Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Farewell 2008 and Good Riddance

I'll be raising a glass or two tonight to the end of a very challenging year. Yes, I'll wake tomorrow to those exact same challenges, but it's the symbolism that counts. Life as I know it will go on the same, but maybe a bit differently.

Happy New Year to all of you who read this little blog. I hope 2009 is a great year for you.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Little Boy Lost

He wasn't planned, though came to be very much wanted. He slept through the first two weeks of his life, then woke up, and wouldn't sleep through the night again till he was 3. As his hair grew, it turned blonde and curly, setting off his piercing blue eyes perfectly.

He was a happy baby for the most part. But he let you know when he wasn't. Usually it was because he was hungry or tired. His big sister would "read" to him and "feed" him by shoving a spoon down his throat. She took on a lot of the responsibility for looking after him, as long as it suited her. He would look admiringly at her from his bouncy chair. His little face would light up when he saw her.

As a toddler, he and we discovered his sense of humour. His laugh was loud and deep, an indicator of his profound amusement. He would roll his eyes back into his head, then roll them back again and laugh long and hard at our reactions. He adored his mother too, buying her plastic flowers to plant in her garden, pulling broccoli out to help with the weeding.

He started to founder a bit when he started school. Blame it on his gender and the month of his birth. His very clever older sister was only one year ahead of him in school. Where she excelled, he struggled. He began to resent her a bit, and tears of frustration became common as he tried to learn to read. He became more introverted, only showing that brilliant sense of humour at home. His mother became frustrated too, as she tried all the tricks that had worked on his sister, and often homework sessions ended in tears for all.

But underneath the sharp wit lurked a latent intelligence. His mother knew this and still pushed and tried and got him into a grammar school. Quietly, though, she wondered if she'd done the right thing by him. A few weeks into his first term at school, she knew she had. For he had become the most popular boy in his form, his year, on the bus. He still struggled with his studies though. And his mother reverted to some old tricks -- bribery and threats. Threats worked better.

He started to confide in his older sister. The bond that had always existed grew stronger. Every day after school, he waited for his sister to tell her all about his day. He showed her his school report first. He told her his hopes and dreams, his fears. She dried his less frequent tears. And his mother stood by and watched, hoping that he would come back to her, would be once again that boy who once bought her plastic flowers for her garden. And she shed tears of mourning for the boy she lost to his sister.

Saturday, 27 December 2008


I am not in a good place right now. I wanted this to be a good Christmas. I tried. I cooked. I cleaned. I invited the in-laws. I shopped for the kids and the hubby. And it all went pear-shaped for me on Christmas Day. All that giving I did didn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Because I got a set of kitchen scales and two horrendous sweaters. The in-laws arrived on Christmas Day. As MIL doled out the presents to kids and hubby, I sat on my hands, rictus grin frozen on my face, trying not to show my anger and disappointment that I didn't even get one fucking present from them. Then she finally pulled it out: a book on making things. I told her her Christmas presents for next year would be coming from the book. Then my stepmother informed me my dad couldn't call me back because he was too busy cooking the turkey for her family!

Then the kids decided to gang up against me because I'm a nag, apparently. I didn't take this very well. We spent over £1,000 between the two of them on presents, and all I got was a set of kitchen scales, two horrendous sweaters, and two disrespectful children.

The kids were sent to bed and told they won't be going to parties this week. If they continue this behaviour, I WILL be a hateful parent and keep taking more and more privileges away. I know I sound very ungrateful, and I suppose I am. BUT I'M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR CHRISTMAS ANYMORE!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Moral Matrix

That's the name of a new TV series I think should air. The idea came to me while watching Gok Wan help an ugly duckling find her inner swan. The idea of the Moral Matrix is to help immoral people find their inner morality. People such as the Barclays employee who sold inside information obtained secretly from his wife. People such as Bernard Madoff, the disgraced Wall Street trader whose pyramid-scheme fund has disappeared in a puff of smoke.

But morals aren't missing just from Wall Street. Across society in general we are seeing a general decline in plain, simple knowing right from wrong. We see it in the rise of gang culture. We see it in the number of hate crimes or road rage. We see it in the mother who organizes her daughter's kidnap to claim the ransom money.

There has been much discussion about where children should learn morals. The obvious answer is from their parents, but that doesn't seem to be happening anymore. So people point to schools and say that should be the source. But should it?

But why not television? Most homes have one. Most people watch it. Put a charismatic presenter on The Moral Matrix, run it at 8 p.m. or right after some popular program. Show people who found their moral center (usually in prison) and what they do now. And get people thinking about their actions. Well, that's a start. I'm sure that many arguments can be made against this idea and they might be very valid. But isn't this a start?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Words in search of meaning




Can you think of any others?

Now for more mundane matters: Since I've been on the Austerity Budget (started back in June when I realised hubby's unemployment could last longer than a couple of months), I've been buying cheaply as much as I can. Sometimes, though, I've wondered if it is worth it. I've made a mental list of what more expensive items I plan to go right back to as soon as the Austerity Budget days are over. For what it's worth, here are some items I've gone cheaper on and my verdict on whether I'd still buy cheaper if I had a choice.

Butter: I buy the cheapest I can find. I'm not sure that it's as good as the more expensive brand. VERDICT: I'd go back to the more expensive brand.

Bread: The cheapest brand is pretty bad. VERDICT: I'd go straight back to the more expensive brand.

Eggs: I used to buy free-range organic, to ease my conscience as much as anything. VERDICT: I'd probably go back but not because the free-range organic are that much better.

Fruit: I stopped buying fruit like strawberries out of season. They tend to be pretty tasteless at this time of year anyway. I've started buying the cheapest bananas, apples, and oranges. Not all the fruit is ripe. Sometimes it's overripe or rotten in the middle. VERDICT: I'd go back to the more expensive fruit.

Cereal: I've been buying store-brand for years because it doesn't taste that different to me. VERDICT: I'd stick with store brand.

Vegetables: I buy what's on offer but it's getting monotonous. VERDICT: I'd like a bit more variety.

Crisps (or potato chips or potatoe if your name is Dan Quayle): Store brand just aren't as good but are half the price of the premium brand, which I buy when I can find it more cheaply. VERDICT: I'd go back to the premium brand.

Juice: My daughter likes apple and is happy with the store brand. My son loves Tropicana orange juice. However, my local Tesco has raised the price to close to £3 after having it on special offer at £2 for forever. So I've switched to the store brand. VERDICT: I'd go back to Tropicana.

Wine: Never a good idea to skimp on this. Better to not drink at all. VERDICT: I like my chablis.

Meat: I've tried the cheaper cuts and yuck! VERDICT: Give me sirloin any day. Or I might become a vegetarian.

Milk: I go for the cheapest brand. VERDICT: I'd still go for the cheapest brand.

Face cream: There's controversy over whether any of these work, no matter the price. The best thing I could do for my skin was to stay out of the sun 30 years ago. I never splurged but now I buy Superdrug face cream. I still have wrinkles. VERDICT: Maybe I'll get a facelift or wear a paper bag.

Toothpaste: I'm trying the store brand. Seems the same. VERDICT: I might stay with the store brand.

Clothing: Again, I never splurged. Now I just buy less. VERDICT: I'd sure like to spend more.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Babes in the Woods

On Saturday I travelled to firebyrd's lovely home to meet some fellow bloggers. During the course of the evening, we discussed many subjects, one being what we were watching on TV. I confessed my addiction to "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here." For those not in the UK, this is a program in which celebrities (including George "Mr. Sulu" Takei and Martina Navratilova) are dropped in the middle of a jungle in Australia and have to take part in bushtucker trials such as eating camel testicles and lying in a tomb with rats, snakes, and cockroaches crawling over them. They earn meals for the camp by enduring these trials and if they fail, their campmates go hungry. It's all high drama as they all have to confront their deepest fears (that they won't get enough media exposure).

Anyway, I mentioned that this year's I'm a Celeb was like watching a pantomime. Again, for those who don't live in the UK, pantomimes are Christmas-season plays that always feature a woman playing the lead male role, a man playing the role of the Dame, a couple of baddies, an innocent but sexy female lead, and a couple of jesters to keep the laughs coming. The jokes are usually of the double-entendre variety. Audience participation is a must (as in shouting "It's behind you" to the seemingly blind lead or baddie).

This year's I'm a Celeb participants were actually auditioning for a role in the Babes in the Woods panto. Nicola, a pneumatic topless model, plays the role of Robin Hood. Carly, a footballer's partner in real life, is Maid Marion. David Van Day, who had his day in an 80s pop group, is the wicked uncle/Sheriff of Nottingham who wants the babes killed. Timmy Mallet (don't know what he did besides being annoying) is the bad robber employed to kill the babes. Esther Rantzen is the Fairy who has the babes covered in leaves so they can escape their killers. The roles of Friar Tuck, Alan a Dale, and Will Scarlett are filled by Robert Kilroy-Silk, Simon Webbe, and Dani Behr. George Takei and Joe Swash are the babes, naturally. And Brian, the gay policeman, is the Dame. Martina Navratilova sells the ice creams during the interval.

For three weeks, we in the UK were privileged to watch this audition every night. All good fun and a nice distraction from the worries of everyday life.

As was the lovely dinner at firebyrd's. Sadly, just as the party was really getting going, I had to go home as I faced a two-hour-ish drive over dark, icy roads. The memory of good conversation and company kept me warm during the drive. The thought of actually seeing the I'm a Celeb participants in a panto amused me and kept me alert all the way home. Just remember when you see their names in lights next year, you read it here first.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Who Wouldn't Want to Be My Friend?

