Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I wish you a puppy Christmas

My husband and I were living in DC when the Twin Towers were hit and I recall that when The Daily Show came back on the air a week later, all Jon Stewart could muster for his monologue was holding a puppy and sharing that cuddly golden bundle with his viewers.  I connect with this strategy. Puppies cure everything. My gracious gift to you this holiday season is the gift of my ridiculous puppy musings.  While my entire family has been sick with crud that oozes from every orifice, while I recover from a busy and exhausting semester, and while my puppy - Charleston the Terror - recovers from being spayed (because we are NOT having more of her), I have taken solace in all things puppy. To be fair and equitable (like you do) I want to pass on this puppy glee.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukka, Joyous Kwanza, A Delightful Devali, and Glorious Ramadan.

Charlie is a tiny dog.  Not what I'm used to.  Lucy is our 7-year-old St. Bernard.  That's what I'm used to.  Charlie is so going to shiver this winter.  Dogs in sweaters are a bit cutesy for my taste (not judging if that's your thang), but dogs in kooky sweaters . . . where is my credit card amazon.com?
Monster Puppy
Sock Puppy with hoodie ears to cover real ears
            Punk Rock Puppy

While Charlie has been recuperating, we've needed to keep her sequestered from Lucy: puppy jail.  At night after my family has gone to bed with various illnesses, I have been letting the puppy out into the house for bonding with me and Downton Abbey.  (We went through the entire first season in one week flat.)  I now wake looking forward to our couch time with the Dowager.  I'm totally channeling my college penchant for Merchant/Ivory Edwardian costume dramas.  With this in mind, the following image was a Christmas present for me and Charlie from icanhazcheeseburger.com.

Correct: The Dowton Abbey cast . . . as dogs 

Another bit of puppy joy that my entire family has been buzzing on for days (read: play it again, play it again!) is this piece of goodness:

Bookmark that baby for when you're feeling blue on a cold and gray winter day.

From the bottom of my puppy-lovin' heart, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Processing Tragedy

Over the past week I have been keenly aware of how we all process trauma, each in our own way.  I have been inspired by photos and news stories, outraged and dumbstruck by others.  Through all of it, I continue - like all of us - to grieve the losses in Newtown.

Some of my friends have written beautiful posts, like my friend Anna who wrote about silencing the arguments: The Silent Isle.  Others have written about not having words (me included), but gathering enough words to send to the families at Sandy Hook Elementary: Shabbir's Diary.  Kate at Nested has reminded us of heroes.  One of my new favorite blogs, Rage Against the Minivan, has expressed anger and has called for action (she has several excellent posts, one in particular about mental health). I've received phone calls and texts from friends, fellow moms, who just want to send love to all of their friends and family. My poor husband has been rendered speechless, tearing up at a vigil on campus as he introduced a colleague.  And my dear friend First Laura has focused her energy on making her immediate surroundings more beautiful and festive for the holidays, baking a kitchenful of treats for co-workers and decorating her office hallway to spread cheer in the face of suffering.

This is what I've done: research.

I told my husband the other night that when tragedy strikes, historically I have exhaustively researched the situation.  In doing so I am not trying to distance my emotions from the people involved.  Quite the opposite.  I want to know as much as I possibly can so that I can honor each person who died.  This is why I have channel surfed (on my computer because we don't have cable) relentlessly.  This is why I forced myself to look at every child's photograph, listen to every name read on NPR, why I have posted every well-written op ed and news story that I feel sheds light on the facts of the events.  (I say well-written because man have I read some awful, speculative pieces over the past week.  One on Salon.com that frankly pissed me the hell off for all of its speculation about the killer's mother.  How can they publish something that is pure imagination? Or other articles about how Adam Lanza was vegan.  Who the f*$# cares?!)

At heart, I am an eternal student who requires facts to find answers.  I am not looking for meaning in the face of tragedy, because I don't believe there is meaning.  It was senseless and horrific.  I am not looking for hope (although I do appreciate all of the posts that have given that to me, especially the news about the 6 golden retrievers sent from Chicago to bring comfort to the Newtown community).
I am not a person of faith, so I am not looking for comfort in prayer.  I am not looking for comfort period.  I don't want to be comfortable.  I want to look into the face of pain and feel it too.  It is real and I need to acknowledge it so that I never forget what it looks like, how it feels.  As a cultural Jew, this is a lesson I learned a long time ago: never forget.  My approach is raw and it isn't right for everyone, certainly not my husband who can't listen to the news anymore.  I, however, need to know and need to cry.  I need to be active, so I have signed gun control petitions, have shared every post I consider worth reading (even if they contradict my own feelings - some politicians, namely the uber-crazy governor of Texas - want to arm teachers!).  We all approach this tragedy differently.  There really isn't a right way to grieve.

image: http://mashable.com/2012/12/17/newtown-comfort-dog-ministry/

Monday, December 17, 2012

Just a few words of little consequence

I've been trying to write a post in my head all weekend, but still am not sure what to say. My silence has been both situational (one child in Nutcracker productions back-to-back; the other child up all night sick; and my own body giving up on me, sending me to my specialist) and self-imposed. I honestly am not sure how to add to the national dialogue about the Sandyhook Elementary massacre, nor am I by any means a voice of authority on grief, gun control, or mental health. I'm just a mom who feels overwhelmed like the rest of you moms, dads, human beings. The best I can do is say I grieve for Newtown, my dreams are haunted and I worry a little more than usual when I send my kids to school. I've always been a staunch advocate for gun control and I do think this IS the time to address it. When Joe Scarborough publicly denounces his own pro-gun record because of Newtown, I have hope that the climate can change.

Peace to all who mourn.

And for levity, I promise soon - in celebration of hitting 21 followers (most of whom I personally know and love) - to post a middle school drawing of Steve Perry.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I'd like to thank the Academy

Precisely one week ago, my dear friend and fellow blogger (who my husband now refers to as my "new girlfriend"), Kate, nominated me for a Liebster Award.  What does that mean?  I better quote it, because I can't rely on my memory: The Liebster blog Award is an award given from bloggers to bloggers that are small to medium in size or up and coming in the blogsphere. Liebster is German for 'favorite.' The award is a way to give beginning bloggers some worthy attention, make conections and let readers learn a little more about you." Thank you, Kate!  I'm not worthy.  I'm not worthy.  In order to accept the award, I must answer 11 questions challenged by Kate.  After you read over my answers, check out my girlfriend's always thigh-slapping hilarity at Nested.

