Friday, August 27, 2010

A message from the President of the Bad Moms Club...

There are days when I hang my head and say quietly to myself, “I am just not cut out for this whole motherhood thing.” I knew from the beginning that taking a self-absorbed Queen Bee like me and shoving her into the role of Parent was going to be a stretch, a Stretch Armstrong kind of stretch. I have mostly kept this sentiment to myself because the moment you say, “Being a mom is hard”, people tend to get very self-righteous, become a little soap box-y, and are quick to remind you to “suck it up” because “those kids didn’t ask to be born”. But, after countless hours of dedicated internet research (Studying = Merlot + humorous blog reading), I have discovered that there is a burgeoning sub-culture of women who are saying out loud what I have been thinking all along: Parenthood is not for wussies, and anyone who claims that their experience is nothing but sunshine and butterflies, well, let's just say I’m calling your bluff.

I am lucky, extraordinarily lucky to have had two healthy children who don't bite other kids on the playground or eat paste.  They have so far resisted the urge to ram acorns up their noses and only occasionally vomit without prior warning. I love, love, love my children, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t days when I am Googling to find out if the National Circus of the Czech Republic has any immediate job openings. I will do somersaults and ride elephants with Boris any day of the week over cleaning up after a child's serious encounter with the rotovirus. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t studied our budget thinking, “Hmmm…if I stop buying shoes and meat, then maybe we can afford that Russian nanny.”

Ahhh...Svetlana, my fantasy Russian nanny.  What I love most about her is that she barely speaks English, so I don't really have to communicate at all.  I just smile and point and use my made-up sign language to get my message across.  She's here to make sure bones aren't broken, referee fights,  and facilitate homework being completed in a timely manner.  She is such a worker bee, so while the kids are in school, she happily cleans my house and puts the laundry away, all while singing her traditional Russian folk songs to stem her homesickness.  (Seriously, though...How could she be homesick for sub-zero temperatures and a mostly gray wardrobe?  And those furry hats?  Please! She's in the sunny South now.  After tasting our Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, she's kicking her Stoli's to the curb, baby!) Did I mention that she's a fabulous cook?  Oh yes, my sweet Svetlana whips up a gourmet meal for the family each night and wouldn't dare let me help clean up.  What a peach!

Sorry, I digress...

I am very suspicious of any mother who thinks it's perfectly delightful to have their toddler poop their pants and then spread the contents of their diaper across the den wall like some sort of performance artist.  "Bravo! Bravo!  Don't you just love it when little Skippy works in all natural media?  He is so ahead of his time!" she says, as she patiently scrapes excrement off the dry wall.   Maybe it's just me, but when I get puked on, it can sometimes ruin my day.  And, no, I do not want to see my kids bowel movements no matter how adamant they are that I rush in for a private viewing.  I am not impressed that it's the fecal interpretation of George Washington.  I'll pass. (pun intended)

The secret is out, people.  We know that behind your meticulously planned birthday parties and Facebook updates proclaiming that your children are perfect and life couldn't possibly be any finer, is a medicine cabinet full of Zoloft and a fridge full of Chardonnay.  You don't have to pretend any more.  We are an Army of One now.  You can let down your guard and purchase store-bought cupcakes for the next classroom party without remorse.  Trust me when I say that dinner at McDonald's every now and then will not keep your child from being accepted to an Ivy League school.  Feel free to go ahead and alert the social media that your child was kicked out of his advanced math class for poor grades and that you found pot in his dresser drawer.  We'll all give you an understanding, sympathetic nod, raise our glasses and propose a toast to Us, the Not So Perfect Moms.

And June Cleaver?  She can kiss our collective asses.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monster House

I am afraid of my own house, and it's not the ghosts that are living here that frighten me. (Yeah, that blog is coming.)  I am shouldering a most unhealthy fear of Household Disasters, and because of my phobia-filled mind, fifteen years of home ownership have caused me to pen my imaginary epic masterpiece, “The Book of Catastrophic Plumbing and HVAC Related Events That Will Eventually Happen to Me”.  I know in my heart that one day, I will come home from work only to open the door and find water flooding my downstairs and pouring like rain from the light fixtures. These slightly irrational appliance-centered nightmares are keeping me awake at night.

I have a secret daily routine that I use to ensure that all systems are operational and not on the brink of cataclysmic failure. It’s rather low tech, but so far, it has worked for me. It goes something like this:

1. Upon waking each morning, I turn the water in the bathroom all the way over to the “H”, and I mutter under my breath, “Please, please, please let the water be hot! Come on…heat up already...whew!” Once the maximum tolerable (scalding) water temperature is reached, the water heater check is complete.

