I Don’t Know What I’m Doing….and Neither Do You.

“Opinions are like butt-holes.  Everybody has one.”
~Unknown, but I wish it was me

As a mother, I’ve grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice.

Just the other day, while in the toothpaste aisle at Target, I was accosted by a woman who approached and said, “You shouldn’t choose a toothpaste that contains aluminum.  Unless you want your kid to have Alzheimers.” 

How do you even respond to that?

When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-two weeks.  Once, while shopping, a woman approached and asked, “Don’t you think you should have been more responsible?”  

Throughout my entire illness, I never had a problem sharing my story with curious strangers.  I spent many minutes in check-out aisles and at my doctor’s appointments, chatting it up with random, but kind, strangers, about my diagnosis and how it all came to be.

But this woman?

No.

She was a twat-waffle.

So, I didn’t feel bad when I suggested that she should hop into her douche canoe and row, row, row the boat far away from me….before I did actually make an irresponsible decision.

After I gave birth, I wasn’t able to breast-feed.  My son was born one week before my last chemo cycle.  Although the medications were unable to cross through the placenta while my son was safe and snug inside my womb, they could pass through my breast milk and that wasn’t safe for him.

In the beginning, I tried to “pump and dump,” which I would need to do for a minimum of six weeks after my last chemo cycle, in order to flush out all the poisons.

I tried.  I really, really did.

I followed every bit of advice from the hospitals lactation consultants.  But nothing worked.

My body had been through a lot and it seemed to draw the line at producing breast milk.    I was never able to produce more than about a teaspoons worth, which, admittedly, made me feel like a horrible mother.

As a last ditch effort, I reached out to a La Leche Group I found online.  Now, I’m sure that if you are a regular woman, who is struggling to breast feed and looking for advice, that these groups are helpful.  In my case, not so much.

I explained my situation and for the most part, I got back the same advice the lactation consultants had given me.  In a few cases, some of the women essentially said, “I’ve got nothing, I’m sorry.”

But then, one woman decided to offer me this piece of sage advice.  “You should stop your treatments so you can breastfeed.  It’s really the most important thing you can do for your baby.”

“Um….like, more important than being alive?  Bitch.”

That’s all said.  I might have added in a GFU.

Ok, I did definitely add it in, because who says that!?

And honestly, my experiences with breast-feeding shame didn’t end there.  I found a super expensive, organic formula that made me feel a little bit better about my inability to feed my baby from my own body and I’m not even kidding, but nine times out of ten, when I was at the store purchasing his food, a woman would tell me that breast milk was best.

And you know what?  I agree!  It is THE BEST.  I get it.

But, we can’t all do it and for some, we don’t all want to do it and that’s OK too.  It really is.  Because you know what’s second best to breast?  Fed.

A few years ago, while my son played at an indoor playground, a man asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that letting your son wear a pink shirt will make him gay?”

He asked, as though being gay was a bad thing.

As if I would be all bent out of shape at the prospect of being the number one woman in my son’s life….forever.

As if a child’s preference in color, is indicative of his sexuality.

But, I suppose when you can still recall the smell of the air from the bough of the Mayflower, you can sort of be forgiven for your ignorance.

I am by no means a perfect parent.  There are days I think I’m nailing it and there are days when I wish that life allowed a control z function, so that I could have a do-over….or five.

I appreciate and even love, all those Parenting Blogs that talk honestly about the trials and tribulations of raising children.  It’s nice to find a community of like-minded parents.  But the second they hop on a sponsored soap box and start using words like “should” and “never.”  They’ve lost me.

Because, I’m sorry, Karen, you don’t know squat….unless you have a PH.D in child-rearing, in which case, what you know is still debatable.  Parenting, like everything else, is constantly evolving.

My generation is the first to raise children in the age of social media.  And I think a byproduct of that, is that we’ve lost a bit of our self-confidence and our willingness to trust our gut and our instincts as parents.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other families are doing.  All we have to do, is open up our computers, or our phones and we are immediately transported into the lives of families all over the world, which brings a whole new meaning to the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”  

But the truth is, we are all just winging it and hoping we get it right.

Personally, I vaccinate, because Polio seems like a real bitch.

I don’t spank my child, because I got my ass kicked as a kid and from that, I learned only one thing.  That I don’t want to hit my child.

Depending on the circumstances, I’m a helicopter parent.  Other times, I’m that mom, sitting in the corner, reading a book.

Some days, I make homemade, from scratch, wholly organic meals and other days we go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

I allow screen time, almost every day.  Some days, it’s no more than hour.  Other days, whatever.

I am at times, authoritative and strict and other times, weak and super permissive.  Most of the time, I’m weak and super permissive.

I’m a big believer in the importance of self-care; for moms and dads.  And sometimes, I prioritize myself over everyone else.  And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.

My house is obsessively clean and organized.  Because my brain needs it to be that way and I have no problem doing all the work.  In fact, I LIKE it.

I have been a corporate career having mom and a stay-at-home mom.  Both are hard.

Sometimes, I let my son win and other times, I wipe the floor with him.

And I don’t care what kind of mom the internet, or the media tells me I should be.

I can’t force him into a specific parenting philosophy.  I know this, because I have actually tried.  But I don’t think he came out of the womb a blank slate.  He was already a person. Predisposed, I guess, to certain personality traits and needs that would and do influence his interests.

So I only care about being the kind of parent my child needs me to be.  And I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I trust myself to get it mostly right.  Because no one knows him and loves him like I do and nobody ever could.

I’m Known as the Death of the Party….

“I am not a jerk.  I am an introvert and I say fuck a lot.” ~Charles Bukowski

I don’t get invited to a lot of parties.

This is not surprising, because I don’t have a lot of friends.

This is not surprising, because I’m the human equivalent of a turd in a punch bowl.

I don’t necessarily mean to be, but I’m a definite introvert trying to force myself to function like a “normal” person, in a world that is noisy and won’t shut up.  A bi-product of which, is a somewhat bizarre form of what I suppose could be called, social anxiety.  Or, a bad case of chronic, verbal diarrhea.

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When I get blindsided by conversation, you know, normal, friendly small talk, I tend to contribute something like, “Hey, did you know that humans shed forty pounds of skin in their lifetime?” just as you’re about to sprinkle some parmesan cheese onto what used to be your favorite dish.

I once said, ” Well, I hate the Yankee’s” during a professional networking event, in New York, with a bunch of Yankee fans, at YANKEE F*CKING STADIUM, in response to the question, “Do you like baseball?”

And you know what?  I don’t even really hate the Yankee’s.

I’m sure it would be quite nice to be a social butterfly, instead of a wall flower; to be the kind of person who oozes charisma and charm, instead of oozing verbal diarrhea.

But I wouldn’t know.

Unknown.pngI’m attending a wedding at the end of the month and the last time I saw many of the people who will be in attendance, I filled an awkward moment of silence with the following:

“Hey, did you guys know the average fast food eater consumes like 12 pubic hairs a year?”  

I don’t know why that was necessary.  I have no words….also, it was me who caused the awkward moment of silence.
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The thing is, when left to my own devices, I’m just perfectly happy being alone.

It’s not because I’m sad, or depressed, or need to be pried from my shell.  I’m not shy, or lacking in self-confidence.

And it’s not that I don’t like people.  I think people are fascinating, especially from a distance, when they don’t know I’m watching them.

