Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making the grade

WARNING: Before reading this blog realize that it is one of the most S.B. things I have yet to write; which means it comes from the heart and from personal experience.

When I was engaged to be married in the church, my then fiance and I were obligated to take a "pre-marriage test" to assess things like compatibility and possible areas of disagreement. I remember sitting in a room in the rectory and trying to stifle a few snickers as I worked my way through the endless questions. Here's a sample:

"Do you resent your spouse-to-be's overuse of drugs/alcohol?"

The answers were: true, false or I don't know. We were told that any ' I don't know' answers would be counted against us. This left me with either saying that my fiance had a drug and/or alcohol problem, or that I didn't resent the fact that he was a total alcoholic crack head.

Did I mentioned we're divorced now?

I would love to rewrite that marriage test for the real world. My questions to my spouse-to-be would go something like this:

1. You just just got your pay check and have the following three choices, which one would you choose?
a. Pay the rent, utilities, food and help keep a roof over your heads?
b. Go out to eat with friends and pay for everyone's meal and drinks even though they make three times the money you do?
c. Don't pay any bills and don't tell the wife or kids; let it be a surprise!

2. You have been fired...again. How do you tell your wife?
a. You sit down and have a calm discussion followed by an aggressive job search?
b. You eat up the family's meager savings by buying her something very expensive to try to soften the blow?
b. Don't tell the wife and kids; let it be a surprise!

3. You have been out of work for over a year now and will probably lose the house. What do you do next?
a. Spend the last money the family has on a get-rich-quick scheme you saw on late, late night TV?
b. Play a lot of games on the new computer system you bought on credit?
c. Don't let the door hit you in the ass when the wife kicks you out; let it be a surprise!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The mystery of the lost hours

I am such a hypocrite.

I am constantly yammering at the boys to put the DS down and back a way from the joy sticks. Once a kid meets up with any type of game system he/she is useless for anything productive afterward.

Now this was my thinking before one evening when I was feeling a little anxious and needed something to get my mind off the world for a while. I recalled purchasing a little computer game for myself that was on sale a few weeks back. As a lark, I opened it and loaded it onto my home computer...that is when I met Flo.

I am talking about the infamous waitress Flo of Diner Dash.

I spent many a year before college as a waitress trying to eek out a living. I worked my ass off for very little pay and a lot of grief. My perfume of the day was "Eau de Fryer." So I sympathized with Flo. I related to Flo. I was one with Flo. Night after night I snuck into my room and cranked up the computer ready to earn that new counter top or possibly an espresso maker - anything to please Flo and get her that new restaurant she so richly deserved.

Even my two male children were sucked into the mania. I found my seven year old slumped over my desk one night, asleep and murmuring, "If I only got the bread sticks out in time." His little finger was still clicking the mouse.

I knew I had to get help. I weaned myself off of the game, slowly. I am still one step away from getting that last upgrade that would make my fourth restaurant the envy of Chef Ramsay himself. I know that's not the most important thing in life anymore. I found something much more important.

I was saved. Yes, I was saved by a little game called, Nancy Drew Message in a Haunted House. Now leave me alone will ya. Nancy needs me to find out what Gun Bo Fu means.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Environmentally frustrated

I was parking at the apple orchard today when the sun disappeared. It wasn't cloudy out but, nevertheless, it grew dark inside my car. I looked out my side windows and discovered I was in THE VALLEY OF THE SUV's. I was between some sort of Explorer and and some humongous Lincoln. I was scared, very scared.

Once, while getting out of my little car, the SUV next to me pulled out suddenly. If I hadn't ducked in time it would have been a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre - only instead of a chainsaw ripping off my head it would have been a side-view mirror. Objects in the mirror Really Are closer than they appear.

You can probably tell from this and my SB Lesson #2 blog, that I am not a fan of cars the size of small towns. On my drive home from work on Friday I listened to how the greenhouse effect is worse than scientists predicted. I also pondered if the blood shed over oil wouldn't be as extensive if we just quit consuming so much.

After a peaceful afternoon among the Haralsons (not Woody, the apples) I pulled over into a gas station to fill the tank. There, on all the pumps were television screens. Above the computer screen that shows how much you are being ripped off there were television screens to show the latest ads and specials in little mini-commercials. The irony of it was, this was the station selling the E85 "good for the environment" clean gas. I guess we were saving so much by buying green that the gas stations felt they needed one more thing that used electricity on their pumps.

