Sunday, August 30, 2009

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from New Kenny

I learned a lesson a couple of days ago that made me stop and think about how jaded my perception of the human race is now that I’m into my forties. I have always been one to secretly snicker at those folks that proclaim every day to be “the best day ever”. You know those people. They always have a smile on their face, and even though the cat ran away, the toilet overflowed, and they don’t have two nickels to rub together, doggone it, today’s going to be a great day. I hate to admit it, but the older I get, the more I just assume that most people are jerks or witless morons, and I’m happier keeping to myself. That seemed to be working fine for me until Friday morning.

For you to understand, you need to know a boy named Kenny. When we moved into our house four years ago, Kenny was fifteen years old. I knew right away that he was different from other teenagers when he came up to my doorstep pulling a little red wagon and selling popcorn for the Boy Scouts. You wouldn’t find Kenny cruising the mall looking to pick up chicks. Instead, you would find him cruising the neighborhood on his bicycle, chatting up the moms out in the yards watching their children. He seemed to delight in showing off his family’s Yorkies and talking about NASCAR to anyone who would lend him an ear. He was quick with a hearty wave and a big grin.

Although I never heard it officially, I just always assumed that Kenny was mentally handicapped on some level. Others confirmed that they assumed the same thing. Even still, his parents let him be a normal kid. So, one night in May of 2007, he was sleeping over at a friend’s house. For reasons we’ll never know, he decided he wanted to go home. He left his friend’s house late in the evening, and, unbeknownst to either set of parents, he set out on foot down a dark and busy highway. Unfortunately, Kenny never made it home. As he walked down the side of the road that evening, a drunk driver hit him, and fled the scene. Kenny died alone on the side of the road that night. (And yes, the drunk, under-aged moron that hit him was captured and prosecuted.)

Fast forward to this year. As I have been out on my runs, I’ve noticed another young man on his bike around the neighborhood. He is a good bit older than Kenny, but still quick with a friendly smile and wave. He dutifully wears his helmet, and is frequently seen chatting up the gray-haired homeowners as they check their mail or anyone out walking their dog who happens to cross his path. It made me feel good that we have a “New Kenny” as I have taken to calling him. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of engaging New Kenny in conversation, I figured that he, too, was mentally challenged in some way and probably lived with his parents or other relatives. Why did I assume this about him? Because what other adult male do you know who spends his free time joyriding on a bike and grinning and waving at everyone? The only time I see other men in our neighborhood outside is when they are mowing the lawn.

During my run Friday morning, I was coming around the corner to New Kenny’s house as he was coming out - in a suit - carrying a briefcase - and getting into a BMW. I was shocked. This was no mentally handicapped guy heading off to the workshop with the other adults from the group home. This was a successful businessman who has a bigger house and nicer car than I do. Oh yes, he was smiling as he motioned for me to go in front of him and then waved again as he pulled away from me, happily on his way to the office to make someone else’s day brighter, I’m sure.

It speaks volumes about me that I couldn’t imagine a grown man could be so happy as to smile at everyone who crosses his path, and enjoy a pleasure ride on his bicycle any chance he gets. He’s not mentally handicapped. He’s happy! How can someone endure the same pressures as me – mortgage, kids, job, - and do it with a grin? I don’t have the answer. I do know this, though. I have a lot to learn from New Kenny.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Year of Living Dangerously

One year.

It’s hard for me to believe. It has been one year since my mom died, and somehow, I didn’t end up in the fetal position, locked in a closet, rocking back and forth. This has been a year of changes for me like no other in my life. I had a not so eloquent acquaintance from high school ask me how it feels to be an orphan. (And who said cheerleaders were airheads?) It made me think, though. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you still want to talk to your mom when you are happy, or sad, or just because it’s Tuesday and you stubbed your toe.