It’s the socializing I don’t love; the small talk and the pressure to contribute to a conversation. I don’t like the pauses, with expectation, waiting for me to share my thoughts, which usually consist of something like, “Every year, 40,000 people are injured by a toilet in the United States.”  Except no one is ever talking about toilets.

I am capable of having regular, deep conversations with my small circle of close friends and family, but take me to any sort of outing where there are large groups of people and shit gets weird, real fast.

When I manage to find a quiet, dark corner where I can lurk in the shadows and just observe and eavesdrop, there is always some do-gooder who tracks me down with a “Why are you over here all by yourself?  Come join us!”

And I think, “Damn-it, Susan, you’re ruining everything!”  

For a long time, I was hard on myself for my shortcomings as a socialite.  It bothered me that nearly everyone else I knew gracefully made their way through parties, networking events, conferences, etc., while I spent my time rehearsing a series of basic social niceties, only to then spend days months obsessing over all the ways in which I still ended up accidentally telling someone her purse was ugly and then insulting her entire family for good measure.

But, I’m pushing forty now and honestly, I don’t care anymore.

This is who I am.

My idea of excellent of customer service is to be completely ignored, until I ask for something….which I will never do.  The other day, I discovered that I can look up a specific product on Home Depot’s website, while in the store, and it will tell me the items exact aisle and bay number, thus forever sparing me an awkward encounter with a store associate.  I am now a lifelong customer of Home Depot….so long as I can continue to get a decent cell signal in their stores.

I have had the same cell phone provider for eighteen years.  Because even if I wanted to break up with them, I don’t want to have to actually initiate the conversation.

But you know what?  Loyalty does it have its rewards, even if it’s unintended loyalty….because I have a seriously good cell phone plan that is so good, they don’t offer it anymore.  I’ve been grandfathered into it with like two other people, because….eighteen years.

I’m that friend who will never answer the phone when you call, but will immediately respond with a text and then tell you I’m somewhere with shitty cellular service.  And of course you’ll know I’m lying, but you know me, so you’ll let it go.

Actually, if we’re really friends, you’ll never call to begin with, unless it’s a true emergency.  Like, you need help burying a body, or something.

Also, if you invite me to your wedding and I look thoroughly confused in every photograph, you’ll know it’s because I’m trying to work out exactly why I needed to include the world vulva, in a conversation with your new mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.

I know, I know….I sound like a real pain in the ass.  Truly, most of the time, I feel like I’m not worth the effort, but believe it or not, I’m a good friend when it matters most.  *See body comment above.*

I’ll just never be the life of the party.  And I don’t want to be.

When life requires me to people, I will always be that person trying desperately to blend into the wallpaper.  Literally.  I call ahead so I can match my outfits to the décor.

I now have a six-year-old son, who is a first grader, which adds a layer of challenge to my hermit-like aspirations.  He wants to socialize, which means that, by extension, I need to socialize; with other parents at playdates and birthday parties and school events and so on.  And of course, I do these things for him.

But there is also a part of him that is just like me.  He’s dreamy and imaginative and for as long as he’s been able to string a sentence together, he’s declared that he wants to be a writer.

At six, he’s written dozens of very short stories in a little notebook he keeps.  Sometimes the stories have no real beginning, or ending.  Just a thought he worked out and put to paper with an illustration.

Sometimes, when I pick him up from school and I ask him abut his day, he’ll tell me it was good, but he played by himself.  And I’ll ask, “How come?  Is everything OK?”

“Of course, Mommy,” he’ll say.  “I just needed some alone time.” 

And I get it.  So we’ll drive home in a comfortable silence.  Both of us, a little lost in ourselves for a bit.

♥♥

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The Spotty Banana….

hate waste.  Seriously, aside from littering, it’s among my biggest pet peeves.

When I see someone grab 30 napkins for an iced coffee, my blood boils.

When people go through the drive-thru and order a walk-in amount of food, backing-up the line of people waiting in vehicles that are just burning through fuel, I want to go all Towanda on their asses.

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Light pollution makes me want to take a hostage.

Anytime I drive by an office complex or through a major city, all I can see is the draining of resources.

And I hate to admit it, but even my own kids suck at light conservation.  Anytime they travel from one room to another….every….single….light along the way, must be turned on.  Even in broad daylight.

It pains me, deeply, that while I have taught my children many things, I have apparently failed to teach them that the exact same mechanism that provides light, also has the power to extinguish it.

And while I’m on a roll here, riddle me this, bat folks….is artificial lighting really necessary when nature’s light bulb provides hours of natural light?

That’s a rhetorical question.  Turn off the f*cking lights.

Also, people toss so many things that could be repurposed into something useful, or made new again.

Some of my most favorite possessions are things I’ve salvaged from someone’s curbside trash.  I pulled my current deck furniture from a Salvation Army dumpster.

Don’t ask me how I came to be shopping in a Salvation Army dumpster.  It’s not that interesting a story.

Anyway,  I stripped down the set, painted the frames and added new cushions.  You’d never know it had been destined to take up real estate in a landfill for all eternity.

Even my house was a well loved, but deteriorating relic, when my husband and I bought it a little more than two years ago.  It’s a historic, New England, saltbox colonial farmhouse that was built in 1731; before there was a United States, or a Declaration of Independence.

After we bought it, we embarked on an eight month restoration/renovation project with a local contractor.  And we still aren’t done.  Now begins a long list of DIY projects I’ve been tackling one room at a time, as we continue to breath life into this old beauty.

But the thing that really chaps my ass, is the wasting of food.   I mean, come on, there are hungry people, like next door.  Maybe not literally, but you know what I mean.

12.6 million US children are “food insecure,” which is a nicer way of saying, hungry.  Yet, in the US, we waste approximately $160 BILLION dollars in food a year; 150,000 pounds of food EACH DAY.

I think I inherited my focus on minimizing waste from my great-grandparents, who I spent a considerable amount of time with as a kid.  Both grew up on farms in Pennsylvania Dutch country during the Great Depression and they carried the memories of that experience with them for the rest of their lives.  Nothing went to waste; least of all food.

When my grandma cooked, it didn’t matter if she was making food for 20 people or two.  She always knew the exact right amount to make so that there was just enough leftover for supper (lunch) the next day.

At Thanksgiving, every bit of the turkey was used.  After the meat was carved, my grandma would take the carcass and boil it down in a large pot, making broths she froze for later use in soups and stews.

With the bones, we sat around her kitchen table and made jewelry, like wishbone necklaces and ribcage earrings.

Just kidding, I don’t know what she did with the bones.

Anyway, my point is this.  Waste not, want not, ya know?

The other day, I purchased a bunch of banana’s.  And before we managed to get through them, they reached a state of spotty, mushiness that made them unappealing.  When the fruit flies started to circle, my husband asked, “Should we just toss these?”

“Um, have you just met me?” I asked.

Old Spotty Banana Bread Recipe:

  1. Wave the fruit flies away from 2-3 very ripe (aka, spotty and borderline not edible) banana’s.
  2. Preheat oven to 350
  3. Mash bananas with fork until smooth.
  4. Stir in 1/3 cup melted butter
  5. Mix in 1 tsp baking soda and a pinch of salt
  6. Mix in 3/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg (beaten) and 1stp vanilla extract
  7. Mix in 1 1/2 cups flour
  8. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for approximately 50 minutes to one hour.

A Eulogy for my Step-Mom….

“You can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family.” ~My Step-Mom

A year ago, my step-mom, Cindy, passed away.  She was found on her front porch by her mailman.  She was 58 years old.

