December 28, 2009

Our Own Private Zoo

Not many folks at the zoo on a Sunday when the Saints are playing and it is 40 degrees.
But the animals were all out and about.
Even the Kimodo Dragon.
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December 16, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury...Like a Grieving Woman

My Memere, who was my mother's mother, told my sister and me in a rare moment of self revelation, that the reason her ex-husband (our late grandfather) had not lived to see any of us is because after she threw him out for dallying with his secretary, she put the gris gris on him. We were stunned and confused. First of all, no one had really confirmed for us before that Memere and the mysterious man who sired our mother and her 3 brothers were actually divorced. He was never mentioned and up until I was around 11 or 12, I thought perhaps Memere had just magically produced these children of hers without a mate. After all, she was a formidable woman who seemed capable of magic anyway. The fact that he was caught with his secretary and thrown from his house without the shoes on his feet was revolting and fascinating at the same time.

Our own parents had been married for decades by then and would remain married until my mother passed away. This concept of infidelity and divorce was something reserved for soap operas and the parents of kids who weren't Catholic. On top of this scandalous confirmation, we also learned our grandmother had the ability to put the gris gris on someone. This was perhaps more fascinating than her ability to make perfect iced tea and maintain a perpetually full candy bowl.  I am convinced the makers of York Peppermint Patties suffered a drop in revenue after my Memere passed away.

Although nothing was ever said outright or direct (we are Southern women after all) we knew there was bad blood between my mother's father and, well, the rest of the people we knew. Even though he had been dead for years, no one ever mentioned his name or his existence. Ever. Isn't that almost worse than spoken wrath? This man was so unworthy, no one bothered to waste breath on him. And, he had already been dead for 20 years by this point. That, my friends, is fury. It is silent and insidious fury.

I thought about this in a moment of crushing grief the other night. Max and I were lying in bed (as we often are...most of child-rearing seems to be coaxing someone else to sleep) and he said, "Your mommy can't come to our house because she is in heaven with Sam."

"No, she can't," I said. "But I wish she could."

Oh how she would have loved Max and his little hands and feet and elbows and toes. And, despite her consuming distrust of men, she always started each little boy with a fresh slate. Her father's inability to be a good and decent one never interfered with her love of her little boy grandchildren. In fact, more than a clean start, she also armed each grandchild with a huge resource of excuses and grandmotherly defenses - "he didn't mean it!" or "he's just a boy!"

I miss my Memere and my Mother...I miss their humor and their pluck. I miss their love and their stories. My Memere lived to be 89. My Mom lived to be 70. I would have given anything to have another 19 years with my mother. I want to hear more stories. I want to eat Sunday dinner at her house and have her attend grandparents' days at school. I just want her to love me like no one else in the world could...or should.

Instead, I have to swallow that grief and turn it into love for my little boy. Gulp.

December 8, 2009

With Friends Like These…

I smoked my first cigarette when I was 12 years old. A few of us from 7th grade ended up at someone's house whose parents worked. Somehow we got our hands on a pack of smokes and a lighter that had been tampered with so that the flame singed your bangs. Frankly, I don't know how any of us lived past 15. But, there was one kid in the group whose brother or parent smoked and so he showed us what to do and the right way to smoke. I craved it before I had my first puff. I just knew that smoking and I were going to be BFFs. And we were, for a while.

In high school, I started smoking whenever I went out with friends and by my senior year, I was a smoker. So much so that my parents let me smoke on the front porch at home and mom even let me smoke in the car on the way to school. I really cannot believe she let me do this. She worked at the school and there was for sure some rule against smoking while in uniform, which I definitely was on the way to school. Still, I think because she used to smoke she knew how bad it is not to be able to smoke. Or maybe she thought if she let me do it, it would lose its appeal. Nope. I was hooked from the first whiff of the unlit cigarette.

I tried quitting over the years and would succeed for a few months here and there. I always fell back into it in the same way, I'd be out at a party or at a bar and would decide to have just one. And my intentions would be good, I would swear I was going to have just one cigarette or just smoke that night. I would vow to be a social smoker or to only smoke on the weekends or to never smoke in the car. No matter what the promise, I would break it, tearfully breaking down and becoming once again a pack-a-day gal.

After the first time I quit, I could not go back to Benson and Hedges Menthol Lights, which is what I had smoked all through high school. For some reason, my taste changed and I started smoking Marlboro Lights. All the cool chicks smoked Marlboro Lights anyway. I always had a hard pack of Marlboro Lights in my purse along with multiple forms of fire – lighter, booklet matches, box matches. To me, there is nothing worse than having cigarettes but no flame. I happily smoked like a chimney even after I quit drinking. In fact, I think I smoked more and enjoyed it more after I quit drinking. It filled the void and I if anyone gave me crap about smoking, I would always say, "I don't drink, so let me have one vice!"

But, life went on and by the mid nineties, smoking was really socially unacceptable. Gone were the days of smoking in the halls of the buildings of my college campus. When I was a bank teller in the early nineties, I remember we would smoke at our teller stations after the bank had closed. The girl next to me was pregnant and would complain, but we would just ignore her. By 1996, there were indoor smoking bans in all public places and my sister's kids would point at me and make faces when I lit up. I had also met my now husband and he said he wanted to quit.

So, in 1996, we quit. Well, he quit. I lasted about 4 weeks and broke down. I smoked again for about another week and then quit for good. Well, for 9 years.

And then came 2005. Fucking 2005. The year of Hurricane Katrina and Mom's death and the absolute chaos that ensued. It was 6 months after the storm that I finally broke down. I was in New York City for work. I had left Max for the first time and Mom was dying and everything was a mess. I was in the hotel room and there was a mini bar. In my mind I had three options: drink, smoke or sleep with a stranger. I am not sure why my brain works the way it does, but at that moment in my life, I honestly felt like those were my only three options. It never occurred to me to call a friend or eat a donut or got for a run.

So, I did the mental math…if I drank, I was definitely going to smoke and very likely sleep with a stranger. If I slept with a stranger, I was for sure going to smoke and drink to complete the Trifecta of Shame. But, smoking would not lead to the other two.

So, in my mind, I chose the option with the least amount of collateral damage and domino effect. But, I knew, when I walked down to that Walgreens and bought a $7.52 pack of Marlboro Lights that I was not having just one and I was not just going to smoke that night. I knew I was going back into the arms of a kidnapper. I was re-entering my own private version of Stockholm Syndrome.

Today, I have about 13 months off the dirty sticks. I smoked like a fiend for about a year. And then the start and stop cycle started all over again. I switched to American Spirit Cigarettes because they taste like shit and burn slower. I was thinking it would be easier to quit when it tastes like shit. It wasn't. I grew to love American Spirit. I think I could grow to love any brand of cigarette. I am not choosy. I am your basic nicotine whore.

It was being in New York City that prompted me to start smoking again and it was there that I decided to quit again. They were running these public service ads that showed young people, like my age, smoking through the holes in their necks and missing huge parts of their jaws.

My BFF, it turns out, has a dark side. The shame and guilt were just too much to bear. Smoking had become a cross, a burden, like an abusive husband. No one could "understand" why I chose to keep doing it. And I got tired of not having a very good explanation. And, I suppose, it had served its purpose. I didn't drink and I didn't sleep with a stranger. So, I let it go. We broke up. I hope for good this time.

November 29, 2009

Where Art Thou Next Husband?

Mike and I took Max to the Renaissance Festival on Friday. Max is the kind of kid who wears and cape and carries a wand wherever he goes, so it seemed the right thing to do. Although, I will tell you, the Renaissance Festival creeps me out a bit. It's not so much the turkey legs and the jousting as it is the personalities of the people who attend and work there. They are, I have figured out, a highly sexualized people who are overly friendly and, for the most part, ugly.

This is why I decided, while chomping on a BBQ turkey sandwich that no doubt was loaded with ptomaine, and avoiding eye contact with a jester giving out "free" hugs, that if Mike and I ever split, I am going to find my next husband at the Renaissance Festival. Let me tell you why.

