Archive | July 2012

Blue Baby’s Side of the Story

Pre Bar-B-Que

Pre Bar-B-Que

I won’t lie, I thought it was the end.  One second I was enjoying the sunrise and the country air and the next second, BAM! I was thrown in a burning can, left to stare at the sooty walls that rose four feet above me.

My first thought was, “What kind of Grandma puts a baby doll in a burning can?”

My second thought was, “I hope it’s not the same kind of Grandma that strikes a match before Christie wakes up and finds me.”

Her Grandma never liked me, and the feeling was entirely mutual.  I never speak ill of the dearly departed, but let me just say she had some issues.  I suppose living through the Depression was unpleasant, but that’s no excuse for trying to bar-b-que an innocent doll.  Yes, I was an eye sore, but the dust bowl wasn’t my fault.  I am a freaking doll.

So can we all agree that putting your granddaughter’s beloved baby doll in a barrel to burn is not normal.

Once I landed in the can, I had no real options except to wait for rescue.  I listened to the bees hovering over the honeysuckle behind me.  Occasionally, a gentle breeze would blow ashes in my face.  “Christie better hurry up and find me, because it smells like someone made bacon and burnt biscuits for breakfast, and those scraps are headed straight for this can on top of me,” I thought.  I had already lost most of my hair– how much more could I endure?

Sure enough, I soon heard Christie’s terrified panting and then saw her fat little fingers grab the top rim of the barrel. Her head bobbed up and down, as she tried jumping up to see if I was in there.  She was not very agile, so this level of aerobic exertion was unnatural for her.  Had I not been in such a dire predicament, I would have worried more about her delicate constitution.

Her brother must have whispered to her that Grandma “may have” put me in the burning can.  He actually might have been the one who helped her drag a stool across the yard so she could reach me.

I had never been so glad to see her.  So what if she fed me cat food at her tea parties and smeared Mary Kay lipstick all over me?  When my choice was burning to death or being over-loved by a three-year-old, I voted for Kitty Kibbles.

As Southern gothic as the whole episode was, I knew Christie would survive this—and much worse.  It was only a matter of time before she would take Mrs. Balden’s English class and read the first line of Anna Karenina (“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”).  She was a smart cookie, and she would learn that this pain merely made her human, along with everyone else in her story.  Except me of course.

I’m just the doll.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

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My Two Issues With Yoga

There are two main reasons why I am not suited for yoga: (1) my right side and (2) my left side. Nevertheless, today I opted for a gentle yoga class to see if it might help my mind, if not my body.  Since the average age of the yogis in attendance was 77, it was guaranteed to be gentle.

Then, we did a few “routine” spinal twists.  Are you familiar with these?  I have done about 20 yoga classes over the past 10 years, and I have heard that spinal twists can be “intense” because it is a way for the body to “detox”.  Usually, when the teacher says this over the Enya-like music, I picture Lindsay Lohan at The Promises Rehab.

But today, when I twisted on the right side, I felt a wave of grief.

First breath.  Tears threatened.

Second breath.  More tears.

Third breath.

I couldn’t get the image of my first C-section out of my head.  There wasn’t anything particularly traumatic about it, but I still carry immense sadness about how I felt about my body after my births.  “My body doesn’t work. My body is broken. This is ultimate failure.” That was what I screamed at myself after Sadie was born.  When my VBAC failed with Simon and I had my second C-section, the sadness was less voracious, but it was there.  I hated that I had a body that didn’t work.

Maybe these thoughts are why I can’t sustain a yoga practice.  Too many demons living in my tight muscles.  One spinal twist and they start to tumble out.

When it was time to twist on the left side, I was ready for more garish memories about the bright lights of the operating rooms where my kids were whisked away by officious prenatal doctors.

First breath.  Tears again.  “Hey, at least I am sad on both sides!”

Second breath.  More tears just like the other side.

Third breath.  A new image– I kept seeing this (now vintage) picture of me:Girl running alone

I broke my previous personal record that morning.  However, the reason I was running so fast was because I was fresh off a Lifetime TV Movie break up with R., with whom I had signed up to run the race.  After he dumped me in Chicago’s busiest plaza in the  middle of a work day (“Sorry about all that mascara running down my face, boss!”), I was determined to still run the race.  It was particularly fantastic to see him at the starting line with some cute, highly-toned strawberry blonde woman who wore Asics.

