Archives for June 2011

Mom Jeans and Mommy Juice

I dragged all three kids to Target to stock up on my dorm room shopping list.

God help me…on so many levels.

Can you imagine trying to match pajama bottoms to pajama tops and coordinate a bathrobe in the presence of 3 children age six and under? Wait…what am I thinking? Of course you can and that’s why you’re here reading my horror story.

There I was, 6 minutes into the Target excursion. Kate was buckled into the cart, Gwen stood on the back and I parked Joe at the front. My instructions were explicit. “Don’t move, keep your voices down and don’t lick anything.” You see, Joe has a bit of a weird oral fixation. He’s had it since he was a baby, which made complete sense because he was a baby. Now he’s six. He licks his sisters, he licks the dog, and sometimes he licks things like shopping carts.

Within minutes, I was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of pajama bottoms. Finding matching pajamas, each piece in the same size, isn’t as simple as it sounds. In addition to the visual stimulation, my children were already behaving like animals. Kate had somehow wiggled free of the buckle and was standing up in the shopping cart. Actually, not so much standing but  doing that weird toddler dance – the one where they bend at the knee and bop up and down. Anyway, she was bopping to Gwen’s loud rendition of  Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night.

Elmo in the night…he’s such a butthead, Elmo in the night…I’ll throw him out the window…

Back in the days when I was childless and pajama shopping was simple, I would have been horrified by the mother whose children were so clearly out of control. I mean, how can she not hear them? Doesn’t that woman care that her son is simultaneously laughing at the dancing baby and licking the shopping cart?

Meltdown stage was nigh.

I hid behind a rack filled with Nick and Nora jammies. My blood pressure was rising and, for the briefest of moments, I contemplated buying a pair of Hello Kitty jammies. It would have been so much easier. They came in a set and my size was clearly available. Thankfully, I shook that idea off. Mostly because I’m not 13.

I hunkered down next to nightgowns covered in sock monkeys and attempted to relax with some deep breathing. Unfortunately, I’d reached the point where all I could think was, just give me one more bleepin’ minute you little bleepity bleep bleeps!

I finally found a pair of Calypso for Target pajamas on the clearance rack. They are the right size, totally cute and completely inappropriate for sleeping in a dorm…at my age. Let’s face it, I’m no House Bunny. 

Whatever. I’ve come to the conclusion that excursions like this are the reason for things like Mom Jeans. We’re just grabbing the most convenient items off the racks in an effort to get the hell out of whatever store we’re in before the shit hits the fan. Outings like that also call for things like “Mommy Juice” which is Gwen’s name for wine. Tonight I think I’ll have an extra strength Mommy Juice. Straight up.

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Wake Up Call

You know when you have something big and important to do but it’s months away so you just continue bopping through life without a care in the world? Yeah. Then one day it hits you that you have precisely seven days to pack for a 10 day trip, finish the required reading for those faculty and graduate presentations, and wrap up your responses to the manuscripts of your workshop peers? Well, friends, that’s precisely where I’m at.

My eyes popped open at 5:00 this morning. My eyes never open at 5:00 unless they are being forcibly pried open by some type of barbaric torture device, erm..I meant to say, by my children. Same difference.

This morning when I rolled over in my (enormous and comfortable king-size) bed, confused by the dim light of early dawn, my face smacked into the boxer-shorts clad rump of my 6-year-old boy. Not quite sure how or when he appeared in our bed, I quietly extricated myself from a tangle of sheets and went downstairs. Let me tell you something, the house is delightfully silent at 5:00 in the morning! Who knew?

I sat at down at the table, wondering what to do with myself. Within seconds I heard it…the pile of manuscripts and reading material screaming at me from the kitchen island. I looked at the calendar, referred to my residency schedule then, having been violently pulled from my state of blissful denial, I looked back to the calendar. I ONLY HAVE SEVEN DAYS?!

I began maniacally shuffling through my residency schedule. Papers were flying. I realized that there is an entire shopping list involved in my 10 days away. My mind began to race. Linens and a fan and shower flip-flops and a bathrobe…snacks and a water bottle and notebooks…actual pajamas because – I might be going out on a limb here – I assume that underwear and a t-shirt isn’t considered acceptable attire when sleeping away from one’s home. In a dorm. I took a moment to ponder the bed I’ll be using. I wondered how they would feel if I arrived with my king-sized bed on a moving truck. You know, to make the room ‘homey’. Page two of the Stonecoast MFA’s suggested packing list for summer residency specifically states, “Anything you need to make your room feel homey, or so you can think and write at your best.” Well, in that case…can I bring my bed? Because the thought of sleeping in a twin dorm room bed is terrifying. Yup. A king size bed and an endless supply of pinot grigio screams ‘homey’.