2. Next, I move on to the heating and air conditioning system. This test consists of me standing by a vent when I hear the air start to blow, and  muttering under my breath, “Please, please, please let the air be cool! (Or warm) Come on…come on…whew.” Once the seasonally appropriate temperature of air flow is reached, the HVAC check is complete.

3. Lastly, I stand in the kitchen, making sure the house is silent so that I can wrench my neck to hear if any pipes are spewing water beneath the house.  For this test, I have been known to go so far as to press my ear against the hardwood floor or walls as needed.  Lately, my rushing water scares have actually just been the deafening chirps of cicadas outside the window, masquerading as my worst nightmare.

I even step out onto the deck each morning just to ensure that the waterfall in the pond is flowing properly.  I think you get the neurotic picture.

Now, before you start spouting off a list of pharmaceuticals that will ease my fear of Plumbing and Electrical Systems in General, you should know that there is a perfectly sane reason that ice makers  and washing machine hoses scare me. I have been to the Land of Exploding Water Pipes, my friend, and I have the post traumatic stress to prove it.

 It was a dark and stormy night. it wasn't stormy, but it was dark, and I was sound asleep in our first home that we had lived in only a year.  I awoke to a soft sound that I didn't recognize at first.  I sat up in the bed to get a better listen.  "Did I leave the fan on after exercising?"  Possibly, so I decided to investigate, you know, just to make sure the fan didn't overheat and burn down the house.  (That is SO not an irrational thought!)

The hallway was completely dark as I crept slowly along. Then, just when I reached the halfway point to the kitchen, I was sprayed squarely (and painfully) against the side of my head by a mean, hard blast of water.  What happened next is a little sketchy, but I'm fairly certain that I let out a yell like someone was stabbing me with a blunt kitchen knife.  My horror-movie-style screams roused my husband who came running in my direction, only to end up taking a midnight shower in the hallway, just like me.

The next few minutes were a blur of wetness as we rushed around trying to discover the origin of the Pipe from Nowhere.  It was in our hallway, but it didn't seem connected to either the kitchen or the bathroom that were adjacent.  Time was of the essence now, because the water was already pouring into several rooms, and disintegrating the opposite wall. 

As I rushed through the house turning off any and every knob that controlled water, my husband punched the soggy wall to make more room in the hole for him to grab the hard, plastic pipe (Never buy a house with plastic pipes.) and managed to squeeze it until the flow was stopped.  (This was an amazing feat, and I expected him to follow it with bending spoons by his brain power alone!)  I hurried to the garage and found a vice clamp to relieve his poor fingers, and we took a moment to re-group.

The water was down to a trickle, but we had to shut it off completely because no plumber was coming out at two in the morning no matter how much I alternately sweet talked and cried.  It would be daylight before it was repaired.  (That was fine because, hey, we both just got a really cold shower.)

We sloshed around the house and surveyed the carnage.  We had several inches of water throughout the place.  There was a giant hole in the wall and sheet rock was hurled about on the drenched carpet. There were visions of claims adjusters dancing in my head.

Once the plumber arrived, the pipe mystery was solved. So, what caused this single devastating event that has scarred home ownership for me for life?  The busted pipe belonged to the ice maker. THE ICE MAKER!!  When the house was built, Mr. Albert Einstein snaked the pipe up the wall, across the ceiling and over to the fridge.  That's why we couldn't figure it out.  The pipe was in another part of the house from the appliance to which it was attached!

So, don't tell me my fears are unfounded.  Don't even try to assure me that my house is not out to get me. I feel it heaving as we walk the floors.   In the winter, I can hear the low, diabolical rumble as the flames of the gas furnace ominously come to life. (And, don't even get me started on explosions caused by natural gas - I shudder at the thought.)  Wainscoting and crown molding do not fool me.  I have assumed the role of Domestic Warrior - Mistress of the Leaky Faucets and Garage Door Gatekeeper Extraordinaire.  It's me against this Monster House,  and yes,  I have the insurance guy on speed dial.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Namaste, Y'all!

