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Ahhhh, fall.  The crisp, cool air.  The leaves changing colors.  The nights getting longer.  Digging out sweaters and jackets.  All tell-tale signs of fall.  Unless, like me, you live in Florida.  We don’t get any of that except the longer nights.  Today’s high was in the low 90’s.  The humidity was high.  We won’t get a break in the heat and humidity until the end of October/beginning of November.

Still, fall?  One of my favorite times of year.  Football season kicks off fall for me.  I endure the brutal summers longing for football season to start.  The smell of the grass on the field, the sound of pads hitting pads.  The referee’s whistle.  Those are the tell-tale signs of fall for me.  I am a college football fanatic (GO GATORS).  I like pro too, and just drafted my second fantasy football team.

Playing fantasy football definitely changes the way you watch pro football.  Instead of rooting for teams, you tend to root for the players on your fantasy team even if they play for a team you despise.  Still.  I love all of it.  There is nothing like sitting in the Swamp watching the Gators kill an opponent.  I’m really hoping to make it back up to Gainesville this year for a Gator game.  I become my 22 year old self again when I go to a Gator game.  With some of the things that have been going on lately, I’d like to relive some of my 22 year old self’s experiences.

So, while I won’t be digging out sweaters or jackets just yet, and I won’t be seeing any leaves changing colors; I do enjoy the longer nights.  I love going off daylight savings time.  So, what reminds you of fall?

I’d really like to start this day over.  On second thought, no.  There’s not one moment of this day so far that I’d like to relive.  Let’s just fast foward to tomorrow, please.

It started by getting up extra early so that I could go have a vampire phlebotomist draw blood.  Now, I have very deep, difficult veins to find.  I know this.  I always inform the phlebotomist.  I expect pain.  It’s not their fault.  Today the phlebotomist decided to draw blood from my wrist because the vein was visible.  Let me just tell you, I’m not a whimp when it comes to needles.  I have four tattooes and they didn’t bother me.  Taking blood from the vein in my wrist?  Sweet baby jeebus that hurt!  Not only did inserting the needle hurt, but her moving it around and sticking it in deeper about sent me through the roof.  My doctor must have ordered every test under the sun, because she just kept filling vial after vial.  Six hours later my wrist is still so sore that my entire hand hurts.  After experiencing this pain, I don’t know how anyone slits their wrists when they decide to off themselves.

After leaving the vampire’s office, I went and voted.  This is about the only thing in my day so far that went well.  I get to work and have to deal with the backflow of stuff because I left early yesterday to attend to some health issues.  Spent part of the morning at work dealing with said health issues.

Lunch time arrives.  I look forward to getting out of the office for an hour.  I decide to drive a little further than usual and try a deli near downtown I’ve heard is good.  I fight the rain and the traffic all the way down there only to discover the place is out of business.  Decide to stop at steak and shake on my way back to the office.  I pull into the parking lot and around the building to the drive through.  Out of nowhere this bitch woman in a ginormous Escalade pulls in front of me and cuts me off in the drive through lane.  I resist the urge to get out of my car and bitch slap her.  I wait patiently as she orders food for an army.  My turn at the speaker arrives and I order a burger that comes with caramelized onions, cheese and butter.  Now, I don’t know about you, but steak and shake burgers are greasy enough without adding butter to the mix.  So why order it?  I want the caramlized onions.  I order said burger with no butter, but add ketchup and mayo.  I also order a drink, but no fries.  I get up to the window and pay and think the price is a little high, but whatever.  I get my food, I drive away.  I grab my burger and realize there are fries in the bag.  They charged me for the combo I didn’t order, but whatever.  No big deal.  Until.  I open the burger.  It has no ketchup.  No mayo.  Tons of butter.  I do a quick u-turn and go back.  I go inside and explain that nothing about my order, other than the drink, is correct.

The cashier refunds me for the fries and they make me a new burger.  The guy who is actually  making my burger comes up and asks me again, specifically how I want it.  He makes it, hands it to me and I leave.  As I’m walking to my car, Moses’ mom and dad are pulling into the parking spot next to mine and come within inches of hitting my car.  Seriously, at some point, driving tests should be required every year.  I get in my car and leave.  Get back on the road and open my burger.  The guy who specifically asked me how I wanted it made it the exact same way he did the first time.  The. Exact. Same. Way. 

