Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not Your Average TV Tray

It’s funny how much I used to love blogging. I mean, I actively looked for things to blog about. When I had a bad day, I’d think, “Well, at least I can blog about it.” Learning to laugh at things (and hoping other people found comfort in laughing at them, too) used to totally make my day.

Since Sam’s birth, I’ve lamented the loss of blogging, the loss of my valued self-expression. There was never enough time, or I was dog-tired from work. But something interesting has occurred over the past few weeks. Sam has gained some level of independence (which I love), and Brett has (on many occasions) taken snuggle time with Sam before bed, so I am actually left, all alone, out in our living room.

At first, I reveled in the alone time. Why, I could watch a show I wanted to watch. I could read my book! The strangest thing is that I found myself NOT wanting to blog. And even though I love my novel, I found myself not wanting to work on that, either.

I struggled within myself, since I am a writer, and in my heart, all I want to do is write. I mean, lock the doors, shut out the rest of the world, and write solidly for hours at a time. That, to me, sounds like a little bit of heaven. And here I was shying away from something I have loved from the moment Mom put a crayon in my hand.

I floundered for a while, until I realized what the problem was—a TV tray. That’s right, a plain wooden (cheap, cheap, cheap) TV tray that held our laptop. It was old and shaky and the thought of pouring my heart out on it just made me want to weep. I realized in that moment that I was an abject failure. My heart pounded, galloped, as I thought about having to write on that crappy TV tray.

You know I have not mourned the loss of our house from the bankruptcy. I have wished on occasion for my own washer/dryer, extra storage, a fenced-in backyard, but that giant albatross, that millstone about our necks, is not missed by me. Oh, but what I realized, I DID miss was my desk. The precious space that was all mine, not organized (because hey, I’m still me), but the space that housed old love notes from Brett, letters from my high school best friend, Tania, and framed photos of the bunnies and other family members that boosted me through those wordless plateaus (few as those were back in the day).

Our apartment has a desk, but it’s Brett’s desk. It’s piled high with clutter, receipts, his wallet, assorted keys, old calendars, reference books, phone books from 1994. You can take the clutter out of the house, but you can’t take the clutter out of my packrat (God love him).

The truth is I made a deal with Brett that if he could contain his clutter to his desktop, then I wouldn’t hassle him about how messy his desk was. That agreement has failed, as I know it would, since my sweet and caring husband (of this I am sincere!) just can’t help himself, and spreads clutter and trails tiny pieces of paper as sure as Pigpen spread his dust among the Peanuts gang.

This clutter has spread to the kitchen table, our countertops, and the three other TV trays, end tables, and bookshelves. Yet, somehow, I’ve managed to clear spaces here and there and make our home a place I can put up with – not love, because a clean and clear space is what I would love. But I know my own reality, and “put up with” is really quite a blessing and definitely good enough for me.

So, it was no wonder, as I stared at that dumpy, lilting tray, I felt failure staring back at me. My majestic hero cannot rise from a TV tray. He would be insulted, in spite of his own humble origins. And somehow, pouring my heart out felt like the least of my worries.

I know it’s silly to miss a desk. I know it’s ridiculous to get sentimental over a TV tray. But, I realized it was true. That stupid tray was holding me back. I purposed in my heart that I would longer be bound by flimsy fiberboard.

In the past week, blog posts have finally started pouring back in my head! My connection has been restored with the mother ship. I can’t guarantee this blog will be any better or even on par with my old posts. I’ve lost valuable brain cells to childbirth, and I don’t think they’re coming back. But, I’ll do my best.

Coming at you live from the stupid TV tray in my living room.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


So, my friend Cindy says she misses me blogging on a regular basis. She’s not the only one! I miss it, too.

Cindy tagged me in a post, so I would HAVE to blog, and so here we go…

Given a plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I think I would go to Maine. I really want to go to Disneyworld in Florida, but if I’m only getting a plane ticket and not an all-expenses-paid trip in this little fictional exercise, then I would go to Maine. Why Maine? Because one of my all time fictional heroes, Jessica Fletcher, was/is from Maine.

