Oh my god… I’m an adult

Personal insights
At war with reality…
Well, this should be fun.

—————
To my friend… surely you will know this is about you. But it isn’t about you. It is how ‘you’ led me to a great personal insight that lends itself to a blog post. I sincerely hope you (and your family) won’t be offended.

To my mom… no comment necessary. I can hear you laughing from here.
——–

I have always considered the day I gave birth to my first born as the day that I reached full maturity. Yes, I had been employed for 12 years by that time and married for nearly 10. Yes, I had a mortgage and 2 car payments; three cats and 7 houseplants looked to me for survival. But for some reason none of those ever made me feel mature the way having a child did. A switch seemed to literally flip on somewhere in my reptilian brain that could never, ever be switched off again.

So imagine my surprise when this weekend another event happened that seemed to take me yet another step toward maturity.

My family went to a celebration for a dear friend who is about 20 years younger than me and single. (I am changing all sorts of descriptors to protect the innocent and my friendship.) She was celebrating an important milestone and we wanted to be there, with her parents, aunt and cousins, to mark the occasion.  My family arrived at her apartment a little early – she was still out with her mom, aunt and cousins, but her dad was there so we made ourselves comfortable. Well, Frank and the kids did. I was antsy. I wasn’t sure why… I couldn’t bring myself to sit down; I was unusually restless given I was actually a little tired. I wandered room to room, looking… for what I couldn’t say.

And then it hit me. I wanted to straighten her apartment. I wanted to organize things and empty trash cans and go to the Container Store and buy matching bins. She had stuff e v e r y w h e r e, and I couldn’t find a uniting theme to things no matter how hard I tried … and believe me I tried.

There was a dining room, but it was home to such a variety of items that my natural tendency to look for patterns went all wonky.   Her dining table clearly was meant to host food for the party — there was food on it already — but there were also other things, many of which I couldn’t identify at all.  This from a woman who can tell if the little part is playmobil, polly pocket or littlest pet shop with ease… I was stumped.

Her living room was quaint, also doubling as office and pet sanctuary. I loved how everything was at an angle (I think to take advantage of the limited wall outlets and the somewhat unhelpful non-working fireplace). Yet I wanted to stack all the items on her desk. Wanted to rearrange the bookshelf to be more efficient. I kept examining the traffic flow of people and imagining how it might be more effective with a tweak to the furniture arrangement.

It was about at this point that my awareness turned internal and I thought to myself, with horror — oh my god… I’m acting like a grown up. A real grown up. So I wandered into the kitchen — really cute and retro, given the age of the house.  But 20 seconds in I was once again imagining the perfect shelves and racks for a corner, which would allow her to…

“STOP!” I cried to myself.  “You have a problem! Her home is perfectly fine. If your own mother were here she would be rolling on the floor laughing at you and saying something sinister like ‘paybacks are hell, sweetie!’ She would be retelling (for the ump-teenth time) stories about how your room was knee deep in clothes growing up and how your first apartment was so messy that it required two days of cleaning before company came.’  I took a deep breath, steadied myself, reminded myself of her age and lifestyle (more like that of a student) and sat down.

I was up again in an instant, as if I hadn’t just had a personal insight. Well, I said to myself, if I can’t attack the entire apartment, I can at least get the table cleared for the rest of the food that was about to arrive. I grabbed a small, cute and empty container (why is it empty? she could put stuff in here!), put everything from the table that wasn’t food related into it, and sat it on a random shelf. I arranged things, put out more food, made some assumptions and generally felt better having made just one small something organized.

Once I had done this, once I had felt useful and satisfied my need for order, I was able to enjoy the party, which started in earnest shortly after this. It was only on the drive home that it hit me: so this is what it feels like to be an adult, all grown up. This compulsion to take care of and make organized (at least from my point of view!)… surely this was a sign of either illness or maturity.

When I arrived home, I humbled myself by looking at my desk and my table, both of which could use some of my own medicine. Those who know me know that I don’t keep a tidy house – there are toys everywhere and loads of knick-knacks which make the place feel a little cluttered. So I can’t yet reconcile my compulsion to straighten her house with my own failings in the keeping-a-straightened-house department.  It could just be further evidence of god’s wickedly good sense of humor, or something I should get treated for as soon as possible.

Ladies Who Lunch, A Baptist Minister, The Atheist and Rodney King

The ladies who lunch
Prefer no spice, no salt, just
Smooth, lump-free eating.

……………………………………………………………………………..

Last week I enjoyed a few days R&R in my hometown, Macon, Georgia. This time of year it is extraordinarily beautiful (see here for proof), being not only the springtime home to azaleas, dogwoods and wisteria but also to more Yoshino Cherry Trees than any other place in the US.

