Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You Gotta Have Friends!

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A friendship might well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature."  Couldn't agree more.  I am certainly a better person because of the friendships that I have made over my lifetime.  I feel very lucky.  I have, what I consider to be, the most fun, challenging, intelligent, creative, energetic, considerate, reliable, trustworthy and beautiful group of friends possible.  Albeit a very widespread group.

What I have learned over the years is that true friendship takes time, and a lot of nurturing.  It does not come easily.  And it shouldn't.  Anything worth having is worth the hard work it takes to maintain it.

A few years back my best friend, Rachel, called me and posed an unusual question.  "If my diaphragm were stuck inside of me would you get it out?"
"I beg your pardon?"  I had not caught up on the Sex and the City madness yet, so I had no clue what she was referring to.
"You heard me."
"Are we stranded on a desert island in this scenario?", I was hopeful.
"No.  I'm just curious.  Would you do that for me?  If I were desperate?  And if it meant that we were not going out until I got it out?"
"Well.  I suppose my answer is yes. If it were a desperate situation, then, yes.  I would get your diaphragm out of you."
Because that's what friends do for each other, right? I mean, it's the least I could do.  She had, a few years back, retrieved me from the ER at Northwestern Memorial at 5:00 am one very chilly Chicago winter morning.  I had been in a late night car accident, the details of which I will exclude. My "cell mate" had been beckoning to the good lord almighty all night to come and take her away.  He must have had a full docket that evening.  I was unable to get a hold of my friend for several hours because I was being poked and prodded (and scolded and shamed).  When she finally arrived I broke down into the big "ugly cry".  I was so relieved to have her there. She was sweet and understanding, and kind enough to tell me that my feet smelled and my legs were hairy, and how unfortunate that was because there was a bevvy of handsome young interns milling around the ER.  But, that's what friends are for!  I would, however, like my mother to know that I did have on clean underpants.

My sisters and I grew up in a home where our parents prided themselves on their close friendships.  We always witnessed a lot of laughter and love where our parents and their friends were concerned..  My dad was a part of a very tight knit group of men who had regular lunches together during our summer vacations in Michigan.  They joined forces late in their lives and came up with the name ROMEO's, which stands for Retired Old Men Eating Out.  How cute is that?  They would meet on a regular basis for lunch and talk about whatever it is that men of a certain age talk about.  But then it wasn't about the food, it was about the camaraderie.  It was important to each and every one of them.  In recent years their gatherings have become a little more limited to lunch once in a blue moon and coffee together at the local hotel whenever one was able to make it. Dad missed a whole summer due to health issues.  He made a comeback the next summer when he arrived in his scooter chair at coffee one morning.  He was welcomed with a standing ovation and many tears.  That is true friendship. 

The connections that we make can be pretty amazing.  Some not so much.  But, sometimes we are lucky enough to connect with someone with whom we have so much in common it's almost scary.  I met my friend, Kelly, right after I graduated from college.  We were thrown into a work situation that made it necessary for us to at least find some common ground.  But we found more.  We became as close as 2 friends could possibly get. And, we still are today.  If for some reason we were to stop being friends I would never be able to look myself in the mirror and not think of her.  Literally.  She once came to visit me in Chicago and after a day at Wrigley Field and a few of the surrounding bars, we found ourselves at Sluggers bar + batting cages. (What a great combination by the way!) Kelly had just finished up her round so I jumped into her cage to "help" her toss her balls back.  But she wasn't tossing.  She was hitting.  With a bat.  Yep.  You guessed it.  Next thing I knew there was a bat in my face and I was going down. I was pretty sure I was ok.  "I'm fine!  See.  No blood!"  And then I noticed the small red puddle forming on the floor in front of me.  Fortunately I had had enough anesthesia that day that it didn't hurt too badly.  After signing my life away in the management office and strapping a band aid to my eyebrow, we were off to the Big Nasty.  And, yes, I have a lovely souvenir of that evening, just under my left eyebrow. 