I remember watching Murder She Wrote with my mom all those years and thinking how Maine would be such a nice (albeit murderous) place to visit.

Second (or third, if we’re still counting Florida) would be a nice, cozy cabin in Vermont in the dead of winter. If you know me at all, you know I hate summer weather, so a winter vacation in a snowy state would be right up my alley.

Who is your most admired woman, living or dead, and why?
Well, that’s easy. My mother, of course. I’ve extolled Mom’s many virtues in several other posts. All other places would go to my grandmother, mother-in-law, sister, and several of my wonderful sisters-in-law, nieces, aunts and cousins.

If I don’t include family, I guess I’d have to say Dr. Rosalie de Rosset, one of my professors at Moody. She was the first person to communicate clearly how much God loves women. Up until I met Dr. de Rosset, I thought God loved me less, because I was a woman.

It was Dr. de Rosset who challenged my perception and shoved me into the bright light that was God’s love for ME, as a person AND as a woman. I liked her style, her refusal to pacify male chauvinists, and her take-no-prisoners approach to teaching. Keep up or get out.

She loved the Lord, but everyone else better pay attention and work hard to get noticed. I sure did, and I was extremely pleased when my end-of-class essay was one of only two she chose to read out loud on the last day of class. I’ve done a lot of writing in my life, but that stands out as one of my proudest moments.

(Besides the Bible, of course) What is your favorite book, and why?
My favorite book is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I’ve written about it numerous times. It never fails to move me. I am continually reminded to remember the over six million people who died in civilization’s greatest tragedy. Corrie’s book shows God’s love in such overwhelming circumstances from a vantage point that is uniquely heartbreaking.

Do you re-read favorite books? (If so, care to name which ones?)
Absolutely! My policy is to never buy a book unless I am sure I will re-read it. I mean, otherwise, there’s always the library, right?

I love to re-read Stones from the River (Ursula Hegi), Bad Luck and Trouble (Lee Child), Chocolate Malts and Nickel Sodas (Margaret Johnson – it’s now out of print, sadly), and Body Politic (by Paul Johnston).

What is the biggest difference (other than gender!) between you and your husband?
Wowsa. Loaded question. Does “everything” count as an answer? I mean, seriously, we are polar opposites. He’s mostly a pessimist (unless it comes to people); I’m an optimist (unless it comes to people). I’m ambitious; he’s laid back. I’m neat; he’s a pack rat. I’m a planner; he’s spontaneous. I could go on, but seriously, pick something, and I can almost guarantee we’ll be on opposite sides of it!

What is your favorite soup?
The Baked Potato Soup at The Olympic Tavern. Hands down, the best (potato or any other kind of) soup, I’ve ever had.

If calories, weight gain or health were no object, what food would you eat all you wanted of?
Yeah, like I’d let that stop me anyway. Okay, if you know me, if you read my blog, you already guessed this…bagels and cream cheese!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Untitled (because I’m literally that empty headed)

Words, stories of any kind have just deserted me of late. I want to want to write, but I feel like a dry well. Once good for something, but now just creaky, parched, and kind of an eyesore someone should raze out of its misery.

I sat down to write a blog post, and ended up writing something pretty foreign to me – a poem. I like it, though, and I think it perfectly expresses how I feel.


Maybe I’m not supposed to have the words

Maybe it’s the price I paid

For the baby in my womb

Frustrated, silent and unsaturated

Familiar friends, my verbs and nouns

They skirt the room, eluding me

I wish my urge to chase was stronger

But toys and books and children’s clutter

Calls to me with siren song

Oh housewife of yore

That twit you swore you’d never be

Looks back at you in shock

I can’t relent

I wouldn’t take it back

For all the pictures words would paint

My child’s cry is more

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Birthday with The Other Guys

Yesterday Angie took me to the movies, ostensibly for my birthday. The truth is Angie and I will use any reason we can think of to go to the movies, including a solar eclipse, religious holidays, and the end of the world.

We pull the "birthday" ruse, so our husbands will think of how "nice" we're being to each other and be less likely to figure out that we are each having about six birthdays a year. (I kid, I kid.)

