Wednesday, February 28, 2007


A Little Pregnant
Chris DeBarr
Dad Gone Mad
Defective Yeti

Dirt to Dish
Disorderly Conduct
Her Bad Mother
Here Be Hippogriffs
Hola, Isabel
Hollow Squirrel
I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl
Jen And Tonic
Miss Zoot
Mocha Momma
Mom 101
Musings of a Working Mom
No Pasa Nada
Poppy Z. Brite's Blog
Queen of Spain
Rockstar Mommy
Sarah and the Goon Squad
Slouching Toward 40
Suburban Bliss

Sweet Juniper
Tequila Stakes Croquet
Vaguely Urban
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
A Year to 50

Friends and Neighbors
Melissa's Blog
Uptown Gal

Paul Ryburn's Blog
Letters to Larry
Memphis Blogger
Fertile Ground
Dining with Monkeys
My Brother-In-Law
Fun Times
Diary of a Ten Year Old Girl

A tree grows in Uptown

We've lived in Uptown Memphis for almost two years, after thirteen years in Cooper-Young. Uptown was conceived by a couple of visionary developers who are essentially responsible for the rebirth of Downtown Memphis. The few acres upon which our neighborhood was built used to be the site of one of the starkest examples of a horrible housing project. Without detailing the entire history of what happened (because it's already done here and here and here), let me just say that my neighbors are a mix of market-rate homebuyers (mostly first-time homeowners), Hope VI grant homebuyers (in which the federal government assisted with up to 30% of the purchase price of the home for lower-middle income folks), and public housing clients.

When I first learned about Uptown, I was immediately attracted to the development for a few reasons. First, I had always wanted to live downtown, and this would be only a few blocks from the downtown core. Most Downtown Memphis real estate was not a good fit for our family; it fell into apartment/condo/loft-type properties that were perfect for singles or double-income-no-kids, but not kid friendly, or it was a river-view house that was three to ten times the price we could afford. The Uptown homes were more modest but very family-friendly, and were exactly in our price range. All the houses were to be built to Eco-Build specifications, which meant less energy use and, therefore, lower utility bills. The planned economic diversity in the neighborhood also attracted me. As a person who lives in Memphis and is very committed to my chosen hometown, and as a parent who wants my children to grow up to be community-minded leaders, exposure to a variety of people with a variety of backgrounds is important to me.

So, in a nutshell, we got our dream house for a price we could afford, with a park right outside our front door and Downtown Memphis just a few blocks away. What more could we want?

How about some great neighbors? I didn't expect to find our neighbors to be so friendly and fun. While we're not sitting around braiding each other's hair (yet), we do keep in touch on the internet as well as when we walk our dogs through the alley. In nice weather, we congregate in a back yard with lawn chairs and wine. A few of us have competed as a team in a trivia competition at a nearby bar. When a neighbor couple got married, we neighbors occupied two pews in the church and two tables at the reception (and I won't even talk about the wedding showers, or the baby showers we'll be hosting quite soon!). And a few weeks later, we got together in the park for a chili cook-off. Susie will learn the ropes of babysitting by hanging out with a young mom and her two small kids as a mother's helper this summer.

One thing that's facilitated our neighborhood's success is the support we've received from the developer. The internet message board was their idea and they designed it and pay for the hosting. One of the developers judged the chili cook-off. And this week, we got word that they were going to plant trees in our yards if we wanted them.

Which means, when I get home, there will be a baby dogwood tree in my backyard. And if the weather is nice, I'll drink some wine with my neighbors in its shade for years to come.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Treading lightly lest toes are nearby

Sometimes there are things I want to write about but don't write about because there are other people involved and some of those people may read my blog. There are also things I don't write about as a rule, because there are other people involved and some of those people may not want certain information about them all over the internet for all ten of my readers to read.

For instance, I don't blog about work. Because that's a good way to get fired.

I also don't blog much about my marriage. Sure, I'll mention my husband in posts and even wax poetic about how wonderful he is, but if we have a problem, it's not going to be addressed here.

My kids get less privacy, but only because they don't need as much. Also, their antics are cute. But if there's something they don't want other people reading about, I respect their wishes.

So what's left? I blog a lot about church and my involvement in music. Most of the time, those are the two parts of my life that are rewarding and pleasant. I get a lot of positive attention in both places. I feel valued and valuable. Those two worlds play extremely important roles in determining my quality of life.

And right now one of those places is not very healthy and it's breaking my heart. The heartache is bleeding over into other areas, because, although I'm generally good at compartmentalizing aspects of my life, I can't always turn off a bad mood like a light switch. I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday in quite a funk because other people's actions and words had me first irritated, then frustrated, then incensed. Other people share my concerns, but that doesn't really make me feel better. It might make me feel worse. Honestly, the whole situation makes me scared. Afraid that something so precious and rewarding might disappear.

Which begs a question (or two or three).

At what point does one leave a volunteer commitment? I was a fortunate child in that my mother stayed home until I was a teenager. But by "stayed home" I don't mean stayed home. I mean she did not pursue paid employment. She was an active volunteer in our church and at the Arkansas Arts Center. And she said that the best thing about volunteer work was that if she was dissatisfied with the situation, she could leave.

I can't say I'm dissatisfied. I'm still getting a lot of what I need from this commitment. But I'm seeing a dramatic decrease in involved people, and a steep increase in sniping and unpleasantness. (None of this, by the way, is even remotely directed at me.) And what was once joyful is now, well, not, and a few people (whom I like and respect) have behaved badly.

So what's the next move? People share my concern that the organization is in danger. Danger of imploding. Danger of fizzling. Danger of dissolving.

And if it goes away, what will I do? It's become a part of my identity, of who I am and what I do. When that is stripped away, what happens?

Melodramatic much? Existential crisis brought on by non-profit woes?

Well, maybe. In our culture, for better or worse, we are defined by what we do. I have two jobs, two kids, a husband, two dogs, and two non-profit groups in which I'm an active volunteer. Those roles make up much of the fabric of my life. Removing any one of them would leave a void. Sure, I can patch it with another fabric, but it won't be the same. And (until last week) I've been quite comfortable with the fabric as it was.

I expect that something will happen, that the concerns will be addressed, in the next few weeks. I just need to remember that I wasn't part of the problem before, and I don't need to start being part of it now.

edited to add: I have mentioned some of my concerns to leadership, and I expect they will be addressed. Also, things were much better yesterday evening. I'm taking it one day at a time and every time I check my inbox and see nothing, I'm delighted.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Funniest Parenting Moment

This week's CHBM carnival topic is "Funniest Parenting Moment." A bit of a stumper, given that my house is generally full of laughter, at or with another family member or one of our pets. How to pick just one moment from the many moments?

Recently, for instance, we were all watching television and a commercial came on. You may have seen the commercial. A little boy is showing his drawings to his parents. They start out pretty typical: "This one is our house; this is a dog," and so on. The last drawing, which is not shown to the camera is "mommy and daddy wrestling." The parents put that drawing aside, looking stricken. Susie, whose comprehension and sense of humor grow more adult every day, "got" it. She told us that she "got" it, but she didn't comment. She did snicker and turned a little pinker than usual. Alex, though, is seven, and he isn't quite so sophisticated. "What?" he kept asking. We were all amused, but nobody was going to explain it to him. After about ten minutes, his face lit up (you could almost see the lightbulb turning on) and he said, "I get it now." I looked at him and asked if he could explain it. It was his turn to redden a bit, and he mumbled something like, "Not something I want to talk about." (I'm still not sure if he really got it or not.)

