Monday, December 27, 2010

Beaver Falls Can Suck It

Most of the time I love "It's a Wonderful Life." I do. It's an uplifting tale of the human spirit, n'est-ce pas? Humankind can always do with a little uplift. Well, unless you're Falcon Heene. However, in my darker, more skeptical moments, I question the way it goes about delivering its core message.

Frankly, I want the residents of Beaver Falls to say to George Bailey, "You know what, buddy? We all ask so much of you. You've sacrificed so much for us -- your hearing in one ear, the opportunity to see the world, follow your bliss, do big things. You deserve a little break. We'll watch the kids and manage the Building & Loan while you and your wife skedaddle to Europe to do a little site-seeing, eat a good meal or two. Oh, and we absolutely won't lose $8,000 when we are distracted for 42 seconds. Have a good time."

But NO. Instead, they're all, "Hey, George, I need you to rescue me. AGAIN. 'Cause man, I would just poke my own eyes out by accident if you weren't on the scene. Oh, by the way? There's a line out the door of other people who need your help too. It'll cost you some personal comfort, time, money, and sanity. The consolation, though, is that you're engendering all sorts of good will that won't actually manifest in anyone helping YOU until you try to commit suicide. So, are we cool with that plan?"

Sheesh. What kind of town does he live in, anyway?

Tangent: something I I find troubling about the movie in my dark AND light moments: in the alternate universe, poor, poor Mary is left to a gruesome fate without her soul mate: she is a spinster librarian. WHO WEARS GLASSES. The HORROR!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

I Think This Is Okay, Right?

My daughter is enamored of pop music. Now, I loves me some pop music. I'm not one of those hipsters who chillaxes on the playground blaring Kings of Leon from an iPad to craft a childhood soundtrack for my kids. They're going to like stuff that I can't stand, I know. But she's four, and I really didn't want to hear about how before she leaves she brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack. So, I decided to expose her to pop that isn't part of today's tween machine.

I will take a moment to acknowledge that I am putting old skool pop (i.e., '80's pop) on a bit of a pedestal. My head knows that it is not any better, critically, than today's stuff. But my heart? My heart defies you to compare, say, Katy Perry to Cyndi Lauper.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post.

My husband's car has a many-CD changer, and he grabbed some discs from my collection (yes, I still have PHYSICAL music, 'cause I'm vintage like that). I suggested Cyndi Lauper. I mean, I studied Cyndi Lauper in a Cultural Studies class ("Oh mama dear we're not the fortunate ones" being a subtle reference to women's rights.). That means Cyndi Lauper SHOULD be heard, right?

Yeah, I forgot about "She Bop." It's an ode to masturbation. And my daughter loves it. LOVES IT. Knows all the words. Still, I think it's better to sing along with this than getting footless drunk and waking up hung over in strange places, right?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Things I Didn't Need, Necessarily

Today my mother told me what she wants to be buried in. So, that's awesome.

And the ensemble of her choosing? The gown she wore to my sister's wedding.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Have You Ever Heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons.

Have you ever really noodled over a concept, a philosophy, a theory, and upon the crystallization of an idea, realized you are a huge dummy because your ideas are not at all new or unique, and in fact have likely been featured in fortune cookies? I have!

Let me explain.

In the continuing aftermath of my mother's cancers, I have pondered. Oh, how deeply I have pondered Very Important Shit. (I stole that from Zadie Smith. See? Me and the originality, we are not as one.) The end result of all of this pondering? EXACTLY the things I have been taught since I was two. I guess I'm a slow learner. Nah, it's just that I didn't have the life experience to understand these truisms and take them to heart. Which (a) shows you that experience is the best teacher, and (b) well, that experience is the best teacher. I guess I'm just trying to emphasize that whole experience thing.

