Archive for August, 2010

I went to a wedding over the weekend.  I wasn’t particularly enthused about it, not knowing the bride or the groom, but as it was someone my husband works with — and an opportunity to get the hell out of Dodge — I packed a nice dress and heels and my good manners and we went. 

It also absolved me of any commitment to my 25th class reunion, so bonus. 

I know a little of the backstory of the bride and groom, considering that my husband is not only a coworker of the groom, but also a former coworker of the groom’s father and stepmother (who, incidentally, is younger than the groom).  You could make yourself crazy trying to unknot the various familial relationships in this particular group of people, but suffice it to say it’s a Jerry Springer show.  I made up my mind that I would be pleasant as long as I could, which would then end right about the time the booze got flowing good and everyone else became unpleasant. 

There are times to be the sober one.  This was one of them. 

But before all that, there was the wedding ceremony.  It was an outdoor wedding, which in the month of August in this part of the country can be pretty dicey.  We had the advantage of a nice breeze off the lake.  Since I didn’t know the bride or the groom or any of the members of the wedding party, I took the opportunity to be an impartial observer to the whole thing.  I always find it interesting to hear the vows, because the vows tend to reflect the personalities of the couple.  For instance, my own vows omitted the word “obey,” because there was not going to be any of that archaic nonsense in my marriage… much to the chagrin of my father.  The difference between the 50’s and the 90’s, I suppose. 

The vows at this wedding were pretty typical — love, cherish, honor, richer, poorer, etc.  Having been married a few years myself, I know how hard it is to uphold these sorts of vows, and how we all start off with good intentions.  And yet I’ve seen marriages fold like a cheap tent when minor things happen.  It’s easy to commit, and hard to be committed. 

Every time I read a news story about someone who’s fighting a major illness or disability, nine times out of ten, if there’s a marriage, it ends up kaput.  Loving, honoring, cherishing… all seem fall prey to the sickness part of “in sickness and in health.”  Does that mean they were any less committed?  Or does it mean that they didn’t know just how hard things would be? 

For all my griping about living here in Podunk Central, I at least have had the advantage here of seeing so many commitments played out over the course of lifetimes.  So many people here living marriages of 50 years or more, many in my own family.  Some remaining committed through the most horrible things imaginable, the loss of a home, the loss of health, the loss of limb, the loss of a child.  What does that say about their personal reserves of strength?  What does it say about the vows they took, and how seriously they took them?   What does it say about the expectations that surround them? 

On the flip side, I also know quite a number of people who would need both hands to count the number of former spouses.  Podunk has its Peyton Place, too. 

I’m not going to lie.  I’ve had those thoughts, the ones that say “run.”  I can’t really put my finger on the reason I don’t run. 

What goes on inside a marriage is not for the faint of heart, usually.  Nearly 25 years ago I stood and watched my best friend make a committment to a man neither one of us knew well, and over they years I have come to believe that I was witness to a very large mistake.  And yet she remains.  The why of it is a mystery to me.  Is it the words spoken during the vows?  Is it the expectations of others around them?   

At the end of the day, the words we speak to one another in a wedding ceremony in front of our friends and family are really only words.  We agree to things and declare things during the high of the moment, and once the rose petals are swept up and the caterer’s bill is paid, we begin to live our lives within the framework of these words we’ve spoken.  What makes some of us march through the mud and others of us stop when our feet get wet?  Are some of us just quitters? 

I wish the happy couple all the best, of course.  But closer examination of the familial ties surrounding them would suggest they have a tough row to hoe. 

— Mox

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This weekend is my 25th year high school reunion.  I am not going. 

My track record thus far has been not to go to any of these things, save for the ten-year reunion, to which I was guilted into going to by a very dear friend and classmate who came all the way from Florida to go.  That friend is in Alabama on business this week so I doubt he’ll come this year.  So, you know, whew

I don’t harbor a lot of ill will towards my classmates.  I don’t style myself as the clichéd misunderstood goth girl or whatever, but the fact of the matter is, I don’t feel a sense of belonging with my class.  In a mega high school with a class of 527, how could anyone? 

I simply do not care about it. 