Alex gives us plenty to laugh about...funny dances, songs, jokes. But a couple of years ago he started pranking us, much like Ashton Kutcher's television show, Punk'd. He would wait for a quiet moment and tell us that some kid in his class stole his lunch money. Then he'd sit back and watch us react, with increasing emotion. We'd get ourselves all kinds of worked up - "What is that teacher doing?" "How did that happen?" "What's wrong with these kids today?" - and he'd give a few vague answers. Once we'd reached fever pitch, he'd grin and say, "Just kidding." Yes, our little boy had punk'd us! And that was in kindergarten.

These days, his sense of humor is mostly expressed through joke telling. More accurately, joke reading. He loves joke books and reads them out loud. The louder we groan, the more amused he is. I particularly love to ham up my reaction, doubling over and acting like I've been hit in the gut when he reads a particularly corny joke. Of course, this totally eggs him on, and the hits just keep coming.

While I see this interest in joke books as a normal part of his development, I'm more interested in his wacky antics that don't come from books. One afternoon when I came home from work, Craig was listening to a Camper Van Beethoven cd, and Alex couldn't have loved it more. He started dancing around the living room, in that wonderfully uninhibited way that kids dance before they learn to be self-conscious. He had gloves on and told us that the gloves were magic and that they made him keep moving (like The Red Shoes, which he's never seen). After a few minutes, he was still dancing and I had to pick up his sister. When she and I returned, Craig told us that Alex danced, non-stop, to the whole album. And each song's dance had a story to it, with great drama and lots of detail.

Yes, that's the magical stuff. Seeing his imagination running wild. Seeing him un-self-conscious, uninhibited, safe with his family, knowing we enjoy his humor and sensibilities.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I'd like to thank the academy

The biggest night of the year, in my household, is coming Sunday. Craig's Master's degree is in film, and he teaches film history classes. Add to that fact a bizarre obsession with awards shows in general, and you've got the makings of an Academy Awards addiction.

One way our church raises money every year is our auction. That evening, members and friends bid on items and events donated by members (and others, solicited by members). A large amount of the money raised is by folks bidding on "seats" at parties hosted by church members. Since I love to throw a party, especially a theme party, and I don't have great stuff laying around my house to donate, and I have no particular artistic skills, Craig and I "donate" two or three parties to the auction each year.

The Oscar Party is Craig's baby. I just help. It involves an Oscar pool with prizes and a menu planned to match the films nominated for Best Picture. Last year we had a pretty easy time: Beans and Weenies for Brokeback Mountain, hummus and matzos for Munich, and a brilliant "Shrimp In Cold Blood Oranges" for Capote. This year provided a bit more of a challenge in menu design. Sure, waffles and chocolate ice cream for Little Miss Sunshine. Scones and cucumber sandwiches for The Queen. Green tea ice cream and sushi for Letters from Iwo Jima. But Babel? The Departed?

Craig and I had to get creative. We had to dig deep. We had to, gulp, go on the internet.

Okay, I confess. I've only seen two of the nominated movies so far. And they were the easy ones.

Fortunately the research helped, and here's what I remember of the menu we've got planned:
The Departed: (takes place in Boston, Irish gangsters and cops) Irish potato and cabbage bundles and a Guinness-chocolate dessert, beer.
Letters From Iwo Jima: green tea ice cream, sushi, the sake part of sake-gria
The Queen: scones, cucumber sandwiches, tea
Babel: tomatillo-guacamole salsa, couscous salad with dates and almonds, and the "gria" part of sake-gria

Sakegria made its first appearance at my birthday party last May. And it was a hit. Roughly, it's one part plum sake, two parts regular sake, three parts white wine, one part red wine, one part mango juice, one part pineapple juice, and one part champagne, with fresh fruit added. Roughly? Because the first two pitchers were made in advance. The next four (it was a big party) were made in the frenzy of during the party with fifty people in my house oh my heavens, and that meant I was not measuring. But nobody seemed to notice or care, because it was good every time.

Happy Oscar Day, everyone. I've got a lot of work to do.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


The UU Carnival's topic is "Authority". Wide-open topic, which is a mixed blessing.

In graduate school, we learned about a study in which parents were rated on control and affection. Turns out that parents who rated high in both control and affection (the "Authoritative" parents) had kids with the "best" outcomes. The parents with low affection ratings and high control ratings were labeled "Authoritarian" and were more likely to see their children grow up to have difficulty making decisions and having relationships. The affectionate but lenient parents had just the children one would expect: spoiled kids with no impulse control (the kids who would likely overdose one day). And the children who were the least likely to do well? Had parents who rated low on both scales. These kids are neglected, left alone, likely to join gangs or die young, least likely to have successful, productive lives.

It's easy to look at studies like that and feel smug. I know how I would rate on the affection scale - right at the top. But sometimes I'm not so sure how I rank on the control scale. It's a balance that is harder for me to strike: I don't like to nag and I don't want to micromanage my children. But it would be nice if they cleaned up their rooms or cleared the table without threats of "no television" or the trash bag room cleanup.

The religion I chose, Unitarian Universalism, if put to the same measure, would likely rate high on affection but not very high on control. Without the "authority" of Scripture, of creed, of dogma, we UUs are left to our own devices. Or are we? I look around at the other folks at my church, and at other UU churches, and I don't see a bunch of self-indulgent, spoiled, impulsive people (although there are a few...but they don't usually stay very long). On the contrary, I see people engaged in their community, working for justice, reaching out, trying to make the world a little better.

What is it, then, that keeps Unitarian Universalism from acting like that lenient, affectionate parent? We see that UU people tend to behave more like those raised by authoritative parents. So where's the authority?

That's the elevator speech. You know what I mean. You're in an elevator, and as the doors close and you've pushed the "27" button, the person next to you asks you where you go to church and what your church believes in. Sure, you can push the "2" button and escape the conversation, but don't. Answer the question in as long as it takes to get to your floor. What do you believe?

The principles are the easiest way to find our denomination's authority. Our covenants. How we agree to behave. Those covenants came from people. From us. They are alive and breathing and changing and vibrant. They come from a desire to live in relationship. And that same desire to live in relationship is the center of parental authority. Which is why I expect my children will turn out to be lovely, responsible, engaged adults who do take care of their dishes and clean their rooms. It's a process, a wonderful process, this raising of children, which I sometimes imagine is how God must feel watching us.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I'm a Top Mommma!

Please click the button to go vote for me!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Looking for a WAH job?

If you're looking for work that brings in $200-500 (or a little more) per month and is fun and most of the time not even slightly difficult, shoot me an email. Especially if you live in these areas:

· Northside of the city of Chicago
· Joliet/New Lenox area in IL
· City of Dallas, TX
· Temple/Killeen/Waco area in TX

I have a second job in which I work (very part-time) for a company that facilitates live-in childcare. The job allows me a little travel, a little extra money, and the opportunity to get to know international young people as well as area families.

Children at work

As yesterday's guest blogging suggested, my kids went to work with me yesterday. Without divulging too much information, it's safe to say that my workplace is quite child-friendly and kids are welcome. They actually blend in pretty well.

That being said, my kids did not make my work day go any better. I had the mistaken notion that having them here would be fun, a novelty, would make the day go faster. Um. Not so much.

What I learned from my children is that my job is so boring that if I didn't have the opportunity to take meal breaks, I would probably calcify right there in my chair. They also don't understand why they can't play games on the internet here (many web sites are blocked).

Coming to work with me yesterday, however, did give Susie an opportunity to deliver some of the cookie stash. All that exposure to colleagues who had previously only seen her in photographs meant that she and I heard a lot of, "She looks just like you!" yesterday. And Alex got plenty of love, too, with one colleage wishing out loud that she could be a little girl of eight because he's so very handsome. Poor Alex really had no response to that, and was flummoxed the rest of the afternoon.

