Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Whew! I still don't believe it's true. The DH is asleep. He stayed up too late watching football last night. What a choice. Football or History. Football. History. Really. So here I sit, watching by my lonesome, doing the best I can not to scream that someone made a last second catch for the touchdown to win the game.

At 9:30 pm the Brainiac headed for the pillow and left me with his electoral map to color in blue or red- his homework. He also left me with strict instructions to wake him when I knew who was president. And to make sure he really heard me. I just returned from his room. "G", I whispered. He stirred and I said in my most restrained voice, "Obama won. He's the next President." He lifted his head of the pillow and asked, "Is it projected or did he really win?" I think he must have been awake. I responded, "Projected, but McCain is just about to concede the election to Obama AND Obama won Florida, Ohio and..." "OK, OK, I get it," he huffed and rolled over to get away from me. He is 11 after all.

Just before McCain conceded I switched to Fox to watch the coverage. They were so somber that you would have thought they were covering a funeral.

I just received an email from Obama. He is headed to Grant Park to speak. I can't wait to watch it.

This is history. And I am witnessing it. Really.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Go Obama. Thanks to my neighbor, Amy, fellow Obama supporter, for taking this photo of my pumpkin. My camera is MIA.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The Firecracker is playing soccer and flag football this fall. Football is a new sport to him but he has excelled. It helps that the most of the other kids are 6 and he's almost 9.

At Monday's football practice the coach asked DH to coach tonight's game. DH couldn't but he volunteered me. Nice.

Stop laughing. I do have some experience with flag football. I played one season when I was 9 or 10. The only girl on any of the teams. I distinctly remember my team sucked. But I had a few moves to impress the boys. Football moves.

So I showed up tonight with 6 plays that the FC drew out for me. Sounded like a good plan, but I could barely remember the kids names so the plays were out of the question. I let them all take turns being the running back. "OK, Caden, your are the running back. Where do you want to start? Left, right or middle?" It worked pretty well but my little FC wasn't happy that he didn't get as much bill time. He was part of both the touchdowns, though. He ran one, and threw the pass for the other.

They lost 18-15. I think. They lost anyway. I couldn't wait for it to be over. I made me totally anxious.

After the game the coach's wife remarked, "He would be proud." Before the game began, upon finding out I was coaching, she exclaimed, "She's coaching!"

My sentiment exactly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Driving, Ms. Sassy

I have several elderly neighbors living round me. One is 85 and totally together. She has a pacemaker and is taking Coumadin but doesn't let it slow her down. She is very active in her church and a big reader - we trade books. I loan her the saucy ones, like The Other Boleyn Girl. She loans me the intellectual ones, 1776 and From Palestine to Peace. I haven't read either. Yet. But this isn't about her.

There is an elderly couple that lives on my street. A long retired social worker, she is sassy and stubborn. Retired from the CIA, he has enchanted us on several occasions with his beautiful rendition of some German song he learned long ago, but now is vacant and obedient. We love them - my family and our neighbors. A couple of years ago, their old-lady-ride Oldsmobile bit the dust and she bought a VW Passat. I'm not sure of her reasoning but she sure differentiates herself from other old ladies in our town. If one ever comes up on an Oldsmobile in this town, it is a safe bet there is a perfectly quoiffed older lady behind the wheel.

She shouldn't be driving. Not only because her diminutive stature impedes her view over the steering wheel, but because she doesn't have the metal facilities to operate a vehicle safely. One such indication is that she has repeatedly told different neighbors that her mother is visiting and driving her crazy. Of course, Mom is dead. On Sunday, she backed out of her driveway and hit a car parked on the street curb. Not a big deal. Except she left the scene. She was headed to Ingles to buy something for our neighborhood block party. She showed but didn't know any of us. She became agitated with me, called me rude and said I shouldn't speak with strangers like that. Sigh. We were all alarmed and saddened by her diminished mental state. I vowed to call her daughter who lives in another state.

However, last Spring, three neighbors, including me and my other elderly neighbor, separately called her daughter to express our concern. She dismissed it. She has been trying to get them to move to a retirement community in her home town but without success so she said she would get them some "help". I haven't seen any evidence of help, but even so, she shouldn't be driving. Many neighbors have witnessed her erratic driving on Merrimon Ave.

Yesterday, instead of calling her daughter again and waiting another six months for "help" to appear, I called Adult Social Services. I spoke with the agent for over an hour reporting what I know, which apparently isn't much; there were many questions I couldn't answer, filling me with doubt about my judgement. But earlier today I saw the County issued vehicle parked in their driveway. My guilt and sadness for subjecting her to the indignity of social services questioning her ability to care for herself and her husband is tempered by relief that maybe soon she will cease driving and the roads will be a little safer.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Bumper

On Saturday I was across the street visiting with my neighbor on her front porch when we noticed this woman walking by. She didn't appear to be out for exercise, as she was dressed too nicely. We figured she must be taking a break from the tennis tourney going on at the Country Club that is practically a stone's throw from my house. My van was parked in my driveway, the bumper facing out and she stopped to survery my stickers -Well behaved women rarely make history and Another Mama for Obama and It will be a fine day when the schools have all the money that they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber and Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety. After apparantly reading them all, she remained still and gazed at my house. I wondered what she was thinking? The rancher house doesn't match the veiws espoused on my bumper?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mama Bear

The Brainiac decided at age 11, to take up baseball for the first time this past spring. I was worried that he would be relegated to the bench, considering his lack of experience and skill. But we/he lucked out with a coach who was very supportive of all the kids and played all the kids equally despite their skill level. B even got a chance to play the infield a few times, as all the kids did. It was a very pleasant introduction to baseball.
B ejoyed playing so much he decided to sign up for Fall Ball, which is a differnt league than Spring Ball. It's not the same supportive environment. His team has ten players. Nine are needed in the field each game. The season is half over and B has spent half the time on the bench, swapping playing left field with another kid while all the others get to play the whole game. All get to bat regardless of their playing time on the field, so it's not about getting the best bats in and out. The good ol boys who are coaching the team are too lazy to rotate the kids in and out. So they have chosen to just swap B out with this other kid. The team, The Hillbilly Astros (I kid you not) is getting their asses waxed just about every game, so it's not about winning the title, etc. And even though he isn't a great player, he's just as good as the other outfielders.
B decides to take issue with this and we encourage him to speak with the head coach. After a recent game he approached the coach and told him that he wants more playing time. And the coach agrees. Then the B says, I won't be here for the next two games. He joked with the B- you ask for more playing time, then you say you aren't going to be here! We were proud of him for taking up for himself and felt like the issue was resolved.
We hit the road for Atlanta and missed the two weekend games. When the B showed for the first game back, we both realized that either the head coach had forgotten the previous conversation, or he just didn't give a flip. So when B took his place on the bench after his only inning playing, I approached the the coach and asked if he remembered the conversation he had with B about playing him more. He looked around as if I must be talking to someone else, then muttered, "I'll work on that." But he only played two out of four innings before the game was called because they were losing by so much.
It was my instinct to call out the coach for being so short sighted or lazy or just plain cruel but since I had a couple of days to think it through (and didn't have the coach's number), I settled down. The B said he would like to quit if the coaches weren't going to play him more and I supported it- he's not having fun and it wouldn't hurt anyone. But I thought he should give them one more chance. Show up for one more game. Give him the benefit of doubt -blah, blah, blah. Deep in my heart, I didn't believe they would but I was trying to fake thinking the best of these folks.
When we arrived on Saturday, we walked in with one of the assistant coaches who saw B but didn't even acknowlege him. Not a good sign. But to my surprise, they played him 4 out of 5 innings. In the outfield, of course, where he saw zero action. But he played.
At game's end, we encouraged B to thank the assistant coach for playing him more. He smiled, embraced him the way most men do only in the context of athletic endeavors, half hugging hugging, half pushing and said, "Aint nuttin against ya. I don't pay attention to all that suff."
Well, I'll take it. You can't write the script for these things.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Joe Six Pack?

