Sharp to Dull

As I write this, it is two weeks ago that the lives of many in the Mohawk Valley were changed, quite possibly forever. While most didn’t know the victims of the Mohawk/Herkimer shootings (and Mohawk fire set by the shooter at his apartment house), most can say that it has shaken them in ways big and small.

The gut-wrenching tears have subsided and given way to a dull tension, nervousness, fear, and hopelessness. There are anxiety-driven shivers up the spine, for no apparent reason. While some are viewing neighbors in a kinder nature, others are going out of their way not to make eye contact. Some question whether we should have our first block party this summer, not wanting to become too familiar with possibly dangerous strangers.

The instant negativity from individuals near and far when our story rose to the top of the headlines still echoes: Cuomo will use this to tout his gun control law; aren’t you glad you have guns in your house to protect yourself; don’t let the government take away your right to bare arms. In the midst of funerals and benefits, the dialogue was insensitive and downright immature. As drips and drabs of the killer’s background and preparation came into view, it continued. He had 95 additional rounds at his disposal? “I hate to say it, but that’s not really that many. Just more liberal blah blah blah…” What?! If one stray bullet had hit one additional person (of course, my thoughts lead directly to my mother, who works on the road between Mohawk and Herkimer), that’s one additional person too many. My God, what is WRONG with people?! It’s not just this waste of a human being that did the shooting. The lack of caring or understanding in mankind has me flabbergasted and downtrodden.

Two homicides have occurred at local cities this week, tossing agonizing salt into unhealed wounds. Paranoia atop paranoia spreads. There just doesn’t seem to be any good news to be found; at least, no news good enough to dress the wounds. The cracks can be seen in tense conversations between loved ones. We’re tired and downtrodden. With Easter coming up, it feels as if the eggshells already abound, on the floor, upon which to be tread.

I’m hoping that the coming of spring can help to warm hearts and souls again, but I fear that no day will pass without the thought that “This could be the last day. This could be the day that the station gets held up by one crazy viewer. This could be the day that someone harms my baby. This could be the day that one of the threats my mom receives at work finally comes true. This could be the day that my school gets attacked.” It’s a horrific way to live.

Just as the tears have ended, I hope that time allows us to grasp the life we once knew. I refuse to have my son raised with Fear and Paranoia as siblings. My shattered optimism must be glued back into a solid piece again; 1,000 shards to carefully place back together, but what to be the glue? I’m not a religious person, but wonder if mass will help.

As an individual who has struggled with life-long depression, and who has contemplated suicide, I cannot recall such a terrifying feeling of hopelessness. The memory of 9/11 comes quite close, but we were rather detached from that beyond the initial stomachaches and sadness of watching the horrific events unfold. This is so close. Mind you, I am not currently in a “low point” and have such an incredible will to live life. However, I yearn to live a life free of the shackles of manhood. To live a simplistic, happy life with my family, my fur balls, my friends. To be separate from the evils of man and to avoid the fear and anger that accompanies living amongst them. But, without becoming a complete isolationist, this is impossible, and the ultimate goal is to LIVE, not to hide.

My original post, when things were still so very raw, can be seen here.

Hoppin’ Down the Bunny Trail…

I recently mentioned that I’m not a huge Easter fan as far as the bunny and stuff like that goes. But with a baby in the mix, things are shifting.

“The tiiiimes they aaaare a-chaaangin’!”

I’m pretty sure that I’m a bigger Easter do-er than the hubs. The first year we were together, I put together a basket for him, complete with a yo-yo, candy, and ubiquitous plastic “Easter grass”. He was grateful, but generally confused as hell. This was when I first realized that I’m apparently an Easter celebrator. Whether I like it or not, I. Must. Observe. It.

So, I’d like to get into the habit of not making the holiday an uber-candyfest. I’m resigned to the fact that there will be candy (like “There Will Be Blood”…isn’t that a freaking incredible movie?! “I…drink…your…milkshake!!!” I heart Daniel Day Lewis) on certain holidays. Hell, I even look a little forward to certain candy. For example, I’m into Cadbury Cream Eggs (just need one) and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, and Dave’s a Jelly Belly guy all year ’round. So, that’s all we’ll be getting from the Easter Bunny this year. That’s it. Not organic, but it’s not 365 days a year.

Otherwise, like with my childhood, it’s all about getting JUUUUUST a basketful of goodies that meet both practical and play needs; pretty much a 50/50 split. There are a handful of outfits that he needs in a certain size, so the EB will provide that (in the future, it’ll be PJs, a new pair of sneakers, and maybe an outfit).