I learned something about myself, too, and my work habits. I found that distractions really bother me much more than I thought they did. Since life is, well, distracting, I probably should consider my reaction to interruptions, and maybe work on that.

So, unofficial "take your kids to work day"? Was educational. The kids learned that work is boring. (They'll eventually un-learn that, I hope, or just choose a different field than mine.) I learned that I work better without kids in the office. Fair enough.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Assistant blogger: Susie

It's President's Day, which, when I was still a banker, meant an idyllic day at home with the kids. Now? Not so much. The kids, in fact, got to come to work with me today. In the interest of sharing my life with them, I give you today's guest blogger, nine-year-old Susie.


Hi internets! I am at work with mommy. I counted a whole lot of money, I don't know how much it was but it was a lot, more than $1000!!! I ate Lucky Charms for breakfast (for once). My brother had Corn Pops (bla gross!!), he also had pancakes and sausage, I'm a vegetarian. I don't like pancakes. Here is my mommy again!!!


Okay, Internets. Here's a brief update. The heat is fixed. Although it's not under warranty, the man who originally installed it came to look on Friday and found a manufacturer's defect, which means he's fixing it for free! Woot! Of course, the heat is fixed just in time for this weather forecast:

Friday, February 16, 2007


It's been colder than usual in Memphis this week, with two days not getting above freezing. We saw snow flurries on Wednesday and Thursday. To make things even chillier, the wind was blowing, causing single-digit wind chills.

So, what better time for our heat to stop working?

Right. I thought so too.

It was 51 degrees inside this morning. I told the HVAC guy that on the phone, and he was proud of how well the insulation was working. Glad he could see the bright side. Because the following things were accomplished this morning with all participants wearing gloves:

  • made coffee
  • got dressed
  • brushed teeth
  • applied makeup
  • styled hair
Please pray the guy gets it fixed. Posthaste. Because I need a shower really bad.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sick day

Yesterday began with weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and not just because it was Valentine's Day. Sweet Susie had been suffering from a headache for the two days prior, and had spiked a bit of a fever on Tuesday night. With some area schools closing because of the flu this month, I figured that a virus was in the house.

I went to her room yesterday morning and felt her head: hot. Took her temperature. 102.5. Not a judgement call; definitely too sick for school. Even if it was Valentine's Day and she had worked hard making valentines for her friends! and! there was going to be a party! at school! with candy!

So we stayed home yesterday (I didn't feel well either, but never got warmer than 99.5) and actually had a pretty nice day. She spent most of her time on the computer, but then she decided she wanted to be in the same room as me and suggested we watch a movie, so we did.

Craig was more gone than home yesterday (his teaching schedule is heaviest on Mondays and Wednesdays), so we mostly were just two females in the house together, in varying amounts of health, with lots of blankets, tea, and miso soup. Snuggly dogs didn't hurt the mood at all.

We were in my bed last night, Susie and I, snuggling and watching some kid television, and she thanked me for staying home with her. Does it say something bad about me that I was just a little sad that she didn't have any fever this morning?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Valentine

I married the right man.

  • He gives wonderful gifts. Not just to me, but to anyone. The birthday gifts he selects for the kids' friends are usually the hit of the birthday party. For Valentine's Day? This morning he gave me a book by my favorite author and the Mamapop "She's Drunk" t-shirt. Awesome.

  • He thinks of lovely details. When I returned home from rehearsal late last night, I was greeted with a lovely "baking" smell. I asked him what it was: strawberry muffins for the kids' Valentine's Day breakfast. Such a nice touch. Sure, they would have happily eaten their regular breakfast cereal, but he did something special for them. Our lives are filled with his special extra touches every day.

  • He supports me. His feedback on my writing is invaluable. He finds movies, books, music that he thinks I'll like and shares them with me. When I'm down, from work stress or whatever else, he knows what to say (or what not to say) to make me feel better, or at least feel justified and understood. Since he knows that singing with MVAE is important to me, he arranges his teaching schedule so I can attend all the rehearsals.

  • He checks in. Even though I generally do the same thing all the time, he asks anyway. Every Tuesday, as I leave for rehearsal, he asks if I'm going out afterward (I am). He doesn't have any attachment to the answer (he doesn't mind if I go) but he wants to know when he should expect me home. We have a conversation every Sunday to check our schedules and see what kind of week we have. Is it busy? Do we have school functions? Or do we have an evening or two of down time that we don't usually have?

  • He does laundry. And cleans the house. And doesn't complain (much). I read statistics of how little housework most husbands do, and I'm amazed that most women aren't as lucky as I am.

  • He's an amazing father. The kids get so much attention and support and love from him. Sure, he has to do a lot of the after school nagging (do your homework! put away your backpack! where's your lunchbox?), but he also does the after school snack and helps with the homework and is quite generous with the hugs and cuddles. Fatherhood came naturally to him; when I was recovering from a c-section, he was holding the baby, walking her, comforting her, then did it again two years later with our baby boy. He held the baby to my breast when I was groggy with pain medicine. After a few nights of getting up to move the baby from the cradle to my arms for late-night feedings, he realized that our sleep would be less disrupted if the baby slept in our bed. His unselfish sharing of our space, our sleep, showed his dedication to his family. He never shied away from changing diapers; he's been an active participant in their upbringing from day one.

  • Even after two kids, and the body changes that accompanied them, he still tells me I'm sexy. And he means it. To him, I'm still the slender young bride he married almost 14 years ago.

  • He loves me more than I ever thought anyone would. When he fell for me, he fell hard, and I've never doubted that he's still got it bad. It's mutual, baby.

My poor husband. It's Valentine's Day and he's married to the least romantic woman in the world. But he's got romance enough for both of us, and I'm so glad he's sharing it with me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Visitor Map
Create your own visitor map!


Q: How many boxes of girl scout cookies can you put in a Honda Accord that also contains two children and an adult?

A: 200, easily.

Yes, we're up to our ears in cookies. If you need cookies, let me know. I've got plenty.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Must be something in the water

From my blog alter-ego, Pam.

1. WHAT TIME IS IT? Where? It's 9:05 p.m. here.

2. FULL NAME? Depends on who's asking, as my "real" name and my "most people call me this" name are not the same. Most people call me Kaleigh Donnelly. If you call me the other name, it's because you've known me my whole life or have some kind of legal or financial relationship with me.

3. WHAT DO YOU FEAR MOST? Good question. Obviously something bad happening to the kids, but I also have a fear of the tree next door coming through my house in a storm. Probably because the tree is not healthy.

4. WHAT DO YOU DRIVE? Mostly nothing since I walk to work, but when I do drive it's usually a '92 Honda Accord. I sometimes drive a Dodge Grand Caravan.

5. HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A GHOST? Nope. I don't believe in them, either.

6. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Little Rock, Arkansas.





11. FAVORITE RESTAURANT? Just one? Probably Automatic Slim's.

12. FAVORITE FLOWER? Camellias


14. FAVORITE DRINK: Red wine or hot tea, depending on where I am

15. FAVORITE ICE CREAM: I don't really have a favorite. It's generally good.

16. DISNEY OR WARNER BROTHERS: Please, neither.

17. FAVORITE FAST FOOD RESTAURANT: Hate to say it, but I love me some McDonald's.




21. WHAT DO YOU DO MOST OFTEN WHEN YOU ARE BORED? Have you seen my calendar? No time to be bored! But a long time ago, when I was bored I would get in the tub and read a book.

22. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO MEET? A new best friend for my son, whose best friend is moving to Colorado this spring.



