Stepping Away

Fish: “Momma, it’s kind of embarrassing, I mean, I’m in fourth grade, and it is kind of embarrassing that you have to meet me at the bus everyday.”

I knew it was coming, I just wasn’t sure when. Truth is, I thought she was ready, but didn’t want to push her before she thought she was ready.

You have to understand, the bus stop is the end of our driveway, but I can’t see the bus stop from the house. It takes us almost three minutes to walk down there in the morning. I’m not complaining, I’m just pointing out, that it isn’t right outside our front door.

In kindergarten and first grade, it is district policy not to let the kids off the bus unless there is an adult present. She wasn’t ready to walk by herself in second grade. Halfway through third grade I finally told the driver he could leave her if I wasn’t there, that someone was on their way (her little brother occasionally made me late). Now, she wants to walk up by herself. It has to happen. She has to take these steps towards independence and I have a feeling there will be many more coming very quickly in the next few months. I’m excited for her and I know she can do it. I am ready to let go, just a little sentimental about it.

Her: “So do you think that we could pick maybe one day a week when I can walk home by myself?”

Oh good, ready, but not running. That’s my girl.

Edited to Add:
This morning I asked if I was to meet her at the bus this afternoon. No, a few seconds passed “unless it rains”. Ah it is good to be useful :).


Alcoholism Blinds Us All

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but didn’t post it because it seemed out of date by the time I completed it. Then yesterday, I read this by DaMomma, and this by One Crafty Mother. Since they brought it up again, I thought I’d post my two cents.

First, I want to offer sincerest condolences to the Bastardi, the Hames, the Longo, and the Schuler families. I cannot begin to imagine the hell you are living through right now.

For those who may have missed it there was a fatal crash on the Taconic Parkway in New York on July 27, 2009. The fact that everyone agrees on are that Diane Schuler was driving home from a weekend camping trip in her minivan with her two-year-old daughter, five-year-old son and three nieces aged nine, seven and five. She was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of the Taconic Parkway when she crashed head on into a SUV carrying Michael Bastardi, his father Guy Bastardi, and long time family friend Daniel Longo. Both cars burst into flames killing everyone but Schuler’s five-year-old son.

Diane Schuler’s autopsy results would later show a blood alcohol level of .19, more than double the legal limit. Her husband, Daniel Schuler denies his wife was an alcoholic. The family’s attorney claims the crash was caused by an undiagnosed medical condition.

I believe that Daniel Schuler didn’t know his wife had a drinking problem, but that doesn’t mean Diane Schuyler was not an alcoholic. In fact, it lends more credibility to the idea that she did indeed have addiction issues.

The burning questions everyone has are how did this happen? And, why would a mother knowingly put children she loved at risk? The answers are neither explanatory nor comforting.

When an event occurs that is this catastrophic everyone wants someone to blame, blaming a disease does not provide the reward we seek. This must be someone’s fault. Still, alcoholism is a disease and alcoholics are slaves to their master. An active alcoholic can lie and rationalize away the problem in ways that the average person would find inconceivable and completely illogical.

An alcoholic does not have a problem everyone else does. An alcoholic can look you straight in the eye and tell you that white is black and to them this is not a lie because they actually believe white is black. And, for the life of them, they can’t understand why you can’t see the truth. An alcoholic can be so convincing and the signs of trouble so subtle, that those around them start to question their own sanity. You start to think ‘oh, it must be me, I’ll try harder’. You don’t realize you aren’t living “normal” until a) something catastrophic happens or b) someone not so close to the situation asks “What the hell is going on here?”

I speak from personal experience with an active alcoholic who lives in denial, but sadly I have found too many others with friends or family members with addiction issues share my experiences.

In a perfect world Daniel Schuler would have known his wife had a drinking problem. In a perfect world he would’ve gotten her help, or at the very least he wouldn’t have let her drive. But, in the real world, he had no clue. Diane Schuler is the only responsible party. She paid the ultimate price and yet it still isn’t enough.

