Monday, June 29, 2009

Insomnia is my Friend.

It started a little over a month ago. I was on the treadmill at my new gym. I had been doing well, going at least a few times a week, and increasing my stamina on the treadmill, burning more and more calories every visit. Then, on one sad day, after about 15 minutes of running, I felt pain in my knee. Ugh. I kept running. Then I felt it in my hip. I kept running. Dumb, I know, but when I set a goal on the treadmill, I can't stop until it's achieved. Eventually I had to give up, though. The pain was too great. I was ticked.

Both my knee and my hip felt like they were out of joint. I don't think they were, but that's what the pain felt like. I wore a brace on my knee at work for the next couple of days, and it got better. I also attended a workout class held my a girl out work a few times a week. We didn't run much there; so I was able to get in some cardio without feeling much pain. But then while doing some side lunges about a week after the first onset, I twisted my hip again, and I was back where I started. I might as well have been on the treadmill.

So I stopped working out. See, I have a love/hate relationship with working out. I love it once I get into it, but getting motivated is not my strong point. Once I get into a routine of working out, I do well. But I will take advantage of a good excuse when one comes my way... and this was just such an excuse.

Still, despite my break from fitness, my hip continued to hurt. Even just a jog down the sidewalk to retrieve the cell phone I left inside would be enough to worsen the pain for the rest of the day until a night's sleep relieved it. Thinking it would subside on its own, I procrastinated for a few weeks until the hip excuse became lame even to me. So I told the doctor about it last Monday. His diagnosis was bursitis (really?), and his plan was to treat it with cortisone orally for a week, see how that works, then upgrade to cortisone plus physical therapy if necessary.

I started the cortisone (one pill twice a day) last Tuesday. I noticed a difference within about a day and half, and I was excited. Believe it or not, I have missed going to the gym, especially since school let out and my workout classes there have ended. After being lazy for too long and running out of excuses, I've been looking forward to getting back at it and getting rid of some saddling guilt and shame.

Who knew, however, that one of the major side effects of cortisone is insomnia? I didn't know this, and didn't even make the connection until three nights of virtual sleeplessness. Sure enough, I discovered the truth on the Internet. So wouldn't you know it--the cortisone I was taking to fix the hip so I could work out was robbing me of sleep so I couldn't work out.

In the meantime I've been taking advantage of my newfound energy to blog and write songs. I lie in bed for hours--literally--with words and tunes running through my head until finally I resolve myself to getting up and writing them down. So a creative spurt has renewed something I've been out of touch with for some time, which in turn has given me a little boost of some much-needed self-confidence this week. So, yay cortisone. Yay, me.

On a side note, we took turns tonight as family members timing ourselves as we ran around the house. The kids didn't think dad and I would do it, but we didn't want to rob them of their fun; so we did. I was fastest.

And now my hip hurts.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I've decided to give you an update about Jonathan or Avan before I do one about me. I'm putting that one off... for now.

Jonathan is my 24-year-old step son. He goes by Jon. In fact, I think Tom, Jensen, Cooper and I are the only ones left calling him Jonathan, even though I do think Jon suits him.

If this blog were being written by 16-25-year-old girls, it would probably contain words like hot, cute, gorgeous, and "totally sexy." Not that they're wrong, but I'll stick with calling him very nice-looking. But it's not just his looks that make him so remarkable. He's smart, funny, hard-working, considerate, polite, and respectful. And while he's confident--even sometimes charmingly cocky--he's not conceited, and is always trying to better himself.

Jonathan, Fall 2008

He's also extremely talented and gifted. He taught himself to play guitar, bass, piano and drums. And I completely LOVE his singing voice. He teaches himself tunes from artists he likes, but he also writes his own stuff... and it's good. Oh... and he loves his family, and is fiercely loyal to and reverent of his father.

Jonathan graduated high school in '03. He did a couple of semesters at a local college while working at a Pizza Pan restaurant down the road, in which his uncle had ownership. That job turned into an opportunity; so Jon left school to be a grown-up. Uncle Eddie set Jonathan and his buddy/partner up in Columbus, Ohio (about 2 hours from here), where they owned and operated two Pizza Pan stores. They took existing pizza shops and turned them into Pizza Pans, starting almost from scratch. Jonathan thrived there, and learned a lot over the next couple of years, but Akron--for which Jon has great loyalty and respect--was always beckoning. So the Pizza Pans were sold, and Jonathan returned to Akron last fall and moved in with his (step)cousin.

