Archive | August 2012

Something I Suck At

At the tender age of 39, I can admit that there are some things I am good at and some things I suck at. I’m fantastic at turning off my blinker after changing lanes, I can clap to the beat of complicated calypso songs, and I can make Velveeta Rotel dip in less than 10 minutes. When it comes to life skills, I have some good ones.

And, I have handicaps– Excel spreadsheets, letting other people talk, and reheating brown rice in a standard microwave– to name a few.

Still, I get by.

But you what I suck at most?

Gift certificates.

I. Suck. At. Gift. Certificates.

I can never remember to redeem them until they expire. Or I lose them. Sometimes I write to do lists on them, then throw them away once I have completed the items. It’s pathological.

Yesterday, I put a massage gift certificate by my purse before I left the house. I walked 20 minutes to the spa and realized, as I stood by the door, that I had forgotten the gift certificate. Who does that? I couldn’t walk home and back and make my appointment time.

So I got the massage, paid for it, tipped generously and went home to find that unused gift certificate sitting on my bed. I could still see the imprint of my purse (the one I took to the massage) in the comforter. I had put the certificate next to my purse so I could take it with me.

Except I didn’t.

I never do.

And I am even worse at Groupons. Instead of succumbing to those emails promising discounted yoga classes and manicures, I should just set the money on fire. In my hands, it’s the same damn thing.

I am incapable of gift certificating in a timely manner.

I am incapable of gift certificating in a timely manner.

My husband noted that I now have to get another massage using the gift certificate. Sounds great, if I was normal. But it has to be redeemed by July 2013, and I don’t know if I can remember to put it in my purse some time in the next ten months.


Do Toddlers Have Recurring Nightmares?

We (and I mean you and I) are reaching a new milestone right this very second.  Instead of logging on to WebMD or calling Sadie’s pediatrician, I am first asking you about a peculiar parenting situation that has me flummoxed.

Something tells me that you guys will give me insight and perspective I need when the doctor’s office opens, and I can talk to someone in a professional capacity.

Here’s the deal:

About 12 days ago, Sadie started having a recurring nightmare during her nap.  She wakes up crying– real, legitimate heartbreaking tears of distress.  I can hear her sobbing into her pillow, so I go into her room, and she seems so grateful to see me.  I find it odd that she doesn’t come get me down the hall like she used to only two weeks ago.

The first two times I went to her, I patted her head and asked her if she had a bad dream.  Both of those times, she gave the exact same report: “It was big. Big, Mommy. My room was really big, my bed was big and all my toys were really big.  The big thing was coming.” It didn’t seem rehearsed or calculated– she was still half asleep and talking really fast.

I asked her a few questions, and she kept repeating that “Something big was coming.  Everything was big.”

A few days later, S., our sitter, reported she had the exact same scene with Sadie, when she put her down for a nap.  (I hadn’t told her about Sadie’s dream.)

Then, it happened again yesterday afternoon– after sleeping for about 40 minutes, Sadie came out into the hall, looking confused and terrified.  Again, she told me about how big her bed was, and confirmed that she was very scared.

Sometimes at night, she says she is afraid of having that dream again.

Here’s something even more odd: I told Jeff about these dreams and the terrorizing “bigness” in them, and he said that he used to have a similar dream when he was a kid.  He couldn’t remember what age he was, but he definitely remembered nightmares about the scale of his bedroom.

Because of my years of therapy, I can’t help but analyze this dream.  I have decided that the dream is about Sadie starting preschool.  Ya’ll, we have talked up preschool like it’s not only the bees knees, but also the wings, the torso and the head.  “Sadie, it’s going to be so fun!  There will be so many friends to play with every day! You are such a big girl now.”

This is what Sadie deserves. (image from

This is what Sadie deserves. (image from


During the day she seems amped about school and tells everyone she’s about to start.  Her teacher sent her a letter in the mail, including a picture of herself doing a yoga pose (tree), and Sadie walks around talking to the picture of Ms. G all the time.  She sleeps with it at night.

We have also read books about starting school.  She’s obsessed with an Elmo video that has one of the most annoying songs about “getting ready for school.”

My hypothesis is that Sadie knows that something big is coming (because we’ve beat that head underneath her curls about it), and she’s trying to process it emotionally.  During the day, when she’s awake, it all seems exciting, but her terror about change or having to be a big girl or the impending newness catches up with her when she’s dozing off.

