Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Common Ground

I am either the stupidest woman on earth, or the coolest Mom ever. I just bought my 12 year old son tickets to the Fallout Boy concert here in Atlanta. They are playing 2 days before his birthday. He is going to DIE when I tell him.

Do I really want to brave the Interstate and fight the crowd at the Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre? Do I really want to spend 6 hours with every angst ridden Emo (new word for me, apologies to Emos everywhere if I have misused it) in the Metro area? Do I really want to explain what that smell is? Do I really want to subject my eardrums to the cacophony that will render me deaf for several days thereafter?

No. I do not.

Even when I was a teenager, I only went to concerts because it was cool. Truthfully, I do not enjoy concerts for concerts' sake. There have been exceptions, of course.

The Police were simply phenomenal. I was overwhelmed at being in their presence, even if they were ¾ of an inch high from my vantage point. The music was incredible and the vibe in the audience was one of complete reverence.

Billy Joel and Elton John played together the year I got pregnant with my first child and I went grudgingly because my boss had box seats at the Omni and a dear friend was a huge, huge fan of both performers. It was by far one of the best, if not actually the best concert I have ever, ever seen. There was such energy, such euphoria. And since most of the concert goers were my age or older, we didn’t have to put up with a lot of teenage nonsense.

INXS was one of my first concerts and I remember everything about it. They played Summerfest in Milwaukee. They took the stage twice, but never actually got to play an entire song because one of their speaker towers got struck by lightning. We, with about 400 other women, huddled in the bathroom waiting for the storm to pass. It was hot, smelly, and crowded. The deluge turned the fairgrounds into a veritable quagmire and we returned home filthy, bedraggled and tired. But I saw Michael Hutchence in the flesh. For that reason alone, and because we had been allowed to go without adult supervision, I considered it in all ways, the time of my life.

I saw Def Leppard the year that Rick Allen made his comeback. I was in tears watching him. It was incredibly moving and awe inspiring. He was in this contraption that elevated him above the stage and spun around. He did a drum solo that must have been 15 minutes long. With One Arm. I couldn’t believe it. The crowd went absolutely wild with adulation.

Aerosmith...ummm, I don't actually remember, but it must have been good given the state of my clothing, or umm...what was left of it. I’m kidding. I do remember it through sort of a booze soaked haze. Nobody can rock it like Aerosmith. It was one of the first concerts I attended as an adult, and we did it right. We hired a limo, stocked it with beer and wine coolers, and drank ourselves silly. I remember my friend’s 6 foot tall husband standing up in the sun roof and vomiting all over the top of the limo. Ahhhh. Good times.

I saw the Duran Duran reunion concert in 2004 when I was 35 years old.I felt the years melt away I'm telling you. If I could bottle that feeling, I'd have the secret of youth everlasting. They say you’re only as old as you feel and that night, I felt seventeen again.. There’s nothing like loud music and nostalgia to turn back time. Twenty years ago I bought their first album. But they still had it. And so did I.

Six concerts. Six that really stand out in my memory, six that I would say were worth the money, six that I actually enjoyed. Considering the sheer number of concerts I attended in a misguided attempt to appear musically sophisticated and insanely cool....that's not a good percentage.

So why??????????

Beause I remember what a momentous event my first concert was. It was the Psychedelic Furs, again, in Milwaukee. God, I was so excited. I chose my outfit so carefully, I spent hours on my hair and even longer on my make-up in order to get that sultry pseudo-punk look just right. I had to look edgy enough to attract any suitably hot punks, mainstream enough that I didn't scare off the normal hot guys. I wanted to be noticed. I didn't want to stand out. I was timid. I was brazen. I was terrified I was exhilirated. I was utterly lost. I felt right at home. And I was on top of the world.

But it was a friend’s Mom that took us that night. My Mom had no interest in my music or in going to a concert. My Mom was a fabulous parent, but my teenage years were tough because we had no common ground. I spent a lot of years feeling disconnected from my Mom.

I realize now that it’s because we are so much alike and that two very strong female personalities in one household makes for a lot of tension. But back then it just felt like she was disdainful of everything I liked and that was important to me. She probably felt the same way about me.

My son and I have a lot of years ahead of us during which we will not like each other. I don’t want him to spend his teenage years hating me, though I suppose a certain amount of antipathy is unavoidable. But we need something to keep us connected or we won’t make it.

This is it, I think. If nothing else, we can rock together. It's a small thing, but a not insignificant thing.

Do I get major points for this? I don’t know. I hope so. But more than that, I hope he will just look back and remember that we had fun together. I hope he will remember that I cared about what he cared about, and I liked what he liked and I was, in some small, weird Mother way…cool.

His birthday isn’t until April. Geez, I hope I can keep the secret that long. I’m about to bust.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I'd like to thank the Academy

The lovely and talented Jessica of Oh, The Joys, has graciously nominated me for a Thinking Blogger award.

Everybody likes getting awards, and I think for most bloggers any kind of recogntion and validation for the effort we put forth is appreciated. But a thinking blogger award is to me, especially meaningful. When I started this blog, I knew I didn't want it to be just another rambling account of daily Mommy minutaie. From the beginning I have endeavored to write about something meaningful, and to provoke thought. But sometimes it feels as if I fall woefully short of that goal and that my blog is just one more in the floating sea of whiny, disjointed, inconsequential flotsam and jetsam that dots the internet.

So thank you Jessica. Truly.

I am to pay it forward to 5 other bloggers and I will do so happily. One thing that has always bothered me about blogging is that certain blogs get ridiculously numerous comments for posts that, while admittedly entertaining, are largely immaterial, while others who write fantastically thoughtful, insightful, creative and intelligent posts on pertinent and poignant issues get little to no recognition in the blogging community. Blogging is a lot like highschool in that regard. It's a popularity driven social medium, where substance and relevancy are not necessarily valued as much as it should be.

For the most part, I accept that and try not to let it bother me too much. But occasionally, when I see that a post about poop has garnered 57 comments, while an incredibly powerful, well written or thoughtful post gets 5 or 6...well, it rankles me.

That said, a couple months ago, I cut my daily blog reading down to about 10 blogs as a form of self-discipline. And all of them save 2 have already received the thinking blogger award. I do plan to include those two in my nominations because they are absolutely terriffic writers. BUT...I am going to take some time to find three other nominees who are really deserving. There are a lot of really terriffic bloggers out there who are just not well publicized.

So, without further ado I nominate Kvetch and Antique Mommy.