First, in the bizarro world of Medieval Wannabes, I am Miss America. I not only have a full set of white teeth, I also weigh less than 375 pounds. By comparison, I am Heidi Klum and while I am not frightening, let's face it, searching for a husband in South Beach would likely yield me Versace's killer at best.

Second, these people are obnoxiously flirty in a creepy and dirty way. I am not sure how this will help me rope a husband, except that it would take an overly aggressive man to get me to marry again. For some reason, the men who work the festival circuit have this wacko level of sexual assertiveness. I kid you not, I got hit on twice by the men working the rides...while my husband was in ear shot. Weird, creepy and strangely flattering.

Finally, I already have a kid. Most men balk at that. Who wants to raise another man's kid? These people are so freakishly friendly and accepting of unusual situations, that I think having a kid actually raises my stakes in Ye Olde World of Creepy Carnies.

Of course, this is all in jest. I could never marry again as no one could ever live up to my current husband's level of patience and tolerance, not even a knight or a king or a freak with bad teeth.

All in all, our day trip to the Medieval State Fair was expensive (including the speeding ticket, this trip will top $175) and enlightening. If I ever decide to drop out of society and wander aimlessly with a troop of misfits and big busted women, I know where to find my people.

November 18, 2009

The Long Road Home - Part 1

I told you of the time I moved to New York with a guy I met in a bar, but did I tell you how I got home? No? Well, it was a wild ride. You see, the move to New York with That Boy I met in a bar, not surprisingly, did not end well. I was in the throes of alcoholism and he was, well, I think maybe just scared and regretful. Whatever the motivation, I got pissed at him one night because, even though I had moved out, I thought it rude to invite a girl over, have some fun, then tell her you have to go to work, but really go to a bar to meet another girl. How do I know he did this? Because like any crazed ex-girlfriend in the throes of active alcoholism, I followed him.

And when I walked into the bar and saw him standing there casually drinking his beer talking to some girl after spending the first part of the evening with me, I freaking lost it. For God’s sake, I could still taste him on me and here he was chatting up some Long Island skank who couldn’t pronounce an “-er” if her life depended on it. So I slapped his beer cup on the bottom so that the beer splashed into his face, I called him a dick and I left. I walked right to his car and slashed the two tires against the curb. Classy, huh?

What do you expect? I was 21. And did I mention I was in the throes of alcoholism? Yeah, that combination kind of makes you a little irrational. I then got into my Toyota Tercel and decided to head home that very night. I made it to somewhere in PA before it hit me that all my stuff was back in my apartment in Long Island and I didn’t have enough money to make it all the way home. This was the early 90’s before cell phones, so I stopped at a pay phone and called my Dad collect. I told him the awful and terrible things That Boy had done and that I wanted to come home. He told me to go back to Long Island and that he and Mom would come get me. They would bring their van and drive up so we could bring my stuff home. Even at 4am with 2 Mountain Dews in me, this seemed like a better and more rational plan.

My sister also decided to fly up early before my parents came. She would commiserate with me and help me pack my stuff. I was late picking her up at the airport because I was telling That Boy goodbye on the beach. Again, do I need to tell you my state of mind? None of my decisions at that time in my life was rooted in anything other than the desire to physically be with That Boy. I must remember this when my own child is a teen or young adult…it all made perfect sense to me then…and in some strange ways, to me now as well.

I got lost on the way to the airport. By the time I got there, she was waiting alone by baggage claim. She had the airport page me several times. I would have been furious, but she was genuinely concerned, which made me sad. I almost wished she would have hated me. It would have validated what I felt about myself.
She didn’t hate me. She went with me to the bar and made it seem charming instead of pathetic that I drank every night with a dispatcher from my job, who was 20 years older than me, 40 pounds overweight and obviously in love with me. She genuinely liked my married friend whose house I hung out at every night because I had nowhere else to go. I would sometimes watch her kid while her and her husband went out to see a movie. I think I ate dinner at their house every night for 4 months.

I started writing this thinking it was going to be funny, but so far it really isn’t, is it?

Anyway, after a series of crazy mis-steps including my parents’ van breaking down, my lame attempt to kill myself by taking a handful of Actifed (my sinuses were VERY clear the next day) and my parents’ eventual departure in my Tercel, Emily and I packed up the van and headed home to New Orleans. My few precious belongings were packed into the newly repaired van, we had a couple packs of cigarettes and a map. We were set.

All we had to do was get out of New York, which is not as easy as it seems. Yes, Long Island is jutting out into the Ocean so it seems logical to head West, but then you have to eventually cut through Manhattan…or at least we did, and that is where things got hairy for a bit, but them we were on the open road, headed away from That Boy, that city and my heart.

To get out of the city, if I recall correctly, we had to get on the Jersey turnpike. As we approached the turnpike, I told my sister, who was in the passenger seat navigating, that when That Boy and I had gone to Florida to visit his father, that the toll was something like $12. We had that thought in our minds when we approached the turnpike toll booth and that guy said “50.” I went nuts first, “Fifty? Fifty? Are you fucking nuts? What the fuck is wrong with this god-damned state?” Meanwhile, in the passenger seat, my sister is fumbling for her purse, asking the man if he would take a check because we don’t have that much cash.
Finally, after no doubt considering calling the cops or the nut house, the toll booth guys calmly says, “50 cents.”

“Oh,” I say sheepishly and handed him 2 quarters.

I am thankful the van had Louisiana plates and that perhaps he attributed our stupidity to all the dirt we eat down here below the Mason Dixon line.


November 15, 2009

Stop the Ride, I Want to Get Off

My father is in the ICU recovering from lung cancer surgery and my husband has pneumonia. Oh, and work is insane. Last night, all I wanted was to lie in bed and read a magazine by myself for 15 minutes. I wanted 15 minutes to myself to lose myself in pictures of anorexic women wearing impossibly high heels with impossibly perfect bodies and lives. For some reason, mindless fashion magazines make me feel better about myself. But the stars weren't aligned, and instead, after spending all day with my napless son and the evening visiting my father in ICU, my son peed in his bed and could not get back to sleep.

Normally. I am gentle and loving and snuggly, but I wanted him to sleep in his bed. I wanted to be alone in my bed to do the aforementioned mind-numbing check out with a $3.00 magazine. But I was needed by a bunch of people I love, so instead I lay in bed next to my son, thinking of the storm, and my mother and how nothing is easy anymore. I squandered my youth and the free time I had before I grew up and became a parent. I let resentments and fear dictate my relationships with people about whom I care deeply, and now they are gone or dying.

Life is short and it is moving ever faster each day. I am an old fart...I honestly believe youth is wasted on the young, I sing out loud to the music played at the grocery store and this morning I told my son to stop what he was doing because he was going to put an eye out.

Round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows.

November 4, 2009

Trick or Treat

My son has an active imagination. He talks to the characters from his TV shows, even when the TV is off. He has introduced himself to strangers as "Caillou" more than once and at 4, he can spell his name and Dora's name. So, when he said he wanted to be Snow White for Halloween, I came close to saying yes and getting him the costume from Target, but, children are cruel and pictures last forever, especially when I post them on Facebook, which I would, so I decided to suggest a different costume. He decided to be a witch. I got him a cape, a witch hat, a broom and a wand. He made me open the want in Target before we checked out. It was silver with a pink bow and silver star. By the time we got home, he was wearing the cape and the hat and riding the broom. He wore this outfit for 2 weeks leading up to Halloween. He would "fly" around the house telling us and his imaginary audience that we would never break his spells. By the time Halloween Day arrived, I had to tape the star to the end of the wand and the broom was missing all of its bristles.

Still, I figured he would really get into this dressing up for candy deal. He even insisted on using a basket to collect his candy instead of a bag. By the time we left the front gate, I was holding his cape and two blocks later, I was carrying the hat and the basket, too. I know, shocking, right? This is a child who routinely acts out Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when it is on. It is his own private toddler-appropriate Rocky Horror Picture Show, replete with props collected from around the house – a plastic goblet, an apple, a plastic dagger. It made me wonder if he was self-conscious about being dressed up or if, because everyone else was also dressed up, it lost its appeal. And with that thought, I was transported back to 4th grade. If this was a movie, you'd hear a whooshing sound.

