Unread emails

Looking at my iPhone last night, I had 143 unread emails. It was too much. Three personal email accounts and WAY too many unopened, unread, or just old and no longer relevant emails. So, I decided to clean out my inboxes, and I found myself laughing at what I found – and how much I could unsubscribe from or just delete.

  • Getting Pregnant Newsletter: huh, probably not an issue since I’m missing ONE KEY INGREDIENT to that recipe. A newsletter, no matter what kind of helpful advice it contains, is probably not going to overcome the lack-of-sperm issue. Also, definitely not the time for a new baby…
  • All the STL-specific newsletters: yep, haven’t lived in St. Louis for about a year now, and I’m certainly not driving six hours to use a coupon, so it’s probably safe to unsubscribe to the local deals emails, the local Freecycle emails, local kids resale shop emails, local restaurant specials emails, etc.
  • Shopping/flash sale emails for sites I’ve never actually purchased things from: I don’t even remember why I signed up for these. Somehow I’ve ended up with emails from about a dozen of these sites. I could spend hours looking at the sales (i.e., G1lt or F@b) but I never do. And when I do have a moment to look, there’s absolutely nothing 1) in the size/color/pattern I need, or 2) I would spend money on (i.e., UGLY or completely impractical – like $65 (45% off!!) faux fur boots for my toddler. Really?!?).
  • Social media updates: I’m on my social media networks daily, so I don’t need updates telling me that so-and-so updated his Facebook status or that there are 83 new discussions in a LinkedIn group (an LI professional group that I signed up for , but probably never actually visited). Guarantee I’ll see the updates I want to see, so auto-notifications are now adjusted.
  • School updates from Ethan’s kindergarten year: if I missed the Christmas play or didn’t bring snacks for a teacher appreciation day, it was probably because I didn’t open the email. Kind of late now, right?
  • Mike’s resume and cover letter: doubt he’s looking for a job right now. Besides, I don’t think he took my advice on the last round of edits I sent.

I’m down to a manageable 23 unread emails today. That seems reasonable, but much less amusing.

Hot peppers and saying goodbye

When Mike and I started dating, it was a big deal with his family because he hadn’t brought a girl home before. It was a REALLY big deal when I was asked to go to a family function at his grandparents’ house.

Of course, I was warned about “things” in advance. Things like women did not eat with the “men-folk” and women stayed in the house, preferably the kitchen, all day. Women served the men first, who eat in order of seniority/age with the elder men sitting down first. Then, the women served the kids. THEN, the women got to eat the meal. After everything was picked over and cold (no microwave). Whatever was left was okay for women to eat – EVEN THOUGH THE WOMEN WERE THE ONES WHO MADE THE MEAL.

I was warned because Mike knew this wasn’t going to fly with me. Turns out, there was nothing to be worried about.

Within minutes of our arrival, Mike’s grandpa wanted to show me his garden. We walked to the back yard and I was extremely polite. I ooh’d and aah’d over his vegetables. Then he walked down a narrow path, bent down, picked something, and came back toward me.

“Try this, girl,” he said. (Every female in the family was “girl,” and I doubt he actually KNEW any of the women’s names.)

“Sure,” I replied, taking a green pepper from his hand and biting three-quarters of it. I chewed it, swallowing whole as much as possible.

Thank goodness I was wearing dark sunglasses. My eyes were watering. My mouth was on fire. But I’d be damned if I’d let him see that.

“Well,” I said. “It’s a little warm, but do you have anything HOT?”

Mike grabbed the pepper from my hand and took a bite. He ran into the house screaming, mouth on fire, for a glass of milk. When he came back with a drink for me, I refused and held my eye contact (from behind my sunglasses) with his grandpa.

Mike’s grandpa clasped his hands, did a bit of a jig, and kind of giggled. He was absolutely tickled.

From that moment on, I had a name – in fact, I was the only woman referred to by my first name, and not called “girl.” I was also invited to eat WITH him IN THE GARAGE. It was monumental for the family. Not everyone was pleased.

For the next 15 years, Mike’s grandpa would ask me about peppers, give me a huge hug, and call me by my first name. I was also the only woman invited to eat in the garage and watch wrestling (“wraslin’”) with him.

I don’t know why I decided to google his name today. He was near 90 years old and I don’t believe he had ever been on the Internet, let alone have an online presence. I typed his name into the search engine and …

Up came his obituary.

He died on September 20. Ethan and Lauren are mentioned in the obit as his great grandkids. Mike is mentioned as a family member who died before him. There is no reference to peppers (not that there should be).

No one called to tell me he passed. Of course, I don’t have a relationship with his family, but I honestly thought his parents would call when Mike’s grandpa died. I even mentioned this to my mom a few weeks ago, that I thought Mike’s parents would reach out when his grandpa died. I told my mom that I’d send a pepper plant to his funeral service.

But, I didn’t know he had already died.

God bless you, Charles. I guess I’ll let you know now that the pepper was the hottest damn thing I ever tasted. But, you probably already knew that. Thanks for referring me by my name and letting me dine with you in the garage at family functions. I have very good memories of you. XOXO

Musical Flashback: Silly Little Love Songs

Driving to Target today, the Paul McCartney / Wings song “Silly Little Love Songs” shuffled to the speakers from my iPhone.