Then comes “the fun.” There are a handful of items that I got as a kid that he can have now — but with adult supervision (and sometimes adult use, actually). Like bubbles. I’m excited to see how he reacts to seeing them float up and fly around, popping on grass and cement and fingers. No jump ropes or anything this year, but perhaps a ball to roll and bounce this summer, a pail and little shovel (which may act as his “basket” — use whatchya got), and, of course, some of the larger plastic “refillable” eggs (empty this year) that we can reuse year-to-year. I also prefer the filler grass to be paper so that it’s at least recyclable (and maybe reusable, we’ll see).

Oh. And, of course, a book or two. That’s as much for Daddy as it is the Hadman.

We won’t be decorating any eggs this year since it’s not like he’ll be able to get his craft on very easily, anyway, but we’ll hunt for a few hidden eggs.

As far as the day goes, it’s not like we have to do present-opening or anything nuts like that. More like, “Oh, look what you got! Thank you, Easter Buuuunnnyyyy!!! Let’s go get changed and watch ‘Mohawk Valley Living’ and ‘CBS Sunday Morning.'” Then, it looks like we’ll be putting on a small brunch (ha! If you know me, you know “small” is a complete joke) for Dave’s folks, which I’m really, really looking forward to. Why do I love making brunch so much?? It’s a sickness, people. You can go as fancy as you like, or not. You can sneak in delicious free-range, humanely treated chicken eggs and organic fruits and veggies and no one’s the wiser (and no one says “this hotdog tastes funny”). Brunch is da bomb. Can we please bring back “da bomb”??

Then, after brunching it up, we’ll do a little dinner visit with my side of the family. If it’s nice out, the EB hides eggs outside. It’s always hysterical to see our almost-17-year-old nephew playing along as much as the younger ones (OMG, his sister’s a big girl now, too…when did that happen?!). There’s a story concerning a “little red riding hood” outfit that we’ll embarrass him with for years to come.

So, even though I’m not into the whole Easter Bunny side of things, consider me officially a stowaway on the bandwagon that is Easter.

Bathroom Update #3

I know what you’re thinking. When will this %$#@ bathroom be done, already? (Either that, or “Who the $#@% cares about your stupid bathroom?” In which case, I say… “Um. Whoa. Harsh much? Go away. Please and thank you.”)

I’d be with you on the impatience train if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m finally seeing TRANSFORMATION when I look at the space. Sure, it’s messy and incomplete and we grow tired of reminding guests to “ignore our renovation”, but I can finally see the finish line. And, lemme tell ya, that finish line is purdy. Puuuuurrrrdyyyyy.

Here’s what we were last left with (and here‘s the horrific “before”, which doesn’t include the “arts and crafts” style vanity and mirror enclosure…*shivers*):

That color still has me super excited and lovin’ life. (Remember that color since the below pictures don’t do it justice.) But, NOW, we’ve finally laid the tiles to rest.

 

Rest in peace, Tiles. You weren’t really loved by us, but whomever decided to put you in sure liked ya, so you must’ve served some purpose. Enjoy the great hereafter.

I had originally wanted sheets of wainscotting, but for whatever reason, the guys nixed that and instead went with this plasticy material that comes in sheets about a foot wide that were cut down (and slid into each other). I’m not sure if this was a better choice or not, given how much white plasticy dust-like material we’ve been cleaning up (and this has been a several-Saturdays-in-a-row project, poor guys), but it does look awesome, doesn’t it? There are imperfections, but the house is pretty imperfect, so it’s suited.

You may notice that we still need to caulk/spackle the trim (it’ll actually be done by the time this post goes live; I just couldn’t wait to upload some pictures). Next comes the vinyl floor tiles and quarter round, then details!

Oh, and here’s the “had to find SOME vanity and the style we wanted isn’t available from Lowe’s or Home Depot anymore” vanity…which I actually really like for the space. We were going to go with a white one with a euro styling, but this works fine. It also came with a few dings (the trouble of going with a darker wood option) but it’s nothing some filler can’t take care of…if I match it properly. 😉 And, no, we don’t have the toilet paper holder up yet. Keepin’ it classy.

Almost done!!! Hopefully it won’t take much longer.

My School Lunch

Hey, look! Another food post! Maybe food is easier to focus on food than real life lately. So, without further ado, I’d like to share…lunch.

Wow. This totally sounds like I’m Instagramming my life away. Ha, suckas, fooled ya — I don’t even have a smartphone (yet?) let alone Instagram. Neener neener. Still, it seems like a pretty dull post, right? Again, I need me some dull lately! Things have been too (literally) crazy! Last Thursday was the day that the shooting standoff ended, and since we hadn’t slept home, I didn’t have a lunch to bring. Unimportant details in the midst of important happenings. But, isn’t that life?

Usually, I bring any combination of items to make a full-blown meal (or snack-from-10:30-til-1-or-’til-I’m-not-hungry). Always an apple, probably a granola bar, usually some yogurt and an organic cheese stick, then something leftover from dinner (or some all natural lunch meat and chippy chips). Whatev.

