Monday, June 30, 2008

Balancing Home and Work Life

Tonight my boss at Giant Ass Bank is having a team outing after work. The team is going out for drinks and a baseball game. I won’t be able to make it. Hollywood has her last softball game this afternoon and a team party/banquet at the swimming pool tonight. I wouldn’t miss Hollywood’s last game for anything, and getting together with the girls and their parents for some food and swimming sounds like a great time to me.

So I declined my boss’ invitation and am opting for the family thing. Like I do almost every time one of these invitations is issued. I’m always the one who declines team outings. Or, if I can make one, I only stay for one drink and then head home. (I have a long drive home from downtown! And, I’m a lightweight. More than one drink, and I should NOT be driving anywhere…)

My boss is amazing and totally cool. She responded with ‘I understand’ but also ‘you could always come late, the game doesn’t start until 7’… She won’t be upset if I don’t come. But I’ll probably get a few comments from her and my co-workers. Something along the lines of “You should’ve been there, we had a blast! So-and-so got drunk and sang You Light Up My Life on the Karaoke machine at the bar!” or “You dissed us again?! Dude! You missed out on a par-tay!!”

Sometimes that bothers me, makes me feel left out and worried that I might seem standoffish. I try to rationalize that it’s not hurting me… I'm friendly with the team - I joke and feel part of the group during work. I do my job well. I get excellent performance reviews. I’m an asset to Giant Ass Bank. Quite frankly, it surprises me that I’m the only one who seems to be more focused on family than after work get togethers. I'm surprised that I'm often the only one who can't make these after work socials.

But I do wonder if it is hurting my career chances. Have I not been promoted in four years because I’m not joining the group for drinks and laughs after work? There’s a special camaraderie that occurs during these outings, inside jokes are born, stories are shared, and talk about everything under the sun happens with the restraint of sobriety thrown by the wayside. I often feel like an outsider when the team talks about these gatherings. I don’t feel like I’m as buddy-buddy with our boss as the rest of them. Could that be hurting my chances at moving up the corporate ladder?

I guess for the moment, I don’t care if it is. I am very comfortable with my job and am not sure I'd want a promotion if it were offered to me. I know my stuff, have great flexibility and a good team to work with, and am happy. I might not be as challenged as I could be, but there’ll be time for that later. My kids are growing up and will be gone before I know it, but work will be around for a long, long time. Hollywood will move out of our home in four years. I’m not choosing co-workers over time spent with her, The Boy, and Bumblebee.

Tomorrow, I’ll hear this: “Monnik – you missed it! Toronto Co-Worker ate seventeen hot dogs at the game and didn’t even puke until the fifth inning!”

I’ll smile and say “Wow – sorry I missed it! Sounds like fun.”

But I won’t really be sorry. Because I will have spent the evening with my family and neighbors celebrating the end of a very successful (if not chaotic) softball season. And besides... look at these kids. How could I choose co-workers over them?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Running - Not the Frazzled Kind

I'm so proud of myself. It's Saturday. You know, the day we get to sleep in once our kids reach that magical age where they can pour their own bowl of cereal and milk with only a small mess to deal with later? It's Saturday - and I got up at 6 a.m. and ran four miles.

I was nervous because it's the first time since last fall than I've ran that distance. But once I got the kinks worked out, things went well. It usually takes me a mile or so to get into an easy rhythm with my running. For the first mile, my legs, knees, and hips show their displeasure with a twinge here and an ache there. But it's that inner voice of mine that really irritates me. Until I get past the 'warm-up' stage, that voice is telling me that I'm a complete moron, and a run is NOT a good idea, thankyouverymuch. As I get more miles beneath my feet, this voice gets quieter, so that's cool. I shouldn't have been nervous. The 4 miles was no problem - I could have gone farther, but I'm following a program and very slowly increasing my mileage, so I didn't.

The sun is shining, the birds were singing, it was 62 degrees when I got up and there was a nice, soft breeze. It was a perfect time to run. I love the feeling of just zoning out and letting my body take over.

