Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Reflections

I feel compelled to write this Christmas Eve. As Max yells down to me to check the Norad Tracker again to find Santa's exact location, I'm feeling the exhaustion I'm sure overwhelmed my mother (times 6) for many years. I generally love the Christmas season. I love the music, the decorations, the lights. I try to buy gifts in a thoughtful manner and don't buy just to buy. This year, Max's big gift is a trip to the mountains of Virginia with his cousins for snowtubing and indoor waterparking. Life is about experiences, not things. Of course, he's still holding out for a laptop. Not.

My mother is sick this year. Sick enough to scare the shit out of all of us, including her. She seems to be doing better but the last few days were a blur for her. She keeps talking about things that happened on Monday and referring to them as "yesterday". Send good thoughts her way. Pray if you are so inclined.

Speaking of prayer, Max and I went to church tonight at the Presbyterian Church in Kennett where he goes for Bible School and the Art Stroll program. Our plan had been to go to the Episcopal Church we've attended since he was born. Each year they do a Children's service and invite the kids to the front of the church and tell a story. Max always loved this but last year Father Dave, who had christened Max when he was 2, passed away in his sleep 9 days before Christmas. I was devastated to lose Father Dave, although I barely knew him. I really credit him with bringing me back to the church as an adult.

While I have never struggled with my faith, I have struggled with how to demonstrate it throughout my life. I consider myself an estranged Catholic and stumbled upon Father Dave and the Church of the Advent after Max was born. The Episcopal Church had all of the familiar rituals of the Catholic Church minus the judgmental vibe. I really did feel as if I had come home in a way. I now realize that Father Dave had personified that warm, safe place to fall. While I did not attend church regularly, I attended much more often after meeting Dave than I had in 20 years.

I deeply regret not contacting Father Dave after my brother passed away. I grieved in such a profound way and often felt like he was the only person who may be able to give me comfort. I was still in the deep stages of my grief when Dave passed away. We did attend Christmas service 9 days later and smiled watching the female deacon struggle to control the unruly crowd of kids Dave was able to mesmerize for all those years. I have not been back since.

So, while we planned to do our regular Christmas eve thing and attend the family service at Church of the Advent, instead we went to the Presbyterian Church. You see, while I am generally uncomfortable with the contemporary style service, Max thrives in it. He understands it, he pays attention and he enjoys it. He seems to know everyone in the whole church and I have never been pressured to join. The pastor's wife heads up the children's ministry and spotted Max immediately upon arrival. She came over and sat with us for a few minutes and made me wonder why I don't spend more time in this church.

The whole service were Christmas carols (real ones) which made me realize that kids don't know real carols anymore. When we were little you were allowed to sing songs like "Away in a Manager" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" at school. At the end of the service, everyone lit candles and sang Silent Night. Once Max's candle was lit, he turned to me and said "Now what do we do?" While I wanted to say "We burn the place down dumbass.", I refrained and said "We sing."   

So while this is just a general rant, it's one that reminds me that Christmas is really about family, friends and experiences. Hold those dear to you close. And if you are reading this, Merry Christmas my friend.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who is Dan Onorato and why do I want to pronounce his name?

I had a revelation this weekend. I was at a funeral reception making small talk at a moment when I was really just trying to pull myself together. If you know me at all, you know I suck at death in general so I was just trying to breathe deep and get myself to a place where I wasn't going to fall apart. Now, I don't know if this other person sensed (or saw) me falling off the edge and thought she'd do me a favor by trying to get my mind on something else but she said something to the effect of "We gotta make sure we get Onorato into office!"

You know how free association works? For example, I say dog and you are supposed to say the first thing that pops into your head, like maybe house or food or shit. Well, this woman, who I happen to be quite fond of, says "Onorato" and all I can think is "Otteratoe" and "claymation hair". But I edit myself long enough to say "Are you kidding me? That dude doesn't even think I can pronounce his name. Why would I want him to be my governor."

Well, now I've just pissed her off. She becomes quite indignant and says "I'm very serious. He's going to save our (teacher) pensions." To which I say without edit...."Well, I don't have a pension. So it doesn't really matter to me."

Now I could go off on a tangent here about protecting pensions and supporting 5% raises per year for 4 years for teachers regardless of  performance in an economy which has forced many of us not protected by unions to accept pay freezes. But I'm not gonna do that (mostly cuz I don't particularly agree with it given the current state of the economy). But that's not the point. The point is that it suddenly dawned on me - the only thing I know about Dan Onorato is that he thinks I can't pronounce his name. And the only thing I know about the other guy (who I have come to know is Tom Corbett) is that he's gonna get those backroom cronies out of Harrisburg (cut to scene of old men smoking cigars, playing poker in a backroom in Harrisburg).

And then I realized that most politicians are really just freaks that we place our trust in to do the right thing. And then I think what kind of freaks want to place their trust in Christine O'Donnell who is spending her campaign money on assuring us she is not a witch. That, instead, she is, in fact, me. And I am, in fact, a witch. Therefore, in reality, she really is a witch.

And I can still pronounce Onorato. I just have no idea why I would want to.

Friday, September 10, 2010

September 11, 2001

I was 30 years old and on my way to a divorce. I was living alone in an apartment in Kennett Square and getting ready to embark on a month long trip to Italy. I was planning on taking a break from my life and go somewhere I had always dreamed of going. That was my plan the morning of September 11, 2001. It was such a beautiful day. I remember distinctly how blue the sky was that day and how there was just enough of a coolness in the air to key you into the fact that fall was on its way.

I spent many of my mornings the same way back in those days. I would get up around 7:30am, turn on The Today Show and by 8:30am I was on the phone with my friend Jen. On September 11, as Jen and I chatted about our plans for the day, the television screen broke to shot of one of the Twin Towers with smoke billowing out of it. The "breaking news" across the bottom of the screen said "small plane crashes into World Trade Center". I asked Jen if she was watching and she said yes. I remember wondering how that happens. How a pilot can misread where they are supposed to be going and end up hitting a building? I needed to get going so I said goodbye and we hung up the phone.

I had left the room for a few minutes but walked back in at about 9:03am and watched the 2nd plane hit the South Tower. I heard the female caller talking to Matt Lauer scream that a 747 just hit the South Tower and I heard Matt Lauer admonish her for speculating a plane that big has just passed by her window.

I remember just being confused. Shocked but confused. I called Jen. "Are you still watching?" I asked. "No." she said. I told her to turn it back on that a second plane had hit the second building. And then I said "The smoke from the first one must had blocked the view of the second one." I really believed that. Because, in my pre-9/11 world, the idea that not only 1 person, but 2 people would purposefully run planes into buildings was outside of anything I could ever imagine.

A little while later, it was the Pentagon, then a field in Western Pennsylvania. And all of a sudden, the world was a different place.

I remember watching the Towers fall and then walking outside. The sky was so blue and it was so quiet. And I thought, "There's no where to hide. What are they going to do to us?" And I remember thinking that much of my life would be defined by what happen before that minute and what happened after.

And then I learned that not only 2 people would run planes into buildings but entire groups of people would run planes into buildings in an attempt to bring Americans to their knees. And it backfired. I have never been more proud to be an American than I was in the days, weeks and months after 9/11.

And I will never forget.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why A Working Toilet May Be Important

Please do not be frightened off by the title of my latest post. I assure you I will not speak specifically of any bodily functions, but this story is too good not to share.

