Category Archives: RandomObservations

Learning About Death One Moment At A Time

On Nov. 9, 2010 an amazing woman died. Her name was Danyale Ellis and she was my friend. Last weekend was her funeral and I wondered, do I bring Logan or is that inappropriate?

Hubby was out of town and I really wanted to attend Danyale’s funeral. She was only 38 years old and one of those people that the rest of us strive to be. She was successful, but not in a nauseating way, because she was humble. What I liked best is that she was very understanding. She understood my hectic life and never made me feel bad for not doing something, she simply cherished what I could. That’s rare.

We were both in the same sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and before you judge, it’s not the kind of sorority where cheerleading pixies prance around in an oversized white house. It’s a predominantly black sorority dedicated to public service. (Though admittedly there’s former cheerleaders in our midst too…) Danyale and I met in the alumnae chapter.

It was important to me that I pay my respects, but I was failing at finding a sitter for Logan. Would it be weird to bring my boisterous boy to a funeral? What if he had a colossal meltdown in the middle of a tear-jerking eulogy? Saturday morning I decided I would regret not trying to attend the funeral more than regret an ill-timed tantrum.

On the way to the services, I started to lay out my expectations of Logan, telling him we were going to a funeral and he was to be quiet, if he wanted to talk to me it was to be in a whisper. He asked me what’s a funeral. I paused, I had been so obsessed with figuring out the logistics of getting to the funeral I didn’t even think about how it would mean talking about death with my 3 year old.

We’ve talked a little bit about how things die, but I suppose I figured the bigger talks would come after a goldfish died and we had a ceremony to flush it down the toilet like the Huxtables. So in the car, we talked about people dying, what it meant and how it can make us sad because we will miss the people who died, but that they’re OK. The main thing he wanted to know afterward was “why?”

Such a small word, such a big question. I didn’t delve into a circle-of-life diatribe a la Lion King, I simply said: “I don’t know, God decides that.” Thankfully that seemed to answer the question good enough.

We went to the funeral and he was spectacular, quietly played with his miniature cars in the pew and whispering so low I could barely hear him. The service was moving and whenever I felt the tears well up, I’d give Logan a squeeze and draw some strength from him. I was glad he was with me.

When talking to Hubby on the phone that night, Logan excitedly grabbed the phone and said: “Daddy! Guess what? Somebody DIED today!

“What?!?” Hubby asked.

“We went to Danyale’s funeral.” I said into the phone and heard his sigh of relief.

It looks like I’ll get my Huxtable moment after all.

Is That A Weeble? No, It’s Just A Preggo

Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” A voice in my head keeps saying that whenever I walk longer than two minutes. But can you blame me? I’m nearly seven months pregnant, my stomach is huge and my rear-end has spread so that I waddle when I walk. It’s a good look, trust me.

Naturally I’m a very fast walker. Hubby hates it because he can’t keep up and can’t understand how I can move so quickly. I can’t understand how he moseys along, but he loves walking with me when I’m pregnant, saying I’m finally moving at normal speed.

A mere three months ago, I was still zipping around. But now, I’m easily 15 pounds heavier and there’s this weird rotating wobbliness to my gait. It also takes me much longer to get anywhere. I even get winded after, say the first block. What’s that about?

As much as I love being pregnant, feeling Bean shake, rattle and roll inside me, and I’m in no rush to get to my due date, it’ll be cool to have my old body back. I still see glimpses of the old me at my personal training on Sundays. We do strength training using all kinds of torture devices: weights, resistance band, pilates ball, exercise ball and the most evil of them all _ the BOSU. I hate that thing, but it gets the job done.

After a session I always feel strong, healthy, invincible. Well, that is until I waddle the five minutes it takes to get home from the gym and arrive at my front door, panting.

Funktafied Tales From The Depths of The Diaper Bag

Remember when the worst thing you found at the bottom of your purse was a melted tube of lipstick? My how times have changed! After a recent encounter of the gross kind, I asked several mommyfriends what’s the nastiest thing they’ve found lurking in their bag. Check out the top rankariffic offenders:

_Curdled Delight. During our trip to Missouri, we kept smelling something in our hotel room. Even Logan proclaimed: “Something smells funky dunky.” I searched and searched only to find 8 oz of curdled chocolate milk oozing into the bottom of the diaper bag. It looked like brown cottage cheese as it had been in the back of a hot car for seven hours, and sat in the room overnight. Tasty.