I like to imagine she was found in death, like I remember her best in life.  Dressed to the nine’s.  Hair and makeup, perfect.  A Kool Mild cigarette in one well manicured hand and a Cosmopolitan in the other.  Almost like she’d just stepped out of an episode of Mad Men.

In reality, I think it likely looked far more tragic.  And for a woman who prided herself on optics, it seems an exceptionally cruel way for death to have come knocking.

Although she had been my step-mom for nearly 30 years, I learned of her death via Facebook; one cryptic post.

To be fair, I suppose she wasn’t technically my step-mom any more.  She and my dad had divorced a few years prior and in the wake of their divorce, she made it clear that she was divorcing my brother and me as well.

So perhaps, I didn’t deserve to be counted among those who got a phone call with a gentle breaking of the news.  I wasn’t family anymore.

Cindy was a beautiful, funny, vivacious, silly, complicated woman, who was also a drug addict.

It began in the late-90’s, when she was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition in the aftermath of a work related injury to her left arm.  It wasn’t a serious injury, but it required minor, outpatient surgery.  In the months that followed, the pain never lessened.  Instead, it became increasingly more severe.

Once, while at their home for the weekend, I woke up in the middle of the night and found Cindy in the bathroom, sweating profusely.  She looked like she wanted to crawl out of her own body for the pain and she couldn’t stop vomiting.  Her left arm, from her elbow to her hand, was swollen and waxy looking.

When I talked to my dad about it the next day, he said it had been going on for months and no one was able to explain it.  She’d been to doctor after doctor, most of whom suggested it was all in her head.

Eventually, she was properly diagnosed, but not before she began to lose some of the strength and coordination in her left hand, along with her spirit and her interest in life.

After the diagnosis, her treatment included things like nerve blocks, physical therapy, and narcotics; specifically, Oxycodone.  There were other treatment options as well, but over time, she abandoned those for the quick fix of the drug.

Then, there were more drugs; many, more drugs.  Drugs for insomnia, anxiety, depression, different drugs for the pain, etc., etc., etc.

By the time I was an adult, she seemed to have connections in pharmaceuticals….and not the legal kind.  But, she always maintained that her doctors knew what she was taking and she didn’t seem as though she felt she needed to hide anything.  The pills were always in prescription bottles with her name on them, but had I looked closer, I would have noticed the expiration dates had long since passed.

Eventually, she started mixing her meds and washing them down with alcohol.  Then, my brother found a small baggie in their house that contained a white powdery substance.  At first, he thought it was cocaine, but later learned, at a family gathering when Cindy became inebriated, that she’d been grinding up her medications and snorting them.

“My doctor told me to,” she said, “because it helps the medication get into my system faster and then I don’t have to take as many pills.  It’s better for my liver.”

We didn’t believe her, but we didn’t question her either.  There were no staged interventions, or heart-felt discussions about our concerns for her well-being.  We didn’t call a hotline, or the authorities.  We didn’t talk to our dad about it.  We didn’t know what to do, so we didn’t do anything at all.

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Looking back on those days, it was so obvious that she was losing herself and that we were losing her.  Her personality began to subtly and then drastically change. Sometimes, she would wander around in a fuzzy bathrobe and a pair of Ugg slippers, looking disheveled and vacant.  Sometimes, she was mean; very clearly angry with everyone and everything and looking for a fight.

But then, she would sort of snap out of it and she’d be almost back to her old self and we could still see glimpses of the person she’d used to be; impeccably groomed, upbeat and silly.  Maybe she was fine after all, we’d think.

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Cindy had never been able to have children of her own, save for two twin boys she had miscarried late in the pregnancy.  They weren’t my fathers children, they had been conceived when she was married to her first husband.

A few years after the miscarriage, her husband was killed in an automobile accident.  A few years after that, she’d had to have an emergency hysterectomy.

As a kid, I couldn’t understand all that loss.  I just saw her as the kind of aunt and step-mom who never missed an opportunity to shower the kids in her life with fun.

She always came home from the store with an assortment of quirky things.  Like wind up toys in the shapes of animals wearing formal wear, small tubes of slime, glow in the dark Yo-Yo’s and other treasures she’d discovered in some check-out aisle, or when wandering through a Five and Dime shop.

She brought home weird candy that came in tins shaped like coffins, or a toilet.  There were sour elixirs in test tubes and lollipops with real bugs like centipedes and grasshoppers in their centers.

She also always stocked up on the latest National Enquirer, Star, Weekly World News and Sun magazines.  We would all take turns reading, while laughing and seriously debating the truthfulness of the articles.

She introduced us to movies like Hairspray, Killer Clowns from Outer Space, Tommy and many other off-beat flicks we watched on repeat until we had them memorized.

She loved cartoons and on Saturday mornings, we’d lounge around in the living room watching old episodes of the Flintstones, the Jetsons and the Smurfs.

When I was an early teen, she got a job at a factory that made car parts for the now defunct, Saturn automobiles.  She worked a second shift, so that during our extended summer visits with our dad, someone would always be home with my brother and me.

Every morning, we would watch The People’s Court and all the daytime talk shows; Sally Jesse Raphael, Donahue, Montel Williams, Jerry Springer, etc, followed by repeats of Designing Women and the Golden Girls.  

In the evenings, my brother and I would wait for her to come home and while she ate her dinner, we would watch old sitcoms on Nick at Nite, like the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Dick Van Dyke, Rhoda and Laverne and Shirley.

Cindy loved Elvis and Rod Stewart, who she called, “Rod the Bod” and occasionally, she would break out into one of their songs, while doing a little dance and trying to entice our dad, who didn’t dance, to join her, while she giggled and swayed.

She regaled us with tales from her 20’s, that often included stories about dancing her nights away in Disco clubs.

Like the story about the man who approached her one night wearing a silk shirt, with the top most buttons undone, so as to show off his ample chest hair (sexy), and wearing a necklace in the shape of a working stop-light.  She said he walked up to her and switched the light on his necklace from green to red and said, “I saw you from the across the room baby and my heart stopped.”

My brother and I would erupt into shrieks of laughter at how corny and gross it all sounded and she would say, “What!?  That was cool!”

At one point, she had raced American muscle cars at a local drag strip.  She would tell us that when she pulled up to the starting line, wearing a sparkly pink helmet and a rhinestone jumpsuit, the men would laugh.  And then….she’d leave them in her dust.

Cindy loved a good scary story, the quirkier and more paranormal, the better.  Her favorite authors were Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  But as much as she loved to read scary stories, she loved to tell them more.

In the summer, we’d gather around an enormous bon-fire in their yard, surrounded by thick woods, and she would tell us an elaborate story that always had local origins. Inevitably, she would manage to scare us into screams, tears, wet pants….and afterwards, she would laugh until she cried, while recounting how scared we’d been.

She loved the water and for a number of years, she and my dad lived on a lake and we’d spend our weekends on their boat from sun up to sun down.  We’d water ski and tube and read and swim and float.

She knew a million recipes that almost always included a can of some type of Campbell’s soup and my brother and I thought she was the best cook around.

I loved to watch her work in the kitchen and though I was a tom-boy with no interest in cooking, or anything domestic, I would sit on a stool at the counter and we’d chat about anything and everything, while she cooked.

She was high maintenance and a total girly girl, who took a Caboodle case full of makeup and hair products along on our annual, weeklong camping trips and I don’t recall ever seeing her without a glossy red manicure on her perfect fingernails.   “A girl’s always gotta look her best” she would say.

