Friday, December 31, 2010

It's A Real Fear, I Tell Ya

Forgive me, friends, for I haven't blogged in ... uh ... more days than I dare confirm, lest guilt descend upon me like rotten tomatoes at a Hanson concert. (I can't actually confirm Hanson concert thing, either. Let's call it an educated guess.)

I say we ignore it, like an ill-timed passing of gas among classy folk, and move on.

Wait. Maybe not.

I have a confession: I'm just not sure what to blog about. That's not to say I am at a loss for words. That happens so rarely there is an actual statuette given to anyone causing such an occurance. They're expected to give a speech. There are snooty desserts on tiny plates. It's a production, really.

Speaking of productions, I am becoming frequently more and more tempted to stop updating Facebook and start doing the full version of my tiny, compacted to however few words F'book demands one limits one's post to here instead. But that would involve mobile blogging and I have a VERY real fear about mobile blogging.

It's not that I may accidentally curse (HA! Yeah ... THAT'S something I worry about ), unwittingly expose a major political scandal (Dick, anyone?) or even mistakenly upload a photo of Laverne and Shirley looking particularly good in a new brassiere (that's NEVER a mistake).

No. Those aren't the reasons at all.

Now, before I divulge the fear, I need you to understand the sheer force of this thing. It makes my heart race. I involuntarily grind my teeth. My left eye twitches as though I'm being forced to listen to screamo. I want to hurl. Things tighten in my body's effort to not lose control. It's TERRIBLE.

Here's the thing, people: mobile blogging in the form I have available given the technology in my hands ... oh, lawsy, this may kill me even saying it. IT DOESN'T HAVE SPELL CHECK!

I know, I know, that's not a big deal to a lot of folks. But for some God-forsaken reason, all of my domestic control issues I clung to when the BoyRD was a wee child have migrated to this issue.

I no longer clean things in my bathrooms with a cotton swab. I no longer sweep my kitchen after every meal. I no longer do much of anything domestic in the cleaning, maintenance and organization department. Ask my husband. He'll tell ya.

I do, however, compulsively spell check. In the grocery store, I'm the jackwagon telling the customer service counter they have something spelled wrong. I'll email people I've never met to point out an oopsie. I curl my lip and try not to cry when I see their, they're and there used incorrectly.

Not that things don't eak by. They do. I am, after all, only human. And don't ya know I've decided punctuation is something I can use in my own style.

But I try. Holy crap on a cracker, do I try. No kidding, I spell check stuff THREE times before hitting publish.

And yet things happen all day long that I find amusing. They're short. Maybe four or five sentences. All things I'd love to tell you about and invariably forget before I next have a moment.

So that's that. In a nutshell, I've not been blogging because I am a horrendous control freak.

Forgive me, friends, for it's been weeks since I've last blogged.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Boiling Point

If you've not been there yet, it's high time you meet my friend, Lou.

So we've not actually met in person. It doesn't matter. I don't need to hug her in person to know she's a good and true person. To know she's a dedicated mother, devoted wife, loving daughter, doting sister and all-around great gal.

Tonight, however, Miss Lou reached the boiling point. (Similar to Mr. Gladwell's point, but a little to the right. Or maybe the left. I dunno. I'm directionally challenged. If you ever ask me for directions, QUESTION EVERYTHING I TELL YOU. I live in North Fargo and--I'm not making this up--once inadvertently sent someone to Canada whilst directing them to South Fargo High School. Mea culpa. But I digress.)

Back to the Lou-ster. (Surprise, Leah -- a new nickname!)

She's had it. Had it with the hurtful, nosy and just plain rude interactions that often arise in human relationships.

Had it with knowing the "right" thing to say twenty minutes after the right moment has passed. Had it with people over-stepping their bounds, much less even seeing those boundaries to begin with.

We've not talked details, but I like to think she has also had it with the idiots in this town who politely STOP at the top of the on-ramp merging onto the interstate rather than adjusting their speed LIKE DRIVER'S EDUCATION TAUGHT THEM TO DO AND COMMON SENSE WOULD DICTATE. Then again, she lives in South Dakota, so maybe not. I like to think I'm not alone on that one, though.

So she wrote a rant. A gorgeous, from the gut, fingernail-splitting from pounding the ever-lovin'-snot out of the keyboard, the cat was probably hiding, still used her nice words, still acted like an adult and didn't name-call rant. And I thought, "YEAH. Good for you, honey. Let 'er rip!"

It's such a rare occurrence for Lou to flip her lid on her blog, that it triggered a memory of a story.

It must have been the late 80's to mid-90's.

My girlfriend's Mom was a flight attendant for an airline with a hub in a Southern state sporting an unusually large population of good ol' boys. You know the ones. Car dealership ownin', snakeskin boot-wearin', cigar-chompin', scotch-soaked, butt-slappin', rump-pinchers in ten-gallon hats. But because they were paying, regular customers, any antics in which they partook where endured.

So it's the same flight this aircrew makes most of the week: the Southern city to Chicago and back. Twice a day. It's the flight-of-choice for the good ol' boys to get their game on in the Windy City.

On this crew is my friend's Mom, (we'll call her Mom) Mom's friend, who we'll call Janie, and another attendant or two in addition to the crew in the cockpit.

Mom and Janie were working the same section of the cabin, with the same group of passengers they'd been hauling on this route for over a year. Just as scotch-soaked and rump-pinchin' as ever, these ol' boys were clearly not going to be behaving any better than they had on any past flight. They, in fact, had decided in the last weeks to add, "lewd comment-makin'" to their repertoires.

As Janie checked seatbelts and overheard compartments, she endured slaps, pinches, squeezes and swats ... now liberally peppered with salacious comments, suggestions and requests.

And then, all of a sudden, she didn't.

One swat, or maybe one suggestion too many, and Janie reached her boiling point.

She whipped around, slapped that man in the face, told him he needed to sharpen it, carve spikes into it, stick it where the State of Texas would never find it and give it a 360-degree turn. Twice.

Janie then proceeded to stride the aisle like a catwalk, thrusting her finger in the faces of stunned but guilty passengers who had spent the last year contributing to this Mt. Vesuvius-like explosion.

Peppering each of these digit-to-the-visage encounters was one simple phrase:

"F. You."

Except, of course, she didn't abbreviate that first word.

Up the aisle, one passenger at a time.

"And F you, and F you, and F YOU, and F .... "

You get the picture. I like to think that with each step, a wisp of smooth hair came out of her chignon, her eyes grew a little wilder, and somehow--magically--her fingernails became longer and longer until they resembled blood-red talons.

Then she reached the cabin where she threw open the door with a vicious twist of the in-door knob thingy.

One giant step in, and a pointer-finger in the face of the pilot: "F you."

To the first officer: "F YOU."

And then, utilizing TWO fingers to execute the oft-ignored "multiple destination point", to the other two crew members in the cabin, "AND F THE TWO OF YOU!!"

I hear it took three crew members to restrain her.

I heard they had to strap her into a jump seat until they got to the closest airport.

I hear she lost her job.

I heard she'll never work in the airline industry again.

But DAMN, I bet she felt better.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Reason I Believe

It must have been about four of five years ago or so.

A favorite little person and I were having an "Auntie Laura and Peanut" date.

At the time, Peanut was at that stage between toddler and little dude, small enough for a full-on carseat, but big enough to speak broken English fluently. (I know at first glance this seems like an oxymoron, but spend some time with a human being of this age and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.)

So we're west-bound on I94 through Fargo. P'nut is strapped into the driver's side backseat, feet a-kickin' away, singing "Lime In The Coconut" at the top of his little lungs. Every time the song would end, he would holler, "AGAIN!". Naturally, I would oblige.

About two and a half plays into the song that is clearly the only song in the world worth listening to, he says, "Hey, Auntie Laura?"

"Yes, sir?" I dutifully reply, pressing the mute button and angling the rear-view mirror to get a better view of him.

"Auntie Laura," he continues in one giant breath, little feet still bopping up and down in tandem, "do you 'member that time I was big and you were big and we were friends and I had a big blue truck and you had a kinda blue but not blue car and we would stop on the road and say hi and I love you and we were friends?"

Laughing at the magnificence of his imagination and sheer length of this sentence, I snorted out a, "No, Peanut, I sure don't."

The feet stopped moving. His jaw set. Our eyes locked in the mirror.