Right away he got a job as an independent consultant at Charles Schwab, doing software quality assurance. He did well there, but, as the trend goes, he was laid off shortly after Christmas due to cut-backs. In no time he had a job at a restaurant, which within several weeks turned into a manager gig. But... as the trend goes... the restaurant closed this week, and Jonathan was out of a job again. For two days. Schwab timely called him back, and he starts in July at his old job, but with considerably greater pay this time around. We're so impressed by him. My only complaint--and he would predict this--is that he smokes. He says he's quitting after he gets engaged. Yikes.

In the meantime, he's also been producing a CD for a local band at a studio. It was a great fit for him, and the CD came out quite well. With that done, he decided to start his own record label, which has yet to be named (he wants to pay tribute to Akron, but Rubber City Records was already taken). He and Avan have started a band, and plan to record on the label, as well as Avan's first solo project. She is also a gifted singer, with a unique, clear and beautiful tone. She accompanies herself on piano, and we love to listen.

This provides a nice transition into Avan's story. She and Jonathan have always been close, but since his return home they have been virtually inseparable. They hang out together, eat out together, travel together, and now make music together. It is so heartwarming to have them here and see the way they interact--teasing, laughing, showing affection. Our home is never as complete as when they are there with us.

Brother and Sister, January 2009

Again, if this were being written by 16-25... or so... year-old men, I might have to edit the adjectives used to describe Avan. Tom and I prefer beautiful, confident, stylish, engaging, and completely adorable.

Avan graduated high school in 2006 and is now 21. She had been completing a cosmetology vocational program during her junior and senior years; so upon graduation she had her cosmetology certificate. She worked for two years at a few different salons in the area, then decided to go back to school. She loves Akron U, and has done well at her courses there, but is still uncertain about what she wants to do in the future. She still has cosmetology to fall back on, but is currently a cocktail waitress at a local Sheraton because the money is better, and she's paying for her own education. Now that school's out for the summer, she's also cleaning houses with a maid service a few times a week for extra cash.

She leaves tomorrow on a two-week long vacation to Vegas with her BFF Jessie. They've been planning this trip for quite a while now, and whenever we mention it she giggles. They're both very excited.

To know Avan is to love her. Everyone who meets her is struck by her beauty, poise and grace. But she's really just a cool chick. She wears what she wants, says what she wants, does what she wants, and while she's sensitive and caring, is confident enough in herself to follow her own path. She's curious about life and love, and is always looking for something to be passionate about. She's smart and funny, and we love having her around. She's got a great--and gorgeous--head on her shoulders, and we couldn't be more proud of her. (But again with the smoking! She says she's quitting after Vegas. I hope so....)

Senior Picture, 2006

Jonathan doesn't have a steady girlfriend at the moment. Why? We're not really sure. He dates a lot, but we suspect he sets his standards very high and just hasn't found someone who fills all the criteria yet. We're OK with that--there's no hurry. But I'm not sure he is. I think he'd like to find "the one," but he's not miserable about it. In fact, I suspect he enjoys the search.

Avan is in a relationship right now, with a friend of Jonathan's from Columbus. She quite likes him, I think, and although I'm sure she isn't thrilled with the distance, I think it sort of suits her lifestyle at the moment. She's incredibly busy, between the two jobs and still doing hair on the side. Even with all of that and her daily errands (although she still lives at home, she's very independent), she is always conscious to fit in time for her brother, her friends, and the rest of her family. But they manage to see each other most weekends, and communicate regularly by cell.

Those of you who know Jonathan and Avan consider yourselves fortunate, I'm sure. Leave your comments and let them feel the love! For those of you who don't... I wish I were an eloquent enough writer to paint the full, beautiful pictures it would take to make you feel as if you did. But I guess that would defy the human element, wouldn't it? I guess you'll just have to take my word for it until that glorious day when perchance you will meet....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ummmm... Tom.

So I promised a Tom update... but I'm stumped. He's sitting right here, and even HE can't think of anything for me to write.

For those of you who don't already know, he plays George Harrison in a Beatles tribute called 1964... The Tribute. His schedule doesn't change that much... but it does. It doesn't in that it consists of only a few things: touring, taking care of his family, and down time. It does in that it's unpredictable as far as when he'll be gone and where he's going. He's always got great tour stories to tell (I should have him start a blog of his own), even though he has his fair share of dull moments when he's on the road. As you can imagine, he doesn't really get to see much of most cities he plays. They check into the hotel, go to sound check, play the gig, get something to eat, and go to sleep. Up the next morning, straight to the airport, and onto the next town. You might think it would get old, but he loves it.

