Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in the Desert

B and I made it to Palm Springs despite a major downpour, meltdown and soaking wet car ride from Ontario. Some highlights from our trip:

Waking up at 6am and curling up on the couch each morning together with no work or school to rush off to

Watching B trail his grandpa non-stop

Showing B the desert terrain and hearing him say, "This is SO different from Sacramento!"

Looking for rabbits on our desert walks

Shopping on Palm Canyon Drive with my step-mom while my dad spends quality time with B

Introducing my dad and stepmom to lunch at McDonald's

Surviving lunch at McDonald's

Seeing my dad hunched over a 500 piece Lego-type activity, glasses pushed down to the nose, brow furrowed, attempting to assemble a top fuel dragster for B

Consuming Tempranillo and Muse wine on my birthday. Oh, and there was salmon too.

Having my hair colored in pajamas, twice. Having my hair styled twice too.

Eating fantastic, home-cooked meals each night.

Reading 11 issues of People magazine and one issue of Sunset, you know, for culture

Picking through an entire box of See's Candy for the best chocolates and sharing a "it's my birthday, let's eat as many cookies as we want" experience with B

Hearing B say, "This is the best Christmas ever, Mommy! I don't want to go home."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Big Orange Boxes & Other Christmas Blessings/Chaos

I'm counting my blessings this Christmas while trying to remain zen-like in the chaos.

First, the presents. My child knows his Mommy really well. There was a big orange box under the tree this year. Anyone who has any idea about my tastes is well aware of my addiction to Lucy stores. Unfortunately, the present wasn't exactly a surprise as I had to take a little peek at the contents of the orange box last week to know how to reciprocate vis a vis a gift to B's dad (from B, of course). This whole topic of exes giving gifts, even from the children, is one that I have mixed thoughts about and wouldn't mind nixing completely. But, then again, I'm going to have a nice store credit at Lucy so it's not like I'm in a super big hurry to nix the tradition.

We are not staying home for long. In fact, by the time you read this, we'll most likely be en route for Palm Springs. Which is another blessing, although it's raining just as hard there as it is here and I just read online that a severe weather alert has been issued. However, two grandparents are standing by...waiting for some bonding time with B. Which means, yes, that I can sit back and enjoy some quiet reading time and perhaps a yoga class. But we have to get there first and my child is seriously overtired and overwired. We have an hour long flight into Ontatio then there's the whole car rental scene. At the rate we're going, my bag of tricks will be seriously depleted before are even airborne.

While we are away, my Mom is dog and house-sitting and also probably dipping into my Zanax stash because my sister arrived late last night with her two kittens. It's a good time for me to be far away because I just don't think that there is enough Zanax in the house to go around once my one-year-old Lab gets a whiff of those sweet, young kittens and the chaos truly begins.

True to form, my Mom arrived at my home last night weighed down with enough food for a month, and an assortment of organization tools. She has decided that my kitchen needs her organizational touch - which means, basically, that when we return, every glass, fork, ice cream scoop, spatula, and soup can will be color coded, labeled and cross-referenced. And let me tell you that she has her work cut out for her because I am already a neat freak in the kitchen. The obsessive compulsive notch is about to be dialed way up as she discovers that I don't have expired food or copious quantities of anything (except ice) in my freezer. There may be a stray drinking glass or some mis-matched Tupperware to contend with but that's about it. So the real blessing is that I will come home to a very organized house.

Most of all, I'm thankful and feel very blessed to look forward to this image (minus the cats, perhaps) for many years to come:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Gingerbread Houses

Once upon a time, there lived a 5-year-old little boy who had a mother who did not care for the holiday season, at all. To make her son believe that she was somewhat festive, the mother went through all the necessary traditions - trimming the tree, providing a morning sugar rush with an Advent candy each day, belting out "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer" during every trip in the car, and making the appropriate comments about Santa's gifts. The mother even purchased a gingerbread house kit with grand visions of assembling the house - cue the background Christmas music - on a rainy December afternoon with her sweet son.

Unbeknownst to the mother, the father of the child also bought a gingerbread house kit for he and the boy to put together. On the second weekend of December, they did just that and the result was a very symmetric and well-decorated gingerbread centerpiece.

Upon returning to his mother's home, the boy told her of the fine time he had with his dad and the lovely gingerbread creation they had produced together. The mother, hiding her surprise quite well, pulled out the gingerbread kit she had purchased and showed it to the boy. "That's it," the boy exclaimed. "That's the same house I did with Daddy!"

Not to be outdone, the mother turned to her kitchen shelves and pulled out every container of sprinkles she could find. There were sprinkles left over from Easter, unused sprinkles from Fourth of July, and a large stash of red and green candy from last Christmas. "These," proclaimed the mother, "will make our gingerbread home a masterpiece!" "And," she added, "you may eat as much of the frosting and as many sprinkles as you like."

The project was laid out, the music was cued up, a candle was lit and the rain came down. It was the perfect setting for a festive afternoon. Except for the small issue of a weak gingerbread foundation.

After multiple attempts and several verbal expressions that cannot be shared in this little story, the mother scooped out as much frosting as she could with her hands and tried to stick the walls and the roof together. The house remained upright. For about one minute. And then the roof caved in, the sides fell apart, and the child let out a bloodcurdling scream. Upon hearing the scream, the dog jumped off her bed and ran for the back of a chair. The child fled from the kitchen, sobbing. And the mother wondered if she should call Child Protective Services. The mother opted instead to search for a bottle of wine. Fortunately she didn't have to look very far. She surveyed the scene:

The mother dragged the child back into the kitchen and delivered a strong lecture about overreacting and generally acting like a spoiled brat. She said things like: "Do you think that the kids in after school care are making gingerbread houses right now?" And: "Do you know how lucky you are that you are home with me, doing this?" And the clincher: "Do you know that Mommy should be at work full time to cover this Godforsaken mortgage payment and that we could crumble like this gingerbread house?" The mother then recalled some wise tidbit about not involving kids in adult problems and she coerced the child into getting into the car and driving to Target to procure another gingerbread house.

So, the mother and the child dashed through the pouring rain and found the gingerbread aisle in Target. And it was quite barren. Except for the large selection of gingerbread train kits.

A train kit was scooped up by the boy and the story of how his mother "ruined" his gingerbread was re-told to anyone and everyone in the Target store - register clerk, security guard, other moms, bored teenagers - who would listen. "My dad's gingerbread house is so awesome," he added, each time, and for good measure.

The boy and his mother returned with the kit and the mother just about fell over in joy upon seeing that the innovative people who thought up the gingerbread train also had the brilliant idea to provide a foundation in which to place the icing and the crackers. As she opened her bottle of wine, she also realized that she could salvage the remains of the original gingerbread structure and have nearly double the candy and icing. This seemed to please the boy, as well.

Train assembled, the child went after the candy, eating to his heart's content and occasionally placing some on his train while the mother sat nearby, chugging (oh, I mean SIPPING), her wine.

Two hours later, the child held his belly and told his mother that even though he had eaten too much candy, that the train was the "best" part of his Christmas. "Even better," he added happily, "than that gingerbread house at daddy's."

And that is why the mother now has ten gingerbread train kits and umpteen containers of sprinkles.

Friday, December 19, 2008


The self-help gurus say that our lives are not shaped by what happens to us. Instead, apparently, we can become more EVOLVED by analyzing the quality of our reactions to life's events. Knowing this, let's take a look back at my reactions this week:


Mom's biopsy. Partial lung collapse. Instant overnight hospital stay.

My reaction: Panic

"My mom's going to die! B will never know his Grandma. Who will help me with child care? What will I do without a mom?"


Find out details about B's school holiday show. B is an elf, supposedly, for "Rudolph" number.

My reaction: Indignant.

"An elf? Really? Which child is Rudolph? Who is Santa? Our family has so much musical talent...Aunt J revived Carnegie Hall in her day, Uncle R plays for the Met, Cousin E pals around with Yo Yo Ma when they're not in concert together, well that's the other side of the family, actually, but...really, an ELF?"


The announcement comes home in the backpack: Lice outbreak!

My reaction: Shock (with, perhaps, a bit of ignorance), obsessive compulsion

"Lice?! But this is Montessori. I thought that Montessori schools were immune to lice. We need to re-think private school. B, get your backback, your jacket and your lunchbox into the washing machine NOW. In fact, why don't you hop in there too? Just for a short cycle. Never mind that the water's scalding hot. Wait, wait, what are you doing? Are you scratching your HEAD?"


The school holiday show makes its way into a third hour.

My reaction: None, really. Just a slow and tortured death.

"Can you hear everyone coughing in here? If you didn't have a cold before you got here, you're certainly going home with one. Every grade is performing tonight? The entire K through 8? Note to self...enroll B in K through 6 programs from now on. Didn't they consider possibly implementing a time limit on these skits? It's hour two and the kindergartners are dropping off like flies. Hey, speaking of flies, that kid seated next to B is scratching his head. A LOT. Move B away from him! Quick, move B!"


Off to oncologist appointment with mom. Biopsy results are benign! There is no cancer! Only sarcoidosis.

My reaction: Immediate and immense gratitude.

