In just a few minutes from now

Speak your wisdom here,
in the mirror; she’s wearing
headphones anyway.
********************************

Well, it has happened. My oldest, a girl, has turned 13. She is a teenager, and I guess that means I am now the parent of a teenager. I have been reading beautiful “letters to my daughter” writings, full of motherly wisdom. They all provide guidance to help their offspring navigate the rocky life ahead. I thought about writing something similar to my girl, but it felt fake. Instead, I’m drawn to write a letter to myself… here goes.

Dear Me,

Hi. So I know you heard the news. Your baby girl is growing up. Yes, she became taller than you several months ago (not a difficult feat, mind you, but a humbling/proud moment nonetheless). And her feet are longer than yours (again, nothing to brag about since your feet stop growing at 32 months).  But now another milestone has been crossed… and with each of those, a little part of you falls away. As someone said to you — or did you make it up yourself — being a parent is ‘one long letting go’, and several feet of holding on just ran between your slack hands.

You have 3 years until she is driving. Not even 6 years to college. And your boy is only 4 years behind her.  You have got to get your shit together, and fast. Here’s my advice to you.

That voice in your head is routing itself to your mouth way too often. It is bad enough that it tortures you with stories of ‘not enough’ and inadequacies.  But it used to be further away, separate from you. Now it seems to have sidled up to you, almost like a lover, pressing closely against you — so close its voice is becoming your voice. And as you allow it external voice, you lose your best self.  But here’s the deal: your best self – even your mediocre, haven’t-showered-in-days PMS-y self — is so much better than that shitbag voice in your head. Quit letting it speak for you and fast.  In 10 years (who am I kidding, in 10 minutes) you are going to hear that voice come out of your 13 year old and your heart will break. Make a change.

Your life is so much better than you allow.   You’ve dressed up longing and are pretending it is a vision board.  Stop. Stop longing for a life where you aren’t tired. Stop longing for a job that fulfills you 100% all the time. Stop longing for that ‘thing’ (artwork, clothing, knowledge, vacation, sheets) and quit deluding yourself that it will cure something, fill in something, create something different in your life. It won’t. And you know why? Because if/then statements are bullshit.  If I (lose weight, make more money, buy a vacation home, cut my hair) … then I will be (content, pretty, zen like, able to…). Blah de blah blah.   You know what isn’t bullshit? The life you have right now.  This is way more than gratitude. This about being present in your life and recognizing how amazing you have it.  You want your teenager to appreciate what you provide? Then you better appreciate what you have, right now, with no if/then, no more accumulation, no numbing out.

Be more mindful of where you are choosing to spend your time.   Take stock every few days… if you’ve read more words on Facebook than your family has shared together… well, perhaps that isn’t your highest choice.   I know you tell yourself that you are relaxing when you surf online, but you and I know that’s crap.   And spending 30 minutes more at work isn’t making you more successful.  Of course you need to do that sometimes, but you allow it to matter when really it doesn’t.   Start paying attention and see whether your choices take you toward the life you want; chances are you’ll easily make another choice.

Midlife has brought you a strong desire to find significance in your life, but all the stuff mentioned above has blinded you to how the everyday moments are chock full of what you seek. Our lives are 99% daily living, 1% extra-special moments. If you think that significance is only in the 1% you are doomed. There is significance all around you. Every day.  Please start looking for it. Because frankly, in just a few minutes from now, a few more years will have passed. Trust me on that one.

Love,
Me

Musical Mid-Life Crisis… Help Needed

Arrow pierced ego
Now wounded… looking to heal.
Need cool doctor, stat.
———————————————–
I did a very parent thing this weekend. I have been enjoying the ‘free’ Sirius radio in my new car… and have pre-selected the following stations: 70’s on 7, 80’s on 8, 90’s on 9, Hits 1 and 20 on 20. These last two are my vain (and I do mean vain) attempt to get myself remotely up to speed on current popular music. It’s been funny to switch between decades and listen to what are screamingly different musical styles and markers. What strikes me most about current pop music is the persistent thump thump of the deep bass… Up until recently I thought that every young person listening to the radio was just playing their music overly loud given I could hear them coming 1/4 mile away. But now I realize that is simply the nature of today’s music.

