Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What I Really Really Want

We were visiting Wonderful Mother-in-Law (really) this past weekend. She started her 4th different regiment of chemotherapy Monday--this time it's a daily chemo pill. We're all hopeful this one will do the trick.

As we sat and chatted about everything but her stage four lung cancer, we somehow stumbled on the topic of "things we always wanted that we never got". Daughter #2 always coveted sparkly ruby-red shoes from Stride-Rite when she was little. But alas, we couldn't afford the pricey shoes then ($40) especially since (a) she was outgrowing shoes every 6 months, and (b) they weren't exactly practical. Still, it didn't stop her from talking about them for the next 15 years. When Daughter #2 was turning 21, I heard about grown-up sized "Dorothy-Wizard of Oz" ruby-red shoes and asked her if she still wanted them because I could now afford them. . .she smiled and gave me a hug but said "no thanks, I'm ok about it now".

When I was growing up, my father was in consumer electronics, so instead of playing with dolls, I played with the latest in electronics. We always had the first microwave, the first 8-track player, the first tabletop sized TV, etc. So, dolls were, well, dull. (That explains the reference in my profile.) But that didn't stop me from always wanting a true doll house with all the miniature accompaniments that were so fascinating. Look, a teeny little book. Oh, and in the tiny kitchen, exact replicas of pots and pans and even cooking utensils! Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was then, and now, small in stature. Maybe I related to the smallness of everything? Whatever the reason, I always wanted one, but never got one. Still fascinated, though. When the girls were young, I used to drag both daughters to the local Art Museum to see the Thorne Miniature Room display
just to gaze in wonder at the tiny displays.


I asked Wonderful Mother-in-Law (really) if there was something she always wanted and never got; expecting that she would recall something from her childhood. Instead, she immediately answered, yes, there was something when she and Wonderful Father-in-Law (really) were young and struggling with 5 young children to feed and clothe. What was it?, I asked. She said that Wonderful Father-in-Law (really) insisted that they never incur debt, and so, they never charged anything and only paid with cash or check. Of the 5 children, only one was a girl, and Wonderful Mother-in-Law (really) desperately wanted to buy her a Raggedy Ann doll, but never could.

I think I'm going to buy one for Wonderful Sister-in-Law (really) for her birthday this June.

What did you always want, but never got?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Super Bowl Fever

It’s here, it’s big, it’s crazy. Super Bowl XVII (42 for the Roman Numeral Challenged) is coming to Arizona.

All of a sudden, everyone is on a first name basis with “Eli”, “Tom”, and “Paris”. If I took out a second mortgage, I could attend any one of a dozen exclusive pre- or post-Super Bowl parties featuring the celebrity flavors of the month. With the stadium located out in the hinterlands, it’s pretty easy to assume that you might just run into a well-known face or two just by frequenting the usual high end Scottsdale shopping center and restaurants.

Friends and relatives are coming out of the woodwork asking if we can get them Super Bowl tickets at face value. Ha, Ha, Ha. We do have tickets. Six of them. But that’s another story.

Husband spent the better part of two nights trying to book flights home for Daughter #2 and Serious Boyfriend (who is a rabid Patriots’ fan). They’ll be flying a “quality” route that begins in Boston, with an hour’s drive to New Hampshire to catch a flight to Baltimore, to catch a flight to Las Vegas, to catch a flight to Phoenix. The morning after the Super Bowl, they’ll reverse this itinerary substituting San Diego for the Las Vegas segment. So, even though in one weekend, they’ll be hauling themselves cross-country for a one day event, they are besides themselves with excitement. Neither of them have been to a Super Bowl, and OH-MY-GOSH-MOM-IT’S-THE-PATRIOTS! Daughter #2 sent me Serious Boyfriend’s voice mail after she invited him to the Super Bowl–it’s pretty funny.

More later. . .