Kvetch is written by a gal whom I admire greatly and whose writing career is really taking off. No wonder! She writes about issues that I can relate to with really powerful insight and emotion. Her blogging has slowed down a little now that she's a "real" writer, so I am always excited to see a new entry from her.

Antique Mommy is just one of those people whose posts make you nod your head in perfect understanding and agreement. She is really super funny, but beneath the humor is a really keen intellect and deeply compassionate nature. She is never boring, never mundane. I all but tremble when I see a little number 1 next to her blog name in my Bloglines.

They are both, truly, thinking bloggers.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

File This Under "Only in the South"

If you are young and hip, or, like me, are ancient enough to have adolescent children who are all about being young and hip, you have heard the new Fallout Boy Song, "This ain't a Scene, it's an Arms Race."

I have to admit, it's a pretty catchy little song, even if I have to be philosophically opposed to it due to the explicit lyrics. Still, I did authorize the download for my son. What? Like he doesn't hear a thousand times worse stuff at school. You would not believe the stuff adolescent boys talk about when they think nobody is listening. But that's another post for another day.

I will also admit that I downloaded it onto my own iPod. But don't tell my kid. I will also admit that If I were a teenage girl, I would be SO into Pete Wentz.


Last night I went for a short jaunt to the drugstore to procure cold meds for Husband (for which, by the way, the only information I did not have to provide was first date of my last period) I didn't bring my iPod, so I was forced to listen to the radio for all of ten minutes.

They were playing "This Ain't A Scene....". I was humming along waiting for chorus, because it's the only part of the song I know the words to. I opened my mouth to belt out the undeniably profane, but inexplicably enjoyable refrain....

This Ain't a Scene, it's a GOD-DAMN Arms Race

Only to find that the radio station had overdubbed the "God" part. It completely threw me off and totally killed my groovy vibe.

Apparently, in the South, profanity is just fine, but blasphemy is indefensible.

You see, singing about women being delicious and tastey ("Fergalicious") and killing and rape and gang violence aren't at all offensive, but taking the Lord's name in that's serious.

I thought after 20 years, I could no longer be suprised and/or mystified by the arbitrary parameters that seem to drive the Southern exegesis of morality and politesse in wholly secular mediums.

I was wrong.

I was going to put the video in this post, but once again I am foiled by Blogger. What was once a simple matter of copying and pasting the embed tag from youtube, now apparenlty requires an advanced degree in computer programming, software engineering, and possibly astrophyics. So instead I will just post the lyrics, which, I would like to make known, was not as straightforward an endeavor as one would think given the currently user-unfriendly state of Blogger's dashboard.

This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race
Fallout Boy

I am an arms dealer
Fitting you with weapons in the form of words
And I don't really care, which side wins
As long as the room keeps singing
That's just the business I'm in

This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
I'm not a shoulder to cry on, but I digress
I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate
I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate

I wrote the gospel on giving up(You look pretty sinking)
But the real bombshells have already sunk(Primadonnas of the gutter)
At night we're painting your trash gold while you sleep
Crashing not like hips or cars
No, more like p-p-p-parties

This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race

Bandwagon's full.
Please, catch another

I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate
I'm a leading manAnd the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate

All the boys who the dance floor didn't love
And all the girls whose lips couldn't move fast enough
Sing until your lungs give out

This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it’s a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race

I'm a leading manAnd the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricateI'm a leading manAnd the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate

Obviously, this song will bring about the downfall of civilization.

Jesus. Oops, I mean....Deadair.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not Just Another Anna Nicole post

I find myself strangely and strongly affected by Anna Nicole's death.
I feel a deep sadness that isn't really typical for me. I'm not one of those people who feels as if celebrities are my friends. I don't feel like I know them, and I don't often identify with them.

Because even if they grew up in less than optimal circumstances, their celebrity has changed their lives so drastically that they have lost touch with the struggles, the heartache, and the trauma that many of us face every day. Most of them are so accostomed to having ridiculous amounts of money and being catered to in every respect, that their sense of reality and identity is completely warped.

Take Oprah, for example.

She may act as though she can still relate to the women she exploits for ratings, but the minute the camera stops rolling, she's all...."Girl, get me some Purell, I got to get this poor off my hands." And do not ask the woman to eat a chitlin. There is not enough mayonnaise in the free world to cover up that kind of nasty and Oprah's snootified pallette knows it.
I think she was more genuine when she was fat. At least then one could believe that she had a cross to bear like the rest of us. Now the woman has enough money to accomplish anything she desires with minimal effort. Hack off a haunch, staple an organ...whatever. And because of this, she lacks the humanity that she had in her early days, as do most celebrities.

The point is...I shouldn't feel so sad about Anna Nicole. She was nobody to me.

But I am sad.

Because beneath the huge boobs and the platinum blonde hair, the party girl antics and the very studied and artful vacuousness, there was a curious innocence that was entirely unaffected. She was a lost little girl who really believed in happily ever after and spent her whole life chasing it.

I've known woman like Anna in real life; attention seekers extraordinaire. And though we might think that they have an over inflated ego and sense of importance, the opposite is actually true. They are people who have been told time and again that they are worthless, useless, insignificant, ugly. They have been conditioned by a life of neglect, abuse or maybe just simple apathy, to expect nothing because they deserve nothing.

I think she really did love billionaire Howard. I think he made her feel safe and cared for. I think she had Daddy issues in a big way, and billionaire Howard filled a very deep yearning in her. When he was gone, there was nobody left to give her any security or purpose or value.

I think Anna's whole life and death, can be attributed to one very simple thing. Anna courted fame for one reason and one reason only. She needed to be loved.

People...the way we raise our girls has consequences. We cannot abuse, abandon, belittle and deride them without ill effect. We cannot let them believe that their worth lies in their beauty and sexual allure without thoroughly sabotoging their sense of self. We cannot allow others to prey upon them without creating lifelong victimhood.

I won't let anybody hurt you Anna.
You are smart and beautiful and special Anna.
I'm proud of you Anna.
I love you Anna.

Would these words have made a difference in her life?

Hell yes.

Was there anybody who loved Anna for herself and not because of what she could do for them?

Daniel did. And that's why she was so completely devastated by his loss.

Anna didn't die because lawyer Howard kept her drugged out of her mind and dependant on him to procure the drugs her body craved. Anna didn't die because of an infection caused by botched plastic surgery. Anna didn't die from a heart attack precipitated by the diet drugs she was taking. She didn't die of any one of the numerous theories that are being wildly circulated.

