Monday, November 29, 2010

Ridin' the storm out (an apology to my mother)

First of all, I'm sorry about the plant. I know it was a Mother's Day gift, and I know I was angry at you for some reason, but I really didn't want it to die. I just said that I hoped it would. I never knew if it did or not, but I'd be surprised if you didn't just kill it yourself. I'll never forget doing such a stupid thing, and I'm sorry.

Now that THAT'S off my chest, let me explain. I was a teenager. It was Mother's Day. I was angry at my mom for something I can't even recall, so I went and got the plant I had bought for her, handed it to her and screamed, "Here's your plant. I hope it dies!" and stomped off to my room.

NICE, huh? Well, quid pro quo, Clarice.

I am apparently living the nightmare that my parents lived some 30 years ago - the teenage years. I had no idea what an asshole I was until I got a taste of what my 13 year old has been dishing out lately. Wow. I mean, really. I was a grade-A beeyatch. From hating everything to do with family to sitting in my selfish, morose and angst- filled room to playing music too loud just to annoy to pretty much single-handedly spoiling any joyous occasion with my crappy attitude, I'm now getting back twofold.

Mom, the curse worked. I had a child just like me. And it's WORSE. It's MALE.

Really, though, I knew this was coming. I braced myself as best I could. But I don't think anything can actually prepare you for the teenage years. It's like someone telling you what it's like to be hit head-on by a Mac truck. You can "ooh" and "ow" and flinch all you want at the description, but until you get hit head-on by a Mac truck, you just won't know how it really feels.

I have to say, I TRY to be sympathetic. I DO remember at times wishing I could just let go of the sullen attitude and have fun with my family and smile and be nice, but it was almost as if I was tied down by this teenage cancer that told me I needed to make everyone's lives as miserable as possible. I really remember not being able to help it - whether it was raging hormones or depression or mental illness or just being a teen. And God love my mom and dad - but mom especially, for she bore the brunt of my evilness. I'm sure with me being the third child she felt she'd seen it all before, but all I can say is if my second child goes through this like my first I'm flushing him down the toilet (just like my dad told his mom he would do with his first three children - no lie).

A guitar teacher I'm trying to pair my son up with to give him some guidance as to his current "musical taste" (or lack thereof) caught me off guard tonight. Here he was, a hip, cool younger dude teaching my son some sweet riffs. After the lesson, we were discussing my son's attitude toward the lesson and the teacher. His surprising words of advice for me? "PRAY." I stopped dead in my tracks. Not that I don't, but a hip, cool younger music dude telling me to pray? It must be REALLY bad.

I know we'll get through this, these teenage years. He's a good kid with a heart of gold and a brain full of morals and values that I know his dad and I have somehow stuck in there somewhere, no matter how far back in his conscience they might be right now. All I can hope is that he can ride out this wave of tidal teenagedom and come through the tube as a decent young man. Some don't make it. Some wipeout. Some drown. That's what scares me. But you'll bet I'm going to keep praying... and maybe get him a surfboard for Christmas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas is not for sissies... apparently I am one


I hate to be a Grinch, but I'm just not into Christmas. The whole holiday season, for that matter. At least in this day and age.

Don't get me wrong. I used to be all over Christmas like white on rice. When I was younger, I counted the days. Compiled my list. Practiced my carols on the piano. Vied to be "Mary" every year at a neighbor's annual Christmas caroling party. Helped bake and eat a multitude of Christmas confections. Made my own gifts. Hell, one year I even made my own wrapping paper and handmade Christmas cards featuring my cat.

I don't know when the pressure started to mount. I remember back in the early 90's after I graduated college and feeling exhausted after a long day at work capped off with fighting the mall shopping crowds looking for that perfect gift for each and every member of my family. That was BEFORE kids. I look back on that now as a walk in the freakin' park.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I was determined to give my kids the Christmas experience and traditions that I had growing up. We would decorate the tree with "meaningful" ornaments from my childhood, any that my husband at the time had brought into the family, and of course every "Baby's 1st" ornament for any occasion that was available. I pulled out all the cookie recipes and made dozens and dozens, making sure that my husband had a big tray to take to work every year. The house was decorated to the nines, we hit every parade and light festival and Santa brunch and I made sure my kids knew how egg nog with a sprinkle of nutmeg tasted. My mother had set the precedent and it was up to me to carry it on. (Hats off to her, by the way. I don't know how she and Dad did it all.)

