Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why I am staying up to watch the Royal Wedding

I'm going to date myself now, if I haven't done so already, by telling you why I'm staying up (or getting up early, as the case may be) to watch the royal wedding.

No doubt you've already seen hundreds of headlines, articles, blogs, and newsreels looking back on the wedding of William's parents, Charles and Diana.  Those of you who aren't old enough to remember it may laugh at her Ultimate 80s hairdo and the overly bouffy gown she wore.  I've watched a few of these as well, but I don't particularly like them.  It seems to me that the people commenting on them are seeing that wedding from thirty years in the future.  We all know how it ended...badly...but at the time, nothing on Earth could hold a candle to Lady Diana Spencer.  And I got to be there.  Well, sort of.

The Summer of 1981 was the most important time of my life.  I'm not exaggerating.  It was more important than graduating college, getting married, moving to a new city.  Nothing at all that happens in my life will ever undo what was created in me that Summer.  I was thirteen years old and my parents did something unbelievably stupid.  They sold our house, closed up Dad's law practice, and took my brothers and me to Europe for three months.  We picked up the latest and greatest camper van (a Volkswagen Westfalia popup) and drove...everywhere...for three months.  I mean everywhere.  Except Venice.  For some reason we skipped Venice.  Everywhere else. 

As it happened, the date of Charles and Diana's wedding happened to take place while we were in London.  The weeks building up to it were like nothing I'd ever seen before.  Charles and Diana's faces were on anything you could buy, including chocolate.  You think that's creepy?  I bought some.  It was Cadbury's, and it was delicious.  And I think I still have the commemorative tin somewhere.  And of course, because we were in London, we were able to watch the wedding live.

Okay, I admit, we weren't really live, or even on the parade route, although I would have given my left pinky to be there (I wouldn't have missed the pinky).  My parents were more sensible than that.  They found a nice, quiet campground in a nice, quiet suburb, where the owner of a local pub invited us all to watch the wedding. I was disappointed, but I got to watch the whole thing live.  It lasted for, like five hours, including the processional and everything, and I was glued to the TV (telly?) the whole time.

I loved Diana.  I know there have been a lot of things said about her over the years, and I can't attest to what's true and what's not.  In fact, I never really paid attention to the details.  Kind of like when you don't want to listen when someone starts spewing toxic waste about your best friend.  You don't care if it's true, you love her anyway.  That's how I felt about Diana.  She was beautiful, she was kind, and even if she did some things I wouldn't have done, she never did anything to deserve what happened to her.  When I heard she died, I wept, and trust me, I'm not a weeper. 

Now, as you know, a lot happened after the wedding, and most of it wasn't good, but I do think that Prince William made it all worthwhile.  I remember when he was born, when he started school, when he turned eighteen and went public to the press.  I admire his grace and charm, but most importantly, I love the fact that he looks so much like his mother, whose wedding I watched thirty sad, long years ago. 

And just as a very young girl watched his mother, a very tired 43 year old will stay up to the wee hours and watch another royal wedding.  This time, let's hope for happiness.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What a week.

If you don't like reading rants, give this entry a pass.  I'm going to waste your time by ranting about what a lousy week this has been.

It started two weeks ago, when I was still in Toronto on the first leg of my Business Trip From Hell (tm).  My boss asked me if I could do a teleconference with a team in Malaysia the week I got back from Indonesia.  This doesn't sound like a big deal, but what that means for our team is a week-long class, four hours each day, and the Malaysia team wants it on their schedule, which means I start class at 8 PM and finish at midnight.  The upside to classes like this is, I can do it from home, and I don't have to go into the office at all this week because my boss is a nice, normal person.

The downside is I had to cancel my evening plans for this week, which includes the most awesome thing the Jewish religion ever invented, the Chocolate Seder.  I'm just gonna leave that one up to your imagination, but suffice it to say, it's this week and I'm gonna miss it, which makes me sad.

The other downside is I'm really not at the top of my game late at night.  In the morning, I can field the toughest technical questions, but at 11 PM, despite massive drinkings of caffeinated stuff, I am a blithering idiot.  So I'm not even doing that great a job.

So here's the way my schedule's been:

Three weekends of travel: first to Toronto, then a weekend spent in the air between Toronto and Jakarta, then a weekend spent in the air coming home.  I haven't actually had a Saturday or Sunday in the month of April, and I've missed three soccer games and Peaches is pissed at me.  Then I didn't drink enough Airborne or something, because I managed to come down with a cold in the middle of it.

Before I came home, I promised my husband that he was Officially Off Duty for a couple of days since he'd been a single dad all that time.  So yesterday he retreated into his office and shut the door to study for a big exam he has coming up, very stressful stuff.  I went into my office, closed the door and started my class.

