October 29, 2011

I Think I’ll Celebrate.

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , at 10:58 PM by Dawne Webber

It’s something I swore I’d never do. And I meant it. I had a million reasons not to do it and I could have come up with a million more if I put my mind to it. Of course, I ended up doing it. Now I’m celebrating my seven month anniversary of doing it. It, coincidentally, is blogging.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Facing another self-imposed blog post deadline.

Eight months ago, I’d never read a blog. Well, there was one I read years ago by a mom in similar circumstances to my own. But she was perfect, down to the homesewn cloth diapers, homemade baby food and tidy house. I felt like crap after I read her post. That was the end of my foray into blogging.

Until I wrote a book. And well-meaning friends advised me to blog as a way to get my name “out there”. And agents strongly advocated using social media as “pre-marketing” tool. Blogging became a necessary evil that I would have to embrace if I was serious about peddling my book.

I spent two months researching the “how-to’s” and brainstorming with myself (I had some fun, in spite of the occasional argument). I spent many frustrating hours just trying to find personal blogs to read. I mind-mapped, learned about “search engine optimization” (hooey), and looked for unique angles to base the blog on (my niche). I assumed some aspect of my book would be the subject, but after some sage advice from D¹, I realized the book I’d written couldn’t be the subject of an entire lifelong blog. What then? My life is nondescriptively busy, not blog fodder.

It struck me that I live an insulated life. There are so many views, opinions and lives I’m unfamiliar with, it’s like I live in a bubble. And my goal became to talk, no not just talk, converse with other people about whatever came up. I stumbled upon the word “confabulate” and fell in love with it. (That’s what writers do, fall in love with words) And I began to get excited about the prospect of blogging.

I plumbed the depths of my mind for a catchy tag-line and a witty, memorable title for the blog. Deriving witty titles isn’t one of my gifts, as demonstrated by some of the ideas I was kicking around (and many of my headlines):

Viewnique( because each person has a unique viewpoint, of course)
Random Patterns
Ms. Confabulous
Confabulation

Thank God I’d found a blog I really liked, and she advised in a post to use your own name for a blog title, if possible. That was the end of that particular headache.

I continued to research and came up with a set of blog goals:

  • I’d write at least three posts per week. How hard could it be to write a few hundred words every few days?
  • I’d have three months of pre-written posts before I even started the blog, just in case a it was harder than I thought or my muse took flight and left me in a lurch.

Ha, what a silly newbie. Those were goals that were easy to fall short of.

Rock star and Tiny Dancer? I don't think so.

I began writing my thirty-nine posts. I had a ball writing my first one, Rock Star and Tiny Dancer. I’d always loved the Elton John song, Tiny Dancer. It embodied the perfect romance for a young girl addicted to music (me). Every time I heard it, I imagined it as a movie of the week so that’s what I based it on. It’s still my favorite post and after writing it,  I was hooked on blogging. And, seven months later here I am, but I still haven’t come to the point of this particular post.

No, that's not her either.

The point was to dish on some of the things I’ve learned about the fascinating other-world of the blogosphere. Spoiler Alert: I guess that will be the topic of my next post. Dave Grohl, the Grinch, (possibly JLo) and I hope to see you then.

October 26, 2011

The Price Tag on a Gift

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 7:44 PM by Dawne Webber

I know it sounds crazy, but I look forward to Christmas shopping because every year my sister-in-law and I celebrate the joys that are Christmas shopping and gift wrapping, together. It’s a staple of our Christmas season, but I fear it’s a tradition that’s coming unraveled.

Things have went swimmingly for years. Granted, we only exchange gifts with my husband’s family (his dad, his sister and his brother-in-law) and they only exchange with us, and that automatically makes shopping easier. But we’ve simplified it even more. My five kids get gifts from everyone, and the five adults draw names. Every child and adult  provides a detailed wish list. I learned early on that in my husband’s family, gifts come from the list and the list is never deviated from.

My sister-in-law and I spend one whirlwind weekday in mid-November shopping. My father-in-law gives us money to shop for him too. On that one day we get ALL the gifts for everyone, ourselves included. In other words, she and I pick out our own gifts.  Then she and I have a gift wrapping party at her house in early December and get it all wrapped. We have a lot of fun all the way around.

Over the years, we occasionally run into a snafu.  My father-in-law and sister-in-law can buy what they want, when they want it, so when gift giving time rolls around sometimes they don’t need/want anything. For the past few years they’ve been opting for cash or gift cards instead of a “real” gift. Recently my father-in-law asked me why we exchanged gifts at all. “All we’re really doing is giving money back and forth. Maybe we should just stop exchanging gifts.”