Her hair was naturally curly and she wore it the exact same way, until she discovered Chi flat irons in early 2,000.

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Her personal life and backstory were fascinating to me and she never held back the details.  I could ask her anything and she didn’t hesitate to tell me.

But the questions I should have been asking later in life, I never did.

Her addiction seemed to draw to the surface old, buried wounds from her childhood and her first marriage and the loss of her babies and her inability to have biological children of her own.

And it was addiction that kept her from coping with these things in a healthy way. Instead, she began to dwell and stew in resentment and it wreaked havoc on her mental health and her relationships.

I had always imagined that Cindy would be a funny and quirky grandma for my kids.  I looked forward to sending them to her house for long weekends and hearing all about the Snipe hunt she’d tricked them into and about that time she dated a Vampire.

But addiction took that away long before it was anything more than a hope.  The last years that I was a part of her life were complicated and filled with anger and disappointment.  We didn’t fight directly.  Instead, we didn’t really talk at all, which was worse in a lot of ways.

When I needed her most as an adult, when I was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, she wasn’t capable of being there for me.  But looking back on all of it, I realize that she might have needed me first and I wasn’t there for her either.

Her addiction was a well kept secret that everyone knew, but no one talked about, except in whispered side conversations.  Instead of calling her out, we all tiptoed around her, hoping we’d just get through things; holidays, birthdays, funerals, weddings and other family gatherings.

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I would find out later that she wasn’t in denial about her addiction.  That she and my dad had many conversations and fights about it over the years.  That she made promises and then tried to hide things and then decided she didn’t have to hide anything and she would do whatever she wanted.

That cycle of acknowledgment, deception and defiance, repeated itself for years.

And then, the marriage imploded and she was gone from our lives.  I was angry with her for letting us go, but I didn’t reach out.  I kept waiting for her to come to me.  To snap out of her addiction.  To realize she’d messed everything up and want to make it right.

I never fantasied that she and my dad would rekindle their romance, but I thought she would want to rekindle a relationship with me.  I thought she would want to know my son and that we would figure out how to forge a new relationship in the wake of our broken family.

I wanted her to tell me she was sorry.

Then, I wanted to tell her about how I had always loved when she introduced me to people as her daughter, because it made me feel wanted and important in a way my own mother never made me feel.

I wanted to tell her that some of the best parts of me as a step-mother and a mother, I learned from her.

I wanted to tell her how grateful I was for the hundreds of wonderful things, both big and small, that she did to make our lives better.

When I became a step-mom, I wanted to tell her that I could now understand how difficult it had been for her at times, and I wanted to tell her thank-you for hanging in there.

I wanted to tell her I loved her.

Addiction doesn’t give you the things you want though and I didn’t understand that until it was too late.

I also didn’t understand Cindy’s kind of addiction. She wasn’t smoking crack, or shooting heroine.

She was taking pills that had been prescribed, at least in the beginning, by her doctor.  I didn’t understand that those pills could have the same hold on her as any other drug.

I thought she could just stop taking them if she wanted to.  Especially when other treatments she tried for her condition, were working and she no longer needed the pills. I thought she was choosing to be a junkie and I hated her for it.

In the end, I never said good-bye to her.  After the divorce, it never occurred to me that I should.  I always expected we would reconnect.

And when she died, I chose not to attend the Celebration of Life her family held.  In part, because my brother and I weren’t mentioned in her obituary and the rejection stung.

For so many years, more than half or lives, we’d been her kids.  She’d witnessed and participated in our milestones.  She’d helped to provide for us, financially and emotionally.  Now, she was gone and it all felt unfinished and permanently broken.

Life goes on though and over the past year, I’ve tried to make peace with all that happened.  And the thing is, I don’t want the final chapter of her story, of our story, to define the whole thing.

It wouldn’t be fair.  Not to her, or to me.  Instead, I’m going to celebrate and remember the woman she was, before addiction took her away.

Goodbye Cindy.  I hope you have found all the peace.
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Calm TF Down Keira….

“Its all about perfection, isn’t it?” ~Keira Knightley

Earlier this week, while perusing the internet in search of news that didn’t suck, I came across an article about a series of essays written for a book called, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies).

The book is a compilation of pieces written by a variety of women, from teenage activists to actresses; among them, Keira Knightley….I assume best known for her role in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

The essay written by Keira is called “The Weaker Sex.”  In it, Keira writes about her own experience with childbirth and then goes on to crap all over Kate Middleton.

In a book about feminism….

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When describing her own experiences with child birth, Keira writes about her vagina splitting open and her daughter being handed to her covered in blood and vernix and all the screaming, followed by the all the feeding and the shit and the vomit, etc., etc.

Now, I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 22 weeks pregnant.  My water broke at home six weeks before my due date and I arrived at the hospital wearing a Spiderman night time diaper that belonged to my step-daughter (she didn’t do princesses).

Because I was on a blood thinner as a result of clotting in my subclavian vein that had been caused by the ginormous mass that had taken up residence in my chest, I wasn’t able to get an epidural until the medication was no longer in my system; unless I wanted a spinal hematoma and I don’t know, that didn’t sound fun.  Not that my doctors were willing to take the risk anyway.

“No problem!”  Everyone told me.  “This is your first, it always takes awhile with your first.  You’ll have plenty of time for the feel good stuff before you have to start to push.”

Except, my son had other ideas.  He was ready and I had no choice but to push him out au natural.  At one point, I heard a loud popping sound and I asked, “What was that?”  

It was my tailbone….cracking.

So yeah, I get it, having a baby isn’t easy and I thought, Right on, sister.  I hear ya. 

But then, Keira started writing about Kate.  Now, let me first say this.  This isn’t a love letter to the monarchy.  I don’t get the whole British Monarchy thing.  What’s the point of being the Queen of England, if Queen Elizabeth can’t demand, “Off with her head!”  when it comes to Meghan Markle’s half-sister who won’t shut up.

Still, for whatever reason….I’m sure there is one….the monarchy is still a thing and the entire planet is apparently fascinated by the British Royal family.

These people can’t even fart without someone being around to exploit audio of it.  Their facial expressions, clothing choices, romantic relationships, family squabbles, funerals, weddings, child births, manicures, pedicures (or lack there of), are dissected and reported on daily.

So it seemed an odd sort comparison for Keira to make when, after describing her own childbirth, she segued (I had no idea that was how that word is actually spelled) to Kates.

Sure, they are both famous.

But, c’mon.

There is famous and then there is, if you so much as sneeze and a booger flies out, the entire world is going to see it….in high definition and with incredible detail….famous.

About Kate, Keira writes, “We stand and watch the TV screen. She [Kate] was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on. The face the world wants to see.”

Ok, yes, this happened.  Kate gave birth and then she exited the hospital, seven hours later, and she looked great.  But it’s not as though the birth didn’t happen, or that the experience of Kates labor and delivery was not every bit as emotional and raw as it is for any other woman.

And quite frankly, I think Kate got the shit end of the stick in a lot of ways.

Maybe she would have liked to have remained in the hospital for a few days post birth to rest and bond with her newborn.  But for every day she remained, I guarantee the throngs of reporters and “fans” waiting to catch a glimpse of her and the baby, would not have lessened.