So I was out with the kids running errands , scanning between stations. I settled on something by the Eagles on the 70s on 7 station and began to sing along… and my 10 year daughter, AP, started sighing loudly. Could you please get off this station mom? I turned it up. Mom, anything in this decade please? I turned it up again. You do realize this is music grandma listened to when she was in her 30’s?  Huh, what??? And then I understood it. My daughter went for the low blow… she translated “old music” into the most abhorrent comparison that could possibly be made at that time. While I was sitting there thinking “why I listened to this when I was your age, dear, and how cool that I still know the words” she reached back  a generation to remind me that my mother (who although not “old” in spirit or frame, has started her journey into her 70’s) listened to this when she was younger than I am today.

Ouch. That hurt, I must admit.  (No offence mom… I know you understand.) I responded as maturely as I could at the time. I turned it up again and told her as long as she complained she wasn’t getting anything close to current music. But it has gotten me thinking that I really do need to update my music library on iTunes. I have no illusion that I will be either mother of the year or the coolest mom in the class, but I want to be interestingly eclectic and fun to be around while still maintaining that mystery known as “she’s a mom… who knows what she’ll do”. That requires me to invest a little.

This is all part of my current foray into a modest mid-life crisis. It started with a weekend away in the fall, alone.  It approached its peak on my 45th birthday in February. It continued with the purchase of a car that I thought made me cooler than I am – a combination of  unusual yet practical (a fire engine red Ford Flex with the Eco Boost engine…this last feature allows me to blow away thumping teenagers at stop lights. Yes, that matters to me; see earlier reference to mid-life crisis).  And it may be topping out with recent purchases of a bucket load of clothes at J Jill and the desire to revamp my iPod playlists. At least I hope it has peaked… I’m going broke.

Here’s the problem. I have no idea what music to buy. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to ask AP for her thoughts. I refuse to show weakness. I just want to slip in a few new songs in the tired playlists I have set up for family listening.

Can you help me? What are some current artists (last 5 years) you recommend I spend time and money getting to know? Really appreciate it.

I’m Cheating on My Husband (Honey, Don’t Read This)

Well… paybacks are hell;
And I deserve to suffer;
But it’s so worth it.
—————————————————————–

He is traveling… My mind wanders. A sly smile crosses my face as I picture possibilities.

What to do, what to do…

And like Phineas, a voice in my head shouts: “Maureen, I know what we’re going to do today! Make pancakes for dinner so the kids will like you more than dad.”

And with that, I cheat on Frank. I use his “out of town-ness” as a means to ingratiate myself to the children. Pancakes for dinner are just the start. There’s an indoor picnic (my 21st Century name for eating on the floor in front of the TV). There’s dessert and skipping brushing teeth. There a 3D movie in my bed, lights off, just like the movies.  There’s staying up just a little extra and no book reading.

I am evil. Bwah hah hah. Any chance I get to establish myself as the cool mommy, I take it. Even if it means cheating on Frank and doing with the kids something I would normally discourage in an otherwise normal school night.  You see, I don’t volunteer in the classroom; it’s taken me the whole year to schedule a “reading” session with my son’s class; the babysitter makes a better sandwich than I do and I’m pretty sure the girl scout troop is scared of me. So I’m going to take any advantage I can.

Mind you, I’m not good at hiding my cheating ways. Thirty seconds after this posts, his email will tweedle its arrival. He will read it (at least he claims he does), so I do this with full knowledge that he is now fully aware and I’m stone cold busted.

But he’s traveling right now and can’t do a damn thing about it.   Heh heh heh…

Bath Time is Body Part Discovery Time

Hard questions: answers
rush out, untamed, left alone…
oh, what have I done?
——————————————————-

It’s Tuesday, and with my beloved traveling, it was up to me to handle bath time. No biggie. The kids are getting to be relatively low maintenance in the bath, with only my 6-year-old son needing some help to get things clean after a good soak. Partway through he called me to come back into the bathroom.

