Thursday, July 29, 2010

My First Blogaversary and The Summer School Revolt of '78

After moving to a new city when I was nine, my mom enrolled my older sister, Miss Piggy, and I into a session of Creative Arts Summer School. Mom wanted us to make new friends and have somewhere to go for three weeks, other than the couch. Well, we went, and hated it. Miss Piggy was on a different class schedule so we never saw each other and I felt like the new kid; alone and missing my sister. The highlight for me was snack time; Scooter-Pies. Remember Scooter-Pies? They were soft marshmallow, sandwiched in flakey graham crackers, then dipped in light chocolate. So crunchy, yet pillowy and sweet. I ate it alone in the concrete quad hoping the morning would move faster (Thank you Mom for packing the Scooter-Pie, it is my best memory of summer school ’78). After miserable days, my sister and I decided that we were not going back; we preferred the couch watching I Love Lucy reruns. Knowing that Miss Piggy would lead our protest, I knew my chances of dropping out of school were good because she was bulled-headed and rebelled against Mom often. And usually won. Without her I would have stayed like a good little girl, hating every minute, except for the highlight of eating my Scooter-Pie alone at break. Miss Piggy led the uprising and told Mom we were not going back. Guess what? Mom folded. We quit and that was the end of that.

As an adult, I look back on this kid experience and wondered why didn’t Mom force us to stick with it? Why didn’t we finish what we started? Probably because of the reality that Miss Piggy was a force few parents could reckon with and Mom was outnumbered. Plus, we were brats.
This is my memory of not seeing a commitment through to the end; giving up early. I bring it up because today is my one-year blogaversary and it has delivered a satisfying sense of accomplishment and perseverance, unlike The Revolt of '78. When I decided to jump into blogging I committed to one year and provided myself loose parameters. I knew if I made it too strict or full of “shoulds,” I would rebel against myself and quit. Crazy, huh? (See above memory for illustration). But today? Alas, I feel redemption from the Summer School Revolt of ’78 and it feels goo-oo-ood!

I didn’t foresee this a year ago, but blogging hopped me back on my single wheeler. I bought a new unicycle, Blanche, and achieved better balance and long distance riding in special riding shorts that feel like a diaper. Unicycle Rose – An All-American Girl’s Balancing Act, provided excitement, me-time, new blog buddies, plus I practiced my writing skills.  I discovered my strong sense of patriotism and (sniffle, sniffle) blogging helped  get to “know thyself” better. Please imagine that I’m standing on stage at the Kodak Theatre in my black chiffon Marchesa gown, under the stage lights with a golden keyboard in one hand, Blanche in the other. This is my moment...
“Uh hmmm…I wish to thank God and the Academy (I have always wanted to say that), my parents, sweet husband, Miss Piggy, supportive friends, and handful of readers that encouraged me … you know who you are.”

This first blogaversary celebration calls for a Scooter-Pie!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Weekend Fun Trifecta

This past Friday through Sunday could be described as a winner, winner, winner!
Rarely, if ever, do I hit the Weekend Fun Trifecta. By that I mean  indulging in life's happy ways, day, after day, after day! Now worries, just the "F" word...F-U-N!I savored these fabulous three days and I ate up (chomp, chomp, chomp) every minute of it. I admit I was exhausted by Sunday night, but I had no control over the timing of events, so I just went with it. It was excessive and I don't have the social stamina to do this every weekend, but once a year? Why sure!
First, on Friday, was a day at the spa with the girls. Old friends, new friends.....all friends are a gift that you give yourself. Awwww....yessss,  a massage! My Mother's Day gift -- I loved that! Then, lunch, siwm and chat, chat, chat with wonderful ladies. If I hit the mega lottery, this is how I would spend every Friday.
 Next , a baby shower in Manhattan Beach on a gorgeous Saturday. Alas, I will be an Aunt and I count the days until this little guy rests in my arms. It has been a decade-long wait for a cousin to join our family. Here is a photo of Miss Piggy, Cutie-Pie and myself. Have I mentioned how much I love my sisters?
On Sunday I attended a wine and food festival with my hubby and  peeps. Food, wine, and dancing for three hours. My body tells me I am getting too old for this and I keep telling it to shut up.

