Monday, February 28, 2011

What sort of title goes with lesbian teachers and big abstract flowers?

When I was in 7th grade there was an art class that everyone had to take. The class was taught by a female teacher who was heavily rumored to be a lesbian. At the time, I'm not even sure I was entirely aware of what a lesbian was, but I knew it was different and I knew Ms. R was a little less feminine than my other teachers.

I sat with a group of girls in one corner of the room and we gossiped and giggled a lot as we worked on our projects. Ms. R wasn't overly fond of us. I'm sure she thought we were frivolous and silly and Ms. R had no use for frivolous and silly. She would often be stern with us and tell us to quiet down or knock it off or focus.

She probably didn't know it, but she was making an impact on me. She taught us about Georgia O'Keefe and let us use oil paints to create our own bold, colorful flower paintings to mimic Georgia's style. She showed us paintings by Edgar Degas and I fell in love with the dancers and the horses, begging my parents to buy me a set of prints so I could hang them on the walls of my bedroom.

For a short period of time, I thought I would follow in Georgia O'Keefe's footsteps and paint. My mother even bought me a set of acrylic paints and some little canvas boards and brushes. I filled them all with abstract, colorful, Hibiscus flowers and my dad kept one of them in his bureau declaring it brilliant. (Notice it wasn't hung on the wall, though!)

Anyway, I would have never admitted to my girly-girl, giggling friends in Ms. R's class that I looked forward to the class every day. I liked the gossiping and the silliness, too.

And one day, I can't remember how the conversation started, but we all started talking about what we believed would happen after we died. Most of the girls had pretty firm ideas, probably handed down to them from parents or church or whatever. They knew there was a heaven and they knew what it took to get in. I didn't really have any solid ideas but one thought just came out of my mouth.

"Maybe if you're a really good person and you live your life like you believe is right, you get to go to whatever you believe heaven is and it's different for everyone."

Ms. R heard me. I didn't know she had been listening or that she ever listened to the silliness that we spouted off about in her class. (Goodness, what else must she have heard over the course of that 7th grade year??)

"That is probably the smartest thing I've ever heard come out of your mouth, Beth."

I was floored. I was thrilled that it seemed like Ms. R maybe didn't think I was just one of those silly, frivolous girls and at the same time I was horrified that my silly, frivolous girl friends might think I was not like them.

But mostly I was thrilled.

Later, when I became more heavily involved in horseback riding, I would see Ms. R at certain events with her horses and her girlfriend. She looked different outside of school, happy and relaxed. She always smiled and winked at me and a couple of times complimented me on the horse I was riding or how well I had done in a class.

And I would always be thrilled.

I still love Georgia O'Keefe and Degas and maybe some day I'll even paint some horrible flowers again. Maybe they'll even make it to a wall... somewhere hidden... perhaps a closet.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

We have one less great lady among us today

Last night, my beautiful Grandmother's soul left this world and is on to the next.

She believed in heaven and the power of the Lord and she lived her life as a shining example of what a true Christian lady should be.

In my heart, though our beliefs were different, I hope she has found the kind of peace and eternal life she believed would be waiting for her.

I hope that somewhere, her mind is clear and she feels no pain, and that she knows just how much she was loved by everyone that knew her.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Spaz's take on luxury vs necessity - a rant

I read a post today on another blog that stated that no more than 1/3 of Americans have a valid passport. The post even included a colorful map of the US so the reader could easily see which states have the most passports.

Like we should all be horrified that there are so many people who aren't traveling abroad. The writer didn't say it, but the implication was there.

I actually do have a valid passport. It has one little stamp in it from when we went to the Bahamas via plane. You don't get the stamp if you go via Disney cruise, just via airplane. And I sort of doubt it will get used again before it expires. I have three kids and a lot of responsibilities and jet setting all over the world just isn't in my priority list.

And getting that passport was a pain in the butt, let me tell you. First of all, it wasn't cheap. I mean, relative to a European vacation, I guess it wasn't too bad, but I know it set us back over $100 per passport. For a family of 5 that was over $500 to go to a small island barely 200 miles away. I also had some administrative hoops to jump through to prove I was allowed to take Bug and Munchkin out of the country and that I wasn't trying to kidnap them. Then we all got to go get our pictures taken.

It's not the kind of crap I can imagine many people going through just for the pleasure of keeping their passport active, without an impending vacation looming.

