Monday, June 29, 2009

Expecting the Best

So, I've been priding myself on losing a bit of weight, especially when I look around the office and see these enormous bellies everywhere.

But then, I must stop and remind myself that all these women who have suddenly developed a serious need for elastic-waist pants aren't fat--they're pregnant.

We're experiencing a strange baby phenomenon at the office: stomachs sprouting, baby genders being pre-announced, maternity leaves being scheduled. (Ha! And how many of these women will use up vacation days toward this leave of absence? "Vacation Time" will become an oxymoron once they live through a few nights of three-hour feeding intervals.)

Yes, I remember the trials of pregnancy and the torture of labor and delivery. My favorite tale of torture? How about the failed epidural that was officially declared to be on the fritz only after the doctor started my emergency C-section and made the first, oh so not numbed by medication, SLICE IN MY ABDOMEN?

God only knows why I was willing to have a second child.

The reality, cliche' and all, is that time does make you forget the pain of childbirth. Or perhaps you don't truly forget it, but are willing to do it all over again, for the joy of giving birth to another child.

That unmatched joy (along with rampant lust and ineffective birth control) has kept the earth populated since the beginning of time.

I'm past my prime child-bearing years, and my sons are both young adults. No more babies for me, and I'm OK with that realization.

Yet, I eye these mothers-to-be with a bit of envy. I experience their hopes and dreams vicariously. I have to hold myself back from touching the baby-filled bellies of my co-workers, as well as total strangers. I have an uncontrollable urge to ask to feel their babies kick.

Though I'll never again feel the sensation of a baby doing somersaults within me, the memory still causes me to have butterflies in my stomach.

Pregnancy--as fleeting and frightening and fascinating as it is--isn't just the beginning of a new human life. It's the beginning of a new world for that tiny human's parents.

At some point, of course, we're too biologically old to simply forget the trials and torture of pregnancy and childbirth, and to instead simply choose to do it all over again.

Although we're likely to thank God for that, once our older children become teenagers.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Another renowned celebrity is gone. I appreciated his talents and grieve his loss. Anyone who's contributed so much and impacted the lives of millions deserves the tributes he's received.

Still, it intrigues me how hypocritical the world can be. Because one day, many view a man as a monster, and the next day he's suddenly a martyr.

I'm not saying he deserved either label. Maybe he was neither. Maybe he was both. But it seems death is a person's quickest route from ridiculed--even reviled--to revered.

Is the media to blame? After all, the media industry capitalized on his fame, his downfall, and now his death. How they choose to portray someone and exploit him appears to dictate the outlook of much of the world.

The media, after all, is fickle.

And once they get a hold of news of an icon's death, even the death of another fair-haired celebrity slips down to runner-up. Especially when cancer is so ordinary, so mundane, compared with the thrill of a potentially drug-related death.

But perhaps the media is not the culprit. Perhaps it's just human nature to mourn what we've lost, even if we didn't fully appreciate it when we once had it.

I'm fortunate to have made many friends in my lifetime.

I'm guessing--just a hunch--that I'll miraculously have more when I'm gone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top Ten Reasons I Won't Be Running for Political Office

10) I can't say I never inhaled.
9) As a former journalist, I'd insist on asking myself all the questions at news conferences.
8) I'm too poor to buy any votes.
7) My friends wouldn't stop laughing long enough to complete their ballots.
6) Sarah Palin couldn't get by on her good looks either.
5) I can't balance my own checkbook, so imagine the fun I'd have with someone else's money.
4) Can you say "being accountable for one's actions?"
3) I'd have to bribe the paparazzi to use Photoshop.
2) My party affiliation is whichever one has the best music and most liquor.
1) I don't have a spouse I can cheat on.

Guess you can always write me in during the next election. Who am I to argue with public demand?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

You've been gone nearly 20 years now. Hard to fathom it's been almost two decades since I've heard that distinctive laugh of yours or watched your pensive expression as you bent over the Sunday crossword puzzle.

My life has gone on, of course, as it does for any child who has lost a parent. That old cycle of life thing, for certain, plays a part in each of our lives. The cycle in our own lives, unfortunately, stepped in sooner than we expected, because 53 years was just far too young. (OK, time for some dark humor of yours to insert itself here... I hope they admire your sarcasm as much in heaven as we did here on earth.)

