"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." ~ Gilda Radner

Saturday, December 31, 2011

BEFORE THE TIDE RUSHES IN...

2011.

Time it was, oh, what a time it was, it was...

For me, it was a time of major change, a seismic shift in my parenting paradigm.

In fact, if I had to give this past year a name, I would tag it, "The Year of Letting Go." Or, to be perfectly honest, "The Year of Freeing Daniel From My Steely, Over-Protective Grasp".

Foremost on my mind, 24/7,  from Jan. 1 through May 23, was, of course, Daniel's upcoming high school graduation. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of impending loss. It was four months of  "lasts". Daniel's last Dessert Theatre. Daniel's last spring concert. Daniel's last day of his senior year.  My one and only Sonny Boy was soon to be leaving home. Cue the sack cloth and ashes, the gnashing of teeth. On and on and on I mourned. And not quietly, mind you.

Oy.

Yes, the Empty Nest loomed ahead. And there was not a thing John and I could do about it except throw the best damn graduation party we could muster.  So we did. It took a village...but it was a great party.

Foremost on my mind, 24/7, from May 23 through August. 17, was Daniel's upcoming departure for  college.  "I've got all summer with him," I'd silently console myself. But I was wrong. His friends had all summer with him. Anyway I looked at it, all I could see was Daniel constantly distancing himself from me -- a normal emotional progression at this time in a young man's life, and I knew that (during my more rational moments, few that there were). But most days it was impossible for me to accept.

It is so clear now, looking back. Daniel was a short-timer in this mom's navy, ready to set sail on his own. We butted heads. We were both cranky and, quite frankly -- I think Daniel would agree -- we annoyed the hell out of each other most of the summer.

Yes, it was time for him to shove off. He knew it. I knew it. I knew he knew I knew it, and it was clear I didn't like it. But there was nothing I could do about it but buy him college stuff. Sheets. Laundry basket. Shower shoes. It took a small fortune...but he had everything he needed for his dorm room.

Then, suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the van was packed and we were headed down the highway, bound for Iowa City.  THE GREAT UNKNOWN.  My life, it seemed, was unravelling mile marker by mile marker.

John drove. Daniel slept. I took pictures of Daniel sleeping and steeled myself for the inevitable goodbye.  It was one helluva day.

I can think of only one other time that our house felt so empty, so void of life, as it did when we got back from Iowa City, sans Daniel, that night. The stillness was deafening.

Foremost on my mind, then, from Aug 17 thru Aug. 24, was emotional survival. It was, perhaps -- for me, anyway -- one of the longest, most difficult weeks of 2011.

From August. 24 thru Oct. 24 (my birthday), I immersed myself in thoughts of anything but what Daniel might possibly be doing at college besides studying. I cannot tell you precisely how I slogged through those two months (like the pain of childbirth, the details do fade with time), but I did.  I can tell you that it was disturbingly reminiscent of me breaking up with an old boyfriend (don't call him, leave him alone, let him live his life) -- which was never my strong suit.

But I digress.

Suffice to say, thanks to my Facebook obsession, working two jobs, the love of  family and friends, and regular calls/texts from Daniel, I slowly but surely began to rediscover and live my own life and let go of trying to steer and protect Daniel's.

Lo and behold, he remembered my birthday and melted my heart with a beautiful plant accompanied by a card carrying a quote based on one of my favorite, albeit  tear-invoking, books from his childhood.

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my mommy you'll be."

Even now, just writing that, I cry.

Daniel surprised me with a visit home the following weekend, but even more surprising was that we spent a couple hours, not just a couple minutes, talking and laughing. We got along swimmingly. It was as if we were both seeing each other in a brand new, more interesting light.

The cranky, ready-to-bolt high school senior that I was loathe to leave on a crowded college campus last August, had, in the interim, morphed into a smiling, appreciative, delightful conversationalist who was, come to find out, having fun at college, yes, but getting good grades. And apparently he still loved his mom (who had also done a bit of growing up, ahem), and he still needed me, evidenced by, if nothing else, the humongous pile of laundry sitting on my kitchen floor.

Since October, I have come to relish the inner calm I feel knowing that Daniel is, above all else, happy. It is obvious he is in his element in Iowa City. He is thankful for the opportunity to follow his film-making dream. His laughter fills my heart. Letting go gave both of us a new lease on life.

And it's been a fun Christmas with Daniel, to boot.

Hence, perhaps for the first New Year's Eve in seemingly forever, I am thinking that the past year of my life, while not a total beach, has not been a total bitch, either. Would you believe it?  Right now, in the final hours of 2011, I am smiling.  All things considered, it's been a good year.

Yes, I know. The New Year ship is docked just around the beach's bend, its flag of unknown and uncontrollable life events about to unfurl.  But I insist on basking in the slow, warm, assuring waves of 2011 if only for but a few more glorious hours before the tempestuous 2012 tide rushes in...

Cheers!

Friday, December 23, 2011

BASHING THROUGH THE SNOW

Awash in Christmas
Leave it to Sarah Palin and Fox News to make an unwarranted, stupid fuss over President Obama's White House Christmas card (left), whining that it has no Christmas in it.

Seriously? Is Sarah Palin that desperate for media coverage that she has to resort to presidential Christmas card bashing?

