Saturday, November 17, 2007

Life is Better

There are certain things in my life that didn’t quite make the cut into my “Things I Love” article. However, I really, really like the following things and they make my life SO much better than it otherwise would be.

Big Girl Panties – Seriously, my friends are just not being honest when they try to convince me that having a piece of dental floss stuck in their crack all day is more comfortable than NORMAL panties. If you are that against panty lines, just go commando. It’s not like your thong is doing anything anyway, wedged as it is between your labia majora and labia minora.

My Minivan – You have NOT lived until you’ve pulled up to the car pool drop off spot and pushed a button that ejects your children and then closes the door again without the threat of someone’s hand being lobbed off. I do not need that drama at 7:45 am. Furthermore, when picking up said children I do not have to Houdini myself into the backseat to open the door ... no one wants to see my rear end stuck in the windshield while trying to open the back door for my kids.

A perfectly toasted egg bagel with real vegetable cream cheese made at the REAL Jewish deli that is on my way to work.

Dancing with the Stars – I know ... I can’t explain it.

Cowboys Football

My flat iron – I cannot believe I spent all that money in the 80’s perming my naturally straight hair ... NOW I spend my time straightening my now wavy hair due to the gray under the hair color. That timing really could have been better.

Under-wire bras – we’ve already established my need for this product.

Technology – my digital camera, the internet, email, my cell phone, cable, Gameboys and Game Cubes (what did our parents do when we got on their nerves?) DVD’s and the DVD player in my MINIVAN.

Tim McGraw – yum

Bare Minerals Makeup

Glide Dental Floss – I cannot imagine how grumpy I would be if I had to go around my who life with crap stuck between my teeth.

The remote control

My maid – not because she cleans my house but because she makes life bearable for my husband who is the Felix to my Oscar.

My Schwan’s Man - Dusty, you keep my family fed and I’m CONFIDENT I do my part in keeping yours fed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Seriously?

In my previous article, Things I Hate, I noted stupid people. Particularly, stupid people who somehow interact with me ... either by talking, driving, or invading my TV. You would think that if I were serious about avoiding stupid people I would avoid, at all costs, places where they congregate. Nope, not me though. I insist on shopping at the largest discount chain in the world. I think I shop there to punish myself for past sins ... but that’s another article.

A couple of months ago, on my lunch hour, I went to the above mentioned retail chain to buy my daughter’s birthday presents. Her birthday was that week and I was pretty sure that everything on her seven year old list was contained on some aisle inside the store. As a working mom, I’m all about one stop shopping. Let me set the scene … I was having a GREAT day. I was in a good mood, it was the first day this fall that the weather had a cool breeze, BOTH kids were happy when they hopped out of the van that morning, I made it to work on time and I was having a “I think I look good day.” Now, this last part is particularly important. I turned forty this year and much to my surprise I’m a little sensitive about it. However, I think I look OK. I don’t fancy myself a MILF, but I know a lot of forty year old women who couldn’t pull off my minivan as well as I do. Anyway, I got a good parking space, picked up a cart and headed for the toy aisle. Sure enough ... jackpot ... the now recalled-date rape drug-contaminated Aqua Dots Play Set, check ... Electronic Keyboard, check ... the MUCH desired and heavily advertised Blendy Pens, check ... The Disney Princess CD Player, check. God, my life is FABULOUS! I headed over to the CD section to pick up High School Musical Two, The Cheetah Girls, and Hannah Montana/Meet Miley Cyrus for the above mentioned CD player. I had all three CDs in my hand and was about to drop them into the cart when ... STUPID PERSON ENGAGES ME. This chick, who I assumed worked at the retailer’s hair salon because of the smock she was wearing, stopped at my cart and asked ... I swear ... if the Disney Princess CD Player was a CROCK POT. Yes, a crock pot ... you know one of those things that is used to cook an otherwise desirable piece of meat into oblivion and then is passed off as stew?

AS IF!

a) I would purchase a crock pot and
b) if I did, I would by a pink one.

I could not make this up. Oh but wait, wait ... it got worse. After I explained to her that nooooo, it was NOT a pink crock pot sporting Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty ... the chick looked at me ... Me, who was wearing three inch heels, a skirt above my knee caps, make-up, and freshly colored hair in a pony tail, and then said ...

