Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Winds of Change

I felt the winds of change blowing in my face a few weeks ago. I had been breathing in the stagnant air of death, depression and a dozen extra pounds for many months. I had been praying the winds of change would rescue me. It was a cold, quiet Thursday morning when they arrived and I finally heard their great wisdom. The winds of change enveloped me, pulled me in tight and whispered in my ear, “Get a haircut, would ya?”

It was so simple and so wise. I knew it was the answer. The last time I had my hair cut was 3 ½ months ago, the day after my mother’s funeral. And since then, as each week passed and my hair grew longer, it became easier and easier to hide behind the symbolic shapeless mess that hid my telling eyes. But now, it seemed so obvious that the winds of change were on to something. A haircut would change everything. A haircut was just what I needed.

As I pondered the direction my hair should take next, I knew I wasn’t simply contemplating the length or style of my hair. It was a much bigger decision than that. Each possibility for my hair somehow represented a new kind of possibility for my life that was much more expansive and significant than the hair alone. I was ready to move on and I had high expectations that this haircut was just the vehicle to jumpstart the process. After days of deliberation, I finally narrowed it down to three possible life scenarios…I mean, haircuts.

Haircut #1-My hair would be somewhat glamorous and so would my life. I would leave my hair long. I would clean up the ends and add a few long layers to show off my natural flowing waves. Perhaps I would even add a little reddish blond color to enhance my glowing tan. With this kind of haircut I would easily lose 20 pounds. I would wear a lot of sophisticated black and dig my spiky, pointy toed boots out of my closet. My blog would be purchased as a book by a big New York publisher and I would start my publicity tour on Good Morning America.

Haircut #2-My hair would be somewhat edgy and so would my life. I would chop much of my hair off. I would get rid of the bulk, and put in a bunch of random, spiky layers. Perhaps I would even add a highlight or two to enhance my glowing tan. With this kind of haircut I would easily lose 20 pounds. I would wear a lot of trendy black and dig my chunky anti-establishment boots out of my closet. My blog would be purchased as a column by a local counter-culture newspaper and I would start my publicity tour at the local “Free Tibet” rally at the inner city community college.

Haircut #3-My hair would be somewhat sensible and so would my life. I would cut a few inches off and shape it into a nice, easily maintained bob. Perhaps I would even cover the grey hairs with shade similar to my own to enhance my pasty white, SPF 30 covered skin. With this kind of haircut I would struggle to lose 5 or 10 pounds and eventually start labeling myself “big boned”. I would wear a lot of slimming, black and comfy mom jeans and dig my worn out tennis shoes out from under the coffee table where I left them last night. My blog would continue to be well received but not very profitable and I would always mean to start marketing it—tomorrow.

This isn’t the first time I’ve expected my life to change for unusual reasons. Every time I organize a drawer or clean out a closet, I fully expect to wake up the next morning supremely effective and super efficient in everything I do. One time I decided that white pasta was keeping me from becoming a more successful writer, not to mention a bit thinner. Last year I bought new bathroom towels and was sure that, because of the towels, the boy would suddenly start picking his clothes up off the floor. I even convinced myself once that a particular kind of bedroom curtain would help the teenager completely change her personality and become a much happier morning person. So it should come as no surprise that I had very high expectations for my new haircut.

And now I sit here today, the day after receiving the haircut that was to be a catalyst for change. I sit here today, as very much the same person I was yesterday. I do sit here today, however, with a newfound spark that wasn’t there yesterday. I do feel a bit edgier. I even dug my chunky boots out of my closet and paired them with my comfy mom jeans. I still have a few grey hairs but they blend in a bit better with my new random, super cute layers. I am wearing SPF 30 lotion but it also has a bit of self tanner mixed in. I did watch Good Morning America this morning, albeit from the comfort of my own couch, but I did it weighing one pound less than I did a few days ago. And perhaps most important, you can now see my telling eyes peeking out from behind my trendy, spiky bangs. My fabulous new haircut did change things. I do feel different.

