Thursday, May 28, 2015

Big Deal

I’m not big on important dates and celebrations.  It’s not because I’m a big old grouch.  Okay.  I’m sort of curmudgeonly.

Life moves quickly; marking it in big ways is a relentless endeavor.  Plus, you run the risk of missing something mundane that becomes extraordinary in some way, just because your energy is focused on making the special more special.

What I’m saying is: Heads up, people.  Time is fleeting.  Seize the moment.  There’s a birthday every day.  Life is measured by little deviations as well as broad milestones like turning thirty or being married for thirty years.  I like to look back at the eccentricities, not the same exact party every ten years.

Birthdays, anniversaries, dates of first meetings, first I love you, first date, graduation, birth of first, second, third child.  What’s the big deal?  Who can remember all those dates?

There was a short period of time this year when I was under the impression that my daughter’s birthday was two days after her actual birthday.  I literally had my daughter’s birthday wrong in my head.  Imagine my surprise and desperation when I realized that I cheated myself two days to make her big day as special as I could, which isn't saying much.  Children are gracious.

Because of my laissez-faire view of celebrations and big events in general, I married a guy to whom dates and events are important and big and special.  He remembers all the details of every big event. 

I don’t know the name of the restaurant we ate at where we got engaged, but he could probably tell you the name, where it was located, and even the name of our waiter.  I can’t tell you what I ate but I’ll bet he can.  I think he said that The Rolling Stones once ate there. 

Some time after our wedding I confessed to a friend that I didn’t remember what day we got engaged.  She barked at me, scolding “ANDREA.  It was New Year’s Eve.”

New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Eve.  We got engaged on New Year’s Eve.  I repeat it in my head like a mantra.  Not instantly recalling these details is embarrassing.

Our engagement is blurry.  I remember wearing a hideous long chocolate brown velvet dress that I hated but it was the only dress I owned.  It was J. Crew.  Or J. Jill.  Awful brown suede slippers to match.  They were almost too small – my toes scrunched in the tips.  I vaguely remember some sort of box.  Was it chocolate?  A ring and a speech.  Applause.  Did I cry?  Did he?

I remember phone calls.  Who did we call?  Parents, probably.  Friends, brothers, aunts, grandparents?  I don’t know.

The Rolling Stones and an ugly brown dress.  These are the details I remember from our engagement.  These are the oddball things I remember in general.

That night was a big deal.  A night that began this life I am living right now.  We took care to nurture our relationship and he took pains to organize this big part of its official start.  I wonder if any of it would have happened if it had been up to me.  I wonder how much I’d remember if it wasn’t for him.

I’m okay that he celebrates for both of us.  I get him a card if I think of it in time.   I feel bad that it involves a herculean effort for me to do much more than this.  I’m the worst.

I’m glad he doesn’t mind.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #4: Write a blog post inspired by the word: engaged.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Scent Search - Day 1

 The other day, I posted a question to the masses on Facebook:  

I was surprised to find that so many people were willing to share with me what makes them smell so good.   I had a list of dozens of perfumes.  Armed with nothing but my will, some cash, and ironclad nostrils, I set out on a journey to find my next signature fragrance.  The following is my experience.

* * * * *

Scent Search - Day 1
Thursday, May 21, 2015 - Into the Unknown

I set out with coupons and a firm resolve to start the project.  I've decided to try drugstore brands first, then move on to others.  Arriving at CVS, I am dismayed to find perfumes under lock and key and no testers in a store full of laughing customers and an overly cheery staff.  I try to ignore the general sense of mirth so I can get down to my serious business. 

I am surprised to see many fancy designer perfumes available at the drugstore.  Jōvan White Musk and Alyssa Ashley are there, two of my friend Kirsten's suggestions.  I'm put off by the noise volume in the store, as well as a young woman standing in the aisle as if I’m blocking her progress.  Immediately I'm annoyed with her indifference to my important mission and her obvious and inane search for cotton candy lip gloss.  I want help with the glass case but she is distracting me with her perfunctoriness.

I leave CVS, overcome.