"Uh, yes, you do."

"Uh, no, I DON'T." (I'd like to tell you he was the first to take it up a notch. Sadly, that would be a lie.)


"OK, let me think," (I'm not dumb. I caught the tone in his voice, and it completely belied the size of his body. This boy meant BIDNESS.) "Uh ... no. I'm sorry, buddy, I just don't remember."

A sigh issues from the back seat.

"Yes, you do," and then a short pause before, "LIME IN THE COCONUT!"

And that was that.

Puzzling, but it faded away as many things do.

Six months later, in the middle of telling a my son a story, it hit me.

"... and your Dad drove a big ol' Bubba truck he named 'Baby'. She was, I think, an '84 Ford F150, blue with huge tires ...." my voice trailed off.

A lump in my throat the size of Missouri suddenly discluded breathing, much less speaking, from possibility in that moment.

Swallowing hard, I continued, "... and I drove a gun-metal gray LeBaron," (blue, but not, but kinda; 'sound familar?) "he would be coming home from work as I would be leaving, and we would stop in the middle of the street to talk for a minute and tell each other, "I love you."

Turning to my son and throwing the last of the memorial flowers for the year into the river, I went on.

"Your Dad and I would always say, "I love you" to one another. Even after we broke up. Even up until the last time we talked before he died. Every time. Even if we fought, we still said it."

It was the anniversary of Kevin's death and each year, the Boy and I had our ritual of remembrance.

I shared the Peanut conversation with him a few days later.

And the next year we stopped doing our annual ritual. It was the BoyRD's idea. He said it had been long enough and that we needed to move on.

And so we started in a new direction.

Peanut hasn't given me another glimpse into his soul in the quite the same manner since that late winter day so many years ago.

But he always tells me loves me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No Thanksgiving Thursday

We have something more important than Thanksgiving to observe today.

There will be no turkey. No stuffing. No sweet potatoes or corn soufflé. Zero pumpkin pie.

Instead, we'll be having a meal from my mother's recipe stash: goulash, coleslaw, garlic bread and our friend Mama I's brownies.

I know what you're thinking. And no, we're not Communists.

We are celebrating something much, much more important than Thanksgiving, my friends.

The BoyRD's birthday.

Specifically, his EIGHTEENTH birthday.

Eighteen. Adult. (see: makes his own decisions like "I want goulash and coleslaw for my birthday)

Eighteen. My baby. (see: towers over me by an entire foot)

Eighteen. Kill me. ('Knife to the heart sounds about right.)

The child who can make my heart soar and break. Simultaneously.

The child who taught me what it means to love someone more than myself, and simply to love myself.

The boy whose wavelength is more often than not the only one perfectly attuned to my own.


Eighteen years and some months ago, I was surprised to discover that my decidedly directionless life now had marching orders.

It was, in a word, tumultuous. It was physically the worst thing I can still imagine. Emotionally, I was debrided daily.

When I discovered I was pregnant, his father and I were already broken up. Drama, and lots of it, exacerbated by youth and ignorance, ensued.

I was living with my mother. Before the child made his appearance, I would also live with my Dad and a family friend, then back again to Mom.

During that time, my body was subjected to tortures never expected. Hyperemesis for the duration of the pregnancy meant I couldn't go two hours without barfing. So much barfing, in fact, that I tore the lining of my throat repeatedly. Stretch marks from mid-thigh to armpits that itched so badly, I scratched until they bled. Raging girl-infections made appearances more weeks than they didn't. Physically, it was hell. And I was all of eighteen years old. I knew everything and nothing.

I heard about a family in Phoenix who wanted to adopt a baby. My parents and the RD's father all agreed that this was a good idea.

I met the perspective family. I spent time with them. They were lovely people. Heck, I wanted them to adopt ME. I told them okay, they could have him.

And then I just couldn't do it.

I spent Halloween weekend of 1992 on my grandmother's back porch just outside of Las Vegas. She kept bringing me iced tea and let me alternately sleep, pee and just sit ... always refilling my glass. And then, on the last day, she brought me a photo album I'd never seen. These were the generations I had never met. Those who had "come over". Great grandparents, great uncles, great-great aunts. All people. Real people.

Hour after hour I spent sitting in a chair looking out at Nanny's beautifully kept backyard, desperately straining to see into the future. As it turns out, I couldn't see a future without this child I carried.

I did what was, at the time, the hardest thing I had ever done. I told those beautiful, intelligent, wealthy people, "no".

I can still feel the pain in that woman's voice. I can still hear her pleading with me to come to my senses. I can still, eighteen years later, feel the carpet on my legs as I sank to the floor—my swollen, aching, miserable body quaking with guilt, fear and the most intense feeling of relief I'd ever felt.

I have never once regretted that decision—not for even a sliver of a nanosecond.

Sometimes now in the early morning when he's still sleeping, I crack open his bedroom door. I just want a moment of listening to him breath. I try to go back in time and remember when he used to sleep next to me, his tiny body curled into the curve of mine. I want to remember every instance he chose hanging out with me over doing anything else. I want to go back to the time we made eye contact and he smiled and laughed at his Mama for the very first time.

But those things don't come back. Instead, I watch him snoring and send up a silent prayer of thanks for this child.

I pray for wisdom for him, and then some for me.

I pray for patience for him, with a healthy dose for me.

I pray for compassion for him, everyone he comes in contact with, and remind myself of what that means.

I pray for joy.

For strength.

For perseverence.

'Funny how these things work. Deciding how to go about telling you all of this brings to the forefront all of the things I've learned because of him, from him, about him and about myself.

And here I was thinking I'm the one who gave him life. Silly me.

Son, I love you bigger than the sky AND the comet. Thank you for being mine. Thank you for being you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Thanksgiving Miracle

I fell on an iced-over puddle in the garage.

Dropping in obligatory slow motion, I thought to myself, "Self," I thought, "You are going to pee upon impact. Chances are good you'll also break something. No physicist is required to conclude that your broken, unconscious body will be found adhered to the garage floor by a sad, frozen slurry of your own urine and tears."

I don't know what happened then. I don't know if the laws of physics ceased to apply, if an invisible hand cushioned the impact, or if my long-dormant cat-like reflexes sprang into action, but I realized I was on the floor with no perceivable my dignity.

Clearly, a miracle.

May your week be full of mind-blowing ninja moves, unseen forces coming to your rescue and, as always, dry pants.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Call

I got the call tonight. The one every parent dreads:

BoyRD: Hey Mama. Whereya at?

Me: I'm at the house. What's up?

BoyRD: Well, first, let me just say, everybody is o--

Me: Holy balls of bat shit, Monkey. You got in an accident? You're okay? (grabbing keys, finding shoes, turning off appliances) You sure you're okay? Positive? Who's the President? When's your birthday? Everybody is okay? Who else is there? Where are you?

BoyRD: I'm at Main and 4th. Yes everything is definitely okay. I was pulling out of the parking lot and she clipped me. She says she's okay. She's really nice. I told her I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I am. She's calling the police. We're okay.

Me: I hear TheBestFriend in the background. Was he with you?

BoyRD: No, but he came back.

(Have I mentioned I love TheBestFriend like he's my own?)

By now four blocks down the street, heading to the scene, admonishments of, "get her information, give her your information, don't leave the scene, be polite or I'll hurt you, and you sure you're okay?" administered, I started to breathe.

I could tell from his voice that while riddled with historic amounts of adrenaline, he was really and truly fine. This knowledge was underscored by TheBestFriend's voice in the background at it's usual calm, cool and collected pitch. I heard no one screaming and no sirens wailing. All I could do now was not get into my own accident.

It got me to thinking. How many times had I done this to my parents as a teenager? How many calls had they gotten? How many times had they heard my name over the scanner before even getting a call? How many nights were they wondering where on God's green Earth I was in the days before tracking devices and cell phones?

I did what any cop's kid would do.

I called my Dad. And I apologized. (Mom? I'll be calling you tomorrow. I knew you were at church.)

When I got there, introductions were made, hands were shaken and vehicles inspected.

Then we spent the next hour standing outside in 45 degree weather, visiting and laughing with the nice lady the BoyRD met by accident. This is Fargo after all, it's how we roll.

And yes, he really, truly and honestly is okay. Humbler, I think, but definitely okay.

Well, Hello to You!

