The first half of the weekend roller coaster ride

This whole last weekend was a roller coaster ride of emotions.

On Saturday, Alex went to state for solo and ensemble. We didn’t know if he was going to state for sure until Thursday evening. He was failing some classes, including band, which would make him ineligible. It was a stressful week not knowing. Plus he had a duet and trio, so it wasn’t just himself that he would be letting down.

Friday night, Paul and Darryl started the project of replacing light fixtures in our house to get it ready to sell. Friday night after the work was done, we played cards.

Paul’s step-dad Darryl joined a couple of new dating sites. He showed us a couple of women that he was interested in meeting and let out a few obscenities when his computer didn’t work right. He is totally lady crazy..

The next morning we went to state. We saw Julia, the mom of the girl that Alex was doing the duet and trio with. She leaned over and said that she heard he almost didn’t make it. She would’ve had every right to shake her head, but instead said that the reason she made it out was to see my son play even though she was sick. The first time I met her she called my son the genius, the savant. She kept pouring out the positives, which is something I don’t hear a lot of people say about my son. Julia said she tries to see the best in everyone.

I told Julia that we should be friends. Every time I feel discouraged about my son, I could give her a call. Julia said that she could use a few more friends in her life. She said that just the day before she quit her job. She was too sick to go to work, but they wanted her to come in anyway. She said that she has lupus and has been in and out of the hospital over the past year. She is quirky, eccentric, neurotic, blunt, and fun…everything I want in a friend.

Julia met up with us later to watch Alex’s solo. It was getting close to his time, so I couldn’t watch her daughter perform one of her group songs. Julia said she recorded her daughter performing, but she couldn’t get the whole group in the recording. She said she cut out the homely girls at the end of the row and asked if I still wanted to be friends. I laughed and said that made me want to be friends with her even more. I got her number.

Alex’s solo was the last one of the day. I was a nervous wreck. Could he pull it off?? He was playing a graduate level piece as a junior. It was the hardest piece that he could play. My heart was pounding. I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I felt extreme fear and exhilaration at the same time. It was like riding a roller coaster that is way out of your comfort zone. He pulled it off magnificently. The judge said that hearing Alex play made his day at state worthwhile.

Alex got 3 firsts at state and achieved an exemplary award of excellence. He now has a total of 2 exemplary awards at state. I was so excited and proud of my son’s accomplishments that we decided to take him out to eat at the restaurant of his choice.

While we were eating, Darryl was hitting on the hostess. He asked her if she had a boyfriend. It was rather embarrassing since she appeared to be around 30 years old. After the meal, Darryl went off searching for the hostess. Our waitress sent the hostess to our table. We pointed to Darryl across the room saying that he wanted to talk to her. She told us not to worry that her parents do embarrassing things too. It really annoyed Paul, but he didn’t say anything.

It was an interesting start to the weekend…

Salt Lake City, Utah

On our free evening in Salt Lake City, we decided to go to the Mormon Tabernacle to hear the choir practice. The most impressive building shown in the picture above is  the Mormon Temple (not where the choir practiced). The practice was held in the dome shaped tabernacle. Before entering, there was a group of kind elderly ladies that searched our purses. People were sitting informally in the pews to listen. It attracted an international audience.

By far my favorite instrument is the pipe organ. This was the largest pipe organ that I have ever seen. The sound was rich. Too bad I couldn’t fit it in my suitcase!

The tabernacle was inside of Temple Square which was surrounded by a large wall. Once I passed through the gates, I felt like I was in a different world. Everything inside was green and lush. There were immaculate gardens. It was peaceful and beautiful.

There were several statues in Temple Square, one of a seagull. Our Salt Lake tour guide said that when the original Mormon settlers came there was a cricket plague. The seagulls swooped in to devour the crickets. Now the seagull has a monument erected in its honor. It is also the state bird. Who would’ve guessed?

Right upon leaving the grounds, there was a young group of Christians evangelizing to the people as they exited.

Outside the gates there were several outdoor fountains that at certain times of the day had a water show, but I didn’t see that.

