Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blue birthday

If P were still alive, today would be his 40th birthday. Here are some photos in his honor.

This would have been sometime in mid-1994. That's his black Honda Accord coupe off to the left. He LOVED that car. Somewhere I have another photo of me sitting in it with the door open, taken because, as he said, he wanted a pic of his two most prized possessions together. (Yes, I know, but we're talking a 24-year-old guy here.)

October 1999, helping G figure out that standing thing.

County fair, summer 2002 or 2003. G doesn't look too sure about that corn cob, does she?

I think this is in the boardwalk area at California Adventure. It takes a real man to look cool while riding a seahorse on a carousel.

Batman was his all-time number-one hero.

I don't know where we were or what we were doing, but I love that look of cool skepticism.

I'm pretty sure this was at SeaWorld, waiting for the sky tower ride.

Disneyland, 2004ish.

I've never gone to the cemetery very often. Even at the beginning, I only went on holidays and when his parents asked me to, because I didn't feel he was there. His ashes are in their niche, but if his personality, his self has survived, it's someplace else. And thank goodness for that, because who wants to spend eternity hanging around even the nicest cemetery? Not me.

But I did visit today, while G was busy selling cookies with her Girl Scout troop. I played some of his favorite music in the car on the way there, and I brought flowers - not the blue hydrangeas I've brought in the past, because Gelson's was out of those, but yellow mums that looked bright and cheery on this grey, rainy day. I put them near his niche, and I wished him a happy birthday and told him I miss him. And God, how I do, even after four years. It's nothing to do with where I am in life - I'm fine, good even - I just miss him. I'm not sure if you ever can stop missing your best friend.

End of an era

G is giving all her Barbies to the 6- and 8-year-old daughters of one of my friends. She could certainly use the extra space in her room, but it's still bittersweet to see her giving up something that used to mean so much to her without a backward glance. I did save two of them: her very first Barbie, which was always known as "Barbie Barbie" for some reason, and a Wonder Woman one that P bought for her. She may disdain them now, but in 20 years, she'll be glad she has them. Who knows? Maybe she'll even have daughters who will enjoy playing with a few of their mother's toys.

I'll tell you one thing, it took me forever to dress 30+ Barbies in matching clothes and straighten out all their hair. Not that they probably won't end up naked and tangled with their new owners (the tragic fate of all Barbies) but it seemed unsavory somehow to hand over a bag of nude dolls to a friend, especially a male friend. I'd have felt like a purveyor of Barbie p0rn.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bottomless pit

G and I are discussing what she's going to have for dinner before her Girl Scout meeting ...

Me: Look, I just want to find something that will fill up your little tummy.
G: It's not little.
Me: Oh?
G: It's a vast abyss.

I almost wrecked the car laughing at that one. No wonder she's always in the kitchen looking for a snack.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fighting entropy

Years ago, I had an awful epiphany: Nearly everything I thought of as an accomplishment, in the day-to-day sense, wasn't really an accomplishment at all. I could check things off my to-do list all day long, and at the end, instead of having created any sort of lasting change, all I would have done was reset the counters to zero.

The situation hasn't improved since then. If anything, it's gotten worse.

Here's an example. This was a productive weekend for me: I did laundry, I cleaned out and reorganized the pantry and fridge, I went grocery shopping and put everything away, and I washed the grotty interior of the microwave. I feel as if I've accomplished a lot, but have I really? Hell, no. By next Sunday, all the clean clothes will be dirty, the food will be eaten and the microwave will be crusty with spaghetti-sauce splatters. It might take a little longer for the pantry and fridge to get cluttered up with half-empty packages and old leftovers and spilled cereal, but it will happen. And it's not just household chores; probably 80 percent of what I do falls into this category. Fueling up the car, paying bills, filling out reports - all of it is an attempt to get through another day or week or month before I have to do it again.

Of course, this is mostly just the way life is. Except for a tiny fraction of the population, everyone has to do these essential-but-endlessly-repeating chores. (Even really rich people do at least some of them, or else you wouldn't see so many paparazzi photos of celebrities pumping gas and loading groceries into their cars at Whole Foods.) The actual tasks may vary depending on what part of the world you live in, but everyone's got them - I'm sure there's some poor woman in Africa right now who's preparing to make the daily five-mile trek to the nearest water spigot to fill up her bucket. I just wish there were a way for all of us to spend more time on the things that do make a lasting difference, and less on all the other stuff.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Depends on your definition of "almost"

In the last few months, 11-year-old G has developed a heartfelt belief that she isn't a child anymore. Instead, she's "almost a teenager," and as such, she has a certain level of dignity to maintain. Every day, I learn about something new that used to be okay and is now mortifying, such as: using playground equipment, entering the children's section at the library, watching most cartoons, viewing baby photos of herself, talking about any incident in her life before the age of 9, and the list goes on and on. I just found out about the library today, when we went there and I automatically headed for the children's wing, only to have G go all rigid and horrified and ask, "Where are you going?"

