Monday, November 30, 2009

Where do you sit?

As many of you know, when you get married/commit to a life partner and mingle together two different family traditions, it can get fun and interesting at best and ugly at worst. Thankfully for MG and I, it has been fun and interesting. It has rarely been ugly (Oh, but when it is ugly, it is REALLY ugly!). We are both supportive of each others backgrounds and have enjoyed sharing these backgrounds with our kids - making our two backgrounds one for them to carry on and hopefully share with their families when they are adults.

There were no "power" seats at the table in my family. For the holidays in my family, when you have 30 people in a home that was not necessarily meant for 3o people, you were just damn glad you got a seat. And you were thankful to be with 30 people who you (most of the time) like. No one cared who sat where, you just tried to find a seat near your favorite family member. On a daily basis in my family, when it was usually just four of us at the table and we did not sit at the dining table, we had our unofficial assigned seats. It was not based on status in the family, but on function - my mom sat on the side of the table nearest the kitchen, my dad and I sat on the other side and my brother sat on the end because it had the least amount of space (and probably because they didn't want my brother and I sitting together). The table was more of a low counter bar and the fourth side was up against a wall.

In MG's family, there is a power/status seat - the head of the table. It appears they take this very seriously. One time when my parents were here, my dad, unaware of this status involved with the "head of the table", put his plate at the head of the table. MG made a comment later to me, so the next time it happened, I moved the plate and MG or I explained to my dad that MG likes to sit there. My dad now knows and he never tries to sit at the head of the table.

Over Thanksgiving, CJ tried to sit at the head of the table. I told him he had to move because we needed him in a different seat, being the littlest and all. My MIL shouted out, "Yes, I think the two grandfathers should sit at the heads of the table." I was a little confused at first. Based on Chris's past explanation of all this to me, about the "man of the house" and all, HE should have been at the head and ME at the the other end. My dad chuckled and said, "Oh no, MG gets to sit there." I then said, "Oh no, this is OUR house and MG and I are sitting at the heads of the table." Honestly, I didn't care where anyone sat. Something about another person giving away "important" seats IN MY HOUSE just didn't sit right.

I later asked MG about why this is such a big deal in his family. I needed more than "man of the house" stuff, especially with a family who prides themselves on not being caught up in the superficial stuff. He went through the history of kings and emporers at the head of the table, blah, blah, blah. I told him I needed a more relevant explanation since his family is not royalty. He really couldn't come up with much beyond "respect your elders" and said he was glad I spoke up because he did think it was his right to sit at the head of the table. In his family, he had waited his whole childhood to be in that spot.

So that was a short story made long. Does your family have a seating tradition? Do you have a seat of "status" at your table?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I always miss the good stuff.

Did all of you see the wardrobe malfunction back during the Super Bowl that year that Janet and Justin were so into their dance that Janet's close couldn't stay on her body? I didn't, I was in the other room. Probably getting food. Did anyone watch the American Music Awards? I didn't. I rarely watch these award shows, especially the music ones. I find myself in a mix of "glad I didn't, wish I did". I did manage to see about ten seconds of Lady Gaga. Oddly enough, I had no idea who she was until Perez Hilton said her name afterwards. All I kept thinking was "Who is THAT?" I heard the next day she smashed her glass cage and I totally missed that. I must have walked out of the room for a second. Probably for food. Once I found out it was her, I had already had enough and changed the channel. I think M*A*S*H was on TVLand. It was a much better option.

I did see Lady Gaga on Jay Leno last night. I really did not find her performance interesting. I just thought it was over the top and weird. And I know weird. I have spent many years in weird settings with weird people and weird music. However, Jay talked with her afterwards and I did really like her then. She seemed pretty damn normal, but in a fun, sassy, off the wall kind of way. Maybe I should give her music another try and just not watch her perform.

Then Monday rolls around and I hear all the hubub of Adam Lambert. I do not watch American Idol (or any of those "talent/music" reality shows). And now I can't even get online to watch that provocative video because of a copyright claim by "Dick Clark Productions, Inc." Damn. I understand, however, that the West Coast airing was able to be "edited" to take out the "oral sex" portrayal. Poor West Coasters. I know what it's like to miss the good stuf!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Highlights of my week. Friday Fragments style!

