Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mom

Even though my relationship with my Mother has often been, er, strained...I always enjoyed hearing stories about her childhood. Those stories were a rare treat. She didn't speak of her formative years very often. What I remember most during those infrequent tales of her fabled past, was my mother uttering the phrase "I was a homely child" on many occasions. I always had to take her at her word because; whereas my Mother and I are pack-rats in the extreme, my grandmother was not.

At every opportunity, Grandma would purge her home of any and all clutter. This included old photos, and (after my mother left home at 17) all of her cherished childhood mementos - scrap books, year books, school work...anything that my Mom neglected to take with her was tossed out without her permission. Grandma's excuse? "If you didn't take it with you, I assumed you didn't want it anymore."

So for this reason, I had never seen a photograph of my mother as a child. I am sure my grandmother kept a few photos. She was a kind and loving woman and I find it hard to believe that she would throw away EVERYTHING; but I tell you, every time I went to visit her at her apartment in later years she tried to give away anything and everything to me that she thought I might want. Grandma really hated clutter. Still, I had never seen any photos of my Mother prior to, say, 1964.

When I was home over Thanksgiving, I went on a mission to find some old photographs of myself. My mother never throws ANYTHING away, so I knew the ones I wanted were in my parent's house somewhere. The problem is, when you don't throw away ANYTHING, that means you must go through EVERYTHING to find what you want. I spent hours looking through old dresser drawers and closets. By the time I sat on my old canopy bed in my not so old bedroom (I had only spent about 2 years of my life in that room in the last house my parents purchased and finally settled into after 18 years of roaming), I had amassed quite a large pile of yellow Kodak envelopes full of photo prints.

You see, in addition to being a pack-rat, my Mother is also very unorganized. Other than her wedding album, I don't think she has ever taken the time to sort a single photograph into an album of any kind. I had my work cut out for me.

After a couple more hours of flipping through envelop after envelop of photos from my childhood (and finding a few of those elusive pics I was looking for) I came across a white envelope with a rubber band around it. It stood out like a sore thumb against the sea of Kodak yellow. I was stunned and elated to discover a letter from my great-aunt which spoke about cleaning out the home of another great-aunt after she had passed away and enclosed was a BUNCH of little black and white photographs. Apparently, my Grandmother had been sending great-aunt Eleanor batches of photos for years during her frequent clean-out/purge sessions. Eleanor had kept every photo. Many of them were of my Mother when she was a little girl.

There she was, in grainy black and white. The little photos looked like they had been taken with one of those old time brownie cameras. The prints were so small and cute. And you know what? My mother was NOT a homely child. She was adorable! Which begs the question...what happened? Why did she grow up with such a low self-opinion? I may never know the answer (but you KNOW I am going to ask...one of these days).

My little photo expedition was NOT a sanctioned adventure and I knew at any moment my Mother would come up stairs and discover me sitting on my old bed with stacks of photo gold around me. She seems to have some deep seated fear of someone (namely me or my brother) taking some treasured piece of our past from one of her never opened dusty old drawers. Like she would ever notice. You know what? She is right to fear. I quickly took the photos of me that I had been looking for and hid them inside a book I was reading. I scanned the collection of old black and white photos and took my favorites, also stashing them inside my book.

I had just set my book back on the night stand, when the creaky step on the stairway gave me warning that my mother was coming. I painted on an innocent grin as I saw the look of panic on her face.

"What are you doing?!"

Oh, nothing really. I was just trying to find photos of me in my Junior and Senior prom dresses.

"Why?"

I just wanted to show them to some friends of mine.

"Oh. Well...don't take the copies that I have. If you find them, I can have prints made for you."

Um, ok Mom. Thanks.

She sat down with me on the bed and began looking through some of the envelopes. She was sucked down memory lane, just as I had been, and we talked about vacations past and holidays spent in houses both far and near. She came across the white envelope, opened it, (I held my breath) and told me about how her Aunt had saved these old photos for years and how happy she was to have them. They are the only photos left, that she is aware of, of her old house that she grew up in and of her as a child. Whew. She didn't notice the missing ones.

Don't worry. I am going to return them. Now that I have them scanned. Curious? Would you like to see my Mommy as a very little girl? Here she is:



Now I ask you...is that a face only a mother could love? No! I didn't think so either. My mom also used to insist that she was fat as a child. Bah! Her face was charmingly full, but she was no fatty. If you want to see the rest of the photos I swiped, click on the photo of young Carol above to view my Shutterfly album. I really did strike Kodak gold that day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Charity

For those with family and friends in southern Asia and for those people who have survived this horrible natural disaster, you have our deepest sympathy. As of this moment, we have donated funds to the following charitable organizations. Please click these images if you would also like to make a donation for earthquake relief.




Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas

I thought briefly about not moving this entry from my old journal to my new one. But my SIL already hates me, knows I hate lamb, knows I suffer from PMDD and the resulting hormonal imbalance turns me from a normally easy going, fun loving, patient, and tolerant woman into a raving loon but she chooses to ignore that fact and take my insanity fueled rants as GOSPEL truth...blah blah blah. So here it is. Christmas of 2004, warts and all.
AOL just ate my Christmas journal entry, so I will briefly reconstruct.

1. Ty was overjoyed at the sight of his Santa gifts...all was caught on film by John. Video entry to follow later. This was the best part of the day.

2. I nearly ran out of time to bake my contribution to the day's feast, so I scrambled to prepare my potato puffs, pigs-in-a-blanket and other nibbles.

3. We were late in picking up my MIL and hence late to arrive at my BILs.

4. Tyler had NO interest in opening more gifts. He just wanted to play in their finished basement. My MIL was NOT pleased with Ty's reactions to his presents after we forced him to stop playing and open a few packages. What did she expect?

5. My SIL made LAMB for dinner (sucking up to MIL, no doubt. Lamb is her favorite). Who the hell ever heard of having LAMB on Christmas? Bleech! And asparagus, brussel sprouts and stewed potatoes??? Yikes.

6. Tyler ate NOTHING. Not even a roll. All day.

7. Aunt Flo came for a most unwelcome visit. I was not prepared. I should have been, considering my mood all week.

8. Once presents and eating was over, Tyler's mood lifted and he played nicely with his cousins. I was ready for a long winter's nap.

9. Feeling guilty, John stopped at McDonalds on the drive home. I said let the boy go hungry. He needs to learn to eat what is placed in front of him. We won't always be going out to get his favorite foods. I don't want to reward that kind of bad behavior.

10. The last version of this entry was much funnier and much less cranky sounding.

11. I need some Midol and a tranquilizer.

12. Lamb. What the hell! Does anyone have any left over turkey I can have?

13. I am alone. The boys went with my MIL to visit Great Grandma in the nursing home today. 99 years old. Amazing. They are going out for Chinese food after their visit.

14. I'm hungry.

15. I'm tired.

16. I'm cranky.

17. I'm crampy.

18. I'm tired of typing. Merry Christmas all. Nap time. Oh yeah...click the photo below for more pics of our family Christmas, if you're curious. No photos of lamb. Sorry.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Festive!

Since the husband was off at an evening work function, I thought tonight would be a good time for a Mommy and Baby night out ("Mooooommmmyyyyy! I'm a BIG BOY now!" Right. Sorry Ty.) After a late afternoon nap, I got us bundled up against the chill and we headed out in the van. The plan? Pick up some dinner at McDonalds and eat in the car while driving around town checking out the Christmas lights.

