Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bye bye, bait-and-switch

I hit a big weight loss milestone this week, or two actually. First, I am halfway to my goal. I’ve lost twenty-eight pounds. Twenty-seven to go. But the bigger milestone for me is that this week I weigh what I weighed when my husband and I got engaged. Not quite yet down to what I weighed at our wedding, a weight that was achieved using unhealthy means when my dress arrived just a bit too tight, but I now weigh what I weighed when he decided that I was the girl for him. I know he doesn’t value me for my waistline. I know he loves me and thinks I’m beautiful at any size. But there is still something comforting to me about being back at the size I was when we were dating.

It happened gradually. A pound here, a pound there. Eating more frequently at restaurants. Making a meal because we’re a couple, when I would have had a bowl of cereal if I had been alone. Having evil things like Doritos in the house because he likes them. Watching more TV than I otherwise would, an activity that just goes so darn well with snacking. And age, and hormonal changes, and popping out a couple of kids, and eating leftover Kraft mac and cheese off of their high chair trays, and getting takeout pizza at the end of exhausting days, and eating too much McDonald’s because they had Batmen or My Little Ponies in the happy meals. It happens. It happened.

This summer will be our 9th wedding anniversary. In those 9 years, not including the unhealthy wedding weight loss that came back on almost immediately, I gained nearly 30 pounds. A few pounds a year. Never really noticeable at any given point. I am blessed with a body that can hold quite a bit of weight. I gain all over, and stay proportionate. So my comfy jeans became my regular jeans, and I got some new comfy jeans, and a few years later, they became my regular jeans. While it’s certainly covered under “for better or for worse,” perhaps marriage vows really need a “for thinner or for fatter” clause, because I know I am not the only one who got married and then found themselves buying bigger and bigger comfy jeans. Hubs was on the same trajectory, and had gained about 20 pounds over the years. He recently lost a bunch of weight too, after a cardiologist scared the bejeezus out of him. He is actually now a little below what he weighed when we got married. He lost 25 pounds in 2 months. Men suck. It’s not fair. But moving on.

I’m thrilled about my weight loss, because I know I am doing it in a healthy way, and I know it is lowering my risk for all kinds of crap. I also admit that looking better is a very nice plus. But it’s bringing up some baggage. I never realized it, but I guess there was a part of me that felt like I had pulled a bait-and-switch. “Oh, honey, you know that pretty girl you married? Yeah, she’s gone. I ate her. You get me instead.” Weight loss has highlighted how much of my concept of my own value is tied up in physical appearance. It’s not something I like knowing about myself. I hope it is something I can avoid inadvertently teaching to my daughter. And my son too, of course, but I think of this appearance = value issue as primarily a woman thing in our society. I hope I can teach my daughter to love and value herself for what is inside, and I hope I can teach my son to value women for what is on the inside too. Like his dad.

Maybe if I keep teaching it to them, some day it will sink in for me.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, some photos of my trip up and down the scale. It was easy to find photos at 8-10 pounds thinner than my peak weight, but there are almost no photos of me at the very top of the mountain. The only ones I could find were from the Maryland Faerie Festival last year, complete with kooky dreads and headpiece, but it will still give you the idea.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tweens... (eye roll)

So last night at Zumba, one of the women brought her little sister and her cousin, presumably because she was babysitting them. They were 9 or 10, and looked extremely irritated to be dragged along with a babysitter (but Mo-ooom, we don’t need a babysitter) to a class where old ladies go to sweat. (Not that we’re old, but to tweens, I might as well have a walker and blue hair). I felt a little bad for them. I mean, it was American Idol night, and they got dragged to Zumba. That’s kind of rough if you’re 10.

Kind of rough for the old ladies too. Because this class is fun, and high energy, and we sweat a lot, and we move our hips in sexy ways, and we sometimes think we look good doing it even though we are dripping in sweat. Nothing shatters that illusion like a couple of non-sweaty tweens with perfect hair watching from the side and texting. One imagines that they’re texting their friends about how ridiculous we all look. Instead of sexy Latin dancer, I found myself feeling like a sweaty old fat woman in XL yoga pants. Such is the power of the coolly superior tween gaze.

But then a crazy thing happened. We were doing a fun Bollywood number, and one of the girls pulled her size 0 jean-clad butt off the floor and started doing the moves small on the sidelines. With a little encouragement from the teacher and the sweaty old women, she came out and joined the class. I could see the desire to try the dance warring with her desire to remain cool and detached. The dance won. Sure, she was still marking it a little. I mean, she didn’t want to get sweaty! Then her cousin got up and joined in too.

We moved from the Bollywood to a piece that is half old jazz/Lindy steps and then moves into the hip-hop versions of those moves. (Yeah, I know... when you think of me, you think hip-hop. I’m just so street!) It’s fast and crazy in parts, with a super fast Suzie Q and some quick jumps and kicks. We’ve all been doing this dance for a couple of weeks, so it’s no reflection on the tweenies that they couldn’t keep up. But is it sick that it made me feel a bit better? OK, it is sick. I know.

Water break. We have been dancing for nearly an hour. Tweenies have been dancing for about 7 minutes. Big sister/cousin asks the tweens what they think. With just a hint of an eyeroll, one responds, “It’s OK. Kind of easy.”

If I had a slushy, I would have totally thrown it at her.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The pros and cons of cleaning my own home

So, as you all probably know, we recently let go of our monthly cleaning service. The cleanliness of my house has taken a major hit. But there are some unexpected up-sides. Here are some of the pros and cons of cleaning one’s own home.

Pro: The money. We are saving $120 or so a month by dropping the cleaning service. This is the only pro we considered when deciding to make the switch.

Con: The house is never clean all at once. If the bathrooms are clean, the kitchen is dirty. If the living room is clean, the laundry didn’t get done. Something always has to give. I miss the evening after the cleaning service had been there, when the whole house was clean for a few blessed hours.

Pro: When something is dirty and bugging me, I just clean it right away rather than waiting for the cleaning people and having to look at it for a week or whatever.

Con: When something is dirty and bugging me, I have to clean it myself.

Pro: No late-night scramble to tidy the night before. No fighting with the kids to keep the house tidy all day.

Con: The house is never tidy.

Pro: Things that I thought were permanently stained are now clean. (e.g., curry stains in the kitchen sink, and that rusty ring in the toilets from the time, a couple of years ago, when we replaced our well pump and it pumped iron sludge through the house). It turns out that Comet and arm-aching, finger-bleeding scrubbing will actually get those things clean.

Con: Cracked hands and completely wasted cuticles. Note to self: Buy some of those housewifey glove thingies. They make them for a reason. Put on a garter belt and some heels and pretend it’s a fetish thing if you must to maintain your street cred, but for the love of God, woman, protect your hands next time you’re Comet-scrubbing something for 45 minutes.

