Friday, September 24, 2010

Things I Do After I Put My Kids To Bed

1. I eat M&M's. You know, from the bag I hid from all the kids earlier. Yes, I eat them. One at a time. I slowly suck on the candy coating until it disappears and then I slowly chew the chocolate treasure inside. And then I grab another piece and slowly do it all again. I do this instead of shoving eight pieces in my mouth while stirring the spaghetti sauce we're having for dinner and trying to dodge your I smell chocolate in here accusations like I usually do.

2. I sit. I sit still. I sit still in one spot. Without getting up every thirty-seven seconds to grab the baby, check the baby, take the electrical cord out of the baby's mouth. I sit. I sit until my legs feel like they've been wrapped in one of those lead blankets the dentist throws over you when he x-rays your teeth. And it is good.

3. I go to the bathroom. With the door closed. Yes, closed. And no one barges in to hand me a permission slip that needs to be signed right away otherwise you won't be able to go bowling next Tuesday with the rest of the class, and no one barges in to ask me if they should wear their hair this way or that way to school tomorrow and this is really important because Betty Sue wore her hair like this today and you don't want people to think you're copying her, and no one barges in to announce that next week Wednesday there is a fire meeting that you need to go to and you just wanted to tell me before you forgot. Yes, after I put my kids to bed I go to the bathroom. With the door closed. Sometimes I stay in there for a really long time. Because I can.

4. I eat. In the living room. On the couch. Over the carpet. I eat crumbly foods like potato chips. And foods that stain my fingers like Cheetos. And I drink red kool-aid. In a really big breakable glass. And I put it on the edge of the coffee table. Where it might spill. Yep. I'm daring like that.

5. I watch television where the main characters are older than 12. Sometimes there are kissing scenes. Or dead bodies. And swear words. Aw, who am I kidding - you all heard those swear words earlier in the evening when I was yelling at you for the twentieth time to get off the carpet with your red juice.

Children, these are just five reasons why you must, yes you must go to bed at a decent hour. Because I can't cram all this in twenty minutes before midnight. Really.

Editor's Note: red kool-aid may or may not be red wine; because you just wait until your kids learn all about alcohol. One humiliating trip in to see the principal and discuss your child's concerns with your daily wine drinking habits will have you calling it kool-aid, too. You know, if that's the case.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Perfect Home

I get to go inside houses. Lots of houses. I go in them when they're first built. I go in them when they're in the middle of a remodel. I go in them when the neighbors are complaining that they're decrepit and ugly and lowering the property values of the neighborhood and ought to be torn down and replaced with something new and modern.

There are little lake cottages that I have dreamed about entering and when I do they are everything I imagined them to be: breezy and light, welcoming and relaxing, creaking and full of wear & tear. I imagine the cousins gathering to sleep on the front screened-in porch, laughing and giggling, listening to the sounds of the lake waves hitting the piers.

There are expensive lake front homes of such a grand exterior I feel lowly and humbled at the mere thought that little old me is privileged enough to enter them -- and usually I'm disappointed. They're large, expansive, and look more like a museum than a home. I imagine a coldness to the families that occupy them. No giggling allowed in a house so formal and fancy.

I can spend countless hours perusing for houses to buy and fully believe with my entire being that it should be a law that real estate agents listing a property must post pictures of every room and the yard. I get giddy at the thought of attending an open house because I can't wait to see what's inside.

My mom always said that when looking for a place to live you should look inside every house; never drive by and assume what's on the inside. We're taught that very young: never judge a book by its cover. You never know what is on the inside until you experience it first hand.

I have been so excited and geared up to see the inside of a particular house that on the outside looks absolutely perfect to me. It might have a large porch, flower boxes and the perfect color siding - but when I walk in I find the rooms are tiny, the kitchen a disaster, and the basement floods every time the neighbor flushes his toilet. It might look perfect to everyone driving by, but can you imagine how you'd feel living there? Trapped in its inner hell?

Then there's the house that looks, well, plain. Maybe even less than plain. Someone with less tact might even describe it as ugly. Maybe the siding is old and falling off, and the trim is a color you couldn't describe if your life depended on it. The yard looks a mess and the shed out back is crooked and leaning at a most curious angle. You sigh, fight back the urge to turn around and cut your losses early, but take a step towards the door, because you're willing to take a chance to at least see what's on the inside before you write it off completely.

And once you get inside - oh. my. word. You stand shocked at the beauty. The floors are real wood and polished to a shine. The rooms are spacious and welcoming. There are new appliances in the state of the art kitchen. The bathroom is full of custom tile and a jetted tub and the laundry room is so gorgeous you can't wait to start washing!  Around every corner you find more and more to make you smile. You can see yourself living there. You can see your family gathered around the kitchen island, laughing while eating their morning breakfast. You imagine hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and all the traditions that grow from the love that you feel inside that home. And the price - the price is perfect - less than what you budgeted. It is perfect! In your heart of hearts you know it is absolutely perfect for you! You are home.

Would you buy it? Of course you would!

But what if you were told you had to take the outside as-is. That condition of making this house your perfect home was to accept the un-perfect outside. That you couldn't change a thing. That no matter how many laughs and good times and love and wonderful memories the inside would provide, you would have to deal with the less than perfect outside. Over the years you would lose count of the number of passerby, shaking his head wondering why on earth you bothered with such an ugly, dilapidated looking structure. You would have to put up with the neighbor who refused to let his children play with your children because he's pretty sure you are not the types of people he wants his kids associating with. Several neighbors, in fact. You would forever be catching the curious stares of people walking by and the turned up noses of the people who wouldn't - couldn't - understand that maybe, just maybe, this house was more than what they saw on the outside.

Would you still buy it?

