Monday, August 3, 2009

This I Believe...

I got this idea from the essay series on NPR. I got to thinking about what I believe in and realized that my beliefs have changed drastically over the course of the last 2 or 3 years. When I ended my marriage, I believed it was my choice, and therefore my destiny, to not feel passion.

Feeling passion and fiery about things has always been a way of life for me. When I find a food I like, I eat it every day for weeks. When I find a movie I like, I watch it enough to repeat the character's dialogue. When I love a book, I'll read it over and over until it falls apart in my hands (at which point, I go out and buy a brand spanking new copy and repeat the process). I come from a rather opinionated family who talks, lectures and argues their points ad nauseum. I laughed too loud, cried too hard, felt pain too deeply.

For about a year after Ex moved out, I focused solely on making sure my daughter adjusted to her new life. She was never particularly close with Ex, but when their scheduled overnight visits came around, I wanted her to have a good time with him. I used what time she spent with Ex to heal. I went to the movies by myself, ate in restaurants while staring out the window, took long walks while contemplating my next move.

After 3 or 4 months of this (ok, ok, it was more like 9 or 10 months), I began to miss excitement. A friend of mine declared me "fun deprived" and told me I needed to get out more often. "But I go out!" I declared. She explained that I needed to find passion again. Not just with a man, but for my life, for food, books and music and for being a human in a complex world.

My friend is a genius.

I needed to stop existing. I slowly "came to life" again. When I did go out on dates, I became more choosy. I didn't eat the same thing over and over. I felt passion for my life again.

As I look back, I had a happy childhood. I had 2 loving parents (who, by the way, still love each other after 40 years) and although we weren't rich by any stretch of the imagination, I was given opportunities that few of my friends had. Maybe it's because I am an only child and maybe it's because my parents were the first in their families to attend college and knew there were amazing things out there to discover. I went to college and finished without student loan bills. I spent 7 months in Germany and traveled to 5 different countries while I was there. I had an amazing support system when I was planning my wedding and when I gave birth.

So, in a nutshell, this is what I believe. Passion should be a way of life. Don't just go through the motions. Dance in the produce section of the supermarket if a good song comes on. When you kiss someone, mean it. When you hug a friend, linger an extra second so that person knows you really care. When you scratch a dog, use 2 hands and don't stop till they smile. Go ahead, laugh too loud!!

Passion isn't always about's about living a meaningful life, paying it forward, replenishing your reserves, coloring with crayons (by the way, it's perfectly ok to go outside the lines) and surrounding yourself with love.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some Guidelines on How to be a Good Grown-Up

Without spewing venom from my mouth and brain, I'll do my best to not launch into a long-winded tirade.


Why can't people simply ask a question or favor without being mean-spirited, obnoxious, condescending or some combination of all three? Seriously. People, when you talk to someone, do it with respect and you'll be flabbergasted with how thoughtful and hmmm, what's the word I'm looking for...ummm, oh yeah, respectful your responses will be.

If you ask a favor from someone and they can't do it for whatever reason, don't then make it that person's problem and issue just because you're too damn lazy to do the task yourself.

If you are not someone's parent or supervisor, do not ask that person to do something out of "common courtesy." Do the courteous thing and not ask anything that is inappropriate, against the rules, none of your business or some combination of all three.

Regardless of who you happen to be sitting and chatting with at any given moment, it is impolite to answer your cell phone. Seriously, let the call go to voicemail or tell the caller that it is not a good time to chat. Why would a call be more important than a face-to-face conversation? Unless the caller is telling you he/she is dead and needs you to go pick up their body, there really isn't a good reason. The rule about having a conversation via text is still with the jury; I'll get back to you about that issue when the verdict is in.

Do not overindulge any children for whom you are legally responsible. Nieces, nephews, young cousins, godchildren and children of friends are ok to indulge, but don't overindulge those from whom you want/need respect. You need to be a parent/guardian to your kids, not their friend. There will be time enough to relate to one another when the kids are grown.