What in the Sam Hill? I'm watching the Vice Presidential Debate while trying to multi task and blog about something within my realm of expertise- my children. But Sarah stopped me in my tracks. Joe Six Pack? Sheez!

She is totally ignorant to important issues. In her interview with Katie Couric she made cheerleader Katie look like the class president. Surely everyone watching gritted a collective cringe when she couldn't name one news outlet that she referenced to keep herself informed. Sheez! I can't profess to being more knowledgeable than her, however I'm not running for second in command in this country. I CAN name a few news outlets.

But she seems to be holding her own. So is Biden.

I'm watching CNN. There is some "uncommitted Ohio Voters" graph running across the screen, a green line for the men and a orange line for the women. But I don't know what the hell it represents. Maybe Sarah can tell me how to read that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gas Crunch

The worst is over "they" say with the gas crisis in Asheville. We have been short for over two weeks now and it got really messy last Wednesday. The lines of cars waiting for gas were ridiculous - 3 and 4 hours long.
We were supposed to leave for Atlanta on Friday afternoon for the DH's class reunion. I wasn't about to sit in line for hours to go a leisure trip. The thought of it nauseated me. In fact, anytime I was out in the last two weeks, which wasn't often, I become anxious and sick just passing the gas stations with lines. Then there were the tales of people behaving badly - cutting in line, taking advantage of the gap in cars created by a driver, already out of gas, pushing his car to the pump. It really brings out the worst in some people. I know it is a small minority and I am thankful for that, but I guess I'd just rather not witness people behaving like the world was ending.
I avoided the lines and panic until Friday when I struck out to fill up so we could make the Atlanta trip. I ended up at Sam's, a place I don't shop anymore since watching the movie, The High Cost of Low Prices, a not-so-flattering documentary about Wal-Mart. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. But once I became informed, even though I didn't really shop at Wal-Mart, I had to break it off with my man Sam. He had provided me savings on wine, tires, a six pack of sports bras, and large quantities of chips but sometimes that's just not enough for a girl, so we parted. He didn't even seem to notice.
But I came crawling back on Friday. Sam had an orderly line inside his parking lot with three attendants directing traffic. I waited 5 minutes. No nausea. No anxiety. Just a twinge of guilt.
The compromise was worth it. Atlanta, the reunion and the break from the soccer mom routine was just the call for me.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait

The geeks at the local computer repair shop have held my hard drive captive for OVER a month now, tyring to pry it's contents from it's bones. It melted down in August and I surrender it to their expertise just after Labor Day. I have the old machine back with a new hard drive, but all my files for work, charitable work, pictures, finances, etc are locked down on that old dying drive. YIKES!(Of course, backing up now seems like a REALLY good idea). I keep calling to check on it because, well, they don't call me and the always polite young man on the other end promises to call back, but never does. I don't want to complain, lest I piss someone off and I never get my files back. Yesterday, I did receive a call back. They have the part they need to hopefully retrieve the information. I had to approve the charges before he could try.

He'll work on it and call me back. (Sigh)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Customer Service at Ingles?

What is up with the folks over at my neighborhood Ingles? I shopped there on Sunday afternoon, a time I don't normally shop, and the surly teenagers who seem to run the place, despite the visible adult managers roaming round pretending to be in charge, were actually polite and courteous. Two different young male employees asked if they could help me find something. When the second one asked, I thought my head might spin off. Up until now, I have never encountered a teenager there who was anything more than disinterested. Typically, when I find myself in the teenager's line I am subjected to their conversation about someones date last night. Once, I came upon an empty line where the attendant couldn't be bothered to pause her conversation to ask for my advantage card. She just kept blabbing on to the bag "boy" while she scanned my groceries. I had to interrupt her to get my 78 cent discount on my fakin' bacon.

Now I will say that there are some fine, friendly and efficient older folks working there. If I shop during the weekdays, I will seek them out. Mike is one of them. He dresses as a woman every Halloween. Not that I have ever seen that, but I have somehow gleaned it from having a conversation with him -Hmmm, there's a novel idea: a conversation with your customer. There is another older gentleman, Floyd, that often bags for Mike. He will use my cloth bags without question(or an audible sigh). Last week, just after I arrived, I did a 180 to hop back home to get my advantage card; there was more than 78 cents at stake. On my way out I mentioned it to the night manager who was out having a smoke. He said that any of the cashiers can find my number by my address - something they had never volunteered to do before- and he snuffed out his ciggy and ran in to retrieve my number for me.

I have to give props to one affable young man I have had the pleasure of interacting with lately. He works in the deli, where ordinarily I feel like I've interrupted a druggie from getting his fix. "Can I help you?" is what comes out of their mouths but their body language screams, What do you want?

When I was in high school, I worked at a Chick-fil-a for two years. The expectation was to be kind and courteous to the customer. If I had behaved any differently, I would have been canned.

This is big. Customer serviced at Ingles. I wonder what happened? Did the expectations from management change? Or was it anomaly for Sunday afternoon shopping? Perhaps now that the economy is sour, management has some leverage to get people to expend a little energy to keep their jobs.

Whatever the reason, I like it!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Drug Talk

Last week, I was driving my firecracker and his friend from church to their All Star practice when I realized that his friend, who is 8 years old, was talking to my FC about Pot. We had just passed a store called the Octopus Garden and he was explaining to FC that the store sold Marijuana paraphernalia. FC had never heard of this, so his friend, in the most matter-of-fact way, began to explain what Pot/Marijuana/ Weed is. That's right, he knew all the terms. I managed to add that it is illegal to grow, sell or smoke pot. FC asked why people smoke Pot. I explained that it made people feel funny. His friend added that it made people feel like they were in another world. Then he said that people who smoke it aren't very smart. Setting me up for the follow up question from FC.

Mom, do you know anyone who has ever smoked Pot? (I guess he figures I know lots of no-so-smart people).




Why did you smoke it?

Because she felt peer pressure, his 8 year old friend answered.

That was a good enough answer for me.

I went on to warn of all the brain cells that are lost when you smoke pot. I have no idea if this is true, but I believed it when I was a teenager. I guess I figured my brain cells needed a little room to move about.

I thought this conversation was years away. But it really was as natural as talking about the College Baseball World Series.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Off the Map

The longer I stay away, the more I feel I need to explain my absence. I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm really explaining it to myself. Life got busy at the end of the school year. My brainiac graduated from 5Th grade and both the boys were playing baseball so we spent most of our spare time happily watching our boys participate and most of our money at Jersey Mikes.

We spent a week at the beach with our boys plus 2; they each brought a friend. Sounded like a good idea in theory but it made me nervous to be responsible for two other precious lives while I watched the waves pummel and toss them in the angry sea. I gave them the rip tide speech every day.

If you get caught in a rip-tide swim parallel to the shore until you swim out of it. Whatever you do...

We know, we know, they said rolling their eyes for effect, you told us yesterday.

I'm more than a little nervous around water and kids.

When I was 4 or 5, my father hurled me up on his shoulders and waded into the ocean. It wasn't long before a nasty wave knocked us about and I was separated from him, tumbling in the foam and water. I had no idea how to swim. I was at the end of breath (which was probably 5 seconds) when my dad plucked me from the waves, dramatically saving my life. At least that is how I remember it.

Fast forward 30 years. My boys were 2 and 5 years old. We were swimming at an Asheville pool over Memorial Day weekend. I guess I heard the man's voice first - Lifeguard, help me. She's not breathing. I looked up to see a man in the middle of the pool holding a limp girl. The teenage lifeguard seemed to freeze and moved off of his stand at a snail's pace. The first responder, was another dad at the pool. My husband assisted. We cleared the pool and everyone became eerily quiet, except my two year old who wanted a snack. We watched the two responders work on the girl for what seemed inordinately long while her Dad stood over them, his hands clasped towards the sky in prayer. My boys and I said prayers also. Finally, the girl lurched and water came pouring from her tiny body. She lived.

