Wednesday, December 19, 2012

George the Underhorse

Last Saturday, we had a "Deck the Stalls" get together at the horse rescue where we volunteer. There was a ton of food, lots of visiting, tree decorating and many other fun things to do. At some point in the festivities, word made it's way around that one of the attendees was going to ride George. Immediately, we all started speculating about the outcome of this decision making because George isn't exactly known for being, shall we say, stable. (pun completely intended) He isn't vicious by any means, but he hasn't exactly inspired confidence either.

George arrived to LEARN early summer of this year, a 14 year old stallion who had been tied up behind an abandoned mobile home with a rope embedded in his neck. He was a little thin, had an raw rope wound and was full of hormones. Due to his, shall we say, extremely amorous nature, he was not exactly the favorite around the barn. Well taken care of, certainly, but didn't have as many fans as some of the other guys. He paced the fence constantly, and even once gelded, still tried to get his groove on in all manner of inappropriate ways. Eventually he moved to a pasture further from the barn and began spending his days hanging out with another chestnut gelding, bossing around the two bay ponies already out there.

So Saturday afternoon, the news that George, of all horses, was going for a ride created quite a stir. We all hurried out to the round ring and made jokes about how many seconds we thought the rider would manage to stay on once mounted. I was laughing along with everyone else while George was being tacked up and had my camera ready to go, feeling certain something entertaining was going to happen. Then it suddenly struck me that he was being really, really good, especially considering no one knew the last time he had been ridden, there were a lot of people laughing and chatting and there were children posted up near the top rail - all things that can be spooky for a steady minded animal, let alone one with a questionable background and hormone challenges.

All of a sudden I felt like a jerk. George couldn't help his beginnings or the fact that being gelded in middle age might have been difficult for him to acclimate to. And since I'm also a huge sucker for an underdog, or in this case, an underhorse, it was with great pleasure that I watched him be good as gold while being saddled, mounted and ridden. George walked around being nothing but well behaved just like an old pro. The rider stayed on for only ten minutes or so, long enough to feel him out but short enough to reward him for being so good. Once back in the barn, he was lavished with treats, love and praise. The next day he got to go out again with the teen girls that spend so much time at the barn, cementing his place as a barn contender.

Honestly, I almost cried. I have no idea why this touched me so deeply. I couldn't even fall asleep that night for thinking about George and his exceptional afternoon ride. I just kept smiling to myself about how this skinny and sometimes whackadoodle pony made all us "intelligent" humans look like dumbasses. It was an amazing feeling, to be honest. Sometimes, especially when we aren't at our best, all we need is for someone to come along that is brave enough to give us a chance. I'm happy to report that George has now gone on more than one ride around the farm and has leapt into the hearts of many as a reminder to not give up hope for redemption, be it for animals or people. And for that I say, thanks, George. I needed that.

PS. George the underwonderhorse is actually a large pony and available for adoption. He won't win any conformation classes but he's super flashy and cute. And very rideable.You can contact LEARN horse rescue for more details if you or anyone you know is interested in adoption. :-)

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

For Newtown, In Honor of Those Who Were Lost

The news from Connecticut yesterday has shaken me to the core and I'm well aware that I'm not alone in that feeling. Yesterday I was stunned into near speechlessness and my only desire was to get my hands on my own children. I wanted to hold them and see them with my own eyes, even though I knew they were okay. I wanted to reassure myself that my own most precious ones were safe. Later last night, I was a little nervous leaving my daughter at the school dance, wanting instead to keep her home with me, knowing that I couldn't.

But today is different. Today I'm angry. Today I'm fighting back. Today I will not back down to fear. I will not be afraid. I will not teach my children to be scared. I cannot lock my loved ones away because the truth is that tragedy can strike anywhere, anytime. I refuse to believe that the world is an evil place filled with horrible people. I just won't live like that. I will be cautious perhaps, afraid, no.

I do this because my children deserve it. I do it because I believe to do otherwise dishonors the memory of the victims. Their legacy does not need to be that children everywhere be locked away, with their view of the world altered forever. The sacrifices made by those involved and the ongoing effort to help those affected is greater than the evil visited upon Newtown. The love shown by a teacher who died hiding her kids in closets is larger than the man who killed her. SHE will be remembered forever as a hero. His name will be forgotten - hers will not. Love and courage are so very much bigger than hate and fear.

I ran across this yesterday and it really resonated with me:

This is greater. This is love. This is humanity at it's best - reaching out to those in need, helping them while they are weak. Darkness is simply the absence of light and as long as the light shines, the darkness cannot overtake it. Light may be more dim at times than others, but a light in the darkness cannot be ignored. We will be that light. When the darkness of unspeakable tragedy begins to envelope us, we will shine. We will be the glow that guides those who are struggling. We will be greater than circumstances, larger than those who do evil. We will wrap our arms around those who are suffering. We will not be afraid.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Elf It or Eff It

For those of you who have kids, you probably already know what I'm talking about. For those of you who don't, or have been lucky enough to dodge this particular holiday bullet, here's the deal. You can buy this kit, consisting of a book and an elf doll, the gist of which is that the elf is sent from Santa to help him determine who is on the nice or naughty list. The parents are supposed to move him around every day without being observed by the children in order to "animate" him, thus making sure the kiddos believe he's really reporting back to the big man in red.

I think I first heard of this a couple of years ago, and had zero interest in participating in said charade, for multiple reasons. First and foremost, I already have enough to do. Really, I'm allll stocked up on to-do. Secondly, that elf gives me the creeps. Kinda reminds me of Chucky, but dressed up for Christmas, moving around my house looking at everyone. Thirdly, as per usual, there are those of us who go completely overboard with Mr. Elfontheshelf, because apparently now not only is he supposed to be moved around the house every night, he gets up to all kinds of hilarious hijinks, like throwing flour around your kitchen, drawing on your windows, and spilling the dog's food just to name a few. Personally, I find nothing entertaining about making a mess for the sole purpose of having to clean it up. Refer back to reason one.

You guys, there are thousands of Pinterest boards about elfing ideas, there are discussions on Facebook and other social media platforms where people can share what their naughty little guys are up to. Yay! And yes, there is also an app for that. Sigh. Anyway, I guess what really is getting to me is that while we all howl about the holidays being sooo stressful, having tooooo much to do, feeling reeeallly overwhelmed and so forth, we CONTINUE TO ADD ON MORE SHIT. This, my friends, is where I really just don't get it. So much of the pressure is self imposed and we're all screaming for wine but let's just give ourselves another task. Ugh.

I know the kids like it. I know some people truly do enjoy the creative aspect. I know that my children would probably like it too. But sometimes, you just gotta say eff it. Or elf it. Or some combination of the two. Either way, it's just not going to happen at my house. I just can't take the pressure, and believe it or not, moms and dads get to be a little self-preserving sometimes I think.

What about you guys? Do you Elf or not?

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

You Never Know Who You Might Run Into at The Pig

I think a lot of people who blog are "watchers" by nature. We notice things - big, little, funny, odd, tragic and like to share them. Personally, I like to go for long walks and just look. People, buildings, scenery, machinery - you get the drift. And while I'm no pro photographer, I do okay with my little point and shoot.

So, while this post isn't going to change your life, it will give you something to look at and have a tiny distraction. Here is what I did yesterday:

And there was also this:

Where does one park 16,000 pounds of horse? Wherever one wants, including the fire lane at The Pig.

And lastly, this. Where I get photo-bombed by a Clydesdale.

It was fun. You should go too, if you ever get the chance. :-)

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Iron Will. And Cecilia too.