With that many cherry trees, there is, of course, a Cherry Blossom Festival, a very fun 10 days that has been happening annually for 30 years. Events range from snake and alligator shows to Frisbee dog contests to concerts to broadway musicals to food fairs.  While there I enjoyed an author’s lunch, headlined by Barbara Eden, who has written an autobiography entitled Jeannie Out of the Bottle.   There were two other authors featured as well, R. Kirby Godsey and Ed Grisamore.

As it was a Tuesday, the majority of the 200+ attendees at “The Club” were women, mostly dressed in some shade of pink.  The 20 or so men also wore pink – jackets or ties or dress shirts… It is quite a sight.  I took special notice of a table for 8 just in front of our table. All women, recent trips to the beauty parlor were evident, sensible shoes, most aged 60+. They appeared to be friends (tickets were sold by the table so a safe assumption), chatting freely during the salad and main meal, and now settling down for dessert and the speakers.

Let me share the speakers in reverse, starting with Barbara Eden. What a delightful woman. She looks fantastic! I didn’t get up close, but I’m pretty sure she’s had some work done — but it wasn’t Joan Rivers work, it was a freshening, well done. She was funny and her entire talk was done Q&A style; she easily moved from one topic to the next, telling stories and laughing openly at herself. This is exactly what an author’s lunch with a celebrity writer during a week of pink is supposed to be like. The table of 8 ladies who lunch beamed.

She was preceded by Ed Grisamore, a local newspaper columnist and humorist, whose latest book is called There Is More Than One Way to Spell Wiener: The Story of Nu-Way. Nu-way is a local restaurant that has been selling hot dogs/chili dogs since 1930-something. He was very, very funny, informative, and carefully warmed up the audience for the celebrity. Again, very pleasing and palative.

What I want to focus your attention on, however, was the first speaker, a very distinguished gentleman named R. Kirby Godsey, who spoke about his latest book. Dr. Godsey is the former CEO/President of Mercer University, a local Baptist college, and he has the look of a well polished ordained minister (which he is). His gray hair is smoothed back, the blue suit fits just right. When he speaks, you can easily imagine him in front of a large congregation – he has a well-practiced cadence and a warm, caressing voice that was made for radio or TV preaching. His unassuming presence only seems to amplify a powerfulness you can’t miss.

His book is entitled Is God a Christian?: Creating a Community of Conversation. Pause on that title for just a moment. Reflect on where he is and who he is talking to. Perhaps some more detail to help paint the picture is required: There are 7 churches within walking distance of the house I grew up in, all Christian, most Baptist. We all knew the Catholic families in town (they were the ones with more than 2.2 kids).  Despite how easy it would have been to get there, we didn’t go to church – my mom had rejected her religion of birth (Catholic) and my dad, well, let’s just say he wasn’t (isn’t) into god – as such, I was once told by a friend that she was taught in Sunday School I would go to hell. There is a joke in Georgia: In Atlanta they ask you “what does your family do”; in Savannah they ask “what do you drink” and in Macon they ask “where do you go to church”. Dr. Godsey ran a Baptist university for 27 years, and still serves as chancellor.

You get the picture. This is the bravest man on the face of the earth.

And here he is, surrounded by ladies who lunch, all wearing pink, all there precisely because they are keen to hear what Barbara Eden, a woman whose heyday was 45 years ago, has to say. And this man, this pioneer in a field which tends to discourage discovery, starts to talk about how religion can be evil and how wrong it is to “exercise religious bigotry in the name of God”.  He believes we need to start talking to one another and recognizing…” The world has grown too small and the stakes for mankind have grown too high for any of us to engage our faith as if our understanding of God represents the only way God’s presence may be known in the world.”

So let’s return to our table of 8, all church goers I guarantee it.  I watched them off and on during his speech. It was a study in discomfort.  They never once looked at each other. They didn’t look at the podium. Their eyes were fixed on the butter dish or salt shaker or some other item just below the horizon on their table. When Dr. Godsey said “Christians just need to get over it”, my table (at which sat my mom, dad, sister, a non-Christian friend and an openly gay friend) laughed quite loudly.   These 8 ladies who lunch decidedly did not laugh. When Dr. Godsey finished, they politely brought their fingers together for a few perfunctory smacks, but quickly dropped them into their lap or nervously drank some sweet tea. It was clear to me that this was not what they signed up for.

But I’m not a lady who lunches.  I was enraptured. Who knew that I, who believe in god but find it hard to handle religion because of its history of treachery and narrowness of beliefs, would now want to read a book written by a Baptist minister?  I also didn’t bank on realizing that to some degree, I’m as closed off as the ladies who lunch, making assumptions about those who practice religion based on old history, not new stories.