What if I could hit this Trifecta of Fun every weekend? Then it would not be special. Because of the blessings, I felt rich.... rich and wealthy with simple joys... friendship, good health and love.Those are the things that really matter in life. 

 Cheers to the Weekend Fun Trifecta: Relaxation, Family and Friendship!!
(CLINK!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Go Greek! Tenet #3

Keeping tenet number three, “Know thyself and nothing in excess” tucked in my back mental pocket forces me to re-evaluate who I am, and what parts of my life are out of balance.

I learned the Greek Motto in a college Drama History class (It’s true …electives  make for a well-rounded college education). “Know thyself and nothing in excess” has logged some mileage in my mind.  It keeps me committed to staying acquainted with myself and maintain physcial and mental balance (as best I can). This is not easy to do, as it is much painless to put the focus on others and their problems, or bad habits. Staying familiar with me has forced me to grow in many areas. The Greeks were on to something here, as I've learned there is no room for stagnating if you are committed to knowing yourself…life becomes your classroom and lessons abound. Like learning one of the most difficult things to say is “no”. Saying no breeds guilt and angers some folks, but I have learned if not said at appropriate times then I am spread too thin. My family suffers; I am unhappy and stressed out… it’s just not worth it. In getting to know myself better, I learned to apologize. When I screw up, I confess that I did or said the wrong thing. I shelf my pride and at times it just about kills me, but it has made all the difference to keep peace and balance.

The second part of this tenet is to not overdo the good things in life; nothing in excess. This can be difficult, at least for me. It goes against my Italian upbringing (and our world) that hums more of an “eat, drink and be merry” tune. Too much food, drink, exercise, shopping, loathing,…. really anything, is self-destructive. Our culture is on steroids in this area…bigger is better, more is more, indulge yourself….this is the American Way (think Veruka Salt, “I want it NOW, Daddy!”). When I become excessive in any part of life, I am off-kilter and negative consequences will follow if I don’t recalibrate. Take for example the Wine and Food Festival I attended yesterday with my husband and friends. I hate to admit it, but I completely overdid the wine and food (the Greeks would not be happy with me!) I woke up bloated with my head in a fog and the piano tuner at my door. Piano tuner? I did not remember setting the appointment with him last night after the festival! Shame on stupid, excessive me…time to recalibrate. I have along way to go.

It’s a never-ending challenge to understand how complex, wacky and unique you are, so, if you don’t want to stagnate in life, then tenet #3, The Greek Motto, is key to nurturing and keeping balance in an constantly evolving you. Unicycle Rose’s Tenet 4 & 5 to follow…..that’s after I share my Trifecta of Fun weekend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unicycle Rose's Basic Tenets

When my older son took Taekwondo a jillion years ago, he had to memorize and was taught to live according to the five tenets. Tenet is defined by Encarta as an established fundamental belief. In Taekwondo they are: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and an indomitable spirit. All good. I love the idea of core-defining beliefs. As I approach my very first Blogiversary on July 29, I decided to list Unicycle Rose’s five tenets. You know, those truths that I live by that have been the subject of past Blogs and are the same truths that I keep stuffed in my back mental pocket. My back mental pocket is the place I store life wisdom collected over the past forty-two years. Some tenets I learned early on, others came later after large doses of inevitable life pain. I still have plenty of room to shove more lessons in this worn pocket that has proven to “keep the balance” day after day.