_One Bad Burrito. Driving around for days, Jane kept catching a whiff of… something. She scoured her purse, diaper bag and the car. Nothing revealed itself as the source for the putrid smell and over the days, the odor grew. Finally she peeked in the compartment of her door and wrapped like a tight burrito, she found a molded poopy diaper.

_Surf’s Up. Pauline and her family love the beach and she’s used to reaching in her bag for sunblock and pulling out congealed granola bars, melted M&Ms and brown bananas. But even she was surprised when a lollipop completely melted out of the wrapper, off the stick and onto loose change, forming a gnarly patty of sticky pennies.

_ Pick a Card, Any Card. Well, Maybe Not. Rebecca’s a journalist who was out on a night assignment and brought her backpack that she previously used on outings with her daughters. Someone asked for her business card, she jammed her hand inside the bag and splotch! It landed in mush. She stammered that somehow her cards got wet, made a quick exit and dumped out her bag. She’s still not sure what the mush was, it could have been rotten plums, but she’s glad it was too dark to really identify the goop.

There were scores of other stories, though the most popular was about curdled milk (including one poor mom who was on a business trip when she discovered the spoiled milk spilled in the bottom of her fancy bag!) Other common funktafied tales involved moldy bread, melted string cheese, poop-crusted onesies, half-eaten lollipops, the first locks of hair, an old waffle in a napkin, bagels so old they’re masquerading as rocks and fuzzy black bananas.

I’m sure we’re all going to be finding many gross things for years to come, but it’s good to know we’re not alone. 

(All names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Life in Suburbia: Competing With the Joneses

Manicured lawns. McMansions. Drive-thru Starbucks and Target. Aaaaah the suburbs.

I live in surburbia and as much as I mock it, we’ve carved out a cozy place. It’s convenient and my favorite part is the quirky charm. Take the July 4th weekend.

My suburb for some reason has THE most popular July 4th parade in the Chicagoland area. So popular that people started saving spots days in advance, putting their blankets and chairs on the front lawns of folks who live along the parade route.

A few years ago the city instituted a rule that you can’t save spots until 7 the night before the parade. Last year I drove the route around 7 p.m. to see what the hubbub was all about. Somewhere along the way of seeing the tarps and tye-died sheets unfurling, intricate webs of stakes and ropes being woven, I caught the fever.

Why, I *too* must save a spot! So I jetted home, grabbed some chairs to anchor down an old army blanket and got a good spot. Next year, I’ll be more prepared, I muttered.

And I was. Hubby, Logan and I spent much of the previous afternoon at the nearby carnival and went over around 6 p.m. to check out the scene. I was surprised to see a van parked in front the spot I’d hoped for. So we parked our Jeep under the next available tree. You see it’s the pre-spot-saving saving.

My hubby guarded our shady spot with his life while Logan and I scoped the route. I was checking out the competition, looking for ideas on improving our spot-saving technique. Many people had tent stakes and wires. A group of guys with a lot of beer and music used logs and a huge blue tarp. Some ducktaped comforters to the sidewalk. Chairs were roped together. I think the city should start judging the spot-saving techniques in addition to the parade floats.

We busted out ours: An old fitted sheet, a torn army blanket, a hammer and seven nails. Then an old couple shows up. The woman is angry, almost hurt and points to our spot. “This is where we usually set up.” I blink back. Is this really happening? “We were late because it’s our 41st anniversary and we had a party.” I cheerfully said “Wow, 41 years? Happy Anniversary!” But was met with a stony reply. Her hubby began setting up his green tarp nearby.

We get in the car and my hubby grumbles: “I wasn’t buying that sob story.”

Wow. What’s happened to us? Hubby and I are competitive by nature so is it that everything out here is so easy we hunt for a challenge? I don’t know. I have to say we don’t get sucked into the Christmas lights nor the greenest lawn competition, maybe the July 4th insanity will be our thing? It’s a silly tradition but, it’s fun. I mean who wants to keep up with the Joneses when you can flat out beat them?

The Line Between Complimentary and Creepy

It’s summertime. Time for summer dresses, flirty skirts, short shorts and spaghetti straps _ it’s hot and skin is in. And so come the catcalls. Not just from construction workers on scaffolding or cabbies whizzing by, but from bums to businessmen walking the streets.