Since I know you are wildly curious, here's the V.I.S. that I have learned during my mother's pas de deux with Small Cell Lung Cancer that has metastasized in the brain:
  1. Don't be a douche. See? I told you these were not going to earn an A+ for originality. But the sentiment stands. Just don't be a douche in life. I don't think I need to enumerate the whys and wherefores of this one. Christ put it a little differently, of course, but I think most would appreciate my 21st-century-ization of the Golden Rule.
  2. Don't live in isolation. There's strength in them thar numbers. Sounds corny, I know. But humans are social beings, and oh my LORD, does Mom perk up when she has visitors. But if you don't know anyone well enough that they'll come visit you in the hospital or in your convalescence, well, you won't exactly have a network of support, will ya? (For a clear illustration of how it's important for people to have friends, see the 1995 cinematic meh-sterpiece, The Net.).
  3. Be close to those you love. Physically close, I mean. If circumstances prevent you from living close by, have a lifestyle that affords you the ability to drop everything and be with them. I would have lost my ever-loving mind if I couldn't be with my parents through this. Just ask my sister who lives in England. Phone calls are great, but can't ever, ever replace the realities of being there when your mother needs someone to help her go to the bathroom, but her mind is so far gone she doesn't know where she is, and the only faces she recognizes are those of her husband and children. If you have kids, you have probably felt this when you take them to the doctor for shots or something. You know that they have no idea what's going on, but your presence is a comfort to them. Now, imagine handing that unpleasant task off to someone else. Your kid has no idea what's going on, AND he has no one to turn to for reassurance and hugs.
  4. Let people in. I'm still working this one through... Obviously this idea relates strongly to the whole not living-in-isolation thing. Whereas that one was just about enjoying some one's company, though, this one is about accepting help. I'll be the first to admit that I struggle with this because I am fiercely independent. Asking for or accepting help is an indicator that I can't handle my bidness, right? I mean, I get frustrated when IKEA recommends a "team lift" for certain packages. HOW DARE THEY? The truth is, though, there's grace in accepting help from someone. People like to feel needed. I'm not just talking about someone helping by doing grunt work like laundry or scrubbing toilets, though that's appreciated. It's also about inviting people over because you need their company, to confide in them.
That's all that I really have for now. This all sounds really selfish, I know. Like the only reason to be nice to people is that you'll need something from them. The reason that you should be nice to people is that, given the choice, wouldn't you rather live in a world where people are kind to each other? But an awesome side effect of all of that kindness is that people will be willing to help you when you are in your time of need. No matter what, you WILL have a time of need. I'm not Mistress Doom and Gloom here, but that's something you can bank on. Even if you've buttoned up your life circumstances pretty neatly and are healthy, and moneyed, and have 5-year-plans, life STILL has a way of kicking you between the eyes once in awhile.

I guess you can tell that all of this...well, it's been too much for a white girl to handle. My cup runneth over with awfulness. And if people hadn't come out of the woodwork asking what they could do, how they could help, I don't know what I would have done. I had to accept the help, and I'm all the better for it. The help comes in various shapes and sizes... Calling my parents to check in on them...  Taking dinners over to them so that they don't have to cook... Listening to me babble on about it so that I don't have to pay a therapist (yet)...

I don't mean to imply that I have sole ownership of my mother's care. Not at all; not even close.  Please, please don't perceive that.  My six siblings and their spouses have all been contorting their schedules to help my parents. No one of us individually could do it; it takes all of us, really, and I'm so grateful not to be going through this alone.  That's so important, especially since we are all grieving and enduring this prolonged panic.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Writer's (Un)Block

I've been writing a lot lately. Pages upon pages, really. The sporadic posting here is no evidence of that, of course. Why? Because the writing all centers around either (a) information about my mother's health, or (b) software system requirements for work. Both of which are written in the same (fairly) dispassionate style...

...Mom's due for her next round of chemo, and depending on blood cell counts, will start her third just after her 67th birthday...

...The system shall provide counts of students' achievement as relates to the school's adequate yearly progress goals, broken out by grading period...

There's no parallel in these topics, so I won't try to fit a thematic square peg into a round hole. I just... I'm project managing my mother's health care, and it skeeves me out.

For the better part of my working life I've been assigned to tasks/problems/projects because I'm willing to ferret out solutions. Most of the time, when you tell people that you manage projects, there's no archetype that they can wrap their heads around. Teacher? Sure. Doctor? Absolutely. Police officer? No problem. Everyone knows people like that in their own lives, so they understand what you do and the kind of person you must be in signing up to do that kind of work. But project manager? If anything, that title calls to mind an ineffectual weenie who doesn't actually produce anything but anxiety among the people who actually get the work done.

It's been a secret desire of mine to have a job that makes sense to other people, and on a related note, a skill set that I can employ in service of others. It's the Jesuits' influence, I s'pose.

It might sound stupid, but I'm jealous of the brother who's a handy-man and can re-wire a house and get it up to code, of the brother who's a mechanic and can get your rust bucket fixed no matter what ails it, of the other two brothers who can rip your computer apart and put it back together so that it runs better than ever. Me? I'm handy with a power tool, but am wise enough to recognize that professionals should be called in for the really heavy lifting. Otherwise, I am just one of those goobers who tells herself that her shiny personality and wit will help people through tough times.

Right now? I'd rather be an oncologist than Oscar Wilde.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Moment of Levity

Should I let my friend know that I think maybe her Facebook status could use some editing? I hope it needs some editing. Otherwise, how can I stay friends with someone who supports breast cancer?

[Name Removed to Protect the Innocent] Please help! I will be walking 60 miles in the Komen 3 day to support breast cancer. So far I have raised over $800, but I still need over $1,000 to reach my goal. No donation is too small! To donate there is a link on my facebook page or go to, click donate, search for a participant, and then type in my name. Thanks so much!

Monday, July 19, 2010

If You Ask Me How I Am, I Will Cry

Sounds dramatic, I know. But it's true. Right now, if you talk to me about the weather, or parenting, or traffic, I will happily chat along with you. I may even appear to be carefree. But the sadness, the worry, the grief is lurking just under the surface. Scratch at it a little with an innocent question like, "How are you?" or with a expression of concern for me, and the tears will well up like Jed Clampett's crude.

