Archive | May 2012

Navel-gazing: What Rilke Can Teach A Blogger

What’s the WORST thing to read about in a blog?

I think the worst (and I am not even counting those bullsh*t posts hawking the latest and greatest in detergent), is a toss up between the following two:

1. The fake humility post: These posts come from the successful bloggeratti member who is posting from her free, fabulous vacation in [Somewhere Amazing I Have Never Been] wherein she says, “Oh, I can’t believe I am here with Dooce and Scary Mommy…. Pinch me please.”  Those are hard to stomach because I am feeble-hearted and very jealous.

2. Navel-gazing: These are the posts that I can’t stop reading no matter how sore my shoulders get from cringing.  They are generally penned by “Mom bloggers.”  These posts are all about the BIG QUESTIONS in life and how to answer them while wiping kids’ asses.  Something about them makes me recoil– it hits too close to home, those questions make me twitchy and it’s all a wee bit self-indulgent (not that I am above that).

Well, folks, I am about to go in one of these two directions.  Since I am sitting in my own damn bed right now with this computer in my lap, and I haven’t earned a penny from blogging, you are stuck with a post by Outlaw Mama inspired by her own navel-gazing.  (If I do this in the third person is it less odious?)

Here’s how it went:

Right before taking a nap, I was reading Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world” article.  I asked myself if it was a list I would aspire to join. Do I want to reign among such luminaries as Louis CK or Christine Lagarde?

My answer: No.

And while my “no” is not a full-body “no never ever,” I can readily admit that having scores people under my influence may not necessarily benefit humanity. Or me.  More importantly, I think that being that influential wouldn’t make me happy.  I can’t even see how would it change my life if legions of people were influenced by my ideas, except that it would make more work for me.  For starters, I would have to go out and get a bunch of ideas.  Too exhausting.

Moreover, I actually sort of mistrust my goals. Some of them have turned out rather hollow and were expensive.  Like that law school education, which didn’t come cheaply.  When I started law school, I wanted to be the best.  Then, I made all the requisite sacrifices and graduated at the top of my class and became a lawyer — just like everyone else in my class who also had more balanced lives while I was busy trying to get to THE. TOP.

After school it seemed logical to go to a great firm, so I did.  It was great, but I have never known loneliness like that in my life.  I don’t know why, but something about Big Law made me feel stalked by loneliness.  There I was at an apex, and I had never been more lonely.

Why should I trust my goals?

Sometimes, I pay a lot of money to navel-gaze in the presence of my therapist.  About six weeks ago I told him, without looking him in the eye, that I wanted to be a writer.  First, he said, “you already are.”  I didn’t like that answer because it sounded glib.  I wanted something deeper, something to justify the $185.00 I was spending on an individual session. So, he told me read Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet. 

Required reading from my therapist

Required reading from my therapist

So, I did. Now I read it every night. The first letter, dated February 17, 1903, has become a prayer.  It wholly removes me from the victim role as a writer.  I have choices: I can sit around and bemoan the fact that being a writer is so hard or I can show up at the blank screen to let out what is inside of me and then let go. When I read Rilke’s words, I feel joy and I give myself permission to just do my thing– write my blog posts, work on my novel, and follow my circuitous and blissful path.

I don’t want to hog all the Rilke.  Here’s a nibble for you:

“I would give you no advice but this: go into your life and to explore the depths whence your life wells forth; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create.  Accept it as it sounds . . . Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist.  Then take your fate upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking for that reward which might come from without.” — R. M. Rilke


Hey, Matthew Weiner, You Ruined Goodnight Moon

You know how you can’t give your baby the same name as someone you hate, or someone ugly, or someone you (or your significant other) slept with or someone with bad hair or flinty boogers hanging out of her nose?  Totally ruins the name right?  That’s why Sadie isn’t named after me, because I have a dry nose issue and you know how I feel about my hair.  Associations run deep, strike meaningful chords, and can ruin something beautiful (like the name “Noah,” which was vetoed for one of the above reasons before we settled on Simon).

Well, I would like to thank Mad Men for putting the final nail in the coffin for a little timeless “treasure” known as Goodnight Moon, or as we call it at my house, “That Peculiar Book About Nothing That Simon Is Obsessed With.”

Simon's Primary Lovie: Goodnight Moon

Simon’s Primary Lovey: Goodnight Moon

I have been suffering through daily readings of GM, and Simon never tires of pointing out the balloon or making a quizzical expression on that page where you say goodnight to “nobody.” It’s not so much that I dislike the book, but something about the randomness of the “narrative” gives me the creeps.

