Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Too Shall Pass.

A word or two about facing my own mortality.

I guess about the time I was 31 it hit me. One day, possibly tomorrow even, but if not tomorrow or the next day, ONE DAY I'm going to die.

Last fall, I had major surgery. There was something about being put under anesthesia that reminded me of all those jailhouse execution scenes in movies and on TV. I was nervous and scared and horrendously unhappy because it was surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy and due to the urgency of the situation, there wasn't time to think everything I wanted to think or say everything I wanted to say. The possibility of not waking up was something I just didn't have much time to consider because I was worried about whether the life insurance was paid (it was) and if I'd have a nice funeral and if and when I did wake up, how much pain I'd be in and how much time I'd have to take off work and why oh why did this have to happen when we'd wanted a baby so damned long.

Well, the surgery was successful and I didn't die only I was left with all the pain and guilt and just wanting to be left alone. Only the sun kept rising and sooner than I thought possible, I joined the world again. Fall is a blur that melded into a very depressing Christmas time for me as I was still working out all the pregnancy hormones without the joy of actually being pregnant.

And somehow even with all that and all the people I've loved and lost I don't think I really understood dying until the other day when I wanted to figure out exactly how much longer I have left to live, barring getting hit by a MAC truck or something similar.

As it turns out, if I live to be 80 (and considering my weight, lack of exercise and general health, this is a stretch) I've only got 44 years left, 64 if I live to be 100. I kid you not, that 44 years left me feeling short of breath for a minute or two. I mean I'm only 9 years short of marking the first 44 years and it doesn't looke like there will be another 44 after those are gone. Not to mention since my 20's, time seems to rush by like the line on the road when you look too close and only gets speedier the older I get. Plus, I also realized that if Arabella is anything like me and even if she's not, life happens and she could move back home after college or maybe even after she has a family of her own. I could spend the next 25 of those years trying to get Arabella out of my house and if we have another kid then god only knows how long I'm going to spend raising kids and housing adult children and maybe even their children. That Failure to Launch Movie doesn't seem so funny any more.

When I think of my mortality in this way, it makes me want to smack the next person who says the word "mommy wars" as if becoming a mother, even under the best of circumstances, wasn't the biggest life commitment ever. Bigger than marriage, bigger than mortgages, even bigger than evil cell phone contracts that require a pint of blood and pledging allegiance to faceless wireless entities.

I had no idea what I was in for when I decided to have a kid and it's only 13 years later that I'm actually getting a clue. If there's ever a kid number two, I hope that all I've learned so far actually gets put to some use.

Which makes me wonder, why do we even have kids if we know they're only going to die eventually? Are we so pissed off at life and mortality that we just say, oh well, it's worth producing someone else who's going to go through the pain and humanity of mortality that we just say, screw it and do it anyway. Is life that great that we have to pass it on? Or do we just not think about it. I wonder if it isn't a little cruel to bring someone into the world only to say, "By the way, this isn't permanent you know. We just had a little too much wine one night and decided to screw with the fate of the universe. Maybe you'll be the first human to live forever and if not forever then maybe least as long as Methuselah or the average oak tree. Good luck, kid."

As usual, I digress. I guess, now that I know for sure I'm going to die (no I wasn't really sure before, but now I am) I plan to do as much as I can with the next 20 years of my life. I'm not going to be sky diving or riding a bull named Fu Manchu anytime soon but I definitely plan to do a bit more than I've been doing.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Case of the Missing Blog Posts

I have learned certain truths about blogging this week.

The one week you declare you will begin posting every day is the week you can't.

You will start at least a dozen different blog post and be able to finish none of them leaving them languishing in your drafts box.

Murphy's law applies especially to bloggers who plan to blog every day.

That being said, here's what happened:

Sunday - I spent a lazy day finishing the last blog post. I didn't realize blogger dates from the date you saved the draft instead of the date is was actually posted, so it says I finished that post on Thursday instead of Sunday, which is not true. At any rate on Sunday my full intention was to blog every day from now until eternity.

Monday - I get a call at work from Ye Old Matey saying mom was very ill and could not get out of bed by herself (Note to Self - mom needs a med alert bracelet). Mind you she had worked two days the week before and driven herself and Arabella to church on Sunday so there was no warning that he legs would just decide to stop working. MS is a bitch and the bad days are a hellish experience at best. I was stuck at work with no reprieve so Ye Old Matey was the one to comfort and help my mom and hold down the fort until I could get home. I missed the town meeting and another rally for some worthy cause or other in a flurry of grocery shopping and tending the home fires.

