Working mom, grad school student, stage mom, and overall insane person blogging about my life as I know it. Expect funny stuff, sad stuff and general rants about my family, my life and my world. I promise it won't be boring! :-)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The "Crazy Cat Lady Story"

By popular demand, I've decided to post "The Tabby on the Corner", a short story I wrote this summer as part of my admission portfolio for grad school. My friend, Stephanie Skinner-Hinton, nicknamed this "the Crazy Cat Lady Story" and it kind of stuck.

This is a true story, something that happened last spring near work in California, PA.

No cats were harmed in the writing of this story.

Enjoy, and feedback is encouraged.

The Tabby on the Corner

I work in higher education, for a university that is finally coming into its own. A beautiful place, really. Centuries-old red brick buildings mark the time while new construction rises to greet the growing freshman classes. It’s peaceful there, with closely manicured lawns, blooming trees and the occasional gray squirrel scurrying around to keep things interesting.

Our administration continually reminds us to practice “town and gown” relations. Basically, how we need to reach out to our neighbors in town to show them that we aren’t so bad, really. So whenever I have the opportunity, I go out of my way to be nice to the residents and show them that we are actually kind of nice. REALLY. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. But you can’t fault me for giving it the “old college try”.

My long morning commute to work is fairly uneventful. A travel mug of coffee and the drone of morning talk radio keep me from spending too much time with my deeper thoughts. My drive is also a time when I mentally run down my list of I-need-this-tomorrow-sorry-I-didn’t-get-this-to-you-sooner items that landed on my desk at 3:30 the day before.

My usual route in the mornings includes a self-imposed detour down side streets in order to avoid the town’s lone traffic light. I have taken this route every morning for the past four years with nothing exceptional to report. Except for one morning. This particular morning was the first day of school for the local children and there was lots of activity. I made my left turn at the bank and traveled on to the corner.

I stopped at the sign and watched as a small black and gray tabby cat sauntered into the intersection. She paused to look at me, sat on the pavement and proceeded to groom herself.

It was 8:05 a.m.. I was officially late for work and still had to find a place to park. I looked around to see if the cat’s owner was around. She was. A small girl my daughter’s age was waiting on the corner for the school bus with her grandmother. They watched with curiosity to see what I would do. Knowing that I would never harm the cat, I rolled down the window.

“PSSSSST!” I said at the cat, which looked up from her grooming with curiosity.

“Oh come on, Kitty, I’m late for work” I said. Kitty didn’t budge. Instead, she began grooming her tail. Sensing the cat wasn’t going to move out of the way, the little girl walked cautiously into the street and scooped it up. She returned to her corner and waved her thanks that I didn’t harm her pet.

The next day I followed my same route with the same mug of coffee and the same talk radio show. I reached the corner and voila, there was Kitty. As I reached the stop sign at the corner, the cat padded out into the middle of the road and sat on the pavement. Just sat. Tail curled around her legs and looking at me as if she expected something.

8:04 a.m.

“Great,” I thought. “Here we go again.”

I smiled amusedly at the grandmother and granddaughter and rolled down the window.

“Stubborn kitty you have there,” I said.

The old woman looked at me with curiosity. “Yeah,” she said. “She follows my granddaughter to the bus stop every morning. Most of the time she stays on the sidewalk until the bus comes. But for some reason she likes to stop your car. She doesn’t do that to anybody else, and a lot of people come this way to The College.”

I looked at the grandmother and thought how remarkably she looked like my very own grandmother. The same small frame, the same silver-black hair and careworn face I remember. My grandmother passed away four months before, so the sudden flash of memory was welcome and soothing. I smiled at her and laughed. The little girl walked into the intersection and retrieved Kitty. I waved and wished them both a good morning and drove off grinning.

Each weekday morning, the scene repeated itself.






It was a routine I came to look forward to as I made my way to work.

Soon the temperature began to drop and the first snow fell. On particularly cold and snowy days the little girl’s parents would escort her to the stop instead of her grandmother. They didn’t know about their cat’s strange attraction to my car, so those mornings the mom held the tabby safely in her arms while they waited for the bus. I would fingertip-wave at the girl and she would always smile and fingertip-wave back.

