Friday, June 24, 2011

Thrifty Rubicon

Where to begin? I am writing this post in paradise. I couldn’t be luckier and I am thankful beyond words for the fact that I am on vacation with my family in Hawaii.  My brother lives here and is getting married. My very generous parents have provided us a place to stay with them.  The only things we had to pay for were the flights, rental car and we will try to buy all the groceries, although my parents will protest.  Even with all the help it is a lot of money just to fly here from the east coast.  That being said, I need to file a complaint about “Thrifty” Rental car company.  They take full advantage of overtired and overworked husbands who need ego boosts.  
The planning process for this trip started almost a year ago, with a budget and penny pinching. Since I don’t get paid for any job that I do, and my husband is the sole provider of money in our household, I feel responsible for making sure that every cent counts and gets stretched as far as possible.  In February I started scouring the internet for flights rental cars and a short hotel stay between the two 6 hour flights needed to get us to Hawaii.  I had a vision of spending the least amount of money while still maintaining our sanity.  Mission Accomplished!  I got amazing prices on direct flights.  The hotel not only included free breakfast, but FREE dinner!  I had more of a difficult time finding a car rental for 18 days that did not send us into a downward spiral into debt.  But finally after many late night internet searches and a couple of phone calls, I got it.  A full size vehicle, WITH tax for 18 days for a grand total of.....wait for it..... $537!  Now that is still a LOT of money, but I defy any of you to find a cheaper price.  Go head, I dare ya!   
Things were going smoothly.  My husband was duly impressed with our flights and accommodations. My masterly organized, systematic packing system allowed us to check only 4 duffle bags for a family of four.   Then we get to Hawaii.  It is paradise, such a feeling of calm comes over you when you step off the plane.   Next, “Thrifty”  Car Rental. I put the title in quotes only because it truly is thrifty only if you have a mind to make it so.  There was a very long line as everyone who was on incoming flights to Honolulu, must have bargained a similar deal to mine.  Since the deal that I penned on-line listed my husband as the primary driver, I situate myself, the kids and our bags in a secure location and arm my husband with the paperwork.  This is my fatal flaw.  I send my wonderful, tired husband into the long line of the car rental dealership.  Now all he had to do was hand them the paperwork, get our full sized vehicle and get us in the car.  I wait with the kids patiently.  They are bored but still excited from the flight.  They keep asking “Mommy do you think we will get a truck/a convertible/ a motorcycle with a side car?”  I tell them “No honey, things like that cost extra.  We are just getting a regular car.”  While we were waiting, and my husband was in line, I was watching all the cars that were being pulled around for the customers.  I saw quite a few Jeep Rubicon’s.  This is one of the hubby’s dream cars.  Something he dreams of driving with a mountain bike, fishing rod and kayak in the back, four wheeling to a remote destination where he is the most interesting man in the universe.  
My dear husband comes out of the office raising his hands in the air with the rock horns You know, index finger and pinky in the air with the middle and ring fingers being held down with the thumb only one word is spoken “RUUUBICOOONNNN!”  At first I thought ‘Wow he negotiated an upgrade on my deal. NICE!’  Then he says “So, how much were we supposed to spend on the rental?”  WHAT???  Did he just say this to me?  I look at him dismayed, and bewildered.  I mean I gave him all the paperwork.  All he had to do was hand it over, sign the paper and be on his merry way!  He is an engineer for chrissakes.  He negotiates multi million dollar deals for his company.  All he had to do was hand over a paper.  Then I ask to see the paperwork.  He looks at me and says “Oh, she took it all.  We will get it back when she brings around the RUBICON”  He is positively giddy.  He tells me he thinks it was only $18 a day more?  MORE!!! Are you kidding me?  When he finally starts to realize that I am having a small conniption, he starts to look concerned.  Then I get the “What?”  Ladies who have husbands, you all know what this “what?” is.   It is the loaded question that says, ‘what did I do wrong now, and how can I make it look like you are overreacting or that it was ultimately your fault?’
We finally get the Rubicon that has 35000 miles on it. It is, let’s say, well used.  I am now given the task of securing the car seat in this metal contraption.  The base of the car seat hardly fits on the back seat of the car.  For all of you who have installed car seats, you know how difficult and frustrating it is.  For those of you who have not had this pleasure imagine trying to tighten a belt on pants that are 3 sizes too big, while not bunching up the material, or having the belt touch your skin.  Oh, and this belt and pants have to save your child’s life if there is an accident.  Once the seat is secure and I am done teaching my children new ‘bad’ words, we are off.  Oh wait, we have to pull over so my husband can learn all the features of his new ride and try to figure out how to adjust his side mirrors for 20 minutes.  (By the way, they are manual, you have to physically move them.)  The ride is not in any way comfortable. It is bouncy, rugged, and for people 20 years younger than us.  I see him try to hide his disappointment when he realizes this along with the fact that he has no arm rest.  This may not sound like a big deal but to ‘rugged man,’ it is. 
This is when I open the glove box and see the damage that was done to our credit card.  Honestly, I am not kidding when I say that it is more than double what I budgeted.  DOUBLE that which I negotiated originally.  I offer him one question, “this is a lot of money, really a lot of money, what were you thinking?”  He tells me that they said it was only $300 more for the upgrade (they never mention the extra $250 in taxes)  and they told him he had a really nice Hawaiian shirt on, for a mainlander.  Really?  That is all it took?  Some fast numbers and a stroke of the ego?  I try to remember that I love my husband and that he deserves to get a Jeep Rubicon, if he wants a stinkin’ Jeep Rubicon.  When I look over at him with fire in my eyes and I see his joy/frustration/fear at my reaction, I decide that I have to let this go.  He instantly says, “So I guess you are going to blog about this?”  Yes dear husband, yes I am. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Ode to Dads - from Momma