So, ya’ll, my wise, informed, generous, and more experienced parents, what do you think? Have you heard of 3-year-old kids having recurring nightmares? What do you think about my hypothesis?  Should I lay off all the pro-school propaganda and let her just enjoy the last few days as a little girl?

[Also: Don’t google “child’s nightmares,” because the images were so scary that now I have to sleep with a light on.]

Thank you for the feedback!

My Negotiation Skills Peak At Certain Times of the Month

An end-of-summer negotiation at my house went something like this:

Sadie: Mommy, can I have a cookie?

Me: You can have a cookie after dinner.

Sadie: Why?

Me: Why what?

Sadie: Why do I have to wait until dinner?

Me: Because if you eat a cookie, you won’t eat as much dinner.  It’s my job to be sure you keep things in balance.  Cookies come after dinner. (Note: In this conversation the “cookie” refers to an organic wafer that is composed of quinoa, oats and raisins. FN 1)

Sadie: Why can’t I have a cookie right now?

Me: Have you had dinner?

Sadie: No.

Me: Well, once you have had dinner, you can have that cookie you so desperately want.

Sadie: What about a popsicle? Can I have that now?

Me: No. You can have either a popsicle or a cookie after dinner.

AHHHHHH. HELP ME! I just wanted a sweet treat. Why is she talking about ovulation? What IS ovulation?

AHHHHHH. HELP ME! I just wanted a sweet treat. Why is she talking about ovulation? What IS ovulation?

Sadie: Why can’t I have a popsicle right now? (Note: The “popsicle” refers to an organic fruit smoothie that I froze and put into ice trays. FN 2)

Me: Really? Are we doing this right now?  You. Can. Have. A. Sweet. After. Dinner.

Sadie: How about a lollipop? (Note: The alleged “lollipop” was a sun-sweetened prune on a stick. FN 3)

Me: After dinner.

Sadie: Why?

Me: Because I am ovulating, which makes me feel bloated and exhausted and unattractive.

* * * * *


FN 1: I lied.  It was a Ginger Snap cookie from a giant bag.  Not organic, sugar-free, gluten-free, or free-trade.

FN 2: I lied.  She’s referring to a box of 40 popsicles I got at Target that are composed solely of sugar and caffeine. FN 4.

FN 3: I lied.  She’s referring to the Tootsie Pop that is sitting on the counter in our kitchen.

FN 4: That was a lie; I got them at Costco. I was just trying to look more diverse.

Paper Trail

This says it all (image by Jay Roeder, at

This says it all (image by Jay Roeder, at

It was 6:15 AM, and I was searching for a space in my house that would seem novel to Simon, so that I could entertain him while everyone else slept in.  I couldn’t face our dirty, toy-strewn living room, so I took Simon upstairs to Jeff’s office.

After accepting that Simon wasn’t going to peacefully sit in my lap drawing loopy “circles” with his new box of 64 crayons, I turned to the computer to entertain us both.

As I reached for the mouse, I saw a sheet of paper that had various cab and restaurant receipts stapled to it.

Jeff’s expense report, I realized once my eyes focused on the details.  In his orderly way, Jeff had labeled each receipt and arranged them to form a perfect puzzle of expenditures for the second month of the third fiscal quarter.

I moved the expense sheet and Googled “hot air balloons” for Simon who’s recently become enraptured by the sight of inflatable transportation.  My eyes kept returning to Jeff’s expense report.  Each 4 inch by 6 inch slip of paper formed a breadcrumb trail of his work travels — an early dinner eaten at Ray’s Hell Burger– (I hope he ate with someone else because the total was $54.58).  Later that week, he had some Gatorade at the National Airport Grill– (It was pretty cheap, only $2.25 at an airport no less).

I bounced restless Simon on my knee and tried to find images of something that would excite — quietly– a curious toddler.  “How about some giraffes? You love giraffes.”  Simon sat transfixed by images of giraffes, and I similarly transfixed by Jeff’s expenses.

Why was I so hung up on the record of the 8-inch meatball sub Jeff ate at Bozzelli’s Italian Deli in Arlington, Virginia?  I hate meatball subs, I reminded myself.

But those slips of paper proved something about Jeff.  They were tangible evidence that he was out in the world.  He existed because he crossed state borders and time zones and ate exotic sandwiches south of Mason-Dixon line.   Each receipt marked Jeff’s footprint in the big, wide world.

I rarely leave my zip code.

Jeff eats in restaurants I have never heard of with people I have never met. I rolled this thought around in my head as if it was the first time I realized that Jeff had to eat and socialize with other people on his trips to D.C.