So I took off running and cranked my iPod, praying to finish so I could go home and sit on my tear-soaked couch and cry some more.  But I lost steam around  mile 12 and then my iPod froze on the worst song ever for the situation (Dolly Parton’s Jolene).

R. and his lady friend ran by me– so close I could hear their conversation.

Let’s just say this is not the stuff of happy memories.

But at the end of the yoga class, in my angle of repose, I thought about these memories and how my body carried me through both times–physically and emotionally.  I have been mad at my body because it couldn’t labor and dilate like it was supposed to and that it couldn’t run a half marathon as fast as a Kenyan (or at least fast enough to miss R’s riveting conversation with “the woman after me.”)

I may be ready to let that go.

And I may be ready for a real yoga commitment.

If You Are Thinking Any of These 5 Things During Magic Mike, You Should Look For Your Libido

I saw the male stripper flick, Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum (himself a former “male dancer”) and Matthew McConaughey (a Texas boy I think we can all agree has missed some teachable moments along the way– like the moment where someone was trying to teach him to put a shirt on and put his doobie down).

Anyway, notwithstanding my own deep-seated sexual repression (remember, I am more aroused by Coscto than the soft porn in Fifty Shades), I was sure I could enjoy it for what it was: a movie with some six packs and gyrations and probably a great soundtrack. (When the invitation for the movie came, I decided to put aside any socio-political objections I harbor about objectifying men, so this is not where this post is going, because OH MY GOD HOW BORING WOULD THAT BE?)

But, after about 25 minutes, I proved that I was missing the point of Magic Mike and that I was helpless to bring my focus to the raw sexual appeal of mostly-naked men.  So, this movie accomplished what a combined total of 28 months of breast-feeding, 3 years and 1 week of wiping the snotty noses of the children who bear my genes, and spending more money on baby carriers than food could never do.

Yes, it took this movie to show me that I have crossed so far into the deep thicket of motherhood that I have lost all previous trails– like the one that would allow me to enjoy Channing Tatum’s abs and, well, everything north or south thereof.

What was it that convinced me that my libido had atrophied in favor of my overdeveloped mother muscles?  Good question.

Here are the 5 things I thought about during Magic Mike that convinced me I am  more mom than woman:

1.  Hand sanitizer: I swear to Christmas, I caught myself looking for hand sanitizer on the screen.  “Why doesn’t the strip club have a dispenser right off stage left where the dancers have ingress and egress to the stage?”  (Seriously? This is what I am looking for during this movie?  And, who uses the word “egress”?)

Where was the hand sanitizer?

Where is there greater need for hand sanitizer than a strip club?

2. Pulled muscles: Of course I was worried about the men pulling their muscles as they shimmied around the stage. I gasped audibly when the “Fireman” pulled his back lifting the heavy-set woman over his head.  I couldn’t stop wondering if there was adequate first-aid backstage.  It didn’t seem like the type of club that would keep a well-stocked supply of ibuprofen or ace bandages.

3. Apartment safety: I almost had to breathe into a paper bag during every scene in Brook’s apartment.  First of all, she lived alone (until her brother came to live on her couch) on the first floor.  As my mom says, “that’s the floor where you can get murdered.”  The setting was a somewhat seedy neighborhood in Tampa, so WHY WAS SHE LIVING ON THE MURDER FLOOR?  Also, when Magic Mike knocks on her door at 11PM, she looked through a peephole in an unchained door. That chain should have been locked!  Also, her blinds were open.   So, let’s review: Single woman living along in seedy neighborhood who fails to fasten the safety chain on her door and leaves her blinds open?  WHAT ARE YOU DOING, STEVEN SODERBERGH? TRYING TO KILL ME?

4. Water Safety:  Did you notice during the scene where Channing and the Kid jump into the water from the bridge that they did NOT check the depth before diving?  I wondered if I had walked into a horror movie. Did they not know that moms would see this movie and care about (1) the safety of the actors and (2) cinematic depictions proper water safety?

