Month: February 2012

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I love this kid.

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.”   ~The Rolling Stones

It was another evening of endless homework and confusion at our house tonight. These nights are exhausting and occurring with far too great a frequency lately. It’s a wonder I have a hair left in my head with all the pulling I’ve been doing lately. Where’s Calgon when you need it?

I love my beautiful, green-eyed son, Joe. He is bright, articulate, and gentle. He has not one aggressive or intentionally mean bone in his body. He struggles mightily with school, but every day he goes back and tries again. He has to work twice as hard as many of his classmates for just half the results but he soldiers on. He loves babies and small children and is a natural caretaker. He hates to cuddle but will send me text messages and Facetime me from his iPad when we’re just one floor apart because he misses me. He is a serious, deep-thinker who laughs hardest with his brother, whom he adores. He loves geography and will spend hours staring at Google Earth and studying the planet. Go ahead. Ask him. He’ll happily tell you that Timbuktu is in Mali and that Nuuk is the capital of Greenland. (Did you even know Greenland had a capital? I didn’t until Joe told me.) He’s smart, insightful, and intuitive. His intense sensitivity breaks my heart.

When he was born, like all new parents, I had expectations of what parenting him would be like. I envisioned early foreign language lessons, sports camps, and piano recitals. What I didn’t envision is that he would have trouble speaking his native tongue, have difficulty coordinating his movements between right and left, and have a complete inability to clap his hands in tune to music. His struggles with the most basic things, including tying his shoes, have vexed me until I thought I would go crazy trying to figure out how to help him. Through it all, though, he has carried on to the best of his abilities, perpetually hoping to please and knowing someday he will get it right.

A while back, something occurred to me. There is a reason that I was sent this incredible boy. I’m not here for him. He’s here for me. Joe came to me because I need to let go of expectations and find beauty in what is and not what I want to be or what I hoped would be. Life with Joe is never according to plan. Because of Joe, I’ve learned to have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D and to prepare to have to actually use Plan H. Parenting him is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do. However, I have learned more from him in the past ten years than I learned in the thirty-three years prior to his arrival. Not a day with Joe goes by without a lesson for me. What a gift that is to a woman whose life purpose from day one has been a quest to gain knowledge.

Parenting this green-eyed boy has been not at all what I expected, but it’s been exactly what I needed.


To The Contrary

The collateral damage from my feeding frenzy

I am currently not in a very zen place. It’s most likely a hormonally-based response, but right now I want to smack someone over something ridiculous. I am irked at them and even more annoyed at myself for allowing something so petty and pointless to get to me. I’m ashamed to admit that I was angry enough to finish off not one, not two, but ten Girl Scout Trefoil cookies (along with several other items, which shall not be named) in what can only be termed a feeding frenzy of anger.

What egregious infraction could possibly elicit such a vehement response? What could ostensibly send me into a Girl Scout cookie coma? I’ll tell you what. I hate it when people say contrary things merely for the sake of being contrary.

You know what I’m talking about. You’re at your desk chatting with a coworker about a great movie you saw this weekend when someone walks by and overhears your conversation. Suddenly that nosy interloper cuts you off in the middle of a movie review so brilliant that it would bring Roger Ebert to tears and drops this bomb: “I saw that movie. It sucked. It sucked so bad I walked out.” He then tells your friend to save his money, and you sit there, mouth hanging open, dumbfounded and stymied, as the creep walks away like nothing ever happened. I hate that guy.

Perhaps hate is a strong word. Maybe it’s a bit over the top. But, there aren’t words enough to describe how much I dislike it when someone sticks their nose into the middle of something I feel good about just to announce that whatever it is that I’m enjoying is nothing but suckitude. Why? What motivates some people do this? They like to rain on others’ parades? They truly believe their opinion trumps every other one out there? They suffer from Tourette Syndrome-like inability to control their obnoxiously negative comments? Their mother never taught them the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Some of the people who are contrary are consistent in their negativity and it wouldn’t matter what you were discussing because they would find a way to send it south. Some of these people would tell you that Mother Teresa was only in it for the publicity.