Oy.

Fox News has inferred that Obama is anti-Christmas because, horrors of bah-humbug horrors, the outside of the card sports not a Christmas tree but a  red poinsettia.  (A beautiful bright red poinsettia, I might add, amid several brightly wrapped boxes, presumably Christmas gifts, displayed on a table.)

Sassy Note to Palin and Fox News: While the Christmas tree has pagan origins, the poinsettia is actually considered by many to be a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem that led the three wise men to the place where Christ was born.  Ergo, you boneheads, there is nothing evil about picturing a poinsettia instead of a Christmas tree on the front of the card. Would you please just go away...

Oh, and Palin is apparently further irked because the Obamas had the audacity to feature their dog, Bo, resting by a fireplace.  (Dare I point out that the fireplace is adorned in plenty o' traditional Christmas green garland and red bows?)

Palin said she finds it "odd" and wonders why President Obama's Christmas card showcased the family dog instead of  traditions like "family, faith and freedom".

Oh, puh-leeeeeese. Really?

Even George and Laura showcased their dogs.
I would invite Palin and the Fox News gang to take a nice, long lookie-loo at the front of George W. Bush's Christmas card, circa 2005 (at right).

Yup. That's a painting of the Bushes' two dogs, Barney and Miss Beazely, and a cat, for heaven's sake, on the snow-covered lawn of the White House. A rather bland, non-Christmassy scene, really, sans any garland and presents. 

My point -- and I do have one -- is that I have looked long and hard at the Obamas' Christmas card because, ahem, I am on the Obamas' Christmas card list (no brag, just fact) and, my left-of-center political bent aside, the front of their card is simply awash in Christmas.

The warmth of a glowing hearth, the beloved First Pooch  relaxing by the fire...a poinsettia, garland, presents...my gosh, the card, in my opinion, verily shouts "Hark! Family Christmas!" And what is more American than hearth, home and family?  Okay, perhaps a slice of homemade apple pie, but I digress.

Besides, it's a well-known fact that presidents through the years have avoided mentioning Christ or Christmas, per se, on or inside their greeting cards. And that is because, like it or not Palin and Pals, not every American who celebrates Christmas is of the Christian faith, or is associated with any organized religion for that matter. For many, it is simply a special, albeit secular, time of year to gather with friends and family -- and pets -- and exchange gifts. And that's OK.

Frankly, if Palin and Fox News want to get picky -- and they do -- I think the Obamas' greeting does carry a slight religious tune, as it were.

"From our family to yours, may your holiday shine with the light of the season."

Yes, that's right. The light of the season.

Hmm.

Perhaps if Palin would actually open the Bible -- say, a New International Version --  and  turn to John 8:12, they would read the following: "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Or how about that same verse out of an American King James or American Standard version, or any other version of the Bible.  They all say the same thing: Jesus is the light of the world. Hence, the Obamas, it could be argued, actually are referring to Jesus in their holiday greeting.

Just sayin'.

The bottom line is, there is absolutely nothing wrong or non-Christmassy about the Obamas' card. And who cares what Palin or Fox News think about it anyway?

Meanwhile, I will be hanging my Christmas card from the Obamas ( I love Bo's cute little paw print, along with Barack's, Michelle's, Malia's and Sasha's signatures) right next to my recent letter from the Dalai Lama regarding the International Campaign for Tibet, which has worked for more than 20 years for human rights and self-determination for the people of Tibet.

But that's fodder for another blog post.

Stay tuned.

G'nite.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

UNPLUGGED!


Shoulda left well enough alone.

But noooooooo.

I had to try to install an upgraded version of Adobe Flash Player last night and in the process apparently deleted, ejected, lost what I had, and now my plug in is missing.

Gone. Just gone.

No accessing YouTube videos or any of my sidebar slideshows or soundtracks on here...ackkkkkkkkkkk.

What the hell was I thinking?

Fortunately, my son, the computer whiz, comes home from college tonight...I messaged him on Facebook last night in a panic. He was so glad to hear from his Mumsy after a long, grueling week of first semester finals.

Me:  Darling!  OMG!  I just tried to install the upgraded Adobe Flash Player, and I think I screwed it all up! The plug in is gone! Vanished! OMG! Can you fix it? Please tell me you can fix it!

Daniel:  o boy

Not that I don't have a million things I should be doing other than worrying about my Flash Player plug in...

For example, there are cookies to bake for Daniel's arrival. You may call that a bribe, but I call it just plain being a good mom.

OK, it's a bribe.  Whatev.

Of course, baking for me is almost as challenging as installing an Adobe Flash Player plug in.  Requires channeling my inner June Cleaver, and that can be tricky.  She is hidden even deeper in my non-domestic psyche since Daniel left for college in August.  These days, even frozen pizza seems like such an effort.

Oy.

Which reminds me!  This might be just the day to whip out the Easy Bake Oven that my neighbor, Tina, surprised me with last  summer as a "Something To Do Now That Daniel's Gone To College" consolation gift. She found it at the local thrift shop. Since I had been bemoaning the fact that I never  had a EBO when I was a child (hence, my less than passionate penchant for all things culinary), she couldn't resist buying it for me. And I got a hot tip from a baking-savvy friend of mine that Jiffy Cake box mixes work great in an EBO.