For the past few years,though, I've found myself slipping from the SuperChristmasMom status. Last year I did all my shopping entirely online. The thought of going into a store and waiting in line for hours just turns my stomach. I don't have TIME, nor do I have the desire. Shopping is not fun for me anymore. The Christmas decorations have been pared down considerably - no more extension ladder for me - and the cookie baking is down to a few snowballs and some jelly-filled things that my youngest requests every year. (They actually go to my mom's to bake the cut-outs and decorate them with icing.)

I guess my biggest beef is that right after Halloween this year, the Christmas decorations appeared. Two weeks ago - well before Thanksgiving, two radio stations changed to "all Christmas music". Pre-Black Friday deals and stores opening up at 2 and 3 am have given me knots in my stomach making me feel like I'm missing out on some tremendous deal. I feel like the holiday is being shoved down my throat, and the expectations to cook and bake and decorate and shop and buy and entertain and wear fabulous holiday sweaters is just TOO MUCH PRESSURE. I barely have time to live my own life, let alone throw a congested, commercial holiday that lasts two months into the equation.

It makes me sad that I have this regard for the holiday season, but I'm a little miffed that it's come to this. Sure, I know we're all appreciative of the chance to get together with friends and family, and it is true that many people do seem to really have this "feelgood" holiday spirit, but I just can't get past the fact that it seems like it's all for the wrong reasons.

You'll notice that not once in this post have I mentioned the true meaning of Christmas. That's to prove a point. It gets soooo lost in all the other crap that even though we realize the true meaning, it's somehow been beat out to Black Friday deals and Today Show holiday cooking segments.

When did we all allow this to happen? How did this get so out of hand? The self-induced pressure I have to "deliver" a good Christmas is so enormous that it makes me just want to crawl in a hole until well after New Year's, coming out only on Christmas Eve to take in a midnight service in the peace and quiet of my local church. And yes, I say self-induced, because obviously if I wanted to have an Amish-style Christmas I could do so, but unfortunately I'm too mainstream to go against the grain.

Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy sitting by the fire with my kids, and greeting the first snowfall of the season, and watching someone's face light up when they open the perfect gift. But I don't need a holiday season to do that. I often wonder if the cold winds of December are sometimes the Big Man upstairs just shaking his head at us all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful with a twist

Although it's not very original, I do feel compelled this time of year to really take note of all the blessings around me that cause me to be so very thankful that God shot me into this planet some 44 years ago. So to mix it up a little, I'm going to skip the obvious (kids, family, friends, job, health, etc.) and really, really get specific about some of the things that I have relished during the past year that make me thankful to be me:

I am twistedly thankful for:

1) My second computer monitor that I set up just recently. I had no idea such dual-monitor pleasure existed. Two screens ARE better than one.
2) The automatic timer on my coffee pot. For some reason I can't stand to wait the seven minutes it takes me in the morning to make and brew coffee. I honestly think that first sip in the morning is nirvana. Every morning.
3) The cinnamony, clovey, nutmegy, garlicy, herby smell of my spice cabinet when I open it up.
4) Diet meals in a box under 300 calories. There are no seconds.
5) My 10-year old Honda minivan that still runs like a champ even though I've berated its existence as a minivan for the past decade.
6) My ex-husband who I don't hate.
7) Google Talk: so it's just like Amanda and I are working side-by-side again (not really).
8) Not getting that job.
9) Not taking that job.
10) Taking that job.
11) Progresso Split Pea with Ham soup.
12) The ability of my youngest son to crack my back every night when he hugs me.
13) My height and all the people who ask me to reach something on the top shelf at the grocery store.
14) Attracted to Shiny Things and the author who makes them that way.
15) Friends with big hearts, big smiles and big clavicles. You know who you are.
16) Cheap wine in a big bottle and my Jimmy Neutron wine glass.
17) Little affections still shown to me by my 13-year old son. Occasionally. But whatever. I'll take them.
18) EOFs. Stands for "Every Other Friday" when the kids head to their dad's for the weekend. I love my kids, but come EOF, I like to unwind a little. OK, a lot.
19) Nuclear power and all that comes with it.
20) Skinny Cow Truffle bars. They're big, they're chocolatey, they're 100 calories. So even if I eat three, I'm still within my 300 calorie per meal maximum.
21) Godwinks.
22) Cashiers who say something nice to you when you're not even paying attention to them like they don't exist. Good wake-up call.
23) Avanti's. My personal chef.
24) Cheez-its and Dr. Pepper. No, I lie. I'm not thankful for these. I curse their existence. But I do love them.
25) How I feel when I look down at my son in church and see him quietly mouthing the words to the Our Father.
26) The Man on the Corner, who checks in with me via phone periodically to "see how I am" now that our paths rarely cross anymore.
28) That my house is a home. Because the kids and I made it that way.
29) Guinness on a slightly empty stomach.
30) Fun words to say, like ubiquitous and schnitzel and discombobulate and juxtaposition. Oh, and heebee jeebees.
31) Six degrees of separation. Because it's cool.
32) A father who's an engineer, a mother who's an interior decorator, a brother who's an IT guru, a sister who's a nurse, another brother who's a lawyer. There's basically no question my family can't answer for me.
33) Online shopping. Thank you, Jesus.
34) My past. Without it, I would never have made it to the present.
35) The people who didn't believe in me who I proved wrong.
36) The people who believed in me so I could disprove the people who didn't believe in me.
37) Fleece.
38) Never being at a loss for someone to talk to on Facebook.
39) Funny statuses that make me LOL.
40) Padded push-up bras.
41) Billy Dennis. (No, #40 has nothing to do with #41.)
42) Satisfying news about an ex-boyfriend. (Still nothing to do with #41.)
43) Lilac bushes.
44) The exhilarating exhaustion I feel after the workout that I almost talked myself out of.
45) Spooning.
46) Phineas and Ferb. How else would my kids know what an "aglet" is?
47) The phrase, "That's a really good idea."
48) Yankee candles. The ones that don't make me sneeze.
49) "Well," I said, "I'm very, very thankful for punctuation! Aren't you?"
50) Writing. Because, well, It's My Thing.