After getting Tyler set up with dinner on his special car tray, we cruised around checking out my favorite homes in and around town. I had been checking out the houses for a few weeks now and had selected my favorites. Tonight was the perfect opportunity to take photos of them. Tyler really seemed to enjoy nibbling on his chicken nuggets and apple slices while Ooo'ing and Ahh'ing at the pretty lights. He would instruct me to stop and take pictures of ones he liked as well. Click the photo below or HERE to see the best of the best from our little jaunt this evening. I should make a "prize" and go pop it into these folks' mailboxes. They really went all out. It's a joy to see.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

45?!?!

Happy Birthday, Baby!


Monday, December 20, 2004

Conversation

Sometimes I swear Tyler just talks to hear himself talk. He jabbers on about the craziest things. We had the following running conversation at Red Lobster the other day. It started with him; "What's that?"


Emergency door.


"What's that red thing?"


Alarm.


"What's it do?"


It's the fire exit.


"Oh! So...there's a fire and I yell FIRE and push that thing and alarm goes WOO WOO WOO and run out the door to fire escape and oh no building on fire! call fire trucks to get people out then house burns down and then we go live in a new house. Right Mommy?"


So I start cracking up and he's like, "What funny Mommy? Me?"


HAHAHAHAHA Yes!


"I not funny. I Ty Ty."


Yes you are, son. Yes you certainly are.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

More ?s

A few more questions have trickled in, so here we go:


1. If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why? Well...I could say one of the lesser liked veggies (less chance of being eaten) but I think I would rather be one that is really useful. Corn. Corn is made into so many useful things and it's the #1 grain that we export to the starving masses overseas. Corn sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup and others), Ethanol (a cleaner burning alternative fuel), Corn oil, Corn starch, popcorn, animal feed, and corn by-products which are made into MANY other things like cleaning products, golf tees, adhesives, batteries, tires, crayons, textiles, antibiotics, aspirin, body lotion, drug coatings, lipstick, and other pharmaceuticals. Oh, and don't forget biodegradable packing peanuts and this cool stuff called Water Lock which is a super absorbent polymer than can suck up 20 times its own weight in water. Yeah, corn. That's the ticket!
2. If you could do anything, be great at it, get paid well for it, and be appreciated for it, what would you be? Oh that's easy. I'd be the next J.K. Rowling (a now famous children's book author widely credited for bringing "reading" back into vogue with today's youth).
3. If you had to choose to be any character in any book/movie/play/show of your choice, but you had to live out that story line forever, who would you choose? Well...Melanie Griffith's character (Tess McGill) in Working Girl rather mirrors my own life...so that makes a sort of logical sense to me. She gets the job, the recognition and the man in the end (and a very GOOD looking man is Harrison Ford too, I must add)... But I somehow think I can do better. Angelina Jolie (Laura Croft) in Tomb Raider. She looks HOT, has oodles of money, a nice house and a cool and exciting lifestyle/hobby. Add a hot looking love interest, and I think that is the way to go.
~Danielle
Comment from danielled1 - 12/18/04 11:06 PM



1) Did you ever drink 'MOXIE'? While I have a lot of moxie, no, I have never personally tasted our nation's first mass marketed soft drink. I was not allowed to have soda as a child and now that I live outside Massachusetts, it's just not very easy to find.
2) Why can you never find Pineapple 'JELLO'? Well...the stocking of particular flavors of Jell-o on your supermarket shelves is driven by purchasing statistics. I'm willing to guess that "pineapple" just doesn't sell well in your area and is, therefore, not stocked. I have it at my local supermarket and will happily ship you some boxes, if you like? OR you can make your own with a packet of Knox gelatin and a cup of canned pineapple juice substituted for the cold water. Don't use fresh pineapple juice. Pineapple belongs to a group of plants called Bromeliads. Kiwi, papaya, and figs are other types of Bromeliads. The enzyme in pineapple juice that is responsible for the breakdown of collagen is bromelin. The process of canning pineapple denatures the bromelin, rendering it incapable of catalyzing the break down of gelatin.
3) And why do you never see baby pigeons? Well firstly, from their earliest origins in Asia, pigeons were cliff-dwelling birds. Today's modern pigeon makes its nest in equally inaccessible locations like on top of tall buildings or in the girders of bridges. Secondly, pigeons are non pareil (they lay only 2 eggs at a time and spoil their babies excessively). Momma and Daddy pigeon will feed their babies until they are completely feathered out. By the time they leave the nest, the are almost the same size as the adults. So, if you see a pigeon that is smaller than the others, he is probably the "baby". But all pigeons pretty much look alike by the time they land on your sidewalk looking for scraps so the only way to know for sure is to keep a coop full on your roof and watch the whole process from the beginning.
Comment from bosoxblue6993w - 12/19/04 8:45 AM


Via email, Ingrid2365 asks:
1. If you could be a holiday, which one would you be? Halloween!
2. Why? I love the costumes, the candy, and the controversy. My mother has always called me a non-conformist. I like to be different and Halloween is the perfect day for that.
3. What is your favorite kind of music? Oh my...now that is a hard question. It's much easier to answer what is my least favorite kind of music (that would be Country and Western). I love SO many different kinds of music it would be hard to pick just one type as a favorite. I love classical, big band, swing, do-wop, rock, hard rock, opera, alternative rock, heavy metal, ska, Hawaiian, punk, easy listening...music from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

3 Question Challenge...Answers

OK Folks! It's now time to complete the "Three Question Challenge"! I asked you, my lovely readers, to ask me any three questions you liked. Here they are, in the order in which they were received with my responses in RED:


why? Because.
what? Anything I like.
where? Any time I like.
http://journals.aol.co.uk/sdrogerson/SpecimenDays/
Comment from sdrogerson - 12/10/04 2:15 PM



1. Did he pop any of the balloons? No he did not. We played lots of balloon keepie-uppie, and most of the balloons ended up floating down the steps and into my laundry room...where they remain to this day.
2. Have you tried the sugar-free Hershey's? No. Sugar-free sweets are a blasphemy to me. I just won't do it.
3. Have you picked a name? Yes I have...for a girl. I do not have a backup name for a boy, however.
Karen
PS What is the average wingspeed of a fully-laden African swallow? Well, a detailed analysis of an unladen African (and European) swallow can be found HERE. I believe in his alternate theories section, the fully-laden question is also addressed with a coconut being the payload of choice.
Comment from mavarin - 12/10/04 2:29 PM



If you were a super hero...
1. What would your super hero name be? Zaftig Woman
2. What would your super power be, and would you use it for good or evil? I would have the power to bread and deep-fry anything with my eyes; a sense of super-smell that would help me track down my favorite treats with just one whiff, the skill to create delicious masterpieces out of any inedible ingredients, and the ability to mesmerize my foes with the hypnotic jiggle of my blubbery body. I would totally use my powers for good...feed the starving masses and all that.
3. What would your superhero outfit consist of?! Black spandex cat suit (it's slimming, you know) with a hot pink "big shirt" over the top that said Zaftig Woman in big gold glittery letters across the chest.
Themed questions!
Comment from sarajanesmiles - 12/10/04 2:43 PM



