Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Burning my mommy wars draft card

Why I will never win the mommy wars: reason 44, letting the cat lick my newborn.
I can sum up my opinion on the "mommy wars" in one short sentence:

Shut up.

Just shut. up. How's about I worry about my own breasts, sleeping arrangements, and food sourcing over here, and you worry about your stuff over there? My breasts thank you.

Because here's the thing. It's a lot like politics in this country.

We are privileged to live in a country where the debate about politics is centered on relatively small issues. "Oh! I don't think we should fund our billions of dollars of infrastructure that make our lives soft and easy like this. It should look like this and you are an a-hole if you vote for the guy who thinks it should look like this." Meanwhile, 2/3 of the world lives in poverty.

Your vote really matters when it happens under the watchful eye of a heavily armed guard and the very real threat of violence.

I'm not saying don't vote. Don't get me wrong here. I'm just saying that it's very easy to lose perspective when you live a comfortable life in a land of prosperity, and when you wind up devoting energy and time to dictating what is "right" or "wrong" to other parents raising apparently healthy children... there's been a disconnect.

I realize I'm at risk for sounding all preachy, sanctimonious and hypocritical. I'm willing to risk your disapproval and eye-rolling anyway. I understand that I don't understand what it's really like to live a life so different from my own, one where it would be a luxury to have any choices at all, let alone endless choices on a daily basis. But I'm trying hard to appreciate those choices.

There are kids without mothers or parents at all, as this blogger so eloquently reminded us last week, who want nothing more than a family. There are women and men living a life of pain without children of their own, through loss or infertility. There are families going through serious illness who have much more important things to worry about than how long I breastfed my children. It's hard to view the mommy wars as anything but petty and needlessly hurtful when viewed through a wider lens of context.

In truth, I used to seriously fret about how I was being perceived as a mother. I beat myself up regularly, sure I was damaging my kids in some way because nothing I did ever seemed to match up with any one method. Then I realized I was contributing to the problem by expressing the opinion that we should all be striving for some idealized version of what a mother is supposed to look like. I think the heart of the mommy wars so often lies with the insecurity that when someone else is doing it differently, we must be doing it wrong.

When it comes to the mommy wars, no one will ever be declared the winner. There aren't any spoils of war for the victor, though there's plenty of collateral damage in the form of a generation of insecure mothers crippled with self-consciousness and shame. So, seriously, TIME magazine, judgmental mothers (and especially judgmental non-parents), and sellers of damaging books: it's time for you to shut up now. I plead conscientious objector, and I encourage you to do the same.

In truth, there's room for all kinds of moms. So far, my children are kind and healthy. My family is happy. So we keep moving forward, with the knowledge that while there are no guarantees in life, we are beyond fortunate to be living this one.

P.S. Join this "Opt out of the mommy wars" Facebook group! Clearly other parents agree with me. Let's keep this groundswell of grass roots "leave me alone" activism going.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What really matters

Phew. It's been a whirlwind of multitudinous... stuff here. Sorry. After coming up with "multitudinous" (which I spelled correctly without the help of Mr. Sheldon T. Squiggly Line), my creativity well dried up like an egg white omelet at IHOP. Those people seriously do not understand omelets. Stick with the cakes.

So anyway. Stuff happened! Chief among the stuff was my best friend's wedding. Note I did not write My Best Friend's Wedding, which is an altogether different, and much more unfortunate situation.

No. My friend-who-was-never-going-to-get-remarried is now a Mrs-who-changed-her-mind, and I couldn't be more swollen with pride and happiness if I finally discovered that Mother of the Millenium Mellinnium Millennium (thanks, Sheldon) award in my mailbox.

It is not easy to take a leap into something scary after you've been through something awful. It would have been easier in 1100 ways for my friend to never take the chance again, and for a while I almost believed her when she said she never would. I had sat beside her during dark days, and she had stood by while I heaved with awkward, room-clearing sobs after my own first, young marriage dissolved. I was more than willing to be there again, but I was pretty sure I'd wind up in prison the next time someone hurt my schmoopie.

