Month: January 2012

I’m A Princess and This Is My Tiara

"Of course, I'm beautiful. I'm a princess, and this is my tiara!"

Let me start out by saying that I was never a “girly” girl. I never had a pink room, liked bubble baths, or cared for frilly dresses. I didn’t paint my nails, take ballet lessons, or wear ribbons in my hair. I never identified with princesses nor had dreams of Prince Charming. I’m pragmatic and, frankly, all that stuff seemed like an incredible waste of time to a girl who would rather hang with the boys, catch salamanders at Sandstone Park, and run barefoot after dark playing Capture the Flag. Sometimes, being not girly is more fun.

Yesterday, however, I was watching a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, a show I adore because it’s both intelligent and incredibly funny. The dialogue is writer’s genius. For example:

Sheldon: “Why are you crying?”

Penny: “Because I’m stupid.”

Sheldon: “Well, that’s no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid, and that makes me sad.”

Like I said, genius.

My favorite character is Amy Farrah Fowler. Although I relate more to Sheldon (not because I’m a genius but because I share his dislike for people and his inability to appreciate social conventions), Amy ‘s intelligence coupled with her over-the-top desire to be a “normal” girl make her hysterical. And, no one could play Amy the way Mayim Bialik does. Whoever cast her is a mastermind. She’s completely bizarre and yet somehow fully likable.

At any rate, the episode I saw yesterday had Amy and Sheldon at odds. To smooth over Amy’s ruffled feathers, Sheldon at his friend’s suggestion decides to buy Amy a gift so he can circumvent any further arguing. It works. Sheldon gives Amy a tiara, and it effectively ends the fight. Amy’s reaction to the tiara is priceless, and it got me to thinking. Every woman, even a not girly girl, deserves a tiara. It’s just that simple.

So, yesterday I went tiara shopping. After polling Heather M, my in-the-know shopping friend, I headed to the local mall to Claire’s. I’ve never stepped foot in Claire’s before because 1) it’s a girly store for pre-teens and 2) it’s a store filled with girly pre-teens. But, sure enough, just as Heather predicted there were rhinestone tiaras to be had. Yes. Tiaras. Plural. While my boys, none too thrilled with being dragged to the mall, sat outside in horror and shame, I stood in there among the girls and tried on tiaras. It was oddly fun. Finally I selected one, paid the obnoxious teenage clerk who had rolled her eyes at me when I was trying them on and she thought I couldn’t see her (newsflash, sweetie…I was looking into a mirror…I could SEE you behind me) and left with my tiara in a bag.

I got home, put it on, and walked in the kitchen to show Steve. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

“What is that for?” he inquired.

“I’m a princess, and this is my tiara,” I replied.

He didn’t say a thing. Just moved on to the next topic while I walked around wearing my tiara. Smart man.

I know it’s a silly for a grown woman to have a rhinestone tiara. It’s whimsical. It’s foolish. I’ll probably never wear it out anywhere except perhaps to a costume party. But I’m fairly certain that on my next really bad day I’m going to dig it out of my lingerie drawer, place it atop my head, and remind myself over a tasty glass of Cab that I rule this kingdom, such that it is. And, if the men in my life are as intelligent as I think they are, they will learn that when I’m wearing that tiara they’d best not mess with me. You never argue with a princess in a tiara unless you want to find yourself shackled in a dungeon that’s guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. I may not be a girly girl, but I do understand the inherent power in being a princess.

 

Drinking Lattes by the Sea, Mamacita

A true friend knows it's totally okay to get you a mug like this.

I got this mug last night from my friend Heather. I’m not exactly sure what the occasion was. She simply said, “It had to be done.” She was right. What makes the mug is that the somewhat vulgar sentiment is put into a heart shape. Nothing is as sweet as a heart with the word motherf@#*er in it, right?

