Thursday May 27th 2010, 7:14 PM
Filed under: Friends,Grief,love

Shadow Man

Son1 went to school with a guy named Rob. They went through 12 years together in school and during those years, they played all manner of sports together, were in Cub Scouts together, etc. As a matter of fact, when they first started high school, computers weren’t in every home. (Can you even imagine??) Since Rob’s mom was a teacher, they had one and it was thanks to her, that Son1 was able to do alot of his school work.

After high school, they went in different directions. Rob had seizures and one had caused a car accident which injured his back. Unfortunately, Rob became addicted to pain meds. He spent some time in jail, was thrown out of his mother’s house and went on to live with friends. It is really a small world sometimes. Rob lived with the first girls I ever babysat. They all enjoyed their smoke and pretty much laid low.

Eventually, Rob moved on and continued drinking and partying. It was more than Son1 wanted to associate with, and so their friendship faded.

Rob was one of those kids who always said hi to the parents of his friends. It wasn’t unusual for me to sit outside of my house and have him stop by to say hello and shoot the breeze for a bit. I would straight up tell him that it was time to stop the party path. I would tell him that he had potential. I would point out the talents that he had. And he would give me a sad smile and say ” Someday”

We reconnected on Facebook. I thought it was a little strange that he wanted to be my ‘friend’ there, but I am friends with a few kids-or those I consider to be kids. You know, the kids who lived down the street, your friends’ kids, whatever. We’re all adults. We shared jokes, comments and birthday wishes.

He had cleaned up his act. He had an apartment. His seizures were diagnosed as being a reason to consider him ‘disabled’. He may not be working as steadily as he would like, but he was in a good place. He even had a steady girlfriend. She was almost my age, with an ex-husband and teenaged kids.  But he was happy.

She was not. She was an addict.

Rob would turn her away when she was too fucked up but he would eventually look for her and make sure that she was okay. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find her a few weeks ago. The next day, he learned that she had killed herself. Then he learned that she had been in contact with her ex. The only comfort he found was to look at her Facebook page and the pictures that he had on his page. 

I got a message today. Rob sent me his phone number and he wants me to call him this weekend.  “I could use a friend about now. I miss her so much and my hurt is deep. I feel like a shadow of my old self. I’m afraid of the old habits that are calling me.”

I don’t know what I’m going to say. I suppose I will just listen to whatever he needs to get off his chest.

I do know that I won’t be waiting for the weekend. I’m calling him tonight.

Saturday April 17th 2010, 9:15 PM
Filed under: Grief,happy,kids,love,weather

The Surprise of Spring

The day was beautiful, warm enough without being hot. The sunshine, in it’s brilliance seemed to magnify both colors and smells. I want to be outside.

I call to her, “I’m going for a walk. I won’t be long.”  Her response surprises me. “I’ll go with you.”

It always surprises me when she says that. Maybe it’s because teenagers don’t want to be seen with their parents. I don’t know what it is, but I won’t stop to ask or dwell on it. I am happy and will accept it for what it is.

“I’m bringing my camera. I saw something that I’d like to take pictures of.”  I tell her.  “Cool” ,  she says. “Wait while I get  mine.”


This is even more surprising than the offer to walk with me.  We have each had our cameras on certain occasions and we have taken photos of the same things, but I don’t recall going out specifically to take pictures. I smile inwardly, afraid to spook her with over-eager exclamations of “Really?” or “Hey! That sounds lovely!”

We grab the dog and bring him along.

As we walk, we chat about her BF, about college, about prom and graduation. We talk about everything and nothing. We talk with ease.  Some sounds like typical mother/daughter conversation. Some other sounds like two adult women. It flickers easily between the two.


We stop and look at mushrooms, taking pictures and discussing angles. We see the gardens of the neighborhood and the displays that color the center of town.  In front of the library, we stop to admire the tulips. She leans over to shoot into the center of the blooms. She squats to get up close to them. I look at her, at the way the sunlight reflects off the golden highlights in her hair. I see the concentration on her face and the satisfaction as she finds the exact angle that she had been looking for.