Sing with me now, "Green Acres we are there...da, dumb ,da-da, dumb...dumb, dumb."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Parlez-vous anywhere but here?

How much of the world have you seen?

If you do nothing else in your life - go somewhere. Get out of your chair, get out of your town, get out of your state, or if possible, your country.

I have never had real money. I don't have a "401K plan". I have a "4 pity sake don't let me end up a bag lady" plan. The point is, you do not have to be wealthy to go and see something beyond your back door (I'd say back yard, but don't have one - get it?).

I saw the entire United States because I acted in a couple different touring troupes. We busted our butts driving across every state on the map. Except Alaska. I haven't been to Alaska. Well, technically I flew to Hawaii.

The U.S. is absolutely amazing. I am sure the American electorate would not vote like such assholes if they ever got out there and saw how the rest of the country lives. What makes us all tick. What we care about.

While living as a travelling actress I also hopped into Mexico and Canada - eyes opened even wider now.

My other out-of -country treks were just dumb luck. My old French teacher asked me to chaperon her class on a trip to France during my first year of college. Seven years of french finally paid off. We popped into Monaco and Italy too. It was my first time in Europe. Guess what folks - we are not alone!

My ex-husband and I went to the Bahamas for a honeymoon. A short trip on a big boat and you get to drink all day and play on the beach. Nice job for a Midwestern girl.

One of the most exciting and unexpected trips was the one I made to England a few years ago. My marriage was at its worst and my once college roommate asked me to come stay with her. Ten days - all expenses paid. When I said yes I thought she was still living in Seattle. She was living with her fiance 30 miles outside of London. So this SB went British; and I could live there, I could really live there.

Remember you don't have to go far to change your life up a bit. Last summer my friend Beth drove with me to drop my kids off with their dad in South Dakota. We met up with him just over the border in Sioux Falls. After staying the night in a hotel we drove back home using anything but the highway and stopping at every interesting point we came across.


If you life isn't changing - change your scenery.

Monday, September 17, 2007

For rent - one ulcer

Have you had some real crappy jobs? Let's talk.

After I was separated, the kids and I lost the house and I had to find lodging and work fast. As I looked at an apartment I was asked to be the manager of 56 units in 3 buildings. It was sold to me as a part time job.

Had I ever done this before? No. Did I know what the hell I was doing? NOOOOO.

With two little boys needing a home before school started I did the SB thing and signed the lease and the contract. I was getting my rent plus $300 a month. (I had another part time job too). There was a caretaker on site and maintenance guys that came in. It sounded good.

However, I was also getting the landlords of the damned! Oh my God.

Here's a sample of the calls I got all day and all night (quotations are my thoughts):

"Did you walk the all the buildings today? You need to walk all the buildings every day." (Sorry, I forgot to leave breadcrumbs) "You recorded the answering machine greeting wrong." (They called about 10 times on this and every time I had read it off the sheet they gave me - with gusto). "I just drove by and there was a hanger in the middle of the street, go out and pick it up." (Response not printable in polite society) "There was snow on the steps when I went by this morning. Why?" (Well, maybe it was the blizzard outside) "Why are the washing machines breaking down all the time?" (I don't know, maybe because they are cheap pieces of crap) "There were newspapers outside the front door when I drove by, go put them in front of the everyone's doors." (What is this place, the Hilton?) "There was a piece of dust in the hallway. Why?" (There's going to be a foot up your ass and you know why)

And here's my favorite, "Find a stick and test the fire alarms in all 56 apartments." (Whaaat?) Which was all I could say for the next week because I was completely deaf; at least I didn't hear the phone ringing.

The funny thing is, the tenants, maintenance folks and I got along great. I might add that at the same time I was being berated by Lord and Lady Hemorrhoid, I was getting bonuses and raises at my better-paying, highly skilled, part time, then three-quarter time and then full-time salaried job.

My eyes opened wide when the apartment owners wouldn't show mercy to the two newlywed soldiers who lived next door to me. When they were suddenly re-deployed to Iraq, Juan and Eva Peron wouldn't honor the agreement of the previous manager and charged the couple a bundle to get out of the lease and go fight for our country. So much for democracy. I quit. I still have the nightmares.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The stages of life

The single-parent life is not easy and while I have no wish to go back to the damaged marriage I had, I do wish for a connection with someone. Right now my children are my life and there is nothing wrong with that as long as I have enough life in me to give back to them. So, I did the one thing I knew would bring me out of my funk...

