This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The holiday letter

'Tis the season for the holiday letter. This year, due to our move and new contact information, I will be forced to do something I only do when we move: include a holiday letter with our Christmas cards. I hate the holiday letter. I know they are supposed to be an excellent way to keep people that you don't care enough about to actually call/email/communicate with informed of the perfection that is your life, but to me they just end up sounding fake, pompous, and usually contain way too many exclamation points.

This year has been a thrilling ride for the Jones family! Bobby Junior made his usual perfect grades and will be the valedictorian for his kindergarten class! Little Mikey is the president of his preschool class and emerging as a real contender for a violin scholarship to orchestra camp! Bob received yet another promotion for which we all feel very grateful as we know there are many others struggling in the world. We have had to cut back on our vacations and were only able to go on 2 cruises this year. And me, well I am just grateful for the health, wealth, and love of my family as they support my volunteer efforts at saving the environment, teaching the less fortunate how to highlight their hair, and doing my best for the economy by getting my nails done at a different salon each week!

It's enough to make one gag while lighting the paper on fire and using it to light the annual yule log, yes?

I think my holiday letter will be a model of real life:

This year we nearly went under financially. While fearing for Steve's job, we decided to move to Massachusetts thus having to sell our home in the worst real estate market in 30 years. We ended up carrying massive credit card debt which we hoped to reconcile by profiting on the sale of the house. We'll just about break even, but don't expect much in the way of gifts. Our daughter was resentful of the move and has massive tween hormone swings which leave us both exhausted and terrified of her teen years. I am eating my worries and gaining weight at an alarming rate, so any of you that were thinking of buying me clothes better buy up a size or two. We are currently renting a home with a heating system that is both baffling and loud. We believe the house may have been wired by Ben Franklin himself as part of an experiment for electricity. We haven't actually made any friends in Massachusetts so we have a lot of free time that we spend watching a lot of TV and eating (see earlier passage on gift sizes). We hope to be financially solvent in the new year and perhaps get off the couch a little more.

I would like to receive a letter like this. This is real life. This is real information. I mean it tells about our year, gives our goals for the future and even includes gift giving tips.

What more could you want in a holiday letter?

Friday, November 21, 2008

That little voice should be telling you something...

The big scary anvil that has been hanging over our heads since we moved out of the house in Toledo, Ohio and into a rental in Massachusetts has finally been removed. The house in Toledo is sold. We are removed from the ranks of the "sellers" and get to join the ranks of "buyers"-- a place I am told that is much nicer than being a seller.

The move to Massachusetts was a leap of faith, really and truly the kind of faith where you think God may be telling you something and you are pretty sure you should be listening. Once, about 5 years ago we heard that little Voice and chose not to listen. The result was Steve being laid off from his job and a frantic search to find a new job, a new house, a new life when all we wanted to do was curl up and lick our wounds. We learned from that experience to listen to the Voice. And then about 4 years ago the Voice said that the painful muscle spasms in my face weren't just stress. I listened, I got an MRI, and then brain surgery. I'm still here and I credit my existence to listening to the Voice. Finally, just this past summer, the Voice was screaming at Steve "Get out now!" and we just couldn't believe it: leave our home, our daughter's school, our church, our lives? Leave and go where? Massachusetts? We don't know anyone in Massachusetts! I finally got the house painted the way I like it! It's a terrible market to sell a home! Our daughter likes her school! We had many, many reasons to ignore the Voice and only one reason to follow it: experience. We leaped. For awhile it seemed like freefall and there was a lot of doubt: what if it wasn't the Voice at all? What if Massachusetts was the wrong place? Why isn't our house selling? Why is it so hard to make friends? When are we going to find a decent Chinese restaurant? But now as things are starting to slow down and settle in, I am once more confident that we have done the right thing.

And now, now I am ready to listen to that little Voice once again as it guides me to finding the perfect house at the perfect price.

It's fun to be a buyer!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I think I may be married to my cousin

I live in fear that one day very soon the Jerry Springer show will be calling. You see with my father married to a woman with a tattoo, my mother having had some forays into "alternative" lifestyles, my older brother a former Scientologist, my younger brother having sometimes found himself on the wrong side of the law, and my sister hating me I feel that I am prime Jerry Springer material. Oh, and I may be married to my cousin.

