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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Detroit breeds us people...

...these people that doubt. People that are accustomed to fear & intimidation. Being accustomed to it after a while, you start to question why. When you question why, you start to find out there really isn't anything to be scared of, as long as you ask the right questions & act responsibility. But, the trick is, & this is what's getting my hometown down, you HAVE to ask the questions.

I've been reading, again. & again, today's soundtrack is brought to us by Marvin, who in case you didn't guess, is definitely in my list of top 5 people to have dinner with. Open it in a new window, then come back to read the rest of my post so you can read with the song playing in the background. I'll wait here.

From what I understand the big bank CEO's are threatening to NOT participate in any bailout agreement if their bonuses are taken away. Yes, you read that right. You know me, I'm currently trying to find the names of these CEO's. I think the FBI might be able to help me...

For others that may still be confused, this is an excellent article for you to read:

Yes, I had to re-read it a few times to sink in, but it helps.

Okay, so what all these experts are saying is that if controls for oversight are put into the legislation, only banks that are failing would want to be part of the bailout. So lots of people are asking the next logical question; if banks aren't failing, why do they need our help?? This is what the White House Press Secretary said:

"With respect to executive pay, again, I'm not going to get into specific, point-by-point details on what our views are on that, other than the Secretary of Treasury said it would make more difficult to make this plan work and effective if you provide disincentives for companies and firms out there who are holding mortgage-backed securities and other securities from participating in the program. You have to remember, these are not all weak or troubled firms that own mortgage-backed securities. A lot of them are very successful banks and investment houses that have done very well, have been responsible, are holding performing assets that have value. They were not necessarily irresponsible players, and so you have to be careful about how you deal with them."

So where the "HUH?" comes in is here. This is why I am saying this is essentially a Socialist, heck, Communist, banking system being proposed. If a bank isn't troubled, why do they need our tax dollars to help them out? The reason they wouldn't want to participate is because if they aren't allowed to have bonuses, it's not worth it to them. This is because the only reason they are in the game is for their bonuses. If these firms are doing so awfully they are going to fail, why would the issue of bonuses even be an issue? You know the phrase you can't get blood from a turnip?? (I'm actually a rutabaga. Nice to meet ya.) If these vampires don't need to participate, obviously they are going to be able to get their blood some other way. So they aren't going to fail, I'd say.

Remember in my first post on this how I quoted Section 8 about how there were no provisions for oversight??? Paulson (AArgh! A$$hole!) responded with this:

"We gave you a simple, three-page legislative outline and I thought it would have been presumptuous for us on that outline to come up with an oversight mechanism. That’s the role of Congress, that’s something we’re going to work on together. So if any of you felt that I didn’t believe that we needed oversight: I believe we need oversight. We need oversight."

Yeah, he didn't include oversight because he's been proven to be someone who isn't comfortable overstepping any boundaries, whatsoever. Ya know, first thing I think of when I think of him is how meek & unassuming he is.

I am looking for what Obama's plans are in regards to this, but this is what he's said up to this point:

"First, the plan must include protections to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to further reward the bad behavior of irresponsible CEOs on Wall Street. There has been talk that some CEOs may refuse to cooperate with this plan if they have to forgo multi-million-dollar salaries. I cannot imagine a position more selfish and greedy at a time of national crisis. And I would like to speak directly to those CEOs right now: Do not make that mistake. You are stewards for workers and communities all across our country who have put their trust in you. With the enormous rewards you have reaped come responsibilities, and we expect and demand that you to live up to them. This plan cannot be a welfare program for Wall Street executives."

& as far as the GOP, well, go here:

I'll just summarize & tell you it calls for the elimination of the Capital Gains Tax for 2 years. Ya know, that tax that's based on profits in real estate, cause that's what we're all making right now. Talk about giving the richest people a break on taxes & then passing the tax burden onto everyone. It also seeks to repeal the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, this measly little thing that regulates things like, oh, requiring the government to utilize only reasonable measures in balancing the budget, mandates the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to establish a monetary policy that maintains long-run growth, minimizes inflation, and promotes price stability. It also requires the President to set numerical goals for the economy of the next fiscal year in the Economic Report of the President and to suggest policies that will achieve these goals & requires the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to connect the monetary policy with the Presidential economic policy. Oh, & there's this other thing: it prohibits discrimination on account of gender, religion, race, age, and national origin in any program created under the Act.