* * *

Driving two miles to the next CVS, I am cheered to find it empty.  I stand in front of the locked case and contemplate shaking the door forcibly.  Instead I surreptitiously jiggle the handle, and push a red button for service.  When the salesgirl arrives, I gratefully ask to try the two musks.  I quickly open the box of Jōvan White Musk before she can react and hose down the store with a larger than meant spritz.  I am instantly reminded of childhood and someone’s swinging aunt who wore yellow terry cloth short shorts and a rich brown tan.  Despite its package being cellophane sealed, I decide also on a bottle of Alyssa Ashley because of the price and my coupons.  Also because of this:

I'm not either of these two things but I can smell like it

I think that, to sell more units, most products should feature a picture of a gorgeous couple wrestling.

Success!  Two bottles of scent for just under $25.  I feel ahead of the game, potent.

* * *

Next stop: Walmart, on Jen's suggestion of Ici, a fragrance that will make me smell like cake and other people want to nuzzle my neck, two of my favorite pastimes.  I find yet another locked glass case.  Surprised to see even more designer fragrances, I see some oldies but goodies that I have worn before.  Ici is not in the case.

I spy Perry Ellis 360.  Out of cellophane and on the list.

I ask a salesangel if the package can be opened, per Molly who suggested so, and who also warned me not to spray in my eye.  Managed to spray salesgirl in her eye instead.  Oops.

I decide that although it's a nice scent, PE360 is much too powerful for me.  The lingering fragrance is nice, but the initial blast suggests I leave before customers press charges.

I'm pleased to report that Walmart has never smelled better. 

* * *

Next I drive to the almost-deserted exurban mall.  There is no problem snagging a front row parking space, and I meander through the ladies’ section filled with spring-weight denim-ish Capri pants and bejeweled tops to the cosmetics section.  I'm accosted by a gorgeous young woman in a head scarf who I'm alarmed to find has a skin condition on her hands.  I realize that she is passing time matching foundations to her skin tone.  I tell her about my mission, and she leads me to the Lancôme table and shows off the fragrance array.  Trésor is not on list to try, but I fall in love with the Midnight Rose version and know all about La Vie est Belle.  I briefly lose myself in the salesgirl’s dark brown eyes and light exotic accent before returning to my quest.

As I circle around the next table in the area, a tall older blond lady jumps out while I freely spray scent in air. “What sort of notes do you like?” she asks dubiously.  I cannot recall due to the mild heart attack she just gave me.  I mumble something about my project; I am returned with suspicion.  Explaining that I am trying all the scents my Facebook friends have suggested, the saleslady frowns and says that is not an ideal way to find a fragrance you love.  I say I like warm sandalwood scents, then like all florals she sprays.  I tell her I like heavy then love all light scents.  I love greens; hate the green she suggests.  She gives up, defeated.  My trigger hand smells like it was dipped in spicy roses and musk.

Now on my own, I spray a hefty dose of Shalimar, narrowly missing my face just in front of my ear.  I am reminded of the opium dens I frequented during my teen years.  I will remember Shalimar for when I take a lover, dye my hair black, and wear red lipstick and velvet slippers every day.  In a dreamlike trance, I spritz Samsara, which is not on my list.  I melt a little.  It slinks to the top of the heap.

I like Burberry Body but not Brit.  Chanel Coco but not Mademoiselle or Chance.

I'm disappointed.  Chance was a crowd favorite, especially loved by my friends who have children named Chance.

I spray Pure White Linen, which was Roxane’s suggestion.  She says it is different from Plain White Linen.  It smells just like name suggests.  Lovely.

Perry Ellis 360 presents itself again, this time in Coral and Purple versions.  I did not realize Perry Ellis was a leading fragrance connoisseur; I imagined his wares were confined to the men's sweater vest department.  I spray wildly, hoping to redeem Mr. Ellis.  I'm over the moon for Purple.  I mention to the new silver ponytailed saleslady that I am stinking the place up, but that the Purple is lovely and I laugh while retelling the Walmart episode.  She doesn’t smile; grave adult irresponsibility elicits disapproval, and straight PE360 is hardly child’s play.

Scent Search Day 1 ends.  I go home and smell the samples as they age on the paper, spritz some Dangerous But Fun in the air and step through it.  I'm pleased with its light, warm scent.  I'm glad that my husband is away on business so I won’t be tempted to wrestle him.

