Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spring at Last!

Honestly? This has been the longest, coldest, wettest winter/pseudo-spring of my entire life. For a Southern Belle, this kind of protracted wet cold is simply no fun.

But finally we have some warmth and spring blossoms. We had horrific pollen and sneezing for about three weeks, but that seems to be gone to, and not a moment too soon.

This is COC hell week again - although not as arduous as most hell weeks. We had rehearsal the past two nights—had to be there at 6:30 p.m., but were off the stage and out the door before 8:45. Our first performance of the set will be tonight, then Saturday night will be our final performance of the season.

So as I race out the door to drive, yet again, to Cleveland, here are some of my spring flowers. The bottom row shows the iris outside my kitchen window on Sunday and again on Wednesday. WHat a show!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Date Night

The Jazzman picked up a Cleveland Indians Community Appreciation Program package. For $35, you get four free tickets (up to $36 each) and several Buy One - Get One tickets. So last night we went to the ball game!

(I'll skip the whole part about the one-hour rain delay and tornado/thunderstorm watches. We didn't get too wet, and we had a great time.)

We sat in the Field Box, about 20 rows up, just beyond 3rd base—great seats. About forty-five minutes after the game was supposed to start, a couple came in and sat down next to us.

The man was very nice looking, nicely dressed in tan slacks and a black button-front shirt. In his late 50s or early 60s. He was not in Cleveland Indians gear or beat-up running shoes. No baseball cap. No tacky anything. Nothing that didn't bespeak "success".

The woman he was with…. Hmm. How can I put this? She was dressed in jeans, platform sandals, and a knit top with straps and a lot of décolleté. Very blond. She was heavily made-up, and wearing a matching set of necklace, bracelet, and earrings with gray and white crystals. She seemed to be about 55, trying to look 45, but with all the make-up, looking 65. When she stood to go out and get their nachos, she bent over, displaying her hot pink thong. You've got the full picture, right?

Throughout the entire game, their conversation was non-stop. Really. Non-stop. His hand was on her leg, her hand was on his arm. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It was just clear that either this was a first- or early-date for this couple or she was an escort. Of some sort. (This boy was gonna have a lucky night, yaknowhatImean?!)

The Jazzman and I didn't talk so much. I love baseball games and other sporting events for the people-watching opportunities. I go along for the social engagement—I could care less about the sports. But I enjoy myself.

We talk if we have something to say, but we never seem to have to work at making conversation. We're perfectly comfortable just sitting together with our own thoughts. We've been together a year-and-a-half, and we had lapsed into "old married" by about four months into the relationship. We are ultimately comfortable with each other. I'm damned lucky.

Observing this couple going through the non-stop talking, I was reminded of Husband Number 2. He wanted conversation. He was not comfortable with quiet. He wanted conversation all the time, but he didn't want to have to initiate anything. If we were on a car trip, he got very upset if I wanted to read a book. He wanted me to make conversation and keep it up for the entire trip when he was driving.

For someone who grew up in a family that didn't talk, it's hard to make conversation! And for someone to be pressured to initiate and maintain conversation—that's a stressor of the highest order!

I think of men as not-so-talkative. And I think they endure a lot to ensure the happiness or contentment or interest of the women in their lives or the women they're trying to impress.

I, for one, appreciate the effort. But I did feel kinda bad for this man who couldn't just sit and enjoy the game for all the conversation-making that was going on.

My people-watching was very successful.

And the Indians won!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It All Works Together

Over the past two weekends, I watched my younger son perform three times. Easy Street Productions brought "Forever Plaid" back to the Ford Recital Hall. (Here's the review.)

It was such a joy for me to watch this man perform. His first experiences with theatre were during his summers living with me in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Because of his innate musicality, he won a leading role in every musical he auditioned for. Then, once I got custody of him, he performed in a musical at Georgetown Day High School before spending three years at Interlochen Arts Academy, where he was exposed to opera and theatre productions.

He loved acting and singing. Several times we discussed whether he should pursue music or theatre in college. He had found passions to follow with his exposure to these art forms.

It's no secret that I walked out of that marriage when my sons were five and six. It's also no secret that I've kicked myself regularly in the ensuing 30 years for that action. I feel remorse on a regular basis, although both my sons have repeatedly told me that they understand and don't blame me for my action.

