Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shooting the messenger

If only closed minds came with closed mouths.

In the last few days, I've heard multiple stories recounting not only hatred and ignorance toward people who are gay, but also toward people are who straight and working toward building a world that is more tolerant and more accepting.

I'm outraged.

I'm certainly in no position to be the morality police, and nor is anyone else, but I just have to say it.  When did love become immoral and hatred become the moral high ground?   This isn't a blog about religion  (and nor will it ever be), but I'm pretty sure that nobody's God/higher power wants its followers to act in hatred in its name.

Now, I don't know too much about this whole life thing and I know we are all unique and with different needs, but I steadfastly believe these to be two things we all need:

1.  To feel welcomed, to feel accepted, to be wanted in the places that we happen to be.
2.  To have a soft place to land when things don't go as planned.

At this point, just about everyone knows that bullying is a major problem in schools---and in life.  You hear so many stories about teen suicides after extended periods of bullying- when one teen suicide is one too many.  And you hear responses from some adults that suggest that bullying is just a part of growing up.  

News Flash:  Bullying is abuse.  It's not a rite of passage.  

What's more, bullying now takes on a different, and more vicious dimension than it did 20 years ago (when yes, I was bullied, too).   It's no longer limited to a small distribution--- it's blasted via email, and facebook, and twitter, and texting---and people have a tendency to be even more malicious behind a keyboard than in front of a real, flesh and blood person.

It's hard enough to be any teenager---to be in the process of figuring out who you are and where you stand in this world--without the additional (and gut-wrenching) complications associated with being gay.  Unfortunately, that same pervasive insecurity that is nearly synonymous with being a teenager often prompts teens to be ruthless toward each other--particularly those that don't fit neatly into social conformity.  As a result, gay teens often get brutalized by their peers.  Don't believe me?  Check out the Trevor Project or the It Gets Better Project.  You'll see what I mean.

And many adults, those adults who should have the perspective and life-experience to step in and stop the nonsense, either turn their heads or perpetuate the cycle by saying that being gay is a choice, and an immoral one at that.

Here's the thing.   Anyone who's watched someone go through the process of coming out (and, yes, I have) realizes that being gay is not a choice.  Who would choose to be ostracized?  Who would voluntarily choose to do an inventory of virtually everyone in their lives--even those people on the periphery-- to see who in their life stays loyal and who bails once they come out?  It's like saying that someone would choose to be homeless.

And, for the record, I don't recall choosing to be straight.  It just happened.  

A good number of high schools and universities now have Gay-Straight Alliance groups.  Alliance.  Support.  Solidarity.  Tolerance.  Respect.  How great is that?   

Apparently, not everyone agrees.  Apparently, the same people who are anti-gay also believe that straight people who join in alliance are equally immoral.

Right.   Because ignorance and hatred are so frigging morally awesome.

What I want to do at these people is scream:

What if that child was YOUR child?  Still okay with the bullying?  Still okay with the verbal abuse?  Still against  gay-straight alliances when it's YOUR child who takes the brunt of the ignorance?  You ready to change your tune yet?

My daughter is only 3, but you know what?  She might be gay.  I just don't know it yet.  

Irrespective of her sexual orientation, I would want her to grow up in a place where she was accepted, and had allies, and was surrounded by supportive people.  

I couldn't care less if Little M was gay.  My love for my daughter is unconditional.  There's nothing (okay, nothing short of capital murder) that would make me love my daughter any less.  I care that she's kind, and I care she loves and is loved in return.  The gender (or race or religion) of who she loves?  Utterly and completely irrelevant.

People who work to make our schools a friendlier, more accepting place should be applauded-  not denounced.  People who impede understanding should be ignored--not embraced. 

It gets better,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A swing and a miss

I'm not at all cut out for a career in food service.

Yesterday was the annual fun fair at Little M's school.  The fair, much like the school, is adorable, and well-run and charming and lovely.

