Archive | September 2013

September Bitch Slapped Me From Day One

Acclaimed poet TJ Maxx T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” in 1922.  With all due respect to Mr. Eliot, I think it’s time to update that classic; therefore, I humbly submit this sequel:

September can kiss my biscuit-white ass.

Oh, yes, September bitched slapped me from day one when I found myself having a delightful picnic dinner of humus sandwiches with grilled vegetables in the antiseptic confines of the EMERGENCY ROOM.  There’s nothing like hitting up the children’s hospital on Labor Day weekend to really rouse the soul.  Gratefully, the injury was never life threatening– Simon earned himself five stitches after his little hobbit feet slipped on our living room floor.

And I’m not naturally a hater (I’m more of a self-pity-er), so I assumed the month would turn around.  Like every other family with children, we suited up for our first days of school and gamely signed up for volunteer activities, while juggling back-to-school nights and looking up EMDR therapy to treat the PTSD from the carpool line experience.

Each banal challenge showed up like a barrel and I jumped like Donkey Kong.  Mid-September, I learned that my beloved office was going the way of many a budget cut, and I tried not to cry so loud that I disturbed others. (I was not successful.)  I endeavored to forgive my aging therapist for leaving town for the month of September, which I shall refer to hereafter as “the month that hates my guts” (“TMTHMG”).

Still, I took steps to keep my mind aloft, far from the maddening flood waters that threatened to carry away my peace of mind.  I started watching Joel Osteen at the gym instead of gluing my eyes to the CNN crawl because one more piece of news about gunmen in malls or bombs in railway stations might have pushed me over a cliff.  Now I have  uneasy nightmarish dreams about Mr. Osteen’s hair coming to tell me how sinful I am for having negative thoughts.

Other existential battles I waged in my head and heart and are the subject of my forthcoming memoir (due in 2018) so I won’t detail them herein.

And to give TMTHMG  his due, I will acknowledge sublime runs on the lake in the brilliant autumn sunshine, bonding family time as we learn our new neighborhood, and faithful friends who’ve helped me peel my ass off the floor countless times in the past 30 days.  Like all difficult times, it wasn’t hard every.single.minute., but the minutes that were felt like they were going to take me under and poison me with stress and anxiety and discomfort.

I will not miss you, TMTHMG– I will wish you well, because that’s what Joel Osteen would do.  Please take your crises and woes and stress with you.  And yes, please let the door hit you on the ass as you leave, because you sort of deserve it.

Unsung Heroes of The American Workplace: Coworkers Who Share Snacks

What makes a decent work environment great?  The first answers that come to my mind include good money, perks (like airline tickets or post-it notes), flexible hours, and an easy commute.

And of course the people.  Today we’re talking about co-workers, those facets of working life that make the worst of jobs bearable and the best of jobs even better.  I love a coworker who doesn’t flip out when I show up at the door crying tears of frustration, sorrow or hunger.  (Special shout out to my coworkers who fed me and gave me lots of tissues in August 2005.)

I love a coworker who has gum, a therapist, and a steamy personal life.  An extra sweater and saline solution? Coworker nirvana.

A work BFF doesn’t know all of your friends so she can be objective when you need to vent about one of them who has started acting like a Kardashian, only brattier.  It’s not a betrayal to tell your work BFF all about the dramz in your circle of friends because she’s removed from the fray.  It’s not gossip; it’s therapeutic.

And I adore that magic moment when you realize that your work BFF is someone you actually might hang out with outside of work.  When you and your co-worker take your relationship to the next level and decide to double date or do something on a Saturday night that doesn’t involve work– that’s when you know you’re dealing with that rare gem of a co-worker who’s going to be in your life even after she gets transferred to the home office or quits to write screenplays.

And there’s a special place in Heaven for those coworkers who have had to travel with me.  Good lord, taking the show on the road while wearing panty hose in an airport– those aren’t coworkers, they’re angels.

Your coworker is the only person who knows exactly what it’s like to work for your boss, just like your siblings are the only people who know what it’s like to be the child of your parents.  That’s a serious bond, people.  It’s not to be taken lightly.

In celebration of my favorite past coworkers, here are the top 5 acts of kindness that my coworkers have bestowed on me that I will never forget:

  1. Lent me breast pump tubes (holla!)
  2. Given me a sweater off her back when I could no longer deal with the sub-zero temperatures in my office
  3. Shared Cheetos and Ginger Ale when I was pregnant and working until 11:00 PM one night
  4. Accompanied me to Fogo de Chao with the douchiest interns so I wouldn’t have to talk to them by myself
  5. Married me
"Um, have you seen the McManus file?  Should we try to settle the case?"

