Saturday, December 25, 2010

Internet Dating

Some statistics say that 1 in 5 relationships is a result of online dating.  That seems unlikely given my universe of friends, though I do admit that one of my friends met her husband on and they have been together for about 10 years.

I have a friend who is actively doing the online dating thing, and her stories almost make me want to sign up just so I will have something to blog about.  She's realistic; she realizes that she will have to kiss a lot of frogs (metaphorically, of course!), but she is a single mom working full-time (whose ex-husband does not spend a lot of time with the children so she has very little free time on her hands) and online is currently the easiest way for her to increase her odds of meeting someone she might like.  She is just under 40 and a "cute" woman.  I swear, the stories I am about to share are from the horse's mouth.  And I'm quite sure there are more that she has not shared with me ...

For the very first date, I told her she should text me to let me know where she is meeting him, when, and his name.  Safety reasons, of course.  I showed up to spy, and they had already left.  That first date did not go well.  Not only did he not look like his profile picture, he was about 10 years older than he said he was. Oi vey.

Of the utmost interest is the karate guy.  He is divorced with a couple of kids, and his claim to fame is that he owns a few karate schools.  You can imagine the type.  They exchanged a few emails before they started speaking on the phone.  She doesn't mess around; she knows what she likes, and she knows within the first few minutes of conversation, so she skips over the email stuff and encourages telephone contact.  They went out to dinner, they got to know each other a little, and she thought he was an okay guy.  She liked that he seemed to be really dedicated to his kids.  She told me about him, which I thought meant it was promising.  They went out to dinner a second time, and they shared a kiss.  It was kind of a big deal, not because of emotion or because she really liked him but because he was the first "kiss" since her ex-husband.  Our bunco group really gave her a hard time about it.  She went out with him a third time - the "magic" date as some might call it - and he was like a completely different person.  Picture this.  He invites her to his home, promising to make her dinner.  During the week.  She busts her behind to get home from work, feed her children, shower, drop the kids with the babysitter, and get to his house at a reasonably early hour.  When she arrived, he was still in his canvas jumper, having worked on his car.  While he showered, she waited patiently in the living room, noticing the fast food wrappers in the corner and the dirty socks on the floor.  She thought it was weird; if you're trying to impress someone, and you've invited them over for dinner, why wouldn't you hide the evidence of your single life?  After he got out of the shower, he suggested they go out to dinner.  She was thrilled, as she was starving.  He took her to a Jack in the Box drive-in.  They brought the food back to his house, and he insisted they eat in his living room.  He laid on a couch (apparently, he's a descendant of ancient Rome!) and ate his food.  At one point he needed a napkin and rather than get up to retrieve, oh I don't know, a towel or something, he PULLED THE SOCK OFF OF HIS FOOT AND WIPED HIS MOUTH WITH IT.  People, I spit my drink when she told me.  And that's not even the worst of it.  After they finished dinner, he said that a blow job would really relax him.  To her credit, she said, "I'm sure it would, but I have to go home."  OH. MY. GOD.

Then there is the nickname guy.  First, he wanted to shorten her 3-syllable name to the first syllable.  She told him (politely) she has always gone by her first name and did not like it to be shortened.  He played with a few different terms of endearment - sweetie, honey, etc. - before he settled on Mama.  Really?  Seriously?  Guys, women who are mothers do not like to be called "mama."  It brings up maternal things for us - things like "I have nursed you" or "I have changed your diaper"- and not sexual, sensual, or I-might-consider-sleeping-with-you thoughts.  She stopped returning his calls.

Can we talk about the stalker?  This guy is the one who falls in love easily and quickly.  She went out with him once and suddenly he is lighting up her cell phone with text messages.  Even though she kind of liked him, he freaked her out with his hard press.  He texted her 6 or 7 times a day after one date.  She had to cut him loose.

And now for my favorite story, only because I witnessed it.  She and I were sitting at a bar having a drink.  She was sharing her online dating stories, and we were laughing.  At some point she noticed the guy next to me was smiling, so she said something like "are you laughing at me?"  After a little bit of discussion, and the retrieval of a profile on his iPhone, they figured out that she had "winked" at him and he had not responded.  Dang - what are the odds? He apologized for not responding, blah blah blah, and left her with his business card.  She texted him, and he never responded.  WTH?  Why give a business card if you aren't going to respond??  That does not make any sense.

And then there's John.  Apparently, John is some sort of military guy.  I don't know what he does for a living but he has been in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan).  For four months she corresponded with him.  They exchanged pictures.  She shared intimate details of her life, as did he.  She reached a point where she felt a little guilty going out with other guys because she felt like she and John had such an amazing connection.  After he came home, they met for dinner.  She thought it went well, and felt like all was right with the world.  He has not responded to her at all, good, bad or indifferent.

As I am approaching a time when it will be easier for me to date, I listen to these stories and I think "Is this what I have to look forward to?"  Really?  I think I'd rather be alone ....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Should I Be Flattered or Offended?

About a week ago, a friend of mine - in a backhanded, passive-aggressive way - insinuated that I am a "martyr mommy" and that she is not.  I'd never heard the phrase before, so I did not know what she meant, but I didn't like the way she said it.  It was delivered with an air of superiority that made me bristle.  I have since been on a mission to find out what it means so I can figure out how I am supposed to feel about being "called" it.

I checked and it says "martyr mommy" and "mommy martyr" are not defined.  Yet.  I guess it's only a matter of time.  I googled the term and discovered that a martyr mommy is defined as a mom who sacrifices her own needs every time.  According to one definition, a martyr mommy puts her personal needs, wants and wishes on the back burner, then she justifies her martyr behavior by convincing herself that this is what all mothers do.  A 2005 article in The Washington Post said "There's a place for martyrs: in medieval town squares, TV soap operas and on the Senate floor.  Nobody wants one in their own home."  Ouch.

A blog here on blogspot (I Invented Motherhood) provided insight into how to spot a martyr mom.  Here's the rundown and my self-assessment.  A martyr mom is overwhelmed and sighs, a lot (I'm not guilty (+1)).  She is distracted, unable to focus (guilty (-1)).  She has difficulty making choices because there are so many to make (not guilty (+1)).  A martyr mom is not organized and her house is cluttered (guilty (-1)).  She can't find things, but spends a lot of time looking (guilty sometimes but not all the time (0)).  She can't remember what she needed at the store so she either buys everything or nothing (not guilty - I take a list! (+1)).  The martyr mom makes sure the family eats (except for herself - she lives off of snacks and bites of her children's food), and there are more drive-thru dinners and store-bought microwave-friendly meals (guilty - yikes.  See my Two or More Times a Week post (-1)).  Her family spends more time TV dining than eating at the table (we eat out a lot so this a cheater's not guilty (0)).  The martyr mom coordinates the schedules of her kids but won't schedule time for herself (guilty of scheduling the kids but not guilty of refusing to schedule time for myself (0)).  She finds it hard to separate from her children and familial obligations (guilty, but I'm getting better as my kids get older (-1)).  When she has free time, she ends up doing stuff for the house and kids (not guilty - see "her house is cluttered" above (+1)).  A martyr mom has been putting herself last for so long that she no longer remembers what she likes to do or how to have fun without her children (guilty of not remembering what I like to do but not guilty of being unable to have fun without my children (0)).  Worse, she doesn't think having fun is important (definitely NOT guilty (+1)).  She is exhausted; taking care of everyone else means she cannot take care of herself (guilty, guilty, guilty (-1)).  She doesn't make time to exercise or eat well, and she is so overwhelmed that she stays up too late thinking she's doing something productive when the kids are asleep but usually ends up watching hours of bad television or playing around on the internet (gulp - guilty with a capital G (-1)).  She's not writing, just reading and feeling overwhelmed by all of the information available (not guilty - I write something almost every night (+1)).  When the martyr mom does things, they are rushed or not quite the way she wants them, but she doesn't have the energy to fix it (probably guilty (-1)).  She spends a lot of time thinking, but isn't communicating or solving problems (not guilty - I communicate and solve problems daily (+1)).  She's wallowing (not guilty, though I have spent time wallowing in the past (+1)).  She has a hard time saying no, even if she's fully aware that adding one more thing to her plate means less getting done well (thankfully, not guilty (+1)). 

On balance, I am NOT a martyr mommy, but boy am I close.  Which brings me to my initial question: should I be flattered or offended?  Everything I have read implies that martyr mommies are B-A-D, so I guess the answer is "offended."  But really, what business is it of anyone else whether I am a martyr mommy or not?  Since this "friend" implied that I am a martyr mommy, I have felt defensive.  Suddenly I feel like I need to justify my parenting attitudes.

Confession time:  I think it is appropriate for parents to make personal sacrifices for their children.  I did it knowingly and voluntarily and I have no regrets, but doing so was definitely an issue for The Ex, who really has not altered his lifestyle at all.  In my case, I lived a full and fun life before I had my children, so I have had no problem putting my personal "fun" on the back burner while my children are young.  And besides, my version of "fun" is coming back into my life.  My boys are the PERFECT age for traveling and adventures, so we're doing a lot more of that these days.  I find I need some time to myself that I didn't need before; the constant noise, motion, chatter and bickering of two busy boys exhausts me far more than the constant care and feeding did when they were babies and toddlers.  When they were babies, it physically hurt me to be away from them for too long.  I still don't like to be away from them for too long - they are my heart and my loves and my center - but it doesn't physically hurt anymore.  Do these attitudes make me a martyr mommy?  Maybe, and if they do, so what??