The Christmas holidays approached before anyone really took notice. In preparation for my two-week-long break I came in a bit earlier and left for home a bit later. I missed seeing the grandmother and her granddaughter and thought about them often. I looked for Kitty every morning but she was never there… always heading home as soon as her girl boarded the bus.

December moved into January and school began again for the local children. I made my usual turn at the bank and saw the familiar form of the gray and black tabby scoot quickly into the intersection. I pulled up to the stop sign and Kitty pricked her tail up in an inquisitive question mark. I looked over and saw granddaughter and grandmother there, braced against the cold wind. I wound down my window and made a brief greeting. The grandmother commented on the cold weather and hoped I had enjoyed my Christmas holidays. I wished them both a happy new year as Kitty spotted a stray blowing leaf and took off in chase. I moved through the intersection and off to begin my day at work.

But then, something happened that made everything different. On this particular Wednesday morning I pulled into the intersection to see that Kitty wasn’t there. I looked to my left and saw the little girl holding her. The grandmother waved for me to stop. I did, and wound down my window.

Grandmother walked slowly towards my car, wary of the snow and ice.

“Good morning”, she said in a voice that was cautious, but welcoming.

“Good morning!” I replied.

“I have a gift for you, “ she said. “I hope you like it.”

From her coat pocket Grandmother’s gloved hand retrieved a single item. It was a miniature Pittsburgh Steelers knitted cap with a safety pin on the back. I had a pin very much like this one when I was a child but had lost it somewhere along the years.

“This is for September. Please put it away until then,” she said.

How sweet that Grandmother had taken note of the Steelers logo on the back window of my car.

“Wow!” I said, looking into her hazel eyes. “That’s wonderful! I will definitely wear this! Thank you!”

Grandmother smiled.

“I have something else for you,” she said. “I hope you like angels.”

Out of her other pocket she pulled a small plastic sandwich bag. Inside was the most beautiful crocheted angel pin I’d ever seen. The stitches were so small it gave the appearance that the angel was a solid piece of lacy fabric instead of a long white strand of carefully knotted yarn.

I looked at her with wide eyes as Grandmother continued.

“I have macular degeneration. Had to give up my knitting and crocheting ‘cause I can’t see too well anymore close-up. This is the last of my work. I want you to have it. Something told me that this angel was for you.”

My own grandmother loved angels. She never left the house without an angel pin tacked to her shoulder. The many shelves in her small apartment were lined with angels of all kinds, from wooden to crystal. This gift was more than just a token of thanks for ensuring Kitty’s well being. It was a gift of memories and a reminder that no matter what crossroads you come to in life, there is always something pleasantly unexpected waiting for you at the corner.

I grasped the thin plastic of the bag with my fingers and marveled at the angel’s beauty. There was a small slip of paper inside. A message was written on the paper in an old-fashioned hand. It read:

Hand crocheted angel pin by Marge Hartley.

“You made this?” I whispered.

“I did,” Mrs. Hartley said.

“It’s beautiful,” I said. “My gosh, thank you so much!”

Mrs. Hartley smiled and backed away from my car. She joined her granddaughter and they both smiled and waved. I drove on to work with a tear in my eye.

So on this ordinary morning, standing here on the corner in the snow, was an unexpected messenger. That little angel pin meant more to me than Mrs. Hartley would ever know. It was the embodiment of all the memories of my grandmother. At a time in my life when I was truly at a crossroads, this small handmade token reminded me that no matter what, I was never truly alone. There was always someone to be there for me and to watch out for me. Like my grandmother who I believe still watches over me, so alike the angels she admired in life. Like the people whose smiles and waves I’ve come to depend on to brighten my mornings. Like the tabby on the corner.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like...

I have made an early New Year's resolution. This year will be the best Christmas ever.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I LIVE for Christmas. The lights, the decorations, the presents, the joy of having family and friends around that I don't see that often and the yumminess of delicious food and drinks, all make me so happy. I LOVE Christmas. I do everything for our family's Christmas...cleaning, shopping, cooking, baking cookies with the kids, decorating, photo appointments, etc. And I absolutely ADORE doing it.

