Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Take Me To The River . . . Drop Me In The Water

I have been continuing on with my water workouts for the ol' back, and they are still providing MUCH pain relief. Last night, I stepped things up a bit and went to a water aerobics class.

My neighborhood pool hosts a free class on Monday nights for anyone that bothers to show up. I was in the delightful company of 2 gentlemen and 3 ladies, each of whom saw 60 quite a while ago. It was fun, and funny, and everyone complained with goodnatured humor. Actually, a couple of the women were in excellent shape, so they weren't complaining; they were churning water!

The instructor was positioned on the pool deck. Since this was my first time at the class, I thought that was normal. After a few snide remarks from the men in the pool that seemed to insinuate that the instructor was a "slacker", I realized that it was customary for the instructor to be in the pool, working out right along with us. Seems she injured her back pretty badly on a whitewater rafting trip a couple weeks earlier, and she was still on the mend.

The rest of the class, I was paying partial attention to the instructor and reliving a whitewater rafting trip I took; the ONE AND ONLY one I have ever taken, or ever will:

(cue wavy dream sequencing . . .)

I don't really know whose idea it was, but someone came up with the bright idea to take a whitewater rafting trip. I was still married to my ex-husband, and we had become good friends with our neighbors and another couple through his work. All 6 of us got along pretty well, and when we were all out for Mexican, someone suggested the trip, and the majority voted "Yea", so that was that.

Fast forward to late summer 1990. August, if memory serves. We make our way to the "putting-in" spot of the Chattooga. Never in my life had I seen such wild and beautiful water and woods. The air was so clean, it felt like you were breathing pure oxygen.

Now, for those of you in the know, the Chattooga was showcased in the Southern travelogue documentary known as "Deliverance". It was only years later, during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, that I began to hear jokes about the Chattooga and its indigenous people. In their wisdom, the Olympics organizers decided to stage a portion of the events on the Chattooga. This was followed by all manner of jokes, the best of which was, "If those inbred Chattooga butt-fuckers raped Ned Beatty, what chance does a frenchman in biker shorts have?" Yeah, and they didn't get much better than that.

But I digress. We began our river rafting trip full of energy and excitement. THIS, we decided, was what it felt like to be ALIVE. This is the stuff that exciting lives are made of! A sandal-wearing river rat gave us a 10 minute lecture on how to sit in the raft, how to paddle, where to place your feet, and with that, we were launched ceremoniously into the river with a young guide full of piss and vinegar to help us navigate the rapids. We cheered as we began our descent into hell.

The first 5 minutes were exhilarating! Little splashes of icy water stinging your cheeks, the swells of river rapid gently lifting and bouncing the raft along . . . It was then that the piss and vinegar began to swell up within our guide.

We were approaching somewhat of a fork in the river. Down the lefthand side was a docile, shady, meandering water trail. Down the right were jagged rocks repeatedly drenched with white swells of rapids. Since we were all rafting novices, the guide made an executive decision for us all: using his oar as a rudder, he steered us RIGHT INTO the worst of the rapids.

Its true, you know. When you are facing death, things move in slow motion. I remember feeling the horror as we steered toward the churning, swirling blender of rocks and rapids. I remember shoving my feet waaaaay under the seat in front of me, preparing for the impact. As our boat dipped nose-first into the swell, we were momentarily motionless, like when you reach the top of the rollercoaster before the plunge.

The front began to fill with water, and Brian, the guy sitting in the front of the boat, was sucked under and disappeared from our sight into the deafening sound of the crashing rapids. I heard screaming from the other women on the boat, a loud yell of "Don't panic!" from the guide, who was now panicking, and that was the last thing I heard.

As the boat began to fill rapidly with water, it began to list, and the left side dipped quicker than the right. Everyone fell left, and David and I were bounced out of the lefthand side of the boat and sent careening down the river faster than you could ever imagine that water could propel you. I was on my back flying headfirst down the river, desperately feeling for the riverbottom, thinking that if I could get a foothold, I could right myself. Meantime, the river current held my face just inches below the surface of the water - the force of the current was washing over my face, up my nose, and it was impossible to breathe. I saw glimpses of twinkling sunlight, and my lungs were screaming for air, and I began to lose consciousness . . .

Just then, I felt a tremendous SMACK on my head. I had been tossed against a gathering of rocks near the calmer left side of the shore. My friend David appeared there. I don't know if we traveled the same path, or he was trying to save me. Either way, he was ghostly white. As soon as I was able to stop throwing up water, I began to survey the damage: my shoes were gone, my feet were cut and bleeding, David's hands were cut badly.

As I glanced around, I saw our boat in calm water about 20 yards away. The guide and my husband were still aboard, and our friend Brian who was sucked under first was holding onto the side of the raft, scared and stripped of all clothing from the waist down. The dip he took dumped him into some kind of underwater rock tumbler, and he was flipped over and over, gashed and stripped until finally the guide grabbed hold of his shirt and pulled him to the surface.