Pro: Now that cleaning is part of my job description, I clean things like the inside of the fridge and inside the light fixtures, tasks no one was doing before.

Con: Having to know and see just how many dead stinkbugs have been slowly mummifying in the light fixtures. Holy f-ing crap.

Pro: Not having to keep the kids from walking across freshly mopped floors.

Con: The kids’ room will never be clean again, because I clean when they are asleep.

Pro: Our crap is not randomly moved around, placed in random piles, or hidden tidied away in drawers.

Con: We still can't find our crap, because it is buried under yet more of our crap.

Pro: When friends talk about people with money who have nannies and house cleaners, I no longer have to hold my tongue. Now I can join in the chorus of, “Yeah, THOSE people! What do they do all day? Eat bon-bons?”

Con: I would love to be one of those people and eat more bon-bons.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ode to an Unscheduled Day

I wake to birds and stay pajama clad,
No buzzing clock my late repose destroys.
The children play so sweetly with their dad;
I wander, caffeine-bound, through scads of toys.
The laundry pile beckons—darks, whites, reds,
Into the crock-pot dinner makes its way,
My hooters bounce, unhinder’d, bra-less, free,
As I shake out clean sheets to make the beds.
I sort detritus from the children’s play
And let them watch a bit too much TV.

No ballet class, nor preschool, nor play date
Demands I shower or leg hair remove.
Exploring facebook, I luxuriate,
I click each link, and “Like” if I approve.
The vacuum, wow, apparently still works.
Old projects, long on hold, see light of day.
I keep the Clorox wipes people in jobs
And cat hair tumbleweeds no longer lurk.
Eternal piles of crap are put away
Removing proof that we oft live like slobs.

It’s time for bubbles now, in back yard green.
My children’s laughter disallows ennui.
A mother hen, I spray them with sunscreen
And photograph them peeing on a tree.
My toenails once more gleam an unchipp’d red
And eyebrows too are pluck’d to tidy lines
It’s nice cold beer while on my face sun shines
With red box wine and TV before bed.
The morrow brings return to schedule hell,
But when I’ve space to breathe... ahh... all is well.

© Pam Desmond 2011

Want more poetry of the mundane? Check out my friend Amy’s Valentines to my Life, including “Haiku for Indoor Plumbing,” “Shakespearean Sonnet for Arlington Trash Pick-Up,” and “Prayer to Normal.”

Friday, May 20, 2011


I love the lisps and mispronunciations of toddlers and the preschoolers. I know I should correct them, but I just don’t want to. I think fondly of the time, not so long ago, when my son called his junk a “meenis,” and was constantly asking who among his social circle was lucky enough to also possess a meenis.

There are errors I correct, to be sure, and I try to make sure that they have all of the speech sounds they need, but there are just some mistakes that I don’t have the heart to correct, and some mistakes that I desperately miss when they go away.

Here are some kiddo-isms that are gone, but not forgotten:

Around 16 months, “uh oh” was pronounced “oh ah.”

At 18 months, a sock was called a “shoe-ock.”

For a long time, from 18-24 months or so, pretzels were called “keckels” by everyone in our house.

Just before their second birthday, my kids thought the happy birthday song went like this: “Happy birthday, ‘scuse you.” (‘Scuse you, of course, meaning “Excuse you,” roughly translated as, “Move, bitch. You’re in my seat.”)

And then of course, there’s that challenging TR at the beginning of truck. So difficult to say. So easy to just substitute an F. Hearing exclamations about trucks from the backseat led to hours of hilarity for any and all adults present. I admit, in those cases, it may be a bit generous to refer to us as adults. It never got old.

Even now, at nearly 4, we have some extremely adorable mistakes that I will not be correcting. I have even adopted some of them so we can keep the cuteness a little longer. Because my kids are capable of most (if not all) sounds now, and are excellent mimics. The days of kiddospeak are almost over, and I am milking these last months for all they’re worth. Here are some of my favorites.

A pickup truck is called a hiccup truck (and until several months ago, was still called a hiccup f*ck, which leads to all kinds of bizarre imagery if you think about it too long. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Snow peas somehow got turned around, and each one is called a pee snow. Anyone who corrects this one has to go through me first! And, oh, I just realized that now that my son can pee standing up, we can totally make us some yellow snow this year! The things we get excited about. Wow. Scary.

“Buzz” as a wonderfully lazy mispronunciation of “because.”

Flip-flops are called flippy-flops (yes, girls, like flippy-cup).

Somewhere along the line, pee-peeing and poo-pooing acquired an extra “n”, so they sound like peepinning, and poopinning. (Accent on first syllable). Somehow this makes those activities cute and adorable rather than disgusting. “Come back and finish eating.” “I can’t right now. I’m poopinning.”

Since the first time they tasted it, PBJ has been called “peeba.” Use of the word peeba appears to be somewhat viral and has infected several other families.

“Uppy-side” means upside-down.

In our house, a crescent moon is now (and hopefully always will be) called a pescent moon.

Vagina has gradually evolved to gina and then ginia. Ginia. It’s pretty. It sounds like a girl’s name. It sounds a heck of a lot nicer than vagina. My sexual politics demand that I correct this one, but honestly, I prefer ginia. Wait, I don’t mean I PREFER ginia. I still prefer meenis. I’m just saying… oh whatever, you know what I’m saying.

My kids are growing up so fast. Before I know it, kiddospeak will be no more. But I love it so. Please feel free to add your own family’s silly special language in the comments, here or on facebook! Give me my kiddospeak fix.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A game of chance

Short entry today because someone (perhaps small fingers in search of ice cream?) left my garage freezer open a crack last night, so I spent my morning writing time sorting through food and deciding what could be salvaged. Fun fun. The next few days of dinners are gonna feel a bit like Russian Roulette around here. Spin the cylinder! Feel alive! Wheeeee!

I learned some important lessons last time this happened. If you ever find yourself with a freezer left open and hundreds of dollars of food ruined, here are some lessons from me to you.

Number One. Numero Uno. This is the only one that really matters!! Do not throw the thawed meats out right away. Leave them in the freezer until trash day and then toss them. I read a lot of fantasy novels, and many have tried to describe the smell of rotting meat. (Seriously, what is it about fantasy novelists and rotting-meat-smell? They also seem to like to describe the smell of funeral pyres. Yuck.) Anyway, nothing, my friends, can adequately describe the smell of truly rotting meat. Not the dead fish smell at an un-maintained beach. Not even roadkill, which is usually cleaned up before reaching the point we’re talking about here. It. Is. Horrible. And if your trash bags leak, I won’t say the word, but they’re small and they grow up to be flies and nothing is more gross in all the land.