I think things are looking up. It seems like the lights are getting brighter in this tunnel & the need for this tunnel is becoming more & more unnecessary. For those of you keeping up on this, & especially those of you that actually HAVE called & complained: BLESS YOU! This how the system is supposed to work. We call- They answer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cue the music

When I was recently graduated with my Planning degree, I acquired a theme song. It was a Marvin Gaye song entitled "You're the Man". Sirusly, read the lyrics. Chills.

Then, not to be outdone in the slightly obscure Detroit 70's music scene, I've been singing Funkadelic's "Can You Get to That" all day, today, after reading about the (cough) $700 BILLION dollar bail out plan.

(Stunned silence followed by crickets.)

"I once had a life, or rather, life had me. I was one among many, or at least I seemed to be. Well, I read an old quotation in a book just yesterday. Said, 'Gonna reap just what you sow, the debts you make you have to pay.' Can you get to that?"

Yes, George. (Clinton, not The Shrub.) I most certainly can get to that.

For those of you not so in the know of the life of the Hoppytoddle, we are in the midst of a pretty big motha of a bankruptcy. See, we owned, um, eight different properties here in Florida. The house we live in we bought in 2005, at the height of the market, so that I could be closer to the shiny job I described in the previous post. We offered $9k more than the asking price, as there were 8 other offers made on the same day & if we hadn't we wouldn't have gotten this lovely place. We put $100k down. We got an offer when we had it up for sale that came out to exactly $300 more than what we owed, when everything was said & done. Oh, & I should mention that our taxes & insurance ALONE were $1100/ month, at this point. Well, see, we are still in Florida because when our purchasers tried to mortgage $10k less than what we owed on the house at the time, it wouldn't appraise. So, the deal fell through. That was way back in 2006. Fun, huh?

Then come to this past year, when we tried to refinance 2 of our properties that we bought in 2002, from adjustable rate mortgages to fixed. Yeah, houses that we've paid payments on for six years. Well, they also appraised for $20k to $30k less than what we owed.

Oh, & the suckiest. This lung disease that I have? It don't like the super humid swampiness that is, ya know, the tropics. My body does things like yawn every five minutes, since I'm not getting enough oxygen, my joints swell all up bringing new meaning to cankles, & my chest hurts like I've got one of those gothic spirits sitting on it. So I'm housebound from July to October, praying we don't lose power.

Since all of the real estate was in Biggie's name, we decided to just declare bankruptcy. We have no credit card debt. Just my student loans & real estate. This is really hard on Biggie. But a heart attack would be harder, I said. I'm one of those crazy bitches that actually likes to see her husband alive & shit. Well, most days.

(Yes, I'm feeling a little crazy tonight. Forgive the language. Consider tonight's musical selections for context.)

So we are now waiting to see how long we get to live rent free in our own house. I have a friend who's been in foreclosure for over a year now, & still in her house, so if that should happen we should have a pretty large chunk o' money. Not that it will be worth anything at that point, but hey, maybe we could buy a llama or something. The plan is to rent a house here for another year, assuming we are expecting to get pitched sometime around January, then figure out where & the heck we want to go. Since watching Sicko, my husband's native Canada is looking pretty good. It's currently looking like it's going to be a choice between Portland, OR or back to Detroit. & when I say Detroit, you should see this house. Sirusly, if you're not hip to the D, you'll flip.

Besides that, read about this supposed bail out. In case you don't know it yet, it is not the answer. It's an insult. Are we really supposed to care about all those whiny bankers out there who beat their desks with their fists about how the government needs to solve this problem or else it will cause the inevitable collapse of all business in America? Excuse me? Aren't you the guys who got multi-million dollar yearly bonuses for the past decade? Why don't you cough some dat back up? Because I don't quite see how we are in the same boat here.

I am getting seriously pissed at the panic being stoked by the media. I understand, but it is highly irresponsible. This is establishing a culture of hysteria. And this plan IS hysterical.

