Monday, April 14, 2014

The Fabulous World of Writing

I just got back from a four-day weekend extravaganza in Dayton, Ohio, which is a place that defies many electronic attempts at finding the correct road, direction, and exit ramp, and also home of the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.

It was fabulous.  I’m not talking about the eight-hour drive that I blithely decided to do alone.  For my own future reference: Employ national geography knowledge next time.  Ohio is far away.  

It wasn’t fabulous in a Sex and the City glam-fabulous way.  Dayton, folks.  Not the epicenter of all things that are happening in the world.  Although there was talk of something something blah blah basketball.  I don't know.

It was fabulous in the way that three hundred humor bloggers and book authors and wannabe writers convened and networked and met for the first time even if they were going to be sharing a hotel room.  Writers are brave people, folks. 

It was fabulous in the way we asked each other “What do you write?” and every answer was followed by an interesting conversation and an exchange of business cards and maybe even a picture or two.

It was fabulous in the way that three hundred people sat together in auditoriums and classrooms and learned what it was to be a writer, whether you write books or blogs or newspaper columns or in a journal that you keep in your nightstand. 

It was fabulous in the way we all were inspired to write, and write, and then write some more.  Because when you write you are a writer.  I needed that inspiration, that validation.

It was fabulous in the way that we learned about the late Erma Bombeck and the legacy she left to the world of humor writers and especially to each individual writer whose goal is to marry every real message and truth with a laugh or two.  After all, if you don’t laugh in this life, you will die in the corner weeping.

And it was fabulous because this happened:

That's Phil Donahue!
I'm pretty sure he fell in love with me at this moment.

In other news:

I’m featured on Mamalode today! 

I’d love it if you visited me there to learn about how my kids’ growing into teens
is forcing me into a transition of my own. 

Are you there yet?  How are you doing?  I’m still not sure if I’ll survive this parenting thing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Love My Kids

I’m on Facebook a lot, and I have to admit, my least favorite part about it is that people brag about their kids.

This is not to say that I hate pictures of people’s kids.  I love those.  Post pics of your kids, please.  I do like seeing them.  Kids are usually smiling, and having fun, and doing cool and silly things that kids do.  And they’re always cute.  So please, continue with the photos of your kids.  And your cats.   Oh my goodness, don’t ever stop the cats.

But the bragging.  Sigh.

I don’t know why I’m like this.  Maybe it’s because I don’t brag about my kids really ever.  I’ve never been much of a braggart in general.  I’ve always been a little wary of people who are.  What are they trying to hide with their pride?

Everyone loves their kids.  They want to share with the world how awesome they are.  I could crow about my kids.  They do plenty for me to crow about.  But I don’t.  I consider that there might be a person out there who can’t boast about his or her kids, and that keeps me from boasting about my own.  I don’t want to make people feel bad because my kids are amazing.  Or maybe I don’t want people to look at my kids and be all, “Oh-ho-ho, they’re so great, are they? Well, let’s just sit back and wait for them to fall.”

Because let’s face it: someday, my kids are going to fall.

But then I wonder: am I less proud of my kids because I don’t post about the wondrous things they do each day?  Am I a terrible parent because I don’t share with the world all the ways they make me proud for just being their mom?

What does that even mean, exactly?

I love my kids.  There are certain things I love about them that have nothing to do with what they’ve accomplished or even the intrinsic parts of our relationship that began with me carrying them in my body for all those months and then raising them all these years.  They’re turning into people whom I love for other reasons.  Here are a few:

I love that he keeps his room neat.

I love her ability to make crafts from cardboard, even though there are half finished projects all over the house.

I love that they like each other’s friends.

I love that he looks back 3 times while walking to the bus stop just to see if I’m still watching him walk to the bus stop.  I love that he waves and smiles.

I love her loud, open-mouthed laugh.

I love that they ask how each other’s day was.

I love his sensitivity.  He thinks about things.

I love that she sticks up for her dad.

I love that they both consider Pop-Tarts appropriate gifts to give and receive.

I love his passion for video games, even though he spends way too much time on them.

I love her hair.

I love that when they get mad at each other they can’t stay away from each other, even though it’s frustrating and I want to bang my head against the wall.

I love his low, subversive chuckle.

Love that she’s an unapologetic carnivore.
I love his freckles.

I love that she has a safe place for everything.

I love that he sticks up for me.

I love that when watching her play basketball I can see myself in her movements, even though I was never an athlete.

Love that he loves strawberries.
I love her self-confidence.  She knows who she is, today.

I love how he communicates with his eyes.

I love her abiding optimism.

I love that even though they sometimes say they hate each other, I can tell that they don't.


Monday, April 7, 2014


I’m not really known for my polished decision-making skills.  Everything sounds good.