I am in love with the blog written by the amazingly talented Melissa Blake called So about what I said... - and you need to spend a few hours reading it today. Starting right now. And then you need to tell your friends. And your neighbors. And your co-workers. And your family members. And your teens. Especially your teens.

Because once you meet Melissa, and hear her words, and get to know her, you will understand why she is the perfect home.

Melissa was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a rare genetic bone and muscular disorder - but her words speak to every "normal person" (read: people without Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome). She has this uncanny ability to take everyday words and string them together to put a voice to our fears and anxieties when it comes to love and life. She is, without a doubt, the most talented, hauntingly beautiful voice I have heard in my life. Countless times I have read her post and yelled out, yes! That is exactly how it was! How did you know how I felt that way? She is me. She is you. She is all of us, and yet she is so special and unique I feel so lucky I was able to stumble through her door.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wildlife and Wild Life

I am very lucky to work and live in a beautiful area. We're located on a gorgeous lake that offers a public shore path for pedestrians. If you're willing you can walk around the entire lake which takes about 7 to 8 hours, or so I've heard.

Our lake path is beautiful and peaceful and gorgeous and wonderful and lovely and absolutely stunning. Did I mention how beautiful and peaceful and gorgeous and wonderful and lovely and absolutely stunning it is?

You never know what you'll see when you're out and about.... 
If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of a blue heron or other signs of wildlife.

Sometimes they're out in plain sight, but other times you really have to look or you might pass right by without noticing:

Can you spy the wild life?

Here, let me help you...

Monday, September 20, 2010

May God Be With You.

Look, I know I'm not going to fool anyone into thinking I'm Christian of the Year. Far from it. In fact, I may or may not actually be black listed from certain churches. That being said, I, personally, do believe in God. I don't care if you do or not or go to church or not or --- shoot - see, that right there is what stops me from ever becoming Christian of the Year... um, forget what I said about not caring. I do care. I care about your soul and will pray for you. Ok, probably not. Actually, most definitely I probably will not. It's not that I don't care whether or not your soul burns in hell - it's just that, well, let me worry about mine before I get all up in your business. You're a grown up, you can make your own decisions. I won't judge you, I promise.

Ok, that being said, I do feel it's my duty as a parent to expose my children to God and the 10 Commandments so they don't murder anyone or covet their neighbor's ass. So several times a year I shove them out of bed on an early Sunday morning and verbally spar with them right up to the point we walk in the front door of the church.

"Why do we have to go to church?"

"Because God really wants to see you."

"I thought He's everywhere; He can see me sleeping in bed."

"God doesn't want to see you sleeping. He wants to see you singing praises in church."

"That is so stupid."

"Don't let God hear you say that."

The days we actually attend church are hellish. The kids squirm, sigh, pick at each other, kick each other, hum rap songs and generally make me question if their eternal souls are actually worth attempting to sit through a sermon. The girls are 8 and 15 years old. Obviously old enough to sit for forty minutes but since that wasn't happening I decided to employ the no-fail behavior tactic called "Sitting in the Front Pew."

Up we marched to the very front of the church. A mere couple of feet seperated us from the minister. The girls would have to behave. The girls would have to sit still and silent and pretend to be listening for the entire sermon.

Except for some reason the minister thought this would be a great sermon to use the word "cockpit" several times. Each and every time he did the 15-year old would giggle and snicker, and turn red from trying not to explode. And then she'd lean real close to me and quietly say, "COCK pit." Then bust out laughing.

I'm thinking we'll be sitting in the back of the church from here on out.

Buried Alive

Part of my job is to deal with hoarders. You know - disgusting people who cram garbage into their house and are too lazy to clean. Except you're wrong. These are not disgusting people. They most often are not lazy either. And, while there are times when I disagree as to the standard that makes an item considered to be garbage, to the human being who is affected by hoarding, they most certainly do not feel they are living in filth.

The majority of hoarders that I have come in contact with have a plan. They have a goal they feel they are working towards. And they don't want to fail. They just keep trying. Most often I see people who buy products on sale and plan on reselling these items to make money. Auctions, eBay, Craigslist -- in their mind they plan to double their money, subsidize their income, and prove to their family and friends that they aren't crazy; they're trying really, really hard.

The garages are usually the first filled. Then basements, guest rooms, rarely used dining rooms - without meaning to, their entire house becomes filled. That's when we usually see it tumbling into the yard. "But the rain and the snow is going to ruin these things," I explain. "I bought tarps to cover the items," they explain. "I can clean them, dry them out if they become wet. Besides, it's mostly glass items." Always an excuse, I think. Always.

Neighbors are angry. Fed up. Annoyed. "Fine them! Kick them out! I don't care what happens to them; my property values are going down!"

Emergency response teams are worried. "If we get a call to the house we won't be able to get our equipment inside to help them. If there is a fire our men are in danger of becoming trapped in a labyrinth of stuff."

Health and Human Services are reluctant to help unless there is an eviction notice or a possible raze order.

Nobody is happy.

Everyone is overwhelmed.


Including the home owner. No one sets out to bury themselves alive in stuff. No one plans to isolate themselves in their embarrassing habits. No one chooses to feel overwhelmed every second of every day. No one decides to do replace family members and friends with a good sale or a really awesome Goodwill find.

These are the stories that keep me up at night. These are the stories that make me wonder when their sons and daughters decided enough is enough and turned their back for the very last time. These are the stories that make me worry about what will happen... what if there really is an emergency? What if the EMT can't get to them quick enough? What if they really are kicked out of their home? Who cleans all this stuff up? Who decides where it goes?

It leaves me feeling utterly overwhelmed and not having any idea where to start. Having no idea which step I should make that will be the most effective. I suppose, it leaves me feeling very much like the hoarder who has no idea what to do next.