Later my husband told me it was the first time that the first responder had done CPR. And that the girl had no femoral pulse. She was gone. Thank goodness for their quick response.

So swimming at the ocean with 4 boys wasn't my idea of relaxation. But they seemed to enjoy it. And we all came home in one piece.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Yeah, I've been away for a while. But I have thought about coming here, A LOT. There's a lot going on here, mostly good but let me start with this.

My boys had duel well appointments with the Pediatrician yesterday. My oldest is about to embark upon middle school and my youngest is headed for 3rd grade. They are two and 1/2 years apart but only 1 & 1/2 pounds apart. My youngest, the Firecracker, is 8 and weighs 65 pounds. He had gained 1 pound and 2 & 1/2 inches since last year. Finally, with some sleep, the growth hormone has kicked in!

My basset hound weighs 66 pounds. They are all hanging in there together.

But that's not the point.

They both were due for vaccinations which much to my husband's chagrin, I question. But after a lengthy discussion with our Doc, I decided to get a couple for the Brainiac and one for the FC.

FC was adamant he wasn't going to get a shot.

It reminded me of the time when I was 8. Some friends told tales of getting their tetanus shot and how many nurses "had to hold them down." I was determined to have at least that many hold me down, so I would have a story to tell - it never occurred to me to lie to my friends instead of causing pain and drama to all involved. So I pitched a fit. I bet my mother thought, WTF? It took two nurses and my mom to hold me down.

FC was headed in that direction but I somehow coerced him into may lap and before he knew it, the shot was over. Really not a big deal. I'm just glad they are well.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Passed Out

The Brainiac turned 11 on Friday and had a big weekend. Friday night he attended an Obama Rally, where Gladys Knight sang and Michelle Obama spoke. When we arrived, he discovered many of his friends were there and they played at the back of the quad while the many introductory speeches droned on. When Michelle finally took stage, they found a tree to perch in and listened for a while.

Saturday he had a soccer game, a baseball game and 7 boys sleep over. They were asleep by 10:30 last night but they hit the ground running this morning, racing down to dam up the creek that inspired a mud fight yesterday evening. The last boy dispersed at noon so he had a little down time before he went to practice baseball. At 6:45 this evening, we found him passed out.

I think it's safe to say it was a good weekend.

After tending to 8 boys for 24 hours in a two bed room cabin, I'm ready for my bed too. Nighty night.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Brainiac Baseball

My brainiac, who is 11 today, has decided to try baseball for the first time. I was a little weary of it, considering his lack of skill set for the sport. Surely all the other kids would be so far ahead of him that he would feel inferior and spend all his time pining the bench in the dugout.

Not so. There are plenty at his level, though thankfully there are some who are more advanced so the game actually looks like baseball. And his coach is a sweetheart. He even played B at third base one inning during their first game yesterday.

His first bat found him with a full count, the bases loaded and two outs. He struck out. I would have been crushed had it been me. But it didn't bother him. Partly because he just doesn't take on that kind of pressure. Partly because he doesn't quite get the game yet.

His second (and last)bat he was beamed by a pitch. A hard pitch. Stunned, tears streaming down his face, he walked to first, trying to shake it off. Lucky for him the very next pitch was a passed ball and he was sent to steal second. Safe. Still reeling, he rubbed his arm but the next pitch passed the catcher again and he was sent to third. Safe. Two pitches later, another passed pitch and he was headed for home. As he closed in on the plate, I heard his coach yell, "Slide." At this point, I'm thinking, he doesn't know how to slide, but then he hit the dirt, one foot gliding over the plate. Safe again.

His team won 7-6 in the bottom of the last inning. Of course, we pointed out that his run was critical in that win! The best part to him, though, was the reception he received after scoring the run. Lots of high fives and folks slapping his helmet.

I think he's going to like this game.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Crack TV

I've been a fan of American Idol since the beginning. No, I'm not bragging. It's a sad state of affairs. At least it's better than Rock of Love. And yeah, I have watched of few episodes of that train wreck. Kind of like watching a cat fight in high school.

But back to Idol. Seven years ago, when I ran across it, flipping channels, I was hooked from the beginning. I couldn't wait until the next week to get my fix - see the whole spectacle over again. It is fundamentally flawed as a talent contest because it is NOT a talent contest. It's a popularity contest. And to ever make it in front of Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, you first have to pass through a preliminary round with Fox talent judges. You only move past them if you are so absolutely terrible that you are laughable and will be good entertainment, or you have a decent voice AND a story -your Dad's in prison, your a single parent, your husband's face is tattooed, your a total goody two shoes and you've never seen a R movie, your a chick who rides a Harley, etc. It makes for good TV ratings you see.

But still, these kids - OK some of them aren't kids anymore - don't care. They want a chance to show their stuff. Can't blame them for giving it a shot. Two of the most, if not THE most talented performers have already been voted off this season- Karly and Michael. Coincidentally, neither are originally from America. Perhaps that hurt them. Surely, they would land on their feet. I'd buy their albums. If I had any money.

Of the four that are left, one stands head and shoulders above the rest.

First, let me digress and say that it was time that Brooke got booted from the show. She had a decent voice and did a good job of picking songs that complimented her narrow range but she doesn't have the goods to make it in the industry, unless she perhaps breaks free as a singer/songwriter. I think her wholesome girl, golly gee, act was wearing a little thin. I'm not saying she wasn't genuinely wholesome but it finally lost it's luster to the folks, the viewers, that are voting. Now I love me some crack TV, but I'm proud to say I never, ever, not even once, voted. I feel like that has kept me from falling over the edge and never finding my way back.

Ok, back to the one that stands out. David Cook. He's da bomb, as Randy Jackson would say. He can sing and perform and play the guitar and rearrange the song to suit his style. I'm not sure how he got through the preliminary rounds though, as he doesn't seem to have a "story". Of the other three, one can flat out sing; David A. But I'm so over him. He's the same every week. He just sings, always nailing the song and knocking the judges socks off, but he doesn't perform. He'd be so boring in this age of Videos. Then there is Syesha, who has a decent voice but is an incredible performer. She could get a record deal though, if someone else picks her songs. Last is the John Travolta look-a-like, Jason. A little bit of James Taylor mixed with Bob Marley. He's likable but so incredibly mellow. I think it would be hard to fit him in a specific music genre.

Now I dig the competition, but I really dig Simon's candid critique of the contestants. Most of the time I agree with him. I wouldn't be so blatant, but I love that he is. Someone has to balance Paula who apparently has more than soda in her Coke cup. She has difficulty articulating her thoughts almost every time she speaks. And on this week's show she started critiquing Jason's second song when he hadn't even sung it yet. Huh?

But Paula has inspired me.

To get bangs cut. She has good hair.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Campaign Slogans

In a recent conversation with some friends we remarked that sound bytes and catchy slogans really seem to work and grab the attention of American Voters - remember Bush 2 with 'compassionate conservative'?

Anyway I was reminded of my bid for Senior Class Vice President of Pine Forest Senior High School in the early eighties. My slogans were:

Fred is Dead, so vote Tracey for VP


My Aunt Myrtle Wears a Tight Girdle so vote..

There was another, but I can't remember it.

I won. Shocking, eh?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Nite Out: Barack The Vote

Despite being sick and lame, I made it off the couch last night to go see Arrested Development, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn at Barack the Vote at the Orange Peel. It's only a spring cold but it still knocked me on my bum and I was this close to canceling. Lucky for me, I was carpooling two friends who didn't know each other and I felt responsible for getting them to the gig.