So, if you care about me, please be rude to me so that I don't have to embarass myself with quavery voice.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Live from Cancer-ville

Mom's diagnosis is the same. I appreciate that the doctors were so blunt with the worst-case-scenario from the outset of all of this. Stage IV lung cancer that has metastasized in the brain. Some doctor in the future will ask me about my family medical history for my medical record, and this will be my answer for how my mother died. That is awful to contemplate, so I don't. Not really.

She's started chemotherapy, though I'm not entirely sure that she really wanted it. I think Mom always knew that her endgame would go this way, and to prepare, she told each of her seven children -- in separate, one-on-one conversations -- that if she were ever diagnosed with a terminal illness, she wouldn't fight it with aggressive treatments. She said she'd just give into it and live the rest of her days as comfortably as possible.

Yet in our family meeting she said, "Let's do it," when asked if she wanted to undergo a round of chemotherapy. A family meeting, for the uninitiated, is an awful, medical all-cards-on-the-table meeting wherein the doctors inform loved ones, in the presence of the person who is ill, what the treatment options and recommendations are. I call it awful because it has all the hallmarks of a business meeting -- agenda, packets of information, next steps -- but the meeting is about your mother's life. So you hear numbers, percentages and time frames and things like that, but it's not about whether your company is in the black. It's about whether your Mom is going to make it to her next birthday.

But you can have an idea of how you want to handle these things and change your mind about it, right? When you're prepping to have a baby they tell you that you shouldn't firmly decide whether or not to have an epidural because you can't really know for sure how you'll feel when you're in the thick of labor. So I have to think this is true when battling cancer.

I suppose I'm mixed up about this because the lesions in Mom's brain are causing disorientation, forgetfulness, and things like that. So, for lack of a better way to put it, I don't know if Mom's agreement to undergo chemotherapy is HER decision, or the lesions'. I don't know that someone should be included on her medical decisions when she sometimes thinks it's 2003 and she's in the hospital for a heart attack.

Guess that's all water under the bridge, though, because she's completed her first round of chemotherapy.

Since she's done with that, she was discharged from the hospital. They were recommending that she go to an inpatient physical therapy rehab center. The Army of Brain Lesions have caused weakness and a lack of coordination, which caused her to fall at the house in the middle of the night last Monday, which in resulted in a banged-up knee that swelled to the size of a volleyball. All of this adds up to need to learn how to work the body she's got right now. But, Mom was desperate to come home, and Dad is desperate to do right by her and follow her wishes as best he can, so they selected an alternate option that the hospital outlined: discharge Mom to home care, and send a nurse and a physical therapist to her home three times per week, for an hour at a time.

This has my siblings and me very, very worried. My father is not capable of doing this on his own, and we of course want to help, but I don't know if we have the facility for this kind of thing. He has a decent chunk of change saved up, but I'm not sure if he can afford long-term 24/7 care, which, frankly, is the only thing that would ease my mind and would also satisfy my mother's desire to be home.

Today, we have another family meeting among the kids to divvy up responsibilities -- helping my father, getting Mom to-and-from appointments, making sure the prescriptions get filled, and things like that. I feel incredibly, outrageously lucky to have family -- my brothers, their wives, my sisters, my brother-in-law -- who can help with this kind of thing.  They are all such wonderful people, all with the best hearts.I appreciate this beyond all measure, really. 

I also feel very lucky to be geographically close to my mother. One of my sisters lives abroad, and it's crushing her soul not to be able to be here to see Mom, help her, talk to her. I recognize that our situation is better than most in terms of time, and money, and support. Cold comfort. It all still sucks though. A lot.

Friday, July 09, 2010


If you came here looking for WWE information, hie the here.

Otherwise, the title describes how I'm feeling right now. My mother is sick. Like really, really sick. And it's all shocking, but not really. Maybe this is how Cassandra felt when things she foresaw came true?

Let me explain.

In late April, my Mom was diagnosed with pneumonia. Not the normal time of year for that sort of thing, but it happens. She took antibiotics, she got better, done. In the second week of June, she and my father flew to England to visit my sister. The first week of the visit, she was her normal self. But the second week of the visit, she started slowing down, had shortness of breath, and basically took to her bed. She was fairly certain that it was pneumonia again, but kept pooh-poohing my sister's request that she go see a doctor. On the third day -- this would have been June 28, I think -- of my mother being completely wiped out, my sister and brother-in-law basically forced her to go to the doctor in England. He clinically diagnosed her with pneumonia, but urged her to have a chest x-ray when she returned to the States.


Because my mother is a smoker. For fifty years, she's been a smoker. Usually a pack a day. I've always been grossed out by the habit. Have you ever been around and ashtray while you're trying to enjoy Saturday morning cartoons? I have. And when I flounced onto Mom's comfy recliner, it would knock into the end table on which the ashtray sat, and specks of blue ash would mushroom up and out of the ashtray. Yuck.

So, this doctor was telling her that it could be more than pneumonia. Red flag. No, CRIMSON flag. VERMILION flag.

They flew home on June 30. I can only imagine what a nightmare that was for her. Unable to breathe properly, weak, and cramped into a coach seat on a transatlantic flight. My older brother picked them up from the airport and got them home.  He called me to reassure me that he'd gotten them, but I could hear her saying things like, "What are you doing in New York?" in the background.  That must have been so awful for him.