“Whoooooo Weeeeeee ... Your, little grandbaby is sure gonna love that!”

Ummmkay, perfect day ruined. Beauty products, aisle twelve.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Career Path

Okay, I admit it. I secretly think I’m smarter than most of the population. Please don’t hold that against me, I truly am pretty humble with the rest of my self image. I know that while I feel twenty, I look forty (yes, it’s a FOUR before the zero ... I’m still getting used to it and hope the more I write it the more comfortable I’ll get with it). I realize my rear end has a texture issue. I’ve accepted that my boobs will slip into my armpits if I lay on my back while not wearing a bra. I know that if not for the modern wonders of Crest White Strips and Garnier Nutrisse Dark Natural Blond #70, I would have, in the words of my daughter, “golden teeth and silver hair.” I, feeling that gold and silver should be reserved for jewelry, am religious about using these two products.

Because being smart is on my “Top Ten Things Needed to Succeed in Life List,” I have high expectations for my children’s careers. I think my kids are pretty bright. My daughter in a creative and inquisitive way and my son in a quick-witted and biting tongue way. For the last two years, my daughter has said she wants to be a veterinarian. I think this is hysterical because the child spent the first five years of her life TERRIFIED of any animal on the planet. We had a very unfortunate incident with a live bunny and some Easter pictures the year she was two-and-a-half. Neither the bunny nor my daughter made it out unscathed. But, she’s moved on and I think it’s great she wants to be a vet. We’ll see if I still feel this way if she’s accepted into vet school and the tuition bills start to come. My son on the other hand … well, let’s just say he will probably take a less conventional route. And I’m really fine with that … within reason. I work hard to develop in him a work ethic without boring his free spirit to death. We talk a lot and it’s rare he mentions what he wants to be when he grows up … he’s usually too busy having fun to be concerned with a downer like a career, so I don’t push it. However, he recently brought it up all on his own. Here’s how it went:

Him: “Who is Paparazzi?”

Me: “Who????? Pavarotti? Luciano Pavarotti? Well, he just died recently and he was a world famous tenor. Do you know what a tenor is? We could pull it up on the computer and listen to some of his singing.”

Him: “Mom … Mom, Mom.” (Eye roll.) “I don’t care about some old opera guy. Paaaaa paaaaa raaaaa ziiiiii.”

(He says it real slow so an idiot like me can understand.)

Me: “Do you mean THE paparazzi? Like the guys that chase around all the stars to get photographs to sell to magazines?”

Him: “Yeah, I think so … there are more than one? Do they hide in bushes?”

(At this point I decide after the eye roll that he’s probably not up for the clarification that if speaking of just one it would be “paparazzo” and so by definition “paparazzi” would be more than one.)

Me: “Yes, there are more than one and as far as I know none actually have the sir name “Paparazzi.” Yes, they hide in all sorts of places so they can get pictures of famous people.”

(I’m about to continue this explanation with how I feel like they are parasites and how I secretly delight when one of them gets whacked over the head with an umbrella or their foot run over by a Mercedes, when he cuts across me and says …)

Him: “COOL! That’s what I want to be when I grow up!”

(Silence)

(Finally)

Me: “Well, that would be just super.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yellow Dog in Very Red Stepford

I need to make a list entitled “Things I Believe in My Heart to Be True.” Number one on this list would be: God has a sense of humor. And not some average, ordinary sense of humor, but a sitting up in Heaven, belly laughing his head off sense of humor. This must be true. There can be no other explanation for the fact that I was born and still live in Texas (the granddaddy of all red states), and I am and forever will be a Democrat. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good things about Texas. I hate to be cold and there is very little of that here. As I write this in November, it is eighty-one degrees outside. I also think had I not been born and raised in Texas, I could have never have known how much I despise certain things that there are quite a lot of here. There is a Kenny Chesney song that says, “I am what I am and I’m not what I’m not.” I love that … because what you’re not is sometimes way more important than what you are. And I am not a Republican.