I love that Heather knows me well enough to know that I would appreciate this mug and not find it offensive. On the contrary, I had my latte in it this morning and I will continue to do so every day until the writing wears off and the mug is just plain white (at which point I’ll probably start wondering where the hell I got the plain white mug from). But, what makes this gift unbelievably special is the thought behind it. I honestly believe Heather wants me to write like a motherf@#*er. She wants me to pursue my passion and pour my heart into it. She is with me as I travel down this writing road with its potholes, speed bumps, and unpaved sections. She’s also with me when the highway runs smoothly and we’re cruising with the top down, enjoying the sunshine on our faces. She’s the Louise to my Thelma, and we’re about to have an adventure of epic proportions.

Don’t worry, Heather. I’m not about to give up on writing. I’m going to keep writing like a motherf@#*er. And, I’ll make sure I write a better ending for us than Thelma and Louise got.

Mom’s Day Out

This is goofing off.

It’s Mom’s Day Out. I don’t have unproductive days very often. It’s my nature to be busy and accomplish a lot in the course of 24 hours. Out of coincidence, however, today I ended up scheduling a lunch date with my college roommates (it is Rachel’s birthday today) and a dinner date with my friend Heather just because weeks ago we decided we both wanted an evening sans children. It’s a great thing when you wake up and realize that you’re not going to be cleaning house today or running errands. It’s merely a dedicated day for goofing off.

Okay. Okay. It wasn’t entirely a day off. I did have to get the kids ready for school and then drive them there. And I had to get in the dog’s three mile walk. I had some laundry to fold and a dishwasher to unload. I also had to run by the bank, pick my boys up from school, and help with homework. Other than that, though, the day was mine.

I sat for two hours with my old friends at lunch laughing and talking about crazy times at CU. Afterward before getting the kids I ran by Sports Authority and tried on ski pants. Then I came home and searched for the exact ski pants I tried on and found them at www.altrec.com for $30 less than they were at the store plus free shipping. SCORE! Now I am desperately trying to get ready to meet Heather for barbeque (our weakness), so I am doing my makeup in between typing lines on my blog.

I hope you’ll excuse me for bailing out on writing anything meaningful today. You see…it’s Mom’s Day Out and for that to occur I actually need to get OUT.

“We don’t stop playing because we turn old. We turn old because we stop playing.” ~Author Unknown

Information Blackout

The day my blog host went black.

Today, some Internet sites carried out a silent protest. Wikipedia, Google, and Craigslist, along with many blog sites, went black to prepare Internet users for what they might be seeing more of in the future. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) are being introduced to stop copyright infringement, especially in the instances of music, television, and movies. Now, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t claim to understand the finer details of this legislation, but from what I do understand it would essentially make web site owners responsible for all content on their site. Any copyright infringement on the site could cause the entire site to be blacked out for non-compliance with the new law. Can you imagine hopping onto Google only to find it blocked entirely or heavily censored? It appears that SOPA and PIPA are the equivalent of the government taking a big black pen and marking out entire chapters of information available online. With them enacted, our Internet becomes a censored text book.

Now, I do agree that copyright infringement runs rampantly on the Internet and needs to be stopped. I understand how it greatly decreases profits for those whose materials are being pirated. If I were a songwriter who made my living by selling my music and suddenly everyone could download it for free without my consent, I would be fairly unhappy. So, I wholeheartedly agree that something must be done to curtail if not entirely cease copyright infringement. I just think this current legislation, while it would be a quick fix, is a bit extreme.

Ten years ago when Joe was just an infant I got most of my news from the television. I used the Internet primarily for email and my desktop (yes…desktop) computer for writing my master’s thesis and our holiday letters replete with random cheesy clip art. Ten years ago, email was my lifeline. My hubby and I also watched movies on VHS tapes. Fast forward to today and I am lost without my iPhone, my digital video, and music playlists (not mix tapes). When I’m at the zoo with my kids and they have a question about the diet of the orangutan, I pull up Google on my smartphone and get them an answer in an instant. When 9/11 rolled around this year and my kids asked me what it was like on that day, I was able to find on You Tube the exact news footage I watched on that dreadful morning in 2001. These experiences, so commonplace today, might become a memory if this legislation passes. What good is all the technology we possess if we can’t use it to its fullest capacity? Why would we ever think it’s okay to limit people’s access to information?

