December 31, 2011

Replacing 1 with a 2

Spending the last 3pm of the year sucked into the Twilight Zone marathon.

Facebook and Twitter are buzzing with New Year's Resolutions, 'What I'm Going to do Differently in 2012'  and general forward-thinking-good-intentions.

So much planning makes me a little woozy.  For now, I'll choose to thank God for keeping my family intact; and for keeping us from contacting any morticians or composing funeral programs; and for sustaining everyone's health, including our dog's.  I'll be thankful for our home, that we have a Peter to rob when Paul comes knocking, that we've got jobs to (occasionally) complain about and that we've got food in our shelves and refrigerator.

Which brings me back to those resolutions: 35lbs or looser fitting jeans by this time next year.  Whichever comes first.

December 29, 2011

Did I Grow Up Poor? You Tell Me.

"I had to walk to school. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways."

I've never clucked that at my daughter, but I make darn sure that she knows we're blessed. Our family does and has things that would have been unthinkable to my husband or me as children. We've taken a family trip to Disneyworld. Sure it was over three years ago, but we did it.

We've never had to negotiate with WE Energies to avoid a gas or electricity shut-off, but I remember my mom wrangling those kinds of phone calls more than once.  So, despite the stats that say ours is the first generation that is not doing better than their parents, in many respects, I think we are.  In fact, Georgia reminded me of it just this morning. Out of the clear blue, she asked:

"Was Grandma GeeGee poor?

Grandma GeeGee is my late mother. Georgia never got to know her, but I tell plenty of stories about Grandma GeeGee, and stories that help Georgia understand how much easier her life is than mine ever was as a kid. Those stories must have stuck, because she was really wondering if I grew up poor.

The fact is that my dad (who's also deceased) worked for thirty years at AO Smith , a factory that like so many of the factories in Milwaukee, has moved overseas.
He took his vacations in the summer, but instead of vacationing, he painted the houses of rich suburbanites for extra money. In between all of that, he was an associate pastor at our church and picked up a few bucks marrying, burying and baptizing people. Not necessarily in that order.

These days, my mom would wear the trendy crown of SAHM, but back in the 70's "working moms" were the exception -- not the norm.
She added to the family income by watching the kids of the emerging generation of moms entering the workplace. She also gave voice lessons here and there until the family dog started "singing" along with one of her students.

On the flip side, we owned a large home in a nice neighborhood. As kids, we were all given excellent educations; and traveled in show choirs, participated in sports, theater and whatever lessons that interested us at the time

If things had been different, say: if my parents only had one child instead of four; or if we had attended free public schools versus tuition-based Christian schools, those utility shut-off notices probably wouldn't have come and we probably would've taken annual vacations.

My parents had decided that sacrificing made more sense than cutting back on the quality of education, or more sense than cutting back on the number of children in the family for that matter. (Which is a good thing because I'm the youngest) Their clothes were dowdy. Only my dad had winter boots, and that was because he walked five miles to and from work in the snow.  We never heard complaints from either of them. Sacrificing was just part of the deal.

Some people might think my upbringing was poor because we didn't do or have some of the extra-extra curriculars, but I don't. In fact, I think we were actually richer for it; and that's what I told my daughter this morning. I think she got it, but that's a pretty heady concept for a nine year old, even a smart one like her. But that's okay.

The whole conversation -- or monologue as it was -- convinced me that in some ways we're better off than the generation before. But I think they've got us beaten by a mile when it comes to sacrifice.

December 27, 2011

On Behalf of Regular People...

The National Battle of the Bulge, otherwise known as the New Year is upon us: Enter the onslaught of celebrity endorsed weight loss commercials.
Slim-Jim Jennifer Hudson now screeches alongside her meatier self from American Idol days.

Teeny tiny Janet Jackson does a sexy voiceover for a weight-loss magical food program.

