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I love my kids very much.

Parenting is very humbling work. Parents whose skills as a parent I admire, regularly confess to being stymied by the combination of intense devotion and mind numbing repetition that is required for your child to sit on the edge of the nest and finally fly out of it.

Don’t slam the door, don’t leave your shoes there, please pick up your toys, books, clothes, keys from the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, hallway floor. Cover your mouth when you cough, don’t pick your nose. Say please. Say thank you. If I had a penny for every time I uttered those words, or others like them, I’d have my villa in Italy several times over.

The counter balance to that – is the 16 year old agreeing to give me a kiss on the cheek – in front of her equally 16 year old friends. Without a trace of irony or inducement of any kind. Placed along side is some of my 14 year old telling me that if she were raising kids she would do it exactly the way she was raised.

The scale metaphor is an apt one. We exist best if we can find a balance and you must test for the balance to maintain it. The kids are testing the balance quite rigorously these days.

My children saved my life. I’ve said that before and I’m not afraid to say it again at the risk of being redundant or boring. They opened my spiritual eyes to the needs outside my little emotional prison I had built. They made me human, when I was only partially that. We have developed a depth of trust I never thought possible. I eat sleep and breath their steadiness and their hormonal craziness. The testing part is normal, scary and funny. I’m taking it as more of a game of Spy vs Spy. Who can outwit who, with a comical twist. I never know what they will come up with and it requires all of my wits about me to play.

And, my kids are really straight arrows. I can’t imagine what it would be like to play with kids whose arrows travel a rougher, less steady trajectory.

My life is weathering some high seas of my own making. I’m stretching to make connections with people and to let go of my expectations as I do so. For someone who has been so solitary it’s an excruciating transition at times. I confront my own thorniness and push through until I rest up against the thorns of others. If I were more trusting, this would be so much easier. But life arranged a series of lessons for me that made me believe that trust was a dangerous thing. I’m wanting to unlearn that.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I swear that a Fairy Godmother has come along and sprinkled fairy dust on my little life. In an effort to rouse myself out of my doldrums, I MADE myself count all of my blessings. I mean really pay attention to the little bits that I tend to ignore, and minimize the stuff I usually focus on. The stuff that makes me envious and unhappy because I DON’T have this thing or that.

I thought I was doing such a miraculous turn around and then I noticed something odd. This state of happiness seemed familiar. The deep, baby like, sleep. My breathing is comfortable and my chest isn’t tight. It’s the happy pills.

Before you turn me over to the police for being the living embodiment of the Valley of the Dolls. I take a vitamin and herbal supplement for PMS. It has copious amounts of Vitamin B6 and some Calcium and Magnesium thrown in. The formula keeps me from being arrested as a mass murderer a couple of weeks out of each month. Best 15.00 a bottle I ever invested. I’ll see my kids graduate from High School in person, not in a striped suit, behind bars via video link.

It’s a little upsetting to realize that mood is really such a matter of brain chemistry. Ultimately I hope to use this information for good. Now I feel a bit like a person with bi-polar disease. If I go off of my meds what will happen?

Anyway, back to the Fairy Godmother. In Sleeping Beauty – Disney style – the fairies fight over the color of Aurora’s dress with little zings of their wands. The gown changes color from pink to blue. Some of the overspray wafts out of the fireplace if I remember correctly. It must have come over and twinkled itself onto my Prius. I swear this morning when I came out to the garage the Prius had the exact shade of blue as the Blue Fairy dust.

Marc teases me fairly regularly about wearing green and professing blue to be my favorite color. I can say without any doubt that blue is my favorite color. For me to be driving a blue Prius is almost too much good stuff. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll take all that good stuff like a man, or a woman. The car is so impossibly cute and blue and quiet and most importantly CLEAN It’s like driving the sky. Cielo Blu seems to be the only thing I can name her. It means Blue Sky in Italian.

I think this is what happens when we get older, we become more childlike. Naming inanimate objects, believing in fairies, wanting to get out of school and play.

Please don’t let me regress so far I need a diaper.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a tough nut to crack up here in the Pacific Northwest. Although the days are getting longer and lighter, it’s still grey and gloomy most of the time. Right now it’s also really cold. Not a happy state of affairs for me. My best friend nicknamed me the Hawaiian Hothouse Flower. I’m tender and not particularly hardy to cold below 40 degrees or so. My leaves curl up and turn brown.

