Monday, November 30, 2009

On Being Thankful

This past week saw us celebrating Thanksgiving. Nothing unusual about that but the holiday does force us to stop and think of things that we are thankful for. Children, health, family, faith, warm house,balanced checkbook, clean clothes, full table... sounds pretty common. Not that there is anything wrong with common. Common is sometimes very, very good. As is the case with my Thankful List.

This past week also had another celebration that most people do not stop to do anything for. Heck, most years we don't even stop to do anything special. But that is what makes me add yet something else to my Thankful List. This past week Brian and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary.

Ours is not one of those love stories that cause people to stop and take note. Heck, most people who watch us together might even wonder WHY. What did we see in each other all those years ago? Here is our story:

Brian and I met at work. We both had similar positions in different parts of the country. We worked in Marketing for Encylopaedia Britannica. Not sales, but we created sales opportunities and lead generating situations as well as planning educational and community building events in shopping centers. Spelling bees, Safety Cities, Story Times.. we would trade out high quality events for sales space in the malls. The hours were long, the travel was extensive and the position attracted 20 somethings who liked to get out of the office.

Brian had been promoted to a regional position, and I followed with my own promotion and took over part of his territory. My following meant that I had to move from Connecticut to Pittsburgh, PA. Brian was in Chicago. In my move I not only left behind my family and the area I had grown up in, but also the serious boyfriend that I had for 3 years. He was non-relocatable. Nor was he interested in a long distance relationship. It's safe, and simplest, to say that this  broke my heart. Brian was a nice voice on the phone who patched me back up and made me see that I wasn't broken. I had value.

He was in Chicago, I was in Pittsburgh and we often had dates at National Marketing meetings. Most of the time, however, was spent on the phone. After the first phone bill we had to decide if this was a long term relationship worthy of the expenditure. We had a few weekend dates, then he came to Connecticut for Christmas with my family. By then we knew that we got along, were compatible, were at the same point in our lives and, yes of course, we were in love. I moved to Chicago, got a job that didn't pay nearly as well but didn't require travel. He made room for me in the bathroom and gave me half the closet.

Our first official Date was November 16th, 1990. We were married the following November. He was 26, I was 28. We settled down to a very tumultuous first year, which was followed by several more without the drama before Bekah was born. And Brian got downsized for the first time. But not in that order.

The rest, as they say, is history. The 18 years since we have gone out once for our anniversary, to celebrate the completion of the first rocky year. I guess the following years were not rocky enough because we never did anything except exchange cards.

Up to this year. I can't blame a rough year, we didn't really have one. But this year, for some reason, Brian decided to break his no-gift streak and actually put thought into something for me. A three part gift signifying our life together. He is not experienced in gift giving, so if I tell you what it was you might not think it all that smooth. But to me, it was very sweet. Very thoughtful. Very loving. It made me very thankful.

Happy 18th, Brian.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Picture Really Does Tell A Thousand Words

Recently I was asked to become a Featured Blogger on  . In my world this is a pretty awesome occurrence. I had been submitting blogs on that site for awhile, as well as being an active member since the site went up two years ago. I was sick when I was asked and wanted a few days to think about it. Once my fever broke, my response was a calm and professional " Hell to the Yeah!!" I will be blogging there every Friday at noon.

My elation was short lived. The site admin wanted a picture of me and the kids. Fortunately my kitchen is the same color blue as the backgrounds of the other Featured Bloggers so I thought Brian could take the shot at our convenience.

Nothing about this was convenient. It was another example of one of those ideas that sounds good in my head, but when it comes time to do it, an abysmal failure. It is also a prime example of how what is just beyond the frame of a picture, what you don't see when you look at the smiling faces, tells the true story.

Back in the day I ran a small chain of portrait studios. I used to say " we only need one". Sure, there might be 100 proofs of the same collection of people, but how many will someone actually print out? One. One out of 100 has to be as close to perfect as you can get. One out of 100 has to show the image you have in your head of how your family looks.  Let me start with our One.

This is the first one we took, checking the lighting to make sure there were no shadows.

Noah isn't smiling because I just had to trim his hair out of his eyes. Noah isn't dressed because I have not ironed his shirt yet. Luke and Brian were at Luke's basketball practice. This was after the dinner dishes were cleaned up, Beks and I had taken showers and done our hair, and I had rearranged the kitchen so that we could get enough plain wall to pose all of us.

When the boys came home, we put on nice shirts and squeezed into our little corner. Those are cats on my jammies. It's a joke. I am not a cat person.

Ever smell an 11 year old after a day at school and 2 hrs of basketball practice? Ever smell one who then decides to let loose a forced giganto toot just as he sits down next to you in tight quarters? I am smiling because I pinched him.

 Whole series had to be eliminated due to one person. Usually Luke. Here he decided to haul out his Square Smile.

                        This is nice, Noah's Lookie My Boogie Face and Luke's Square Smile.

