Sunday, April 27, 2014

On The Corner of 75th & Roe

We moved into this house in December.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, plans were already in motion for the Annual Neighborhood Cookie Exchange, and the newest neighbor in the hood would be getting an invite (and maybe an assessment).

Walking into a party and knowing NOBODY is usually not my thing, but I was new to this state and I needed friends, and/or friendly neighbors with teenagers that babysat.  The hostess was welcoming and lovely, and in one fell swoop I met just about every woman who lives on this street. 

That following summer, the hostess of that party would bury her six year old son from meningitis.  It is impossible to wrap your head around a healthy kid riding his bike up and down the street one day to being gravely ill to dying, and life on this street was wrapped in sadness and disbelief.

Four blocks away, on the corner of 75th and Roe, is a Baptist church that many of us enrolled our kids in for Mother's Day Out and preschool.   The parents of this little boy were church members there and strong supporters of the preschool, and they raised funds to build an outdoor play area for the kids in honor of their son.

That neighbor moved a long time ago, but our son and her younger son are the same age and so I would see her and her husband frequently at the high school and cross-country events.  We always catch up on what our kids are doing these days, and despite the tremendous loss in her life she is a joy to talk to and I am always happy to see her.

It is not unusual for me to drive by the corner of 75th and Roe many times a week, and each time I do I glance at that cheerful playground.  My own kids and many others have been the beneficiaries of my neighbors' generosity during the darkest hours of their life.

On a Friday afternoon in October of last year, on a clear, beautiful fall day, a 29 year old woman was killed at that corner by an alleged drunk driver estimated to be traveling in the neighborhood of 100 miles an hour.  If you saw this intersection you couldn't believe that something so tragic and senseless could happen there.  It isn't even that busy or the kind of street you'd avoid because of frequent accidents.  Not to mention somebody driving drunk at 1:00 in the afternoon.  Amongst my friends and neighbors we have talked about it again and again as if there's some missing piece to this that was overlooked that would make sense.  The woman who was killed owned a dance studio and left behind a devastated family, including a husband and his son.

A few weeks ago I was at that intersection waiting for the light to change when I saw a man in a shirt and tie, crouched down and staring into the intersection.  It seemed out of place and sad and it wasn't until the light turned green and I had driven a few blocks that I realized that the guy I'd seen was her husband.  I recognized him from the story in the paper.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.  It's her husband.  Somebody should tell him that those of us who live in this neighborhood have thought about his beautiful, dancer wife a thousand times.  That whenever the subject comes up we can't believe somebody died on that corner.  That the recent story in the paper about him and his son and her family trying to keep her dance studio going broke my heart and made me proud of them all at the same time.  Somebody should tell him that.

Somebody like me.

I turned the car around with no idea of what I would actually say to him and drove back to that corner.  Five minutes had passed by and he was nowhere to be seen.  I circled the drive and parking lot twice to see if he'd gotten in his car.  By now I was so sure he should know how truly sorry this neighborhood is about his wife that I had become brave enough to knock on his car window if need be.

The following day a funeral was held at that Baptist church for the woman who owned the dance studio my own girls went to for years.  A dancer, a business owner, a woman who choked up at the recital every year thanking everyone, died of Lou Gehrig's disease.  In tragic irony, the woman who made a career from moving was stopped by a disease that systemically took all movement away from her.

On the corner of 75th and Roe, where brightly colored slides and climbing equipment sit like a rainbow of happiness, there is more heartbreak than the casual passerby could even begin to imagine.  Only those who have tried to patch a life back together know it all too well.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Cool Moms & Hot Mamas

 I was recently having a conversation with a mom whose daughter is in high school.  She is navigating teen years with her and I offered a couple of observations about what that was like with my own kids.

"Oh, you're so right," she said at one point.  "You seem like one of those cool moms."

