Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says "Oh shit, she's awake."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The War of Northern Aggression...

I miss life “up north.” I know the vast number of loved ones, friends and acquaintances here in the DC area are unable to really understand what I’m talking about...after all, DC is south of the Mason Dixon line. “Is it really the South???” you ask? To that I say “ have no idea how freakin’ ‘south’ it is.” I live in Manassas, Virginia, a Civil War town where the Battle of Bull Run was fought, where Rebel flags are standard, and the twang of a distinctly “Virginian” accent is de rigueur. You still hear racist undertones and white folks referred to as "crackers". You also can find collard greens at any number of places, along with some of the best fried chicken I've had in my life. Now pizza? THAT is a different story entirely. The pizza down here is a sad state of affairs for this girl. Mind you, I neither consider Pizza Hut nor Domino's real pizza. There is a place down the street that is passable, but only by minimal standards.

Please understand, I don’t have a problem with the southern societal customs, etc. (except for the racist stuff which really ticks me off.) In fact, I was born in Richmond, although my time there was extremely short. In truth, much of this area I have come to embrace, and even find charming. I have been in the DC metro area for over 25 years. I am marrying a self-professed southern Virginia redneck, a true southern gentleman who swept me off my feet with his very southern manners (instilled in him by his very southern parents), and his soft, deep, slow southern drawl. I will say that when Bill comes home from a hunting trip, it usually takes a week for his unusually thick accent, brought on by his time with his southern Virginia buddies, to fade away to a point where I can actually understand what he is saying again. It’s not unpleasant, it’s more like a foreign language, sort of like someone talking with a bunch of marbles in their mouth. Not to worry, I’ve said this to him before. He’s aware of my inability to understand his “redneck hunting accent.” He usually laughs at me, and makes some joke about me and my “northern” blood. His southern buddies also take great pleasure in teasing me about my northern roots. All in good fun. :)

Like I said, it isn’t that I dislike the South, or that I long to live back in the Northeast...far from it. I read facebook posts and talk to family and friends back home. They’re buried in snow until sometime in April, and see their last frost sometimes as late as May. My blood has become incredibly thin living in a milder climate. The older I get, the more appealing moving further south becomes. But there is something about "northern hospitality and charm” that beckons me back at least a few times a year. I am blessed with one of those trips this weekend, so I will venture back to Manhattan for a work-related meeting. I’ve got my free 36 hours completely mapped in midtown, dinner, drinks, catching up with friends, brunch in Little Italy followed by a trip to Century 21 and Soho for more shopping downtown. Somewhere in my travels I will surely stop by a Ray's Pizza for "a slice and a coke", and more than likely I will find myself wandering Times Square after dark, for this is truly one of the most magical places on earth once the sun goes down. But what I will enjoy most are the people, with their brusque demeanors and their very deliberate direction...always purposefully headed to somewhere, generally at breakneck speed. People move faster up North, quite possibly because it’s so damn cold that moving faster helps them stay warmer. Down here, everyone’s movement seems almost languid, as if they are somehow stuck in low gear. As focused and driven as people in the nation’s capital can be, they cannot hold a candle to their northern counterparts when it comes to getting where they need to be quickly. And when the heat and humidity of summer comes calling, they move even slower.

Something else I have noticed...Southern people instinctively believe Northerners to be rude. I have often said in response to this accusation that this is simply not true. A northerner may run you over, but almost always they will say “excuse me” while they are running you over. Rarely is it on purpose; they are merely focused on getting “somewhere” quickly, and you got in the way...totally an accident.

So here I am, living in the “gray” area. I occasionally catch myself saying “y’all” but my heart will always bleed “blue.” Southern charm? Yep, I am privileged to live in it every single day, but I will always miss that “Northern aggression.” It’s part of my soul, and that will never change.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My one and only...

Lately, I’ve noticed something that I actually find a bit unsettling. There is a battle raging, just under the surface of our day to day lives, that pits women against each other in ways that are so insidious and destructive, it boggles my mind. It is a battle between women who have children and those who do not.

As for myself, I am caught somewhere in the middle. I am the mother of one. My daughter has been the driving force in everything I do since the day she was born. Indeed, I could not, for one second, imagine my life without her and I would go through pregnancy and childbirth a thousand times for my sweet girl. That being said, I decided on the day she was born that she would be my one and only. I never felt that craving to have more children. Even today, I can walk past a newborn baby, snuggle it for 30 seconds and give him or her back to her parents and not even feel the slightest twinge of maternal instinct making a reappearance. Since the day of Tricia’s birth, countless people have pelted me verbally with the same question, “when are you having another one?” to which I bluntly answer without any hesitation “Never, she’s my one and only.” Almost always, they are taken aback with my statement, like somehow I have no heart, or that I’m somehow “defective”. Clearly that is not the case, I just never wanted any more children. I don’t think that makes me heartless, or evil, or any less of a woman. It just means that one is more than enough for me on any given day…period. The funny part is, if you were to ask Tricia if she wished for a brother or sister, she would answer "absolutely not." She is content in her standing as an "only child."