I missed Mrs. 4444's Friday Fragments, so I am gathering all my little thoughts today into a post.
  • The highlight of my week was when I was volunteering at CJ's library.  The other mom volunteer said, "I LOVE your red hair.  Do any of your kids have red hair?"  My response, with a little laugh, "It's fake."  (And by that, I meant the color, not the hair.)  She couldn't believe it.  I thought I was going to have to show her my roots just to prove it.
  • The highlight of my week was a new client, who said to me half way through our session, "Jo, you are REALLY good at this."  I can't hear that enough.
  • The highlight of my week was when I was driving out of the driveway and CJ was out playing.  He flagged me down and ran to the driver's side motioning me roll down the window.  The then stood on his toes with his lips puckered to give me a kiss.  He is too sweet.
  • The highlight of my week was Sous Chef, who is not overly affectionate, walked past me and said, "Surprise hug!" and he hugged me.
  • The highlight of my week was when Big E, who is almost a teenager, said "Thank you, Mom" unexepectedly for something I helped him with.  I don't even remember what it was I did, but that "Thank you, Mom" comment is sticking with me.  You don't hear that much from tweens/teens.
  • The highlight of my week was sneaking upstairs with my husband shortly after we both got home from work.  The non-highlight was when the kids realized we were gone and two of the three came knocking at different times.  How old does a kid have to be before they no longer believe "we're taking a nap," especially when the door is locked?  Oh, and add to the fact that eventually, the cat usually makes his way to do the door and meows so loud that the distraction is just too much.  I am still in shock that with interruptions like this , the stitches, the allergies, etc. that MG permits this cat to remain in our home and loves him as much as the rest of us (though he may never admit it!).
  • The highlight of my week was a pot luck dinner.  I made the most awesome Roast Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans and Chili Lime Dressing.  It is delicious and I came home with an empty bowl.
  • The highlight of the week was having long time college friends and their kids over for dinner.  The meal I cooked was yummy and we made homemade doughnuts for dessert.  The kids enjoyed shaking the hot doughnuts in the bags with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.  All of our kids get along and they love seeing each other, which makes our gatherings that much more fun!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Follow up

Thanks for all the comments on my post earlier this week about the article written by Susan Klebold.

I do want to point out a few more thoughts that didn't make it into my original post. Mainly because I was so overwhelmed with that article and all the chaos it caused in my mind.

In reading that article, she did confirm my original fear that sometimes, parents can do everything right but that is not a guarantee for how your kiddos may turn out. While I know that she was not a perfect parent, hindsight is 20/20. I am guessing there are some things she would handle different and the "what if's" are probably the source of a lot of sleepless nights for her and her husband. Some of the blame may rest on her and her husband's shoulders, but mainly, it remains with the boys who committed that awful massacre. I do not believe in "not guilty by reason of insanity" but believe in "guilty by reason of insanity". Being mentally ill does not mean you did not commit a crime. It might help explain the reasons behind the crime and it might even be that one isn't in their "right" mind when the crime was committed, but the fact is, they did commit it.

I also realize that in many, many cases, one can look at the parent(s) and/or family structure and the environment in which a kid was raised and say, "Yes, that explains it." Often, blame and responsibility can be placed with the adults who raised a criminal. Those cases seem so much easier for me to accept. Knowing a kid was raised in an abusive, violent, drug and alcohol infested home with no boundaries, sadly, makes me feel a little more secure because I know my kids aren't raised that way. Though Susan Klebold's article proves that that sense of security is sometimes a false one and that is what I find so scary as a parent.

And I hope this is my last post about this, because honestly, I don't have enough Lexapro and Xanax in my arsenal of prescription drugs to prevent me from having a parental nervous breakdown if I keep on going on about this subject. Plus, I saw on the Today Show the popularity of huffing among elementary and middle school aged kids. I need to go worry about that for a while.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's a bully amongst us.

I have the cutest cat ever.  (Well, I do need to mention that Sassafras Williams might be in the running.)  His name is Ace.  If you visited our house, you might think he is the most spoiled cat ever.  I don't think making sure he has his own glass of ice water is really spoiling him.  It's just preserving MY glass of ice water so he doesn't drink from it.  He knows which glass is his because it's always in the same spot.  I know when he wants fresh water WITH ice, because he will hang out by the water dispenser on the refrigerator and look at me like "Come ON lady, I'm dying of thirst here!"  Then I get it for him.  Is that spoiling?  I think not.