Some of you were aware of my recent house purchase and the resulting search to find any "handyman" type who would actually call me back to do some work. Contractors, handymen and the like have unfortunately given themselves a bad name without any help from me. I'm not sure if this bad reputation is a result of a deficient marketing department or a faulty alarm clock, but either way, more often than not, my experiences have been less than stellar. Now, I don't mean the work is necessarily bad but the journey along the way can be painful. Take my good buddy and contractor Don. I've know him for about 19 years. We've been friends and along the way he finished my basement and remodeled the bathroom in my old house. What I knew about Don was this - his work is good, his prices reasonable and he likes to smoke and do Suduko puzzles while he works. I also knew he was working on the contractor calender and clock which meant if he was working on my schedule he could have finished the basement in the 5 weeks he promised but he was working on his, so it took about 8.

So when I bought my little crack house, as I so affectionately call it, and needed some work done, I knew I could call Don but I thought to myself, "Do I want to call Don?" But little annoying things kept happening like my basement flooded and I discovered a large hole in the wall. So I called Don. Ever the voice of handyman reason, Don assured me it was a simple fix and he'd be in town later in the week and would call me. Which never happened. After a few more floods, my friend Wendy (see earlier Spotlight Post) and I went to work and created a concrete ski slope masterpiece that protrudes out of my basement wall but has plugged the dam.

As time passed, the little things became more annoying like I needed a new toilet because the old one was old, smelled like pee and couldn't be cleaned. So I called Don again. The conversation was as follows:
C: Don, It's Carol.
D: Hi.
C: You never called me back.
D: I know.
C: Do you not want to do the work on my house because you can tell me no.
D: No, I'll do it.
C: Ok when?
D: Um, well I can come by tomorrow when you get home.
C: Ok - should I have the toilet and the door here?
D: Yes - You need to pick those things out yourself.
C: Ok - so I'll see you around 6 tomorrow.
D: Yep. Bye.

 6:45pm the next night

C: Don, it's Carol
D: Hi. I forgot to call you. I'm not coming over.
C: Ok - When are you coming over? Because now I have a toilet and a screen door in my living room.
D: You bought them?
C: You told me to.
D: Oh
C: So when are you coming over?
D: Monday. I promise.
C: Should I call you Sunday to remind you?
D: Yeah, you can.
C: Alright. Bye

As you can guess, I'm annoyed. But I decide if he blows me off again, I'll just find someone in the phone book. Well, it ends up, I see Don Saturday and remind him that I will be calling him to remind him to show up on Monday. Then I had an electrical issue on Sunday. So I call him and he agrees that I really should have the electrical looked at and says he'll be over in a few hours. And he shows up, which is impressive as a stand alone point. He troubleshoots the electrical issue and decides to bang out the toilet while he's there. It was a bit of a challenge since the old flange was rusted out, the wax ring needed to be bigger and the hose that connects the plumbing needed to be longer. But he did it just as I had to leave to go to my mom's house. I asked him to lock up and as I'm walking out the door I hear him say "Shoot." I say "What?" He says "I just turned the water to the toilet on and its slow." I say "Is that a problem?" He says "No, not really." And I leave.

Fast forward 2 days, I'm in the bathroom and flush the toilet. I brush my teeth, blow my nose, throw the tissue in the toilet and flush again. Nothing happens. I assume that the chain has come off and open the back of the toilet. There is about an inch of water back there. I wait about 10 minutes, try again, nothing. I wait another 10 minutes, check the back of the toilet and again only see an inch of water. I then realize, this must be what my good buddy Don meant by slow to fill. But he certainly couldn't have thought that was ok? Right? So I call him.

C: Don, It's Carol.
D: Hi Carol. What's up?
C: The toilet isn't filling. I flushed the toilet once, then blew my nose, threw a tissue in and went to flush it again and nothing happened. There was no water in the back.
D: I know. I told you that.
C: Ok - Well, I didn't think what you were saying meant I couldn't flush the toilet twice in a row.
D: Well, its not a big deal. How many times are you going to do that?
C: Yeah Don, but what if I had people over. They couldn't flush the toilet one after another.
D: You're right. But how often are you gonna have people over?
C: Don - What if Max went to the bathroom right after me. The toilet wouldn't flush.
D:  Yeah - I guess you're right. But I told you when I was there and you didn't seem to think it was a big deal.
C: That's because I'm not a plumber Don.Is this beyond your scope of expertise? Do I need to call a plumber?
D: No - I can do it.
C: When?
D: I don't know.
C: Ok - well I need an actual day that you are going to show up.
D: Well - how about Saturday?
C: Ok - do I need to call you to remind you?
D: Sure - you know how I always love to get calls from you Carol.

So, the moral of the story is even if you may only have guests over occasionally, a working toilet is important in everyday life. In the meantime I just keep a large vase in the bathroom that I fill with water to make sure any unexpected guests or my son can flush the brand new toilet on demand.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Calling all Unsupervised Children of the 70's!!!

Author's note: A special shout out goes to Lawrence White who through his FB status line stirred up fond memories of what is was like to roam freely in the world.

Remember walking out your front door and not being afraid. Remember being 7 or 8 or 9 and walking out the front door of your house at 9am on a warm summer morning and knowing you may not come home until the sun was going down and you heard your mother's voice far in the distance yelling your name. Remember jumping on your bike, bare feet and head and riding in the middle of the road and not thinking about whether or not you'd be hit by a speeding car. Because, you knew, intuitively, the car would stop. And you'd be ok.

Remember living in a neighborhood and actually knowing your neighbors.Remember living in a neighborhood with what felt like a hundred kids and the elaborate worlds you created.  Remember Kick the Can, King of the Mountain, Flashlight Tag. And those of you who played with me, remember The Anything Company, my Fortune 500 Company that was subsidized by forms stolen from my father's business and the bank. Remember running in the dark and not being afraid. And your parents not being afraid either.

Remember walking along the highway, down deserted back roads and through empty fields. Remember running across the highway to get to the pond. Remember knocking on your neighbor's front door and inviting yourself to swim (or in my case - people knocking on my door).

Remember when it was perfectly acceptable for your friend's mother to scream at you for talking back because your mother expected her to do it. Remember being allowed to be a kid. Allowed to make mistakes. Allowed the freedom to learn that the world can be safe. And remember learning that life can be hard too. That people lose. That we all don't make the team. That we all don't get a trophy. And that we survived.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The joys of homeownership

I had a dream. It was my desire to one day own a home that I could really call my own. Put my mark on it and make it an extension of myself. I thought I had that once before. When I was married, my ex-husband and I built a home and I spent hours upon hours turning that home into an extension of who I was. Who we were. I scoured antique stores, auctions and the like and complied a collection of "things" that told the story of who we were. I loved that house.

When my husband announced unceremoniously that the marriage was over, I was devastated. But over the course of the next 6 months, I came to realize, that while I was mourning the loss of my marriage, I may have been mourning the loss of my home a little more. I started to remember being a little kid and having a childhood that really afforded me anything I ever wanted in terms of material things. We had a big pool. We had trips to Disney every year. We had Christmas mornings that started and ended with an obstacle course over and around gifts. But for every happy memory, I had an equally unhappy one. My parents had a volatile  relationship. My father had a volatile relationship with just about everyone. And after he died, my mother thought she could make it all better by giving us things when all I really wanted that happy part of my life back.