That being said, there are certain people in my life who don't.


Those people ALWAYS bring me down. Like a crystal Christmas tree, my spirit is smashed SO quickly and I struggle for most of the season to get it back. Most of the time I don't manage to get it back and fake my way through Christmas for the kids' sake. "Why are you making so many damn cookies? We will never eat all those" (as they walk away with five cookies in their hands). "I hate this F*$king time of the year". "People are A$$holes for doing all this...and for WHAT?" Yeah, it's a joy to try and keep the spirit when people around you are always bringing it down.

This year will be different.

This year, I will be joyful.
This year, I will be happy.
This year, I will keep the spirit throughout the season and really ENJOY it with my kids.
This year, I will do something for someone that I don't know. Just because.
This year, I will be a friend to someone who needs it.
This year, I will remember why it is that we celebrate this holiday.

And if the people around me don't like it, then I'll tie them to a chair and force-feed them eggnog and cookies until they get over themselves. And maybe, just maybe, Scrooge McDuck will actually enjoy themselves for a change. I refuse to let them get to me this year.

Because it's for the kids. And for me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Painting the Country Red...

As a conservative, I am quite happy about yesterday's election results. HOWEVER I'm a bit concerned about them, as well. The Tea Party really showed itself to be a powerful force on election day. Keep the momentum moving. Don't cave. Don't let the mindless politicians who are completely disconnected from reality take control again. Let people know that there are ways to affect change, and socialism isn't it.

I can totally see the Tea Party becoming a viable third party and putting forth its own candidates in the near future (maybe even the next Presidential election). All I have to say is good job Tea Party guys and gals. Thanks for going out there and protesting when I didn't have the nerve. And thanks for helping to affect real change on this country. There is a swelling of pride in our country thanks to you and I think that things are going to start getting better very soon. Probably not 100% better, but better nonetheless.

Kisses on your heads, Tea Party. Muah. You rock.

Another topic is that of my friend, Melissa Haluszczak. She ran for Congress in Pennsylvania's 14th district. She lost with only 28% of the vote. HOWEVER...she WON 28% of the vote. In a region that is VERY Democratic and VERY liberal. In a completely grassroots campaign with very little funds, Melissa got out there and worked her butt off for every single one of those votes. I'm proud of Melissa, and what she's done. I hope she doesn't give up on a political career in the future.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

OH Mannnn...

Okay, so I'm at Mission Day yesterday and my phone rings. It's Beanie's school. I answer and the school secretary says Beanie has a bad stomach ache and she wants to come home. No vomiting or anything like that... Yet.

So I leave Mission Day and hightail it over to pick up my sick baby. She is sad-faced, sitting in the office. I sign her out and we head for the door.

When we get outside, Beanie looks at me and says, "mommy, I have to tell you something." She starts crying. Holy crap, something is REALLY wrong here.

She starts telling me that she saw, posted on her new principal's door, a newspaper clipping of her (principal) being handcuffed and taken away to jail. Beanie continued to tell me (through sobbing tears) that she really didn't have a stomach ache...that she was scared and didn't know what to do, and wanted me to come and take her home where she was safe. She said that her principal was arrested for murdering one of her students at her old school and that she was only in jail for one day. She said that she told her friends at school what she saw and her friends said they were going to call the cops. One friend's dad is a police officer and she said she would tell her dad when she got home.

I looked at her and said, "there's no way..." I grabbed my iPad and Googled my heart out. Nothing. I asked Beanie for more info, and she said that's all there was. That she had been arrested and that the school raised $700 to post bail.

Something smelled fishy.

So I calmed her down best I could and told her that I would call the secretary. I did, and explained to her what was wrong, that Beanie saw something on the principal's door and it scared her. The secretary thought for a minute...

"Oh my goodness..." she said, "the principal did a fundraiser at her old school for MS. They 'arrested' her and the students had to raise money to get her out of 'jail'".


So I thanked the secretary, asked her to address this with the other students, and hung up. I then asked Beanie if she read anything else on the clip under the picture. She said just that her principal was arrested for murdering a student (maybe it was funny to her last school, but not to kids that don't know her yet) and that her students raised money to get her out. I explained to Beanie what it was and she just stared at me.