1. What is your proudest moment? Hmm. Perhaps the day I was promoted from the clerical ranks to my first Management position. Or the day I stood at the altar to marry the man of my dreams in front of all our friends and some of my family. Or the day I sent out my first combo birth announcement/Christmas card to show our beautiful baby boy to the world. Or the time my English professor asked me for permission to publish some of my short stories in the school's prestigious literary magazine...ack It's too hard to pick just one. I felt the same swell of pride in my chest for each of these events.
2. Where would you live if you couldn't live where you are now? Why? If I had a choice? We would move to Maui and live in that cute housing development across the highway from Lahaina. Why? The pretty neighborhood, great weather, proximity to the beach, low stress lifestyle...oh so many reasons.
3. If you had to have one job for a day other than being a SAHM, what would it be? Job for a day, eh? Hmm. I think I would love to be a respected professional photographer assigned to cover the Oscars. All the big stars would want their picture taken by MOI. Yeah. That would be fun.
Comment from valphish - 12/10/04 5:37 PM



1. What is the worst choice you ever made and why? This is a hard one. I like where my life ended up and if I make any changes to my past, things would be very different now. I can say I regret my choice of college (the first one)...I should have gone to school further away from home. I wish I had gone to my friend Kathleen's house to have lunch the day she begged me to come over...but I was having a bad day at work and chose to ignore her pleas. She was gone forever by 2pm that day (read my first journal entry to find out more.) Perhaps my decision to NOT PUT DOWN THE DAMN FORK while I ate my way to morbid obesity? Now there is a bad choice. I'd say that about covers my share of worst choices.
2. If you could do one thing to affect the entire world, what would you like it to be? Hmm. Change the world, eh? Well...for starters, I would like to become a bridge of peace between the extremist factions of the Muslim faith and all other faiths. Learn to live in peace and put an end to terrorism in the name of religion. That would do for a start.
3. What is your favorite possession in the whole world? Well...I love my jewelry. But I don't use/wear it as much as I used to. I love my van. But not as much as I used to love my old Contour. I love my camera...I use that a whole lot. I guess if you go by things that I use every day and LOVE, I'll go with my computer. I couldn't live without it. ;-)
judi
Comment from judithheartsong - 12/10/04 6:15 PM



1) Do you talk to traffic while you're out driving? Letting people know how you feel about their driving, but where they can't hear you. OMG yes...all the time. I yell "Where'd you learn how to drive, bonehead!" or "Get the heck out of my way, you idiot!" and other choice phrases. I've cleaned up my language and hand gestures a TON since Tyler came along. Calling someone a bananahead instead of some other choice 4-letter term isn't quite as satisfying, but I'm making due. ;-)
2) When you need time to yourself, what is one of your favorite things to do? Just like right now...I like sitting in a quiet darkened room and writing in my journal by the glow of my monitor. I also love to sleep or read by myself in bed.
3) Besides your husband and son, are you a huggy/touchy type of person with others? Or do you have boundaries? Your sacred bubble of space. I am a very huggy/touchy person with people I know and love. I tend to be uncomfortable if people I don't know well (or at all) hug me. I do have that "zone" around me. Don't come into my space uninvited. LOL
Steph
Comment from poetmom1968 - 12/10/04 8:30 PM



1. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Lately I've had a yen to go to Australia.
2. What would you do there? I'd like to see the Great Barrier Reef (go snorkeling), Ayer's Rock, do the bridge climb in Sydney, visit a diamond mine, explore the national parks and hold a koala...stuff like that. :-)
3. What one person would you want with you? My husband, of course. But Tyler has to come with us too. World travel is a GREAT learning experience for kids.
Comment from slowmotionlife - 12/12/04 12:37 AM



why haven't you bought the chocolates yet? LMAO My shopaholic self wants to...soooo badly. But my more reasonable side has successfully talked me out of it (thus far).
Comment from ann7inflorida - 12/13/04 5:41 AM



1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Hawaii (see above). LOL
2. What is one talent you don't have, but wish you did? I would love to be able to draw REALLY life-like sketches. I really admire that sort of "photographic eye". I would also love to be able to play the piano or guitar. Just plop down at a party and play and sing. I always love it when other people do that.
3. What is one personal (just for you) goal you have that is a challenge, but you intend to reach? I intend to finish one of the three college degrees I've started along the way.
http://journals.aol.com/cneinhorn/WonderGirl
Comment from cneinhorn - 12/13/04 8:30 AM



OK! Whew! Last call...any one else have any questions for me? :-)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Looney

There have been so many great journal entries around J-Land lately regarding memories of holidays past. They reminded me of a few almost forgotten memories of my own.

My little brother and I would wake on Christmas morning at dawn's first light. My Dad would hear us stirring and he would turn into my favorite holiday character...the Yuletide Nazi. (My apologies to those who may find the term "Nazi" offensive, but I really can't think of any other analogy that comes close to the feeling I want to impart.) Herr Kommandant would order us back to our quarters where we would remain under house arrest until my mother was ready. Why? Because of the home movies.

You see, in order for us to be allowed downstairs to see what Santa had brought us, we first had to have our faces washed, hair combed and my Dad needed to go down stairs ahead of us to set up his camera equipment. My parents wanted to catch every reaction and facial expression on film. My Mother also had to be "ready". That meant her hair needed to be fixed (rollers removed, hair teased, sprayed and coiffed), her face on (cold cream removed, face moisturized, foundation applied, blush, eye makeup, lipstick...yadda), and she had to have a cup of coffee in her hands.

While waiting for our parents to finish their preparations, my brother and I would be doing the pee-pee dance at the top of the stairs. We were nearly frantic and frothing at the mouth to see our tree. It was slow and cruel torture, really. Finally, after nearly three hours, we would get the go-ahead to come down the steps as my Dad would fire up some Christmas music on the HiFi (reel to reel tape deck). We would lunge downward, full speed, and try to shove each other out of the way to be first to see the latest Christmas miracle. Rounding the bend at the bottom of the steps, we would screech to a halt and throw up our hands to shield our faces from the glare of the twin suns my dad had mounted on stalks jutting out from either side of his 8mm home movie camera. Those camera lights were so bright, I seriously think we should have been using SPF30 to protect our skin.

Once the strobing blue spots had cleared from my vision, the tree would finally come into focus. YAY! Santa liked us! He REALLY liked us! We would play with our new toys until breakfast was ready. The wrapped gifts would have to wait until after the breakfast dishes were washed and put away. Dad would get the camera set up on a tripod and we would all take positions sitting around the tree. The wrapped gifts would be divvied out and the paper shredding would commence. My mother would shriek about saving the paper, and my brother and I would gleefully ignore her. We would take turns chasing the dog away (he would try to steal the stringy garlands of popcorn and cranberries my brother and I made every year to decorate the tree).

My dad would sit in his arm chair next to the fireplace and reach for a felt Santa hanging there on a hook in the brick facade. Santa's big belly was actually a pouch that my Dad or Mom would fill with fresh nuts (still in the shell). In Santa's pocket was a nut cracker. Dad would munch on walnuts, almonds, pecans and others while periodically checking the camera's progress. He would shell some walnuts for me, when I asked. He was also poised to lunge and rescue the tree should it suddenly decide to topple over...which it often did. My Mother had a bad habit of putting too many decorations on the front of the tree and not enough on the back to balance.