Then today I heard about the Reason Rally in Washington, DC, where atheists gathered to protest religion and talk about their belief system. I have no issue with atheists, I happen to love several, but I was deeply discouraged by the headliner encouraging others to “ridicule and show contempt for religious people”. I think if Dr. Godsey has the backbone to contend that religions of the world need to find what is common and be open to “all ways God’s presence may be known”, then I think the non-believers out there could find room for theirs being just another voice at the table, not the only voice.

It’s a big world out there… we all have to make space for each other. Sometimes Rodney King’s famous plea of “why can’t we all just get along” seems the most fitting doctrine of all; listening, our most universal sacrament.

The Comparison Trap

“Am I good enough?”
Bred from insecurity
Fed by silliness
***************************************
A dear friend of mine helped me one time to define the different voices competing in my head… you know the voices – they never say things like “wow, you look wonderful today” or “what a nice power point presentation”.  They say things like…

–  No matter what I do, my hair always looks like crap.
–  Did you see what he did in that meeting? Can you believe it??
–  I wonder if her presentation went well… I sure hope they like mine better…

My friend calls these the I Suck voice, the You Suck voice and the Compare Me voice. None of them are my best self, let’s be clear.

The compare me voice has been front and center lately. It started when I was at a dinner party at another parent’s house.  Their house was amazing. It was 3 years old, each wall looked freshly painted and the overall design seemed plucked from  Architectural Digest.  I am quite sure that dirt would never have the nerve to land anywhere. At one point, I wondered out loud whether I needed a coaster to put under my glass on the kitchen counter (it was made of a strange material…).  I couldn’t believe that children lived in this home, it was so pristine.  Now, one part of me dwelled in the “you suck” voice (“What must it be like to live in this house as a kid?”) but for the most part I berated myself about how dirty and completely too full-of-crap my house was.  (Please note: these are beautiful, kind, caring people… this is my issue, not theirs.)

Then their daughter came to our house. I was horrified. What would this kid think of our house, with its dust bunnies and piles of catalogs. I publicly pretend it is ok by calling my house “well lived in” but honestly, I was embarrassed about what this kid would think or worst – gasp! — what would she tell her parents?? Would she ever be allowed to come over again?

Well, she came over again. And I was cutting up something to make some rags and she said “Oh wow, my mom never does stuff like that” with some admiration in her voice.   I stood up straighter. What? My thriftiness somehow impresses?  Perhaps there is something to approve of??

So what was that all about?  Well, the I Suck voice was fully present (my house is a mess and I’m unworthy!)  and then invited in the Compare Me Voice to make me feel better (I’m cooler because I cut things up).  In neither case were these voices in service of me.

I think the parental comparison trap is inevitable, but I think I put too much store in what I imagine the kids think. As I reflect back 30+ years, I don’t ever remember thinking that one friend’s house was always clean and another chock full of toys. They were just Stephanie’s house or Mike’s house. None of them ever wondered aloud why my mom felt compelled to stack mail for weeks at a time… No one cared.

So I am going to try to sunset these voices when it comes to parental comparison. As a friend who I confided my “I Suck” voices in said:  “So what? You have the cool 85-year-old English Tudor with the period light fixtures you’ve searched out and the talkative wooden floors. It isn’t worse, it’s just different. And it’s beautiful too.”

Thanks, Rosie. That’s the voice I really needed to hear.

Even My Tired is Tired

The body begs “sleep”;
The mind succumbs to rubbish,
dressed as important.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am dog tired. I am a dog-who-was-left-on-vacation-and-walked-400-miles-back-to-her-owner’s-house-in-a-week-then-had-10-puppies tired.  There are three things responsible for this.

ok, so I made her pose for this, but you get the idea...

1. The Oscars.  I’m not all that into movies, but I love to watch the Oscars. The clips are fun, the jokes are usually ok, the clothes beautiful and the speeches touch me.  Last night we let Tivo get a head start on it, but still took us until 12:15am to get through the show (no matter how often I told myself to stop and go to bed, I just couldn’t look away). I really liked it. Loved Billy Crystal no matter what everyone else says. And I now officially have a thing for JLo.

