Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Boxer

Warning to all:  This probably isn't going to be the most uplifting post I've thrown out there.  I'll try my best to be still be funny, though I'm not sure how that's going to turn out.

I'm generally an upbeat person, but every once in a while, I get slammed with a very bad day.  My mood is presently hovering somewhere between completely demoralized and downright heinous.  It happens.  At one particularly low point, as I was putting away laundry, I harbored this gem of a thought...."I hate absolutely everyone and everything.  Well, everything except for my shoes.  My shoes rock."

So, that's that.  Unless you happened to be an overpriced heel in the US size 7 (37-37.5 in Euro size), you just might be SOL with me today.

The real kicker is that I couldn't even specifically name one thing that sent me over the edge today.   Call it a cumulative effect thing, if you will.  Sometimes, all it takes is one straw to break the camel's back, and this camel went down in spectacular fashion.  True to form, the fall wasn't even graceful.  It was a big, fat thud.

The way I see it, life is hard.  That's fine.  The hard is what makes it so great, the hard is what builds character, the hard is what defines.  Sometimes, the hard crushes you and swallows you whole.  That's not so great.  Sometimes, the hard crushes you and swallows you whole and you look around anywhere and everywhere for a shred of encouragement....and it's nowhere to be found.   That, my friends, is a special kind of world class suckage and pretty accurately captures my mental state at the moment.

I'm wise enough to know that life with small kids, while undeniably rewarding, can also beat you down to the point of exhaustion....repeatedly.  It can drain you to the point where you feel like you have virtually nothing left to give anybody, but then you still have to give some more.  I've more than had my fill of people jumping down my throat today, so please allow me to say this---I love my daughter in ways I cannot express in words.  I'd take a bullet today for my daughter if that were the only way she'd have an extraordinary life.  How I feel about my daughter is unquestionable.   I'm just more than a little bit exhausted and could use a cheerleader.

I've heard more than my fill of how my exhaustion is my own fault.   I don't dispute that this sentiment is probably true, but seriously.  What good comes from kicking someone when they're down?  I've said this before, but I think it warrants repeating--I work two jobs- one with a paycheck and one without.  Yes, both of those jobs are rewarding and hard.  No, I would never say that what I am choosing to do for my family is the "right" way---it's just what I think works for us.

Now for the part that I haven't publicly shared before.  What I'm doing is no freaking joke.  I'm proud of what I'm trying to do. I don't show up at work at 9 and leave at 5.  I jam a full-time job---a full time job in a challenging industry that has been laying off people on a regular basis for over three years--into 4 long days.  I'm a good performer.  I'd like to think that on performance alone, that I still have room for advancement.  I basically sleep with my blackberry.  I don't miss deadlines.  I do good work.  I'm basically killing myself- and you know what I hear more often that not?  That I've killed my career and my potential- that my choices were bad.  That I'm not taking my career seriously enough.  That I'm not serious.  That I'm kind of a joke.   And this is the feedback that people are kind enough to tell me---to my face.

And, God, does it hurt.  The best part is---this is only half the story.

The other half is that I'm partially traumatized by the fact that I'm not at home with my daughter like I'm "supposed" to be.  Sometimes, that guilt is paralyzing.  So, I jam in everything I possibly can when I'm with Little M---so I can be the supermom that she deserves.  I kill myself trying to be mommy/Christmas/the Circus/Toys R Us so that she's not shortchanged by my not being a stay-at-home mom.  And do you know what I hear more often than not?  That I'm not cutting it as a mom.  The words criticizing me may vary, but the sentiment remains.

If hearing that I'm a joke at work hurts, then this feedback breaks  shatters my heart.

Oh, and I sleep maybe 5.5 hours a night AND I work out most days- because if this collective mess doesn't kill me first, I'd like to be healthy enough to see my daughter grow up.

So, let's summarize, shall we?  I'm killing myself on both sides of the spectrum and I'm killing myself on an ambitious undertaking of which I should be proud. The feedback I most often hear is that I'm not taking one or the other seriously enough.  That I'm constantly exhausted and that exhaustion is pointless because I don't nicely fit into one box or another.  That I'm not making the grade. At least people are nice enough to remind me. WOOHOO!

This is a whole lot to take in, considering that I'm the kind of person who thinks that a 92 is a failing grade.

Compounding the issue is the kind of person that I am.  I'm a big fan of analogies in general, and this one, in particular, really resonates with me.  In life, some people are racehorses and some people are plowhorses.  Racehorses are catered to, racehorses are regarded with awe, racehorses are cared for, racehorses are special.  If a racehorse gets hurt, that hurt is immediately tended to and rectified. Again, racehorses are special. Plowhorses aren't special.  Plowhorses do a lot of the heavy lifting and are rarely noticed.  Plowhorses are a commodity and they're interchangeable.  If a plowhorse is hurting, no one cares so long as the horse is still able to pull the cart.

Want to take a stab at which one I am?  Since I'm in a bad mood and gravitating toward the overdramatic, I'll even elaborate.  I'm a old plowhorse with a bleeding hoof who would love to have my head rubbed instead of my ass kicked.  Again, WOOHOO!

Don't get me wrong-- I generally like being a plowhorse. There's some pride in that. What's more-- I'm not meant to be a racehorse.

Seriously, though, for just one day- I'd love to be treated like I was special, to be regarded with awe, for people to rearrange their schedules to be with me, to not be cancelled on for a more appealing offer.  To not be altogether ignored when I'm sad.  To not be appealing only when I'm useful. To rate slightly higher on the importance scale than the tailor or the dry cleaner or an eyebrow wax or the neighbor's cat.

Okay- even I know that the aforementioned paragraph was a total indulgent self-pity party. I actually had that pity party while I was on the treadmill at the gym.  I'm sure I was quite a sight for the other people in the gym, as my self-indulgent rage was apparent (a) on my face, (b) from the angry music blasting from my ipod and (c) from my 6 minute miles when I hate running and am normally slow as all get out.

Normally, I indulge in some retail therapy when I'm down, but since I bought a (ridiculous German car) in the last 3 months, I'm cut off from retail therapy until further notice.  That totally sucks.  This leaves me with no other recourse than to whine in a public forum to feel better.

I keep trying to remind myself that the criticism, the exhaustion, the feelings of inadequacy and un-importance.....that they're building my character.  That they're making me stronger. I have a nice track record of choosing to build character over being defeated.  Let's hope that streak continues.

Heard the song "The Boxer" earlier today, and, in closing, I will just say that Paul Simon more articulately captures my sentiments than I ever could:

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade 
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev'ry glove that layed him down 
Or cut him till he cried out 
In his anger and his shame 
"I am leaving, I am leaving" 
But the fighter still remains 

Thanks for allowing me to verbally vomit my angst.
Tomorrow is a new day,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Introducing the Little Miss Sunshine HelpLine----the advice column

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't.     ----Erica Jong

I have an unnatural fascination with advice columns.  Dear Prudence, Dear Abby, Friend or Foe, Dear Margo, Dear Some-Hack-In-Iowa-City-Who-Has-Deemed-Herself-An-Expert?  Yeah.  I read them all.  I'm not the slightest bit ashamed.