"The best Christmas present of all. Thank you, God."

Oh, but I'm not done yet.


Walking the dog through McKinley Park in the afternoon; rather, struggling to keep my rotator cuff intact as she lunges for squirrels, small children and other dogs. Catch a glimpse of Santa, yes, the big, red man from the North Pole, in a convertible, top down, with Rudolph in the passenger seat, cruising down J Street.

My reaction: Not surprised, but slightly miffed at myself for not carrying along a camera at all times for such occasions.

"Only in Sacramento would Santa be seen in a bright red, convertible Corvette. If this were San Francisco, New York, DC, or any other city with an ounce of sophistication, Santa would certainly roll in a convertible Saab or something comparable...Mercedes, BMW, you get the picture. I thought that the old guy was past a mid-life crisis but apparently he got the Sacramento memo, stating that all men should have a Corvette, preferably of the convertible variety, and should drive said vehicle slowly while ogling females and their dogs in McKinley Park. And I thought so highly of you, Santa."

It's Official. I've LOST it.

I was invited to one measly holiday party this year. And it wasn't even technically a party as it took place from the hours of 3pm to 6pm and there weren't any "under 50s" invited, except for myself and a girlfriend. Nevertheless, I squeezed into my va-va-voom black pants and my once-a-year-fire-engine-red-sweater and made my way downtown.

Midway through the festivities and with two glasses of wine on board, imagine my surprise (and complete horror) when I looked down and saw THIS:

Nine West? Bandolino? Couldn't decide, so why not wear one of EACH?

Granted, I have a slight obsession with Mary Jane style shoes but you think I would have noticed the style of the toe (rounded or square), the size of the buckle (small or large), and certainly I would have noticed that I was standing much taller on the left side of my body and feeling rather lopsided from the moment I put my shoes on and dashed through the pouring rain.

This occurrence reminded me of a certain incident that happened downtown last year, in the same midtown area, but with far more alcohol and more people involved. I ended up coming home with my left black boot and my friend's right black boot. Since my parents read this blog, I can't go into the specifics, suffice to say that I haven't shown my face (or my shoes) on the midtown bar scene since.

Recalling Sunday's footwear fiasco to a friend, she empathized by saying, "You have a lot going on, J. Your mom could have cancer, it's the middle of the holiday season, your son is driving you crazy, you have a new dog, you haven't slept in days. You're just stressed. Very stressed."

To which, I replied, "Really??? Do ya think?!"

And then just to keep things interesting, I bought another pair of Mary Jane's. Black, of course, but with big red flowers around the buckle.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On The Edge & A Camp-Out In December

This week, my normally sweet 5-year-old morphed into a crazed, demonic creature and I don't know what to do about it.

It all started last weekend, at his dad's, when B had a little fever and a cough. The fever continued and the cough worsened. B stayed home from school on Monday. I picked him up on Tuesday morning and he looked like death warmed over. His voice was squeaky and his cough was barky.

I kept him home on Tuesday and made an appointment with the doctor. B's behavior was fairly normal for a sick child...a bit whiny but nothing too out of the ordinary. The pediatrician diagnosed croup and said that B could go back to school the following day if the fever was gone and if the night was restful.

Wednesday: fever gone - check. Restful night - check. Off to school. I picked him up at school that afternoon and that's when things started to go seriously downhill. We went to PetsMart to look at animals, then to the health food store to "sample" all the chocolate covered goodies. While we were at the health food store, I bought B his own stash of cheddar sesame sticks. Then, as we pulled into the driveway, he started to kick the back of the seat.

I intentionally planned a fun outing after school as an incentive to get B to cooperate for a family Christmas picture. He was well aware of the plan.

When we came in the house, my mom was here. B immediately started whining to her about being bored and not knowing what to do. This is a common statement in our home and it drives me nuts. I told B to go to the bathroom and change into a sweater for the picture. He told me no. Rather, he shouted no and ran away.

I grabbed him by the back of the neck and marched him into the bathroom and into the bedroom to change, while he screamed and pushed me.

We got it together long enough to pose for a picture which was a miserable failure - one croupy toddler, one lazy Labrador, and one over-zealous mom...recipe for multiple photo attempts.

I gave up on the picture. I had to get ready to go into work for the evening and my mom was going to watch B. I told B that we'd have to take a bath before I left. That really set him off; he hates bath time, always has.

Nevertheless, I dragged him back to the bathroom and threw him in the tub. Then he threw the dreaded statement at me: "I don't like you. I don't want to be with you at all."

I am such a sensitive sucker that I couldn't help but tear up. I looked away, pulled it together, got him out of the tub, kissed him goodbye and headed to work with a very heavy heart.

The next morning, I awoke to "THUMP-THUMP-THUMP" at 6am. B was in his bed, kicking the wall. I went in to his room and he began what would be a two hour rage session. Nothing could calm him down. I really didn't know how I was going to get myself ready for work and get him to school. I felt like I had a madman on my hands. In desperation, I threw him onto his bed and called my mom. I made multiple attempts to get B to do the normal stuff for school: go potty, wash hands, change out of PJs into school clothes. Nothing worked. I yelled. I used (a little) physical force. He had multiple time-outs. When we finally did make it into the car, he wouldn't look at me or talk to me. I walked him into class and told the teacher that we'd had a rough morning. He wouldn't interact with the other kids and wouldn't give me a hug good-bye. I felt like my heart was breaking.

It was hard for me to keep it together during my work hours. B doesn't understand that he and I, due to the nature of divorce, only get to spend 50% of our time together. Deduct school hours and work hours from that and you're looking at about 20% of the time. It truly kills me to be a part-time mom to B but I know I can't project my expectations onto him. Maybe in time he will understand.

I will spare you the rest of the details of Thursday and Friday, suffice to say that it was more of the same. "Incorrigible," I told my mom after a long, long day on Thursday. The next morning, we had the same struggles, only this time, there were several comments from B about his dislike of school.

On Fridays, I teach yoga at B's school. When I came into the classroom, B wouldn't look at me or participate in the poses.

B's dad, K, picked B up from school and they will be together for the weekend. I talked to K about B's behavior tonight. "Well, he's been fine for me," K replied. Right. Of course he has.

I am really stumped. Granted, things are a bit stressful at my home as my mom awaits her diagnosis. And, my house isn't the play zone that B has at his dad's. But, generally speaking, B is much more comfortable here with me and is always excited about returning for his stints with Mommy.

And here's the kicker. K informed me that they are having a camp-out in the backyard tonight. OK, it's as cold as it gets here in Sacramento right now and B has had croup all week. I had to seriously bite my tongue on that one. So B is going from sleeping in the tropics (humidifier and space heater, as directed by the doctor) to his dad's backyard and to the biting, dry cold of Sacramento fog. A camp-out in December? Only my ex would do this.
I am not pitching a tent in my backyard to compete with B's dad. However, as I reflect back on the last three days, I'm astonished by how much time I spent with B - one-to-one, doing activities that he truly enjoys and ignoring household chores to go to the pet store, the toy store, the ice cream shop. I think he's a pretty darn lucky kid.

On Monday, we'll start another three days together. I've never dreaded my time with B and I'm not about to start now. It's a new week and croup will (hopefully) be behind us. That is, if he doesn't have pneumonia from sleeping outside in freezing conditions. In the meantime, I've got a lot in the way of Christmas tasks to distract me from last week's events.

I know that single parenting is a long journey and a difficult road. We'll have a whole new set of issues to deal with at age 10, and even more at 15. Things are actually probably the easiest that they will ever be now, at age 5. If only my sweet boy would just return...

Christmas photo attempt #1:
"Molly, I know you just retrieved the ball 22 times but for the love of God, SIT UP!"

Christmas photo attempt #2:
"B, open your eyes! Down, Molly!"

Christmas photo attempt #3 (aka: the final straw):
"Molly, get up. GET UP! B, try not to look so sick. One more time, just one more. Don't cry. Oh, just forget it!!!"

Now, how the heck do I get rid of this duplicate? Where's the delete function???

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cancer & Croup

Cancer and croup...both topics are alive and well in our household.

My mom's PET scan results came in today which revealed spots on her liver. We are still optimistic that sarcoidosis is the diagnosis but we won't know for sure until she has a lung biopsy on Monday. Mom had to wait several hours on the nurse practitioner to call back with the results. She was here the entire time, helping out with B and I could tell that it was very stressful for her. Sometimes I wonder why medical results have to wait until the 5:00pm hour to be discussed. Obviously doctors are busy, but a few moments, maybe in the noon time hour doesn't seem like too much to ask for.

Meanwhile, B has croup. He's been out of school all week. His imitation of a seal is dead-on today. Hopefully, that won't be the case tonight at midnight. The pediatrician ordered up a prescription of prednizone, which is, ironically, the nasty stuff used to treat sarcoidosis.

So here's the riddle of the day: What does it take to obtain said prescription?

Obvious answer would be: One trip to the local Long's pharmacy.