"To the kids' section, where else?" I said.

"I don't want to go to the kids' section."

"Don't you want any books?"

"Not from there," she said, like the Queen of England being asked if she wouldn't like to pick out some new sweatpants at Wal-Mart. "I'm almost in junior high*. I have the highest reading level in my grade. I need adult nonfiction."

"Okay, if you like," I said, hoping my eyes weren't rolling too noticeably, and off we went to get her some adult books on pet care and musical theater.

Later on, I dragged her through the kids' books anyway, because I love them and I'm decades too old to care what anyone thinks about my reading habits, and it was hysterical watching her try to pretend that she wasn't interested in any of those books**. When we passed the new releases table, she said, "I'm going to look at these, just to look," put her hands behind her back, and leaned over to read the covers without actually touching the books themselves. Because, you know, someone who will be a teenager in a year and 11 months can't be seen looking at picture books in public.

The good news is that while she's started thinking of herself as a teenager-in-training, she's not interested in makeup or boys or any of the other teenage stuff yet. What she is interested in - writing stories, practicing her flute, drawing, watching musicals, playing Club Penguin and reading - is all about as harmless as it gets. Still, I can tell I'm going to say "You're not a teenager yet!" many, many times before she actually turns 13. Maybe I should get it tattooed across my forehead.

*She's halfway through fifth grade.
**For some reason, the kids' section at the bookstore is A-OK.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I can't remember the last time it took me this long to recover completely from sickness. All the worst symptoms have been gone since Sunday, but I still get tired easily, and my whole body feels sore, like someone sneaked in and beat me up while I was sleeping. I've been at home for the last two days because G is on President's Week/Ski Week/Make Life Hard For Single Working Parents Week vacation, and it's taken me all of both days to clean the house, very slowly, with a lot of breaks. Maybe I had malaria or something and didn't know it.

And speaking of vacation ... argh. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy hanging out with G, who has finally outgrown the need to have me play Polly Pockets with her during every waking second, and is mostly content to be in the same room with me, doing her thing while I do mine. I would love to be able to spend the entire week relaxing at home with her and/or doing fun stuff. But I can't burn up all my vacation time now, because I just used a big chunk of it on Christmas break, and I still need to cover a week of spring break and two weeks at the end of summer, after day camp ends and before the new school year starts. This means a patched-together plan of one day with MIL (who also works full time), one day at FIL's office, three days at home, etc., etc. It's challenging. And stressful.

In the past I've tried having her stay at my mother's house for a few days (it's 75 miles away, so I can't drive back and forth every day to drop off and pick up), but while she loves Grammy, she hates being away from home for very long, and usually ends up crying and miserable, which is no good for either of us. I cannot tell you how much we're both looking forward to the day when she's old enough to just stay home, at least some of the time, when she hasn't got school. It's still a few years down the line, though. Where's Mary Poppins when I need her?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh frabjous day

I'm having a glorious Valentine's Day for the simple reason that I've finally turned a corner in the Virus From Hell. Yes, after seven straight days of misery, I have no fever at all! My throat doesn't hurt! I can breathe through both sides of my nose! I just went out to get the mail, and I only coughed twice on the way there! The freaking bluebird of happiness fluttered down from the sunny sky and landed on my shoulder! (Okay, maybe not that last part.) I feel like taking my immune system out and buying it a congratulatory drink.

Be grateful for your health, kids. No matter how craptastic life is, getting sick automatically makes it 10,000 times worse. Take it from Auntie V.

A tale of four rings

Lots of people have stories about carefully orchestrated marriage proposals, where they asked their partner to marry them (or were asked) in the middle of a fancy dinner, or at the top of a mountain after a hike, or on the Jumbotron at a sporting event. The question would be popped, someone would whip out a big diamond solitaire, and there'd be tears and applause all around. Romantic.

Now, when P and first talked about marriage, I was still in college and it didn't seem like the right time to get officially engaged, so instead, he bought me what amounted to a promise ring. It looked like this:

We were young and broke, so this ring only cost $99, but I was really pleased with it. I could have chosen one with a more diamondlike stone, but I didn't want to create a big fuss since it wasn't an official engagement, so I got a blue topaz, which is my birthstone. My clever plan only worked halfway, because some people assumed it was an engagement ring anyway, but we managed to keep it pretty quiet.