One thing that mothers get is a lot of recognition just for being mothers.  On this Father’s Day, I need to recognize the fathers.  Being a father today is not the same as it once was.  There is more nurturing, involvement and expressions of love than there ever was expected in the past.  Fathers today are more partners in parenting than they ever where before.  My husband is just as responsible as I am to make sure that our child is potty trained, has a good sleep schedule and has proper nutrition.   We combine forces to maintain a united front against whining, fighting, messy rooms, bad hygiene and the like.  
There are times he is seen as the fun loving, rough and tumble, “good guy.”  This is something we, as mothers have to allow and even encourage.  “Father-child interaction promotes a child’s physical well being, perceptual ability and competency for relating with others. These children also demonstrate greater ability to take initiative and evidence self-control.” - (  There are certain things that dads just do right.  The rough-housing, horse play that makes us mom’s cringe is so important in our children’s development.  “When fathers play with their toddlers, they are not just entertaining them. They are providing a safe, yet challenging arena for toddlers to learn how to interact with the world and with others. Through rough-and-tumble play, fathers create obstacles for their children and demand respect for limits and boundaries. At the same time, they challenge their children and encourage them to explore their own strength, their ability to do new things, and their impact on the world around them. Toddlers who must work out for themselves how to achieve goals-such as retrieving a ball that is just out of reach in their father's hand or wrestling their father to the ground-are practicing important problem-solving skills. In fact, when fathers are good at playing with their young children, these children score higher on tests of thinking and problem-solving skills.” -   
Fathers provide the love, stability and laughter that every family needs.  I am very lucky to have a husband who does all this and more.  He is the perfect role-model to our boys.  He provides goofy-ness and laughter with security and love like no other.  My own father provided me with the confidence and self-assurance that allowed me to become the woman I am.  He also showed me humor and kindness.  He is a constant example I look to.  Without his  presence, guidance and love, I would not be who I am today.  
So to all you fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day.  Thank you for being Dad!  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Penis Envy?