Events have unfolded during the last twelve months of my life that I would never have believed could happen, both good and bad. This includes, of course, the fact that I now routinely reach in, pull out my heart, and drop it on the table for strangers and friends alike to see via the world wide web. What I have come to understand is that maybe, for the first forty years, I was an observer, cruising on autopilot. With a jolt from some cosmic alarm clock, I finally woke up, and I have taken over the wheel. Yes, I’m steering, as scary as that may be. Right now, I’m more like the foreign taxi driver, swerving to miss bike couriers and pedestrians while occasionally getting lost and running red lights. It’s going to take a little longer for this old dog to master the new tricks. I’m still very much a work in progress. Stay tuned.

When my mom entered hospice, they were quick to load us down with literature on the dying process. I found it incredibly fascinating that there were so many ways to explain something that has been going on for years now. Don’t we all know how this works? If you have seen the movie “Beetlejuice”, you’ll remember that all of the dearly departed are given a manual, “The Handbook for the Recently Deceased”, to guide them through their next stage of being. Hospice did the same for us, only this was a manual for the living. It explained in detail the stages of dying, beginning at six months from death to the final moments of life. It told us what to expect at each stage with my mom, from her talking to dead relatives at three weeks out, to the raspy “death rattle” in her throat when the end was moments away. It was eerily accurate, and the disciplined organizer in me was thankful to have an outline to follow. Short of a PowerPoint presentation, they couldn’t have done any better.

On the back of one of the booklets was a passage that never left my mind. I have thought of it many times in the last year, and it sums up my feelings better than I can now.

Gone from My Sight - Henry Van Dyke

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side
spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and
starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty
and strength. I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where
the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: ‘There, she is gone!’

‘Gone where?’

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in
mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and
she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her
destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the
moment when someone at my side says: ‘There, she is gone!’
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout: ‘Here she comes!’

And that is dying.”

I certainly hope so…

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saved by the Bell!

School has been in session for all of four days now, and I am completely over the carpool line already. Each weekday, along with what seems like 700,000,000 other parents, I dutifully line up to retrieve the little darlings. It’s a scene that reminds me of the end of “Animal House” when the parade has been sabotaged, and people are running amok in the street. Kevin Bacon is standing in the middle of the chaos and screaming, “Remain calm! All is well!” In this case, it’s not Kevin Bacon. It’s the assistant principal shepherding confused five-year-olds to their cars and smiling apologetically at sweaty parents who have been trapped in their cars for half an hour in the hell that is South Carolina in August. We wait and wait and wait as we swoon from the dizzying exhaust fumes.

My son’s school is a public magnet school located in one of the worst neighborhoods in town. We moved him there because of the amazing curriculum being offered and the promise of (gasp!) teachers that actually care. When you have a school in a lower class attendance zone mixed with parents from across the district taking advantage of forward thinking studies, you are going to have quite a diverse group of families in the carpool line. I decided to make the best of it today and take note of some of the folks around me.

The first thing that caught my eye today was the action from the car in front of me. In the car was a very skinny woman with a blue bandana on her head. For some reason, she opened the door to her Chrysler every couple of minutes or so to spit on the pavement. My guess is that she was enjoying just a pinch between her cheek and gum. She got me the first few times (not literally). I would see movement and look up just in time to catch a glimpse of the spit hitting the ground. After being disgusted over and over, I finally learned to avert my eyes any time the door would swing open.

Beside me in a late-model Ford Mustang was a white-haired, grandmotherly woman sporting a hair net and an iPod. Her head was down the entire time, as she seemed to be feverishly writing something very important. My guess is that she was preparing a draft for her blog about the spiky-haired woman in the red Honda parked next to her who was also feverishly writing and craning her neck to get a good look at the crowd.

Next, I saw a young man who had parked his car and was walking toward the office. He caught my attention because I noticed that his belt was precariously positioned in the space where the bottom of his rear end meets the top of his legs. I stare at him, mystified by the science that allows his pants to stay in place even with his pronounced swagger. He heads back to his car with a very small girl by the hand, and I am praying for two things at this point – for a spontaneous wardrobe malfunction to occur and that the little girl is his sister and not his daughter.