The horrible downside of Facebook has already happened. What if your offer of friendship is turned down? It seems to have happened to me, once by my daughter and once by a former friend and colleague. Facebook has brought back a very complicated part of my life when my personal and professional lives were one. My divorce wrecked that delicate balance as work friends and colleagues struggled to decide whose side they were on or if they should choose sides. I conveniently solved that dilemma by moving to another country. One by one they all dropped me. I learned some lessons about situational friendships.

And that is what happens in life sometimes. You move on. Then you join Facebook and all the past comes swimming back into focus. And all my paranoid fantasies come to life again. Has this person not responded because he/she doesn't want to rock the boat with my ex-husband? I haven't been in touch with some of these people for a good 15-17 years. I'm curious about them. Aren't they curious about me? But when I see the (scary) cartoon character that represents my ex-husband on their list of friends, I wonder. My relationship with them pretty much ended when I moved, but they continued to work with him for I don't know how long. Did they go to his wedding (for he apparently has remarried and has a child)? How close did they remain to him? And, of course, in the background, the worrying thought: what did he tell them about me? We did not end on good terms; he accused me of spreading a rumor about him that, frankly, I don't remember doing. He wrote me a nasty letter, and that was our last communication. Time has stood still in what I think of him, which is a rat-bastard.

Maybe this isn't an ex-husband problem, but a Facebook phenomenon. You rush to find out about someone you haven't seen in 20 years, then you rest because now you know.

Sometimes people are in our past because that's where they belong. Sometimes people are in our past because we were too busy or lazy to maintain the relationship. Facebook allows us to renew those relationships if we so desire, but there can be a downside to letting people back into your life, particularly if they're the wrong people.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Thank God It's Over.

I've had worse Thanksgivings in terms of company. Like the time my stepmother's oaf of a father utterly humiliated me in front of everyone and I walked out.

I've had worse Thanksgivings in terms of having to work. Or being on my own.

But I've never had such a bad one for food. I've never cooked or overseen the cooking of such a sad Thanksgiving dinner as we had. I tried, but my sinusitis meant I didn't feel like cooking or eating. I delegated the turkey to hubby. It was tough as a cowhide, but I don't blame hubby. I delegated the green bean casserole and sweet potatoes to daughter but had to go to bed so couldn't stand by and supervise. The beans were underdone, the sweet potatoes bland. I don't blame daughter. I made the stuffing myself -- too dry. And the apple pie. That was OK, but I was unhappy with the pastry. I didn't feel like drinking anything stronger than water.

And my poor dear friend L., whom I'd invited with her family, was at home grieving for her father who had died two nights before.

Which puts the horrible food in perspective.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Facing the Book

I did something wild and rash yesterday. I joined Facebook. I know. Everybody is on Facebook. Even my daughter, which I didn't know till I joined. She refuses to be one of my friends. How mean! But hey ho, I've got five friends now. I might just come out of my cloak of anonymity here to reveal my real self so I can get more friends.

Because Facebook makes you want to have as many friends as possible, I've discovered. Just as having a blog can lead you to wanting to have lots of blog buddies who read your blog and leave comments and whose blogs you read and leave comments. (I don't think that's a complete sentence but oh well.)

I've already gotten in touch with one old friend (thanks to laurie), and who knows, there might be even more out there.

That is the bright spot of the week. Here's what else is going on with my friends: one's daughter has a rapidly growing fibroadenoma that is being removed Tuesday, one's husband just lost his job, one's father is on the brink of death.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America, where we Americans traditionally pig out, watch football, sleep and have arguments with our families. Perhaps this year we can be thankful for each other. It's a very cruel world these days and we need as many friends as we can get.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Uncomfortably Numb

I won DJ Kirby's Wordless Wednesday competition this week. I'm still in shock. The judge, Trousers, is far too kind, but thank you anyway.

On to an update: I've been to see a specialist about my shoulder, which has been in pain since February. I had an MRI, which showed fluid in the tendon. He offered to give me a cortisone injection tonight. I took him up on the offer. He must have put some Lidocaine in there because the arm is pretty numb and he didn't tell me there would be Lidocaine. And I had to drive home on the motorway for half an hour in the dark. I damn near cried but was too worried I would crash. Should I go on about how thoughtless orthopedic surgeons are? Or do you all already know about that?

Hubby still doesn't have a job. It's beyond a joke. It's downright scary, though I try not to think too hard about it. And when I do I focus on the positive (he and I are getting along better; he and the kids are getting along better).

Jake continues to improve. He is 99 percent great dog. The one percent bites sometimes -- hard. He doesn't bite me. He wouldn't dare. But he's bitten hubby four times and daughter once and the vet surgeon once. I happened to be at the vet's today with one of the cats and mentioned the biting. She gave me the number of a behavioural specialist. I just have to get hubby to agree to phone them. I don't know how many bites that will take. The biting seems to happen when someone seems to approach his rear quarters so I think it's associated with the surgeries. I'm scared he might bite someone outside the family one day so we really need to get this sorted.

Here in the UK we have lots of bad news about the economy: deflation, credit crunch, layoffs, etc. But what has been the big news this past week? John Sergeant, a former political correspondent for the BBC, resigned from Strictly Come Dancing because of so much flak from the judges and other dancers because he's got two left feet and really should have been voted out ages ago but the public like him too much. Now for all you who don't live in the UK I will describe John Sergeant's looks. In the U.S., he'd have a marvelous career in radio. Seriously, when I first moved to this country, I couldn't believe he was allowed to be on TV. In America we only have blowdried Kens and Barbies on TV news (not counting PBS, the "educational channel" as my stepmother calls it). So it was a shock to see a droll troll, intelligent as he is, actually reporting the news. Here's what he looks like. He's kind of cute in a teddy bear troll sort of way.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

And Why Would I Believe That?

There's an email circulating out there saying British schools no longer teach pupils about the Holocaust because of Muslim opposition. My sister sent it to me. I immediately sent her the link to that debunks this urban legend. Also, why she thought I, with two children in the British school system, wouldn't have something to say on this subject is beyond me. But that's my family.

But I decided this opened up an opportunity for me to talk to my son (my daughter was out) about the Holocaust. Hubby and I told him what we knew about it, starting with Kristallnacht. I explained to him about how Austrians broke into Jewish-owned businesses that night and ransacked them. It was called Kristallnacht because of all the broken glass on the ground. Then Jews were forced to wear badges on their sleeves and only live in areas called ghettoes. The homes and property of many were taken by the Nazis. Then, the Final Solution was devised in which they were herded onto trains and taken to concentration camps. Their heads were shaved, their clothing replaced by "striped pajamas," they were all but starved. And then they were gassed and either buried in mass graves or incinerated.

I told him the plot of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." Have you read the book or seen the movie? It's hard not to be deeply moved by the ending. I told him that not all Germans colluded in this Final Solution, notably Schindler in "Schindler's List." I also told him that in the USA during WWII there were concentration camps for Japanese-American citizens, one not far from my mother in Wyoming. Hubby told him that the British first came up with the idea of concentration camps during the Boer War.

I also told him how Israel came to be a nation in 1948, thus setting the scene for the conflicts that continue to this day between Jews and Palestinians. We touched on other holocausts as well, discussing Stalin's murder of millions of his own people. Most recently, in Bosnia, Muslims were rounded up and murdered en masse. We should not forget the Holocaust of WWII. We should not forget any Holocaust.

This was a lot of information for a 12-year-old boy, but I think he took most of it in. I suppose my first exposure to the Holocaust was reading "The Diary of Anne Frank." From there I read other books about the Holocaust. Some of it was school work, most of it was on my own volition.

I can't change the narrow-mindedness of my family, but I can have some influence still over my children and try to teach them that hating people because of their religion, race, or creed is wrong.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

And Then I Fell to Earth

Hard to imagine as it is, there are a few Americans very disappointed in last Tuesday's election results.

My father is one of them. And do you know why? Not because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not because of the economy. Because, he said, Obama said eight months ago that the first thing he's going to do when he gets into office is legalise late-term abortion (or third-semester as my father called it).

I missed that news item, my father said, because I don't live in the U.S. and I don't have access to the same information he does. I reminded him that there's an internet now that allows me access to all sorts of information.

I didn't call my father to gloat or to argue. I called to wish him a happy birthday. I then made the mistake of asking him what he thought of the election. I had little doubt in my mind that he had voted for McCain. My father is a Committed Christian who is going to Heaven because he has been forgiven by God for his sins. Pity his children haven't forgiven him yet, nor has he asked their forgiveness.

Like most people, I think, I try to avoid the emotional subject of abortion. I've never had one. I've never had to have one. I have had two pregnancies that ended in the births of my children. I know what it feels like to feel life growing inside me, and I could never have a late-term abortion myself unless there were strong medical grounds. Many babies born at 28 weeks survive.

For the record, I googled Obama's stand on abortion. He is in favour of abortion rights, but waffles a bit, like most politicians. McCain doesn't: he says life begins at conception. So if you take the morning-after pill within 72 hours of sexual intercourse (which is how long it takes for a fertilized egg to embed itself in the womb, I believe) then you are having an abortion, according to that famous biologist John McCain.

But back to my father. Abortion wasn't and isn't the most important issue facing Barack Obama today, as I told my father. I'm sure he's got a lot of other issues on his mind and will push abortion onto the proverbial back burner.

What I find most alarming about my father is not his stance on abortion or his support of McCain. It's his lack of respect for my opinion and feelings or indeed those of anyone else who doesn't agree with his narrow-minded, judgmental, moralistic point of view, and this is something that has not and will not change no matter who is in office. It's a shame that he is this way. Last night I hung the phone up and uttered not a few expletives under my breath and over my breath and into hubby's ears. I vowed not to phone my father again. I said he's treating me the same way he used to treat me when I was in my teens and 20s. Only I'm almost 50. But today I feel differently. I resolved to get on with my life, rejoice once more that Barack Obama is president-elect, and perhaps do something (though I don't know what) to help women so they don't have to be in the position of having to make what must be a very difficult decision.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

It's A New Dawn, It's A New Day

And I'm feeling good. God BLESS America. I am so proud of my country today, so proud that in my own lifetime we have gone from separate public restrooms, water fountains, entrances for blacks and whites to having a mixed-race president-elect whose middle name is Hussein. Obama faces more challenges than perhaps any president-elect. I am confident he will meet those challenges.

