Archive | December 2012

2012: The Year To Forgive

I’m better at reflecting backward than projecting forward. And while I have intentions for the new year (buy enough tampons each month, learn to cook tofu, wear a real bra once a month), I’d rather reflect on what happened this year.

Turns out, 2012 was the year for forgiveness even though that wasn’t my stated intention a year ago. But I started a new running route along Milwaukee Avenue and started noticing the graffiti. I kept seeing the word “forgive” scribbled in unexpected places. I’ve found it scribbled over 3 dozen different surfaces around Chicago.

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New gang symbol?  Maybe. But every time I found it, I took a picture and then took the seven letters as a personal challenge.

What could I forgive?

Here’s some of the forgivenesses I worked on through the year:

I forgive myself for snapping at the kids and for the bigger stuff too– not being grateful for them exactly as they are and not loving them as unconditionally as they deserve.

I forgive my kids for having little wills of their own and shattering my fantasies that I could dress them how I wanted for as long as I wanted.

I forgive my therapist for his extensive vacations and for having a life and other patients besides me; I forgive him for letting me grow up and away from him.

I forgive the world for scaring the hell out of me; for making it hard to trust and let go.  Ditto for Nature, who can be a really scary prick sometimes.

I forgive my breasts for being almost 40 years old and refusing to defy gravity.

I forgive my stomach for pooching out and being soft and flabby.

I forgive myself for being the kind of person who has to forgive her own damn body parts.

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I forgive myself for coming so late to blogging/writing, especially now that everything I’d ever want to say has been said.

And those people who haven’t liked my Facebook page– I forgive them too.

I forgive my friends for starting their own blogs which forced me to look inside my tiny petty heart and ask tough questions about my character, not like the answers I found therein, and then work to become a better person.  I forgive the people I love for having talent that surpasses mine and passion I cannot match.  I forgive my friends who got “there” before me and I forgive those that make me lead the way.

I forgive everyone who has thinner legs than I do, and everyone who can eat whatever she wants and still be a size 4, and people who just don’t care about the things that make up my personal demons.

I forgive the schools that declined to admit my children, and those that declined to admit me decades ago.

I forgive my parents the outrageous sin of being human. I forgive them for not being more uniquely screwed up (because that would make my future memoir infinitely easier to write).

I forgive my husband for being better than I at so many things except for gift giving, and I forgive him for being only average at that.

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I forgive myself for being shallow and materialistic and unable to sustain a meditation practice or a budget.

I forgive whoever in my family tree is responsible for alcoholism and all its ravages. I forgive the deprivation, the repression, and the poverty (physical, emotional and spiritual).

I forgive the tiny slights I still carry with me.

I forgive the assholes who cut me off when I cross the street and whoever taught my kid about shooting.

I forgive the NRA and politicians and the right-wing and haters on all sides.

I forgive Eva Mendes for dating Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone for dating Andrew Garfield.

I forgive Trader Joe’s for not making tomato basil soup in the summer, and I forgive the frozen yogurt store by my house for closing this winter.

I forgive Patraeus, and Armstrong, and Woods, and Herman Cain.

Sometimes I can forgive myself the unspeakable– for  my dark thoughts and my survivor’s guilt and my self-absorption and my lusty greed for accomplishment.  Sometimes I can forgive others for that too.

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I run, I read the 7 letters, and I forgive. And as I do, I grow lighter and freer for a while. Just as I start to harden again, I see another scribble and forgive all over again.  I am grateful for the gritty urban reminders to open my heart, to let go, and to let new life in.  I’m grateful to forgive.

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Why The Stomach Flu Beats The Hell Outta Disney

If you find yourself in SoCal (that’s Southern California to you in the heartland), you will have a dizzying array of choices about how to spend your free time. And if you’re with your family– say, small children under 5– I’m about to save you thousands of dollars with this travel tip.

Get a pen and write this down.

First, cross Disney off your family bucket list. Too expensive, too commercial, too crowded. Plus, do you want your kids coming home with more over-priced crap after you just did a toy purge? NOYOUDONOT!

Next, cross “introduce kids to the ocean” off your bucket list. Listen, they’re going to find the oceans or other bodies of water soon enough. Why do you have to put yourself at the center of all their experiences?  Let ‘em find the ocean on a globe at home. Stick it in the sandbox if you are a stickler for authenticity. Skip this because there’s all that dangerous sunshine dying to incancerate (made it up– write that down too) your lovies. Plus, what’s not on your bucket list, but will be part of this life experience, is schlepping towels, water, snacks, change of clothes, a stroller, sun hats, sunscreen, baby dolls, and Spiderman shovels down to the sand, which you will unpack and your kids will play with for 7.5 minutes until they decide that the texture of sand is entirely unsuitable for their delicate Midwestern feet.