I pondered what could possibly make a dorm room feel homey, considering I’ve reached an age well past that of the typical dorm room dweller. Gwen shuffled into the kitchen, startling me out of my ‘homey’ induced meditation. The moment her eyes came to rest on my pile of paperwork, she began sobbing uncontrollably. She doesn’t want me to go. So much so that she had some difficulty speaking and breathing through her tears. On my end, there was a fair amount of difficulty removing myself from her vice-like grip. If I was able to pry her arms from my neck, her freakishly strong legs wrapped around me. There might even have been some snot and high-pitched wailing directly into my right ear. In fact, it’s still ringing.

Over the next two weeks I’ll likely be re-posting some older blog entries. I might even try to convince a few people to guest post in my absence. I hope you’ll hang in and visit despite my absence and, if you’re interested in guest posting, let me know.

 I’m off to finish my work, start packing and pay as much attention to the kiddos as I possibly can. Something tells me that I’m going to miss my family.

Hair – Part Deux: The Photo

 Wondering what this is? Go back and read Hair. That should make it all crystal clear.

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Hair

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair

Flow it, show it

Long as God can grow it

My hair. – Hair

 

What does one do when held prisoner by the rain for two whole days? What’s the best way to liven up the first official (crummy) week of summer vacation? Why, you cut your own hair, silly!

Camera Dodging

How delightfully naughty it is to grasp those Crayola safety scissors and, emboldened by your big brother, begin that first snip. Actually, given your choice of  scissor, the more appropriate description of what you did might be “hack” and “saw”. Yes, that is precisely what you did to that first chunk of hair. Those safety scissors are so far from sharp. With their assistance, you effectively created a series of jagged frizzy clumps.

I’ll hand it to you, that section right in front of your eyes is hot. Who needed that five inches of hair anyhow? Not Gwen! She didn’t stop there either. Clearly, she was girl consumed. By the end of her haircut she had removed five to eight inch lengths of hair from various points around her head. She didn’t discriminate. She wisely cut just the very top layers, leaving what the chicest of four year old’s might consider hair-turned-art. One might even call it edgy…trendsetting, if you will. Why, when she passes the other girls at Gymboree, they’ll sigh with envy at the sophistication of Gwen’s freshly cleaved tresses. (Excuse me while I go clear this lump of sarcasm from my throat.)

Imagine a style that encompasses all of the major styles of the late 20th century and that’s what Gwen has so artfully created. A little bit of Farrah, a skosh of the Achy Breaky and hearty nod toward the Jennifer, circa Friends, 1995.

They didn’t tell me about Friday’s styling session. I first noticed on Saturday morning as I brushed her (once gorgeous) locks before a birthday party.

“I love it!” she declared.

Daddy found the hair piled in the bathroom wastebasket. As if we wouldn’t see it there. I found more on the playroom floor, more still in the hallway and finally, this afternoon I discovered one 8 inch length hidden beneath the drop leaf table at the bottom of the stairs.

Evidence

As much as I’d love to provide you with a picture of her new  ‘do, I can’t. She has been successfully dodging the Paparazzi since Saturday.

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Oh, Dear 16-Year-Old Me…

Dear Me,

This is a letter from you – but the version of you who lives in the year 2011. I know that you can’t presently imagine that you’ll ever be this old. Ever. But you are. Sorry.

I know what you’re thinking because, well…I’m you. You’re thinking that a letter from future you is slightly too far-fetched to be true. It smacks of Back to the Future, right? Well, the future is nothing like that. John Delorean goes to prison and his cars become worthless. Also, cars don’t fly 24 years from now. That’s a bunch of bullshit. The good news is that you’re not fat and you’re still kind of cute. Please keep exercising so that doesn’t change. I worked hard to stay this size.

I have some sad realities that I’m going to share with you in the hope that you won’t waste our precious time. First, you are done growing. I repeat – there will be no further growth. That includes both height and boobs. You’re done, sister. Give up the dream. You will never resemble Elle MacPherson and you’re hair will always be slightly wavy with a hint of red undertones. Watch out when you start coloring it, that red turns brassy in the sun and no one likes cheap and brassy. Stay brown and classy.