Anna died of not being loved.

I guess my sadness then, is not for the woman Anna had become, but for the woman she could have been.

Don't let this happen to another generation of girls. It's really pretty easy to prevent.

I won't let anybody hurt you.
You are smart and beautiful and special.
I'm proud of you.
I love you.

Rest in peace if you can, Anna.

Enough is Enough

I am quickly losing patience with blogger.

Let me first say that I do not do well with change. I don't rearrange furniture on a whim. I don't do drastic things with my hair because I'm feeling adventurous. Only shame keeps me from clinging to fashions long past the point that they are ridiculous.

You get the picture.

So I resisted changing over to Blogger Beta, even though I was assured that my blog would not change. But, due to repeated and emphatic encouragement on the part of Blogger, I could resist no longer and made the change.

I hate it.

For some reason, no matter how many times I check the "remember me" box, I have to sign in every. freakin. time. Yes. I have cookies enabled. The same goes for commenting. Every damn time I want to comment I have to sign in AGAIN, and then my comment may or may not actually show up. It's maddening.

Also, for reasons I cannot for the life of me identify...I can't copy and paste text from one source to another, even if I use the control function. WTF???

Forget about trying to add a picture. It's an exercise in futility and insanity.

I flirted with the idea of changing blog hosts a while back, but ultimately, it was more trouble than it was worth. And there was that whole change issue. Despite the few little annoyances, I was comfortable here. But no longer. It's like living in a house where the faucets come off in your hands, and the toilet overflows every time you flush it and the roof leaks and the furnace runs when you turn on the air conditioner.

I'm not the most computer literate person out there, but due to having my own consultant at hand for the last 13 years, I'm a little more savvy than the average user. I should certainly be able to figure out how to copy and paste or add a picture without taking a refresher course in Blogger. The fault is not my own, I think.

This is beyond user unfriendly...this is poor design and execution, as well as a failure to properly test and assess the functionality of the product. It's a big picture issue, I think. Husband has been in computer programming and development for over 20 years, and I know that there have been times he wanted to bludgeon a member of his staff for making a programming change that was, in theory, sound, but when incorporated into the database, created a plethora of problems that were sometimes merely annoying, other times catastrophic. Said staff member failed to take the larger implications into account.

I know you get what you pay for. I have ridden the blogger gravy train with no complaint about the occasional glitch here and there and been grateful.

But enough is enough.

I have to find a new home. I hate moving. And now I'm grouchy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The New Poor

I have written often of the poverty in which I was raised. It has heavily influenced the kind of people my sisters and I have become as adults. We are independent, resourceful, capable women. We can budget like nobody’s business. We have no entitlement issues. Certainly there are times that I wish I had more disposable income, but for the most part I feel happy, lucky, and content with what I have.

I think I harbored some resentment growing up, for the things I didn’t have and do…but that’s only natural I suppose. As an adult, I see how it has shaped me as a person, and I am really quite grateful. I had friends who were handed everything their heart desired and I won’t deny the envy that consumed me at times. But years later when stepping out into the real word, these people floundered.

They were not prepared for the reality of making a meager paycheck stretch to meet expenses. They were not prepared for the responsibility of making sure bills got paid on time. They could not prioritize their wants and needs, because they had been led to believe that every want was a need.

I left home at 18 with $100 in my pocket without thinking twice about it. I took the first job that was offered and worked my way up in skill and compensation. For several years I lived a fairly comfortable life on $18,000, which I then thought a veritable fortune. Quite a few years after I struck out on my own, I abruptly quit my job at a local law firm because the senior partner was verbally abusive. I was denied unemployment benefits and survived for six months on next to nothing.

My middle sister, who had her heart set on a school that was well respected but incredibly expensive, did not give up until she found a way to finance all four years of college. She worked at the student union to cover the cost of her meals, a load or two of laundry every week, and an occasional tank of gas to get home for a visit.

My youngest sister works for a very modest salary. She has been in her field for a number of years and could go any number of places that pay more. But she stays because she loves what she is doing and because she is committed to those in her care. She works with adults who are severely developmentally disabled and she could no more leave them than a mother could leave her own children. So she makes do with what she has and she is happy.

So, you see, we are survivors. We are lemonade makers. Silver lining people. I consider it a gift that we have been given.

Recently I was talking to my sister who relayed to me that my mother was a little bit affronted by my repeated references to our underprivileged childhood. I was a little puzzled, because I have also explained that although we were poor, we never went without something we needed. We never had to go without food, clothing, medical or dental care. We always had wonderful birthdays and Christmases. My parents worked hard to make sure we were well cared for and that we had some small indulgences now and then.

In addition, I have written that despite not being affluent, we had an absolutely wonderful childhood. It was idyllic in many ways. Yes, there were material things we wanted that we did not get. But we had a strong family bond, loving parents, and a stable home. We were given a very definitive set of values and realistic ideals in regard to what was important in life. We were happy because our happiness did not hinge on the getting of stuff, though of course, getting stuff did make us happy.

So, why, exactly, would my mother be so bothered by my characterization of our childhood as “underprivileged”? It was a simple statement of fact, was it not?

I began to think about it a bit and I realized that describing our childhood as “poor” might not have been entirely accurate. And she must have felt that it painted her and my father in a poor light, implying that they failed to provide us with basic necessities. I can see how that might have caused her some pique.

Less than a century ago, America was in a deep depression and a staggering number of American people could not feed and clothe their children or take them to the doctor when they were sick, much less afford well child visits and innoculation. They did things like patch their shoes with tread from old tires and darn their socks with thread from old feedsacks. They were desperately impoverished people and I suppose it was that standard by which my mother felt she was being judged.

Put in the proper perspective, we were not poor at all and in that regard, I have done my mother and father an injustice.

This realization prompted me to really examine the shift in values that has taken place in our society. We have become a nation of materialistic spendthrifts and status chasers, sinking further and further into indebtedness, never thinking for a moment that the gratification that comes from acquiring material goods is a house of straw and a poor substitute for that which it strives to replace…true happiness and contentment.

Because of this emerging neediness and entitlement, the definition of poverty has changed since I was young. The new generation of adult Americans wants it all and feels quite strongly that they deserve to have it all. So what was once simply “not rich” is now…poor.

My husband and I live in a very affluent area, though we ourselves are firmly middle class. Many of my children’s friends come from affluent families. They have things my children do not. They have big expensive homes, they drive brand new expensive vehicles, they wear designer clothing, and they vacation in the most fashionable places.

