Sunday, March 31, 2013

Black Chuckles taste like an afternoon running errands with my dad

When I was younger the only hardware store my dad ever went to was Ace Hardware.  It was close to our house, at least closer than the nearest box store, and my dad liked that it's locally owned instead of being an MNC like the box stores.  Except I think the thing he liked best was found in the checkout lane.  My dad loved black liquorice.  But his favorite was the black piece inside a package of Chuckles. 
So my dad would be at home and decide to work on whatever was broken.  He would come get me from wherever I was playing and he would ask if I wanted to go to Ace with him.  I always said yes, because Ace was the one store where I knew my dad would buy candy.  So we'd go to the store and I would be all antsy while my dad took his time.  At the time I thought he was babbling, talking to himself, about whatever it was we were there to buy.  Most of the time I didn't know most of the words he used.  Then would come the good part.  We'd get in line and I would start eyeing the candy.  Usually my dad would pretend that he didn't see the candy, or the fact that I was literally dancing around waiting for his permission to pick one.  Sometimes he would tell me right away,
"Hey grab me some chuckles okay?  And get yourself something too."  And I would pick two packages of Chuckles.  Sometimes he would wait until after the cashier had started ringing up whatever we were buying.  Once or twice he managed to surprise me, not saying anything, but when we got to the car he produced two packages of Chuckles out of the bag.  See, I always picked Chuckles too.  Because my dad loved them.  And even though I thought the black one tasted gross, I wanted to be like my dad, so I picked Chuckles.  And even though he would try and trade me his green one for my black one I usually refused the trade.  Because I wanted to be like my daddy.
So, after we got in the car my dad and I would have to eat our Chuckles before we got home because my mom would get cranky that my dad got me candy and didn't get candy for everyone (by which I think she meant her).  Or she'd complain about the liquorice (because she hated it) and steal the green ones (because they were her favorite).  We'd eat the Chuckles in the car on the way home and my dad would talk about whatever home repair thing needed done.  I usually tuned him out.  Because home repair.  But then when we got home he would usually tell me that he needed help with his project, and I would have to hand him tools, or be a third hand, or whatever he needed.  I never minded because, hey I got candy.
As a kid I just enjoyed hanging out with my dad and getting candy that no one else got.  Now that I'm an adult I realize that my dad assumed my brother would pick up how to use tools and take care of his business, but I'm a girl.  My dad wanted to make sure that I would be prepared to deal with life, and this was his way.  He wasn't talking to himself, he was talking to me.

So yesterday Leah and I ran errands and had to stop at Ace.  And Leah bought me a package of Chuckles.  And I enjoyed my black one most of all.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The past haunts me.  There are things I should have done differently, that I wish I had done differently.  How often I’ve thought to myself if only I could have back five minutes of my life.  Any five minutes.  The five minutes when I forgot to watch my drink at a party.  The five minutes where I didn’t tell my dad I loved him before he went to visit a friend the day he didn’t come back.  The five minutes where I could have...  Or the five minutes where I shouldn’t have… 

Some of my ghosts are more substantial than your average ghost, bold enough to try to talk to me even in the light of day.  Some of them are vague things that shouldn’t be able to bother me.  Things I barely remember, but that I can’t forget either.  Things that haunt me most late at night when I’m alone and trying to still my mind.  It’s been these that have weighed on my mind and burdened my heart the most lately. 
From the first call, months ago, that my uncle had only months left to live, I’ve been haunted more and more.  Nibbles at the back of my mind have grown into being almost all I think of.  Although I barely remember it, it’s enough to know that it happened.  I’ve thought before that it had no impact on my life.  That ultimately there were no consequences because I don’t remember it.  Now I wonder how true that is.  I don’t talk to my family.  I ruin everything I touch. 

And then I turn around and it’s almost disappeared.  So insubstantial as to be nearly nonexistent.  My life is flowers and hope.  I’m stronger for standing away from my family.  I have friends that more dear to me than anything else.  I’m not broken; I’m strong enough to stand.