I’ve noticed my mood has been difficult for the past few weeks. Some of that has to do with my Sweetie being out of town. Some of that has to do with my changing role at home with my children. Some of that has to do with the normal ebb and flow of hormones. It’s an uneasy truce and I am finding it hard to cope without lots of sleep, exercise and quiet time.

Throw in the rebellion my right right arm has begun to raise and I’m just a few hankies away from an asylum. Luckily for me, there is one just down the street.

My right arm is a source of constant information for me. It tells me when I’ve been working too hard at cleaning the house. It tells me when I’ve been knitting too long. It also tells me if I’ve slept on a bed not suitable for me, or sat too long in a bad chair, couch, car seat – or just sat up too long period.

Start with the cleaning and throw in a little hand spinning, kneading of bread and knitting and you have a 5 alarm fire in the joint capsule which is jumping the fire lines into my chest, neck and fingers at an alarming rate. If you pile on the continental knitting I’ve been doing to further the cause of the Ivy League Fair Isle vest well you might as well just lop it off. The arm is useless.

So I’m coping with arnica, self massage and ibuprofen. My next stop will be to try one of those warm wraps you can leave on all day.

Getting old ain’t for sissies, that’s for sure.

The Parakeet-a-rapto-saurus is an elusive animal. It comes out of it’s cage reluctantly and I’m usually missing a chunk of flesh when it does.

This morning I brought “It” down stairs to exorcise – um exercise it’s wings and left it sitting on the counter top next to my laptop.

That was my big mistake.

As I turned back to my laptop I saw the Parakeet-a-rapto-saurus staring at me as it flipped the neatly amputated Esc key of my laptop across the counter. I stood there for a good three seconds before it registered what had happened. The damn bird had eaten my laptop.

I picked up the little monster and stared straight at the beady eye that was facing me. I calmly explained that I was going to squeeze it’s slightly unripe banana yellow and green head until it popped off. The Parakeet-a-rapto-saurus opened it’s fierce beak and replied……. Tweap!

To be honest the key popped back on as easy as it came off. I’ll be twice as wary as before when placing a known machinovore next to my craptop computer again. I must say, however, that I would never in a bazillion years have guessed that the beast was so powerful and that the machine was so weak.

Maybe I need to cut back on the raw beef I’ve been feeding it.

That is my answer to the question “How many people does it take to change a light bulb?” That plus a dog.

Unbeknownst to me, when you change large fluorescent bulbs in a fixture that is on a 9 foot ceiling it’s not a walk in the park. In fact it can involve high drama, injury and destruction.

That’s why we needed all the stuff. The dog was there to add the high drama as she sat on the other side of the door and whined pitifully.

So where do I begin? Yesterday I created something called thermal shock in the one and only light fixture in our laundry room. This laundry room isn’t technically anything special. All of you have a room in your house that is the main conduit between you and your stuff in the house and the world outside. Ours is the laundry room. It has a set of doors that lead directly from the outside world (the garage) into the inside world (the house). Just about everything that comes into the house comes in through those doors.

There are no windows.

It resembles a human colon in function actually. We take and absorb what we need into the house and the rest is waste that ends up in the garbage can/recycle bin. Graphic but accurate description. You get the point.

That lack of window makes for a problem when the transitioning thing is going on. No light equals steps that are stumbled on, clothing and shoes are tripped over. The careful staging that I have done of things that must transition in or out of this room come to a screeching halt because it’s pitch black. The domestic equivalent of constipation.

Back to the thermal shock. I only know this because my dearest Sweetie has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things. Sometimes it’s the Encyclopedia Brittanica, sometimes its the Encyclopedia Craptanica. He informed me that my rapid switching on and off of the light switch caused this thermal shock to kill both of the bulbs in the fixture.

Go figure and let that be a lesson to me.

Well I could have waited for Sweetie to get back, but I’m not sure when exactly that would be. He just left and he’s got more work than time back east. Suffice it to say that the colon of the house could not wait that long to go. I had to take matters into my own hands.

