Thursday, September 30, 2010

Something Is Better Than Nothing

I spent quite a bit of time with my doctor yesterday.  I'm embarrassed to report that I'm no longer classified as "overweight."  At first I was like :-) and then he said that I am now just over the threshold for what is considered "obese" and I was like :-(

I've learned from watching television that obese people are lazy, stupid, and sweaty.  They break furniture.  They get out of breath after running up a flight of stairs.  They eat a bucket of fried chicken (or some other unhealthy food) for dinner.  They have trouble bathing properly.  Seriously, I'm one of them now?


I actually do eat a healthy diet with occasional snack food/junk food.  I drink plenty of water, use non-fat dairy, prefer whole grains, and eat plenty of veggies, and a little fruit.  I know, I know, so why am I obese?  Well, I really, really, really freaking suck at portion sizes.  When I actually measure my portions, I always lose weight.  But guess what?  I don't like measuring every single thing that I put in my mouth.  (No sex jokes please!)

Considering that I'm now obese, I decided that I better start moving my ass and paying attention to portion sizes.  However, in the typical way that life has been giving me the finger lately, my son was awake this morning for about an hour from around 2:00 am until around 3:00 am.  When I say he was awake, I actually mean he was screaming and yelling.  Given that sleep was not really happening last night, I really didn't want to get up this morning.

I dragged myself out of bed and I landed in front of my laptop.  Some of my lab work was already available.  I figured that at least my blood tests probably wouldn't bum me out so I went ahead and viewed the results.  Let's just say that the tests might not say you have a fat ass or anything, but my lipid test revealed that I have just about too much fat in my blood.


I've had cholesterol problems off and on since I was 19-years old.  Since then, the only time that my blood hasn't had too much cholesterol is when I have been consistently doing cardiovascular exercise.  My cholesterol is on the very high side of normal and I know that working out will lower it.  There's no time like the present, so I dusted off my jogging stroller and grabbed some sneakers.

The kiddo and I headed to a local park that has a 5K loop.  I took a couple glugs of water and we were off.  I was sad to realize that it took me 50 minutes to walk/jog a 5K and I was sadder that I was huffing & puffing like the big, bad wolf by the time I was finished.

I let my son run around one of the play structures for about 30 minutes before we headed home.  While he played, I felt sorry for myself.  My feet were sore, I was unbearably sweaty, and I hate to say it, but I really wanted a hamburger.

In terms of healthy choices, I don't think that I've been the best role model for my son.  After all, I went from being slightly overweight to being considered obese.  All because I eat too much and I don't move enough.  But by turning things around, losing weight, and getting active, I'm being a good role model.  I'm teaching him that it's never too late and you can always choose to improve your health by making better decisions.  I want to be living proof of that fact.

Upon reflection, I don't feel that bad about my time or my effort.  I haven't worked out in months and I haven't been a habitual exerciser in around 3 1/2 years.  I haven't so much as taken a stroll around the block in ages.  Plus, it was hot today; it was around 98 degrees and humidity was high.  I barely had any sleep last night.  I'm friggin' obese and it takes a lot of freaking effort to move my ass.

You know, my time today may have sucked and it may have really taken a lot out of me, but I did it.  Something isn't always something to crow about, but it is always better than nothing.

Highly Processed, But Natural?

My husband took my son for a little bit on Sunday night so I had time to enjoy the silence and contemplate important issues.  Was I pondering politics in other districts, specifically Loretta Sanchez and her racist attack against Van Tran and other Vietnamese immigrants?  Was I wondering if life as we know it would be sustainable on another planet?  Did I come up with a way to remove the corruption that keeps world hunger in existence?  No, no, and no. 

I was studying a container of juice.  A heavy topic, to be certain.

You might not think a container of juice would yield any interesting information, but you would be wrong.  I personally classify juice in nearly the same category as cola - it's a rare treat and isn't really good for you.  This particular juice was used in some mock-vodka sunrises I made when we had friends over last month so I didn't really expect it to be a healthy beverage.  After all, I was only going to make cocktails.

The words on the container certainly made it sound like the contents were fabulous and healthy:  Natural, 100% Vitamin C, and Pomegranate were the most prominent words emblazoned on the front label.  Actually, those were the only words that drew my eye at all.  Sounds good so far, right?  Right??

On a lark, I checked out the back label.  That is where the juice's dirty little secrets were exposed.  A total of 160 calories and 38 grams of sugar per 8 fluid ounce serving.   YIKES!  Seriously, you might as well drink a cola because at least you'll get the pep from the caffeine.  Um, that is if you aren't simply making alcoholic beverages for your friends. 

Ingredients:  Filtered water (great), high fructose corn syrup (um, what?!), pomegranate (this word was splashed so prominently across the front label that it would be understandable to assume the contents were only juice of a pomegranate), white grape and concord grape concentrates (uh, okay), citric acid (necessary I suppose), Vitamin C (had to be in there somewhere I guess), and "natural flavors" (what flavors, exactly?  and what do they consider "natural?").

What's my complaint with the ingredients?  Well, I hope this doesn't sound like I'm picking flysh*t out of the pepper, but the ingredients list doesn't really seem to jive with the words on the front label.  Again, I consider juice to be a junk food so I'm not really looking for something nutritious in a bottle of juice.  I'm definitely not a natural-foods-nazi, but I find it misleading to call a juice product "natural" when HFCS is featured more prominently than the fruit juice itself. 

What crazy food labels have you read lately?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shall We Spark a Doob on November 2?

What has me all up in arms over politics right now?  Well, besides the racist attack Loretta Sanchez made against Van Tran and the other Vietnamese immigrants who reside in her district?  Prop 19, of course.

Proposition 19, for my non-Californian friends, is going to legalize marijuana in this state.  Yeah, I've only voted Republican since I was 18-years old. . .save once when I could not bring myself to vote for either candidate.  Yeah, I more closely align myself with conservative versus liberal values.  Yeah, I'm middle-aged, middle-class, and a mother.  I'm married to Captain freaking America and I'm Ms. Law & freaking Order.  How do you assume I feel about Prop 19?

I probably don't feel the way you think I do.

I'll get to that in a moment, but I will assume that we all can agree that prohibitions do not work with much success.  That is, they do not stop the populace from wanting the prohibited product.  Indeed, prohibitions often simply serve to criminalize large swaths of the population.

Based on the numerous lame Propositions that Californians have approved, the voters of this state seem like they aren't worthy of the right to vote.  However, that's merely my opinion. . .apparently this broke-ass state really does require light rail from LA to San Francisco.  It's not like you can fly, take Amtrak, or (worst case scenario) drive their own vehicle, right?  And let's not even start with the gay marriage stuff.

Back to the topic at hand, I say legalize it.  I say legalize all so-called "drugs."  I say let the populace be adults and decide what substances they want to use recreationally.  But I also say to tax and restrict it's use and sell, much like alcohol and tobacco are taxed and restricted.  That means restrict where it can be used, who it can be sold to, and who can sell it.

For the record, I don't have any problem with consenting adults choosing to use alcohol or cigarettes either.  But I do support restrictions of use based on age.  I would also support such a restriction on weed or any other controlled substance.  I realize that age restrictions do not stop all usage by minors, but I do think usage is somewhat limited by such restrictions.  I'm not going to be all sanctimonious here, I had a lot of "fun" with recreational drugs at one time, but developing bodies probably should not be abused by mind-altering substances.

What does legalization do?  Legalization removes much of the black market and crime associated with prohibition.  As a bonus, it would also free up "valuable" space in our incarceration facilities.  Legalization stimulates the economy.  Legalization increases tax revenue.

Keeping it illegal would do what exactly?  I'm waiting for a valid answer. . .

I don't smoke pot.  I don't snort coke.  I sure as heck don't shoot heroin.  But I don't really give a rip if some other adult wants to.  I do what I want to do with my body and you can do what you want to do with yours.

I know, I know, the GOP will revoke my voter registration. . .actually, I'm guessing that they'll take a vote wherever they think they can get it these days!!  So what do you think?  Am I right on or totally off-base?  What are your opinions on this issue?

Suck It Vader, My Side Wins

I've been under attack for months by people who I have no choice but to consider enemies.  Not only did they make themselves enemies of mine, but I also believe it's obvious that they are enemies of freedom.  By squaring off with me on a particular issue (my opinions and my ability to express said opinions), I think it's clear that they don't believe in freedom of thought or freedom of speech.  And, if you know me well at all, you know that I am a big believer in freedom - even when I might not like how other people choose to use their freedom.

I believe that ideas, thoughts, and words are more valuable than they are dangerous.  Yes, I even think that about ideas, thoughts, and words that I might not personally agree with because, after all, freedom shouldn't be just for the few.  Radical concept, right?

These enemies of freedom made my life so miserable that I felt I had no choice but to make this blog viewable by Invitation Only.  I clearly was having a creative moment when I named this blog, eh?  I was sad to make this choice and thought for certain that I'd lose most of my readership.  But an interesting thing happened.

As I mentioned in the post Exclusivity Wins on September 22, this "underground" blog already has far more followers than my public blog ever did.  After reviewing the stats, this blog also gets far more post clicks than the other one did.  What that means is that the followers are actually reading (or at least, clicking) the posts versus simply ignoring this blog on their Dashboard or in my Facebook status.