It all started 15 years ago...

After having been married for about 3 years, Steve and I were visiting his parents. His mom and I were chatting about family history and she happened to mention Steve's great grandmother being a Wogoman. I stopped cold because my great grandmother was also a Wogoman and what if they were the same woman??? It turns out that they were definitely not the same woman but that enough family names and history have been lost that we can't rule out that they may have been sisters. My great grandmother Wogoman came from a large family and not everyone's names are remembered. Steve's great grandmother Wogoman came from a large family and not everyone's names are remembered. So if our great-grandmothers were sisters then our grandmothers were cousins which means our mothers were second cousins which means Steve and I are third cousins on our mothers' side.

Kissing cousins, I believe we'd be called.

My mother assures me that this is simply not the case, that she remembers meeting many of her second cousins and my husband's mother wasn't among them. I believe her and since our daughter was born without crossed eyes and a tail, I suppose it's nothing to worry about anyway. Still, in the dark of the night, I do sometimes wonder if I've inadvertently married my cousin. Steve finds the idea exciting and a little racy which I suppose is good for our marriage but a little gross too.

But who am I to judge because after all, I may have given birth to my own fourth cousin...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I want to look like me, only better

I wear my hair essentially the same way every day. Sure some days it's a little fluffier, other days a little curlier, and sometimes just plain woebegone, but the basic shape is the same every day. I am not trained to style hair. I don't have anything fancy going on with the cut or color. I don't use any styling products except a little gel, when I remember it. I don't use any styling tools except a round brush and blow dryer.

So why, am I the only one able to recreate this look?

I have searched for years to find a stylist who can make my hair look just like it did when I walked into the salon, except shorter and better, of course. Yet each stylist seems stymied to create what I am able to do every day, practically one handed, in a poorly lit bathroom while fighting for space at the mirror. Oh sure, they zip around me, brushes going one way, blow dryers the other way, gels, creams, and unguents of all types being applied to my hair - all to create a look that doesn't look nearly as flattering as the hairstyle I walked in with! Why? How is this possible? These are trained professionals, yes? I either end up with bangs to rival Cousin It's, hair blown back like a member of the band A Flock of Seagulls, hair pasted flat to my head like Squiggy from LaVerne & Shirley, or some version of the "messy" look that can really only be effectively pulled off by Meg Ryan.

For years I thought this was happening because the way I styled my hair wasn't as flattering as the way THEY did it. This theory was proven wrong again and again because people only ever complemented me on my hair when I had done it myself, never after having come from the salon.

I was so excited to search for stylists in Massachusetts: here, I thought, in this metropolitan area, surrounded by art, culture, and big money, HERE I WILL FIND MY STYLIST. Well, so far not so good.

First attempt: stylist is bald. Not female-pattern-bald but head-shaved-I'm-making-a-statement bald. I am trying not to judge on appearances, but let's face it: this woman has given up on her hair completely yet she wants to give me advice on mine? Okay, I take the plunge, after all with all her tattoos, piercings, and black lipstick she is obviously way cooler than me. Things start to go wrong with the hair washing. She wrapped her be-ringed fingers around my hair, dug her black-tipped-nails into my scalp and proceeded to wrench my neck from side to side intermittently scalding me and pulling my hair. When she was done I was so grateful to have survived the hair washing that I figured the worst had to be behind me. In a way, it was because the haircut was uneventful (read: painless) and seemed to look flattering while still wet. The blow drying was a little painful, but doable and the end result was quite frankly pretty good. Unfortunately my hair was so short in back that my tendency toward a hairy neck (too much information?) was readily apparent and when I tried to style my hair for the first time it became apparent that the left side was shorter than the right. Next!