Or at least it was until I showed up.

I signed up for a volunteer shift---at the food tent---at lunchtime.  I just might be the dumbest smart person alive.   My paid job is stressful, and my life's not exactly a cakewalk, but I exaggerate none when I say that I was more stressed out and on edge during those 60 minutes in the food tent than I've been in years.

People are nuts.  Especially when they're hungry.  Oh, and I'm nuts.  Especially when I'm short on patience---which is, as you all know, virtually all the time.

You add my inherent lack of patience to my four main pet peeves in life, and it will become obvious to you why the food tent at lunchtime idea was a very bad one indeed.

My other pet peeves?  They'd be, in no particular order:

(1) People who are high maintenance
(2) People who special order
(3) People who wiffle-waffle on decisions when there's a long line;  and
(4) People who say "Give me" and "I need" instead of "May I have" and "Please".

So, clearly, I was the best person for this particular job.

I was actually holding up reasonably well until close to the end of my shift---when I became completely unglued.  It started with a nasty attitude (not mine, by the least, not yet), and a few give-mes, and was followed by a few "I needs" before veering into the territory of my personal favorite-  the "get me."

It came to a stunning crescendo when the person commented that I was a bit slow and followed it up with a "Are you LISTENING to me?"

Now.  I don't like confrontation.  I don't do it.  I'm a chicken and I was raised to be a "nice girl" (and I could rant for days on that one), so I normally just take stuff like that, internalize it and move on.  Which is what I intended to do today.  I'm not going to embarrass my daughter and cause a scene.  AT HER SCHOOL.  No, thanks.  I smiled, finished the food transaction, and finished out my shift.

That said, I was definitely flustered and that fluster set the tone for the next few hours.  I left my shift to rejoin my family, and the first words out of my mouth were "Where's the beer tent?"  Turns out that beer tents are frowned upon at preschool events.

But my mood?  My mood was definitely shot.  That person definitely got to me.  I was undoubtedly on edge.

Like most parents, I have my moments when I really doubt that I'm doing a good job as a mom---doubts that I'm making the grade, doubts that I'm raising her to be a considerate individual who will give to this world instead of take from it, doubts that she wouldn't be infinitely better off if she had a different mother.   Add in some working mom's guilt for good measure and fold in some developmentally normal preschool tantrums and.....voila!  A.BIG.FAT.MESS.

I can usually keep it together when at parenting at home.  Parenting in public, though-- parenting in public, in front of an audience, is another animal entirely.  I cannot be the only person who feels this way.

Parenting in public gets judged---often harshly--by a panel of judges who, at best, knows 25% of the story.  And we all have done it.  For better and for worse, we assess the quality of our own parenting--- and we determine own parental identity on a relative scale--- by judging others...usually at the moment when their kids are acting like, ummm, kids. Parenting in public, particularly after your kids act up, is part actual parenting and part performance art---put on display to show the other parents in the room how competent you are as a parent as much as it is about actually parenting your kids--- and I'm so tired of it.

Yes, Little M did something at the fair yesterday that required some level of discipline and parental involvement.  The problem is that I blew the call on how to discipline her----and I blew it BADLY.   There were a lot of people around, and there was a lesson to be learned, and I was really, really harsh.  Unnecessarily harsh.  I didn't yell, or hit----but I most definitely stung with words-- and I know part of that originated from the fact that I was parenting in front of an audience.

I've apologized, profusely, to my little girl.  She may have forgiven, but I'm not willing to forgive myself for that one.

After I had said my peace, Little M looked up at me.  She didn't cry, she didn't fuss.  The look in her eye, though?  It crushed me.  She looked at me like I betrayed her---which is appropriate, because I did betray her. I recognized that betrayed look in her eyes--it's one of my own.  That's a tough pill to swallow.  I hurt my little girl's heart- that's an even tougher pill to swallow.