Oh, in a way I’d love to be one of those people who are so very excited to be coming to our little hometown for this shindig, to see people I haven’t seen or thought about in 25 years, but somehow I cannot muster the emotion.  It could be because I still live here in Podunk and here there is nothing new under the sun.  Or it could be that the people I’d really want to see are the ones who aren’t coming, either. 

Our senior class president owns and runs a bar here in town.  Friday night’s kickoff will be located there.  Bloated bodies, bad lighting, and booze.  Oh to be a fly on the wall. 

My husband and I will instead be out of town for the weekend.  We’ve been invited to a wedding at a resort location a couple of hours away from here, and the lure of Spawn-at-the-grandparents and some uninterrupted private time is just too strong.  It’s all priorities, folks. 

Sometime in October, however, a group of us from my sorority are trying to pull together a reunion back in our old college town and I am plenty jazzed about that.  These are people I chose to spend my time with, as opposed to being thrown together just because we all happened to be born somewhere about the same time.  Some I haven’t seen since the day I graduated.  Some I’ve missed and wondered about.  It will be good to touch base. 

I’ve tried to reconcile my feelings about the two reunions, and the only thing I can conclude is that in a lot of ways, I have never left high school. 

— Mox

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A couple of weeks ago, Spawn came home all excited about prizes. 

What prizes, you ask?  Why, the prizes the kid could “win” by selling something. 

Every year we go through this nonsense, and every year it fires me up. 

The enlightened minds that comprise our school’s PTO start off the school year every year with a fundraiser.  Usually it’s a catalog of overpriced and unnecessary goods, things like scented candles and cookie dough and wrapping paper.  The first year they sent this load of hooey home, I was able to ignore it because Spawn wasn’t tuned in enough to the concept of “winning” a “prize” for selling something.  By first grade, though, I was caught. 

The insidious trap set by the PTO goes like this:  they send their minions into the classrooms to explain about the “prizes” they can “win” while they completely gloss over the concept of selling from the catalog.  They get the kids all whipped up into a froth over light-up pens and klackers and squishable pigs — items that could easily be attained, in bulk, from Oriental Trading Company, for pennies — and send them roaring out into the homes and offices of their families to sell, sell, sell.  Of course the only thing the kids can focus on is the prizes they “win” for selling two items, three items, one hundred items.  (By the way, the top level selling of 150 items would earn a prize of an electric guitar and amp.  I suspect it would just be cheaper to buy the guitar and amp outright.) 

Boy oh boy do I ever have a problem with this. 

Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of selling stuff as a kid.  I sold cookies as a girl scout and M&Ms for 4-H, and later, ads for the senior high annual.  Back then there weren’t as many kids out there selling stuff, so it was an easy sell for the most part.  Nowadays it seems everybody is selling something, not just the scouts or the band or the sports teams.  Everybody’s kid or grandkid or niece/nephew is hitting you up for something.  And for people who have more than one kid, I don’t know how they do it. 

Of course I could talk until I’m blue in the face to Spawn about how it’s just a racket and the stuff is expensive and the “prizes” are cheap junk, but at the end of the day the kid just wants to belong, just like any of us would.  When they’re passing out the “prizes” my kid wants to get one (or two) just like everybody else.  And so, because I remember what it’s like to want to fit in, I buy some of the overpriced stuff and also coerce my mother into buying something, too.  But since there is no one else to sell to — no siblings, no office staff — it’s a pretty small order.  Certainly not enough to merit a guitar and amp. 

I sometimes find it difficult to balance my pocketbook with the delicate psyche of my 4th grader. 

— Mox

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The Moxland Zoo

Over the weekend, Spawn came up with a new plan for the composition of our household:  we need to add another animal. 

The kid is a lot like me, at least in this way, because I was always the kid who loved animals of any sort.  In the basement of my grandparents’ home, in my grandfather’s workshop, there hung a birdcage from the rafters.  My father remembers my grandmother always having a canary in the house, though I suppose that by the time I came along my grandmother’s bird days were over.  I wanted that birdcage, badly.   When my grandfather passed away and my grandmother went to live with my aunt, they auctioned off the contents of the house.  I got my grandfather’s boyhood ice skates (ca. 1910) and my dad came home with the regulator clock that hung in the workshop.  I never got the birdcage, though it’s likely that I never gave voice to my wish. 