I always sort of snicker when I watch TV shows or movies and for some reason the main character has to fly to some foreign country with no notice and they always have a passport. I always think how unrealistic that is. The main character will have some low paying job, like a waitress or a receptionist, and yet I'm supposed to believe she happens to have a valid passport just waiting for her to jump on the next plane to Glasgow to tell Mr. Right that she will marry him!

If The Man and I were going to hop a plane to London next month and stay at a hotel for a week, we'd be lucky if it cost us less than $5k, right? That would be a frugal vacation.

According to this website, the bottom 2/3 of American households make less than $65,000 per year. These, one could presume, are your non valid passport holding families.

So let's take the top earning family in this 2/3, making 65 thousand big ones every year. After taxes, they're bringing in a whopping $4479.59 every month.

Out of that massive figure, they're going to have to pay rent or mortgage, electricity, at least one phone bill (and more like a cell phone for everyone), internet access, cable tv, probably at least one car payment (maybe two), insurance on those cars, health insurance, gas (i paid $3.46 a gallon yesterday), grocery bills, probably some child care, and don't forget the obligatory birthday gifts and other assorted expenses that I'm sure I'm forgetting.

If this family has an extra $50 at the end of the month, I'd consider them lucky.

So to save up for that European vacation it would only take them over 8 years. And what are the chances the ticket prices didn't go up by the year 2019?

So when I look at the fact that less than 1/3 of Americans have a valid passport, I'm actually surprised that it's that many. Traveling abroad is a privilege that a lot (maybe the majority) of Americans will never experience. I don't necessarily look at that as a bad thing. I think it's just reality.

It's funny how our priorities change along with our society. For the longest time we had one car. Yes, occasionally it was a slight inconvenience to only have the one, but for the most part we did just fine. But the shock that would cross faces when I mentioned that we only had one was priceless.

"You mean, The Man doesn't have his own car? You share the minivan?"

It was like we were robbing the other of the very freedom to breathe fresh air when one of us might be out in the car. (Usually it was The Man home, too, so I got the evil looks. Like I had him locked up in a basement, or something.) And after the initial horror, those looks turned to sympathy. It was revolting.

It wasn't that long ago that it was perfectly normal for a household to have only one car. People didn't need to drive all over creation. Kids were allowed to ride their bikes or walk to school or even take a school bus and it wasn't necessary to drive them to a different extra-curricular activity every day. Having more than one car for a family was a luxury.

The same goes for cable TV and cell phones and multiple gaming systems. But now I'm just ranting... I'll try to get back to the point and wrap this up.

It peeves me when our society turns a want into a need. When it horrifies us that a person could be living without something that we deem to be a necessity. When our little brains rank that person on a lower rung of the social class ladder because they choose to go without whatever little convenience we qualify as a must for ourselves. Things have gotten so complicated and I think it might just be time to rein it in a little.

Friday, February 25, 2011

An eBay Seller Divulges Her Biggest Secret

As most of you know, I sell on eBay. I'm going to let you in on a little secret here. Come closer so I don't have to say it so loud.

Promise me you won't tell anyone?

Pinky swear?


I buy them at thrift stores.

That's right, I do. I don't go to fabulous houses of elegant ladies and clean out their closets. I don't buy them from estate sales. And they were almost never personally owned by me.

I go to thrift stores. (Wow, I said it loud that time.)

Salvation Army, Goodwill, little thrift boutiques, and more. I am on a first name basis with some of the clerks and they know all about The Man, the kids and my business. I know which of them has a son in Nebraska who she visits with on holidays via web-cam and which of them is fighting ovarian cancer and which of them has gone back to school at 42 years old to be an ultrasound technician.

When I first started doing this, Bug was barely one year old. I was newly pregnant with Munchkin and I got laid off. It was one of the biggest shocks of my life. Honestly, my arms still get a tingly feeling in them when I think about it.

I worked as a Marketing Coordinator for a B2B software sales company. I was the bottom rung of the Marketing ladder, a job I fell into by landing a job as their receptionist two years earlier. A month before I was laid off, they had asked me if I would consider moving to Atlanta to work in the main office and I told them I wouldn't. That was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made, career-wise. But at 24, I knew nothing of corporate restructuring and I foolishly believed that if I worked hard I'd have job security. And I loved that job.