Tom as George, Sylvania, OH, July 24, 2007

When he's home, he's home full time, which is nice for all of us. He does a lot of work around here--laundry, cleaning, cooking, shopping.... I think I'll keep him.

He hit a creative spurt, and he's been writing quite a bit of music on piano. Most of his pieces don't have lyrics as of yet. His music is, in his words, "some weird cross between Broadway musical style and classical." He uses the phrase "tone poem," if any of you know what that means. I don't. I don't know where he finds all of his inspiration, but it seems like every other day he's coming up with something new. So we've invested in some recording equipment for us to use at home. Finally. People have been suggesting it for years, and it's always been something we've wanted to do, but never have. Now, with technology advancing the way it has it is an expense we can easily justify. We won't have top quality recordings, but we'll have something, and we're excited to get started. We need a few more upgrades before we can get going, but hopefully we'll have something to show you relatively soon.

Summer is usually his busiest time, but it's slow right now. The band always takes a week or two off in June for vacation; so he's home now until July 8. It's unusual for him to be home that long, especially in the summer.

The future of the band is uncertain right now. Gary, who plays Paul, had a brain tumor removed about a month ago. The bad news is it was cancerous. The good news is they got it all out. Now he's on chemo by oral medical, plus radiation. He's in remarkably good spirits, and when we saw him last week he was the same upbeat, friendly, positive guy he's always been. So we all have high hopes for him. But he won't be touring with the band for at least another year.

At this point, they plan to carry on with a replacement; so things shouldn't change that much. But the band is getting fewer and fewer gigs, dropping from about 124 in 2008, to 94 scheduled so far this year. That may pick up, but probably not by much. I guess the economy is affecting everyone. So we're thinking of ways to make up for the dip, but we haven't made any big decisions yet.

As for me, my job at the elementary charter school is finished. I was working as the cafeteria manager there. Not my dream job by any stretch of the imagination, but when I started out part-time, it was convenient because my kids were going there at the time, and it kept me busy. When they asked me to go full-time, I found it difficult to refuse because we had been without benefits since Tom re-joined the band in 2006. The people were great and the schedule was perfect, and I never needed daycare or even babysitters--but my contract has not been renewed due to budget cuts. A number of people lost their jobs there, along with all of the schools in Ohio--charter and otherwise (although our governor clearly has something against charter schools). I took the ParaPro Assessment Test--and got a perfect score, I might humbly add--so that I could become an Assistant Teacher, and hoped to go back there next year in that capacity, but their budget was cut 24%; so they're going to start out with no assistants at all.

So I'll be collecting unemployment as of August 1. I'm not sure what else is available to me. My options are limited because there are no TA jobs. I have years and years of clerical experience, but I really need to work at a school, because I refuse to go the daycare route during the summer. The school schedule was perfect for me.

For the past four years, Tom and I have been directing the spring musical at Woodridge High School, about half an hour from where we live. I'm director and choreographer--don't laugh--and he's musical director and set director--I said don't laugh. We started in 2006 when Avan was a senior. She had been involved in the spring musical in previous years, but their director had left, and Avan was facing the threat of having no musical her senior year. So Tom and I stepped in and threw together a show for them in 5 weeks. Our initial plan was to do just the one show for Avan, but we were so captivated by the charm and talent of so many of the students (you know who you are) that we kept coming back.

Tom in the pit, March 2006. Taking one for the team. Poor guy.

This past year though, was very difficult, with it being the first time I'd done the show with a full-time job. I loved it, but it was stressful, and it affected the kids in a big way. There were a lot of late nights, missed school events, and sleepy school days. So we had come to the difficult decision that this would be our last year. OK, actually, it wasn't that difficult. On top of the stress, we had grown overly tired of the paperwork, red tape, fund-raising, and other necessary but tiresome production details for which we have no passion. Besides that, the freshman we worked with in our first show at Woodridge graduated this year, and it seemed natural that we should leave with them. Now, however, we are rethinking the situation, since I won't have my full-time job, and we'll need extra money to pay for the health benefits we're losing. But we need to decide soon before they hire someone else.