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Boys Are Different

Last week, we were talking to Husband's bookend, his youngest brother. They call each other that because they are the first and the last kids in the family, and although they're 10 years apart, they are the most like each other, are very close, and probably talk to each other once or twice a day.

Husband's brother told us we needed to ask our nephew what the doctor told him at his checkup that day because it was exciting news. So, Nephew got on the phone, and over the speaker phone, we all asked him what the big news was. Newly turned eleven-year-old Nephew excitedly exclaimed, "I'm in stage two of puberty!" There was dead silence on our end as we tried to absorb that monumental bit of information. In an effort to make conversation, I responded, "Wow, pretty soon you'll be able to shave!". And then Nephew responded, "Well, that's not where the hair is. . . ."

The girls and I couldn't talk because our jaws were hanging open, and Husband was busting a gut laughing. I can't wait until he hits whatever stage three is.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Hardest Thing To Write About

When you haven’t written anything for a long time, it’s hard to start again. Instead of your pen hovering over a blank piece of paper, your hands pause on the keyboard in front of a computer generated piece of paper. Same writer’s block, newer technology.

You fear you’ve lost your witty touch, your delicate balance of metaphors and realism, or your sense of the absurb. You sit down thinking today is the day you will write it all out. Ready, set, type.

Oops, no words.

So you let some more time pass and try again. How much time does it take until you can write about the hole in your heart? How much time does it take to describe the void that was created in your family’s life? How long?

When someone has loved you unconditionally, embraced you as one of their own, and touched your life as few people have, it’s hard to find the right words that adequately describe. It’s so hard that it’s taken over 2 months to write about Wonderful Father-in-Law’s sudden passing.

But now I’ve done it, and it was the hardest thing to write about.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Love Halloween

Technically, I’m only 54. In three days I’ll be 55, and while I’m fairly optimistic about being around to celebrate the dubious honor of turning double nickels, I’m positively giddy with excitement that Halloween is tomorrow. Seriously!

It all started when I was a little girl living in Chicago. When the days turned chilly on their way to being outlandishly cold, the leaves turned crayola shades of gold-tinged brown and yellowed butter, and the days fell into nights starting in the late afternoons, my friends and I knew Halloween was just around the corner. While everyone else obsessed about costumes, I combed through my mother’s collection of used grocery bags or tattered pillow cases for the perfect receptacle to hold all the popcorn balls, bubble gum, tootsie rolls, and other candy treasures I planned to collect. I didn’t care what I wore Halloween night; I only cared that, except for the one box of chocolates we bought MoM every Mother’s Day, and the loot I was allowed to collect on Halloween, there was never any candy in our house.

DaD would occasionally try to circumvent MoM’s authority and bring home some sweet bit of contraband he bought at one of the big box stores he sold electronics to. But, it never lasted past the day it arrived, and I had to share it with sweet-toothed starved brothers and a father! To be fair, MoM did buy exactly one 6 bottle carton of Diet Rite Cola every week or so. . . .I just never remember drinking any of it, but by the time she went back to the grocery store the following week, the bottles were mysteriously empty and patiently sitting in the cardboard carrier to be returned for small change credits. Hmmmmmm.

But back to Halloween. In my childhood neighborhoods, both Chicago and Phoenix, there were only two important strategies regarding Trick-or-Treating–how long could you stay out, and who in the neighborhood was handing out the full-size Hershey bars this year? Once the sidewalks started emptying, it was time to head home, dump our booty in guarded piles, and start serious trade negotiations with Older Brother and easy persuasion with Younger Brother (who was 5 years younger). Amassing popcorn balls from Younger Brother was easy since his front teeth hadn’t grown in yet. Being a chocoholic meant trading a lot of Butterfingers and Malted Milk Balls for the chocolate bars I coveted.

