Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dear College Students With Crappy Summer Jobs

It’s summer, which means that my doorbell is ringing off the hook by young adults trying to make a buck by working for the man for the summer, selling knives and windows and whatnot.

I’m not one of those homeowners who peers around corners to see if the person at the door is worth my time – because, let’s face it, things like cleaning toilets and raising kids can always be interrupted.  Plus, hiding out in your house just to avoid a person at the door is for losers and children who were specifically instructed not to open the door to strangers while Mommy and Daddy are out getting their Happy Hour on at Chili’s.  Stop hiding, people!  Either that, or stop complaining about how rude people are these days.  Sheesh.

I answer the door.

And inevitably on the other side is a young man or woman earnestly rattling off a lengthy memorized spiel in the hopes that I will sign up, purchase, or accept a free consultation.

And I would like to tell them something.

You seem like a nice young man/woman.  I will patiently listen to you talk about the  amazing company that you’ve worked at for four weeks, because you probably did a great job memorizing the fact sheets they’ve given you.  You’ve done your homework, and for that I applaud you.  College!

Don’t mind me holding my hands like this – I was dismembering a chicken for dinner when you rang.  Salmonella, you know.

But.



Do you see this house here?  It’s sucked all the cash from my pockets and bank accounts.  Things break down, son.  Every day it’s a light bulb here, an appliance there.  I just spent $75 on replacement parts for my microwave.  And before that it was $60 to fix the vacuum cleaner.   In addition, my husband spends hundreds of dollars a year on the lawn.  GRASS.  Can you believe that?

Windows are last on my list of things to fix, even though we need new windows.  Most of them are cloudy because the seals have broken and the screens are all ripped because they are dry rotted from the sun.  But I don’t have that kind of money – new windows are expensive.  I know because you just offered me $200 off each window if I set up a consultation with you today.  Two hundred dollars off!  Do you know what that would buy?  Groceries for my family for a week.  Twenty regular-priced margaritas at Chili’s.  I shudder to think of how much each window costs. 

Let’s talk knives.  I like knives.  I like the knives you are selling.  I have some of them.  But I can’t buy any more. I just can’t.  For one thing, I don’t have a place to store them.  For another, I’m not a chef.  I don’t need another chef’s knife.  Ever, because the one I bought from your company has a lifetime guarantee.  Perhaps you could talk to your boss about his questionable business practices.

That vacuum is awesome, but holy moly, Kyle, I don’t have $1200 to shell out on a dirt sucker.  I barely use the vacuum I have, and you want me to buy that thing?  Do you know that I had most of our carpeting ripped out to minimize my time with the vacuum?

No, I wouldn’t like to change my cable provider.  We’ve done that a hundred times already, and I’m still spending too much money on entertainment that I don’t use.  The last time I watched TV was two weeks ago and I had to get up at 6 am just to watch a movie in peace.  It was on one of the regular channels.  I sat through all the commercials, too.

I don’t read magazines.  I used to read Vogue, but it made me feel guilty for two reasons: that I didn’t have all the hours required to read every page and pore over every insanely gorgeous ad, and that I have never and will never live the lifestyle that is featured in its pages.  Magazines have one aim – to make me feel bad about my own choices in life.

Educational Books?  I sold my spleen to buy two of those books for my kids one year.  Do you know how many times they looked through them?  Approximately 1.4 times.  I miss my spleen.

So you see, I can’t possibly buy anything from you right now.  You’ve done a great job with your speech, and I would be a fool to pass up this incredible offer, I realize.  But right now just isn’t a good time.  Don’t mind the new minivan and air-conditioned house you see here.  This stuff costs money, honey.  Money that we flush down the toilet every single day.  Now go on, now.  Knock on some more doors.  Maybe they’ll answer.  Or maybe not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, me and my chicken hands are going to go now.  Have a great day, and good luck with your venture.  But if you know what’s good for you, you won’t come around again.

Because I will answer the door.

*******


Monday, July 21, 2014

I Went To A Soccer Game



“Come ON,” they pleaded.  “It will be SO MUCH FUN!  Tailgating, grilling out, drinking beer at the game, cheering with the crowd…”

“Hold up,” I said.  “Cheering – no.  That’s what I hate the MOST about sporting events – besides having to watch the sport itself – the noise.  I’m not going.”

