The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Job hunting, part deux
They say that when one part of your life starts to go smoothly, another part will fall down. I saw this in action constantly when I was raising kids. There was never a time that I could fully relax as a parent, because if one son wasn't getting into some kind of trouble, another one was. Even now, with my sons all grown and the youngest getting married, I see this as one of life's truths.

Now that I'm managing the online operations where I work and my career seems to be back on track after four years of adjusting to life in Australia, Dan's job is in jeopardy. The people who own his company are looking at the truck that they've assigned to Dan as a way to quickly pay off some debts. Never mind that Dan will need to find other employment. That's the way things go in the cold world of business. I'm beginning to see the value in Shakespeare's statement "neither a borrower nor a lender be." Having the rug pulled out from under you is not a good way to maintain relationships.

To be fair to the company, they have offered the sale of the truck to Dan first, but if they can't find enough work to make it lucrative for them, what makes them think we would do better? So, Dan now has to look for other employment opportunities, and it gets harder because he is making such good money now. How will he be able to find a job that pays as well?

There's no train man like an old train manWe're thinking that this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, however. Since I've known him, Dan has spoken of nothing but his love of trains. He's been consistent in his interest, and can tell you about every diesel electric locomotive he's ever driven. He's Leonard Crabbe, without the bladder management business.

So, Dan's called his old buddies from his Days on the Railroad. These three guys now have an interest in a rail freight business and Dan might be able to get recertified as a train driver and be guaranteed employment with them. So, now I am wondering what it will be like living with a man who is living out his passion. What will his new passion become? I'm guessing with all of the shift work he will be doing, which includes nights and weekends, Dan's new passion will be sleep. Any time. Anywhere he can get it. Sleep.

And the baton will be passed to me. My challenge will be to develop a new passion. Something that will keep me occupied during the many hours he will be away from home. Maybe I'll start working on model trains.

You know what they say: "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
posted by Melanie O. at 12:17 PM - 3 comments
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Memories of Me, Part III
My mother recently wrote about an incident I had as a child, where (she thinks) I accidentally dropped a rubber snake on a hot lightbulb. This was no accident. I've always had an inquisitive mind. I had seen a piece of cellophane curl up on a heat source, and, in my mind, rubber was close enough to cellophane. I wanted to see my rubber snake "come alive" on the hot lightbulb. Of course, rubber is not cellophane. It melted and created a gooey mess. And I was mortified. How was I going to get my rubber snake back?

This was not the first time I had tried to melt plastic. I was the flower girl at my aunt's wedding when I was about five years old. I briefly wandered off from the wedding party after the ceremony, to find a hot lamp, over which I held my flower girl's hat with artificial flowers. My father discovered me just in time for my hat to be smoking. I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn't have been interrupted in the pursuit of my incendiary studies.

One year, for Christmas, both my sister and I wanted plastic goop
Thingmakers. She got a Fun Flowers set, and I got a Creeple Peeple set. To make your rubber creatures, you had to cook plastic goop in a mold that you put on a hot plate. Nowadays, people are horrified at the thought of little fingers handling a hot mold. Kids deserve more credit than that - let me tell you, you learn quickly not to touch a hotplate! The fun far outweighed any danger.

I am the original Halloween Kid. I loved rubber bugs, snakes - anything that I could use to gross out the grownups, as well as loved playing with makeup - making costumes and creating faces for the stage. My favorite was the "old woman's face," which I learned how to do in a minicourse class at my middle school. Liverpool taxpayers' money hard at work. Even as an adult, I still buy rubber snakes. If you ever come to one of my Halloween parties, you'll find them in unexpected places. I still get a kick out of creeping out the adults.

I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid. I loved nothing more than playing with the neighborhood boys and climbing trees. I even built my own tree forts, which were basically nothing more than abandoned boards secured to treebranches. How I never fell out of those trees and broke something, I am not sure. I came home with plenty of scraped hands and knees, which my mother kissed better and sprayed with Bactine.

As I grew older, my taste in science experiments grew more sophisticated. I wanted a chemistry set and a microscope for my own scientific explorations. I wanted to keep caterpillars and watch them spin cocoons. Unfortunately, I only ever found moth caterpillars that died in captivity. I also caught pollywogs and toads (the ones that the dog didn't half eat) and found them fascinating. I burned sulphur powder in one of my testubes, which stunk up our basement and rendered the testube useless. You can not clean burned sulphur out of a Pyrex testube. I have tried.

