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Archive for August, 2009

Welcome to Mayberry.

As small towns go, mine isn’t teeny-small — our city limits population is about 27,000, and county-wide the size is double that.  We’re within spitting distance of a metro area with 100,000+ people (which is where I work).  Bigger cities are within a 3 hour drive from here, and we can get to Chicago in a easy day’s drive.  Many people consider our little spot on the planet to be the most perfect place to live because of these factors. 

Living in a small town has its’ advantages.  I count the head of the tourism commission and the mayor as personal friends.  I can walk from my house to downtown in just a short time.  Most people know me, or my mother, or some other member of my family.  My town is the kind of town where the old geezers sit on park benches overlooking the river and tell stories.  Every Monday night there is a community bike ride around town, available for anyone who wants to ride.  The downtown sandwich shop is the place to see and catch up with everyone you know at lunchtime. 

Really, it’s a slice of Way-Back America. 

But (and you should know me well enough by now to know there would be a “but”) living here sometimes makes me very crazy. 

For all the charm that my town posesses, there is a lack of progressiveness that chafes me.  As with most small towns, the select few run the whole show, and they want to keep the status quo, well, quo.  It’s pretty dull and dry around here. 

I guess because I am from here, I want to be away from here.  I’m not a big-city girl by any means, but I do appreciate the draws that a larger city has to offer.  And because I tend to have a private streak in me, I like the anonymity that you can find in a larger city. 

This lightbulb moment came to me as I was perusing the potential friends list on Facebook and deciding if I really, really wanted to friend my senior class president, or any of the number of popular kids from my high school 25 years ago.  It’s been 25 years, for pete’s sakes, and I don’t think I’m really all that interested in what they’re up to now.  Hell, I doubt I’ll even go to my 25th class reunion. 

Perhaps I would appreciate this place more if I lived away from here.  Hometowns are more charming if you see them through the twin lenses of time and distance.  In 25 years I have not been successful in building a life independent of where I grew up.  It’s a regret that continues to grow every passing year. 

The rub is, I have put down some very deep roots here.  On my pro-con list of staying vs. going, the staying side contains numerous points, while the going side merely lists “being away from here.”  Hardly compelling enough of a reason to up and go, says the ever-practical side of me. 

Bah. 

 

— Mox

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The RCIA, to exact. 

In truth, this has been a long time in coming.  My uncle passed away in 1998 and my experience with that event, or rather feeling the lack of community with my own family during that time — that was the beginning of it. 

It took a lot of things to get me to this point. 

Last night was our second class, and we discussed the journey.  All my years of sitting in innumerable English Lit classes paid off, because I could very clearly see the parallels Father was drawing between Exodus and the more immediate, mundane journeys we all make. 

Then the question was posed: where are you in your journey?  Are you just setting out, are you in the wilderness, or are you arriving? 

I’m in the wilderness. 

No, really.  I am, like Tolstoy in his autobiography, in the forest.  Nothing but trees, and when I climb a tree to get a better vantage point, all I see is more trees. 

I suppose I could draw a parallel myself between the 40 years Israel wandered in the desert, and the fact that I am in my 40s.  Hmmm.  Bears study. 

Stay tuned. 

 

— Mox

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My kid will often shanghai me with a question from the back seat. 

Why this is, this need to have deep and serious conversations while hurtling down the road at x miles an hour, I do not know.  I suspect that it takes some of the pressure off.  Since, you know, the kid doesn’t want to look me in the eye while asking me the big questions. 

Last weekend, it was every parent’s dreaded question:  “Mom, what is sex?” 

Hm.  Herm.  Ah.  Well…

I am of the school of thinking that kids will ask for precisely what it is they want to know, and not a morsel more.  So there is no need to get preachy. 

Now, this is all well and good, and my first instinct is to dispatch the question with some basic info and move along.  Except Spawn had a friend in the back seat. 

I don’t know how Spawn’s friend’s parents are approaching the answer to this question, and I don’t want to be the person responsible for fouling the line of thinking.  These are churchy people.  But I also don’t want Spawn to think that the subject is taboo. 

I tried the faulty hearing defense:  “Hm?” 

Didn’t work. 

I tried deflection:  “Oh look! A bird!” 

