Click here for a link to an excellent post by my friend Robin. Let's stop using the R-word, shall we? And while we are at it, "That's so gay," is not an appropriate insult either. Go, read Robin's post, and spread the word.
Today is my birthday. I am 48 years old. Am I sad about being 2 years out from fiddy? No way. I'm ecstatic about turning 48. I'm not sure why. I'm sure that the death of my beloved sister-in-law, Memory, at the age of (barely!) 51 has made me more grateful for every year. Still, it's more than that. I've been thinking a lot about what I want from life, what is working in my life and what isn't. I'm turning inward, looking for answers deep inside. Looking for peace and stability--that small still voice within. It's awfully hard to hear it over the din. And that's why I have decided to take a break from this blog for a while. I've had a love-hate relationship with it from the beginning. I'm a very private person, so putting my thoughts out here for the whole world to see has been somewhat painful, even though I blog somewhat anonymously. It feels risky to put myself out here for all the world to see and comment on, and yet, it feels dishonest, this blogging anonymously. It's a quandry. And I have such limited time for creativity. Blogging seems to me to be a conversation, and so I am aware of my "audience." I temper my potty mouth, my political and religious beliefs, my thoughts, my soul. In my private journals and creative pursuits, I am most authentically me. And that's what I need more of right now. As the Peas say, Imma Be Me. Offline, at least for a while.
Recently, at work, I talked the IT guys into giving me a second monitor. Oh my goodness, how did I ever function without this setup? I can have my legal research on one screen and the document I'm drafting on the other screen and glance back and forth between the two...no more minimizing and maximizing windows. And I'm printing a lot less, too.
Gin and Rosewater No. 12 fragrance by Tokyo Milk. Because I like smelling like I just stumbled out of a Tennessee Williams play.
Ingrid's Kitchen. I'm not a big fan of German food so I'd never eaten there until recently, when my friend Elle suggested we go there for lunch. Who knew they had sandwiches and cases and cases and cases of the most beautiful, delicious cookies and cakes and pastries? Yum!
My pimped-out planner. I was bored with the old standard page dividers so I took some thick, beautiful two-sided scrapbook papers and my tab punch and made my own. Now I look forward to planning my day. Ok, well, that's just a lie. But my planner sure is pretty!
I believe that many of the people who come into our lives come bearing valuable lessons, if we are just open to them. Some of the lessons are beautiful and some are painful, but they all move us forward on our paths.
One of these "teachers" in my life came in the most surprising package. EJ was one of my study partners my first year of law school. He is one of the crudest, crassest people I have ever met. He also is a master at developing mnemonic devices. Unfortunately, most of his involved terms for acts of sexual depravity such as I had never imagined. He would tell us the mnemonic device, then have to explain one or more terms used in it, then wait patiently while we stammered, "But...but...but why in the world would someone want to do THAT to another human being?"
At my law school, there was a food drive each semester. To support the drive, most of the professors agreed not to call on any student who brought two cans of food to class. So on one particular such day, I sat waiting for class to start with two dusty cans of green beans from the back of my pantry sitting there on my desk. EJ walked in and said, "Sweetie Pie, what in the hell are you doing, bringing dusty green beans for the food drive? Don't you know these are families--CHILDREN--who do not have enough to eat? They don't need your dusty green beans! They need protein for their growing brains and bodies!" Even though he was on a law student's budget, he proudly carried cans of tuna as his donation to the drive.
I was shocked. And ashamed. I knew he was right. I had just never thought about who was on the other end of my donation. But I have thought about it a lot since. And I am proud to say that I have never again donated dusty cans of green beans or dented cans of corn to a food drive. No, I usually donate either tuna or peanut butter. Or sometimes both. It's a lot more expensive but gosh, it feels good. So EJ, wherever you are, thank you for that valuable lesson. I have forgotten most of the vulgar terms you taught me but I have not forgotten the Lesson of the Dusty Green Beans.
Seriously, don't eat the results of this recipe...