I went to the theater.

The stage has always been my escape valve; my secret life. I've mentioned before that am an actress, but I haven't acted for years. I long for it. I tell myself that when the kids are old enough I'll be out there auditioning again (it's very important to me).

Anyway, living in the Twin Cities is wonderful for many reasons and one of them is you have a great many theaters to choose from. I chose the grand-daddy of them all, The Guthrie.

I called a phenomenal, SB friend of mine who is originally from my home town. She acted with me in college and "Knew Me When." This means she doesn't see me as the pathetic example I am today, but remembers me at my best, with no real cares and doing what I loved most. I love her for that. She and I did what we could to look presentable and set off for an evening of live entertainment. It worked. The show was charming and I wasn't me for 3 hours. I feel renewed.

Now I'd like to ask what gets you back when you have lost what is really you? Who is it "knew you when" and makes you feel like your better self? If you have the time I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friedrich Nietzsche is a putz

Are you single, divorced, separated, widowed or in a relationship (married or not) that is ripping the soul right out of your body? If you said yes to any of the above, this blog is for you.

No, this is not an ad for speed-dating or the newest therapy. This is an SB sharing some observations that I hope will be help.

I just spent the evening talking to the mom of a new friend of one of my sons. She, I discovered, is single, with a son she is raising completely on her own. His father walked out 11 years ago while she was pregnant. She is still hurting, but working hard to make a good life for her beautiful boy.

I have met this woman many times. She is a he in many of the encounters. The story may change to one of abuse, neglect, anger, betrayal or fear. However, the ending is always the same - someone is left out there very hurt, very alone, very sad and doing the best they can to get through and make things better.

In one of the lowest points of my divorce I called an amazing, long-term SB friend of mine. I was in tears about everything the kids were going through. I was exhausted and quite lost. I will share her words of advice verbatim,

"They say, 'that which does not kill us makes us stronger'. Bullsh_t! I say, that which doesn't kill us makes us smarter. We are beaten up, bleeding, crushed and left for dead but we are smarter."

I write this because I know you 'smart' people are out there. We are on a similar journey but at different crossroads. My own life is out of crisis but I still struggle and the wounds are not healed. Wherever you are - beginning, middle, or seeing what you long for on the horizon, I want to say, stay smart. I wish you faith and strength. You aren't as alone as you feel."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This really bugs me

I go to pick up the boys after work last Friday with only one thought on my mind, 'Yes, now I can relax.' Just then my 11-year old says the six words every woman thinks she'll never hear..."Mom, I think I have lice."

Pardon me while I hurl.

You must understand, I am no wussy. I have seen my son's skull through a split he put in his head. I have helped the doctor wrap a fractured arm. I have fumbled my way through curing their rashes (in boy-type places), dealing with their asthma bouts, completing their potty training and let's not forget the ever-popular cleaning up of the puke. I would do them all a hundred times over before I'd face lice again.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure, these disgusting why are they even on this earth creatures like to live in people's hair and feed off our blood. They not only hold on to the hair strand for dear life but they lay eggs, lots of eggs, and glue them onto the hair with a formula 3M would pay millions to own. A tsunami wouldn't budge the little bast_ _ ds!

My next stop is the pharmacy. The pharmacist just laughs at me and tries to be funny by saying, "Just rub sand in his hair and light him on fire." The SB in me wants to tell him where he can put the sand but I ask for the aisle with lice shampoo instead.

At home we shampoo and comb with this torture device that came in the box. Gobs of little bugs and eggs show up in the comb. (Hurling again). After that, we throw out his pillow. Change the sheets. Vacuum the bed, couch, chairs, rug and car seat. All his clothes with anything else he might have infested are put in dark plastic bags and sealed tight for days to kill the beasts.
I wanted to get into a plastic bag.

Next I check my younger son. Whew! No lice. I check myself as best I can and I also come up clean.

My older son is still itching.

I call my SB sister-in-law who is a nurse practitioner. She suggests vinegar and plastic wrap on the hair for 15 minutes followed by more combing. My poor boy sits there smelling like and Easter egg and looking dejected as the vinegar makes his eyes water. He turns to me and says in a serious voice, "We shall never speak this."

If only he had said we shall never blog of this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Enough said

I am taking a little break today to say Peace.

