Feathers

It’s funny how the blogging world seeps into your blood. On any given day, you might be walking along the pavement between gas pump and cashier when you come upon a ratty pigeon feather on the pavement. Instead of kicking it aside, stepping on it, or even acknowledging that a bird out there is less one feather or perhaps is a bird no more, you think of a blogger who celebrates feather encounters. You grab your camera and take a picture of a foot and a feather and post it on the Internet. That’s the kind of thing bloggers do.

The feather lightens the load strapped to this 102-degree day manifested in furry, sticky, dense air and the slow and weak sunset holding no promise of relief.

So I go home and take a cold shower and slick back my wet hair, lay down under the vents pumping cool air into the room, and ride on the big, scary wave that is life now. It’s not that anything terrible has happened. It’s that nothing is the same. Not one thing. And I have to be OK with that because like bird feathers, things don’t stick forever. They break loose and drift away. As I glide along the river toward sleep, I wonder if it’s possible for a lone feather to give me enough altitude to fly away for just a little while.

 

Stick a fork in it

LIfe is full of surprises.

Sometimes it’s the wadded cash found in a pants pocket on laundry day.

Sometimes it’s the sudden whoop-whoop-WHOOP of a sirenflashing lights in the rear-view mirror, oh-crap-what-did-I-do-now? variety.

And sometimes, like today, it’s the oh-hey-it’s-you type.

It’s no accident that today, Nov. 30, also the last day of National Blog Posting Month, found me without a post idea and a drafts folder scraped bare. What to do? What to do?

Bloggers to the rescue.

A week ago I agreed to attend a child-focused PR event hosted by blogger Melissa of Rock and Drool. After introductions, filling out standard release forms, chatting briefly with the organizers of the event, Girl from the East ran to play with the other children and I with a fresh coffee in hand, sat down to wait. Within moments a woman, who looked vaguely familiar and her children, who also looked familiar, walked in. Clearly, she knew Melissa. She must be one of the other local bloggers. But who?

Then it hit me: our daughters were in gymnastics class together this summer. I looked down at her shoes. Converse. Yep, it’s Cardiogirl. I walked over to reintroduce myself. She recognized me, too, but couldn’t figure out the connection or what I was doing at this event. We eventually connected the lines and dots and had a wide-eyed, oh-my-god moment.

I don’t think we ever said more than “hello” to each other during that whole summer gymnastics session. Maybe once we noted that our daughters had the same style sandals. We were strangers in the real world, but walking the same warm and friendly road on the Internet.

I’m happy to say we had plenty to talk about this time. Blogging is an interesting world of people who may lead very different lives on the outside, but all share the same need to write and interact online.

This happened to me last summer, too, when I finally made the connection between a woman I saw at my temple and a blogger I adore who looked just like her. Turns out it’s the same person. (It’s funny how I never noticed all the Detroit references on her site.) It took me a few weeks to gather the courage to approach her for the secret blogger handshake.

More and more, bloggers are stepping out of the shadows of my life. They’ve been there all along, right next to me, sitting a few rows back, just around the corner.

I’m glad I’m done with this 30-day marathon. I’m glad I didn’t give up on this site, on writing, and on blogging (in spite of really depressing stats). I’ve made some wonderful connections and continue to do so, when I least expect it, and in the most unexpected places.

Carry on.

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Wordless Wednesday
(on Tuesday): country road

Every so often I just need to escape.

Holiday tradition is nice as long as it doesn’t feel like a leash.

I’ve felt a tightness around the neck lately.

So, we’ve taken to the road with idea of visiting the shore, hiking through woods, and maybe we’ll even have tacos for Thanksgiving.

 

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Pulled apart

Are these the end days of this blog?

I’m not sure what to do. I don’t even like the name. I regret ever putting “mom” into the URL. It’s a deal killer for some people, you know?

I do not regret blogging. I’m proud of what I’ve written here. I’ve met a few of you and it’s been a gratifying experience connecting a human being to powerful words. When I jumped in five years ago after trading my career for stay-at-home motherhood, I did so because I missed writing, being part of a creative team, being with grown-up people who collected paychecks.

I thought this blog was the start of “something.” I had hours to fill. I was lonely. I needed a focus outside of diapering, feeding, and housewifery. I thought writing about my life would be enough. It took a long time to make connections and earn readers. Sometimes I wanted to give up.

