Friday, May 29, 2009

Stop the Music!

Back for more Friday Fragments. You know, Friday is becoming my favorite bloggy day, I think because I can be totally random and it's okay. If you like fragments, check out the original - and still the best - Mrs. 4444 over at Half Past Kissin' Time.
* I’ve caught a few reruns of The Golden Girls lately, and I found them much funnier than I remembered. To my horror, I’ve just realized WHY they seem funnier. It’s because I’m closer to their ages now than I was when they were on originally. Suddenly all those jokes about hot flashes, mammograms and memory loss? Sadly, much more relevant.

* I spend a fair amount of time with some friends of mine who are a tad advanced in age (she’s 72, he’s 82). I've sort of adopted them (I know! ironic, isn't it?) and I help out with rides to the doctor and computer assistance and such. They’ll be the first to admit that their memories are slipping a bit. They joke about ‘playing my favorite game’ which is when they try to remember the name of some movie, or actor, or the words to some song, and they describe it until I blurt it out. It goes something like this: Joe: That actor, what was his name – he was in that movie that Marlon Brando was so famous for, and he was also in that movie about the jurors with Henry Fonda. Me: Lee J. Cobb! He was in On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando and 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda! I totally love that game. I hope, when I get to the point that I’m playing on the other side, that I have somebody to play with.

* I have a pile of questions to look at over the weekend from my contest (still open through midnight tonight). If ever there was a good example of the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ this is definitely it. There are some pretty impressive questions there. It’s going to be hard to pick a winner, and even harder to answer them. Who the heck thought that this contest was a good idea, anyway?

* If anybody knows the person who wrote the music that plays in the background of video games, could you give me their address? I want to go and kick their ass. I just spent an hour trying to work on my computer while the world’s most annoying music played continuously in the background. If I wasn’t such a nice mommy, I would have drop-kicked the game system right through the TV. I hate it when everybody is playing nicely – then I have no excuse to turn the damn thing off.

* Do you ever have that experience when somebody shuts off the radio/CD player/TV/Video Game and you realize that you have been clenching every muscle in your body because the noise has made you insane? Maybe it's just me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't Stop

My contest is still going on - until Friday, with winner(s) announced on Monday. I'm loving the questions - but don't stop now! You can enter as many times as you like, and I know you have more in you. Bloggers are a curious bunch - isn't that partly why we're here?

Pretend you're Barbara Walters. What would you ask if you finally got that interview with the celebrity you've always wanted to meet? Of course, this would assume that you could get your head around pretending that you're Barbara, and, even harder, that I'm the celebrity in this scenario. Come to think of it, never mind. That's not going to work.

Whatever it takes, don't give up now. I know the world's most interesting question is out there somewhere, and I'm counting on you to pose it. Contest rules are posted here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Despite being home alone for much of the holiday weekend, I managed to keep myself out of trouble. I got a lot done at home, and even had some fun by myself. On Saturday, I stamped. I make cards - birthday cards, get well cards, sympathy cards - all kinds of cards, using rubber stamps and assorted supplies. I love doing it, I think because it makes me feel all creative and artistic, even though I can barely draw stick figures.

I made 20 cards on Saturday, which is a new record for me. Here's what they look like:

Here's a close up of a couple of them:

So, since I have all these cards, and I'm dying to get rid of some of them, I thought I'd hold a contest and give some to the lucky winner. But - what kind of contest should I have? I like to have contests that benefit me, even if it's only to amuse myself. Also, I'm always looking for material to blog about, so maybe the contest requirements should address this issue. After much consideration, I've come up with this:

Mary Ellen's Blogtastic Contest For May

The Rules: Ask me something. Leave me a comment with a question in it. Go ahead, ask me something wild. You don't scare me (well, maybe a little). Maybe you're dying to know what my favorite book/movie/TV show is. Maybe you want to know about something to do with my adoption and search for my birthparents. Perhaps you'd like to know what kind of an animal I'd be or why I'm obsessed with serial killers, polygamists and the Sham Wow Guy.

The best question wins. Enter as many times as you like, through Friday. If there are tons of awesome questions, and I can't choose just one, I'll put the names in a hat and pick one that way. Or I'll give out a couple of packets of cards. Whatever. Hopefully, some or all of the questions will become part of a future post. I will probably answer them all eventually, unless somebody asks me something too personal, like what size underwear I wear or something, in which case I'll just ignore it. I mean, nobody needs to know that, right? There's something to be said for maintaining a little mystery.

Winner will receive a packet of lovely homemade cards. If you're not into cards or homemade stuff (Hallie!) please enter anyway, and if you win, you can designate another recipient for the prize. After all, this contest is about saving me from having to think up stuff to write about - um, no - what I meant was that it's all about having fun. Oh, and Andy? They're really colorful.

