Monday, December 24, 2012

Magic for the SantaMama

I don't believe in magic anymore.  Do you?

It's Christmas Eve and today, like the past 9 Christmases, I have been in charge of making the magic.  I am not a little girl anymore, Christmas lost it's magic for me a long time ago.  I grew up and became the SantaMama at my house.  (shout out to my fellow SantaMamas who are in various stages of exhaustion and panic at 7:30pm on Christmas Eve)

And, like the rest of my fellow SantaMamas, I have spent the waking hours of the past 10 days in or near tears as my heart re-broke at the terrible news coming out of Newtown, CT.  The magic, it seems, for our entire country is out of reach this year.  I have trudged through my magic-making duties -- the wrapping, the baking, the hiding of gifts, the cleaning, even church, with a heavy heart and a good measure of guilt.

It has been some consolation to know that 2012 will not be the saddest Christmas I have ever lived through.  And, thanks to some faulty arithmetic on the part of some old Mayan dudes, it won't be my last Christmas.  Because I am the SantaMama in this house, in charge of all things magical, I have halfheartedly performed my magic making duties because, to paraphrase Robert Frost, I have promises to keep.

So, imagine, when, what to my wondering eyes (and ears) should appear, but a series of surprises as my Darling Dears and I left the 5pm Christmas Eve service at our church.  Upon our exit we were greeted by a brass quintet playing Christmas carols, their coats and hats dusted with (surprise!) softly falling snow.  As we said our good-byes and made our way to the car, the piercing sound of a fire engine cut through the darkness, startling me. Being in my nearly constant tearful state, my first thought was, "Oh no, more sadness for someone this Christmas."  But, as the fire truck came into view, my heart did a little flutter as I realized this was a special firetruck with a special cargo.  It was decorated with Christmas lights and carried Santa and Mrs. Claus!  My children and I hopped and waved, the siren blared and the lights twinkled, the band played and the snowflakes fell.  I threw back my head and laughed, for the first time in a week.  And for just a moment, with snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, I was no longer 46, but 6, and I let my heart be light.

SantaMamas work so hard, trying to give to our  families the memories of Christmas Perfect.  It's all sugar and secrets, credit cards and The Carpenters.  So to walk out into a dark winter's night to have all these little Christmas treats handed to me and mine, unexpectedly, without work, without even asking for them, like so many cookies on a Christmas Eve plate, is not just perfection.  It's magic.


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Insistence of Memory

Halloween is fast approaching, bringing it's usual trappings - tasteless lawn displays, scary movies on TV (I'm afraid to turn it on, for fear of what I might see), pumpkins, princesses, goblins, superheroes, and my favorite, Mini-Reese's Cups.  While my children are eagerly anticipating dressing in their costumes in order to pillage and plunder the neighborhood with the goal of triumphantly returning home with more pounds of candy than they can carry, I am thinking of ghosts. Old ghosts. 

I tell myself these ghosts have taken up more than their share of time and space in my life, that they deserve nothing more from me, but still they persist in their haunting, insist on my attention and resist my attempts to scoop them up and smash them under the big, slimy rock where they sometimes reside and where I wish they would just stay.  "Just go away", I say, but like gnats on a humid day in PA, they invade my eyes and my ears.  They discomfit and distract me, as insistent as a 3 year old who clings to my leg and cries because he's hungry while I stand at the stove making dinner.   

Ugh.  Fine.  O.K. Ghosts, you win.  I'll sit with you, you may have my undivided attention for the rest of the afternoon while I type out this blog.  But don't come crying to me when you don't like the attention I'm about to call to your bad behavior.  You've earned this.  What I once considered a flaw in myself is really yours.  Your choices, your shame.  Here you go, fill your Trick or Treat bag with this and then shove it up your ass.  

I was 9, the same age my daughter is now, when my father died.  Suddenly, of a heart attack at age 32.  And while my loss was soul-scarring, having happened in my tender, formative years, it pales in comparison to the surprising and preventable loss my little brothers and I suffered in the years following my father's death.  My father was taken from us, he did not go willingly and, as my very wise great-aunt pointed out to me that evening, he died loving us.  His family, my mother's in-laws, our aunts and uncles--not so much.  They, one by one, some immediately, some over a period of years turned their backs and walked away.  My grandmother, gone.  My cousins, taken from me.  In what situation, what world, is that ever o.k.?  It wasn't.  It isn't.  I don't know that it ever will be.

My mother's parents took us in for awhile, until she felt strong enough to return to the house where we lived with my father.  (How she was able to do that, I'll never know)  Her brothers stepped in to shore up their sister and care for us.  They are the men who took us fishing, taught me to ride my two-wheeler and hit a softball.  And while my other, (former) uncles had the grace to look embarrassed whenever we might chance to meet at the county fair during my teenage years, the damage was done.  There is no way for them to say "sorry" to that 9 year old.  There is no excuse valid enough, no explanation that will ever make her understand.  I recently bumped into a (former) aunt at a foliage festival in my hometown.  And while she and my mom made small talk (here again, I must marvel at my mother's fortitude) I really had nothing to say  to her.  I just looked at her through my big brown eyes.  I don't know what she may have seen in them as she returned my gaze.  I hope she saw my father, for my eyes are his, and I would guess she saw a door with "No Admittance.  Authorized Personnel Only" written upon it.  She had her chance(s).  She, and the rest of them, made their choices and we have all lived with them for thirty plus years.

Thirty plus, I'm a grown up now, with children of my own.  These scars, these ghosts I'm shining the light upon, they still affect me so.  I'm so used to this story, I know it inside and out, that I have almost reached the point of saying, "it's no big deal." Amazing what we live with, adapt to, assimilate into our beings.  But if I take myself outside of it, allow myself to imagine hearing this story from a dear friend, I would tell her, "Hell Yeah--It is a BIG FRICKIN' DEAL!"    I would be outraged for her and rush to assure her that it wasn't her, it was them.  That there is nothing wrong with her, that she is not unlovable, that she is worth knowing and treasuring.       

And perhaps, that is my lesson, the one that I can teach my own Darling Dears.  My in-laws, my children's grandparents, are not actively involved in our lives.  One evening, during my engagement, my 9 year old self cried inconsolably in my fiance's arms at the realization that his parents didn't really accept me.  "They are never going to love me!", I sobbed.  And though he made all the appropriate reassuring noises, really, what could the man say?  I didn't know it in the moment, but since then, I have come to realize the two of us were battling those old ghosts, and on that evening, they won.  

So, now, we don't talk about Grandma and Grandpa that much.  Once in awhile my daughter will ask when we are going to visit them again.  I want to shield their tender hearts from feeling the same scorch of rejection I have carried all these years.  One of the greatest pieces of advice I will ever give my children is this:  "Don't pursue a relationship where there is none to be had.  You will meet all kinds of people in your life. Some of them will be unable to recognize you as the treasure you are, and some of them will be unwilling to do the work needed in order to deserve your love."  