Down the road from Temple Square was a place that had a lot of signs for tourist photos. It seemed like a traffic hazard more than anything. It was something different.

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Like major cities, there was a homeless population. There were kids that came by on skateboards asking for money to buy drugs.

The city itself is very clean. It was hard to find a cigarette butt or a candy wrapper. It would be nice if such care was taken towards preserving the polluted Great Salt Lake. Although it is nice to know that they weren’t serving fish from the Great Salt Lake at local restaurants since the lake is much too salty for fish.

One major misconception I had about Salt Lake City before visiting was that it was a dry city (as in hard to find alcohol, not as in climate). I didn’t find that to be the case, although the beer on tap has only 4% alcohol. Some of my local favorites are the Moab Brewery Porcupine Pilsner, Squatters Arnold Palmer Ale, and Wasatch’s Polygamy Porter. The good thing about less alcohol was that I was able to sample more. Although Utah law says that you can only have two drinks in front of you at a time, even if those drinks are 2 ounces each.

I was surprised at some of the restaurants in the city. I had an unbelievably good burger at Fat Jack’s Burger Emporium. I built my own and it included some unusual ingredients like Spam, avocado, cilantro, and a fried egg.

Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city, we were able to see a lot of the major highlights.

Ending the holiday season

I didn’t tell anybody this earlier, but I started the new year off on the wrong foot. We had a couple of friends over for New Year’s Eve. Everything went well and the last people left at 1:30 AM. Paul and I finally made our way to bed around 2. At 6 AM, a noise woke me up. Somewhere between 2 and 6 AM, our furnace went out. The house temp was under 50 degrees. We ended up having someone come out at the crack of dawn on new year’s day receiving holiday pay to fix it. It was a rough start. 

Today we took down our Christmas tree. I put all of the decorations back in the crawl space and dug out all of my old journals. I don’t know how quick I will go through them to be honest with you. I always have a rough time this time of year with the lack of sunlight. Even though I take massive doses of vitamin D, my thoughts and emotions tend to be dark. Just thinking about the past can bring me down on the sunniest of days….so this month might be light and fluffy like the winter snow. Talking about the winter snow, Paul and I were able to get out and cross country ski for the first time on the skis that we bought last winter. What a workout! Sure made me feel out of shape, especially since we saw a friend of ours there and he did two laps to our one. 

Yesterday I told you that we were going to one last Christmas party at my uncle’s who happens to be a clean freak. Well, I am embarassed to say that it was me this year that made a mess. That’s right. After being at the party for about a half an hour, I cracked open a bottle of beer. I took 3 sips and proceeded to spill most of the bottle everywhere. It went down my shirt with a majority of it landing on my pants and their off white carpet. I greeted relatives coming to the party looking like I peed my pants. My uncle said I could leave behind some money for the carpet cleaning. I am glad he was just kidding. Or was he? He didn’t freak out though like the story I heard of when my cousins accidently knocked over his fish tank. Other than looking like a complete idiot, the party went well.

Our staff party a couple weeks ago went great too. We took our employees to a painting class. It was so much fun. And I didn’t suck at painting. I was happy to be average. Out of the four of us that went, not one single person between the ages of 30 and 52 ever painted on a canvas before. Checked that off my bucket list and would love to do it again. 

Other than that, I have been trying to upload a video of my daughter and I singing. I haven’t been successful at that. I will probably figure it out by July. Geez. We sang our Christmas songs at the party yesterday. Every year my aunt insists that we sing. My daughter moves people to tears with her singing. She wants to spend the summer singing and performing on tour. She is auditioning to do that next month. When my cousin heard that, she was bummed out because she wanted Angel to sing at her wedding this summer. Angel just sang at my brother’s wedding a few months back. Angel and I have very similar voices, except that hers is well trained and mine is not. I used to be the one asked to sing at weddings, now it is her. When did she become better than me??? She used to ask me for advice and now she tells me what to do. I listen to her because she is right, but can’t help but feel hurt that I am no longer wanted. I am happy that she has had so many opportunities that I didn’t.

