Spring Training

Rewind please, to about a week ago.  It’s lunchtime and I’m looking for my Indian food cart along Park Avenue.  As I pass St. Bart’s church, there is a flurry of activity along the sidewalk and the stairs leading up to the church doors, more so than usual.  I look up at the crowd of people coming down the stairs and I see the signs.

It’s Ash Wednesday.

I knew the day was coming up soon; I had prepped the family members I knew were going to be around that we would be going to church that night.  I had made a Mardi Gras King Cake a few nights before to have after our pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.  But when I woke up that Wednesday, I had totally forgotten the date.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Indian food place that day.  As I looked at the persons marked with ashes, I grew increasingly jealous.  Here they were, all these penitents, humbly blessed and outwardly proclaiming their beliefs while my own head remained naked.  I almost ducked into St. Bart’s for ashes, but remembered I promised to go with Zombiegirl later that night.

I couldn’t WAIT to get to church that night.  The need I felt to connect with God was intense, almost a hunger.  Which was odd, since I am a quiet Christian.

I DON’T make a joyful noise about believing in God and Jesus Christ.  I believe, and that’s basically that.  While you can’t persuade me otherwise, I don’t try to persuade anyone to my beliefs.  I would make a lousy missionary- I wouldn’t be able to convert anyone.  I can’t debate the Bible or creationism even though I’ve read and believe in both.  So I believe what I believe because my heart and gut tells me so.  Bible-thumping and preaching and any outward displays of Christianity have never been my forte.  I AM a quiet Christian.  Which is why that green emotion welling up in my chest surprised me.  I wanted to be part of this crowd, wearing their literal hearts on their sleeves, showing everyone what they believe in. 

At church that night kneeling besides Z-girl, I received the blessed ashes as a symbol of penance and reflection.   We were told to do good works, be kind and prepare our hearts during the Lenten season for the Resurrection.    Fasting and prayer should be part of our daily routine for the 40 days leading up to Easter.  So, on the way home, I asked Zombiegirl what she was going to give up for Lent.

Since school and homework weren’t options, and since I’ve already given up meat, we agreed (with MR and Rob as our witnesses) to give up fast food.  NOT that we eat a lot of it, but I do find it’s easier to grab Mickey D’s on a day I forgot to take something out of the freezer.  Zombiegirl likes it too much so it was a good choice for her, too.  I went a step further and included Chinese food too. 

We also discussed getting more involved in community service- at our local homeless shelter, children’s hospital or soup kitchen.  I’m going to have to enlist Pastor’s help in this one, but we talked about her bringing a board game or two to the shelter/hospital to play with the kids there.  I want her to reach out to the less fortunate and give more of herself.  It’ll be good for me, as well.  I’m really trying to be a more patient and kinder person, especially during Lent.

Dang it, though, it’s hard.

It’s hard to be grateful to the person helping me sell Girl Scout cookies when I know I’m being gypped out of money.  Yes, I’ll never ever learn.

It’s hard not to kick people (a New! Fun! Exciting! pastime of mine I’ve been engaging in) as they walk directly in front of me as if I’m not even there.

It’s hard to bite your tongue when you see how much work your spouse is doing at a yearly job and not getting enough compensation for it.

It’s hard not to slam the phone down repeatedly on the idiotic people you work with.

It’s hard to be kind to (and not throttle) the stupid, ignorant and uncaring people you come in contact with every day. 

It’s hard to look in the mirror and try to see yourself as others see you.  To see that reflection and reflect on who this person really is.  And try not to be such a bitch.

St. A has a sign on their front lawn: “Lent is Spring Training for Christians”.  Spring training for anything is hard, all that work after a cold, wicked winter.  So I guess that’s the point, that Lent isn’t easy.  Neither was dying on a cross.

 So this child of God will try to be patient, kind and helpful.  She will read the book of Psalms over the next 40 days and strengthen her relationship with God.  She will shun Burger King’s Veggie burger and onion rings and will keep her foot and her bitchiness in check. 

By Easter, this child of God will be hitting home runs.