Now, I know we all have bad days. Sometimes we say things that we shouldn’t. We all have our Negative Nelly moments. But to those people whose entire lives are framed with some sick need to be “right” (whatever that means) 100% of the time in every situation, especially those in which you have no business, do the rest of us a favor and simply keep your comments to yourself. We don’t care if you hated the movie or soup, if you heard the ski conditions were horrible, if you once had the same type car and it was a complete lemon. Let us have our experiences and enjoy our own things and mind your own business. That way, I don’t have to smack you or eat an entire sleeve of Girl Scout Trefoils.



Don’t Hate Me Because I’m an Introvert

A scene that eases my introverted soul

Sitting in the doctor’s office today (it was a day of endless doctor’s office visits), I found an article in Time called “The Upside of Being an Introvert (and Why Extroverts are Overrated), written by Bryan Walsh. Being an introvert, I was intrigued. Because roughly 70% of people are extroverted, I’m clearly in the minority. And, it feels that way. I was interested to read what the author had to say.

For the 70% of you who do not “get” introversion or who confuse shyness with introversion, the article sums it up nicely:

“For one thing, introverted does not have to mean shy, though there is overlap. Shyness is a form of anxiety characterized by inhibited behavior. It also implies a fear of social judgment that can be crippling. Shy people actively seek to avoid social situations, even ones they might want to take part in, because they may be inhibited by fear. Introverts shun social situations because, Greta Garbo–style, they simply want to be alone.”

I am not shy. I do not go to a party and stand quietly in the corner because I think I’m better than you or, worse yet, because I’m afraid of what you think of me. I stand there quietly because I am, plain and simple, uncomfortable. Although I am a bright, articulate person, I have a difficult time starting and maintaining conversations with strangers. I also do not care to do so. I prefer to observe. My inability to chit chat at social functions has long given others ample reason to decide that I am stand-offish or bitchy. Not true. I’m simply not adept at small talk. Social functions exhaust me. They make me need a nap, and I don’t nap.

My introverted nature has caused me problems with other adults on more than one occasion. Once I had an extroverted woman approach me (after years of being casual acquaintances within the same group) and ask me to explain to her why I talked to everyone BUT her. I stood there dumbfounded for a few seconds before finally managing to squeak out that they had all talked to me first. I’m not sure that was the answer she expected, but it was the truth. I more recently had another extroverted woman confront me and tell me that she didn’t know what to make of me because I wouldn’t socialize with her on a regular basis. She felt hurt and offended, as if she had done something wrong. I had to tell her that she hadn’t done a thing wrong. I merely don’t enjoy idle chit chat. I’d rather do something productive. I’m sure that offended her even more, but by that point I realized I could not make her approve of how I operate. And, I’m not going to apologize for introversion because it is not a communicable disease. Hey extroverts…I’m different than you are. I get it. But, my reticence is not about you nor is it your problem.

Yes. I’m an introvert. I’m not quiet because I’m shy. I simply prefer to reserve comment until I’ve had adequate time to think and formulate an opinion before opening my yap. Because I’m not always verbally quick, Abe Lincoln’s school of thought makes sense to me: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Yes. I’d rather observe than be observed, but I like to think that it’s good that some of us are like that. After all, if we all had to be in the spotlight, who would run the camera?

Oscar Geek

My Oscar Ballot

Every year on Oscar Night, I host a little family get together. We make wonderful food, drink, fill out ballots and, at the end of the night, someone in our house is declared the best Oscar-winner picker. (Better than being the best butt picker, I think.) At any rate, since I’ve been busy with my kids all day and I’m going to be parked on the sofa all evening, this weak post is all I can muster. Here are my picks for the top categories tonight. I am likely hugely wrong (I never win), but I’ve got a glass of Pinot Noir in me and no pride so here goes:

Best Director:  Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer for Beginners

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer for The Help

Best Actor: George Clooney for The Descendants (okay…Oscar folks, asking me to choose between George and Brad was just mean)

Best Actress: Viola Davis for The Help

Best Picture: The Artist (which I truly think deserves the honor)

Enjoy laughing at my losing ballot and Happy Oscaring!

