Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hello...can you hear me?

Growing up in my house there was a piece of hardware hanging on the kitchen wall called the telephone. It was quite important to us. It would make a ringing sound when people wanted to find out how your day was, what you had been up to, and when they might see you again. I used to stretch the cord that hung from this device all the way from the kitchen, down the hall and into the bathroom for secret conversations! Or, I'd lock myself in my parent's bedroom since I wasn't allowed to have one of these in my room until I was in college.

When I talked to my girlfriends it usually went something like this,

"So, did you finish the English homework?"
"What was she thinking wearing white heels in February?"
"Didn't he look so cute??? I will marry him some day."
"OK, I have to get off because my mother is waiting for my brother to call to get picked up."

There were busy signals, rotary dialing and no caller ID. You never knew who was going to be on the other end. That was the excitement. And this is how we communicated...for hours...and hours...and no one ever said, 'Well, I'll let you go. I know you're busy" after 10 mins of talking. You were on the phone. You were supposed to talk and listen and ignore the world around you.

Fascinating, isn't it? There's one or two of these telephones in my house now. But they don't make much noise. They ring with the occasional "unknown caller", non-profit solicitation, or family call to check-in.

I'm sure as the children get older it might get more use. For now, it seems the clicking of the keyboard has taken over the ringing of the phone. Twitter. Facebook. Email. Texting. IM. Blogs. I like the outbound aspect of these channels mainly because of the amount of time I spend multi-tasking between conversations. With the click of a button I can switch between this conversation, the one inbound to my email, and the tweet dropping across the screen.

But thinking back on it, I sure did enjoy the ringing of the phone. The absolute knowing when someone was being sarcastic, or laughing or crying. There was no reading between the lines because there were no lines - just voices. Funny how the cell phone has made it more convenient to make a call, yet I use mine for everything but phone calls.

If you get a chance, drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mommy, I miss her

They were inseparable in preschool. Best friends. Whenever I would pick him up at the end of the day, they would be together in the corner, playing and smiling and laughing. They had secret words they shared when they were younger and hadn't quite mastered the English language. And she was adorable. Petite. Big smile. Fun ponytails. And fiery. She had a little temper.

And then we changed schools and had to say good-bye. I left our information in her cubby for her Mom hoping they'd call. Sadly, they never did. He never really mentioned her. On occasion when he'd hear her name he'd repeat it and get excited and then I'd explain, "No, honey. They weren't talking about her."

So about 3 weeks ago when I got a message on our answering machine asking me if we could attend her 4th birthday party, I almost cried. He was going to be so excited. When should I tell him? Should I wait? I couldn't contain myself and told him that night.

This morning, he kept asking if it was time to go to the party. He couldn't wait to see her. When 12:00 finally arrived, we entered the kid's gym center to find her. There she was. Right near the slides. In a cute purple shirt. He smile from ear to ear and ran right to her. They hugged so hard I wasn't sure they'd let go. It was adorable (and idiot me forgot her camera!).

They spent the whole party together, literally. Within inches of each other at all times. At one point I caught him sitting across from her at the table while they were having cake and he had his arms crossed under his chin and he was just staring at her. In love.

I watched him as he nervously ask me which one was her Dad. I pointed to the man next to my husband. He instantly put his hands behind his back, walked towards him, yanked up his pants a little too high and asked, "Can I marry her?"

Her Dad thought a bit, and then said, "No."

He was crushed. I was a little angry. I guess he couldn't play along. But it was okay because I gave him a hug and told him he should ask every year on her birthday and maybe he'd say "yes" one of those times. Besides, he still needs to go to school and get good grades, find a job, and then buy a ring. He's too young for that just yet.

He said he'd keep living with me for now. And it didn't seem to dampen his infatuation. Within seconds he was back by her side. Giggling. Staring. Hugging. Tonight as he went to bed he told me he missed her. I told him I know, but that we'd be sure to see her again soon. His smile widened and he gave me a big hug. Just like the one he'd given her earlier today. Phew. I haven't lost my little boy just yet!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

'Thank You' doesn't put food in your stomach

Today I ventured out to the RMV, DMV, Registry - whatever you call it in your world - and had to get new plates for my SUV. Funny, but I wasn't aware I needed new plates until the lady behind the counter said,

"You'll need new plates. Do you have the old ones?"

"Yes. They are on my SUV in the parking lot."

"OK. We have tools."

"Great, I'll go get those plates then."