But are they really affluent? I think probably not. I think the need to consume and to keep pace with their peers has driven many people to live far beyond their means. We have redefined the word “poor” to suit an unrealistic ideal, one which validates the pursuit of material goods and luxury by deeming them necessary and thus, worth sacrificing our values and priorities for.

We live on one income. And because we live on one income, we have had to make certain decisions regarding how we spend our money.

We have enough. We bought an older home that is modest in comparison to those around us. It needs work, but it keeps us warm and dry. We drive used vehicles though they are quite presentable and in good repair. Because we do not spend much money on frivolous things (I do not tan, for example, or get my hair and nails done weekly. Husband does not buy expensive man toys) we can do things that benefit the whole family such as go to museums, sports and cultural events, do some travel and buy a good bottle of wine now and then.

Are there times that I wish I could walk into a store and buy what I like without checking tags and mentally calculating how far I can stretch the groceries in the house? Yes, absolutely. I would by lying if I said I didn’t. But my childhood taught me that happiness does not lie in material acquisition and equipped me with the ability to be content with and grateful for all that I have, instead of lamenting all that I have not.

I am enormously grateful that my children have a roof over their heads, clean water to drink thanks to modern sanitation, nutritious food to eat and warm clothing to wear. They have access to health care, public education and assistance should they need it. The few small luxuries we can afford for them are just icing on the cake. My children have far more than I had as a child, and yet, they are not given everything they desire simply because they desire it. They are learning, I hope, that stuff is not important.

We are the new poor, and we are happy. And I have my not rich upbringing to thank for that.

Don’t be mad at me anymore Mom.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Jig Is Up

If you think managing to have sex with an infant or toddler in the house is a feat of logistic and tactical genius, you are asbolutely right.

Mercifully, it does get easier. Eventually, one regains a semblance of one's sex drive, one is not so exhausted at the end of the day that it is all one can do to climb the stairs and collapse into a stained and crumpled heap amid the bedclothes, and one's breasts are no longer leaking, bloated vessels of comfort and sustenance for an adorable but parasitic infant. In short, one begins to feel human once more...enough so that copulation begins to seems like a good idea again, or at least...a somewhat less ridiculous and distasteful idea.

And for a while, all is well.

I loved being able to put my children to bed at the stroke of 7:00, sweet smelling and gratifyingly drowsy from their bath, while husband prepared a nice meal. We could drink some wine, watch a movie, then snog each other silly and still be in bed early enough that one of us could be reasonably focused and coherent when the boys awoke. For about 5 years we did this every Friday or Saturday night without fail. It was our time and it was the first time in a long time that we had the luxury of tending to our relationship.

And it was the first time in a long time that we could have sex without a child wailing, vomiting, or barging in at a perfectly inopportune moment. A mountain climber who chances to slip and fall mere feet from the summit could be no more frustrated than I have been at certain times when my children were small. And of course, the summit though still within reach, is not so easily regained when the manner of retreat is violent, abrupt and wholly involuntary.

So we thoroughly enjoyed our all too brief period of carnal liberty with licentious abandon.

But unfortunately, as the saying goes, the only constant is change, and change things did.

We now have a twelve year old. A twelve year old who knows things, thanks to our well intended but somewhat myopic and imprudent insistence on being open and frank about sexuality.

Now, settled as we are, moments of pure blinding lust are not so common as they once were. We have to work a little harder to ignite the passion that once burned so fiercely. But it's worth the effort. We tend to revel in the journey rather than hasten to the destination. And rather than mourn the loss of our former fervor, we celebrate the deeper connection and more profound satisfaction that is a result of our maturing taste and skill.

But sometimes that ferociously primitive hunger returns, often taking us completely unawares. We find ourselves in some wholly unsuitable situation, leering at one another, groping furtively and whispering naughty things. It is a purely physical need that is delicious and devastating.

Recently, we found ourselves in the midst of one such instance. Maybe the sun, moon and stars were all properly aligned. Maybe it was the dearth of snogging of late, due to the craziness of our lives and the various ills that we seem to be passing back and forth. Maybe it was hormonal. Perhaps my body was calling to his with that evolutionary secrecy...unheard, unseen, but deeply potent. Whatever the cause we were both powerfully horny at the same time.

That's something to celebrate, but unfortunately, with kids, its something that's not always possible to immediately alleviate. But we made the best of it. We spent the evening indulging in some good old fashioned flirting over the tops of our children's heads. And when bedtime finally rolled around for all of us, we cut short the usual niceties in our haste to be horizontal.

As I was tucking him in, Pre-Pubescent One asked me if he could "snuggle" with me. This is his way of asking if he can sleep with me, which is an indulgence I occasionally afford them on the weekends. Time will tell, I suppose, if I am raising the next generation of Norman Bateses, but in the meantime, I consider it an innocent enough pleasure.

Tonight, however, Mama had more than snuggling on her mind. We had the following conversation:

PPO: Mom, can I snuggle with you tonight?

BA: No, honey, not tonight.

PPO: Why not?

BA: Erm....because Dad is going to snuggle with me tonight.

PPO: Well...can I when you're, um....done?

BA: Done what?

PPO: You know....."snuggling".

There was an eye roll in his voice, though to his credit, his eyes did not in fact, roll. He had a bland look on his face that suggested he was trying very hard not to betray what he was thinking. The corner of his mouth twitched suspiciously, belying the innocence he was striving so hard to affect. And then, after a moment during which he put forth a Herculean effort to remain nonchalant, a bright red blush suffused his cheeks and his eyes dropped from mine.

Sweet Jesus.

My child was aware that we were planning to have sex. It was hard to judge who was more discomfitted, but I felt the lovely tingling anticipation I had been enjoying all evening disappear. It was abruptly replaced by a decided queasiness.

After the boys were tucked in bed, I headed into our bedroom were Husband was waiting with a predatory gleam in his eye.

BA: We can't have sex.

Husband: They'll be asleep in a few minutes.

BA: No, I mean, we can't have sex ever, until the boys leave home.

Husband: What? Why? What's going on?

BA: He knows.

Husband: Knows what?

BA: He knows we're having sex.

Husband: Well, um....yeah. He knows where babies come from, so....he knows we have sex.

BA: No, I mean, he knows we're having sex right now.

Husband was silent for a moment, clearly understanding the ramifications, and also, clearly judging the likelihood that the evening would end in some kind of sex taking place.

