Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I am reading this great book about writing, Bird by Bird, written by Anne Lamott. It was given to me by my friend, Kihm who's laugh I have the pleasure of hearing several times through out the work day. One of the chapters is about school lunches and how they define who your family is before your friends have a chance to see the craziness for themselves and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It's so true!

Way before I ever had friends over, my lunch told the world that I had a single working mother that didn't have a lot of money. My brown bag lunch at Our Lady of Lourdes sucked. My peanut butter and jelly sandwich was messy and kind of squished in the middle and never cut into cute little party squares. I got a piece of unpeeled fruit. Maybe a baggy of crackers or chips that were bordering being stale but nothing I was ever dying to get to the lunch room to eat. It's not that my Mom couldn't cook - she was and still is an amazing cook. I think it was more the frantic morning rush, getting three kids breakfast and off to school before she went to work and a lack of ingredients that resulted in my crappy lunch. I refuse to believe that she didn't make my sandwiches into party squares and let the grape jelly ooze out the sides because she didn't care. I also had to order milk from the milk cart. I hate milk. Hated it as a child. Hate it as an adult. So, not only did I have a messy lunch, I left the dimly lit dungeon of a cafeteria dehydrated and not able to get out of line on the way back to our classroom for a stop at the drinking fountain. Nuns didn't care about your thirst but they did care about orderly, quite, obedient children marching in straight lines. I'm typically not a bitter person but I wouldn't feel the least bit sorry today if I heard that Sister Priscilla died with someone holding a glass of water just out of her reach.

Gina Cruz was my first friend of a different ethnicity. Her parents were from the Phillipines and she had the lovliest, long, black shiny hair. Most girls envied her hair but I honed in on the red and black checkered thermos that her Mom would fill with Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup. Sometimes she'd switch things up with Chicken Noodle but it was mostly Chicken with Stars. Oh God, I wanted that thermos so bad. I'm sure I told my Mom about it and am also sure that getting me a checkered thermos never made her list of things to do.

My dark haired Filipino friend moved away in the third grade and while I can't remember what her face looked like, i've never forgotten about that thermos or the way she would pick the celery pieces out and set them inside the lid.
For the record, I never did get the thermos.

Despite the emotional trauma of my my everyday lunch there was one that I could count on to be spectacular. My Grandmothers. Spending the night with my Grandparents was always a blast but if you spent the night on a school night you had the joy of going to school with the best, kick ass lunch in the entire grade. The perfectly folded, overstuffed brown bag would get mouth watering stares way before the contents were ever carefully laid out in front of me. The sandwich, Pepperoni or Cappicola on a crusty piece of Columbus bread, wrapped perfectly in wax paper was always followed prepackaged junk food and a Twinkie or whole candy bar for dessert. It was a greasy bit of heaven in a paper bag and a fond memory that I have for pleasure of having for the rest of my days.

Now it's my turn to make the lunches. Lily is not one of those kids who ever wants to eat the school lunch so she has the coolest polka dot BUILT lunch bag, SIGG water bottle and at least three thermos's to choose from. I'm always pushing the hot soup option but she's not that into it. I cringe when she spends the night with Joe and he sends her to school with the three year old Princess lunch bag but she doesn't seem bothered by it. I secretly hope that my lunches are way better than his. I'll bet you he doesn't fold the napkin and put cute little notes on the top like I do. Maybe she needs one squished up PB&J to appreciate the beauty of my carefully planned out arrangements from the proper food groups? Either way, i'm confident that no one knows that her lunch comes from a broken home.

Prelude to the stolen duct tape

I look back now and know why my Father is the quiet, reserved man that he is today. Part of it is genetics and the other part is fear. He grew up with a stoic German Father and somehow ended up with my vivacious Italian Mother and had three daughters by the time he was 25. My Mother unsucessfully tried to beat the stoicism out of him with a frying pan and what was left was deadened with cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

He would come home from his job as a tool maker, unmoved by joy or grief and go through the motions of the evening. Eventually they divorced and us girls moved away and saw our Dad on all of the Holidays and occasions that you see your Dad when your parents are divorced. It wasn't so bad. When you're a kid you go through the motions unknowingly, it's the only way you know.