So when I married and was able to own a home of my own, I went about turning it into a place that felt safe, secure and happy. Even when it wasn't. I think maybe that's why I was so blindsided by the news that my marriage was over. I had planned this all out the right way, hadn't I? I had a light and airy home. I chose each piece so carefully; a reflection of the things I found joy in. He seemed to love it too. In fact, he did because when it came to splitting the "stuff" up, he showed much of the attachment to those "things" as I had when I bought them.

I learned a valuable life lesson from that experience. I don't need things. I need a roof over my head and a good life. I have a handful of pieces that I have carried with me since then that will stay with me until I'm dead and gone. Even when I moved into this tiny little place, I knew exactly what I could let go of and what needed to stay. And the things on the stay list are small. I have an original Rea Redifer painting that was given to me  by Rea. I have 2 pieces of furniture that no one in their right minds would have bought but I did and handed them over to my neighbor Jim Donohue, who saw their potential and turned them into family heirloom pieces. Both Rea and Jim are gone now but I still have a piece of them with me and that's what is really important.

When I first walked into this little place I now call my own, I saw potential. Now, I'm not gonna lie. I saw a mortgage payment smaller than my rent payment and a $6500 tax credit too. But I saw a place that, while tiny and old, could maybe tell my story again. That is, once I patch the hole in the foundation and tear out the  kitchen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One Year Later

I've been thinking about this for months; the anniversary of my brother's death. And here I am, a few days from the one year mark (and a few days from his birthday) and I still don't know what to do. Last year, hours after I got the call that Ralph had died, I returned home from the hospital and my mother's house. It was the middle of the night and I was alone.So I wrote. I cried and I paced the halls, and dug out pictures that I hadn't looked at in 10 years and I wrote. I did this for hours because I didn't know what else to do. I was so consumed with raw grief and regret and pain that I didn't know how else to get it out. So I wrote what ever came to my mind and within minutes I had written something that came strictly from my heart. I posted it on Facebook, tagging people I thought may want to know. I wasn't sure if I had done the right thing but at that moment, I didn't really care. My brother was dead.

After sleeping for about 2 hours, I got up and began to plan my brother's funeral. I felt compelled to run the show because I was so desperately afraid that who Ralph was as a person would get lost in the formality of a funeral. The Catholic guilt reared it's head early when my mother insisted on a viewing. I reminded my mother of Ralph's own severe aversion to funerals and distaste for anything of ceremony and the idea was nixed within a few minutes. We were unfortunately stuck with a Catholic funeral as my mother insisted on burying Ralph with my father, but knowing how much Ralph admired my dad, it was a necessary evil. We went to great lengths to balance the ridiculous rules of the Catholic Church with who Ralph was. I had been thinking of ways to put Ralph's signature on his funeral and as I wrote a very personalized obituary, it became clear that of all things, Ralph was a legend maker. Everybody had a Ralph story. That night Ralph died, all I could think about were those crazy moments between 2 siblings 12 years apart in age and how in spite of it all, we managed to be so connected.  So we put together what we called "his real funeral" - a memory book that paid tribute to who Ralph was in the context of our family. And in the context of the music he loved so much. And we gave it to everyone at the funeral because we knew that there was no Catholic funeral that could ever do who Ralph was, and what he meant to us, justice.

This year has been difficult. The most difficult this far of my life. I cannot fully express the pain of losing a sibling to someone who has not been there. I have lost my father. I have lost friends. I have lost a marriage. Nothing compares to the pain of losing Ralph. In a single moment, my family constellation changed in a way I never expected it to. At 38 years old, I had to consider that my other brother and sisters could die and I would be the only one left. As one of six siblings, I became racked with guilt for only having one child. And as irrational as that sounds, I was consumed with that for months.

It has been a slow road back to normalcy and normal doesn't look the same without Ralph. But looking back over the past year, I learned a few amazing things about myself and the people around me.

- I learned my mother is a much stronger woman than I ever believed. When I was 11 years old, my father died, leaving my mother widowed at 44. Having been a stay at home mother and wife to a domineering Italian businessman, my mother did not have the self esteem to believe that she could go out and start over. It was years before my mother ever got a job and the recurrent themes of a Irish Catholic housewife never really went away. I truly believed my mother could not survive the death of her own child. But she has. She has gotten out of bed and continued to live her life the best she can knowing that she has buried her son. She still laughs and keeps Ralph's memory alive through allowing all of us to celebrate who he was (warts and all). She has helped the grandchildren through losing Ralph by meeting them where they are in the process, even if it means having to read the newspaper article my 7 year old nephew wrote shortly after Ralph passed announcing his death (literally - it read "Extra....Ralph died").

- I learned children can process grief and pain in a healthy way, even helping us grown ups along the way. I remember feeling such fear after my father's death; much of it in reaction to my mother's own shock and despair. My biggest fear when Ralph died was that moment Stephen and I sat Max down to tell him. I was convinced I would rip his sense of security out from under him in the same way it had happened to me. And that wasn't the case. In many ways, Max took care of me, intuitively understanding my need to grieve. He showed me none of the fear that I had internalized as a child. For days, Max would come into my room in the morning and put his fingers on my closed eyes checking to see if I was crying in my sleep. He admonished me on my 1st day back to work for trying to cover up the dark circles under my swollen eyes, saying "Everyone knows you've been crying, Mommy." Like trying to hide it was the dumbest idea in the world. And my favorite of all of the grief moments - Max coming into my bedroom as I sat on my bed crying, blowing my nose for the thousandth time and saying "Come in the living room and sit with me Mommy. You're killing trees with all that crying."

-I learned that my family; the good, the bad and the ugly, continue to be my family and that I wouldn't have it any other way. I thank God everyday that I was raised in a family where there is no need to pretend not to see the writing on the wall. I see too many brothers and sisters, parents and children adhere to a polite formality that fails to tap into the most intimate parts of the self. If you can't be real with your own family, you will never be real with yourself.

-Finally I have come to terms with my relationship with my brother. It would be so easy to have regrets about the could have's or the would have's. But what made Ralph who he was and me who I am is our strong, often pigheaded convictions. It was not all, as Ralph would say, "roses". It was a relationship of real ups and downs. Real disagreements and fierce loyalty. All that is good and bad about Irish-Italian tempers. But there were alot of laughs. You couldn't have been raised a Ciliberti and not know how to laugh. And for that I am most grateful. Because I had a brother who I loved and who loved me. And we laughed. And we fought. And then we laughed again.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shining the Spotlight On.....Wendy (because isn't it there anyway?)

This is the 2nd installment in my "Shining the Spotlight On" Series and it was with great contemplation that I chose Wendy. You see, I take these series very seriously and I need to have something worth shining the spotlight on in order to feel inspired enough to put pen to paper (symbolically speaking). But with Wendy's recent graduation from the MBA program at University of Delaware, I felt this was the perfect time to hit the on switch on my spotlight and tell her story.

Wendy Gable was born in South Jersey and spent much of her youth in the orchards of the greater Bridgeton area frolicking with a core group of friends that she remains close with today. I must say this is one of things I admire most about Wendy; her deep rooted ties with people she's known her entire life. I have kept in touch with almost no one from my youth except through Facebook and that's only been in the last 2 years. But Wendy and her Jersey friends have continued to be an integral part of each others lives, sharing life's ups and downs.

I first met Wendy in the mid-90's while I was bartending at the Kennett Square Inn (a recurring theme for this series no doubt). And as many of you know, I did not like her. Night after night, Wendy and her friend Mary would come at sit at my bar and Wendy would whine and drink and give out way TMI (and this was even before we were abbreviating such things) about her life. And her voice got on my nerves. I don't know why,  because I can no longer hear whatever it was all those years ago that drove me crazy about it. But it did. So I, at best, tolerated Wendy.