And last but not least, dress appropriately. Nothing looks sadder or uglier than a 40-ish year old person trying to dress like a teenager.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chores, Errands and Tasks

Why is it that the more free time I have the more stuff I need to do?

I took off this week because FRU is on winter break from school (Ex will take spring break in April) and I thought it would seem like the perfect time to catch up on a few things.

Jeez, who knew I was so far behind!

On Sunday, We spent the day at my cousin's house so Gracie could get socialized with her dogs. Gracie did quite well, but one of my cousin's dogs, Bella (a 2 1/2 year old pit bull mix) was OUT OF CONTROL. This little spitfire gal was screeching and jumping and tear-assing across the floor, and finally my cousin gave up and had to leash her. To put this in perspective, Gracie is about 25 inches high at the withers and weighs about 46 pounds (yeah, she's underweight, she didn't get enough to eat at that farm, don't get me started on this!). Bella is half her size, but they weigh THE SAME! Bella is a short, stocky gal made of solid muscle and Gracie is much taller and a little more, well, graceful, no pun intended.

My cousin also had an 11 year old Labrador mix named Duke, whom we refer to as Duke the Diplomat. Duke is everything you'd want in a dog, he's perfectly trained and such a joy. He's getting up there in years and honestly, I don't want to have to be the one to tell my cousin when he takes his walk over The Rainbow Bridge.

Here's an example of his diplomacy: Last summer, my cousin had a camp-out with the whole family in her backyard. My 83 year old grandmother thought it would be fun to have everyone sleep out in the backyard, have a camp-fire, grill up some burgers and dogs and then have a HUGE country style breakfast in the morning. We were all drinking margaritas all day and when it was finally time for everyone to bed down, FRU got in the tent with my cousin, put her pillow up against Duke's belly (he was already laying down in the tent's corner), covered herself with her blankie and went to sleep. My cousin said that Duke didn't move a muscle until 8 hours later when FRU woke up. He just stood up, went outside, shook himself out and went off to find a nice discreet corner of the yard to take care of his morning business. My cousin said it was quite clear that he really had to go, but he wouldn't think of moving till my little one was awake.

OK, sorry for going off on a tangent like that...

Monday, FRU & I went to spend the day at my friend's house. 3 other junior high school friends came with their children and there were 5 adults and 8 kids. One other child was home, she's battling a cold. OMG, I laughed, reminisced, shed a tear or two, compared memories and sat in awe and wondered how these junior high school students could possibly be married with kids and jobs and mortgages...oh yeah, they grew up, just like I did...but all I saw were their young gorgeous faces and their innocence. After I left, I made a trip to Target since my friend lives only about 5 minutes away. I'd like to take this opportunity to tell the world that I, Laura, actually got out of Target after spending, get this...$31.32!!! That's an all-time record. And half of that was stuff for my mother. Seriously, this is BIG. I usually spend at least $100 and most of that is spent on stuff I don't need.

Tuesday, FRU went to the "Big Girl" salon with my mother for her first real haircut. No videos, no chairs shaped like race cars, no lollipops. She was thrilled. The hairdresser did a great job on her hair and it gave FRU a chance to spend quality time her grandmother. I used that time to get a much-needed fill on my nails and then I took FRU for lunch at McDonald's and she played in the play area. In the afternoon, I took FRU to get her first cavity filled. She's got 4 cavities that need attention, but one in particular needed to be taken care of right away. I never had a cavity until after I got my braces off when I was 18.

Yesterday, FRU spent the whole day with my mother while she was doing library programs at a local military base. FRU had a friend came with her and Mom said that she was sooooo good. I then had an eye doctor's appointment and had to take FRU with me. FRU must have tried on 84,000 pairs of glasses and even went to far as to pick a pair out for herself...if the need for her to wear glasses ever arises.

Lo and behold, we have absolutely NO PLANS today. In fact, as I write this, FRU is still fast asleep. I've been awake for 2 hours already, I've walked the dog and I've consumed a half a pot of coffee.

Tomorrow, FRU has a doctor's appointment in the morning and then we have the day to goof around.

