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.