So there it is. I know my brilliant readers will come up with something. After all, I'm always saying that my commenters are infinitely wittier than I ever am. Now's your chance to prove it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

As we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms, I find myself thinking about my dad. It seems odd to even imagine that he once wore a uniform, because it was so far removed from my experience with him, and he never talked about it. He served in the military - two different branches - near the end of World War II, but only for a couple of years or less. From what I could piece together, he left high school and enlisted in the Civil Air Patrol when he was 17. Perhaps after he turned 18, he transferred to the Navy, and trained as a submarine radio operator. After he had passed away, I found a battered, blue leather folder among some of his papers, and it provided me with a fascinating look into his life during that time.

This is a picture of the contents of the leather binder. The papers are so yellowed and thin, I hardly dare to unfold them. One letter, upper left, verifies that my father enlisted in the Civil Air Patrol Cadets, an auxiliary of the Army Air Force, in early 1944. It says that he "served under the Squadron capably and with outstanding ability and initiative." I think this was my father's recommendation letter that got him transferred from the Air Patrol and into the Navy.

My dad's buddies. Unfortunately, I can't pick him out of this photo - unless he's the one crouched down on the left and a shadow obscures his features. Still, I get a sense of the camaraderie of the soldiers. How young they all seem. In this packet of papers, there's also a photo of my dad's best friend at the time, signed "Good Luck. Ed."

There were four blank postcards, all the same. The wording at the top of the picture reads "Signal Practice and Instruction," and at the bottom, "U.S. Naval Training Center, Sampson, N.Y." This is where my dad attended boot camp, and he must have gotten a stack of postcards to send to his loved ones.

This letter, from the U.S. Navy Recruiting Station, Madison Ave., New York, New York, contains his orders to active duty, dated 7 November 1944. It contains these instructions:
1. You are hereby ordered to report to the U.S. Navy Official at the Pennsylvania Station on Eighth Ave. New York, New York at 9:00 P.M. Thursday night, November 16, 1944 for active duty and transfer to a Naval Training Center. You will report to the U.S. Navy Official at the incoming train board between tracks #5 and #17.
2. When you report you are advised to bring only $6.00 in cash and toilet articles. Do not bring extra clothing other than what you will wear.
3. No provisions have been made for relatives and friends at the railroad station. Say goodbye to them at home and report to the station alone.

This is a valentine, colored with crayons, that my dad received during boot camp from his little sister Marlena. Her girlish cursive signature is on the back. She must have been less than ten years old at that time.

This is part of a letter, scrawled on the back of an envelope. The envelope was mailed to my father on February 10, 1945, and was sent by my mother, who was at that time his girlfriend - probably containing a valentine card. The letter on the back is in my dad's cursive handwriting, and is not complete. I remember my mother telling me that when my dad was 'courting' her, that he used to write drafts of letters, so that the finished product would be perfect. She told me that, over the years, she had accidently come across several of my dad's drafts and cherished them even more than the resulting letters and cards.
This one reads, "I hope you will forgive me for not writing to you as I had promised time and time again, but it will be different from now on. I think you know I took my boot training in Sampson from the card I sent you. Boy! That is just one big period of concentration. The only way I got a leave during the ten weeks was to graduate from high school on January 19. I had four days then and my boot leave came up the next week, so you can imagine how swell it was for me to be on the loose once more. My only regret about it all was that I didn't see you during that time..."

My dad's career came to a halt when it was discovered that he had a loss of hearing in one ear (something he had for the rest of his life) and he was honorably discharged. I guess you can't work as a radio operator with only one good working ear. World War II was over at that point, and my dad re-entered civilian life, married my mom, and the rest, as they say, is history. I am grateful to him, along with the countless others, who bravely served, protecting my right to live freely in this great country of ours.

Friday, May 22, 2009

If You Know What I Mean (and a CONTEST)

Welcome to my weekly Friday Fragments post, which is made up of a bunch of random thoughts, too short (or too silly) for their own post, all dumped here together. I do this along with a bunch of fun people, led by Mrs. 4444 at Half Past Kissin’ Time. Go check them out. AFTER you read mine, obviously.

* All that talk about concussion reminded me of one of my greatest fears: that I will lose my mind. Now, before you all speak at once, I know what you’re thinking. I HAVE lost my mind, clearly. And you’re right. But I mean in that ‘getting older, starting to slip’ kind of way. I don’t care how badly my body fails me as I get older, I just want to hang on to my mental faculties. To this end, I do a bunch of things. I do crossword puzzles. And jigsaw puzzles. And Sudoku. I read voraciously. I have a program, called Brain Evolution, loaded to my hand-held computer. It has many different games, all designed specifically to sharpen my brain function, with benchmarks for me to measure my progress, and I do them just about every day. Senility is going to have to fight for me.