Here’s a minor tip, but potentially useful. Clean up any liquids at the bottom of the freezer while it is still in its non-freezy state, because once it re-freezes, it is nigh impossible to get it out.

Even though it’s ice, and doesn’t go bad, pull the ice bags out before they re-freeze and become permanently adhered to the freezer shelf.

When in doubt, throw it out. Or at least don’t feed it to the children.

If you have food that is only partially thawed, and you decide it can be salvaged, do not let it re-freeze. Put it in the fridge and then cook it. If you have more than you can eat, invite brave friends over. Or cook it (well) and then re-freeze the cooked food. Make sure you label it as freezer-thaw food so you only serve it to people you don’t like that much, and don’t accidentally take it to some pregnant woman on bedrest.

OK, off to throw some still-mostly-frozen shrimp into a marinade. Spin the cylinder. Safety off. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Self-love vs. the belly

Despite my roller coaster ride on the upper end of the BMI scale, despite my generous nose and my crooked smile, despite my emerging gray hair, wrinkles, and age spots, I have always had a lot of self-love and confidence. I would be lying if I said I never looked in the mirror and saw something I wished I could change, but all in all, even at my highest weight, I have always thought I looked pretty good, and I have always felt sexy. And even when I struggle with self-image, I am always grateful to have a healthy, strong body that mostly does what I ask it to do.

A few years ago, pre-kids, when I was dancing with a belly dance troupe, someone in the troupe asked, “Who here likes their body?” I don’t remember who asked, or why. I think maybe it was supposed to be a rhetorical question, a sort of, “May she who is without self-loathing throw the first stone.” But I answered, “I do.” No one else said yes. These were beautiful women. Stunning. Lovely. Most were younger than me and prettier. All of them were thinner than me. I remember being completely shocked. I have since come to realize that I have an unusually high level of self-esteem for a woman of my... um... generous proportions. And maybe a high level of self-esteem for a woman in general. But there is one thing that I am having trouble loving.

The belly.

It was never cute (well, not since college anyway, and even when it was cute, I didn't think it was). It has always been my challenge zone. And then, it housed two humans for 8 months or so. Now it looks like a war zone. Stretch marks. Extra skin. No, seriously, a LOT of extra skin. And a mild but annoying diastasis, basically meaning that the two halves of my (nonexistent) six-pack are separated from each other, leaving a hole in my abs and making me look just a little bit pregnant.

You know what would fix all of those things? A tummy tuck. I would never have dreamed that I would consider cosmetic surgery, but to be honest, I think of a tummy tuck for most twin moms as reconstructive rather than cosmetic. A crazy thing happened to our bodies, and they are not the way they were before. It’s actually disgraceful that women with more extreme diastases can’t get them covered by insurance. In my case, I am still able to work out and I don’t have back pain, but a lot of women have problems from back pain to hernias, and it is still mostly out-of-pocket to get the repair. Don’t get me started...

Anyway, about a year ago, I set a ludicrous goal for myself. I told myself that if I reached my goal weight, we would find the money to get me a tummy tuck. At the time, it seemed like a pipe dream. My weight loss goal was 55 pounds. Before this year, I had never successfully lost more than about 15 at a time. A 55-pound weight loss would put me 48 pounds down from my pre-pregnancy weight. It would put me 20 pounds down from my wedding weight, a weight that was achieved using Dexatrim and crash dieting. I think the last time I was at that weight was 15+ years ago, when I was in my early 20’s. So, although 55 pounds of weight loss may not seem like that much, and my goal weight number is probably a “before” number for most people, for me this goal was completely pie in the sky.

I thought the imaginary magical tummy tuck would be a motivator, but I didn’t really think it would actually work. Well, huh. Twenty-five pounds down, thirty to go. I am only ten pounds away from my wedding weight. It might take another year or two, but I am starting to think this might actually be possible. And then what?

Tummy tucks are an extremely common topic of discussion among moms of multiples. I don’t know many who would not get one if money were not a factor. (There are probably a few, but not many). Obviously, money is a huge factor for us. If I have a stray $10,000 lying around, and I don’t, I really shouldn’t be using it to repair my midsection. Can’t I just self-love my way through this? Can’t I learn to love the belly?

I want to. I do. I have considered getting a tattoo that celebrates the fruitfulness of my body that led to the hot mess that is my belly. Unfortunately, tattoos and stretch marks apparently don’t mix well. I have stood in front of the mirror naked, and tried to see myself as some sort of fertility goddess. But really, does anyone want to look like the Venus of Willendorf? We can admire what she represents and celebrate the divine feminine, celebrate that our bodies bring life into the world, but does anyone really want her pendulous breasts and belly? Sorry Venus, but I don’t.

I am seriously considering belly dancing in public again, exposing to strangers the region of my body that I have the most trouble loving and accepting. I am even bikini shopping, not that I would ever wear a bikini in public. But at home, I think it would be good for me to let the belly out once in a while. (And yes, they do make bikinis for hooters like mine – yay!). Because when I am afraid of something, I head into it full on. I am afraid to let people see what my body looks like now. So that tells me that I have to do it. Part of me even considered taking photos of the belly and putting them up here, but I’m not ready to do that yet. Maybe some day. With really forgiving lighting. Maybe if I find a bikini I like, I'll do a "Pam-a-rama ding dong Swimsuit Edition." Then again, maybe not.

If I ever reach my goal weight, I don’t know what I’ll do. Would getting a tummy tuck be making some kind of statement about how I feel about myself? Or would it just be repairing damage done to my body by an extreme pregnancy? Will I ever be able to look at those stretch marks and that extra skin and feel sexy and beautiful? I still have a lot of self-love, but I just can’t love the belly. Except that it brought me my two beautiful kids, so I guess I do love it after all.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Toddlers & Tiaras

Yesterday, I put foundation on my three-year-old. Someone please kill me.

In my defense, it was for my daughter’s mini-dress-rehearsal and dance class photos. When I received the e-mail from the dance studio specifying foundation, blush, lipstick, and eye shadow, it felt weird but OK. After all, I danced in those things from toddler through teenage years. I remember the makeup fondly. I felt grown-up and pretty, and even though my mom was probably wrestling with me to sit still and stop blinking and wiggling, all I remember is that it was fun to feel grown up and have a special day.

But then it came time to actually put this stuff on my kid. Whoa.

First of all, her skin is about 4 shades darker than mine, the lucky little olive-skinned beauty. My foundations were all chalky on her. But really, am I expected to buy a three-year-old her OWN foundation?! I think not. So I went with a tinted moisturizer that was more forgiving. I mean, please, her skin is perfect. She does, however, have the dark circles she inherited from both sides of the family. So I pulled out some concealer. I concealed my daughter’s dark circles. I felt dirty.