Before the Halloween sugar buzz wears completely off, it’s my birthday! It’s a veritable love fest all day, as friends, teachers, acquaintances, and even strangers congratulate you once they know it’s your birthday. I feel special all day, and can’t wait for my birthday party even though everyone I grew up with had the identical party! A white tablecloth drapes over the dining room table with a big round birthday cake in the center, topped with miniature figurines and candles. Nearby is the Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey poster, taped to the wall. (I really sucked at that game–no depth perception here whatsoever.) Before the last child leaves, we will have played “Duck, Duck, Goose” and it’s taken me years to realize there’s no way to win the game.

Instead of planning my trick-or-treat route now, I roast the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkins that Daughter #1 comes over to carve. She’s 25, but I love that she still treasures the tradition and races to the door to admire the little and not-so-little trick-or-treaters and hand out candy. (There’s not much Halloween in her condo complex.) I’m proud to say that our house is always considered a “quality” candy house by the neighborhood ghosts and goblins. I’m celebrating my birthday this year by going to the Phoenix Suns’ opening season home game against the Lakers–Go Suns! The office has scheduled a special staff meeting the morning of my birthday. Again, hmmmmmm. And Daughters #1 and #2 have been corresponding long distance in order to put together their birthday wishes. Not to be outdone, Husband and I already bought my birthday present together–hey, it fits and I love it!

Thinking about it, I don’t know why MoM let us hang on to our personal stash of Halloween candy until the last few pieces were stale and forgotten, but I like to think it’s part of that Halloween-Birthday mystique I remember and still treasure today.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I've Got A Secret

Actually, I've got a whole book of secrets. Tonight, Daughter #1 and I went to hear Frank Warren talk about his new book, "A Lifetime of Secrets" and his not-to-be-missed web blog, PostSecret . Frank spoke to the humanity involved in the creation of, the keeping of, and the release of secrets. As he shared previously unpublished postcards of secrets, the crowd of about 200 alternately "oooh'd", "aaah'd", laughed, or looked pensive. Because the secrets on his website and books mirror the secrets we carry in our own lives.

I don't want to compete with Frank and collect secrets (he does it so well and with such commitment), but I started wondering about the impact that secrets have on us. Daughter #2 couldn't keep a secret longer than 5 seconds if her life depended on it. Secrets literally fall out of her mouth. When she was about 5 years old, I made the mistake of telling her that she and her sister were giving Daddy an expensive shirt for his birthday. Later that day, we gathered as Husband piled up his birthday loot and grabbed the girls' present first.

"Oooh, I wonder what this could be?"


Actually, what she said was more like "A SCHWERT, DADDY! IT'S A SCHWERT!" because her front teeth were missing. She's 21 now, and still can't keep a secret, often asking us, "Can I just tell you what it is because it's burning a hole in my pocket?!".

Daughter #1 deals with secrets differently. She snoops. I have to admit, she's pretty good at it, and over the years, it's become a family challenge to try to keep a secret from her. (This should drive her crazy when she reads this post. . .do we or don't we have a secret she doesn't know about?)

In the twilight time of my Dad's Alzheimer's, before his speech failed but after his memory had been severely impacted, he shared many secrets with me. For that, I am profoundly grateful, and I think about those conversations from time to time since his death.

MoM, on the other hand, will lately tell me something matter-of-factly to which I respond, "What?! You never told me that!" She doesn't consider these tidbits secrets, but since she rarely shared anything personal with me for most of my life, I'm calling them as I see them. . .secrets.

I've heard secrets today and I've held secrets today. I didn't share any secrets today. . .maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Did You Miss Me?

I took a month off to breathe and heal. A few too many stresses, lack of sleep, aches and pains, and lupus can really kick your b**t. So here's a bullet point recap of what you've missed this last month. . .

* MoM finally got her hearing aids back from repair, and I called her saying, "It must be nice to be able to hear again on the phone." She replied, "WHAT? I didn't catch that." (Sigh)

* 3,000 miles away, Daughter #2 got off to a rocky start this collegiate year (the first of two "senior" years) stressing out about classes, professors, health issues. . .you name it, she stressed out about it. She averaged 10-15 cell phone calls a day until Husband told her he had printed out the admission application for our state university. Things are improving.

