Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Day Thoughts...

Sixteen years ago the newspaper headlines read "Waiting for Florida" as the Nation combed over pregnant, hanging chads, recounting votes in Broward County, Florida.  Twelve hundred miles away, my parents also were "Waiting On Florida", and their pregnant daughter in Broward county, who had been in labor with their first grandchild for the last 32 hours.

In his baby book, on the pre-printed pages that record what was happening the day he was born, I wrote the words, we have no idea to complete the line "The President is...".  Folded away in the book is the front page of the paper with the aforementioned headline.  Oldest was born into political controversy, amidst talk of rigged elections, and politicians that just don't know when to quit.  Sound familiar? All of this, during what was ironically, the most stress free time of my marriage.

It all fell to hell a few months later of course, both the marriage and the country.  Ten months later were the terror attacks on NYC, rolling into countless endless wars, recessions, national debt crisis, and politicians acting like spoiled toddlers, refusing to uphold the constitution because someone looked at them funny on the playground.

I don't think anyone was happy about the choices this year.  The candidates, all of them, were heavily flawed.  But here's the thing.  Regardless of who won, nothing was going to change.

Nothing ever changes.

The country is virtually deadlocked in polarity.  Those who voted Clinton wanted establishment, a shattered ceiling, and/or the status quo.  Those who voted Trump wanted an overhaul of the whole system, supreme court justices, and/or vindication for their own private beliefs said behind closed doors.  And, those that voted otherwise either couldn't bring themselves to vote for the two front runners, or actually believed they had the best candidate.

Regardless of the reasoning, nothing will change.  And how do I know this?  Because nothing ever changes.  There are 500+ other people in charge who make sure that nothing. ever. changes. And if, on the off chance it does, in four years or so, it will change back.  Regardless of what judge gets appointed, what law gets speedily passed through, Congress will swing and it will return to the status quo.

I sit here today hopeful that this new elect will ultimately land in the middle.  That he will get none of the promises/threats that his campaigning boasted of, and rather meet at a point of compromise that doesn't send women back to the stone age, or land us in a war so horrific that they reenact the draft. He has, of course, changed his position on virtually everything, even taking his own words and quickly contorting them or just dismissing them as being sarcastic. I am hopeful that the wacko-extremists on the right won't get their way, and that the hippie-extremists on the left won't be correct in their doomsday predictions.  That we will somehow, as a country, land somewhere in the middle. But the truth is, those that hated during this election will still hate.  Those that gloat, will still gloat. And those that believed that women should be seen (only if their attractive) and not heard (unless they have a good singing voice) will still feel that way.  Because the President doesn't change that about our country, WE change that about our country.  And clearly, we are not ready for that kind of change.

But if on the off chance this country does change it's mind, we get a do-over on November 3rd, 2020.  By then, both Oldest and Youngest will exercise their right, whether it be for Red, Blue, Orange, or Kanye. I'd like to say that it will be different then.  That it will be better.  That we will have less of the right and left and more of  a scenic one lane country road.  But in the end, I will not  be surprised if nothing actually changes that election day either.

Unless of course, you're speaking of that election day sixteen years ago.

That election day, everything in my life, in my little country, changed forever.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Backing Away...Slowly...

The boy and his gear spilled through the front door around 6 pm. Heaps of fabric, a cooler sans lid, a tent magically folded back into it's carrying case, all reeking of sweat, dirt, and camp fire.  As it headed to the wash, and the boy to the shower, I breathed a huge sigh of relief as yet another camp out was done.

Scouts has been a huge part of Youngest's life.  He has formed friendships with people he would otherwise never know.  He has learned skills.  He has had adventures without me, and has gained an independence that I could have never given him.

It has also however, been a huge part of my life.  The week before my birthday last year there was a huge blow out with one of the parents and the Committee Chair.  She abruptly quit and since I was one of the very few already taking responsibility within the Troop, all of her tasks, which were many, fell to me.  And while I have given off many of them, the largest of the tasks, Committee Chair and Advancement, still are in my lap.

And from that point on, I was all in.  I spend 20 hours a week maintaining, updating, and planning Scout activities.  Watching the boys go from unfocused, ping pong balls of energy, to planners, leaders, and examples of great men is one of my greatest rewards.  I would not trade that for anything and I feel like, to some extent, they are all my kids.  I want them all to succeed, to go on to become Eagles, and make a difference in their community.  I want them all to be able to get every experience they want from Scouts, whether it be forging knives, whitewater rafting Class 4 and 5 rapids, or shooting a .5 caliber muzzle load rifle.

So it's no wonder that I have long insisted that Youngest squeeze every bit he can from Scouts.  And he has, up to now, without question.  He is now a Star Scout, well on his way to Life, when he will then start his Eagle project and inevitably make the rank.  He has several Eagle projects in mind, with one specifically high on the list, and has started to think of what he will need to put into it, as well as who he will need to work with to get it done.  He has only one required badge left to finish, and actually has finished it, but refuses to hand it in.

Which makes me crazy.

Youngest is a tough nut to crack.  It's taken me 6 months to get him to explain that he doesn't want to pass it in because then he feels like he won't have anything else to do.  I also think he doesn't want to pull too far ahead of his friends.  We fight a lot about Scouts now a days, weather he needs a uniform that night, his role in the Troop, if he really needs to be a Patrol Leader. *Sigh* It's exhausting.

And then, the other day, I had just had enough.  I was rushing around to get to the meeting, trying to coordinate this and that, answering the 15th email regarding something I can't remember, and I was just.... done.  The truth is I don't care if he makes Eagle.  At the end of the day, he has to care.  He has to want it.  A parent commented this weekend about "The next camp out you plan", to which I replied, "Dude, this is the last one I'm planning this year."  And it is.  The May camp out is all his.  The April one someone else's, January falls on our snow camping guy, and June/July are up for grabs.  It's got to somehow start coming together without me.  It will, but not if I don't let it go.

I am done. I want out before I burn out completely.  I want t just sit back, watch him grow, help out on an Eagle or two and enjoy the last 18 months of Youngest's Scouting career.  I want to pick and choose what I'm involved in, not spend my Sunday nights sending out Troop updates and fielding emails of accumulated service hours and partial requirements.  I want to paddle down a river in New Hampshire, in the middle of June, soaking in the sunlight, not mentally taking attendance and dreading the paperwork at the end of the weekend.  I want to not resent the smell of sweat and camp fire as it falls into a heap on the living room floor alongside an exhausted boy.

