Month: March 2012

In Vino Veritas

Tomorrow I am certain I will be thinking, "If I had known I was going to be this thirsty today, I would have drank more last night." Pretty sure even Lake Erie doesn't hold the amount of water I will need to ingest tomorrow. 😉

Sometimes when I reflect back on all the wine I drink, I feel shame! Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the vineyards and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this wine, they might be out of work, and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, It is better that I drink this wine and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.” ~Jack Handey

I had intentions to write a legitimate blog post today. But then, about 5 o’clock I opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. I hadn’t eaten in hours but, dang, was I thirsty. A half a bottle later and it was suddenly time to head to dinner. At dinner, believe it or not, I was still thirsty; so I had an amber ale micro brew from Fort Collins before our food arrived. That was about the time I remembered why it’s not such a great idea for me to drink without having eaten something first.

Nevertheless, somehow, all that drinking seems to have cleared my head of any rational thought, as if all the liquid I swallowed miraculously flushed out my brain. Now that it’s 11 p.m., I find I have nothing left to offer but a fading love for all humankind and a mild headache that only copious amounts of water will cure. Before I write something incredibly inane, I am declaring myself non compos mentis and going to bed. A wise woman knows when she’s had enough; a wiser woman knows when to shut up.

“Always do sober what you said you’d do  drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Yeah, But He’s George Clooney

Steve and his older sister Karen

Last night my husband went to a party celebrating his sister’s birthday. It was what most would consider to be a “big” birthday. Steve’s sister is nearly 8 years older than he is. For years now, people who know Karen and then meet Steve automatically assume Steve is older than his sister. Why? Because he has gone prematurely grey.

When I met Steve way back in 1993, he had very dark hair. It wasn’t quite jet black but it was black and not brown. By the time our youngest son was born in 2003, the grey was definitely noticeable around the sideburns and at the temple. Now, 9 years later, about 50% of his hair is grey. While some might note that the greying of his hair neatly coincides with his marriage to me and our raising our two sons, I would like to point out that premature grey hair runs in Steve’s family. His Aunt Bobby was grey before she turned 50.

Last night, I stayed home with our boys while Steve went to the party for his sister, which was being held at a bar downtown. Through the night he was updating me via text on the party I was missing. This message came in:

“2 people thought I was older. F*** me.”

“I’m sorry,” I responded, adding a 😦 to punctuate my sympathy.

“I knew it would happen,” came his reply.

When he got home, he told me that a third person had told him they thought he was older than Karen. I tried to console him.

“It’s okay, hon. George Clooney went prematurely grey. I read an article where he was commenting that people always think he’s like 10 years older than he is because of his grey hair. At least you’re in good company.”

“Yeah. But, at the end of the day, he’s GEORGE CLOONEY.”

Well, he had me there. Can’t argue with that.

If Steve’s hair wasn’t grey, I’m fairly certain no one would suspect he’s older than he is. He’s not incredibly wrinkly. He’s healthy and fit and 20 pounds lighter now than he was when I met him. Wash out that grey hair and no way does he look older than 40. But, with it, people are going to suspect he’s at least 50, if not older. Steve is not vain, though, so he’d never color his hair. I suggested it about ten years ago and he shot the idea down immediately. He’s stuck.

I feel bad for Steve. I do. I can imagine how much it would suck to have people assuming you were a decade older than you really were. Luckily, I will likely not ever have that problem because I am vain and I refuse to age “gracefully,” whatever the hell that means. If anyone ever implied I looked ten years older than I am, I’d be at the hairdresser, dermatologist, and plastic surgeon so fast I’d leave a Road Runner-like white swoosh mark behind me. Incredibly shallow, I know, but true nonetheless.