Tuesday - I get a call at work on my cell from Arabella reminding me that she has an awards banquet that night at 7. Mind you I had planned to work until at least 8 (scratch that plan). Although sitting through a two-hour high school awards ceremony is on my list of fun things I usually avoid like getting a root canal, I'm glad I went. Arabella got an award for "Best Overall Performance" for her portrayal of Veruca Salt in her school's winter production of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It's especially nice because it's an award that is usually given to graduating seniors as a preference and she's only in the eighth grade. It's also her high school's equivalent of Best Actress Tony, Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe award all rolled up into one because you have to be nominated by the other actors, tech crew, students and the teachers in the Arts Department. She was over the moon because the most she hoped for was a repeat of last year's "Outstanding Underclassman."

Wednesday - I get a call at work (do you see a pattern here?) from the school counselor saying that Arabella is doing great in all of her classes except English. If she does not turn in her end of year project she will fail the class. If she turns in her end of year project and does well, she may get a C. After a call to Arabella's cell I find out that I had been right in my sneaking suspicion that she was sluffing off a little on her schoolwork. She has a an "A" in Science, a "B" in Algebra and Social Studies and everything else because she's been pushing hard in those subjects and skiving off her English assignments.

Her reasoning, explained to me with the annoying sigh of teenagers everywhere: She can speak English articulately, she's read all the materials, she just didn't get around to doing a lot of the work trying to keep up with everything else (Piano, Clarinet, Drama, Church Choir and Bible Study and homework for harder classes). The fact that she can hardly move a finger in this class and still have a C means she must have learned something. I'll just have to take her word that he grade does not reflect her knowledge.

I gave my own sigh. The sigh of mother's everywhere with impossible teens and instead of going ballistic (it's not a PMS week, she got lucky) I decided to help. I find out that the last major project she was supposed to do was actually completed but still in her locker (WHY DO KIDS DO THAT??!!). She finished it two days late and never asked the teacher if she could still turn it in. I'm having a conference with her teacher today and my goal is try and convince her teacher to let her turn it in at this late date (I know, I know, but I have to try) and we're working furiously together for her Friday presentation (no I'm not doing it for her, just giving typing and shopping support).

On top of the mini-drama at home, there's always work which entails a laundry list of details that I will not go into. And in the middle of all this, I suddenly had one of those weird freaks of personality that embarked me on another project that I needed like a hole in the head.

I, who have never so much as kept a houseplant alive and haven't planted a thing since my kindergarten sweet potato in a jar, decided that the best thing I could do to help my mom feel better was to dip into the grocery money, purchase some flora in the way of annuals and plant them out front.

It should have been a disaster but the project turned out much better than I could have imagined. After two days cooped up indoors, the weather was perfect and Mom, feeling better now, zipped outside in her Hoveround chair to supervise the project. She's been training Arabella to pull weeds for years and it paid off as she accomplished that chore in record time. I watered, dug, planted then watered some more and now we have a nice little showing of Petunias, Dusty Miller, Daisies and two plants I can't remember the name of. I won't be plowing the back forty any time soon but I did a good enough job that Mom is now planning a small patch of tomatoes and cucumbers. She may just make a gardener out of me yet.

Except for the dirt and the bugs, it was pretty cool. The project did actually cheer up my mom and it made a nice little segue into working on Arabella's school project. Having cooperated nicely on project one, and the fact that she really needs my help, she was more than willing to have my help on her homework..

So that's why I haven't blogged for four days. But I'll empty out my drafts folder soon, remembering to cut, copy paste so at least the dates will be updated, and you can see what else has been going on the past few days as if all that wasn't enough to be going on with.

Sometimes I don't know how I keep up with my life.

- How I'm doing on the youth center project research
- The Long Promised Boycott of the Cincinnati Enquirer
- My new home desktop publishing business - Deborah's Desktop
- The Saga of My Last Job

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Back to Business

After the recent primary election, I had to stop and take stock. I've been posting, but all of my posts have been...well, for lack of a better word, 'nice'. I've all but done a puppies and kittens post and although my dogs are camera hogs, they'll just have to wait.

There are so many things that I feel need to be addressed I hardly know where to begin. My mother always quotes me the adage "Charity begins at home and spreads abroad" so I'll start with local issues first.

In my own neighborhood, I'm worried about this upcoming summer. The Greater Cincinnati area is having a major violence problem where it seems young people having nothing better to do than sell dope, have turf wars and shoot each other. So far my own little barely suburban neighborhood has been spared a shooting on home territory however two boys from our neighborhood were involved in a shooting that took place in another area.

Our community is very small (ten block radius is being generous) and I'm very worried that when school is out, these kids are going to get restless and start mimicking their peers further inside the city.