Nice, but believable?  Seriously, is there anyone who really believes they can lose weight through a particular diet or weight-loss pill, powder or drink just because a celebrity gets pseudo-motivational and says: “If I can do it, so can you.”  
As the Unofficial Spokesperson for Regular People, I must first say Ugh on all our behalf. And secondly, No. No, Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Celebrity, you can do it because you’ve got nannies who are at your kids’ beck and call while you work out six or eight hours a day.  Regular People work in eight hours a day at a desk, or on a sales floor, or in a warehouse or behind a cash register or in our homes herding errant toddlers like one herds cats.

No, Starlet, you can do it because your elliptical is in the workout wing of your mansion, well out of interrupting distance from a child and/or husband and/or dog.  Regular People keep their elliptical in the den or basement within earshot or shoulder-tapping reach of everyone.

Ms. Diva, I know you can do it, because you’ve got one person grocery shopping according to your physician-tailored diet plan and another one waiting to prepare chez’ food just for you in your state-of-the-art kitchen.  Regular People only see the doctor for the annual physical or if there’s a sickness that 7Up and ibuprofen can’t cure. And diet plan? Regular People are doing good just to plan a menu two weeks in advance and then fit in shopping; which I might add, is done 99% of the time without the aid of a personalized shopper.

Ms. CelebriStar, Regular People really have no gripe with you. Heck, we don't even know you.  What we do know is this: if you can do it, then...well, that's you.  You ought to be able to do it.
Our lives are different from yours, so enough with the pseudo-motivation, already.  Regular People will figure out this battle of the bulge sooner or later...and it won't be due to your stamp of approval.

December 26, 2011

Back to Reality

We made it through the Christmas weekend, enjoyed family, unpeeled a few presents and ate.  And ate. And ate.

Now it's back-to-work and back to some sense of schedule.  Truthfully, there's a part of me that hates to see it go.  I mean, it's kind of ironic that we get thrown back into the fray just as soon as we've unfrayed from the seasonal fray.

But that's the way real life is...and I guess I'm just realizing that the seasonal fray of obligations, overpacked schedules and general racing around isn't real life after all.

And I'll be okay with that...until about 364 days from now.

December 20, 2011

Where Are We Again?

What's the ZIP Code for Crazytown? Because I moved here about a week before Thanksgiving and I still don't know what it is.

Almost daily texts, email exchanges with and phone calls to my BFF have convinced me that Crazytown is population two.  She's unpacking boxes right next door to me.  From what I can tell, we're sitting on a prime piece of real estate.

Between the two of us, in the past few months, we have:
  • Loaded an offspring into the car and then gotten in to drive.  On the passenger side. When no other licensed driver was around.
  • Wandered around in a parking lot in search of a car. For an hour.
  • Put a dog on "time out" in the crate.  And then freaked out ten minutes later because the dog suddenly disappeared.
  • Been en route, uh...someplace and forgotten what the destination of intent was.
  • Seriously considered wearing Pajama Jeans.
One of the days, I'm sure we'll move away from Crazytown.  But at least we're here together right now.

December 17, 2011

Algebra Is Still Confusing

17 + x = 25

If I had only paid closer attention in Algebra, I'd know what "x" is; and I'd know how many days there are until Christmas.

From what I can tell, it's close. Like breathing down my neck, whispering in my ear in an inappropriate way close.

Given that, our frasier fir, once aromatic when replanted in our living room last week, and is now on the verge of collecting dust like my elliptical, was introduced to the ornaments only a mere hour ago.

I like to think that I'm organized. Like, maybe I'm not organized about myself (e.g. packing a healthy lunch, eating a healthy dinner, regularly working out, hanging up my clothes...well, you get the idea); but at least I'm organized about family stuff. Birthdays stuff. Kid stuff. But not this year.

To be honest, I'm not sure if it's peri-menopause, stress, work, trying to get this blog off the ground or a combination of all of the above, but all of the sudden, Christmas is staring me in the face.