25. PERFECT AFTERNOON? Working in the yard on a pretty, sunny day.




29. DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS? Yep, Biscuit and Gravy, the dogs, and Buffy, the cat.

30. WHO IS THE PRIMARY INFLUENCE YOUR LIFE? Wow, that's a big question. My mom probably has had the most influence on me, but my husband and kids, too. And my friends. And other people, too.


32. HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE YOU GONNA TAG ? Everybody! It's tag day on teh intarweb!

Let's Get Real (Romantic)

This week's writing prompt is "Nifty Valentine ideas to make with your kids."

When I was in fourth grade, I made all my own valentines out of construction paper, doilies, and glitter. They were gorgeous.

My kids, however, will not be following in my footsteps for a few reasons.
1. Susie's desk? Is covered. With papers, books, goodness knows what.
2. I'm not going to let glitter into my house, Roomba or not.
3. Alex? Is not crafty.

So, if I had a different life with different kids, maybe we'd try our hands at making some neat stuff. With glitter. Instead, we'll focus our Valentine's efforts on (what else?) food. The kids and I work well together in the kitchen, and Wednesday is one of the evenings that Craig works (he's home after they get in bed). And Valentine's Day or not, ya gotta eat, right?

Yesterday, while making the weekly meal plan and grocery list, I put "artichoke hearts" and "hearts of palm" on the shopping list. I also put "red velvet cake mix". I didn't know for sure what I was going to do with them, but it was a starting point. Then I consulted Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven and got inspired.

What I think we're going to make is something like this:

-Mini-pizzas, heart-shaped, with artichoke hearts and hearts of palm and basil (the leaves are kind of heart shaped) and olives (because they sound like "I love" if you say it wrong) and fresh mozzarella. Individual pizzas are fantastic to make with kids because:
1. Working with dough is good for them. It develops eye-hand coordination, works muscles that don't get much work at school or playing video games, and it's relaxing.
2. Kids like to choose their own toppings. Going individual means not having to pick any toppings off your pizza.
3. Heart-shaped? Is cute.
4. Small pizzas cook faster.

I plan to make the dough in advance and freeze it in portions. If you remove a portion from the freezer in the morning, it's ready to roll (literally) when you get home from work.

Individual red velvet cakes (I have a few little bundt pans and we also have the easy-bake oven heart-shaped pan). These, too, can be iced, decorated, topped, however each kid wants. I will probably bake the cakes that morning so they'll have time to cool. Which means the kitchen will smell wonderful on Valentine's Day morning.

My mom gave me many (many) heart-shaped dishes that are oven-safe, so there may be an attempt to make mushroom popovers in those dishes. The kids won't eat the mushroom popovers (mushrooms? accorting to the kids, completely poisonous!), but Craig and I will, so I'll put that in the oven around the time I put the kids in bed.

So, in short, I'll be making yummy, wholesome food with the kids on Valentine's Day while my husband is at work. No glitter. Sounds perfect.

Six weird things about me

Just six?

Amalah tagged "everyone" and I think I'm in that group. Unless something changed. Let's assume I'm in that not-so-exclusive club. So if you're reading this, you're tagged, too.

1. I'm totally not romantic. It sometimes makes my husband sad, how unromantic I am. Like, for Valentine's Day? I'm stumped. I don't want anything and I don't know what to buy him. So I asked for a postponement.

2. My favorite chore is cleaning the stove. I do it all the time, especially when I'm on the phone.

3. I watch a lot of television - my husband even noted, much to my chagrin, that I now follow more television programs than he does. And if there's an afternoon of Mythbusters? I might not move for hours. Like yesterday.

4. I love rainy days.

5. I'm pretty much useless without my calendar.

6. I've never bought a lottery ticket.

Friday, February 09, 2007


It's my 100th post!
So, 100 things you may or may not know about me:

  1. I fell in love with my husband three days after I met him.
  2. I was 17.
  3. He was 19.
  4. We got married a month before I turned 22.
  5. I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease (hyperthyroidism) a month after I turned 18.
  6. I was really sick by the time I went to the doctor.
  7. Treating it with medicine put it into remission.
  8. But then the remission ended.
  9. My second endocrinologist told me that if I wanted to have kids, I needed to hurry up.
  10. I was 24 when she told me that.
  11. My first child was born a month after my 26th birthday.
  12. I went into remission after she was born.
  13. My second child was born a month before my 28th birthday.
  14. His birthday is the same week as my brother’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, and my wedding anniversary.
  15. I’m always broke in April.
  16. My third endocrinologist told me that if I didn’t take the radioactive iodine to kill my thyroid gland, there was a good chance I’d die before my kids grew up.
  17. I got nuked two months later.
  18. I took a lot of prednisone afterward because my right eye didn’t appreciate the radiation.
  19. My eye is fine now.
  20. I studied art history in college.
  21. I was not very practical.
  22. When I read the papers I wrote in college, I am stunned by how smart I was then.
  23. Sometimes I don’t think I’m as smart as I used to be.
  24. Then I look at my kids and realize they’re even smarter.
  25. My kids are the two coolest people in the entire world.
  26. Except my husband.
  27. I like to stay busy.
  28. That’s probably why I have activities two or three evenings a week.
  29. It’s important to me to have those ways to blow off steam.
  30. I really enjoy making big meals.
  31. I also love throwing parties.
  32. I’d rather be at home than anywhere else.
  33. Except I do like Las Vegas.
  34. Funny, because I don’t gamble.
  35. Not even a little bit.
  36. I’ve never bought a lottery ticket.
  37. I have bought a plane ticket.
  38. To Vegas.
  39. I’ve also bought several movie tickets.
  40. And I’ve paid a parking ticket.
  41. But I went to court to fight a traffic ticket.
  42. I won.
  43. I’ve had several jobs.
  44. Most of them were boring.
  45. My current job is sometimes boring.
  46. But I don’t mind because I’m good at what I do.
  47. It has nothing to do with art history.
  48. But I can make a really attractive Excel spreadsheet.
  49. I didn’t learn how to do that in college.
  50. 100 things? What was I thinking?
  51. My favorite household appliance is my Roomba.
  52. I also like my Kitchenaid mixer.
  53. And my Kitchenaid food processor.
  54. My brother gave me the food processor for Christmas.
  55. It was a very generous gift.
  56. My husband gave me a very pretty diamond and pearl necklace.
  57. I gave him an Ipod.
  58. We were both very happy with our gifts this year.
  59. I love to give good gifts.
  60. It’s sometimes hard to shop for my husband.
  61. Probably because his birthday and Christmas are the same week.
  62. But my birthday is sometimes the same day as Mother’s Day.
  63. My kids know that they still have to get me two gifts.
  64. I was born a few days after Mother’s Day.
  65. I sometimes think my mother might have resented that a little bit.
  66. I would have.
  67. Because I can be petty that way sometimes.
  68. My daughter was born a few days before Father’s Day.
  69. That was cool because I got to see my dad on Father’s Day.
  70. I saw him on Father’s Day the next year, too.
  71. That was a coincidence, though.
  72. My favorite color is pink.
  73. I also like brown.
  74. Most of my house is pink and/or brown.
  75. I’m very glad my husband likes pink.
  76. Because if he didn’t, he’d hate our house.
  77. But I probably would have painted it pink anyway.
  78. I have two dogs and a cat.
  79. My dogs are named Biscuit and Gravy.
  80. I think that’s really funny.
  81. I have a pretty juvenile sense of humor.
  82. I can barely remember what life was like before email and cell phones.
  83. My long distance bills were much higher.
  84. I talk to my mom on the phone at least once a week.
  85. Sometimes I call her every day.
  86. But not as much because I don’t drive to work anymore.
  87. I live two blocks from my job.
  88. Which means even if it snows, I’m expected to come to work.
  89. Being “essential staff” sometimes sucks.
  90. I can sing tenor, alto, and soprano.
  91. If I’m hungover, I can sing baritone.
  92. I hardly ever have a hangover.
  93. I love beer but I hardly ever drink it.
  94. Because wine is healthier.
  95. And has a lot less calories.
  96. I lost five pounds when I switched from beer to wine.
  97. I don’t like whiskey at all.
  98. Or bourbon.
  99. But I do sometimes like vodka.
  100. Hooray! I’m done!