I watched my 2 dogs outside today.  They are the best of friends.  Winston is 11 and deaf as a post.  Recently, Harry has taken to shepherding his old pal when it's time to go inside.  He'll come up along the side of him and give him a little nudge, as if to say, "Come on, buddy.  Let's go in."  And,Winston will faithfully follow his little sidekick indoors. It is the sweetest thing to see.  But that is, after all, what friends do for one another.  They help, guide, support, love.  And sometimes remove birth control devices that are lodged in one's vagina.  Eww.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things that make you go, hmmm

Call me Arsenio. But, one day last week I watched something that actually made me go, "hmmmm?"  Or, "what's up with that?"  It was a very slow day at work so I was lost in thought looking out the window.  Something unusual caught my eye.  I noticed a very well-coiffed young woman, dressed to the nines in heels and a coordinated skirt and blouse.  She was pushing a baby in a stroller past my store.  And then, about 10 minutes later I saw her go by again. And again, 3 more times.  And then not.  Hmmm.  It just seemed so odd.  Was there a race that I was unaware of?  Because if so she was clearly winning.  Or, were she and her family in town for a wedding and her husband dropped her off there to try to calm the baby down in the stroller while he searched wildly all over town for a pacifier just like the baby's favorite one that they had lost?  No, it was 10:30 am on a Friday.  I'd thought maybe I'd open the door on her next round and ask if she needed help but she never came back.  I guess I'll never know.

Two goods friends of mine were in downtown St. Louis a few years back and had a hmmm moment.  They were walking on the sidewalk and noticed a rather large African American woman coming towards them.  She walked with a relatively wobbly gait and she was holding one of her breasts with her hand.  They overheard her say, "My mother f-bleep-in' tit hurt."  So, once they were able to compose themselves, they asked the question, why?  Had she just had a needle biopsy?  Had she just had a mammogram?  Had she bumped into something or had someone hit her there?  It will remain a mystery.  But, my girlfriend does do a fabulous re-enactment of the scene!

Last year I was driving past Aldi's grocery store and saw something I'm sure I'll never see again.  A man was standing in front, not by the glass doors, but by the brick wall out front.  He was very animated, yelling and flailing his arms about.  Next thing you know he launches a tomato at the store, flipped the bird and walked off.  What the?  Was he at his wit's end with purchasing bad produce?  Or had he recently lost his job there and this was his act of revenge? Your guess is as good as mine. 

When I was in college I had an extreme hmmm moment.  I was walking to class one afternoon and noticed a bird perched on top of a no parking sign.  The closer I got the stranger I thought it was that the bird wasn't flying off.  I was right upon it and the damn thing didn't move, just sat there staring at me. So I continued on and next thing I knew I was under full attack.  The bird was clawing and pecking at the back of my head as if I had just robbed it's newborns out of it's nest and threw them in the garbage.  But I hadn't done a flipping thing to that stupid bird!  At the time I wasn't really thinking "hmmm".  I was, however, feeling a bit like Tippi Hedren as I screamed and ducked and swatted at the bird to leave me alone! I was so grateful to the mob of onlookers who did NOT bother to help me.  I managed to give the bird the slip and I ran into my building.  "What the HELL was that all about?"  My hair was a lovely sun-scorched texture and shade.  Perhaps the bird thought it would make a nice addition to it's nest.  Or, had it mistaken me for someone who actually did swipe it's offspring? Not sure, but, honest to God, 2 days later when I went back to the same class it happened again!!  Needless to say from there on out I took a different route to class. 

I imagine I'll have a lifetime of things that will make me go hmmm.  Everyday I wonder hmmm about things like why does Chris Martin from Coldplay wrap his fingers in multi colored bandaids, or why do people still have mullets?  I will probably never know.  So I'll just have to believe that the universe has an explanation for everything. Wish it could explain the bird incident to me.  Maybe the world had reached its cap on bird lovers.  Problem solved.  I hate birds. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chip off the Block

My oldest son is quite the character.  He thrives upon entertaining the masses and small crowds alike.  I'm not sure where he gets it from.  I have to admit, there is a swelling that arises in me every time I see him putting on a show.  As my mother says, it warms the cockles of my heart

He hasn't made it to the big time just yet.  Although last year he had a big part in the school Spring Fling play as Benny the Bull.  He was brilliant.  If I do say so.  His music teacher approached me to tell me how well had done in music class.  He does have a sweet little singing voice.  So recently I asked him if he might be interested in learning an instrument.  I was thinking something like the guitar or drums.  His response was, "Well.  Yeah. But the instrument I'd like to learn is the microphone."
Uhhhh....hmmm.  Ok, well.  "So you want to take voice lessons?'
"No.  I want to learn how to play the microphone."
"Ok.  Let me look into that." ?

I totally get his passion for music.  Once upon a time I was quite certain that I would front a band, a la Belinda Carlisle.  In the event that a karaoke machine presents itself I feel obligated to belt out my rendition of "Our Lips Are Sealed". (Given there is alcohol in the mix.) In my head I sound fantastic.  Though no one's approached me with a record contract just yet. 

