Friday, July 22, 2011

Er, Sorry...Or, Could I Feel Any Smaller?

I have a rule in our home. Okay, there are several. But the one I'm referring to is the "No Locked Doors" Rule (One caveat: bathroom doors). We respect each other's privacy by knocking first, so there is no reason to lock your bedroom door (One caveat: my door).

But I digress...

It was a typical Monday night (other than being the last day of my 38th year). One child playing with her legos, one sprawled across the couch, and one (middle) child who had a friend over. I ran down to the Office/Laundry Room/PS3 Room to let the boys know their dinner was ready. I grabbed the handle and turned...locked. "Jack?!" I called, "open this door."


The friend opened the door to my best stern mom face. "We have a rule in this house," I said to him as he slinked back to his chair in front of the tv, "No locked doors."


I let it go - I don't believe in scolding/lecturing/beating (ha) kids in front of their friends.

After his friend went home, I found Jack in front of the PS3. I sat down next to him. "Jack?" "I know mom," he said, "I'm sorry."

I was feeling very in control. Pleased with my ability to stay in charge and on top of the House Rules I had imposed. "What were you doing in here that you needed to lock the door?"

"Mom..." Jack sneaked a peak at me out of the corner of his eye before turning back to the TV to shoot another bad guy.


"Do I have to tell you?"

I was smug. "I'd like to know, yes."

He reached behind his chair and pulled out a stack of little square sheets of paper.
"It's your birthday present."

Each square was a coupon; for cutting the lawn, babysitting his sister, folding the laundry, washing the car. A free hug.

Ugh. My turn to apologize. For thinking...what? That they were building a weapon of mass destruction? Leafing through a magazine found on the sidewalk? Sometimes my imagination gets the best of me. Better to be on my toes, I guess. I'm not naive. Sure, I turned 39 last Tuesday, but I remember quite clearly the trouble I caused (and got away with) back in the day.

This year for my birthday, Jack gave me two gifts. One being the stack of coupons (how great is that!?), the other being a healthy dose of humility.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Was Your First Concert?

Remember your very first concert? I do. It was 1980. I was 8 years old. We went with our neighbors, in their station wagon, to see the Osmond Family. Donny sang Puppy Love. It was groovy.

Okay, I don't know if that really counts...the next concert I went to was Dan Folgerberg at the Fox Theatre. I was 15. Went with my best friend, my dad and step mom. Not sure if this one really counts either, as it was the Fox, we were seated the entire time (although I do remember we had great seats), and there were no waving lighters, no screaming.

I saw Rick Springfield in concert at Six Flags (I'm guessing he sang "Jessie's Girl over and over again...what else was there?). Then went to a few shows in my late teens...ZZ Top, Scorpions, Billly Squier (how I loved Billy Squier, hot pink leather pants and all).
Oh, yeah... and U2. My brother and I stood in line for hours to get crappy seats to see Bono and The Edge at the old Busch Stadium. It was awesome.
Since then I've seen Carlos Santana a couple times, then Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, and Trace Adkins (guess I went through a country phase).
I saw RUSH for the first time in 2007, Van Halen (with David Lee Roth and a teenage, pimply-faced, albeit talented, Wolfgang accompanying his dad on guitar) in 2008 and RUSH (again) in 2009 (this time around was a little better, speaking strictly of set list and sound quality).

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing U2 again. I took my oldest son, Connor.
At 14, it was time he experienced his first rock concert. And I really want to be the one to take all of my kids their first time. Connor and I have music (and writing, and books) in common, so it seemed fitting. I think he enjoyed it. The sheer size and sound of it all. 50,000 fans singing I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Very cool.

My favorites off last night's set list were (in order of performance):
I Will Follow
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Many Rivers To Cross (I know he only did the first few lines, but I love this song - especially Annie Lenox's version)
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Hallellujah (Again, only the first verse here, and I know it's not his, but I love this song, and I loved his voice singing it)
Where the Streets Have No Name
With or Without You
New Year's Day (which I heard as we were walking to the car...Damn! We left too early!)

I would have loved to hear "40" if only so that we (the audience) could sing along with Bono ("Sing this with me, this is 40!" If you have the album, you know what I'm talking about).
Would have loved to hear a few off Rattle & Hum (God Part II, Desire, Bullet the Blue Sky), and although they did play three off Joshua Tree, I would have loved to hear Trip Through Your Wires (love that harmonica) or In God's Country.

