Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And Then There Were Three

My second daughter, Adrian is due to give birth to her own second child in a little over a month’s time. She is Mom to 7-year-old Aiden, who I have written about from time to time. “Aiden better enjoy being the only grandchild because soon he won’t be getting all the attention,” she said.

In addition to her child’s impending arrival, her sister, Erin is due to give birth to her first child just a few weeks ahead of Adrian. Two grandbabies in the space of a month! I will be busy, for sure.
Erin and Adrian with baby bumps

But, Aiden will never, ever take second place. As I told Adrian, “I have enough love to go around.”

I wonder, though, how Aiden will receive his little brother. The two won’t be close in age, but that will balance out over the years. I envision Aiden as a protective older brother

but one with the questionable sense of humor he inherited from his mom.

I called Adrian recently and told her she might want to consider changing the name she had picked out for her unborn. Aiden came up with a nickname already for Carter – “Carter Farter.” Cute, huh? That’s a little boy for you, I guess. It probably won’t matter what name the baby carries, his big brother is sure to find a boatload of nicknames that will be used to annoy, harass, pick-on, and intimidate his younger sibling.  That’s what they do, right?

From the moment I met Aiden, two days after his birth, he had my heart. His smile is contagious

and has gotten him out of trouble numerous times. It will also be used, I’m sure, to win the hearts of many of the opposite sex someday, that is, when he can stop being grossed out by the mere mention of “girls.” Aiden is a boy through and through. I say this because, having raised two daughters, I see the difference between the two genders.

He loves loud things: sounds like explosions, toy car crashes, and banging. He expresses himself with loud grunts, growls, and yells. He needs to be on the move constantly. His mother bemoans, “Where does he get all that energy? I am exhausted!” Right now, as he tries to play a computer game he is jumping out of his skin; in between game moves he jumps onto the couch and bounces about, accompanying his actions with all sorts of expressive words and sounds. He is a healthy, active boy.

Adrian is already preparing herself for having two boys on her hands; and she thinks she is tired now. For me, I am beside myself with anticipation for the two newest arrivals. Aiden has nothing to worry about; he is and will always be the first and enjoy all that comes with that special status. Just as he is an amazing little boy, I know he is going to be an amazing big brother and cousin. As Nana, I get to sit back and watch. Well, that’s what I think I’ll be doing. I’m pretty sure there will a lot of rocking, snuggling, and toddler chasing in my future. What more could a Nana want?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Morning Coffee with an Old Girl, Broken Tail, and a Crybaby

It’s early and my morning routine is nearly over. I wake up with the rising sun; my internal clock seems to know when that is no matter how dark the room is. Two of my dogs, Maya and Grubb awaken with me and when I’m ready to get out of bed they are ready to go, as well. We leave the the bedroom quietly so as not to wake up my husband, John, who is able to sleep for one to two more hours. I take these two dogs outside; sometimes our oldest canine, Zeke, is ready to go then, too. As I head back into the house three of our numerous cats (we run a rescue operation) that are allowed inside: Broken Tail, Crybaby, and Old Girl are standing by the door. Sometimes Old Girl, 17 years at last count is already inside if she decided the night before she wanted a cushier sleeping place. As I make my coffee the three cats mill about. I then return outside to get the newspaper and greet several of the other cats along the way.

By the time I return to the house my coffee is ready. After making a cup just the way I like it I sit in my corner rocker and begin to read the paper. The cats find their spots, usually Broken Tail or Crybaby secure my lap, while Old Girl sits near my feet waiting for a scratch on the head. When I get up for my second cup of coffee, the two oldest ones follow me into the kitchen; they know a small saucer of milk (not too much as it’s not good for them) is poured and one after another (they are not good at sharing) they lap it up.

While I sip my coffee and continue with the morning news, the cats settle once again. This time, Crybaby finds her spot on an old cushion on the floor to my left. 

Broken Tail sits atop the discarded papers I’ve already read, and Old Girl jumps upon the side table right next to my shoulder.

As I read and drink I’ll reach over and scratch her behind the ears. She isn’t one to climb into my lap; she never was one of those kinds of cats. In fact, her attachment to me now is one I find comforting and astonishing. Old Girl’s story is an interesting one.

She was born, along with her only sibling, a brother, in 1993. Her mom, Hazel, was found wandering in a field just days before she delivered her litter. We were in New York at the time but in a week were headed back to Las Vegas, driving across the country with an already animal-filled van. What’s a couple more? Besides, it seemed Hazel had decided we were her “people” now. So, they came along with us. Hazel was an amazing mom; she only left the kittens to go use the facilities – that being whatever side of the road we happened to stop at. She never went too far from the van and always returned promptly to her babies. Poor Hazel died back in New York when we had once again made the state our temporary home. She’d lived a good, if not long life with us and left us with great memories of that black and white beauty.

Hazel left behind only one of her offspring. When we first moved to New York (this was 1997), we stayed in a camper on my brother’s property that bordered a corn field. One day the brother of Old Girl (which of course wasn’t her name back then) went into the fields and never came back. His sister pined for him as they were very close. I think the sibling bond is what kept her from needing human affection. It was very sad to watch her wander around, lost and looking.