Steve was telling me today in the car that he wholeheartedly believes in karma. I told him I think karma is what unlucky people believe in so they feel better about their misfortunes. But, then I thought about it for a second. Maybe it was karma that gave Steve his grey hair? You see, I am 18 months older than he is. Every year on my birthday, my accountant husband acts like he can’t do the math and questions my age. (“Wait…so now you’re TWO years older than me?”) Funny guy, right? Truth is that although I may be 18 months older than he is, until I decide to go grey (sometime years and years from now) I will never look 18 months older than he is. Maybe there is something to this whole karma thing after all? 😉

My Spidey Sense

Stupid slutty wolf spider in our garage. The divot in the cement beneath the spider is the size of a nickel, in case you're looking for comparison. EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

I hate spiders. Hate them with a passion fueled by the equivalent of a thousand suns. They freak me out something fierce. My general rule for spiders is that any spider under the size of the quarter is a creepy nuisance that I will dispatch accordingly. Any spider larger than quarter size is best left to my husband because otherwise I will not be able to sleep. True story. Because of my arachnophobia, we’ve had exterminator service every three months for the entire time we’ve lived in our current house. I don’t want to take any chances. You see, because our home is adjacent to open space, we often have large, prey-hunting wolf spiders hanging around. And, oh, how I hate they.

What makes matters worse for me when it comes to arachnids is that I seem to have a sixth sense for spotting them. It’s like my own personal spidey sense. If there is one anywhere in the garage or the yard or on the porch, I will spot it. You know how a dog or cat will gravitate toward the one person in the room who is most allergic? Spiders are like that with me. They love me. They seek me out simply to torture me. This just makes me hate them more.

Today after I pulled the car into the garage and came around the other side, I spied a large wolf spider. Seriously? It’s MARCH! Wolf spiders already? Ugh. It’s gonna be a long summer. If Steve had been home, I would have sicked him on it but he was not. I thought about it for a while and decided I could not knowingly let it stay in the garage. So, I picked up a shovel and not wanting to leave a mess I would have to hose down or forever stare at I tossed him out into the yard. But, that wasn’t good enough. I knew he would come back. So, I took that shovel and beat that ugly, eight-legged alien until I was certain it would not ever crawl again. Then, I calmly replaced the shovel in its usual spot, walked up the stairs into the house, and then slammed and bolted the door and let out a shudder and a squeal that I’m certain measured on the Richter scale. Did you feel it?

Me and Rosie...the "friendly" tarantula

Last spring I knowingly and willingly let a tarantula crawl across my hand in an attempt to overcome my aversion to spiders. Today I found out it did not work. Calling the exterminator again tomorrow for a repeat spraying of noxious chemicals, which they assure me will not actually kill the wolf spiders (only a shovel can do that, apparently) but at least the spiders “don’t like it.” At this point, I’m willing to settle for something the spiders don’t like because the day I find one of those wolf spiders in my home is the day we move to Alaska. And, you should know that I hate the cold almost as much as I hate spiders.

 

 

Time Flies When They’re Growing Up

The four boys in 2008

Ever since our sons were small, my friend Celeste and I have been hauling them up Waterton Canyon. Since it has recently reopened and the weather has been so warm, we decided to take them up there again yesterday. It’s amazing the difference from the days when we used to have to push them in double jogger strollers hauling sippy cups, diapers, and changes of clothes. Our boys are roughly 1 month apart in age; Joe is a bit older than Celeste’s Sean and Ryan is a bit older than my Luke. Yesterday Celeste and I joked as we walked about how much more difficult the hike used to be when we each had two boys in a stroller, poking and badgering each other. We would simply pray that we’d be able to get through four miles before any meltdowns occurred and then we would dream that they would fall asleep in the car on the way home.

The boys in the canyon in 2012

Yesterday was an entirely different story. For the first time, there was relatively little complaining, and the boys walked the entire way. We walked up the first two miles, saw some mountain sheep along the way, and then stopped at our usual spot to have lunch and throw rocks into the river. Then we walked down without incident. The whole event was easy and pleasant…and shocking.

