Friday, October 28, 2011

I'm Mad as Hell

I do not count anger management issues among my many character flaws. But maybe I should make that past tense, because lately I've been angry a lot. In fact my chi is so outta whack I haven't even felt like writing for my stupid blog. See what I mean?

My anger may have been awakened by the spectacular collapse of the Phillies in the post-season. If they hadn't choked, I would've been in Texas last week, enjoying a nice juicy steak before rooting on the team at the World Series. Instead, I'm in Wallingford with a pain in my neck. Literally. The left side of my neck has been bugging me. I'm sure it would have felt fine if I was in Texas.

While we're on the subject of the Phillies, it ticked me off today to see Jimmy Rollins post on Facebook that he's psyched that the Series is going to game 7. Excuse me? I don't think the Phillies players should be allowed to even watch the Series, much less get excited about it.

And it's not just the Phillies I'm angry with. Parenting my kids is also making me crazy. Sometimes it feels so damn difficult that I just want to throw up my hands and say "You're on your own, kid. I have no idea what I'm doing here." And because I feel so overwhelmed and under-qualified, their mere presence can make me want to scratch somebody's eyes out. The other night, a dead laptop battery (the fault of a certain child) resulted in my throwing things and slamming doors. The only positive in that scenario was that I only threw clothing, nothing that could break. My anger apparently has financial limits.

Next on my list of anger targets? Book buyers. Specifically Christian book buyers. Where are they? Why aren't they buying really solid Judson Press titles? I'm doing everything in my marketing power to promote them and still the needle's not budging. What do I have to resort to, a naked clergy calendar? That might work, actually. If any of my pastoral readers are interested, let me know (but don't send naked pictures unless requested).

And what's with the freakin' government? Why, based on false assumptions, did we fight an unwinnable war that killed nearly 5,000 of our soldiers? Why do we take care of the world before we take care of our own citizens? Why am I paying into Social Security and Medicare when all signs point to it not being there for me when I retire? Why does it seem the whole system is going to hell in a hand basket and I don't think anyone has a clue what to do about it?

But Phillies, kids, book buyers, and the government aside, I think I'm mostly angry at God these days. It's new territory for me and it's not a good place to be. I'm angry at God because He continues to make life most difficult for those who least deserve it. Yesterday a colleague died after battling brain cancer for several years. He was in his early 50s and leaves behind three children. And my dear friend Ann, also a victim of brain cancer, continues to fight for her life while her husband and nine-year-old son can only pray. Truth be told, I'd like God to wipe out some of the bad guys with this cancer shit, and leave the good ones alone. He can tell the difference, can't He?

I guess I owe you an apology. I shouldn't have dumped all that on you, but I suppose it may help to get it off my chest. Just to be safe, it's probably best to keep dishes and glassware out of my reach for a while.

I'll try to be cheerier next time. Promise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Freaky Tuesday

Last Tuesday was Freaky Friday. You know, the movie where the mom and the daughter switch bodies and roles (back when Lindsay Lohan had a career)? That happened with Abby and me. I have to admit I've seen it coming. Along with all her impressive qualities, Abby also is a control freak bossy enjoys being in charge. Just ask her brother. She routinely hounds bitches at instructs suggests ways for him to get his shit together improve the way he does things, even something as trivial as refilling water bottles.

Signs that Abby's need to run the household control things was getting a bit out of hand occurred a couple weeks ago when she informed me, after my directive, that she would not bring in the garbage cans from the street because, "That's Ian's job. He's the boy." There are two problems with that statement:
  1. Assigning gender roles is not appropriate for the girl who wants to be the first female president of the United States.
  2. I'm the mom and I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to be in control around here, not her.
When I explained this, she pointed out that Ian should do it because, "It's the only exercise he gets." Clearly I need to watch what I say around her.