You know how every hero has a fatal flaw? Well, here on this blog, I'm the hero and I have come to the conclusion that my fatal flaw is trying to understand and make sense of human behavior. I really should know better, because I think people sometimes just do stuff with no intent or purpose whatsoever, so trying to make sense of it really is just impossible. My quest for understanding really, really carries over to the things my kids do, because some of that crap just plain defies reason. My first born turned eleven about a month ago, which means that I have over a decade of parenting experience. This by no means makes me an expert, but I do believe I have at least a little of this gig figured out. There are, however, things about parenting that I am convinced will remain forever mysterious.

Things like...replacing the bath tissue when you use the last of it. My son just confessed to that particular domestic violation in the powder room. His reasoning for not replacing it? There wasn't any more under the counter. I pointed out that the backup of the backup lives in the laundry room, which is about six feet from the powder room. He just shrugged.

Here's another head-scratcher. What, exactly is the cause of sibling cooperative play, full of laughter and joy? Magical alignment of stars? Threats of being grounded until they are thirty? Bribes? I have tried an infinite number of arrangements to try and facilitate this magical, wonderful wrinkle in time all to no avail. It happens quite on it's own, and I cannot for the life of me put my finger on the correct ingredients. Any suggestions you may have on  this one would be much appreciated because yours truly has totally struck out.

This next one will be my Waterloo. The upstairs of our house, is only for the children. Two bedrooms and a bathroom - that's it. So when I put things that belong to them on the stairs, why do they not realize that it's for them to take up? In all seriousness, this particular issue is going to break me I think. I have gone so far as to arrange their belongings in a wall across the stairs and they still managed to get past without either picking anything up or knocking anything over. Impressive strategy, I grudgingly admitted to myself. However, if someone rode my butt about the same thing, every single solitary day of my life, I may actually break down and do it. Not my children - they remain unfazed. I see a future in the CIA for them both as they apparently have wills of iron.

Lastly, I would like to know what goes through a child's mind when they pick up a full glass of something, set it on the edge of a table, and then do all kinds of intricate maneuvers nearby and around said glass. Why don't they just move the glass, rather than run the risk of knocking it off onto the floor? Mine do this all the time and then get upset when they've poured milk everywhere. Again, I've said a zillion times to just move it, but it's like they are trying to tempt fate or prove that they can do it. I don't even trust myself enough to try this but the little people in my house must be taking it as some kind of dare, I suppose.

So, tell me. Are there things your kids do that just make no sense? Tell me, please, that I'm not alone!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The UnThankful Thanksgiving Post

So because I'm kind of well, contrary, I have a real problem with emoting on command. Which means that this whole state what you are thankful for every day thing really just brings out the worst in me. I AM grateful for many things, but I just can't help it that there are things that no matter how you spin it, I am just not thankful for. I guess I have oppositional defiance or something because feeling like I should feel a certain way only makes me want to rebel. Sigh. Oh well, let's just add it to my list of disorders and move on.

I've decided to create a list of things I am not thankful for in order to try and get it out of my system before tomorrow.

Stretch marks. There is just no way I will ever be thankful for those. I know they are a product of bringing my beautiful, brilliant and amazing children into this world but still. Do not like.

Psoriasis. Yes, I have the heartbreak of it. And let me tell you, it is amazing! Not.

"What's for dinner?" Every. Single. Night. of my life. Why do they always need to keep eating?!

Body hair. While I AM thankful that I'm no Sasquatch, seriously, after twenty five years of shaving my legs, I'm over it.

Justice. That store the devil's handiwork and I am positive that the people who work there will turn up with some sort of cancer from all those plastics and dyes and chemicals etc. And of course, my daughter cannot get enough of it.

"Moooooom! Sibling X did Y to meeeee!" If I NEVER hear this again, it will be too soon. Not thankful for that.

"Where is the ...?" Why am I supposed to be the location knower of all things? I can barely keep up with myself!

PMS. This really needs no explanation. It truly is just not a good scene for anyone.

Fennel. I just don't like it. I've tried and tried, but it's just, ew.

Black Friday. You will not change my mind on this, so don't even try.

Come on, play! What are you NOT thankful for? Tell me in the comments!

PS. It's official. I am turning into Maxine.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Southern Sentimentalities

I was born in Augusta, GA and I have lived in South Carolina my entire life (see North Augusta/Savannah river). My family hails from Tennessee and Georgia since pretty much the dawn of time. To say that my roots are entirely Southern would be an understatement. There are, of course, things about the South that are less than perfect, but by in large, I am pretty happy about being Southern, and don't even get me started on Charleston.

There are so many things about the South that are well known - the food, the football, the accent etc., but to be honest, my favorite Southern-isms are the intangible ones. The ones that let you know where you are even if you don't know really know where you are. For example:

I love that Southern people give directions using "where such and such used to be" as landmarks.

I love that no matter what town or city you are in, there will be a group of retired men sitting at Hardees early on a Saturday morning.

I love the half hand wave without letting go of the steering wheel thing people do while driving down a country road.

I love the sayings, the colloquialisms, and the totally nonsensical words and phrases used by Southern people, and the fact that the people they are speaking with understand them completely.

I love the small town festivals, many of which originated from all kinds of bizarro beginnings.

I love listening to a good story teller.

I love that it is considered perfectly reasonable to own at least five or six casserole dishes, if not more.

I love the names that Southerners give their children, and that it is no big deal to have multiple people in the one family share the same name.

I love the subtleties and complexities of Southern conversation and how it remains mysterious to many people not from the region.

There are many other things I could name, but I'm curious. What do you love about the South? Or if you aren't "from here", what do you love about your region of the country?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Political Coming Out

Friends, readers, family members...I am coming out of the political closet. Now that the election is over, I feel the need to reveal myself as who I truly am politically, because I'm sure you were all dying to know. (eye roll) Typically I'm quite vague as political fights are not something I'm interested in having with anyone, so I usually just don't say much at all. So, here is the big reveal: I am an elephonktarian. Yes, you got it - basically I have the political version of multiple personality disorder. Loosely translated, I am an open-minded, engaged and educated Independent.

I don't really think I am alone in this. Lots of people I talk to seem to feel the same way. Our political perspectives are complex and intricate things, and this is why I think the current two party system does none of us any favors. Voting is a precious liberty that people around the world have died for, and yet, how many times have you heard someone say, "My vote doesn't matter because nothing will ever change."? I've heard that way more than I'd like.

To me, this bespeaks something much larger than the individual running for office, or even the different parties. How many candidates are going to "change Washington!" only to find that Washington changes them? How many candidates are shocked to realize that no matter how hard they work, who they collaborate with or where they sleep, they run into the same roadblocks over and over? And to be clear, I am including all people elected from all sides of the aisle.

People in this country are furious, for all kinds of different reasons. The left is leftier and the right is rightier and those of us who truly want to find common ground feel left behind and we are all unhappy. Personally, I despise feeling forced to chose between two things when I agree with neither. But again, I think that it is an indicator of the system at large more than the people involved. It's like some kind of runaway cruise boat that doesn't stop no matter who is at the helm or dragging on the anchor. The situation at hand is, plain and simple, MADDENING.

I'm not saying I know what to do or how to do it or where to even begin, but I do know one simple and irrefutable fact: repeating an action and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Things will never be any different if they are never any different. See where I'm going with this?

Recently, I told my husband that I thought that maybe there should be two Presidents. I thought he was going to faint. But here is where I was coming from: when the Constitution was framed, the world was such a smaller place. I don't think the Founding Fathers could have possibly imagined the world we live in today. The rise of the Internet, a global economy, nuclear weapons, etc. wasn't even on the horizon so my thought was that maybe one person could be in charge of domestic and one in charge of foreign policy because I think the job itself has gotten too large for one person to genuinely excel at it.

(dear NSA - if you are reading this, and I'm quite sure some computer somewhere is, please know that I am not an anarchist or any other such thing. I would like to be consider a kind of armchair political philosopher and do not want to disappear. Kthanksbye).