As everyone made their way back to the boat, there was a mixture of reactions. The other women were crying, the men were supremely embarrassed, and the guide was full of false bravado, and attempted to joke his way out of the situation "Hey, everybody calm down, it was just a little tip . . ." Big mistake.

My anger propelled me toward the raft, and with one fluid, panther-like movement that belied the expectations one has of a woman my size, I easily scaled the side of the raft, jumped the back seating and lunged for that smug little bastard. He was perched on the back of the raft, nonchalantly, but when he saw me coming, terror washed over his face. I attempted to grab him, but ended up shoving him backward into the river, and I proceeded to do my VERY BEST to jump in after him, intent on drowning him (I am southern, white and I DO have the trash to go along with it, trust me. I have always been a helluva fighter.) My husband was restraining me, warning the guy to stay down. I jerked away from him and shrieked to the piece of shit now swimming away from us, "You MISERABLE cocksucker, you almost killed us! If you come near this fucking raft, I will give you a beating you won't forget, I swear to God!" I then turned to my husband and hissed, "And YOU!!!!!!!! . . . you sissy, pussy son of a bitch, you didn't even jump in after me?!?!" It kind of went on from there . . .

Now, I HAVE to add here that my ex-husband was/is a fireman, trained to save people from the most harrowing and dangerous situations. Is this hitting home for you now, dear reader?

After I stopped screaming and threatening, we carefully floated down the bank of the river and somewhere along the way, we saw Brian's shorts caught on a limb, much to his relief. We got out at the first "letting out" place, our guide paddling along a fair distance behind us, and got on the bus back to our cars. I sat alone, looking out the window, and not a soul spoke to me, for fear of the backlash, I am sure.

After loudly berating and cursing out the owner of the "adventure center", the snivelling granola cruncher gave us our money back. We all left in silence.

Now that I think of it, the marriage really never survived that.

Its an excellent acid test, by the way. If you find yourself drowning, and you notice that your husband doesn't come in after you - trust me - its over.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Angie, Angie . . . they can't say we never tried

I was driving in the pouring rain Sunday, when "Angie" came on the radio. Everything that Laura was not, Angie was . . . and is.

I met Angie the same year I met Laura, in 1991.

1991 was a crazy, crazy year for me. I had been living in a really small rural town with my husband of 5 years, and the marriage crumbled to dust in April of that year. It was his hometown, and I was the outsider, so he kept the house, I got the furniture, and headed a bit south to give us both some distance.

The town was small and southern and full of carpet mills, trailers on expanses of beautiful farmland, inhabited by hardened people that made their living from the sweat of their brow. Trying to connect with the locals was important to me, and a challenge that I never really mastered. Me, my college education, and corporate job gave everyone the unmistakeable impression that I was wearing a prom dress to the Waffle House. The people were very nice, but completely standoffish.

After I moved and had a couple of months to get over the crying jags, I was ready to venture out for the first time, really. I had been with my husband for years, I had grown up trying my best to live up to his standards of morality and propriety, so I had never really been out to any nighttime places before.

I was 25 and about to experience my first time in a bar, and this one was a doozie. It was a HUGE country bar, with a live band behind chicken wire, several bars, lots of people, and I was determined to make it through one night there just to see if I could.

In that dark, smoky bar, I ran into a girl from the ex's hometown. She had always been nice, and when she saw me, she acted as though she had seen a ghost. After the requisite "What are YOU doing here?"s and "Did I hear that you got divorced? What happened?'s, she invited me to sit with her and her friends, which I was really very grateful for.

The group of girls were there to celebrate a birthday. Angie, at that time, was celebrating her 22nd, and over drinks, and more drinks, we became fast friends. Angie was the opposite of me: she was a short, dark-eyed, teased blonde. In her drunken stupor, she said to me, "You look like a teacher, but I like you. Your ex is an asshole, but I think I like you." From the beginning, she was the kind of friend that fit into your life seamlessly, as though she had been there always.

Angie was still living in the ex's hometown north of me. It was her hometown, too. She was cute as a button, and so smart . . . she had married at 15 and come home a year later in disgrace, and was too ashamed to try to go back to school. Her life in the mills started that same year, as did her affinity for speed and Virginia Slims Menthol Lite 100s.

Over the course of a few months of "partying" with her, she and I talked quite a bit about what my plans were, and what she was doing. She was dating a loser, one that treated her pretty badly, and she was working at a convenience store at night to pass the time and come down from the speed.

One day, I mentioned to her that I wanted to find a little house or condo, something with 2 bedrooms, and that I wanted her to think about moving in with me. Something told me that if she had a chance to get out of that little town, she might have a chance to escape the shackles of that place and the attitudes and the despair that hung over the whole town like those constant clouds of curious smoke that bellowed out of the Union Carbide plant.