Maybe she chose to leave when she did, because in doing so, it would eliminate the crowds gathered around the hospital as quickly as possible; allowing other mothers to  make their way to the hospital, settle in and have their loved ones come to visit without the crowds and the noise and the chaos encircling it.

And if she hadn’t, she would have been ripped to shreds for being selfish and self-centered.  Damned if you, damned it you don’t.

Keira goes on to write, “Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging. Look beautiful. Look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate. Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don’t show. Don’t tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers.”

Um, how should she have exited the hospital?   In a pair of sweat pants, or hospital scrubs with her breasts leaking milk?

Why should she be called upon, postpartum, to expose that part of herself, so intimately private, as a fuck you to the patriarchy?  I’m sorry, but that’s bull shit.

So, Kate put on a nice dress and she looked beautiful and she stood on the steps of that hospital for a moment, approximately one minute and thirty-seconds (I looked it up) and she gave what the world was going to take from her regardless.  But she chose to control the ONE thing she could in that moment; her appearance.  Christ, give the woman a break.

And yes, it’s not a realistic portrayal of what its like for the everywoman, but HELLO! Nothing about her life is what its like for the everywoman.

She is referred to as “Her Royal Highness” without a trace of snark.  She has castles….plural.  She wears tiaras, and not the kind you buy at Party City for a Bachelorette Party.  One day, she’ll be the Queen of England.

The average woman, relates to none of that.  In fact, the average woman doesn’t exactly related to Keira Knightley either.

Want to know how many times I’ve been airbrushed on the cover of a magazine, in a leather blazer and underwear, three months after giving birth?  Zero.  Zero times.  I’ve never even been asked, if you can believe it.

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Cover of Elle Magazine….the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Sorry, sweetie, but you can’t call out one woman for acting out the same play you are, only on a bigger stage, and call it feminism.

 

This Beach Body Runs on Taco’s….

“Here at Globo Gym we’re better than you.  And we know it.”
~
White Goodman, Dodgeball

After my lay-off, my first order of unemployed business, was to cryptically post my change of employment status across my social media accounts.

This, so that all of the people I don’t actually keep in touch with, could shower me with attention in the form of, “What happened!?” and “Are you going to be OK?”….because I didn’t get enough attention as a child, that’s why.

I’ll admit, I was genuinely touched by the number of people who offered to put me in touch with someone they knew who was hiring.

And, I was flattered when I began receiving regular phone calls and messages from hiring managers who said, “I see that you’re now available and I’d love to talk to you about an exciting opportunity at my company.”  As though they had just been waiting for me, which was crap, but still, I ate that shit up.  It’s nice to be wanted.

Of course, I then had to come clean and explain that I wasn’t actually looking for work.  That I had other plans.  To which they responded with, “Ok, deadbeat.”

Actually, no one said that, but it’s what I would have said.

After about a month or so, most of the calls and condolences dried up and I was busy moving on with my life.

Then, I got a message from an old high school acquaintance, via FB Messenger.  It started out with, Hey girly!

Important side-note here.  The only person who should address me with a “Hey girly” is a shirtless Ryan Gosling.  He should be holding a skinny vanilla late and asking if I’d like to watch The Notebook.  End, side-note.

Anyway, here’s the message:

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By “page,” I can only assume she meant my Facebook page.  So, I immediately went there to scrub out whatever might have led her to believe that I would be interested in being an online health and fitness coach.

Here’s the thing, I love to work out.  A few years ago, I joined a women’s only fitness studio after spending years joining traditional gyms where I spent my time trying to look like I knew how to use the equipment, while trying to dodge the hardcore sales tactics of gym employees, while also trying not to lose a finger in all the gym equipment I didn’t know how to use.

I would go faithfully for approximately one month.  Then, I would stop going, but continue to pay for my membership for at least a year before working up the guts to face the fifth layer of hell.  Also known as….trying to cancel your gym membership.

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Then, I got cancer and I had a baby….all at the same time….and I decided that my fitness goals were all wrong.  For years, I had been studying the body parts of other women and wishing I could make them mine.

Come on fitness equipment machine!  Give me JLo’s ass and abs….Jennifer Anniston’s arms….legs like Carrie Underwood! 

And of course, it never worked.

So, after life smacked me in the face, I decided I should be grateful I still had a living body and perhaps I should just learn to work with it.  I found my current gym and I love it.  It’s small, with a variety of classes and a body positive message and I’ve seen great results.

I’ll never have a six-pack, because I refuse to make the dietary sacrifices it would require, but I’m fit and in far better shape at 38, than I ever was in my 20’s.  Of course, in my 20’s, I lived off Ramen Noodles and the occasional, post closing time trip to Taco Bell, so….

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My point….I love to work out, but a scroll through my Facebook page would lead most to believe I hate it….when I even mention it all.  In the beginning, I checked-in for my daily 5:30am workout’s.  I mean, I’m working out at 5:30am!  Praise me!

But for the most part, my posts were snarky and complaint-like, because obviously, I was being forced into working out.  And eventually, it got old, for all involved.  (Read: I no longer needed the praise and validation of Facebook).

So, I couldn’t figure out exactly what she was seeing that would lead her to believe I would make a good fitness coach.  I decided to just ignore the message and hope she’d go away.

Two days later:

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Argh!  So, I responded with what I thought was a polite no.

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The irony of my misspelling “jam-packed” as “ham-packed,” is not lost on me.

And I wasn’t lying about the work thing.  For years, my husband and I had been talking about starting a small business.  When I learned my job was going to be eliminated, it seemed as good a time as any to give it a go.  So yeah, I’m busy.  But apparently, that wasn’t the right answer.

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Seriously?  Is it me, or are there a lot of assumptions being made here?

Like:

1.  We feel exactly the same way.

Nope, Sarah.  I don’t think we do.  I feel like YOU are sort of a self-righteous asshole, if you want to know the truth.


2.  That when I’m sitting on the couch watching my favorite show, I’m wasting my time.

I am fairly certain that the good doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital have earned my undivided attention.  It’s thanks to them that I am so confident at making self-diagnoses.

And, I’ll have you know that sometimes, my computer is present.  How else am I supposed to further research the historical figures portrayed in Victoria, or collect screen grabs from various segments of This Old House?

I’m exercising my mind, Sarah!


3.  That I have debt to pay off and cannot take care of my children.

I was raised to believe two things:  That I wouldn’t amount to anything and that it was rude to discuss politics, religion and money, uninvited.


4.  That I have any desire to understand your business.

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah….I think YOU are selling people a load of crap.

Here, drink this shake!  Work out to the same series of video’s that’ll only cost you $19.99 a month for infinity months.  And be sure you buy the $400 worth of cheap, shitty fitness equipment you could pick up for $20 at Target.  The pounds will melt away and you’ll get a daily inspirational message from me to keep you going!

In a word.  No.

I’m not a healthcare professional and I’m certainly not an authority on diet or exercise.

Earlier this week, I ate a great breakfast consisting of an egg white, on some kind of fancy-pants Whole Foods bread, topped with Avocado and a small dish of strawberries.

Yesterday, I ate an entire bag of dill pickle potato chips and a roll of fruit Mento’s.  What about that says, “This person is totally qualified to give diet advice.”

And sure, I can be all Rah, Rah!  You can do it!

But, I don’t actually know if some stranger I’ve never met, CAN do it.  Maybe there’s a health or mental issue that needs to be addressed, so that I don’t rah, rah some poor woman into cardiac arrest, or a nervous breakdown.

Isn’t that sort of why actual trainers become certified?