We often have music blaring in our house.  We dance around and sing like a trio of dorks.  Now, it's ok for me to dance inside and as long as no one else could possibly see me.  God forbid we're in the car and I start doing my "shoulder dance".  Carter might well have a full blown anxiety attack.  "MOM!  STOP!  You, SO can not dance!"  Really?  I'm an awesome dancer.  Just ask my friends, sisters, nieces and nephew.  They'll tell you. 

My sister gave us Michael Jackson the Experience for our Wii this past Christmas as kind of a joke. It has, however, turned out to be practically the most prized possession in our home.  My boys and I and a multitude of babysitters have put some serious mileage on that game.  And, although I hold no high scores, I do consider myself quite a Michael conniseur as well as a slammin' dancer. (Insert laugh here.) So, when my 9-year old told me that I was doing the moonwalk wrong I had to beg to differ.  "Do you know who you're talking to here? I was a teenager when he first did the moonwalk on the 25 Years of Motown special that was on TV.  My friends and I spent endless hours watching and re-watching the videotape of it so that we could nail it!"
"What's a videotape?'
So, I put on a pair of socks, got on the hard floor and showed him my stuff.  He was marginally impressed.  His brother, on the other hand, thought it was "so cool!".  At least someone appreciates my skills.

I does crack me to watch him dance and sing along with the King of Pop.  Is there a future for him in the music industry?  Possibly.  Maybe he'll put Jacksonville on the map.  I just hope he remembers to thank his mom, his "inspiration" when he's accepting his Grammy.

So, here we are on another scorching summer afternoon getting a workout inside the house with Michael. 
"Hey, mom.  Don't you know the whole Thriller dance?"
"Yes I do.  But I retired it when Michael passed."  It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The "C" Word.

What a happy way to start your Friday!?  I promise I'm not going to try to bum anyone out.  But it's on my mind.

My best friend of 42 years is having a lumpectomy on Monday.  And she is going to require some radiation.  Some might say she's lucky.  I'm not so sure I'd consider it luck, but I am eternally grateful that they caught it early enough and that she's not going to have to endure what so many other victims of the "C" word have.

When I found out about her diagnosis I fell apart.  How could this be?  We were no longer talking about some one's mother or aunt or older sister.  It was one of us.  But, cancer is not selective.

It is EVERYWHERE!  Personally I'd like to make it through 1 day without hearing of another person that I know who has been diagnosed with this stupid disease.   A good friend from college lost her husband this past year to a very rare cancer.  I can't even begin to imagine this.  I did not know him at all, but from an outside perspective they seemed to be the real deal.  They were genuinely happy and in love with a beautiful family and their whole lives ahead of them.  This planet is consumed with miserable people who would just assume not be here.  Why not them?  I know it's a morbid thing to say but I'm guessing I'm not the only person out there who thinks this. 

I try to find as much humor in life as I possibly can.  But cancer has me stumped.  It's hard to laugh when it hits so close to home.

My family has had our fair share of cancer.  I guess you could say we are fortunate because it has not gotten the best of us yet.  Most recently my mom had lung cancer.  She is cancer free today, but let me tell you, we were all scared to death.  When the mortality of your parent is threatened you re-evaluate every angle of your life.  My sister had a scare with colon cancer.  But she, too, is free of it today.  My dad and I both have had malignant melanomas, and both were caught very early.  My other sister has dodged the "C" bullet thus far, but she's had more "unusual" health issues and deformities than Carter had pills.  So I think she should get a pass.  My oldest sister is a survivor of breast cancer.  She had to have a mastectomy and chemo.  And she made it through like a champ. I wrote a very short story about her a few years back that I entered into a scrapbooking contest.  Yes, that's right.  I entered a scrapbooking contest.  Laugh it off.  You done?  So, I thought I'd share it with you today.

I wish I had one ounce of my sister's character.  I wish that I had the courage to wear each and every piece of jewelry I could find that matched my outfit.  I wish I had the strength to anticipate chemotherapy simply because I knew that I would get a Big Mac when it was over.  I wish that I truly knew what it meant to love unconditionally and to be so loved in return.  I wish I had the compassion to cry whenever I saw a baby cry.  I wish that I could smile until my jaw ached and laugh joyfully with complete disregard of those around me.  I wish I were kind enough to make friends with every single person that I meet.  And I wish that I were confident enough to know that those friends lives were better because they knew me.  I wish I had the grace to thank everyone for how they have touched my life.  Above all, I pray that my children appreciate and learn from this beautiful woman.  This is my sister, Sally, the most remarkable woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing!