My friend is definitely NOT a martyr mommy as I have defined it in this post.  From my perspective, she is the complete opposite.  She is very preoccupied with her own needs and wants.  I do not understand why she had children at all because it seems like she is constantly trying to pawn them off on other people.  She is a stay-at-home mom who puts her two young children in daycare.  She claims it is so she can "work," but she has not held a regular job in about a decade so I'm not sure what "work" she's referring to.  If it were me, I would hire a babysitter occasionally to get things done but I would not put my children in daycare if I did not have to.  But that's just me.  She has an au pair coming in about a week or so, which baffles me.  Why does she need an au pair?  We definitely have different attitudes about parenting.  I try not to judge her for the choices she has made, so I guess it bugs me that I feel like she is judging me for the choices I have made.  I mean really, was it necessary to put a label on me?

I know that not all mothers make the choices I made when it comes to prioritizing my own needs with those of my children.  But guess what?  I have surrounded myself with like-minded women.  We support each other in the crazy chaos that is our lives.  We tend to agree with each other's sacrifices.  We celebrate when someone breaks out and does something nice for herself.  I guess it comes as no surprise that my non-martyr mom friend and I don't spend much time together anymore.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Love Kitsch. Don't Judge Me.

Despite my advanced years, I only recently realized that I love kitsch.  I'm not saying my taste has changed; I'm saying I'm just now aware that what I like IS kitsch.  I was that kid who loved to have all of the pre-fab things with my name on them.  I had the little license plate for my bike.  I had "This book belongs to Wendy" stickers.  I thought that stuff was "neat" even though I knew it wasn't "cool."

I've never been cool.  During my formative years I wanted to be cool, but looking back I accept that I didn't want it badly enough.  Being cool requires effort, and I just didn't care enough.  You have to pay attention to what's going on in fashion and music and gaming and cars and accessories.  I was too busy trying to hide the fact that I am a geek, through and through.  I was a gymnast and thought that would make me cool; it didn't.  It just made me stronger and more muscular than other girls my age.  I was a cheerleader; certainly that would make me cool.  It didn't.  I was more visible than some, but putting on a short skirt and bulky sweater so I could cheer on the home team didn't change who I was inside.  I liked having a label maker, Tiger Beat covers taped to my bedroom wall, and random furniture.

After I attended the California Women's Conference about a month ago, I had an "aha" moment about my affinity for kitsch.  I went with a friend and colleague who is young, successful and just a total knockout.  She's also very self-assured, "in the know" about fashion and trends, and just oozes cool with every fiber of her being.  We grabbed all of the free swag available in the exhibition hall without really looking at it, and then each of us (apparently) reviewed what we had when we got home.  There was a keychain from one of the vendors.  It has charms on it like you'd expect to see on a bracelet, including a high heeled shoe, a purse, a key and a heart.  I thought it was so cute I added it to my very blase cluster of keys.  My companion?  Not so much.  I can't remember her exact words but it was something like cheap or ugly.  We also got a little business card holder that has a pink faux-leather cover.  I love it and immediately emptied my very professional but very boring card holder and replaced it with my new fun pink one.  My companion?  She wondered why on earth this well-known vendor would give out something so stupid.  Don't get me wrong; she was not being mean or criticizing me.  She did not know I liked either of those things because I did not tell her; she was just sharing her thoughts about the swag.  In fact, I think she would feel bad if she knew I thought those things were cute.

My home is full of kitsch, though I'm happy to say it's not too over the top.  I have those collage-style picture frames and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I hang my children's artwork on the walls with tape.  My kids' rooms have matchy-matchy linens and furniture.  Most of my Christmas ornaments are homemade.  Nothing in my house is coordinated except my couches.  My furniture is cheap and shows signs of use.  An interior designer would probably faint upon entering my home.  But you know what?  These things make me comfortable. 

I love kitsch.  Don't you judge me. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Is It Just Me, Or Is An Apology In Order??

Confession time.  It really bugs me when people don't apologize.  I'm including the BIG apologies for the BIG errors and omissions in our personal relationships, but it's really the missing little apologies that make me nutty.  It's silly, I know, but for whatever reason, I think it is monumentally rude.  It's like saying "excuse me" when you bump into someone or "thank you" when someone holds open a door.  It's just common courtesy to apologize for little mishaps, misunderstandings, moments of insanity or whatever.  We all make mistakes, and we all should apologize for them when we make them.  But we don't.  Common courtesy is disappearing more quickly than a 14 year old can text supercalifragilisticexpialidotious.

Case in point #1 (The Ex):  He refuses to apologize to me for ANYthing.  Despite acknowledging that he hurt me, he has never apologized for hurting me.  He has never apologized for cheating, for lying, for sneaking around, for incurring debt without my knowledge, for breaking promises, nothing, nada, nil, zip.  I have come to accept that he is NEVER going to apologize to me for anything related to the marriage.  It bugs me, but I've accepted it.

We have been divorced for five years.  We had what I characterized as a "decent" relationship when it came to the kids; we haven't had any custody fights, we haven't had any scheduling fights, nothing.  We had some disagreements during the first year or so of our separation about parenting, but some of those we would have had even if we were married.  During this past summer, however, the relationship (at least from my perspective) was totally destroyed.  The Ex unloaded 15 years of garbage on me in a two-page email, using the most hateful words he could.  It was so bad that I wasn't even affected at first; I could not believe this person I knew and loved could say such things to anyone, much less the mother of two of his children.  He called me names, he called me crazy, he called me a terrible role model for our children - you name it, if it's nasty, he fired it at me.  The exclamation point was his most definitive statement that he could not possibly think any less of me than he already does.  The insults he launched were (mostly) inaccurate but more to the point, they were unprovoked, unnecessary and unproductive.  We've been apart for five years - why now?  We had been getting along just fine - why now?  Since that email, I have been shutting down, inch by inch, bit by bit, when it comes to him.  He, on the other hand, has acted like it never happened.  Huh??  Is it just me, or is an apology in order?

Case in point #2 (The Ex):  About a month ago, he left a voicemail for me that clearly was not intended for me.  It wasn't anything scandalous, but it sounded work-related so I texted him to let him know.  He denied it was him, using his most disdainful and condescending tone he could.  Really?  I've known you for 16 years and you think I don't recognize your voice on the phone?  Eventually I responded by saying "I didn't tell you so we could argue about whether or not it's you; I told you because I was concerned it might be important and whoever was supposed to get the message did not get it."  [As an aside, it came from an unfamiliar phone number.  I think he denied it because he doesn't want me to know he has a different phone number.  Like I care.  As long as he answers the number I call, what do I care that he has other numbers?]  Is it just me, or is an apology in order??

Case in point #3 (The Ex):  This is the "transgression" that inspired this post.  Yesterday I received a text message from him.  I checked it because he had the kids and they had not been feeling well when his parenting time began.  Imagine the sensation in my stomach when I read "I love you sexy mommy."   Clearly that text was not intended for me.  I responded to it, letting him know that I was sure he didn't intend to send it to me but he did and so his intended recipient did not receive it.  Did I get even a cursory "oops, sorry."  Nope.  I got crickets.  When I picked the kids up today, he didn't say anything.  Is it just me, or is an apology in order? 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pretend Polygamy

I've been thinking about polygamy only because of that reality show Sister Wives and the fire storm that surrounds it.  Let me just say it ... I'm against polygamy.  Never mind that it's illegal; I don't think government should control our private lives and relationships so I would be against it even if it were legal.  I'm against polygamy because I think it's a raw deal for the women.  Polygamy is a great set up for the man in the relationship.  He gets the best of all worlds.  He can have every single possible characteristic he wants in a wife, and if something is missing he can just go get another wife who possesses whatever is missing.  He might have his closeted siren in one wife, his spiritual teacher in another wife, his confidante in another wife, his outdoor buddy in one wife, his gourmet chef in one wife.  He gets to have sex with multiple women and have families with multiple women.  But what do the women get?  From my very limited perspective, I think the women get all of the disadvantages of traditional marriage but get no advantage by being one of multiple wives.  The sister wives have to share more than a single wife has to share - they get less of his time, his affection, his income, etc.  I just don't see the advantage.

Pretend polygamy, however, is a concept I can embrace.  I don't know about you, but I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to be married to certain famous people.  And, I fantasize about what it would be like to be able to have a husband to suit every mood.  So I created a network of "pretend husbands" who (in my mind) fulfill my every need.  Let me introduce them.  Pretend husband #1 is Jon Bon Jovi.  Of course.  I can't remember the order I  pretend married the rest of them, but I think it was as follows:  Hugh Jackman, Aaron Eckhardt, Stephen Moyer and Ashton Kutcher.  Pretty fantastic list, eh? 