I guess she was so used to hearing about pipe dreams, she agreed that she would take me up on the offer, IF I ever got a house. She had never known a woman that was able to get a house on her own, it was beyond the means of most of the couples that she knew to get more than a double-wide, and that was with both of them working overtime at the carpet mill.

She was pretty shocked when I called to tell her I had placed a bid on a nice little place, a foreclosure, and that I would be moving in 30 days, and so would she. She was scared, and immediately backed out. She had gotten in hock with some little loan shark company where she had bought some bedroom furniture. The payments and interest were outrageous. She and I went to my bank and got a little $1,000 signature loan for her to pay off the sharks, move, and have a little buffer. I told her that she could try it for a couple of months, and if things didnt work out, she could go back home, no hard feelings. She did, and she stayed.

Over the course of those 2 years we roomed together, Angie got herself a job in a salon. She also took her GED, and passed it. Without stopping, she enrolled in college, and she earned her paralegal degree. I could not have been prouder of her than I was when I saw her accept her diploma. Her mother and father were beaming, and told everyone that she was the first ever in their family to attend college. It was a miracle to them. It was a miracle to me, too.

By that time, she had kicked the speed and had gained a little weight, as you do. Angie was lonely, and sure that she would never meet anyone nice. But things happen when you least expect them to. Angie met Greg the same month I met my husband. October 1994. It was love at first sight for them. She had a minor fender-bender, and he was the cop that responded to the accident. He was going to law school at night, and they were blissfully in love, and moved in together right away.

Just because we didn't live together anymore didn't mean we drifted apart. Angie stuck by me in the early days after my daughter was born. She came to my house every day to rock the baby while I cold called companies, looking for contract work. She loved my girl, and my girl loved her. I could not have asked for a better friend than her.

Time has marched on . . . her boyfriend and she married after years of living together. He practiced law and became a circuit judge. She ran his law office and now works at the courthouse in the middle of that hometown she had escaped from. The town has changed, and her place in it has changed, too.

No matter how much time goes by, Angie and I can sit together and talk, and pick up right where we left off.

I am so proud of her, and she is proud of me, too. But she hates when I mention that Rolling Stones song. You can take the girl out of the country . . .

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Haikus for a Tranquil Sunday Morning

I was so surprised

To awaken on my own

The kids are away

No sound this morning

Just the scraping of my spoon

I love Cocoa Puffs

What to do today?

The whole world is my oyster

Until 5:30

I could watch TV

Or go to the pool alone

Swim laps in silence

Then I remember

All the laundry is waiting

The floors need mopping

I should exercise

My treadmill is so dusty

So are my Reeboks

I can still escape

And visit my friends online

While the washer churns

As nice as it is

To have a morning alone

I miss my kiddies

Their sticky kisses

They wake up so excited

To start a new day

My boy's a whirlwind

"Wake Up Sleepyhead!"

Yelled right in my ear

My girl is like me

Mornings are a little slow

She wakes with a smile

Thank God for my mom

That is where they are today

She gives me respite

Sometimes the best days

Are the ones you don't plan

Just go with the flow

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I got another email from her today. For the past 3 years or so, I have gotten an email from her maybe twice. It's funny . . . there was a time that we chatted on the phone every day. For the past couple of months, I have been receiving email every week.

When I get them, I do what I always do . . . give them a glance, and delete them, unanswered.

Laura and I were close friends for a short while. I met her in 1991. I had just divorced, and I started a job where she was already employed. We became fast friends - I was weathering the storm, and she was gearing up to face one. We worked side by side, and shared stories, laughs, and impossible deadlines. When work ran really late (which it did quite often) we would grab a bite to eat at Waffle House and decompress while she took slow drags on her cigarettes and nibbled at her cheese eggs and raisin toast.

Laura and I were the same, in alot of ways. Both from small southern towns, both had crazy fathers, and bad relationships with men. We had both gone to college, despite the odds. We were both smart, but not smart enough to avoid major pitfalls in life, and so we found ourselves working for a slavedriver, and dreading to go home to lonliness and unhappiness. My house was empty, and her house might as well have been.

During the course of that first year of friendship, I was her sounding board as she went through the paces of a painful divorce. I helped her move, and spent many a night watching her closely when she had drank way too much. I remember one night in particular, after a few hours at a Mexican restaurant, I chased her outside, trying to get her keys away from her. She was drunk, and being silly, and pressed the trunk release button. She was faster than I was; she crawled in the trunk, threw the keys over the railing of the parking lot into an oblivion of overgrown weeds and construction debris, and laughed as she proceeded to shut the trunk. I still remember hearing her singing and laughing as I waded through the weeds to retrieve the keys and let her drunk ass out.