If you want to see how life altering these Internet changes could be, try going one full day with any social media, Internet search engines, or blog sites. Don’t watch any video clips on You Tube, either. I simply thought about that today and got the shakes. The Internet has opened up the world for me. I’m not prepared to let that go. Are you?

Please let your congressional representative know how you feel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Mom Is A Working Mom

I actually did earn a Master's Degree. Just because I only use it to stay home and blog doesn't mean I am worthless.

I am an unpaid, full-time employee of my children. There are the days when I can’t believe I left a job I truly enjoyed and was good at to stay home. In my previous life, I wrote and edited scientific literature for the Department of Energy. Occasionally I got to travel to DC, wear a suit, pass through security clearance with my government badge, and take meetings about exhibits and displays for government conferences. I loved flying into Dulles, taking a cab to my hotel in Dupont Circle, and carrying a briefcase. But, as much as I loved my job we didn’t “need” the money and my premature son did need me. So, I walked away.

Ten years later I am still (technically) unemployed. I am an unpaid, working mom. Most days, I’m more than fine with that. Yes. I cook and clean and manage the house. But, I also have the freedom to climb the stairs at Red Rocks in the morning and then meet a friend for lunch if I want or to drop the kids at school and head up for a half day of skiing occasionally. It’s a fairly substantial perk. The lack of paychecks sucks, but the freedom of being my own boss (at least when the kids are in school) is awesome.

I have a deep respect for paid, working mothers because I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to balance a career with being Mom and all that role implies. There are weeks when I am exhausted from all I have to juggle, and I have forty hours more per week to do it in than a paid mother does. And, a single mom? Well….she is more powerful than Superman. I am in awe. I only wish some of the paid moms I’ve encountered appreciated my situation as much as I appreciate theirs.

I wish there was some way that I could relay to others that just because my blonde hair is in a ponytail and I’m wearing yoga pants at drop off does not necessarily mean that I am an uneducated bubblehead with nothing better to do than figure out what snacks to serve at a 2nd grade Christmas party. I’m happy to help out at my boys’ school. In fact, as an unpaid, stay-at-home mom I honestly feel it’s a requirement because paid, working moms can’t get away to volunteer as often as I can. It’s my small contribution to society and the whole “it takes a village thing” that no one wants to admit is actually true.

Yes. I am an unpaid, stay-at-home mom, and I know that may not seem impressive. But, I am an integral part of American society. Maybe my master’s degree sits in my craft room instead of in a corner office. Maybe I don’t get paid for what I do. But, if I didn’t do what I do, it might be more difficult for paid moms to do what they do. It all works out. We moms, both paid and unpaid, should try harder to cut each other some slack. I’ll tell you what. If you promise to give me credit for being intelligent, useful, and greatly underpaid, I’ll stop making those annoying, handcrafted, overachiever Valentine’s Day favors for the classroom party. That way, neither one of us has any reason to feel inferior.

 

Pockets Full of Fish

A memoir about escape, discovery, relationships, and opportunity.

“You can avoid having ulcers by adapting to a situation; if you fall in the mud puddle, check your pockets for fish.” ~ Author Unknown

One of my challenges to myself for 2012 was to spend a bit more time reading from books. I read plenty in a normal day, but most of that is done via the internet. As an English major at CU, I spent four years with my nose buried in actual books. I continued reading like a fiend after college and through graduate school. After becoming a mother, however, I found less and less time for reading books. I had to grab a bit of reading here and there, and I got sick of dragging out a book only to read two pages and have to put it down again. I eventually gave up, but I have missed it.

Yesterday I started reading a hardback I checked out of the Columbine library. (Yes. I am old school. I don’t have a Kindle. I still go to the library in person to check out books. Shocking, I know.)  Anyway, I saw this book recommended on one of those lists that you see everywhere that tout the “must read” literature. This particular list was 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday. Okay. Okay. I realize I should have read this book over 13 years ago before I turned 30, but 13 years ago the book didn’t even exist. It was published in 2005.