Actual answer is: One trip to Fair Oaks pharmacy, two phone calls to dr's office from that location, one Hot Wheels purchase to pacificy the barking boy, two more calls to dr's office from cell phone en route to another pharmacy, one phone call to dr's office also en route, change route to re-group at home and get the bark under control with some dinner, three more calls to Longs, two calls to dr's office, and an "I give up, kids lived through croup without the stuff...there will be no prednizone tonight!" Complete process with a call from the nicest woman ever at the local Long's and a follow-up apology call from the dr.'s office. Oh, and a $5.00 co-payment for the medication and a statement of "thank God the child is on his dad's health insurance plan and not mine!" and now we're in business with prednizone administered and B fast asleep with the humidifer blasting away.

What is up with the medical community anyway? Is everything so backed up and super slow that a simple phone call - whether to calm an anxious 65-year-old woman, waiting on a cancer diagnosis OR to get the right medication into a croupy 5-year-old - cannot be made in a timely manner? I can't come up with a good answer and thus...

I am so done for today.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Then & Now

How much can two best friends alter their appearances in the short span of just two months? Amazing what a pair of scissors and a bottle of bleach can do.

Take a look at my best friend, K, and me at B's birthday party in October:

And, here we are at the birthday party for E, K's son, last weekend:

I think K's channeling Sharon Stone and Halle Berry, while I've got an obsession going with Brit and Nic.

Now what's really crazy is the party last weekend, I am wearing the jeans that K borrowed when she was pregnant and she is wearing the jeans that I practically wore out in my super skinny days. We've literally traded both pairs of jeans back and forth, depending on who's having a baby, who's nursing, who's going through a divorce, and who's too busy to eat (that would be her...3 boys under 5...she barely has time to feed them, let alone herself).

I don't have the heart to show you any photos of us before and after children. Maybe after a few rounds of Botox, we'll have some different pictures to post after next year's birthday parties. In the meantime, we've got our great hair stylists and our super cool jeans and heartfelt friendship with each other and between our 5-year-old boys. What more could we need?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Kneeling In Church: Do So At Your Own Risk

Being a fitness instructor keeps me on a fairly short leash. Anything requiring any kind of risk is pretty much out for me. Crappy health insurance, no disability plan, zero sick days, single mom, big mortgage payment...need I say more?

About this time of year, I start turning down invitations to ski (I've never been good at falling - someone once remarked that my falls resembled yard sales...skis, boots, clothes, and body parts everywhere!).

Then there's bicycling. The training wheels came off when I was about 16 and I've never had any balance improvement. Cycling down the American River Parkway sounds like great fun, not to mention a super way to meet fit and fabulous guys, but I wouldn't last a mile without tipping the bike and taking out someone else in the process.

My beloved roller blading ended, sadly, in 1999 when a nasty fall in SF landed me in bed for two months with a double-fracture pelvis.
Funny sideline on this one. When my mom heard the news, the first question out of her mouth was NOT, "Are you OK?" Instead, it was: "Can you still have children???"

And then there's Half Dome, an out of this world experience that I love to do with my dad. I've bowed out in recent years, given the fact that the whole cable system is just too darn antiquated for my comfort level.

I won't even go into the number of guys who have tried to persuade me to ride on a motorcycle. No f---ing way on that on one. Even more important than my career and ability to make money is my responsibility to be around for my kid which immediately eliminates all Harley enthusiasts and gosh, there are a lot of them out there.

So getting around to the title of this post. Finally. Here I am in church last week going through the stand up, sit down, share the peace - all the rituals associated with the Episcopal church. We do this every week, same thing, and I'm almost to the point where I don't need to cling to my "instruction sheet," also known as the weekly bulletin, as my lifeline. Then we get to the Confessions part of the program. My personal favorite. I love to have a clean slate with God, particularly when it only takes 30 seconds (give or take) of reciting.

The person next to me pulls down the kneeling pad (there must be a name for this but I am a new Episcopalian so I haven't learned it yet), I adjust my skirt, I start to bend, I land, "CRACK" goes my right knee as it makes contact with the pad.

"God is punishing me this week," I think, as my knee throbs. Could it be that unkind word to my mother? Or the swear word that just happened to slip out when B threw his play dough at me? Or maybe, I'm being reminded that this month's offering to the church was slightly lower due to the fact that I've contributed more to my other holy institution, known as Starbucks. Whatever the case, my knee is not happy.

After confessing, I wait my turn to hobble down the aisle and receive communion. Here we go again: adjust skirt, bend, but this time, I angle my right knee back so I'm kind of in a lunge at the front altar. Like a "low lunge" in yoga. Skirt and all. I eat the body of Christ, drink His blood, go through the Eucharist motions, limp back to my seat and vow to never return to church.

Just kidding. We actually have two more opportunities to kneel during the service which I choose not to do. I go home, ice my knee, and reflect back on my Baptist upbringing and the physical rituals involved in that church: stand up, sit down, a little swaying, possibly some arm waving. I'd bet that no knee cartilage was ever jeopardized in the Baptist church.

This entire week I've had to explain to my students and clients exactly why I can't demonstrate exercises on my right knee. Which has been pretty darn embarrassing. And so, if you happen to see me in church wearing knee pads, you'll now know why.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Behold The (Fake) Tree

I won't be blogging much about the holidays because I really, really loathe almost every part of the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's. I'll spare you the details, suffice to say, I am the ultimate scrooge. I think I get it from my dad.

I do manage to grace our home with a lovely Christmas tree every year. We are not of the "hunt and kill" Christmas tree tradition. Being a single mom with no adult male on the scene (um, at least consistently), I cannot fathom the idea of taking an ax to a would-be Christmas tree, loading the thing onto my car, making it home with the tree still strapped onto the car and then somehow negotiating it into the house and wedging its trunk into the tree base. The mere notion of that whole process makes me feel like dipping into Santa's little helper jar, otherwise known as the Xanax stash.

As a child, my parents took us kids to the tree farm and we had the fun-filled experience of finding the perfect tree and bringing it home to live with us for the holiday season. God bless my parents for doing that. As a parent now, I can sincerely appreciate their efforts in making the tree event truly special (and fairly peaceful, as I recall). They must have popped a lot of Xanax.

These days, the only thing that stands in the way of me and the tree is a big load of rat poop. The tree lives in the garage year round and makes a brief appearance during the four LOOOONNNNNGGGGGGG weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Come the day after Christmas, that baby is whisked off to live among the garage rats for another 48 weeks. As far as I'm concerned, the tree's purpose is to provide shelter for all the gifts and the moment the gifts are removed, well, the tree must be too.

This year, I must say, B's interest in decorating the tree was significantly improved. We ended up very "bottom heavy" on the ornaments but I did some re-decorating while he was in bed and all is proportionate now. Now if I can just get him to play along with the "Let's Move the Ornaments Around Game So Mommy Can Surf the Internet." Of course I mean, "So Mommy Can Get Her Paperwork Done."

In any event, the damn thing is up and the holidays are alive and well in our home. B's breaking into his advent calendar candy every morning at 6am and I'm looking longingly at the Xanax bottle. Oh, yes, Christmas has arrived.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Do Blondes Have More Fun?

I'm gonna have to let you know on that one.

The downside to having a hair stylist for a stepmom, who also happens to have her own salon in the home and lots of willingness to play the beauty game, is that lots of trouble can be had when the hair science experiments begin.

After the week we've all had, a little lightening up, particularly with the tresses, seemed very sppropriate. Four hours and four color applications later, I am blonde. Very very blonde. "You're hair looks like the dog's," my dad commented. Nice.

We won't talk about the orange phase that must be passed through on the journey from brunette to blonde. I didn't follow my stepmom's command of "Don't look!" I think I'm forever scarred by that image.

Nonetheless, my hair didn't fall out in the process and I came back home feeling like a whole new girl. Putting on my make-up for work this morning, I decided that the right description for my appearance would have to be "porn star from the chin up."

As luck would have it, I took the dog downtown for a walk and ran smack into an old boyfriend. "Whoa, your hair," he said, taking a step back. "I like it???"

Better reaction from the gym folks: "Wow, you look like Nicole Kidman," said the male client. "No, no, honey," said his wife. "She's much prettier than Nicole Kidman." I think they were being nice because we were headed into the pilates room and they know that physical torture, vis a vis the Reformer, was immiment.

In any event, I'm going to refrain from posting a picture up on the blog until I can safely walk by a mirror without startling myself.

And I'll let you know if life starts to get any more fun.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oncology, Optimism & Oprah

Today I took my mom to see an oncologist. Pray that you never have to do this.

I made two good decisions this morning: I applied waterproof mascara instead of my regular va-va-voom stuff AND I found a sub for my evening yoga class. Even at 4:00am, I knew that the day would be filled with emotions and that I did not want to walk around with raccoon eyes, nor did I want to face a class of 20 yogis, all looking for spiritual and physical inspiration. Mascara in place and class covered, I faced the daunting task of accompanying my mom to her first oncology appointment.

The trip to Sutter Roseville was quiet and I found myself attempting to fill the silence with small talk, which is not like me. I’d never seen my mom in such a worried state. She may deny that she was worried but her eyes told a different story.