Even after we both moved within the company, we still remained good friends. A year or so after her divorce, I casually introduced her to a really nice contractor that worked in the office next to mine. Their relationship began that minute, and I commiserated with her as she made her way through 2in years of dating and 1 year of engagement to him. I was so pleased when she asked me to be her matron of honor, and I spent as assload of money on a gorgeous shower, and enjoyed every minute of it.

In late 1994, I met my husband, and for those that have read here from the beginning, you already know that we had a whirlwind courtship. We flew to Vegas to get married, alone. Our families threw a surprise reception for us upon our return, and I was surprised when I didn't see Laura there. The explanation was plausible.

As 1995 rocked on, I was anxiously awaiting the birth of a baby girl in September. The pregnancy was a little complicated, and I was put on bedrest the last couple months before my daughter was delivered. At that time, I lived a couple miles from the office, and I got calls from Laura occasionally, asking me how I was, filling me in on the gossip, and always promising to come have lunch with me. It never happened.

After my maternity leave was up, I got news that I was being laid off. I was devastated - I had worked so hard for that company, and we so desperately needed the money. I called Laura, and she said "I know what you are going to tell me - I knew a few weeks ago, but I didn't want to say anything." She had kept her job, and had been given a raise to take on some of my duties. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. But that wasn't her fault, I reasoned.

The next couple of years were a blur of contract jobs, therapy appointments for my daughter, and struggle. We rarely talked then. I knew we were both busy.

One day, I got an email from her with joyous news - she was expecting! I called her, and the excitement in her voice was infectious. Her pregnancy was a little tricky, too, and she delivered her baby 8 weeks early. She didn't have any family here in the city, and I did. My mom watched the baby while I sat with her at the hospital, calming her nerves and teaching her how to diaper one so tiny. The baby shower I had planned for her went on without her, and her husband and I gathered all of the gifts and carried them into her. She was beaming, and she seemed to come out of her postpartum funk for a short while.

Over the next year, I got the occasional call, full of questions about the baby: what should he be doing now? what was a good mother's morning out program, where was the best children's clothing stores? Oh yeah, and as an afterthought: how was my daughter doing? Those were dark days for me, my daughter was struggling mightily, and I was receiving bad news on a weekly basis. She tried to listen, and she would give me a faint "Everything will be fine . . ." before she hung up. I knew it was hard for anyone on the outside to cope with what I was dealing with. It was too sad, and I understood her reluctance to delve into it.

By some miracle that I will never forget or understand, the dark clouds gave way to bright skies. My daughter improved dramatically, and I was so pleased and proud of her progress. I threw a big birthday party for her 4th, and invited Laura and the baby to come. She RSVPd on my answering machine - she couldn't come - her son had a Gymboree class that day, but she wished us all a good time.

The correspondence pretty much ceased - from both sides. She was a busy mom, I was a busy mom. These things happen, and I thought of her often, and hoped things were going well.

In 2000, I was pleased to discover that I was expecting a new baby! After the family was notified, I called Laura, and got the answering machine. I left her a breathlessly excited message, and waited for her call. And waited. One week, two weeks . . . I never did hear back from her. I called again, and reached her this time, just as she was heading out the door. I gave her the good news, and she responded with an enthusiastic "Fastastic! I wish I had more time to chat - let's catch up soon!"

The next time I heard from her was when I received a birthday party invitation for her boy, the week I was due to deliver the baby. I called and told her that my husband would bring my daughter, since the party was close to the hospital, and my daughter loved parties, and it would take her mind off waiting for me and the baby to come home. She never did visit me in the hospital, and she never came to see me when I went home.

We moved into our new house in 2002. She has never seen my house.

It was dawning on me that my friendship with Laura was over, and it hurt. Alot. I felt sad, and I mourned it. I tried to maintain a generous attitude, but I was mad. Hurt and mad.

The email that I received from her this past April contained the teaser, "I have some good news!" in the subject line, and "Call me!" in the body. I deleted it.

The next email was a resend of the first. I deleted that one, too.

Since then, I have received more email, informing me that she was expecting a baby girl later this year. One asked me to start saving up my magazines, that she would be on bedrest and would need them. One asking when I was available for a girl's dinner out, and one was an email addressed to me and several others announcing the pregnancy, her apology for not keeping in touch, and a request for all to contact her and catch her up.

I can't be too mad at her. It takes two people to have a bad friendship. I have just decided to stop participating.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Separation Anxiety

If you lived in a friendly neighborhood for awhile, and made good friends with the neighbors, you would say goodbye if you moved away, right?

Not so in the world of Blog.

Reading the thoughts of another creates a very strange intimacy, and whether it is "real" or not, a friendship. I have a list of blogs that I am quite fond of. Over time, I have begun to build and actually feel a sense of community with my fellow bloggers, those that I visit every week.