As a child, as I believe I have established in earlier posts, I was not exactly popular. I was pudgy, wore glasses, corrective shoes and had braces. Oh, and did I mention I was pathologically shy and self-conscious? School was torturous. I spent most of my time trying to get out of going to school and once I was there, I spent all my time trying to figure out how to get back home. In fourth grade, I made a friend named Lorna. Lorna was beautiful – long hair, slender, tiny little features and she was nice. While the other kids ignored me (thankfully, because the attention they gave was much worse) Lorna would sit and talk with me. In fact, it was with Lorna that I had my first non-mom ESP experience. Not to divert too much here, but my mother always said I had ESP because I knew what she was going to say before she said it and we often dreamed the same dream. Lorna was the first person who was not my mother that this happened with. She told me her brother had to have surgery and before she said why, I knew already. It happened often to me as a child, but not so much anymore.

Anyway, Lorna invited me to her house for a Halloween party. It may be that it was a Halloween/Birthday party, but the details are fuzzy. You see, when someone invites you to a Halloween party, wouldn't you think it was a costume party? I mean, that's a natural assumption, especially when you are 9. So when Mom dropped me off at the party, I was wearing a black leotard, black tights, red shorts, suspenders, a tail, mouse ears and I had whiskers drawn on my face. I think I also had on white gloves. Clever, huh? If you're wondering, yes this was the same year as the Wonder Woman bathing suit incident. What can I say, I was socially retarded.

Apparently, none of the other 9 year old girls from our class got the memo about costumes. And thus, I was the only child not in regular play clothes. I was the only child wearing black ballet slippers. I was the only child masquerading as a mouse. I shrugged it off, pretended it was totally normal for me to be wearing this and that it was just my Saturday attire. I went into the bathroom and removed the tail and the suspenders and the ears. Mom was already gone so I could not feign an illness. I guess I could have, but it didn't seem right to leave the one party I was invited to. Once all the other girls were there, we went up to Lorna's room to hang out. She opened her presents. I gave her a placemat that you could decorate with your name and stuff. And then we all sat around talking acting naturally, ignoring the fact that one us us had mouse whiskers painted on her face.

After a few hundred days of that torture, we went downstairs where we bobbed for apples. I prayed that I would drown in the bucket and end my misery. Instead, my mouse nose smeared all over my face making me look more like a roughed up mime that Mickey Mouse. I don't remember how the party ended. I do remember that Lorna and I were not friends after that. In my memory, she moved away. But I am not sure that is accurate.

I want to find the right balance with Max. I want him to be himself and talk to Dopey and Sneezy as if they were in the room. I want him to feel free to walk to the beat of his own drummer, but there is the part of me that wants to shield him from the pain of growing up, too. I know that in reality, I can't so that and, if I am totally honest, I don't want to do that. I am who I am today because of the events in my past. I love who I am today. I can say that honestly. Sure, it took 12 years of therapy and about 70,000 12-step meetings, but I can say it. Dammit.

My mother loved me. I know that to the very core of my being. She knew I was different. She knew I didn't fit in. But she sent me out into the world and loved me anyway. I wish I could call her and tell her about Max. But I know what she would tell me, "just love him…that is your job." And I do.

October 27, 2009

Traditions & Values

My sister and I used to sit on the driveway of our childhood home and smoke pot with the boys we were either dating or friends with or wanting to date. We would do this while our parents were home, which is kind of nuts, if you think about it. Yes, they were tired and their bedroom was on the other side of the house, but really, it's pretty ballsy to sit next to the kitchen window in a haze of pot smoke.

I thought about this while touring a fancy pants private school in Metairie with that same sister. We both have 4 year old boys and are looking at schools and deciding where to send them. As I ran the numbers (or shall I say, freaked out over the numbers) calculating the tuition per month, asked questions like, "What is the teacher to student ratio?" and "How much time does each child spend in each center?" and other other questions that made me seem like a rational parent, I kept thinking about the time my sister was driving me and 2 of our friends to Mt Carmel one Saturday for a drama club meeting.

She was driving our Mom's red Malibu station wagon and had cut off a bus right before taking a sharp turn into the horse shoe drive in front of the school. She had to have made that turn at 25 mph. Sr. Lawrence came running down the steps from the library wondering who had been in a car accident. Although I was used to her driving and unfazed by our near death experience, the girls in the car with us were pretty miffed and unamused. Oh well, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

And now I am acting like this pre-k school decision is akin to pressing the button that ignites the bomb that explodes a country. I am prepared (well, not prepared, but reluctantly able) to shell out almost as much money as I made my first year teaching high school to send my child to pre-k. PRE-KINDERGARTEN.

And still, when he is 16, he will probably smoke pot right under my nose and drive our car like it is a bumper car.

And so, just like the 81 year old private school, a fine tradition continues.

October 24, 2009

Who's On First?

Saturdays, for a long time after Max was born, were hard. "Work" is easier than being the parent of a small child full time. And don't let anyone tell you differently. Unless you are a ditch digger or an executioner, being a full-time parent to a child under the age of 4 is exponentially harder and more exhausting.

But now that Max is getting older, it's easier and more fun. Today we toured a potential school for Pre-k next year. It is beautiful. The grounds are fantastic, the teacher to student ratio is 1:8 and the staff is loving and nurturing. I teared up during the tour because I was sad I didn't get a chance to attend a school like that and also because the majority of the kids in America don't attend schools like that. I can afford to pay the tutition. Because I work full-time at a job that is easier than being a full-time parent, but pays much better and allows me to pay other people to do that hard job.

Life is weird, isn't it?

October 23, 2009

Come Fly WIth Me

I am thinking my new take on the blog is going to be that I post more often and say less. You see, I was trying to produce a once a week masterpiece. Alright, masterpiece is a little over the top, but something more than a blurb or a link to something else that is funny. I have become a blog snob, I guess. Or maybe the English teacher in me is coming out and afraid I will be graded on each post. In a way, the comments are the grades. Yes, I am that shallow and egotistical that my mood is effected by the number on the scale the type of comments I get on my blog. I am witty, but you didn't think I was emotionally mature, did you?

On Wednesday I had to fly to Atlanta for a business meeting. I put on a nice pair of pants, blouse, heels and jacket. Max saw me and said, "ooooh Mommy, you have your fancy clothes on. Are you going on a plane?"

Yes, I travel a lot for work and yes, my son probably thinks I am a flight attendant.

Some days, I think I could step into the flight attendant job with absolutely no training or orientation and do it as well as a veteran. This is not because I think the job is easy. Au contraire, mon frere! I think it is as painful and being a crack whore, perhaps even less rewarding. But, I have been on so many flights in the past 6 years that I can practically recite from memory the pre-take off speech.

I, sadly, hate to travel. Airplanes smell like urine and coffee grounds. Thank you very much, but I have enough of both of those smells in my on the ground life. And, I am pretty sure the foam on the standard airplane seat is not only wafer thin, but teeming with a thousand different types of germs and bacteria.

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

If only I had a handy bag to put it in.

Buh-bye, now.

October 21, 2009

Praise Be Gatorade

Doctor: You have a stomach virus. You just need to take it easy, rest, drink fluids and take Tylenol for the aches and pains.

Me: You’re wrong. I am dying from some terminal illness – ripped up intestines or a fast moving cancer. I have been sick for 4 days! I will surely be dead by tomorrow morning and I will instruct my husband to sue you for every penny you have for mis-diagnosing me.