Must post or keyboard will ice

I woke up this morning and noticed it was raining. "Strange," I thought, "It's not supposed to rain today." As I was looking out the window, I noticed that the car and van both seemed to have the windows fogged up. "Strange," I thought, "The van usually doesn't fog up just because it's raining."

Because the windows weren't fogged up. They were covered in a sheet of ice.


As I got ready to walk the dogs, I told Craig to turn on the TV to see if school was canceled. Because in Memphis? If there's a snowflake on the ground, there's probably no school. (Weirdly enough, they closed both bridges that connect Arkansas and Tennessee over the Mississippi River, but they did NOT close schools.)

Thirteen years ago this week, Memphis (and the surrounding area) was hit with a whopper of an ice storm. It hit on a Thursday afternoon, and by Friday morning, life was a mess.

Craig bolted out of bed Friday morning, exclaiming something to the effect of, "What the f### was that?" That was the sound trees make when their limbs are breaking off due to the weight of ice. That was the sound of said trees falling to the ground, landing on cars, houses, power lines, and, sadly, people.

I bolted out of bed, exclaiming something to the effect of, "Holy $hit, it's cold in here!" Cold because the power lines were down. Cold because the electricity was off. Cold because it was freezing outside and our 60-year-old bungalow was not particularly well-insulated.

Little did we know that morning that the next week would be, um, challenging at best.

Long story short, our power was out from Friday morning to Friday morning a week later. In that house, we were fortunate to have a gas log fireplace, which was our only source of heat. We blocked off the doorway to the dining room with heavy curtains and closed all the doors in the house and used a lot of blankets at night.

It was easy to figure out who, at work, had electricity and who did not. By hair. Because it was the '90's. Blow drying was pretty much a necessity for most hairstyles.

We were lucky to have as little damage as we did. Our trees were badly damaged, but the tree trimmer gave us a great deal at $385 to trim them afterward. Our electrical box came off the house, but a friend was an electrician so he did right by us. The contents of our refrigerator and freezer were pretty much ruined (including the top layer of our wedding cake, sad...), but it could have been worse. There could have been a tree in our attic or through the front of the house. We could have lived in a more rural area, where power was not restored for three or four weeks.

Today's ice is nothing like that storm other than the date and the fact it was not predicted.

I just hope Susie's concert isn't canceled.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I reminded my daughter yesterday about manners. Not that she had done anything wrong (she hadn't), but I wanted to make sure she remembered that "please" and "thank you" and "yes ma'am" and "no sir" are important parts of adults' vocabularies just like they're important for kids.

Unfortunately, in her case, I'm preaching to the choir.

There are some other people, however, that could take a cue from my children. Manners matter.

Without delving deeply here, because I know better than to blog about work, let's just say that there are people in this world who must have been raised by wolves. Because they never say please, they never say thank you, and when they didn't quite catch what you just said, they respond with a grunted, "Huh?" rather than a, "Pardon?" or something equally, um, word-like.

I don't ask for white gloves here. I'm not suggesting that we return to the world of Miss Crumpet, holding pinkies aloft whilst sipping our tea. I don't need a "How do you do?" from each person who crosses my path.

But is it too much to ask to expect at least a "Hello" or "Good morning" or "Go to hell" if someone barges into your office expecting to see someone else, instead of demanding, "Where's ______?"

I can't even blame it on Yankee transplants. These people are born and bred Southerners. Who should know better. As we liked to say in Mississippi, "No home training."

In a different decade, I worked at an art museum which frequently had special guests for exhibit opening celebrations. One exhibit, it the planning of which I was intimately involved, was of Victorian and Edwardian fashion. (The dresses were lovely.) Our guest speaker, who also attended the gala premier, was Judith Martin, also known as "Miss Manners."

I was delighted, if a bit nervous, to meet her. In junior high, I read the entire volume (about 600 pages) of Emily Post's Etiquette. A little light summer reading. (It's now 896 pages long.)

She was charming and delightful, not a bit stiff or stuffy or intimidating. And in her talk the next day, she discussed the importance of manners. Not eating with the right fork or folding napkins manners, but the art of making other people feel comfortable. In simplest terms, being nice. Sure, she said, society is a bit more civilized when we agree to abide by arbitrary rules like driving on the right side of the road or stopping at red lights or eating with forks. But the most important thing in etiquette is remembering that your actions have an impact on others. What kind of impact do you want to have? Do you want your co-workers to go home complaining about what a b!tch you are? Do you want your children to learn rude and lazy habits? Or do you choose a gentler path?

Many polite people never hear praise for their efforts. Doing the right thing is often not punished OR rewarded. I'm fortunate, in a way, to have co-workers who recognize that my style (being nice) is preferable to other folks' style (not being nice). And they do give me feedback. Which? Encourages me to keep being nice, to keep doing the right thing, even when the "lowest common denominator" behavior seems easier.

As I wrap up, I'd like to give a word of thanks to my parents, who taught me manners and that it was important to be polite. And who owned that book. I probably need to buy my own copy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Recent search strings

It's occasionally interesting to see how people googled their way to my blog. In the past week, readers have arrived here after searching for the following:

Gay college dorm room caught
Adult breastfeeding
moms women friends community
Alex mom
girls got cream
melissa summers on Today
golden retriever tries to lay on baby


And after that last entry, I can't wait to see what else gets 'em here. Prostate. Butt. Rectal. Okay, that should help.

Funny Story

The Belmont Crew got together last night, though not in our entirety, but enough new people joined us that I convinced Stephony to tell my favorite story in the whole world.

This is funny, so please take this opportunity to swallow that sip of coffee. You'll thank me. Or at least your computer monitor will.

Stephony is a family nurse practitioner in a small town about 30 minutes away from Memphis. It's not entirely rural there anymore, but it's pretty "country."

As a FNP, she does a variety of routine physical exams, including prostate exams.

Now, I'm not a man, so I'll never need one of those, but they sound, at best, a bit uncomfortable.

So here's the scene: a pretty "country" old cooter is in her office. Assumes the position, she inserts gloved finger, and does the exam. When she finishes, he leaps from the table, grinning ear to ear, and exclaims, "I cain't wait to tell the guys at work what a red-headed woman did to me!"

(Insert rim shot here.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

And sometimes, they're just awesome

On Monday and Wednesday evenings, Craig teaches a night class, so I'm alone with the kids. It's been like that, just varying evenings, as long as we've had kids. Some semesters he's taught four evenings a week, and when Alex was a baby, he also delivered a weekly paper into the wee hours of Wednesdays.

Which means that, historically, bedtime has been the domain of Mommy.

Craig is a fantastic daytime parent. I've had 8-4:30, Monday-Friday jobs for years. School starts a bit later and ends earlier, which means that Craig's schedule is designed so that he takes them to school, teaches some classes while they're learning, and then picks them up from school (at varying times depending on which after-school activity is happening), then oversees homework, snack, playtime. By the time I arrive home, the homework is usually completed, and it's time to make dinner and wind down.