Making my rounds of my favorite blogs is a little like taking an evening stroll around my neighborhood. Checking in with frequently updated blogs is kind of like passing a busy house with kids in the yard, flowers on the porch, and someone giving you a friendly wave. You can stop, listen to what they have to say - happy or sad, offer up your own little impressions, and move on, secure in the knowledge that the friendship is solid.

Occasionally, you notice that someone has done some exterior redecorating, and you can cast an appreciating glance at the improvements, maybe leaving a comment like "Hey! Nice template change! Easier to read, and the colors are great!"

Sometimes, you pass a blog and realize that you haven't seen much change there for the past few weeks. As a matter of fact, there are virtual soggy newspapers littering the driveway, and you figure they are on vacation, and then one day, you pass by, and all the newspapers are cleaned up, the lights are on, and you see that they have returned. You might get an explanation of their absence, and maybe hear a little about their travels, see a few snapshots. Again, everything is back in order.

Then there are those times that you walk toward a well-loved blog home and see broken blinds dangling in the windows; the door is wide open, revealing an empty shell where your friend once dwelled. And you think to yourself: what? no goodbye? after all of the time we spent sharing thoughts and experiences, they could just leave in the night and not say a word? So, with a mixture of disappointment and slight annoyance, you make a mental note not to bother to stop there anymore.

But then, you keep walking, and you see a moving truck parked at a house down the block, moving a new occupant in, and you think to yourself: I wonder who that is?

And so it goes . . .

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Love American Style

I stumbled onto a disturbing how-to site when I was blog-surfing. The title was too intriguing, and like a a raccoon drawn to a shiny button, I clicked on the link to come face to face with a problem I never really knew I had.

If this site is to be believed, American men hate their marriages to American women.

Yep, you read that correctly. Among other things, this site outlines in great detail all of the ways that American women have devolved into bitter, controlling, spiteful, fat, lazy, manipulative bitches who feel entitled to "the good life" at the expense of their husband's health, happiness and well-being.

A few gems from this site:

The current American/American divorce rate is around 60%. The majority of remaining married men are stuck in sexless marriages with nagging and bitching wives, but they choose not to divorce because they are afraid of being wiped out financially during divorce.

An American woman has several fundamental problems. Her inherent anti-male bias and pre-occupation with fairness was drilled into her in high school. Her self-centeredness, her ridiculously high expectations, her sense of entitlement, her high-maintenance, superficial, and stuck up attitude, her snootiness and her sense of superiority. This "princess" syndrome means that she will always think that she is better than you, and that she deserves and is entitled to whatever she wants from you. She has general mental instability and psychological disorders. She uses sex as a weapon and reward to get things.

American women have been born and raised in the corrosive negative world of feminism. They can't help but think like a feminist and view the world like a feminist.


American women huff and puff, and scowl at the incoming foreign brides who don't demand the feminazi equality bullshit.

You know, I realize that this site is biased, and more than likely written by an embittered ex-husband, but as much as I hate to say it, there is some validity to the site. I think that is what bothers me the most.

Do my women friends have a sense of entitlement? Yep.

Are all of my women friends on Prozac? Yep.

Does every couple I know have power struggles about money and chores? Yep.

Do the women I know push for the big house and the new SUV? Yep.

Are most of my friends divorced AT LEAST once? Yep.

Do I know men living in poverty after divorce court? Yep.

I hate to draw comparisons, but I am continually drawing the comparison of American men seeking foreign wives to American corporations seeking foreign labor. Is that all marriage is: a division of physical labor and a promise of fidelity? Is it that simple? Have we American women fucked it up so badly with our demands for equality and our sense of entitlement?

When the hell did this happen? When did men and women choose opposing sides and begin this war? Maybe it was when the economy began to necessitate that women work to support the household.

Maybe it was when American men began to lose ground in Corporate America. When college-educated American women started climbing ladders and kicking the men off on the way up.

Women my age were raised watching Mary Tyler Moore, One Day At A Time and Alice, where single, divorced and widowed women were making it on their own.

I watched my mother work full time. I was a daycare kid. I never had any ambitions to be a stay-at-home mom and I always intended to have a career. I have to admit that the craft of homemaking is not my priority, but I would dearly love to have the warmth of a well-tended, perfectly decorated home full of homemade bread and handmade quilts. That explains the cult-like fascination with Martha Stewart Omnimedia - she presents the ideal professional woman who has nurtured her home. Of course, her husband ran off with her secretary, and her daughter is estranged. Hmm.

American women ARE bitter. We are bitter because we were sold a bill of goods about how much better it was to have a career and put the babies into daycare than it was to stay home, rock the baby and cook and clean. We ARE pissed off because we are working as hard as men are, and we are still mothers and we are still doing the housework, and damn it, we went to college, earned the grades, were promised equality, and when we got a taste of it, we didn't like it as much as we were promised that we would. Something suffers - home or career. I don't personally know a woman yet that has been able to do justice to both.