But let me set the stage for Freaky Tuesday. Here's a brief summary of events leading up to our official role reversal: 
  1. Sunday night, our usual routine. Abby goes to bed. I tuck her in and kiss her goodnight.
  2. Monday morning, I decide on the spur of the moment that I'm going to visit my parents that evening. I pack an overnight bag so I can leave directly from work. 
  3. Abby is still asleep when I leave for work.
  4. I spend Monday night at my parent's house. Talk to Abby briefly on the phone.
  5. I spend most of Tuesday with my parents. When I arrive home around 5:00 p.m., Abby is at soccer practice. 
  6. I leave home at 6:20 p.m. for a meeting at church.
  7. Abby arrives home from soccer around 6:45 p.m. that evening.
  8. I call Abby from church around 8:00 p.m. to tell her my meeting is over but that I need to get together briefly with a couple of people. I will be home in about an hour. 
And that's when the switch occurs:
Abby:  [Heavy sigh] You're never home anymore. I haven't seen you in forever.  
Mom: [Guilt ridden; realizing it's been almost 48 hours] You're right. I'm sorry. I'll come home now.
Abby: Nooo, it's okay. Go ahead.
Mom:  No, really. I'm coming home.
Abby: (Laying on thick layers of guilt) Noooo. Just do what you have to do.
Mom: Are you sure?
Abby: Yes. I'll see you when you get home.
I have a confession to make. The part I left out of my conversation with Abby was that I was going to "meet with a couple people" at Iron Hill Brewery. For a beer. Now granted, they were from my church committee, and we were possibly probably going to discuss church stuff, but still... It hit me that I had become the teenager, out with my friends, while Abby had become the mom, complaining about never seeing her daughter anymore and laying on the guilt big time.

While a large part of me enjoys the mere thought of being the kid again and thus having no grown-up responsibilities, I'm pretty sure that some day very soon, Abby and I will swap roles again. And I'll be waiting in vain to spend time with my daughter because she's too busy with her friends.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Can Go Home Again

You know how selfless moms are? They spend more money on their children than they do on themselves. They save the last piece of cake for the kids. They devote every waking minute to make sure the needs of their offspring are being met. Based on that description, I'm not actually a mom. I'm more of a mother (don't say it).

My mom, however, was, and is, that kind of mom.

Yesterday was mom's 70th birthday. You know what that means? It means I'm getting old. (Notice how I bring everything back to me?). Monday night I drove to my parent's house (about an hour away) to surprise my mom. She was certainly surprised given that I haven't been there in months. She was probably shocked that I remembered how to get there (but she was smart enough not to say it).

I love my parents dearly. I enjoy their company. I don't, however, feel the need to go home to their house. After all, I am a busy woman with a full-time professional career, a stupid number of volunteer responsibilities, and two children who can't drive. This means my free time is limited and, when I have any, I want to be home with my family and friends. This is another example of how not selfless (I suppose you could say "selfish") I am.

I also frequently point out (or would point out if I didn't think I would get in trouble for my "back talk") that they are retired and therefore have all the time in the world to come visit me at my house. In between soccer games, church stuff, school events, and social obligations, that is.

And that leads me to my "a ha" moment. I think my parents want me to visit them at their house because they get to have me all to themselves (and who wouldn't want that?). They don't compete with all the stuff going on in my life when I'm there. They don't have to listen to me yell at the kids (there's less to yell about at Nana's house). Of course they don't have to drive and spend the money on gas, either. (Where do you think I get my thriftiness?) And I think being together in my childhood home reminds them of when I was a little girl and they were the center of my world. As my children get older and I imagine them moving out and moving on, I have a sense for what that will feel like (though these days my children moving out sounds like nirvana).

Naturally my surprise visit for mom became a treat for me. Dad shared stories from when he was a young Navy sailor hitchhiking his way home from South Carolina. Mom passed along a small photo album from their wedding which had belonged to my grandmother. We ate out for every meal (I spent the night and much of Tuesday). I slept really well. And we laughed. A lot. I always forget what a respite going home can be.

Mom, Happy Birthday. I love you. And thanks for guilting me into coming home.