(And, No, Joe, they did not play Lemon. However, they did play Elevation, and I read that in early concerts on the Tour they did, in fact, play Lemon, as well as one of my favorites - Party Girl - sorry to have missed that one).

All in all, it was a GREAT show.

But I digress..."What was your first concert?" is a common question. And I love that Connor's answer will be "U2" (it sure as hell beats Donny Osmond!) And whether or not he chooses to let people know that he went with his mom, we'll always share that memory. I've got the photo (above), and the ticket stub to prove it.

What was your first concert? How about your favorite (so far)?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Serenity...Just $13.99

Sometimes it's just not worth the battle.

My middle child (you remember him?  Willful, loving, Jack) hurt his elbow during goalie training last night.  They were practicing diving for the soccer ball (it's your third hand, you love the ball!) and he landed on it, his elbow slamming into hard ground.  Nothing broken (I'm not a doctor, but we've had 5 in our house - none Jack's), no heinous swelling or bruising.  But Jack was hurting last night.  I coaxed him into a warm bath, got him settled on the couch with a fluffy pillow, soft blanket and tv and he fell right to sleep.  This morning he was a hornet's nest.  
Couldn't move his arm (he said), couldn't do anything, refused to go to summer camp because he was afraid to take the field trip to the in-link skating rink.  He was bored, restless, and then got it in his head that he needed to have his arm in a sling. 
I tried telling him I don't have a sling.  I tried telling him I was working (from home today, mind you) and he needed to relax (read: be quiet!) and keep ice on it.  

Nothing worked.  Once he got the idea of a sling into his head, nothing else was going to do.  "Mom, pulleeeese!" he whined, "it hurts!"  Dragging out the words as though stretching the syllables would impress upon me his dire circumstances.  It simply stretched that nerve ending to near breaking.  You know the one...the LAST SENSITIVE NERVE?  Yep.  That one.

I heard about it from 8am this morning through 1pm when I had to run out for a doctor's appointment.  Then I read about it via text.  Gosh, I do love technology. 

On the way home, it hit me.  I had spent the past 5+ hours listening to this whining, complaining misery.  And suddenly an infomercial began playing in my head:  

Are you in need of peace?  Do you need a few moments of serenity?  How long have you had to put up with the whining?  Well, folks, have we got just the thing for you!
Peace!  Serenity! A temporarily content 11 year-old boy!  That's right!  All this can be yours for the low, low price of $13.99.  Just one payment of $13.99 can buy you a few moments of whinelessness (is that even a word? It is now...)!  All you have to do is stop at Walgreens on your way home and purchase that cotton, adjustable sling.  $13.99.  Operators are standing by...

Now, I normally do not fall victim to these sales pitches, but this was one I absolutely could not argue with.  I simply could not refuse.  I swerved into that Walgreens parking lot and ran in like I was on fire.  And when I got home and presented Jack with the sling...

Well, let's just say I'm writing this in complete silence...


Thursday, July 7, 2011

As I Close Out My Fourth (a look back through the decades)

Next Tuesday, July 19th, I will turn 39.

The last year of my thirties.

It doesn't scare me, but I'm certainly in a reflective mode. It makes me think about each of the decades I've lived through so far...

Ages 0-9.
As the famous line goes "Everything I need to know, I learned in Kindergarten." True, to a point. All the major necessities were covered. We're born...check. Learn to sit, stand, walk....check. check. check. Get the talking thing down... Heck, we even learned to read and write. Loads of learning. Well done!

10 - 19.
A rough ten years. Pre-teen to teen, to college student all in such a short span. No wonder it's so fraught with angst and confusion.
Let's see if my second decade sounds anything like yours ... from 10 to 19, I learned...a different set of skills. How to talk back, wear makeup, not burn myself on a curling iron, empty a can of Aqua Net on just my bangs. All checks. I started and graduated highschool, went on my first date, had my first "serious" relationship. I don't know if I learned as much during these years as I tried, tested, pushed, ignored and fought against. Yep, that sounds more like it.

20 - 29.
Major changes here. The first and biggest being the coveted "legal drinking age." Maybe that's why the first couple years in this decade is a little hazy... I do recall moving into my first apartment. For many, this decade saw a college degree, maybe two. First "real, grown up" jobs, engagements, weddings, pregnancy, babies, and first homes. This 10-year span for me held great joy (becoming a mom), missed opportunities (travel), both bad (dropping out of college) and good (going back to college) decisions. This was a decade for learning how to be a "grown up," a wife, a mother, a home owner. This is when I learned to take care of others. To put others first. And to put myself last.