It just seems that whenever I pass a store, or see an ad or read a magazine, I think of something else that needs to be done. There's always laundry to be done, food to be shopped for or prepared, floors to be swept or mopped, beds to be made, bills to be paid. I never seem to have enough time to just be Laura. I'm always the mom, the assistant, the daughter, the dog-walker and chauffeur, and the housekeeper.

I try to not let these tasks define me. I try to get out and do things that are just for me occasionally. I like to go to the movies by myself every once in a while, I like to shut the TV off and read in silence, and sometimes I just get in the car and drive to nowhere special.

I know I need to do these things for myself. If I don't then when I retire, I won't know how to entertain myself. I don't want to depend on FRU for my entertainment. I want us to be 2 separate selves who love and respect one another.

Until that happens, I'll be the task-master, knowing that I'm doing my best to take care of those around me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Family of Choice

I love this phrase. It describes the people in my life who are second mothers to me and who are like sisters (both older and younger) to me.

My mother has worked for the public library for well over 30 years and has had many many colleagues who have become wonderful friends over the years. I look up to some of these women and and thankful that they have been such reliable and special friends to my mother all this time. Some were at my wedding, some gave me handmade baby gifts when FRU was born and some have held my mother up when my father and I weren't enough.

A dear friend of mine and I just reconnected after a 10 year hiatus. She gave me the sad news that her mother passed away about 8 years ago. This woman was someone that I could always turn to, especially when I was "at war" with my own mother during my tumultuous adolescence. She gave me one of the most valuable pieces of dating advice I ever got: You can always live with a man's good, you have to see if you can live with his bad. If I had only listened to that advice more often, I might not have made a few regrettable errors.

I have this other friend who I met on an on-line book club and she calls me her big sister. We are as close as you can be to someone without seeing them all the time. Jaxie asks for help, she likes to talk about her sweet nephews and nieces and I really miss her when I don't get a chance to log in and chat.

I have a friend who is as different from me as she can be. She was born in Haiti, raised in Montreal, is a gifted doctor, speaks two languages, and has probably lived in 7 or 8 countries so far. Yet, we never run out of things to talk about. She is one of the least judgmental people I have ever known. Maybe that's from being a compassionate doctor, but honestly, I think it's because that's just who she is at her core.

I haven's spoken to my mother's side of my family in over two years. There was an incident I refer to as The Nastiness of Christmas 2006." I won't go into details, but suffice it to say, I'm down 8 family members. I really miss only one, and that's the one that breaks my heart. My cousin, K, also broke the heart of my mother and that's what is most unforgivable. My mother and I have loved this cousin like no one else ever had. She went through the ugliest abuse that anyone can ever imagine at the hand of another family member and we helped her confront her "demons." But since this same family supports her and pays her bills and college tuition, they get to call the shots. It is obvious to me that she has been told not to have contact with us. I wish her well, but you don't get to turn your back on me and then waltz back in when it's convenient. Money can cure many problems, but not broken hearts.

As a member of Al-Anon, I picked up the phrase "Family of Choice" from a long-time member with many years of recovery under her belt. She had a crazy, dysfunctional childhood and made the difficult choice to detach herself from her family and surround herself with beloved friends, her family of choice.

I loved this phrase. It reminded me that while I am missing a part of my blood family, I have many, many people who can fill my life with joy and laughter and love. FRU has countless aunts and uncles who step up to the plate, ask about her well-being and want to see her often.

I know I have said it before many times in this blog, but I consider myself so lucky. I don't have a job that pays tremendously well, I have a failed marriage and I don't recall ever winning at slots. I have my luck in other ways: I have a support system that I can count on whenever I need them, I have great medical coverage and job security and I have a Family of Choice to turn to when things get rough or when I'm overwhelmed or I want to cry.

I'll take that over a bucket of quarters any day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Furry Child

So, FRU & I added to our family on this past Saturday.

Meet Gracie, the Wonder Standard Poodle:
Gracie has had a rough go of it so far.