OK, I didn’t actually say that, but I thought it as I nodded my aching head and paid my $25 co-pay for the esteemed medical advice of “drink plenty of Gatorade and rest.”  Damn you Dr. Of the Moment at Ochsner Urgent Care facility. I am dying, can’t you see this? Did you not go to medical school? I looked up my symptoms on the symptom checker at WedMD.com and yes, it listed stomach virus as a possible cause, but it also listed colon cancer, appendicitis and tubal pregnancy. It could just as easily be that my pancreas has exploded and you just missed it.

Still, I drove myself home, quietly weeping at the thought of my young son being raised without a mother. Sure, he would have anything he wanted because of the medical malpractice windfall, but he would miss out on the warm embrace of his loving, although somewhat neurotic mother. My husband would be lost without me there to advise him. It’s true that he is the one who actually keeps the household humming along, but it is me who sits back and provides the running commentary and critique. What would he do without my guidance?

I stopped at the store and picked up 2 bottles of Gatorade, a box of Immodium, and 3 cans of soup. It was less than my co-pay. As I struggled to get the unusually heavy bag of goods in to my car, I fought back tears of exhaustion and frustration. Why? Why does God see fit to take me so young?

Back at home, my husband instructed me to lie on the couch and he would make the soup and get our son from daycare. He might as well, as soon he will have to do everything, I thought to myself as I settled in to watch the marathon of The Real Housewives of Atlanta on Bravo.

After moaning all night on the couch, and dozing off finally in a Tylenol PM-induced come, I woke up Friday morning…and felt better.

I suppose Gatorade does have healing powers.

October 6, 2009

The Fine Line Between Crazy and Crazier

I spent a good chunk of my teen years being Emily's sister. She is three years older than me and beautiful and smart and talented…you get the picture. Oh, and did I mention she was sweet and kind, too. So, when I was a freshman in high school and she was a senior and she suggested we double date to go to the Winter Formal I jumped at the chance. Her date, John, was a guitarist in a local band called The Socials that played the CYO circuit. He was what the kids call "cool." I was not.

I managed to procure a pity date and a dress. The date, Gary, was a friend from junior high who I am sure accepted the invite because his mother made him. He was sick the night of the dance but came anyway, thank God. He may have been burning up with fever, but he was there. The dress wasn't really a dress, but a long black taffeta skirt paired with a white blouse. I looked a bit like a witch with big hair.

John drove since Gary and I were only 14 at the time. Plus, he had a convertible Volkswagen Rabbit. I know what you're thinking, how cool could this guy be? Way cool.

Emily, I am sure, did my make-up and hair and likely instructed me how to pose in the pictures. She was pretty excellent like that. Next to her, I looked like the youngest sister-wife on a polygamous compound, but she didn't seem to care. She wore a blue taffeta off- the -shoulder number, probably in a size 2.

We went to a Chinese Restaurant before the dance. No doubt Gary and I never said a word. I was terrified. Sure, he was just a friend, but this was a date. A DATE.

You might be wondering why I remember all these details. Emily and I discussed them this past Saturday night on the way to The Socials reunion concert at Carrollton Station. Driving there, Emily reminded me of the double date. She remembered that while at the restaurant, a little boy got stuck in his chair and John rescued him. I had forgotten that part. I was too embroiled in my own self-pity and fear to notice the other people on the planet.

I remembered that John's car got broken into while we were at the dance and his radio was stolen. I also remembered that I was exhausted by the end of the evening because I was tense the whole night from fear, self consciousness and being in a mild state of panic.

Therefore, my level of enthusiasm on the car ride to the reunion show was not stellar. I felt 14 again. I was Emily's little sister. I wasn't dressed like a teen fundamentalist, but still, I felt like Julia Child next to my sister. She is effortlessly beautiful and petite. I am big and loud and feel like a giant next to her.

I am also 40 years old and pretty successful in my career, but somehow those aspects took a back seat Saturday night. Instead of a successful businesswoman and mother, I reverted to that 14 year old girl whose pity date had walking pneumonia and whose skirt was too tight around the waist.

We listened to the band and they really sounded quite good for guys who had not played together in over 20 years. But it was loud and smoky and I kind of just wanted to go home and go to bed after, but we decided to wait and say hello to the guys in the band after. I figured it would go like this:





Emily: Hello, it is so good to see you! Blah, blah, blah…witty and charming quips.

Band Member #1: Emily! Oh you look so beautiful, you are so wonderful, I remember everything about you and I adore you.

Emily:     And you remember my little sister, Claire?

Band Member #1: You had a sister?





I wasn't upset about this; it is simply how I expected it to be. It was how it always was, right?

But, it was not how it panned out. All 4 members remembered my name and who I was and did not need an introduction. They were kind and inviting and charming and, well, regular people. Their wives were there supporting them and cheering them on. They have kids and lives and grew up, just like me.

I had appointed myself second chair; I was not elected into that role. I spent my high school years pretending I didn't care when I did, and acting like I hated everyone when I didn't. I feared everyone and it always came out wrong.

On the way home from the concert, I felt a little sad that I have spent so much of my life here on this earth boxing myself in and comparing myself to the people around me. Abysmal self-esteem is a difficult place from which to escape. Its vine-like grasp is constantly trying to suck me back into that dark place. In truth, I am comfortable there.

But the sadness lasted only a moment, and then it was gone. I am in the here and now and I am, today, the woman I always wanted to be. I took a circuitous route that involved lots of ugly dresses and poor choices, but I got here all the same.

I am still Emily's little sister, but today, I am honored to be in that role. It is one of the many roles that I cherish.

Just for kicks, I unearthed my journal from my high school years. I did this for 2 reasons: 1) I figure reading my old journal entries would give me insight into my mindset back then and 2) Emily swears I dated one of the guys in the band, but I have no memory of it.

I did learn some things about teenage me. I was obsessed with boys. Sure, every girl at that age (well, every straight girl) is obsessed with boys, but seriously, I was obsessed. Like, future stalker obsessed. And, every time I would "fall in love" with a new boy, I would start my journal entry with "I am in love with William James Smith*" I listed out their full names like a string of serial killers. (*Names have been changed to protect the innocent victims of my "love.")

Also, I had some serious anger issues. Frankly, I am shocked I didn't end up spending senior year at some institution getting my GED using fat crayons instead of sharp pencils. Daddy issues abound and if anyone at my high school had found the journal, I would have been prosecuted a la' Columbine.

I also had body dysmorphic disorder. I still have that, but I only weighed 115 pounds in high school and thought I was obese. These are the words I used in the diary, "I am fucking obese." Oddly, my writing style has changed very little over the past 25 years.

Anyway, Emily was right. I did "date" one of the guys in the band. And by date, I mean I wrote in my journal that I was in love with him (his full name of course) and then a few pages/days later, I wrote that he was a jerk and that I was now in love with some other wonderful boy. Relationships back then were so easy and brief, weren't they? Now it's all, we have to stay together and make this work.

I also found an entry that detailed my plan for running away from home, which I suppose I scrapped because I did not ever do it. And, I was under the impression that Emily and I were best buddies all through high school, but even poor Emily did not escape the wrath of teenage me, the serial boy lover/stalker.

All I can say is thank goodness for time and distorted memories.






September 25, 2009

The Burden of Ego and Poor Spatial Relations

My blog is haunting me. I made a promise to myself last January that I would post once a week. It was a promise based on a bruised ego. I had tried to get my blog linked to some blogger website and they sent back a rather snippy reply about my infrequent posts. I crafted a lengthy email about the virtues of quality over quantity and where they could put their fancy pants blogger website, but never actually hit send. I find sometimes hitting send on an email like that is the virtual equivalent to kicking myself when I am already down.

A lot of my extreme statements and pledges are borne of my ego. I had a bad chicken experience once and said out loud that I would never eat meat again. My husband laughed at me so I didn’t eat meat for six years. Recently, I gave up sweets for lent and have enjoyed the deprivation so much, I have not gone back to them. Well, there was one piece of doberge cake on my birthday, but I spent the next 3 days crying and choking back vomit so I haven’t indulged since.