2. My work. This morning, a Monday morning mind you, someone scheduled a global conference call at 7am. And this same person put me on the agenda, over and over again (actually, that was my own fault now that I think about it). Oh, and did I mention, it was a Video Conference! Yes, you guessed it, that means I had to be there in person. Now normally (wait! if we work together, don’t read this next part – promise me!) I take 7am calls while getting ready for work. For most calls of this nature, I listen for 90% and only talk maybe, at best, 10%, so I can finish my make up, even dry my hair (thanks to a bluetooth headset that automatically increases volume when surrounding noise increases), get dressed, kiss the kids/the man, grab my breakfast, and hit the road, all while people blather on and on about budgets and innovation and marketing. But today, as I’ve already lamented, it was a video conference, and I had several agenda items, so alas, I had to be in the office by 6:50am. This means I had to be out of bed by 5:15am.

3. My self. I’m not sure what is wrong with me. Last night at 12:15am, the Tivo’d Oscars having ended, I was clearly tired and headed toward disaster, as my alarm was already set for a mere 5 hours away. Instead of going upstairs to bed, however, what did I do? I checked WordPress. Then my email. Then a brief look through Facebook to see if my friend wrote back. Then, for some reason, I clicked on abcnews.com to see if anything exciting (other than the Oscars) had happened. Then finally, I went up to bed. However, upstairs it just got worse… I checked my work email on my then bedside-Blackberry (just because I really like getting emails late at night that remind me how much freaking work I have waiting for me in the morning as that always relaxes me). Then I headed to the bathroom to do the evening routine, which involves listening to an audio book while I floss, brush, wash, tone, spot cream, deep wrinkle cream, eye cream and moisturize.  (I work for a skin care company, forgive me…) Then comes the “hair hunt” which involves me looking into a magnifying mirror trying to find newly minted eyebrow hairs to yank mercilessly from my brows, which always devolves into mindless wrinkle inspection (…I wonder if I finally look younger than my older sister…) and hair-do imaginings (…maybe I’ll let it grow long and wear a pony tail…). Jesus-H-Christmas, 20+ narcissistic minutes later I emerge wondering where the time went.  After slathering a few more potions on my hands and feet, I crawl gratefully into bed only to grab my phone so I can pull up the Daily Dilbert App and the XKCD App to see any new cartoons.  A few pages of my hard copy book later, I’m finally relaxed and ready to sleep. It is now 1:15am. I am insane.

So when 5:15am came this morning, I felt like someone had hit me in the head with a 2 by 4 and poured salt water into my eyes. (No, there was no alcohol involved…) I crawled into the shower, got myself ready, did mostly well on the call and promised myself I’d leave work a little early given the early start.

At 6pm tonight I called my beloved and told him I was on my way home.

Not yet done with the self-delusion, I then promised myself that after the kids went to bed at 8:30pm I would NOT come downstairs and get distracted… I would go to bed myself and catch up on sleep.

Did I do this? No. Of course not. I came to this god-forsaken site to poke around and decided this topic was a good blog idea. Good enough to deprive myself further of sleep in order to get something posted because postings lead to clicks and clicks mean I’ll have some email to check and checking email means I’m worthy.

It’s 9:52pm. Help me. Please.

If it’s Velvet does it count? On becoming Charlotte…

Oh mirror, mirror
Reflect me cool, young, hip, smooth;
Deceive my eyes, years.
”””””””””””””””””””””’
The similarities are beginning to worry me. It’s been happening for a while. But it just used to be in how my brain worked or what made me laugh. Now it is appearing in more troublesome ways.

I’m becoming Charlotte.

I’ll give you one guess as to who she is… did you guess? Yep, my mom.  Now I like Charlotte. Someone telling me I’m like her is a huge compliment because I think she is smarter than me and a lot wiser (the benefit of our 25 year age difference).  But those compliments are usually directed at how I think or how I approach the world.

Now the “Charlotte-ness” is seeping into other domains of my being…

I recently purchased a housecoat. That is a very Charlotte thing to do. I justified it as follows:

Charlotte’s housecoat: fleece or terry, hits just below the knee; color family of pale blue or red; purchased at Sears; snaps or zips up the front; worn for several years until the pockets are worn through or there is a good sale at Sears. (There is only modest exaggeration here…)

Picture from Sears' website.

My housecoat: dark blue velvet with satin trim; floor length; floaty; purchased at Dillards; great for lounging after a long day in work clothes. And I prefer the term caftan to describe what I’m wearing, thank you very much.

Picture from Dillard's Website

Who the blazes am I kidding! It has a freakin’ zipper down the front! Just because there is a tassel on the zip doesn’t glam it up! I purchased and am now wearing a house coat.   AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

You know, they are quite comfortable. 

But, but, but… it’s a housecoat! My mother wears these. She travels with one. She wears it over her clothes when the house is cold.

