Monday, September 29, 2008

A love note to my sister-in-law

Being a big sister is hard work. You have to love the baby. Kiss the baby. Bring mommy the wine. Watch out for your brother. You're the big sister now, so we're counting on you. Damn you child, where is that wine????

For years and years I put up with my little brother, tagging along, taunting me and my little sister, getting into things, stealing attention that so rightly belonged to me.

I could be a little mean at times. When he got old enough, I loved to send him to the grocery store on his bike to pick up "feminine things," armed only with a fistful of dollar bills, his beloved Mongoose bike, and the instructions to get the ones in the pink box. He either didn't know or didn't care what he was being dispatched to buy. That's not really part of this story, but 25 years later, I still find it just hysterical....

Anyway, my kid brother eventually grows up. And I use the term loosely, because he was just this punk kid when he married his bride at 22 whopping years of age. They were both so young. My sister-in-law, who is extremely close to her own family asked my sister and me to stand in their wedding as a bridesmaid, the first step in making us a part of her family. I remember standing back in the brides room, with nervous energy so thick you could cut it with a knife, listening to my sister-in-law's mother say to her, "now honey, it's not too late to call this whole thing off." In hindsight, it was, because there was a groom, a church full of people, and a room full of bridesmaids in beautiful purple gowns. Truly, at that point, it was too late, but in Texas, it's in bad taste to throw down with the mother of the bride.

My sweet sister-in-law declares that she's going to do this, someone gives her mother some smelling salts, and off we all march. Step. Wait. Step. Wait. All the time, I'm watching my baby brother's face as we stutter stepped down the aisle. When his bride swept out of her hiding place, I swear I could feel the jolt of energy that shocked my brother into reality at the front of the church.

They make it through the vows somehow, throw a fabulous party for all of us, and leave for their honeymoon in Jamaica. My innocent sister-in-law had led a fairly sheltered life, and I think being offered marijuana their first hour on the island damn near convinced her to give back the ring and tear up the marriage license.

They return from their honeymoon still married, thank heavens, and begin their life together in a little house in our hometown. One night while my brother was out of town, she called me, and together we painted their front bedroom a dark dark green color, in full high gloss. At night, from the front yard, the room glowed an eerie green and hinted of a science experiment gone bad. It took my brother about three coats of primer and a half a dozen coats of a more reasonable paint color to turn that room back into something livable. I'm not sure he ever forgave either one of us for that indiscretion.

Shortly after they were married, my brother decided he would do some small home improvements. One project led to another, and soon, the house was torn to shreds, from stem to stern, as he proudly nickel and dimed his way to a beautiful new old home, DIY style. My sister-in-law lived for years, YEARS I tell you, with exposed rafters, no kitchen, only one working bathroom. And if she griped about it, she sure didn't do it in front of us.

I have laughed with her and at her over the years - laughed until I cried, in fact, on more than one occasion. Funny things she's said, a night out with me and my girlfriends at a sing-a-long bar at the West End. So many times we've laughed.

And then, in March of 2000, I stood in the hallway outside the nursery at Baylor Medical Center in Grapevine, and I cried until I laughed, looking at the beautiful baby boy she and my brother had brought into this world. I looked into that tiny baby's face and could see my brother, who I loved with every cell in my body, and my sister-in-law, who I now loved just as much. It happened again when my niece joined us two years ago. Watching those two children grow up has been a highlight of my life.

Shortly after my father died two years ago, my brother and his family had their little house on the market, thinking it would be nice to upgrade and knowing that it would take some time to sell their home. Funny how life works out sometimes. Around the time my niece was born, they got an offer on the house that they just couldn't turn down.

My mom, a new widow after 42 years of marriage, opened her home to my brother and his growing family, and soon, her very empty nest included her grown son, his wife, and his two children, one only a few weeks old.

It is a testament to my sister-in-law that she holds family so near and dear. This is a woman, just one month postpartum, who packed her life up and moved. IN. WITH. HER. MOTHER-IN-LAW. God Bless Her.

As they say, shit happens, and the two month stay turned into a two year stay, or darn close to it. For lo those many months, my sister-in-law respected my mother's space, looked out for her, and was her friend. She spent time with my mother on a level that I could never have provided, and she, probably more than anyone, eased my mother's transition into the "new normal" that she's living with today.

My sister-in-law has been a part of our family now for fifteen years, and I honestly can't remember a time without her. Nor, after all this time, would I want to.