Now I’ll admit that my new haircut may not have changed my life in a grand, shocking way, but it did jumpstart the process of change for me. I am newly invigorated and inspired. In fact, I am ready to now take on even bigger changes. And, I know exactly how I’m going to start. You see, I have felt the winds of change blowing again. They have enveloped me, pulled me in tight and whispered in my ear, “Get a Fanny Lifter, would ya?”

And I have listened. I have just ordered a new FIRM workout DVD complete with the amazing Fanny Lifter Box! How could that NOT change my life? It is so simple and so wise. I just know it is the answer. It seems so obvious now that the winds of change are on to something. A Fanny Lifter will change everything. A Fanny Lifter is just what I need.

Check This Out!
This week the fine folks at Slightly Exaggerated have watched the 1999 Jodie Foster movie, Anna and the King while eating a toasted turkey and havarti on sourdough sandwich. We highly recommend both.

Happy Holidays in Aisle 4

“What do you mean they don’t want baked potatoes? If I’m getting out of bed when it’s still “frickin’” dark outside to bake both the pecan and the pumpkin pies, because they can never agree on just one, and then spend all day making them a 5 1/2 lb salted prime rib and a spiraled honey ham that I paid fifty three “frickin” dollars for, then I can “darn” well have “frickin” baked potatoes if I so “darn” well please. You tell them to bring their own “frickin” sweet potatoes. “

It was Christmas Eve morning and the woman in the produce section of the grocery store was obviously upset. Those of us shopping near her could hear every word of her side of the cell phone conversation. No one wanted to make eye contact with her. No one dared to confront her and ask her to tone down either the volume of her voice or her choice of language. We were much too afraid of her.

On aisle 4, as I paused to check the fiber content of a new cereal, a 4 year old boy near me grabbed a box of Lucky Charms and ran up to his mother. “Oh no, honey,” she said, “We can’t buy that cereal. Here, I've already got you a box of Cheerios.”

“But mommy, “the boy questioned with a whine, “We always get Lucky Charms!! Why can’t I get Lucky Charms?”

“Because, I said so. Now put those back and be a good little boy and be quiet so mommy can finish her shopping.” the mother pleaded.

“But mommy that’s not fair!” The boy yelled. “We always get Lucky Charms. I don’t like Cheerios. I want Lucky Charms! Why can’t we get Lucky Charms?”

The mother grabbed the Lucky Charms out of the boy’s hands and stuffed them firmly back on the shelf. She grabbed the boy by the shoulders and pulled him close. In a firm, controlled voice she instructed the boy in his ear, “You may not get Lucky Charms because Grandma and Grandpa are coming to visit in 3 hours, 33 minutes and…um… 47 seconds! I want them to think that I’m a good mother. I don’t want them to know that I allow you to eat Lucky Charms. I don’t want them to know that you eat ravioli, cold, straight out of the can, in front of the TV. I don’t want them to know that the only “fruit” you eat are Curious George fruit snacks. And I don’t want them to know that you eat chicken nuggets 5 nights a week for dinner! “ And with a dripping sarcasm she added, “So be a good boy and help mommy finish her shopping so we can go home and greet those fine people who raised me and we can all be one big happy family.”

As I turned my cart, a few corners down, in search of some frozen blueberries, I overheard the woman’s heavy accent. She grabbed the woman next to her and pleaded. “You must tell her not to bring him! Father will be so dishonored. Why does she always have to do this? She’s going to ruin everything…again.”

“But she LOVES this one! I don’t see why she can’t bring him.” the pulled woman replied. “Besides, it’s not like he’s a criminal or anything. Who cares if they want to sleep in the same room?”

“It will kill mama. Papa will never allow it. Christmas will be an argument. There will be no true happiness.”

Having tossed my blueberries into the cart, as well as a few other treats not on my list, I found myself in the bakery. I grabbed my bread and then passed through the wine department on my way to the checkout stands. And that is where I saw the “frickin” baked potato woman from the produce department. She had 3 bottles of wine in her cart. She paused under the large sign advertising a 10% discount if you buy 6 bottles of wine. And then her cell phone rang. She answered it. She listened. She became enraged. “What the “heck” do you mean they can’t come until 7? Tell me again, Bob, why it is we decided to have these ungrateful children? Tell me…. WHY!?!?” And with that she grabbed the convenient 6 pack carrier for wine bottles and filled it up.

