Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kitty Knows Best

I have a new admiration for Halloween. Of course, there is a lot to love about it - well, at least there is the whole candy thing. This year, though, I have a new appreciation for the simplicity of this holiday.

Halloween doesn't come with complicated back stories, like Christmas does - I don't have to muddle through difficult questions about how Santa really gets to all those houses in one night, how he fits down the chimney, or whether or not Elves know how to make Nintendo DS cartridges.

It doesn't have the logistical issues of Thanksgiving - travel plans, who is going where and when, congested highways full of grumpy travelers.

It isn't even all that over-commercialized. It seems like the great Merchandisers in the Sky already have their sights set on December when Halloween rolls around.

Halloween is straightforward: get yourself a costume, go around knocking on doors, come home with a bagful of candy. End of story. Right?

This year, Greta stayed true to her original idea of wanting to be a black cat for Halloween. Finn wanted to be a ghost, then Indiana Jones, then a dog, and then a cowboy... before settling on the idea of being a dragon. I sighed in relief - we inherited a perfect hand-me-down dragon costume from my sister-in-law a couple of years ago, so he was all set. For the past two days he babbled happily to anyone who stood still long enough to listen that he was going to be a "fyah bweathing dwagon". I didn't give his costume another thought.... until this morning, that is, when we were suiting up to head out to a daytime Halloween party.

Greta was good to go - we had assembled her costume days ago. She wore it around the house almost non-stop for the past four days.

"Go and grab your dragon costume, Finn," I said moments before we had to head out the door. It is one of the fleece costumes you just step into and zipper up. No mess, no fuss.

A few moments later he wanders into the room with a puzzled expression. "It's not where it's 'posed to be," he says.

I stride confidently over to the costume drawer, certain he has missed it. Not there. I burrow through the playroom, the kids room, and every closet. No dragon costume. I'm pawing through boxes in the basement when it hits me... an image of me angrily stuffing the costume into a bag bound for Goodwill after the umpteenth time I tripped over it lying on the floor.

Finn has no costume.

By now he is looking up at me with a furrowed brow. "You have my costume, right Momma?" he pleads. His eyes are huge. "I weally, weally want to be a fyah bweathing dwagon!"

I'm frozen on the spot.

"Uh.... er.... ummmm." I stutter.

Greta looks at me uncertainly. "You do have his costume, right Mom?"

"Well, no. No, actually I don't," I begin. I'm at a complete loss for words. One big fat tear rolls down Finn's cheek.

Greta gives me a pointed look, and rummages through the costume drawer. She emerges with a Scooby Doo costume - another hand-me-down.

"LOOK, Finn!" she says. "It's Scooby Doo!"

Finn sniffs. "It's not a fyah bweathing dwagon," he says, looking at the floor. "I don't wanna be Scooby Doo."

I'm still standing there like a deer in headlights. Greta says, "Well, the Scooby Doo costume is for big boys. I don't know if you're old enough to wear it yet."

Finn perks right up. "YES I AM!" he shouts. "I wanna be Scooby Doo!!!!"

We zip him into the costume, and he struts around proudly. I pull Greta aside and give her a hug. "You are the best big sister, hon. Thank you."

She grins. "I know."

Sometimes, they fight like cats and dogs. Today? Not so much.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Twice Monthly Giveaway - New Items!

Congratulations to Aik, who won the last giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who entered!

Thanks for all your feedback on items you like in my shop. The Vintage Style Flower Ring and Little Love Nest Ring were the two items picked the most, so this week's giveaway is a choice between either ring!

To keep things interesting, this time I will be picking TWO winners!

I apologize that the Contact Me widget isn't up and running, I'm trying to find one that will consistently work. To enter, please comment below this post, saying you would like to enter, which ring you would like, and provide an email or link where I can reach you. If you feel more comfortable emailing me directly, I can be reached at

Here are the rings:

Click on any image to view that item in my Etsy store.

The winner will be picked at random on November 15th (my daughter draws a name from a hat), and I will email you if you win.