Sometimes it is hard for me to accept this whole aging thing. 

Get a clue

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As a runner, I cringe every time I see this picture. In my former life, I was an actress. Ok, I had several lead parts in community theater to be more accurate. I wore these shoes when I played the part of Ms. Scarlett in Clue. It was my favorite part. I loved the character, I loved the music. It was one of the best times in my life. I walked in those shoes for 8 shows. I even dyed my hair dark brown. I got to make out on stage with Mr. Green, played by my husband. People asked us after the show if we were married to each other because if we weren’t we wouldn’t be married much longer. We had the chemistry. It was wonderful. 

But things weren’t always wonderful. Sometimes there was more drama back stage than on. Like that time that my husband was cast as “the husband” and I was the maid. I hated the part of having to be a servant of my husband and his new “wife”. The new wife was my age, beautiful, and outgoing. She demanded attention when I did not. The first time she met my husband she said to me, “your husband is so hot that I could do a little lap dance for him.” Needless to say an instant friendship wasn’t struck. That was the first time that my husband and I stepped down from a role. About a year later, his “wife” left her husband for another guy that she had a part with. 

I had a few other great roles; Cinderella, Glinda the Good, and the Sour Kangeroo (Seussical). We also had our whole family involved, it was great. My husband played the part of Scrooge and my son was Tiny Tim. Those were the days. 

Last night I watched my daughter perform as Alice in Alice in Wonderland. She is now filling out college applications for musical theater. She started at age 8 as a dwarf in the performance Snow White. Since then she has been in 30+ shows. There is nothing in the world like watching your daughter perform. It makes me miss the stage. I will be back. But I will not be wearing 3 inch heels. I wonder if I can perform in running shoes? 

“Run” way model feet

This week my husband and I went to a concert for a date night. I decided to dress up for the occasion. Being a hard core runner, this tends to be more of a problem than you might think. You see, I can’t really get away with wearing my running shoes with a dress. Maybe I could get away with it if I was running late for the show. Haha.

When I became a serious runner, I decided to give up the stiletto heels. I no longer wanted to wear shoes that could in any way harm my precious running feet. Without healthy feet, I have nothing to run on. Yes, high heels are extremely sexy. No, I haven’t given them away yet. I can’t stand to be barefoot. So, that pretty much leaves athletic shoes or slippers. Slippers can be dangerous too. This week I tripped over a rug while wearing them and fell into my sliding glass door. I also stubbed my toe. Good thing I am not a dancer.

So, when we went to the concert I was forced to wear dress shoes that pinch my feet, my left more so than my right foot. The seats were staggered back at the concert and I sat at an end seat with no one directly in front of me. During the concert, I thought I was being discrete when I took off my left shoe. The guy in front of us kept looking over at my feet. Then he started taking pictures. 

At intermission, the guy turned around and started talking to me. He said that he didn’t mean to stare at my feet the whole show, but did I ever think about being a foot model. He talked about how he noticed I took off my left shoe and not the right. He liked the shape of my feet. Nothing like sitting near a drunk guy with a foot fetish!

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Here is a picture of my feet. Now imagine them in a darkly lit room with strobe lights. Not bad, definately model material. Well except that my summer nail polish is half worn off. Oh, and I might lose a couple of nails next time I run a marathon. Will that be a problem? I guess I won’t quit my day job anytime soon. Oh well.

After talking more about my perfect feet and tripping over his beer cans, he seemed to notice that I was not alone. Now my husband is this big, burly, muscular man. The guy looked over at Paul and got a little nervous. “Oh man, is that your wife?” “Sorry man, I didn’t mean anything by it.” “Are we good, man?” This is always followed by high fives. I think that it would be funny, just once, for Paul to act really jealous and pissed off when guys hit on me or compliment me. He sure can put the fear of God into people.

When my son and his friend got into trouble a couple of months back, his friend’s mom threatened him with my husband. “No please, don’t make me talk to Paul,” he cried. Then he confessed to every bad thing he ever did with my son since 2008. It works great. 

Nothing like modeling feats and run way model feet. 

