Friday, December 19, 2008

Don't rock the boat, Baby

So, we had a bit of a rant tonight.

We went to see a 'hockey' game due to the benevolence of mah friend who has season tickets. (I have to put it in quotes as I am from Hockeytown & am married to a Canadian.) It was fun, even though MiniMe loaded up on the sugar today & did not nap. Biggie sold 3 cars today. Yeah. 3 cars in one day in this economy. & no, he don't wear no cape & magic boots. We waited for him to finish showing his last customers the ropes on their new Van; MiniMe used her little potty in the back of my truck. 

When he got in the car, he said something that shocked me. He said, "I'm sorry we're always late." He meant that he is sorry that he is always at work until at least 8pm & that every time we make plans to do things with other people we are inevitably late because he cannot leave yet. I told him not to worry; it is how things are. I was overcome by how he felt compelled to say this, but even more so by the thought that he doesn't realise how I am always late to everything, regardless of if he is with us or not. I have no control of when I am able to be somewhere. I am beholden to the needs & constraints of others to the extent that I can never be confident in my ability to do anything at a particular time. 

On the way home, something happened. I don't know why, but Biggie has this thing about food. It's been a source of constant struggle in our marriage. He would tell you I am some sort of food Nazi that restricts anything that actually tastes good. I will tell you that we made an agreement when we became parents that we wouldn't bring any food (eschewing liquor) into the house we wouldn't want our kids to eat. Biggie is much more strict than I am about what MiniMe eats. I'm much less "Do as I say, not as I do" than he. Regardless.... 

He has a fast-food habit that he tries to hide from me. It's not so much a health thing as it is a money thing. The friends that have the season tickets saw him at McDonald's that morning, when he happened to be running late. When he commented on the way home on how he couldn't believe he got to work in less than an hour, I said, "Wow. If you ate breakfast at home maybe you could sleep in even longer." Not in Miss Snarky voice. Seriously. He immediately turned into Mr. Driving Aggressively, Mr. Interrupter, Mr. I Suggest You Don't Dare Say Another Word. I HATE it when he does this. I know it's not really about me. I HATE that MiniMe has to see her father talk to me this way because she Does Not Like It & shows it very demonstratively for hours if not days afterwards. 

The biggest problem I have with Biggie is that he can be so incredibly Mean. When he feels that someone has wronged him, including me, anyone really, he thinks it is completely justifiable to treat the offender however he feels like. He has said things that can't be taken back. No, he would never hit me. But often, his words hurt more than any blows ever could. He can be Cruel.

I said something offhand the other day that apparently really bothered him  we need to find a way to discuss it, because he is being mean. I said that I feel like I never get what I want. He took it personally, as he IS the bread (ok, I make the bread. But, with flour his salary pays for.) winner, 1st generation Italian Man. He isn't getting what so many of you moms out there I'm so sure do. I meant that I can't even get through a workout without tending to the needs of our kid at least twice. I did also mean that I am so fricken homesick, break into tears at least twice a day because everywhere we go is playing White Christmas, & (dude!) I want to go skiing, tobogganing, make a fricken snow angel. 

Just had to get that out there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Joy & Pain

Yep. I'm singing Rob Bass. (Pump it up! Pump it up, now!) Hey, I never had Garden Weasel bangs.

So, the pain part. We have been given a court date on our house for foreclosure. You typically have 60 days after the court date to get your stuff out before it is no longer available to you. I have to find a place for us to live. During the holidays. With a 3-year old in tow. A 3-year old who REALLY wants to live in a 2-story house where her bedroom is closer to ours & has a pool. Sigh. 

Also, the dealership is raising our health insurance premium. Again.

Moving on... (both literally & figuratively)

The joy part. Christmas jumper #1 is complete. It has been worn to a birthday party for our friend Lolly (Lorelai) on Sunday & again today. It is super-cute. My favorite part is the trim on the hemline. 

She's got it bad for Tommy the Elf, who is in this print. You can't tell very clearly from the pics, but I also sewed little lightbulb charms along the pockets. 

She really does appreciate that she has a mom that does this stuff for her. 

I also am very excited for Christmas morning. We are giving MiniMe the dollhouse I was given by my parents when I was 3. Seen as how MiniMe was born 2 days before my birthday, she is basically exactly the age I was when I got it. My parents, who had been divorced for a while at the time, actually worked together to buy it for me. It was relinquished to me by my mom when she was pissed at me for something & not speaking to me. Apparently she didn't see that episode of Gilmore Girls. To her credit, she did cart the thing down here, even if her second husband actually threw away the toddler bed my dad made for me. Bygones. I asked Biggie to make a platform for it with casters so that the house can be turned around. It always annoyed me as a kid that I couldn't really access the front of the house because it was up against the wall. He rocks & made a backyard for it, too. He's asking about grass for the yard. He's giving me seriously unpleasant flashbacks of making models in architecture school. 

I also have to finagle what Santa is bringing. MiniMe told Santa she wants a space station. Seriously. Last year, when she was 2-years old, she asked for a 'pinano' & a 'gee-tar'. She's killing me. We've had talk(s) about how Santa would have a really hard time fitting a space station on the sleigh. I just don't want to stretch the whole Santa discussions too long because we haven't exactly decided how we are going to handle the day when she looks at us & point blank asks if there is a Santa.

Last Christmas she picked this super-cute pseudo vintage book, Miss Flora McFlimsey's Christmas Eve, from the library. I seriously knew it by heart in 3 days, & it ain't a short book. I didn't mind; it's a great story. Flora is an old-school doll living in the attic that comes down to peek at the Christmas tree & gets suckered into being a present since that slacker Santa lost a doll on his way. The other dolls make fun of her. I don't want to ruin it, but it all works out in the end & I love the look MiniMe gets on her face when we read the last page. 

Well, it turns out that Flora McFlimsey was an actual doll back in the '30's that the author used as a model for the series of books she wrote about Flora. Madame Alexander made a Flora McFlimsey doll last year & let's just say that I'm crossing my fingers that she is a welcome substitute for the space station. Yes, I love that my 3 year old girl wants a space station, but I highly suspect that it has more to do with the fact that Caillou asks for one for Christmas & less to do with ours trips to the MOSI museum. Cross your fingers, y'all.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hot Glue & Ric Rac

Kristine, turn away from the post. It shows the package coming on Wednesday. I know, I suck. You are at work & desperately in need of some distraction to get you through some mind-numbingly dull review or regulation. I haven't posted all week. Well, read on, but be prepared to have your surprise ruined. 

All others, feel free to move forward without concern.

'Tis the season when my artsy-fartsy genes truly kick in. I come by it honestly. I have vivid memories of the blinking lights, wrapped with metallic garland, framing the mirror of my grandma's guest bathroom. I remember trying to make sure I washed all the food off my face between the static cling Santa figures. SO miss that lady. 

This is the wreath on our front door that I made when MiniMe was in-utero. The stereotypical holly & berry wreaths just seem so wrong here in the tropics. Considering our neighbors make fun of our house, calling it the 'Key West House' due to it's color, I think it fits. We haven't painted our house since we bought it, so apparently someone else thought it was a nice color. Whatever, windbags.  The wreath. We love it. Styrofoam balls wrapped in polyester thread, plastic bead garland with bells, hot glue. All that's missing is some foam curlers & a Virginia Slim.

These are more hot glue creations. The first was also made while MiniMe was in utero, but we stored it in the attic that first year where the heat was so hot the glue melted & I had to reconstruct it the following year. Some of the original ornaments were too far gone, so I came up with the idea of adding the admittedly random ribbon at the bottom. We like it. Our living space is largely blues & greens, so the typical Christmas themes clash too much for our tastes. 