Is Invitation Only like the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the blogsphere?  Did your head just explode at the awesomeness of working a Star Wars reference into this post?  Yeah, mine too. 

Spoiler Alert - Stop reading if you, for some crazy reason, still have not seen Star Wars Episode IV.  Really though, it's been out for over 30-years so you might want to watch it at some point.

There's a pivotal scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi faces off against Darth Vader on the Death Star.  At first glance, the dark lord of the Sith was at a huge advantage.  After all, Vader was "more machine now than man" and old Ben Kenobi was, well, old.  I might point out, however, that Vader was basically put into that horrible armor and forced to use that annoying breathing apparatus because of injuries suffered while fighting with Kenobi some twenty-odd years previously.

Could the old man have taken down his former protege?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

Obi-Wan shrewdly deduced that taking out Vader would not stop the gallactic empire from expanding and, ultimately, it would not really help the rebel alliance all that much.  He knew that Luke and Leia were the progeny of Anakin Skywalker.  I think that he had an idea of how it would all end.  Well, except the Ewoks, no one could have possibly foreseen their cuddly goodness.

Have I totally geeked out enough for you here?  Hang in there, I'm almost done.

In the past, but somehow the future?, people still talk sh*t when they get ready to fight.  After listening to Darth's smart mouth for a few minutes, Obi-Wan says, "You can't win, Darth.  If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."

Whoa!  Now that is some epic badassery.  He said that even if he loses, he wins.  That ballsy statement  should have at least given Vader cause to pause.  After all, remember that he's in that sucky suit nearly 24/7 because of a fight with Kenobi.  More powerful?  Day-um!

Darth wasn't going to take any smack talk off some old man so he sliced through Obi-Wan's already empty robe!  I kinda suspect Vader flipped Kenobi the bird first though.  Luke Skywalker witnessed his mentor's murder, which actually allowed him to escape from the Death Star, and we all know how the story ends.

Sure, my enemies probably think they've won because they have forced my blog underground or out of existence.  But being driven out of the eye of the general public has made this blog more widely read than it ever was before.  So I guess the dark side can suck it.  I win even if they think that I've lost.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grief PSA

I'm not all that smart.  I don't think all that quick on my feet.  I can rarely find the right words in person.  But there is one thing I think I know and I know it well. 

Grief.  I know how to address grief. 

I'm not saying that I handle my own grief very well because I know that I really don't - that's part of the reason I was up crying at 1:45 am while writing this post.  Oh dear, morning will come altogether too soon!  I do, however, know how to address the grief suffered by other people. 

Since my brother died three weeks ago I have heard all kinds of platitudes and lamentations.  I can honestly say that most of the things people say are helpful, but some are not.  I stop short of saying that those people are unkind. . .I just think that no one really knows what to say when someone suffers a devastating loss.  Coupled with the fact that sibling loss is not a widely recognized type of grief in society (loss of parents, spouses, and children are definitely covered, however), I think it's not terribly surprising that no one really knows what to say.

In an effort to educate the readership on what not to say to someone who is grieving, here are what I have determined are the best things to say (and not to say!) to a person who is suffering grief.  Please enjoy and learn from this Public Service Announcement.

- I'm sorry.  It doesn't bring a loved one back, but it's somehow nice to know that someone feels the loss through your loss. . .does that make sense?
- Can I bring you a meal?  I never understood this line. . .until I suffered a severe loss.  Yes, please do bring a meal because grieving families are not thinking about their bellies and they might not eat at all otherwise.
- I'm here whenever you want to talk about it.  It might be a long time, but know that one day this loss will need to be processed.  Verbally.  Be a friend; just listen and offer tissue as necessary.
- I wish there was something I could say that could help.  Let's face it, there is nothing that can help when someone is suffering grief.  But it is still a kind thing to say that might give some measure of comfort.
- I'll miss him/her.  It doesn't remove the pain, but grieving friends and family usually like to know that their missing loved one was loved by others.
- I'm sorry.  I mention this one again because it is such an appropriate response that so many can't seem to give.  You aren't accepting responsibility for the death, you are empathizing with someone who hurts.

- He/She is in a better place.  Really?  Because the person who is grieving feels that their loved one's better place is with them!
- At least they aren't suffering.  Guess what?  Grieving friends and families want their loved one back living on this planet, sans suffering.
- God has a plan.  You know, I agree that God does, in fact, have a plan.  And that plan is not much comfort to someone who is longing for a loved one on this side of Heaven.
- Aren't you over it by now?  No, apparently they are not.  Show a little love and compassion for someone who hurts a little more deeply than you do or someone who takes longer to process grief than you might.

It's comforting to share fond or funny memories of the departed, to hold hands or hug the grieving family and friends, and, perhaps most importantly, to check in on them long after the funeral flowers have died.  Grief can take a long time to process, people.  Some suffer loss much harder than you might and, as a friend, you should show kindness, love, and compassion for your friend. 

Besides me, do you know someone who is hurting today?  Was hurting yesterday?  Reach out to them in kindness. . .your contact might just be the boost that they really need to make it through yet another day without their loved one.

In closing, I can think of nothing better to say than love God, love your family, and love your friends.  Cherish today because you just don't know what tomorrow might bring.

Year of Tears

I know you're thinking that it's a bummer that I'm back to what has become my regularly scheduled grief posts, but just be happy that I'm not talking about my period.

I believe that you need a full year to handle many transitions in life.  I think it's important to date at least one year before thinking of getting married.  I think it's smart to be married at least a year before you think about adding a child to the mix.  And I think it's necessary to spend a year moving through the grief process before you're able to get much in the way of healing. 

That last line was highlighted for me in the year I spent after the deaths of my best friend and my grandmother.  They died within three weeks of each other in 2006.  To say that it was a very dark and difficult time would be an understatement.  I didn't always handle it well, but I did the best I could while still allowing myself time to wallow in my grief.

I handled the aforementioned deaths by throwing myself at my work.  I no longer work for wages and, unlike time spent in my old office, I can totally get away with crying while doing housework.  My brother's unexpected passing is far more painful and I feel the loss much deeper so I expect to feel this sadness for a  longer period.  Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of time because my son deserves to have his happy mama back and my tears really freak out the little guy.  I don't know how I'm going to move beyond this grief, but I know that I'll have to do it somewhat quicker than I'd prefer.

I'm not saying that I won't cry again for my missing brother, but I'm also not saying that I'll cry every single day.  Since my brother died three weeks ago, there has been exactly one day that I did not cry once.  Though I'm currently back in denial ("This can't be" and "I'll really never see/talk to him again?"), I think that I'm making good progress with my grief.

Some days will be good, some will be hard.  His birthday is coming up next month and that will be a really bad day.  But eventually, one day in the future, I'll simply be thankful that I was lucky enough to have a wonderful big brother and I won't feel a sharp pang when I think of him.

Monday, September 27, 2010

No Five Guys for This Gal

I'm not exactly superstitious, but I do get crazy notions from time to time.  Here's a crazy notion for you:  My husband suggested that we might eat lunch at Five Guys the other day.  For those of you not in the know, I guess Five Guys is giving In N Out a run for their money as the best fast food burger.

At the mention of Five Guys, I whipped my head around, eyes wide, "No!"

Before the poor guy could make a comment, I continued, "My brother ate at Five Guys one day and he died the very next day."

My husband was nonplussed and finally asked mildly, "Do you think that Derek died because he ate at Five Guys?"

I replied that I didn't know, but I do know that I will never eat a Five Guys burger.

Irrational?  Yes, I suppose.  My brother died of aortic dissection, not a bad burger.  Is my refusal to eat at Five Guys somewhat justified?  In my opinion, yes.  Five Guys burgers may not have been the reason my brother passed away (okay, I know they aren't), but I would never be able to eat there because I'd remember that it's where he ate the last time he dined out.

Sorry, Five Guys, I'll be sticking with In N Out.

Will I Be Banging Other Guys??

I usually would be like, "Ah, Hells Naw!" at the title of this post, but a couple of recent situations made me reconsider - and have a hearty laugh.  Of course, I am not an adulteress and this post is supposed to be funny.  Also realize that I rarely can do funny, so sorry if you think I suck.

My husband was rear-ended while I was in New Jersey for my brother's memorial service.  He was rear-ended while driving my car.  My relatively new car.  My not-totally-paid-for car.  {sigh}

He was rear-ended by a manager of sorts for a local Hyundai dealership.  The UNINSURED manager of sorts for a local Hyundai dealership.  The apparently very important UNINSURED manager of a local Hyundai dealership. 

I wasn't exactly happy to find out that my car would be unavailable for a week while it was being fixed.  But our local Hyundai dealership performed all the work gratis.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I don't think it looked as awesome when I purchased the car.  I think that they even worked the clay compound to make that sheetmetal look like a smooth & clear lake.  I guess that UNINSURED manager was very important indeed!

I was cruising with my hubby the other day in my impossibly glassy and awesome ride and we were talking about my upcoming doctor appointment.  I'm not a fan of going to the doctor because I have a busy life and getting naked for a guy who I'm not going to screw isn't really high on my list of things to do.  My husband sees the same physician that I signed up to see and he said that I'd like the good doctor.  I begged to differ because, well, I don't tend to like kickin' it with doctors.  Simply put, I have better things to do and I'd imagine they do too.