When I stop to look at the influences on my sons' lives that yielded the men they became, I have to recognize the power of multiple inputs in their lives.

They grew up in a very conservative religion-centric household where God's perceived word ruled all. Then in the summers they would come to me and get to let loose, to play and pretend, in a manner that (to my understanding) was never allowed in their other home.

If I had not left, I would not have gotten the job at IBM, which led to their having computers when they were eight or ten years old. Not many of their friends had computers or had the opportunity to learn to program computers at such a young age.

If I had not left, I would not have ended up in D.C., where on their visits they were exposed to a much broader range of opportunities than they would have seen in north Texas in the mid- to late-80s and early 90s. They wouldn't have gone to theatre camps and computer camps and horseback-riding or tennis camps.

If I had not left, I would not have learned about National Music Camp (Interlochen Center for the Arts). Tyler's years at Interlochen were some of the most formative in his life (to date).

If I had not been willing to work a full-time plus two part-time jobs while in law school after gaining custody, I would not have been able to afford these opportunities for him.

It was hard. Life was hard. In retrospect, I don't know how I endured all that.

But look at the results. One son has a very successful career in network administration, where future employers grab him from present employers based on what they hear about his skills. The other son has a loving and supportive marriage of almost 13 years, to a wonderful woman. They have turned out to be terrific parents to two beautiful and talented kids. He has a career in which he is highly respected and sought-after in the community. It doesn't get much better than what these young men have made for themselves!

You know all those times I wished my birthmother had been able to get an abortion instead of putting me up for adoption? I guess that wasn't meant to be.

All my foibles and difficulties worked together to create wonderful lives for my offspring.

Even thought you can't see it as you're laying each brick of your life, those bricks mount up, across time, to make a strong and sheltering building.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who Would Have Dreamed?!

Even if I do have limited work available to me and associated limited income, there is an upside: I'm available to take the kids to school!

This morning I was listening to the Coffee House channel on SiriusXM radio on my way home from my Montessori run. It's a channel devoted to singer-songwriters, mostly with acoustic music. A song came on and I was instantly identifying with the lyrics.

I have a wonderful life. For the past sixteen months, I've shared my life with a handsome, smart, accomplished, can-fix-anything man who lets me feel cherished every single day. I am content, as I have never been content in my life. I'm in a state of bliss.

I'll be 61 in a month, and I can't believe this is how life turned out for me.

I know it's really written for a guy to sing to a girl, but the "legs crossed over me" just grabbed me.

Aren't I lucky?!

I Like You

I like the way you look at me every time, you first come into my mind
I like the way you fit perfectly, on my side
I like the way you hold my hand, and bury your head in my chest, every time you're tired, every time you want to rest
I like the way your face looks when you sleep, I like your legs crossed over me
I like the way you always want me to win, I like how you touch my skin

I like you . . . you . . . oh I like you . . . how else can I tell you

I like the way you always ask for another song, and how we always get along
I like how you dress for me, I wish you could see what I see
I like how you're slow to get into the pool, oh how I like to hold you when you do
I like the way you smile at me, I wish the whole world could see

I like you . . . you . . . oh I like you . . . how else do I tell you.

I like you . . . you . . . oh I like you . . . how else do I tell you
I like you . . . you . . . oh I like you . . . how else can I tell you

I like when you walk into a room, I like how people look at you
I like you in your ski clothes and warm hat, I like how you talk in your accent
I like how you dance with me, I like how you like family
I like how you inspire me, I like you so much can't you see

Can't you see . . . can't you see . . . can't you see
I like you . . . can't you see . . . can't you see

What Makes People Go Bad?

This afternoon, in my never-ending decluttering effort, I'm scanning in a bunch of photos of my mother. She's turning 98 next week, and—ever the optimist—I don't want to have to rush to put together a "slideshow" for her memorial service when she dies.

In one envelope I found pictures of each of Mother's three sisters—Helen, Louise, and Betty—at age 18. These would have been taken in 1915, 1919, and 1921. Lovely young women.

I look at their faces, their hair. I look in their eyes. I wonder what their lives were like. I've heard a few horror stories about their father. My supposition is he was the reason Mother had no inner resources to share with me once the adoption was final and I started to walk and talk. He may have had a similar impact on each of those girls.