But when Father's Day comes around each year, I do face the day with some combination of long-standing sorrow and warm memories.

The happy memories are endless and would require a novel, not a simple blog post, to do them justice.

Still, I regret that you weren't here for so much of our lives for us to enjoy your companionship and for you to take part in our family's world. And your grandchildren--Four of them now! You'd find pride in their accomplishments, their athletic abilities, their humor, their intelligence. I can assure you that so many of those qualities were passed down from their grandfather, even though they never had the honor of knowing him.

I'm not a religious person, Dad. You'd understand that. And you'd be OK with that, too. Because even when your daughters didn't meet all of your expectations in our younger years, you always were clear in your love and acceptance of us.

And religion aside, you need to know there's still a spiritual side of me that makes me hold onto the belief that we'll be together once again, some day. Hope you'll have some pull to get me into the place where you are...

Who knows, maybe in the afterlife, I'll surprise you by matching your game on the golf course.

If not, I'd be content to just carry your golf bag.

Until then--
I love you.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

When Less Is... Less

With a class reunion scheduled on the calendar, and a closet of clothes that apparently shrunk in the dryer, the brain and the body finally sat down for a little one-on-one.

Being as they're both slightly schizophrenic, the conversation was a bit hard to follow. So bear with this excerpt:

Brain: "OK, Body. You seem to be carrying more than your weight around here lately. Let me step in and help you out. Let's start with those Nutty Bars in the pantry. Remember those? Well, from now on, forget about them."

Body: "Forget about the Nutty Bars? God's Gift to the Confection Industry? No, how about the Oatmeal Creme Pies instead? I promise to make the eyes look the other way with those."

Brain: "No, no, it has to be the Nutty Bars. I know your weakness. And speaking of weakness, let's talk about your physical stamina. You've become quite the couch potato. Wouldn't kill you to take an exercise class."

Body: "Hmmph. Wouldn't kill me, eh? Well, check out this:

Brain: "You're being too anal. Leave that to your lower half, alright? Exercise is almost always a good thing, really. Trust the research to me."

Body (sniffing): "Well sure, you have the desk job. I do all the real work around here."

Brain: "But we're in this together, Body. And since I'm the brains in this operation, you need to work with me here."

Body: "Oh, yeah? Well don't forget who got us into all this trouble. I mean, who justified that last bagel and cream cheese? It was you, Brain, telling me I'd just have to make up for it later with a good work-out."

Brain (feeling admonished): "Yes, I know. You're right. Damn. I hate it when I'm to blame. It's so much easier to accuse you. After all, even when I'm Thinking Thin, you so seldom seem to cooperate."

Body (nodding): "So true. I'll try, Brain. But you've got to help me out here. Like those low-carb beers you've chosen as our Happy Hour Savior? Great idea, really, until you suck down six of them."

Brain: "Oh. Right. So, less is more?"

Body: "Uh-huh. Unless we're talking Nutty Bars. And then less is just, less. So why don't I unwrap a couple right now?"

See why I struggle?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can't Means Won't

When it comes to outlooks on life, I believe the world is comprised of four sorts of people: pessimists, realists, optimists and idealists. People either focus upon the worst, the most logical, the somewhat hopeful, or the best of all possibilities in life.

I generally see myself as somewhere in the middle: a cross between a realist and an optimist. So it hit hard when, twice this week, one of my children said, "Why are you so negative? Don't be such a pessimist."

Me? A pessimist? The woman who lies on the deserted beach when vacationing, even as the raindrops are pelting upon her, just in case the sun might finally peek around the clouds? The same woman who, upon receiving a certified letter from Son #1's former high school, held off just a tad of hope as she tore open the envelope, that it might be some type of letter of commendation? (Aside: Certified letters from your child's high school are NOT EVER a good thing.)

No, no, I told myself upon this remark. He's so off target on this one. Until I recalled the words I had just uttered to him. Some combination of: "Don't. Won't. Can't." (And this last one is his favorite upon which to pounce. "Can't means won't, Mom," he says. Is this a mantra from his Catholic high school or some saying from his Boy Scouts background? Regardless, it rather pisses me off.)