I lift my camera to capture the image of my daughter as she moves among the blossoms. She enjoys what she is doing. She is blissfully unaware of her natural beauty.  She laughs as the dog tangles himself in her legs. She leans to rub his ears and to accept his sloppy dog kisses.

We continue our walk and eventually turn toward home. Both of us are happy with the photos that we have taken. Both of us are happy that we’ve gotten in some exercise without becoming sweaty and uncomfortable.

There is half a block left before home. The dog knows and pulls in that direction. I want to slow him down. I don’t want the walk to end. It was far too short.


Sunday April 11th 2010, 8:08 PM
Filed under: family,Friends,Grief,happy,lessons,other shit

Goodbye St. Joseph’s

My grade school is closing. It is a Catholic grade school which once had thousands of kids in attendance. My graduating class had four homerooms with 30-35  kids in each classroom  room. This year there are roughly 40 in the entire graduating class.

Many people have moved out of the town. It used to have tons of families and each family had lots of kids. The majority of the kids went to St. Joseph’s.  For the high schools that the girls and boys went to, St. Joseph’s was the largest ‘feeder school’. As the inner cities grew and worked their way into the suburbs, many of the ‘old families’  moved on to the even more distant suburbs. The racial and economic dynamic changed. More and more families couldn’t afford the school tuition. More and more kids were going to the public schools. My own kids were among them.


We received word not too long ago that the school was closing. There was not enough income. There were not enough kids registered for next year. Too many repairs need to be made and not enough money to do it. I saw it coming. How could others be so surprised? My only surprise was that it hadn’t happened sooner.

I loved grade school. You all know that because you have read about the connections that have rekindled with so many of my classmates. We all have happy, sad, and hysterical memories of the days, weeks, and years we spent going through the doors. To me, that is “school”. It is the lessons learned. It is the love shared. It is the friendships forged. It just happened to occur in a building…a building named “St. Joseph’s School”. We took our “school” with us as we moved along into High school, college, adulthood.

Now the alumni is crying. They say “how could it happen?” We moved away! We stopped providing the income! That’s what happened!  And for the ones who stayed and sent their own children, did they not notice that instead of four homerooms per class, there was now only one or two? Why suddenly are there fund raisers, enrollment drives, etc?  The diocese requires 200 children in attendance to stay open. Only 142 have registered for next year. Where should we find 58 families who can afford a Catholic education? It isn’t going to happen.

Every year in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, there are some schools which are going to close. It was only a matter of time until it was our turn. If not this year, maybe next year, but it was still coming. No matter where our kids go to school, they will have pretty much the same experiences that I did. There will be cliques, friendships, dances, psycho teachers, and dorks…..just in a different building.

Everyone can have their candlelight vigils. They can say their rosaries in large prayer circles. They can wave protest signs outside of the church on Sunday. They can have their goodbye mass. It will not change anything.

A house is not a home, it is the people that live in it. That building is not the school. It is the spirit and love that it brought together.

I said goodbye to that school building in 1976.  But I am still ‘in school’ when I am with my grade school friends.

Friday April 09th 2010, 9:38 AM
Filed under: Anger,assholes,Grief,ineptitude,kids,owies

Reversal of Fortune

To me she was a job, a few extra bucks, some company during the day.

To mom, she is a precious babe, who needs to be shielded from knowing all the sordid details of her dad and his family.

To dad, she is a link to mom, a pawn in a vicious game that involves innocent kids and not-so-innocent adults.

I went to pick up Mack and found her leaving the school with her Grandmom. I grabbed my cell phone and confronted the woman who was clutching the little girl tightly. Trying hard to stay calm, I called Mom , but got no answer. She was still busy at the courthouse, filing papers and dealing with her lawyer. Grandmom tells me that the custody has changed. My services are no longer needed as she will be taking Mack home with her.

Oh fuck no you are not.

I refused to relinquish my right to that poor girl. “You may not walk off this school property with that kid until I have spoken to her mom. I will call 9-1-1 and also tell the school what you are doing unless you can show me, in writing, what rights you have.”