I'm not sure how long it's been there, but apparently has some pretty spanky tools. One of them is the "stats" tab. It was there I discovered some visitors I wasn't aware of:

I'm going to dismiss the US as a given. I mean, heck ... I LIVE IN NORTH DAKOTA.

Canada? Slovenia? Germany? Brazil? Russia? Denmark? UK? India? South Korea? I'm so pleased to have you. Please, know you're welcome and come again. Maybe next time I'll clean up first. Oh, who are we kidding? I'll do no such thing. We're friends, after all ... my dirty clothes are your dirty clothes! No, wait ... my dust is your dust! No, no ... wait. Uh ... yeah. I need to go clean something.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mmmmm, SPAM (Or: A Peak Into the Human Side of Facebook)

I would have REALLY liked to have been at the Facebook home offices when this page was born. I image it went something like this:

A young man--let's call him Joe--in a seemingly endless cube farm, is hunched over his keyboard. I'm not sure why, but I see him as just starting to bald, and unless he regularly uses a hand-mirror to check his crown, he doesn't even know it yet. Sporting a band tee under an open button-up and second-hand skinny jeans, he's got Apocalyptica thrumming away in his earbuds. The overhead fluorescent lighting casts a ghastly pall on the framed photo of Hunter S. Thompson on his fabric wall.

He's finally been given a job all his own: write the privacy settings page for applications, games and websites. He really wants to knock this one out of the park. If he can do this, he might just be able to land a status update or two on the "about" page. He'd be on his way to tech-literati greatness.

The only problem? He's stuck. He doesn't quite know how to marry the tech-jargon of the times with an accurate description of what these particular apps do. Joe acts as any good writer in this situation would. He takes a step back and analyzes the what, when and why.

"Well," he muses, absent-mindedly reaching for a now warm can of Mountain Dew. "They can sure be salty, and some of them seem to be comprised primarily of pieces and parts from rather unidentifiable sources. I really only look at 'em when there's nothing else that appealing. But what IS that? What do we CALL it?"

Stymied, he untangles his limbs from his ergo-chair and heads to the head writer's office.

Sticking his head in, he says, "Hey Ed, I need a word!"

Ed (obviously, he's the spitting image of Ed Asner) kicks back in his chair, leather patched-elbows at his sides, arms folded over his chest and considers our young writer's problem and observations.

"Well, kid," he says, taking his pipe from his mouth. "Seems to me, you've got something spammy there."

And thus a word is born.

MAN, what would I do without Facebook?

Be sure to use, "spammy" in normal conversation, kids. I know I will!

Words Are Funny Things

I'm having a hard time reconciling some things I see at work with what I have chosen to believe about people in general. I know I've mentioned my struggle to strike some semblance of balance between work, home and friends, and this subject matter is one that creates an incessant feeling of being pulled, or at least forced to peer, into something dank and dark. Totally off balance.

I just about blew a few weeks ago. There were going to be smatterings of brain matter, heart strings and tears for a quarter-mile radius ... and that was if it was a still day.

By the time Thursday night rolled around, I had a heck of a week at work under my belt, (remind me to tell you about parent-teacher conferences sometime), the BoyRD had taken off that morning for his first college visit 950 MILES AWAY and I taught a particularly emotional class that night. Dude, I was SPENT.

With a terrifically understanding boss, a day o' time built up and an opportunity to take care of some family stuff, I took Friday off.

For what was supposed to be a day of respite, it dawned a tad early. Some friends I don't get to see as often as I'd like were meeting for coffee and dip me in pig poop if I was going to miss it.

It turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

I drove a pick-up truck to a tidy, upscale coffee shop ... while listening to country music. It was like my past and my present were doing a happy little do-si-do. That, in and of itself, was healing.

Then there was the weather. You know those perfect, sunny, crisp fall days that practically sing, "Alleluia" all by themselves? It was one of those.

And while those things were sweet, the best part was at the coffee shop.

I didn't have time to shower, but instead added an extra layer of deodorant, brushed my teeth and washed/moisturized my face. Honestly, I'm not even sure I was wearing clean underwear.

Self conscious of my physical shape, I slinked in and was greeted the same way they always greet me—with love.

Driving away from that morning's coffee, I was restored. My soul nurtured by the smiles, hugs and laughter of friends, I was able to allow my shoulders to drop from near-ear elevation, my back and neck to loosen and my stomach unclench for the first time in weeks.

Most importantly, I was reminded--as I often am in the presence of these folks--of who I am, what I believe, and why.

I drove away thinking about who these people are to me, and how inadequate words can be to describe them and what they mean to me. The only word I can think of with any precision—and this is based in shear definition-- is, "friend", but in comparison with my experience of who these group of people are, it falls flat.

When I consider those I have cultivated relationships with over the years, and look around at who I am surrounded with now, I can't help but be pleased.

These people are, individually, awe-inspiring. As a collective, they become something else. They become a net, a solid sheet, a concrete bowl of support, love and--most importantly to me--genuine acceptance.

These are the people I can be myself with. The ones I adore for being themselves with me.

Adore may come off as a big word, but I spend a great deal of time thinking about this, so hang with me here a second.

I do, indeed, adore them. Cherish them. Celebrate them. Worship the very ground they walk on.

They bring me a solace I’ve found nowhere else (and believe you me, I’ve tried some comfort sources, kids.) They know with usually one word that something is awry and don’t give me peace until I spill all of it, usually in a volcano of ick and filth, never flinching when the grime hits their shoes and my language is peppered with such vile words a sailor would squirm. They laugh at the ridiculous, the nerdy, the obscure and obscene things I think up. They ask with interest about the things I concern myself with, and listen with love. And somewhere in this mess, reciprocation occurs.

These are the people who have taught me how to truly be a friend.

They meet for last-minute dinners, they sit around fire pits, they take road trips, they squeeze in coffee dates at otherwise preposterous hours and show up to help out with the crappy jobs I just can’t bring myself to do alone.

They send texts just to make me laugh. They send pictures to make my jaw drop. They call just to sing a bit of a song because they know I’ll get it.

So no, I can't call them friends. It's just not enough.

And in that space of lack, I find a full and joyous echo, filling my heart and resonating in my soul.

Here’s to my friends. To those far away and near, newer and around since dirt was invented, those I see daily and sporadically, those tied by blood, and those bonded by love and laughter:

I don't have the right word to describe you, but that doesn't matter.

I love you. Thank you for being you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Morning

I usually try to grab one of the weekend's mornings all to myself. While everyone else is sawing logs, I like to read, have breakfast and roll around in a cup of coffee.

Since a picture tells a thousand words and my camera phone was handy, I give you ... Saturday morning.

Of course, once folks hear me shuffling around and Amos starts playing (which raises quite the ruckus, I assure you), they start to rise as well. And that's when Bob's favorite time of day ensues: a lap nap on KittyDaddy.

May your day be filled with the things you love to do and the people--furry or not--you love to do them with.

Friday, October 29, 2010

As I Lay Me Down To Sleep

I snapped this (again from my phone) last spring along 4th St N in Fargo. I looked over at a stoplight and there he was. We ALL should be this darned happy.

As I drifted off last night, I was jolted back to wakefulness by a deep and sudden belly laugh.

At first I was startled, but then not so much. Turns out, it was me.

This image had surfaced to my consciousness in what I like to think of as the pre-sleep slideshow in my brain. (I tell myself everyone experiences such a thing, then it's not worrisome to me at all.)

May your brain amuse itself similarly.

I love you. Goodnight.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When Thinking Meets Action

As I've mentioned here and to every single person who will listen, I'm working on the balance thing. Not the beam kind, though. That would just make me dizzy and I'd fall down. PLUS, ain't nobody needs to see all THIS in one a them 'tard thingies. You're welcome.

I've been thinking a lot about all of the things I have to do, but haven't. You know that feeling. It's constantly moving, constantly knotting your back and neck muscles, incessently whispering, "you're less than" messages in your ear.

I took my own advice tonight and took a a look at my "adding to my angst because they're not done" list that have, well, added to my angst--and decided tonight was the night to bust a nut and get shiz done.

One of those things was, "clean the photos off of my phone already for the love of all things holy and/or covered in chocolate".