Here’s how the winners shake out:

Alyssa Ashley Musk – purchased
JōvanWhite Musk – purchased
Guerlain Samsara – top contender
Perry Ellis 360 Purple – top contender
Chanel Coco – contender
Burberry Body – contender
Estée Lauder Pure White Linen – liked
Lancôme La Vie est Belle – liked
Lancôme Trésor Midnight – liked
Guerlain Shalimar – guide for fantasy life


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fair's Fair

It’s not fair!

As a parent I’ve heard that phrase countless times.  As a daughter, sibling, friend, and wife I’ve said it just as many times. 

It’s a true statement.  Life isn’t fair.  Nothing is.

Fair is not getting what others get.  Having what others have.  Seeing what others see, having the same benefits that others have, nor even experiencing the same hardships that others experience.

There is no fair.

When my husband and I agreed to hey, why not have some kids, I got pregnant.  It took us a few months of sort of trying and yet not really trying to achieve this.  Just when I started to wonder why am I not pregnant? – I was.  The second time around was even easier.  We knew there were others who desperately wanted children, would sell an arm or a leg for the privilege, and indeed spent their life’s savings on fertility treatments.  We also knew people who had sacrificed just as much time, heartache, and money to adopt a child to raise as their own. Still others gave up trying.  Meanwhile, ours came along as easily as finding a penny in a parking lot. 

It wasn’t fair.

When I stopped working for a salary to support my husband in his career by focusing on managing our home life instead of pursuing my own career, I experienced a period of longing for fairness.  It lasted a long time.  Is it fair that he gets all the glory while advancing ever upward in his line of work while I fritter away my young adult years at home finding piddly little projects with which to fill my time?  Is it fair that he dined out in far-off locales, having adult conversations with other like-minded grownups while I struggled to bed wriggling, nightmare-prone children night after night?

Later I asked another question: Is it fair that I get to live most of my life in the home we built while he spends just a fraction of his waking hours living here?

None of it is fair.

Just as we are unique, so are our experiences. We can spend our lives peering over the fence, yearning for better opportunities that are offered to others.  We can also be smug and insular, cocooning ourselves from the rest of the world to preserve and hide the inequalities that benefit us and that we enjoy every day.

Or we can just live the life that we have been given, share it with others, and accept that life isn’t fair for any of us.

We can accept that someone will always be richer, thinner, smarter, younger, healthier, prettier, more blessed, successful, ambitious, fortunate, confident, have a nicer house, better sense of style, keener memory, sharper discernment, cooler dance moves, tell a funnier joke, write a more relatable blog post, call a more interesting city home, and boast a finely cultivated set of talents.

And we can acknowledge that there will also be someone whose life we can describe by the exact opposite of these things. 

When we think about those opposite things, does fair matter anymore?

Fair is living our lives without labeling others or comparing.  We might not have been given the same chances, but we each have the opportunity to make the best of those chances.  Fair is fair, after all. 

That’s all it ever will be.


This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #4: Write a blog post inspired by the word: fair

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Am. I Pretend. I Understand.

I am restless.
I wonder if I’d be more productive if I had more to do.
I hear my computer humming.  Some day it will stop working and I will lose everything – pictures, drafts, passwords.  I might not care.
I see the dust on the bookshelf.
I want a housekeeper.
I am not getting anything done.

I pretend that I have it all together.
I feel that it’s not really pretending as much as it is a dream I’ve always had.
I touch my hair.  I wish it was curlier.
I worry that I’m shallow.
I cry when things don’t go my way.
I am still such a child.

I understand what most people are like upon first meeting.
I say the wrong thing, invariably.
I dream that I say the right thing every time.
I try not to let it bother me that I don’t.
I hope they don’t hold it against me.
I am in need of grace.


This is an Old School Blogging link-up with Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life 
and Angela of Jumping With My Fingers Crossed.  
Feel free to visit these ladies and link up with your own version of OSB!
On Twitter: @elainea @AngelaYBlood #OSBlog

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Their Love

When they were little, it was easy to tell.

My kids observed me with a focus so intense that it was hard to do much of anything away from their gaze.  Their razor-sharp vision made it difficult to hide.  They saw every frown, noticed every tear, and expressed joy to go with every smile on my face.