5. Stripper health: At one point, the elder statesman of the strip club, “Tarzan,” collapsed back stage.  During the following scene, I could see the outline of his fallen body, off to the right.  I couldn’t concentrate on Channing counting his money or Matthew being all slick and tan, because TARZAN HAD A SEIZURE.  Was I not supposed to care about that?  Is that just what happens when you are a 40-something stripper? Collapsing is just part of the job?

Finally, I kept wondering where the Lance Armstrong cameo was. I have never, ever picked up an US Magazine and seen McConaughey without a shirtless Lance on a dirt bike.  He could have played the biker stripper!

Thanks For the Nightmares

All I wanted was a work-out, or what passes these days for a work out in my world: walking on the treadmill ever so slowly so as not to further injure my hurt glute. Honestly, it’s about one cardiovascular level above those elderly people who do aerobics in their chairs on PBS at 5:00 AM.

And, as if it’s not degrading enough be the only person NOT sweating at the gym, I also was subjected to the broken TV that was mounted above my treadmill.  I couldn’t turn it off; I couldn’t change the channel.  And there was only one open treadmill.

I have gotten in trouble before checking out the TV at the gym, so I should have been on my guard.

I am not much of a TV watcher, which I tell you because I want you to feel shame about your TV habits, and I want to be clear that yes, I am better than you are, because I do industrious things with my God-given life force while you are lounging stupidly in front of your TV.  (Also, my TV is broken, and I am too lazy to fix it.)

So, you can imagine my horror when I looked up from staring at my feet during my “walk” and saw this image:

Puppeteer caught with child pornography

Puppeteer caught with child pornography

For the love of the mysterious Higgs Boson, do I need to see that?  I am now haunted by this image.  It was on the screen for almost a mile, and I was doing a 29-minute mile!

You know what, Feds, I am grateful you caught the Pedophile Puppeteer and that you are focusing your efforts on sick people who prey on children. But, CNN, I am having a hard time not attributing to you a craven motive– it sure looks like you are trying to capitalize on the Penn State furor by showing garish images, which have only a tangential relationship to the story of a successful sting operation.  And dear Gym, get your TV’s fixed– I would almost prefer FOX News to that scary puppeteer image.

Zumba is looking more appealing everyday– at least there are no TVs in the studio.

Screw Literacy

Wanna know something that sounds fun and wholesome and like a great memory-maker for you and your children? Me too. Because I thought that something could be a trip to the library in our good old American wagon last night, but it wasn’t.  It sucked.

Perhaps my motivation was suspect.  Yes, I was hoping to show off when Jeff called from out of town– “Hey, Jeff, we’re doing awesome even though it’s 110 degrees outside.  I am not taking the children to some big box store where they can suck stale air and watch disgusting Americans consume crap they don’t need. Nope.  We’re going to the library. How intrinsically imaginative am I?”

Oh. So. Imaginative.

In my defense, it was very hot, and I really couldn’t take one more trip through the soul-numbing aisles of Target.  It was fun the first three days of the week when we did that, but I needed something more literary and cheaper, because three trips to Target is almost a mortgage payment.

Our .7 mile journey to the library started out serenely enough.  Everyone had water.  Everyone had his own snack pack.  In a burst of Mommy magnanimity, I said “yes” to 7 different items that Sadie asked to bring with her, which effectively resulted in her packing in each of her new birthday presents.  Which explains (1) why the wagon was almost too heavy to pull, and (2) there was barely any room for Simon.

One block from home: Sadie dropped her Dora The Explorer yellow brush in an intersection, but didn’t tell me until we had crossed.  At that exact moment, a rogue cab driver hurtled through the intersection running over her brush.  Ya’ll, that brush is about 4 inches by 2 inches, not exactly an easy target, but there are now tire marks all over it.  (If you actually wanted to hail a cab in my ‘hood, good luck.  Apparently, the only way to make them appear is to drop your child’s treasure in the street.  PRESTO! CABBO!)  Once the inevitable meltdown subsided, Sadie promptly put the brush in her mouth, but I didn’t even try to stop her because at least she shut up for three seconds.