Anyway, a big thank you to Tim (Angie's husband) and Brett for taking the parental reigns solo and letting the two of us hit the town for dinner and couple $5 movies.

I had only planned on seeing one movie. When Angie and I had talked over the phone, I said I wanted to see The Other Guys (namely, because of the magnificent Mr. Wahlberg). I noticed, however, Ms. Actionista kept trying to persuade me that The Expendables would also be an excellent choice.

I didn't particularly want to see The Expendables, even if every action star ever born was in it, since the script was written by a solid piece of wood known as Sylvester Stallone. Said piece of wood was also the director of this plotless wonder.

But when Angie picked me up from work, she said, "I know you have to work tomorrow, but we could still see at least two movies."

She said it in such as way as to imply that if I didn't want to see two movies, I was a gutless, spiny old person. Washed up at (almost) 32.

I understand, though. Angie and I are true Movie Mavens. Back when Kerasotes had the $5 Club, we'd take a Friday, start in the afternoon, and see up to four movies. Our personal record was five movies in one day! We started at noon (I had taken the day off) and went until 2 a.m.

It was crazy, but it is also a great story to share and glory moment to relive. People are always like, "Five movies in one day! Are you nuts?!"

And we love to admit that we are a little nuts. But you knew that.

Anyway, I accepted Angie's challenge. We went to Panera for a delicious dinner (albeit extremely small portions for the exorbitant price). And then we had to stop at Wal-Mart, because Angie thought she might be cold in the theater. One of the hottest summers on record, and she thinks the theater might be over air-conditioned. Whereas, I, on the other hand, would be willing to sit in the front row hugging the AC vent for dear life.

Ah, well. It is our differences that make us friends.

Angie bought her sweatshirt (a man's Ultimate Fighting something or another – Angie loves the whole UFC thing, and because I listen to her, I actually noticed the logo, and pointed the sweatshirt out to her, despite my distaste for sports and sweaty men. If that isn't friendship, I don't know what is.). Then we headed to the movies.

We did stop along the way to take a photo of a dog driving a car in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Angie used her smart phone to snap the photo and upload it to Facebook while I cooed at the adorable mobile mutt.

At the theater, Angie pulled a surprise by announcing she had even budgeted for popcorn! This is quite a sacrifice, as popcorn at the AMC Theatres is now gone up to $100 per bag. Well, okay, not that much, but it was still a jump. At Kerasotes, we used to get the "Mega Combo" – two large drinks and a tub of popcorn for $13. At AMC, they will only give you a large bag (no tubs!) and two large drinks for a whopping $18! Holy cow!

Anyway, Angie said she had previously decided to offer the popcorn option ONLY if I agreed to two movies (since with two movies she felt like she'd be getting her money's worth of popcorn). So, I was very grateful, because we've been boycotting popcorn ever since the theater switch, even though we both stare longingly at the concession counter every time we see a movie.

So, we settled in with our (not-as-good-as-Kerasotes') popcorn to watch The Expendables. We had to sit through not one but TWO previews for movies about the devil – in one, a bunch of people are stuck in an elevator with the devil (but you don't know who it is), and a second one about an exorcism. No thank you.

Although, I admit I smiled slightly when I leaned over to Angie and whispered, "Why all the movies about the devil?" and she replied, "The end times." And continued to calmly eat her popcorn while I covered my eyes. I can't watch scary movies – or even scary movie previews – they give me nightmares for weeks!

The Expendables had a predictable plot and a horrible script (expected, as it was written by an oak tree), but the acting was decent, and it sure was something to see all those action stars in one movie. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up for some corny one-liners (but got cheers from our fellow moviegoers). Mickey Rourke continued to prove himself as an actor with some range in that messed up face.

My favorite was Jet Li who had some great dialogue and terrific martial arts action for an oldster. And, of course, Jason Statham was clearly in his element surrounded by his predecessors. It was actually a very cool torch-passing movie.

I could have done without Stallone or Lundgren and all the UFC fighters, wrestlers, Little Leaguers or whatever they were. But Angie thought they lent some real street cred to the movie, so whatever. It was a fun, popcorn movie and that's all we really wanted or expected.

