Update for inquiring minds...

I know you are anxiously awaiting this information so I won't make you suffer any longer.

"Good Morning-
Well it looks like we will not be able to be part of the car pool any longer. I thought we had the pick up timing worked out. [Our precious son] was picked up at 7.03 this morning. We gave it a good try.


For the record, my husband was NOT driving today. And also for the record, that "my precious son" bit was my words, not theirs.

Creating monsters

Here’s the problem with today’s yutz.

Jay picked up his carpool riders at 7:04 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. and, later that day, a scathing email arrived stating, “If we cannot ALL commit to a 7AM pick up at the LATEST not 7:02 or 7:04 we will have to unfortunately drop out. [Our son] cannot start his day anxious about what time he's being picked up.”

Long pause.

Heavy sigh.

Okay, first off, let me make it crystal clear that these kids are not getting to school late – in the nick of time, perhaps, but not late.

Secondly, these are teens in HIGH SCHOOL, not first graders who still can’t find their way to class by themselves.

Thirdly, we’re talking about 4 minutes. FOUR. And reread the first point. They aren’t late to school. They are in their classrooms and in their seats before the bell rings. Well, at least Zach is.

He just took a personality test in AP Psych that determined whether he is a Type A or Type B. A heavy duty Type A score is 100 points while the other extreme Type B is 0 points (think Stephen Wright or Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High). Well, suffice to say that it’s no wonder those 4 minutes are not bothering my son. He didn’t score the lowest possible score but he was in the bottom third. So if Mr. Mellow Man can make it to class on time, surely the anxious, high strung kid can get there faster, no?

Look, I’m not saying we’re right and they’re wrong. Obviously this is a sensitive issue and a personal one to boot. One man’s late is another man’s on time, I reckon.

On the flip side, this mom – er, kid I mean – wanting to get to school earlier is not asking that much of my child. All it would take is getting into the shower 5 minutes earlier than usual. But he’ll pitch as big a fit about that as the other family did about 2 or 4 minutes.

Let’s face it; we’ve created these over-protected, micromanaged, pitiful monsters. My son can’t do his own laundry much less change a tire, heaven forbid he should get a flat tire (or two).

Now, my 7th grader on the other hand is proof that there’s still hope for this generation yet. Her ride ACCIDENTALLY left her at school last week – HOLY CRIKEY, can you imagine what this other family would have done had THAT happened? Yowza. I got a chill up my spine just thinking about it. But I digress.

I was talking about Olivia, right? Yes, so she calls to say she was left at school and before I could get my thoughts together about what to do she had already found a ride. She remembered seeing her teacher at our gym and figured she lived nearby so she asked for a ride home. (That she would feel comfortable asking her teacher for a ride home says something about my child’s school as well as my child.) She did catch a ride home with her teacher and loved it. Though my guilt-stricken friends who left her worried that she’d been damaged for life, the incident didn’t faze her. In fact, it had a positive effect on her. In addition to coming up with that particular solution, it occurred to her later that she had several options, including catching the city bus home.

I wonder what she’d score on the personality test?

Start 'em early!

Much to my son’s dismay I simply must share this.

We ordered the book that Olivia is reading for her lit circle from the library. She needed permission to read it because it’s a “mélange of dramatic voices…to stop violence against women. Published for adults but aimed straight at young adults, this volume provides a searing look at the inner lives of young females today in entries that explore sex, violence, love, body image, materialism, identity, family, friends, and the future.”

See why my 12-year-old middle school daughter needed parental permission to read it?

Anywho, the book finally came in and, so I could stay home and prepare dinner, I asked Zach to go pick it up. He was stretched out on the couch watching his latest recorded episode of Freaks and Geeks, or Entourage or True Blood, and protested a wee bit before complying with my request. I was briefly reminded of the Zits comic strip where the mom was shown schlepping Jeremy at every age to one thing or another until, as a driving teen, he’s asked to run an errand for her, to which he replies, “What am I? Your slave?”

Score one for Zach. He went without much fuss.

I did have to explain every detail about how to get there, where to find the reserved books and how to use the self-check out. But he went. I cooked.