Modern parenting

I remember growing up in the 1980’s. As teenagers, our parents thought we were the worst of all generations before us. They did not understand our music, rock ‘n roll and hair bands. Talking about hair, they did not like the way we dressed. Our hair was too poofy our makeup too wild. We spent countless hours at the mall trying to be material girls. We wasted gobs of time trying to get to the next level in Pong, Space Invaders, and Frogger on our Atari’s. We traded in our records for a large boom box with a tape deck. We dubbed tapes off of other friends tapes off of other friends tapes instead of listening to what our parents listened to on the record player or radio in the living room. Kids were rebellious, times were changing, and parenthood was hard.

As a parent of teenagers, I look back and wish times were a little simpler. We have less control and no guidelines. How much computer time should we allow our teens to have? How do we enforce that? How do we implement parental controls when we need our teens to help set them up? How do we monitor what they are doing when they know more about computers than us? I think that this is probably one of the biggest generation technology parenting gaps that has ever been and probably will ever be. At least our children will know what to do with their children because they grew up with the internet. From experience they will know from their childhood all the things that we don’t know now.

How do we know what to do? How much computer time is too much? My teens now do their homework on their computers. Taking away their computers is like taking away their pencils and paper. Is it good for them to spend all the time that they can on computers so they are prepared to use them in future careers? It is extremely hard to be hypervigelent with our teens use of the Internet without sitting next to them the whole time they are on it. This also is hard when they are at the stage in life where they want to be independent more than anything. If we have no reason not to trust them should we treat them like they are untrustworthy??

I remember as a young child finding my dad’s girlie magazines and showing them to my friends. They were in our house. We don’t have that option of keeping it out of our house if we don’t want it there anymore. My oldest daughter was exposed to porn in middle school when our previous pastor’s daughter showed it to her on a computer in our own house. Who would have thought?

What about cell phones? Back in my day, we had to talk on a phone tethered by a cord on the wall. There was no privacy. Now teens can talk anywhere with complete privacy about anything they want. If they wanted to send or receive naked pictures of someone, it is a click away. Who would ever know?

Now as far as music goes, the options are limitless there as well. If I wanted to buy a parental advisory CD as a teen I would have to go to the music store and show them my id. Once again, anything can be downloaded or listened to and I wouldn’t even know. How do you become proactive in monitoring that?

What about school shootings and violence? Back in my time there were a few kids that would call in bomb threats when they wanted the day off. I assume that doesn’t happen all that much anymore with caller id. Instead there are school shootings. Do you know how scary it is to send your child off to school after something like that happens?? Yesterday I received a letter from the principal of my children’s high school stating that there was an incident where a student was talking about bringing a gun to school. The authorities were called into the school to investigate. So, I sit here and worry. Worry about the things I can’t control. I wonder if I am doing a good job as a parent. Is anyone really? I don’t know what the hell I am doing parenting the modern teen. Does anyone? We are dealing with issues that our experienced parents wouldn’t even be able to give us advice about. 

On the flip side, it is a great time to be a parent. We have webmd for every bump, scratch, and sniffle. There are online support groups for any parenting issue. There is countless free advice for practically any parenting problem from getting stains out of clothes, potty training, to extra math tutorials at the tips of our fingers. Maybe it would have helped my parents raise us when they had 4 teens in the house at the same time. My brother could’ve gotten diagnosed with autism earlier, maybe would have had early intervention therapy. My mom could’ve joined online support groups and wouldn’t have had to parent an autistic child totally alone finding out what worked through trial and error.  

Ah, these are the best of times and worst of times for parenting. I am doing the best I can. 

The dark unfeeling cardboard box

When I was a young child, I never really liked school a lot. Sure, there were some bad teachers, some good, and some everywhere in between. But it really wasn’t that. It was never that. It had more to do with Matt, my autistic brother. Being less than 2 years younger than me, I could never get away. The school really didn’t know what to do with Matt. He was the first autistic child to come through the school district. When he couldn’t function in a regular classroom, they cut the library in half to make it a special ed room.