The second I made for MiniMe's room last year, because she really liked the first one I made, & honestly, I just love gumdrops & wanted an excuse to use that garland. 

I have to take a second to whine about my kid. I told her I wasn't going to be putting the tree in her room until it was clean & it took over 3 days for her to get her shit together enough to help me get it done. She is going through a helpless phase where I have to show her 17 times how to do something over & over without ripping things from her hands & doing it myself. Lots. Of. Liquor. Thank GOD my innards have recovered from food poisoning & I can drink again. I am in no way that naturally patient & she knows it. 

I may be making another one this year from cheap bulbs I got last year, but we'll see. 

I kind-of have my hands full with sewing. This is the first of the Christmas jumpers. I realise now that I never explained the origin of the Christmas jumper. See, here it is still like 80-something-degrees in December & therefore way too hot for any kind of traditional Christmas garb. I thought about starting my own company of Christmas t-shirts, tank tops & the like when my friend Kristi moved back to The States from Sweden. She moved back to TN, where it is only slightly warmer than MI, where we grew up. She was all "!!!!!" about trying to have Christmas where it's over 40 degrees. We joked about the Christmas 'wife beater'. Well, after much searching, I decided to make my own fricken Christmas dress for MiniMe that would be just as she wanted & not, you know, velvet. 

This one is, again, Hello Kitty, for Morgan, Kristine's daughter. I had to make hers' first because it has to be mailed to AL. I wasn't happy with the way the neckline is laying because I didn't use interfacing, I sewed the ric rac between the lining & flannel. Usually I just sew the trim on after the thing is done, but Morgan is only 1 & ric rac can be itchy. Plus, you would think after making so many of the damn thing I'd have it down by now. Apparently I'm not as good as I think I am. 

I'm going to be finishing off MiniMe's Christmas jumpers (yes, two. She IS a Gemini) sometime soon, if she doesn't drive me to drink to the point I end up sewing my finger. I sound like a fricken pirate.

& no, I am not one of those sickos that tries to match the actual tree to the decor. I do have a number of blue ornaments, but we also have mostly traditional, more emphasis on the where-it-came-from type. I'm not THAT sick, people!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Our perspective...

Y'all know I'm from Detroit. You can probably guess that the majority of my family does or has worked for the industry. I like to talk about it, & I have been. But you wouldn't know that because it's been actually speaking, not typing, because I've had a nasty bout of food poisoning. Better now. But as I was saying...

My mom's mom divorced her husband after they had raised six kids because he stood up on Christmas Eve, in front of whole family, & bragged about the women he had all over the country. It was not a common, or heck, even accepted thing back then. I remember Gram taking me to Mass & how most people in the parish did not speak to her, but through other people to her. It was a sort of communicated excommunication. It wasn't just because she divorced her husband, but then she dared to remarry, without an annulment, therefore outside of the church, a Baptist. (!) She met this new husband at the job she got, in Plant 9 of the Pontiac Assembly Plant. He was a General Foreman, who worked his way up, when he moved to Michigan from Arkansas at age 15, lying about his age to get a job on the assembly line. I remember as a kid watching him leave for work in his Johnny Carson sport coats & wide ties. I remember him talking about the people he oversaw with a furrowed brow. He worried about their kids, knew their names. He got angry from time to time about someone not pulling their weight. When he retired our family threw a party for him at a little community hall that burst at the seams. He asked me perform a dance as part of the entertainment. (I took dance lessons from age 3 onward & knew I was the apple of my Gram's eye.) The first time I heard the expression "bee's knee's" was after I finished my dance at that party & it was used to describe me personally. I made a mental note to use it on one of my own kids one day.

My dad's father came to Detroit from Massachusetts, where he did his apprenticeship as a tool & die maker with Bethlehem Steel after coming back from the Pacific Front. He had an amazing ability to just know how to put things together. When I was an architecture student he was the only one who could explain how to calculate tension or compression to me, becuse he knew how my brain worked, too. He worked in various shops all over Detroit over the years, with shops slowly closing down into the 1980's as those jobs were replaced by computers. Now, it does suck, but I told him he should just think of it as validation that his brain was a machine. 

When my parents were first married, my Dad worked at Detroit Diesel in southwest Detroit. He developed an allergy to diesel fuel & had to find work elsewhere. Years later, when he moved back downstate from Petoskey, he became a journeyman & worked in the foundry in New Haven. I don't believe there is a more fundamental relationship between the auto industry & the foundry where they make metal molten & form it into engine blocks. When the foundry closed down a few years back, my Dad became a truck driver. He ran routes for dedicated Chrysler, Ford and GM & was considered an asset not only because he was a model employee, but because he understood the big picture of how what he was hauling fit into the economy.

When my mother was getting burned out from the work she did in the juvenile justice system, she too began to work on the assembly line, first part-time, at night. Then when she saw a posting for a salaried position she thought she was qualified for, she moved up. She became an auditor for the CPC (Chevy, Pontiac, Cadillac) division, travelling all over the country. I remember how our lives changed when this happened. I remember my mom going from wearing jeans to work to suits. 

Biggie is a Car Salesman. Before that, he was a Mechanical Engineer. He isn't interested in the status quo that has been available to him working in Detroit. He'd rather be with people, weighing the pros & cons of different vehicles. When we got married he worked at a Chevy dealership. When one day every single car that he took on a test drive malfunctioned in some way, he decided he needed to move on. Now, to their credit, a lot of the malfunctions were due to a lack of maintenance by the dealership. For example, cars that sat for so long their batteries would go dead & no one would have checked them. But there were other instances of door handles coming off in customers hands that made him finally leave after over 3 years. 

We both drive imports. We both take criticism from my uncles about not supporting the economy, but truthfully, both of our 'foreign' cars were manufactured in large part in North America, if not the US. Certainly more than their domestic counterparts. 

I used to look at the Renaissance Center, the large black building usually featured as a defining building, in the Detroit skyline & glower. The building was built by Henry Ford as symbol of the rebirth of the Motor City. Now it's the headquarters for General Motors, who used to have one of my favorite buildings of all, built by a firm I used to work for, as their headquarters. I hate the Renaissance Center. When I look at it all I can think of is how many people I love, or how many people that I love love, have given of their lives for this industry. My own father, who is now gone, who poured the very hearts of so many engines. My own city, who made so many sacrifices for & allowed itself to be taken advantage of, for this industry. When you stand in front of the damn thing you can't even see the Detroit River. I don't think I've ever been in the building & not gotten lost. Then there's the fact the same exact building is in both Atlanta & Los Angeles. Like we don't even deserve our own symbol of rebirth. 

Excuse me if I don't get a little defensive when you talk about the 'lazy union man'. It's a lot bigger than you know, people.  That Gram, who MiniMe is named after, left high school at age 15 to work at Willow Run constructing B-24 airplanes because she realised that if the Allies didn't win World War II America would never be the same. My grandfather came home from liberating Auschwitz to find her in the barracks, nearly fatally ill with rheumatic fever. It's a sweet vision I have of my Grandpa, who looked like the actor Van Johnson, swooping in (in my mind, he's in his Army uniform) whisking Gram off to the hospital. The auto industry is what made it possible for the United States & the Allied Powers to defeat Hitler, people. The moniker 'Arsenal of Democracy' was coined for a reason, & a city.

My point is this: I'm just one lady. There are millions of us out there. Want perspective? The recent dip in the economy has been a 0.3% reduction in our GDP. The auto industry is 4% of our GDP.

Go over to read . He's saying it all much better than I can. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The sacrifices & compromises

In my last full-time position, I was given the opportunity to actually do the work I always wanted. I had not one, but two large-scale true urban renewal projects. Fort Myers isn't exactly a metropolis; but I was the project manager for two of the most dense, urban scale mixed-use projects in the City's history. It didn't really hit me until the day before I realized I was pregnant with MiniMe. My company had sent me to the State Planning Conference & I was very actively pursued by several other employers. I felt like the new, pretty girl at school. Except this had nothing to do with my appearance & everything to do with my brain. It was a profound moment in my life. Trying to talk about it makes me stutter. 