My kids, even at the advanced ages of 7 and 9, go to bed at 8:00 on school nights. Last year, we tried to adjust their bedtime to give them a little more time, but even 8:30 meant they were dragging in the morning. Those little bodies really need 11 hours of sleep every night. And based on how hard it is to wake them up in the morning, they could probably use 12. But there's no time for all that.

By 7:00, on the evenings that Craig is home, he's pretty much ready to send the kids upstairs. He's been with them through the rush of getting ready for school and running out the door. He's been with them (and helped them) through the mountain of homework. He's been the nag: get your lunch, pick up your backpack, empty your lunchbox, put away your shoes.

And I get the better part of them most nights. I get the sous chef when Alex helps with dinner. I get the long talks with Susie about her friends. The best stories? Are saved for me. Craig often complains that the kids never talk to him. Not that they give him the silent treatment, but that they save the real talks for me.

How do I get so lucky?

Being a working mom sometimes gives me the best of both worlds.

When I was a kid, my dad worked and my mom stayed home. Mom was there for the bumps and bruises, the crying about some mean kid at school, all the daily stuff that's so, well, daily. Dad was the "fun" parent - he was playful and silly and seen much less (sometimes his work took him far away, like Australia, for weeks or months at a time). So seeing Daddy? That was party time!

In our little family, both parents work, but one, Craig of the flexible schedule, is there for the "daily" stuff. And I'm not. Which means that I get to be the "fun" parent much of the time.


I'm still the mom. And that means when someone's sick? They want me. When someone plays a video game that he should not have played and that scared the crap out of him and now he's scared of zombies? (Thank you, Resident Evil. Thanks so much for being so tempting to little boys that they beg and beg and seem mature enough to handle it so their parents relent and then they quickly realize that that game is way the hell too scary for a child.) He wants to talk to me about it. ("Mom, if you were a zombie, you'd tell me, right?") When someone has a problem with a friend, I hear all about it. When someone has a barbeque dinner at school, I'm the one that is begged to attend.

And last night was one of those nights when nothing special happened but everything was great. When I got home, Susie's homework was done and Alex was almost done. She had a stomachache and he didn't feel like it, so we didn't go to yoga. I did, somehow, convince the kids that they needed to straighten up the living room, and I straightened up the dining room.

I didn't have a plan for dinner, and with a girl with a stomachache and a boy without one, a plan wouldn't have helped me anyway. So she got lots of miso soup and he got a hot dog (with the ketchup "wavy, like in the restaurants") and I had leftovers and we sat around and watched cartoons. Then there was ice cream.

Did I mention the massage? Because Alex totally hooked me up with a great shoulder rub.

By the time they went to bed, we had snuggled and chatted and Susie's tummy felt better and Alex had talked to me about his new fear of zombies and everyone went to bed happy and content.

It's nice to be the mommy sometimes.

Famous moms I'd like to meet

The writing prompt at crazy hip blog moms is "Famous Moms I'd Like to Meet." And it's a head-scratcher. Because I can't think of any, right off.

"Famous" is a tough one. Because being famous doesn't mean much. It just means that people know who you are. Did you earn that fame? Maybe you're famous for being horrible, like that girl named after a city in France and a hotel.

There are a few famous moms I'd like to give a good shoulder-shaking to, like Britney Spears and sometimes Madonna (never changed her own kids' diapers? what?). I'd like to have maybe an hour-long conversation with them to help them realize that certain things are required of mothers. Like no crotch-shots, especially only a few months postpartum. Is that really something that needs to be explained? Really?

But I'm not likely to ever have those conversations. So if we're going into fantasy-land, I think I'd like to meet some historic moms.

Like Laura Ingalls Wilder's mom. She seemed pretty neat, at least in all those books. When I was in full "Little House" obsession mode, around age six, I tried to call my mom "Ma." She wouldn't answer to it. But "Ma" Ingalls made some great girls, one of whom wrote books that impacted generations of girls. She must have been quite a woman.

And what about Thomas Jefferson's mom? I'm thinking that if her son was so smart, she probably was no slouch herself.

And Abigail Adams. Not for her mothering, but for herself. She was an astonishing woman.

And the suffragists. Some of them were not only concerned with the whole voting thing, but also with children's rights and raising children well and keeping a lovely home.

But I'm not likely to meet any of them, either. So I guess I'll just stick with my not-famous, awesome friends, many of whom are great moms, and that'll be just fine.

Monday, February 05, 2007

New topic

I think I've completely exhausted the topic of friendships, at least for the time being. But that forces me into a decision: what to write about now?

Craig and I recently had a short, but interesting, conversation about having more kids. It's a moot point - we took "permanent" surgical action to end our childbearing five years ago - but it's still worth discussing at least once or twice a decade.

I've been 100% glad to only have two children, and no others on the horizon, for quite some time. The decision to make the decision to stop having children took place after a pretty convincing false alarm when Alex, my then-baby, was two. I was quite certain that I was pregnant, even after going through about $30 worth of pregnancy tests that all were negative. I figured it was just too early to test and I was still breastfeeding, so that maybe had an impact on the test(s). Once the unequivocal evidence appeared, proving the tests correct and me completely wrong, I was elated, relieved, and knew for sure that I didn't want to go there again. The surgical procedure to end our childbearing took place a week later.

But when I thought I was pregnant, I was pretty happy about it, too. Craig and I had never set an ideal family size. When we talked about it, we knew we wanted more than one and less than five. But there were times that a third, and even a fourth, seemed like a great idea.

So, even though it's a moot point, I asked Craig the other night if he ever felt like we made a mistake, if he ever wished we had another child. (I made a LOT of disclaimers before asking the question - didn't want him thinking that something was happening.) He thought about it a minute and told me that yes, occasionally he had little pangs of baby-lust (the man does love babies), but no, he thought our family was just the right size and he wouldn't want to change anything.

I mostly agreed with him. Everything except the baby-lust.

It's weird. Before I had babies, I loved babies. I wanted to hold them, to kiss their little hands, all that. When I had babies I loved everything about them. It was great. They were cute; their milestones were amazing; all was well. But around the time they turned five or so, I realized something: I like kids much better than babies.

Other friends of ours (and family members) started having kids several years after we did. So when they had babies, we had these cool preschoolers who were emerging readers, singers, talkers, doers. And those babies? Pretty much just sat there. And cried. And needed diaper changes. And all that. Plus? They had no idea what I was saying when I said, "Hey kid, will you fetch me another beer?" And preschoolers are really good at that.

There's also the expense. It costs a lot, even if you're frugal and reasonable and don't buy every darn thing they ask for. We really weren't in the position to take on the added financial burden of another child.

And school projects. I secretly enjoy helping to build three-dimensional models of geographic landforms (including mountains, hills, lakes, rivers, valleys, oceans, deserts, islands, and plains) out of homemade play-dough and moss and food color and sand and gravel and the cool tree stuff that you find in the model train section of Hobby Lobby (and that was for the second grader; have I mentioned the science project that the fourth grader did?) (she got third place) (and I really think the kids who got first and second didn't do the projects - their parents did), but I don't want to help with homework forever. And the two kids I've got have enough of it.

Then there's the emotions. It's a roller coaster. I don't know if my nerves could take the drama that a third child might bring into the mix. There's so much that is beyond a parent's control: what they look like, how smart they are, who they make friends with, and all the many things that give parents wrinkles and grey hair.

All that to say, yeah, I don't want to have any more babies.


I did get a nice healthy dose of baby lust yesterday, for about eighteen seconds. A couple at our church adopted the most delicious little baby boy, and I could have eaten him up before church yesterday, but that would probably have awakened him, and I would NEVER wake up a sleeping baby. So I just peered at him instead. Because he was really cute.