At first I tried to jump right back into the job market. I applied for similar positions, made a fantastic web portfolio featuring all the ads I'd created for my previous employer and some I just had in my head, sent my resume all over the place, and even went on several interviews.

I'd never had a problem getting a job before, but things were different now. A mom of one with one on the way? Employers weren't lining up to grab me.

So I followed a friend's lead. She knew fashion and she showed me the ropes. She and I shopped together a lot, splitting the stores in half and digging. Sometimes she'd find things I had missed and vice versa. And back then eBay was a goldmine waiting to be tapped.... everything I listed sold and with numerous bids. The nights when my auctions ended were spent with me sitting at the computer refreshing the screen and watching the dollar amounts go up with each second. It was exhilarating.

These days it's not so easy. eBay is full of people doing the exact same thing I do and the competition is stiff. There have been so many changes that I've had to bite my lip about that there have been times I've been ready to just close up shop and walk away.

But in the end, it's still a great way for me to be home for my kids and help support my family. And in the process I support all kinds of charities with my shopping. One of the stores I frequent donates 100% of its profit to helping abused women start their lives over. Another helps to finance a soup kitchen for the homeless in our area and gives homes and life skills to homeless families with children. Another funds a highly successful 9 month faith based drug and alcohol recovery program that has kept an immeasurable amount of men and women out of jail and homelessness. And, of course, there's Goodwill, the Salvation Army, AMVET, and VVA stores.

Admittedly, I started this business as a way to support my own family and barely gave a thought to the fact that my dollars were going to fund these programs, but now I am so proud that my business directly supports these charities.

Ironically enough, I've had people sneer when I tell them what I'm doing with all the clothes in my basket. A common misconception is that thrift stores exist to provide clothing and goods for people who cannot afford to buy new for themselves. And though that sometimes is the case, the store exists to fund it's charity and the employees and managers are typically elated to see me walking through the door. And honestly, the needy isn't typically shopping for Chanel, Missoni, and Valentino (all of which I've found in my hunt for treasure).

But remember... it's a secret. So keep quiet, okay?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yes... I was a spoiled brat... but let's just ignore that part of the story, shall we?

When I was 19 years old my dad bought me a car.

It wasn't my first car... when I was in high school I received a hand-me-down Honda Civic from my older sister (and it was no crappy hand-me-down... it was a nice little car)... but it was the first car I ever really picked.

I remember when we left to go look at cars that day. I was so excited, I could barely contain myself. And so desperate to have a car (I'd been bumming rides from friends and riding a bike around my college town for a year) that I said "Oh daddy! I'll take any car! Anything!"

So we headed off to the car dealerships.

And at first, I really did think I'd take anything. Four wheels and runs? Those were my qualifications. Until we started looking. And the options were endless! I wanted my car to be little and cute and have a sunroof.

I remember my dad looking horrified as I pulled away from the Ford dealership with a 20-something salesman in a black mustang GT, peeling out of the parking lot and leaving him in the dust. As much as I jumped up and down and pleaded, he wasn't buying me that car.

And then the Toyota Paseo, which I thought was JUST perfect, while some poor salesman jammed himself in the backseat and my dad's head literally hit the roof in the passenger seat. I, however, fit perfectly. My dad urged me strongly to consider other vehicles.

When we got to the Chevrolet dealership the salesman led us to an entire row of brand new Cavaliers (all of the other cars in our price range had been used) and my dad desperately tried to get me to look at them. I didn't like them and I wouldn't even come close. I stood about 10 feet away and snubbed my nose while my dad pleaded "Honey, they're brand new!" When I look back I feel so bad for that poor salesman. And dad, too.

A couple of times we found ourselves in one of those little rooms. The "What do I have to do to make this deal work?" rooms. Once for a Saturn I could have taken or left and once for a Nissan 200SX that I desperately wanted. Both times the salesman and my dad could not come to an agreement.

It was late in the day when we found it. And it was as if she called to me from across the parking lot.

(picture stolen from the Internet... sadly I don't have one of my actual car)

A silver Mitsubishi Mirage Coupe. She had everything I wanted in a car. She was sparkly silver with a sporty spoiler, a tape player and a CD player. Standard transmission and a sunroof. And when I drove her the first time, it was like heaven.

I had that car for several years. It drove me to college and drove me home. I knew just how to pack it so that it could easily contain all of my personal belongings. That car and I loved each other.