Their love was singular.

They grabbed my arms, legs, hair, ears, nose, and eyes.  Little hands went down my shirt and up my skirt in every setting.  They pawed at me as if trying to get inside again.  Their physicality towards me was endless, exhausting.

Their love was almost injurious.

Mommy, what are you doing?  I NEED IN!  their little voices would cry from outside the bathroom door.  Mommy, I had a bad dream.  I need to sleep with you.  Covers would be flung open to make room for little bodies pressed uncomfortably against mine for the rest of the night.  Wails came at the end of every nap when they realized they were all alone, fifty feet away from their mother, the source of their comfort, nurturing, peace, and safety.

Their love was urgent.

Their lives expanded.  They went to school and learned concrete things about the world outside our family.  They read and understood and made friends. They brought home gifts framed in construction paper, lists of things they loved about me.  I love my mom because she makes me soup when I’m sick.  I love my mom because she lets me watch TV with her.  I love mom because she is funny.

"Dear Mom, You are so nice to me.  I'm happy."
"You're as sweet as candy"
"My mom likes to laugh.  She makes me laugh when she says ROAR!!! [Roar!!!!]"

Their love was tangible.

They grew, and so did I.  Their other interests became more important than me, and they learned to love other people and activities.  At the same time, I explored new relationships, interests, jobs, and activities.  They noticed.  No longer was I just their mother.

Their love was admiring.

These days, I know my kids love me because they listen to my stories.  They want to understand.  They speak intelligently.  They ask questions without reservation.  They learn my lessons.  They respect boundaries and expectations.  They’re not perfect.  They don’t try to be.  They fall down and get up again.  They learn from mistakes and trust me to be there to watch them succeed.  They accept my forgiveness when they admit wrongdoing.  They forgive me when I step over the line. 

Their love is certain.

My kids love me because love is a part of who they are.  They have a capacity for love that sometimes I don’t understand.  They are gentle on their own.  They hold us each to standards they have learned, even when I have forgotten them. 

Their love is inspiring.


This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #4: I know my kids really love me because…


Monday, May 4, 2015

Don’t You (Underestimate the Power of 1985)

Scene: A family room.  A 40-something woman is curled up at one end of the sofa, flipping through the TV channels.  Her teenage son is lying down at the other end, watching videos on his cell phone, earbuds in.  She chooses a show to watch, and settles in.

Son (peering up from his phone):  What is this movie?

Mom: It’s called The Breakfast Club.

Son: What’s it about?

Mom:  They’re in detention all day on a Saturday.  You’ve never seen it?

Son:  No.  Do they know each other?

Mom:  Not really.  I mean, they’re not friends.  They are in different groups.  See?  The one guy’s a sports guy, and the other guy’s nerdy, and she is popular, and she is not, and he is bad to the bone.

Son (laughing): Whoa, what was that?  Did his voice change?

Mom: Well, yeah.  This is on basic cable.  They cut out the swear words and some of the content to make it appropriate for TV.  The voiceover quality isn’t very good.

Son: (quietly watching)

Mom (observing her son instantly loving this monumental piece of her adolescence): It’s a good movie, right?

Son (distractedly): Yeah.

(Some time later)

Mom:  Isn’t it time for you to go to bed?  You have school tomorrow.  You know we can DVR it.

Son:  I will.  At the next commercial.

Mom:  Okay.

(They continue to watch the movie.  He is being sucked in for the first time, and she’s being sucked in for what may very well be the thousandth time.)

Mom:  He says gutless turd there.  Not worm.

Son:  How do you know?

Mom:  I’ve seen this countless times.  It came out when I was twelve.

Son (peering at his mother, possibly wondering why she held out on him until he was fourteen to mention that this movie exists):  Huh.

Mom (twenty minutes later):  Okay.  You have to go to bed now.  Hit the record button.

Son:  Aw, okay.  I’m watching the rest of this tomorrow, though.

Mom:  Consider it your after-school assignment.

(He turns off the TV, and goes to bed.  The mom straightens up and follows him a few minutes later.  As she does, she pumps her fist in the air, a show of victory to no one in particular.)