These are the fond memories. I won't talk about the hours of footage of my Dad screaming at us, me sitting by the tree or running from the room crying, or my Mom crying because my Dad had lost his temper over something stupid like the camera screwing up, or the tape on his reel-to-reel snapping and taking it out on us.

Dinner was always turkey with my Mom's wonderful sage stuffing (very simple and basic...no oysters, sausage or other junk). I would mash the potatoes and help strain the gravy. I also got to rip up the bread and add the stuffing seasonings, set the table and help clear after the meal. Those were my jobs, year after year.

Things changed when we moved into our last house. I was about ready to leave for college. My mother decided to change the style of her holiday decorating. All the cheezy red and green glass balls, plastic icicles, south-western "gods-eyes" and other decorations I remember fondly from my childhood were either packed away or relegated to the back of the tree (for ballast). The Santa nut bag disappeared. The Asian looking Santa and his reindeer we picked up on Okinawa vanished from the HiFi to be replaced by Mom's new "A Christmas Carol" village collectibles.

The nativity scene my Dad made while stationed in Turkey in the early 60s is still put in its place of honor in front of the fireplace. That is now the only object from those early childhood Christmas memories that remains. Dad lovingly hand-painted each ceramic figure himself to send home to his new wife and to pass the time. He wasn't able to be home for Christmas that year. It's the only artistic thing, besides the occasional model plane or boat, I've ever known my Dad to do. They are really beautiful figures.

I would take the baby Jesus out of his manger to play with him when I was a kid. Jesus would become my Barbie's first born. I hand-sewed little diapers for him out of some scraps of white fabric and Jesus would tool around with his new plastic mommy in her Corvette or go camping in her camper and dune buggy. I would always lovingly place Jesus back into his manger before I went to bed each night. I imagined him telling Mary and Joseph about his adventures in the modern world. When I go home for the holidays now, I always spend time sitting on the floor by the nativity and feeling a bit sad for the lambs who are all now missing a leg or two, and touching the chip in Mary's donkey's hoof.

Here at home, I am still trying to decide what our family traditions will be. I know I want to take Tyler out shopping so he can pick out a new ornament each year. I'd love for him to make a garland of popcorn for the tree, but he is still a little young to be playing with sewing needles. I know I won't be making him wait to go see his presents under the tree or for us to be "camera ready". I don't care. All I care is that he knows the true meaning of Christmas and has a really fun day too.

We have a primarily Looney Tunes themed Christmas tree at the moment, with the stockings to match (as you can see below). But the tree is pretty lean. We need more decorations, for sure.


I set up both of my nativity scenes yesterday. "Mine" is on the window sill next to the tree. Tyler's nativity is placed in the spot of honor, in front of the fire place. Just like I remember from my own childhood. Tyler also heard the story of Jesus' birth for the first time yesterday. We sat in front of his Little People's nativity and I acted it out for him. He really seemed to enjoy the story and had lots of "whys" for me when I talked about all the hotels in Bethlehem being full and Jesus being born in a barn. He was excited when I talked about the three wise men bringing birthday gifts to the new baby. He wanted to open them. I'm sure my telling of the story will become more sophisticated as Tyler gets older.

What are your favorite Christmas (or holiday) memories?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Hunt Entry

I have an entry for this weeks photo scavenger hunt! Yay! And for good measure, I am adding a photo for last week's challenge too. I've wanted to participate in all of them, but time just seems to slip away from me.

So...this week's theme is Desktop "Before and After". I had a good excuse to clean my desk up because I had to make room for my new monitor. The old one was a 19 inch monster on top of a monitor riser. The riser had loads of papers and junk under it, next to it...the monitor had stuff piled on top of it. Well...see for yourself. My office is VERY cluttered.




Well, it's not perfect, but it's a big improvement. :-)

Last week's mission was to show a photo of our mode of transportation. Many clever folks took pictures of their feet. I do NOT walk if I can avoid it. Heh. I am a tad exercise phobic. ;-) I didn't have a full photo handy of my rather boring mini-van. But you can see the back end of it in the photo below. The other car was my pride and joy; a Ford Contour (they don't make them any more). It was fully loaded. V6 with leather bucket seats, CD stereo, power moon roof...man I miss that car. But it was just too small for our growing family. I sold it to a very nice woman for her daughter to take to college. What a great mom! I would have killed for a car that nice when I was a teen. Yeesh the clunkers I limped around in...eye sores and scrap metal - the whole lot of them.

So here is my van (I expanded the photo with a pic of the same model/style of van I have) and my old car (now sadly gone). I am already thinking about my next vehicle purchase. We didn't have many options in this van because it was originally a company fleet vehicle (DH bought it from the company when he was downsized). My dream van would have OnSTAR, a GPS system, DVD entertainment system built-in, power sliding side doors and rear lift gate...ahhh! Someday, perhaps.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Stuff

A) I am late with the end of last week's Quipster challenge...but the winner (with an 11th hour entry) is Paul (Belfastcowboy75)! His quip "Nothing like a bike and the open road for prostate massage and colonic cleansing." totally cracked me up! Good one Paul! Your turn to select a quipable photo and deadline for this week. :-)


B) Today was Tyler's 3rd birthday party (in more ways than one). He is now 3 AND he has had 3 parties. What a kid. ;-) Photos from the party can be seen HERE. The video is lengthy...no telling when I will have time to edit it and have some fun.


C) My tree is all decorated! Hmm. It looks a little skimpy. I think we need to go shopping for some more ornaments. Or I might just swipe all these super hero action figures Ty got for his birthday and hang them on the tree. ;-) I already have my collection of Looney Tune figures that I got from McDonalds like 10 years ago hanging on there.


D) Back before my Mother got all Victorian "designer" with her Christmas decorating, we had these cool icicles to hang on the tree. They were white translucent plastic. Big deal, right? Here's the kicker! They glowed in the dark! I used to swipe one off the tree, leave it on my window sill all day to get a nice "charge" before bed, and then read under my blanket that night by icicle glow. It was amazing how bright those things were. I need something like that for our tree.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Shopping

You know what I love most about Christmas shopping? I end up finding all this stuff that *I* want!! So I manage to slip a few extras in the holiday shopping for moi. All the bills merge together into one big $ for my poor hubby sometime around January, so SHHHH! He'll never notice.

I want this!



Ooo! Ahh! It's the USB Christmas Tree from ThinkGeek.com! I am going to put it on my desk, on top of my CPU. Holiday spirit in the home office? Check. Now...where can I hide the bill for those chocolates...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Luxury

I think it's no secret to my regular readers that I am of rather, er, generous proportions. Mmm boy I do love my junk food! (A little TOO much, I'm afraid.) But what you may not know is, I also have an educated and refined palate and appreciate the finer culinary tastes usually reserved for the well-to-do.

Fine imported champagne, caviar, truffles, foie gras, delicately smoked salmon...and, of course, chocolate. These items are not frequently sampled in our relatively modest middle-class home (contrary to my seemingly lavish spending, of late). I could SO easily be a wealthy woman. I find the lifestyle very appealing. If only the darn PowerBall lottery would cooperate...but I digress.