Anyway, I know this is, and other ideas like it are kinda off the wall, but I truly believe that it will only be some kind of enormous change in the system itself that will help right the ship. Until then, I will chose my candidates individually, will vote my conscience even when it seems hopeless, and will believe that this country is truly greater than the sum of it's parts.

PS. I'll leave you with this gem: "If you get into a fight with someone on the Internet, you have already lost." Repeat it to yourself. I promise you that I'm right on this one!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Coping With Pet Loss

I did a lot of reading this weekend. Since some of my more recent books were fairly "heavy" reads, I decided to take it light and read another book by the author of Dewey the Library Cat. No, not kid's lit but a heartwarming memoir about a cat that a struggling Iowa town all fell in love with. I know, my pathetic description sounds, well, pathetic, but it really is a good read, especially if you are an animal lover. Anyway, I digress.

I lost my much loved Siamese a little over a year ago, and have finally gotten to a place where I can talk about him without crying...much. But the stories I read in this book have stirred me to tell my own. I posted here about his diagnosis with kidney failure when I found out in August of last year, and I only updated the post to reveal that he had passed away.
We tried to help Tai towards the end of his illness by giving him fluids and Pepcid, knowing that these were palliative measures, not cures. This went on for about four weeks and it became apparent that these interventions were not working to keep him comfortable. On a Monday afternoon, I had a long and tear-filled conversation with our vet about his final plans. She had been there with us through the whole ordeal, and I wanted it to be her who helped him on his journey. She was off the next day, so we planned to take him in on Wednesday.

Tuesday morning, he was responsive but hardly moving from his spot under the end table in the living room. I picked him up, and brought him into our bathroom where I had been keeping him during the day while I was at work. We have another cat and a dog, and I didn't want him bothered. For whatever reason, it occurred to me to bring him a heating pad and so that's where I left him, cuddled up in a blanket in the corner, with the heating pad underneath. I kissed his nose, told him I loved him and left for work.

That afternoon, we arrived home, and as usual, my first thing upon walking in the door was to go check on Tai. This afternoon, though, I really did not have a good feeling. I can't explain it, but I swear I knew at some point in the day that he would be dead when I got home. And, true to my premonition, he was. Given the state of his body, I'm pretty sure he passed away moments after we left the house. I was crushed by this, as I had always said that I would never, ever, leave him when the time came. The fact that he died alone on a bathroom floor absolutely cut me to the quick - he was supposed to die in my arms, surrounded with love.

But that is what cats want when their time is up - to die in peace, alone and un-bothered. So while the selfish part of me mourned what didn't happen, the part of me that loved him was happy that he got what he wanted. The really ridiculous and sentimental part of me told myself (and I still believe it) that he loved me enough to have spared me the agony of the trip to the vet, the needle and the decision to end a life. My sweet husband wrapped him in a blanket and we took his body to the vet for cremation.

The Saturday after Tai died, I was heading to my mother's house because being at home without Tai was painful. On the way over, I heard a radio spot about a free adoption weekend at the Charleston Animal Society and the thought of getting a new cat occurred to me. Pushing it out of my mind immediately, I kept driving. Not five minutes later, I found myself stuck in traffic, not far from the shelter. Sitting at a complete stop, I heard the spot again. This time my thought was, "I can just go look. I'd rather do that than sit in traffic anyway." Famous last words.

I never meant to get another cat so quickly. If you had asked before this happened if I would have been one to do that, I would have replied to the negative. I do not have a problem with this because we all handle grief and loss differently, but I just didn't think it was something I would do. But I believe in the connection between certain people and certain animals and as I strolled through the shelter, looking a snotty hot mess, only one cat even looked at me. I placed one fingertip on the glass and he stood on his hind legs, reaching one paw up to the spot where my finger was. Sold.

Tai had chosen me in that exact way thirteen years earlier, you see. He came from a breeder, not a shelter, but it was he who came to me while I was standing there looking. It was the exact same gesture too - I had my fingertip on the cage where he was rolling around being ridiculous and he stood on hind legs and reached for that same finger. I was sold instantly then too. Now, I know this particular gesture is not exactly rare or uncommon but it spoke to me, so I went with it. I called my husband, who at this point would have agreed to have a mountain lion if it meant the crying stopped, and so "Brownie"as he was known as the shelter, was coming home with me.

It's been different, having a shelter cat - he's still a little spooky and does his absolute best to convince you that he is absolutely starving to death even though he's lugging around some extra poundage. He doesn't have that affable dog-like personality that Tai did but he's super sweet and affectionate, with plenty of cute quirks to laugh at, almost daily. One animal doesn't replace another obviously, but I believe that there is a place in our hearts that is only for our special animals, no matter their species or breed. Pets are the only personal relationship we enter into with the full knowledge that we will likely outlive them and yet we do it anyway, putting them into that tender space inside, knowing it will probably get hurt. But it's worth it. It's just so worth it.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy Skankoween!

I recognize that the material in the post is not new, so let's just get past that. Yet, I find myself wanting to write about it anyway, so here we go.

Here is my question. Can anyone explain to me why so many Halloween costumes for women are slutty? I have yet to understand this phenomenon. Educated, smart and progressive women across the country buy costumes that take all kinds of different professions and characters and make them into "sexier" versions. Sexy nurse, sexy scientist, sexy police officer, and the like, ad nauseum. Dressing like a hooker for Halloween really doesn't appeal to me and I don't think it would, even if I were 21 and a size 2 again.

This trend seems to have gotten more and more explicit over the past few years and I've read dozens of posts by other people who are troubled by this. And yet, obviously the market is there, or the supply would have dropped. I don't like the word feminist - I'm an equalist really, so where are the slutty costumes for men? Sure, I've seen the silly ones that have fake derrieres on them, or are suggestive, and or that are condoms but I have yet to see the same kinds of offerings that women get on the male side. Now, I'm not saying I'm wishing for this to happen, because, well, eww. But, what's good for the goose should be good for the gander, right? Right? What, no one is interested in slutty male construction worker? Or is that just me?

Here's the thing. If you enjoy dressing up like this for Halloween, more power to you. That is not up to me to decide - it's just that I find the trend troubling insofar as society's perceptions about women in general. It's almost as if so much of the advancement of women is a front, a cover, or lip service, when the instant it is time to get in costume, the hooker outfits come out. I don't want to be perceived as a slutty anything, actually. Don't get me wrong - I like to wear nice clothes, have hair and makeup done, and am generally considered to be a fairly attractive person. There's absolutely nothing wrong with some sex appeal but I think the current state of Halloween affairs has gone too far.

Now, here's where I really get on my high horse. Costumes for girls, and by that I mean children. "What?  You want to be Little Red Riding Hood, my darling little second grader? Oh, look, here's a costume that barely covers your pre-pubescent behind and comes complete with thigh high garter stockings. And don't forget the war paint and sky high heels - it's a package deal! Be sure to bat your fake eyelashes at every dad that opens the door to give you candy! (this is written in sarcasm font for those of you who weren't sure.)

As a parent, all I can say about that is WHAT THE HELL. "Toddlers and Tiaras" pales in comparison to some of the girl's costumes I've run across while looking for my daughter. So here is my question: WHY would any parent want to garner sexual attention to their child? Are we really saying that we want our young daughters dressing like slutty adults? And again, where is the skanky Spiderman costume for a second grade boy? If we're skeezing out our kids, why should the boys be left out?

The whole thing just makes me sad. Sex amongst consenting adults is great, and believe it or not from this post, I'm not a prude or an evangelical nut job. But the hyper-sexualization of Halloween has turned it into a completely different holiday in my opinion. Oh, and last year, my husband and I went as agents from Men in Black and I looked hawt. (climbs down from soapbox).

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Read This Book. Immediately If Not Sooner.