Nope. 

So I gathered my wits and gave the answer that I think was at the heart of the question:  “Sex is what you do when you want to have a baby.” 

And the reaction:  “Eeewww!  Eeeeew!  Eeewwwwwwww!” 

(My sentiments exactly, at least when I was the same age.) 

But there were no followup questions as to the mechanics of the thing, and we were able to continue on our way. 

These kids, they will make you examine what you believe. 

 

— Mox

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In need of a money tree.

I am in the process of planning our fall break vacation to Florida.  This year my husband and I have decided to take Spawn to Walt Disney World, because at age 8 the window is rapidly closing for the magic of the Magic Kingdom. 

Holy crikey is this going to be expensive. 

We’re also taking a young relative along, so that Spawn will have someone to hang with close in age.  So add the cost of a second child. 

Times like this points up how parents of only children have a bit of an advantage.  Paying for one kid is expensive enough, paying for two is bordering on crazy. 

 

— Mox

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Plan A, Plan B.

I am usually pretty successful in faking myself out, particularly with regard to my weight loss goals or lack thereof.  I can tell myself that I’ve lost weight, particularly if my scale says so, and manage to believe myself thin. 

Until, that is, I try to wear something I haven’t worn in several months. 

Every woman in the world who has the luxury of a closet full of clothes has “fat clothes” and “skinny clothes.”  Skinny clothes are the ones you wear when you feel fabulous.  Fat clothes are the ones you wear all the other times. 

The problem comes when your fat clothes aren’t big enough. 

(raises hand in acknowledgement)

I’ve been fighting this particular battle since the beginning of the year, really, when my absence at the gym combined with my stress eating to form an unholy alliance resulting in weight gain.  Mostly I have skinny clothes, or at least clothes that are all the same size on the Misses size scale, which is the size number I am accustomed to thinking I am.  I have, however, clothes that are more forgiving due to the way they are constructed or the fabric they’re made from, and in a few instances I have clothes that are That Other (Larger) Size.  These are the clothes that I have more or less lived in all year.  Which means I have been wearing the same seven to ten outfits over and over and over.  It belies the volume of clothing in my closet. 

There is a certain amount of self-loathing involved here.  I see it, I recognize it.  It’s the thing that causes the vicious cycle of feel depressed, eat, gain weight, feel depressed, eat, gain weight, etc. etc. etc. 

The obvious answer here is to take control of the whole thing, to eat better and to exercise and to just be healthier in general.  And I’m trying.  Some days are easier than others.  But this is my Plan A. 

The less obvious answer is to go out and buy a few more things in That Other (Larger) Size.  This is Plan B. 

Plan B is the path you take when you’ve exhausted Plan A.  Or just plain exhausted, I don’t know.

 

— Mox

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I had occasion recently to come face-to-face with my high school crush — the boy I spent countless hours dreaming of, sometimes in lieu of paying attention in class, writing his name with mine a la Mrs. Fangirl-style.  I had it all figured out.  We would each go off to college, earn our degrees, and I would become a novelist and he would be an architect, and we would live an upscale lifestyle.  We would have beautiful children. 

Never mind the fact that he had a girlfriend.  Never mind the fact I had a boyfriend.  Never mind the fact that we ran in completely different circles in high school, and outside of us having classes together he had no idea who I was.  Mere technicalities. 

I knew, you see, that this was To Be. 

This of course is back when I believed in abstract concepts like fate and one true love

Our children attend the same school, so eventually we were bound to meet up.  I felt a queasy mixture of pleasure and embarrassment when he remembered me and asked if I remembered him.  (Oh boy do I, I wanted to say.)  What, exactly, did he remember about me?  I assumed he didn’t know I was alive back then, but now I wonder.  Did he know what a fool I was for him back then?  My face burned hot at the thought. 

In the 25 years that have passed, a great many things have changed.  I am not a novelist.  He is not an architect.  Instead one of us is a copywriter and the other of us is a high school art teacher.  Neither one of us is living the high life. 

And he is not the gorgeous Adonis I worshipped 25 years ago.  Gah. 

After our meet-up, my husband leaned over to me and quietly asked if that was the boy my best friend had a crush on all those years ago, and I admitted that no, he was the object of MY affections. 