Time has flown. I look back at the photos of our boys together at Halloween parties and on these hikes and realize we’re watching them grow up. It’s sad and exciting at the same time. I hope Celeste and I are able to continue to drag our boys up Waterton on this hike as they get older, even if they’re whining and trying to text their friends (good luck with that in the canyon). Someday I want Celeste and I to look back on the photos of our boys standing in the river together. We will miss these times, but we will be glad we started a tradition we could trace together and share forever.

Chicken Little Syndrome

There is smoke in the air, but the sky hasn't started falling yet.

After an extremely dry March, usually Denver’s snowiest month, wildfire season appears to be officially underway. The Lower North Fork Fire has burned 4500 acres so far. From my backyard last night, I have to admit that the smoke, fanned by strong winds from the southwest, looked ominous. I took photos of it and then sat back down to watch my recorded episode of Mad Men. We slept with the windows closed last night because of the heavy smoke, but this is not the first time we’ve had to do this so it was not unusual. We slept soundly.

This morning I was pleased to note that the winds were no longer blowing the smoke in our direction, which meant my boys who are home for spring break could go out and play with friends without smoke inhalation concerns. Around noon, we went for a 4-mile hike with friends up Waterton Canyon. We saw about 35 mountain sheep and had a picnic lunch. There was the faintest scent of smoke in the air, but nothing about which to be alarmed. Tonight when I finally had a moment to hop back on Facebook, I could not believe the amount of chatter about the fire. We live 5 miles outside the evacuation zone, but from the hefty number of posts our neighborhood Facebook page received today you would think that we were in immediate danger of Armageddon.

A resident who also happens to be a firefighter tried to quell the rampant concerns. Posts flew back and forth with links to maps of the fire evacuation area and sites where you can register your cell phone for reverse 911 emergency notification. Now, I’m all for safety and for being informed of potential danger. I will admit that hubby and I have twice now discussed what I am to throw in the car if we receive an evacuation notice. We have not, however, set anything aside for immediate packing. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if I took any precautions whatsoever that would be the surest way to guarantee that an evacuation notice would never be issued for our quaint suburban oasis. If I pack it, it will not come.

I’m befuddled by the drama and chaos that ensues in these type of situations. I don’t understand why people would choose to worry about this. If the fire decides to head this way, there will be nothing that worrying will be able to do to stop it. If we are asked to evacuate, there is nothing that worrying will do to spare our homes from the fire. Unless there is some sort of camaraderie and sense of community to be gained from it, I can’t understand what could possibly make this situation worth wasting precious moments of my present on. I’m not entirely sure what encourages people into Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” mentality. My experience has been that worry is a waste of emotion.

I have deep sympathy for the people who have already lost homes, pets, and even family members because of this fast-moving, highly dangerous fire. I can’t imagine what the people in the fire’s path have already had to endure or how difficult it will be to pick up and rebuild after losing everything. Their suffering is real, and my fingers are crossed that the fire will be contained quickly. Still, I refuse to live in fear or to spend my day discussing other people’s misery. Rather than obsessing about what might happen, I’m going to turn off my laptop tomorrow and spend my boys’ spring break going to the movies and playing games with them. What might happen is not nearly as important as what will happen if I focus on the precious present moments I have with my boys this week.

 

 

Our Happy Home

Our house smiled at me!

This morning, as Joe and I arrived home after some errands and I was pulling into the driveway, I noticed that our house seemed especially happy. How could I tell? Well…I noticed that the stone facing was smiling at me. No. I was not high. The stones honestly had both white and black smiley faces on them. Immediately I knew that the white ones were drawn with sidewalk chalk. What I did not know was which medium the 4 foot tall vandal had used to create the black smiles, crayon or Sharpie.

Trying desperately not to overreact, I stopped the car and turned around to look at Joe. He is a notoriously honest child (perhaps because he’s such a miserable liar), so I asked him if he knew what was up with the rocks. I gave him that “don’t even bother trying to lie about this” glare and he crumbled nearly immediately.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll tell you the truth. I drew the white faces.”