Just a few cars ahead of me was a young dad in a black pick-up truck. He had both windows down and his country music cranked up to a level that was certainly less than appropriate for a school parking lot. Even though the music was loud, his singing was even louder. Actually, I have to admit that he sang fairly well. What impressed me most was his complete lack of inhibition. I wish I were that free. Maybe he was hoping a record producer was in the line behind him. Either that, or he was just really digging that song.

At the front of the line, you will always find the same kind of people – the kind that don’t have jobs. This group usually consists of soccer moms and grandparents. The soccer moms are most likely to be those in behemoth SUV’s with various types of stickers on the back of the vehicle that say, “I’d rather be at Edisto” or “OBX” (short for the Outer Banks). Sometimes they are proclaiming their support for their favorite college team or proudly informing all who have the luck to be in their wake that they are, in fact, a “USC Grad” or in the alumni association at Clemson. I’ve noticed one of the latest trends in car decorations is the decal that shows a family of stick people, one for every family member and usually even the pets. “We’re the Russell’s!! Aren’t we lucky to be so cute?”

The grandparents are also easy to distinguish. They are the smart folks who actually get out of their cars and walk up to the front of the school to sit on the bench in the shade and read the newspaper, while the rest of us either swelter in our cars, or burn 6 gallons of gas to keep the engine running and the air conditioner blowing.

I am sure that, with fall just around the corner, the carpool line will be less and less dreaded. I can sit in the car and read while the crisp autumn air swirls around me. It might even be nice to have a few quiet moments of “me” time. I can write or rest my head for a short nap. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll have that good ol’ boy three cars up to serenade me with his fabulous version of Alan Jackson’s greatest hits.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This one time at band camp...

Reminiscing has been my favorite hobby lately. I find myself lost in thought, dreaming about my high school days and all the fun I had back then. I think it’s a common occurrence when you hit your forties. You realize the brevity of life, and it’s comforting to look back and know that you’ve lived your days to the fullest. One recent afternoon as I was strolling down memory lane, a terrifying thought screeched across my brain and stopped me dead in my tracks: what if my kids turn out like me?

Anyone who knew me intimately in my teen years knew that I was a bad, bad girl. On the outside, I was the preppy teen who made good grades and was a member of the marching band. I didn’t get in trouble at school because I made a point of behaving and living just below the radar. I wore Izod shirts, penny loafers and khaki skirts. Hell, I was even a Candy Striper at the hospital! It was hard not to notice the halo floating above my head, right? Not even close.

What the outside world didn’t get to see was that I was a drinking, smoking, punk-music-loving kind of badass. I spent my weekends sneaking out of my bedroom window to go party, or sneaking people into my bedroom window to party. I frequented my best friend’s college dorm room while I was a high school senior, where we spent our time smoking pot, playing quarters and just generally sinning and breaking the law. Ah yes, good times, they were. I don’t know how I made it out alive. It was just pure luck that I never ended up in jail, dead on the side of the road, or with a communicable disease.

I was a master at lying to my parents. They must have thought I held a Guinness World Record for having seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the midnight movie so many times. This was a lie that never seemed to wear out. It allowed me to spend the evening raising hell, and my parents wouldn’t expect me to be home until 3am. Yes, after six kids, they didn’t care how late I was out. Even still, I was a master liar who got away with murder, so to speak. Did my parents not wonder why I needed to get a hotel room on prom night? Maybe they were just too tired to care.

With this sort of history behind me, it makes me wonder how my kids will ever be able to get away with anything. Even though I am several years from having teens, I’m already the Drill Sergeant and Gate Keeper who grills them on a daily basis. “Did you brush your teeth like I asked? Come here, and let me smell your breath to be sure.” “Did you wash your hands? I’m going to go check the sink for bubbles, so I hope you’re telling me the truth.” This is either going to keep them on the straight and narrow, or they are going to raise hell tenfold over what I did. I haven’t decided yet.