This fascination can be partially ascribed to the same sickness that prompts me to watch reality television.    Let's face it- reading about the PTA mom who got caught at her stripping job by her arch-rival's husband makes me feel better about the state of my own life.  It's all relative, people.

The remainder of my fascination is derived from my thought that advice columns only provide half-answers to miscellaneous quandaries,  at absolute best.  On second thought....please allow me to refine.  How much more interesting would advice columns be if the distressed could pose TWO questions to the expert-- what should I do, and what would you do?

Think about that for a second.

Let's face it---many people (and myself certainly included) freely dispense good advice...but don't follow it.  I don't necessarily think that's hypocrisy, either.  Generally speaking, we're not "in" on the nitty-gritty of other's everyday lives and innermost thoughts--and thus, we can advise in a vacuum.   It's pretty easy to dole out ideal world answers when we only see a fragment of what someone's world looks like.    Conversely, we know the inner workings of our own lives and we know the whole story---the subtle pitfalls, the landmines, the shades of gray that come from our own real lives--and calibrate our solutions to problems accordingly.

With that in mind, I wonder how much more valuable advice columns would be if the experts provided both answers- the real world answer and the ivory tower answer.  I have to believe that the best solution lies somewhere in between.

Interestingly enough, I frequently am called upon to give advice on everyday life, which I find to be hilarious for the following reasons:

1.  I have no idea what I'm doing.
2.  I have no frigging idea what I'm doing.
3.  I have no frigging idea what I'm frigging doing.
4. My kid's hilariously profane, I couldn't cook a decent meal to save my life, and in the last 6 months, I've driven away from a gas station with the fuel hose still attached to my car (and didn't even notice it).

I'm not entirely sure what it is about these 4 factors makes people think "Wow!  This broad really has her shit together!  She'd know what to do!"

In any case, I'm opening this up for a weekly Q&A session, where I can put my inexpert, inarticulate, and quite possibly ill-advised spin on your problems.  If you're all okay with a world slightly gone amok and have the local authorities on speed dial, I think this should work out just fine.

With no further ado, the first ever Q&A with yours truly playing Dear Abby.  (Side note, if Dear Abby has already passed away, I'm sure she's rolling in her grave right now.  If Dear Abby is still living, however, this just might kill her.)

Question:   How do you get Little M to be so well-behaved in restaurants, even non-child friendly ones?

Answer #1- What you should do
Dear Gentle Reader,

Congratulations on wanting to introduce your children to the social graces involved in public dining!  The trick for a smooth meal is preparation, preparation, preparation!  The following four step process should go a long way in having a successful meal!

1.  Pick the right restaurant, like a family friendly chain restaurant. Chain restaurants are great because they’re used to serving families, serve kid friendly foods and they quickly turn over tables, so you’ll get your order in and get fed in a hurry.
2.  Eat at "off hours".  Arrive at the restaurant 30 minutes to an hour before the traditional dinner rush, so that the disruption to other diners is minimal.
3.  Reward kids for good behavior. To get your kids to behave during the meal, tell them you’ll take them out for ice cream afterward.
4.  Bring a “restaurant kit" that includes crayons and paper, small puzzles, Lego or a handheld electronic game.
With the right preparation, your family dining experience should be a pleasurable one!
Good luck,  Little Miss Sunshine
Answer #2- What Little Miss Sunshine would actually do

Dear Gentle Reader,

Over the last three years, I've discovered that there are four components that lead to a pleasurable dining experience for the whole family.  These components are good old-fashioned fear,  removal of other alternatives, making technology your friend, and something I like to call "creative rebranding."

I can explain.

Anyone who knows me at all, or has read even one of these blog entries, knows that I can't cook for crap.  It's appallingly bad.  We eat gobs and gobs of meals in restaurants because if we didn't, my kid wouldn't eat.  No one would.   Judge me as you will.

Being the supermom that I am, I like to ensure that Little M eats an edible meal at least once daily; therefore, eating out is an absolute necessity.  After all, you all know what they say- necessity is the mother of invention, so good behavior in the 8 local non-chain reasonably-priced restaurants is essential so that we may return and eat again.

(You'll note that I said non-chains.  This is because I also prefer that I eat an edible meal at least once daily.  A little part of my soul dies whenever I enter a place like the Outback or the Olive Garden.  I would wholeheartedly support an Applebee's/Cracker Barrel vaccine.   This is just a matter of personal preference, but I would rather spend my money at a locally owned venture that is someone's pride and joy and the food is freshly prepared.  I also fear that bad taste and strangers' children are contagious.  Note that I don't include Chickfila in the chain restaurant category because Chickfila rocks and the children who eat there are perfect little cherubs.  The spicy chicken sandwich is so good that it makes me delusional.)

So, yes, fear is a key component to good behavior.  Part of this fear is the garden-variety fear that the whole family will have to eat something I prepared if we don't behave.  The other part is multi-generational.  I'm apparently not above passing down the fear that I grew up with while dining with my dad in public.  It went something like this---

Now, I realize that times are different and the threat of  ass-beatings isn't smiled upon anymore (and for the record, I don't do it either)---but, that doesn't mean that introducing a bit of fear into the dining experience is a bad thing.  I prefer to call it insurance.    This is where technology comes in.

Security cameras are your friends.  Little M believes that these little cameras are satellites that feed directly into the North Pole.  Santa makes decisions on how many toys go into the sleigh based upon his review of the satellite feeds.  Forget the elf on the shelf, and forget if it might be July.  You have the 1990's version of the security camera at the Red Sombrero, and it is your friend.   It's never too early for your kids to know that Santa conducts an annual performance review based upon a year's worth of satellite feeds.  Laugh if you want.  This actually works.

And then, there's the creative rebranding.  This is where you "repackage" the menu descriptions of certain foods so that your kids eat it.  What, you didn't know that SpongeBob's crabby patties were partially comprised of black beans and mango salsa?

I have no idea if your meal will be a pleasant one--but I can guarantee that you will enjoy yourself finding ways to outwit your kids while you still can.

PS- Can't wait to start fielding your questions!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Difficult Conversations 101

Just imagine how much easier this life thing would be.... if it just came with a manual.  

Just imagine how much easier this life thing would be....if that manual included a chapter on how to communicate with each other.

Just imagine how much easier this life thing would be....if that chapter included a few paragraphs that instructed on how to respectfully disagree with each other.

Just imagine how much easier this life thing would be....if we all managed (more often than not, anyway), to honor a person with a conflicting thought while harboring a different viewpoint.

Don't worry.  I'm done with my John Lennon impersonations for the day---but I am being serious, or at least as serious as I know how to be.    We spent a lot of time in school learning things that are forgotten after the next chapter test (hello, geometry, biggest time suck waste that I ever encountered), vocabulary words that remain unused, foreign languages that most of us don't speak.

Side note on the foreign language : I actually won an award in high school for my outstanding grades in French (I tied with my friend with the initials "MGK")-- and while I can recite the "Hail Mary" and "Our Father" in French- backward, forward, sober and drunk- I managed to eek out about 20 useful words, combined, in the time I spent in France.  AWESOME.

What we're not taught, and it's something we all need to learn, is how to communicate with each other--particularly when we hold differing opinions.  And don't say that skill is learned at home- most adults, myself certainly included, don't know how to do it either.  If anything, I think communication skills deteriorate with age rather than improve.