We parked just North of the Peel and as we walked past the City Bakery, some folks were advertising that Arrested Development was inside. We ducked in and they were there indeed, not eating a snack but all lined up sitting against a wall and behind tables, ready to sign autographs. My two friends had barely heard of Arrested Development and I had not heard of their music since the nineties and "Tennessee" so I didn't know the lead singer from the drummer. But they were terribly gracious folks, bantering with us as we moved along receiving each autograph on our newly purchased CDs. We thanked them for their obvious pro bono work; our tickets were $5 each. They told us they had done two other gigs like this for Obama; one in Columbia and one in Atlanta where they are from.

We moseyed on down to the Peel and lingered outside for a while, signing up for Obama yard signs. Then we filed inside for a beer which temporarily quelled my cold symptoms. Being a politically charged event, the atmosphere was lively and energetic. A few people took the stage to speak, including an older distinguished looking woman who gives "hugs for Obama" near Pack Square every Friday night. She captured the crowd with her genuine enthusiasm, warmth and sincerity - once she learned that the microphone had to stay in front of her mouth, and not swing side to side like a pendulum. She spoke to the lot of us as if we were all 18, voting in our first election but we didn't care. We got where she was coming from. Our Mayor, Terry Bellamy, also gave an impassioned speech. I've never seen her so animated, but I've only seen her at the City Council meetings.

I had never heard Abigail Washburn or Bela Fleck. Together with Ben Sollee on cello and a fiddle player (who was absent) they make up the Sparrow Quartet. They were amazing but being an acustic gig they were partially drowned out by many in the crowd who were talking.

Arrested Development was fantastic and engaging. I was bummed when they wrapped up their set around 11pm but in reality I needed to get home before I turned into a pumpkin. So we weaved our way up Biltmore Ave, my friend, Susan, stopping to intervene in an argument between two drunk young men. "Hugs for Obama," she said. That sentiment wasn't as appealing to these two but I think the shock from her intervention style stopped their arguing, temporarily at least.

I bussed my friends back to their abodes and came on home to nurse the cold. I'm glad I made it off the couch, even if I have to pay for it today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mr Curbie

Today is trash and recycling day in my hood. There was a time, back when the babes were in diapers that missing the trash folks was such bad news that I would load up the trash in my van and chase the trash truck through my neighborhood rather than be with the stinky mess for another week.

These days, the trash isn't the problem; its the recycling that is mammoth. We fill up four bins, half of it mixed paper. So this morning while parked in front of the computer, I heard the familiar clanking of glass and metal and realized that the Curbie dude, was on my street. Early. Still in my red velour snowflake pajama bottoms, hair askew and teeth not brushed, I slipped into my Carolina blue fluff Crocs, a Christmas gift from my brother, and hustled out the back door to my recycling pile. I grabbed one bin and hastened to catch Curbie four houses down. When Curbie caught sight of me, he said chuckling, "Girl, where'd you come from?" Graciously taking my bin from me, he volunteered to back up and get the rest. I huffed it back, as fast as any woman could in backless shoes, and in a feat not much unlike those who lift up two thousand pounds of a burning vehicle to save some one's life, I heaved two of those hefty bins, brimming with cereal boxes, newspapers and junk mail and shuffled to the street to meet Curbie. I watched as he unloaded them, waiting to thank him for his kindness. He then turned to me, stacking my bins on the ground next to me and said, "There's one thing I need you to do." And before I could say anything, he said with a sincere smile, "Give me a good morning hug," wrapping his arms around me in paternalistic manner.

What a sweetie, Mr Curbie.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Good Day

The day started with a run with the hound dog. Really more like a drag. I ran less than 2 miles in 25 minutes. Still its something. The girl scout cookies are still hanging around like a spare tire round my middle.

After the run, I huffed it over to Obama's HQ to volunteer registering voters. My friend and I were sent to Greenlife, where we registered 3 voters in a half hour. Those Greenlife folks are civic minded - all registered. Bob, the sweet shopping cart man, asked me if I was cold. yes. I was under dressed -why would I believe the weather folks? They have been totally wrong the last two days. Bob offered to fetch a coat from his car. What a sweetie. And the patrons of Greenlife were kind and courteous too. More than a few thanked us for what we were doing. We had an odd encounter with a well groomed, nice looking white man, about 50 years old. We asked him if he had registered. He replied that he couldn't because he was a convicted felon, all the while looking me straight in the eye and speaking loud enough for folks who were lingering to hear. We had been told that convicted felons can register as long as they have completed their parole and probation. So I began to tell him that when he interjected, I killed someone. Someone who was trying to get me to register to vote. Then he grinned and walked away. Nice joke, dude. Really.

After that we went to UNC-A to help. We met a young woman, Lauren, who is working her bootie off registering voters. She had 187 done in just one week.

Later in the day, I picked up some boys for soccer practice across town. I had 4, ten-year-olds in my van and sheesh was the smell funky. Somebody has hit puberty. The boys began talking about the cool Bud Lite commercials that have played during the NCAA tourney. I must say, the cavemen ones are pretty hilarious. And the "dude" ones too. Clever. Obviously very effective in capturing the 10 year old audience, too. YIKES!

Now, I'm readying myself for the visit with the rodent for the next 3 days. Not my idea of vacation but its what the DH wants to do. At least the weather will be favorable and the boys are old enough to ride some roller coasters this time.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Basketball and Botox

The Tarheel men's basketball team had the late game last night, playing Louisville in what amounted to a second half nail bitter - for me, anyway. The Tarheels played a brilliant first half, beating the full court press and running their fast break offense. The Tarheels seemingly in control, the conversation in our living room turned to Louisville coach, Rick Pitino's obvious use of Botox or cosmetic surgery. We even guessed then googled the ages of Williams (57) and Pitino (55).

Pitino obviously spent half time coaching rather than changing his suit and coiffing his hair, as he did during half time of their game vs Georgetown earlier in the season (which, btw, they won and Pitino later admitted- after first saying at the post game interview that he had spilled Diet Coke on his suit- that he changed from his Benny Hinn-white suit-get up because his blue boxers were starting to show through from butt sweat. Dude, TMI. I liked the Diet Coke story better.), and brought his boys back from an 12 point half-time deficit to a tie with about 10 minutes left to go.

Pitino seemed to have made an adjustment in strategy at half time, and his Cardinals came back and made basket after basket with the "give" - to their big man Padgett at the top of the key - and "go" to any player finding a hole in the Carolina defense. But in the end, Lawson and Hansbrough stepped in up for the Heels; Lawson weaving through the Cardinals' full court press with grace and ease, rendering it totally ineffective (back-up Quinton Thomas didn't fare so well). And Hansbrough, well, being Hansbrough, playing with intensity and confidence to the buzzer's blare.

Now for the final four. We have a conflict though. We have tickets to visit the Mouse in Florida next weekend. Personally I'd rather be watching hoops that trudging through crowds of crabby parents and overstimulated kids, but since we have already laid down the money, we best be out in the mayhem.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hurl,Trot and Hack

The Spring Break train not only brought snow but a gaggle of viruses that are roosting in our home. The Brainiac was down all day Sunday with a fever, then he hurled. The Firecracker woke up Tuesday with a severe case of the trots. Then early Thursday morning, while sleeping over at a friend's house, the B woke up to discover he had the trots, and they had, um, already trotted, if you know what I mean. Poor guy, he was up in the middle of the night trying to clean himself and the bed he was sleeping in without disturbing anyone. (I know, I konw. TMI) Now he has a head cold and cough to go with it.

Luckily, the adults have dodged the viruses, and we have largely enjoyed our vacation in Asheville, though we have done nothing resembling tourist activites, except eat a few take out dinners. The weather shaped up and we have been soaking it in - gardening, playing baseball, soccer and tennis, walking the dog. Of course, we watched college hoops on the tube.

Tomorrow brings rain and cooler weather, if you believe the weather folks round here, so I'm going to hit the trail with the hound dog while I have a chance.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Break

Well it doesn't feel much like Spring Break here, mostly because it's 32 degrees with snow fluries supposedly turning to rain this afternoon. We were headed to the beach but decided to save some dough and stay here. It is supposed to warm up this week, so we have plans to enjoy Asheville like tourists AND get a few things done round the homestead.