It’s really pointless for me to worry about it now. I’m a strong believer in fate and karma, so I’m preparing myself for the challenge. My daughter already delights in tattoos, older men and hiking up her skirt, so I have my work cut out for me. Like mother like daughter, I guess. They just need to know that I do still recognize the smell of marijuana smoke, know all the best places to stash liquor and other contraband in the house, and oops, sorry honey, that window must have been painted shut.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gone Daddy Gone

I was so tired. Pulling out of the parking lot from work, all I could think about was how much I just wanted to go home, sit on the sofa and eat a cheeseburger. It was cold and damp. It was January. I really hate January. It’s my least favorite of the twelve months. But there would be no rest for the weary on this night. I had obligations. My mom was expecting me at the hospital. My father was there, and it looked like his days on this Earth were numbered.

He had only been sick since June. One day while watching television, he suddenly lost vision in his left eye. The diagnosis was melanoma – skin cancer that had spread beyond control. It was just that fast. It was in his bones, his lungs, his brain. He was only fifty-eight, but he didn’t even want to fight it. He gave up that very day and let the cancer take its deadly course unchallenged. And now he was in the hospital because his pain had become unmanageable. I know this may sound harsh and I hope that I will not be struck down for admitting it, but I hoped he wouldn’t linger. This was no life. Throw in the towel, man. Surrender. The Big C won this time. I just couldn’t watch it any more.

I was never close to my father. In fact, we spent most of my life as enemies. He was part German, part Irish with some Cherokee Indian thrown in for good measure. This isn’t exactly a great ethnic mix unless you like your men stoic, short-tempered and soaked in alcohol. I just mostly kept my distance and tried my best to be invisible. What I didn’t understand back then, was that our personalities were very much the same. We were both simmering just below the surface at all times. Unfortunately because of this, any time our paths crossed, there was sure to be a firestorm of Biblical proportions. We butted heads nearly every time we spoke to each other. The tension between us was almost palpable.

He decided to live out his last days at home. My mom was his primary caretaker, but I helped, along with my sister, aunts, and fiancé. He quickly became bed-ridden and many times as he lay sleeping, we would walk over and bend down to his nose to make sure he was still breathing. He coughed and hacked and wheezed and wasted away to a wisp of a man.

So here we were in mid-January wondering how long he was going to hold on to this world. As fate would have it, my sister went into labor and gave birth to my niece on Wednesday of that week, the day after my father was admitted. It was a strange dichotomy for our family – the miracle of birth on one floor and the certainty of death on another.

That cold Thursday afternoon as I was driving home from work, I decided to stop by the house to change my clothes and grab a bite to eat before going to the hospital. Who knew how long I might be there in an uncomfortable chair watching the clock and watching his breaths? I was stalling. It was the last place I wanted to be that night.

As I was on my way, my mom leaned down and whispered to my dad that she was heading to the maternity floor to visit my sister. Despite the awful event unfolding, she had a new granddaughter to spoil. Surprisingly, he was conscious and nodded, “Okay”.

My mom arrived back to his room just a few minutes ahead of me. The door was closed and I peeked in to see her standing there by the bed with my aunt. I knew. She didn’t have to say a word. I knew. The battle was over. The burden was lifted. We could exhale. While my mom was out, he decided it was as good a time as any to make his exit. Maybe he wanted to spare her the pain of watching him die. He was stubborn that way.

As I slowly walked into the room, my brain trying to process the scene, she looked at me and quietly said, “He’s gone.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Public Television Saved My Life

I am a very big fan of PBS. I’ll admit it. Actually, I think they take your Liberal Card away if you are a left-winger who doesn’t support your local PBS station. I routinely check the programming guide to see what our public television stations have to offer if I ever find myself with a few unscheduled, quiet moments. It’s a hidden treasure that unfortunately gets overlooked in this day of a thousand channels and skank-filled reality shows.

I fought my husband for years over cable. I believe that less is more when it comes to television, and the more channels you have, the more tempting it is to waste your life away in front of the screen. Until he was in school, my son only watched the children’s programs offered by PBS (if he watched at all), and that was fine with me. Elmo and Big Bird helped him with his letters and numbers while “Dragon Tales” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” offered giggles and a life lesson every now and then. He even enjoyed “Anne of Green Gables”.