Last winter, my co-worker, Peggy, noticed the 4 band-aids on my fingers and asked what was up. I showed her my cracked and bleeding cuticles, and she gave me this recipe for smooth, hydrated skin. Lil Sweetie and I have been using this lotion for almost a year now, and have had nary an ashy patch since.
Take 1 tub of Vaseline and scoop it out into a bowl. Pour in 1 bottle of Vitamin E oil. Add 1 bottle of baby lotion, whatever fragrance you like. (Lil Sweetie and I like the unscented kind.) Mix together thoroughly. (I use an old hand mixer I no longer use for food.) Lil Sweetie and I like to put the finished lotion back into the Vaseline tub and baby lotion bottle 'cause we are "green" like that, but you can put it into whatever you like. And that's all there is to it!
In my wildest dreams, I never would have believed that this lotion would soak in and not leave you feeling all greasy, but it is really good stuff. Peggy swears she even uses it on her face but I can't personally recommend that.
A while back, Lil Sweetie and I went to see "Despicable Me". I was surprised that adoption was part of the storyline. Surprised because I hadn't already heard the adoption blogosphere outraged over the portrayal of adoption. (Then again, I haven't really been paying much attention to the adoption blogosphere these days.)
In case you haven't seen the movie, there are three little girls who live in an orphanage under terrible conditions. (I probably shouldn't admit that Lil Sweetie and I got a big laugh out of the "Box of Shame.") The main character Gru, an evil dude, adopts the three girls to further a scheme against his arch nemisis, Vector. When Gru begins to love the girls, his assistant Dr. Nefario has the three girls sent back to the orphanage.
Although that it is a terrible depiction of adoption, quite frankly, I loved the movie for its humor and sweetness (all things turn out right in the end). But of course I was worried about what Lil Sweetie's thoughts were.
In the car on the way home, we were discussing the movie, laughing over our favorite parts, and I told Lil Sweetie that one thing bothered me about the movie, which was that adoption doesn't really work like that--once you become a family through adoption, it's forever. No take-backs. Lil Sweetie said, "Yeah, but Gru didn't send the girls back, that other guy did." I was struck by her willingness to put the blame off on Dr. Nefario. (It's true that Gru was very glum about the whole affair, although he did nothing to stop it.) After a little more discussion, I was even more struck by Lil Sweetie's recognition that the story we had just seen was not HER story; that the adoption depicted had nothing to do with the way our family was created. It made me wonder if perhaps we adoptive parents aren't giving our kids enough credit when get up in arms over every fictional account of adoption?
I have a confession to make. I have blog envy. Or maybe it's more accurate to say I have life envy. I read and follow all these incredibly beautiful blogs filled with gorgeous photos of crafts and meals and decorating and I turn green with envy. You see, my crafts turn out all wonky, my house is cluttered and layered in dust, and my meals are usually edible but not often terribly photogenic. It seems like I always have piles of bills to pay, mountains of laundry to fold and put away, and the papers...oh my Lord, the papers! What is it about elementary school? Lil Sweetie brings home 5-10 papers a day, half of which she can't bear to throw away. Sometimes when she is asleep, I take all but my favorite one or two and bury them in the bottom of the trash can where she can't see them. Aren't I terrible?! But if I didn't, we would have to move because this house would be filled to the gills with paper.
I go through spells where I feel guilty about my not-so-beautiful life but mostly I am forgiving of myself. It's not like I'm slacking off, lazing on the couch eating bon-bons. I work 40 to 50 hours a week, spend time with my kid and my husband, and although my house will never be featured in some glossy home decorating magazine, it's far from being the subject of an episode of "Hoarders". Do I sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? Maybe I do. I just can't for the life of me figure out how the beautiful people do it. I bet they have a secret club where they give each other tips on how to squeeze an extra 3 hours into each day. Or maybe they are secret polygamists and the sister-wives do some of the housework and cooking and decorating and crafting. Won't someone please let me in on the secret?