I'm gettin some deja vu from all this hysteria. I'm beginning to see a trend in this Doomsday, We All Need to Be Buyin' Some Livestock, Victory Gardenin', Fear Pandering. Does anyone else remember a time in the not so distant past when a certain governmental entity pressured our (actual) elected officials about how he could only save us from EMINENT DOOM if we provided him with FULL & UNDISCLOSED AUTHORITY???

Yes, from the plan:

"Sec. 8. Review.
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency

Somethin' about Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Not be a complete ranting lunatic, but hasn't it been like 6 months since they (argh!) bailed out Bear Stearns? The government has yet to do anything to cope with the credit default swaps or oversee the investment banks. & we get no time to review this strategy?

Haven't we learned what ignorance & fear can do to our nation, yet?

Please, anyone reading this: write or call their Representative or Senators. Tell them that if they vote for this bill, without the kind of deliberation that anything costing $700 billion demands, you will vote for their opponent in the next election. Try not to swear.

& leave me some comments, already. I'm impressed that I'm drawing traffic from Austrailia. Wow. I can say, "Well, I'm big in Austrailia!"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Feminist my ass

I've been reading a lot of blogs, editorials, and commentaries on Sarah Palin over the last few weeks, as I'm sure many of you have. I know mine is not a unique opinion, but I have finally been able to verbalize what it is that bothers me so much about her. She's a bitch.

I know, I know. It's not nice to call someone you've never met names like that. I don't care. Let me explain...
In the spring of 2004 I left my municipal job to go back to consulting. I was excited to go work for a woman who had worked her way up, creating a Planning Department in an notoriously good old boy South Florida engineering firm. Let's call her Peg. Peg fought hard for me to take some time off before I came to work there, getting me paid vacation time, because she knew I would hit the ground running. At my 90 day review she gave me a raise. She was extremely pleased with my performance. Peg told me she was excited that she had found me because she was looking to retire in a few years & she wanted someone to take her place. She told me she believed that I possessed the ability to do the work as well as manage the politics of the office. Then she told me that she was glad that I got away from my boss at the City because the day that I turned in my 3 weeks (yes, I was trying to be nice) notice, my old boss had called her to say, "You know she's going to leave as soon as she gets pregnant." Peg shook her head over how mean this was telling me she was glad I didn't have to work for that woman anymore.

To be fair, I have no idea if my old boss actually said this, though it is possible. It is completely possible that Peg pulled this out of her ass.

I worked very hard, until almost 7pm every night, & wooed an important project to the firm that I had wanted very badly. Although I was hourly, I only claimed one extra hour a day. I felt the prying eyes of my peers on my back.

I got pregnant the following October. I actually did a pregnancy test in a hotel while attending a state conference. I didn't tell my boss until December. Other women in my department had kids. Peg looked the other way when they came in late or had to leave frantically to rescue sick kids. I didn't feel like I had anything to worry about. When I was put on bedrest 30 weeks into my pregnancy, Peg changed me to a salaried employee so that I would be able to keep my benefits. I was permitted to work form home. My billable hours were around 20 hours a week during that time. I found out the fiance of a man that worked at the firm was looking for work as a nanny. We had them over for dinner, talked about parenting philosophies, & we agreed on a price. I was relieved.

MiniMe was born 3 weeks early by emergency cesarean after 21 hours of labor. When I tried to turn in my paper work for my short term disability insurance, I found out I didn't have any. I went through my files & found photocopies of the forms that I turned in when I started working. Apparently HR never took the money out of my checks to pay into the program. I had never noticed the $1.12/week wasn't being taken out of my check. So now not only was I not going to get that money, I also had to find a way to pay my insurance premium while I was on leave. When Peg called me to see how things were going I told her about this. She basically told me it was my fault for not verifying money was being paid into the program.

When MiniMe was just 6 weeks old, I called the nanny to ask her to come meet her. She told me that her soon-to-be husband was uncomfortable with the prospect that she might be home alone with my husband. Basically, my response was, "Huh?" Maybe it was more of a "Wuh?". I was floored. I was scheduled to present my pet project at public hearing in 3 weeks. I had an infected incision and a teeny baby that wasn't nursing correctly. Now I had to find someone, somewhere to take our precious girl. I found a wonderful Montessori school that had an infant program that followed philosophies I loved. It was $350/week.