Those people, especially, those who are supposed to love us while we are children, are contemptible poison. Let us save our gifts and our treasures for those who do care for us.  Let us not throw our pearls before  the swine.  

Now, where did I put those Reese's cups....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Half Life

My Readers Dear are highly intelligent. I know this because, well, because you are my Readers Dear.  So, perhaps you have noticed that most of  my posts regard friendship in all it's wondrous and blessed incarnations.   My entries amount to an inventory of people I've collected, courted, cultivated, and clung to.  I think most of my friends would say I'm steady and true.  Once you are mine, you remain, simply, mine.  Unless...

Unless you walk away from me, and then only if you don't look back.  But if you do look back, you'll probably see me give you a tentative wave and a small smile in case you need a little encouragement to walk my way once again.  I will welcome you back into my life because we all change our minds.  We make mistakes while we are running on emotion.  I've done it myself, and I hope to be forgiven for my bad judgement and the resulting bruises I've left on a tender heart or two.  It's called grace and we all need it.

But, I wonder, when does the grace we grant to another become punishment of self?  In other words:  how do we walk that line between being a soft place for a cherished one to fall and being the doormat for the insecure to wipe their feet upon?  How much is a girl supposed to take for cryin' out loud??

I'm talking about consciously choosing to end a friendship here.  I have done it.  Not lightly and not easily. And quite honestly, not soon enough.  I've allowed a friend to make me miserable for much longer than I should have. I granted her more of my grace than she deserved and now I am able to see that grace I gave was only a small drop in the ocean of endless damage and limitless envy in which she comfortably swam.  Today, buffered by a few years and a wide expanse of the United States, I am able to see the truth.  Truth is,  I was never going to make a difference.  I was never meant to save her.  The only one with sufficient grace for her is the One who made her. So I gave her back to Him.

Do you need the details?  I've asked myself this question a few times in the course of writing this one. (Actually, I've been trying to finish this particular entry for three weeks because of the turmoil it has stirred up in me.  But today, I am just pissed off enough to spew it out)   Do I need to dredge up the drama and the details?  Do you want to hear about the jealousy and one upsmanship?  The showing off and the selfishness?   I can tell you about the time she told me I was stupid, and the way she would casually mention pulling all of the medications out of her cupboard with the thought of taking enough to kill herself.  I have very illustrative stories about the unnecessary rudeness she would dish out to restaurant servers. Are you curious to know how she can claim to be an ace business professional in public while never making the connection that two personal bankruptcies before the age of 45 would give the lie? (yeah, I never really reconciled that one either)  I remember the way her jealousy would frantically rise up through her throat and threaten to choke her before shooting it's way out of her mouth in the form of a backhanded compliment or "constructive criticism" -- or the way it would turn her blue eyes to green when I would share happy news:  a new car, a surprise vacation, a pregnancy.  Her tedious attempts at control and manipulation left me emotionally exhausted and drained, but she never seemed to tire of it. Dee was my own personal Love Canal.  (get on the Google)  She insisted upon a clinging, clawing, possessive kind of love that nearly drowned me, and continues to taint the well from which I draw the water to nurture my current friendships.

I don't like to talk on the phone because Dee would call me up and use me as her therapist/sounding board for hours.  I don't let my friends know when I need them because Dee NEEDED so much from me.  I'm acutely aware of my own Drama Quotient and Neediness Factor because I don't want to be the Dee in my friends' lives.  I never want one of my friends to look at their Caller ID and groan because it's me calling. With another crisis.  Again.  I work hard at keeping my own counsel because Dee would ask me for advice and then not take it.  I reign in my judgmental tendencies (at least, I hope I do, I sincerely try) because Dee would use her professed Christianity as a tool to make herself look good in other's eyes as well as to diminish any sparkle of humanity she saw coming from others.   I don't make many demands on my friends' spare time because I don't want to seem clingy.  I could go on and on, but I won't--because DEE used to.

Being her friend was a lonesome place to be.  I would try to talk to other friends and family about my Deelimna but after awhile they didn't want to hear it.  The conversation would go like this:

Me:  "She's driving me crazy, she makes me miserable on the phone, I don't want to see her, I'm drained, I can't deal with her today...yada, yada, yada"
Friend:  "Just break up with her already!"
Me:  "I can't, I'm her only friend."
Friend:  "Helloooo, there's a reason you're her only friend...."

The final blow was mercifully delivered while I was pregnant with my son.  I had finally hung up the phone on the third hour-plus call in as many days regarding her latest drama--her closeted, live-in boyfriend. I will be forever grateful to the hormonal state which allowed me to finally throw in the towel.  Literally, I threw in the towel.  I hung up the phone, and stepped into the shower.  Over the running water I heard God speak to me so clearly, so plainly, I knew it was finally time to let her go, and in doing so, set myself free.  He told me that Dee uses me as her counselor but that is His job.  And that if I were any good at it, she would be in better shape than she is.   He told me to put a boundary on our relationship:  take some meds, seek professional help, or we are done.  The next time we spoke, probably the following day, she knew right away "shit just got serious"-  I layed it out for her and she very calmly told me that she couldn't abide by the boundary I put in place and SHE ended the friendship.  It was all quite peaceful and civil and surprisingly one of the most drama-free conversations I ever had with her.

I shake my head and roll my eyes in exasperation when I ask myself, "What took you so long?"  I can only say I was ill-prepared to handle her. I was younger then, and hadn't learned about boundaries as they apply in a relationship.  I think, now, she wanted to consume me, literally eat me up if she could have.  Perhaps she wished to posses my body and therefore, my life, so I wouldn't exist anymore. In that way, she would have the best part of me and no one else would have any of me.  There must have been some part of her that knew most of my emotional resources would be poured into my babies and that was a competition she would never win.

I wish she didn't have such locust-like hunger for food, things, people. I wish she'd had a different life, without the trauma she experienced as a child.  I wish she'd been given to a different set of parents who would have treasured their little girl's soul.  But, only God knows why,  that's not the way it happened for her.  He placed her in that damaged home.  He put that huge hole in her soul.  There will never be enough of anything here on this earth, in this mortal life, to fill that.

I wish I'd never met her.  I wish I hadn't let it go on so long.  I wish it didn't still affect me so. I wish I didn't regret the decisions I made, the gifts I gave, the days I shared with her.  I wish I could be more secure in my present relationships instead of always holding back, walking on eggshells, unable to ask for what I need.  I wish...

It's been nearly 8 years since I heard her raspy, two-pack-a-day voice on the phone.  The half-life of Dee's toxicity lingers on here.  I like to think it will lessen it's presence a little more each year. Just as radioactivity has it's half-life, I pray, so too, will Dee's toxicity.  Then maybe I can begin to enjoy my life, and the people in it, more fully.

I wish Dee a full life too.  It's called Grace.  And we all need it--some of us more than others.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Snips and Snails, Sugar and Spice

Much has been written about the differences between men and women.  The sexual divide is a favorite subject for movies and television shows.  Stand up comics, in particular, have forged entire careers with just one perfectly written bit about taking out the garbage or shopping.  The self-help section at the book store has shelves and shelves on finding, dating, understanding, winning, marrying and surviving your mate.