Blush was easy enough. My pink looked cute on her. Eye shadow time. They specified tan on the lids and brown in the crease, exactly what I do to my own eyes every single day. I kept making her open her eyes, and then kept putting on more brown. I could feel myself coming a bit unhinged. Why do I think my daughter’s eyes need to look smokier and more cat-like? What is happening to my brain? Once I was done the eye shadow, I thought her eyes looked unfinished. So I did it. I put eyeliner on a three-year-old. If you have never tried to do this, it’s not so different from putting eyeliner on yourself... in the car... while driving off-road... and holding a feral cat. But it eventually happened.

Then some lipstick and we were done. I blotted for her, because I didn’t think I could handle teaching my preschooler how to blot lipstick. She left a perfect pink kiss on the toilet paper. Seriously. Kill me.

I haven’t watched that Toddlers & Tiaras show. I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never seen it. I know that a little bit of makeup for a dance recital is not what’s going on on that show. My kid doesn’t have extensions in her hair, or fake teeth, or spray tan, or whatever other goofiness they do to those poor kids. But I’m on the slippery slope. Concealer. On a three-year-old. Sigh. So wrong. Even more wrong is how completely adorable and perfect she looked with smoky cat eyes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The call

[Note: This was originally posted on 5/12, but blogger ate it. So here it is again!]

Here are some things you do not want to hear from your babysitter when you are at dinner with friends and your phone rings. Yes, I heard all of them last night.

  • “Your child is the spawn of Satan.”

  • “There is snot flying everywhere.”

  • “I would never spank your child, but…”

  • Any reference to Poltergeist, Exorcist, or any other horror film

  • “Redrum” (yeah, I know this is covered by the previous item, but I feel that hearing “redrum” come from a babysitter’s mouth is a special case). For the record, this is not the first time the word “redrum,” complete with creepy redrum-voice, has been used in reference to my daughter’s over-tired sleep-fighting tantrums.

  • The babysitter informing you that she has imposed an unprecedented punishment on your child.

  • “It’ll be better next time. I’ll bring a baseball bat.”

  • The sound of the babysitter’s teeth grinding

  • “I think she lost her voice from screaming. I swear it’s not because I choked her.”

Of course, the demon spawn was sleeping by the time I got the check, re-corked the wine, and drove home. She looked like a perfect little angel.

*Disclaimer: This babysitter is a member of my family, and loves my child beyond words. She would never hit her, choke her, or use any sort of bludgeoning object on her. She was joking. Mostly.

Dr. Jekyll and Mama Hyde

Sometimes, I am the most amazing mom. Not just on the good days. Even on bad days, sometimes I can watch my kids melt all the way down, reaching vocal frequencies that are truly astonishing, and I can calmly and coolly handle the situation. I can manage my own emotions, staying firm and fair and positive. I can give 20 time outs on a testing day, and then, without raising my voice or giving them the satisfaction of anger, give the 21st. On those days, I feel like Supermom.

Yesterday, not so much.

The hubs is away for work, so I am on my own with the kiddos. It’s not that different. In some ways, it’s easier, because I only have to think about my own food for dinner, so I can just scrounge or eat what the kids eat rather than making an actual Meal-with-a-capital-M. I only have to do my own dishes, and they just go straight into the dishwasher rather than somehow stalling a few feet short and landing on the counter next to the dishwasher. In a way, it’s easier to know that when there is something to be done, it is just my job. There is no negotiation over whose turn it is to wipe a butt, no irritation when it is my turn too many times in a row. And no one is giving my kids cookies 20 minutes before dinner because they didn't realize what time it was.

I miss him for sure, but it’s all kind of do-able. Except for one thing. There is no break. There is no 20-minute down time. There is no “take them now and don’t bother me for any reason until I open this door.” Turns out, I really need that. I don’t need it every day, but when I need it, I really need it. Three more days without it. Oy.

Enter Mama Hyde.

Even when the kids are sweet, Mama Hyde just wants them to go away. They want to snuggle, and Mama Hyde thinks, “Even my own body is not mine. Go away, you sweaty dirty creatures. Stop kneeing me in the stomach. Your knees are bony and they HURT!” They come during dinner prep and say, “I want more Max and Ruby, please,” in polite, sweet voices, and Mama Hyde thinks, “Well, I want 15 godforsaken minutes of silence, which is why I put on the TV in the first place.” (Seriously, I want to cock punch the people who put 10 minutes of commercials between two 10-minute shows.) A kid wanders in, just saying, “Mommy?” with that questioning lilt that presages a request of some sort, for milk, or crackers, or a 1-inch toy that could be anywhere in the house. Mama Hyde wants to answer with, “What?! What?! What could you possibly want NOW?!”

When the kids are not sweet, like when one kid has a screaming tantrum while Mama Hyde is trying to listen to the instructions for the other kid’s dance recital and dress rehearsal, Mama Hyde just wants to turn around, get in the car, and drive away. By herself. And never come back.

I need my down time. I was supposed to go out with friends Wednesday night to charge the me-time batteries up a little. Well, we all saw how well that went. And then yesterday was a preschool day, which would have given me an hour and a half to myself. But it was a field trip. So no down time for Mama Hyde. My kids even accompanied me to belly dance class last night, proving that part of my exercise addiction is almost certainly an addiction to getting a guilt-free hour all to myself. Although they looked incredibly cute shimmying in their jingly hip scarves, it is pretty much impossible to learn choreography with children dragging at your shirt and asking for water, running in circles around the other poor women in class, and fighting with each other. I had to leave before getting a good sweat going.

But then we arrived home, and they went immediately to sleep. It took 2 hours for Mama Hyde to recede back into the shadowy depths of my psyche, but by the time I went in to kiss their little foreheads before bed, I was myself again. Other than a 4am nightmare, we all slept soundly until EIGHT-THIRTY! Unheard of. And then they asked permission before dumping the laundry baskets, so I had a chance to lay the clean clothes on the usual spot on my dresser rather than having to re-fold them all from a dumped pile on the floor like I usually do. And then the orange they requested for breakfast was super easy to peel. Don’t you love that? Go away, Mama Hyde. You won’t be needed here today!

P.S. I really wanted to re-name Dr. Jekyll to something that sounds like fun mom, like Dr. Tickle or Dr. Chuckle, but they all sounded like child molesters, so I just left it. Just a little peek behind the curtain for ya…

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rocking the Renaissance

I would have totally rocked the Renaissance. OK, you’re right, I like the nice clean hygiene standards of today, the birth control and medical care, and stuff like my right to vote and have an opinion and whatnot. And while I do look pretty kick-ass in the boob-pushing-up, waist-cinching-in outfits, even excellent corsetry can’t quite balance the high risk of dying in childbirth. My point is that I think I am fundamentally a Renaissance woman, and there’s not a lot of space for those in the world right now.