I love my daughter.  I'm her parent.  I'm not her friend.  I need to discipline her, and set limits and guidelines and all of that good stuff.  This isn't about not ever upsetting her---I'm truly a parental failure if that happens---but about disciplining her in a way that honors her spirit, and respects her feelings and protects her beautiful and precious little heart.   I failed yesterday.

It's not about how I parent the average child, or anyone else's child----it is how I parent THIS child.  MY child.  My ONLY child.  My beautiful, sensitive, kind-hearted, compassionate, empathetic, will-never-let-another-child-cry-without-giving-them-a-hug wild child.   The same sensitivity that makes her heart so beautiful is the same sensitivity that makes her heart hurt and ache so badly-- a trait that we share, and a trait that I ignored for a not-great reason yesterday.

I am so sorry, Little M.  Mommy loves you- and will try so much harder.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dress You Up

Today, I realized that it is virtually impossible to "Like A Virgin" era Madonna tunes and be in a bad mood.  

As my revelations go, this one was pretty genius- thus, handily distinguishing it from most of the crap that flits through my brain on a daily basis.

I was driving home from an MRI (I'm fine- just a nagging injury that refuses to go away) and was in the kind of mood that only a claustrophobic person who had just spent the half hour in a loud, thumping machine could be in.

Side note:  The person who told me that an MRI was analogous to the middle of a donut was either a liar or a moron.  Donuts are awesome and delicious.  MRIs are neither. 

I realize that I sound like a bit of a moron with no internet access. I also realize that, in this particular case, that's all true.  I would have actually researched MRIs, but myWebMD privileges have been completely revoked as to preserve the sanity of everyone who spends time in my presence.  

It was the time that I was convinced that I was completely doomed due to unexplained night sweats that cost me the privilege.  It went a little something like this:

LMS:  I think something's really wrong with me.  I've been having these night sweats.
Husband:  Oh?
LMS:  WebMD says that unexplained night sweats are a sign of cancer.
Husband:  Well, what about night sweats caused by people who sleep in sweatshirts and sweatpants in 90 degree weather? Is that a sign of cancer, too?

Right.  Right.

So, I'm driving home and grumbling something incoherent about donuts and satellite radio came up huge for me.  Huge.  Madonna.  1985 Madonna.

Even better- it wasn't just 1985 Madonna.  It was "Dress You Up".

I remember taping that song off of the radio in 4th grade and playing it a few hundred million times.  Of course, back then- I thought the song was about clothes.  Then again, I also thought that "Material Girl" was also about clothes.  C'mon.  It's not that much of a stretch for a 9 year old.  Clothes are made out of material.

It took all of 8 seconds to transform me from a generic shrew to a smiling person with windows down, sunroof open, and music blasting at levels unacceptable to those who don't want to be permanently deafened.

It. Was. Awesome.  I might have even whistled, but I don't know how.

Oh, how it was a simpler time, back in 1985.  Back then, the only thing I wanted out of life was my very own "Like A Virgin" cassette tape.  There was only one thing standing between me and my 9-year old dream.

My mom.

In 1985, I stood a better chance of getting a brand new car, a pony, and a handgun than I did of getting anything to do with Madonna.  Madonna was contraband.

I have a great mom.  My mom was strict, paid attention to details, and set rules, and listened to song lyrics and did all of those things that good moms were supposed to do.  There were lots of rules and lots of restrictions.  While I am so grateful for these characteristics as an adult, let's just say that I was decidedly less so in 1985.

Ralphie from A Christmas Story heard a refrain of "you'll shoot your eye out" every time he mentioned his beloved Red Ryder BB Gun.  Me?  Every time I mentioned the word Madonna, I elicited a response of "No.  You'll get pregnant."

I had no chance.  No chance.  Except...

Same as in Ralphie's case, dear old dad came through for me as well--only, in my case, it wasn't as sweet and heartwarming.