I don't think that makes me terrible.  I don't feel like I'm abandoning the Troop or leaving any of the boys out on a limb.  And while others may have a different opinion on it, I just can't care any more.

The Troop will be fine.

Youngest will be fine.  He will make Eagle if he wants it enough.

I will finally be able to actually enjoy the camp fire, without all the headache that goes along with it.

Right?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Sweetest Years...

One of the only features I find myself liking about Facebook now a days is the memories feature.  It's interesting to me to look back and see where I was last year, or even 7 years ago. Five years ago this week, I posted a picture of the first professional gluten free birthday cake, with the caption 37 never tasted so good.  

Now a days you can get a professionally decorated, gluten free cake nearly everywhere provided you order it in advance, making it not so special anymore... kind of like your 42nd birthday.

I'm not going to lie, those who have been here a while know that birthdays have not gone so well for me.  My 40th was spent in the hospital, on an IV, with no food for 6 days.  My 41st was spent on an extremely long work day, as my bosses decided I needed to train someone and could no longer have it off, and then at Boy Scouts, where I in fact, became in charge of it all.  I literally got a boy Scout Troop of 32 for my birthday, complete with a balloon, thanks to one thoughtful cub scout who was at the meeting with his brother.  And as sweet as that sounds, I went home and cried.

Don't misunderstand me, the Troop has had it's share of fond memories over the last year, but for the most part it has become more of a job, making Mondays suck even more.  It's not the Scouts, but more the paperwork and protocol of it all.  There is, however, an end in sight for me though, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Where was I?  Oh, yes... this year I decided not to tell anyone.  I took it off Facebook, said nothing at work, and it happened to fall on my day off.  It was just too risky... no one would know, except those in the know... and I could avoid all unwanted, nonreturnable gifts.

I attempted to sleep in, and actually made it to about 730. Unable to fall back to sleep, I cleaned house, and started sanding the bathroom ceiling. Now, I know what you're reading that, rolling your eyes and thinking "Now that's a girl gone wild kind of party right there", but trust me it was sweaty, dirty, hot, and I was bra-less in my jammies.  What?  Did you think I'd actually get dressed to clean? Um, no.

Anyway... after I showered I went to lunch with my Mum, did a little Christmas shopping at the Plaza.  Went for ice cream, then swung into the pet store on the way home to get a new fish for the tank.  Once the kids got home, we went to dinner. Youngest insisted I have steak.  I ended up having the scallops and lobster risotto, but Youngest assured me the steak was delicious.

As the night settled in, we all came home to a strawberry shortcake, made my me, over the previous 2 days.  The strawberries were candied for hours, the cake just spongy enough, and just a scant shy on the home made whipped cream.

It was a great day, and I was genuinely surprised at how many people actually did remember my birthday through texts and calls.  Proving that while 37 may have tasted good, 42 can be just as sweet.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday Night's Hallways...

Oldest has found himself training for the upcoming basketball season by playing in not one, but two leagues this fall.  For the last two and a half months we have found ourselves sitting in the corner of many a gym, sneakers squeaking, balls bouncing off every available surface, on average, 5 days a week.

Two of those days are practice at an elementary school here in town.  Our town has 7 currently, but this is the first one... the oldest one.  It was built in 1913 as the town's only high school.  In 1934 they expanded it to incorporate all grades.  A customer of mine is an alumni of this very school.  He just attended his 70th reunion, in the same school house he attended K-12 in. Just the concept of this is awesome to me, that he both celebrated his 70th high school reunion, and that he attended all of his schooling there.

I tried sitting in the gym in the beginning of the season.  The floors are real hardwood, pitted and buckled from over a century of active play time.  The polish is worn, the floorboards so weathered in places that no amount of sanding will get them smooth.  The base of the walls are a sand colored brick, above which stands ancient windows, 20 feet high, covered in metal cages, protecting the distorted glass from overachieving athletes. Balls and sneakers meeting the hard and worn surfaces make for a sensory overload I can not block out, so about a week into the season I began to wander.

 I have fast become friendly with the night custodians, as it allows me to wander the halls of this relic. In the front entry hangs a metal engraved sign proudly displaying the names of the 1917-19 American Legion.  A safety inspection certificate from 1956 is displayed just to the left of the main door.  Each door's a solid hardwood, stained a traditional oak color. They display hand painted numbers just under the 16 glass window panes, each knob complete with a back plate and key hole, a perfect fit for a skeleton key.

Each classroom easily has 18 foot ceilings, The windows span nearly the entire wall and they open, full and wide.  Radiators sit high up on the walls in the hallways, so as not to burn little hands that pass by.  The auditorium doubles as the library, the domed ceiling adds to the acoustics. A stone relief of a puritan and her child hangs in the doorway, a gift from the class of 1939.

The stairways are worn.  Stair treads dip from little feet that have clamored up and down. The twisted wrought iron railings have been painted gold, perhaps to reflect the sunlight from yet another over-sized weather worn window that adorns the wall.  Even the girl's bathroom hosts a mirror, 6 by 20 feet large, etched with traditional names of the past... "Barbara, Ester, Catherine all were here".  

The building stands three stories in total.  There are 3 night custodians, all very accommodating with a story or two. The oldest one recalls the day Warner Brothers took it over and filmed scenes there nearly twenty years ago.  Funny, Hollywood can recreate nearly everything now, and yet they still come here, where the real history is, the kind that can not be created in a studio.  The kind of history that can only be felt deep in the grain of the wood, the smell of the walls, the nuances of the glass and heard in the creaks of the floors and hiss of the radiators.  There are spirits here.  You can feel them wandering the halls.  They feel childlike and safe, and when I wander far enough away from the gym I swear I can almost hear them.

Oldest's practice lasts about an hour.  My tours are not long and every week I find something new. Tonight I found a cast iron fire alarm that I have no doubt still works. I return to the gym just as he staggers out, exhausted, sweaty, completely unaware of the history he is enveloped in. At nearly sixteen, he doesn't get it.  It's likely that none of the children that grace these halls 180 days a year will ever get it.  It's hard to see the beauty of it all when everything seems to give way to the newest and best in technology. The new schools steal from the budget, and the relics like this, so I am told, suffer.  They need a new roof, new flooring, and desperate repairs in critical, but indiscriminate places.