But Sunday night, as I watched the breath-taking episode of Mad Men (that I am still thinking and talking and blogging about), I sat upright on the couch (note: it takes a great deal to get me to sit up once I am prostrate on the couch) during the scene where arch-scoundrel Peter Campbell read GM to his daughter.  Matthew Weiner, the genius  behind Mad Men, has now ruined the book forever.

Man, I hate Peter Campbell– his moral turpitude (hey, all my lawyer readers, remember that word from law school?), his arrogance, his too-short pants, and his shiny forehead.  If you don’t watch this show, let me sum up Campbell by explaining that he cheats on his wife repeatedly with co-workers, prostitutes and the wife of his commuter-train buddy.  He’s arrogant, thoroughly avaricious, spineless, and mal-contented.  In short, Campbell is J.R. Ewing without the twang and the fraternal baggage.  Thank God Weiner didn’t depict Campbell reading a book that I truly love, because Campbell’s dirty paws on a book will ruin it.  I am so glad that Curious George and Babar and Suzy The Squirrel remain untarnished.

But as soon as Simon’s ardor for GM diminishes, that book is going the way of The Hunger Games, (which, incidentally, is a book that someone like Campbell would read to his little daughter).

Why Can’t My Kids Have Good Taste In Music?

I am seriously about one Jason Mraz song away from a huge Boo-Hoo-Hoo.  Nothing is wrong– in fact, I almost have no complaints, but I like to cry.  I am a person who needs a good cry every quarter (at least) just to keep my pipes clean and my soul refreshed.  I need my quarterly cry (“MQC”) to feel lighter and more alive and more connected to myself. If the snot doesn’t fling out of my nose, it doesn’t count as one of MQC.  But I can’t eek the tears out without a little musical lubrication.  I don’t need the full Celine Dion treatment, but a little Bonnie Raitt or Cowboy Junkies would do just fine.

Here’s the problem.  I can’t get to the cathartic MQC while listening to songs about a mulberry bush or a fabled “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”  “Turkey in the Straw” is not going to do it.  I need tear-jerking, broken-dreams and broken-hearts music. In short, I need adult music, but it’s very hard to come by in my house (or my car).

Tonight, during our “wind down” time, I tried to tap into the reservoir of feeling that lies just beneath the haunting melody of “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain” or the somber subtext of Sadie’s favorite, “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”  Nothing stirred inside of me except for a ripple or two of rage against these insipid songs that I hear about 27 times a day. I have no one to blame but myself, because I bought the CDs at Target, in what can only be described as a moment pure lunacy.  “Hey, this will be so fun to listen to after dinner.”  Right.  It was a three-CD set.  How bush league am I?

Thanks to all of you for the head’s up about the inanity children’s music.

Maybe you could explain the following to me.

How come my kids covet my shoes:

Simon in Mommy's Crocs

Simon in Mommy’s Crocs (While “Itsy Bitsy Spider” Plays in the Background)

They covet my purses:

Sadie Picking Her Nose and Wiping Boogers on MY Purse

Sadie Picking Her Nose and Wiping Boogers on MY Purse

They steal my food, my lipstick, my Costco box of feminine supplies, my peppermints, my headbands, my fingernail polish, and anything else that isn’t nailed down or put on a shelf over 5 feet tall . . .

But, they never, ever want to listen to MY music?

I’m sorry, my precious offspring, but you find Damien Rice too inscrutable? I am sorry it’s not as transparent as “Skid-a-ma-rink-a-dink-a-dink,” since everyone knows what that means.

You don’t like Lionel Richie’s timeless ballad, “Ballerina Girl”?  It’s “too commercial” for you guys? I guess we can throw all those Gymboree CDs away then, since those are just a series of commercial jingles for over-priced kid “classes” taught by manic 20-somethings who can’t get jobs singing on cruise ships.

Just once, I would like to sit around after dinner and roll out some gems from Robert Earl Keen, Nanci Griffith, The Cure, or Adele.  If my children insist on singing about trains, let’s try some Woody Guthrie or Peter, Paul & Mary. If they are dead set on singing about farm animals, surely there are Nicki Minaj songs that are close enough.  If they want to sing about rain and spiders, I bet Fiona Apple could do in a pinch.

Where’s the middle ground? Who’s the artist that can bridge the gap between “C is for Cookie” and “Cop Killers”? Mama needs her MQC by June 1 and sobbing over my kids’ age-appropriate taste in music is not going to cut it.

Zappos Reviews: “I Bought These Shoes But What I Really Need Are Stronger Meds”

Burning question of the day: Who are the mentally  unstable people who write reviews for the sandals on Zappos?  I was perusing Zappos on my iPad while the kids were playing during the kids’ naps, looking for a good wedge sandal for the summer.  Halfway through my search I started reading the reviews.  After about four reviews, I stopped looking at the shoes and just read the reviews.