I  have 2 sons and a husband and they all have a penis.  I know this not only because it is common sense but because, they are always, referencing, grabbing, holding, pinching, scratching or observing it.  It seems as though it is an unconscious obsession that starts at the age of 3, sometimes earlier.  I remember when my older son was 3 or 4 He would get a bath and examine, pull and stretch his “pieces” within an inch of its life.  He would ask “Mama, do you have a “pieces?””  I would respond, “I don’t have a penis only boys and men have a penis.”  He would then go through a list of people and ask if they had a penis.  I would answer accordingly.  Then he asked, “Do boy choo-choos have a penis?”  When I would say I did not know, looking at me in horror he would say,  “But Mama, they HAVE to!”  It’s this concern and information gathering that always astounded me.  
Now my younger son, is also concerned and questioning.  He looks at it and laughs.  He stretches it up and asks it if it has any pee pees in it.  While we were in the pediatrician’s office for his yearly check, she was examining him and gave him a little flash light to play with. When he was completely naked, he instantly placed the flashlight between his legs and exclaimed “ Doctor, this is my penis! Right there, there it is!”  
I deal with this on a daily basis, so when a congressman, football player, preacher, or musician decide to tweet, e-mail or text a picture of their penis, I am not surprised.  As a matter of fact I am not even phased.  It is a little known fact that the penis is not that big of a deal to us women.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is a time and place where it is a very big deal.  But it is not in a tweet.  The comedian Kristin Schall on the Daily Show, said it best, ( when she said “Men have to realize, their penis has FAR more power over them then it does over us.”  I have to say, not having one sometimes makes me wonder what its all about.  It’s a pretty ridiculous piece of flesh hanging there. I mean, our female parts, while being somewhat obvious really don’t hold that much self interest.  My only concern is that everything is covered.  With all the maintenance that goes into our parts, you would think that we would be taking pictures and putting up billboards.  But that is reserved for the very special bodies, not the every day ones.  
If I was a man with an average body and a penis that somewhat resembled every one else’s, I couldn’t imagine that a picture of my penis would do anything for anyone.    The penis texters are usually pretty powerful, high profile guys.  Not all are stupid, but all really think that someone is interested. Being that delusional is just sad, isn’t it? It turns out that the only ones interested are themselves.  Then, that interest sparks the downfall of their personal relationships.  It is pathetic in a way.  
As for my own sons, I won’t stifle their natural and cute fascination with their body (not that I could)!  But I hope I am able to teach my boys that they are special and wonderful. That they should respect their bodies and the bodies of others.  And that tweeting pictures of their body parts can only lead to trouble.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Living the life of Riley

When I am having a bad day and I am frustrated, I think of Nana, who went through so much in her life and realize I don't have anything to complain about.  She was a strong woman who stood a whole 4'10" tall.  The first half of her life was not easy to say the least.  She often said that the second half made up for it. Nana had many sayings, "Good things come in small packages, even poison, sometimes its the quickest way to go," "Living the life of Riley," "two heads are better than one, even if mine is a cabbage head."  One thing that always made me laugh was when she would say, "Men need women, but women don't need men. We never have and we never will."

Nana was my great grandmother.  She was born in 1905 and she died 16 days after her 96th birthday.   Her stories and her legacy live on through all her decedents, that include 3 children, 8 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and 8 great great grandchildren.  I had the honor of knowing her, learning from her and enjoying her company until I was almost 29 yrs old.  I grew up listening to her horrific, terrifying and mesmerizing stories.  She never pulled any punches when telling stories of her life, therefore neither will I.   Nana was the 2nd daughter of Italian immigrants.  Her early childhood was traumatic at best and I will tell that story at another time.  At the age of 18 Nana was matched with her husband. This was arranged by her father.  She always referred to her husband as "the Devil." I honestly did not know his name for years. When I was little, I seriously thought that he was the actual Devil, in human form and worried that I was a decedent.  I mean I was raised Catholic so my guilt meter was already set pretty high.  Nana, who was also Catholic, was married in a Catholic Church and said that she did not understand a word of the ceremony. She always said  "I did not say yes, no, I don't know, maybe, or nothin'.  I don't even know if the marriage was official."