Soon, I will have been married for 20 years.  In that time I have gone from wondering "why are we so different?" to "it is what it is."  No need to ask why, we just are, for that is how we were designed.   I have come to this place of serenity ("accept the man I cannot change") via a surprising route:  motherhood.

I am lucky to have been blessed with a child of each sex.  Now, I could gush for days with stories about my kids to illustrate the differences--drama and tenderheartedness from my girl, snuggles and steadiness from my boy.  I could tell you about how I immediately fell head over heals in love with my strawberry haired newborn girl.  And, conversely, how my brand spankin' new boy "wooed" me over a period of time after we came home from the hospital.  Truly, I can, and I have.   But, honestly, what can I say on the subject that hasn't already been said?  Lord knows I love words, and, well, yes, I suppose I have a way with them, but, as we all know, sometimes a picture is just as, if not more, effective.

My Darling Dears attended Vacation Bible School in June.  These crosses were produced during craft time one day.  One boy, one girl, each given the same materials, produced two completely different results.  Can you guess whose is whose?

Yes, I think we have firmly established it:  men and women are different.  I don't understand my husband because I can't.  Before he was my husband, he was first, a baby boy, knitted together of a completely different material than I was.  Having spent seven years bringing up a boy and a girl in the same house, on the same food, with the same rules, I can only conclude we come out of the womb this way.  We are what we are.  It is what it is.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Have Seen the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and They Are: Jerry, Steve and Maury

My husband and I did not live together before we were married.  Upon moving in with him imagine my dismay to discover he was a "Three Stooges" fan.  Ugh.  I can quickly conjure a headache just thinking about the days he spent on the couch while an endless stream of "wiseguy, eh?" and "nyuck, nyuck, nyuck" streamed from the TV, courtesy of a Stooges marathon.  The horror...

Now, in light of the bile that currently emanates from our boob tube, the Day of the Stooge seems such an innocent time.  For in it's place, is a limitless supply of raw sewage provided by a new breed of stooge.  Larry, Moe and Curly, I hope you are resting in peace, but fear you are turning in your graves as Maury, Steve and Jerry reign over the dark underworld of daytime TV.  

My husband has a great job as the manager of a supermarket.  The company he works for pays him well enough and affords good benefits which allow me to stay home with our children.  Managing a supermarket means he works on Saturdays so he takes his days off on Thursdays and Sundays.  This translates into weekly discomfort and a headache for me every Thursday as he settles in on our couch to bond with his "boys", the aforementioned Dark Lords of the Vast Wasteland. 

Where do I start?  I rub my throbbing temples and squeeze my eyes shut when I consider the sights and sounds which regularly assault me as I walk through the living room on my way to wash dishes or do laundry.  (hint, hint Hubster)  Would you, my Readers Dear, like to hear about all of the Baby Mama Drama on "Maury"?  Where paternity tests are ordered as frequently as french fries at McDonald's, sometimes over and over to the same woman who can't find her "baby daddy" and sometimes to the same man who has been hauled in repeatedly in order to prove that he has fathered yet another out of wedlock child?  Or perhaps I should tell you a tale about transsexual lesbian strippers who first sleep with their sister's boyfriends, then discard them after the family, and the doublewide in which they live has been destroyed,  such as those who appear on "Jerry Springer".  And here's something I KNOW you will enjoy--watch as Steve Wilkos first administers lie detector tests to and then throws off of his stage, child molesters, who, more often than not, have been accused of assaulting the little ones in their own families.  

Maybe, no, definitely, I won't go into further detail.  The brief, yet nauseating details I shared above are enough of an assault on the sensibilities of  you, my Readers Dear.  I want to take Maury's guests aside and beg them to please, please, please use a condom.  My heart breaks for the sweet little babies who are shown backstage who will not only be raised without their daddies, but who will also be able to pull up on YouTube, the episode where daddy called  mommy a whore and denied his own child. Apparently, a large portion of young Americans are out there indiscriminately having sex, ALL THE TIME, so much so they are unable to ascertain the parentage of the next generation.  They take no responsibility for their own health or the lives of the children they create.  It's disturbing and more than a little sad.  

Also disturbing and sad:  Steve Wilkos' "guests", who should be "guests" of the penal system in their respective states.  I want to throw up when I think of how easily the story of the violation of a child is sold and shared  for public consumption, not just consumption, but ENTERTAINMENT.  These people come on the stage for the price of an airline ticket and an evening in a hotel to air their dirty laundry, dirty laundry that will never disappear, again, thanks to YouTube. The digital imprint of that episode will echo for years and years on the world wide web until the innocent child views it and experiences their trauma all over again, only this time with the knowledge that a million strangers have heard their story too. 

And I just want to slap Jerry Springer.

What is our part in all of this?  Those who consume this daily diet of junk TV with it's  chemically imbalanced, spandex-wearing, mullet-sporting participants, do we bear any responsibility for the deterioration of American society?  Are we merely smug voyeurs , with our DVRs and ring side seats?  Or are we the root of the problem-active participants in the cycle of consumption?  These shows would not exist without a  strong viewership.

Osama Bin Laden is dead (allegedly-but that's a topic for another day) however, waiting in the wings are others like him, don't doubt it for it a minute , who rub their hands together in a mixture of glee and disgust, as they observe the crass, morally bankrupt TV viewing habits of the western infidel.  No wonder they thought they could bring down the Twin Towers and in doing so, bring a great country to it's knees--they think we are either out reproducing like rabbits, molesting our nieces and nephews, dancing around stripper poles or parked in front of our TVs, sucking down Red Bull while eating Moon Pies.  

Maybe Jerry Springer didn't bring down the World Trade Center, but is it much of a stretch to think he contributed to the tragedy?  When  we consider the televised destruction of an American family to be entertainment, surely the Apocalypse can't be far off.  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012


"Framily" - a network of friends who care for you and yours.

I hope you, my readers dear, have been blessed with a "Framily" or "Framilies" at some point in your lives.  I believe that my own life has been made all the richer through the care and security I have found among so many people, who, though they are unrelated by blood, choose me, love me anyway, even though they don't HAVE to.  They do this, sometimes as passionately as my own flesh and blood, and I believe this has less to do with who I am and more to do with who they are....