Number two on my “Things I Believe in My Heart to Be True” list would be: God puts things where he knows we’ll eventually find them. My granddaddy used to say our family were “Yellow Dog Democrats.” So guess what was waiting for me the day last January I finally broke down and took my family to the SPCA to “just look and see if they have a dog we like?” Yep, you got it. A seventy pound yellow lab. Ten months later my family is still wondering how it was that we went to the SPCA to get them a dog and I was the only one that ended up with one. Don’t get me wrong, they love the dog too. But one yellow dog can spot another yellow dog and this dog and I have a connection. Which loops back to what I was saying about God having a sense of humor. My friends are having a hard time adjusting to my becoming a dog person. They view this as some sort of miracle. Which of course, it is. I mean do you know the odds of walking into the SPCA on a Sunday afternoon and finding a two year old, full blooded yellow lab that is housebroken and well socialized? About the same as me becoming a dog person or finding a real Democrat in Texas.

What I really am is an undercover operative. I live in affluent suburbia where the median annual household income is greater than $100,000 AND most mothers do not work outside the home. Add to that the fact that the population is 98 percent white and the average age is less than forty and that equates to a whole lot of young, successful white people. In short, not a lot of diversity and a lot of men who have achieved a lot of financial success early. Oh, and they are 99.9 percent Republican. Don’t get the wrong idea … I fit this demographic too, but with two exceptions: 1) I CHOOSE to work outside the home and 2) as we’ve already established, I am a Democrat. On the surface, I look like all the rest. I have a lovely home, a fabulous church in which my family is active, we drive nice cars, I shave my armpits, don’t own any Birkenstocks, have never hugged a tree while eating granola, and believe that for me, a personally conservative life is what brings me peace and happiness. All in all a great parlor trick I’m sure God appreciates. Because of this it’s not surprising that most people who are unfortunate enough to begin a political conversation in my presence, are stunned into at least a two minute silence. During this silence, my husband, if he is present, will take the opportunity to distance himself from me as much as the physical space will allow. He’s a Dem too (although he will not confirm this), but I forgive him this as God has not given him the same political anointing as me. Following the silence, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Republican: “What??????????”

(One of my pet peeves is feigned deafness in the face of perceived unpleasantness.)

Me (taking a deep breath): “I’m a liberal, a Democrat, and I didn’t vote for the current President either time I was given the opportunity.”

(Slightly less silence)

Republican (now thinking they are on some modern version of candid camera): “Very funny!”

Me (as monotone as I can muster): “I don’t joke about politics.”

At this point, the Republican who has begun to look at me as if I’m a creature they’ve read about but never expected to see in real life will either engage or run. If they engage me, I’m OK with whatever they throw out as it’s usually something lame about Hillary or Bill. Nothing serious. No social debate, no foreign policy debate, no health care, social security, or Iraq … Nada … all in all, not very much fun.

I do occasionally get to have a little fun though.

During the 2004 Presidential election, I worked in a very conservative office. Now, its not like there are any offices around here that aren’t, but this office was run by an ex-Marine with a picture of him and the current President on the wall and his partner who is a non-political good ole boy. Now, I liked them and they liked me and we bantered back and forth about Kerry versus Bush. I had to be careful only to the extent that the Marine thought it was disrespectful for me to refer to the President as “Big Ears.” Which I admit, it was. So, I tried to watch that. Anyway, one day while signing up for the MomsforKerry email list, it occurred to me that I could sign the Marine and the Cowboy up too. Which, of course, I did. Now, I’m not advocating that anyone else do anything like that, but the day they received their first emails from John Kerry, was a great day indeed. As a matter of fact, it was the most fun I had the entire election cycle considering the unfortunate outcome.