When we arrived in the waiting area, I immediately did what I always do in public places that require waiting…I started trolling for magazines. As my mom checked in, I lapped the reception area and struggled to contain my disbelief and outright anger: There were no good magazines to be had!

In a waiting area where people are on pins and needles with outcomes, chemo treatments, test results, etc, I found it appalling that there was nothing in the way of reading material except for issues of “Cancer & You”, an old issue of “Reader’s Digest,” and a semi-current “Men’s Health.” What are these people thinking??? Of all the waiting areas, you’d think that this would be the one to have an endless supply of super distracting and current trash like “Us Weekly,” or “People,” or hey, I would have even been happy with “Newsweek.”

I settled on “Men‘s Health” while my mom took on the mountains of paperwork. As I thumbed through the magazine, I snuck some glances and noticed that this was the place that people actually came for chemo treatment. As patients would finish treatment, they’d either walk out or be wheeled out in a wheelchair. Several loved ones were being denied entry as the “chemo room” was too full before the long weekend. It was sobering.

While we were waiting, a bald woman was wheeled out by a nurse. My mom leaned over and said to me, “I don’t want B to see me without hair.” “MOTHER,” I gasped, “Please, please, please don’t go there.” I may have said a curse word or two.

Then we started talking about treatment. “I just need another five years,” she said. “I need five years to baby-sit B.”

That’s when I lost it. This had been my plea for the last week: “Please, God, just give us five years. Five years so that B can remember his Grandma Ghee.” Let me say again that the waterproof mascara was a good, good decision.

Once we were in the examining room, I noticed a stack of magazines in the corner. The only magazine that had any female appeal whatsoever was a 2006 issue of Oprah. A super-svelte Oprah, with a super-tight sparkly dress adorned the cover.

“Look, Mom,” I said, holding up the issue. “I actually found a decent magazine.” My mom gazed at the cover, squinted a bit, and said, “Who’s that?” It was a much needed light moment.

We met the nurse practitioner, Laura, who took a lot of time talking with my mother about her history. We then met Dr. B and I knew immediately, that whatever the diagnosis, my mom was going to be in great hands.

Dr. B was profiled in Sacramento Magazine last year as one of the area’s best doctors. She looked like she had just stepped off the cover of Nordstrom’s latest catalog and her personality was that of an insightful professor and a caring therapist. My fears of dealing with a stuffy oncologist who talked above our heads were quickly abated.

My mom’s lab/radiology report indicated a high likelihood of cancer, as was explained by Laura and also by Dr. B. However, the “picture” of my mom’s lungs was not consistent with what would normally be seen in a lung cancer patient. Her nodules are widespread and not localized which led Dr. B to theorize that the cancer could have spread to her lungs from a “primary site.”

Earlier this week, my mom had a scan of her ovaries, which came out clean and she has had regular mammograms and colonoscopies. Given the fact that the blood work-up came back “perfect” and also the fact that my mom has no symptoms of any cancer, Dr B came to the conclusion that we might be working with something else.

Sarcoidosis runs in my mother’s family. Both my grandpa and my aunt had it. Often times, as Dr B explained, sarcoidosis can present as lung cancer. Although this was very relieving to hear, my mom will still undergo two key tests to rule out cancer in a primary site. They are a PET scan, which basically illuminates any area of the body that has cancer activity and a biopsy of her lungs. Dr. B promised to push the tests through, aiming for a diagnosis in two weeks.

As my mom was getting dressed, I looked Dr. B square in the eye and said, “Please be straight with us. You’ve heard the facts, what is your suspicion?” Without hesitation she said, “I think it’s sarcoidosis. I don't believe that we're dealing with cancer here.”

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I took this statement as a glimmer of hope and a huge reason to give thanks. If it is indeed cancer, I know for certain that Dr. B and her staff will make certain that they fight as hard as they can to give my mom more time with B. And if it isn’t, I will have so much more gratitude and appreciation for the love that my mom brings into our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not Another Blog!

At last, I have a place to dump all my healthy living ideas. Here it is:

I even managed two posts in one day. I must be missing B. Seems like all the crazy projects are started when he's away on long trips with his dad.

No complaining, no whining, and possibly no five-year-old tales, antics or pictures. Just some good adult material (no, not THAT type of material!).

Check it out.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The C Word

The C word...there, now I've got your attention.

I wish it WAS that C word that we were talking about around here. Unfortunately, it's not. The other C word, as in CANCER, has once again entered into our home and into conversations this week and has prompted me to share with you these tips on how to deal with the fact that your beloved mother is on her way to a first visit to an oncologist:

First, when the call comes in, be in a place where food and beverage are plentiful, like Trader Joe's. Get call, hear news, go directly to wine, bread, and chocolate aisles. Stock up. Beeline to the samples counter. Curse the fact that they do not offer wine samples (under your breath, of course). Loop back to sample counter three times for warm muffins with butter and hot chocolate. Wonder how they knew that you'd need some comforting samples and not the usual stir fried tofu samples. Seethe at the sample lady who gives you dirty looks for repeat visits.

Unload car at home. Consider opening wine. Notice that it's only 11AM and there's the whole work thing later today. Put wine away for later. Get into B's Halloween candy instead.

Pick B up from school. Choke up when he asks to see "Ghee," (your mom). Take B to McDonalds and let him run with a school friend while you cry to a mom friend.

Get it together for work in the evening. Get super pissed off at the prospect of training the three horribly obese ladies who are horribly nasty to you. Wonder for the 513th time about your thin and healthy mother and why SHE has this disease and silently curse the three ladies who you are about to train.

Put the three ladies on notice. Tell them you need more cooperation from them. Refrain from saying, "I'm a trainer, not a magician..get your fat asses on the treadmill and off my skinny Reformers!" Take a deep breath.

Go home and bust the wine out. Remember the risks associated with cancer and alcohol and all that bullshit and put the wine back. Get into Halloween candy instead. Again.

Read B a story. In the middle of the story, fall apart when the story line incorporates a little boy wishing for his grandma to fit into the palm of his hand. Sob in B's bed. Tell B that there is something wrong with your eyes. Get the hell out of there.

Go climb in your own bed and stare at the ceiling. Toss and turn for hours. Then get up at 3am and take a sleeping pill.

Awake at 4:30am in a stupor. Get up and drink 3 cups of coffee.

At 6am, put a (long) movie on for B. Hold your head. Do not cry. Be strong. Get into Halloween candy.

Cheerfully welcome the four ladies who will be taking a yoga class from you in your home studio for the next month of Saturdays. Somehow get through the class. Have no recollection of what you've taught them.

Head to Starbucks. Begin daily Frappuccino ritual.

Pick up B from mom's house. Head to an open house for a client. Take in the dozens of decorated trees, the amazing train, and the super annoying Christmas music. Feel your eyes well up.

Go home and hand B over to your mom for some afternoon playtime. Go to your room, put in ear plugs, turn off the lights. Try to find some peace.

Get up and make a big bowl of broccoli for dinner. Throw some tomatoes in. Wonder how in the world you can clean up your diet any more than it already is. Notice mom chomping on a carrot stick and wonder why diet would matter anyway. Re-consider the wine. Get into Halloween candy instead.

Have a heart-to-heart with your mom. Tell her you'll take care of her no matter what. Assure her that she can live with you, that you'll all be OK. Don't cry. Be strong. She needs that.

Review your own god-awful health insurance plan. Move funds into account to finally pay deductible and get into the doctor. Curse the health care system. Loudly.

Later that night, take off your make-up and study the frown lines between your eyes. Notice that they are, possibly, 100 times worse than they were a week ago. Wonder if Botox would be considered frivolous at a time like this.

Go to bed. Lay awake for hours. Get up, find a different sleep aid. Take it and drift off for 2 hours. Wake up at 4am and consider taking another pill. Decide against it and get out of bed instead. Vow to get a high octane sleeping pill as soon as possible. Brew coffee. Drink 4 cups. Polish off the Halloween candy.

Pass B off to his dad for the week. Experience a weird sense of relief over having him gone (a new emotion for sure!). Know that you can lose it freely now without having to censor your emotions in front of B.

Hit up Starbucks for the daily frap.

Go to church. Nod off during Prayers of the People. Decide that Sunday School is not a good idea for today. Come home, crawl back into bed, and stay there for four hours without books, magazines, movies, music, or phone.

Notice that the new dog is pacing the house. A lot. Feel guilty for not interacting with her. Pack dog up and go to McKinley. Do four laps at her speed (sniff, sniff, squat, pee, sniff, sniff,) and wish that you'd gone to yoga instead.

Come home and research lung cancer on the Internet, telling yourself that you just want to know what to ask the oncologist this week. Freak out.

Make a note to self to stay the fuck off the Internet (may have just lost some readers there) and to replenish Halloween candy immediately.

Start praying. A lot.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Follow Me To Norwindia

There is a place on the Internet, a lovely place that blends the cultures of Norway and India into one fabulous mesh of goodness. That place is called "Norwindia."

Norwindia is a blog that was (is) the brainchild of my dear college friend, Kirsten. Kirsten met and married her post-college sweetie (known as "Jay" in the posts) and they've together they've created a wonderful family life in the suburbs of San Francisco.