Look at this photo of Betty, the youngest. I knew her as such a hateful, bitter woman. She never had children, and didn't marry until in her 40s or 50s. She would single out one of her sisters or one of her nieces or nephews and make them the Demon of the Decade (or some time period, until someone else took over the position). How can someone who looked so lovely in a photo at age 18 alienate every single member of her family?

I guess that's the question with all people who turn into career criminals or woman-chasing slippery-zipper husbands or drug addicts or skinheads. What went wrong? Someone, somewhere in this person's life, loved him or her—probably passionately! How did that love not seep in and ground the person and give him or her the wherewithal to have an upstanding, successful, fulfilling life?

It's probably a rhetorical question.

And two tidbits with the purpose of ending on a lighter note:

We're laboring under unending rain in northeast Ohio, with temps in the 40s and 50s. I speak for the masses when I say we are all sick of the rain and the cold!

The other day Tyler said to Boston, "Why is it so cold?" Boston, three months from turning ten, replied, "I'm guessing that's rhetorical."

I think I learned the meaning of "rhetorical" when I was about 32!

Here I am at five, with ten-year-old Jim[my] and twelve-year-old Jerry.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name ...

Each weekday morning I devote two hours to Rosie O'Donnell's Sirius/XM radio show. Rosie and her team present many viewpoints that I've never considered before, and discuss topics that just wouldn't otherwise come across my radar screen. It's quite mind-expanding for this ex-Adventist girl who was never taught to think for herself.

They're going off the air soon, as Rosie prepares for her new TV show on Oprah's new network. I don't know what XM has planned to fill that time, but my mornings will be far less interesting. (And I may have to invest in a new TiVo box that can access cable channels above 99.)

One recent morning the topic of children's names came up. Someone—I think it was Pete—said he thought children should be able to name themselves, about the time they turn 18. He opined that he hadn't chosen his daughter Irene's name well, as it didn't fit in with his other daughters' names (Sophie and Eleanor).

He said what he really wanted to do was name them One, Two and Three. Well, actually, Primo, Secondo, and Tertiary. Then when they turned 18 they could choose. (I cackled when he made this statement!) His wife wisely nixed that idea!!

This whole conversation set my mind aroil, of course. I had always wished I had been named Jill or Kelly, with higher marks going to Jill. I also have always wished I had not given in to FOMC's desire to name our firstborn for himself - a "junior". I agreed to it only if we would call him by his middle name. Now the family knows him by his middle name, his work colleagues know him by his first name, and his friends know him by his self-assigned nickname. The poor guy is a split personality waiting to happen!

I've thought that if I ever became famous and needed a pseudonym, I would use my birthmother's name. "Gertrude Hodgkins". D'ya think anyone ever called this woman, whom I project to have lived her life with regrets and self-doubt, "Trudy"? Probably not.

Do you like, in retrospect, the names you chose for your children? If you could have chosen your own name, why would you have chosen?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Lovely Day

Sunday was Mother's Day here in the U.S. It's not a big deal to me anymore, but let me explain why.

When FOMC and I divorced in 1981, he got custody of the children. He played a few tricks to get sole custody, and he worked very hard over the next several years to turn my children against me. Obviously, he was unsuccessful.

These statements are totally my opinion. They do not reflect the opinions of my children or their father. But they are my opinions, so I'm going to express them here, on my blog. Got it? It's my side of a multi-sided story.

From the time of my move to Washington, DC, until the time I regained custody of my younger son—a period of about seven years—I did not receive any acknowledgement on Mother's Day.

Not a card. Not a phone call. Nothing.

It was painful beyond belief, beyond words. Incredibly, horribly painful.

And, to make matters worse, during most of this time I was married to a man who said, "You're not my mother; There's no need for me to do anything to acknowledge Mother's Day for you."

Rub salt into the wound, why don't you?

I feel FOMC's actions were egregious. And let's be clear that he had remarried by this time and you can be damned sure my boys recognized their stepmother on Mother's Day. And she implicitly condoned FOMC's actions, so she's partially responsible.

(And you can also be damned sure that when the boys were with me during the summers, when Father's Day occurs, they bought and mailed cards for their father, and called him on the day.)