I do yoga.  Well, I should rephrase that because no self-respecting yogini would "do" yoga.  We "practice" yoga, you know, because no one is perfect, Grasshopper.  I'm not sure why other folks start a yoga regimen, but my revelation came after watching an interview with Rosie O'Donnell. (Okay, there are so many wisecracks I could insert here, but it's just too easy.  I'm going to take a deep breath and abstain.)  Rosie was talking about her good friend, Madonna. It seems that Madonna had always been a total hard ass when it came to exercise and a healthy diet. (Hmmm...that sounds vaguely familiar.)  But, once our Queen of Pop began her spiritual journey on the path to extreme bendy-ness, she felt at peace with actually eating a cupcake at the birthday party for one of Rosie's many kids.  All I took away from this interview was the following equation: Yoga = Cake Eating, and I was in the down dog position quicker than you can say "loud-mouthed, obnoxious, talk show host."

Of course, Rosie lied.  I quickly found out that, in fact, doing yoga does not release some Super Human Hormone that gobbles up cookie dough-laden calories.  The ability to twist my aging torso into various unnatural and sometimes inappropriate poses isn't a free pass into Double Chocolate Chip Frappucino Land.  Even after the epiphany that the phrase "Super Size Me" wouldn't be a part of my vernacular, I didn't walk away from the whole yoga scene.  (Okay, I'll just be honest here.  I spent way too much money on instructional dvd's and my butt looked kind of cute in those stretchy pants.)  I decided to give yoga a fighting chance to win my affection, and not be yet another "thing" that I started and never saw to fruition.

My road to enlightenment through yoga has been mostly a farce.  The first time I heard "The spirit of light in me bows to the spirit of light in you", I let out a snort so loud that I had to quickly reign it in before it became a belly laugh.  I don't really "bow" to auras or glows or spirits or any other fairy-tale-type-mystical thing.  Come to think of it, I don't bow at all.  I felt like a total dork listening to the instructor tell me that my own free spirit was "a coiled snake lying in wait at the base of the spine to be released". Huh? And, for as much as I tried to clear my head of any thoughts, I found that I was mostly just thinking of how not to fall asleep because the soundtrack was like musical Ambien. 

I decided to ignore the feeling that I was less than six degrees of separation from Yanni, because yoga has some bold check marks in the "Plus" column that running just can't touch.  First of all, I have yet to be chased by a dog while in the half lotus pose. Although, my butt has been sniffed by my own pets while in Uttanasana more times than I care to remember. (Look at me all throwing out some big, ol' yoga words.  It just means bending over and touching your toes, but it sounds totally complicated.)  Secondly, at the end, they MAKE you lie down on the floor and be very still for a good five minutes while they half-whisper sweet nothings to make you relax. Oh yeah, that part is mandatory.

Another reason that yoga won me over is that I don't dread it.  In fact, even though I sweat, and twist, and do backbends and splits like I never knew I could, it makes me feel relaxed, almost margarita-like some days.  There is something to be said for taking an hour of your day and breathing deeply.  (Although, there are more times than not that I use that well-honed lung power to shout out warnings to my kids when they are in a heated battle over the TV remote and I'm trying to balance myself on one leg without crashing into the computer desk.)

I would be lying if I said that I have found some kind of peace and spiritual growth while exploring  chakras and bandhas and blah, blah, blah.  I'm just too cynical to believe that holding a Bow Pose will lead me to a higher consciousness.  (Although I will admit that it has done wonders for my abs!) I guess the most important reason I have stuck it out for four years now is that yoga did something for me that no other exercise ever has: It temporarily removes that feeling I constantly have of wanting to slap stupid people, and that, my friends, is priceless.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Does gray hair make my butt look big?

One morning, some random, unsuspecting morning, I am going to wake up and go all Kathleen Turner on this world.  You know what I mean.  A woman of a certain age can only be pushed so far. (And I'm talking to you, Victoria's Secret.) One of these days I am going to throw open my window and let loose every jog bra, running shoe, and Jillian Michaels dvd within reach of my shaky, wrinkled and slightly unstable grip.  I am going to climb onto the roof top, wave my running shorts (the pair that has "Star" written across the butt) towards the sky and proclaim, "I give up!  You win, Mother Nature!  Bring it on!"   Then I will calmly climb down, put on some comfortable underwear that have substantially more than a quarter centimeter of fabric in the back, don some sweat pants and drive to Burger King for a Double Whopper with cheese.  Don't say you weren't warned.

How long do I have to keep up this charade?  I'm sick of baked chicken.  I tend to get very stabby every time I am forced to watch others eat cake while I settle for a breath of fresh air and the taste of bitter resentment in my mouth.  I no longer have the desire to shlep on out to the street for one more run that finds me dodging dogs with wander lust and a taste for human blood along with those creepy landscaper/stalker dudes with another kind of lust, both of whom want to do bad things to me.  All this to keep my dress size in the single digits?  Seriously?