I can see why men would be tempted to take a foreign bride. They get to be a savior, Prince Charming, and The Man Of The House all rolled up into one. Is it fair to say that women that come here from an impoverished country are eager to marry and cook, clean and tend children with a smile on their face? You bet your ass they are.

If you can't tell, I am pretty discouraged this morning.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

House arrest

I haven't said much about my work. I am a technical writer.

It has taken me many years to utter that sentence without preamble and backpedaling. I used to say, "I write for a living, but nothing that you would be interested in reading," or "I write things that no one ever sees," or "I make my living writing boring documents."

The truth is, I make my living crafting documents that span the space between those that have technical knowledge and those that don't. I am damn good at it, too. Good enough to say that I have been able to support myself with my writing for better than 15 years now.

I think that I repeatedly undercut the career for so long because technical writing was never my ambition. I always wanted to be a fiction writer. It just so happens that technical writing is a much steadier gig. It is very lucrative if you are on your game, so I have used my abilities in the way that has been the most financially beneficial, but not necessarily the most personally fulfilling.

Over time, I have structured my career so that I work at home in my own office, which is a priceless perk, in my opinion. The only way that I have been able to continue this is by working short-term freelance assignments.

My current assignment started back in April, and it is scheduled to run through August. This client was initially very wary of working with me remotely, and insisted on putting several safeguards in place to ensure that they had constant availability to me. I have access to their private network, and I am required to be signed on to their private chat system so that the client can verify that I am indeed signed on and present for the hours specified in the contract.

It was kind of funny; the first few weeks were just test after test after test. Instant messages were sent at 8:29 am and 5:31 pm on an almost daily basis. I took this as a personal challenge and so far I have been able to volley back every single serve they have zinged over the "net" at me. Of course, that means that I really can't stray more than about 10 feet from my working area at any time . . . and that is kind of nervewracking.

I have won their trust at this point, and they are quite happy with the documents that I have written on their behalf. I figured that would happen just about the time the contract wrapped.

All work has its perks and downsides, I guess. One downside is that I spend hours upon hours with only myself for company (well, and Weenie, when she isn't busy shredding the kid's socks or pissing on my rug). This blog has provided an outlet for me and access to a whole community of funny, caring people. That makes house arrest a little more bearable, so to my blog friends that regularly visit me and leave their impressions, thank you. Work is much less lonely this way.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Relief at last

I wage a battle every day against a formidable opponent. Back pain.

I don't recall having any kind of chronic physical pain through my 20s. The year I turned 30, I had a cesearean section, and that is where things began to go downhill. My back was just really never the same after the epidural. Now, getting the epidural was HEAVEN . . . it was instant relief from pain and pressure and I would have killed for it at the time. I think the combination of the surgery severing my abdominal muscles and the injection created a tag-team of pain, and so it has been since about 1995.

Fast forward to 2001. Another baby, and another cesearean section. This time, I was delivered of a strapping 10 lb. baby boy. Again, the epidural provided blessed momentary relief, and the huge incision severed my lower abdomen, and I really have never recovered.

It is strange to live with chronic pain. I have really grown used to waking up in pain, going through my day aching, and retiring into bed feeling shooting pain in my lower back. The few times I have attempted to exercise my abdominals, I was very, very sorry for it . . . the pain was MUCH worse.

I have used Tylenol, Aleve, aspirin, heat packs, ice packs, pillows between my knees, analgesic rubs, and all have offered very temporary relief, but sooner rather than later, that nagging pain begins to creep back into my consciousness.

It has been a hindrance . . . its hard to go on long walks, pick up the kids, carry groceries, and do the normal things that people do every day. I still do these things, but the pain has worn me down. At times, it is really hard to convince myself to get up out of bed and get moving, and some days, it is impossible. I frequently find myself laying down on the sofa in the middle of the day - reclining is pain-free, and I do it more often than I wish I had to.

OH, but last night, I think I may have discovered a TRUE reprieve from the pain. I swam in the pool. Not just floated and paddled, but I swam laps, using a styrofoam noodle, and just took it at a leisurely pace. Back and forth, I kicked and made my way up and down the pool lane 4 times. I noticed that as I swam, some of the stiffness seemed to lessen.

After the 4th lap, I was fairly winded, and I just kind of relaxed with the noodle up under my arms, and I just . . . floated. My legs were just hanging, not touching the bottom, and I was completely . . . pain . . . free. No drugs, no creams, no painful exercises. Just blissful, peaceful, painless floating. I nearly cried with relief.

I slept very well, and only woke up once to readjust my pillows under my knees, and this morning, I was still pain free. As the afternoon has worn on, I have felt a twinge in my back a time or two, but I chalk that up to sitting in this damn chair working at my computer.