When I went back to work, I was miserable. MiniMe was barely eight pounds. I would go to nurse her on my lunch hour & cry. I would go home in the afternoon & sit with her for hours, working on nursing. Because she was so tiny, I was only allowed one four hour stretch of solid sleep. After that, I had to nurse her every two hours, or pump & have my husband give her a bottle. My husband worked an average of 70 hours a week during this time. I was working 6 hours a day & flailing. Although I had my own office, I didn't have a lock on my door. When I pumped, I put a fluorescent post-it that was 3" by 6" on my door that said "ABSOLUTELY DO NOT OPEN!" People ignored it. I was told I needed to go to the women's locker room to pump. It made people uncomfortable to know what I was doing in there.

Another project manager criticized me for getting up at 5:15pm to leave a meeting. When I explained that I had to go pick up my daughter, he said, "Can't you just get someone else to pick her up?!" My husband had to work until 8pm, the school closed at 5:30, I was full of milk. The meeting was consisting largely of them discussing their golf games at this point. I don't golf. I looked at him & said, "No, Dan. I have no one else to call. Unlike you, I do not have a wife, or heck, even a spouse that stays home. I AM the wife, Dan!"

The landscape architects for the firm were largely four recently graduated men that sat in a big square of cubicles in an isolated area of our building. I had problems with them all along. They had photoshop images with each others heads pasted on figure skaters & a little putting station. They billed twice the hours they quoted to my projects & were shopping on ebay. One day when I was leaving their area after discussing review comments, I thought I heard the sound of a cow mooing. I ignored it. To get to the kitchen I had to cross by their area. The cow sound, followed by the snickers of fraternity boys, would be heard every time I passed by. When I complained to my stupervisor I was told that I must be misunderstanding something. Yeah, because between my 7 years of college & multitudes of animal toys in my house, I have no idea what a cow sounds like.

I went back to work full time between December & April. I don't know how I did it. In April, I begged Peg for mercy. She asked me what I needed. I told her I needed to be done by 2:30pm & was fine with being hourly, as long as I kept my benefits. She said fine, as long as I was there at 7:30 every morning. I don't remember much about this time of my life, except that I was moved from my office with a door to a cubicle between administrative assistants and interns. My clients would come all the way from Israel to be embarrassed at the conditions I was given to work in. Peg quit being my direct supervisor & I was now overseen by someone I had been told I would never work for when they hired me. When I had my review he told me I was costing the company money, being part time. My billable hours were at 81%. The man reviewing me was at 65%. When I confronted Peg with this she told me he was right, I wasn't coming into work on time. It made no sense to me. They were moving me to a smaller cube. I felt like I was in Office Space & needed to track down my stapler.

My husband & I had decided we wanted to move out of Florida. We decided that signing a contract to keep MiniMe at the Montessori for a year wasn't a good idea. The tuition would be almost half of my salary. I turned in my resignation & two days before my last day, Peg repeated what my previous boss had said. "I didn't think she was right that you'd really trash your career after you had a baby."

That's the kind-of feminist Sarah Palin is. She's had to hand babies off to someone else to take care of, but been able to afford to pay someone she can trust. She holds herself up as a woman who can "have it all", without acknowledging that it's not a level playing field. She allows someone to use her as a pawn, because she's pretty. She agrees to sell out other women, mothers, hell, even her own daughter, for her own ambition. She agrees that families in this country don't deserve healthcare unless they can afford it, that they should leave their children with people they don't feel comfortable with to pay for that healthcare, and even if a woman is raped, she should still be forced into this situation because it isn't fair to the baby to not be given a chance. I'm not even bringing up the issue of that if the woman is unfortunate enough to have to have a cesarean to bring that baby into the world she will be labeled as having a pre-existing condition that will slap her with higher insurance premiums for the rest of her life. That's for another post.
I'm not saying that women don't have the right to go back to work if they choose to do so. I am saying that for some women, it isn't a choice, & Sarah doesn't even acknowledge that. Even women who can chose to stay home with their children do so at a risk to their careers. What about the men that do so? She stands on a platform of "family values", when she refuses to consider legislation that will help every family have the same opportunities for their children. Sarah perpetuates the system that ignores the best interests of my child, just like Peg, she's a bitch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where hoppytoddle comes from

I bought a pretty little journal (It had rick-rack. I love rick-rack.) when Mini Me was just 1 year old, with every intention of writing all of these sweet little stories in it for her of all the wonderful things that happened to make her who she is. I didn't write in it until a year ago today, when she was over 2 years old.