I’d still like to have a bird, but having cats in the house like we do, it would be a daily loop of Sylvester and Tweety. 

Spawn’s grand plan for the newest addition to our zoo is to get a gerbil. 

We did some research over the weekend and settled on the gerbil because I flat out refuse to buy a mouse or a rat when the whole reason we have cats is to keep mice and rats out of the house in the first place.  I also nixed the idea of a hamster because they’re more active at night and my theory is, if it’s midnight, everyone in the house needs to be asleep and not gnawing and scratching and running around in little circles. 

Do I want to add another animal to the menagerie?  No.  But Spawn is a persistent little cuss, practiced in the art of wearing a body down.  My only defense is a good offense. 

The plan, devised by me, is that Spawn is to earn the money to buy the whole shooting match — cage, bedding, food, gerbil.  Not only that, but fully half of all the money that Spawn earns has to be put into savings.  That, I thought, should slow the process down a bit. 

Spawn immediately dumped out the piggy bank and set to rolling coins.  Turns out, the kid had enough coinage to pay for at least the cage, so off to the pet store we went.  We hadn’t been home ten minutes and the kid had the cage out of the box and assembled. 

I outlined the plan to my mother today:  she is not to contribute to this endeavor, beyond her usual paying for good grades.  Everything else has to be earned doing chores. 

Spawn washed both our cars yesterday. 

I honestly don’t know how long this will take, but in the meantime I intend to get some mileage out of the child labor. 

— Mox

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When I graduated high school, I received several pieces of luggage as gifts.  This was ironic, considering I was “going away to school” in my hometown, which meant I was home every night.  At least the first two years, when I exhausted all that our community college had to offer and was forced to bite the bullet and spend boo-koos of money I didn’t have to finish educating myself. 

That luggage?  Never saw the light of day, regardless of how much I road-tripped back and forth between school and my hometown.  My clothes came and went in a laundry basket.  My essential toiletries rode along in my backpack. 

I did take a few trips elsewhere, though, and that meant I got to use my luggage.  And “luggage” was the proper term for it, since this was before suitcases had wheels and telescoping handles.  The luggage I had did have four tiny wheels on it, and a strap like a dog leash, and the theory was that you rolled your luggage along behind you like a wayward pup.  The major design flaw there was that the largest suitcase was the only one with wheels, and when full, it was so top-heavy that trying to wheel it along resulted in dragging it most of the way. 

This, of course, was back in the day when I packed for the weekends like I was headed out for a six-month safari. 

Over the years, I have streamlined my packing process and reduced my need for large luggage pieces.  Some of this has been out of necessity, and some of it is a natural outgrowth of getting older and realizing I don’t need to haul along quite so much stuff.  The last time my high school graduation luggage got used was for my honeymoon, and we both packed our things into one suitcase.  I gave the whole set to St. Vincent de Paul last spring. 

Five years ago I asked my husband for some new luggage for Christmas, and he obliged me with a three-piece set.  Over the years Spawn and I have shared the set, with me using the larger of the pieces and Spawn using the smaller.  9/11 made everything infinitely more difficult, what with the ziplock baggies and the 3oz. rule and the taking off of shoes and incessant lines lines lines.  We’ve gotten to the point that we don’t even pack basic toiletries anymore.  We just go to Walmart when we get there. 

Now the rules have changed even further.  Airlines are charging for baggage, and the challenge now is for us to carryon and not check bags. 

Considering how far I’ve come in twenty years of packing, I’m willing to see how much less I can make do with. 

I ordered another luggage set the other day, designed to be carryon luggage.  I’ll be making a test run in the next couple of weeks when we take a train trip to visit relatives Up North (Spawn is beyond excited) for the long Labor Day weekend.  Since it’s a weekender, I’ll get to test out just how much room I have in this new set, and make adjustments for our annual fall break trip to the beach. 

And I look at that tiny roll-along bag, with the inline skate wheels and the telescoping handle, and I marvel at how far luggage (and I) have come in 25 years. 