Maybe I will bake my darling Sonny Boy a cake!

At least I know how to plug in an Easy Bake Oven.

Now, if I just had a spare lightbulb...

(P.S. Anyone besides me catch that glaring error in the Flash Player pic up above? Yeah, that's right. It should be "you're missing" not "your missing".  I may not understand how to install Flash Player, but, um,  somebody at Adobe needs an editor...just sayin'.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

HEAT RAVE

So, out of desperation for a little relief from my Boeke/Willenborg Wedding Dance Rotator Cuff Injury that after two months still plagues my right arm (apparently, at my age, you CAN push too many fist pumps up over your head while busting moves for five hours straight), I recently bought a box of ThermaCare heat wraps.  You know...those disc-filled hand-warmer-like things...the ones specifically designed for relaxing tight muscles in one's neck, wrist and shoulder.

I happened to be working the stress-invoking Tuesday "Pre-Bingo Night" crowd at The Fro (our pet name for Frohlich's, our local corner market) and my arm,  my grocery scanning/schlepping arm, was sore and tired.

Hungry for something to do other than ring up  lottery tickets, broasted chicken and other assorted snacks for the Bingo regulars, I decided to read the back of the ThermaCare box. (Don't hate me because my life is just that exciting.)

"WARNING: THIS PRODUCT CAN CAUSE BURNS..."

Yeah, yeah...

"55 OR OLDER:  YOUR RISK OF BURNING INCREASES AS YOU AGE. IF YOU ARE 55 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER DO NOT USE DURING SLEEP."

What? Seriously? Why is 55 the magic/you are suddenly frail and pre-disposed to burns age?  Don't tell ME I can't snooze with one of these babies on. My freakin' shoulder hurts."


Grumbling as I slowly slid the dangerous ThermaCare tinderbox back up on the top shelf (wincing just a tish due to my injured arm's decreased range of motion and my slightly arthritic hand) the box of ThermaCare Menstrual CrampRelief heat wraps suddenly caught  my eye.

Lord knows I'd spent a fortune on THOSE back in my pre-menopausal days...(One upside to being 55...good riddance to all things menstrual cramp-related).

Suddenly, my curiosity was aroused..."I wonder..." I muttered aloud as I flipped over the Menstrual Cramp Relief heat wrap box and began to read...

"55 OR OLDER:YOUR RISK OF BURNING INCREASES AS YOU AGE. IF YOU ARE 55 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER DO NOT USE DURING SLEEP."

I literally LOL'd.

Pardon me, ladies, but if you're 55 or older and still suffering from menstrual cramps, you may have bigger issues at hand than the risk of a burn from these heat wraps during sleep.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

OUR MOST IMPORTANT JOB

Click here for more graphics and gifs!I see children as kites.


You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground


You run with them until you are both breathless


They crash, they hit the rooftop


You patch and you comfort


You adjust and you teach


You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they'll fly


Click here for more graphics and gifs!Finally they are airborne, and they need more string and you keep letting it out


But with each twist of the ball of twine there is a sadness that goes with the joy


The kite becomes more distant and you know that it won't be long before that
string will snap and the lifeline that holds you together will no longer be the same
Click here for more graphics and gifs!


A child, as a kite, must be prepared to soar, as they are meant to soar,
free and alone, to the greatest extent possible


And only then can we collectively say that we have done our job.

~ Anonymous


(Thanks to Margie Schwenk, my dear friend and fellow college freshman kite flyer -- one of Daniel's  special "other moms" and favorite high school teachers -- for sharing this poem with me at just the right time.  It helped.  Love you...)

SOARING

So we missed Daniel's first Parents' Weekend at  the University of Iowa.

After months of anticipating John's first live Iowa Hawkeye football game (it's at the top of his bucket list)  and hanging with Danny Boy for an entire weekend, we decided to stay home and give our tickets (good seats) to Daniel and his friends.

Probably a good thing since the Hawks lost to Michigan State, 37-21, and John would have had to double up on his nitro...

But seriously, folks...

Other than the Hawks losing, it's been a perfect first Parents' Weekend.

Yes, you read that right.

I was so OK with not going. And I am pretty sure Daniel had more fun with his pals than he would have had with us.  And that is OK, too.  It's better than OK, really. It's fantastic! I have enjoyed this weekend at home just knowing that Daniel is enjoying it in Iowa City without his "rents".

Can you believe it?

The frazzled mother-of-an-only child who counted down every last second from high school graduation last May to college move-in day last August with a bucket of tears, who practically had to have her fingers pried from around her son's ankles as they said goodbye at the campus bus stop, is OK with not visiting her Sonny Boy on his first Parents' Weekend?

No way!

Way!

Granted, the day late last summer we ordered our Parents' Weekend tickets, neither John or I could fathom having to wait to November for the Big Event!

The dreaded Empty Nest Syndrome was filling the gaping hole in my heart with separation anxiety, sorrow and worry. I cried every day for the first four days, and then every other day for the next few weeks. The tears tapered, but the emptiness remained. I felt hollow inside, like an old, gnarly, dead tree.