Jon Bon Jovi fulfills my "rock star" fantasy.  I imagine him writing songs for me and playing guitar while I'm in the kitchen making dinner.  He's gone a lot, but it's always so spectacular when he comes home.  Yes, he can be a bit of an egomaniac - what lead singer isn't? - but he's a good man.  When Jon is home, I have a little glamour in my life.  Richie Sambora is one of Jon's best friends and he comes over all the time.  It's awesome.  Hugh Jackman is the pretend husband who does all of the stuff with the kids.  He coaches soccer when he's not working.  He goes to all of the school events.  He takes the boys on fantastic little adventures.  He's got a great sense of humor and always makes me laugh.  Aaron Eckhardt is my strong and silent pretend husband.  I love his cleft chin.  In my mind he is my true north; I never feel afraid because I know he will always protect me and he will always steer me in the right direction.  I can lean on him, any time, any place and for any reason.  No matter how I am feeling or what I need, Aaron is there to support me.  Stephen Moyer is my home-every-night pretend husband.  He's got a grueling schedule at HBO but he makes sure he comes home for dinner every night.  We cook together, we talk about our days.  And I love it when he brings his Bill Compton home every once in awhile.  Those sideburns really get me.  Ashton Kutcher is my hot young thing.  I had mixed feelings about him based on the characters he's played, but in my mind we met somewhere silly - like an ice cream shop - and he was so sweet and endearing.  He's really creative and gives great career and money management advice.  We discuss our spiritual beliefs.  Plus, you know, he's young and he's hot.  (I know what you're thinking, and no, I am not delusional.)  I am a happy pretend polygamist.

If polygamy were a situation with one woman and multiple husbands, I might be able to get behind it.  But one husband to be shared by  multiple women?  No thanks.  I'll stick to my fantasies ...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about how amazing the human body can be.  Season after season we see physical transformations of the human body on The Biggest Loser by manipulating muscle mass and energy use.  We hear stories of human bodies surviving accidents that they shouldn't survive.  Sure, some bodies can't survive certain tragedies and trauma - or are irreparably damaged - but every day we hear stories of broken bodies healing themselves back to "almost" as good as new.

This phenomena has been on my mind because of Jacob.  Jacob is a cub scout in my son's pack, though he is not in his den because he is younger.  Jacob is 6 years old and has a mother who is the classic "den mother" - she runs two dens - who makes sure each of her boys has an opportunity to earn every pin, belt loop and patch available during the cub scout year.  They do crafts, skits, everything under the sun.  She's an amazingly busy mother and her two kids are with her every step of the way. 

A few weeks ago, Jacob and his family went on a vacation to Southern California.  They went to amusement parks, including Universal Studios.  To hear his mother tell it, one minute they were sitting eating lunch, and the next Jacob was at the bottom of a set of concrete steps, laying still on the ground and totally nonresponsive.  The next few minutes are all a blur for her as she watched emergency medical teams try to get Jacob to respond.  He was taken to a local hospital but eventually airlifted to a children's hospital about an hour away so he could be treated by the best of the best.  Jacob was unconscious for a couple of days, and for awhile there, his mother had no idea whether he would ever speak to her again.  I cannot imagine what it must have been like for her.  I'm good in a crisis, but I've never had a crisis involving my children.  All bets are off when it comes to our children.

The pack mobilized as best we could from 500 miles away.  We contacted people we knew in the area to help the family while they stayed in a Ronald McDonald House near the hospital.  We set up prayer circles at our churches.  The scouts made cards and pictures to put in Jacob's room.  For the first week or so everything was touch and go and doctors were hesitant to make any predictions about Jacob's recovery.

Fast forward about two weeks.  Jacob showed up at our pack meeting a couple of nights ago.  If I didn't know better, I would never know he'd been in a hospital with everyone worried about him.  He looks like the same normal, healthy, typical 6 year old boy.  His mom says she is so thankful that kids don't know how to feel sorry for themselves; Jacob is resisting mom's efforts to make him take it easy for awhile and he's complaining that he's bored and he wants to run, jump and play.  I was so happy to see Jacob back to normal - at least externally - that I wept when I got home and said a prayer of thanks.  And he's not even my kid ....

I have broken many bones in my day.  I slid down the stairs in a box and broke my arm.  (And then lied to my mother about how I fell!)  I got my foot caught in the spokes of a bike that was too big for me and broke two bones in the middle of my foot.  I fell off the monkey bars and broke my foot.  I did an aerial cartwheel in the sand and landed on a rock buried beneath the sand, breaking an ankle.  Even more painful, I stepped in a hole and pulled ligaments in my foot.  But here I am, all these years later, not suffering any ill effects from these multiple bone fractures.

We are so lucky to have bodies that are often unbreakable.  Disease is a different issue, but when we're talking about bones and muscles, these bodies are amazing pieces of machinery.  I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Come You're So Lame?

Have you seen those commercials?  You know, the ones with the blonde-haired little boy, about 7 years old, who is talking about some cool new car.  There is a series of them, but each one ends the same: he is sitting in the backseat with his seat belt on, he looks at the camera and says "Just because you're a parent doesn't mean you have to be lame."  I lauged.  I laughed until it became clear that Stinker has seen those commercials, too, and he uses the word against me.

I've mentioned this before; these kids are sponges and they absorb everything.  I often hear myself being parroted back to me - in tone and content - and I unfortunately hear their father as well.  (There are a few choice phrases they have picked up from him that are almost enough to make me slap their faces ... but I digress.)  Every now and then Sweetie will use a word or phrase I am certain he has heard at school, but Stinker is still young enough that he gets everything from either his parents or the television.  He's been claiming things are "lame" for about two weeks now. 

I play an online game that keeps track of each player's respective position on the leader board.  I play with the same group of people, and I am often in first place, but not for long.  One player in particular unseats me from my first-place throne regularly.  Stinker likes to watch me play and tell me when I should ask for a "hint" and when to use the bonus moves available.  He was watching me the other day and he noticed my avatar was in second place, not first.  Him: "Mom, are you in second place?"  Me: "Yes.  [So-and-so's Mom] is ahead of me again."  Him:  "How come you're so lame?"

Guess what?  I didn't have an answer for him.  I truly and honestly do not know why I am so lame.  Worse, I don't know exactly what to do about it. 

Kids.  You gotta love when they speak their truth without any inhibitions, reservations or filters.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Two or More Times A Week?

Get your mind out of the gutter. 

Confession time.  I do not cook.  I never saw much point in it when I was single.  When I was married, I cooked nearly every night but it was basic, quick meals and absolutely nothing fancy.  The Ex is one of those guys who was just happy to have someone prepare food for him, no matter what it was, so he would eat almost anything.  Almost.  He was really grateful when something was actually good, but trust me ... I have made more than my fair share of totally inedible meals.  It is an understatement to say I'm not a very good cook.  (But I'm a rock star baker - with a bit of practice I could probably survive a few rounds on Top Chef Just Desserts!)  The home-cooked meals tapered off when the children came along and again as the marriage crumbled.

When The Ex and I split, the kids were so little and eating mostly "baby" food so it seemed futile to cook, and I suffered from depression and lethargy so any excuse not to lift a finger was a good excuse.  Even now, with Sweetie at 8 years and Stinker at 5 years, cooking meals is mostly futile because they are so picky.  Every now and then I get a bug up my rear to cook and invariably those little rats frustrate me with their finicky palates.  ("What if friends come over for dinner?  Do you cook then?  Or on holidays ... surely you cook on holidays?"  N. O. No.  I have cooked two turkeys in my life, and I fed 10 people on Christmas Eve ONCE.)  My contribution at potlucks or family holiday meals is dinner rolls.  (Not really, but practically.)

I'm sure it's no surprise that the busier we get, the less likely I am to cook.  I don't cook when it's hot outside.  I don't cook on Tuesdays because we have cub scouts.  I don't cook on Thursdays because I work nights.  I rarely cook on both Wednesday AND Friday because we have soccer practice (though that is about to end - thank goodness!)  If you're keeping track and can do some very basic math, you can figure out how many times a week I cook.

The boys and I had some errands to run after I picked them up (which is another excuse for me not to cook!).  Sweetie asked if we could eat before we hit the grocery (which is almost torture for my children) so we stopped at a fast food store in the same shopping center as the market.  While waiting for our food, the boys discovered the comment cards and proceeded to fill them out as only children can.  Sweetie can read so he mostly answered the questions asked, one of which was "How often do you eat at fast food restaurants?" and the answers were: less than once a month, about once a month, once a week, or 2 or more times per week.  You see where I'm going ....  Not only did he mark the box for 2 or more times per week, he said - gasp! - "Too bad they don't have a box for 4 times a week.  That's what we need." 

I immediately channeled Daffy Duck:  I say he does have to shoot me now.  So shoot me now.

Honestly, we eat out (or take out) 3 or 4 times a week during the fall, but we don't eat at fast food restaurants very often.  The kids get "fast food" - McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, etc. - probably once every ten days or so (ssshhhhhh ... I know that's too often; hush up, judgie!), but we eat at restaurants and delis.  My kids love sandwiches, so that's a main staple for dinner.  (They eat hot lunches at school and therefore rarely have sandwiches for lunch.)  But, all stories and excuses aside, what a piece-of-poo mother I am that my kid thinks we eat at fast food restaurants more often than we eat at home.