Thanks also to everyone who reads me, for those who make comments, "like" or just plain tune in. You're the gravy on my mashed potatoes. Wow, that's 52!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My kids live on air and Jell-O

I'm not kidding. If it weren't for the bits and pieces of nutrient-laden bacteria and other goodies in the atmosphere, they'd probably starve.

I'm obviously not bringing them up as legacy members of the Clean Plate Club. When I was growing up, we ate what was served. Now my mom will probably dispute this, saying she would not make us clean our plates but would withhold dessert if we didn't finish, but I only remember having to eat what was put in front of me. Then again, I don't remember downing too many desserts, either, so I could be wrong. (However, I did manage a sneaky breakfast trick. Every Sunday morning, Mom would cook up scrambled eggs, French toast or pancakes, all items that literally make me gag. When she wasn't looking, I'd stuff them up the sleeve of my robe and flush them down the toilet later. I'm sure she wondered why I always kind of smelled like syrup.)

Anyway, we ate at the same time every night. As I got older, I recall thinking, "Gee. It's 5:30 but I'm really not hungry." No matter. It was dinner, dammit, and we were going to eat it. Like Pavlov's dogs we'd eat it.

Fast forward 20 some-odd years or so to tonight. At about 8:25 pm the frozen pizza was just coming out of the oven. Gimme a break - we had tumbling class. I paired the Digourno delicacy with carrots and sugar snap peas, pineapple and kiwi. Oh, and milk. White for one, chocolate for another. White milk gets a straw. (Am I an enabler?)

My oldest ate one slice of pizza, four sugar snap peas and the pineapple. This was after he "forgot" to eat his lunch and consumed three bites of oatmeal for breakfast. My other son, who requests the "cheese stuffed crust", ate all but the crust of the pizza, the kiwi, and only the peas inside the sugar snap pea pods.

Here's the thing, though. Both of them LEAVE FOOD ON THEIR PLATE. *GASP* I know! That's exactly what I said! I was raised to CLEAN MY PLATE! ONE MORE BITE! Now THIS? This is unacceptable! So what do I do? Well, I eat whatever they leave behind. Breakfast for me is usually the remnants of a cold bowl of oatmeal and the crusts off a piece of jelly toast. Dinner? Pizza crusts, since my youngest apparently doesn't like them, and my veggie for tonight, the hulls of some sugar snap peas. Why even dirty a plate for me when I can clean theirs?

I KNOW it's healthier to leave food on the plate. I'm just so damn confused as to where they learned it. And if I didn't teach it to them and they picked it up, why is it that they won't eat anything I make no matter how I dress it up?

I've tried everything short of wearing a Ronald McDonald suit and painting the golden arches in the air with my magic finger. I've pounded chicken breasts flat, breaded them and presented them as the World's Largest Chicken Nuggets. I've pureed spinach and zucchini and blended them in spaghetti sauce. When they aren't looking I dump whey protein and wheat germ in their smoothies and shakes. But a CASSEROLE? You HAVE to be kidding. FIRST of all, THAT ingredient is GROSS, and THAT thing is touching THAT thing, and EEEWWWWWWW - what's that SAUCE???

