Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Week That Was...Meh

The Week That Was...Meh

My psychiatrist upped my Abilify and Celexa by half a dose on Tuesday. This is mostly to counteract some generalized anxiety with which I'm presently dealing, for which I cannot take short-acting anti-anxiety meds like Valium, Xanax or Klonopin. My doctor says, and I agree, that taking potentially addictive benzos like that is tantamount to "throwing gasoline on a fire" when the patient, in this case, me, has a history of addiction and substance abuse. But at least the medications I'm taking are working in tandem with some relatively intense psychotherapy.

I wish I knew what the root cause(s) or issue(s) are that are causing the bulk of my acute, generalized anxiety. True, I still have the major life stressors/triggers still occurring, like waiting to be evicted from my apartment (landlord foreclosed, remember, I did nothing wrong) and the fact I've been looking for a full-time job for A YEAR now. But the holidays are adding to it, mostly because I'm dead ass broke, as well as less than a handful of more minor problems that are currently mid-rectification.

This cognitive behavior therapy I'm receiving has been good thus far...useful, interesting and cause for optimism. That said, I'm not having the healthiest reactions or thoughts, either mentally or physically. My incidence of cutting has increased, my mood is slightly more depressive than manic, and though I'm not having trouble getting to sleep, I'm having trouble staying asleep and awaken at an ungodly early hour without being able to fall back asleep. So the combination of the higher doses of my medications plus tiredness also might partially explain the anxiety and general "meh" of recent past.

Having to actually LEARN practical, healthy coping mechanisms and skills when dealing with emotions and feelings is HARD WORK! My salve, my emotional band-aid, my ultimate albatross used to be alcohol. I used alcohol to both numb pain and prevent emotions from bubbling to the surface, and consequently ended up an alcoholic. Now, with the cutting? My therapist says that while really, really unhealthy as a coping mechanism, it sort of "works," in a really fucked up fashion. It's use as stress relief is tangible and instantaneous. It feels like an act of regaining control, when in actuality, it is evidence of a complete LACK of self-control.

Cognitive and diadactical behavior therapies have been shown to very positively impact people like me who self-injure. That said, it is not uncommon for those who self-injure to experience an increase in cutting early on in cognitive behavior therapy, which I just found out at my therapy session this week. Since we discuss cutting a lot in therapy, only natural that it gets more recognition than it deserves when I decide to filet the interior of my right forearm.

Speaking of using alcohol as a band-aid, today I am ten months sober. Soon, I will be able to count my sobriety in years rather than months, and I can honestly say that during all of this acute anxiety and extra stress, I have not once had a craving for alcohol, nor did I take a flying leap off of the wagon. Sure, some of it has to do with the medications I take which aid in my continued alcoholism recovery, but I do still owe myself a huge pat on the back for conquering yet another month of one-days-at-a-times. I'm prepared to be mindful of the propensity for an alcohol craving once the flurry of Christmas and New Year's festivities begin, but I am determined to continue to be proud of myself and my sober accomplishment.

It's only taken me like three years to fully realize this Pandora thing on which everyone else I know seems to groove. It's been great, all this "make-your-own-internet-radio-station" hoo-hah, and I've got channels now reflecting my love of both The Beatles and The Flaming Lips, and it's coming up with some interesting offshoot additions to the mix. But Pandora's acting weird tonight--it keeps selecting that I like a particular song when I haven't ever actually rated it. Not fair! And no, they're not repeats I've already rated, I'm not that flighty, people, sometimes despite appearances to the contrary.

In other news, it's mighty fucking cold in Chicago. Wind chills are at -30 with subzero air temperatures and winds gusting in excess of 40 mph, howling out from the atmosphere and directly into the drafty areas of my apartment. This has made heating the main living area and two of my three bedrooms a Machiavellian task on this first day of Winter 2008. Luckily, my apartment has 2 floors, and the loft, which is also my bedroom, is on a separate heating and A/C system, so between that and the heat being on downstairs, my bedroom is plenty toasty. Luke and I bunkered up there for an hour or so this afternoon, brought up his 13" TV/VCR and enjoyed this year's viewing of our traditional "Arthur's Perfect Christmas." Yay, bonding time with my cabin fevered son because it's too cold for him to play downstairs!

My efforts to warm up the downstairs included shutting the doors of the downstairs bathroom, Luke's room and my office, which has helped. The apartment downstairs is mostly vacant and without utilities, so it has no heat with which to radiate up onto my downstairs hardwood floors. I also resorted to an idea that his HIGHLY NOT RECOMMENDED for safety reasons--running the oven in the kitchen with the door open to circulate some warmer air. At least my oven is electric, not gas, so it was not AS unsafe as what you usually see on the local newscasts. And all of these things brought the downstairs temperature to a reasonable 71, from the 64 it was when I woke up this morning. As I type right now, I have on 2 pairs of socks, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a sweatshirt, and am sitting under 2 blankets in the office.

Oh, the personal tribulation I endure in order to blog about being too cold! Hello?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom For Daily Living"

Current mood:  inspired 
Category: Religion and Philosophy

Over the course of the next several blogs, I will be sharing quotes from a book I'm presently revisiting, "Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living."

In a recent therapy session, during which mindfulness is thought upon and the transitory nature of emotion is emphasized, I brought up Bruce Lee and his spin on philosophical matters with respect to the concept of mindfulness and the paradigm shifts necessary to understand and work through stress and anxiety. 

I also "A ha'd" that I was revisiting the idea to take up a martial art in the New Year as both emotional/philosophical and physical fitness. "Striking Thoughts" is but one of half a dozen books by Lee that have called my bookshelves home for over a decade.

I've wanted to study Jeet Kune Do, the martial art system and philosophy developed by Bruce Lee himself, which translates to "The Art of the Intercepting Fist."

To label Jeet Kune Do a "system," however, contradicts the very core principles of the art, which draws both movement and philosophy from a variety of traditional Asian martial arts and American boxing, and is thus, as Lee said, "using no way as way and having no limitation as limitation." 

Since mindfulness is at the root of the cognitive behavior therapy I am receiving, I thought it would behoove me to quote Lee's definition of "calm." My main issue is is that I get caught up in the intense emotion of a given experience, and my responses to that emotion can sometimes be illogical, unrealistic, catastrophic or physically harmful. It is useful to label them as this: 

A) The Emotion (anxiety, stress, fear, paranoia, et al)

B) Space for Mindfulness, detachment and dissection of that emotion and its consequence

C) The Ultimate Action or Reaction

My problem is that I start at "A" and manically slide straight over to "C," without stepping back and slowing down my response so that it can be met with a healthy, productive, realistic response. There are several ways to achieve mindfulness at point B, breathing and meditation being just one example. Bruce Lee's interpretation of point B is this:

.."At this moment, stop inwardly...when you do stop inwardly, psychologically your mind becomes very peaceful, very clear. Then you can really look at 'this.'" --Bruce Lee

Monday night is my introductory Jeet Kune Do lesson at a highly respected martial arts academy here in Chicago. Wish me luck and check back soon for another inspirational quote from Bruce Lee.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Polish Pride?

It's becoming increasingly difficult to be "proud to be Polish" lately.

For me, anyway.

Readers who frequent my blog know that one of my life's major stressors has been my inability to find a full-time job, an albatross weighing my neck down for upwards of a year now. I keep very accurate job-search records; to date, I've sent out over 700 resumes. So's not to pigeon hole myself into any narrow employment category type, I'm hitting a broad spectrum of industries and jobs of which I have the necessary skill set. I'm willing to work for a reasonable wage that still allows me to support my child, and I have a decade and a half of practical, valuable experience. My ideal situation now would be to work in an administrative/secretarial role within a medical practice or hospital, while receiving on-the-job training in a clinical capacity, with the five-year plan to include nursing school at night in order to earn my R.N. while I work.

My ideal job situation would also allow me to have a modicum of time to still assist with activities and responsibilities at my son's school, as I do now, and maintain my bi-weekly band practice and performance schedule, all while not having to trudge my son to through too many hours of before and after school day care.

Finally, the right job that satisfied all of these criteria presented itself. I'd responded to an ad on Craigslist for an administrative assistant/ophthalmology technician at a doctor's office on the Northwest Side of Chicago. While they required administrative experience, they were willing to train on the clinical side, which was perfect for me, seeing as most medical offices and hospitals to which I've applied require at least one year experience in either role within a medical setting.

The doctor phoned me to set up the first interview later one Sunday evening, while I was watching "Desperate Housewives" and making my son's school lunch for the following day. He was impressed with my resume and credentials and wanted to meet me early that week. The practice was not only brand new and starting from scratch, it was 6 blocks south of my house on the same street and had a very convenient work schedule. I scheduled my interview for the coming Tuesday.

The first interview went fantastically. The doctor was personable and gracious, and he reiterated his impression that I had a great resume and experience. I felt that I aced all of the pertinent questions and was encouraged by the dialogue he and I shared regarding the position. At the time, the doctor informed me that he'd received about 100 resumes, and had paired down the interviewees to roughly 20, and that I was the front-runner for the job after our meeting. So hooray!