The evening went this way. Me calling Sweetie from Fred Meyer “Um, what kind of bulbs do I need to buy to replace the ones I wantonly killed?” “Hmmmmm let me look” Sounds of tapping on a computer (thank GOD for Google). After what seemed like forever, because I have to pee and I’m wearing my uncomfortable work clothes he comes up with a number. The numbers on the bulbs match his research but the bulbs don’t have green ends (I don’t know either, it must be an electrician thing) but at this point I will die if I don’t pee, so I buy the things and resolve to take the old ones out of the fixture to check against the new ones for size and shape – prior to opening the package.

Get home, pee, don’t change clothes because that would make life easier. I am not about easy right now. I am about fixing this. Yes I climb the ladders with my work skirt and sweater on. The tights, surprisingly, survive to cover my legs another day.

Bring a ladder into laundry room without taking the cars out of the garage. Something I will be sorry about later because carrying a ladder through the garage with out dinging either of the cars proves to be very, very tricky.

Unscrew the end of fixture at which point the other end magically jumps off of the ledge holding it up and flings it self toward the floor.

Curse a blue streak and burst into tears, in front of my kids. Listen to my daughter tell me to relax, it’s all fine. Tell my daughter the parental equivalent of “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” Set my parenting cred back about 15 years.

Survey the damage. I’ve managed to direct the wooden part of the fixture into the laundry basket with a relatively soft landing. The large piece of rectangular plastic that covers the bulbs and diffuses the light has not been as lucky. It has a 1/2 inch long piece that cracked off the corner when it hit.

Curse some more, mostly under my breath.

Oldest daughter gets some tape and fixes the corner.

I bring another ladder veeery carefully into the laundry room. It’s suddenly much more crowded in the laundry room.

Swap out bulb #1. It immediately bursts into a blinding white light. Take a few minutes to let my right eye stop seeing the after image. Oldest daughter turns off the switch.

Swap out bulb #2. Turn the switch back on s-l-o-w-l-y to make sure all is well. And it is. Both bulbs work. Whoo Hoo!

This is where it gets tricky. It’s a combination of the three of us running up and down the ladders, sometimes two of us on one ladder, until the screw is back in. This is not as easy as it sounds and it suffice it to say that I cursed a few more words and sweat a bucket. No more tears.

Carry the two ladders back out to the garage. Spare both cars again. Put the tools away and turn the light switch on and off s-l-o-w-l-y a few times to survey my handiwork. Make like Tom Hanks in Castaway after the fire scene and beat my chest a few times.

Go upstairs, change into my flannel pajamas and suck my thumb after a brief conversation with my Sweetie. I can’t talk for long because I am completely spent.

The dog is devastated she wasn’t involved.

I’m not quite sure where to start, but my Sweetie and I have been car shopping. It’s been an intense process full of twists and turns. Both he and I have different ideas of what is important and what constitutes proper due diligence when looking at cars. I look at Consumer Reports for reliability and safety. He looks at for tips on pricing, resale value and depreciation. I look at cuteness and how bitchin’ someone appears while driving the vehicle, he checks out literage of the engine and the trueness of the alignment.

Together we make a force to be reckoned with when shopping for a car.

Add to the fact that he knows how to bargain and we made another big purchase together. A 2008 blue Prius. I love it so much I would marry it if I wasn’t already sort of married to my Sweetie, cuz, well, that would be bigamy.

Holy Hybrid Engine Batman what a great car. I literally couldn’t wait to get into the car last night to drive it home. I watched the numbers float between 50 and 75 MPG on the monitor. The numbers weren’t the only things floating. The car is quiet and drives like a magic carpet. I had so much energy when I got home I walked the dog.

The money I could save on gas is insane at $3.00 a gallon. At $4.00 I get light headed just thinking about it.

There is a part of me that thinks I just do not deserve this car, and another part of me that thinks life is short and good things are meant to be enjoyed. Aside from the fact that my Sweetie is not here to enjoy it with me (he had to go back to the East Coast last night) I’m going to bask in this lovely bit of fun and luxury while it lasts.

Last one to the gas pump wins!

I’ve just portaged across the parking lot with a gym clothes filled, banana yellow, plastic bag slapped on top of my head to keep the rain off. I’m sure I looked ever bit as attractive as I am describing. And sane.