You don’t have to hold in your stomach when you wear a housecoat, did you know that? And I might even receive guests while wearing my blue velvet, satin trimmed caft-

Repeat after me, it is a flipping housecoat, Maureen. Don’t kid yourself. Get rid of it now. Save yourself… This is a slippery slope you are heading down.

It’s only a matter of time before the assimilation is complete and I’m one of her…

*sob*…  I just found out it isn’t even velvet. It’s velour… noooooooooooooooooooooo!

Dreading Tomorrow – A Ski Virgin’s Report

Yoda was right: “Too
old to begin the training.”
I should have listened…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There are some blog postings that are quick to write – seem to come out and need very little editing. Others take more time as I hem and haw about sentences for what seems like hours. Today had better be a quickie, because in about 27 minutes muscles critical to my mobility are going to seize up and render me unable to move, and I really would rather be in front of the fire or watching TV than here in the office.

Why, pray tell? Because today was my first time ever on skis. And I feel fairly comfortable declaring that it may very well be my last.

It started as a good idea, really. The kids had a 4 day weekend and I thought that it would be fun if we all went to Perfect North, the ski establishment about 45 minutes away, to learn how to ski. I was thinking that skiing is a useful skill – opens up lots of vacation options – and kids who learn it early seem to get it and use it their whole lives. And why not try it myself, huh?  Seems reasonable, right?

I am insane.

First, for the uninitiated and ill-equipped, you require a lot of crap to ski. Boots, skis, poles, helmet, plus ski bibs, gloves, hats, sunscreen, layers of clothing, etc.  Boots seem a simple thing, but they aren’t. They have 4 buckles, did you know that? And you know what else is important? To put your ski bibs on BEFORE you put on your rental boots. And wait, before you get too much further, you have to go to the bathroom just in case. And then you come back and get the boots back on. But wait, be sure you have the bibs on.

Then you try to walk in the boots. I felt like an astronaut on the surface of the moon. I was walking in extreme slow motion, with my knees bent because locomotion wasn’t possible otherwise. I watched in awe as others moved quickly around, while I seemed unable to keep pace with a nursing home resident. This was the first sign.

Getting the skis wasn’t too bad, nor the poles, or helmet, except that these were located in 3 different places. Although the route there was more or less linear, it required more moon walking, which was inexplicably getting harder, not easier. Regardless, we continued forward.

Did I mention there were 4 of us? Because there is something exponential about the work required to outfit 4 people for skiing. The first one isn’t too bad, but the next one takes twice as long as the first… by the fourth person, you are quite sure you’ve entered some bizzaro parallel universe where you are much hated.

Then we left the building. Let me summarize what happened from here.

  •  Tried to find a place to put all our “stuff”, which seemed to multiply since we left the car. In the end, left it all under the stairs and hoped for the best.
  • Found the ski instruction area.
  • I returned to the rental place because my boots were killing me. No really, they were killing me. Got a larger size.
  • Waited 20 minutes for ski instruction. For the kids, this was the equivalent of 4 hours and 52 minutes.  I searched repeatedly for a brick to knock myself out with. Unsuccessful.
  • Sent the kids off for private instruction.
  • Frank and I met, with Harv, our group ski instructor. At the time, he seemed to be a nice, a 60-year-old man.
  • I strapped on my skis.
  • The longest 45 minutes of my life began.

In the end, I refused to do the final bunny hill trial for the class (“I am a danger to myself and others,” I told Harv), sat on the ground (the larger size ski boot having not at all helped since I have the world’s widest feet) and seriously pondered whether I should walk in my socks across the snow to the rental area instead of wearing the boots.

The kids didn’t fare much better. When we located them, they, too, were sitting on the ground. My girl was in tears, her boots also rendering her immobile because they were now too small (“I think I broke my toe… it bends backwards now, see”) and my son was bleeding and also a little tearful – “cut his hand on the snow when he fell” is what the instructor said (say what? Cut his hand on the snow??).  She looked exceptionally uncomfortable and quite eager to deposit the kids with us.

What followed then was even more pain: the second longest 15 minutes of my life, as we made our way back to the rental place to undo everything we did 90 minutes earlier. The kids were insanely miserable. I wasn’t much better.

At last, it was lunchtime. Ahh. Food, water, dry places to sit, no more boots.  I could hear angels singing over the din.

And you know what happened next? We had a ball. Did I mention that Perfect North also has a tubing area that was a-freakin-amazing? Great fun! Spent two more hours there enjoying their runs and it saved the whole trip. Kids left happy, we left happy.  The disastrous ski elements long forgotten*.

In the end, we spent an insane amount of money (especially if you do the cost per hour…) to learn that we are not ski people but tubing people.  I’m really ok with this. I can now say that I have skied. No one needs to know that I never left the instruction area/baby bunny hill. No one needs to know that Harv thinks my IQ is in the double digits.