The call to schedule interview #2 with the doctor's office came just two days later, which I found most encouraging. I researched "second interviews" on the internet and spoke with my mother at length, who herself has been the administrative assistant in a doctor's office for the better part of 20 years. I arrived promptly at interview #2 with my notebook and list of references, and was only mildly nervous because the doctor saw fit to have all of the interviewees sitting in his waiting room at the same time.

That seemed like an odd style, but perhaps the doctor had scheduling conflicts with patients or something. In any case, I felt like I was at an "American Idol" audition rather than a job interview.

Interview #2 went likewise swimmingly, and I arrived with some marketing ideas for the doctor's burgeoning Lasik eye business, as he requested at the end of interview #1, as part of my background is as a marketing and public relations assistant. During this meeting, however, the doctor said that the position would focus more on the administrative and clinical end than marketing, so my ideas, while appreciated were unnecessary. Fine. The interview also focused on a bit more about my interests and my 5-year plan, and other qualities that reiterated his impression that I was the front-runner for the job. I was then introduced to the other doctor in the practice, an old-as-dirt ophthalmologist in his mid 80's, and interviewed further with him. Then I met that doctor's receptionist, who turned out to be a friend of a friend, so we chatted for a bit about what a small world it was, etc. Back to the reception area where I sized up the competition, as it were, and filled out their standard job application. The two other candidates present were a young Hispanic woman and a young Polish woman. The Polish woman and I chatted briefly small talking about something that was on the television in the waiting room, and it was clear that she was a relatively new immigrant to this area.

Once my job application was completed, I left the interview with the impression that the other two candidates didn't have a PRAYER of getting the job over me, since my skill set, maturity, professionalism and sparkling (??) personality kept me as the front-runner. Plus, I can speak both Spanish and conversational Polish, which is growing increasingly necessary in our area due to the influx of immigrants.

The doctor asked me to come to interview #3 the following week (time TBD) with a list of questions about the practice that I wanted to ask him. Again, I sought my mother's advice since she's been the administrative assistant for a doctor in a private practice for almost 20 years. The third interview seemed more of a formality to me than anything else, and I surely didn't think that the two much younger, non-degreed applicants would outshine me.

The week passed, and even giving the Thanksgiving holiday, I found it odd that I hadn't heard the Monday following about interview #3. Cutting some slack, I decided to call about the job a few days later.

A young woman with a thick Polish accent answered, "Doctor's office, may I help you?"

She informed me that the doctor was at lunch, and when I inquired about the position, she indicated to me that it had, in fact, been filled. While she didn't say "BY ME, YOU LOSER!," it was clear that it was the same young, Polish immigrant girl with whom I hobnobbed in the waiting room two weeks prior.

So not only did I not receive the courtesy of a phone call from the Doctor himself notifying me that I didn't get the job, I was forced to call myself and speak to the woman who beat me for it, both of which did not sit well with me.

I was, quite honestly, trying to approach it with a "it's their loss" attitude, but the situation is growing increasingly aggravating to me. I'm sure the Polish chick, who was all of 20 or 21 years old, settled for a much lower wage than what the doctor and I mutually agreed was warranted, and I'm sure she speaks fluent Polish rapidly and sans any errors that might befall me as a non-native speaker. Plus, she was cuter than I was, so I'm giving an extra point in her favor for that one.

It apparently doesn't matter that I've lived in that neighborhood for my entire life, that I know the area backwards and forwards, or that I have a bachelor's degree, or that I've got an enviable, if not a tad colorful resume, or that I know Windows XP like the back of my hand, or that I get along with the elderly, or that I'm dependable, mature, friendly or freakishly intelligent and a quick learner. I'm not a first-generation, right off the boat Polish immigrant. And I hate to be salty, but they aren't appearing to have nearly the difficulty in this economy and job market as someone like me.

I told my friends and family, the only trouble I might have with Polish in this position was that I didn't know the medical terms for the parts of the eye, but I could've learned that as quickly as any other component of the job, as I have friends who are native Polish speakers who could've taught me. It's just majorly irritating that the Northwest Side has become Little Warsaw, and while it never bothered me logistically or culturally, I'm through with waving my Polish flag with pride, because the immigrants are flocking to this area and scooping up jobs that people like me are totally qualified for, purely because of the language barrier. These days, you can't go to the grocery store, or the bank, or the bakery, or, evidently, the doctor's office, without there being signage, literature or employees who speak BOTH Polish and English. It's an old argument and American cliche to wonder why immigrants can't learn to speak English, and America is still composed of a vast melting pot of different nationalities, blah blah blah. But they're taking jobs out of the hands of American-born citizens, applying for and receiving American public aid and Social Security and settling for lower wages and poorer working conditions than their American-born counterparts, setting in general a lower standard of professionalism and poise in my area of the country. And I've just about had it with that.

Pondering this very subject had me awake at 6:30 in the morning, an hour before I need to get up and get Luke ready for school. As we speak, I'm multitasking and reading the new batch of want ads on Craigslist and, and sending out more resumes and applications, all for jobs for which I'm qualified and capable. I doubt that any of this week's legwork will materialize into a paid full-time gig, but I keep hoping.

That said, I don't think pierogies and kielbasa are on tonight's dinner menu, and I'm reneging my membership in the Bobby Vinton fan club. Not a dzien dobry!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Goodness Gracious, That CAN'T Be Healthy (Nevermind True)

Goodness Gracious, That CAN’T Be Healthy (Nevermind True)
Current mood: awake
Category: MySpace

First of all, it's 7:45 on a Sunday morning. I am awake. Call the newspapers. I can't say I'm chipper and embarking on a new day with glee and motivation--I woke up at 7:00 wheezing, so I needed to take my rescue inhaler (me + asthma + smoking = stupid).

So I'm awake, I made a pot of coffee, and I'm searching LimeWire for the version of "O, Holy Night" that Luciano Pavarotti sings in both English and Latin. Whenever Luke rolls out of bed, I will bake him the afore-promised cinnamon rolls for Sunday breakfast. Then I'll contemplate going to the 10:45 am church service, unless, of course, I fall back asleep, leaving God to shake His head in disappointment. Ah, well.

At any rate, I have to take issue with the extremely annoying ads that myspace includes in my profile, home page and banners. I understand that myspace programs the site to place "relevant" ads on our pages, though I can't remember when I might have indicated to myspace, my blog or the world in general, that I feel the need to lose weight. Granted, at my heaviest in 2006, I weighted 216 pounds and I now weight 127 pounds, but this is not a factoid I publish or email or advertise on a regular basis when I'm online.

Technically, then, I lost 89 pounds over an almost 3 year period, mostly by diet and exercise, but about 25 as a result of quitting the sauce in February, and probably another 15 by employing my "all nicotine and stress" regiment.

The ads on myspace show before/after shots of a woman's very large midsection, claiming "I lost 27 pounds in 2 weeks!" or a bikini-clad woman's after picture next to her before, where she's donning a frock by Omar the Tentmaker, exclaiming "I lost 37 pounds in a week and my friends can't believe it!"

Neither can the rest of the sane, general population, dear. To say these ads are outlandish is an understatement, and I honestly can't grasp that even the most despondent and desperate obese person would put much credence in them. Advertising is advertising, and quack products are quack products, but please...27 pounds in 2 weeks!?!?! Maybe if the woman had a serious attack of Crohn's disease or spontenously had all of her limbs amputated (now THAT would be an "after" picture!). Otherwise, no diet claim could ever, in history, provide such rapid results; or certainly, not without also admitting that the user was suffering from a cacophony of rapid weight-loss related dire, serious medical complications.

People who either know me or have seen my "before" pictures frequently ask me "how I did it." I did not use weight loss medications or supplements, nor did I have any sort of surgical assistance. My plan was to eat sensible, healthy portions of very mostly whole foods, drink lots of water and exercise for 1 1/2 hours, six days a week at my gym that was similar to the "Curves" chain (cardio, hydraulic machines and free weights).

For the first few months, my weight loss was consistent but slow, usually 2-3 pounds a week. Once my metabolism revved up, the most I would lose was 5 pounds a week, though it's hard to estimate since my trainer only weighed and measured me once every six weeks. Measuring, to me, was even more important than weighing, because often, inches would come off or tone up (as a result of the exercise) without losing a given amount of weight. Slow and steady weight loss was the key to both good health and successfully reshaping my appearance.

My weight loss plan satarted in February of 2006. By October of that year, I'd lost about 50 pounds and 47" from my frame. My BMI (body mass index) had returned to a healthy level from an obese level, and technically, I could have stopped losing weight at that point. It was a mazing, however, how pounds just melted off after I stopped drinking in February of 2008. Alcohol metabolizes in the body like 100% pure sugar, so it's absence, plus me drinking 2 liters of seltzer water a day, helped. Then the whole nicotine and stress diet...don't ask.

Bottom line--healthy wiehgt loss is possible and probable if you follow a sane, healthy plan. No magic pill will melt 27 pounds off your body in 2 weeks and if it does, you'll likely die of cardiac arrest.