I can only imagine what’s going to happen when Hillary starts emailing them in a few months and their Christmas gifts ordered from yellowdogdemocrat.com arrive.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What I Love

God
My Family
My Yellow Dog

My Church
My Friends
My House

My first cup of coffee in the morning
Raspberry Martini’s

NPR
Harry Potter
Oprah
John Stewart and Stephen Coulbert
Divine Caroline

The Science Channel, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, Public Television
Bill and Hillary, Barack, John and Elizabeth

The first glimpse of my children's bed heads every morning

Sushi
Pedicures

Anna Quinlan, Anita Shreve, J.K. Rowling, Harold Kushner, Greg Boyd, Gertrude Stein

Truth, honesty, hard work, good things happening to good people

Friday, November 9, 2007

Worry

I admit it. I’m a worrier. Why do I worry? I’ve thought a lot about why I worry … or I should say, I’ve worried a lot about why I worry. Because for me, the boundaries that should exist between worry and thought are not well defined. But, before we delve into why, I want to make sure you have a clear understanding of the depth of my problem. See, if you knew me more than just through the blog, you might not suspect that I’m neurotic. I appear to function pretty well. That is the say, I’m able to keep myself and my family fed, clean, and where they are supposed to be most of the time. I pay my bills on time, show up for work each day, and have never forgotten to pick my kids up when they need to be. On the surface, my life is controlled and predictable. However, worry is not at all about what goes on on the outside of someone … it is all about what is inside one’s head. Here is just a taste of the craziness that lives in mine.

1. I believe I will be a widow. Not an elderly, walker-pushing, nursing home living widow whose husband dies a few years before me leaving our small doily covered room all to myself with blessed relief from his incessant snoring. I don’t worry about that. I’m convinced that while I’m young, my husband will be killed in an accident. Most likely an automobile accident, although I’m open to the possibility of it occurring on his four-wheeler. I also have not ruled out a heart attack or household accident. I have a friend whose husband was once trapped under a fully loaded trash bin in their driveway. Although her husband lived, I don’t expect my husband to be as fortunate in a similar circumstance.

2. I believe I’m a bad mother and my children’s lives will be ruined because of it. Now, understand that my children seem to be doing well. They get good grades, are socialized enough that they have friends, enjoy playing soccer, and while they are not entirely issue-free, they have no major noticeable malfunctions. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not damaging them by my mere presence. I love my children with a ferocity I cannot describe. The way their hair smells is oxygen to my brain, the sound of their voices is food for my soul, the warmth of their little bodies is better than any electric blanket ever made, and their sense of humor is the closest thing to joy a worrier like me has ever been able to find.

I tell them I love them, I do my best to show them I love them, and the truth that I do indeed love them could not be more precise. However, they will forget my love one day and only remember me as “Target Mom.” You know “Target Mom” … you’ve seen her at Target yourself. She’s easy to spot by the wailing coming from her shopping cart as she loses control and yells at her poor innocent children, who I’m sure up to this point have been perfect little shopping companions, sitting quietly in the cart and not asking for a single thing.

These are the two biggies that consume most of my worry time. However, when I get bored with these, I pick up the following and see if I can’t develop them a little better.

3. My house will be destroyed by a tornado. (My husband, of course, does not survive as he is trapped in the car on the way home when the F-5 hits instead of tucked into the bathroom under the stairs with me, the kids, and the seventy-pound yellow lab.)

4. I will have breast cancer. I will survive, but not before my children are traumatized by the experience (this will be my fault for not beginning mammograms earlier).

5. I will be struck by lightening. Again, I survive, but my children witness the event. However, good will come of this because they will forever more obey me when I say “GET OUT OF THE WATER! I THINK I HEARD THUNDER!”

6. The one and only time my children are not properly buckled into their seats, I will have a catastrophic car crash. The mere fact that one of my children’s seat belts is not buckled will inexplicably pull my minivan into on coming traffic where an eighteen-wheeler awaits. I must survive, otherwise I will be unable to punish myself for the rest of my life.

7. My children will drown while I’m not looking. Granted they can both swim, we don’t have a pool in our backyard, and they are not allowed to enter the water without a responsible adult watching their every move. The fact that they may drown has nothing to do with their ability to swim and everything to do with my not paying attention for a split second.

8. My mother will outlive me, and will, therefore, gain complete and unrestricted access to my children and rob me of living any part of my life without her.