“Um, have you seen the McManus file? Should we try to settle the case?”

So, what has your coworker done for you lately? Brag it up!

The “F” Word Can Suck It

Remember when your kids first started to acquire words, and it was all so terribly fascinating that you wrote them down, one by one, in their baby books?

Then there were words that your kids acquired that make you shudder in that micro-second before they actually said them, but when you knew they were going to. My least favorite is the “F” word.  Not THE “F” word– I’d give my left nostril to hear one of my kids pop off an “oh fuck” instead of having to listen to how something isn’t FAIR.

Image credit: forbes.com

Image credit: forbes.com

It’s the new hot word in my house.  That’s not fair is like a song lyric that my kids can’t get out of their heads. (Digression: Simon has taken to singing, at the top of his filled-to-capacity lungs, “My name is Elder Price / And I would like to share with you the most amazing book.”  About 1/3 of this city now thinks I took my 2-year old to see a profane musical about the Mormon faith, when all I did was show him the Tony-award spoof on that song.  Please consider: his favorite place to sing is at his Jewish day school. Someone please slip a chocolate-covered roofie in my drink before I die of shame.)

Just this evening Sadie sulked like a teenager asked to come home from prom at 8:30 PM.  “It’s not fair, Mommy, I never get to stick a hair pin in the electric socket.”  No, honey, you don’t.  Naturally, her little brother mimics everything she does.  So, he stomped his little foot and told me it wasn’t fair that I wouldn’t let him juggle with the carving knives.

Their lives are replete with unfairness.

And on these weeks when Jeff is traveling, and I have had two solo days back to back, I draw on every nano-second of meditation I’ve ever done to prevent my baser self from going off on them.  You know, from matching their “F” word with my own “F” word– as in “shut the fuck up, you first-world ingrates.”  Sometimes I want go all NPR on them and remind them that they can talk to me about unfairness when they end up in a hostage situation at a mall in Kenya.  Or when they get conscripted into a guerrilla army.  Or when the wake up one day and find that they no longer live within walking distance of a Target where they can purchase any bit of bullshit they want, including string cheese or a comforter.

Until then, they have been advised to reframe their arguments such that they strenuously avoid the use of the term “fair” as it relates to their perception of their current circumstances.  Because I will be that mom that makes them do community service at a local orphanage or forces them to hang out with helicopter parents at the park so they will truly know how good they have it.

For more on fairness, check out my concerns about whether it’s fair that my son gets to nurse for 33 months (and counting), while my daughter only got 10 months of the nip.  Click here for my latest post on Mom.Me.

Stinky Kids: Bad Hygeine or Neglect?

neglected

I’m tempted to write a dozen disclaimers about how I do not condone jumping to conclusions about other parents or assuming the worst about them.  I won’t offer the disclaimers because (1) they’re boring, (2) you wouldn’t believe them anyway and (3) I’m more focused on the instances where it may be in a kid’s best interest for nonparents to be judgmental. Or discerning.  Or suspicious.  Or concerned. Or nosy.

I’m talking about those instances where you observe something in children that you know reasonably well– something that seems off.  At first you can’t decide if you are just being Judge McJudgerson or if it is something that should be explained away with “well, some families do things differently than ours.”

For example, how do you know if a family simply has different hygiene standards or if the kids are being neglected?

This inquiry was sparked by my observations of some neighborhood kids that were part of a playgroup with my kids.  To this day, I don’t know if my concerns about their situation (showing up borderline filthy and reeking of human body odor) was an offensive and arrogant insistence that other people bathe their children as often as I do, (which, in all honesty, probably isn’t nearly often enough) or if it was compassionate engagement.  (For more on this, please check out my recent post on Mom.Me.)

I have no idea.

I suspect it’s not the last time I face this quandary.  What do you do when a family’s decisions are so different from your own, but you’re not sure if a child’s safety and welfare are at stake?  Maybe it’s all a matter of taste? But then again, what if it’s not?

Looking For A Gift For My Dad That Says I’m Happy To Be Present

present1

 

My dad’s 70th birthday is next month.  He’s a decade younger than Willie Nelson, a decade older than my therapist, two decades older than Julianne Moore, and three decades older than I am.

70 sounds like a big number– not quite scary for a daughter, but almost.

We’re planning a big celebration down in Texas– me and my siblings and all of our families will meet our parents at a rustic resort outside of Austin, which is something we’ve done exactly zero times.  We haven’t been big on “everyone visit at once” in my family, unless it’s for a wedding.  Even for funerals and baptisms, there was usually someone missing.  More times than I liked to count, the missing member was me.

