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Thursday, May 28, 2015

There Comes a Time in Every Blogger's Life Where . . .

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock

            This week, I chose the topic, and I said:  Write about a guilty pleasure.

            I chose this subject as a sort of “flip” of a reader’s choice topic submitted by my friend Dawn, who suggested “Lifetime movies.”  Dawn knows I love Lifetime movies.  And I know Dawn loves Lifetime movies.  (Dawn and I have spent hours talking about Lifetime movies.)  Originally, I was going to actually write about Lifetime movies, but then a certain events sent me in another direction.  So, instead, I’m going to write about another guilty pleasure:  this blog.

            About a year and a half ago, Froggie invited me to join her blogging group, consisting of her, Merryland Girl (Melissa), and Moma Rock (Sara).  Each week, we’ve alternated choosing a topic, and we’ve always been free to elaborate as we wish (our only “restriction” was to shy away from marriage- and kid-heavy topics, as not everyone in the group is married/a parent).  I was (and remain) grateful and excited and flattered for the invitation, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  I’ve had my moments of stress, of course; sometimes, writing on a subject I didn’t choose was difficult, but it was almost always fun and rarely, if ever, felt like a chore (a few times, but not too often).  At worst, I’d face a week where I wasn’t sure where I’d find the time to write, and some weeks I didn’t.  I hated those weeks; I felt I’d let my blog women down.  Most weeks, though, I relished my writing time, and I really enjoyed reading the feedback from my Five Loyal Readers.  I learned as much about them as I did about myself through these posts, and I took great pride in their kind, encouraging words, and from the fact they cared at all about anything I’d have to say.  (Love you.)

            And therein lies the pleasure.  But where’s the guilt?

            The guilt comes from the weeks where I didn’t do something else I needed to do but still spent time blogging.  Maybe it only takes me an hour or so to write a post, but that time adds up and, sometimes, I truly should have spent it elsewhere.

            Like editing my own book.

            Or reading my friend Nancy’s manuscript (I swear I am getting it done.  I swear.)

            Or reading my friend Tommy’s sample chapter.  (Ditto.)

            Or finishing book reviews to which I’ve committed and reading new books so I can review even more.

            Or mailing the now ridiculously belated cards to friends and family recognizing birthdays and holidays I missed.

            Or setting up my middle daughter’s occupational therapy.  And registering her for middle school – complete with the dreaded IEP meeting.

            Or reading my eldest daughter’s study abroad packet.

            Or cleaning the house, so my husband’s head doesn’t explode and we don’t all die from cat hair inhalation. 

            So, yes, I guess it’s fair to say blogging is a guilty pleasure.

            And, like most guilty pleasures – peanut butter M&Ms, naps, even Lifetime movies – at some point, you need to take a break and do some real work (and eat some real food.  Damn you, Mars candy).

            Yes, I’m taking a break from blogging, or at least from blogging with my blog group.  I’m hoping to take a sabbatical of about a month, or roughly half the kids’ summer vacation.  In that time, I plan to work on my book and the manuscripts and the book reviews and my kids’ stuff, and maybe even some housework.  I may write a post here or there in that time (sometimes I can’t not write), but for at least a few weeks, I won’t commit to anything.  I need a break from the “deadline” inherent in blogging in a group.  I’m too Type A and conscientious to just blow off deadline after deadline, and I have too much respect for my blog women, who are as busy (or busier) than I but who still find the time to get everything done without missing a beat.

            I don’t know what things will look like when the blog group returns, as I don’t know whether we are all on the same page as to taking a break and/or continuing on down the road (like any group, we don’t always communicate well).  I am hopeful it will get worked out, one way or another.

            In the meantime, I urge you to continue checking in with Melissa’s fabulous book blog/website, Chick Lit Central, and maybe even check out some of the other blogs I suggested a few weeks ago.  (I don’t know whether my co-bloggers will continue to blog separately, but I’d recommend checking in now and then; the links are above.)