She was born to a private breeder on 10/5/07 and was in that home for 6 months. At that point, she was placed with a man who wanted to show her and her brother. Gracie, you see, comes from champion stock and it seemed only natural for her breeder to want to place her with someone who would show her.

This man (he's an animal, no pun intended) then, for some phantom reason, neglected these poor creatures. Thankfully, he's in jail right now, serving a sentence for animal cruelty. Gracie and her brother were returned to their breeder. Gracie's brother was adopted a day or two later.

Last Wednesday, I started making some phone calls to see if I could rescue a Standard Poodle. FRU has wanted her own dog almost as long as she's alive and I've been researching the best breed for us for about 4 months. I told FRU that she had to wait till spring and I fully expected it would take me at least that long to find a dog.

The planets must have all lined up properly b/c on the very first phone call, I heard about Gracie and her horrible puppyhood at the farm with that man. The first woman I spoke to gave me the number of a dear friend of Gracie's breeder and gave me some information and the breeder's phone number. So, in three phone calls, I made what turned out to be the connection that would lead me to puppy love (even if Gracie isn't technically a puppy anymore).

I drove to the Jersey Shore on Saturday with a friend of mine and truth be told, it was love at first site for me. She was scared and sticking to her mama. The breeder still proudly owns Gracie's mother, Lucy. Lucy was in a show coat with an adorable pom pom on her head, but Gracie had to be shaved down because her coat was so matted from being neglected. Poodle coats need lots and lots of attention and the man who had her did nothing in terms of grooming.

So I got her in the car and drove home to Brooklyn, stopping to pick up some supplies like a crate and some treats and toys.

When FRU called me, she went BALLISTIC when she heard I was bringing Gracie home. She was a little pissed off at me because I wouldn't let her come with me to meet Gracie. I didn't want to have to tell FRU that we couldn't bring the dog home if I got a funny feeling or if she seemed aggressive. But she was soooooo happy to hear that Gracie was ours.

Gracie spent most of Saturday cowering in her crate, with a completely bewildered expression on her face. By yesterday, she had calmed down a bit with FRU & I. She would sleep near my feet when things got quiet and she even played a bit with FRU.

I think this dog has tremendous potential to be a great pet. I will get her spayed; no need to have 6 or 8 little Gracie's running around, is there? I just want her to know that we aren't going to hurt her. She was so traumatized but her previous experiences that it will take several weeks for her to really settle down.

But hey, I'm patient...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Some of the Great Truths of Parenthood... I have learned so far...

*If you give a child a small cup of juice and tell them they can have more when they finish what they have, they won't drink it. They'll exclaim that they're a big boy/girl and demand that you fill the cup. When you cave and pour more in the cup, they will spill EVERY SINGLE DROP on the kitchen or dining room floor you just washed.

*You no longer have any qualms about using the lavatory with an audience. In fact, when you go to a restaurant and lock the stall behind you, it seems odd to take care of your business in peace.

*At some point, you will wake up with a child's face 4 cm from your own and their eyes will be staring at you so intensely that you will recoil in fear.

*It doesn't phase you one bit when a crayon goes through the washing machine and the bits of the wrapper are all over the clothes; it only pisses you off if the crayon isn't discovered before the clothes go into the dryer.

*Once you finally figure out exactly what your child will and will not eat, they will change the lists, without cc'ing you on the memo so you haven't a clue until you've made something that is now on the "I ain't eating that" list.

*There will come a time when you're so desperate to get your errands done that it doesn't matter that your child is dressed in a princess/super hero costume and is carrying a magic wand/thermo-nuclear powered bad guy zapper. You will get your errands done but you'll get stared at...a lot.

*Once in a while, letting a child eat a cupcake for dinner is perfectly acceptable...especially if your mental health/stability depends on it.

*Loud noises don't get you worked up anymore, and blood only gets you upset if it comes from an injury that can be classified as a "gusher." If it is a gusher, then go get a paper towel, some cold water, a few adhesive bandages (the child will invariably find a few other injured body parts that will desperately need bandaging, like a paper cut from 3 weeks prior), anti-bacterial ointment and a few cookies. Give the child the cookies to eat so they'll stop screaming so loudly that they can be heard 3 states away. You can probably figure out what to do with the rest of the stuff, right?