I stayed up last night as late as I could. When Pennsylvania results came in for Obama, I went to bed. This morning I jumped out to see the results. And then I cried. I watched Obama's speech on the internet, tears streaming down my face. All I can say now is I'm proud to be an American.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I'm Holding My Breath

How about you? Did you remember to vote today if you're a US citizen and over 18?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Get This Party Started

Halloween came and went this year without my celebrating it with our usual party. I have hosted or attended Halloween parties since I don't know when. I hit a dry patch for a while, but really wanted my kids to know the fun of Halloween and wanted to introduce my British friends to the American version of Halloween.

So I would cook and come up with games for the kids and dress up and have an exhausting but good time. Even when Frenemy hid baked potatoes in an unknown (to me anyway) shelf of my dining table and didn't tell me till the next year when she presented me with these shrivelled brown things. I asked her if they were her husband's balls.

Last year my kids were starting to hit the "My parents are so EMBARRASSING" age but could just about allow me to enjoy myself as long as I didn't dress up and they didn't either. This year I asked if they wanted a party. They said they did as long as they could invite ALL their friends. Well, that didn't suit me or hubby. We have these parties as much for ourselves as them. So this year we didn't have one. Not a single friend asked me if I was having the Halloween party this year. Guess they were embarrassed or didn't care.

We ate Chinese food in front of the TV. I watched one of my favourite films, "To Kill a Mockingbird," and kept texting my kids all night to check they were OK trick-or-treating since it's a different kind of experience in the UK. Something was missing, I felt. Maybe next year.

Speaking of parties, my daughter went to a boy's 14th birthday party the other night. She'd been looking forward to it, had bought a new top to wear, and had her two best friends round to get ready. My husband dropped them off and another parent was due to pick them up. Before 10, I heard the front door slam. My daughter had come home early. Why? Because once again, foolish parents had gone out and left 13- and 14-year-olds on their own. Once again, some of them sneaked alcohol in. Once again, the parents came home, got angry at the state of their house, and tipped everyone out. My daughter and her two friends were wandering the streets in the dark and the rain on their own. A policeman stopped them and asked where they were going. They said they'd left a party and were heading for the main street to wait for a parent to pick them up. My daughter, who didn't drink the alcohol, said she and her friends sat in the front room watching all the drunk teen-agers lurch about. They didn't dare go upstairs because some bright sparks thought it was a fun game to chuck people down the stairs. Others, she said, were having sex. The boy whose party it was seemed powerless to do anything about the drunken ones. His party was ruined, his parents' house was ruined. And do you know who I blame? The stupid, naive parents who thought they could go out and leave those kids on their own.

I've told my daughter she's not allowed to go to parties if the parents aren't there. If hubby or I drop her off, she's to call us when she gets inside to tell us if parents are there or not. We'll wait outside for the call. If we don't get one, we will go to the door and find out for ourselves. She's not entirely happy with this rule, but I don't think she particularly enjoyed herself and wouldn't want to repeat the experience.

And on to other matters. Please tell me what's wrong with this statement: "He wants to take people's money and give it to others." McCain has said that about Obama. As I read it, I shouted to my husband, "I really must be a socialist after all." He said he'd suspected I was all along. But isn't that what we all do anyway? Isn't that called taxation? McCain just wants to make sure his fat-cat buddies keep their money and avoid paying taxes. I am really, really scared about this election. I've sent off my vote, and it was for -- well, who do you think? Not Old-Age Ken and Moose-hunter Barbie. Please, please, please, any Democrats out there reading this or even Republicans or socialists or whatever. Please vote on Tuesday. Please DON'T vote for McCain and the Palinator. Please. For the sake of our country. For the sake of the world.

Friday, 24 October 2008

OH, My Aching Back

Oh what a week. It started Sunday when I hurt my back while -- wait for it -- leaning over and looking at the newspaper. Yes, how mundane. How stupid. How pissed off was I? Plenty. I went to the doctor on Monday. I don't usually bother with doctors for my back and just go to physiotherapists. But this was really painful. He prescribed some heavyduty painkillers, which have knocked me out for most of the week. It's meant no gym, no driving, very little walking. And I'm really, really fed up with it. This morning, as I was gingerly getting out of bed, I went into spasm again. How pissed off am I? Plenty.

But today I'm not taking the painkillers because hubby is in London and I have to take the dog for a walk and I have to be able to drive Jake to the park. He's been looking at me mournfully all morning, like he's saying "PLEASE take me for a walk now." I'm working my way up to it.

I'm not feeling as upbeat this week as I was last week. Hubby was supposed to hear about the only job possibility he's got at the moment. And the call hasn't come yet, which seems ominous. I got an email from my sister yesterday about my mother. Seems my stepfather's son-in-law, a pompous, overweight prick, was incredibly rude to my mother on Sunday. She'd told a story at lunchtime which she repeated at dinner, and he took the opportunity to make fun of and humiliate her. She was so upset she told my sister she's moving to Florida now. My mother also apparently has a kidney infection. She has had a pain in her side for about a year and finally went to the doctor about it, who said it probably started in her urinary tract and moved up to her kidneys. She's on heavyduty antibiotics and really doesn't need the prick making fun of her.

I've considered calling the asshole and telling him off or emailing his wife. It's probably best if I do neither. I asked my husband if we could help my mother financially in finding a place to live in Florida. He said we'll be on the dole if we do. I cried my eyes out while making dinner. I kept cooking so I had an excuse not to talk to hubby or anyone else.

Hubby has been down this week too. He's been very quiet and even more short-tempered with the kids than usual. Last night, though, my daughter asked if we could play a card game. I wasn't in the mood but told them to play with their dad. From the whoops and hollers, I could tell they were having a good time. They need more times like that. Hubby comes down very hard on son and sometimes on daughter as well. I've suggested he back off a bit, but he hasn't taken my advice with very good grace. They're going to grow up hating him if he isn't careful.

Yesterday I met up with a very good friend who also has been through financial hard times. Her hubby drowns his sorrows in two or three bottles of wine a night. I advised her to contact al-Anon. We both agreed when these hard times are over for us, we're going to do more charity work. I have in the past, then gave it up. People need to know there is always someone out there for them, even if it's just to listen and make a cup of tea.

The other thing I want to do an Open University course. And I even found the course: English Language and Literature. I have been fascinated by the evolution of this complicated language since I read Chaucer at the University of Florida. The only thing holding me back right now is the cost: £610 per module. I don't think I can qualify for financial aid yet either. What a pickle.

Hubby and I are still looking to buy a business or two as well. We just have to find the right one that's recession-proof, if there is such a thing.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

In the Beginning There Were Tears

What to do when the breadwinner becomes the man about the house? That's the question hubby and I have been tiptoeing around. We, and he, have gone through a major readjustment to our daily lives and to how we perceive each other and ourselves this year.

Hubby came home from London with his tail firmly between his legs in April after months of fighting for his job and negotiations to get the best redundancy package he could. You see, it's a bit complicated. He was let go for political reasons masked as economic reasons. The mask was quite thin, and everyone saw through it. To avoid the bad publicity of going to a tribunal, his old firm paid him off. Then they got rid of the woman who got rid of hubby. Sweet revenge! But it's not the same as a job.

A man defines himself by what he does, and if he does nothing, then he is nothing. Of course, we women know that's not true. But people do look at you and treat you differently if you're in employment than if you're not. I have experienced that for the past 16 years.

Our friends swiftly divided themselves into two categories: those who were supportive and those who weren't. The supportive ones have kept in touch, have invited us out, asked how things are on a regular basis. Some of them have been in the same boat. They understand when I say I'm waiting to exhale. The others have been notable by their absence. No phone calls, emails, dropping by. Nothing but a great big zero. Actually, in the beginning when I still thought they were friends and actively sought out their company, they would make comments like hubby is a "pain in the arse" and "it's his own fault" if none of the other men talk to him.

Are you shocked to read that? I was shocked to hear it, and I haven't gone out of my way since to see or speak to those two women (Frenemy, of course, and Mildred, who I wrote about previously as well).

It's a tough and uncertain time for a lot of folks. I know we are more fortunate than many in the same boat. I also know just how quickly one's world can change.
That's why I was relieved and gratified to read an article in Sunday's paper about redundancy: that it can feel like bereavement, that it can change the dynamics of a couple's relationship for better or worse, that it can make you a better person if you allow it to. At last, someone wrote about what we've been going through these last six months. I'm not making it up.

We've worked our way through some of the worst of the bereavement. For a few months I cried every morning when no one was around, and sometimes in the middle of the night. I don't do that so much anymore. I try to look forward and think of what to do if this drags on for much longer. We have learned what matters most in life, that a walk with the dog can be infinitely more entertaining and fulfilling than a meaningless evening out. I have tightened my belt tremendously, halving our food shopping bill for example. It brought back memories of my young adult life when I didn't make much money and had to be very careful how I spent it (though I always seemed to have money for alcohol!). I want some new clothes, but a quick perusal through the cupboards revealed clothes I could wear if I lost 10 pounds. So I am working on that. I keep telling myself that I can't control a lot in my life at the moment but I can control what I eat.