True, Daniel and I texted and IM'd on Facebook fairly regularly, and he called every Sunday like we planned, and we had visited him at school one Sunday in September...but there was still this nagging, lost feeling. The feeling of not being needed anymore. Of being disconnected.  Uncomfortably untethered from the one person I had been tied to with constant, sturdy heartstrings since he was conceived in May 1992. That disconnection seemed to grow and haunt me more with each passing day...

Then Daniel's high school homecoming arrived, and he came home for the first time since college had started, and I knew the minute our eyes met he was not the same kid we had left to fend for himself in Iowa City a few months earlier.

Danny Boy was now Dan the Young Man.

And he was happy!  And smiling!  And laughing! And so talkative!

YES!

My sonny boy had not only flown the family nest, he was soaring! Thriving!  Good grades, new friends, adapting well, having fun...Thank God!

And come to find out, he still needed me a little bit, evidenced by the duffle bag of dirty laundry that came home with him. We talked and laughed and reconnected. Heartstrings still intact, still sturdy, just different.  Freeing.  For both of us.

My mother-in-law said it best as we discussed Daniel's surprise visit home last weekend.

I told her I felt like a kid at Christmas when I opened the front door late that Friday afternoon and he jumped out at me!  The best surprise ever!  Accompanying him was an even larger duffle bag stuffed with dirty laundry.  My heart leapt with joy!

Daniel stopped by to see his beloved Grandma before we headed back down the road to Iowa City the following Sunday afternoon, and come to find out, they had had a wonderful, chatty chat.

"I think Daniel has matured two years in the three months he has been gone," she observed.

"Yes, and he's happy," I said. "He's definitely in his element in Iowa City. And we could not be happier for him."

Gee.  Guess Daniel is not the only one who has done some growing up. And some letting go. Could it be that I'm beginning to feel my wings again, too?

It's been a gut-wrenching process for me, one that I do not wish to ever relive -- and I miss Daniel so very much --  but three months into The Empty Nest gig I can honestly say it's not so bad.

When you know your child is truly happy, it's all good.

I didn't even wince when we dropped him off at his dorm last Sunday night.

Whodathunk?

Friday, October 28, 2011

19,000 VISITORS!

WOW!

So I just dragged myself home from my second job -- ye old part-time grocery store gig -- and I dropped by the blog and voila!  My counter was smack dab on 19,000!

Another mile marker!

WooHoo!

And then, like I always say to myself when my visitor counter hits the next big number...I murmur "just think if I were actually writing and posting on a regular basis!"

So why aren't you writing?  

Drat!  Like clockwork, my inner Home Stretch Annie is back once again, quizzing me, instilling writer's guilt at every turn.

At which point I almost always sign in to Blogger, open a new post, announce my blog has hit the next big number, and then offer up several reasons -- aka excuses -- why I don't write on a regular basis.

Arghghghghghghghghgh.

I smell a rut.

I know, I know.

Friends, strangers, strangers-turned-friends, family members...everyone I know and love encourages me to get back to my writing, and I most always smile and say, "Yes, you are right!  I am going to start writing again".

And of course, I really should. Why?  Because I am a writer.  That is what I tell people, still, anyway.

Well, I order replacement TVs day in and day out, but I'm actually a writer.

Oh, really?  What do you write?

Um, well, um, I was a newspaper reporter for, gosh, 25 years, and I've done some freelancing, and well, now, I um, blog mostly.

Ohhhhh!  So what do you blog about?

Well, ya know, I blogged every day for three months starting last January...mostly midlife, menopausal meanderings...it was great!  I am at my best when I am writing...but then I stopped...

So why did you stop blogging?

Had to get ready for Daniel's high school graduation, then had to get him ready to go off to college, then there was dealing with the whole empty nest thing...now I'm working two jobs, I'm old, I'm tired...

Yada, yada, yada.

Yeah, You name it, I  blame it for interfering with my writing.

Why?

I. Don't. Know.

Life is not a dress rehearsal, Annie.

That I do know.

Heavy sigh.

Oy.

OK, so maybe it is time once again, to recommit to my writing.

"Time for you to recommit to yourself, period, Annie..."

Ya think?

Yup.

k.

I can't hear you!

K!

You go, girl!

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

ON TURNING 55...

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
~ Albert Camus

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TUESDAY 5:15 A.M.

The Art of Disappearing  by Naomi Shihab Nye

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SEPTEMBER MORN

Facebook comments, images & graphics


Woke up this morning to a beautiful, clear-blue sky, just like the one that greeted us 10 years ago today.


We were all so naive, so innocent then. All thinking we would go about that day like any other day.


Throwing back glasses of orange juice, giving our families the routine quick pecks on their cheeks, if anything, as we dashed off to our jobs, our school days, our routines, our lives.


Just another beautiful, clear-blue-sky September morn...


September 11, 2001.


Never the same since. Our world, our country, our personal journeys, all forever upended in one horrific day's events that have stretched across our psyches for a decade.


Indeed, we will never forget.


But we keep on keeping on, for that is what Americans do. It is what everyone who endures tragedy must do.


We remember those we lost, honor those who came to the rescue in the aftermath, and try to put it all into some kind of perspective.


Ten years ago today.


Daniel was only eight years old. John was in the ministry, away at seminary. I was a stay-at-home mom turned newspaper editor.


