Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So, What'd We Learn Here? (Daily Gratitude Post-Mortem)

The final post for my series on gratitude was supposed to conclude on my birthday (July 16, for those of you who want to take a minute to go jot that down on a calendar so you can shower me with gifts and well-wishes next year). But I didn't do it, because I wanted to leave you hanging. Nah. Truth is, I didn't want to rush a missive on gratitude on a day that was packed with other activities, thoughts, and wallowings.

Now that I've allowed myself these handful of days to ruminate... Honestly, there's no gut-wrenching analysis on the fruits of exercise.

On a practical level, I wanted to force myself to write--or at least think about writing--every day in a concrete, focused way. It sharpens ye olde observation skills if you're thinking about things as potential blog or fiction fodder. To go through the somewhat academic exercise of evaluating the entertainment level of a story or a thought forces you to recognize that every stray thought that tumbles through your cranium is not gold. It's helping me build up what Hemingway so classically called "a shit detector."

Oh my God. Did I just reference Hemingway? Feel free to punch me in the face if I ever, ever, ever refer to Ernest Hemingway as "Papa."

There were varying degrees of success. My natural voice is one of dissent, snark, and critique, so forcing myself into this construct of gratitude was, at times, challenging. And when you divert your natural flow, I think it surfaces as awkward phrasing. And bad, bad editing. A younger me would have gone back and corrected every error. But the current me shrugs if I happen to miss it in the Preview. Lazy, lazy, current me.

On an emotional level, this past month has been really hard for me, as I knew it would be. So, I wanted to cleave to something more positive rather than spelunk spectacularly into flashbacks to my mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, unending days in the hospital, and the constant low-level of panic. The days when I was grateful for coffee and other completely inconsequential things? These were days when I missed my mother terribly.

And on a reflective level, I realize the common themes of gratitude splayed out in html are my husband, my children, my family, and my friends. As it should be, no?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gratitude #62: The Boy, Hooky, and Harry Potter

Today's gratitude is a triple threat, a hat trick, a trifecta!

First, and most importantly, the Boy's birthday is today. He's seven, and he's wonderful. We're well past the point of just trying to keep him well and clean. We're raising him, teaching him right from wrong, imbuing a sense of humor, providing a blue print for life. And the fruits of our labors are paying off. He's a delightful little person, kind, funny, considerate, and loving. Okay, he can also be stubborn and a litttle emotional. But, he's also, you know, SEVEN. So, we've got a little time to help him with that.

Second, Super Ninja and I played hooky together today. Partly to prep for the Boy's birthday, but mostly to just kind of relax together. And you know what we did?

WENT TO SEE HARRY POTTER 7.2! I found it awesome that our theater was peopled not with children, or even teenagers. Nope. All adults, like us, who were clearly cutting work as well.

Gratitude #61: Bastille Day

Fooled you! I'm not actually grateful for Bastille Day. I don't deny the French their right to celebrate the end of tyranny and all that jazz. It just happens also to be the day that my sister and her family move back from England! Woot! There's gotta be some kind of Anglo-Franco joke in there somewhere, but I'm way sleepy, so if you have one, send it my way.

(from Thursday, July 14)

Gratitude #60: Venting

This has been a stressful week at work. Lots to do, all equally important. Plate-spinning type stuff. So, I am glad that I have a ocupole of co-workers with whom I can vent without (a) sounding like I'm a whiny whine-bag, or (b) making them think like htey need to do anything about it.

(from Wednesday, July 13)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gratitude #59: Going through the Pantry

I fully recognize that I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Literally! Since we were away from home last week visiting Super Ninja's family in Ohio, we didn't have a chance to do the full-on grocery store shop that we normally do. Since I'm still crazy busy at work, all I had time to do was snag some staples--milk, bread, cranberry apple juice cocktail.

What? Your basic foodstuffs are different?

Here's the nutty thing, though: we had enough grub stockpiled that we got through the week without needing anything else. That was both awesome and scary at the same time. I'm not one of those, "Better have a store of food for when the revolution comes" kinds of people. I think I just buy stuff, forget I bought it, and then add more. Pretty soon, it's like farfalle is being fruitful and multiplying, and I have a half a dozen boxes of it.