The Other Guys was WAY funnier than I expected. Will Ferrell was pitch-perfect, and Mark was flawless (and funny) as usual. My favorite line in the whole movie is "You learned to dance, sarcastically?!" It's in the midst of a hilarious scene, but Will Ferrell delivered it so perfectly, I felt like I was saying it. I love it when the movie draws you in so well that you can chose a character and can easily follow his mindset.

The movie got a little bogged down in the middle, and there was some smut that could have easily been left out (the movie is poorer for it, actually), but the end came roaring back. Michael Keaton is excellent as the hardened police captain with a side job at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Eve Mendes does a passable job (high praise coming from me). The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson steal the first part of the movie with some jokes and a surprise twist that bump the whole movie up a couple of notches.

Overall, I was really impressed, and Angie and I were both relieved we ended on that movie. It's always better to end on a more lighthearted movie before heading back into the real world.

The late-night car ride home was filled with rich conversation that might just keep me satisfied until our next movie night – which will undoubtedly be next month. When we celebrate Angie's birthday. Again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

That Guy on Facebook Who Just Won’t Friend Me

Well, my previous blog post lamenting my own selfishness and poor parenting skills brought many moms out of the boardrooms, playrooms and kitchens to commiserate with me. I thank you all – I really do – for the wonderfully supportive e-mails, blog comments, and Facebook "inboxes" (as my mother calls them).

(Side note: Mom thinks the Inbox on Facebook is a verb. So whenever she wants to send someone a private message, she tells me she is going to "inbox" them. Which of course makes me think of Mom walking up to someone and smacking them upside the head with a gigantic mail box. Which always makes me want to laugh, but I never do, partly because I want her to keep saying it.)

Seriously, I'm so touched by the many moms who told me my feelings were completely normal and that I don't qualify for the loony bin quite yet. I really wish people would talk about these things at church or in everyday conversations.

I wish more people would say, "Man, I have cereal loops in my hair." "Why is Jim-Joe being such a little crankpot today?" or "Has your kid ever tried to ride the vacuum?"

I think I'm going to start saying these things, just so someone is.

What my woe-is-me-just-because-I-got-everything-I-asked-for post DID do was unclog my brain just the tiniest bit, and so I thought I'd try to blog about the topic that is currently driving me nuts.

That Facebook guy who just won't friend me.

If you've read my blog for any length of time, then you know about The Bully Chronicles (see links at right for the full story). You know my experience at my tiny, legalistic "Christian" school left me physically battered and bruised as well as doing quite a number on my psyche.

I promise I'm not going to rehash those posts. They were painful enough to write the first time. I'm just using them as a springboard for some background.

While I dealt with bullies and bystanders, there were always people who were just on the sidelines. People who didn't sway one way or the other.

The neutrals.

My high school bullies were (mostly) in the class one grade higher than mine, my cousin Charity's class (and while Charity and I had our problems back then, she surely didn't bully me. I'm afraid I gave as good as I got on that particular score. But that's what family is for, right?).

My one-year-younger cousin Colleen's class was a sickeningly sweet swarm of do-gooders with plastic smiles, a penchant for antiquated rules, and a devotion to the dreaded culottes (I may be generalizing here a bit).

The REAL truth is the kids in Colleen's class were sincerely nice people, and not one of them ever treated me poorly, no matter how much I weighed or how sarcastic I was bent on being. Which is saying a lot. Because I was EXTREMELY sarcastic. (was?)

To be fair to Charity's class, the other two girls in her class are still two of my dearest friends (as is Charity, once our truce was negotiated).

Anyway, for the most part, the kids in Colleen's class were pretty neutral. I liked almost all of them, and have maintained a point of contact with several of the girls since high school (mostly through our mothers or shared friend Colleen).

But there is this one guy.

I saw him post a comment on our old science teacher's wife's Facebook status. I thought, "Oh, old Frank-n-Beans is on Facebook. I'll see if he wants to be friends."

I sent off my merry little friend request, and seeing as we already have 20 friends in common, I thought it would be a no-brainer. From a tiny school like Holy Rollers, knowing the same 20 people is akin to practically being family.