The next day, Mom was seen by her general practitioner, who took a chest x-ray. But, the results wouldn't be back until after the holiday weekend. They went home with fresh prescriptions, and Mom retired to the bed again. She was up and about a bit throughout the weekend, paying bills, eating a little here and there. So it seemed like she was on the mend, little by little.

Then she fell.

In the middle of the night on Monday night, she took a spill. My father found her in the bathroom and tried to help her up as best he could. He's seventy-nine and has a history of back problems, so it was not an easy endeavour. For most of Tuesday, she was in bed, and very disoriented. My husband and I had already decided to visit since it was on the way home after our holiday weekend visiting his parents. Luckily, we'd decided to leave our three children with my in-laws for an extended visit. Why luckily?

Because kids can get scared when you have paramedics tromping through the house.

We called an ambulance. As soon as I saw my mother, I knew she had to go to the hospital. One of my older brothers, got there a few minutes after us and agreed. Thank God he was there. My Dad didn't know what to do, and I would have only been playacting if I expressed any idea of what to do. 

Mom couldn't move. She'd wrenched her knee so badly, she couldn't support her own weight and was pretty disoriented. We helped her into a wheelchair that was leftover from my grandparents' convalescence and rolled her into the family room. The paramedics arrived very quickly and performed an exam of her. It was pretty clear that they were thinking she'd had a stroke. So was I, frankly.

I rode with Mom in the ambulance, but I had to ride in the front seat. It was a really long ride. We caught EVERY red light on the way, and the paramedic who was driving didn't turn on the siren. She wasn't an EMERGENCY emergency, I guess. He was a nice enough guy, and tried to make conversation. When I said we'd just gotten back from Cleveland, he decided I must be from Cleveland. This meant that for the ten minutes it took to get to the hospital, he would periodically ask me how I liked living in Cleveland, and whether I liked the Ravens. After the second or third correction, I just went with it and waxed poetically about the weather in Cleveland as compared to the muggy soup that is Baltimore's atmosphere.

Did I mention that it was like 105 degrees that day?

Once at the E.R., Mom's gurney was parked near the automatic doors. There was no room at the inn, which I found frustrating. I mean, if the hospital says it's receiving ER patients, shouldn't it, you know, RECEIVE them? But I was trying to be patient. Mom, though, kept fidgeting, pulling at her I.D. bracelet, wanting to get up. The automatic doors kept opening and closing, opening and closing. Elderly people in gurneys were strewn about the hallways, and it was so sad to see that they had no one with them. That firmed up my resolve that I wouldn't leave my mother's side. There was a young woman near us who was being questioned by a paramedic. He kept telling her that she was slurring her words, that they found a lot of mostly empty pill bottles, so they can only conclude that she had overdosed on something.

I couldn't help thinking that I SURE there's a HIPAA violation in there somewhere.

At one point my Mom said she had to go to the bathroom. She's had seven children, so the muscles Down There aren't super strong. Honestly, she knows where every public or store bathroom is within a five mile radius of her home. But she couldn't do it on her own, so I and a paramedic had to help her go. I literally carried my mother. It was not dissimilar to my daughter's potty-training routine, so thank goodness I had that under my belt.

I stayed with her until we had a room -- or rather an area -- in the E.R. Dad came back at that point. Any time there was an update, I'd text it to my brother and husband in the waiting room, and they would relay the information to our other family members. By that time, another of my brothers, we'll call him, had joined them in the waiting room. Doctors would periodically visit to examine her. We answered the same questions many, many times. My Dad offered too much information. Not inappropriate information. Just unnecessary. Like how he thinks that he might have caused some of the damage with Mom's knee because he has a history of sacroiliac problems, so he doesn't think he helped her up from the bathroom floor very well. And the bathroom, by the way, is a very small space. He was so, so overwhelmed.

Based on what they were asking, it seemed like they too thought Mom had a stroke. They recommended another chest x-ray, a head CT, and possibly a lumbar puncture. These things would tell us about pneumonia, stroke or concussion, and maybe meningitis. Dad and I awkwardly trying to pass the time while I furiously texted information to my brothers and husband.

Imagine my surprise when a beautiful curly-haired doctor came back and told us that based on what they saw with the chest x-ray and the head CT, that they believed Mom had lung cancer that had metastisized in the brain. This was four hours into our stay at the E.R.

Mom seemed to understand what was said. But I wasn't sure, because she wasn't wailing or gnashing her teeth, you know? Then another doctor came back to talk to her a bit more, and he asked if she understood what was going on. She looked at him and tearfully said, "I'm dying." The doctor seemed to slip out of Medical Man mode for a moment and said, "And I'm very sorry about that." Then he explained that she would be admitted, and that they'd need to do further scans and testing the next day. But that the average life expectancy is about five months.

Once they had an idea of what was going on, they could admit her. After she was nestled into her room, we all went home. I wanted to stay because I knew that she would be confused and lonely, but they said it wasn't allowed in her unit, the Intermediary Care Unit, which is a step down from Intensive Care.