I know women on both sides of the maternal spectrum – those with nearly a baseball team, and those who have no children at all, and never intend on having children. My own sister has been blessed with four spectacular children, whom I adore. I might also add that my sister has never looked at me as some sort of freak for only having one child, nor have I ever looked at her as someone who should be medicated for having four. But it’s not always that way with others. It seems that those who have and those who have not often look at each other with something just this side of contempt...not always, but frequently enough for me to take notice and shake my head. There is a perception that women who have no children are selfish, uncaring, and career-driven in ways that go against the very grain of being a woman. Likewise, these same childless women look at those with children often with a sense of resentment for being treated or looked upon as self-centered and narcissistic. They also frequently see mothers as "out of touch" with the rest of the world and "not the sharpest knives in the drawer", as if they had delivered any brain they had right along with the baby, leaving them an empty-headed shell. My personal opinion is that there is no right or wrong. It is simply a matter of choice. I respect those who have devoted their life to their children with complete selflessness, and I also respect those who do not feel that instinctual need to walk the path of motherhood. Motherhood is not for everyone, I can personally attest to that fact. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. Any mother who says differently is either a pathological liar or needs to stop smoking crack. I know for myself, I waited until I was 34 to have my daughter, so I knew what was out there in the world, and all that it offered to me. At 34, I had worked hard, played harder, knew what I wanted, and really enjoyed having a career. I was not accustomed to putting anyone else first, and admittedly, I’m still not always good at that part. Maybe it is a sign of my generation. Many of us waited longer to have our children, and put ourselves and our careers ahead of motherhood. It’s not a bad thing, but let’s face it, if you have your kids when you’re 20, you really don’t know anything about that glorious life of a twenty-something - footloose, fancy-free, not a care in the world lifestyle. If you’ve never tasted chocolate, you don’t know what you are missing. But once you’ve tasted! Many of my friends have also paid dearly for their decision to wait, suffering through infertility issues, and spending tens of thousands of dollars to have a much-wanted child. My heart breaks for anyone who goes through that experience. But it seems to be the price for waiting to start a family until later in life.

I would hope that we could all develop a better understanding and appreciation for each other and our decisions to choose whatever path suits us, however different they may be. Being a mother does not make you a better woman. Likewise, foregoing motherhood for a career does not make you more valuable monetarily or more intelligent. We should respect each other for our choices, and embrace our uniqueness. There is room for everyone at the table, and I believe that in my heart.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In the blink of an eye...

I know that those of you who follow my blog love funny. Unfortunately, today is not funny. I shall try to do better next week, but this week I have my reasons for my lack of humor.

I turned on the news this morning, and was literally speechless – footage of the tsunami hitting the cost of Japan, casting large trucks as if they were matchbox cars, water so black it looked as though it had run through the coal hills of my childhood home of Northeastern Pennsylvania. I wondered how many people were in that water, how many innocent victims were swept up in the wrath of Mother Nature, how many children lost a parent, lost their lives. Life is fragile - indeed so fragile that in an instant we can be crushed like ants on the ground. The world is a scary and amazing place.

Everything can change in a moment. Some say it is God’s wrath raining down on us, like a powerful storm. Some say it is our cosmic karma. My take on it all is that everything changes, every moment of every day, and nothing is really in our control, although we refuse to believe otherwise. We take so much for granted, and we put such a high price tag on things that, in the end, are really worthless. What is really important in the grand scheme of things? A large luxurious house? A tricked-out set of wheels with all the bells and whistles? The latest Coach purse? Let’s be honest, what purse is really worth $300 or more? How many times in the past have you just “had to have” that purse. Looking back, would you still buy it? I wouldn’t. If by chance I don’t wake up in the morning, will that purse, or car, or house make any difference? It will not. It is merely stuff, worldly posessions that fill voids in our collective lives and psyche for some silly reason.

I think the past couple of years, and all its economic adversity, have been a wakeup call for many, including myself. Unfortunately, with each step forward (no matter how small) towards economic and financial improvement, we slowly begin to lose sight of lessons learned. It’s not what we own, it is who we are as human beings, and how we care for each other. It is our families, and the time we spend with them. It is remembering to ALWAYS say I love you at the end of a phone conversation because you just never know what will happen tomorrow, or even five minutes from now.