I lost track of Wendy for a few years because, quite frankly, I wasn't that interested in where she was. It was in the summer of  '00 that I ran into Wendy once again at the Kennett Square Inn. I was in the middle of a personal crisis and Wendy interrupted it without so much as a glance my way (shocking). I had spent the evening having a meltdown as my marriage crumbled and was crying my eyes out to Steve Warner, the owner of the Kennett Square Inn, when Wendy plopped herself down at the table and asked if she could become a bartender. Now I listened to this exchange and thought to myself  "Clearly, Steve will see this girl is crazy and tell her to pound sand." But instead he offered her a job and told her to come in the following Monday (or Tuesday). And she agreed. And when she walked away, I said to Steve, "You are not really going to let her bartend here, are you?" Steve replied, "Why? Wendy's great." And I said "Whatever" and went back to my crumbling life.

Fast forward to the next week and I go walking into the Kennett Square Inn to get dinner, feeling sorry for myself again. As I round the corner into the bar, I see a nervous Wendy standing behind the bar. I also see the manager at the time motion Wendy over to her and whisper something. Years later, I come to find out that the manager had been warning Wendy that I was nothing more than a plant that Steve paid (in a variety of currencies) to watch the goings-on of the Inn while he was away. Apparently, Steve and I were engaged in a hot and heavy love affair that was so hot and heavy neither of us even knew it was going on.

Because I was disinterested and depressed in general, I didn't pay much attention to Wendy until she came over, looking all nervous trying to find a bottle of liquor. Now, since I was a paid plant, I knew where this bottle was. But I wasn't really sure I wanted to tell Wendy. Maybe I wanted her to squirm. But after about 30 seconds, it was clear this girl was like a deer in the headlights when it came to bartending. And so I preceded to spend the next 3 hours training the girl with the annoying voice on how to make a vodka tonic.

Over the course of the next few months, I spent every week at the Inn teaching Wendy how to make a drink, fluff a trash bag and cut fruit. And then after a period of time, on occasion, Wendy and I would actually have a drink together. By the fall, I had struck up a friendship with Wendy's friend, Mary and by default, the three of us started hanging out together. 3 single ladies in the big city.

In January of 2001, I packed up all of my stuff out of my dream house in Oxford and moved it into a studio apartment in one of the Warner Brother's investment properties, 131 East State Street (or as we liked to call it The Estates). And as my friends helped me move my furniture into my studio through a sliding glass window that lead out to the porch, Wendy came walking down the fire escape (or as we liked to call it "the fire escape of life") next to my apartment. Because while I started my life over in a studio apartment, Wendy was well established in the spacious 2 bedroom next door.

Now, this period of my life, while sad in so many ways, marked some of the most memorable fun moments I had ever had. And all of that fun involved Wendy. I mean, lets face it, Wendy is fun. We were 30 years old and we were having a ball. We dated losers, we drank too much, we smoked too much and we spent hours analyzing all of it. We spun elaborate tales about wheels of cheese and ice cream covered in bread. We inserted ourselves into other people's drama just to make things interesting (although neither of us ever crashed a graduation party, guns ablazin'). We had Seinfeld moments, my favorite of which is getting trapped behind her Pap-pap's sleeper sofa as it sprung open when we tried to move it down the hall.

So, its 9 years later and Wendy and I have survived September 11, me having a baby, failed relationships, deaths of family and friends, multiple moves, arguments, the Blizzards of 2010, graduate school and a host of other curve balls life throws at you over the course of a person's life. And we've gotten on each others nerves and told each other the way it was when neither of us wanted to hear it. But unlike the men, the moves and the curve balls that have come and gone, our friendship still remains. Because sometimes, when God slams a door in your face, He leaves your friend in the room with you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blogging for Blogging's Sake

I don't have alot to say. Well I do but I'm not ready to go there. I hate June for a variety of reasons. My father died 28 years ago today. The 1st day of summer vacation. 1st thing in the morning. My brother died the last day of June a year ago. Late in the evening. My marriage came crashing down around me in June. I hate June.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Rant: Why I Hate Bank of America

Explain to me how someone is in charge of processing your mortgage and yet is never there to process it. I get it - buying a house is stressful. I know; I've done it before. But the incompetency of Bank of America is almost too much to bear. I wish I could fire them right now but if I have any hopes of settling before June 30 and securing my tax credit money, I'm stuck.

I must say, my loan officer, Stephanie has been exceptional. I would love to give anyone her number if they were looking for a loan, except for one problem. She works for Bank of America. Once she handed the loan off to the processor, I entered no man's land. In Stephanie's defense, she checked in with me periodically and in fact, any time I really need to get through to the bonehead processor, she made it happen.

It started with a list of standard, ridiculous requests. Can you send us a picture of your family? Can you tell us what kind of food you like to eat? Can we see the bank statements of your next door neighbor's cousin? While I found the requests a little intrusive, I complied and was left with just a few things I needed to provide; specifically things related to the sale of the house Stephen and I owned together. And this was a problem. Because not only did Bank of America hold the existing mortgage, they were also the ones in charge of  processing Stephen's refinance. It took about 2 months for them to finally send the packet to underwriting and then they had to cancel settlement 3 times due to paperwork errors on their part. They miscalculating something and had to call at the last minute and tell Stephen the payout was off by $10,000. By the day of settlement, that number had shrunk to only $7000 the original number. They also sent papers that had me resigning onto the loan that I was coming off of.  Then they failed to release the settlement funds. Then they made the check out to Stephen instead of me. It wasn't until this past Thursday that Stephen was able to deposit the check into the bank. And apparently his bank doesn't have alot of faith in Bank of America because they put a 5 day hold on the check.

So earlier this week, I get a call from Stephanie asking is the appraisal division had ever sent me the report. I told her no, that Kevin, my processor had said he was sending it a few weeks ago. He never did so I assumed it was ok. It was not. In fact the appraisal was much lower than the contract price and no one ever felt the need to let me know until 10 days before settlement. This may be the only positive that has occurred because I managed to get a $20,000 price reduction.

Then I get an email from Kevin, who I haven't heard from since about May 18th, asking for a list of things he needs from me. These things include signed HUD1 and warranty deeds on the house Stephen and I had owned. When I investigated this and tracked down the settlement agent at 9:30 Thursday night, she explained that all signed documents are sent back to Bank of America and because we settled in the house, we didn't get signed copies, instead electronic ones (without signatures).They also wanted Max's birth certificate to prove that Stephen is Max's father but that's a whole other story. Kevin also told me to just wait until Friday morning to send anything because he was going to make sure everything was sorted out. He never emailed. I called. I emailed. I called Stephanie. I emailed Stephanie. At 6:30pm on Friday night I was informed that Kevin was on vacation until June 14 (my settlement is June 11) and that because I have failed to get them the requested items (that I was waiting to hear from Kevin about), I will not be able to settle on Friday.

And this is why I hate Bank of America.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A moment like this...

Yes - I am sentimental. In fact, I'm about as sensitive and sentimental as they come. I was born that way. As a little kid, I was referred by the neighborhood mothers as "an old soul" or "an adult in a child's body". So, while for those who really know me, this is no shock, the others who only know me socially or by osmosis, this post may be a little uncomfortable.

