Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dear Universe

I know you have this thing about me listening to you when you are trying to teach me a lesson. The thing is, I have been trying really hard to get on board. The control stuff? The being happy in the moment? The whole self absorbed thing? I have been working on it. Really.

Like the fact that within a few days I might or might not be leaving town for the month with two kids and a dog but still don't know the when/where/how details of such adventures? Not even sweating it. Like the fact that I can't pick a class for the fall until my baby sitter gets her college schedule situated? Not a second thought about it. Like the fact that my sleep situation has gone back to dodgy since travelling to the east coast and I spent the last two nights sweaty and sleepless on the couch? Not over thinking that one even a bit.

And best of all, when I visited my previous life and most importantly my sweet little store, did I cry? Did I chain myself to the door frame and refuse to leave? Did I even whine for a second about how much I miss the personal satisfaction from running my own business, and, let's be honest here, making a little of my own damn money? Nope.

So really, Universe, don't you think it's time for you to throw me a rope?

Here's what I propose:
As a reward for my good behavior, would it be possible for you to listen to me? Just this one time? You see, I would like some itty bitty teeny tiny validation. Maybe a small writing job? Just a few bucks to prove to myself that I've still got it? Something easy, but satisfying, mostly on my terms, and still awesome. Okay, I'll just say it, something to brag about a little. But I won't. Brag. But I could.

Then I will go back to knowing that it's not all about me, I can't control any of it, and I will be happy no matter what.

I look forward to your response. Thank you for your consideration.

Mental Momma

Monday, June 29, 2009

A serious relationship

So the Mr. and I finally managed to get some time out for a date last Friday night. We went to Gallo Blanco at the Clarendon Hotel for yummy tacos and guac, slipped up to the rooftop for a drink, and ended the night at Mary Coyles splitting a giant tower of ice cream. All in all, a near perfect night out.

Nineteen years ago this month, just after high school graduation, Hubs and I had our first of many dates. We had been hanging out in a group for a while and he asked me out and I was all yeah I guess we can go out, but I don't want anything serious because we are both leaving for college, and I don't want to be tied down.


That fall we continued to see each other, despite the seventy-five mile distance between our two schools, and have been together ever since. We were married five years before having Girlie, together for almost twelve by that point. When Little Guy was born, we had been together a whopping seventeen years. Though I can't imagine life without either of our children, we both sometimes look around like, who are these little people constantly interrupting our conversations and whoa, how did this happen? When I get some time alone with him, it all comes back to me. Like Friday night, when he said something really funny and it was just the two of us and I was laughing that out loud who cares how you sound kind of laugh and he was just smiling back at me and I totally remembered.

Oh yeah, you're the guy I wasn't going to get serious about. And I am still really into you. Seriously.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I cannot tell a lie

Have I ever told you the story of how I tried to corrupt a Boy Scout?


Don't worry, this isn't a twisted tale of a thirtysomething woman and young boy. The young man in question isn't even a real Boy Scout. I didn't slip him alcoholic drinks or worse, non-organic corn syrup laden Capri-sun packets at a den meeting. He isn't even a boy. Okay, a boy technically, but not a young boy.

The "Boy Scout" I refer to is my husband. My works too hard, never tell a lie, crack of dawn daily exercising, one drinking sipping, scouts honor husband.

Every Friday I call him around 3 PM to try to coerce him to leave the office. Can't you leave early? I say. We're getting in the pool. I say. You put in a million hours already this week. I say.

And he slips into can't lie code mode. The one where he talks like other people in his office might hear him thinking about lying. This time it was "I'll be home in an hour. I just have one call to go over some things with Mr. Coffee."

"Mr. Coffee? Our friend who introduced you to your boss and pretty much invented taking conference calls in your underwear?" I say. "I am sure he wouldn't mind if you called him on your way home."

"Okay, well, I will see you at home in an hour." He replies in his cannot tell a lie voice.

Most of the time I can appreciate his upstanding personality. Who can grumble about a fit (hot) husband, who will always drive his tipsy wife home, and never ever ever fibs about anything? But the whole not skipping out on work early on a sunny summer Friday thing?