"What's he like?"  I asked.

My husband gave some info about his experiences with the doctor and I thought that it sounded like the doctor was a bossy prick.  But then he said that our doctor's first name is Clapton.  Clapton! 

I might have mentioned in my previous blog that my first choice of name for my son was Clapton.  Yes, it is because of the awesome guitar rock god, Eric Clapton.  I was showering while pregnant and thinking about names that went well with my last name.  I came up with the name "Eric."  I ixnayed the name because it was so terribly close to my brother's name (Derek) and I thought that people might think that my son was my brother's son - and we're not from Arkansas, so there you go.  My apologies to any Arkansan readers, but surely you know the jokes made about your state. 

Anyway, I adore the name Clapton and I pretty much think that any guy named Clapton is going to end up with trim lined up around the block.  If he plays the guitar, the p*ssy will only be magnified.  So I naturally told my husband that I'd be banging our doctor if he strolled in with a guitar.

My husband gave me a crazy look and said, "I don't think he'll be walking in with a guitar." 

Well, in that case, I guess I won't be banging my doctor!

* * *

For the first time in a long time, I was watching SNL with my husband.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't SNL supposed to be funny?  Or have I finally reached the point that I'm just too old and out of touch to "get it?"

Anyway, they had Amy Poehlner in a sequence that briefly included JT.  Ordinarily when I reference JT I'd be talking about James Taylor, but in this case I'm talking about Justin Timberlake.  Justin Timberlake of N'Sync fame.  Justin Timberlake of super-awesome teeny-bopper lust.  Justin Timberlake of "wardrobe malfunction" notoriety. 

I looked at my husband and calmly remarked, "I'd f*ck that kid ten ways until Sunday."

I should add that it technically was Sunday.  But, um, yeah.  As if.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse - Part III

I almost didn't post this. . .it was the post that I had ready to go on the day that my brother passed away.  Ultimately I decided that holding it back won't bring him back, so here you go.

This is the third installment of my reduce, recycle, and reuse posts.  You can find the other two posts on May 21 and June 26. 

Cloth Napkins - Do you want to eschew paper napkins, but don't want to lay out the expense of purchasing cloth napkins?  Check out the clearance offerings in the domestics area of department stores to score some fabulous deals.  You can also cut up an old flat bedsheet to make more napkins than you'll probably ever need.  If you don't have any old bedsheets, check the aforementioned clearance section for very inexpensive offerings.  Understand that you'll have to hem the edges of each napkin if you make them out of old bedsheets.  My dishtowels seem to reproduce faster than rabbits and I have a bunch that I've never even used.  I don't see why you couldn't use small dishtowels instead of napkins.  They're roughly the right size, they're absorbent, and they wash & dry well.

Plastic Containers - I've already detailed how I reuse plastic containers, but I have a couple more to add.  I've started to repurpose plastic juice jugs and plastic mayo jars.  The 2-quart juice jugs are handy for storing homemade broth or stock.  The more narrow variety of jug are appropriate for freezing, but I don't prefer to freeze in such large quantities because the defrosting takes forever.  This seems like a no-brainer and I can't believe that I've never thought of it before, but you can also use these containers when you make juice from frozen concentrate.  I've been repurposing plastic mayo jars to store scraps (primarily only poultry skin and beef fat) that we feed to the dog.  I also have used them to store homemade broth or stock if I'm going to use it in the next day or so; otherwise I store it in the freezer in a different container.  I make small quantities of iced tea and the 32- ounce jars are perfect for storing my favorite warm weather beverage.

Steam Mop - This does call for an investment up front, but it does save money and reduce waste in the long run if you typically use Swiffer products.  I have a Shark steam mop and I do like it quite a bit though it took some time to get used to it's horrible hissing sound.  The model I have came with several heads with different shapes and the corresponding microfiber pads which are machine washable.  The steam mop utilizes plain ol' water, super-heated, to clean.  No chemicals, no fumes, no disposable pads.  I was skeptical about it's cleaning ability, but I actually think my floors are cleaner looking & feeling since I've been using it.  Note that it doesn't seem to do much for grout though.  Does anyone have a product recommendation for cleaning grout?

Vegetables - Make a stir-fry if you have a bunch of vegetables that are reaching the end, but are still somewhat crisp.  Make a pot of vegetable soup if the veggies are getting limp, but still edible.  Toss any inedible veggies in your compost pile.

Veggie Water - I don't quite know what to call this, but it's the water left over when you've steamed vegetables.  I always use it if I need water in the meal that I'm cooking.  Waste not, want not, and all that.  I know this might sound gross, but I really like broccoli and I like to drink the water that's left when I steam it. 

Fruit - Make smoothies with any fruit that is beginning to get too soft and overripe.  Peaches, grapes, berries, bananas, apricots, strawberries, just about any fruit can be used to make a smoothie.  Add to blender with some milk or yogurt.  I usually like to toss in some frozen banana too because it gives nice body to the smoothie.

Bananas - I've heard that mushy bananas can be used to make banana bread, but I absolutely never bake.  I came across a "recipe" that calls for frozen bananas and milk.  It claims you can process frozen bananas with a little milk and the result tastes like soft serve.  I haven't tried it yet, but I do have a couple of peeled & sliced bananas in the freezer so I'll be trying it soon enough.

Garden Thinnings - I've heard that you can transplant thinnings to increase your yield, but I've never had good luck with transplanting very young plants.  Maybe you'll have better luck?  If you've planted greens, such as lettuce or spinach, you can eat the thinnings and they are a remarkably tender treat in a salad.

Grass Clippings/Tree Trimmings - Leaving your grass clippings on the lawn is actually good for the grass, but most people don't like to leave it for aesthetic reasons.  What to do with grass clippings and small bits of tree or hedge trimmings?  Add to your compost pile, of course!  Do be aware, though, of how much nitrogen ("green" or wet material) you're adding since you don't want it to totally overtake the carbon ("brown" or dried material) compost ingredients.  Remember that a healthy heap has both.

Quick word on composting:  Most compost piles to do not have an ideal ratio of ingredients.  Don't sweat it too much and go ahead & add kitchen scraps.  Just do not add any animal-based kitchen scraps (skin, fat, gristle, etc.) or dairy to your heap!

I hope this series of posts is useful and interesting to you.  Stay tuned as there will, no doubt, eventually be a Part IV in this series of posts.

The Co-Sleeping Conundrum

Our son is still sleeping in our bed and, though I love him dearly, I'm really getting sick of our sleeping arrangements.  One wouldn't think that a three-foot toddler would be all that troublesome, right?  Wrong!

For starters, he will not actually fall asleep until the entire family is in the bed.  I might add that I do not sleep early - ever.  That means that he does not go to bed early enough - ever.  A toddler who doesn't get enough sleep is probably the most unpleasant person on the planet.

He also doesn't stay put when he sleeps and he is prone to moving around.  That might not sound so bad, but his arms and legs flail about all night long.  All.  Night.  Long.  Getting kicked in the head by an errant foot is a joy that I never expected to come with motherhood.

Worst of all, he sleeps right between his parents.  This means that snuggling with my husband is impossible because we have a 25-pound toddler hogging prime snuggle space on our bed.  And, well, anything that snuggling leads to is out the window for obvious reasons.

I know it sounds like we're totally inept, but we have tried EVERYTHING to get him to go to sleep in his own bed.  Sometimes we even move him from our bed to his bed and that works. . .until he wakes and crawls up in our bed.  Sadly, that is what we've had the most success doing.  At this rate, I'll never conceive that second child we've been trying for these last 18-months!

So, co-sleeping parents, I need a little advice.  How did you transition your co-sleeping child to their own bed and how long did it take?  I don't want to traumatize my son, so also let me know how your child felt about the change.  Also, um, how did you manage to do it while co-sleeping?  As in it.  Did you just do it on the couch?  The car?  The floor? 

I know that his clingy-ness is surely a temporary phase, but it's really getting old fast.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Emporer's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes; great story, right? I think it's safe to say that everyone knows this classic folktale by Hans Christian Anderson.

Here's a brief summary if you've forgotten the point: The Emperor, quite the natty dresser, hires tailors to make him a fantastic outfit. They say that they are making him clothing from invisible cloth. Well, the cloth is only invisible if you aren't suited to your position. The Emperor himself can't see the clothes, but pretends that he can because he doesn't want his position called into question. His pride forces him to lie to himself and he drags all those around him into his lie. He decks himself out in his non-existent finery and he parades through the town. Everyone in the town was not blind. They all knew that the Emperor wasn't dressed. But they all played along with his foolish plan and pretended that all was well with the Emperor strutting about in a socially unacceptable fashion. Finally, the ridiculousness of the situation was exposed (if you will) when a small child honestly cried out that the Emperor wasn't wearing any clothes at all.

I'm going to ignore the deeper meanings of this folktale, like pretentiousness, frippery, and the dangers of engaging servile advisers. Instead, I'd like to focus on the simple message: The collective denial of the obvious.

Ask yourself, who are you in this tale? Life would be undoubtedly easier to go with the flow and ignore the Emperor's embarrassing parade. However, if you have any integrity at all, you wouldn't be able to live with such an obvious lie.