He returned, laid the book on the counter and said calmly, “My library card isn’t linked with yours and since you made the request I couldn’t use the self- check out. I had to go to the counter and checkout a book called I Am An Emotional Creature and it says on the cover it’s by the author of The Vagina Monologues. I had to checkout a book that says vagina on it.”

Score two for Zach.

God bless him. He didn’t put the book back and walk out. He didn’t call me to complain. He might’ve balked, but in the end he went to the counter and checked out the book.

Well done.

I think I knew the training had begun, but now I KNOW the training has begun.
This is great practice for the big leagues – buying tampons and sanitary pads. And balk though he may, in the end, he will proceed to the counter and purchase the necessary products because we taught him early and well.

SURPRISE, I'm back.

My husband (and friends) threw me a surprise party last night in honor of my upcoming 50th birthday. To set the record straight, YES, I WAS ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT SURPRISED. Did I have any idea? NONE WHATSOEVER. At least not for last night.

The fact that I was truly surprised surprised people. They figured since Jay had successfully thrown me 30th and 40th surprise parties that I would have known he was throwing me a 50th, too. “Come on,” they said. “Can you not figure out that he is going to do this every decade?”

“But I told him not to,” was my response. Imagine, I actually thought he would listen and take me seriously.

Instead, what he took seriously was that he was going to show me how much I was loved by the people in my life, and he was going to pull it off without me knowing about it. Doing it a week before my actual birthday worked well, but the whole “sage smudging” really threw me off the scent.

Actually I think I made this really easy for them. If memory serves me – and it often doesn’t these days but that’s another post – I think it was my idea to do a sage smudging at Larry and Tracey’s new home. Native Americans used sage smudging (the process of burning the dried plant and fanning the smoke over your body or throughout an area with sacred intention) as a simple and powerful way to clear an energy field and make room for new energy. It’s a cleansing, be it for a person, a place or an object. So Tracey said, great, let’s do it June 19th. Done. I’ll get the sage.

Let me tell you, the only thing smudged was my mascara.

At least once in a lifetime, every person should have the opportunity to hear what friends and family think about them and how much they are loved. At least once. It’s an amazing, powerful experience. Tracey pulled this off using her scrap booking prowess and finesse. She painstakingly mailed instructions with the necessary papers and return envelopes to my friends and family, who then took the time to write letters to moi and send them back to her with photos, which she then lovingly arranged into a scrapbook.

I’ve admired, and even envied, her family scrapbooks from afar. I never imagined I’d be the recipient of one. WOW.

I’m a little embarrassed about my reaction when I walked into their home at the start of the evening and was faced head on with the surprise. It’s an odd thing to have your mind firmly rooted in one idea and then, BLAMMO, in a flick of an instant that idea is shot to smithereens. My reaction time was slow on the uptake. Maybe it’s my age. But here I was, dressed in my earth mama, tealeaf reading, and hippie chick attire complete with peace sign necklace and babushka around the head, and I’m confronted with a room full of people staring. Gawking. At me. WTF. Understandably, that was my reaction.

Shoot, if I had a do over, I would have put my hands to my mouth and let out a squeal of surprise and excitement, maybe jumped up and down (if I weren’t wearing heavy 5 inch platforms that is). Instead, I felt like time stopped and I was slogging through mud while trying to grasp the sudden change in direction. (I hope I didn’t offend anyone in the process.)

What did compute was that my dear friends were there – some newer, some older, some waaaay older. Like Bill from college. COLLEGE. I had a friend from college at my 50th birthday party. See, it’s those things that remind me who I am when I forget. If someone who knew me 30 years ago still loves me, I must be okay.

Many of the friends and family who weren’t there were represented by their contributions in my AMAZING scrapbook. Did I mention how amazing it is? I stayed up until about 2 a.m. reading and rereading and savoring the comments and photos and memorabilia. Two of my friends are poets, who knew!?

It’s a little disconcerting how easily and thoroughly everyone lied to me. Straight-faced, no weird eye twitches or trying to hide a smile, lies. I think some people were just avoiding me because they knew they weren’t up for the charade.

Actually, as I look back on the days prior, there were a few little incidences that gave me pause. It’s like re-watching The Sixth Sense and seeing all the clues that were there for the viewers all along. I had my suspicions, but they weren’t for last night. They were for next week. Good one, Jay.