There was weeping. All of the weeping I wanted to do at various points in the previous five hours came out at that point. I was trying to be strong for my Dad and my mother, but when it was just my husband and me... Well, he knows that I'm about as tough as dandelion that's gone to seed. So I could just let go.

I haven't cried like that for a long, long time.

The next day was, if possible, harder than the previous day. My mother had gone from the sharp tack that maintains the bills, the house, the everything, to someone who didn't know she was in the hospital, or why, and only wanted to go home. There were some hallucinations, as well. They did another CT to see if the cancer has spread anyhwere else, and to help guide them during the biopsy. Again, I spent the better part of the visiting hours in her shared room with my Dad.

Shared rooms, by the way? They stink.

Mom's roomate was hard of hearing, and during that second day, the first in the IMC, this woman's visitors would need to shout to be heard. Since my mother was easily distracted and suffering swollen brain dementia, she thought they were talking to her. And my mother is nothing if not social, so she'd talk back. She was making me laugh, because she'd kind of roll her eyes as if to say, "Jeez, these people clearly do NOT know up from down since they are talking to me like they know me."

We didn't get the results of the CT scan until yesterday, July 8. They said that based on what they saw, they weren't going to do just a biopsy, but something called a bronchoscopy. This will be done today, hopefully. They changed what they thought needed to be done because the mass on her lung is apparently really close to her airway, which has in turn partially collapsed the lung. This procedure will help clear the airway and deal with those problems, and at the same time they should be able to get a tissue sample to biopsy. So, better to do two procedures at once than to put her through two separate procedures. They may still have to do a regular thoracic biopsy if this doesn't produce results.

Ugh. Words that are now a part of my every day vernacular are ugly, lumpy, greco-latin words.

Visiting hours start in a couple of hours, so I'll head over then. I don't know what today will bring. Yesterday her cancer specialist doc told us that she MIGHT be able to be discharged this weekend and start radiation therapy for her brain lesions next week. That brings up a whole host of other realities that need to be dealt with, like how best to get her to and from and to make their house as comfy as possible for her.

And me? Well, I'm pretty crushed. I can't wrap my head around the fact that I need to start doing what I can to, for lack of a better way to express it, wrap up this mother-daughter relationship. I thought I'd have more time. That sounds stupid, doesn't it? I've already gotten more time with my mother than she had with hers. She's seen me grow into an adult, and succeed, and settle into a beautiful home and marry a wonderful man and have gorgeous, friendly children. And then I dissolve because my younger two probably won't remember her and how much she loved them, how she calls after every pediatrician appointment to find out how it went. And that I can't call her to ask if she'll watch them because daycare is closed, or if she could give me the recipe for her potato salad.

Oh, God, potato salad is going to make me cry for the rest of my life.

So that's where I am right now. We don't know everything about this THING that is eating her from the inside out, this thing that she opened the door to (most likely) because of a habit that was cool and harmless when she came of age. But based on educated guesses and likelihoods and averages, I'll be lucky beyond all measure if she can see my baby turn one in January.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It HURTS Me to Stay Out of This

I do not become embroiled in political rants if I can help it. It becomes really difficult to maintain my veneer of politeness in the face of political disagreement. HOWEVER, I do enjoy being snarky, and there is a ridiculously ripe opportunity that I have to forego for the sake of familial harmony...

One of my cousins' Facebook status is, "I'm A BIRTHER and I'm proud of it!!! mmmmm be a birther, you be a birther, wouldn't you want to be a birther too? (sung to the tune of Dr. Pepper)."

Someone asked Coz to clarify what a 'birther' is and he explained that it's someone who doesn't believe that Barack Obama should be president because he is not a legitimate American citizen. For some reason, Coz thinks that having a non-American father matters (it doesn't if you were born in the U.S.) and that Obama was born in Kenya (he wasn't). He then goes on and on and ON about Obama issuing an executive order to block the release of any information about him (he actually did the opposite). His evidence? Search after search after search for Obama documents relating to his birth and residency return nothing. But, if Coz believes these things to be true, of COURSE he would rant about it. I mean, who wouldn't?

Here's what is making my eye twitch: my cousin keeps spelling the President's first name, "Barak." Which is wrong. So I REALLY want to reply to his comments and tell him that maybe Coz can't find any info about the president because he's spelling his name wrong.

But I fear that would cause a hairy eyeball at my son's forthcoming Baptism, so I'll just leave it be.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Sound Investment Plan

I have decided to go all Gordon Gekko and dive into the stock market. Okay, wade into the stock market. Slowly. Like, an inch at a time until I get acclimated even though the pool water is like eighty degrees.

Of course, we've been investing for some time now in Reponsible Things like retirement accounts and college savings plans. But I actually wanted to select specific stocks instead of the 2040 Retirement Fund. Ugh. 2040. Really? I've got another thirty years of office work ahead of me? (I know, I know, I shouldn't carp about being gainfully employed in This Economy*. But seriously, THIRTY years?)