This particular day, I finally partook in…dun dun duuuuuunnnn…SCHOOL LUNCH!!!

Why was I so nervous?

Maybe because the previous school I worked for had what can only be described as the Lunch Nazi (in relation to the Seinfeld comparison, not REAL Nazis. You don’t wanna get me started.) He withheld food, referred to students in inappropriate ways and generally produced mild anxiety attacks everyday when lunchtime rolled around. I used to eat school lunches everyday, and it was amusing to compare with my friends/colleagues who received a larger lunch and who got gypped. ‘Cuz someone ALWAYS got gypped.

I think the cafeteria ladies thought I was nuts for falling all over myself to get a simple meal. I was even shocked when they didn’t blink over my handing them a $10 bill (the only bill I had on me). That would’ve produced a major eye roll and even some ribbing in the good ol’ days.

SIDE NOTE: Mind you, I LOVED my old school. Don’t get me wrong here. Okay, back to the regularly scheduled program.

Here’s what I got (aside from a crappy cell phone picture):


From top left: Apple (wrapped in plastic…wasteful, but I’m assuming there’s a state mandated reason for it), chocolate milk, fruit punch, burger with the fixin’s, sweet potato fries (with ranch).
Sure, the milk had salt, cornstarch, carrageenan and “vanillin” (why?!) but the fruit punch was all juice (albeit concentrate) and generally speaking it was a healthy option. I loves me some SP fries and the bun was whole wheat (which I hear lots of kids gripe about these days). I could get nit-picky and complain that nothing was organic and the meat wasn’t grassfed (or probably free of hormones, ick), but on a day like this, beggars can’t be choosers.

And, y’know what? I lied in that picture. I totally had a “Little Debbie” peanut butter wafer snack thingmajigger, too. ‘Cuz, y’know what? We’re alive and I can.

Once In Awhile, I Cook

Every once in awhile, the stars align and I actually cook a substantial meal for me and the hubs. When I say “stars align”, I actually mean that my baby-mama exhaustion subsides (enough to cook), my mind is able to plan ahead enough to have all ingredients on hand, my mood rises, and the temperature demands I turn on the oven. How my mother did this at least once a week (of course, she always cooked for us, but we had a huge, rivals-Thanksgiving meal every Sunday) with four kids and no spouse is miraculous to my tiny brain.

I recently had a friend ask where I get my grassfed meat. Generally, when we’re at a farmers’ market (at this time of year, the all-year Cooperstown indoor choice), we stock up, big-time. I make this meat stretch quite a bit. We don’t do very much in terms of beef, but I’ll occasionally use the ground beef (way cheaper) for chili or shepherd’s pie.

Unfortunately, between time restraints and other obligations, we’ve been unable to get to any farmers’ markets or co-ops. At times like these, when I know we haven’t had a “meat ‘n potatoes” type meal in awhile, I opt for meat that doesn’t hit all of our checkpoints. It may not be grassfed. It may not be certified organic (my local grocery store doesn’t stock organic meats…hmph) and is fed a “vegetarian diet” (I assume this means it includes corn, probably genetically modified…double hmph). But, it was treated humanely and without the use of antibiotics. Gotta weigh the options sometimes and make unfortunate compromises. It’s not worth starving, I suppose.
A couple of Sundays ago (not daylight savings; the one before that…yeah, it’s taken awhile to write this!) was one of those times. I’m trying to maintain a semblance of a grocery budget by allowing myself only to use the cash I’ve withdrawn for this purpose, so since it’s early in the month, I *wisely* took a look at all I’d like to have on hand for a few weeks. So, the aforementioned meat was purchased; this time, a pork tenderloin, some boneless pork ribs (Crock Pot time, baby!), and some stew beef. See? All things that will make at least two meals. Oh, and I already have some ground beef, chicken breasts and a wayward turkey breast in the freezer, for the record. 😉

I went off-the-cuff (once again) for the meal since I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for in my cookbooks. The meal was: mustard maple roast tenderloin with carrots and mushrooms (a way to add flavor but not force the shrooms down Dave’s throat), an all-natural boxed rice pilaf I needed to use up, and wassail-inspired homemade applesauce. Here’s what I did for the pork and applesauce (and, if you try this, please be forgiving — my memory is like an open window; things fly in and out willy nilly; feel free to say “yo, wait, that temperature sounds wrong” and I’ll probably say, “I bow to you. You are correct. I’ll go stand in the corner for 30 minutes now. And probably nap.” Also take note that I like to “wing it” when cooking.):


Roasted Pork Tenderloin

– ~1 lb. pork tenderloin
– a teensy bit of salt, good amount of pepper
– dijon mustard (or we happened to have a beer and balsamic mustard spread that I’ve gotta use up)
– a drizzle of honey
– sprinkle of rosemary (or sage)
– extra virgin olive oil for pan and veggies

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rinse and pat dry the pork tenderloin, then coat with mustard, honey and seasonings. Bake, uncovered, for about 35 to 45 minutes or until internal temperature is about 160°F. I also used the roasting pan to roast some baby carrots and mushrooms (also in olive oil and seasonings).