I was completely unprepared for becoming a mother in so many ways. Yes, my own mother worked through most of my childhood, but of course that first year, when she stayed at home with me, I don't remember that. I didn't realize that finding a caregiver was so hard. I didn't know that I would feel so torn; that I would come to resent my career for taking me away from MiniMe. When my boss tried to dangle a carrot in front of me that she might want me to take her place when she retired, I was already feeling the weight of what I wanted. I was honest. I told her that I wanted to have a child, & I knew that she worked longer hours than I would be willing to with a new baby. She assured me I could do it. It was a vague statement, & I remember feeling like I was expected to just smile & nod & move along. When I complained later of the trouble I had getting MiniMe to sleep the woman actually suggested I drug her. It's what she did with her children, after all.

I remember being three years old & refusing to speak English to my mother. She was away from me most of the time. I resented the changing of rules between when she was around & when she wasn't. "No es Mama!" I would shout. I believe it's something that made me a better mother to MiniMe, who so greatly needs to know what to expect. 

I never expected to be on this side of the Stay-At-Home/Working Mother battle. I always felt that I didn't deserve to have a choice. I spent so much time & money on my education. I am talented in my field. I felt the choice was made, if not for me, because of me. But when I think back to that the panic I felt when our nanny pulled the rug out from underneath me & I suddenly had no childcare, I shudder. The relief I felt when I found the wonderful, but outrageously expensive Montessori school that she attended for the majority of her first 3 years, was monumental to me. 

When I remember that first day back to work I get angry, but mostly at myself. I was lucky in that Biggie was the one who took her in, that I got to pry her from my breast in the privacy of our own home, was given the time & space to try to get ready for work in solitude & silence (except for my blubbering).  When I rushed in on my lunch hour to nurse her, she had already been fed & was asleep. I was full of milk. I had left my pump in my office. I just sat in a chair & held her & wept. Ms. Kim, who would become one of the people I am most grateful for, brought me Kleenex. I hadn't wanted them to let her go hungry. I was glad she was taking the bottle. I just didn't know it was going to be so hard. We had an appointment with the pediatrician that afternoon & he had told me that if she wasn't yet eight pounds he was not going to sign for her to be in daycare. I nursed her in the waiting room until they called her name. She was eight pounds, one ounce. As we drove home, I had expected to feel relieved. I could go back to my work & feel I was doing a good job as a mom, too. That's not how I felt. 

It is so hard for me to put into words how I feel about this scenario. Saying I am mad at the way that families are treated in this country is an understatement. No, I don't think parents should be given special treatment in society. I certainly think children should be. I'm not saying they should be allowed to run around like hooligans. I'm saying I think that we were made the way we are for a reason. The whole thing I went through of going back to work when MiniMe was just 9 weeks old?? Yeah. Never shoulda happened. It was torture for a reason. Both my body & her body were designed to put us through bloody hell if we were separated the way we were because it wasn't in our best interests. Now, I know there are some mamas out there that NEEDED to go away from their kids for a few hours (preferably to somewhere with someone playing a harp & a king-sized tempurpedic bed) when their kids were nine weeks old. It's alright. I get that. However, the majority of women, & babies if they could, would tell you they'd probably be better off, & choose to be, together. 

We have to screw with everything. We have to take every single natural process & try to make a buck off of making it better. I am completely not surprised with the whole formula thing. I wonder if anyone has ever taken it as far mentally as I have. Wouldn't be shocked. Follow me, here... 

It's no secret that men love boobs. But truthfully, boobs are meant to serve the purpose of nursing, producing food for the babies. Now, I know that there are a lot of women out there that can't nurse successfully & I'm not trying to make any judgements on them or the families who simply choose to use formula because they don't want to nurse. But the pushing of the formula!! The gallons upon gallons of free formula given to new or soon-to-be new mothers! We've got a perfectly good system of feeding babies, but we can take this thing that was invented to feed orphans or kids with sick mothers, tell everybody it's better than breastmilk, make tons of money off of it, our wives can go back to work & we get our wives boobs back to ourselves, again! (I literally had a dream involving Mad Men about this)

Then, there's the cereal... It will help them sleep better, it will help them gain weight. It has been found to increase the likelihood of diabetes! Yeah! Not only that, it tastes like wallpaper paste!

Sometimes I feel like in the effort to free women from the trappings of motherhood, we kind-of made it an expectation. I feel like people use these 'advancements' to pressure mothers into spending more time away from their babies than they really want to. I feel like shaking a fist in the air & it's not because I want to stay home with my little offspring, gloating in the wonderfullness of bon bons. It's because it's what I feel I am supposed to do. I don't resent her. I resent that I'm going to have take a hit in my career for doing what I thing is the right thing. Anyone who knows me knows I take this work, of being a parent, seriously.

One of my peers, who seriously is a mentor, but so funny & humble she comes across as more of a peer, has a daughter in her second year of college right now. The friend is beautiful, witty, an excellent cook & hostess. She has an illustrious career. The daughter is darling, insightful & charming. When the daughter was graduating from high school I was leaving that last full time position. My friend told me in an almost self-deprecating way that I was doing the right thing. My friend was sad & was questioning her past decisions to not stay home for a while with her daughter. I don't want to be watching MiniMe graduate from high school & feel like I missed something. I'm grateful for this time & glad we, as a family, found our way to it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Consumer Pilgrims

Please don't read this & have me committed. I know I'm insane. Well, if I wasn't before, I most certainly am now. 

Since yesterday was Biggie's day off, I scheduled a meeting to work on that uber-mysterious, yet to be revealed project. He took MiniMe to the beach, as I have an ass the size of a billboard & am not too keen on having sand stuck between my fat rolls, further calling out to me that I am not keeping up with the things I'm putting in my mouth. I had bugged him earlier in the week about how Ikea had sent me this email with these killer deals on some dining room tables. He was all, (sigh) "Really? I don't want to drive all the way over there & then all the way back in the dark. I hate Alligator Alley!" (for my Australian friends- Alligator Alley is a long stretch of interstate highway that runs through the huge swamp known as the Everglades. It is extremely desolate, as I imagine northern Australia, but with swamps, not desert.) But when I asked him what he wanted to do when we met up back at home after lunch, he was all, (sigh) "Oh, alright!" when I asked again. 

I have to explain that I have a bordering on sick thing about Ikea. Remember how Edward Norton's character in Fight Club poured all over the catalog at the beginning of the movie, prior to becoming, er, enlightened? Yeah. I can mumble & proclaim all I want with some anti-consumerist rants, but I'm not fooling myself. Or whole house is Ikea. I am writing this on our aqua Karlanda sofa, across from our Karlanda chair, with our Lack coffee table & end tables, and Magniker entertainment center. If you look at the photos from the leaf rubbing experiment, you'll see the Marianda curtians in our family room. Our desktop computer sits on an Alve desk, between 2 Alve drawer units, under a Hensvik shelf. Our bedroom, which has dressers & nightstands either built by my dad or purchased from the unfinished furniture store & stained by me, has curtains, duvets, & pillow shams in the now discontinued Alvine Satin botanical pattern. MiniMe's room is decorated with a combination of fabrics that were once Rosalinda duvet sets. The only rooms in our house that don't have anything Ikea are the bathrooms. It's a little freaky. 