There was a pause, as my husband took stock of his imagined rival. 

“Well,” I said, “Twenty-five years ago he was much better looking.” 

And so it goes. 

 

— Mox

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I labor under the mistaken notion that if I can just find the perfect white shirt my troubles (all of ’em) will be over. 

I realize this is a delusion but I believe in the power of the perfect white shirt. 

To that end, I have about 30 white shirts, of various styles.  I mean, after all, you need various sleeve lengths to deal with the weather.  There are times when you need a collar and times when you don’t.  Sometimes you need to be dressed up and sometimes not.  And fabric is important.  Plus, with a white shirt, you can only wear and wash it so many times before it’s no longer white. 

I can tell myself when I go shopping that I do not need another white shirt, but I still end up at least seriously considering one, every time.  Sometimes I’m able to walk away.  Sometimes. 

My default setting is a white shirt.  What that says about me, I don’t know.  That I’m also a vanilla ice cream sort of girl at Baskin-Robbins? 

Gosh, I hope not.  I consider myself more of a Rocky Road kind of girl. 

If I am actually successful at NOT buying a white shirt, oftentimes I’ll buy a blue one instead.  The number of blue shirts in my closet runs a close second to the number of whites.  The nice thing about a blue shirt is that not only do you have the aforementioned sleeve/collar/fabric options, you also have a dizzying array of shades to choose from.  For instance, today I am wearing a light aqua-blue v-neck tee.  

Tomorrow I am going to venture out for just a bit and see what’s new at the mall for fall.  I have a catalog and there are a couple of white shirts I want to see for myself, to see if they could possibly be The Perfect One. 

I have the idea that if I find the one white shirt in all the kingdom that is comfy and makes me look cool and crisp and capable, then I will buy at least three of them.  Because perfect white shirts are elusive. 

In life each of us must have a vision quest of some sort.   

 

— Mox

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Downloaded.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to revisit my old college campus.  It still boggles my mind that I have been gone from there for over 20 years now.  You leave a place like that expecting it to remain frozen in time, so that when you return 20 years later everything is as you remember.  But time has a way of marching on, unfrozen, and the landscape tends to change.  Buildings disappear, or are reworked.  Professors retire.  The faces get younger. 

My alma mater is undergoing some hefty renovation these days.  Entire buildings are be-scaffolded and fenced off with orange safety fence.  Where once there was an open field there are entire complexes of named buildings and their attendant parking structures.  Streets are unfamiliar, and in some cases, rerouted. 

And still, I could see the bones of the place I once knew.  At the pinnacle of the campus the statue of the university founder still stands.  The building that contains the English department remains largely unaltered.  My old dorm still squats at the bottom of the hill.  And though my sorority chapter no longer exists at the university, the sorority house is still there, now a private residence.  Can’t say the same for the frat house that used to stand across the alley, a victim of fire. 

When we turned onto the main drag through campus, I felt a little bounce in my heart.  I could not stop the grin or the excitement as I recognized my old haunts.  Those years were undoubtedly some of the best times in my life. 

I suppose I am one of those people who enjoy school.  I enjoy learning new things, discovering, reading, writing, thinking.  The university experience, especially, was wonderful for me.  Sure, I had times I didn’t think I was going to make it, but overall I would go back and do it all over if I could. 

I still have not given up the idea of getting a master’s degree, though I remain on the fence as to subject matter.  The way my emotions soared as we cruised through campus reinforced for me my desire to go a little further.  And though the practical side of me feels like there should be a goal for such an endeavor (ie., a job), the very idea of going back to school is a reason unto itself.

I have noticed, however, that learning is not as organic for me as it used to be.  Part of this is because my life is refocused on a thousand other things, chief among them raising my child and paying my bills.  I’m long out of the habit of studying.  It would be very nice if I could just download the necessary information into my brain, the same way you download a program onto a computer. 

Of all the technological advances the world has made over the years, it would seem that someone somewhere would have a theory as to how this could be done. 

Think of it — I could fulfill my long-held desire to learn Italian.  And then, when I am finally in Italy, living in Umbria, I could just access those files and off we’d go. 

Gives a whole new meaning to “artificial intelligence.” 