My dad died on Sept. 19 of last year, unexpectedly. Every time I sit down to write in that book since then, I think of him, & I just haven't been able to write. That's a big reason why I started this blog. I wanted to tell somebody about him & still manage to get some of the stuff that seems so mundane down for her. I'm sorry this is so sad. I'm not always this depressing, I promise. Just bear with me.

His death was sudden & as unexpected as it could be for someone who was an alcoholic, smoked 2 packs a day, occasional Swisher Sweets, & who drove the route through the Upper Peninsula of MI so he could get pasties. He wasn't always a truck driver. When I was born he worked at the Penn Dixie plant on Little Traverse Bay south of Petoskey. My dad lost his job there when the land was sold to the state, because they were drilling so far down for the limestone it was having negative affects on the fish in Lake Michigan. The selling of that land to a developer years later, who blew the remnants of the bed into the lake to make a marina for Bay Harbor, was the final push I needed to change my major to Planning. In between, he worked in foundries, as a welder, a journeyman. He did have a college degree, but he always worked with his hands. It wasn't until he died that I figured out that he preferred to work with his hands so he could have his mind all to himself. He was always thinking.

My parents got divorced before I was 2 & when they did, my mom moved back downstate. She worked hard to make sure I got to see my dad. If it wasn't for my mom & my step-mother, we probably wouldn't have really known each other. It was just too hard for my dad to see me, be reminded of both my mom & the fact that he would not get to see me grow up, really. I suspect that the reason my mom pushed so hard was partially because she's a martyr, but also because she was secretly hoping I'd decide my dad was as awful as she thought he was. It backfired.

My dad drove to stay with me in my dorm room at Michigan State. When I went to the University of Detroit, he helped me move into the dorms there. He looked at the bulletholes in the dorm & told me I was becoming an architect in Saigon. He helped me move into my first apartment, a flat at Van Dyke & Lafayette. He didn't say anything, but I knew he was scared for me.

One of my favorite stories to tell about him was when I was in Architecture school, he welded my friend Jordan's shock plate for his 1980 CJ Jeep. I was staying in this house with like 7 guys & they couldn't believe I knew the difference between an XJ, TJ & CJ. When Jordan could not find, or more accurately, afford a new shock plate, I took one look at it & said, "Let's drive out to my dad's on Sunday. He'll fix it on the spot. Just bring your one hitter." They couldn't believe my dad would just do something like that for someone. I told them, you're not just anyone. You're my friends. Jordan had a super sweet girlfriend, that I think he married, so it wasn't about that. It was a bumpy ride on 94, but it was fun, as we told stories about our families. It took all of about 4 minutes for Jordan & my dad to find something to talk about. Dad welded the plate with the torch he kept in the barn. I went to pick blueberries & made blueberry bread while they worked. I grabbed some Squirt out of the fridge & headed out to the barn. Jordan & my dad were doing hits out of the one hitter. The bread didn't last very long. We all sat around the table in the barn and gabbed. I can't for the life of me remember what we talked about, just how I felt. See, I spent a lot of time feeling sad about how my dad wasn't what my mom needed him to be. That day I stepped back, looked up, & thanked God. Maybe my dad wasn't who my mom needed, neither for herself or for me, but I was so glad he was my dad. On the way home, Jordan told me he'd never see me the same way again. It wasn't that I had a dad who got stoned every once & a while, it was that I had a dad that I could just be myself around. It wasn't just that our love for each other was palpable; we actually liked each other, too.