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thank You

Thank you to everyone for all the support. Steve and I are really pleased with the show, and are grateful to have been a part of it. I have been following the discussion threads on today, and there are women coming forward and talking about their drinking; this is such an important first step.

I really appreciate all your comments - thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm looking forward to settling back in to our little routine here, and moving ahead one day at a time.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Getting It Out There

I have been trying, for the past few days, to post something light hearted - funny things the kids have said, some vignette from daily life. But I've got nothing. My mind is completely absorbed in what has been happening over the past week and a half. I have struggled with whether or not to post about it, and what to write.

As I posted previously, my husband and I will be part of an Oprah show on Tuesday about mothers who drink in secret, with a focus on recent headlines of tragic accidents that occurred when mothers drove drunk. Steve and I were on to talk about our own experience with my alcoholism, how I kept it hidden for so long and the roles shame and denial played in our story.

We had to dig deep to figure out whether or not to do the show. I won't go in to all of it, there isn't a reason to, but ultimately I knew that if I had seen a show about this when I was struggling, it would have made me take a look at myself, just a little bit. It may have broken down just a small part of my wall of denial.

Even though I'm open about my recovery, even though I feel strongly that in order to combat alcoholism and addiction we need to talk about it, openly and honestly, this takes it to a whole new level. I'm scared, fearful of judgment and criticism, afraid of being vulnerable. I feel a lot like I did when I first got sober, with one important difference: shame.

When I was drinking the shame of my addiction, the stigma of being an alcoholic mother, was so great it kept me stuck even after I knew I had a problem. I felt like the only person in the world who did the things I did, felt the way I felt. I couldn't imagine a way to ask for help, certain that the world would abandon me because I was a terrible, weak person. When I went to treatment and learned I wasn't alone, that I had a disease, and that other women, other mothers, experienced the same things I did it loosened the grip my addiction had on me, just a little. It gave me courage to at least give sobriety a try.

Now I know the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is feeling badly for something you did, and shame is feeling badly for who you are. Shame kept me sick. Facing guilt, working through the wreckage of what I had done, and finding a sense of self-worth helps me heal.

Addiction is a controversial and uncomfortable thing to talk about. I don't pretend I can explain it. I don't have any answers. But I believe that talking about it, getting more information out there, is progress. We can't heal from something we can't face.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I haven't posted in a while - it has been a busy week. There is an important Oprah Winfrey Show on alcoholism coming up this Tuesday, October 27th - specifically the Diane Schuler tragedy, mothers who drink in secret and how addiction affects them and their families. My husband and I were able to be part of the show, and if you want to learn more about this, please watch. Edited to add: this show covers material that may not be appropriate for younger children.

On a completely different note - thank you to everyone who is entering the giveaway - I am keeping track of everyone and putting your names in the hat. The Contact Me widget isn't working (I hope to fix it soon), so please enter through the comment section on the post. I usually try to respond to everyone personally, but I haven't been able to this week. Thanks to all who are entering, and my daughter will pick the winner on the 30th!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Twice Monthly Giveaway - New Item!!!

Congratulations to Erica J. who won the Square Swarovski Ring Giveaway! Thank you to all who entered!

This week's entry is good for any TWO rings in my shop! Over 120 rings to choose from! To see the ring section of my Etsy shop, click here. Here is just a small sampling of ideas (click on any picture to go to that item in my store) :

To enter, please fill out the Contact Me form on the right hand side of the screen, and send me a message indicating you would like to enter the giveaway. To win additional entries, tell me about which rings are your favorite - you will get one entry for each ring you mention!

The winner will be chosen at random (my daughter picks a name from a hat) on October 30th.

Thanks so much!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten Years

"Just think," Greta said the other day. "If you and Dadda hadn't walked down that hallway at work and seen each other... I wouldn't be here today."

Steve and I have our ten year anniversary this week. It seems like a really long time in many ways, and yet it also went by in a blink of an eye.