It wasn’t that I felt threatened that Jeff had co-workers to eat burgers with or elite status on American Airlines.  I remembered having co-workers not so long ago, and I spent a lot of time thinking of excuses to avoid joining them for dinner or a Bulls game.  I also detested month-end when my secretary would send me email reminders about my expenses.  Begrudgingly, and always at the last minute, I would gather up receipts I stuffed, all wadded up, in my wallet.  I usually had to troll around asking co-workers for blank cab receipts so I could be reimbursed for my trips to and from O’Hare.

I hated that shit.

But, now I feel shame about how familiar my life is.  There are three places I eat: at home (standing up), at Wishbone Restaurant (because it’s exceedingly kid-friendly), and at the gym snack bar.  Jeff knows those places intimately.  Everything about me and my life is known to him.  And there’s no paper trail for my comings and goings, unless you count the trail of baby wipes and snotted-on tissues that fall out of my pockets.

I have the more familiar life, and I have made an uneasy peace with that.

In the face of Jeff’s expense report, however, I felt every inch of my unease.  It was like a layer just under my epidermis– it covered everything.

But that morning was different because I let that uneasy feeling be.  I didn’t try to fix it by brushing up my resume and pretending I would check for jobs that “look interesting.”  I let myself feel the free-fall of dis-ease without trying to distract myself or beat it back with platitudes about motherhood or choices.

Later that night, in the dark stillness, I felt the unease settle next to me, as close as my pillow.

What do you want to say to me? I asked it.

In the silence I heard, “It’s ok to want more.  There is more.  For you.  But for now, sleep, because you need your rest where you are headed.”

Hooking up again with the writers at Yeah Write. If you are curious, hop along for the ride. It’s about community and writing and bath tub gin, but you don’t have to drink to get the buzz.


Lance and Tiger– Who Needs A Hug?

I should say up front that I have never liked Lance Armstrong. Mostly, it’s because he reminds me of cocky Texas boys I knew back in the day.  (I’m thinking of the ones who didn’t want to kiss me or be my boyfriends because they already had girlfriends.)  So, I’m not objective at all.  Add to my own Texas baggage my impression that he dumped his wife who stood by him during his cancer, and then he dumped Ms. Sheryl Crow when she had breast cancer, and there’s not a lot of room left for compassion, admiration, or pity. (Yes, I get my information from Us Magazine and my fact checker is on vacation.)

So, no I don’t feel sorry for Armstrong who is being stripped of his Tour de France titles because of the lengthy battle to determine whether he used performance enhancing drugs or engaged in blood doping.  I think he’s guilty but had enough people protecting him that he never got caught.  (This is not a reflection on the institution that granted me my law degree; it’s a reflection of my emotionally-led thinking.)  Click here to read about the significant flaws in the process by which Armstrong has been accused and charged with using performance enhancing drugs.

Image painted by Joyce Polance

Image painted by Joyce Polance

And, I recognize he has raised an amazing amounts of money for cancer research, which, regardless of what he did or didn’t do, is using his power for society’s good.

So why am I refusing to rally for Armstrong, who deserves fair procedures, even if I have dismissed him as a commitment-phobe who enjoys cavorting around with around Matthew McConaughey? I am a lawyer, don’t I care about the presumption of innocence?

I find my reaction to Armstrong curious in light of my reaction to the scandal that plagued Tiger Woods in 2009. They are very different matters of course: Woods’ scandal was private (read sexual), between him and his wife.  It didn’t implicate golf directly.  Perhaps more importantly, it’s none of my business what Tiger did with other women or even that he married a stunning Swedish model slash nanny in the first place.

More curious still, I’ve seen lots of interviews with Woods– he’s not exactly oozing humility and warm fuzzies.

But when Woods’ troubles bubbled to the surface and became national news, I wanted to give him a hug. I believed he suffered from an addiction and a deep soul sickness, which resulted in him taking actions that hurt a lot of people (his wife, primarily). I didn’t feel hatred or contempt for him– I hoped he would go into treatment and get help. I believed he could heal and recover from the malady that wreaked such havoc on his family.

So where’s my impulse to hug Lance?  He’s banned for life from cycling for God’s sake.  Where are my charitable thoughts?  He has not failed a single drug test, but I have made him guilty and refused to muster any compassion for him.

Maybe it’s the power of remorse, which Woods has expressed here, along with accountability for his actions (none of which Woods owes me), that endears me to Woods.