1. Dreams are Free – Here lies the truth that you should never-ever hesitate to make big wishes and always dream big-fat-unlikely dreams. It is free, so don’t hold back here. It is uplifting and can pull you from a slump at any time, and again, it’s free! No tax! You can exercise this truth in public or private and it feels so darn good to let go and start collecting hope. Both hopes and dreams are free as Costco food samples, so stuff yourself with these simple, complimentary inspiring fillers that leave you always wanting more. Be a lottery winner, Olympian, cancer-free, win that dream job, become a published writer, class valedictorian, professional ballerina or happily married to a prince, or all of the above at the very same time … all it costs is your brilliant imagination and hope. Remember, you can’t win, if you don’t enter… give yourself permission to let yourself go with big-fat-free dreams!
2. It’s not open-heart surgery –This fundamental belief means “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” It is easy to think that at times life is not fair. Guess what? Fare is what you pay to get on the bus. When I want to moan or complain, I remember my baby son going through two open-heart surgeries and coming home on a ventilator with a nurse 16 hours a day and then, Presto! Shazam! Nothing compares to that pain and struggle. When I think I am having a horrible day, I hold whatever current burr is in my butt up to this measuring stick and then think “This ain’t nuthin’ honey.” So, shrug it off when the Frisbee breaks the widow, your blow a tire, break out in adult acne, your laundry basket overflows, or riding your unicycle in the house scuffs up the wall … most things don’t compare to pediatric open-heart surgery (or whatever sorrow has stung your heart deepest; fill in the blank), nor do the little pests deserve your valuable time or angry energy.This one saved the day when our house burned while on vacation, my husband needed two sinus surgeries and I backed into a brand new car in the CVS parking lot. You must keep your perspective! But, there is a caveat to this tenet … if you ever do find yourself starring at “This IS an open-heart surgery life situation,” never forget the truth that piggybacks this tenet; bad times don’t last forever. It just feels that way, but they don’t. Time heals all things (except crow’s feet).
If you want to read more on how to keep the mental balance, tune in for Unicycle Rose’s Tenet #3.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Junk

While searching for a wetsuit at Sports Authority for my son, Daniel, (so he won’t freeze in the Pacific Ocean during Junior Lifeguard class) I ran across those puffy-crotch-cycle-riding shorts that would make Blanche a comfier ride. I left empty handed, the pickings were slim, and they did not have the wetsuit we needed (and even if they did, they were way expensive). But since my kid is freezing without one, I was determined to find a wetsuit. Daniel told me that twice that day he had a brain freeze, his teeth were chattering, hands were bluish-purple and he had to go to the bathroom in his trunks so he could defrost his junk. This was from the kid that we call Polar Bear because he can withstand crazy cold water temps and not flinch. So for him to tell me this, he definitely needed a wetsuit.

Now I avoid the Oxnard Wal-Mart shopping center for many reasons. Mostly because crime occurs there weekly, so I am chicken. But this was for my kid and I knew Wal-Mart carried wet suits online, so off we went to this mega store that had a market, McDonalds, eye center, bank, photography studio, pharmacy and huge tire selection. This place was one gargantuan roll-back city that gave me a gargantuan headache.

Overwhelmed walking in, I went straight to the first employee, who was folding shirts in the girls department and asked, “Do you carry wetsuits?”

She smiled and looked at me, saying nothing. Hmmm. Maybe I was not clear so I said, “Where would we find wetsuits?”

Nothing. Then the broken words, “No ingles” came out of her mouth.

Oh Jeez, really? I was right. This would not be an easy Wal-Mart visit. Suffice it to say after trekking all over, they do not carry wetsuits. So we tried Sam’s Club, but they no longer carry them as we are in July and this means summer retail is over, school supplies are everywhere and Christmas decorations should be out next week. I was losing hope. In this same shopping center was another Sports Authority, so I dragged my boys, who hate shopping more than cleaning their rooms or showering, to another store.

It was here that we found a wetsuit. I paid more than I wanted, but I could not stand the thought of my kid’s junk freezing in cold beach water for the next three weeks. And, as my luck would have it, they had a much bigger selection of puffy-crotch-cycle-riding shorts and I found my size. I decided to buy them, as after a long unicycle ride it looks like I sat naked in poison ivy. I tried them out this morning and it felt like I was wearing a giant pull-up, all gel-padded, like I’ll never ever have to stop to use the bathroom. I went for a ride this morning and think I like them. Not enough to wear to work, church, or around town for fun, but whenever I ride Blanche, I am wearing my new diaper.