* I’ve been having trouble loading some of my favorite blogs. When I click on them, whether it’s through my reader, or directly, I get an error message (Internet Explorer cannot load this page) and it disappears. If I usually comment on your blog, and you haven’t seen me in a few days, this might be why. I have no idea why this is happening, or how to fix it, but I will keep trying.

* I was lucky enough to meet another fabulous friend from Blog Land. Sue, from As Cape Cod Turns, happened to be in Maine, and Hallie and I met up with her, and her friend Becki for a quick visit. She was just as fun as I thought she’d be, and we had a great chat. It’s so cool how you meet someone through this crazy blog thing, and then, in person, they’re just like old friends.

* My girlfriend Jonel (who comments as Evansmom) left me a comment back when I was talking about how Alex doesn’t allow me to run out onto the field acting all mommy-ish when he gets hurt. Her story was just priceless, so, for those who missed it, here’s what she said: “Evan got hit by a baseball several years ago when he was about nine. I was not paying attention and didn't realize he was up to bat when I heard this very loud thunk and looked up to see my one and only son sprawled over home plate. It was so loud that everyone watching gasped and cringed in sympathy. I wanted to jump the fence and run to him but, instead, I slowly walked to the area where he was while chanting to myself "do not run, do not embarrass him, do not run". He was OK and continued in the game. I did call out to first base "OK?" and got a thumbs up. After the game, I was feeling quite proud of myself and my restraint. What did my son say? "MOM! Where were you? The coach kept saying - just hold on, your Mom will be here any minute." Sigh, you just can't win.”

* TIME FOR A CONTEST!!!!! Yay! Only not here on my blog. My friend Andy (Andrew Scott Turner, a writer and one of the wittiest people I know), whose blog is titled A Long Patience, has reached 100 posts. Congrats!!! Anyway, he’s having a contest, so go check it out here and congratulate him on reaching this milestone. Right after you leave me a comment, that is.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Out of My Head

Ah, Lacrosse. The thrills. The chills. The Heart Thumping. The concussion.

Last Friday, at Alex’s game, he was hit in the head – twice – by a person. Hard. Evidently it was bad enough to knock him down, and, the second time, enough to make him feel dizzy. Luckily for everybody, I wasn’t at that game. It was at the farthest school in their lacrosse district, and over an hour and a half away, so I didn’t go. He was also leaving from the game with a friend’s parents to spend the weekend, so a lot of this stuff I didn’t find out until much later.

Anyway, they took Alex out of the game, and administered a ‘field concussion test.’ I may have mentioned before that there is a medic at every lacrosse game (that should be the first clue that lacrosse = bloodsport). This field concussion test consisted of 40 questions, designed to see if his brain was scrambled. He told me a little bit of what they asked him, including the fact that he had to walk a straight line, close his eyes and stand on one foot, and count backward from 100 by threes. It sounded to me like the field SOBRIETY test the police administer when they stop you for suspected drunk driving. Not that I know from first hand experience, of course. I’ve seen it on COPS.

Evidently, he passed, because they let him play the rest of the game. Later that weekend, at his friend’s house, he walked into a tree branch and hit his head, and it made him feel dizzy again. Of course, nobody called me. I mean, why would I want to know? I’m only his mother. When Alex got home on Sunday, he did tell me about the head hits and the concussion test, but said he felt fine.

On Tuesday, I got a call from the school clinic saying that Alex was in with a headache he said he’d had for several days, and they were checking him for a concussion. I was all “but they already checked” and they were all “well, he could still have one because those lacrosse medics really don’t know what they’re doing.” Way to make me feel better.

This new test involved something called Head Minder, which all of the athletes are supposed to take BEFORE they start the season. It tests their cognitive function (or dysfunction), short term memory, reflexes and reaction time. It is done on a computer, and consists of stuff like this:

Soon, you will see a series of pictures. Some are from the series you saw a few minutes ago, while some are new. When you see a picture that you recognize from a few moments ago, press the space bar. If you see a picture that you have not seen before, then do nothing. Try to be fast without making mistakes. You are being timed on how fast you are.

Shortly, you will see a series of pictures. Press the space bar every time you see a picture except if it is of an animal. Press the spacebar as fast as you can. You are being timed. Remember, press the space bar every time you see a picture except if it is an animal.

Since my child did NOT take this test before hand (Alex says his coach was supposed to make him an appointment, but didn’t) they had him take it, then wait one day, and take it again. Evidently this would show that, if his brain was scrambled, at least it wasn’t getting any worse.