So yeah, we're done. Permanently. With 99% no regrets.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Friends, part 6

Part six of a series. Please read parts one, two, three, four, and five.

I've covered childhood, college, and young motherhood; I've had a few crucial friendships to get me through each period. But now I'm standing at another doorway. I see my children growing, and I know they won't be in the house forever (Susie's more than halfway to eighteen, and Alex is almost halfway to driving). And with the "best friends" in different states, what's next?

Making a new friend is a lot like falling in love. A lot of those same emotions get stirred up: fear of rejection, nervousness, infatuation, euphoria. When the friendship is in first bloom, the conversations are fast and giddy - finding all those common interests and experiences, as well as the differences in viewpoint - heady stuff. That new person just seems so delightful, so wonderful, so interesting. How did you manage this whole time to not have met? What history will you share through the years?

I see a few people in my life who are gradually shifting from that wider circle of friendly people into the inner circle of true friends. In this entry, I'll examine those relationships. Since we've been going chronologically so far, I'll just keep that going.

Gareth (not his real name, but his requested pseudonym) started coming to church in 2004. He quickly joined the choir and got involved. He and I seemed to click almost immediately. Though several years younger than me, he and I share a snarky sense of humor, a great deal of commitment to social justice, and we both like to be involved. (Maybe it's because our birthdays are just a few days apart?) When I had to undergo a high-dose regimen of steriods that summer, he helped me through it, as he is no stranger to chronic illness that sometimes require prednisone. That support and understanding of what was happening to my body and my mind were probably what cemented our friendship. That and the fact that he lets me call him "my gay" in the style of Kathy Griffin. Oh, and he trusted my Martha Stewart skills sufficiently to have me plan and cater his housewarming party. Because every bachelor needs a pretend wife. Even if he's gay and the pretend wife is eight years older and married with two kids.

Melissa is another friend from church (mentioned in the prior entry). She and I have worlds that overlap in several places. We work at the same place (though not in related departments, so our work is not related or even remotely similar), we share similar political beliefs (though she's much more committed to the liberal cause than I am), and we both have media-addicted husbands. We have similar tastes in most things and have similar interests, too. Like Gareth, Melissa is younger than I am, and is currently pregnant with her first child. I have confidence that she'll be a great mother, and I also anticipate that her motherhood will strengthen our friendship, as our worlds will overlap even more.

Rebecca joined the Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble during the year I took off after my radioactive iodine treatment for my thyroid gland. And then she took off most of the next year, after I had returned, because she had a baby that summer. So we met last May, when she came in to sing the opera concert. I noticed her immediately, because we had just about the same haircut, just about the same hair color, and her clothes reminded me of things I wear. We're also very close in age and have daughters that are just about two years older than their little brothers. Plus the music. So that's a lot in common. We did a bit of friend-courtship that spring and have gotten together outside rehearsals a few times, and we've had a great time when we've gotten together. So why aren't we closer than we are? I blame geography (we live about 20 minutes from each other) and life. We're both busy women - she is a professional musician, which means her evenings are mostly occupied by rehearsals. I work during the day, so we don't have compatible schedules. We spend more time trying to plan get-togethers than we actually spend getting together, but there is definitely a "spark" that tells me that she could be a significant friend.

I think that's it for my series. I am so fortunate to have had such wonderful people in my life. Even the difficult relationships have helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me. Each person in my life has helped me grow and become who I am now.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friends, part 5

Part five of a series exploring crucial friendships. Continued from prior posts. In the first four posts of this series, I discussed a few, very important friends. The "best friends" of my life, so far. Intentionally, I've not discussed family, nor have I discussed my husband, though those relationships are by far the most important, especially on a daily basis.

There are friends, though, who aren't our "best" friends. They remain a little farther away. Friends from church, neighbors, parents of children's friends, the list gets longer every year. A few of those people may move to the inner circle, but many of them stay on the list of "people I like" and even "people I can call in an emergency" but not the very short list of "people who know every detail of my life." These people would cry at my funeral but would not deliver the eulogy.

That outer circle of friends is crucial. We need them. We especially need them when the "inner circle" is not well-populated. So let's travel to 2002, just to recap. My best friend since high school moved away in spring 2001. My best mommy friend since my firstborn was an infant moved away in spring 2002. My friend and yoga teacher died in November 2002. My husband's best friend and his wife also moved away, as did the two women I became friends with in graduate school. My inner circle? Was not in the state.

Cue the violins.

This was an unacceptable situation. Period. I'm a social girl, and my needs were not being met. I had not really bonded with anyone at church, my neighbors at the time were not good "best friend" candidates, and I didn't have friends at work. What to do? How to meet people?

My approach was two-pronged. Get a hobby, and get more involved at church. Make sure the hobby is one that involves other people. I joined the Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble. Surely, surely, there would be someone there that I would like, that would like me.

A man from my church choir, Jack, is the person who suggested I check out MVAE. Bless Jack's heart, after rehearsal he even invited me to join a group of ensemble members who went to a nearby restaurant to drink a few beers and socialize. As, well, almost anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm generally unlikely to turn down drinks, especially when I'm trying to make friends. A quick phone call home, to let Craig know what was going on, and I was soon basking in the warm glow of the Belmont crew.

Like I mentioned before, I did get permission from my current friends before I started blogging about them. Well, these folks are performers, so anonymity is not an issue. So I'm using names. Full names. With links to bios. Head shots, even. Because performers? Like to get more than one or two hits when they google themselves.

The Belmont crew usually consists of about six of us. Stephen Len White, whose voice is like butter, and his lovely wife, Deb, who claims to be our "groupie", Stephony Robinson, who is a gentle, lovely woman who also can throw back a shot of tequila and tells an awesomely funny story, Jimmy White, Dr. Nancy Chase, who will get out her bagpipes anytime, anywhere, if she hears someone has a birthday, our director, Tom Machen, and sometimes Jack, and sometimes our pianist, Lisa, and me. It's a fun group, and sometimes we even get together outside the bounds of MVAE. When Deb and Steve got married, we were all there. Stephony had a birthday party in June that was attended almost entirely by the Belmont crew, and most of the crew attended my blowout birthday party in May.***

That birthday party was the best party ever. It was legendary. About fifty people were there (and my house is not big) and everyone had someone to talk to. (And with Craig's brilliant compilation CD's and the fabulous food and drinks, everyone was having a great time.) Most of the important people in my life come from one of two places: MVAE or my church. But those lines are sometimes blurry, like in Jack's case. He occupies both of those spheres.

My church friends were slow in coming. I've been attending Neshoba since 2000 (I joined in February of that year), but it wasn't until about 2002 or 2003 that I really felt "at home". In 2004 the small group ministry really got going, and a group for young adults finally found wings. I'm at the upward end of the age range, but our group is cohesive and supportive and functions very well. After 18 months together, we opened to other ages, and several other folks who are over 40 joined us, but the dynamic still feels young and vibrant. Melissa, James, Liz, Jason, and Dave (and Stina and Margrethe) are the people I sit with in church, have lunch with after church, and they represent the new leaders of our church. (And, for the first time in our church's history, more than half our board members are under 40.)

Having a child involved in the church-sponsored Girl Scout Troop has also given me opportunities to form stronger relationships with other parents. Dorothy, Tracy, Steve, Jennifer, Martin, and Gretchen are all busy, smart, effective adults who share their talents with the children of the church. For them, I am grateful.