It was the song Mike would sing after Lauren was born. I remember him singing it (accompanied by Ethan) to Lauren while I was giving her a bath. Night after night, for months.

They sang it dramatically. They sang it humorously. They sang it seriously. They sang it together to Lauren. It became a nightly ritual.

It was just about the time I realized Mike had a drinking problem. Still, it’s a happy memory because Mike seemed (somewhat) in control. He was still (somewhat) involved with the kids at that point.

The song would make Lauren smile and giggle. It made Ethan happy. It brought a sense of “things will be okay” to me.

Mike stopped singing the song around Christmas 2010. I don’t think I’ve heard it since.

I listened to it today, and it made me feel nostalgic. I didn’t cry but felt a sense of peace. Someday I will play the song for Ethan and ask if he remembers. Someday I will play it for Lauren and tell her that her daddy used to sing it to her when she was a baby. I hope they remember.

Sleeping on a submarine

I spent Friday night sleeping with 40 men and boys.

That sounds much more risqué than it was – it was a Cub Scout overnight in a WWII submarine. A couple dozen boys and their DADS… I was the only mom.

When Ethan learned I signed us up for this adventure, he said, “You’re going to hate this – I bet the sub will smell like MEN!” Observant boy…

I’m a bit particular. Some may even say high maintenance. I’m pretty picky about the hotels I’ll stay at and I knew a submarine wouldn’t live up to my usual overnighting standards. But this wasn’t about me. It was about Ethan, and I knew he really wanted to go. I didn’t make a big deal out of it.

It was a unique opportunity (and, of course, completely amenity-less). Some observations and learnings:

  • There’s a weird assortment of things missing from our move earlier this year. Things we can’t find: my favorite cocktail shaker, our sleeping bags (which we’ve previously used for “camp outs” in the back yard), my muffin tin, a small purple duffel bag. Strange things is, that this stuff was in different places in the old house, so how it all ended up missing is a mystery. So, Ethan and I had to buy new sleeping bags for this adventure. It’s probably not a bad thing to have Ethan in a “big boy” sleeping bag (instead of the “Cars” one that is now MIA).
  • The sleeping arrangements were surreal. Forty beds in a tiny room, smaller than my living room. Bunks three high. Single bunks on either wall, double bunks (like two twins) in the center. Ethan and I slept side-by-side on the top double bunk. I was terrified all night that he’d roll off and fall the six feet to the hard, steel floor. But the middle bunk didn’t have enough room to sit up and the bottom bunk did not allow enough room to even roll over. Plus, I got my hair stuck in the bed springs of the middle bunk when I was checking out the space. I had to scalp myself to break free. (Of course, I was hysterically laughing at my predicament, thinking that only *I* could get my hair stuck in the beds on a submarine…)
  • Speaking of the sleeping arrangements, I had one dad’s feet nearly touching my pillow (uncomfortable), and another dad (who’s like 6’10”) was sleeping on the bunk on the other side – he really tried hard to keep his legs and feet on his bed. He slept diagonally to keep his legs on his bed and not intrude on my space.
  • Dads apparently don’t “hear” kid noise. Imagine dozens of 7- and 8- year old boys running around, “playing” submarine at 10 p.m. The noise was ridiculous – and the dads were standing around talking to each other or looking at their smart phones. Ethan wasn’t even the loudest or most aggressive or craziest kid there (thank goodness!). The noise level would NOT have been tolerated (or probably even attempted) if moms were there.
  • Imagine the “lights out” call and three boys continuing to SCREAM for five minutes, then 10 minutes… I had ear plugs in – I could have slept through, but Ethan wasn’t going to go to sleep as long as something was going on, so I called it. “Boys! Lights out! Any questions about what that means? Shut it and go to sleep!” Several dads snickered, but none chimed in to encourage bedtime. Luckily, the boys obeyed.
  • Lights out at 11:30 p.m. is WAY too late for boys who are used to 8 p.m. bedtimes (as confirmed from conversations with moms). Boys were breaking down before the activities even started at 7:30. A handful of boys were reduced to tears for a variety to reasons including not understanding the fire drill instructions and lost stuffed animals.
  • It was crazy hot inside the sub. Outside was around 30 degrees, but inside (on the top bunk) was around 85 degrees. I was a hot, sweaty mess in the morning – and I never even got under the sleeping bag covers.
  • Ear plugs are crucial when sleeping around men and boys. Imagine the snoring and grunts and other weird nighttime noises coming from dozens of snoozing bodies.
  • Being the only mom on the trip meant that the women’s restroom was extremely clean, so that was an awesome positive.
  • TMI observation (you might want to skip to the next bullet. You’ve been warned): nothing made the night more uncomfortable than being on my period. Yep, an overnight trip with men and boys, and I was bleeding heavily, like I had been shot in the vagina. Just one more thing to think about all night (“Please don’t let me bleed all over myself, my yoga pants, my bedding and the pleather-esque mattress and have to explain to young boys why there’s blood everywhere!”) Luckily, everything was okay. Whew!
  • Finally, I have complete and total admiration for the men who served aboard subs. The space is incredibly tight and it’s hot and stuffy. Men would spend months on subs like these in the hot, steamy Pacific. I can’t imagine… but I am entirely thankful for their sacrifice.