I was struck by three trends as I read through the reviews of the “hottest sandals” of the season:

1. Masochism:  The people who write these reviews disdain comfort, hate having a shoe that allows them to perambulate without searing pain, and probably hate themselves.  They do, however, love compliments on their strappy sandals and being “in style.”

“These sandals practically burned a hole in my ankle because the strap was too tight and the “leather” was actually plastic, so I had to have my foot amputated because the infection got a little out of control.  But, like, it was so AWESOME to have my boyfriend (he’s in college!) compliment my shoes.  I got tons of compliments at the end of the school year bonfire, right before the other shoe on my non-amputated foot caught on fire.  These shoes are a must have item this season.”

2. Oversharing: I am not sure why I need to know what you did in your sandals after you bought them.  At certain points I wasn’t sure if I was still reading that book or if I was reading reviews. Do I need to know that your ex-husband came over to sign divorce papers, but saw your new sandals (in silver snake skin), and so you two got busy doing that (of course, you left your sandals on) and now he’s not your ex-husband after all, because you never signed the papers.  This reviewer recommends getting them in every color.

The oversharing part is actually worse for the kids’ shoes.  Here’s a review of a toddler’s Keen sandal:

“I bought the orange ones for little Madison-Caitlyn.  She looks even more precious in them than I could have imagined, which is impossible to picture– believe me! If only Zappos let you post pictures– LOL.  Anyway, she’s going to look just like Suri in these for the first day of school in September.  (She’s going to the magnet pre-school because she’s particularly bright for her age– guess she gets that from me– LOL.) ”

3. The Higher The Heel, The Crazier The Review: There’s definitely a correlation between heel height and crazy quotient.  For fun I looked through some reviews of stiletto heels, and the pathology in those reviewers is exponentially higher than those of the flatter shoes.  “These heels are so high you could step on your man’s chest and puncture his heart.”  The women reviewing these heels exhibit a startling amount of homicidal rage.  I am actually going to cross the street next time I see someone coming towards me in stiletto heels.  Someone (not me) might want to suggest to these ladies that wearing more comfortable (and less lethal) shoes might allow happy feelings to flow more freely.

I did not end up buying any shoes, but I did feel better about my own mental health, so I can recommend taking a spin through the reviews if you need to remind yourself that the world is full of people more fragile and more self-hating than you are.

But I have to know: have you written a review on Zappos? Did you fit into these categories? You can tell me– this is a “safe” place.

Holiday Weekend: Outlaw Mama’s Dark Thoughts About Summer

Yesterday, I had an appointment downtown at 1:30 PM.  Before that, I left my children in the care of S., our nanny, who planned to take the kids to a neighbor’s house so they could splash around in a plastic kiddie pool.  I slathered them with sunscreen and kissed them goodbye.  Twice.

Summer Fun

Summer Fun


Then, before I took the train, I walked by the neighbor’s house three times.  It’s in the opposite direction from the train.  Yes, that was me hiding behind a flowering shrub peering around the neighbor’s house to be sure my children were not left unattended for so much as a nanosecond near the kiddie pool.


I was late to my appointment. 


Good thing it was for therapy, because clearly I need it—this time of year especially.  I have complicated feelings about summertime, and I don’t know how avoid letting them affect my kids, who deserve to enjoy splashing around. 


So, here’s the closest Outlaw Mama comes to a public service announcement. (*No one is paying me for this, though I am willing to set up a PayPal account if you want to send me some money.)  On this holiday weekend, please be careful around water.  This PSA was inspired by an essay I submitted about “summertime.”  I think it was supposed to be about all the joys of summer, but I went in a slightly different direction.  I have included the submission below for your pleasure, because it’s a holiday weekend, and I feel like over-sharing.

Seriously.  Be careful.



When you endure harsh Chicago winters, you are expected to love summertime. The moment the mercury climbs above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, restaurants assemble outdoor dining tables with shady umbrellas and joggers don their special wicking tank tops. Certainly, after countless gray winter days that brought sharp winds that chapped my face and stole my breath,  the sunny envelope of a summer day is a welcome reprieve.  It’s a sacrilege not to worship at summer’s bountiful alter.

And I am summer’s chief infidel.

A long time ago, before I had language or cognition to process tragedy of any kind, I was a young girl standing on a beach on July 3. I was wearing an Ocean Pacific one-piece bathing suit, and I had sunscreen spread unevenly on my awkward, adolescent limbs.  There was an accident right in front of me that day, and someone dear didn’t make it out of the water alive.