Huband: So, we're not going to do it because our son knows we're going to do it?

BA: Yes.

Husband: What if I go in there and tell him we're not going to do it?

BA: WHAT? NO! Then he'll know that I know he knows and he'll know that you're only saying we're not going to do it so he won't think we're doing it, when we really are doing it!

Husband: SIGH.....Baby...

BA: I just can't. It's wrong. I won't be able to enjoy it.

Husband (sotto voce): I will.

BA: You're sick.

Husband: I'm horny.

BA: You're telling me that it doesn't bother you at all that your son knows we're in here having sex?

Husband: We're not having sex.

BA: But you want to.

Husband: Yes, God help me, I do.

We did have sex. And I did enjoy it. And after a while, I forgot about Pre-Pubescent One. But I don't think sex will ever be as uninhibited as it was before.

I guess that's what those rent by the hour hotels are for.

Damn. And just when I was peaking too.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Only Words

I am a kept woman.

I suppose this term has fallen out of favor in the last century or so, but whatever the currently accepted cultural vernacular, the meaning is unchanged. The fact is, I am completely dependant upon my husband for my survival and that of my children.

This is not news to me, of course.

I entered into this arrangement voluntarily, fully cognizant of the position I would be putting myself in. I was acutely aware that I would be rendering myself invisible to and seperate from those who are publicly perceived as worthy, useful and significant people.

But my husband is a rare sort; one who believes quite earnestly in the value of and wisdom of my choices, whatever they may be. He has never dictated to me the kind of wife and mother that I should be. He has never attempted to define my role according to his own standards or societal ideals. He simply waited for me to make my choice, and then supported me. And he has continued to do so throughout our thirteen years of marriage.

As a result, I have always felt undeniably equal in our relationhip. I have never felt diminished. I have never felt unimportant. I have never felt irrelevant.

Well, for the most part. There are those days when doubt comes creeping in and I begin to think that surely I was meant to do more. But those days are often balanced by moments of startling clarity, wherein the value of my choices becomes abundantly clear.

But in terms of practical matters, it can sometimes present a problem. Gift giving for example. I do not begrudge my husband gifts. On the contrarty. He rarely, if ever, buys anything for himself and when he does, it is most likely something that we can all enjoy. There are any number of things he wants and deserves. The question of what, is not a question at all.

But no matter what the gift, be it simple or extravagant, it will be paid for out of his own pocket. So the charm and excitement of a well chosen gift is, for me, somewhat mitigated by that.

But I do have one thing that is truly my own to give him. Words. Words are my currency, and I can lavish them upon him with no fear of overexpenditure or indebtedness.

Today is not only Valentine's Day, but also the anniversary of the day that he proposed to me 14 years ago. For everyone else, it's just another Valentine's Day, but for us, its a day to remember a promise, a leap of faith and a beginning.

For Us

I was not looking, but you found me.
I was not in distress but you rescued me.
I was not in pieces but you unified me
I was not bereft, but you heartened me
I was not suffering but you succored me
I was not faltering but you sustained me
I was not languishing but you revived me
I was not alone, but you completed me
I was not unloved, but you cherished me

And you love me still though I am not the woman you married in body or in spirit. We have grown up together, you and I. We have laughed, cried, feared and raged together. We have brought children into this world, and fumbled through the raising of them, united in the awe of their existence. And now, together, we venture into the next phase of our life.

We are no longer a young couple with small children. Who are we then?

It hits me sometimes, that we are that couple everyone talks about, everyone admires. We are that couple that will grow old together. And when we are old and wrinkled and gray, we will still touch each other, though perhaps the ardor will have cooled into the simple and innocent need to feel unalone. And when one of us breathes our last... it will only be a temporary disruption...a mere inconvenience. The one who is left behind will simply bide until we are one again; confident, eager. And the final line in the poetry of our life will read....

I was not going but you beckoned me.
And I went because I love you.

Happy Valentine's Beginning Day, my lover, my friend, my forever.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Valentine Vexation

I'm annoyed.

This is nothing new. Irritation and I go together like Darcy and Elizabeth. I'm actually a very tolerant person, but there are certain things that set my teeth on edge. Failure to think things through on someone else's part, resulting in inconvenience, expense or danger on my part, is one of them. This, unfortunately, is neither uncommon nor infrequent.

This Wednesday is, of course, Valentine's Day. I'll forego my customary rant about holiday commercialism...and get right to the crux of my aggravation. This week is also Teacher Appreciation Week at my children's school.

Becaus that makes perfect sense, right?

Why in the world would the people or persons responsible for this event choose a week already fraught with the potential for marital disaster and fiscal irresponsibility in the face of sheer desperation?

Aside from having to think of somethly wildly romantic that I haven't already done in our thirteen years of marital bliss, (that's not only 13 Valentine's Days, but 13 anniversaries, birthdays, father's days and Christmases...that's SEVENTY EIGHT gift giving occasions, people) plan it, execute it, prepare myself bodily for it and figure out how to pay for it without tipping off I have the added pressure and expense of providing a gift every day this week for the teacher.

Don't get me wrong. I am completely in support of the concept. Teachers are overworked and underpaid, especially considering the huge and lasting impact they have on our children. A good teacher can inspire and motivate in ways that a parent never truly can. A bad teacher can cause irreperable damage to a child's confidence and self-esteem. Aside from us, teachers are the most important people our children will encounter during their formative years.

Diminutive One's teacher falls squarely in the middle of that range. She is neither exceptionally good nor exeedingly bad. But she is dealing with Diminutive One day in and day out and that in itself is deserving of some recognition and recompense.

So it's not the concept, but rather the excess, which seems to be creeping into every aspect of life these days, that sticks in my craw. I don't begrudge teachers some much needed pampering, even though I, the woman who pushed an absurdly large child from my theretofore unscathed woman parts, only gets one stinkin day out of the whole year. But is a whole week of gifts really necessary?

Today I must send a flower.

Do you know that a single red rose costs $5.99 at the grocery store? I don't get flowers anyway. They die. Quickly. I'd rather have a book. We bought a Dove chocolate rose instead. $3.49, which is still ridiculous for a single, hollow chocolate rose, but at least it won't die.

Tuesday I must send a special snack; sweet for girls, salty for boys.

A no brainer, but that's another $2.99 out of my pocket.

Wednesday Dimuntive One must present his teacher with a homemade Valentine.