Now for some truth:  

1. What did you want to be when you "grew up"?  At age 4: Queen.  Age 5: Ballerina.  Age 6: Waitress.  Reality set in quickly for me in elementary school.

2. What's your guilty pleasure?  A pint of (no, sadly, not bourbon) Graeter's Mocha Chip and HGTV.  I know. Whoooooooo!
3. If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?  No offense, my sweet girlfriend, but I hate this question.  Why would I want to have dinner with a corpse?  Also, I'm terrible at small talk and given the opportunity to have dinner with an alive-and-only-slightly-deranged Virginia Woolf, I would most likely smile a lot and say I like her books.  I tried chatting with David Sedaris while he signed my books once and he a.) had nothing to offer and b.) wrote this in my book: "Dear Amy, thank you for making me rich." Famous people are dicks.

4. How do you take your coffee? How many people answer this with the Airplane joke?  Lately, with a splash of almond milk because I'm wild like that.  I also am beginning an elimination diet which will have me eschewing most dairy (which I already do, minus the Graeter's Mocha Chip, because that stuff is crack), gluten, and soy.  I'll be the frightened woman in the corner gnawing on cardboard.

5. Do you believe in ghosts?  No, but I love a good ghost story.  My daughter is reading a great one, the first book of The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows, by Jacqueline West. Click on that link!  The music is worth the effort.
photo: amazon.com (but you can find it in your local independent bookstore,  which I recommend)
 6. Would you rather have a human head and intelligence with a velociraptor's body or a parrot that sat on your shoulder and broadcast your every thought?  I'm going to go with velociraptor because a.) parrot crap on the shoulder, ew, b.) who doesn't want to fly? and c.) I would be a hit at my son's birthday parties.
7. If you could accomplish only one thing in 2013, what would it be? Develop an actual writing routine, something I do regularly, at a time that is sacred.  No exceptions.  Failing that, I'd like to get either my essay collection or memoir in good enough shape to shop around to agents and/or editors.

8. Cats or dogs?  I am highly allergic to cats and have always thought of myself as a dog person; however, my terrier rescue has me leaning towards cats.  They are quiet and snuggly and very low-maintenance.  But the constant wheezing and swollen eyes would be a pain.  I'm going to have to go with a narrow definition here: I am a BIG dog person.  I like them big, loveable, lazy, and dumb (just like my men -- see, I did a bait and switch on the Airplane joke).

9. What animal best represents your personality and why? I believe a picture can answer this question best.
Yoo-hoo!  Follow my blog!
 Or perhaps a video.

10. Are you afraid of the dark?  Only at night.  (Actually, I love the dark because dark = sleepy time.)

11. Paper or plastic?  Are we discussing grocering or something more personal?  I prefer cloth, then aluminum sheeting, followed by the woven hair of all of my pets.

I believe I am supposed to pass on the Liebster Award to other deserving blogs, but because I'm still networking in the blogosphere, all of my nominees either have one already or keep more private blogs.  I will hold onto this award for later and award the deserving who I will discover and love in 2013 (another goal for the new year: invest in the blogging community!).

My parting words will be a gauche plea for you to follow my blog.  I have 18 awesome followers (thank you, all!).  If you ever read my blog on Facebook or SheWrites, even if it is only on occasion (and that's fine, I'm not asking for a Faustian commitment) PLEASE FOLLOW MY BLOG!  Why?  Because one day when I send off my book proposal, an editor or agent will look up ADDled and see I only have 18 (wonderful) followers and am therefore insubstantial, a risky bet, and a sad little writer coasting on a pipe dream.  Boost my numbers and I become a playa!

Thank you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pile and piles and piles and . . .

Generally speaking, I can measure how acute my ADD is by the number of piles situated around my house.  Last Friday I believe I counted 14 separate piles.  As of today, some of those piles have melded together forming a mega or monster pile, which eventually will become sentient and eat my head. 
Where is that delicious head?!

Pretty much every room in the house has a pile or two or four hundred and seventeen.  Lest you think I'm exaggerating, I will provide photographic evidence.

This is what happens when my teaching semester ends, but my student semester continues

Even my freezer has piles.
Fancy some smushed bread with that frozen turkey burger?

And my laundry.
Clearly, this is the winner.  (That's CLEAN laundry on top of the appliances!)

My piles are breeding.  IT'S AN EPIDEMIC!

I wish I could offer a solution for those of you who are nodding your heads and saying, "That's me!  That's my house and my life, too!" but sadly, the only solution I see ahead of me is plowing through each pile, one-by-one as time allows, while the house is empty of everyone besides me and the dogs (who often provide me with piles of their own).  As I wade through each stack, I will inevitably shake my head and vow never to let things get this out of hand again.  Then I will move the laundry pile on my bed to the dresser in order to sleep and the cycle will not end.

I often wonder where this stacking habit originated.  If memory serves me, I had piles in my bedroom as a teenager - mostly to frustrate my OCD mother.  No one else in my family has this bad habit.  Then again, by the time I was a teenager, all of my siblings were in grad school, married, and/or living on their own in pile-free houses and apartments.  Even my ADD times fifty husband gets irritated with my stacks.  He wants to rid the house of paper.  I agree to an extent.  Some memories are paper memories (ticket stubs and programs and kids' artwork).  Some important documents are also paper (insurance claims, checks, immunization records). 

I know, I know, I could scan them and keep them electronically organized, but guess what?  My computer hard drive is maxed out with piles of crap too.

Photo credits:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Keep them doggies movin'. Rawhide!

I admit it.  I placate my dogs with rawhide.  Perhaps this isn't a capital offense (if I were one of my students I'd say "in society today."  For some reason, college freshmen think that makes them sound authoritative.).  Pet stores sell raw hide by the truckloads in all shapes, sizes and well, body parts.  When I took my son with me to buy the dogs new and crazy expensive protein-rich food (because they have allergies and I wasn't going to save for my kids' college education anyway), he picked up a raw hide that was taller than him.  Nearly as tall as me.  Granted, he is only three feet tall and I'm only five feet, but still.