And it was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

I know it was meant as a compliment, but I no more have had my shit together than any other mom.  I happen to be a few years beyond high school with my kids and so I have perspective.  I can look back on those years and say we made it, we didn't strangle each other, they are neither drinkers or partyers, they have plans and goals for their life, they all work incredibly hard.  We still like each other most of the time these days.  

That doesn't make me a cool mom it just makes me fortunate.

In the Facebook world there is often comments about posted pictures that are some version of this.....


That, too, makes me cringe.  Hot mama?

A cool mom seems like the kind of woman who would let her kids and their friends drink in the basement when they're thirteen because "they may as well do it here where I can keep an eye on them."  A hot mom seems like the kind of woman who drinks with them while wearing her daughter's American Eagle skinny jeans and halter tops.

It's all so Kardashian.

It has always been my habit to observe women who are about ten years older than me.  What makes them stand out?  In a youth-obsessed culture what is their attraction?

Working in retail for so many years made it easy and there are two women that I'll always remember.  One was dressed in head to toe black and wearing red ballet flats.  My guess was that she was seventy.  The other was a woman who bought a funky skirt and was so thrilled, so excited to wear it that she couldn't contain herself.  She was bohemian by nature, the other was more conservative, but what both had was serenity.

The kind that comes with being happy in your own imperfect skin.

As I age a bit more each day and sixty isn't all that far away, I strive for content status.  Loving little things like red flats and patterned skirts but noticing big things like the fall leaves, a glass of wine under a fingernail moon and an old photo of my grandma and aunt that makes me smile every time I pass by it.

Just two of the long line of women in my life who showed me over and over that the best thing somebody can say about you is that you have some up in your giddy.

Monday, April 14, 2014


On Saturday I decided to go to a store I've been to once before to get a carpet runner.  It is where we locals call "out south."  To us who have been spoiled by life in a little, quiet town it is the doomed errand.  When you say to someone "I have to go out south" or "They've decided to move out south" people will groan with you.  It is a congested, SUV filled place where suburbia has puked strip malls as far as the eye can see.

Even though it is a mere twenty minutes away, one must mentally prepare for the dreaded ride "out south."

The intersection in which I thought the store was at is really busy, and since I didn't know on what corner it was situated, I decided to overshoot my destination by a few blocks and then back track.  Even that I wasn't entirely sure of but as soon as I saw the sign for Village Shalom I knew I was on the right street.

One day later a woman was shot to death at that very place going to see her mother in the assisted living center.

Prior to that, the gunman killed a grandfather and his fourteen year old grandson a few blocks away at the Jewish Community Center.

I am not one to ruminate on whether or not that could have been me if it had happened a day earlier.  It wasn't.  Some other family got devastating news on that awful day in a manner that makes absolutely no sense, and the lives of those left to make funeral arrangements will be forever altered. 

This has shocked this community, and though hate groups have always been on the periphery, a fourteen year old boy trying out for a music competition hasn't even lived long enough to understand that kind of hate let alone be the target of its violence.

Like high schools, grade schools, army bases, movie theaters, restaurants and every city in America, gun violence has made a home in our area and there will be analysis for years on how this could have been prevented.

But here in the land of the free, the one nation that has claimed from its inception to be under God, handguns, rifles and assault weapons legally sit at the right hand of The Father..........

.........and the right to come home on a stormy Sunday afternoon has been sold to the NRA.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pinning A Life

I'm not going to brag, (okay maybe I am) but I was one of the earliest users of Pinterest.  I heard about it from a decorating blog and was hooked immediately.  I have stay hooked and if there were a twelve step program for weaning yourself off The Pinnning I would join.

It has sucked vast chunks of my time every single day.  It has made me late for work, forgotten that dinner is cooking on the stove and been my drug of choice in the wee hours of the night when I can't sleep.

Woe is me.  Like whoa.

Once in awhile I'll remember an outfit from Pinterest and head to the accessories section of Target for a multi-layered pearl necklace.  Or was it the statement necklace?  A chevron infinity scarf?  Knock-off Michael Kors watch, anyone?   A maxi skirt.  That's what I should get for my short stature because it's the bomb diggety on Pinterest.