We are very different from each other. She has strange OCD tendencies that cause me some level of confusion and concern. We don't agree on politics in any form or fashion. She is a blond fashion plate, which I find alternately annoying and terrifying. I think she and my brother laugh at my minivan behind my back. And you know what? I'm ok with all of that. My sister-in-law is not perfect, but none of us are.

She is a terrific wife and a loving mother, and she has stood by my brother through thick and thin. She has his back, and he has hers. They are just a nice couple to be around, because you know they really like each other. If any of us need her, she drops what she's doing and is there for us. She loves our family and mourned the loss of my father as much as any of us. She has brought these awesome children into our world and has become a vital part of who we are as a family.

I think back often to that night 15 years ago, and I'm so thankful that she didn't call it off. We would have missed the Experience That Is Robin. I cannot imagine how different things would have been for all of us.

Happy birthday, SIL. We love you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miss, why is the trashbag buzzing?

A funny story to share.....

In the interest of good dental hygiene, LittleG had collected quite a grouping of toothbrushes. My original motto was "if it's cute and I buy it for her, maybe she'll use it." For the record, I have since changed the motto to "pick up the damn thing and use it now."

Oh, but she had the best toothbrushes: A cute little blue one with a duck on it. And a purple one with Zack and Weezie (Dragon Tales). And about three or four random Disney Princess brushes. And some others - too many to name, all cluttering up my hall bathroom, in various states of God only knows what kind of decay.

I had had enough, one evening, of the clutter. And knowing what I knew about my then barely four year old, I decided that stealth was the best approach to removing said germ factories. So I began removing them, late at night, one at a time, for what seemed like weeks, and tossing them in the big trashcan in the garage. Because heaven only knows if she'd found them in the bathroom trash, she'd have moved them back into the rotation.

My evil plan was working perfectly, and LittleG was none the wiser. I had bought her a fancy new purple Barbie brush, and she was in love with it. One evening I slipped the final old toothbrush, the piece de resistance....the battery operated Barbie brush....from its place on the counter. I headed down the hallway towards the garage when something distracted me. Absentmindedly, I put it on the kitchen table. And then I promptly forgot about it.

Until morning time, when I swooped into the kitchen nanoseconds before LittleG, and spied the evil germcatcher on the table. Rather than fight the battle with LittleG, I swept the toothbrush off the table, smooshed it into the trashcan and covered it with the Cheetos bag from the night before. Don't judge me, people.

We were leaving to go out of town for a family adventure just as the maid arrived to do her thing. She's busy in the kitchen, we're busy in the bedrooms and getting the house ready to close out for a few days. Somehow, we find ourselves (me, LittleG, and MrG) in the garage with a very startled maid.

By this time, she's a little pale, and she's pointing with a trembling finger to the trashbag she's dropped on the floor. It's the one from the kitchen. And it is buzzing like there is no tomorrow. The Cheetos bag is flush up against the bristles of the toothbrush that are now spinning like crazy because somehow when she jostled the trashbag around, the switch on the toothbrush flipped on.

"Miss," she says, "why is the trashbag buzzing?" And I, of course, cannot reply, because to do so would be to uncover my deceit and brand me forever as a liar and a traitor to that sweet baby child who loves me so.

So I just smile and wave her off, leaving her thinking God only knows what of me and my vibrating trash bag......

Come on, November 4

I have a distant but dear friend who is a staunch conservative. I meant STAUNCH. In all caps. You know, the kind that sends me 5 emails a day extolling the virtues of McCain/Palin. I love her anyway. She can't help how she was born, so I try to shrug it off.

I'm trying hard, here folks. I do not want to engage her in an intellectual discussion about the candidates. I respect her right to be a hard right-to-lifer. As a Catholic (converted, not cradle), my own views on right-to-life have been radically altered. Or maybe it's because I'm a mom now, but either way, I'm a lot closer to the middle of the road on that issue than I used to be. But, I digress. My point is, I validate her right to believe the way she does. Sometimes when you're friends, you just have to agree to disagree.

After sitting ALL DAY in a training session (which by all rights entitles me to the mother of all temper tantrums!), I hit the hotmail account and find multiple SARAH IS CLOSEST TO GOD and OBAMA IS THE DEVIL emails in my inbox. I seriously thought I was going to hurl myself down the stairs of my building. I contemplated it and decided four flights was just enough to eff me up but not enough to kill me.

My challenge is that I don't want to start a debate with her, don't want to argue with her, don't want to lose her as a friend. She has no idea how I feel about her choice of candidates, and I don't think I can point out my point of view without alienating her and damaging our friendship beyond repair.

So, I just click and delete, click and delete. Click and delete. All while silently seething, and wanting to reach through cyberspace and shake some sense into her.