My dog trainer, Andrea, isn't a huge fan of rawhide because it doesn't digest easily and some dogs can bite off big hunks and choke.  There are products that resemble rawhides that are 100% pig skin - yep, that's how it's advertised and having pets IS this glamorous.  My dogs LURVED it, but they are more expensive and not available at Kroger, where I lazily throw a pack of rawhide in my cart and move on.
My dogs loved the pig skin thiiiiiiiiisssssss much

Charlie, our terror, ahem terrier, has been super destructo lately.  It's colder, we are insanely busy and she's not getting walks or outside time like she should.  Yesterday, she destroyed her bed.  At least it was her bed and not any of the human beds in the house.  She yanked it by the teeth until she bit a hole in it and pulled out all of the stuffing.  In the immortal words of Monty Python, it is an ex-dog bed. 

In order to keep her crazy a little under wrap, and to make Lucy, my big dog - or as the rest of my family call her, our good dog - happy, I gave them both small rawhides this morning while getting ready.  Lucy demurely held her chew bone and ate it like a normal dog.  Charlie looked more like this. 

Where Charlie is the kid in black and the chew bone is the other kid in black.

In fairness, that rawhide had it coming.

This is where my blog goes when the semester ends and I'm done grading.  Get used to it.  I'm not teaching next semester!

Photo credits:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writing without anxiety . . . and/or pants

The latest book by my bedside is Mark Salzman's The Man In The Empty Boat.  I knew you'd ask, so I thought I'd just tell you straight-up.  It's a memoir - because that's what I read . . . and write - about Salzman's TEN YEAR battle with anxiety and writer's block.  TEN YEARS!  And he's married to a successful documentarian (Jessica Yu who directed the 1996 Academy Award Winning documentary "Breathing Lessons: The Life & Work of Mark O'Brien" in case you just saw "The Sessions", with very naked Helen Hunt and very prone but beautiful John Hawkes.  And if you haven't heard of Jessica Yu, "Breathing Lessons," or "The Sessions," put down the laptop and drive to your nearest multiplex, buy a ticket and absorb the awesome. And if you haven't seen the documentary, click on the link above and watch it!  It's only 35 minutes long. This endorsement has been brought to you by Crazy People Love Determined Heroes Who Just Want To Have (Love &) Sex.)  Anyhazoo, (long detour, sorry) Salzman's book was an impulse buy last summer and for obvious reasons (to me, at least): I write and often struggle with the blockage of writing, I also have low-grade but constant anxiety, INSPIRE THE FUCK OUT OF ME!  So far, Salzman hasn't disappointed.  He is self-deprecatingly funny in a quiet, subtle way.  He is also easily manipulated by his kids, and I can relate to that.  Case in point: he decides to rent an office space to work on a novel he had begun two years before; now, he has a toddler who guilts the soul out of him without even trying; when he tells her goodbye (on his one of three days away from her) she cries, he comforts, she tells him goodbye, and then - just to torment himself - he lingers outside her bedroom door where he hears her quote "The Lion King", saying "You said you would always be there.  But you're not."  Damn, girl!  That.  Is.  Harsh.  Salzman ends up cashing the rental space and sets up shop in his house, where he works in two-hour increments.
Damn, Simba, throttle back the co-dependency!
Long story short: he rewrites his novel (that takes place in freakin' 12th century China, because that's both a huge market and something easy to write about) three bloody times!  I'm mid-way through his memoir and he has had another daughter, his first Jewish-mother daughter (and I can say that because I had and am now a Jewish mother) is now 8, and he still hasn't finished the book!  He has recreated the protagonist in each version.  First, it was an Italian nun.  Then, it was an Italian monk.  At this point it is a Chinese rebel.  In contrast, just so you understand that I am actually nothing like this man, I am happy when I write a blog post of 500 words.  With photographs.  That is the picture of success for me.

So, I've been wondering if I need to commit to this writing thing more and would my husband divorce me if I had writer's block for TEN YEARS, during which time I didn't bring in any money or contribute to childcare?  I fantasize about a little writing shed in the backyard where I could finally spread out all of my books and paper and clutter without having to constantly move it from the dining room to the family room to the attic to the coffee shop to my porch.  Ahhhhh.  That sounds loverly.  I obsess so much over this that I have a Pinterest board devoted to it.  Check it out!  Apparently, I'm not alone.  I re-pin tons of cute photos of sheds (and chicken coops because some chickens really live it up) from other people who also want a writing shed or art studio in their backyard.  What?  No rent, no travel, hell, no pants if you want!  It's in your backyard, who would know?
Can't you just see me, not wearing pants, in there?
But, back to Salzman.  He did write a bestseller about his travels in China, Iron & Silk, so he could rest a little on his laurels.  I am one semester away from finishing my MFA in writing with 4 articles/essays and a handful of local-interest columns under my belt.  I need a cash cow so my husband can become a house-dad.  And that, my friends, is not helping the low-level anxiety.

Man In The Empty Boat image:  http://amazon.com
Simba image: http://fanpop.com
Tiny shed image: http://www.smallgardenlove.com/beautiful-garden-sheds/garden-shed-shabby-chic/

Friday, November 16, 2012

This is not a joke post

As many of you know, I am adjuncting this semester.  Composition 101, a Gen Ed requirement.  And generally speaking, I enjoy teaching this class.  I like the challenge of asking a classroom full of 22 disaffected 19-year-olds who really just want to get an engineering degree so they can make a lot of money to explore literature and their own creative expression.  Maybe I'm a sadist.

This semester has been particularly trying because I am teaching two sections of the class.  This doesn't sound like much and frankly I know people who are teaching double and triple my load.  It's not the work load that has been frustrating - although, trust me people, it hasn't been a cakewalk either - it has been student attitudes.  Allow me to explain.  While I have noticed an increasing trend in college students acting more entitled than back in the day when I was in college, it is one thing to show up to class unprepared one day and another to consistently come to class having no idea what the rest of the class is doing. 