— Mox

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So I went back to the gym this week. 

With Spawn being out of school for the summer and me running all over creation, plus trying to work, plus the five million other things that got in the way (like, oh, life), I fell away from the gym.  I’m one of those people who, if I can’t get to the gym in the morning, I’m not going to go.  So I didn’t go.  All summer. 

And then I didn’t go the first week of school, when I could have gone, because it was just too hot.  And I know that sounds pretty whiny, but when the predicted high temp is in the upper 90’s and the heat index is well over 100, and the walking track is unairconditioned… well forgive me for whining but no.  Not going. 

So I went back on Monday this week.  Thought I’d ease back into it.  The weather had broken (albeit temporarily) and the walking track was calling my name.  That, and my lard butt and the feeling that if I didn’t get back to it I was going to morph into my mother at an increased pace. 

There are a lot of sounds in my head sometimes. 

The first couple of days were okay, as all I did was walk.  But on Wednesday I decided the time had come to revisit the weight room.  Quickly I discovered that my former level of weights were just too much for me, so I had to dial it back.  Did my reps, felt good about it.  Went home and slept really well last night, for the first time in quite a while. 

And then, this morning. 

I am the human question mark.  Please do not ask me to reach that thing on the top shelf for you, because I cannot raise my arms over my head. 

This is going to make it more difficult to do 12-ounce curls. 

— Mox

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Finally, finally, finally, we got a break in the heat around here.  Gosh but it’s been hot.  Even with constant watering my flowers have died and/or dried up, and I am now jerking things out of the ground with enmity.  Last night I pulled up what was left of my beans (which did not produce), my squash (which was riddled with squash bugs), and my cabbage (which resembled lace due to caterpillars).  And I tossed every bit of it into the compost bin and went on with my life. 

All that is left now is the tomatoes (recently saved from a tomato hornworm infestation) and the sunflowers, zinnias, and marigolds. 

Maybe next year. 

— Mox

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Re. Thinking.

I am a reader.  I love to read.  And I especially love summertime because the absence of a regular schedule means I have more time to read.  This summer, of course, I got the knuckleheaded idea to take the GRE and effectively ruin several weeks of stress-free read time.  Once I got the GRE studying and general freak-outing out of the way, I reassumed my Summer of Reading. 

Often I have three or four books going at once, since my mood from day to day tends to change.  Sometimes I’m able to really focus on the deep-thinky reading and other times I just need some speedy fiction to not tax my brain.  For all the advice I’ve heard about making your bed a place for sleep or sex only, I find that I cannot really relax unless I read a bit — in bed — before I turn out the lights.  As habits go, I guess that one’s not too bad.  Just don’t quiz me about the other ones.  I will admit to nothing. 

I just finished a book over the weekend titled, “This is Not the Story You Think It Is,” and it’s given me a couple moments of pause. 

Reviews for this book are kind of all over the place, so I guess it’s a good thing I don’t read reviews before I decide to read a book.  I mean, I’ve read some critically acclaimed books that left me sort of meh.  Fabulousity is in the mind of the beholder.  Basically, if it looks interesting and the story appeals to me, I’m in. 

The premise of this book is that of a marriage in crisis, due to the husband coming down with a case of the Midlife Quagmire and deciding he doesn’t love his wife any longer.  Her response to this is to do nothing. 

Having had more than a few friends with spouses gone over the edge, this tactic intrigued me.  Yours Truly would have probably (after a good cry and maybe a bender) toasted my spouse’s ass if this sort of thing came to light in my own marriage.  But instead, this woman decides to take control of her own happiness and leave it to her husband to sort things out on his own.  All without leaving him or throwing him out. 

Honey, I would have changed the locks. 

I suppose that’s something of a knee-jerk reaction, but the gentle way with which this woman handled her situation, focusing on what she could control, made me want to get up and shake some sense into her.  Perhaps I’m not as enlightened.  She encouraged her husband to figure out what it would be that would make him feel whole again, give him a sense of purpose and enjoyment. 