Ultimately, I can't change the past.  Everything that has happened, is exactly that, something that has happened.  There's no magical way to have five minutes back, I can't pick and choose which parts of my life I want to keep.  It's all helped make me into who I am, so I have to learn to embrace it and carry on.  I might never be rid of those ghosts haunting my every step, but I can decide how much attention to pay them.  I might not be able to make them disappear or to change the past, but I can decide how much I let them impact today.  I can decide how much I let them influence tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Once upon a time

Once upon a time there was a girl wandering through life alone, buffeted along the way by the stresses of life, seeking shelter from the storm.

But there’s no fairy tale.  No girl met boy, no wicked step-mother to be defeated, no happily ever after.  Only, once upon a time.
For every Cinderella rescued by the prince, there’s a not-so-wicked step-sister.  Maybe she didn’t start out so bad, but it’s not her story and every story is better with a good villain.  Maybe she wanted to love her step-sister but circumstance and story-telling won’t let her.  Maybe the heroine always had those talking mice casting a spell around her that made everyone else look worse in comparison.  There’s no way to know the true story, too much time has passed since once upon a time, and the story looks away before the end.

For every happily ever after, there’s more to the story.  Maybe Prince Charming isn’t really charming.  Maybe he charms for a moment but gets easily distracted.  He’s a prince after all; he can have anything, why focus on what he already has?  Maybe happily ever after doesn’t really mean happy.  Or ever.
Once upon a time there was a girl wandering through life alone, buffeted along the way by the stresses of life, seeking shelter from the storm.  But this girl isn’t protected by a fairy god-mother.  Nature itself doesn’t bow down to her beauty.  So she wanders on, alone.  Surrounded by friends, yet all alone.

Fairy tales poison little girls’ minds.  We grow up expecting that someday the magic will just touch us.  That if we’re good enough, pretty enough, sweet enough, our life will erupt in song, everything will fall in place, and we’ll get our happily ever after.  But what happens to the girls who aren’t good enough, pretty enough, sweet enough?  What happens to the girls who bite back when life grows teeth? 
Fuck you Aurora, and Belle, and Cinderella.  Fuck you, you stupid princess trying to sleep on twenty mattresses, tossing and turning because of some damn pea.  For all the things you teach us to expect, and the lessons you don’t know to teach.  For all the little girls out there alone in the dangerous world, thinking there’s a prince in white waiting, who don’t know about the prince all in black.

Once upon a time there was a girl wandering through life alone, buffeted along the way by the stresses of life, seeking shelter from the storm.  She wandered through the vicious woods every fairy tale girl has to brave at some point.  But when she got to the other side she was still alone.  Pricked by thorns along the way, her clothes ragged and her hair styled by the wind and the rain and the journey.  She’s not so perfect as she’d been on the other side, and there are no birds fluttering around her head, fixing and cheering until she picks up her head and sweeps aside her hardship like so much dust on her hem.  But she’s stronger for her hardships.  She won’t bow down, won’t break just because it’s hard.  This would-be princess is too firm to be a pampered girl now. 
Once upon a time there was a girl set in her ways and knowing that she would have to be her own rescue and hope.  She couldn’t sit down and wait for magic to interfere in her life.  She wouldn't.  She knew if she wanted things done, she would have to do them herself.  So she relied on herself.  She protected herself as best as a girl in the world can.  She stopped wandering, she walked with purpose towards her goals. She set her shoulders, got her hands dirty, and made her own life.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I went to the funeral

"What do you do now?  Oh, you teach preschool?  Didn't you want to be a real teacher?"
or, looking pointedly at my sister-in-law beside me
"When will it be your turn Tina? When are you going to have your own kids?"
I ignore the first set of questions.  Or I answer them as civilly as possible, ignoring the judgemental overtones.  The second set of questions gets a very pointed answer I've honed well.  In my family most of the women have dropped out of high school to have children.  I'm not sure any of them went to college except me.  So I've faced this question in some form for the last fifteen years.  I know what to say and I can sell it pretty well by now.
"I don't want children." I lie to near strangers who think my reproductive choices are their business.  When they continue to press, as they always do, I give them my patented "You're an ass" smile, laugh just a bit, and say "Well I get plenty of cuddles at work and from my niece and nephews, so I don't miss that.  And when I get home after a rough day, I can enjoy a bottle of wine.  And go to the bathroom by myself."  Everyone laughs and I slip away to be attacked again by another well meaning family member hoping to entertain herself until the funeral service starts. 
Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat until the funeral service starts.