For a long period of time, Matt was nonverbal. Oh, he did scream and cry but he did not talk. He was uncontrollable. His teacher at school set up a naughty box for him between the library and special ed room. Almost every time we had library, my brother was in the box screaming and flailing around. The box seemed high at the time because I was so little. When my class lined up to look at books, the kids could peer into the box. Most of the time the kids laughed and I hated them. I put my feelings in a big box that seemed even bigger than the box that Matt was in. Many times I would rather be trapped in that empty box devoid of feelings, life, and light than to face the pain of the real world.

For a long time I floated around in my own little world. How could I make friends with my classmates? How could I like the kids that called my brother a retard? I went deeper and deeper into that box. I stopped eating. I didn’t talk to anyone. I started failing my classes. The only thing that touched my heart was music. I had this focal point that I would always stare at so I didn’t start crying in that class. I was so lost. My mom was very concerned, she had the school counselor talk to me. She was a wonderful person who tried to help me make friends and talk about feelings.

My mom wasn’t in much better shape herself. Mother daughter outings with the extended family ended up with my mom sharing with the family how much she hated autism and all of the things that Matt did or didn’t do. The family just wanted relaxation and fun. They were uncomfortable that my mom was crying and needed their support. They stared at me all the time. When I was alone with family, they peppered me with questions about if my mom was ok and how was Matt. I didn’t feel like anyone cared about me. Most of the time they were just trying to help without being very helpful.

One day Matt started talking again. He told stories of how his teacher in the grade school was abusive towards him. She shoved him under her desk and sat down at her desk squeezing him in there. He also said that the teacher would place him face down on the floor and sit on him making it hard to breathe. My mom asked me if this could be true, she was very upset.

After everything that happened, my mom tried to keep my younger brothers sheltered from going to school with Matt. She sent my brothers to parochial schools and schools that were out of our district. I wonder if that had anything to do with me not responding well to being in school with Matt. Did I save my younger brothers some pain? I hope so.

A game of cat and bird

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I admit, this picture is not award winning. But it is one in a million. How often are you in the kitchen with your cat when a bird decides to peek in? Plus have the opportunity to take a picture before the moment passes. I have always been a bird magnet which causes conflicting polarity since cats have always been drawn to me as well. Or perhaps the bird was looking in hopes to find our neighbor that moved away. His massive gardens and bird feeders long gone.

A few days later, I was sitting on my deck listening to the old Pink Floyd song Cirrus Minor. The song begins with the melodic singing of birds. My new friend came over by me again. I think he must be lonely. I would recommend other Pink Floyd songs to him if he could get past The Wall, that is. He may relate to the raw feelings of loneliness in The Final Cut. Or like the sounds of clocks and bells, even the little sounds of bicycle bells that may honk at him. He may also like the sounds of other animals such as pigs, sheep, dogs, insects, or cows in other songs. Or the lonely seagulls cry in Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun. He may think some of the old songs are just too creepy. Some are, but if you dig far enough into the “Relics” there are a few hidden gems like Cymbaline, Julia Dream, and See Saw. Or “our song” which has always been Fat Old Sun, not Fat Old Son as my husband jokes. 

I have seen evidence of you, little bird, when I was gone. Little streaks of bird poop on my clothes drying on the line. I didn’t appreciate this, but I know I have to take the good with the bad. You do tolerate my cat. I might miss you when you decide to fly away. Some day I too will be alone when my little birds decide to leave the nest. 

My silver birthday

The good news is that I didn’t spend the first few hours of this birthday in the ER. Instead Paul and I took the kids out for sushi. The restaurant had a nice, quiet atmosphere with live classical guitar music. I had a glass of Riesling and we all sampled each other’s sushi. Two out of three kids liked sushi. I once heard that two out of three ain’t bad. Ha ha. I bet right now you are thinking that I am a really sophisticated, classy, and perhaps elegant woman. If that is what you want to think then you better stop reading because Saturday night I was in the mosh pit. 