So here we are on Thursday, and he’s been cleared to return to battle – er, lacrosse. Apparently his brain isn’t deteriorating – a fact I find SO comforting. It's too late to find out how much it has already degenerated, which may or may not be a good thing. He has another away game tomorrow night.

I’ll be making the drive.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Comin' Around

Have you ever noticed a certain phenomenon that happens whenever you run out to the store for an emergency ingredient, or something your kid needs for school, and you haven't showered yet, or you're wearing your 'I'm doing laundry' outfit? You know the scenario, I'm sure. You look like something the cat dragged in, and you're jogging around the store, trying to grab whatever you need in a hurry so you can slink back to your car before anybody sees you? What always happens? Right. You run into someone you know.

Of course, who you run into can make a big difference in whether this is a small embarrassment or a giant disaster. If I run into one of my friends when I'm looking less than stellar, I can smile and shrug my shoulders and say something charming (I'm very charming when I look like crap. Ask anybody.) and it's no big deal. After all, they've seen me lots of times when I look gorgeous. Well, maybe not gorgeous. Okay, they've at least seen me lots of times when I've been showered and neatly dressed, so they know this little incident is just an aberration. I always give them that special smile that says, "I'm just about to head out for my spa treatment and they don't like you to shower first..."

Anyway, recently, I was on just such an mission: grab a can of diced tomatoes that I desperately needed, and I ran into someone. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of my understanding friends. It was someone I hadn't seen in several years - a guy I worked with a long, long time ago. And he was THRILLED to see me, or so he said, and wanted to catch up on YEARS of separation, right there in the canned vegetables and soup aisle. I did the best I could to be friendly, and chatted for quite a while before making my excuses and dashing out of there. As I was driving away, I remembered something about this guy that made me chuckle. All. Day. Long. And I thought I'd share it with you.

Many moons ago, I worked for a newspaper. I worked there a long time (12 years) and loved it. My career there began in the classified ad section. For this story it is important that you know a little bit about the layout of the place. There were four of us, in a rectangular formation, each with a desk and a guest chair that sat at one side. All of this was in a giant open room that included all the rest of the advertising department. At the opposite wall from our classified section was a hallway that contained the women's restrooms. Then there was a complicated series of hallways that led to the other areas of the newspaper, including composing, stripping, editorial, the business office and, just before the pressroom, the men's restrooms. We took classified ads by phone mostly, with a few walk-ins, and worked on large display ads in our spare time. There were three of us that had been there a long time, but the fourth spot seemed to be made up of perpetually new people. Us long-timers were a pretty fun-loving bunch, with a healthy sense of humor that not everybody enjoyed. We may have been guilty of playing the occasional light-hearted prank on our co-workers, and that's what this is about.

There were certain customers who were required to pre-pay their ads, rather than being billed. It probably had something to do with a once-overdue bill or whatever. So these customers would call in their ad, get the price from us, and then stop by with a payment so that the ad would run. One of these customers, who frequently ran ads, was a man who dressed as a woman. He was a very nice guy, and I don't know anything about what his story was, but he was very clearly a man with a 5 o'clock shadow and a giant adam's apple, but used a woman's name and wore lovely summer dresses and heels. Come to think of it, he would never have been caught in WalMart unshowered with nasty sweatpants on like I was.

Anyway, our newest classified ad guy was a model employee - really, he was just a model citizen, very proper and straight-laced, and a bit uptight, so of course we wanted to harass the heck out of him. One day, our man-dressed-as-a-woman (let's call her Nicole) called to place her ad with me. She told me she'd be in to pay in an hour, which gave us just enough time to plot. We decided that the rest of us would make sure we were unavailable to help Nicole when she came in, so that our new friend (let's call him Sam) would have to do it. Our expectations were low - we just thought his expression upon realizing Nicole was a guy would be fun to watch. (and yes, I know I'm probably going to hell for this, among other things. I was young. That's my whole excuse).

Nicole came in and we made ourselves scarce, so Sam offered to help her. We, of course, were watching to see his face, and we weren't disappointed. Sam was about halfway through writing out her receipt when he looked her right in the face and the light dawned. And it was pretty funny, but it got so much better. After she had her receipt, she asked Sam where the restroom was. Sam, thinking that he was giving directions to the men's room, said, "oh, it's really complicated, you'll never find it. I'll take you," and stood up. He took about two steps, realized she probably wanted the women's room, stopped, pointed, said "It's right there." I just about lost it and had to run for the main lobby before collapsing in screams of laughter.