The end result is that the marriage survived this season of discontent, and I suspect the book would not have been published otherwise.  We all like a happy ending.  But it got me to thinking about how people within a marriage are still individuals, even if they’ve been together the better part of 25 years.  And yet, popular thinking is that marriage is a be-all, end-all for its’ occupants, and that both are expected to march in lockstep with one another, whether they want to or not. 

It’s certainly the view of marriage that I’ve had presented to me by my own parents, and they tend to look askance at me and my husband for the way we lead separate lives a lot of the time.  I find that I fall prey to this kind of thinking at my lowest moments, when I feel like wallowing in a pity pit.  No, my husband and I don’t have the same interests.  The things that pass for hobbies for each of us tend to leave the other cold.  And as much as I’d like for my husband to share my enthusiasm for the things that I do (and want to do) I know that it’s not going to happen. 

Of course, he still thinks that I’m going to be all on board for climbing into his four seater Cherokee and taking off into the wild blue yonder, but he is sorely delusional on that front.  I keep telling him that I have no desire.  He keeps thinking I’ll change my mind.  So far we’re at an impasse. 

But this book reminded me that he needs to have that thing, that one part of him that makes him feel alive, and not begrudge him of that.  He is weeks away from acquiring his license, and he wants to celebrate by flying somewhere far-flung for dinner.  Call your mother, I say.  I try not to be cruel about it, but I just really want nothing to do with it.  Enjoy yourself but leave me out of it.  And I’ll do the same for you when I finally scrape together enough money to take sailing lessons. 

— Mox

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Five million degrees outside and no one in the swimming pool. 

Summer really is over, isn’t it? 

I drove by the public swimming pool the other day, and it was deserted.  It was deserted, of course, because school has started and all the kids who would otherwise be enjoying a carefree day splashing about are instead knuckling down over the three R’s. 

And the swimming pool sits, shimmering in the summer heat, lonely. 

Because I am so old I remember the days when school didn’t start until around Labor Day, which was the traditional closing of all the public pools in the area.  The schedules dovetailed nicely. 

What?  The schools didn’t start until around Labor Day?  Surely I jest? 

Listen, the reason school didn’t start until then is because the schools didn’t have air conditioning. 

Yes, I am that old.  Fred Flintstone was my bus driver.  The bus was a Brontosaurus. 

Of course the world has changed and improved and with it has come the unravelling of traditional summer schedules.  Our public pool will be closing for the season this coming weekend, two weeks prior to Labor Day.  It seems patently unfair to deny kids the pool at least on the weekends, with as hot as it’s been, but I guess at that point most of the lifeguards have gone back to college. 

When I was growing up, I had a friend who absolutely hated birthdays.  She never liked getting another year older, and it was the passage of time that bothered her, knowing that she could never go back.  I feel the same way about the end of summer.  I hate to see the year end, and the beginning of the end is now.  Soon I’ll be having another birthday, the air will cool, the holidays will arrive, Spawn will get another year older, and so on and so on.  The way you spend your days is the way you spend your life. 

— Mox

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Okay, so it’s no big secret around here that I have a job that sucks. 

If would suck considerably less if 1) I got paid regularly, 2) I got paid more, and 3) I got paid often. 

Alas, this is not my lot in life. 

My husband has been fairly pointed in his request I find something else.  And to that I say — Yes, I am looking. 

No, I haven’t even gotten a sniff. 

There are trade-offs in life, however.  With the school year now officially underway, I am somewhat thankful that at least I have a flexible schedule.  This makes it easier for me to be available to cart Spawn all over creation for various and sundry things after school.  These various and sundry things include: 

  • tutoring (twice a week)
  • volunteering at the animal rescue center
  • scouts
  • art class
  • karate (something the kid has asked to try out, much to my surprise)

Not to mention my own extracurriculars, which include volunteering for a music festival (which culminates next week, thank heavens), volunteering for school duty, errands out the wazoo, and trying to get a side business off the ground.  And this doesn’t include grad school, which I have taken steps toward but have not actually enrolled in, yet. 

40 hour workweek?  Surely you jest. 

And my husband wonders why I seem to be a bit… snappish.  Well, hell’s bells, man, I’m tired! 

Nothing a winning lottery ticket couldn’t fix. 

— Mox

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