I want to talk about religion, and philosophy, and consciousness. I love music and art and dance and math and science and language and the human mind and and and… and I am kind of good at all of those things. I am good enough at some of those things to be considered an expert (or I was, anyway, before the children melted large portions of my brain using mind control and repeated applications of incredibly annoying sounds). But in today’s world, I feel unfocused. I feel like a dilettante. I feel like there is no place for the kind of person I am. The kind of person who is reasonably good at many things, and quite good at a few things, but who has never found a focus on any one of those things that is enough to sustain my interest on its own.

There are a lot of us. I’ve met many. We are a tribe, recognizable to each other by our handmade necklaces, witty dialogue, and raw enthusiasm. We meet each other at workshops and classes. We make beautiful objects, and toy with ideas like having a jewelry business, becoming a professional photographer, or going back to school for interior design. We consider careers as therapists or life coaches. (Because who better to help you with your life than someone who isn’t sure what to do with theirs?) We start novels. We take African Dance classes. There are drums or guitars in the corners of our living rooms. We completely rock our “day jobs” with our smarts, while feeling stifled and trapped. We fantasize about making a career out of one of our hobbies, but we kind of know that if that ever happened, we would feel just as trapped.

We want to paint, and dance, and debate politics, and research the effects of music on the human brain. We craft pithy status updates and tweets, and we delight in the creating the perfectly worded letter of righteous indignation when we are wronged. Our dream job doesn’t exist, and when trying to describe it, we require lots of /’s.

We’re smart and creative and have loads and loads of interesting and varied skills. If someone could figure out how to harness the unfocused energy of the Renaissance people in today’s society, we could accomplish almost anything. Harness us! And point us at something! Because the part about focusing? It’s really… Oooh, shiny! Wow, that would make an amazing ring. I have my soldering iron right here. Yeah, I of course I know how to solder. I took a class. Yeah, and I took a class on glass bead making too. You would love it. You should totally try it. Wanna come with me to belly dance class later? What was I saying? Oh, whatever. Something about harnessing. You’re right, we SHOULD take a leather-working class together! How about next Friday? Oh wait, I have my spirituality group. No, Saturday is that barefoot dance thingie. What was I saying? Um, yeah.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One good day

Friday was all set to be a rough day. I was up half the night with a cough, and my husband, who normally works from home on Fridays, was not only going in to work, but was working late. And I had a yard sale to prepare for, an unfinished project to make progress on, and a disgusting house to clean.

Instead, it was our best day in a long, long time. We chased butterflies and stomped on dandelions gone to seed. It was so magical and delightful and Vaseline-lens-filmed children-running-through-the-heather that I didn’t even mind watching the “flower fairies” floating all over my lawn and into my garden. We came in for a while, had lunch, and then the kids pretended to be mommy and daddy. They called themselves by our first names, and took care of a baby doll and a stuffed Hello Kitty, reassuring their “children” when they got a boo-boo by telling them, “It’s OK, babe. Mommy will kiss it better.” I did laundry, successfully met my unfinished project goal, and wrote an extra bonus blog entry about it. They asked to go back outside, so we threw maple seeds into the air and watched them whirligig down. For half an hour. Three-year-olds don’t do anything for half an hour. Well, nothing pleasant anyway. I moved three more of the giant 70-80 pound logs that are killing grass in the middle of the lawn while the kids swung on the swings. They didn’t even fight about who would be on the front of the glider swing. Together, we planted the marigolds the kiddos gave me at their preschool Mother’s Day Tea. We came back in, watched some TV, and snuggled on the couch. I fell briefly asleep and awoke to find two kids still snuggled on me, and not one single toy bin or bucket of water dumped out onto the floor.

5pm hit, and I had not mediated a single fight. What kind of weird bizarro-world had I entered? And can I live there?

Witching hour. 5-6pm. I folded laundry while they wore the laundry baskets on their backs and pretended to be “Bowser’s friends” (the turtle thingies from the Mario games). I sat down to take some notes for this blog entry so I didn’t forget what I wanted to say. No one whined at me. I kept looking over my shoulder, but nope, no hidden cameras. I wouldn’t even mind being punked if they would tell me how they got my kids to act like that so I could do it Every. Flipping. Day.

Even dinnertime, our nemesis around here, couldn’t derail the happy train. (Although the table manners were legendary in their complete absence, as I am about to describe, but we were all really happy about it.) The kids bit chunks from the sides of carrots and pretended they were telephones. They then decided to pretend that carrots were poo-poo, and mimed um… “creating” the carrots, you know, like, um, from their butts. Yeah, charming, I know. And then they ate them, opening their mouths wide to show each other the half-masticated poo-poo carrots. It was like “2 Kids 1 Cup”* but with beta carotene and roof-rattling belly laughs.

And then Daddy came home, to squeals of delight, hugs, and frantically-told stories about the day we had. They sat under blankets with the back door open and watched the storm roll in while the grown-ups ate dinner. Next, it was time to strip naked and jump on the bed for a while (just the kids, not the grown-ups). Then, they settled down for book reading with Daddy, and went to bed. Best. Day. Ever.

I was uber-productive AND got in loads of great Mommy-kiddo time, and also spent time on facebook and wrote 2 blog entries and I honestly kind of didn’t know what to do with myself all day. Days like this are the reason that people without kids wonder what stay-at-home moms do with their time. If I hadn’t had a month of back-laundry to do, a yard sale the next day, and a house that had gone even more to seed than the dandelions, I seriously could have eaten bon-bons on the couch with my feet up. It was f-ing surreal.

Every day is a gift. Every day that we are healthy and together and have food to eat and a roof over our heads and love love love… is a gift. But some days are like a re-gifted bath gel and lotion set or a candle that kind of gives you a headache. Friday was like a spa gift card for a 2-hour massage with “includes free babysitting” written on the envelope. I wish I knew where to send the thank you note. I guess I send it to my amazing kids.

*For those who don’t know the “2 girls 1 cup” reference, do not google it. If you google it, do not watch the video. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. If you really want to know (warning: you don’t), here is the wikipedia page that describes it without visuals. Some things cannot be unseen.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mother's Day Wish

Here’s wishing you a day that’s all about you
when someone else has to clean up the poo.
Hope that breakfast in bed doesn’t land on the rug
and the coffee is hot and arrives with a hug.
May you spend the whole day with your feet up, and rubbed.
May the dishes be done and the toilet be scrubbed.
I hope that your kids understand well enough
that this is your day, so no fighting, shut up.
That instead of petty disputes, for one day
they just pile in your lap, smile at you, and say,
“I love you mommy. So much more than you know.
More than cookies, or ice cream, or swimming, or snow.”
They won’t say that, of course, because—hello—they’re kids.
But when you soak in their snuggles, may you feel like they did.
When they kiss you with syrup faces, sticky and sweet,
they’re saying, “Thanks for cleaning up stuff I excrete.”
When they give you construction paper, scribbled and cut
They’re saying, “Thanks, mommy, for wiping my butt.”
And if hubby gives you a kiss, or a card, or some flowers,
That’s just a bonus. The real gift is the hours.
A few blessed hours when you’re allowed to say,
“Go ask your Daddy. Mommy’s resting today.”

