Monday, August 28, 2006

Belk is a very Southern department store. In Mississippi, I would equate it to McRae's. You go there to register for your china, crystal, towels, and stainless flatware. Sterling silver was registered at the locally owned Judy Martin's.

I have a Belk card. I love it because they do a nifty 30-60-90 program with no interest so I can do some shopping and pay for it in 3 neat payments and be done. Fabulous. If only I can find something I want to wear. Often times, they have great sales because the stuff I like is usually stuff that has been left behind by the women 20 years older than me who typically shop there. A great Calvin Klein silk skirt marked down to $25 makes my day.

So I called Belk today to change my name and address. It is the second time I have called their customer service line ever, and the second time I got a nice lady on the phone who sounds exactly like your grandmother.

Do they really hire grandmothers to answer the phone for customer service? They are certainly not outsourcing to India. But really, do they hire little old ladies to run their 800 line for customer service?

My theory though is this: no one wants to yell at their grandmother. It takes a seriously disturbed individual to yell at an old lady. The first time I got the grandmother on the phone at Belk, I did in fact have an account problem. They were posting my payments the day after the checks cleared according to my bank, and then charging me a late fee. I was pissed. So I call the 800 number, and found myself trying to be polite and angry at the same time because it was someone's grandmother on the phone. After a very long time and lots of lovely Southern chatting, I was eventually refunded the late fees they tried to suck out of me and Granny told me about 8 times to "Have a lovely day." I just couldn't be angry at them anymore.

I don't know about you, but I think Sprint could take a lesson from Belk.

So I went to post the link to McRae's and just found out that they have been bought by Belk. Interesting. Or maybe it's not.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My best friend has started a blog. It looks sharp, sounds intelligent, and has little details like a blog roll and such. I am mightily impressed and now want to figure out how to do more than type the inside of my brain into an unedited box and hit "publish post."

She is terrific really. I'm would like to say so much about her, but want for it to be thoughtful. Maybe spend some time as a draft for a few days first.

What I can say now is that not only is she creative, she really is a rocket scientist. I occasionally use this to excuse my own flakiness and general stupidity, because you know, my best friend is a rocket scientist. Then I remember that I have not once felt smaller or less accomplished in her presence. She has a beautiful way of making everyone she meets feel their most intelligent and their best while around her.

If anyone is out there reading, take a break from my rambling and go visit her at Toddler Planet.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lately, I find myself angry and often I don't know why.

Friends tell me not to worry about it, that I have a right to be angry. I love them for understanding when really, I don't agree.

My parents have gotten the raw end of the deal. Instead of planning their retirement, now they are planning where they will die. Melodramatic? Maybe a little. Unfortunately, it is also true. Am I happy about it? Not in the least.

Hold it up for comparison though, and I end up wondering, "Do I have the right to be angry?"

If I was a nicer person, I might answer that question with the woes of the world and the scores of people who have it worse than me and my family does. Tonight though, I don't care about them.

This week, I actually got angry at my mom because she drove too many places. She drove too many places and did too many things and got tired. So I was angry at her. She spent 10 days in the hospital after her first round of chemo. Now, as soon as her white count is back to an acceptable level, she is back out and doing everything she did before. She is going to end up right back in the hospital again. And if she keeps it up, she will never be able to have the chemo and a possibility of getting better.

So am I angry, so just scared?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I guess identity is who we see ourselves as. It seems that I define my own identity in my career. If asked the question, "Who are you?" I would undoubtedly tell you that I'm the Executive Director of a music school for children from low-income families. An arts administrator. A grant writer. Cue John Williams music: I am a cape-wearing, hands-on-hips, fighter for children and an equal arts education for all.

Of course, I have now given notice at that job to be a family girl. A daughter, a stepmother, and a hopefully a glowing pregnant woman soon. So who does that make me?

I've been reading mommybloggers lately. A friend sent me a link to a musician mom's blog recently. The entry described some of the wedding music she has been subjected to performing as one of a few violinists who haven't yet fled the state of Mississippi. As much as I connected with the musician and certainly the anti-Mississippi feel of the post, the more I read, the more I realized I am missing something.