As events unfolded before our very eyes, I remember Daniel asking me why someone would fly a plane into the World Trade Center, and I just stared at him, wanting to reassure him, fighting back tears.  All I could say was, "I don't know, honey, I don't know."


Our foundation, our sense of national and personal security -- young and old, alike -- shattered in the blink of an eye.


And I remember the next day, still reeling in shock from the previous day's incomprehensible turn of events.


The evening of September 12, John called home to talk to Daniel.


"How was your day, Daniel?" John asked him.


"Good, Daddy," sweet, young Daniel replied. "No planes fell out of the sky."


End of the innocence. For all of us.


But from the ashes of 9/11 arose stories of bravery, compassion, unity, survival. And from those stories we glean comfort, strength, the sheer will to keep looking and moving forward in spite of the terror and tragedy.


Yes, while it is important and necessary to look back and reflect and remember, it is imperative when facing tragedy at any level -- national or personal -- to not dwell too long in the past, lest we lose ourselves to our grief.


"You can't keep looking back, Mom, just keep looking ahead," advised still-sweet-now-18-year-old Daniel, who recently experienced, and continues to work through,  his own personal 9/11 tragedy.


A heart-wrenching reminder of perhaps the most important lesson learned from not only that beautiful-turned-tragic September 11 morn back in 2001, but from any time we lose a loved one unexpectedly:


The next moment is promised to no one.


Love one another.


Right now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

OH, THOSE CAMPUS BUS STOP BYE-BYE BLUES...

If you MUST say goodbye to your son on college move-in day, make sure your husband whisks you away on a speeding Cambus after a hurried hug, leaving you but a nano second to catch a fleeting glimpse of but a lock of your one-and-only Sonny Boy's blond hair as he disappears into a sea of strangers...


And for added emotional impact, make sure your husband throws you onto the WRONG Cambus for the parking lot to which you should be going, and go for a 20-minute bus tour of the campus only to end up right back to the spot where you barely had time to bid your one-and only Sonny Boy goodbye...


Then, sit there and have a few, um, words, with said husband while waiting another 15 minutes for the right Cambus to come alomg, which then takes you on another 20 minute jaunt, past  Hillcrest, Sonny Boy's dorm, where YOU wanted to go one more time before bidding Sonny Boy goodbye.


The up side is, you will be so upset with your husband, so busy seething and ready to throttle him, that you hardly notice the pain from the delicate mother-son emotional umbilical cord being sliced in half as the Cambus door slams shuts behind you. And it is at that moment that the thought strikes you...


How ya gonna get him to ever come back to Coon Rapids after he's seen Iowa City? 


Yet you are so damn proud of your son, and so happy for him...and so you decide on the very long ride home to MAYBE forgive your husband for giving you the bum's rush on this very special day because, truth be told, saying goodbye to your one-and only Sonny Boy at the bus stop really was easier for everybody than bidding each other farewell at his dorm.


And then, just because you can, text your son a quick "I Love You", and when he immediately texts back "I Love You 2 :), you will burst into tears. But they will be tears of joy, not heartbreak, because that little smiley face assures you not only that the bond between you and your son was not broken as he disappeared into that sea of strangers at the campus bus stop, but that he is truly happy and comfortable in his new surroundings.




And that is more than any mom can ask for on college move-in day.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

YUP! THAT'S MY ALMA MATER!

...after the bars close?
It's what every Ohio University alumnus with a college-bound son loves to have said son read in the daily headlines:


Ohio University Reigns As The Nation's Top Party School



Likewise, it's what every University of Iowa-bound freshman with a worried, overprotective mother loves to have said mother read in the same news story:

No. 4 University of Iowa.


Ack.

But what the heck. Why not let all the naughty Bobcats and Hawkeyes out of the bag!

Ohio University -- aka, back in the day, "Harvard on the Hocking" --  has made the Princeton Review's Top Party Schools list like a dozen times since 1997.  Of course, that was, ahem, just a few moons after I graduated from OU in 1979 (with honors, thank you) .

Which is not to say Bobcats weren't legendary for their partying prowess prior to the late 90s.

In fact, both OU and Iowa made Playboy's 1987 list of top partying schools.  Iowa ranked 31st, and Ohio, 34th, that year.  I'd been gone from campus since June '79, which may explain Ohio's lower ratings...ba-da-bump.

Nevertheless, it is true that OU only made Playboy's "honorable mention" list in 2006...

Go figure.

Anyway...

Iowa also ranked the following in this year's Princeton Review: Best Midwestern Colleges; Students study the least, 7; Lots of hard liquor, 8; Major frat and sorority scene, 13; Lots of beer, 14; Students pack the stadiums, 14; and Professors get low marks, 19.


Oh. Yay. Glad to know Daniel's student loans are going toward an education at an institution ranked in the Top 20 for students who study the least, where the beer and hard liquor flow, and professors get low marks.


As for my alma mater...equally impressive.  OU also lands in the top 20 in the lots of beer and lots of hard liquor categories, as well as best athletic facilities, most beautiful campus and major fraternity and sorority scene.


My son found the news to be a bit of a hoot.  


"Party girl, eh?" 


Me and my Roomie...freshman year
"Never." I replied. "Though I was at one of the first now-infamous Halloween Street parties that got out of hand after the bars closed. Back in '76 I think it was..."