Then, throw social media into the mix, and....PRESTO!  There's a big ol' mess on your hands.   I'd say a whole new set of rules with respect to social graces on things like Facebook, but I don't think that's a fair assessment.  I'm starting to believe it's more like anarchy.  I'm stunned at the types of venom that people are willing to spew--at friends, at family members, at COMPLETE STRANGERS, though I freely acknowledge that it's much easier to strap on a set when behind a keyboard than when looking someone directly in the eye.   Fret not- the irony of my mentioning this sentiment in my blog isn't lost on me.  I know better than anyone that it's much easier to share my thoughts in a medium that I control, in a pace that I control, and as a soliloquy rather than an actual conversation.

People have their deep-rooted beliefs and sometimes those beliefs are controversial.  I'm certainly no different than anyone else in this regard.   In this world, there are some people who would engage in debate about these beliefs-- vehemently, and in real life, and face-to-face.  This tendency doesn't scare or otherwise alarm me.  I generally either respect those people, or think that they're bullies depending on the mechanisms that these people employ to make their points---but either way, I generally know what I'm dealing with.  What does alarm me is the tendency of otherwise mild-mannered people to acquire some misguided sense of cyber-courage and (for lack of a better phrase) go off on those with whom they disagree.  There's philosophical debate, there's disagreement and then there's antagonism...and that's a tricky course to successfully navigate without going completely off the rails.

On the opposite side of the spectrum (and more often than not, I fall into this category, though I've certainly run my mouth in an ugly fashion when I shouldn't have), there are people who cower down and swallow their differing viewpoints when they might otherwise want to speak up--partially out of fear, and partially out of a desire to keep the peace.  While this course of action is certainly easier to digest, it again speaks to a general inability to productively and respectfully disagree with someone else.

(Yet another sidebar to avoid having unintended holes shot in my arguments:  The group of people who I reference above do not include those who hold a differing opinion but choose not to share it.  Choosing to hold beliefs private is one thing, and comes from both a decision and a position of strength.  Clamming up when you'd like to engage in a debate because you don't know how to or are afraid to navigate the minefield is not derived from a position of strength.  To the outside world, both courses of action may look the same, but they couldn't be any more different.  One is electing an option.  The other is opting out for lack of any other known alternatives).

Further compounding the problem in my mind is the growing tendency toward polarization, especially when the broader media has largely segmented into two camps--- the left and the right.   Like I said, I certainly have my own beliefs, and I hold them dear and I won't go into much specific detail in this forum other than to say "to the left"---but I refuse to subscribe to the "all or nothing" partisan philosophy that seems to have become a prerequisite for life in this country, in this time.  Saying "take it or leave it" to me, or "you're either with me 100% or not with me at all" just isn't going to work.  I'm fine with saying that I'm more closely aligned to certain political and religious beliefs than others, but I'm not fine with saying that I'm wholeheartedly and unequivocally behind anything.  To me, it's more a sentiment that indicates....upon careful consideration, I have decided that in most material respects, I am more closely aligned with XYZ than anything else, even though I am aware that XYZ is not without its problems."

Another tangent.  Sorry.   I have no clue what to do either.  So, to summarize, what I've done over the span of a few hundred words is identify what I believe is a problem and offer virtually no solutions to solve it.  Good job, champ.

I like debates.  I like playing devil's advocate.  I love asking questions.  I love finding new ways to look at things. What I'd like to do, and so far I've failed miserably, is find a way to debate and find an outcome whereby I can (a) disagree with someone without caving; (b) learn something from their differing viewpoint, even if I don't necessarily agree; and (c) find some way to honor the person while not-always-necessarily agreeing with their point of view.

Easier said than done...easier said than done.  This would have been so much easier if I was taught this skill in school as opposed to waste-of-time geometry.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

Any minute now, my doorbell will ring  and some nice men will be looking to cloak me in a straitjacket and escort me to an all-expenses paid vacation in a luxurious padded cell.  I am not a religious person, so it strikes me as particularly noteworthy that I am half-praying for this particular type of rescue.

I'm pretty sure that I've lost whatever remained of my mind.  I'm sure that I could retrieve those pitiful fragments if I were at all willing to return to the girls' section of Target, but the fact of the matter is....i'm not.  I'm often wondered if life was easier/more relaxing/more fun if one were lobotomized.  I'll let you know how this pans out by the end of the week....I'm gonna give it a whirl.

It's a good thing that Little M is ridiculously cute.....or I might have given some moderate consideration to selling her (or at least loaning her out for a few days).   My friends M and MK once made a remarkably astute observation--which is that you don't normally see kids who are both off-the-rails and homely.  Think about that.   The Homo Sapien would be an endangered species if parents were routinely saddled with the double whammy.

Little M is charming, highly energetic, relentless, and----smarter than her parents.   And she knows it.  I recognize the look in her eyes when we attempt to outwit her.  It was the same look that I gave some of my teachers in elementary school- the "you may be bigger than me, but I'm smarter and there's no way you're going to prevail" look.  (Side note:  I'm sure my mom is laughing.  Mom was also right- you do get what you give.  If I apologize to every teacher who I thought was stupid when I was 7, do I get my good karma back?)

The child has a remarkable ability to push every button you have---and then immediately follow it up with the sweetest little gesture.  What this boils down to is that I'm pretty much f'ed.   I cannot outwit her, and God knows that I've tried.

Furthermore, as it turns out, Little M is genetically predisposed to being a stubborn, bite-your-nose-to-spite-your-face bonehead.   As I previously indicated (and unfortunately for me), she's smarter than I am, sees through my b.s. parental negotiations, and lets me know, in no uncertain terms, who's boss.  She's not at all afraid to martyr herself to further her mission of beating me into complete submission.

The other 95% of the time (primarily when she's not tired), of course, she's the sweetest, most gentle soul you'd ever want to meet.

Put these characteristics in combination, and you realize that I don't have a prayer against her demands.

Don't believe me?  Allow me to present you with a few stories that just might provide you with a bit more insight on life with my little beauty.

Exhibit A-  The Barefoot Boss

On Friday night, we had pizza at a neighbor's house.  Dinner was fun, and uneventful, and all little people were remarkably well behaved- at least until the last 5 minutes of the evening.  When it was time to leave and walk home, we politely asked the young lady to put on her shoes and jacket.  Let's just say it didn't go well.

Parent:   Time to put on your Uggs and jacket.
Little M (hands on hips):  NO BOOTS!  NO BOOTS!
Parent:  You need your shoes to walk home.  It's cold out.
Little M (clearly annoyed): I SAID no boots!  You carry me home!
Beleaguered Parent:  I will carry you home if you wear your boots and shoes.
Little M:  You'll carry me home.  NO BOOTS!
Truly Beleaguered Parent: (slides on boots)
Little M:  Kicks off boots with remarkable ease.  Boots gracefully land in front of parental feet.
Completely Unglued Parent In Another Person's House:   FINE!  You don't want to wear shoes?  FINE!  You walk home barefoot then!
Little M (with what I swear is a sneer):  Fine, then.  Let's go.

Game on.