There are two huge, empty stores nearby that were abandoned by a Thriftway Grocer (Winn Dixie depending on where you're from) and another abandoned by a Big Lots. They stand cheek by jowl and are doing no one any good. I'd like to put a youth center there. Complete with computers, a gym and classes on everything from yoga to child care but I really don't know where to begin on such a project and just wanting it isn't going to make it happen.

My participation in the recent primary election opened my eyes to a lot of dirty politics (is there any other kind?) played in this area. People who grin at us a lot come election time but spend their time lining their pockets and the pockets of their friends with yours and my tax money the rest of the year.

Starting with those in local government who align themselves with former enemies, to those in County government who are just plain incompetent, to those in State and Federal government who betray us by going against their voters at home, by supporting the Bush Administrations bad decisions and continue to support the status quo instead making the changes the promise every election year - I don't have much faith in the political process, our government or the people we've elected to do what is in the best interest of, respectively, our local citizenry or the American People in general. Given lockstep cowardice on the Republican side and avoidance and "let's see how it goes" stupidity on the Democratic side, the future of our country looks bleak.

Lastly, but certain not least is the war? Which war you may well ask? The War on Drugs, The War on Poverty, The War on Terrorism, The War in Iraq, The War in Afghanistan or the looming War in Iran? That's a lot of war for a country that was once set on "winning the peace".

I know I'm not the only one with these concerns. I know I'm still in the talking and learning stage but I'm ready to be in the doing stage. I'm ready to get up, get out and do something.

First things first: I'm stepping things up here. No more posting once a week on weekends. I've been blogging for over six months now and I guess I'm not going to quit. So, the trial stage is over. It's every day from now on.

On Monday, I'm going to find out how I can actually get involved in this youth center project. I can't end all the wars and I certainly can't play dirty politics (yet), but maybe I can affect some change right here on my own home turf.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's how it goes down at our house.

Ye Old Matey: I think Mother's Day is this weekend.

That Deborah Girl: Don't get me nothin', hear? I mean, if you want to sneak off with Arabella and get me a card or something, ok, but don't be, like, tryin to spend a whole lot cuz after buying a poodle skirt and all that stuff for her last play, and then going out every night and then I just got gas, we're broke baby. You know how much it costs to buy a poodle skirt in 2006? Damn. I guess we better get my mom something though.

Ye Old Matey:
(sighing with relief and putting up token protest) But we should get you something... (After nine years, he knows that Mother's Day, unlike My Birthday and Christmas, he can slide however Arabella cannot.)

That Deborah Girl: Don't sweat it baby. It's all good. If you really want to do something for me, help me with the church Mother's Day luncheon on Saturday.

Ye Old Matey: (thinking, 'Darn, foiled again!') *sigh* All right...

I turned around and walked away quickly when I saw Arabella whispering with him in the laundry room yesterday so I know the plan is on. Now to work on my surprised face. Oh, is that for me? -or- For me? How sweet! -or- You shouldn't have. I mean, really you shouldn't have. I haven't worn Charlie since high school and I stopped because anything other than vanilla body spray gives me migraines. Just joking, I love it.

I was looking for something profound on the internet (oxymoron alert) regarding Mother's Day and all I found was bad poetry and worse jokes, but this was pretty good so you've probably read it before but have you not, it's pretty funny. Enjoy

Commandments from Mom

Excerpted from "Lamentations of the Father" by Ian Frazier

Laws Pertaining to Dessert
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert.

But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof.

And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

Laws When at Table
And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke.

Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are
for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away.

When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck: for you will be sent away.

When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you.

Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is.

And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that that is why..

Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.

On Screaming
Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not , only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even not I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat it myself, yet do not die.

Laws of Forbidden Places
Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room.

Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups,you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.

Concerning Face and Hands
Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head, there is rice thereon.

And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner wonderful to see.

Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances
Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of the bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not the humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Complaints and Lamentations

O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometime do you spit, and shout "stupid-head" and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner.

And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in anger. But upon being sent to the corner you ask straight-away, "Can I come out?" and I reply, "No, you may not come out." And again you ask, and again I give the same reply. But when you ask
again a third time, then you may come out.

Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before.

For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for each member of the family within a calendar year. And yet for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths. Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you cannot know.

For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan.

And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn and rend my receipts.

And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Tiny Shards of Bigotry

My daughter is performing in her school's spring musical, "A Tribute to Broadway". These kids work their hearts out, staying at rehearsals until eight or nine in the evening after the long school day and not one of them has under a B average, which means they go home and do homework after all is said and done.

Their performance for the past two nights has been great. Arabella is in several of the skits and it does my mother's heart good to watch her.

At intermission I was treated to this conversation from the young college girl's behind me.

"Like, guess who's pregnant?"

"Mary. I know, I heard already."