And then, one day, she practically floated into my house after their first date, all flushed, her eyes sparkling, the whole deal. The book was written long before she'd own up to it, but a true friend knows. I fretted at first. Cautioned. Worried. Rubbed my temples a lot. Planned for what I'd say if things went south and he wasn't as great as he seemed. It was going to be something like, "OK, here's your passport, a liter of rum, and a bag of toiletries. The plane lands in Jamaica at 8 a.m. and I have a cabana boy scheduled for 10. Godspeed."

Happily, very, very happily, the book just kept getting better and I didn't have to spend my life's savings on a ticket to a coconut island. He was "good people" - generous, fun, easy going, doting, protective, and above all and most important in my book, kind. Eventually I gave my nod, not that it would have mattered, but because I wanted it on record for later, in case they decided to write a will or something.

I was fortunate enough to stand close by and witness these two kind souls confirm and celebrate their commitment, to reaffirm what is important in this short life, to bravely and earnestly own everything that had come before, and welcome with open minds and hearts, whatever is yet to come.

I'm pretty bad at predictions (I'm still scraping that Ralph Nader for President sticker off my car), but in my estimation, two kind souls facing the world together, will result in good. I know these two will inspire more kindness along the way, because it's infectious. I know they will bring smiles and laughter and reminders about cherishing what is important in this life, to the people who surround them. It's what happens when true love is permitted to thrive, and I'm so proud that these two people have chosen that path.

Thank you for letting us be a part of your day, my friends.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This one time in London...

Back in 2004, Kurt and I had gone back to school in Michigan and we decided to study abroad for the semester. We wound up in Derby, England, which is a lot like the Akron of the United Kingdom, but with better architecture and ruder teenagers. Lots of things happened that I will skip right now so I can get to the point of this blog entry.

One time, after imbibing much cheap English booze measured in precise British pints, we decided it would be a great idea if we gathered up some of the other Americans studying with us and leave for London on the next bus, which was due to depart in 5 hours or something. So, we got online and bought bus tickets and found ourselves boarding a bus to London at some ungodly hour.

We arrived very bright and early on a Sunday morning, and it wound up being the best Sunday ever. This is a photo essay based on that adventure. Looking at these pictures makes me want to shove everybody in the van and go somewhere immediately, so if you don't hear from me in the next few days, we're probably in Akron.

My friend Jeff on the right, and Jay "Why with the bright light" on the left.

We boarded the bus in the dead of night, or before the crack of dawn, or something. It was both too late and too early to think coherently, but we were proud and surprised to find each other at the bus stop, at any rate. It was cold and smelly, because it was a bus. On the way back on the bus, some guy decided to gobble up some kind of tinned fish with his fingers, the "scent" of which (the fish, not the fingers, though maybe both) filled every pocket of air in every inch of our rolling hell, so in hindsight, this was the better bus trip.

An even younger-looking Kurt, bleary-eyed because it was stupid early.
When we arrived at 7ish a.m. everything in London was closed because it was Sunday and 7 a.m. We were all incredibly tired, but just the right amount of tired. We were both too tired to give a crap what we did and slap happy enough to ignore the pangs of regret resulting from the horrible British hangovers we'd managed to get. We wandered.

I found this statue on the ground along the sidewalk and stuffed him in Kurt's backpack because I had a feeling he'd come in handy later, because I was incredibly sleepy and everything seemed to contain a mystical quality. The Dude may have even spoken to me. It's all a little fuzzy. We took The Dude on adventures, as such:

The Dude in Kurt's backpack, which was really my backpack.


If they ever make a boy band album, they'll be all set for a cover.

The Dude and his Russian chicks.

The Dude makes a phone call but no one sends any ransom money.
Kurt tried to make me believe this was JRR Tolkein. I may or may not have fallen for it.