On occasion, a delicacy will come to my attention and I will become fixated for a time. I am consumed with the desire to buy, cherish and hog this item all to myself. MINE! You can't have any! Ahem. Such an item has been taunting me; haunting my every waking moment since I first saw the pretty gold embossed catalog in my mail announcing it's impending arrival at one of my favorite shops. What is it, you ask? What is this delectable morsel on the forefront of my brain, keeping me awake at night? Look at the glory that is...THE G COLLECTION:



Oh, people. Godiva has really done it this time. Not only is this chocolate gorgeous to look at, but I can just imagine its succulent flavors melting on my tongue. And that BOX! Rare East African Wenge wood and vanilla birch inlays...stunning! My credit card finger is itching to punch in those memorized digits and order me up one of these $350 indulgences. Ulp. Yes, $350 for a box of chocolate. I'm crazy. Seriously. Nuts to even consider it. No, I haven't ordered it...............yet.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tree


Mele Kalikimaka

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say,
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day,
That's the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway,

"Um, yeah. I really WISH I were in Hawaii right now..."

Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright,
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night,
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way
To say "Merry Christmas to you."

"My tree is up, but green and bright it ain't. I wanted to shove this tree up my husband's butt at one point today."

Oh man, what a day. I am beginning to think that a REAL tree would be easier to manage than this 7 foot tall artificial monstrosity I have jammed in my front window.

Firstly, my husband insists the only place we have to store this thing is the crawl space under the house. Bless his heart, he wiggles under there year after year to retrieve the huge box he jams the tree parts into. He yanks the parts out, works his way through the mine field we call basement, up a half-flight of steps and he hucks the assorted, mangled tree parts in my general direction. His mood as he does this? Warm with Christmas Spirit? Hell, no. He is muttering curses no self-respecting sailor would utter and complaining every minute about how the whole process of tree retrieval SUCKS.

Secondly, after having assorted simulated tree parts hucked at me, I now have to sort the pile of mangled limbs into piles, by size. They look like they have been attacked by wolverines. These branches used to be color coded. Unfortunately, years of cramming into too small a storage box and jammed into a crawl space seems to have flaked off many of the color code indicators. Joy!

Thirdly, they made the needles on this pseudo-evergreen TOO dang real. I have oodles of little cuts and abrasions on my fingers, wrists, arms and legs from trying to bend the twisted mess back into a sort of tree shape.

Fourthly, once I finally assemble the beast, I am again reminded that this tree is WAY to big for my tiny living room. *sigh* So I rearrange the furniture and tree to try and make enough room to walk past without cutting your legs or tripping into the fireplace. Egad that thing is HEAVY.

Fifthly, I drag out the tangled mess that is the lights for the tree. Flopping on the floor, I try and find an end to the twisted mess on my lap. Two sets of colored lights are non-functional. One set only half lights. The remaining strand of annoying blinking colored lights will be banished to a bush or tree OUTSIDE. Thankfully, I have two working strings of pretty white lights for the tree. Now if I can keep Tyler away long enough to untangle and install them... He is into everything and getting on my already frayed nerves. Poor kid only wants to help.

Lastly, I trip and struggle around the tree and fling the lights around it's massive girth. Just enough lights. Done. Now I can sit and enjoy the beauty of this illuminated vision, right? No. All I can think about is grabbing three Tylenol and a big glass of water for my aching back and cramping gut. (Did I fail to mention my Aunt Flo came to call yesterday?) Ugh.

At some point during this fiasco, my husband has turned on some Christmas music. When it finally registers, I find myself adding commentary to the strains of "It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year".
"Oh yeah? Well not in this house, bub."

Anyone want an abused, but still in good shape, artificial Christmas tree? It will be at our curb probably some time in March. That's about how long it will take me to work up the gumption to remove all the decorations, un-rig the lights and take that monster apart. I'll tell my husband to wait in the front yard so I can huck it at him and he can relocate it to roadside. No more crawlspace, honey. I'm done. Next year we'll just chop down the spruce at the corner of the house.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Party


Ty had a great day yesterday. It started with a hallway full of balloons to run through the moment he woke up. His first birthday gift of the day was waiting for him at the end of the balloon gauntlet. He got Caillou's Tree Fort. My friend Kim also sent him a Max & Ruby DVD. It took a lot of convincing to get him away from his "pretend Gilbert is stuck in the tree and Caillou rescues him" game so we could go out for lunch at his favorite play place. Since having his party at Time In didn't work out (we've changed to Chuck E Cheese for the convenience of his cousins' schedule), lunch at Time In was a great idea. No fights with the other kids this time. ;-)


After Time In closed for the day (we stayed as long as they let us), then it was off to buy a little cake. His special Spiderman cake will be ready for his party next week, but they had these cool superhero candles at the market. We grabbed three of them (makes sense, right?) and headed for home. Tyler wanted cake immediately, so we had to talk him into at least eating his leftover lunch. He takes after his mom. Why eat chicken when there is CAKE?!

The cake was delish, as always. I love the ShopRite bakery. The finale to the evening was the new (used) Sega John got off Ebay to replace the one Ty broke a few weeks ago and a TON of new driving games. Yay Daddy! They were age appropriate too. Not always easy to find these days. So Daddy and Ty video gamed the evening away and because Ty had no nap, he passed out at 8pm. So did Mommy!

If you want to see the day's events in photos and video, you can see my latest video production HERE. I recommend a high speed internet connection. It's a 5MB file. Give it a mo to load then press the play button. I had a blast with this one. I am getting quite proficient with this video editing package (Pinnacle Studio8). [big grin]

Friday, December 03, 2004

Birthday





My little man is 3 years old today!!!

*sniffle* Where does the time go?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Miscellania

* Tyler tidbits that tickled me today...


     "Mommy! I been dere before!"


"Where honey?" I looked up with interest. Tyler was watching a commercial for a local jewelry store. Yes, he HAD been there before. I couldn't believe he remembered. "Why did you go there, hun?"


     "To get Mommy a pwesent! ...but you don't like it anymore."


"Aww honey, that's not true! I LOVE the present you picked out for me!"


     "Den why you never wear it?"


He's got me there. It's a locket (you can check it out in my June 21st anniversary post). It's been sitting on my desk for months waiting for me to put photos in it. "I'm sorry honey, I want to put a picture of you in there first."


     "So do it! Pwint one. You know you cried when I dave dat to you. Why you cry?"


"Because, sweetie, I was so happy. It was the most beautiful present I ever saw and it just made me cry with happiness." I still can't believe he remembered the jewelry store, the gift, the fact that I haven't worn it, AND that I cried when I got it. Amazing. Going to print those photos out ASAP.


* We lost our power in a major wind storm today. What does this mean? No cooking for me! Yay! So at Red Lobster this evening...


Just after we placed our dinner order, John took Tyler for a little exploratory walk around the restaurant. This is our standard distraction technique in a place where we know the meal is going to take longer than an hour. Plus Red Lobster has tanks of fish and the BIG tank of Maine lobsters. Mmm. Lobster. That was MY plan for the evening menu. I got the artichoke and lobster dip, and a lobster tail added to my dinner of assorted other seafood. The boys came back just after the appetizer arrived.


     "Mommy! I have a new best friend!"


Yup. Tyler apparently befriended one of the lobsters in the tank. This lobster was paying attention to Tyler and trying to climb out of the tank way more actively than the any of the other lobsters. Ty took this as a sign that the lobster wanted to be his friend. So cute! I didn't think much more about it as Tyler discovered he loved the corn chips that came with my dip. Yay! He is so freakin picky sometimes.