So, dear husband, thank you for not listening to me this time, or at least for realizing that, when you’re getting to be of a certain age, it’s especially important to be celebrated. I love you!

A kick in the blog

It’s a sad day when your blog starts trying to inspire you to write. That’s what happened today. Out of the blue, my blog – or blog site – sent out an old entry to my subscribers. Lest you think I did that as a way to recycle my writing, let me set the record straight. I have no idea why that happened, except of course because I haven’t written anything in almost two months and my own blog is giving me a gentle nudge.

And to think, I didn’t even realize that was a feature Live Journal offered.

I’ve had several ideas that I thought about blogging on – like, how people "clean for the cleaning people," or about the hippies and grungies in Asheville, or about our new OLF, for instance.

That’s right, OLF. Olivia and I have an OLF.

Now, I know some of you are probably wondering what on earth we’d be doing with an outlying landing field, in which case you’d be sadly misdirected. Our OLF, as Olivia coined her, is our new Old Lady Friend, and a Jewish one at that. We’ll call her Miriam.

The moment we met I knew that Miriam was no ordinary OLF. I had agreed to give her a ride to a celebration honoring our former assistant rabbi. When we arrived to pick her up, there she stood – slightly stooped – dressed in a fur coat and smart shoes with her nicely coiffed hair, at the top of her dangerously slanted driveway. Within minutes, Olivia and I learned much about her 84-year-long life – including how her husband died four years ago and how instrumental the rabbi had been in helping her through that process. She told us about the new puppy her vet convinced her to get to keep her company. And how this puppy – a cockapoo – was the first small dog she’d ever owned. She and her husband had only raised goldens in the past – big, regal dogs – but now she was in the club of “old women who owned small lap dogs.” As the vet said, at least this way she can pick the blasted thing up when she needs to. The dog, Lovey, plays with her Maine coon cat that’s almost twice its size, heedless of the potential dangers inherent in a swipe to the face.

Having never had children, Miriam lavished – and still does – much time and attention on her animals. Some were buried in Maine and some in Connecticut, both places she and her husband used to live and boat and work. Yes, they were sailors, adventurers, and travelers. She’s also an artist whose life work was spent in advertising and marketing. Now she does her art and sculpture in her sitting room with skylights, while on weekends she hands out samples of food products at a local grocery store. Well, at least she did before she took a spill on her dangerously slanted driveway when her little dog got underfoot.

“This driveway’s a bitch,” she announced when we returned home late that evening. Yep, this OLF is a keeper considering how perfectly she fits with our family.

Olivia and I rode our bikes to her home during spring break and took her puppy out for exercise and listened to Miriam bitch and moan about her aches and pains. “She and Grandpa would get along really well,” Olivia said.

The interesting thing to me is how much Olivia connected with her. Of course, Olivia’s been amazing me a lot in that area of late. (Have I written yet about our trip to Dallas with the cousins?) She was doting on her at the party we took her to. Many young people are intimidated or uneasy around the elderly, especially when they haven’t spent much time around them. But not Olivia. She took her by the arm and helped her up the steps without batting an eye. And you remember the story from last summer when she traveled to Florida with her grandpa and he called her the best guide dog ever.

So that was one story I was going to write about. And maybe, since I really need to hit the shower to go pick up our company who is arriving at the airport momentarily, I will leave you with this. Because surely after this weekend with Veronica, Todd and the family I will have plenty more to write about.

As for my blog trying to help me out of my block, it worked.

What's in a Name?

What’s in a name? A lot, apparently, when your last name is Diamond. Almost daily, someone somewhere makes a comment about my name. It used to be mostly women sales clerks saying, “Oooh, Diamond, what a great name.” But lately men join in, too. “Sweet name,” they tell me. “Sounds like a rock star or a radio personality.”

“Pam Diamond, private eye,” I retort. I got that from one of my former editors at the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. Whenever I’d come into the office he’d announce, “Pam Diamond, private eye.” I liked it. I kept it.