The romance

Earlier this week, I received an email to let me know that a short story I wrote is a semi-finalist in a local arts festival. It might be one of those everyone is a winner type situations. Another writer pal is also a finalist, and for all we know, the six semi-finalists might be the only submissions.

Still, it was pretty exciting to get the notice.

When I wrote the story, I felt a little magic happen. A friend refers to it as that first love feeling, where you want to stay up all night with it and then walk around with a goofy smile on your face the next day (her words, not mine, but it perfectly describes the experience). Writing something you feel passionate about is the closest you can get to the thrill of a first kiss, and for a girl like me who has been with the same guy for 19 years, it was a pretty damn awesome smooch.

The story I submitted is a little quirkier than my usual writing style, if I even know what my style is yet, and the idea has been rolling around my head forever. It felt amazing to bring it to life and to prove to myself that I can take a really random idea and make something from it. The rules of the contest stated that the story had to be 1500 words or less and had to be original and previously unpublished (no problems there). The short format forces you to cut to the chase, but with the added bonus of finishing something within a few pages.

The book I have been working in is a much longer and more tedious process. It is nowhere near finished, and I recently decided to rewrite it in third person. I am second guessing my decision to change it, but want to give it a little time to see what feels right. I can always go back to the original, but I still cringe a little at the idea that I might be spinning my wheels (and wasting my extremely limited time) making the change. By the fall, I should have a clear direction and more time to put into it. For now, I am indulging in a little affair, a quickie if you will, with the short story format. I started a new one while we were gone, handwritten, in my notebook.

Of course, I hope my semi-finalist story wins, but we'll always be friends, even if he turns out to be a complete loser. Truth be told, I have moved on to a new fling anyway. So, if you notice my goofy smile, it's because of a bored housewife with a secret drinking problem who talks to the vacuum cleaner and harbors an inappropriate crush on the next door neighbor's sixteen year old son.

Admittedly a rebound, but still, crazy in love with her.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our summer reading program

Little Guy has quite the vocabulary for an almost 23 month old. I would like to think that it is because we read to him so much, but I can't be sure. Girlie was an early talker too, and let's face it, I am a bit of a chatter bug myself. It might just be the luck of the draw.

The funny thing about the reading is that we do it as sort of a defense mechanism. When Little Guy has run us ragged and we are too exhausted to chase him while he runs grinning with a pair of scissors or too tired to pull him off the dining room table again or too annoyed to keep him from harassing the family pets, we grab him and pull out a stack of books. It is the only time he will stop moving. Sometimes he'll get five or six books in one sitting, two or three times a day.

So, yes, I would like to take credit for our awesome parenting. I would like to give myself a gold star for the stimulation we are providing and the fact that it might be expanding his vocabulary at an early age. I could even pretend that it was something we thought carefully about and planned to do, so that he might have a shot at future brilliance.

But really, it's just a survival technique.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I went back to Georgia for a two week visit. I have lived there most of my life.

I moved there from Germany in the second grade. I can still remember how heavy the air felt when we stepped off of the plane directly onto the tarmac in Augusta. It was night and still very hot and I didn't understand why. We pulled through a McDonald's on the way to our temporary housing.

When we moved into our new neighborhood, just off of Tobacco Road, it seemed like everyone was either black or white. In Germany, I had been living in a multicultural utopia of sorts, our apartment building like an "I'd like to teach the world to sing" Coke Ad. I didn't understand the racial tensions in my new town. I learned the "n" word that year, while riding the bus home from school. I asked my friend what it meant, repeating the word once and only once, and her older brother swung his duffel bag at me, sending me flying down the steep hill at the entrance to our neighborhood. I didn't ask again.

Certainly, I would have learned the same lesson in Texas, Southern Florida, New York; it's not like the south has a lock on treating people differently because of ethnic and cultural differences. Still, I can remember thinking my parents had made a huge mistake in settling on a small southern town. Even though I had never lived there, I started calling Cleveland, Ohio "home" since that was where the rest of my extended family lived. I declared that, as soon as I was old enough, I was moving up north. Between my 7 year old evacuation plans and the fact that I had no other roots in the south, I set myself up as a little bit of an outsider, a misfit in the place that I grew up, got married, and started a family in. I lived it but never fully embraced it.