I'll admit, the overall experience was rather pleasant - only about a 30 minute wait. Got to read a little of a book I wanted to read (for work, unfortunately, not pleasure). Sat on a seat while I waited versus standing in a long line like I used to do at the Registry in Watertown (wonder if they still make you stand in line there?).

So when the lady handed over the tools I ran out to put on my new clean, shiny plates. This will be two seconds and I'll be on my way home. Zip, zip, zip - front plate off, new one on. On to the back plates. Zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, These screws are plastic. And not turning very well. And are covered in salt and sand from the lovely streets of New England. And I know my butt crack is showing as I try to bend and squat to get them off without touching the slush, ice, sand covered parking lot. Just lovely.

"Excuse me, Miss. Sometimes if you hold the back they come off easier."

Damsel in distress, I am. A knight in shining armour coming to my rescue, he is NOT. Rather a knight in a worn out coat, dirty pants, no hat, gloves, scarf and smelly profusely like cigarettes. Showering had not been part of his world recently, I could smell.

Crap. I need the help.

"I am waiting for a friend inside and I saw you struggling (and flashing your butt crack). If you hold the back, it might secure the bolt so you can turn it. Here. Let me help you."

I hand over the tools. And between the two of us we chit chat about cheap car parts and plastic screws, and we manage to get the new back license plate on. Very nice gentleman. Sadly, obviously not waiting for a friend in the RMV. Now I have to decide if I give him money for his troubles.

I say Thank You a hundred times for his help. Smile. Awkward moment. And he slowly turned to wander the parking lot.

I really, really wanted to say "Can I give you a few dollars for your trouble?" I knew I had a $5 bill in my purse, but I didn't want to make any assumptions about his situation. And I really didn't want it to go towards another pack of smokes or some other possible addiction. I KNOW. I KNOW. So cynical, right? Not every helpful guy wandering the parking lots of Lawrence, MA is a meth addict trying to score his next fix, or an alcoholic hoping he can buy a bigger bottle of booze by hitting up the lady with the Lexus - but at the end of the day I just reminded myself that I give to the local shelter in Lawrence where my new friend can go for a meal and a bed. And I donate clothes and food and money to as many local charities as we can afford. So while 'Thank You' won't feed him if he's hungry...or quench his thirst...or buy him new gloves, today it was all I could offer his kind soul.

I ran inside and handed the menopausal lady her tools and the old plates (yeah, she gave me the whole scoop on the hot flashes. Apparently RMV employees can't blog so they tell residents their woes.) and I returned to the parking lot. What if he was still wandering near the car, should I offer then? Do I see him? Hmmm...nowhere. Maybe he did have a friend he was waiting for.

Unfortunately, times are tough for so many people that live one town over from me, with literally the highest rate of foreclosures in Massachusetts, and I feel this sorrow in my heart when I look in those empty eyes wandering around the city. And it does hurt. And it does suck. And I should have offered my $5 bill hoping he'd take it across the parking lot for a sandwich at the sub shop.

Later today when I jump back in my warm car to go get the kids at school and bring them back to our warm house, this stranger will be on my mind. I'm not able to let things like this go easily. Part of the reason I left NYC was the homelessness and also the reason I have a hard time visiting San Francisco. Only positive I can glean is that it reminds me to be grateful. Very grateful, for what I have.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I need to make this quick


Went to the gym during "lunch" (like there is such a time in my life) and hit the cardio by jumping on an elliptical...that squeaked...loud...but the other open machine is programmed in Spanish and that isn't my native language. So, I squeaked for 45 mins. Sigh.

So then, tall, dark, and very young man jumps on the Spanish machine because he must be bi-lingual (something I *should* be with 2 children with an Hispanic Dad!!) and holy cow, I can still taste his cologne on my tongue...and not because I took a bite out of his biceps. I felt like I walked through the men's section of Macy's.

*cough* *gag* *aaahhh-chooooo*

Lay off the Acqua Di Gio Pour Homme by Giorgio Armani (I googled top fragrances for men) tall, dark and very young man - a little dab will do ya.**

**another google discovery that Yabba Dabba Do! was based off of the "little dab will do ya" motto for Brylcreem. I just aged 30 years by even remembering that jingle.

Dear Playskool

Dear Playskool,

I hope you are well. I'm not. I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know I hate Play-doh. I'm sorry but I think it sucks. I understand it can be used to help children discover their inner artist, but in my house it is used simply to ruin my rugs, furniture and send me in an absolute tizzy. The kids no longer enjoy playing with it because when I see the mess it has created all over the playroom and on their clothes, I usually turn into the raging lunatic you used to see on After School Specials about multiple personality mothers.