(I am also not a hoarder, by the way.)

So, now I am resolved that I will only buy perishables until I whittle down my collection of frozen and dry goods, excellent sales be damned!

(from Tuesday, July 12)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pajama Story Time

Last night, I took my oldest two kids to the Pajama Story Time event at our local library. It started at 7:00 p.m., which was the big selling point for me. See, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. is the witching hour chez Vaughan. The kids are punchy, the Little Guy is usually sailing off to bedtime, and the whole span of time is usually filled with bickering and random blows. I thought the change of venue might help a little.

When we got there, I saw that the story time is intended for kids ages 2 through 5. Perfect for the Girl, not so much for the Boy. I just told him to pretend he was five, and was reminded of my father shaving a few years off of my age whenever we went to a buffet restaurant. Kids under thirteen always ate cheaper. No one ever looked askance at me. 'Tis a boon to be short sometimes.

The Girl was enthralled by story time, and I can see she is going to be SUCH a teacher's pet. Shouting out answers, doing exactly what the 'teacher' says, grinning from ear to ear when told she was correct. Oh lawd, she will love school. The Boy drifted away to the coloring sheets and crayons, which was fine by me. He could've read the selection of stories to the kids gathered together, so I could see that hearing them wasn't really interesting to him.

The whole story time took about 30 minutes. Since I'd expected to be out for about an hour, we decided to go into the library's play room, as did a bunch of the other story time kids. It comprises kiddie kitchen and food market furniture and paraphernalia. The Boy was 'running' the food market for a bit, and the toddlers would steal money from the cash register. He jokingly yelled, "I'm going to call the cops on you!" as they gleefully ran away. The Girl wanted to run the shop with the Boy, but he staunchly refused. Eventually, though, he got kind of bored with it and wandered off to play with something else, and the Girl took control of the shop.

The little ones sharing the room with us were, child by child, snapped up by caretakers to go home for beddy-bye. After most of them had gone, another child and mama entered the room to play. They were African-American. The little girl, about three years old, wandered over to the shop. The cash register drawer popped open, and she helped herself to some of the money.

I think you can see where this is going.

The Girl very happily, and very loudly, shouted, "Call the cops! Call the cops! Call the cops!" AND SHE WOULDN'T STOP. Not for my grumpy face/head shake, not for my death whisper, not for my (hopefully) subtle gesturing. But I couldn't make a HUGE deal out of it, because I knew she was thinking, "Hey! African-Americans steal!" I KNOW she was just playacting what the group had done before, but the newcomers certainly didn't know that. And if I tried to explain it to the newcomers, that would also make it a bigger deal.


Gratitude #58: Air Conditioning

Did I do this one already? No? Great! Baltimore is as swampy as... a swamp right now. DO YOU SEE HOW THE HEAT HAS MELTED MY BRAIN? I can't even come up with a good metaphor, a linguistic feat in which I typically traffic all the live-long day.

Anyway, the HVAC gave up the ghost at my office on Monday. Welcome back from your long weekend in Westlake, eh? I have a corner office, because I am feared and respected among my colleagues. Know what that becomes when you have no air conditioning? A terrarium.

(from Monday, July 11)

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Love the Dark, but I HATE Nature

I'm an indoors kind of gal. Always have been. Don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed many an outdoorsy weekend with Second Best Friend and her husband, Hunter. Give me a campfire, some s'mores, and a dark sky speckled with an unfathomable number of stars, and I'm a happy girl.

But, I don't really seek outdoorsy activities. Sure, I'll take the kids on a nature walk. But given the choice between a board game and a hike, I'll take the board game.

And you know what? I don't think the outdoors like ME very much. This summer has provided stacks of evidence.