I am hoping and praying that I can continue this little regimen and rid myself of this pain. Maybe I'll be able to get back on my treadmill, and regain my strength and flexibility. That would be such a pleasure.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

High Maintenance - White Trash Style

As I type this, I am gazing contentendly down at my freshly painted toesies. Another nice gift that I received for my birthday - a gift certificate to the nail salon that happens to be inside the local Super Walmart.

Now, I have never really considered myself high maintenance, but you know, I think I am going to recant that. As I get older, I have begun to indulge in a few regularly scheduled maintenance services, but at rock-bottom prices. I am low-class high maintenance (if that catches on, you heard it here first).

For example - I do like to have my hair washed and trimmed in a salon on a fairly regular basis, but I generally go to Great Clips for $14.99. I am somewhat vain about the auburn in my hair, so I indulge in a color wash, but I do that at home in the shower with a $4.00 box of color from the CVS.

Going back to the pedicure - I dearly love to have a spa pedicure. Massage, full pedicure, heaven. I am completely content to sit in the the nail salon in front of the Walmart checkout lanes in a vibrating chair while a nice little person expertly lotions my heels and paints my nails for $20.00. I get my brows waxed there, too ($6.00).

My point is this . . . the other women that I know, the ones that I work with and live around keep the high-priced salons in business. They have a dedicated stylist, and colorist, and manicurist, and they buy very expensive clothing, shoes, etc.

Now, maybe I just don't have a keen enough eye, but I can't tell much difference between my haircuts and theirs, or my nails or theirs, or my clothes or theirs.

Maybe I am missing some part of the whole experience by going on the cheap. But to tell the truth, I think the frugality of it lessens the guilt for me. I have finally come to the point that I feel sure that I am worth taking care of, but within reason. I am not sure I could sit still for a $135 haircut and a $75 color. I think I would choke if I attempted to purchase a $35 bottle of shampoo.

I want to look like a million bucks, as long as it doesn't routinely cost me more than $19.95.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Who in the hell made this mess?!?!

Mistake number one: I gave in to the "I'm bored!" chant this past weekend and took my daughter on a litte outing to the craft store. Big mistake. JoAnne's was having a 70% off kid's craft kits sale, and I went a little crazy. Foam shapes, visors, clay, hole punchers, glue, pipe cleaners, sparklies, and we were set for a Summer O' Fun!

Two hours later, and my kitchen looked like Rip Taylor had skipped through and thrown up.

There was glitter on the floor, on the chairs, the table, the countertops, all in the baby's hair (much to his delight); even the dog sparkled!

I walked into the delighted screaming melee, and when I saw the devastation, all noise ceased. Could have heard a pin drop. The glitter tube in the baby's hand stopped sprinkling in mid-air. Even Weenie became still as a statue, up on her hind legs. All were waiting for the verdict. I could hear my own heart beating.

I cracked a smile and shrugged my shoulders. Fuck it. The kids screamed with delight and sprinkled glitter on me, too. After all, it is my birthday.

Happy birthday to me.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Exhuming plastic for fun and profit

For those of you that have been reading the blog for a little while, you might remember that I commented that I was a hoarder. What ultimately got way out of hand started innocently enough. I started a quest to recreate my childhood toy collection.

Toys didn't really stand a chance at my house, and being the baby of the family, my toys were kind of a conglomeration of mine and leftover parts of my older siblings. The few dolls I had, I loved dearly, especially Dancerina. Dancerina was a beautiful doll with a ballerina costume and pretty pointed ballet shoes. When you held her crown, she would dance, and she came with a record. She was my favorite, and for whatever reason, in my late 20s, I wanted to find a pristine example of her. Thus began my descent into 70s plastic collecting dementia.

Dancerina - she started the obsession

Much like a gateway drug, Dancerina just made me jones for other hard-to-find vintage amusements. My Romper Room Scoop-A-Loop set, Romper Stompers, and my Do-Bee puppet were all coveted prey for my toy safaris. Most weekends would find me haunting flea markets, yard sales, Goodwill stores to recapture bits of my youth.

Pretty soon, I started "dealing" toys to support my habit. Ebay was my channel partner of choice - I conducted weekly auctions and was soon earning a decent living peddling memories to others like me. Vintage Barbies, MEGO figures, lunchboxes, it was an ever-growing hobby/obsession.

I soon found myself frequenting "toy shows" to quench my thirst for MIB merchandise (for those not familiar, that acronym stands for Mint in the Box). I became a very savvy collector, spotting underpriced pieces at local shows, and then turning a profit on them by selling them on the EBay international market. Meanwhile, my garage and spare rooms were filling to the rafters with the chaff that I separated from the wheat: partial Partridge Family boardgames that I was sure I could complete one day, broken Mattel talking dolls, embattled GI Joes that needed the fuzzy flocking put back on their heads. I would be their savior, and they would be the path for me to reach Toy Utopia - a complete recreation of every toy I had or ever wanted, or ever played with at a friend's house. I justified it by making it profitable, but in the end, it was just overwhelming how much I had amassed.