"THAT'S STUPID!!!!! WHY THE HECK WOULD THEY DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT???????" she yelled. She's humiliated and was highly embarrassed to go back to school today.

So my baby has now learned a valuable lesson in tainted journalism. And in alternative fundraising.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My birthday

I have to say that this year's birthday was a good one. Shock and awe. Was wished a happy birthday first thing in the morning. That was a great departure from previous years when it was either completely ignored or forgotten. I went to church and our priest led everyone in singing Mnohaya Lita (many happy years) for me AND Happy Birthday. I typically don't like people making a fuss over me too much, so I normally don't say anything about my birthday to anyone at church. Thanks to Facebook, everyone knew and they sang for me. I felt the huge love behind it, so it was worth the tearful moment of embarrassment. LOL! I came home and there was a present for me (first season of True Blood on DVD) and cards and a cake. Dinner was made (frozen pizza, but I am NOT complaining) and the kids fell asleep early. I had the night off! WOW. Aside from a bit of schoolwork, I was a free woman! :-D Oh, and BTW, 57 people wished me happy birthday on FB, which REALLY made my day. :-) And yes, I thanked each and every one of them individually. It meant a lot to me that people took the time to say happy birthday and it is only right for me to say thanks.

So being 39 isn't so bad. I'm going to enjoy this last year of pre-middle-agedness ahead of me before I'm really a grownup at 40. GAH...40. But that's still 362 days in the future and I still have 362 days left to enjoy the last year of my 30s.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Why, oh why did I agree to this grad school madness? Why is it that every other sane person in this world, and in this program, has not one iota of difficulty with this? Why does everyone else post these eloquent masterpiece posts, while mine look like a doddering idiot wrote them? I frigging used the X FILES as an example in one of my latest posts, answering a question on truth. It said:

Maybe I'm dating myself here, but the phrase "The Truth is Out There" reminds me of the '90s television show, The X Files which, I believe, makes analogies here that I can use to speak to this prompt. The premise of the show was that two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, sought to prove and alternatively disprove the theory of the existance of paranormal activity. Agent Mulder theorized, based upon personal experience and collected evidence, that paranormal activity existed. Agent Scully, on the other hand, sought to disprove Mulder's theories (based on her own beliefs) and was unable to see the parallels between what they encountered (evidence) and Mulder's theories. Her personal beliefs (or disbeliefs) got in the way of her seeing what Mulder viewed as the truth. Eventually, Mulder was able to convince Scully that his theory was true. The truth was out there for him, he knew what it was, but it took a while for him to prove it. And in the end, reshaped what Scully saw as the truth.

The same holds true in real life. I agree that there is truth out there, but it is relative to the person seeking it and, therefore, impossible to prove conclusively to everyone. Even scientific theory cannot present absolute truths. There is always another means of testing, another antidote, another species found that can alter or disprove a truth.

Personal prejudices and beliefs sometimes get in the way of finding a truth, or can alter it. Be it a personal belief or someone else's. Conversely, the same prejudices and beliefs can, in essence, become truth to the person holding them and, through the use of effective communication or propaganda, can become a widespread truth to the people hearing it.

Am I freaking insane? My professor has yet to comment, but I've noticed a few other people referencing TV shows from Dinosaurs to Hawaii 5-0. Hmm...am I starting a trend? Or just so insane that the other insane people are following me? LOL.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hello there, it's been a while...

Beanie performing her lines at the PMT showcase
at the Byham Theater in May, 2010

The craziness of school starting is finally starting to wind down and fall activities are kicking into full swing. So before I start blogging about my experiences with Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Band and the myriad other activities the kiddos partake in, I thought I'd write a quickstart guide to my life outside of summer vacay.

My stuff:
Aside from the day-to-day work stuff, house stuff and personal grooming, I've begun a graduate program at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in Communciation Studies. I'm three days into the program and am confident that I can do this. Homework at lunchtime, while Beanie is doing HER homework and in bed at night should work. Did I mention the EIGHT papers I have to write this semester? Two 20 pagers and 6 smaller papers. GULP. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this...Eyes On the Prize, baby...