So, this one's in honor of you today, Poochie.  I love you.  And, I am so happy that you get to keep your boobies!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Road to Fitness

Mirror mirror on the wall, who's that fatty standing there? Oh crap. That's me! We're here again?

Yep. The road to fitness is a long one for most. For me, it's been a very hilly one. Lots and lots of winding, curvy roads with numerous peaks and valleys. You name a diet plan, odds are, I've tried it. It's freaking exhausting. I have searched high and low for the secret to weight loss and I have failed again and again. No, wait, that's not true. I have found the secret to weight loss. All one million trillion of them. And they all work. In spite of myself I have lost weight. Many times. What I haven't found is the secret to keeping it off. Oh, wow! That was an impressive collective moan I just heard. You're all with me on this one, right?

So, in chronological order, here are the greatest hits of my health and wellness journey:

1. I was 12, in the 8th grade, and Richard Simmons helped me lose my first 35 lbs. I remember riding my mother's stationary bike while doing my facial exercises...say your vowels while stretching your face a wide as possible with each letter. You're doing it right now, aren't you?
2. My sophomore year in high school is when Slimfast was introduced. They even made slim fast smoothies at the TCBY. My dad and I would "treat" ourselves to one once a week. I think I lost about 15 pounds. And gained it all back just in time for my junior year.
3. 1989, my sophomore year in college is when I tried the Diet Center. My dad had been successful on it. He neglected to tell me about the painful constipation he suffered with it. I understand why. I lost 8 lbs. on the plan and another 5 shortly after I quit.
4. The summer before my junior year I discovered Nutri System. They had storefronts where you bought their foods and went to meetings. I did very well on it. I lost 30 pounds and got a boyfriend! Isn't it amazing though how after the new romance glow wears off those pounds seem to creep back on so stinking easily?
5. 1993, single girl in Chicago hits the local Jenny Craig. Much like my Nutri System experience, it worked well. And I got another boyfriend! And, voila! The magical disappearing/reappearing weight made a comeback.
6. 1995, lost the boyfriend, sought revenge. But I did it on my own this time. Hard work, healthy eating and exercise. Who knew? I lost 40 lbs. Take that!
7. 1996 I moved back home. I was single and plump. So, I took matters into my own hands again. I worked off another 25 lbs. and this time I got myself a fiancé!
8. 2003, Married life, baby weight, stress, blah, blah...time to shed 30 pounds. But, hey let's do something different this time! How about sneaking a prescription over the Mexican border? Great idea. Thank you, phentermine. :)
9. 2009 hubs heads to Afghanistan, perfect opportunity to do it for the last freaking time in your life, woman! Hello Weight Watchers. I also became a runner and dropped 45 lbs.!

There are others that I didn't mention because they were just blips on the radar. For instance Susan Powter's "Stop the Insanity". Yeah, let's talk about insane. I even delved into a couple of late night infomercial plans. Desperate times, people.

So, now, here we are in 2011. What I don't understand is that I know so many women who have gone through divorces and shed weight like a hooker drops clothes. But not me. I never came down with a case of divorcorexia. Not even a slight one. The one contagion that I would welcome into my blood stream and it skips right on past me. Instead I developed a scorching case of gottashoveasmuchfoodasicaninmyfacearhea. Steer clear of this one. It's a doozy.

So I guess the bottom line is whether or not I can be happy at this weight. And the answer is no. I know what it feels like to be healthy. That's really all I want. To feel good in my own skin. So off I will go on another road to fitness. I just hope this one's no so steep. I'm getting too old for this crap.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stuck in a Rut

When I was a little girl I imagined that I would grow up to be a fabulous fashionista career woman living in a big city like Chicago or New York. And I was headed in that direction. I had a career in fashion in my early to mid-twenties in Chicago. I was making a name for myself. I had even purchased an incredibly chic loft apartment in what was originally a pencil factory. Life was good. But it wasn't. I was lonely. I worked anywhere from 50-70 hours a week and the only socializing I was doing was with the up-and-comers at the Gap. We were a small entourage to the Regional VP, all of us hoping to "out fabulous" one another in order to move ahead. We were all exhausted and in desperate need of a healthy meal but we trudged along like good little soldiers and met up at whatever bar she had "discovered" that day.