She couldn’t produce a thing.

Mackenzie-bright child that she is- suggested that Grandmom drive me home. “Then you can see where Miss Chris lives!”  Oh yes. I quickly jumped on the idea and also mentioned that in the meantime we would try to reach Mack’s mom. Maybe  Grandmom would leave Mack with me and once she knew where I lived, she would agree to pick her up if indeed the custody agreement was in her favor.

Finally Mom called me. Yes, unfortunately, the custody agreement is changed but it won’t go into effect until Friday. Mack stays with me. Grandmom was not happy….not one bit.  She dropped us off at my house. ” I hope you understand the position that I am in.” I said. “I simply have to follow the letter of the law. My ass is on the line here.”

“I understand” she said and she smiled. It was a cold smile that did not reach her eyes. I was an accomplice of the enemy.


Mackenzie wanted to leave with Grandmom, and when denied, she cried her eyes out for the second time in a day.

Mom came to get Mack a few hours later and we had a chance to talk. The child was asleep on my couch, having sobbed herself to sleep. Mom told me the whole story. It involved violence and restraining orders. It involved a woman who had worked for several lawyers and knew many judges personally. It involved a man who not only had many run-ins with the law, but was also friendly with others in law enforcement. It  involved a young mother without the money, resources and connections that the opposing side had. Even with police reports and photographic evidence of violence that occurred when kids were in the house, the judge ignored the pleas and is allowing Grandmom to take Mack to and from school again. Dad  is allowed to have Mack on the weekends when he will party it up and leave the child with Grandmom.  Mom is allowed to cry bitter tears of frustration at a system corrupted by who you do and do not know.

And Mack is allowed to fall through the cracks…. along with her younger brother and sister. She has already learned to tell her mom that if she can’t have her own way, she will go live with Dad or Grandmom.

I may have lost a job, but this child has lost so much more.

Thursday April 08th 2010, 8:32 AM
Filed under: assholes,family,Grief,kids,other shit


Three days into the new job and I’m wondering how long I can do this. Is it my age?  My allergy headache?  The heat?  I keep thinking “Fuck my life”.  It feels like a mantra today. Am I ‘drama magnet’?  You be the judge.

In the twenty-five years that I’ve spent watching other people’s kids, I’ve seen alot.  Other than my sisters-in-law, I have babysat the kids of single moms,  newly divorced moms, stupid moms and druggie moms. Very few were what I would call normal.  I have taken on yet another.

Mack’s parents are divorced. Her mom is a single, non-driving, mom of three. Mack is the oldest at 6 and the kids are 2 years apart. I know her job does not offer benefits, nor does she make big money. She works in a store across the street from her apartment and uses the train (which runs behind her place) to get the little ones to the day care. That is enough to make my brain itch. I can’t imagine dealing with just that much!

The drama comes in with the divorce business. Mack’s dad has issues all his own that include not visiting when he says he will, not paying child support consistently, stalking his ex-wife, etc. Both parents ‘talk’ in front of the kids. Mackenzie used to travel to and from school with her father’s mom and she would hang out with her all afternoon. Grandmom also likes to talk shit about Mack’s mom to a kid! What the fuck is wrong with people??

Now when kids come to me with all this type of shit going on at home, I try very hard to make sure that they understand that it is between the ‘grown-ups’  and that they are still loved. I try to be a consistent element in their inconsistent lives. For the most part, the kids have always been happy to come to my house and they would show up with smiling faces. The few exceptions were the ones who had never been separated from mom, were sick, or were just having a bad day.

Today, Mack’s mom had to go to court for more custody crap. Mack only knew that mom wasn’t working and she wanted desperately to stay home with mom. With my doors and windows open, I could hear her crying as she approached my house. She didn’t want to be here. She didn’t want mom to leave her. She didn’t want to go to school. She cried and sobbed uncontrollably. Snot and tears streamed down her face. I had to peel her off of her mom, who just looked so tired and sad.  She is under the impression that Mack is simply missing Grandmom (because that is what Mack told her)

Mack is not missing Grandmom. Well, I’m sure she is to some extent, but in my opinion, I think that it is more an insecurity issue. It’s early in the morning, she has just walked half a mile to my house, it’s already hot, and she knows that something is going on with Mom because she looked nice today. I can’t treat the crying as just a tantrum. I have to be understanding. I have to let her cry it out a little bit because she doesn’t understand what she is feeling.