Presentation Matters Update

So I've finished six works days of arriving on time instead of a late.  Of putting some thought into what I wear to work.  Of wearing a little makeup and styling my hair.
My attitude has started to change for the better.   I don't struggle near as much to maintain my zen.  My kids are picking up on the difference, they comment on it and they react differently.  My parents are starting to treat me like a fellow adult instead of like an over size kid.  Even my boss noticed and is treating me differently.  I took a look around my class and decided a radical overhaul is in order because I want to be a better teacher.
So I guess the update is- it works.  At least for now, and I know all about things that work only in the short term, it works.  Awesome!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lessons to learn

For a very long time I had very little interest in dating.  Sure I noticed guys, but I almost specifically and exclusively noticed guys that I would never have to seriously consider dating- my best friend’s little brother, a guy friend I only talk to once a month or so and who cycles through girls so fast it makes my head spin, the guy who teaches PE at my school…  Sure dating has its benefits, but it has its negatives too and as far as I was concerned the cons far outweighed the pros.  I got farther and farther away from even the slightest consideration of dating.

And then I met Dan.  And in one evening I went from completely uninterested in the whole idea of dating, to completely focused on the pros.  While it didn’t work out with him, I do have to appreciate him for helping me grow.  I learned important lessons-
1.  Dating doesn’t have to suck

2. There’s difference between men and boys
After I stopped seeing Dan I went a little crazy about wanting to date again, because hey that was fun and what if I could learn even more?  But given my past as a dating hater it was a poor fit for me.  And hanging out with a few of my guy friends has helped me remember who I am.  I’m less lost and more my own self, but without the hatred, even fear, that has held me back in the past.  And so I’ve learned one more lesson

3. Balance is key to everything

Monday, March 11, 2013

It appears a violent storm's passed through me recently

I spent all weekend debating, discussing, and delaying.  I had been warned I had only days left if I wanted to say my goodbyes to my uncle, and I could not decide if I wanted to go.  Whatever I decided, knowing I had to make this decision, explaining my reasons for and against to my trusted friends, and even a few friends who aren't that trusted, brought up some stuff I have spent most of my life ignoring.  I didn't want to think about it.  I didn't want to spend one single second of my life on it.  And now it's here, in my head.  Not just that even.  Everything.  The reasons I don't spend much time with my mom's family.  Or with my dad's family.  The consequences of actions that weren't mine.  The consequences of my actions, things that I can't change now even if I wanted to.  It all tore through my head like a tornado.  And it left as much of a mess behind.
It was Thursday when I was first told that I should go if I wanted to go.  But I couldn't go Thursday, I had unchangable plans.  Friday wasn't so great either, I hadn't decided yet.  Saturday I was pretty sure I wasn't going to go.  Sunday I had definately decided not to go.  Suddenly, Monday I got off work a half hour early and I knew I had to go.  Even as I drove to the hospital I debated.  I finally called my siste-in-law wondering if my brother had gone, and if so how it had been.  He'd gone in the morning, it was good, but if I wanted she would come with me.  So I picked her up and we went.  The woman at the visitor's entrance looked up the room number for me, but when we walked in the room, no one was there.  We walked to the desk at the front of the oncology unit and asked.
"Hang on, I'll call and ask" the woman said to us.  She looked younger than me.  I noticed that I thought she might be in high school and I wondered if she was even old enough to work in the hospital.
"I have the niece of room 349 here." she said into the phone.  A few noises that acknowledged what the person on the other end said.  She looked back up at us,
"I'm sorry, I have to tell you he expired this afternoon."  She explained that they thought the family had all been informed.  That he had been left in the room for awhile for everyone to say their goodbyes but that he had just gone down to the morgue.
We turned around and left.  I texted my mom saying I had gone to the hospital and how was she.  Only after she said her head was a little messed up did I tell her I knew.  She had forgotten to tell me. Or my brother.
So.  do I regret that I didn't make it in time?  I said I wouldn't regret not going, but I might regret it if I did.  I'm still processing a little.  Deciding how I feel about missing my chance.  I'm a believer that things happen the way they're supposed to happen.  Maybe I wasn't supposed to say goodbye.  Maybe I wouldn't have offered any comfort in those last few days.  But maybe I would have.  And that's what I have to deal with.  I could have offered comfort to a sick man who couldn't have hurt me, and I denied both him and myself that chance.  I don't think I regret it though.