So, considering I started out suggesting I couldn't think of anything to write, I think that's enough for now. Kind of dull, I know, but updates can be that way. I'll try harder to entertain when I get back to the day-to-day stuff.

Until then, check out some of my links. My brother's, full of many of his updated caricatures, which are brilliant. Also brilliant is my friend Hayley, who has been in all four of the shows we directed at Woodridge. She is a great writer, and her blog will not disappoint. She's also a YouTube celebrity; so you should check out her vlog, too.

Oh, pictures!

1964, Sylvania, OH, July 24, 2007

1964, Carnegie Hall, January 2008

OK, I'll be back....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Super Duper Cooper

Where do I start? When Cooper was born, I was going through a difficult time. My father had just passed away a couple of months earlier, and I missed him terribly. Add to that shifting (to put it mildly) hormones, and without knowing it I had fallen into a merciless depression. I was basically nursing Cooper to keep him alive, but other than that I really didn't care to have much to do with him. It sounds horrible, I know, but it's true. Of course not having much to do with him was impossible. He was moody, uncomfortable, and very, very clingy. I was also moody and uncomfortable. But clingy, I was not.

Let's skip to the good part. After being diagnosed with clinical depression, and several attempts at prescribing and dosing different medications, Cooper and I were finally able to bond after about a year. And guess what... he's still clingy. Only now I love it. I hope he's always clingy. I just said to Tom tonight, "Cooper is the most cuddly boy ever. He's so willing... and malleable!"

So, Cooper is his momma's boy. And I love it. He wants to be with me always, and while I realize it's a possibility that I may not be doing him any favors, I'm more than willing to let him feel that way. We just love to be together.

He's remarkably smart. He's a very good reader. He loves to be challenged with big words, and just ploughs right through them, not afraid of getting them wrong, which doesn't happen very often. He has a quick wit, and I'm afraid he gets his sarcastic sense of humor from me. After getting scolded by his teacher recently, he could only blame me.

"It's your fault, Mom."
"MY fault?"
"My fault you got in trouble?"
"How so?"
"Because you were funny first. I was just trying to be like you."
(Sarcastic) "Sorry for getting you in trouble at school, son."
"It's O.K."

He's also a math whiz. He is always our banker in Monopoly, and we never have to double check him to make sure he's not ripping us off. In fact, he's corrected us on occasion. He loves Sudoku, and although he's still at a beginner level, he doesn't need or want any help, and figures them out all by himself. He holds his own in chess with his dad, gives us a run for our money in checkers and backgammon, and has simply mastered tic-tac-toe. He may not always win, but he never--and I do mean never--loses.

His interests now are: guitar--he takes improv lessons with Tom, and some of the melodies he creates are absolutely beautiful; singing, which he mostly does privately and independantly, but rarely hits a bad note; soccer, which he plays in a league, and basketball, which he plays in our yard; computer, DS and wii games; and, of course, breakdancing. It's so fun to watch him breakdance, because his personality totally changes. He gets dead serious--almost a stank face--and just lets the music take over. He dances like he reads--without fear. You almost feel privileged to witness it, even though it's obvious he won't be cast on SYTYCD anytime soon.

He has made a friend. They've known each other all year at school, but it wasn't until about a month ago that he was able to work up the courage to get his phone number and call him. On his first night there, which was meant to be a sleepover, he called me around 10:30 saying he was scared and wanted to come home. I was a little disappointed, I suppose. I'd hoped he'd be brave enough to last the night. But secretly I was relieved to have him home with me. I'd missed him. When I went to pick him up, he got in the car and said, "I guess I just don't like being away from you." That didn't suck.

The following weekend, however, he struggled through the night there, but emerged proud of himself in the morning. Since then they've spent every weekend together, and have seen each other every day since school ended. Either Cooper's over there, or Christian's over here. We like Christian. He's painfully shy, I think, and barely says a word, but he's starting to open up a little more. Cooper just thinks the world of him.

So now he's looking forward to being a second grader. He's been saying for a while he already feels like he's in the second grade, because "well, I've doing second and third grade homework for a while now." And he reads at a fourth grade level. But his less-than-model behavior has kept him in first grade. In fact, it's kept him in the principal's office a few times. He peeked into the girls' bathroom, laughed at a girl whose "butt crack was peeking out," and in his most recent escapade, peed on the playground because he didn't want to miss any recess time. Each time I'm shocked, and each time I try not to laugh while his teacher explains it to me over the phone (picture me moving my hand alternatively between covering my mouth, covering the phone, and wiping tears from my eyes). We're hoping he'll do better next year.