9. My husband will outlive me, which will mean all the time I spent worrying about becoming a widow was ridiculous.

10. I will outlive my children. If you’re a mother … enough said.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Heart of a Giver - Even in Stepford

If you are a parent, you know that your kids teach you every bit as much as you teach them. During my ten and a half years of motherhood, I’ve learned a lot from my children and am a better person, not to mention mother, for it. My son has taught me to lighten up and that it’s OK to have fun. He has also taught me that I am a good mother. He doesn’t say this directly, but he lets me know in sly little ways by making comments like, “Mom, you’re nothing like (insert any perceived bad mother’s name here).” My daughter has taught me that I need to be more organized and that I need not accept my disheveled closet or trashed minivan as a fact of life equivalent to the sun rising in the east. I haven’t acted on this yet, but I’m considering it. When my children bring these little lessons to me, I enjoy them immensely but am not really surprised by them. After all, I know myself well enough to know that I’m consistently too serious and too hard on myself (particularly in the area of motherhood). I also know that I am a disorganized mess in many areas, not all, but certainly my closet and my car are out of control.

However, what does surprise me is when my children teach me a lesson regarding something that I’ve been trying to teach them. Our family lives in a place I like to call “not the real world.” We live in affluent suburbia. The kind of place where your annual household income can be in the top 10 percent of the nation, but not in the top 10 percent of your community. Because of this, no matter how much my family ever has materially, there will always be, not someone, but a whole group of someones that have more. Further, that whole group of someones will be your neighbors, fellow church members, and your children’s friends and classmates. Please don’t misunderstand where I’m going with this. I love my community and the opportunities that it presents my children ... it is safe, has excellent public schools, a strong community spirit, and superb public places for my family to enjoy. It’s just that all the material blessings that surround us can leave our family feeling deprived. Which is insane. Completely, totally and certifiably insane. In order to battle this insanity, I’ve been really working over the last year with my children giving and teaching them to recognize and appreciate the blessings in their lives.

When my husband and I joined our church eight years ago, we started down the path of giving. It wasn’t much at first and many months I’m not sure how we kept our commitment. However, it has been a true journey of faith and while we’re not where I wish were, we’ve been able through God’s grace to increase and keep our commitment each year. When we started on the path of giving, tithing 10 percent of our income was our goal. However, as we learned more about giving, the tithe became less and less the goal. What we’ve been working on in the last year is how to stabilize our lifestyle so that as our resources increase, we expand our giving not our lifestyle.

In light of this, it’s not unusual to hear me discussing this idea with my children especially when they complain that they need something they don’t have. Last Saturday morning my daughter was in the back seat of my minivan complaining that her life was unfair because her brother “always” got to choose the song on the radio. At this, I broke off into what turned out to be a lecture rather than the teaching moment I was hoping for:

“Sweetheart, we just spent more money at breakfast than some people in the world make in a month. Our car not only has a radio, but a CD player, cassette player, air conditioner, heater, automatic doors, leather seats, DVD player, and seat heaters. You are driving around in a CAR that is nicer than a lot of people’s homes.” I was about to add that we were truly blessed to have this car and the home we lived in so there was no way possible that her life could be defined as unfair, when my son joins the conversation.

Him: “Well Mom, our seats don’t have heaters ... just yours.”

At this moment the switch flips in my head and I go from “patient teaching mommy” to “irritated, I won’t raise ungrateful brats mommy.”

Me: “That is SO beside the point. I know you both understand what I am talking about and if I hear any more complaining about what song is on the radio, we’ll just turn it off.”

For the rest of the day, I thought about ways I could have handled that conversation differently. I also felt very discouraged about the fact that my children just weren’t getting it.

Fast forward five days, and not only do I feel differently about my children getting it, but I realize that I’m the one that might need to some work in this area. My children’s school is currently running a three week program entitled “Pennies for Patients. ” The kids are supposed to bring loose change each day to be donated to a charity that helps sick children. So for the last week and half I’ve rounded up all the loose change in my house to give to my children to take to school. This morning my daughter reminds me just as we’re walking out the door. I hand her my wallet and tell her that once we’re in the car she can take all the change out and put it in her bag.

Her (opening my wallet): “Mom, there are five one dollar bills in here, can I have those too?”

Me: “Sure, that’s fine just take what’s in there.”