Saturday night? Well Saturday night I played the birthday card. The birthday card is something that I bring out the couple of weeks before or after my birthday, okay okay pretty much the whole month of July. I think that birthdays became such a big deal for me because as a kid my mom went out of her way to make me feel like a princess on that one day of the year. My autistic brother went to grandma’s or aunt Grace’s for the day. He wasn’t the center of our universe or talked about for that one day of the year. Since my birthday fell in the middle of summer I could take friends swimming, have a sleepover up north, or go mini bike riding. 

Back to Saturday night, I talked Paul into seeing a metal band with me. Paul likes classical music. No, not classical rock. I am talking about Beethoven and Bach here. Pretty wild guys in their day, but not ours. We also dragged our pastor along. Makes confession a lot easier. No, seriously, he has an appreciation for the music. This was a pretty crazy crowd. Not a quiet crowd like the one we had at the Metallica tribute concert. Who would’ve guessed? We hung out in the back, moving out of the way when average sized bouncers dragged out surly drunk fighters. Three quarters of the way through the concert I wanted to get in where the action was. Even though the little voice in my head told me to stay away because I couldn’t risk getting hurt before the marathon next month. I imagined someone crushing my foot as I inched my way into the third row, the music beating into my chest and my hair feeling the static of the vibration. The adrenaline rush, the anxiety of passing out, feeling surrounded by people yet all alone, enjoying the music. The guy two over started punching someone which edged me over into the mosh pit. The guys there moved this weak, fragile, old (strong , marathon trained, young) lady out of the way. But that happened Saturday night when I was still 40. 

Another year of life with lots of things checked off my bucket list this year and  just as many added. Another birthday under my belt!

Glory days

Earlier this week I took my middle child out with some friends for his 15th birthday. As I was paying for them to get in, the woman behind the counter asked if any of the boys were over 18. Over 18?!?  I know some of the boys are sprouting mustaches, but still! Honestly, that made me feel a little old. A few minutes later the song Glory Days came on the radio while I was watching the boys do flips off the high dive. This ignited a thought in the blogging lobe of my brain. These are my glory days right now. Hey, who said that middle age can’t be the new adolescence? 

When I was in middle school, I tried out for cheerleading. I was the only girl that didn’t make it. The high school choir director was the middle school cheerleading coach. For some reason, she never liked me. Tryouts were on an evening that I was sick, no exceptions. So I had to come in to tryouts with a fever. Right now I could save face and blame the failure on the fever, but I sucked. Then I was homeschooled between 8th and 10th grade. When I came back to high school as a junior, I was far behind in sports. But sports was never my passion at the time, music was. 

What I really wanted to do was join jazz choir. I didn’t even audition. Despite having a three octave range, I lacked confidence. The choir director cut my solo for solo and ensemble saying it wasn’t good enough. But maybe she wasn’t a good enough teacher to make this song bird sing. While I was homeschooled, I wrote my own music and sang it on the piano. I could hear a song and be able to pound it out on the piano and sing it as well. My dad yelled at me though, saying I was making a horrible racket. I wanted to join the choir in college, but feared I wasn’t good enough and never tried out. At my last high school reunion after rocking the karaoke machine a spouse of a classmate said I must have been a star in choir. I am so glad that my oldest daughter is a three octave choir star. I don’t want to live it through her, I want to still be able to live it myself. 

In college, I commuted to school while living at home about half of my college years. Mom still needed my help raising my brothers. I also became a caregiver for two other disabled people. No new sense of freedom or keg parties for me. Now my children are almost raised and I have a new sense of freedom that I never had before. I am going to make up for the lost time. I love running and decided that I am going to run a marathon. Things are going great, they really are. I figure that I have about a ten year span to finally have my glory days. I am a few days from my 41st birthday. I am not sure I can keep up this marathon pace forever. I am at a major crossroad here. Should I keep myself in marathon condition after the marathon next month or cut back to a half marathon pace? Will my body burn out faster at an extreme level or will I be able to have a longer “run” overall if I cut back the stress on my body? Something to think about on my run today. After today I will have a total of 33 miles in for the week and I feel better than I ever felt in my whole life.