This sounds like a rather inexpensive venture, right? But by the time you buy construction paper (because of course I have 47 sheets of brown and orange construction paper, but no red), glitter (because the glut of Christmas crafting a mere two months ago has completely depleted our supply and resulted in an oath to never ever purchase any more glitter ever, until the end of time), glue (because the existence of glue and/or tape in this house is fleeting at best) and paper heart doilies (because apparently, folding paper sideways and cutting out hearts is not as fun and challenging as it was when I was a kid)...I have invested about 5 times that for which I could have simply BOUGHT a card.

Thursday the children are to wear their teacher's favorite color.

Again, it seems like this would not require any kind of expenditure on my part. But her favorite color is pink. I have boys. They do not posess anything pink. I am a redhead. I do not wear pink and have nothing whatever to loan them, even if they would deign to wear something of mine to school, which I assure you they would not. Which means another item that I have to buy, which my child will take off about 4 seconds after he gets to school and will, most likely, meet with some terrible but tragically unavoidable accident at some point during the day.

Friday the children are asked to present the teacher with a special gift.

We have graciously been provided with a list of things his teacher likes: candles, bath and body products, scrapbooking, exercising, reading, the type of books she enjoys, and which retail and eating establishments she prefers. In other words, we are not to buy cheap crap. I actually have no problem with this. I'd rather buy one good gift then send 5 essentially meaningless and useless gifts. We chose Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt, because it has the word "teacher" in the title, and because it fortuitously found it's way into my cart at the grocery store.

So, let's recap: $3.49 chocolate rose, $2.99 bag of Chex Mix, $47.25 $10 on craft supplies ...$4.99 for a pink t-shirt from the girls department at Target and $11 for the book.

That is a grand total of $32.47.

That might not seem like a large sum. And, I suppose, in comparison to all that teachers do for our children, it's trifling, really. But we are a single income family. And though we are luckier than most, we still have to watch our budget carefully. It will be all I can do to embezzle enough money from the joint checking to finance something lurid and clandestine with my husband...This is a BAD week to be spending money on someone who doesn't give me orgasms.

Still, there is no question that I will. Because for a lot of years, I was the kid with no gift for the teacher. I was the one who never had an apple to place triumphantly on her desk (because teachers can never get enough apples) or a globe to present to the class (because everybody has an extra globe lying around).

My kid won't have to know the shame of that as long as I am alive to write bad checks.

But I don't have to like it. And I can write about it on my blog.

So there.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Survival of the Unfittest

(Read it...I swear, I'm going somewhere with this....)

I'm going to just come right out and admit it...I watch American Idol.

I didn't always. For five seasons I steadfastly refused to watch it. Reality TV makes me distinctly uncomfortable you see. It's like...seeing your grandmother in her underwear or catching the Principal picking his nose. It makes my guts clench and my cheeks burn with empathetic shame. I find it puzzling and disconcerting that we find so much entertainment in the humiliation of our fellow human beings.

And yet, last season, I allowed myself to be sucked into the hoopla and melodrama by my husband and children. I still squirm with embarassment, and sometimes even cover my face, but the horror is accompanied by a sort of stunned fascination, and that, I suppose, is why Reality TV has become such a pervasive part of our pop culture.

Last night during the "Best of the Rest" show that concludes the audition phase, there were several poor contestants featured who were abysmally bad singers. There are varying degrees of ineptitude of course, but these folks were posessed of such a fundamental lack of talent that it was actually painful to listen to them.

And yet in the face of scathing criticism, ruthless rejoinder and unequivocal rejection, several of these individuals professed such passion, such love, such dedication to singing that they would never give up, never stop chasing the dream. Never. Ever.


I was torn between abject pity and profound admiration.

And that really got me thinking....When does a person give up a dream, if ever? And who's to say that a dream is the wrong dream?

Take writing, for instance.

There's not a writer out there that doesn't dream of their own byline, or a slot on the New York Times Bestseller list. But is that what really drives us to write? I don't think so.

There are a lot of reasons people write.

Some are just born storytellers and write for the pure joy of spinning a good yarn. They bring wit and whimsy to their craft; captivating us with their imagination, transporting us with their vision.

Some write to mark their passage through this life. They leave behind something to let others know who they were. But not a simple record of events. No...a true memoirist injects his life story with humor, humanity, love and truth. And when we open the pages of a compelling memoir, we walk as one with he who penned it.

Some write to voice thoughts and opinions. They are awhirl with ideas, questions and theories. They endeavor to explain, elucidate, enlighten. They provoke thought. They challenge us to think and rethink, to never stop learning, to never stop asking why, and how and if. "The pen is mightier than the sword" is their legacy. These are the people who change the world.

What then is fame, when we do not write to live, but live to write? Not sing to live, but live to sing. Not heal to live, but live to heal?

Should we abandon our passion simply because we are not posessed of vocational prowess? Or should we just be thankful that we have a thing that brings us joy and then live it, do it and love it?

I suppose, for some, the pursuit of fame and fortune itself is a passion. It's what gives them meaning and purpose. And this, I fear, is a mean and ignoble taskmaster; one which will settle for cheaply bought notoriety, and dismiss the value of hard won fame. If the joy lies in achieving rather than doing, there can be no real satisfaction.

Which is the really the point, I think.

There is a woman I know, a long time family friend, who has written two novels. There are any number of adjectives and epithets I could employ to convey how badly they are written, but the simple truth is that they are just awful. Reading her writing always inspired in me that grandma in her panties feeling. I confess it is she who always springs to mind whenever I begin to contemplate my own journey as a writer.

When she had completed the first novel, she set about trying to get it published. She was summarily rejected and ignored by every agent, editor and publisher to whom she appealed, until at last she happened upon a do-it-yourself publication operation, who, for a price, would edit and publish her book, and even print a small number of copies. Distribution and promotion were not part of the package, and so, with cheaply bound novel in hand, she began her own marketing campaign, contacting booksellers and libraries to arrange signings and appearances.

My mother was horrified.

She realized that the woman was setting herself up for heartbreak and ridicule. The woman's husband of many years stolidly supported his wife, thinking her a quite talented author. My mother felt that it was encumbent upon her to be honest with her friend, but she could not think of a kind way to tell her that the book was terrible and that nobody would ever buy it.

She agonized over the problem for quite some time. The woman, knowing my mother is an avid reader, continually sought her opinion, obviously looking for encouragement and support. My mother was loathe to hurt her feelings, but also very reluctant to be dishonest with her friend.