Back to the dog: for anyone going through a similar experience, I highly recommend having a dog. Jake has been the saviour for hubby, who walks him twice a day every day. When nothing else could make hubby smile, Jake would sidle up to him and sniff his bum. Guaranteed to work every time (but I'm not going to do that). Hubby and I read the paper together every day and discuss the turbulent world markets and what it all means. Hubby's quite knowledgeable on this subject, and he has taught me a lot.

In the beginning I was reluctant to tell people hubby had lost his job. It felt embarrassing. It's easier now, especially when so many seem to be losing their jobs. It's made me consider how I've behaved in the past toward others in the same situation. Was I rude or thoughtless or insensitive? Was I supportive and helpful? Is there anything I can do now to help others in the same boat? Staying positive is the most important thing. Something I tell myself every day is it doesn't cost a penny to smile. If you smile, the world smiles back at you (though some may question your sanity).

And I plan to keep smiling, no matter what, especially when I'm around Frenemy and Mildred. Let them wonder what I'm up to. I'll never tell.

Monday, 13 October 2008

He's Banned

You know, 13-year-old boys can be disgusting in a burpy, farty sort of way. But I can cope (just about) with that. What I can't cope with is willful, disgusting, destructive behaviour. Like what happened at my daughter's 14th birthday party Saturday night.

She wanted a disco. I didn't want it in my house. She wanted to invite 40-plus people. I didn't want them in my house. So we hired the clubhouse at the local tennis club. I've been there for quite a few events and knew having the bar open would be a bad idea. I knew my husband and I alone wouldn't be able to keep tabs on 40-plus teen-agers. I knew that a few recent parties had ended with the teens getting drunk on vodka someone had sneaked in, vomit in the garden, parents who stupidly had gone out coming home to a wrecked house. That wasn't going to happen on my watch, I decided. So I invited the parents to stay, and a few kindly took me up on the offer. One or two of those kindly helped police the event.

There was an almost fight at the far end of the courts. I went out and told them all to go back inside, even the ones shoving their tongues down each other's throats. They just about obeyed. They kept going round the side, and I or my husband or a friend kept following them and encouraging them to join the party inside.

At the end, we congratulated ourselves on keeping things from getting out of hand without upsetting my daughter. We cleared the place up, then did a check of the bathrooms.

One troubled teen, and I know which one it was, decided it would be funny to pee all over a roll of toilet paper and leave it in the urinal. That was disgusting! I can't imagine ever leaving the parents of one of my friends to clean up something like that. I'd been watching him in particular all night. I saw him and his friend and a couple of the girls disappear into the gents' loo. I urged my husband to keep checking on what they were doing. He didn't know what to look for. I did. I should have gone in there. I found no evidence of alcohol, and perhaps the boy decided to do the pee show out of frustration or lack of respect. Yeah, I know it could have been worse. But I wanted -- and want -- my daughter to have good, well-behaved friends.

He's banned.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

And the next bank to fail is ......

It's amazing how language can change one's perception of an event. This year we have gone from "a slowdown in the economy" to "a credit crunch" to "a global financial crisis".

It's just been bad news all the way in my life. I could have told you two years ago there was a slowdown when we had our house for sale. In six months we had only four viewers and two of them don't really count because they were just being nosy.

Remember a few months back when the really bad news was how expensive petrol/gas was? Don't you long for those good ole days? To gain an understanding of the events happening over the last couple of weeks, I've been reading about the Great Depression and its causes. I am no student of Economics and apart from listening to my parents' stories of how hard times were then and reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Hard Times by Studs Terkel, I didn't know much about the causes of the Depression. I knew the stock market crashed in 1929 and before that it seemed to be party, party, party (ala The Great Gatsby). I knew there were bread lines and people out of work and starving children. I knew Franklin D. Roosevelt created the New Deal to get people back into work (my grandparents among them) and built numerous Public Works projects as a result. I knew WWII had something to do with pulling the US out of the Depression.

I didn't understand that trade restrictions, deflation, and sharply increased taxes worked together to create the perfect economic storm resulting in Depression. There are several websites out there that clearly explain what happened.

I also thought I should be more informed about Roosevelt's presidency. He is generally accepted as the greatest US President in the 20th century. But he had to be, considering what a mess Hoover had left the country in. As I look forward to the 2008 Presidential election, I wonder which man will be able to fill Roosevelt's shoes because that is what the next president must do. Will it be the impetuous, flighty, maverick McCain with the beehived Palin ("you betcha!") standing behind him? Will it be the overly intellectual Obama whose so-called terrorist links seem to frighten ignorant Americans and whose running mate has his own issues?

I think as important as who is President is who he surrounds himself with. Roosevelt had some of the greatest people of his day behind him. Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins, Henry Morgenthau. Read about these people. They were truly innovators. I think Roosevelt's best quality must have been his ability to listen and to act on what he heard. I wish he hadn't created the Japanese internment camps during WWII though.

I made my mind up to support Obama over a year ago. Nothing has changed my mind since then. Should he win (and I think this will be a very close race to the bitter end), he will have to be very careful about who he surrounds himself with. Hard times call for the best and the brightest, but also the calmest. Roosevelt's fireside chats did as much to stimulate the economy by reassuring Americans as any of his economic policies. Never underestimate the power of confidence.

But if McCain should win, well, Tina Fey will have a job for a long time. Visit and view her take on Palin. Funny but scary in its accuracy.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Since You Didn't Ask But Are Going to Find Out Anyway

J. tagged me a while back, and I am just now getting round to it. I had to take a lot of time to think about this one.

I'm supposed to write six random things about myself and then tag six people. Well, what can I say about myself that hasn't been said before?

1. I'm not having the greatest year, as those who have read this blog will know. It started with my mother having a lump in her breast in January, then in February hubby and daughter were in a car accident, then I had a bad fall skiing and lost our passports (those two events were not connected and two of the passports were found). We discovered our adorable border collie Jake had severe hip dysplasia and he had two major (and costly) operations on his hips in April and June. In April hubby lost his job, my mother got pneumonia and was hospitalized, came out, went back in the next day with atrial fibrillation, came out and got a bad sinus infection. I went to Wyoming to look after her and her husband for 10 days and discovered that he was in even worse shape than her. He went into a nursing home for a month, and tests eventually showed he has PSP (progressive supra nuclear palsy). Each month seems to bring a new headache. But also some new insights. It's a year of growing and learning, of editing out the detritus in my life and moving forward in a new direction. It's scary, challenging, and on odd occasions fun. And it's also not the worst year in my life. That year was...

2. ...1975. In 1975, my grandmother died, I lost my virginity, and my dad walked out on my mother and us. That started a series of events like my mother attempting suicide three times and being hospitalized in a mental health ward for a month. My sister and her lecherous and unfaithful husband and child moved in with my mother, and I moved in with my dad. My dad married my stepmother that Christmas, though they kept it a secret for a few weeks from me and for forever from her children. That was truly a bad year, with 1976, 1977 and 1978 not being a lot better. When the going gets tough, I remember that time in my life and feel relief that I never have to live it over again ever.

3. I like to think I'm an easygoing person, but maybe not. A few things bother me about other people, tardiness being the top of the list. I'm on time to the point of obsession. I have to consciously work at being late. I hate it when people are late, which is problematic since several members of my family view tardiness as a way of life. I see it as a sign of disrespect. If you respect me, you will be on time (and I say on time is up to 15 minutes late, not two hours!).

4. When I was 17, I wanted to be a social worker. Yes, it's true. Then I took a sociology course and was bored senseless. The same happened with psychology. Journalism was way down the list, but I found it suited me best. Still, I never felt confident in the world of journalism, and I think that is why it was so easy for me to leave it behind.

5. Motherhood is the career I've had the longest. Again, I'm not the most confident mother, but every day I get up and try to do my best all over again.

6. One thing I've discovered in this world is that some of us are natural givers and some are natural takers. Some are better at nurturing and others are better at being nurtured. I know which category I'm in though sometimes I'd like to be in the other.

There you have it. I could have told you about my birthmark or my sinuses or some other such detail. But this perhaps tells you a bit more about me.

Now, I'd like to tag -ann, Sparx, swearing mother, chrisb, exmoorjane, and expatmum.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Just When You're Ready to Murder Them...

They do something to make you proud. Like my son. Last night we had the privilege of attending his school's sports awards evening because he was named Runner of the Year in Cross Country for his year. Was I proud? Hell yeah! These moments don't happen very often for us. Son, of course, was incredibly embarrassed that his parents were proud of him and showed their faces at his school. Daughter wanted him to take her round so she could talk to all the boys. He refused. Quite right.

I had another moment like this in July when daughter won two Bronze awards for achievement and effort (meaning she did well academically and in citizenship despite her bitch of a form teacher). I don't know if I'll ever get to attend these ceremonies again but I savoured the moments.

We're deep in the throes of hormonal teen-age hell. Hubby and I know nothing. We were complete dorks and nerds when we were in school (well, hubby really was). I'm not ready to tell them the truth about me so I let them think what they want. The truth is I grew up in Florida during the 60s and 70s when marijuana used to wash up on the beach for goodness sake. Everybody drank and did drugs in high school. Or so it seemed.

So I'm sort in uncharted waters because I know what's out there. I know about the teen-age life of sex, drugs, and alcohol. I don't want my kids to go there, and I'm not sure how or if I can prevent it. I know that telling them the truth about me could very well backfire (you did it, why can't I?). I think keeping them busy with sports and activities will help a bit. But for how long?

Hubby is no help here at all. He might as well be from Mars and they might as well be from Pluto for as much as they understand each other. He was a good student, helped out his mother at home, worked hard, was school prefect, excelled at cricket, etc. I would have hated him in high school or not given him a second glance. None of those achievements prepared him for being the father of real teen-agers, but he doesn't understand that. He thinks they're the laziest, most belligerant children ever. And sometimes they are. The cuddly, sweet moments don't happen very often anymore. I try to talk sense to all of them, but I'm as much of a failure as anyone. However, according to the book I'm reading about teen-agers (where's the What to Expect When You're Expecting Teen-agers book?) I'm a success if I'm not their best pal. And I'm not.