But, I persevered. Luckily some folks noticed, made me feel I had a reason to keep posting. I learned that blogging is like dating. Sometimes you’re hot. Sometimes you’re not. How many times have I developed a crush on one of you only to wake one morning next to a cold pillow?

Five years later, as I prepare to send my baby to kindergarten, as my oldest daughter spins farther out of the family orbit, as my husband and I figure out what to do with our 2012 plan to move to Colorado that will have to wait a few more years, my blog sits in the corner begging for attention and pressure builds to find something to do with myself.

I’m split. My head yearns for new projects, challenges, stimulation. My heart is heavy with the knowledge that my baby will be in the hands of the education system, leaving behind a silence in the spaces we occupied for a thousand or so days. My hands and feet itch to move about freely during the day without concerns of child care, feeding schedules, nap time, and never-ending messes. My nerves jangle with the upcoming projects and commitments to which I’ve already said yes.

Will I go back to work? To what? My industry imploded a few years ago. What remains are shards reflecting very little of what I knew, what I learned. I’m outdated. The debris of its ruin are fashioned into something new, something I’m not sure I really want to take part in anymore. I’ll need retraining, schooling, updating.

I’m torn. I’ve gotten to know my community and not just live in it. I volunteer. I’m thinking of joining the community farm. I’m part of a network of families and friends who hold each other up.  In spite of all my efforts to keep a safe distance — since we knew we were relocating thousand of miles west of here — I’ve opened my heart to this town and its people. My heart is no longer safe. Yet, another part of me stirs with longing to move on.

Right now my Girl from the East is playing dress up. She twirls on the hardwoods in her purple tutu and sparkling shoes, a magic wand keeping time to Sonic Youth. She’s enjoying her last days of spontaneity. I’m enjoying my last days of winging it as I please, too.

My heart all at once aches for the impending changes and flutters with excitement of the unknown.

Reading the various posts from BlogHer ’11, one of the barometers of this medium,  I feel I’ve steadily become irrelevant in a blogging world I never really fit into. I’ve yet to  brand myself (I did burn my forearm on the iron last week. Does that count?) I’m just writing, and anonymously at that, not selling, promoting, marketing or collaborating. Maybe I’ll come out of the closet.  In six months it won’t matter.  My custodial agreement expires. I can fuck the universe if I please and I won’t have to worry about answering to an officer of the court.

If nothing else, this blogging experiment, whether I keep it as it is, reinvent it, or put it away with the baby things, was part of my stay-at-home motherhood. I’ve created a historical record. And a few people actually took the time to read it. Thank you. That’s still amazing to me.  I didn’t find fame or fortune. I didn’t become a household name. Does it matter, really?

I’m torn. I’m split. I’m going in all the directions.

Thankfully, I know how to sew.

 

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IRL

Here's a picture of me all by myself in Santa Monica. I do not have a picture of my meet-up with Chris @ Dharma Bum because I am lame like that.

So, who is this person you’re meeting with tonight?

My husband is asking this, in our hotel room in downtown Los Angeles, as I’m slipping into heels and grabbing my cell phone to go out alone to met this guy, whom I’ve known online for the past three years.

Actually, my husband knew exactly what I was doing. When I decided to tag along on his business trip, I had a goal of meeting at least one, if not more, of my California blogging friends.*

Mostly he was teasing me, that husband of mine. The whole reason we were in California was social media and building online relationships.

He wrote a book about it.

He gets it.

Still, this was something a bit different. It wasn’t a blogger shindig or even a small gathering. It was just two people from opposite sides of the country. This was new territory for me.

Preparing to meet someone who up until now was a two-dimensional image, a string of words, an illusion in some ways, was totally unnerving. But also I’m a bit of a thrill junkie, so doing this seemed all kinds of fun and challenging at the same time.

Have fun on your date, my husband says as the door slips closed behind me.

As I wait for the elevator, I consider the dynamic of online relationships. Are they authentic relationships? What is the difference between an intimacy of words across the miles, and  shared space and experience that maybe does not include deep dialog? Is one more valid, more enriching than the other? Do I know some of my online friends better – perhaps more intimately – than the friends I have in real life? You bet. There is safety in distance. Could I have the same one-on-one fun and ease of self in real life with online friends I’d just met, especially without the benefit of a big blogger event? That is the unknown quantity.