I've decided that instead of a proper post, in lieu of freaking out over getting the right words (do you have any idea how much I wanted to be funny and say, "write words" there? Do you? DO YOU?), cross-checking the right words and then editing all of those words down to do a real post, I'm opting for a picture recap of this evening. (One more thing you can thank me for? No photos of my before OR after laundry piles. Again, you're welcome.)

First stop after work was the grocery store where I encountered this little beauty. Read closely. That must be some REALLY good creamer.

One of my purchases this evening was dried bay leaves for beef stew. This lid thingy propped up on the bottle came firmly affixed to this bottle. It makes my brain hurt.

Too embarrassed to share the "before" photo, I'm giving you the second glimpse (Hi, Kelly!) of my freshly cleaned dining room. I've had that tablecloth for over five years. This is the first time it's been on my table.  

Done with cooking and cleaning for the night, I wandered downstairs, plopped in my recliner, kicked off my slippers ... and found THIS. Oh, Amos.

And finally, something to calm my nerves after dealing with the red-headed feline. This is from a walk KittyDaddy and I took along the Red River of the North back before Old Man Winter was being such a schmuck.

Thank you so much for coming by. I hope you've enjoyed the "Tour of Laura's Phone Photos". I know I have.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


(Amos typed the title. I'm leavin' it.)

"Come on," my husband said, rising from the couch, "let's go to the store and get stuff for EZ's meatball recipe. It's my turn to bring treats this week." (The unspoken statement lurking there is, "And I'm a man, so I need meat!")

What the man clearly doesn't know is that the kitchen must be cleaned before any cooking commences. HA! Joke is on him.



Why is he pulling on my feet?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Things Rolling Around Upstairs

I've had some stuff going through my head these past few days. In no particular order, a few of them are:

- The word, "friends". It seems so innocuous for something that means so much, don't you think?

- Construction hard hats. I don't know why. It's just an image that keeps surfacing. A white one, specifically. No logo, just the hat. And seemingly new, or at least clean.

- My baby moving on with his life. It's heartbreaking. Heartwrenching. Crushing. And yet it's what I raised him to do, right? He turns 18 on Thanksgiving Day and graduates high school in the spring. Life is rushing by, and frankly, I'm having a helluva time with it.

- What to do after BoyRD goes to college. Hasn't this whole time, this whole (almost) two decades been all about getting him here without ever really having to fully look at me and my own life? Ruh Roh, Raggy.

- My neighbors have their Christmas lights up. They put them up BEFORE they put up their Halloween stuff. I can't decide if we should just say, "well, they DO work in retail", or if I should put up my Valentine decorations.

- Heroes and heroins and how we maybe have them pictured all wrong. How they're all around us, and we don't even know it. How being a hero doesn't mean having a cleft-chin and constantly doing amazing thing, but more about stepping up in a moment--in a flash of time-- and making a difference in someone's life. Maybe not even in a life-altering way, either. Some days, I think just being polite qualifies.

- The caramel cheese puffs someone brought to school last week. You know that caramel puff corn we eat by the handful around the holidays? Yeah, like that ... but with poofy Cheetos!

- Why Joan Cusack is in EVERY SINGLE John Cusack movie. Is there some sort of invisible Siamese-twin syndrome nobody talks about?

I hope this look into my brain contents hasn't been too messy.

I'm willing to bet, however, that your brain operates in a similar fashion.

See? You're not alone.

And knowing THAT helps me remember that neither am I.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Allegedly Speaking: His Name Is My Name, Too

Waaayyyy back in the day, I worked at a big resort hotel/casino. OK, really it was a casino/hotel. I say this because the casino brought in fourteen bazillion-gillion times more money than the hotel ever did.

Located in a resort-town along the Colorado River bordering Nevada and Arizona, this place had 1,600 rooms, four restaurants, three bars, two pools and a separate smoking and non-smoking casino. Not huge by Vegas standards, but certainly nothing to sneeze at out in the Mojave Desert. Summer and holiday weekends would find us and the other nine or ten hotels on the strip at 100% occupancy. That's a lot of people chasing the big one, lemme tell ya.

Those holiday weekends were something else. 15,000 people packed into the casino, wallets open, cleavage exposed, drinks in hand. Narcissism and a hefty dose of any one of a myriad of addictions coming together to create an energy like nothing else I've ever experienced. Standing in the heart of the casino floor, you could feel the electricity, always as though you were just on the cusp of something big. Something huge. Like something was about to happen if you just had one more. If you just rolled one more time. If you just let it ride. It was hard to not get swept up in it.

It was one of those holiday Friday nights, right in the middle of the casino floor when a man I admired spit on me and changed my life.

His name was John Jeurgensmeyer. (Needless to say, every time I saw him, I sang to him ... John, Jacob, Jeurgensmeyer Schmidt .... ) He was the casino manager on duty. I was the guest service manager ... and since the hotel manager had gone home for the weekend, John was in charge of the restaurants, bars, security and casino, and I had the hotel, bell, valet and the rest. I had looked up to him for years. He was intelligent, witty, funny, and darned good at his job. And this was the first time I was going to impress him.

Nights like these, you dressed the part. This night I was sporting my large and seriously in-charge early-90's hair, black eyeliner, dark lipstick, and a black business ensemble with high-heels ... all topped off with a red power-blazer. I am reasonably sure that blazer had shoulder pads. I. Meant. Business.

Fifteen windows open at the front desk. A line so long it was being worked by two cocktail waitresses. Bellmen sweating, valets running and anxiety running high. In the middle of it all, the GSM phone rings. In the middle of tracking down a lost best-man ("no ma'am, I can't give you a key to that hussy's room even though you know he's in there"), assuaging a man's fears about not being recognized as a high-roller, ("yes sir, $1,200 certainly is a wad of cash to have spent since Tuesday, but our high-rollers typically throw down upwards of $200k a weekend.") and trying to convince housekeeping to do something--anything-- to get 21866 back into service after that bride decided to pour champagne all over the mattress (wouldn't rose petals have been a better choice?), a clerk hollers, "Laura--John's on 6854 for you!". We make eye contact. She gives me the, "you're gonna wanna take this" call.

'Turns out we had a scammer among us.

This fella had been kicked out of every high-class, middle-class and scraping-the-bottom casino in Clark County, and now he was in our house.

It took us a while to figure it out, though. He hadn't been to our little town yet, so we'd only seen faxed copies of his booking photo. Remember, back in '93, fax was pretty much the only way to send a photo and laser printers must have been at about 8 dpi, even on a (then) state-of-the-art model.

This guy had tipped us off, though. He was a jerk at check-in and threatened one of my crew, had tried to tell the bell desk that they lost one of his bags, and goosed a cocktail waitress.

And now he is trying to pull a fast one on the boys in the casino.

Security has him downstairs, but he's spinning so many yarns that nobody could tell where the truth lie.

No hard evidence of cheating or card-counting, but all of the old guys had a suspicion. And when the house's money is on the line, a suspicion is good enough.

Back then it took two managers to 86 someone--John ... and me.

This is my moment. This is the story that will get back to the big boys; the guys that make decisions. I am going to show him that I can see the big picture. That I am a company man babe. That I can see through the bull of any shyster. And that even though I'm known for finding humor in pretty much everything, I can be tough when the occasion arises.

So John and I stand face to face on the casino floor. The band is blaring. The slots are ringing at an unearthly decibel. People are alternately laughing and yelling ... and usually not alternately. It's barely controlled chaos.

We stand inches from one another, otherwise we'd never hear one another.

As he's asking me, "Whaddya think? He's got no car and nobody's got a room for him. We don't have know that we have enough to call Metro and get him arrested. Do we kick him?" As he enunciated that last "do", it happened:

A tiny ball of spit catapults itself from John's Magnum PI mustache, travels in an arch and lands ... smack on my bottom lip.


It nestles into my L'Oreal Red Rhapsody lipcolor.

Holy sweet mother of what am I going to do now?

I couldn't wipe it. I didn't want to embarrass him. Besides, we're talking red lipstick on a lily-white face. The smears would be unbearable. I couldn't fake a thoughtful finger-press to the mouth--we were standing so close I would have elbowed him right in the solar plexus. And I sure as heck couldn't (barf) lick it off.

And then I realize something.

I can no longer hear the band.

The clinking of ice cubes in glasses, of watches and rings colliding with tables as die are thrown, of dealers barking out dollar amounts, colors and numbers, of cards shuffling, of slots spinning, of revelers laughing and losers groaning all slid away in a single thought-filled moment. I couldn't even hear John.