At 9 PM, Peaches very quietly knocked on my office door.  I paused my class and opened it.  There she stood, nice as can be, and asked me: "Can I have dinner?"

That's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I stink!

I felt sorry for the gentleman sitting next to me on the flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta.  He looked quite sharp in his clean suit and tie, and while he appeared to be Indonesian, greeted me in crisp English.  I, on the other hand, hadn't had a chance to wash up for two days (not counting my crossing the international date line) and I'm sure I was pretty ripe.  I had an extra hour waiting for my connecting flight; I should have taken advantage of the pay showers.


I had no idea what to expect from Indonesia.  I only knew I was coming three weeks ago, and I didn't really have time to read up as I usually like to do.  My knowledge of the country pretty much consisted of the following:

1. It's an extremely large archipelago on the equator, close enough to Australia to attract a LOT of tourists.
2. It's the world's most populous Muslim country.
3. Barack Obama spent part of his childhood here.
4. Once, it was a Dutch colony.
5. The movie "The Year of Living Dangerously" took place here, and that movie didn't make this seem like a very safe place.  Of course, it took place during a political uprising in the 1960's, so I guess I could safely assume that things have mellowed out a bit.
6. The day before I arrived, a suicide bomber blew up a mosque.  Great.

The rest, I suppose, will come with time.  So far I haven't been here long enough to get much of a feel for things, since I just got here, but I will say that in spite of the smog (so bad my eyes are already itchy) this country smells wonderful.  It smells like car exhaust, of course, but it also smells like magnolia and plumeria mixed together with spices like chile and curry and cardamom.

As I walked through the airport I had a kind of funny feeling in my stomach, not exactly uncomfortable, a feeling I hadn't had it quite some time.  The first time I got it was when I was seventeen, and made my first road trip with my best friend for a weekend in Los Angeles.  The second time, I was 22 and making my way through Heathrow Airport, this time totally on my own.  I haven't had it since.  In the decades since then, I've lost count of the times I've crossed the Atlantic, most of the time on my own.  Perhaps the difference this time is that I travelled a record distance for myself; a little over ten thousand miles.  I had never been this far from home.

Immigration and Customs were easy, my suitcase was the first one down the baggage claim, and my taxi was waiting.  I stopped outside at the taxi stand to breathe in the air of Southeast Asia for the first time.  Just like that, the feeling in my stomach was gone, and what was left was another feeling I hadn't had in a long time: exhilaration.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

North of the Border


Those of you who have a blog of your own know that you get to see all kinds of cool blog stats.  One of my favorites is that I can see what country people are reading from.  So far, I've seen that I've had visitors from Hungary, Japan, England, Australia, and of course, Canada.  I think this is incredibly cool.  For one thing, those of you in Australia, I'm so incredibly jealous of you.  I want to go to Australia so badly it makes my stomach hurt.  The problem is, because of my job, it's hard for me to justify going to Australia at my own expense when chances are as soon as I get back I'll find out that I have to go there on business anyway.  Besides, I'd have to take my family with me because they want to go to Australia just as badly as I do.

Those of you in other countries, don't feel bad.  I got to visit Budapest once and it was amazing.  And Japan, well, I'm just assuming that some day I'll go to Japan and I will love it and never want to leave.  But I guess at this point, I'm just taking each country as it comes.

But of course, as you saw from my last post, I'm in Canada right now.  So to all of my readers on this side of the border, Hi! It's nice to be here!  The people here are so sweet, even the Immigration people in the airport.  Even the striking workers at the car rental were polite. 

Unfortunately, I'm not in central Toronto, like I was last time I was here.  Last time, I got to stay at the Marriott on Bloor Street.  This time, I'm in Brampton, which, I'm sorry to say, isn't as exciting.  I'm sure that Brampton is quite lovely, but I happen to be in a hotel that's right next to the far side of the airport, next to the DHL warehouse and not too close to anything else.  I do intend to do some exploring, of course, but I purposely got here a day early because I really wanted to see Niagara Falls.  After all, I'm already married, so it's too late for me to honeymoon there.

Other than that, my time here will be spent working, but who knows?  It's a small world.  Maybe I'll see some of you while I'm out and about.  I'll be the one with the accent.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Circling the Globe

The next two weeks I may or may not be posting much, since I'll be out of town on business, or more precisely, out of the country.

I've been pretty lucky this year. On average, about once a month or so I have to go somewhere, but I haven't had to take any business trips since my short trip to London in January, which I mentioned here.  Next week I'm going to be leaving for two weeks.  I'm really torn about this trip.  I mean, not that I have a right to be torn, it's a business trip.  I go where the client needs me to go, and I don't really have any say in the matter.  But this trip is going to be long, grueling, and really no fun at all.  On the other hand, I get to do something I've never done before: I get to circle the globe.