Secondly, you’re about to embark a six-month long stretch of pot smoking and copious booze consumption. I know that no one notices you around the house and you feel a bit like a 16-year-old roommate, but trust me, smoking joints isn’t going to do much for you but give you the munchies, paranoia and bloodshot eyes. Can we just skip that phase and hit the books instead? Otherwise, in a few weeks you’re going to skip school with Shannon and accidentally burn your mattress to smithereens with a curling brush. It’s not a good scene. Fire Trucks and cops and all that. Seriously, you’re just not cut out to be a pothead. Stick to your regular gig because our (future) high school classmates tell me that they thought you were one of the nice girls in “that crowd” –  despite the fact that you kind of despise being identified as part of “that crowd”. Just keep being nice and maybe talk to people a little more. Jodi Davis, Jodi Gilman and Leon Spath are really funny! Also, watch out for Sunny Lee. He likes to light things on fire too. Oh, and by the way, I have no idea what horrible thing we did to Stacy L., but she’ll refuse to speak or make eye contact with you at our 20 year reunion. It must have been something absolutely horrific if she’s still bearing a grudge 20 years later! Sheesh.

Also, you know that boy who’s been flirting with you? Yeah, the one who plays hockey. He’s a total d-bag. Do not under any circumstances become his girlfriend. Trust me. You’ll have the most miserable senior year and, to tell you the truth, he might exhibit some sociopathic tendencies. Find a nice boy in your class, one who is your own age. Could we stop dating older boys for now? Especially that loser who goes to Sienna. The guy who graduated three years ago and lives in Bedford Close. He’s just after one thing. Don’t waste your time. Clearly, he’s not getting any at college if he’s trying to hit it with a 16-year-old. That’s just gross. I wonder what his father, the doctor, would think?

I know you’ve been told you’ll amount to nothing and no one really shows much interest in sending you to college, but you need to take the bull by the horns. Do it yourself. It’s not too late. There’s financial aid and loans and that guidance counselor at school should really have done a better job. Make her do her fucking job this time. Who gives a shit what Ron says and who cares if he laughs at you. In the end, he’s not your father and he’s just threatened by women who use their brains. He’s awful to you because you don’t let him dominate you. Use your anger to prove him wrong. Get this college thing out of the way now or we’re going to spend our late teens and early twenties bouncing around aimlessly. You need to make a plan, because in two years he’s going to push you out of the house.

Have you sensed that I’m steering this letter in a serious direction? This is the really important part. Please pay attention. ..

You’re going go through some really heavy stuff that you don’t understand.  You’re going to feel out of control. Hopeless. I’m going to be blunt with you – you’re going to wish for death. I hope that what I’m telling you right now keeps us from reaching that point, because we almost don’t make it through. You’ll come close. You’ll have a solid plan in place and it’s not a teenage angst-ridden cry for help. I’m telling you now so that we don’t stumble blindly for four years, begging God for escape. You’re simply suffering from something called ADHD that has turned into depression. That’s it. I know that in 1986 people don’t talk about depression and you’re afraid you’ll be called crazy. Better to be called crazy by ignorant people than to be called dead. Fo shizzle! (that’ll make sense in a few more years.)

Sadly, I’m sitting here trying figure out who you should talk to about the black hole that’s about to swallow you and I can’t think of one person. There isn’t a single person in your life that is really going to hear what you’re saying. They’re a bit tone-deaf to you at the moment, aren’t they? In the end, I’m the only one who is ever going to truly understand the depths that you’ll reach. Fight. Fight hard because it does get better. I promise you, it does.

Talk to Dr. Evans. I know that he knows mom, but he has a duty to help you and diagnose your illness or, send you to someone who can. That’s all it is, you know…a neurological illness. People don’t choose to be depressed and people who are clinically depressed can’t “snap out of it”. You have my permission to punch anyone that tells you to “snap out of it” in the face! Hard.

You aren’t alone. Millions of people have this disease. Simply put, the neurons in your brain have trouble re-absorbing something called serotonin as it is transmitted across synapses. There are medications that will help you someday. I promise. Get the help you need and everything else will fall into place. Or not, but at least you’ll be able to cope with what turn out to be some horrible decisions without falling into a pit of despair. Sitting on the floor crying in various bedrooms in numerous houses over the years really sucked. You can help us avoid that. We’re going to miss out on so much if you don’t. You’re going to spend a lot of our senior year at home on Friday and Saturday night. You’ll go to school and act like everything is fine but the charade is going to exhaust you.