Anyway, we carried on this way for another six months, and we might have gone on longer than that, but in April 1995, P nearly died from a bleeding ulcer. He was in intensive care for most of a week, and I was there the whole time, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, sleeping in the waiting room, sitting beside his bed, holding his hand while he slept.

When he finally stepped down to a regular room, after visiting hours had ended for the evening and everyone else had gone away, he asked me to pull the curtain around his bed shut so I could hide from the nurses and stay a little longer, and there, in the half-darkness, he said that everything we had been through that week had made him realize he didn't want to wait. He knew I was the person he wanted to be with forever, and he had talked to his parents earlier, while I was out of the room, and told them we were going to get married. He asked me formally to marry him, then, and I said "of course!" We were both nearly crying with happiness and excitement, and even though it was the least romantic setting you can imagine, full of hospital sounds and smells and totally devoid of champagne and roses and diamonds, it was, without a doubt, one of the most romantic moments I've ever experienced or ever expect to.

P said that he would to get me a "real" engagement ring, but I said that I liked the ring I had and wanted to keep it, and that's what I did. Since it wasn't designed to fit with another ring, when we actually got married, I switched it to my right hand and wore just a wedding band on my left. We had it sized, but it never came out quite right, so to keep it from slipping, he bought me an anniversary band for my birthday the following year.

We chose our wedding bands not to match, but to coordinate, so mine was yellow gold in the middle and white gold around the edges, and P's was white gold in the middle and yellow gold around the edges. He wore his ring every single day for the rest of his life, and when he died, it was still on his finger. The nurse at the emergency room brought it out and gave it to me in a red plastic bag, and I took it out and put it on the middle finger of my left hand, right next to my own rings. And that's where it is to this day, almost four years later.

So when Valentine's Day rolls around every year, and I see people (mostly women) getting upset and disappointed because there wasn't enough romance in their day - because no one filled their bathtub with rose petals or whisked them off to Paris - I think about my hundred-dollar ring that wasn't a real engagement ring, and my proposal that happened on the spur of the moment in a hospital room after hours, and I feel lucky, because we didn't need "romance." We had love.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sick of being sick

On Sunday night, I came down with the same virus G had last week. It's Day 5 now, and I've finally moved past the fever-and-sore-throat stage, but if this buckets-of-snot, coughing-till-your-chest-hurts stage doesn't end soon, I'm going to lose it.



I seem to be having more trouble getting over it than G did, but I think that's probably because when she was sick, she lay under a nice soft quilt and read books and played computer games until she recovered, while I've continued to go to work, buy groceries, cook dinner, etc. Only on about half as much sleep as usual, because I keep waking up at four in the morning unable to breathe. Yay.

As someone said to me recently, it sucks to be a grownup. Truer words were never spoken!

ETA: Ooookay, apparently I have a fever again. I would be more worried if the exact same disappearing/reappearing fever thing hadn't happened to G. Man, this virus is the gift that keeps on giving and giving.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


G is playing Sims 2 Castaway on the Wii ...

Me: How's it going?
G: I haven't seen another person since I wrecked on this island.
G: I spend half my time with chimps and the other half alone.
G: Oh my God, I'm turning into Jane Goodall!

Dining rules for young ladies and gentlemen

Here is how dinnertime works at our house. I will cook the meal, fill and serve your plate, fill your glass with your beverage of choice, and call you to the table when everything is ready. I will also clean up all the leftovers and load the dishwasher. But once my butt hits the seat and I start eating, I will not get up again until I'm finished. This means that if you want more food, more drink, or a new fork because you've decided you can't eat corn and spaghetti with the same utensil, you need to get up and help yourself.

These rules apply even if:

* You're reading a really good book while you eat
* My chair is 18 inches closer to the desired object than yours is
* Your foot/leg/left pinky finger hurts
* You don't feel like it

Questions? No? Then come and sit down. We're having ice-cream sandwiches for dessert.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Not the last time I checked

I'm coming in from the garage, having just put a load of wet washing in the dryer ...

G: Mom? Is that you?
Me: Of course it is.
G: Oh good. I thought it might be a psychopath.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Try to fit THAT on a conversation heart

While passing the Valentine section at Target ...

Me: Are you going to hand out Valentines at school this year?
G: Uck, no. Someone might think I have a crush on them.
Me: I see. Suppose you just give everyone candy instead?
G: Okay.
(long pause while she stands in front of a candy display in deep thought)
Me: What are you doing?
G: I'm looking for something that says, "Happy Valentine's Day, here's your candy, I don't like you."

I LOL'd. And just in case you were wondering, apparently the candy that sends that message to fifth-grade boys is Laffy Taffy.