My daughter loves, loves, loves the story of how I met – or almost didn’t meet – her father and ultimately acquire the name. I met Patti Diamond in a shoe store in Dallas, Texas and, once she learned I was Jewish (What? Doesn’t everyone talk religion when buying shoes? Isn’t buying shoes a religion in and of itself?) she said, “Oh, you need to meet my brother-in-law.” He turned into a blind date, one of two I scheduled for the weekend. One date was for Friday and one was Saturday. I don’t remember how I got the other blind date for that weekend but I remember who it was with – Andy Shrimp. Yep, that’s right. A Jewish guy named Shrimp. (For the goyim reading this, shrimp isn’t kosher.)

This is the part my daughter loves. She says, instead of Pam Diamond I could have been Pam Shrimp. She says this laughing hysterically. Pam Shrimp. Imagine.

But it didn’t happen, because I cancelled both dates that weekend after coming down with the flu. I was deathly sick. Not, I don’t feel like going out, sick. I was SICK. So I called Shrimp first to give him the bad news. “Sorry to cancel but <sniff> I’m really sick and <cough> I will have to reschedule.” “Yeah, okay, right,” Shrimp said, unsympathetically and sounding as if he’d been blown off many times before and figured this was just another time. Had I the energy I might have tried to convince him otherwise, alas, I did not. I filed it under red flag “pissy phone manners” and instead, I called Jay to break the news, and the date, with him.

“Oh, I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well,” Jay said. “Let me know when you’re feeling better and we’ll get together then.”

Bye bye, Shrimp. Hello Diamond.

Suffice to say I never gave Shrimp another chance. Crikey, he couldn’t get past his own shrimpy little complex long enough to muster up some sympathy for me. Jay, on the other hand, being his sweet, sensitive self, got a date and the girl.

So, the moral is, if you have a name like Shrimp, it would behoove you to be courteous and sympathetic or you just might get dumped before you even have a chance to prove you’re more than your name implies. Whereas, when you have a name like Diamond, well, it speaks volumes.

More from the doula files...

This postpartum doula thing confuses people. First there’s the word doula. “What did you say?” “How do you spell that?” “What does it mean?” These are questions I’m frequently asked. To which I answer, doula is an ancient Greek word (pronounced due luh) that used to mean hand-servant but now means a woman who provides support to other woman, and in my case that support comes after the baby arrives. Postpartum. Following childbirth.

Actually, I’m not sure which throws people more, doula or postpartum.

To me, it’s obvious. I’m working with women AFTER birth. But people get stuck at postpartum and next thing you know they’re talking to me about someone they knew – sometimes themselves - who suffered miserably from perinatal mood disorders (the new postpartum depression, much like bipolar disorder is the new manic-depressive) and how much they could’ve benefited from someone like me. Well, yes, I do work with women suffering from PMD, but that’s not the bulk of what I do. Mostly I work with healthy new moms, guiding them in newborn care, breastfeeding, giving them time to sleep, shower and eat. You know, the things family members would typically do if they lived nearby or the relationships weren’t so dysfunctional.

But I find myself explaining my role over and over and over again. Obviously, this field is in need of some serious PR work, at least in the southeast where I happen to reside. Even my own daughter doesn’t get it. I heard her tell a friend that I baby-sit, or something.

I take offense to the babysitting thing. I am not a glorified babysitter. Show me a babysitter who can accomplish what I can with a family in 3 or 4 short hours. Not to mention some of the more unorthodox functions I’ve performed. One family had recently moved so I helped unpack boxes, organize drawers (good gosh, if she could see my own drawers she would’ve thought twice) and even hung a toilet paper holder that was lying on the floor in the bathroom. Another client’s father died while she and I were working together. I helped write letters and make phone calls on behalf of his estate. Another client’s husband had been a chef in a previous life. He would leave me detailed instructions for prepping the evening meal, in between helping his wife with breastfeeding issues and teaching her how to deal with a very, very fussy baby. One time he had me brine a chicken with salt and fresh rosemary snipped from the garden outside. By the time he went this far, I was starting to suspect that perhaps my husband was paying him to teach me to cook under the guise of them hiring me as a doula. I also saved some clients big bucks by averting a call to the plumber. Since we had recently unstopped our garbage disposal with this particular technique, I recommended they try it. Voila, it worked. And my latest unique success story was curing the dad’s snoring. Though they managed to procreate twins, the couple had been sleeping apart – she with earplugs – for quite a while. I suggested what worked for my husband, and they are now not sleeping but together for the first time in years.