So here's what I'm looking at from now until whatever the value of "x" is:

  1. Grocery shopping. Bonus if I can hit the store on Double Coupon Day.  (12/17) DONE!  Saved $33 too!
  2. Flat ironing Georgia's hair.  This is a big, big job and a big, big deal with her semi-nappy, semi-curly hair.  At any rate, "Party Hair" is a must for Wednesday's Christmas program. (12/19) DONE!
  3. Finalizing the presentation (12/18) DONE! I said I'd do for Tuesday's night-time meeting of wanna-be-big muckety mucks. It'd be good to not embarrass myself on this one.
  4. Getting Georgia's Christmas Program Dress. (12/18) DONE! Can I get a woot-woot?! Refer back to #2.
Did I mention today's after-party-party for Jamie's birthday?  (12/17) DONE!  He's happy, it was fun; and all it took was another birthday cake, fun people and a pizza dinner with pipe organ accompaniment ...and then there's general Christmas shopping.  Whether it all gets done before I figure out 17 + x = 25 remains to be seen.

December 15, 2011

If We Make It Through December

It has been two straight weeks of birthdays, which equates to planning, phone calls, hemorrhaging cash, running around on my lunch breaks and more running once I get home. Then the whole thing starts all over approximately ten hours later. Maybe six hours if I stay up to watch Steven Colbert.

These are the times when I flash back to "for better or for worse" and remember his mom tearfully signing our marriage license as a witness. I suspect her tears of joy weren't only because she knew that we'd have our ups and downs, but probably because someone else would have to deal with him. Okay, okay. That last comment was spiteful; but at times like this, I just wish I could dump him on her doorstep and say "Um...he's broken. You made, uh... he's under warranty, right? Why don't I just come back to pick him up once you get him straightened out?"

But that's the thing about marriage: you're a grown up, which means that you figure this kind of crapola out for yourselves without momma's intervention. And you cleave to each other. In other words: you make it fit. You pound it in place like a stubborn kid pounds an errant piece in a jigsaw puzzle.

So I'll keep pounding. We both will. Both of us know that this isn't the end of our marriage; it's just that arguments are just such a rarity for us. I hate 'em; and you can quote me on that.

Bottom line is that we'll make it through December...

..and a bunch of Decembers to come -- especially when you consider that we don't have it half as bad as ol' Merle does.


December 12, 2011

Life in the B.C.

Everything happens for a reason.  While those reasons may not be revealed to me on this side of Heaven, I do believe that I might’ve tapped into why I was born in…well, I’ll go ahead and say it -- in 1969 versus biblical times.  You know:  B.C. and early A.D.

B.C. living wasn’t for wusses. I am a wuss, I don’t like walking in soggy grass or camping.  Dust or rocks in my shoes can shut down my day.  Slaying, plucking and/or skinning what was only hours ago a family pet, building a fire, roasting and then serving said animal as supper doesn’t even make it onto the radar.  And don’t get me started on how women had to handle that “special time” of the month.  Although I must admit that seven days of isolation outside the city walls does have its appeal.

Freaking out was not an option.  Check the Old Testament: how often was God speaking from a mountain, or sending angels to deliver messages to His chosen ones?  A lot, that’s how often.  Those had to have been frightening supernatural events.  The angels knew it too, but it must’ve been a tiring routine trying to get people to not freak out.  Again, how many times do they have to say “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid” or “Arise” or “Get up.”  A lot. There’s no way I would’ve lasted through that. Heck, I get nervous when my dog stares off into space like he can see something that I can’t.  Nope. I would’ve passed out before the angel said word one and screwed up the course of human history.

You lived among the history makers.  And maybe that’s what is so worrisome.  I believe now, and know who the disciples were and who Jesus is now, but that’s only after The Book was written, untold millions evangelized others, and have been killed for evangelizing about Christ.  But I’m not quite sure if I would’ve believed Jesus or the disciples had I been in crowds back then. With my critical nature, I would’ve been the one in the crowd of 5,000 who were miraculously fed with the five loaves and a fish kvetching about it being an imbalanced meal because there was no vegetable on the side.  Or I would’ve thought that Jesus was a really nice guy – a little kooky, but not God's Son...certainly not God incarnate.  I would’ve been the one who was telling the kids to leave Him alone, and been confused by His kindness to that one bratty kid who no one in the village could stand. 