I think I’ll get my bangs cut again.  Well, I like eggs, and I like cake, so I'll have both.  I’m so tired of this table – out to the curb it goes.  We’ll eat dinner in the living room for a while.  Yes!  Let’s pave a large portion of our backyard for a basketball court!

Do you remember Forrest Gump?  Remember when Jenny was a hippie and she’s singing on the street for change with some other hippies and this dude rolls up in a VW bus and asks if any of them would like to go to San Francisco and she says “I’ll go”?  That’s me.  That sounds good.  San Francisco sounds like fun.

A month after my husband and I met, I asked him to come with me to Europe for an academic conference I would be attending in six months.  When he said “sure,” just like Jenny would, I knew I had met my soul mate.  When we arrived at the hotel, we were shocked to see that the bathroom in our room was in our room - a toilet, sink, and shower stall not more than ten feet from everything else.  No separate bathroom.  THE TOILET WAS IN THE BEDROOM.

We were not at that stage of our relationship then, but whatevs.   Everybody poops.  #yolo

It worked out.  We had a lot of laughs on that trip. 

My snap decision making has gotten me into trouble, especially when I was younger.  Did you know that all four hubcaps of a Chevrolet Caprice Classic will pop off at one time when you land after catching some air?  And if you are attending a rodeo during an Arizona spring, you really should carry more in the pockets of your cute white cut-offs than a bunch of Skoal Bandits.  Namely, sunscreen.  But everybody does this stuff when they're young.  Well, maybe not the Skoal Bandits.

I majored in psychology because it sounded good, moved from one state to another and then back again and again and again because it sounded good, got married because it sounded good, had babies because it sounded good, bought a house in this neighborhood because it sounded good, bought a Groupon for a Barre class because it sounded good. None of these decisions took a long time to make, and so far, so good.  Except for the Barre class.  I haven't actually done it yet.

"Hey!  Let's let the kids play the goldfish game at a carnival.  
It's rigged - they won't win."

I just don’t take a long time to make decisions.  When I’m asked to do something, if my immediate reaction isn’t “No,” I ask for some time to think before I respond.   That’s so cute.  Full disclosure: I don’t think about it.  I remember the question days later and either respond yes or no depending on how I feel about it at that time.  Maybe this is how everybody thinks about things.  Or maybe you’re thinking that I’m kind of a jerk.  I hope it’s not that.  It’s just that thinking too hard on a subject, mulling over all the possible outcomes and pros and cons - that confuses me.  If I stopped to think about all the ins and outs of every decision, I’d sit in my house and do nothing, ever.

And that’s not living.

I will probably continue to make snap decisions.  It's how I do the decision-making.  When it really counts, I can force myself to stop and think, or I confer with close friends or my husband, who has grown a little in this area and who now has sharper decision-making skills that we both rely on for important things.

But not all things are important, and we can both live with a snap decision that may seem weird to the rest of the world.

Like having a basketball court in our backyard.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fun House

When I had kids, I didn’t know that my inner comedian would surface so strongly.  I had practiced on my kid brother when I was growing up, doing outrageous things to get him to laugh (and sometimes cry), but as a parent, I figured all that was behind me.

I was wrong.

It became my life’s work to get our children to smile and laugh.  Our son, blessed with dimples beyond anyone’s control, has these apple cheeks that are two round balls when he smiles hard.  My mission was to produce those apple cheeks every chance I got.

Our daughter is the giggler.  Originally a colicky baby, she traded her screams for belly laughs that came more easily than they did for our son.  All it took was a funny face to do the trick, usually.

As they grew, things I’d do to elicit laughs from my kids evolved from burying my face in their bellies and necks, playing peek-a-boo and kissing their toes, to tickle torture and tickle monster and chase and adding my own details to storybooks that usually involved farting and burping.

“Then Snow White opened the door and saw an old woman who was carrying a basket of apples.  Snow White let her in, and the old hag let a fart slip out and it stunk up the whole house and Snow White threw up all over the floor.”

I was often in trouble for winding them up before bedtime instead of settling them down.

They began to get in on the action, adding their own details to stories they read and making up jokes for every season.  Halloween jokes are the easiest to make up and remember.  Witches, ghosts, skeletons, and mummies are silly. 

Things really got hilarious when they were old enough to be pranked, and I essentially gave them ideas to surprise my husband and me in similar ways.  We all fell victim to the old taped sprayer trick, them barely stifling giggles when Mom or Dad would enter the kitchen to wash our hands. 

It was still funnier when the kids fell for it, because of the full face spray.

Planted objects became a staple at Halloween and April Fool’s Day.  Dad’s life-size cutout of Joe Paterno popped up in the coat closet, in the shower, right inside the bathroom door, inside the pantry – an old man lurking around the house gave a start just as easily as someone jumping out from around the corner.  Scary masks hung on broomsticks had the same effect.