Three blocks from home: Sadie and Simon were bawling because there wasn’t enough room in the wagon.  And that’s how, on a 107-degree day I ended up walking down the street with a stuffed terrier under my arm.  Guess what?  Carrying a dog covered in synthetic fur isn’t a way to cool down on a hot day.

First five minutes in the library: Sadie climbed on the radiator, which lured Greta, the security guard, over to caution me that I have to watch my children more closely.  “Thanks, Greta.”

The next 2 minutes: I picked out a book called, “The Children’s Book of Virtues,” by William Bennett, and started reading to them. To wit:

Hey, kids, look at this cool book about going to bed like civilized little people.

Hey, kids, look at this cool book about going to bed like civilized little people.

During that time: Simon pooped, which I assumed was his way of saying, “suck it, Mom.” (Simon had a point; the book is rather douche-y.)  Guess who decided that bringing a bunch of stuffed animals and doll hair products was more important than a diaper bag? Yep. Me.  Freaking genius move.  Do you know how crap that sits in Simon’s diaper smells after a wagon ride in triple-digit heat? Can you picture it in your mind’s nose? Well, it was about 100 times worse.

Two minutes later: Simon ripped a page out of a book.  I got whiplash looking for Greta to see if she was going to arrest us.

Four minutes later: Sadie and Simon both decided they want to color, so I asked Greta if there were any crayons for the children. She grunted me towards the “reference” desk.  Crayons were procured and the children commenced to color.

1 minute later: I took my first deep breath since this sh*tshow started.

1 minute later: Sadie and Simon were positively engrossed in coloring their dehydrated hearts out.  Sadie looked up at me and said, “Mom, I am busy doing my work. Don’t bother me.”  Hmmm.  “Don’t worry, Kiddo. I am just going to sit here and daydream about how I used to have more than 6 minutes to myself every day.”

DURING THAT THOUGHT: Greta interrupted to tell me we have to leave because the library closed in 5 minutes.

The rest, dear readers, is a blur of confusion, agony, pathos and heat stroke.

But, man, I have learned my lesson. Screw literacy and libraries.

Next time: Target.

I’m Posting Another Email (and Hoping Trojan Doesn’t Sue Me)

If you can stand it, here’s one more post about the upcoming blogger conference (BlogHer) that is taking place in NYC next weekend.  I am a little anxious about the whole thing, because it’s insanely overwhelming.  To deal with my anxiety, I have gotten busy.  For example, I have packed, even though I am not leaving for 8 more days.  When I am anxious, I tend to get industrious (and hostile– just ask my children or that guy who sneaked 23 items into the express lane at Target).

I am skittish for the same reasons that other bloggers have mentioned in their posts.  Namely, there will be 4,500 other bloggers (mostly women) running around this conference, and some of them I desperately want to meet because they have inspired me and become friends.  Some of them, I would prefer to admire from afar because they intimidate me to the point of pit stains, and others I hope to meet from behind a security detail, because, frankly, they scare me.

Also, no one is going to recognize me because my avatar (on-line image) is from when I was 33 months old.  I’ve put a lot of mileage on my face since.  And I have grown about 4.5 feet.  Here’s what I look like now, in case you want to find me next weekend:

I am on the left.

I am on the left.

Moreover, there is a big dance party called “Sparklecorn” for which I have purchased a tiara and some extra Ben-Gay for my sure-to-be-aching muscles after I show those ladies how a 39-year-old spark plug like myself does “the worm.”  (Also, there are also rumors of private parties, to which my exclusive invite seems to have gotten lost in the channels of the World Wide Web.)

There are mythical tales of amazing swag at this conference.  Every seasoned BlogHer attendee has implored us newbies to bring an extra suitcase for the free stuff.  Having run my fair share of 5K races, I am no stranger to the goodie bag, but I have never gotten one that has anything valuable in it.  Sure, it’s fun to have an extra 2 oz Clif Bar or some cool bumper stickers, but really? An extra suitcase? Surely these ladies are exaggerating.

Nevertheless, I admit that I have packed an extra duffel bag, just in case the freebies include Philosophy bath gel, Kate Spade spectator shoes, or Twizzlers.

But.