Now, I know I should have checked it before I left the second time.  But the guy made it a point to come up to me and ask me exactly how I wanted it.  One would think since he asked, he’d make it the way I instructed.  One would be wrong.  At this point, going back was not an option.  I had to get back to work.  I did call and speak to a manager, and they’ll buy my lunch another day.  Wonderful.  I’ll make sure I triple check it.  In the mean time, I choked down the burger with butter because, well, I had to eat something.  I’m going to regret this all day long.

I’m hoping the rest of the day is fairly uneventful.  I’d just like to fast forward to being home and having wine and chocolate for dinner.

Romance.  It means different things to different people.  I’m not super sappy.  I don’t need The Man to say I love you 50 times a day.  I don’t need saccharine filled wall posts and comments on Facebook from him.  I’m not that neurotic insecure.  I know he loves me.  He tells me he loves me, even if it isn’t 50 times a day. 

However (you knew there was a however coming, didn’t you?), it’s nice to get those little romantic surprises every now and then.  Like a lot of women, I love flowers; specifically roses.  I know they’ll die in a matter of days.  I know they’re not practical.  I don’t care.  I like them.  I’m not particular about the color.  Any color will do.  Now, he has sent the requisite dozen roses to my office on Valentine’s Day, our anniversary, etc.  Sometimes though? I’d like to get roses or some other romantic gesture for no specific reason.  Just because it’s Tuesday.  Or whatever.  I took matters into my own hands and bought myself a dozen roses yesterday.  They’re pink, and they’re beautiful.  

Please to be ignoring the messy table they're sitting on.

 The Man noticed them and said he had thought a few days ago about buying me roses, but didn’t know where to get them where they wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.  I need to teach him where to shop. 

See, he is more practical than romantic.  That’s ok, but there are times he needs to venture outside his comfort zone.  He hates shopping.  I don’t mean that he doesn’t really care for it.  He. Hates. It.  So, for Christmas, birthdays and other gift-giving occasions, he wants me to tell him exactly what I want.  He will go buy those items and call it a day.  He particularly loves when I find an item online and send him the link.  That way he doesn’t have to leave the comfort of the couch.  My Amazon wish list is his favorite friend.  Now, his reasoning behind this is that he doesn’t want to get me something I’m not going to like.  I can appreciate that.  However, it’s also nice to be surprised every now and then.  And really?  The thought DOES count.  Buying something from a list doesn’t require any much thought. Step outside your comfort zone and make an effort.  I promise to love it even if I don’t.  Last Christmas we decided that we would each get one small surprise gift to open on Christmas morning.  After all, we have kids and Christmas isn’t really about us anymore anyway.  Oh, and guess who gets to take care of shopping for the people on his Christmas list as well as my own?  It’s a damn good thing I like to shop.

Friendships are funny things.  New ones are born, and sometimes older ones die.  Sometimes it’s a disagreement that kills them, sometimes it’s distance, sometimes it’s just life.  No matter why a friendship ends, someone usually gets hurt in the process.  It may not be intentional, but hurt is hurt.

I’ve been reevaluating some of the friendships in my life.  There are select few friendships that have seemed to die a slow death.  I suppose you could spread the blame among all involved.  One went back to school and has little time to get together.  Others, if I’m honest about it, were more acquaintances than friends to begin with.  There’s one, though, that stings more than the rest. 

I realize going back to school to further your career is time consuming.  I didn’t expect to get together with the same frequency we used to.  However, I didn’t expect to not see her at all.  It’s been at least a year and a half since we have seen each other.  We live 15 minutes apart.  She has made time to get together with new school friends and also some other people that are part of our circle of friends.  Yes, my feelings are hurt.  I want to know why she has time for some, but not me.  We were very close friends.  Finish each other’s sentences type friends.  Part of me really shouldn’t be surprised.  I have seen her do this same thing to another supposed close friend.  I saw that person get hurt and try to reach out only to be rejected time and time again.  I guess that’s why I haven’t simply asked her what the deal is.  I saw first hand how she reacted when the other friend did it.