Not that I run around Chicago naked, or even half naked, it’s just that it’s summertime in the city and as long as you are wearing anything less than a burqa, you’re going to get catcalled. I understand this, I don’t like it, but it’s just how it is. What gets me is when the compliments slip into the creepy. That’s when I get pissed. That’s when I get ugly.

So this morning, I’m rockin’ a new multi-colored art deco-ish print frock, capped off by chocolate wedges with an ankle strap. On the way to work a man gives me the once over, smiles broadly, drawing out a “goooood mooooorrrrnnning gorgeous.” I simply nod and move on. I’m annoyed, but that’s moreso because it’s 5:15 a.m. and all human contact at that hour is annoying.

Fast forward to this afternoon, walking to my car after work. Man stops in the middle of the street “Hey sista you look good!” I’m on the phone, I keep chatting. He’s nonstop with the comments, getting louder, more aggressive. Then I hear him shout that I’ve got nice looking legs… I can tell he’s ready to move on to other body parts. Before I know it my arm is raised high, hoisting a one-fingered salute. He angrily hollers: “What? I’m just paying you a compliment!”

Um no, you’re not. There’s a difference between a compliment and being a creep. And so many people need to learn it. One rule of thumb if you don’t want someone saying that to your mama then don’t say it to me. Why do guys do that anyway? Are they hoping we are charmed and give them our number? What’s your opinion on this?

Well, it’s only June 1 and I’ve already flipped off my first fellow. By August I start contemplating packing a bright green Super Soaker so that I can just hose the next creep, you know to cool him off. It’s hot.

The catwalk on the sidewalk

While in New York I dragged my hubby to quaint boutiques, poor chap. And the clothes, obviously, were fun to check out. But the most fun was the fashion not on the rack, but prancing down the street. Sure an amazing couture dress hovering above stilts as they teeter into a hushed restaurant snags my eye, but what makes me openly stare is people in their daily wares and how they choose to spice them up. It’s the middle of the week, in the middle of the day and they’re going only Lord Knows Where.

By Salvatore Vuono

I saw a scene usually reserved for Chinese paper fans now printed on leggins paired with blue sequined shoes, a cheap prom dress or layers upon layers of a top so deconstructed, I wasn’t sure if was a blouse or a scarf extraordinaire. All of it interesting, all of it fun.

Then there was inner ware as outer wear. Bras, nighties, lace, lace and more lace. Southern belle skirts with black leggins. Black skinny jeans. Leopard skinny jeans. Black skinny jeans with leopard booties. Black skinny jeans so tight she had to lay down to zip them up. Go ‘head girl.

And the belts. Big belts, flat belts, skinny belts, braided, leather, pleather, plastic. I won’t even get started on the shoes.

Yet let me not forget the short short. One morning, a woman in her late 40s/early 50s was rockin these black short shorts with red heels and a peasant top. She didn’t have cellulite. Isn’t that against some law? If I had cellulite in my 20s, why can’t *she* have it in her 40s? And it wasn’t that she had crazy muscles, there was jiggle, there just wasn’t any cottage cheese. To me she looked like she needed to put more clothes on, but mostly I was proud of her, go ahead with your great gams at 40+. Clearly, she still had *it.*

Do I see this in Chicago? Sure! Of course, but for the most part, we’re more reserved. A little more black and khaki with bright spots of red, not many covered in sequins or faux prom dresses while straddling a 10 speed.

Getting off the pot

And so it begins. My blog. I’ve been wanting to start one for awhile now for all the reasons others list and more. But I kept putting it off. What will I say? What if I say too much? What if no one outside my hubby reads it? This morning I decided to get off the pot.
I’m visiting New York City (I live in Chicago) and my 19th floor hotel room is overlooking the hole that was the World Trade Center. Almost 10 years later and this is what it looks like.

Early morning construction to build Freedom Tower

Amazing. You still think of the people, the families, the images, the sounds, the lost dreams.
Then in my head, I hear fashion designer/director/king of fabulousness Tom Ford’s voice: “When you really want to do something, you should go ahead and do it.” “I feel fear, but I never let that stop me.” (Not that I’ve even heard him talk, I just imagined what he’d sound like. I read that in Elle magazine months ago and it stuck with me.)
He’s right, it can be scary putting yourself out there, but at least you went for it. And so it’s begun.
Now I’m going back to watching the men in white hard hats, working just beyond the blue crates underneath the red cranes.