Second attempt: again, the stylist's hair leaves a little to be desired: plain pony tail. I see the pony tail as the sweatpants of hairstyles, sure it may be comfortable and something you can throw on in a moment's notice, but would you really consider it a style? This time I badly needed color so I asked for lowlights because if my hair had anymore highlights it would be glaring. The stylist asked me to look at a People Magazine (?) to find a celebrity whose hair color most matched what I was looking for. Okay, I chose Racquel Welch a woman with whom I share absolutely no other qualities except that we both have brown hair. The hair washing was much more comfortable this time, though probably no one will equal the bliss I felt in Toledo when Bill's strong hands massaged my head...ahh...but I digress... and the color looks good, the haircut was uneventful and still looked good upon returning home. However, the styling...oh dear! I have never had so much time spent on making my hair look so completely...lifeless. The top was flat, the sides were poofy and the back looked woebegone. I went home and fixed it but it was not one of my stylist's finer moments. I will go back in 7 weeks, not excited, but not scared either.

So here I am, looking like me as only I can make myself look. Perhaps I do such a good job on my own hair that even professionals cannot rival my style? Perhaps my last stylist was so overwhelmed by the task of making me look like Racquel Welch that her hands were shaking too much to be able to style my hair? Perhaps I should be paying more for a haircut...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poking the Green-eyed Monster with a Stick

Over the summer my sister came to live with us for about 2 months. Her husband was deployed in Iraq and she was alone, caring for a 17-month-old daughter, and feeling overwhelmed and lonely. My sister is significantly younger than me and we hadn't resided together in the same house for almost 25 years. It is safe to say I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I jumped in all the same. I enthusiastically decorated the baby's room: finally I was able to create a pink paradise for a baby while not actually having to feed, clothe, change, and entertain a baby! It was so much fun creating a warm, inviting, child-like, and feminine room for my niece and I couldn't wait for them to come. Next I moved on to my sister's room. With equal love I moved the furniture around, purchased new bedding, a reading lamp, a vase for fresh flowers. I envisioned a summer filled with long walks with the baby in the stroller, my daughter riding her bike up ahead, and my sister and I bonding in ways we were never able to do when we were younger.

It didn't turn out quite that way.

We did actually take one walk together, the baby in the stroller, my daughter riding her bike up ahead, but the bonding talk was more of a monologue by my sister of how much she hated the Marine Corps and specifically President Bush for taking her husband away from her. I wasn't surprised by the topic of the conversation: I had been hearing this same talk since she arrived and even well before her arrival when we would chat on the phone. It's not that I don't understand my sister's pain, I simply don't understand how she thought things would turn out marrying, and then having a child with, a man who was in the marines. It's his job and he's going to work. She knew that before the first date, the first kiss, certainly before the wedding.

My sister was not happy at my house. I attributed this unhappiness to the fact that her husband was at war and she was worried and sleep deprived. Probably all those reasons are contributing factors, but I now think the reason my sister wasn't happy at my house is because she was mad at me: mad because my husband was home every evening at 6, mad because my child slept through the night, mad because my child could feed herself, clothe herself, and entertain herself, mad because of all the free time I had, mad because of all the space I had in my house, mad because I wasn't worried and anxious for my husband's safety.

Some people would say all that "mad" is really jealousy.

I didn't recognize my sister's jealousy for what it was at the time. Blithely I regaled her with tales of how much I like my life, my marriage, the age my daughter is at, the free time I have. I have searched my heart again and again to try to learn if maybe I really did sense she was jealous and was rubbing her face in it...I wasn't. I don't begrudge her an ounce of happiness and it really didn't occur to me that she would begrudge me anything. After all, we all make our own choices, right?

The visit ended rather abruptly when my sister and husband engaged in their first, last, and only discussion about politics. To say that my sister is passionate about politics is a huge understatement. She is obsessive about her candidates, still young enough to believe that she can change someone's mind by arguing with them, and when you combine that with the slow burn she had been doing while living with us all summer you have a recipe for combustion that put the 4th of July fireworks to shame.

The fight, from my perspective, went something like this: My sister tried to convince Steve that her candidate was better than his. Steve said he really didn't have a candidate, he didn't like any of the people running. My sister took offense at his laissez-faire attitude toward something about which she is passionate and figured if he didn't like anyone anyway he might as well vote for her guy. Steve, seeing how upset my sister was getting, began enjoying pushing her buttons and became more adamant that he would never like her candidate. My sister began to get personal, insulting my husband for serving in the army only during peacetime (?) and proclaiming her desire that he should get drafted so her husband could come home. Steve took offense about the besmirchment of his service record and suggested that she hadn't served her country at all and was just sitting home safe and comfy while others did all the dirty work. She freaked. She gathered the baby. She gathered her things. She packed her car. She left.