I suppose that that's the way it is for most things now.  Next year they will open the newest of the two high schools, demolishing the existing one that's just thirty years old. The same one their father graduated from in 1991.  History is lost in progress and technology.  And yet, here this school stands, nearly 104 years later.

And here I sit, outside the principal's office like a misbehaving child, soaking it all in.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It's Echoing....

It's not often that I conceded to being sick.  Sniffles, yes.  Cold? Pains? Tired? Yuppers!  But actually sick, no.  And yet, this week, I cried uncle.

September's back to school has hit our house relatively hard.  For the last two weeks I've had a weird strain of a painful stomach bug, that lessened into extreme fatigue, that lended to a full on feverish cold, plagued with an inner ear imbalance that has caught me falling on my butt on multiple occasions. It's so much fun.

I have been fortunate that the bulk of the worst days were on my days off, not unlike today, where the most energy I could muster before 2pm was to lift the clicker to adjust the volume on my Dreamworks movie marathon.  Youngest joined me, it was quite nice.  Luckily the only part of this bug that effected the boys was the tiredness.

The husband has been stepping up a bit, running the boys to appointments and practices.  He even went to the grocery store, twice, picking up a lot of main events, but neglecting the rest of the small things that would make them meals. I guess we just need to better utilize the art of the sticky note.  What can I say, we're a work in progress.  He tries though, and scores points for that.

So, with this extra time, half conscious on the couch, I have begun to think about the holidays.  Youngest has decided the only thing he wants is Panic! At the Disco concert tickets.  Oldest wants a bigger bed. He is, after all, almost 6 feet tall. The other day I got a random text stating "I woke up to a huge hole in my wall.  Should I cover it with a poster?  I must have done it with my elbow in my sleep."  

Our list is also small, the husband and I are going away for the night in November, and that's about it.  I had contemplated the ECHO for him.  It's a new little gadget that sits on the table.  It has voice recognition and, similar to SIRI, answers questions from the  web, plays music, and can control the functions of your house if you have wireless capability.

Crazy right?  But think about it.... he can just say Echo, turn on the TV.  or Echo, turn down the heat.  He can check last night's sports scores, or check the weather.  Youngest could shut off his bedroom lights without ever going downstairs.

I can not tell you how often they all ask me to google something, to check on this, or what the square root of 5 is.  I have become, like most Moms, the information desk for everyone in this house.  Which is nice, but tiring.  Think about how much I could get done if I was not trying to figure out math equations or finding a random song from a 1980's obscure band that Tony can't quite figure out the lyrics to.

Now I recognize that I'd be sacrificing conversation with my family for my sanity. But I'd be making them more self sufficient, and bringing the husband into this century. I'd be less annoyed with the "Ma, Ma, MA, Maaaaaaaaaa" and may even be able to find my own inner peace!  All for the price of $179.

 And apparently, you can name it so it knows when you want it to answer.

Youngest wants to call it "Juli."


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Unfriended....

I found myself thinking of an old friend today.

When I got home I popped her name into Facebook just to see what she'd been up to.  We have been "friends" on Facebook for probably the last 10 years. Six years ago she found a new job, and our friendship became very much hit or miss, but I did check in with her every so often.  Somewhere around the 2008 election I hid her husband from my news feed, not because I didn't like him, but because I didn't like the hatefulness in which he was expressing his political opinion.  About 3 years ago, I hid her from my news feed.  Her marriage had exploded (again), and while I reached out to her in a real way, offering an ear, breakfast, coffee, she never took me up on it.

Which was okay.  I get it.  When you are in that moment, you don't always want company.  She chose to stay in her marriage, to work things out (again).  And while I don't judge her for her choice, I worried for her as my friend, that the 5th time would become the 6th...7th... It's tough to watch someone stay on an emotional roller coaster by choice, but it wasn't my choice to make, and I can respect her decision.

Anyway, today I popped her name into my FB and she was gone.  I'd been unfriended.  Ironically we still have 5 mutual friends, people she also has very little contact with, but yet she unfriended me. Now, we haven't talked in 3 years.  We are in very different places in our lives.  We have very little in common.  My husband is not a huge fan of our friendship because of the drama that is ever going on in her life.

And yet, the unfriending bothers me.

Then I got to wondering who else was still left in my news feed.  Ironically, I am either tied to most of them through Scouts, work, or the internet. A quarter of my "friends" I have never met. I have hidden another quarter of the list from my feed, and I find myself enjoying my unknown friends more than the known ones. It slowly started to come to me that it's not about the people in my list, it's about the connection that Facebook assumes that you have. The other half of my feed is advertisements now. So if I'm not feeling crappy about not being able to see an old friend's life, or smirking over a completely fake joyous post of someone I know is outright miserable, I am constantly being reminded of how I can "heal my foot pain", or get cured of my diverticulitis.

What am I doing?

I really hate Facebook.  I hate the time it takes up.  I took the app off my phone, and yet sadly I find myself checking in in other ways.  I hate the way it portrays everyone's life as perfect, and yet often through over-posting, pathetic.  I hate the way a friend's post about how wonderful her husband is about staying with her 7 hours in the ER makes me think "Oh, nice" and "Wait?  Isn't that what a husband is supposed to do?"  all at the same time.

What I hate most of all, is that realistically, I can't just deactivate my account right now.

Facebook messes with the mind, folks.  It will make you crazy.

In truth, I don't want to reconnect with her face to face,  I just wanted to know that she was okay. Which she is of course, she's just doing her own thing.  As am I. Who knows why she unfriended me.  Maybe she was just surrounding herself with like minded people. Maybe she thought I'd judge her for staying. Maybe she just didn't want my non-sugar coated thoughts on things. Which makes me think she may have never even known me at all.  Or maybe, like myself, she too looked at my random posts and felt conflicted, like I was trying to portray something that wasn't my reality.

Or maybe, it was just time for us to finally be done with our time together.  Maybe our friendship had run it's course, and the connection through Facebook had perpetuated it way past it's time. Like a life support that continues to breath life into something that the plug should have been pulled on long ago.




Sunday, September 18, 2016

About Time...

I returned to work three days ago.

I made three afghans while I was home.  

 I ran errands.

I scheduled all the events for the Scouts through next year.