The freakiness is more evident when you realize that the closest Ikea to us is over 2 hours away. That's where we went yesterday. That store has only been there for 1 year. Most of the Ikea in our home was bought years ago. We either ordered it online or over the phone, which with this company, is quite an ordeal. he curtains in the family room & the fabric I used for MiniMe's room were only available in the store, so I paid my friend Alexandra who lives in SF to go to the store, buy them for me & ship them to me. Yeah. I know. Freak.

It gets better.

When we left for our trek, MiniMe had pranced around the beach all morning & had told me she was tired & wanted a nap. Great, I thought. I'll pack a snack just in case, get our water bottles filled up, & subject Biggie to 2 hours of me wailing some Audra Kubat

When we got to Ikea, MiniMe had slept for just over an hour, which is not as long as she usually naps, but okay. Well, she pissed her carseat. & I, who used to have a laminated post it for excursions such as this, left her extra outfit on one of those Lack end tables. Shit. So, I went into the store, past the signs declaring that both of the dining room table deals that I was hoping to score were out of stock, as I had managed to hold the contents of my bladder. I asked the lady at the door if there was a Target or something nearby & was told it was only a couple of blocks away. 

So I drove to where I thought she said this place was & it started raining. The irony shouldn't be lost on any of you so just know that it only rains around 5 times between October & March here. I couldn't find the damn Target. We drove to a gas station & ended up at a full-fledged mall. I just ran into the stupid Macy's, found something that reasonably matched the shoes she had on & wasn't too hot for the tropics. Yes, they still sell clothes here that are for true winter weather even though it's 82 here today. I could have bought 3 outfits at Target for what I paid for that thing & spent a good 10 minutes alone trying to find someone to take my money. 

Yes, we went to Ikea. No, I didn't get a new table. We still have this ridiculous glass top, black metal thing that I hate. (pausing to glare at it across the family room.) I did however get some random things I needed that were way cheaper & cooler than anything from a non-Swedish store. I mean, $.99 for 40 Christmas ornaments?

Oh, & today was the last day of the Music Together classes I've been doing with MiniMe & the SAHD we're friends with. So, I had to leave the house at 9am this morning, which wasn't fun. Then, I had to go to the grocery store with a hungry MiniMe, who was starving because I had to rush her away from her scone to get to the fricken class on time. Then I had to listen to the old grocery bag guy sigh about how he had to try to help me load the groceries into my car stuffed with Ikea bags because we got home so late Biggie didn't want to take them in. He did have to peel a piss-soaked carseat cover off for me as I was dealing with her being piss-soaked again when we got home.

So now I have to take a nap, because I think Biggie is going upstate for a training tonight & I am not prepared to deal with MiniMe by myself. Then I have to clean up this dump. & I have 4 baskets of laundry to fold.

If you're holding out for some drunk ramblings tonight, you might just get them!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Today is my Christmas.

I am starting a new endeavor, to be revealed shortly, which required we get a new computer. Well, that & Biggie click, click, click, click, click, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLIIIIIICKING on the ol' Inspiron. Back in the day I was a Desktop Publisher. I'm a mac paerson. Clarification: I used to be a mac person. Now, I am again a mac person. But, I am lost. Lots of things to figure out. So, sorry if I'm not too frequent with the posts for a few days as I'm playing with my AWESOME NEW 15" MACBOOK PRO!!!

So, yeah. No other presents for me.

It's alright. 

THIS is a gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This is where you were on this day

Yep. I made her shirt. The woman who handed me my ballot asked to read the back of her shirt. It reads:

"...and it means taking full responsibility in our own lives- by demanding more time from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism;

they must always believe that they can write their own destiny..."

The woman got all teary. So did I. Because, this pretty much sums it all up for me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Such a weird fricken holiday

MiniMe has known what she wanted to be for Halloween for months. I've spent the last month locked in our family office that really serves as a giant 'In' box for random paper we need to file & my sewing. She begged me to make her a mermaid. Now, this did not initially begin as wanting to be the Disney character Ariel, but eventually she infiltrated our lives.

Sidebar: I am one of those moms that hates those bitches aka the Disney Princesses. The first one to come into our lives was Princess Aurora, or Briar Rose, or Sleeping Beauty. My mom was all, "What's wrong with Sleeping Beauty? She's a sweet girl!" Now, I must confess that this is/was my favorite of the category, but it has nothing to do with Princess Aurora. I love the faerie Merriweather. She's a faerie badass. Now, Sleeping Beauty??? What does she do? She sleeps until some prince comes & saves her & the whole world by molesting her in her sleep. Not my idea of a role model.

MiniMe found a Disney Little Mermaid book at the library. I read it to her for weeks. I've decided she's okay. She does save the prince, afterall. & stand up to the expectations of her family for her own dreams. Okay, I'm stretching, but I refuse to buy a Barbie, dammit!

She wore the costume several times throughout the week. To Music Together class, to storytime at the library. On the actual day we went to the 'Family Festival' at the Mega-Church I call the God Mall. They had bounce houses & slides for the kids. She was not impeded by her tail at all; bouncing & sliding right along the other kids. She won the chicken race. Something wrong with a mermaid fishing, though.

I gained some serious points with these adhesive crystals I bought & offered to stick on her face & body. The girl likes her bling.

She still tells me her favorite part was after we came home & trick or treated at only 3 of our neighbors houses because it was pretty late. She told me while we were walking home that I am fun & thank you for her costume. So, I already got what I wanted for Christmas.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Placating with false autumn

It has finally gotten to the time of year where I can don my sunglasses & take my vampire-lookin' ass outside. We slept with the windows open the last two nights & tonight had to close them because it is too cold. (My Scandinavian ancestors are howling in their graves.)

When I lived in Michigan I said that my favorite day of the year was in the spring, when I looked up & realized that the trees all of a sudden had leaves again. Trudging through the bitter, soggy, grey months of winter sure made you appreciate spring. It's no coincidence that green is my favorite color.

But after living in Florida for six (gah!) years now, the season I miss the most is fall. The smell of the leaves, not to mention the color, are like sensorial mermaid serenades. I said that my dad died in September on purpose because he knew it was my favorite month & having to go up to bury him then just might convince Biggie to move back.

So MiniMe & I embarked on an arts & crafts slash nature activity yesterday. She's been incensed that I refuse to trim our house in paper ghouls & goblins. She even offered to clean out her piggy bank for some plastic pumpkins. I had to do something, so I decided to make our own autumn.

We combed our yard for some leaves we liked. Of course, none of my favorite acer rubrum. Sigh. I hate palm trees. (more on this later.) We did find a fig leaf, which made me giggle for some reason. Maybe it's because we also decided to pick some key limes from our tree, which is contexturally so wrong for what I was trying to do.

Yes, that is our sweet Casey Jones minding his flock & the aforementioned Rosebud tucked under MiniMe's arm.

We brought them in the house & I tried to teach her to do rubbings with them, but of course she is my kid & she got all frustrated because mine were turning out better than hers. I ended up doing moreof the share than I wanted to. But then I got all brilliant & suggested she cut them out. Scissors are big in the life of MiniMe. She is a cutting master. Scissors ARE her medium. Fringe is her passion. I see many fringed hemmed jumpers in my future.

Yes, I know I am lucky. But just know today was a 2-drinks before dinner day where I had to flee the library hoisting a costume-wearing, wailing & shrieking child out of the library because, in her words, "I'm destructive!" In the systems of checks & balances, I've been checked & I have no balance. Just a suggestion- when you are mid-tantrum & brewing up consequences in your head for if the "bad choices" continue past that ever-threatening number three, don't, for the love of God, threaten that there will be no Noggin after naptime. That is, of course, unless you aren't planning on cooking dinner. Just don't do it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My other pre-existing condition...