I wish I could say that the child staged a turnaround and wore her boots and shoes, but the fact of the matter is that she did, in fact, walk home.... barefoot and with no coat... in February.  There were points during the 3 minute walk that I swear she looked a bit uncomfortable, but she was not giving either parent one shred of satisfaction.  She walked the whole way, shivering, but with that look in her eye that clearly said, "I called your bluff, you friggin' fools."

I guess I'm pleasantly surprised that she didn't tack on an "up yours" when we got back into the house.

She did call our bluff.  She wins.   What possible disciplinary tactic can I employ on a child that would rather walk barefoot, outdoors, in February than give either parent the satisfaction of winning?

(Subsequent event footnote:  Tonight, she asked me what I was blogging about, and I mentioned that I was telling the "barefoot, uphill both ways" tale.  She laughed....and then she added "I winned and you losed. "   Seriously.  I looked at her, askance, and she added "Even though you losed, I can give you a medal for being a good girl.  You wore your shoes."     Yeah. I'm totally f'ed.)

Exhibit B-  Underpants Embargo

Little M is very particular about what she wears--a trait that I not only understand, but I also encourage.  Recently, she's taken umbrage against....well, underpants.  She's very picky about her knickers.  I give up.

A few weeks ago, she declared her underpants collection to be"too plain", so we purchased some more jazzy options-- Rapunzel, princesses and my little pony, with emphasis on her favorite color, pink.  At least it was her favorite color until last Thursday.

Apparently now, however, her underpants are "too fancy" and not her new favorite color- purple.  Her Majesty dare not wear underpants that don't meet her exact specifications.  An underpants embargo was born.

Clearly, I'm not doing the world's greatest job at taking a hardline with this child, but even I have some standards.  Under no circumstance is my 3 year old going commando.  It's just not happening.  Thankfully, Little M is somewhat innovative, and managed to find some purple diaper covers that previously were worn underneath her summer dresses.  The child was willing to wear those for 2 days as an underpants substitute until I could go to Target to buy suitable underpants.  She looked ridiculous, but at least her rumpus was covered.

The purple underpants procurement process was a special experience.  By that, I mean that I've decided that I'd rather be lobotomized and institutionalized than go through that again.  We spent more time than anyone should in the girls' underpants section of Target, only to determine that it's unbelievably hard to find plain purple underpants.  Purple underpants with princesses, ponies, hearts?  Check.  Plain white underpants?  Check.  Plain purple?  Nice try, champ.  Now try again.

She dismissed approximately 18 packages of underpants with a flick of her tiny hand before we managed to find a 9-pack of underpants that contained 3 pairs of plain purple along with 6 pairs of unsuitable unmentionables that will remain unworn.   Don't care.  I'm not above throwing money at a problem, and I'd strongly prefer to spend $25 on a dozen pair of underwear that will never be worn than spend ONE MORE MINUTE fighting with my daughter over her unmentionables

Win-win, right?  Wrong.

In our excitement, we neglected to notice that we bought the wrong size.

Thankfully, she's not yet bothered by too-big underpants.  She'll grow into them eventually.

Exhibit C- Best Kid Ever

On the heels of the Target underpants experience, we took Little M to get a much-needed haircut.  Normally, that's an experience that rates with root canal and gynecological exams.  She once spent 6 months growing out a haircut that made her look like the Little Dutch Boy due to an ill-timed fit while the stylist cut her bangs.

So, suffice it to say, we entered the building with a fair amount of apprehension.

That apprehension was totally unfounded.  We asked her how she wanted her hair cut, and she said "short".  I asked her if she was sure, and she said "SHORT!"

Short it is.  I silently weeped a little bit as her long locks got chopped off, and a very cute and stylish bob took its place.  She was all smiles when it was done.   She bounced off the chair, gave me a huge hug, and told me "I look like YOU now!  We're short hair buddies!!!!!"

That's right----she cut off her hair because she wanted to look more like me.  Not sure why.....but how awesome is that?  The funny thing is that we do look more alike- turns out that we have the same chin:)

Also- I had a hideous night on Friday.  Won't go into detail because it involves others than me and I want to be sensitive to others' privacy, and everything ultimately worked out, but it was a bad, bad, nerve-racking night.  Mady didn't know what happened, but she knew I was "off" on Saturday morning.  She came up to me, put her head on my shoulder and rubbed my hair, and said "it's okay, Mommy.  It's gonna be okay."

My little girl may be a total handful and a mischievous little devil---but she also has the most beautiful, most gentle and most empathetic heart.  She may occasionally drive me to drink, but I wouldn't change on hair on her (now nicely groomed) head.  She's perfectly imperfect.

The good completely outweighs the not-so-good,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Desperate and Dateless

Happy Valentine's Day!  For some of us, today is a glorious day--filled with hearts, and flowers and sunshine and puppies and all that is right with the world.  For others,  it's a day to be suffered through--accompanied by vodka and ice cream and chocolate and vodka.  For others, it's just Tuesday.

For me, you ask?  Drumroll, please.

Once a year, on Valentine's Day, the editors at Action News want to show its viewership what dateless and desperate people look like on Valentine's Day.  When they undertake this act of public service, they show my picture.

It's awesome.

It's not only awesome, it's an annual event.  This is the 11th- count em, 11th- year that video has aired on the news.

Yes, I'm serious.

Yes, I'm really serious.

Yes, I know I'm a bit of a storyteller, but even my imagination isn't this good.  I could not make this crap up if I tried (and, yes, I've tried).

And yes, more people then you've ever imagined watch the news, and they apparently all watch Action News.  I don't know why NBC and CBS even bother to air televised newscasts.  Everyone I know seems to watch Action News.

I owe you all a story.

Flashback to Valentine's Day 2001.  My friend "C" (a/k/a the "Idea Generator") learns of an annual Valentine's Day event at the Irish Pub called "Dateless and Desperate".   We don't have boyfriends at the time.  We think the name is kind of awesome.  We decide to go.  If I'm being completely honest, I didn't require much convincing.  I'm a sucker for a good tongue-in-cheek name.

In any event, we arrive at "Dateless and Desperate" and a while later, I am selected to be a participant in the Dateless-at-the-Irish-Pub version of "The Dating Game."  Unsurprisingly, I don't win.  What I didn't realize until after I lost this game is that Action News was there at the time, filming the game, amongst other things.  Some of those "other things" included me.

The initial airing of the clip was a thing of beauty.  On the 11 PM news, right after Action News showed video of all of the flowers and all of the nice couples getting married at halftime at the Sixers game, they show the clip.  The lead in was "just because these people are dateless and desperate doesn't mean they can't have a good time."  And then there's a lovely close-up....of my face.

Awesome.  Yes, Philadelphia, I am the face of the dateless and of the desperate.  My parents are so proud.

C's mom was nice enough to tape (on VHS) my 15 minutes of fame.  C and I watched the video when we returned to her house for the night, cringed, had a good laugh and then arrived at the realization that most people had something better to do at 11 PM on Valentine's Day than watch the late local news.

That would have been an incorrect assumption.

The next day, I arrived at work, and at least a half dozen of my coworkers were kind enough to point out that they saw me on the news.  Then, there were the phone calls...and then, there were the emails.  My favorites were from my friends' parents and my parent's friends.  Turns out, LOTS of people watch the late local news.

A few days passed, everyone (or at least everyone but me) forgot about it, life went on.