God knows what He’s doing.  That’s why He put me here in the A.D. I’ve got the whole story at my fingertips; and I know that it’s got a happy ending.  But  A.D.’s got it’s own challenges: a corrupt political scene, families struggling in the economy  and natural disasters of…well, biblical proportion, that make it hard to remember that story does end well.

But I do remember…and thank God every day that I’m not a B.C. Baby.

December 10, 2011


Did I mention that today's the coldest day of the year?  So cold that even Charley wouldn't leave home without the sweater Grandma made just for him.

December 9, 2011

A Tale of Two Guys

I watched Tyler Perry's "Daddy's Little Girls" last night. Or at least some of it. But what I saw hit me pretty hard. From what I could surmise, the story revolves around a single dad with sole custody of his daughters. He loses custody (kids were playing with matches) to his ex-wife, who's far from the ideal mom.

The dad character is a hard-working guy. He's smart, truly loves his girls and is pretty easy on the eyes. In other words, he reminded me of Jamie -- except Jamie's not black and I'm not an evil ex-wife. Throughout the movie, the dad hits different walls, including romantically. At first, his love interest - a high-powered attorney who's also black -- wants nothing to do with him because she's got preconceived stereotypes about black men from "the hood": bad credit; Baby Daddies'; lazy; ex-cons...and pretty much whatever else you see black artists doing on hip-hop videos.

She tells him all that, pretty much verbatim, and it was harsh. A verbal castration, really.

Then I thought about my brother - who is pretty much like the dad in the story (except for the kids and evil ex-wife). Who in turn, is very much like my husband. They're two hard-working, non-college-educated guys. But I guess that's where the similarities end. If you put my husband in a suit, outside of looking hot, someone could look at him and assume that he's a college educated office guy. Same suit on my brother: bad credit; Baby Daddy; lazy; excon.

Growing up, we were taught that we'd have some humps to overcome when it came to race -- it just went with the territory of living in the skin we're in. We also knew that the humps weren't any excuse to not live up to our God-given potential; so as kids, we weren't suprised with the DWB Stops (Driving While Black) in the suburban parts of Milwaukee; learned to laugh off the department store detectives who followed us as soon as we entered and even at the people who decided we'd understand them better if they "talked black" to us.

But even with that attitude, even with our educations and ability to be "articulate", I know that these two guys who I love so much, and who are so alike, are living very different lives.

December 8, 2011

The Grass Isn't Greener...

Because of December birthdays and our work schedules, we run around like headless chickens during the first weeks of December.  This means that we miss the warmer temps, and we're usually in the middle of the cold snap by the time our schedules allows us to go Christmas tree shopping.  Not a big deal, but it's usuallly so cold by that time that I just want to get out of the car, snag a tree, and get back in the car post-haste.

It was no different a couple of years ago.  Jamie, Georgia and I piled in the car in the biting cold weather, and by the time the car heated up, we were at the Christmas tree lot.  We unpiled, and grabbed whatever trees were close for inspection; and this is how inspection goes: I see a tree.  Jamie holds and  spins it around so I can give it the once-over.  This all happens in between keeping an eye on our daughter and telling her to stay close and/or stop sticking her hands in the snow because her knit gloves will get wet and only make her hands cold.  Then, if it's a decent tree - relatively straight trunk, no Charlie Brown pine needle shedding -- I give my blessing. If no blessing is given, we keep looking and the cycle starts all over again.

Well, that particular year it just so happened that the first tree we found was a good tree, but Jamie, searching for perfection, suggested that finding a tree so soon was just too good to be true.  I agreed.  He put it back with the others and we went on to see what greener pastures the next row had in store.  Halfway through the next row, the wind howled and blew a chill through all of us. Smarter heads prevailed and we high-tailed our way back to the perfect tree...only to see it being carted off by another family.

Thirty minutes and thirty frozen fingers later, we were on our way home with another, not as perfect tree.  So we learned.  From now on, we take the first perfect or near-perfect Christmas tree and run.  Or at least walk quickly before the temperature drops below freezing.