My party girl. Mom and I on St. Patty's Day 2011.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When There's No Need to Lie; A Celebration of Friendship

Last week in "You Annoy Me, or, I'm Busy this Month," I explained how I encouraged accepted understood my children's need tendency to lie when it comes to the difficult experience of breaking up with a friend. Despite a good scolding from a coworker (thank you, Patricia), I must stand by my comments, simply because I know if the shoe were on my foot, I'd also lie to save someone's feelings. Actually been there, done that.

Lest you think I'm just a mean, bitter woman, raising children to deceive others and squelch perfectly good friendships, today I want to share with you the inspiring story of a relationship involving no malice and requiring no subterfuge (my 25¢ word for the day). My daughter Abby has a best friend, Maddie, whom I wish she could some day marry. Okay, that came out wrong. I meant to say that I hope some day Abby can marry someone like Maddie. Well, you know what I mean. The friendship of these two ten-year-olds is really something special:
  • They are equals in practically every way (though Maddie is a good bit taller)
  • They bring out the best in one another
  • They make each other laugh, think, and grow
  • They avoid petty jealousies and typical tween girl issues
  • When at each other's houses, the parents forget that the other child is not actually part of the biological family
  • The in-laws parents are great friends who thoroughly enjoy each other's company (well, I suppose I should only speak for myself on this one)
These girls are truly one-of-a-kind, or I should say two-of-a-kind. They both possess determination, focus, skills, creativity, and intelligence beyond their years, impressing and inspiring both sets of parents. This type of friendship is so rare at their age, at any age really, and when I reflect upon it, I realize that these are the same qualities that define a solid marriage. Hence my marriage comment earlier.

Our children will almost certainly have friendships that as parents we find toxic unacceptable disappointing, but when these good ones come along, they are cause for celebration and encouragement. So today, Maddie and Abby, I celebrate your wonderful friendship. And Ian and Noah, you've got something really cool, too. And Angels, well, I can't imagine life without you. Isn't friendship a beautiful thing!
 "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." --C.S. Lewis
My Abby, Maddie, and friend Abby L.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hair and shoes and face, oh my!

Life is mostly a series of little everyday moments, but once in awhile we hit a turning point (which can be as painful as it sounds). Those times in our lives when everything changes. When the decisions we make alter our destiny. In reflecting on my own 42 years (and it's not even my birthday), I've noted some high and low points that made me the woman I am today:

1976:  Remedial gym class. Explains why I am unable to accurately high-five at sporting events.

1980:  My Connie Chung destiny. I impressively narrated the school concert.

1986:  Discovered whipped cream and lobster tail, though not at the same time.

1988:  First seriously toxic relationship ("I'll never love again!").

1991:  My friend Rob told me we were "compatible, so..."

1992:  Decided my first NYC boss and rollerblades were the devil's spawn.

1993:  Fell victim to the joy of dessert at Mirabella's in Stone Harbor. It was almond amaretto cake. I've wanted dessert ever since.

1995:  Married my friend Rob. We are compatible. 

1998 (May): Gave birth, without an epidural, to my split personality teenage son. Decided to stay home with child.

1998 (September): Added the Phillies to our phamily.

2001: Gave birth, with an epidural, to the first female president of the United States of America.

2001: Decided I could no longer stay home with teen and president and keep sanity. Returned to work

2006: Met angels.

2009: Broke concrete with elbow. Thankfully did not break elbow.

2011:  Began mid-life crisis.

I think it started with the professional hair coloring. I would be at least 50% gray if I wasn't coloring. It became too cumbersome to keep up with at home. I bought a Groupon and took my chances with a salon I'd never been to before. The rest is history.

Along with the hair coloring came the eyebrow tweezing. It didn't occur to me to do anything with my brows until a couple years ago. Now suddenly they need as much regular attention as my hair. And don't get me started on the upper lip stuff.