What’s up?

“Mom? What are these called again? I can’t remember.”

I peered to see what he was talking about, only to find him holding his penis up and away at an angle that made me cringe, while also pulling on his testicles rather vigorously.

Those? Below your penis? Those are your testicles.

“And what do they do?”

Well, *cough cough* you know how mommies have eggs inside them to make babies? Well daddies have sperm inside them to make babies with the mommies. The sperm is in your testicles. 

“I don’t understand. How does that work?”

(Oh shit, I thought.) Well, the sperm and the eggs combine inside of mommy to make a baby. I knew fully well this was inadequate and other, even more dreaded questions, were heading my way.

“But how does the sperm get there?” There was a note of concern in his voice.

The daddy puts the sperm inside of mommy. We have a special hole in our girl parts.  (What in the hell have I gotten myself into? Stop talking.)

“How does the sperm get out of me? Does it hurt?”

No. It doesn’t.

“But how? Do they have to cut it out?”

No, no, no. It comes out of the same hole that you pee out of.

He quickly looked at his penis now, still unnaturally pulled to one side.  A questioning look crossed his sweet face.  “Do they have to go inside and scoop it out?”  He gestured like he was holding a spoon. I almost laughed out loud, this was such a genuinely confused little question.

No, sweetie. You can make it come out yourself. (Think before you answer, woman… dammit…)

“What? How?” Again, he peered down at his penis, as if it was something foreign and little scary now that he knew it had certain powers.

Well, trust me, you can just make it happen. But don’t worry, you won’t be able to do it for a long time. You won’t make sperm until it’s time to make babies. You’ll be much older. 

“Oh, like when I’m 16.”

No! Much older than that. You aren’t ready for babies at 16.

“Ohhh, maybe when I’m 30.”

Yes, that’s more like it. When you are 30. 

And with that, he was done. Penis released, testicles relaxed, he returned to his pleasant bath time. I am left fearful, however, as to how this conversation will get translated to his Kindergarten teachers tomorrow. Will he recount certain parts, parts explained separately but recounted as if they are of the same thought?  “My mom told me that when I’m 30 I will be able to make sperm come out of my penis. But they won’t cut it out.  She has a special hole. But I’ll be too young at 16. My sperm is in my testibules.”

So to Mrs. Martin and Ms. Ferone, as well as the parents of any classmates who are entertained with stories in the coming days, first, my apologies and second, do not judge until you have also navigated the tricky waters that I have.

Lust, or Why I Don’t Care that Bruce Willis Has Aged

Fantasy lusting
emerges soft, dreamily;
the real world at bay…
————————————
Do you have “a list”? You know, the people you and your partner agree you can sleep with and suffer no ill consequences? Typically, they are populated by celebrities or other people you are likely never to meet (the pool boy is NOT allowed)… Mine has but a single name: Bruce Willis.

Date night this weekend featured the latest Die Hard movie: A Good Day to Die Hard. Deep sigh. I was transported. I spent the first few scenes highly aware of his slack jaw and weathered skin, but shortly after that, I no longer noticed. I was 20, he was 33.  I was a hostage in need of rescuing and he was the only man who could do it.

I really do have a thing for that man.

Is it simply that I just turned 45 and my main squeeze is weeks from 50? It is that we celebrate 20 years of marriage in May and I just crossed 23 years with the same company? Is it that my older child just hit double digits, or we refinanced the house to pay it off in 15 years in light of our age?

Check, check, check, check, check and check.

The thing is, Bruce Willis makes me young again. No matter how old he gets, I will always be 20 years old and he’ll always be the rebel with a heart of gold and a charming half-smile that will get him anything he wants. I am a total sucker for that type even though I did not actually get a chance to prove my vulnerability to such a man when I was single. Alas, I managed to meet a good guy with a heart of gold and a great full smile who really will (did) call me the next day.

But that doesn’t make me immune to the idea of Bruce Willis. That he will point that charm at me someday; will stare at me with a penetrating look, a crinkly smile and a machine gun and a fast car and a leather jacket and no place to go but on the road with me and the wind… after he kills all the bad guys threatening me.