A warm wetsuit. Gel-filled-puffy-crotch-cycle riding shorts. Now, everyone’s junk will be much happier.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Everybody needs a hobby...

This weekend I completed my longest unicycle ride ever … Five miles! (Yes, I wore my sparkly, dorky helmet). I left nice and early at 7am, on Saturday morning, before it got too hot. I needed an early start because I had things to do and it was going to be a balmy scorcher; icky unicycle-riding weather. Icky anything weather.

Along my ride, I approached three female walkers and one said, “That looks hard!”

“It is.” I shouted back, teetering nervously. I mentally asked myself, “Why am I doing this? Can’t I just get up early for a brisk walk like a normal person? This is crazy. Why is unicycle riding so hard?”

While cruising that morning I decided to answer those very questions. This is what I came up with…

Why am I doing this?
Because I can. I am not talented in many ways, just a regular married gal with two sons and two wiener dogs. Riding Blanche is really all I have that sets me apart. It makes me happy to hone some sort of unique skill and it feels really good once I get my gumption up and go for a ride. Honestly, it feels quite free, challenging and side-show-like … all at the same time. Sort of a natural high. If you have lived long enough, you know that those are priceless. Yes, a natural high.

Why is it so hard?
First, the single wheel and general construction of a unicycle means it can’t have much in the way of suspension (other than the buffer created by the air in the tires that I have already popped twice this summer). So the ride can be uncomfortable at times. I have come to accept this and know how to work around the bumps. Honestly, I will be looking into buying a pair of those cushiony, crotch-puffy-cycle-riding shorts real soon.

Second, my position relative to the wheel makes for a high center of gravity, which in turn makes for an unstable platform. We all know balance is everything in life, but even more so when I hop on Blanche.

Third, the drive train itself is the direct drive. This means that for every turn of the pedals, the wheel turns once. As in, there in no coasting. Zero breaks. On a unicycle, you are constantly working. So reversing foot direction is the only way to stop or back up … short of jumping off the unicycle. And, I might add here, that I have not mastered treading on the unicycle. I can go reallllly slow and am close to the goal, but cannot claim the idle prize yet … yet!

My conclusion?
Life is too short not to ride my unicycle around town in an dorky helmet and savor the natural high. Everybody needs a hobby...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Summer Hump

Today we have arrived on top of the Summer Hump. Forty days of summer have passed and forty are left. Each day from here leads us down and away from these lazy long hot days. In honor of the Summer Hump, below is one of my favorite summer poems, written by Robert Louis Stevenson in1885. It is an old one, at 125 years, but some things, like Mr.Sun (AKA: the gardener of the World), never change.


SUMMER SUN
Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All You Need Is Love

Coming off of a dear family member’s death, I have had more time than I’d like to contemplate the value of life. You know, time to stare at all the deep stuff in the bottom of life’s well. Most can agree on what is truly important here on Earth – family, children, loved ones, dear friends, treasured memories and possibly Target clearance sales. Okay, I love a fleeting good sale.
However, we do love to work and collect stuff here in America. We want more things … now. Consider your personal death bed. One day you will be there in a coffin or an urn because the truth is that nobody gets out of here alive. Death is unavoidable. As you take your final breath what are the things you imagine will pop into your head? That you “should have” worked more, achieved more, collected more, had more power? Probably not. It won’t be occupation or money, or your car or your clothes you think about. Most likely not even that vacation or promotion you craved all those years. I imagine that life begins and ends with love. Yes, the beautiful, warm four-letter word …who did you love? Who loves you? How did you love? Why did you love? Who loves you in these final moments?

The Beatles were right when they sang, “All You Need Is Love.”