It’s called Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner. The gist of the story, as I’ve been able to gather from the book jacket and the 60 pages I’ve cruised through so far, is that Franz was dumped by his fianceé just five days before their wedding in 1999. In a situation that is painful, not to mention embarrassing, Franz went for the glass is half full approach. He hosted his friends the weekend of his would-be wedding and let them comfort him when he needed it most. Then, brokenhearted but trying to move on, Franz asked his brother to join him on what would have been his honeymoon trip to Costa Rica. While there, the brothers decided that they should extend their trip and travel the world while they still have the opportunity. And that is exactly what they do. For two years they traveled, eventually hitting 53 countries across Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa.

Even without finishing the book, I know I like this guy. When faced with what would flatten many people, Franz chose to see his circumstances as opportunity, his misfortune as a gift. I am all too guilty of being that glass is half empty sort of gal. I sulk. I wallow. I whine. Eventually, I move on, but not without giving up too much time to purposeful misery. I need to pause briefly when I perceive what might be a change for the worse and then adjust my attitude before moving on. Who knows? Maybe if I uncrossed my arms and stopped pouting long enough after falling in that puddle I might just find those fish in my silver-lined pockets?

My Brain Was Abducted By Aliens

Someday I might be a great pet.

“Will there be another race to come along and take over for us? Maybe martians could do better than we’ve done? We’ll make great pets.” ~ Porno for Pyros

Last night, hubby and I watched a film with aliens life forms. I actually selected and had Netflix send me a movie about aliens. For years I avoided alien movies because of post traumatic stress disorder. No, I am not going to recount a tale of my own abduction into an alien ship where I experienced the dreaded alien probe because that did not happen. At least not yet.

But, when I was in sixth grade, I had an absolutely certifiable science teacher who taught a unit about extraterrestrials. I am not kidding. Thank you, Mr. Marcus, for showing us photos of cow mutilations and crop circles, for playing a recording of War of the Worlds without telling us that it was a performance based on a book and not an actual event, and for sharing with us photos of supposed unidentified flying objects. Seriously? I was an impressionable 12 year old with a vivid imagination. What were you thinking? Thanks to you I spent at least six months having bad dreams. (I still remember some of them, by the way.) Thanks to you even ET freaked me out. Thanks to you I was in my mid-20’s when I finally steadied my nerves enough to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Thanks to you I will never be able to watch Cloverfield, Body Snatchers, or even Cocoon. Okay. Maybe I’ll watch Cocoon someday, but I’ll probably never see District 9, which is too bad because I understand it was a fairly decent film. Yes, indeed. Thank you, Mr. Marcus, for scarring me for life because you wanted to share your fascination with the supernatural with a classroom filled with six graders. I bet you are retired and living in Roswell now, happy as a clam in your shiny, silver double wide, while I still suffer from the after effects of your teaching.

Anyway, I was reasonably impressed with myself for watching that alien movie last night without losing it. And, when I had to pause the movie and go downstairs to put my laptop to bed, I was proud of myself for holding it together in our dark house and walking back up the stairs even though I wanted to run because there could be an alien downstairs waiting to bite my head off once I let my guard down. Doesn’t matter if I had to give myself a little pep talk to work through that moment of fear, to take each step deliberately and without terror. I made it. I even turned the movie back on and finished it when I got back to bed. I consider that real progress…approximately 31 years in the making.

I kid about this now, but once it was quite real to me. There was a time when I couldn’t drive down a dark, isolated road at night without wondering when my car would suddenly lose power and I’d see the bright flash of light from a UFO. Since that time, however, I’ve been able to put a few decades worth of distance between me and those memories. I also found peace by reasoning that if aliens have been abducting scores of us and yet haven’t invaded, they must realize we’re not worth the trouble. They’re probably waiting until we’ve killed each other off so they can take over Earth without having to deal with unstable life forms on this planet. Or, if my worst nightmare (literally) comes true, then Perry Farrell of Porno for Pyros will have predicted it correctly and we’ll all become pets. Given my natural inclination toward random acts of mental terrorism from figures of authority, I’m sure I’ll make a wonderfully obsequious pet for some alien.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast Car

My friends and their old school cars circa 1986.