Sometimes I still dream I'm driving that car. And in my dream I'll be shocked that I found it again. I'll be like "Oh YES! It was in the garage the whole time, I just forgot!" And I'll jump in it and go.

The Man says I have glorified that car because I had it during a time in my life that I idealized. I had it during those blissful years when I had my own apartment and lived on my own, before I had children, when I was only responsible for myself. It represents a sort of freedom I'll never see again and in my dreams I'm reliving that freedom for just a little bit.

I guess he's right. There's just something about a car that can make you feel like nothing else.

Not to say I don't love my minivan. I do. It's probably the most reliable car I've ever owned and I picked that one out all on my own, too. Though... my qualifications were a little different at that time. My minivan has been through hell and back and starts right up and goes every day. It's nearing the end of its life now and I actually sometimes verbally thank it when I get in it and it goes. It's become like an old friend to me.

But nothing will ever compare to my little Mitsubishi.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Spaz does Social Media

Today I've taken the plunge and changed my eBay ID from 4sale-by-jayde to domestic_spaz.

I'm jumping on the social media bandwagon with my full heart and mind. Today has been filled with editing links, creating new banners, updating email addresses, tweeting, facebooking, and more. I will have but one Internet persona by the end of the day.

It's truly amazing how many people I can reach without leaving the four walls of my little office.

Off to order new business cards and tweet about it.

Confessions of an Insouciant Parent

I never used special laundry detergent for my baby's clothing.

I know, I know. What was I thinking? Of course a brand new baby can't handle the harsh, skin irritating nastiness that Tide provides? I shouldn't have even risked it! It's a miracle that my children actually kept their skin.

I've spent the past 11 years feeling no small amount of guilt and judgment from other moms about my laissez faire style of parenting. I am the opposite of a helicopter parent. My idea of baby-proofing was a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs and a firm "NO" when one of my little darlings tried to open a forbidden cabinet or door.

At the playground when my children were small, I allowed them to climb without standing right behind them to catch them if they fell. And if they did fall, I waited a few seconds before I jumped up and rushed over to them. The vast majority of the time, they got up, brushed themselves off, and again tried to climb whatever obstacle they had fallen off of in the first place. Oh yes, there were tears sometimes, of course. In fact, there still are tears sometimes (actually, I think there are probably more tears NOW that they've learned they can get a reaction than there ever were when they were small). For the most part, kids don't think it's a big deal if their parents don't act like it is.

I always giggle a little when I get these calls from the school. This happens so often with Goober it's truly laughable. I'm not even sure why they keep calling me... liability or something, I guess. Here's a standard message left on my voice mail if I miss the call.

"Hi, this is the school nurse calling from Overprotective & Lawsuit Fearing Elementary School. I'm just calling to let you know that Goober bumped his head/scraped his knee/got sand in his eyes/was exposed to a germ today at recess/at lunch/in the bathroom. I checked him over and he seems to be fine so I sent him back to class. If you have any questions, please call me."

Alrighty, then. Thanks for informing me that my child once again braved the unbearable tragedy that is elementary school and has made it through alive. I wonder if there are parents who actually call back with questions.

Is my darling okay? Do you think he has a concussion? Should I take him to the pediatrician? Should I come pick him up now and observe him carefully in a sterile environment for the rest of the afternoon?

Now, this isn't to say that this lackadaisical attitude hasn't bitten me in the ass a time or two in my life as a mother. For example, (true life mother confession to follow - you've been warned) there was this time that I left Bug and Munchkin, then 18 months and 3 years, to watch Teletubbies in the living room while I took a shower. Little did I know that Bug had learned to open the front door and decided that it was a good time to go exploring the neighborhood wearing nothing but a diaper and a smile, his barefoot and onesie wearing little sister in tow. Oh yes, that was awesome. Police were called to inspect the house and a Department of Children and Families investigation followed up to ensure that we weren't beating or neglecting the children in any way. Munchkin, fair skinned little Irish girl that she is, had bruises on her legs from bumping into assorted tables and chairs as she toddled about and a DCF worker actually supervised a visit to a DCF approved pediatrician to give her a full examination to rule out abuse. No joke. A very high chain lock was installed on the door that very afternoon.

But for the most part, I think that my relaxed parenting has served my children well. All three of them have survived thus far and with a sense of independence that I don't see in a lot of kids their age. I sometimes watch in amazement at friends who won't allow their child to do so much as make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich themselves.