You have so much beauty in front of you. Things you can’t begin imagine. Heaven on earth. I’m not going to tell you about it here, because it will spoil the impact of it all when it happens, but you have four very important people waiting for you.

This isn’t at all what you envisioned the future version of you would say, is it? I’m sorry we aren’t glamorous and famous and wealthy and that we don’t drive a red Ferrari like Christy Brinkley in Vacation. We aren’t the Editor at Sassy Magazine and no, Johnny Depp isn’t our husband. (He’s still so totally HOT, by the way!) The reality of our life it this: Ferrari’s and bigger boobies and being Elle Macpherson pretty and being rich and famous isn’t nearly as beautiful as what we have at this end of our life. And though Johnny still makes us drool, he’s kind of weird. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be married to him…I think he might even be a little smelly.

Good luck and don’t let anyone make you doubt us.

Love,

Me

This letter to me was written in response to writing prompt #5 at The Lightening and The Lightening Bug.

Blink

She lay there completely drained, unable to speak, but also not feeling the need to. Exhaustion had robbed the strength necessary to keep her eyes open. Throughout the night she fought hard but, by the third time the staff rushed in, summoned by the blaring alarms, she felt herself slipping. Wearily, she turned her face in his direction. In the rush of doctors, he had been driven to the far corner of the hospital room. His face showed fear she’d never seen before . He looks stricken, she thought. Through her new calm, she felt only briefly sorry for him. She grew detached and he grew dim as she began that exquisite surrender. The hands of the people working on her body grew faint. Their voices took on a distant tinny sound.

There was no fear. That surprised her. How many times had she begged for this moment of release but backed off, fearful of what lies beyond? At last, she found herself wrapped in comfort and, with a growing sense of disengagement, she thought, how ironichow peculiar that my old prayer would be honored now, when I no longer plead for escape. Be careful what you wish for.

She vaguely felt her body moving. Her eyes blinked open to her doctor’s hovering face, asking questions she couldn’t respond to. They blinked open to lights flashing past overhead, then open again when a mask was placed over her face. They finally opened to him, his forehead resting against hers, his eyes full of worry. He squeezed her hand and she felt that.

On the verge of surrender, the first cry of their son touched her ears. She thanked God for his life, grateful for that piece of her that would remain with her husband.

Then she closed her eyes.

This week The Red Dress Club’s Red Writing Hood prompt was for a flash fiction piece inspired by the word LIFE. The story needed to be told in 300 words or less. Mine is precisely 300 words and based on the birth of my son. Every single word is true, except for the part where I died, of course.

God, I Hope He Understands.

I stood on the chilly beach yesterday afternoon, watching my three beautiful children collect hermit crabs and build spectacular temporary habitats for them. They ran among the other children on the beach, weaving through one another’s groups, laughing and sharing glimpses of their latest catch. The two groups interacted nicely, ours and theirs. Realizing that they shared a mission, they began working in unison to dig a special pool for their newly captured prisoners. I enjoyed watching my children respond to a new group of children. With a sense of pride I smiled at their good-natured ability to smile and make new friends.

Joe was digging in the sand near my toes when two women came to stand nearby. The mothers of the other group, I quickly realized. They were engrossed in their conversation and too busy to say hello. Joe and I were enjoying our comfortable silence when I heard one of the women sneer, “There’s no way I’m sending my Jewish child to a Catholic school. Ewwwww.” She shuddered after that last part. Actually shuddered and shook as if shaking off some invisible filth. Her expression said it all. I was shocked. Utterly speechless and, for the moment forgot that my Catholic son was at my feet. When I looked down, I saw him quietly studying the woman and immediately knew his wheels were turning. He heard what she said.

As my shock dissipated, I felt myself filling with anger. How dare she say such a hateful, bigoted thing with my children sitting at her feet. How dare she shudder in disgust at my babies, each and everyone one of whom was christened in the Catholic church.

The two women soon steered their group of children back toward the vicinity of their own chairs. I’m sure it was innocent enough, two mothers simply wanting to sit and talk instead of stand on the beach while their children played. But I was still bristling. I spent the next hour and a half washed in anger and resentment. I waited for Joe’s inevitable question, because I knew he’d ask.

He came to sit next to me and quietly began digging in the sand. Kate and Gwen skipped off to the shoreline to gather water and he thoughtfully watched them go. “Mom? Remember when that man poured water on Kate’s head when she was a baby?”