Daniel's ears perked up.


"Really?"


He was probably having a hard time picturing his mother staying up past 8 p.m. let alone attending a rowdy street party outside a bunch of bars.


"Just an innocent bystander in a costume, of course," I quickly interjected. "But my friend, Holly?  She was in the thick of it and got hit in the leg with a knee knocker -- a wooden bullet -- when they called in the cops."


"Whoa.  That's possible Facebook status material," he said.


Ah! Youth! Ah! Ohio University!


Alma Mater, Ohio
When we read thy story o'er,
We revere thee and cheer thee
As we sing thy praise once more.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

BEAUTY ADS MAY LIE...

But hope springs eternal.

And that, folks, is what keeps me going back to the Health and Beauty Aids department at Wally World.

Sure, I said I was going there to buy some towels and other dorm "necessities" for Daniel. And I did peruse the laundry aisle for a good deal on a clothes basket for him. But I would be less than honest if I didn't mention I spent the lyin', er, lion's share of my time at the big box store searching out a new mascara.  And a new hairspray.  And a new bronzer.

Just felt like changin' it up a bit.

Besides, the Cover Girl Eyelights mascara I had bought a month ago had NOT given me the smokey-eyed look of actress Drew Barrymore no matter how hard I tried to follow the application directions.  So today I bought Maybelline Volume Express Mascara instead -- the kind that is supposed to instantly make your real lashes look as full as the false ones.

Right.  Wink. Wink.

Meanwhile, it was a toss up between purchasing another can of Dove Damage Therapy Extra Hold Hairspray ('tis a sad day, indeed, when our hair requires therapy, too... but I digress),  a can of Tresemme European Tres Two Extra Hold,  or Aussie Aussome Volume Hair Spray.

Having been a big fan of Aussie Sprunch Spray back in my get-a-perm-every-three-months days, I opted for the Aussie hair spray with that cute little kangaroo on the front of the can.Besides, I love a hair product with a dry wit and a pragmatic attitude.

But don't take my word for it.  Just compare the directions for use on the back of the Dove and Aussie hair spray cans.

Dove Damage Therapy Extra Hold Hairspray:  Directions: Hold can 8-10 inches from hair. Spray evenly over hair. If dispenser clogs, rinse in warm water.

Really?  What happens if I am in a hurry and can't find my ruler and accidentally hold the can say, 7 and  1/2  to 10 and 1/2 inches from my hair, and my arm is tired and I spray it a skosh unevenly? Then what? My hair looks like crap, becomes depressed and needs further therapy?

And I have to worry about the dispenser clogging, too?

I obviously don't have the math skills or the time for that hairspray.

And now, Aussey Aussome Volume Hairspray: DIRECTIONS: It's hair spray. You spray it on your hair. 

HA!

Boom. Done.

I can handle that. Oh, yeah, baby, gonna add some roo to my do as the Aussie hair product spiel goes. Oh, those Aussies...

What's that?  Aussie Aussome Volume Hair Spray with the cute little kangaroo on the front of the can does not come from Australia? Surely, you jest, luv?

Nope. No jesting.

Aussie Aussome Volume Shampoo is made in the good old US of A. Distributed by Redmond Product Inc. located in my beloved Cincinnati, OH. Nowhere near Australia. Dang.

Oh, well.  I can live with that. For now.

But, our national debt ceiling crisis coming to an ugly head as it is, I cannot live with health and beauty products made in China. Hence, my refusal to buy the Hard Candy Tiki Bronzer that I was about to toss in my Wally World cart.

First and foremost, just in case the country does default on its debts, I don't want China's repo man comin' for my bronzer as I am getting ready for work Monday morning.

Secondly, Tiki really isn't my color.

Chose the Rimmel Natural Bronzer  (Sun Light) instead.

Yes, I know. That's Rimmel London. Made in England. Allegedly. But I have doubts cuz underneath the words "NATURAL BRONZER" on the front of the compact is the phrase "poudre bronzante".

That's French. For "powder tanning".

Who knew?

Friday, July 15, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE HOME STRETCH!

Happy Birthday, my darling blog!  You are 5 years old today!

You have been my sanity, my insanity; shared my laughter, my tears...

What would I have done without you thus far?

Yes, just a mere half decade ago, one hot July day (not quite as miserably hot as today, but hot nevertheless), I created you.

I also started a news blog a month or so later. But I loved you both equally. And became addicted to you both.

Developed blogger eyes.

Eventually, I gave up the news blog, and concentrated on you only.

Admittedly, I have not always been a faithful blogger.  I seem to blog in waves. Feast or famine. All or nothing.  Isn't that just like me?

At the beginning of this year, you had my full blogging attention every day. For two whole months.

It was grand!  Some of my best blogging ever! Alas, getting up at 4 a.m. every day to blog got the best of me, and I had no choice but to take a blogging break. I was blog-dog tired.

Let's face it, Home Stretch, I was but a few months shy of 50 when I created you.  I am now a few months shy of 55.

We've both been through changes...your font style and background color, my hair style and hair color...

Not sure, but I think blog years are like dog years.  Seven years for every one. So you are really 35.

But I digress.

Anyway, my darling blog, I just wanted to wish you a  "Happy Birthday" and blog a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to the 16,631 visitors who have stopped by here, on purpose or by accident, since July 15, 2006.