I digress.  My point is, he is the cutest cat ever.  And I can't imagine anyone or anything wanting to hurt or antagonize him.  But it's true.  There is a great big bully that is lurking in the trees just waiting to pounce.  That bully looks like this:

Oh, alright, that might be an exaggeration.  But I think Ace thinks the bully looks like the above.  The bully really looks like this:

A bigger, older, darker and more aggressive version of Ace.  He lives in the neigbhorhood behind us and now that he knows Ace is here, he visits frequently to pick on him.  Ace is pretty small.  And he's a scaredy cat.  He will come bursting into the house (We frequently leave the door open for him to go in and out.  NO that is not spoiling him, either!) with his tail all puffy and his back hairs standing up and a look of total wildness in his eyes.  He runs for cover.  The other day, the screen door was closed and I heard that deep, throaty growl.  I went to the door and he was cowering on the deck and Bully* was hunkered down at the bottom of the deck.  I shooed him away.  Then one morning I was calling for Ace and I see Bully slink away from the evergreen trees that Ace likes to lay under. 

This weekend, though, things were out of control.  I didn't see it, but Big E had a front row view of Bully attacking Ace and both of them tumbling around the back yard and making those screeching cat noises.  Big E finally got them to stop fighting and they took off in opposite directions.  He finally found Ace with a little a limp and a bleeding puncture wound in his leg.  Other than that he was fine.  However, that Bully better watch out, because I can be one protective mama!

*Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent.  But since you're here, I can tell you, Bully's real name is Sunny.  Yes, it's true.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What if they did everything right?

The other day I went to lunch and purposefully took a specific Oprah magazine with me. I've been carrying around this issue (November) in order to read an article that I just couldn't pass up. Susan Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine murderers, broke her silence to write about her experience for O magazine.

Like most of you, I remember the day of the Columbine shootings clearly. I was a mom to an almost two year old boy, pregnant with another and attending Massage Therapy school. Watching the massacre unfold on TV left me speechless and horrified. Once the initial chaos wore off and some of the reality of what had happened hours earlier came to light, the public started pointing fingers at the parents of those two killers. All I kept thinking was "Oh my God, those parents. Those MOTHERS! How will those mothers ever go on?" And I wasn't just thinking about the mothers whose children were murdered that day, but the mothers who raised those two killers.  What kind of parent raises mass murderers?

The next day at school, our massage teacher, who is an ex-priest, decided to put off having class to discuss what had happened the day before. To go over how we were feeling, the impact this had on our society. It was quite a discussion. The parents of those boys were discussed - What kind of parents raise mass murderers? How could they not have known something was going on? Didn't they ever check on their kids to see what they were up to? How could they let them get to the point of killing dozens but with intentions of blowing up everyone?

At the end of all of that finger pointing and having many of those thoughts myself, I remember saying, while practically hyperventilating, "What if they did everything right?"  Really, what if those parents are like most of us? What if they loved on their kids, supported them in their endeavors, gave those kids their all? Just like most of us are doing?  How does a parent live with that? How do you see it coming when there appear to be little to no signs?

The article Susan Klebold writes is insightful, emotional and heartbreaking. She will never fully recover, though she is doing some good work to help others and to help herself. It's scary because her story reinforced my question of "What if they did everything right?" It appears she was a good mom and her husband was a good dad. They had some issues with Dylan Klebold, but what parent of a teenager doesn't?  This horrific event snuck up on them and left them as shocked and traumatized as any other parent that day. They have had to deal not only with the loss of their son, but the realization that their son caused unimaginable pain to so many others. That he took the lives of so many, leaving parents, a spouse and other loved ones behind.  And they were unprepared, because like so many of us, they were doing their best and doing what they thought was right in the world of parenting.  It makes me shudder to think that more often than not, we parents do all the right things, make all the right moves, love all the right ways, but things can go terribly wrong.

You can read Susan Klebold's article, "I Will Never Know Why" at HERE.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Only in my city would this happen.

For anyone who may not know much about my little southwest Ohio metropolis, also known as Cincinnati, you might not be aware of what an uptight, conservative, closed minded, intolerant and even segregated city it can be.  I often find myself yelling at the news, shaking my head at things I over hear people say, and wishing that I lived in a hippie commune somewhere warm and free-spirited.

Our city has had issues with the KKK putting a cross on our Fountain Square downtown to represent the Christian community during Christmas when the Jewish community put up a Menorah.  It was awful.  It was embarrassing.  It did not represent my Christian beliefs.  It made the national news.  And I mean the KKK cross, not the Menorah.  I was totally cool with the Menorah, which was right next to the Christmas tree.  I would have been ok with a cross from a church or other loving community, but NOT the KKK.  I did not go downtown, though, and try to knock down the cross.  I did not go threaten the KKK members who stood protecting the cross because all the pissed off people were going there to try to remove it from it's place.  I did speak out against it to anyone who would listen.