My two classes fit into the classic angel versus devil dualism: 10:00-ers are my angels; 12:00-ers are my devils (with a few exceptions in both classes).  I have complained to my husband about my 12:00-ers often and he assures me that I should have known what I was getting into with a 12:00 class.  "They didn't get their acts together to enroll in an earlier class so they took whatever was left." This, he thinks, speaks volumes about the class dynamics.  Maybe so.  Here's the dynamics of the 12:00-ers I have documented thus far: disrespectful chatting while I'm talking; asking me to repeat what I just said because of not listening; texting; eating; showing up 15-20 minutes late; showing up 15-20 minutes late reeking of pot; distracting other students; distracting from group discussion when student hasn't read the assignment; 6 or more unexcused absences (which is a means to an "F"); failing to turn in one single homework assignment.

As the semester has progressed, several students have disappeared.  Some for days or a week and others permanently.  I'm usually a bit guarded when students ask for exceptions.  I've heard that students will use "death in the family" repeatedly.  Once, a colleague told me, a student gave birth to her child three times in one semester.  (I'm guessing she did not provide a note from the obstetrician.) But, as I have met with my 12:00-ers individually, or read through their often intensely personal essays, I realize that they are not a group of slackers.  These kids have problems of a scale I could not have imagined at their age.  The problems range from sad-but-under-control (emotional distress, low self-esteem) to difficult to handle (multiple kids to support, car accidents, 3rd shift jobs at UPS) to oh-my-god-please-tell-me-you-are-gettting-medical/spiritual/emotional counsel (critically ill siblings, mentally ill parents, physical abuse).  I don't think I'm alone in reporting that students confide more to Humanities professors than any other discipline.  We assign personal essays; what do we expect?  But here's the thing: we are not trained to help these students.  I'm not saying, don't talk to me.  I love listening and trying to help.  I love love love my students, even the fuck-ups who reek of pot every class.  I just wish universities provided more training for us sensitive Humanities types, especially we adjunct profs who get paid a nickle an hour. 

In the mean time, my heart goes out to my students - to all teenagers - who are dealing with life-changing, life-threatening crises, who need support and don't know who to ask, who to trust, where to turn.  Keep going to class.  Keep doing your work.  It will transform you.  You will find community.  It will open doors for you.  You will live through this and you will be stronger for it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Flippin' (for) the bird

I think I have a problem.  A Panera problem.  Don't judge, just listen.

In 2000 I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, an autoimmune digestive disorder which can be irritating and embarrassing at best and painful and debilitating at worst.  I've experienced the gamut and am here to say, something has gotta give!  Today, I take three pills a day to manage my symptoms.  I used to take nine and have a home healthcare nurse plug an IV of mouse antibodies in my arm for three hours every six weeks.  So, things have improved.  But this fall, what with the stress of teaching and having two kids with busy schedules and my own work/school/parenting routines, I've been down and out with abdominal pain a lot.  My doctor is awesome and very accessible, but at a certain point, I just don't want to take more meds.

I'm convinced that I need to change my diet to help with symptoms.  Not because I have read scientific studies or prowled Crohn's message boards. It's more innate than that.  First, I'm weaning off of dairy, which is a stellar pain because ice cream is God.  I've dabbled with soy and almond milk products for years, but cheese, butter, sour cream, oh kill me now!  All of this dairyless dining has driven me to my next love.  No, it isn't chocolate or coffee or even Coca Cola (hmmmnnn, I'm thinking I may have a caffeine issue).  It's chicken.  When my stomach hurts I, for whatever insane reason, must have poultry.  Turkey will do in a pinch.  Funny story: my family members are all vegetarian.  Well, my husband eats fish, but for all intensive purposes, vegetarian.  I once ate a piece of fried chicken in front of my daughter and she shielded her eyes.  It was too barbaric for her.  I get it.  In college, I was vegetarian (because that's when you become a vegetarian, people!).  I eschewed meat of all kind: hooved meat, winged meat, scaled meat, and even meatless meat freaked me out because it tasted and felt like meat.  When my college choir tour bus stopped on route at a McDonald's for dinner, I sanctimoniously unwrapped my Granny Smith apple and jar of natural peanut butter.  Yum.

Because of my past and because no one in my family eats poultry, I've never learned how to cook a bird.  Happy Thanksgiving.  Here's some Tofurkey!  Hence my Panera problem.  I am seriously craving the bird, any bird, and Panera is everywhere near my house, near my doctor's offices, on route from school.  Poultry is my drug; Panera is my pusher.  Curse you, Panera, and your Turkey Bacon Bravo! (I actually ate one of those the other day and stomped my foot on the ground after sinking my teeth into the sandwich.  Stomped my foot with intense pleasure.  Stomped like I've been stranded on a lonely island eating crickets and this was the best goddamned sandwich delivered on the backs of angels.)  I have frequented Paneras so much lately that I secreted away the leftovers by folding over the bag and shoving it behind the tofu in the fridge.  I was ashamed for my husband to see. 
A loving photo of the Turkey Bacon Bravo by an adoring fan
It seems I'm not alone.  While perusing the interwebs for a photo of the Turkey Bacon Bravo sandwich, I discovered that a lot of people have taken loving photos of this very sandwich.  Not all of these folks are foodies with blogs.  These are average schmos in love with a sandwich. (The secret ingredient is meth.)

For whatever physiological reasons - tryptophan, salt, meth -  poultry brings my belly comfort and joy during a season of excess, despite my disapproving family. 

If loving poultry is wrong, I don't want to be right.

My daughter sees a symbol.  I see delicious finger turkey sandwich.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Warning: Content Is Completely Inappropriate

This was a weird-ass week.  Weird as in public nudity or inappropriate public behavior weird.  For me.  Maybe you had more of a Leave It To Beaver week.  Yes, I realize a very poor taste joke could easily be inserted after that last sentence.  I am above such things.