Another good thing? When I got home, the house was still quiet... Everyone was still asleep and I got to have some rare peace and quiet here in the house - for a few minutes at least.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thoughtful Tuesday

I haven’t had a good old fashioned rambling post for a while, so here goes…

This morning on the way into daycare, Bumblebee was complaining about being cold. The child is a freak – it was already 70 degrees and humid as hell. All of a sudden, she says, “Momma. I hate when my wiener gets cold.”

"Um, sweetie? You don’t have a wiener."

"Yes I do. It’s where my pee comes out."

"Boys have wieners. They’re actually called penises. You don’t have one."

"I just have a butt then?"

"Well, I like the term bottom better, but sure."

"I’ve looked at it before, mom. Actually..." (and I love hearing the word 'actually' from a 4 year old's mouth. It cracks me up) "I have TWO butts. I mean bottoms."

You can imagine where that conversation led. Nothing makes better early morning conversation than a preschool anatomy lesson.

***

I’m one of those people who sets the alarm earlier than I need to get up and hits the snooze bar a few times. I feel that it eases me into consciousness, rather than having the harsh abruptness of needing to get up when the alarm goes off. The Husband hates it, but I can't help it. I need that transition.

My alarm clock’s snooze feature lasts nine minutes. Why would they pick nine minutes?. It seems like a nice easy ten minute snooze would be better, but no. My alarm clock ripped me off. Nine minutes is a long time, though, when your mind is cranking out psycho dreams. This morning, I had two rather interesting dreams in between the alarms. In the first one, I was getting out of a meeting at work and there were four of us who got on the elevator. The elevator started making funny sounds, and all of a sudden, it started shooting straight up and going really fast. It shot through the roof of my office (Willy Wonka style, except it wasn't glass) and into the sky. In dreamlike fashion, the sky wasn’t downtown Des Moines like it should have been. Instead, it was a wide open prairie. The elevator shot into the sky, hit it's maximum altitude and started to descend. We knew it was going to crash. Conveniently, there were parachutes in the elevator, and I put mine on just in time so that I didn’t die. The End.

THEN… I dreamt that I was on a small airplane and we had to make an emergency landing near the airport. There was a little boy who was playing in the road that we were using as a runway and he didn’t get out of the way in time. I started yelling at the pilot to slow down, and she couldn’t. So I watched as the plane ran over the little boy’s leg and then I saw the boy’s mom running (faster than the plane) with the one legged boy slung over her shoulder and his detached leg under her arm, presumably to take him to the hospital. The End.

What in the WORLD does all of this mean, other than the fact that I’m losing my mind? Holy cow those are weird-ass dreams.

***

I have my annual gynecologist appointment this afternoon. Ugh. I hate that appointment, and I think it sucks that they make you go every year or else they won't give you prescriptions for birth control. That seems like abuse of power to me.

I’m praying that it goes better than last year. If you haven’t read my post about the fiasco that was last year’s visit, you can view it here. Seriously, I’m going to freak out if I’m not in and out of there in an easy half an hour with nothing out of the ordinary to report.

***

Speaking of lady bits...

I have kept up with my running schedule. I’m proud of myself. I usually drag Hollywood along with me, but she was out socializing last night, so I had to run by myself. I did it, though, and it was fine. Except for one part. Our stupid neighbor has three large dogs. He lets them out without a leash and one of them came over to say hello in that special way that dogs do (by sniffing my sweaty hoo-ha). Our neighbor just stood where he was, feebly telling the dog to come to him, but the dog ignored him. So, I walked my dog magnet hoo-ha over to the guy so that he could keep hold of him. I finished my run with no other incidents. Well, unless you call swallowing some gnats an incident. Ick.

***

This weekend I went up to my granparents' farm to help clean up some smoke damage their house incurred from a recent fire. I was glad to see that the fire damage was mostly contained to the bathroom - it could have been so much worse. Their house got struck by lightning and the dryer caught fire. The rest of the house had a nice layer of smoke residue on it, so we spent the day cleaning smoke dust off of a knick knack collection that's been steadily growing in size over the past 60 plus years.