So, what’s not to love about PBS? I can’t imagine celebrating Independence Day without watching “A Capital Fourth”. And before we had seventeen food channels, Julia Child and Graham Kerr showed us with ease how they could whip up fabulous dishes while keeping us entertained at the same time. What about Ken Burns? I thoroughly enjoyed watching his interpretation of the Civil War and then arguing back at him that he didn’t have his facts straight. And how would I have gotten to know Carl Sagan without “Nova”? Oh, and don’t even get me started on “Austin City Limits”. I could fill a book with the names of all the great bands I’ve seen on that show.

Even though my children have access to hundreds of channels, we still watch “Arthur” in the morning while getting ready for school. They complain when the station has glitches (and this is frequently), but I tell them that PBS is poor compared to the Disney channel or Nickelodeon. I ask them to be patient because someone’s Uncle Bob is probably running the control board and more than likely, he just dozed off for a minute or two.

I appreciate the fact that I’m not bombarded with smart-mouthed “tweens” and toy advertisements on PBS like I am with the cable networks. I have to remind my kids that talking back to their parents like Hannah Montana does, won’t result in a chuckle from a Disney laugh track. It will result in them never watching that trash again. I don't have to worry about that happening with the children's programming on PBS.

Last week, I was having the day from hell. It was one hundred degrees in the shade, with arguing children, a husband working long hours, and school supplies to be purchased after a crappy day at work. I was dragging my kids from store to store, sweating down to my underwear, on a quest for the elusive “perfect pair of shoes”. We finally arrived back home close to 9pm and still the kids needed their baths. I passed them off to my husband and plopped down into my chair with a glass of wine. I was contemplating either running away to join the circus, or simply sucking down every ounce of alcohol in the house. Instead, I turned on PBS. And there he was - the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, one of my favorites, filmed live in concert at various locations around the world. I couldn’t believe my luck! I relaxed back and tapped my toes for the next two hours.

I realized at that point that I was probably going to make it. I got a commercial-free concert and my sanity back all at once. PBS came to my rescue again. So the next time you complain about funding public television, just look at it as your tax dollars saving one frazzled 40-year-old mom at a time. And this mom thanks you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If that's movin' up, then I'm movin' out...

Who says you have to be the boss? As a person cursed (or blessed) with no ambition, the idea of not being the boss comes very easily to me. I have never had the desire to climb the corporate ladder or nurture the entrepreneurial side of my personality. I hate being responsible, and I’ve never had a job that truly brought me pleasure. I am sure there are folks out there who are jumping out of bed with delight to get to work each day, but I don’t know them. I’d rather sleep in and take the dog for a walk rather than worry about financial statements and revenue forecasts. I don’t see my slackness as being detrimental. Someone has to follow, right?

Our culture accepts the fact that I can stay home with the kids or, in my case, work a few hours each week at a part-time job for shoe money. Or, I can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. As a woman, I get to choose, and they are all perfectly fine choices. Many men, however, seem to have this built-in idea that they are required to jump on the corporate train heading straight for Managementville whether they bought a ticket or not. I can only assume it’s written in stone some place that if you are a college-educated male, you should be the Boss of Lots of People by the time you reach thirty (or sooner) with a staggering salary to match.

Says who?

I am surrounded by stressed out men. They are in my neighborhood, in my office, and in my home. They have all fallen victim to the “I Need a Big Job, Big House, Big Car” syndrome. It has reached an epidemic level here in Status Symbol Land, and no one outside the ranks of the day laborer is safe. How else can you be a Success without “Vice President” or “Senior Manager” after your name? How can you possibly get out of bed each morning if you aren’t putting your feet down on shiny hardwood floors and pouring your Cheerios into a bowl on your granite countertops? The hour-long commute to work would be unbearable in anything less than a luxury SUV or German import, right? Hey, it’s worth it to work 60 plus hours each week because golf club memberships aren’t cheap, you know.