And myspace? Put something new up, sheesh!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Today Didn't Really Want To Cooperate...

Sometimes if I've been in The Loop for more than 24 hours, I begin to fret that my apartment's gone to pot, the landlord's foreclosure-fault eviction has happened and the Cook County Sheriffs have thrown all of my stuff out onto the street. The secondary panic attack is that one or more of the utilities has been shut off, or that the sometimes not-so-neighborly neighbors have broken in and ransacked the place.

To date, however, most of this has never happened, apart from the City of Chicago dancing around the decision to provide water to our building since our MIA landlord owes them $1500. And Comcast notoriously has problems with our cable/internet service, usually requiring their technician to be intimately involved with the light poll in our alley.

Today, however, the Comcast being out was my fault. I was about $50 behind on my cable/internet bill, so my service was cut off while I was downtown. The self-imposed inconvenience was easily remedied and our service restored, so that turned out okay.

But Today wasn't done.

Luke and I came home, and he had to use the washroom. Too much toilet paper led to the toilet overflowing, and water running up the toilet, all over the bathroom floor, down the hallway and into the dining room. Again, more or less easily remedied problem. But I was growing more discombobulated as time progressed.

After some light grocery shopping, I realized I forgot to buy almond milk at the store and/or take a box of it home from Chris' this morning. In an effort to multi-task, we combined the milk run with me getting a haircut, the last two haircuts having turned my head into a complete clusterfuck of non-punkyness. It took a Croatian to remedy the damage done by the last two Polish stylists, and for that I certainly wasn't going to complain that the Croatian kept getting her scissors stuck in my ear cartilage piercings, both of which are still pretty fresh.

With almond milk and a decent coif, we returned home, where we have to trudge up 2 flights of steep, wooden stairs to get into our apartment. I'd swept the snow off, but a thick layer of ice from Thursday remained, and I neglected to procure salt. Naturally, I slipped and fell down 4 stairs on the second tier, spilling my purse. My left knee is a bit sore, as is my ankle, but it took me about 10 minutes to realize that blood was dripping from the knuckle of my pinky finger and down my hand.

The Murphy's Law day continued when Luke asked me, since the eviction hasn't come through yet, if I would put up our Christmas tree. Breathing deeply, I begrudgingly agreed, and brought the tree downstairs from storage. The instructions for the stand are totally ambiguious, but the tree is relatively straightforward--3 pieces that click into one another.

Simple enough, right? But this is me. And this was Today.

I became so irritated with the tree stand the first time I struggled with it's assembly that I didn't notice that the whole time, I was attempting to slide part 3 into where part 1 was supposed to go. Using my newly-acquired skills through cognitive behavior therapy, I stepped back from the tree situation and decided to take a break and make dinner.

This proved to be a good move, seeing as once I'd fortified my body with dinner and clicked on "To Kill A Mockingbird" on Movie Plex, I had a fresh pair of eyes with which to approach the tree's assembly. And that time I got it right.

Until it was time to untangle the ball of lights I hurriedly put away in the box after last Christmas. In the meantime, I explained the day's events to my mom on the phone, and she offered some unexpectedly sage advice..."Oh, just throw them on there and it can look like a Charlie Brown tree. At least you put one up so Luke will be happy." And he was! He was even more happy after I de-clumped some of the lights and strung some of them all the way around the tree. This leaves the tree crookedly standing with a minorly Big! Huge! Clump! right in the middle, but oh well. Some ornaments and bead garland and no one will really play that much attention. Remedy! Who wants to tree trim at Camp Swanky with us?

Today, as a proper noun, however, has much more significance than merely being Wow, What a Day that Clusterfuckedly Sucked Due to Increasingly Irritating Events. For today is December 6th. Today is all monumental and adorably important to me and someone I love very much, someone to whom I'll be forever grateful and whose friendship and support have been critical to my recovery, healing and soul. I want him to know just how much he's appreciated and how much I will always treasure our friendship. We have a running commentary about how we'll one day sit on a porch swing in our 80's and look back fondly at all of our adventures, for sure, but I'm not thinking that the revisitation should be on a December 6th unless we've both retired to Boca Raton in the interim.

Today I will soon retire to bed, in a functioning, warm apartment, sober and in the company of my son, having shared a quick goodnight on the phone with the love of my life.

Thank you, Today.

God Bless You, Christopher.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"I'm Fighting A Cold" and other non-linear strands...

Those yellow lines running diagonally across a strip of pavement over which I saunter in order to get from Point A to Point B?

"Crosswalks," right. In America, we call them "Crosswalks."

I'm starting to wonder if it's either mere coincidence or rather a nefarious plot that motorists routinely attempt to plow me down in the Jewel parking lot. But suffice it to say, if I'm feeling the need to place my hand on the hood of someone's car and say "LOOK OUT!," pedestrian preservation laws are being broken. Just sayin'.

My aloe and cucumber hand lotion has instructions for use on the back of the bottle. They read, "Smooth over entire body after exposure to sun or for anytime moisturization. The marketing team at Suave have nicely narrowed down when it's appropriate for me to use my hand lotion. I no longer harbor any uneasiness about moisturizing any and all of my body parts all the live-long day.

This is day 3 of me fighting a cold. Luke had one. Chris had one. So assume utter doom in my body's vain germ-fighting capability. (calling in for reinforcements.)

Blech. I'm behind on finishing about 3 really profound blogs. This isn't one of them.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear when interview #3 will take place and if I got this cool job at an opthalmologist's office. I'll call them tomorrow.

Luke has a serious crush on pretty little blond girl in his class, Grace. The following went on verbatim:

Grace, to teacher: "Mrs. Barber, can I roll my sleeves off? I'm too hot."
[Grace rolls up sleeves.)

Luke to Grace: " I wouldn't mind it if you took your shirt off!"

Where's another 8-year old cockblocker when need him?

Luke (in car en route home, me still flabbergasted): "She has a really cute belly button too."

Best course of action? Pretend I don't hear the last comment and seek out potential shelters in which to hide when Grace's Very Angry Father comes looking for me and my mojo drenched son.

Uh, duly noted? KIDS! THEY ARE 8! Holy crumbs that's a conversation I want to avoid until it's not my weekend and Craig can field Luke's sexual education. Surely, Craig will come up with somehing less offensive as a proper teaching aid. All I could come up with was having Luke listen to Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off." Actually, we YouTube'd it, and his only comment on both the message and it's delivery was, and I quote, "Classy!"

Prayers and God's grace are being answered and witnessed to me in droves lately. Prayer is such a powerful gift. The practice of approaching life looking through "not-entirely rose-colored glasses, let's call it, is so vital. The Christian approach is to treat others as if they themselves were Jesus and that we should act as if we're approaching it looking through Jesus' eyes. Make sense? Easier said than done, for sure, for we are all guilty of mistreating others. We are, by nature, sinful beings. Our negative emotions about others often cloud our capacity to love, celebrate life and express empathy. I could blog on for hours about how prayer and grace and faith in religion affects us on a daily basis, but anectodally, that will have to wait until the next blog posting! ;)

*ADDENDUM!!!* Boy, I sure make a lot of typos when I write blogs at midnight after I've taken my cavalcade of meds!!!!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm Having an Issue with John Denver

I’m Having Issues with John Denver. At the risk of losing any and all punk street cred I might have previously had, I totally admit that I'm having a John Denver issue in conjunction with iTunes.

Before you shoot me insulting comments and laugh behind my back, I offer a "Hell, Yes, I Likes Me Some John Denver, So Piss Off!" Plus, I'm presently listening to Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" and getting all choked up. I'm drunk on life today. It IS Thanksgiving, after all, and I have so much to be thankful for. Pass the Kleenex!

Like the freedom in America to download Sappy Shit with No Artistic Merit.

Which is where John Denver comes into the story.

My primary downloading mission was to score an mp3 version of "John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together," which is my all-time favorite collection of Christmas music. I think my copy of the CD was lost in the shuffle of separating from my husband anyway.

Mission accomplished. Download the CD. Yay, me.

But then I was also looking for John Denver's "Calypso." It's 3 minutes of schmaltz unparalleled in the annals of sappy pop music, an homage to Jacques Cousteau's old ship or something. But it's a tune I've always dug. So a'searching I went.

My theory, which I have yet to conclusively prove, is that John Denver only recorded approximately 3 full albums' worth of original material. And iTunes isn't exactly going to make my search speedy and painless, because their marketing plan is to have customers like me download a dozen other songs while en route to finding "THE SONG" for which I'm searching.

In the John Denver category in iTunes, we are bombarded with the following conglomeration of album choices, and not blatantly obvious on which any of these albums might feature "Calypso."

Which would explain my music search migraine, generated by this clusterfuck of choices:

"John Denver's Greatest Hits"
John Denver's Greatest Hits, Vol 2"
"John Denver's All-Time Greatest Hits"
"The Definitive John Denver"
"John Denver's Sixteen Biggest His"
"An Evening with John Denver"
The Essential John Denver"
and "The All-Time Greatest Hits of John Denver

...with the omitted glare of not including "John Denver Walked His dog While Humming His Essential, Definitive, Biggest, Greatest and All-Time Greatest Hits."