In the checkout lane I perused Britney’s latest shenanigans and Christina’s pregnancy shopping trips and Mathew McConaughey’s amazing abdominal photos. And then the checker shook me back to suburbia by asking, “Paper or plastic?” We spoke of how busy the store was. We spoke of the weather. And then, we spoke of the holiday season. Neither of us was brave enough to mutter the word “Christmas” for fear of offending the potentially non believing person across from us. But we did speak of the holiday season in general as she rang up my $201.43 holiday purchase. As I was leaving she said to me, “Enjoy the holiday season, won’t you? It’s such a happy time of year!”

I loaded my groceries into my car, returned my cart to the cart return cage and drove away. I was thinking of what I needed to make for the in-laws’ visit. I was thinking of what I needed to do before Santa came that evening. I was thinking that I was glad I wasn’t as stressed as that swearing baked potato lady or the cereal mom or the sister in the frozen foods. I was thinking that the husband just might have stolen my new Eagles CD for his car. I was thinking about what I needed for Christmas breakfast the next morning.

I rapidly looked left and then right as I pulled out to cross the road. There was no cross traffic. I pressed the gas and abruptly slammed on my brakes as soon as I saw him in the crosswalk. I’ve seen him a million times before. He’s the ancient old man that walks. He walks everywhere. In my neighborhood, through my neighborhood and apparently, to the grocery store as well. When he saw me coming, he jumped. Just a little bit. I let him cross, leaving the back end of my car vulnerable in the usually busy intersection. He looked a bit concerned for his safety and sped up his cane assisted crossing, as much as he could. I had scared him. I was mortified. I didn’t see him when I started to cross the busy road. It didn’t dawn on me to look for him. I almost hit him.

I slowly edged forward and rolled down the window. I turned down the Christmas feel good music on the radio and yelled toward him. “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wasn’t looking. I was distracted.”

He looked at me with kind eyes and a look of innate understanding. He looked at me in such a shockingly gentle way. He made me feel so young and naive and vulnerable. He looked at me, cocked his wrinkled head, and then gestured with his cane, toward my vulnerable, newly washed trunk and shiny rear tires that were now sticking out in traffic. It was the cane I had seen so many times as I had sped through my neighborhood. It was the cane I had taken to indicate his weakness. It was the cane I thought held his 87 year old body up. And at that moment, he stood up straight, picked his cane up off the ground and pointed it at me.

“I will be fine. I will walk on. But, you must slow down. You must remember to look at what you have this very moment, today, right in front of you. You should not always look left or right to see what might be coming, but try and see what is right in front of you”

I had to get my car out of the intersection. Another car was coming. I nodded and rolled up the window and sneaked past the rear edge of his wisdom. I trolled home and pulled into the driveway. I grabbed some of my groceries from my shiny trunk and headed into the house. As I opened the door, I yelled, “Hey, come help me unload these groceries. There’s so much we have to do. Has anyone seen the Yahtzee game?”

Check This Out!

My latest book, recommended by my sister in law, a teacher, is "not much just chillin'" by Linda Perlstein. The sub title is " The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers." Oh dear. Very educational. If you are there now or will be some day then it's well worth your time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happily Ever After?

The husband and I have been married for 19 years. We paused briefly to acknowledge our anniversary last month, and then jumped right back into the craziness of the holidays. Fortunately, knock on wood, the husband and I have never considered divorce. It has been widely advertised, however, that somewhere around 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. According to the percentage of married people who will reach their 15th anniversary is 52%. Only 33% of married people will make their 25th anniversary. Extrapolating out the numbers, it’s entirely possible that the husband and I have somehow managed to position ourselves in the above average category. I feel I must explain, at least on my part, how we have achieved this apparently extraordinary and somewhat surprising feat. I must explain why, after 19 years, I am still married to the husband.