About two months ago, I accidentally downloaded a book onto my Kindle. Truly, I had no idea that I purchased it until I looked at my email the next day and saw the notification from Amazon. When I saw the email, I actually went so far as to try to see if I could return it because I had no idea about it's premise and the title didn't really strike me as all that interesting. Aside: I'm not a huge non-fiction reader. I do read some of it mostly to stretch my brain, but generally my reading is all fiction. Anyhow, a couple of days later, I had nothing I wanted to read at home, so I picked up the Kindle and began WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.

I would like to go on record as saying that this book is one of the best I've ever read. Strayed is a master of the personal narrative and I devoured that book, immediately bought another of hers and began lightly stalking her on Facebook. When I read this book, it was as if I was there. I was the one hiking, I was the one dealing with a lifetime of pain, hurt, bad decision making and heartache. I was the one with feet ground to hamburger by ill-fitting hiking boots. There are few books I have connected with as personally and totally as I have WILD and I have full faith and confidence that this connection is solely due to Strayed's incredible command of the descriptive technique and unabashed revelation of  inner self.

When I finished WILD, I praised it to the skies to anyone who would listen and I felt like I had made this magical discovery, a secret that only I knew.  I actually went so far to write Cheryl and thank her for writing the book and that is something I have never, ever done before with anyone whose work I've read. Thanks to her recommendations online, I've read some amazing essays, short stories and personal narratives. Her column "Dear Sugar" on The is somewhat akin to Dear Abby, only grittier, more honest and definitely funnier; I plowed through the collection of Dear Sugar columns the book Tiny Beautiful Things is made of, loving every minute of it.

Recently though, I read something on Cheryl's Facebook page that rubbed me wrong upon first pass. I'm paraphrasing here but what I took away from her comment was how irritating it was to her and other writers when people say that she "came out of nowhere" and was "unknown" etc. Initially I thought "Oh, just get over yourself. Be thankful people love your book. Who cares if they don't know that you've actually been a working writer for years?" I thought, sheesh, what an insecure egomaniac. But then many other long term, yet "undiscovered" writers also chimed in about feeling the same way. I commented that I didn't think it was ill-intentioned when people make these kinds of statements, but that many of us don't have much exposure to anything other than mainstream resources for new authors to read and that we are for the most part celebrating their work as new to us, not new in general. 

However, as usual, I began pondering Cheryl and the other writer's comments, and tried to think about this from their point of view. Writing is hard work, no matter your subject or style. The great novel was never written simply because someone who had a good idea was able to string some words together. It takes time, effort, dedication and patience to write anything, let alone to write something that's actually good. I do not consider myself a writer by any stretch, but even the basic issue blogging I do takes up a fair amount of mental and emotional energy, as well as time. I guess if I were actually a full-time writer who was already published many times over well before Oprah ever got wind of me, I'd be a little chafed that I was being called "unknown" and "came out of nowhere" too. It's the hard work, dedication and time they've put in to get where they are that is at issue here, it seems to me, not the fame itself.

I do stand by my opinion that it doesn't matter what the public thinks about you being discovered or if you're known or unknown to the masses, but I do think I understand the frustration a little more. There are lots of thriving, active literary communities out there and as I delve deeper into them, I find hosts of people who are yet undiscovered that could easily be the next big thing. I also find myself feeling the need to spread my "book feelers" further than the Oprah show, the New York Times bestseller list and whatever my friends are reading. Thanks to Cheryl's public dedication to honing the craft of her writing, I may actually take the next step and join a writing group, which, to be honest, scares me to death, but is probably something I need to do if I want to grow my own modest skill.

I'll leave you with this quote from Thomas Jefferson that I think is apropos to this post, as well as pretty much any other aspect of life too. Interesting, isn't it?
"I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dear Anonymous

I have a hard and fast rule about fighting with people online. Because really, if you get into a fight with someone on the internet, you've already lost if you ask me. However, I have another hard and fast about this being blog being my house. And by that I mean no one gets to come here and be an ass - not to my readers, not to my commenters and for damn sure not to me. That privilege is reserved for yours truly. Anyway.

Here's the thing - I don't owe you a response, Anonymous. But I want to mostly because this is a classic example of thoughtlessly commenting about something you have no idea about. And since I have a commenting system in place, only people who use it can leave comments that are visible to anyone but me. And this same commenting system also does not allow me to respond to comments left through Google when they are left anonymously. So I would like to respond to this lovely comment you left me last week here on my blog so that everyone can see it. Here it is:

 "IMO, this sends the wrong message to kids- if you pout about it, you'll get what you want. Calling the school and requesting changes for a fifth grader? I don't think the principal should have said yes. She got manipulated and so did you. I do think it's important to advocate for our kids, even the "easy" ones, but knowing when and what's really important is key."

You made an awful lot of assumptions. You assumed my daughter was pouting. You assumed she was being manipulative. You assumed I am easily manipulated. You assumed my principal is easily manipulated. You assumed I did something like asking for a class change because my kid was pouting. You assumed I have no idea when or when not to push for my children. You assumed my motivation was simply to get what she wanted, implying that she is some kind of spoiled princess and that I'm basically an idiot.

Here's the thing: you don't know me. You don't know my child. You don't know my principal, my teacher or my school. The other stuff you don't know are the things I left unsaid, like: there are several kids in the previous class who are major behavioral problems and the teacher was having to stop every two minutes for classroom management. Oh, and how my daughter is applying to a super-competitive magnet school for next year, making her learning situation this year critically important. One more thing - I'm pretty sure the principal of our school wouldn't really like any of this either, considering how well-regarded she is as an administrator. Lastly, we were fully prepared to accept the situation as is and carry on - we asked to see if we could get, which is how people who want things get them. 

The reason I know you don't know me is because NO-ONE who knows me or my daughter would have said something this crappy. I can also tell you've never read my blog before because NONE of my readers would have made these assumptions.

I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. I'm a big girl. But I do have a problems with all kinds of inaccurate assumptions being made about me, and I have a  REALLY BIG problem with you making these kinds of assumptions about my child. So the next time you want to leave me a nasty comment, how about assuming yourself up a user name and put it out where we all can see it?

Thanks and bless your heart,
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meeting The Needs of the "Easier" Child

Towards the end of the summer, my daughter got exponentially more ready to go back to school with each day that passed. She began a countdown, started laying out her clothes, talking about who might be her teacher and what classmates she hoped to have. The day finally came where we could stop by the school and check the class lists, so we did a quick drive by. She was disappointed to find out that she was split up from pretty much all her friends but we decided it would be fine and that she could use this as an opportunity to grow and make new friends.

School began and things were okay. She, as usual, did what she was asked, completed her work, and got along with her peers. But I began to notice that she never talked about school, and that is extremely unusual for her. She was droopy and reserved when I picked up every day. When I asked her what was going on, she didn’t have much to say about it, just that she wasn’t happy with the class she was in. There were several reasons for this, and there was no issue with her teacher, but at the end of the day, a kid who is connected, engaged and excited about school was rapidly losing her joie de vie.

I began giving some thought to asking for a class change. I contacted a teacher friend, my mother in law (a retired teacher) and another friend who had gone through something similar with her child and basically came to the conclusion that Cecilia’s base level happiness at school didn’t need to have some earth-shattering and dramatic reason to warrant being protected. She has been a model student since kindergarten, has made excellent grades, is a leader in the classroom and well liked by her peers. Fifth grade to her was the pinnacle of awesome and basically her perspective of it had been completely deflated.

So we contacted the principal and asked for a class change. I was nervous and felt a little weird pushing for something just because my child was not thrilled, but my position was this: there is no reason for a kid who loves school to fall out of love with school over something as minor as going into the class across the hall. For those of you who do not know, we have moved mountains for our son over the past few years and have gone to his aid more times than I can count. Currently, that effort is paying off as he is doing wonderfully this year, and I could not be any happier about that.

