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.