I know someone who has PH.D in exercise!  It’s called something else, I just don’t know how to spell it, but she’s legit.  I am not.  I’m in no way qualified to determine whether this crap is the right program for anyone.

And really?  How is it possible that you are properly supervising 515 other so called “Health and Fitness Coaches?”  It sounds to me like you are just sitting on-top of some kind of Ponzi-Scheme.

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5.  That I did not notice that the only thing you talked about was YOURSELF.

I spend a lot of time at the gym.  The various fitness instructors I work out with, all talk about how much they love helping people.  None of them, talk about how much money they are making off of them.

In fact, most come directly from their full time day jobs and they just teach classes on the side.  While we work out, they correct my form, they know what exercises to modify in order to accommodate physical limitations.  They know the names of the muscles I’m working and they know if my aches and pains are just a product of being sore, or a possible sign of injury.

I’m sure the extra money is nice, but I know what an instructor makes per class at my gym and it’s not enough to retire at 40 and then continue to work their day job just for shits and giggles.

So again, thanks but no thanks, Sarah.

And yes, I know exactly where to find you.  On social media:

Posing in a sports bra and yoga pants for before and after photo’s that always look suspiciously staged.

Snapping a selfie with your logo’d plastic bottle full of whatever that shake is.

And in the video’s with the hashtag, what’s your excuse that showcase your workout routine while your kids crawl all over the place in the background.

But trust me, I won’t be looking anytime soon.

The Tooth Fairy….

“It has stars in its eyes and loose teeth in its mouth.”
~A First Grade Class, Author Unknown

Over the weekend, my son, Snugs McNugget (yes, that’s his real name), lost his first tooth.

It had been wiggly for weeks, but Snugs had been hoping it would remain in his mouth until at least next year.

He’s a bit squeamish when it comes to things like blood and squished grapes on the floor of the grocery store, so he’d convinced himself that if he could just get one more year of life under his belt, he’d be ready for the loss of a tooth.

But it was not to be.  The tooth came out while he was brushing his teeth before bed.  Fortunately, there was very little blood and the only thing dramatic about the event was me, crying myself to sleep over it.

This isn’t about my inability to let go of my baby though.  It’s about the tooth fairy, who, if you think about it, is shady AF.

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After Snugs’ tiny tooth had been salvaged from the sink, his thoughts went immediately to the tooth fairy.

“Do we just put the tooth right under my pillow for her?”  Snugs asked, without the slightest bit of trepidation.  “Or, do we have to put it in something?”

“I think we can just set it here, on the nightstand for her.”  I told him.

“But it’s supposed to go under my pillow”  he said, clearly worried that by not following protocol, the tooth fairy might not come.

In that moment, it sort of dawned on me how creepy the whole tooth fairy thing is.

Here was my son, six-years old, afraid of monsters who could be lurking in his closet, but he had no qualms, ZERO, about leaving a tooth under his pillow, for a strange fairy who would be coming into our house in the middle of the night to take it away.

A few months ago, while playing with one of his cousins, I found out that Snugs had watched an episode of Walk the Prank, a show on Disney XD, in which a group of kids pull pranks on random strangers.  The episode he saw included a skit called The Pig Man.

Here’s the quick synopsis:  An unsuspecting babysitter is reading a fictitious bedtime story called, IT Hides Under the Bed, about the legend of the Pig Man, to her young charge.

As she progresses through the book, they begin to hear some scary noises, the radio turns on unexpectedly and eventually, the Pig Man makes his entrance from underneath the bed.

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The babysitter bolts from the room like her ass is on fire, leaving the kid to fend for himself, which is 100% what I would have done too.

For weeks after seeing the show, my son was terrified that the Pig Man was lurking underneath his bed.  We had to check and recheck at bedtime and the slightest nighttime  noise would send him flying from his bed and into ours.

But a fairy, who flits into bedrooms and slides her hand underneath the pillows of sleeping children in order to purchase their teeth?  Well, that’s just fine and dandy.

My son is a really smart kid.  And I’m not just saying that because he’s my kid.  For a six-year-old, he asks incredibly relevant and probing questions about politics, religion, history, books, music and people.  He’s a learner and an observer.

And yet, not once did he ask,“What will the tooth fairy do with my teeth?  Why would anyone want a collection of human baby teeth?”

He also had no interest in knowing what she might look like.  He knows what Santa and the Easter Bunny look like and neither of them are coming into his bedroom in the middle the night.  So I thought, surely he will want to know what a tooth scavenging fairy looks like.

Nope.

I wasn’t really prepared with a description anyway.

But of course, I was a kid once too.  When I learned that my teeth could be exchanged for cash, which back then, jingled instead of folded, I couldn’t yank my teeth out fast enough and I didn’t give a flying molar about any of the details either.

Later, when I discovered mine and my siblings old teeth in one of my mother’s dresser drawers, I was horrified, but I didn’t immediately suspect her as the tooth fairy.  I just wondered what had happened with the rest of the body.

In the end, I convinced Snugs his tooth would be just fine on his nightstand where it could be easily plucked up.  “I think the tooth fairy will appreciate the courtesy,” I told him.

Snugs awoke the next morning, $10 richer (the tooth fairy didn’t have any change) and still not remotely concerned, or curious about the stranger who had left it for him.

Maybe, despite it all, it’s that special brand of believing, reserved only for children, that restricts their minds to the whimsy of it all.  How sweet it is to be little.

Last Night, I Ate an Old Cadbury Cream Egg For Dinner & Nope….I Don’t Feel Guilty….I Don’t Feel Guilty At All

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” ~Julia Child

About a month ago, I got an email from Meetup.com letting me know about a new book club for women that was forming in my area.

If you’ve never heard of it, Meetup.com is a networking site that allows users to create and join interest groups in their local communities.  There are thousands of groups to choose from.  Everything from outdoor sports groups, to book clubs, parenting groups, exercise, volunteering, artists, dating, business related groups and so on.

I created an account about ten years ago when I moved to the Boston area from a small town in the mid-west.  It seemed like a good resource for making a few friends in my new home state.

Only….I’m a complicated person.  I think my personality falls somewhere between hermit-like and introverted.  I am also very socially awkward.  I don’t know if I have some form of social anxiety, or, chronic verbal diarrhea, or what.  All I know is that I’m more of a wall-flower than a social butterfly.

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I’m the kind of friend who will almost always return your call with a text message without having:

1. listened to your voicemail; they give me anxiety and so I delete them immediately

2. sent the text before you’ve even finished leaving your voicemail

I will decline every invitation to a Pampered Chef, or Scentsy party.  Because I will always have plans to do something like, make my own laundry detergent, or de-pill my sweaters while listening to NPR or Relaxation Radio on Pandora. But, I will absolutely buy something if I can do so via a link that doesn’t require any human interaction.

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I will call you 47 times in a row, not because it’s an emergency, or because I’m trying to be a creep.  But because I can’t leave a proper voicemail message and so I will hang-up and try again, many, many, many times….before eventually giving up and sending a text instead.

So yeah, it’s not easy being my friend.  Which is probably why I have so few of them.  But, for all my faults, I’m a ride or die chick.  The women I count among my besties, I love so much, that I would 100% help them hide a body and my only question would be, “How deep do you think we need to dig this grave?”

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Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Way back when I first signed up for Meet-up, I joined a book club for women.  They were a lovely group of ladies, but it just didn’t work out.  It wasn’t them, it was me, so I did what I always do and just stopped attending.