Beanie's activities:
Pittsburgh Musical Theater
Beanie takes classes all day on Saturdays with PMT (she's been with them since she was 6). It's an excellent training ground for aspiring performers (and aspiring kids in general) in musical theater, dance, voice and acting. They produce broadway performers, professional actors and, more importantly, generations of children who are poised, cooperative, graceful, confident people who are natural public speakers. They perform their end of the semester showcases (like a recital) twice per year at the Byham, in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 people. Last year was her first show and she was a villager/rich person in Once On This Island at the Hazlett Theater. She loved every minute of it, despite the I-N-T-E-N-S-E rehearsal schedule. PMT is amazing in that they attract incredible talent, hone it, and use it in amazing ways to produce professional-level productions in the Cultural District (namely, the Byham and the Hazlett theaters). They give their students amazing opportunities and I'm so very grateful to them for the experiences they have provided to Beanie. She has opened up more, grown as a person, become more graceful and vocal and understands dedication and hard work more than I could have ever taught her. This year is a BIG season, the 20th anniversary, and they are going to do some HUGE productions...Phantom, Hairspray, Cats, Seussical, and Beauty and the Beast. Auditions will be in a few weeks and Beanie's working hard on her audition piece.

Kyiv Ukrainian Dance
Beanie is a Ukrainian dancer. I was a Ukrainian dancer. My mom was a Ukrainian dancer. My grandmother was a Ukrainian dancer. Beanie is the FOURTH generation to learn and perform with this amazing folk dance group. I can't tell you how incredible it makes me feel to know that my children are learning about their heritage and carrying on a family legacy. Budgie is starting dance this year, as well. The athleticism involved with Ukrainian dance, especially for the guys, will truly help him with his sports.

Beanie decided that she wants to be in the school band. W00T. She wants to play the flute, which means that there will be practice every night, added on to her 40 minutes of homework per night. Yee haw. Can't wait for THIS one. We are going to do our homework together every night and I can see it now...

My reading: And the crux of the juxtaposition of the perpendicular pretenses


My reading: and the horticultural bias of the nanobots


My reading: in the hemispherical stratosphere is non-negotiable


My reading: in many non-isopheric horcruxes.

Beanie: MOMMMM How do you empty the spit, again?

Did I ever tell you that I have an aversion to spit?

Yeah, this is gonna be FUNNNNNN!!!

So until next week when all this craziness starts, I'll be enjoying my last few minutes of freedom...and my last frozen margarita of the summer this weekend.

Have a happy Labor Day, everyone.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ARRRRR Tis Pirate Island it be...

I'm all for imagination play. Or as Spongebob says, Im A gin AAAAAAAAA tion. :-) On Sunday after church, Budgie decided to take out his ImagiNEXT pirate set (about $300 worth of toys, but who's counting) and play Pirate Island in the backyard. Not knowing what Pirate Island was, and thinking he would play in the NICE CLEAN GRASS I let it go and finished doing laundry.

About an hour later, I hear the siren's cry of the excited four-year-old.


I put down the socks I was matching and went outside to look.

Budgie had constructed the most AMAZING play scenario I'd ever seen. In the sand under the swing set he had dug out a lake, with smaller inlets where he could pour water to keep the lake full. He had placed his enormous pirate ship in the water, set up the cannons, put out his crew, set up the island for attack, buried his treasure chests and even populated the "jungle" (a patch of crabgrass) with dinosaurs and other animals. It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen. Beanie and Budgie played for HOURS with that setup.

And after everyone else had gone to bed, and my chores were done for the day, I went out in the dark and squirted sand from every square inch of the toys, including the cracks and crevices of the pirate ship. Under normal circumstances, I would have been pissed off that my spouse left the toys in the yard in the muck to be ruined or for me to clean up. But this ONE time it didn't bother me so much. I was happy that my kids had such an awesome time and used their Im A gin AAAAAAAAA tions to the point of literal exhaustion.

Yesterday, while I was at work, Pirate Island made another guest appearance. And sure enough Mom was out there AGAIN hosing off the cast of characters again, in the dark, while everyone else slept. And you know what? It didn't bother me a bit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are we Almost There Yet?


