Birthday – I had one!

Shirliana's birthday pictureWhat a birthday. My friends at work were so wonderful to me. Normally I don’t like being in the center of attention and I don’t know how to respond when people give me gifts – honestly – I’d rather do the giving. But my friends at work didn’t make me feel weird – I have some really great ones and it’s without a doubt one of the best things about my job.

I remember when I left Global Volunteers that I wondered how I would ever go on and I was so sure I’d never find the family that I had at the job I had been at for nearly nine years. Well I did, and lucky me. Lucky, lucky me. Best of all – I didn’t trade one family for another – I just added to the one I already had.

And of course, Susan and Dan were so generous, giving me a gift card that I could spend anywhere – and I did! It was so fun and provided Amelia and I more than one shopping spree!

But birthdays aren’t about getting presents and being put in the limelight. I’m grateful that I am alive and seemingly doing well and I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring.

Morning musings

The heat is sweltering, but I don’t mind. Later today Amelia and I are supposed to go berry picking – my little girl has her heart set on it and mine isn’t able to break hers. It’s quiet in the house, with everyone sleeping and I’m preparing to do research – where will we go, what time should we go and how will we fit it in with a trip to the gym,  lunch with Grandma Susan and dinner with Papa John. I think I can manage it all.

I took a break to read the news and saw that Spain’s annual “Running of the Bulls,” started this week. What a gruesome and morbid tradition that is, and I wondered how it is allowed to continue at a time when ever-watchful PETA protesters work tirelessly around the clock to spread their message and prevent animal cruelity.

For eight days this deadly celebration begins early in the morning with the frightened bulls charging down the streets amid crowds of people taunting and luring them. They will run from the corrals to the bullring, where the they will later face certain death against matadors who’ve trained specifically for this horrific spectator sport. Gawd-awful, isn’t it?

I’m reminded of a conversation I had yesterday with Amelia. Our little girl is heavily involved in the sport of horseback riding and when I picked her up from school yesterday she was talking about the nicking of one of the horses tails to prepare it for an upcoming horse show. I was appalled at her words – while I didn’t have a clue what tail nicking was, I was sure it involved pain and told he so. “The horse doesn’t feel any pain,” she said, to which I replied, “Did the horse tell you that, or are you repeating what you’ve heard from someone else?”

Later I Googled the process of “nicking” a horse’s tail. The process involves cutting the tail muscle and ligaments and inserting a “tail set,” then forcing it to heal in an abnormal fashion, causing the tail to arch – an abnormalty that is considered fashionable in the ring.  The tail set causes muscles and ligaments heal in a way they are longer than they were initially.  According to Wikipedia, “It is a harness-like device with straps that loop from the chest of the horse to the back of the tail to support a spoon crupper that actually holds the tail itself. A tail set holds the tail up and stretches the muscles and ligaments of the tail, preventing it from gradually sinking down. Once healed, the tail will still retain most of its movement and function, such as swatting flies, but can no longer be clamped down hard against the buttocks. In the show ring, the tailsetting harness is removed, but the tail is often tied or put into a tail brace to hold it in place.”

When Amelia woke up, I told her about what I had learned. I added that she might have to decide whether she wants this done to her horse one day and no longer can she think that it’s a painless procedure. I didn’t tell he this, but I hope she has the courage and conscience to make the most humane decision.

I am back to my research of berries and picking places and managing the events of our day. It will be nice to see Susan again, although I’m not sure what she’s going to say about my pink hair – she hasn’t seen it yet. Here’s hoping for a relaxing and productive day. But honestly I have to wonder – is there such a thing?

Fourteen times

To who ever took the headrest out of my convertible,

It was parked outside the veterinarian’s office because I was picking up my aging and precious Saint Bernard from her appointment. She is nearing the life expectancy of a Saint and to my heartbreak, is starting to show it. My top was down because that is the only way she can fit in my Volkswagen Beetle. The cost of my doctor visit was nearly $400, which I didn’t readily have – but somehow always manage to find a way to come  up with it. Anything to help her live a comfortable life and as healthy one as possible.

Cost to replace my headrest that you stole is another $400. I hope you took it because you needed it – not in jest or some immature act of child’s play. I hope it sits in the back of another Beetle convertible, not tossed carelessly on the side of the road or in deep grass somewhere, where it does nobody any good. I hope you needed it.

Twelve years ago I moved to the Twin Cities. At the time I thought this was where I was meant to be – the people, the action, the opportunities – now I’m not so sure. And while I still believe I didn’t have a choice in the move – I admit it came with great costs. What I left behind – and again, I stress, I truly didn’t believe I had a choice, can never be re-gotten or replaced.

Today I was reflecting that this remarkable place that instantly captured my imagination and gave me such promise, has been riddled with pain, heartbreak and even crime. And while it did bring me some measure of happiness and satisfaction, it marks the fourteenth time I have been either robbed, attacked or accosted in some way.

And yet here I still am. Rooted to the place I call home and without the most vital components that truly make it one.