So much for bonding.

My sister and I have had several stilted, polite conversations since that fateful day, but things are definitely not the same. I am being punished by not having pictures of my niece sent to me and by her ignoring my daughter. I am punishing her by not calling and putting all this behind us. I know I have to be the one to make the first move, and possibly the second, third, fourth, and fifth. I have tried, in a lukewarm fashion, to bring up the subject with her so we can resolve things before the holidays arrive and we are forced together in the pressure cooker called my mom's kitchen. She isn't making anything easy for me and I don't think I am really committed yet to conceding anything because in my heart of hearts I still think of it as her fault. But assigning blame won't get me any access to my niece, won't mend the relationship, won't make the holidays go more smoothly, and won't bring my sister back to me. I'm going to have to apologize.

After all, I'm older and I should know better.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hypochondriacs 'R' Us

About 10 years ago I finally admitted to a sad diagnosis: I am a hypochondriac. This condition afflicts untold numbers of men and women, can strike at anytime, is rarely fatal, has no known cure, but may significantly affect quality of life.

I am not a severe hypochondriac. In fact, I rarely go to the doctor aside from annual routine checkups. I am the worry-in-the-middle-of-the-night and search-the-internet-for-answers-to-my-worries kind of hypochondriac. I have self-diagnosed-and-then-discarded diabetes, blindness, rabies (yes, rabies), cancer, a stroke, a heart attack, skin cancer, arthritis, strep throat, bladder infections, colitis, and food poisoning. I did not actually go to the doctor for any of these because they all occurred between 11p.m. and 6a.m., were cured by the light of day or my husband’s calming rationalization, and didn’t crop up again, at least not until I had another sleepless night.

Okay, maybe I am a severe hypochondriac, I just don’t seek treatment for my disease. If I sleep through the night I am miraculously healthy. One middle of the night waking can yield some terrible conditions, most life-threatening, all seriously uncomfortable. Why do I do this to myself? What makes me climb into that middle-of-the-night torture chamber again and again? I know if I sought medical help I would probably be given some prescription to keep me from having “obsessive thoughts” but doesn’t taking medication to prevent hypochondria seem a little ironic? Besides, I don’t have obsessive thoughts during the day, this is my own personal version of being afraid of the dark.

Admittedly I have had some weird medical conditions which certainly contribute to my sense of “if it’s weird and life threatening, it will happen to me.” When I was 5 I had scarlet fever, something I thought only happened to people in the 1800s. When I was 7 I had a life-threatening reaction to penicillin and lost consciousness. When I was 34 I had an extremely rare brain tumor. I have had various moles cut off that “looked funny” and some even turned out to be a little “funny” though none were cancerous. Except for the brain tumor, it’s probably a pretty typical medical file but for me it’s been enough to create a pattern of worry and expectancy. I mean, really, rabies??

I propose a new era of medical doctors be trained. These doctors would only tell you the good news about your health and would downplay any negative health issues as “normal, but we’ll go ahead and remove it, treat it, give you a prescription, whatever is appropriate.” Part of the problem for me is constantly hearing “wow, scarlet fever! I hope that didn’t damage your heart of your eyes!” or “Oh, you’ve had some moles removed before and your dad has a history of melanoma, well, you’re pretty likely to have some form of skin cancer so let’s cut this off…” even “hey, that brain tumor is extremely rare, does that mean you should play the lottery or avoid thunderstorms, ha ha ha…” These sentiments, expressed by trained medical professionals, do not engender faith in one’s long term health.

I want a doctor who says “Beth, you’re fine. You eat healthfully, you exercise, you meditate, you have a family history of longevity, you’ll be here long after me.” Perhaps that goes against the grain of most doctors who are trained to diagnose, treat, and then wait for the next disease, but that’s what I want to hear.