Do yourself a favor: skip it.

See those 2 blank spots on your bucket list?  Write: Stomach Flu, the SoCal edition.

Hear me out.

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Numero Uno: You will save hundreds of dollars because there are no food costs. All you have to do is stock up on Gatorade and Ginger Ale. No annoying expenditures on dinner, snacks, food you have to chew.

Also?  No annoying arguing among family members about where to go or how to spend time. All you need is an equitable schedule for everyone to use the bathroom to take care of their business and Boom! You’ve got peace and harmony.

And think of how much you pay for a hotel room that typically you spend no time in. What a colossal waste!  But there is no waste if you are all laid up puking in it for a few days. Get your money’s worth!  Also, they have those convenient housekeeping services to hose your room down daily. If you think about it, a hotel is the best place ever for your family to get a stomach bug.

When everyone’s sick and blowing chunks on everyone else, that results in true bonding. Disney can’t give you that– all they can sell you is cheap imitations of intimacy.  Real intimacy is when your son spews his dinner from 22 hours before all over your favorite Citizens of Humanity jeans and then he has the nerve to go in for a kiss right after that.  Does Disney offer opportunities to set boundaries like “I won’t kiss you when your vomit is hanging out of your nose?”

Finally, once you recuperate and can get back on your feet, you can shop for jeans in a size smaller because you lost all that water (and fat and muscle).

This is such a killer idea, I’m sending it to Suze Orman so she can include it in her next Oprah Magazine column. But I wanted to share with my loyal readers first because I’m a giver.

So kick that Princess-teacup-castle cess pool to the curb– and avail yourself of the charms of the stomach flu while on vacation in sunny California!

No Longer Invincible (As if I ever was)

I am laying on a hotel bed in the dark as my stomach pulses threatening to heave again.  I close my eyes and breathe slowly, hoping the retching is over.

Jeff has just left with the kids to see his mother, and while my body desperately needs sleep and down time, I am suddenly too anxious to sleep.  I am worried about being separated from my family right now– we are so far from home, and everything about LA seems strange: the sunshine is unrelenting and the ubiquitous palm trees look so alien to me.  I love seeing the mountains when we walk out of our hotel room, but now that I am left behind, I worry about Jeff swerving off the road or someone hitting the car filled with my precious people.

I should have gone with them.

My world

My world

I wonder if this is PTSD– this fear, morbid and dark, that stalks me when I leave my city limits.  I make a note to ask my therapist and hope that when I do, he gives me an answer: Yes or No.  I once went on a vacation with five people and only four came home, so I am wary, I am shaking, and I want my three to all come back tonight so we can do our modified hotel bedtime routine.

I am pissed that I am no longer invincible. And I will never ever feel that way again.  Terror has made that impossible, which may be a good thing overall, since I was never really invincible anyway.  Those three people out on the road in our rented Hyundai have made me more vulnerable than ever.  Invincibility is laughable.  I worry now about everything: Sadie when she walks a curb like a tightrope, arms outstretched and body wobbling; Simon when he tries to keep up with his big sister who can and will somersault off any surface she can reach.  When I slide into a seat on the train back home, I wonder if the “disaffected youth” I am sitting next to has something to kill me with under his baggy hoodie.

Is it normal to be this scared?

In the dark tonight, I remember what it felt like to do stupid, life-threatening things because I was young and unattached. I thought I was invincible.  I flash to the night of a Jimmy Buffet concert at Starplex amphitheatre in Dallas–I should not have been driving on I-75 that night because I had been drinking.  I thought it was fine– and maybe it was.  It worked out OK, other than taking other people’s lives in my hands at age 19, and the small matter of how awful Jimmy Buffet is.  So stupid.

I know that worrying won’t keep anyone safe, but still it feels like a talisman I have to grasp with both hands until my three walk back through the door with breathless tales of all their fun adventures at Grandma’s house.  In the dark I think that becoming a mother was both the bravest and scariest thing I have ever done, even though I had no idea until it was too late.

So, I pray the prayer that I saw in an Anne Lamott book years ago: Please let my children outlive me.  Please.

Why I Bought Myself A Gift And Opened It In Front Of My Children

It would have been so easy to skip myself. Seriously. The last thing I wanted to do on the sixth night of Hanukkah was wrap another gift. Enough already.