I looked at the recommended age group for Play-doh and the package says 2+. Age 2+ my ass - I have a 4 year old and a 6 year old and, unless supervised, they have no idea that Play-doh is used to create masterpieces, not to be mixed together into one huge blob of color and then left out to dry into little wads of crusty dough that stick to my rugs, couches and under my fingernails when I'm on my hands and knees trying to scrape it off the floor.

What your package should say is: Age 2+ when used on the kitchen table, without any carpet underneath, and under close adult supervision to be sure the pretty teal Play-doh does not turn into a puke brown color when mixed into a huge ball with purple Play-doh.

Oh, and apparently the dog finds it tasty because he tends to eat the dried up crusty balls of Play-doh and something tells me that just can't be healthy.

So while I appreciate your effort to turn my children into master sculptors and artistic geniuses, I've taken the Play-doh away for now and maybe when they are 12 and 14 years old, I'll let them use it again, unsupervised - because when put back in the container, that stuff does last forever. Kudos on that.

Play-doh Hater

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Number 44

So, NBC spent the morning referring to George H. Bush as "Number 41"...I found that odd. Obviously, that makes Barack Obama "Number 44". But I decided that when you're President, I guess it doesn't matter what the media calls you, it's what the people call you. Today I heard, and read, how people are calling President Obama by names like Hope, Change, Strength, Poise and Hero.

And no matter what happens tomorrow, next month, next year or 46 months from now, I will remember how Barack Obama was exactly what our country needed on January 20, 2009. His inauguration touched and inspired millions to brave the cold temperatures on this special day, shoulder to shoulder, and millions more at home, work and school to tune in to witness history.

It's simple. See the possibilities that lie ahead. Don't glance back. You can never change what happened yesterday, but you can dream about and help build what can happen tomorrow.

If you are like my son who calls the President "Brack", or my daughter who loves to say his name over and over, if you call him Number 44, it doesn't matter. Just remember he's just one man and we are a whole nation so let's pledge to help, however small, however possible.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parent-teacher conference

Where does the time go? I have missed blogging and had such grandiose dreams of how it would help me track the little things in life and share stories with the world - and then *smack*, life took over and I couldn't find time to blog about it.

Good thing is that everyone is healthy-ish and after a tense trip to the office I am still employed AND I was able to remember where my gym is located so I can get back to my beloved routine. Ok. My routine. No love for me at the gym. In fact, we've sort of been on the outs lately but I'm sure we can turn it around.

Anyhoo - in the midst of the stress was my first parent-teacher conference, one on one, mono a mono, with Abby's kindergarten teacher. I was so excited. She always comes home with stories about what they did in class, she rushes to do her homework, and she is practicing those high-frequency words which intimidates the crap out of me since I barely knew the alphabet in kindergarten. Right?

So, I arrived to the school a few minutes early and was seated in the visitor area outside the Principal's office. As it happened, my dad won the school raffle that week so our family was celebrating his big win - of $50. As I was instructed to "head right down to the room" I had to stop quickly to share the funny story with the assistant about how Abby told me he had won because Mrs. Tully had told her while she was waiting for the bus, and how that same day my dad called to say "don't tell Abby, I'll surprise her" and how we all got a good laugh.

Tense? Nervous? Excited? Yes, I was - so what do I do? I talk and share stories. Want to hear about my life? Try approaching me at a social event or work function. I never shut up. And I know I do it - but I just can't help it. I love finding connections and since I know my life better than I know technology or politics, it all comes out.

I proceeded to clomp my way down the hallway because I wore noisy shoes - mistake #10 of the day - and noticed all the adorable kids turning their heads in my direction. Only the kindergartners had the day off for these conferences, everyone else was studying hard. So cute. I joyfully entered the room.

Teacher: "Hello. Come in"

Me: "Hello. Sorry it took me a minute to come down. I was chatting about the big winnings in the family. Abby thought that was great. (placing my behind in the smallest chair I've ever seen - why can't we sit in big people chairs for these things??) Boy it is chilly out there. I guess it should be expected in January, right? Ha ha. Oh, look at the word rainbow. I've heard a lot about that."