Although I haven't written very much on her yet, you must know that MiniMe is by far the greatest gift I have ever been given. I think I haven't written much on her yet because I have so much to say, I wouldn't know where to start. I also have so much to say about current events I want to get some of that off my chest, first. However, in regards to current events, there is an intersection between my choice for president & how MiniMe got here.

As a Reader's Digest version, I was induced at 37 weeks. My doctor decided to induce me because she was concerned MiniMe wasn't getting enough oxygen. I could go into at least 3 more paragraphs on this, but just know that I have good reason to believe she planned to induce me all along. I have gotten third & fourth opinions, one even from the doctor who induced me's former partner, that there was absolutely no evidence that MiniMe was not getting sufficent oxygen. Induction by any means greatly increases the likelihood that a cesarean will be necessary. My doctor never told me this. I spent 21 hours in labor. I was eventually given an epidural, which only took on one side of my body, but I was still relieved. I was given pictocin & my doctor broke my water. I was making great progress when MiniMe's heart rate first was very high without coming back down, then fell dangerously low. I was rushed into emergency surgery & was put out completely. I do not remember the first time I met our daughter. I did not get to see my husband or my mother meet her for the first time.

In Florida, the rates that doctors have to pay for their malprcatice insurance are three times the national average. Because of these high rates, many OB/Gyns have stopped delivering babies. The doctors that do deliver babies average an over 30% rate of delivering by cesarean. Most doctors do not deliver babies vaginaly after a woman has had a previous cesarean. In fact, there is only one in the four counties nearest us that even presents that he would let a paitent attempt to do this. Insurance companies, as they have created this situation, are very aware that if I were to become pregnant again it is most likely that I would again be delivered by cesarean. Since I had MiniMe, our insurance premium tripled. We currently pay over $1000/month for our family's insurance.

If & when Biggie changes dealerships, we will have to pay Cobra to keep me insured or I risk being denied coverage under a new plan. If at anytime I become uninsured, it is highly likely that I will be denied under any other group plan because between the cesarean & sarcoidosis, I am considered to have two pre-existing conditions.

This is one of the major reasons I am voting for Barack Obama. Under McCain's plan, the dealership Rick works for would no longer be able to afford to cover me under their insurance plan, nor would they be required to. When I would go out on our own to find our own policy, as I have those pre-existing conditions, insurance companies would be able to either charge me ridiculously high rates, or refuse me coverage altogether. Under Obama's plan I would have much more appealing options. I would be able to stay on the plan that we are on now with no increases in cost, perhaps decreases. If we wanted to, we could change our coverage to the federal plan that McCain has enjoyed, at tax payers expense, his whole life. & if the day ever came where we actually get to move away from here, under Obama's plan, no insurance company would be able to deny me coverage due to my two pre-existing conditions. How could my decision be anything other than Obama?

There is a whole bunch of other posts to come on the story of my cesarean. I have done weeks upon months of research on my options in regards to another birth. For now, I'm just moving forward & will deal with those choices if & when they arrise. For now, MiniMe & I are kneading bread, working in the garden, reading about mermaids. We're waiting out to see if our friends & family actually like us enough to like us enough that they vote to keep us around.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How I breathe (not so much)

The lung disease I have is called Pulmonary Sarcoidosis. Basically, even my immune system is so Type A it has nothing better to do than attack my lungs. It causes a cellular condition called granulomas, which remind me of fish eggs, but don't function so well as lung cells are supposed to.

The first sign that something was wrong in early 2003 was that my ankles & feet swelled so bad that I took my shoes off at work & couldn't get them back on. When I went to the ER, they did a chest x-ray to make sure I wasn't retaining water in my chest. They told me I had pneumonia. After 3 weeks of antibiotics, my ankles were still swollen. I spent the next 3 months going to every kind of specialist there is, until I finally ended up at a pulmonologist.

Dr. Siegel told me the day after I bought my wedding dress that I either had Sarcoidosis or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. I had to wait 2 weeks for him to perform a bronchoscopy on me to make the official diagnosis. Bronchoscopy is code for outpatient procedure where they give you VALIUM AND ONLY VALIUM, well, with some throat numbing spray, where they stick a tube down your nose, into your lungs, put a camera down there, snip a piece of your lung, & then pull it out. I laid there with tears streaming down my face for the whole thing, terrified. Dr. Siegel told me I was the best bronchoscopy patient he'd ever had. I told him it felt like I swallowed a Lego. The good news was I didn't have Lymphoma.

Aside from the swelling, the disease causes me to tire easily, have achy joints, yawn a lot (often at very inappropriate moments) because I'm not getting enough oxygen, & make my chest hurt. When I was first diagnosed the pain was more in my ribs. This summer it's been higher; like it's between my boobs & collarbones.

The treatment for Sarcoid is prednisone. It is a steroid that suppresses the immune system. It also causes hardening of the arteries, osteoporosis, aggressiveness, & possibly Cushing's Syndrome, which results in a condition called "moon face". Exactly the image a soon-to-be-bride wants to be used to describe her. It is notorious for giving people voracious appetites. Most people that I have met that are on this drug are on around 10mg a day. I was on 40 mg for over a year. Not only did I manage to lose 30 pounds on the drug, I planned our wedding 1200 miles away. I basically walked around feeling like a scared cat the whole time. You know, arched back, wild eyes, claws out. Biggie was a little bit scared of me. I was a little high strung.

I was declared to be in remission in March of 2004. I got pregnant in October. I was fine through most of my pregnancy until about April, when I got REALLY puffy again, but my chest didn't hurt. More on the pregnancy another time.

In the winter I am pretty much okay. My ankles still piss me off. They look gross. The only time they have looked normal is when were in MI, last year to bury my dad & the Easter before that. When we were in OR this summer it was hard to tell because we did spend over 8 hours on a plane to get there, which tends to make me swell even more. I did manage to be a highly active pedestrian in Portland, which made me all kinds of smiley.

In the summer, here in FL, I am housebound. As is MiniMe. I HATE it. Starting usually the first week of March there is an algae bloom here known as red tide. It causes respiratory distress in most people. In me, I get all of my symptoms cubed. As this is the tropics, we get massive amounts of rain during the summer. The rain combined with merciless heat makes for an ideal climate for mold. You can smell & occasionally taste it outside. It's gross. My lungs think so, too. The biggest things that sucks about this damn disease is that it keeps me from being the kind of mother I want to be. When I lived in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Plymouth, MI, I used to take little Casey Jones for 6 mile hikes every Sunday out by the minimum security prison in Chelsea. I always looked forward to the time when I would have a little papoose strapped to my back. I've never gotten to do that. I have tears in my eyes, just so you know. This disease has changed who I am. I feel like my husband can barely remember that girl, now & our daughter doesn't know at all.

This is a picture my dad took of Casey & I hiking one time when he came to visit us:

This is MiniMe & I in 2007, outside of Asheville, NC, picking wild blueberries. If we got to do this more often, I wouldn't have six chins when I lay down in soft grass.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Until I get through this other post...

...MiniMe's best friend, a pink bear, named Rosebud, who happens to be a He, told her he wants to be a princess for Halloween. So apparently, at age 3, our daughter is a fag hag.

Then at dinner, which I held so Dad could eat with us, Dad was "singing" to the radio. "Singing" means he was holding my hand & being very demonstrative. The song was "I Want To Know What Love Is". Being Canadian, the poor guy can't hold a candle to my 80's music knowledge. He's always trying to stump me. He thought he had me on this one.

"So, who sings this one, huh?" he snarkily asked.