Think I might be spending more time here on The Home Stretch since my sweet Sonny Boy will be off to college soon, and I'll be facing the dreaded Empty Nest... in a mere 32 days. But who's counting?

Apparently I am, my friends...between crying fits, that is.

"Look at the positive side," offered my sis.  "You'll have more time for The Home Stretch!"

Yes, once my husband pries my gnarled, desperate fingers from around Daniel's ankles as the lad struggles to dash up his dorm steps, I will have nothing to keep me from blogging on a regular basis again.

But perhaps I should jump back on the blogging saddle now. Plenty of pre-college-moving-day-oh-my-god-he's leaving-home-and-my-husband-and-I will-be-stuck-with-only-each-other blogging fodder unfolding as I type...

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 16, 2011

LETTING GO

Damn. He caught me.

Like any Traumatized But Proud Mother Of An Only Child Leaving The Nest a mere few days before high school graduation, there I sat at the computer, sobbing.

I had just finished watching -- for the third consecutive time, against my better judgement and the advice of friends and family -- the YouTube video of Suzy Bogus singing her tear-invoking graduation classic, "Letting Go."

Worse than Pomp and Circumstance.


"She's had 18 years
To get ready for this day
She should be past the tears
But she cries some anyway..."

Suddenly, the front door flies open!

It's Daniel!  At 9:25 a.m.?  He must have forgotten something...

Daniel's had so much on his heart, I don't want him to find me blubbering on the last Monday of his high school career. Must be strong. Positive. Cheery.

Slowly I turn my computer chair around, attempting a smile.

But wait!  What's that he's carrying???  It's white, it's...it's...His cap and gown?!?!

ACK!

By the startled look on my face, one might have though he was grasping a white snake.

"Oh-ohhh, you..you've've got your cap and gown...they're white..." I stammer, stating the obvious.

"Yeah, we're all wearing white," Daniel says calmly, carefully hanging the plastic bag containing his commencement clothes on his Perfect Pull Up bar bolted to his bedroom door frame.

Our eyes meet.

Cue my streaming tears. No hiding the astonished "You really are graduating from high school Sunday, aren't you?" look at this point.

Argh. I don't want to cry in front of him. But I just can't help it.

"Gotta go!" says Daniel as he turns and bolts out the door, back to school. Probably muttering, "Sure hope Dad has the Valium stun gun fully loaded and ready..."

Actually, what he really did say after last year's graduation was, "Dad, we're gonna have to sedate Mom for graduation next year. Can Aunt Mary come early?"

Well, "next year" is here. And thankfully, Aunt Mary -- my big sister and best friend --  will be at our door bright and early Thursday morning, to help cook for the graduation party...and keep me focused.


"I can only say that it will get better. Really."


 This pearl of graduation wisdom from Amy, my dear friend and former co-news hound, also the mother of an only child.


 "We love our children so painfully much, and they MUST go do these wonderful things they are going to do," Amy adds, "and we adjust, because it isn't about us..."


Heavy sigh. Acceptance. Tears of joy. Tears of sadness. 


Gotta loosen my grip.  Give him room to fly.


It's never easy.


Letting go.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

EAT DESSERT FIRST

It's really gonna fly after tonight.

Talkin' about what is left of Daniel's senior year.

Tonight is his last Dessert Theatre.  An evening of chocolate, music, speech, laughter and tears.

Not even gonna bother wearing mascara.

And then, after tonight, April will zoom past with track meets and May will bring Daniel's final spring music concert --  always a tear jerker -- and then, BOOM!  G Day.

Graduation.

Gulp.

Must not get ahead of myself, though.

First, CRB Dessert Theatre 2011.

A most wonderful night where first we will all eat yummy homemade desserts in the gym-turned-fancy- bistro,  and then we will settle into our seats in the auditorium to watch our kids sing and dance and give their winning speech performances.

Yet it is so much more than a night of dining on sugar and watching our kids perform.

Dessert Theatre is a great lesson in life.

Reminds me of that old adage -- one of my faves -- "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."

Which one, which one...
With Dessert Theater, as in life, you are faced with decisions, you never really know what to expect, and it's always wise to carry a Kleenex.

Dozens of different mouth-watering desserts -- which one (or ones) to choose?

A plethora of stellar performances laden with happiness and tears.

I've always joked, albeit darkly, that our Dessert Theatre is really an evening designed for the manic depressive, which is probably why I love it so.

One minute I'm gorging on sugar, then smiling, laughing, and tapping my swollen feet to a jaunty musical number.  The next minute -- when the sugar high subsides and the sugar low hits -- I am weeping and gnashing my teeth to a particularly heart-wrenching speech.  Or a melancholy song brings tears to my eyes moments after a lighthearted monologue.

Yes, the CRB Dessert Theatre is always an AWESOME three-hour emotional roller coaster.

And I haven't missed one in all the years we've lived here.

A Dessert Theatre natural
My sister-in-law, Deb, is the vocal music director, and she brings out the singing talent in all our kids. I remember going to Dessert Theatre with my mother-in-law back in like '96, thinking I sure hoped Dessert Theater would still be going on by the time Daniel was in high school.

Still going on, indeed.