So back to what to call my profession… The birth doula people have it easy. They only have to explain the doula part. Birth, even labor, is crystal clear. No explanation needed there. But how can I overcome the postpartum doula confusion? What else could I call it? After Birth Doula? That sounds like someone who deals with placentas and blood and performs odd rituals like planting pieces of the placenta under a tree. Not the image I’m going for. So until I come up with something else, I’ll keep explaining that, no I’m not a nurse who specializes in postpartum depression, but a certified doula who works with mothers after they have their babies. If you can suggest a way to say that in 3 words or less I’d be most appreciative.

Career change anyone?

I think I finally found something that I can do and get in on the ground floor and be a part of a huge change of consciousness. Literally.

It will make use of one of my pleasures in life – gardening.

It will allow me to contribute to helping others, which is important to me in a career.

I haven’t done enough research to confirm this but I think it will help the environment, also important to me.

And finally, I think it will bring in a really nice income – ALSO important.

I’m going to open a medical marijuana dispensary, right here in North Carolina.

Now, I haven’t worked out the particulars yet so don’t go all apoplectic on me. Instead, consider whether you want to join me in this venture. Do a little research, those of you who are so good at researching things (and you know if I’m talking to you). Share your wisdom. Let’s put our heads together and work this out.

Didn’t you see the movie Saving Grace? It’s like that, except legal. Well, I haven’t exactly confirmed that legal part yet but I’m looking into it.

It could be a family affair. I can get Sherry and Mark over from England since Sherry is a wiz in the green thumb department and Mark could easily handle the distribution since, correct me if I’m wrong, that’s what he does over there in the UK. Dad could put the word out to all his friends with aches and pains who can then get prescriptions from their docs. Jay can do the social media marketing and manage the sales reps. Jack can handle all the legal stuff and keep the feds off our backs. And Brett, well, with all his back troubles, he can be the quality control guy.

Our yard might not be big enough but I have a friend who happens to be a good researcher who has this great lot on the water who has been trying to figure out how to landscape her property. I might just have solved her problem. I won’t name any names. I’ll just look across the pond and whistle.

Or we could lease some land. Or buy some land. It’s a buyer’s market right now. The timing is right.

And maybe, once we get this venture off the ground, we could open up branches in Montana and Florida!

Okay, so let me know if you’re in. Then let’s come up with a name. I think the name Diamond will come in handy for this one.

And just imagine the writing material an experience like this will provide me. My life as a medicinal mj dealer, here I come...

From the doula files...

I've been helping out a young couple with newborn twins. The mom is suffering from severe perinatal mood disorders (PMD - formerly known as postpartum depression) and is hospitalized. The young father is handling EVERYTHING alone in between family coming in and out of town to offer support, including working full-time, driving to the hospital nightly and weekends, everything. The poor guy, he looked like deer in the headlights yesterday when he left for work, leaving me - a virtual stranger - to care for his babies. 

I took some classes in PMD recently and learned quite a bit on the subject. For instance, it afflicts men, too. Turns out that many men suffer from it, much like a form of post traumatic stress disorder. That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. They watch their partner turn into a raving lunatic during pregnancy, witness things they never imagined seeing during childbirth, then find their lives turned upside down by a crying, hungry, not sleeping, peeing and pooping all the time baby (or two or three) and a hormonal wife, to boot. It's Vietnam all over again.

So I get there this morning at 8 a.m. and it's eerie quiet. I start mixing up formula and washing last night's bottles and tidying up a bit when finally I hear a baby peep. Lo and behold, they are in the bassinet sleeping. Sweet. I figure, rough night for Dad, he must be catching up on some much-needed Zs because I don't hear the shower.

Time goes on. I sweep. I read a magazine. I eat my breakfast. Should I wake him, I wonder?