Kirsten is a born and bred Norwegian; Jay descends from India. She is Lutheran, he is Hindu. The result of this convergence, as you will see in her pictures, is absolutely stunning children.

I guess it's customary in the blog world to invite guests to post on your blog site if you're on vacation or if you're just stuck in a writer's block.

In any event, Kirsten opened up her Norwindia blog home to me and you can read my guest post today by clicking here:

Bookmark her blog URL and check back as often as you can. I think you'll be very entertained and moved by the many experiences of the Norwindians.

I'm actually relieved to be sending you to Norwindia today as we've had some news in our home that has me stunned and at a loss for words. I need to take a day to figure out how to blog about cancer. And my mother. And the unfairness of life.

For now, go have some laughs in Norwindia.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Bribery Was Used For This...

This morning, I came out of my quick shower to find B on the floor of the family room, struggling to assume a full backbend.

Imagine my surprise and my excitement...after five years of trying to get him to take the tiniest bit of interest in yoga and here is was on the floor in one of the most difficult of yoga poses!

Now, I have to admit this: I've been teaching yoga in his class every Friday. The kids love it and we do a full array of poses for over 30 minutes (this topic is going to be discussed at a later date as there is some pretty great material from the kindergarten class).

The first time I walked into the classroom, all the kids exclaimed, "B's mom is here! Hi B's mom!!" My child was mortified. He rolled his eyes down to his nose, turned his head, and refused to make eye contact with me.

Over the last couple of yoga sessions, he's showed much more interest and has even called out the names of several of the poses. One of my clients who is an elementary school teacher attributes this to what she calls "classroom peer pressure." Basically, all of the kids are following me and B is feeling like he needs to, as well.

We've even started watching a kids yoga DVD at home every afternoon. So much for Speed Racer; B's first request for after school television time is the same kids yoga DVD. This has gone on for the last two weeks.

As soon as I walked in this morning to find him in "Bow Pose," as is the English translation for full backbend, I immediately began praising and congratulating him to which he replied (or yelled, as the case may be), "DON'T LOOK AT ME, MOMMY!"

So I did what every good mother would do and I hid behind kitchen wall to spy on him. I managed to grab the camera and zoom in on the action, all the while darting behind the bar area and the wall. After several failed attempts at backbending, I watched him cross his legs and begin to chant, "OMMMMM." I swear I am not making this up!

Next thing you know he'll be asking me about Krishna and Ganesh. I'll have to tell him about my own personal favorite Hindu goddess, Kali, and then we can practice the chants together and really freak out the family.

In the meantime, I had a small, yet very smug revelation pertaining to B's dad. After all pressures with soccer...the bi-weekly practices, the weekly games, the daily pep talks...blah, blah, blah...the one sport that my son is most interested in is the one that's also nearest and dearest to my heart. Jai to that!

Jai is the Hindu translation of "Joy!" or "Hallelujah!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Yellow Hair Machine

We did not get a dog. We got a hair machine.

I think my dad was the one who originally coined this expression as he also has a yellow Lab. But he also has a housecleaner who visits regularly and light tan tile throughout his house.

I, on the other hand, am the housecleaner. Earlier this year, I put rather dark wood flooring into my family room. It was cheap and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, five days into yellow lab ownership, there is a constant dusting of yellow fur on the floors.

To gain some control over this problem, I have instituted a nightly vacuuming ritual whereby I chase B with the hose and make a big game out of an otherwise mundane and all too frequent task. And, to no avail...I get up in the morning and am greeted to the site of fresh yellow hair. Everywhere.

This morning as I was in super high gear, getting us out the door at 8:00am for school and work, I had my first wardrobe malfunction that I can only blame on the dog. Black yoga pants, black shirt, black scarf...need I say more?

My best friend, K, would have the dog packed up and out the door by now. She really, really leaned on me to get a cat instead of a dog. Now I see why.

Don't get me wrong here...everyone (including me but maybe not K) loves our new dog. She doesn't beg, bite, lick, or bark. I'm not quite sure if she's all dog. She seems far too docile to be a one-year-old pup and way too well-behaved to be of the Labrador breed. But the hair...

I know I'll get used to the nightly vacuum-fest. And I can certainly carry those sticky dust rollers in my car, my purse, and my gym bag. But when the hair makes it into my dinner - like it did tonight - then I know that I'm really in this for the love of the animal.

I'm sensing that I'll be complaining about this issue for awhile. So tonight, I looked at my vacuum cleaner with quite a lot of gratitude. And amazement...who knew that a canister could be completely full after just one quick sweep of the floors?

Only a Lab owner.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


For the last four years, my dad has taken us (me, my sister and my step-mom) to see Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO to those who are "in the know"). This event has become, by far, the highlight of my holiday season (yes, it even trumps Christmas morning with you know that I'm a huge scrooge!).

TSO is a fabulous musical extravaganza. The show assaults all of your senses in the best possible way...lasers, fire, and loud, rockin' holiday music (along with some great classics with a very contemporary spin. I think that to be a part of TSO's group, you have to have four basic things:

Incredible, yet very eccentric musical talents

Great looks, particularly for the females. In fact, long, straight and very blond hair seems to be a "must"

A smokin' body and the ability to fit into a very slinky and short black dress.

Energy! The show lasts for over three hours - last night was without an intermission - and the performers generally perform two shows in one day.
It's unbelievable.

This combination creates for quite an eye-candy event. And speaking of eyes, we sat on the floor last night for the first time and there were times when I couldn't even look at the stage because the light show was so wild!

The window to see TSO is very limited. They do a short tour during November and December each year and good seats sell out FAST. This year, the tour started early.

The truly magical part of this experience - for me - is sharing it with my Dad. The first year we went, he didn't stop talking about the show until Easter. And now he's on the TSO VIP list so he's right on top of ticket sales each year.

We always meet in downtown Sac for dinner prior and this year's pick was a clear winner. Tuli Bistro, Sacramento's newest darling on the restaurant scene, did not disappoint. We sat outside on the heated patio and enjoyed great wine and a ton of fabulous food.

I'm a little sad after TSO comes and goes each year. But now there's a new, slicked up concert venue in downtown Modesto that my dad is loving so maybe we can find a couple more events during the year to make the wait for TSO a little more tolerable.

In the meantime, I'm grateful, as always, for the chance to go to see another repeat TSO performance. Go if you ever have the chance! You will not, in any way, be disappointed.

And thanks Dad! Until next year...

p.s. Here's the "big reveal" of my Amber Shimmer locks!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Winning Family

Apparently, we didn't blow our dog interview. The owner called last night and tearfully told me that the dog was ours. Today, we picked up Venus (not too sure about the name, but B says we need to keep it so she's Venus for now) and she's spent the last two hours seemlessly transitioning to our family.

We can't believe how docile and sweet she is. I truly believe that this dog found us at a great time. B has been following her around and treating her like a new friend.

The owner cried as she told Venus goodbye and packed her into the car with us. I was sad to be taking Venus from such a good family setting but we're all feeling pretty blessed to have her here!

Tonight, I'm Amber. Amber Shimmer.

Written on Friday afternoon, posted on Saturday:

I am either crazy or stupid. I colored my hair last night, at home. Again.

For those of you following my blog, this is Round 3 of self-administered hair color. Yes, my hair does grow very fast.

Only this time, I didn’t stop at the roots. Oh no. While slumming at the local Wal-Mart, I stopped into the hair color aisle to pick up another Root Touch-Up Kit with every intention of staying with the tried-and-true.

Allure Magazine just listed its beauty product picks for the year and of course that's like gospel to me. Among the hair color recommendations, they listed Clairol’s Natural Instincts line. The reviewer promised great results in less time and the best part? Semi-permanent color. That means no permanent damage unless you’re trying to take your hair color from Cher black to Marilyn Monroe blonde.

I got to thinking, "I need a little change. I'm feeling drab, drab, drab and Thanksgiving with my step-mother who just happens to be a great (and free!) colorist is way too far away."

I agonized for way too long over which color might be the best. I finally settled on a golden hue, with a great name: Amber Shimmer. “Amber” sounded so much more interesting than how I would currently describe my hair color which would be, “dull brown with some leftover highlights.” And who doesn’t want some shimmer in their life?

Upon further reflection of the product color, I began to think that “Amber Shimmer” would be a very fitting name for an adult entertainment artist (read: porn star). This girl next door could definitely use some of THAT appeal. Let’s face it: yoga pants and clogs are not exactly synonymous with a woman called “Amber Shimmer.”

The applicatoin process went off without a hitch. The only mistake I made was deciding to mop the bathroom floor before I applied color. If you’ve ever applied color to a full head of hair, you know that globs upon globs of dye are flung to the far reaches of the bathroom. I even found a suspicious stain near the toilet which made me wonder: “B’s mess or hair color?”

I’m pretty happy with the color. It’s even, the grays are covered, and there is a hint of shimmer. I’d definitely purchase this product again.

Tonight, me and my amber shimmer locks are meeting D for dinner. It’s our fourth date. We met over the summer, then I let him slip through my fingers so that I could date several superficial and somewhat stupid guys from the online dating service. Luckily, D is giving me another chance.