Eddie – rest in peace

It has been a busy and sad week and I dread knowing what disaster Friday might bring about.

On Sunday I went to a spa with my friend Eshaka and was burned when the sauna-type machine jammed and over-heated. What was supposed to be a relaxing 15 minutes in a hot sauna pod, turned out to be a 15 minutes of pure burning hell in a pod with a temperature that wouldn’t be lowered. It was horrible and I still have the small blisters to remember it.

Then on Tuesday, Mister Snickers ripped off one of his toenails and I had to bring him to the doctor. Ouch! Not only for him, but for me too when the vet tech showed me the estimate of services! Thankfully Papa John helped me out and paid for the whole bill. Two thoughts: 1) It would have wiped out my checking account and 2) I’m totally in the wrong profession! Thank goodness his foot is healing, but he’s having a hard time with the cone he has to wear for the next week or so.

But the saddest of all happenings, came about today. I learned through another friend, that my dear friend Deb just lost one of her two sons. His funeral was yesterday and he was only 28. I am so dearly sad for her and her husband – how do you deal with something like that?

I can’t help but think back in time to when we are first given our tiny, precious bundles – a unique combination of ourself and the person we once gave of ourself. We gaze lovingly upon those innocent little bundles, never knowing what tragedies or good fortunes will befall them. It seems like it is a cruel joke if history is already pre-written and there we stand – oblivious, and more importantly, helpless to prevent the harms that could possibly befall our sweet babies.

I remember him – and I cry inside and out for my dear friend. I hope I am never tested in the way that she has been, because I don’t know that I could ever recover.

Friday fritterings

It’s Friday and by all means that should alone bring a smile to my face, but for some reason I’m having a hard time being happy today. There are so many things that happen in my life and I never seem to have time to write about them – and then there’s the whole book thing – my idea of self-therapy – write a book about all the things I’m still trying to recover from and when I’m all better, I’ll be the epitome of a normal -well-adjusted, happy (and sane) adult.

So it’s Friday and I have to be content with a few words to get the juices flowing and perhaps it’ll catch and tomorrow they’ll be more.  I’ve had a horrendous week – a family tragedy that is so incomprehensible that I can’t even bring myself to talk about it – although the media doesn’t seem to have a problem doing so.

It also happens to be Memorial Day weekend and I don’t have anything planned. We have had to watch every single penny for so long now, I can’t remember what it’s like to have disposable income or even money that isn’t ear-marked for a bill or a payment on something! “We’re in a tunnel,” I keep telling myself, “and all tunnels have an end.” Isn’t that right? If money is the root of all evil – what is NO money? Seriously!

I downloaded the coolest app for my IPhone. It’s called CamWow and I bet I’ve taken 100 self portraits. It’s what I do now when I’m bored. I’ve also discovered and – two very cool online photo editors that are great for when you just wanna do something fun with your photos and don’t wanna spend a ton of time doing it. Try em if you haven’t already.

Snow day, don’t go away

We got some snow today! I am never in the least bit interested in snow at anytime of year, but February – I just want it gone. However this year winter’s been a little more bearable, because of a lot less snow than usual. And so today at work, I actually surprised myself a little as I glanced out the window, and against the backdrop of a soft blue-grey sky, behind our Capitol building, saw hundreds of big, fluffy flakes of snow, slowly gliding downward, and I smiled! It really was a pretty sight!

I doubt that in a few more weeks I will be able to muster the same emotion.


God bless

Whitney Houston died yesterday. It was a huge shock to me – and I suppose the rest of the world – but my biggest emotion was sadness. I was reminded when Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson died and years before that, Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe… there are more than a few. Sensitive people whose daily lives were chronicled in the weekly tabloids and every movement, every mistake, every mis-judgement, were captured on camera by bottom-feeding vultures we call paparizzi. Those non-human creatures who profit off the heartbreaks and shame of others, by splashing it all over the world so more like them can join in their cruel ridicules and unfair criticisms.

People say it is the price you pay for fame, but I think that is not a price – it is a prospective death sentence for those whose tender hearts are not heavily-armored in the protective material you need to block off the hate and jealousy of others.

God bless Whitney Houston. God bless all of them.


Looking back and looking ahead

Who would think a blog is so hard to keep up with! Today I am upgrading my site and getting things in order – there are so many things I want to try to set up and so little time to do them. Looking ahead in 2012, there are a lot of things I will be tackling.

Ira is doing good now and looking for a new career path after some life-changing events that befell him. Two months ago, he was forced to give up truck-driving. Being on the road alone for so many hours at a time was not good for him. He had too much time to think and all the bad memories of his childhood and the bad experiences with his family in the last few years, finally got to him and he suffered a break-down of sorts. Thank goodness Papa John was able to help. He left the warm temperatures of Florida to stay with us for a month, endurring our more chillier ones while he helped me get Ira the help he needed. Ira’s sister Beth was a big help too, letting Ira know she was there and that she understood his feelings. So after a month of intense counseling and deep soul searching he is preparing himself for a new life – and hopefully an improved and healthier one.