Jeff's love interest from afar.
Then we went somewhere by some water and Jeff spotted this talented lass doing some kind of performance art, kind of like one of those silver statue guys but with this Victorian twist. He was totally enamored and we spied on him from a pedestrian bridge as he got up the nerve to approach her, and score an email address.

Jeff, street performer, bemused friend of street performer.

St. Something. Paul?
We split up our group at some point and Kurt and I wandered around Soho. We saw a sign that said "Meet David Prowse today!" at a little bookstore. I was clueless, but Kurt started hyperventilating a little and we went inside to meet the guy who was inside the Darth Vader costume in the movies. He was pretty put off that we wouldn't pay 20 pounds to get a signed picture, but he grudgingly let me take a picture. We were pretty broke. Sorry, David Prowse
Kurt, and the guy inside the Darth Vader costume!
Then we crashed in Hyde Park. Seriously crashed. This was probably the best part of the day. We literally all laid on the grass and fell asleep. It was the perfect temperature, really just a ridiculously perfect spring day.

After this, we found Italian food and eventually, our bus home. Our stinky, stinky bus home to Derby. At one point, overcome by the crazies from the extreme fatigue, I whispered "Come on Derby, let's do it!" Whatever it meant, and I have no idea, really, I definitely thought it had been in my head, so it was pretty surprising when Jeff popped up in the seat in front of me laughing so hard he was nearly crying, and managed to get out, "What did you say?" Then we laughed and laughed, much to the delight of our fellow road-weary travelers. 

I'll leave you with more adventures of The Dude. I did look up what that statue was all about one time, but now I don't remember. The moral of this story, however, is that sometimes the best day ever is the one you didn't even plan on. Since I never plan, every day should be the best day ever, right?

Monday, May 7, 2012

How not to wake up on a Monday morning

This cloud understands my pain. On etsy.
Despite a fitful night, I wake up refreshed and ready to face the world anyway this fine Monday morning. Birds are chirping, two happy children are frolicking about, a small house cat is sunning itself on the floor where the morning sunshine spills in from my bright yard. We all smile knowingly at each other. "Spring. Lovely, lovely Springtime," we say without having to speak, the wordless acknowledgement of a world where everything is fresh and new again passing through our bright, eager eyes.

Or not.

It may have looked more like this:

After a fitful night, in which I thrashed around angrily most of the time, kicking off covers and stomping out to the thermostat repeatedly to try to find some kind of temperature that would magically allow me to finally fall asleep, I wake up when the dump truck apparently rolls off, leaving me behind in throbbing pain from tip to toe, and with an unidentifiable shrieking sound pounding insistently into the core of my being like a hammer with a hit list (get it? HIT list? it's a hammer, which hits things, and it's also trying to kill me, theoretically, in this extended metaphor, like a hired killer might be wont to do).

Against my better judgment, I pry open one eye halfway and peer around the still slightly dark room. What freaking time is it? Are you serious? I have been asleep for 2 hours. The 3-year-old creature spots the white of my eye instantly.

"Mommymommymommymommymommymommymommy!!!!!!!" it shrieks.

Why is this happening? Why does everything hurt so much? Where is my servant with the tea? I don't want to be an adult today. OK, ever. Whose idea was it to have these children?

"MOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooomEEEE!" It is only getting louder. 

I take one of those deep, cleansing breaths that allow you to better communicate with another human being who is apparently trying to pierce your eardrum, and who really has very little concern for the fact that your brain is pulsing against your skull in rhythm with your pounding heart.

"What. is. it. David?" I manage to get out, realizing with gleeful surprise, as I voice my first words of this fresh new day, that my throat has undergone some kind of L.A.-style chemical peel in the night.

"I need you to carry me."


"Mom.ME. I need you to CARRY me."

"No. You are a big boy."

Much shrieking ensues and I finally drag myself out of the bed, disturbing Sniff the Cat, who glares at me and rolls over toward the wall. Yeah, screw you, too, cat. At least you get to stay in bed. Damn. I am in a foul mood this morning. Fear me, mortals.