As teenagers, one by one we moved in with my Dad and his new wife. He loved us but wasn't quite sure what to do with us and examined each of our behavior with fear in his eyes trying to figure out if any of us were like my Mother. I knew right away that if I needed to talk to someone and it was outside of Dad's comfort zone I went to the council of sisters and things were taken care of. Eventually we spoke in code with Dad, "I need to go to the drug store" meant that any one of us needed some kind of product that defined us as girls and he quickly gave us $20 and the car keys. No questions asked. His ignorance usually worked to our benefit. He never asked for change back and anything that ever broke was fixed with duct tape. It's the one thing that man felt passion for. If it was missing, he would run around the house like a crazy person looking through drawers and banging on doors asking if anyone took the duct tape. My Mom should have tried to beat him with that instead of a frying pan, I think she would have been pleased to see a spark in his eye as he wrestled her for the shiny silver roll.

As an adult, I don't own a power drill. I have duct tape. My daughter is only 8 and already knows what a significant role it plays in our life together. She has what looks like a little wart on her toe and I called the Doctors office and asked if they could look at it for me. After explaining what it looked like they said it wasn't necessary and that they would send me a remedy that would get rid of it. It came in the mail this week in the form of a letter and imagine our delight when it said to wash the area well and apply a small piece of duct tape for 6 days.

Before she fell asleep last night we cut out the perfect square of duct tape and put it on her toe. I wish I had an answer for her when she asked me what the special power was in duct tape to fix her foot. I just told her we would have to call Grandpa tomorrow night. He knows everything there is to know about duct tape.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lily lied to me last night about something so stupid I wasn't sure how big of a deal to make out of it but after a few minutes of deep, what a big fat liar mouth thought, I decided that any lie, big or small is something that should be dealt with immediately and not tolerated. What if the little lies snowballed and someday led to her being the focus of a Wall Street scandal? Eventually the media would uncover the fact that her Mother never dealt with the issue of the missing duct tape in 4th grade and my inability to deal with conflicts would surface to shame me, again. So I tightened the terry cloth belt on my robe and went in like a trial lawyer demanding to know the facts.

It's ironic that duct tape is the source of yet another conversation in my life. A few weeks ago we began treating the wart on Lily's big toe with duct tape as instructed by the Pediatrician. I guess I didn't keep it on long enough because it grew back, uglier than before, and we had to start the process all over again.

I saw Lily with the tape in her hand yesterday morning and just assumed that she was putting a piece of it on her toe. When she came home from school she had on three black duct tape bracelets. She said her friend Violet made them for her. I asked if she made any and she said no. So, we're getting ready for bed and I need to wrap the wart and can't find the duct tape. I told her to come help me find it because she had it in her hand in the morning and now I can't find it. I asked again if she brought it to school to make bracelets and she said no. Unconvincingly. I knew she was going down. I told her that if she wasn't telling the truth, now would be a good time to come clean because I will drive to school in the morning and look in her desk. The horror of the mental image she must have had of me digging through her desk and finding the tape was obvious on her face and she said "It might have accidentally got put in my back and then accidentally put in my desk." My response was, "You accidentally do things like stub your toe or drive to work with your coffee cup on top of the car. You don't accidentally put a large roll of black duct tape in your backpack and then unload it into your desk. Go upstairs and sit on the bed until I get there." I needed those few moments to decide whether or not to make an enormous crime out of this or heat up my tea and crawl into bed with my book which is what I was looking forward to all night. I went with enormous crime and this is the part where I tightened the belt on my robe and assumed the role of a prosecuting attorney. I added some stomping up the stairs for effect. The inquisition only took 45 seconds to get her to admit that she did indeed make a bracelet. There was apparently a whole crew of duct tape thieves out there making goth like jewelery. I wanted to pinch her really hard for lying to me, especially about something so stupid, but I refrained from physical abuse and laid on the guilt instead. Thick. Tears were flowing. Promises were made.
I believe that I just spared the world one big fat liar mouth criminal in the years to come.