And the thing is, D is the type of guy who wouldn’t care if I was an Amber Shimmer type of girl or a tired, single, drab brunette mom. But, I have to admit, it’s kinda fun to try on a new identity once in a while. Especially when the cost is just $9.99!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How To Ace A Dog Interview

We went to interview today with the owner of “Venus,” a beautiful, sweet, and extremely well-mannered Labrador. Venus was a dream dog…affectionate yet not overbearing, playful yet not hyper, and calm but still engaging. It was love at first sight. At least for me.

The owner had met with several other interested families and had other meetings set up for the rest of the afternoon and throughout the day tomorrow. At the end of our interview, she promised to circle back with us by the weekend to let us know of her decision.

Based on today’s experience, here is what I now know about being the winning candidate in a dog interview:

Do not, under any circumstances, take a cranky 5-year-old to the dog interview. If the 5-year-old whines and cries all the way to the dog meeting, said child is too tired or simply too out of sorts to make a good impression on the dog owner. Turn around, take the child home, and reschedule the interview.

Do not look shocked when the dog owner tells you that she just met a woman who offered $400 in cash for the dog. When the subject of money comes up, look as blasé as possible.

Do not take a cranky five-year-old to the dog meeting.

And, when the issue of spaying the dog is broached, do not immediately tell the dog owner that you will have the dog “fixed” as soon as possible. There are reasons - who knows what they are - that the owner has not done this yet. Honor those reasons and keep your mouth shut on any chatter regarding the dog’s reproductive organs.

Do not take a cranky five-year-old to the dog meeting.

If at all possible, do take Obama to the dog interview with you. Particularly if it’s a “shady” area of town and you know by the lingering election signs in the neighborhood that he would be strongly supported and received.

Do not threaten time-outs or deploy any other punishment tactics for cranky five-year-old at the interview. This could be mis-construed by the dog owner. After all, the owner is watching to see how YOU handle the behavior issues of those in your household.

And above all, do not beg for the dog. Do not call an hour later to see if the owner has made up her mind. Do not try to convince the owner to come see what a great home you have and how comfortable her dog would be. The owner probably knows, just by looking at you, your car, your son, and your mother that you are a decent person and that you pay (most) of your bills on time.

Do believe that the owner sees you as a genuinely good person; one who will lovingly care for her pet and provide it the best possible home. And hope like hell that you’re right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Truth In (Dog) Advertising

I am learning, in my quest for a family dog, that people will tell you just about anything to get their pet adopted. Here are just some of the conversations I’ve had with dog owners this week:

Dog #1: “The Whiner”

Me: “Will your dog bark if someone comes to the door?”

Owner: “Yes.”

Me: "Good, because I’m looking for a protective dog. I’d like a dog that is on alert, at least at nighttime.

Owner: “Well, the dog won’t actually bark. She goes to the door and whines. But I’m sure that you can train her to bark.”

Dog #2: “I bite small children”

Me: “How is your dog with children?”

Owner: “Um. Um. Hmmmm. OK, I guess. Of course, I wouldn’t leave the dog alone with a child. He has been known to snap. But I’ve heard that if you take a dog to obedience school and also take the child along, that the dog can learn that the child isn’t his equal. I’m sure it will be fine. Really.”

Dog #3: “I’m an unhealthy mess and a huge financial liability.

Me: “How healthy is your dog?”

Owner: “She’s been very healthy but she has a bit of a limp.”

Me: “A limp? How long has she had it? Have you had her leg looked at?”

Owner: “Oh yeah, we took her in. The vet said we should amputate. Sooner rather than later. But I’m sure that you don’t need to do that. She just probably needs some exercise.

Dog #4: “My dog is like a human.”

Imagine my surprise when I called today to inquire about this dog and the owner stated that she would have to interview me before she made a decision about whom to give her dog to. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hi, I’m calling about your dog. She sounds perfect. Why are you giving her away?”

Owner: “My mother-in-law moved in with us and she’s allergic. It’s breaking my heart to list the dog but I have to let her go.

Me: “Could I bring my son over tomorrow to meet her?”

Owner: “Yes, that would be fine but I have to tell you that I am very picky about who I will let her go to. I’m going to meet with several people over the next few days and make a decision after the weekend. I will have to spend some time with you and your son to see how you interact with her. It’s very important to me that she has a great home.”

Me: “Oh, there are other people looking at her? Well, I have a huge yard, I promise to walk her every day, I won’t leave her alone for longer than five hours at a time, I’ll buy high quality dog food, we’ll brush her all the time, she can sleep indoors, we’ll take her on car rides…”

Owner cuts me off: “I just need to meet you and your son.”

OK, well. Wish us luck. We’re off to the north reaches of Sacramento tomorrow (that would be Del Paso Heights for all you local readers) for our first doggy interview. And it’s a Craig’s List dog…maybe not all hope is lost for Craig’s List pets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Dark Side of Craig's List

I am in the market for a dog. We need a household pet. B is starting to show some unsavory symptoms of “the only child syndrome” and I would like to have another body in the house when B is with his dad. It would also be very re-assuring to have a bark on those nights when things are starting to rustle around outside my bedroom window. This is, after all, Sacramento.

I often tell people, “If you want to see how the rest of the world lives, go to Wal-Mart.” I speak from experience…our local Wal-Mart is less than a mile from my house. Before you go and judge my neighborhood, keep in mind that we are also roughly a mile from Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Macys. It’s a rather strange tangle of good and bad.

I am at the local Wal-Mart way more than I should be. It’s far closer than Target. But I still hate it. I really do. I’m reminded every time I enter the sliding glass doors and am assaulted by someone asking for money, followed by a wretched stench that resembles baby vomit, how lucky I am to not have to shop at Wal-Mart. At least I have choices.

Now, I have yet another glimpse as to how the rest of the world lives. Two words: Craig’s List.

As I’ve done with every other used household purchase, I immediately went to Craig’s List this week, in search of the perfect household dog. What I found in the listings was eye-opening. Consider these posts:

“I don’t like my dog no mo.”

“My husband hates our dog. I have to get rid of her. It’s me or her.”

My personal favorite was the header of a post for two dogs:

“Birthday presents gone bad.”

With every Pit Bull listing, there was this warning:

“This dog is not for fighting! Do not adopt this dog with the intent of making it a fighting dog.”

Huh? People adopt dogs to make them fight? Still?

Geez, all I wanted was an adult, mixed breed dog. One with a good bark and a nice attitude toward small children. Is that too much to ask for? Must I muddle through all this garbage just to find a decent family pet?

Next step. Find decent sounding (and looking) dog on Craig’s List and secure time and place to view and meet said dog.

And so begins our foray into the deep, deep South reaches of Sacramento to meet “Goldie,“ the Labrador mix.

B and I journeyed South. And further South. The neighborhoods were beginning to look way beyond my politically correct description of “sketchy.” Let’s be straight here: we were in the ghetto.

Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no turning back when you’ve talked (mostly in a very excited tone of voice) for an hour to a five-year-old about a fun dog named, “Goldie” who we might take home. Let’s face it. The prospect of turning around would be right up there with child abuse.

B kept peppering me with questions, “When are we gonna see Goldie?” Can she ride home in the back seat with me? Will she play with me? Are we there yet?”

Oh yes, this adventure we were going to see through.

I pulled up to the house. It had a chain-linked fence around the perimeter. A heavily tattoed (and rather big man) leaned against the fence, smoked a cigarette, and glared at me. I wondered, “Is this the poster man for Craig’s List?” Beside him, was the biggest, so called “Labrador Mix” I have ever seen in my life. This was no ordinary Labrador. Oh no, this was the by-product of some sort of Great Dane breeding experiment. The dog just happened to be yellow.

We had already pulled up to the man and his beast and B was squealing with excitement from the backseat. “Is that Goldie? Is that her? She’s SO BIG, Mommy! How will she fit into the back seat?“ It was definitely too late to flip a U-turn and haul ass out of there.

I cautiously approached the situation. “Uh, is this Goldie?” I stammered, while thinking, “Duh!”
Tattoos looked me up and down (creepily, I might add). “Yeah, this is her.” Then he opened the gate.

Goldie, meanwhile, was literally springing up and down. Once the gate was opened, she headed right to your’s truly and jumped up, placing her paws on my shoulders. Then she leaned all of her weight into me. This was no dog. This was a horse.

After I recovered from Goldie's welcome, I graciously told Tattoos how beautiful she was, what a great disposition she seemed to have (he looked at me in confusion over this statement - too many syllables in ‘disposition’ perhaps?), while blocking B from being mauled by the giant canine.

We finally made our exit, with me promising to call by the end of the weekend with my decision. I am such a coward in these situations. What, is he going to shoot me if I don’t agree to take his dog on the spot?

I told B that Goldie was just too much dog for us. He found this to be quite funny. I promised to take him to the pound the following day to look at more dogs. B seemed very satisfied with this decision.

I, however, was less than satisfied. My beloved Craig’s List, the source I turn to for everything from vacation rentals to used furniture, has shown me its dark side. And I really don’t like it one bit.