* Husband was excited that his beloved Diamondbacks made it into the playoffs. They just lost their second playoff game in a row. Husband is depressed.

* Daughter #1, well known for being an excellent snoop, discovered my blog after borrowing my computer. Husband still doesn't know about it, and when he occasionally asks what I'm doing as I type away on my laptop, I answer, "Just typing" and he goes back to watching his ball games.

* The Bells Palsy is much, much better. I'm told you can't tell I had it, but I still have some internal symptoms. At least I don't look like Quasimodo anymore.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Not My Kid

A friend of mine called and asked if I would mind helping the son of a friend of hers. Apparently, the son was having trouble finding a job in his chosen field, despite graduating this past Spring with honors. It was just my luck that Unemployed College Graduate’s chosen field was the same field I work in. Anyway, I agreed to meet with the young man and asked that he forward a resume to me.

Yellow Flag #1
Unemployed College Graduate’s resume arrived via email and looked like something he had knocked out in 5 minutes. There was decent content, but horrible presentation. This was a graduate of the Honors College? Did he skip the composition courses? Daughter #1 had a better looking resume when she was 16 and applying for a sales position.

Yellow Flag #2
I called the number on his resume, got his voice mail, and left a message introducing myself and asking him to call me so we could touch base. It took him several days to call me back.

Reddish-Yellow Flag #3
I offered to pull several associates from my office into a meeting with Unemployed College Graduate and we would brain storm about networking and possible openings in the market. The meeting was set for this past Monday at 10 am at my office. At 9:50 am, Unemployed College Graduate called and said he was going to be late.

Red Flag #4
My associates and I, dressed in suits and business dress, filed into the conference room to meet Unemployed College Graduate and confronted the following sight. There he sat, in a rumpled polo that couldn’t decide if it was clean or dirty. His hair was disheveled and in desperate need of a haircut. His pseudo beard had either thrown in the towel and quit trying to grow, or he had just started growing it a few days ago. Either way it was a good thing because the few straggly hairs helped to cover up the wide expanse of acne. (Why would ANYONE put up with acne in this day and age of great dermatologists and meds?!) In front of Unemployed College Graduate sat a solitary copy of his resume. No paper to take notes, no pen.

Really Red Flag #5
We decided to surge ahead, closed our gaping mouths, and sat down at the conference table. I opened the meeting by introducing Unemployed College Graduate and asked him to bring everyone up to date about his job search. There was total silence for a full minute. I finally jumped in and uttered a few summarizing sentences based on our telephone conversation and what I remembered from his resume. My associates took pity on me and started rattling off suggestions, good contact names, and great questions about what he had done or not done in his job search.

Solidly Red Flag #6
Not having a pen or paper with him, Unemployed College Graduate simply nodded or mumbled “yes” or “no”, and took no notes.
After a few minutes of this, I practically threw my pen across the table to him and said, “Wouldn’t you like to take some notes?!”
He turned over his resume and scribbled something on the back shooting me a furtive look.

Mercifully the meeting finally ended, and muttering “Thank you” to my associates, I slunk away to my office. As I sat stewing about the debacle, I decided share the debacle with the friend that recruited me to meet with Unemployed College Graduate. She was, predictably, shocked and resolved to educate the young man’s mom about why he might be having trouble finding a job.

So here’s the punchline. The next day as I was about to leave work, I received the following postcard by email:

I’m feeling a little guilty.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Anybody There?