To this day, I have no idea what he said when I didn't answer. I have no idea how I replied. I'm sure we booted the jerk-wad out, but have no recollection of signing anything, being a part of the escort party or even the rest of my shift.

I don't know for sure it was that precise moment which slowed my charge for gaming/hospitality greatness, but I do know that shortly after that I just didn't see the point any longer. I know that in those last few months, it was all I could do to not start shouting at strangers and coworkers alike, "Don't you see we're feeding on the problems of these people? I am NOT making the world a better place by being here!"

Four months later I left and got a job at an eye doctor's office. I learned important office-y stuff like how to sit most of the day, how to read lens prescriptions and (possibly most importantly) about Kona coffee and the power of vanilla creamer.

Years have passed, and every time I gleek, I think of John.

Just today, in fact, I spit on someone.

I didn't get embarrassed, though.

I just told myself that maybe it was life-altering spit.

Funk To The Rescue

A new coworker of mine, P., hates Tuesdays.

By his reasoning, there's no end in sight, his tummy is still weird from whatever he consumed over the weekend, and he feels like he's not slept in a month.

I understand. Totally. And I really dislike that feeling. And P. makes my day, so I wanted to help. And anyone who knows me knows before they get to the next paragraph what my fix was.

Music, of course.

But music alone begs the next question ... what kind? It took a few minutes, and I weighed the options, wanting to be sure. This isn't something one should take lightly, you know.

I arrived at funk.

Funk is my go-to genre when I need something to latch on to, something to pull me up from the doldrums ... something to deliver me to a different place altogether.

So I made P. a top-ten playlist. Yup, that's right -- a mix tape! This being the year it is, however, I've put it on my flashdrive and will toss it at him tomorrow at school.

Ladies and gentlemen? I give you in no particular order because narrowing it down to ten was hard enough ... Laura's Top Ten Funk Songs:

It's Your Thing - Isley Brothers
Give Up the Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker) - Parliament
Brick House - Commodores
Give It Up (Or Turnit Loose) - James Brown
My Feet Can't Fail Me Now - Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Kiss - Prince
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Sly & The Family Stone
Will It Go Round In Circles - Billy Preston
I Wish - Stevie Wonder

Funk it up, folks. I know I am.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Balance Is Elusive

I am trying to find some balance between the new job and the not-so-new dirty home.

But the whole time, I'm thinking about you. Seriously. I think about posts while I'm doing attendance, taking lunch money and even going potty. You're lucky we can't access the wireless for personal biznass at school -- the bathroom is, after all, where I do my best thinking.

So as I go about this pursuit of balance, I'm going to cheat and post a link to something I love. You know, because I was trying to think of a way to give you something without upsetting the delicate, fragile, about-to-blow-over-balance.

The older I become, the more I admire, and even try to emulate, great storytelling. Real stories, from real people, about real stuff. You know, the stuff of life itself.

Fair warning: the story I'm posting a link to is not funny. I would even invite the little ones or anyone with too rich an imagination to leave the room.

And while those who know me well know I believe the funny to often be of the highest order of all, this story is the one that stuck with me the longest. And that, my friends, is the mark of a good 'un; and worth sharing.

Ladies and gentlemen? I give you .... Deborah Scaling Kiley: Lost at Sea.

(For more on The Moth, please their website here. I personally subscribe to their podcast via iTunes, but for ease of posting decided on an easier approach for the iTunes-not-so-savvy.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Hope

I can't stop thinking about a Mom I met today.

Four kids. She and her husband broke up. She had moved away. Now they were reconciled and she and the kids were back. She'd been back in town for less than an hour and was there to register her babies for school. (This is not as common as you'd think ... some people have seven year-olds they've not yet registered for Kindergarten and they've lived in town the child's entire life.) That this woman was at my desk on the same morning she got back, and that she had all of her kids birth certificates, shot records and names and numbers of previous schools absolutely thrilled me. I've met parents with PhD's who weren't as organized as this Mama--we were going to get along SWIMMINGLY. And those kids were good kids. Well behaved with great eye contact, inquisitive, using appropriate language for their age groups. All good signs.

We commenced with the paperwork mountain.

At the end of it, I asked her to call me tomorrow afternoon for class assignments. She agreed and off they went.

Five hours later she returned. This was not the same woman who had been there earlier in the day. This one had bruises forming and bandages over cuts and obvious contusions ... and a very apologetic demeanor. In fact, the first thing she said was, "I'm sorry."

The story, while short, spilled out in a torrent of words. She left my office and went home to her husband. Who promptly beat the ever living crap out of her. She spent the rest of my work day in the emergency room and then talking with police. And now they had to leave again. And she was sorry. Sorry for what, she didn't say. It was everything I could do to not offer her a hug. But you could tell she was barely holding it together and that she needed to keep it together for the kids. They were with her, but quieter this time. Solemn.

And so I made her swear she'd never come back. And asked if she had what she needed to get them where they were going. And then I sent every ounce of love I had to her as I watched she and the kids walk sadly out the front doors and into a bright autumn day at odds with their shuffling gates and dropped shoulders.

I've never wished so hard to never see someone again as much as I wished to not see her or the kids anywhere near this town ever again. Near those memories. Near that man.

I don't know how long this will stay with me. A part of me hopes I forget quickly so I don't see them in my dreams. Another part of me hopes it stays forever so I don't forget. Because how CAN someone forget? How can you hear her, see her, see those kids and then just forget, have it fade away like your high school locker combination or your second-grade teacher's name?

I don't have the answer. I don't have so much as a clue. I just have love. So I think of her with love. And I think of how she looked to me: capable, engaged, patient and organized. And I picture her knowing she is all of these things and more.

I Hope
Dixie Chicks

Sunday morning, I heard the preacher say
Thou shall not kill
I don't wanna, hear nothin' else, about killin'
And that it's God's will
Cuz our children are watching us
They put their trust in us
They're gonna be like us
So let's learn from our history
And do it differently

I hope
For more love, joy and laughter
I hope
We'll have more than we'll ever need
I hope
We'll have more happy ever afters
I hope
We can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery
I hope, I hope

Oh Rosie, her man he gets too rough
And all she can say, is he's a good man
He don't mean no harm
He was just brought up that way
But our children are watching us
They put their trust in us
They're gonna be like us
It's okay for us to disagree
We can work it out lovingly

For I hope
For love, joy and laughter
I hope
You'll have more than you'll ever need
I hope
You'll have more happy ever afters
I hope
And you can all live more fearlessly
And you can lose all your pain and misery
I hope, I hope

There must be a way to change what's going on
No, I don't have all the answers, but
I hope
For more love, more joy and laughter
I hope
you'll have more than you'll ever need
I hope
You'll have more happy ever afters
I hope
We can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery,
I hope I hope
and we can lose all the pain and misery

I hope, I hope.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brownie Explosion

Something weird—and totally awesome in a “science is cool” kind of way—happened tonight.

Kitty Daddy and I had thrown some veggies and pork chops in the slow-cooker earlier in the day. As dinner time approached, the need for mashed potatoes became evident.

We waited until the last minute leapt into action, peeling and cutting potatoes. Soon, a kettle of spuds with water was on the stove.

KD went upstairs to check football scores, and I ran across the street to gift the neighbors a half-pan of Ghirardelli brownies. You know, because if brownies are here, they will be eaten. Sort of like the way you'll spend what you make, increasing spending as income increases—if a double pan of brownies are present, a double pan of brownies will be consumed.

A few minutes later, I returned and went immediately to work on cleaning the dining room table of the flotsam and jetsam it had become home to over the past week. or two.

A few minutes pass and I go into the kitchen to throw some garbage. As I exit, I realize that it smells like brownies. Four hours after the brownies were done. Well now, that's weird.

Approaching the stove to inspect the source of the smell and check on the potatoes, I discover that we had left the brownies in their glass baking pan on the front burner and it, rather than the back burner with the potato pan, had been turned on high.

Holy. CRAP!

I hollered for Kitty Daddy and grabbed the glass pan, which immediately brought me to my senses. Caliente! Quickly donning a hot pad, I managed to fight the urge to plunge the searing-hot glass into dishwater and instead relocated it to a cool, empty burner on the stove.

Crisis seemingly averted. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The air acrid with blackened glass and even blacker brownies, we start to find humor in the situation. It's what we do, it's how we cope.