The first weekend in June, I went to my goddaughter's 10th birthday party. It was a pool party. I LOVE swimming. But there was not as much swimming as there was keeping my small children afloat. One particularly daring 18-month old required that I make a diving catch to keep him from cannonballing into the pool. Said diving catch resulted in me scraping the bejeesus out of my shin. And, once I climbed out of the pool, I apparently walked past a bowl of Ebola, because this tiny, centimeter-square scrape turned into a red, puffy, hot mass of annoyance within a day. It took TWO WEEKS to heal, and I STILL boast a stupid purple scar.

Two weeks later, same house, different daughter, another pool party. Another great time. And another random patch of allergic reaction to something. I'm thinking bug bite. But, seriously, I've never reacted like this to a bug bite before. I had a coffee-mug sized angry patch on my chest. So, maybe people weren't staring at my astounding cleavage for once. Perhaps they were just horrified by the monkey bite decorating my sternum.

Two weeks after that, I'm chilling in a park with my family, awaiting the fireworks spectacular that a suburb of Cleveland will deliver to me and mine. A couple of days later, something unpleasant and...bumpy...decorates my hip. Okay, if we're being COMPLETELY honest here, it decorates the crease where my belly, if it gets ANY BIGGER, will start to fold over. I am not in total FUPA territory yet. But I'm getting close to Scary Weight. So, at first I'm thinking that it's one more depressing sign of my absolute need to commit to the gym more regularly (like, maybe TWICE per week), and is just some kind of friction blister.

To confirm my suspicion, I do the absolute worst thing possible. You might think the worst thing is to ignore it, but no, good soldier! The worst thing is to Google your symptoms. Know what Dr. G. told me? That I had ovarian cancer. Or, second best, I had an STD. My third string diagnosis was that I have shingles.

Stupid Google.

But, all of this Doomsday diagnosis prompted a visit to the urgent care facility, and I am one hundred percent sure that the physician's assistant and doctor who tended me thought that I was some ridiculous housewife crafting terminal illness out of a bug bite.

Which, by the way, is what I was diagnosed with. The doctor assured me that they see this around this time of year, and that the bug bites so deeply that he* pushes bacteria from the surface of my skin into my bloodstream, causing an infection.

NONE of this made me feel any better, by the way. Oh, omnipresent bacteria all over my skin, you say? Delightful!

We are going to totally IGNORE that I felt no bug bite, and that this can't possibly be some eruption of a heretofore undiscovered unpleasantry.

I am now the proud owner of a three-day cycle of Augmentin. So, for those of you with kids, my infected bug bite is about one-third as bad as an average kid's ear infection. I am tough, eh?

*No female would do this to another one of it's kind. Had to be a jerk male.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gratitude #57: In-Car DVD Players

Cue the controversy! While we don't have one of those fancy-pants cars with the built-in DVD players, we DO own a set that we can strap onto the back of the center row seats for the Boy and the Girl to enjoy on long car rides. I think the novelty of being able to control which movies they watch from the PG collection provided to them is what matters most. The conversations they have while making a selection go something like this:

The Girl: Boy, let's pick something that we BOTH agree on.

The Boy: 'Wall-E'?

The Girl: No. How about 'Storyteller'?

The Boy: No.

The Girl: Ooh! How about 'The Electric Company'?

The Boy: (Thinks for a second.) Okay.

The Girl: (Claps.) Alright! Let's do it!

So, perhaps I am also grateful that our eldest two children appear to get along rather well. Also, I give you free and full permission to get all judgy about the fact that my children watch mostly my generation's kid entertainment. Also: please note that Pixar films are allowed in my home, despite my lukewarm feelings toward them.

(from Sunday July 10)

Gratitude #56: Two Uninterrupted Hours

I don't get that very often. I mean, come ON, I have three children under the age of seven. And a husband who can't remember where a pot is kept if it is out of sight (I'm not picking on him -- he will tell you this himself). So, two uninterrupted hours are few and far between. But I got 'em on Saturday night. Super Ninja and I were shooed away from the in-laws' homestead post-kiddo-bedtime to enjoy a little quality time with each other. I don't know what it says about us that 'quality time' means going to a bookstore and reading in companionable silence for two hours. Guess we're just too wild and crazy for comprehension!

(from Saturday, July 10)

Gratitude #55: Double Feature

Guess who got to see both Horrible Bosses (meh) and Midnight in Paris (woot!) in one night? This guy (waggles thumbs at self)!