He put his hand on his heart, ya'll! That means he's super sorry. (Image from

He put his hand on his heart, ya’ll! That means he’s super sorry. (Image from

I honestly can’t picture Armstrong being remorseful or taking responsibility for his actions.  Maybe if he did, I would want to give him a hug.  But, until then I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t go into criminal law, because I seem pretty willing to brush aside Constitutional presumptions just because the alleged guilty party reminds me of a frat guy who didn’t want to take me to the Winter Formal.

* * *

Anyone else have a reaction to Lance Armstrong’s announcement last week that he will no longer fight the charges against him?  Have you followed his case?  Could you ever ride a bike straight up a mountain like he did– with or without drugs?  Can you recommend a better news source than Us Magazine read when I can sneak away for a pedicure? Do you want to hug Tiger?

How To Tell If An Event Was A Highlight– Ask If Anyone Peed On Themselves

When something happens that makes me pee all over myself, it’s either a highlight or an event I would like to forget forever. (Then again, maybe it’s just regular old day for a mom who’s given birth but refused to adhere to a kegel regime.)

This summer, when I found myself perusing my email on a routine trip to the bathroom, I got an email that jolted me so thoroughly that I jumped up mid-urine stream, screaming so hysterically that the members of my household wondered if I had seen a mouse.

But it was not a furry creature that occasioned my hysteria. It was an email notification that this post was being Freshly Pressed.

Freshly Pressed Exuberance

Freshly Pressed Exuberance– if I would have known that email was coming, I would have brushed my hair.  Also, I peed on myself but I didn’t swallow my gum?  WTF?

What’s Freshly Pressed? For the uninitiated, Word Press is the site that hosts my blog, along with approximately 450,000 others.  Its editors, may, at any time, choose blog posts to appear on its “highlights” page, known as the Freshly Pressed page. (Click here to see the current crop of Freshly Pressed posts.) It’s a thrill to be chosen because it brings thousands of new readers to your blog, and it’s an affirmation from the Word Press editors that you are doing something they think is interesting.

When I got the email notification from the editor, I was told my post would run on the Freshly Pressed page in “the next few days.”  It turned out I had almost 24 hours to wait.  During that time I did all of the following:

  1. I picked a fight with Jeff who kindly offered to help me put some aesthetic touches on my blog.
  2. I stayed up all night wondering what would happen when my post hit the highlights page.
  3. I emailed other bloggers who had been Freshly Pressed and asked for tips on surviving the ride.
My texts in green.  Former Freshly Pressed blogger comments in white.  How do I know she's a true friend? She pretended to be bored by Dooce and gave me lots of affirmations.

My texts in green. Former Freshly Pressed blogger comments in white. How do I know she’s a true friend? She pretended to be bored by Dooce and gave me lots of affirmations.

The post was Freshly Pressed around 10:00 p.m. on Monday night. By Tuesday, I was thoroughly enjoying the conversation that developed around the subject of the post (ditching Netflix once and for all).  I couldn’t believe how many people similarly struggled with their movie subscriptions.  There was a giant uptick in hits on my page, which appealed to my vanity and my desire for external validation.

For sure, getting Freshly Pressed was a highlight for me.  What I enjoyed most about it is that the real life experience lived up to the hype.  So few things can reach the expectations that precede them.  It felt exhilarating to have my mind utterly blown by how many people stopped by to comment or  to “like” the post.

I now know it’s possible for a lone blogger to have thousands of hits in one day, even though I can’t say I know how to do that without the boost of Freshly Pressed.  Unexpectedly, the experience made me want to be better– as a writer and social critic and jester and buffoon– because whatever size my blog is, it’s a platform that reaches other people, so I want to use it responsibly.  I think that sounds insufferably pompous, but I have already admitted I have moments of incontinence, so who cares if I am pompous?

I don’t want to be condescending to my readers, but I am going to spell out the moral for you, especially if you want to be Freshly Pressed: Either do your kegels or don’t check your email when you are going potty.

Summer Running FAIL

Generally, when I think of running during the summer months, the song that comes to mind is Flock of Seagulls’ I Ran (So Far Away).

This summer, the more appropriate song for my running is Otis Reddings’ Sitting On the Dock of the Bay.

For more about the fears I confronted and the lessons I learned this summer when my butt injury prevented me from running a single step, click here for my guest post over at Mom Running On Empty.

This isn't me, but she sure looks hurt.  (image from

This isn’t me, but she sure looks hurt. (image from