I recently had the honor of attending a 75th birthday party for the patriarch of one of my childhood framilies.  I spent so much time at my friend Lucy's house as a teenager that I called her mother "Mom."  Now that I am a grown up and mother myself, I can see what an extraordinary gift that was.  With limited time and resources, such as we have when we are busy raising our own families, Julia and John raised two sons and two daughters and made room at their dinner table for me many a night.  I consider myself so lucky to have been counted among their "kids" too. When I visited, I was expected to follow the rules they laid down for their own kids, a small price to pay in order to be included in the over-flowing love to be found in that small house, along a back road in the tiny town of  Lopez, PA.  I was a quiet kid and Lucy's dad loved to embarrass me by pinching my cheeks or giving me a big hug and a smooch.  Lucy's oldest brother, Junior, would give me "tough lessons" --actually teach me how to punch people!  I guess he thought I needed it.  After 30some years of being apart, we all reunited for John's birthday party.  As I was standing in the picnic line, John came up to pinch my cheeks and give me a smooch.  A bit later, Junior walked by and punched me in the arm, just like old times.  My first thought was, "Wow, he's matured, NOT!"  But as I stood there, watching him walk away, I couldn't stop grinning, for with one smooch from the elder and one simple junior-high punch from the younger, they told me something I didn't know I needed to hear, and that was:  "You are still you, I am still me, you are still my framily."  The world is so slippery and confusing sometimes, it's nice to know that I am still able to pick up a Stacey-shaped push pin and place myself firmly upon the grid where Julia's kitchen chair intersects with April 10, 1983.  Or perhaps I never really left...perhaps my 17 year old self still exists in that kitchen in Lopez.  She is giggly and unaware of all the missteps she will make and misfortunes she will face in the years to come.  I know, I know, we can't go home again, as they say, but  if I ruled the world, and let's face it, it's my blog, I can write whatever I want, I would amend that to say "you can't go home again--to STAY, but you can visit for short moments." Moments that crystallize like frozen breath on a wintry morning in 'The Icebox of Pennsylvania'-- little pockets of time which slow doooown, ....staaaanndd stiiiillll...stop, and then, BAM! Timetakesupit'shurriedpaceoncemore, and we are left disoriented, but grateful to have been allowed that glimpse.

I grew up in the country, on a farm, in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.  I have an older cousin, a great writer I am just now realizing, who once referred to Forksville, PA as a "little silverware town". (Shout out to Tom McC!) It's part of a small, rural community; big city journalists will often refer to this type of community as "insular" or "closely knit".  Forksville may have been closely knit, however, we lived on the outskirts, which meant that I could stand in my front yard and not actually see the houses of any of my "neighbors".  But, oh, what a lucky girl I was, for my BESTEST FRIEND from first grade onward lived in one of those nearby houses which I could not see.  My love for Janie could fill an entire blog entry, but I will save that for another time.  Today I will tell you about her family--my very first framily.  The cool thing was that she and I were the same age, both the eldest children in our families, and the only girls.  We each had a younger brother, also the same age as each other and also best buds--we didn't call it "bromance" back in the day, but that's what it was, and still is.  And, we each had another younger brother, who differed in age by a year, but didn't let that get in the way of a life-long friendship. Through sleepovers and camp outs, bike rides and trips to the mall, we loved, and played and forged bonds of framiliness that are of the FOREVER type.  Her brothers are mine, and my brothers are hers.  I would do anything for her parents and my parents would do anything for her.  We are all crazy about each other's children.  Our hearts, and those of our families, are so closely intertwined, that after 40+ years, the vines, if they actually existed in the physical world, would be so thick, so wild, they would look like the brambles which encase Sleeping Beauty's castle as Disney's Prince tries to hack his way through on the way to kiss his princess.  There have been some who have tried to hack their way through, tragedy and evil abide in little silverware towns too, but in the end, that thick network of leaves and vines is much like a safety net.  It has caught and will continue to catch any of us little birdies who happen to take a tumble for the earth below.

I spent my single-chick years in the Pocono Mountains of PA, about a two-hour drive from my parents' home.  Those years between college and marriage - the sweet spot, as I like to remember it, were such fun.  Mostly.  There were moments when it would have been nice to have family around, and luckily, thanks to my Canadian friend, Kelley Farrell, I did.  Kelley was lucky enough to still live at home with her parents, brother, sister and assorted pets in a rambling, comfortable, lived-in home.  After my first few visits her mom became mine, I think I called her "MomO", but I don't remember why. Her dad is still one of my favorite people.  The Farrell home was my go-to refuge, whether the residents knew this or not, on tough days.  I loved being a "back-door-no-knock-necessary-pop-in" friend.  There was always good coffee on and someone to talk to. Hannah, Kelley's mom served me my first REAL cup of properly brewed tea, while introducing me to the joys of half and half for my coffee.  Prior to that, I had never thought of buying half and half to keep at home. I just lightened my coffee with the gallon of skim milk I kept in my single-girl fridge. (Eww.. I know, right?)  Now I keep half and half in my married-with-children fridge and think of Hannah every morning when I wrap my sleepy hands around my quart of half of half.  True story. I had many sleep overs with Kelley in that house (mind you, we were 20somethings) and they are some of my favorite memories.  I was honored to be one of Kelley's bridesmaids and the night before her wedding she and all of her bridesmaids spent the night in a big bunch on the basement floor of the Farrell's house.  In the morning we all woke and began our preparations for the big day, moving off in separate directions for fittings and hair appointments,  only thinking of the hustle and bustle, schedules and deadlines that so often are the hallmarks of a wedding day, not realizing at the time, that even though it was Kelley's big day, it was also a turning point for the rest of us.   It strikes me now, as I look back on that morning, it was one of the last mornings I spent as a child.  I was engaged, not yet married, my future husband's fiance, settled into another one of life's sweetest spots.  My only responsibilities were  to make sure I was ready to do my part in the wedding and look after Kelley as she gracefully moved down the aisle and into the next chapter of her life as a full-on grown up, some one's wife.

And now, twenty some years later, I too am a full-on grown up, some one's wife and mother, still living far from my own parents and siblings.  I watch the other moms I know from church and PTO who have the pleasure of their parents company for dinner any night of the week, and the secure feeling that must accompany them when they wake up for work to find a sick child and call on Grandpa or Grandma to care for the little one so they can go back out there to bring home the bacon.  Oh my heart, it squeezes when I think of how much my children miss out on by not having that daily or weekly access to their grandparents and cousins.  But, we do have a semblance of framily here, in Reading, PA too.   I don't live in the friendliest of places, as I may have mentioned in a previous blog, but I have managed to unearth a gem or two from the cold German ground here.  I have girlfriends I met in "MOM's Club" when my babies were still babies.  I have my Church Family who pray for me and teach my children. And I have been gifted with one adorably nutsy neighbor who makes me laugh and to whom I would entrust my children's lives in a heartbeat.  A big part of my current, cobbled together framily is my Canadian friend (why yes, I do have two Canadian friends!  Jealous?  You should be.)   Taylor.  Taylor is one of those people who can easily talk to anyone, my opposite in so many ways.  She oozes friend appeal.  Within 5 minutes of meeting her you want to get her out of her work clothes into something more comfortable (like sweatpants) and onto your couch, with a glass of wine and a movie.  This serves her very well because her family of origin is even further away than mine. As a single mom she built the ultimate framily which cares for her and her son so thoroughly and completely, they want for nothing. It is a thing of beauty, a true framily.