Thing is, those funds have pretty reliable returns on investment, but I don't get to choose the companies involved. So what, right? Well, me, I'm kind of bossy, and I want to hand pick the stocks myself. But I am all sorts of lazy about research, so if I was all, "I hear Toyota makes a dandy automobile!" I'd have lost my shirt.

BUT, I have figured out a way to feel OK if whatever miniscule amount I invest disappears into the ether! The stocks I will choose will totally be a reflection of my family's brand and product loyalties. Here's what I find hilarious about this autobiographical investing: if I lose all of my moolah, that kind of means that we suck. Or at least the marketplace thinks we do.

I am determined not to suck.

Here are my rules:
1) I will not invest more than $50 per month.
2) I will only buy stock in a company if we have personal, good, experience with their products.
3) If it's between me and Bud Fox, I'm totally sending him to the chokey.

I started this last month. I bought a share of Netflix. Thus far in April, I've purchased some ING and SiriusXM. And guess what? THE MARKETPLACE INDICATES THAT I DO NOT SUCK! That's right. I'm up twenty bucks. Boo-yah! I am a financial GENIUS!

I will keep you posted on my inevitable ascension to Warren Buffet-land.

*Everywhere you turn people are talking about THIS ECONOMY, so I think it needs to be capitalized. Many people are really and truly impacted by the downturn in the economy, but I think there are an awful lot of people who are using it as a catchall reason for any financial problems they might have. Like buying things you cannot afford. Honestly, I think this is the only financial education that anyone needs.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Things and Stuff

I have been thinking about stuff lately. I'm not using "stuff" as a catch-all term for life, the universe, and everything. Nah, I mean real and actual STUFF.

Why all this mental capital spent on such a blah topic?

Well, we moved at the end of last summer and went through The Great Divestiture. Except, not really. Because I was also quite pregnant at the time. In my non-pregnant state, I am able, with stunning speed, to make decisions about stuff and whether to keep it, toss it, store it, donate it, or sell it. In my pregnant state, I am able to sleep on a couch. So, during the move, it was up to my husband to make these evaluations. He chose not to do so. What he chose to do instead was to pack random crap together. I guess it isn't totally random because I know what he did. He packed stuff that was geographically close in large boxes labeled "Stuff: Basement." This results in things like Christmas decorations getting packed up with detergent. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE NEXT TO EACH OTHER IN THE BASEMENT.

I have completely given up on finding that collection of IKEA bolts for the love seat I'm trying to put back together. I'm sure I will find them in a Connect Four game box five years hence.

Anyway, I'm thinking about this because, just as I've gotten most of our stuff unpacked and deposited in what I've deemed the correct nooks and crannies around our house, I have to begin the Great Repack. This happens every time there is a period-of-life shift.

Examples? My maternity clothes, which I've not really worn for the past couple of weeks, need to get out of my closet. They need to make room for the work clothes that I'm wearing since maternity leave is dunzo. And Boy the Second? Well, he's a solid size 3-6 months, so I need to boot those too-small baby clothes out of the dresser. This is also known as The Most Hated Chore of All Time. I don't know why, but this particular activity really pings my hoarder instinct and I get vertigo when I'm trying to figure out if he really can't wear that adorable monkey outfit anymore.

But I will overcome it even though I'm not quite back to my usual self (i.e., I'm still recovering from the pregnancy brain shrinkage). I mean, after those closets get cleared out, I need to decide what to do with those photos and pieces of art that I have deemed unworthy for my new home's walls.
The fun never stops around here! Jealous?

There's more that I have to say about this, but I have to go because the tower of boxes that I've saved for packing all these things is about to fall over on me....aaarghhh...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dear MDOT,

Please contribute a chunk of your operating budget to Maryland public schools so that they can teach everyone to read faster. Why? Because traffic slows to a freakin' crawl every time you post something on your highway signs.

Listen, I totally understand that you want to keep the general public apprised of the happenings on the Old Line State's highways and byways. But could we maybe restrict it to real alerts? Like accidents and road closures? Could we maybe leave off the time estimates from point A to point B? 'Cause here's my time estimate: every one of these signs adds five minutes to my commute when you put anything at all on there. Seriously, the message could be "Have a Nice Day!" And suddenly people hunker over their steering wheels, panicking that they are going to miss some vital information, like Martians are attacking or the JFK Tunnel is shut down. In my sixteen years of driving, something like that has only happened three times. Not the Martians bit. The closed-tunnel-magnitude calamity.

I feel a little better now.



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Facebook Protocol

Okay, so what am I supposed to do when I am unfriended by someone? SOMEONE I HAVEN'T EVER MET? My husband's cousin friend requested me many, many months ago, and I accepted. I will admit I was kind of judgy of her posts because they were always, always, always glass-half-empty kind of posts. But I never commented on them, or sent her a note stating I thought she needed to look on the bright side. 'Cause nothing is more irritating to a pessimist than being told to look on the bright side.


I spoke to her mother on the phone recently, and it got me thinking that I hadn't seen any of her updates in awhile. I thought maybe she hadn't been posting, or that maybe with the Facebook re-design I hadn't flagged her as someone from whom I'd like to see updates. Whatever.