But in this new era of Christie Shows Up, I come to family events, quietly trying to make up for all the time I lost because I was busy being lost and that particular kind of 20- and 30-something selfish. I pretend like I can get those years back by being a good and present daughter (to them and for myself) now. I don’t believe, but I still hope it’s true.

I fantasize about getting the perfect present for my dad.  If I could just have a few hours to think about it or search for it on a folksy, Texas-based website I could find the thing I can picture in my heart, the gift that says: I’m going to keep this light, but just know that this is full of meaning and gravitas I can only hint at, and PS: I’m half sick for all the time that was squandered.

What is the thing that says that to your dad?

At night I think poke around on the Internet searching for that something.  Then I think about this little store over in Pilsen where they might have something meaningful, but I don’t know how to get there between the play date with Lily, the writing conference, the haircuts, and swimming lessons.

Can it really be true I don’t have time to do this?

No. It’s not true.

The truth is that the thing I am looking for doesn’t exist.  Unless you think a time machine exists with the ability to give me back the years between 1991 when I gave him a bottle of Canoe cologne for his birthday from Eckerd’s Drug Store and 2008(ish), when I learned to show up as an adult child.

The thing I am looking for is not a thing. It’s a feeling. Or a representation of a feeling.  It’s a mashed up ball of nostalgia, regret, love, gratitude, grace and sorrow that sits on my heart like a tumor, fucking up my circadian rhythm.  And they don’t sell that at thrift stores, even in the edgier sections of town.

But if they did, I’d buy two.  One for me and one for my dad.  And on the card, I’d write the only words I know that match gift: “Thank you for the gifts you gave me. I’m so grateful I recognized them as soon as I did.  I wish it were easier to say all the things I want to say.  I’ll keep trying.”

Someone’s Gonna Have to Share A Desk With Me– Let’s Pity Her Together

I just Googled “what to get a coworker who just found out she has to share a desk with me” because thanks to some of the policies enacted in my workplace, there’s some poor woman walking around tonight, cursing her Lord and Savior because she just got that spectacularly awful piece of news.  It probably went something like this: “We love you and value you, so we hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but you’re going to have to start sharing a desk with Outlaw Mama.”

Google was no help, by the way.  I don’t think a bouquet of flower-shaped fruit on sticks is going to make this woman feel better about drawing the shortest stick ever drawn in the American workplace.  The stick a worker draws that results in them sharing a desk with me is nothing more than a splinter. Or a chip.  Or a wooden grain of rice that says, in teeny print, “You’re screwed.”

I wasn’t there, but I can only imagine that when she got the news she smiled like the professional she is and acted all team-player-y.  But she had to be DYING inside.  Right? Like a million stubbed toes after dancing on pointe for the entire filming of Black Swan.  Because the thing is, my work process takes space– lots of it, and I’m less-than-tidy.  Also? I need a minimum of three drawers for my snacks.  And I’m going to need all the space under the desk for my seventeen pair of shoes.

Here's my present for the first day. What do you think?

Here’s my present for the first day. What do you think?

How am I supposed to tell her I’m sorry?

Here’s why her life is hell:  I’m seriously messy– like crumbs and dollops of lotion and gum wrappers messy.  I eat two meals a day at my desk on my work days, so there’s a lot more than dust between the keys on my keyboard.  I think there are approximately 40 Weight Watchers points between the first two rows  of keys alone.  Also, I cry a lot, so she won’t have tissues when she needs them, and I think she may be a sniffler.  And when I am working on a project, I spread out like I am setting up camp, except instead of useful things like tents and stoves, I surround my work area with print-outs of inspirational sayings from Deepak, Maya Angelou, and Pee Wee Herman.  My process is messy, takes up space, and smells funny.

Thus, in an effort to get on her good side before we “consolidate our work spaces,” I’ve made her a goody/survival/apology bag.  I’m hoping it will soften the blow ever so slightly.  If nothing else, maybe she’ll hide it in her our desk, and I can use the stuff in it.

Here’s what she’s getting:

  1. Costco-sized hand sanitizer
  2. A surgical mask
  3. Extra Zoloft that I never took (expiration date: 10/15)
  4. Whoopie cushion (she can use it on me!)
  5. Air freshener to hang from the computer monitor
  6. Febreeze For Office Chairs (does this exist? it should)
  7. A meditation book called, “How To Breathe Through Difficult Situations Like Sharing Your Desk With A Co-Workers Who Snacks All Day”
  8. A copy of Escape From Camp 14 about a prison camp in North Korea with a pink post-it note that says, “See? Could be worse.”
  9. Miniature safe to store stuff she doesn’t want me to touch or eat or steal
  10. Gloves so she won’t have to touch the surfaces I soil

What am I forgetting?