It was nice to see the farm - I haven't been up that way in several years. They have the most beautiful timber behind their house. I should have taken a picture of the rolling hills with gorgeous old hardwood trees. My brothers and I stood staring at it for several minutes, taking in it's beauty. As a kid, we used to take walks in the timber down to the creek and play chicken on the fallen trees that crossed the water. Lots of wonderful memories of that place...

***

Well, I guess that’ll do it for this episode of Thoughtful Tuesday. I really need to get to work, I've procrastinated too long and have quite a lot to do.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Interview With Jess Riley!

This is so exciting. I have a celebrity guest on my blog today!! You've all heard me gush about Jess Riley's book Driving Sideways. Jess took time away from her crazy-busy schedule to answer a few questions I had about the book. So, without further ado... Here's my interview with Jess!

M: Hope and serious disappointment are juxtaposed in this book so brilliantly. Tell us about a time in your life when you were anticipating something and your hopes were dashed with crushing disappointment. (For me it was when the love of my high school life, Brad Johnson, sent me a postcard. I was sure he was going to profess his love for me at last. Instead, he taped a piece of calloused foot skin to the back of the postcard and wrote "Yum, yum, foot scum" on it. I. Was. Devastated.) But, sorry… this is about YOU… What happened to you and what did you do to make you feel better?


J: Thank you for the kind words! But oh, I simply can’t top the Foot Scum story. That’s just plain painful. Early on, my attempts at getting published were frequently met with crushing disappointment. I just kept writing and reading, determined to make the next story better. Drinking helped, too. (I’m kidding. Mostly.) Writing aside, I have a plethora of entertaining stories involving romantic dreams dashed, from junior high on. I was super-homely in eighth grade.

M: What is it about eighth grade? I was super scary looking when I was 13. I wouldn't go back to junior high for a million dollars!

J: Yeah, that was a rough year. My ‘love life’ essentially involved me falling on the balance beam during gym class, bruising (as Ms. Vollendorf put it) “my pubic bone.” The whole class loved that one.

M: Ouch...

J: And now that I think about it, isn’t Ms. Vollendorf an excellent name for a PE teacher?

M: It is!! I had one named Mr. Bumann. That's pretty good too.

I love how you depict the complications of friendship. Did your inspiration for Jillian like the character when she read your book?

J: Yeah, my best friend is VERY much like Jillian, except as she puts it, “I don’t have washboard abs and I can’t dance.” Nor is she married or about to be married to a schmuck. She is, however, a very, very good sport. She’s got a great sense of humor, and I’m quite lucky to have her in my life. I’d love to email you a photo of us posing at one of those crystal / gemstone shops (I was the one not taking things quite so seriously), but she’d kill me.

M: For part of the novel, I was hoping that Leigh would hook up with her friend Wes. Do you really believe men and women can be friends without at least one of them harboring some kind of secret thoughts about the other?

J: Wes is slightly based on a friend I had in college…we’re actually meeting up again in a few weeks for lunch. I haven’t seen him in ten years, so I’m looking forward to that. I think Leigh is too smart for Wes’s BS, actually. But I loved writing about their friendship dynamic. I think that if men and women attempt to be friends, they both have to find one another mildly repulsive on some level. Because if one of them has even the mildest attraction (especially if it’s physical) for the other, there might always be that slight twist, that slight imbalance. I noticed that most of my male friends disappeared after I got married, as did most of my girlfriends’ male friends. I can only think of one who is still friends with a male friend she had in college, and I know his wife had a great deal of trepidation over their very platonic friendship for a long time.

M: I had no idea that PKD affects as many people as it does. You were recently interviewed by the PKD foundation. How did you decide to write about PKD?

J: I worked backwards from my story premise and accidentally discovered PKD. Given its prevalence (more common than muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, and sickle cell anemia COMBINED), I was shocked that I hadn’t heard of it. Ultimately, I picked it both because it was a good fit for the character’s situation, and I wanted to put it on the map for others like me who hadn’t heard of it. Since then, I’ve discovered that it touches the lives of people important to me in myriad ways.