And then the popping started.

Deep tones, coming from inside the glass pan.

Holy. CRAP. Squared.

"Everybody out!" I yell, waiving my arms at Amos and Bob, herding them away from the popping. Amos, of course, figured the popping to be something he MUST inspect. That one, of course, had to be physically removed to a different room and then shown something interesting to keep him there.

I wish I had the right word to share. Something to impart exactly the right tone and length of KARACKAWOOMPF that comprised the sound we heard. I suppose I was so impressed with it because I've never heard anything quite like it before. Sure, I've broken my share of glasses and crockery, but this was probably the thickest measuring glass I'd heard break yet.

Learn from our error, gang: when something says, "no stovetop" on the bottom? They're not kidding.

I'm off to shop for a new square glass pan.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Danny and Annie, A Four-Kleenex Post

While I work on my next post, I'd like to share something that moves me. May it touch you, as well.

For more Story Corps from NPR, click here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yabba Dabba - A Word From My Mom

I received this email from my Mom this afternoon:

50 Years

This is putting some things into a weird perspective for me.......I was 13 1/2 when this came on the air. We finally had a color tv in 1963 - and boy did I ever enjoy cartoons - after you were born, I looked forward to Saturday cartoons as much as you did. Did you know that the "Banana Splits" are on again.....the old stuff - and we have "Wallace & Ladmo" once a week on Saturday morning on a local Phoenix station. Love you - and hope you still watch cartoons! Mom

It brought a smile to my heart ... and to my face. Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Tidbit While You Wait

I see the local Denny's finally put that Lego "restaurant shoppe" kit together.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

544 Miles

I did something that tests mettle. That tests nerves. Truly, that tests the very fiber of friendship itself.

I and two girlfriends drove for ten hours this weekend. Let me take you back to how it came to be:

"Hey, I know!" I said through a mouthful of delicious organic corn chips. "Let's drive to Rugby on the way to Walhalla!"

"Have you SEEN a map?" came Maria's reply with one eyebrow raised.

"No, but who cares? Once we're out of the county it's four hours to anywhere. We're in North-Da-freaking-Kota, dude." (I say "dude" a lot. I think I started doing it in the 80's just to annoy people amuse myself, and it stuck.)

And I know what you're thinking (especially now that you've seen the map.) Rugby? Really? Oh, hell YES.

See, my friend Cathy lives in Rugby, and anywhere she is, I will travel to. This woman is incredible. She's funny, smart, tells a great story, is a fantastic cook, a gracious hostess, and thinks I'm funny. What more could a girl want? Oh! And her husband is a gifted artist .... who uses my bras for art. Now THAT, my friends, is what I am talkin' 'bout.

And Walhalla? On purpose? Absolutely. Well, NOW it's an absolute, but at the time it was more of a, "She's getting married where now?", followed immediately by an, "Of COURSE we'll come!". You would, too, if you knew Sarah. Sarah is smooth. But not in a weird, slimy, guy-who-buys-high-school-girls-beer-by-night-and-sells-office-supplies-by-day kind of way. More like a nothing-can-shake-this-woman-she-comes-from-folks-that-are-salt-of-the-Earth-and-Lord-don't-I-love-her kind of way. Sarah is one of those people that you can be you around, regardless of which you may show up. She has a sparkle in her eye and a wildly infectious laugh. And did I mention how scary-smart she is? Dude. To know her is to love her.

So when Tammy, Maria and I were invited to the wedding, (Tammy is already friends with Cathy, and believe-you-me, Maria and Tammy sure as heck are friends now), we made plans and off we went.

Tammy brought her immense vocabulary and an arsenal of treats. Maria brought her decision-making and her admirable willingness to climb on top of inanimate objects for photo-ops. I drove. And hilarity ensued.

I could tell you about the number of times all Maria could do was this weird wheezing thing because Tammy made her laugh, or the number of times Tammy counted me snort-laughing, or the potty stops, or the songs listened to, sung aloud, and reminisced about--but I won't.

Because better stuff happened.

That thing that's supposed to be a deal-breaker, the road trip, turned out to be a deal-maker.

I learned that three women can, indeed, have a peaceful trip in the same vehicle. I learned that when you show up to someone's wedding four hours away, you do it because you love ... nay, adore them. I learned that exploring teeny-tiny towns and spending an hour in that town's graveyard, paying your respects to strangers and being awed by history, instills a sense of peace like nothing else. And that wearing your pj's and talking late into the night in the parlor of an incredible bed and breakfast with people who still love you even after they've seen you in the morning is one of the best ways there is to close out a day.

Here's to 544 miles, friendships I cherish, and women who make my world a better place just by being in it.

I am blessed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dear Friends,

The new job is kicking my ass.

There. I've said it.

I love it, but it's exhausting.

I'm in bed by 9:30 most nights and my house is a wreck because the stuff I cram into the hours between 5:00ish and 9:30pm most certainly has nothing to do with cleaning, picking up or even straightening, truth be told.

I have a post about last weekend's super-fantastic trip to dang-near the Canadian border written, but I strongly feel I should post photos with it. Unfortunately, those photos number in the I-don't-know-how-many and still reside on one of two card-thingies in my camera bag. Which is around here ... somewhere.

So. Here we sit. You, waiting to be entertained; me, too tired to entertain.

You should know, though, that I love you. I do. I love that you pop by to see if I've updated. I especially love those who subscribe. And I specially-super-duperly love those that share a link to my musings, meanderings and ... uh oh, need an "m" word. Uh .... meanings? Sure. Let's go with meanings.

I have no way to wrap this up with a nice, neat bow. So I'll just share a photo from a simpler time before the hours sped up and years flew by. Oh, Lawsy, the eyeliner.

Happy Tuesday, y'all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

She Loves Me - A Guest Blog

Hi, y'all.

I turned thirty-seven at 9:something this morning.

A few hours later, on Facebook, a friend asked what my theme for the coming year is. Without thinking (what? me? not think? unheard of!), "letting go" came popping out.

With that in part of my brain and the scene from City Slickers where Billy Crystal's mom calls him in the wee hours of the morning to tell the same story she tells every year on his birthday -- that of his birth -- in the other part, I asked my older sister, J., to guest blog.

"Dude, do a Billy Crystal."

We did our customary chicken-cackle and I waited.

And here, without ANY. EDITING. AT. ALL, (high-five to me!) copied and pasted straight from Her Majesty's email, is J.'s story:

Thank you, Julia. I love you, too. More than words can say ... and I know a LOT of words.

Roll out the carpet, strike up the band and shout out with hip hooray!

Yep, that is what every older sister should feel at the time of her baby siblings birth. But, it was not like that. I was scared of the 'baby' that was coming. I was now going to be a big sister who no longer received all the attention. That part was okay. I was most concerned about how was I going to take care of this real life baby. Would "it" cry like the ones in the store? Would I have to take "it" on dates with me when I grew up and had a real date? Would my Mom get mad at "it" for not taking a nap like me? But most of all, of all the feeling and true, vivid memories I remember, it was what if "it" does not like me?

I loved my Mommies tummy. I wanted one too. Big and round and soft. I will NEVER forget the first time I felt "it" kick. My Mommy was 7 months pregnant. I giggled. After that I was hooked. I could not wait for the moments when my Mommy would take my little hand and gently place it wherever "it" was kicking. One time, my Mommy put my hand on her tummy and said, 'This is the butt'. That was the best.

I watched as my Mommy prepared the room and how she began to change.

There was lots of change going on around our house. As I look back now, after having my own son, I think that children go through the similar emotions as the Mothers do. As my Mommy got closer to the day, I became anxious and sick and scared. Again, what if "it" did not like me?

Again, this was different. September 13, 1973....B-Day. I am not sure where I was at the time or the time. But "it" was on its way. I imagined a baby but I could never imagine "its" hair, eyes, skin, hands, or smell.

I guess this was God's way of knowing how I am and without any preconceived notions, would be more apt accepting "it" without any stipulations of my own.