On the anniversary of the 9-11
In the midst of war
With the loss of people we love every day


Monday, September 10, 2007

SB lesson #2

Okay class, to continue educating you on the traits of a true SB (note: I did not say "typical" SB, there is no such thing as a typical SB), I need to tell you what happened today. The kids were getting into the car at the grocery store as I loaded the bags in the back when I noticed I was parked next to an SUV that was much larger than my apartment. Their motor was running even though the temperature was in the 70s and I'm almost sure it would have started again after the person they were waiting for came out of the store. But that wasn't really what got my SB engine started. Oh no.

I saw the drivers side window come down slightly and fingers pop through with some sort of wrapper that floated to the ground outside the behemoth auto. I could feel the kids start to fidget in the car as they knew I was not going to let it go. They probably flashed back on the time I tracked two neighborhood guys who dropped Taco Bell wrappers on our street and showed them how easily the bags would fit in the trash cans in their own back yard. Or another grocery store incident where the posh woman in the cashmere and pearls finished her free ice cream sample and threw the stick and wrapper on the ground not 2 feet from the friendly garbage can. She too learned how to "stop, drop and be droll."

So, as the boys cowered inside the car I jumped up about 6 feet in the air and knocked on the SUV window. The window came down as I picked up the wrapper and held it up to the middle-aged-and-should-damn-well-know-better driver inside. I said, "Come on, let's not do this. It's a beautiful world." And he...

Took the wrapper back.

I guess I'll never really know what happened to that wrapper, but I do know this, my sons know better than to toss their garbage on the ground, and that means an SB has done her job right.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A hunka hunka burnin' blog

Okay, I think I got this 'goodbye to summer' thing out of my system in the last blog. Let's face it, no one wants to read a crabby blog entry every night. I want to talk about something in the fall that I really look forward to ...Halloween. If the stores can sell Halloween junk three months early, by George, I can talk about it two months early.

I love to dress up. It is even better that I have two kids I can make costumes for from scratch. You heard me. I make costumes. No one-size-fits-all, sewn by slave labor, cheap looking knockoffs for this family. As a kid, my mom sewed our costumes and I have taken up the gauntlet. Hell, I've even made a few gauntlets.

In college, my theater and dance crowd always had the best Halloween parties. Two of my favorites: the "Princess Di Royal Wedding Party" (a friend of mine came as an anarchist and of course the Queen Mum was a man), and who could forget the "Come as Your Favorite Tragic Death Party" with classics like having an Alien popping out of the chest or the hospital patient with a cord hanging out that he let you unplug for a beer.

With kids you have to tame it down a bit. My greatest kid creation was the Elvis costume I made when my youngest was two. It was patterned after the older, fatter Elvis and was complete with studs, bell bottoms, red lined cape and sideburns. You know you've hit a fashion home rum when the sweet old lady who answers the door to hand out candy turns around and screams, "Fred,...Fred, get your butt off the couch and come see this. It's tiny Elvis."

I'd like to hear from any SB's out there who have a memorable Halloween costume story. And thanks for those of you who are leaving comments. If I met you, I'd make you an Elvis costume too.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Crank up the heat

Summer is ending soon. :( It is almost time to pull out my dark, heavy clothes, wail and gnash my teeth and wear the black armband until spring pops up out of the gloom.
Depressing you say. Minnesota I say.

I am not - I repeat not - a winter girl. I want to sit on a rock and bake like a lizard. I think swimming outdoors is one of the finest joys in life. I prefer a fan or an air conditioner to 15 pounds of coat, mittens, hat, scarf, thermal underwear and boots any day!

I grew up in the Midwest and have lived through a lot of winters. I especially enjoy the banter when some frozen-brained clown tries to talk me out of my hatred of winter. The discussion almost always goes like this:

Them - "You need to get out more and enjoy the snow."
Me - "I enjoy the snow. I enjoy it from about November 20th to January 1st."

Them - "Why don't you go skating? Skating is fun."
Me - "I have gone skating. I even took lessons again a few years back when the boys started hockey. My center of gravity has dropped with a lot of other things on my person. Skating is not fun anymore. Skating hurts."

Them - "Try skiing. Skiing is a wonderful sport to shake off those old winter blues."
Me - "I am petrified of heights - and you must have money."

Them - "Isn't the snow beautiful?"
Me - "Yes, the snow is beautiful, until you have to shovel your car out of it."

Them - "Why don't you just put your car in the garage?"
Me - "Garage? Again, you must have money."