Except for one slight problem.  The Irish Pub still holds the "Dateless and Desperate" event annually.  Action News still covers the event annually.  They have not shot new Dateless video since 2001.

Yes, this means exactly what you think it means.  This means that my face (and my 2001 hair and my godawful goth lipstick) is plastered on the news...EVERY.SINGLE.YEAR.  Sometimes, Action News mixes it up and plays it on the morning news, sometimes at noon, sometimes the late night news- but they still freaking play it.  Bonus points for them also having it on their website (video section).

Every year, I get phone calls, emails and  (more recently) Facebook messages on Valentine's Day (or February 15th) that start with "hey, I saw you on the news."  Only now, I'm on the downward slope of my 30s, someone's wife, and...oh yeah, someone's mother.

Every Valentine's Day, I'm a year older and a little less cute.  I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is the annual reminder of how I will never again be that skinny and how I wasted my  years of being that skinny with bad hair, misguided clothing selections, and downright appalling makeup.  I mean, seriously.  I look like a (admittedly less cute) version of a 90210 cast member---the post college years.  Youth is truly wasted on the young.  I suppose one upshot to aging is that the clothes dramatically improve.

Yes, it happened again this year.  This year,my face is shown just as the announcer says "and if you actually are attached this year, here are some ideas".

Yes, I'm a precautionary tale.

A public service announcement from Little Miss Sunshine:  Kids- stay away from any digital video.  You may end up on You Tube, entertaining people for years and years.

SHIT!  This video better not be on You Tube.

If you missed it this year, fret not.  I'm sure Action News will air it again in 2013.

This really, really better not be on YouTube,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Take You With Me

Three things I learned last night:

  1. Forget CNN, forget MSNBC.  Facebook has become my primary news source.  I have no idea what this says about me.
  2. The last few times I've gone out to eat on a Saturday night, an icon has died.  I should probably learn to cook and stop killing famous people. 
  3. I'm officially of a certain age--and by that I mean that I'm old enough to reasonably expect that the icons of my childhood will start dropping like flies.  This sentiment sucks on so many levels.
Clearly, I'm referencing the death of Whitney Houston. I'm acutely aware that the cyberworld is already saturated with tributes, that some people are already experiencing celebrity death coverage exhaustion, and that I can add nothing particularly new or interesting to the conversation.  I really wanted to stay away from this topic, but the thing is.....I can't.  I reallyreallyreally can't.

I didn't know Whitney Houston.   She wasn't my idol.  She didn't change my life.  Her passing doesn't change my life one iota and I'm not dealing with some profound sense of loss.  I didn't know the woman.  I do, however, think her death is premature and profoundly sad and that the world lost a truly remarkable talent.  

For what it's worth, I also think that addiction is a debilitating disease--one that does not discriminate based on age, or wealth, or talent.  I think it's tremendously sad that when a person who struggled with addiction dies, the court of public opinion weighs in with a verdict that somehow indicates an addict's death is somehow less of a loss than the death of someone else.  I think that the judgmental refrain of "they did this to themselves" is harsh and unfair for three reasons:  
  1.  It's still a loss of a human life, and I'd like to believe that's somehow sacred.
  2. The one thing we all have in common is that we're all going to die, and chances are we're all going to be either partially or wholly responsible for our own demise.  It may not be from drugs or alcohol.  It may be from eating too much fast food or not enough vegetables, from not exercising, from driving too fast or without a seatbelt or from texting while driving, from a broken heart or not paying enough attention at a completely unfortunate moment.   A design flaw of the human condition is that we're all, in some way, killing ourselves- deliberately or not.
  3. Addiction is a peerless opponent.  As a general rule, we do a good job rallying around others who are affected by other tragedies--like cancer, or accidents, or fires.  In those cases, we do a good job of being for each other.  We open the door and lay out the welcome mat.  When the tragedy is addiction, there's a chorus of judgment, of mean-spirited jokes- many of us turn our backs and slam the door at the exact moment when someone most needs support.  
For better or worse, I'm of the strong opinion that one of the greatest riches in life are those people on which you can rely when the rest of the world slams the door and walks out-- those people who realize that you need love most when you are most unlovable.  It's the people that say "I'll take you with me" when you are unable to take one more step on your own who are the greatest gifts.

This is all a very circuitous way of making my next point.  I do, after all, have a knack for making a short story long and a long story longer.

Whitney Houston wasn't part of my life, but she certainly provided a significant part of its soundtrack.  I'm in no way noteworthy in this regard--if Facebook posts provide any indication, she was part of the soundtrack of many women my age.  I've seen dozens of posts about middle school talent show routines to "How Will I Know" and "So Emotional" and "Greatest Love of All".  I've seen dozens of posts about  how "It's Not Right, But It's Okay" and "I'm Every Woman" as a rally cry in times of heartbreak.  And don't even get me started on "I Will Always Love You."

It's no small accomplishment to play a role in rites of passage- by the millions.  Whitney did.  And that's amazing.  Songs can evoke the most meaningful memories, and her songs can and do.  And that's amazing, too.

Whitney most often sung about love- about love done right, and about love done wrong.  With that in mind, it's kind of funny to me to realize that when I think about her music, I do think about love, but it's not about the love of any boy.  I think about the love that I've shared for many years with two girls that are dear friends, "C" and "MK."  

Go figure.

Certainly, the boys of yesteryear factor into that thought process too, but the boys most definitely were on the side.  I hear "So Emotional", and I think of the 15, and 17, and 19 year old versions of ourselves sticking up for each other when those boys would drive us crazy.  I think of the times that we showed up for each other, in sweatpants, with ice cream (or vodka) and chick flicks and nail polish and picked each other up when the boys disappointed.   I think of drunken renditions of "It's Not Right, But It's Okay", with a variety of jackasses in the background, but with the power of female friendship and girl power in the foreground.

And I think of one particular cassette tape that contains a-way-out-of-tune rendition of "The Greatest Love of All" sung by two 15 year olds in a karaoke booth at Dorney Park.  We bastardized that song in ways that are completely wrong--but it's an amazing moment captured in time of two lifelong friends, before life threw more than a few punches and left its battle scars.  It's priceless.  

The best part, ironically enough, came out the end of the tape- after the song was sung (if you could even call it that).  It's a conversation of two young girls, captured before the recording stopped.

C:  It's weird, I couldn't hear myself sing at all.
N:  Hmmm...weird.  I could hear you just fine, but I couldn't hear myself at all.
C:  Weird
N:  It's because we can hear each other better than we can hear ourselves.

We still do.  Friendships like that are beyond priceless.  You two have always said "I Take You With Me."  You have always heard me better than I've heard myself.  I doubt that I've properly thanked you before now.

Rest in peace, Whitney and thanks for the memories,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Negotiating With Terrorists

Once upon a time, there lived a moderately flawed Princess who had an answer to virtually all parenting issues (and pretty much everything else for that matter).  She reigned supreme in her own mental kingdom--slaying bad behavior, sleep issues, and other parenting dilemmas along the way.

Then, one day, the moderately flawed Princess had a little girl.