I had my kids’ gifts ready to go that night– Hello Kitty for her and Spiderman for him. (Remember when we weren’t going to buy licensed crap for our kids?  That was before we had them. The kids, not the licensed flatware.)

Jeff was out of town, and he’s the Jewish parent but he left a phonetic version of the prayer right by the Menorah so I did my best.

“Baruch attah adonai. . . “

On the first night, we didn’t do gifts. I wanted to focus on being together, lighting the candles, and learning the prayer. It was beautiful but then several Jewish people I talked to said, “No presents?” and I felt shame.  So, I vowed the remaining nights would include presents.

On the third night, before he left on a business trip, Jeff opened a new fleece and the kids reveled in trinkets from the special section in Target where everything’s a dollar.

“Mama, where’s your present?” Sadie asked.

I didn’t know what to say. Nothing sounded right.  Not “Mommy doesn’t need a present” or “Focus on yourself and don’t worry about me” or “I buy my own presents that come in the mail from Zappos and Amazon.”

And those statements are true-ish. Believe me, this mama isn’t afraid to treat herself. And Jeff and I hadn’t yet taken the time to discuss how we would do presents for our hybrid Hanukkah-Christmas celebrations, so the gifts he’d planned for me were still in the works.

But my kids noticed that everyone had received a present. Except me.

And I started to believe that it was important for my kids to see me open a present. I didn’t want either of them– a future wife and a future husband– to see me only giving. I didn’t want them to see me not getting the opportunity to sit down, unwrap something that makes me happy, and to feel glee and gratitude. Just like they were each night.

But it was more than that.  I don’t want to burden them or Jeff with the spectre of the martyr-mom who gives gives gives but sighs resentfully at the table wishing someone– anyone– would read her damn mind . . . . and then buy her a nice leather wallet in a bright color so it’s easy to find at the bottom of her purse.

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And there’s more.  I don’t want to be a person who can’t teach her children how to take in gifts, and I definitely do not want to subliminally teach my kids that deprivation is a virtue.  Or that the best moms are martyrs who just go without. Don’t worry about me, kids, I’ll be fine.

What I want is to join them at the table, at the feast before my eyes, and take a portion for myself.

Because there’s nothing wrong with taking a turn.

But really.  It would have been so easy to skip myself and open the wallet privately.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

Looking For Snapfish? Check Under The Bus

Ah, the together time at the holidays…when everyone is together all day long, trying to figure out what the hell to do until the next meal.  It’s so fun.  It doesn’t make me anxious at all; in fact, I am sad it doesn’t come around more often.

Ahem.

And this holiday season, I am more addled that normal.  I keep losing things and forgetting to do things, and I tell people the same stories over and over.  The great part about me, though, is that all these mental lapses make me embarrassed so I lash out in anger and defensiveness.  It’s part of my charm.

To add to the spirit of this bittersweet 2012 year end, I have taken to throwing decent American companies under the bus.

Like Snapfish (the on-line photo company that makes holiday cards).

MISSING: Over two dozen Christmas cards

MISSING: Over two dozen Christmas cards

We made our holiday card, and I was doing a good job keeping track of the ones I had sent (Jeff’s mom: check, my sister: check), but then at some point last week, I lost a stack of them.  Roughly half.  We still had some important people to send to: Jeff’s business partner, my therapist.  I maybe sort of remembered sticking them somewhere but could not for the life of me remember where. I looked in all my bags, all my junk stashes, and the top of  my dresser, which belongs on the set of Sanford & Son.

So, I told Jeff the truth.

Me: Jeff, I think Snapfish made a mistake. They were supposed to send 75 cards, but they only sent 50.  They are a good company, but they goofed.

Jeff: Really? I will check the order and give them a call.

One hour later, Jeff returns saying he talked to all different levels of people at Snapfish– they were all very nice, he reported– they agreed to send replacements, but they won’t arrive until the end of the month.  Apparently, they are “busy”.  Jeff was optimistic: “They will send replacements by December 31.”

Satisfied that justice was served, I went on about my business, which was looking for my hidden chocolate stash extra-strength pain reliever to take for my headache that comes every time to have too much intimacy with my family.

Oops.

Guess what I found on medicine shelf?

25 blank Christmas cards ready for sending out.  Who puts blank Christmas cards next to Benedryl and Tylenol?

My bad.  Sorry, Snapfish.

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This post was not sponsored by Snapfish or any of its competitors.  At the rate I am going, I will end up getting paid to SHUT UP about companies.