Come With Me…My Love…To The Sea…The Sea of Love

Today MR and I celebrate our 13th Wedding Anniversary.  Lucky 13!  I tease him that I’ve been married to him longer than anyone else, and he still introduces me as his first wife.

Ha.

Kidding aside, I truly can’t believe it’s been 13 years.  The year 1997 was a magic year for me.  We bought our house, adopted Maggie the cat,  got married and I started a new job- all within six months time.  And, after all these years, we still have the house, Maggie’s still living, MR and I haven’t killed each other, and I’m still working for the same (yet different) company.

Although the details are fading, I only have to look at the pictures of that day to remember how much fun we had.  We didn’t want the typical catering hall type of wedding, so we booked the paddleboat that used to dock in the same town as our beach house.  We encouraged our guests to go fishing, we had a “guest” captain aboard and MR found many, many things under my dress before he got to the garter.  My wedding party included my own two kids and my new sister-in-laws as well as my Maid of Honor from my first wedding.  The groomsmen were close friends of MR that became close friends of mine.  We were married in a gazebo, danced to “Sea of Love” and the bride wore sneakers.

It was a great day. 

I love you, Mr. R.  You’re my rock, my heart and my laughter.  Thanks for all you’ve put up with these past 13 years. 

We’re Only Safe in Rockville Center. And Freeport.

Once again, I breathe a chilly sigh of relief as my train arrives safely at the station.  These past few weeks have been brutally hot and nerve wracking.  Everyone is snapping at each other.  Irritable.  Cranky.  An official heat wave has been declared on Long Island.

Descending down into the subway station literally takes your breath away.  The air is close and stuffy, with the tangy smell of sweaty bodies mixed in.  Your clothes dampen and hug your skin.  The hot rush of air ahead of the train as it pulls in makes you swoon.

Then… sweet relief as the doors open and the blast of chilled air ices the damp clothes and causes you to shiver.  It’s not like it was 20 years ago when I was riding the subway into work.  You almost never got onto a C train if you could help it…not only were they old and decrepit, they almost always lacked air conditioning.  The narrow bench seats allowed for a few riders to sit the long way into Manhattan while the rest of us stood, grasping swinging triangles of slick metal- two or three hands to a strap, oftentimes sliding and resting on each other.

Thankfully I am tall, and never suffered the “armpit in the face” much.  I was usually upwind of the unwashed.

My calculated time in the heat per day is approximately an hour and a half- a little more if I go out for lunch or to the library.  I spend most of my day on the business side of chilly.  I usually need a sweater or long sleeves to be comfortable at work and on the commute.  The bus is arctic, the train is frigid and the workplace is polar.

Home is where the heat is.  Advantages of having three 30 foot oak trees on our property are few, but they definitely cut the heat and keep the house a little cooler than our neighbor’s.  But for days and days of hot and humid weather, it feels like the heat is infused in the walls and the floors and the furniture.  Our only relief are the small air conditioners in our bedrooms.  Excuses are made to spend time in our rooms before bed.  Our rooms are clean.

My worries don’t lie with the heat.  I breathe a sigh of relief when the train pulls in because once again I’ve survived the commute under the river and through the tunnels.  The lights haven’t gone out and the train didn’t stop.  We were not plunged into darkness and uncertainty. 

My work day ends and the lights stayed on and our computers did not flicker and our phones did not cut out and I am grateful.

As I leave the elevator that delivers me safely to the ground floor of my high-rise office, I say a silent prayer of thanks that again, the lights have not gone out and the elevator did not stop.  I did not plunge 37 floors into darkness and uncertainty.

I cross the streets warily, watching to make sure the traffic lights haven’t winked out and the neon in Times Square is still blinking.  I descend the stairwell to the subway station not minding the heat and the smell and the electric mood of the passengers.  I clutch my water bottle and touch my granola bars with crossed fingers hoping this won’t be the day the lights go out.

We Love MoMA and Justina*

I crossed my fingers as we went through the revolving doors. This was the fourth time we were trying to see the Exhibit. As we crossed the lobby, Zombiegirl spotted members of her own species- striped, goth-like people wearing articles of clothing featuring that broad, smiling skull face, colored hair and high-topped Converse. Splashes of bright color against dark brooding clothing.