“With what?” I inquired.

“With chalk,” he replied.

“Uh huh.” I paused for dramatic effect. “And the black ones?

“I did not do those. In fact (Joe uses “in fact” a lot), this is the first time I’ve seen those ones.”

I gave him one more withering stare and pulled into the garage. I asked him to come look at the marks with me. As we stood before them, I could see that the black marks were made with crayon rather than Sharpie. I was deeply relieved.

As we walked into the house, I used words like “vandalism” and “misdemeanor.” I asked him if he knew that willfully defacing someone’s property was a crime. I graciously told him that I would not press charges against him because he’s my son (ha), but I also told him if he knew he should tell me who used black crayon on our house. I truly believe he doesn’t know because he would have caved under pressure. He always does. I reminded him, though, that whoever did it was merely following his disrespectful example, which made him culpable even if he didn’t wield the black crayon himself. I thought it might be good for him to chew on that thought for a while.

Joe hard at work

I started preparing a bucket of soapy water and asked him to go upstairs and get the scrub brush. When he came back down, I handed him a Magic Eraser sponge and then sent him out to get to work. I let him scrub at it for about five minutes before I went out. The white chalk was mostly gone but he was still working on the black crayon. I have to admit that it felt pretty good to stand there and supervise. I could have done it myself, but why should I deny him the reward of responsibility? After all, it was his mess to clean up.

When I got home today, my house was smiling at me. As I go to bed tonight, I am smiling at myself for making Joe clean up his own mess. I’m also smiling because I know he will not draw on our house again. He now knows that defacing our property will, at the very least, mean he will have to clean it up. Hell. For all he knows, next time I just might call the police on him. 😉

Jockeying For A Better View

Cloudy and cool is better than windy and snowy any day.

“To live happily is an inward power of the soul.” ~Marcus Aurelius

I found this quote today and it really got to me. There are too many times when I find my happiness tangled up in things outside my control. Other people in my life seem to struggle with this too. They will become upset with me because I did not react the way they wanted me to. In those situations, I tell myself that they are crazy for pinning their happiness on me and whether or not I disappoint them. What I fail to see in those moments of criticizing others for their bad attitude is how frequently I employ that ridiculously self-defeating thought process myself.

For the past two weeks I have been working to retrain myself or at least to gain back some of the control over happiness in my life. When my attitude goes downhill, I stop to look at the situation again for a positive. If I can’t find one in that particular situation, then I go outside of it and look at my life as a whole because I know that on the whole my life has more reasons to be grateful than to be grumpy. This morning we’d planned to go on a long ride with friends because the weather was supposed to be perfect…unseasonably warm and sunny. At 8:30 a.m., however, as we were getting ready to leave it was still 43 degrees outside and overcast. I hate to ride in the cold and was annoyed about the change in the forecast. Exactly who told Mother Nature she could screw with my weather for ride day? Instead of being cranky about it, though, I decided that even without perfect weather there were plenty of reasons to be happy about this ride: great people to ride with, the freedom to leave our kids for a few hours and get out, the beautiful lack of snow, health that allows me to ride 36 miles without pain, and the fitness to get up a short but steep 10% incline without much suffering.

It’s easy to be negative. The world around us provides ample amounts of bad news. It takes real determination to be happy and to live with gratitude. Happiness is always a choice. If things don’t look right to me from one point of view, I jockey myself around until things look a little better. Sometimes all you need for a an attitude adjustment is a little wiggle room.