I started calling MoM as soon as our car left the airport garage to tell her we had landed safely and were on our way home. I usually do this because she will talk nonstop for a good half hour pausing only long enough for me to mutter, “uh huh” here and there.
But the line was busy.
I kept calling.
For 25 minutes.
About 2 blocks from our house, I finally got through.
“Helloooooo”, she answered tentatively.
“Hi, MoM”, I replied cheerily. “Just wanted to tell you we’re back!”
“Back from where?”, she asked.
“Back from Las Vegas–remember we went up there this weekend for my niece’s baby shower and to visit my mother-in-law?”
“What do you mean, no?! I stopped by your house on Thursday and reminded you we were leaving the next day. And I called Friday night from the airport and left a goodbye message on your answering machine!”
“Nope, didn’t know anything about it.”

Then MoM started recounting in infinitesimal detail the weekend Diamondback baseball games. She does this the entire baseball season despite the numerous times I remind her I would rather watch paint dry than watch baseball. Desperate to get off the phone, I told her we were pulling into our driveway, and that I would talk to her tomorrow.
“Okayyy” she happily responded.

I wonder if she’ll remember this conversation?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Lost and Found

I lost my old Polaroid camera. I didn’t know it was lost until one of my staff at work came around asking if anyone had a Polaroid camera she could borrow. “I do!”, I exclaimed, and offered to bring it in tomorrow morning.

Except I can’t find it.

I checked the old standby, the hall closet, aka the coat closet except for the fact that no one wears a lot of coats here in the desert. Instead we pile up the travel umbrellas (don’t generally need those here), the afghan scarves (we use when we venture East during the winter), the “tv” tables (now those we use!), and a motley assortment of odds and ends that have no home anywhere else in the house.

I did find the cables and manual for the digital camera that was stolen, my Dad’s old SLR Nikon camera that no one knows how to use, a solar radio that once entertained us all for a day at the beach 15 years ago, and all the boxes from the various mobile phone systems I kept buying until I found one my mother could hear on.

I’ve lost more important stuff than the Polaroid camera. The earliest thing I can remember losing was my lovey blanket. MoM says she offered to paint my nails in exchange for the ratty blanket, and I agreed, thinking I would go retrieve it after I got my nails painted. (Not a bad strategy for a 4 year old, don’t you think?) I obviously didn’t factor in my devious MoM, and when I went to retrieve lovey blanket, it was gone.

When I was 15 and visiting my dad’s cousin, this wonderful lady of many warm smiles and beautiful songs disappeared into her room and reappeared with a little silver ring in her hand. “Would you like this ring, because I have no little girls to pass it on to?” she asked. Wow, a gift for no reason, and a pretty gift besides! I wore that ring every day after that.

Until I lost it at a hay ride not a year later. Remember the old saying about finding a needle in a haystack? I still cringe every time I hear that expression.

As I got older, the losses chronicled the changes in my life. I lost my room at home, coming home from college to find a billard table squarely in the middle of my former bedroom. I deliberately “lost” my car in the middle of Manhattan one day--frustrated with parking in the city and the petty theft of any movable parts on the car, I called up a salvage company, told them where the car was, and had them mail me a check for the car. After I got married and tried a double last name, I found that most companies were losing my original last name but keeping my husband’s last name. That didn’t work for me, so I “lost” my husband’s last name and kept my original last name. (Husband and Daughters #1 & 2 have been so understanding about it.)

The people losses are the toughest losses. There’s a scene in the movie, “Peggy Sue Got Married” that always makes me cry. Through movie magic, Peggy Sue is able to go back in time before she got married and her marriage soured. She experiences being a teen again, and part of that experience is seeing her grandparents again. She kneels next to them, and revels in their touch and being able to hear their voices again. Ah, it’s the best part of the movie–go to one of the rental places that carry old movies and rent it.

But back to the Polaroid. I’ve combed through every closet in the house, and even peeked in the garage (it’s like a giant warehouse in there). I’m thinking that I also lost my memory because I have this vague feeling that I lent it out to someone. . . I just lost the WHO part.

I found stuff too. So much that I could easily have the mother of all rummage sales. After spending so much time tonight searching for something lost, I think I’m going to concentrate on things found tomorrow.