The church choir is what got me to Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble. And Chip is who got me to join the choir, which means I owe her a great debt. Chip is a fabulous 60, and she personifies what I want to be when I grow up: vibrant, visible, welcoming, active, vital, compassionate, enthusiastic. Most people half her age don't have half her energy. Paul, Alex, Jack, Tricia, Elizabeth, Cathy, Carrie, and Ross bring camaraderie and music to my Sunday mornings.

And once we get to the board, there's so much overlap that I realize the fabric at church is more woven than patchwork. So many of my fellow board members are found in other places in the church: in small group ministries, in the Sunday School classrooms, in the choir.

One of my church friends also knows my neighbor, Anna, from when he lived in an apartment building and she worked for the management company. Anna and Paul live two doors away, and Paul was the first neighbor I met. Jenn and Maggie live behind us with an alleyway connecting our back yards. While my old neighborhood was a "front porch" neighborhood, this one is a back yard neighborhood. I have to remind myself that Jenn and Maggie technically live on a different street than Paul, Anna, and I.

When the weather is warm, our neighbors congregate in what we jokingly called "neighborhood watch." In truth, we're watching little, but we're creating community. We're making relationships. And studies have shown that strong bonds between neighbors help make safe neighborhoods. So maybe drinking a little wine together is fighting crime. We also have each other's email addresses and participate on an internet message board.

The bonds we're creating are strong: at Anna and Paul's wedding, the "neighborhood friends" took up two tables at the reception, and many of us drove to the wedding together. We've become a community.

These groups of friends represent the people who see me through the day-to-day. Our relationships are not all necessarily deep, but they have the comfort of familiarity, of shared experience.

***Though this was intended to be a five-part series, I'm realizing that we need another entry. There are a couple of people who are moving from this outer circle to the inner circle, and I'd like to explore those relationships a little more.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Friends, part 4 read the whole series start here, then go here, and here.

I already posted about an important friend I lost too young. She was my first "mommy" friend, and she made a big impact in my life. But there's another friend, my "best" mommy friend. She's been there in the trenches with me, almost from the start of motherhood. We've changed each other's children's diapers. We've never argued and we've never hurt each other's feelings. Our friendship began because of our children but has continued because of our shared values and beliefs, as well as our similar background and upbringing. I've joked that if anything happened to her husband and to me, that I would want Craig to marry her (and I think that would be okay with him). She lent me the dinosaur cake pan for Alex's second birthday party. She changed churches when I did. She's supported me through dark times, and I'm truly grateful for her friendship. And the girl? Can hold her liquor. I'm just saying.

I met K.M. the same place I met most of my mommy friends. At a La Leche League meeting. She was pregnant, near her due date, and had attended the meeting at the urging of her Bradley childbirth instructors. It must have been December or January, because her baby was born in February. That baby is turning nine this week. So that's how long we've been friends - nine years.

K.M. and I hit it off straightaway, but when she and her family began attending the church where I worked, the bond was solidified. We obviously had things in common. Our babies played together in the church nursery, and soon enough, in each other's homes, too. My second child was born and I quit my job, and we started spending much more time together. (My daughter's first attempt at drowning was in K.M.'s mom's pool.)

K.M. is one of the nicest people I've ever met. And when I tell her that, she's astonished: she claims to be shy (whatever). Because she's also humble. And self-effacing. And all those other things that make charming people so darn charming. She's pretty and funny and smart and sometimes I just want to braid her hair. Because she's likable that way.

Our children don't remember a time that they weren't friends. Early on, we arranged the marriage of her son and my daughter (they've since broken it off but decided to stay friends). They were adorable babies and toddlers....three (my two, her one) blond, round, cherubic little ones who honestly resembled each other enough to prompt restaurant hostesses to ask if they were triplets. We babysat for each other without keeping score. When one of us needed help, the other was there. It was good like that. We intended to take a family vacation together, but we never got around to it.

In 2001, K.M. and her husband decided to do what they'd wanted to do since they got married: move to Montana. Which is very, very far from Memphis. On September 11, 2001, her husband got in the car and drove there, leaving K.M. and her son behind in Memphis. He was due at his new job in a few days, and their house had not sold yet. Since it was freaking September 11, I told her to come over to our house because there was absolutely no way that anyone should be alone that night. We watched the footage and our children played.

We spent a great deal of time together that winter and spring, and then her house sold. That was in March. We got a group of used-to-be La Leche League moms (our kids were mostly past that point by then) together for dinner and gave her a wonderful send-off. And a few days later, the kids and I went over to her house to help her finish packing and vacuum and clean up and load the van and take some of her plants that wouldn't fit. And she moved away to Montana.

This post could easily turn sappy and sentimental (wait, it already did? Crap.), but that's not the goal. So now, now that you know that our friendship no longer has the day-to-day immediacy of "before", let's look at a few crucial moments that define our friendship, in no order at all because chronology is sometimes hard.

::When the kids were little, sometimes Craig worked as a consultant and went out of town for a week or so at a time. So, one of those times, K.M. and I had a sleepover. That was silly and fun. Except her son woke up pre-crack-of-dawn, so they disappeared before I got up.

::White Elephant parties every December, alternating houses. The light saber that wouldn't go away. The bottle of Arrogant Bastard beer that she brought every year.

::Taking digital pictures with her camera, of my kids wearing hemp clothes and other things I tried to sell on the internet.

::I'm not going to say anything else except: what I almost saw, but didn't, on the video camera. She knows what that means. And it is just as funny now as it was then. Maybe funnier.

::Hawking her homemade batik and my baby products at the Cooper-Young festival.

::A couple of months after the move to Montana, she was back in Memphis for a few days, then would be heading to Florida. Astonishingly enough, our schedules coordinated this well: She and I ditched the kids with Craig (bless him) and went out to breakfast, went to Christie's yoga class, then got manicures and pedicures! Craig and the kids and I were heading to Orlando to meet my parents for a very traditional family vacation. She and her son were also going to be in Orlando, but they always flew standby, so their dates were uncertain. My phone rang while Craig and I were in line for a ride at Universal Studios. K.M. and son were in Orlando. Could we get together? We gave her directions to the resort and spent the next afternoon at the pool, acting like that was totally planned (it wasn't).

::Talking to her a few days before, and a few days after, the home birth of her daughter. She took her time deciding to have that second child, but little K was worth the wait.

::I'm very, very fortunate in that K.M.'s family (and her husband's family) all live in Memphis. She visits at least twice a year, and we generally get her for the better part of a day, or at least an afternoon and evening. The kids look forward to seeing their buddy, and Craig looks forward to cuddling now-preschooler little K. We catch up, we hang out, we show her what she's missing by not having every single channel that the satellites can beam into a house.

::Commiserating while we each dealt with construction. Her house in Montana had a major fire a few years ago and had to be almost entirely rebuilt. We were building out new home at the same time. Swapping tales of contractors and workers and "what the hell are they doing that takes so long?" is nice, because, honestly, nobody else really wanted to hear it.

::Hearing tales of her life before marriage and children is always eye-opening. She was a pilot. She had adventures. She had great romance and some trauma, too. But the stories are just as good "after" too: she's trained for and run marathons, she competed her M.S.W. while her first child was a baby, now she's in nursing school. She's the most driven laid-back person I've ever met.

::This is probably the best one, the story that sums what kind of person K.M. is. She had my kids (I probably had to work and Craig was out of town). They were pre-school age, maybe 2 and 4, with her son rounding it out at 3. Anyway, she called me to ask me if it was okay if she took them bowling. No problem, right? Did I mention she was a social worker, and her clients were homeless, drug-addicted veterans? No? And that they were all going bowling? Because yes. My kids' first bowling experience was with homeless drug addicts. The best part? My mom called me and asked me what my kids were doing. And I told her. And she wasn't surprised, not a bit.