My children are still in elementary school, where I volunteer in the library once a week and am heavily involved with the PTO.  I do these things in order to meet people, always on the look out for the next addition to my framily.  I do these things because I want to know who their friends are, who their friends' parents are.  As the children grow older, I hope my house will be that warm home where they and their friends will come to hang out. It's kind of exciting to wonder who will these young people be who will sit at my dinner table and call me "Mom".  If my children are lucky as I was they too will develop their own framilies among their friends' families and I will know where they are and what kind of people they are staying with.

I pray they will be blessed as I was to have all of these extra people in their lives to love them and guide them too.  That can only be a good thing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Broken Hip(ness)

"... well maybe I'm not "the norm". I'm not "camera friendly", I don't "wear clothes that fit me", I'm not a "heartbreaker", ... I don't know "how that works", I don't "fall in line", I'm not "hygienic"...I lack "style", I don't have "self-esteem", I have no "charisma", I don't "own a toothbrush", I don't "let my scabs heal", I can't "reach all the parts of my body", when I sleep I "sweat profusely". But I guess the powers that be will keep signing my pay check until Jack and Jane K. Viewer start to go for the remote so they can get back to commentators who don't "frighten children", who don't "eat their own dandruff", who don't "pop their whiteheads with a compass they used in high school"..." - Chris Farley as Weekend Update Commentator Bennett Brauer on Saturday Night Live, circa 1991  

My Readers Dear who are laughing hysterically right now don't need to click on the link below to know what this reference is about.  For my Readers Dear who are scratching their heads, please click on the link below.  I guarantee it will be the funniest 3 minutes of your day.  Whether you are laughing or shaking your head, it matters not to me, I love you anyway.

Right now I predict you are thinking one or both of the following:
1.  "Whew, I'm glad she came out of her January funk. She was really bumming me out."
B.  "That's a pretty obscure reference. Why is she pulling this one out of her near-encyclopedic,  yet, pretty much useless, collection of entertainment trivia?"

This particular Farley character came to my mind as I contemplated my current state of "unhipness".  I have always prided myself on this useless compendium of knowledge I carry around in my oversize, almost-Mensa-material brain.  I have been heard to immodestly say, "I speak in movie quotes."  I'm fluent in Seinfeld, Bing, Lennon AND McCartney. At weddings, I like to dance like Elaine Bennis.  My friend Karen has a "Costanza Wallet".  My husband and I, while watching any show or movie in which appears an actor who is since dead, will turn to each other and say, "He's dead, Jim.".  When I am having a bad day, I tell myself to "just keep swimming.".  One of my (female) roommates in college had "man hands".  I giggle to myself when I chop broccoli -- every.  time.  I can say all the lines in "Grease" before the actors do.  I crack up when the ice cream man comes to the park.   And if you have never seen "Office Space", or worse, have seen it but, (horrors!) don't get it.  Well, you're off my list.  

But this is where my hipness ends, you see.  Although I fancy myself still hip and relevant, in reality, my hipness wore off somewhere between 2003 and the present.  My husband and I, in our mid-lives, often tease each other about falling down and breaking a hip.  Sadly, I think my "hip" has been broken for some time...

I became a mother in 2003.  In the 9 years since then, I have lost touch with my inner hipster.  Several factors contribute here, not the least of which is the fact that I'm exhausted ALL.  THE.  TIME.  I have spent the last 9 years carrying, birthing, nursing, changing, rocking, singing to, playing Candyland with and driving my offspring to preschool, church, and playdates.  I have filled my days and years with the repetitive tasks of so many mothers:  sippy cups, chicken nuggets, boogers, barf and the PTO.  (Side note:  Second place title for this blog -- "I Don't Think I had Cheerios in my Hair When I Laid Down Last Night."  I know, too wordy.)   So, yes, I'm exhausted and just want to go to bed.    In addition, I'm NEVER allowed to watch my T.V..  My husband or children are always in charge in that department.  Thank heavens for DVR technology.  Yes, I know DVR technology is not new to those of you who think you are soooo hip, but I have only just mastered it in the last 3 months.  Now my oldest will soon be 9, my "baby" is 7.  They both attend school and I am just now awakening from my cultural-reference-slumber.  

The scene plays something like this:  I wake up, much like Dorothy as she comes out of her poppy slumber.  I wander through this strange new land, where I have 9 years worth of t.v., music and movies to catch up on.  Some of my discoveries are grim, some delightful....

Imagine my surprise to find that Doogie Howser is not 14 anymore? working?? gay??? a father of twins????  

Apparently you can make a show about anything, anybody, anywhere.  There's a show about Hillbilly Handfishing? Ghosthunters? Ice Truckers? Ice T? 1000 Ways to Die?

I have missed not just an episode, not just a season, but the ENTIRE run of the following shows: "24", "Lost", "Grey's Anatomy", and "Desperate Housewives".  I have yet to watch an episode of "Glee", "Big Bang Theory", "American Idol", "How I Met Your Mother", "30 Rock" and "Downton Abbey".  I have seen "Two and a Half Men" -- I'll take the zero on that, thanks.

And, p.s., Did Howie Mandel have chemo?  And who, who, who gave Donald Trump his own show???  

The yearly spectacle of The Oscars has descended upon us.  I have seen exactly zero of the nominees for Best Picture.  I've seen only 2 movies in the theater this year, both comedies.  If I show up at your house with a tribal tattoo surrounding my left eye and carrying a "bear sandwich", you'll know which movies I'm referring to.  

I'm still learning how to download music.  Stop laughing!  It's not funny! I play around with Spotify and Pandora a little, I like my M5, a little Vampire Weekend, and some Dia Framps.  That's about as hip as I get with my music.  Ultimately, my heart belongs to Michael Buble and the New Wave on which I cut my teeth in college.   

Chris Farley died in 1997, along with him, Bennett Brauer.  If Bennett Brauer were to come back and join us, I imagine he would be as mystified as I am at some of the things that pass for entertainment today.   His SNL commentary might  sound something like this:

"I'm not "Bachelor material",   "Lady" Gaga "terrifies me" , I don't have "moves like Jagger" ,  I can't "keep up with the Kardashians",  "Skinny Jeans" don't work for me, neither do "Pajama Jeans",  I don't have a"disco stick",  I don't "get Snookie", "Holy Shniekies, there's a black man in the White House!?", I'm too fat to "Twitter",  I don't have a "Sexy Back",   I like "the Food Network",  I'm not cut out for "American Idol",  I'm not"Pinteresting", Apparently, the housewives I know aren't "real",  I don't worship at the altar of "Hilton and Lohan",  I'm incapable of "manscaping",  I'm a "hoarder".  I sweat too much to pass one of "Maury's"  lie detector tests.  But I guess as long as John Q. Public is willing to tune in to see me as an alternative to Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace, I must be doing something right."

Oh Chris, how we miss you.  No one ever wore David Spade's sport jacket better, not even David himself.  

