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.