I didn't hear from good, ol' Frank for a while, and I chalked it up to his not being a regular Facebooker, like yours truly.

But then his comments started popping up on all my friends' statuses. So, I curiously visited his page to see the "Add as Friend" button grayed up in all its glory.

So, he'd ignored me. That little gray button seemed to taunt me as I began to wonder what was so wrong with me that Mr. Dudley-Do-Right, Mr. Frank-n-Beans would ignore me!

I lurked his page to discover he was married with kids. He looked relatively the same (as do I), and seemed to have a happy little life.

I gave myself the pep talk you give when you feel self-conscious. You know the one, where you say, "If someone doesn't want to be friends with you, then you don't want to be friends with them! It's their loss, so there!"

But it just gets under my skin that he doesn't want to be my friend.

I didn't DO anything mean to him. I was nice as pie. He wasn't exactly Mr. Popularity, but at 300 pounds I was hardly being crowned as Miss Typical Teenager, myself.

When I posted my insecurity on Facebook, I expected a blast of people telling me it didn't matter. Instead, I got sympathetic comments from friends who had felt the same way.

Other friends said they had former Sunday School teachers hit the Ignore button when it came to their friend request. Still other related horror stories about people removing them at a whim and even notifying them that they hadn't made the latest "friend" cut.


So, I suppose it could be worse.

I just wish there was a way to find out why he doesn't want to be my friend.

I think Facebook should invent a way for someone who ignores you to send you a message telling you why - a completely honest message - like, "Hey, I never really liked you." "I have a problem with fatties." "I have no interest in any part of your life, not even the tiniest bit. Not even if you write a blog post about me and how much I don't want anything to do with you."

Or, you know, something like that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Miss Me

Caveat: This is not an upbeat post. I'm dealing with some life issues, and as always, you're invited to come along. It's not a laugh-a-minute post, just how I've been feeling lately.

Life is busier than I ever remember it being.

I love my job. I do. I love it, and we need it to keep us financially afloat. God has used it to graciously provide for us to live, and I am so grateful.

But with the "new" (sorta) job comes more hours and definitely more work. Part of my being overwhelmed comes from rushing home to spend time with Sam and trying to squeeze in conversation and dinner with Brett (still eaten in shifts– as one of us entertains Sam, and the other eats).

I am going to be completely honest here. I resent the loss of my time.

There, I said it. MY time is gone – whoosh, poof, vanished!

Now, I wake up and rush to work. I rush home. I rush to sleep. I rush to wake up. Rinse, lather, repeat.

I get inexplicably mad at my husband for wanting me to come home after work.

I envision a stop at Wal-Mart as a time for me to unwind, wander, and refresh my mind as I buy baby food we can barely afford. Instead, Brett calls me almost every day right at quitting time. He wants to know when I'll be home. He doesn't push. He's not panicked. He understands my new job requires more working hours, but he still misses me.

Thankfully, he's not overwhelmed with Sam. He's a great stay-at-home dad. But, he gets cabin fever. With only one car, he and Sam have only Brett's legs to carry them wherever they wish to go. And with heat indexes pushing 100, air-conditioned, toddler-friendly spaces within walking distance are few and far between.

So, he calls me.

"When are you coming home?"

I tell him. Then I casually mention my stopover at Wal-Mart on the way. "Pick us up first," he suggests. "We'll go with you. It'll be fun."

I know, I KNOW I should be thrilled to spend time with husband and especially my (nine-years-prayed-for) baby, but all I really want is TIME BY MYSELF.

It irks me. It irritates me. And what could be a pleasant family trip to Wal-Mart ends up being a huge hassle. All because all I really wanted was a MOMENT for MYSELF.

Now, look I get it. I was thinking how selfish it was for me to be this way. I pray nine years for a baby and when I get one, I can't get away fast enough? But that's not entirely the case. The truth is I love, love, love being with Sam, and I'm with him a lot of the time.

It's just…

It's just I need a break. A breather. A few moments peace while I make the transition from work to home, from professional to mommy, from provider to homemaker, from the person I used to be to this new, harried self.