Under House Arrest

We've been stuck here so long Joe's grown a very full, 70s-era mustache. We should get out more.

When my husband has the boys for the weekend without me, the three of them go do things and then eat out. This weekend, I’m here with our boys while hubby is skiing in Steamboat Springs with his college buddies. I thought maybe I could follow Steve’s trend and convince them to go do something and eat out with me. The three of us haven’t had much of a chance to do that since school let out, so I thought I would ask them. I was denied. Apparently, after our big weekend last weekend, they just wanted to stay in. So, that’s what we’ve done. My car hasn’t moved since 3 p.m. yesterday. Actually, I really haven’t moved since 3 p.m. yesterday.

I’m sure this is exactly what I need right now. Downtime. I spent back-to-back weekends in the mountains, away from home. A weekend without plans should sound like heaven to me at this point. For some reason, though, instead of feeling free and unencumbered, I feel as if I am under house arrest.

I wondered why it is that dad is allowed to have fun with them and when I want to do something fun with them they act like it’s such a hassle? So, I asked them why they refused to go out to eat with me last night. They told me it’s because they like it when I cook. They feel safe and peaceful here at home. They don’t feel like running around town. They’re comfortable.

As annoying as it is that their dad gets to do all the cool parental things with them while I’m relegated to the role of chef and caretaker, I suppose there is something positive in it too. The bottom line is that my boys feel cozy and happy when they’re here with me. They can be themselves. They are relaxed. I keep trying to remind myself that this is a good thing. In a couple years they will be too cool for school and too cool for me. So, I’m going to stop feeling trapped and try to count my blessings. And, I’m going to hope that I haven’t created such a wonderful home for them that they never want to leave it. I love my boys, and I’m infinitely glad that they like being home with me. But, if they think they’re staying here forever, they’re mistaken. Don’t tell them yet but I already have plans for their rooms the minute they leave for college, and I’m buying them luggage for high school graduation. 😉

I Am A Golden Goddess!

My screaming deal on designer denim

Yesterday, I posted that I hate shopping for shopping’s sake. I hate trying on clothes. I hate shopping around. I prefer to get what I would like to have with the least amount of actual physical effort and for the least amount of money. Normally, this means that I happen across something that I want in a store, say a pair of shoes. Then, I go home and look for them online for the least amount of coin and free shipping. It’s a combination of laziness and my incredible desire to avoid having to speak with an actual sales associate in a store. I won’t drive all over town looking for deals because I can find them on my computer without having to come in contact with another human being. I don’t even need to greet the UPS or FedEx employee when they leave my purchases on my porch. I’m oh-so stealthy like that.

Today, however, I was forced to go shopping in a store. Months ago I purchased a deal through LivingSocial for designer denim from The Blue Jeans Bar. Last year, I bought my first pair of quality jeans there and blogged about it. Ever since I bought my Fidelity jeans, I’d been meaning to go back to buy another pair. The coupon gave me $75 to spend for $35. Most of the jeans in that store run between $150-$225 a pair, so a $40 savings is quite helpful. About a month ago, I received an email notice that the store I purchased the coupon for was moving from Littleton to Vail. Knowing I would be way too lazy to drive to Vail for shopping I didn’t really want to do in the first place, I made a mental note to get into the store before they moved. The email said they were moving on the 29th, so today I hauled myself down there.

A handwritten sign on the door noted that they were closing the 25th. Holy cow was I cutting it close. In preparation for the move, they’d liquidated most of their stock. The sales gal gave me two pairs in my size from the slim pickings on the shelves, a pair of skinny jeans and a pair of trouser jeans. I tried them both on and was amazed to find that they both felt and looked great. I figured I had the coupon and they were marked down so I could probably squeak by with getting both without hubby raising his eyebrows at me.