I have pinned recipes I never make, inspiring quotes I never read again, a dream cottage in the woods and a beach house,  Yes, both.  Is that too greedy?  Paint colors (muted and bright for each house), flowers that could never grow in my current zone 5, pallet desks, pallet wine racks, pallet tables.

Enough with the pallets already.

In my nearly empty nest it fills the quiet and is my excuse for not doing legit things that are more self-improving than making a pretend life, and though I know I need to get off this fantasy cycle I just can't seem to step away from the pin.

There are, however, cracks in the foundation that are beginning to show.

Gender reveal parties.  Boy baby?  Stick your hands in blue paint and make a hand print on your shirt.  TAADAA!!!!  Doesn't that ruin your shirt?  Doesn't that prevent you from diving headfirst into the blue appetizers because your hands are full of paint?  Wouldn't your friends and family be just as excited if you, I don't know, told them you were having a boy?

Bad crafts.  A Mason jar hot glued to a thrift store candlestick is a Mason jar glued to a thrift store candlestick.  It is not an apothecary jar.  Ever.

Cupcakes.  Unless you had a PhD. in baking you cannot make the frosting on a cupcake look like a flower.  Nor should you because the first one that falls off the tray and face plants its pretty little flower petal face will cause you to have a nervous breakdown.  A nervous breakdown is the uninvited guest at the gender reveal party.

Squats, planks, ab challenges, the thigh gap.  This needs no explanation.

Casserole recipes.  Casseroles do not photograph well.  They always look like a hot mess, and even though they may be quite tasty, they tend to look like you cooked a fine dinner, put it through the blender and then threw it on the floor.  There is no fan club for this, and if somebody asks for your casserole recipe it is because they are being polite which is different from sincere.

Marking the kids age through photos.  I am not opposed to this.  I actually wish I'd done it myself, but the one that jumped the shark was the idea that you buy a really big tshirt and write the year that Junior will graduate from college.  Every year you take a photo of Junior wearing that shirt (because who would misplace a tshirt) and TAADAA, he starts to fill the thing out until there he is twenty two years later.  Grinning, glazed and higher than a kite because his overbearing mother is forcing him to wear the same outfit he wore when he was three. 

Since Easter is less than a week away I give you this teachable moment from Pinterest.  Bake some cookies with the kids, examine each ingredient and think of a way to compare it to Jesus' crucifixion.  This might be kind of challenging, Mom, but taking a couple of swigs of that pure vanilla extract might get something moving upstairs.  Put them in the oven and tape the oven door shut.  This is The Maytag Tomb.   In the morning open the oven door and have The Risen Jesus who has come back as a cookie.


You're welcome.

Now go tell it on the Pinterest Mountain.
                                     Holy Thursday / Last Supper Craft

Sunday, April 6, 2014


On Friday my friend, Janet, came over for coffee, pastries and some catching up.  We used to work at a lighting shop years ago and she recently asked me to write a reference letter for her.  I've never done that before and so I asked The Big Daddy what I was supposed to say. 

"Do you like her?" he asked.

"Yes," I responded.

"Here's the rule about that.  If you like the person you write a lot.  Everything you can think of that will be useful in a job.  If you don't like them you make it short and sweet.  Their possible, future employer will get the message."

I can't say it was a stellar recommendation because the line of work she's looking for is completely different than what we had done together.  I did my best, but what I like most about Janet wouldn't quite work in a reference letter.

Her and I have probably worked a hundred different jobs in our lifetime.  We've done everything.  "I get bored," she said.  "I need to move on after awhile."

Me too, friend.  I'm a mover onner which isn't exactly what most employers are looking for.