Seriously, if I have to explain why this is awesome, I don't know how to talk to you.

Okay, that said, I do have one tip I would like to offer the cinema-going world: if you strut into a movie theater and there are people sitting in the neck-breaking rows situated at the front of the theater, chances are really, really excellent that there are no seats available in the stadium rows. Please don't brush past me hoping that the holy grail of late-comers (i.e., two seats in a row, dead center) is going to manifest.

(from Friday, July 9)

Gratitude #54: Free Rides to the Airport AND Southwest Airlines

Part the First: So, Best Friend very kindly took me out to dinner and drove me to the airport so that I could catch my flight back to Cleveland. Very nice not to have to stress about getting there, nor to have to pay $20 for an eight-minute ride from my house.

Part the Second: Like a complete ninny, I booked the wrong date for my flight. I know, I know, how does such a thing happen? Uh, DID YOU NOT SEE MY PREVIOUS POST? Too much going on lately, so, stupidity rears its knobby little head here and there. But! Southwest was dream; they rebooked my trip on the flight for Thursday as opposed to the Friday one I'd originally reserved. And they didn't charge me the $50 I was expecting to pay. Shweet.

(from Thursday, July 8)

Gratitude #53: A Co-Worker Who Is a Former Starbucks Barista

I don't know that I need to really explain this one. Suffice it to say my co-worker elected to share with me his iced coffee blend, and I would have fallen out of my chair with happiness if I wasn't certain he would have taken it completely the wrong way.

(from Wednesday, July 6)

Gratitude #52: Ignorance

The week before and after the 4th of July is the absolute busiest time of year for me at ye olde office. Our big annual software deployment deadline is July 1. Know what coincides with that? Our daycare provider chooses the 4th of July week to SHUT IT DOWN. Her prerogative, our contractual obligation to allow. So, how do these things happen together without me losing my mind? IN-LAWS!

So, yay for them! But I think I already blogged my gratitude to their participation in a week of childcare, supporting Super Ninja as he (mostly) single parents it. For I, my interweb friends, flew home for Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday of last week to triage any work difficulties. And do you know why I cite my gratitude for ignorance? 'Cause I had to shuffle through one of those circular x-ray booths at the security checkpoint. Didn't realize I had to hold my hands up like a police officer had gotten all shouty with me. All in all, no big, but I have intentionally not researched what can be seen on those machines.

Now, do I like the extra pat-down I receive because of the very necessary pound of steel that is used to reinforce my ridiculous bra? Nope. Frottage has never been my thing. But, at least it's less, uh, extensive since they've already seen I'm not packing anything else in my G-cup.

(from Tuesday, July 5)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Year

A year brings a truckload of differences. Oh, for Chrissakes.* How trite is that? Who doesn't know that? My six-year-old knows that. In one short year, he goes from 1st to 2nd grade. Big changes!

This past year brought big changes. Mostly suck-o ones. It was a year ago today that I spent the day in the hospital with my mother, learning that she had terminal cancer. Jump back in the archives, should you need to. I'm too tired to link.

I miss her every day. I cry many of those days. Not for my loss, though I feel that keenly. But for the suffering she had to go through, the indignity of it, the sadness that permeated her bones at having to leave all of us so soon.

I thought by pushing myself this week, by working 14-hour days, I could avoid feeling anything. Stupid, is what I am.

*I have a limited array of swear words. I LOVE listening to a accomplished swearer, don't get me wrong. But somehow, I can't let it fly myself. So I satisfy myself with these pseudo-swears, which are mostly of the blasphemous variety.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Gratitude #51: FREEDOM! (please read that in Mel Gibson's William Wallace voice)

I know that one of my gratitude rules was to focus on the small things. Mostly, that's because I don't know that I could articulate the really big things for which I am grateful. I said to a friend recently that trying to frame my love for my husband and what he means to me with something as flimsy as words was akin to squishing a whole pillow into a Dixie cup. It's just not gonna happen. Plus, come on, doesn't some tiny part of you get all snarked out when someone says things like, "I am grateful for the air I breathe."