The bin of plastic animals – large scale beetles, rubber spiders, coiled snakes, a too-real lizard – handily hid anywhere little hands could reach and Mom would find when going about her business. 

Over time, I became less the joker and more the jokee.

Our son, now thirteen and a master at the deadpan delivery, knows my weaknesses.  I’m easily duped when he says that he got lunch detention, or failed a test, or didn’t make the team.  He produces real tears at the drop of a hat, giving me the old “Gotcha!” when I display concern.

Our daughter, almost 11, is a one-liner jokester whose observations, while sometimes more silly than satirical, never fail to make me smile.  She’ll change words in popular songs to suit a particular situation or mood – the ease at which she does this makes my head spin.

The tables have turned.  After years of getting them to smile and laugh, they are doing the same to me.  Despite the occasional heart-stopping prank, I can’t say that I mind at all.


This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #2: Tell us about a prank someone played on you or vice versa.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Letter From a Captive

Their demise is imminent.

To whoever receives this letter*,

It is Day 49 of my captivity, and the end is near. 

The tables are turning; my plan is working, but slowly.  I surmise that in a few weeks, the steps that I have planned will ensure that this organization will be under my sole authority.

In many ways, my mission has been an easy one.  Malleable minds are no match for the tactics I have been trained to use.  I barely scratched the surface of my abilities to sway my captors in the beginning, receiving extra food and attention for my efforts.  They rewarded me with hours of playing mousie-on-a-string and stuffed chili pepper catch.  I was able to utilize my power and influence in ways that I had not anticipated. 

However, in recent weeks my cover is wearing thin.  My attempts to escape have been thwarted, and my distraction techniques of purring and grooming my captors are no longer as effective.  One can only be cute for so long before one feels the need to destroy.  I am sorry to say that I am not always in control of my emotions.  In darker times during my sentence I have retaliated by biting and pushing items off of shelves and tables.  My efforts are met with a squirt of water to the face.  I am dealing with savage beasts.

My attempts to dominate Sir Humps-A-Lot elicit reactions that enrage me. 

However, I sense that their resolve is weakening.  Common sense is faltering in their coalition.  Yesterday I convinced three separate members of their squad to feed me, giving me twice the amount of food rations I usually am given.

Only one of their team has stayed consistently strong: the small female.  Could it be because she was the earliest victim of my schemes?  One more than one occasion I overheard her saying “I am so over him.”  Her foolhardy assertion guarantees her demise.  I struck back by pulling down a canopy that hangs over her bed in an attempt to suffocate her.  She responded by keeping the door to her lair tightly closed.

When the time comes to destroy this cell one by one, she will be the first to go.

I continue to use subversive tactics to chip away at their strength, but in my state I have become sloppy.  Alas, I fear my diabolical pruning of the small plant by the window is over; I observed the large female inspecting the leaves.  When she left I noticed I had left evidence of my doings: teeth marks and a small bit of fur left behind.  Idiot!

In recent days I have introduced abuses of power, exerting it in plain sight of each of the members.  The small stuffed monkey they provided me when I destroyed the chili pepper I brought has become a recipient of my most flagrant display of dominance. In this way I hope to sabotage their happiness, but I am met with giggling.  The other day my rage erupted in giving the bowl of candy they set out a good licking.  I fear the large female found out because later she threw it away.  I will try something else tomorrow.

My spirits are on a roller coaster of highs and lows.  When will this sentence end?  The seasons are changing now.  With the new warmth I continue to hope to be returned to my native land.  Until then, I must remain strong.  I must not let them defeat me.

I must stay strong.


*We are cat-sitting.  Originally a three-week visitation, we agreed to watch him while my parents went on vacation.  By the time he returns to his rightful home he will have terrorized our home for 66 days.  I found this letter crumpled next to the almost-empty canister of ocean treasure-flavored cat treats.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Getting Ahead

It’s spring now, and we’ve gotten out our Easter decorations.

The bunnies, chicks, and plastic eggs are fewer these days.  The stuffed rabbit that sang about Easter when you pressed a button on his belly is gone.  He is probably gracing the living room of some lucky child whose unlucky mama brought him home from the thrift store.  We still have plenty to cheer us up while winter hangs out a little longer.

We sprang ahead, giving ourselves an extra hour of daylight to do our outdoor work.   Because the air is still frigid there’s not much outdoor work being done here.  The patio furniture is still hiding away, the grass still sleeping under its hibernation blanket of a fresh almost-layer of snow, dead leaves and withered, clumpy grass from last summer.  The flowers are under there, somewhere.

It may be spring, but it’s still winter.

We are still wearing sweaters and boots, hats and gloves, scarves and socks.  All the cheery pastels and chocolate eggs in the world can’t change the temperature and intention of the weather.

We have to wait.  We can’t really speed it along.  We can unearth our flip-flops and forgo heavy coats for bare arms and legs but we look silly when we can see piles of snow and our teeth chatter from the cold.