Don't I do martyr very well?!

Anyway, my heart slowly became inured to the pain, and it no longer matters. I have good relationships with both my sons. My younger son and I are in communication on an almost daily basis. My older son and I follow each other on Facebook and are aware of what's going on with each other. If something important comes up, we e-mail or talk on the phone. I have upstanding sons, of whom I'm very proud.

I feel like every day in my life is Mother's Day. That's how thoughtful my sons are towards me.

When I woke up Sunday morning, the Jazzman looked over at me and said, "Happy Mother's Day." I smiled and said "thank you." Then he proceeded to make the rest of the day about me. We had a lovely breakfast where I made perfect over-easy eggs, which he pronounced better than any restaurant eggs. In the afternoon we went to Fellows Riverside Gardens, where we wandered and roamed, admiring the gorgeous spring flowers and people-watching. We went out to dinner—my choice of restaurant. We went home and watched the Obama "60 Minutes" interview.

We had a lovely relaxing day, engineered by him with the sole purpose of honoring my devotion to my children (and grandchildren).

(I received text messages from one son and both a hilarious e-card and a Hallmark hard-card from the other. Loving messages from both.)

I am a lucky woman. I have a good life.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Changing One's Perspective

If you're a longtime reader, you know I've been living in the state of Financial Fiasco since selling my Tucson houses at a gross and grotesque loss in 2008. That state was not helped along by the fact that I was commuting 120 miles a day, at 28 mpg and gas prices that spent much of the time hovering over $4.00.

I've always thought "bankruptcy" was a dirty word. I believe we as Americans tend to blame everyone we can think of for our choices and mistakes and rarely want to own up to our errors. I did not want to be one of those people, and struggled to keep my bills paid and my head above water, even when it meant withdrawing funds from my IRA and paying the resultant taxes.

Alas, my work assignments have dwindled, with a resulting decrease in income. After three years of struggling, I can no longer manage. About three months ago, I called Consumer Credit Counseling Service and spent an hour on the phone with a counselor. That counselor ran the numbers and said, "You can't do it. You should probably declare bankruptcy."

I was stunned. I was aghast. I was mortified.

I called a bankruptcy attorney. We spent an hour together and discussed all the options. When I mentioned I had a lot in the mountains of Western North Carolina that was worth $350,000 when it was transferred to me, he just shook his head. We parted company as I said I would try to figure out what to do with the lot.

One realtor told me I'd be lucky to find a buyer at $25,000. Just this past week I spoke with another realtor who feels the lot could be listed at $85,000, and that's what we're now in the process of doing. And I've started collecting social security from my late husband's account.

I called card company after card company, trying to get them to lower my interest rate from 30%. Each time I asked, I was told, "We're not offering anything at this time." The decision-makers at these card companies should be drawn and quartered! The way they're treating cardholders in this economy is simply egregious!

So after two months of not being able to pay the cards with the highest interest, I finally got into a debt management plan with Money Management International.

Each conversation, where I had to recount how I got to this point and list every possible source of income, was excruciating for me.

And now the first payment has been made to MMI and tomorrow they will disburse to all the card companies. This afternoon I called all the companies to tell them to expect the communication from MMI and to adjust due dates, if necessary, to avoid any late payments.

As I made each of these calls, I was hanging my head in shame.

Until about the third call. Suddenly a light flashed on in my brain. These bad guy card companies are not losing anything I owe them. They're not losing a dime on the principle. They're only losing the 30% interest that was keeping me out of my mind in debt to them. And, in fact, all the companies except one are still charging interest. And they'll collect that.

I'm not stiffing them. I'm just, with the help of MMI, leveling the playing field to where I can pay the bills.

Isn't it a shame, isn't it a pox on the financial industry of this country, that it takes the help of a debt counseling service to get the banks to charge realistic rates?

Where is conscience? Where is rationality?

To hell with the greed of the banks. I'm not hanging my head in shame any more!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Fragments of Prose

Words fly through my mind. Things I read and hear remind me of things I want to express through writing. Sometimes these expressions make it to ink or pixels, and sometimes they just float off into the ether.

Yesterday afternoon I was giving my office a long-overdue straightening. I found a pad on which I had written the beginning of thoughts formed while spending time with my granddaughter.