If you even THINK someone close to you has an issue with addiction of any type, get help, help for you, help for them. No doubt if you broach the subject with the addicted individual, you will be rebuffed (sometimes harshly), but there are numerous free support groups (e.g. Al-anon and Alcoholics Anonymous), that provide information and support. You can also share your concerns with your loved one’s doctor. They can’t talk to you without permission, but you are free to share background and experiences. Ask your own doctor for a referral to a counselor experienced in dealing with families of addicts. Make no mistake addiction not only impacts the addict, those closest, be they friends or family are affected as well. You don’t have to live this way.

The First Day of School

Today is the first day of school. The 5th first day for Fish and the 1st first day for Mim. Both are ready and excited.

We practiced getting up, eating, and getting dressed early enough to catch the bus. The bus, that according to the schedule, would be arriving 20 minutes earlier than last year. Last night, showers were taken, lunches and snacks assembled, and backpacks packed. We were ready.


When we practiced our morning routine, we forgot to include applying sunblock, and THAT, can be a painstaking process.

Our bus driver is a wonderful man who is NOTHING if not prompt, so there was copious encouragement from mom to pick up the pace. We were a little later than I would have liked, but when we finally made it to the bus stop Grammy and Grandpa (who arrived ahead of us) assured us, the bus had not come.

So, we waited.

No bus. Hmmmm, this IS odd, but hey, it is the first day of school, we’ll roll with it.

5 minutes late, (unheard of on this bus route)

10 minutes late (wow, something’s wrong)

12 minutes late Fish has to go to the bathroom. Uh, are you sure? YES. Ok, we’ll ride the bus tomorrow, everybody up to the house. Mim wants to ride the bus, but I’m not keen on putting him on by himself the first day, if only because he’d tell the entire bus that his sister had to go POOP! (That is to say nothing of the fact that I just told the entire Internet).

When we get back to the house, I put him in the car and grab, my keys. Then, I try to find the schedule online, so we can jump the route and I can put them on at a later stop. Fish finishes before I can locate it, so we hop in the car and speed back down the driveway, where Grammy & Grandpa are still waiting.

No bus. We all laugh.

Last year the schedule had our pick up at 8:20. We sauntered down at 8:10 to find the bus pulling up to our driveway. The posted schedule was wrong. Clearly, the schedule is wrong again.

May as well relax, we’ve got 6 minutes to wait. Mr. C will be here at 8:13. At 8:12, I can hear the hum of the diesel, at 8:13, he’s stopped at the bottom of the drieway red lights flashing and, they are off!

Pain free computing on the way!

This is a typing test with my new keyboard. It was a pain in the a$$ for my husband to install in 85 degree temperatures and 99% humidity, but I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT I LOVE IT! Here’s hoping that my shoulder improves and I can spend pain free time at my computer (maybe I’ll even update this blog more often).

So long and thanks for the memories

Today is the last day of summer program for my kids. The program is an offshoot of the preschool they both attended, and since Mim starts kindergarten next week, this is goodbye. My kids have both flourished in this environment so it is hard to say goodbye to such a supportive group of people.

I was fortunate to only need part-time childcare. The truth is with a little shuffling I wouldn’t have needed day care at all, but I firmly believe that my kids and I are both better for the time they spent at in this program.

This post from Julie at The Mom Slant rang true with me on many fronts, but I especially like this quote

” . . . Print and broadcast media have taken up this viewpoint for years – that day care is harmful to children – citing sensational stories and studies to back them up. Even the most tenuous evidence is used to play upon mothers’ fears that they are doing their children a disservice that will have long-lasting consequences.

Such views offend me deeply – not because I’m fearful or guilty, but because I have deep and sincere appreciation for child care providers. I hate that people unintentionally belittle the work they do while simultaneously belittling the parents who employ them.”

People who work with children don’t do it for the money. Those who are good, do it because they love the work. Ms. Amy, the program director came up the hard way. Today, she holds a masters degree and teaches college courses in addition to overseeing the curriculum and operations of the school. She believes in the value of early childhood education and the importance of staff development and it shows in the high staff retention rate. Many of the staff have been there the entire six years my kids have been there and some even longer.

The staff was not only good to my kids, but they were solid resource for me. How can I ease the transition to being a big sister? How do I explain death to a preschooler? How do I potty train a stubborn boy? How can I support my daughter as she deals with queen bees and cliques? How can I help my son battle the wiggles? They were ready with suggestions based on experience with my kids. I know that they will still be just an e-mail away but I will miss the reassurance of having unbiased input on my kids from multiple people.