*Post script: The ski trip really isn’t long forgotten. Frank and I can’t move. For our mere 45 minutes on skis, we both have managed to hurt muscles we didn’t know we had. I’ve walked a half marathon before and hurt less than I do now.  God help us tomorrow morning…

Dad, Now I Understand

My parent’s wisdom:
fits better with age, although
acknowledged too late.

………………………………………………………..

The title of this posting is one of the hardest to see in writing. Who wants to admit their parent may actually have a valid point? Granted, it is far easier to acknowledge in my 40’s than in 20’s, but still, it ain’t easy. This one especially…

me and dad - no stress here! I love you dad!

One of my least favorite memories as a child (and there are very few of these) was when my dad, completely frustrated by the fact that I wasn’t ready for school yet and we were very late, left without me. My recall of this event centers on me trying hard to get ready, but being foiled by my inability to fasten my sandals: the strap was the type with the holes in it, and you had to push the floppy pin into it and thread the end of the strap through the buckle. Know which I mean?  The single most complicated system for children who are struggling with fine motor skills, the inventor of which was a complete dick? Anyway, I was really having a hard time, almost in tears because I couldn’t make it work, and he walked out the door.

(Before you scream child abuse, my grandmother lived with us… I wasn’t alone or in danger.)

Again, my recall of this event, which is shadowy and tortured because, well, I was 6, is a little dodgy. I believe (but am not sure) I walked to school, which was 3 blocks away through residential neighborhoods; I had to cross two streets (again, not complicated or dangerous). I was exceptionally responsible, even back then — even if I couldn’t get my shoe on, I knew that not going to school wasn’t an option, so I made it happen. And in that moment, my little 6-year-old brain vowed to never, ever leave my kid like dad did.

Flash forward several decades to the early years with my first-born, AP. I recall being at the mall and hearing other moms bribe their children into attentiveness with the phrase “I’m going to leave without you, Stephen! Get over here now!!”. I would stand there, judging these moms, disdainfully thinking to myself how horrible they were for promising abandonment. I told myself that I would only ever threaten that which I would actually do, and I would never, ever leave my child.

Flash forward again to the present and this first-born is now 9 years old. She is a highly capable young person. She has 2 arms and 2 legs. She seems to do well in school or has learned how to bribe her teachers into saying so (either of which indicates a fairly high level of thinking/problem solving skills). She is potty trained and regularly feeds herself. And yet, she seems incapable of getting her god damned shoes and socks on without being told one thousand, two hundred and sixty-six times each effing morning.

You know what’s coming… I almost left her the other day. I was beside myself pissed off. We live 2 minutes from school – and my husband can easily take the kids on mornings I’m not able to – but when I plan on it, and she is huckity-pucking around petting the dog or counting the rice crispies that fell on the floor during breakfast… well, let’s just say my patience runs a wee bit thin.

That morning, in a seething fit of “through my teeth” talking (would.you.get.your.blasted.shoes.on.now!), I realized with a pang of horror and remorse that I, gulp, now fully and completely understood why my father had left on that day so many years ago. I now believe that had he not left he would have done or said something horrid. Something that I was fully prepared to say at that very moment.

In the end, I took a ragged breath and stood up straight (I had assumed a hunched monkey position, so that I could look her in the eye with that “don’t eff with mommy today” look). I slowly turned, walked out the back door and went to the car. “Walk out and she will come, walk out and she will come,” I thought to myself. And you know what? She did.

And then she left again because she had forgotten something.

I let out an anguished scream as she bolted for the house; lucky for her she was back in a flash (the car was already in reverse).  And after my little “in the rear view mirror so you only see my narrowed eyes and furrowed brow” speech about her responsibility-each-morning-old-enough-to-handle-this-without-being-told-a-million-times, we came to an understanding. So far, so good — or I should say, so far the required number of shoes and socks reminders hasn’t exceeded the low double digits.

I still have a hard time with the “do this or I’ll leave you” approach to child behavior management as it really pangs me to think about it from the kid’s perspective. But I now have far more compassion for my dad’s actions in that moment than I have had for the last 38 years.

Doing My Taxes Sucks

Hell defined? Tax Prep.
Sob… Moan… I picked a bad day
To stop sniffing glue.
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I am so grateful that I’m related to CPAs. Three of them in fact. My mom, dad and sister are all CPAs. I spent most tax seasons and summers working in their CPA firm too, but when the time came, I bolted from that profession quicker than you can say schedule C.