*Once you have a child, you start praying more. Here's an example: O, Dear Lord, In Heaven, please make this child stop screaming and go to sleep before I shove a steak knife in each ear.

In all seriousness, I love my daughter with every cell in my body. I know I was supposed to have that child at that particular point in time. She is funny, smart, sassy as all hell, thoughtful, a bit shy at times, and a good sleeper for the most part (thank heavens!). There are times when she makes me absolutely batty but then she says something that will make me laugh out loud.

This is parenthood.

You have to be able to shift priorities in a nanosecond. You have to pick your battles wisely. You have to be vigilant about the lessons and values you want to instill in your children. You need to know when to leave a child to their tantrum. You need to pass on the little tidbits of information/knowledge to other parents. You need to be able to not sweat the small stuff.

And it also helps if you have a well-developed sense of humor and if you hide your breakables.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Old Habits Die Hard

So, I leaped into the 21st century 2 weeks ago (which is new and exciting for me, since I usually leap in the Century 21 department store) and joined Facebook. I have this gang of girlfriends who all goofed around on myspace so I made a page and then they all jumped to Facebook. Look, I'm a single mom who works full-time, how many of these social networking sites do I need? Apparently, just one more.

So I set up a Facebook page and OMG!! I'm reconnecting with people I went to summer camp, to junior high school with, people I worked with. It's truly amazing.

I chatted with the boy I sat next to in 7th grade homeroom, sent emails to my summer sister, and saw pictures of grown-ups who look an awful lot like the kids of my childhood.

I even reconnected with my first best friend; M and I met the first day of first grade and remained friends for 20 or so years. We dried one another's tears, helped heal broken hearts, discovered the joys of make-up and hair mousse, ate french fries AND onion rings from Roll N'Roaster and laughed our asses off so many times I don't think they can be counted using modern technology.

So we decided to get together with coffee and M invited a few others. G, who I was always friends with too, S, who I met through M and who actually was in my bridal party and J, who is an old boyfriend of mine...and an old boyfriend of M too.

S & J couldn't make it, but G and I went to M's and assumed the position....we gathered around the kitchen table, cups filled with hot caffeinated nectar mixed to our own specifications, and started talking...and talking...and talking. I swear, the last 10 years melted away. M is married with 2 kids and G is in a long-term relationship. We talked about men (ok, boys), finances, friendships, freaks we no longer hang out, my divorce, G's hesitation re: her relationship...and about 84,000 other things too.

Then the doorbell rang. M was babysitting for 4 kids and we just guessed it was one set of parents or the other. But lo and behold, in walks Jason! I haven't seen him in about 10 or 12 years. We went out for about 6 months in '94 and when we broke up, we actually remained friendly.

So, when Jason walks into a room, the party gets kicked up a notch. Within 5 minutes, I was laughing so hard I was honking, I couldn't catch my breath and yet another whole slew of memories were emerging (does anyone know exactly how many are in a slew? I need to know when one slew is complete so another one can get started). He's married and said that his wife would love me. She's got to be made of pretty strong stock to be married to Jason so I think I'll love her too.

M's husband kinda moved in and out of the room, sometimes listening, sometimes not, just kind of absorbing all that was being said.

It's not the the significant others don't matter, they absolutely do. But we were a group before there were significantly significant others. We had a friendship in place for years and years. M and G saw me through a whole mess of crap I'd rather forget. J knows some of my secrets too. I know I'm safe with this gang. I can be myself and not be judged.

I get all this and people who know how I take my, I'm one lucky girl, dontcha think?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What is Beauty?

Anyone who knows the real Laura knows I am a cosmetics whore. I stroll the make-up aisles of drugstores, Macy's and Sephora as if the mother-ship was calling me home. I love trying new formulas, colors and brands.