I'll give you one guess what I bought at the grocery store after we finished our dinner.  We will be having spaghetti and meatballs tomorrow (BEFORE cub scouts!) and quesadillas on Wednesday.  They are with their dad Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and then we will have homemade chicken noodle soup on Sunday night.  It's not much, but it's a start!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Operating From the Source

I can't believe it's been more than 3 months since my last post. I didn't realize so much time had passed, and looking at my archives, I have not really given sufficient time to this blog. I must move it back up to the top of the priority list. So what have I been doing these past few months that has kept me away from my blog? I've been operating from my source, which has been different and exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. It's sort of like the purpose-driven life ... I make decisions based on what my spirit and my soul need, not on what my checking account needs.

I realized that one of the things my soul needs, every day, is quality time with my children. As a practical matter, we don't get as much quality time as I would like once school is in session, because of homework and bedtimes and cub scouts and soccer, etc. However, this summer I woke up and realized my children are the PERFECT age for traveling and road trips ... Sweetie is not old enough to ask for friends to come along (yet) and Stinker is old enough to do just about anything. So we three musketeers spent a lot of time on mini-adventures over the summer ... camping at the zoo ...

a mini-safari at a wildlife reserve ...

out-of-town zoos ...


hiking ...

amusement parks, museums, etc. For the first time in years, I feel like I got to enjoy the summer with my kids (even though I have to work).

Another way to spend more quality time with my children is to become more involved with their school. So, I've been volunteering at the elementary school. I am the Fundraising Chairperson, I grade papers for Sweetie's teacher, I chaperone field trips, etc. It's been so great getting to know the teachers and administrators and seeing my children in their academic setting.

I've always had a soft spot for children, so I decided to do something about it. With the help of a couple of great and supportive friends, I started a California non-profit corporation. It's called Brenson Charitable Works, Inc. and its mission is to provide services to elementary school children that will help them achieve academic success. We will start with a weekend food program for food insecure children. I have toured the facility of a program in Nevada that we want to emulate, met with the Executive Director to learn about the program, and have been making contact with our local food banks and providers of services for the homeless. We incorporated in July, and now we have a Board of Directors in place. We had our inaugural Board meeting in October, and now we are in the process of getting set up - checking account, tax exempt status, computer equipment, etc. This non-profit is my new "baby" and it took up a LOT of my time in September and October. I'm considering taking classes, but I have to be careful to balance my time with income-earning tasks as well.

I took on a couple of new clients, I settled a couple of cases, and I'm still doing contract work at a law firm that I absolutely LOVE. Oh, and I'm reminding myself to live with my heart open and without fear. Every day.

It's amazing how easy the day-in and day-out is when I operate from my source. It makes the uglies - such as the relationship-destroying altercation with The Ex over the summer - more palatable.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Wanna Wake Up Before I Go-Go

My apologies for such a long break between posts, but my mind has been busy elsewhere.

Starting in April, I participated in an intense performance coaching program that began with an intense weekend, followed by ten weeks of one-on-one coaching, and then finished with another intense weekend. It was an amazing experience and I cannot believe how much I learned about myself and about my life moving forward. (If you think you might be interested in something like this, check out "Leadership" at I won't give too much of the blow-by-blow since it will bore you to tears, but I will share a bit of the "a-ha" moments I experienced.

I enrolled in the program with the idea that I needed some help starting a business and building my law practice. A-ha moment #1: My current business plan is working for me, at least for now, so there's no need to change it. I don't need to waste any energy "worrying" about my career in the short run because it is going just fine and I am happy. When it is no longer fine and I am no longer happy, that's when I need to put some renewed energy into it. A-ha moment #2: Work doesn't feel like work if you're doing it for the "right" reasons (and the "right" reasons are different for everyone). When I was working as an associate in various-sized law firms, I was doing it for the wrong reasons, which explains why I never felt fulfilled, it felt like a grind, and I had no desire to put in anymore time than was absolutely required. (It also explains why I put myself in a position to get terminated!)

A-ha moment #3: My heart needs some attention. Like everyone else, I've had my share of hurts in life, and I always thought I had properly grieved each and every one of them. I thought wrong. What I did instead was bury anything that resembled a feeling deep down inside, throw up giant walls, and then busy myself with "stuff" to run away from anything remotely unpleasant. That's really no way to live a life. I declared at the end of the first weekend that I would live my life with an open heart.

A-ha moment #4: Despite all outward appearances and my tough exterior, I'm a scaredy-cat. I've always considered myself brave, and I am when it comes to outward appearances and external opinions, but I'm terrified to share my internal self with people. I've never really worried about what people think of my behavior - making me unafraid to do things that make other people uncomfortable - because I recognize that most people are so self-involved that they're not even paying attention to whether or not I'm making a fool of myself. I AM worried - devastatingly afraid, frankly -of letting people see my true self. I close myself off - and shut people out - at the slightest hint that someone might see the real me. That's no way to live a life. I declared at the end of that first weekend to live without fear.

A-ha moment #5: I'm not very nice to myself, and if I'm not very nice to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be nice to me?? Though I'm confident in my lawyering skills and have no problem telling people how awesome I am , I clam up when it comes time to applaud myself for the person I am. I "say" mean things to myself all the time, I discount compliments that people pay me, and I focus on my flaws rather than on my admirable qualities. So I've stopped the negative talk and am working on learning to like myself again.

Coaching is an interesting experience. Unlike traditional counseling or therapy, I didn't really look back at my life to explain why I do the things I do. Instead of analyzing why I engage in specific self-limiting (or self-sabotaging) behavior, I learned to identify that behavior, acknowledge it, and then use my newly-learned tools to change it. I was reminded over and over of that old saying about insanity (from Einstein, I think): The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result.

I'm not insane anymore. I'm taking small steps, but I'm doing many things differently than the way I did them before. I'm noticing things I never really noticed before. I'm changing the way I spend my days. I'm changing the way I think about my self, my family, and my friends. In short, I'm waking up. How blessed am I that I am waking up in time to enjoy it??

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Medicine is not for me

Though I am an attorney now, for a brief period I considered going to medical school and becoming a pediatrician. I even declared biology as my major when I transferred from a junior college to the University of California. (I quickly discovered and introduced myself to my university guidance counselor after one lecture in a college-level biology class; I knew immediately I needed to get out of the "science" college and enroll in the "social science" college instead!)

While in college, I took a weekend trip to visit a friend attending a college about 6 hours away. We had a great time; lots of loud music, dancing, a bit of karaoke (gasp!) and on the Saturday night before I had to leave we ended up continuing the party at someone's home into the wee hours of the morning (as college kids are known to do). One of the guys dropped his beer bottle just outside the jacuzzi, leaving glass all over the patio, and then he kept stepping in it. He complained that he was walking in glass but he kept doing it. When we were finally leaving, he decided to walk us through the house and out to our cars, but wanted us to wait while he got out of his wet bathing suit and put on some dry clothes. As he walked down the hall, we noticed that his foot was bleeding - badly - and he was tracking blood all over the WHITE carpet. We kept telling him to stop walking around, but he wasn't listening. Finally, as my friend examined his injuries to see if we needed to take him to get stitches, I looked at his foot, my brain engaged - ooh, that's really bleeding - and I hit the deck. I didn't actually fall, but I felt dizzy and had to sit down. I was 21.

When I was in my senior year of college, I dated a loafer-or-sneaker kind of guy. I finally convinced him to wear cowboy boots so we would blend in at the country bar where we were taking line dance lessons. When we got home, he used his right foot to wedge his left boot off ... and split his big toenail right in half. There was blood everywhere, and it was NOT pretty. (What is it with me and men with bleeding feet??) I took him to the emergency room and made the mistake of watching while the doctor anesthetized his foot (with a needle between the toes!) and proceeded to lift his toenail off. When I saw the exposed "meat" of his big toe, my brain engaged - ooh, that's human meat - and I hit the deck. This time I actually fell. Ever fainted? The next thing I know, there's this really awful smell wafting in the air. The nurse actually used "smelling salts" to revive me. After she helped me up, she made me sit with my head between my knees. Literally. I was 23.

A few years later my mom had some surgery to remove a tumor from her adrenal gland. The surgeon showed me a picture of the tumor - it was huge! - and it didn't bother me one bit. Then I was standing by my mom's bed and looking at her shortly after she woke up. She looked grey. My brain engaged - ooh, that giant tumor in the picture actually came out of her - and I hit the deck. Again with the smelling salts and again with the head-between-the-knees. I was 25.

Still years later, my then-fiance had some knee surgery and couldn't really move for about four days. I played nurse and changed his bandage. I pulled the dressing off, cleaned the incision, and when I got up to take the bandages to the trash, my brain engaged - ooh, blood was oozing - and I stumbled into the wall. I was 32.