Excuse me, I need a cigarette.

Elevator Sociology 101

Society’s ills
born out in a few moments;
True modern warfare.
————————————————–
There are certain “social” situations where I think you can tell a lot about a person or a society. Driving rules – written and unwritten – are a good example. I think if properly examined, you can draw many parallels between how a country/city manages its traffic and how its citizenry behave. Along these same lines, I am beginning to believe that how a person interacts with elevators is another indication of their approach to the world.

About 6 months ago, I moved from my company’s suburban location to the downtown corporate headquarters. The suburban building was 2 stories and for the most part, we all used the stairs unless we were sure no one would notice us using the elevator. (I had so many good excuses in my vault for why I couldn’t walk up or down a flight of stairs, I never actually got to use them all.) In the corporate building, there are many more floors, so the main mode of travel is the elevator.

Here is how I would categorize people when it comes to elevators, based on 6 months’ observations:

The darter: This person sees you ahead of them, approaching an opening elevator. They speed up and as soon as they are within 4 feet of it, they dart forward with some part of their body or extension thereof to ensure the door doesn’t close and strand them for an incremental 20 seconds. They are assertive, demanding and mostly get what they want from this world.

The meander-er: This person may notice someone ahead of them approaching an opening elevator, but they have zero intention of hurrying to get there. Their laid back approach is such that they either believe it will still be open when they get there, or it will close and they’ll catch the next one. They don’t really care one way or the other.  In their world, hurrying usually doesn’t make a lot of difference, so they might as well enjoy themselves when they can.

The delayer: You’ve seen this person… they deliberately slow down when they see others ahead of them entering the elevator. Unlike the meander-er  they decidedly don’t want to ride with the people ahead of them. If you happen into an elevator they have already occupied, they shrink back near the buttons, coveting that front-line spot, eyes down. They are uncomfortable with you so close and bend their body awkwardly around the still-opening doors when it comes time to exit. They cherish invisibility and the opportunity to pass gas alone in a quiet space.

These three individuals are joined by three others:

The clueless: This person gets on the elevator so totally engrossed by their phone, companion or the floating spec of dust they just noticed, that they fail to see you juggling coffee, a gym bag and a rolling laptop case that most people mistake for an overnight bag. They don’t see you standing in front of the then closing doors – free-appendage-less – unable to stick a body part in the door’s path – whimpering and puppy-dog-eyeing them in hopes they will hold it open.  The darter sees them as a personal challenge and purposefully waits to the last moment to slide in the elevator in an effort to get them to take note. It rarely works.

The over-considerate: This person notices everything.  When they realize someone is coming, they push the “open door” button, waiting. When you don’t arrive in the timeline they’ve allotted  they lean out the door, peering expectantly at you and ask “are you coming?”  Not only do they hold the door for you, they ask what floor you want, and even try to small talk you for the 7.8 seconds it takes the elevator to lift from one floor to the next.  The Delayer hates this person with a passion and is known to rush in the opposite direction when confronted with this level of attention and grace.

The spaz: I personally like the spaz, because whether I get a ride or not, that moment of approach, when the doors are closing with them on the inside and you on the outside, is pure delight. First, they see you at the last second. Then they shout out loud, lunge across the space, feverishly attempting to find the right button to push to reverse the door’s inevitability. They always pick the wrong button… every time. But they helpfully meet your eyes in that moment before final separation and provide a pathetic, breathless apology – eyebrows furrowed, concern in their voices.  Their call of “Sorry!” lingers for a moment, echoing in the corridor.  And for that moment, I feel loved.

The asshole: There is no way around it; there is one in every society. This person is observant. They notice you coming toward the elevator. They have been known to make eye contact prior to stepping into the elevator itself. However, they in no way, shape or form make any, and I mean any, effort to help you attain your goal of an elevator ride.  I personally encountered this person just yesterday – lunch order in one hand, water bottle in the other.  He made eye contact – saw me coming I’m sure. But as I stepped to the doors, they began to close and he made no frantic gesture of help. I stood there astounded. “Who does this?” Before the doors closed, I loudly stated “Seriously?” in the hopes he would get a clue next time. I feel quite sure it will make zero difference.