“Just take your fast car and keep on driving.” ~ Tracy Chapman

In the first quarter of the Bronco playoff game with the New England Patriots, I couldn’t take it anymore. Overwhelmed by a stuffy head, I drove out in search of Sudafed. When I am feeling my worst on a Saturday night, there’s nothing I appreciate more than a seven mile drive to a 24-hour pharmacy to purchase decongestant. (Thanks, meth lab operators for providing me with that convenience.) Anyway, I handed the pharmacist my driver’s license, signed my life away, took my contraband box, and pulled out on the road toward home. That’s when it pulled up alongside me on this moonless night, sleek as a shadow. My midlife crisis car. A black Chevy Camaro.

I own a very pragmatic and cushy Lexus SUV, perfect for endless hours of driving the boys around and trekking through snowy Colorado winters. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I love my car. It has never failed me. Still, I often think I could trade it for a black Chevy Camaro.

When I was in high school, my mom was going through her own midlife crisis. She bought a 1986 red Chevy Camaro. I got to drive her car occasionally to and from work and sometimes to a movie with friends. That’s when my love affair with the Camaro began. Admittedly, the 1986 iteration of that vehicle was not its most attractive, but when I turned the key in the ignition that beast purred for me. It was fast and fun to drive. That car bridged a gap between my mom and I during some difficult times. It was our baby. Unfortunately, some jerk stole it for joyride purposes one day. When it was found, it was so badly damaged that the insurance company declared it a loss. I remember going to the impound lot to help my mom clean it out. We both cried. My mom went back to a dull sedan, and my fun was over.

Later that year I developed a crush on an older man (okay…he was only four years older) who drove a late 70’s model black Camaro, and my love affair with that car was rekindled. So what if that particular cute, blonde guy never wanted to date me? He drove me around in his car occasionally, and that was something. I still remember sitting in the passenger seat and cruising down Broadway with the t-tops off on a gorgeous summer day. Pure joy.

Tonight as I sat at that street light, glancing longingly at that shiny black car in the next lane, it hit me. This May I will be the same age my mom was when she got her Camaro. Certainly that must be a sign, right? Sometimes history repeats itself. Would it be insane for me to trade my reliable SUV for a gleaming muscle car? The Camaro gets better gas mileage than my SUV, costs less, and the 323-horsepower would make the trip to the boys’ school infinitely faster. Sure there’s still the snow and ice of a Denver winter to deal with, but we do have those 300 days of sunshine too so it should balance out. My husband got his midlife crisis car last year, a cadet blue Toyota FJ Cruiser, so that should factor into my ability to choose a new car. Besides, I think I would look pretty cool driving it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get my midlife crisis Camaro. Perhaps it’s one of those dreams I’ll never realize. But, sometimes, when one pulls up next to me at a stoplight, I secretly imagine myself in it. I imagine that car would make me feel 18 again. It might be worth the trade.

 

Artificial Turf

Isn't it always greener somewhere else?

“One of the reasons that we deal with insecurity is that we compare our behind-the-scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.” ~Steven Furtick

I saw this quote on a friend’s Facebook page a couple weeks ago, and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. I am incredibly guilty of making this mistake. I will hear about a friend’s fabulous career and rather than feeling glad for her, I’m annoyed. Oh, sure. I’ll act pleasant enough about it on the outside, but inside I’m full of doubt. How did she end up with such a fabulous life while mine is so, well, dull? I’ll feel cheated that she gets to travel for work while my biggest excursions are my tri-weekly trips to Target.

It’s sick how these thoughts can permeate my life and make me feel worthless. The truth is that I have no idea of the inner workings of my friend’s life, of how she balances extended hours at work with time for her family. For all I know, perhaps she sees my freedom and the extra time I get to spend with my kids as the better deal. Don’t we always want what we don’t have and don’t truly understand?