It would be 35 years before I left the south, heading west instead of north. This last year was the longest I can remember ever being away from the southeast. As we landed back in Phoenix, I felt pretty excited to be back. The kids and I have been a travelling roadshow, visiting four different houses in the last few weeks. We are exhausted and sick of sleeping in the same room together. Though it was great to see everyone, I can't help but think, I am so happy to be home.


I wonder if I am ready to let this one stick.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

There's no place like home, there's no place like home

Today I will be heading back home to Phoenix with two small kids, one giant suitcase, and two extra bags.

Not bags filled with the oodles of cheapie battery powered noise making toys my Mom picked up for the kids. I managed to leave those at her house.

Not bags stuffed with the wonderful finds I might have managed to scoop up at the endless rows of antique stores in North Georgia. It wasn't that kind of vacation.

Not even bags full of grits or my favorite Atlanta beer, both impossible to find in Arizona. They would be too heavy to carry through the airport along with a carry on, a car seat, and Little Guy in his stroller.

These particular bags aren't that heavy. In fact, these two bags are right under my eyes. My very very very tired eyes. On second thought, maybe they are heavier than the beer and the grits could ever be.

I wonder if I can just check them in curbside?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heavy metal

Little Dude has the rock star thing down.
He shows up, all attitude,

but with a charming swagger you can't resist.

Then he wrecks the place.

And leaves you wondering, what just happened?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Going Green

When you keep up with a number of blogs, like I do, it is easy to get caught up in the best of someone else's life. The pictures are all the happy ones, the posts are well crafted, and the blogger seems to triumph in even the worst of times.

It is easy to find yourself with a little case of the envies.

It is something most of us struggle with. Some, more than others. You wish you had your sister's big boobs, your friend's giant house, or your neighbor's new car. You wonder why you can't have another blogger's traffic, someone's freelance jobs, or just a fat stack of family money to get you through a tough time. The wish becomes something you can't shake and turns to something uglier.

But here is what I have learned about it. Envy causes you to become stuck. You fix yourself to an idea of how things should be until finally you aren't moving forward.

If you really want what someone else has, you have to stop and ask yourself if you are willing to take the whole package. The big boobs come with an off and on weight problem. The giant house comes with a cheating husband. The new car? Bought with a painful inheritance. The blog with a million comments also comes with a bunch of mean spirited snark. The freelance work means late night stress. The family money? Well, that's never really a freebie, is it?

So the next time you find yourself a little stuck, let it go. And try to remember that going green with envy isn't going to save the planet, or yourself. It's one green practice I make sure to avoid.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How to cure chronic insomnia

It is no secret among my friends and family that I have suffered from horrible insomnia over the last few years. It started as a side affect to an anti-depressant I had to take after my son was born. Eventually, it blew up into a full blown case of sleep anxiety that I suffered with for well over a year.

In the beginning I was surviving on maybe three hours of sleep a night, sometimes in chunks. On a bad night, I would go to bed at 10, lay there until midnight, wake up at 1:30, fall back asleep around 3:30, then wake up again around 5. As you might expect, I became completely obsessed with sleep and how little of it was happening. I even kept a journal.

I was exhausted, but not sleepy. When you start to sink into a truly chronic sleep cycle, your head aches, your body is sore, your eyelids hurt, you can't focus, but strangely enough, you don't actually feel sleepy. I forgot how to yawn.

Of course, I tried all of the tricks. I drank hot milk, took lavender baths, practiced visualization techniques, read boring books, stayed in bed, got out of bed, got massages, went to an acupuncturist, took medications, tried homeopathic herb combos, experimented with vitamins, exercised, didn't exercise, had my thyroid checked, went to a sleep specialist. I even tried this crazy thing called sleep compression where you limit your time in bed to just the number of hours you can manage to sleep. I sat up, in the middle of the night, in the dark, until 1 am and then got up again at 4 am. Insane.

Nothing worked. Short of drugging myself into a near coma, I could not sleep. Since we had two small children at home, that wasn't an option. Eventually, I resigned myself to just suffer through it. Three hours stretched to four hours, then five, and I learned to be grateful for whatever I could manage to get.

So the cure?