(Snicker from me)



Monday, October 13, 2008

A Desperate Phone Call

I mentioned before that my mom has been sending me all of these scary emails that I KNOW are coming from my Aunt Mary & her stepfather. They are chock full of lies about how Obama is a Muslim & how the handbasket is nigh. They take me all of about 3 minutes to disprove via the WSJ, snopes,, but I lost it on Friday. I sent her an email, that while restrained, was still pretty full o' the all caps. It's not that I don't believe that people have the right to vote for McCain, I just can't get any of the ones that are close to me to give me a reason. This makes me think that a) it's because they know their reason is illogical (i.e. he's a Muslim), not based on the issues &/or b) they are looking out for their self-interests, which just happen to be completely contrary to mine (i.e. they make more than $250k). I thought about sending an email to all of these people & letting them know that if McCain were to win, I have to move to Canada because under his plan I would have no insurance. I have TWO previously diagnosed conditions. I decided I don't need to worry about it because I KNOW Obama is going to win, but I needed to feel better. I did a crazy thing. I called my grandmother.

My Grandma Ike is 83, a widow, that lives in Saginaw, MI. Her real name is Eileen, but she & her 3 sisters all have these silly nicknames (Maryann is "Neem"?). I've never asked. Both of her parents were from Finland & she grew up in a town in the Upper Peninsula of MI so small (Kenton) that she just tells people that she's from another, slightly larger town, Bruce's Crossing. Her mother went blind at age 18 from a cavity that travelled up to her optical nerve. She still raised 4 girls in the Copper Country, largely alone. My great-grandfather was a lumberjack & built trusses in the mines. When he wasn't felling trees or in the mines, he was hunting deer. She is tough lady, but still a lady. An example? See photo below. She is holding a state record setting walleye. (record has since been broken) Notice how even in the gloves, she's holding the fish away from her body? See the sneaky smile?

The reason it's a bit dicey for me to call Gram is because we have talked all of 3 times since my Dad died over a year ago. She has been carrying on ridiculous tantrums about certain things, namely guns, that my grandpa left to my dad, that she thinks should go to her cousin. Ridiculous things. Before you get all shocky, yes, my family has guns. We are from the north. I was fed solely fish & venison for most of my early childhood that was caught or killed by my family. I ain't Sarah Palin. Don't panic.

I was my Grandpa's favorite. I would leave the kitchen full of women to go to the barn with Grandpa & Dad. Gram thought I should stay & help with the dishes. I went fishing with them while she stayed home. We have issues.

Gram is, however, a through & through Democrat. That walleye earned her this plaque, signed by the governor at the time, Engler, a republican. Gram threw it away because he signed it. She left the Upper Peninsula to go to California during WWII to volunteer for the USO, Lutheran Church, & help a very pregnant cousin whose husband was believed to be a POW. She met Grandpa in Los Angeles the day he got back to the states through a roommate. She moved to MA & married him after only knowing him for 2 weeks. She's not a wallflower, but she also can be pretty racist. I was nervous.

Gram didn't let me down. She had already voted, & voted for Obama. She is excited for him, for us. She is worried about what "these zealots" are going to do to his family. "Poor, sweet-faced girls of his," she said.


She was glad I called. I think she feels a little better about me, now. I feel a little better about myself because at least someone in my family is fighting for me.

"Honey, Canada's not so bad, ya know," she said.

Friday, October 10, 2008

There's an old sheriff in this town

In case you needed more evidence that I live in a backwards, good old boy cow town, you should know that our sheriff, Mike Scott, is under investigation by the feds for violating the Hatch Act. Yeah, that police officer you saw on the news referring to our next president as "Barack Hussein Obama" is the sheriff of the county we pay our very high taxes to. You bet (you betcha?) I've got something to say about this...

Sheriff Scott:

I have voted for you in two elections. I have sat next to you in Mass on more Sundays than I can count. I counseled your girls on the significance of Palm Sunday & you witnessed the baptism of our precious daughter. You are a member of my community, Sheriff, & I am concerned about you.

I understand & agree that you should have the right to support the candidates of your choice, but I take serious issue with your choice of speaking at the local visit of Ms. Palin. You should know better than anyone else the power of your uniform. Your choice to wear your uniform on this day was clearly an attempt to validate your presence & words as the Sheriff of Lee County. Your vote is your own & is made as Michael Joseph Scott, not Sheriff Mike Scott.

To say that your choice to use Senator Obama's middle name was innocent of any implications is petulant & insulting. Whether or not you intended for your choice of words to incite hatred, it has been pointed out to you that it clearly did. You have more opportunity than most to take responsibility when you do something wrong, and make no mistake, Sheriff Scott, what you did was wrong.

I believe that you are an intelligent man, but let me be clear. This has nothing to do with a double standard. This has everything to do with spreading hate. How am I supposed to be comfortable with our police department being headed by someone who personally perpetuates hate?

In our very racially polarized county, I am certain that you are very aware of the effect of your words regarding ethnicity. There has been a great amount of discussion, in even the local media, regarding the false accusations of Senator Obama's connection to terrorism to the extent that I believe it would be more than fair to say you must be aware of them. Even if it was not your intent, it has been made evident to you that your words have been seen as spreading hate. Especially while in uniform, it is a primary responsibilty to not only refrain from contributing to, but to prevent the spread of hate. I believe it is your obligation to find a way to truthfully address this situation responsibly. Let me make it easy for you: even through the expenditure of millions of dollars, no one has been able to uncover any credible connection between Mr. Obama and terrorism. There is no need to even address your intent by using his full name. Due to this diligence, you can say with conviction that Senator Obama does not have any connections to nor is he himself a terrorist. Until you do, know that I will vote for any and all of your opponents in any future elections. I cannot allow my family to be protected by someone who spreads hate.

Let me know if you've got anything to add...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I know, you want to be my friend

When I went to work for the more rural township of outlying Ann Arbor, Kristine was the bubbly (well, you are!) intern in the Planning Department. She was the one who was advised by our department head that she shouldn't plan on cutting her hair after her wedding because men don't like girls with short hair. We looked at each other & became united in our speechlessness.

Let me just say that I can't really elaborate on this supervisor because of the waiver I signed when I got my severance package. I know, I am an assboss magnet. But, Kristine, she rocks.

Her husband dragged her to Alabama & mine dragged me to Florida. We are both raising daughters in the Deep South, trying to keep them from growing up to be little eyelash battin' belles. Kristine's daughter, Morgan, is about to turn one. I have never met her. But I made her this jumper, because Kristine is trying to pass on her affliction for Hello Kitty.

MiniMe is named after my maternal grandmother, who taught me how to sew. I plan on passing this on to MiniMe, too, as it's only fitting. (Ha! I am a pun master!) I have this pattern (Butterick #3772) in three different sizes & have made several for MiniMe, as well as some of her friends. The one's I made last Christmas are now too short, but she loves them, so they get worn with shorts, now. The fact that they have pockets makes them very popular with the girls. I could write a whole post on the things I have found in the pockets, as they are pretty representative of MiniMe. They are popular with mothers because of their flexibility. They are great when potty training, making it easy to whip those training pants off. When it's hot, as it almost always is here, they are a simple, hassle-free layer. When it gets cooler, add a shirt underneath. Even cooler, add tights or leggings.

I love to take MiniMe to the fabric store & let her pick out fabric for her jumpers. She will tell you that her favorite colors are red & purple. I worry about this being a result of the "Red Hat" ladies that are so prominent here in God's Waiting Room. She loves polka dots & (Thank God!) rick rack. I love that this allows her to develop her own idea of what she likes, without having to pick from what someone else thinks is cute.

Of course, MiniMe got a Hello Kitty Halloween jumper, too. But her's needed two pockets, because she's just that kind of girl. I have given up on getting her to stop wiggling in the darn thing. She said, "Ma, I AM an active girl!" Well, we are now informed.

So thanks, Kristine, for being my friend. & when Momo gets old enough, take her to pick out some more fabric. But not the HK Christmas flannel with the (argh!) pink background, because I already bought it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I am a leaf

I go where the wind blows me.