Mr. Sweetie was gone a few weeks ago and it was too hot to cook for Lil Sweetie and I, so we made muffin tin meals. Have you heard of these? You put a bunch of finger foods in a muffin tin and call it dinner. There are whole websites devoted to this idea--can you believe it? The attraction for me was that it was quick, easy, and we could make it relatively healthy. Here's a glimpse:
We put cheese, salami, carrots, celery, cucumbers, ranch dressing, tiny baby grapes, blueberries, crackers, and ok, I'll admit, a couple of cookies in ours. And if you choose the right glass, your drink will fit in one of the holes as well. Lil Sweetie loved helping make it, and gobbled up everything except for a couple of the crackers. It was quite satisfying and also portable...next time we are late to something and I have to feed Lil Sweetie in the car, I just might try this in lieu of a drive-thru window somewhere.
For starters, I didn't have a summer vacation. Wah! I did go to Denver on a business trip, where I saw this bewildering sign:
Since I couldn't figure out how to obey this sign, I rebelled and did a double pirourette in the street.
One of the Leaders of the Free World, my dear friend Tina Babe, drove down (up? over?) from Colorado Springs just to see little ol' me. Wasn't that nice? We had a nice visit, even if I did dribble mocha frappucino down my kiwi green sweater set. (I am just SO classy!)
Speaking of classy, this is the only way to travel:
My work is taking cost-cutting measures to the extreme:
I started art journaling (poorly, I might add):
An hour, a paper punch, and a Company Store catalog can be mildly therapeutic:
It is hotter than lava-coated hell out there, y'all. I am not a warm weather kind of gal. Give me the dreary gray chill of November any day. So I have not been a happy little camper lately.
It is against my religion to turn the oven on when the outside temperature is over 90 degrees, so Mama doesn't do much any baking in the summer. Aw, who am I kidding? I barely do any cooking at all. The only way I find summer the least bit bearable is to become completely sloth-like and move as little as possible until late September.
So I thought I would share my recipe for Slack Ass Pie. This recipe is one of those things where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Really. I wouldn't lie about ice cream sandwiches--I'm not a heathen!
Here's the recipe...
Take a pan (9x13, 8x8, loaf pan, whatever, it really doesn't matter) and cover the bottom with ice cream sandwiches. You may have to cut some up to completely cover the bottom. Then cover them with a layer of Cool Whip. Squirt some chocolate syrup and caramel ice cream topping on top...just squiggle it on. If you wanted to, it would probably be yummy to sprinkle some nuts or crumbled up Oreos or chopped up candy bars in there, but I'm a purist so I can't personally recommend it. Then do the whole thing again--another layer of ice cream sandwiches, Cool Whip, and chocolate and caramel sauce. Cover it and stick it in the freezer until you are ready to eat.
Honestly, some kind of magic happens in the freezer and it all kinda melds together into a yummy mess of goodness. I'm told this will last quite a while in the freezer if you cover it good, but we've always gobbled it up too soon to find out.
This recipe will take you less than 20 minutes, start to finish, and you will barely even break a sweat, even if it is 105 outside. You're welcome.
The times, they are a'changin', that's for sure. The past three months have been just chock full of changes, and it has taught me a valuable lesson. I used to think of myself as someone who could roll with the punches, who welcomed change, but now I know that is complete and utter BS. Change stinks. It's difficult and messy. I do not like it, Sam-I-Am, I do not like to change, by damn!
I guess it all started when my much-admired Boss Lady announced her resignation. I loved my job as the number two lawyer, and I loved working for Boss Lady. I was quite happy with things the way they were. Boss Lady's leaving put me into a tail spin--I wasn't sure I wanted her job but I didn't want to work for a doofus. I finally decided to apply and after much trials and tribulation, was promoted into the job. Now I'm the supervisor of three employees and the head lawyer for my employer. Holy crap!
Still, other than losing my beloved sainted sister-in-law to cancer, most of the changes in my life have been positive ones. I shouldn't complain about getting a promotion at work or having to buy a new car to replace my hail-damaged one. These are first-world problems for sure. But I liked my old job and my old car, and I feel like I shed a perfectly good, comfortable coat for one that I'm not sure fits or is my style. I hope that one day I will look back on this period of my life as a time of great growth and opportunity, and see that all this stress was merely growing pains.