For a time, the Princess continued to preside over her fictional kingdom.  The Junior Princess, as she shall be known, was a ridiculously easy baby.  There was no colic, there was barely any crying....just lots of sleep, lots of smiles, lots of cuddles.   There were no potty training fights, there were no issues with sharing, there were no public meltdowns.  For three years, the Senior Princess frequently entertained the thought "Wow- I have this parenting thing DOWN."   The Senior Princess dared to think that she just might a very special, very excellent mom.

The Senior Princess was a fool.

Somewhere around the Junior Princess's third birthday, an evil witch spiked the Junior Princess's juice box with a massive quantity of time-released PMS pills.   Since that day, the Senior Princess has regularly been in way over her head---frequently trying to reason with an organism who has the uncanny ability to simultaneously be completely unreasonable, completely hotheaded, and completely bursting with self-righteous indignation (and the vocabulary to match).

This isn't my kind of fairytale.  Life with my 3 year old ain't no joke.

Some days, I get hours and hours of quality time with the sweetest little girl in the world--the girl Little M used to be.  Some days (and today was one of them), I spend hours and hours of time engaged in a losing battle of wits against the world's smallest (and funniest) terrorist.

Little M: 286.   Little Miss Sunshine:0.

We thought that taking Little M ice skating would be a fun activity.  That would be incorrect.  I'm pretty sure I can never again show my face at Ice Line of West Chester.   It was in that Ice Line where I morphed from a reasonably well-adjusted member of society into a stark raving Jerry Springer style loon.

The whole event started off poorly. Her Majesty informed us, and anyone who was willing to listen, that she required her skates to contain flowers, butterflies, and princesses.  I didn't realize that she required a famous-person rider, complete with a list of unreasonable demands.  (For the record, if I'm ever a famous rock star, my rider will demand that my dressing room be fully stocked with Diet Dr. Pepper and Lucky Charm marshmallows, and that all Pepsi products be removed from the premises).  In any event, she was decidedly less than pleased with the black, unisex rental skates she actually received.  Strike 1.

After a 15 minute change of terror, where I feared that my digits would be severed by the flinging blades, we made our way onto the ice.  We completed 2 laps, 3 tops....where she was overconfident in her abilities as a skater, which meant that she was flailing all over the place.  Those might have been the longest 30 minutes of my life---compounded by the fact that we were the parents of the only small child in the place that was sans helmet.  Oops.   She demanded to be taken off the ice.  Strike 2.

It should be noted that today is the husband's birthday, and he took the day off to spend with us.  I imagine that he sorely regrets this decision.  Any sane person would surely prefer a day in the office than waste a vacation day spent with a 3 year old in the throes of terrible, and a wife who (using highly technical terms) lost her mind and her shit in a public place.

Despite the two strikes, I might have been able to be a return customer at Ice Line.  Then it happened.

Her Majesty saw the vending machines that were stocked with Dippin' Dots.   She demanded Dippin' Dots.  I said no.

As a side note, who actually eats Dippin' Dots, anyway?  To me, they look like disgusting ice-cream pellet droppings.

Boys and girls, it all went downhill from there.  The switch was flipped, and all reason went out the window.  She went nuts.  It was epic.  (The husband picked a great time to return the skate-walker.  Lucky him.)

It started with her repeating her demand that I furnish her with Dippin' Dots.  I declined.  She put her hands on her hips, gave me a filthy look and duck lips,  and tapped her foot (while still wearing skates).  She repeated her demand.  I repeated my decline, and this time added, "I don't negotiate with terrorists."

She didn't say a word, but the look in her eyes clearly said "Bitch, you not only negotiate with terrorists, you're going to accommodate them with a smile on your face."  And then she took off, in a full sprint, down the looooooooooooong hallway of Ice Line----while still wearing the rental skates.

For someone who couldn't stay on her feet while on the ice, Little M made a remarkable on-skates sprinter in a public place.  Unlike my daughter, I am a proficient (if by no means good) ice skater, but a total crap skate- runner.  I chased her, as fast as I could without biting it in humiliating fashion, pleading (and by that, I mean screaming) for her to "Come back here....NOW.  Get back here...RIGHT NOW, GOD DAMMIT.  You're going to time out...FOREVER!!!  STOP!!!!!!!!!!  GET BACK HEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRE, DAMMIT.  YOU BETTER HOPE THAT I DON'T CATCH YOU BECAUSE WHEN I DO YOU'RE GOING TO GET IT AND I'M SERIOUS THIS TIME...."

Classy.  Way to exercise virtually no parental control and sound like a whiny (and uncoordinated) idiot---ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

Thankfully, she bit it before I did----right next to the massive trophy case that I am so thankful that we didn't break.  (Don't worry, she wasn't at all hurt, and was still looking at me with her "you and what army, lady?" expression.)

Of course, we had an audience.

I attempt to walk her back to the changing area to return the ugly rental skates and get the hell out of there.  She wasn't really having it, so I'm dragging her by the hood of her jacket while whispering that I will get her a candy bar if we can leave without any further public humiliation.

I am pleased to inform you that we managed to get out of Ice Line without any further dramatic escapades.   She got her frigging candy, and I got 3 minutes of peace.

I shall collect my mother-of-the-year award now, thanks.

For the record, the following picture most adequately captures my plans for the rest of the day.

To being a pint-sized terrorist enabler,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One Million Morons

I don't shop at JC Penney.....but I just might start.  

I realize that I am more than a little delayed in responding to this news story.  It's stuck with me for the better part of a week---and, if I'm being honest--I've been unable to shake it.  This is possibly because this story is so off-the-chain outlandish that I initially hard a hard time believing it to be true.

The synopsis:
  1. JC Penney recently appointed Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesmodel.
  2. In response, One Million Moms, a "traditional values" group,  campaigned against JC Penney and Ellen.  Why?  Because Ellen is gay. Because Ellen's sexual orientation defied their definition of "traditional values."
  3. JC Penney sticks by Ellen (yay, JC Penney!)
Following is the post that appeared on the One Million Moms website:

By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JC Penney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years. The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.

Are these people FOR REAL?  

And to think that all this time, I thought that JC Penney was where my mom bought her curtains.  I didn't realize that some misguided portion of the American populace thought that it was a storefront for hatred.

People have values.  People steadfastly stand behind their values.  This is all fine, good, and to be expected.  Values are deeply personal.  This, too, is fine, good, and to be expected.  I just looked it up, and value is defined as "relative worth, merit, or importance."  There is virtually nothing in the words of the One Million Morons   Moms that can construed as having any worth, any merit, or any importance.  It's not value.  It's just hate.  Stupid, ugly, unnecessary, pointless hate.

And then there's the word that's so frequently paired with "values".  Traditional.   Don't get me wrong--many traditions are wonderful.  Maybe even most traditions are wonderful.  Some traditions, however, are not wonderful.  Slavery was once a tradition in this country.  State mandated racial segregation was once a tradition in this country.  Women not having the right to vote was once a tradition in this country. And to me, it's goddamned scary when someone confuses the concept of institutionalized disenfranchisement of groups of people with the concept of "traditional values"--and it's even more scary when groups of these like-yet-small-minded bozos join forces to bring back the "good old days." WTF.

Again, they don't stand for values.  They stand for ignorance.  They stand for hate.

Ellen, though?  She seems to have the concept of "values" down pat, as evidenced in her response:

Here are the values I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you’d want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for … I also believe in dance.