It was quite a pickle to be in, and she talked to me about it often over the course of several months. After a lot of thought, she decided not to tell her friend that she was an awful writer. She would not offer disingenuous praise, but instead, provide constructive feedback. When I asked her why she said simply, "She loves writing. I can't take that away from her."

She went on to say that it wasn't her place to decide if the woman should write or not. And when it became very clear that the lack of sales and some pretty harsh criticism neither bothered nor discouraged her friend one whit, I had to agree with her.

The woman did not write for the fame, the accolades or the money. She wrote for the right reasons. She wrote, and still writes, because the act, not the result, brings her joy and satisfaction.

That heartens me.

Because I have worried about losing my joy in the face rejection and failure. I have worried about killing my dream with ambition.

Am I saying that we should never reach for anything, never aspire to greatness? No. Absolutely not. I think I am saying that it should not be necessary to be happy and fulfilled. Because fame is fleeting, after all. It's mercurial and merciless, as anything determined by public opinion is bound to be.

So sing, Idol rejects, and Simon be damned. You are the lucky ones, I think. Your dream will survive and endure.

So should they all.





Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Cost of Comfort


5K. 5 Large. 5 Gees.

In this day and age, that's not exactly an embarassment of riches.

The acquisiton of such, for most of us, would not change our lives significantly.

We could maybe pay off a credit card or two. Lay some new carpet. Buy a coveted gewgaw for ourselves, one for the spouse and maybe even one for the kids. Or perhaps pay for a nice family vacation, provided the family is not too large, nor the destination too far flung.

But we couldn't quit our jobs, or send our kids through college, or start a business.

And yet, put in the proper perspective, it's quite a windfall.


$5,000 is roughly equal to:

~5 Mortgage payments
~10 months worth of groceries (give or take)
~25 seasons of Little League
~68 bottles of Chateau Margaux Pavillon Rouge
~100 tanks of gas (depending on fuel efficiency)
~100 months of high speed internet service
~167 pedicures
~208 tubes of Dior Addict Lipstick
~333 paperbacks

(not necessarily listed in order of importance)

In other words, it's not a king's ransom, but it's not chump change either.

And just why am I waxing philosophic about this particular sum? Well, $5,000 is the amount of money that my oldest child will soon be wearing in his mouth.

A mouth that may or may not see the benefit of a toothbrush on any given day.

A mouth at which small, hard balls are routinely hurled with all the force that the average 12 year old boy can muster.

A mouth that has been elbowed, kneed and head-butted, mostly by accident but sometimes on purpose.

A mouth into which strange objects are still occasionally inserted, despite the knowledge that said object might not come out the same way it went in.

A mouth that still has a good many years of testosterone overload syndrome to get through, during which, the likelihood of encountering a fist at some point is pretty substantial.

Still...I can't not spend the money.

If you saw my poor child's teeth, you'd understand. He was a thumb-sucker you see. I tried...LORD how I tried to get him to take a pacifier. He would have none of it. Short of amputating his thumb, there was nothing I could do to stop him sucking it.

And Jesus, he looked like innocence personified curled on his side, cheeks flushed with sleep, thumb tucked firmly into his lush, pink, pouty little mouth.

Until he turned 8 and then he just looked goofy.

But I understood. I sucked my thumb until I was a teenager. My parents did everything to get me to stop, but the compulsion was too strong. I sucked it even though they hid every scrap of satin in the house. I sucked it even though they painted it with that wretched stuff that was supposed to miraculously cure thumbsucking or your money back. I sucked it even though other kids laughed.

And the more they tried to get me to stop, the more anxious I became and more I needed to suck my thumb.

I didn't do any of that stuff to my son. I just didn't have the heart.

Not all of it is my fault though...there is a bright side. If you can call a congenitally recessed jaw a bright side. Still, it takes some of the blame off of my shoulders and I can't complain about that. This jaw thing is partially to blame for the degree of malocclusion. That will require an appliance called a "Herbst". He will also require a palette expander to repair his palette, which was pushed up and in from the pressure exerted by his thumb.

Well, not only his thumb.

He also did this weird thing with his hand and his wrist while he was sucking his thumb. He would hold his wrist in the thumb sucking hand, exerting even more pressure on his teeth and palette. I had no idea why he did that, but like the thumb sucking, it was a very strong urge. I had to buy him short sleeved shirts and pajamas, or ones on which the sleeves could easily be pushed up. On the rare occasions that I mistakenly dressed him in something restrictive, he would panic and thrash about, as if I had put him in a straight jacket.

Years later, when looking at pictures of himself, he commented about how he used to "smell his arm" while sucking his thumb. Weird. But my youngest sister rubbed her eyebrow slap off (that's Southern for, "all the way") while sucking her thumb so I suppose he comes by his erm...quirk...honestly.

He will also need headgear, which he will have to wear at least 12 hours a night. I can't tell you how I look forward to that battle.

From beginning to end, we are looking at about 36 months, possibly a little more, depending on how well he responds to the therapy, and how dedicated he is about wearing it.

But you know what? Part of me is really excited.

I needed braces as a child, and I didn't get them. My problems weren't nearly so severe, and my parents just didn't have the money. But I have always been self-conscious of my teeth and that's a terrible thing to live with amid all the other really horrifying crap that happens when you're a teenager.

He's going to have a beautiful smile. I'll make sure of it. there a point here? Ummmm....probably.

When we walked in to the orthodontist's office for a consultation he took one look at Pre-Pubescent One and said wryly, but not unkindly "Thumb sucker, eh?" I just nodded my head morosely. Then he said, "What about....10?" I said, "Eight, actually." I was absurdly happy to be able to refute his guess.

I told him about trying to get him to take a pacifier. I expected recriminations, honestly. But what he said surprised me.

"Welllllllllll. It's hard to get a kid who's really determined to suck his thumb to stop, unless you want to resort to torture. It's right there on the end of his hand, afterall. You can't really take it away or wean him off it can you?"

I felt better, somehow.

So I guess my point could be that we Moms heap enough guilt on our own heads without borrowing any more.

Or it could be that if you can kindly and gently encourage your little one to take a paci or give up the thumb, you just might find yourself 208 lipsticks richer for it.

Or even that....while 5 Large might be the cost of comfort, it's also the price of self-confidence.

I consider it quite a bargain.

Monday, February 05, 2007

First Love

Do you remember your first love?

I don't mean your first crush, or your first puppy love. I mean, the first guy you ever really loved.

My first crush was Shawn Cassidy. It was pretty hardcore and surprisingly enduring. My first puppy love was Jamie Tookshure in the first grade. I used to leave love letters by a tree in his backyard. It ended when we moved to another city.