Role Reversal

Adults...not grown ups

“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world.” ~Walt Disney

According to the law, I’ve been an adult for nearly 26 years. Why does that not seem possible? It should. I’ve gotten my degrees, we own a home, we have had 16 wedding anniversaries, and our oldest son will be 11 soon. Yet, somehow, my brain lives on an alternate plane where no matter how old I get, no matter the responsibilities I manage, no matter what my reality is I’m still not grown up. There are times when I’m standing at a rental car counter and I’m flabbergasted that they are going to give me a car. I almost look around to see if I’m going to get away with it. Or sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a parent/teacher conference and it will almost be an out-of-body experience. I’ll wonder what I’m doing there. It’s like the plaque I have in my kitchen: “Who are these kids and why are they calling me Mom?” When the hell did I get so old?

Although time keeps marching on despite my attempts to turn the clock back, I suppose there are benefits to getting older. When we were in college, we could buy alcohol but we couldn’t afford anything decent to drink. We might not have had to pay all our own bills, but at the end of the school we had to go home and live under someone else’s roof with someone else’s rules. We cared too much about what our friends thought of us and not enough about what we thought of ourselves. We looked good in our own skin, but didn’t feel comfortable in it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to relax a bit. I no longer care all that much if people don’t like me or if they think I’m silly or childish. I no longer buy into the idea that an adult should act with decorum 100% of the time. What I find amusing, though, is that just as I am beginning to let go and to live a little, my children are buying into the idea of growing up and acting accordingly.

Last night, we had an intimate wine tasting dinner at our house with a few friends. I have to admit that I felt fairly adult picking out the wines and planning the meal. We cooked gourmet pizzas and had port and chocolates for dessert. Somewhere between the first and fifth bottle of wine that the six of us shared, though, we got a little loud and started having way more fun than our kids thought we should. Truth is, we sort of forgot that our 8 and 10 year old sons were upstairs quietly watching movies. Well into dessert and conversation I heard the tell-tale ping of a text message on my phone. It was from Joe who was upstairs texting me from his iPad.

“Mom…your friends should leave soon. It is 11:00.”

Crap. It’s 11 o’clock? Where had the evening gone? Ping. Another text.

“Very late, Mom.”

Oh okay, okay. Fine. I texted him back.

“We’ll be upstairs in a minute. Brush your teeth and get into bed.”

“We already are. We are very tired. You need to tell your friends to go home.”

I stalled a while, but eventually went up to check on them. Luke was already asleep. Joe was the lone holdout. He looked exhausted and annoyed. He told me that he wanted our friends to be gone no later than midnight.

Geez. Mr. Bossypants. Way to ruin the fun. By the time Andrew and Heather left it was around 12:30 and both boys were, thankfully, asleep. We’d managed to spend five hours in our own house entertaining friends without non-stop requests or care giving. It felt borderline miraculous.

This morning Joe gave us a hard time about our behavior last night. He said we were way too loud and laughing non-stop. He questioned the number of bottles we had gone through. He told us they could barely hear their movie and that we kept them awake. I had to wonder when our roles had been reversed. We spend our entire youth trying to figure out how to be responsible adults and then we spend our adulthood trying to regain our lost sense of youth. Funny the way it is.

 

 

Evolutionary Thought

Joe's latest library book from school

“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve blogged before about my deep-thinking son, Joe, and how he struggles with his ideas about evolution versus creation. I’ll admit that we’ve not made it easy on him. We’ve refused to give him definitive answers about science versus the Bible, mainly because we’re not the kind of people who are bound by absolutes. We like wiggle room. My favorite phrase to use with my kids when they’re going off on a tangent about why something is absolutely one way or another is “Let me complicate that thought for you.” Then I proceed to show them another way of thinking. The one thing I have vowed to create is children who are capable of thinking for themselves.

Today Joe came home with a new library book from school entitled The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible. He told me that he wanted to see how his classmates understand dinosaurs and the Bible and how the two are intertwined because it’s never made any sense to him. I was proud. Good for you, Joe, for being willing to learn another point of view. Then, he spilled it. He said he was hoping that maybe it would make so much sense to him that he wouldn’t have to be the only kid in his class who believes in evolution. Dang it. He’s still a tortured soul.