As an adult, I attempt, every summer, to concentrate on the Cubs games, the ice cream truck in our neighborhood, and my children’s flushed faces as they run through the twilight with our neighbors while trying to make their Popsicles last.  I savor the salty taste of their cheeks when I kiss them in the heat of the day.

There is so much to love about summer.

But, deep in my cells I still feel the warm air as a threat. The hotness feels sinister every year.  No matter how much I protest during our long winter weeks about gloves and coats and all the maddening gear required to survive a 5-minute wait on the train platform in January, I can’t match my hatred of winter with an adoration of summer.

I never tell anyone why I am gravely wary of summer’s riches.

And, yet, there are moments when I get a sweet, fleeting reprieve from the memories of loss. They never occur near a swimming pool or any other body of water.  But I have them.  Sometimes, I can put my freshly bathed babies to bed—their  windows open so that balmy breezes and  the voices of older children can waft in as part of our lullaby—and I can feel their little beings as yet untouched by loss. I can wade into the aura of their innocence and breathe deeply in gratitude that everyone is safe tonight.

But summer will never be an uncomplicated bliss for me.  As we plan the season’s cook-outs and eagerly anticipate adding ripe peaches and cherries to our ice cream, I breathe and remind myself that there is plenty of time each day to celebrate, remember, mourn and transcend, no matter what the season.  I pray to continue to add glorious, life-filled summer memories  to shine light on the memories from the summer of darkness decades ago.

Fifty Shades of Costco

I’m only on page 132, but I have to get something off my chest about  Fifty Shades of Grey. I know I am supposed to be enthralled by the kink factor or whatever is going to happen in that “Spanish Inquisition” room over the next 350 pages, but I am so distracted by the fashion in this book that I can’t get excited by any of the other parts.

Call me repressed or shallow (I have been called worse), but who gets hot knocking boots in Converse tennis shoes? I don’t actually want to have sex within 2 floors of a Converse tennis shoe.   There have already been five references to Anastasia’s Converse shoes. Those shoes are a lot of things (retro, comfy, whimsical), but they are not hot.  Maybe when Anthony Edwards wore them to play basketball with George Clooney in 1993 on ER after a particularly harrowing surgery they were sexy.  But, I actually think it was the green scrubs that made that scene sexy.  And George Clooney.

Outlaw Mama's X-Rated Shoes and SOCKS

Outlaw Mama’s X-Rated Shoes and SOCKS

I have Converse shoes– navy– that I wear to the park. The sexiest encounter I have had wearing mine was diving into the sandbox to keep Simon from eating a cat turd. You will have to ask Jeff how sexy that was.

And the outfit Anastasia wore on her first real date with Christian which began on his helipad?  Her “black jeans” and a “mint-green top”?  Oh for the love of whips and chains, it makes my imagination bleed because it sounds so ugly.  Somehow I don’t think she’s talking skinny black jeans like Sofia Vergara wears on Modern Family. I can’t help but picture the stiff, slightly faded black Guess jeans I wore in high school in suburban Dallas. Believe me, they may have been trendy in 1989, but they weren’t hot. If ever they were steamy it was only because Dallas, Texas is hotter than the hinges of hell.

What’s this “soft mint-green shirt” she wore?  Why am I picturing a fake Izod piqué polo shirt with the collar upturned?  It’s doing a lot for me (like convulsions of distaste) but it’s not turning me on. I can only hope that “Kate’s black jacket” that Anastasia borrowed salvaged this outfit, but that is only possible if it was a very long black trench coat that acted as a curtain for her ensemble (and also covered her shoes).

People, when Christian first deflowers Anastasia, she mentions that he removes her shoes and socks. (“[H]e grasps my foot and undoes my Converse, pulling off my shoe and sock.” p. 114.)  SOCK?  I just lost my erection.  When was the last time you wore socks on a first date?  In the book, it was May, so it’s not like they hiked through a snow mound.  I am a boring old married lady, and even I don’t wear socks when Jeff and I go on a date to Chipotle a local bistro for free-range veggie burgers.

And maybe it’s sexy in Seattle to workout in gray sweatpants as Christian did (p. 65). But did anyone else picture John Goodman from Roseanne when you read that?  Couldn’t he have worn black wind pants or some Adidas striped ones? Lululemon has a man branch– wouldn’t a billionaire have some $180.00 wicking pants?

I know I am missing the forest for the trees here, but I can’t get past the Costco-inspired wardrobe.  I don’t want my soft-porn littered with tube socks, tennis shoes, and gray sweatpants– that’s what my weekly trip to Costco is for.  I want a full escape, E.L. James.  I want some Prada heels or at least an Ann Taylor Loft sweater set in a better color than Girl-Scout-cookie green.

Only one question: Should I keep reading?

read to be read at