I’ve seen enough episodes of “Intervention” to understand that I have been an enabler. I wanted my husband to move up in his profession. I wanted to get a bigger house and have the luxury of not working if I felt like it. I like being able to buy nice things for my children without having to tell them, “Sorry, honey, there’s just no money in the budget for that”. I bought the fairy tale hook, line and sinker. What I discovered is that if you are miserable, it doesn’t matter how fat your bank account is or where you’re taking your next vacation. If you’re working yourself to death to get ahead because “it’s what you are supposed to do”, don’t be surprised if a heart attack finds you before you find the pot of gold.

So, I’ve had a change of heart. I am seriously considering selling it all and moving to the beach. This isn’t a clichĂ© or a joke. This is the aftermath of the lightening bolt that hit me, bringing me back to my senses. It wouldn’t bother me at all to have a smaller house, fewer bills, and peace of mind. I realize now that I value sanity more than stainless steel appliances and pool memberships. It really is okay if you aren’t the boss. It really is okay to walk out the door of your workplace, and leave it all there. No working from home at night and on weekends. No checking e-mails on vacation required. For once and before it's too late, enjoy each day.

Look for me next time you visit the coast. I might be serving you fried shrimp and beer, or maybe I’ll be that very pale, middle-aged woman in a wide-brimmed hat, smelling of sunscreen and pushing the Lemon Quench cart down the beach. I may even be that jovial, part-time sales clerk who asks, “Are you sure you don’t need a hermit crab to go with your Myrtle Beach key chain?”

Don’t worry - you’ll surely know it’s me by the sparkle that found its way back into my eyes and the silly grin that won’t seem to leave my face.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Put them all together they spell MOTHER...

I swore in front of God and everyone that I would never have kids. Never. Not ever. My mantra was always, “No kids, no pets, clean house”. I am not a nurturer. I don’t even live in the same zip code as patient, and, well, I just hate sticky. So how did I end up with two children and three dogs? Good question.

Thinking back on my adamant refusal to reproduce, I have wondered why I felt such horror at the thought of being a parent. It turns out that I didn’t have to look very far to find my answer. I believe it all goes back to my own parents. Now, if I was the forgiving sort (and I’m not), I might think twice about revealing what I believe to be true about their thoughts on children. By witnessing their actions and my own recollection of my childhood, I know that my parents thought that raising children was nothing more than a heavy cross that all adults must bear. The Bible told them so. It was akin to being on the chain gang. You get eighteen years of hard labor with each child, and you mark the days off the calendar with a big, red “X”, counting down to the day the kid leaves the nest, and you are free. Here’s the secret every parent knows…you are NEVER free.

Now, don’t feel sorry for me. I know my parents loved me. And although my father never spoke those words to me once in his lifetime, I’m sure he felt it. And my mother, come to think of it, didn’t publicly profess her love until I needed emergency surgery at twelve. I think she just wanted to make sure all her bases were covered. You know, in case I didn’t make it. They did, however, give me anything I wanted, and let me run amok to my heart’s content. Which, looking back on it now, was probably not such a good idea and goes a long way towards explaining my complete self-centeredness and affinity for alcohol and bad boys.

For years I held tight to the idea that I would grow old never experiencing the trials and tribulations of parenthood, and I was fine with that. But after nine years of marriage and more fun than I should admit to here, I had an epiphany. I was sitting at a bar (as usual), and a clear thought formed in my mind: “Is this all there is to life?” At that moment, I knew that working a job I hated all week and partying away my life every weekend wasn’t making me happy. I decided that I needed to either go back to school to find a career that fulfilled me, or have children. It was as simple as that. And, since I really hate to take tests and read textbooks…well, you get the picture.

I desperately love my children. Hell, I brought BOTH of them into this world without so much as a Goody Powder coursing through my veins. That’s some hardcore love right there. And don’t let some male doctor fool you into believing the urban myth that you forget the pain of childbirth. Oh no, my friend. Why do you think there are nearly five years between my children? It took me that long to muster the courage to endure the pain of what I can only describe to you as what it must feel like when a watermelon passes slowly through your nostril. It’s not pretty.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am no June Cleaver. I don’t do brownies or school fundraisers. I’m the mom with crazy hair, pants just this side of being too tight, and a serious attitude problem. I have issues with authority figures, and I tell my children that life isn’t fair, so get used to it.