“Come ON!” My friends were relentless.  “You’re with US!  It will be fun!  You’ll have fun – we’re ALL going! You don’t have to do anything – we will do it all!”

“Nope.  Nope nope nope.  I will end up doing something.  Do you know my husband?  He will find something for me to do.  Plus, you are not new here.  I HATE SPORTS!  You know me.  HATE.”

My husband stood idly by, smile on his face.  He’d had this conversation with me before.  My husband lives and breathes sports – playing, watching, going to games, talking about teams, watching sports news.  The sport doesn’t matter.  He even watches the OLYMPICS, for goodness' sake.  Who does this?

On the other hand, I am holding out hope that all sports will be outlawed someday, or at least that all the sports stadiums in the world would vanish, or that we will find a parallel universe that only non-sports people will have access to.

Maybe it’s because sports have been shoved down my throat so much that I have developed a deep-seated aversion to them.  My husband’s over the top love of sports has, in effect, ruined them for me.  I have seen so much baseball basketball wrestling football golf hockey in person and on TV against my wishes that a squeak of a shoe on a court, the low roar of a crowd or one word of a shouting commentator sends me out of the room immediately.  Maybe it’s because I have hosted so many sports-centered parties in our home that eventually end with me doing all the work because everyone else is so wrapped up in the game.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a natural competitor; I don’t care who wins or loses.  Maybe it’s because I’m against the amount of money that sports figures make.   Or maybe it’s just because I don’t get it.

Whatever it is, I was NOT going.

So I’m not sure how it happened that I found myself in the front seat of my husband’s car, friends piled in the back, on my way to a professional soccer game last weekend.

I admit, I looked forward to hanging out with my friends – we always have a good time.  Upon arriving to the stadium parking lot, we scored free hats in return for answering a questionnaire about our computer experience.  We ate delicious food that I didn’t prepare, although it was touch and go at home before we left while my husband wandered around and asked me a thousand times what we were doing about food and drink.  “I don’t know,” I said over and over.  “I was told that I didn’t have to do anything.”

“But… I thought… I mean…” he stammered.

“You thought I’d step in and take over like I usually do,” I retorted.

“No,” he started.

“Yes,” I finished.  “That’s exactly what you thought.  This is not my deal.  By the way, what sort of arrangements did you make for our kids while we are away this evening?”





* * *

During the game, I was astonished to find out that our entire section would not be sitting down at all.  That it was customary to stand the whole time.  As I wistfully looked at the empty seats all around me I hoped for something to do.  Luckily, my friends know how to take care of me and it was suggested that we do a beer run right away before I started to cry over not being able to put my feet up for ninety minutes.

“Did the game start yet?” I asked.  “Yes,” they replied.  “It started ten minutes ago.”  Soccer is confusing, I thought to myself.  As I tried to make sense of what was happening on the field, I decided that counting the players was as good a place to start as any.  I noted that there were two different uniform colors - red and black.  Our team was supposed to be blue.  Why do the net guards have white and turquoise on?  And who are the guys with the yellow shirts?  “There are 25 people on the field,” I announced.

“Yes,” said my patient friends.  I peered into my cup.  The beer wasn’t very good.  The guy next to me was into the game, swearing and yelling and chanting and cheering and generally hating me as I inched my way closer to the railing so I could at least lean on something if I wasn’t allowed to sit down.  I stole a look behind me and there was a woman with white hair.  She was yelling.  I wonder if she has grandchildren, I thought.

I heard drums.  I leaned wayyyyy over and followed the sound.  The crowd started to sing and chant along with the beat.  There was a guy with a beard in the next section, beating on a drum that I couldn’t see.   I wondered if he took requests.  I wondered if anyone had ever fallen over the railing.

More friends came.  I kissed them hello as if they were an oasis in the desert.  How was your day?  How was your drive?  Did you know that there are 25 people on the field?  Do you need a beer?  Thirty minutes had passed.  Fifteen to go until halftime.  Do they call it halftime in soccer? My husband was six rows behind me with the other husbands, oblivious to my presence and not caring about my pain.