Do they think their little darling is going to slice off a finger with the butter knife or something? Sure, sometimes you get a little peanut-butter in your jelly jar... but really, there's more to life to worry about than that.

I'm confident that if I were to be somehow incapacitated for an extended period of time and my children had to take care of themselves, they'd do just fine. They could get themselves up for school, put on appropriate clothing (okay, I'm still kinda working on this one with Goober, but I'm confident he wouldn't put his underwear on the outside of his pants or anything) and make it to their bus stop on time. After school they are quite capable of walking home, unlocking the door with their own key, locking it back behind them, making a snack, and getting their homework done. They know how to use the microwave, wash their own dishes, take a shower without scalding themselves or getting water all over the floor, brush and floss their own teeth, and get themselves to bed if need be. Heck, even the dog and the cat would be taken care of as they all know how much to feed them, how to walk the dog, and how to change the litter-box.

And one day I'll even manage to have them do all of these things without making any mess or at least clean up after themselves. Rome wasn't built in a day, folks.

It's a common occurrence in our house when The Man is working late and it's just the kids and me at home that I let them make their own dinner. Munchkin's specialty is soup and sandwiches and she gladly fixes them for her brothers and herself. Bug has learned how to microwave scrambled eggs and can make a mean slice of toast. Goober hasn't moved much past the peanut butter and jelly stage, but let me tell you he is quite the champion at it.

And it's not just feeding themselves that I constitute as independence. It's knowing that they feel safe and secure and I feel confident knowing that they can be on their own and make good decisions.

This past Christmas Bug and Munchkin both got bikes. Goober got one for his birthday, but hasn't really mustered up the motivation to actually learn how to ride it, yet. (No, he can't have training wheels... he's SEVEN for goodness sakes!) Bug and Munchkin, though, are in love with their bikes. These bikes, for about $50 a piece (seriously - bikes are way cheap these days - and they're totally cool Mongoose bikes, too), have given my kids a sense of independence that no iPod touch or Nintendo Wii or any other "must have" Christmas gift would have given them. So far the only place they really ride their bikes to is the park up the street, but just that little bit of trust that I place in them gives them a whole new sense of responsibility. On the way there, they stop and pet the mules that live across the street from the park (yes, they have to cross the street to get to the park), and they watch the ducks that swim in the canal about halfway there. They play with other kids, get plenty dirty, and come home within the time range I've given them. In other words, they do the same things I did when I was a kid and you did when you were a kid and our parents did when they were kids.

Hooray for childhood!

**today's word of the day is insouciant** ;)

Monday, February 21, 2011

The word of the day is "malinger"

I'm fairly well-worded. I have what I believe to be an above average vocabulary. I took AP English in high school and I was even an English major for a small period of time. So how is it that, at almost 34 years of age, there are still words sneaking up on me?

The latest is "nefarious."

In the past week I have heard it THREE times. And before that? Never. No instances of "nefarious" in 34 years and then BAM three times in one week.

First it was by Camille Grammar while catching up on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (I mention Bravo TV too much on this blog, don't I?) and then by Rich from The Love Doctors on the radio and then while reading this blog post. says that it means "extremely wicked or villainous; iniquitous: a nefarious plot" -which I picked up on by hearing it 3 times in context.

Should I be embarrassed that I'd never heard of the word before last week? I mean, c'mon! I was a gifted kid! Perhaps I should get one of those "word of the day" calendars in order to increase my vocabulary so words like "nefarious" and "malinger" and "unctuous" and "flummox" don't sneak up on me again.

Do words sneak up on you, too?

malinger \muh-LING-guhr\, intransitive verb;
To feign or exaggerate illness or inability in order to avoid duty or work.
"Bug was complaining of stomach pains all morning, but I thought he was merely malingering in order to get out of going to school. Imagine my horror when the doctor told us he had appendicitis."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When are they coming to take me away?? When??

Where was that post about getting rid of the negativity and hostility and creating a nice, peaceful, calm life for myself???

I must have written it when the kids were at school. And the dog was asleep. And the litterbox must have been clean because I couldn't smell it at the time.

Because right now? I'm thinking that goal may be next to impossible.

Why is it that my children feel it necessary to yell practically everything they say to each other? I've had their ears checked. I HAVE. But they still yell. It's as if there is some competition to see who can drown out the other. Or maybe the real competition is to see how long it will take for me to literally shoot smoke out of my ears.