Salad came (with veggies and dip for Ty...I love Red Lobster's new healthy choices on the kids menu). Then dinner. As the waitress placed the dish with my Maine lobster tail on the table, Tyler got a look of horror on his face and screamed:


     "Oh no!!! MOMMY! YOU'RE EATING MY BEST FRIEND?!?!"


Oh dear. I had to do some FAST talking. There was another lobster in the tank that apparently was acting aggressively toward the others. He was head butting them and being generally obnoxious. So Daddy did a fast save by saying I was eating the trouble maker. They only cook the naughty lobsters. ...  I know. Don't say it.


This seemed to mollify Tyler and we finished our meal. On the way out, we paused at the tank so Ty could say goodbye to his new "friend". Uh oh. Where was Tyler's friend? Yup. He was GONE. Now...the restaurant wasn't very crowded and I suspect not many people went for the lobster that night. What are the odds? Oh man, I felt so guilty!! John did some fast talking again and said that Ty's pal must have gone swimming in another tank someplace else in the restaurant. Ty seemed content with that. Ouch. Bad Mommy moment.


* I made a startling discovery while at Barnes and Noble the other night. One of my all time favorite book series (which ended in the main character DYING) now has a new sequel series starting. Anyone ever read Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever? I read the series during my high school years. I got the box set as a Christmas gift. It's amazing to me that my parents succeeded time and again to find great books I had never read before to place under the tree. The last book in the series had been published in 1977. Well guess what! 27 years later and Donaldson has resurrected this great Land and story line. Now I have The Runes of the Earth (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 1) in my hot little hands. No telling when it will actually make it onto my night table where my pile of prioritized must reads are stacked. This one may just pre-empt some of the others. I really need to stay out of book stores. I have more books NOW than I can ever finish reading in my lifetime. 


Monday, November 29, 2004

More Turkey

I usually dread visits home. This time was no exception. There always seems to be some variety of family drama or parental misbehavior that makes us want to pack our junk and go home. This time, I was pleasantly surprised. My parents were on their best behavior and seemed to really enjoy visiting with their grandson. *whew*

My mom started our visit by handing a large box to Tyler and telling him to have his Daddy help him open it. Only one problem...I didn't WANT him to open it yet. It was a birthday present from ME and I wasn't there to see Tyler open it. I had to be satisfied with these 'after-the-fact' photos.



Well...at least he loved it. I sent it up there knowing he would love it and could spend the rest of the week sleeping in his cool new travel bed.

After chewing on some leathery cubed steaks (standard Mom cooking), we visited for a bit and went to bed. I wasn't looking forward to sleeping in their guest room. The bed is one of those really tall colonial beds that you need a set of steps to climb into. Pretty, but they didn't get the matching steps. I injure myself trying to hop, jump or hoist myself up there every time. Not to mention the feeling that you are sleeping on the ceiling and about to fall from a great height at any moment.
To increase our comfort, the room is like an oven and the old shades are curled at the edges. With the nice eastern exposure, you get full sun right in your face in the morning. Tyler was up with the birds every day. Ugh. Back pain, wrist strain, knee injury (all bed related), little sleep and up with the dawn...are we having fun yet? Thankfully, Tyler slept like a rock in his new Spider-Man bed.

Being the nice wife that I am, I let the husband sleep in while I got up with Tyler to fix him breakfast. The day was spent chatting and wandering about in a tired haze. I was so tired, I don't really remember what else we did that day until dinner time. My mother was going to cook, but I couldn't stand the thought of another one of mom's standards. I suggested we treat them to our favorite local Chinese place.

Lotus Blossom has amazing food. The interior is so pretty too. We had pineapple shrimp, spring rolls, fried rice, beef and broccoli, General Cho's chicken (for Dad) and chicken fingers for Tyler. Mmm Mmm!

Ty was really well behaved. It's always a bit of a risk taking Tyler out. He is usually pretty good, but sometimes he just doesn't want to sit still and eat. We have learned to take him for walks, visits to the bar for cherries and oranges, and hand washing trips to the rest room make for great distractions.

Wednesday was also a prep day. My mother had lots of tasks she wanted to finish in order to be ready for the big day. One task that traditionally falls to me is the ceremonial "ripping of the bread". Ha! I just take a couple loaves of stuffing bread and pick it to pieces for the turkey stuffing. This was a task I figured Tyler would love to help with. I was so right! Although, I can't really tell who got more stuffed, the turkey or Tyler. He thought the stuffing bread was very tasty.


Having Tyler to look after got me out of a lot of the major Thanksgiving morning prep work. My mom is famous for putting me to work. This year I didn't even mash the potatoes or strain the gravy (usually my jobs). I missed a lot of photo opportunities, but did get a few pics at dinner. None of the beautiful turkey. It came out perfectly this year. My mother is not a very good chef when it comes to the mundane meals, but she is a pro with the holiday feasts. We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, home made cranberry sauce (Tyler's favorite and the only thing he would eat) and peas. Dessert was a Friendly's Jubilee roll (ice cream confection) and Mom's home made apple pie. The pie was amazing! I did get a photo of the pie (minus one slice my brother snitched to bring home - he and his wife left early so they could return some DVDs to the video store.) I suspect the DVD thing was just an excuse.


We watched Elf and The Stepford Wives (the new one) after dinner. I thought they were both great. I don't know why they didn't perform well at the box office. I think I am just easily entertained.

Friday we took Tyler to Chuck E Cheese for an early birthday celebration lunch. My parents won't be able to come down for his actual party this year, you see. They were rather horrified by their Chuck E Cheese exposure. The noise, the chaos, the kids, the prices...they were decidedly not impressed. Oh well. Tyler loves it there. Tyler also loved his birthday present from Granny and Grampie. I have a cute video of him opening his gift that I may link to in here later. Also, rather than put more photos in this entry, you can see the rest of the day HERE.

p.s. John and I got to have a date night Friday evening (also documented in my photos). My parents volunteered to baby-sit and shoved us out the door. Other than my friend Norman's wedding, we haven't been out alone in, well, three years! It was WONDERFUL! We made a beeline to Legal Seafoods with chowder on the brain. We killed some time and had a ball at Fun & Games (a local arcade I used to visit in my teen days) and ended the evening with a leisurely browse through Barnes and Noble. I picked up two more books that I don't have time to read. Ha! The last of my photos are of Tyler passed out on the dining room (play room) floor with his bum in the air. He passed out mid-play not long after we got home Saturday night. I guess the all day drive home pooped him out. :-)

p.p.s. Hello and thank you to my new readers. I know I picked up a couple during my feature week. I have saved all the comments from new visitors and will be coming round to your journals for a looksie as soon as possible.