Even though I saw the logic in it, my heart dropped. I confess I don’t think I could be one of those selfless people who give the money to a charity instead of exchanging gifts. I admit I like getting gifts. And our method allows me an anxiety free, guilt free shopping experience. Money does not grow on trees for my family, so whenever I purchase something for myself  it’s usually accompanied by guilt and anxiety  “Is this sweater taking food from the mouths of my children?  Will we lose the house because of this sweater? Maybe S¹ has outgrown the shoes I just bought for him and he already needs new ones. Maybe I should buy him another pair of shoes instead of this really gorgeous sweater.”

But when Christmas and my birthday (which happens to be the day after Christmas) roll around, I’m able to get things I otherwise wouldn’t spend money on, from dishes to  designer handbags, to winter coats (one year a red leather jacket. It was hot!), to a dress for the Christmas ball.

But my father-in-law makes a good point. If we didn’t exchange gifts, the thought is I’d be able to go shopping with the money we didn’t have to spend on gifts. Honestly, it would never happen. I’d never use that money on a designer handbag or a red leather jacket and if I did it would definitely be an anxiety inducing experience.

And so, I ponder the mishmash of our tradition: the cockeyed giving money for a gift, just to get the money back,  and my personal fondness for receiving gifts. But under that superficial stuff, I wonder “What’s the purpose of gift giving? Why are humans compelled to give gifts?” I know it’s more than trading money we have boiled it down to.

For those of you (and you know who you are) wondering what the point is, there is no point. Basically I’m confused about it and looking for other’s thoughts on the subject. I see it like this: it seems impractical to continue exchanging gifts when it’s become simply an exchange of money, yet there is something fundamentally off-kilter in discontinuing for that very reason. And to put it crassly but truthfully, I like having the guilt-free shopping experience and I know that’s affecting my judgement on the subject.

The countdown has begun– Christmas Shopping Extravaganza 2011 is on the calendar (Tuesday, November 16). Will I be mentally prepared?

October 19, 2011

Time Warped

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 7:43 AM by Dawne Webber

Time was the enemy when we were kids. It dragged on interminably the weeks before Christmas, then flew by with supersonic speed the weeks of vacation. Remember how the tortuous hours in the car driving to the destination seemed to last much longer than the vacation itself? And in the previous millennium, it took forever to reach the age when we’d be old enough to stay up later, wear make-up, drive a car and graduate from high school.

Recently the essence of time has changed. Time is going so fast it’s decreasing. Really. And it’s not just my biological ticking louder and faster, or mommy-time (times flying because the kids are growing so fast). It’s an inescapable fact (of my imagination? Maybe…)

I became aware of this phenomenon with the bi-weekly visit of the Schwan man. For years he’s been handing me a little orange reminder sticker at each visit and saying, “See you in two weeks on November 2.” “It won’t be Novemeber 2 in two weeks,” I reply in disbelief. “Isn’t it still September?” He always chuckles, but shakes his head slightly. He thinks I’m cracked. I’d agree with him but it’s not just me. My kids notice that time is always flying, even during the everlasting things, such as the school year.

I’ve given it much deep thought (usually with a glass of wine. It’s easier to mull on the increasing speed of time if one is relaxing and not in the throes of trying to keep up with it). Here are some of the hypotheses I’ve come up with.

  • Culture Shock: Our culture has a compulsion to change things. Some of my favorite examples include:  Age changes– “Forty is the new thirty” and clothing size changes– “Size 10 is the new size 4“. Maybe in our inclination to change things, we’ve subconsciously changed the time/space continuum.
  • Retailer Syndrome: Retailers load the shelves with seasonal merchandise months in advance of the actual season. Decades of this fraudulent calendar acceleration has affected the cosmic clock.
  • Daylight Savings Time: I’m not sure how this would speed up time, but it’s screwy enough to mess with something.
  • Global Cooling/Global Warming: In the ’70’s we were preparing for the next ice age. Now we’re preparing for a global oven that will melt the polar ice caps. All this back and forth of temperatures has messed with the earth’s biological clock. Or maybe it’s the hole in the ozone. The different catalysts of impending disaster can be confusing.
  • The Spiral Effect: Time is a great spiral, and the nearer we are to the end, the faster it goes, like the vortex of a tornado or water going down a drain (that seems more fitting). Or, if you want a pretty, graceful image, like a ballerina spinning faster when she pulls her arms in. If I’m correct about this hypothesis and the world should end soon, remember I predicted it here and I deduced the cause. Of course, I won’t be around to accept my Nobel prize.
I saw Christmas decorations in a department store yesterday. No matter what the reason is for time speeding up, be forewarned and prepared for it–  Thanksgiving is tomorrow and there are only thirteen shopping days left until Christmas. Unless the world ends first.