That being said, I'm off. I'm going to take a deep breath, push myself away from the computer, and calmly tell my little monsters that they need to quiet down. Before their mother jumps in the dirty minivan and heads north... never to be heard from again.

PS - I'm not really going to drive off. Just in case anyone isn't sure. I'm not actually going to run away from my kids... okay? No need to panic.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A True Lady In Every Way

My grandmother is 99 years old. She's my last surviving grandparent, my mom's mother.

When I try to imagine all the things she has seen in her life, I'm absolutely boggled by it.

The rise and fall of Hitler, The Great Depression, Babe Ruth, Prohibition, Albert Einstein, The Vietnam War, and the H-Bomb. She saw Pluto become a planet and then become not a planet. She's seen the assassination of Ghandi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lennon. In her lifetime Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic and Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. She has seen 18 presidents in office, the first being William Taft (though I doubt she had any cares about the president as a 2 year old).

When I try to describe her, the first word that comes to my head is "strong"... and it seems ironic that I'd use that word to describe what most people would perceive to be a tiny, frail, woman living out her last days on this earth.

She was born in 1911, the youngest of 9 children, in rural Georgia. I've been told she had some sort of disease which caused one of her legs to be shorter than the other and slowed her down compared to her siblings. For money she and her siblings picked cotton and since she was smaller and slower, the other workers felt sorry for her and would put rocks in her bags so they would weigh more since they were paid by weight. At some point the family moved to Miami and before long she met her future husband and my grandfather. They had two daughters, my mother and my aunt, and my grandfather called them all "his chickens" and as far as I've always heard life was good.

Until 1960 when my grandfather, riddled with a stomach pain that no doctor could seem to cure, committed suicide leaving his wife and two daughters alone. My grandmother got a job as a secretary for the city manager and continued on with being a great mother to her daughters, making most of their clothes, keeping a tidy house, and making nutritious and delicious meals.

And when I say nutritious and delicious meals, I'm not blowing smoke up anything. My grandmother could cook like no one in the world. And not just home-style stuff, either. She could cook anything and make it taste like it came from the finest restaurant in the world. She was not afraid to go out into her backyard and pull flowers from her own trees to decorate her table. I had many a birthday cake with a Hibiscus flower or two among the candles when I was a kid. Her meals were actually healthy and tasted amazing. She could have given some of these nutritionists a serious run for their money. She was always concerned with nutrition and health and was taking weekly yoga classes way back before it was the thing to do.

She remarried in the late 60's to the man I would always know as "Grandpa" and they lived a glamorous life filled with travel and luxury. When I was little I'd spend forever asking her where all kinds of pictures were taken and she'd tell me stories of places I had never heard of. And all these pictures were of her, often surrounded by native children or in front of regal monuments, with a giant and real smile on her beautiful face. She had a thirst for life and the kind of personality that everyone fell in love with.

When my Grandpa became sick with cancer, she was his nurse. And through it all, she continued to smile and be a light in a house that could have easily become dark and sad. It almost seems like she just doesn't know how to be unhappy or negative. When he died, she grieved of course, but she kept on living. She kept on doing her yoga and cooking for her family and entertaining and spreading the optimism and light that she just couldn't help but emit.

When I was little, I spent the night at her house frequently. She read me Bible stories and played Scrabble with me. In the morning we had cereal for breakfast with wheat germ sprinkled on top (she said I wouldn't be able to taste it... she was wrong) and grapefruit with real grapefruit spoons to eat it with. Her house (which she still lives in today) is close enough to the train tracks that I could fall asleep listening to the distant clickety clack of the train going by. In the summer she would let me eat all the starfruit I could stomach from the giant tree in her backyard. When it was time to take her white cat, Hobbes, to the vet, she always had me over to help - even though I'm quite sure she could have managed it just fine herself. And when I went through that awkward pre-teen part of my life when all that mattered is that I had the right clothes and accessories, she's the one who made sure I had Z Cavaricci's, Guess Jeans, Jelly Bands, and a Swatch Watch.