            Or, if you need a break from reading blogs, I wholeheartedly recommend grabbing a bag of peanut butter M&Ms and heading to the couch for a Lifetime movie marathon.  And when you feel the nap coming on, give in guiltlessly – because we all deserve a guilty pleasure now and then.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Take Me Home, Country Roads

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock

            Merryland Girl chose this week’s topic, and she said:  “I can't.”  Keep in mind, it's not a self-bashing exercise.  Here’s my take:

            It took me awhile to come up with a subject this week.  I mean, there are plenty of things I can’t do or can’t comprehend or can’t tolerate, etc., and I am happy to admit to and write about those.  But I wanted to stay true to Melissa’s wish that we not self-bash, so I passed.  And, anyway, I kinda hate when people dwell on that which they cannot do; it’s a downer.  And when they do dwell, their friends are all compelled to be like, “Awww, you can do it!” even though they really can’t.  (I’m looking at you, Facebook.) 

            I ran a bunch of topics through my head, but nothing felt right.  Until the morning late last week when I was walking down my new street in the burning sun and a strange thought hit me:  I can’t believe I live in Tennessee.  Even though I’ve been here for a few months (and a few months last year), I can’t believe I live here.  I mean live here, live here, like, my address is here.  I own property here.  My cars have Tennessee plates.  My kids go to school here.  Live here like that.  Even a few months in, it still seems weird.  Kind of surreal, actually.

            I feel this way even though in many ways living in Tennessee isn’t that much different than living in Illinois.  I still do mostly the same things.  I spend much of my time the same way I used to and with the same people:  my husband and my kids.  I get the kids ready for school and take care of them after.  I run errands, like grocery shopping.  I blog.  But there are differences when I do these things, noticeable ones.   My not-very-huge town has four WalMarts – FOUR – and only one Target.  I grocery shop at places like Kroger and Publix (so nice!) instead of Jewel, a chain that does not exist down here.  I now drive 30 miles each way to go to Whole Foods, and 35 miles to go to Trader Joe’s – as opposed to just three or four miles in Chicago (Evanston had two Whole Foods within a few miles of each other).  These aren’t Earth-shattering differences, but I notice.  Of course, I also notice that almost everyone has a Southern accent.  For a while, I feared I’d pick it up, but now I doubt it.  I don’t really hear it anymore, and it’s hard to undo decades of the nasal Chicago drone.  But the nine has a twang that grows daily.  She picked it up at school.

            And then there’s the school.  The kids’ Tennessee school is really different from the one in Illinois.  The new school has a big parking lot with a drop off and pick up loop; at our old (old) school, parents had to park on side streets and walk over and wait for dismissal (which is super fun when there’s eight inches of snow on the ground and it’s -10).  My kids receive free breakfast and lunch every day, including on the rare half day, and they receive free bus service both ways, as do all kids, regardless of their address.  (We live fairly close to the middle and high schools, yet the bus will take them.  This is contrary to Evanston, where kids who lived near the school had to get there and home on their own.)  And the differences extend beyond logistics.  I didn’t have to threaten to sue anybody to get services for the eleven, and she is no longer begging me to home school her.  Interestingly, the teachers and principal place a huge emphasis not only on educating the kids as to reading and math, but also as to raising proper young ladies and gentlemen.  My children must say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am.”  I’ve never seen anything like it – and I spent twelve years in Catholic school. 

            I pick them up at the bus stop and we walk the two blocks home.  Our house is different, too.  It’s significantly larger than our house in Illinois – and yet it cost a lot less, both in mortgage payments and in property taxes.  Our home is a new build in a new neighborhood within a huge, already-established subdivision.  Our old house was new (a gut rehab, so the foundation wasn’t so new) but it was located in an old neighborhood and not a subdivision.  New houses are springing up around me (ugh) and I’m still meeting the neighbors and will continue to do so as the houses are finished.  Most seem nice, and many are from somewhere else, which helps me feel less “Yankee go home” (though no one has ever said that – at least not to my face).  Overall, people are nice and polite, even when driving, which is mind blowing to me, a born-and-bred maniacal Chicago driver.  You know how when you are making a left turn and the light is green and you’re waiting for oncoming traffic to finish going through the intersection?  Down here, don’t even think about pulling into the intersection.  Everyone stays at or behind the turn lane line.  That took me awhile to get used to.  And I had to resist the urge to lay on the horn; you rarely hear that in Middle Tennessee.