I'm off to watch my DVR'ed episodes of "Grimm", "Once Upon a Time", "Smash" and "The Voice".  Maybe by the end of the week I'll be hip enough to strike up a conversation at the water cooler with you.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I hide these tears from my husband and kids. It upsets the kids, unsettles them, to see me cry.  My husband, who loves me, but who never properly dealt with his own grief, is not able to respond to the quivering blob of bottomless need that replaces his normally stoic and capable wife each year at this time.  This upsets me--but then most everything upsets me right now.  I am short with my darling dears.  Then berate myself for not holding them close and treasuring them instead.  They are, after all, the babes God allowed me leave the hospital with.  

But, now, it's a rainy Monday morning, my darling dears are at school, my husband, at work and I am on the couch, still fighting a stomach thing that has been dogging me for two weeks.  I call the doctor to explain the problem and as I am made to list and thus face, the pain, inconvenience and other indignities I've suffered for the last 10 days, it is too much, something snaps and the tears will not be stopped.  

Who are these tears for?

They are for my raven-haired first born.  Why she was allowed to leave here without knowing how very much she was loved and wanted, I can't comprehend.  When I think of the things she missed, that we missed as a family, I can only shake my head.  I'm sorry her last day on earth was spent on the surgeon's table instead of in my arms.  I'm sorry I let them cut her satin skin and crank open her impossibly tiny chest.  I guess we made the only decisions we could at the time, but, now, knowing the outcome, I wish I had said "no" and spent her last days holding her warm little body, letting her feel my love for her. Covering her angel skin with mommy-kisses and tickling her tiny feet.  I would have rocked her and sang her all the lullabies I'd been storing away like so many Christmas ornaments wrapped in tissue paper.  I didn't have the chance to do any of these things until it was all over. I hope she doesn't hold it against me.

And, they are for me, the girl I used to be.  The girl I was 12 years ago who never believed, no matter what the doctors said, that my baby would not come home with me. I was the one reassuring everyone around me.  I was keeping every one's hope afloat.  The possibility of my baby dying never once computed with me until it was all over.  It took us a year and half of trying, in earnest, to conceive her.  "God wouldn't make us wait that long, give her to us, then take her back after 3 days.  Where is the sense in that?  Of course we will take her home, of course we will.  She will come through this day-long surgery just fine and we will take her home.  This is just another test--He just wants to see how much we want her."  That girl? The one who was so sure she understood the order of the universe? She doesn't exist anymore.  And I miss her.  I cry for her broken heart, as I would cry for anyone else's.  She left a piece of her heart back there in that bitter and grey January.  I see it now, that lost piece of her heart, as one sees the broken bits of muffler in the rear-view mirror as the car it was once an important part of,  inexplicably, continues to chug on down the interstate.    

I keep a list in my head of all sorts of things I lost in that moment.   Topping the list: consciousness.  I'm pretty sure, as the surgeon came into the waiting room and said, "I'm sorry folks....", that I passed out, perhaps for only a few seconds as I slid, sweating and shaking, out of my chair and onto the floor --I was 3 days post-partum, wounded and bleeding, and I remember thinking, "Why does this shit always happen to me?"  

I lost all faith in God. Fear not, Readers Dear, the Big Guy and I are tight these days.  But in that moment: I was done.  I hated Him and I was convinced He hated me.  The spiritual rug had been pulled out from beneath my feet, and it took many tears and alot of time before I was able to put my world view right again.  

I lost a future.  To best explain what I mean,  I can only say that I spent much of my mental energy reconciling what existed with what I thought my existence would be.  These moments of reconciliation would come upon me in many places.  In the grocery store, I would look down at the empty seat in the shopping cart and think, "there should be a baby there."  At Christmas I delighted in my little 1 1/2 year old niece, who was such a comfort to me, then sneak out of the room to dab at my eyes, because my baby should have been there in a pretty Christmas dress to match her cousin's.  At support group I broke down, sobbing, saying, "I shouldn't be here, I shouldn't be here."  The other ladies there, also grieving, rushed to reassure me that I did indeed belong there.  My friend Donna, who gained her own understanding of the situation the hard way, gently explained my tears to the others saying, "She means she shouldn't be HERE because she should be home taking care of her baby."  Rocking and clutching my sides, I could only nod and sniffle.  "None of us should be here.", said another girl, and she, of course, was right. 

I didn't know it then, but in that moment was the beginning of the end of a friendship.  I had a friend at the time, who, having chosen to be child-free, simply was not able to relate to my grief.  She made me, if you can believe it's possible, even more miserable than I already was. Let me tell you, there are few things more pitiful in this world than a young mother with aching, empty arms.  She couldn't understand why I couldn't shoulder her unending problems and listen to her go on and on.  AND, BE FUNNY!  She actually asked me, "Where did my friend Stacey go?"  If we had been in the same room I probably would have, well, I don't know what I would have done.  As it was, I spat out across the phone lines, "HER.   BABY.   DIED!"  The words tasted like bile and I couldn't believe I had to actually vomit them out for her.  Eventually, I learned, as I hope anyone who survives a life trauma learns, that I had to show her my back as I turned to face those who did "get me."  

I am happy to report, when I look back on that time, I believe I gained, if not more, than, at least as much as, I lost.  The PA Posse as an example, (read "Wine for My Horses, Chocolate for My Girls" to learn more about the Posse)  and other new relationships. New character traits: strength, patience, peace, etc..  And, a close, personal relationship with my new boyfriends:  Ben and Jerry.   I've never been fond of the whole "when God closes a window He opens a door, yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah".  The universal, mathematical  truth of it is that once a vacuum is formed, it will soon be filled.  

We all lose our innocence. If we are lucky, we gain wisdom in it's stead.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Annual Asswhoopin'

I go a little crazy every January.  My judgement leaves me.  I bounce checks, cyberstalk old boyfriends and high school crushes on Facebook.  I cry in the shower.  I eat only chocolate.  I probably shouldn't drive. 

I play my Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach CD over and over, marinating in the perfect melancholy captured in their collaboration.  I crave physical contact. I follow my husband from room to room, wordlessly stalking him in search of the reasurance his presence brings.  I don't think he knows this is what I am doing. 

The rooms in my house are in various stages of  Christmas undecoration.   I wander from pile to pile, looking at the decorations and feeling at a complete loss at how to begin to pack them away.  I am normally very organized, methodical, even, in this annual necessary, but, nonetheless depressing event. My husband, always patient with me, finally gave up and finished deflowering the artificial tree, packed it up, and took it down to the basement today himself.  It is the latest I have ever left up my Christmas tree. 

I itch to purge my home of everything unnecessary, to fill boxes for delivery to my church's outgrown sale.  In my mind I am busily working my way through closets and drawers, feeling lighter with each item I happily toss into box after overflowing box.  I don't do any of this. I sit, staring into space for seemingly hours. My leaden limbs are heavy, rendering me inert.  My body aches with the the smallest of efforts.  I tire easily.  This is my life, for now, as I  exist on the edge of the shitstorm of grief that is inexorably bearing down upon my coordinates here on the sofa.