I do hate being the parent of a teen sometimes (mostly). I have had to curtail my social drinking because apparently I'm an embarrassment when I get drunk (!). I used to worry that my children would get bullied at school for having an American mother. Nope, that didn't happen. Instead, my children bully ME for being an American. I dress wrong, dance wrong, listen to the wrong music, say the wrong things, look wrong. Just am wrong. Lord, help me through this very trying time and make them grow out of this phase quickly!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The Black Box

See the mysterious Black Box on the left? I got that from firebyrd's blog. She and I met for lunch on Friday, as we do from time to time, and she said it's the hottest thing in the blogging world. Well, since I'm so notoriously not with it -- just ask my kids -- I had to put it on my blog.

It's all about choices. You click on the box and keep making choices till it tells you of a mystery blogger whose choices match your own. You can then visit this mystery blogger. I've done it over and over and I end up with the same two blogs (guess I'm just too predictable). The writer Caroline Smailes came up the idea after a phone conversation she had with a friend in which they discussed how different choices affect which direction in life you take. I'm into this sort of thinking right now. Firebyrd is totally addicted, and I can see why. But I won't get so addicted I lose touch with my regular blogroll because you're my buddies.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Headaches of Email

See the latest award on the left? It's from DJ Kirby, who is such a remarkable woman. She's so busy I don't know how she does it all: writing novels, working full time, raising a gorgeous son, being a wonderful wife to Chopper (I'm sure he agrees). I want to spread the love to all of you. Please click on the award and put it on your blog if you don't already have it.

And now on to a subject that has been on my mind since Bulldog's email last week. And the subject is... email. Something so wonderful and so dangerous. You can reconnect with old friends, keep up with distant friends and family, keep informed on subjects of interest. You can also get viruses that wipe out your entire computer or send email to the wrong recipient and wipe out relationships.

Have you ever done the latter? You're thinking of someone and possibly writing something uncomplimentary about them. You press send... and it goes to the person you were writing about. In the old days before the internet, I twice made this mistake in interoffice messages. I learned my lesson. Check before you send. My sister-in-law learned this lesson, too, a couple of years ago. I checked my email one day and discovered six retrieval attempts by her. My curiosity piqued, I found the offending email in which she wrote derogatory things about my husband and me. They weren't so derogatory that I couldn't laugh at the thought of her sitting there going "Oh shit" six times.

I've had email arguments with Frenemy and learned another lesson: don't respond negatively to a negative email unless you're up for a fight. And don't have the fight unless you're willing to go all the way with it.

I blocked Bulldog's email address following what I found to be really pugnacious emails from her. Before, I'd been getting 20-30 emails from her A DAY. All were political. Some were interesting. Some of you think this was a drastic measure. But I know the full extent of Bulldog's temper now and do not care to be on the receiving end of it. I blocked her email address but she is free to write me or call me. She has done neither.

Email's greatest advantage is also its greatest disadvantage: its immediacy. When you write a snail-mail letter, you have time to think about writing it and sending it. You make a conscious effort to write the address on the envelope. You put a stamp on it. Time tempers your temper. Impulsiveness is curbed. When you phone someone, it's more difficult to be angry or say cruel things.

The other disadvantage of email is its complete lack of privacy. I'm not up to date on privacy laws regarding the internet, but I think it would be hard to police. Someone gets an email sent by a friend to all her email list. She then forwards it on to all her email list, it then gets forwarded on, etc., etc. Hundreds of email addresses can end up on one of these forwarded emails. And then someone can write an email to one person and unwittingly send it to another.

As in the case of my sister to Bulldog.

My view is you have to accept that by sending an email, you are opening yourself up to all sorts of potential situations, including the one above, unless you stipulate that you do not want your email address passed along in any form. Maybe we're all a little lazy and sloppy about this. Maybe we all need to be more vigilant. After all, you don't know what's out there.

Friday, 12 September 2008

They're Out There

Hi folks. I need some input on a little situation.

I'll start at the beginning. My sister is a Palinator. She actually likes her. OK, we're all entitled to opinions. I have (had) a friend who is a rabid (yeah, foam dripping from the mouth) Democrat who HATES Republicans. Both of these women send me endless emails supporting their views. I thought I'd send along a few from the Democrat Bulldog to my sister to enlighten her on Sarah Palin. My sister sent a reply about how she really likes Palin and what she represents and added some personal stuff that happened to her in the 70s. Only the reply went to the Bulldog. And the Bulldog attacked back in a very vicious manner.

OK, she didn't know who the email was from. But...

I don't know who you are or how you got my email below, but I must say you seem to bequite conflicted. If you think Sarah Palin represents women who demand choice, you aresadly mistaken. She does NOT represent women who demand choice over their bodies,and her 17-year-old daughter is living proof. She is herself, too. Everything about her iswrong, wrong, wrong, and too far to the right, right, right.As for John McCain, he is a superficial man who divorced his wife upon his return fromVietnam when he learned she had been maimed from a car accident. Nice guy. And hischoice in VP -- without proper vetting and by pandering to the religious right, a group thatis definitely in the minority and whose religious institutions should pay taxes since they interferewith politics... shows me that he is impulsive. And unqualified.You say that the media should not allow itself to portray the election as a beauty contest,well, start with the GOP. Palin was selected because she is attractive. She has no politicalexperience except on the local level.... Her candidacy is a misbegotten pipedream.She is in way over her head, and you are, too. I don't know you, I don't know how yougot my email, but if you are monitoring emails on behalf of the wingnuts on the right andwriting "personal" responses that are really designed to sway me to your side, BACK OFF.YOU WILL NEVER CONVINCE ME THAT THE GOP IS CAPABLE OF RUNNINGTHIS COUNTRY, OR THAT McCAIN-PALIN IS A TICKET WORTHY OF SUPPORT.Keep your damn opinions to yourself, and stay away from my emails. I don't give a shit ifyou "like Palin." I don't, my friends don't, and we will do everything we can to ensure she isNOT elected. BACK OFF.

My sister sent back an email apologizing for sending it to the wrong person and reiterating her right to her opinion. Bulldog sent the whole exchange to her posse of friends, including me, asking who this person was. I immediately emailed back to say it was my sister, she meant the email for me, etc. I also sent one to the whole posse saying Bulldog had actually met my sister at my wedding in 1992. Bulldog's reply was that she had no idea who the email was from, otherwise she might have considered apologizing for the strength of her response and that she couldn't be expected to remember someone she met once in 1992 who has a common name (she doesn't).

I emailed Bulldog that I thought the best way to prevent this situation happening again was for her to take me off her email list, and I put a block on her email address. I also said that if I were in her shoes, I probably would have just deleted the email or not even read it at all since we're always being told not to open email from addresses we don't recognize in case it contains a virus.

Does Bulldog represent a significant sector of the Democrats? Because if she does, that party will never win an office. I find her to be as intolerant of other views as any right-wing wacko. She also has anger management issues. She scared the shit out of my kids in February when we went skiing. The kids had been goofing around and changed the combination on the safe. Bulldog went ballistic because her jewelry was in there. She has lost two jobs in the past six months, but it was the employer's fault. In fact bad things happen to her and it's always the other guy's fault. I've known her for 30 years, and it's sad to see her this way. Is it because she lives in NYC now?

I hate to let go of a 30-year friendship, but... I think she's in dire need of therapy or Valium or something. Maybe a life?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Never Ever Forget

How can anyone speak of 9/11 fatigue?

I may bitch and moan about the woefully inept security checks at airports. But nothing will ever make me forget that day. Last night my family and I watched The 9/11 Hotel, about the Marriot at the WTC and the people in it. We talked about what we did that day, when we saw it. It has changed the lives of so many people all over the world, and we are living with the consequences and will do so for a long time to come.

My children speak of their hatred and fear of Muslims. That saddens me because I don't think people should be judged because of their religious beliefs (except Sarah Palin), but I understand where they're coming from. If this is the intention of Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaeda, well, they've achieved their objective.

I am astounded by those who want to put this behind them, who don't want to watch the endless programs that have appeared every year at this time. I am unable to comprehend why my daughter's friends don't understand why I cried that day, why I've cried every September 11th since. This event has shaped our world and we all need to remember that and remember why.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Here I Go Again

Last night I went to see the sing-along version of Mamma Mia. The only complaint I have is that in the half-empty cinema, my two friends and I felt too self-conscious to dance in the aisles.

Seriously, folks, if you are feeling down in the dumps, get to a cinema and watch this wonderful film. I went the first time with my husband, who was one of five men in the cinema. Yet he managed to relax and soon was singing along and laughing and enjoying himself for the first time in months.

I remember reading about a woman back in the 60s who was going through a divorce and went to see The Sound of Music about 50 times. I think Mamma Mia will be my Sound of Music. It makes me forget all the worries and strife that are so much a part of my daily world right now.

On to other matters, I read about a new website for parents of teens today. This is such an important yet challenging time in a child's life. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who is having trouble with her 15-year-old getting drunk at parties. I'm no angel, having done just that myself when I was 15. However, I have the benefit of experience and hindsight and can see how dangerous and damaging it can be. My daughter asked last week when it would be OK for her to drink socially. I said 18, which is when it's legal here. She was disappointed. But I told her that teens need to be very careful about drinking -- who they're with, where they are. It's too easy for girls and boys to get into bad situations. Near us is a town with lots of nightclubs. Nearly every weekend there is a violent episode between two or more young men. Girls get into cars with virtual strangers and end up assaulted or even dead. And then there's what binge drinking can do to their livers and brain cells.