It’s hard knowing that my son struggles with trying to fit in and yet retain his own autonomous thoughts. I imagine it’s rough to be 10 years old and feel out of step with the kids with whom you spend most of your time. But, I’m sticking with my guns on this one. I want to raise thinking, reasoning adults. If I’d wanted sheep, I’d have bought a ranch. There’s no telling where Joe will land on this issue before it’s all said and done. We’re leaving the door wide open. We will accept whatever he decides makes sense to him because that’s what we want: children who can think for themselves and make up their own minds. As long as he’s done his research and found something that makes sense to him, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job. Now, none of this is to say that if he decides that this library book makes sense to him and that dinosaurs and people once coexisted I won’t struggle a bit with his truth. I will. But, I know I can’t have it both ways. I can’t raise a person capable of making up his own mind and then judge him when he doesn’t agree with me.

Sometimes, the parenting decisions we make can make our lives more difficult but nothing in life worth learning comes as an easy lesson.

 

 

Every Life Comes With A Death Sentence

Netflix is my best friend. It is.

About six weeks ago I started watching the AMC show Breaking Bad on Netflix. I did so on the recommendation of my college roommate, Michelle, who told me that if I like Mad Men I would probably like this as well. I didn’t know much about the show before her recommendation, other than the fact that its lead actor, Bryan Cranston, has won three consecutive Emmy Awards for his part in this show that very few people seem to know about. So, about the time I decided to get on my bike trainer again, I decided to check it out. I need something to watch while I’m stuck on the bike indoors. The show has gotten me through 250 miles so far. I am impressed.

If you’re like most people I know who have not heard of the show, let me fill you in. The lead character, Walter White, is diagnosed with lung cancer and receives an unfavorable prognosis. He is a high school chemistry teacher who also works part-time at a car wash to support his family. He realizes that he’s running out of time and he has nothing to leave to his family, which includes a pregnant wife and a teenage son with cerebral palsy. Through a series of convoluted circumstances, it occurs to him that as a chemist he could make a boat load of cash quickly by manufacturing methamphetamine. I know. It’s a crazy premise for a show, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Walt’s transformation from mousy cancer victim to drug criminal is profound.

The episode I watched yesterday while on the bike trainer showed Walt at yet another doctor’s appointment awaiting a scan. In the waiting room, a newly diagnosed cancer patient strikes up a conversation with him.

“It’s like they say. You make plans and God laughs,” the guy tells Walt.

“That is such bullshit,” Walt replies. “Never give up control. Live life on your own terms.”

How easily we all give up when an impediment blocks our way.  Oh well. I guess I’m supposed to do this now. What else can I do? I’m sure in the face of a cancer diagnosis, the first reaction is to feel bad about the hand we’ve been dealt. The man is saying as much to Walt. Cancer is cancer. What are you going to do? Blah, blah, blah. Then, Walt says this:

“To hell with your cancer. I’ve been living with cancer for the better part of a year. Right from the start it’s a death sentence. That’s what they keep telling me. Well, guess what? Every life comes with a death sentence…but until then I’m in charge. That’s how I live my life.”

Wow. I had to stop the show, back it up, and watch that part again. It was brilliant. It’s got shades of The Shawshank Redemption‘s “Get busy living or get busy dying” in it but it’s definitely a more in-your-face message. Every life comes with a death sentence…but until then I’m in charge. Walt’s cancer wasn’t a death sentence for him but a life sentence. He’d been going along in his daily routine not thinking a thing about it, not truly being present in his life, until the cancer gave him a wake-up call he desperately needed. When you stop to confront your death, you might see your life differently. The cancer took Walt out of his comfortable life. He became less fearful. After all, what did he have to lose?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Walt’s little speech. It’s good to be reminded that we’re only here a short time. We’re not in charge of everything that happens in our lives, but we are in charge of how we react to it. We won’t live forever, but we can live on our own terms.