October 15, 2011

I Dated a Married Man (Successfully)

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , at 10:59 PM by Dawne Webber

He asked me to go out for a drink. His newest client owned a tavern. “I want to check it out,” he told me. “Will you come with me?” Spending time alone with him sounded intriguing. So I joined him.

We shared an appetizer and I got a glass of wine. He drank a beer as he watched the football game on the TV over the bar. We didn’t say much; it was enough to be together. “That was fun,” he said when we left. I told him I’d like to do it again.

That’s how my husband and I began dating each other again. There was an alluring spontaneity in slipping away on a Friday or Saturday evening for a drink. Soon after our visit to the tavern, we decided to go someplace new. I wasn’t impressed by the stale air or the bar stools pocked with cigarette burns. But when a band started playing on the small stage next to the bar, I was in rock heaven.

After that I looked forward to our next night out. We went to another place we’d never been to. There was no live music. Just TVs, lots of them, all tuned to various sporting events. My husband was engrossed with the screens. My eyes roamed around the room, looking for something I was not getting from the TV. By the time we left I was sulking.

The same thing happened the next time we went out. He watched TV. I watched everyone else and brooded. We didn’t talk much. I dwelt on it the next day and panic set in. Maybe we’d drifted apart like all those couples I’d read about in magazines. Was our marriage floundering because we couldn’t have a conversation that didn’t revolve around the kids or his business?

The next time we went to dinner first. We talked and laughed, then I told him I was worried about us. He wasn’t worried; he even laughed a little, well acquainted with my tendency to overreact. After dinner we moved to the bar for a drink. We continued talking and people-watching as we waited for some vacant seats. I had just breathed a sigh of relief at the ease of our conversation, when we found two seats right in front of the TV. The evening could have ended in disaster, but after some intense competition from the TV screen, we decided to walk down the street to the blues bar and watch the band. (The drummer, who looked like Santa with a Hawaiian shirt, was phenomenal!)

After a few date-night ups and downs, I learned that we had different expectations. He just wanted to unwind and be with me. Silence was ok because he spent all day talking to clients. I, on the other hand, wanted some excitement and connection with him, and that involved conversation. Once we got in the groove of going out again (it took lots of hits and misses) we really enjoyed it.We still have an occasional flop of a date, but it has more to do with the state of our lives at that particular moment, than with the state of our relationship.

A few weeks ago we went to Baileys to have dinner and relax with a drink while watching the Detroit Tigers play in the AL championship. It had been a few months since our last date and we were looking forward to it. To my surprise, my husband asked for the check before I’d finished eating. And he had his coat on before I finished my glass of wine. I was seething. This was not the relaxing night I’d envisioned. But I didn’t say anything, thinking that he just wanted to go someplace else for a drink.

We ran a few errands and he asked me if I wanted to walk around the mall. In my head: Huh? No. I do not want to walk around the mall. I want to have a drink and watch the Tigers play.  To him: “Sure let’s go to the mall.” The ease with which I can slip back into my nineteen-year-old self is astonishing. As we walked around the mall, he tried to make conversation and I, walking slightly ahead, ignored him. Finally he said, “Do you want to do something else?”

My sarcastic response dripped out of my mouth before I could stop it. “No. I wanted to stay at Baileys and watch the game. That is what I wanted to do.”

I could see his surprise. “Why didn’t you tell me? I asked you what you wanted to do.”

“You couldn’t wait to get out of there. I didn’t want to stay if you didn’t. I didn’t know we’d end up at the mall.”

He stormed out of the mall and I followed sheepishly. I’m never proud of acting like an adolescent. If we’d just started dating, that would have been the end. But here’s where the twenty-six years of marriage comes in handy, because once we reached the car, we apologized.

“I’m sorry I rushed you. I’ve been rushing all week from one place to another and I didn’t even realized I was doing it,” he said.

“I’m sorry too. I should have told you I wanted to stay.”

“Let’s go back.”

“Let’s start fresh and go someplace else.”

He took my hand and drove to Chammps so we could finish watching the game. I’d say in spite of the ups and downs, dating my married man has been very successful.

Detroit Tigers logo

Image via Wikipedia

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October 10, 2011

A Descent to Hope

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , at 5:51 PM by Dawne Webber

The descent began innocuously enough– a hint of anger, sadness or impatience tingeing the day. Moods that typically faded with a laugh or a good night’s sleep, sometimes boded much worse. She never knew what triggered it, although she could blame a myriad of things (stress, lack of sleep, hormones, a trip to the grocery store…).