I repeat: I'm no angel. But I wouldn't mind if my two children were.

Friday, 5 September 2008

She's Back

We found Pearl yesterday after I'd spent a restless night worrying and made up some missing cat posters. She was in the neighbours' back garden and was bone-dry, so must have holed up somewhere safe and warm. Here's how I described Pearl:

She has a blue collar, bad breath, missing teeth and looks unkempt but is much loved by our family.

As my husband said, I really sold her. My kids laughed hysterically when they read it, particularly the bit about the blue collar because her collar is RED! We took her to the vet yesterday, a nice woman from Cincinnati, Ohio, who also married an Englishman (excuse me, Yorkshireman). Pearl most likely pulled a muscle and is on pain killers and is back to her usual grubby self today.

On to more important matters. I think John McCain's choice of vice president is inspired. And I look forward to President Obama's first term. Honestly, could McCain have been more cynical? And I'm probably going to offend a lot of people here but I think Sarah Palin should be spending more time with her Down's baby and her pregnant 17-year-old daughter. Is it me, or does anyone else think that family has a birth control problem? And do you know who I feel the most sorry for? The 17-year-old daughter and her hapless boyfriend and their unborn child. Not even born yet and that poor child is a political pawn already. It actually sickens me.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

I'm Trying, Really I Am

But bad news still hounds me. There is good news: my stepmother doesn't have cancer. But bad news: I don't think they're speaking to me at the moment. And more bad news: one of my cats, Pearl, has gone missing. She injured her paw and I was trying to catch her to take her to the vet but she ran off and hasn't reappeared. Most unusual for her because she is ruled by her stomach and doesn't miss a mealtime. I've phoned vets. I've made up posters. I've called her name all over the neighbourhood. I can only hope she's holed up in someone's garage or shed or even house while she nurses her sore paw.

Have I mentioned that I hate this year? Someone tell me some good news or a good joke quick. I need to laugh and get rid of this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Why I Love the Olympics

1. The favoured athletes don't alway win. Sometimes they trip up and less well known and financed teams get through.

2. Now that doping is policed better (remember East German women athletes?), I find it refreshing to see these men and women who work so hard at their sport competing and succeeding.

3. There are some strange bodies on this planet, but the Olympics finds a home for them. Witness the amazonian volleyball players or Michael Phelps. Thank God, he found swimming.

4. There are always poignant stories in the background. Remember the female gymnast who competed for Germany this year? She left Russia because her little boy needed treatment for leukemia. She's competed in something like three or four Games under the flag of three or four countries.

5. This was one of the best Games ever for Great Britain. I was cheering more for the Brits than I was for the Americans. I can't wait for 2012.

And now for something completely different:

My mother has done a lot of genealogy work on her side of the family. My mother-in-law has done it for her and her husband's sides. But for me, my dad's side of the family is question mark. I have a Germanic maiden name that is quite common and spelled a million different ways. I know that one of my ancestors on my dad's side came over from Russia. I thought it would be next to impossible to find out about our family history, especially since my dad shows zero interest in his forebears. Then my mother told me about a book she had that she thought she gave to me and I gave to my dad. She actually gave it to my nephew and he gave it to my dad. I borrowed it from my dad, who hadn't even looked at it.

It's about Germans who were recruited by Catherine the Great to settle in Russia along the Volga River. I know that my dad's grandfather was born in Russia and moved as a boy to the U.S. I asked my dad where his father and grandfather grew up. Lincoln, Nebraska. Well, guess what? When the tsar in 1864 issued an edict that all Germans in Russia would be drafted, a group of them came over to the U.S. and South America and explored where the Germans who wanted to move should go. And Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of the communities named. This book also lists the German names in each community in Russia. So it's not entirely impossible now to trace my father's side. This can be another project for me in my spare time.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Does Anyone Have a More Dysfunctional Family?

Ah, I'm back in good old sunny England. But wait. What happened to the sun? I expected to come home and find the garden in full bloom. Instead, it's in full flop thanks to the rain and wind. And experiencing a 30 degree F drop in temperature upon disembarking in Manchester does strange things to the body.

But enough of the whining. How was my trip? Well, I am pleased to report that my stepfather has made an amazing turnaround. He can not only dress himself, but he gets out of chairs more easily than my mother, no longer uses a cane to get around, and is talking of driving the car again. Levadopa is a miracle drug. Will it last? If he has PSP (progressive supranuclear palsy), most likely not. If he has Parkinson's, the prognosis is more positive. My mother has let herself go a bit. No, a lot. Her twin sister, while weighing 20-30 pounds more, looks much better. She colors her hair, gets it permed, and her face is unlined. My mother's hair, on the other hand, is a wiry, gray mess. Her face, while not overly wrinkled, shows the stress of the past few years of looking after my stepfather. Not that I told her this.

While in Wyoming we took a road trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. What a beautiful place! The roads were clogged with middle-aged and older motorcyclists on their way to Sturgis, the Mecca for bikers. There's a certain style that goes with riding a motorcycle -- call it biker chic. The men for the most part had to have facial hair, though it was mostly gray or white. The women wore form-fitting tops (and the forms weren't very fit) and shorts or jeans. Both sexes wore bandanas of some form. The motorcycles were mostly of the Harley Hog variety. We saw one group stopped by the side of the road. The men rode their bikes. The women followed in their cars. Quite sensible, I think. I saw very few wearing helmets or protective clothing. Not that those make a difference if a semi-truck decides to make an illegal turn and takes them out in the process.

But back to the Black Hills. We went to Mount Rushmore. Wish I could have stayed longer but we had Crazy Horse to see next. And what a contrast. Mount Rushmore took 14 years to complete. After 50 years, Crazy Horse's head is complete. It cost $10 to park at Mount Rushmore and admission was free. It cost $27 to park at the Crazy Horse monument. Then they want a further $10 for the bus up to the monument. We were fuming about the ripoff cost as we went into the guest center. I fumed a bit more while looking at the pictures of the "progress" of the monument. Then I started to explore the center and realized that the Crazy Horse monument has been mismarketed. It is much, much more than a monument of Crazy Horse. It is a monument to the Native Peoples of North America. Again, we didn't have enough time so I didn't get round the entire center. But in the car I looked at the brochure and saw that this is quite an ambitious undertaking, with plans for a university on the grounds. But it appears disorganized. They should concentrate on finishing the monument before starting up another phase of the project. They need to market it differently and put up a sign advertising the cost of getting in so people don't feel so ripped off when they get there. The Crazy Horse monument isn't a national park and doesn't get national funds as Mount Rushmore does. It is reliant on donations. But why can't they get some of the money going into the casinos on the reservations?

We also toodled round Custer State Park (it was an action-packed day). We took the wildlife loop and felt ripped off again because all we saw were white-tailed deer. Then, on our way out, the traffic was stopped. We peered out the window to see why. A herd of buffalo were crossing the road was why. They came straight past the cars with no cares or worries. It was truly an amazing sight. I've been to Yellowstone many a time and never saw anything as incredible as this. I leaned out my window taking pictures of these magnificent creatures till one came towards me. I rolled that window up pronto. The human response to this was also amazing. One fellow in his giant SUV decided he'd seen enough and wanted to leave so he flashed his lights and tooted his horn at the buffalo in his way, as if that would make them move. It didn't, but one did decide to leave some buffalo chips in front of his car. Another woman, also impatient to move, actually bumped a buffalo with her car. Eventually, the road cleared and we drove on. As we came past cars parked on the other side of the road, we heard one biker say loudly about us, "They don't care; they're not on vacation." Ah, ignorance!

We decided to go back next year to the Black Hills. There's so much more to see. And my mother enjoyed getting away for a few days. I also decided to organize a family reunion of my mother's side next year (I'd better get on it too). I told my aunt about it and I think she'll be taking over. That's fine by me. I would like to see family I haven't seen in years, and my kids expressed an interest in meeting up with more of the American side.

Now for the Florida ordeal. OK, it wasn't that bad, but it was close. Why? Because of the family in Florida. The Wyoming part of the trip is all about hiking and playing tennis and bonding with the kids. The Florida part is all about theme parks, the beach and endless streams of dysfunctional family.

I came to a few conclusions: 1) My sister and stepmother have more in common than meets the eye. They both have dysfunctional adult children whose dysfunction they encourage; 2) My stepmother sets the parameters of the relationship my dad has with us, he allows it, and we go along with it because we're afraid we'll have no relationship with him unless we do; 3) I am sick and tired of sleeping on uncomfortable beds in cramped rooms and my kids sleeping on blow-up mattresses when we visit the family. I want to buy a house in Florida when and if we're able to afford it; 4) The Florida side of my family have no clue about my life.

I'll start with No. 2. We had rented a beach house from a school friend of mine for two nights and invited my dad and stepmother to join us. My stepmother took two hours to get ready to go, packing the entire contents of her refrigerator for seven meals. I gave them the master bedroom and their own bathroom. Everything seemed hunky-dory till we came in for lunch on the second day. My stepmother announced that she had a client making an offer on a foreclosed property she had listed and she HAD to GET BACK that day as soon as possible to fax him something. I assumed she was going on her own. No. She then informed me that my dad had forgotten to bring his diuretics and his feet were swelling. I looked down. They didn't look swollen to me. I asked if they were coming back. No. She might have another showing the following morning. We had lunch. My stepmother twittered on about having palpitations because it had been 18 months since she'd had a closing on a house. I glowered at the two of them. I finished lunch and cleared up the kitchen. My dad disappeared upstairs and came back down five minutes later with all their stuff packed. He loaded up the car, she took a few things out of the refrigerator, and they were gone. He never even came back in to say goodbye. I was spitting mad, but didn't want to ruin the rest of our time there. I decided I'm not inviting them next year if we do the same thing. Yes, I know the real estate market has been difficult in Florida. But she just got on the foreclosure bandwagon that other real estate agents seem to have been on for quite a while.