While at my Groupon salon I mentioned those annoying not-so-fine lines above my upper lip. The owner gave me a sample of some doctor-approved face cream that was sure to solve the problem. She told me to try it out before buying a tub of the stuff for about $532 (only a slight exaggeration). I have seen no improvement, but then I don't remember to use it everyday. So the crevices remain. Is it time for Botox? I can always ask my dentist.

And speaking of facial issues, what's with the pimples? A mid-life crisis should not include teenage zits. I'm applying cover-up like spackle. What's next? Laser resurfacing?

Then there was the Great Shoe Awakening of 2011 (not to be confused with Hurricane Irene or the east coast earthquake which were mere inconveniences). I woke up one day and realized all my shoes were crap. I threw out half of them and replaced them. At Nordstrom. Most of them look like the shoes I tossed, but at least they're from Nordstrom instead of Target. A move in the right (albeit expensive) direction.

And the most recent indication of my mid-life crisis is my second hair cut in about a month's time. I used to go for six months without a cut, now I'm unsatisfied a week later. In my latest reinvention (yesterday), I went with  bangs. To cover the zits. Of course now the haircut doesn't match any of my clothes. And you can guess what that means...

Monday, October 10, 2011

"You Annoy Me" or "I'm Busy This Month"

There's a long list of parenting things that I'm not particularly good at, including:
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Cooking actual meals
  • Math homework
  • Braiding hair
  • Limiting video game time
As my children grow older, however, I find their friendships to be one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. 

I imagine every parent has been in the difficult position of comforting their child after they've been hurt by a friend. An unkind word, a new bff, a phone call that's never returned. These are painful experiences even for adults, but can be devastating to a child whose world is their friends. There simply are no words that can make it all better when the girl or boy you thought was your bff decides to not invite you to their birthday party. Trust me, I've tried to explain that one.

When you're first in the terrible position of healing the hurts inflicted upon your child, it never occurs to you that someday the tables will turn and your child will be the one in a position to hurt another. And I have to confess that I can't figure out any way around it without encouraging accepting my child lying to that friend.

The reality is that kids at this age outgrow one another, discover qualities they don't like in each other, and simply stop enjoying each other's company. When this happens and it's not mutual, interactions become awkward. I figure there are three options when your child finds him/herself in this situation:
  1. Grin and bear it and maintain a friendship they're no longer interested in
  2. Tell the other child they no longer like them want to hang out 
  3. Lie and tell the "friend" they are being forced to spend time with their family (against their will, of course), they're grounded, or they're suffering from the bubonic plague
Grinning and bearing isn't easy or fair, and telling the other kid the truth is brutal (for both parties). That's why I'm in the unChristian camp of believing a small fib to avoid hurting someone is better than the ugly truth. I realize that this doesn't always solve the problem (particularly with children that don't easily pick up on "hints"). I also know that this is akin to teaching your child it's okay to lie, but I'm at a loss for a better way to manage the rocky road of tween and teenage friendships.

So, Freakin' Angel readers, what say you? I'm looking for advice here.Seriously. And yes, you can tell me I'm a terrible mom to think it's ever okay to lie...But I know you're lying if you claim you've never done it yourself.

Now, please excuse me. My alma mater is on the phone looking for donations. I have to tell them I'm the babysitter and Kim "Shimmer" isn't home...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When the Bad Guys Move In

A friend of mine is living in a neighborhood that's "going to pot." Literally. Last week she learned that drug deals have been taking place in a house just around the corner. In fact, this past spring a SWAT team busted down the door, momentarily inconveniencing the entrepreneur(s) who spent no time in jail and apparently are now back in business.

You may think my friend must live in a rough neighborhood. On the contrary. She lives in a perfectly nice neighborhood in one of the best school districts in the Delaware Valley. The folks in this neighborhood are middle upper class and diverse in age and ethnicity. There are many families with young children. Some empty nesters. Several retired folks. They have block parties and a book club. And now they have a drug dealer.