I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on this, but I see her posts on Facebook about hanging out with mutual friends and the hurt and jealousy rears its ugly head.  Why not include me?  I know all those people too.  I suppose I’ve moved from friend to afterthought; or perhaps no thought at all.  Given time, I’m sure she’ll probably do the same thing to the people she hangs out with now.  It seems to be a pattern.  I guess some people can only have a select number of friends at any given time.  I think what makes this worse for me is that I did a lot to help her when she was having some tough times.  Her completely turning her back on me feels like a giant Fuck You.

I certainly understand being busy and whatnot.  I am also back in school, but I haven’t turned my back on my friendships.  I still get together with other friends on occasion.  I still keep in contact even if I don’t see them on a regular basis.  I don’t lie to them about why I can’t meet them.  I keep saying that I’m going to remove them from buddy lists, Facebook, etc.  Yet I can’t seem to pull the trigger and do it.  I guess part of me hopes that things will change at some point.  I know I’m fooling myself. 

I have friends from my childhood years that, while I don’t speak with them very often, when we do speak it’s as if no time has passed and we pick up right where we left off.  I’m not so needy that I need to spend every spare second with my friends.  I’m not asking that of her or anyone else for that matter.  I know it’s normal for relationships to change and sometimes end.  That knowledge doesn’t make it hurt any less when it happens.  And that?  Sucks.  Big time.

Dear Aidan,

Today you start 2nd grade.  Like every other mom with school-aged children, I have spent the last week getting you ready to embark on yet another school year.  I’ve shopped for school supplies, for school clothes, for things to pack in your lunchbox.  After a summer of being able to stay up as late as you want, we started the transition to early bedtimes 2 weeks ago.  Tonight as I put you to bed, it hit me how much you’ve grown.

Just last summer, no matter how late you would stay up, you were awake and bright eyed no later than 7:30am.  This summer?  You stayed up late and slept in late.  This was wonderful for me on the weekends.  This was not so great during the week when I had to wake you up early to drop you off at your dads on my way to work.  You are rapidly moving from little boy to young man.  I often forget that you are almost 8 years old.  To me, you are still that little boy that relies on me for everything.  The truth is, you need me much less than I want to admit.  Yes, you still rely on me to supply your basic needs, but you are your own person.  You have your own likes and dislikes.  You have your own thoughts and ideas.  When did that happen?  I feel like I blinked and you went from infant to 8.

You are sweet, kind and caring.  You are athletic, energetic and sarcastic.  I  have no idea where you get the sarcasm from. I only hope that I’ve taught you that there is a time and a place for the sarcasm, and the classroom isn’t it!  I can imagine the phone calls I’ll get from your teacher should you forget that little lesson.  You are such a loving child.  I revel in the fact that you still tell me you love me 50 times a day no matter where we are and no matter who might overhear you.  I cherish the fact that you still love to hug and love and cuddle.  I know that some day in the not-so-distant future, it will matter who is around, and friends will take precedence over mom time.  If I could press pause on the VCR DVD of life, I’d be mighty tempted to do so.  But time marches on and you’ll continue to grow up.

As you embark on another school year, grab it by the balls and enjoy every second of it.  Don’t rush through the day.  Embrace every single thing this new school year brings you.  Make new friends.  Learn new things.  Be a kid and enjoy it.  Time flies too fast and the responsibilities of adulthood will be here before you know it.    If I could bottle up these years and give them to your adult self, I would.  You don’t realize it until you’re past it how wonderful these years are.

I try not to talk about politics on this blog too much. However, sometimes I’ll come across an article that just makes my blood boil and I can’t help myself. Today is one of those days. I read this article about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum saying that he doesn’t think gay people should be allowed to foster or adopt children.  Shouldn’t the most important thing in selecting foster and adoptive parents be a loving and stable environment? 

“I really do not think that we should have homosexuals guiding our children,” McCollum said.

He’s saying that merely being gay somehow precludes someone from being a good parent.  I say bullshit.  If you’re going to purport that the only environment in which children should be raised is a heterosexual one, then why stop with gays?  Why not ban foster care and adoptions by single people, gay or straight? 