I, myself, have learned that while I love to drink a nice bottle of red wine from the Paso Robles region of California at $30 bucks a bottle or more, I can derive just as much pleasure from a bottle of Two Buck Chuck. I can still pour it in a nice glass, savor it while sitting quietly with Bill, our lives blissfully buzzing around us. The feeling is the same. It’s not the wine, it’s the company I keep. It is my life, and all the countless blessings that surround me every day. I try to always remember that.

I hope my friends know how much I adore them. I hope my family knows that they are the most important people in the world to me, and that I will always be there for them, under any circumstances. I want my daughter to know that no matter what she thinks on any given morning, she is the most beautiful, brightest shining star in my universe. And I want my Bill to know that not only can I not remember my life before him, I cannot imagine waking up on any given day and him not being next to me.

To those barely holding on by a thread, I wish you God’s speed, and light at the end of a very dark tunnel. You have all the positive energy I can send your way. To those who choose to be a part of my life, I urge you take a one minute out of your day, and take stock of all of your blessings and good fortune, even though they are sometimes hard to see for all the daily crap that surrounds us...because all those blessings could be gone in the blink of an eye.

My love to you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Of course I want salt…how else am I supposed to retain water like a real woman?

It is a known fact that I am not always the best at dealing with high stress levels. Cranky would be an understatement, as to which Bill and Tricia will testify. This month seems to be one of those months...big meeting in NYC not a month away, wedding on the 15th of April, honeymoon after (which means making sure our high maintenance menagerie is tended to in the manner in which they have become accustomed is a priority while we are gone.) Throw in there the daily rigors of simply dealing with life, and you have a recipe for...cocktails. To those of you who know me, yes, I know you are shocked. To those of you who don’t, let’s just say I know my way around a liquor bottle.

Last night, as a gift to myself, I trekked across town to the home of a friend of mine who has had a tough year herself. Her divorce is now final (YAY!) and her apartment is darling. For an instant, I was jealous. Wow, a home ALL to yourself. No one else’s laundry, mess, errant hairs in the bathroom sink, or unflushed toilets. Of course, I wouldn’t trade all those things, or lack thereof, for the love of my Bill and my Tricia, but the momentary fantasy left me almost giddy. To boot it all, on the counter of her perfectly decorated kitchen bar area was...drumroll...a JIMMY BUFFETT MARGARITA MACHINE. I found myself coveting it, longing for it. It was huge – nearly large enough to drown every ounce of stress that is currently plaguing my life. It SHAVED the ice instead of crushing it, and it even had this cool compartment that drained off any water that had melted off the ice, so it would not water down your drinks, something I consider a cardinal sin. What an engineering marvel. Did someone win a Nobel prize for this beauty? I secretly wondered if she would rent it to me in a dire stress emergency. I didn’t ask, but I have filed the thought away. Indeed, if, for one paycheck, I stopped getting slammed with unexpected and annoying expenses, I might be able to scrape together enough pennies to go buy one for myself. Hers was a gift from her boss…what a thoughtful and wonderful boss she has! I heard her mention Kohl’s as the place where these indispensible kitchen accessories could be found. I’ve already decided mine will be red. I closed my eyes for just a moment and envisioned it in my kitchen. Certainly it would need to have a place of honor. I wonder if I could talk Bill into putting an addition on the house to display it properly? Hey! We could put in a sunroom just off the kitchen, and it could not only display my BEAUTIFUL margarita machine, but we could appropriately decorate the room in a Jimmy Buffett theme and move the cockatoo, parrot and cockatiel out there. I will name my new room Parrothead Alley...magic! I just knew Bill would think it was a good idea. Hell, he knows how I am. I am the woman who buys a pair of shoes she can’t live without, then plans an entire wardrobe around said shoes so I never have to remove them from my feet. Surely, he will understand the importance of having a Jimmy Buffett Margarita Machine. What home would be complete without one? We could even use it to make the world’s most DELICIOUS margaritas and set up a stand at the end of the driveway to sell them. Think of the income potential. Maybe I could get my friend to bring hers over and we could sell two flavours. My friend is going to LOVE this idea, I just know it. Before you can say “pour me another”, we will have ALL of Manassas, Virginia, stress-free and completely loaded. I think Manassas could use a little of that...just sayin...

So please, if you a free moment in your day, say a little prayer that I can attain Margarita nirvana in the not-to-distant future. If I do, you are certainly invited to stop by and indulge in some stress-free margarita heaven...with or without salt. :)