There have been riots brought on by racial issues that make national news.  We've been in national news due to Larry Flynt and his Hustler stores which currently conduct business in our city and his past legal issues with the city in the 1970's.  We have groups like Citizens for Community Values who often go up against Stonewall Cincinnati, an organization for the GLBT community.

Well, this week has really sent me over the edge.  Earlier this week, heading into downtown, you could see this sign:

If you can't read it, it says, "Don't Believe in God?  You are not alone."  It is sponsored and paid for by an organization named CCoR - Cincinnati Coalition of Reason.  The reason for the sign?  "The point of our national billboard campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States," explained the national director of the National Coalition of Reason.  When I saw him interviewed on the news, I could NOT believe there were not protestors shouting in the background about "hell and damnation".  Then the reporter said the sign had only been up for five hours.  Ahhh, that explains it.

Notice that up there I used the word COULD.  Fast forward to today.  The sign is having to be relocated to the other side of downtown due to threatening phone calls and e-mails to the landlord of the building that holds the sign.  (I'm not sure what good that will do, won't there just be threats from folks over there?)  I am ok with the fact that people don't agree with the sign.  I am ok with people speaking out against the sign - picketing, prayer vigils, shouting from the rooftops.  I am ok with people speaking out to support the sign.  Freedom of speech goes both ways and it is a protected right in this country.  However, when one tries to use that "free speech" to threaten the owner of the building, then the religious community has once again used their beliefs as a weapon instead of way to build communities and bridges to connect to others who have different values and beliefs. 

I am not an atheist.  I do have many atheist friends and even some family members.  I am not at all threatened or offended by this sign.  It does not sway my belief in God.  My atheist friends/family do not sway my beliefs.  In fact, I find it interesting and enlightening to hear their thoughts and reasons, even if I don't agree.  And I do NOT understand why a community would think that this sign warrants threatening phone calls, e-mails and notes to a landlord.  What kind of religion thinks THAT is ok?  What a pathetic example of God's love.  In fact, this behavior is right up there with the KKK cross as far as I am concerned. 
You can read the articles about this sign HERE and HERE.

(Someday, I will try to write about the good things about this city!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's a Relish giveaway!

Abby at Me and My Boys is giving away a one year subscription to Relish!, a website that helps you with meal planning, recipes and shopping lists.  It sounds like an awesome site!  In Abby's words:
Relish! is a website that truly makes meal planning easy. With Relish! you pick from a ton of excellent, tested recipes, a very cleverly organized grocery list is automatically created, then all you do is hit the store for five days worth of home-cooked meals--not one of which takes more than 30 minutes to prepare. Perfect!
Now go visit Abby and register to win!  Although, I want to win, so maybe you shouldn't.  :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Visitors are great!

This past weekend we had friends from Kansas City visit.  If you're new here, you may not know my family lived in Overland Park, KS for three years and LOVED it.  We didn't want to move back.  Believe me when I say, no one was more shocked about that than I was.  When my husband first told me we were being transferred to Kansas, I think my response was "You want me to move WHERE?"  After our initial visit to just look around and get a feel for the area, I cried.  When we went back and the trees and flowers were in bloom and we found a house we liked, I felt much better.  Once we settled in, school started and we had made friends, we extended our stay there for a year and tried to stay permanently.  That "permanent" part didn't work out, so here we are, transferred back to Cincy.

Our visit this past weekend included a trip to the Children's Museum.  I have not been to this museum since I blacked out in 2001 and ended up having brain surgery.  I offered to do a re-enactment of me blacking out in the exact location of the original event, but there were no takers.  I don't get it.  I forgot my camera that day, or I would have taken a photo and may have even done the re-enactment with photos so I could show you guys. 

We went to the Newport Aquarium and I DID remember my camera, but then my batteries went dead.  I managed to get a few shots in before that happened.

During the next three pictures of me trying to get good shots of everyone feeding the lorikeets, I was also busy dodging bird shit.  Man, those birds eat a lot of nectar and it exits their bodies quite rapidly.  We couldn't figure out why they were selling raincoats before going into this exhibit, but we quickly figured it out.  Thankfully, we all emerged shit free, though I saw others who were not so lucky.

Sous Chef feeding the lorikeets.

CJ feeding the lorikeets.

Stephanie feeding the lorikeets.