She pointed out to me everyone going to the Tim Burton exhibit.*. She fits right in.

I kept my fingers crossed as we waited on line at the Guest Services desk. Waiting for tickets through my company’s corporate sponsorship. This was our only hope since the exhibit has been sold out for weeks and it was closing in five days. This was our only hope since Zombiegirl wouldn’t be coming to work with me until the summertime. She was here today because it was Take Our Kids To Work Day and it was her last chance. I crossed my toes just to be on the safe side.

The bored girl at the desk told us there were no more tickets left. They give out the Corporate tickets first thing in the morning and they were all gone for the day.

I wanted to cry. We struck out again.

Zombiegirl looked so upset. She couldn’t believe she wouldn’t be able to see her hero’s work. Burton is the Director of all her favorite movies, the man who has directed her favorite actor. We’ve tried four times- why couldn’t we get in,? she asks.

We have bad luck, I tell her. I offer to buy her something from the MoMA bookstore, knowing they have the Exhibit book.

As we walk back across the lobby, she spies a girl a little older than her sporting Jack Skellington shirt, bag, hat and socks. They make eye contact- Z-girl staring at the outfit, the girl staring at her red-streaked hair. The girl’s mother notices them staring at each other and quick turns to me and asks me if I need a ticket. Her other daughter wasn’t able to make it that day and she has an extra child’s ticket for a half hour from now. I told her I couldn’t get another ticket for myself and she tells me to buy an individual membership and they give a free ticket.

A total stranger helps us out.

After thanking her profusely, we go over to the Member Services desk so I can buy an Indivdual Membership. What? It costs $75? No, that must be for a Family Membership. No, it’s per person. I turn to Z-girl and tell her I can’t afford $75.

That dejected look is starting to kill me.

Do you want to go by yourself? I’ll wait outside for you. No, maybe that’s not a good idea, I think. Do you want to go with the lady that gave us the ticket? No, she’s gone already and I really want to go with you, she says. The walk to the bookstore is quiet and heavy.

Inside, we see the display of Tim Burton books. Zombiegirl picks up an enormous art tome and starts reading. She wants this one- full color photos, harcover, two inches thick. It’s $69. This day is killing me! I steer her to the $20 book- she looks through it and agrees. After walking around a little we find TB playing cards. She’s a little happier as we wait on line.

When we’re called next, we put our purchases on the counter, but the salesperson turns to another customer who had asked her a question. She tells them they’re all sold out. Another Burtonesque-type couple asks her something and again, she tells them they’re sold out. She turns to us and apologizes as she rings up our things.

What are you sold out of, I ask?

Tim Burton Stain Boy t-shirts. I tell her that’s not the only thing they’re sold out of- and proceed to lament how we’ve tried four times to see the exhibit, how much Zombiegirl loves Tim Burton and how we won’t be able to come back to try again. How I tried to get tickets through Corporate Sponsorship. She looked at the kid and was quiet for a moment. First, she says, I can give you 20% off your purchases for being a Corporate Sponsor. She asks me if I can wait around for a few minutes, she wants to check something out.

We’re not going anywhere.

She tells me, very quietly, that she has to get an employee guest pass for her husband who’s coming in later that day. She said she’ll check to see if she can get two more for us. She said SHE feels bad that we’ve tried four times to see the Exhibit. She said Zombiegirl’s face makes her sad.
We wait on the side of the line while she runs off, dodging tourists and Burton fans.

Ten minutes later she comes back with two employee passes and a big grin on her face. As she hands them to Z-girl, she smiles even wider, saying the look on the kid’s face is totally worth it. As I burst into tears (ignoring Zombiegirl’s admonishments about my crying) I ask her for her name. She hands me her card- she’s the store manager- and I give her a hug. Thanking her and telling her people just don’t DO nice things in New York, we laugh and make our way back upstairs to the Exhibit.

Which was awesome and SO worth the agony of dejection and waiting.

Walking back and forth in the crowd of people recognizing early sketches and artwork of Tim’s characters. Seeing the suit Johnny Depp wore in Edward Scissorhands and having Zombiegirl almost faint. Picking out your favorite Jack Skellington head of the 30 on display. Watching the gross but funny Stain Boy cartoons.