I wasn't always like this. There was a time in high school when I was scraping the bottom of the tube of Cappuccino Chrome lipstick, trying to get yet one more application out of it. The color was discontinued and I was devastated. HOW COULD THEY? It was the one color that I absolutely adored and then POOF!! it was gone...

Since then, I never got attached to any one lipstick. Matte Fresco, Amande Sucre and I had a 3 year threesome before Lancome shitcanned those shades too.

My beauty routines have waxed and waned over the years.

The summer after I finished junior high school, Mom decreed that I was allowed to wear make-up every day, but never black eyeliner or red lipstick (technically speaking, I still don't have permission to wear black liner or red lipstick, but I always was a rebel!!). My make-up consisted of light blue frosted liner and frosted lavender eye shadow with lipstick that was a shade of pink that I don't think occurs in nature. Thank God I was a little camera shy in those days so there aren't many photographic images of that weird look.

But I was a sleep-away camp girl so I spent 2 solid summer months in t-shirts, ratty cut-offs and sweat socks with holes in the toes. My sneakers were a experiment in mold and mildew (how I never got athlete's foot I'll never know) and I always wore my hair in a pony-tail with a Mack Trucks baseball hat on backwards. If it was cool at night, I threw on a flannel shirt. That was the uniform. The only time it ever wavered was the year I switched from Reeboks to Nikes. Truth be told, I haven't worn a pair of Reeboks since the summer of '85.

Once the school year started, I started primping again. Styling my long feathered hair with a half a can of Aqua Net (that hole in the ozone layer can be attributed to the female residents of Brooklyn in the 1980's) and carefully applying coat after coat of mascara to "Tarantula Eyes" perfection.

When I started college, I was in classes with girls from the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Russia, Brazil and about 50 or 60 other exotic distant lands. My manufactured Brooklyn look seemed Brooklyn. I started wearing clothes that were way out of my comfort long flowing sundresses and short skirts with black tights with cowboy boots.

Once I got my first real office job, my routine changed again. I wore "classic, sheer" make-up and tailored suits. boring. I wore sheer, matte eye shadow with brown eyeliner and sheer nude lipstick. My mascara was always thick, but I gave up the Tarantula Eyes thing. When I got married in 1998, I wore this same make-up palette, but with slightly darker shades. I looked beautiful, classic...that's what I was aiming for so I guess that's not a bad thing.

Then, I had a baby. Talk about having your simple structured life being thrown for a loop. I went weeks without make-up, even mascara...GASP!! My priorities shifted and my morning routine shifted too. No more spending 15 or 20 minutes beautifying one's self. There were diapers to change, formula to mix, walks to take.

When FRU was 13 months old, I returned to work and she went to day care. I vowed to keep things simple: I would pack the diaper bag/lunch without rushing, I'd lay out our clothes the night before and I would find 10 minutes to consume my 1st cup of coffee sitting down like a normal person (by the way, what makes a person normal? I don't know a single normal person, so I'm not sure exactly what I should be striving for).

Anyway, before I knew it, my morning routine got a little complex, mostly as a result of the debut of about 6 new mascaras, all with different brushes for different effects. Again, I was getting signals from the mother ship that this was the only way to beautify. Pile on the mascara coats and hope it doesn't rain or that I don't walk past a television showing the final scene in Beaches. If either one of those things happens, that mascara was going to form 2 black barcode-like images on my cheeks.

Then I discovered cream eye shadow, shadow primer, Bare Escentuals foundation, Mac Viva Glam V lipstick...and my routine got infinitely more complicated. I was spending almost 40 minutes applying make-up. At a certain point, I had to look at myself in the eye and remind my reflection that I'm not a 70's country & western music star and to put down the applicator brushes and step away from the mirror.

I'm pleased to announce that I listened to myself, for the most part.

Now, my usual routine is an extensive cleansing (I still break out in cystic acne, YEAH...I'm 38 years old, when the hell is that shit gonna stop!), mineral foundation, a little blush, liner and mascara...I just can't give the stuff up. I have blond lashes that need all the help they can least that's what I keep telling myself.