30 - 39.
This has been a decade of discovery. This was when I learned about me. My passions, my dreams, my hopes, what is most important. It has also held some very difficult years. Years that I'm grateful for nonetheless, because they shaped who I am today. If we could go back carrying all the knowledge we've gathered over time...wouldn't that make things so much easier? But really, who wants to do it over again? Not I. I'm thrilled to have gotten through it, and excited about what's to come. I refuse to think about the fact that my life may very well be half over (or worse). I have dreams! Big dreams! Promises I've made to myself. I've had my work published - seven times so far! And I'm finally working on that novel I've always wanted to write.

But I digress, I'm going to enjoy this last year of my thirties. And realize that every year has brought me closer to the best years of my life. I truly believe they are still in front of me.

What's your favorite decade so far (and why)?

Monday, July 4, 2011

What Is Patriotism?

I wrote this essay for a writing contest hosted by Hot Psychology magazine back in 2007. It took 2nd place.
My views have changed just a little bit since then, but since I just returned from vacation (a fantastic, long weekend in Ft. Myers), I thought it'd be okay to cheat a little, and repost this today, in honor of Independence Day. Happy 4th everyone!

I was working on my writing degree in 2001, teaching preschool at “Love ‘N Laugher” in the morning for extra income. It was a small school, 60 families in an 80-year old home that the owner had converted into a preschool. White brick with little red awnings, sidewalk chalk up and down the driveway, clapboard fence surrounding a happy playground filled with swings, slides and running toddlers. It was quaint. Cozy. Safe. One of a million little schoolhouses all over the world.

Once the children were down for their nap, the afternoon teacher would relieve me, and I’d head to my own classes. Universities tend to lean left, politically, and at the time, I was married to a right-wing Republican. I never had much opinion on political matters. Instead I tended to let my husband sway me, just as our parents’ beliefs sway us in our youth. Once I went back to school for my bachelor’s though, I became a little more opinionated. Maybe it was the University environment, maybe it was the strain on my marriage, maybe I was finally finding my voice, and over time, confidence in that voice. Whatever it was, I felt more and more compassion for the soldiers, and less and less for the government – ours or anyone else’s.

July 4 was always a favorite of the preschoolers at Love N Laughter. The kids celebrated by waving little American flags, singing “patriotic” songs and creating “firework” art by throwing paint-drenched Koosh balls at black construction paper. I can remember walking into the little school house the morning of September 11, 2001, a weary eye on the sky, half expecting to see fighter jets flying overhead. I can remember wondering if there were preschool teachers walking into little schoolhouse in Iraq, or Cuba, or Vietnam that morning. What makes us different from any of them? Surely they were familiar with the fear of the unknown, as I was for the first time that morning.

I can’t imagine anyone talking or writing about Patriotism without mentioning 9/11 in some way. Pre-9/11 America and Post-9/11 America. Of course, most would say that, as a country, we are much more “patriotic” now.

But what does that mean? Because our country was attacked in such a massive, public, horrifying way, that we suddenly became more proud of our country? Willing to fight back? We got flag happy, I think. We rallied around the troops, the government, and the “war on terror." These aren’t bad things, of course, but it did feel very “Republican."

If patriotism is this simple, why does it always seem to be a political issue? If we are against the “war on terror” then we’re not patriotic. If we’re all for it – we’re murdering, war lovers. What if patriotism is just about having that sense of peace within us that somehow things will be okay? What if it’s just about waving that little flag and smiling as you walk past a stranger – sharing a common bond – even for just that day.
It’s our right as Americans – born in a free country – to choose our politics. Are we Republican or Democrat? Do we back the president, or back away? Whichever way we lean politically – we should be proud that we have that right. We should be grateful for the opportunity to choose and speak out without fear. Why fight with the leftist next door because you’re right wing? Be glad that both of you have respect and love enough for your country to use your rights. Be patriotic – and smile at the opposing team – just for today.

That first 4th of July – 2002 – was a big one for our country. But things at Love ‘N Laughter were exactly as they’d been for the past 19 July 4th celebrations. Same little flags, same paint-smattered little hands, same smiles, giggles, shouts.

That little school house hasn’t changed in the last six years. There is still no lock on the front door. No iron gates at the end of the driveway. No metal detectors or rent-a-cops.
It is still the same, peaceful, cozy place it was pre-9/11. One small sign that maybe we really our patriotic – we really do believe in our peace. Is it na├»ve? Maybe. But it’s American. How patriotic is that?