I did a search on my friends, and nope, she didn't show up. So then I wondered if she'd deleted her account. I went to my sister-in-law's Facebook page, and this cousin-in-law WAS THERE.

Weird, right? I mean, it's not like Facebook relationships really require tending of any sort. So now I"m wondering -- in as benign a way as possible -- why, if she was paring down her Facebook friends, I didn't make the cut?

Seriously, I'm not stressing about it. Just struck me as odd. Though now I'll have a conversation crutch if we happen to meet. "So, uh, nice to meet you. Hey, why'd you unfriend me?"

That'll be a hoot a the next family reunion.

You Load Sixteen Tons and What Do You Get...

See, that thar title is apt, APT I say, because I have two nuggets of info to share that relate. Firstly, I head back to work next week.


Not "urgh" because I don't like my job. I do, actually. Plus, I'm a boss, so it helps that I can delegate work upon my return. "Urgh" because I will actually need to be washed, dressed, brushed, and out the door by an actual time. I cannot begin to explain how unfathomable that is to me right now. It's 11:08 a.m., and I am STILL in my pajamas and unshowered. Lump in the fact that the rhythm of my household management will be totally disrupted, and you can see the source of the "urgh."

But I am returning to work. I like that people think Super Ninja and I are rolling in dough enough to ask if I'm planning on staying at home. Yeah, not so much. We had enough dubloons for me to stay at home without pay for half of my leave, but I prefer to live life off of our income, not off of our savings.

Part the second of this missive is the glorious announcement that I have shed my baby weight. NOW all I need to do is work off the "I stayed at home for three months and ate waaaaaaaaay more brownies than I should have" weight.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Something I Didn't Understand Before I Became a Mother

Know what I didn't fully comprehend before I had children? Just how fully these tiny people PWN you. And I don't mean in the Ron Howardy, "Gee, the kids are constantly asking me for juice/grapes/stories/books" kind of way. Chock-full-of-corn as it sounds, these babies of mine thoroughly own my heart.

Oh my God, you have NO IDEA how hard that was to write. I feel like I'm turning into a Hummel figurine. I have squishy feelings, OKAY?

From the moment the Older Boy was born, my family has invaded my past, present, and future. In doing so, I've been forced to live there a little. Not because I'm the Terminator. Although that would be intriguing. Let me explain what I mean...

Regarding the present: almost every decision my husband and I make is done with respect to what's best for the kids: where we live, how we spend money, what car to buy, what to have for lunch (seriously -- if the Older Boy needs a sandwich and we have two slices of bread, Super Ninja's packing leftovers). That's one way the kids sit on my brain. The other way is just enjoying raising them and the things they do. Like when my kindergartner decides to wear rain boots to school because they are part of his superhero costume and they will make him feel awesome all day...or when my three-year-old daughter says "whobody put this here?" (there's somebody, anybody, nobody, so why not whobody?)...or when my two-month-old wakes up and beams a smile at me... All of that fills me with joy.

(Wow, I am just losing ALL of my hipster cred. Oh well, guess there wasn't that much to lose. I mean, I do Beyonce's "Single Ladies" dance with the Girl. One of us is usually wearing a tutu when this happens. It's not like we're swaying to Kings of Leon around here.)

Losing my focus...

The point is, everyone understands this part of parenthood. It's not hard to wrap your head around the fact that you are responsible for your kids' well-being, that they will do some cute stuff (and some not so cute stuff), that all of it is a lot of work, that you'll be tired, but mostly happy.

But my brain does this weird multi-time-and-place thing. I"m surprised I haven't given myself an aneurysm. I flash to the past to compare my childhood to the one I am giving my children, trying to replicate what was good, trying to change what was not so good. Ultimately, I feel like I understand my parents much, much, much better than I did back then. And I forgive them for a lot more.

Then I flash to the future, and imagine all the possibilities for joy and pain that await my children. Swimming and movies and graduations and college and dating and marriage or holy orders or neither and maybe possibly children of their own and ultimately adventure, lots of adventure... I don't let my mind dwell there too often, because I don't want to force them on a certain path (or invite a fight with me about what they will and won't do with their lives). But I'll hang out with them and my mind will snap to twenty years from now and envision what it'll be like to talk about a movie or politics or whatever with them...

I'm not naive; I know that they will drive me up a wall almost as much as they delight me. My five-year-old already thinks he has the world pretty well figured out, so that'll be fun when he's a teenager.

This forecasting, though...I think this is where fear starts. Worry, in it's milder form. That's the dark side of having a family: the possibility that it would be fractured or lost. See, I have expectations that these children, and my husband, will be a part of my life until my life is done. And if that did not happen, my heart would simply break.

Don't worry, I'm not going all post-partum depression on you. I am like, 98% in the happy. However, I think it's normal to spend some time wondering about how you would react to devastation, like your kid or your husband getting hurt, or sick, or dying. I'm not saying I've gotten funeral planning brochures or anything creepy like that. It's more like a role-playing exercise. Like fire drills. If you imagined that say, your kid fell down a flight of stairs, you might react to it actually happening more quickly.