We met at work, 16 years ago. I had been working there about a year, when a new cute 26 year old single guy started. Greta's right -he caught my eye right away. Although, truth be told, another co-worker was interested in him, and I was already involved with someone, so I graciously set them up. We were good friends for a couple of years, long enough for my relationship to end and for my prayers that his wouldn't work out to be answered.

Looking back on it, I'm grateful for the six years we dated before getting married. I know now that it helped us build a strong foundation we would need in later years. If you asked me at the time, though, I would have bounced up and down in frustration that we didn't get married right off the bat.

We married in 1999, were both working at terrific jobs, happy, mostly carefree, and ready to take on the world. We hung out with a huge group of friends, most of whom were still single or just settling down. It did, truly, seem that those freewheeling days would never end.

I had Greta two years after we were married, and we were living in a suburb west of the city. Steve had a great job in downtown Boston, and I was ready, I thought, to settle into being a full time stay-at-home Mom.

Welcome to Adulthood.

Three years later, we moved into the house we're in now, he started a new job, and I gave birth to Finn.

The real work of keeping a marriage and a family together began.

By this time I was slipping ever so slowly into the grip of addiction, and was overwhelmed by motherhood and holding down a job working from home. The daily grind of working, taking care of the kids and paying bills was in full swing.

We had to dig deep, figure out what we're made of. There were more than a few times when we both wondered if we'd make it.

When I hit Rock Bottom and went to treatment, we honestly didn't know if our marriage would survive. In the end, we drew on our deep friendship, our mutual respect for the people we had been, and the people we hoped to become.

And today? I have a deep, abiding respect for this amazingly strong man I married. We can go for days without really seeing each other, appreciating each other. But we work harder now to remember that small gestures of love and support mean a lot. We have gratitude.

The other day I was thinking that if someone had shown me, back at the tender age of 24 when we first met, a snapshot of our life today I would have thought: wow, really? Do I really get to have all that?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Don't Think About Polar Bears

Step One in the twelve step program of recovery is this: we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

I remember the moment I finally, truly understood what this meant. The second part of the equation wasn't hard to admit. Until the very end, the outside looked okay. The inside was a complete mess. When you are in the throes of addiction, your every waking (and sometimes sleeping) thought is preoccupied with drinking, or trying not to drink. It is like having a voice whispering in your ear every second: whatever you do, don't think about polar bears. Despite your best efforts, you spend the day thinking about polar bears, or thinking: here's me not thinking about polar bears.

When you are an active addict or alcoholic, you have robbed your mind of the ability to process emotions naturally. Anxious? Bored? Angry? Tired? Sick? Sad? I couldn't handle any of it, and because my addiction had taken over every aspect of my life I felt a lot of these emotions, pretty much all the time. I didn't have any other coping skills, so I'd think: I just need to get out of my head for a little while, turn down the volume on these crappy feelings. I would try to manufacture a feeling of normalcy by having a drink.

And then there is the biggie: Guilt. As a mother, there are ample opportunities in my day-to-day life to feel guilty, and society puts a lot of pressure on mothers to be perfect. Let's be honest, mothers put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect, too. At least I do.

Mothers get in trouble with alcohol the same way any other addict does: oftentimes slowly, over time. What starts as a way to unwind after a hard day starts to gain momentum and importance. For me, it became the only way I could turn off anxious, guilty or bored thoughts. Mothers don't own the copyright to those emotions, but when I became a mother I experienced them with a lot more frequency than I had before. I felt like good mothers didn't struggle with parenting like I did. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be examples of women wallowing in the joy of motherhood: the television, magazines, playgroups. Society doesn't leave a lot of room for mothers to be a their wits' end. I felt like I was supposed to love the job all the time, and the guilt amped up when I was overwhelmed, stressed, tired and just. plain. bored.

Drinking became, over time, the only way I could put aside those feelings of guilt and I was loathe to give it up.

So back to Step One. I could admit, at the end, that my life was unmanageable. But the first part took more time. I didn't want to admit that I was powerless over alcohol, that I no longer controlled what happened if I had one drink. That I was drinking without my own permission. To admit this, in my mind, was to admit that I was a bad mother. If I'm honest with myself, the fear of being branded a bad mother was stronger than the fear of admitting I had a problem with alcohol.