After everyone agrees that Mary is indeed pregnant, the conversation moves on to their college experiences.

"I love going to NKU (Northern Kentucky University). It's so different from high school."

She went on to describe all the things that were so different from high school. I'd started texting people on my phone list like I always do when I'm bored and I wasn't paying them any attention but my ears perked up at the next bit of their conversation. Mind you they were sitting directly behind me.

"There aren't that many black kids. There are like two black kids in all my classes and their names are like 'April' and 'Jeremy'. (All her friends chuckle over the fact that the two black kids have what they feel are "white" names.) And like, they talk so proper. It's so weird."

I'm sure you can tell at which point my mouth dropped open and it wasn't soon after I started fuming. Then I decided they were ditzy little college chicks and I would just let it go.

Funnily enough, when my kid was on stage they were over the moon about her acting. I guess because she's nearly light skinned enough to "pass" and I suppose that it's nearly always a fairly good assumption that the kid playing "Little Orphan Annie" is going to be white (sorry, not tonight folks). Then Arabella's friend Ashley (the one who took her New York) comes on stage and gives a performance of "My Favorite Things" that was worthy of Julie Andrews herself. Ashley has a sparkling soprano and pristine diction that is in stark opposition to her normal purple hair and chain links attached to her jeans. However tonight, with her hair a normal brown, in a blue postulants dress, white pinafore and brown skin, she brought the house down.

As black kid after black came on stage and gave stellar performances besides their equally stellar white classmates, the conversation behind me got quiet.

When the show was over and the lights came up, I couldn't help it. I turned around, looked each one of them eye in turn and said, "Well, I guess there are a few more articulate black people around. Isn't that special?"

We're a light skinned family and I guess they just hadn't realized until I turned around that 1)I was black and 2) I was "Annie's" mom which made Annie black too and 3)the comment made and the laughter afterward were not appreciated. At least they had the graciousness to blush and keep quiet until after I had cleared their little group.

I know that it's so dangerously easy to fall into conversations like this sometimes but please, think before you speak. The feelings you save may just be my very own.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

When Your Favorite Candidate Doesn't Win

Of course I'd considered the possibility although it was always hastily tossed aside. I thought I'd be less eager to hit the blogs today. I thought I'd be hanging my head or drowning my tears in imaginary beer (I don't drink). So far the worst that's happened is a slept in a bit longer and found that the world did not end. The sun came up this morning. My next response was, blogging on a Wednesday? I don't blog on Wednesday. However, today I must if for no other reason than I just know there will be some folks (*cough Peter Deane, Blue Gill cough* who will find my absence from certain local blogs a sign that I'm pining away never to be seen again. Not a chance folks, not a chance.

I find that today, there are no tears or no regrets. I was a part of a great team who worked hard and had fun working together. In three months we convinced over 9,000 people that not only did our candidate actually exist, but that they should also vote for her. I promise you, 9,000 people have absolutely no idea who I am so that number seems amazing to me, but since the other guy had 21,000 people waiting in the wings to our 9000, it just wasn't enough. (Psst...Someone called me this morning and told me that some folks expected our candidate to have about 900 votes not 9,000 and the folks in the other camp plan to have a nice heart to heart with their candidate before November. The intrigue lives on.)

Strangely enough, I don't find myself thinking of all the things I could have done. An extra hour on the honk and wave. The signs we didn't put up. The calls we didn't make. The time we just couldn't find. I know I worked a lot and put in a lot of time but hindsight is not always 20/20. Those rose-colored glasses can be a kick in the butt when you think of every moment as a lost possibility. So maybe there is a small regret. Not for who I chose to support, but definitely that there may have been one thing I could have done to tip the scales more favorably. I know that is unreasonable but "what could have been" is just a part of being human.

Do I still think the candidate I chose would have done the best job? The answer to that is an unequivocal 'Yes.' We just won't get a chance to prove it. And I won't be a spoilsport either. I've decided that I'll throw my support behind the other guy now. Well I won't be volunteering for him any time soon, I don't think he deserves it, but he has earned my vote, which is more than I ever would have done for him before.

I've learned the art of compromise. I know some of you will find that amusing or unbelievable. I've taken an awfully hard line of Dumas being a better candidate than Pepper and trust me, I still think that's true. But tomorrow is another day and now I have to settle for what I hope, but really don't believe, will be the lesser of two evils. He's earned my vote, but he has yet to win my respect.

So, what do you do when your favorite candidate doesn't win a primary? You sleep in a little for the first time in weeks. You decide whether or not you'll vote for the other guy. You take in the day and blog a little.

Life isn't as sweet toady as it would be if Dumas had won, but I find I don't need that imaginary beer either. There's already a new challenge on the horizon.

Boycotting the Enquirer.