I have often felt like Lucille Ball working the conveyer belt at the chocolate factory.  I have no idea how I've gotten myself into some of the employment opportunities presented to me except for an ever present attitude of "what-the-hell-why-not."  Qualifications be damned.  I've got charm and when it's firing on all cylinders I can get my foot in the door.

When I got hired at the lighting shop I thought it was about picking out pretty lamps and shades.  That was some of it but it was also recessed lights, ceiling fans, puck lights, rope lighting. sconces, chandeliers.  There were thousands of bulbs in the back room.  We did lamp repairs constantly and to this day I can wire my own lamp and hardwired the chandelier in the dining room.  I was usually so overwhelmed that when I saw some old lady coming in with a hideous brass lamp I ran to help her because I knew she'd take an hour deciding between a white or ivory shade and I'd be off the hook when the electricians came in.


The guy who hired Mark was married to the loveliest woman who owned a catering business and she asked if I might be interested in working some parties.  The pay was $25.00 an hour.

$25.00!!!!  Sign me up.

It was without a doubt the most grueling exhausting work I've ever done.  Hours running around with trays.  Loading, unloading, cleaning.  You earned every cent of that hourly wage.

At one party I was serving coffee and a woman asked me if it was decaf.  I had no idea and went in the kitchen to ask Dorothy and her daughter.  "What's she like?" they asked.

"Oh, kind of an older woman," I replied.

"Older like in her sixties or older like more than seventy five?"

"I'd say she's more like seventy five."

"Then it's decaf," they said.  "Old ladies always want decaf at night."


Somebody got their buzz on and couldn't sleep that night and somebody else got booked for another party.  There's winners and losers when you're faking your way to the next paycheck.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Our Old Boy

When we got Henry he was a puppy and we shopped for him at a pet adoption event at Petsmart.  We brought the kids and they were smitten with that little furball and begged to bring him home.

He was like Marmaduke and he grew and grew and grew.  The 40# sheltie we thought we got turned into an 80# retriever/chow mix.  He once bit a neighborhood kid in the stomach when he came through the front door unannounced.   Had we known he was part Chow we would have never gotten him but by then it was too late, so I watched him like a hawk around that door. 

He thought his call to duty was to guard the castle entrance and that damn dog stressed me out.

I walked him every morning and when he saw a squirrel he'd yank my arm trying to go after it.  Every single morning.  A friend of mine had a poodle and they had an altercation one day.  Henry never forgot and he'd bark and pull at his leash whenever he saw that dog because he had to settle the score.  One time the poodle got away from my friend and came bounding towards us.  Seeing as how there was a 75# difference between those dogs, I thought the poodle was going to be a goner.  Instead he ran under Henry and try as he could to get that varmint, he just kept running in circles with that little toy dog stuck between his legs the whole time.

It would have been comical if I weren't so sure that Henry wasn't going to kill my friend's dog.

And then he mellowed out.  Slept more and didn't get so bothered by the mailman or the UPS man.  An 80# dog was always too big for this house but we all squeezed in and made it work even if we weren't so sure of each other in the beginning.  Or for years.

Today we put our old boy to sleep.  He has never liked going in the car and was a shaking, panting mess all the way to the vet and in the waiting room.  We took him back and this vet that we've been going to for twenty years explained the process and gave him some sedation.

Our old boy went fast asleep with his head over the exam table and started snoring.  We petted him the whole time and even though he was a big hunk of fur, you could feel all his ribs and vertebrae.

He made me nuts.  For the first ten years of his life he probably thought Calm The Fuck Down was his name.  This last year he's peed in the house a hundred times.  At least.  He ate chicken off the dining room table and kitchen counter.  He'd stick his whole head in the garbage can to eat the chicken bones.  He would get right next to you if he liked what was cooking on the stove and never move out of the way.  He always smeared the glass on the front door five minutes after I cleaned it.  He once ate a rib that fell off the grill and got the bone wedged sideways in his mouth.  He drank out of the toilet bowl and licked the carpet for no reason.

He had no class. 

He was perfect for us.