"OK. What is it, David? Why do you want me to carry you?"

"I want you to carry me to the potty while you pee!"


"While you PEE!"

"Are you serious right now?"

"WHILE YOU PEE!!!" Shrieking. Sobbing.

For whatever reason, this last bit is my fury trigger. It is all I can do to not instantly sprout arm muscles the size of VW Vanagons and bust through my pajamas and then rage around the house breaking shit indiscriminately.

I don't handle things well when I'm sick.

Wordlessly, I pick him up and haul him to the bathroom because I do have to pee now, and after birthing two children, now means now. I'm way too fresh off a terrible night's sleep to contemplate fighting it at this point. Why he needs to accompany me, I have no idea. Has he been trained like the dog and realized I was still in bed instead of making him eggs at exactly 8:13 a.m.?

He sits on the side of the tub and watches me pee, shaking with leftover sobs, staring up at me woefully, utterly crushed by my cruel, unsympathetic nature.

"Where is your brother, anyway?" I ask.

"Anda is throw up in his potty."

"David! That is important information! You need to tell mommy stuff like that."

More sobbing. "I want to have WATER! Make some water in the kitchen!"

I rush across the house to poor Anderson, who has fashioned himself a makeshift bed in front of his toilet on top of three beach towels, his stuffed bobcat playing the role of misshapen pillow.

"Oh, hi, mommy," he says cheerfully, leaning up on one arm and then collapsing again.

"Um, hi, buddy. Are you ok?"

"Oh, yes. I threw up SIX times! Well, seven minus 2 times. FIVE times!"

David continues sobbing. Now it's something about how he wanted the red cup of water and I gave him the wrong cup and now he will never grow up to be a fashion designer or even a surgeon, and he hopes I remember this moment because it's going to come out when he writes his first tell-all about his terrible childhood of neglect.

Anderson dry heaves in response.

I close my eyes and rub my temples, mentally calculating how many Advil it's going to take to allow me to continue living past 10 a.m.*

And thus begins our week. Tune in later to see what happens next!

Will mommy wind up in a)a mental institution, b)jail, or c)bed, ever again?

*The answer is 4. 4 Advil and three large cups of tea.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Warning: extreme hilarity

If you love yourself, buy this book.
Seriously. It's a real possibility that you will not be able to handle the comedic writing I'm about to unleash on you. I, for one, cannot read this passage from "A Very Unhealthy Club," an essay from Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters without laughing so hard I tip over and frighten the pets, tears streaming down my face, shameful guffaws escaping my throat, and all despite my best intentions to keep it to a chuckle this time around. Warning: this is probably a bit graphic for some people, people who aren't comfortable discussing things like ballsacks, but if that's you, I'm surprised to see you here in the first place:


Do you think a representative from the Old Guys Who Like to Hang Around the Health Club Locker Room Wearing Absolutely Nothing for Extended Periods of Time could give me a call and explain your position (and not "splayed out on the chair by the shower" please, because I've already seen that plenty)?

I don't mean to knock anybody's hobbies, but by a very, very large degree, those hobbies where you are not required to display your aged scrotum to the world are favored by ours, and many other cultures. There must be something to this, wouldn't you think? I ask you to simply look around the health club locker room--okay that's long enough--and note just how many people aren't sitting naked save for shower shoes, splayed out in chairs reading the Wall Street Journal. Note the care taken by all to keep the amount of time one is displaying one's genitalia to a minimum.

"Oh, lighten up," I hear you saying. "This is man's natural state." I would lighten up, except I can't. I'm very tense because I can see your withered nut sack. And if keeping oneself in man's natural state is inherently desirable, why do you own clothes at all? Or a house? Is your theoretical "natural man" really allowed to have a health club membership? Shouldn't you and Australopithecus be out leaping around the woods throwing sharpened sticks at an ibex? And how do the shower shoes, the plastic beach chair, and the extraordinary amount of displaying going on fit in with your hastily thrown together "man's natural state" argument?