Me too, Ellen.  Me, too.....(and bravo, JC Penney)

Hate is not a family value,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Remedy

I don't get sick often, but when I do, I usually go for the gusto and skip right over the garden-variety cold and land right into full-on misery territory.  It should be noted that I make a terrible sick person.  I'm cranky.  I'm whiny.  I hate my big red nose.  All in all, I'm even more sunshine-y than normal.  Good luck, world!

I hate being sick.  Being sick precludes me from achieving my goals.  As evidence, allow me to contrast my goals for last night with what actually happened.

Goals for the evening of February 6th

1.  Eat nutritious dinner and engage in witty repartee with Little M and the husband and prove to them that I can be mother-of-the-year/domestic goddess after working an 11 hour day.
2.  Put in a 100% effort in the P90X2 workout of the day and become better/faster/stronger.
3.  Write a blisteringly funny and charming blog entry.
4.  Restore the lower level of my house to "company's coming" pristineness.

What actually happened on the evening of February 6th

1.  Ate a soup bowl full of guacamole and about 14 servings of chips while Little M was collapsed on the sofa and the husband microwaved his dinner.  (Note about the guacamole:  The husband just might make the best guacamole on earth.  It's insane.  I'm sure he would have been most appreciative if I didn't hoover it in a manner more commonly observed by pigs near troughs.  I may have been a called a glutton more than once. My only response is that gluttony is--by far--my favorite of the seven deadlies.)
2. Changed into workout clothes, walked into the basement, popped workout DVD into the computer, and did about 12 seconds of actual exercise.
3.  Announced that I was going to close my eyes for a few minutes.  Left basement, but not before retrieving and eating a peanut butter cup from the emergency candy stash.
4.  Fell asleep (face down and ass-up) on top of covers at 8:30 PM, still in workout clothes, and didn't move so much as an eyelash before 6 AM.
5.  Slept peacefully while dirty dishes remained piled, and unwashed, in the sink. 

Item #5 is major.  This absolutely has to be some marker of insanity, but I am unable to sleep with dirty dishes in the sink.  I twitch.  I toss and turn.  I am physically unable to relax until the dishes are cleaned, dried, and put away in their rightful place.  I'm serious when I say that I twitch.  It is as if I fear being attacked and mutilated by disgruntled dishes while I sleep.   Mock as you will, but there is no known cure for this mental ailment.  This is a sad, sad thing.

So, sleep might just be the only remedy I have at my disposal against the sinus infection from hell.  I will note that sleep did provide me with a mental vacation that I very much needed.   Sometimes, this "public diary" thing messes with my head a bit.

I can explain.

I think that there are two critical elements to writing a piece that's worth reading-  there's the storytelling piece, and there's the quality of writing piece.  Once I started writing again, I pretty quickly realized that I should probably read other blogs to benchmark my progress against other writers/hacks out there and calibrate my future efforts accordingly.  Leave it to me to use some of the best blogs out there as reference points.

Let's just say that I became more than a little discouraged.

There's one blog in particular that is just, well, outstanding.  The author is a brilliant writer, and an amazing storyteller.  The writing is sharp, and crisp, and she uses words with such efficiency and effectiveness that I'm blown away.  The stories she tells are heartwarming, and funny---and more importantly, about battles and triumphs over some very significant demons.  She inspires people with her openness to expose pain, and anguish, and redemption.

In contrast, the best story I can offer is that this weekend, I logged in a bunch of hours playing a game with Little M called "Ring Around the Nosy."  It involves wearing an elephant mask, complete with phallic-looking rubber trunk.  The goal of the game is to collect as many rings on the trunk (which TOTALLY looks like a penis, by the way) without using your hands. Yes, boys and girls, I played ring around the penis with my 3 year old this weekend.  Are you inspired yet? 

In all seriousness, I'm less concerned about improving my technical elements of my writing.  Technical, I can handle.  I can practice.  I can actually edit my work.  The technical elements will come back to me.  It's the storytelling part that is troublesome to me.  Here's why.  Thus far, I've had a great, and uncomplicated life.  I have my moments, and sometimes I get sad and sometimes I get angry, but generally, I am demon-free.  I'm as even-keeled as they come.  Don't get me wrong-- I wouldn't trade my good fortune for anything (and trust me, I know I am ridiculously fortunate and I am eternally grateful).  I have to believe that the people who have the stories that are most worth telling have suffered. The suffering provides insight.  The suffering provides perspective. The suffering can be channeled to improve the lives of other people at the time that it's most needed.  I can't offer that to anyone. Maybe my stories just aren't worth being told.

C'mon.  I'm not going to say I'd rather be anguished and write a beautiful blog that inspires.  That's just silly talk.  I just hope that I'm not just filling dead air with meaningless words because my soul isn't evolved enough to do better.

Oh well, at least I can be known as the girl who actually wrote the words "ring around the penis" in a blog.  That HAS to be worth something.

The remedy is the experience,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Heart You, Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson made me cry twice today.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I don't fully believe it either. I'd be ashamed, but honestly, I'm more flabbergasted than anything else.

I didn't even VOTE for Kelly Clarkson when she was a contestant on American Idol.  I wanted that Justin Guarini kid to win.  I even went through the exercise of dialing in votes (a few million of them, give or take) for Justin Guarini.  I wonder whatever happened to him?

Here I go again....turning my blog into shameful public confessions.  For the record, I'm not talking about the crying part, I'm talking about the part where I admitted to dialing 1-866-JustinG a few million times.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not--and I've never been--much of a crier. I'm German. We don't do that.   I don't cry at weddings, I don't cry at funerals, I don't cry at sad movies.  I've checked and I'm not actually a robot--I do actually bleed when cut, and there is a living, beating human heart somewhere in this body.   As a general rule, it's not a case of what I did not feel, it's a case of what I did not show.  This blog notwithstanding, I'm actually a fiercely private person (if more sensitive than I'd like to admit).

But Kelly Clarkson--- she got me twice today.  TWICE.  Frigging TWICE.

The first time actually wasn't that much of a surprise.  One of the very few things that I am a tear-sucker for is a well-sung national anthem.   I've spent 10 years trying to figure out how to move to London and be a fun expat and yet....I cry at the national anthem.  Go figure.  I actually wear dark sunglasses to all outdoor sporting events--in part because I realize that I am at risk for public displays of emotion if I manage to show up on time, which is rare.  Feel free- mock me now.

Kelly Clarkson: 1.  Little Miss Sunshine's tear parade:  0.  She rocked that national anthem.

The second time was the result of a combined effort by Kelly Clarkson and Little M.  Little M looooooooves Kelly Clarkson.  A while back, Little M truly impressed me with her lyrical analysis of "Mr. Know-It-All".

Little M:  Mommy, are all boys Mr. Know-It-Alls?
LMS:  Um...hate to tell you this, but yeah....pretty much.
Little M: Girls rule and are pretty.  Boys just eat a lot of food.

I love this kid.  This kid is just an explosion of awesome.

If "Name That Tune" were still filming new episodes, Little M would be a formidable contestant.  She can identify "Mr. Know-It-All" within 3 notes or less.

Little M loves to sing.  I'm guessing that she's inherited my musical ability, which is to say none at all, but her highly animated singalongs are things of beauty.