And forget the "one more BIG Boy Scout bite" motto. Apparently my sons were members of Hobbit Troop #347, because the minuscule morsel that makes it past their lips is hardly enough to constitute sustenance fit for a hummingbird.

What I don't get is that they love to go to the Chinese buffet. For me, I may as well throw $35 out the car window. Very nice Chinese waitress: "How old your son?" Me: "Does it matter? REALLY? He ate a plate of Jell-O squares and sucked the cheese out of five mozzarella sticks. DOES IT REALLY MATTER HOW OLD HE IS?????"

These kids are the products of a mom who made their baby food, introduced vegetables first so they wouldn't reject them after the fruit, always had 100% juice boxes and whole wheat bread and kept track of how many servings they ate from the food pyramid per day.

And it's completely backfired in my face.

"Eat it or there's nothing else for the rest of the night" is a farce. They'd rather STARVE than eat what I'm serving. So fine. I let them. Then, as I watch their rib-exposed, emaciated little bodies running around outside, I picture their insides just eating themselves out because there's no food in their little tummies.

OK. Have some cereal. But just this once.

Their pediatrician says to keep doing what I'm doing; they'll catch up. So I've been trying a little harder to get them to eat. Having some fruit out while I'm heating up their fast food or pre-made whatever-in-a-box at least lets me know they're getting some nutrition. Every time they go for some random snack or treat, I make them pair it with something healthy first. And I wonder where and how they got this ability to simply eat what they want, when they want, then step away and be done.

And as soon as I clean the orange cheese puff residue off my keyboard, I'm going to go find out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sex, spaghetti and Sophia Loren

I never really had an opinion about Sophia Loren. I always thought she was kind of a graceful beauty, with long legs and thick lips and large glasses big hair and a pushed-up bosom. And she talked funny.

But I started reading some quotes from her tonight, and am finding that there are some serious insightful thoughts inside that bombshell body of hers.

This one's a hoot: "Sex appeal is fifty percent what you've got and fifty percent what people think you've got." To me, that says that while you may not think you're particularly sexy, or good looking, or graceful, or whatever, that half of you that doubts yourself is being picked up by someone who loves you. It's good to know that someone out there has my back, or at least 50 percent of it.

This one struck me as well: "If you haven't cried, your eyes can't be beautiful."
I get what she's saying here. Those that show that raw emotion are somehow transformed into these beautiful, feeling creatures. However, she obviously has not seen me after I've had a good cry. My eyes look like a sleep-deprived drug addict who forgot to take her contacts out at the end of a long day.

And I've heard this one before, but never realized it was my girl Sophie (how I now refer to her): "When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child." Ain't that the truth. Add another thought for each additional child then throw in an extra for any teenagers in the house. I'm thinking quadruple time... all the time.

Sophia is one of those women who I think made her mistakes, had her success, got her fair share of ogling but still managed to keep her head about her. Her quotes can be quite risque: "Sex is like washing your face - just something you do because you have to. Sex without love is absolutely ridiculous. Sex follows love, it never precedes it." and "A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view." You go, Sophie.

Some are downright hilarious: "Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner." How true.

Yet some are incredibly wise: "After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It's better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." Looks like I'm exploring life at a pretty good clip.

I'll leave you with this one: "Getting ahead in a difficult profession requires avid faith in yourself. That is why some people with mediocre talent, but with great inner drive, go so much further than people with vastly superior talent."

That's what keeps me going. Thanks to my new quote girl Sophie, for keeping it real when I needed it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If you could yell at anyone for 10 minutes, who would it be?

Back in July, I wrote what turned out to be one of my most popular posts to date. It posed the question, "If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?"

I had a lot of responses, mostly naming positive icons such as Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ben Franklin, Ellen DeGeneres... you get the picture.

So it got me thinking: If you could have 10 minutes with anyone and could spend that time giving them a piece of your mind - reading 'em the riot act - opening up a can of whoopass on them... you see where I'm going here... who would it be and why?

When thinking about this myself, my first thoughts turned to some less worldly-famous individuals. The track coach that told me (in front of everyone else) that I kick my butt when I run when I tried out for the team in 6th grade. I'd like to have a little chat on TACT with him. The popular girl in high school who noticed a small cold sore on my lip and announced, "Amy has herpes!" I bet I could take her now. Or how about the guy who invited me on a date then mentioned that his friend "Joey" was going to meet us... only to find out that "Joey" was a blond with really, really big boobs? Yeah, I'd like to take just a second or two of his time.