I don't know when the girliness kicked in. I think that maybe I was 15 or 16. I had my first real boyfriend. I was attending church, which meant (to me anyway) that I had to act a bit churchy, and wear dresses. It was hard to climb trees with breasts and hips, and my girlfriends were all into the pop idols of the day. I remember one sleepover I went to, where Tony DiFranco's "Heartbeat is a Love Beat" was played endlessly for hours as we attempted to play ping pong. Some people smoked pot and lost brain cells. I went to sleepovers where my brain was fried on the DiFranco Family and the Carpenters. My friend Joan was really into the Osmonds, and because she was my best friend, I got into them, too (although I much preferred David Bowie and the Beatles, despite the fact that they had been broken up for years.)

The one last remnant of my tomboy days were the days that Joan and I would go out fishing with her dad. I hated baiting the hook, but we always dug up live worms for bait. I learned how to fillet fish after we caught them. That didn't bother me, as the fish were dead by the time they were filleted. The worms, however, being alive, fought being speared with a fish hook in order to be something else's dinner. That kind of wriggling turned my stomach.

I think I'll stick with rubber snakes and bugs.

posted by Melanie O. at 6:45 PM - 5 comments
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Help! My shoes are out of control!
Little pile of bliss When I was a kid, I had maybe three pairs of shoes: a good, dress-up pair (usually a shiny patent leather Maryjane style), a pair of sneakers, and a pair of sturdy every day shoes for school. I also had a pair of warm boots for winter, but those didn't really count since you couldn't wear them indoors. They were the heavy, rubber kind with a furry lining for cold, Northern snowy winters. In summer, I wore a pair of rubber flip-flops, as we called them. They lasted the one season, but that was all we needed them for. You outgrew them by the next summer.

I was flabbergasted when I realised, one day, that my mother had twelve pairs of shoes in her closet. Twelve! What did someone need with that many shoes?

And then I grew up and the female hormone that governs shoe appreciation kicked in. It started slowly.... my shoe count went up from three pairs to five pairs. I had a pair of brown pumps and a pair of black pumps, as well as a pair of sandals for summer, a pair of sneakers, and grown-up boots with heels that could be worn indoors. They were almost useless against the snow, however. But they were kind of sexy and reminded me of the Sixties and of being Mod when I was too young to be Mod.

As I got older and started to earn better money, I could buy myself nicer clothes. Nicer clothes meant that I had to have nicer shoes. My outfits were nicely matched. So, of course, the earth-tone outfits needed earth tone shoes - a pair with high heels, a pair with low heels, a summer pair, and a winter pair - depending on the season and how I dressed up the outfit. Of course, I had to have the obligatory black work shoes, but I have a pair with high heels, a pair with low heels and pointy toes, and a pair with work heels and a rounded toe (and a buckle.)

Then I discovered eBay. And the fact that I could get last year's Jil Sander for Prada shoes at wholesale. So, I got a gray pair with heels, and a brown every-day low heeled shoe. I also got a lovely black kitten heeled pair from Banana Republic. Then I changed jobs and there was a little Asian import place just down the street that sold the most adorable jeweled slippers, perfect for summery outfits. I bought a pink pair and a grey pair. Then the local shoe shop decided to go out of business and they had nice leather shoes on sale. I bought three pairs for $80.

Of course, you still get winter in Sydney, so I have to have boots (not because of any snow, mind you,) but now I have a black pair, a grey pair, and a brown pair, to match my outfits. They are all tall legged boots. Then I've got a pair of black "granny" style button boots to wear with slacks.

For summer, I have a pair of bone leather slides, and three pairs of gold sandals, one with a clear lucite heel and strap. I hardly wear the sandals with the lucite heel because they are slightly too big for me and fall off my feet. I don't care. I like the way they look. I also have silver, turquoise, and black heeled sandals to cover any contingency for the summer wardrobe.

And then there were the lizard skin stilletos I ordered from eBay that are also too big. I got creative and built my own heel inserts so they wouldn't fall off my feet. I have since learned that you can take them to any cobbler, who can put nice inserts in them. I will have to do that.

I've been really good about not buying any shoes lately. And I've thrown away a couple of pairs of Mama's Got a Brand New Bagshoes that I have actually worn out. It was like tearing my arm off to have to part company. The other day, for the heck of it, I counted my shoes. I have over twenty-five pairs of shoes. One of them is a pair of Maryjanes. I don't own a single pair of sneakers.

I have been so good about not buying any new shoes lately, that I now have a new vice: Designer hand bags.
posted by Melanie O. at 8:28 PM - 6 comments
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Mother's Day
My Mother

Today is Mother's Day. I'm not sure what this day is supposed to mean. I think it's a sad statement that we need a day to remind us to call our mothers and tell them how much we appreciate them. When I was a child, I used to love parent day at school, as I thought my mother was the smartest, prettiest mother in the room. Nowadays, I wish we could just be in the same room together for more than a few days every few years.