I spent lots of time with my Mum, niece, and nephew.

I napped.  A lot.

The other half of clueless construction and I are currently painting the exterior of the house.

I helped by painting the lower 6 feet since the foot wasn't quite ready for the 40 foot ladder.  We're on a 12 month time schedule for completion.

There were lots of other little things that I did, but I figured I'd share this one with you.  Actual time for completion was about three months most of which was done before I left work, because it required a lot of thought, muscle, and well, money.

About six years ago my cousin gave me some Ikea book shelves that were in her daughter's room.  They were sturdy, somewhat feminine, off white, and came complete with all the standard evidence of a young girl in her teens.  Sticker residue, nail polish, and some unidentifiable brown goop that is better left  not discussed.   I forgot to take before pictures, but they looked like this...

They had been re-homed everywhere in the house, until they finally landed in our bedroom.  I should mention that we have ONE closet in our house. O.N.E.  The struggle for storage is real.  Really, real.  So, I got resourceful one day and hit Lowes storage section where I bought a standard storage cabinet meant for a laundry room.

It worked well, but wasn't very mobile, so one day I flipped it over and put wheels on it.  Good, but it lacked stability. It eventually became so un-sturdy that when both doors were open at the same time occasionally it would start to tip.  And even more important, when you flanked this cabinet with the two shelves, it blocked the only heating/AC vent for the whole room.

So I got to thinking...

... I needed a vent specially designed to go under the cabinet, and since no one sells this, I made it with my own two hands. Then of course, the cabinet needed a platform for to sit on so as to not crush the vent. And the shelf on the right had to be cut down to fit the space because nothing is ever easy....

So we cut down the shelves. And by we, I mean the husband cut it all and I just directed, because he just had no idea what we were doing. I replaced all of the cheap cardboard backing on the shelves with 1/4 inch plywood to make them a bit sturdier, and then we put the cabinet, sans wheels, in the center space...

...which just happened to leave exactly the space we needed for an extra cabinet on the other side. Which we also found at Lowes for $89.  It's not as deep as the cabinet we had but you can't see the difference when it's all together.  Here it is with the doors and extra unit in place...

Not bad, but still not done.  I trimmed off the curves from the top trim on the bookshelves, and then replaced all the side trim. I replaced the baseboards we removed and ran them around the base of the wall unit. Then I painted...
 I love the look of the gray inside the shelves and the clean white cohesiveness of it.  Is it perfect? Lord, No. But  all the cords are tucked away, it won't fall over, and it fits all my clothes...

Love it when what is in my head somehow all comes together in real life...
And now I'm back to work. Which means all these projects will come to a screeching halt and I'm okay with that.  But if on the off chance I need to go out of work again...

...Oldest has me down for another afghan.

Friday, September 9, 2016

How To Freak Out Your Family On A Sunday....

Do this to your ONLY bathroom at 530 in the morning....


The truth is, this project needed to happen a LONG time ago.  And in fact, was finished back in May, but due to phone updates, new computers, and the never ending "Where did I save that picture?" conundrum I find myself in, this post has just been a long time coming. But it's here now, right? And that's what counts.  (Tell me it is... you'll be my favorite.)

Anyhoo...  Sometime between my 40th birthday hospital stay and my massive post surgery weight gain, I put my toes up on soap dish area of the cheap surround that once protected our shower walls so I could shave my leg.  And, I swear, I only used a little pressure, but it was no match for my shaving acrobatics, and soon gave way under all the excitement.  So, I did the only thing a girl could do.  I patched the 3 cracks with clear Gorilla tape and then forgot about it for months.

Months.

Until one day I was doing laundry and saw some water dripping down into the basement.

Crap.

So, I thought about it for, oh, a few more months.

Then I realized that I needed to get this done before I went out for my next surgery in July. So, again, I did the only thing a girl could do, and ripped the surround out.

See all the water damage in the middle there?  That's cement board people.  It took 3 days to dry out completely.  That's talented neglect, folks. Anyway, after taking down the surround I thought I might like one of those neat little nooks that everyone is doing for my shower stuff.  

Tony thought I was ridiculous. 

I've only tiled one thing, ever, in my life.

We have no idea what we are doing.

So, I waited until he went for coffee before doing this...

When he came home, he found me cutting out the wall supports with the saws-all.  Best. Tool. Eva. I made the box out of spare 2 X 4's that I found lying around in the garage. And, after a lot of dirty looks and some mild bickering, we eventually managed to get to this point...
Lucky for us, I had creatively saved the extra cement board from when we demo-ed the bathroom a few years back, so the husband got cracking on the inset pieces, and we came up with this without spending a dime...

We also had clear silicone sealant in the garage left over from something else, so I was able to seal all of the seams water tight. After 3 days of letting that cure, we started the waterproof membrane portion of our project...

We called this stage "Satin's Shower".  Youngest was a bit bummed we didn't go with this color scheme, but I just can't please everyone.  This stage had to cure for, like 3 days, and we both had to work throughout this project, so yeah.... this lasted for a while. We had to hang shower curtains around the entire tub for weeks to keep the project dry while we worked.  By week 4 it stared to look like a circus tent.  Just sayin'...

Soon enough though, we were on to the tile.  Which would have been so easy if I had just laid it straight and square.  Nope.  I wanted it on the diamond.  There's a very good reason this costs twice as much to do folks, a VERY good reason.

And so it began....


What a giant pain in the a$$.  You'll notice that the sides of the nook are darker than the tile.  I wanted it to stand out from the tile and off set the accent tiles that went into the center. And.... I couldn't just lay them horizontal like everyone else...

And since they had gone on sale since my original purchase of them, I had to go back and buy up some more and do an accent strip on the other wall...

At this point Tony didn't like the design, but he just wanted to take a shower without plastic surrounding him so he just smiled and let me teach him how to grout. 

This is a panoramic picture of the tub area.  It's a little distorted, but you get the idea...

So yeah... it took 4 weeks from start to finish. We upgraded the faucet and handles, but of course I can't find the picture of this.  The husband was wonderful enough to repaint the walls and we have patched the ceiling damage from when the crown molding came down...


The canvas has been repainted bright white and is waiting for the painting mood to hit me.  I'm thinking hydrangeas, but I'm not 100% on it.  Now all we have to do is repaint the ceiling...