Why would no one state the obvious to the Emperor? Sometimes it might mean my head, but I'm content to be the truthful young child instead of a disgusting sycophant. I can see those contemptible people in my mind right now, panting after the Emperor, currying favor. Could it be that they were less concerned with the truth and more interested in remaining in the Emperor's good graces? After all, being close to the Emperor means that there is a strong likelihood of benefiting financially. "A love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" and this is a perfect example of that truth.

Speaking the truth, even when it hurts, is preferable than being a no-good filthy liar. When one truly cares, they want the truth known.  Only those with questionable motives would be content to ignore the obvious and allow the Emperor to parade about in invisible clothes.

It's black and white.  You are either lying or you're telling the truth. You're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution. I like being part of the solution; how about you?

Bright Pink Dildo Art

I think my brother just cringed in Heaven at the title of this post, but I swear that this is not pervy.

A city next to mine has a requirement that all new construction must include some sort of art.  As a result, all new construction has some sort of lame sculpture out front.  Off the top of my head, I can think of quite a few different pieces:  ballerinas, eagles, a group of kids running, abstract shapes, and some sort of free-form sculpture that looks like three turds clustered tightly together.

I have a goofy sense of humor so accept my apologies if the following doesn't tickle your funnybone.

I've told my husband for several years that it would be hilarious to attach a bright pink dildo to each sculpture.  Imagine the dainty ballerinas en pointe. . .with a huge pink dong hanging out of their tutus.  The eagle. . .with a fake penis hanging out of it's mouth.  The kid in the rear "chasing" the other kids. . .with a dildo in his hand.  I chuckle at the thought of the townsfolk being outraged - outraged - by the plethora of bright pink dildos on their lame-ass sculptures.  Art is subjective, right?  Who's to say that my vision isn't also art?

Why dildos?  I don't know, but maybe it's because dick jokes are funny.  Why bright pink?  I guess because pink is my favorite color.  Why do I want to molest these sculptures?  I don't know, but I think it would be an epic prank. 

I actually asked my husband once if we could purchase a gross of bright pink dildos to make my dream come true.  He said no and added that he wouldn't want to bail me out of jail if I get caught sexually harassing the sculptures.  I then inquired about purchasing just one bright pink dildo and spending the night driving around town (attaching said dildo to sculptures) and taking a photograph so I know it happened once.  He looked at me like I suggested something really crazy and said he didn't think it was a good idea.  Killjoy.

What silly pranks have you pulled?  Were you caught?  I'd love to hear about them - whether or not they involve bright pink dildos!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Kiss is Still a Kiss

At risk of sounding like the hooker from the movie Pretty Woman, I have a confession to make:  I don't like to kiss on the mouth.

There.  I said it and I'm not ashamed.  But I am perplexed by my feelings on something as simple, sometimes sweet and sometimes sexy, as kissing.

Kissing is a damn strange thing.  It can be innocent; like kissing your little baby or your grandmother.  It can be wildly passionate; say when you're making out with that handsome stranger who shared your elevator down to the lobby.  It can be confusing and possibly hot; as it was with the person who used to give me a soft, lingering kiss on the side of the neck while giving me a friendly hug.  Actually, that was pretty hot if a little confusing.

I don't care for a chaste peck on the lips, and I usually feel skeeved out by playing tonsil-hockey, but I'm okay with kisses on the cheek.  I've never kissed my son on the mouth.  I won't kiss my family members on the mouth.  Heck, I generally won't even kiss my own husband on the mouth.  I used to, in the early days, but it's not my favorite way to show affection.  Heh, I guess he's lucky that kissing on the mouth was the one thing I stopped doing after we got married! 

I have no problem with kissing in general; I just don't like kissing on the mouth.  I didn't always have this weirdness about kissing and it was common to kiss family members on the lips when I was growing up.  I can't quite put my finger on when I developed a distaste for smooching, but I definitely don't care for it most of the time. 

Note that I said "most of the time."  Sure, I'll still mouth-kiss if I'm horny enough or if I've had enough wine or vodka.  Otherwise, I'm not of a fan of exploring someone's mouth.  I mean, I'm not a whack-a-doodle about germs or anything, but mouths are pretty freaking gross.  Just thinking about the bacteria level found in a healthy mouth totally creeps me out. 

Hm, you know, I might be a whack-a-doodle about germs because I'm not fond of shaking hands and it makes me mental to hear someone incessantly coughing.  I promise that I won't go all Howard Hughes though.  Unless I was as wealthy as HH, I'd be called crazy instead of eccentric.

What's your opinion about kissing?  Is it Hot or Not?  Am I the only person who doesn't really like it all that much?

Funny side note:  I was looking at yesterday and came across a pic of a watermelon that had been carved to look like a mouth, complete with tongue and teeth.  Yes, it grossed me out. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Co-Sleeping Kiddo

As I detailed on my old blog, we don't co-sleep with our son.  I did it once and it really sucked.  No, it REALLY FREAKING SUCKED!!

Since my brother passed away, my son has been co-sleeping.  I initially figured it was because I spent two days weeping and wailing and he needed some extra reassurance.  However, he is still in our bed now that I'm back home and things are somewhat back to normal.

We told him yesterday that it was bedtime and he started screaming when my husband was carrying him to his room.  I asked if he wanted to go to bed and he yelled, "YES!"  My husband put him down and the little guy ran to our room. 

Wrong room, fella.

He not only ran to our room, turned on our bedroom light, and tossed his "appie" (burpie) on our bed.  He also turned on our sound machine (ocean waves) and climbed up on our bed.  He snuggled down in what has become "his" spot in the middle of the bed.

My husband and I looked at each other.  I shrugged my shoulders, he turned off the light and shut the door.  I whispered that if he goes to sleep I kinda don't care where he goes to bed.  He not only didn't go to sleep, but he stayed up until we went to bed. 

I had no idea just how lucky I was with my son, the SuperSleeper.  I had no idea that moving him out of the crib and to a big boy bed would cause such a total chaos with his sleep pattern.  I had no idea that a 2-year old's sleep (or lack thereof) could so thoroughly disrupt our home life.

I'm pretty bummed out with this co-sleeping arrangement.  I like my space and I like my private time with my husband.  But I don't despair.

If I've learned one thing in 2 years of motherhood, it's this:  It's all just a phase.  Meaning that things change all the time in the world of a young child.  Today he likes fruit, tomorrow he hates it.  He is obsessed with Elmo one day and then obsessed with the Wonder Pets the next.  Yesterday he slept in our bed, today he sleeps in his bed. 

Okay, okay, that last one might be wishful thinking.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another Haircut, Another Scalping

I'm so glad that I have the freedom to write about my little boy again!

My little boy doesn't like getting haircuts.  No, that's not quite true.  He HATES getting haircuts.  He reacts toward hair clippers much the same as he does toward doctors:  with screaming, wailing, and writhing around. 

Since cutting his hair is such an unpleasant ordeal, I tend to wait a looooong time between haircuts.  His hair was touching his ears a month ago and I kept meaning to cut his hair, but things kept popping up and it never happened.  His shaggy do has been bothering me since I returned home from New Jersey and, after having to scrub a lasagna roll out of his hair, I decided it was high time that I strap him in his booster seat and break out the clippers.

So why did I choose to cut his hair without my husband home?  Because I obviously wasn't using my brain.  Was it a terrible experience?  Yes.  Is it one that I want to repeat anytime soon?  No.  As awful as the experience was, the result is arguably worse.  It is, quite possibly, the absolute worst haircut in history.

Like most people, I only have two hands and one hand was required to hold the clippers.  My son also has two hands.  Both of his hands were free to cover his head and foil my attempts to cut his hair.  I grabbed both of his wrists in my free hand and held his arms as still as I could.  Then he protested in the only way possible (besides screaming his head off!) by violently twisting his head this way and that.

Not only is his hair not even, but it isn't anywhere near as high & tight as I like it around his ears.  He flinched as I was getting ready to trim around his ear and the clipper actually clipped his sweet cheek.  He screamed (for good reason for a change!) and I started crying. 

I decided to use scissors instead.  I prefer scissor cuts, but I use clippers on the boy because it makes for a faster experience.  And, if there is one thing that I aim for when cutting his hair, it's to do it FAST! 

After ten minutes of his howling and fidgeting, I gave up.  His neckline, ears, and sideburns aren't cleaned up enough for my taste and he has a couple of sections that are a little too long, but I was done.  So was he!

He used to have a similar negative reaction to getting his nails clipped, but he eventually came to accept the inevitable.  He doesn't like getting his nails clipped, but at least he sits still and pouts while I do it.  I'm holding out hope that he might sit still for haircuts one day.

Exclusivity Wins

In the unrecognized Battle of the Blogs, my underground blog is soundly whipping my public blog in terms of followers.  I was surprised to notice this morning that this blog, Invitation Only, has far more followers than Hashbrown & Tater Tots ever could have hoped to have. 

I suppose I can understand it.  After all, most people don't want to pick up something that's free because that usually means there isn't much value.  Charge just a few dollars (or send out a set number of invites as it were) and people flock to what you're offering.