I followed links from this blog to other mommyblogs and read for hours. There is a feeling of motherhood as an identity amongst them. As a new stepmother, I haven't just taken on the identity and run with it. I'm excited about it, but I still am surprised when Lovely wants a hug in the morning, or I'm supposed to check her homework. It catches me off guard a little. Don't get me wrong, I am loving the new role. It just doesn't feel like an identity yet.

The feeling of loss at leaving my job is strange to me as I never intended on being an arts administrator. As much as I have enjoyed the work and the people I have worked with, I have to admit that I have enjoyed the identity it gave me just as much. I fell into the job, and have felt so lucky to have done so. It made me a professional instead of just a musician.

But I'm nervous about the whole identity thing. I think I used my job to identify myself because I didn't like my life. Now that I'm starting to really like it, that doubt starts creeping back in of what I deserve, what I'm worth, and most importantly - who I am.

There is a bit of closing my eyes and jumping going on here. At some point I made a decision to change my life and never look back. Now I'm hoping that I can live up to it and that the strong mommy-identity comes from the hormones or somehow magically is instilled upon you during pregnancy and childbirth. It would be so nice to read the mommyblogs as a peer and relate as a mommy. We'll see.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

From as far back as I can remember, my mother tried to teach me that it didn't matter what you looked like or what you wore. As noble as that was, and as glad I am that she taught me to depend on intellect instead of lipstick, there are some flaws.

For a lot of careers, it does matter. There is a certain socialital expectation of grooming and appearance. The studies are out that heavy people earn less than thin. An attitude of, "if they don't care enough to take care of themselves, then how much will they care about the job they do?"

I am guilty of this attitude. It isn't just weight though, it is how well put together someone is and how much thought it appears went into their physical preparation for the day. Ridiculous? Probably.

I have been in a job though where I am in front of people constantly asking for money or promoting the school. Do I think I get a better response when I'm down 10 pounds, freshly highlighted, brows waxed, and suit crisply pressed? You bet I do. Do I choose skirts that hit above the knee instead of below to show a little more leg? Absolutely. Am I ashamed of this? Not in the least.

There was a good reason my mother worked very hard to teach me that you shouldn't judge or be judged by the way you look. Her mother entered her in beauty pageants and found her own self-worth in other people's opinions that her daughter was beautiful. Momma resented it. My mother swung the opposite direction and I spent junior high and high school miserable because my peers ridiculed the way I looked and dressed.

Now, I find myself wanting to provide a happy medium for my stepdaughter. She is 10 and is already asking questions about clothes and zits. She is conscious of her weight and wants to wear clothes that are loose and baggy. She has told me that she is "the biggest girl in her class," and she doesn't mean tall. That part breaks my heart. She is a beautiful girl.

How do you teach a young girl that you will never be happy if you base your opinion of yourself on how others treat you when in order to be successful, you need to learn how to have others treat you with respect and even admiration?

Middle school will be cruel, and I want her to know that she is beautiful, smart, funny, and caring. I also want her to learn to eat right, take care of her body, and choose clothes that she likes and look good on her.

I think the bottom line is that I want for her to have every opportunity. I want for her to take the AG classes, be smart, and at the same time, I want for her to be attractive. Is that wrong? I want for her to be thought of as pretty. Not because I'm that shallow, but because I want her to have the respect that goes along with attractiveness.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On Friday, I will resign. For 6 years, I have been the Executive Director of a non-profit music school whose mission is to provide music lessons to children from low-income families. You really couldn't create a more fulfilling job.

The children at this school pay $1 per week for their music lesson. We give them an instrument to use while they are enrolled and even buy their music books if they need us to. Our teachers are professionals, and our graduating class of 2006 went on to Harvard, Duke, NCA&T, Wake Tech, and Barton College. Not too shabby.

I've been to the White House to accept an award from Laura Bush. There have been newspaper interviews, podcast interviews, and numerous TV interviews. We get funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, our state arts council, the city, the county, and usually just about anyone else I ask for it.