And with that, another project by Clueless Construction is 90% done.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Boys....

This was supposed to be the summer of nothing.  The first summer that we could relax, sleep in, and embrace whatever the day brought to us.

Or not.

Summer.

The way it should be.

Instead, you both landed your first jobs.  Dressed in uniform shirts and wielding biweekly pay stubs, my dreams of finally giving you the first real summer of your lives walked out the door... promptly at 8:35 each morning.  Gone was the last opportunity for a summer of no responsibility.  But, like many things over the years, you've both always had your own plans, changing the rules on me just when I thought I had it figured out.

So here we sit, the night before school starts.  The humidity outside has dropped off.  The mums are starting to bloom.  There's a lull in the air, a regrouping of sorts, as all aspects of the neighborhood seem know it's time.  Our last big conversation was about the best manner in which you have found to clip your toenails, signaling that we have indeed, run out of things to say.  There's talk of Christmas lists already and the quiet humming of a carol was heard while we rearranged your room and cleaned through the old bus and hallway passes.

High School.

I will not claim to sit here and wonder where the time went.  I know where it went.  I was there.  Every pain staking, heart breaking, "Sweet-Jesus-I-swear-I-will-drop-you-off-in-your-underwear-if-you-don't-get-dressed-this-second" moment.  I am not sad those days are gone.  I do not miss them.  And while some will say they have gone by too quickly, I assure you the days you have ahead will go by even faster.  And that's okay, because by no means will these be the best years of your lives.

You will watch friends change into people you will not recognize.  You will make new friends with people you've always known, but never knew where there.  You will have your hearts broken, and yet will love again so much deeper it will have been worth it.  You will fail.  Epicly.  Yet you will try anyways, making that one time you succeed just as epic.

You will think I am stupid.  You will hate me.  You will never understand how much I understand this...and what you're going through.  There is nothing you can say, or think, that will change who I am to you.  I am your mother, your sounding board, your greatest advocate, your softest punching bag.  And when we are past these years, you will not need to feel sorry for your childish ways, because I will understand that too.

Stay strong in your convictions, you are not the only one making good choices.  You never know who is watching, feeling the same as you, just waiting for someone else to be strong enough so that they can stand beside them. Be smart about your bad decisions.  Lord knows, High School is full of them.  And know that home will always the softest place to land when life knocks you on your ass.

New schools, new administration, new classes, new demands, new ridiculously early bus stop.  But it's all the same, really.  Just get through the day, like you have for the last 10 and 11 years.  One day will turn to 30, then 60, and before you know it, 180. They will not all be good.  Most of them will be ordinary. But they are all the small working parts in the making of who you will be.

I write this now, as I'll likely be half asleep when you leave in the morning. But I will send you off, just like I always have, never saying to have a good day, but rather to make good choices. Because any day can be "good", but choosing to make a day great, sets you up for making a life worth living later.

Enjoy tomorrow boys, soak it all in.  Enjoy the next 180 tomorrows, full of choices.

Choose wisely.




Sunday, August 7, 2016

Baby Steps...

Ten days ago, I had surgery on my left foot.  On Wednesday, I went to the doctor, who promptly cut the bandages off and said "Yup. Looking great. Keep it clean and covered, but you can get it wet now. It will be a bit tender, but you will not need crutches. Wear a boot at night, but otherwise a shoe and sock are fine for the day.  Stitches will come out next week."

Excellent.

Truth be told, I had had virtually no pain all week and I was SO excited to not have to use the crutches anymore.  No more rubbing my armpits and mysterious pains from muscles in my arms I never use.  No more having to load food on my son's rolling office chair just to get it 6 feet across the kitchen to the stove.

The doctor left.  Still sitting on the exam table, I popped my surgical shoe back on since I had forgotten my sneaker in the car, and I hopped off the table.

Holy. Mother. Of. Jesus. Christ. Of. Latter. Day. Saints!!!!!!!

"You won't need the crutches anymore," MY ASS!!

I hobbled about ten feet before I gave up and crutched my way to the car.  Thursday, I managed most of the day with one crutch. Friday I made it almost 2 hours before I needed the crutch.  Saturday, I managed most of the day off the crutch, but then again, I didn't do much all day.  Today, I used the cart as a walker and made it through an entire grocery trip AND downstairs to help Youngest with his fish tank.

I'm calling that a win.

It's still tender.  I have a huge bruise over the soft center area of the bottom of the foot.  The inside of my middle toe is also bruised pretty bad.  The 15 stitches are pulling, but they are not oozing anymore.  And, my skin is still peeling like crazy, but I think that will subside once the stitches come out and I can scrub accordingly.

So all and all, I'm making slow and steady progress.  I also have no feeling in my heel at all. I have read up online and have found that feeling can take up to 3 months to return completely.

I am still glad I did this. I'm just struggling with the baby steps.

Literally.




Sunday, July 31, 2016

Missing The Point...

Back in the day I sat in many a meeting about Youngest's progress in school.  Specifically, his reading.  He was not a reader.  He actually couldn't read at his grade level according to every standardized test they shoved down his throat.  More important, he didn't want to read.  And why would he?  Every day he was told, or reminded in someway, that he simply want't good at it.

In fourth grade his teacher gave him a book she thought he'd like.  Poppy and Rye. It was short, easy to read, and involved animals as the main characters.  She was right.  He loved it.

He loved it so much that he got the entire series.  He got his friends reading it.  He raved about it so much, they bought copies for the school library.  Then I stumbled on another book, The Only And Only Ivan, and he was hooked.  He read it over and over.  His teacher got a copy for the class.  They read it at the end of every school year, and even up to last year, he returned to her class to read passages out loud to her class at the end of the day.

Thing was, it was never really that he couldn't read.  It was that he wasn't ready.  If you've read here long, you'll know that he is now and avid reader, consuming books often times in lieu of calories. He was actually recognized for being the top reader in his entire school of approximately 800 students. I had to stop him from taking the library book to Scout summer camp this morning in case it got rained on. Not deterred, he went back to his room and chose a book we owned to bring.