To begin, our next door neighbors had their enormous old oak tree cut down.  This tree was big, people, so I'm guessing it had to have been at least 80 years old or more.  I have mixed feelings about the tree homicide.  On the one hand, it was lovely, provided oxygen for my kids, and its long branches reached over our backyard so far that my husband installed a tire swing on one.  My big dog, Lucy, would take flight off the deck and chase squirrels through the yard, up our lanky dogwood and into the welcoming branches of the oak, where I'm certain they had nests.  But here's the other hand: a lot of leaves and a lot of twigs and bigger branches fell into our yard regularly, especially after a storm.  We live in tornado country, so this tree always threatened me and the safety of my house, my family.  Our neighbors felt the same way, so they had it executed.  A truckload of mulch from the carcass was dumped behind our house for our yard and playground (and another blog post).

With the demise of the grand oak tree came the tree removal service.  I want to call the practitioners arborists, but I'm not sure that is accurate since they kill trees instead of protecting them.  I should have known this was a bad sign.  When I greeted my daughter the morning that the tree folk (that is what I have chosen to call them; it sounds a bit like wood nymphs, only more masculine) arrived, she told me she had been watching them out of her bedroom window and the man in the cherry picker waved to her.  I hadn't had my first cup of coffee yet.  Then my husband joked with me that the tree guy in the cherry picker owed him a dollar for seeing him get in the shower (we have frosted glass on the bottom pane, not the top because honestly how many guys on cherry pickers are stationed outside the bathroom window on our second story?).  Still, I hadn't had my caffeine.  After my husband and the kids left for school/work, I went into the bathroom, started running the water for my shower, ripped off my t-shirt and stared back at cherry picker dude.  And fell to the floor like I'd been shot in the gut.  Can't say my family hadn't warned me . . . twice . . . that there was a man in a helmet right outside my bathroom window, looking right at us.
Tree Dude is looking at you  (image from Sonomatree.com)    
The day before, my husband stayed home with the kids on their off-day.  Half the tree had been cut down and he thought he'd ask tree dudes for some of the mulch.  The first time he wandered outside onto our deck he stopped short when he noticed one of the tree folk pissing into the truckful of mulch.  Maybe next batch.  That was in our alley.  At 10:00 in the morning.

So, I blame the tree folk - not all tree folk, mind you, because I'm not into generalizations - for three inappropriate daytime occurrences, but the last one is all on its own.  This one will skeve you out, so I'm a-warning you.  On my commute down to the university where I teach, I usually have a wait at a four-way intersection.  It's not a particularly long light, but there are four sets of turn lights.  Some commuters might find this tedious.  They may get bored, whip out their phones or perhaps their manly appendages.  That certainly seemed to be the case in the car in front of me.  Seriously.  I didn't see flesh because I was in the car behind him, people.  But, what caught my attention was some furious jerking.  Then I caught his expression in the side-view mirror.  Oh man, I really was not trying to be a voyeur.  This was uncomfortable.  It was also 9:30 in the freakin' morning on a crowded street.  WTF?  Dude caught my eye, or maybe just the wrenched expression on my face, the light changed and he took off.  He had a baby seat in the back.
                               Car Dude did NOT look like this 
     (image from Side View Mirror Project; Erik Dahl, photographer)
After this amount of weird, I'm looking forward to an uneventful weekend of G-rated movies and hot cocoa.  Oh, and seeing friends at the Spalding residency (which I am totally crashing)!

Please share some weird, inappropriateness with me so I don't feel so all alone!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No Means No. Unless You Talk To Me Long Enough. And Have An Israeli Accent.

I am a first degree sucker. Or "sucka" as my friends on the street like to say.  It's really counter-intuitive because I'm really a skeptical critical thinker.  On paper.  But get me in a one-on-one situation and I'm like a kid who's been bribed with candy.

Case in point: Roofers.  They are all over my neighborhood, slipping flyers in mailboxes, under doormats, in the thin space between front door and jamb (which is a little too close to breaking and entry for my taste).  They also like to knock on doors at the awesome hour of dinner o'clock.  I'm trying to help my kids with homework, prevent the dogs from eating one another and defrost a pizza when yet another roofer comes to the door.  I've actually chosen my roof guy - he's a close friend of my neighbor - but these door-knocking roofers are talkers.  In order to keep my house from imploding, I go outside to talk to them, but just for a minute.  I can't leave the kids and dogs alone for too long; dogs and homework will be eaten.  But these salesmen aren't interested in a short and snappy conversation.  They want to tell me about my shingle options.  They tell me how they can squeeze more money out of my insurance company.  They talk roof lingo, literally and figuratively over my head, like that is supposed to impress me.  Do I leave, offer an excuse (my dogs are ingesting one another), say, "Good day, sir!"?
(Image courtesy of Vinteeage.com)
No, I keep talking.  I give them my name.  I give them my phone number.  I stop short at the social security number and Visa security code. (I'm not an idiot!)  Anything to make them go away.  Alas, this only feeds their hunger for business, so now I get more drop-bys, phone calls, flyers.  Why can't I just say no?!  Why do I need to please these strangers?  In my attempt to let them down easy, I lead them on!  Whoa, flashback to 10th grade.

If you think that my malady is limited to door-to-door roofers, think again.  I give money to door-to-door solicitors who are ex-felons!  Yep, you heard me.  Every summer they come to our neighborhood dressed sharply and talking smooth.  Picture someone as convincing as this:
Damnit, Baldwin, those blue eyes get me every time!
I don't know if their non-profit organization is legit and I don't know if the magazine subscriptions will actually come.  I don't want a magazine subscription.  I DON'T READ PEOPLE MAGAZINE!  So, in order to let them down gently, to escort them off my front lawn - because really, I do want them to succeed and some guilty part of me feels responsible, like my $20 will be key to their success - I hand them cash.  No, no subscriptions, thank you.  Here's some guilt money to please let me get back to that weeding I was so enjoying.  Sometimes I see my neighbors three doors down chatting outside when this happens.  They look at me as that warning their parents told them about.  They shake their heads.  When the nice young man in the crisp button down shirt approaches them, they firmly shake their heads at him too.  While smiling!  I slink back inside after throwing my gardening gloves into the bushes.