Easter was a bit messy at our house - the Brainiac had a stomach bug. I didn't sleep well last night, half listening for the inevitable trips to hug the toilet, not just from the B. I always expect that it's just a matter of time before the rest of us fall like dominoes and make our path to toilet. But so far, we are all well, inlcluding B, who has recovered enought to play Nerf football with his little bro.

Speaking of.. here's the Firecracker with his best Tyler Hansbrough impression.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cuba and Tourism

At the end of Cuba trip, we spent some time exploring in Havana. We visited this Jesus statue,a tourist attraction that overlooked the water.

Some folks in my group spent time speaking with a young, English speaking tour guide. He shared the history of the statue; it was commissioned by Batista's wife in 1957, several years before The Revolution. Batista was the corrupt Cuban dictator eventually ousted by Castro. It arrived from Italy in 67 pieces of marble. After further conversation with this man, they found out that he used to be school teacher but left his job to make more money being a tour guide working strictly for tips.

The average Cuban makes about $25 US dollars a month. Although they have free health care, housing, electricity, and food rations, this isn't much money. A tour guide can earn more than a typical day's pay with just one tip, presuming it is one CUC, the Cuban tourism Peso, basically equivalent to one US dollar. The CUC is worth much more that the national Peso that citizens use. So this young man left his secure teaching job to make more money telling the story of the Jesus statue. He wanted more money and apparently, according to him, others in similar respectable jobs including doctors and lawyers, have left their careers to become bellhops, waiters, etc to cash in on the tourist Peso and the financial boost it can provide.

The Tourism industry is something relatively new to Cuba. The government began promoting it in an effort to assist their ailing economy which was suffering greatly from the ongoing US Embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, who until the collapse, had been their primary trade partner for almost 30 years.

When Castro took over the government in 1959, he essentially leveled the playing field with Socialized programs. He wiped out poverty by providing food rations for everyone. He closed the schools for 6 months and sent youth out to the rural areas to educate everyone to read and write. As a result, Cuba's literacy is better than the US. He provided housing, health care and jobs for everyone. Free enterprise and capitolism aren't part of the economic culture. There is seemingly no way to prosper financially. However, the tourism industry is providing some with the opportunity to advance financially. No doubt tourism has helped the Cuban economy but the two Peso system has altered the way some Cuban's view the Socialist system and what it does and doesn't provide.

We spent many hours traveling across the Island and every time we stopped to use a public restroom, whether at a gas station, restaurant or public park, there was someone attending it for tips. The attendant usually sat outside of the restroom, sometimes handing us toilet paper. Typically, the restrooms weren't clean. Most didn't have toilet seats - presumably another trade victim; it must be cost prohibitive to import, though I never asked anyone specifically. Still, we tipped, grateful to have somewhere private to do our bizness. Certainly bathroom attendant isn't the coveted tourism job, but it is a job, nonetheless.

I must say that we didn't witness any homelessness nor begging, sans the many stray, diseased dogs politely hovering round our dinner table at most open air restaurants, hoping for a scrap or two. And crime is very minimal. Coupled with the beautiful countryside and warm Cuban people, it unquestionably adds to the allure of Cuba as a desirable tourist destination.

Unless, of course, you are American, and prohibited from going there by your government.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cuban Agriculture

Finally something about Cuba, though I can't take credit for the photos. My friend, Marc, took them.

While in Cuba, we witnessed and learned of their nationally supported organic farming model. This was developed in response to loss of trade and support for their commercial agriculture model, due to the ongoing US Embargo and diminishing trade relations with the Soviet Union after the fall of the Soviet bloc. I found a paper by, Peter Rosset, on the Internet that explains it better than I. His words are in italics.

Because of the US Embargo in 1961, Cuba developed a relationship with the Soviet Union and heavily relied on them for trade. Cuba depended upon its socialist trading partners for petroleum, industrial equipment and supplies, fertilizer and pesticides, and foodstuffs. In the late 1980's relations became strained with the Soviet Union and imports/exports suffered greatly.

Cuban agriculture was based on large-scale, capital-intensive mono-culture, more similar in many ways to the Central Valley of California than to the typical Latin American small-scale farm. More than 90 percent of fertilizers and pesticides, or the ingredients to make them were imported from abroad. This demonstrates the degree of dependency exhibited by this style of farming, and the vulnerability of the island's economy to international market forces. When trade relations with the socialist bloc collapsed, pesticides and fertilizers virtually disappeared, and the availability of petroleum for agriculture dropped by half. Food imports also fell by more than a half. Suddenly, an agricultural system almost as modern and industrialized as that of California was faced with a three-pronged challenge: to essentially double food production while more than halving inputs - and at the same time maintaining export crop production so as not to further erode the country's desperate foreign exchange position.

Cuba moved to an alternative model of agriculture, one that promotes ecologically sustainable production by replacing the dependence on heavy farm machinery and chemical inputs with animal traction, crop and pasture rotation, soil conservation, organic soil inputs, biological pest control, and biofertilizers and biopesticides.

Our culinary experience in Cuba included eating only fresh fruits and vegetables: pineapple, guava, papaya, tomato, cabbage, cucumbers, green beans, onions, plantains, bananas, oranges - all grown on the island. The chicken was fresh not frozen, eh hum, it was just killed that day. My Brainiac loved "Cuban chicken" and the "chef" who made it for him. The eggs we had for breakfast each morning were especially fresh but all the butter and salt added while cooking probably enhanced the flavor just a bit. Of course, rice and beans were a staple at every meal - cooked in oil with salt and garlic added - and very tasty. Cuban food isn't spicy; spices are imports and if they were readily available or affordable, it wasn't evident.

We spent one day visiting the rural area outside of Camaguey. It was here that we saw the farm laborers bagging the rice. Below is a picture of the finished product.

Notice that this is on a blacktop road. Before the rice was scooped into the large sacks, it was occupying about 1/3 the width of the road and extended about 1/4 mile. That is where they dried the rice. Interesting.

We spent 5 days with our sister congregation in Camaguey, eating most of our meals with them. The last night we were there, they wanted to treat us to a "special meal". These people were so gracious and considerate that they wanted to share with us foods they didn't normally eat as the cost was prohibitive; fruit cocktail and canned tuna. The fruit cocktail consisted of fruits that weren't grown in Cuba. And surprisingly fish isn't something they eat much of either. It was the only time we were offered fish in our 10 days there. Camaguey isn't on the water, but it seems like fresh fish would be more affordable and common considering the proximity to the water. I never inquired. Perhaps it's the transportation involved to get fresh fish inland. A question for next trip, I guess.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Welcome Back, Lawson

Much of the weekend was spent watching ACC hoops and my favorite basketball sons, the Tarheels. It's been an interesting season in Chapel Hill. The Heels' amazing point guard, Ty Lawson, was out for six or so games with a sprained ankle giving the once spastic Quinton Thomas a chance to mature into a leader and have a positiv minutes while on the court. Since Lawson's return a few weeks ago, he hasn't been a hundred percent. But yesterday, even though coach Williams said he's still not fully whole, he made things happen. It was good to see him back. Dude, he is so exciting to watch. Sometimes it seems as if he just hits some turbo charge button, takes off and blazes past everyone on the court like they are standing still.

Sometime mid-way through the second half I started singing the Welcome Back Kotter tune each time Lawson worked some of his magic, making the layups look so easy, and dishing the ball off for one of his 8 assists. My Firecracker was annoyed. I was happy.

Welcome back. Welcome back. Welcome baaack.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Enjoy the Ride

There are miles of things on my list. Not the least of which is creating a power point presentation - something I'm never done- on Cuba for a talk I am giving to the "Fun Bunch" at my neighbor's church on Tuesday morning. YIKES! And the ever present taxes. And all I have to do is gather the information for my accountant but that takes hours.