Residents in this neighborhood have called the police to alert them to this renewed activity, but you have to wonder what will be done to get rid of the problem once and for all. Since the perps are white, they are less likely to go to jail than if they were minorities who have disproportionate numbers being imprisoned. Having the distinction of incarcerating its citizens at the highest rate of any nation, U.S. prisons are already bursting at their seams*. When looked at from afar it's fairly easy to say we need to reconsider whom we're imprisoning (based on the crime and the individual's history) and do a better job of addressing rates of recidivism. We might even say that a non-violent individual selling drugs out of their home (or their grandfather's home in this particular case) isn't someone we should spend taxpayer dollars on to put away for awhile. And if you want to be all compassionate and Christian-like about it, doesn't everyone deserve a second chance? But the key word in this paragraph is "afar." Tunes change when the criminal activity is taking place in your own backyard.

I imagine even the most liberal, criminal justice policy wonk wouldn't want a drug dealer living next door. It's amazing how your perspective shifts when an issue begins to affect you personally. I'm not sure what the answer is in this case:
  • Sell your house and move out before the neighborhood gets a bad reputation
  • Turn a blind eye and hope for the best
  • Hound the police until something is done
  • Take matters into your hands? (My dad would put up his deer hunting tree stand and sit up there with a BB gun.) 
  • Ask the dealers if they're looking for a business partner or will offer you commission on customer referrals? 
What are your thoughts on the matter?

*My information comes from Ministry with Prisoners & Families: The Way Forward by Wilson Goode Sr. (yes, that Wilson Goode), Charles Lewis, and Harold Dean Trulear. Judson Press published their book earlier this year.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Next Year, I'm Riding!

Yesterday was one of those days that leaves your heart and soul feeling happy and full. And I didn't have to step into a church or listen to a sermon to achieve such a lovely state. Instead, I started off my morning hanging out with several hundred bikers.

I like bikers. They're one of those easily stereotyped groups that often give you what you least expect, and yesterday was no exception. Hundreds of them turned out at the Camden riverfront on a cold and cloudy morning for the 2011 Ride for Autism Speaks. Our friends Doug and Mo started this fundraising event a few years ago to support the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization. The whole OBX spring break vacation contingent volunteered in the past and this year my family participated for the first time, joining  in this great cause and having a great time in the process:
  • Mo, Rob, and Emily helped at registration
  • Ian and his buddy Noah staffed the coffee station 
  • Abby and her sister-from-another-mother Maddie sold duct tape bracelets and hair bows at their own booth (making $80!)
  • And Dave, Dave, Karen and I manned the Iron Hill Brewery tent, giving away free hot dogs and chili to bikers who made regular jokes about the dangers of chili on a 60-mile ride to Atlantic City. I should note that they were also surprisingly concerned about getting chili on their clothes, despite the fact that 99% of them were wearing black.Who knew bikers were such neat freaks?
Our rough and tough and often scary looking biker guys and gals tipped generously for their healthy hot dog breakfast, bought duct tape bracelets in cool colors, and supported the ride with their registration fees. And not one of them used foul language, started a brawl, or terrorized a small child. So much for stereotypes. One thing I particularly enjoyed was a brief prayer led by a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association. These men and women looked no more angelic than their counterparts, but they shared their faith in Jesus Christ while asking the Lord to look after all the bikers on their upcoming ride. It was a very cool moment.

The most memorable experience of the whole morning, however, was "kickstands up," when Ben (Doug and Mo's son), gave the bikers the order to start their engines. Imagine hearing more than 500 motorcycles roar to life at one time, and watch them row by row filing out behind a police escort (here's a brief video clip!). They honked and waved while we volunteers cheered them on and thanked them for being part of this event which brought in more than $37,000 in donations.

I think my only disappointment of the morning was not having been prepared with a leather jacket, gloves, and a helmet. Next year, I'm jumping on the back of one of those bikes and riding along. Join us!

Ready with "Kickstands up"

P.S. If your life has been touched by someone with autism, I highly recommend Kathleen Deyer Bolduc's honest, humorous, and inspiring book, Autism & Alleluias. Her stories about life with Joel, her young adult son, will touch you!