Now, he (and I) have worked long and hard to get him to this point.  While I will never knock home schooling, for us, public was the way to go. But it was never the easier route.  I never, ever dropped him off and let it go.  Every day was a constant struggle between expected curriculum and his creative mind. He constantly challenges his teachers requests, and when he gets into a pickle, I question administration.  Never disrespectful, his constant questioning of the "system" earned him a place mentoring younger students who also learned differently.  Sometimes he would comply with the standard.  Other times he would rewrite it.  But every time, he learned something.  He is currently a high honors student starting his first year of high school.  The school department and I decided to move him from an individualized education plan (IEP) to a 504 plan.  A decision I was fairly confident in until Saturday.

Our school requires summer reading. I'm cool with that.  Oldest has to read 4 books, do 2 artifacts, produce 1 paper, and complete a math packet of 6 pages.  Youngest has to read one book and create an artifact (illustrate a passage in the book, make a movie poster, etc.), find a quote in the book and write a 1 minute speech about why he feels it's a key moment in the book.

1 Book.  1 Minute Speech. 1 picture.  That's it.

It was a four hour fight folks.  FOUR HOURS.  And not being mobile made it virtually impossible for me to gain control of the situation.  Because like always, my son had very valid loop holes to justify not doing the 25 minutes of work.

"Why can't they just trust I read the book?"
"You could sign a note that says I did."
"They can just ask me about it."
"Why do I have to produce this?  It says nothing about the book."

and the best...

"I've read NINE books this summer.  That's like 3,000 pages.  Isn't that enough?"

And there you have it folks.  How do you argue that?  Nine books IS enough.  It's more than enough.  It's WAY over and above, especially since I know half his grade is using the audio books. And yet I am stuck with the recourse of "Failing out of summer reading is not going to be your first impression. Especially because you DID the work."

In the end, amidst the swearing, compromising, and threats, he produced a picture and typed up a few words about it.  It's not even remotely his best work. It's not even a book on the list, mainly because he read 4 books on the list last year already.

And I don't even care.

Because that is where our public school and parents are failing. Most parents never question the system. Read one book.  Churn out a piece of paper. Done. Onward to summer...

And the school just needs a quantitative way to "judge" all the students equally and quickly.

But my son is not equal to anyone else in that school.  He is uniquely different, with a specific, hard wired brain all his own.  It's what makes him awesome. And no standardized 25 minute assignment can determine that.

He will read approximately 12 books this summer.

He will turn his friends on to the new series he found.

He will be reading, which is the entire point of summer reading.

It can be verified by his library card.

The books he carries all year long in his pack.

The fact that his biggest wish is to be able to freeze time, go into his books, live them, and then return to this life without anyone missing him.

Maybe he should draw a picture of that.

You think the administration would get the point then?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Surgery No. 1...

My surgery was scheduled for 1:30 on Wednesday, and like any normal person would do, I went to Walmart for one last grocery trip to ensure we would something to eat.  And cat food.  Because there's nothing more dangerous than being immobile for 2 days with a hungry cat.

 Any hoo...  I went to Walmart... in my sneakers, foot brace, ankle high socks, and my "easy on" sun dress for surgery.  It was a lovely, fashionable, combination. I'm sure it will make an appearance on Youtube later this week.

So after I hit the store, came home, cleaned, threw in some laundry, and made some phones calls, I was off to have multiple bone spurs removed from my left foot along with a large chunk of my plantar tendon.

Mom dropped me off, the husband picked me up. The scheduling was beautifully executed. I have no idea how the surgery went, as I slept through the entire thing. I came out wrapped in a large ace bandage, they gave me some crutches, a bunch of prescriptions, and sent us on our way.

I am in zero pain. ZERO.  I find myself  wondering if they actually did anything, or if I just got a really good nap.  And then I accidentally hit the stitches and I go back to sitting with my foot up on the couch.

Three days I've been sitting here.  I planned to work on some Christmas gifts while I was captive.  I am giving my niece a "day on the couch" for her gift.  Pajamas, a DVD, a bucket of popcorn, sweet treats, and a blanket.

So here I am.  Sitting on the couch, losing my mind. But, the blanket is just about finished....


At the rate I'm going I may have to make one for my nephew as well.

Countdown to Surgery No. 2..... sixteen days....

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Whole Lot Of Nothing....

Youngest got a text from his friend the other day:

"What has a mouth but can not drink, has a head but can not think, has a tongue but not a lung, some are held and some are hung."

He responded with "A severed head".

I asked him if she responded back yet.  He said "No, but I'm not really sure what the proper response to 'severed head' would be."

And so it goes in our house of boys. My foot surgery is scheduled for Wednesday and I'm as cleaned up at work as I will ever be.  Bottom line is that there will be an enormous mess to clean up when I get back, regardless of how much work I do now. I am more or less doing this for my own sanity and so when it all hits the fan I can say "I left a note...". Sometimes you just need to know when to walk away so you don't get hit when it splatters.

My boss came into a mail house that I deliver to to see what can be done about the flooring (AKA the underlying cause of my feet issues). In the end if nothing can be done, I will have to change routes when the opportunity arises. It will be very hard for me, as I have carried this route almost since it's development (nearly 12 years ago) but it is the only way I can ensure that I won't need to have this surgery again in 5 years.

On the plus side I have noticed a marked improvement in my pain levels since the route adjustment. While I am still at a 5-7 on the frown-y face scale by the end of the day, I am not limping or having radiating pain through my legs and back. But of course, there is the downside being the 5 hour a week pay cut. *sigh* I will not worry about money, because by worrying you just make it a problem.  But I'm not going to lie and say I'm a bit nervous about how all the finances will fall, particularity since I will inevitably go at least a week without pay while I'm out. So, yeah... there's that.

The kids have been working everyday.  They had today off and were supposed to go to the local water park until Youngest woke up with an excessive fever.  Oldest opted to go to work and help out with the charity golf tournament.  I went to pick him up at the course tonight... sat a 30 full minutes watching teens run the putting green until I noticed one of them in a hat waving to me.

I seriously had no idea who it was. We shall call that epic Mom fail number 687.

I have some home improvement projects nearing completion that I'll share soon.  The mind is always tallying snippets of my life to share, but exhaustion always wins by the time I get home.  And then of course, I'll be over sharing all the juicy, sorted details of my surgeries... or not.

Maybe I'll just share the actual answer to the riddle...

It's a bell.

Which is no where as entertaining as a severed head.




Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Waiting...

really is the hardest part.