But of course the minute I sit down for blog moment, the boys are in need. The Brainiac is packing for his 3 day class trip to Camp Greenville, but he needs help. I effectively put him off for a moment but the FC came in from shooting hoops and wants to get on the computer. Typically, this is when I make them do a chore; it is their ticket to ride. But what I need done requires a little supervision and I am unwilling to be interrupted, so I yield, telling the FC that he will have to afterwards, knowing full well that he won't be as cooperative.

The book fair was at the boy's school this past week. They both came home with the flyer and had books in mind to purchase. Unfortunately, the Brainiac had no money - spent it all last weekend on a game for his Nintendo DS. It was the first game he had bought for his DS since purchasing the DS just before he and I left for Cuba in January ( subsequently, he was invited to three birthday parties in which he only showed with a handmade card- no money left for gifts). Anyway, the Firecracker has plenty of money saved despite his Webkinz obsession. (Luckily, he has found a supplier, St Joseph's gift shop, where he can buy one get one free.) In a generous moment, the FC gave the Brainiac money to buy the books he wanted, no strings attached. Then FC bought three chapter books, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid, despite the fact that he only reads for homework, and then only for the twenty minutes required, not a moment more. Well, the Wimpy Kid facilitated the proverbial 'turning of the corner'. He read it out loud to me, then took it to bed to read. The next day he apparently read it on the way to school (DH said - I'm going to have to impose a 'no reading' in the car rule, so the boys will talk to me.) during free time at school, and on the bus ride home. This morning he woke at 6 am and read. He is so proud of himself. ME TOO. Me too.

As a parent, I am mindful to avoid comparing the boys in front of them; they are competitive enough as it is. In private, of course, I do. I can't help it. When the Brainiac was in second grade (as FC is now), he blazed through all the Magic Treehouse series, as well as Chronicles of Narnia. It didn't seem especially advanced to me, as he had many friends who were reading similar books at a similar pace. But now it seems clear that indeed he and his friends were advanced and the FC seems to be advancing at a normal rate.

I'll take it. The past three years with this bright, high energy, passionate child had been a challenging journey. It is good to see him in a place where he can channel his energy and passion positively, control his behavior, and become excited about learning.

I know this parenting gig is like a roller coaster ride -sometimes you are laboriously climbing the hill wondering if it will ever end, and sometimes it's all downhill and you are incredulous that you scored a ticket for this killer ride.

For now, I'll enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Basketball and Butt

I shot hoops yesterday with the Firecracker. Of course, we can't just shoot, we have to play a game. One in which the rules of the game don't apply to him. He travels, double dribbles and fouls the crap out of me. He can score a three pointer. I can't. The game was close - the lead changing back and forth, when I blazed past him for a rebound. He blurted out, "Chubby butt", regarding the appearance of my back side. There's no edit button on this kid. Stunned, I stammered for a few seconds then said, "That's booming butt." And don't you forget it kid. Then I raced by him for a lay-up. Too bad I don't have the ups to dunk. That was the exclamation mark that I needed.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Night

It's Friday night. Good week. Only one sick day this week, and that was just half a day. I'm 100 pages away from finishing my book club book, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Not bad, except that we meet tomorrow afternoon and there is no time tomorrow to read it. Rio, is coming over later tonight to sleep over. She is in town for a friend's birthday party. So why am I blogging instead of reading? Procrastination, I suppose. In a moment.

Last night, my friend Erin invited me to see this very cool Irish folk band, Lúnasa, at Diana Wortham. Her boss laid the tix on her yesterday morning, so I was her last minute date. I did consider staying home to read the book, but decided it lame to pass up free tix to live music. It was a good decision.

The boys are having a slam dunk contest on the Nerf basketball goal in the FC's room. My DH foolishly agreed to judge it. I can hear him giving scores right now. This can't end well. Someone will be crying before it's over. Even if the scores are tied!

Tomorrow the DH is working, so I'm carting the boys around to their activities. Lucky for me the soccer has already been canceled due to all the rain today. However it doesn't solve the problem of overlapping activities and only one parent. FC's basketball game starts at 10 am in Woodfin. Brainiac's Super Saturday, Physics is Phun class at UNC-A at 10:30. He knows one kid in his class and he won't be going tomorrow.

Time out. FC is yelling because he crashed during the dunking contest. Told you it wouldn't end well.

Back to Super Saturdays. Last semester, another mom and I coerced our boys into taking Chemistry. I told B, Nico signed up for Chemistry and she told Nico that B had signed up for the same. Not a lie - I did sign him up, he just didn't request it. They both were jonsing to take something lame but it was more important to be in class together. They loved the class so we worked our magic again this year to get them into Physics. Clever and creative parenting don't you think?

OK the dunk contest is over. The boys are in front of the TV, watching basketball.

Back to my book.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Stranger In My House

Yesterday as I was getting ready to leave my house, my hound dog, Patch, began incessantly barking at something in my storage room in my garage. Sometime in the past week he was in the same spot doing the same thing but the FC flushed him out.

Yesterday, I investigated the commotion, and found a scared young cat curled up on a moving pad on a shelve just out of the dog's reach. Probably my neighbor's, I thought, so I gently scooped him(?) up and released him in our yard, Patch hot on his heels. Basically he scampered around our house, Patch wildly barking behind him, and tried to seek cover from where he came. I scooped him again and took him across the street to my neighbor's yard, where he would be safe from Patch and would be able to seek his home. To my surprise, he darted right back across to our driveway, past the momentarily stunned dog who had to be thinking you're going to give me another shot at you? But Patch was soon in hot pursuit, his mournful hound dog bark leading the way. They both disappeared in the garage.

At this moment, I received a phone call from my DH. I think there might be a cat living in our garage, he said. What gave you that impression, I asked, not divulging my discovery. There have been paw prints on my car since Monday and this morning, after all that rain on Tuesday, I had fresh prints on the windshield.

Hmmmm. Well, I didn't have time to ponder, I was going to be late for my meeting. Patch was hoovering around the front of the van, waiting for the cat to emerge from underneath. I backed out and watched in amusement as the hound dog sniffed and searched for the cat. He looked like a cartoon character, nose to ground, in total disbelief that the cat wasn't there. It just disappeared! I began to wonder if the kitty was in my engine somehow. But I was late, so I headed off. I left the garage door cracked so the kitty and dog could get in/out.

When I returned home, I couldn't find the kitty anywhere. Neither could the dog, which was probably an indication it was gone. But about 4 hours later, when my DH arrived home, he found him underneath my van. Hmmm, I wonder if he was hanging out in my engine the whole time?

So we fed the poor beast. He's actually kind of cute, as cats go. But I'm not a cat lover. I guess I should post some pictures round the neighborhood, though it has no collar. I'm afraid it is just a stray.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Last Week

Last week was nutty, mostly in good way. One sick day and two snow days (why don't these ever collide?) left me behind on some things and out off the Yoga mat but I managed to get in some tennis which kept me sane.

Tuesday came and went without incident: no drunk call from the retirement community. Wednesday and Thursday were snow days. The boys did a little sledding and a lot of bickering.

On Thursday I saw Moonlight and Magnolias at the NC Stage Company, a professional theatre here in Asheville. It was quite a hilarious comedy, based on true events, about writing the screenplay for Gone with the Wind.

My parents were in for the weekend for the first time in a year and a half. Its a haul up here from the Fayetteville and they are busy folks - my dad still works, they are enjoying 4 or 5 cruises/year, and there are 10 other grandchildren that live in the ville.