This was one of those things I always said when someone asked me where I wanted to go when I was in college. I always think of it this time of year, when I'm stuck in the tropics, with no falling leaves.

Considering the current status of our lives, this phrase has new meaning. The wind was kind-of at a stand still for a while. I was feeling like we weren't going to get anywhere. Now it fells like a category 5 hurricane. Almost daily I feel our next destination is changing. I feel lost & guilty & like a bad parent. I can't figure out what is in our best interests.

Tina Joy & I have an ongoing fantasy about winning the lottery. I think it's something like more than 70% of women that do. Well, when (ha!) I win, what I would do is pretty simple. I'd move back to Detroit. I'd buy one of the many great houses for sale in the City, I'd make it sustainable. We'd start a business that would employ some of the very hard working unemployed. We'd use some of that vast abandoned land. I was thinking I'd like to start an urban plant nursery, an urban farm, a RIE Institute. Of course, I'd become a rablerouser, attending all of the Planning Commission & City Council meetings. I'd know the Master Plan, City Code, Historic District Ordinances by heart. I'd probably get myself shot.

Where we are with economics in this country right now, I can't help but think of one of my favorite buildings in Detroit, The Fisher Building. It is located on the northwest corner of West Grand Boulevard & Second Street in the New Center District. I used to park my car in the garage there & walk through this building everyday to get to my office. It is resplendent. To try to begin to describe the glorious materials I stepped on with my vinyl, Payless black mary janes everyday, would be ridiculous. The building was commissioned by the Fisher Brothers, the founders of Fisher Body Company, which became part of GM, and designed by Albert Kahn. It was originally to be the western-most building of a series of three structures, with an even taller more grandiose building at the intersection of West Grand & Second, with a sister building opposite that. The stock market crash of 1929 stopped the project & only the one tower was built. There is the General Motors building kitty corner across West Grand, the Hotel St. Regis farther east, and the Albert Kahn Building farther down Second. But the Fisher Building has always been such a standard of decadence, lavishness in architecture to me. As a kid that grew up in the last big recession, the child of Irish & Finnish temperance, this was excess.

My husband had never been there before he met me. I took him there on Saturday afternoon before we were engaged. It was empty. We felt like we were the only people in the building; that we had just happened to find the one door that hadn't been locked. We walked across the skybridge to the New Center Building to find a security guard practicing his saxaphone. When he saw us, he started playing Mona Lisa. While we danced, I stepped on a little green glass bead. I still have that bead in my jewelry box as a momento of that day when my husband grew to understand my position in this dichomtomy.

I was a girl scout that was taught to always leave things better than they were before I got there. When I left the far north & affluent suburbs to go downtown, it was a complex experience. I heard stories from an early age of the riots in 1967. I knew that people moved out of the City to escape violence. I could not grasp how it was okay for an entire City to be left to rot. I know who Aubrey Pollard was. I understand the fear & frustration. I still cannot reason with the tremendous resources being abandoned while so much mediocrity is heralded elsewhere. That's kind-of my unspoken philosophy as an Urban Planner. Why would you go & make another mess when you haven't cleaned up the one you already made?

So, I am this Pollyanna white girl who wants to swoop in & save this place. I have long dreamed of living in a grand old house that smells of lemon oil from the woodwork with trees older than my grandparents growing in the yard. I want to take my kids to Belle Isle to play in the park. I want to take them to the DIA, the Science Center, to see The Nutcracker, which I was in as a child, at Christmas. The Zoo. I love the feeling of standing on the riverfront with my eyes closed & thinking about the millions of people that made this great place. I hear their voices shouting out for justice for this place that has been orphaned by millions. I can't ignore the sound. It speaks to my heart. & I have a big heart.

My husband knows this about me & does want me to be able to try, but I am scared. So many people think I should be scared for the safety of our child, for the cost of taxes, the cost of maintaining an old home, the reality of the corruption. What I am really scared of is that it would be the wrong decision to go back because the economy is going to get worse. My husband wants me to consider moving our family to Canada, where he is from. I think of how lightened the burdens of the last 10 years of my life would have been without having to worry about the cost of healthcare, the cost of my education, & I want better for our child.

I am abandoned by my country. I am disappointed in how it has failed my family. My husband, who came here, got an engineering degree with no financial assistance. He has applied to become a citizen 3 times & has not been able to complete the process. Before he met me, the second application was lost in the World Trade Center. He has worked as a car salesman & sales manager between 60 and 80 hours a week for the last 7 years of his life. He faces racism almost daily; in Michigan where they assumed he was Arabic, in the south where they assume he is Cuban, followed by the ridiculous apologies when they find out he's Italian. He has paid around $70k into social security, & I get emails where people ask me to sign some ridiculous petition that say he shouldn't be entitled to that money because he isn't a citizen, because they don't understand their own country's laws.

I watch my husband, who does not have the opportunity to vote, watch the debates & read about the canidates for president. I love him so much. I have seen him with tears in his eyes in the last few weeks more than once. He has absolutely no problem supporting Barack Obama. Since he cannot vote, he has donated some of his very hard earned money. He has not once tried to tell me who I shoud vote for.

I had lunch with a friend today at this great restaurant that was owned by a woman from Greece. She made me the best gyro I've had since we left Detroit. She came out & sat with us & our kids because her business was so slow. After we talked for a while, the conversation turned to the economy. She had tears in her eyes as she talked about how as a child she was determined to become an American one day, because in the US anyone who works hard enough can make a great life for themselves. She said she felt cheated. She is about to lose her business.

I am broken. I am torn between standing my ground & trying to fight in this country, or leaving for Canada where I believe my family may have more opportunities. I am on the brink of giving up one of the greatest dreams of my life. It is crushing.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How it's affecting us

This is the post where I just lay it all out there. I suspect that I will probably try to write the bulk of it & break it up. I tend to write a bit of lengthy posts, I've found.

I'm pretty scared. The whole bailout situation has me freaked. I'm reading a lot, but I can't say it's really helping. The first class I ever failed in college was Macroeconomics. But come on, the prof used an overhead projector with the full range of Vis a Vis palette to make his graphs "explaining" (very loose description) the concepts, but he was left handed. I'm left handed. I know better than to try to write with mediums that smear. Bygones. I have read enough to know that there are some major problems with either scenario, the two scenarios being bail out or do nothing. I want to write about how this all applies to us.

As I wrote previously, my husband declared bankruptcy. It's not that we were unable to pay our bills, it was that it would be stupid to. The only reason we could afford to pay for it all is because we are incredibly frugal. We have been trying to get out of Florida for two years & we we're unable to get out of our house without paying money out. Taking our down payment & the lost equity, we have lost $270,000 on this house alone. We are not destitute. We are not whining. We didn't do anything stupid. We are not expecting anyone to help us or bail us out. We are trying to cut our losses & move on.

We have been socking away between 3 & 4k every month, except for the month we went to Oregon. (Let me just say that 10 days without bugs was worth way more to me.) I have been entertaining MiniMe, putting gas in my car, & feeding us, healthfully mind you, on $900 a month. The dealership that Big works at is huge & it boads well for him to work there. As a salesman, last year he made almost 4 times as me with my silly little degree did in any year. He was the highest selling salesman for every month but 2 in 18 months, including last September, when my dad died & he was gone for 10 days. He was promoted to a sales manager last spring & has had the most number of deals as well as holding the highest gross. He took a paycut to be promoted, but it meant he'd have to take his 2 days off a week, unlike when he was a salesman & often worked 10 days nonstop.

In case you didn't read it on the news, auto sales are down to levels that they were in 1993. Last week he had a customer with a credit score of 780, made $200k a year, that couldn't get approved for an $800 payment. Today he was demoted back to sales. In a way, it's okay because he'll be making more money than if he stayed in management. But again, the blood-turnip thing.