It was all worth it.

And it wouldn’t be possible without the kindness of strangers.

Thanks, Justina!* You’ve restored my faith in the human race.

UPDATED: *Names and links have been changed and deleted to protect the innocent and good.

Countdown to Christmas #8- Sleep in Heavenly Peace

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,

There must be peace in the heart.
~ Lao-Tzu

I was going to finish my weekend post about the Cookie Exchange we had last Saturday night, but a recent anonymous comment left on this blog prompted me to preempt the weekend post with one I’ve been carrying around with me for awhile.

Guess what?

I realized the other day that I’m content.

I realized the other day that I’m at peace.

As the world swirls around me, as the economy crashes at my feet, as my family is torn asunder…I can honestly say I’m serene in my heart.

Yes, I may be cranky at times. Or cruel. Or snarky. Or bitchy.

Yes, I want the pieces of my family put back together.

Yes, I want my dog to stop drooling. And my underpits to stop itching. And my belly to be less flabby.

Yes, I still complain about work, tourists, Naomi, and the people who’ve “done me wrong.”

But it doesn’t matter. It’s all crap.

As I sat on the bus the other day holding a stroller upright for a young mother juggling an arm full of baby and groceries I was like the Grinch, who’s heart swelled 10 sizes that day. My heart swelled and I knew that I am blessed. Blessed with a wonderful family, awesome friends, a job, no bills, good health, minimal stress and I want for nothing.

Dare I say it?

I’m happy.

Is it the effect of the season that’s making me happy? Is it this gorgeous Christmas tree sitting in front of me that not only lights up the room, but also my heart?

I don’t think so. I think the Holiday Spirit inside me has been magnified by my new-found inner happiness. My contentedness. My calm.

Do I have peace in my heart, in my mind, in my soul? Do I feel that I’m a good person, a good wife, a good friend and a good mother to those around me?

Yes, I think I do, and I think I am.

I’m sleeping very well these days…

An Even Better Most Awesomest Giveaway

Okay, people, I know you’re out there. I know you’re reading. I know you’re downloading pictures of our tattoos. So why don’t you comment? Don’t you like the giveaway? No? SERRV.org not your style?

I get it. No problem.

I’ll up the ante.

Comment on ANY of my blog postings and you can win your CHOICE of $100 gift certificates. I’m still standing by SERRV.org, but I’m also going to add $100 gift certificate to the store on my favorites list, BranchHome.Com, or $100 gift certificate to Walmart. There. That should please EVERYONE!

Check out the rules HERE.

I’m not looking for traffic to my blog. I don’t have advertising, (although my Hubby does, and would appreciate you clicking on them so he can stay home a little while longer…) so I’m not looking to make $40,000 a month in clicks. I just wanted to celebrate the fact that I did something more than 100 times, and I’ve been blogging my heart out for over a year. So comment. I really don’t mind handing over a gift certificate to my one true reader. I love her and her wife, and they really deserve it. Just wanted to make it interesting…

100 Things That Make Me Happy

This list took me almost a month to compile! I wonder if that says something about me? Hmmm….

These are in no particular order. And it’s a given that my family in general makes me happy! (On most days, at least.)