But I digress.

Now if I take a moment to step out of my self-serving box, I can think of a few people that I'd like to get in a room, in a chair, under one of those hot, swinging lights and say, "WHAT THE !%*$ WERE YOU THINKING?????" Such as:

Steven Hayes, the man who was just sentenced to death for the heinous torture and killing of a mom and her two daughters, while the father laid tied up and bleeding in the basement. And anyone else like him. This may go beyond just talking, as I would probably want to beat the living crap out of them. But I wonder if they know why they did it, and if they feel any of the pain that the general public, who may know absolutely nothing about the victims, feel. I'd like to find out what makes these murderous souls think that they are above every other human being that they can take someone's own life into their own hands. Ten minutes is probably nine more than I could take with these bottom feeders.

Any politician, celebrity or sports figure that gets "caught" cheating, then laments about how sorry he (or she) is. Now I could say specific names like Tiger Woods or Brett Favre, but they're really just the better known poster boys for brainless, stupified, egotistical behavior. Seriously, I'm sure these men (and women) love, and love deeply. That's great. So if they decide to stray, what planet are they living on that makes them think that they won't get caught? Sure, I know we "god-complex" these celebrities, wait with bated breath for them to fall, then laugh at them like the bully of the block. So one could say we kind of set them up. But still... seriously, Tiger? What was your first clue that you might possibly be screwing your reputation for the rest of your life? Not until the golf club went through the windshield or perhaps a little before that?

District 150. Yeah, I know, this is kind of out of left field. And there's not really one individual in particular that I'd have sit in the hot seat. I think I would just like to collectively get the Board together, maybe on some hot bleachers or something, then when I have their undivided attention, simply ask, "WTF, DISTRICT 150???? Have you not YET figured out that this is one of the worst school districts in the state? And you have no idea why or what to do about it? Perhaps you need to get in your cars and DRIVE to some of the good school districts and meet with their Boards and maybe take a pad of paper and a pen and TAKE SOME NOTES???!!!"

OK. I may need more than 10 minutes with them.

Anyway, so there's my short list. Now it's your turn. Who gets under your skin? Burns your soup? Gets your tighty whities in a wad? Think about it... then imagine 10 minutes of their undivided attention to tell you exactly what you're thinking.

And yes, I know that in real life this of course would be a very immature and self-serving thing to do. And I may very well be one of those people you want to throw under the bus. Either way, I do find that sometimes fantasizing about getting those pent-up feelings off your chest really DOES get them off your chest. Then you can turn off that hot light and leave the room... in peace.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall back, my a$$

Yeah, I'm not a big fan of Standard Time. I'll get to that, though. First, a little background on this whole Daylight Savings Time enigma:

First conceived by Benjamin Franklin, Daylight Savings Time was seriously advocated and lobbied for by London builder William Willett (1857-1915) who said, "Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings. Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used."

Daylight Saving Time has been used in the U.S. and in many European countries since World War I. At that time, in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power, Germany and Austria began saving daylight on April 30, 1916. Many other countries followed suit, and today, approximately 70 countries utilize Daylight Saving Time in at least a portion of the country.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 created Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. Any state that wanted to be exempt from Daylight Saving Time could do so by passing a state law.

Under legislation enacted in 1986, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. began at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ended at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.

Various interesting little tidbits on the effects of the time change:

Halloween. Through 2006, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. ended a few days before Halloween (October 31). Children’s pedestrian deaths are four times higher on Halloween than on any other night of the year. A new law to extend DST to the first Sunday in November took effect in 2007, with the purpose of providing trick-or-treaters more light and therefore more safety from traffic accidents. However, it appears most trick-or-treaters wait until dark to venture out, so this had little effect. In addition, it cost U.S. companies billions to reset automated equipment, put us further out of sync with Asia and Africa time-wise, and generally inconvenienced most of the country.

Drinking. Patrons of bars that stay open past 2:00 a.m. lose one hour of drinking time on the day when Daylight Saving Time springs forward one hour. This has led to annual problems in numerous locations, and sometimes even to riots. For example, at a "time disturbance" in Athens, Ohio, site of Ohio University, over 1,000 students and other late night partiers chanted "Freedom," as they threw liquor bottles at the police attempting to control the riot.