1. He has a job. He’s always had a job. There’s never been any doubt about him having a job. He goes to work. He makes money. He then gives me the money to spend. It’s one of his best qualities.

2. He comes home. Mostly happy. Everyday. After work he picks up the teenager from jazz band practice or stops by to visit his “engine man” or picks up the books on hold from the library or waits somewhat impatiently in a traffic jam. But after that, he always comes home.

3. He’s a present father. 90% of runaways, 63% of youth suicides, 71% of high school dropouts and 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes. His value to the teenager and the boy cannot be overstated. (

4. He’s an involved father. He will ride his bike to the lake. He knows how to throw a football. He will play PIG with the new basketball that he inflated to the exact specified pressure. He is willing to have a burping contest. Or worse. He’ll happily chaperone a field trip with 8 gangly and giggly 13 year old girls or a bunch of “naughty boy” 2nd graders. He will race RC cars until the batteries are dead. He will play Christmas trumpet music duets until his lips look like they’ve had a double collagen injection. He will build a model airplane and allow the boy to “customize” it, even if it’s not entirely accurate and goes against all his sensibilities of proper model building.

5. He’s passionate. When the husband is interested in something, he is passionately interested in something. No stone is left unturned. No detail is left unresearched. No website is undiscovered. No book is left unread. This passion can be exciting, infectious, and often keeps him conveniently out of my hair.

6. He’s never met Jerry Springer nor does he own a wife beater tank top. He hasn’t cheated on me with my sister. He hasn’t solicited police officers in public bathrooms. He’s never even been in a casino. And he’s never asked to have a meth lab in the kitchen.

7. He’s flexible. He doesn’t care if we have Hamburger Helper or prime rib for dinner. He’ll listen to Les Mis or Linkin Park. He’ll watch American Gladiator or Househunters. And he’s fine with painting the bedroom blue or green, just as long as he doesn’t have to do it.

8. He crosses things off the Honey Do List. The bathroom towel bar was fixed the same hour it broke. The refrigerator received a new water filter on time. He independently ordered the new lawnmower part. He put in the external hard drive. As long as I don’t expect him to paint anything, he’s a pretty reliable handy man. And I’d say that almost half the time he doesn’t even complain about it.

9. He’s smart. He can rattle off any trigonometry formula in an instant. He can discuss World War II for hours on end. He can debate presidential politics and actually know what he’s talking about. He’s more than book smart, though. He’s also husband smart. He laughs at my jokes even when they’re not funny. He always “enjoys” my cooking. According to him, I have yet to own a pair of pants that make me look fat. He manages to be patient with the kids when I’m not. And he even manages, somehow, to restrain himself from yelling out in fear when I am driving and he is the passenger.

10. He still floats my boat. I started dating the husband in the summer of 1985. I am shocked that 22 ½ years later I am still able to tolerate him. I’m surprised that I’m still attracted to him. I had no idea that, after all these years, I’d still find him interesting. I’m amazed that I still look at him with respect. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We’ve had our ups and downs just like everyone does. Sometimes he drives me crazy with certain quirks. Sometimes he talks way too much about engine displacement. Sometimes he fails to treat me like the queen of his life should be treated. Sometimes he’s just plain annoying. But, not most of the time. Most of the time, he’s the guy who already knows all of my “stuff”. He’s the guy who’s been there for every day of the teenager’s and boy’s life. He’s the guy who knows when to leave me alone and knows when to let me babble and cry for an hour. He’s the guy who will turn down the heat when I'm too hot instead of making me take off my sweatshirt. He's the guy who knows that I'm wearing the sweatshirt to cover up my fat that day. It’s quite comforting to have 22 years of history with someone, knock on wood. That’s worth everything. It certainly, for me, makes up for the fact that he refuses to paint.

Check This Out!

Speaking of American might want to check it out, Monday nights, on NBC, at 8pm. Mindless fun that just might make you want to work out a little more than you do.