This woman has been, at best, a thorn in my side for 33 years. I could devote an entire blog to her. She also has been told she has calcification in her breast that is either cancerous or pre-cancerous. So I sound like an insensitive wretch complaining about the beach house. Also, her drug-addicted, alcoholic daughter is back on the scene, and my stepmother, for all her going on about tough love, has fallen back into the same routine of rescuing the ungrateful bitch. Did I mention my stepsister has two children being raised by her brother because she was such a lousy, negligent parent?

Now, let's tackle No. 1. My sister, the one who wouldn't go out and take care of my mother when she was ill but took credit for helping her because she sent one son (whose way was paid and to whom my mother gave $250) and she sends her vitamins, seems to be on the phone with my stepmother every day. My stepmother emails her for information to pass on to her errant daughter. My sister, when I met up with her, went on about how my stepmother was two-faced and she doesn't trust her. Yet when I saw them together, as they carried on a conversation I was not included in, my sister acted like she was my stepmother's best friend. So who is being two-faced? She criticized my stepmother for bailing out my stepsister all the time. Yet who is supporting all four of her adult children, none of whom work?

As for No.4, the proof of the pudding was when we met up with my sister, one of her sons, and her latest grandchild. We met in a mall and ate lunch. My sister had asked me to ask my dad to come along. My dad wasn't going to come because he disapproves of that particular son for not working and fathering a child out of wedlock. We had quite an altercation because I can't see why he disapproves so strongly of this son when we have others just as bad or worse in the family. It's the out-of-wedlock that bothers him most apparently. He went on about how responsible the woman my nephew got pregnant is. So responsible she got herself pregnant when she wasn't married, I replied. That shut him up. Anyway, he talked with the Lord and decided he was no one to judge others (Uh, duh!)

Back to lunch. We ate. My nephew regaled my kids with stories of how he got himself and his son ejected from Toys R Us five times (that's something to brag about?). The bill came. No one made a move for it. Not my sister. Not my dad. Finally, I did. OK, they're in bad financial straits. But we're not exactly rolling in it. We paid the bill for all of us. My sister made a very weak attempt to pay her share. My dad said nothing. OK, we're staying and eating at his house. We'd planned to take him and my stepmother out when we were staying on the beach, but they scuppered those plans. Instead, we took ourselves out.

Perhaps the worst crime my dad and stepmother committed was to make my kids feel less than welcome and to show their obvious favoritism toward my stepbrother's and stepsister's kids. I was stewing about it when my dad brought the subject up. He asked if there was any way he was deficient in his relationship with us. Well, I'd still be there if I was completely honest. But I did say he'd made my son feel bad by ignoring him when the stepgrandkids were around. My dad was shocked and went and apologized to my son, who then got mad at me for bringing it up. But I felt I had to. If I hadn't, I'd have kept that poison inside of me and spread it to my kids (which I've already done a bit of).

It occurred to me that having us stay for 10 days was maybe a bit much for them (though my stepmother is not above telling me we can't stay, as she has in the past). And so we decided No. 3, if we can swing it one day, would be a sensible option.

So I felt a lot of anger and hurt this visit. But when I explored those feelings, I discovered underlying them are disappointment and sadness. I would like to be closer to everyone in my family but the extent of their self-involvement disappoints me and that saddens me. There is no one in my family I would turn to in times of need. Someone else will always be more dysfunctional, more in need.

So it was, so it is, so it will ever be.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

And The Winner Is

Do you see the two new additions on the left? My dear blogmates mean mom and MOB gave them to me. I am so chuffed (British word) to be thought of by these fantastic bloggers. I would like to say to any of you who reads this blog that because you read this blog you deserve one of these awards. Have a look and choose what you want. You deserve it.

We're off on Saturday to that great big country across the pond. As I did in April by myself, we will fly first to Newark, then on to Salt Lake City where we'll spend the night. Then we will get up and drive 5 hours to my mother's in Wyoming. While there we plan to take a side trip to see Mount Rushmore. I've never been to South Dakota so look forward to notching up another state. My mother will be coming with us and is so excited about getting away, even if it's only to South Dakota for three days.

Then we'll fly to Tampa, where we'll hit a few theme parks, see friends and family and GO TO THE BEACH. Supposedly, we're meeting up with friends from here that live less than a mile away yet never see. I hope we see them because we rearranged our holiday for them, which meant paying extra.

I'm looking forward to switching off from the stresses of my life in the UK (though there will be equal stresses in the USA between my mother and stepfather and my sister).

I'll be looking out for more money-saving trends too. I probably won't have a chance to post before then so adios for now.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Make Do And Mend

Hubby and I have been thinking about what will thrive and/or make a comeback during these difficult economic times. Here's our list, such as it is:

1. Walking/cycling. With the cost of petrol going up and up, more and more people will dig out their walking shoes or dusty bikes.

2. Public transport. See above (though, of course, this is subject to trains actually working).

3. Libraries. Why buy a book or newspaper when you can get one free at the library?

4. Vegetable gardens. Everyone's going to be digging for Britain again.

5. Local shops (if they still exist). You can get your walking in and support your local shops.

6. Charity shops: Why buy new when you can get secondhand? (And walk there too).

7. Dinner parties: Wine is terribly priced in restaurants. You can feed six of your friends for the price of two bottles of wine probably (and have more wine as well). (Don't forget to walk to your local shops for the ingredients, apart from those you've grown yourself).

8. Seeds: Why spend £8 on one plant when for £2 you can get a load of seeds? And you can sell or give away your spare plants.

9. Evenings in watching DVDs (and you can walk to the DVD shop).

10. Appreciation for the truly good things in life. With more and more people losing their jobs every day, this will force the workaholics to sit back and take a good, long look at what they value. Consumerism will, if not completely die, be cut back quite a bit. Couples will have more time for each other. Families will have more time for each other. Being unemployed is no fun, but there can be benefits.

What trends are you noticing?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Doh! It was Roosevelt who said it.

As doglover so wisely pointed out, I misattributed the fear quote to Churchill in my last post. In my heart I knew it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but in my mind, I heard Churchill's voice say it. It was from Roosevelt's 1933 Inaugural address. Here is an excerpt:

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Could we have had two better leaders -- Churchill and Roosevelt -- during that time? Certainly in the U.S., Roosevelt turned things around. My dad's parents, on the dole and desperately poor, found employment thanks to Roosevelt. He had his faults, dragging his heels on entering WWII among them, but he did so much for our country too. McCain and Obama would do well to try to emulate Roosevelt (although I recall the Clintons also bringing up his memory).

I can't read the papers anymore without seeing the depressing headlines about the wretched state of the economy. But we're not at the breaking point yet.

Today the weather matches the grey uncertainty of the economy. Raindrops splatter against the windowpanes. The garden looks forlorn, bereft of sunshine. It matches my mood. I worry endlessly about hubby not finding a job. Not just because of the change of lifestyle. I haven't written about my mother for a while. The drama has died down, but the prognosis is not good. My stepfather has been diagnosed with something called progressive supra nuclear palsy. Dudley Moore died of it. Right now my stepfather is responding to levadopa, a Parkinson's drug. But that will be shortlived. Right now he is able to dress himself, get in and out of bed, make his own breakfast. This is the calm before the storm. By next year I expect he will be back in a nursing home. Or even dead.

And what of my mother? The house she lives in is in the names of my stepfather and his two daughters. He built that house with his own hands. I have no quarrel with them wanting to keep it in the family. But what about my mother? Will the daughters tip her out when their father has died? I used to think they wouldn't, but now I'm not so sure. In April I thought perhaps once hubby had found new employment we could purchase something for my mother in Florida, near my sister but not with her. That isn't an option right now.

So hubby's unemployment affects more than just us. I know we are not the first -- or the last -- family to endure this. I know by the end of this period of our lives we will be stronger. And I might even be an expert in shelf stacking by then.

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Fear Factor

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

That Churchill certainly had a way with words. He managed to calm people down and rally them round while all around them their world was literally being taken apart.

I wish he was around today to keep my spirits up. I haven't posted in a week or so because I'm sort of in a fearful panic. Since hubby didn't get that job, I've gone into worrying overdrive. What if, what if, what if. Yet is my world and life as bad as it seems to me? Or is it bad because it seems bad?

I can tell myself over and over again that others truly have it bad right now. Think of the Zimbabweans. And to complain or even to voice my worries might be an insult to others facing the same or worse. And I don't want to do that.

I have come to the conclusion that I must seek work and have spent a bit of time looking online for jobs. But I haven't worked for 16 years, I am 48 years old, and I have no work history in this country. Those are pretty big obstacles. I will stack supermarket shelves if I have to, but I'm a long way off that. I have concluded that I will have to be creative and lower my standards a bit and think outside the box. Instead of one full-time job, perhaps two or three part-time jobs? Then I worry about the children because I am so used to being the one to have sort them out. But I'm not the only parent at home (though sometimes I think I'm the only useful one).

I must remember Churchill's admonishment most of all. I have allowed my fears to cloud my thinking, to allow me to stay in the same rut. I must conquer them and move on.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

I Really Don't Know Clouds At All

I've recently started reading "The Cloudspotter's Guide" and how my eyes have been opened.

Since I've lived in England, I've viewed the clouds as dense covering of the sunshine and blue sky I have coveted. What did I know about cumulus, cirrus, stratus? What did I care? But slowly I started to pay attention.