            But the biggest difference between Tennessee and Illinois, to me, is the scenery.  Even a drive to the kid’s school looks nothing like that which I am used to.  The school is brand new and it’s built on former farmland.  There’s a two-lane road leading up to the school; to the left is an old silo, and wild turkeys roam the property.  (The school itself looks like an East Coast prep school, which doesn’t exactly match, but it’s impressive all the same.)  When I drive to the Whole Foods (one county and three towns due west), I take a two-lane road that winds past horse farms and cattle and half a dozen small churches scattered along the hills.  (I’m still awed each time I look over and see a cow grazing next to the road.)  My town is being built up like crazy, but we don’t have to drive far to be in the middle of rural grounds.  Or in the middle of Nashville.

            Funny enough, Nashville reminds me a bit of Chicago, with a little Los Angeles mixed in.  It has the Chicago neighborhood feel, as it is broken into clearly delineated areas with their own names and identities:  12 South, East Nashville, The Gulch, Belle Meade.  There’s even a downtown, though it’s s significantly smaller than the one I grew up near.  The Green Hills neighborhood has the West Hollywood, sunny, hilly feel, complete with the fancy mall and trendy restaurants, and Ann Patchett’s bookstore, Parnassus (across the road from the state’s only Trader Joes).  For these reasons, I almost instantly felt at home in Nashville.  But Nashville isn’t Chicago.  My old friends and family are nowhere to be found; I can’t see the landmarks I know so well (though the Batman Building is kinda cool).  Logistics are different too.  There is no “El” system.  I take I-24 instead of I-94, and I don’t know my way around very well at all.  I suppose, with time, I will.  (I try to go into Nashville once a week or every ten days so I can learn.)

            I still feel I am here only temporarily, even though that is not the plan.  There are several reasons for this.  First, I just haven’t been here long enough to have laid down anything even resembling roots.  We’ve begun doing house projects to make it feel like our home, but we still have boxes to unpack and pictures to hang and rooms to paint and even some mail to forward.  Then, too, there’s the fact my husband’s employer likes to relocate its employees, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t happen to him and thus to us.  Plus, in the past, every time I’ve moved out of state, I’ve returned to Illinois, so I’m not used to staying gone for more than a few years.  But mostly, I’ve spent the vast bulk of my life in the Chicagoland area, so any time I leave, I always expect to return.  Chicago has been my home in every sense of the word since I was born, and my roots run deep there.  I don’t plan on permanently returning (though I want to be buried there), but I’ve lived long enough to know I should never, ever say never.

            And so I wander around Tennessee, learning and seeing and doing, all the while carrying the feeling that I can’t believe I live here, that I’ll be leaving again soon.  I assume the feeling will eventually pass and one day I won’t even think about living somewhere else.  Of course, that will probably be the moment when my husband’s employer will transfer us to Minnesota, but that’s the topic for another chapter of “I can’t believe I live here,” one I hope happens far into the future, if it happens at all.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I'm With the Band

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock

This week, Moma Rock chose, and she asked, If you could travel with any band for one week, which band would it be, and why? What sort of experiences do you think you'll encounter? This can be a band currently in existence or one that is no longer, the sky's the limit!

            I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Ooh, Denise is going to write about Bon Jovi!”  In the shared opinion of Moma Rock and Merryland Girl, the world would spin off its axis if I didn’t write about Bon Jovi.  Locust would rain from the sky!  My Five Loyal Readers would be crushed!  Give the people what they want!

            Sorry, guys, but I am not going to write about Bon Jovi.  Well, I’m not going to write about traveling with Bon Jovi.  And here’s why.

            First, I’ve been a Bon Jovi fan long enough to know that “traveling with the band” these days is pretty uneventful.  Jon has often spoken about touring and what it entails.  The days of party-filled bus rides are long gone.  Jon and David Bryan (keyboards) are 53 – and they are the babies of the band (Tico, the drummer, cleared 60 a few years ago).  The band hasn’t traveled via bus in decades, opting for a private jet.  Jon has said the first thing he does when he gets to a hotel is ask the location of the restaurant and the gym.  I have a feeling naps are involved (I’m up – I mean down – for that).  Jon runs Bon Jovi like the business it is, and there’s little place for unmitigated fun when you’re working.  I’ve no desire to watch Jon Bon Jovi make phone calls.  (Well, I do, but not in this particular scenario.)