With this “post once a week” pledge, I am realizing it is much easier to NOT do something for a long period of time than to actually DO something for a long period of time on a regular basis. Sadly, I have never been pissed or threatened enough to say, “Damn you, I WILL get me Master’s Degree just to prove you wrong.” But, sadly, I have been stupid enough to say to Jet Blue Airlines, “Fuck you and your little TVs! I will NEVER fly you again.” Man, I miss those little TVs.

I heard a guy say the other day, “MY ego is so big, it tells me I don’t have an ego.” I love that. I have convinced myself at different times that I am some sort of misunderstood genius, a modern day Mother Theresa or just plan better than you. I am a fool is what I am. But, I at least know that, so I suppose I am progressing.

Max’s 4th birthday party was last Saturday. At 4, when you invite 20 friends, you have a party for 60 people because the parents come, too. I have to do this every so often just to prove to myself that 1200 square feet is a fine sized house for a family of three, but not so much for a crowd of 60. The spacewalk outside provided some space for the kids, but then they all came inside for cake. We have a tiny table and 4 chairs so the kids had to stand while we sang Happy Birthday and then sat on the floor in the living room to eat the cake and ice cream.

One of the Dads was lamenting our decision to have kids eat ice cream and cake on our rug, but changed his tune to mild disgust when I said, “You have no idea what that rug has been through. We used to have a 16 year old dog that would shed and molt all over it.”

Max had a nice time at the party, but he really is not a big crowd kid. He really wanted everyone to go home so he could chill and watch is new DVDs. He carried the 2 DVDs around with him the whole party in anticipation of being alone with a sippy cup of juice, kicked back in his room singing along with The Backyardigans. He is truly his father’s son…and mine. I like parties, but I prefer to be alone.

Before they came to get the Spacewalk, the three of us had one last jump and a fight with the balls. I lost and at one point yelled to Mike, “No fair, you have good aim and you throw hard.” Even Kenny got in the spacewalk and played with us. He is a good dog. Sit. Stay…please?

That night, in bed, for the brief few minutes Max managed to keep his eyes open, we talked about his party. I asked him what his favorite part was and he replied, “The cake.”

Hmmm, a boy after my own heart.

And then he said, “On my next birthday, I will be 5”

Yes, my sweet boy, you will. But, let me enjoy 4 for a little while longer…it’s all moving so fast.

September 21, 2009

Work, Work, Work! Busy, Busy, Busy!

I am afraid I won't have much time this week to devote to my blog entry. My list of accomplishments and to-do's is too big and consuming for me to spend time indulging in thoughtful analysis of my life or the world around me. A few of the things I accomplished this week are:

1) Being a complete and total bitch to everyone around me for no reason at all, especially to those I love the most like my husband and son.

2) Talking shit about people I don't like and a good chunk of the people I do like to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen, all in a piss-poor attempt to make myself feel better.

3) Acting entitled and put-out when my job actually required some hard work.

4) Taking everything personally, since I am indeed the center of the universe.


My to-do list for this week is chock full of more exciting things for me to do, including:

1) Spending an inordinate amount of time consumed with self-loathing, fear and regret.

2) Pondering my mis-spent youth and all the wrong roads I took along the way.

3) Continuing to take everything that happens around me personally.

4) Being completely self-centered....even when I manage to make myself think about you, all I really think about is how you affect me.

5) Trying to get my super-sized ego to shut the fuck up.

And so, you can see why the blog has to take a backseat to these important activities. I am just busy, busy, busy!

I have to run, I have some more bad decisions and years' past conversations to re-play in my head.

September 15, 2009

SERENITY NOW!

I am sitting on a plane, if you can even call it that, at the Chicago airport, waiting to find out if we will be able to actually take off in this heap of junk they are dangerously calling our plane. Apparently, the previous pilot "picked up a rock" on the way in and it has damaged the engine. What an interesting choice of words, "picked up a rock." It makes it sound like he swung by Fresno on the way in for rock and meth.

I am bitter and trying to make light of my total annoyance by being cynically sarcastic, but I hate when I am like this. This is when I want to be completely Zen and ok with sitting on a fucking runway for god knows how long, but I am guess I am not that evolved, because right now, I hate everyone….except the 2 year old girl sitting across the aisle watching Wall-E. Her name is Celeste, which was my mother's name.

You know how some people have this whole WWJD – What Would Jesus Do thing going on? I have the same bizarre complex (sans a neoprene bracelet) with my sweet dead mother and what she would do in these awful situations. My mother, I dare say, likely had more patience than Jesus. She wouldn't have over turned the tables in front of the church (I am pretty sure that was a scene I saw in a movie about Jesus.) No, she would have hugged them and suggested something else, or maybe not even done that. She might just have browsed their wares and moved on with a smile.

Anyway, as I was sitting here contemplating whether going bonkers on this flight would increase or decrease my travel time, the young mother sitting across the aisle from me gently told Celeste to sit down. Fuck. Why does Mom's voice have to hover over me challenging me to be a better person? Can't I just bitterly slam things around, sigh and grumble about being stuck in Chicago on a Friday at 3pm? Do I really have to consider the people around me and their pain as well? Christ, must I be grateful for what I have?

And, why can't United Airlines just get us another fucking plane? No, instead they are going to have us sit for an hour while they figure out whether they can or cannot fix the plane, and then, and only then, will they begin the process of finding us another plane. Seems to me if you did these things in tandem, then there would be a lot less sitting around.

The pilot just announced that they think they can fix the plane with some sandpaper and files. And that it will take about 25 minutes. I feel so comforted. Again, I wonder what would happen if I stood up and started screaming? Would I get removed from the plane? And if I did get removed, would I be put on another plane that won't crash mid-air because it is held together with superglue and sandpaper?

Now the mother sitting next to me is getting on my nerves. She keeps asking Celeste if she wants to take a nap on her lap. Really? How's that working for you? Are you seriously expecting her to say, "why yes Mother, I would like for you to shut down my portable DVD player so that I may curl up in your lap and gently and quietly drift off."

I am beginning to hate myself even more as the minutes tick by. My ass is throbbing from sitting squished on planes since 11am this morning. I want to be home. There is no place like home. And it is where I want to be right now.


****************************************************

I made it home, with very little fanfare actually. The plane left kind of late, but in reality, arrived not as late as it left. How does that happen?

Anyway, that night, while lying in the tub, at home, alone, I started thinking about regrets and lapses of judgment. In spite of my desire to rant and rave on the plane, I did not actually do it. But, I have done and said truly awful things in my life. The power of words is immense, and those uttered in a fit of anger are like escaped wild dogs, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting bystanders.

Anger is a dubious luxury, or so says one of my favorite books on the topic. For years I really believed that goal was never to get angry. I suppose had I kept on with that insane belief, I would have ended up like Kramer on Seinfeld after his failed "Serenity Now" anger management plan. I would have either become detached from myself and everyone else or simply blown my head off in one final "fuck you" to the world.

But thankfully, growth and maturity are available to anyone who wants it, and I realized along the way that I cannot avoid anger, but I can keep my freaking mouth shut.

Sadly, as quickly as I learned that, I forgot it. So then I had to re-learn it. But I forgot it again. And so the cruel, almost daily cycle continues, presumably for my lifetime. I keep getting back up on the horse, even after it throws me and stomps on my head. Fucking horse.

September 8, 2009

Brush, Floss, Rinse…Repeat

I brought Max to the dentist this morning. His appointment was for 8am, which is good because it is the first appointment of the day which means you don't have to wait, right? Well, that is what I thought and was getting more and more pissed as the minutes ticked on…8:06…8:11…8:16. I told my husband that I would give them until 8:20 and then not only were we leaving, but I was going to give them a piece of my mind. Dammit.

At 8:20 I put down my Good Housekeeping and swaggered up to the counter. The girl behind the desk looked like a monster to me. Had you asked me to describe her, I would have told you she had beady yellow eyes and I would have intimated she had some personality disorder. "We're leaving. This is ridiculous! We are the first appointment of the day and we are waiting for 20 minutes! I have to go to work, my son has to go to school. Just cross us off the list. We're in a recession for Christ's sake! I can find a new dentist faster than I could brush my damn teeth."