This has nothing to do with me. The program is magnificent. The idea is brilliant. The need is absolutely relevant and the results scream success and value. I have said many times and say again, "It is easier to give us the money than it is to tell us no." It is true. What this school does with $25 could not be replicated by another arts organization or another service organization of which I know. The one-on-one student/teacher ratio and quality of music education offered makes our program the most important program seeking grants in this town.

Modest? Not me. I reiterate though, it's not me. Thank God it isn't, because I'm quitting. After 6 years of throwing my entire being into this school, I am tired. The responsibility of being in charge of the music education of 200 kids, a six-figure budget, 20 faculty, another staff member, and working with a volunteer Board of Directors has finally gotten to me.

I want to be a family girl.

There is my new family. And there is my old family. My parents need me more than ever. Guy needs me and Lovely needs me. And I want to have a baby.

I don't think I've ever looked at that sentence before. It seems odd to come from me. I have been an independent woman, a career minded, socially responsible, civic concerned woman. Lots of my colleagues and friends have no children.

I want to have a baby.

Let me be slightly more specific. I want to have Guy’s baby. I want to be a mommy with his daddy. I want to change the diapers of our offspring, get hardly any sleep, have sore nipples, wash 18 loads of laundry a day, and take long morning walks behind a stroller.

The beauty of being a musician is that you make up your own job. I can be a stay-at-home mom and still teach. I can teach as many or as few students as I want to. I can take as many or as few gigs as I want to. I can record, write, or do nothing as I see fit.

I am looking forward to having more time for my family and for music. Guy and I are looking forward to recording together, writing together, playing together, and just being together. I have never looked forward to the future before. I have only looked at making it through the now.

Although I am sad and scared to leave my job, I can honestly say that I'm looking forward to something new. I hope that I have accomplished enough to have made a difference while I was there.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My mother's mother was called Honey. She moved to Jackson around the time I was born so that my mother could take care of her. From the moment I met her, she lived in a retirement complex called "Madonna Manor." It was a dump by the time she moved out, but pretty nice in the beginning. Of course nothing in Jackson is free from crime, and by the time I was in college, there was a woman a couple of floors down from Honey who got raped in her apartment. If I heard that now, I would be panicking to get my grandmother out of that environment. In Jackson, you just buy an extra lock for your door because you've given up on moving somewhere completely safe.

I digress. Honey was a remarkable woman. She became a single parent in the 1940's when her lovely husband walked out on her, my mother, and her older brother. Realizing quickly that she was going to have to support these children, she decided to become a nurse. With childcare help from her younger sister in Georgia, Honey managed to make it through nursing school (a feat my ex-husband couldn't do with me paying the bills and having no children), establish a home for herself and her children, and even managed to get a grand piano for my mother who somehow never missed a piano lesson no matter what food was or was not in the cupboards.

She did all this without a driver's license. Honey never drove. I don't know why she never learned to drive. It made her seem older and more frail than she was though. I remember my mother always having to drive across town and take Honey somewhere. To the doctor. Shopping. To church. To the library. Wherever Honey needed to go, my mother was there to take her. Until I turned 15 and got my driver's license that is. Then I picked up some of the responsibility. There was this time I had to take her to the podiatrist. It ended badly with me dashing from the room trying to make it to a bathroom before vomiting. From that day forward I vowed to take care of my feet and get pedicures on a regular basis from clean places.

I digress again. There are too many stories to tell about Honey. If I don't tire of typing to myself, I'm sure I'll hit on many more. The point I wanted to make today was that Honey was about my mother's age now when I was born. For all of her complaining, for the million times she said, "I'm blind and I can't see" to anyone she thought was in earshot, for all the hours I had to sit in front of her vanity and have my hair ironed into doodoo curls, I know that she was one of the most remarkable women I could have had in my life.

The endurance of that woman was incredible. She was strong, stubborn, and smart. There was no model back then for single moms. There was no child support or alimony. There was just her sheer will and determination. The things I learned from Honey could spin off into another blog altogether.