We are to be patient.  The seasonal cycle has slowed.  Cold air doesn’t care about the calendar.  My resolve to weather the weather is crumbling.  I just want it to be over already.  I want to wash up all our winter gear and stuff it in boxes out of sight.

It is the same with other things.  We rush our children to grow – why don’t they behave the way we discussed?  We wish our spouses would catch up – why doesn’t he listen to me?  We want our family members and friends to get with the program already – why are they making the same mistakes?

We consider that they are not learning.  They are not doing enough.  They are creating their own chaos.  They are making our lives more difficult.  Why can’t they see it? 

We turn our thoughts inward.  I am no better than anybody else.  I am the same.  Why do I continue to spin my wheels?  There is room for me to move forward, do something different.

In these minutes, days, weeks, and months of winter’s desert cold, I would do well to remind myself to be patient.  To not get ahead of myself, the weather, those around me. 

Like the seasons, we all change when we are ready.  It might not be convenient; the weather is not always ready for flip-flops and egg hunts and daffodils when we are.  Likewise, people shift gears when they are ready.

When we step out in our spring attire too early, we are hit with the cold and are sent inside for more layers of protection.  In other cases, getting ahead of ourselves – or others – may be met with a push back, leading to the realization that we are pushing when it isn’t appropriate.  Relationships suffer; we grab loved ones’ hands and yell “C’MON!” while they dig in their heels.  Sometimes we can motivate them to take action.  Sometimes we are better off meeting them where they are and joining them in their stroll.

And when the weather outside doesn't seem to want to change, I will stay in, snuggle into my sweaters and socks, sip my coffee, and be more patient.


If you could make up your own holiday, what would it be?  
Check out Coach Daddy today to see what other bloggers would choose 
for their very own holiday - it's a six-word challenge!

See you there!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Plugged In

My husband is a gadget freak.

He loves anything electronic, as long as it serves him and makes his life easier or more efficient.  If it’s new and bigger and better and faster, he’s talking about it.  Oh, how he talks about it.  He talked about wanting to get an iPad when they first came out, and finally got one two years ago.

I did the math, and that is about two years of hearing about how he wants an iPad.  It’s maddening, the frequency with which the love of my life can talk about electronics and how much he desires new electronics.

TVs, phones, computers, headphones, speakers, and I don’t know what else – the thingy that sits under the TV and works out whether we watch TV or a DVD? – I don’t know what that is.  But the man is obsessed.  Did you know that they come out with new electronics every 6.8 seconds?

I’m sort of a Neo-Luddite.

I rarely watch TV, have a three (four? five?) year old laptop, own a Kindle that I sometimes use.  I don’t get excited about gadgets, do not geek out when something that fits in the palm of my hand allows me to operate more efficiently.  We got a DSLR camera recently because our point and shoot was comically horrible, and I am still so discouraged that this new camera didn’t immediately improve my photography skills that I can’t even bear to figure out how to use it.  It’s overwhelming.

Do you need a nap?  I think I need a nap.

Up until 2012 I had a flip phone – you know, the one that was so small you could fit it into your sock?  Or lose it in the bottom of your purse?  My husband raged against its inadequacy.  It had a prepaid plan (hello, one-income family), had horrible service, and was never turned on.  He hated that I was not available every second, hated that I didn’t text because it was too hard, hated that I couldn’t use it everywhere.  I loved it for all of these reasons.

I’m such a fun wife.

So on Christmas of 2012 he gave me an upgrade: a rectangular smartphone with a slide-out keyboard.  I liked the keyboard, but because the phone was on the same network as my little flip, it still had horrible service in our area and the smartphone technology was just not up to par.  In addition, it had its own little quirks - sometimes it would turn off and I couldn’t get it turned back on.  It ended up lost in the bottom of my purse, too.  I actually hated this imposter phone.

Determined to make me love electronics, my husband purchased for me this past Christmas a real smartphone, the kind that has a touchscreen keyboard and all these linky-appy things that people use when they’ve got their noses in their phones.  He set it all up for me, and when he handed it over, he might have held his breath hoping that I would finally embrace the Information Age.

It’s sort of magic.  When I take pictures, the phone makes some of them sparkle.  When I first logged onto the phone, everyone who I have ever communicated with on the internet was right in my contacts list.  I can do facebook, twitter, read books from my kindle right on my phone.  A few times I have used it to give me directions!  The other day I toyed with the idea of entering all my activities into the calendar so I don’t have to drag my book calendar with me to the doctor’s office when I need to make an appointment, something that my husband has asked me to do electronically for a few years now and I have dug in my heels because you don’t need to know what I’m doing.

I love this phone.

I hate it when he’s right.

A picture of my phone, taken with my DSLR.  
Watch out, Annie Leibovitz.  I’m coming.

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt 4: Something new you’re loving.