When I started a blog almost four years ago, I was on a quest to change the course of my life. I had no idea where the road would take me. Chris’s blog — Dharma Bum — was one of the first few that caught my attention. (Thank you, Foolery. ) He has inspired me in some wildly unexpected, life-changing ways. He continues to do so.

The nature of personal blogging is to share, vent, educate, inform, illuminate — you name it –something with your readers. If I crack open my carefully sealed shell and reveal some things about myself, in return, my online friends do the same and thus if we find common ground, something builds.

So, you ask, how was my Internet date – the first one involving air travel and a leap of faith?

Pretty damn fantastic.

Thank you, Chris, for not being a serial killer or some false persona. Thanks for asking the questions and listening to the answers. Thanks for the inspiration, the motivation, the ideas, and the great dialog. Thanks for feeding my crazy caffeine habit.

I think I found a kindred spirit.

California was pretty nice, too.

*MamaMary Show and San Diego Momma, damn the distance and clogged freeway systems. I do hope our paths cross someday.

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Hey, what happened to my garden?

By Mozzercork via Creative Commons

I’m reading quite a bit online lately from other bloggers about the state of blogging. They ask: What’s next? Why am I still doing this? Should I be making money and growing my following?

Some have closed their blogs. Others have renamed and relocated under new identities. Some have cut back on their posting frequency. Some have changed the focus of their sites.

Lately I’m regarding this site as I do my seasonal garden. It goes through cycles, from birth and the early excitement of new growth, to the steady maintenance of its peak season, to the realization that the peak is followed by a slide toward dormancy. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. What I do know is that my life today is nothing compared with what it was when I started this blog in May 2007. Back then I had hours to burn. I was lonely and bored.

Today, I am more like a sweating and exhausted gerbil on a squeaky treadmill. My blog always seems to be on the other side of the glass enclosure. I start a post and something else comes up. I hit save and click away or close the lid of the laptop.

My blog is not the only thing that suffers.

Last week? I  almost missed Girl from the West’s road test due to a misguided attempt to multi-task on a rainy Saturday.

And then, later on after she passed the road test, I could not take her to get her first, official driver’s license because I could not find her Social Security card.

After that, I took her shopping for her homecoming dress and accessories. When we came home, being the neurotic that I am, I quickly gathered up all the plastic bags and boxes and broke them all down and placed them in the recycling bin and trash can. I used one of the plastic bags to empty the cat litter pans.

A day later, Girl from the West notices that one of the items is not working properly and should be returned to the store. Except … the box is cut into pieces the bag is filled with cat poop and the receipt is buried under the aforementioned cat waste. Furthermore, the garbage and recycling trucks have already made their rounds. All of it is gone.

Needless to say, she is more than angry with me. I’m angry with me, too.

Does it sound lame to say I once was an organized person? I was. I had to be. It was part of my job to be an organized multi-tasker.  I was organized enough to complete the tiring, complicated paperwork process of international adoption.

When we crossed the threshold into our home as a family of four, my organization fell to the floor along with the sour-smelling clothes from that 13-hour flight. I have not been able to get that mojo back.

What I’ve learned is that being the mother of two children, including one whose work and school are 25 miles from my house,  has proved to be my breaking point.  What I’ve learned is that in my hope of finding my place in the world, which I thought was not the workplace but maybe at home, is now up in the air. I cannot go back to the cubicle world. Being a stay at home mom has not been a highly successful endeavor for me, either. I’m hoping to find a balance somewhere.

I’m not sure what has happened. Is it mid-life brain rot? Is it the stress of the economy?  Is it because I can’t accept the reality of my situation and I keep thinking if I do this, sign up for that, join this group, I’ll find the glue I need to bind it all together?

I’ll keep you posted.

It might be a while.

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Bossy in Detroit

When Bossy stuck a strategic push pin on Detroit (I felt that!) declaring it part of her six-week, nationwide (No)Book Tour, I just knew I had to be a part of the day somehow, some way.