High fives?

I still, after almost two years of frequent exercise, battle my inherent laziness.  When I was growing up children were basically there to run errands and do chores my mom didn't want to do.  I was washing dishes before I could reach the sink without the aid of a step stool (to be fair that step stool also aided me in raiding the spice cabinet and mixing "concotions" and I never got in trouble).  Well the problem is that now I'm an adult who works with fetching age kids and I'm frequently tempted to make them do my work.  The level of sedentariness at my job is entirely up to me.  It can be all about sitting on my bum, or it can be all about moving constantly, and if I don't watch it I tend towards the lazy.  That coupled with my insatiable M&M habit more than explains those last thirty pounds I've been trying to shed.  So, now I've figured that out, I know what to do.  Except when I don't want to give my kids candy I convince them a high five is even better than a piece of candy.  I probably won't fall for that myself though, huh?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Presentation matters

I wrote recently about my moment of clarity.  Before I fell asleep I had seen, laid out for me, was the plan of how to become the person I want to be.  When I woke I didn't remember every single detail, but I still had the highlights.  One of those highlights was this, presentation matters.
In my line of work pretty much any attire is considered appropriate.  I have a coworker who wears oversize sweats and t-shirts every day and I have a coworker who wears nice jeans and blouses every day, so I have always figured "ehh, I'm walking between the two, I'm probably fine".  Except what I mean is that I wake up five minutes before I have to leave for work.  When I get there (inevitably late) I'm wearing jeans that are two or three sizes to big and/or stained with t-shirts that are either normally reserved for workout gear or I bought twenty pounds ago.  Which means I don't look very professional. 
Yet I know the difference in how I feel and how my kids (and parents) treat me when I present a more professional image.  First of all my kids think of me as more of an authority figure when I'm dressed like one (which is true of my parents too).  Second, and more important, I maintain my work-zen better when I'm more conscious of my presentation.  The image I present to the world absolutely affects the way I feel about myself and thus about my job.  And if I'm better able to maintain my zen my kids react to that.  It's a snowball.  I go into work more zen, which combined with my more professional presentation makes my kids react differently to me, which allows me to maintain my zen.  But I only know all of that from the five or six days a year I have to present a professional image.
So tomorrow I'm skipping the snooze button.  I'm putting on jeans that fit, a cute top, and my trademark "under a minute" makeup; and I'm leaving the house ten minutes earlier than normal.  Because tomorrow is the first day on the path to the new me.

Low carb "potato" salad

I love potato salad. Like LOVE it.  But I haven't had more than a bite or two at a time in the last eighteen months because it's terrible for me.  But this week I discovered the miracle to dropping it down to almost zero carb and boosting the protein level, simple substitutes.  I won't record a full recipe, because everyone has their own version that they love, but here's the two biggies.  You know the scoop (or two or three) of mayonaise?  Switch it for plain Greek yogurt.  If you're adding mustard and/or relish no one else will ever know, and I doubt they'll know even if you don't add anything else.  That's the protein, but what about all the carbs?  Cut bite size (as in the size you'd cut your potatoes normally) pieces of cauliflower.  Lightly steam and then cool the cauliflower.  Use that instead of potatoes.  My own veggie-phobic brother didn't catch that substitute!  I'm so happy now :-)


Have you ever had a moment of perfect clarity, where everything crystalizes and you can see yourself with all your flaws and all your highlights?  I did last night as I lay in bed waiting, as I frequently do, for sleep to find me.  I didn’t love everything I saw, but I also saw plenty to love that had gone unnoticed for a very long time.  I saw the differences between who I am and who I want to be and I saw how to be more the Tina I want to be.  I’m not saying it will be easy, or that I won’t relapse, but a plan was laid out before me in perfect detail so that I can work towards that better me.  It was amazing.