The point? My grandchild will not have these things to say about my mother. For all the praise I have for Honey, I think my mother is twice the woman with twice the smarts and twice the determination. I can only imagine what she could teach my children. And what stories will they tell if their family is gone before their memories start?

This is not the way I imagined it would be.

Honey lived to be 97. She did eventually really lose her sight and became quite dependent the last 5 years of her life. However, she also picked up and moved across the country at 92 years old. When my parents decided to move to California, Honey didn't bat an eye. She said, "When do we leave?" She made new friends, experienced new cultures, and loved to tell her stories to anyone who would sit and listen.

Honey and my mother didn't always get along so well. They loved each other dearly, but I think 30 plus years of caretaking to someone as negatively vocal as Honey could be took a toll on my mother. In the days before she died though, Honey told my mother that although she wanted to live to be 100, she was content to know that she had lived long enough to see my mother fulfill God's plan for her life. Isn't that what every child wants to hear? That their parent thinks they done good?

Honey gave that to my mom, and it meant the world to her. Momma has given that to me all along though, and it has made all the difference in my life. I'm grateful she didn't make me wait until the end to let me know that she is proud of me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

In my first marriage, there were no children. I knew this was part of the deal going into to the union. He was sterile. Now I know that it is a huge deal. Then, I thought, "we'll just adopt."

Adoption is a terrific idea. I am all for blended, adopted, united, and patched up families. For me and husband #1 though, it didn't work.

There was much work and follow through to be done in adoption. It also involved a lot of money. What I am going to say would not be popular amongst adoptive families, but since I've been through the process up to bringing home baby, I'm going ahead.

I think the adoption process in America sucks.

As I was packing up my previous home, I
came across the "lifebooks" that husband #1 and I sent to one of the adoption agencies. Here we are. We are cute, thin, white, young, and oh so incredibly hip. Here we are at church. Here we are with lots of attractive friends. Here is our extended family full of nieces and nephews for your child to play with. Here is our tiny house.


Tiny house. Old cars. Jobs with no benefits. A husband perpetually in school and a wife working 60 hours a week to keep him there.

We are dysfunctional and yet somehow get approved to adopt a child. Had we possessed $30,000 in October 2003, we would have done so.

Thank god for our poverty.

However unsuited to parent we were though, the American adoption process was perfectly willing to let us go ahead, provided some girl chose us (pick me! pick me!) and we had enough cash to fork over.

Positive point now.

I had to sit through (and pay for) an entire counseling series where I learned how to parent someone else's child.

As of July 24, 2006, I am officially parenting someone else's child. The bonus is that her father is parenting her too.

I am a stepmom.

Lovely is now part of my family. We will always be connected, and yet there will always be something in our way. Wait, I know this one; I will be her family and she will have her other family.

Blah blah blah.

The bottom line is that I have a child. What I have wanted so badly for these past years is here. Well, she's here 50% of the time. Which is about 50% of the time less than I wish she was here.

I got to pack a lunch last week. I didn't pick out the lunchbox, and sure, there is her oh so dear mother telling her that I'm a whore, but I got to pack her lunch.

There was a PB&J, some blueberries because she told me she loves blueberries, some applesauce, a napkin, some organic string cheese, and some totally bad for you yet containing no transfats cookies. All I lacked was a note, but I can't do that lest her mother finds it and yells at Lovely for eating food I prepared.

She is such a good kid. I'm sure there will be bumps in the road, but man, she is such a good kid. I don't know how I got to be so lucky.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

People have been telling me and Guy that we have been in the "honeymoon stage" since the day we started dating. There are those who are rooting for us to continue that way forever and those who follow the observation with their sentiments of how it won't last.

I'm here to say that it hadn't even started yet.

Two weeks as a married couple and we can't seem to even come close to getting enough of each other. Today was Saturday. We had all sorts of mature plans to do yard work and run errands. Before we knew it, 11:30 rolled around and we had just finished breakfast after laying in bed talking all morning. Yes, talking.