Yesterday I made my annual trip to the mall for my underpinnings (that's right, my dainties), passed by the Dead Sea Salts kiosk, and shuttered.  Thankfully no one was attending it.  I spied the sink in the middle of the rolling cart and remembered.  Two years ago, I was on this same trip, on my way to Vickie's Secret, when this gorgeous young man approached me.  He was short, olive skinned and had a thick head of black hair.  What skincare products was I using?  Who cares!  He lured me to the kiosk, despite my protestations.  The next thing I know, he's rubbing a salt over my hands like a lover and instructing me to rinse off at the sink.  Next, he takes a smooth file and burnishes my thumb nail to show me how much better this is than nail polish.  It burns and I wince, but he talks to me about coming to America from Israel and I am charmed.  He stops and looks at me.  "Are you Jewish?"  And I actually tell him, yes, I am (because I am), even though this is incredibly invasive.  He says we are like brother and sister and smiles at me while my stomach melts into a puddle.  I know it's a hard sell and he's rockin' it like the King of Dead Sea Salts.  Once he's finished bruising my nail, he offers me products.  I gently refuse.  He says, since we're like brother and sister, he'll give me a discount.  I say yes and walk away with a manicure kit I will never use.

So, my friends, my latest tactic is this: hide.  If you come to my door and the dogs bark for more than 10 minutes, text me.  I'm home, but I think you're a solicitor and I'm standing behind the kitchen door, unable to see if you are you, a roofer with thick mustache, an ex-felon with a dynamic grin, or (strangely enough, since he worked at the mall and didn't travel door-to-door) and gorgeous Israeli brandishing manicure equipment.  This is another tactic I may try:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mechanical meltdown

I have never been a hardware lady.  Give me a broken stapler and I'll tell you to throw it away and buy a new one.  Or throw it in Jell-o.  Software, yes.  I love tinkering with computers, although I'm far from being what in the bookstore where I used to work we'd call a guru.  Mechanical problems, not my thing.  And when things start to break in my life, I let them pile up because I'm so not a hardware lady.

Look around me and you will find a sad industrial graveyard:
  • just had the plumber out to fix the disposal after my mother-in-law ground up a plastic bottle
  • just had the HVAC guy come maintenance our heater and the heating unit broke in his hands
  • today I am waiting for the insurance adjuster to come look at a puzzling leak in our basement that has sat long enough to mold a box of dress-up clothes
  • I still haven't called the roofers to get a bid on the 4-month-old hail damage
  • our gutters look like haunted house gutters (and have since we moved in -- 4 years ago)
  • my kids' broken toys sit on the kitchen counter long enough to bug the crap out of me and then, like the stapler, I secretly throw them away (or throw them in Jell-o)
  • I have a pile of sun dresses and shorts laying on a chair in the family room waiting to be sewn, even though summer is long over
  • my car driver's side window hasn't functioned in two months
  • my car driver's side front parking light/blinker hasn't functioned in two months (Hint: I think they're connected to the window)
I did replace the toner in my printer, so we'll call that a win.

And just like my outer world crumbling at my feet, my body seems to follow mechanical suit:
  • I've been sick with a cold for two weeks
  • I've had a Crohn's flare up for two months (hmmmnnn, what happened two months ago that is causing all of this mess?  Oh right, I started teaching again.  I'm going to blame the university for my car's mechanical meltdown, too.  So that's a medical specialist AND a auto mechanic I need to visit.  Where do I send those bills again? The Bursar or my students' parents?)

(Photo courtesy of Shirtscope.com)
On a completely different, but equally delicious, note: see this new ad for BUST Magazine on my blog?  Look to the right, just below the pretty She Writes and Blog Nation badges.  Isn't it pretty?  You should click on it and read BUST.  Then subscribe.  It's hands-down my fave periodical.  I've subscribed for 10+ years and it has never disappointed: funny, smart, snarky, feminist, sexy (yep, there's a "One-handed Read" in every issue, plus a sex advice column and loads of dildo ads), and all-around awesome.  Roseanne Barr has an advice column in it now.  Subscribe now or they may go away forever due to financial problems.  Don't make BUST go away!  You just discovered them.  That is a heavy burden to carry around.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tiny Dancer versus Mental Sludge

The great dance marathon has ended.  For now.  Fiona and her friends did a great job.  Mostly I'm impressed with their maturity and composure, but being 8-11 year-olds, they probably didn't realize what a big deal dancing with the Dance Theatre of Harlem . . . in a WORLD PREMIERE BALLET . . . actually is.

That's what parents are for.  I'm sure my Facebook friends are now saying, "Oh yay, Amy posted yet another photo of her daughter with a bun.  Surprise.  Yawn."  No matter.  I'm a-burstin' with pride.  I even sent a photo of the girls with the company to Fiona's principal!  Here it is:

Fiona and friends with Dance Theatre of Harlem
-->Let me just say that the ballet, "Gloria," was a tribute to church traditions in Harlem, but also symbolic of the Company's rebirth, with (I was told) the girls symbolizing the next generation of dance.  Chills.  The last thing you see as the curtain falls is the girls walking between the Company dancers, silhouetted against the fading light.  Hold on.  Tissue.

So, what now?  No rehearsals, no rushing to get from my classes to Fiona's school to retrieve her early and speed to the Kentucky Center for the Arts.  Dance Mom is still in business, my friends.  Nutcracker rehearsals have already begun.  In fact, I raced between Dance Theatre of Harlem rehearsal to Nutcracker rehearsal to DTH performance all on Saturday.  Sunday, I crashed until 10:00 (thank you, Husband) and then raced my girl to rehearsal and performance in Frankfort.  There is also my son who is on the chess team at school and taking drum lessons.  This morning, before he left for school - he's 5 - he reminded me that piano and karate are on the horizon.  My kids need benefactors.

My husband and I are assessing all of this busy-ness.  It's not working for us.  While I finally had a moment to clean off the dining room table and kitchen counter last night - booyah! - I also just discovered a leak in the basement that caused a box of dress-up of clothes to go bad (mildew, people.  It's serious.).  I had to secret away the spoiled Cinderella gown that smelled of year-old-urine to the trash while my daughter was doing homework.  Today, my husband realized he forgot his father's birthday.  Too much STUFF can include activities as well as material items.  It crowds the brain so that normal things like cleaning the bathroom occasionally and making sure your kids have clean underwear tend to slip beneath the moldy carpet, obscured from view.