My sentimental heartstrings have been hanging out there for anything or anyone to grab on to over the last year. The smallest thing can set me off and leave me in a puddle of tears. Last night was no exception when I watched, of all things, American Idol. Let me preface this by saying, I have watched about 3 entire episodes of Idol this entire season. Quite frankly, it interfered with my Biggest Loser TV watching and Darius and the gang won out on that one. But a few weeks back, while flipping the channel back and forth during a commercial, I caught Lee Dewyze sing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and I fell in love. Not just with cutie Lee but with the moment when Lee finished that song, looked out into the crowd and sighed. It was the most serene sigh; the kind few people really ever experience but many of us spend a life time searching for. A sigh that represents total peace and centeredness; a feeling I have experienced only a handful of times in my life. 

I remember having that feeling the day I graduated from college. I was the first person in my immediate family to ever do so and I did it in spite of a lack of understanding and support from my family. I don't mean that in a bad way; my family simply did not understand how many hoops I had jumped through to get there. But I remember a very distinct moment that day, when I walked across the stage to get my diploma when everything felt right in the world. When all of that hard work finally meant something tangible and other people could understand and celebrate it. I recall telling someone that I felt "centered". And I did. All was right in the universe.

So last night, when I watched that 23 year old boy find his center in a way that other people could understand and celebrate, I felt like I could have birthed him myself. Everyone should have a moment like that in their life. Everyone deserves that moment. And after the year that I have had, I couldn't help but wonderif my brother had ever been so lucky to have that moment. I hope he did. Because, if anyone deserved it, it was him.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

This is my truth. I have food issues. I never realized I had food issues until I was about 31 and was forced to quit smoking by a little thing called pregnancy.

I love food. I was never a dieter. I was fortunate enough through my 20's to be blessed with a combination of a decent metabolism and not really caring enough to worry about the things I put in my body and the effects they had on me. I could gain and lose 15 pounds without much thought so that's what I did.

I have alot of happy memories revolving around food. Family meals were a daily occurrence and we followed the strict weekly menu of any Italian family - pasta two nights a week, Tuna casserole on Fridays (no meat!), steak one night, etc, etc. This is where we sat and ate and laughed and things were good (I'm sure much of this is my perception of reality but its how I remember it). This changed after my father died. Sit down meals became fewer and farther in between but food became a celebratory thing. It was more than a way to fuel my body; it fueled my soul.

As I became older and started working in the restaurant business, food became my pasttime. The restaurant industry breeds its own subculture, with its own ideology, rules and hours. Dining becomes an art for many of us and we spent much of our free time in search of a great food experience. I still miss those days.

So imagine my surprise when at 31, I find out I'm pregnant and unexpectedly have to quit smoking. All of that oral pacification and metabolic fire ripped from my arsenal of coping tools. What to do? I'll tell you what I did - I ate. Alot. I'll admit it - I was not a good pregnant person. In fact - I can do a whole blog on that subject. I was hormonal, stressed and carrying a big baby. It was the 2nd hottest summer on record with multiple 10 day stretches in the upper 90's. I was swollen and adjusting to the fact that I was going to be a mother. I was scared. So I ate. On a side note - I don't get the idea that people eat less in the summer. For me, it's the opposite. Any chance to eat bbq food, ice cream and drink wine coolers is a chance I'm taking.

Motherhood. Another food challenge. Exhausted to the point of nearly losing my mind, I ate to stay awake, comfort myself in moments of colicky despair and to fill the void that cigarettes had left. I found myself eating in front of the refrigerator in the dark. It was not a happy time (not referencing Max here - we all know how I feel about him).

Fast forward 8 years and I can no longer call my excess weight baby fat. I had a revelation this past year after my brother passed away that life is too short to pretend not to see what is looking back at you in the mirror. I had lost any connection between what I put into my body and how it made me feel. I didn't even know what hunger felt like anymore.

I will say that while I am truly thankful that I never had the body image issues that so many young girls have faced, it puts me a little behind the eight ball. When you have spent little time in your life thinking about how you look or how much you are eating, learning that skill at nearly 40 is difficult. But I'm doing it and it's working. And we'll just leave it at that. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Series: Snapshot from Long Ago

When my younger sister and I were in our late teens, we did not get along. At all. Not even a little bit. I thought she was a spoiled brat who felt entitled and I'm guess she just thought I was a bitch. In actuality, she was a spoiled brat and I could occasionally be a bitch (but only occasionally).

Crissy had lots of clothes. Lots. It was the whole spoiled thing. I, on the other hand, was more practical and just bought what I needed. Plus, I often rationalized, why would I buy a bunch of clothes when she had more than enough. And she didn't seem to notice or care when I did wear her stuff. People like my sister place little  value on actual things, thinking anything is replaceable. If she can't find her yellow shirt, she just goes and buys another one. On the opposite end of the spectrum is me; I will hold on to an item until I can justify getting rid of it. I need to feel like I got the most out of an item. I could be a hoarder but I don't have enough stuff. I'm guessing I was one in another life.

Anyway, while Crissy appeared to be unfazed by my use of her clothes, I could not stand walking in to find her wearing my things. It was enough to send me to another place entirely. My rationale was simple - she had more than enough stuff. Why in the hell would she feel the need to wear my things? And she always picked my favorite items; specifically my batik shirts that were only available at the beach or at Grateful Dead shows!!

One afternoon I came into the house to find my sister sitting on the couch with our neighbor hanging out. On her body was my all time favorite batik shirt. It was a mustard yellow with burgundy accents and went perfectly with my hair. It made me appear mellow and laid back. It made Crissy look trendy. I kinda lost my mind.

When I say I lost my mind, it wasn't in my usual yelling and screaming way. That had little effect to date on her wearing my cool shirts. Instead, I stood quietly, weighing my options. What to do? I could yell and scream, maybe hit her this time. A possibility, but in my mind's eye, I would be perceived as a legitimate bully and I wasn't going to go there. I could tell on her to my mother but quite frankly as the 5th and 6th kids, my mother was plain old tired. No - I decided this time, I would take matters into my own hands.

Calmly, like a psychiatric patient, I went to the drawer and found the scissors. While my sister tossed her head back in a carefree laugh, I walked over and touched her on the arm. She didn't seem to notice or care but as I put the scissors to the sleeve of my favorite shirt, she turned her head and looked at me in horror. As I closed the scissors and listened to the fabric shred, I looked at her and said,  "I'd rather not have this shirt than have you wear it."

Crissy and the neighbor stood there staring at me like I was the craziest person they had ever seen and it's quite possible they were right. But I didn't care. Because guess what? SHE TOOK OFF MY SHIRT!! And never wore it again. I, on the other hand, wore that shirt, with the scissor sliced sleeve for another 3 or 4 years. And I loved every minute of it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why the Mortgage Crisis Sucks

All I want to do is buy a house. Not even a big house. In fact, it could very well be smaller than my existing apartment. But the lure of the buyers credit caught my eye and I jumped through hoops for a month before I finally went to contract with 24 hours left on the credit. Of course, I had gone to contract on one place only to break the contract because the seller smokes crack but that's a story for another day. Finally, on April 29th, I went to contract on the place 4 doors down from the 1st contract and again, began the mortgage application process.

I have owned homes before. Back when the banks were bundling bad loans and blah, blah, blah. I still don't even know exactly what it is they did. But I do know, they royally screwed up and have lost all kinds of money, people are losing their houses and somehow bank executives still feel entitled to million dollar bonuses.

I have recollections of the stress of buying a house. All the documentation. The empty threats of underwriters followed by the approval of a loan you may or may not be able to afford. Well, apparently all of that has changed.