As for myself, I woke up with an allergy headache. I am already sweating. My ankle hurts a little bit, but I’m sure that I am only adjusting to walking so far after being sedentary for so long. The last thing I needed today was a kid crying so hard she had snot bubbles.  I guess I should stop bitching about me….Just thinking about Mack’s mom makes me realize, that it could be worse.

Mack and I will just have to adjust together…..Me to working my body again, and Mack to the new way of her little life.

Tuesday March 02nd 2010, 6:33 PM
Filed under: family,Grief,ineptitude,laughs,other shit

Can Ya Smell What Mom Is Cookin’?

Last week, Hubs picked up some more meat that was on sale. This time he brought home a thick underblade steak. I was unfamiliar with this (because I don’t cook steak- he does) So I looked it up online and discovered that it isn’t recommended for grilling or pan frying due to the toughness of the meat. But I can sure do a roast so that is what I did.

On Sunday morning, I put it into a container with Italian dressing. (I am only now, after all these years, attempting this due to the fact that my family hates anything that is seasoned with more than salt and pepper) On Sunday before going to bed, I flipped it and put it back in the fridge. I was quite confident that I was going to cook this right.

Monday morning, I woke up feeling too achy to get up. I lay in bed watching television until I looked at the clock and realized that it was two hours later than I had planned to get the crockpot fired up! I made my way to the kitchen and pulled my crockpot out from under the sink, which is the only cabinet large enough to store it. I plugged it in to heat while I seared the steak on the range.

It smelled so good! I cut up a large sweet onion, added some beef broth and minced garlic and finally added the steak. While that started, I peeled some carrots and cooked them just a bit on the stove to be sure that they would be tender.

I kept getting an odd whiff of something every so often…..a sort of  ‘rubbery’ smell. I looked everywhere in the kitchen and I just couldn’t find where the culprit was. Maybe it was just the smell of the marinade that had cooked on the steak? I don’t know. I added the carrots, along with some potatoes and covered the pot. Then I continued my day.

I took a shower and as I opened the bathroom door, I still had the smell in the hall. I went into the kitchen and searched again. At this point I was convinced it was the marinade, and I hoped that it would dissipate before the guys came home from work.

Hubs came home early-of course! I asked him flat out if he could smell something. “Like what?”  I described it as ‘very warm or hot rubber’. “Is it possibly a wire casing? ”  He sniffed around the kitchen and the dining room and said he didn’t smell a thing! (How could he miss it??)

Next, the boys came in. Son2 smelled nothing and went upstairs to get cleaned up. Son1 humored me by sniffing all over like a hound dog. “Mom I can’t smell anything.”  So I finally had to accept that perhaps it was my imagination or guilt at having tried something new in my cooking.

We ate dinner. Oh.My.God!!  That roast came out so incredibly tender!!  I will definitely buy one of those again and I will definitely use marinade again. Everyone ate their fill and complimented me on dinner-something that rarely happens around here!

Later, I cleaned up the leftovers. I unplugged the crockpot and emptied out the food. Then I took out the ceramic ‘pot’. Lo an behold there was a rubber stench that came out of the bottom. I looked inside and there was yellow goo.


What the fuck is that???

As I tried to wipe/scrape it out, I figured out what it was…..

While it was stored under the sink, I managed to put one of my cleaning gloves in the bottom. It never occurred to me to look inside before placing the ceramic pot in. Now….my poor baby…my crocky… best friend when I’m not feeling well….is dead. (Believe me- DEAD. Hubs and I have both tried to clean out the gunk.)

After they had a great big chuckle at my expense, Hubs and Son2 promised that I will get a new one… long as I promise to make that roast again!