I have 14 days until my surgery on my foot.  Not saying that I'm looking forward to it, but the waiting.... the uncertainty of not knowing how the healing process will go... is driving me crazy.  There really isn't anything I can prepare for, no little projects to finish up, it just will be what it will be. I know this.  I've embraced it. But still...

The lack of mobility right now, every step like walking on sharp pointed rocks, makes it tough to enjoy the day.  

Having no choice, I took a sick day to get cortisone shots in my wrists.  While the doctor is very good, and the medication worked well, he missed the initial target and my hand is still swollen at the injection site two days later, causing random pain and a general soreness.

I decided to do something good for myself and went to the dentist.  A simple cleaning, long overdue, quick and painless.  Except that it isn't.  I need deep root scaling, throughout my whole mouth, costing about $800 after insurance. Awesome.  I couldn't even get my teeth cleaned, since they would need to be cleaned after the scaling, and the insurance company would only pay for one.

I sat outside the dentist office and cried in the car.

It's frustrating not being able to do what I want.  It's 80 degrees out, perfect weather, and I can't even go for a walk.  I can't surf the web for long periods of time because my wrists will lock up. I can't wear flip flops for a long period of time.  And in two weeks, because of the chance of infection, I won't even be able to use the discounted tickets I bought for the water park back in May.

I tried going to  lunch with the husband to lift my spirits, but lack of proper scheduling in the office made it not happen.  He doesn't really get it anyways.  He tries awful hard, but he tries to fix it, and it's just not fixable.  I just have to wait things out, see how they fall.  I called a friend who is also going through the same issues.  She gets it, but the momentary sense of belonging fades quickly after the call ends. The kids are working and don't need me as much.  The husband's new schedule has allowed him to be home more.  Projects that used to linger forever are getting done without my asking (twice).  Laundry is getting done without me.  Food is being bought and cooked without me. So many things are getting done without me because I can't do things right now.  And while I'm wanted, I'm no longer needed.

And it's left me feeling lost...

...waiting until I can be me again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Art Of (Not) Being Busy

Today is my day off.  Which, under normal circumstances means that I would be better off going to work.  But times have been anything less than normal around here, and I am slowly adjusting.

As I sit here, the "bit o' fit" I wear on my wrist says that I have taken 2,989 steps.  A far, far cry from yesterday when the "Congratulations you've reached your 15K step goal!!" joy buzzer, electrocution-style vibration nearly scared the pee out of me as I headed for the grocery store bathroom after work.

The reality is that I have slowed my roll because I have to.  Multiple bone spurs, 4 years of excessive damage to the tendons, and a small hairline fracture, have slowed me considerably.  The main goal is to not damage it any further until the surgery at the end of the month.  Needless to say, the to-do list for today looked a lot like this:

1. Mail out summer camp check
2. Re-Schedule 2nd surgery
3. Clean the fish tank
4. Sign the boys up for summer camp
5. Buy battery for stupid smoke detector that eats batteries every frigging 8 weeks.

Number one was pretty easy, and number 2 has been on going for two weeks since no one would call me back. Number three was actually done yesterday, but sometimes I leave things on my list so I can cross something off right away. True Story.

Any hoo...

Feeling a bit stir crazy, the boys and I headed to their camp to sign them up for the next two weeks. After that I will be out of work, and they will be my nursemaids while I re-cooperate.  They are thrilled let me tell you, but I am far more thrilled at the prospect of not paying $3000 for summer camp while I am sitting home. So, yeah, I went in to enroll them in two weeks of unplugged, face to face, interaction.  And that's when it happened...

... They offered them summer jobs.

Like, 5 days a week, 5 hours a day, paying jobs. For the whole summer.

Five days a week, they will be off the computer. They will not be home messing up the kitchen, or throwing piles of clean laundry on the floor because it was in their way. No wrappers on the counter, recliners left up, radio blaring down stairs, or whining that they are bored.

Five days a week of  Not. Rolling. The. Eyes.

All I have to do is drop them off in the morning, and the husband will drive them home after work.

Then, I can really not be busy.

Not busy cleaning, doing countless loads of laundry, or finding missing shoes.

Not busy nagging about how a person needs to eat to grow, or that the people in the computer aren't really your friends, and that if you go to the pond you can't go past your armpits.

Not busy wracking up fit bit steps following the trail of rice crispy treat wrappers and dirty socks.

It's going to be SO boring...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Pain In The (insert body part here)

The thing about pain is that it's relative to the person. Doctors have that little frowny face chart, but what is a 9 for some is a 5 for others. For instance, my frowny face chart only goes up to about a 7. Somewhere in the 8-9 range is a puking face, and 10 is a blackout.

Lately, I hover around the 6 range. A progressive degeneration of multiple conditions, most of which I'e been complaining about on here for years.  Add in an A1 titer, and I've been tested for everything from Shogren's to Lupus to cancer.

I have heard every comment.  You're the youngest old person I know.  You're too young to be falling apart like this. You should just try stretching more. And then there's the dreaded... Well, if you lost some weight. 

And if that wasn't enough, it messes with your head.  And soon you're cancelling things you used to love to do.  You don't try and meet up with friends. Depression sets in.  You start to debate whether it really is all in your head.  Every trip in and out of a store is carefully planned as to not spend any extra time on your feet.  Laundry is planned, time is scheduled for icing, elevating, stock is bought in Advil, and the house goes to hell in a hand basket. You ignore the sharp pain, shake it off. You get bitter. You rationalize.  You bargain.  You suck it up... power on. And eventually, you go to the doctor.

I scheduled specialists this time, based on my gut instincts, instead of doing the run around and simple answers route.

I went to the podiatrist.  After one look at the x-rays and he said, "That's not going away without surgery." Turns out four years of therapy exercises, cortisone, daily ice, and custom prosthetic insoles, none of it would have ever fixed the problem.

I went to a hand specialist.  He shot me full of cortisone, which was fabulous, and sent me to Boston University for further testing which revealed necessary surgery on both hands.

I went to an internal specialist. And after nearly passing out from the pain of the exam, turns out I need scar tissue removed, several cysts, and some biopsies done. Organs will be removed if necessary. That surgery has already been scheduled.