Someone once told me never, never, never to look at the personals on Craig’s List. Something about dirt bags, psychos, convicts, felons. Now I know.

Stay tuned for another update in our quest for the perfect family dog whom will most definitely NOT be found on Craig’s List.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bedtime, Sweet Bedtime

I have always loved putting my child to bed. And not for the reasons that most people love to put their child to bed. Sure, I like a little quiet, adult time as much as the next parent but the detailed ritual of B’s bedtime has always been the sweetest part of my day.

Since B was a baby, I took a lot of time to unwind with him in the evening. When he was small enough to be in my lap, I would rock him for at least 30 minutes, sometimes even an hour. I would try to remember nursery songs, and always default to "Twinkle Twinkle." Those big brown eyes would fixate on me and I could feel my heart melting away.

At five, when he’s running away from me, naked and screaming, - “I don’t want a bath!” - he’s a little less sweet. But I still love our routine.

It takes us at least an hour to make our way to the bathroom, do the “Number 2 stuff,” take a quick bath (he won’t sit down, won’t play with bath toys, and insists that I only rinse his face once), run to the bedroom, naked, and detour through my room to hide, come out of hiding to pick out a pair of pajamas, struggle into pajamas, change mind about pajamas, pick a new pair, call Daddy to say good-night, convince me to bring a Zone Bar into bed (horrible, I know!), brush teeth, pick three books, change mind about two books and negotiate an additional book into the pile, read all of said books, have discussion about automatic nightlight and how long to stay in bed in the morning, and finally, settle in to a deep relaxed state with a long back rub. Truth be told, this entire ritual can take up to 90 minutes, sometimes longer.

I am always disappointed when I have to work late and miss out on bedtime. This happens more than I would like. My mom is perfectly capable and willing to deliver a similar bedtime experience but I have an empty feeling when I come home from work to find B’s door closed and to hear his deep and slumbering breathes (he can never stay awake long enough for me to come in and say a proper goodnight). Damn the work thing.

But being away for work several nights a week and having B go to his dad’s half the time makes me really appreciate those nights that I do have with him. Like tonight.

We started 90 minutes early so I could let him play all his funny 5-year-old games (otherwise known as stall techniques, toddler antics, etc), like pretending to hide (while naked, of course) and changing his mind 18 times about his pajama choice and his book selection. He even talked me into an extra book.

I took extra time in reading to him, explaining the story line of how the crocodile has a toothache and the mouse crawls into the croc’s mouth and extracts the tooth. B’s brown eyes lit up with surprise and shock; he then began to giggle.

Still laughing, we talked about the dog we visited with today.

He asked me, “Why didn’t we bring that dog home?”

To which I replied, “That’s a whole lot of dog!”

B about fell off the bed in hysterics over this answer. I began to scratch and massage his back.

After ten minutes, his eyes were closed and his little body moved closer to mine.

“B,” I said, “Here’s Great-Grandma’s blanket. Good night.”

He opened one big eye, looked at me, and said, “A whole lot of dog, Mommy.” The ends of his mouth turned up, just slightly.

Oh, how I love bedtime.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rocking The Vote & Rocking The Boat

I just found out that my Dad is reading my blog. Pretty regularly, I think. Knowing this, I'm not going to jeopordize the chances of him taking me off his "Favorites" list by making any comments about yesterday's election. I rather like the fact that he's interested enough in our daily life to take a peek in on the blog.

I will say this though. Last Sunday, in church, the Dean of our congregation discussed how the election has caused a major divide in our country and how negative we have become toward the "other" candidate. In a country where we are already experiencing such incredible division, it's sad that at an important and exciting time, we can't come together in love and community to elect our next leader.

I thought my church leaders had a good solution. Since our cathedral serves as a polling place, the clergy decided to serve dinner to everyone who came in to vote. As our Dean said, "We'll be breaking bread with everyone...Republicans, Democrats, the spirit of community." I'm proud to be a part of a church that recognizes the need to bring people back together...even in the most divisive times.

As for me, I made my way to the local middle school, which served as our neighborhood polling place, and cast my ballot. And then off to Starbucks for my free cup of coffee, where the choice was much simpler: "Regular or decaf?"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

6:00am Play-Doh Call

Kindergartners must not be getting much Play-Doh time these days. I think the teachers are too busy teaching Algebra nowadays and have dismissed certain childhood necessities, such as Play-Doh in the Kindergarten curriculum.

In any event, it become absolutely necessary for B and myself to venture out in the pouring rain last night, just before dinner (the best time to do an errand - when everyone is on the verge of hunger and grouchiness!) and lap through our neighborhood Wal-Mart (yes, I do shop there more than I’d like….it’s a mere mile from my home!) in search of several colors of Play-Doh and a bucket of sea creature shapes. I simply could not take another whine session of,

“When are we going to buy the Play-Doh?

"Why don’t we have it yet?“

And the best…“Grandma Ghee makes it. Why can’t you make it?“

This is where the single mom cracks like a stale cookie: “Oh, get in the car already! I’m sick of hearing about the (insert favorite swear word) Play-Doh!”

So here it is, dinner time, and after dinner, comes the bath and then whole bedtime routine, and don’t forget that we’re still kind of Daylight Savings time so there's a lot of eye rubbing going on. We have an assortment of Play-Doh but things are definitely starting to go south around 7pm. Thus, our window of opportunity for Play-Doh was quite limited last night. Amidst the tears of disappointment over our shortened Doh session, I think I promised something like, “Just get in bed and go to sleep and we’ll do it first thing in the morning, when you wake up.”

Boy, those little people have great retention, even when they’re dead tired. B’s subconscious mind must have turned that promise over a hundred times, at least, because at 6:00am sharp, I hear this: “MOMMY, IT’S TIME TO GET UP FOR PLAY-DOH!”

Damn that Daylight Savings switch back anyway. Why can’t we have daylight all year long and later bedtimes and later wake-up times?

But then, I was seriously amazed when B pulled up a chair, sat himself down, and proceeded to cut, roll, contort, create, and generally, amuse himself with the Play-Doh for one hour and forty-five minutes.
What better way to spend the early hours before school? I got to sit next to him, sipping coffee, and trolling the Web. My only input was an occasional, “Nice (insert sea creature name). Very creative. Keep it up.”

I even got a short shower in, (sans shampoo of course as it's only day 4 of my blow-out!) without the usual and very repititive, “Mommy, aren’t you done yet?”

We both left the house feeling calm. No rushing, no cursing (that would be me, not him), nothing forgotten. Maybe those parents who don’t allow television in the mornings are on to something.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

I can't take credit for the title of this post. This is the book I've just finished for my November book club. The author is Elizabeth McCracken. She has a beautiful and haunting style of writing. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and wanted to share this lovely treasure with anyone who might be reading my blog.

The subject matter is not light. In fact, the author states right off: "This is happiest story in the world with the saddest ending."

The book is a memoir, based on the author's experience of losing her child in the late, late stages of pregnancy. The story jumps back and forth from France (where the author and her husband are awaiting the birth of their first child) to the United States (where she discovers that she is pregnant again, only three months after losing the first baby).

This book is a brilliant account of an extremely sad and devestating event. Given the heady subject, one might expect a certain heaviness to the story, but the author does an exceptional job of turning her grief into a courageous journey towards healing. At least this was my "take away" of the book.

Next up is "Three Cups of Tea." I think we're the last book club in America to be reading it. I scored a borrowed copy. There ARE benefits to being last!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Date Night & Hair Color

Tonight, I'm meeting K from San Francisco at a new wine bar in downtown Sac. I am thinking that on this rainy, extra long evening (thanks to the time switch-back), it might be completely relaxing to curl up with a couple of movies. BUT, I really have no good excuse to not go on a date with a seemingly nice guy and the fact that he's driving here in this weather is actually quite attractive.

This morning, I had a brief moment of panic when I noticed lots of new grays peeking out. Sigh. So Round 2 of self-administered hair color commenced. Yes, I know...very daring on the morning of a big date. Or any date, for that matter.

And, to turn the risk factor up a few notches, I discovered that the neighborhood Long's does not carry Marc Anthony, the product from my first go-around of hair color adventures. I defaulted to Clairol since they had actual hair swatches in the store. The Root Touch Up Kit once again did not let me down.

One of these days, I'm going to have to spring for a real color job. In the meantime, I need to go file my nails, push back my cuticles and apply polish. Hey, at least I got the manicure down!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Great Pumpkin (Myth)

Let's all face up to an important fact: if you are a parent to a 5-year-old, the tradition of pumpkin carving is not carried on for your child; it is planned and executed for your enjoyment. And only yours. Past the initial act of stabbing the gourd with a huge butcher knife and extracting the first handful of "orange guts," your child doesn't give a rip about the process; in fact, those dreaded four words - "Mommy, this is boring" - are within minutes of being uttered.

I selected three pumpkins for this year's carving and I couldn't get B to commit. Finally, today, he relented and saddled up to the bar for what would be the shortest pumpkin carving session in our household's history.

Seriously, he was outta there in 10 minutes flat, leaving me with three faces to carve and a mess of seeds and "orange guts." I enticed him back to the kitchen, briefly, by showing him how to pop out an eye with the knife. He was mildly amused, for about a second, then asked, "Can I watch a movie now?"