These emotions intensified and spiraled down into a bog of anger, bitterness and sadness, swirling together and shattering her equilibrium. Soon she forgot what it was like to feel anything positive. She was sure this darkness was the truth and the times of happiness and contentment that seemed so dim and faraway, had been a lie and she had been acting through it all. While she was in this pit, her life became defined by absolutes: Everything was always bad and it always had been. And there’s no hope of it ever getting better.

sad eyes

Image by disgustipado via Flickr

Her husband tried to help, but he couldn’t understand the darkness because he’d never experienced it. She’d look at him and think, “He doesn’t have a clue who I am. He never really knew me at all.” Her children watched her with wary eyes. She knew she should try to hide her unhappiness but she didn’t have the strength to put on such a performance. She was too tired.

Maybe it was the warring with her world that made her so tired. Maybe it was the feeling of hopelessness, of being out of control and believing it could never be made right.

She desperately wanted to be rid of the darkness, yet she found herself clutching it tightly. She’d heard that she had a choice: accept the negative feelings or choose to feel better. She couldn’t see a choice. She was in a pit and she could not climb out on her own.

Then she would wake one morning, days or weeks later, to find the darkness had vanished like a bad dream. She felt light and once again her smile and her laughter were sincere. Her family would breathe a collective sigh of relief.

It took her years to realize she did have a choice. I think it was after she prayed about it.

The choice wasn’t the one she thought she had– she couldn’t choose or will herself to feel happy instead of depressed no matter how much she wanted to or how hard she tried. It was something to endure while it lasted. The choice lay between hope and hopelessness. She saw that even in the deepness of the pit, she had a choice to fall further down by encouraging and grasping onto the negative thoughts and then sinking into and believing in their reality. Or she could ride the dark awful feelings like a canoe in the rapids, putting hope in the knowledge that the ride would soon be over and the sun would be shining at the end.

Now when she finds herself in the pit, she chooses to remember that the hopelessness is the illusion. It’s not an easy choice because the hope seems so faint when she’s down there. Yet as time goes on, the darkness visits less frequently and the pit is shallower and she knows hope, however faint at the time, is the right choice.

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October 4, 2011

The Life and Death of a Friendship

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , at 5:25 PM by Dawne Webber

The first time we met was over the phone. She’d called to inquire about a group I belonged to, but we ended up talking about other things. She and I clicked.

We still clicked when we met a week later. We were surprised by all we had in common. She loved the Gilmore Girls, and I got the DVD boxed set for Mother’s Day. We both loved china and crystal and parties. Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy made us swoon. We complained about the same things too. It’s funny, but at this moment I can’t remember what.

Soon we were spending an hour on the phone everyday. We’d go to the coffee shop and she would get tea and I would get coffee. We promptly lost track of time and were gone for much longer than we (or our families) had anticipated. After a few hours I would start getting guilt pangs and say, “I’m getting the guilts. I should go home and make dinner.”

We laughed together often and cried sometimes, as well. We could tell each other anything, even the mucky things about ourselves that we’d never shared with anyone. I’d never had a friend quite like that. She was an amazing person. I admired her ability to focus totally on whoever she was talking to. And I loved her sense of humor and wit. She was wise, too. I could call and ask things that at one time I’d only trust my mother to answer: “This hamburger has been in my frig for six days. Do you think it’s still good?”

We called each other when we needed someone to pull us from the brink of disaster (physical or emotional). “I’m making flower arrangements for the graduation reception. They suck.” I’d shout into the phone. Then I’d break into my signature pathetic whine, “Can you come over?” No matter what else she was doing, she’d come over and fix it. And I’d do the same for her. When an acquaintance mistook us for sisters, we were delighted. Neither of us had ever had a sister– until now.

My three girls and two boys clicked with her three daughters and they soon were acting like brothers and sisters. She and her family accepted our invitation to spend Christmas at our house. My kids hated not having any cousins to spend Christmas with, and this was an answered prayer. We spent a wonderful day together and when I went to bed that evening, I envisioned years of growing up and growing old together, her family and mine. It was a lovely dream.

One autumn, a few years after we met a change came over my friend. She stopped calling and wouldn’t answer my calls or return them. Her daughters did the same to my daughters. If I went to her house, she wouldn’t answer the door. But if we saw each other socially and I spoke to her, she seemed her normal witty self. I wasn’t sure if she was avoiding me or if I was imagining it.

After awhile I was certain things had changed, but if I brought up the subject she avoided giving me a straight answer. And my heartfelt apologies (for what, I was never sure), had no effect. As suddenly as we became friends, we became strangers. And my heart broke. I watched all the lovely visions of our families growing up and growing old together turn black and swirl away like smoke.

Now when I see her, she turns her head and hurries past, pretending she hasn’t seen me. And I wonder what I did to make her so bitter that she would throw away our beautiful friendship, without giving me the grace to try to save it.

Disclaimer: There may be an ad/video visible below or above. I’m not sure because they are invisible from my account, but I know they appear to my readers with annoying frequency. I do not receive monetary compensation for the ad nor do I endorse it.  

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