I was the baby of the family, my sisters being 10 and 11 years older than I am, so I always find it interesting to hear their stories of Grandmommy. They're so different than mine. But I always can't help but think how lucky I was to not really ever have to share her. When I spent time with her it was always just her and me. Trips out to dinner where she taught me that it was perfectly polite to eat the baked chicken right off the bone, providing you did it like a lady. And in 5th grade when she noticed my belly was getting rounder, she took me to Bally's (she called it the health club) and got me a membership and two sets of workout wear, including leg warmers! She never made me feel bad, though. She made it so much fun to go and do aerobics classes and swim in the pool and ride the stationary bike. I felt like a grown-up with my own membership card and everything. She bought me my first rap tape - a compilation that I wish I still had including Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew.

For the past several years, Grandmommy's been a little confused. She has a hard time remembering who's who and where she is sometimes. She is happiest at home where things are familiar. When we visit, we continuously remind her who we are, even then I'm pretty sure she still doesn't really understand. But she just laughs and welcomes the company, asking the same questions over and over again.

She hasn't been doing very well over the past week or so and Hospice is with her. We went to visit last night and though she didn't know who I was exactly, she knew I was "important" and she told me she loved me. Which means a lot... She's not in pain and she's lucky to be at home where she is the most comfortable.

I know her days are few and I can't help but wish I had thanked her more often for all that she did for me when I was growing up and finding myself. I know that if it weren't for her my social status would have been much lower on the totem pole of adolescent popularity. I wish I could let her know how much it all meant to me then and now and how much her love and acceptance has helped me throughout my life. I hope that somewhere deep down inside she knows these things. I know my sisters would agree that she has always been an amazing grandmother and we are blessed to have had her for so very long.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

If you're happy and you know it... :)

I've been doing a little soul searching over the past little while and I've come to some interesting conclusions.

I read somewhere once a little passage by John Lennon that went something like this:

When I was young my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her "Happy". She told me I didn't understand the question. I told her she didn't understand life.

I read that several years ago and it has sort of stuck with me. Because we measure people so much by their what we perceive to be their successes and failures and so often we don't actually stop to really evaluate that person's happiness.

I hate to admit it, but I am in love with the Real Housewives franchise. I know it's melting my brain, but I can't look away. There have been so many times that I've looked at these women who are for the most part beautiful, and rich, and live lives filled with fabulous lunches and parties and all of it... and I've felt myself twinge with jealousy. Here I am, an overweight housewife and mother of three with an old minivan and twelve loads of laundry to do and I think to myself that it must be nice to have a nanny and a housekeeper and children in Ralph Lauren school uniforms at private preparatory schools.

But if you've ever really watched those shows you know that those women aren't happy. In fact, they're continuously on the same quest for happiness that I am and all that glitz and glamor surrounding them isn't helping them one bit.

I spend a lot of my time thinking that if only I had this or that or were thinner or my house were cleaner or whatever that I would be happy. But deep inside, when I shove away all those silly thoughts, I realize that I have everything I need to be really, truly happy. My happiness relies on no one but myself, nothing but my own perceptions and thoughts.

It's easy to go all rainbows and sunshine and tell you all that my happiness comes from my wonderful family and friends and the love that surrounds me every day. And yes, that is wonderful and certainly a reason for me to be joyful and happy. But if all of those people were gone from my life tomorrow, would that mean I have no reason to live? Am I not enough to live for?

I think it's that kind of inner peace and happiness that can pull a person through what might be the darkest and most painful times of their life. And that's the kind of peace and happiness I'm looking to obtain.

So I'm working on shutting out negativity and sadness. And it's not easy. It includes letting some people go from my life and changing the way I look at the world. Those aren't things that can be done with the blink of an eye, but they're worth while things to do and they're absolutely necessary for me to continue on this journey.

I have amazing components of my life to focus on that enrich me and help me to see my life the way I should have always seen it. So that's where my head is today. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Roller Girl I am not...

Today I'd like to tell you all a little story about a skating party.

Munchkin had a birthday party to go to on Sunday and this birthday party was at a skating rink.

Now, back in the day, it was not at all uncommon to find me rocking a pair of roller skates at the rink. I was never one of those good skaters that could skate backwards and shuffle and all that good stuff, but I could hold my own. The Man, on the other hand, is that guy. If you were a rink kid back in the late 80's you know who I'm talking about. That guy was older, maybe a Junior or Senior in high school. He danced around the rink on his black speed skates and avoided all rink catastrophes with ease. His hair literally flowed in the breeze he created with his own skating velocity. He was sometimes accompanied by a slightly awkward girl who appeared to adore him... and rightfully so.