We returned to Las Vegas a few years later and once again she, and whatever new animal acquisitions we had, came along with us. My animals are family; I could no more leave them behind than I could one of my children.

It is now 2010 and Old Girl, whose original name has been lost, is in her last years. She is still spry and healthy. She can still give a “whack” to the upstarts that dare to get in her way. She has decided that I am allowed in her personal space, though, and I see it as a privilege. As I sit here with her by my side I feel a deep connection to her and her story. I will miss her when she passes on, but there are plenty of others who will take her place. I will think about Old Girl ten and twenty years from now as I sit with my coffee and my paper and keep company with Broken Tail and Crybaby as we all will be in our twilight years. Until then, I will continue to enjoy my morning routine with my very dear friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Defense of Soap Operas

How frustrated do you get while waiting an entire week for the next episode of your favorite shows to air?   Waiting for the week to pass is bad enough, but it's even worse now with shows taking months off at a time.  It used to be the only hiatus was the summer and then winter through spring we would have all new shows each week and just have to survive the seven days. 

Remember when the Sopranos took, what, a year and half before airing their final season?  The network honchos must think we, the viewing public, are really gullible and that their shows are sooooooo important that we will put up with this.  Well, okay, we do.  As much as I'd like to boycott shows that do this long-extended waiting period, I will be right there watching one of my favorites, The Closer when it resumes this summer. 

That's why I'm here defending the serial soap opera.  Soap operas, a mainstay of daytime television for decades, are on the verge of extinction.  Guiding Light went off the air for good recently, after an incredible, impressive 70-plus year run.  I think Another World is on the chopping block now.  I've never watched those shows.  Back in the seventies when I lived with my aunt I got hooked on The Young and the Restless.

That soap was my only adult exposure during the years I was a mom to babies and toddlers.  My friend, Patty and I would let the kids play while we watched each juicy performance.  We'd talk about it all weekend while we anxiously awaited Monday's episode. 

When I resumed my college education I tried to continue watching the soaps.  By this time my girls were all grown up and they would berate me for watching "that crap."  As I was getting more and more intelligent from the learning I was doing, I had to agree with them.  I stopped watching Y & R for years. 

Whether it was out of boredom and a longing for old "friends" I started recording the soap again.  I just wanted to see what was new, which is an oxymoron in the world of soaps as the same story line get redone over and over; they just use different people and tweak it slightly.  Still, after a few weeks I found myself hooked all over again.

Sometimes the storylines are so ridiculous that I find myself jumping ahead in the show.  Maybe my education has had some influence.  Yet, when a really good plot is being laid out I find I can't wait to watch the next day's episode.  And THAT is the beauty of soaps.  I don't have to wait a whole week for satisfaction; I only have to wait a day.  Sure, sometimes they draaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggg the plotline out for weeks and months, making me, and others if the online chatrooms are indication, want to jump out of my skin.  But because the shows air daily, it isn't too long of a wait for the cliffhangers to be resolved.

So here's my plea to the producers of soaps - keep them on the air.  The Young and the Restless is my particular soap, so hopefully that's not ending soon.  For the sake of others who like General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, and what other ones are out there, leave 'em alone!  We need our daily fix while we wait for Flash Forward and LOST to return. 

So, here's a toast to you, Soap Operas!  Thanks for the memories and may you live on forever!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blood Letting

My husband and I had a date this morning and you know you've reached a point in the marriage when the date is to have your blood drawn together. We had orders from our respective doctors for the lab tests. John’s was ordered about six months ago but he never took the time to get it done. I have a follow-up with my own doctor soon and needed to have the results in before my appointment. After the requisite wait, we both had our procedures and were on our way.

“How many vials did they take from you,” I asked?

“Two,” John responded.

“Two? They took six from me!”   Due to a thyroid condition and my age, I guess more needs to be taken from me to conduct all the tests.

I got to thinking about how women really do go through so much more than men, physically-speaking.  My need to have that much more drawn is to assess my levels of TSH, Progesterone, Estrogen, Vitamin D, Lipids, etc.  It seems excessive but necessary.  Guys probably only need to have their Cholesterol checked, so they hardly give up any at all.  Unlike men, once a month we women surrender even more of our blood.

We have a lot of things done to us: mammograms, pap tests, breast exams and more, and that's just to be healthy; the things we women do to be beautiful is another story.  We go through nine months of pregnancy, along with all its associated physical challenges and then give birth!  We nurse our children.  We catch their contagious illnesses.  Our bodies give so much.  If men had to experience a fraction of what we do, I wonder what their reaction would be.  Maybe they'd be a little more understanding about our moods. 

Perhaps giving up so much this morning before coffee and food made me feel a bit self-sacrificing, hence the whine-fest. To his credit, John did take me for breakfast after; I do get cranky without it.  No longer depleted, I can now think clearly and acknowledge all the things men go through: taking out the garbage, working long hours, having to listen to their women, and... hey!, none of that seems too bad.  Try opening up a vein now and then, buddy!.  Here I go again - I better go get something more to eat.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Back to School

I left my home in New York State in 1976 to pursue my lifelong dream of working in the animal industry. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a junior college in California that would award me an Associate’s Degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management. It was the most wonderful experience for me, but when I walked on to the graduation stage I only a received a Certificate of Completion for the animal program. I never finished all of the credits to receive the degree.