The sales gal rang them up to the tune of $160. I pulled out my coupon. She wasn’t sure I could use it with the sale items. Dang! I strong-armed myself into believing that I was getting two for the price of one so it was still a good deal. After a minute, she seemed to reconsider the coupon and said, “What the heck? We’re closing tomorrow anyway.” I’m guessing she didn’t want to have to pack them up for the move. Score!

My grand total for the two pairs came to $86. I handed her my debit card, she bagged them up, and I walked out of the store on Cloud 9 3/4. Seriously? When do I ever get deals like this? When do the stars align and I find denim at more than 50% off AND have a coupon too? I did the math. I saved 68%. I’m sure that in the history of shopping, greater deals have been had…but not by me. All I know is that every time I put on those perfect jeans, I’m going to feel comfortable, fashionable, and smug because I will know that my 7 For All Mankind jeans cost me less than $43. Today, I am a golden goddess of shopping.

You Can Call Me Al…Bundy

Luke sleeping like Al Bundy

I am not your stereotypical female. I hate idle chit chat. I despise shopping for shopping’s sake. I am completely inept at accessorizing. Girly, romantic movies make me retch. And, the truth is that I suck at two roles traditionally associated with women: 1) taking care of others and 2) being aware of and concerned about other people’s feelings. Before you imagine that I am being overly unkind to myself, let me just openly admit than in the past few years two of my immediate family members (both female) blatantly called me out for these things. Sadly, I had to accept that they could not both be incorrect and that I must be somewhat uncaring and insensitive, albeit unintentionally so.

Steve and I have joked for years that in every friendship we share with another couple, instead of relating more to the wife, I normally think more like the husband. (Yes. That means Steve and I share the pants in the family.) Sad, but true. Despite being born physically and obviously female, I missed out on the sensitivity gene normally provided to women. I’d like to be sad about it and apologize, but I just don’t give a flying fig. And, this is how I know I’m not your stereotypical woman. I normally don’t obsess over feelings. In fact, I often don’t notice them. I often am puzzled when people are offended by things I do or say or don’t do or don’t say. Beyond that, I don’t care what others think of me. It matters not if anyone likes my outfit or thinks my chocolate cake is the best cake they’ve ever tasted (it is, by the way). If a family member or friend doesn’t speak to me for weeks, I don’t worry about what I might have done to offend them. I simply figure they’ve been too busy to contact me. Sometimes, my assumptions are wrong. Because I am (at least technically) female, other women occasionally take offense that I don’t recognize their cues and work to acknowledge their feelings. It’s been a problem for some of them.

Today I was talking on and off with both my sisters, one of whom is getting married and the other of whom is going through a divorce. They both have a lot on their plates right now, so I am consciously working toward being a more caring, sensitive person. It is not easy for me. Currently, in all my relationships, when someone is telling me something and my mind starts its trek to the usual LaLa Land it inhabits while filtering out information that doesn’t directly affect me, I direct it to pay attention, listen, and provide support. It’s an arduous endeavor for me.

While working on dinner tonight, I was shuffling around, barely functioning. I kept turning in circles trying to figure out what I was supposed to be working on. I would leave the room to collect something only to get where I was supposed to find it and not have a clue why I was even there. It went beyond the normal old-age, forget-my-head-if-it-wasn’t-attached mom confusion. Even Steve noticed it.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “You seem off.”

“I’m so tired. I talked to my sisters today.”

Steve, knowing how I am working to be a more competent, attentive listener, simply nodded his head.

“When I have to think about people’s feelings, I get exhausted,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

I paused to consider that statement and then went back to cutting the stems off the broccoli because the males in my household only like the fluffy broccoli tree tops that hold all the sauce.

I’m working on being a better woman, on taking better care of others and considering people’s feelings. I don’t think I will ever be as caring and sensitive as some would like me to be, but at least I’m trying. I would also like to remind those who would like to see me change that everyone has something to offer. Sometimes insensitivity can be a good thing. If I weren’t as clueless and insensitive as I am, my family members’ comments to me about my perceived negative personality traits might have damaged our familial relationships. There’s something to be said for acting like a guy and not taking everything so personally. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sit on the couch, drink a beer, and scratch myself.