Two weeks later the left foot with be done.  I'll heal up after 2 months out of work, and once the hands are approved, go out for another month to have those done.  Then, just as the snow and ice move in, I'll have the right foot done and be out until, um, somewhere in March.  And while doing all this, I will be seeing a nutritional specialist, who will further test me for food insensitivity, so we can nail down the gastro stuff. Good times, really. I am not worrying that the paperwork will all get processed, or that I will have to go with out pay for months.  I am just going to be hopeful that it will all work out.

Because then... then, I'll be good.  Hopefully.

The husband will finally have the new and improved wife he's always wanted.

And I'll be healthy enough to chase him down and hit him for making the comment.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Good Man...

I find myself struggling lately not to pick apart every little thing.

I found myself this morning without a bathroom because the husband had taken the door off the bathroom to paint it, and all the wood work/trim. A project I started mind you, and he is finishing, at 8 am on Sunday morning.

He is a good man... even if I don't get to take a shower.

I wandered downstairs to start some laundry only to find that there were several baskets all over the floor.  All clean, needing to be folded, and brought up to their respective homes.

*sigh*

He is a good man for doing all the laundry, even if he didn't finish the job.

He helped me re-size the bookshelf in the bedroom, even though he had no idea what I was doing, why I was doing it, and I told him every five seconds what he was doing wrong. He even cut the hole for the outlet, so we wouldn't lose it behind the new built in. And he is still a good man, even though I will wait for what seems like an eternity for him to clean up the mess that is front of the other bookshelf so I can finish the project.

He is a good man for cleaning garage, despite my complaining that he buried all of my tools behind the wood I needed the tools for.

He is a good man for thinking of me on a random Tuesday when he brought home roses.

He is a good man for worrying about my health, despite how annoying I find it.

He is a good man for not hesitating once when my dad asked for help at 8 am Father's day to demo his back deck... only to find out we were throwing him a surprise 50th birthday party breakfast. He is also a good man for not blowing the surprise when he sensed there was something going on.

For not complaining about the bacon I made for breakfast, my setting off the fire alarm, or commenting that it wasn't very tasty.

For trying to help with every hair brained project I have going in this teeny house, even though he hates when I start a new one.

For supervising the annual burning of the school work that Youngest loves to do, and insisting I sit down and put me feet up while he tended the fire.

For pretending to understand why I put so much of myself into making the Boy Scout Troop a quality program for Youngest and all of the other boys.

For pretending to understand what the hell I am talking about when I complain about work.

For being a dad to two more sons by choice, not obligation....

....He is a good man.


Friday, June 24, 2016

A Year In The Making...

About a year ago, I decided I wanted a real bed.  Like, a real grown up bed, with an actual headboard and storage space underneath. Except we couldn't afford a new bed. or rather I'm too cheap to spend $500 on a headboard.  So I settled on a new mattress... a sleep number...and while I was sleeping better, I was still completely unsatisfied by our college dorm style decor. The Sleep number also has virtually no space under the bed, so I got to thinking...

...and thought some more...

...and procrastinated...

...and then went to Lowes for a completely unrelated project when I found these...

...in the fence department.  They are the fancy, smachy, toppers for fence posts and sell for about $4 a piece.  I bought five (the odd one is for the center support), and spent... um... twenty bucks.  The brown things are the "feet" that come on every standard bed frame.

After my entire family thought I was crazy, and the husband thought I was stuck under the mattress for life, I emerged with all five "feet" and got to work attaching the two pieces together...

I found that pre-drilling the holes made it easier to get the screws into place. Feeling confident in my abilities, I then went to work hiking up all corners of the bed screaming for help and setting the feet back into place.

It was not long before I discovered that I would now need a ladder to get into bed or some of those old fashioned stairs from the 1600's. And that, quite simply, was not in the project specs.  So, I removed all the feet, cut them down about 3 inches, which made the finished height of the bed frame 22 inches from the floor and a lot less scary.

And let me tell you, you would not believe the storage I gained under there. Of course, now I needed a proper bed skirt since the old one was now 5 inches too short.

That took two months.  I had to find the fabric.  Then get around to it.  Then stop in the middle because I went through an entire spool of thread. So yeah... after a very unproductive few months, I ended up with a  nice, classic tailored bed skirt.

But that wasn't enough.  I needed a head board.  So I went right out and got plywood.  And it sat in the garage for two more months. One random Saturday, after the husband thought it was safe to relax, I dragged it all out and started cutting.  And gluing.  And there was a staple gun in there, lots of swearing, and some nailing of brass nail heads.  To produce this....

Which I was relatively happy with, considering anything close was $300 and up, and I was only in the hole about $35.

And yet, it still wasn't done... a few months later I found the bed spread to match....

... and I had just enough fabric left to make the valances....

I also found a giant X and an O wooden letters that have since filled the "holes" above the headboard (above and below the framed song lyrics) quite nicely.  Yip... it was all coming together... until I realized that lurking on the other side of the room was still 1992's dorm style hodgepodge of furniture.

Which got me thinking....

...for three months.

Now, all the wood is all in the garage.  We shall see what happens....

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It Seemed Like Such A Good Idea...

Seven years ago I started writing about trying to survive my children's antics.  I was single, broke, and tired.  Oldest was quirky, inquisitive, and insisted everything always be fair.  Youngest was wired different, had high anxiety, and a hot temper. Then, as if to mock me further, they ran in the opposite directions of each other knowing full well I could only chase one, or split myself in two.

There were times I thought I'd never make it out alive.

But here we are.  Seven years have brought me a bonus son, a husband, a decent job and two very well adjusted teenage boys.  Oldest is still quirky and inquisitive, but is quick to help out around the house when he's not glued to the computer.  And while Youngest is still wired different, he's more of an artful celebration than train wreck.

Over the last year I have lost my desire to write at Surviving Boys.  Google linked more things, my real life identity became more threatened, my domain name was sold off, and I just felt as if I had outgrown things there.

But I still wanted to write.

Because while the times have changed, I haven't.

I still say yes far more than I should.  I still want to be involved in their lives even when they fight fiercely for their independence.  I still do far more than I should around the house, get knee deep in projects I know nothing about, and run myself into the ground for people who don't care. I am over-scheduled, underpaid, and over involved. Work still takes full advantage of me, as evidenced by my now servicing 987 customers a day. I am volunteering in Youngest's Scout Troop to the tune of 15 to 20 hours per week and often stay to help out with community projects.

Which means there's still plenty to write about.

Because now a days, it's less about Surviving Boys, and more about Surviving Myself.