Somewhere in my late 30s I turned a corner. None of the miscellaneous fluids associated with pregnancy, birth and c-sections bothered me. I'm very calm when my kids bleed. My own blood doesn't seem to phase me. A few years ago, my mother called me from the emergency room to tell me she had a nosebleed. About 8 hours after they packed her nose, she woke me in the middle of the night to tell me she needed to go back to the hospital. Her nose was bleeding so much that it was soaking through the packing and pouring down the back of her throat, making her choke and gag. Blood was everywhere; it looked like someone had been murdered in her kitchen. I took her back to the hospital, where they packed her again. A few hours later, she was bleeding all over the place again. We went to a different ER - clearly the staff at the first one didn't know what they were doing - and they packed her a third time. (By the way, according to my mother, having your nose packed is VERY painful ... and it hurts worse if you're already sore from the first, and second, packings.) Through all of this drama, I was fine (except for my anger and frustration that they couldn't get the bleeding to stop). I cleaned up the blood in the kitchen and I was fine. I washed the towels she had used to try to stop the bleeding and I was fine. Maybe my fainting days are over. If true, then I've hit the deck - or come close - four times that I remember.

And what did I learn from all of this?? It's a darn good thing I didn't go to medical school!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The People of Wal-Mart arrive in Sacramento?

Have you ever seen or heard of that website called something like the People of Wal-Mart? If you have email and you have friends, you probably have at least heard of it. Supposedly, the website features pictures of real, actual Wal-Mart customers - from all over the country, I presume - wearing some of the most outrageous and ridiculous outfits. These outrageous outfits are pitched as the person's "regular" attire. Frankly, I'm not certain if I believe the photos are what they claim to be, but I can tell you this: Every time the "People of Wal-Mart" email - sent from a well-intentioned friend or sometimes (gasp!) my own mother - lands in my inbox I can't help myself. I know it's going to be awful. I know I'm going to cringe. I know I am going to make derisive comments and be all judgmental and stuff. But I do it anyway. It's like a car accident; you know you don't really want to see the carnage but you slow traffic to rubberneck anyway. Thankfully, I haven't received an "updated" email in about a month or so because that last one? Nauseating. No, really.

The greater Sacramento area has several Wal-Marts; I can think of about 8 off the top of my head. Some are nicer than others. I live in a southern suburb of Sacramento, and our Wal-Mart is t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e. I don't even like to go in there, but alas, it is close so sometimes I do. A little north from me - literally, maybe 5 miles north - is a new one in an area that is being refurbished, and it's pretty decent (though it may not last because the neighborhood just really isn't recovering). In the next county to the west, the border city opened one of those Super Wal-Mart megastores about two years ago. There's another big one in the heart of the Sacramento area that is big enough to have its own elevator. I have been to every single one of these stores at one time or another, on different days of the week, and at different times of the day and night, and I can tell you one thing for sure: the "People of Wal-Mart" featured on the website and in the emails do NOT shop at Sacramento Wal-Marts. For example, I have never seen a size 24 woman stuffed into a size 6 hot pink romper. I have never seen butt crack (though I've seen plenty of boxer shorts peeking out of pants belted mid-thigh). I have never seen hair so long it drags on the floor. I have never seen children being dragged on the floor behind the cart. I guess that's why I'm skeptical about the authenticity of the website and the emails.

Sacramento hosts the California State Fair each year, which is humongous and full of all kinds of folks, some of whom travel the entire length of the state to get there. It is at the State Fair each summer where I see what I think of as the People of Wal-Mart, wearing ill-fitting clothes, showing too much (overweight and butt-white) skin, swearing a blue streak, and stuffing their faces with fried Twinkies and fried Snickers Bars. (Yep, they deep fry ANYTHING at the California State Fair.) In their defense, California hosts the State Fair in late August and through the Labor Day weekend, which, if you've ever spent a summer here, you know is MISERABLY HOT. I get why people try to get away with as little clothing as possible, but seriously, do they not look in the mirror before they leave the house? Even though these People of Wal-Mart populate the State Fair, I have never thought they populated Sacramento because I've never seen them.

Everything changed yesterday. I took my boys to the Sacramento County Fair. It's small and just like any other county fair: 4-H livestock and farm animals, photography and science project contests, displays, carnival rides, exhibitions and shows, and deep fried food. I always refer to it as a "shrinky-dink" version of the State Fair. The significant difference (other than shear magnitude) is that the county fair is really only populated by Sacramento-area people. We might get a few out of county people, but not many, because it's not really publicized and is just a "local" thing.

So imagine my surprise when I noticed the People of Wal-Mart walking around the fairgrounds! I saw some really interesting fashion configurations yesterday. One woman was wearing black zebra-striped stretch pants - at least two sizes too small - with a fringey black top and kitten heels. Really? I don't know what she was thinking. It might have made sense if she were there with a man on a hot date, but she was there with her little kids. It was so hot her heavily made-up face was melting. I saw a man with a beard so long that he literally tied it in a bow below his chin. Seriously. One woman and her "man" - dressed in black biker-type gear - were so drunk at NOON and so loud that their pre-teen children kept trying to get away from them. The mom kept slurring "guysh, wait for me. Wasyer hurry? I jes needa getta more beer." The children - boys about 12 or 13 - looked like they just wanted to die. The piece de resistance, though, was the very large man whose shorts and shirt were so small that he looked like Borat in his mankini. It was NOT pretty.

I guess the People of Wal-Mart do live in Sacramento. They just don't shop at Wal-Mart.

(I wonder if I should start a website called The People of Fairs and Festivals. That might be fun. Not.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bird Parties

As I'm sure you know, certain types of birds tend to cluster together, particularly when the weather is getting chilly but not cold. Where we live - where we don't really get that cold compared to most parts of the country - the birds tend to cluster in the mornings, in the winter. When Sweetie was just a little guy, we would actively look for clusters of birds on telephone wires, electrical poles, rooftops, etc. while we were driving to daycare/preschool in the morning. He got such a kick out of seeing a bunch of birds all huddled together. One day, after we had been to a birthday party over the weekend, he saw a cluster of birds and said, "Look, Mommy, those birds are having a party." Even now - at the ripe old age of seven - anytime we see a cluster of birds he points out the "bird party."

Stinker picked up on this dialogue when he was very young. At 2, when he was just learning to put multiple words together, he would point to a cluster of birds and shriek "Bird party, bird party, mommy, yook, bird party."

Stinker just turned 5. Recently, after I had picked both children up from their respective daycares and we were driving to a fast food restaurant for dinner before heading over to their father's house, Stinker noticed a "V" shape of birds, flying and circling around a gas station. He leaned out the window of the car and shouted, "hey you, birds, you need to land. Let's get this party started."

I was a little shocked, having no idea where he heard that phrase, but just assuming it was something he heard from kids at preschool. And then Sweetie starts singing "I'm coming out, so we'd better get this party started" by Pink. THAT one is definitely from me.

Anyone who doesn't believe that children are sponges has not spent any time around my kids. I swear, these two boys remember EVERYTHING they have ever heard or seen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What is that music?

My mother is number 2 of 11 children. The "middle" pack of siblings are of the hippie generation. I remember the long hair, headbands, peace signs, and the other stereotypical things we think of when we think of that era. Not surprisingly, many of her siblings are of the liberal ilk, and are much more open about their life and their experiences than the people of her generation.

So one of my mother's sisters is married to a tattooed, motorcycle-riding guy who has always liked to keep busy with his hands doing landscaping, yard work, arts and crafts, etc. For a long long time they lived in this house that had the greatest back yard ...orchards at the very back, a swimming pool, plenty of yard to play, and this great patio. Together they created this two-part patio ... half was covered, and half was not. The uncovered part had a koi pond, a sitting area, and heaters. The covered part was unremarkable, just what you would picture it to be. The best part, though, was the speaker system. My uncle wired a bunch of speakers and mounted them on the patio cover. They could hook it up to their stereo and pipe music outside whenever they wanted.

One night a few years ago, the Ex and I were visiting. We were sitting outside near the koi pond, drinking beer and chatting, with my aunt, uncle and their two grown children. We were listening to music, and the conversation turned to the mounted speakers and the music that was playing. We were wondering whether the neighbors ever complained about the music, which lead to the following story.

One night my aunt and uncle had been watching an adult movie together and had it hooked up to their surround sound. They didn't know it, but it was also hooked up to the outside speakers. They were broadcasting the "oh oh ohs" and the bow-chicka-bow-bow to the entire neighborhood!! I asked if their neighbors had said anything and they said that strangely, no one had. But the neighbors were averting their eyes and avoiding their gaze as well.

Can you imagine? I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Only in my family, I swear!

Monday, March 15, 2010

No More Eye Jousting!

Sweetie is a scaredy-cat. Despite the fact that he is approaching his 8th birthday, this kid is afraid of everything. He's getting better, but seriously, everything freaks him out. Knowing this about him, I was hesitant to take him to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, but he begged. He "promised" he wouldn't get scared as long as we didn't go to the 3-D version. Ha. Famous last words.

If you're familiar with Tim Burton's work, you know that he is "dark" and, some would say, a bit twisted in his vision. Though I am generally a sunny person and prefer the bright and happy things in life, I like Tim Burton's work for the genius of it. He definitely has his own vision and he puts it in everything he does. I love that about his films. His vision shows again in Alice in Wonderland. He takes the famous story and adjusts it. It begins with Alice as a young girl having a recurring nightmare, where she goes to this strange place called Wonderland that has all of these strange characters. She explains to her father that she thinks she's going crazy because she sees a purple disappearing cat, a blue caterpillar, a mad hatter, and various other odd creatures. Her father - a visionary who has been called nuts more than once in his life - assures her it is only a dream, and if she gets scared, she need merely pinch herself and she will wake up.