“Yes, Joe. That’s the day she was christened.”

“Does that mean she was made Catholic?”

“Yes, in a way. That was the day she was blessed by the Holy Spirit.”

“Why did that lady make that face? Like Catholics are bad?”

How do you explain hate, ignorance and bigotry to a six-year-old?

“Well…she is a different religion than we are and sometimes, people think that what they believe or how they live is better than people who are different.”

I watched his face for a reaction. Did he understand? How do I make this a teachable moment when I’m so upset?

“Does that make sense to you, Joe?”

“I think.”

“We live in a country where lots of people practice different religions. No one’s religion is better, just different. Being a Catholic isn’t bad or dirty. People with different skin colors than one another aren’t better or worse either, just different. We’re all still humans and we should be kind to eachother, even if we are different. Different doesn’t mean bad.”

God, I hope he understands. I hope that, for once, I was able to explain appropriately.

 

The day was bust. I was finally able to talk everyone into heading to the car so we could go home. In the parking lot, I saw the woman who had slurred our religion in front of me and my children. She was parked directly behind our minivan. Her Honda Odyssey was parked end to end with my Toyota Sienna. Her rear windshield wore a Sugarloaf sticker. Mine holds a Maine Running Company sticker. Her children were twisted in their seats, demanding snacks and asking questions as she packed their belongings into the back of the van. My children were doing the same thing. There we stood, similar in so many ways yet, she inadvertently told me that her family was better. She showed me with her disgusted shudder that she believed my children were somehow beneath hers. Because they are Catholic.

“Mom, what are we going to do now?” Gwen called.

I couldn’t help myself. I can never help myself when I feel that some social injustice has been delivered to my family. I inhaled deeply and in a voice that was louder than necessary, but just loud enough to be heard at the minivan parked behind me, I said, “Well, we have to go to mass to pray for all the bigots of the world.”

I know I stooped. I know that I did. But she heard me and I was glad.

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The Indignities of Summer

What is it about us that draws the beach crazies to our sides? How do we always end up sitting next to the woman who’s loudly recounting the details of her last yeast infection via cellphone, pausing only to curse at her children for throwing yet another handful of sand at a baby? I’m only slightly exaggerating. I’ve never actually experienced those situations simultaneously but have, on separate occasions, lived through each one. And that’s the truth.

Today when we emerged from the dune grass, I scanned the beach to root out any potential situations. The right side of the beach was sparsely populated, but why? Was it still early enough that it simply hadn’t filled in or was there something funky going on? It was a gamble but it seemed safe enough. There were no cigarette smoking, tattoo covered women hoarsely yelling at their children. There were no obnoxious swearing teenagers, no crotchety seniors and the tide was out. Good enough. We eked out our temporary beach front property and settled in to enjoy the first day of summer.

It took precisely 10 minutes for that kid to show up. You know, That Kid. The kid whose number I immediately had. The kid who was going to annoy everyone for the next two to three hours. The kid who proceeded to stomp on Gwen and Kate’s sand castle, who dumped a bucket full of Joe’s carefully collected hermit crabs and stuck his grubby little hand in the container of watermelon and strawberries I was holding out for my children while his mother sat on her beach towel and watched it all go down. Exactly how many times should one be expected to politely steer someone else’s child away from our food/blanket/lives before his mother intervenes? Finally, Gwen got fed up.

getting a little huffy...can you see it in the walk?

“Who are you anyway?” She fixed her squinted gaze upon the boy whose  only response was a hearty itch to the crotch. I watched Gwen’s shoulder’s raise in a question, “Hmm? Who…are…you? Where is your mommy?” Now she was speaking to him as if English might be his second language. “Do you talk? Hey. Hey. Kid. Stop touching my brother’s herman crabs. This is the last time I’m going to ask you nicely.”

That Kid invading Gwen's space

Generally speaking, I tend to intervene much earlier if there are signs that a situation is developing. However on occasion, I can’t help but stand back and let Gwen go. Just a little bit. She’s the one child I have that stands up for herself and her siblings. She’s especially protective of her big brother who tends to be passive or respond with frustrated tears. The first evidence of Gwen’s gumption was back in Boston. She was about 16 months old when she noticed the neighborhood terror terrorizing Joe at the park. She toddled over to Diego, a.k.a. the Terror of Hobart Park and, before anyone knew what was happening, she delivered a deft series of slaps to Diego and punctuated each with a stern, “NO! NO! NO!”