I’ve adored Bossy’s blog ever since I first stumbled onto it three years ago. She had me at “sister mercy.” As she worked out the details of her (No)Book Tour with her publisher bank account,  I wrote her a poem and begged her to come to Detroit, where she could skate on a real ice rink and not a frozen puddle on the street.

When I realized that she’d be here on a Monday night, my heart sagged a bit. Of all nights, Mondays are the toughest in this household. Mondays are long and taxing affairs. They feature sweat pants, dark glasses and multiple trips through the Tim Horton’s drive-through lane.  There are no meet-ups, nights out, glam or, god forbid, cameras pointed at me on Mondays.

I made an exception this Monday. I’m a little sore from moving the planets, but I got them aligned just in time to meet Bossy and a group of Michigan and Ohio bloggers. We claimed a cozy corner in a wonderful micro-brewery inside a historic building in a Detroit suburb. We drank things like “Clementine Lemon Thyme Wheat Ale” and “Cherry Hard Cider” and ate copious amounts of hummus, fattoush and tzatziki on pita. At one point, we were asked by a group of subdued dudes behind us, “Who are you people?”

We are Bossy’s people, silly men.

Ms. Bossy and MomZombie at the (No)Book signing

Now, for a few questions:

Is Bossy as stunning in real life as on her blog?

Oh, my, yes.

Is Bossy as funny and nice in real life as depicted on her blog?

Even more so. Especially considering her hectic schedule for the last month. Would I look so fresh-faced, stylish and chipper? Would you?

Am I glad I gave up sleep and my Monday night workout for this?

Absolutely.

To Bossy and all the great women bloggers*  I met yesterday: It was a pleasure to eat, drink and be merry with you. Please be kind and Photoshop the parsley out of my teeth before you post pictures. I know it’s there!

Mommy’s Martini

Unmitigated

Just Juli

The Suniverse

@grandemocha — look her up on Twitter

It Is What It is

Table For Five

Mommy's Martini, Suniverse, Unmitigated and Bossy

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My first time

Now that I have your attention, I’m sorry to say this won’t be about the loss of my virginity.

*ahem*

I’ve been tagged by the eloquent writer and educator known as TeacherMommy who runs things over at Diapers and Dragons.

Her oh-so-easy challenge to me on this sleepy Monday? Cut and paste my first blog post.

This is so appropriate since May is my blogging anniversary month. Three years I’ve been doing this crazy thing called blogging. In light of that, I’ll treat you to the first three blog posts. The first one hardly counts.

HELLO WORLD!

twogirlz2.jpg Welcome to WordPress.com. What the heck am I doing?

Have you recovered from the weight of that post? Here’s the second one:

NEWBIE’S FIRST KEYSTROKES

OK. Here goes. This forty-something quasi-technophobe is starting a blog.

The adventure began one week ago when my husband prodded me to start one. Not so much because the so-called blogosphere needed another, but because he thought this on-hiatus career woman needed an incentive to keep writing and learning about modern technology.

Turns out, he was right! Darn him.This is a perfect example of how our marriage works. I know where everything is in the house, remember that he has a dentist appointment today at 3:35 p.m.; he knows what’s best for my soul.

I’m content to operate in an analog world. He gently nudges me toward the digital domain. I like my paper and pen journaling process. I like to write letters. I enjoy the tactile sensation of leafing though a magazine, the daily newspaper. I like used book stores.

It was he who has delicately suggested over the years that I open an e-mail account, set up a Web page, get a cell phone.

So, a week ago I began a blog in another location, because it looked simple. Wrong.Turns out the whole platform was incompatible with my Mac. Bye-bye first blog, hello current incarnation. Newbie has her wings. Now it’s time for some flying lessons.

And here’s the third:

DO HOMEMAKERS HAVE W-2S?

This is the rhetorical question posed to our accountant, after I quickly thumbed through our late-but-we-bought-time tax returns: “Why the $@#% am I listed as a homemaker for 2006 when I worked the majority of the year??”