I know I rambled on with some more obnoxious things that I had been rehearsing in my head for the past 20 minutes. No doubt I mentioned that dental care is the first thing people drop in a recession and I can only pray to God I did not mention that dentists have an unusually high suicide rate.

I got a calm blank stare back from the girl behind the counter. She placidly looked at her computer screen and told me my appointment was for 8:30 not 8:00. She also told me their first appointment of the day is always 8:30 not 8:00. Just as I was about to respond, the other nurse called Max into the dentist's office, so I just walked away from her and into the dentist office.

Max jumped up in the chair and the lady was very nice to him. He showed her the DVD he was carrying (yes, some kids carry stuffed animals and blankets, my TV junkie carries DVDs) and explained to her who Caillou is and why he is so awesome.

I just stood there feeling like a giant ass hole.

After about 5 minutes, once Max was settled in the chair, I walked back to the receptionist desk and up to the monster behind the desk. Upon further inspection, she indeed did not have beady yellow eyes and that personality disorder I thought I saw was actually a detached calmness.

"Um, I just wanted to apologize for my snarky attitude earlier. I am sorry I was so rude." I wanted to go on about how they must have told me the appointment was for 8:00 and it really was their fault, but at that moment, a power greater than me blessed me with the gift of brevity, or what I like to call, "the-shut-the-fuck-ups."

She smiled, and said it was ok. Again, I mumbled some more "I'm sorrys" and ambled back to the dentist chair.

There, the dentist had arrived and started raving about Max, "What a great kid. He's so good and his teeth are wonderful."

I was being tortured. I had just acted like a complete fool and these people were being so nice to me. They were killing me with kindness. Bastards!

Finally, I broke, and started smiling and laughing and cracking jokes with the dentist and the nurse. When we went to pay, I felt compelled to once again apologize to the other nurse at the desk. She laughed and said I was certainly not the worst they had seen. Still, I said it was not nice of me. And she smiled that kind of smile that says either "I forgive you" or "I will make your life a living hell the next time you come back." I don't know for sure which one it was, but it doesn't matter.

I learn lessons every day that I open my mind and heart. If I can get my ego and my pride to pipe down, I can actually open myself up to the reality that I am no better and no worse than anyone else on the planet. And that I make mistakes- I put the wrong time down on the calendar, I jump to conclusions, I bark at people when I shouldn't.

But the biggest lesson I have learned in my life is that I can, on the spot, change my behavior and my attitude. I can tell someone, a stranger, that I am sorry for acting like an ass hole.

And then, I can start the day over right on the spot.

I like this growing up business.

September 2, 2009

My New Laptop

I am typing this blog post from my new laptop and this fancy new-fangled MS Word function that I think will allow me to type the entry into Word and publish it straight to my blog, thus eliminating the sheer torturous drudgery of hitting ctrl-A and then ctrl-V. Whew, thank goodness for Bill Gates. Oh how our mothers and sisters before us suffered so…

I am sitting in a Doubletree hotel in Jersey City. I have been here for 2 days working and I am ready to go home. I miss my house and the smell of my bed and familiar curve of my pillows. Plus, I do not have an active elevator in my house and thus do not hear dinging all night long. And, of course, my sweet boy is at home.

Last night, I had dinner alone at an Italian restaurant here in Jersey City. It is a chain. Weirdly, everything in Jersey City seems to be a chain. Jersey City is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan, but it might as well be across the continent. I sat in a booth near a young family – Mother, Father and little boy. The little boy kept looking at me from his perch on the back of the booth seat and he would scrunch up his nose and eyes and smile. I fell instantly in love with his little button nose and the way he kept saying, "My croc fell off! My croc fell off again!" His Dad would say, "That's because you keep kicking it off," and the little boy would laugh and laugh.

His mother apologized to me saying she was so sorry he was bothering me. I assured her that he was not at all bothering me and that watching him was much more fun than reading the 65 page contract in front of me. (Dimly lit Italian restaurants are not ideal for editing, but I was hungry and desperate to get out of the hotel room.) It occurred to me that I usually do the same thing that mother did, I apologize for Max and I live in fear he might bother someone. I wonder why I do that? Isn't it pretty much none of my business whether someone is bothered by my son?

I mean, sure, if he starts throwing gobs of spaghetti at diners or hurls his shoes across the room, then we have a problem. But do I really need to apologize for an errant shriek or peals if hysterical laughter? Really, aren't there worst things in life? And, if I mumble "I'm sorry" too often, doesn't it tend to lose its worth when I really am sorry for something major?

All good questions to ponder.

I find my blog kind of hard to write the last few weeks and I am not sure why. I feel repetitive, as if I have lost some of my voice. Maybe I am just tired from work or going through a dry spell. Or maybe there is something bigger and deeper going on with me and I need to dig to find out what the block is. Perhaps I should do a thorough searching of my soul and discuss with a friend my darkest and deepest secrets.

Or, maybe the new laptop will cure everything.

Whatever the cause, I will not do as I yearn - I will not apologize for the sparse entry, I will not apologize for potentially boring you, I will not apologize for me or my son…unless we hit you with a flying croc.

August 26, 2009

Hang Ten

Max found our wedding album the other day and has delighted in looking through it over and over again. It makes me happy I went through a crazy nesting and scrap-booking phase while I was pregnant. I culled through the millions of boxes of wedding pictures I had and painstakingly pasted my favorites into a scrapbook replete with my lame attempts at making them cute and clever with paper.

I also, during that hormone crazed trimester, insisted I needed to make new curtains for our bedroom. I lugged out this old sewing machine my aunt was going to toss before I saved it, called a friend to show me how to load the bobbin and I was off. Off my rocker. I made the most hideous curtains I have ever seen, but I stayed up all night to do it and frankly, if you consider I had not sewn anything since high school home economics class, they weren’t half bad.

At least that is what Mike said when I woke him up at 2am to hang my freshly made curtains. He really is a very good husband when I think about it. That is, when I quit nagging him long enough to think about it.

Max and I were looking at the wedding photos for the 50th time and for the 50th time I was having to answer the question, “Who’s that?” while he pointed to the pictures of my mom.

My answer is always the same, “That’s Mere, my Mommy, but she is heaven with Sam.”

And he says, “Yeah, Sam was old and she died and went to heaven with Mere and the other dogs.”

It makes me wonder what on earth is going through his mind. Does he imagine my mother surrounded by hundreds of dogs, laughing and frolicking with them? That would be kind of cool to me, but I think Mom would be slightly miffed by all those dogs all over here and would not consider it her version of heaven.

But maybe it is Max’s version of heaven, being chased and licked by hundreds of tail-wagging dogs.

This Saturday is the 4 year anniversary of the hurricane. My mother did not die during the storm, but I equate her death with the storm because everything seemed to happen at once in one ugly blur – the evacuation, the storm, the levees breaking, not being able to go home, the birth of Max in Houston and my mother’s ultimate death 6 months later.

It was nice to look at the wedding pictures with Max and remember that life was once calm and predictable, then there were the chaotic years of the storm, and now, the tide is going out again. It is the ebb and flow of life, and I’m just surfing the waves, hanging on, and hoping the board doesn’t rear up and smack me in the back of the head.

August 21, 2009

Me Mind on Fire, Me Soul on Fire


Max’s first nanny was a Tulane senior named Robyn. She came to us in January of 2006 and worked as Max’s nanny until she graduated in May. She didn’t need the money. In fact, she drove to work in her Mercedes sports car, but she liked kids and wanted to do some work. I was a nervous wreck when she started because this was my baby and here I was hiring a complete stranger to care for him. Sure, I would be right upstairs working, but what if she abused him? What if she did not love him as much as I did?

The first time she met Max she asked if she could take his picture to send to her Mom back in Jersey. I went nuts in my head, “Her mom? Yeah right, more likely the kingpin of whatever baby trafficking organization she is privy to!”