1. Hugging Zombiegirl. Getting hugs back.

2. The smell of a thunderstorm or rainstorm.

3. Hilton Head, SC

4. Riverhead, Long Island

5. Savannah, GA

6. Fresh tomatoes.

7. An email saying my library book is in.

8. Seeing my husband and child when they pick me up from the train/bus.

9. Hearing my husband and child’s laugh when they’re joking with each other.

10. Really clean windows.

11. Completing a sewing project.

12. Watching Zombiegirl play soccer.

13. Having Parker call me “Mrs. Reichert” or “Mamasoo.”

14. Soy yogurt, granola and mandarin oranges.

15. Not having to deal with stupid CAFM managers.

16. The words “I love you” whispered in my ear.

17. The feel of sand in underneath my feet.

18. Speaking of feet, having my husband rub them.

19. And pedicures.

20. Getting mail, but not bills.

21. Playing with the nieces and nephews.

22. America’s Funniest Home Videos, iCarly and Wipeout.

23. Going for a coffee run with friends.

24. Looking in people’s windows at night.

25. A lone voice singing “Amazing Grace”.

26. Looking at my wedding pictures and pictures of my kids when they were little.

27. Frozen Charleston Chews.

28. Butterfingers.

29. Pecan pie.

30. Sweet potatoes. Any shape, any form.

31. Gardening. Planting. Pruning. Weeding.

32. Garden Gnomes.

33. Fiestaware. All shapes, all colors, all styles- old and new.

34. Iced coffee, peppermint tea and chai.

35. Kissing the kid goodnight. Saying “Sweet dreambles.” Giving “dream dust.”

36. When the kid has a sleepover and the guest knows to ask for “dream dust.”

37. Watching Beena drive.

38. Saying the Lord’s Prayer. Hearing a multitude of voices saying it with me.

39. Compliments.

40. A hot shower after a workout or a long day at work.

41. Flannel pajamas. All day long.

42. A massage, a facial and a sauna.

43. Cilantro

44. Having dinner with all my family.

45. Seeing my friend Eileen.

46. Shopping in thrift stores and antique stores.

47. Hearing Beena speak “Math”.

48. Finishing a sudoku.

49. A really good book. Or the next book in a series I’m reading.

50. Indian food. Thai food.

51. MR’s smell. Especially when he comes out of 7-11.

52. Flowers, plants and veggies. All homegrown.

53. Spending a lazy day in bed watching a series (Dexter, Gilmore Girls) on DVD.

54. Hugs from my CAFM team when I see them once a month.

55. Ryan’s face when she laughs, and Ruddyna’s snort!

56. Baking with the kids.

57. Going new places. It doesn’t matter where!

58. Going to soccer practice/games and seeing my soccer moms.

59. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas season. If they’re not hectic… I could list 100 things that make me happy during the holidays alone!

60. The colors orange and chartreuse. Even better when they’re together.

61. In a canoe.

62. Seeing the recipient’s face when they open a gift made/given by me.

63. Thinking of Mom, Nana Ethel and Uncle Robbie.

64. Cow creamers and all things Cow Parade.

65. When I remember to take my reusable bags to the grocery store.

66. Babies and toddlers. Even if I’m not related to them. And this DOESN’T MEAN I WANT TO BE A GRANDMA.

67. Will Smith movies. Johnny Depp movies. Tim Burton movies.

68. Wine tastings on Long Island. Vodka tastings on Long Island.

69. Yes.

70. Hiking and camping.

71. A hot bath. Preferable with a book and a glass of wine.

72. Wrapping presents. Opening presents. Blowing out candles.

73. When my outfit works. And someone notices it.

74. Reminiscing.

75. The day after I dye my hair.

76. A new notebook or pad of paper.

77. A good pen or marker. Office supplies in general.

78. Finding dimes with MR.

79. A nap on the train. Hell- naps in general!

80. The piccolo player in Penn Station. He plays songs like Gilligan’s Island and the theme from F-Troop. I always give him a dollar.

81. A new friend request on Facebook.

82. When one of the blogs on my blog roll updates.

83. When Beena comments on my blog.

84. Butterflies, lady bugs and lolcats.

85. A cold beer with lime. A cold white Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Amaretto on the rocks. Jack Daniels and lemonade. Ice wine.

86. New clothes, a new Coach bag, new shoes or new piece of jewelry. Or all of the above.

87. Seeing the results of my hard work.

88. Feeding animals. Wild animals. Not the ones that live at home.

89. Carnivals. Rides. Cotton Candy. Ferris Wheels. Fireworks.

90. Globes and pictures of the earth.

91. Uniforms. Groups in uniforms. Fleet week. Firemen.

92. Harry Potter.

93. The smell of fresh laundry.

94. Watching OUR shows.

95. My favorite blanket.

96. Winning.

97. Pretzels with mustard from the pushcart guys.

98. Synchronicity.

99. Sewing and creating.

100. Chocolate. Specifically dark or spicy.