Can't I just be like Jamie Lee Curtis and let it all hang out?  I want to slouch.  I want to be at peace with myself even if my belly overlaps my belt.  I want to feel free to be excited over eating a cup of yogurt that keeps my bowels regular and encourage random strangers on the street to fill me in on their intestinal escapades.  (Who knew bacteria could be so much fun?  Thank you, bifidus regularis!)  I want to muster the courage to let a human being who doesn't live in my house actually see me without makeup.  Maybe I just want to go to Wal-Mart in my pajamas and scratch my privates while debating what goes better with corn beef hash: PBR or Busch? Jamie Lee let the world see her in all of her un-retouched glory.  I need to find a road map that will lead me to that place in life.

It happens to the best of us.  Maybe I'm more sensitive to gravity's evil ways because I'm surrounded by twenty-something moms who don't need advanced skin care, three pots of coffee per day, and an underwire bra to keep their boobs from landing somewhere south of the equator. (I used to be a 34C and now I'm a 34 long.)  I'm constantly being reminded that the mothers of my daughter's friends weren't even out of diapers while I was partying at spring break in my bikini.  Did I just say that out loud?  Dear Lord, I bet they don't even know who John Hughes was.  Stop me before I break out into a Bananarama song!
 I guess there is no hard and fast answer as to when a delusional middle-aged mom should stop trying to look like a teenager.  Certainly, the under-fed, pre-teen sales clerks in Hollister sense my desperation and wonder if they should direct me to JC Penney.  It's obvious that I don't belong there.  Could I be happy as a couch potato?  Would it do my heart good to walk into an all you can eat Chinese buffet and really eat all I could eat?  My heart says "Yes", but my head and skinny jeans are both telling me to drop and give them fifty...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Whoever said to make lemonade when life hands you lemons can just suck it...

I have always hated August.  Even as a child, I dreaded its arrival because it meant the end to summer, the end to a carefree life of sleeping late, eating boiled peanuts on the back porch and chasing the city truck that sprayed for mosquitoes.  (What?  You didn't love frolicking in the chemical-laden fumes?)  August brings stifling heat and humidity to an already overcooked South whose people are feeling like they have died and gone to hell.  August is brown grass and a national debt-style utility bill.  August is an army of parents who are tired of hearing, "I'm bored".  August is dried out ferns and long-suffering impatiens.  August is purgatory just outside your front door.  Did I mention that I hate August?

I am not sure if it's a coincidence or karma that the worst event of my life so far - the passing of my mother - happened in the month that I love to hate.  Her death came at the end of August when Labor Day and the cool, crisp days of autumn are just out of grasp.  You know, those final dog days of summer when you stare desperately up to the heavens and promise God that you will never again complain when we get a quarter of an inch of snow, and there isn't a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread to be found.  Her death in that August two years ago was like an exclamation point at the end of a profanity-laced insult, and it still hurts like a raw, open wound.

This year, I quietly made a decision to keep my August-hating pity party to myself.  I have written at length on the subject, and I figure everyone has had enough of the "Poor little Lynda" side of the story.  Here is the grab, though - the more I try to push the White Elephant out of the room, the more it hunkers down, passes gas to annoy me, taunt me, and let me know I can't ignore it.

That big ol' elephant is right.  I can't ignore it.  I think about my mom every day, and the more I try to pretend that All Is Well, the more I can't think about anything else.  I wish she were still here to see how long my daughter's hair has grown and to see how she has matured as she is preparing to enter first grade.  I wish she could see how tall my son is now and could be here to listen to him perform the songs on the piano that he taught himself to play.  I wish she were here so that my daughter could sneak into her room at night and share Jelly Beans with Granny like she did before cancer, once again, turned my life on its head.

Shortly after my mother's death, I had an acquaintance from high school ask me, "Wow. What does it feel like to be an orphan?"  (I wish I was kidding.)  This is a forty-something businesswoman who obviously has no filter between her very large mouth and her very small brain.  I wasn't sure if this was a rhetorical question that she accidentally let slip, or if she was genuinely interested in finding out if my band of ragamuffin orphans was going to break out into a rousing rendition of "It's A Hard Knock Life" for the viewing pleasure of Daddy Warbucks.  I tried to satisfy her morbid curiosity as succinctly as possible by giving her my two-word response: "It sucks."

And that about sums it up for me.  It sucks, but life goes on I guess.  Like an old pot of coffee that needs to be dumped before a fresh one can be brewed, I need to pour out the gut-wrenching feelings in my head before any irreverent or snarky new thoughts can grow there again.

Now, go hug your mama.