Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I always joke that I'm on a short leash. A very short leash.

Bedtime for me is around 9pm. I only drink alcohol once a week, more recently, it's been like once every couple of weeks. I avoid sugar. I read before bed. I take a long, hot shower. I don't dare turn on the television. All this to get a decent night's sleep. If I'm lucky.

My sister getting married was a major departure from my beloved and predictable leash. And I'm still paying the price of being "unleashed" for the long weekend. Here's how the leash came off, swiftly and without any regard to consequences:

Thursday night: Arrive Indy at 10:30pm. Gather bags and drive an hour to Columbus. Entire family congregates at midnight (my mom, my dad, stepmom, Alisa, Alec and mother-in-law) for a meal. At freakin' midnight! I go to bed with a stomachache.

Friday night: Dinner with friends and relatives. I have a glass of wine, some Chateaubriand (steak), lasagna, more Chateaubriand, and start to lap the dessert table. Have two of each of everything. There were four desserts. Yes, I indeed have eight desserts. And two cups of coffee. At 9pm, not decaf, because the bachelorette party is assembling and I need some pep.

Friday night, part 2: We're at the Columbus Bar. We order three rounds of kamicazes (I slip most of mine to a friend) and then order another two rounds of martinis. Then vodka shots. Again, I'm passing off most of my drinks. Then a platter of nachos. Loaded nachos. A plate of deep fried pickles. A basket of fried cheese balls. Two more platters of nachos. More pickles. Three more baskets of chesse balls. I'm right in the action, devouring the nachos like I hadn't just had steak, lasagna and eight desserts. EIGHT F-ING DESSERTS. We leave the bar at 2am and I'm doubled over in abdominal pain. I go to bed in fetal position, tossing and turning all night with nightmares of GI distress all through the wedding.

Saturday morning: Attempt a run in the park. Not happening.

Saturday night: Reception buffet. Who goes for seconds on the salmon? Who goes for seconds on the ice cream? Who has TWO pieces of cake? Who thinks that they are going to be admitted to the hospital at the end of the night? One redeeming fact: I didn't drink.

Sunday morning: We get up at 1am, Cali time, to make our 8am flight out of Indy. I am miserable. Jeans won't zip. Exhausted beyond belief. Snack all the way home since Delta no longer offers any kind of food service. Arrive home and finish up the weekend of gluttony by having three cookies and a chocolate bar.

Monday morning: Put my leash back on.

Tuesday morning: Took the leash back off to make cookies and eat four.

Wednesday morning: Leash stays off to eat cookies for breakfast and throughout the day. Sneak into the cornbread stuffing after class; oh yes, indeed, I am unleashed again.

Might as well keep it off now, seeing that Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


You would think I would know better. After 38, going on 39 years of being my dad's daughter. But no, I am an idiot.

Just one week before the big wedding in Indiana, I got all psyched up about our Presiding Bishop being in town (at my church!) and I sent off a message, with a link to the Sac Bee article which covered her visit, to some close friends and to my family members. The subject line read: "Our fabulous Bishop!"

And what was my dad's response? A scathing message back about how "scary" she is as a leader and "how could his own daughter's Christian faith have gone so awry?" Which was followed up by multiple phone calls today (he goes weeks without talking with me and THIS is the reason that he actually attempted to track me down?) and two more nasty emails which detailed what a *problem" she is as a leader and once again, how could I possibly call myself a Christian?

To that last question, my response was: "Oh, let me just count the ways. Let's start with communion. EVERY single Sunday. Liturgy. Prayer. Baptism. And lest we forget, that age old book that we ALL study: the Bible.

But beyond that, to me, Christianity carries a certain sense of responsibility to our community. Like feeding the hungry. Check. Housing the homeless. Check. Taking care of our neighbor. Check.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. CHECK.

I'm embarrassed to write the full scope of what my dad put in the email. It's intolerant, narrow-minded and downright wrong. It's nothing I would ever want Ben to know about. There wasn't a hint of compassion, love or understanding in his messages.

I don't know what I was thinking when I sent the link to him. Oh wait, yes I do. I was thinking, actually, I was reveling in the experience of being with our Bishop. I wanted to share the details with anyone, everyone. I wanted everyone I care about to be sitting with me in church during her message. It was that powerful.