Forever after that, if anybody ever said anything about going to the ladies' room, we always made sure to say something like, "do you need directions? It's really hard to find." Poor, dear Sam. He was a pretty good egg, really, because he didn't hold a grudge. Of course, so many years later, after I fled WalMart, he was probably making fun of me to his wife, "Did you see what she was wearing? And that hair? Dreadful!" I don't blame him one bit. Karma's a bitch.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rambling Rose

Time for more random stuff. Friday Fragments are presented in conjunction with the fabulous Mrs. 4444 over at Half Past Kissin' Time. Check her out - she's one of a kind!
* I had the opportunity to attend a high school production of The Music Man this week. Two of the sons of my friend were in it, and I was excited to see them perform. I knew they’d be good, but what I wasn’t expecting was how well done the entire performance was. The voices were excellent, the sets amazing, and the dance numbers were spectacular. I think they must be growing kids more talented these days.

* I clocked 15 miles on the old treadmill this week – a new record. The best part was that, while I was walking, I cleaned a lot of stuff off my DVR. I record a lot of TV – I like a lot of shows, and I’ve come to the point where I can’t bear to watch anything while it’s actually on. I hate waiting for commercials. If I record everything, I can zip through an hour show in a little over 40 minutes. Much more efficient, and it helps distract me from the boringness of the treadmill. The only problem is that I have to play everything on such high volume (because of the treadmill noise) that I drive everybody else in the house crazy.

* Am I the only one with a cat that constantly vomits? One of my cats is always throwing up. It totally infuriates me. Especially since she then goes immediately back to the food dish. Arghh. I’ve had to add a step to my morning routine: checking the house for cat puke. A lovely way to start my day, don’t you think?
* The play is coming along well. It's amazing how the characters are taking shape. The best part of the whole thing is the fact that, for a few hours during each rehearsal, all my problems are forgotten. It's impossible to concentrate on what's bothering you when people are performing. Add that to the fact that I get to spend time with some people I really like to spend time with, and it's a win-win. Everybody should get involved with theater. It's therapeutic. Kinda like blogging.

* I am going through a “I hate cooking” phase. My oven is not working, and it looks like I might have to replace the whole appliance. I’m going to have to save for a while to make that happen, so, in the meantime, I have to cook on the stovetop only. The burners all work fine. The problem is that I am sick to death of making everything I know how to cook on the stovetop. We have some stir fry creation just about every other day, with a spaghetti night and a crockpot night thrown in. If I never see another chicken/vegetables/rice stir fry for the rest of my life, I won’t care. Anybody have any suggestions?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hello, Old Friends

I think one of the best things about old friends is the fact that they're pretty much immune to anything ridiculous that you might do. If they've been around for a long time, it's likely that they've seen you at your best and your worst, at high points and low points, in sickness and in health, in beautiful and in ugly. After so many years, it would be difficult for you to really repel them with a bad outfit, clownish make-up, or scary hairstyle.

In light of that, I present to you a tribute to old friends. In pictures. Brace yourself - it ain't pretty.

This is a picture of me, my friends Jonel and Lisha, and my cousin's baby. It was taken during the "Great Road Trip of Senior Year" over spring break. Jonel and I were obviously embracing the whole 80's hair thing. If only you could see my outfit in its entirety. Oh, wait - you can!

In the name of all that is holy, why didn't someone tell me I looked like this? Obviously I didn't own a mirror at the time. High-waisted was never a good look for me. And my homemade, red and white checkered, gapping in all the wrong places, snaps-instead-of-buttons shirt? How was it that I had any friends at all? Really.

The one wedding that Jonel and I were in together. Lovely, weren't we? Sometime I'll have to post the whole story about these dresses. I'd tell it now, but it involves some things I'm not sure I am willing to talk about on my blog. Like boobs. And liquor. Lots and lots of liquor. Jonel, I love you even more because we have shared such priceless experiences.

These were some of my dorm-mates. We were having a party - the theme was something to do with a saloon - and some of the more artistically talented gals had drawn an old-time western bar on paper we tacked up to the wall. It was my bright idea to have some of them lean on the pretend bar. Doesn't it look authentic? My beloved roommate is the one on the left, but boy, do I wish I could remember the name of the one on the right. She might have been an extra in Olivia Newton John's 'Let's Get Physical' video.

Judy and I, sitting on my bed in our dorm room - which we shared for FOUR YEARS. I don't know anyone else who lived with their original roommate the whole 4 years of school. The fact that we are still friends today is a miracle, as far as I'm concerned, especially since we only met the day we moved into the dorm. There's so much to talk about in this picture I hardly know where to start. See the fab afghan my mother made? And my knitting was behind me, right next to a - ugh, I don't know if I can even say it - stuffed unicorn. And, heaven help me, there are more stuffed animals (the panda was hers, the polar bear mine). And why does she look so pretty, while I look like I'd been on a four day bender? Obviously I hadn't learned about the importance of mousse and mascara.