As to your powdering your lower area with talc over the sink, leaving great dunes of you-fouled talc, I'm afraid I'm going to have to be firm on this one: stop it. I won't listen to any of your arguments on this point. Nothing, I don't care what it is, that has glanced off your inner thigh, should be allowed to rest on the floor of a "health club." Frankly, and perhaps a touch graphically, I can't imagine any amount of talc, even that Sam's Club promotional size you carry around, is going to improve the situation much.

Why are these same naked men always the ones who want to talk to us, the be-toweled people?

"Hey there, young fella. Get in some tennis today?" they shout (they always shout) despite the fact that the tiled area they prowl magnifies sound a hundredfold.

"Yep, got some tennis in, and now I'm fully wrapped up in a towel so I don't nauseate the others!" I want to shout back.

"Good, good. Say, my scrotum is very old and leathery!"


It just goes on from there. Devolves from there, you might say, if it were possible to devolve any further than a vivid description of elderly scrotums. Scroti? Spellcheck doesn't like scrotums. Scrotum maybe is one of those words that's the same in both the singular and plural?

Anyway. I am sharing this to spare my online humor writing class more babbling because I think I'm becoming quite the Chatty Cathy over there. Mike Nelson is my "virtual mentor," a humor writer I'm studying to try to pinpoint what it is that makes the funny. And it's going fairly well, save for the breaks I keep having to take to recover between (or in the middle of) essays. I forgot how hysterical he is. How in the hell is he not more famous?? I mean MST3K has a cult following that will apparently never die, but I read a lot of humor and am highly opinionated, and I deem Nelson right up there with the Sedarisi and Bombecks that I consider my "top shelf" choices for humor.

I guess the bottom line is this. Mind over Matters and Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese are like a penny used on Amazon, before shipping. Buy them immediately. I'd urge you to buy new if I thought he was seeing a penny of it these days, but I doubt it.

Call me when you get to the one about tofu. Oh, and the one with the best title ever: "Portal to Hell: The Radioshack Experience." Such great stuff.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The unsettling mystery of Google search terms

From etsy.
Like most small-time bloggers, I spend a great deal of time poring over the page where you can see how many hits you get and where they come from. It's a good place to become very humble, very quickly, especially once you tell Blogger to stop counting your own clicks. Ouch. It can also be a little alarming and confusing.

On this magical page, I can see what people searched for to find my blog on Google. Most of the time, it makes sense and I get why the person went on to visit me (yay!). Sometimes, though, I'm mystified because it doesn't make much sense in relation to what they searched for, but, whatever. If something caught their eye, hurray. I'm just happy for the readership.

These are my favorites, most of which make me a little worried about what kind of statement I'm making about myself on the Internet-Which-Never-Forgets:

Losing bladder control in public (Has not happened to me, yet. Watch this space for updates.)

I'm content with losing (Well, only a little, but I hope I helped whoever else wanted to feel content with losing.)

No one noticed I left, Why I left Facebook (Facebook causes a lot of angst for such an ugly site, as this search term has come up over 135 times since I wrote that post.)

Drawn morbid pictures (I'm guessing they landed here)

Cheetah Zubaz (apparently someone does know what these are)

Alice Cooper sex dream (it was NOT a sex dream, just for the record)

Sarah Hunt panties porn (my god, let's hope they left disappointed)

cincysarah@blogspot.some (3 times) (no doubt this is the result of me typing in my url wrong somewhere, as I am wont to do) (I have no idea why I can't get a bigger audience)

Veggie tales Jesus (I can only imagine the disappointment when they realized there were no talking tomatoes and a severe shortage of messiahs here)

My kid is better than your kid (This makes me wonder if they were looking for others who firmly believe they are raising a small Ghandi or Albert Einstein, or trying to find a mother who actually thinks that way, to yell at. I don't go in for that jazz.)

Erma Bombeck, Erma Bombeck Workshop (Yes, I miss it, too. Please talk to me about it at great length so that we may never fully return to real life.)