Dad never felt like he could ever criticize my decisions. He felt like because he didn't raise me, he didn't get to have say. Even when I begged him for his opinion, he wouldn't give it to me. He did tell me things he didn't tell anyone else. Like how he spent weeks building a landing strip in Laos, only to have to hide in a bunker for 3 days while it was destroyed. Then he had to go out & bag the bodies of his buddies that had been laying there all that time. He told me about how he got a letter from his high school sweetheart his first week of boot camp telling him she was pregnant & going to marry someone else because she knew he was going to get killed. He told me that my mom was the love of his life & never had a bad thing to say about her, except that she was a little messy. This meant a lot to a child who had no memories of her parents loving each other.

There were a lot of things about my dad that were hard to deal with. He had a gift for saying the absolute worst thing at the absolute worst time. He was not right in the way that someone with PSTD is, combined with a healthy dose of OCD. He had a combustible temper combined with remarkable shooting skills. Many times I was somewhere with him & had to quietly beg for him not to reach under the seat of his truck for his gun because he had witnessed something that he didn't know any other way to handle. There were also many times I wished he had witnessed something that someone did to me. When I was about eleven there was an incident where I gave him an ultimatum that I didn't ever want him to drink around me again. He stuck to it until I was of drinking age, & even then, he never really got drunk.

He would come stay with me at the little house I lived in in Plymouth in my last years at EMU. He would bring some Black Label, or Bell's if he was trying to be fancy. He'd sit at my kitchen table, which had been a wedding gift to he & my mom, while I cooked and baked. We would talk & eat. Walk my dogs. Drink some beer. Talk some more. He'd ask me to explain things I studied in school like situational ethics & how trusses work. We'd listen to Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, The Dead, Jessie Colter, Jimi Hendrix. When I was just about to graduate, he saw a list on my fridge that I'd made of things that I was going to buy for myself when I got a real job. He picked the most expensive thing on the list & drove to Sears to buy me a brand new 32-inch televison that very day. His only concession was that I not tell my step-mother.

I would leave parties at ungodly hours, drive the 2 hours to his house, & we'd go fishing in the north channel of Lake St. Clair. By sunrise, I'd have caught something & fall asleep in the bow. He'd do things like put vodka in my coffee while I was sleeping.

When I met my husband & moved to Florida, I killed a part of my dad. His own dad died about a month after we moved down here & he was left with no one else to fish with. We talked every Saturday afternoon, unless something special was going on. He would call occasionally during the week too, & in his messages he would always tell my husband he loved him too. Pretty amazing for someone from stoic Finnish stock. The song we danced to at my wedding was "The Promise" by Tracy Chapman. I always thought I'd move back to MI before he passed.

I can't tell you how much I miss picking up the phone & hearing him say "Hoppytoddle!?" like some teenage Beatles fan. I want to tell him Mini Me has his giggle. Those moments, of seeing her beautiful face make that sound that pierces my heart, are the very definition of bittersweet. I went through pictures looking for ones to take with me to his funeral and didn't find very many of just him. As I dug through the boxes, I realised just how many pictures there were that he took of me. And they are all my favorite ones, because when you look at them you can see how he saw me. He made me feel beautiful just because of who I am, not because of who made me, but because of what I made of myself.

In the last year I've realized some things about my dad that I never would have when he was here. My mom is currently furious with me for planning to move out of Florida. She moved down here all of 3 months after we did & she is in the process of packing my bags for the kind of enormous guilt trip only an Irish Catholic can orchestrate. My dad said so many times that my family was me & my husband now, that he loved us, that he missed us, but we had to live our lives. It is amazing to me that a man who was so challenged in so many other ways in regards to relationships, seemed to manage to let both my husband & I know that he loved us immensely, missed us terribly, but never made us feel guilty about moving away. When we went to visit him the last time, I didn't have to say a word about not smoking in his own house. Then man who lived on bacon, bread, cookies & coffee had stocked his fridge with every single organic thing they had at the little country store by his house for Mini Me. There was always a little Squirt "pop" for me, too.