So, yes, I am forced to concede. The perpetual realist/optimist in me does indeed, at times, show the traits of a pessimist. And is this so wrong? Because really, maybe the pessimists hold the true key to happiness. After all, pessimists are never disappointed.

Still, living life under an umbrella of negativity is not for me. Frequently sarcastic, occasionally cynical, yes--I'm all that.

But I'd prefer to leave any out-and-out pessimism to those very rare instances when hope is clearly and absolutely elusive.

I can't imagine those instances will be many.

And yes, when I say "can't," I mean, "won't."

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Gift of Time

Time is a relative concept. Want to see it fly by? Take a week off work. Want to see minutes feel like hours? Get a root canal.

Raising children is perhaps the one experience that can't be categorized. As I prepare to send my youngest son off to college this fall, I'm bewildered by the speed at which my sons' childhood years have passed. A blur of Halloween costumes, school assemblies and driving lessons, and then suddenly, both children have morphed into adulthood.

Along the way, however, there were singular days--oh, so many--which I thought would never EVER end.

Someone asked Son #2 last weekend if he was excited about college. He answered yes, of course, but I sensed the hesitation in his voice. Yes, he looks forward to the experience, yet I know he's reluctant to leave high school behind. Not surprising, because these four years, to date, have been the most rewarding adventure of his life.

He was one of the fortunate ones. Not all teenagers walk away from their school years with warm memories and a strong sense of self-confidence. I know many adults who still reflect upon those years with sadness or regret. High school can be tough territory for the bullied, the insecure, the nonconforming.

Junior high and grade school are often worse. While I remember a handful of high school classmates being ostracized and ridiculed, I recall hordes of kids from grade school being scorned. Somehow, I had the fortune to not be among them. And I'd like to think that I was kind to everyone, regardless of their popularity status. But that's probably my blurry, idealistic middle-aged mind at work.

At a grade school reunion several years ago, I struck up a conversation with an old classmate. She'd been tormented by the Bullying Boys and Mean Girls through much of our eight years together at St. Patrick's. The mistreatment couldn't be attributed to any particular reason and, as in most cases like hers, was not due to any identifiable wrongdoing on her part.

"I'm kind of surprised I'm here. I wasn't sure I could come," she said. "I wasn't sure I could forgive everyone."

But here she was. And successful, and attractive, and seemingly content.

Out of all the people I spoke to there--the Business Whizzes, the Wondermoms, the former Best Friends with whom I looked forward to reconnecting--she was the one I most admired when I left that night.

Those eight years of Grade School Hell hadn't succeeded in breaking her spirit. Somehow, she was resilient and self-confident enough that she endured and excelled through the rest of her life. And here once again, on our old grade school grounds, everyone finally accepted her as an equal. And maybe a step above that.

Because thankfully, life's realities and practicalities often change Bullying Boys and Mean Girls. Not all of them, but enough of them to put most of us on a level playing field as adults.

For the ridiculed grade school child, high school may open up promising opportunities. For the friendless high school student, college can mean a new world of young adults with similar interests and backgrounds--or those simply mature enough to embrace others who are different.

Those early school years, filled with anxiety and angst, likely crawled by painfully for the unpopular kids.

But the rest of their lives? I hope the rest is a blur, filled with snippets of happy memories of a loving family, supportive friends and former classmates, who finally see them and accept them for all the gifts they have to offer.

And the concept of time--though relative--is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Graduation Party Academy Award Winners

The votes have been tabulated, and here is the Academy's list of winners for Son #2's graduation party last weekend:

Award for Documentary Short
... goes to this conversation between the new graduate and his mother.
Mother (pointing): "See Aunt Mary over there on the deck? Be sure to go say hi."
Son #2: "Yeah, OK. You mean Aunt Mary and Uncle Carl, right?"
Mother: "Um, no. Not Uncle Carl. Uncle Carl died last year."
Son #2: "Oh. OK. So then I guess he's not here."

Award for Actress in a Supporting Role
... goes to Son #2's best female friend, Elyse, for her performance as the sole girl shooting hoops in the driveway--wearing sandals and a sundress--and kicking all the boys' asses.