There isn't one.

Sure, sometimes there are medical reasons that people suffer the way I did, but for the most part, really bad insomnia is all about the crazy. I am completely convinced that the more you think it through, the more you try to control it, the worse it gets. And isn't that often the case for most of the crazy shit in life.

Finally, I decided that I would never sleep well again. I moved from the place where I wanted to accept what was happening to actual acceptance. I gave up.

And then slowly, over time, I started sleeping. I know the universe was trying to teach me a hard lesson about control. I hope I heard it clearly enough.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I have been logging directly on to Yahoo to check my messages while out of town . I changed my email account when we moved to Phoenix and for the longest time my account remained invisible to the spammers. Something I have updated recently (Netflix? Paypal?) sold me out and I am starting to get flooded with them again. Of course, I see even more of them when I log into my actual account.

If you need some shady male enhancement products or feel like making some cash from an offshore financial transaction, let me know. I can point you in the right/wrong direction.

Do these guys really still make any money on this stuff?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

North Georgia

I constantly feel damp and sweaty and my desert tanned legs are dotted with pinkish red constellations of mosquito bites. I might even be carried away by the lot of them, along with all of the other things that whiz and buzz as dusk approaches, but I have eaten plenty of heavy southern food. Biscuits and gravy, pimento cheese thick with mayo, and real BBQ, all topped off by a piece of coconut pie as tall as a Sunday hat.

The fireflies gather and blink little messages. How've y'all been?

And I scratch my ankle and reply, pretty good, pretty good. And you?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Get lost!

I recently stumbled on this article about a mother who is forcing her son to carry a GPS tracking device on his post high school backpacking trip around the world. At first it sounds like a reasonable enough idea, she gets to track him without worrying about whether he'll check in.

The mother thinks that she can avoid danger and protect her children by simply knowing where they are. Yes, the kid is only nineteen, and sending a teenager freely into the world must be really scary, but then again part of the whole youth hostel experience is about learning to make your way in life without the safety net. The kid even mentions that he can leave the device behind if he doesn't want "Mum" to know where he really is. And what if something does happen? Can she actually prevent it?

These days most of what we provide for our kids is about controlling them. We send them to lessons so they'll be smarter and drive them to school ourselves so they'll be safe and tell them not to speak to anyone if they do manage to stumble, unaccompanied, to the sidewalks in front of our homes. We call up a neighbor to "schedule" their "play" time. And what is the message we are sending? That the world is too treacherous? That the bad stuff won't happen when the rules are followed? It's not the truth.

I am trying to figure out how I can raise my kids without getting too bogged down in preventative parenting. Mine are still little and I know where they are most of the time (hanging on me, usually). But I hope as they get older, I will be able to let go a little and just let them learn a few life lessons on their own.

So, I don't think I will pop a GPS into a backpack any time soon. And besides, after eighteen years with these two, I have a feeling that I am going to be saying go on honey...

get lost!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stranger danger

The other day I was sitting at the computer catching up on a few blogs when Girlie finished her art project and stood beside me. She saw a picture of a pregnant woman and asked who's that?

Me: Oh, just a lady from a blog I read, nobody you know.

Her: Oh. So do you know her?

Me: No, I, uh, no not really.

Her, again: So you don't know her at all?

Me: Nope.

Her: That's weird, Mom.

It is, a little weird, isn't it?


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Finding myself on a map

My sister in law and I took a late evening walk with Little Guy in the stroller. We're in Atlanta visiting and the time change has thrown him off, so we thought a little stroll among the fireflies might help him feel ready for bed.

We stopped to say hello to her neighbor and I mentioned that I was visiting from Phoenix. He asked where I was from and I explained that I was born overseas, but had been raised in the south. He said oh and that I seemed like I was from the northeast.

So I'm from the south, live in the west, but sound like the north.

What exactly does that mean?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My new laptop

Ever since a writer friend of mine popped into class with a cute cherry red laptop, I have been pondering getting one of my own. But, I keep putting it off. I haven't wanted to spend the money on it and I haven't been able to decide if I want a full sized or a mini, a Mac or a PC, or even if I will use it as much as I hope to.