The 2000 U.S. Census also showed that there are approximately 600,000 gay and lesbian families, and that they live in 99.3% of all U.S. counties.  These families are like their straight family counterparts.  They drive their children to school, they carpool to after school activities.  They help them with their homework.  They have play dates and birthday parties.  They love their children.  Love knows no race, gender, or sexual orientation. 

Florida has the distinction of being the only state in the country that has an outright ban on adopting to homosexual parents.  The few brave couples in Florida who have challenged this ban and tried to adopt their foster children have had their families threatened to be torn apart by the state.  Again, isn’t this supposed to be about the children?  How can ripping them away from loving parents and siblings be a good thing?  It’s better to bounce around from foster home to foster home rather than be adopted by loving gay parents?  How many of those children were taken away from straight “traditional” family homes in the first place? 

McCollum is right about one thing.  He says it’s inconsistent that the foster care law reads one way and the adoption law reads a different way.  He’s right, it is incosistent.  A gay couple can foster a child for years, but then not be allowed to adopt that same child.  I contend that the correct thing to do is not change the foster policies, but lift the ban on gay adoption.  It is, after all, supposed to be about the children, not the politics.

A decade.  Ten years.  Sometimes it still feels like it was just yesterday that the world as I knew it came crashing to an end.  August 8, 2000.  The day my father died.  He was 51.  I really can’t believe that 10 years have gone by already.  I thought that it would get easier each year; this day.  I was wrong.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was an emotional mess.  Are you still supposed to be an emotional mess 10 years later?

I was daddy’s little girl.  Being an only child helped, but I would have had that man wrapped around my little finger even if I hadn’t been an only child.  We had that special bond only fathers and daughters can have.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother madly, but daddy was, well, just daddy.  I knew to always ask dad something before asking mom.  Dad was always more likely to say yes.  That didn’t change even as I got older.  I remember my now ex-husband I were visiting my parents for a weekend.  We had just finished a round of miniature golf and turning our clubs in.  There was a freezer with ice cream sandwiches for sale and I wanted one.  I didn’t have my wallet on me and asked my husband for money.  He said no, and I promptly turned my baby blues on my dad who promptly opened his wallet and bought his grown baby girl the ice cream she wanted.  That was my dad.  Kind. Generous. He had his faults like everyone does, but no matter how old I was, he was always daddy.

I remember when he first started getting sick.  We didn’t think too much about it.  For six months he was sick off and on.  Sometimes they would admit him to the hospital for a few days.  They would diagnose something or other and treat it.  Later they would find out they had been wrong.  This happened repeatedly for those six months, but we were never concerned that it was life threatening.  I said as much to my mom when she called one day and wanted to know why I hadn’t been down to see my father during this latest hospital say.  I remember clearly saying to her, it’s not like he’s dying.  I was wrong.  I called the hospital not long after that and dad answered the phone in his room.  I could hear it in his voice.  This time was different.  I knew I had to make the four hour trek to see him.  I remember it was a Sunday night.  I called my boss at home and told him I wasn’t going to be at work on Monday and that I didn’t know when I would be back.  He instantly knew it was something with my father and told me to take as much time as I needed.

I’m so very glad I went down when I did.  I had one great week with him while he was still lucid and coherent.  I cherish that week.  The second week was pure hell.  Had it not been for my husband at the time, I don’t know how I or my mother would have survived that last week.  I’m so very lucky that I got to say good-bye to my father.  Not everyone gets that chance.  Telling him that it was ok to let go was the hardest thing I have ever done.  The day he died, the most beautiful rainbow could be seen from his hospital room.  To this day, every time I see a rainbow, I think of my father.

A lot has happened in the decade since he died.  I got divorced, married and divorced again.  I had a child.  He would have been the world’s greatest grandfather.  I so wish my son could have known what a great man his grandpa was.

Not every day is as hard as the anniversary date.  In fact, no day is as hard as that day.  I think about him often throughout the year without having an emotional melt down; but certain days are harder than others.  His birthday, Christmas.  No day is harder, though, than the August 8th every year.