Friday, March 8, 2013

More crappy poetry!


Lying in bed
Moment by moment
Unable to sleep
Able only to dream
Mind so busy whirring,
Same things over and over again
"What if... and then... but no...
"But what if...?"
Wishing, dreaming
Can't stop thinking
My body so warm, cozy in my bed
Soft fuzzy blankets tucked tight around me
Purring in my ear, loud enough my body is shaking with it
The cat tucked beneath my cheek a pillow meant to help me sleep
My mind so far away
Not far enough
Focused on things I can't have
Whirring, buzzing, spinning around
Interesting enough I can't make it stop.


I have this relative.  When I was young he was in my life.  When I was in kindergarten my family stopped seeing him.  It was only when he was back in my life as a teenager that I was told why my family had stopped associating with him.  I have a very poor memory and no memories from before I was in about first grade.  I’ll leave it to your imagination what I was told.  When I became an adult I stopped seeing him again because I couldn’t keep that out of my mind when I was around him.

 Now I’m told he’s dying.  Has only days to live in fact.  Might even be gone by the time this posts.  This information came to me via text, complete with a hospital name and room number.  And now I’m torn.  Should I go?  Should I see this man again before he dies?  What can I say to him?  The death bed is not the place for confrontations or recriminations.  It’s not a place to ask if what I was told was true.  It’s not the place to even think about that.  It’s a place for mourning and grief.  And although it’s always sad when someone dies, I’m not sure I will properly mourn.  Yet I know I’ll go to his funeral because he’s family and his wife and children are family.  So, should I go?  Should I implicitly give my forgiveness for this thing that haunts the back of my mind, although neither of us has ever acknowledged it?  Would he even want me to go?  Or would he prefer that I stay away? 

I question not only because of the thing I was told, but because we haven’t had a relationship in a decade.  I’m not sure the death bed is the place to renew old relationships.  Growing older is complicated.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Friends in high places

At a recent get together my friends were challenged to say what they loved most about me.  I hated that game.  Then I challenged myself to tell everyone what I loved most about them, but I was still flustered from the first game and I couldn't finish and wound up just saying that all of my friends are awesome, the end.  So now I want to take a moment to be thankful for each and every one of my friends.
There's my homeowner, who once saved my life and who knows me so well and loves me anyway.  Then there's my oldest friend who's been there for me through think and thin.  the girl who can be positive and remind me it will all be okay no matter what's happening in either of our lives.  The one who challenges me to think about why I believe things and makes me smarter.  The friend who listens to my problems, gives advice, and who I trust to never divulge my secrets or judge me.  The wonderful lady who reminds me we all have stuff to deal with, we only have to decide how to deal with it.  The friend I have little contact with but who always makes me laugh.  The new friend who runs with me, and actually runs so that I have to force myself to work harder.  The guy who just doesn't care, who I don't have to think around and I can just forget everything and have fun with (even if I usually end up apologizing later).  The other friend who saved my life, and saved me from murder charges.
I'm so fortunate to have these wonderful men and women around me. What an effect each of them has had on my life, on the person I am today. 
There's nothing interesting here (unless you're busy playing the who's who game about those descriptions, then you might still be interested).  There's just me, pondering the most wonderful blessings I've been given.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mushroom & barley goodness

So I warned you that I was going to start posting recipes.  Here's my first one.  It's not no-carb, it's all kinds of healthy carb though.

1 C quick cooking barley
2 C veggie stock
Put the veggie stock in a medium sauce pan and set to boil.  Once it's at a rolling boil, add the barley and set a timer to nine minutes.  Meanwhile-

1 T oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 C frozen sweet peas
1/2 t steak seasoning
1/2 C each veggie stock, milk, and Greek yogurt
Put the oil in a hot frying pan and heat.  Add onion and mushrooms.  Once they're softened add everything except the Greek yogurt and simmer until the timer goes off.  Add the barley with whatever stock is left in the saucepan.  Add the yogurt.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until thickened.  Enjoy