If you find that you imagine a situation in which you cause these things, though, or sort of wish they would happen so that you can get some sympathy, please go here.

So, there it is: these children, by virtue of being born, have already left their sticky hand prints all over every part of my life. No matter what happens, they are inextricably entwined with who I am. I am still me, the goober who loves Scrabble, staying up late, movies, and being slightly left-of-center. But I'm braided together with these lives, first my husband's, then my children's. Maybe we're programmed this way as humans to ensure survival, but man, it's a doozy when you feel the power of it.

I Have a Blog?

Yes, yes, I know, my postings have been rather sparse. I think it's because I've been posting status updates on my Facebook account. I gave Twitter a shot, but I find the 144 character limit daunting. It got to a point where I thought if I couldn't whittle something down to 144 characters, then it was too dense. I think this is also what people feel about the healthcare reform bill. We will eventually get to a point in society where we will only use the pain tolerance chart to communicate our feelings about something. Because anything else would be excessive, no?


I am inspired to write when I am challenged. And for the past two months I have been home with Baby Boy, so the challenges? Not really there. Many of you are thinking, "Herm. Isn't a newborn challenging? Especially when you have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old?" I guess it is, but dudes, I have GOT this. Older Boy is in kindergarten, the Girl is in daycare, so it's just me and the babe. His demands are easily met, and then he goes back to sleep. Easy-peasy. I've built shelves, tested out recipes, rearranged furniture, and corresponded old skool style.

There will be a deluge of annoyance when I return to work. Mostly because I don't control the environment Stromboli-style, as I do at home. Ugh, I can already feel my hackles rising. The meetings, the e-mails, the meetings... 'Til, then, though, I'll be the overlord of my own little 10,000 square foot patch of earth.

Monday, February 01, 2010

What My Facebook Status Updates Would Have Been If I Weren't Afraid of Offending Some Delicate Sensibilities

I think the title pretty well explains this post... Not such a biggie for my friends to read this, but I have some family who might think I was veering into post-partum depression. Or would call my parenting into question. But semi-anonymity is rampant here, so enjoy!
  • Here's my doppelganger for Doppelganger Week. We are twinsies not so much in the face, but elsewhere. You go ahead and guess. Kudos to Ms. Hendricks, though, because I don't think she is currently breastfeeding.
  • Baby X totally whizzed all over one of the adults in this house. And it wasn't me! Current score: Mommy, 1, Daddy, 3. This is not a game that anyone wants to win..
  • MCV has a sharp pain under her left eye. Unless Baby X developed a vicious right hook and slugged her during one of her nursing sessions last night, she thinks she may have to investigate the possibility that this guy has taken up residence in their house.
  • MCV has been watching waaaaaaaay too much true crime television. She is worried that she is damaging her newborn by exposing him to all the horror life has to offer at such a tender age.
  • Gigantic bosom + breastfeeding = ridiculously difficult to find a nursing bra with the appropriate coverage and support. To paint a picture for you, it is stunning that I can walk upright. Thank goodness for these fine folks. I mean, REALLY, why aren't there more stores like this? I've got a YEAR or so of this ahead of me. Support is clutch. We're talking cantilevering here, not just fancy straps. Once again, I am grateful to be alive in the age of the interwebs.
  • MCV is wondering why the hospital didn't send her home with a couple of pairs of these? They tossed a bunch of the other recovery supplies her way, so why not something that you can't buy at the local drug store?
Uh, so that's it for now.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Wow, so that happened. What do I mean by "that?" Well, there was Christmas, and New Year's. Oh, and I had a baby.

It's been a very busy six weeks.

I'm officially a mother of three now, which is just crazy. Not crazy because I've had a tough road to hoe or anything. It's not like anyone's going to make a Lifetime movie about me and how, through the power of motherhood, got my life on the straight-and-narrow. With only a few indiscretions, I've lived at the corner of Straight and Narrow my whole life. Nah, the crazy for me is that many of my thoughts seem way teenagery. Seems weird that someone who gets all kinds of excited about a breakfast of toaster strudel Diet Coke is actually in the process of raising children.

Well, I guess right now Super Ninja and I are raising two children. We are teaching the Boy (who will be known henceforth as the Older Boy) and the Girl all kinds of lovely stuff, like doing as they are asked, not speaking sarcastically to us (even though I secretly love five-year-old sarcasm, just not when it's directed at me when I've made a request to get the dirty socks off of the sofa), and responsible homework habits.

The Younger Boy (i.e., our newborn) is in the eat-sleep-fill-a-diaper stage of life. No "raising" occurs during this stage, right? Although, if you'll allow me to get squishy on you, the Younger Boy is learning that he can always, always depend on Milk Woman and Diaper Man, as I like to refer to the adults in this house...

Anyhoo, I wanted to get the blog announcement out of the way so that y'all aren't totally confused when I start posting about psychedelic yellow diapers this kid produces. Be ye warned, those are on the horizon, but I have to go attend to a squalling infant presently.

See ya!