I wish I could say that I'm spending my day taking the dogs for a walk in the park to relieve this case of mental sludge, but I'm still playing catch-up: grading, finishing work on my own graduate work, calling roofers (4 months after the hail damage, thank you) . . .  .   Yesterday, after class I couldn't even deal with obligations so I took my hungry, lunch-skipped self to Target and retail therapied clothes for the kids.  Dear Lord, I can't even retail therapy for myself!  Time for a metal douche.

What do you recommend?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting out of my kids' way

Sometimes I have moments of realization, like I did last night.

It was 9 PM and I was just getting my tired eight-year-old home from two hours of ballet rehearsal for an amazing performance opportunity with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.  As I dragged out her ballet bag and my purse and the envelope of student papers I took to grade while she rehearsed, it occurred to me: my parents would never have done this for me.

Don't get me wrong.  I love and loved my parents.  They were good parents and did so much for me.  Plus, when I was growing up, there just weren't as many opportunities for kids.  You joined the Y or the JCC or you did things with your church youth group.  Maybe little league and swim lessons in the summer.  I took piano.  I did free art classes with the Louisville Visual Arts Association (LVAA).  Theatre camp and music camp two different summers.  But running me downtown five days straight during the school year for ballet?  I don't think they would have done that.  My dad worked two jobs and my mom was afraid to drive at night.

I'm not trying to say that I'm the best mom ever - WINNING! - and I'm not trying to espouse a particular parenting philosophy.  I just want my kids to thrive.  To grab every opportunity presented to them with gusto.  To feel empowered to try new things, meet new people, go new places, all without fear, like I had.  And so what if next year my little ballerina decides she's done with dance and takes up water polo or welding?  So.  What.  My son has already switched from soccer to chess and drums and has informed me that next up is karate, piano, violin, and guitar.  I say: try it!

Last Saturday, I drove home from the grocery listening to From The Top, the classical performance show featuring super talented kids.  An eleven year old boy stepped up to the mic and talked about the 16th century Strativarius he was playing on loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago, "It's older than my dad!" He was charming, adorable. And then he lit bow to strings and I started weeping.  Weeping, in the car, alone on my way back from the grocery, because this child - this eleven-year-old boy - was playing the most gorgeous, nuanced solo I had ever heard.  Because he explained that he was inspired by cellist Joshua Bell.  Because this week he has the opportunity to play Bell's signature piece  - in front of Joshua Bell.  This boy followed his dreams and his parents supported him along the way.

I doubt that I have two little super star kids and that's not really my goal.  I just want to get out of the way and let their talents grow and shine, nurturing them with attention and love and the permission to bail out whenever they feel it's time.

Here is a link (with video of eleven-year-old Nathan Meltzer) to last week's From The Top:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do Less

Did you come out to The Writer's Block Festival?  I hope so.  If you didn't you missed some good conversations, great people, inspiring readings -- I feel like a schoolgirl, OMG, Anis Mojgani, I heart heart you.  That's right, double heart.

I bolstered my nerves and even sat on a blog panel (shivering with illness, so who knows what pearls of wisdom I imparted) and read an unfinished, unpublished essay about shoes.  It was dope.  I.  Am. White.

Moving right along, this is another nut job week in Casa de ADD.  My eight-year-old has been invited to perform with The Dance Theatre of Harlem.  Yes, this is a BFD and yes, I realize she, like me, is also white.  How long has she been rehearsing, you ask?  Negative one day.  Rehearsals start tomorrow, go for three days, then dress rehearsals and two shows this weekend.  Because, who needs rest, right?  I'm attempting to jumpstart her homework (which, coincidentally, is a poster/paper project entitled, "Got Talent?") so we don't end up in tears later this week.  All of this scheduling is hard.  Hard for the typical parent.  Harder for the ADD parent (who is also sick with multiple maladies thanks to overdoing it last weekend.  This should work out great!).  I actually collected 44 student papers yesterday and said to myself while smiling at each student's face, "I'm not reading these.  Ever."

I keep thinking, if I can just make it to next weekend . . .

And then 5 squillion new invitations and obligations arise.

My motto for the new year, because I need to have a goal and that's just far enough away that I'm not sabotaging myself: Do less and enjoy what I do.

What about you?  What do you do when you get overwhelmed with your life?  Your kids' schedules? Your spouse's anger at the dog trainer that leads to subversively whispering to your puppy to "fight the power"?  Do you look ahead and make resolutions or pacts with God?  Do you scribble down hopes in a journal or vent to a friend? Do you start making martinis at 2PM?

I think I will just repeat my mantra until I either accomplish it or go crazy with repetition.

And to leave you with a smile, Anis Mojgani:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Get Ready to Rock the Block at The 2012 Writer's Block Festival

My life has felt particularly pulverized, blender-style, as of late, but today is my first "day off" in a month and I'm feeling the love, Tuesday.  I still have my jammies on.  My cup of coffee is full (but I did run out of soy creamer - curses!). My pile of student papers has dwindled to a do-able final four.  Kids are at school.  Both dogs are snoring.  Ahhhhhh.  This is what it's all about.  These moments of quiet reflection and focus.  Rare and intoxicating.

All of that calm will come to a crashing end this weekend, but in a good, writerly way.  It's time for the Second Annual Writer's Block Festival in Louisville, Kentucky!!  Woot, woot!  I have served on the planning committee, designed the program, will be volunteering in multitudinous ways on the day of, and will be representin' for Bloggers everywhere on a panel of local bloggers! Can I get a "What, what!"?

Here's the sweet info. 

The Writer's Block Festival
 If you are local or regional, there is still time and room to register for workshops (and let me just say that the workshop leaders are award-winning professionals like my fellow Earlham alum - and OA resident circa 1986 - Maurice Manning, Frederick Smock from Bellarmine University, and the illustrious novelist, my buddy and most excellent former downstairs neighbor, Kirby Gann).  You don't have to pay to attend readings and panels, if that is more your thang.  Do come, though.  It's going to be a great time.  Plus, the Flea Off Market is happening around the corner, meaning shops and restaurants will be open and festive.  It will be a regular NuLu fiesta!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just Say No!