He's adorable when he sleeps. I am often taking pictures and sending them to Tom while he's on the road, with the caption, "Another One." One cannot have enough pictures of Cooper sleeping. So, for your enjoyment (please bear in mind these were taken with my low-quality, grainy cell phone camera):

And one more, with his eyes open; so you can see what he looks like these days. Actually, this photo was taken a little over a year ago, but he looks so grown up in it. He still looks like this, pretty much.

I know, right?
In short, we feel so privileged to have Cooper--and Jensen, while I'm at it--in our family. They're both such great, talented, inspiring children. If you don't know them, I feel sorry for you. Tee hee.
Up next.... Tom's latest misadventures.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hello. Yeah, it's been a while. Not much. How about you?

Wow. Four years, really? Hm. I'm more useless than I thought.

So, instead of catching up on everything that's happened in the past FOUR YEARS (I really can't believe it's been that long. Truly, I was thinking two at the most.), I'm just going to start rambling and hope most of it makes sense to you.

Jensen just passed third grade, and is a budding genius. Actually, she's passed the budding stage and in full-bloom. She's already reading at a sixth grade level, which is of no surprise to any of us. She reads like I used to, though: she loves it when she does it, and will pick up one book and read it voraciously until she's through, then not read anything again for a while. I wish we could get her to read more often. She also writes. She writes songs, stories, even books, which she illustrates herself. She's so clever in the way she illustrates, too, because her script will tell only part of the story. The pictures will give you the details--often hilarious ones.

And let's just talk about the drawings. Where she gets it we're not quite sure, because neither Tom nor I are skilled in that way. But she very much is. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and it's all in her mind and memory. She doesn't trace or copy--she just remembers and translates. I'll post some things soon, I promise. (Just so you know, I don't keep my promises.)

Her passions now include music and singing, at which she excels; Hannah Montana, of whom she believes herself to be the number one fan; fashion (her sketches are truly impressive); and, as always, animals. She's been a vegetarian since she was six, which we thought would pass but clearly won't anytime soon. Let me explain: her commitment began when we told her one day we were having chicken for dinner.

"Like, chicken chicken?"
"Mm hmm."
"Like, this used to be a live chicken?"
"Yes, dear, chicken."
"I don't want that."

So she didn't eat chicken. Soon after, she found out that hamburger was actually cow, bacon actually pig, etc. I still maintain that if chicken were called something other than chicken, she might still be eating animal meat without realizing it. For some reason, though, she would allow herself to eat fish, I think because she went fishing once and didn't want to rationalize. Anyway, this was a relief to us, because it was an easy source of protein for Dad, our family cook, who is unaccustomed to vegetarian cuisine. It was only a little more than a week ago, after her goldfish died, that she no longer wanted to eat fish. She insists the two incidents aren't related, but I'm suspicious. We told her that if she is going to give up fish, she's going to have to learn to like cheese and nuts, which she doesn't. She agreed, bless her heart. So she's added string cheese and honey-roasted peanuts to her repertoire, which she promises to increase. She drinks milk and will eat yogurt from time to time, and she still eats eggs. We'll see how long that lasts.

At any rate, as frustrating as it is for Tom in the kitchen, we are quite proud of her for her commitment, which is based on nothing but a love for animals. She recently heard about something called a vegan. Forgive me--I told her I didn't know what that was.

In short, the girl is filled with passion. Passion for anything. If she's watching a movie about a figure skater, she'll ask if she can take figure skating lessons. If she reads a boook about cooking, she wants learn how to be a chef...starting with today's dinner. She just has all of this passion and feeling inside, and it comes out of her like roots from a tree. In fact, she's reminding me of myself when I was her age.


For now she's enjoying the summer, and is, along with the rest of us, looking forward to our next trip to Niagara Falls, which is sort of up in the air at the moment, but will definitely happen.

OK; so I'm going to stop there for now. I'll continue with Cooper tomorrow, and see where this goes from there. Don't hate me if this turns out to be a passing whim. I'm unapologetic lately in an effort to get off my own back. But I'll do my best, I promise. (See earlier note on this subject.)

For tonight--*crud, it's morning*--I'll post a fairly recent picture of Jensen to bring your visual images up to date. She's a gem, isn't she?

Yeah, I know....

Thanks for reading, and post your comments!