But before they arrived Friday night, we entertained my Mother-in-law's former neighbors, a couple from Winston. We went out for a nice dinner, at the Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village. Right off the bat, my MIL ordered a glass of wine. My husband went behind her back and canceled it. When the meal arrived with no wine, my MIL refused to eat her meal if she couldn't have wine and left the dining room to sit outside and sulk on the front porch. Oy Vey! We have a third child on our hands. On a good note, she already has another kitty named Sissy. We were disappointed she didn't wait for us to help - we thought an adult cat would be easier, but she seems happy to have that hole filled. Who cares if the kitty rips up all her new upholstered furniture??

My folks got to see the Firecracker play basketball - he scored 20 out of 26 points for his team while we yelled directions from the sideline, "Harly (or Nathan or Trenton) is open", trying to get him to pass the ball. And he did, eventually, but the kids couldn't handle it.

We had a lovely time hanging with my folks. The boys spent most of Sunday outside in the glorious sun chasing around a little white ball with a tiny metal stick, while my mom and I hung out at the homestead. The FC completed his day of outdoor activity with an hour of baseball at Jones Park with some neighbors, then later an hour of shooting hoops outside. Exhaustion makes for good sleep; something I was craving despite my inactivity. My folks slept in our comfy bed and we took the hard as a rock futon bed. I guess I need to address my guest sleeping arrangements.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Boys and Bathrooms

The Brainiac has racked up a tab, payable to Firecracker. They share a bathroom between their rooms. B locks both doors when he uses it, but forgets to unlock his brother's side when he is finished. This has caused strife for almost three years now, so I told B he had to pay his brother a dollar every time he forgets to unlock it. Rather quickly, he ran up a tab of $5. In a clever move, B brokered a secret deal to barter his debt away. He would build some Lego ships for the FC. I'm not sure how it all went down, but when I paid them their allowances on Thursday, the FC wanted his money. B then hurled the "deal" ships on the floor, breaking them into many pieces. I reacted by taking away his play date - the one I was about to take him to. But after considering it, I decided to skip the torture of leaving him home to seethe and aggravate his brother (and me) all day, and sent him away. Instead, he wasn't able to attend a birthday party the next day. I backed off that one too, allowing him to go an hour late, after a load of chores at home. Not so consistent, I know, but he did come home complaining that he missed the best part of the party, so the desired effect was achieved.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The Brainiac came home with a note from his teach today. They are doing a talk on puberty and we are invited to attend. Not something, I necessarily intended to discuss with him, but during dinner, he wouldn't cease his incessant banter about Weird Al, so I changed the subject to puberty. Lesser of two evils? You decide.

My husband took the ball and ran with it and gave a pretty good explanation to our boys. So good, in fact, that I became a little nauseated. Some things shouldn't be discussed at the dinner table. The Braniac looked a little embarrassed discussing testosterone and pubic hair. The Firecracker was just laughing and answering "sexy" to the question, "what changes happen to girls during puberty?"

Perhaps, this discussion should have been exclusive to the Brainiac. Hindsight is 20/20, they say.

Rain, Rain

It is raining like crazy this morning. Of course, we need it. We always need it. This morning I was telling my boys about a recent news article, buried on the back page of the local paper, that spoke of the drought being perpetual. It will never end.

Back in September of 04, we had two Hurricanes come through our fair city within 8 days of each other. First Frances, then Ivan. Round here it was called the hundred year flood.

The only road out of our neighborhood, one that runs along the banks of the Swannanoa River, was flooded. The power was out. School was out. We couldn't drink the water. Word got around that a neighbor's Mom was missing, presumed dead by the local authorities. They found her car in the middle of River Road, door standing open, flooded with water. She was found around 4pm, safe on top of a truck in the lot of a business along the road. She had left for work at dawn, driving her car right into the flooded road.

A couple of other neighbors decided to hike out around our flooded road to check out things. Just as they were emerging from the 2 mile walk in the woods, one stepped on a wasps' nest, allowing a direct tunnel up to his groin where he was stung multiple times. Stepping out onto the road, he collapsed into Anaphylactic shock. Luckily there was a group of people nearby, surveying the damage to their river houses. One happened to be a nurse, and one had a truck. They piled in the truck and headed for the VA hospital upon the nurse's urging- it was closer than Mission, our city hospital, and my neighbor seemed critical. My neighbor survived but the doctor at the VA said he wouldn't have made it had they decided to go Mission.

The next morning a rainbow appeared over this lucky man's house.

Monday, February 25, 2008

'nother sick day

The Brainiac is home "sick" today. He woke up with a sore throat. He did some passive whining aimed at securing his day off. I nipped that in the bud. If you don't feel well enough to go to school, just say so. I trust your judgment. So, he's home.
Hmmm. He has already spent some time working on his AIG (Gifted class) project, playing legos and watching Youtube with me. We were comparing Weird Al videos with the ones they were intended to spoof. Not so sick. But, hey, everyone needs a mental health day every once in a while.
Last week I sent the Firecracker to school, no so well, because he wanted to go. He did spend two days at home pretty sick. And Friday he came home from school and took a nap. Go figure.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Super Tuesday

I often speak of life's challenges as waves. A wave can't last forever, eventually it crashes on the shore and recedes into the dark water of the ocean to form again. My wave of status quo- everything seems quite normal here - crashed on Friday. I've only been riding it for a week or so, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. Still the crash wasn't too bad. My mother-in-law's kitty died and she was beside herself with grief. She lives 30 minutes away in a retirement community that she chose last fall based on the fact they allow kittys. She didn't weigh anything else in her decision which is regrettable as the food is southern through and through - fried or overcooked, and virtually everyone there is in a wheelchair or walker. It's depressing. To me anyway. She's 72 and mobile but needs some supervision as she has some dementia.
On Friday afternoon, as my DH settled down for a nap on his afternoon off, he received a call from the Retirement Community that the kitty had died; my MIL wouldn't let anyone take the kitty from her, and was demanding an autopsy. The kitty wasn't that old, maybe 3 or 4. My husband took off to console her and brought her home to hang with us for a while. While here, she asked for a glass of wine. I politely refused. She has been sober since the fall- by that I mean Autumn and the time she fell down, drunk, and broke her hip. They can't stop her from buying alcohol on the weekly trips to the grocery store. In fact, once she was well enough to walk again, she made the trip and bought some. We conspired with the management and told her if she was going to drink, we couldn't stop her but it was either the bottle or the kitty. You can't take care of a kitty when you are drunk.
She chose the kitty. But with the kitty done, I'm afraid the bottle will be back. They go grocery shopping on Tuesday. I'm sure to hear about it if she does buy it. She can down one of those mega bottles in a couple of hours. Gives new meaning to Super Tuesday, eh?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just Another Day

The Firecracker is home sick today for the second time this week. Nasty cold, I guess. Or maybe just a mild version of the flu. He had the mist. I suppose I should be doing something productive like my taxes or perhaps working on one of the many unfinished projects about the house. Like sanding and staining the stairs. We ripped the carpet up a year and a half ago. I don't know what I have been waiting for. Inspiration, perhaps? No, more like forethought because I have to purchase wood putty to plug the holes, rent a sander and pick out the stain. But it needs to get done. Along with finishing painting the basement (from this summer). Finish painting my son's room - just the corners remain (from two years ago). Hooks up inside the pantry door, coat closet and the boys' rooms. What else? Paint the mantel (it has been a different color than the rest of the living room for over a year), the stairwell (this one may be for hired help as it's tricky) and the wall in my bathroom where the cheap mirror needs to come down. Then there's always my website for my business. I had some friends get it started six months ago, using software that allowed me to be the webmaster. I haven’t touched it since. YIKES!