My first stop will be a couple of thousand miles due north to Toronto, Canada.  I'm thrilled to go there, I have a couple of cousins my own age that who live there.  The other reason I like Toronto is that it's a really cool city and the people are fantastic.  Plus, I don't sound like a durn furner every time I open my mouth.

I'll be in Toronto for a week, and then I head to Jakarta, Indonesia.

Yeah, I know.  But let's get something straight.  First of all, Jakarta.  Not Bali, not Singapore, not some cool resort on some isolated island.  Jakarta, where it takes fifteen minutes to take a cab ten city blocks because the traffic is so bad.  Jakarta is not a fun tourist destination.  There is nothing to see there, and even if there were, I wouldn't have time to see it.  I will know nobody. I'll fly 23 hours from Toronto with a stopover in Qatar, work for 16 hours a day from Monday through Saturday, and catch the first flight out Sunday morning, stopping over in Hong Kong and then again in Los Angeles before finally coming home to my little midwestern paradise late Monday afternoon.

And for some reason, everyone who has heard about my itinerary is jealous of me.  Jealous.

So let's get this straight.  I'll be spending two entire weekends on an airplane.  I will miss three weekends at home, my kid's last three soccer games of the season, a birthday party, and a really cool charity event that I had promised my friend I would be at.  All my calls home (thank you, Skype) will be peppered with complaints from my memory-impaired husband about how hard it is to be a single parent and whines from Peaches about how mean Daddy is while I'm gone.  And when I get back, the house is going to look like....ummm...the house is going to be a mess.

It's times like this that I understand that I really, truly don't have my life under control.

So how do I handle it?  Well, I'll take lots of pictures, even if they're only of angry cab drivers and the inside of my client's office building.  I'll try to spend time experiencing a new city instead of spending my evenings in the hotel eating dry hamburgers and answering email.  And I'll remind myself that one day, the chewed up carpet will be long gone, but I'll still be able to say that once, I circled the globe.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This blog is a secret.

My Facebook page is no fun at all.

The reason, of course, is that everybody sees it.  Including, but certainly not limited to, my husband, my mother, my boss, pretty much all of my neighbors, and ten or twenty members of my Synagogue.

As a result, I can't post anything truly funny.  I can't post how much my husband pisses me off and why, or about a miserable day at my job, or pretty much anything to do with my kid other than praise (and who the hell wants to read a parent's posts bragging about their kid?  Sorry, that's just not good reading.  It's a waste of space).  And I definitely can't post about my mom, which is too bad because my mom is an extremely interesting woman who is slowly going bonkers.  Or maybe she's fine and she's just driving me bonkers.  It's hard to tell.

So I have to keep this blog anonymous, for the most part, except for my very dear friend Kathleen, who is a very talented writer and is the only person who's reading this who actually knows me, so you know who you are.  Because I'm never going to write anything interesting about her, which is fine, because she's such an interesting person in real life that writing about her would never do her justice.  Another person I'll probably never write about is my dad, but that's mostly because he's about the sanest person I know.  He's a great guy and very interesting in person, but he never does anything weird or loony; in other words, anything worth writing about.

But my mom is a whole other story.  She's not going to see this blog, because if she did she would read it every single day, and if I don't post one day she will call me at exactly 7:15 PM, which is when we sit down to dinner, to ask me if I'm okay.  And if I do post, she'll call me to talk about what I wrote.

See my mom is a retired professional.  And there is nothing worse than having a retired professional for a mother.  All of the energy she used to put into her clients and her business, she now has to find other outlets for.  She spends her days doing Productive Things like gardening and working out, and when she's ready to sit still, she reads blogs.  My mom loves to read blogs.  Mostly she likes financial blogs, blogs about early retirement and frugality and real estate investing and stuff like that.  Stuff that she thinks I should be reading, because I'm young (snerk) and can still benefit from all this knowledge out there.

I guess I can't blame her.  She was so frugal and sensible when her life was in chaos.  She did everything right, including setting a very firm expectation that they were not going to spend their retirement supporting their adult children.  Apparently she and my dad ended up setting aside enough money, because the day they retired they suddenly found themselves quite wealthy and living in a really glorious spot, and all their kids live far away.  So now they suddenly have all this money and all this time, and  I think they're a little frustrated because they're passing 70 and they wish they had been living like this their whole lives instead of putting it off until they were eligible for AARP.

Once, when I was visiting, my mom asked me what blogs I like.  I had to lie and tell her that I don't really read a lot of blogs.  In a way, I guess I was telling the truth.  I do love to read some blogs that are just writing, but most of my absolute favorites are blogs about funny stuff.  Cake Wrecks, for example.  I absolutely adore Cake Wrecks and look at it every day.  I also like all those silly Fail Blogs.  The quicker I can get the funny, the better.  One blog I just discovered is this one, Sugar and Spice, My Ass.  You can't make this stuff up, but you also can't post it on the internet if you think your mother might be watching.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Peaches

I thought I'd take a few minutes to tell you about my daughter, Peaches.