We are getting ready to travel a bit during the next few months, heading out to visit family for a few weeks and then back out again to visit friends. I figured out that the whole key to staying in love with Phoenix is to get away as much as possible during the summer, so I plan to do my part to keep the romance alive. Anyway, I could really use a laptop to keep up with my writing while we are away.

Still, I haven't been able to zero in on one. Not wanting to make a rash and possibly regrettable decision, I finally opted for an old fashioned writing tool instead.

A notebook. Lightweight. Portable. Doesn't need to be charged. Available in almost any color. Fits right in my lap.

I am a genius.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My boss

Have I told you about my boss?

She is such a lunatic. I started working for her about eight years ago when I left my corporate job. Her standards are impossible to live up to. Like when I made money during the first year of my business? She didn't even congratulate me! She immediately set the next year's goal higher. She once sent me to a gift show with a fever and had me bring my own sick child to work a few times. She was never completely satisfied with the store displays or the product mix. The windows always had to be more elaborate, more inventive, and get this, cheaper. After I had my second child, she expected me to get back to work almost immediately.

When I finally sold that business, she pushed me to start something new. Now she doesn't even pay me. And at my no-pay job, she expects me to get up at 4:30 in the morning! She keeps a list of articles for me to send in and has me working on a novel in my so-called spare time. Recently she even forced me to submit a poem to a magazine. A poem? I can't write a poem! Like I told you, she is a complete whack job.

This week, I finally snapped. I told her to give me a break! I reminded her that it was summer and both my children are at home. I explained that I only have a sitter for a few hours a week, and my husband travels for work. I told her that I chase a two year old all day, I am damn tired, and she just needed to back off a little.

I stopped just short of quitting outright. Anyway, I think she heard me. She said I could have a little break, just for the summer. Still, she wasn't really nice about it.

In August, when my daughter goes back to school, and my son starts a two day program, she said I had better be ready to get my ass in gear. Bitch.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A year

This week marks a full year since I sold my store and hopped a plane to Phoenix the very next day. It is the longest I have gone without working in twenty years. Not that being at home full time with an almost two year old while juggling the after school needs of a seven year old isn't work. But you know what I mean.

We decided when we moved here that I would take some time off until Little Guy starts pre-K. Back in Georgia we had a steady supply of very reliable and relatively inexpensive childcare. I had an amazing woman who came 20 hours a week to give me time to work in the store and squeeze in a few errands. We also had tons of friends and family near by to rely on for pickups from school, drops offs at dance lessons, and the occasional night out. I popped in on Saturdays, worked on displays on Sundays, and caught up on paperwork at night. It was a juggling act, one often resulting in a poorly launched ball or two flying up to whack me in the face, but we made it work. When we got here, putting down new roots in a desert with two young children mixed into the planting, it seemed to make sense to just take some time to get everyone settled before figuring out what my next career move should be.

A year has passed. A year! I can tell how dramatically our lives have changed as I get us all ready to fly back to Georgia to visit our family. First off, I am organized, actually a little ahead of the game, and I won't be up until midnight the night before folding undies and finishing the laundry. I won't be scrambling to cut payroll checks early or pre-pay vendors. I won't be checking the store schedule to make sure everyone has a break. I won't be printing up lists of orders that might arrive in my absence. I already have snacks packed for the flight and enough diapers stashed in my carry on. I had time in the days leading up to this trip to swim with the kids and give the dog a bath. We even made it to the library to pick up books for our summer reading list. I will probably leave my house clean enough that I will want to come back to it. And I have actually been mostly pleasant to my family while packing a suitcase. Unchartered territory, I tell you.

So I don't have a job, but what I do have is time. Time with my kids, time to make our lives come together with a little less chaos, and, occasionally, even time for myself. And I have to admit, time is nice. Really, when I look at the big picture, I think I might actually be starting to like this whole stay at home mom thing.

But that's just between us. Don't tell anyone I said so.

Friday, June 5, 2009

One, two, buckle my shoe

When we lived in the southeast, I was surrounded by huge families. In my smallish town, it seemed like everyone had three or four children, usually in a short time frame, all lined up like a parade of ducklings in matching smocked outfits with names like Mcallister Barnes Smith or Harold McDouglas Worthington III, Harry for short. You couldn't tell the girls from the boys except for the embroidered fire engine or flower on the tushie of their one piece monogrammed seersucker rompers.