It’s a concept I am holding at arms distance right now. Sanity. It’s the Whore-moans you know. No need to delve into that here – again, please?

So what’s this got to do with Nimbyism (Not In My Backyard). Late in December I discovered a flier attached to my door. It was decidedly not good news. There are now 3 convicted sex offenders living within a half mile of my house. In the mix are an arsonist, an attempted murderer and a burglar. All of them have been determined to be criminally insane. The state released them to this group home, mostly because they did not know what else to do with them. That group home is a few blocks from mine.

But the most horrifying wrinkle of all. The psychiatric review board for the state has allowed the group home staff to walk these people around the neighborhood without restraints. If one of them breaks free and makes a run for it, the staff will only call 911. They will not chase the escapee down.

Seriously, the group home said it’s all cool because nothing has happened since they opened in August 2007.

You have got to be out of your ever lovin’ minds people. The group home is surrounded by single family dwellings full of kids who don’t know the difference between a crazed maniac and the slightly weird neighbor next door. Anyone who takes exception to my description of these folks can kiss my rosy cheeks (the lower set). As far as I can tell this is just one big accident waiting to happen.

I understand that these homes have to go somewhere, but it seems to me that a secure, lock down facility does not belong in a neighborhood full of kids when some of the people in the home are convicted sex offenders who are criminally insane.

I dare anyone of you out there to tell me they think that is a good idea.

I have a book I keep that is filled with pictures of things I love. I’ve cut them out of catalogues and magazines over the years. I have written out poems and sayings and pasted in full passages from articles.

It says a lot about me. What it doesn’t say about me today is that I am a rabid bitch on wheels. This pre-mentrual whining is brought to you by the hormones Estrogen and Progesterone.

I took down the book after 4 years yesterday. I can’t believe I missed 4 years of writing down what I hoped to accomplish in the coming year. The last entry was January 2004. It hasn’t stopped me from accomplishing many good things. I just feel sad that the continuity isn’t there.

I wrote many of the same things, but I think there is something different afoot. I want to point the focus onto restarting my creativity. I want to be creative again. I used to think nothing of making up my own dances (who cares if they were any good). I painted and carved and made jewelry. I know I can do this if I can only rouse myself from this long sleep I’ve been in. It’s frustrating to be at work when I want to be knitting or spinning or cooking.

When I first entered the work world I felt like it was wonderful I could do this thing and take care of myself. I’ve worked mostly at jobs that paid the bills, not jobs I necessarily enjoyed. I’ve got some leadership qualities, but I doubt myself on a regular basis and the things I say to myself still tend toward “I’m an idiot”, rather than “I’m human and make mistakes”.

This creativity comes with a price. It takes time away from my duties as a mother. I can just lose myself in the project and time disappears. It makes me afraid because I’ll do this to the exclusion of friendships and healthy down time. The ever present need to strike a balance.

So for my year in review – the things I think I’ve accomplished.

1. Trip to Italy taken. Finally after 5 years I was able to make it happen.

2. Got back to Belly Dancing (we won’t talk about the not being back to Belly Dancing now part.

3. Stayed in a healthy relationship and kept it healthy by talking about what was really going on in my head and heart.

4. Delved back into the world of knitting again and really let myself sink into that lovely fiber haze. Went moony eyed and warm all over when I drove by sheep for Chrissakes. Dreamed of projects. Started some projects. Didn’t start others.

5. Finally ripped and re-knitted myself a pair of socks. The first pattern was unlovely and resembled a knitted golf club cover. The final result was not only comfortable and warm, but it resembled a sock – and for extra bonus secret decoder ring points – it was toe up.

6. Kept up a new fitness routine which has given me a stronger body that allows me to knit for longer that 5 minutes at a stretch.

Things I added to my 2008 list are – for the most part – the things that have been there all along. To be a better friend, most of my friendships die from benign neglect. To awaken the creativity that I know sleeps inside me. To be an awesome belly dancer. To allow my children to grow with age appropriate parenting (their age, not mine. I reserve the right to act like an idiot at a moment’s notice.)

What’s conspicuously absent is the resolution to get more sleep, eat better and relax more. The oldest driving and no soccer has given me back so much time. I don’t want to waste it.