Now, as Gwen grabbed the reigns and attempted deal with the kid, his mother finally joined the fray and cast a disapproving look in my direction. As if I should stop Gwen from being frustrated with her child who had now inserted himself into all of her fun and destroyed it with his bad behavior. I ignored her, just as she had ignored us for nearly an hour. She knelt down on our blanket and began asking her son questions like, “How is this making you feel?” I tried to kill the laugh that was building and refrained from snapping back, How about how he’s been making us feel? Why don’t you use this as an opportunity to point out self-awareness and manners, huh lady? And get the hell off our beach blanket! 

She finally led him away by asking him if he needed to do the “bathroom dance”. As in, “*Parker, would you like to go to the bathroom and do the bathroom dance?” (*not his real name.)

What? Seriously…what?

Joe sidled up to me, all the while casting his trademark, you’re freaking me out so please go away side-eye stare upon the kid. “”Hey, mom…that kid and his mom are going to go dance in the bathroom.”

While they were gone we moved to a new location.

Joe and Gwen were so eager to put some distance between themselves and the kid that they gladly and quickly helped me move the blanket, chairs and toys. Honestly, I’ve never seem them perform in such a focused and efficient manner. “Hurry up, Mom! Before that kid comes back and sees us!”

Freed from our captor, we were able to enjoy a few hours at the beach. Once the children were sufficiently coated in sand and the tide began driving us back toward the dunes, it was time to leave. My salty, sand covered little people and I patiently waited at the showers while all the other mommies attempted to blast the sand out of their children’s cracks and crevices. Finally, our family of four crammed into the outdoor shower and, as I assisted in sand removal from girl parts, I noticed that Joe had pulled his bathing suit down and stuck his rump under the cold shower. “Mom, I think I have a rash on my butt!” His was voice elevated so I’d hear him over the splash of the shower. The mom in line behind me and I made eye contact, suppressed our laughter and shared one of those silent moments where we nearly read one another’s thoughts.

 

As I helped Kate rinse her body, she screamed at the shock of the cold water spraying her legs. Then she started doing that weird toddler thing where she was suddenly unable to stand. She grasped at my leg, hands searching for a pair of pants to hold onto but I was still wearing my bathing suit. Somehow, probably because I was bent over trying to help Gwen into her sundress, Kate was able to find purchase by grabbing ahold of my bathing suit top.  Using my triangle bikini top, Kate was able to save herself from continuing her floppy fall and at the same time, successfully exposed my left breast to the entire line of people waiting for the showers.

And that is just one of the indignities of Summer.

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What I Write on Random Tuesdays

I’ve got nothin’. It’s not that I don’t want to provide you with humiliating tales about my children or a ghost story or, I don’t know… something more than what I’m about to give you, but I can’t. I’m gearing up for the first residency of my master’s program. From July 8th through July 18th I will immersed in readings, workshops and classes and all at a location away from home. Yes, that’s right. I’ll be completing my residency on the gorgeous coast of Maine. Right about now you’re probably saying to yourself, Uh…doesn’t she live in Maine? Yes, I do and I’ll only be about a half an hour from my house. Nonetheless, I won’t be home and I have so much work to do before July 8th. Despite the fact that I’ll be working really hard, I can’t help but kind of look forward to ten full days away from children. Does that sound awful?

Let me put it this way, before children I had a career and now I don’t. Sure, that career wasn’t my dream but it was stimulating. There were grown ups there and while it’s true that some acted like children, I still sometimes miss getting in my car and driving down 684 into White Plains and entering the corporate headquarters of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Yes, I actually said that, I miss it. The company cafe served things like bagels with smoked salmon and, for lunch, soft shell crabs. Thanks to vendor contracts with Starbucks, the coffee was free and, at that mid-afternoon witching hour – the one where you want to crawl under your desk and take a snooze – a man came around with a cart filled with drinks and candy and other delicious snacks aimed at pumping us full of caffeine and sugar to push us through ’til quitting time. You knew he was coming because someone (usually me) announced his arrival by yelling, “SNACK CART!” I loved watching all those people do the prairie dog from their cubicles. The image still cracks me up.