When thinking over all of this, it occurred to me that just because my daughter hasn’t had the same challenges and needs, doesn’t mean that her experience is any less deserving of the same dogged pushing that we did for Will. As a parent, it is instinctual to advocate for your child when they are struggling – there was never a moment where I didn’t want to do a full court press for Will. Sure, it got to be exhausting, stressful, gut-wrenching and more, but that was okay. And I’m extremely proud of all of that and what was accomplished.

But my daughter needed us too, just not in such dramatic fashion. She could have remained in the same classroom throughout the year and being fine, I’m sure. She would have done her work, gotten along with her peers, been a good kid etc, but that’s not enough for us. I think we would be remiss in not having advocated for her as well, just because her issues weren’t as challenging. As parents, it’s hard not to let the “easier” kid just rock along – Cecilia has basically been grown since birth, so we’re used to her being pretty low maintenance. Will on the other hand, has had us hopping since he could walk. Neither is right or wrong, but both deserve equitable consideration.

Cecilia began in the new class this past Monday and is right back to her old self - happy, skipping around, being silly and chattering away about school when she gets in the car every day. And I am again reminded to trust my instincts, and to keep vigilant watch over the emotional health of both children, especially when the needs of one are subtle in comparison to the needs of the other. And so it is with great hope as well as great caution that I say that this may be the best school year ever.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Life Lessons From "The Princess Bride"

On September 27, 1987, a movie was released that earned a little over two hundred thousand dollars at the box office during its first weekend out.  Not a very auspicious beginning for a film that is beloved by many and has earned over thirty millions dollars since its release. Which movie is this, you ask? None other than The Princess Bride. 

A couple of weeks ago, I casually said in passing to a friend that pretty much everything you need to know can be found within the witty and somewhat off the wall dialogue found in The Princess Bride, hereafter referred to as TPB, partly because I’m lazy but mostly because I don’t like seeing the same words over and over in a post. This is unavoidable however, when you are discussing quotes from a singular movie. Now, where was I? 

Ah, yes. I’m sure many of you have seen the movie but for those of you who haven’t, “let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” See what I did there? That was a quote from the movie by the character Inigo Montoya, who has been seeking revenge for the death of his father most of his life. He’s trying to convey what has been going on with Princess Buttercup to her beloved Westly during the time he’s been mostly dead. Here’s the thing: just go watch it. There is just nothing that can explain this movie like the movie itself. 

But getting back to our life knowledge and lessons, here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie and my take on them. 

·         “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Inigo to Vizzini, who is alleged to be the smartest man alive. There are three lessons that can be learned here – one, be sure that you understand your own vocabulary. Two, use said vocabulary correctly in conversation. And three, “irregardless” is not a word. Ever. This quote jumps straight to the forefront of my mind every single time I hear someone say it.

·         “Life IS pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Now, while I do not believe that life is pain in its entirety, you can see what Westley was getting at here. Life is hard, often gritty and always “brutiful”, which is a word a virtual acquaintance of mine has coined over at her site Momastery. Those people who would try to convince you otherwise likely haven’t taken a good hard look at themselves lately. Just look at Facebook and you’ll see what I mean. 

·         “You be careful. People in masks cannot be trusted.” – Fezzick is advising his friend Inigo about fighting the masked man who has been following them for miles. While this would seem somewhat obvious, it doesn’t take much thought to know that you can take this metaphorically as well. When someone is being disingenuous, most of the time it is apparent. Maybe not obvious, though sometimes it is, but often it’s that feeling you get that something just isn’t right. Take it from me, who has oft learned the hard way – trust that feeling. Always.
"    "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” – You may commence with the awwwwws. Westly is talking to Buttercup after she tells him that she agreed to marry rotten Prince Humperdinck only because she thought her true love was dead. Ask anyone who has ever lost someone they loved – that love doesn’t die with the person. It stays with you forever, both inside and sometimes out. It’s your memories, feelings, recipes, photos, love letters etc. All of those things and then some are about as forever as you can get in your lifetime.

·         “Whoo hoo hoo…look who knows so much! It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead.” – Y’all, there are times in all our lives when we need an expert. Do yourself a favor and let the expert do their thing. Think about all the times when you thought you had it all figured out but didn’t, and finally broke down and asked for help from someone who not only knew better, but could also take care of the problem. Leaping to conclusions about things outside of our areas of expertise can most assuredly lead to rotten miracles. (See?! I did it again, only this time it was a reference and not a quote.)

·         “When I was your age, television was called books!” – Ah, yes. The old “back in my” day stance on pretty much everything is that all things modern are not as good or wholesome as those from days gone by. While I think that there is some truth to that theory across the board, you could also look at that from both sides of the coin. HOWEVER. On one thing I will not compromise and that is the inarguable superiority of books over television. I remember being so so so disappointed in several movies I saw as a child because there is just nothing that compares with the magic of your own imagination. As an avid bookworm, I will shout this particular quote until I’m dead, because it’s the absolute truth. Also because I have a goal to be a curmudgeon and every good grouch needs a slogan.

So there you have it, life in a nutshell, as learned from “The Princess Bride.” There are more where these came from, of course, and if you haven’t seen it, then you really should.  My TPB friends will just smile and think, “As you wish.”

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Monday, August 27, 2012

When A + B Does Not = C

The traffic. The lines. The commercials. All of these are indicators that school time is here. Personally, I have two children in elementary school, and they are still at the age where this is exciting and fun. The juggernaut known as “back to school” took off and we all began counting down somewhere around the beginning of August.

Ever since mine started school, I have taken a couple of days off before it starts, both to spend time with them and to be sure that they are ready and prepared. This includes school supply and uniform shopping, which are obviously necessities, but my own neuroses also make it include cleaning out closets, purchasing absurd amounts of groceries and cleaning my house like my life depends on it.

While recently in the throes of this mad prepping, it occurred to me that what I was doing was trying to exercise some kind of control over the future. Like if my house was organized and clean, and if I have every lunch food available ready to go in the fridge and if there was not a dirty sock anywhere to be had and if I cleaned off my desk and made all my put off phone calls and appointments and spent quality time with the children and made delicious meals and and and…and what? What would all of this accomplish?

By no means am I downplaying how much difference a bit of organization makes to keeping the school routine somewhat pleasant. It’s fabulous to be able to make lunch in five minutes or less because all the veggies are chopped and all the snacks at hand. But none of this really has much outcome on the desired result, which is a successful school year. Last fall, when complaining to a friend of mine how much time and attention to detail the supply list purchasing took, she just shrugged and said, “Meh. I just go to Publix and buy whatever school supplies are on sale.” I almost fainted.

My hyper-organizing has been revealed as simply my way of trying to exercise control over the future, which, because of many variables, is uncertain. It’s a form of self-soothing, because I’m anxious about the children’s time in school. We’ve been through the wringer with my son vs. school and my mania has gotten worse every year, so when I do some looking back over it, the correlation is glaring. This year, though, I caught myself and gave it some thought, which drew me to the above conclusion about control. I want it all to make sense. I want to be the boss of it. All of it.

I do think that this is not a singular phenomenon though. The saying about the best laid plans is totally true but as people, I think we try to make sense of nonsensical things by trying to plan for and around them. You could take this theory and apply it to so many things, really. If I live a healthy life and exercise regularly, I will live a long and healthy life. If I wear a seatbelt and drive at ten and two, I’ll be safe in my car. If I do everything I can to insure the success of my children, they will turn out to be happy, fulfilled and generous members of society. Et cetera.

The fact is that there are no guarantees in this life, and as easy as it is to understand this cognitively, I think it’s a lot less easy to live it. The Universe does not seem to take kindly to our attempts at bossing it around and I am convinced that he/she/it ROTFLMAOs at our feeble efforts to do so. I don’t know why life is so capricious and unfathomable sometimes but it is. But I do think that the eternal desire to understand and conquer our destiny is what keeps us moving ahead, learning, growing and reaching out to each other. The challenge of it makes us better, more motivated, and perpetually striving for greatness. Maybe this is what the universe really wants after all, for us to push back and to try. Always. And sometimes, we’ll be rewarded and school will start without a hitch.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Whiny Post - Also One I Kind of Posted Already But Not Really. Sort Of.