She lived in New York and went to Chester, Pa to meet her fiance.  He was very handsome, with blond hair and light eyes.  "his family must have had some northern Italy in them," she would say.   She went on the visit dressed nice and wore her hair down.  It was long, wavy and auburn.  She sat in silence while the families talked.  The next month, he and his mother made a surprise visit to her home in Brooklyn.  It was a Saturday, she was cleaning and had her hair pulled up in a kerchief.  She heard a knock at the door and hastily ran to answer it.  When she opened the door, and saw her future husband and mother-in-law, she was embarrassed and ran upstairs to change while they waited.  When she came back down.  He smiled and said "I see you still have your long hair.  That is good. If you had cut your hair I would have killed you!"  She smiled but realized later that he was not joking.

Their marriage was not a happy one.  He was verbally and physically abusive.  He would not let her leave the house without him.  When he would go out with her he would make her walk ahead of him.  If another man looked at her he would beat her when they got home.  He was a brick layer and one of the best around.  He made good money but she never saw it.  She gave birth to all three of her children alone in the house.  She would send for the doctor and by the time he would get there the baby would be born and she would clean up and make him something to eat.  Her babies were her joy.  She adored them.   She was alone with her children most of the time.   They were very poor and she would steal when she had to, in order to get food for them.  There were people who knew of her situation and would sometimes drop off food.  There were a group of firemen who would collect pastries and doughnuts and bring them to her and the children.  They lived in a home with no heat, no running water and no electricity.  She had a well out back for water.  She told of many a winter when she had to chop the ice on top of the well and melt it to get water.  On very cold nights she would take bricks and put them in the fireplace in the fire to get them very hot.  Then she would wrap the bricks in towels and put them in the foot of the bed, that she shared with her three young children.  This would make sure their feet did not freeze in the night.

Her husband would be gone for days sometimes weeks at a time.  When he would come home, it was rarely a happy reunion.  He had many mistresses.  One in particular she even remembered her name.  (I wish I could, I think it was Margery)  Margery was a very pretty young girl.  She was in the local "tap room"  telling the firemen and the other patrons that she was engaged to Dominic.  They all said "who, Dominic? He is married with three kids and beats the hell out of his wife." They told her where Nana lived and said, "go see for yourself!"  Nana heard a knock at the door and this very pretty young woman asked her if she was married to Dominic. She said yes and invited her in. They talked for quite some time.  Margery showed Nana a jewelry box filled with jewelry that "the Devil" had given her.  This angered Nana more because they had so little.  She devised a plan.  She told Margery what time he was expected back that evening.  Nana asked Margery if she would come back to confront him.  When "the Devil" saw young Margery at the door, he was enraged calling her a whore and demanding to know why she was at his house.  Margery threw the jewelry box in his face and left.  Nana got breif satisfaction seeing his embarrassment and pain from the jewlrey box hitting him in the forehead.  She paid for that satisfaction with the worse beating of her life.  He had her in a corner and was punching her in the face and banging her head from one wall to the next.  He knocked out the teeth that she had left and she passed out.  When she woke up her oldest son and daughter were just getting home from the movies.  They found her on the floor.  Her son, who was about 15, rounded on his father and said, "If you put another hand on her I'll  kill ya!"  The Devil's response to his son was "Well you know it is time to leave when your kids are not afraid of you anymore."  And he left for good.  It was the happiest day of her life.  After enduring him for 18 years she was finally rid of him.  

She did find happiness later and married the great grandfather that I knew and loved.  (That is another story and a wonderful one at that.)  I tell this story for the same reason I believe she told her stories, just to put things into perspective. I think we all need a reminder at times that we don't have it so bad.  I have a loving husband who is an amazing father.  Yes, we get on each other's nerves at times, but it is really not that bad.  It's important to remember the good qualities of our spouse, even when they are showing us their bad ones. Our lives are what we make them.  Times are very different now.  If my husband started beating me, there would be no other choice but to leave.  But my point is, the majority of us don't have it so bad, but we make it bad. Nana had it bad, and was a victim for a long time, but she persevered.  Back then society was so much different that she could not pick up and leave. However, she eventually moved on and found happiness.  I have a great life and I thank my Nana every day for her strength and the lessons she taught.