My friend has the right to trumpet a woman seeking to leave her five children (one special needs, and one pregnant teenager) as she serves the second highest office in the land, despite the fact that my friend gave up her "away from home" job to stay home and be a full time mom to her girls. Spin it how you will folks, a woman who becomes second fiddle to the most powerful man in the world will be leaving her children.

My friend has the right to throw her support behind a feeble old white guy who doesn't know how many houses he owns (8), who owns 13 cars (3 of them foreign, despite the fact that he says he only buys American), even when she herself was denied a new car for years after she quit her day job.

My friend has the right to put her money where her mouth is when it comes to a candidate whose city charged rape victims for their own rape kits, despite the fact that my friend's husband works in law enforcement.

What is eating me alive is that my the very family values that my friend holds so dear are exactly why I can't sign off on the red team this year.

Palin? She leaves her children. For a job. She seeks to change the rules about my child's reproductive behaviors when she cannot control those of her own children. And if what I'm reading is true, Bristol wasn't the first one in her family pregnant out of wedlock. In case you're wondering, she married on August 29, and her firstborn son was born the following April. You do the math.

McCain? He began dating his second wife before he divorced the first one. Allegations ran wild that he had an affair with a lobbyist, and he was one of the Keating 5, accused of messing around with federal regulators in a bank case.

She leaves her family high and dry. He lies, and he cheats, and still, my friend thinks he and his VP pick are the lesser of two evils.

I love my friend, and although her presence in my world is not huge, it is hugely important. And so, I will click. And I will delete. For the next 40 or so days.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hello, all.....

Thank you, loyal readers, for clicking in and checking on me. I guess that should say "thank you Mom and those other three of you, whoever you may be!"

I've been away for awhile because frankly, my brain is full right now. This is the first time I've taken any actual interest in politics (I know, damn two percenter!), and I am absolutely fascinated by the behavior in both camps right now.

Politics really has been top of mind for me lately. It's like a nasty car wreck. I know I shouldn't look. But I JUST. CAN'T. LOOK. AWAY!!

I've read the fact check websites. And CNN. And MSN. And the radical liberal democrats' sites. And the whackjob republican nutcase sites. I'm amused at the number of people who don't live in the States who are commenting on our politics. And I have to give a shout out to some of you. By gosh, you take this stuff seriously!!!

And yet, I don't necessarily think that's the sort of thing you want to read about here. And it's certainly not what I want to write about. Although, I did, two posts ago: My Give-A-Damn's Busted . Just couldn't help myself.

The whole situation right now is just incendiary. Friends are disagreeing. There is ugly talk in the lunchroom at work. It's conservatives vs. liberals right now, when it used to be just a group of friends. Moms are disagreeing with daughters, and brothers with sisters. I hate that. Why can't we all just get along (whine!!)....

I feel the way I feel, and I respect your right to feel the way you feel. I don't want to try to change your mind over to my side, and I sure as hell don't want you trying to change mine. So, let's just agree to disagree. It will all be over in about 7 weeks, and we can go back to the status quo.

In the meantime, I will try to come up with something funny or interesting that somehow doesn't revolve around the GOP. I'll just leave you with this.

That feeble 72 year old white guy who doesn't know how many houses he owns? Well apparently, he created the BlackBerry. Really, you say? Absolutely. Read it here on CNN: McCain Advisor: BlackBerry, a miracle he helped create

Go figure. Seems only fair, though, since Al Gore invented the internet. That's reaching across the aisle, folks!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Lady Steele, modern superhero

I've been looking for a catchy name for my blog. While my initials may be absolutely enthralling to those of you who bestowed them upon me, they really aren't that exciting for the rest of the world.

My new name came from my BFF, and there's a funny story behind it. It involves a small dog, a metal baby gate, a late night phone call, and a set of bolt cutters.

The story is not so funny yet to my BFF, so you don't get the details now. But at least I have a not-so-boring blog name.

No animals were harmed in the making of the blog title.

My Give-A-Damn's Busted!

Or so I thought. I didn't think I had a blog entry in me, but I've gotten a little second wind today. Lucky you.

August was a busy month at Casa Garcia. LittleG has been in swim lessons, which has thrown a royal wrench in our evenings for the past month. I'm happy to report that she is finished with her lessons, and we all survived. Regretfully, in the water she still has more confidence than skill, but hopefully we've gotten a good foundation started for a nice strong swimmer someday.