One fine Saturday, my dad had the misfortune of being in a store with me and my four year old brother while my mom was getting her hair cut.

While we were out, however, I noticed and seized my window of opportunity.   I grabbed the tape while we were passing through the music section of the store and showed it to my dad.

The magic words?

Those would be....Hey Dad.  I need this for CCD.

The poor man was in a store, probably armed with a honey-do list, with two children who clearly did not want to be there and were probably behaving like either feral cats or straight-up ingrates.  He did what any other parent with 2 kids in a store on a Saturday would do---briefly glanced at the tape, threw it in the cart, and asked one follow-up question.

Dad: Madonna?  What the hell kind of name is that?
LMS:   It's a religious name, Dad.  I told you it was for CCD.


Little M's days of being illiterate are rapidly dwindling.   I suppose this means that I may need to start watching what I say.  With that in mind, this post just might be the first one I share with her.

No, it's not to share a charming anecdote of what her mother was previously like before I became a boring old hag.  It's to share with her a very important life lesson.

Listen to your mother.  Always listen to your mother.

I thought that I was crafty. I thought that I had beaten the system of parental bureaucracy.  I thought that I was on a path toward world domination.

No matter.    Mom wins.   Bought that Madonna tape, and guess what?  Mom was right.

I did get pregnant:)

Listen to your mother,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vacation at BJs

We can file this one under "Things I Never Thought I'd Hear In My Lifetime".

Someone told me that they missed my blog.

Well.  I'll be.  Who'd have thunk it?  Certainly, not me.

Admittedly, I've been a bit speechless over the last few weeks.   Call it writers' block.  Call it thinkers' block.  Call it that I've heard some feedback that ranged from "really----another mommy blogger????" to "stupid".  I'd say that I just stopped playing, took my ball,  and ran home, but I don't necessarily think that's true.  Partially true?  Certainly.  Entirely true? Nope.  More than anything, I think it was just a call for some much-needed introspection.  It's a character flaw- but, hell.  It's my character flaw, and I'm more than okay with it.

Okay, and maybe it was time to take a brief respite from writing about life, and you know.... go about the business of actually living it.

I think I need some practice at that "living life" thing.  Here's what I did:

1.  Worked.  And worked some more.  And, yeah, then worked a little bit more.
2.  Worked out.  Woo hoo.
3.  Washed a few thousand loads of laundry.
4.  Attempted to negotiate with a pint-sized nudist tyrant.  I long for the days when I whined about her terrible clothing choices---now, I'd prefer that she'd, you know, wear them.
5.  It's not confirmed, but I'm pretty sure that my dad started a mulch fire at Easter brunch.
6.  I absolutely did not start a mulch fire at my own place of employment. I know that smoking is gross, and I know that I'm a smoker....but dammit, I am a RESPONSIBLE smoker.
7.  Ate about 27 pounds of Easter candy, and yes, I did pick out about 5 Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs from my brother's Easter basket.  Being the firstborn carries certain privileges.  Looting Easter baskets is one of them.

Oh, yeah.   And I came to a harsh, stark realization.  I'm supposed to be an adult-- and there comes a point in every adult's life when you need to accept the sad truth.  This truth I of which I speak?  Adults.  They grocery shop from time to time.

Flapjacks!  Fiddlesticks!  Foodles!

Yes, I'm expanding my vocabulary to include other words that start with the letter "f".  It's not going well, but it had to be done.  Just last Friday, my charming and articulate daughter announced TO MY MOTHER that her "frigging dog is frigging nuts."  The girl is clearly profane, but she's not a liar.  That dog (and my deepest apologies to that flapjacking canine) is frigging nuts.

What was I rambling about, again?  Oh, that's right....the need for me to procure some groceries.

There's only so many days you can offer dry noodles, cereal remnants and Easter candy for dinner before you realize that you're a complete failure as an adult.  Even college students have Ramen noodles in their stash.