Side note: To get the pork more caramelized, you can quickly brown both sides in a pan before putting into the oven, but lower the cooking time and keep checking for internal temp.

Wassail Applesauce
– 4-5 apples (more or less, depending on how much you want to make), peeled, cored and cut into chunks
– 1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg
– 1/8 tsp. cloves
– splash of orange juice

Combine all ingredients in pan. Bring to boil, lower heat and allow to simmer until apples are soft. Mash with potato masher (you want to keep some of the texture). Add water if you need it looser.

8 Months

The response to my recent post about the Mohawk/Herkimer shootings has been nothing short of overwhelming. The kindness and connections have touched my core. It’s difficult to write further about those 24 hours, but those I’ve spoken to have similar feelings: settling into a state of numbness. This is where we currently reside, squeezing our loved ones a little tighter than usual. So, in an attempt to move on, I’ll write the post that my brain was percolating when the events started to unfold. It may seem frivolous, but it’s a grasp at normalcy, which is a bit of a challenge in itself.

As I write this, I am officially the parent of an 8-month-old. Holy crap.

So many thoughts accompany that statement, but “holy crap” is all I can come up with to encompass them all. It’s gone so fast…and, yet, not so much. He’s such a big boy…and, yet, not so much. I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that a year ago I was 5 months pregnant and still in a state of “eh, we’ve got time.” We were going to classes and getting nervous or anxious and sharing horrible-for-us meals at Friendly’s afterwards. We even met a really sweet older couple who have ended up on our Christmas list! (Before the aforementioned events occurred, I was going to suggest to the hubby that we take him out to New Hartford for a celebratory Friendly’s dinner — yes, even on a school night! What a fun change-of-routine that would have been.)

But, now we’ve got our handsome monkey. He handles his walker like a champion, turning it on a dime to chase down a cat (or his cousin; thank God she’s a speedy toddler). He’s teething but past the terrible “why is he CRYING?!” days he once had. He’s got chicken fuzz hair (mine), chubby thighs (not sure whose those are), a broad smile (mine), a cute nose (Dad’s) and piercing, clear blue eyes (my grandfather’s?). He’s, as they say, all boy.

I had some tears recently when his grandma/sitter sent home two un-finished bags of milk. We send 4, which he once consumed completely, but lately it’s been 3. This was the first time it’s been this few. It might be a fluke, but I’m concerned it’s weaning. I’ve gotta get myself mentally ready for this, but sometimes you just can’t prepare yourself. It’s life. He’s getting bigger, eating more “solids” and his poop is giving an indication that we could start cloth diapering full-time and have an easy time with it. Which we will.

So, instead of getting sad about his rush to grow up (*sniff, sniff*), my mind brings me to a much-needed happy place: his first birthday. Thanks to his Friday the 13th birthday last year, his first will be on a Saturday — perfect! Plus, it looks like I’ll be staying home with him for the summer, so I can do a bit of planning after school lets out.

It won’t be a huge event, but all the family (and possibly a friend or two) will be invited. We’ve asked my mom to use her space, but we’ll keep an eye out on the weather — we all have pretty small homes, so it would be ideal to have a nice day that will allow us to sprawl into Mom’s backyard (and send the older kids down for badminton, volleyball, etc). She lives in the village of Mohawk, but Dave always says it’s like visiting the country after we’ve had a relaxing afternoon sitting under their carport, observing their gardens and tiny animals scurrying and flying around. They often have a steady stream of deer and turkeys enjoying their backyard as much as their human counterparts.

I’m not sure there will be a theme since he’s not really a “fan” of anything — I mean, an Elephant and Piggie theme would be neat when he’s older, but currently we’re not down for a giraffe or cat (he. loves. his. kitties.) theme. I’m just thinking fun, bright boy colors. And balloons.

Our families usually just do FOOD for birthdays. I’m more of the “entertain” mindset. So, of course there’ll be food, but I’d like to come up with some laid-back entertainment ideas (a photo “booth”/station area to take pics and remember the day, maybe). I’d like to keep whatever we do simple as to avoid the raised eyebrow, so I guess I’ll have to remember my Pinterest login again.