I’m excited for my son, he’s absolutely ready for kindergarten and he has a great teacher. He will do well at the elementary school. This is just the first of many new beginnings for him and the last of early childhood for me. We are now solidly entrenched in the school age years. ONWARD!!

Grief Sucks!

It is amazing to me how grief can sneak up on you and stop you in your tracks, even when you are expecting it.

It was Monday July 21, 2008. I had just dropped the kids off at their summer program and pulled out my cell phone to make a call.

I’d missed a call from Becky. Oh shit. If Becky calls me, something is wrong with Dennis. Something was indeed wrong with Dennis, he’d ruptured his achilles tendon. Ow. Ow OW OW OW!!!

Dennis was my emotional father. My biological father was not really a part of my life until I was well into adulthood. Dennis and I didn’t share genes, but a bond much stronger. Even after he and my mother parted ways on less than pleasant terms, Dennis and I stayed close. For many years, he was one of the few sane people in my life. He was a giver and never a taker and so much of who I am can be directly traced to him and his influence on my life.

He was incredibly funny and a gifted writer. He could put anyone at ease, but if you crossed him, he’d let you know with a smile on his face. He was a ‘call ‘em like I see ‘em kind of guy’ and that set me straight more than once. He was not perfect, far from it (he’d be the first to admit it). He was terrible at taking care of himself and eventually, that caught up to him.

He went into the hospital to have surgery to repair the torn tendon. He had type II diabetes and had already survived a kidney transplant and an amputation. To say he was not in great health would be an understatement.

When I saw the voice mail from Becky, I knew it couldn’t be good. I tried to track everyone down to find out what was going on, but was unable to reach anyone. He HATED hospitals and hated having a fuss made over him, so I held out and called his cell phone only as a last resort. He answered sounding awful. I got the details and was able to say “I love you.”, before we hung up.

Through the day I got updates from Becky and his sisters. When the phone rang at Midnight, my first thought was my daughter and her grandparents who were driving across the country, but as I crossed the floor to the phone, I knew it was a call about Dennis. Still, I had to ask the sobbing Becky, “Are you telling me he’s gone”? I knew the answer, but I had to be sure.

Yes, he was gone.

Oh shit. Oh shit OH SHIT!!!!

The surgery to repair the tendon was successful. Becky spoke with him post op, but shortly after that, his heart gave out. If I’m being truthful, it was a better way for him to go. The transplanted kidney was failing and he was facing a grim future. I am sorry he’s gone, but I wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer.

It’s been almost a year. The date isn’t marked on my calendar, but it doesn’t have to be. He died Monday, July 21, 2008 at the age of 59.

I thought the anniversary of day itself would be hard and scheduled myself pretty tightly in an effort to keep the demons at bay. Turns out, this, week, the week before has been brutal. Everywhere I turn, there is a reminder. My iPod and the radio have ganged up on me.

He wouldn’t want this. He would want me to remember the good times, like when he read me Little House on the Prairie, when he tried to teach me to fish, the infamous New Year’s day brunch that went on all day, my wedding day (he walked me down the aisle and we danced to Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion), the Father’s day weekend he came to visit and met my daughter and we hung out in Rockport eating lobsters and drinking beer or the fall weekend he came to meet my son and he and I had third row seats to an amazing concert.

I remember all those times and more, but there have been too many times in the last twelve months where I could only shake my head and think “Dennis would have loved this.” I hate that he’s not here to share those things with

I have no pithy ending. Life will go on and as is customary, the grief will ease with time, but IT WILL ALWAYS SUCK!

This says it all I Still MIss You by Keith Anderson.

The Song Remembers When

I love music. My life is always accompanied by a soundtrack. If the radio isn’t on my iPod is blasting or songs are just roaming through my head as I make my way through the world. There are some songs I associate with specific experiences, events or locations. With this series, I make an attempt to document some of those associations.

The song: All Fired Up

The artist: Pat Benatar

The location: the small eat-in kitchen of my first apartment after college.