Halftime.  More beer.  Bathroom break.  Man, my hair was a mess.

The second half of the game brought something new to watch – a man on the field nearby who was playing an elaborate game of follow the leader with some guys wearing yellow mesh shirts.  When he ran, they ran.  When he jumped, they jumped.  The group hopped like a bunny and skipped around cones, single file.  I was entertained. 

“Who are they?”  pointing to the group.  “Are they cheerleaders?”  “They are players,” my friends responded.  “The leader is Warm-Up Guy.  He warms them up in case they have to play soon.”  Then my friend said, “This is my favorite part of the game.”

Almost on cue, the crowd started singing a song about Warm-Up Guy never going out on the field.  I felt bad for him a little, but figured he hears it all the time, is in incredible shape, gets to play follow the leader for money, and decided that he’s probably good with the song about him.  With new excitement, I tried to focus on the game and at that moment, one of the players kicked the ball into the goal.  I jumped up and down with the crowd and looked at the score to see who made the goal, having given up on figuring out which team was which long ago.  To my surprise neither score increased.  Someone said that the goal didn’t count. 




Then I cursed and decided that I officially hate soccer. 

After the game, while the rest of the crowd was busy staring into the sky at fireworks, I saw soccer players on the field signing autographs, a tradition that fills me with as much curiosity as finding meaning in watching sports.  At once, a player whipped off his shirt and threw it to a fan.  I accepted this as a challenge, and as I scoped out the few players that were left to see if I could get the attention of one of them, I saw him.

Warm-Up Guy.

“Hey!  Warm-Up Guy!”  my friends and I yelled.  He looked up and waved.  “You are my favorite part of the game!” gushed my friend like a teenage fangirl.  “I just love you!”  I sensed we were running out of time.  All of the soccer players had gone.  “GIVE US YOUR SHIRT!” I screamed.

He sort of chuckled.  “Hold on, I’ll get you a different one,” he said, and ran off.

My friend squealed at me.  “Do you think he’ll be back?” she asked.  “Probably not,” said one of the husbands, who had joined us.  “He’ll be back,” I assured her.  “He said he was going to bring another shirt.”

Several minutes later, with no sign of Warm-Up Guy, the husbands were getting antsy.  “Come on,” they whined.  “No,” I said.  “He’ll be back.”  Just then, I saw a familiar figure scanning the crowd.

“There he is!  HEY! WE’RE RIGHT HERE!” I screamed.  He grinned and threw us the shirt.  My friend let out a sound not unlike a primitive war cry from a tribal nation.  Her excitement was palpable as she inhaled the shirt and held it up to her bosom as if it was the wedding dress she had dreamed about since she was a girl.  “AHMAGAH!  I DON’T BELIEVE IT! WARM-UP GUY GAVE ME HIS SHIRT!  THANK YOU, WARM-UP GUY!”  We fell over each other, laughing and screaming.




I guess soccer isn’t so bad, after all.


*******

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fight Nice



Being married is one of the hardest things I've ever done, even harder than being a parent sometimes.  In my experience, marriage is sometimes more a test of will rather than a responsibility or a fulfilling of a commitment.  It's work.  Often, it's being humble, generous, loving, compassionate, and patient - all things that are simple when everything is going well, and not so simple when someone ticks you off.

So when Laura from Mommy Miracles gave me an opportunity to write about marriage in her summer marriage series Writing Vows, my mind went to that one place that not many people want to talk about when they are asked to talk about marriage:  Fighting.

So typical of me.  Hey, I have an idea!  Let's talk about the ugly part of everything - it'll be fun!

Keith and I fight.  Because we are two separate people, with separate interests, desires, preferences, expectations, and ways of doing things, we disagree from time to time.  When we disagree, we have been known to argue, yell, storm off, give the silent treatment, destroy baked goods, and cry.  Okay, I cry.  But over the years, we have learned to fight nicer.

Come join me at Laura's blog, Mommy Miracles, where I am guest posting about how we have learned to resolve our conflicts better, and see how far we've come.

See you there!