My relative disinterest in this topic prevents me from thoroughly researching which of these "hits" are on any of the available iTunes albums. But I'm left with a vexing conundrum as to which one these clearly redundant compilations actually is credible enough to include "Calypso."

Is "Calypso" actually "essential," definitive, biggest or greatest? iTunes, where are you hiding this song? Denver's probably been artifacted into a box somewhere labeled "Caution: Quick Sand!"

I shan't give up my search for "Calypso" just yet. Maybe after Inauguration Day.

In other news, Luke, my mom and I had a cozy, friendly, delicious Thanksgiving out in Cary with my best friend since grammar school, Patti, and her husband, his mom, and their daughters. I was elected to deliver the pre-dinner prayer, which I was okay with...and silently thanked God for all the blessings I've received this year in particular, sobriety being the 1 winner.

And I'm blessed to have friends such as yourselves, regardless if some of you haven't met me face-to-face. And a healthy, brilliant, charming son. And the loyal love of friends and families.

I love you all and wish you safe travels, compassion and God's grace during as you celebrate Christmas 2008. Resolve to being open in your heart to allow God's love inside. Trust me on this one. You won't regret it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Caution: Wet Cement

Lamb! Of! God!

Luke and I were driving home from Trader Joe's, where we scored 3 more gallons of their supremely delicious and somewhat hard-to-find Spiced Cider. So score!

Then we got Rick Rolled in our car by Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" at Harlem and Devon! We plotzed!

We passed a construction site where workers were busily pouring WET CEMENT from the cement truck onto the frame of a sidewalk. "Hey, look, Lucas, they're making a sidewalk!" At this point, my son was more or less unplussed about it, but found the phrase "WET CEMENT" incredibly funny. Don't ask.

My son then turned out G-rated Mommy/Son conversation into an unintentionally X-rated Mature! Audience! Only! laugh riot.

All while we're listening to Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on the radio, and I was attempting to explain the story of the song to him, with my son increasingly distracted by the WET CEMENT.

Somehow or another, the neurons in his noggin jumped from WET CEMENT to WET SEAMEN, which he repeated aloud over and over again, asking me, "Mommy, do you like WET SEAMEN?"

Barely able to steer the car without crashing into the van in front of me, I tried in vain to answer him with a straight face. "Well, I guess I do, Luke?"

But he kept repeating it. WET SEAMEN. WET SEAMEN.

"You know, men who come out of the ocean wearing their swimming trunks, like that picture you have of Daniel Craig," Luke uttered for clarification.

"Oooof!" I said. "Yeah! Then I totally like WET SEAMEN."

Now, a few days ago, Luke and I were puttering round YouTube, where I showed him a few of the dumbest music videos from the 1980's, including Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men," which features men in Speedos, hats, raincoats and umbrellas swishing around a miniature cardboard cityscape and romancing two morbidly obese women. Suffice it to say, the fellas in this video aren't the most...well, masculine and, uh, well, heterosexual. Blatantly so.

So Luke segues "It's Raining Men" back into the WET SEAMEN and asks me me, "Wouldn't you like to see WET SEAMEN coming from out of the sky?"

Luke: "If there were WET SEAMEN coming from out of the sky, it wouldn't be hard for you to find a husband."

Me: "Totally!"

Luke: "They should have a Comcast On-Demand channel of nothing but WET SEAMEN. That only grown-ups can watch. And WET SEAMEN Daniel Craig action figures."

(I can't even steer the car at this point. I'm laughing hysterically, and I can't tell him why. This was NOT the day to go into a diatribe about ejaculation and the vernacular nicknames for such, et al. He's only 8.)

The challenge now will be to prevent Luke from talking about WET SEAMEN at school, and at church, and to his friends, while I field phone calls from angry parents who chastise me for my son's completely inappropriate chatter.

All of this over a fresh sidewalk and a construction site....

Happy Thanksgiving from The Offbeat Drummer Mom!

Coming soon to an On-Demand channel near you.....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ack, a Song Evokes A Childhood Memory

Ack, a Goofy Childhood Memory Resurfaces
Current mood: crazy
Category: Games

I'm fiddling about on iTunes, mostly to keep my senses occupied and not dwell on someone (and no, You, You're not the one Im dwelling on, puhleeze), and in the iTunes Essentials. Stumbling towards Olivia Newton-John, I listened to the 30-second appetizer of "Hopelessly Devoted to You."

Now I'm trying to remember....I know I played out two relationship scenarios with both my Star Wars figure Han Solo and Princess Leia and my Barbie and Shaun Cassidy 12" dolls. (You under 30 readers can Wiki who Shaun Cassidy is.)

One of my soap-ish scenarios had Princess Leia singing "You Light Up My Life" to Han Solo (before the carbon freezing chamber scene in "Empire Strikes Back).

So that probably means that Barbie sand "Hopelessly Devoted to You" to Shaun Cassidy. Barbie and Shaun had this really drama-filled relationship, and Barbie's mom was played by my 12" Cher "action figure"

Their other pals were my 12" Donny and Marrie figures, who I kept as a couple (incest alert!). Donny and Marie were freaky dolls, whose hands held guitars (they played guitars?) with a little peg holdng the guitar in the hand. Once you took the guitar of, however, Donny and Marie were left with these total stigmata holes in the pals of their hands. Marie had an unruly mop on her head, whch I cut myself. That resulted in Marie looking like a cross between Phyllis Diller and a mental patient, largely due to the stigmata plus funky hairdo!

My doll-playing s a child was always really reality-based. Lots of school, lots of dates, all the fantasties I wanted to enact when I grew up (except maybe the having Cher as my mother). It wasn't quite as serious as "Barbie and Shaun Are Audited by the IRS, but you know what I mean.

And my mom made a lot of Barbie's clothes. She funked out in the late 70's/early 80's

Funny how songs can spark a cavalcade of memories...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Survey To Do So I Don't Drive Myself Insane Thinking Tonight

Where is the last place you drove?
Home from St Paul with Luke

What color was the last food you ate?
Chocolatey brown, though it wasn't chocolate

Have you ever wanted to be a school bus driver?
Golly, no

Who is number 6 on your top myspace friends?

Have you ever seen them when they're drunk?
Mico's usually drunk when I see him. And we met in person for the first time in a bar, so you do the math.

What would you do if a mouse ran across the floor right now?
I would invite him to visit the squirrel in the attic.

What did you do Sunday?
I slept late since I worked Saturday night, went to my mom's and then attended a Thanksgiving dinner for local International college students at my church

What about today?
I went to see my son perform at his school's chapel service, fielded Comcast fixing my internet (AGAIN), chatted with Tania and Brad online, went to the grocery store and listened to my son crab.

Who is number 5 on your top myspace friends?
Super Juls

Could you stand to be locked in a room with them for a solid week?
I think we'd die laughing, so send the coroner.

What is the last song you listened to?
"Grow Old With Me" by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Name a random song recently heard:
"Don't Look Back in Anger" by Oasis

Have you ever snuck into anyone's house?

Have you ever been bitten by anyone?
Heh, I've been engaging in said masochistic play since a boy in 1st grade was vampire practicing on my neck.
And I have no shame!

Have you ever played match-maker with your friends?
Yes, with disastrous results

What's your middle name?
That depends on who you ask. Sometimes it's "Caroline," sometimes it's "Miklasz.

How many books have you read in the last year?
I've started about a dozen and finished 2.

What color are the last shoes you wore?
Black and white

Who is the last person you hugged?
Cathy, I think

When's the last time you studied? mean studied something other than Daniel Craig's eyes? It's been a while

Can any of your relatives draw/paint?

Has anyone ever called you a slut?
Wait, I think "slut" should be another one of my middle names. Seriously, yes.

Are you wearing socks right now?
Yeah, it's chilly

Of your top myspace friends, which guy are you the most comfortable with?
Craig, Bradand Mico

Which girl?
Tania, Juls and Amy

All of them rock!

What is the last movie you watched?
"Christmas on Mars"

What is the last caffeinated beverage you drank?
A Really, Really Strong McDonald's coffee

Do you know anyone that works at a movie theater?

What about a hospital?
Lots of people, including my mom

Has anyone ever accidentally bit your tongue when you were kissing them?
...and purposely!

Who's bed besides your own were you in last?
My boyfriend's

What color shirt are you wearing?
A red one underneath a gray one

Has anyone ever asked what color your shirt is?
...only my color-blind father-in-law

Have you ever wanted to be a vet?

Where did your last kiss take place?

What about the one before that?

What kind of job does your father have?
He polishes the pearly gates.

Have you ever fed ducks?

Who were the last 3 people to text you?
Christopher, Patti and Brad

What does the 5th text in your inbox say? Who was it from?
I erase them after they've been read

What does the most recent text you sent say? Who was it to? '

Has a stranger ever asked if they could take your picture?

Set your music player/ipod/mp3 to shuffle.