My much beloved sister-in-law and friend, auntie extraordinaire, you took care of the world but it could no longer take care of you. Rest well, dear friend, and save us a good seat on the whale boat. We'll always have Alaska and our memory of you.
I have been inside my head, mostly, working through a few things. Letting some dreams go, dreaming some new dreams, and working through how to make some dreams come true. Feeling some things that have needed expression for a long time. Grieving some things. Creating some things that are just for me. Exploring my inner landscape. Taking a good, hard look at myself. Deciding to love some things that need loving, and let go of some things that need to be gone. Reclaiming my sovereignty and my power to banish things from my life that aren’t working. Finding the energy and strength to overcome the inertia that has overtaken my life. Sweeping cobwebs from my mind.
The family and I were at a local restaurant, chatting away while waiting for our food to arrive. In the booth facing ours was an older gentleman who, I began to notice, was making faces at Lil Sweetie. He would wave, smile, wink--anything to get Lil Sweetie to respond. I kept a discreet but watchful eye, trying to determine if he was a perv or just a friendly old fart. At one point, Lil Sweetie said, "Do I even KNOW that guy?"
Eventually our food came and we dug in. While we were waiting for our tab, the elderly gentleman got up from his booth and headed directly toward ours. I tried really hard not to make eye contact, hoping he would pass us by. It was not to be--he was making a beeline straight for us. I smiled but inside I was cringing, thinking, "Oh no, this old geezer is not going to understand my family. He is going to assume that Lil Sweetie is a foster child or ask what country she is from or something equally stupid." But to my surprise, he complimented Lil Sweetie on her manners, stating that he could tell that her parents (gesturing to me and Mr. Sweetie) were raising her right. He then went on his merry way, while I sat there shamefaced, realizing that the prejudice I was forced to confront that day was my own.
Don’t offer your kid to me unless you are seriously willing to terminate your parental rights and sign a Consent to Adoption. I don’t care how horrible the little bugger has been. As someone who struggled mightily and painfully for years to be a parent, you cavalierly saying, “Ugh! My kid’s been awful lately! Ya want him?” really pisses me off. My kid actually had her first set of parents walk away from her and she will carry that emotional burden her whole life. You joking about doing the same to your kid, especially to me, is just WRONG.
Likewise, don’t joke to me about being so broke you may have to sell your kid into slavery. Slavery is not funny or cute. Neither is child trafficking. Sadly, there are children in the world today being sold into slavery. Have the decency not to make light of the horror that is their lives.
Middle-aged women actually exist. We are not invisible. It is not cool to let me stand in line at the store for ten minutes, then the minute a man walks up behind me, open up an additional check-out line by saying, “Sir? I can help you over here.”
When we are in our cars and I stop to let you into my lane because your lane is closed due to construction, I do that because I am a nice person and I would like a little wave of appreciation in acknowledgment of that. When you don’t give me the wave, I feel like you feel you are entitled to go ahead of me and that makes me want to stomp on the gas and ram into your car.
It is not necessary to do construction on every street in my city at the same time. Planning, people! It’s a good thing.
If you want to stand around in large groups in public places, fine. But don’t block entire entryways, aisles, sidewalks, etc. It’s just plain rude. And blocking the exit point of an escalator is dangerous and stupid. See, I can’t really stop, no matter how dirty of a look you give me, as I’m on a mechanical moving apparatus that is about to dump me off right where you are standing.
Shrieking in a high-pitched voice, especially directly into my ear, is neither desired nor appreciated. I don’t care how close we are to missing the beginning of your favorite TV program.
If you are a place of business and are going to have a website (which you really should, by the way), then have the decency to put your address, phone number and hours on that website in a place that is easy to find. Why else would I be looking at your lame-ass website?
If you are literally a silly goose, you really shouldn’t casually stroll across a busy street during rush hour every morning. You have wings, use them! You are going to end up as roadway pate' one morning and that is going to ruin both our days.
