would be changed forever, and that he'd given me the greatest gift I could ask for. Because of him, I was finally a mom. Because of him, I crossed over that threshold into adulthood.

In the almost twelve years since we "officially" glanced at each other that first time, not a day has gone by when I haven't been grateful. I know parents like to boast (I think it's part of our genetic makeup!), but you will see for yourself that my son really is a GOOD kid. He's smart, kind, and respectful, and always has been. He's ALWAYS done what he was told, and has never given us an ounce of trouble or worry. He's the kind of kid who'd rather sit and read then go outside and play, but he'll do what he can to help me to take care of his two sisters (no matter how "annoying" they can get! ;)

I can even go so far as to say he's been the healthiest of my three children. The only thing that ever seems to plague him is his seasonal allergies. And even then, he doesn't complain. He takes his antihistamine and rolls with it.

It's my belief that the true measure of any kid is to ask yourself, "If he wasn't MY kid, would I still like him?" And, I think, as far as my son is concerned, my answer will always be a resounding "Yes!" It's my hope that you come to feel the same way.

Not quite a million words, but enough, I'd say... wouldn't you? :)

~~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on October 4, 2006

Like Dorothy Said, "People Come And Go So Quickly Here!"

I want to share some blogs I've posted on my MySpace account in the past. This is the first of a few.

I've recently made an incredible discovery. I think I now understand why most guys are into boobs. Why, you ask? 'Cause there are so many of them that act like one!

Let me offer a case in point...

A few months ago, I was on this thing, searching for people from my past (I've found quite a few, and isn't that part of what MySpace is all about? :). This certain person's name clicked into my head, and I thought, "What the heck?"... so I went searching for him. Lo and behold, he had an account on here!

I e-mailed him a few times, trying to get him to figure out who I was (it had been about 17 years since I'd last seen him), and after giving him a few, fairly obvious clues, he was able to decipher that the messages were coming from me. He gave me his telephone number, and I called him later that evening. Our phone call lasted until 3:00 in the morning (after 17 years, we had a LOT of catching up to do!).

The next morning, my husband mentioned that this guy might be trolling for me. I refused to believe it... he KNEW I was happily married (I made that point VERY clear), and told my husband that we were just catching up on each other's lives. Hubby held firm, telling me, "No guy talks to a girl until 3:00 in the morning unless he's got ulterior motives." This was one of the few times I'd ever seen my husband jealous, and frankly, it kind of ticked me off. To think.... a grown man, who seemed to understand COMPLETELY that I was a HAPPILY married woman, would still try and make some kind of move on me! Preposterous! I was convinced that he just wanted to be friends and was resentful of the fact that my husband was suggesting anything more!

We continued to chat on the phone for a short while afterwards, and would instant message each other daily. And, then.... it happened. We had a pivotal "conversation" (via IM), where he came clean and expressed his desire for me. Husband was right, and I was terrified! What should I do with this information?? Of course, I was flattered, but I knew that NOTHING would, or could, ever come of it.

When I explained that all to him, he said he understood.... and then the conversations just DROPPED like a hot potato. No more instant messaging, no more telephone calls... NOTHING. I was very hurt, and pretty angry when I came to realize that maybe he really did want nothing more than to put another notch in his belt, and all I wanted was his friendship.

What was worse is... he seemingly has "moved on" to pursue a young woman almost HALF his age (which I find shameful). When I called him to the mat on that, of COURSE I got no response from him. I then sent him a few "funny" comments (the last one being a bit abrasive, I must admit... .but it was meant as a JOKE), and he went and REMOVED me from his friends list, and has since listed his MySpace page as private!

The moral of this story is.... some men are just immature BOOBS, which is why I'm convinced they like them so much!

Posted on my MySpace blog page on October 26, 2006