Back in 2003 when Stephen and I bought the house in Kennett, the mortgage company was more than willing to let me take on a mortgage in only my name, while Stephen provided the down payment accompanied by a short letter saying he was "gifting" me the money. Then, it was no big deal to put both of our names on the deed and go about our business. Times were good; the banks were riding high.

Seven years later, all of this is a problem. Stephen can't gift me money, even though the money is actually part out of the agreed upon buyout. This is because we were never married, therefore we were never considered blood relatives, even though we have Max. Technically, he could gift me the money but only if I go FHA and then I am required to pay 5 years of  PMI, even though I'll have put 20% down. My brother can gift me the money but they want to see his bank statements to prove to them that he has money to give me. I am pretty sure my brother doesn't want me or Bank of America to get a look inside his check book but they feel this is perfectly acceptable.

My brother does not believe me when I tell him all of this. He swears I need to just explain the situation to them and they will say "oh, okay, we misunderstood." This is not the case. So here I am still waiting to figure out what the hell I'm going to do even though I have all the money I need to buy the house. The mortgage company just wants me to have it in the way they want me to have it. Which is a problem. Because I have the money the way I have the money. I can't make me have it any other way. Does any of that make sense? If it does, can you explain it to me?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Birds vs. Spiedi

Earlier this week, I asked for suggestions for a blog topic on my Facebook profile. Here are the results:

1. Porn
2. Spiedi
3. Reality TV in general
4. Facebook
5. The BK King
6. Birds
7. The fact that people don't know what it means to yield or merge when driving
8. Gus - the 2nd most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania
9. Clowns

Then, of course, I had a particularly bad day and added assholes to the list.

When I analyzed the list, there was alot of "creep" factor, so then I had to ask myself which of these topics is the creepiest. There are good arguments for many of them and I welcome any input from others. But for me, it really is a toss up between Spiedi and birds. I will lay out my argument for both and then you can decide.

Once upon a time there was a fresh faced, small chested girl from Crested Butte, Colorado named Heidi Montag. She moved to California to pursue a career in fashion and ended up making guest appearances on the unscripted reality tv show "Laguna Beach". For the record, I loved Laguna Beach. I loved that there were young adults out there so out of touch with reality that they felt compelled to hold a trucker cap fashion show to benefit victims of the tragic Laguna Beach mudslides a few years back. They even had their own slogan for the event; Fight the Slide, 2005.

Anyway, somehow Heidi ended up infiltrating her way into this world of trucker hat fashion shows, expensive cars, and infinity pools. The following year she turned up on the Laguna Beach spin-off show (another unscripted reality television show), The Hills. At this point, Heidi was still fresh faced, small chested and even a little mousy. She quit fashion school and convinced some party promoter (who was probably paid a small fortune by MTV) to let her work for his company. It was clear, Heidi was starstruck.
Season 2; Enter Spencer Pratt. Spencer was billed as Brody Jenner's best bud, but really he was just a dick. From the first moment he came on screen, he creeped me (and the rest of America) out. Now, for some reason, this was not the case for Heidi. I'm not sure if it was written into her unscripted contract that she had to date him, or maybe she was smoking crack. The impetus is still unclear. But Heidi was smitten. And all of America was forced to watch a long, slow train wreck right before our very eyes.

We have watched him alienate her friends.We have watched him alienate her family (how well would you handle it if your husband called your mother "the vagina" on national television).We have watched him alienate all of the celebrities on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!".

We have watched Heidi go from a fresh faced, small chested, mousy but cute girl, to a girl who really doesn't look human. I'm still unclear as to how plastic surgeons can sell a patient on the fact that what they are doing is making them look like an actual real person. In Heidi's defense, maybe she didn't want to look real. Maybe her goal was to look like actual plastic. If so, she succeeded. But in the process, she has lost her friends, family and fans. According to a report on msn, she and Spencer only have each other and spend their days staring at magazine covers of themselves. And they are now referred to as Spiedi. CREEPY!!!


I have long had a thing about birds. No - I have never seen the movie. But birds freak me out. At one point, I seriously considered starting a group on FB called "Birds Freak Me Out" but was afraid there would be backlash from the many bird lovers out there. But I will not be silenced any longer. Birds freak me out and creep me out.
I don't really know why I have an aversion to birds. When I was in 1st or 2nd grade, I was at a friends house where they raised chickens. The chickens chased me across the yard. I felt like I was going to die. I think I thought I would get pecked to death. 

A few years later, while I sat on a swing in my neighbors back yard wearing the mail order shirt I received after saving Golden Grahams boxtops (It said "I'm a Golden Child), a bird flew overhead and shit on my shirt. My mother tried to convince me that it was good luck to be shit on by a bird but I wasn't buying it.

When I was in high school, I went on a class trip to England, where we were fortunate enough to visit the Tower of London. While we stood waiting to enter the Tower, a huge flock of birds flew overhead and shit all over the crowd. I was wearing a white wool coat and was again, lucky enough to be shit on. The woman next to me was wearing a kerchief around her head and as she turned to look at me, I was lucky enough to see bird shit running down the side of her kerchief. 

It's not that I can't appreciate the beauty of a bird. Some of them are pretty. But many of them are not. They really are just like little prehistoric creatures and who wants to see that. Recently, I was walking through the woods in Anson B. Nixon Park and turned just in time to see what I was sure was an actual prehistoric bird. How this bird could have gone undetected in Anson B. Nixon park for millions of years is unclear to me. But I was freaked out by the shear size of this bird. And the length of its legs. I swear the bird may have been as tall as me. And it took off and all I saw were these bamboo like legs and I thought I may die. Then I found out 2 days ago, from my bird loving friend Chrissy that I probably saw a blue heron. But does it really matter? It was just plain old CREEPY!!

After putting both arguments on paper (symbolically speaking), the birds win. At least you can turn off your TV. You can't hide from birds. CREEPY!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Was learning cursive really necessary?

I have a really hard time taking credit for ideas that aren't mine so I'll again preface this by saying I got the idea for this entry from that chain email I received last week. I've gotta be honest with you - I'm not sending it to any of you because it has way too much awesome material I can use in my blog. So you'll just have to settle for getting it in dribs and drabs. Only the title is in the email; the rest of the material is pure me.

So - was learning cursive really necessary? I just don't know the answer to this one. My handwriting over the last 39 years has kinda gone full circle so maybe cursive did serve a purpose. I recently found my diary from high school and I was shocked at how childish my handwriting (all cursive, mind you) was. Lots of loop-de-loops, heavy handed and a few embellishments here and there. Nothing like my half print - half cursive scrawl of today.

I think the philosophical question regarding cursive really speaks to a larger issue of what is really important in schools these days. It is true that I benefited from many subjects I swore were a waste of my time. Remember wondering why in the hell you would ever need to know what a rhombus is? I'll tell you why....Your kindergartner will one day come home and show you what a rhombus is and you better know what he's talking about or you will appear to be an ass. A dumbass, at that.

Reading - a must. Although, books on tape and 24 hour a day news are cutting into that market. Writing - important also but your kid may qualify for an IEP that states that he needs to use a computer instead of a pencil or have a scribe for test taking. Math - we've got calculators now. And kids are allowed to use them after they learn the basics. Plus - there's this thing called the "new math" and none of us know how to do it anyway so helping them with that homework is kind of a waste of time.