No Way, Big Bad Wolf!

Where I am bedding down tonight

Early this morning my husband, who works downtown, texted to ask if it was windy at our house. This is not an unusual question. We live at the base of the foothills, which means we live in the rough equivalent of a wind tunnel. We have seen our fair share of unpleasant winds. These winds have tossed our wrought iron patio furniture and our heavy Weber grill off our flagstone patio and into our fence. They once took our roof down to bare wood in a 3 foot square section on the crown of our house. They have snapped street lights and taken them down. And, they have kept us awake more nights than we care to remember.

A couple hours later, I received another text. “Windy downtown” was all it said. It hadn’t sunk in yet but in retrospect I now realize hubby was trying to prepare me for a wind event. I hadn’t seen a weather forecast, so I had no idea. Around 5 o’clock tonight, the winds started picking up. By 7:00, I could hear roof tiles from the neighbor’s house smacking against the side of our house. By 8:30, I realized we were missing the entire south side section of the fence in the backyard. It was knocked over in some sections and torn to shreds in others. At 9 p.m., our neighbor Randy called us. His house is on the north side of ours so it bears the brunt of these winds from the northwest. In the last windstorm, which did not have the 75 mile per hour gusts we’ve seen tonight, their roof was damaged badly enough to require replacement. He was calling to let me know that they could not locate the glass top to their patio table and wanted to make sure we kept an eye out for broken glass in our yard. Good to know.

We have a standard operating procedure when the winds are bad. We set up shop in Luke’s tiny room. Luke’s bedroom faces south and is the only bedroom protected from the wind during storms like this. Steve and I have tried sleeping through winds in our west facing bedroom, but the weep holes in the windows make the wind rumble through loudly. It sounds as if an elephant is trumpeting in the room. True story. Over the past ten years, we’ve tried sound machines, fans, ear plugs, and sleep medication as means of helping us sleep through the wind but to no avail. I’ve spent many a night with two pillows on top of my head, drifting in and out of sleep as the wind growled at our house. We gave up. We learned that a few nights a year it’s worth it to crash on an air mattress on the floor of Luke’s room. The boys love it (they call it Family Sleepover Night) and we all sleep, which means I am a much less cranky mommy the next day.

As the winds continue to wreak havoc tonight, I find myself counting my blessings. With each loud bump I hear on the roof above me, I know that the shingles are mostly still there. And when the roof tiles fly off our neighbor’s house and hit ours, with each impact I am grateful that they hit siding and not a window. I’m happy that if we have to sleep on the floor in Luke’s room to avoid the wind, at least the queen-size air mattress fits perfectly in the little bit of space available. The dog’s stainless steel water bowl may have ended up in the neighbor’s front yard (don’t ask me how), but at least I found it and that’s one less thing we’ll have to replace when we assess damage in the morning. Tomorrow we’ll call the insurance company to send out an adjuster so we can fix the fence and the roof, but for now we’re all nestled safely in our beds. The winds can continue to howl. It’s all good. I’m not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. His huffing and puffing haven’t blown this house down yet. With any luck, he will blow so hard tonight he’ll pass out for a while and tomorrow night we can go back to sleeping in our own bed.

It’s Not What You Think

Anyone with gout up for a long bike trip?

After a couple days of way too deep thoughts, I sat down at my computer tonight without a thing to say. So, I flipped over to Facebook to see what was going on there. A friend is at the Four Seasons in New York. Another friend is looking for advice on how to break in her cowboy boots. Yet another friend recommended new Tide Pods for my laundry. All very standard stuff. Then, I glanced to the right sidebar where all the ads hand picked just for me appear. Something there caught my eye…an ad for stripper training here in Denver. Interesting. Not sure they reached their target audience for that ad. I doubt there is a clamoring demand for 43 year old mothers who strip, but it got my attention all the same. What made the ad doubly awesome, though, was that directly beneath it an ad for a gout study appeared. I don’t have gout, but if I did I’m assuming it would be even more unlikely that I’d be interested in that stripper training what with the painful inflammation in my feet and all. Gout might make dancing around in stilettos a bit more difficult.