They were concerned for a while.  Was I sick?  Was I dead?  Eventually they realized I was just an asshole and they unfriended me on Facebook and we all went our separate ways.

But, it’s been 10 years now, so when I got the notice of a new book club Meet-up, I thought….maybe I might suddenly be the type of gal who enjoys socializing with a large group of women I don’t know….this, by the way, after declining an invitation to a family members Sprinkle.  Actually, I haven’t officially declined yet.  I’m just going to wait until the last minute and then say I’m sick.

I know, I suck.

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The details for the Meet-up said the inaugural gathering would be held at a local Mexican restaurant.  I’ve eaten there on a number of occasions and they have some seriously good street taco’s….and I’ll pretty much do anything for a street taco.  And I mean, anything.  So, you could probably argue that a taco was the reason I signed up and confirmed my attendance.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I found the groups organizer, introduced myself, made some comment about the weather, because that’s my go to small talk tactic and then I found a seat where I awkwardly smiled and said, to all I met, “Can you believe this weather?” even though there was nothing remarkable about the weather.

When it came time to order, I picked one of the street taco selections, obviously, while the rest of the ladies ordered some kind of salad with a “hold all the good shit and can you put everything but the lettuce on the side?”

When our food arrived, I wasted no time digging in.  As I was hoisting one of the taco’s to my mouth, one of the women said, “I wish I could eat like that.  You’re so brave.”

 

Um….brave?  I’m taking down a taco, not a terrorist.

I took an enormous bite, using the side of my hand to shovel in the parts that were trying to escape and looked up.  My eyes clearly said, “Bitch, please,” as I slowly chewed, before swallowing and then saying, “Street taco.”

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Which, to anyone with an ounce of sense, would have been a reasonable explanation, correct?

But she kept going….“I do, I envy you.  I would feel so guilty.”

Me:  I guess I just prefer to eat my calories, rather than drink them.  (I’d seen how many margaritas she’d taken down and I can be a passive aggressive douche canoe too).

Her eyes said, “Bitch, I will have you black-balled from this book club.” 

But I wasn’t scared.  One of the benefits of having been raised in a largely dysfunctional and abusive household, is that I don’t really have any feelings.

And because I love nothing more than a super awkward silence, I decided not to say anything else and instead, I just sat there and exaggeratedly ate the shit out of every last taco.

No way was I going to be shamed out of the pleasure of perfectly seasoned steak, tucked into a double layer of soft, warm, corn taco shells, because Karen wanted to do that whole “Oh, I ate 150 calories today, I’m going to have to work extra hard at Globo Gym tomorrow morning,” dance that some women seem to enjoy.

Because, I feel guilty about a lot of things….

The time I filled my 6th grade math teacher’s water cup in the toilet.  In my defense, she was really mean to me though and I was basically raised by wolves.

The time in elementary school when a friend dared me to call the number on a poster about a lost dog to tell the family I’d found him.  And when the woman answered and I told her I had her dog at the public pool, she immediately began screaming and crying with joy and then I hung-up.   Side note:  I feel like maybe this was the reason God gave me cancer and I can’t say I blame him.

All the times I said my grandma died, because I wanted to take advantage of my employers bereavement leave policy.

That time in high school when I hit my friend Patrick with my mom’s minivan….and while he clung to the hood, I accelerated and then quickly hit the break, sending him flying through the air and into a concussion.

All the times I use the handicap stall in a public restroom, because I like the extra space.

All those times in my twenties I left a first date, in the middle of the first date, without saying goodbye.

But food?  Eating?  No.

I love food.  All the food.  I’m just as happy tucking into a boiled hot dog at a baseball game….with a soft pretzel covered in so much salt that I instantly swell up and don’t pee for a week….as I am a gourmet meal, at a fancy restaurant, with fancy drinks with my BFF Marie, while we catch up on life.

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I grew-up believing there were only three food groups:  Chef Boyardee, Betty Crocker Meal-in-a-Box and Hamburger Helper, so when I discovered the world was a literal oyster, I made it my mission to enjoy every bite.  For me, food is fun.  It’s a simple pleasure that is meant to be enjoyed.

Never will I ever buy into that line of thinking that a woman should only eat a thimble full of food in public.

If you want to eat lettuce and air, that’s your business, but I’m ordering something I can’t buy in a bag from the grocery store….and my own desert (I don’t like to share)….also, I’ll totally take your leftovers if you don’t want them.

Needless to say, I’m dropping out of book club.  I don’t think I can mesh with the type of women who lure you into a club with the prospect of street taco’s, only to make you wonder why they didn’t just hold the meeting around the salad bar at Whole Foods.

Oh well, there’s always next decade.

Adventures in Room Parenting….

“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I’ve been physically abused in the ear!” ~Billy Madison

Last school year, I volunteered to be a room parent in my son’s classroom.  For anyone who knows me, this is a rather large departure from type.

I’m the kind of mom who will donate money and supplies and muffins from a fancy bakery and tell everyone I made them, but I’m not the room-mom type; the type who can fundraise like nobody’s business and who can devise an art museum quality craft using nothing but a pipe cleaner, multi-colored pom-pom’s and a used tissue.

But, I had decided that I wanted to start coming from a place of saying YES to things I would have normally said, “No f’ing way.”  Just like Shonda Rimes.

Actually, no.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Sometimes my mouth just writes checks my ass can’t cash.  I have no idea why.

All I know, is that I found myself writing my name on the sign-up sheet outside the classroom on Back to School night, while the other, apparently wiser, moms pretended they didn’t see it.

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For the most part, I enjoyed my role as a room parent.  The job gave me the inside scoop about events and activities occurring both in the classroom and at the school in general.

I got some extra face time with my son’s teachers, who I came to truly adore and admire and we’ve developed a nice friendship.

I also made a mom friend in my co-room-parent, Martha Stewart, who is definitely a room-mom type.  If it weren’t for Martha, I might have, most definitely would have, lost my shit after the first classroom holiday party.

I also liked getting to know the kids.  They were a lot of fun….when they weren’t picking their noses and then asking to holding my hand….or, telling me all about how they had pooped “something green and frowed-up” that very morning, right before sneezing in my face.

What I did not enjoy, were most of their parents, who whined and complained and made shit hard….

All

Year

Long

Like:

  1.  The parent who said, “Can you send out a detailed accounting of what you spent our $1.00 donation on.  You know, just want to make sure you didn’t use it pay your mortgage.  LOL”

I’m not sure if the LOL was meant to make this person sound more or less like an asshole, but either way….

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It’s not that I had a problem sharing information about what was purchased with donated money.  In fact, Martha and I sent out an update after every event that generally went something like: “Thank you parents for your donations!  The money was used to make this thing out of popsicle sticks and bandaids and look how much fun the kids had!  See the attached 427 pictures we took!”

But a detailed Excel spreadsheet?  After we’d spent literally hours organizing and preparing and then helping to facilitate these activities?

Which by the way, almost always cost substantially more than the total requested?

No.  Not going to happen.

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Also, if I was devising a plan to embezzle money from other parents, I’d be asking for a lot more than $1 per kid.

With 22 kids in the class and a co-conspirator to pay off, $11 isn’t even enough to buy breakfast at Starbucks.

If I’m going to become embroiled in scandal, it’s going to be for something huge.  Like, perhaps, smacking a certain parent with a sack full of $22 in quarters.