Thursday February 25th 2010, 5:44 PM
Filed under: Grief,kids,lessons,questions

It Was Avoidable

This morning around 10 am, two teenaged girls were hit by a train and killed. The suffering of their parents, I can’t even begin to imagine.

I mention this because both of the girls went to school with my niece. They were killed less than half a block away from her home….a home which also faces the tracks.

Every day in school, their absence will be felt by their friends. Their desks will be empty as well as their spots at the lunch table. Their friends will walk past their lockers expecting to see their faces or hear their laughter. They will walk past “that place” and always remember what happened there.

I know. I lost a friend at the same age. He slipped on wet leaves and fell under a trolley. To this day, when I pass that trolley stop, I say a prayer for him because I remember that tragic day.

For me, his death made me more aware of standing back away from the edge of the platform. I learned to respect the rolling steel box that took us to and from school every day. I tried to impart this lesson to my own kids. They also walked along the trolley tracks and sometimes the train tracks. I would beg them to stay away. When I caught them, they were grounded, but they continued to walk the tracks with their friends. They thought I didn’t know, but they were “immortal” teenagers.

This is not the first time that a train has taken such young lives. Each of my sons lost a classmate in this way. No matter that Amtrak places fences along the rails. Kids will find a way to take a shortcut. Such a steep price to pay for saving a few seconds.

I don’t understand why we can’t learn from these tragedies. I mean ‘we’ as in ‘humans’. Living in an area close to two major train lines, I hear these stories more than once or twice a year. It is not only children who cross where they shouldn’t. It isn’t only teenagers who take a shortcut when they are out walking. Adults are guilty of this behavior also.

I’ll prayer for these girls and their families. I’ll pray for my niece and all of her friends.

And I’ll pray that someday, maybe someday soon, the message will sink in…..Keep off the tracks.

Friday January 22nd 2010, 2:21 PM
Filed under: computers,Grief,happy,ineptitude,other shit

Short Procedures-Pt. 1


My laptop went into  “GeekSquad General Hospital”  for a week.  I needed to get to the root of the problems that she has been having.  So once she froze ( I was unable to shut her off at all!)  I took her in ‘as is’.  The geek looked her over and said,  “Hmm…”  He touched her buttons and proclaimed, “There is only one crash listed here.  There is picture,  audio, quick response,  and to tell you the truth, I don’t see any major problem.”

Of course there isn’t anything wrong!  The system had just been rebooted.  Does that erase any log of previous crashes? I don’t know.  I hadn’t had audio for two weeks and suddenly, Voila!,  he gets it right away.  Even though I had gotten  ‘black screen’  repeatedly,  he got a well behaved laptop.

And so, he kept her for a week to try to replicate the crash,  to tweak the system, and to clean that dirty, dirty bitch.

During the week, I had to use Hub’s computer. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except that….

He downloaded a ‘Trojan”.  It was wonderful.  My thoughts were to try a reboot and if it didn’t work,  just suck it up and pay a geek to come to the house and look it over.  But we are talking about a man.  Not just any man, but  my “I-can-do-anything-if-I just-play-around-with-it-long-enough” man.  He pounded buttons.  He deleted programs if he never heard of the name.  He went into the control panels. (He is LESS computer literate than I am!!)

From 10pm until 2am, the sounds of clicks, sighs, and restarting computers emanated from the den. I was startled from my sleep by shouts of “What the fuck?”  “Are you kidding me?”  “No, No, No!!” and my personal favorite “You will obey me!”

Eventually, he came to bed and I was finally able to sleep.

When I woke up, I poured myself some coffee and Hubs came into the kitchen to get his cup too. “You can check your emails before I use the computer. Just make sure you wait until each page loads completely before touching a button.”

He had done it. It worked….sluggishly, but it worked! We went to the store and bought a new security program which he installed -all by himself!  And it is still working!! However, as far as my blogging was concerned, it was far too slow for me to use without getting extremely frustrated.

And so, I pined for the return of my baby.