Every child looks for validation from their parent/s. Even when the child is 38 years old. Of course I want my dad to approve of my choices - how I raise Ben, how I make money, whom I choose to date, how I experience faith and spirituality. But once again, he disappointed me. This time around though, I'm not taking that disappointment to heart. It's kinda helpful to look at him like a neanderthal; like someone who cannot even try to be evolved. And then it makes me feel that much MORE evolved.

He thinks we're going to have this great "sit down" in Indy; he's told me he'll pull out the book of John and show me the error of my ways. Good thing I have an ally in my lovely sis. Somehow, an incredibly big job involving tons of bows and candles and I-don't-know-what-else has materialized and my name is all over the task. I'm assured that it will take the better part of two days so any talk of religion will just have to wait until the next family get-together. Which happens to be next week: Thanksgiving. I don't care if I have to pluck the feathers off the turkey to keep busy, I am SO. NOT. HAVING. THIS. CONVERSATION. WITH. HIM.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


My sister is getting married one week from today.

I'm trying to visualize my mother, my father, my stepmom, my brother and a church full of well-wishers, gazing at my only sister as she walks down the aisle and commits to sharing her life with Alec. The whole experience - all the family converging onto Columbus, Indiana for a weekend of festivities - feels so enchanting and so sweet - that I can't wrap my brain around the enormous amount of happiness that I'm feeling for her.

I was driving this afternoon and thinking of how much she means to me. My heart started to hurt, just a little, as I thought about how marriage can be so happy and a little sad, at the same time. My little sister, who is mostly wiser than me - her older sister - is about to be set free from the clutches of my parents, and me. She'll have a new family to blend into - which I'm sure she'll do quite well - and new traditions to start with Alec.

Misty-eyed, I pulled the car over to let the tears flow. Just for a few moments. And then I let myself feel the wonder of romantic love - and the joy of getting to fly across the country to see that love manifest before my eyes.

I was reminded of another life event; one that involved my sister, driving in HER car. When I found out I was pregnant, I called her first. She was driving and I told her my news. I heard the sob before I heard any words. She later told me that after we had finished our conversation, she pulled her own car over and cried.

My sister makes me feel tender-hearted in a way that no one else can. The connection, the bond that we have is unlike any that I have with anyone else. She shares my history, she shares my genetics, she shares a piece of my soul.

Even as I write this, I can feel the tears brimming. My sister is stronger than she'll ever know - she endured a career as a commercial airline pilot and spent long, dark days (and nights) wondering when things would shift in her life. I know that she questioned fate, on more than one instance, and the possibility of love in her life.

And now it's here. Everything that she waited for and so much more.

I might as well come to terms with the fact that I'm gonna spend the next six days in a heightened emotional state with a few unexpected tears here and there.

My sister's getting married.
My sister's getting married.
My sister's getting married.

She deserves happiness that can't be quantified, love that can't be measured and every single blessing in the world.

In the words of our beloved Dr. Seuss, whom I'll be quoting at the reception:

Today is your day!
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.
You're on your own and you know what to do.
(This is likely where the klee-nex will come out!)
And you are the couple who'll decide where to go
And when things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.
Oh! The places you'll go!
You'll be on your way up.
You'll be seeing great sights.
You'll join the high fliers
Who soar to great heights.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
So be sure when you step
Step with great care and great tact
And remember that Life's a great balancing act.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
Kids, you'll move mountains.
You're off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!!!

I love you, Alisa.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Ben and I had a sweet visit with my dad yesterday. We've come a little ways since summer. It feels good.

Originally, I had planned to take Ben out of school an hour early and drive him down to Modesto to spend the late afternoon with my dad and his wife, and to have an early dinner with them. I was dreading the outing because it meant a later bed time for Ben (on a school night) and quite a lot of restless time in the car (at least 90 minutes each way).

I haven't seen my stepmom, Teresa since our fall-out in August so I was also a little apprehensive about how she and I would interact, although our recent phone conversations have been friendly and upbeat.