There is a form — listing my earnings outside the home — clearly attached to the document. Nowhere on that form from my former employer does it say “homemaker.”
I’ve worked full-time since the late 1980s, with one six-week maternity leave in the early ’90s. I left the workforce in November 2006. Yet, it doesn’t matter to accountants and the IRS. I’m no longer a “wage earner” and “income producer.”
Twenty years of work and nothing to show for it. Not even a final shout-out on the tax form.
That’s sad.
In the seven months that I’ve lived the life of a homemaker, housewife, “housefrau” or domestic goddess, however you spin it, I’ve realized not much has changed in terms of the public’s perception. Like it or not, this is the official label affixed to my backside.
It deeply disturbs me that I am deeply disturbed by the title homemaker next to my name. Why?
It discredits all the women out there who are honored by the title. It belittles our mothers and grandmothers, many of whom didn’t have “the choice” that I had to pursue a career and have a family.
Still, I’m bothered.
I didn’t walk away from a career to be a homemaker, although I did want to be home. It hasn’t been easy, the letting go of the working life, the mindset.
I came home for my daughters.
One, a newly hatched teenager, hit a rough patch this past year. My nights/weekends/holidays shift was adding a lot of potholes to her bumpy road. Simply put, I just wasn’t there for her when she needed me.
My other daughter is a toddler, recently adopted from China, and in need of a lot of love and attention. I made a minimum one-year commitment to dedicate the time and attention I once devoted to my career, to her so that she could get the good start in life she deserves.
I’ve never worked harder in my life than I have in the last few months.
Try fitting all that on a tax form.

Have I changed? Well, we all do in one way or another. Blogging probably has not helped me with my health and fitness goals. But, it has helped me understand the Internet and social networks. I’ve connected with so many wonderful, talented, funny and helpful people online. I’ve even met a few in real life, too.  In ways they may not know (or maybe they do a little bit) some of my online connections have had a great impact on where I am today both in the virtual sphere and in real life. Right off the top, thanks go to MamaMary, Dharma Bum, Teacher Mommy, Melissa of Rock and Drool, JD at I Do Things, and Laurie at Foolery.

Next week I get to meet Ms. Bossy as her (No)Book Tour wends its way eastward and pauses in a suburb of Detroit. Not only that, it will be a live broadcast somewhere on the Internet. Huh. Better get my camera face ready.

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Home. Homey. Home-ish.

Thank you, Collette.

Home is on my mind.

This week marks 10 years of living in our house, which has become over time, experience, buckets of sweat equity if not actual financial equity (thank you, recession) a home. When we took possession of the property in April 2000, we were giddy soon-to-be-married lovers. Everything we did was a romantic moment. Our first meal in this house was Middle Eastern takeout.  We sat cross-legged on the scuffed hardwoods, scooping tabbouleh and hummus onto our plates. Between bites of stuffed grape leaves, we chatted and laughed and listened to our voices bounce around the bare walls.  We discussed changing the paint color, improvement projects, where my then 6-year-old daughter would sleep, where our *gasp* future children would have their bedrooms. This modest brick bungalow was the blank slate of our future.

After a wedding ceremony, a pregnancy and miscarriage, an adoption process that resulted in another girl child in our home, endless home projects, parties, illnesses, spilled paint and shattered dreams, a parade of Christmas trees, birthday party sleepovers,  financial heights and economic lows, power outages, infestations, and the first green sprouts of renewed hope, we are still here. Our marks add to the collective history of this little house built in 1941. While I may resent the moldy basement, the dingy siding, the windows that don’t open, I also have a deep gratitude for these sturdy walls, floors and the roof. The bones of this place have held up. They’ve  given us shelter from the heat, the cold, and the economic storms. During the darkest hours of our despair, I’ve  felt comfort in this house as it held me in its quiet embrace.

I’ve been thinking about  my hometown.

No, Detroit is not a travel destination. No one drools with envy when I announce I am from Detroit. However, I have the pleasure of knowing as friends and as acquaintances a number of people from all over the world who are happy to make Detroit their home.  These people  left behind their cosmopolitan cities, their colorful cultures, their mountain views and beachfront vistas to come here to this (insert latest media catch phrase). They like the cultural diversity, the music scene, the abundance of water, hunting for and discovering the hidden gems amid the ruins, and the niceness of the people. Despite our crime statistics and widely reported corruption, people here are nice. Really.

Do not believe everything you read and hear about Detroit. Read this transplant’s blog post to gain a fresh perspective on national and international reporting on Detroit.

I’ve been thinking about  local bloggers.