Remember that Jim Carrey movie "Yes Man"?  Me neither.  Jim Carrey is something I tolerate in micro amounts, like cough medicine or crack.  But the premise of the movie - about a guy who says yes to everything in order to break free from his rut - has rattled around my brain this week.  I believe the movie sends the wrong message for the ADD audience.  We already say yes waaaaaayyyyyy too much.  We need to practice our "no, sirs" and "no ma'ams" and "you've got to be freakin' kidding me-s."

Take this week, for instance.  I found myself pricing kid clothes for a bi-annual consignment sale that I usually attend at a time when, really, I had zero free time.  In one day, I managed to double-book myself three times!  Drop off clothes at sale.  Volunteer at the book fair.  Get my daughter to piano.  Drive back to school for Open House.  Sprint to the sale to get first dibs on cheap clothes.  The family didn't eat until 8:00 and it was definitely 10:00 before the kids finally settled in bed.  I think I took that 70s women's lib idea of "having it all" a little too seriously.  This is crazy living.  In the mean time, every spare second that I had I spent designing a program for a literary festival (volunteer work) and grading papers that I'm dragging my feet to finish.  And prepping for class.  And getting up two-three times a night for puppy duty.  Generally, I'm a slow-moving, contemplative creature.  This pace might make havoc with my metabolism. 

I remember a night, back in my twenties when I still worked retail at a local bookstore, when I complained to a friend that I felt overwhelmed with obligations.  Most of these were social, so really, what was I complaining about?  Being popular?  Poor thing!  But, my friend (who was a wise old 35-year-old) told me, in response, that her favorite word was "No!" and that I needed to practice saying it.

Isn't it funny (re: sad) that we are often doomed to repeat our silly mistakes.  Here I am, almost twenty years later, still saying yes too many times.  To appease and please.  To feel good about myself.  To assuage guilt.  To build up my resume.  To make a little extra cash.  Meanwhile, what will my kids remember of me when they are my age?  Mommy was always rushing off somewhere.  Or, Mommy was always on the computer finishing work.  Well, I say "You've got to be freakin' kidding" to that. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Add Puppy. Stir.

Charlie, the hell terrier, has been just the ingredient of chaos my household needed to send us spiraling out of control early into the school year.  Last night the kids got to bed close to 9:30 not because they were super procrastinaty (which they were), but because Charlie kept stealing my son's socks, which led to a giant game of chase.  Every time I'd wrestle the sock away, my son would "accidentally" drop it near the dog again. My daughter, always looking for a distraction from homework, will pick Charlie up and start swaying her, singing "Oh puppy, puppy, puppy." Yes, she's still friggin' adorable (and resting in a ball in my lap, so never fear, dear reader).  Yes, we intend to keep her and train her and we'll all adjust in due time.  Right?

Part of the problem is us, and by us I mean my husband and myself.  In an effort to get some bloody sleep at night, we made a cardinal error.  We invited the little bugger into our bed.  This was a terrible decision.

We initially wanted to crate train her to sleep through the night, but here's what happened with that:
  1. She whimpered.
  2. She cried.
  3. She screeched.
  4. She howled.
  5. She peed.
She hated her crate.  Hated.  It.  Dogs are supposed have a den instinct, but I suspect Charlie's former owners - the lovely ones who dumped her on the side of I64 at rush hour - may have abused the crate, putting her in for long periods without a break.  We just wanted some sleep.  That's all.  (Side note: our five-year-old still comes to our bed and on occasion, so does our eight-year-old.  A crib.  A crate.  It's all the same to old softy-pants over here.  Cries mean torture and that's not happening in our house.  Yes, I see the error in this logic.) The problem was that Charlie would wake up, one of us would take her out, then she'd come back to bed ready to play and bite our faces.  We were/are utterly sleep deprived.  Not a good situation for the chronically ADD.

According to my ADD bibles - You Mean I'm Not Crazy, Lazy and Stupid and the website ADDitude, sleep disturbances can really mess with one's ADD.  Just yesterday in one of the classes I teach, I called Amelia, who I normally call "Alicia," "Maria." I was so tired I couldn't even get the wrong name right! 

Here's the four most common sleep disturbances that ADDitude associates with ADD/ADHD:

1. Initiation Insomnia - That's going to sleep, in other words.  Puppy makes me anxious about rolling over on her, biting me or attacking my underwear under the covers, therefore, I don't fall asleep easily.  Also known as "resentment insomnia."

2. Restless Sleep - Puppy's presence in bed does not allow me to ever get comfortable as I sleep defensively with blanket around head.  And face.  I know puppy will wake up needing to pee, or having already peed on the comforter.  I sleep with one eye open.
3. Difficulty Waking- Not a problem as I never actually sleep.
4. Intrusive Sleep - Puppy is everywhere: in my face, on my back, licking my arms, chewing my hair.  I will never touch my husband again.

But . . . when my husband picked up the pooch the other night, holding her above his head and yelled profanities at her - frustration born from three weeks of little to no sleep - I knew I needed to step up.

Thanks to my friend First Laura, I discovered this awesome puppy training site: The House Breaking Bible.  I read over it twice and found great tips on crate acclimation.  So, when my husband got home late last night, he found the kids and me playing Headbanz while Charlie looked on from her crate.

"I'm taking over," I told him.

"I'm glad someone is."

So, last night I slept in the basement guest room with puppy in her crate.  My big girl Lucy joined us in the adjoining room.  Once I covered up the crate with a blanket, guess what?  That girl was QUIET!! Yes, I still needed to get up and take her outside to pee 3 times (I even set my alarm, but she beat me to the punch each time -- I reset the times so I can beat her to it tonight.  The goal is to get her out before she whimpers so she'll go back to sleep easier.), but it was big vats of improvement over the night and weeks before.  Instead of the hour of settle down time it used to take after a pee break, Charlie settled into her blanket-covered crate, whimper until she heard me say QUIET four or five times and sleep.  I actually got sleep last night!  It was crazy, interrupted sleep, but it wasn't the kind of sleeping-with-one-eye-open-for-fear-of-being-chewed-on sleep I had started to get used to!

What do I win?  I'll share my trophy with First Laura and my Facebook friends who fled to my rescue yesterday with advice and names of accredited trainers.  You guys rock!