Sometimes I thought I might bump into my handsome prince at one of our locales. He'd be sitting at the bar rubbing his neck after a rough day in the court room. Because of course he'd be a lawyer. I mean, right? And then he'd turn to leave and s
pot me, sitting at the back corner of our table for 8. My face would be nestled in the empty popcorn basket because, let's face it, I was too tired to shine this night and my 20 ounce beer put me to the bad. He would walk over to our table, extend his hand to me and say, "You look like you need to be saved.". And I would raise my head, a couple of popcorn kernels would fall off of my face, and I would say, "Yes. Yes I do.". I would take his hand as he guided me to the door. Everyone in the bar would of course be giving us a standing ovation. And we would jump into his Jaquar XJS and ride off into the sunset. The end.

Well, it didn't quite happen this way. Instead I decided that the only way I was ever going
to find "a life" was to move back home. That and if I didn't get away from the traffic that I endured on a daily basis I was bound to kill someone. Or be killed due to my reckless, um, use of vocabulary with my fellow commuters.

So home I came. And am. And here I find myself, today, stuck in "traffic" on Morton Ave. "Yes please, Farmer Ted, move at a glacial pace. It pleases me so."
"Who is that man, mom?", my 9 year old asks.
"That guy. Farmer Ted. Do we know him?"
"Oh no, honey. I was just calling him that because, well, it's, um...it's what Molly Ringwald's character in 16 Candles called this kid that was bugging her."
"Who's Molly Ringwald?"
Sigh. "I'll tell you later."
I have about a dozen or so topics that I need to discuss with my son "later"...why gum takes 7 years to digest, why Britney Spears lip syncs, what hotdogs are made of and why do I get a "special week" every month, just to name a few. I just haven't found the proper time to open the floor up for these discussions. Anyways...

OK, so my life is not quite so glamorous as I had once hoped.  But as little girls we tend to have rather grand dreams of how our lives will pan out.  I mean, I could have followed my dream, stuck with the plan and I would probably have that big brillian career in fashion in the big city.  And, I would probably be walking around in Christian Leboutin pumps, GAP skinny jeans and a Kelly bag slung on my arm.  I'd look fabulous, but would I be happy?  Maybe.  But I'm pretty sure everything happens for a reason. 

I have a darling home, beautiful healthy children and family and friends that I can connect with in a matter of minutes.  I even still have a career in fashion.  Well, sort of.  I think my life is pretty darn fabulous after all.  And I'll take a traffic jam on Morton Ave. vs. one on the Kennedy Expressway any day of the week, thank you very much.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Check, please!

What do you get when you put a dog in a small pool? Several wet hens. I'm referring to the dating pool, by the way. I haven't been swimming for about 15 years and just recently decided to stick my toe in. Fortunately the theme music to jaws was playing loud and clear.

I'm not sure what I expected. But I guess when you live in a town with a population smaller than the capacity of Wrigley Field you should expect a little bit of crossover amongst the singles. But this was a first for me.

I am a very lucky woman. I have 2 wonderful children, a very close family and a fabulous group of friends. I feel as though I have settled into my new life fairly well. Is it what I would have chosen for myself? Absolutely not. But, for what it's worth, I am content. And, my boys are adjusting as well as I could expect them to. Honestly, I shouldn't want for more. But, there is something missing. Now, I am not one of those women who needs a man to be complete. I am very independent. Too much so some might say. But, to quote the brilliant Carrie Bradshaw, "I just want to feel the weight of a man's body on top of mine". Is that so much to ask for?

I am not a whore. Never have been. Wouldn't know how to be one at gunpoint. So I am not on the prowl. I would, however, like to be in the company of a man from time to time. And not the type of company given to me by my friend's husbands or even by my male co-workers. Not that I don't appreciate them for humoring me. 'Cause I do, fellas. But, frankly, I want to spend some quality time with a man who wants to spend quality time with me. And not with several of my good friends as well.

I mean, honestly, you can't blame a guy (or gal for that matter)for playing the field. But the problem we're confronted with here is that small pool I referred to. And, as women do, we talk. Compare notes. And discover things like the man you have been flirting with on Facebook is also flirting with (a minimum of) 2 of your good friends.

No harm, no foul. Honestly! But when you've been out of it as long as this girl has and said bachelor expresses possible interest in you, well, it stirs things up a bit. Next thing you know you're on your second glass of wine, sitting in the dark in your living room and giggling yourself silly while messaging back and forth with the bachelor. Little do you know that he's probably messaging your friends at the same time. Ah, well. If I had the same opportunity would I partake? Absofreakinglutely!

So, we did get some hearty chuckles out of this one. I actually enjoyed the ride! And as my dad used to say, "another streetcar will be by in about 5 minutes.". God I hope so.