Trains. To keep to their published timetables, Amtrak trains cannot leave a station before the scheduled time. So, when the clocks fall back one hour in October, all Amtrak trains in the U.S. that are running on time stop at 2:00 a.m. and wait one hour before resuming. Overnight passengers are often surprised to find their train at a dead stop and their travel time an hour longer than expected. At the spring Daylight Saving Time change, trains instantaneously become an hour behind schedule at 2:00 a.m., but they just keep going and do their best to make up the time.

Crime. A study by the U.S. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration found that crime was down 10 to 13 percent during periods of Daylight Saving Time than during comparable standard time periods. It is clear that for most crimes where darkness is a factor, such as muggings, there are many more incidents after dusk than before dawn, so light in the evening is most welcome.

Births. While twins born at 11:55 p.m. and 12:05 a.m. may have different birthdays, Daylight Saving Time can change birth order -- on paper, anyway. During the time change in the fall, one baby could be born at 1:55 a.m. and the sibling born ten minutes later, at 1:05 a.m. In the spring, there is a gap when no babies are born at all: from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

I always thought the whole Daylight Savings Time started for the farmers. Not true, apparently. In fact, farmers generally oppose Daylight Saving Time, and don't particularly appreciate having to change their schedule twice a year.

Personally, I relish Daylight Savings Time. Reverting back to Standard Time means no more walks after work, no more playing outside until 7:00, and for some, their days begin and end in total darkness. I'm wondering if there have been any studies done linking depression to the end of Daylight Savings Time. To me, it signifies the beginning of six months or so of cold, dark, dreary days when I sit inside and eat comfort food, packing on my winter coat and waiting for the sun to come out again.

What's your take on the end of Daylight Savings Time? Do you love it or could you leave it?

Information for this blog was obtained from Web Exhibit, an interactive online museum of science, humanities and culture.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why I'd rather be 44 once than live 22 twice

Ironic that my last post was about how much being 13 sucks. 'Cuz 44 is awesome. I mean, I'm anticipating. I technically didn't come into this world until 8:26 am, weighing in at a hefty 9 lbs., 6 oz. (which I'm sure I mostly carried around my hips and thighs). But so far, so good.

Here's a recap. When we last checked in on my birthday (one year ago today), I was "gainfully unemployed", struggling to get my new business off the ground, in the throes of a new relationship, parenting at warp speed, and very thankful for my friends and family. (See "Happy Birthday to me... I'm 43!")

Some things change, and some remain the same. If it's possible to double my gratitude for my family and friends, consider it being done here. Amanda, Tracie, Frandy, Shannon - we've had a big year, haven't we? Who'da thunk we'd be where we are today - good AND bad. But we're still rockin'... together. Muchas gracias a mis amigos.

As far as my business goes, I have learned and grown more in the past year than I think I ever have in my professional career. Best of all - I did it My Way. :) I scratched and crawled and networked and marketed until I was blue in the face and it paid off. I got to meet the most interesting people and had some of the most awesome writing gigs that I could ever imagine, and it completely reinforced Kennard Communications' motto that "everyone and everything has a story to tell". There will be more where that came from, you can be sure of it.

Call it ironic, coincidence or divine intervention, but just at the height of KC's success I received an offer I could not refuse. So today, my 44th birthday, I embark on a new adventure at a new company that I'm totally jazzed about. I STILL get to do what I love, but that great fear of when the next paycheck will roll in will all but be eliminated, not to mention ridiculously high self-employment health insurance premiums and a lack of contribution to my IRA. Stability is nice. Very nice.

And the relationship? Well, it's been a big year for this single gal. I've had the distinct pleasure to grow with a gentleman who I tried and tried to find something wrong with, tried to push away, tried to tell myself "this will never work". Guess what. Despite my best efforts, it's working. And he's amazing. 'Nuff said.

The parenting? Yeah, it's tough. I knew it wouldn't get any easier, and it hasn't. BUT, I've found support, and new ways of approaching things, and I've learned that there is no one answer, and as soon as you think you've found something that works, life changes, your kid changes, and you have to reinvent your tactics. It's still gut-wrenching, exhausting, and gives me knots in my stomach sometimes, but for every hour of sleep lost, there happens a moment that fills my heart with joy and makes me so incredibly thankful that God made me the parent of these two boys.

So there you have it - me at 44 and not looking back. My stretch marks are my war wounds, my wrinkles referred to as "laugh lines", and every gray hair on my head has been duly earned. And I still think that my mom was right - the 40's are the best decade. So far. And if the promises of this 44th year are any indication, I can't WAIT to turn 50.