The language in Step One was freeing for me. The day I finally said it out loud: "I am powerless over alcohol," was the turning point for me. I didn't have to say: I am an alcoholic. That word was just too loaded with negative meaning for me back then.

My daughter was five when I got sober. Old enough to know something was wrong, for sure. I am determined not to hide my addiction from her; I want to explain to her that it is a disease and like any other disease it needs to be treated. When she asks me questions about it, I answer them. Overcoming the guilt and shame is a work in progress. It never completely goes away, but I want her to know a strong woman in recovery, not someone who was crushed by addiction. I described it to her like an allergy:

"You know how there are some kids at school who can't eat peanuts or they will get really sick?"

She nodded. "If they have even one peanut they can get really sick and go to the hospital."

"Well, it is that way for me with alcohol. If I have one drink I can get really sick. It is called being an alcoholic."

She thought for a moment. "So if you just don't drink alcohol, you'll be okay?"

"Yes," I smiled. "But sometimes it is hard to stay away from something you like, even if you know it will make you sick. That is why I go to meetings, to talk with other people who understand how I feel."

"I'm glad there are other people to talk to," she said.

"Me too, honey. Me too."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wolves In Space

"But I want to play with you," Finn says, his little mouth turned down and his eyes sad.

I sigh heavily. "In a minute, Finn, I have things I need to do first."

I escape upstairs to my room and lie down on the bed. I didn't exactly lie to him, I think to myself, because there is always stuff to do. There is nothing pressing going on - I have half a dozen phone calls to make, a customer stopping by in about an hour, and of course the never ending laundry to fold.

I just can't do it - any of it. Finn is home from school today because he said he didn't feel well this morning and he looked pale, so I kept him home. Within half an hour he was bouncing off the walls. He's totally fine. I, on the other hand, am a tight ball of resentment. I have 15 hours a week without him, and I'm feeling robbed of the five hours I thought I would have to myself this morning.


I can hear him downstairs whining for me. I put the pillow over my face to muffle the sound. The resentment clenches me tighter - I just want a few freaking minutes without anyone asking me anything - is that too much?

"Mooooommmmm! I need juice!"

Whatever kid, I think. I need a lot of things, too.

I'm in a resentful, tired place in my head. Greta was in a terrible mood this morning, and I had to argue with her get dressed, eat her breakfast, find her homework. She stomped down to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus close to tears, telling me she wasn't going to speak to me Ever. Again.

I can't shake this mood, and I'm upset with myself.

"MAAAA -AAA- MAAAAA!" Finn yells.

I drag myself up out of bed and head downstairs. "What, Finn," I say, with an edge to my voice.

"I da baby wolf," he says, beaming now.

I feel a flash of irritation. He wanted my attention, he whined, and he got it. I just want to crawl under a rock and stay there.

"You da mommy wolf," he continues. "I runned away and moved to outah space and now you can't find me."

I turn to go back upstairs. I start to tell him I don't have time for this right now, but he interrupts me.

"You da mommy wolf, and you are cranky," he says.

I turn around slowly. "I'm what?"

"You da cranky mommy wolf. You are mad because your house is dirty and broken."

"I'm the cranky Mother wolf?" I clarify.

"Yup!" he says happily. "And now you can't find your baby wolf 'cause he in outah space and you wish he would come home."

He is looking up at me. I see, for the first time in a while, how there are no traces of baby on him anymore. He is looking like a little man.

I sit down on the floor. "I miss my baby wolf," I say. "I wish he would come home."

Finn spins happily away. "He in outah space! You need to take a rocket ship to get him!"