Award for Adapted Screenplay and Foreign Language Film
... goes to Cindy, for her R-rated narrative about taking a business trip with her new boss. Nervous and tongue-tied, she had attempted on an introductory outing to comment on some "sick-looking ducks" by the side of the road. Her tangled words came out instead as, "Look at those dick-sucking ducks." The table of grad party-goers all roared at this story, especially the punch line, when the ultra-serious, intimidating boss paused before replying, "Cynthia, where do you think I could get me one of them ducks?" (Note: This scene was followed by a sigh of relief from the Mother of the Graduate, after determining that the Director of Campus Ministries from her son's Catholic high school--seated two tables over--was not likely within earshot.)

Award for Cinematography
... goes to the shots taken of the Mother of the Graduate and her family, not for the quality or composition of the photos, but for the classic line delivered by her cousin's husband Gary, as we all lined up: "They're all together. Quick! Someone get a net!"

Award for Visual Effects
... goes to the Mother of the Graduate, whose eyes filled with bittersweet tears at the end of the day.

And the Award for Actor in a Leading Role goes to... Son #2. Congratulations, Kyle. You played your role well. And an outstanding college career awaits.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

I swear my name is Sherry. It's on my birth certificate, my driver's license, and all those threatening letters I get when my bill payments are overdue.

But these days, I could just as easily answer to Gladys. Gladys Kravitz, that is. (If this means squat to you, then you were not a child of the sixties or seventies, and you must run immediately to your TV to watch reruns of "Bewitched" on cable.)

I am not a nosy individual. Peering through windows or eavesdropping on conversations isn't my M.O. But somewhere along the way toward becoming a responsible middle-aged adult, I have grown, let's just say, a bit preoccupied with the wayward behavior of others. Especially very stupid children. And the very stupid parents of very stupid children.

So, am I in a league of my own? Even Gladys Kravitz would have been justified to interfere with the things I've been witnessing. Yet so much of the world seems oblivious.

Like where were the other responsible adults at the regatta this spring, when I told that young boy to climb down from his riverside perch high in the tree, as the slender tree trunk buckled under his weight and swayed dangerously, threatening his crash 20 feet to the ground?

"My parents don't care if I'm up here," he told me defiantly.

"Well, even if they don't, I do," I told him.

Such a bitch. I know. The thought was reflected in his glowering eyes as he eventually climbed down. And no worried parents rushed to his side.

And where were the other concerned adults just days later, when I walked along a park trail backing up to a yard where five or six boys bounced together upon a trampoline? Two of them began snapping each other with towels, and they jumped and dodged each other, falling dangerously close to the edge. I tried not to watch, but I couldn't stay quiet. (Yes, staying quiet is a quality I've never mastered.)

"Hey, guys, please don't do that. Someone's going to get hurt. I know a kid who broke his neck fooling around on a trampoline." (True story: A neighbor boy did so, the day after high school graduation. Fortunately, he wasn't permanently paralyzed. Unfortunately, his college football scholarship didn't survive the fall.)

And stupidity can't always be blamed on children. I've made more than my share of nonverbal suggestions to stupid parents with unbelted kids in their cars, attempting to point with helpful hand gestures toward my own seatbelt. Generally, they've responded with not-so-helpful hand gestures of their own.

Once, an angry woman even stopped her car and confronted me.

"I'm sorry," I said, "but you really should have your child in a car seat." (He was three, tops.) "Or maybe a seatbelt at least," I conceded with hesitation, my eyes darting toward her hands, fearing that they held a gun.

"Don't tell me what to do with my f-ing kid," she said, as a neanderthal appeared by her side.

So! OK. Time to shut up, perhaps? Keep my concerns to myself, and leave the child's bloodshed on his own mother's conscience?

Perhaps it's true that no good deed goes unpunished.

I'm not likely to ever turn my head though. I may have been a stupid kid once myself (fodder for another blog), but as an adult, I like to think of myself as the Sentinel of Sanity.

Not likely, since my newly earned label, at least by that same group of boys on the trampoline, whom I passed on my most recent walk along the park trail, is "That Stupid Lady."

They've probably never heard of Gladys Kravitz or of Samantha Stevens. But if I could only twitch my nose and bewitch them, I'd make them all as smart as me.