© Pam Desmond 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Follow-through follow-up

Just a brief post to follow up on yesterday's post about unfinished projects and my chronic lack of follow-through.

The Rubbermaid filing boxes are no longer in my office. It was not the two minute job I had imagined, because of course the garage stuff has been breeding again. I think the Christmas ornaments have been getting it on with the old Burning Man costumes, but whoever has been going at it, the stuff has expanded to fill the space that used to house the Rubbermaid filing boxes.

So you'll never guess what I did.

In my garage, there is a certain shelf. A high shelf, requiring not just a step-stool, but an actual ladder. As if that is not bad enough, the shelf can only be reached if I back my beloved minivan out of the garage, and then close the garage door. This is the shelf where things go to die. On that shelf, placed there when we moved into this house 6 years ago and not touched since, were two boxes. Two boxes labeled (I wish I were kidding about this): "Blankets/comforters to be cleaned."

Two big boxes of blankets... with cat puke or yard sale dirt or beach sand or some other substance on them that required laundering. For 6 years. Sigh.

But sigh no more! Because those boxes are now in the middle of my garage, and I brought the first batch down to the laundry room for washing. No, I didn't wash them yet, because of course the load of towels that is currently in the washing machine has been there for 2 days and has acquired the stink, so those are being washed again. But the first batch of blankets is next!

The blanket boxes freed up plenty of space for the filing bins, and then some. Score one for Unfinished Project Fridays!

Screen time limiting biz-nitches can bite me

Every time I hear a mom say the words “screen time,” part of me rolls my eyes, and another part of me cringes in shame. Oh no, I think to myself, how virtuous of a screen time limit do they have in their house? 2 hours? An hour?! And then I think, please don’t let them ask me please don’t let them ask me please don’t let them ask me.

Because the answer is, a lot. Some days, none at all. Some days, hours. It’s seasonal of course. Just like my red wine intake, it creeps up as temperatures drop and tapers when the sunshine beckons. But even on nice days, we often have a good amount of screen time. [Note: for those of you who are thinking, “What the hell is ‘screen time?’” the answer is that it is an annoying phrase meaning the combined amount of time a kid is in front of a screen of any kind—TV, video game, computer, Leapster, etc.]

But here’s what I have to say about it. Screen time is awesome. Yesterday afternoon, we were out front weeding the garden. Well, I was weeding. They were alternating between squirting each other with the hose and using my spare trowels to redistribute the dirt and mulch in the garden. My daughter suddenly calls out in delight, “Mommy, look, it’s a dragonfly!” I look up, thinking, what are the odds? But yes, it was a dragonfly, or at least looked like one to my entomologically inexpert eye. You know where she learned that? That’s right. TV. And that diminutive frenemy to all moms, Dora, has taught my kids more words in Spanish than I even know. Dora’s slightly less annoying cousin has them correcting me when I imprecisely call something a parrot. “Mommy, that’s a macaw.” And even the less educational Bubble Guppies have something to teach my kids. Thanks to that show, they learned to hit the crash cymbal at the end of a run of drumming, and then say, “I totally rock!” I mean, come on. That’s awesome. It never would have occurred to me to teach them that.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m good with putting some logical limits on TV-watching. At this point, after being played in our house for the 3,267th time, Cars the movie no longer has any redeeming educational value. But let’s say we’ve turned off the TV, are my kids really not allowed to go screw around on the computer? They’re not even four, and they’re more comfortable with a mouse in their hands than a crayon. They can type their names, play games on Nick Jr.’s website, and independently navigate YouTube. (Side note: It’s incredible how quickly one can navigate from funny and cute Mario Brothers videos to violent or disturbingly sexual Mario Brothers videos with lots of swearing. Do not let your children independently navigate YouTube. Just a little piece of advice from me to you.) Anyway, my point is that in the world they will live in, they will need these skills. Well, probably not the mouse, but they are both also shockingly adept at working my Droid phone. They took to the scroll and zoom gestures much faster than I did. They could probably kick my butt at Angry Birds if I let them play it, which I don’t. Not because of screen time, but because I don’t want to be constantly looking for my phone in the cracks of the sectional.

My kids get plenty of exercise. We go outside whenever we can, even in the snow when it totally sucks and it takes an hour to get them ready for 30 minutes outside. When it’s rainy for a few days, we’ll put on music and dance ourselves silly in the living room, or put on boots and raincoats and go stomp in puddles. Or sometimes they’ll just start running around and around in circles for no reason. It’s all good. And we get plenty of parent-kid time—gardening, playing soccer outside, making music, doing art, or even snuggling in front of the awful horrible TV. I agree that kids shouldn’t spend their entire day glued to the TV, computer, and Wii. But if those activities are interspersed with independent quiet play, some physical activity, and lots of good family time, I think it’s OK, and maybe even more than OK. I know that my kids, since giving up their naps, need some down-time in the afternoon. They need to lie on the couch and veg out. Mommy needs some down-time too, to fold laundry or start dinner or write a blog about how TV is awesome. And it is. TV is awesome.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unfinished project Thursdays

I have a little problem. It’s the kind of thing that I should mention when a potential employer asks for my biggest weakness. Instead of pathetically trying to frame one of my strengths as a weakness, I should say this: I apparently have a complete and utter lack of follow-through. Yup.

Here are some of the projects that are currently hanging out waiting to be finished:

Nakashima-inspired table for the foyer. I have the design in my head. I have the walnut plywood. I have the big beautiful slab of natural-edge walnut for the top. I have removed the bark, filled the big knot in the wood, and sanded it to a fairly smooth but not-quite-smooth-enough finish. This has all been leaning up against a cabinet in the garage for more than a year.

Pillows for the living room. I have the pillow forms. I have the fabric. They have been sitting on the chair in my master bathroom for about 9 months.

Putting together John’s new-to-us desk. It’s in place, but not screwed together. It has been that way for about 6 months. Bonus though, because now we decided his new office will be in a different room, so we would have had to take it apart again anyway. Sometimes procrastination works in your favor. This is a bad lesson to learn.