Who am I kidding?  I could have dined on the stale contents of my pantry for 5 more days----but I was also fresh out of Diet Dr. Pepper.   Travesty-- so, I did what any respectable, responsible adult would do under the circumstances.  I called my husband before leaving work and with unmistakeable pride in my voice, I announced, "I will stop at BJs on the way home."

I imagined my Nobel Peace Prize being polished in my honor.  Or, at the very least, having a small neighborhood parade planned.   Instead, I had a shopping list dictated to me.  Who the hell actually EATS cottage cheese, anyway? Gross.

I bravely ventured into BJs, armed with a shopping list written in lipliner and a mission to fill the cart with foodstuffs other than soda and Cheez-Its.  I was going to buy healthy, nutritious food!  I was going to buy lunchmeat (even if I think it's naaaaaaasty and refuse to eat it)!  I was going to use coupons!

It warrants mention that I was completely starving, bordering on delusional, when I walked into the store.  That's the only way I can reasonably explain the whole coupon thing.  I'm not that organized.

I should have known that when I heard LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" (aka the worst song ever recorded) playing over the loudspeaker  as I entered the store that this shopping trip was about to go off the rails.

Ever attempt to grocery shop with visions of urban hamsters dancing atop Kias running through your head?   Ever attempt to grocery shop as you play the role of "Tired Middle Aged Broad" in Jersey Shore- Downingtown BJs edition?

Every day I'm shuffling...

That line ran through my I spent something like $400 filling my cart full of random items that only starving people purchase.   Like cottage cheese.  And corn bread.  And about 12 pounds of ravioli.  And a freaking rotisserie chicken.

Every day I'm shuffling...

That line ran through my I ate approximately a half pound of swiss cheese after it was sliced at the deli counter.  (Yes, I paid for the pre-binge weight of the cheese.  I made have no remaining pride, but I do have some integrity).

I left that store with a SUV full of crap, and I'm pretty sure we still have nothing to eat.

I just wrote about my boring life, responsible smoking, toddler nudity and grocery shopping.  I don't know much in life, but I'm pretty confident in saying that the person who mentioned they missed my blog now sorely regrets the little nudge of encouragement sent my way.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

I'm not even the slightest bit interested in science fiction, but I think I have entered some sort of parallel universe.  It's as if I've entered the twilight zone.  I'd say that I am a beacon of sanity in a world of crazy, but that's just laughable.  Maybe I'm just well-rounded, moderately crazy in a world of off-the-chain crazy.

It started innocently enough on Friday morning, when I was able to take a 7 minute shower in complete and utter silence.  This never happens.  On average, I'm interrupted, i don't know, about 20 times in the span of a 7 minute shower for such crises as missing oreos, broken crayons, noodles on the ceiling,  missing pieces of cereal sculptures, missing Barbie shoes, the unspeakable crime of not having more Doritos in the house.

Don't even get me started on the last time I peed in peace.  I think it might have been in 2008.  I once said that I went back to work after Little M was born for the opportunity to eat and pee in peace.  That's an untrue statement.  Now, people talk to me over the walls in the ladies room.  Joy.  Don't people know that I come to work in the hopes that I just might seize that elusive 2 minutes of peace?  It's gotten to the point that I've found a "secret" ladies room  (and I will NEVEREVEREVEREVER tell where it is), and if someone happens to be in there at the same time as me, I am not nice.  Like, as in, eye-dagger flashing, if-looks-could-kill-you'd-be-six-feet-under, not-at-all-nice.  For crying out loud- All.I.Want.To.Do.Is.Pee.In. Silence.At.Least.Once.A.Calendar.Year.  Is that too much to ask?

If there is any upshot to this insanity, it's that I get to feel needed and I get to feel popular.  I'm practically Jennifer Aniston the second I even glance at a bathroom or contemplate eating.  So, at least there's that.