*******


Monday, July 14, 2014

Period Piece

It’s such a joke in man-world that when women get together all they do is talk about their periods.

In woman-world, it’s not a joke – it’s truth.

Women who don’t even know each other can speak about their bleeding schedules with no hint of irony or shame.  Within minutes of coming into a group of women I don’t know, I have shared the following: when I started my first period, at least one of my own period mishaps, favorite brand of feminine hygiene products, and my own personal lament of the political unfairness that said hygiene products are not free of charge worldwide.

By the way, can we get on this already?  While we’re at it, how ‘bout we smarten up on the whole birth control biz, hmmm?  Like how you practically have to sell your soul to get it?  I mean, really.  I can’t even.

NOPE.

But let’s get back to periods.

Women hate having periods.  We’re not indifferent or blasé about it.  HATE.  It’s a terrible, unavoidable mess that we are forced to sugarcoat in pleasant company because the alternative to harping about it is suffering in silence, and there isn’t anything we can do about it.  Besides major, last-resort-only surgery, endless doctor appointments, and side effect-laden drugs, that is.  Show me a woman who is “eh” about having her period, and I’ll show you a person who is obviously heavily drugged.

Or inhuman.  Or indenial.


I can say this because I’m a woman.  We were made to bleed every month and expected to keep it hidden from the world during that time, because it is so disgusting that no one wants to hear or talk about it. 

Except other women.

When you have an affliction, it helps to know that there are others who share your misery.  A period is an affliction.  Why, it’s even mentioned in the Bible: In the book of Luke a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years reached out and touched Jesus’ robe and was healed.  Hemorrhages is the Bible’s polite way of saying she bled from her vagina.  For a dozen years.  Let’s pause for a moment and consider what it would be like to have your period for twelve years.  I may be adding to the story here, but I think she was even sort of an outcast because of it.

Knowing how I feel when I’m having my period, it was a self-inflicted sentence.  She probably gave up associating with normal people at year four.  Jeebus, Jennifer, you’re still having your period?  Ah, yeah.  I’m out.

Now that is a woman who better have a darn nice house in heaven.  She probably throws the best parties, too.  Girl, get ready.  When I get to heaven, you and me, we are gonna sit down and talk about periods.

You and me and all the women.

When women live together for a time, their bodies actually sync and everyone has their periods together.  It’s cosmic – magical.  It’s vagical.*  It’s still a horror show, don’t get me wrong – women don’t get together hoping for a community period.  It’s not that kind of slumber party.  I’ve been accused of making someone else start her period because we shared a house on vacation.  Not such a great feeling, knowing your body has determined to ruin someone else’s good time.  It happens, and try as we may, we can’t control nor take back our vagic powers.  They are propelled by a force untamed and raw, instinctual and heartless.


  
Like a shark, the primitive period has no feeling or compassion.  It just does what it was meant to do – make life suck.  It doesn’t care that you go to the beach once a year, or have a honeymoon to enjoy.  If it needs to arrive then, it will.  You can count on it, actually.  It might go off its regular schedule and show up even if it's not supposed to. Surprise - You didn’t bring enough underwear! And a six-pack of teenager-sized tampons is $15.99 in the hotel shop!

And there’s little you can do about it outside of constructing an elaborately-timed regimen of birth control pills or a months-in-advance scheduled doctor appointment for device insertion designed to thwart the real inconvenience of having to be within walking distance of a bathroom every hour or so for the bulk of your trip.  Add to that the additional inconvenience of having to keep from maiming the man who accompanies you and who doesn’t quite understand the importance of this.

Despite sharing your bed, your toilets, your sinks and sometimes even your shirts, the man you live with manages to forget that this happens to you Every. Single. Month.

Are you having your period again?

Sigh.


Every woman knows all of this to be true, and despite the frustration of period life, I am grateful that I can share my woes with other women, even those for whom periods are but a distant memory due to the sweet relief of surgery, pregnancy, or menopause.  For it means that I belong to a sisterhood who knows the truth, who will always have my back.  Who knows the difference between period and non-period undies, who understands that the bathroom scale should give a range instead of a specific weight, who listens to me when I cry about not being able to wear white pants today of all days, and passes the tissues.