You just can't ever get it all done. And in the past six or eight months I have begun subscribing to taking care of myself first. Ok, maybe it is second or third - but it isn't last. This means making Yoga once or twice a week as well as playing a little tennis. This translated into low stress Holidays. I wish it translated into flab off the belly, but that's going to require some work. And throwing out the Girl Scout cookies. I ate through the "Thank You" ones in a couple of days. My Brainiac came home yesterday looking for them. Who ate them all, he wailed. I dunno, must have been your Dad. You know he has a sweet tooth. Damn those Girl Scout Cookies. It takes 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer to burn off four of those suckers. Lucky for me, I don't like the other two flavors I purchased: Thin mints - that's like squirting toothpaste onto a chocolate cookie - gross. And some cinnamon thingies. However, I did order from two other sources who have yet to deliver their goods. How can you say no to sweet little entrepreneurial girls? Maybe my best plan is to never let the boys see them, then secretly drop them in their classrooms for a fun snack.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cuba Reflection

Last night, I gave a "reflection" about my Cuba travels at my Church. It was good to have a deadline to make me get something on paper. Here it is. I sang the song lyrics that are quoted. Probably not a good decision but I think it kept people engaged.

It was Friday night. 10 o’clock. 8 days into our travels in Cuba. M, a college student from our congregation, the Braniac and I were bunking together at the Martin Luther King Center in Havana. We were in a dorm like setting with each room having two sets of bunk beds. Our suitemates – the ones we shared a bathroom with – were Cuba women. We turned out the lights, exhausted from days of traveling, including 5 days with our sister church, conversing and fellowshipping with these faithful and generous people. I was almost asleep, when loud guitar music startled me from dream land. Someone’s radio, I thought! No, wait. Not a radio, but guitar music, live, coming from our suitemates' room! It was quite stirring and lively but not exactly what I wanted to hear at this particular moment. “Pssst, M,” I whispered, “How do you say your music is lovely but I’m trying to sleep in Spanish?” And M said through muffled giggles, trying not to wake the Brainiac, "Por Favor la musica es muy bonita pero quieremos dormir."

I thought I’d wait for a few moments before I drug out of bed to ask. It wasn’t difficult to wait; I had spent this last week learning to live in the waiting, drinking it in and embracing it. For waiting was something we found ourselves doing quite often. Waiting for someone to arrive or for someone to lead us to our next destination or for dinner to begin. We even jokingly changed the words to Marcharemos, (a song that we often sang in church in Spanish and English, that our sister congregation also knew) to Esperamos – (we are waiting). The waiting, lingering, was a gift to me. To slow down, to live in the moment, not thinking about what my next move or task was. I didn’t have any. Surely the folks from our sister chuch had things they had left in wait, to spend time with us, but I never knew it. They were just as present as we were.

Our first night in Camaguey, I found myself trying to explain to a congregant in our sister chuch what a nursing home is – in Spanish. Don’t ask me how I got there. I desperately scanned the room for help from our Spanish speaking Circle, but they were deeply engaged in other conversations, so I waited. I leaned in to the awkwardness of the wait and after much stuttering I said, "Las Casa de abeulos" – home of grandparents. It was the best I could come up with. Yet she got it – I think.

I’m certain I was the most naïve traveler, over the age of 10, in this group. Collectively, my fellow travelers had been to Korea, Guatemala, India, Burma, Honduras, and Romania to name a few. I had been to London. Far from the third world country of Cuba that I thought I was traveling to.

But third world was not the Cuba I encountered. Certainly, before signing up for this trip, I knew little of Cuba besides what had been spoon fed to me by the “history” books and the US Media. There’s a line from a song by John Mayer, “Waiting for the World to Change” that says “When you trust your television, what you get is what you got. Cause when they own the information, they can bend it all they want. That’s why we’re waiting, waiting for the World to change.” True for me in more ways than one.

I had read some before arriving so I did have some better information to draw from. But to witness it with my own eyes and ears was powerful – people living with enough to eat, housing, education and health care – something our country can’t provide to all of our citizens. Not a land of milk and honey by any means; I found myself moved to tears by the many malnourished stray dogs. We were told not to touch them; they were so filthy and carried diseases. This was difficult for me. I just wanted to lean over and give them a little love.

Then there is the government. We had some intimate, intense conversations with a few folks we encountered there. They are waiting. Waiting for change in their government but most don’t see hope that it will. One day, I had on t-shirt that dons the date 1-20-09, the date we inaugurate a new president here in the US. After explaining what it meant, the proprietor of our inn in Camaguey said, “We don’t have a date like that. We don’t have a date for hope.” Another time, someone speaking about hope for change said, “our only hope is in Jesus”. These were stirring conversations – ones I will never forget.

So, there I lay, on my bunk bed in the Martin Luther King Center, waiting for the beautiful guitar music to cease. After all, trying to ask graciously, in my broken Spanish, made me a little nervous. So I breathed in the music and the wait and a few minutes later, it stopped. I found out the next morning, one of the Spanish speakers paid a visit and asked if they wouldn't mind closing their door. And they obliged.

Since returning home, I have found myself dreaming of the day that we will host some of our sister church members here in the US. What would we cook for them? What sights would we share? For now we will have to wait and hope for our government to change. Until then, I’m glad that our congregation has chosen this partnership, this journey, with these faithful people.

Got Flu?

My Wild Child is home with a sore throat today. After breakfast this morning, he took some advil and went back to sleep. This kid just doesn't slow down. He's in constant motion, so I'm fearful of the flu. It's running rampant through his school. He did have the flu mist but apparently there is one strain that isn't covered in that vaccine. We'll see. I think I need to change the WC's blog nickname, even though he doesn't know about it. It doesn't quite fit him anymore. He is definitely a ball of energy. Maybe firecracker? Or Cracker Jack? Hmm, I'll have to think on that one.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sick Day

I can't remember the last time I was sick. Ok, maybe I do. It was the Noro virus around Valentine's Day 2004. I got up to hug the toilet but passed out before I made it. My DH, heard me hit the floor, came to my side to flip me over, so I wouldn't aspirate while I threw up, unconscious. Today is nothing like that. Just a cold that my Chinese herbs haven't been able to knock out. I've been laying low, watching the replay of the Australian Open Men's semi-finals, Federer v Djokovic match.

I've spent the last week easing my re-entry into the U.S after a 10 day trip to Cuba, something my other travel companions most likely didn't have the luxury of doing. They had to get back to their jobs and the work left on their desks. I don't have any clients that needed me at their homes, though I am doing some work from home for a few.

While in Cuba, I was totally unplugged- no email, no phone calls home and no TV, though most people in Cuba had them. I had to trust that things at home were fine. In the weeks before my departure, I spent hours lining up after school care for my WC in my absence. I would like to say that I made casseroles and planned a menu so my DH and WC were well-fed, but I can't even do that when I am present, so I left them to their own devices, hoping that they could just survive until I returned. I never imagined that I would come home to hear that the two of them had a blast while the Brainiac and I were in Cuba. But, in fact, that is what happened. I barely got a hug from my WC upon my return; he recognized that the party was over. My DH said, "Caring for one child is easy!" They went to a college hoops game, to the park, to see the Chipmunk's movie- thank God i missed that!- and had friends over to watch Heels hoops and soccer.

The biggest shock, though, was to come home to a spotless kitchen and relatively clean bathrooms. He had even wiped the insidious mold off of the bathroom ceiling. In addition, he hung some pictures and did some de-cluttering, putting some things away. Of course, I'm thinking, I should go away more often! And I've noticed, since my return, my DH's attention to cleaning up after dinner and keeping the house picked-up. Somebody pinch me!

A few days ago, I spoke with one of my friends who was on the trip, a mom, who also left one of her children and spouse behind to "survive" without her. She experienced the same phenomenon. Her house was clean when she returned. And since arriving, she has noticed an increased contribution from her mate too. Go figure.

I have many thoughts and tales from my Cuba trip. They are racing around in my head - some are in an old fashioned journal that I kept on the trip. I'm waiting for the the thoughts and words to collide and explode so I miraculously become articulate and can convey my experience there. I realize that isn't likely to happen, though, much to my disappointment. I'll give it a shot, though, real soon. For now a nap and the end of the tennis match.

Hasta Luego, mis amigos.