I miss the travel and the employee ‘Hot Rate’ that provided us with discounted rates at Starwood Hotels around the world. Everyone traveled. People would stand around the proverbial water cooler on Mondays and talk about who jetted to where over the weekend. Cheap flights out of Newark and that Hot Rate were the biggest perk of all. Thanks to that job, I dressed in my beautiful clothes purchased during post-work shopping sprees at The Westchester and in Manhattan. My feet were wrapped in the finest of shoes and my hair was always perfectly highlighted and cut. I even enjoyed monthly facials. The world was my oyster. Actually, I like Oscar Wilde’s version of that quote, “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” I did use the wrong fork. My job ended up being a casualty after I divorced my ex-life and ran away. I don’t regret the run, but I have at times, missed the Heavenly Bed by Westin.

So the long-winded point that I am attempting to make is that I didn’t love my old job, but I did love the perks and glamour that came with it. Working in the legal department of a hotel company was about as far from my dream of writing as I could have strayed. So last winter I applied to Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. I sent in my writing samples, transcripts and recommendations and half expected to be declined. I wasn’t. Step one toward making my dream come true has been completed.

The funny thing about going to graduate school to earn a master’s of fine arts in creative writing is that a lot of people have opinions. There were the people who asked why I was “bothering when I already have a kick ass blog” or the people who politely tried to suggest that perhaps a master’s in something more practical would make sense, thus allowing me to write on the side. Then there those who seemed reluctantly supportive, wrapping their encouragement in thinly veiled negativity. I was stopped in my tracks by a few of those people. I wondered why in the world my goal to fulfill a lifelong dream was so bothersome. Was it that they didn’t think I could do it? Did they think I wasn’t talented enough? Did they think that I didn’t deserve to follow the path I veered from all those years ago? Then I mentally gave them the finger and moved on. I’m a grown-up and I applied with the full support and encouragement of my amazing husband. Thanks to his confidence in me, I’m going to earn that master’s degree in creative writing. I’m going to do what I love and isn’t that what life should be about?

So on that note faithful readers, I leave you with this delicious summer salad recipe. Before I got all wordy and self-righteous back there, my plan was to post a picture and some ingredients before I hit the beach with the kids. Instead, you got an earful plus a healthy and scrumptious salad…because that’s how No. 7 rolls.

CUCUMBER & BLUEBERRY SALAD WITH FETA

3 english cucumbers halved and thinly sliced

1 pint of blueberries

salt & pepper to taste

white balsamic vinaigrette (I use Olde Cap Cod brand)

3 tbs fresh mint leaves, sliced into a chiffonade

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. combine the blueberries and cucumbers in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

2. add the white balsamic vinaigrette, mint and feta and gently toss to combine.

Rubber Soul

It’s made of rubber – my soul that is. It must be to have been pushed and nearly broken so many times. Like a rubber ball left in the sun it has, at times, developed cracks and fissures. Its outer layer has developed a hardened shell and yet, it somehow manages to bounce back.

My song, yes…I said my song, is Michelle, sung by Paul McCartney, adapted by my daddy and sung to me. I don’t know what came first, the song or my nickname, K-Belle, but the words go together well.

K-Belle you’re swell, these are words that go together well…my K-Belle.

He sang it to me often. It was my song  – his profession of love to me, written by Paul and re-written to suit us. The song he sang to tell the world how much he loved me.

I love you, I love you, I love you! That’s all I want to say.

These were the only words he knew I’d understand when I was 4 then 5 then 6. What child could know what troubles a grown man holds in his own soul? How can a small child ever understand that her Daddy isn’t a God dressed in a state trooper uniform, the brim of his Stetson pulled low and casting shadows on his eyes. How can a child fathom that her Daddy is simply human?

I need to, I need to, I need to, I need to make you see… Oh, what you mean to me.

I missed him. I longed for him to come back and prove that he wasn’t just a human. I wanted the God. I didn’t want his flaws or his weaknesses. In my teens, though he is still living, I mourned him and, eventually, I stopped remembering. My memories of us grew foggy and distant as I accumulated years. I’m left with snapshots of moments made tangible by the music we listened to. Music pulls those memories from their dusty place, sometimes unexpectedly and like a punch in the stomach.

The Beatles are the soundtrack of my earliest years, when he was still with us. There really is barely a song that doesn’t remind me of him. But this song, this simple little song sung by Paul and adapted to suit us, is the one I love the most.

I want you, I want you, I want you. I think you know by now. I’ll get to you somehow. Until I do I’m telling you so you’ll understand.

Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble, Très bien ensemble.” Those are words that go together well.

I love you too, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

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