Much after that is a blur...and my the woman who I called Mommy opened the door and there "it" was. No longer an "it", but rather my Mommy had brought my baby home. We locked eyes. Her, oh yes HER! She is a her, a girl, A SISTER!!!! We locked eyes. If you have ever experienced the awesomeity of looking into a Doe's eyes and seeing them blink back at you with longing and trust, then and only then can you know what I felt when "she", my sister, Laura looked through me. I say that because as I was admiring this tiny human being that my Mommy had brought home for me, Laura sent shivers through me. She was talking to my soul. I was not scared, but we knew each other before. I felt it then, I have felt over the years growing up and I know it now.

We are all given pillars to lean on and gather strength from. I felt that it was indeed my job to prepare her for something. Of course, I was your normal older sister who picked on her little sister, but only I was allowed to do that. Anybody else who crossed her was forever my enemy.

You see, Laura was my cub.

Over the years, we never grew apart, we just grew up. There is 6 years between us and when I graduated and joined the Military, she was still at home in middle school. What a horrible time on a girls life to all of a sudden loose her big sister.

Laura never lost me. How can you loose your soul mate? We have shared every secret, every lie, every laugh, and every cry. We have yelled and screamed, loved one another and at times may have thought we hated the other. Not so. A soul mate is so overused in today's society. A soul mate is one who you know before you are here on earth. I am lucky to have 3 sisters. Each one unique and supportive. But today is Laura's day. My soul mate. God of course created us, but sisters...well we pick each other before God even picks our parents. I am not sure who picked who.

But, I'll bet we were up in Heaven cooking and that is how it all started.

It was a match of wits, but Laura said, "Hey, I need you to guide the way for me Julia. Then one day, you will need me and I will be there." So, that is how we got each other. Then together, we picked out Heather. I am not thinking like a puppy, but probably really close to that. Laura got to pick Heather out - I just approved.

Happy Birthday Laura Lynn. You guide my way now and keep me on track and remind me that I was your path. You now are my light.

I love you.

PS - Everyone...."it" liked me.

As best described by Carla Ortega, "to the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Promise Fulfilled

When the BoyRD was a wee child, he adored Barney, the loud, adenoid-challenged, overly cheery, purple dinosaur.

Like the “L-O-V-E-D” him kind of "adored" him.

I would even go so far as to say that as a citizen of the diaper-wearing nation, the child was obsessed. Maybe someday I'll tell you about the things I would get done while he was entranced by Barney videos. Then again, maybe that's not the best idea.

So as a two year-old, the RD hears Barney is coming to town.

Except this is a lie.

(And should we talk about how a two year-old hears about an act coming to town? As though in 1995 there was some sort of underground toddler grapevine? Did they use rhythms beaten out with sippy cups, broadcast via pirate radio? It boggles the mind, really.)

Oops. Bunny trail. OK, back on track:

The lie lay in that Barney was coming to our town. Barney was, you see, coming to Las Vegas, 96 miles away from our town. (I've said "our town" so many times in this sentence that I'm beginning to feel like I need a couple of ladders and a stage manager. Five points if you get the reference.)

Today those 96 miles wouldn't be a big deal. Shit, Shoot, today I drive 96 miles just for a good cup of coffee and a nice view. Fifteen years ago, however, that was like asking me to fly to NYC and pay cash for four dozen tickets to a Broadway show before handing them out to the musical aficionados from the cast of The Jersey Shore. It just wasn't gonna happen. Not only was I a single Mama without the financial means, but there was no way my car would make it to Vegas, much less home.

I talked to the young RD about it.

"Son," I explained (I called him son at home), "next time Barney is in town, I will find a way to get you there. I promise. I double-dog swear. I make a solemn oath on my Garth Brooks Fresh Horses CD." (What? It was 1995, and Garth would become a concert I had to tell him three separate times we couldn't afford to attend. Seriously. The child would smile ear-to-ear, kick his little feet in glee, and holler at the top of his curly-haired little lungs, "MAMA! Mine Garf! Mine GARF, Mama! My inability to provide that not once but thrice still hurts my heart.)

Defeated, the little fella agreed that "someday" would be good enough. And I never forgot.

Fast-forward seven years. The BoyRD is now 9 and we're living in Fargo, North Dakota. Fargo, the city with the FARGODOME. (Their spellin' yellin', not mine -- I'm just stickin' with their branding.) The FARGODOME, a large enough venue to bring in big shows. Big shows like Barney the purple damned dinosaur, for example.

Nobody's forgotten the promise, right? Me either.

"Son," (I still called him son), "Barney is coming to the 'DOME. Do you want to go?"

He thought about it.

And thought about it.

And weighed.

And measured.

"Yes. I do."

And so we went.

We made a date of it. He and I washed the car, got dressed up, left Dad at home and went out to lunch. And then we went to a Barney concert.

We had great seats. And by "great seats," I mean, "on the floor, about 11th row, center." (Yeah, that's how I roll.)

As we waited for the show to start, he looked around and pretty quickly had an observation to voice.

"Mom. Mom. MOM!"

"Wha? Oh, sorry ... I was people watching."

"Yeah. Me too," he said with concern knitting his brow, "I'm the oldest kid here."

I had noticed something similar, and was ready with a platitude. Something like, "Maybe people just think you're exceptionally tall for your age," but when I saw the look on his face, I realized it was best to go with a different approach.

"No you're not, babycakes. See? Look at that girl over there," I said, pointing to a blond tween up in the tiered seating. "She's even older than you."

"MOM -- she's a babysitter!"

Ah, crap. This kid was smarter than I thought.

Thankfully, that's when the show started.

Four billion cubic tons of multi-colored confetti showered down from the heavens. Lasers and spotlights swung wildly from every crevice of the facility. Tiny voices screamed in an ecstatic frenzy as Barney and his posse bounded on-stage.

I told myself it would be okay; my baby boy would remember everything he loved about this goofy-ass purple freak affable dino as a toddler and be able to enjoy the show, even more so than if he'd been to the same performance as a two year-old.

And then Barney exalted the crowd with, "Hey boys and girls! Do you know what time it is?"

And my sweet, sweet, loving, angelic brown-eyed boy stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs, "It’s time to PUT … ON … SOME … PANTS!"

Barney didn't hear him. I'm not entirely sure anyone but me heard him, either. And in that moment, I learned something.

It could be that maybe some promises are better left unfulfilled.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day of School (Or: Did That Just Happen?)

OK, so I'm not sure how many of you know I am a brand spankin' new elementary school secretary.

I had been applying to become a secretary in the Fargo school district for over a decade to no avail. The times I would make an in-person inquiry, I would be told, "We always hire for those spots from within." Don't they know WHO I AM?!? Sheesh.

And then, a glimmer. A whim, really. I applied in Moorhead. And ... they ... said ... yes. I hope I never forget when my principal called to offer me the job. I had to pull over, I was crying and laughing and praising Heaven like a crazy person.

I've spent the last month getting ready for today. Building up to HAVING THE KIDS IN SCHOOL.

Just typing that makes me laugh. Nothing, my friends, zip--zero--zilch--NADA could have prepared me for the big day.

I ran the front desk of a 1,600+ room gaming/resort/hotel for how long with how many drunk, angry, loud adults in my lobby for how many hours in a row with the decibel level set to kill? And nope -- even that didn't give me a glimpse of the chaos, the craziness that was today.

Today made the beaches of Normandy look like a Kennedy-family picnic at Martha's Freaking Vineyard.

Crying kids. Frazzled bus drivers. Stoic janitors. Stealthy toddlers. Insistent lunch ladies. Super-charged teachers. Glassy-eyed siblings. Freaked out parents. Harried teachers aids (we call them "para-professionals" in the part of the world; heretofore referred to simply as "paras".) And the phone. Always, always, always the phone. Non. Freaking. Stop.

And then he appeared. The child who made my day. He was like a twenty-something man, crammed into a eight year-old's body. He was so matter of fact, so frank in his manner that I wanted to hug him ... even though.

So right in the midst of all of the aforementioned sensory assault, I sense someone staring at me. It's him. He barely clears the higher part of the counter around my desk -- the part where adults sometimes stand to fill out forms or rest their arms as they talk.

"Hiya, sir. What can I do for you today?"

"Well, I think I might need to see the nurse," came the reply.

"Oh?" (it's my job to make sure everybody gets to the right person the first time), "What happened? You okay?" I tried to give him the best once-over I could from the opposite side of the desk, leaning in to inspect his face and visible extremities for obvious injury.

"Well," he said, looking for all the world like a work-weary blue-collar fella telling a story at the bar, eyes sweeping the room, taking in everything and nothing, "I was runnin' real hard in PE, ya know? And somethin' just squirted outta my butt."