I am easily overwhelmed.  I sigh.  A lot.  I have not decided if they are the sounds of defeat or surrender.  These sighs are big--comparable to the sound emitted by a 15 year old girl whom, as she sighs, blows the bangs out of her face.  She sighs, with accompanying eye roll, at the suggestion from her mother that she pull her bangs out of her face.  I have not heard these sighs for 12 years.  Why they arrive this year, I don't know.  Do they always come to visit me in January and I just don't remember? They are the sighs of inevitability, in preparation for the annual asswhoopin' I know is to come. 

My husband and I lost our 3 day old daughter on a dark January night 12 years ago.  She never saw the pretty room we made for her.  I never rocked her to sleep.  

In the years since, I've learned to push aside the grief, to work through it, to function with it and in spite of it.  Most days I succeed.  But, every January it returns and WILL NOT be denied it's due.  It rears it's ugly head and makes a beeline for my heart.  It sits on my chest, pinning me to the couch for weeks.  It cuts my phone lines. It flushes my libido down the pooper.  It averts my eyes and erases my smile.  It will not relent until it deems me sufficiently isolated and demoralized.  

Do not despair, Readers Dear.  This is only a temporary state of being.  I am certain I will emerge into the blue sky waiting on the other side of this, I always do. I face the upcoming days and weeks knowing that though they will be difficult, they are nothing compared to what I've already lived through. 

There is unshakable peace in knowing I have already survived the worst day of my life.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me?

Midlife meltdowns are more fun to have than to watch, I think.  

In recent years I have watched 2 friends morph into versions of themselves which are all but unrecognizable to me.  I am completely bewildered and a little shaken by this new state of affairs -- "affairs" being the keyword here.  The path of destruction is wide and long, inventories of the wreckage are still being taken.  I could sound off about the immeasurable damage, the broken families, the wounded children, left bobbing in the wake. But, not today.  It doesn't make anything better.  

Today I want to say that, damage aside, in a world without consequences, it might be nice to have a midlife meltdown of my own.  I completely understand the urge to just sit down in the middle of everything, throw a hissy fit and say, "I want something else!  I've been given everything I thought I wanted but now I don't want it!  I want something else!  I don't want to be a responsible adult anymore!  I don't want to unload the dishwasher every day!  I miss my old job!  I wish I was still young, single, in college, partying more than studying!  I want my 20 year old body back! I ....WANT!"    I get it, I really do. 

I continue to put off my hissy fit however, because I DO live in a world of consequences and I DO have children counting on me to unload the dishwasher so they can have their after-school snack on clean dishes.  I AM a responsible adult.  I am no longer a single, dancing-on-the-table (I'm told this goes on in college bars, though I,  personally, have never experienced it) , 23-year-old, size-6-wearing hot chick.   I miss that girl.   And I envy her.  

There is a part of me that envies my meltydowny friends too.  How nice for them that they were able to put themselves first.  After 10+ years of marriage they could walk away, go look for someone else, go find themselves.  How nice for them. How were they able to not worry about the consequences?  How did they weigh their childrens' happiness against their own and choose themselves?  I'm not being judgemental, I'm truly curious. I want to know how they did that. What did it feel like?  

I don't have that quality in my genetic makeup. I worry about EVERYONE's happiness.  I want my single friends to find love.  I fret over children caught up in tsunamis and earthquakes.  I donate to the local food bank.  I volunteer my time at my childrens' school.  When will my "ME" gene make it's presence known to me in a way so undeniable that the only answer is to throw that hissy fit I've been dreaming of and putting off?

Tomorrow I will turn 40something.  If I live to be as old as my beloved grandmother, I am smack-dab, center in the middle of my life. My hubby and I just celebrated 19 years together. We've been through hell, lost our first-born.   I have yet to walk away.  I'm running out of time to have my midlife meltdown!  But, wait, I'm already having an affair....

With my hair!  Woo Hoo, I'm living on the edge.  I love my hair, it's my favorite thing about myself. At the roots of my varying shades of red, auburn, strawberry (pick a color, any color, it's different every time I have it done) is the brunette I was born with mixed with the grey I am acquiring along the way.  I haven't looked lately, but I think the grey is winning.  It is naturally curly. I waged war against my curls for the first half of my life until I saw Julia Roberts with her unforgettable mane of red curls in "Pretty Woman."  "Bing!" went the light bulb over my head when I realized I could have that look everyday, and, in less time than it took to wash, gel, blow dry, and otherwise beat my curls into submission.  Although, lately I have become quite enamored with my "InStyler" which polishes and smooths my hair into the glossy, bouncy strands I always longed for in high school.   I wear my hair long these 40something days. It's a little past my shoulders.  Some (my mother, perhaps?) might say it's too long, unflattering for a woman of my advanced years.  But I adore it.  I toss it, flick it, twirl it around my fingers -- I'm thoroughly obnoxious with it. And my 40something hubby of nearly 20 years likes it too.  

When midlife hits, some men buy Corvettes and go on the prowl for a new trophy wife,  some women leave their families and begin to sport that "mutton dressed as lamb" look.  Me, I have become an obnoxious hair-flicker. The most dire consequence of which is a potentially clogged shower drain.   Don't worry, I'll put it up in a scrunchy when I decide to throw that hissy fit.  


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Still Waters and all That...

I attract chatter boxes.  I am, by turns, dismayed and amused at this. I'm one of those "quiet ones". I like to think,  however,  not in a disturbing loner/sniper-on-the-clock-tower-way. And right about now, Readers Dear, you may be thinking to yourself that this cannot be accurate because I seem to have so much to say--so much to say that I started a blog.  Ahh, but, you see, I am not the one doing the talking here.  It is the Hamster.  If you were to sit across from me with a cup of coffee, you would not find me so riveting.

We relocated to our current city of residence about 8 years ago.  In that time, I have labored, and I truly mean labored, to make new friends, a network of connections to be a safety net for myself and my family as we have no family of our own nearby.  It's been tough.  I feel weary just thinking about how hard this work has been.   The longer we live here and the older I grow... the shyer I have become.  With age, I have learned a few things about making friends.  