M: Did your editors ever balk at the 'eating a pube' content? That part had me giggling out loud.

J: Not at all! In fact, my editor was writing little “Ha ha!” notes in the margins near some of those incidents. Such as the infamous hot wings-fueled romantic interlude. Which really happened to one of my friends, by the way.

M: Oh, wow. You have some wacky friends. Mine are all boring. (just kidding!!)

Tell me about Denise. Her story was a little mini-mystery throughout the book, and I like the conclusions that were drawn with her. Do you think Denise got what she was looking for out of the road trip? Did you have an inspiration for Denise? A somewhat annoying little sister, cousin, or neighbor kid, maybe?


J: People have told me that Denise is their favorite character in the book. She’s not really based on anyone I know, actually—not even a composite of several people. But she’s someone I’d LOVE to meet: a larger-than-life person with those proverbial brass balls and a sense of adventure rivaled by none. If Larry served as the catalyst to help Leigh start her journey, Denise was the fuel that helped Leigh shed the many inhibitions and fears holding her back from living the kind of life she’d always wanted. Together, they are one wacky pair of ruby slippers.

M: Yes, they sure are... Ok, last question for you: I'm letting my 14 year old daughter read the book. Does that make me a bad mom?

J: Ha! I don’t think so. There are no actual sex scenes—just lots of jokey innuendo. Nothing much worse than things I’ve seen on Family Guy. Fourteen is eighth grade, right? Hmmm…by that age, I’d already read all of Stephen King’s novels. But what do I know—I’m a childless dolt—I have no idea what’s age-appropriate for kids. (When my friends had babies, I actually bought them SAVINGS BONDS. WTF?)

M: Hey - savings bonds are cool. They're the gift that grows in value!


J: Fun story: My coworker’s nine year-old daughter read the first page (in which I reference an orgasm—better let people know what they’re in for right away) and said to her mother, “Hey mom! I know what an organism is! We just learned about them in science class!”

Ha! That was fun! Thanks, Jess, for the interview!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Look What I Saw at Target Today!

Yay! Look what book has very prominent placement at my Target:

It's Driving Sideways!!!

And look... only one left on the shelf:

Congratulations, Jess! This is so cool. And for those of you who haven't read it yet, get yourselves a copy. I promise it's worth it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Will I Ever Learn?

***heee... check out the results of my poll so far. As many votes for my man Brett as there are for McCain. I love it!***


* * * *
I am so mad at myself.

I don't have any 'real' groceries in my house because last weekend I spent over $200 on food for the party we had for The Husband's birthday. I spent all weekend cooking and cleaning, and we had lots of food and drink and a very fun party, but I never got around to making the real grocery run. On Sunday we took the kids to the amusement park, so I didn't get a chance to get them then either.

Last night I picked up Fazoli's for dinner because I zipped on over to my dad's house after work (1.5 hour round trip) to fix his computer and didn't have time to get groceries (again).

Tonight I had time to get the groceries. (Jeez, how many times can I write the word groceries in one post?) But did I? No. I felt like a blob after work, and hauling Bumblebee into the grocery store sounded about as fun as giving Nick Nolte a pedicure. The Husband ended up getting carry out from Chilis. Ugh! I got a mushroom swiss burger. Double ugh. I only ate 1/2 of it, but have I mentioned that I'm supposed to be doing Weight Watchers again???

I forced myself out for my scheduled run tonight (3 miles) and can I just say that running with a mushroom and swiss burger gut bomb is not the best experience? At least I finished the run without puking.

Oh, and I had a side of about a thousand gnats for dessert. I both ingested and inhaled them during the run.

Fun times.

The key to eating healthy is this: menu planning, grocery shopping, and not being lazy when you don't feel like cooking. Time to refocus.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Is This Venice? No... It's Iowa


Check out this street in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Looks kind of like Venice with that pretty canal running down the middle of the street, doesn't it? All we need now are some gondolas to navigate the waters.