What's the first song that plays?
"Closer" by Nine Inch Nails

What's the first lyric of that song?
"You let me violate you...."

Would it be weird if your ex came up to you?
Uh, no. He does that almost every day! Then he shakes his head in bewilderment and raises one eyebrow.

Is there someone from your past that you're still attached to?
Most of the people in my past are still attached to me in some way.

How long does it usually take you to fix your hair?
20 seconds, tops?

Have you ever dyed your hair?
Not since I got pregnant in '99

Have you ever dyed someone else's hair?
Luke's, temporarily, for last Halloween

Do you ever go in pet stores just to look at the pets?
No, I'm usually there to buy bird food

Have you ever ran over a turtle?
You don't find many on the streets of Chicago just wandering around. But if I go to OK City for New Year's I will let ya'll know if I see and/or run over any.

Do you actually read surveys that other people post?

Have you ever recorded yourself singing?
Of course I have

Have you ever been bitten by a cat?
Cats usually hiss and claw at me.

What about by a goose?

Do you ever watch Saturday Night Live?

Has anyone ever called you emo?
No the words "I am Sofa King we Todd did" out loud.

Did you get it?
Yes, and my son then repeated it out loud! And Brad uses those stupid lines all the time (Sofa King Tall, Sofa King Clever....)

Have you ever played that joke on anyone?
God, no.
It's always played on me!

Do you think anyone will actually read this survey?

Have you ever dated someone and later found out that they were gay?

Do cocky people annoy you?
If they're being actual cocks, yes.

Doesn't it suck when really intelligent people get addicted to drugs?
It sucks but it's an unfortunate by-product of genius.

Do you personally know anyone that is in a band?
Most of the people I know are in bands.

What color shirt are you wearing?
I thought this was already asked...

Have you ever had a pet goat?

Does anyone on your top myspace friends play drums?, Drozd, Jonny, Jim DeRo, Robbie, Butch, Neil Peart and Klipf

What about guitar?
Yes...Drozd, Brad, Jonny, Mico, Chris Stevens, Robbie, and the bands

Is it annoying when ur hanging out with someone and they text other people?
No...not really

Out of your friends, who is the best singer?

Has anyone ever just broke into song?
Anyone? Ever? Sure!

Do you regret kissing anyone?
Not really

Do you regret not kissing someone?
Well....maybe...I sort of regret not sitting on his lap TO kiss him when he asked me to.

Have you ever cussed someone out ?
I do that every 10 minutes!

Who will be the next person you text?
Probably Tania

Thanks, God! You Reign!

Thanks, God! You Reign!
Current mood: grateful
Category: Religion and Philosophy

The Praise Band is embarking on some new material for 2009, yay!

One of the new songs we're doing is Matthew West's "You Are Everything," which I heard for the first time today during Luke's 3rd Grade Chapelpalooza. I'm passing along the lyrics because I think it has a very positive message and certainly strikes a chord with me...."more than just a beautiful mess."

You Are Everything

Matthew West

Coming to a Praise Band Near You!

I'm the one with two left feet
Standing on a lonely street
I can't even walk a straight line

And every time you look at me
I'm spinning like an autumn leaf
Bound to hit bottom sometime

Where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won't let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can't believe is happening
You're standing right in front of me
With arms wide open all I know is
Every day is filled with hope
'cause you are everything that I breathe for
And I can't help but breathe you in, and breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart

I'm the one with big mistakes
Big regrets and bigger breaks
Than I'd ever care to confess

But you're the one who looks at me
And sees what I was meant to be
More than just a beautiful mess

Where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won't let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can't believe is happening
You're standing right in front of me
With arms wide open all I know is
Every day is filled with hope
'cause you are everything that I breathe for
And I can't help but breathe you in, and breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart

You're everything good in my life
Everything honest and true
And all of those stars hanging up in the sky
Could never shine brighter than you

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can't believe is happening
You're standing right in front of me
With arms wide open all I know is
Every day is filled with hope
'cause you are everything that I breathe for
And I can't help but breathe you in, and breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Area Woman Brews Underwear; Boyfriend Proclaims "Good to the Last Drop."

Realizing there was no regular coffee in my apartment soured my morning.

Realizing there WAS coffee in my clean underwear jazzed up my afternoon.

I have a very, very hard time maintaining composure and staying all firm and Mommy-like when Luke misbehaves, mostly because his antics are just "Really Fucking Clever" with a dash of "OMG, You're A Genius, Why Didn't I Think of That?"

Lest we forget that on the off chance he misbehaves during school, his pranks are labeled "Only Your Kid, Miklasz."

Today's was more "Why Does the Basement Smell Like the Fields of Costa Rica?"

Backstory: While there are adequate laundering machines in the basement of my apartment, it is more economical, not to mention sanitary, to do my laundry at my mom's townhouse. The load of whites/towels/socks/underwear (washed on hot) was transferred from the washer to the dryer before I picked Luke up from school, leaving the remaining cold/colored load to wash while I was gone.

In the interim, Luke and I both got haircuts, amid whiny protest on his part (see previous blog).

Luke (in whiny tone): "But Moooommmmm, I like my hair fluffy. I hate getting a hair cut."

Me (combative): "I know, son, but your hair is too long. It looks messy and unkempt. You'll look much neater with it cut."

Luke: "You think I'm UGLY."

Me: "No, I think you're very handsome. Just messy."

Luke (crying): "I don't tell YOU when YOU have to get a hair cut!"

Me (not believing I'm using this line): "That's enough. I am your mother, and if I say you're getting a hair cut, you're getting a hair cut."

Luke (Drama! Get popcorn!): "You're a M-E-A-N-I-E."

Me: "Is that one of your spelling words for this week?"

Luke (indistinguishable): "Wahahwhahshahwahahwah."

Me: "Whatever. We have to go back to Grandma's and change the laundry loads."

Parenting Lesson #1: Get as many of your household chores completed and errands run while your child is at school.

...though scheduling conflicts and other obligations often prevent this lesson's fruition. Still, make as many stops as you can in your alotted free time...
Parenting Lesson #2: Especially grocery shopping! Never, ever, under any circumstances, allow your child to accompany you to the grocery store. You'll thus save about $75, three hours and you won't leave kicking yourself for not having checked if Excedrin is on sale.

Making a list, compiling coupons and cross-referencing ingredients for easy meal planning will greatly reduce your ratio of staple versus impulse buys, which brings me to...

Parenting Lesson #3: Kids have sticky fingers. To a child, anything that is not boxed, bagged, frozen or otherwise secure is up for grabs. Not saying that kids are chronic kleptomaniacs, but let's just say that the lines between product sampling and grand theft aren't crystal clear.
Parenting Lesson #4: For the love of God, double check your child's pockets before laundering his/her clothing.

My failure to abide by the aforementioned lesson is why I found a total of about 2 dozen coffee beans at the bottom of my mom's washer and dryer today. Hazlenut coffee beans! I, in effect, brewed our underwear! :)

The River in Reverse

The River in Reverse
Current mood: annoyed
Category: Life

When I was a kid, I had an obsession with audio tape recording my family and friends (usually without their knowledge). These candidly captured conversations sometimes resulted in utter hilarity; other times, a spark of wisdom that would have otherwise been forgotten.

One such spark was courtesy of my grandfather, Chuck. "Pap," as we called him, was generally pretty stoic and quiet, distant and stern, commanding respect. Underneath his persona, however, he was a total softie.

After dinner, the family sat gathered around my great aunt and uncle's dining room table in Mountain Home, Arkansas, on a steamy July evening. Life moved less chaotically in Arkansas, even though Aunt Bernice and Uncle Jim operated a large dairy farm and managed several thriving crops. Following a late evening repast of the farm's bounty, my grandfather sighed over his coffee and dessert and said simply this:

"Another day shot off to Hell, isn't it?"

And that was it. No prologue or epilogue, merely an astute observation, forever captured by my eavesdropping. Ping!

Reasons why today gets categorized in the "shot off to Hell" pile, and it's not even 10am:

1. I'm out of regular coffee and felt too lazy in yesterday's cold/rainy climate to drag myself out to procure more, thus I'm running on decaf today. [Shivers]

2. Luke was hopelessly incapable of rousing from slumber this morning, despite vocal warning bells from me every 2 minutes. Consequently, he was 5 minutes late for school and had to snarf his breakfast in the car. When, by his own undoing, he started to whine and cry about being tardy for school, I quickly remarked that I had no interest in his teary-eyed blubbering, which only served to make him cry more loudly. He's lucky I brought the car to a complete stop in the parking lot before I quite literally threw him out the door. I'm already giddy with anticipation of his next onslaught of hysterics when he realizes that after school, we're going directly to see The People Who Cut His Scraggly Mop of Hair.

3. My best platonic guy pal and I are trying to solidify some kind of plan to visit one another during the holidays. Logistics are difficult because he lives on the East Coast, but has family he's visiting in downstate Illinois; furthermore, we're trying to decide if a New Year's road trip to Oklahoma City (to see the Flaming Lips) is mutually do-able. Whereas his planning sees fit to leave things at a "we'll see," I generally prefer a bit more structure and finality. Indecision breeds anxiety, and Lord knows I have enough of that already going on.