Where I live the weather always comes in from the west, over the Welsh hills and across the Irish Sea. When Wales looks like midnight during midday, I know in a few short minutes we will have the wind and the rain too. Equally, when the sun shines over Wales, I am confident the wind will push the clouds away here soon enough to reveal the sun.

Take today for example. The day started off bright enough. Hubby and I hurried outside to do some gardening. Or I did some gardening and hubby worked on his latest project: Stairway to nowhere. (We have a huge tree stump hubby tried to remove with no luck so came up with the idea to build steps over it. Don't ask. I already made that mistake.) Gradually, the sky darkened as the clouds thickened (and I haven't read enough to tell you what kind the clouds were but I can assure you they weren't cumulus humilis). Some raindrops fell, the temperature dropped as the wind picked up. But still we worked on. At about 2:30 I went inside to have some lunch and a rest. I thought about getting a shower but the garden and its weeds beckoned to me. I donned my gardening coat, normally reserved for winter, and went back out.

And then the clouds changed from dense grey to flat white. The sun made a guest appearance, and I came inside to write this post.

My point, if I have one, is this: As Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the author of "The Cloudspotter's Guide," says, blue sky is boring. The clouds are what make our lives interesting and give it texture.

And so this applies to my life at the moment. Hubby did not get the job he went on the third interview for. They informed him by email yesterday. (You'd think they could have phoned, seeing as he was one of two candidates for the job.) This black cloud that seems to have been over us all year is actually several clouds that have come and gone. Some seem quite threatening and black at the time but get moved on by the wind before causing too much damage. Others hang over and rain and clear and rain and clear.

I am afraid of this turn of events. I am afraid because it could mean a change to the status quo. And I, Capricorn that I am, am not one for change. Not that I don't welcome change, but I don't encourage it either. I, with four (!) closets full of clothes I mostly don't wear, can weather a financial hailstorm. I have done it before. When I started my very first job, I couldn't afford to get the electricity and phone turned on till after my first paycheck. I lived on no-brand white bread, peanut butter, and orange soda. I took cold showers, which was fine because it was July in Fort Myers, Fla. I worked at night so got by with candlelight. I lost loads of weight.

That was 27 years ago. I can change my life again if I have to. It just requires a different perspective. And "The Cloudspotter's Guide" is helping me find it.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Why It's Great to Be a Teacher

Reason 1: "Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 60-foot clipper."

Reason 2: In an essay about being an explorer, one pupil placed herself on a desert island. Suddenly, tigers appeared and chased her up a tree.
"I was fucked!" were her parting words.

Last night after a church function I attended (yes, wakeup is a secret Church of England congregant), we headed across the street to wet our whistles. That's the great thing about the churches here: they're nearly always located near a pub. Two in our group are teachers, and conversation turned to their line of work, or lines as demonstrated above. One is marking essays for Year 9 SATs. The other has taught design tech for 25 years. They've seen it all, heard it all, and entertained us mightily. The first line may be apocryphal, but funny nonetheless. The second is just too precious. If only the writer had come from Yorkshire. Then it would be "I were fucked!"

I'm sure all you teachers out there might disagree but it amused me no end. As long as my children weren't the ones being quoted.

So does anyone out there have some lines to top these?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Work! and the City

Here's something that's been on my mind for a few days:

Went with the Frenemy crowd to see "Sex and the City" film on Friday night (I know, I know, but no one else I know wanted to go). On the way Frenemy declared she'd never watched the series because she thought it was "vacuous" (but can she spell it?). And this from a woman with closet full of fur coats who buys her "fashion" from QVC.

But I digress.

So the lights go down in the cinema packed full of women and two men. The movie bores me slightly until they go to Mexico. For those who haven't seen it, there are some very funny lines about waxing and pooping in your pants.

But before it picks up, we hear Miranda -- never my favourite character -- moaning about how hard her life is as a working mother of one (with a Ukrainian nanny and supportive husband). "After all," she says approximately, "it's not like I sit at home all day. I WORK!"

In the darkness next to me I hear my friend J. go "Uh huh."

Since then I have pondered why that line was in the film. Was it pandering to what the producers perceive to be its target audience? Did the writer believe that is a line that Miranda and Miranda act-alikes would say?

You see, I'm a bit sensitive on this matter because I don't WORK! And I don't have a Ukrainian or other nationality nanny. And though hubby is around the house a LOT these days, for much of my children's childhood he has not been.

Miranda, I believe, is an alpha male in drag. There's always the hype about how Samantha thinks and behaves like a man. But I think it's really whiny Miranda who thinks and acts like a man. She's some sort of high-powered lawyer married to a beta male who happily or not fills in the gaps left by her busy career.

Her hubby could be me. Yes, he has a job too, working in a bar. But it's not a CAREER or WORK!

I just get annoyed at women like Miranda who look down their noses at women who stay home with the kids. We may not WORK! but we work because raising a family properly is hard work, but also sometimes or even most of the time rewarding, fulfilling and FUN!

I've also been pondering something else about this film. There was not a single conversation in which the M word or even P-M word was uttered. I'm talking menopause here. A group of woman, all in their 40s and one almost 50, don't talk about menopause or perimenopause? Not likely. Samantha is horny as ever. No night sweats or hot flushes? No mood swings? No dry vagina? Instead it's angst over relationships. That is so 20s, not 40s.

It's only a film, I hear you say. And, sadly, yet another film not made for our age group. I've got news for all you 20- and 30-somethings. Your 40s won't be anything like the film. But then your 30s probably weren't like the series either.

Here's something I never understood: How could Carried Bradshaw afford her Manhattan apartment and designer clothes and going out to bars and drinking Cosmopolitans every night? I can understand Miranda and even Samantha. But not Charlotte or Carrie unless they inherited some wealth along the way. They never moaned about money problems either.

And here's the last thing I will say about the film: the actresses have obviously aged and allowed that to be shown. Well done! But Sarah Jessica Parker, honey, do something about that mole on your chin. It's about three feet in diameter on the big screen. And I noticed it's had some babies on your face. And you look MUCH better as a brunette.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Happy Birthday, Gemini Boys

Today is my son's 12th birthday. Today is my brother's 52nd birthday.

Happy birthday, guys. The world's a better place with you in it, even if son is behaving exactly as brother did when he was 12. Son better watch out; brother ended up getting sent to military school. Not that I'd do that to my precious boy. And he'd probably like it, seeing as he is hell-bent on a career in the navy (no, God, no!).

He came up with this idea a couple of years ago when he was listening to my dad talk about his days as a bombadier in the U.S. Navy during WWII. Son was fascinated and decided that's what he wants to do. No, son, no. Not while there's an Iraq and Afghanistan. I feel for all the parents who have lost sons and daughters to this war or whose sons and daughters have come home changed forever physically and/or emotionally.

I don't want my boy to be a hero. I just want him to grow up safely and soundly, to know when and how to do the right thing in life, to be productive and loving and supportive of those around him.

Right now, he's starting to go through that annoying boy phase, which will pass shortly, I hope. Before my husband packs him off to military school.

Son has come up with an alternative career choice in the meantime: drug dealer. I think I convinced him that it really wouldn't make him that much money.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Jakey Update II

I realised today I haven't written about Jakey's second surgery. So much has happened all at once that the surgery seems a little less important than the first time round.

Some changes this time. The surgeon wasn't jetting off on holiday so hung around to make sure Jake was cleaned up properly, and he had the cone already assembled and put on Jake. The cone is bigger this time too so there's zero chance of Jake getting at his stitches. He also was prescribed antibiotics from the start as a prophylactic measure. The wound seems cleaner and dryer this time around. Jake is much livelier! When we got him home last Thursday the first thing he wanted to do was go on a walk. I obliged with a quick jaunt down to the end of the block and back, but he would have been happy to go further. We've been building up the walks ever since. He does need to stop four or five times for a quick rest, but I think that's because he wants to go so fast.

His stitches come out Monday, and we'll see if he still needs the cone. I'm not ready to take him to the park or the woods yet, but I'm sure that will happen much more quickly this time. The surgeon was very pleased with how the first operation turned out. He said this hip was even worse, with absolutely no cartilage left whatsoever. Poor baby. You would never have known he was in pain. He's still on painkillers but no longer takes the Synoquin. I think we'll end up with a lot of leftover painkilling medicine so I will ask the vet if there's a charity I can donate the medicine to. This medicine can be so expensive.

I expect that in six weeks' time Jake will be rampaging through the woods or the heather, behaving like the puppy he is. And he's only 10 months old. So he'll be pain-free and still young. Lucky dog!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

It's So Quiet

Ah, heaven. The house is empty but for me, Jake, and the two cats. Hubby has gone off for an interview, the third at this particular firm. I have not allowed myself to think he won't be getting the job. He is meeting with Mr. Head Honcho for the first time, having worked his way up from the lower levels. This must be it, right?

Hubby has worked hard to prepare himself for this interview. That is what he does best actually. Work. His enforced stay at home has shown up a few of the weaknesses in our relationship. Or maybe the weaknesses are my own for I have found myself feeling quite critical of what he is not without taking the time to value what he is.

I am not entirely at fault here. He has come back in a somewhat surly mood, as anyone who has been unjustly fired would be. Fired is a strong word. The proper phrase is "made redundant" as his job was effectively eliminated. His former boss, the woman who hired and fired him, keeps phoning and leaving messages. Her problem is she wants all the benefits of being a bitch, but none of the responsibilities. She doesn't like the fact that she might not be popular because of decisions she's made.

So hubby's ego has been bruised, and I haven't exactly worked hard to shore it up again. Still, I do believe in him and what he can do. And if he gets this job, maybe he'll leave me in peace to go on the computer and do whatever I want to do. Like keep up with my blog buddies and write on my own blog once in a while. And no, he still doesn't know about this blog.

A girl's entitled to a secret or two.