***I kind of posted this the other day already. But then I went to correct a mistake and accidentally pulled it down and reverted it to draft. Then it turned out that I had my blog dashboard open in two windows and when I closed one, the final version was gone and had been replaced with the draft version which had errors and was missing parts. So I tidied up the draft version and have put it back. I have no idea if any of this makes sense but here it is regardless. Enjoy!***

I'm going to complain. If that does not interest you, I'm sorry. Well, not really, but it seemed like the nice thing to say. Or you can pull up a chair, heat up your coffee and we can kvetch together! M'kay? Good, let's get bitchin'.

I have talked before about the challenges of being a working mom, and will reiterate that I can only speak from my perspective, and that I'm well aware that there is another completely different set of challenges faced by stay at home moms. One of the problems I face on a regular basis is feeling somewhat left out of the loop due to my unavailability during the work day. I've come to terms with this for social reasons but when it comes to my kids, it's pretty upsetting. Personally I'm fortunate enough to have an extremely flexible employer, who basically lets me come and go as I please, but I do have to take unpaid time off sometimes to do so. I really feel for the people who don't have the same luxury.

A couple of weeks ago my daughter went to camp. I love the camp, I love the people who run it, she loves it, it is an amazing place. I cannot say enough good things about it...BUT. Drop off was in the middle of the day Monday and pick up was the middle of the day on Friday.  Because of the logistics of it all, I missed a total of 12 hours of work in order to get her to and from (it's twenty miles from home). Frustrating.

We have attended two different churches with some regularity over our married life - one in Summerville and one in Charleston. Loved both of them but ran into the same working mom challenge - small groups, Bible studies, volunteer opportunities etc., predominantly scheduled during the day. Many children's activities were the same way, I guess the presumption being that their non-working outside the home moms would bring them. So no women's retreat, no children's choir, no luncheons etc. No close friends made because you are only there on Sunday mornings. Again, frustrating.

Recently I realized that our school's "meet the teacher" time was scheduled smack in the middle of the day. Again, as an involved parent, I will find a way to get there and do the drill but will need to take unpaid time again as well as go out of my way to attend. I am well aware that the teachers and staff have been putting in a lot of time leading up to the opening of school, and most of them have their own families to tend to as well, but like I said to a friend, there just has to be some kind of middle ground.

I'm not trying to make anyone else's life harder, because God knows, most of us are just doing the best we can. But the mean part of my mind is hissing, "they do this on purpose, because they know that the SAHMs do the lion's share of the volunteering." Uh-huh. Oh yes, I do sometimes think that, even though I know it's not true. It's not true, right? Right? Please just tell me that I'm being crazy.

How do other working moms deal with this? Is this something you've noticed, or am I living in my own personal Twilight Zone?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My William is Nine.

Happy birthday amaze us every day. 

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'm Looking For Opinions. Yes, Even Yours.

When I write, typically the post has been percolating in my head for a few days before I begin typing. I don't plan my writing in advance, although I do sometimes jot down things I mean to think about later. So usually, I just get started and with about 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted work, the post is done. I do a re-read and some basic editing for spelling and grammar but that's it.

Sometimes though, it takes more than that. Like right now, I'm having these fleeting thoughts about a couple of different topics that are much more intense, but they are like wisps of smoke that drift through my head and then poof!, they disappear. I'm not sure how to catch these thoughts but I'd really like because I think they have merit and should be explored. But I swear sometimes they're gone before I can even get to a piece of paper, which is super frustrating.

I'd like to know what other bloggers and writers do if they experience this. I feel that I'm at a point where my writing has improved but that it's time to dig a little deeper. Anyone have any input?

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mama Bear Surprised Me

When I was pregnant for the first time, I never had a doubt that I would love my baby. I had doubts about many other things, but loving him/her was not one of them. I was excited about being pregnant, I was looking forward to meeting (turned out to be) her and I knew I loved my baby when the second pink line showed up in February of 2001. I counted down the days, weeks and moments until we finally met, in October of that same year.

Interestingly enough, what I did not count on was the ferocity of the love I felt when she was born. Being a first time parent, I had heard about "mama bear" and "doing anything for my kids" etc., but really that had no serious relevance to me, simply because I had no frame of reference for those kinds of feelings. Waves of that feeling washed over me once she arrived, but they reached a (then) crescendo the day after she was born.

Having sent my husband home for a shower etc., I sent Cecilia to the nursery so that I could have a shower myself. (y'all know that there is not much like the first post-delivery shower. Bliss is not a strong enough word in my opinion). Upon returning to the nursery once I was finished, I realized that she was not where I left her. My first reaction was to question myself, just thinking that maybe I just didn't recognize her amongst the other newborns because she was less than 24 hours old. Once I established that she just wasn't in sight, my second reaction was something like this: 

Or something like that. 

In my bathrobe, I began pounding on the nursery glass with both fists, whisper-yelling, "WHERE is she?!?!" to the very startled nursery nurses. They instantly sprang into action, and showed me where she was - across the room under the warmer, because she was a little cold. One came out into the hallway to comfort me, and while the details are a little hazy, I'm pretty sure she offered crazy pills. The next nurse wrapped Celi up in a blanket and brought her out so that her nut-case mama could hold her.

Oops...silly me.

This all struck me as quite interesting after I calmed down. This person, whom I had never met up until the day before, inspired a protective and near violent reaction when I could not locate her in less than five seconds. How many people have you been willing to react like for after having known them for less than 24 hours? I'm not sure about you, but my list is way short, like two names long.

In a weird way, I love that about being a parent. That I love someone so much that I have no restraint, no inhibition and definitely no fear holding me back from the many different emotions I have about them. It's just such a raw and unfettered feeling, not hampered by what anyone thinks, or societal norms, or anything that really matters. I've read that being a mother means wearing your heart on the outside of your body for the rest of your life and that's okay with me. Maybe we'd be a little nicer to each other if all our hearts were worn that way.

What about you? Have you ever had feelings about parenting that surprised you?

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How To Launch A Boat, Connelly Style

There are many, many blogs out there giving directions about how to do all kinds of things, both complex and simplistic. Normally, there is a set of instructions and if you play your cards right, following them will yield a result at least close to what you desire. However, here in the Connelly household, normal is just a setting on the dryer.

This past weekend, we were fortunate enough to have a boat at our disposal. We decided to put in at a fairly quiet landing, as I'm super rusty in the boating department and Lawton can't very well back the boat/trailer down the ramp and captain said boat all at once. The launch began well enough, but it became evident within moments that this experience would go down as, well, normal, by our standards.

And so, without further ado, I present to you an exceptionally clear and concise list of ways not to launch a boat.

1. Borrow your friends boat. Be sure that it has a brand new stainless steel prop on it that has never been used, and is in pristine condition.

2. Drive your friend's boat to a landing that does not have a dock for loading passengers, belongings and pets; one that is also split with a cement curb and with perilous rocks on each side of the cement ramp.

3. Have your wife stand thigh deep in the water in order to direct you down the ramp, but be sure the tide is racing one direction and the wind whipping in the other, so that you achieve maximum hovering difficulty.

4. Back boat down the ramp - be certain that the boat teeters precariously on the edge of the ramp, threatening to drop off the edge into the barnacle covered rocks.

5. Once boat is off the trailer and floating, send wife to park truck and trailer. When she comes back from doing this, yell for her to grab your cigarettes. Idle nearby while she walks back to parked vehicle to retrieve said smokes, ignore her swearing and cussing under her breath.