4. Whereas God forgives me of my sins upon my repentance and erases them forever from my roster of transgressions, my on-again/off-again/on-again boyfriend felt the need this morning to remind me of mistakes I've made and already apologized for, with a delayed-reaction moment of hurt and anger. I'm cutting him some slack, since he does have a lot of emotional processing on his plate, but I fail to see how reckoning the ills of yesterday will serve to foster a positive tomorrow. What's worse is that he cringes at me airing our dirty relationship laundry on social networking sites, so I'm sure the salt will keep on pouring onto an already delicate wound! Yowsa! (*For the record, I haven't actually aired anything private on any social networking site; Blogspot is a blog-hosting platform and not a social networking site.)

4.5. Thus far, the only creature on Earth happy to see me today has been my parakeet, Nitwit, who is staying at my mom's, whom I visited when I dropped off some laundry this morning.

5. I re-posted one of my personal ads here in Chicago in an effort to try and meet some new people/make some new friends. One respondent, I thought, liked my writing style and what I said in my profile, so I answered his email with some brief introductory pleasantries, stated my name and said, "And you are?..." His reply? "A jerk." Well, great! Now that we've established that, how's about dinner?

6. I'm bracing myself for one of my ex-husband's famous "See Below..." emails where he dissects personal and custody scheduling topics bit-by-bit, offering his responses callously if not always constructively. But historically, his claws only surface after the noon hour, so I have a little time to prepare and seek shelter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thelma & Annie

Thelma & Annie
Current mood: eccentric
Category: Friends

I don't routinely answer my cell phone when the incoming call is from a number that I don't recognize coming from one of the suburban area codes.

If memory serves, I was most likely bored and a skoash curious when, last week, I broke from the norm and answered a call from the 847 area code. On the other end of the line was a really confused sounding elderly lady, looking for someone named "Jesse Palmer."

(For clarification purposes, that's not me.)

Confused Elderly Lady dialed her phone correctly, and chances are the customer who had my cell phone number before me is this Jesse Palmer person. This didn't stop Confused Elderly Lady from calling me another handful of times, increasingly apologetic, so I asked her what her name was.


"Hi there, Thelma, I'm Andrea, which I think I told you the last 4 or 5 times you called me, and I'm still not Jesse Palmer."

Thelma's kind, gravelly, grandma-next-door voice and evident lack of knowledge about telecommunication in the 21st Century tugged at my heart, so when she informed me that the Yellow Pages (they still publish that thing?) were also of no help to her, I volunteered to use This Wacky Internet Invention Thing to assist her in locating Jesse Palmer, who is her tenant and still owes her November's rent.

Lucky for Thelma, I'm well versed in the particulars of both rent dodging AND locating people via the internet, so this mission was turning out to be more the fulfillment of destiny than a cure to boredom. Sort of. And it turned out that Thelma's son's wife's sister's friend's mother is also named Andrea, so, well, there, surely the cosmos had aligned the universe so that Thelma and I could become the best of friends.

During one of our conversations, Thelma mentioned that Jesse said he worked at a place called The Last Detail in Evanston, that did car detailing. No such business is located there, though I did stumble upon something similar in North Chicago, which is close to the Wisconsin border.

Having already spent an inordinate amount of my Saturday bounty hunting for Thelma, I called her back with the information I'd gathered and wished her luck in both her search for Jesse and his deadbeat pocketbook. I'm sure she would've been happy to yack at greater length, but I had band and church, so I left a message on her answering machine (which no doubt still uses actual tapes).

So she called me back...again. This time, I let it go to my voice mail, but I'll be saving Thelma's message for eternity. She was just too cute. So cute and old-ladyish that I'd have to have been just a complete bitch not to have helped her out. Which, of course, I'm not. She thanked me "so, so, so much" and remarked at what a "dear, dear, sweet girl" I was to take the time to assist her, and that "you just don't meet people any more who are willing to help out a complete stranger."

None of my grandparents are still living, so I totally envision taking Thelma a plate of Christmas cookies and noshing over tea about the cold Chicago weather, what's on sale at the grocery store and the benefits of wearing support stockings (her, not me).

Jesse Palmer, if you're out there, I'm gonna find you and shake you down till you pony up the dough you owe my new friend. Thelma, you're very welcome...I got your back.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"What Will I Be?"

My son's teacher has the class writing daily journal entries, which makes THIS blogging mom all sorts of happy. She is pleased that his writing voice continues to develop and that his true personality and humor are coming through.

One task for October was to brainstorm about your future. Under "What Job Might You Like?," Lucas offered the following possibilities, with my opinion in parentheses.

1. The Army (Um, son? No.)
2. Grocery Bagger (Definite part-time possibility. The kid's aptitude at the self-checkout is a marvel.)
3. President (I assume this means "...of the United States," but I require clarification.
4. Security Guard (Securing whom? Or what? Again, not a terrible choice, but in fairness, his only experience with "security guards" is watching the ones who are asleep at their posts during "Batman," who allow mayhem and crime to run rampant in Gotham.)
5. DUCT TAPE GUY (Oh, THAT duct tape guy. Huh?)
6. Astronaut

Luke was asked, "What kind of family do you want?"

He said, "A nice family with 3 14-year old sons."

Interesting. I assume Luke's not completely aware that this goal necessitates his wife having triplets. And if Grandma Me is being considered as a potential babysitter, we're going to have to have a talk.

Next topic.."What Will I Be Doing in 25 Years?"

Luke's version:

"I will be going to the moon to discover space cheese. Once I have it, I will go to the store and convince the manager to sell it. If they start selling it, I will offer to be a grocery bagger there. If they do not sell it, I will go away to the Army and never come back."


One of his other stories sparked the memory of a writing assignment I, myself, had in fifth grade...Luke's was "Aliens Visit for a Day." Mine was "The Rock Band Journey Visits for a Day."

But my favorite of the October journal entries has to be this one:

"Most people think being scarecrow is an easy job. Actually, it's a really tough job, because scarecrows have to stand still but somehow scare away pests. He can never go to sleep in case of mice at midnight or crows at 1:00 am. Scarecrows have to always be scary and mean and can never ask anyone, 'Do you want a latte?' They can't blink, which will get very painful--especially when you've already lost your eyes. They get bothered all day by birds, mice and bugs. They look scary and rough."

A latte? Is he for real?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Forget that Forrest Gump Crap.

Forget that Forrest Gump Crap...
Category: Life

No, life is NOT like a box of chocolates.

My son had an astute observation today.

Thus said Lucas.....

"God is the best graphic designer ever. I mean, look at the detail in the world around us. Life is like a video game, with the best graphics and the best action. But you only get one life...if you die, you don't get a bunch of chances to start the game over."

(At this point, I decided against dampening his profundity by explaining that some folks believe in reincarnation, whereby you would be entitled to innumerable chances to get things right.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Well, Hallelujah!

This weekend, I attended the wedding of and reception for my 2nd cousin and his new bride. It's amazing how wedding ceremonies and receptions simmer on through the 21st century, foregoing originality or progression for blanket banality, archaic rituals and an obligatory impetus for line dancing. ("It's electric!!!")

Prior to dinner being served, the guests were entertained (??) with a series of three Power Point slideshows put to song: one of pictures of the bride, one of pictures of the groom and one of pictures of the bride AND groom, with a collective running time of about 14 hours. In between hunger fantasies of chomping on the centerpiece, I noted the decision of the couple to use Jeff Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as the song for the bride/groom slideshow.

A point in favor of the couple was choosing this song over tired standards, such as "Tonight I Celebrate My Love" by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, or "Unforgettable" by Natalie and Nat King Cole, or anything by Celine Dion. But I had to wonder if the couple paid even a modicum of attention to the lyrics of "Hallelujah" prior to having it musically complement photographic evidence of their overwhelming lovey-doveyness and mutual affinity for Miller Lite Beer.

"Hallelujah" is a reasonably dark interpretation of passion, sorrow, love and loss with complex Biblical mingling paralleled to the life of King David. One of two competing theories, then, must be true. Either my cousin and his wife just dig it as a pretty tune and really like how they keep saying "Hallelujah!" over and over again, or I've grossly underestimated their intellect and capacity to illustrate the ebb and flow of emotion within human existence by contrasting vapid, positive imagery with contemporary lyrical melodrama. Knowing this couple, however, I will stick with the former.

That got me thinking about other songs that similarly smitten couples often choose as "The Wedding Song," and how often such songs are erroneously interpreted as being loving or sentimental, when in actuality, they are bitter, hostile and downright unpleasant.

The list includes:

"Every Breath You Take," by The Police. Please. You must be a rank life amateur if you missed the memo on how this song is a frightening ode to obsession and stalking.

"Wonderful Tonight," by Eric Clapton. The story goes that he got so tired of waiting for his wife, Pattie Boyd, to get her ass coiffed and makeup slathered for a dinner party that he had time to pen this classic as he pumped down whiskey and chain smoked cigarettes.