An hour before I was supposed to fetch Ben from school, my dad called and said that Teresa had been sick all day and could we meet in Stockton for some post-birthday shopping at Target and maybe a coffee after?

I was thrilled because it meant less driving for me and less whining and "are we there yet" from Ben. And for my dad to take the initiative and actually suggest an alternative, well, that's huge. Particularly when it comes to seeing his grandson.

Ben was so excited to be leaving school early. He knew that he would be shopping with Grandpa and in his mind, Grandpa has an endless amount of money (which he doesn't but he is very generous and takes great delight in giving Ben every type of remote controlled vehicle that he can find). Ben and I ran hand-in-hand to the car, all the while talking excitedly about what he might find at Target.

We went to a new Target in Stockton and as I pulled into the parking lot, I saw my dad waiting at the entrance. I pulled around and Ben flung open the door, without even unbuckling his car seat, shouting, "Grandpa! Let's go shopping!"

I gave my dad strict instructions on making Ben focus, not buying too much, making sure that the toys weren't too loud, too cheap, or too difficult to assemble, blah, blah, blah. My dad waved me off, grabbed Ben by the hand and off they went to toys as I set off to my favorite part of Target: the clothing department!

The Clearance section at the Stockton Target is unreal. Huge. Deeply discounted. I grabbed two shirts and could have easily filled a whole cart but my curiosity over what was happening in the toy aisle was piqued so I made a mental note to return to Stockton (that's a first!) and made my way to the toy department.

I found Ben and my dad puzzling over which Air Hogs to purchase. "They climb the walls," my dad announced. "Oh great," I said. "This one can go across the ceiling," Ben added. "Put it in the cart," my dad said. Surprisingly, the cart wasn't that full. Granted, it was a lot fuller than it would be if I took Ben shopping but it wasn't obscene. Yet. Ben vacillated over a Hot Wheels track versus a Tranformers RPM figure. I made him pick one although my dad wanted to get both. "Save one for Christmas, if you really want him to have it," I said.

Somehow we wrapped up the process and made our way to the check-out aisle where the sum of all Ben's toys, along with my two shirts, was actually less than my mortgage payment.

From there, we went across the parking lot to Panerra Bread where Ben wolfed down a grilled cheese, a yogurt and a juice box as my dad watched, wide-eyed. Ben then grabbed my hand, pulled me in close and whispered, "I need another grilled cheese, Mommy!" My dad, who is hard of hearing, said, "He didn't just ask for MORE food, did he?" Shaking his head, he and Ben returned to the counter and ordered an enormous scone for Ben. My dad came back to the table, which was around the corner. "Um, where's Ben?" I asked. "Paying for the scone," my dad answered. "This should be interesting," I said.

A couple of moments later, a confused Ben wandered back to the table, with change and no scone. My dad had a good laugh and walked BACK to the counter with him to retrieve a giant scone, covered in orange icing. Ben proceeded to eat only the icing and then handed the interior to my dad. More laughs.

We left right after the scone. My dad had to get back for a late meeting and I was all too happy to get Ben home for a decent bedtime. Big hugs all the way around and we were all on our way.

On the way home, Ben and I talked about how lucky he is to have such a nice and generous Grandpa. Ben insisted on having the toys piled up in the backseat so that he could look at them and the excitement over the stack of new purchases quickly turned into a huge whine session when he realized that we would be sitting in 5:00 commute traffic. And the whining turned into an all-out bathroom emergency when on I-5, in the middle of BFE, Ben decided that his bladder had reached capacity. Being the resourceful mom that I am, I had a remedy which involved a plastic cup and some backseat finagling, but Ben developed a case of stage fright and opted to wait until we could find a respectable restroom.

All in all, I'd say that the visit was a success. My dad seems to be relating much better to Ben these days and he seems less judgmental over my parenting style, as well. He actually looked happy during our brief time together. Of course, with my sister's wedding and Thanksgiving quickly approaching, he AND Teresa will be likely in high-stress mode and there will be tense moments. But I think we're on the upswing.

I'm feeling something new towards the two of them: a sense of tenderness and of compassion. It's a good feeling. I think I can make the space, carry the torch and continue on toward a relationship that is more loving, more accepting. For Ben's sake, I can.