Friday, October 22, 2010

kids' night out

It's Friday night. Son (17) drove daughter (14) into town — a 45-minute commute. Before they left, they called me at work, politely asking for advances on babysitting income, gas money, dinner funds. I mean, really. Do I only exist to prepare balanced meals, pack lunches, and shell out the bucks? Nah. I love that they like to hang out together, and that big bro will look out for little sis. They'll have a blast. They work hard and deserve this. Downside: mom spends Friday night solo eating chips & dip for dinner and, uh, pouring more drivel into her blog page.

But I miss them. Yes, I worry ... and I'm hugging them a little tighter this week. My son's friend was in a  car wreck the other day. He and his passenger were lucky to crawl from the car unscathed, but the kid (a really good boy) will lose his license for a year for being underage and driving a minor. Another acquaintance is dealing with a teenage pregnancy. Yet my children are both in good places right now. My son has embarked on his first romantic relationship. This girl's parents won't let her date or go to dances, so the two pretty much see each other at school and talk on the phone — the ideal girlfriend, in my book! When her cell phone died, he valiantly made arrangements to get her a replacement, confirming my inherent belief he is just a good boy, through and through. And now I know he has the capacity to feel true love (or something like it). Heartwarming to see the boy so happy — he actually has a little kick in his step (for my son, this is saying a lot!) Another milestone in the life of a boy who only yesterday was told he was going to have a baby sister. He vetoed our suggestions for child-to-be names in favor of his pick: "Zuzu." We had a conversation the other day that included the word condom. I took it as a personal victory.

My daughter — I've said it before and I'll say it again — is a ray of sunshine. She was recently voted freshman homecoming princess. I don't hold much stake in that title — in my high school days this honor was reserved for the hottest, bitchiest girl in school who'd just die if forced to speak to someone in my lowly circles. But the internal light my daughter possesses is infectious, and her classmates have surely experienced it too. I love that when I drove her to the game in her sparkling dress and straight-from-the-salon up-do, she directed me not to the football field where all the action was, but to the other side of parking lot to meet her best friend — not the most glamorous girl on campus, but most likely the sweetest and most genuine. Together they would trek to the festivities from there. If I've raised my girl to value kindness over snobbery in choosing her friends, I think I've done a pretty good job. She's the real deal and I couldn't be more proud.

Treasured moments with each of them come fewer and further between these days. But I hold on to these truths: My son WILL watch an entire Christopher Guest movie with me. My daughter and I WILL shop 'till we drop together. And there's always the dinner table. These random snapshots are precious — and all to soon will be nothing but sweet memories. Just gotta make sure they're all recorded on the memory card as they happen. For now, I sit, wait, and worry.

Just noticed it's raining out there. Make that WORRY ...

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I always had a more than competent man in my life to handle things like automobile maintenance, indoor plumbing, broken door knobs, a bad fuse. But on my own it's a  major challenge just mounting a frame on a wall — I'm deathly afraid of my own power drill.

The ultimate feeble single mom moment came last week. It was we-haul-away-everything trash day and I had a dewsy. Months earlier (could it even have been a year?) I sorted through boxes of family photographs for choice images to scan and put on a photo disc. The task was happily completed, but what to do with all of the rejects? I started to throw them away, but the rubbermaid container I dumped them in was soooo heavy. Also it'd be like throwing away memories — not the picture-perfect ones — but memories just the same. And where to put it? I have a small living space: no garage, and only a small storage closet on the side of my house, currently overflowing with Christmas and Halloween decorations. It sat under my back porch for, um, over a year.

Months ago I was in the backyard, noticed the container, and lifted the lid. It was just after a hard rain and water had seeped in. The pics were ruined, and the box was really heavy. Why I didn't deal with it at the time, I don't know, but I reduced the situation to a note to self: drain container and put out on big-item trash day.

Three big-item trash days later was Thursday of last week. I wish I could describe the stench that eluded from that rubbermaid container as I tipped it over in the backyard. Who knew that a combination of acetate and standing water could create something so toxic? It filled the yard and house, I couldn't get it off my hands, and the kids were gagging. I hauled the noxious two-ton container the edge of the curb. Surely the trashmen would permanently remove it from our lives.  I got some on my pants and shoes and smelled it all day.

Later that morning I get a call at work from my property manager. Mission Disposal informed my landlords they wouldn't pick up the potentially toxic material. The property manager said the owners wanted me to know never to put anything like that out in the trash again and suggested I take it to a toxic waste facility. Yeah, like when will I have time to do that? I was sure they were all convinced I was operating a meth lab from my home.  I sat there at my desk and cried. I was mad at myself, my situation. Toxic seemed a most accurate term for everything in my life at that particular moment in time.

After writing this shitty first draft last night, I got up, turned around, and noticed a framed photo of my brother —  his high school senior portrait. Gosh, I miss him! Here I am whining about taking out the trash, when he was forced to endure toxicities of the most horrible kind. Living with full blown AIDS for almost 10 years, he transitioned from one "cocktail" to the next when the drugs became ineffective, brought his oxygen tank to work just so he could function, and endured months at a time of not working when the disease became really bad — all pretty much on his own with a couple of major heartbreaks along the way. In the end, along with the frustrations of his rapidly deteriorating mind and body and loss of independence (by nature he was independent to a fault), he had to come to terms with his inevitable demise — where would he be when this was all over?

So I wonder, who's more oppressed? The sufferers of AIDS, cancer, heart conditions, physical abuse, etc. etc. who are going through more than their share of hell on earth? Or we, the survivors, who must  exhibit strength during their pain, and in worse-case-scenario carry on feeling the constant void of their absence? I'm thinking the former. Life is rough and sometimes all I can do is cry at my desk. But I have my health, and for some reason my God's given me the the means to enjoy awesome sunset at the end of the day, a cool glass of wine, the daily joys my children give me, family that's there for me no matter what, creative outlets, romance, meaningful chats with my girlfriends, good food, great music. I think it's called grace.

I called the toxic waste facility and asked if they'd accept the stinky package. "That's just acetate. We don't consider it toxic," he said, "Just put it in a sealed bag in your regular trash can and they'll take it." Which they did when I put it out a few days ago (in an anonymous dumpster in town, haha!)

So NOT toxic. Sometimes words of wisdom from come from the unlikeliest of sources. Thanks for the reality check, toxic waste facility guy.