But here is my saving grace. My kids know that I would stand in front of a bullet to protect them, and that my heart soars when I see them after being away for even just the day. They know that I am their safe port in a storm, and that I will always let them watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as many times as they want as long as they promise not to swear like Ferris and Cameron. They are my life, and I know they are secure in that knowledge.

Sometimes, being the Perfect Mom isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. I’m not afraid for my kids to know that every now and then, life is hard and Mommy needs a deep breath, long shower and a little cabernet to retain her sanity.

We’ll get through this life together, and, if they promise not to tell, Mommy might just let them have cold pizza and lemonade for breakfast - two days in a row.

Monday, August 3, 2009

You're so vain. You probably think this blog is about you...

I am desperately clinging to my youth. Unfortunately, my youth has no intention of hanging around. It has officially left the building, folks. Don’t get me wrong. I am more than happy when each new year rolls around, and I am still on this side of the dirt. It’s just that I hate looking into the mirror and knowing that “hot” is not happening for me any more unless it is followed by the word “flash”. There is no hiding it any more. I’m looking more and more like a middle-aged mama.

I had my feelings hurt last week by a cashier who obviously was given a job under false pretenses. This lad could not have been more than eleven years old. I’m sure his tender age is what clouded his judgment when scanning my wine purchase. He asked for my identification. (So far, so good, right?) I smiled, and started digging for my license. “Hmmm, I must be looking pretty darn good today”, I thought as I handed him the card. He said, “Just flip it over for me so I can scan the bar code. I don’t need to see the front”. WHAT? You seriously don’t want to compare my teenage-looking face with the picture on the front? You don’t really believe I’m over twenty-one, do you? (Okay, so I’ve been over twenty-one for close to twenty years now.) No, he didn’t need to confirm it by looking at my date of birth. The deep lines on my face scream it out like a neon sign. Insert wistful sigh here.

I had another run-in with one of our misguided youth recently. This time the assault occurred at the mall. As I was clothes shopping for our up-coming beach trip, I entered one of those stores where the workers all wear headsets and like to pretend as if they are on an extremely important mission – you know – like to the front of the store because a shirt has become unfolded. Any way, one of the impossibly thin, obviously empty-headed clerks strolled up to me and asked if I was buying a gift for someone ELSE. I guess it was evident to her that I had surpassed the age limit for wearing fitted tee shirts and skinny jeans. Did I scream at the top of my lungs that she was a punk kid, and that Katy Perry has nothing on Joan Jett? Did I tell her that she was the loser for not even knowing who Bananarama is? No, I just bit my lip and shuffled out the door. I bet they would appreciate my patronage in Sears. Humph.

I am, without a doubt, the vainest person I know. I don’t go to the mailbox without full make-up. I style my hair before going to have my hair styled. I touch up my face before mowing the lawn. (But doesn’t everyone?) So, it’s no wonder I’m struggling against the hands of Father Time, that sorry S.O.B. that he is. It’s his fault the waitress calls me “ma’am”. It’s his fault college guys think I’m about as sexy as their own mom. It’s his fault that I spend more money on skin care than I do on clothes.

Contrary to popular belief though, I don’t go through all this trouble to attract men. I’m willing to admit it now. Men are easy to please or fool whichever way you want to look at it. No, it has always just been about looking better than other females. I want to have the cuter hair, the nicer butt, and smoother skin than anyone standing near me. This is becoming increasingly difficult as I am now approaching forty-one. Many of the people I find myself surrounded by are a good ten years younger than me. It’s hard to compete with butts as young as that no matter how many miles I run.

I have become a slave to eye cream and Photoshop. I have no plans to grow old gracefully. I will wear hip huggers, big earrings and bikinis. I will hide my reading glasses and not let on that I have never seen one episode of “The Hills”. Hey, forty is the new twenty, right?