It is a warm, sunny day in May of 1991 at about 10:30 in the morning and I’m waking up over a cup of tea. I’m contemplating what needs to be done before I return to work for my 4 PM to 2 AM shift at the student computer center at Boston College. The phone rings breaking me out of my haze. The nice gentleman on the other end of the phone is calling to inform me that I have won a $5,000 scholarship towards my first semester of graduate school. I am stunned and ecstatic. I ask him three times if he’s serious. Three times he laughs and tells me yes he is serious. He tells me a letter with official notification will be mailed and I promise to forward him the contact information for the Boston University’s Bursar’s Office. We hang up.

I am on cloud nine. I deferred graduate school for a year so I could earn money and apply for scholarships and financial aid. With this exception, the scholarships were few and far between, but I was able to secure a few grants and a work-study position. I was planning to make up the difference in loans. A $5,000 scholarship meant that I wouldn’t need any loans until the second semester. I dance into the living room and find my Pat Benetar Greatest Hits CD. I crank the volume and blast my roommate out of bed. She’s angry until she hears the news, then she’s just sleepy.

All fired up

I believe there comes a time when everything just falls in line.

We live and learn from our mistakes the deepest cuts are healed by faith.

All fired up

The Un-Friendly Bathrooms

My kids love Friendly’s Restaurants.  From a kid’s perspective, what’s not to love about a place where dessert is all but guaranteed with your meal? When given a choice, as a reward for a special honor, Friendly’s always tops their list.  That is, until recently.

Our local Friendly’s has gone green and installed an Xlerator hand dryer. If you haven’t experienced one of these babies, put on your ear plugs and prepare for lift off! Basically, you wash your hands with soap and warm water and then put them under a fire hose of air.

Fish isn’t so keen on public bathrooms to begin with but because of her pea sized bladder, she tolerates them.  Add an automatic toilet or one of these wall mounted leaf blowers to the mix and the experience becomes down right intolerable. Mim has only been potty trained for the last 9 months or so, and in that time, we have visited just about every public bathroom in our home town and the surrounding villages.  He’s not really picky, but even he balked at the Xlerator.

I get the point.  Paper towels are costly and they are not green. I hate conventional hand dryers because they take so long to dry your hands. And let’s not even talk about the water on the door handle left by those too impatient to rub their hands together.  The Xlerator eliminates those problems.  Place your hands underneath that puppy and WHOOOSH, water begone (along with any loose finger nails or jewelry).  It is quick but HOLY ROCKETSHIPS BATMAN IS IT LOUD!

Memo to Exel, (the manufacturer of the Xlerator), hand dryers are typically installed in bathrooms, places with lots of hard surfaces and the acoustics of . . . well, a bathroom.  The sound of these suckers reverberates off ever piece of tile and porcelain until the cacophony is almost unbearable, especially to little ears.

At least in the newer models, the proximity sensor that triggers the blast of air is on the bottom instead of the front.  Once in an airport, I almost suffered from premature urination (e.g. I almost peed mah pants) when, with a full bladder,  I mistakenly walked too close to one and it let forth its holy wrath of air.

Seriously as an adult, I can suck it up for the 15-30 seconds it takes to dry my hands with one of these blowhards, but I really don’t think they are appropriate for a restaurant where the majority of the guests are under 4 feet tall.

Circuit City is Dead, Long Live Circuit City!

Have you heard the news? Electronics retailer Circuit City is closing over 500 stores in the U.S. Best Buy stockholders are pleased for a multitude of reasons not the least of which is their stocks increased $2.20 after the announcement.

In our local shopping mecca, Circuit City and Best Buy are directly across the street from each other. Even though Best Buy was right next door to Target (another one of my favorite shopping haunts), I would always make the trek across the street for one simple reason. Circuit City employees understood customer service. Circuit City employees were typically on the younger side but knowledgeable and friendly. When I was in the market for a digital camera. I did a lot of reading online, but still needed to experience my prospective purchase live and in person. I was clear with the salesperson helping me that I would not be purchasing the camera that day. That day I learned a lot about my choices and narrowed my selections to two cameras. I went home counted my pennies and made my final decision. I shopped online, but ultimately went back to Circuit City (even though they weren’t the lowest price, close, but not THE lowest).