I may have to give her a new nickname, because at the age of twelve, that name really doesn't suit her anymore.  She used to be a cute little girl with a peachy complexion and dark pigtails.  Now, she's almost as tall as I am, and frankly, she's starting to...ummm...fill out.  I tell you, it's freaking me out.

And, as I said before, she hates me.  Okay, she doesn't really hate me, but her preteen metabolism has convinced her that the best way to communicate with her mom is to yell a lot and slam doors.  I get that every young girl goes through this.  I know I did, and I know all my friends' girls did as well, which is why it doesn't bother me, and here's why.

For a couple of very good reasons, Peaches has some pretty severe problems.  I'll go into these in a later post, but for now I'll say that she was born in another country to a biological mom who probably did a lot of really nasty stuff while she was pregnant, then she spent the first couple of months of her life in traction in a hospital bed, then a couple of years in an orphanage, before we brought her home.  For all of that, she's actually a pretty pleasant kid.  She's pretty smart, very perceptive, and has a good heart.  On the other hand, she has a lot of trouble learning and keeping her thoughts organized.  She gets a lot of special services at school.  She's in fifth grade and has trouble doing things like telling time and figuring out what you can buy with twenty bucks.  She reads on about a third grade level.

My mom feels sorry for me for having a special needs kid.  She's out of her mind.  She has no idea how good I've got it.  Having a kid like Peaches means I get to sit out of the parenting fray.


A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a bunch of friends (yeah, okay, I was playing hooky.  I can do that sometimes) and found myself sitting next to a supermom.  She was the one person at the table I didn't know, and her name was Trista or Tricia or something like that.  Now, I'm not saying that Trista/Tricia spent the whole time bragging about her kids and what a great mom she is.  We all had to put up with that when our kids were younger, but now that they're in late grade school I'm happy to say that most moms have tired of that by now.  She was actually kinda cool, and had a good sense of humor, but she also had kids in Middle School, and that's when kids start taking Band. and she believed that every kid should take band.

Now,  I believe in band, really I do.  I was a nerd myself in school, and I know how great it is to learn a musical instrument, have a great activity that isn't a sport, and develop your brain.  I would love nothing more than for Peaches to be in the band, but I also know there's just. no. way. that kid would survive.  She can't sit still, let alone stand still.  And I won't even go into what it was like to have her try to learn to play an instrument.  And marching in formation?  No, band is not for this kid.  She would try her best, sure, but she would fail anyway.

And, more importantly, there are things she can do that she would succeed at.  Like art, or theater.  Maybe even dance.  I could see her doing these things, and so can she.  She's already met the drama teacher at the Middle School and can't wait to get started next year.

But tell that to Trista/Tricia.  I think the conversation went something like this:

T: So is Peaches going to be in band?

Me: No, she's going to be in Theater Arts.

T: Oh, you have to have her change that.  Every kid ought to be in band.

Me: No, she can't be in the band.

T: Why not?  She would be great!

Me: No, she wouldn't.

T: You should have more faith in your kid.

I was rescued by Elaine, my friend across the table, who jumped in and changed the subject.  Trista/Tricia tried to change it back a couple of times, but Elaine and I were finally able to steer to another topic.

Now, I'm looking back on what Trista/Tricia said.  You should have more faith in your kid.  Let me think about that.

Not two days later, Peaches and I were crashed out on the couch watching Doctor Who.  She paused the show and said to me, "Mom, there was a kid in the park today, about eight years old."

"Yeah, what about him?" I answered.

"Well, he said to me, I think you had a concussion.  And I said, 'Why?' And he said, "Because you talk like you had a concussion'.  And I said, 'Well, I didn't'.  And he said, 'Then why do you talk like that?' And I said 'I'm not telling, but I didn't have a concussion'.  And the kid said 'I think you did'.

(Like I said, she's twelve. That's pretty much how she talks).

"So what did you do?"  I asked.

"I decided not to cry."

So, Trista/Tricia, wherever you are, I know that you are a good mom, and you have great kids, and I'm really sorry I don't remember your name.  But take this home with you.

I have all the faith in Peaches that I need.  She knows that her problems are not her fault.  She knows I love her no matter what, even if she does slam doors and scream a lot.  She works hard to make up for her disability.  And even at her young age, she has faith in herself.

You don't need Band for that.

Oh, I'm startled!

Just a quick note on this one, since I'm at work and technically not writing in my blog at the moment, but I wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate your lovely comments!  You've all inspired me to keep on writing.  Thanks a million, and thanks especially to WideLawns, who gave me such a nice write-up.  If you haven't seen her blog, you have to check her out.  I've been reading her for years, and she's always a scream.