But, then I got this email from Ms. Monica Levy, who seems to have an intimate relationship with Trojan condoms. (Grandma, close your eyes.)  And she seems awfully excited about giving away “the biggest vibrator ever.”

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Levy, Monica <Monica.REDACT@REDACT.com>
Date: Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 2:12 PM
Subject: BOOTH MERCURY I: Trojan is Bringing the Buzz to BlogHer 2012
To: “Christie.o.tate@gmail.com” <Christie.o.tate@gmail.com>

Hello Christie,

Saw that you’ll be attending this year’s BlogHer, and we’re excited to share that we’ll be attending for the first time and hope to have the opportunity to connect with you at our booth. We’re facilitating the biggest vibrator giveaway ever, and we hope you’ll stop by to chat with us and claim your free vibe…and perhaps a couple for your readers!

We’ll have some great stats on hand from our Trojan Charged Sex Life Survey that speak to sex/pleasure behaviors and beliefs in America, as well as some fun trivia and conversation starters for you and your readers.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you there!

Best,

Monica

Monica Levy

Consumer Marketing

250 Hudson St. | New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.642.7720

| www.edelman.com

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Upon receiving this email. I immediately forwarded it to Jeff, who responded with, “What the hell kind of conference is this?”

I think that was a justified response.

But, now I don’t know about the duffel bag I packed.  Is it going to be big enough? Because if they are giving free stuff, who am I not to take it?

Right?

Everyone’s A Critic

You know how some people say they want criticism because it will make them better writers or artists or people? I think I have said it about writing.  I also think I don’t mean it, even though I suspect I need it.

One of my favorite things that Ann Patchett said in her how-to-write novella The Getaway Car is that one of her teachers told her early on that she was talented but shallow.  It seemed to make quite an impression on her, and she took that criticism and let it inform her writing.  The result?  She’s a stunning novelist, and she ain’t shallow.

I face, then, a dilemma.  I hate to be criticized because it feels like it will KILL me (thanks, alcoholism, for that fun legacy), which is ironic, because I tend to assume all the time that I am being criticized.  Or I am about to be criticized.  Or I should be criticized.   And if the good people in my life are too slow or unobservant to criticize me, then believe me, I will do it myself.  Why outsource when I am such a good self-critic?

The problem is that self-criticism is like masturbating alone in hopes of making a baby.  It doesn’t produce a baby and it usually inhibits me from sharing with Jeff, which is the only way to make a baby. (I just realized that this sounds like I masturbate a lot to avoid Jeff and making babies.  I don’t.  I mean, it’s none of your business if I do, and it’s not that kind of blog, so forget I mentioned masturbation all.  I refuse to strike this paragraph, though, because the analogy is perfect.) (Hi, Grandma, this is just an analogy.)

Ask Jeff how fun it is to offer me any feedback at all, about absolutely anything.  He will roll his eyes and tell you how futile it is because I can’t hear human language without thinking it’s somehow criticism of me.  Now that I think about it, Jeff doesn’t have to talk at all.  If he empties the dishwasher, he’s trying to let me know he thinks I am lazy for not doing it.  If he takes the kids to the park while I sleep in, of course he’s communicating that he thinks I am a horrible mother.  If he doesn’t agree with me, then naturally he’s really trying to say that he thinks I am stupid and regrets procreating with me.  Right?

Can’t you hear the criticism here:

Me: Did you know Barney Frank’s husband is 30 years his junior?

Jeff: No.

Me: Why do you hate me?

Jeff: Wait. I thought we were talking about Senator Frank’s new husband?

Me: Fine.  If you want to change the subject.  Why can’t you admit you hate me and everything I stand for?  Is it my father issues?  You hate me because I have father issues like Senator Frank’s husband?

Jeff: Um.

* * *

And that’s the magic of my brain.  I need feedback, but when I get it, I have a huge Girl Interrupted drama about it and cycle through about 10 waves of shame that are best handled by professional 911 operators. I know I can’t have a career in writing if I can’t take criticism.  It also might be nice for my marriage to be able to have a conversation without flipping the fuck out just because Jeff asks me what the plan for the day is.

Do you take criticism well? Do you hear it everywhere even if no one is criticizing you? What’s the most helpful criticism you ever received?