“Why, oh why, do I look to the other side when I know the grass is greener but just as hard to mow.” ~ John Butler Trio

This is the curse of a Facebook world. As busy as we all are, sometimes the most we see about a friend’s life comes from their Facebook status updates. Facebook is a repository for the highlights reel in our lives. We post about the exciting things we are experiencing because we want to share our best with everyone. We don’t often post about our depression or about how exhausted we are from trying to have it all. What is displayed, instead, is a group of photos from a summer trip to Italy and, from that alone, we allow others to formulate an opinion about our life, one that most likely does not reflect our daily reality.

When I get overwhelmed by the comparisons my mind wants to make between my prosaic, behind-the-scenes reel and someone else’s exciting highlights reel, I try to remember that Facebook is filled with façades. We retouch our lives the way we retouch our photos.

I have a great life and I’m sure there are those who see my highlights reel, the things I post on Facebook, and think I’ve got it made. And, it would be stupid not to admit that my life is pretty great. Like others, I do mask my difficulties more often than I share them. I do look over into other people’s yards and wish, occasionally, for something greener and more lush. Deep down I know, however, that all grass is the same. We all fight weeds and have to water constantly to keep it healthy. That friend whose life seems idyllic? Remember that there is only one reason their yard looks so lush and green. It’s artificial turf.

{{{Hugs}}}

Luke is the best hugger I know.

Sometimes my kids teach me the most amazing lessons. Oh, sure. Most of the time they simply make me feel I should be wearing a straightjacket. But, occasionally, when I least expect it, something brilliant comes from one of them. In those moments, I get a glimpse of why I have the two children I have.

Today, Luke came home from school with a D grade on a phonics test. The test needed to be signed. This is not his first poor grade in this particular subject, so I was not surprised. He’s been struggling with his “special sounds” for a while. To that end, I made something along the line of 75, two-sided flash cards with the sounds and their key words on them. I spent hours one night on this task as it required me to glue two index cards together so you could not see through from one side to the other. We try to take a few minutes a day to review a set or two of cards to familiarize him with the sounds. Given his 66% on this particular test, we probably need to augment our practice time.

As he’s handing me the paper to sign Luke casually says, “I told her maybe I’d be doing better if we worked on the sounds at home.”

Desperately trying to suppress the lava flow of anger that was rising from my ruptured heart, I said, “What? We HAVE been working on them at home. Why did you tell her that?”

“I didn’t want to get in trouble,” he replied.

Are you kidding me? You don’t want to get in trouble so the easiest thing to do is rat Mom out as the weak link? My own son had sold me down river. Now I really was angry. If I hadn’t been working with him, then fine. But to have put in personal time on this only to have him blame his deficiency on me was truly aggravating. Then, I did something completely uncool. I had a little bit of a Mommy Tantrum. I’m not proud of it, and I won’t go into details. I will admit that it ended with my stomping up the stairs and shutting my door a bit too loudly to put an exclamation point on my annoyance.

I sat in my room for a few minutes and tried to regroup. I knew Luke was downstairs feeling horrible about his lie, just as I was upstairs feeling miserable about my unnecessary tantrum. I took a deep breath, opened the door, and walked back downstairs, avoiding eye contact with Luke the entire time. I could tell he was looking at me, but I also knew he was teary eyed. If I saw his sad little face I would back down. No. I would not cave. I deserved an apology.

About thirty seconds later, Luke walked over, wrapped his arms around me, and squeezed tightly. I sat down on the floor and pulled him to me and we hugged for a solid minute. Although I no longer cared about the apology, he told me he was sorry and that he didn’t know why he told that lie. I told him that he is a good kid with bad moments and I am a good mom with bad moments. Sometimes our bad moments coincide, and we hurt each other. Then, with childlike innocence and sage-like clarity he shared this wisdom with me:

“The only cure for sadness is a hug.”

So, I hugged him again.