I don’t want to have any love regrets when I am fading away, although, in reality this is inescapable. Life is way too short and when I encounter people I love who are unavailable to love back, I am saddened. Walls are meant to be broken and we all have them to some degree. These past weeks, as death unraveled, it made me want to grab my emotional hammer. Then, chip and chop away at those barriers to love, because in the end it is those we love and care for that really make the big difference in life. Breaking down walls is risky, takes courage and is an overall hard thing to do. I wish it wasn’t, but as Ringo Starr sang, “(Love) It Don’t Come Easy.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Some things are not meant to be

Overboard, my Mom, took our kids to the movies yesterday and this gave my husband and me time alone, our first in weeks. Driving home from our errands, I picked up the flag sitting on the console in between us. You know those flags that attach to your window and flap as you drive? It can be an annoying sound, but I love Old Glory and this is the season to flaunt her. So I have been doing just that.

“Guess how many times I unrolled the window with this clipped on?” I asked him, holding up the car flag. He paused.

“At least once … for you to ask” he answered.

“Ya.”

Still upset by my stupidity, I went on, “And you think I would have learned from that first time, but nooooo. I did it a second time and thankfully, again, we were driving in a neighborhood, so I was able to turn the car around and pick my car flag off the street. Stupid me. Twice. Can you believe it?”

He chuckled as I continued, “The kids and I had a good laugh as the flag “ka-flunked” into the wind. And I was so thankful I was not driving on the freeway when I forgot and unrolled the window, otherwise my car flag would be long gone. For good. Then I would really be bummed. I just love this thing.”

Approaching the freeway with my husband driving, I thought that if I attach it to the passenger side window, instead of the driver’s side, it will have a better chance of survival. So I roll down the window, clip on Old Glory and roll up the window real fast. I hear the flapping through the window, but am very pleased with my solution.

Not a minute after that we are on the freeway and my husband looks to my window, and without thinking, he rolls it down, sending my favorite and one and only American car flag flying out the window, down the 101 freeway. Long gone. For good.

“Nooooo! No! What?” I yelled at him. He realized what he had accidently done. But it was too late. My American car flag lay a mile back somewhere on the freeway. Long gone. For good. I called him names and we laughed all the way home.

Some things are just not meant to be. But next time, our A/C will be on and we’ll put a Post-it note on the window button.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grandpa Fish

In honor of my father-in-law who passed away on July 2, I have combed the archives of my photo library to find my Top 10 pictures of Grandpa Fish doing what he did best…being a Grandpa Fish. This proved an impossible task and seventeen memorable moments were chosen, because ten were not nearly  enough to capture this special man. Our two sons were his only grandchildren and the light of his life. Although he lived across the country we connected regularly during his (way too short) 13-year run as a wonderful Grandpa. He was a caring, concerned and loveable, just as these pictures reflect.

His career as Grandpa Fish had a rocky start, in 1997,with his first grandson having open heart surgery at 6 days old. But Grandma and Grandpa Fish were there for the whole thing, hopping on a plane two days after Lucas was born. We needed their support and they were there for us.


Grandpa Fish loving his healthy Little Lucas, in Kentucky, 1999

Gransdson #2, Daniel, was added in 2000...

He gave the biggest and best hugs ever! Huge hugs!
Grandpa Fish treated us to a visit to the Grand Old Opry and to meet our family in Tennessee, 2003.
 
 He visited California many times to watch his grandsons grow...


He took his grandsons to The Great Wolf Lodge in Ohio,  and it was by far their favorite trip ever.
Daniel loved that Grandpa was a veteran and served our country. We are all very proud of this All-American man!
 I must note that the best gift Grandpa Fish ever gave, besides the bear hugs was Sara, Lucas' dachshund puppy, in 2007. Our Weiner Dogs completed our family and it was only because of him. He was such a generous Grandpa!
In 2009, we spent Thanksgiving together in Arizona ...just a month before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This trip is a wonderful memory!
Next week, we will travel to to the south for his funeral service and soldiers burial. It will not be an easy day for the many who loved and treasured him. Especially his two grandsons.
He is one Grandpa, son, brother, husband, father, friend and in-law that will be missed.
To read more about this one-of-a-kind Grandpa Fish, read his obituary at: www.newcomerlouisville.com/obituary.asp?src=value&obitid=41358
We love you, Grandpa Fish
Rest in Peace