Them - "We drive to our cabin and we go snowmobiling."
Me - "We drive to our tiny little apartment and we go hibernating."

Them - "I don't understand how you can like sweating from 90 degree summer temperatures and rubbing on all that sunscreen on just to stay safe."
Me - "I guess I prefer it to sweating from a 100 degree winter flu temperature and rubbing my nose raw with Kleenex just to be hygienic."

Them - "Why don't you take a vacation in the middle of the winter? A change of scenery would do you good."
Me - "I stand corrected, you must have lots of money."

It's no good people. I don't have the funds to live the good life in the winter, so don't try to change me. You have your eight months out of the Minnesota calendar, leave me in peace with my four.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hat's off to the original SB

I have a small picture in my hallway which contains just myself and my Aunt B who was also my Godmother. She passed away many years ago but much too soon in the scheme of things. I still miss her terribly. This is the right forum to share a little of her story because she was the original SB in my life. She was the lone female child in a house with four brothers, a singer in her youth, an office worker in her heyday and an SB everyday. She didn't have any children and never married which was a loss to men and children everywhere.

Just some of her gifts in life were:
common sense,
straight talk,
a need for adventure,
a big heart,
a strong will,
and a love of children.

She shared all of these with me. She had a way of looking out for those kids among my many, many cousins who were a little on the outside of things. She especially watched out for those of us who battled with our weight. She understood. She made us feel special.

For the grown ups in our family she wasn't aways understood. She grew up in a time when women really weren't very career minded; were supposed to stay home; were supposed to be quiet and tow the line. Not Aunt B. She was on the go, highly opinionated and most definitely not Betty Crocker.

From time to time in this blog, I will come back and tell you more about her. She deserves that. She deserved a lot happier life than the one she lived. A ancient Egyptian saying I once read said, "To speak well of the dead is to make them live again." Grazie mille Aunt B and live.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Read the first line of the chart, please!

As I toted ten tons of classroom supplies into school for the boys first day back I reminisced about my elementary days. I started out in a Catholic grade school - which made sense because I 'm Catholic. My brother and I attended parochial school through 6th grade when my folks could no longer afford it. Things do move a lot faster these days because my first son attended through kindergarten before we could no longer afford it. We then moved to public school.

There are many things I recall from my Catholic education but the most vivid of these memories are those that entail nuns. Nuns, like public school teachers, come in all shapes, grades and temperaments. It's the temperaments that stay with you. First grade was a breeze. Sister H. was a cross between Maria in The Sound of Music and Georgette from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Angels sang as she walked in the room. Then came...Sister M.A.

Sister M.A. was a cross between General Patton from World War II and Mr. T from the A Team. Right away Sister took an immediate dislike to me. My class was seated alphabetically and my last name was very close to the end of the alphabet so I was located in the back row. Day after day she would send me down to the Principal's office for "making faces at her" which I swore on many bibles I did not do. Finally, after enduring her scowls and hours out of class in detention some charitable nurse realized I was near sighted and needed glasses to read the chalk board. Even after corrective lenses things never did get much better with Sister M.A., but I felt lucky. My brother was in Sister E's class down the hall and she had a metal ruler that wasn't never used for measuring.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The skinniest cat in town

Do you have any pets? I do. I have a cat. I have always had cats. First, because the family has loved cats for generations and second, because I now live in small apartment with the boys and it is no place for a dog. Dogs need space - cats need respect. Also, I live in Minnesota and it will be a cold day in hell (in Minnesota that's the weather 7 months out of the year) before I get up at 5 a.m. to walk the dog in 15 below temps with 30 below wind chills.

If dog-years are the same life measurement for cats mine is 133 years old. Unlike most older cats who tend to put on the pounds like we humans do, my cat is a scrawny little guy. This is due to the fact that he has been bulimic for most of his life. Maybe you have a cat like this - they eat as little or as much as they wish an then throw it up in the most inconvenient spot they can find. I've started buying only cat food brands that match the color of my rug.

My younger son has a fun trick he likes to play on mom. He discovered he can imitate the cat's "pre-barfing" sound to a tee. Many is the evening I have come screaming down the hall to find kitty and get him on a tile surface just to see my 7 year old laughing in the corner. I am not amused.

Cats are definitely SBs, they like things on their own terms and the older they get the more this is so. All in all I love the cat. I've had him longer than I had a husband. I respect that he's an old SB and needs some extra care. Don't we all?