2.  The “shouldn’t my tax dollars be paying for this?” parents. 

Honestly, these people irritate the hell out of me.  They are always the folks who take to the community Facebook page to post things like, “There is a dusting of snow on the road and I haven’t seen a plow truck yet this morning.  Aren’t our tax dollars paying for this?”

“It’s January 2nd and the Christmas lights and wreaths are still up in town square, don’t our tax dollars pay for someone to remove them?”  (True story….someone actually posted this last winter.)  #FirstWorldProblemsMuch

SHUT UP!

If you believe that our tax dollars aren’t being managed appropriately, go to a town budget meeting, or a school board budget meeting.  Or, better yet, run for a town political position.  DO SOMETHING, other than bitch about it.

Because, I don’t want to hear it.

I’m just a volunteer trying to gather enough beaded necklaces and plastic maracas from the dollar store to stuff into a taco shaped piñata I spent thirty dollars on….out of my own pocket….because apparently no one thought to add a line item for a Cinco de Mayo party to the school budget.

I guess they were just too focused on funding those three brand new schools with state of the art technology centers and athletic facilities….along with the gazillion enrichment programs our kids have access to, like foreign language classes beginning in Kindergarten and fully funded field trips.

We’re soooo unfortunate.

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3.  The, “I’d love to help out, but I have a job” parents.

Really?  Is this still a thing?  This whole, parent vs. parent battle where we attempt to one-up and out-martyr each other in the ultimate contest of who is the better parent?

I have been a full time, big corporate job having mom, a stay-at-home mom and a combination of the two.  And you know what?  It’s all hard AF.  For different reasons and similar reasons that are big and little and complicated and full of conflicted and messy feelings.

But, thank you.  Thank you for the unnecessary reminder that you are employed.

You are better than me.  You’re more important than me.  You win.

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4.  The “We’re saving for our next trip to Disney and trying to curb unnecessary spending” parents.

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So….was I to assume that these children would not be participating in the Valentine’s Day party?

Or….that I was expected to pay their share?

I’ll let you guess.


5.  The “Oops, I know it’s the morning of and I signed up to send in (insert everything from all the paper products and cutlery, to half the supplies needed for a project) but I forgot” parents.

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Want to know how easy it is to find Halloween decorations and jingle bells and yarn and sand castle picture frame kits at 6:00am?

Zero easy.


So, when I ran into the PTO Room Parent Coordinator at Target the other day, because of course I did, and she asked, “So, are you ready to be a first grade room parent?”

I didn’t hesitate a bit when I said, “Fuck no.”   (Ok, I didn’t actually say fuck, but it was implied).

Her:  Surely you can’t be serious?

Me:  I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.  (This didn’t happen either, I just wish it had)  #Airplane

But I did say no.

It’s a hard pass for me Karen, but let me know if you need any muffins, or money.

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Lay’d Off….

“I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.” ~White Snake

In November 2017, I was Lay’d off from my corporate job.  It was a moment I had been eagerly waiting for.  I know how that sounds, but allow me to explain.

Simply put, I was over it.

Over the grind, over the politics, over the mission statements and the core values and the pressure to “lean-in” and “have it all” and “explode through the glass ceiling” and blah, blah, blah.

I’d become disgruntled, dissatisfied, dis-enchanted, disengaged, dismayed….dis-everything.  And life is too short to be dis-everything.

It hadn’t always been that way though.  When I started my career, I had big goals for myself in corporate America and I sacrificed much of my twenties toward achieving them.

I regularly worked 80 hours a week and for the first five years of my career, I didn’t take a single vacation day, or sick day; time I wasn’t paid out for.  In other words, over a five year period, I worked an extra 15 weeks….for free.

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Of course, nobody made me do it, but I reasoned that corner offices and fancy titles don’t come cheap….and if I didn’t have both by the time I was in my thirties, well, life probably wasn’t worth living.

I had balls to bust and power suits to purchase and if it meant I had no social life, hobbies, or the time to eat more than twenty cups of coffee in the course of a day, so be it.  I’d have a life when I retired….assuming I didn’t stroke out first.

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But the universe had other plans for me and it would take a sucker punch to the gut before I realized it.

The lead up included meeting my husband, Clark Griswold, moving to a new state and taking a new job with Dunder Mifflin’s biggest competitor.

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Then Clark and I got married and I became a step-mom.

Right before our wedding, I took another new role at a Fortune 500 business captained by a female CEO ranked among the world’s most powerful women.

After a difficult upbringing, during which I’d been voted most likely to end up on an episode of Cops, I’d gotten a college degree (the first in my family), I was happily married with plans to add to our family and I was building a successful career.  What more could I want?

Then, in November, 2011, when I was twenty-two weeks pregnant with my son, I was diagnosed with stage 2, primary mediastinal large b-cell lymphoma.  A rare and sneaky form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Cancer.

Everything changed.

But it didn’t change all at once.  Instead, it was like a slow burn of all the things I’d thought were important to me.

Then, I picked up the pieces of what was left and started to put my life back together.

I realized that when it came to my career, I had been sprinting toward something I had wanted….because I thought it was what I was supposed to want.

So instead, I leaned into my health, my marriage, my faith, my family, my friends and motherhood.  I found that when I was doing all of the things that were supposed to leave me feeling trapped, unappreciated and uninspired, I didn’t.

I started saying no when I was supposed to be saying yes.  I made time for books and nature and exercise and other abandoned hobbies.  I was still.

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I stepped off the corporate ladder and watched my peers pass me by.  I knew it meant my career was dying, but I also knew that I would never come to regret it.

Because when I was diagnosed, and the possibility that my child and I would not survive the disease was discussed, I didn’t cry for the career goals I might never achieve.  I cried for the extended hours I spent in the office when I could have been at home having dinner with my family, or enjoying an uninterrupted vacation.

I cried for the books I hadn’t had a chance to read, hikes I never got a chance to take, places I never got a chance to see.

I cried for the baby I might never get a chance to meet and the little boy and the man he might never get a chance to become.

And I cried for all of the little things I had taken for granted; the millions of simple moments I’d let slip by, always believing there would be more.  That someday I would stop and smell the roses.  Someday, someday, someday….

It was in the midst of that grief, which was so raw and so painful I thought I might actually break into pieces, that I felt my son move for the first time.  It was a tiny flutter of life followed by a feeling of peace and calm that abruptly stopped my sobs.

I knew we would be OK.  And I knew that I would never be the same.

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Shortly after I completed my cancer treatment, I read an article about a book the New York Times had published called, “Picture Your Life After Cancer.”  

The book was a compilation of photos and stories submitted by cancer survivors in response to the question, “How is your life different after cancer?”  

A number of inspirational quotes and insights were used in the article, but one in particular resonated most with me:

“Scars may heal, blood counts may normalize, years may pass. But never again will the simple act of waking up to a normal, boring day as a healthy individual be taken for granted, nor go unappreciated.” – Allison A., Cairo, Egypt

So, very, true.

I don’t love every moment, but I try, every day, to say a prayer of gratitude for all of it.

I am keenly aware, always, of how fortunate I was to survive cancer and to come out the other side with a beautiful and healthy little boy.

I don’t have it all figured out though.  When the cloud lifted and there was nothing more to do than carry on, I knew only that I wanted my survival to matter.  That I wanted to do my best to live a life that felt good.  A life that, when it inevitably ends, I can look back on and say, “I made the most of this one wild and precious life.”  (nod to Mary Oliver)