When summer first starts, I'm a happy camper. No dragging Beanie out of bed at 6:30 so that she and I can fight over the bathroom and what uniform pieces she is going to wear that day (I thought uniforms made this go away???? LOL). No packing lunches. Nothing. Just two (hopefully) sleeping kids when I roll out of bed at 7:00 and into the shower and out the door by 7:30.

I've grown lazy. I've only had to care for myself in this time. The kids' teeth are brushed while I'm sitting at my desk at work, reading emails. Their breakfast is eaten while I'm most likely in a meeting. But that is soon to end, my friends...soon I will be wrestling Beanie for pole position at the sink while yelling at Budgie to quit eating sissy's Lunchables.

Oh, the Lunchable dilemma is another story for another time.

Beanie received her school bus notification postcard in yesterday's mail. Bus number 57, arrives at 7:25 a.m. sharp on August 30!


I guess this means that I'd better go and get her replacement pieces of uniform she outgrew this summer. I swear she's grown 6 inches...

And I'd better get myself ready to start school. Yup, I'm taking the leap and restarting my master's program. Gotta get it done and now is probably better. Before dance and football and music theater and...and...and...begins to encroach on my few remaining free hours.

So what is the point of all this?

1. stream of consciousness
2. School starts soon. Budgie starts next year so this will be his last year of freedom.
3. I am tired of people blogging about the oil spill and the Obamas and everything else.

There. All this AND it's Friday the 13th. Whoopee freakin' doo!!! *looks up at ceiling, waiting for a tile to fall on my head*

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Volleyball Woes

Beanie decided this summer that she wanted to try volleyball this school year.


Did I ever tell you that Beanie has as much athletic ability as I do?

Go ahead, laugh out loud.

Beanie is very much her mother's daughter. That girl can SING. She's a natural actress. She can Ukrainian dance like a champ. But the ONE thing she can NOT do is anything involving a ball. Srsly. She repels spherically-shaped, inflated vinyl. Don't worry, Kid...I think your great-great grandfather sucked up all the athleticism in the family to catch for the Pirates and it just hasn't come back in its entirety yet. Budgie, on the other hand, must have gotten a bit from his father's side of the family 'cause that's my sporto...

Anyway, Beanie decided she wanted to play volleyball at school this year. Talked to the lady in charge and she said that Catholic school rules differ a bit from public schools and there really isn't a "tryout", everyone that wants to play, plays. MMMMMkay. So I told the lady yesterday about Beanie's musical theater stuff and her Ukrainian dance (Monday nights from September through July). Of course the games are Mondays and Wednesdays from September through October. Just the 4 day per week, 4 + hours per day rehearsals (7 or 8 hours on Sundays) for Phantom AND her all-day Saturday PMT class schedule would eliminate her from being able to participate.

Even if she didn't do PMT this year, missing one of the two games per week for Ukrainian dance would be an issue. sigh. This person was very pushy about Larissa playing (of course, because it's her daughter's last year and she doesn't want to see the program die before her daughter can have a glorious swan song of a season) and said that they could work with her. Um, woman, what part of "my kid can't physically make practice with her other activities, so back off" don't you understand? GAH! I agreed to be kept on the email list and got off the phone.

So I approached Beanie with a choice. Stick with PMT and Kyiv, or try something new. I told her I know what my preference would be (didn't say what that preference WAS), but I would stand by any decision she made. She started crying and said, "I will stick with PMT". She was crushed that she couldn't add another activity to her schedule, but I warned her this may happen.

I am proud of her for sticking through with the PMT stuff, and the Ukie dance stuff, but at the same time I'm a bit sad that she can't try something new. Something she may have liked, spherical vinyl object repulsion aside.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mommies Weekend

This past weekend, my friend Christine and I went to Morristown, NJ to attend the Ukrainian Orthodox League convention banquet/ball. Having not gone to such an event in 20+ years, I knew what to expect, but was feeling apprehensive about it. After all, I'm older, I STILL haven't lost my "baby weight" and my self-esteem isn't exactly the greatest right now. For many reasons.