I, on the other hand, had one child and for a long time remained convinced that I wasn't going to do THAT again. Though I had always planned on having at least two children, I was an only child myself, and couldn't imagine how I could manage more than one human being (two if you count myself) with only two arms, two legs, two eyes, and most importantly one brain to wrap around all of the stuff that needed to be done to grow a person. One child was completely overwhelming for me.

Looking back on it, I struggled through an almost two year bout of depression after my daughter was born. Around the time we likely would have considered having another baby, I opened my store, which I fondly referred to as my second child. Sure the business baby stressed me out, kept me up at night, and never gave back as much as I put in, but, occasionally, I could turn the lights out and walk away from it. It was, in many ways, the perfect second baby. Almost one of those mythical sleeps through the night at six weeks that you hear of, but never actually witness.

As the years went by I started wondering about the whole "third baby" thing. Girlie was turning four, my business turning two (without the tantrums), and I was starting to creep closer to thirty five which is apparently when all of your eggs get crusty and you reach the term "advanced maternal age" according to my OBGYN. It's like even the sperm can sense that you are nearing middle age and start swimming in the opposite direction, terrified by the sight of the boobs, now more sad then happy, and the twinges of crows feet popping up around the eyes. Scary stuff. Anyway, though I thought I had closed the door on the whole baby thing, I found myself wondering if I should give it another try.

A few years later Little Guy was born and I am now officially a member of the multi-kid crowd. Certainly there are days when I want to turn in my membership card and go back to the simplicity of a single child. There are also times when I wonder why I didn't just do it sooner. Little Guy is turning two this summer and I feel like I have been in the toddler phase forever. My kids are too far apart in age to be built-in playmates, but they still snuggle and chase each other around and occasionally share a snack or a game of goofy faced giggling across the dinner table. Since I never had siblings, this is all new to me.

The decision about how large a family should be is such a personal one. Of course, I am going to say that having a second child was right for us.

Now we have two.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Squeaky clean

I had a choice between showering and blogging. Today, personal hygiene wins, so you get nothing.

Back again tomorrow with the dirty details.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


A sea of blue eyes crash over me, urging me ashore.

I want to ask, above the roar, "Can't you see that I was floating alone, trying to be brilliant?"

They smile, a brilliance of their own. "Mama, please," they say!

I swim through apple juice and kisses and an ocean of books,

Night falls, and I find myself washed up for the day.

Maybe, I'll be brilliant tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The list

I have a long list of personal projects.

I want to find and hang an awesome vintage school house map of the world in my office. I want to finish the look with chalkboard paint on the closet doors. I need to find the perfect set of dining chairs, cheap but still cool. I want to complete the first draft of my novel by the end of the year. I want to submit a few queries, get an article published, and bang out a short story idea before I forget it. I want to take a fiction writing class. I want to lose 5 more pounds.

Of course, I have to carefully pick and choose which projects get done. If I do something for the house, my writing suffers. If I do something for myself, the home decor projects get shelved. With small children at home, especially the two year old master of disaster, I have learned that I can only have one major project at a time. It hasn't been easy to accept this. I am used to having a million things going. I really like getting things done.

But now if I want done, I need to choose one.

Last week I finally finished a little project on my list. I have been in a lemon yellow state of mind lately and decided to add a little punch of it to the dining room by painting some frames I already had. I picked painting the frames as my one thing and put aside the rest of the list.

It took four days and five layers of paint to get it done, but I am happy with the results. Of course, I still need to find the perfect rug. And now I am thinking the chairs might be salvageable in the palest shade of pink.

I guess I'll put it on the list.


Today Girlie coaxed me into the pool during Little Guy's nap time. When she is in school, nap time is my only time to get things done. Usually, I spend my early afternoon hours writing, paying bills, reading blogs, and catching up my to do list,cramming as much in as I can while my busy boy snoozes down the hall.

But today, my gal wanted to swim. Instead of feeling frustrated that I couldn't get MY things done, I decided to just roll with it.

The water was the perfect temperature.
I dipped my feet in,