I picked up the phone several times to call Joe and tell him about it but put it back down each time knowing that I would retell the tale and not get much of a response and it's probably better that I learn how to deal with these things myself now. Putting the phone down definitely must be a sign of moving on. Isn't it?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How is it possible to feel as tired this morning as I did going to sleep last night? Isn't that theory on sleep, that you are supposed to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning?

I woke up and laid in bed for 30 minutes, staring at the ceiling, thinking of reasons why I should be entitled to stay home. Really, what I should have done was use that 30 minutes to pour myself a cup of coffee and lovingly pack Lily's lunch bag and make her a hot breakfast because the reality is that it's only October. I have two vacation days left and get letters home from school every other day preparing us for the impending doom of the swine flu. And if the H1N1 flu doesn't kill us the unpaid time off of work will so I got up and assumed the role of drill sargeant to see to it that we make it to the end of the driveway on time to catch the school bus.

Ten years ago I thought that I wanted at least 3 kids, two dogs and a fulfilling career. Ten years ago I thought that I would always have a husband waiting with me at the end of the driveway for the bus to come and give me a coffee breath kiss before we both drove off for the day. Where is that guy? The one I married lives 30 miles away and is without a doubt still in bed after playing in his band until the wee hours of the morning. I wonder if he thinks about us when he gets up? Probably not. He never calls to see if we are safely where we are supposed to be and I know him well enough to know that his equivilant of my 30 minutes spent staring at the ceiling is 30 minutes of him scratching his ass and looking for a pair of socks. And I'm sure he is never worried about Lily or I getting the swine flu.

While I'm sure there is no reason for concern, I do feel achy and have a headache but think that it has more to do with the fact that I fell asleep reading and rolled over onto Lily's hard metal book light for several hours. Just to be safe, I think that I will write to President Obama and recommend a stimulus package for single working mothers who are out of vacation days and don't get child support and against all odds and vigorous hand washing have been stricken with the swine flu.

The only slow movin' i'm doing this morning is to go refill my coffee mug.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I say that i'm moving on. I feel like i'm moving on, sometimes. But am I? After last night's storm i'm not quite sure i'm doing anything but jogging in circles pretending to be moving somewhere.

My name is Tina or Kristina depending on what period in my life you know me from. I don't prefer one name over the other but do like to write K's in cursive more than T's. And once, when I was a teenager my friend told me that the name Tina reminded him of the fat lady in a circus. I don't know why I remember that particular moment so clearly or why I think of a lady with a little tiny head and a big huge tattooed body named Tina, but I do. So most of time I'm Kristina. And all this name baggage from a guy named Cincinnatus.

I live in what used to be a grain barn with my 8 year old daughter Lily, a cat, a hampster, and since Sunday two goldfish but I'm sure that it will be just one goldfish after this week because one of them seems like it has suffered a goldfish stroke. "Bubbles" has been laying on the bottom of the tank on his side for three days now. He was still breathing this morning but is looking like a very pale version of the orange fish that he should be and has a crazed look in his eye. I'm sure that he is trying to send me a subliminal goldfish message to put him out of his misery but I can't do it. I prefer the long, drawn out, painful end to things which is why I am still married to a guy that I haven't lived with for two years.

It's nights like last nights storm that make me wonder if there is anything that I can salvage from my marriage to make it OK again. As I mentioned, I live in what used to be a barn that I affectionately call our tree house. I usually love it. In the daytime. When the wind isn't howling and making the trees scratch against the roof and the whole place wobble back and forth, creaking...reminding me that I am moments away from a Wizard of Oz experience. Those are the moments that I wish that someone was there with me to shush me back to sleep and reassure me that the 200 year old barn has sustained storms much worse than this. But there is no one there but me. And I have to be the one to shush Lily back to sleep and tell her that the storm is already passing even though i'm really planning our escape route and wondering if i'll be able to hold onto her if the whole place collapses around us.

I think that she feels safe. She crawls on top of me and falls back to sleep. So i've done OK with the storm. But the moving on part? I'm still wondering.