More than anything, my dad taught my husband how to love me, & how a father should love his daughter. When I pulled in the driveway, he would stand outside the barn with his hands in his bibbers, smiling ear to ear, just waiting for me to come hug him. He would bend his knees up & down like a little excited kid. That man knew everything single evil, stupid, thoughtless thing I ever did, & he still found a way to make me feel like I was the best thing that ever happened to him. He taught me one of life's hardest lessons: that relationships are work, & that if you love someone, you have to love all of them, not just the fun stuff. He never took me to the doctor when I was sick, or ran me to dance class. I think he only paid like $500 towards my college tuition. But he changed the oil on my car every time I came to see him. He helped me change the alternator on my car over the phone between my shifts waiting tables. He never told me to be quiet when we were fishing because I would scare away the fish. What we had to say to each other was always more important. He celebrated my achievements as my own with absolute glee, understanding the difference between being proud of me & admiring me. He made sure to tell me the latter. His only wish for me was that I would have everything I ever wanted.

& now, most days, what I really want the most is his voice on the other end of the phone.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our new thing...

We have a little battle in our house, lately.

Before I met my husband, I was a bit of a natural foodie freak. There was no soda, sorry, pop, in my fridge. No frosted flakes in my pantry. No instant anything. But I smoked, so he kind-of called me out.

Well, years later, the lung disease put an end to the smoking thing. Since I'm at home now, and I have not much better things to do, I've gone back to my old ways. Biggie is not happy. He has gone so far as to say he thinks I need to "go see someone" about how I grocery shop & cook. He doesn't even know about the quest to find locally produced organic beef. He's fine with all the veggies, and will eat pretty much anything green as long as I make my homemade dressing for it. He has a borderline obsession with my roasted chicken, has mastered the ability to reproduce my mashed potatoes. He doesn't understand why I buy so much yogurt. His biggest issue is that he is not happy with my bread.

I am a carb freak. The circumference of my thighs can be directly attributed to the prolific basil plant, cheap pecorino at the nearby Italian market, & pasta. I started a carb revolution a few months back with the purchase of an awesome book (Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread's) and the commitment to only use whole grain flour. The half bag of white flour in the pantry is being saved for Christmas cookies, & if I can't master the whole grain version by then, pannetone. I have made several different loaves of the ones in this book, & yesterday it was bagels.

Mini Me loves to help me in the kitchen & I find ways to have her help me with the bread. My lung disease keeps me mostly housebound during these sweltering months, and baking has provided us an outlet for our boredom. A new friend of mine, Tika, & her daughter Gabby, came over for a playdate yesterday. Before they left Gabby & Mini Me helped me add sunflower seeds to the dough & roll out the bagels. I wish I thought to take a picture of them but I am new at all this, & I think supervising two preschoolers with massive available amounts of flour is sufficiently ambitious. This is Mini Me supervising the mixer, however...

Biggie can't quite bring himself to love the bagels. This batch is exactly what he requested, sunflower seeds & salt. Yet, he says they need to rise more. He says I'm doing something wrong when I boil them. Let me just say that I know quite well how lucky he is to have a wife that bakes homemade bread several times a week and somehow manages not to bash him one when he even slightly wrinkles his nose about it. Bear with him. He's Italian. If it doesn't have copious amounts of something bad for him, it's not worth his time. I promise. I will not let him get to me. This is all part of my passive aggressive way to his heart, by keeping it healthy, through his stomach.

And this is a final product shot. There are only three left today, when there were seven yesterday. Next I will make whiny man some raisin ones.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Pudding...

I've been wracking the net over the last few days trying to do some research for my mom. She is struggling with this ridiculous email she got about Obama. She asked me to research it. The most ridiculous thing in the email is saying that there isn't any proof that he's a christian.
So, how exactly, do you go about proving what someone believes in their heart?
Been ruminatin' on this one for a few days.
Leave it to my Mini Me to make sense of it all. She got mad at her dad & spouted off,
"Jesus, Rick!"
I have no idea who says these things, but I guess it proves that I believe in God. Seen as how my 3 year old calls on him for help & all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What's with the mean?

So, I'm reckoning with the fact that I do not live amongst my kin. I am surrounded with people I can not relate to on so many levels I am beginning to be curious about my husband's obsession with Star Trek, because I now believe I can identify with living on another planet with other species.

Yeah. It's that bad.

I was looking for some female, mother venting. I went to our local newspaper's website, as I have seen several ads for this social networking site they sponsor. I was rummaging around & thought heck, I'll check out the political posts. Um. Okay, break. Sidebar. Red light.