I stand on a chair and count backwards: "Three... two.... one.... BLAST OFF!" I yell. "Here I come!"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Calling It Like They See It

My sister just sent me this, and I thought it was too funny not to share. According the to YouTube poster, this is the message that the Maroochydore High School, Queensland, Australia, staff voted unanimously to record on their school telephone answering machine. It came about because they implemented a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for their children's absences and missing homework. The school and teachers are being sued by parents who want their children's failing grades changed to passing grades - even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough school work to pass their classes:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Budding Entrepreneurs

Greta and her friend Mary were playing waitress this morning. The game got old after about ten minutes, and they came bounding down the stairs asking if they could start a real restaurant. I could hear them in the next room coming up with a name, and after a few minutes of discussion The Hungry Cap was born:

Of course, any good restaurant needs a menu:

Turns out we were out of waffles, pancakes, ice cream sandwiches and didn't have the supplies for the Make Your Own Sundae idea. And the salad was too complicated. So it became a sandwiches, soup and apple type of establishment.

Thirsty? No problem. The Drinks Menu:

Upon further inquiry, the figure at the bottom is winking, not drunk on lemonade.

I made them a plate of sandwiches and a few bowls of soup, and they set it all up on the back porch:

They felt it was too self-serving to keep all the profits for themselves, so they decided all the proceeds from the Hungry Cap would go to the poor, and set up a bucket for donations:

Now for advertising. They made a sign for the front yard, and on Mary's suggestion, made it is as "dramatic" as they could, so people would feel compelled to come:

It reads: "Hungry Cap! Restaurant out back that way! And we're not kidding it's true! Help save money for the poor and we mean it! Now! Please help, please, we're just seven please we're begging you!"

They taped the sign to a tee-ball post, put it out by the end of the driveway, and waited for the masses. I had the pleasure of being their first customer. I was treated to a salami and cheese sandwich, fresh water, an apple, and live entertainment in the form of a skit, stand up comedy ("why did the cookie go to the doctor? because he was feeling crumby!") and Irish dancing.

A restaurant with a social conscience - what could be better?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Both Ends of the Spectrum

On the bright side, I think, if anyone ever needs to identify my remains, this will be a handy road map.

I'm in a dentist's chair. The dentist makes me extremely nervous, and when I'm nervous I get macabre.

A while ago - okay, a long while ago - I was thoughtfully chewing on scrambled eggs, and one of my molars broke. It took me three years to screw up the courage to make an appointment with my dentist. The news wasn't particularly good: the tooth was beyond repair - even a root canal was useless. I needed a bridge.

One pulled tooth, $3,000 and five appointments later and I'm squirming in the chair, sweating through the second hour of drilling.

"Are you wearing your mouth guard at night?" the dentist inquires.

"Gaaahhrrg," I answer, hoping this is interpreted as a 'yes'. I'm grateful for the three hands, drill and suction thingy in my mouth, because then I don't have to explain that what I really mean is "sure, when I remember, and it is singularly unsexy and uncomfortable".

"We're almost done with the build up," he continues cheerfully.

I don't know where the 'build up' part of this comes in. I was picturing a nice quiet procedure involving some kind of liquid enamel that added to my teeth. Turns out 'build up' means drilling down the two molars next to the offending tooth to a nub. Bits of teeth have been flying everywhere for the past hour. I'm trying not to stare at a larger chunk that landed on his face shield. Build up, my ass.

"You've got micro-fractures in most of your molars," he says. "Are you under stress? Do you grind your teeth at night?"

"Urghsshlep," I reply, meaning: let me out of the freaking chair and I'll poke you in the eye with a sharp stick you sadistic, smiling twerp.

After four and a half hours, the procedure is done. I leave the dentist's office with a gleaming temporary bridge and a lopsided face from all the novocaine. I asked him to give me novocaine until I couldn't feel anything from my ear to my nose. I didn't want the gas, fearing it would bring down my defenses and I'd share my internal dialogue out loud.

"See you in four weeks!" chirps the receptionist. I smile back with the operative side of my face, thinking not if I'm lucky and fall under a bus first.

This morning Greta poked me awake at 6:45am. "Look Mom!" she said, "I lost a tooth!"

She is proudly displaying her tooth and new gap in her lower teeth.

"How much do you think the tooth fairy will leave for this one?"

Three thousand dollars would be nice.