Teacher: "Ok. Let's review the report card. Abby is right where she should be. She does a good job at concentrating on her work. She does tend to finish early and then starts to talk with the other kids at her table to see if they understand the work. We sometimes have to remind her to not talk. Oh, and she loves to tell stories. She always wants to share stories with me and the other teacher. In fact, if she hears another student talking about something that seems to remind her of a story, she wants to share it. We've been working on that, too."

Me: "Oh."

I simply nodded the rest of the conference, took the report card, clomped back down the hallway and smiled as I left the building. A chip off the ol' block. I love it!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

File under: Where do they learn this stuff?

Me: "Alex, give me the toy and I'll replace the batteries."

Him: "Why?"

Me: "Because they're dead."

Him: "Oh. Were their tongues sticking out?"

Me: "What?"

Him: "That's how you know something is dead."

Me: "Yes, honey. The batteries tongues were sticking out."

Monday, January 5, 2009

A quick lesson in panic

So what if one day you were relaxing with a glass of wine about to enjoy a few days off with your family to celebrate the New Year and you decided just to "peek" at your work email since you were officially off the clock and it was 6:30 in the evening - and in your inbox you find an email with the subject: payroll issues. What would you do? Multiple choice:

A) Would you gulp down the wine praying "please let it be a typo and it meant to say payroll 'increases', not 'issues'"?

B) Would you have a total panic attack because a) there is a handwritten check for your daughter's after school program sitting in someones hand ready to be cashed and not enough in your account to cover it and b) the mortgage you pay is due in two days and you NEEDED that direct deposit that night?

C) Poop your pants.

Actually, if you guessed C) poop your pants, you'd almost be spot on! I haven't had a paycheck since Dec 15th (and that wasn't the full amount due) so I am essentially working for free due to "cash flow issues" - Happy freaking new year!

I thought I was one of the lucky ones who had a nice, secure job with a company that just got a nice cash infusion because of our new UK merger. But I was wrong - really wrong. I am still employed, just not paid. No one is paying their bills so until we get their money, we don't get our money. They say most of it is coming in on Friday of this week. Yeah, right.

Thankfully money transfers between savings and checking easily in this day and age, thanks to online banking, but regardless it made me sit up and take notice of what would happen if I lost my job. I'm a huge contributor to our household economy and without my paycheck there would be significant changes to our lives.

This little wake-up call made me rethink some things I am going to change immediately - and they are not resolutions - they are lifestyle changes:

For example, I looked at how many Diet Cokes I purchase in a week from the local gas station just to fulfill some odd addiction to CO2 and syrup that I have - it's a lot. Diet Coke tastes like Diet Coke if you drink it from a can - for less than $1.50 a cup!! Before you judge, it's my coffee, and I KNOW coffee is more than $1.50 at the local donut shop.

I have stopped ordering things online just because the email told me "Last Chance To Save - Hurry!"

You really can spend less than $100 every time you go food shopping - which is like every other day - if you just plan ahead.

I do know how to cook. I had just gotten used to that guy at the restaurant(s) doing it for me.

Marshall's and TJMaxx really do sell good quality items for a lot less - I'm now shopportunistic!

And if you ask me to join you out for dinner and drinks, can we make it at your house and I'll bring the wine if you provide an appetizer. I don't want to gain back all that weight I lost in '08 anyway, so let's just skip the meal!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years is not my thing...

I did the Times Square "thing" in 1992 when I lived in the city, and that was the last time I stood outside in frigid temps to countdown a new year (unless you count the Boston Common fingernail incident several years later, but we'll leave that story alone for now as I don't remember much of it). New Years Eve is just not my thing!!

But this new year, for some reason, I felt a little something lift off my shoulders. I can't explain it. It was a renewed faith or spirit. Maybe it is hope for the changes ahead in our country with our new President elect. Or the dreams I have for my family as my kids have reached an age where we can communicate and share laughs and stories and words aren't a mix of simple goos and gaas? Or perhaps it is because I feel happy in my shell and 2009 will have me greeting that once-feared age of 40 with open arms and a renewed sense of self.

But I think all in all it is that I am so INCREDIBLY fortunate to have two beautiful, healthy children, a husband that still laughs at me in my goofy moments and sends glances my way that say "I will always love you". I have a family that hugs and kisses us to death when we all get together, friends that are really my extended family, and food, shelter and clothing on our backs no matter how hard times may get.

If you read this it's because we share a bond of some sort, be it by blood, internet access or YEARS of friendship, so my thanks, my love and my best wishes in 2009. Let hopes and dreams guide you every day.