I guess the People of the Internet have spoken:  Exclusivity Wins!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Dark Shadow Has Descended

This is a rare post where I hope that no one reading this can relate whatsoever.  Don't worry; I'm just in a dark place right now.  I know that I'll pop back up eventually and, in the meantime, I'm trying to fake it until I can make it.

At times in my life, I have felt like a dark shadow is smothering me.  My anguish has taken the form of this dark shadow.  Lightness and joy are blocked.  It rolls in and out like waves and I'm drowning in it right now.  I hope the tide turns soon.

I hate that darkness has returned to my life and brought horribly scary thoughts.  I can't bring myself to say just what things I've been mulling over today.  I keep trying to turn my mind to other things and it's hard because it feels like evil thoughts are being whispered directly in my ear.

I've been trying to put one foot in front of the other, but it was too hard to get up today.  I had a nearly sleepless night and I battled a migraine for around eight hours.  This darkness has been having its way with me for around 24-hours.  I feel drained.  I don't think anyone can possibly understand how I feel and that leaves me aching with loneliness.

My son is enrolled in a mommy & me pre-preschool that started today.  I couldn't bring myself to go.  Instead, I moped around the house.  Uncharacteristically, I didn't even bother to get out of jammies until around noon.  The weird thing is that I wasn't crying or anything, I simply didn't have the energy to do anything except what is required to care for my son.

I'm tired, but I can't sleep and I just lie on the bed while staring into space.  I'm hungry, but I can't eat and all but the most sweet or salty foods taste like ashes on my tongue.  I'm sad, but I can't cry and I often find myself shaking with silent sobs. 

I'm flat, dull.  I feel broken.  I know that one day I'll feel like myself and I'll be restored.  That day can't come soon enough. 

Oh Crud, Looks Like I Lied

Whoops!  Looks like I lied because I have to write one more post on this particular blog.  I thought it might be cool to list some of the supportive comments I've received since last night:

"Well that's disappointing. Not sure what the problem is Heather, but I would say if you feel like writing then write and don't let whoever is troubling you think they've won by forcing you into self-censorship. Love to you all.  (Your Sister) says keep writing them for (Your Brother). He used to enjoy reading them!  I'll shut up momentarily, but I recently had a run in whereby I suggested that a new book Jimmy Page is publishing was exorbitantly priced. It upset some of the fan boys and girls on the Led Zep related Facebook pages, but I say tough tittie. Everyone's views are worth no more or no less than anyone else's. PLEASE KEEP ON BLOGGING IN PUBLIC!!! :-)"
- CW

"Don't know what to say, except I hope you don't stop. And, I think that if other's have an issue with it, they should stop reading it. It is therapeutic for you. And you deserve that."
- MB

"That would be such a shame. You are a passionate writer with a lot of great things to see. It is one of the highlights of my day to read your blog!"
- LM

"I hope you don't stop writing!! I love reading your blogs."
- JS

"Please keep blogging!! I love reading it!!"
- SI

"Oh no! This makes me so sad :( "
- J

"This is a place for you Heather to post your thoughts, feelings and opinions. It should NOT matter what anyone else thinks and if they do not like it then maybe they should be the ones to quit reading your posts. NO ONE is forcing them to read your postings. Your feelings are your feelings. they are not wrong they just are and who the hell thinks they have the right to tell you any different. Just because they may not agree with you does not mean that you or they are wrong. People, whomever you are, get over it and GROW THE HELL UP!!!
- S

I'll be adding to this list if I receive further comments.  Based on the feedback, I have decided to continue blogging though I've created a new blog and I've made it viewable by invitation-only.  I do like writing these posts (well, most of them anyway) and it's not fair that I lose a creative outlet because others don't like what I have to say or what I think.

* * *

I tossed and turned all night over this dramarama.  I actually ended up with a migraine that plagued me from around 1:00 am until about 9:00 am.  Is it all related?  Who knows, but I'm exhausted from mulling it over and I've made my decision.

You're right, my friends:  Haters Gonna Hate.  However, it's prudent to restrict who can read my words for reasons that I am not free to disclose.  I love freedom and hate censorship, but this is how I must leave it for reasons that I will not fully disclose.

My feelings are my feelings no matter what.  Invalidating my feelings or criticizing my feelings does not change that they are, in fact, my feelings.  I am very hurt that a loved one would be critical of my very real feelings, feelings that only erupted while I'm suffering the agony of terrible and unimaginable grief, but I suppose that can't be helped now.  I'm hurt and I don't know when I won't feel hurt.  Just add it to the pain and sorrow that I'm already feeling I guess.

As I oh-so-pointedly stated a long time ago, it is my blog and it contains my opinions.  My opinions may not be your opinions.  Since no one can seem to take my advice to not read my blog if it offends, I have created a new blog that is accessible by invitation only.  I am limited to only 100 readers and I'll be sending out invites via e-mail.  I'd rather not be exclusionary, but some people who have been reading this blog will not receive an invitation to read the new blog since my readership will be limited.  Please accept my apologies if I do not send you an invite.  I don't keep my e-mail addresses in the same file, so contact me if you feel that I've left you out and you'd like to read the new blog. 

I hope to see you on the other blog!

Down, But Not Out

If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.  Alternately, if you can't handle my words, don't read my blog.

I think it's totally lame that I've been forced to create a "hidden" blog that is viewable by invitation only.  Unfortunately, certain people who shall remain nameless have nothing better to do than try to alienate me and drive a wedge between my husband and me.  Ordinarily I'd say, "F--- 'em!"  But trying to divide my house is absolutely unacceptable. 

Lest anyone suggest that I'm being chickensh*t, I can take whatever anyone can dish out and I've taken far worse from others.  However, it's very clear that my husband is tired of the drama and he's hurt by the personal attacks others have made against me.  I know that this nonsense wearies him or he would have never mentioned it to me.  I would do anything to spare my husband any pain and that is what prompted me to stop writing on my "open" blog, Hashbrown and Tater Tots.

Have you ever lived in a fishbowl or under a microscope?  That's kind of what this has felt like for several months.  Certain people have leached onto my words and they've tried to hang their hats on things I have written.  The most contemptible part of the personal attacks against me is that my attackers have twisted my words to suit their own selfish agenda.  This is why I have been censoring myself for the last several months. 

In my grief over my brother's loss, I let my anger and frustration fly.  I want to be perfectly clear:  I don't regret a single word that I wrote.  My only regret is that certain people have hurt my husband by suggesting that I shouldn't be free to write what I feel.  It's my blog and I don't know why they feel compelled to read what I write if it bothers them so f*cking much!

Just by making the suggestion that I censor myself, they have totally invalidated my feelings.  I hate to admit it, but that actually does hurt me.  I expected better from that particular person.

A friend pointed out that blogging has been very therapeutic for me.  And it really has.  I can attest that sometimes ugly things come up from deep down when you are in therapy.  Yes, some ugliness was purged through my former blog.  But I also like to think that some posts were uplifting, helpful, and fun. 

No one is under any obligation to read my blogs - I actually have three now!  You might have an invitation to read this particular blog, but you are welcome to not read it.  You are free to stop reading posts if you don't like what I have to say.  And I am finally free to write what I want without fear of repercussions.

I don't hate anyone, even those who might have earned such an emotion.  Ultimately, I know that I won't hate my attackers.  I'll just consider them with severe detachment.  After all, in order to hate you must care on some level and I just don't care.

Haters gonna hate. . .

Monday, September 20, 2010

Last Open Post

Though I find this blog to be a creative and fun way to express myself, I regret that this will be my last open post.  I may continue writing under a new name and a new blog or I may just limit who can read this particular blog to a few people who I specify, but I can't continue blogging if my words and thoughts are continually stifled.  As someone who hates censorship, I think it's a damn shame that I'm left with only these options. 

~ Best Regards

You Get What You Give

I received a sympathy card with no return address in the mail today.  The handwriting was familiar and instantly recognizable to me.  For eleven years, I had worked with the woman who addressed the envelope.   I assumed the card was only from her family.  Imagine my surprise when I found that several of my former co-workers included kind condolence notes in the card.  That might not impress some of you, but realize I have not worked with any of them in nearly 2 1/2 years.  To say that I was touched they were thinking of me or praying for my family after I'd been gone so long would be an understatement.

When I was gone, my son was cared for by friends who have at least one child of their own at home.  My husband received a delicious dinner every night, courtesy of more friends with young children at home.  One day he even received two dinners and another friend dropped off dinner the day after I returned home because she thought I might not be up to cooking just yet.  Some of the ladies at my church wanted to deliver meals as well and, upon hearing that meals were covered, asked that my husband call if he needed any help.  My family has been lifted up in prayer by at least two different congregations and in daily prayers by countless friends and family. 

I don't know how I'd be able to put one foot in front of the other if it weren't for the generous care from our friends and family.

Just yesterday afternoon, I was marveling at the love and support I've had since my brother died and a friend replied, "You get what you give."  That's a fantastically succinct way to put it and I really can't add anything to improve her words.  I just hope that I really do live up to, and continue to live up to, that statement in the eyes of my friends and family.