But this time of year I am ever so grateful to be related to them. I’m working on my taxes right now (well, right now I’m avoiding working on my taxes because, well, they suck, see the title above).  We have a fairly simple financial set up. We own a home. No one is currently self employed. We donate a fair bit to charity. We itemize. Oh, and this past year, we sold some property we had acquired in a tax free land swap (also called a like-kind exchange) for which we now need to compare the original basis to the net proceeds less deductions for improvements made since acquisition.

Say what??

Yes, you read that right. Those are all actual words used to describe what I’m now trying to sort out in Turbo Tax. The problem is, I purchased Turbo Tax Dummy edition. With this type of property sale, however, they keep trying to get me to upgrade to the diamond edition for a further $163.61, so that that program can walk me through this type of transaction. No, thanks, I don’t want to upgrade.  I’d just like a simple way to reflect all this without going out of my effing mind!

Call in the CPA-alvary. Mom is usually the best to talk to in these scenarios. Although they all can answer my question, Dad tends to use short sentences and lacks a certain amount of TLC as he talks me through it.  My sister hates being a CPA, so my calls about taxes only serve to depress her which makes me feel guilty, so that’s not an option.  So it’s up to mom… and with her, I only have to live through the 14 associated tax related statues that impact my situation… and since I learned to tune her out in about 1981, I can still handle it.

But mom is currently at Wal-Mart. Dammit. When I get into my taxes, I don’t want to stop until they are done. My desk looks like a complete mess… the paperwork, prior year tax returns, closing statements (which are copied on legal sized paper just because lawyers like to annoy regular people) are spread all over the floor and desk but I understand where everything is, what I’ve already gone through and what is left to do.  But if I get up to do something (say, go to the bathroom or feed my hungry children) I will immediately forget where I was in the process and have to start the *&#$ over.

So instead, I’m going to sit here and wait for her to return and call me back. And she will call me back… about 30 seconds after I give up and finally go to the bathroom. Mark my word…

It’s My Birthday!!

My birthday demons:
vanquished thanks to a Cosmo,
Cake and nice strangers.

“““““““““““““““““

Yesterday was my birthday. And it was a fabulous day. I don’t have a history of great birthdays.

Long time ago; with Kaye, Melody, Stephanie's sleeve... others?

As my parents are CPAs and my birthday falls in Tax Season, my birthday wasn’t always celebrated on the specific day. It was usually deferred (with my awareness and somewhat reluctant agreement) to a more convenient day. Growing up I can remember spending the actual day in several less-than-celebratory ways:

–          Working at my parents’ office. Nothing says happy birthday more than bookkeeping or data entry.

–          At a college class with my dad, who was getting his degree. In one memorable biology class they were experimenting with mice. I’ll leave out the details here lest any PETA people see this.

–          Watching the Brady Bunch and wishing I had MarciaMarciaMarcia’s hair.

As a result, many years ago I made the terribly mature proclamation to my husband that no matter what – come wind, rain, appendicitis or Armageddon – we would celebrate my birthday ON THE ACTUAL third of February. He has no issue and has obliged.  Birthdays have been better since then.

But this one was borderline great. It didn’t end in a zero or involve gifts or parties, so why was it so great? Here is what I did…

–          I told everyone it was my birthday. With arms spread wide, I boldly declared it and basked in the well wishes from people I knew as well as complete strangers. Two guys in the elevator at work thought I was a little mad, but they complied. In a meeting where half were visitors from another company I didn’t know, I found a birthday buddy – it was her birthday too.  The people at the hibachi grill sang to me with gusto.  Now I didn’t walk around shouting this or wearing the birthday crown like my kids do at school, but you’d be amazed at how easy it is to slip it into otherwise natural conversation topics.  Meeting introductions are a perfect way: “Hi, I’m Maureen and I work in HR. Been with the company 22 years and speaking of that, today’s my birthday.”  Or in chit chat: “Yes, it is Friday. I love Fridays. This is an especially good Friday because it is my birthday.” See, not awkward at all.

–          I shared my age when asked, 44, and left it at that. Usually I share this expecting someone to say “Surely not, NO! You couldn’t be that age! You look far too young!”  When you have that expectation and no one says such things, it can be a real downer. This time I had no such delusions. I officially look about my age. On a well rested day, I might get away with late 30’s/early 40’s, but Friday wasn’t a well rested day. Regardless, I’ve lived 44 years, I have a good life, and if you think I look older than that, I’m learning to be ok with it. (Don’t get me wrong, I slather 7 different potions on my face each day and really believe they make a difference. I’m not so much into embracing my age that I won’t impede its progress with hair color, good skin care and a decent bra.)