And, since we’re the only Organics in the fam (doesn’t that sound like a nice label? “Organics”? Better than granola hippies), we’ll probably do a BBQ or something with some healthy sides. Either way, I hope to share the fun. I only wish those adorable, highly-fashioned blog ideas with awesome paper straws and glass soda bottles in galvanized tubs was realistic. But, ultimately, the most important part of the day is family getting together to celebrate the joy that Hadley has brought to so many.

That, and cake.

Family

I don’t really even remember how I heard about the shooting. I was in the midst of returning books, writing envelopes to return inter-library loan books and mentally working on a blog post, indulging myself with joyous thoughts of the little man’s 8-month “birthday.” Oblivious.

Was it a news blip online? Was it a Facebook post? Was it a call with my mom? In a whirlwind, I found myself grasping my gut and sobbing at the thought of what was happening. Puzzle pieces of information were floating to the top, some true, some rumor. An explosion at a 3-room apartment in Mohawk. Shooting in Herkimer. Related? Explosion at John the Barber’s. But, wait, no fire. It was the apartment owner in Mohawk. No, it wasn’t. His car’s abandoned. Near Valley Health (an elderly care facility, incredibly close to the local high school and community college)? No, rumor. 

All I knew was that there seemed to be a dangerous man on the loose and my mother had received threats recently (and over time) at her occupation in Mohawk. We’re at a local school which did a tiny version of a lockdown, but she was in the thick of it. I called and asked her to go on lockdown but she shrugged it off. Luckily, they eventually did, but only after the gunman had settled into his hideout in Herkimer.

Herkimer. Our town. A place we’re constantly discussing whether or not to move away from. It’s not an unsafe place, but Dave wouldn’t want me to walk down Main Street without him. Freaky deakies, druggies and mentally ill people stroll the street and surrounding ones all day. Not a side of our lives you hope to show the world on the Today Show.

Mohawk. My hometown. Main Street, where four were shot a block east of where I lived my first 19 years. With a barber shop that was as much a hangout as it was an establishment for a new ‘do. A place that’s been put through its own hardships over the years, teeming with hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people…like my grandparents and their children who made their lives there for a reason.

After a day of racing between the phone and computer with rising fear and tears, a blur of super-smiley-hiding-inner-anxiety classes, comparing notes with a handful of coworkers, and texting as reception would have it, it was finally the end of the day. Our home street had been inundated with SWAT teams who mistook a neighbor with a white beard as the suspect, but had since retreated, and people weren’t certain if he was above a jewelry store (Weisser’s, where I purchased my class ring in high school), in an abandoned former bar (Glory Days, a bar I once frequented; one of the only clean, safe ones in the area), both two blocks from my home, or an abandoned school building which we referred to as the “brick bonanza” (as its “for sale” sign read) about a block from our place.

Go home in the midst of essentially a town-wide lockdown? Be alone with the cats? The poor cats who, thanks to a security camera, we knew were watching the proceedings from the window with slight confusion and wonderment. Not alone, I needed to be with Hadley, if not my husband.

Or go to my in laws’ house in Utica, where it was safe and where my precious baby son was blissfully ignorant of the outside world? Possibly not return home for the night. Or more.

Throughout it all, I was ecstatic every time I received a short text or very brief email from my husband. When I was informed that he’d be heading to the scene to trade tapes with reporters, the anxiety overtook me. He thought nothing of the danger, knowing that the police would keep them far enough from it. In my opinion, anywhere near the zip code would be too close. My thoughts were with the families of those who had been shot, though I only knew the barber remotely. My thoughts were with the law enforcers, EMTs and firemen who were putting themselves in extreme danger. But, mostly, my thoughts were with him.

It hurts that media is seen as the “bad guy,” especially locally. People are simply ignorant about it. I can see where national news outlets tend to have blatant agendas, but as far as our small-town news providers are concerned, there is little politicking involved. People at the station spout about their political views, even to the point of offending others, but there seems to be a clear divide; the whole place isn’t liberal, the whole place isn’t conservative, and they all keep it the hell off the airwaves. But, when people see something they disagree with, they jump to the concept that it’s because the individual is biased.

In times like these, you also see an influx of “why the hell aren’t you covering this more?” and “why are you shoving this down our throats?” and “why isn’t this working?” and a hundred other variations of terribly rude complaints. Sure, there are daily bitchings, but when things get terrifying, people feel the need to find someone to lash out towards; enter, the media.

Without the media, we would be, simply put, misinformed. We wouldn’t know the latest information. We would be completely in the dark. Helpless.

When everyone else is running away from a dangerous situation, it’s the brave law enforcement individuals first; we take for granted that they do an incredibly difficult job, and do it well. But, not far behind comes the media. In their plain clothes and lack of weaponry or bullet-proof vests; we take for granted that they’ll provide the information we desperately need to feel safe in our beds, to know that our loved ones are okay, and also do it well. The criticism towards either individual astounds me.