Two of my sons remembered that it's Sunday in Australia, and so I got a phone call and a couple of emails. It's nice that they remembered, but I enjoy their regular correspondence much more. There's no cultural norm that encourages them to contact me on "off days." Sure, by tradition, we make sure that we're in contact for each others' birthdays and Christmas, but how much more does it mean when you get those letters and emails that complain about having a belt stolen by a roommate, or have a philosophical chat about the Afterlife? We tend to have those kinds of conversations in our family: we discuss everything from the problems with the health care system, to premarital sex, to career choices and religion. And we manage not to engage in shouting matches, even if we don't necessarily agree with each other.

Somehow, we've managed to go with the times, even if we don't always agree with the changes. We've learned, through painful experience, not to be so rigid in our thinking. Our family has grown and changed over the years. We're all scattered, but somehow, through communication, we've managed to stay tightly-knit. With all of the problems in the world, at least, your family is your own problem. It's familiar. You learn to deal with any issues. And you wouldn't trade them for anything.

My mother is the mother of girls, while I had all boys. I think we each had to learn to cope with different things as our children grew. And I think we each sighed a sigh of relief when we realised that our children got to adulthood and we all survived. Nothing has made me appreciate my mother more than growing older. As my mother and I grow older, I realise that every day is a gift. They say that nothing makes you appreciate your mother more than having your own kids. I disagree. I know grown adults with kids who haven't spoken to their own parents in years. Not because they were abused - but because they have different political, cultural, or religious views. They harbor resentment that grew when they were teens, and the adult kids never matured past it. I see that as one of the greatest tragedies of the common era: that you can cut a parent out of your life because of a difference of expectations. And I do know people that have done that. And I know parents that have cut a child out of their life for the same reason.

Not all mothers will get the Mother of the Year award or be featured in a woman's magazine, but I can not think of a single mother that I know who shouldn't get some kind of award for overcoming the hardships she's faced raising children. Our culture likes to enshrine motherhood and frowns on sexy or working mothers. Thankfully, our children know that moms are people, too. So, they stay in touch with you and share on an equal and intelligent level, and on Mother's Day, you get the obligatory phone call. In the scheme of things, I'd rather get twenty ordinary, chatty letters throughout the year and have them forget me on Mother's Day. After all, my sons don't need a special day for me to express my love to them.

My own mother is visiting my sister this Mother's Day. The little girl in me is sad that she's not visiting me - as impractical as it would be. I guess we never outgrow our need for our mothers. And mine will always be the prettiest, smartest mom in the room.

posted by Melanie O. at 6:51 PM - 3 comments
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Weekend antics
Last weekend, Dan and I decided that we needed to "get away from it all" for a while. Somewhere exotic. Somewhere we could relax and that perhaps catered to tourists, as we wanted to be pampered a bit.

We went to Canberra. For you Americans, that is the equivalent of expecting an erotic, fun-filled weekend in Muncie, Indiana.

I should have known that this trip was a bit doomed from the start when Dan wound up with a cold sore the size of a Chuppa Chup pop about a week before. "It'll go away in a week" we said. I even suggested that we postpone our trip for another week to make sure he had full use of his lips. But no, Dan assured me it would be gone by then. Until the sore was dried up, however, no kissing. No nothing.

We'll still have fun, I thought. We'll go shopping at one of the many adult novelty stores that can be found in any nation's capital. This is fine in theory, but when you get there, you realise that there's nothing in there that you haven't seen before. We bought scented massage oil. I was bored after fifteen minutes. There wasn't a decent lingerie outfit to be seen.

The drive down there was nice, however. Three uninterrupted hours of mindless chatter and bad jokes. Just the thing we're good at. We indulged in Hungry Jack burgers, something we do about twice a year, and monitored the skies for heavy rain. Exciting so far.

We got to our cheap motel. If you're going to have a debaucherous weekend, it's almost mandatory to stay in a cheap motel. We stayed at the kind for which you have to bring your own towel and face cloth. It was one step up from a hostel. At least we had privacy and a TV (with theft-preventative alarm system) that you could see if you also came equipped with opera glasses.

Our debaucherous night was spent watching Cats and Dogs on TV. The cold sore wasn't gone. No kissing, even. At least the animated cats were funny, even if the dogs were not. We had spicy Pakistani food for dinner which haunted me for a couple of days afterwards (which is how I know it was really good stuff.) I gave Dan a massage. I fell asleep at 11:00. The next day we went to see a garden with a miniature village, and caught up with a friend and her embarrassingly gay dog, Dave.

It's the stuff they don't write about for the Big Screen, unless, of course, they're making a comedy of my life.
posted by Melanie O. at 5:57 PM - 6 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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