So there you are: modern society through 6 elevator archetypes. I welcome your observations from your corner of the world, and importantly, confessions as to which one you inhabit most often.  Perhaps I can convert a few assholes and console a few delayers.

The Power of Giving Up

Peace comes easily
When you listen, act, accept
Truth over worry.
—————————————
It is a little early for Lent, and, well, I’m a little not Catholic, but I’ve been reflecting on the power of giving up. I’m not talking about giving up when the going gets tough. When I’m working out and my arms are begging me to stop yet I know I have 3 more reps in me… I won’t give up. When my daughter complains because everyone else on the basketball team makes baskets but her (not true, by the way), I won’t let her give up.

I’m talking about who gives a shit other than the pissy-little-tyrant-in-my-brain ‘giving up’. I’m learning a lot from this brand of release.

I experienced this a few months ago. A devoted audio book listener, I had heard an enthralling book by David McCullough about the year 1776 in the Revolutionary War. Each night after listening to it during my bedtime bathroom routine, I would crawl into bed and tell my husband how amazing the book was and how I couldn’t believe we actually won the war. This foray into history long forgotten (had I ever learned it?) made me long for more about our Founding Fathers. Up next, Ben Franklin’s biography.

Oh jesus help me. It was horrible. I could have lived through the dry points in the story where it took the author nearly 6 hours to fully describe a few simple things about his early life — that he fled his brother’s apprenticeship for Philadelphia where studiousness , daring and little luck helped him on his way… But the narrator would have made Fifty Shades of Gray un-listenable. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how people like him get and keep these jobs. Doesn’t anyone listen to his work? Have they spent even 5 minutes trying to understand how someone can read a sentence with action and intrigue and still make you want to take your own life?

I was a solid 9 hours into this book (it was 24 hours overall) when something amazing occurred to me. Why did I need to finish it? Who would care? No teacher would scold me. No book report would go un-written. Not a single bad thing would happen.   Yet, if I stopped listening, I realized that several good things would happen. I would no longer want to smash my iPod player. I would stop telling my husband what a horrible listen it was. True, I wouldn’t have any new and interesting tidbits about our earliest years as a country to share with others, but… It just didn’t matter.

So I returned the book to Audible. They gave me a partial credit. No one mocked me. No one sneered. Such new territory I was treading.

Today my daughter asked me, “Mom, have you ever quit a book before?”

I replied that I had… and asked why she brought it up. Given she reads almost nonstop, this was an interesting question.

“I quit a book today,” she said sheepishly. “The Hobbit. Just didn’t want to keep reading.”

“I totally understand. That’s a tough one to get into. There is nothing wrong with quitting a book.” And with that, she was done worrying. Oh to have had that role modeled for me early in life.

So I began reflecting on what else I could just “give up” without anyone noticing or caring. And it came to me. I can give up holiday baking. For many years, I baked away an entire weekend, making tons of cookies and candies for our friends and relatives. But I haven’t really done a mega-baking fest in years yet I allow a ton of guilt to overtake me in early December when I realize I can’t fit in two days of baking in a now kid-filled life.  I feel horrible. So tonight I decided I am no longer a Christmas baker.  I’m done, I’m over it. I will continue to make Bourbon Balls, because frankly it is the only thing everyone remembers about my baking anyway, and it’s fun to get a little tanked while I make them.  And I’ll likely keep making caramels. But I am giving up the rest. All the guilt associated with a  no-longer-relevant tradition is released.

I feel lighter already. I’m serious… this is a joyful feeling. I must explore giving up more things (or more guilt). Try it yourself. Instead of giving something, give up something. Best gift under the tree.

The next best gift under the tree is Bourbon Balls. Recipe below. Enjoy. I plan to in a few weeks.