Fast forward 13 years; Alice's father has died and her mother is attempting to marry her off to a nobleman. After the young man proposes, Alice needs a moment, and she runs away to think. She follows this little white rabbit she keeps seeing running in the bushes of the garden. She is peeking down a hole and she falls ... all the way down to Underland. Things have changed over the years, but the same characters are there and they've been waiting for her. According to an ancient scroll, she will slay the Red Queen's champion on a particular day (which is coming soon). They've been looking for the "right" Alice so she can come and do the deed.

The movie is full of trials and tribulations for Alice as she tries to figure out what to do. Not surprisingly, there are chases and battles. In one of the chases early in the movie, the famous doormouse pokes a needle in the eye of a beast, pulls it out, and saves it as a trophy. Though blood did not squirt all over the place, the gouging was pretty obvious. Sweetie flipped out!! "Mom, did you see that? That mouse jousted out his eye. Oooooh, let's go, I don't want to see anymore eye jousting." That was it for him. I refused to leave - he insisted on seeing the movie and we just got there - so he wrapped his arms around my upper arm and buried his head. "Tell me when the eye jousting is over." Despite my many promises that the eye "gouging" was finished, he hid his face for quite awhile.

As the movie progressed, some "creepy" things happen. In one scene, Alice must hop on the severed heads - left over the from the Red Queen's "off with his head" declarations - in order to cross a river. Sweetie flipped again. It took awhile until he finally settled again, though he leaned over and said, "Mom, I really want to go. I know there's going to be more eye jousting." Steadfast in my purported lesson of "finish what you start" I did not budge.

As the movie was building to the denoument, the final battle erupted; the red knight (a brilliant surprise by Crispin Glover) and all of the red cards were fighting with the odd characters of Alice's tea party. And wouldn't you know it, someone gouged out another eye! Sweetie sat up, looked at me with wide eyes and said "you said there wouldn't be anymore eye jousting, but they just did it again. I'll wait for you in the hall!" and I'll be darned if that kid did not get up from his seat and beat feet out of the theater! We were so close to the end I tried to coax him to hold on just a few more minutes but he remained committed. He said, "really, Mom, I'll just sit right outside the door. No more eye jousting!"

So I stood at the top of the aisle, with him outside the door, and I watched the last five minutes of the film. When I walked out to meet him, I chuckled and said he was just being silly, that it wasn't that bad and the rest of the movie was fine and he stood right in front of me, looked me straight in the eyes (pun intended) and said, "Mom, I have a new rule for movies. No shooting, no blood, no hurting animals, and now no more eye jousting!"

Well. So there it is.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm not ready to meet Kevin yet!

I grew up in a non-religious home; my parents were forced to go to church as children and hated it, so they never made my sister and me go. I remember going to various churches with friends growing up, but we did not have a family church and I do not recall ever attending church with either of my parents. I am not a religious person, though I have been on a personal spiritual journey for the past few years. The Ex claims to be an atheist, so I'm sure it's no surprise that our children do not attend church and have not had any formal religious training.

Sweetie is a thinker, and he has lots of questions about everything. I've mentioned his spirituality before; he's very new age-y, especially for a child at the ripe old age of 7. When he asks questions about death, God, love, etc. I try to answer them honestly. I tell him that nobody knows the answers for sure, and lots of people believe different things. He knows I believe in God and his dad does not.

Stinker has never asked any questions about God. So imagine my surprise when the following conversation took place:

Stinker: [after explaining the safety rules at school] So I make sure I don't run on the sidewalk, or let go of one hand on the monkey bars, or any of that other stuff so I don't fall and crack my head open.
Me: That's good, honey. I'm glad you keep yourself safe when you're playing at school. You definitely don't want to fall and hurt yourself.
Stinker: Yeah, because I'm not ready to meet Kevin yet.
Me: Kevin? Whose Kevin?
Stinker: You know, Kevin. The man in the sky who meets you after you die.
Me: There's a man in the sky named Kevin?
Stinker: Yeah. He lives in the clouds and sits in a big chair. He has a place up there.
Me: Are you talking about God? In Heaven?
Stinker: No, his name is Kevin.
Me: Sweetheart, I've never heard of anybody in the sky named Kevin. But I believe there is a man named God who some people think lives in the clouds. And he lives in a place called Heaven.
Stinker: Nope, not that guy. I'm talking about Kevin.

Oh. My. Gosh. I could not stop laughing. It took me awhile, but I think I figured out what happened. One of his little friends in pre-school lost his father last Thanksgiving, and he was telling people that his daddy died and was now in Heaven. I think Stinker mis-heard, and thinks he heard "Kevin." His 4-year-old little brain translated that information into a guy named Kevin who lives in the sky, and that's who you meet when you die.

There's no arguing with a 4-year-old once he has figured something out. At least I should be glad he isn't ready to meet Kevin yet.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pukes Today, Leaders Tomorrow?

I was going to start this post by asking "what's wrong with kids today?" but I realized the inspiration for my post is not really the kids but the management of the McDonald's where I encountered these kids.

I took my boys to McDonald's for dinner. (Shhhhh, stop judging!) We were there at the peak of the "family" dinner hour and there were lots of little kids there in addition to mine. Unfortunately, there were a bunch of teenagers in there, too. One group in particular had three booths in a row and took up an entire wall of the restaurant, right next to the fountain where every customer had to go for napkins, drinks, straws, ketchup, etc.

Now I know that teenagers are a species all by themselves. I get that they are loud, and they're full of hormones, and when in groups they are flirting and playing. The volume was not what bothered me, nor did I care that they were mouthing off to each other. What bothered me was the girl who really thought she was cool, but she was actually nothing more than a bully. She yelled the F word, loudly, at least 3 times while there were small children - including mine - standing 5 feet away from her. She hit one of the boys in the face after calling him a name. She pulled one of the girls' ponytails. She sat and threw french fries across the table at one of the boys. She was mouthy and abusive to everyone. In short, she was a puke. I do not understand why the other kids were friends with her, but teenage friendships are often a mystery to me.

What I want to know is, why didn't the manager of McDonald's do something? Shouldn't the manager have said something to this girl? I'm not suggesting the girl should have been kicked out - though I probably would have applauded if that had happened - but at a minimum one would think a simple warning was in order. "This is a family restaurant so foul language and physical contact will not be tolerated." How hard would that have been? As a bonus, it might have got the other kids to calm down just a little. Really, is the loss of a teenage customer a match for the loss of families as customers?

The scary thing? These kids all had the same club/group name on their backpacks that suggested some kind of leadership program. So am I supposed to be impressed that the pukes of today are the leaders of tomorrow?

I think I want to puke.

Are we going to cook Gigi?

Sweetie is a really spiritual and thoughtful kid. He believes in karma, reincarnation (though he doesn't know that's what it's called), and magic. He believes in God. He believes in the Golden Rule. He loves animals. Over the years I've learned that when someone tells him something or something happens, he ruminates for a couple of days, sometimes weeks. If he has questions, they will pop up randomly some time after the fact, usually while we are riding in the car.

A couple of years ago, Mama G and I had our estate plans done. I needed to get mine done because I am a single mother with young children and needed to make sure they are cared for should their father predecease me, and I wanted to designate someone to handle their inheritance until they reach a certain age. Mama G was most interested in granting a financial power of attorney to someone (not me) and a healthcare directive to control what would happen to her should she become sick or injured and incompetent to make her own medical decisions. As part of this discussion, she told me very clearly that she wants to be cremated.

Sweetie must have heard us. About two weeks later, while we were driving in the car, Sweetie said, "Mommy, what's cremated mean?" He was about 4 years old. I am one of those parents who tries to be honest with my children even when it's uncomfortable, so I told him the truth in as simple terms as I could manage. I said that when some people die they want their body to be buried and other people want it to be cremated, which means that it is burned. Unsatisfied, he asked me how the body is burned, so I told him there are special places that do it and they have really big ovens that they use. (Gasp!) That seemed to satisfy him. About a week later, again in the car and again out of nowhere, Sweetie asked "Mommy, are we going to cook Gigi?"

I think he understands the concept of cremation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Las Vegas Debut

Some years ago - early to mid 1990s - I made my stage debut in Las Vegas. Seriously.

I have an uncle who lives in a suburb of Las Vegas proper and has for a very long time. When I was younger, my mom and I would go to his house for Thanksgiving every year. We became very predictable: Big beautiful dinner on Thursday, day-after shopping on Friday, and some sort of show on Saturday. Keep in mind, I'm talking about the old school shows, before the big production shows they have now. We also went to the off-beat shows because none of us wanted to pay for full price shows; we just wanted to go out together to a show. My uncle always liked to see groups from his youth. I remember we saw The Four Lads once, and we even saw Frank Sinatra, Jr. In the year of my debut, we decided to go see Sha Na Na. Laugh if you must but I'm not kidding; we thought it would be hysterical.