Little did I know then that not only would he do well in music, but  he would shine in large group speech, too. And he would have a passion for film making, and his short film, "All Was Silent" would get perfect marks at the state high school speech contest his senior year.

And now, here it is.

Daniel's last Dessert Theatre.

Oy.

Hoping there is plenty of Better Than Sex Cake to go around.

Praying no one sings Danny Boy.

Dear God, it is so hard to let go.

Friday, March 04, 2011

IMAGINE

Today is A Day of Peace.

Hope you will join in. Maybe if enough of us make this concerted effort, the world will enjoy more than just one day of tranquility and human kindness.

According to founder Stephen Danger Shoemaker, just three simple rules to follow today:

Rule #1.
Say not a single unkind thing about anyone or anything. If at all possible, try not to even think a nasty thought. If we do, reflect on why it was that we thought to say it in the first place.

Rule #2.
Show everyone we cross paths with some genuine human compassion. Be it with a smile or kind words, just spread some love.

Rule #3.
Make not one person the exception to the rule. Not everyone deserves to have roses thrown at their feet and have a holiday in their honor, but nobody deserves to feel alone. Reach out. Talk to someone new. Care about them, and we will be cared for in return.


Imagine all the people living life in peace.


Even if only for one day.


Take care.

THE CARPENTER AND THE WRITER

Once upon a March 4th dreary
Two folks pondered, weak and weary,
How love had mistreated them thus far
And soothed their loneliness at a local eatery.

I know.

The words "far" and "eatery" don't rhyme.

But is it really wise to splash across the blogosphere that my husband and I met 31 years ago today at a bar?

Granted, it was 1980. Rural Iowa. I was a news reporter.  He was a construction worker. The local tap was where people went to unwind after a long day's work.

I was there chillin' with a couple news reporter pals, and John was playing pool with his best friend, Les.  

Anyway...

He, a carpenter, strong and able,
Happened by the writer's table
Where she, an ornery but kindhearted lass,
Spilled gallons of tears into her glass.


Shoulda been a red flag for John. But love at first sight is often blind.



He had noticed from across the room
That a phonecall, indeed, had caused her gloom.
Guessing what it had been about
He simply said, "He's not worth the pout."


We didn't have cell phones back in the old days.  Apparently he had spied me standing at the nearby payphone earlier.  I know. I know. One should never call their ex-boyfriend after a toddy or two. But I was young and naive.

Slowly, the writer gazed up at him --
Longish hair, wire glasses, slim;
In an instant she recognized his face!
He was her cute neighbor!  Her heart did race!

John was also wearing his Army jacket. Combined with the wire rims, he reminded me a little bit of Radar O'Reilly from MASH.  So earnest. Well-meaning.  And from Iowa, to boot.

Suffice to say, this Cincinnati Kid was immediately smitten.

A couple of Cokes the carpenter ordered.
They bared their souls 'bout past relationships assorted.
Each had played love's game and lost,
Both tired of the battles' cost.


Cue Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield".

The hour grew late; the clock struck two;
A bond had formed like Crazy Glue.
Made a date for the next day as they departed.
Bloom in love, and oh, so lighthearted.


Three years later to the day,
The couple celebrates in their favorite way.
They toast their meeting, their friendship, their life.
He, her husband; she, his wife.


"Three" is not a typo.  I originally penned this poem 28 years ago.

Needs a little updating as to how we now observe our anniversary of the day we met.  Goes something like this:

Thirty one years later to the day
The couple would celebrate but they can't stay awake.
She's bloggin' on the 'puter; he's making sure the dishes are clean.
Tonight he'll be firing up the CPAP machine.


Original ending:

The bond holds strong, so goes the lore.
"Will it last?" some folks ask.
Quoth the carpenter and the writer,
"Evermore."


Current spin:

It's been a long three decades
Since the day we met.
Does the bond still hold strong?
Quoth the carpenter and the writer,
"Like shoes of cement."


But in a good way, right honey?

Love, Bunny.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

THE LOVE OF MY LIFE

My son turns 18 today.

So many emotions.

Thankful.

Happy.

Proud.

A little teary.

Oh, who am I kidding...more than a little teary.  But not sobbing. Yet.

Random thought:  I loved being pregnant.  Just wish I didn't still look like I am about to give birth.

Eighteen years ago today, at this moment, I was at the hospital, dilated two centimeters and thinking childbirth wasn't so bad and I could go thru it all without an epidural.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Eighteen years ago today, at this moment, I was the most "nested" a pregnant woman could be.

Baby clothes Drefted and waiting.  All but alphabatized.

House ship shape.  You could eat off my basement floor.

It was the last time I was organized.

I'd read all the "Everything You Need To Know About" books on pregnancy, childbirth, the newborn months, the toddler  years.

There's a reason that series of books stopped at  the toddler years:

There is no one on God's green earth that knows everything there is to know about raising teenagers.

Thought I was ready, come what may.

But no one is really ever fully prepared for parenthood.

Or for how fast the years fly.

Swiftly fly the years, indeed
A whirling merry go round.

Joypainlaughtertears.

And from the moment I first saw him, the second he was born, I knew...

Absolutely the love of my life.

Wow. Eighteen.

Too big to carry in my arms.

But forever in my heart.