A sports superstar screwing around on his wife is not news. Neither is a TV personality’s divorce from his SEVENTH wife. There is plenty enough real news in the world. Let’s stop focusing on the silly crap, shall we? And leave poor Sandra alone, for God's sake!
If you are a middle-aged woman with her own blog, who has found numerous things to be cranky about, it’s quite possible you need your hormones adjusted. Excuse me while I call my doctor...
As I've talked about before, we have had a semi-open adoption with Lil Sweetie's birthmom, Ashley.* In theory, that means that we share information, gifts, and photos with Ashley, but we don't know identifying information about her, nor does she know our last names or where we live. In reality, though, the openness in our adoption has mostly been on our side--in almost eight years, we have had one meeting and received one letter and one packet of photos from Ashley. In contrast, we have sent photos, letters, gifts, and examples of Lil Sweetie's artwork and school work a minimum of four times a year. (Not that I'm keeping score or anything. Ok, maybe I am.)
We've been going on this way for almost eight years. Then, a couple of the weeks ago, we received an email from the adoption agency saying that Ashley has chosen to close our adoption and no longer wants to receive communications from us. This was a complete surprise to us. We had no hint that this was coming. In fact, I didn't really realize that an open adoption could be closed. In hindsight, I probably should have realized that, as we have known of other adoptions where the level of openness increases as the adoptive parents and birthparents come to know and trust each other. It stands to reason that if the degree of openness can increase, it could decrease as well...I just had never thought about it.
So, it was quite shocking to receive that email from the adoption agency. I was pretty devastated at first. I felt like we had done something wrong, even though the adoption agency assures us that is not the case. And of course, I was worried sick about how this would affect Lil Sweetie. As usual, Mr. Sweetie talked me down off the ledge. He has such a knack for seeing to the heart of matters. Mr. Sweetie pointed out, rightly so, that I was upset about the loss of "what might have been", rather than "what was." Mr. Sweetie pointed out that Lil Sweetie's life is no different than it was before, and that she will probably not even notice the difference. For that reason, we have not yet talked to Lil Sweetie about all this. At some point, she will ask why we no longer send photos and letters and gifts to Ashley, and we will tell her that we have lost contact with Ashley and no longer know how to get things to her. And that is the truth.
Here's a blog post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago and never posted that explains why I haven't been posting lately:
Have you ever seen that TV show, “Hoarders”? That’s the way my mind feels—all cluttered and sad, with mouse droppings in the corners and evidence of insect infestation. It’s all musty and dusty and rusty up in here and I’d like to do something about it but I don’t know where to start. So I sit in the chaos and the clutter. I need some mental Drano, some psychic Ex-lax. It’s days like this that it’s easy to forget my theme for this year is “HOPE.”
And here's a excerpt from an email I wrote to a friend who jokingly asked if I were going to make croissants from scratch:
I will never stuff a mushroom. I will never make a turducken. I will never make croissants or homemade puff pastry. I will never personally roast a pig on a spit or bury a goat in a hole in my yard. I will ever pickle eggs. I will never egg a pickle. I will however, on occasion, stuff a pickle with pimento cheese. (Don't knock it until you've tried it.) I will never cook a rack of lamb. I will never make any form or flavor of aspic. (For the love of God, never ever EVER google the word “aspic”...the images are horrifying! I can never unsee them. I now suffer from Post Traumatic Aspic Disorder.)
I will never fry, saute’ or stuff a squash blossom. I will never make gelatin from scratch. I will never make chitlins, tripe, brains, kidney pie, tongue, blood pudding, or calf fries. Ditto re lamb fries. I will never make head cheese (see aspic, above). For that matter, I will most likely never make any form of cheese from scratch. Not that head cheese is actual cheese.
I very much know who I am and what I am about (and what I am not) in the kitchen.
So no, I will not be making homemade croissants. And you?