What I remember most distinctly about the day I met Guy is the sound of his voice. I am not a person with a long attention span. If there is other conversation in the room especially, I cannot concentrate on a single person for very long. If you mix that in with work, I am even worse. I met Guy at work, and there were several other people in the room, yet somehow, I could not quit listening to him. Usually, I want someone to say what they have to say and move on at work, but not Guy. If I thought he was going to quit talking, I found myself asking another question just to see what he would say next. I didn't think I was attracted to him, and there wasn't anything to it then, but I can't help but look back now and wonder how I missed that significant point.

Two and a half years later, I'm sitting next to him on the couch, our dueling laptops running, as his wife. His Schmoopie, in fact. We made it to Montreat and did get married in our Birkenstocks. The preacher wore flip-flops.

Our best couple friends went with us to be witnesses. She is a violinist and he is a hot air balloon pilot. I always follow that up with, "It's his for real job, no joke." She gigs on the weekends and he had a job in Asheville later in the week, so we opted to get married on a Monday. This time, the marriage was the focus and not the wedding. We didn't care what day or what time, just that the end result left us as husband and wife. I did make a bouquet of red roses and ordered a cake from my favorite bakery, the
Square Rabbit. Guy and I picked up the cake with fair warning from Rebecca that it probably wouldn't travel well. She was so right. It completely fell apart on the drive through the mountains, but that didn't stop us from taking spoons to it later and eating chunks and lumps of lemon-y buttercream goodness.

Here's to the honeymoon. Day 20 and counting.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Jackson. I can't freaking get away from it. My whole family systematically moves out of Jackson, Mississippi and now they are all going to end up in Jackson, Tennessee. Amazingly enough, I would prefer that they were still in Jackson, Mississippi.

The southern Jackson at least has
some really good restaurants. Jackson of the north, not so much. There is my brother's kitchen, but it's only open late, and you don't get to order off the menu. At least I don't have to leave a tip.

The southern Jackson has some of my friends left there. Jackson of the north, none that I know of.

The southern Jackson has boutique shopping. Not that I want anything from the boutiques, mind you. If I wanted to dress like every outing was part of a beauty pageant and even my panties had to be monogrammed, I could do some good shopping in the southern Jackson. There is the Gail Pittman outlet and then crazy woman who sells ceramics out of her garage and donates the money to the nuns. If she isn't home, you just leave your money in a Mason jar. The northern Jackson has 2 Payless Shoe stores. You choose which one you want to go in by how many potholes you would like to swerve around in the parking lots that day.

The southern Jackson would still feel like home. No matter how long I've been gone or how deeply I've planted my roots in North Carolina, the southern Jackson will always feel like home. Jackson of the north feels like my brother has relocated his family to a larger version of the most redneck town he has lived in thus far.

I will have to go to Jackson of the north on a regular basis now. I guess that will be okay since I'm only going to see family. The visits will most likely only consist of doctor visits and errands, so I guess I can't complain. Maybe they have a Krystal there.

Wherever my parents moved, I still need more time in my life. I will be quitting one of my jobs and keeping my piano studio going. It is more flexible and I don't want to lose my students anyway. If they had chosen to come here, I would need the time to take care of them. Now, I will need the time to travel. My brother won't travel. I think that is the unspoken reason that they are going to Tennessee instead of North Carolina. He went to California one time in 7 years to see them. He just won't leave his job long enough to go anywhere. I don't know if it is an inflated sense of self or an inflated sense of responsibility, but somehow, he always ends up being the one to forego vacation and put his family last. There would never be enough money in the world to make me work in a church ever again. I have watched my entire family put the church in front of all else time and time again. I think they even put their church work in front of God sometimes. Ironic.

Guy and I almost bought a painting of Johnny Cash last week at the Loveless Cafe. It was an abstract kind of painting with quips around the edges of "we're going to Jackson." At the time, I found it amusing. Now, not so much.

I hope that my parents have thought through their care and the people with time to give it to them. I have a feeling that when my mother dies, we'll be moving Daddy all over again. She said this morning that she thought she was going to die sooner rather than later. I don't understand then, why she won't go ahead and get Daddy near me where he belongs. Daddies and daughters go together.

I'm going to have to be patient. I suck at being patient.