            And this leads me to reason number two of why I don’t want to travel with Bon Jovi for a week:  I am completely terrified of meeting Jon Bon Jovi.  The reasons are numerous and might not be obvious, so I’ll explain.

            First, there is the obvious.  I full on expect that, should I ever be within 10 feet of Jon Bon Jovi, I will, ahem, overreact.  This might include total paralysis, rendering me unable to move or speak.  This is actually preferable to the other imagined alternative, which involves crying, fainting, and loss of control of bodily functions followed by a phone call to my lawyer friend, Tina, to bring the bail money.  I almost cannot wrap my mind around meeting the man I’ve loved from afar for more than 30 years.  It seems impossible, like I’d be entering another universe.  I fear my reaction.  I don’t want to be that fan.

            Then there’s my fear of how Jon would react.  What if he isn’t nice?  I’ve heard a mixed bag of stories – some good, some not so good – what if I catch him at a bad time?  Worse – what if it isn’t love at first sight?  He’s supposed to sweep me off my feet and carry me away to his castle in New Jersey!  What if I get a mere, “Hey, how’s it going?”  Or worse??  I’d be crushed.  This fear is based in reality.  Two summers ago, Michelle, my Sister-in-Bon-Jovi, and I went to a suburban Chicago mall to meet Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, who was in town promoting his clothing line, Nikki Rich.  The meet and greet was set to start at 11:00am.  It started at 3:00pm.  The reason offered by the store was that Richie was having a “rock star moment.”  Richie’s “moment” led to hundreds of fans standing around for four hours – with no acknowledgment by Richie of the inconvenience (his partner, Nikki Lund, did, indeed, apologize).  When Michelle and I finally walked up to Richie, we were both tired.  Annoyed.  We handed him our swag to sign.  He was nice (he’s always nice) but disconnected.  He looked tired.  He didn’t smell good.  Michelle showed him a photo of her and Richie taken decades ago, but he barely seemed to recognize himself.  The whole thing was weird and disappointing, not the kind of thing you wait 30 years (or even four hours) to experience, not the kind of meeting you want to remember.  Would Jon equally disappoint?  I don’t think so, but I truly don’t want to know.

             But that’s not my biggest fear.  For that one, I’ll share a story.  Years ago, Phil Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls, back when it featured megaplayers like Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.  Phil Jackson brought his young son (I think he was about 8) to meet Michael, who happened to be his son’s hero.  They had a good meeting, after which Phil asked his son how he felt about his face to face with Michael Jordan.  Instead of elation, his son responded with sadness.  He said something to the effect of, “I already met my hero – now I have nothing left to look forward to!”

            I get that.

            I can’t help but think that, after 30 years of hoping and wishing and pining, something would be lost should I actually meet Jon Bon Jovi.  This has nothing to do with Jon disappointing me – it has to do with my dream coming true.  What remains?  I’d like to think that Phil Jackson’s son found another hero or conjured another dream, but I wonder whether that hero or that dream could ever truly hold the place once held by Michael Jordan.

            All of this means that on some level I don’t want to travel with Bon Jovi for a week.  Would I say “no” should the opportunity arise?  Of course not.  (I mean, I’m not stupid.)  But I would step onto that plane/into that hotel with a heap of trepidation in my heart, trepidation borne less out of concern that I would somehow disappoint and more out of fear that he would.  I don’t want to see the man, the mere mortal, the one who uses the gym and seeks out the restaurant and pounds cups of coffee and an occasional cigarette.  I would rather hold onto the dream, to the yearning, to the Superman who flies through the air (or who used to, anyway), who brings me to my knees with a mere shake of the maracas. 

            And, so, I choose to stand on the ground and dream of the Bon Jovi jet flying high above, off to the next show.  And while I’m doing so, maybe I’ll stick out my thumb and hitch a ride on Motley Crue’s tour bus.  There is absolutely zero chance of any illusions being shattered on that trip.