To top it off, once I had three completed, albeit not pretty, faces completed, I tried one last time to capture the memory. "One picture," I begged. "Pleeeeeeeaaaaaasssssseeeeee?"

Ten M&Ms later, I had B's mug, along with the other three, cataloged under "Halloween 08."

My girlfriend, S, upon hearing this story, passed on a great tip. Virtual pumpkin carving. We're so in on that next year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Six Degrees In Sacramento

I’ve long thought that Sacramento residents aren’t separated by the common “six degree” rule. It’s more like three degrees here.

In a city of nearly a half million people (not counting outlying areas such as Elk Grove and Roseville), it is possible to make a morning run to Starbucks and see a friend (or two) that you’ve been meaning to call. An hour later, latte in hand and strolling through Trader Joe’s, you’ll run into a mom from your son’s preschool days, someone you haven’t seen in two years. After you’ve picked your child up from school, you’ll decide that you and he both need a treat and you’ll head to the neighborhood McDonald’s where three people from the gym are enjoying their treats and letting their kids run off energy in the gigantic play structure. See what I mean?

This is a great way to live, in most aspects. Who doesn’t love a strong sense of community? But when you’re trying to date, Sacramento can sometimes feel, well, a little incestuous. Case in point:

A couple of weeks ago, I agreed to meet “M” for a drink at a popular, new downtown restaurant. M and I had only dialogued on email. I knew that he was within a couple of years of my age, that he had a child around B’s age, and that he had a solid career. I had also seen several pictures - he was definitely attractive and athletic. So far, so good.

“The pictures represented him well, “I thought as we sat down at the bar together. Then he opened his mouth.

He began by complaining about his ex-wife. A lot of details which I can’t remember and didn’t much care about. I inquired as to what he liked to do with his daughter for fun, hoping to move the conversation in another direction. He then proceeded to tell me about his circle of divorced dad friends and the outings that they all enjoyed with their 6-year-old daughters. Then he mentioned the names of the children.

I made a quick connection to one of the kids.

“Wait a minute,” I interjected. “Isn’t that child’s mom ‘so and so?’”

“Yes,” he answered. “ “How did you know?”

“Ummmm.” I stalled. “She’s actually one of my good friends.” “Oh!” he says. “Well, I don’t have anything against HER.”

“That’s good,” I reply. “I was just at her house for a book club last night.”

We sit in silence for a moment. Then my brain finally turns on and it’s making connections faster than B can finish a preschool dot-to-dot game (and that’s pretty darn fast!).

“Wait a minute. If your daughter is L, then your ex-wife must be ‘so and so.’”

He looks at me in surprise. “You know her?”

“Yes, I do,” I reply.

And then my stomach starts to clench and the noise in the bar gets a little loud, and my face is starting to turn red as it does when I’m embarrassed and I don’t know what to do.

In this instant, I’m remembering his really lovely ex-wife. I met her at a birthday party for another child over a year ago and have since seen her at a couple of social gatherings, nothing recent, but I recall distinctly how sweet she is and how awful her ex-husband sounded.

“Will you excuse me for a moment?”

I get up and go to the restroom. Is there a window I can crawl out of? No such luck. Splash cold water on my face, regroup, go back out and say, “Gosh, it’s getting late. I really need to get home.”

M says, “I’d love to see you again.”

I think I stammer something like, “Um, OK. But I can get to my car myself. Really.”

Ironically enough, I hadn’t seen the lovely ex-wife since last Christmas, at a party. Then, just three days after my date with M, I ran into her at a yoga class. I had forgotten how stunning she is. She gave me a hug and told me that she’d heard the story of my encounter with M. Word (and good gossip) travels fast in Sac-Town. I had an overwhelming urge to apologize profusely for being out on a date with her ex.

Thankfully, she lightened up the situation by saying, “He looks great on paper. I would have gone on a date with him myself. Oh, well I guess I did!”

We had a good laugh over her comment and when M sent me a text to inquire whether or not he’d survived the rumor mill, I told him no. Nothing personal, but no. No way.

My new fear is that I’m going to end up on a date with someone from my ex-husband’s work place. Now that’s an incestuous lot. So I think I better stick to the out-of-towners for now.

To that end, I’m meeting up with K from San Francisco on Saturday. No ties to Sacramento. No ex-wife. No kids. Perfect.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Senior Moments

This evening, I was reflecting on my day and I realized that all of my morning clients were over 70 years old.

My morning started at 8:30am with a 74-year-old woman who has arthritis "everywhere including my eyes," as she says and the morning ended with three ladies in a group session who are all in their mid-70s.

Truth be told, working with the mature population can be frustrating at times. Take this morning's group session. Three women on three Reformers. The directions go something like this:

"OK, I want you to lengthen your right leg, point your toe and draw your navel into your spine."

Two left legs go up and one right leg bends out to the side.

"Let's all try that again. Extend your right leg to the ceiling. Then point your toe."

One right leg goes up. One left leg drops out to the side. And one head looks up at me, while both legs stay down.


The fine details of Pilates - i.e. the pointed toes, the long lines of graceful movement, the contracted abdominal muscles - can easily be lost on this generation. I've come to accept that fact and to work carefully and (mostly) patiently with each person. They reward me tremendously for my efforts.

My early at-home morning client brought in an eggplant from her garden and a decorative pillow that she found at Long's for $7.00. She had been on a quest for the perfect pillow for weeks and was quite excited about showing me her find. I get these little bits of pleasure sprinkled throughout my days. Sometimes, it's in the form of something edible and yummy (like freshly baked cookies) and other times, it'll be updated pictures of grandkids, a new recipe, or a book they think I might like.

I love that I have a client base, that, for the most part, is more interested in the way that they feel rather than the way that they look. And, in the process, they make me feel pretty good too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Senior Moments

This morning, I taught a Senior Fitness class at the club where I do the majority of my Pilates training. It's not my normal class; I was filling in for an instructor who is on vacation.

I absolutely love it when I have the opportunity to teach this class. I don't love the time - 7:30am - or the fact that the class jams right up against my Advanced Pilates group at 8:30am, thus creating a bit of a stressful transition.

But I love the people. At least 15 seniors show up on a regular basis. Even more if they find out that I'm their subsitute teacher (they say I'm easier than the regular instructor!).

We do a half an hour of light weights, followed by a half an hour of stretching. The average age of the group is probably around 75.

During the hour, I'll call out an exerise - let's use bicep curls as an example - and two-thirds of the group will do something completely different. In what way does a lunge resemble a bicep curl? I'm mostly laughing during the class because of all the moaning and groaning they're doing over their 2 pound dumbell exercises.

The hour flies by. Then it's hugs all around, big thanks to me for being their teacher and lots of inquiries as to when I'll be back. What a way to start the day.

I reflect for the rest of the day on how dedicated these seniors are. Until I show up at my evening yoga class, and my 86-year-old yogi is the first in class, rolling out her mat, and requesting the "hip" music, "not the boring, instrumental stuff." And then I'm downright amazed.

My "mature" yogi friend has outlived her husband; her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids are far away and she thinks that yoga, instead of reality TV, keeps her young. I think I could learn a lot from her.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Austerity and Hair Color

I am trying to live on a budget. Tough economic times, single mom, part-time fitness trainer, enough said.

But I still need to look good (and somewhat young!) for this great dating life that I keep conjuring in my imagination and for my clients, all of whom I’m trying to convince that Pilates is, indeed, the ticket to eternal youth.

So in an effort to be more frugal AND to cover up the grays in a timely manner, I purchased a $9.99 product from Rite Aid called Pro Root Touch-Up by Marc Anthony.

It took me a week and a glass of wine to muster up the courage to “Just twist, shake & apply!” Marc Anthony makes it sound so easy on the box. It’s the directions inside the box that are very evasive…“Let color stay on hair for 15 to 35 minutes.”

Note to Marc Anthony: When it comes to messing with your hair color, twenty minutes is a very large window of time! I could be leaving the house tomorrow in a hat, frantically dialing any salon in Sacramento that might happen to be open on a Sunday and lamenting the fact that I left the color on for twenty minutes or even ten minutes past my hair’s natural threshold for absorbing new color.

Oh, and did I mention that they only make “Pro Root Touch-Up” in the category of Permanent hair color?

I decided to let the color sit on my hair for 22 minutes. This amount of time seemed to be a nice, happy medium.

Twenty-three minutes later, I had my head in the kitchen sink. Twenty-five minutes later, I was blow-drying.

And you know what? My hair looked pretty good. There were definitely some spots that I overlooked but application #2 on Sunday night, for 35 minutes this time, pretty much wiped out all the remnants of pre-mature graying and brought me back to my "30-something" image.

I think I’m sold. At least until next month... when my glamorous dating life is really in full swing and when my clients all decide that my services are worth much, much more than what they’ve been paying.

And by then, maybe I’ll even have the eyebrow waxing mastered!

At the top of this post is a (overexposed) picture of the “Pro Root Touch-Up” kit. That’s my thumbprint on the box. It’s really not a tidy process.