Christine convinced me to go and I have to say, I'm soooo glad I went. Yes, I felt self-conscious in my dress and heels, surrounded by thinner, prettier, YOUNGER women. Yes, I wish I had money to spend so I didn't feel like I had to budget every. single. penny. But this weekend was an eye-opener for me. Why?

First off, everyone there that knew me, knew me as Christy Hopkins. There was no Christy Hudson. They knew me as I was when I was much younger. And that helped. A LOT. I really, for the first time in about 12 years, felt like ME. And that, my friends, was worth the price of admission. And then some.

Chris, a parishoner in my church (and a 20-something guy), was talking with my friend Christine. She referred to me for the first time by my maiden name and he said (with surprise) "SHE'S Christy Hopkins? She's LEGEND". I'm positively for sure positive he was joking, but it still made me feel good. Maybe it's an ego thing, but his comment made me really smile on the inside. And besides, it turns out that, after all these years, he has my All Saints Camp hat. It has my name on the underside of the brim. So THAT's where it went... :-D

Second, the polka. Something as simple as hearing an accordion and the 1-2-3 beat just takes me back to my teenage years. Hearing a Ukrainian folk song LIVE makes me all happy inside. I sat at our table and watched everyone dancing (when I wasn't) and had a great time listening and singing along in the language of my grandparents. It's the getting back in touch with my roots, my ethnicity, who I AM, that brought back that spark of life in me that had been hidden for so long. I AM a Ukrainian and nothing makes me happier than hearing a polka, sung in Ukrainian, and eating a plate of halushki and vareneky (pierogies) and drinking vodka.

Third, I need to bond to friends. I need to be Christy Hopkins for a while, instead of mommy or the Assistant Director of Marketing or a daughter or whatever. I need to be ME for just a little while so that I can BE a better mommy or Assistant Director of Marketing or daughter. I need this in order to put things into perspective. I need to talk with another adult that isn't related to me and joke and laugh about something other than Spongebob. To have an ongoing laugh that nobody else would understand, even if I explained it.

I've had awesome evenings out recently with old friends from high school, which have been incredible for me as well. However, for some reason, this weekend AWAY from everything really lit a spark in me that I'm glad to have back. Maybe it was the total immersion in the Ukrainian-ness that made me feel alive again. Like I found that missing piece and glued it back into place.

When I walked through the door on Sunday evening, I was truly happy for the first time in a long time. I was sooo happy to be with the kids and to see their smiling faces and their excited hugs and the million kisses they were so happy to give. But most of all, I was happy to be me again. To have had the opportunity to be Christy Hopkins and to let GO of things for a bit. To let my hair down, dance, laugh, and have maybe one too many Cosmopolitans for a change. So that I can go back to being a better, stronger, happier Christy Hudson.

I think this is going to be a regular thing. Christine and I are already planning on going to Philadelphia for next year's convention. Next time, we'll stay another day and bring more old friends along with us.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No Sleep Till...OGLEBAY!!!

Today at noon begins my departmental retreat at Oglebay resort. This is the first time since I became pregnant with Budgie that I have been separated from him for a night. No overnights to Baba's house without me, no mini vacation getaway weekends with the husband and no kids. Nope, nothing. Every night Budgie falls asleep in his bed on his sheets and his pillow, with me curled up next to him humming his "sleepy song". Yeah, I know...it's good for him that I'm away. He needs the separation time to grow up. Mommy can't be there ALL the time... yadda, yadda, yadda. But Mommy is FREAKING OUT!!!!!

When Beanie was a toddler, I had a job that required me to travel a bit. A bit turned out to be approximately one month per year on the road, split up over several long weekends and one 11-day sojourn. I had to leave her for the 11-day trip (this time, to Orlando) when she was 18 months old. I missed her terribly. I called every morning and every night to talk, which she did (in typical toddler fashion), but I don't think she grasped the concept of Mommy being away and coming back.