I grew up watching Sha Na Na on television. My father loved 50s music and he thought Sha Na Na did an okay job of covering some of his favorites. He cracked up at the silly costumes they wore, and used to tell me stories about "greasers" and "bobby soxers." We amused ourselves by trying to impersonate John "Bowzer" Bowman's ginormous mouth and incredibly deep voice. I have vivid images of my dad standing in our living room in jeans and a white tee, flexing his bicep and rotating his fist from front to back, opening his mouth as wide as he could. And then it was my turn. It was even funnier when I tried; I have a small mouth anyway, and I was just a little girl. He used to get so tickled. And then we would sing the weekly sign-off song: "Goodnight, Sweetheart, well it's time to go. Goodnight, Sweetheart, well it's time to go. I hate to leave but I really must go. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight." He would laugh at my inability to carry a tune and tell me, "Poor baby, you inherited my singing voice."

Fast forward. My dad passed in 1991.

Fast forward to the Las Vegas show a few years later. There were four of us sitting at our little table. I was in the front, so I had the back of my chair to the table, leaving me with my back to my mother and my aunt and uncle. Sha Na Na was calling for volunteers from the audience to come up on stage. I did not know it at the time, but all three of those Judases were pointing at me behind my back, hoping they would pick me. And Donny did.

Donny was the greaser in rolled up jeans, converse sneakers, a striped shirt with cigarettes rolled in the sleeve, a duck's ass haircut, and sunglasses. He grabbed my hand and pulled me on stage. The other volunteers were young children, so I had a strong feeling this was going to be terribly humiliating. Luckily, I knew the chances of me seeing anyone I knew, especially at a Sha Na Na show, was slim to none so I decided to just enjoy the moment.

Basically, I had to hula hoop, do the limbo, and dance a couple of lindy steps in a "contest" with the other two contestants. I kicked those kids' asses, but it was rigged and I got robbed. Despite losing to a couple of snot-nosed kids (who, by the way, should NOT have been at a Las Vegas show on a Saturday night in the first place!), I must admit it was really fun. Donny was really cool and we laughed a lot. He was tickled to hear I had watched their TV show when I was a kid, though he said it made him feel old.

After a couple of obligatory bows and a wave to the crowd I returned to my table, parched and out of breath. My mother had the biggest smile on her face. After I sat down she leaned over and said, "Your dad would've really loved that."

You know what? She was right. My dad would've LOVED it!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's Almost So Big Ya Gotta Wipe It

I love concerts. I went to my first concert when I was 15. I wasn't allowed to date until 16, and a boy-friend invited me, so I was sure my mom would say no, but she didn't. I was so thrilled. I remember my friend Scott had a pea-green truck and he agreed to drive but we had to find gas money. We searched between cushions, under seats, in our lockers and backpacks, etc. until we finally came up with enough to get us there and back. It was awesome. The year was 1981. The band was Journey. I had a wicked crush on Steve Perry - why? I have no idea. We had bleeder seats but I didn't care ... I was seeing and hearing Steve Perry LIVE.

My love for concerts has not waned at all, though I have noticed I'm becoming less tolerant of the crowd. I often go to concerts by myself, after deciding some years ago that people are non-committal when you have to purchase tickets in advance, and if I wait for someone else to make a decision, I miss my opportunity. Having been stuck with tickets - sometimes expensive tickets - after someone changes their mind, I just order one ticket and go alone. It's fine. I'm pretty social and I usually have no trouble making friends, and I have always had a good time.

Tonight I went to see Bon Jovi. Know this: I luuuuuuuuuvvv Jon Bon Jovi. If this were chick lit I might say I lurve him. I haven't always loved him. His hair was too big and his music too "metal" for me in the 80s. He came on my radar in the 90s, first when he did a few episodes of Ally McBeal - remember, he was the painter/carpenter/handyman? - then when Bon Jovi's music changed to something a little less metal and a little more traditional rock, and then he was on Sex and the City. I swear, the man just gets better and better with age. Yum. I got a chance to profess my love for him on a giant birthday card. As he said, he turned 21 for the 27th time. Or, he's 18 with 30 years experience. (See? He's even the perfect age for me. Too bad he's happily married. And a famous rock star. Whatever, I can fantasize!)

The concert was really good. They've been doing this for 27 years and they still look good and sound good. I like Richie Sambora but I don't lurve him. He looked a little puffy. And what's with the tail hanging out the back of his jeans or shirt or whatever? I'm sure it was cool in 1983 but now? Not so much. Jon hardly has any wrinkles, especially given his age and number of years on the road. I alternated between swooning and panting the entire two hours they played. And let me just say, for the record: Jon Bon Jovi cleaned up in his every day rocker-ish style and probably smelling good? Yum. Sweaty Jon Bon Jovi? Yummier. Sweaty Jon Bovi in a tight t-shirt? Oh. My. God. I feel like a school girl but I can't help myself ... the man is so hot.

Some observations: There were too many school-aged children there. I don't care if they're off track, and I don't care if they stay up late. A rock concert is no place for a 10 year old on a Tuesday night. It's too loud, people drink too much, and too many people are practically having sex in their seats. Which brings me to the next complaint: Why is it that people feel like it's okay to engage in porn-movie kisses and ridiculously heavy petting at a concert? Don't they realize that we can see them?? I had a particularly lovey-dovey couple in front of me tonight and I would probably hate them except they were clever and nice and I liked them. I had the tantalizing trio across the aisle: a guy in his late 50s or 60s and a young couple. I was trying to figure out that situation; I think the older guy was her father, perhaps chaperoning a date. If he wasn't her father, she was awfully hands-on with her date's father. And if he was her father, her date had some big balls, what with all the manhandling and smooching going on right next to Pops. I had the obnoxious grandmas behind me. You know these ladies ... the ones who were probably too old for Bon Jovi in the 80s but have continued to follow them around. The woman right behind me had speech peppered with colloquialisms I hear the kids saying. She actually said "he's hella hot" and "I want to get closer, yo." She was at least 60. The few times I tried to sit down she had her foot in my back. And speaking of grandmas, we had the wearing-clothes-appropriate-for-someone-about-half-your-age grandma near us, who apparently had a tiny bladder because she was up and down about 10 times. She had on skinny jeans, spikey heels, and a sequined tank top with no bra. There is no way to explain the experience of seeing her rocks-in-socks bouncing up the stairs. Many, many, many women were wearing clothes similar to what they probably wore when they saw Bon Jovi in the 80s. I kid you not, I saw off-the-shoulder tops, black tops with denim mini-skirts, leggings and acid wash jeans. No lie. The piece-de-resistance, though, was the inspiration for the title of this blog and she deserves a paragraph of her own.

This woman was probably in her 50s and at least 40 pounds overweight, all in the butt and chest. She had long jet black big hair - probably with a bump it at the crown - and heavy eye makeup. She kind of looked like a rode-hard-and-put-away-wet trailer park version of Elvira. Her clothes were all black and skin tight. I swear she had on leggings and a low-cut shirt that she's probably had for 30 years. I saw her in the ladies when I first got there and she definitely caught my attention, mostly because of the size of her chest. It was HUGE. I mean, like, she probably has to special order bras in a cup size I've never even heard of. There used to be a blonde woman who would run out on the baseball field after games - Yankees, I think -and bounce her big bosom around. She had nothing on my Elvira. And to make matters worse, Elvira stuffed these pontoons into a shirt that was five sizes too small.

So we're sitting in our seats - me on the aisle, the lovey-doveys in front of me, and a very nice couple about my age to my left - before Bon Jovi comes on and all of a sudden here comes Elvira walking up the stairs. The woman of the couple next to me covers her husband's eyes and says "don't look, honey." Um, okay, how can he NOT look? His eyes bulged out of his head and the three of us stifled a giggle. Then the male part of lovey dovey gets a glimpse of her. I swear, it was like slow motion action. He was talking and looking around and suddenly he stopped, mid-sentence, and started to stare. And then he realized he was staring and slowly turned back to female part of lovey dovey. Female says "you're so rude, stop staring" and he says - as God is my witness this is a direct quote - "Wow, that's almost big enough ya gotta wipe it." The guy next to me spit out his beer and we all howled. There were high fives all around, and tears in our eyes from laughing so hard. She remained a source of entertainment for us the rest of the night. Male lovey noted her backside was almost bigger than her front, and that's saying something. We noted her impeccable balance as she tottered down the stairs in her high heels, overinflated rescue boats, all while holding a beer in each hand.

To quote Jon Bon Jovi himself, "It doesn't get any better than this. Thank you, and good night."

When Hairy Met Smelly ...

I'm pretty hairy. Not Sasquatch/Chewbacca hairy, and not Mediterranean hairy, but German-and-Irish-light-colored-hair-everywhere hairy. And now that I am in my mid-forties, I'm starting to get grey hair in odd places (my eyebrows!) and short thick whiskers have moved in on my jawline. I really should wax. A lot. Or maybe try electrolysis. Unfortunately my skin is also fairly sensitive. It and The Wax do NOT get along so I do not have high hopes for the success of electrolysis. So I use a depilatory, I shave, I wax a little bit, and I pluck. It's really not pretty. Maintaining a hair-under-control environment is time-consuming. Some things go by the way side. Lest you have your mind in the gutter, I am talking about my legs. It's cold so my legs are always covered. I sleep alone. I don't date. I let the hair on my legs get too long. So? Don't judge me.