This weekend, some men came and cut down a lot of dead branches out of our sweet gum trees. I was fascinated by the wood chipper they brought--they fired it up and it chomped up those giant branches and in no time at all, the branches were nothing but sawdust. I thought, "Wow, wouldn't it be great if there was a wood chipper for life?"
Then I remembered that I don't believe in regrets. Well, that's not entirely true. I don't regret the big things, like my disasterous first marriage. It hurt like hell going through it and I dang sure wouldn't want to do it again. But I don't regret it. I learned a lot. A LOT. It toughened me up, which I sorely needed. It wore off some rough edges. And it opened my eyes, which helped me recognize Mr. Sweetie as my Mr. Right. I think I would have passed right by him if not for the lessons learned in my first marriage.
Same thing with infertility...it wasn't fun, I have no desire to go through it again, but I have no regrets. Infertility was the road I had to take to end up here, as Lil Sweetie's mom, my personal pot of gold at the end of the infertility rainbow.
The things I do regret are the little things...the times when I was impatient and snappish and hurtful to others. Those are my regrets, and the things I would put through the wood chipper if I could.
Ordinarily, I'm all for going to church. I think it is important on so many different levels. But today, with a cold rain falling and everyone feeling slightly under-the-weather, we opted not to go.
Instead, we puttered around the house in our jammies, doing chores, playing board games, and enjoying each other's company. I had some soup going in the slow cooker, making the whole house smell wonderful and homey, the way my great-grandmother's house used to smell. Lil Sweetie and I made cornbread. It was a lovely, peaceful day.
The remodeling project from hell is dang near done. It quite possibly would have been completed yesterday had we not had a pipe burst (completely unrelated to the remodel). Thank God Uncle Dave, our friend and contractor was here. He knew how to get the water to stop spewing and then he did a temporary fix on the thing. Do you know how much it would have cost us to have a plumber come out on Sunday evening? I shudder to think. All Uncle Dave charged us was a couple of cookies! Anyway, a closet was flooded so my decluttering goal got a jump start--I threw out a bunch of crap that I might have been tempted to hold on to otherwise...things aren't nearly so tempting when they are drippy.
Speaking of drippy, here's how we paid Uncle Dave for emergency plumbing services:
Our Valentine's cookies, like love itself, are imperfect and messy.
The closet part of the remodel is done so I thought I would give you a peek-a-boo. (This is not the closet that flooded, just so ya know.) Here is a pic of the closet before the remodel:
Here is a pic taken during the remodel, looking from Lil Sweetie's room, through the closet, into the bathroom:
And here are some "after" pics of the closet:
That top shelf in the very top of the photo goes all the way around the closet. You can't really tell, but the paint is a very light gray, called "Subtle Touch." (I so want a job naming colors of things. Wouldn't that be fun? But I digress.) Here's another view of the closet:
It's rather difficult to take exciting photos of a closet. But it is a big improvement. The closet went from a poorly designed regular ol' closet to a walk-in. I lost the coin toss for the closet, but did win the consolation prize of one regular ol' closet for my clothes and another regular ol' closet for my crafts. Everybody wins!
Here's another view of the closet:
But wait! What can that be in the corner? Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Well I'll be! It's a sparkly-eyed brown-bellied munchkin!
I love quotes and collect them, but every once in a while, one gets under my skin and I just can't shake it. This quote from Steven Soderbergh has been haunting me for months now:
"What tragedy has [art] kept from happening? Tell that [that art makes the world a better place] to the 13-year-old girl from Somalia who got stoned to death last week after being raped by three men and then convicted of adultery, buried up to her head, and stoned in front of a crowd of 1,000 people. If the collected works of Shakespeare can't keep that from happening, then what is it worth? Honestly?"
What do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Soderbergh? I love the humility in that quote, but at the same time, I respectfully disagree. I think we couldn't possibly bear to live in a world in which a 13-year-old girl is stoned to death, in which hundreds of thousands die in an earthquake, unless that world also included the collected works of Shakespeare and Mozart and Monet. Somedays, it's only the collected works of Shakespeare that keeps us all from flinging ourselves head first out the nearest high window.