"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," by Green Day. Kids. Kids, kids, kids. Stop using this as your prom theme, your graduation song, blah blah. Really.

"(I Love You) Just the Way You Are," by Billy Joel. Joel wrote this as a ginormous musical bitch slap to his first wife, who had also been his manager, who's brother conned Joel out of like a bazillion dollars worth of songwriting and publishing royalties. Plus, Mrs. Joel #1 was wicked fugly. Don't go changin!

My list is by no means exhaustive, so I'd certainly welcome other additions I might have overlooked....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Imagine my disappointment that the word "cockermouth" is neither a sexual innuendo or a vulgar dig. It's a little town in England. It's also a track off of the last Mekons record, "Natural." Though the vanity of the town's nomenclature might wear off quickly, I've decided that since America is rapidly collapsing, I should seriously consider emigrating somewhere. Cockermouth sounds about right. "I'm Andrea, and I live in Cockermouth!!!" How do the people who actually live there manage to keep a straight face? Lamb of God!

The efficacy of my prescription NSAID in the quest to relieve my retrolisthesis and multiple lumbar disc herniage pain is miniscule. That's a nice way of saying that the shit my doctor gave me ain't cutting the mustard.

The ICD-9 diagnosis code for my ailments prior to my brain and lumbar MRI's indicated (780.4) that I had been suffering from "dizziness and giddiness." Excuse me, have we met? While I'm all sorts of happy that "giddiness" is a medical condition, it's not one from which I chronically suffer.

...I love these blog entries I draft and then leave for 2 weeks. If I had a point to make or an opinion to share, it's since left the transom of my psyche. So.....

Friday, September 19, 2008

Today Was Awesomely Awesome

For the following reasons:

1) My son completed his first-ever Cross Country meet, running a mile. Luke's not terribly athletic, preferring academia, movie making and intellectual (??) pursuits, so this was his first attempt at an extracurricular sport. It matters not how he placed; rather, that he completed the run. My favorite moment was when he saw me at the bottom of a tiny hill over which he'd run, passing me with a livid expression, growling aloud, "I HATE YOU." Such are the moments that mothers tuck away in their hearts for a lifetime.

2) After the Cross Country meet, there was a fundraising dinner at the school for Mexican Independence Day. My gang of friends from St. Paul were all there, noshing on yummy, homemade Mexican fare, with our previously exhausted runners clocking in what had to be an additional 5 miles like farts in a bottle around the gym. The next time the kids crab about the agony of Cross Country, I believe the solution is to have Chuck chase them from behind wearing the remnants of a blue pig's head pinata on his head. Vaya con Dios!

3) Today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Historically, I never fail to send greetings for the holiday to my friend, Jon Langford, of the Mekons. He is a Welsh transplant living and working here in Chicago in music and art, and just one of the nicest fellas in rock-n-roll. He'd filmed a show in October of 2007 for Columbia College's "Musicians' Studio" where he played a few tunes, was interviewed at length, and answered 3 audience questions on camera at the end, one of which was from yours truly.

Just when all hope had been lost that the show was ever going to air, whilst channel surfing as I yacked on the phone with my brother, there it was! In a fit of giddyness, I hung up on Steve, quickly called my mother and texted my boyfriend. My DVR wasn't cooperating tonight, so Luke took a very rudimentary clip of me asking my question and posted it to YouTube. I will go down in history as the woman who broke the very grim news to Jon Langford that he only has 4 minutes to live and has to listen to one more song....what would it be?

Friday, September 5, 2008

BB Had "Lucille," Clapton Had "Blackie," and I... adieu to my beloved and rare, circa '1970 maple Rogers drum kit.....

The Rogers kit has been lovingly pounded in my family for decades, most recently by me for the past two years, and really the only kit on which I've had any practice or play time.

Prior to that, my older brother played them until he replaced them a few years ago with a snazzy new Gretsch kit and left them in his basement on which to merely practice or jam. The Rogers suffered only minor damage to the bass drum rim over the years and was otherwise still the pristinely crafted and sonically impressive kit for which the brand was famous; amazing, considering the history of spaztastic Miklasz action the kit has seen.

Recently, my brother joined a second praise band in De Kalb, IL, which meets at a second church, and he was growing weary of lugging the Gretsch back and forth 4 nights a week. He was happy that I was putting the Rogers to good and regular use, but also wished for the convenience of having two kits at his disposal. Naturally, this left both of us with a vexing conundrum, since neither my or my band's budget could currently invest in a new kit here in Chicago.

One of the singers in my band found an almost-new, 5-pc poplar, Tama kit (plus cymbals, plus stands) for free on some online bartering site while I was on holiday 2 weekends ago, which was sitting unused in a drummer's basement on the South side of Chicago. I have no legitimate room to complain, because the donation of the kit to our church was indeed very gracious, but upon whacking the Tamas with my sticks for a trial fill this week, I could barely muster a cringe.

The Tama Imperialstar 5-pc Compact is an entry-level jazz kit, so it looks (and sounds) dwarfed compared to the size, tone and construction of the Rogers. The stock cymbals that came with the kit are manufactured out of spray-painted tin and, dare I say, even shittier than what I formerly thought were the world's most vomitrotious cymbals, the Sabian B8 series I bought in 2006. Luckily, I am keeping my Sabian B8's as well as the incredible Zildjian A-series ride cymbal I received for my last birthday.

Holy Hell, my dead grandpa's ball sack has more action left in it than the snare drum that came with this kit. I'm hugely spoiled, however, because the only other snare I've ever played is the Rogers Dynasonic, universally rated as one of the world's finest sounding snare drums.

Playing any new drum kit is similar to driving a car to which you're not accustomed. With both feet and hands simultaneously employed, the response time, agility and technical structure of a song's composition have to be re-worked and re-tooled, which isn't as simple as it may seem, particularly for a drummer like me who is competent but by no means a virtuoso, posing an interesting, even if not a welcome challenge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Well, Poo!

And I was so close to not blaming Comcast for ruining my week.

Remember the aforementioned catastrophically badass storms that blew through Chicago a week and a half or so ago? Yes, the one that blew out the power at Camp Swanky and cost me $100 in wasted groceries. That one. Com Ed finally restored power to my pad 36 hours later, at which time Luke and I returned home to further assess the interior damage.

Luke received his cousin Jake's used XBox and a slew of games when Jake got the new XBox 360 this summer. Since then, Luke's been mastering the Halo series of games, and just generally indulging in his video game playing passion in between making nifty homemade movies for YouTube. Very sadly, the lightning from the storm must have really struck really close to, if not on, our house. Even though our electronics were all plugged into surge suppressors, Mother Nature smoked out Luke's XBox entirely, now permanently stuck with a game belonging to the Park Ridge Library. The poor boy cried in hysterics for literally 2 hours as a result, in between blaming me for the power outage and cursing the clouds.

*Spoiler Alert: The story I'm about to tell is really, really boring.*

My computer is also connected to a separate surge suppressor, and the storm fried what I originally thought was just my leased Comcast cable modem. Using my superhuman tech savvy, I swapped the leased modem with one that I owned that was just sitting in a box to see if that would allow me internet access, but the problem was slightly more complicated. I deduced that the issue could be with the computer's ethernet card, so I set out to Best Buy to get a new one.

Best Buy featured the Linksys EtherFast 10/100 PCI adapter for the reasonable price of $27.99. A bargain, considering I'd budgeted $50 for the new part. I paid cash, checked out, threw the bag in my car and ran across to Target for some other sundries. Puttering around the electronics department at Target, I came upon the very same Linksys ethernet adapter. Absolutely the same model....for $11.99. Holy price difference, ya'll! Of course, I bought it and planned to zip back to Best Buy to return the first one, only to notice that the girl at the checkout at Best Buy failed to provide me with a receipt. Since only 20 minutes had passed since the purchase, I felt fairly confident that Best Buy Girl would still recognize me, so I approached her register to get a duplicate copy of my sales receipt. She reluctantly printed one out for me, after which I promptly used to return that ethernet card and get my $28 and change back. Yay, me!

Comcast won't add an owned modem to your account until you return their crappy leased modem, which requires a visit to the nearest Comcast service center. Luke and I schlepped there yesterday afternoon, where we were assisted by a very friendly customer service lady who was listening intently to a story Luke was regaling about his vacation in Colorado last weekend. The Comcast lady couldn't believe her eyes when she looked up and saw a little 8-year old boy who tells stories like a 65-year old man. She commented on his eloquence and verbosity, took care of my modem stuff, and off we went.

Once you add or replace a modem, Comcast has to program it and add it to your account over the phone at home. No biggie, that all took all of 10 minutes. Yippee, the internet finally worked again at home. Smooooooooth sailing. For a few hours, at least.