The hatred towards other human beings, particularly when thrown like shit on the internet, who have been putting their lives on the line is a poison. It’s almost as sickening as a man who shoots 6 people, killing 4 and a beloved FBI dog.

What’s to heal those suffering? The ones who are experiencing emotions from loss of loved ones themselves, to loss of innocence, to anxiety and terror, to their own sudden urges towards violence? It certainly isn’t a continuation of the hatred and negativity that begat this whole terrible thing.

With these thoughts (although not knowing how it would all end), I drove in the opposite direction of the terror, escaping to my baby and my husband’s parents. We ate Chinese. We watched the national news of our shooting (OUR shooting), coming second only to the news of the new pope. We drank tea. It was good to be safe and away from the scene, but I just couldn’t find comfort. Not when my husband was driving towards it to exchange tapes and feed the cats, getting me a change of PJs and underwear (and forgetting to get anything for himself).

He finally arrived at 11 to the bedroom he had as a teenager, with his distraught wife and sleepy baby anxiously awaiting him. He told me he’d have to be on stand-by to give updates from the scene on the morning news, if the now-bunkered-down villain didn’t give up or die during the night. After some chatting, he slept. I couldn’t close my eyes without the man’s picture, then all the other recent shooters’ faces popping into my head, suddenly distorting with evil eyes and monstrously sharp teeth and devilish faces. Nightmares, but I wasn’t sleeping.

At 3am, Dave got up and prepared to go back to the scene. There were no developments. Law enforcement of all walks of life were indeed waiting outside Glory Days. Was he already dead? Was he waiting to ambush them further? We didn’t know. I hated that Dave was going, but knew it was for the best; thousands of people wanted to know.

He started his live shots at 5am from the scene. Around 5:15, he texted that he’d be on the Today Show with a short live report. First at 7:30, then adjusted to 7:10. I texted several people. It was exciting, but I still wished it wasn’t so. Not for this reason.

He did an astoundingly professional, careful job. I was proud. I was terrified that he seemed so close to the action. I left, having brushed my teeth with my finger, to a snowy, terribly different commute to work. On my way, Dave informed me that it was “not public knowledge” but that they were going in. A little afterwards, my mother texted me that he was dead. Thirty (although the footage looks more like fifty) men and an FBI K-9 ambushed him in a room with a closed door. He shot and killed that gorgeous, 2-year-old dog on its first assignment, and in an instant he was taken out. As I write this, his body is still at the scene, over 24 hours later.

It was over. The outpouring of love and upset over the dog was incredible, and I felt it, too. Why is it that someone shooting other humans is deplorable, but a man adding a dog to his list is worse? Perhaps because dogs are so obedient, trusting. Maybe. Either way, every death and injury is reverberating in nearly every local’s head, still today.

I hesitated to return home that afternoon. I dragged my feet. I called my mom as I left, admitting my fear. Of course, it was all over, but the images of the SWAT team on our street and, ultimately, the concept that the place I had lived my entire life (both Mohawk and Herkimer) had given me a false sense of security. They say “this just doesn’t happen here.” Some argue that point, but it sure as hell feels that way. I was emotionally shattered. I couldn’t fathom what the families and friends of victims felt, but I couldn’t rationalize myself out of a panic attack.

As I unlocked the door, the sobbing hit me. As I walked in and scooped up Jasper, holding him for 10 minutes straight, the sobbing turned to wailing. The wailing that Hadley does when he’s having a night terror. It was physically impossible to stop. I tried to get it out of my brain, but I just kept thinking ‘Mohawk and Herkimer’. When loved ones had passed, I could rationalize that they were maybe in a better place, or that there’d be good times again. I tried to think about my baby and his birthday this summer. No. This could happen any day of the week. Anywhere. Stopping to get gas on the Thruway. At school. During an attempted robbery. Anytime. I couldn’t hide from it and couldn’t shake the fact.

I finally picked myself up and dragged myself, still wailing and sobbing, through the house. Feeding the boys their snack, all while they looked at me, confused. Getting ready to take a shower in hopes that it would wash the fear away. My phone rang, and it was my mom.

She was outside my house. She knew I was in rough shape, but also knew that I needed to be alone. She had just come by in case I needed her. She left to let me take my shower, saying in a loving way that “this is why we live everyday. You just never know.” I called Dave when he texted that he was on his way and begged him to hurry. By the time he got home, the wailing had minimized but the emotions were still there.

He thought something else had happened, not sure why I was taking it so rough. I explained it and, although he didn’t understand (and also didn’t see why I was so terrified that he was close to the scene), he comforted me. He provided a distraction with stories of his work day, which had been “shortened” to a 12-hour day after a previous 15-hour day. After some tea, the Great Comforter, he went upstairs to mess around on his computer and finally nap…until bedtime. I called my sister-in-law, whom I hadn’t spoken to for months. It was a welcome distraction.