But, when I opened my mouth, what came out what, “Oh sure.”

To my surprise, she handed the phone to me to take a picture of her holding a smiling Max.

Oh, I get it now. You LIKE babies!

I firmly and assertively told her that under no circumstances would she be driving Max around in that sports car of hers and maybe, after she had been working here for a month, she could take him for a walk in the stroller, but only around the block.

But then, we all fell in love with Robyn. Max was small, maybe only 4 months old, so he still took 2 naps a day. Robyn would climb into my bed with him to snuggle and sleep with him. And he loved it. This is a child who still sleeps pressed up against me every night.

I would be working upstairs and hear her chatting away with him. She would read books to him and play with him for hours.

By day 3 she took him for a walk in the stroller and by week 2, she took him to lunch with her friends, his car seat wedged in the tiny back seat of her car. She patiently listened as I gave her a long list of instructions – don’t leave him in the car even for a second, make sure he is snapped in, drive carefully, don’t talk on your cell phone while driving, don’t bring him around anyone who smokes…in short, you have my very existence and reason for living in the back of your car, so please drive carefully.

Robyn was more than a nanny, she was a member of our family. We loved hearing about her friends and her family. She would tell me all the places she had brought Max that day – to Tulane’s campus to meet her roommates, to a sushi place for lunch with her friends, shopping with her mom. He was just one of the girls after a while, I think.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, Robyn gave Max this big fuzzy lobster wearing a hat. When you pressed the button on his claw, he would sing Buster Poindexter’s “Hot, Hot, Hot.” His whole head and lips moved. And it was LOUD. Max was terrified of it. We sat it on a high shelf in his room for a while and then one day, long after Robyn had moved back to New York and taken her bright light with her, he asked us to hand it to him. He had already been through another nanny and graduated to play school. He was still scared of Jacques, our name for the obnoxious lobster, so he asked his Daddy to hide him in the shed out back.

But even Jacques' exile to the shed could not quell Max’s fearful curiosity. Slowly, he started going out to visit Jacques occasionally and finally, one day, decided Jacques could come back inside. Quite quickly Jacques progressed from being a scary loud red blur that warranted only a place next to the dryer, to a full-fledged member of the family. He was dragged over the place and even had his hat chewed off by our Boston Terrier. (Thankfully, Max grew up with the dog and is very forgiving of his predilection for eating toys.)

The other night, Max and I were lying in bed together. Our nightly routine is long and some nights I relish it and some nights I just want to read a book. This night, we were having fun. Jacques was next to Max with his head on the pillow, covered in Max’s favorite blanket. Every time I did something to ensure Max’s comfort, Max did the same for Jacques.

Finally, in an attempt to coax Max toward sleep, I said, “Jacques is tired, he is going to sleep,”

Max replied in his sweet little Mommy-is-a-fool voice, “No, Jacques is not going to sleep because his eyes don’t close.”

My, how my little boy has grown.

August 17, 2009

Why Are You NOT Here?

"It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes..." - Henry David Thoreau



Recently I decided I needed to dress better. This is not entirely true, but it is less embarrassing than the real story which involves a very awkward conversation with my boss telling me I needed to dress to the title on my business card. Whatever the impetus, I went to Ann Taylor and attached myself to the sales lady. She patiently brought me skirts and jackets and pants and shirts that were tailored. Elastic waist linen pants, white Hanes t-shirts and flip flops are indeed my real uniform, but, alas, clients frown when I show up dressed like that.

I got a jacket, skirt and shirt. It went so well, I went back the next week for a pair of grey pants. $400 dollars later, I left with 2 skirts, 3 sweaters, 2 shirts, 2 camis and a new Ann Taylor master card. That second sales lady was much better at her job than the first. One of the skirts is a high-wasted lycra thing. I thought it seemed a little snug when I tried it on at the store but the sales lady assured me it was supposed to fit like that. I was so overwhelmed at this point that I just said fine.

When I got home, I tried it on again and it seemed a little snug, but maybe that was the style. But the third time I tried it on, I knew it was not right. Clothes you wear on land should not be as tight as the clothes you wear in water. There are no Spanx that could hide what this skirt was so prominently displaying. I decided to return it and I have not thought about it since.

The point of this story is that although I often labor over a decision, once it is made, I usually don’t question it. The hard part for me is just making the decision. Some people make a quick decision and then spend all their time wondering if it was the right one. I am more likely to just sit with something for a while and mull it over for a long time.

That is what I am doing right now about blogging. To blog or not to blog, that is the question.

A couple of things happened last week that are making me weigh this decision. There were some ugly comments that upset me, followed by a colleague of mine saying I should shut my blog down immediately because it would ruin my career and surely the Gestapo would storm my house and take everything of value, or some rant like that. I am beginning to question his sanity, but still, his scare tactic worked. When I reminded him that I don’t blog under my real name, he pointed out that my blog is linked to my facebook account.

Oh, right, that.

On the other hand, I also had handfuls of people telling me they love my blog and they love to read it.

Hmmmm, so what do I do?

I’ll tell you what I do, I follow my heart. I live what I preach – a life of honesty that is not ruled by fear. (Yikes!)

In the eternal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” You can dress me in a suit and slap heels on my feet, but at my core, I am still me. And I will continue to be me long after my career is over and the lights have dimmed.

When I am on my deathbed I won’t think to myself, “Gee, I wish I had pretended to be someone else more often in my life. I wish I had spent more time hiding my real feelings and less time honestly sharing with the people around me.”

I won’t wish I had let my childhood dream of being a writer wither away and die, only to supplanted by what society deems right and good. (This is where you insert the National Anthem…)

No, my friends, I will not stand idly by and watch my very soul be crushed by the ridiculous rules and regulations of modern day society! (But, I will dress better when I have to.) I will continue to post my wackiness whenever I can (although not under my real name) and I will continue to wonder in print about the effectiveness of airline security measures, for I am a free thinker!

And so, my dear friends, thank you for your support and your comments. The reason I blog is because I am a writer and I always have been. I just got lost along the way.


August 6, 2009

Tacky Gold Footballs

When my mother was asked on her deathbed of she had any regrets, she responded, “I wish I had been nicer.”

Nicer?

The woman was a freaking saint. She was loving and patient and brilliant and funny and everything you want your mother to be. I do not ever remember her uttering a harsh word to anyone (except George Bush, but come on, who hasn’t?)

But, then I thought, maybe she wished her thoughts had been nicer. I get that.

People who kind of know me would say I am a very nice and kind person. But people who really know me have seen the dark side of me, especially the people who knew me before I quit drinking. Those unfortunate few have definitely seen my Mr, Hyde and it ain’t pretty.

When someone posted a hurtful comment to my blog yesterday, I will admit, my first thought was absolutely not, “oh he/she must be hurting in some way.”

My first feeling was “ouch.” It hurt. It stung, and then, somewhere in there came fear - fear of being mocked, fear of not being accepted or loved. I am, after all, no different than any other person on this planet – I want to be loved and accepted by my peers. After toying with several different versions of a reply, most of which were expletive-laden, I settled in on kindness.

Before she died, I asked my mother how she was so nice and how she had become such a wonderful person and how on earth could someone as damaged as me even reach for that level of humanity. “Pay it forward,” she said.

I miss her so much. She was so beautiful and so smart and I so wish she was here to guide me.

But she is not. And I am here.

My heart is big and I wear it on my sleeve. That is what I was thinking last night as I was going to sleep, pondering the day’s events. I was feeling fearful that I was not a good mother, that I was making a fool of myself on a daily basis by even pretending to be a writer and that a colleague I respect and adore had lost respect for me.

And so, my head wandered to my heart and how for so many years I worked so hard at keeping it all hidden inside and pretending like nothing effected me. And then the pressure of that enormous job got to be too much and I decided it was easier to just take my heart and my emotions and place them where they belong…right out on my wrist like a prom corsage.