I have rid myself of most of it, and after a heartwrenching inner battle, I even sold Dancerina (for a nice profit, but still). The infatuation ran its course, and truthfully I either grew up, or grew bored, or grew tired of the mess.

It's nice to be back in control, but there is still one little part of me that would pay dearly for a really clean copy of Which Witch.

Which Witch - the holy grail

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Dietary Porn

It's not the real thing, but it sure feels like the real thing. I can finally have sweet tea again without guilt, and for a Southerner, that is a BIG deal.

I am a lifelong sugar substitute slave. My mom always used Sweet'n'Low when I was a kid, trying in vain to curb my dad's sweet tooth and my chubby little tummy. It made my brothers and sister miserable, but I actually developed a tolerance for saccharin, but never what you would term a "liking".

Nutrasweet was promising, it tasted better, but God, the headaches I got rivaled any chinese food MSG hangover I have ever had. Plus, I have a mistrust of the evil Monsanto empire after I worked for a large environmental engineering firm and saw the endless reports of their misdeeds.

I went the hippie route for a few years and bought stevia in bulk. Apart from feeling like a drug smuggler, it was an OK option. Again, I had found a palatable, mediocre sugar substitute, but given my rathers, I liked regular ol' sugar better, and seemed to continually revert back to the (co)Cain white sugar crystals.

But now, ohhhhh my . . . I have found the Holy Grail that is Splenda. It looks like sugar, measures like sugar, and most importantly it TASTES like sugar. Don't look at me for the scientific explanation, but from what I have read, it is actual sugar that has a couple of molecules switched so that it isn't absorbed and doesn't mess with your insulin or blood sugar. You can cook with it, sweeten Kool-Aid or tea with it, and its safe for adults and kids. Hallelujah.

Sweet, sweet Splenda

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Brainwashed by the Church of Home Improvement

I am convinced that I am addicted to DIY shows. From This Old House to Clean Sweep, I watch them all. I adore Trading Spaces, Changing Rooms, Room Rivals, Designer's Challenge, Design for the Sexes, This Small Space, House Doctor, Sell This House, Life Laundry (see, I told you!)

I would wager that I have spent as many hours studying decorating and design as degreed decorators have. There is just one difference though . . . the shows haven't rubbed off on me. My attempts at decorating and organization are mediocre, at best. I never can quite bring things together to make a room look like the ones on TV, not even the 2-day, $1000 rooms (sigh).

The shows about decluttering particularly hit home for me - I am a bit of a packrat, I am afraid. OK, that may be a slight understatement. I have been known to downright hoard . . . masses of useless junk that I somehow thought I needed at the time of purchase.

The last couple of years have been a steady struggle to declutter, simplify, pare down, and live simply. When we bought our house in 2001, I vowed to put my hoarding days behind me and left a cubic ton of junk at the Goodwill on the way out of my old house. I have read books on organization, watched the shows (of course) and even implemented some fairly complicated and costly storage solutions in an attempt to tame my house. None of it has worked. I still have piles of laundry everywhere, little piles of things scattered here and there, and I keep a shovel handy to unearth the floor of the kids' rooms on a fairly regular basis.

I think that watching the shows gives me hope and keeps the dream alive. After I watch a good instructional show, I am inspired once again to take a crack at domestic domination over my crap.

The only thing that I have accomplished with a certainty is that I have ended my hoarding ways. I am completely unsentimental about papers, clothing, books, knick knacks, and little collectibles that used to fill my house to the rafters. I no longer haunt thrift stores and come home with bags of "treasures".

Baby steps . . .

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Writer's Block


I have been checking the blog comments daily, but haven't had really anything to blog about lately. Ho-hum.

Saw Shrek II with the kids. I liked it as much as the first one, which is really saying something. Not a big fan of sequels in general, they usually disappoint, but this was the exception to the rule.

We arrived early for the 1:00 show, and got great seats about 10 minutes early. As 1:00 approached, I was trying to put the brakes on the kids - they had burned through about 1/2 of their popcorn and candy. Then the previews started - all 20 MINUTES OF THEM. Do the theater managers not realize that the audience is comprised of little people with the attention span of gnats? By the time the previews were over, my little one announced, "That was a good movie - we go home now!" It took a great deal of convincing to keep him seated - bribing him with my box of candy did the trick.

So, we are all easing into summer. This won't be one of those lazy, sleep in, go to the beach for a week summers. This will be a sweat your ass off, send the kids to grandma's while I work, no reprieve kind of summer, but that is what happens when you are laid off for the better part of the year. Got a lotta catching up to do, my friends, but we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Hope it isn't an oncoming train.
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