I still haven't figured out how they are working Social Studies into the curriculum these days and I honestly believe this is the biggest crime of all. When I was in kindergarten, it was the year of the bicentennial. Of course, this was all very exciting, especially since my elementary school sat on an actual Revolutionary War battlefield. I can still remember sitting in class telling my teacher that my mother had graduated from high school with Martha Washington (true story). Now, for some reason, Mrs. Christensen did not believe me but I insisted she call my mother and ask her herself. Which she did. And that is how I learned the very important history lesson that my mother is not nearly as old as I thought she was.

Back to the subject at hand. I don't have an answer. Did I benefit from learning cursive? Maybe. Probably not as much as my older sisters who went to Catholic school, where they all learned the exact same way to write cursive, which came in very handy when forging notes after skipping school.

Will Max benefit from learning cursive? Who knows? I'm just hoping he learns how to write on the actual line, not an inch above it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why Motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I love my child. I love him more than I thought was ever possible. But motherhood is hard. It is, by far, the hardest thing, I have ever done. Unless you are a mother, it is impossible to comprehend what it means when someone says its the hardest thing. I can attest to this because there was a time when I was not a mother and now I am. So I have lived both ways. And its hard.

When you are a mother, you are responsible for another person's life. You are responsible for whether or not that little person will grow up to appreciate others, be empathetic, find humor in life's hardship, etc. And you will be blamed if they end up less than perfect. They will blame you. I recently had the pleasure of my only child say to me "Unlike you, I don't have brothers and sisters to play with." Someone shoot me now.

You may never sleep through the night again. You may wonder "is he breathing?", "is he going to throw up again?", or "have I ruined him for life?" Long after your child has learned to sleep through the night, you may find yourself up, watching Law and Order reruns wondering how you will ever sleep through the night again.

Your own needs will ultimately by tempered by the needs of your child. You will do whatever it takes to make sure your child is happy, and well adjusted, even if you have to break their heart in the process. And even if you have to put off your own happiness for a while.

You will suffer through shows you hate, books you've read a thousand times and freezing cold temperatures to make sure your child gets to hit a ball once every 30 minutes. And you will pretend you love it all. Unless, you've hit the wall and actually tell them you can't possibly watch that same episode of  iCarly one more time. You might even yell at them. You may actually hear things come out of your mouth that you swore you would never say. You may look in the mirror and see your own mother and think "Oh, now I get it."

You may question yourself every day. Did I do the right thing? Is he going to turn out okay? Am I going to turn out okay? Am I ever going to sleep again? (Or did I already say that?)And you may have days when you feel like the world's worst parent and spend hours trying to make sure your child knows you love him.

But you will laugh every day. Laugh at how simple life can be for a child. And your heart will melt every day. And you will wonder how you ever lived without your child. Even if it is the hardest thing you've ever done.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shining the Spotlight On.........JED

I've decided that this will be a feature of mine, although I'm not sure how often I'll do it. I guess as often as I feel like since it is my blog. Anyway - this "Shining the Spotlight On...." series will focus on someone I know (or don't know) and how they affect (or is it effect?) or influence my life. If you don't want to be included in this series, then you better let me know now or its a free for all.

Jed, otherwise know as John Eric Demajistre, was born a poor black child. Only kidding. Actually, I think he was born in Pittsburgh. If not, he at least lived in that general area for much of his youth before moving to the area around the 1983 or 84. This is where I first saw him. Not met him - that was in 1987, but my first memory of Jed was walking across the courtyard at Unionville High School during the 10:10am smoke break (yes - we were given a time and place to smoke back in those days) walking arm and arm with his chick. I say chick because in order to appreciate the visual you need to think back to the time period, when big hair was in and couples walked with their arms looped together behind each others backs in a way that appeared that they were so into each other that they may possibly suffocate one another. But anyway, I saw Jed through the window (this was before I had the balls to smoke publicly in school) as he walked out to smoke with his chick and I remember thinking, "That dude's a total head."

Now when I was thinking "head", it was in reference to a general cliche that pigeonholed Jed into a social construct that made him a) love the Grateful Dead b)consume large amounts of pot on a daily basis often in the morning taking part in the "wake and bake" c) wear tiedyes and d) have hair past the shoulder, often in mullet form.

Personally, I loved "heads". I liked to move freely amongst the various social groups, not really belonging to any of them. So even while I was watching Jed, I was admiring his dedication to his identity (he may disagree but I'm writing the blog, not him).

Jed was (or is) about 3 years older than me, so the only real memory in high school of him is this, then I don't know where the hell he went. Maybe he was skipping school. Maybe he was suffocating his chick. But it wasn't until 1987 that I actually met him while working at the Kennett Square Inn. I was 15, nearly 16 and very naive. He was 19. There was no love affair. I was way too into the 24 year old waiter to be into Jed. And quite honestly, he was too honorable (and probably not even interested) to take an advantage of me. But in the midst of my young tortured love quest, I found a friend in Jed. He quietly shook his head in the background while I got my heart broken. But the interesting thing about love is that so often, it comes and goes, and what you are left with is your friends. And so I was left with Jed.

Jed weathered many of my failed love affairs. When I ran off to State College to be close to the man who would later become my ex-husband, it was Jed who looked across the kitchen line at me and said, "You are making a mistake. You better not marry him." And I did. And when it was over, I still had Jed.

Over the years, Jed and I fell out of touch. But whenever we saw each other it really was as if we had never been apart. Part of this is due to who Jed is. He's no nonsense, practical and drama free. Several years ago, Jed moved to Bethany Beach and we had no contact until last year when we reconnected through good old Facebook. It is honestly one of my all time favorite FB reconnects because as I stated before while I have over 300 FB friends, I am unclear as to how many of them are actual friends.

Last May I decided to go visit Jed down in Bethany. I was suffering from some general life burnout and wanted a short reprieve. I called Jed when I got down there and he told me to meet him at the restaurant where he works. I have never been so amused as to walk into the restaurant, turn the corner and see Jed walk out of the kitchen with the same old disgusted looking face I had seen so many times and hear him say "Hey Bert, where are you parked? Let's get out of here." After about 6 years, that was my greeting. And quite honestly, I wouldn't have expected anymore. It really felt like I had just seen him 10 minutes before and I loved it. 

So while I was never in love with Jed, I have always loved him. And if any of you ladies are interested let me know and I'll get you connected. But please keep in mind, we are a package deal.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

While I stole the title line from a chain email I received today, it is the truth. I have always said that there are 2 things you don't screw with when it comes to me - my food and my sleep. Much of my adult life has been sleep deprived. In my 20's, it was by choice. I worked nights as a waitress and bartender and lived the "alternative life style". While the rest of you (but not all) went out for happy hour at 5, I was serving you drinks. When you were brushing your teeth, I was sweeping the bar. And when you were fast asleep, I was racing to the Chadds Ford Tavern in order to make last call. I seldom got home before 3 am and was know to drink well into the next morning. And then I got up the next day and did it again. I kid you not, the year I turned 21, I missed 2 nights at the Chadds Ford Tavern and it was probably because someone had chained me to a bottle of antibiotics. I remember rationalizing that it would probably be helpful for my throat infection if I went out and drank a brandy. (Psst. I didn't even drink brandy.)