I’m Not Saying I’m A Better Mom Than You

What’s the hardest job in the world?

Don’t get all righteous and start talking about Chilean miners or child prostitutes in third-world countries.  It’s Friday, let’s keep it simple, ‘Kay?

keep-calm-because-you-re-the-best-mom-ever

The correct answer is being a mother.  And if you don’t think it’s a job, then you should read some self-esteem books and recognize that what you are doing is a job.  That’s why nannies and day care centers make oodles of money.

Today’s work piece is by a mother who knows a thing or two about, well, everything.  She asked to remain anonymous, which adds just the right level of intrigue and mystery that this blog was missing.  So, thank you, Anonymous Mom, for the hilarious post, the reminder to take myself a little bit less seriously, and for setting the bar on motherhood just a little higher. Yeah, thanks for that.

I’m Not Saying I’m a Better Mom Than You

by Anonymous Mom

I’m not saying I’m a better mom that you, but I am doing a pretty good job. Everyone says my children are exceptional, but it’s really not that hard for a committed parent.

For starters, no, I don’t use Facebook.  I don’t ever post about my children online, not ever. If people really cared about their children they would give them the precious gift of an entirely offline existence.  We will let our daughter create her own online identity when she understands the importance of effectively managing it, which, at her current rate of intellectual and emotional maturation, we expect to be age 4.5 to 4.7.

Your approach to healthy food is interesting.  Those fruit pouches you buy are even organic, which is a start.  But you probably don’t know that the organic standards still allow for use of lots of dangerous pesticides.  Of course, we avoid that problem by growing and making all our own food.  I even make my own cereal. Speaking of which, I’m surprised you give your children  Cheerios in a Ziploc.  We only use glass.

Your little one is not a great sleeper?  Ours were sleeping through the night at one month.  I know you’re exhausted, but I’m shocked that you are trying the cry-it-out method.  Studies show that even one night causes a lifetime of stress and PTSD equivalent to that found in survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I’m not saying I’m a better mom than you, but I would never inflict that on my children.

So, you drive and followed the recommendations to keep your children in rear-facing car seats until they were two? That’s something, but would you believe that car accidents are the leading cause of death and injury in children?  It’s not that I love my children more than you, although I probably do, but we don’t allow our children to travel by car.  Sure, it’s not that convenient to walk them everywhere, but I just don’t understand how any mother who loves her children can take that risk.   I know you like walking and it’s great that you walk so much and really like your stroller.  But for us, a stroller wasn’t an option. We just carry the children in our arms.  It’s more natural and creates a bond between parent and child that’s really hard to explain to stroller users.  Oh, but you use an ergo sometimes?  Those are so commercial – I made my own organic cotton baby carrier from fabric I wove myself.

Don’t worry about making your child share your plastic toys with us.  We don’t allow our children to come into contact with plastic, so my kids won’t even ask for a turn.  If you did any research at all, you’d see how toxic those chemicals are.   Let me know if you want me to share the name of the toy company we buy from.  The toys are all made from wood grown in a sustainable forest in Washington.  They don’t even have to kill the trees, they just carve out what they need and the tree continues to flourish.
You buy clothes branded with Dora and Diego?  I’ve never heard of it, but, obviously, we don’t have a television.  It’s great that you read to your kids.  We read books all the time too.  She reads to me though – the child of any competent parent should be reading by age three.

What enrichment activities are you enrolled in?  Gymboree?  I hear other people like that, but, personally, I wouldn’t take my kids to a big corporate chain that cares only about profit and not about children.   We do Mandarin and Arabic, and of course, she’s already fluent in Spanish.  We also do art, science, baseball, basketball, calculus camp, chess club, drama kids, dramatic interpretive dance and ballet, swimming and water polo.  It’s a busy schedule, but it’s nothing any parent who actually cares about their children’s emotional, artistic and intellectual development wouldn’t do.

You breastfed?  Oh, just for a year?   I suppose that’s a start, but it was best for us to keep going to make sure we really developed that little brain.  Plus, I just love pumping, so I pump for my whole family’s dairy needs.  You should try my Roquefort.  I guess the only drawback is I just can’t keep any weight on.  But hey, I should consider myself lucky we live in the Kate Moss era instead of the Renaissance era.

And I guess we’re doing something right. We just had our annual check-up.  Once again, our pediatrician says she’s the most advanced child he has ever seen.  And I can’t take all the credit, I attribute her intelligence to my macrobiotic pregnancy diet.  Oh, but you shouldn’t worry about your child, all kids develop at a different pace.

By the way, is your doctor worried about the shape and size of his head?