This entry was posted on December 24, 2012. 17 Comments

How (Not) To Talk To Your Kid About Wetting Her Pants

It was bound to happen sooner or later, right? My kid was going to need that change of clothes stuffed in her school cubby because of a failure to reach the potty in time.

When I saw Sadie standing with her teacher at the end of the day, I instantly noticed that she was wearing her brown leggings instead of the red ones I dropped her off in.  I noticed because I am an excellent mother. (And the brown pants clashed so badly with her outfit that my eyes started to water.)

Since she was carrying a plastic bag in her hand, I just knew she was carrying her red leggings, now a soiled symbol of her shame.

Imma fix this.

“Sadie, did you change your clothes at school?”  (I start out neutrally and give her room to control the narrative.)

“Yes.”

“What happened?” (Stick with the open-ended questions.  Three-year olds love those and really take the opportunity to open the dialogue.)

“I had an accident.”

BOOM! I’m in.

“Sweetie, were you upset?  You know, it’s perfectly ok to have an accident now and then. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Were you engrossed in your projects?” (Now, I have laid the foundation for a shame-free discussion of why her pants are wadded up in an old Target bag.)

“I just had an accident during snack time.” (The information– it just flows out of her.)

“Oh! Of course! Snack time is at the end of the day, so you must have been busy enjoying all the socializing and pre-literacy activities, right?”

“I was eating Graham crackers,” she said.

Pee your pants?  Tell me about it.

Pee your pants? Join the club (of 1).

Maybe it’s time for a story, so she knows I can identify with exactly what she’s feeling.

“Sadie, I love Graham crackers; they are super delicious! They make me incontinent too. Once, when I was working late at my firm– you know Mommy used to be a lawyer right? I didn’t always just do this, but don’t get me wrong, I love this; THIS IS THE GREATEST– anyway, I was doing a document review, and I was starving because I missed the dinner order from P.F. Chang’s because I was down in the partner’s office.  It was 2:00 AM, and I had a package of Graham Crackers on my top shelf, but when I went to reach for it, the chair wobbled and I fell.  Right then the first-year associate was walking by and he saw me and started laughing hysterically — that’s a fancy word for “acting like a douche bag”– and despite myself and even though I hated his Ivy League guts– I started laughing too. Well, I laughed so hard, I peed in my pants. Just a little.  Not like a lot of pee, but you know, a dribble.  And this was before I had kids and knew anything about kegels, which I still don’t do, so I still dribble all the dang time, so see?  See, Sweetie, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

God, I should write a parenting book. I can feel the shame being sucked out of us both and evaporating into the air.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Sadie?”

“Can I have more applesauce?”

“Sweetie, I only brought one, so you have to wait until we get home? And, um, how are you feeling about your accident?”

“Fine. I just spilled water on my red pants when I reached for a napkin. My teacher helped me change.”

Right.  I knew that.

Maybe I’ll book that book idea on hold.

Cookies, Cajuns and Cause for Celebration

There’s a lot going on today, which is fantastic because I have no childcare and my little one won’t nap.  Also, there’s a hole in the pocket of my winter coat, so I keep “losing” my phone and my keys because they fall through the hole and get stuck in the lining.  But, ask me if I care? I don’t, because I have cause for celebration.

Cause for Celebration: Ya’ll, I am so excited I am about to ink a deal with a design firm to redo our house.

OHMYGOD, I am totally kidding. I don’t even know why I made that joke, except that it would seriously be the end of the world if there was a design company that wanted to partner with me.  My idea of design is to buy curtains at IKEA, leave them in the car for four months and every so often gripe at my husband for not hanging the curtain. I call it “Designing For Spouses.”

Seriously, though, I know I wrote this post mentioning (to the ENTIRE FREAKING WORLD) that my internist found a lump in my breast.  Yesterday, I had an extensive visit with the breast clinic here in Chicago and am pleased to report a completely clean bill of health.  Actually, they couldn’t find the lump at all, which is a good thing. I am very grateful.

Cajuns: I have Cajun forebears and one of them passed on a recipe that is the greatest cookie recipe ever because (1) it’s only three ingredients and (2) it tastes like heaven on a plate (or straight out of the pan if I was honest).

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For the cookie recipe from my Grandmother Lucille, please see this guest post over at Whisks and Words, the faboosh site run by Dana Staves, who can cook up a storm and write like an angel. Incidentally, Dana was the very first person to ever ask me advice about blogging.  In spite of her questionable judgment on who to ask for advice, her site is flourishing.  She’s got big changes coming in her life, so I can’t wait to see it chronicled in her blog.

This is the only recipe I know so this will be the last time we do this.  Enjoy!