Then, life got in the way as it always does. I got pregnant then married, had another child; I divorced and found love and marriage again. All the while I plodded through day to day life, working this job and that, but never feeling like I was making a contribution to my future or to my family, nor to the world as a whole. I had always felt disappointed in myself for never having completed my degree and believed that without one I would be stuck in low-paying service jobs. I decided to go back to school.

In 1993, I applied to the local community college. I was 35-years-old but didn’t think twice about my age or my abilities. Sure, I had to take all the prerequisites in math and English but I never balked at starting from the beginning. My first college experience was a less serious approach. I was a young kid with little thought given to the importance of academics. This time I was keenly aware of the potential opportunities a college degree would afford me. That’s not to say that the entire experience wasn’t difficult, full of challenges I didn’t think I could meet, and put a great strain on my family.

As I look back on the years it took me to reach my goal of a college degree, I can only say that not only was it worth every sweat and tear, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I am now a professor, not by career but by economic choice – it’s paying the bills; well, sorta. There’s not a lot of money paid to part-time faculty, but when you consider the free time the job affords, it fits perfect with my approach to a job. I would rather be driving around the country in a fully-outfitted RV, writing my book and interviewing those I encounter along the way, documenting their life stories.

For now, at least, I’m standing before a room full of blank and sometimes bored faces trying to educate. My ability to reach my students, to inform them about the subject matter, as well as about the importance of the choice they've made to continue their education is one I take very seriously. You know who are the most dedicated? It’s the non-traditional student – the older ones who went back to school.  They are the most motivated, whose lives are full and busy but who are trying the hardest to succeed. It’s the oddest feeling to be the one on the other side of the podium; I can see my own strained, yet, eager face among this group.

Although I have reached the end of my academic pursuits, there’s no way I am going to continue on for a PhD, I continue to learn every single day as a teacher. It isn’t easy presenting yourself as a “know-it-all” but as a teacher you have to give that impression, so I work really, really hard to be as knowing as I can on my subject. I continue to learn some new fact and increase my knowledge on the topic I teach. But the real knowledge I am gaining is that no matter how old you are, no matter how challenging life is, and no matter how little time you have, going back to college is a smart, fulfilling, and enriching experience. And, you might just get a good job out of it in the end.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rant and Rave

I have started out my Monday mad as Hell.  The first day of a very busy week and now I have a crappy attitude that I hope I can change so I'm not a real drag to be around all day. 

It all started with a frick'n 2:00 AM text message on my phone.

What is WRONG with people that they think its okay to send messages or to call someone in the middle of the night?  My phone is on my nightstand because I have people in the world that, God forbid, may NEED me in case of emergency.  Two daughters, three brothers, and close friends whom I would jump out of bed in a heartbeat for and go to their aid.  Not a "Call me in the morning, I need to talk to you about a problem in my relationship" or a drunken "Happy Thanksgiving, I love all my family and friends!"  And what is it about 2:00 in the morning?  Is that the magic hour that inspires people to "reach out and touch someone?"

I am not a deep sleeper, never have been but these days, with the big "M" on my middle-age horizon and the chaos that is my life right now, sleep is a luxury that I get very little time for.  I'm lucky to get a full seven hours a night; I have no recollection of sleeping more than that in many months.  So people need to stop contacting me in the middle of the night unless it is a true life-or-death emergency - and I BETTER not get one of those; I can't handle that right now- or ever.

Perhaps it's my poor, lack-of-sleep attitude but reading my local paper this morning has me seething.

Some local residents here in Las Vegas are having a really hard time, just as I know people are experiencing all over the country. Unable to make their meager paychecks stretch, those interviewed for the article confess they are going hungry in order to pay the utilities and medical bills.  A few pages later is a piece highlighting all the goodies that celebrities are are showered with in the "gift salons" provided for them during this awards week.

I think it's time for a movement to put "stars" and pseudo-celebrities in their place - out of the spotlight and into an unemployment line.  The outrageous salaries (Harry Potter star Emma Watson, 19-years-old makes 30 million dollars?) and the fawning and drooling over them because they are famous has to stop!  I get really pissed off when a charity uses a celebrity to encourage us regular people to open our wallets and fund their programs.  We can't afford it and they can; just say "no" to the celebrity gift bags and tell the sponsors to put the money toward the charity they are the spokesperson for.

Whew!  The rant is over.  Boy, does that feel good to get it all out.  Although I've always been an optimist, preferring to see the proverbial "silver lining" in everything I've noticed I have a much lower tolerance level for things.  Perhaps, like lack of sleep it's another side effect to the coming physical, hormonal, and emotional changes I'm in for.  Come to think of it, many old people I know are kinda cranky.  I'm not old yet, but is the start of the downward spiral into misery and bitchiness?  I hope not.

However, maybe there is some good in blowing off steam every now and then.  If that's the case then prepare yourselves for an occasional Rant-Fest via my blog. 

Now, on with my day!