I am not registered as any political affiliation. I think the current status of our country sucks. Doesn't help that I married a Canadian who whines every chance he gets about how ignorant & backwards we are. I have come to the conclusion that I am supporting Barrack Obama. I am a very thorough researcher. I have investigated his stance on the issues important to me, as well as his opponent. I watched &/or listened to both conventions. I became ill. I am very offended by Ms. Sarah Palin. Just leave it at that.

Both of my grandfathers served in WW2. My paternal GP, Frank, was a Gunny Sargent in the Pacific. He did SEVEN beach heads. (that opening scene in "Saving Private Ryan". Did that 7 times.) He volunteered for FOUR of them. Yeah. I know. My other GP, Louis aka Red, was in the Army. I don't know what his rank was (he's still alive at 82. Piss & vinegar gets ye far. I could ask, but we clash.), but I know he was there when they liberated Auschwitz. My dad was a Sea Bee in Vietnam. He was awarded a Bronze Star. My point with all these qualifiers is that I come from a family that supports the military. I do not, however, support our occupation of Iraq.

Back to the newspaper website. Let's just say that I was horrified by the blind, misinformed, one-sided, hate-filled comments I read there. Hate.

See, I've got this thing about hate. I'm from Detroit. I'm an Urban Planner. I became an Urban Planner because I love Detroit. I am one of those naive, hopeless romantics that wants to make it better. A friend calls me the S & M Planner because I'm from the bell-weather of failing cities & live just across the river from the textbook joke of all planned cities. The thing that did my city wrong is hate. I like to think of myself as an anti-hate super hero. I was correcting Grandpa Frank from telling off-color jokes at age eight.

I have 2 bumper stickers on my car. One reads, "We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them". Another reads, "You Can't Kill For Peace". Yesterday I took my car to the dealership where my husband works to have the oil changed. I went in, talked to the service tech, walked back out & got in my husbands car where he was waiting with Mini Me to take me home. He pointed out that the service techs were pointing at my stickers & laughing. Not the kind of laughing of, "Oh man! That's a good un!" No. This was the, "Ha! Look at the commie that's gonna get herself lynched!" laughing. I confronted the guy, not with hostility, but with concern. I told him (untruthfully) that I had had stickers removed from my car there previously & wanted to make sure I didn't have anything to worry about. He smirked. "Eve'rbody's got der right to der own 'pinion, I reckon, " he said. Smirk.

So then I came home & read some of my beloved Free Press online. Read some of the lovely stories & commentary on the Mayor (the title deserves respect even though he doesn't) resigning. Read some of the lovely hate he was spewing. Sigh.

Looked on you tube to see the reasons why people aren't wanting to support Obama. Found some lovely people that actually admitted they were not going to vote for him simply because of his skin color.

This morning I went to the local Obama office to try to get a yard sign indicating my support. I was having a hard time finding the place. I stopped a FedEx driver to ask him if he knew where the place was. He didn't want to tell me. He told me to go register as a republican. He told me I was "an idiot" for thinking Obama will win. More hate.

After I got my sign, they were apparently trying to tow my car because I wasn't parked in the right place. There were no signs indicating where I was not allowed to park in the clearly marked space that I did, but hey. That couldn't of had anything to do with the big McCain signs in the legal office windows facing my car, could it? No, couldn't possibly be more hate.

After I got home & was standing in my front yard with Mini Me, pushing our new sign into the ground, a big truck with tinted windows blared its' horn & swerved at me.

So, I decided I needed to spread some love.

I talked to my best, & admittedly republican, other mama friend here in SWFL this afternoon. She knows I've been having a hard time. We came to a mutual agreement. We love each other. We provide unconditional, non-judgemental support for one another. She was there for me when I didn't know I needed her & has become a primary witness to my life. We are grateful for each other because she has listened to my pain over all the hate I have witnessed in the last few days over this election. She understands how alien this all feels to me. We know we are on different sides of this fight, but we still find a way to respect each other. I am proud of us.
Oh, & I keep reading this:
"We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation. Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights. Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness. Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea - Yes. We. Can."

So, please don't send me any messages about how wrong I am. What's that thing? If you don't have anything nice to say....? Let's go with that.