She's seven, with eight just over three weeks ahead. She looks ten or eleven. It's very hard to watch her and realize the sometimes-childish thoughts that pop out of her head really are appropriate. They're appropriate to an eight-year-old.

With each month that passes in her life, she becomes more sure of herself, more mature. And then some little something will nudge her brain back to its real age and she'll pop out something that makes me scratch my head.

A year ago she was a very—to my mind—insecure little girl. She needed praise and reassurance, in a way that seemed very out of place given her knowledge, skills and abilities. It was in light of one of these pleas for reassurance that words came into my mind.

I See Me In You

Your "do you like it" that accompanies every drawing tugs at my heartstrings. I see little me, aching to be loved, to be cherished.

I can't understand how you cannot know, implicitly and explicitly, how loved and cherished and talented and skilled and humorous and beautiful you are.

She is lucky to have been born to parents who know how to help her grow into herself. She's lucky to live in an environment where she has learned how to behave around and with adults as well as children. She is a joy to know and a joy to behold.

And I'm lucky to have a treasured place in her life.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Inappropriate Teaching

My latest read is Chuck Palahniuk's "Survivor". I grabbed it off Audible because it was under $10 and I needed something to pass a couple of Cleveland and Akron commutes. It has captured my interest, but not in a can't-put-it-down way. More in a what-outrageous-thing-is-he-going-to-say-next way.

When one observes parents teaching their children the basic facts of life—"that's a 'tree', that's a 'book', that's a 'dog'—one sometimes wonders, "what if we mixed up the words?". Admit it. You've thought this at least once, right?

What if I said a cat was a koala and an acorn was an ant. What if you totally messed with your kid's mind? I'm thankful never to have run across someone so perverse, but it could happen ….

Mr. Palahniuk's protagonist is the sole survivor of a religious cult (think Mormon and Mennonite and Heaven's Gate, all rolled up into one community). A suicide hotline in his community posts a flyer with the digits in the phone number reversed. The incorrect phone number is his. He gets a couple of phone calls from people contemplating suicide. He handles the calls deftly. Then when the flyer with the error is corrected, he creates his own flyer with his phone number. People considering suicide call, he answers, and he tells them, "Just kill yourself."

It's the act of someone whose conscience has been eradicated by his early drink-the-Kool-Aid training.

He works as a housekeeper/valet for a nouveau riche couple. Each time they're going to a dinner party, he has to find out ahead of time what the menu will be, then teach them how to eat anything they're unfamiliar with.

The day he quits the job, he tells the man that a hearts of palm salad is eaten by spearing the heart with a fork, sucking the juice out of it, and then tucking the heart into his breast pocket.

The employer believes everything he says.

I'm not loving the book, but I am forging ahead as I really do want to see how it ends.

<Taking a Fork in the Mental Process>
I'm writing this the morning after President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. I see the people cheering in the streets. My daughter-in-law drove to D.C. yesterday to do an engagement shoot with clients who had gotten all the necessary permissions to have their photo session in front of the White House. And now this: all creativity must be brought to play in making this shoot happen.

I see on the news people standing and chanting, "USA. USA." I see people en masse at the White House and at Ground Zero, cheering, crying, shouting, dancing.

People! It's not over. This evil, demented man (bin Laden) poisoned the minds of hundreds, thousands, who knows how many people. You think just because he died they're going to change their ways of thinking? No. They're not!

This does not mean we can send all the full-body scanners to the scrap yard. This does not mean the military presence in the mideast can cease to exist. This does not mean we can relax. Alas, this does not mean we can relax.

What do I feel? Not giddiness. Not happiness. Not a competitive "Woo. Woo. We got him. We won."

Relief. Just relief. Post-partum relief.

That's over. Now we can move to the next stage, while we discover what the next stage really is

And my mind is with the families of those who died at the Pentagon and in Manhattan and in Pennsylvania. May they feel a measure of relief today.

<Returning from the Fork>

I guess the message of both the book and bin Laden's capture/death is this: Be vigilant.

  1. Think for yourself.

  2. Don't believe everything you've been told.

  3. It ain't over until the fat lady sings, and we don't have any idea who the fat lady is!

Think peace!