Woo hoo.  I'm so excited about that, I could just pee.  Oh, right........right.  Therein lies the freaking problem.

Back to Friday morning and the freakish incident of the uninterrupted shower.   I exited the shower with (a) no shampoo still in my hair, (b)  no conditioner still in my hair and (c) will all traces of soap and shaving cream washed away from my body.  Weird.  I marveled in this wonderous event for all of thirty seconds before I glanced downstairs.

I think that if my family room were actually firebombed, it might have caused less damage.   In the span of 7 minutes, the young lass managed to accomplish the following:

1.  Moved a kitchen chair to the counter to retrieve 4 Crumbs cupcakes, and return chair to original location.
2.  Ate the icing off of all 4 Crumbs cupcakes, and removing the icing residue from the cupcakes by sliding her hands across the coffee table and the walls.
3.  Located 250 envelopes from the hall closet and distributed those envelopes evenly across the family room.
4.  Retrieved all of her underpants and socks from her dresser and scattered them in various locations in the family room.
5.  Glitter glue.  All I have to say.  Glitter glue.
6.  Crumbled portions of cupcake carcasses and ground cupcake dust into the carpet.
7.  Lemonade.  Everywhere.

7 minutes of showering.  2 hours of cleanup.  Might have been a decent trade.

As a follow-up to the extensive clean-up process, I decided to play "real mommy" and spend time with a complete stranger whose offspring happened to be the same age as mine.

In the future, please remind me that this story never ends well.

Key takeaways from this adventure are:

1.  I am to be pitied because I have a job outside the home.  (GRRRRRR.  Just GRRRRRR.  Aside from the off-chance that I can pee in peace, I also go to work because I am actually decent at it.  Go figure.  I can solve work problems.  I can't always solve the problem of a child that prefers to wear 3 pairs of underpants on her head and none on her bottom).
2.  I am not only incompetent, I am also a liar, and not only am I a liar, I am a liar that makes her child an accomplice.

Here's the shakedown, the breakdown.

Was talking to this complete stranger, and the topic of feeding the offspring came up. Feeding the offspring.  I'm a fan.  I try to do it daily, as a general rule.

The topic turned to organic foods and the importance of knowing the origin of food- both important topics.  And then....then I heard this.

I just think that feeding kids any non-organic food is child abuse.  Don't you agree?

Ummmm.  Ummmmm.  Ummmmmm.

What I was thinking:  I once fed my kid organic Oreos.  That, my friend, is abuse.  Those things really hurt when they're flung at your eye sockets by the people who live in your house.

What I actually said:  (sheepish gulp):  Absolutely.

Then, the follow-up comment.

"It's just so important to know where everything that you eat comes from."

What I was thinking:  I totally agree.  I can almost always tell you what box my kid ate from.  And those munchkins came from the floor of the Kennett Dunkin Donuts- which is the clean Dunkin Donuts.  I would never let her eat from the floor at the Dunkin Donuts on Market Street.

What I actually said:  I couldn't agree more.

What I actually did:  The second the stranger turned her back, I ran to Little M and made a deal with her.  The deal went something like this:

If you say agree with everything I say in the next half hour, and say nothing about the Doritos that I saw you lick the cheese and seasoning from and then put the actual chips back in the bag, I will buy you a Shamrock Shake.   

Easiest deal I ever made.  My girl is an outstanding actress.  The girl also loves playing a role in a pre-school conspiracy.

I don't mean to sound completely flip about feeding Little M properly.  The girl eats her fair share of organic foods.  The girl eats her vegetables. The girl's spent plenty of time in Whole Foods.  I do my best to be responsible.  I just don't take the whole thing too seriously.  She has my genes- she's going to be more serious than she needs to be whether she wants to or not.  She can temper this seriousness with real Oreos and ice-cream for breakfast and the occasional enactment of the 5 second rule.

The Shamrock Shakes were delicious.  We had them after our trip to Whole Foods.