Thankfully, my house is not in a flooded area. But I know lots of people affected by the floods. My pal mom in scrubs hasn't floated down the flooded river, and her house isn't damaged, but she has no internet service and may well lose power and water too. She wanted me to tell those of you who read her awesome blog that she's probably going to be MIA for a while, but never fear... she'll return, and most likely with lots to blog about.

To Walk or not to Walk...

The city of Des Moines is preparing for the river to flood downtown.

All of this sandbagging and confusion must have befuddled our traffic signs:


Yeah... what are you supposed to do when you get this signal?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Is 'Forty' an F-Word?

The other night Hollywood told me that I was almost married to an old man. I think she meant I'm married to a man who's almost old. Well, almost is no more, folks. Now it's official.

Today is The Husband's birthday. I wanted to get him this shirt, but figured he'd be limited on the places he could wear it:

Plus, he doesn't look 40 yet, so why advertise it, right?

Just for fun, here's a then and now picture of the old dude:

1988:
Before he met me his life was so sad and lonely. Cue David Lee Roth: "Won't some sweet mama come and take a chance with me, 'cause I aint so bad ... " He may not have been 'just a gigolo', but... He had only beer can towers, posters of bikini clad women, rock star hair and that earring to comfort him:


2008:
The beer tower, the bikini poster, and the earring are gone, but he's still got the rock star hair thing going for him...


Isn't he cute? I might just have to keep him.

Happy Birthday to The Husband. You rock.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Twist and Shout at the Ballfield

Well this weekend has been interesting....

Hollywood had a softball tournament in a town about an hour and a half's drive away. The kidlets and I went up Saturday morning and stayed the night there.

During the first couple of games, the weather was incredibly hot and steamy, and the premium shady spots were pounced upon like the cheesy potato casserole at a potluck. The girls weren't winning their games, but they were having a nice time nonetheless. The last game of the night was at 6 p.m. The weather was being really creepy. For those of you who don't live in states prone to tornadoes, you might not understand how weather can turn 'creepy', but those of you who live in Iowa or any of the plains states get me... The sky was turning an odd shade of green, the sky was forming a distinct wall cloud, and everything was slowly swirling in a clockwise motion. Far off to the west there was lightning and distant thunder.

I was nervous as hell. And I'm usually one of those psychos who sits on my patio watching a storm come in. But a few weeks ago, an entire town in Iowa was demolished due to a tornado, so I've been a bit skittish since then. Plus... we were in a ball field that was out in the middle of nowhere. Talk about sitting ducks.

The girls were about halfway into the game - and Hollywood was just about to go up to bat - when the sirens started going off. The officials told us to go to the restrooms. So we all piled into the restrooms. They told us to sit on the floors and hunch together. Ew, ew, and more ew. Ballfield bathroom floors? And we had the luxury of being closest to the boys bathroom. After about 10 minutes, they told us the tornado was 20 minutes away and to go to our cars and leave NOW. I took a picture of Hollywood next to the urinal:

She rolled her eyes and said to me, "Mom! People's lives are in danger and you're taking a picture for your blog???" Really. I don't see the problem with that. Do you?

So, after we left the bathrooms, this was the scene (check out those clouds!!!):


Mass exodus of the ball field. It was crazy - and kind of comical. People were running everywhere. Number 26 in the picture above got trampled by an over zealous softball mom. Or not... But really, we all ran to our cars and left the parking lot through the single exit. The scene looked choreographed... people were letting other cars in front of them, and the parking lot was emptied in about 5 minutes. I swear if it'd been a concert we were leaving, it would have taken half an hour to get out of there.

Back at the hotel, wave two of the storm hit and we were herded to a room and sat along a brick wall. If you can imagine the noise level of several softball teams worth of teenage girls and their families all packed into a giant room in a hotel. For an hour.

Bumblebee was scared to death and cried for about two solid hours. The girls were all trying to console her, she was being passed from girl to girl. She didn't calm down until we were allowed to leave the room and I told her she could put on her bathing suit to go swimming.