Our plan has been for him to stay there because it is good for him to get management experience there. We are living rent free. We wanted to stay here until we got a certain amount of money saved up & then move to wherever we are going to go. We were expecting the longest it would take is two years. We've watched craigslist to see how much we would have to pay for rent if we get kicked out. We've discussed how we should try to get our bank to let us lease back our house instead of moving.

I know I could go back to work, but I need to explain what this means. The school that MiniMe attended up until May was $13k. This is for the school year only, and only until 2:45pm. I tried to find work in Planning here that will let me be done by then & it is not out there. If I went outside of my field I would not make much more than it costs to send her to school. I know, look at other schools. There aren't really any other options out there for us or her. This place is not family oriented in so many ways. We tried another school for 3 months last year & it was pretty disastrous. She had just turned 2 & told us all she wanted for Christmas, in July, was to go back to her old school. This is how I ended up where I am.

I should mention that we have had a huge cloud inside our house all summer long. I had a lumpectomy in June that I regret. I know, my life is sacred, & it is to my husband, too. But the literal shakedown of the various doctors has been alarming. Our insurance is supposedly good & we are up to almost $6k for the outpatient procedure. It is very hard for my Canadian husband to pay these bills. Especially after he has to pay over $500 a month for this insurance. I checked to see if I would have had to wait to have this surgery in Canada. I would have had to wait one day longer than I did here in Florida to have the surgery, unless my doctor felt this was too long, in which case they could schedule it sooner. But I probably wouldn't have had to have the surgery, because they would have done some sort-of more detailed radiology technique that would have shown that it was just breast tissue. Oh, & that would have been free, too.

Friday, September 26, 2008

5 years=Wood?! (snickering)

Five years ago today, I became a Missus. We got married at one of my favorite places on this planet, Cranbrook House in Birmingham, MI, where I snuck in & skinny dipped in younger days. We had our reception in an old bank in downtown Pontiac. It was a blast. It was beautiful. But, to give you some context...

My husband sold me my first new car. People find this hilarious & say things like, "That must have been a great car!" (Har! Knee slap!) It was a crazy time, in the end of 2001. I was trying to decide if I was going to move to Colorado, because it would be a huge difference in cost of living. I was always afraid I was going to meet a guy that would make me want to stay in MI. So was my Dad.

One of the clearest memories in my life is when Biggie was putting my license plate on my new car for me. I wasn't use to this much chivalry or customer service. He was asking me why I'd want to move to Colorado because it was so snowy there. He told me as soon as his lease was up he was moving to Florida. I froze. I knew if I wasn't careful I was going to end up moving with this guy. Florida? Ick!

I did love my new car. I always bake about 10 different batches of cookies around Christmas & box up some to give to people that are new friends or acquaintances. I dropped a box off for Biggie. Our first date was 2 weeks later at the International Auto Show. He thought it was cool that we could have a logical discussion regarding the benefits of a rotary engine. When we had dinner afterwards at a Detroit standard, Cyprus Tavern, he started a tradition of asking me what I thought he should order. I'm an excellent orderer. He had the Moussaka.

Our second date was in Downtown Plymouth, where I lived at the time, to the ice sculpture competition & for dinner at a great place that I miss a lot, The Box Bar. We sat at the bar, drinking, joking around. At one point he got up to go to the bathroom & he just kissed me. It was abrupt. I was kind-of pissed. I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me. But at the same time, I was glad he did it.

As time went on, I started to get worried. I really liked this guy & he was going to move to Florida. He told me after we had been dating for about four months that he wanted me to move to Florida with him. He had the opportunity to go to several different cities in Florida, so he told me to just figure out where I wanted to go & that's where we would go. Things between us have always just rolled along. One of the first jobs I applied for was with The City of Fort Myers. They flew me down to Florida, interviewed me, & offered me a job on the spot. I got up the next morning, found a condo for us to rent, & flew home. It was just kind-of understood that we would be engaged before moved. He's told me I ruined his plans for a romantic proposal. I was all bitchy that night when we went out to dinner & wouldn't let him get a word in. He ended up just asking me in his apartment. I like to think I let him off easy.

My life at certain points is much like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Even though I'm Catholic too, I still come off as incredibly waspy. My husband is first generation Canadian, with both of his parents from southern Italy. His mother, from Calabria, moved with her family to Niagara Falls when she was around 12. His father moved to Canada from Sardinia when he was 18. They had two boys, my Biggie the second one, then a girl. They were divorced when Big was a teenager. His mom suffered a traumatic closed head injury that left her in a coma for a year. She's functioning pretty highly, but she isn't the same person she was before her accident, I'm told. Between them & I, there is a large cultural barrier. Between his father & I, let's just say there is a division of responsibility barrier. With his mom & I, there's an additional strain because of her accident.

In the last three years that we have been parents, our marriage has been seriously strained. I have gotten to the point that I can look at things in a macro sense & see that there will be ups & downs. The down seem to coincide with lack of sleep. The up seem to coincide with gifts. (I'm kidding.) No, the ups seem to coincide with progress, as in the meeting of challenges. The process of parenting & seeing our affect on MiniMe has helped our relationship greatly, lately.

There was a long spell of great tension in our relationship that stemmed from unresolved resentments. We would have a disagreement & it would never get dealt with because we didn't want to fight in front of MiniMe. I started to notice that her behavior would change. She knew there was a problem & she didn't like it. She would be terse & make abrupt, angry little grunts. By the time I would get her to bed, Biggie would be sleeping, too. Things festered. There were shouting matches & threats. When MiniMe started shouting at us, I realised something had to be done.

I thought about it & realised that it wasn't right for MiniMe not to see how problems got resolved. The reason it would be inappropriate for things to be resolved in front of her was because of the way Biggie & I talked to each other. I tried to talk about my theories to Biggie, but as in parenting, setting the example was far more effective. Biggie is an expert at getting me "spun", as he says. When he would say things that were nasty, I asked him quietly to not talk to me that way in front of our child. When I stopped reacting to him, & instead asking how I could help him to not to say or do these things, He noticed. But also, so did MiniMe.

Biggie knows things he says hurt me, make me angry. He knows it's not okay. I do the same thing sometimes. When I don't react or retaliate it reminds him that I love him & settles him down. My love, my restraint, they humble him. They remind him of the promises we made to each other & they show our daughter how people that love each other treat each other. It is a powerful thing.

On our wedding day, it had been cloudy, drizzly most of the day. Right before the ceremony it began to clear. I remember getting ready to walk down the aisle, trying to not be too sweet to my Dad, because I knew he was on the verge of crying. I concentrated on squeezing his hand, yet not making eye contact. Looking at this picture the photographer took, I wonder if this is the way between many brides & their fathers.

It made me flustered, & when I stood at the top of the steps to the garden where the ceremony
was, I looked down to see my dress was too long for some reason. I've been told that when I stepped up to the top of the stairs, the sun came out from the clouds behind me & lit me up. The church across the street was ringing it's ancient bells, completely unplanned on our part. I heard people gasp, thankfully taking me away from cursing myself. My dress was too long because I had forgotten the slip that went under my dress. Typical me. Too late now. People were gasping at me! *blush*

But it was the sound of Biggie, weeping, that truly made me present. My machismo Italian was weeping for me. He was overcome with tears of joy at the sight of me, his bride. It was audible. It is one of the things that gets me through those times when he can be, frankly, a major trial.

I remember a lot of things from that day, but the tears & this moment, below, are my favorites. I knew it was going too fast. I just paused because I could, & because I knew these things would sustain us. I remember how I felt with his breath on my face, his smile, this very moment. This was a celebration of our love, corny, I know, but in times such as these, very necessary.