Or a spare tampon, a hunk of chocolate, a Midol, or even a sweater to tie around my waist if needed.

She’s got me.  Even though I probably just made her start her period.

*******


*I can’t take sole credit for this awesome word and all that it means.  It came up during a conversation with some friends, and we all deemed it the word of the century.  Thanks girls.  Okay.  And guys.  xo

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Onward

When you’re a kid, the question isn’t “What is your goal in life?”  but “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The possibilities left me with stars in my eyes. 

What did I want to be?  What didn’t I want to be?

Early on, I wanted to be two things: a dentist and a bus driver.

Naturally, I wanted to be a dentist, because: TEETH.  And a bus driver, because: the freedom of the open road, twenty tons of steel hurtling me toward the next adventure with fifty of my closest friends.

At six I was a wanderer, a free spirit.  With great teeth.

Later, my goal was to be a dancer, a farmer, a teacher, an actor, a secretary, a horsewoman, a florist, and Julie from the Love Boat.  I envisioned myself in a gauzy mint-green pleated dress, ash-blond hair perfectly curled away from my glowing complexion and glossy pink lips. Permission to come aboard, Captain?

I loved Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence, wanted to be involved in their hilarious back and forths, trying not to giggle.  My goal was to make people laugh, move them to tears, dance and sing like a modern Judy Garland and eat lunch on the studio lot.

I lamented the day I realized that we lived too far away from any big city to realistically have a career on the stage or screen.  I took modeling classes and learned how to apply makeup and I cut out pictures from magazines of clothing I thought was terribly fashionable and listened carefully as the charm school instructors insisted that these were not examples of high fashion but were instead one-off trends, sure to be absent next year.  I didn’t understand but perfected lining my eyes and feathering my hair away from my face instead.  I never once wondered why my hairstyle wasn’t featured in any of the fashion magazines.



I heard them tell my mother that I needed another 20 weeks of classes and what it would cost, and I got new goals.

In high school I loved art and failed math, and was crushed to find out that I had no talent for art after all.  I took an aptitude test that said I should be an artist.  I chose to go to college in a beautiful climate and majored in Undecided.

My third year of college began with an advisor advising me to decide.  I settled on psychology because it was interesting without seeming difficult, despite receiving average grades in the one psych class I took.  I discovered a love for testing psychological theories, not so much for hearing people talk about their problems.

Along the way to a new goal of pursuing an academic career,  I found a world outside university libraries and labs.  Raucous friendships and courtship and a planned life together that included corporate jobs and home ownership soon replaced animated discussions about the insanity of Freud and the real-life personality studies found within college psych departments. 

With a new goal in front of me, I said goodbye to academia and hello to domesticity, child-rearing, coupon clipping, and vacationing with babies.  First days of school followed, as did dance recitals and Little League and deaths and births of loved ones and new friends who are more like family every day.  

I've found a wonderful life that promises much more than I ever thought it would.

I never became a dentist, though I’ve pulled teeth.  I never drove a bus either, though I’ve carted around plenty of kids to youth group.  I am a model when my daughter watches me apply mascara and nods approvingly at my outfit before a night out, and I’ve decorated the walls of our house over and over – I dare you to say I’m no artist.  I’ve counseled friends in hard times, quietly listened to my teenager until he says what’s on his mind, and made people laugh and cry.  I even find myself between two funny ladies as they riff and zing off of each other every Girl’s Night Out.

I’ve made other goals since growing up, and I found meaning, growth and new adventures on my way to reaching them.  I’ve learned that any goals I make can be attained within this life and not a separate one that I have to construct to hold them.  This life can contain it all.

Even if the goals change and adapt as much as I do.


*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: Have you ever felt that life was getting in the way of a big goal?  Did you end up giving up or pressing forward?


Monday, July 7, 2014

Hold It, Now

BUT I DON’T WANT TO!

These words scream in my head so often that when I hear them coming from one of my kids, I almost don’t recognize that they are not coming from me.

I don’t want to.

They don’t want to clean up their rooms, read books for school, go outside for a run or a bike ride or to practice doing anything.