  • I can learn much by listening to someone.  Not just about her, but about how she sees me.  Does she speak only about herself?  Does she show some interest in me? When getting to know someone new, I ask her the basic, small-talk questions about family, career, place of origin, etc..  If she answers my questions but does not reciprocate with any interest in knowing my answers to those same questions this person doesn't care about getting to know me.  She doesn't even care who she talks to--she just likes to hear herself talk.   Forget it, she is off the list.  
  • I am constantly sizing potential new friends up for their "D.Q." -- "Drama Quotient".  If her conversation is peppered with phrases like "I threw a glass of water at my mother-in-law at the Christmas dinner table" or "So I said to the salesgirl, 'Honey, I'd like to see your boney butt just try to make me leave this store'."  Forget it, she is off the list.
  • Actions speak louder than words.  It's a cliche, I know, but cliches become cliches because they are TRUE!  If a new person in my life is promising to get together but never picks up the phone to make it happen or never returns my call when I try to make it happen-- forget it, she is off the list.  I am entirely too old and weary from raising two children to run after someone who is not interested in me.  
  • Does she share my values?  Does she seem to be a good mother?  Is she materialistic? Is she constantly bitching about a personal problem but taking no action to solve it? Is she rascist?  Elitist? Compassionate? Intelligent? The answers to these questions and others will determine my interest in pursuing her as a friend.
  • Does she laugh at my jokes? Does she "get" my references? Seriously, this is important, because I have a weird sense of humor and it may not be for everyone.  It's not an ego thing, I just don't want to have to tiptoe around her and censor myself in her presence.  
  • Is she happy in her life?  If she is expecting me to come along and make her happy, fix her up? Then, no, I don't want that job.  It's not a cold-hearted thing to say.  It's just practical.  I'm a softy and I've learned that people take advantage.  I'm over 40, as most of my potential friends are.  If she doesn't have the basics of a life, i.e., finances, relationships, belief system, well in hand at this point in time I tread cautiously.  I may lend an ear and, if asked, offer what I hope is sound advice.  Then, I'll sit back and watch to see what she does.  Her actions will determine how much more emotional energy I want to give her.
So then, with all of these filters in place, does it surprise you, my Readers Dear, that in 8 years' time I have accumulated less than a handful of new close friends?  I am discouraged by this at times, but I guess this is the choice I make.  I can over-populate my life with fickle, flighty people or invest in true, solid friendships.  I choose the latter.  I think I'm worth it.  When I sit across the table from you at Starbucks, I may not say much.  Until you ask me.  I hope you'll think I'm worth it, too.

Behind the still waters of my big, brown eyes there runs some pretty deep water.  And in that water happily swims a hamster with much to say.  Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wine for my Horses, Chocolate for my Girls...

I once had a boyfriend.  I use the term "boyfriend", loosely, and only in the stead of other more suitable, yet unprintable words because both my mother and my pastor read my blog.  This man was neither a boy,  (I was 23 at the time-- he was 45), nor a friend, as he was not very nice to me.  Insert Linda Richman reference here:  "Stacey's boyfriend was neither a boy, nor a friend--discuss".  He once said to me, "Stace, you're such a WASP, I bet you get out of the shower to pee."  To which I replied, "Well, YEAH.  Duh."  -- Totally not getting the joke, as usual, was on me.  For this remark, and other reasons, he became my ex-boyfriend.  I bring this up not to give him precious blog space, but to illustrate to you, my Readers Dear, that yes, indeed, I suppose I am pretty WASPish.  My WASPish state of being is not unique, in fact, some of my best friends are WASPs,  (actually all of my friends...).  However, my WASPishness is part of what makes my friendship with Hend so unique--the other part being the fact we have yet to meet.  (Refer to my previous post "Sloppy Seconds?" to read more about Hend)  The topic question of the Real Simple blog contest was "Who Are You Most Surprised To Be Friends With?"  Hend was the first person to come to my mind. I dashed off my response in a matter of minutes, spent a day tweaking it and with high hopes and a little tingle in my tummy, sent it off to the editors of the magazine.  

Since then, I've been thinking of the other unique friendships God has gifted me.  I'd like to share with you now, Readers Dear, a group of girls I call "The Pennsylvania Posse".  The PP began on the RESOLVE message board 12 years ago and continues today. (If you don't know what RESOLVE is, you are truly blessed.  If you want to know what RESOLVE is, Google it; or, as my dad would say, "get on the Google") It consists of 4 members, surely too few for a proper posse, but it works for us. They are:  Cindi, Jenny, Jennifer and me.  To save you the confusion of two Jenny/Jennifers, I will, from here on, refer to Jenny as "Pottymouth" and Jennifer as "Sister Mary Jennifer, or SMJ.    We were all in various stages of grief, frustration,and hopelessness when we discovered we all lived within an hours' drive of each other in northeastern Pennsylvania.  So we began to meet up.   First, at restaurants, then for daytrips and sleepovers.  The bonding was immediate and the laughter, unending.  Over ice cream sundaes, antiquing trips and one fateful day when I made the mistake of wearing a brand new (read:  profusely shedding) pink chenille sweater beneath my black winter coat to Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the Posse let me walk around all day  looking like I had been dipped in a cotton candy machine without telling me, we traded Top 5 Lists and reproductive histories and teased each other about our days of being "Superfreaks", as we are all 80's chicks.   We even gave each other "Captain Underpants" names.  (Get on the Google for that)  Within months the laughter we shared proved to truly be the best medicine.  

One by one, our long-suffering and much put-upon hubbies knocked us up!  What joy! What Bliss! However, bliss is always short-lived, that is it's nature.  I'm sorry to tell you, Readers Dear, that Cindi, Pottymouth, Sister Mary Jennifer and I all experienced miscarriages within months of each other.  We were the walking wounded.  At least we still had each other. 

I went to church this morning, where my pastor did a sermon on Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, better known as the "To Everything There is a Season" verses.  Bliss, grief, they are simply seasons which visit all of us from time to time.  The dark, tear-heavy clouds accompanying our season of grief  lifted for us again as one by one, 3 of us announced our miracles, this time for good.    First, Pottymouth shared she would be delivering a baby in January, near my birthday!  We lovingly christened her bump: "Chenille Lynda Carter".  The reasons for this, I cannot remember anymore, so if you ask me why I will only shake my head and tell you there was the lingering scent of fertility drugs in the air at the time.  Then, Sister Mary Jennifer announced she was expecting TRIPLETS!  Triplets for God's sake!  Due, no lie, on 3/3/03.  Upon their arrival, on 3/13/03 we welcomed them as "The A Team", for all of their first names began with "A".  Last was me. After five years of monthly trying and crying, prying questions, insensitive remarks, avoiding baby showers, and dreading christenings--a baby girl, delivered a day before Mother's Day in 2003.  Finally, a Mother's Day that didn't suck.    Well, at least it didn't suck for ME.  For Cindi?  I can only guess how much her heart was aching that Mother's Day...

For whatever reason, only God knows why, Cindi and her husband remain childfree.  Worse, as Pottymouth, Sister MJ and I floundered through our first few years of young motherhood, we lost touch with Cindi.  I know, I know, my Readers Dear, you are shocked and outraged, as well you should be.  I'm still embarassed and ashamed about it.  After a second baby and a few years of treading water in the seemingly uncharted ocean of motherhood,  I wrote and sent an apology to Cindi. And SHE FORGAVE ME.  She still loves me.  And now, through the miracle of modern social networking, we remain in touch, still cracking each other up, long distance.  Recently, she gently suggested to me that I should stop praying for a baby for her.  She would rather I pray her through menopause instead, she said, but left the decision up to me. 

The Pennsylvania Posse still rides.  For now, only via email and Facebook and in my dreams as I picture the 4 of us, barefoot and toasting a red sunset.  Maybe someday, when "La Petite Posse", as we refer, collectively, to our offspring,  have become college-aged, we will saddle up and ride for real,  together again.  I'll wear my pink chenille sweater...