The great shredding and filing project of 2010. Last year, I went through John’s filing cabinet and Rubbermaid filing bins and touched every single piece of paper in them. There was stuff from the 70’s. I found his ex-wife’s dissertation. I found dry cleaning receipts from the 1980’s that he has been carting around for three decades. Almost everything from 2003 and earlier was recycled or shredded. It was exhilarating. Nothing feels as good as shredding stuff and getting it out of your life forever. I made new file folders. I filed everything—new stuff in the filing cabinet, old stuff in the file boxes. And then haven’t filed a single piece of paper since. I also have not yet put the file boxes back in the garage. They have been living in the office, serving as a horizontal surface to pile crap on for probably about 6 months.

Kiddos’ bedding. I have the fabric and the measurements. I already made their duvets and pillowcases. I just need to make the bedskirts. The bedskirt fabric has been sitting on top of my jewelry armoire for about a year. I hope they don’t outgrow their toddler beds before I get around to it, because I was really hoping to get a great photo of their two fabulous coordinating beds when I finished.

My novel. Words written so far: 65,000. Words written in the past few months: 0.

This is not my to-do list I’m giving you. This is the list of things that are indefinitely stalled. The Nakashima table project originally stalled because winter hit (no, not this past winter, the winter before) and it got too cold to work on it outside. But it’s warm now. So any day... I’ll be out there sanding and cutting and ordering the mid-century turned wood legs... any day now...

Here’s the thing. I have loads of energy at the start of something new. Like *cough* this blog. It’s new, and shiny, and distracting. It’s a project. I love projects. I have been feeling the need for a new project, and this blog is less expensive than the runner up, which was guitar lessons. (No, I do not currently own a guitar.) But come on, wouldn’t it be cool to play the guitar? And wouldn’t that guest room look so much better with a headboard? And wouldn’t it be amazing to write a novel and get it published? And won’t that Nakashima table look fabulous in my foyer? And wouldn’t it be so f-ing cool if this blog eventually monetized or I got some awesome paid writing gig from it? Yeah, that stuff would all be super badass. You know what ingredient is missing from all of those plans? Follow-through.

I think I need to institute ”unfinished project Thursdays” or something. Once a week, I pick a project. ANY project. And make progress on it. Even a small amount. I remember at one point, my dissertation was a stalled project. One of my office-mates put up a sign in our office. It said, “What have you done TODAY to finish your dissertation?” Apparently I was not the only grad student capable of filling their entire day with e-mail, supervising research assistants, teaching, administrative minutiae, and screwing around on the internet. I have a PhD because of that sign. I wish I remembered which officemate put it up (Hey Saskia and Mikkel, if you’re reading this, please take credit if it was you. I owe you one slightly tarnished PhD. Luckily, you both already have one so you don’t need mine, because I don’t think they’re transferable.) Every day, because of that sign and its mercilessly mocking, I would spend 10 minutes doing one data analysis, or spend 30 minutes writing one paragraph. And then I would stop and go back to teaching undergrads or supervising Master’s students or going to symposium talks or screwing around on the internet. Because I could tell the sign, “Shut the hell up, you inanimate disposable object with the uncanny ability to fill me with self-loathing. I totally re-did that ANOVA with socio-economic status as a covariate. I can play minesweeper now if I want.” Now instead of minesweeper, it’s laundry. And instead of supervising students, it’s supervising three-year-olds. And instead of every day, it will just be one day a week. But things will eventually get finished if I do at least a little bit of work on them once a week.

Not Thursdays though, because that is preschool in the morning and ballet in the afternoon. Maybe Fridays. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is always a good day to start a new follow-through plan. Definitely tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'll show you mine...

So, it has been two-and-a-half weeks since I cleaned the house for that dinner party. The cleaning service hasn’t been here in over 5 weeks. And while it is lovely to be saving that money, here’s what happens when I know that I will never again have to straighten up the house so that someone else can clean it. It degenerates rapidly, shockingly rapidly, into its natural state of complete chaos and filth. Don’t believe me? I took pictures.

In my defense, I have been sick, and so have the kids (including the man-sized-kid). Also, nearly a month ago I started this blog thingie, and it has slightly cut into my prime 11pm-1am house cleaning time. Oh, and that whole exercise addiction is kind of messing with my crap-picking-up mojo. But yeah, there’s no excuse for what you are about to see.

We'll start small. Here is the "to be filed" pile... stacked up on an old cat bed... and reflected in the mirror my kids like to use to make out with their own reflections. Nice.

Here is my dresser. It houses a lovely glass-top humidor for my cigars, a beautifully carved box for my Tarot cards, an engagement photo and a photo of some amazing women in my life... ALL TOPPED WITH MASSIVE PILES OF CRAP!

This next one is not exactly my fault. Except inasmuch as it's my house, so everything is my fault. We asked the cleaning service not to clean our desks in the office, because they were moving our very important and organized papers and whatnot. (More on that in a moment). They took that to mean not to clean anything at desk level and above. So now we have cobwebs festooning the top half of the room.

And, um, speaking of our desks. This one might be the most embarrassing of all, because truthfully, this is not temporary. My desk actually always looks like this. I am generally a neat person, but... yeah... no... this is my work process. Wait, I can't post this picture. OK, I'm posting it. This is where the magic happens, my friends. This is where the words are born. This is what I'm looking at right now.

Apparently this clutter problem is genetic. Here is the kiddos' bathtub. I have a couple of plastic frog thingamahoozits on the wall for storing their bath toys. They prefer them like this.

Speaking of my twin chaos-monsters, I bought a lovely Ikea wall unit with lots of bins, and made (with my own two hands) three benches with storage baskets underneath to neatly contain all of their toys in a civilized fashion. Yeah, again, they apparently prefer the playroom to look like this. (P.S. The snake, while realistic, is not real.)

Finally, my friends, I will leave you with a view under my sofa table. This sofa table is the first thing you see upon walking into my house. It is from one of my favorite furniture stores, Room and Board, and is a token example of real furniture (that is to say, the back is made of actual wood, not cardboard - whoa). When the sun comes in through our full-lite double front doors in the late afternoon, it perfectly illuminates... the utterly disgusting dust and filth underneath this sofa table. Et voila.

So everyone... all of you wonderful people who have only seen my house in relative neat mode... I mean, yeah, sometimes I still apologize for the mess, but I let you come over, so you know I at least wiped the cat hair tumbleweeds out of the corners and made sure you could actually cut a path to the bathroom... next time I tell you I can't host playgroup because my house is a disaster area, now maybe you'll believe me. Everyone else, the few of you who have seen my house looking like this, all I can say is that I must really love you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hippies are a bummer

Not 1960’s hippies. I mean modern-day hippies. I guess you could call them progressives. They would probably call themselves “conscious humans” or something like that. People for whom organic is good, local organic is better, and really you should just be growing your own produce in your back yard. You know, hippies.