As we settled into our previous routine, I felt detached. Detached from the baby’s storytime. Detached from whatever I usually do to get him to close his eyes. Detached from the cat snuggling between us. I slept, but only because my body demanded it.

I awoke, still in a state of shock, but dedicated to looking into an upcoming fundraiser for the families to provide proper burials to their beloved men. I awoke hoping to find positivity in the midst of 24 hours that we valley folk will remember for lifetimes. It’s our 9/11. Our school fire. Our JFK. But, we’re a family. We may not all love each other everyday, but we do for each other without a second thought. If only we could have done for this shooter before he decided to change our lives forever.

Why I’m Not a Vegetarian

I’ve read a couple of articles and blog posts about vegetarianism lately, which got my juices flowing (ew. Visual.) and my thoughts drifting back to our eating habits. I’ve talked about my thought process on this before, from flexitarianism to partaking in Meatless Monday (and a follow-up) to my first ever post about our thoughts on Food, Inc.

Our hearts are torn. We’re passionate animal lovers. We live in a relatively rural area with tons of active hunters, and we’re not altogether crazy about it. Our area’s biggest job provider is a gun factory. (Let’s just say the governor’s abrupt push-through gun control act has plenty of folks up in arms…pardon the pun…around our surrounding towns.) Yet, I’m in favor of gun control insomuch as semi-automatics are simply unnecessary for any non-military purpose and the concept that our forefathers were dealing with muskets when they worked on the Constitution seems telling. So, sure, I’m a bit of a hippie.

So, why am I still a dang meat eater?

I don’t crave it. I don’t demand I eat it with every meal. I’m not “carnivorous.” But, I am stubborn. And a tad lazy.

One thing I’ve learned about myself, especially thanks to the awesome self-analysis offered by doing this blog, is that I can only change if it’s gradual. I’m not able to maintain a gung-ho, all-at-once life change, especially if it’s one that involves an immense learning curve and lots o’ planning. Exhibit A. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.

I gave up coffee while pregnant (and still abstain), but I wasn’t addicted beforehand. Not that I’m addicted to meat, but it’s definitely a lifestyle. Definitely.

I’m Irish-American. We were raised with meat ‘n potatoes. The only time we didn’t have meat at the dinner table was Friday during Lent or when we’d have the rare pancake for dinner (although sometimes we’d have bacon…sometimes not). It was practically taboo NOT to have meat on our plates. Spaghetti must contain its accompanying meatballs, after all.

Not that it was a bad way to grow up. However, as we’ve learned more about the state of slaughterhouses and the food system in America, it’s difficult to eat without considering not only where the food started (and how it was treated), but what it might be doing to our bodies. As it is, I can no longer eat Taco Bell or McDonald’s without getting sick in some way.

The meat we do consume is, at its very basic, not given hormones and hopefully humanely treated. My number one priority, above it being organic, is how it was treated. If I had my way, all of our meat and poultry would be grassfed (not given a “vegetarian diet” which could include genetically-modified corn), lovingly cared for, humanely killed, and organic. It seems an easier feat to achieve in Europe (even with its Mad Cow and what not) than America, which is insane. Oh, and don’t get me started on seafood; that’s impossible to track and it’s a challenge to find anything to feed the family. A Mediterranean diet is harder to grasp than you’d think.

So, it stands; we’re omnivores. We eat less meat than most, but I still feel like a slave to my routine. I’d love to find still more *simple* vegetarian recipes to try to push out my meat-based meals. (And not the hippie kinds. Ones that I can give to the hubs without him thinking a second thought. Ones that blend in with our relatively traditional usual fare.) I’d also hate to be that daughter or DIL who throws a wrench into the works at family gatherings and stuff.

I don’t foresee this always being the way. After all; we’ve got a kid. And, if I know kids, and if he’s anything like this, he’ll be a motivator. If he takes after us, he’ll be an animal lover, too (he’s already nuts about his kitties and the doggies he gets to see at his grandma/sitter’s everyday). I can just see the day when he makes the correlation between what we’re eating…and the fact that it once moved.

Why is it that I can see changing for him, but in the meantime feel like it’s too daunting a task? The things we do for those adorable dimples. Maybe we should start our “slow and steady” race sooner rather than later. Oh, and if we ever take this route, I foresee practicing lacto-ovo vegetarianism — one that involves consuming eggs, milk and honey (as long as they’re collected humanely…not sure if there’s a honey standard, LOL) but no meat, poultry or seafood.

Baby steps, though. Hadley-sized steps.