CJ and Sophie

CJ petting the sharks.

The adults

Anyway, we ate at Skyline Chili.  We went for an adults only dinner at The Celestial which has an awesome view of the Cincy skyline.  We went to Graeter's for ice cream.  I thought I knew everything there was to know about Stephanie, but during this trip, I also learned she does not like escalators and she eats her food in groups (that is, she'll eat her salad, then all of her meat, then she'll eat her potato, then she'll eat her veggie, etc.) and she doesn't like it to touch.  How did I not know this? 

All in all, it was a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Friday Fragments on Wednesday (I'm a rebel like that!)

We have friends coming to visit, Thursday throught the weekend, from Kansas City so I will be AWOL for a few days.  I don't have a cohesive blog in my thoughts, but I do have lots of little stuff, so I thought I would turn in my Friday Fragments a little early.  If only I had been so committed to my studies!
  • I am so excited to see our friends from KC.  I haven't seen Stephanie and her kids since June and we haven't seen her husband since we moved.  Stephanie and I trained and walked the two Breast Cancer 3 Day walks together.  When you train for hours on end and then spend three solid days together - walking, eating, camping, crying in pain and emotion - there isn't much you don't tell one another.  I think I might know her better than I know myself!
  • While our friends are here, we'll be seeing some of the sights of Cincy.  Places we haven't been to since BEFORE we moved from Cincy in 2004.  Now that we are back, we just haven't gotten around to it.  My kids are excited because they are going to miss school to do some fun stuff!  The adults are excited - we are going to an adults only meal at a nice, yummy restaurant with a beautiful view of Cincy.
  • I'm not overly thrilled with the election turnout in Ohio.  I am not interested in casinos.  I don't mind gambling and it's not against my religion.  I think we've already established that I am a heathen by some people's standards.  I just don't personally gamble and don't need or want it here.  It's a business I don't trust and I don't think it will benefit our state the way they are promising.  I didn't care to see the Livestock Standards pass.  All of the animal rights activists were saying it was bad for the animals, good for the farmers.  I'm happy our Veteran's Compensation Program passed.  And I am THRILLED this one CRAZY woman is off of our local school board.  I could write an entire post about her and probably find the videos of school board meetings to post just to prove my point that the woman is W-A-C-K-Y..
  • I almost dry heave when CJ eats a pickle spear with a PB&J sandwich.  I can't think of two things that go together less.  Blech.
  • I get nervous every time I have a new male client.  It's true.  I'm always afraid it will be some pervert.  Thankfully, that has only happened to me once and it was when I worked somewhere different than now.
  • If you've followed Stellan's story but haven't check in there lately, he is a very sick little boy.  He will be going to Boston later this week for a very risky heart surgery.  You can read his mom's blog here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Election Day!

All across the country, elections are being held.  Some are really big ones that have the potential to affect the national picture, like the Governors of New Jersey and Virginia; others are smaller, state and/or local elections.

Ohio falls into the latter.  In Ohio, we are voting on compensation for recent war veterans and constitutional changes regarding casinos and livestock care standards.  We are voting on libraries, school boards, city councils, township trustees and more.

My point today is, all elections are important.  Please, get out and vote.  I am always disappointed when I hear people say they didn't vote.  There are many reasons, usually lame.  Reasons like "My vote doesn't count," "One vote won't make a difference," "I was too busy (with sports, work, kids, school, friends, etc.),"  "I didn't know who to vote for," "I haven't registered to vote since we moved here."

Every vote counts.  Every vote matters.  We are all busy.  Educate yourself about what is happening in your state and community, get your ass to your local polling station and vote!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shades of Autumn

I struggle with autumn because it leads to cold and grey winters here in Ohio.  When we lived in Overland Park, KS, we were shocked our first winter to see that the skies were almost always sunny and blue, sometimes with white billowy clouds.  Unless it was raining or snowing, you could count on some good vitamin D.  When we moved back to Ohio, it took us about three days of winter for us both to comment, almost in unison, that we forgot how cold, wet and grey it is here.  It is not unusual to have consecutive days of 33 degree weather and rain.  Rarely snow, which I would prefer.

So in my attempt to focus on the positive, I drove through my neighborhood and took some of the following colorful pictures.

And of course, we have to have the standard Halloween pictures.

This is my favorite picture.  Unfortunately, we no longer have this tree, as it was in our front yard when we lived in Kansas.  And the sky is grey in this picture, so I am guessing it was getting ready to rain or it had just rained.