This year I am going to lose the extra weight I've been carrying. I know, I say that all the time. But really, I'm going to do it. I'm not kidding. Notice I didn't say "try" I said "going to." Positive declarations lead to success (or so they say). So I've been tinkering with my schedule trying to make time for a regular appointment at the gym. I scoped out the gym near where I'm working right now. I put a gym bag in the car for those (very rare) times when I have some time to kill and would normally go sit at a bar. As Spongebob would say, "I'm ready."

Today I decided I would go to the gym in lieu of lunch because (1) it was lunchtime, (2) I wasn't hungry, and (3) I am not on a deadline. I was so proud of myself, praising me for having that gym bag in the car. I get to the gym, battle for one of two available parking spaces, and march proudly into the ladies locker room. As I'm opening my gym bag, I remember that I put shorts in there. And I can't remember the last time I shaved my legs. Seriously, I have no way to even guess.

I'm blessed with the realization that I am not the center of the universe and most of the time no one even notices me. I'm a middle-aged, non-descript, totally average-looking person whose carrying around extra weight. Except to the fat-o-phobes and the meanies, I am non-existent to strangers. It's cool, I don't mind. If I want to step into the light, I can. But I digress .... Normally, the fact that I haven't shaved my legs and am about to put shorts on at the gym wouldn't bother me even a little bit. Seriously ... nobody's looking at me, nobody's paying attention to me, I'm not cruisin' for a date or anything. But I've just finished reading Bitter Is The New Black - a memoir by Jen Lancaster - and have just started reading Bright Lights, Big Ass, her follow up. Jen's "shtick" - if you want to call it that - is observing and making fun of people (including herself). So suddenly I'm thinking the next Jen could be in the gym, noticing my hairy legs, and all of a sudden I'll be the topic of some stranger's blog and later a character in their New York Times Bestseller's List memoir.

Rather than pack up and leave - my first instinct after Jen's skewerings pass through my mind - I come up with a solution. I will find a treadmill in a corner, or in the back, where the fewest amount of people will see me and be near me. As I walk to the bank of treadmills I see one, against the wall, with a broken treadmill next to it, no one on the one behind it, and a vent blowing air from behind. Yes! The gods were shining on me. Or so I thought.

I'm doing my Couch to 5k workout - a story for another post - and I can feel the cool air blowing from behind me. No one is next to me. In fact, no one has even glanced in my direction. Told you. Then I noticed The Smell. It was awful. Seriously. I can't even think of a word that can describe this odor. I turned around and a very sweaty man was on the treadmill behind me. He was right in front of the vent, so his stink was blowing directly at me. Thank God I had my back to him; a direct hit from the smell might have mortally wounded me. I had flashes of Sweetie and Stinker covering their noses in the perfume section of the department store, screaming "Ow, Mommy, my nose hurts. What's that smell?" I tried to stay focused, but the smell got stronger and stronger. Just as I was thinking I have never smelled anything so rank in my entire life, I was reminded of that one time, at band camp ... er, in Germany, c. 1988.

After college, 3 girlfriends and I backpacked through Europe for 3 weeks. We're talking old school ... we paid for the trips ourselves (none of this happy-graduation-here's-some-money-to-go-travel-the-world stuff for us girls), stayed in hostels, slept on trains, used Eurail passes, etc. We spent a LOT of time on trains because it felt like it was cheap since we had already paid for the passes. One day we were traveling from Frankfurt-ish to Munich-ish and we made the bad decision to go on a Friday evening during rush hour. The train was PACKED; even the little seats that fold up into the side of the train in the aisle were down and occupied, making it difficult to pass under the best of circumstances and really difficult while schlepping a giant backpack.

Anyway, we finally saw a compartment that was empty save for a newspaper and a briefcase. What luck! The 4 of us got all excited, got up to compartment, opened the door ... and practically passed out. The absolute worst case of B.O. came emanating out of the compartment. Seriously, there was no person or animal in the compartment, but it was spewing forth by far the stinkiest smell I have ever encountered (then or since!). We were coughing and choking, our faces were turning red, and we were trying to figure out what to do, all the while laughing so hard we could hardly remain upright. We collectively decided that whoever stunk up the place must have left, and if we opened all of the windows to let in some fresh air, we'd be fine in no time and would have the compartment all to ourselves. So we scrambled in while holding our breath, heaved our backpacks onto the overhead racks, opened all of the windows and sat down. It was October, it had snowed the night before, and it was cold outside, but we didn't care. We had our turtleneck collars folded up over our nose-and-mouth areas (I have photos!) for a little bit but after a few minutes the brisk air cleared out the stench and we could relax a little.

And then HE entered. The source of the smell. Apparently Sir Stinks-A-Lot came back for his briefcase. He was a giant man, greasy hair, bad teeth and just as pleasant as can be. He walked over and immediately began closing the windows. He smiled and nodded at us as he moved his briefcase and plopped into the chair. He said something in German to the four of us in general and my girlfriend (who was fluent) responded. Then, all of a sudden, she stood up and started to get her backpack off of the travel rack. "What are you doing?," we asked. She turned to us with her eyes wide, a strained smile on her face, trying very hard to maintain control of herself and she said, "Why, I'm getting ready to get off the train, of course. This is our stop." The other 3 of us were puzzled; we just got ON the train and expected to be on it for a couple of hours. "But this isn't ..." one of us (probably me!) started to say, and she looked at us again, surreptitiously rolling her eyes to the door, and said, "You'd better hurry and grab your stuff. The train is stopping and WE HAVE TO GET OFF!" We scrambled to get our things, and as we were being herded like cattle down the aisle to the door of the train car, she turned around and said, "That man - and his awful stink - is going to Munich, too." When we inquired why we couldn't just switch cars she started to shake her head and said, "No way. I can still smell him. It's so bad that I'm sure the whole damn train smells like him. And then we'll have to smell him again anyway when we arrive in Muich and he gets off at the same train station. No way, no how. I'll take my chances with the next train."

Turns out, I have smelled something so rank. Something worse, in fact. And I survived. So I focused on breathing through my mouth and finished my workout.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Naked Time!

What is it about men and nudity?

I grew up with one man in my life, my father. He lived with us but he wasn't around a lot because he worked really hard. (In hindsight, my father had an absolutely incredible work ethic.) I don't have a ton of memories of him from when I was a child, but one that stands out is the underwear. My father liked to walk around in his tightie-whities. I didn't think much of it as a little girl, but it was SO embarrassing when I hit junior high school and just mortifying when I was in high school. To this day I can picture him walking down the staircase, turning through the living room - even when we had company over! - and going into the kitchen for a glass of water or something.

When I was a teenager, my father had drilled it into my head that boys only wanted to have sex with me, and of course I was a good girl who would never dream of having sex while in high school, so boys remained a mystery to me. I had a couple of boyfriends, but nothing really serious and nothing long lasting because if I felt like things were progressing physically, I cut bait and ran. But one of the boys I had dated ran naked through the half-time show during The Big Game when he was a senior. At the time, while laughing nervously because everyone else was laughing, I thought "Oh my God, that boy is naked ... in front of hundreds of people." (By the way, the now-infamous streaker was and probably still is one of the nicest men I've ever known. He's good people.)

In college, I discovered I liked to hang out with men. I became friends with my first gay man. I had sex for the first time (no, not with the gay man). I fell in love for the first time. I made some really good male friends. Though many of the college memories are fuzzy, I remember just about every guy I knew was always looking for an opportunity to take off some or all of his clothes; they were BA-ing people, taking off their shirts, skinny dipping, taking a steam, you name it.

I lived with a man for the first time when I was in my mid-twenties. He loved to be naked. He would get out of the shower, dry off, and then walk around the apartment stark naked. He completed his entire morning routine in the nude. He finally, begrudgingly, put his clothes on only minutes before he had to leave.

I don't want to tell tales out of school about the Ex, but suffice it to say he was not averse to nudity and leave it at that.

I remember seeing a Comedy Central special years ago by comedian Dana Carvey, who had two young sons at the time. He told stories of the troubles he and his wife had trying to keep clothes on those kids. Figuring it was useless to require clothing at all times, they decided to focus on time, place and manner restrictions to the nakedness. They implemented "Naked Time." They let their children run around naked for an hour or two, every day, at exactly the same time. He said they would sit there, hands ready to remove clothes, saying "Is it time yet? Is it time yet?"

So here I am, a single mom to two little aliens, uh ... um, I mean, two little boys. These boys beg me to let them be naked on "stay home days." Sweetie is starting to show signs of modesty when it comes to some things, but is he modest when it comes to parading around the house with not a stitch of clothing on? Nope. In fact, he likes to call attention to his nakedness - his "booty" in particular. Stinker comes to me with a big grin on his face and says "Look, Mama, I'm naked!" And then he runs around the house for awhile.

I'm sure I'm prudish as a middle-aged divorcee whose self-esteem has not recovered from a bad marriage and a divorce, but even when I was at my thinnest and most confident, I did not run around naked. Not even when I was alone.

So what is it with men and nudity?