Bourbon Balls

3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (about 75) (one normal sized box)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup bourbon (get the good stuff… and sometimes I do closer to 3/4 cup)
¼ cup light corn syrup
Granulated or powdered sugar

Crush the wafers by putting them in a double layer of zip bags and beating/rolling the crap out of them with a rolling pin. Mix the crushed wafers with the powdered sugar, pecans and cocoa. Stir in bourbon and corn syrup. Shape mixture into 1 inch balls as you watch a good movie. Roll balls in granulated sugar. Eat several as you go, just to be sure they are good enough. Refrigerate the ones you haven’t scarfed down in a tightly covered container several days before serving. Open the fridge a few times a day to get a wiff of the Bourbon and to sample them to be sure they are mellowing nicely. Yield: About 5 dozen cookies minus two dozen or so you have eaten in advance.

Eye-bola

Red is for sunsets
And planets and Feb 14.
My eye disagrees.
————————————-
You know how some people in your life are crap-magnets? No matter what they do, crap is just attracted to them? They swirl in it, stew in it, and at times, seem to relish their unique ability to survive it…?

I am a pink-eye magnet. Find another parent out there right now suffering from it when none of their children have it. Go on, try. I bet you won’t find one.

I’m not sure why this attraction exists. I tend to be from hardy stock, don’t get sick very often, am able to withstand discomfort, etc. etc. (Any laughing you hear right now would be my husband, hysterical at the thought that I’m hardy; don’t listen to him.) But if there is conjunctivitis anywhere near me, say within a 2 mile radius of my current position, it seeks me out.

I could feel it coming on this afternoon. At one point, in the middle of a meeting with someone, I stopped abruptly.

“Is my eye red?” I asked.

“Yes…” she said tentatively…

“Hmmm. I think I have pink eye.” The meeting ended soon after that.

When I lived in England, and contracted this malady, our local GP prescribed the requisite medicine, but then said, in an offhanded way, “You know, just wash your eye with shampoo. That will cure it.” Really? I started to dismiss this piece of advice as slightly ludicrous at worst, and at best driven by socialized medicine’s desire to keep costs down. However, that night, in a strange moment of dread mixed with curiosity sprinkled with repressed mad-scientist tendencies, I tried it.

It hurt like shit. Tear free shampoos (yes, I grabbed the kids’ bottle) is NOT pain-free. Especially if you don’t lather it up and instead simply smear it undiluted into your eyes. My eyes, which seconds earlier had thought me a benevolent hostess, now screamed obscenities at me and tried desperately to beat a hasty retreat only to be betrayed by my brain which wouldn’t get out of the way.  I went to bed convinced I had blinded myself…

And yet… the next morning I was cured. Well I’ll be damned, it worked. And I have used this cure every time I feel pink eye coming on. I have passed this idea on to others, who ponder the concept for a moment before turning slowly away. And sure enough, the next day, they return to tell me how they did it and how it worked.

So tonight, once the kids were in bed, I turned to my trusty cure.  Just a little bit of shampoo, lathered up nicely (this, I found, is a crucial requirement for this cure to move beyond medieval standards), and swished it confidently into both eyes.

Holy crap on a cracker! I forgot my new H&S shampoo has some tingle-y ingredient in it — is it menthol?!? — and that ingredient does not, repeat DOES NOT, agree with my eyes. I continued on — in for a penny, in for a pound — rinsed, and then toweled off.  A return to the mirror revealed two of the angriest eyes I have ever seen. And now, nearly an hour later, they are still pissed at me.  Blinking is rough. The infected eye is throwing off more goop than you can imagine. The healthy eye feels like it is now goop-ing up too.   Could it be my great remedy has gone terribly wrong? Have I damaged myself permanently? I take it as a positive sign that I can see clearly enough to type, but am concerned for what I may find tomorrow.