Ticking Time Bomb

My brother just recently dropped dead at the age of 41 and I can't help but wonder if I am a ticking time bomb.  Am I also likely to suffer an aortic dissection?  Am I going to die within the next ten years?  Will I widow my husband and orphan our young son?  Perhaps this is why I haven't been able to bring forth another child?  Maybe the strain of pregnancy will kill me?  Will my friends and family have to suffer because I'm called home at a young age?  Am I going to die soon?

My mother and my uncle were talking about family this past week and a few important things were revealed.  I was somewhat aware of this, but my maternal grandfather died at age 50.  Yes, I said 50.  Even in 1976, dying at 50 was very young.  However, I was much more interested in learning about my great-uncle's death.  My grandfather's brother died in his 40's.  He wasn't feeling well, went home, sat in his favorite chair, and then he died.

Is there some curse that afflicts the men in my family?  I haven't heard that the women die all that early, but we've identified three men who died at unnaturally young ages from "natural" causes.  Does this affliction skip generations?  My uncles, my mother's brothers, are both in their 60s so I would have to assume that they lucked out.

Since my brother was taken so soon, does that mean that perhaps my son has a free pass?  Will he be safe from aortic dissection?  Of course, since my brother was taken and we are (were) so very similar, I can't help but worry that I might be the next one with a ticket to punch.  I think it's clear that there has been a dark cloud hanging over me and I wonder if it's Death's shadow.  I wonder if I'm next.  Macabre, I know, but there you have it.

I don't fear my own death.  Well, I kind of do because I don't think I'll like making the journey all by myself, but I don't worry about what will happen to me because I am sure that I'll end up in the best place ever.  However, I do worry about my family and I ache specifically at the thought of my husband and son suffering over my loss.  And I don't think my parents could handle losing another child.

I've been beside myself thinking these dark thoughts.  My husband suggested that worrying about it isn't going to give any answers and it will just continue to freak me out.  He asked me to make an appointment with my doctor and undergo a physical (I'm due for a pap too, darn it!) and find out if there are any tests that can be conducted to determine if I have any weak spots in my blood vessels.  It's practical advice and I have scheduled an appointment.

I don't know if I have a ticking time bomb in my body.  I don't know if it would even be helpful to know.  All I can do is live each day as if it's my last because, for all I know, it might be.  I guess that's all anyone can do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Abuse Isn't Funny, But This Made Me Laugh

Yesterday was my Dad's birthday and we picked up take-out from his favorite Mexican restaurant.  I ordinarily would not get take-out from a regular restaurant, but it's a favorite so I took the chance.  I should have known better.

My father does not eat cheese and I let the restaurant know three times that cheese can't be on his food.  There wasn't any cheese on his enchilada or beans, but there was cheese all over his taco.  Of course there was.

While we were waiting for our meals to be up, I grabbed my husband's hand.  I was planning on kissing it so I quickly dipped my head down.  Unfortunately, he raised his hand up at the same time.  The resulting contact left me with a bloodied mouth.

I sometimes have an odd sense of humor, so bear with me if this doesn't tickle your funny bone.

I ran to the restroom and cleaned up my mouth as well as I could.  By the time I finished, our meals were ready and my husband was paying for dinner.  He felt bad and apologized while we were in the car. 

I started laughing and said, "What's this?  My father is sick and my only brother is dead so you think this means you can get away with popping me in the mouth?"

He laughed too, "Aw, Honey, you know it was an accident."

"Does hitting a woman in the mouth make you feel like a big man?" 

We both cracked up like a couple of mental patients.  Yeah, yeah, abuse isn't funny, but this struck me as hilarious.  I think my parents thought we were weirdos for chuckling about it long after we arrived back at their house.

Naturally, the spiciness of the salsa and and saltiness of the food stung like heck and my lip still hurts today.  However, it was a really nice night with my folks and I think they enjoyed having our company.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Laughter is Good Medicine

I'm amazed at the body's ability to create tears.  Based on all the sobbing I've been doing since my brother's passing, I would have thought that I'd be all cried out a long time ago.  However, tears still somehow come to my eyes when the sadness returns.

I was crying in the shower late yesterday afternoon.  I believe that my brother was a Christian and, based on that belief, I am certain that he's in Heaven.  Trying to banish the tears for a few hours, I let my mind run with the notion that people in Heaven look down upon those who are left in this imperfect world. 

I was in the middle of washing my hair when I thought, "He's probably looking down on me right now."  I paused, hands up in my hair, and thought, "But I'm naked in the shower right now!  Hey, quit looking down on me right now, you big weirdo!"  And, just like that, my tears stopped and laughter erupted.  The absurdity of it all just cracked me up.

I have to say, it felt fantastic to enjoy a great big laugh.

* * *

My brother's wife told me that he liked reading my blog and hearing about my little boy.  So here's a quick story that he probably would have liked.  I'll bet he'd have said, "I love me some nephew."

I was making breakfast this morning and my son wouldn't move from standing in front of the fridge.  I asked him to step aside so I could close the door and make breakfast.  He kept pointing in the fridge and grunting while I kept trying to get him to move out of the way.  Finally, he starting crying, "TOAST!"

I was puzzled because I didn't even see a loaf of bread in there.  Then I noticed that there was a box of Texas Toast and, yes, the boy was pointing at the box.  I never buy Texas Toast, so I figured that my husband must have bought it while I was gone.

I asked, "Do you want Texas Toast?"


Okay, so I turned on the oven and tossed some slices on a pizza stone.  He kept dancing around the kitchen while chanting "Toast, toast, toast."  After the longest five minutes in history, the toast was finally finished. 

I cut his slice of toast into bite-sized pieces.  Still singing about toast, he ran to his spot at the dining room table and climbed up on his own.  He clapped his hands together to say the blessing before I even got our plates to the table.

Holy moly, that kid LOVES Texas Toast.  Like Sherman through Atlanta, he tore through the toast and just destroyed it.  There was nary a crumb by the time he was finished.

I called my husband and asked if he gave Toot Texas Toast every single day while I was gone since the boy seemed so obsessed with it.  My husband had no idea what I was talking about.  He said that the box of Texas Toast arrived before I got home and he never made it for the kiddo.

How did my son know that he'd like Texas Toast?  How did he know what was in the box?  And why in the world would my son think that toast comes in a box?  Could he have possibly read "toast?" 

Just another one of life's mysteries, I guess.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Can Haz Mai Sales Skillz Back Plz??

Yeah, yeah, so I wrote the title in LOLcat, wanna fight about it?  Seriously though, I want my sales skills back pronto.

I used to make a pretty nice living in what essentially was sales.  I do a fairly good job reading people.  I know how to expose their fears and their desires and, once I have that knowledge, they are mine.  Most importantly, I know how to choose the right words that will spur them to want whatever it is that I'm offering.  After all, what I'm offering will protect them from their fears and make their deepest desires become reality.

I haven't worked for wages in over two years and I'm afraid that I've lost my sales mo-jo.

I made a brilliant, no-strings attached offer to a loved one and it was rejected.  There were only two possible choices that I presented and yet they chose a third option that wasn't even on the table.  In my arrogance, I was certain that my primary offer would be accepted.  I took the answer poorly (well, it would be more accurate to say that I took it personally) because I've only very rarely been rejected and I'm offering an unbelievably wonderful gift.  I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from saying, "WTF, are you kidding me?!"

The offer is so fantastic that it isn't an exaggeration to say that it would be positively life-changing, so I guess that I read the person wrong and I didn't chose the right words.  I know that the timing left a lot to be desired, but there was nothing I could do about that.  Now I'm over-analyzing the entire pitch and wondering where I failed.

Was I too hard, too direct?  Should I have been more subtle?  What if I had removed the decision making altogether?  Should I call and just say that this is the way it's going to be?

I can't believe that I screwed up such an important sale.  My husband tells me that it would have been tough to close in the best of circumstances because it is so very life-changing, but I was sure that I had nailed it.  I feel like I failed a loved one because I couldn't close the freaking deal.

Always looking for the silver lining, I know that I did plant seeds and seeds that have been nurtured often yield a rich bounty.  But it's the nurturing that concerns me, has always concerned me, with this individual.  Without proper care and attention, even the most well-planted seed won't produce the desired result.

Of course, I can't take a simple rejection and walk away from the table.  To me, no doesn't always mean no and I was called a bulldog by my former boss on more than one occasion because I don't let it go until it is abundantly clear that the sales process is dead.  So now I have to consider how to proceed with my follow up.

It Had to be Orlando

I'm home with my two favorite people right now.  The kitchen is somewhat picked up, dishes are washed, laundry is running, and my bags are unpacked.  My son is snoozing (in his own bed!) and my husband is snoozing in his favorite chair.  I should wake my husband and we should go to bed, but I know that I won't sleep just yet.

A lot of things have changed in a short period of time.  Until this trip, I have never slept even one night away from my husband since we were married.  Before I flew out of LAX on the 10th, the longest time that I have been away from my son is four hours.  Prior to last week, my brother was living.

I tried so hard to be strong this week and I know that I failed miserably.  At times my heartbreak felt so strong that I thought there might be something physically wrong with me.  The hardest was watching the flag presentation at his service.  And seeing his body.  Seeing my mother's tears, comforting her much as I would my little son.  I couldn't help but sob when I heard Taps softly playing while a sailor respectfully stood before my brother's body.  I know that he was already gone, but it just drove home the finality of his death.