There was this guy in my college dorm freshman year. At our end-of-year dorm awards, he won by virtue of a write-in category. He was dubbed “most self-righteous.” I’ve actually mentioned him in a blog before, years ago (on myspace—that’s how many years ago we’re talking about… whoa, 2006, I just went back and checked). Anyway, Mr. Brett Hall Self-Righteous 1991-1992 was a proselytizing vegan, and used Dr. Bronner’s soap in the shower, when he showered at all, which was not very frequently because of water conservation. He didn’t use deodorant either. He was pretty much a skinny smelly bummer. I wasn’t a hippie yet at that point. I recycled and stuff, and I listened to The Smiths “Meat is Murder” CD, but it hadn’t really occurred to me yet that maybe meat was murder. Because mmmmm… bacon… yummy.

During my 10-year stint in the San Francisco area, I had a brief tango with vegetarianism and a much longer period as a non-mammal-eater (that was ultimately doomed from the start because mmmmm… bacon… yummy). I was never really a hippie by San Francisco standards, but by the standards back east, I definitely qualified. I picked up all sorts of fantastic politically correct affectations, like saying “go forward” when giving directions at an intersection rather than “go straight.” I gave up use of the word “lame” because it might be offensive to those with physical mobility handicaps. I learned a few different systems of invented gender-neutral pronouns (sie, hir, etc.), and learned how to gracefully and without embarrassment ask someone what gender pronoun they preferred when it was not immediately obvious. I knew which fish species were absolute no-nos because of overfishing, and I remember when the grape boycott ended. Grape boycotts are sort of the epitome of bummer, although that Target boycott last year was even worse.

It’s been six years or so now living on the east coast, and a lot of my hippie ways have survived. I think about my footprint, and try to reduce and re-use where possible. I use canvas grocery bags. I carpool when I can. When I talk to my kids about love and marriage, I always leave same-sex relationships in the mix as an option. I compost. I try to buy local. I care about fair trade.

But even though I still sort of self-identify as a hippie, they’re just really a bummer sometimes. Like when you just saw Avatar in 3D and you were totally swept up in the shiny pretty movie magic, and then some hippie starts talking about the “white savior” thing and how the movie was racist. And you’re like CRAP! Because of course they’re right, and now you can’t not see it. And like when you’re feeling all patriotic and caught in a groundswell, and then people start talking about how we’re celebrating violence and death, and more than ten of your hippie friends on facebook have posted that “Hate cannot drive out hate” MLK quote. Sigh. Bummer!

What is really a bummer is that they are totally right. The hippies are always right. God, it’s so annoying. I know, hippies. I know I should eat kale. It’s, like, sooooo good for you. But kale chips DO NOT taste like potato chips. They taste like crunchy kale. And tofu is just not as delicious as a bacon cheeseburger on a white flour non-whole-grain bun. And I’m sorry, hippies. I have tried. But I can’t stop drinking Diet Coke.

I love you, hippies. Because of you, I can get veggie burgers and fair trade chocolate and organic foods in all of the grocery stores near me. Because of you, wonderful hippies, even the generic cheap store brand milk doesn’t have weird hormones in it anymore, and reusable water bottles can be conveniently picked up at every single store in America from Old Navy to Toys R Us. Thank you, hippies. You are awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing. But please understand if, once in a while, I would love it if you would all just pipe down.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Patriotism. Whoa.

I don’t spend a lot of time waving American flags. I don’t dress in red, white, and blue on the 4th of July. I just take it as a day off and a good excuse to eat hot dogs, drink beer, and hang with my family. Country songs about military service sort of creep me out, because the people singing them usually didn’t serve in the military, so it just seems disingenuous and icky and kind of like they’re trying to make a buck off of someone else’s sacrifice. There are things about this country of ours that I love. There are things about this country of ours that I hate. I am a lefty kook who completely believes that protesting bad government decisions and policies is part of what makes this country a great one.

Last night, I felt a swell of patriotism and pride that was unexpected and amazing. When our elected leader—the man we as a country chose to put in power—stood up and made a distinction between a war on Al Qaeda and a war on Islam, I actually got teary-eyed. Cynical non-flag-waving me... I cried watching our president speak. Because he spoke for me, and this country elected him, and I truly never thought I would have a president who spoke for me like that. He made me cry with the words of the pledge of allegiance, for crying out loud. How is that even possible?

A mass-murdering terrorist is dead, and I’m glad. Our president announced it without a hint of cowboy machismo, while radiating patriotism and pride in this country from every fiber of his being. He announced a successful military operation that has been a long time coming, while simultaneously planting seeds of peace. I am beyond words, and I am never beyond words.

I am overwhelmed with unfamiliar emotion. If I had a little flag, I would totally wave it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Like me, like me, please like me

I have been thrilled with the response to this blog so far. I didn’t know what to expect, but I have gotten heartfelt messages from a bunch of you saying that you relate to the things I am putting out there. I hope that by talking about stuff that is not always easy to talk about, we can all feel less alone and be more real with each other. I originally started the blog because of popular demand in response to my “funny catastrophe” posts on facebook, but it seems that the serious topics are the ones that are connecting in this medium. That’s fine with me, because the pressure to be funny on cue is incredibly difficult. I honestly don’t know how comedians do it. But I can be real on cue.

So now that I have spent a few weeks figuring out what I want to say, it’s time for me to start growing this blog to reach people who don’t already know and love me. So I made a facebook page for it. That way, if one of you posts a link to the blog on your facebook wall, friends who like it can also follow me on facebook. To those of you who have already posted links, I say thank you thank you thank you. You are inspiring me to move forward and make this blog more than just a place for me to get my writing ya-yas.

The process of creating the facebook page involved asking all of my friends to please “like me.” So yeah, that’s fun. As of this writing, 29 people like me. Of note, my husband does not yet like me. Neither do my brothers. Maybe if my husband believed that I didn’t move the new thermostat in my fit of cleaning for company, he would like me. But he does think I moved it, even though I TOTALLY DIDN’T. And even if I did, which I didn’t, it didn’t belong on the top of the entertainment center in the first place. Aaaanyway, asking people to like me is pretty much an action designed to make me as insane as possible. Self-promotion is already at odds with my natural tendency to self-deprecate, and then putting it in terms of “like” rather than a less loaded word like “follow” triggers all of my social weirdness.

Most people who have only known me for a few years are surprised to learn that I was super shy when I was younger, and that I still have a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of social anxiety. Among the other crap I learned in grad school, wire mothers and whatnot, I also learned how to fake social ease. I learned to schmooze and network and speak in public. But I still hate all of those things. I want to hide in the corner with the 3 people I already know and talk about easy things and be completely myself.

So now my challenge with this blog is to come out of that corner and be completely myself with everyone else. To be open and exposed in public, not knowing whether anyone will like it. Whether anyone will like ME. Here’s hoping I can at least get my husband on board.

P.S. If you haven’t already, please like me on facebook. Here ya go. Click “like” right here.