6. Accept the raincoat wrapped cigarettes (and also her cover-up) from your wife while she stands again in thigh high water at the end of the ramp.

7. Assist wife into the moving/drifting/motoring boat while she dangles from the railing on the gunwale. Make sure there is no ladder or any other foothold for her to use to get in said moving v-hull boat. Heave her fat ass over the side in front of a passel of laughing county boys - be sure that the boat is drifting directly towards the nearest dock while your children shriek in terror.

8. Laughing, congratulate yourselves on a clean getaway, then cruise slowly down the creek. Turn, smiling, and ask your wife if she also retrieved your lighter. Act surprised when she answers to the negative, bearing in mind that normally you carry lighters in your backpack, which is already on the boat.  

9. Head back to landing, let (boating rusty) wife captain the boat while you jump in to thigh high water, head towards ramp so to retrieve said lighter. Fall over sideways from racing current and howling wind - be sure that your flip-flops come off, ensuring that you step on oysters, thus slicing up your feet, causing you to bleed like stink. Catch shoes.

10. Come back to ramp after retrieving lighter. Be sure that wife is successfully idling boat nearby. Encourage wife to come pick you up from ramp, while you are once again standing in thigh high water, clutching your cigarette lighter. Begin pickup process again.

Bonus points if: your wife panics when the boat gets very close to the ramp near where you are standing, and slams the throttle forward when she meant to reverse in a very big hurry, so as not to run over her husband with a twenty foot boat. Be sure that your children continue to shriek as if their very souls are being ripped from their bodies.

MORE bonus points if: in her moment of panicking throttle indiscretion, your wife not only drives your friend's boat directly into the rocks, but ALSO whips the boat around so that the brand new stainless steel prop comes into intimate contact with the very rocks she's been trying to avoid.

And finally, accept assistance from ramp-sitting local observers, and swear to self never to go to a boat landing without a dock. Also, kick self for all of this happening over a cigarette lighter. (okay, I said that, not him, but still.)

Proceed to miraculously enjoy the rest of your day without boating incident, unless you count rain. Which I don't, considering all of the above. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how not to launch a boat. You're welcome.

PS. This is one example among a host of others as to why I take pills. It's just better for everyone.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

I Chumped Out of BlogHer 2012. In NYC. Because I'm An Idiot.

Once upon a time, there was an outgoing and strong girl who gave all appearances of being fearless. And then when she wanted to attend a gigantic blogging conference in New York City she found herself too scared to go.

I don't know anyone, she thought. What if the people I interact with virtually don't like the me in person, she worried. I don't have a buddy to face all these strangers with, no one to cling to the wall with if I feel intimidated, she fretted. My clothes and shoes and accessories and hair and makeup and ohmygoodness I need to lose 20 pounds instantly and have a facial and...OH what in the world will I ever say when someone asks me what my "goals for blogging" are?! she thought to herself, while mentally wringing her hands.

Then she thought, maybe she would just hide in the bathroom like her favorite blogger, but then no one would talk to her at all because she's not famous like Jenny. Which is fine, but who wants to pay for airfare, conference passes and a hotel room just to stay in the bathroom cringing with fear for three days?

So that girl, who actually really wanted to go to this blogging conference for many reasons, stayed home. And sulked. And kicked herself for being stupid.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

As Compared To What

I'm tall (5'8"+), for those of you who don't know me in person. Historically, I have also been very thin. I'm more of an average build these days which I am not exactly thrilled about, but I'm also well aware that I'm within the healthy weight range. As a kid, I was super scrawny and hated it. I have a picture that was taken from behind while I was horseback riding and most people who see it guess my age at about 12 or 13. That picture was taken when I was 21. In college, I was this height, a size 2/4 and thought I was fat.

Too skinny. Too fat. Too tall. (turns out i was just too crazy)

Right now, our daughter is exactly where I was at her age. Super slender, taller than everyone she knows, and starting to slouch. She doesn't talk about it much, but I know what she's thinking about wanting to not be skinny, and how I wish I could open up her head and pour my knowledge and experience with this into it. But since that isn't possible, I've tried to reiterate to her that she is exactly how she needs to be right now, she comes from parents who were both very thin kids, and that one day she will be very happy that she is made this way.

Not to be left out, our son, who still has the teensy-tiniest bit of the baby belly (just enough to poke out when he's eaten, thinks that he is "chunky".  His words. Will is almost as slender as Celi - like we have to buy slim pants or the kind with the adjustable waist. He could wear some of his clothes forever because he just got taller, never wider. He also hates his amazing blond curls and wants to have "straight brown hair" instead.

I swear to all that is holy, that we have never put them down, and have never said anything other than positive things about the way they look and who they are. Personally, I am an awful self critic but I really try not to voice these criticisms around the kids. Where, then, did this issue originate? It scares me for all kinds of reasons that probably go without saying - anorexia, bulimia, insecurity, and a host of others. Why do they feel they are they not enough, even at the tender ages of 8 and 10, and despite the best efforts of their parents? I feel like a failure in this regard. We have tried so hard to ward off body image problems et al and yet here we are. It's very disheartening and scary.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start preaching on this blog, but I have always liked the verse in Psalms where David writes, "I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." I believe this is true. The human animal is the most complex and amazing thing on the planet, and yet we look in the mirror with a mental red pen, marking all the things that are wrong. We tell our children that there is only one of them, ever, and that is the honest truth. Biologically, you are the only you there ever is or ever will be, and yet we are always "too" something, or not enough something else. Why is it so hard to believe this? Is this an American thing? Anxiety thing? I don't know but I don't like it.

We KNOW that comparing ourselves to others is ridiculous, yet we don't quit (well maybe some of you do - if you are one of these people, by all means, please tell me your secret). If we were all meant to be exactly alike, we would be exactly alike, right? But I still want to be thinner, wealthier, prettier, smarter, funnier, etc, and apparently my children do too.  In thinking about this post, I wandered around the Internet and found this and it really resonated with me. Be your best self because really, that is all you can do. Comparing with someone else is a totally fruitless exercise because we can never BE someone else, no matter how hard we try.

Does anyone else struggle with this? Do your children? Please, talk to me.

And because it makes me feel good every time I watch it, I'll leave you with this:

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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Children Are In Cahoots - We Are Probably Doomed.

It's no secret that three out of the four Connellys take medicine for various mood and attention problems. Cecilia is the only one of us who is mostly sane, and even she can be a bit of a question mark sometimes. Will has been taking Strattera for quite a while and it has been extremely helpful and with basically non-existent side effects. The only problem we have is that he doesn't take a pill very well, or at all, so we've been opening the capsule to mix with applesauce in order for him to get it down. Y'all, let me tell you what. That is the nastiest tasting stuff you've ever come across. Truly awful.

A couple of months ago though, we convinced him to try to swallow the capsule whole. It isn't large at all and it would be way less disgusting. He did this the first couple of times with our supervision and we were thrilled. After a few days, we began letting him just take it on his own - every once in awhile I would watch him take it just to be sure that everything was cool. "You are doing great!", I told him. "Way to go!"

And then I noticed that he wasn't really quite himself. I chalked it up to being out of routine, summertime stuff, not enough physical activity etc. But there wasn't anything really major going on so I dismissed my passing thought and went about my business. However, about a month ago, I was refolding the beach towels that live under the sink in the powder room and lo and behold, here I find several capsules of his medication. Fantastic. So I call him to me, show him the medicine and ask him what was going on. He confessed to everything, was very sorry, was not going to do it again etc etc etc. I reiterated to him why we give him the medicine and how important it was that we know exactly what is going on with it, not to mention the dishonesty and waste of money. Case closed, or so I thought.