 

— Mox

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This gettin’ old business is for the birds. 

I have noticed that since my 40th birthday nearly (gulp) two years ago, I have slowly, glacierly, steadily moved into minor infirmities.  First I bungled my knee somehow.  Then I started to notice an increase in joints firing whenever I arose in the morning, or got up out of a chair I had been sitting in for any length of time.  My own personal fireworks. 

I know this is the cusp of the whole downhill slope.  You don’t have to tell me that. 

Don’t ask me to get that splinter out of your finger while I still have my contacts in.  I have to be functionally blind before I can see anything up close.  I bought cheater glasses but I still can’t see up close stuff with those. 

And this morning, the beginning of the indignities:  the upper GI. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the upper GI for yourself, and as diagnostic tests are concerned it’s certainly not the worst, but I am here to tell you it’s not a day at the park.  An upper GI test measures, among other things, reflux (which I most definitely have) and if you have reflux the last thing you want is that nasty chalky stuff backing up on you. 

My college years revisited me for the few moments it took to slug down that minty chalk water, thank heavens.  The key to chugging is to not breathe and not let the smell get to you.  So I did it and didn’t feel like it was coming back up, and that was the worst of it. 

Until, that is, the nurse told me afterward to be sure and drink a whole lot today so that the chalk stuff doesn’t back up my system, if you understand me. 

The indignities.  They heap on. 

I know that these little things are just that — little things.  But when you’re accustomed to your life and your health moving along at an unencumbered pace, it gives you pause. 

I am beginning to embrace my 40’s, finally, and getting to a place where I’m okay with where I am in life.  I didn’t really miss my 20’s when I left them behind, but I enjoyed my 30’s and felt like I had the world by the tail.  I didn’t want to leave that behind.  And the whole time I’m arriving at this okay-ness my physical nature is in small ways betraying me. 

I cry foul. 

 

— Mox

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I remain firmly convinced that I was born for a higher station in life than the one I currently occupy. 

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, makes me feel sillier than sitting around cutting out coupons like they were paper dolls. 

But this is what I do from time to time.  I gird myself for saving some money on our weekly grocery bill and I cut out coupons.  Problem is, the stuff I really could use discounts on, they rarely if ever make coupons for. 

Women who are adept at this (and probably a few men, too) can somehow work the magic necessary to save large dollars on their weekly purchases by combining the store specials with coupons.  I hear so many things about people like this,  how they manage to buy $400 worth of groceries for less than thirty bucks.  Which, first off, I don’t think I’ve ever bought $400 worth of groceries, and secondly, that seems like a lot of planning and scheming and coupon-cutting. 

Perhaps I’m just not patient enough. 

Perhaps I’m also quite lazy. 

The thing is, I just want to whip into the store and get my stuff and go.  I don’t spend a lot of time studying the grocery circulars and I’m not able to do the mental aerobics that one needs to do to calculate cost per ounce on the fly.  I don’t buy expensive stuff, usually.  In fact, I don’t even buy a lot of meat, which as most people know is a high-dollar expense on most budgets.  Our home life is such that often we’re not home for a family meal, and we do a lot of grabbing quick stuff or (forgive me, lord) hitting the drive-thru.  Meat tends to go bad before it gets cooked in such a scenario, and freezing it often equals waste for us, since frozen stuff gets forgotten and freezer-burned and blech

I am also not any sort of cook.  I have a few good go-to recipes in my repertoire, but faced with a spouse who is often dieting and young Picky McPickerson, it’s a waste of effort on my part.  And if it takes longer than 30 minutes to get it on the table from start to finish, then forget it.  More often than not, my version of a square meal is a box that says Old El Paso on it. 

I think that if I were a 1950’s housewife I’d have been locked away years ago.  I just don’t have the domestic cojones to play Susie Homemaker.  I especially hate coupon cutting.  It seems juvenile.  I trim around the edges of each coupon and I hate every minute of it, but I do it because I like to feel like I’ve got some sort of control over how much money I spend on vittles.  Because I have so little control over things in this life, it’s an illusion I continue to cling to. 

Today is my grocery day.  I have coupons in hand.  That is, if I can remember them and not leave them in the front seat of my car. 

 

— Mox

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