I took a special side trip to Downtown Disney JUST to buy her a Mickey Mouse FROM DISNEY (yeah, I know, I'm weird). I carried that thing through the Orlando airport, on the plane, etc.. I had visions of her running to me in the luggage pickup area, screaming, "MOMMEEEEEE!!!" Well, needless to say, that did not happen. She saw me and screamed, "NO, I WANT BABA!!!" And left me standing (with Mickey Mouse in hand), in tears, in the middle of the luggage pickup. My kid HATED me!!! It took several hours and several more gifts dug from my luggage to finally win her back.

Maybe that's what I'm afraid of this time, only with Budgie. I know, it's only one night (and another night on Saturday for my Jersey trip), but the reaction Beanie had nearly 8 years ago has affected me deeply. Granted, he's much older, much more independent, but he is still so reliant on me to be there for him to sing him to sleep at night and tell him funny bedtime stories about Nosey (another story for another time).

I guess it's time to break away and let my baby Budgie fly ... if only for one night.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Movie Star For a Day

Yesterday, my friend Greg asked me if he could "borrow" Budgie for a video he's shooting. There is a Covey seminar at Cal U next week and the focus is on education. The video will focus on why to teach kids the 7 Habits early in life, so they grow up with them. Great. So Matt rearranged his work schedule so he could bring Budgie and Beanie down for the shoot.

Amazingly enough, eight four-year-old kids were picture-perfect during the entire shoot. Budgie listened to directions, paid attention and was hamming it up for the camera like nobody's business. He loved the attention!

After the main shoot, we took four of the boys (Budgie, Greg's son, co-worker Justin's son and Greg's neighbor's son) to the Emeriti Fountain on campus and let them run wild. They had an absolute BLAST!!! They ran through the fountain, splashing each other, sitting on the spray and "washing their butts" (boys will be boys...) and generally being hams for the camera. It was so much fun to watch them acting so crazy.

Seriously, it's times like these (when my kids get to do really cool things like videos and photo shoots) that I really LOVE what I do. Something neat for them to remember doing, that they can tell THEIR kids about. Beanie did a photo shoot for Idlewild when she was 4 and now Budgie will be in a video for Cal U when HE'S 4.

As Matt pulled the kids away from the fountain and towards the car, Budgie called out to me, "HEY MOM!!! YOU have the coolest work EVER!!!" His exclamation was met with laughter from the folks walking through the quad. I guess to him, my work is toys and video shoots and playing in the fountain on a hot summer day. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Kennywood and other musings

Like many Pittsburgh-area families, the fam and I made our yearly pilgrimage to Kennywood last week. I'm glad to have gotten the discount tickets at Giant Eagle, securing an additional $33 in savings to spend on corn dogs and fudge.

We got there around noon and jumped on the first ride...the Kangaroo. Surprisingly, Budgie was tall enough to ride a majority of the "big people" rides and that was just fine with me. Less splitting up means less meeting up and fighting later.

As we walked past the Jack Rabbit, I noticed that the minimum height requirement was 36 inches. Budgie was tall enough to ride a "Big People's" roller coaster! He was so excited!
We rode around some more and Budgie kept asking to go on the "rolley coaster". So we got in line. And waited. And waited. And waited. It was finally our turn!

Budgie, who decided that Mommy was his permanent riding partner for the day, plunked down next to me in the seat and was soooo excited.
We hit the first hill. There was no sound from my child. Only a small, chubby fist found its way like a magnet to the front of my shirt and grabbed it. I told him to scream as we went down the hills, but he refused. Must. Be. Big. Boy.

Second hill. The fist wound its way tighter into my shirt and pulled me toward him. He did not yell, just winced.
Up the incline, rounding the bend for the big rabbit hill. You know, the one where you go airborne? Yeah, that one.

We go up, up, up and Nev's hand squeezes tighter. He starts panting.
I look at him and say, "HERE WE GO, BUDDY!!!"


Down the double hill we go...

Kennywood's opportunistic sales camera flashes and my son's face of a lifetime is forever immortalized on Kodak paper. And for the low, low price of $10, we are now the proud owners of a 5" X 7" of my son's first roller coaster ride. I handled that photo with kid gloves all day, placing it lovingly in a frame the moment we got home from the park. It's something I will treasure the rest of my life. It's an image of my family that is too perfect for words.

Anyone up for another ride?