Boom--I started having the same modem problems which necessitated the swap in the first place, despite the new modem and ethernet card. No more internet. Another call to Comcast to troubleshoot. After 1/2 hour, Comcast held fast that the problem had nothing to do with either my modem or their network. Once again utilizing my superhuman tech savvy, I opened the motherboard back up and tried to ascertain if the root problem was the actual internal slot that holds the ethernet card. 'Twas indeed. Another 10 minutes of slot swapping and cursing again at the fact that I keep forgetting to buy compressed air to blow into and clean out the motherboard's innards. But connected at last! Happy dance!

I was so surprisingly not pissed at Comcast this week that I briefly considering taking the entirety of the organization on a picnic by the lake this weekend.

Until tonight.

I have a suckariffic, impromptu solo Thursday night, since my beau had to spend the evening consoling a college friend because another friend of a friend of theirs (or something like that) from college suddenly died. I'm so used to my dance card being filled on a Thursday that I grew antsy from the bevy of free time tonight. I spent about 45 minutes shopping at Trader Joe's and then came home to clean Luke's room and the downstairs bathroom. The birds were also fed and cleaned, and I was in my pajamas by 10pm.

I was poised to spend from 10pm to 1am watching 1983's TV movie, "The Day After" on the Sci-Fi channel. Nothing perks up a boring Thursday night like an incredibly dated, cheesy interpretation of a nuclear attack on the United States.

For some reason, I was receiving the audio on the channel but not the video. Whatever images I did receive were hopelessly pixelated, so the movie watching adventure was short lived. So here I sit. Tanks fer nushin, Comcast!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

Life has decided that I haven't quite been motherfucked enough in the last year or two, so it sees fit to slug me with a few more wallops.

I suppose I shouldn't use such harsh language in my blog just in case any potential employers might be reading it after having seen the link on my resume. Oh wait, no one is actually READING my resume. The 500 recipients of the vitae chronicling my work experience hit the delete key weeks ago. The handful of interviews I went on were either laughably mundane with poverty level pay or really promising, but with companies who have since disappeared in a cloud of smog. Besides, any employer who scoffs at the sight of the word "motherfucked" in a grown woman's blog is probably too uptight for my personality anyway. This unemployment/job search stuff is really starting to sour my outlook on life. I was finally getting my shit together by staying sober for close to 6 months, I was working on my self-esteem, my issues, working with my doctor to figure out why I feel so physically crappy and keep losing weight without trying (another 4 lbs shed over last week and I swear, I ate like a freaking pig).

In my typically delusional thinking, I was starting to really "get it" with life and looking positively to the future. I felt certain the the future would work itself out and I'd find a good job, I'd move out of the foreclosed apartment and get another place for myself and Luke, and that I wasn't doomed to a miserable lot in life. I could continue to be a good mom, a good daughter, a good friend, a good partner and a good worker. Oops, what the fuck was I thinking? Awesome fulfillment like that, sad to say, is reserved for the beautiful people in life. The gorgeous. The The chosen. The lucky. More and more, I'm honestly starting to believe what my parents ingrained in my psyche as a child: Those that got, get.

Take, for example, my boyfriend's company in the city. One of my close girlfriends just quit as their HR Manager, where she tried in vain to get the catalog editor to hire me as a copywriter there, which would pay around $40k a year. Not outstanding, but an easy job I would be quite good at and would afford me a reasonable wage with which to support myself and my son. But whatever booger runs that department ultimately decided not to hire anyone. There is an opening for someone to run the company's new huge ecommerce enterprise on eBay, which is another position for which I, as a former Gold Star Power Seller on eBay, would be absolutely perfect and would pay a LOT. But that's a job directly supervised by my boyfriend, who sees it as a conflict of interests.

But they DID hire a receptionist not too long ago for $50k a year and good benefits. A receptionist who has no Microsoft program skills, who can't figure out how to replace paper in the Xerox machine, who wouldn't know a Sharpie if it bit her in the ass and who likes to memo the entire organization when she misplaces office supplies. My HR friend didn't want this woman to get the job, favoring a much more highly qualified candidate. She was trumped by the CEO, however, in the final decision, because the CEO thinks that the dimwitted receptionist is very attractive. Life in general tends to roll that way, more often than not.

In other news, severe summer thunderstorms as well as actual reported tornados hit the Chicago metro area last night. Wrigley Field was evacuated during the Cubs game, my ex and son were sheltered in the basement of the Park Ridge Library, the sirens were going off like crazy and I was relatively oblivious to the first band of tornadic storms while in my boyfriend's high rise apartment downtown. (Much of the real damage was several miles west of his apartment.) Band #2 of storms hit between 11pm-midnight, with the most impressively terrifying lightning I have ever seen in my life. We watched bolts hit electrical transformers, which went up in puffs of green smoke. My boyfriend and I each had to soothe our respective 8-year olds over the phone, as they were both really freaked out. Last I heard, ComEd reported this morning that 200,000 customers were still without power, and while a lot of folks in the metro area lost their homes, cars, et al, no deaths were reported, which is good. I wondered aloud, as the lightning bolted down, if power was out at my apartment, which is about 8 miles west of downtown Chicago.

After I picked my son up from day camp, we headed back to our apartment. Our unlit, stiflingly sweltering apartment. My electric bill is up-to-date, so I knew it wasn't that the utility company turned it off on purpose (though that's happened before, wah), and I came to find out from neighbors on my block that our whole block had been out since 10:30 pm last night. ComEd told the neighbors that since our outage was confined to one block, we weren't a "high prority" in the power restoration game, and that we should sit tight. Would love to sit tight, but the sweat on my body was sliding me off of my furniture.

I gathered all of my reusable grocery bags and began to clear out the refrigerator and freezer. Only 3 or 4 boxes of Morningstar Farms veggie burgers and brown rice cakes were salvagable, while the frozen vegetables were soppy bags of mush. The sorbet, gelato and Luke's push-pops were sticky liquid. The butter smelled funky. The formerly-frozen loaves of bread were soggy. Items that weren't in immediate danger of totally yucking up the place, I left in the freezer because I was getting too pissed off to clean out the whole thing. The refrigerator items were even less fortunate than the frozen foods. I salvaged the berries, grapes, limes and shelf-stable organic milk boxes of Luke's, the Kalamata olives, but the spinach and salad were blech. I lost a total of close to 4 lbs of cheeses in various forms (shredded, sliced, blocked, et al).

The total grocery loss is honestly close to $100. $100 I don't have to immediately replace the food in the house until I get the next child support payment. Luckily, my son is going to New Mexico and Colorado with his dad on Thursday for a long weekend, so I don't have to worry about feeding him. My appetite is shit anyway, so I can get by on the non-perishables I have and whatever is safely chilling and re-freezing at my mom's. After my band plays at church Saturday night, we're having a BBQ at the guitarist's house, for which I planned to bring tabouleh and some veggie kabobs to grill, so that day's eating is checked.

Once the power is restored, I really need to start packing up my apartment for whenever whatever judge gets the case decides to throw Luke and I out on the street, at which time the boy will divide time between his dad and staying with me at my mother's house, with all of my possessions indefintely held in storage. I really like my apartment, and having to pack is astoundingly depressing, because it cements the reality, which is that the sheriffs will come to padlock the building and evict us in the very near future.

Even my drums are up for grabs. I play a vintage maple Rogers kit that's been in the family forever, and it's beautiful and sounds great and anyone who knows me knows that drumming is not only cathartic but also very enjoyable for me. I beat a shitload of anger and frustration out on that kit, in a band of people I absolutely love and respect, twice a month for my church's contemporary praise band. My older brother also plays drums in his church's praise band and allowed me more or less permanent access to the Rogers kit when he got a new Gretsch set a couple of years ago. While it's a pain in the butt, he schleps his kit in the car every week to the praise band gig as well as that of a new band he just joined, which is a lot of work, admittedly. I don't have to schlep my drums because they're kept at the church for when I need to rehearse and play. But now, my brother is asking me if my church can buy me (I'm so sure!) a new drum set and if he can have the Rogers kit back (again, I'm so sure!). It's hard enough for the church to find it in the budget to buy me 2 new pairs of Pro-Mark Hot Rod sticks when mine break, and that's only about $30. Losing the Rogers drums essentially erases what is a very crucial coping mechanism for me and my favorite hobby. Losing the Rogers drums will mean losing my place in the band. If I can't afford food and shelter, it is not in the cards for me to just go out and buy a new drum kit.

Yes, a lot of the issues and problems I have are a direct result of how I behaved, misbehaved and mismanaged my life when I was drinking. A lot of these issues are directly my fault, and some are me just perpetually drawing life's short straw. Yeah, this blog might be a long exercise in self-pity and if my readers see it as such, I'm not holding a gun to anyone's head to continue to listen to me bitch. Looking out the gigantic glass paneled windows from floor-to-ceiling at my boyfriend's apartment tonight, life does continue to go on. I'm looking down at millions of people for whom life has also dealt a raw deal, as well as that vital, successful, happy, lucky, beautiful, chosen few.

Speaking of the beautiful ones....

Now readers, the rest of tonight's "Hello darkness, my old friend" raging rant is reserved for those who subscribe to me on myspace or have access to my blogs there. Sorry! Sometimes it even sucks to be you.