Then my imagination gets the best of me. I start thinking maybe he's suffering from that male PMD. Maybe last night was just too much for him and he took a few too many anti-anxiety pills and has OD'd upstairs. Shit. I'm not going up there to find him. What if it wasn't pills? What if it was gorier? What if there's blood? NO WAY am I going upstairs now. What the hell do I do? Text Jay, of course. "Honey, I think there's a dead man upstairs and I'm going to have to bring home 2 babies." The problem with that is they are a bit spit-uppy and my daughter has a serious aversion to babies that spit up, especially ones that spit up on her

Then, the phone rings. But I can't find the damn phone. It stops in mid answering machine message. Did someone answer it? Hmmmm.... Next thing I know, Dad is running down the stairs, he throws on his jacket (over his pajamas I think, not sure), hands me the phone and runs out the door. It was his wife on the phone. He overslept. Poor thing.

I sent him off with a chicken potpie for lunch or breakfast or whatever. I'm just grateful I didn't have to call 911.

Look under the bed, snake on the loose

Snakey got out. After more than eight years in captivity, it finally happened. He escaped. And so quickly, too.

First, let me clarify a couple of things. To simplify matters, I will refer to the snake as a he. We don’t know if it’s a he or a she. Finding out is just too complicated. So, he it is, and if you take issue with that, I apologize in advance for any offense. Secondly, we never officially named the poor snake. Over time, we just started calling him Snakey. He was the size of a pencil when Barry, our neighbor in our previous home near Garner, found him in the mulch. Barry called over budding science guy Zach and his future veterinarian sister Olivia to have a look and next you thing you know Jay was at the pet store buying a tank. That’s how these things happen. Jay did a little research first and found out it was an eastern king snake, a native to our area and a good snake to have around. They eat venomous snakes like copperheads and rattlesnakes and help keep the rodent population under control. Snakey has certainly had his share of rodents, which is why he’s now at least six feet long and a good-size carrot’s width around. 

His escape happened after a feeding. Jay fed him like he always does. He opened the screen on top of the tank a few inches, just enough to dangle a previously frozen rat in the cage. He wiggles it around a bit to make Snakey think he’s got a live one. Snakey did his little dance, moving up to and around the rat ever so slowly, then WHAMMO, he goes in for the kill, even though it’s already dead. Whatever. The snake needs to create some excitement for himself. Maybe he has a good imagination.

Jay went about his business of yard work leaving Snakey to his business of digesting his tasty treat. He tends to be pretty mellow after eating. It’s wild to watch this big lump move through the snake’s body. What Jay didn’t realize, though, was that he left the top open.

You’d think after eight years of life in a cage, the snake wouldn’t even think to consider, “Did he leave the top open this time?” In fact, I’m still wondering if snakes think at all. Jay swears they do. He will tell you with complete confidence that Snakey knows him and recognizes him and cares for him. And the feelings are mutual. Which is why, when he returned and found the top of the cage open and Snakey nowhere in sight, he was distraught. His heart thumped wildly as he frantically searched the garage for the snake. He felts pangs of loss at the thought of not getting Snakey back. In short, he realized how attached he was to his pet.

So really, can a man and a snake form a bond? Do snakes have emotions of, well, maybe not love – that seems a bit much – but attachment to their caretakers? Heck, I don’t know. I only know what I see, and that’s a snake who is well cared for, seems to enjoy being with humans and has grown big and strong in captivity (quite a bit bigger, in fact, than his brethren in the wild). Truly, he’s been a great pet. (Easy for me to say since I never take care of him.)

I’m sure you’ve heard some of the horror stories about escaped pet snakes. Especially the non-natives that seem to grow excessively large and are taking over Florida. They come slithering up and out of toilets after living in the sewer systems. Or, they get up in the engine of a vehicle and are maimed or killed when the car is started. Or they somehow find their way to the toddler’s room in the middle of the night and, well, we won’t go there.

Not to worry. He found Snakey. He was curled up under the shelving unit on which his tank sits. Jay thought he was frightened outside of his usual surroundings, and was relieved when found. He came toward Jay’s hand instead of running away like he could have. Thankfully, we have a happy ending. Man and beast, together again. 

(In case you can't see him right away, look in Olivia's sleeve and you'll see Snakey peeking out.)