I'm sure that everyone is sick of hearing about my grief, but this is truly the most painful loss I have ever suffered and I just don't know when I'll be over it.  I don't know that I'll ever be "over it."  I thought my best friend's death was hard and I thought my grandmother's death three weeks later was even harder, but they didn't come close to delivering the same level of agony that I'm feeling with my brother's death.

We expect our parents and grandparents to die.  We expect the old and the sick to pass on before us.  We don't expect healthy 41-year old men to die; I sure didn't expect that it would happen to my brother.  But it did. 

For most people, the longest relationship they'll ever share is their relationship with a sibling.  Parents die, spouses come in adulthood, but siblings were there from a very early age and they remain throughout your life.  In an ideal world, they'll be there much longer than any other person in your life. 

I wish that I was given more than 35-years with my big brother.  My brother and my sister had their situation, but I tried hard to let them resolve their differences between themselves.  I couldn't pick one over the other because I love them both so much.  And now I only have my sister.  My sister and I are without a brother. . .

Your siblings shape the person who you grow up to become.  Due to the longevity of the relationship and the depth of love, losing a sibling is like losing a part of yourself.  It's a part that can never be replaced.  There will always be something, someone, missing.

No, I can't say that I'll ever get over this.  I may work through the stages of grief.  I may stop crying one day.  I may smile and laugh.  I may appear to have moved on.  But he's gone and I'll continue to miss him.

* * *

On the way home, I had a three hour layover in Orlando.  It had to be Orlando.  I couldn't help but think that my brother had flown to Orlando in 1986 when he first enlisted in the US Navy.  And there I was, kicking around Orlando on my way home from my brother's funeral service in 2010. 

It would have made me laugh if it didn't make me cry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Going Home

I need the two people who mean more to me than anything in this world.  I need my husband.  I need my son.  I need my husband to wrap his big strong arms around me and hold me.  I need my son's sweet kisses and hugs. 

I'm coming home to my husband and son.  I can't wait.  I've missed them so much.  Please pray for traveler's mercies for us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Want My Family Back

I not only ache for my husband and my son, but I want my entire family restored.  There was a golden period where all seemed like it was right in my world, with my family.  Now I kind of feel that things will never be right again.  There will always be a piece missing in the puzzle that is my family.  And I'm sad to realize that the puzzle will only grow more and more incomplete as time mercilessly marches on and death continues to take members from this family. . .

Life is so damned short sometimes.  I wish that I'd seen my brother just one more time before he was gone.  I will always, always, always regret not seeing my brother one last time and I don't want anyone else to live with this kind of pain and sadness.

Do you have family members who don't live nearby?  Make the time to see them, call them, contact them in any way possible.  You just never know when they might breathe their last breath.  As I said a few weeks ago, get busy making memories and not regrets.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Miss My Brother

Today is my brother's memorial service.  I guess now it will finally sink in that he's gone.  Oh, how I wish it weren't true. . .

I have countless memories, but here is what I wrote to share for his memorial service:

I was seven years younger than my brother, but he'd let me hang out with him and he never acted like I was a nuisance. When I was a little girl, we'd often ride our bikes, play darts, and talk about superheroes and Star Wars. As adults, we still enjoyed talking about superheroes and Star Wars.

He was courageous. I remember once knocking on his door late at night because I heard a noise in the backyard and our parents were out. He bravely stepped out into the night to investigate and protect me from harm.

One year, when he was still in high school, he spent his own money to buy me a baby doll with a complete layette for Christmas. Not many teenagers would have bought such a perfect gift for a little girl. He was thoughtful and generous in that way.

There are too many wonderful memories to share, but know that my brother was a very kind-hearted person who loved and cared for his family. He loved the holidays. He had a great sense of humor and a fantastic dimpled smile.

I am so glad that he shared four happy years together with Pam. When he was hurting, she brought the joy back to his heart. I remember advising him not to risk getting remarried, but he said, "She's worth it." And he was right.

He was the best brother that any girl could have ever hoped for and I was so fortunate that I had him in my life for 35 years. He may be gone, but he will forever be in my heart and he will always be my brother. Always.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Sad Birthday

Today is my mother's birthday.  She attended her own mother's memorial service on this day in 2006.  She'll be attending her only son's memorial service tomorrow.  I think that my birthdays have left a lot to be desired, but I suspect she won't want to celebrate anything in September ever again. 

My brother's wife suggested that we go out to dinner tonight to celebrate my mom's birthday.  She rightfully reasoned that my brother wouldn't have wanted us to ignore Mom's birthday.  Though it's painfully obvious that someone important is missing, I hope that we can manage to have a nice time tonight.

* * *

One week ago, my brother was here.  He was enjoying a hamburger with his wife.  He was living, laughing, loving, breathing. . .and now he's gone.  Sitting in his home, I can't help but expect him to walk through the door at any moment.  The door that he'll never walk through again.

Tomorrow is going to be hard.  So very hard.  Pray for the family to be strong so that we might conduct ourselves with honor and dignity.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Support

I have a wonderfully supportive network of friends.  These kind-hearted ladies are going to be watching my son while my husband works and they will be making sure that my husband & son will be given a meal each night so my husband doesn't have to worry about cooking while I'm away from my family.

I know that everything will go along as it should in my absence, but I wish my husband and my son were with me.  And it is making me insane with furious anger that my husband and my son ordinarily would be with me right now.  They should be with me right now.  They are my strongest support and I need them now.

There is no good reason why certain things couldn't have been postponed so that I could have my husband and my son with me in my time of need.  No, I'm not talking about my brother's service.  I guess I'm still burning with fury toward certain guilty people. . .


A friend contacted me last night and told me that my anger is totally understandable.  But she added that I'm too beautiful, caring, and loving to let other people drag me down with their ugly negativity.  I know that she's right and I'm struggling to avoid giving in to my furious anger.  She told me to stay strong and I'm sure trying.

Continue to pray for me and my family.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

About My Brother

What do you write about someone who was taken too soon?  Someone who kissed his wife and went to work in the morning and was gone by that evening?  What do you write about someone who you've known and loved for 35 years, but will never see again this side of Heaven?

My mind has been awash in memories since I first heard that my brother was suffering with an aortic dissection.  I don't know why I immediately played the highlight reel of my years with my brother.  Initially I  was optimistic that he might be one of the 20% of patients who survive.  If only wishes could become reality. . .

My brother was seven years older than me.  Those seven years weren't significant at all at a certain point in adulthood, but there is a huge difference between an elementary school aged-girl and a high school-aged boy.  I don't know many older brothers who would let their significantly younger sister pal around and hang out.  But he did.

When I was really little, under five years old, he would wake me up when Mr. Bill came on Saturday Night Live.  He had a giant Darth Vadar, a giant Godzilla, and a ton of Star Wars figurines.  Sometimes we'd all play together.  He had a blue sleeping bag and we'd pretend that it was a swimming pool.  We'd cruise around on our rollerskates.  It was good to have an older brother and an older sister.  I was very lucky.

After our parents divorced. . .well, after our parents divorced, I didn't see my brother for a long time.  I almost forgot that I had a brother.  One day, he was back in my life.  I ended up losing my own bedroom and had to bunk with my sister who was eight years older than me, but our brother was back and that was good.

We would ride our bikes to Heritage Park in Cerritos and goof off on the "Island".  We would play army men. . .he always made me that dorky radio operator.  He had a dart board in his room and we'd spend hours throwing darts.  He loved to play games; Generals and Risk were favorites.  When my parents finally broke down and bought an Atari, he figured out the tricks to advance in the games we had even though we weren't allowed to spend hours playing in the house.

He joined the Navy right out of high school.  I was ten years old.  I don't know that I ever told him this, but I woke up early the morning he left.  If you know me well, you know how rarely I do that!  Anyway, I woke up early and ran to his room.  He was already gone.  I crawled in his cold bed and cried myself back to sleep.

He visited us once or twice before he got married and started a family.  He ultimately ended up fathering four children.  He spent most of his Naval career stationed on the East Coast.  My parents and I were ecstatic that he was getting stationed in San Diego.  We finally were able to enjoy close relationships with his children.

It was hard after his divorce.  So very hard.  I will always cherish the memories of the last Thanksgiving that my entire family (my parents, my sister and her family, and my brother and his children) shared.  Within months, his children were gone and he was stationed in Virginia.  That is all I can bring myself to say about that painful time.

My brother told me that he was going to remarry.  I told him that he was insane to take such a risk again, but he was in love.  He said, "She's worth it."  And she was worth it.

My brother asked my husband to be his Best Man and I was his wife's Matron of Honor.  It was a wonderful weekend in Las Vegas.  How I wish that we all enjoyed more fun times like that! 

A few months later, my Grandmother died.  My sister's wedding was scheduled a few weeks later.  My brother wanted to know if they should come out for Grandma's service or for our sister's wedding.  My mother said to come for the wedding so we could all celebrate together.

My brother and his new wife came out for my sister's wedding and the family enjoyed a final celebration together.  I never saw my brother again.

Various things worked against us going to see him and them coming to see us.  At least two trips had to be postponed and were never taken.  I never saw my brother again.