As for me, my time at Education Minnesota will total three years this upcoming week. What a mixed bag that is! I still love where I work – and I’m doing something good in the world – helping to advocate for Minnesota teachers at a time when many politicians are against them. And when I think of the dysfunction at my previous job and the unbelievably unfair treatment that was doled out daily by its co-founders, I know I’m lucky to be where I am. My two bosses are fair and understanding and I am never blind-sided by unrealistic expectations or off the wall demands. But deep down, I have to admit there is this part of me that knows I am missing something – I’m not sure what – but there is definitely something amiss and I hope I can find what it is before too much time goes by.

I had heard Scarlett was out of town over the holidays, so I waited, and finally two weeks ago I mailed her a package. I included another recorded book. This time it was, “You Are My Sunshine,” and I sang it to her like I did the Rudolph one I sent last holiday season. And at the end I said I would always love her. I hope Yas let her have my presents and that they didn’t get tossed or given away. I never know with Yas, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

In addition to the books, I included a small weaving loom and lots of weaving material so she can make lots of potholdersand placemats. It makes me smile to imagine that. 🙂 I also sent a Charley Brown holiday book with music (even the holiday is long over) plus some treats. As I packaged it all up I remember hoping with all my heart that Scarlett will know she is always remembered and that I am not a bad person despite what she’s been told by her mom.

I think back when Yas first called me and asked if I wanted to know when her baby girl was born. I remember firmly saying no, without a moment’s hesitation. Obviously shocked, Yasmina asked me to explain so I told her there were a few things I knew without doubt. I said that I knew her baby would be beautiful and perfect, just like she was – and I also knew I’d fall in love with her at first sight, like I did with her. And as sure as I knew that, I knew that without a doubt she would not think twice about keeping her from me should she ever get the whim. I ended by saying I also knew the pain of that would kill me.

“No,” Yasmina promised over and over, and it wasn’t until after hours and hours of talking into the wee hours of that morning, that she convinced me to trust her so that I finally agreed to join her at the hospital.

And so I was. At the hospital. And so I did. Fall in love with Scarlett at first site. And so she did. Take her away from me at a moment’s whim. But surprisingly so, I was wrong about the rest. I didn’t die. I stayed alive. But the truth is that for the past three years, I have spent every single day of them missing the little girl who is everything I knew she would be. Knowing that Yasmina lied to everyone about what she was mad about hasn’t helped either, but I’ll keep hoping that one day Scarlett will know me for what I really am.

Jeren is doing good. He has an apartment now and trying to be more responsible. My youngest son took a while to get where he is, but I’m happy that it finally happened. There was a time I seriously wondered! Mychal is busy with his life and I’m sad to say that it doesn’t include a mom. And Mathew is still too hurt and angry to want to come to terms with anything to do with me. The sad reality of that is that after all this time I’m just too tired to keep trying to get through to either of them.

Myrtle Anabelle at nine, is finally starting to show her age. Bossy as ever, we only joke when we call her a bully. Ira and I think she deserves everything she wants because she’s given us so much over the years. But I dread the coming times and I can’t help but wonder if next year’s posts will include anectdotes about our oldest baby. Mister Snickers is not far behind and I wonder about him a little too. Thankfully Chanel is doing great and miniature poodles have a much longer life-expectancy than Saint Bernards or Boxers.

That is it for now. Till next time.


Happy Holidays


Getting on

It’s a Sunday morning and I’m sitting in my newly rearranged living room trying to decide how to spend my day. I KNOW how I SHOULD spend it, and I sure as hell know how I’d LIKE to spend it, and hopefully I can find a compromise that fills the needs of both!

We didn’t get Amelia this weekend and that always makes for somewhat of a letdown- if nothing else, a boring weekend. She’s spending time at Grandma Judy’s house and I guess we Jeren called me Friday and was in a bit of a “rent mess” and wondered if we could help him out. Yes I could – but to tell the truth, it was a case of, we’d rather be late for something than let him down. He is the only one who pays attention to me although in truth, I’d help any of them out  – except maybe Jas – she has done way too much, told way too many lies, costed me and Ira more than she’ll ever know,  and had too many chances for me to make amends at the drop of a hat.

But enough of that. Today is not for looking back – I have far too much to decide and to do.  Here is my list.

  • I want a griddle – making pancakes is too hard in a pan. I know a griddle will help me produce mouth-watering and healthy breakfasts. So shopping for a griddle is on my list.
  • I need to do laundry – my pinks are getting low and this is definitly a weekend job.
  • I need to vacuum – Anabelle’s shedding and there is hair all over the place.
  • I need to fix my Toshiba – it got shut off in the middle of MS updates and now doesn’t recognize the system drive.
  • I need to get my information off the above mentioned Toshiba – my holiday card address have not been transferred to my new laptop.
  • I need to dance to the new Grease Dance game that Ira bought me.
  • I need to read my Google Analytics book for work – add to that my WordPress and Joomla books.
  • I need to walk the dogs.

That’s it so far. So let’s get on with my day.

Too pure to be pink?
Coco Chanel
"In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
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