No? Just me?

Any way, I'm grateful for my freedoms, every single last one of 'em. Freedom of speech, for example. I can post any inane thought to the interwebs, and it's OK! Only my embarassment will stop me. I may quibble with people's misunderstanding of freedom of speech*, but I am still grateful to have it. So, yeah, FREEDOM! Loves ya, America!

*Okay, here's my gripe. There are people out there who misconstrue "freedom to say whatever the hell I want without consequences" as "freedom of speech." Oh no no no, youngling. If you Twitter that I am a jerk, and I come back and say nuh-UH! You are a jerk! Well, I'm not actually taking away your freedom of speech. I'm reacting to it with my own. You had the freedom to say whatever, but so do I. Just 'cause you don't like it doesn't mean that your freedom's at stake.

(from Monday, July 4, 2011)

Gratitude #50: In-Laws Who Aren't Afraid of Babies

Some of us have in-laws (or parents, actually) who ARE afraid of little people. These are the ones who like to coo at babies, but who head for zee hills when a diaper needs to be changed.

Not my in-laws! They woke up with the Little Guy (and the more self-sufficient Boy and Girl) the day after we arrived despite having stayed up just as late as us. For those of you keeping track, that would've been about 1:00 a.m. We'd planned on getting up with our darlings, but the Little Guy is sleeping in a pack-and-play in their spacious master bathroom (not IN the tub or anything -- who do you think we are?), so they heard him first. Result? Super Ninja and I actually got a full eight hours sleep.

(from Sunday, July 3)

Gratitude #49: A Plan ACTUALLY Coming Together

My apologies to Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith. Super Ninja and I drove the kiddoes to Cleveland on Saturday night for a visit with the grandparents (I am back in town, which is a whole 'nother post). Our original plan was to wend our way north and west on Saturday morning, so that we could enjoy most of the day on the west side. Then the Boy got an invitiation to his second best friend's 7th birthday party, and, well, far be it from us to deny the Boy his social occasions. We stuck around 'til after the party (it was helpful that the Girl was also invited), then hit the road at about 6:00 p.m.

WHY haven't we done this before? Traffic was great, and outside of the minor monsoon that hit us about an hour outside of town, it was possibly the best road trip I've ever been on. "Best" meaning smoothest. There was also that 22-hour trek to New Orleans when I was in college...

(from Saturday, July 2)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Gratitude #48: Peer Love

My big deadline was yesterday, and my company's new site launched. We'll see how many bugs/glitches/insert-euphemism-for-a-problem-here roll in from end users in the next couple of days. BUT, this post is all about how my boss and my co-workers congratulated me and said that they thought the project was managed well and the process was smooth. I am compelled to enumerate reasons that their praise is not genuine, but I'm fighting that, and I'll just bask in it. Until the servers blow up.

(from Friday, July 1)

Gratitude #47: Extra Large Dunkin' Donuts Coffee

Deadline today = elevated need for caffeine. Yay for the Dunkin' Donuts within walking distance of my office. I was so happy that I bought bagels and donuts for the rest of the crew. Okay, perhaps I bought a dozen to disguise the fact that I really wanted four for myself. But if you buy only four, it is clear that you are the solo eater of said donuts. The other eight were just camouflage.

(from Thursday, June 30)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Gratitude #46: The Occasional, Self-Prescribed Late Night at Work

I know, I know, you think I've done lost my mind up in here. Who would be grateful for a late night at work? Some of us are just wired that way. Don't judge! Sometimes, a project, or a report, or a technical manual needs my uninterrupted focus. And my job is basically to GET interrupted with questions, clarifications, reviews, and (a little) hand-holding all day, every day. One cannot construct a grammatically correct sentence with all of that going on, let alone craft a simple way to guide people through importing data into an online interface.

The only reason I get to work these odd hours on occasion is because of Super Ninja. So, once again, the gratitude expressed here is actually a tip of the hat to him as well.

I'm sensing a pattern in a lot of these gratitudes, aren't you?

(from Wednesday, June 29)