I don’t want to clean toilets, do laundry, make dinner, or run errands.  I don’t want to go to bed, wake up, exercise, or blow my hair dry.  I don’t want to make cookies.  I don’t want to pay bills, and I sure don’t want to go out in the yard to pull weeds because last time I did that I got poison ivy and that crap is Crazytown.

But hold on.  Slow up.  Take a beat.

And forget for a minute that these are my children and that I am their role model.


Why don’t I – we – want to?  Is it because we don’t want others telling us what to do, or because we don’t like to be controlled by outside forces, or because the job is boring, or thankless, or stupid, or – God forbid – good for us?

Do you know what I want to do?  I want to sit on the couch and watch TV and eat chocolate and drink wine.  All the live long day.  But that’s no way to live.  Believe me – I’ve tried it.  It gets old, fast.

The things I should do – must do – are always present, and they are there to make life interesting, and productive, and beneficial. 

It’s a hard lesson for some of us, those of us who are wired a little more loosely than others.  Or tightly, depending on your perspective.  I don’t want to because I feel put out by the things I have to do, that I am somehow missing something else because of the priority things – the work I must do.  I spent all day washing clothes and now I don’t have time to do anything else that might be fun.  FOR ME.



It’s selfishness, really.  A character flaw.

I resist change at an inconsequential level.  Tell me that tomorrow we’ll be moving to Hong Kong and I’ll pack boxes and contact a realtor, but please don’t tell me that you’re coming home late because both of the kids have places to go and they haven’t approved human cloning yet, and I’m definitely holding out on that before asking a neighbor to help out.  Also, that garage sale stuff can sit in the dining room for a few more weeks, can’t it?  Garage sales are a lot of work.  A LOT of work.

And I don’t want to do it.

The realization that my kids mirror what they see in me, and that my job is to teach them otherwise, is a sobering thought.  This is my parenting fail.  This is where I’ve messed them up forever. 



I apologize, future spouses of my children.

It’s also the point at which I no longer freak the freak out when they refuse to do something.  “I don’t want to” elicits not a surprise reaction, nor anger, nor much emotion at all anymore.  I ask them to verbalize why they don’t want to, and let the reasons play out and dribble away.

We don’t want to, but that’s not an option most of the time.  Getting them to see it that way is hard, but I think eventually they will.

Whether or not they want to, that is.


*******

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What a Bunch of Weirdos

When we’re together, my younger brother wastes no time telling anyone new that I made him weird.

He is seven years younger than me, and as I took him on as my own personal ward throughout his early childhood, I taught him the art of the knock-knock joke, the thrill of yelling swear words into a room full of adults, and the beauty of dressing up like an elf, a dog, a girl, AND Michael Jackson.

The guy probably has the best sense of humor of anyone I know.

As we grew up and I moved out, I could clearly see the seeds of random weirdness sprout and bloom within his personality, and recall telling him in all sincerity during my and then his own Beastie Boys-obsession, that I would name a future male child “Mike D” and train him to respond “Aww, yeah, that’s ME” anytime he was called by name.

Check it at :28-:31 if you don't want to listen to the whole thing.  
Then let's talk about WHY a person wouldn't want to listen to the whole thing.
Are they beyond help?

I don’t think my brother will ever forgive me for not following through on that promise.

I never planned on being weird, never thought that my weirdness would translate in the real world to humor or happiness or anything positive at all.  I thought it would mark me as a crazy person, unable to form real relationships and bonds with other, more “normal” people who don’t hang onto crazy song lyrics even well past their period of relevance.

I never thought my weirdness would stick to my brother, hurl me through some genuinely bizarro experiences in my twenties, ultimately attract my straight-as-an-arrow and woefully non-weird husband, and then affix itself to our two children.

But they've lived their entire lives being raised by me - how did I think anything else would happen?

This photo was taken after my son’s very last baseball game of the summer, well after a decent dinner time, at an old new favorite bar that my husband and I like to frequent due to their good, cheap food and drinks.  Our children, who have learned to love wings and crab fries and Shirley Temples like every good bar patron’s children should, finished their meals and obligingly posed for the camera.

Hey, kids, it's officially summer.  Smile.





*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #3: Share your top favorite photo you took in June.  Give us the back story.