I haven't posted anything lately because I've been busy. And tired. And I've had some damn cold for a week now that's really mucking up the works. So, I've been cranky, and admittedly, that's not the best for blog writing. Would that I could come up with 1,000 or so words of total humor or poetry. But lately, not so much.

I spent a long weekend at home thanks to a free day off on Friday (thank you very much, Frank Anton) and spent some quality time with MrG and LittleG. That was nice. I also spent some time on Which, regretfully, was not so nice.

I have to preface this with the statement that I usually vote Democratic. Not always, but usually, and that's what I was sort of kind of considering planning to do this time around. Now, for sure, it will happen.

You staunch Republicans can just skitter away now. I acknowledge and validate your right to your opinion, and I expect the same from you. If you don't want to read bad stuff about your Republican superhero, it's time for you to click someplace else. Try

For the rest of you, thanks for sticking around. First, I am absolutely astonished at the choices John McCain has made in the past week. I totally get that he would chose a woman as a running mate.

Makes perfect sense, hits that white female demographic, avoids the "one of the good ole Republican Boys club," the whole nine yards. Reach out to those Hillary supporters and at the same time hit the right wing nutjobs with an ultraconservative. Two birds, one stone. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it.

But a woman with a special needs child at home? Call me whatever sexist name you will, but as a mom myself, if I had to choose between being there for my child or for my job, my child would win. Hands Down. 100% of the time. Maybe that's why I'm not in politics.

Why in the world would an old guy teetering on the brink of Aged One choose a mom with a special needs child to be his backup? If the Republicans want to win this thing, they better exude some confidence in the people that they choose to run on the ticket. And frankly, I suspect moms all over the nation feel the same way I do. You're a mom, first, before you're a political figure. And if you think for a minute that you could put the needs of your child behind your job, then you're not the kind of person I want leading our country anyway. And why in the hell would you want to work for a guy who might ask you to make that choice sometime?

Is that sexist? Well, yes. Is it reality? Yes to that, too. The same argument could be made for fathers of special needs kids. But you know what? I'm not a dad. I don't have that frame of reference, so I can only speak personally of being a mom. And for me, my kid wins over my job. Every. Single. Time.

My second gripe is that he has been all over Barak's ass about his lack of experience. Apparently, experience doesn't really matter since McCain's backup guy (I use the term loosely) has only been a mayor of a small town, and a governor for less time than Obama has served in the senate. If experience is really important, than McCain should damn sure pick someone with some experience in the event he or she needs to take over someday. If it's not, he needs to shut his piehole on the experience issue.

And the final nail in the coffin for me is the pregnancy of Palin's 17 year old daughter. I absolutely do not believe that the American public has any right to go after her daughter. No holds barred, it's a line we should NOT cross. But for a staunch conservative to stand on her soap box and preach abstinence to the world while her teenage daughter is out getting herself knocked up just seems hypocritical and sanctimonious to me. It's clear that teaching abstinence alone just doesn't work. And you need to look no further than Palin's own family to prove that point.

If she's really that strong a leader, you would think she could control what's going on in her own family. And the argument could be made that if her own daughter doesn't respect her authority, how in the world can she expect millions of total strangers to do so?

Back to this being a mom thing... if she thinks her daughter is going to marry this boy and live happily ever after without any help from her, she's nuts. I was 36 years old when LittleG was born, and I was on the phone with my mom MANY times a day during my pregnancy and LittleG's infancy (thanks, Mom, unless I chased you off earlier).

If Sarah Palin thinks her parental job ends because her teenaged daughter gets married, she needs a serious reality slap upside the face. She's either going to sell her daughter short by not being there when she's needed, or she'll sell her job short. She can't be both places at one time, and God forbid, her kid need her at a time when she's called on to step up and play the lead role on her own. Somebody's gonna lose that fight. Will it be us or her family? It's hard to say which would be worse.

Say what you will about the Palin's making the decision not to terminate either pregnancy - what you feel about abortion is yours to own - the conservatives who embrace this family and hold them up as examples are falling far short. The best example Palin could have shared with the world is a teenage daughter who didn't get herself pregnant to start with. And in the absence of the best example, the second best example would be for a mom to be there when her kid needs her, not off playing politics with the good ole boys.

Overall, I can't decide what is worse - that John McCain might have failed to vet his candidate and was blindsided by the news, or if he knew before he settled on her and he chose her anyway. Either situation shows an astounding lack of political acumen on his part. I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

My favorite quote about McCain came from Jack Cafferty, who called him "a feeble looking 72-year-old white guy who doesn't know how many homes he owns." Read it here: The Land of Make Believe

I guess that pretty much sums it up for me.