These two girls (and yes, I still think of us as girls) are so precious to me. Some of my happiest moments were spent with one or both of them, and I really believe we will never run out of things to say to each other. I laugh more with them than I do with anyone else in my life, and, especially now, that's exactly what I need.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Born to Run

I don't have much to say today, so I thought I'd share some photos from Alex's new favorite way to cause me to have a heart attack. This is the exciting sport of lacrosse - a word which means: man-invented excuse to whack other people with sticks.

This is the face-off - or whatever you call it - at the beginning of the game. Weirdest position in which to begin a game I've ever seen. Alex is on the left, in green shorts and white jersey.

Alex is number 15 - see his cute ponytail? One of the other lacrosse mothers (who doesn't know me) said "That number 15 needs a hair cut!" I just laughed. She's welcome to her opinion.

See? Whacking each other with sticks. That's what the whole game is all about.

One of the things I don't like about this game is that you can't see his handsome face. Although, I do appreciate the helmet protection. He gets hit in the head about 10 times per game.

Why is there only one of him and about a million of them? I don't care if a bunch of them ARE standing on the sidelines. Still - where are the rest of the Vikings?

His position is called Midi - which covers the whole field. They always put him in this spot, usually center midi, because he runs. He's the fastest sprinter on the team. Now, if he can learn to hang onto the ball when he's running...

Such a physical game. It really does give me heart palpitations. Every time he leaves the field, I realize I've been holding my breath and clenching all my stomach muscles.

My favorite play of the game - Alex steals the ball and runs it all the way into the offensive zone. That's my boy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To My Two Mothers

This Mother’s Day feels a little different to me than those that have come before. For the first 40 years of my life, I had a mom to honor on this day. My gifts to her in my early years ranged from macaroni art and painted clay jewelry boxes to coupons for ‘free from whining’ chores. I’m proud to say that I matured and that my gifts improved over the years. The last few years of her life (those spent in the nursing home), her favorite gift was a visit from her grandsons on this day. Since she’s been gone, I make the 1 ½ hour drive to her grave sometime between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, just to make sure it looks tidy and has some nice flowers. I’m not one of those people who can feel the presence of their loved one at the grave, but I know my mom would want it to look presentable, and that’s why I do it.

Anyway, this year, for the first time, I have another mother to consider. I mean, I have always known that I had a birth mother out there somewhere, and I’ve thought about her, especially on days like Mother’s Day and my birthday, but she was just an idea in my head. Now, she’s real. I know her name and her address. I’ve seen her picture. I had hoped to meet her by now, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, at least not now. So, since I have no one to honor in person this year, I offer this letter to my two mothers.

To My Mom: I want to thank you for the faith that brought you to St. Andre’s so many years ago, trusting that God had chosen you to be my mother. Thanks for teaching me that family is about love and not about blood. Thank you for celebrating not only my birthday, but the day you adopted me – and for telling me it was because on that day, you felt joy because your family was complete. Thanks for all the other things you taught me, about the value of being a lifelong learner, about music, and doing the right thing. Thank you for raising me in a home filled with love and laughter. I love you and miss you more than I can say.

To My Birthmother: Thank you for choosing life. Thank you for nurturing me within your body, especially during what must have been a very complicated time for you. Thank you for finding your way to St. Andre’s, and for making what must have been an incredibly difficult choice to give me a chance at a better life. Whatever your reasons for surrendering me, it was the first step that helped me find my way to my forever family. Whether or not you ever decide to meet me, I will always be grateful to you for my life.

Happy Mother’s Day to both of you.

With all my love,

Mary Ellen/ Marjorie

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just My Imagination

We’re back to our regular presentation of Friday Fragments – a random collection of things that occur to me during the week, too insignificant for their own post, but gathered here nonetheless. I join the great folks at Half Past Kissin’ Time in this endeavor.

* Thanks to those who expressed concern for Alex, who got hurt in his lacrosse game on Tuesday. It turns out it was merely a large contusion (which is big doctor talk for bruise, I think) on his hip. Unfortunately, it was located in the place where all your leg muscles originate, so moving was very painful for a couple of days. He’s feeling a bit better, and plans to participate in the game on Friday. Me? I’m planning to take tranquilizers.

* After my ill-fated experience with elastic and underwire on Tuesday, I was motivated to actually throw away the offending underwear. Of course, the minute I tossed it, I started worrying about what I was going to do the next time I’m behind on laundry.

* Why is it that the lawn goes from brown and dead to lush, foot-tall greenery in the blink of an eye? I think the major problem is that it’s been raining every day, which makes the lawn grow, but we can’t mow in the rain. By the time it stops raining, I may need to employ a hay combine.