p.p.p.s. There was one small drama during our visit. I've often wondered why my brother and his wife never come down to visit us in NJ. I've invited them often. My mother finally told me that my SIL is holding a grudge (she does that a lot). What did I do THIS time??? Mom started telling me a story of the time she came to visit for a week and they came with my father to pick her up and bring her home. Hmm. It wasn't ringing a bell. Mom continued. They apparently came with my Dad, arrived at dinner time, and Katia was horrified that we didn't have a big dinner prepared to welcome them to our home. Hmm. Doesn't sound like me. I always go out of my way to make family feel welcome. Mom continued. "Oh you remember. You offered to order in pizza and they refused and she was mad because they had to go out to eat. Katia doesn't like pizza." Hmm. Nope. When the HECK was this??
Mom continued..."You remember. I came down for a week to help. When Tyler was born. You were actually on your way to bed when they arrived. They were late." OH MY GOD. When Tyler was BORN? I was a new mother with an infant and Katia was pissed that I didn't wait on them, serve them a big dinner and blah blah blah and she is holding a grudge over THAT. I was SO exhausted that week. It was our first week home from California, I didn't WANT my mother to come visit because I knew she wouldn't be a "help". I'd spend the week taking care of her AND the baby. Which I did. My brother and his wife darken my doorstep just long enough to realize I had no meal prepared and they left in a huff to get "real" food because pizza wasn't good enough for my SIL. Pardon my French...but *&$% them! Who in their right mind expects a woman with a brand new baby to roll out the red carpet and make a big fancy meal for guests who are only going to be there for an hour?!?! Oh, that royally pissed me off...for a bit. Now I just think it's funny and a bit pathetic. What ever. Drama over. LOL

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it. We are at my parents' house and the smells wafting up from the kitchen are KILLING me right now. John and Ty are headed outside to play a little Tee Ball, so I thought I would escape the holiday hubbub for a bit and read some journals. MusenLA was talking about her turkey phobia and she reminded me of my first time cooking one of those big boys.

It was back in my single days. I had just moved into my first apartment and I was eager to assert my new-found independence by cooking a big meal and having a dinner party for my friends. There was only one problem... I didn't feel comfortable cooking in my new kitchen with my roommate about. We were still getting to know each other and I felt more like a guest than a roomie. The solution? Cook the meal and have a party at my boyfriend's place! Perfect!

I had a great group of friends. I knew they would be up for anything, so I decided to really challenge myself. Why not make a turkey dinner with all the trimmings? I'd been helping my Mom do it for years. I was confident I could handle it on my own. John was all for it. (Then again, he was ALWAYS all for it if someone else did the cooking.)

I started spreading the word that Saturday would be the big day. Turkey party at John's place! I was so excited! I knew even if the meal was a total disaster, we would all still have a great time. Then my pal Harry, master of the obvious, said; "Uh...Bec? You do realize it's JULY and you are about to make a meal that requires use of an OVEN?"

Ah yes. July. And it was pushing 90 degrees every day. A heat wave is the perfect time to make a big turkey dinner, no? The solution was obvious. Turn the A/C on full blast and set the thermostat to 50. Problem number one, solved. Then came problem number two. The turkey, which had been defrosting in the fridge for 3 days, was still a touch frozen inside. I mulled over that for a bit, then decided to just rinse the bird under hot water. It needed to be washed off anyway, right?

I propped the turkey upright in a pan, turned on the water and left it to putter around the kitchen getting other things ready. After a few minutes, I went to check my bird. There was something odd bobbing up and down inside the carcass filled with water. Ah yes...a bag full of giblets! Good thing that bird was still frosty or I probably would have missed the neck/heart/gizzard et. al. and it would have added a nice giblet and plastic bag flavor to my stuffing. Problem number two, solved!

The giblets were popped into a pan of water on the stove to boil. Why? I had NO intention of eating them or putting them in my gravy. Hate that. But it was something my mum always did, so...time to stuff the turkey! Grease the outside good with butter, season with a touch of salt and pepper and into the oven she went. Done and done. Don't forget to baste...don't forget to baste...don't forget...door bell!

My friend Harry was early. No problem. I put him to work on peeling potatoes and other domestic tasks. John was off on his second, no third trip to the market to get yet another item I'd forgotten. I was melting hot by this point. Turkey dinner in July during a heat wave? Can't recommend it, but it sure was fun! Hours later the guests began to arrive. I'd timed the turkey badly, it wasn't going to be ready for a while. Good thing each of my guests came bearing a bottle of wine.

Our friend Kerry arrived bearing a bottle of champagne and porn. Porn?? He grinned and said something about British tradition. I didn't question it. The, er, questionable literature was set aside for another day.

Dinner was a smash hit! The turkey was perfect, the mashed potatoes, stuffing, cauliflower and cheese sauce, cranberry sauce...all perfect. I knew I could do it! I also knew I wouldn't be in any hurry to do it again. Now I knew why Thanksgiving was only once a year. Whew!

To top off the evening, one of my guests had passed out on the living room floor. Too much wine and triptophan, I wager. While he was snoring peacefully, we hatched a dastardly plot. His hand was already trapped under his body at a most unfortunate position...so we grabbed onto his pants and yanked them down a tad. Just enough to expose a little, er, crack. Then I grabbed my housewarming gift...the porn magazines my pal Kerry had so thoughtfully brought us. We carefully arranged the magazines around "the body" and propped one open in front of his face (the title was something like Big Jugs or somesuch).

The final touch? Why, photos of course. I still have them somewhere...if I locate them when I get back home, I'll post one here. You don't mind, right Harry? That's a warning kids. Don't drink and eat turkey. Your friends will play nasty pranks on you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Shopaholic

I have a confession to make. I am a semi-reformed shop-a-holic! Seriously!  

My first job, I worked for tips only. Having an all cash income made things pretty easy for me. When the cash was gone, I stopped spending. When my mother realized I was just blowing everything I earned, she took me to get my first bank account-it was a plain passbook savings account. The deal was, I would keep half what I earned and the other half would go into savings for college. (Keep in mind, I was being handed cash every day. Did my parents have any idea what "half" of what I earned each day was? Nope!)  

Under the influence of a new friend, I developed a new appreciation for fashion. I wanted to buy clothes, clothes and more clothes! Working in a supermarket just wasn't satisfying that need. I changed jobs and went to work at an upscale department store. Why? They gave me a 20% employee discount and my first credit card! My first credit limit? $350. Ha! I could get a TON of stuff with $350 and a 20% discount. I took my pretty light blue shiny new Filene's credit card and went to town! The interest rate was only 21% (now I say yikes!) and my minimum payment was $9 a month. I went NUTS! I had my card maxed out in no time. I looked so HOT in my new clothes too.  

That pretty blue plastic card put my name into the credit card ether, that magic place where credit is established and banks learn who you are. I started getting offers for other credit card companies. Next stop? A Sears "Discover" card. (Remember when Sears came out with that pretty black plastic card?) That increased my credit another $1000. Filene's increased my credit limit to $500. Then came the offers from Visa and MasterCard. As I would max out one charge card, that would prompt me to apply for a new one.  

It rapidly became apparent that I needed to earn more money. Suddenly my tiny Filene's paycheck wasn't covering all those little monthly payments I had. I got a second job at Friendly's (an Ice Cream parlor and restaurant chain). Oh man, I hated that job. I was also growing tired of taking a bus over to the Air Force Base to do all my banking. My passbook savings was at the credit union on the base and it was a joint account in both mine and my mother's name (the only way I could get a bank account early on). I abandoned that account and opened a new one at the Baybank in the Mall. Much easier! Plus I got my first ATM card and checkbook.  