His gaze locked mine. "And now I think I must need some new underwear or sumpin."

And there it was. So straightforward. Not a hint of embarrassment; just what it was.

And so I walked around the desk, put my arm around his shoulders and introduced him to our nurse, Janet.

And the rest of the day? Well, the rest of the day was just like this young man had told it: straightforward. Matter of fact. It was what it was ... with one major difference.

Now I had perspective.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's Like "Where's Waldo" ... Without Waldo

I was workin' away on my computer (what? Breaking Bricks Hex is totally working!) when I realized Kitty Daddy had paused the game to go check on something in the oven. Or maybe he was answering the door. Or going potty. Or donning a tutu to wear during his interpretive dance to express his sorrow at the Twins' lack of game. Heck fire, I don't know what that man was doing--I was busy playing working, thank you very much.

Anyhoo, this is what I saw when finally looked up. I swear to y'all, I was mesmerized by this image for a good five minutes. I love unspoken (and assumed) dynamics.

What do YOU think you see? ?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oonly Bonly

His name was OB Lewis.

My mother said he was, in a word, magnificent. I pressed her for more, but she just sighs and says, "forty-six years does nothing for specific memories."

It was their senior year at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona.

I like to think OB was a go-getter. The kind of young man you want living next door to you, taking your daughter to the homecoming dance, and eventually marrying her. You'd put him to work at your car dealership, and he'd make you zillions of bucks--just because men trusted him, women were enamored of him, and babies toddled to him with delight. A solid boy with honor, manners, great hair, a cleft chin, and perfect teeth in his deep and brilliant gene pool -- the sort of fellow that makes Richie Cunningham seem like a ruffian.

The story goes like this:

OB was a family name. One passed on for generation upon proud generation in the Lewis family. One his parents lovingly passed on to honor those who came before him. One that stood for goodness, for purity, and, as it turns out, nothing.

Yup. That's right. The "O" stood for not a thing. It was simply an "O", next to a "B" that, likewise, stood for bupkus ... just as it had for generations.

I imagine OB was used to explaining this to legions of folks as he grew from a boy to a man. I envision him clad in crisp denim and a fresh sweater, varsity letter gleaming from his spotless letterman's jacket. (I have no idea if he was an athlete in reality; but he for SURE is in my head. The captain of every team he was on, in fact.)

I imagine the scene wherein he gives his perfect convertible Mustang a loving pat as he leaves her at the curb, entering the building that houses the Army recruiter's office, his jaw set--determined. It was 1964, there was a war on, and this young man was going to go serve. Just as his father and his father's father had, he would carry the name OB Lewis into battle and gladly fight for the very things for which his forefather's had fought.

In my version, he approaches the desk, paperwork filled out, and waits while an overworked clerk reads through the fields filled in ink, checking for missed information.

"What do the O and B stand for?" the clerks asks. He's seen hundreds upon hundreds of these kids and has yet to be impressed. He'd be there headed overseas, too, if it weren't for his own father's legacy: myopic eyes, flat feet and wheezing lungs only a pharmacist could love.

"Nothing, sir. It's just an O and a B," young Mr. Lewis would explain calmly.

And so the weary clerk makes a notation on OB's paperwork, adding a single word behind each letter. And when OB receives his dog tags mere days later, they read in a way even his father's and grandfather's tags did not.

They read, "Oonly Bonly Lewis".

OB came to school that day laughing his head off and showing everyone the tags. He even claimed the Army said they wouldn't fix them; that HE himself filled out the paperwork and that surely the boy knew his own name.

And so OB became Oonly Bonly for the term of his enlistment.

My mother told us this story as I was growing up, and it became one I retold often.

I asked Mom what happened to OB. She has no idea, but thinks maybe she saw his name on I take this as a good sign. That maybe those Oonly Bonly tags became a good luck talisman. That they brought him home safely and with his sense of humor intact.

Raise your coffee cups, kids:

To OB Lewis, who shows us that even if they call you a silly name, you remain who you are, and that even in the face of something terrifying, you can teach others that it's okay to laugh, too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Anyone Care For A Dirty White Smelly T-Shirt?

My BFF, C., is 25 weeks pregnant. This, combined with my body's current refusal to responsibly handle its own insulin levels, leaves us out of the alcohol game.

Last week, we got together with C.'s little (and stunningly gorgeous, super smart and wicked funny) sister, J., for movie night. I brought the drinks.

Now, I'm certain I'm not the first one to combine these ingredients, but holy COW did we think I was a genius. These concoctions were DELIGHTFUL.

Even though they were non-alcoholic, we poured into martini glasses like big girls.

And C.'s 4 year-old twins, G. and N.? They drank from sippy cups, sans lids ... like big boys.

Sitting around eating bean dip and sipping our lemony goodnesses, I asked the boys what they thought we should name these fabulous new beverages.

N. puckered his little lips, glancing from his glass to my face and back.
"Dirty, white, thmelly t-shirts," came the authoritative answer.

And so they are.

Want one?

- 3 oz pre-made lemonade (I like Simply Lemonade, but if something else pre-made is on sale, do it!)
- 2 oz lemon-lime soda pop (we used Sierra Mist)
- splash o' grenadine

Mmmmm ... Dirty White Smelly T-Shirts. Cheers!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Library Card Upgrade

I could read by the time I started kindergarten. My older sister, J., had dyslexia (which I was quite careful about spelling just now), and our mother would read to her on the couch. It was there on a floral-print couch I started my book learnin'.

The summer between fourth and fifth grades, my Mom was a dispatcher for the Kingman Police Department, and she'd take me to work with her, where I would trundle across the street with my sack lunch ... to the public library.

A few weeks into this arrangement, I was out of books. I don't know that I read everything in the kids' stacks, but certainly everything that interested me. (I was stunned years later to find out that I had missed some Nancy Drew titles!)

Looking back, I realize the library staff must have been having some sort of meeting at the desk that morning. They were ALL there. The woman who wore the same gray pair of slacks every day ... the ones whose seams always seemed THIS close to bursting; the older lady with the magic hair-growing mole and glasses; and the younger gal who I only remember as "the younger gal" based on my back-then comparison to her ancient colleagues. (In hindsight, the oldest was probably 45--tops.)

As I came near, their conversation waned. Aunt Mole spoke up, "Yes, Laura? What is it you need?"

"I'm done with those."

"Done with what?"

"Those. The kids books," jerking a thumb over my shoulder to indicate the area decked out in Lilliputian furniture and posters in primary colors.

They looked from one to another in what seemed an eternity to me.

"Can I go over there?", pivoting in my sneakers to indicate with my torso the tall stacks, filled with volumes and volumes of mystery. "My mom lets me read Reader's Digest Condensed books at home."

A few moments of hushed conversation and a call was placed to my mother. And then magic: my card was swapped out for one that all the adults--and now a nine year-old carried. (I dearly wish I would have kept that card.)

I can still feel their eyes on me as I entered into new territory. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I knew that I'd best find something, or I'd look like a fool on top of having to revisit Beverly Cleary's version of elementary angst yet again.

Soon, though, I was lost.

Not literally, (this was small town Southwest, after all) but figuratively and willingly. The smells were richer, the volumes thicker and the pull stronger. I know it was then I fell in love. I allowed the lure of words, the telling of tales, to seduce me; to draw me in.

Time stood still. Or maybe it flew by. I have no way of knowing. It's a place, books, perfectly akin to good music. One in which I choose to stay, to forsake other experiences for. From that day forward, the perfect stories dwell in books rather than film or even stage.

How long it took me I can't say for sure, but I do remember choosing first one book, then hauling it around for a few more rows until I found the book that, to this day, remains my favorite.

Those ladies watched me the whole time. I lost that feeling of being observed as I inspected my new treasure trove of possibility, but have a distinct memory of all three of them staring intently into the aisle I was in and suddenly BLAM! looking quite busy when I emerged, novels in hand.

The books I chose? The Godfather by Mario Puzo and Alex Haley's Roots.

Both amazing works, both are stories of family, conviction and the creation of one's own freedom at any cost. 

I'll let you figure out which is the one I buy every five years, re-read and then loan out knowing it will not return to me, but go on to bless someone else's shelves. And to give you a hint? There's not a single beheaded horse in the bunch.