* You know how they play sad music during the touching parts of a movie? I always wonder if it would still be sad if they played happy music? Picture it – the character is lying on his deathbed, and in the background you hear “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” or “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it….” Personally, I think it would change the whole mood.

* Some of you know that I’m fascinated with true crime. I read books about it, watch documentaries about it – it’s kinda sick, I know, but I can’t help it. What you may not know is that I am equally fascinated by polygamy. I’ve read several books on the subject – mostly written by women who escaped the horrible existence in which they were living. The whole idea of this entire culture, complete with the brainwashing that accompanies it, is just mesmerizing to me. I can’t help but admire these women who overcome almost insurmountable odds to free themselves and their children. Their stories really are a testament to their strength and faith. The one I’m reading now is called ‘Daughter of the Saints.’

* I sent my birthmother a Mother’s Day card. I debated it (mentally) for a couple of weeks, but finally, I just did it. I picked out a simple, basic card – hope your day is pleasant, that kind of thing – and sent it, with no note, just my signature. Again, as I do so often lately, I regretted it almost immediately. I don’t want to pressure her unfairly, and I have sent her two letters already. Obviously, since she hasn’t responded, she’s just not ready, and may never be. I am determined not to become a stalker. It’s just that I haven’t had anyone to send a mother’s day card to for almost 10 years. And I wanted to acknowledge her on this first Mother's Day since I found out who she is. Regardless of how she feels about me, I’m grateful to her. See how I can rationalize anything? One of my many talents.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Help Me

For quite a while, I've been trying to figure out how to put a list of old blog posts on my sidebar. I wanted to link back to some of my earliest posts, so that if someone happened to stop in, and wondered what the heck I'm about, they could go back and read.

Today, I finally managed to get a list up. It's on the left, at the top, in three categories (Let me introduce myself; My search; My parents). I was very proud of myself, and celebrated with a dash of Bailey's in my coffee. (I know it's early. Don't judge me. I'm having a rough week.)

The problem is that I think the color of the things in the list is too light. On my computer, you can hardly see them. I can figure out how to change the color of almost everything else, but not the stuff on the list. Is that what it looks like to you??

Lucky for me, there are people who know so much more about Blogger than I do. Heck, most everybody knows more about it than I do. Please - somebody - how can I fix this?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wild One

I hate it when stuff gets in the way of blogging. I've come to really treasure my blog time - both writing and reading. When I can't get to it for a few days, I find myself wondering how my favorite folks are doing. Unfortunately, sometimes life does not cooperate with my blogging needs. I've had a busy, hectic, kinda lousy couple of days, and it has kept me away from my online addiction.

I thought I might try listing some of the things that are currently bugging the crap out of me. Maybe if I vent a little, my blood pressure will return to normal....

1. Lacrosse sucks. It is an exceedingly violent game, with rules that are completely mysterious. Basically, it seems to be about one kid running frantically with the ball, while all the other kids whack at him furiously with sticks. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the whacking results in penalties, but most of the time it's permitted. And, sometimes, one kid will have the ball, and nobody else is even near him, and the referees will blow the whistle and give the ball to the other team. Uh, dude, what? And did I mention that it is a violent game? With exceptionally inadequate padding?

2. On that same subject, it is a mother's nightmare when, during the nasty lacrosse game, her child gets hurt and she is not allowed to inquire about his well-being. At our home games, the parents sit on one side of the giant lacrosse field, and the teams and coaches are on the other side. When a player gets hurt, they help or carry him off the field over to the coaches area, where they tend to him. The parent gets to freak out all by themselves, with no way to communicate with their child, the medic, or anybody else that knows what's going on. Of course, I suppose I could screech, "My BABY!" and run across the field, but then my child would hate me forever. I think I've already given him enough to talk to his future psychiatrist about.

3. I hate that Alex has no padding on his bones. He got hurt, in case you didn't catch that, at the game yesterday. He got hit so hard he did a flip and then skidded about 10 feet in the wet grass. His injury is on his hip bone, which of course sticks out and has no natural padding. I should play lacrosse - my hip bones are so well protected, I'd never have felt it at all. We have to wait and see how it goes, but he's planning to play this vicious game again tomorrow, assuming he can walk. I'm thrilled.

4. I hate it when I make a bad underwear choice. Does that ever happen to you? You're in a hurry, not even all the way dry from your shower, and you grab the first undies you find? Those with the too-tight elastic, or the uncomfortable underwire? It always seems okay at first, but as the day wears on, it's practically the only thing you can think about? That was me - squeezed and poked and chafed all day. Not the best thing for my overall mood, let me tell you.