Zombified

Did I just say that I had spring fever? I stand corrected. I now have “Up All Night syndrome + daylight savings hangover” fever. (BTW, I totally would’ve liked ‘Up All Night’ if they’d actually stuck with the concept of…y’know…parenting a new baby!!! Down the toilet. Sorry, Will Arnett. Thank goodness the ‘Arrested Development’ “extension” will be coming out soon to put you back in my good graces. As if you care. Although your ’30 Rock’ cameos will always have a warm place in my heart.)

I know folks today will be bitching up a storm today/this week about being tired, and I get that. I’m with you 100%. And everyone will be trying to outdo each other. That, I find obnoxious. We’re all zombified, whether we worked the weekend or just had to get up early the first time this morning or had an almost-8-month-old with a thrown-off schedule decide he’d like 3-4 feedings throughout the night. We’re all in the same boat, so complain all you’d like, but don’t complain that others aren’t entitled to it, too. 😉

There, enough of my rant. It’s strange what tired-colored-glasses do to you. I’ve heard people stumbling over their news scripts, students who were complete crickets when I asked a question (usually hard to get them to shut up), co-workers getting pulled over… For me, the exhaustion takes on more of a mild mental anxiety/depression. But, I’m fully aware that with great sleep/adjustment comes great relief. It’ll get better.

I still can’t wait to experience spring and summer with the little munchkin. Just let me nap for a few minutes first before goin’ all Easter bunny on his arse. Just. A. Few.

*snort* By the way, anyone else notice that, be it from a weather change or be it from over-tiredness, your dreams get really, really weird? Or horrific? The hubs and I have been dealing with that lately. Anyone else? Anyone? Or are you all asleep on your keyboards?

A Bit of a Jolt

I’m not against coffee or anything. With enough sugar and milk, it’s rather yummy. Garsh, there are even times that I miss it so much that I smell it. You know what that means, right? Yes. Sticking my nose in my husband’s cup. I’m not too proud to say it.

I know you’re thinking, “Why don’t you just HAVE some, then?” First, thanks for the judgmental tone. Not.

Secondly…just kidding. 😉 I’ve decided to cut it out of my diet while we’re nursing because, well, I’m not the woman I once was. I had a tiny bit of coffee while pregnant (mostly half-caf) but quit that when I noticed the lil’ fetus doing jumping jacks. These days, if I have coffee, I notice myself doing jumping jacks…and shaking…and, yeah, it’s not pretty. If I have it past noon, the baby has a rough night, which is even less pretty.

So, I’ve cut out caffeine in its coffee-bean form. It wasn’t really a challenge for me since pre-pregnancy, I wasn’t coffee co-dependent. On rare occasion, I’ll partake in chocolate (before, say, 2pm — for above-mentioned baby sleep reasons) and often drink decaf and herbal teas.

Today, for whatever reason, I decided to have some green tea — plain, ol’ caffeinated green tea. (The norm is decaf, in case you didn’t spot a trend.) I put a bit of sugar in it and was on my way.

No shaking this time, but I found myself in the “privacy” of my back room at school today, pumping, dancing what can only be described as a mash-up of an Irish jig and a Fred Astaire tap.

Let me say that again, slower, to let that set in. I was in the back room of our library today…attached to a breast pump…dancing. Not just the “stand in the back of the room and sway back and forth” half-assed type of dancing. No, I was full-on making noise with my shoes, moving all over the place, mugging for the audience dancing.

Take a moment. I laughed at myself, so you have more than a right to. Continue reading when you’re ready.

The thing is, I’m not even a good dancer. There are a few things that I can do passably well (onstage, in particular). I can carry a tune, I can do comedy, I can pretend that someone’s about to hang me and not make it seem INSANE that I’m not fighting tooth and nail, I can do an accent, I can scream like nobody’s business, and I can act blonde in a blatantly horrible blonde wig and have a handful of folks actually buy that I am, indeed, blonde. I cannot, for serious entertainment’s sake, dance.

It’s not for lack of trying. My sister and I had to pull off a ’40s-esque dance in a show quite awhile back, and since our dance instructor didn’t actually exist (we were promised one…several times…but such is community theater, am-I-right?), I studied a handful of YouTube videos and threw something together that could only be deemed “awkwardly cute” at best. What can I say? I’m Mr. Ed when I dance for realsies. (Slow dancing, I can do.) Great for a comedy. Great for an email address with a shout-out to Elaine from Seinfeld. Otherwise, I keep it in my pants. Read: Nobody needs to see that.

The only thing that I can attest my sudden spurt of footwork to is that tiny bit of caffeine. I didn’t suddenly have an out-of-body experience, nor did I have a song stuck in my head that found it necessary to make me boogie. There’s just no other reason.

In order to protect any semblance of future pride, I’ll have to stamp a reminder on the tea box: “Warning: May cause spontaneous dance parties while hooked up to a milking machine. Exercise extreme caution.”

God. What would happen if I could actually consume alcohol again?!