I got her back last night and so far, she is acting like a new laptop.  She is speedy.  She is getting along with all of her programs.  I can hear movies and CDs and videos.  She shuts off and turns on right away.

I didn’t get charged.  But I have been instructed to bring her back – again, ‘as is’ –  if anything should happen again.  No rebooting,  no battery removal, no slamming her against the floor.

I guess now I can tell you about all the other  ‘procedures’  happening around here……

Just one thing at a time.  I don’t want to overwhelm her.

Wednesday January 06th 2010, 9:58 PM
Filed under: Anger,doctors,family,Grief,questions

Who Does That?!?

I don’t know if you remember that Mom told me that my own cousin almost died before Christmas. It was a shock and she swears that she told me before but she hadn’t. Whatever.

Tonight Mom called to tell me that the sweater I gave her for Christmas is too small. Can I exchange it? Sure. Oh, and my uncle in New Mexico (whom I have only met once) told her that I never write or call him. Well, every time I do, it’s “When are you coming?” ….Repeatedly. No matter what direction I try to steer the conversation, it comes back to that. Again…Whatever.

So I was asked to do her a favor.  And she scolded me and told me to call Uncle Angie.

“Oh,and by the way, when they found the hole in Jen’s heart, they also found cancer in her stomach.The doctors removed most of it and she will get chemo to try to kill the rest of it. She’s home now.”

Who does that shit? “Oh, by the way…”

It’s too fucked up for me to wrap my head around. I want to go to bed and wake up next month.  :((

Tuesday January 05th 2010, 10:20 PM
Filed under: assholes,doctors,family,Grief,Hubs,other shit,owies

Only Tuesday?

Well, yes it’s only Tuesday. I wish the week would just fucking zip by while I go to sleep.

Sunday was spent taking it easy. We just got to hang out and watch movies. (Which, as you know, is one of our favorite things!)  In between the movies, I would look over at the Christmas tree, just dreading the thought of all the crap that goes along with dismantling the tree. I never just stop at the tree. All of the stuff that goes on the tree gets stored  underneath everything else, so it follows that I must take the other stuff down too. The thought was exhausting. As we finished off one movie, the phone rang. Hubs’ cousin passed away due to complications of pneumonia. ‘A’ fought valiantly through the holidays but in the end was no match.


Our week was not looking good..

Monday came and with it, the visit to the doctor. We each woke up feeling relatively normal. Hubs checked out a small job and I managed to do laundry, and clean the ‘piles’  in the yard. The afternoon trip to the doctor changed all of that. During the examination, he ran his knuckle along my spine.  NOT COOL!  I was almost in tears!  He pushed on Hubs’  back and set off his back as well. Now we sat there-in horrible pain- and the doctor informs us that the insurance company wants to cut a “6 step” procedure into a “4 step” procedure. (Not just our insurance…ALL of them) He explained to us the logic that insurance companies are using. Then he explained the way our “6 step” dealy works. Now, I am not a doctor and neither is Hubs (although it is one of our favorite games.) Even as ‘medical illiterates’ we could understand how dangerous a proposition this could be.  Anyway…without too many details, we may join our doctor in a class action lawsuit against the insurance company. We will be David to the insurance company’s Goliath. I am not going to hold my breath.

Today I took down the tree. It was a long, tiring undertaking and I worked alone. While not exactly in pain, I’m just tired and achy. Son2 called to say he was in agony with a toothache. He has no dental insurance and work is getting slow for him again. He can’t catch a break. This means that Hubs and I will most likely end up helping him to pay the dentist. And Babygirl’s orthodontist bill is due next week…and Bandit needs shots….and our shots will begin….and yadda yadda fucking yadda….

Thursday will bring grief all it’s own when we travel out of state to his cousin’s funeral. Fifty-two is  just too goddamned young to die from pneumonia. That is only two years older than Hubs and that is a scary thought. I’m tired of grieving. It is too much of a weight on my soul, my heart, my…..

Hey! Maybe that’s what making my back hurt! All that motherfucking weight I carry on my heart…..

And the week marches on…..