–          I left work early to surprise my daughter by picking her up from school (my son was already home). My company allows really great flexibility – and since I had put in a 12 hour workday the day before, I had no qualms about leaving at 3:15. Seeing my daughter’s face when she was expecting a black car and not my red one was a treasure.  When I got home, the weather was such that I all played outside for over an hour with both kids, something else I rarely get to do during the week. Glorious.

–          We ate cake first. Since it was a date night, I wanted to be sure I celebrated at some point with my kids. So at 5:30 the Bonbonerie Opera Cream Torte came out of the fridge, a candle was lit, the kids sang to me and I read my cards. Then we ate. Nothing like cake before dinner to make any day special.

–          My birthday dinner was kid-less. I know I just spent several lines talking about how much I like my kids, but my birthday dinners with them, I have learned, historically suck.  Dinner with small/medium kids are “squat and gobble” meals.  You eat fast, don’t really know what you’re eating and at the end are shocked at how much it costs since you barely tasted anything. Either that or you park your kid with your smart phone playing Angry Birds while you finish your meal, hoping the people at the next table won’t think you are a horrible parent and report you to some kid-snatching state agency. Neither are appetizing.  This time we left the kids with our well trusted babysitter and the two of us went to a new Japanese Hibachi restaurant and shared a meal with strangers. It was delightful! The younger couple next to me were soon to vacation in London and thusly had to endure a list of recommendations from us (we lived there for 3 years). The older couple next to Frank had grown kids who had gone to the same school our kids attend (and have also lived in London) – more story swapping. She was also a writer who hadn’t yet embraced the web and gave me her card and asked me to get in touch about writing blogs. We all had too many things in common for it to be mere chance. It was just great birthday karma.

–          I had two Cosmo martinis at dinner. I don’t drink often, but I enjoy its effects when I do. That’s all I really need to say about that.

–          Facebook. Why? Because people I haven’t seen in 25 years take the time to wish me happy birthday. I know people don’t really remember my birthday, they just see the reminder, but there is something fun about seeing a few dozen birthday wishes from the people you call friends, regardless the tightness of the relationship.  Add to that that this posting might result in even more people I don’t know commenting with “happy birthday”, well, I’m back to my first point – bring on the well wishes!

So that’s my recipe for a great birthday. I’m ever so hopeful I remember this come next year. It will be a Sunday thanks to leap year – hey, I just realized, it will be Super Bowl Sunday!  Maybe I’ll have a Super Mo Sunday party!  You will all be invited.

Am I being replaced?

Sitting here jealous
of homework and puppy walks.
I don’t wanna work.

”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

The change has been quite subtle… My daughter would run to Dad as much as me when she hurt herself and needed comfort. And then the kids would call me Dad (granted, they would call him Mom).  But a few weeks ago was the hardest blow… my stay-at-home-dad-husband did a very mom thing. He was thoughtful. As in “full of thought”. He thought ahead, planned and did something for one of the kids that officially granted him entry into mom-hood.

I was devastated.

I’m ok being called Dad. Hell, I go through a rolodex of names when I talk to my kids too. But I always saw myself as occupying unique space as “The Mom”. I thought ahead enough to buy the birthday gift before day of the party.  I realized that my girl was sad and needed comfort before the tears arrived.  I was sensitive, I was interpreting what was important and I was acting to avoid a problem. And dammit if he didn’t do just that.

If I were honest with myself, I’d admit that I was hoping this would happen. It can be exhausting being the only one who thought this way and I often bemoan (in my own petty little head) that he “just doesn’t get it”. But I’d be lying if I didn’t take some martyr like satisfaction from thinking no one could do this job but me; that no matter what, I am mom and therefore better. And slowly now I’ve had to get used to sharing the spot light.

When we both worked, no matter what, I was still the chief parent.  We only had the one kid then, and she preferred me; I made a lot of the rules; I made a lot of the kid decisions (yes, some exaggeration, but not a lot…I’m not a wench, it just mostly works out that way when you’re the mom, right?).  And then, he became chief parent, he was in charge most of the time – and I tumbled in stature.  It was very hard for me to get used to.  Still, I lived off the fact that both kids would prefer to hang out with me rather than with dad if given the choice.  And I was sure I still had a unique skill set that the Y chromosome was incapable of duplicating.

Snf snf. I was wrong. I’ll get over it.  Statistically speaking he was bound to do something like that at some point, and it hasn’t happened again since then so there’s still hope. But there’s no going back.  Right now, and likely for a while, this is the right choice for our family, all things considered. My life is blessed and I’m more settled right now then I’ve been in a while, much in part to how wonderfully this set up is working.  It’s just that the view is different from this position and I’m not sure I’ll ever be totally ok with that…

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