5. I hate talking - or trying to talk to - anyone that works for the state. You're trying to get a little basic information, and it should be a simple thing. But then the state gets involved with their "press one for this" and "press star, pound, star and then spell the name..." What ever happened to human beings answering the phone? Is that old fashioned? Maybe it's me that's out of touch.

6. Speaking of old-fashioned, I remember taking the SAT's many, many years ago. It seems to me it was a three-hour thing, which we signed up for at a place and time convenient to us. Well, evidently that's not the way it's done now. Alex had to go to school on Saturday. SATURDAY. At SEVEN FREAKING O'CLOCK in the morning. It was mandatory for all Juniors to attend, and it lasted until 2 in the afternoon. It turned out to be a half-hour longer than a normal school day. Alex was NOT in a good mood, and frankly, I don't blame him. The whole thing required us to rearrange our whole lives, including his brother's birthday party. Arghhh.

You know, I think all of this stuff wouldn't bother me so much if I wasn't so stressed out about other things - my life is a bit unsettled at the moment, and I'm spending a fair amount of time worrying, which affects my health, both mentally and physically. I'm also not sleeping as I should. Maybe I should drink more. Is it too late to make a new year's resolution?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day Like Today

Thank you to everyone who entered my 100th post contest. I really enjoyed reading your ideas on the great inventions, and I continue to be astounded at the wittiness of the people who read my blog. I'm happy to announce that the winner, chosen by a random number generator, is Jojo from My Random Insanities. Jojo, if you will email me your address (blissfulbaritone at yahoo dot com) I will send your fabulous prize! I had so much fun with this contest, maybe I'll do one every month. I bet I can think up some totally wild subjects for you all to comment on...

We interrupt the regularly scheduled Friday Fragments post to allow for a special presentation. Today is my oldest son's birthday, and I couldn't resist the chance to talk about him a bit. Twenty-two years ago today I was in labor - induced labor - with Brandon, and I remember it vividly. It was a mixture of emotions, ranging from excitement to frustration to terror. When the decision was made to perform an emergency C-section, I remember saying a prayer, just as they put me under, for God to please just let my baby be all right, and I can remember meeting him, several hours later, and thinking he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Brandon, you have been a treasure and a blessing to me every day for the last 22 years, and I want to take this opportunity to tell you some of the things I love about you.

Thanks for being such an easy baby. I had no idea what I was doing, and you made a great 'starter kid.' Sorry about that time I dropped you - in my defense, I had no idea that the nylon baby bag thing you were wearing would be so slippery in my nylon parka-clad arms.

You've always been a chick magnet. You probably don't remember this, but right after this picture was taken, you tried to kiss this little girl and she slugged you. Timing is everything. Luckily, you seem to have gotten it right with Sandy, and I am glad to see that you treat each other with respect and caring.

You never seemed to mind that your earliest playmates were puppies.

All the dogs always loved you, and you loved them right back. You were (and are) the best puppy socializer I've ever known.

Whenever we have had a litter of puppies, you always wanted to be the first one to hold them, and I never had to tell you to be careful or gentle. You just knew.

This photo, of you and Cinder, was taken during a 'negotiation' in which you tried to convince your father and I that you should be allowed to stay home from school because one of our dogs was going to give birth, and you didn't want to miss it. As it turned out, she waited one more day (until Saturday) and you didn't have to miss anything.

I love that you are the kind of person who loves the outdoors. This is one of my favorite pictures of you, happy with just a couple of sticks to play with. The expression on your face is one I still see on your face every year when you go back to work at the camp.

I only took this picture so that I would have something embarrassing to pull out and show your girlfriends some day. Yes, that is a fuzzy ducky jacket you are wearing.

You are the best big brother any kid could ever want. Thank you for being a great playmate, protector and friend to my other favorite son. I hope you and Alex remain close always.

Thanks for never going through that miserable, sullen teenage thing, and for never acting embarassed to be seen with me. I admire your appreciation of the absurdities of life and your ability to find humor in the simplest things. You're kind of twisted. I love that.

I love that you dress up as a pirate to entertain the kids at camp. You rock. Even though it took me about a million hours to make you this pirate coat, it was worth it.

One of the best times I've ever had was the trip you and I took to Washington, D.C. We had such an awesome time - even the long drive was fun, listening to Ipod music and singing along. The highlights for me were seeing you visit the monuments and museums for the first time, swimming in the rooftop pool at night, The Spy Museum (remember those cool sunglasses?) and of course The National Zoo, where this photo was taken. 9 glorious days I'll never forget.

Brandon, I'm incredibly proud of you - of the man you've grown up to be. Being your mom has made me a better, happier person. Thanks for changing my life in such a profound way. I love you.