Recently, the children went out of town with their grandparents. Upon their return, Lawton pulled me aside and told me that my MIL gave him reason to think that the "cheeking" as I named it, was still going on. Apparently she found out that he had spit medicine into the toilet and wanted us, rightfully so, to know about it. Here is where the plot thickens: she also seemed to think that Cecilia knew about this practice, which apparently was ongoing behind their completely oblivious parent's backs. Super fantastic. We decided the only thing we could do was call them out on it, rather than trying to catch them in the act.

Brought in the abettor first and employed some serious interrogation techniques, such as follows:

"Cecilia. Do you know anything about Will not taking his medicine?" "Booohooooo hooo hooo booohooo, I'm sorry, I didn't want to tell on him! Boo hoo hoo" and so forth.

See? Torture will get you everywhere. Just call her Cecila "Stonewall" Connelly. (eye roll)

Next up - the culprit himself. "William. Have you been spitting out your medicine?" "I'm soooo sorryyy! Booo hoo hoo! I'm sooorrryyyy!!!" "Why didn't you tell us you were having a hard time with it?" "I just didn't want you to think I was a baby! Booohoohooo! I'm sooooo ssooorryyyy!"

Wow. He's just as tough a nut as she is. Be afraid. (eye roll)

Anyway, we told him that we obviously have to go back to the old way and gave the lecture about honestly, his health, medication safety etc, and sent him on his way. Then we called the girl-child back over and talked to her about the difference between being a snitch, and getting us involved because of health/safety concerns. I tried to draw a parallel between that and not getting an adult if someone was being bullied so hopefully she gets it.

Lawton and I just stared at each other for a few seconds after the kids went about their business. We were more than amazed by two things. One, we got rolled by an eight year old. Bad. Like he pulled it off in front of us, more than once. Two, his sister, who loves nothing more than for her brother to get in trouble, did not tell on him. I couldn't decide whether to be mad or proud - I guess I really was kind of both. This does not bode well for the teenage years if they keep this up...we need to step up our game apparently! Sheesh.

Anyone else's kids pull the wool over their eyes like this? Do your children go in cahoots with each other?

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Horsepower...Does Not Always Mean Strength and Speed

Holly Grace - survivor of starvation, healer of hearts

At some point in their lives, many young girls have fallen in love with horses. The beautiful flowing manes, the soft muzzles and picture of the handsome prince astride his steed on the way to rescue the fair maiden has a timeless appeal. I would bet that most outgrow this fascination but some retain it into adolescence and beyond. What's interesting about this interest is that once you spend time with horses, you will realize that what they bring to you far exceeds what you bring to them. 

Currently my family is volunteering with a local horse rescue organization, LEARN, because we wanted something we could do together and that we all enjoyed. Over the past two months, I find myself finding myself again. I was that girl - the one with the Breyer and Barbie horses, the one reading The Black Stallion series, and the one who wrangled every moment of horse time I could as a younger person. But by the time I got married and began a family, this interest became a distant memory and a far away dream. 

As a 30-something (a-HEM) year old woman, my girlhood notions have all but vanished, but my time spent volunteering with LEARN have given them a new slant. Where I used to want to gallop and jump, now I'm content to pet, groom and just talk to them. Some of this is because my body is certainly not what it used to be, but mostly I just simply enjoy being with them. Winston Churchill said it best: "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." These words have been repeated in the horse world an infinite number of times, and I have believed this statement my entire life. 

Just last night, I had my own small moment of grace. While helping take care of the horses, I severely bruised my arm, was really struggling with my stupid foot arthritis and about knocked myself unconscious when I hit my head on the oh-sh*t handle of the "mule" (a suped up gas powered golf cart for lack of a better description). None of these things were anyone's fault, but I was starting to feel a little beat up and picked on by the end of the night.

I shed a few tears over the probably dented noggin but then I slipped some treats in my pocket and scaled the fence to go visit with my favorite horse, a bottomless pit of sweetness named Holly Grace. It was totally dark and I could just make out the individual mares as they milled around trying to get into my pockets for the goodies their keen sense of smell told them were there. 

For the most part, none of the normal pecking order pushing around happened - we just hung out. My tears (yes, I cried - my head hurt so bad, I was tired, hungry and frustrated so be quiet) stopped rolling and I began to feel better. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when a crooked legged little pony is gently pulling on your shorts pocket with her soft lips, her nosy pasture buddy is checking out your pony tail and another one is blowing sweet warm breath on your ear. I spent less than ten quiet minutes with these animals and my entire attitude changed. Just like that. 

The way I felt my spirits lift was minor in comparison to the experiences of some who have suffered far worse and yet I'm finding that the more and more time I spend in the company of the animal that changed modern human-kind, the more I find myself in touch with my own humanity.  I'm not naive about horses - I know that they aren't all super wonderful magical beings. There are a few who, given the opportunity, will hurt you. But some, like Holly Grace among many others, will heal you, will sooth your hurts and will somehow carry you through some of your darkest hours. There is indeed, something about the outside of a horse...

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Jack Russell Terrier Is Actually A Water Buffalo In Disguise. Or Maybe A Wildebeest.

Three years ago this July 4th, we were celebrating the holiday with our neighbors the usual way with grilling, socializing, imbibing a frosty beverage or two - fairly average behavior all in all. Our dog, who is always on my husband's heels was right up in the thick of it, having a grand time since all other dogs were contained in their houses due to her completely rude, crude and socially unacceptable behavior. Having all the humans to herself, Winnie became quite the party animal, visiting and snitching treats at every opportunity.

Around 10PM, it was decided that the time was right for the fireworks. Personally, I was anticipating some bottle rockets, roman candles, sparklers etc. What I was not expecting was a reenactment of the Battle of Fort Sumter to happen in front of my driveway. Truth be told, it was a miracle no one was hurt but I came to realize long ago that God protects the morons, and so we all walked away unscathed.

As we came in to get the kids ready for bed, I realized our dog was missing. So for the next three hours, Lawton and I took turns cruising the neighborhood looking for her. At 2AM we were about to call off the search for the night, both dreading telling the kids she was missing when they woke up. Lawton took one more lap around the hood and lo and behold here came Winnie running down the road towards his truck. Brought her home and realized that she had been given a bath. Uh. Okay. Anyway, dog was home and crisis was averted. For then.

Ever since that night, Winnie has been terrified of thunder, fireworks, gunfire and the like, which has made our lives very exciting on more than one occasion. Not only is it amazing to wake to a huge clap of thunder in the middle of the night, now we also have a vibrating twelve pound animal in our bed, whose "coping strategies" include tunneling around under the covers, panting wildly in our faces and wanting me to carry her around. I've tried all manner of medication, and for whatever reason, she is completely immune. Benadryl doesn't even slow her down. Neither does Xanax or Valium. Dog is an ox in Jack Russell clothing.

This past 4th, I secured a secret weapon. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I came home with some Ace, which is commonly used to sedate horses. Oh yes, you read that right. HORSES. So there! Giddy with anticipation, I call for the dog - no answer. Check around the house - nothing.  Um. Go back to the garage and ask my menfolk where she is and am assured she was inside. Which she wasn't. Apparently Lawton and Will had been doing some minor firework prep and Winnie was not secured inside as she should have been, so she left. We began the search around the neighborhood and eventually located her, thank goodness, because I probably would have been on the news for the world's largest hissy fit if we hadn't.

We gave her a few minutes to calm down and I gave her the medicine tout de suite. About half an hour passed, and I began to think that she was some kind of animatronic dog because nothing seemed to be happening. Then, about ten minutes later, the synapses pulled away from each other or something and my puppy dog was high as a kite. Eyes half closed, walking a little sideways, needing to lie down while crossing the was amazing. I laughed, Lawton fretted over her, and fireworks went off all over the place and she did not give a damn. It was an awesome 4th - Winnie slept all night with no panting or tunneling and so did we. And so, I would say the lesson to be learned here is this is why you make friends with people who have better meds than you do. The end.

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