I sat down with my Dad and he showed me how to write checks. I paid pretty close attention. (I think I am still doing it slightly wrong to this very day.) He also showed me how to "balance" my checkbook using my monthly bank statement. I didn't really listen to that part of the lesson too closely. How hard could it be? You write down all the money you take out of the ATM and all the checks you write. I did that part. You write down the amount of your deposits. I did that part. You sit down once a month and do the math to make sure you didn't take out more than you put in and that your statement is correct. I didn't do that part. Ever.  

You see, I would go to the ATM and check my balance right there on the terminal screen. If there was money in there, I would take it out. I had overdraft protection on my account and it was almost always in the negative. The bank would charge me fees when I used the funds in the overdraft portion of my account. I never accounted for those when I did my mental calculations of deposits and withdrawals. Yes! I tried to keep track of it all in my head. In my own mind, I thought I was doing a pretty good job!  

Then came my first "real" job. I joined the secretarial pool at Digital. Digital introduced me to the joys of Direct Deposit. Like magic, my pay would get put into the bank every Thursday afternoon. (Payday was actually Friday, but those of us with Direct Deposit got our money a half day early.) I would be at the ATM the instant work was over on Thursday to take out my cash for the weekend.   Was I thinking about my bills? No. I just wanted to be sure I had cash for gas, food and fun. I was making good money, and for the first time in a long time, I had extra left over! Then it happened.  

The crappy used-car my Dad handed down to me gave up the ghost. The transmission fell out on Rt. 62. It was towed away and I never saw it again. How was I going to get to work? I talked to my Dad. I really didn't want another piece of junk car. I'd been through 3 and was DONE. My friend Kathleen gave me a ride to a local Dodge dealer just to take a peek at the cheapest cars they had. I fell in love with a little Dodge Colt E hatchback. I couldn't even afford a stereo or power windows, but I scrapped together enough for the minimal down payment and struck a deal with my Dad.  

He would co-sign my loan if I agreed to commute to college and agreed to pay them $50 a week for living expenses (at first - they asked for more later). Deal! I looked so spiffy tooling down the road in my new white Dodge with the cranberry red vinyl interior.   After only a few months, I was already trying to weasel out of the $50 a week I promised my Dad. I stopped spending. I kept paying the minimum on my bills and now I had a boyfriend (John) to pay for my weekend fun. Poor guy. He had NO idea how bad off I was, financially.

Then I secretly dropped out of college so I could work full time (the subject of another post) and spend more time with John...oh, and have more money too.   Before moving to Massachusetts to be with me, John had been living at home with his parents. He had few expenses and his parents never asked him for any money. He'd been able to amass quite a savings! Moving to MA, buying a new car, getting a new apartment, furniture, house wares...blah blah blah...had eaten away a considerable amount of those funds. But here was a guy who knew how to manage his finances! The boy was GOOD!

When he finally found out the state of my own financial affairs, he was horrified. How could I live like that? Never knowing how much money I really had in the bank. Living paycheck to paycheck. Deeply in credit card debt. He paid off all his bills every month! He began to show me a better way to do things.  

He helped me with finances when I moved into my first apartment. He helped me again when I moved into his old place (he hated MA and was moving back to NJ...I was going to join him after the wedding. Also another post.) He helped again when I decided I needed to economize and move to a less expensive place so I could save for some of the wedding expenses (HA! That's a joke folks.)  

In the end, he financed our wedding. He paid off all my credit cards and got rid of many of them (it took YEARS for us to get out of debt). He spent time showing me the RIGHT way to do my checkbook. Eventually, I just handed him the checkbook, we got a joint account, and he manages all the money. It's for the best. Honestly. [Don't let me have the checkbook back, honey. Ever!]  

I still love to spend! But I have learned restraint. John will tell me when the finances are getting out of control. I am very lucky in that, with a little patience, I can usually buy what I really want. We always pay off all our bills each month. We put large down payments on new vehicles and take the least amount of years possible to pay them off. John pays close attention to the market and interest rates and he refinances our home loan appropriately (only a 15 year mortgage, folks!) How many people do you know who will have their house paid off before they are 50 years old?  

Not too shabby for a (slightly) reformed shop-a-holic. Ooo! Look at the shiny new Visa card John just handed me! Hmm. Wonder if there are any good sales at Gymboree.com...

Fool.com: Getting Out Of Debt -- Nine Ways to Pay it Back
Fool.com: 60-Second Guide to Getting Out of Debt

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Endometriosis

In a previous entry, I talked about the first time I heard the term "endometriosis". 17 was not the best age to throw 6 syllable medical terms my way. I didn't talk to another OB/GYN for years after that. When I finally went back to the doctor to again ask for help with my pain, I mentioned what the earlier doctor had said and the new fellow laughed. "You can't diagnose a condition like endo at 17. Many women have pain before and during their cycles, like you. You must just have a lower tolerance for pain." In other words, Becky, you are just a wimp. Suck it up and take some aspirin. My mother said the same thing. "This is a rite of passage. All women go through it."

Do all women faint in Math class and need to be escorted to the nurses' office? Someone once asked me what my most embarrassing experience was. Here is a good one. I was in the middle of a math exam. I was in horrible pain because my period had just started. Suddenly I was seeing large black spots before my eyes and could no longer hold my head up. I walked very unsteadily to the front of the class and told my teacher, in a whisper, that I felt ill and faint. He saw that I was white as a sheet. He took me out into the hall and sat me on the stairs while he rushed back into the classroom to use the wall phone to call the nurse. He came back to sit beside me and wait. He relayed to me that I should put my head between my knees and breath deeply. That did help a bit. What he didn't know was that I had already been to see the nurse once before, that day. I had been in so much pain, I was feeling nauseous and laid down in the nurses' office for a while. She knew I had my period. What I didn't expect was this:

Nurse arrives. Nurse cracked open this little paper tube under my nose that smells strongly of ammonia and says; "Hello, Mr. Mackie. I know what is troubling Rebecca today. SHE HAS HER PERIOD!" The nurse announced the last part in a rather LOUD voice. Did I mention that Mr. Mackie had left the classroom door open so he could monitor the class while they took their test? Did I mention that the hallways in my old Jr. High School ECHO? Need I tell you that now everyone in my class KNEW what was troubling me...I could hear the laughter echoing down the hall after me as the nurse led me back to her office to call my Mom. Mortifying, to say the least.

On the advice of my doctor, I spent the next number of years just grinning and bearing the pain. I should have bought stock in the makers of Midol and Pamprin. Until I collapsed (see earlier entry), I had no idea what kinds of damage were brewing in my unruly belly.

So listen up, ladies (and gentlemen)...in terms of your health, only YOU have your best interests at heart. Don't let so-called "medical professionals" bully you into ignoring symptoms. Stand up for yourselves! If you know something is wrong, don't sit down until someone figures out what the problem is.

Symptoms of endo include:

* Pelvic pain and pressure just before and during your mentrual cycle.

* Painful sex.

* Fatigue

* Painful urination and/or bowel movements during period

* Other Gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea.

Many endo sufferers also have frequent yeast infections, allergies and chemical sensitivities. Also, the only definitive way to diagnose Endo is to SEE it through an exploratory laparoscopy.

If you want to learn more about endo, visit the Endometriosis Association website. They have been a great resource for me over the years. (They have a neat interactive thingy that can help you determine if you have endo.) I also belong to an email endo support group called WitsEndo. These ladies are a wealth of personal experience and support.