Stay tuned. The pink eye was fairly far advanced when I washed, perhaps so far gone that my lather approach will fail. Perhaps the offending ingredient is a slow-acting blinding agent… All I know is that I’m not sure working in the office will be a smart idea tomorrow…

Post script. Do not, under any circumstances, Google “pink eye” and click on images. Not only will you be disgusted, you will be amazed at the sheer number of people who have taken pictures of themselves or their kids and posted the image in a searchable location. I was looking for a fun, laughable image to include in this post — in a feeble attempt to increase my odds of being Freshly Pressed — and have come away deciding that an image is not the way to go…

Travel Blues

Hear that sucking sound?
That’s my soul being swallowed
By lady black hole.
——————————————-
So there I was, in Hartford, Connecticut, trying to get back to Cincinnati. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and I had thoroughly enjoyed my journey from the retreat center back to the airport — lovely trees still in full fall bloom, not too much traffic and good tunes playing on my rental Ford Focus. (A mini commercial for the Focus: it was a great car. Peppy, nicely styled, comfortable… thumbs up.)

Anyway, I arrived at the airport with time to kill and enjoyed reading, journaling (a luxury) and listening to music. But then… the dreaded announcement that our flight had mechanical problems and we were on a delay. People in need of a re-route clogged the desk with requests to change flights. Me? I stayed put. I only wanted Cincinnati, and I decided that a positive attitude would save the day.

About two hours later there were only about 15 of us left at the gate, all aiming for Cincinnati, waiting to hear the latest. We had watched the nice young mechanic doing something to one of the engines, but he had been missing for a while. And although we could still see the pilots through the glass, there were no telltale blinkey lights or buzz of activity that spelled “boarding soon”. The waiting group of people had started to talk together – a gentle camaraderie born from the sense we were all in this together. I alone proclaimed my steadfast belief that the plane was well, and we would be boarding soon. And not two minutes later, the older gentleman at the desk pulled out the microphone to address the anticipating group.

“I’m sorry folks, but it looks like the flight will be canceled as they are unable to fix it…” Bastard made me look like a fool.

We all wandered to the counter and rebooked into disgustingly early flights the following morning, none of them direct, took our sparse little $6 food voucher and hoped that the hotel they chose for us would be suitable and clean. (I think my exact words were: “Please book the closest ‘non flea bag’ hotel possible.”

Through this all I tried keep my sense of humor and positive outlook (flea bag comment not withstanding), because frankly, the opposite just sucks. Although I can get as outraged and indignant as the next person, it just gives me a headache, and it never seems to progress my situation in the slightest.  However, I found myself repeatedly standing next to Sulky Sue and her strangely quiet husband time and time again. She had no trouble with outrage and indignation.

When generally categorizing people, I have a system that breaks people into two camps: those I would be happy to be trapped in an airport with, and those I would not. (Ironic, huh?) Care to guess which group Sulky Sue falls into?  About 5 minutes into waiting for the hotel shuttle, I wanted to gouge out my eyes and puncture my ear drums. Not only did she have zero nice things to say about the situation, she had to keep retelling about the fit she threw on email a few years back to get a $500 voucher from Delta after a flight was cancelled. “It’s been long enough since I did that, I should be able to do this again,” she repeated to anyone who would listen.

When she turned to me a few times for reassurance of her feelings, I would state something befuddlingly optimistic — “better a broken airplane on the ground than in the air.”  When she was sure the flight was cancelled only because so few people were left, I found myself telling stories of being on flights with less than 10 people all the time, trying to puncture her defenses. When we parted at 8pm at the hotel, all having signed up for the 4am shuttle back to the airport the next morning, I counted my blessings for a few Sue-free hours.

The next morning, having managed to snag the front seat in the shuttle bus to avoid all conversation, we arrived to check in and manage the confusion our flight cancellation would cause. As I approached the counter, I felt compelled to shield the agent from the Sue-Onslaught that would be his next customer.  “Despite what others might tell you,” I whispered to him conspiratorially, “I think you’ve all done a nice job on this flight cancellation. Thanks for taking care of me.”  And then as soon as I was done, I headed to the gate hell-bent on being done with Sue.