The Man is that guy. He loves a skating rink. Couple that skating rink with some Trinere, Debbie Debb, and Freestyle (and "Because I Love You" by Stevie B for a couples skate) and The Man is really in his element.

So when Munchkin was invited to a birthday party on Sunday and it was at the rink, we decided to make a family day out of it. I was inwardly thrilled because the birthday girl and many of the birthday party attendees were also part of my Munchkin's beloved Girl Scout troop and I love those little monsters like they're my own. Seeing them all on skates could only be awesome.

I wasn't going to skate. I figured I'd be the shoe watcher and picture taker and enjoy a nice afternoon watching everyone else zip around the rink. Munchkin took about a half hour to get her bearings on the skates but before long she was moving pretty quickly around the rink, laughing and even trying out some basic tricks. Bug took to the wall for most of the afternoon, but had a good time and cautiously made his way around on wheels. Goober, however, was quite the spaz. He takes after his mother, I guess. :)

The Man spent much of the afternoon skating backwards and pulling Goober around the rink, and even though I know he was cherishing every moment of teaching his youngest how to find his balance on the skates, I could see that little Goob was cramping The Man's roller king style. So I donned a pair of rink skates and took my little Goober out myself.

Now, I said before, I'm not backwards skater. And after a good 20 years since I held any real regularity on skates, I was in no position to start. So Goober was going to have to skate around at my side.

And it was going well at first. We made it a couple of times around the rink and we even managed to pick up some semblance of speed.

Until he tripped me.

And it happened in slow motion. First Goober went down. And I tried... y'all, I really really tried to stay up. But it was inevitable. I was going down. And I landed hard right on Goober's skate.

So I sit here today, typing to you, my dearest three readers (mom, dad, and person who Googled something strange to land on this page), while leaning to the left in my seat. Because my arse literally has a purple patch the exact size and shape of a wheel on it and my thigh has a shockingly blue/black/red/purple skate sized monstrosity of a bruise and it all hurts. You honestly wouldn't believe how often you use your ass in your daily life. Really.

And the Spaz family? They can't wait to get back to the rink. I kid you not.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"February is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until March." - Dr. J. R. Stockton

(I had to Google Dr. J.R. Stockton to find out who he was... and I'm still not entirely sure, but I think it's safe to say he's very smart.)

So it's been a while. Not that it's any sort of a shock that I've been leaving weeks and months between blog posts. :)

And truly, I'd like to start posting again with some sort of regularity. I'd also like to look like Scarlett Johansson... but that's not happening any time soon. So we'll see.

Lots of stuff has been going on here in the Spaz household. I'm typing up this blog post in my newly reclaimed office, for one. You see, if you remember back to the time when The Teenager moved in with us, you'll remember that I gave up my office. And then when The Teenager moved out the room was given to Bug because he swore that the only reason he couldn't keep his room clean was because he had to share it with Goober and Goober was always messing it up.

A year and a half later, Bug still hadn't gotten a grip on that whole "keeping a room clean" thing so I decided he could go back to sharing one with Goober and I could get my office back.

And let me tell y'all... it's nice. It's clean and quiet and I have a door. A door that closes and shuts out the rest of the world. It's like heaven. I forgot how awesome it was to have an office. Now maybe I can get some work done.

This time of year is always a little strange for me. As we take that curve around Valentine's Day I'm always reminded that my birthday is approaching. When I was a kid, the mere mention of February caused me to light up. In South Florida, February is really our most beautiful month. The air is crisp and cool. In the mornings we drive to school with the heater on and in the afternoons we kick on the AC just to take the edge off. Our skies are brilliantly blue with puffy little clouds floating about and our trees are filled with birds of every color. It is a great month to have a birthday.

But I tend to find myself a little down every February. I'm not sure if it's because I'm getting older (34 this year - is that officially no spring chicken? Or do I have a couple more years?) and with age I see possibilities and opportunities falling by the wayside. Or maybe it's just because I've never been comfortable with a whole lot of focus being on me. It's true... when I was little I used to cry when people sang Happy Birthday to me. It's still not all that comfortable, honestly. Or maybe I'm just reminded with every birthday that I'm one year closer to the end. I don't know... I just know that February is an odd month for me. I smile less and I worry more and I find myself glad it's the shortest month of the year.

14 days till March 1. Start the clock.