And then the fun started. The parents were fried. The kids were completely wired. So we drank and they swam.

And overnight, that town got 6 inches of rain and today's games were canceled. So we drove home (and had to take an alternate route because the highway out of town was closed due to flooding) and I didn't get us lost. Which is pretty amazing, since I was born without the part of your brain that teaches you direction sense.

Fun times in Iowa.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ok, the rain can go away now...

Conversation this morning with Bumblebee in the car on the way to daycare:

B: Mama, it's been raining a LOT.

Me: Yep, it sure has.

B: I just want one of those other kinds of days to come around.

Me: What other kind of day?

B: You know, like the kind in Zipity Doo Dah. With plenty of shun-shine heading our way.


Word, girlfriend.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Poem by Hollywood

I'm a geeky mom. I give my kids daily assignments and chores to do each day while they're home for the summer. They don't take long, and they're fun for me too. Plus, it keeps them away from Guitar Hero and the TV for at least a little while.

The Boy's assignment for today was to read 50 pages in the book my mom gave him for Christmas. I told Hollywood to write me a poem, a song, or a short story. Here's what she came up with. That kid cracks me up:

A Poem?
By Hollywood

My mother said to me today,
"Write a poem, dear. Make it great!"
Only, I'm afraid to make it sound cliche,
So I don't know what to write about.

I could write about my short run
And how we saw cross country runners who had just begun.
But a poem like that would not be very fun,
So I don't know what to write about.

I could write about cold water
And how it tastes better when the weather is hotter.
But to write a poem like that, I'd be a terrible plotter,
So I don't know what to write about.

I could write about my wonderful texting
And how it's such a glorious thing.
But there's more to life, like an engagement ring,
So I don't know what to write about.

I could write about how excited we are
For the Fort Dodge tournament, which is somewhat far.
But people might find that slightly bizarre,
So I don't know what to write about.

I could always write about my house that's green,
Or how next year, I'll be fifteen.
But I would rather read the boring instructions of a machine,
So I don't know what to write about.

My mother said to me today,
"Write a poem, dear. Make it great!"
Well, hey! There's a poem! It must be fate.
I guess that's what I'll write about.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Fun Days

First of all, I have to say... Woot! Go Obama! Today is a good day and he can now FINALLY move forward to defeat McSame in November.

But enough of that. I'm sure I'll have lots more to say in the near future.... Today was my first afternoon off with the kids for the summer. I'm taking two half days of vacation per week all summer long so the kids don't get bored out of their skulls while school is out.

Since Tinytown is, uh... tiny, (population: 433, not counting cows, goats, chickens, and horses) there is nothing for them to do all day long. They can't ride their bikes down to the Tastee Freeze like I could as a kid. That's probably for the best, but neither can they ride to a pool, a library, or even their friends' houses. So... that means they can get bored easily and I thought it would be fun to take these afternoons off to spend "summer fun days" with them.

I have high hopes. We'll go swimming. We'll go to the amusement park. We'll shop, see movies, go hiking, biking, and Frisbee playing in the park. So, what did we all do today on our very first fun filled afternoon of the season? Did we go to the Science Center? Or check out the skateboard park? Perhaps we perused the sculptures and paintings at the Art Center? Or, maybe we had a picnic lunch at the lake?

Nope.

Bumblebee, The Boy, and I took a nap while Hollywood cleaned her room.

Doesn't get more exciting than that ladies and germs. The recent flooding from multiple rounds of storming made most outside places quite soggy. So we sat around thinking of things to do. And while we did, we realized that the sofas in the living room were comfy and not soggy at all, so... we napped. And oh.... was it nice.

(Later this evening, we did go for a walk with the dog, have a nice dinner, and I got a good run in on the TM, but still. It was a lazy way to start off the "fun" days.)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Reason #1,447,865...

...why I love Hollywood so much:

She got up at 5:30 on the first Monday of her summer vacation to go running with me.