Most of my early to mid 30's sleep deprivation was courtesy of Max. I'll admit, I was a nervous mother. But before that, I was a nervous, very uncomfortable pregnant soon to be mother. Once I hit about 6 months, I looked as pregnant as most 9 month pregnant women. I was so uncomfortable I couldn't sleep in my bed anymore. I slept on the couch and woke up numerous times to shift, turn and pee. Then I gave birth to a 9.6 lb., 23 inch 5 month old. And he ate around the clock, literally every 2 hours for months. And I was determined to do the right thing and breast feed exclusively. I was not going to poison my child with that formula crap most of the world gives their kids. No- I was going to lose even more sleep to ensure my child doubled in size in 3 months. And he did (maybe it was 4 months). Plus - I needed to make sure he was breathing. I became obsessed with the fact that if I turned my back more than 15 minutes, Max might stop breathing. So not only did I check on him continually, I put him in the bed with me so I could access him at all times.

For all of my "Ferber"-izing, Behavior Analyst friends: Easier said than done. When you are going on about 15 years of no sleep, its starts to get to you. You'll do anything to hit REM sleep for even a moment. I did what I had to do. And for your information, I never chastise other parents who have done the same thing. I only tell them of the end result. Your child is likely to climb into bed with you at least a few nights a week until he figures out he might have more fun climbing into someone else's bed.

So about a year and a half ago, I finally hit the wall. I couldn't take it anymore. I needed to get some sleep. I had spent years teetering on the edge of insanity. Many of you can attest to this. I could go days without more than a few hours of sleep. And I am not a pretty sleep deprived woman. The older I got, the less likely I was able to pull it off. I had tried a variety of medications. I had started self medicating. I had started to feel like Heath Ledger. I called a doctor. One who actually knows how sleep meds work (word of advice - don't waste time on your GP - they don't know how to prescribe psychotropics or sleep meds in a way that will ever get you off of them). Within a few weeks, I was sleeping like a baby. I admit - I am psychologically addicted to a fraction of a dose of Klonopin that wouldn't get your big toe to fall asleep but it works for me. Unfortuately, the doctor is telling me, its time to get off of it. So I'm gonna try.

But in the meantime (which was why I started writing this in the 1st place), I have had 2 sleepless nights in a row. Still taking the "mother's little helper" but it appears a combination of the heat, hormones and anxiety about buying a house sent me over the edge. And after 2 days I am reminded of all those years I never slept. And how I wish I had.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saying Goodbye

If you are from the general Chadds Ford/West Chester area, I'm sure you've heard about Jimmy John's burning down yesterday on their 70th anniversary. Having lived through my mother's house burning down in 1995, I can relate to how devastating it is to watch your whole world burn down right before your eyes. But in the case of a place like Jimmy Johns, while only a handful of people have spent the last day bawling their eyes out, picking through charred remains to salvage, there are hundreds, maybe thousands more that are having to say goodbye to a little piece of their past.

I have memories of sitting in Jimmy Johns as a little kid with my mom and dad and siblings, staring at the walls of pictures, watching the model trains and eating strange tasting hot dogs. I never really did like the hot dogs. Probably because they were what hot dogs were supposed to taste like. I was a store bought, boil on the stove type of hot dog eater. Now I only eat the beef franks and they have to be grilled. But Jimmy Johns dogs were different and they definitely drew a crowd.

The last time I was in Jimmy John's it was about 4 years ago. I was with Max, my sister and her kids and my brother Ralph. For him, taking the kids to Jimmy John's was like going on a field trip. It was his civic duty to introduce a part of our childhood to them. He has so excited and I still didn't like the hot dogs. But the second we walked in, I was flooded with memories of my father, who passed away when I was 11. I was still drawn to the walls and the trains.

It's interesting to think about that whole stretch of Rt. 202 and how much of it is gone now. The drive in movie theatre where I saw Bambi. Betty's Ice Cream Parlor was a few doors down from Jimmy Johns and I worked there as a hostess when I was about 15. I'll never forget how proud I was when I got my very first 25 cent raise. The corner of Rt. 1 and Rt. 202 use to house the BYC baseball and football fields and a Wawa. It's all gone now. And when I put it in the context of Jimmy John's burning down, it makes me sad. Or I could just have PMS.

But it still makes me sad.!/photo.php?pid=31034212&id=1564284344&subject=51742898843&ref=mf

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My first blog entry

As part of my bucket list (and the fact that I saw that a friend had started a blog), I am realizing a dream of mine by starting a blog. Really, I always thought I'd write a book or write magazine articles about my life but that just seemed too complicated. Plus, a book is really long. I figured this would be much easier and at least my friends would find it entertaining.

One friend I need to give a shout out to in my quest to blog is Bob Biondi. He's a book editor and way back when I was about 26, he tried to get me a job working at the publishing company he works for. I interviewed and got the job working in public relations. The starting salary sucked (I was making "big bucks" as a bookkeeper) and when I told them I couldn't take the job, they offered me $4000 more dollars so I jumped on it. I went to my boss the next day and gave my notice. The day after that, my boss offered me a $7000 raise plus bonus. (Lesson - When it appears to be to good to be true, it is.) Dumbass that I was, I stayed at my bookkeeping job and was subsequently subjected to a year and a half of pure torture when a few days later, my one boss abandoned the business. But that's a story for another day.

A few years ago, my friend Wendy and I started an online fake magazine called "What Is Up?". The title came from a very proper guy we knew who would walk into the Kennett Square Inn and say "What is up Wendy and Carol?" To which I would respond, "Nothing much is up, Tony. What is up with with you." But the premise was we wrote stories based on a strand of truth about people we knew it Kennett. Kinda like The Onion, I guess but way funnier. The 5 or 6 people that read our magazine loved it and said we really needed to take it to the next level but we were just lazy and never did. I'll have to post one of the articles.

Again - Bob read our magazine and kept pushing me to blog. He even named my blog Maximum Red over a year ago. I changed it to Maximus Red today because when I was double checking the spelling of maximum today, maximus came up. My brother, who had a variety of nicknames for Max, used to call him Maximus so I went with that instead. Bob also came up with some cool graphics but I have no idea had to get them into layout.

In the meantime I discovered Facebook. Initially, I thought it was lame but I did like the idea of being able to lurk around undetected and see what people were up to. I think I had a Facebook profile for a few months before anyone even friended me and even longer before I friended anyone. But as a recovering smoker, I quickly became hooked. Where else am I going to amass over 300 friends? I think I only have face to face contact with about 10 people a day. Maybe 4 on the weekends. I found people I haven't seen in 25 years. People I've never met all of a sudden wanted to be my friend. I mean, I have to admit it was pretty flattering. It's only recently that I started ignoring friend requests from people I don't know. Who has time for that? I have not de-friended anyone yet. I like to follow the wise advice of  "hold your friends close and your enemies even closer."

Not only did I become addicted to FB (as I've come to refer to it as), but I became obsessed with the "status line". My daily goal became (and continues to be) to post something so witty, that people feel compelled to respond. And so far, it's been a huge success for me. Who would have thought 1-2 sentences a day could impact the world in such a positive way?

For me, the status line, at times expands to the Note Tab. Which really was the precursor to the blog in my case. All of those "25 Random Things, What your kid really things about you, Think Fast Memories" just brought me closer the realization that I needed to blog. Especially after my brother died. I had to write. I had to get it out and in that particular case, writing it somewhere no one would ever see wasn't going to cut it. I was oozing grief and I needed everyone to know. And I think they did. But the respond was so overwhelmingly positive (although I'm sure some people were like "shut up already") that I have no regrets. And I'm sure that you'll see some of that part of me on here too.

So here I am, my first blog entry. I did it!!! Sign up, tune in and I will try hard to entertain.