The whole sidebar was so highly entertaining that I decided to keep refreshing the page to see what other ads might pop up for me. I was targeted to receive ads about the Nordstrom dress department, Pillsbury, a couple biking events, an autoimmune disease seminar, daily deals on outdoor gear, Knorr dip mixes, fibromyalgia, fun iPhone covers, and a wine sisterhood. Certainly the ads got some things right. I do bake, cycle regularly, and drink wine. I’ve also bought from outdoor gear web sites and have shopped at Nordstrom as well. I’m not, however, currently suffering from any major maladies, including autoimmune disease. At least, not as far as I know.

Some people get riled up about the whole Big Brother thing, about our information being out in cyberspace, about our lack of online privacy. I suppose I understand their concerns. Given what I saw tonight, though, I sincerely doubt we’re at Minority Report-level of advertising just yet. Maybe in an alternate universe I’m a gout-ridden, stripper wannabe. But, in this universe if online ads had me pegged, I’d see nothing but Starbucks, iTunes, and Target in my Facebook sidebar.


Too Young for the Rocking Chair

One of my favorite sayings

As the hours of the long holiday weekend counted down today, I noticed my oldest son becoming more and more agitated. He was so worried about wasting a second of what was left of his time off school that he became obsessed with the passing of time. The later it got this afternoon, the more frenzied and frustrated he became. He had just a small amount of homework to complete, but instead of buckling down and focusing on getting it out of the way so he could enjoy himself he railed against it. He spent two full hours fussing over what should have taken him no more than 30 minutes, and then he still had to put in the 30 minutes’ worth of work.

This is a common pattern for Joe. He has a tendency to procrastinate and then worry about the time he’s wasted. I don’t know how to help him, and I feel for bad for him. I am not a procrastinator. I loathe the feeling of having something hanging over my head, so in school I was the kid who worked on her homework on the bus ride home. Any free minute I had during the day was devoted to making sure I was caught up or, better yet, ahead of the curve on my assignments. At work, a boss never had to bother me about a deadline because I perpetually met them in advance. For me, the dread of having something undone is worse than the effort of getting right down to business and simply getting it over with.

After Joe had finally finished his work and was able to relax a bit, I reminded him of my favorite phrase about worry, procrastination’s dear friend. The phrase is one I share often with friends when they talk about the heavy mental burdens they are carrying. In my early 20s, I was deeply in debt. Between student loans, my used car, and credit cards, I had racked up more debt than I could pay off even while working two jobs. I remember waking up in the middle of the night with a panic attack and rifling through my closet, desperately searching for items I could possibly return or sell for extra cash. I was in a downward spiral. I had friends who were preparing to file for bankruptcy at the same time but, at 23, I found that option unthinkable. Instead I faced the miserable fact that I was in a hole, walked into a Consumer Credit Counseling office, and signed up to pay off my debt. Bit by bit I clawed my way out of that self-dug, cavernous abyss. It took me three full years, but at 26 I was debt free. Those lean years in debt management were tough, but that period of my life changed me. I now understand that worry is a waste of time and that I am plenty strong enough to face and overcome hardships. Those years, desolate and trying, were a gift.

I do hope that Joe will learn sooner rather than later that worry is pointless. It’s just another form of procrastination, another way to rob ourselves of the present moment. I also hope Joe’s lesson won’t be a three-year trial like mine was. Most things in life have a way of working themselves out. And, the things that don’t resolve themselves can be remedied with a little hard work. I know Joe will ultimately be successful because he’s bright and capable. I just hope he gets out of the habit of worrying sooner than I did. He’s far too young to be wasting time in a rocking chair.