Once I needed an obscure battery for an aging cordless phone system. I flagged an employee as I entered the store and asked him to point me in the general direction of batteries. He walked me to the department, and located the battery I needed while I bounced my 8-month old on my hip. I was thrilled not to have to crawl around and scour labels to find the write one. I actually completed the customer service survey on the transaction.

I will admit I was dismayed at the announcement in 2007 that Circuit City was laying off senior sales people. They could reapply for their jobs, but at a lower rate of pay. I debated taking my business elsewhere and I know many who did. Ultimately, I reviewed my options locally and I talked to several employees in our local store who said that particular store was not impacted by that policy. I kept shopping Circuit City.

My experiences at Best Buy have been less than stellar. Best Buy tends to employ young kids who may be knowledgeable about the products, but they are awful at customer service. I purchased a remote car starter for my husband for Christmas one year and it was nothing short of a nightmare experience. I wasn’t that educated about product options, but knew the features I wanted and what kind of vehicle it would be installed in. Not only did the sales guy sell me the wrong model for my husband’s truck, the product line I purchased was missing a key feature I had requested, but I didn’t find out until after the installation. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the installation process!

I’ll admit that I didn’t exactly do my part to boost Circuit City’s chances of survival. We would like to purchase a flat panel TV. Before Christmas, we stopped into Circuit City and evaluated our options. We even picked out a model, but ultimately decided to delay the purchase given the state of the economy.

I feel like a vulture, but I’ll admit I’ll probably stop in during the store closing sales that are slated to begin as early as today in some stores. That way I can put off any trips to Best Buy for as long as possible. Maybe Best Buy will pick up a few of the local Circuit City employees. I can only hope.

Mindy Moo

My mother-in-law’s dog was killed in her driveway by our neighbor tonight. Mindy was a dark brown collie. She would have been 4 in January.

Mindy came to our little corner of the world in March of 2005. I was traveling at the time and called home to see how things were. “We have a new resident in Skeeterville.” I was told by my husband. Oh good, Grammy, had lost her beautiful sable collie Belle in a tragic accident with a delivery truck the previous January. She’d been looking for another dog.

I called the next night again and heard “We have a new resident in Skeeterville.”
“Yeah you told me about the dog last night.”
“Now there are two.”
OY! It seems the little girl puppy had a brother that was blind in one eye and my mother-in-law lay away all night worrying that no one would adopt him, so, she did.

We took to calling them Muck & Mire and Grammy didn’t like that, so she quickly chose Mork & Mindy. When they would bound up the trail between our houses to greet me, I’d call them Mindy Moo and Morky too.

No doubt about it, Mindy was Grammy’s dog and Grammy spoiled her rotten. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Mork, but she and Mindy had something special. About a year and a half ago, Mindy developed seizures. Then she started having multiple seizures at once. It wasn’t pretty. Grammy spent hours researching seizures on the Internet. She threw out all the lawn chemicals, and changed their diet from commercial dog food to all natural raw food. Eventually, she started Mindy on a regimen of Phenobarbital. Once the dosage and timing was worked out, it seemed to help, but it affected Mindy’s disposition. The Pheno, made her dazed, she moved more slowly through the world, but no less loving.

We aren’t overzealous dog lovers, but we try and do our best by them. Our dog Daisy (also a collie) has a strong dislike for anything with an engine and she taught the puppies well. Mindy became too laid back to care, but Mork would always put up a fuss with or without Daisy’s help.

We have an electric fence that runs between the two houses so they can roam freely yet still be safe. It is designed to keep them out of harms way by keeping them away from MOST cars and delivery trucks. Regular visitors know to back up slowly. The neighbor in question has a deeded right of through our land to the back part of his land. He knows we have dogs and he knows we have kids. He’s a hunter and physically disabled, so he often drives his truck out to his deer stand.

We’re still not clear what happened tonight, the neighbor was very upset. He says he was going slow and expecting the barrage of fur, but some how he caught her, the most docile of the bunch, with his rear tire. He is not malicious, either way this was an accident, but regardless, the result is the same.

Grammy has perspective “It was a dog, not one of the kids.”, but still she was a good dog.

Rest In Peace Mindy Moo. We’ll miss you.