And then the memories rushed through my brain like flood waters. I went to the Brother Martin Homecoming Dance with someone, [although, sadly I do not remember who – let’s call this mystery date Jack] and he gave me one of those wrist corsages. I don’t know if kids today still do that, but for some reason every dance involved not only the laborious process of sifting out a date, but also buying a dress and making sure your date knew what color the dress was so he could bring you a corsage.

Although I was grateful for the wrist corsage, as I do not like still to have anything pinned to my clothes, this thing was like a banquet centerpiece and it had mini gold footballs stuck in it. I spent the whole night trying to lose it on the dance floor. Every time I managed to ditch it, Jack would come running up to me, “You dropped this!” or “Look what I found!”

That is what my life is like these days, every time I try to hide my heart and the feelings inside, they keep reappearing, strapped to my wrist, replete with tacky charms.

August 4, 2009

Love and Other Odors

I was on vacation last week. I started an entry that was going to be a funny day-by-day diary-like account of the week, but by the entry for Day 5 I was too depressed to make it funny. Vacation is freakin’ hard. If you don’t have kids, you won’t get this, but if you do, you know what I am talking about.

The 10 days I was off of “work” were the longest 10 days of my life. Why, you ask? Because daycare was also closed for those 10 days. I had 10 consecutive days with Max. TEN. And while I love that little munchkin more than life itself, he is demanding, irrational and sometimes just an ass hole.

I spend, on an average work day, a lot of time alone. Max goes to daycare at around 8 and I work alone, at home, usually until 5pm. Then I pick him up. Although I talk on the phone with people, it is not unusual for me not see another human being all day. And frankly, I like it that way.

This vacation meant all day, every day was spent with my shadow right next to me. He slept with me, he whined at me, he hit me, he spit at me, and at one point, I believe it was Day 8, I locked myself in the hotel bathroom to cry with the sounds of him on the other side of the door whining “Mommy.”

I now know why and how people snap. I get why some mothers just one day pack their bags and walk away. I am not saying I am going to do this, but I now completely understand why some do. My mother stayed at home with 4 children. And we were whiny and lazy and unappreciative. I don’t know why she stayed.

It seemed that the more miserable I was, the clingier he got. He could sense that I was fading, vanishing from existence with each day of vacation. I tried to be happy, I suggested pool visits and games, but he knew I was faking it and balked every step of the way. He whined for his pacifier (which he only gets at night) all day long, he whined that his stomach hurt (which it did because he held his shit in for 4 days) he whined that the pool had closed (which it was and it was moronic because who closes a pool when there is a clap of thunder 25 miles away) but when he started whining for me to hold him when I was already holding him, I snapped. I cried. I cried because I do not like being a mother right now and I cried because I missed my own mother and I cried because I will not be free for a long time.

I will be tied to this little boy forever and for the first time, I was saddened by that.

He can sense this in me and he does not know what to do, so I am hugging him more and telling him I love him. I do love him. Very much. But right now, it is hard to like being with him. He is irrational and willful. He makes outrageous demands and is willfully disobedient.

Last night we were lying in bed and he was singing to himself. I held him tight and told him I loved him. He stroked my hair and snuggled in close and said, “Mommy? You smell good. You smell like pizza.”

From a three year old, there are no sweeter and more poetic words of love than those.

And, I know this phase will pass. He will get over his bizarre toilet hang ups, he will eventually enter the age of reason and one day, he will not want me around all the time. He will be embarrassed to be seen with me and will make me drop him off 2 blocks away from his friends.

But for now, I have a tiny tyrant in my life and he smells like hot dogs and urine.

July 24, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I think I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get a little weepy when I travel. I don’t know what it is, but I am often over emoted for no good reason. I have found myself, more than once, overcome with emotion watching even the silliest of events - a mother chasing her child or an older couple going through security. The thing that gets me every single time, though, is kids traveling alone…unaccompanied minors. It even sounds awful, like they are orphans lost in the bowels of the FAA.

It is that soft spot I have for these tiny travelers that got me into the mess I was in yesterday. After a harrowing experience with US Air that involved me showing up for an 8:30am flight that got moved, then moved again and finally cancelled, I bailed on that lame excuse for an airline and bought a ticket home from Palm Beach at the Southwest counter. Because I bought so late, they only had business select. For $20 more I got 2 free drink coupons (which I did not use) and, more importantly, I got an “A” boarding card. I would not be packed in like a sardine. I would be able to get on the plane first and if you travel Southwest enough, you learn that the groups mean this: A=Aisle, B=By the Window and C=Center, or as I like to call it, “arm rest overflow for the fat person next to you.”

For my leg from Tampa to New Orleans, I was A1. Yes, I was to be the first person to board the plane….well, except for the pre-boards (hello? Did they have to pay $20 more??) and the unaccompanied minors. And, because I was standing in the first spot, I saw the mother hugging her two little boys good bye and tearfully watching them walk down the jet way.

They were tiny. They might as well have been walking to war the way the emotion welled up inside of me. I wanted to rush over to that mother and hug her, I wanted to run down the jet way and grab those boys so I could return them where they belong…with their mother!

But, I didn’t. Instead, I told myself I would sit with those boys to make sure no one took advantage of them and also to make them feel safe because it must be scary to fly alone at such a young age.

I walked right to the row where they were sitting and plopped myself down in the aisle seat. I didn’t want to freak them out, so I didn’t start talking to them right away. After all, I was a stranger and although I know my intentions, they did not.

I learned that the older boy was named Austin and his younger brother was Tyler. They each had a handheld video game, I think a DS, and were actually playing each other. Everything was fine until it was time to put the games away. Tyler didn’t want to, so he smacked the piss out of his older brother. A small scuffle ensued, but the 2 DS handhelds went back into the backpack and I settled back with my book, feeling quite smug and satisfied that I, yes me, had done such a good deed by making sure that mother’s children were well cared for.

It was about 30 minutes into the flight when the 2nd fight began. The DS hand helds had made another appearance and Tyler (age 6) did not like getting beat by Austin (age 8) and so, he started wailing on him. I mean, abusing him. Austin, who probably had been told never to hit his brother, at first didn’t really fight back, but then I heard a really loud crack (apparently a DS is good for other things, too) and then the breathless silent sobbing of Tyler. Wait for it, wait for it, and here comes the howl. Everyone in ear shot looked at me. I was the first person on the plane. None of these people knew that I had just plopped down next to these little terrors. They thought I was some absent minded and neglectful mother.

The grandmotherly woman next across the aisle spoke first, “You’re going to have to separate them.”

I protested, “But they’re not my kids. I just sat next to them.”

She looked at me like I was nuts, “That doesn’t matter…just sit between them.”

Oh, right, I am the adult here. I can use my grown up voice and maybe scare them into behaving. I got the little one to move over to my seat and I jumped in the middle. It was in that spot that I became the defacto mother. The things discussed included:

Where are you going? (Grandma & Grandpa’s house)

How high are we?

When will we be in outer space?

Are the drinks and peanuts free?

How many oceans will we fly over?

When do we fly over the Mississippi?

Am I familiar with the DS system (no) and do my kids have one? (no)

I also got an amusing story about the time Austin went with his Grandma and Grandpa to Texas and how Grandpa had to call the police because he lost Austin, who was really at the playground.

From the magic backpack emerged 2 packs of Cheetos. Between those, the Cokes (they swore up and down they were allowed to have them on special occasions) and an unending supply of peanuts, these boys were set…for a little while.

Then they started getting bored and were all jittery from the sugar. They wanted to sit near each other again and play.

I stalled for a while. I took out the map from the airline magazine and randomly started talking to them about where we were, where we were going, where they had been before, but once we started the initial decent, Tyler wanted to sit by Austin so he could look out the window. I agreed.

And thus, we landed to the sounds of Tyler bending back Austin’s fingers and Austin calling Tyler a baby while spitting in his face.

And then I realized, their mother’s tears were not the sobs of a broken hearted mother. They were tears of joy. “Grandma and Grandpa be dammed, Mama needs a break,” is I know what she said to herself as she drove home from the Tampa airport alone in absolute silence.