Imagine someone who is three and a half (and three and a half feet tall) singing her heart out-- complete with hands on hips, finger pointing, "talk-to-the-hand" gestures.  Keep in mind that her pronunciation of the "th" sound is, at best, spotty.  Now imagine her highly impassioned little voice belting out "you don't know a 'HAAAAAANNNNNNG about me" while her eyes glimmer with joy and spunk and mischief and she's telling some imaginary boy (or girl, or stuffed animal) which way the wind blows.

I don't have a baby, at least not anymore.  I miss my baby, but I love the spirited, independent, sassy little girl she's become more than words could ever adequately capture.

Kelly Clarkson--you gave my little girl the first song lyrics to which she's ever truly connected.  That's worth a few tears on my part.  If it were 2002 all over again, you'd get my vote this time,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Love, hate and Philly Mag

I have a love-hate relationship with Philly magazine.  Each month when it arrives, I devour it--I get excited to vicariously participate in the adventures of the locally fabulous, and then, just as quickly, become kind of disgusted with myself for buying into the hype.   Call it the locally fabulous hangover, if you will.

I'm starting to believe that I prefer my hangovers to originate from beer and wine, or, at a minimum, from a party to which I was actually invited.  I mean, seriously.  If I'm going to have the hangover, I'd like to have had the fun first.

I realize that the term "locally fabulous", especially as applied to the Philadelphia metro area, is kind of an oxymoron.   It's Philadelphia, for crying out loud, where "fabulous" is often synonymous with "wearing clean sweatpants to the Outback".  Okay, that was mean.  If I'm being slightly more charitable, I'd describe it as a city with a massive runner-up complex, the Jan Brady to New York/LA's Marcia Brady.  I'm speaking on no authority whatsoever, but I'm fairly confident that fabulous in Philly is roughly equivalent to C-list in New York and LA. I'm thinking Kathy Griffin territory, here (who, incidentally, I do think is kind of fabulous)

Before I get lynched by the Philadelphia faithful- I am one of you.  I was born in this area.  I've lived here my entire life- initially by birth, and then consistently reinforced by a series of (some good, some questionable) choices.  I've spent my entire life trying to get out of here, but yet, I've never pulled the trigger.   My relationship with this area is probably the single best illustrative example of a love-hate relationship in my life.  I love the grittiness of this area.  I love the work-a-day, blue collar ethic.  I love the passion.  I love the historical significance.  I love the fact that it's completely okay to throw shit at Santa Claus.  I don't understand cities that don't have such ingrained passion.  There's plenty that I'm not so fond of, too- but I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked, so I'll refrain.  I don't hold up so well in street fights.  My jacked-up nose is evidence of that.

Side note: that statement made me sound much cooler/tougher than I actually am.  I broke my nose in the karate class that my mom made me take for self-defense purposes before heading off to the rough streets of Villanova.  I couldn't block for crap, and, for that matter, couldn't punch either.  After my nose cast was removed (yes, I really had a nose cast, and yes, it was as psychologically damaging to a 17 year old girl as you'd reasonably expect) Mom bought me some pepper spray instead and wished me the best.

Shockingly, I digress.

The point of this rambling is that I take umbrage to the glorification of "fabulousness"-- even if it is graded on a curve for the Philadelphia market.

That sounds harsh.  I know a good number of truly fabulous people in the real world, and these people should be glorified--because their fabulousness is based on actual substance and not relational bullshit.  These people should be considered out of scope from the full scale rant on which I am about to embark.

Who exactly decided that these people were better than anyone else?  Who exactly decided that these were the people who get to choose who is worth knowing and who should be relegated to the sidelines? Who exactly decided that these were the people who would ultimately decide if I'm worth knowing or not?

WTF.  Repeat after me.  WTF.

I read an article in this month's issue that profiled a woman who is apparently the person to know on the Main Line social scene.  I'll admit that I'd love to have a drink with her- she sounds totally amusing--but I surely would not pass muster.  Not the point.   What annoys   enrages me are the methods by which  "fabulous" women earn their titles, and the methods by which this "fabulousness" is repeatedly reinforced---all while reinforcing social stratification.  Awesome.

Apparently, what it takes to be a fabulous woman worth knowing is the following:  Be born white, at least moderately well-connected, and pretty.  Get enough of an education to look good on paper.  Get boob job and whatever other cosmetic procedures are required.   Absolutely, be blonde or get blonde.  Become the second or third wife or a wealthy man considerably older than yourself.  Have at least 2 children, a nutritionist and a personal trainer.  Work the social circuit.  Develop your "brand". Divorce.  Re-brand.  Become queen of a kingdom where who you know is more important than what you are.

And then get usurped by the next big thing in two years.

I have a little girl.   I worry about what she sees.  I worry about she reacts to what she sees.  I worry about how she uses this information to  frame her own definition of a woman of character.  This is not what I want her to see.

Allow me to be a bit more blunt.  I'd rather set fire to my own house while I sit in it than raise a daughter who thinks it's fabulous to be a queen bee (or queen bee lady-in-waiting) in a shallow kingdom that creates and perpetuates its own bullshit-- and expects others to bow to the throne.  I'd also like her to actually ACCOMPLISH something meaningful before she becomes supremely proud of herself.  Maybe that's just me.

This, incidentally, is probably precisely why I'm never going to end up on any Most (fill-in-your-obnoxious-adjective-here) List.  I'm okay with that.

It bothers me enough when I see messages like this in the media, but I find it even more troublesome when I see it in the course of everyday life.  Which I do.  More than I should.  I'd run out of fingers and toes to count on if asked to quantify how many times I've been told in the last year that Mr./Ms. XYZ is awesome, and I should really try to make sure they like me.  That my life would be better if I was deemed worthy by the elite Mr./Ms. Fabulous.

Again, WTF.

Shall I bring my best dress to the cleaners?  Get my makeup done?  Be witty and charming and smart (but not too smart) and say the right things, and only the right things, and pray that I make the cut?  Fail.

Life's not sorority rush-- which, incidentally, I survived in the mid 90s by a mutual choice between me and a group of quality girls that shared core beliefs, if not every opinion.  For the record, it's the lack of mutual choice in these types of setups that have me running for the hills.   I'm too old, too tired, and too time constrained to put myself in situations where my role is to pretty myself up and pray to be chosen-- in a relationship that would likely be unilateral.  Let me get this straight- I am supposed to like you, because you're better than me, and I should just reallyreallyreally hope that you like me?

I'm packing up my ball and going home, kids.  I'm not least not anymore.  I spent too many years trying to be the version of me that I thought was most suitable for mass consumption--only to realize that I no longer consistently realized who I was.  I have a little girl who watches my every move- this crap doesn't fly.  I have a masters degree, a respectable job, and a lot of opinions (!!), but none of this matters if I can't show my daughter that if you don't love and respect yourself, you can't really love or respect anyone else.

I think it was the great poet Jewel (ha!!  please kill me) who said something along the lines of "people living their lives on TV.  They say they're better than you, and you agree."  You may say you're better than me.  I don't agree- at least not until you get to know me, and I get to know you, and we can actually make some sort of informed decision.

Rant over.   Next time, I'll be less serious, i promise.

No silence, no consent,