Beks seems fairly consistant.. but I was cramping up, Luke was getting tired of Daddy telling " No Square Smile!" and of course, someone has to blink. I might add, that Brian taking a picture out of focus with an auto focus camera is really an awesome trick.

He's 4.  4 is not a quiet age. ' nuff said.

Nor is 4 a great age to be asked to sit still and look forward for nearly an hour.

 That's right. 120 frames, and three times we sat back down after looking at a collection where " we surely got ONE", and didn't. Three times where Luke ate something messy as Brian and I uploaded and eliminated poses. Three times putting Noah's shirt back on. The One was frame #81.

 It was past Noah's bedtime, heck, it was nearly my bedtime before we decided that we had one. One frame that showed the image that we have of  most of our family. The Composed Mom,  The Pretty Teen girl, The Loving Tween boy and the Sweet preschooler.

The rest of the session told the truth. And now I share it with you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Perfect Illness

In a Perfect Storm, forces align to create an unusual situation, one that is unreplicable. One strange thing on top of another occurs and the end result would be astonishing if it were not so bad. We stare in awe, knowing that this is the one and only time we will ever witness such a phenomenon.

This past weekend I experienced The Perfect Illness.

Drama much, Susan?

In the middle of last week I began to have a sore throat. Then a headache. Then I was a little tired and stuffy, but it was tolerable. Until it wasn't.

Thursday night the body aches and fever started.Sleep wasn't something I wanted, it was something I needed. Brian, who has the symptoms of H1N1 taped to the medicine cabinet,diagnosed me. No swabbing needed.

In the past, whenever I have been sick, I pretty much continued most of my chores and responsibilities. Moms don't take breaks. Brian helped when he could, but his job was outside the home.

Now the kids are getting older. They can now help out. This go around, Beks and Luke took on some extra chores. They helped with cleaning, laundry and cooking.

Brian has an unusual job, and while it isn't slow at this time of year, his schedule now can be a bit flexible. He was able to take Noah to work with him on Thursday and Friday. We decided that I could be sick for three full days- Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We added Sunday as a final recoup day , just in case. Schedules were moved, compromises were made and all I had to do was sleep through the plan.

Friday is my normal weekly shopping day, but Brian took care of that after he dropped Noah at school. My only job was to sleep. Which I did very well. Laying still on my sick couch, pot of tea and phone within reach I lay still and drifted in and out of sleep. Moving hurt. I made a pot of chicken soup ( easy version.. broth, noodles and veggies- 15 minutes done.)I filled a pitcher with one of those weird beverage concoctions that only sound good when you are ill. This version: ice tea and orange/pineapple juice.

We had taken on house and dog sitting for someone we know very well in our town. On Friday night Beks and I moved into the house. She would help out with the dogs and I claimed my turf, draping the living room sofa with my sheets and blankie. Ok, come on, we all have a blankie, right? Maybe it's a well worn quilt, cherished crocheted afghan or , in my case, a soft fleece king size blanket.

Mid afternoon on Saturday I turned the corner and began to feel well again. You know, Saturday? Day 3 of 3 scheduled? This NEVER happens! I am the Plan Q girl, Plan A working? I always wondered what this felt like.

What did it feel like? The weather was stunning here this weekend. I took the dog for a short walk, and sat on a sunny porch and read a book in silence. The house is beautiful, quiet and spacious without any other people there. There was no lingering projects, no "To Do When I Feel Better" list staring at me. Full offering of satellite TV was at my fingertips, stocked fridge within a few feet, and my blankie wrapped around me. My daughter getting me drinks, checking on me but mostly just keeping to her self.If you have to be feeling like crap on a stick, this was the place to do it

What did it feel like? It felt like a sick spa.

Sunday I felt better with each passing hour. My coloring returned, my aches diminished and I only took one hour long nap. I vacuumed the house,did our laundry including washing my blankie. I opened the windows, cleaned anything I had touched but really, took it easy.

Monday morning came like it always has, early. I roused the girl-child, and got her to school fed and with a lunch packed by 7:30. When we got into the car, I honestly couldn't remember driving it over. That was a bit scary, but now I felt refreshed and energized and ready to face the week.

What did I walk in on at my own home? The boys had been bachelors all weekend,I thought I was going to walk in on the remnants of the party.

But this is what I saw: The sheets had all been changed, the house had been vacuumed, and the bathrooms had all been cleaned. There was only one small load of laundry for me to do. As is his way, there was a list on the kitchen table of things Brian had noticed that I could fix or change or clean this week. When I got a chance. Overall it was a pleasant surprise. It was NOT what I had expected to see.

That was my perfect illness. Usually I write about common experiences in this space, but I doubt that anyone else could have this work out this way. Had I gotten sick at any other time the situation would be different.I would have been writing about being sick while shuttling kids, refereeing disagreements and how many times I was screamed awake with a "MOOOOM!!!"