I miss being me. I miss Ann-Marie. I miss the girl who got lost somewhere along the line. I liked her. I liked spending time with her. Now, all I get is a glimpse in the mirror in the two minutes I get by myself in the bathroom. (And I hear those moments disappear as kids get older and figure how to open doors.)

I was berating myself, self-flagellating verbally to my friend Carleen about this the other day. As I was very nearly in tears explaining my horrible parenting, she stopped me.

"Ann-Marie, I don't think it's being completely selfish. I think it's that there are two kinds of people in this world. People who like being by themselves, and people who hate it. I hate to be by myself. I get lonely. I feel alone. So, I had three kids. I'm never lonely, and I'm definitely never by myself."

At this point I was nodding. I understand never being alone. And I happen to be married to a person just like the one she was describing. Brett hates being alone. He always wants to be with me. He always wants to be with Sam. He misses us desperately if one of us is gone.

She went on. "Now, you're a lot like my sister. You both like being by yourselves. You like spending time with just you. You don't feel lonely; you feel refreshed and recharged, just as you would if spending time with a good friend. So, with the loss of all your 'me' time, you're essentially grieving the death of a dear friendship. There's nothing wrong with your parenting. You love your son, and you love your husband. You just need some time with your friend – yourself."

Her words made me feel 100% better, as I realized she was right. I tried explaining this to Brett, but he kept thinking I was saying I didn't want to be with him.

I said, "No. I want to be with you. I just don't want to be with you ALL THE TIME. I want to be with me, just me, for a little while." Still, he was hurt and insulted. We talked for a while, so I could explain how I needed to recharge.

I told him I understood he was home with the baby all day, but that didn't mean I had to go "on call" for all the baby duty as soon as I walked in the door. I needed the transition time. I also needed a weeknight away. I offered the same for him.

At first, he was reluctant, but when I explained it would mean a free night for him to go to his favorite place, the bookstore, once a week, unaccompanied by a squealing little person, his ears did perk up.

Alone time isn't nearly as important to him, but some quiet time sounded pretty darn good.

I am still struggling with the loss of my friend, the loss of my own identity. The truth is that I think there is some selfishness mixed in there.

I didn't think I would have to lose myself to become a working mother, but I think I have. A part of me is just gone forever, and I'm not happy about it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Being Conservative

I have become, like many of you, a Facebook addict.

I don’t obsess over it. However, I do feel something akin to loss and slight instability if I don’t check it at least once a day. Or twice a day. Or anytime I have a free hour.

It has become a burden to me, on many levels, and yet not one I’m willing to give up. (Never fear, at the end of this post, I will not be swearing off Facebook.)

Things I didn’t care about in the least, things I didn’t even know, are now common, even necessary, knowledge to my everyday life.

There are so many rants that have been done about Facebook, and I have to say all the best ones are already out there – people who join groups, people who join stupid groups, people who post things to provoke controversy, people who use hearts and smiley faces (guilty!), needy people who post co-dependent statuses, etc.

But that said, I have to put my own unique spin on what cracks me up.


Here it is – people who “like” the group – Being Conservative.

Really? I mean, really? You “like” Being Conservative?

Okay, okay, well let me pare down why that makes me laugh every. single. time.

Thanks to my IFB-screwed-up background, every time I hear the word “conservative”, I picture zealous diatribes about female modesty, denim jumpers, and the ever-dreaded culottes.

So every time I see someone “like” Being Conservative, I picture them wearing culottes. And some of them, most of them, look pretty ridiculous. With men, it’s especially funny.

Me, I don’t “like” Being Conservative.

Being Conservative sounds boring and staid.

I mean, I’d like Being Passionate, Being Exciting, Being Fun, Being Joyful, etc. But, Being Conservative? Snore.

Being Conservative sounds like a root canal is about to take place.

So, I’m just saying - if you "like" Being Conservative, just realize - somewhere out there, someone is going to be visualizing you wearing culottes, and you are going to be looking pretty ludicrous.

And that’s something I can imagine Being Passionate about.