After sitting so long typing this my lower back is a little sore: gee, I hope nothing is wrong with my kidneys…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'd like a re-write please

Recently I just finished reading (well, listening to) Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner. I was moving along through the story, enjoying the ride well enough, when all of the sudden WHAM, the story took a sudden dramatic and unexpected turn. I did not like the new direction of the story. I couldn't figure out why the author would take this particular direction. I considered not finishing the book.

I think life is a little like that book. We're all just drifting along and WHAM you lose your job, find a lump, crash your car, your house burns down, a parent dies, you get a promotion, find out your pregnant, win the lottery, meet the man of your dreams. Life takes a lot of unexpected turns, some of them not so good. Sometimes I have felt very much like I didn't want to finish a particular chapter. I want a cosmic re-write. Surely this plot twist wasn't meant for me!?

My grandpa died when I was 18. I hadn't been close to my father for years at that point, and my grandpa stepped in and really filled that void for me. When he died, I mourned not only him, but my dad as well. My grandma was devastated. She slammed the book closed and never really opened it again. My grandma lived another 18 years after my grandpa, but she wasn't really alive after he died. She chose to end her story with his.

I am more of a re-write kind of girl myself. I have had my share of bad plot twists, but I haven't ever wanted to stop writing this story of my life. There are a few parts I'd like to re-write completely, and more than a few that could use some selective editing, but I am always excited for what will happen next. I have lived just long enough to learn that we can't ever know what will happen, but we can always put our own spin on the plot. The outline may be somewhat out of our control, but the details, ah, the details are all our own.

I rely a lot upon faith in my life. It was a complete leap of faith when I got married, against both our families' advice. It was a complete leap of faith to quit my job and be a stay-at-home-mom. It was a complete leap of faith to move to Cincinnati, then to Toledo, then to Massachusetts. But isn't every day a complete leap of faith? We don't know what will happen, though we carefully schedule each day. We don't know what the future brings, though we worry endlessly with a false sense of control. We don't know how this story ends.

All I know is that my life is a page-turner, and I can't wait to read the next chapter.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Okay, so now what?

Okay, so now that the challenge is over and I'm still blogging what am I going to do with this blog? There are many choices faced by bloggers like myself: how much personal information do I give? Do I use real names? Just initials? Nicknames? Do I tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? What if my friends or family read this blog and find something unflattering about themselves? How much do I censor myself?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. Right now I tell the absolute unvarnished truth, using real names, with a vague geographical location to identify me. My husband thinks I should use nicknames, he'd like to be known as "Spanky" but I think I'll stick to calling him "Steve." Steve does read my blog and has, in fact, confronted me on a couple of things he has read. My immediate reaction after I realized he was following the blog was to begin censoring. I felt constrained, watched, conspicuous, vulnerable, and a lot nervous about what he would "think" about me. I spoke with Deb about all those feelings and she said "so what, it's your blog. He can write a rebuttal blog if he wants, this is for you." I think there's a lot of wisdom in that and so I am persevering, still blogging, and committing to as honest a stream of consciousness as I can provide.

I'm still a little nervous. Especially now that Deb has my blog linked to hers, other people may see this...

Isn't that the point of a blog?

Well, that is another choice bloggers need to make. Why am I blogging? What do I hope to achieve with this blog? Who is my intended audience? Will I tell anyone about this blog?

The short answer is I am blogging because I enjoy it. I enjoy writing, I enjoy examining my life in a series of short stories, vignettes if you will. I don't have an intended audience, though I think the people who will be most drawn to what I write are women as I am drawn to women authors myself.

The biggest question for me right now is "will I tell anyone about this blog?" I haven't yet admitted to blogging, except to my husband and daughter. I haven't told my friend Chellie. I haven't told any family members. I haven't told other friends or acquaintances. I have so enjoyed blogging that it feels slightly dishonest not sharing this new interest with those close to me, but I am reluctant to "out" myself. Once I know that many people who know me are reading, I think I will feel less spontaneous and definitely more censored. I need to work on thickening my skin and strengthening my resolve before I am ready to share this part of myself. I know that Deb understands because she is putting herself out there too, blogging, sharing herself in a unique way, (to read Deb's blog, go to But will others understand? I suppose there is only one way to find out...

...So onward and hopefully upward. Happy November everyone!