I was thrilled to open The Detroit Free Press today to find two of my favorite Detroit-area bloggers featured in a larger story about, well, blogging. I’ve met Melissa of Rock and Drool. She is a beautiful and dynamic woman who doesn’t hide behind a persona or false words. She dishes it out straight. I love that about her. I’ve not met the other Melissa who writes Suburban Bliss, but I’ve been reading her blog for years.  I found her by accident when I Googled “MOMS Clubs in my neighborhood.” It appears she saved me from the special hell of organized play groups.  At the time, I was a former career woman sitting alone in my house wondering how I was going to get through another day. How was I going to find other stay-at-home mothers who were like me? Suburban Bliss helped me realize I was not alone. Not only did I start blogging shortly after that, but I also formed my own play group.

I’ve been thinking about my home on the Web.

I have neither the numbers nor the controversy surrounding my site to gain any attention, so the media will not be knocking on my door anytime soon. Whew! Whatever it is I do, another fellow Detroit blogger, Collette of My Babcia’s Babushka, gave me a pat on the back and declared my blog all home-like, or homely, or home-ish or something like that. Thank you, Collette, for the props.

Home is on my mind.

Greetings from America's Left Hand

I am on Bossy’s (No) Book Tour

I’ve reduced myself to begging. When I read that Bossy was planning another cross-country odyssey to promote the book she didn’t write and meet other non-published bloggers to exchange autographs and rinse their mouths with high-quality vodka and micro-brewery beer, I had to find a way to lure her to Detroit.  Good news: She’s been here before. Bad news: She’s been here before.

How to lure Bossy, whose hair curls the most,

Statuesque Bossy who lives on the East Coast,

Bossy with the big, big dog,

Bossy of the funny blog.

On my knees I’ll plead and beg,

and if she shows, on my face an egg.

For she has written a fabulous (no)book,

and I have lured without a hook.

Since a handful of other Detroit-area and Michigan bloggers have secured coveted pinpoints on her proposed travel route, why not add the humble MomZombie to the itinerary? What could bloggers in sunny Southern California or the Mighty Rockies offer Bossy that we couldn’t here in the fabulous, calloused left hand of America? Could it be the 2 a.m. slider run on the last visit that perked Bossy’s nose in our direction?  Stay tuned for all the exciting details.

I’ve met some Detroit-area bloggers, such as Teacher Mommy of Diapers and Dragons, and Melissa of Rock and Drool. Discovering the person behind the persona is an experience in itself. Reading your blog, I learn your pet peeves, hopes, joys, sorrows and dreams. Sitting across from you at a table , I learn how tall you are, if you look 10 pounds thinner in real life than on your blog, what your voice (and your laugh) sound like, if you bite your nails and if we click. If the divine Ms. Bossy comes to Detroit or a nearby suburb I’ll probably faint, and when I come to, with a lump on my head, I’ll shake her hand and utter awkward, inappropriate things  until someone calls the police or pours water over my lumpy head. And that will be a very interesting blog post for the future.

On a less-than-happy note: Thank you, readers for your words of encouragement about my terminally ill friend. I’m still slamming into brick walls. At some point I may have to accept that I won’t be able to say good-bye to her. I understand that you can know a person for many years but stay a total stranger to her immediate family.

Two months old

11 months old

My kitten is now a cat and has settled down. In fact, he bears almost no resemblance to the cat we plucked from the shelter. No more toppled planters and shattered lamps. The curtains remain hanging on their rods. The scars have healed and faded. We all can sleep at night. The surge of feline testosterone that fueled his frenzy has slowed to a trickle now that the neutering has finally worked its magic.

Speaking of trickles, work comes my way in drips and drops. I’m grateful to take on anything I think is reasonable, but waiting 30 days or longer to get paid just sucks. I now understand the stories of the dirt-poor lottery winners who blow their millions in a matter of months on fuzzy pink guitars, cases of Cheetos and more lottery tickets. When I do get some money in my pocket, I have no desire to stash some into my deflated retirement accounts. Nope. It’s  off to the mall or hair salon or liquor store.

Patience and determination pay off in the end. My husband and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in a few months. This is the longest relationship either of us has logged on our odometers. Since this is my second marriage, I’ve worked hard to make it work as the odds are stacked against us. I’m happy to report that marrying the right person for the right reasons makes a difference. That and a little begging now and then.