The flight to Atlanta was nondescript and easy. We arrived a little late and although I had to ‘OJ Simpson’ through the terminals (that’s Hertz, not homicide), the deep morning fog had slowed everyone down so I was fine.   I waited until the end to board, as I hate sitting in overheated airplanes, sweating, trying not to touch the elbow of the person next to me — and I knew this flight was totally full of early Monday commuters. Finally I got on, and sashayed my way to the back of the plane. I looked up, anticipating which open seat was mine.

There was only one open seat at the back of the plane. Care to guess who it was next to?  I silently cursed the travel gods (“I have been nothing if not positive and helpful; piss off.”) Yes, I had to sit next to Sulky Sue for the flight.

Well, it turns out that not only is she negative, she’s incapable of reading social cues. I pulled out a book instantly and began reading. That did not slow her down in the slightest. Talk talk talk… About 20 minutes into it, I rescued my finger which had been holding my place in the book, naively thinking that perhaps she would notice and swiftly beg me to return to my reading (“Please, don’t let me keep you from your book”). No such luck. So I made nice. Found out we knew a few people in common (Cincinnati is terribly small). Endured more travel hell stories.

When I got off the plane in Cincinnati, I didn’t look back. I bolted. When I passed a bathroom that few know about, I took refuge inside, hoping she might pass by and be long gone before I arrived at baggage claim. I could take no more. I felt toxic, stained, drained of all happiness and joy (oh my god, she’s a dementor, I just figured it out).

While driving home I tried to shake it off;  I visualized my kids snuggling me the next morning, cold toes pressed against my legs, butterfly kisses to spare.  That seemed to buoy me.  But it wasn’t until I had my kids actually in my arms later that day that my aura cleared — ahhh, my patronis had arrived.

One final note about the trip: be careful who reads your texts. Below is an actual text exchange during the flight delay:

Me: hi. flight on maintenance delay. no details. snf snf

Me: still here. no word. they have rebooked half the flight… i still have faith

Frank: Mom I hope you’l be here – AP [my daughter]  (Note: I did not see this text before sending the next one)

Me: faith be damned. they just canceled flight. shit. once i know what i’m doing will call.

Frank: Mom i’m useing dads phone and watch your language and we made you cookies waaaaaaa flight canseled

Me: hi sweetie. sorry about that. i am VERY sad too. thanks for the cookies.

Let the Babysitter Fold Your Underwear

Desperation wins
And ego takes a back seat.
Pride mellows when gulped.
——————————————-
A few months ago, my stay-at-home husband returned to the workforce after 8 years. It was a planned event – timed to when our boy started full-time kindergarten. It required us to decide between after-school care or an in-house babysitter for the hours between 3:30 and 6, and we chose a sitter. (Plug here for Care.Com – that’s how I found our sitter; site was very easy to use and they offer loads of support.)

One reason I loved the idea of a sitter was that she would be able to take up some of the house-chore burden, namely laundry and some light cleaning. We have someone coming weekly to clean the house, but I want to make it every other week with our sitter filling in the gap. And the laundry is self-evident — this family of four seems to wear 6 or 7 outfits a day and it piles up.

Here’s the deal: I haven’t been able to ask her to do the cleaning or laundry yet. On the cleaning side, I really haven’t figured out what I want her to do versus the cleaner – just haven’t taken the time to map it out. On the laundry side, it is pure embarrassment: I don’t want her to see my underwear.

For starters, I’m not svelte. Further,  I don’t chose to spend my money on underwear that matches my bras. I have plain old cotton panties in a variety of fruit based colors, and some are so old they would horrify my mom if she saw them (‘what if you get hit by a car and have to go to the hospital?!?’). But this past week our sitter spent the day with our mildly ill daughter, and I asked her if while she was at home she would do some laundry. We had a bunch, I was leaving town in a few days and I figured they were housebound any way. So I took a gulp of my pride and showed her how to work the machine.

When I returned 8 hours later every single bit of clothing was clean. All of it. Folded or hung up.  The baskets empty, the floor visible. I felt like the cobbler the morning after the elves visited. Somewhere, angels sang while violin music gently crescendo’d.

Yep, I am sooooo over the underwear thing.  I might never be able to look her in the eye again, but it is a small price to pay for the lightness it brings.

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