Since I did not go to the doctor I can only guess as to what I had. There is much debate over the h1n1 vaccine. Should my family get it? Should we pass? I did not get the vaccine. But what I am fairly certain of is that I got this illness getting my children the vaccine the week before.I'm not sure if that is a PRO or Con arguement. Getting it, and not getting it, worked out fairly well for us.

Clear much, Susan?

Monday, November 2, 2009

And The Award Goes To....

This morning I am walking around the house, collecting anything Halloween. As a moderately conservative Christian I am conflicted with this holiday. I don't really like calling it a " holiday" even... let's go with "Community Event".

Part of me does not like the satanic influences present at this time of year, but the other part of me really likes the fun aspects. Candy, dressing up,cute pumpkin faces,and charming fall decorations make me a bit giddy. My mother was a costume designer by profession. Halloween put food on our table and sent me to college. Many years I worked in her store, dressing people for parties and trick or treating. It was fun, a happening. But now I see a little kid dressed like the devil, and I get sad. I believe the devil to to be very real, as much as I believe angels to be real. I do not think you can believe in one without the other.Thus the conflict.

My neighborhood generally goes all out. We live in a subdivision in a rural town. The " country" kids come here to trick or treat. Add the ones who already live here and a good chunk of the entire school district population is contained with the boundaries of our ' hood. This year we gave out close to 900 dum-dums ( one or 2 apiece). The streets are full of activity and lined with parked cars. Garages are decorated as haunted houses complete with smoke machines music and costumed adults. Some people are hosting fire-pit parties in thier driveways as they pass out candy. Anything that can bring that many people together in a spirit of fun and frivolity is good in my book.

Our compromise for the Community Event is that we don't do scary. Our kids don't' dress scary, our house is not decorated scary, and we have every light on possible to make it a beacon in the darkness.

So today, I am putting all the pumpkins away. The cheery orange luminarias that graced the porch will be put in a box until October 31st,2010. All that will remain are some autumnal decor that should carry us to Thanksgiving. But as I am packing it all away I realize that I was struck by some things that I saw this year. Other events have awards so I think I will pass some out myself. I mull over a few names ideas in my head, narrowing the titles to two. With much thought ( ok, not that much) I toss out " Boo Who's" because it just sounds sad.

Now I present to you the 2009 Halloween Wrap- Up Awards... The Boo!-bies!

The 11th Hour Award : Kate! At midnight on October 30th she actually thought about giving in and creating her Tween-age daughters costume change idea. It didn't happen, but she gets the award for considering it!

The Realism Award: Megan! Megan dyed her 3 yr olds blond hair red so that her Ariel costume would be more authentic. Not telling the child she was dying her hair made it all the more entertaining for this spectator. Even temporary hair dye takes a bit to come out. Now it's pink.

The We Are All In This Together Award: Christy! Christy posted on her facebook status that adult trick or treaters would be given adult beverages, all they had to do was say the words " trick or treat". And she did!

The Boo on You Award: Whoever those SEVERAL adults dressed in scary costumes were, that hid in the darkness waiting to scare my 4 yr old- who was CLINGING to my side. They got deflected with a very loud " No, Noah, ADULTS WOULDN'T SCARE A LITTLE KID!!!" but still, they wanted to pounce.

Cutest Costume and Give that Mom a Drink Award: Mari!! Mari hand made not one but TWO darling cupcake costumes for her twin 2 year olds. Totally adorable!

Go If You DARE- BWAHAHAHAHA Award: John and Mariam! For as many years as we have lived near them they have created an elaborate and completely frightening yard and driveway display. The detail is quite impressive. Costumed characters, chainsaws,sound effects and a creepy graveyard make thier house the most visited in the subdivision. I have no idea what kind of candy they give out because my kids walk to the other side of the street.

Spin It Award:Smiles Change Lives Candy Exchange. We had a couple kids collecting candy for this. For every pound collected, Ace Scale Company donated a dollar to Smiles Change Lives.The candy then went to troops overseas. I know a family who has benefited form this organization, their daughter received braces that the family could not have afforded.( and for the record, the kids who came by had TWO bags... one for themselves and one for the collection. I was ok with that!

The Tim Gunn Make It Work Award: Beks who pitched her " punked out country girl" costume idea for pure punk and sewed her own skirt at 3PM on Halloween.

The No Candy For You Award: The grown women dressed in scanky attire who came up to the door for candy. With no kids in tow. Really? Seriously? Come on!

Before Her Time Award: Me! When the older two were tots I dressed in costume every year. I was usually the only adult who did. This year, when I went dressed as a Mom, I saw more adults in costume than every year before combined. I'm not sure if that makes me ahead of my time, or just dorky. There is a fine line.

I have a few more decorations to box up, and I need to do a complete De-Doting and De-Reecing of the kids candy haul, but I think this year will go down as a very great Halloween. Congratulations to all Boo-bie Award Recipients!!