When my father was so close to death, my brother asked me if he should come out.  He said he'd get right on a plane.  I regret that I advised him to just wait and see what happened.  Had I told him to come, we could have seen him one last time.  My only brother would have had the opportunity to meet my only son.  Sadly, it wasn't to be and he breathed his last this past Tuesday. 

I will always regret not telling him to come see us when our Dad was so sick.  Always.  I wish that I had said, "YES!  We need you here right now.  Dad might die and we need you.  Please come now!  Hurry!"

My brother gave 20 years of service to this country.  He had a loving wife and four children.  He had lots of friends who cared about him, truly cared about him, some of whom he never even met in real life.  He was always trying to get me to play this on-line superhero game he liked and I would laugh, calling him a nerd.  I wish I had played because I probably would have enjoyed it too.  We did, however, share a deep love of reading.

Put simply, no one could have asked for a better brother.  He was always there when needed.  He was so helpful to me when I went through my divorce, even going so far as to help me move not once but twice.  He even helped me work on my fixer-upper condo.

I'm in New Jersey right now with my brother's widow.  She found something in his boxes in the attic and thought I might want it.  It is a card, well, it's a card made of folded over notebook paper.  It is a card that reads:

"To:  Derek 
From: Heather 
Derek's are made of sugar and spice and are nice.  But all I want to say is


Have a Wonderful, careing (sic), Loveing (sic) and Happy



Why would he have kept something like that?  Based on the horrible penmanship, I must have only just learned cursive so I guess I was around seven or eight-years old when I made it.  I don't know why he kept it, but I am touched that he did.  And I'm glad to take it back home.

Derek Rushing may be in Heaven right now, but he will also always be in my heart.  Forever.

Wasted Time

There are many stages of grief and I am in Anger right now.  I'm so damned angry that I can hardly see straight.  The weird thing is that I'm not angry at God or anyone who had anything to do with my brother's death.  I'm angry at entirely different people for a completely illogical reason.  But I am angry nonetheless.

Save our honeymoon and business-related trips, my husband and I have only gone to the exact same  destination for every vacation we have taken in the last seven years.  The way I see it now, that makes several of my vacations that weren't spent with my loved ones.  You know who I mean by "loved ones," right? 

Loved ones are family members who actually demonstrate genuine love and care toward each other.  Family members aren't snakes in the grass, looking to strike whenever they think they have an opportunity.  Family members aren't ugly toward each other and don't spew forth venom from their forked tongues.  The loved ones who I specifically wish that I had spent my vacations with for the last seven years are my family members who have passed away - my Grandmother and my brother. 

But every fucking time we were able to take a vacation, we spent it in the same bullshit destination.  Do I sound angry?  Bitter?  I am angry.  And I sure as heck am bitter.

Things have happened in this last year that essentially freed up our vacations forever.  We were free to go wherever we wanted for vacation.  My husband and I were talking about going to New Jersey this year to see my brother and his family.  Thanks to never-ending bullshit at home, we never made it to New Jersey.  We never spent the time with my brother and his family.  And now my only brother is dead. 

My only brother is dead and we never spent our vacation with him.  I missed out on fun times with family who actually loved and cared about me.  For that, I place the blame solely at the feet of those people who I was always obligated to spend my vacation with these last seven years. 

I am furious that I wasted my valuable vacation time with people who, as it turns out, weren't even worthy of me on any level.  Since they revealed their true nasty selves via their own poison-penned e-mail to me, I can say that they never should have been given my time or effort.  I just have no space in my heart for such cruel and evil people.

Like bandits in the night, they stole my time.  They are the worst kind of black-hearted thieves.  They stole the one thing that is irreplaceable.  My time.  Even worse, they stole my time from people who I can no longer spend my time with. 

I could have spent my time with people who were part of my genuine, kind-hearted, loving family.  You know, people who actually behave like family members should toward each other.  But I was obligated elsewhere with people who, as it turns out, are not the same quality of person and that is chewing me up inside.

I burn with a hot fury toward those thieves who stole my time.  And I am enraged that good and honest people like my Grandmother and my brother are gone.  Why is it that the best kind of people are always gone too soon?

I'd like to say that I will never forgive those people for the valuable time they stole from me, but that's just not who I am.  I know I'll forgive them one day.  But I will never forget their lies and their vile accusations toward people who are blameless and innocent.

I know that anger and bitterness do not suit anybody and they certainly aren't emotions that I want to hold.  I have felt nothing but vomit rising since being cloaked in this fury.  I feel like I am going to explode at any moment, my emotions are leaving me quivering with cold rage as I type this post.

I want to scream, shout, punch, and kick.  I want to claw at myself and physically punish someone, anyone.  I want to run, run so far away from all of this.  I feel like I'm going to crack from this pressure.  Please join my prayer that I am free from this stage of grief soon.  I don't even care if I go back to denial, I just have to release this blinding fury and bitterness from my own heart and get wrapped up in peace.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Leaving Home

I don't want to leave home.  I want to stay with my husband and son.  My place is here with them.  But I know that I'm needed somewhere else right now.  Please pray for traveler's mercies for me and for a peaceful week for my husband and son. 

Pray too for my father.  He will be alone much of the week that my mother and I will be gone.  Family members, I'd really appreciate it if you'd call him often while we're gone.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Heart Overflows

I'll probably be away from my computer for about a week and thought I'd try to get some blogging done before I leave.  I'm going to experiment with setting my post options so that the posts automatically publish at set dates and times.

My heart has been poured out, totally emptied, with the unexpected death of my only brother.  And, just as quickly, it was been filled to overflowing. 

I spent a long time cuddled up with my Bible late last night.  Indeed, I was up until a little beyond 2:00 am.  Certain passages spoke to me, specifically the 22nd and 23rd Psalms and the book of Job. 

Christians will instantly recognize the anguished cry at the beginning of the 22nd Psalm.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me was also on Jesus' lips while he suffered on the cross.  I certainly don't feel forsaken, but I do feel like I've been under constant attack this year.  I draw comfort from verse 24: 

For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

He does hear my cries.  He knows every tear that I have shed as well as every hair on my head.  I might not feel it, but I am held securely in His hands.  When I finally feel restored, I will thank Him and give Him praise for carrying me through these difficult times.  And I do not doubt for one moment that He is with me because He will never leave me nor forsake me.

He has already moved to help bring healing.  I have a group of friends. . .I would have said good friends, but they are the greatest friends, who have stepped up to help my family in the most wonderful way. 

I will be gone from home for nearly a week and I have to leave my husband and son at home.  This is the first time I've spent the night away from either of them and I'll be gone for nearly one week.  These wonderful friends have not only agreed to watch my son while my husband is at work, but they also will be giving meals to my family while I'm gone.  And, just like that, my heart is overflowing with love and appreciation.  I am filled with love and appreciation for the blessings that these friends are for my family everyday, but I am overwhelmed by the way they have come through in such a big way when I need their support the most.  I can never repay this kindness and generosity.  I'm so thankful that this remarkable group of women are a part of my life.

Running on Faith

I wish this was a lighthearted post about an Eric Clapton song, but it isn't.  My faith has been the only thing keeping me going.  And I'm clinging to that faith, clinging desperately so that I don't just let go.  I can't let go.  I won't let go because I have a husband and a son who need me.  It is my duty to put one foot in front of the other and let life go on, no matter how badly I want to sit and wallow in my grief.

I became a Christian in 1999 and shortly after my conversion, I chose Proverbs 3:5 as my life verse: 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

It has been impossibly difficult to trust in the Lord lately.  I don't question my faith or my God, but at times it has been really tough to trust.  Those very close to me know all the turmoil that 2010 has rained down upon my entire family.  I thought 2006 was a rough year, but 2010 has been devastating.  However, this year has also brought two miracles for a loved one and I praise God for that.

Christians are told to give thanks for everything.  This was wonderfully illustrated in the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  If you've never read it, I highly recommend it.  I know it sounds ridiculous to a non-believer, but that's what's written in the good book.

I don't know why my brother is gone.  I can't make any sense of the situation.  My faith tells me that it's not my place to make sense.  Christians might not grieve the same as non-Christians (a belief in Heaven is a great comfort), but Christians do grieve.  Even Jesus wept.

Today I weep.  Someday, somehow, I will find a way to give thanks.

* * *

A friend dropped off a very kind note at my doorstep sometime last night or this morning.  She shared something that gave her comfort when her grandmother passed.  It touched me and I'd like to share it with all of you.  I feel it's particularly fitting as my brother was a Navy man and he put in 20 years of service to this country.

The Little Ship

I stood watching as the little ship sailed out to sea.

The setting sun tinted his white sails with a golden light and, as he disappeared from sight, a voice at my side whispered, "He is gone."

But the sea was a narrow one.  On the farther shore, a little band of friends had gathered to watch and wait in happy expectation.

Suddenly they caught sight of the tiny sail and, at the very moment when my companion had whispered, "He is gone," a shout went up in joyous welcome, "Here he comes!"

I don't doubt that my brother was welcomed by all of our grandparents, including the grandfather whose name he bore.  A name that my own son shares.  I'm thankful that he had a personal welcoming committee to Heaven.  And I'm thankful that one day, one day far in the future, I will see my brother again.  And he will welcome me to Heaven.