And I had boyfriends...boys that I "went" with, starting in probably...4th grade. Remember that? Going with someone? Where the heck did we think we were going in the 4th grade? It didn't matter, I suppose. Going with someone, whether we actually went anywhere or not, was a big deal. It was a rite of passage. Saying you were going with someone felt good. It felt special. It was irrefutable proof that someone found me worthy.

That certainly begs the question of why, at that tender age, my worth was tied to my ability to attract and keep a male...but it was what it was. And it was important.

But first love....

God, there is nothing sweeter, and nothing more awful.

If someone could capture all those feelings, good and bad, put them in a bottle and sell them...sales would exceed all previous records of any kind. Their stock would go through the roof. He or she, would be a made man or woman.

Because even the bad feelings that come with first love..self-doubt, jealousy, embarassment, despair....are so electrifying, so deep, so delicious ...that they made us feel alive. What wouldn't most of us give to feel that alive again???

My first love was Kelly Meierhofer.

I was 13. He was 16. His parents owned the small campground where my family camped almost every weekend during the summer months. He would do small chores around the campground; hauling firewood, ice and such to the campsites, minding the small store, and keeping the sites manicured.

He was tall and broad shouldered and beautiful in that gangly way that those recently acquired of broad shoulders are. He had blue eyes with long lashes and skin bronzed by the sun. He had a small scar by the corner of his mouth, that I later found out was from biting into an electrical cord as a baby. I thought it made him even more handsome in a tragic sort of way.

I fell head over heels for him the very first time I laid eyes on him.

But he didn't notice me for quite some time, and I was absolutely bereft each and every time he walked past without sparing me a glance. Each time he smiled at another girl. Each time he did anything to demonstrate that he had absolutely no interest in me, or worse, that he didn't know I existed at all.

The summer that I was 14, I decided that enough was enough. There was a swimming pond with a big, sandy beach and there I left a message for him, spelled out with rocks that were peppered with flakes of micah and quartz. When the message ceased to wink and glimmer in the sun, I knew it had been received. "I heart Kelly" was all it said. I didn't sign it. I didn't want to make it too easy for him, after all. He found out who left the message, as I knew he would.

And suddenly he began to look.

And when I noticed him noticing me, the thrill was like nothing I had ever felt before. I felt like I could move mountains, walk on water, dance on a cloud. With one look, a sixteen year old boy sent me over the moon. Can you remember what that felt like? It was elation and fear and confusion and it all jumped around in my stomach making me feel almost sick with joy. It was a living thing that joy, almost bigger than myself.

Eventually, I won him over and we became boyfriend and girlfriend.

At first, we would simply hold hands for hours on end, just enjoying the feel of skin against skin. And when our palms grew clammy from the constant contact, we would simply wipe them off and rejoin hands, fingers intertwining like viney tendrils. When, at long last, he kissed me, it was just like in the movies. No bumped noses, no mashed teeth, no filament of saliva hanging between us. It was tender and chaste and perfect. It was a kiss to be remembered until the day I die.

After that, we kissed every chance we got. Tentatively at first, but then, with such passion that my belly would ignite with a fire I was still to naive to identify. And we would kiss for so long that my lips tingled for hours afterward.

But it wasn't just kissing. We talked in a way I don't think most teenagers talked to one another. We told each other our deepest secrets and darkest fears. Both of us from poor families, we talked and dreamed of a different kind of life. We talked of doing better for ourselves. He never laughed at my plans. I never laughed at his. He made me feel like anything was possible and when I was with him, it was.

When Sunday rolled around and I had to leave him, it was as if my heart was being wrenched from my chest. Such bittersweet agony that was and how tightly I embraced it! I wallowed energetically in my misfortune, and was only too happy if asked, to tell my tale of woe. I felt important in my misery. I had someone to miss.

Oh, the songs I sighed to. The poems I wrote. The practiced melancholy, the brave soldiering on despite my broken heart.

How my parents bore it is quite beyond my understanding.

When I was 15 and he was 18, he joined the Army. I knew of his was part of his better life strategy. He left for boot camp and I cried. We wrote faithfully for a couple of months...and then...I grew weary of sitting on the bleachers at dances. Of always being the third wheel. Of the skeptical looks when I explained that my boyfriend was in the Army.

I had dreamt of marrying him one day and I believed that our love, consuming as it was, must surely be forever. But I began to realize that high school was going to be pretty lonely.

And so, quite callously, I broke up with him in a letter. And he, with what I now recognize as the pragmatism of maturity, assured me he understood and that it was probably for the best.

I never saw him again, though every once in a while, we would write to one another. Eventually, the writing stopped too, and my first love became a distant memory.

As first loves go, he was all I could have ever hoped for. If I had a daughter, I would want someone exactly like him for her first love. And though I had boyfriends aplenty after him, until I met my husband, there was never anybody who treated me with the tenderness and reverence and respect that he did.

I believe he really did love me and I wonder if that's why he behaved like a gentleman. Always.

He never tried anything beyond some fairly heavy duty necking, and a little furtive petting. He was for more worldly than I, and at an age where sex occupies a pretty substantial amount of thinking time for the average male. Now, as the Mom of boys, I'm even more aware of just how much time that is. The desire was certainly there, on his part and mine. Though I was innocent in a way that it's no longer possible for teenaged girls to be, I did recognize certain er....signs, that he was willing and able.

I have always wondered why he never pressured me to have sex with him. Was it because he truly valued my innocence? Was it because he wanted to wait until we were married? Was it because he didn't want to risk an unplanned pregnancy? Was it because he thought my Dad might just kill him?

Perhaps he just knew it was a bad idea, especially considering that I was still below the age of majority.

Whatever the case...he made my first love so very, very special. I have only wonderful memories of that time. It was perfect and pure and the only regret that I have is that I threw it all away in my ignorance.

If only I'd chosen him to make me a woman. The young man who did wasn't a bad sort. He was kind enough. And gentle. But I didn't love him and he didn't love me. It wasn't special. It wasn't anything except disappointing.

I don't think it would have been disappointing with Kelly.

I don't know where he is today, or what his life is like. But I want to thank him. For making my first love everything a young girl dreams about. For not taking advantage of that love to use me. For not taking my innocence, and for making sure I still believed in happily ever after when we parted ways. It could have ended much differently, and I will always be grateful to him.

Thank You Kelly Meierhofer. I hope you ended up with somebody wonderful.