This is a small thing ... grand total maybe $5.75. However, what ensued next was amazing. My daughter is the saver in the family. She will save her allowance money, pennies she finds in parking lots, change she bums off her grandparents, and money sent to her in birthday, Easter, and Halloween cards. Because of this, she has somewhere between $50 and a $100 in her purse at all times. If she takes money out to spend, she won’t spend any more until she has replenished her stash. This morning, her purse happened to already be in the car and this is what happened:

Her: “Mom, can you hand me my purse?”

Me: “Sure. Are you going to give some of your pennies?”

Her: “Yes! The sick kids need help.”

To my utter amazement, I watch in the rear view mirror as my daughter empties the total contents of her purse, probably $75, into her donation bag. Without regard to the amount, she was apparently following my example of giving everything I had in my wallet. And while I was speechless, my mind was telling me I needed to not let her do that. Why? Why after all I’ve been trying to teach my kids would I feel like I needed to squelch her giving? I asked if she was sure that she wanted to give all her money and she said she was sure. As I contemplated my next move, my son joins in:

Him (reading my mind): “You know you’re not going to get that back and now you won’t have any money just like me.”

Her: “I know that ... but the sick kids need my money more than I do.”

Me (preaching to myself rather than them for once): “You know what the Bible says about giving ... ”

Him (cutting me off): “Yes, we know. Givers are blessed and all that will come back to her somehow at some point.”

Her: “I’m going to be REALLY blessed. I mean, I already am … Just look how much I can give!”

Me: “You truly have the heart of a giver. I’m very proud to be your mommy. I love you.”

Her: “I love you too.”

As my kids exited the car this morning, I thanked God for all they were teaching me and I prayed that I would be a good steward not just of my material blessings, but of my biggest blessings of all, my children.

Monday, November 5, 2007

My Apologies

Because I feel guilty about everything, I apologize a lot…even if it has nothing to do with me. I’m sure you know people like this, because I do. While I recognize I have this problem, it irritates the hell out of me when someone else keeps apologizing to me for stuff that they had nothing to do with. I know that’s a little hypocritical, but even the best of us suffer from what I like to call “if you can spot it, you’ve got it.”

However, there is some really legitimate stuff I feel badly about that I want to apologize for. If you know me and you’re reading this, you’ll know which of these applies to you.

I’m sorry I deliberately cried for dad when you didn’t give me my way. I know that must have sucked as a single mom.

I’m sorry after you drove two hours to get me for our weekend visit, I wouldn’t go with you. I was mad at you for not being there when I didn’t get my way.

I’m sorry I insinuated the dog poop in the front yard looked like chocolate ice cream. I never dreamed you would take a bite.

I’m sorry I chased you with scissors and then insisted, until now, that I didn’t.

I’m sorry I dropped you on the kitchen floor when you were nine months old. You turned out ok, but that bump on your head looked like it hurt like hell.

I’m sorry I kissed your old boyfriend. I would not have appreciated it if you had kissed mine. Oh wait, you did...never mind.

I’m sorry I told you that ridiculous replica of Princess Di’s wedding gown looked great on you. I’m especially sorry that you wore it to the prom.

I’m sorry I broke up with you in tenth grade to date your best friend. He was a lot nicer to me than you were, but it was still not good form.

I’m sorry I broke your heart when I left for college. You really didn’t want to marry me anyway, I would have divorced you eventually for being a Republican and making me live in a trailer.

I’m sorry I didn’t come to your wedding or send a gift. I was mad that I wasn’t one of your TWELVE bridesmaids while you were one of my four, but still that wasn’t nice.

I’m sorry I haven’t made more time for you this summer.

I’m sorry that when you said I was a bad mommy and you didn’t like me, I said I didn’t like you either. That could not be further from the truth.

I’m sorry I moved you to a new school where you have to make all new friends. I still think in the long run this will be the best thing for you, but I’m sad you’re sad.

I’m sorry when you said you were going to run away, I asked if I could drive you anywhere. I would be heartbroken if you didn’t live in my house.

I’m sorry that when yellow dog puked scrambled eggs all over the rug last night I made this your responsibility to clean up. I’m also sorry I was then too irritated about this to thank you the way you wanted to be thanked for making all that puke disappear.

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