Monday, November 24, 2014

The Body that Preservatives Built

There is an epidemic in this country that very few people talk about.  Actually, way too many people talk about it but not with the right perspective.

The fight against obesity.

Now, I'm all for educating others on the value of a healthy diet.  But what doesn't make sense is that it's always the skinny people who are talking about it.  Very rarely do I hear a 300 lb. man say, "I cannot believe the fat content of store-bought salad dressing!  Something should be done!" 

No, it's always the 5'2" female marathon runner who talks about the calorie count of the salad she's eating.

Actually we very rarely hear men talk about it at all - at least not the men I hang out with.  And if they do, it's in a more manly way.  I remember having a conversation with my cousin years ago about the new protein shake he'd started drinking and when I asked him how it tasted he said, "Well.  Kind of like a combination of orange juice...and meat."

I think I'll stick to my Doritos, thank you very much.  There's got to be some protein in there somewhere.

In the last few months, I have attended quite a few book clubs - both male and female - to talk about my book.  And let me tell you, there is a huge difference in the conversations going on.  As the men munched on cookies and drank coffee and soda, not once did someone say, "Oh, I can't eat that.  I'm on a strict no-sugar-no-carbs-no-chewing-no-salt-no-nougat diet.  I've already lost 1/2 a pound!"

But at almost every female book club I attended, some sort of diet crept into the conversation (usually as I was about to pounce on one of the brownies that no one else was touching).  And at the last one, the entire group started talking about a diet that half of them seemed to be on which required the elimination of all preservatives.

I watched the conversation go back and forth like a ping-pong match as several people exclaimed, "It's amazing!  Just do it for thirty days and you'll feel like a whole new person!"

"It's not that hard once you get into it!"

"Preservative free is the way to be!"

I clutched the wine glass in my hand and looked down at the roll around my midsection and I realized I would be so sad if it left me altogether!  I earned that roll, dammit.  I worked hard for it.  It remained in spite of all of the broccoli I've eaten and the fruit and lean meat that's found its way onto my plate.  That roll signifies thirty-eight years of family time, chocolate desserts I've made with my kids, cookies dunked in milk when one of us is having a bad day, and holiday meals that I've thoroughly enjoyed.

And while I will acknowledge that all of you preservative-free, hard-core dieters out there might be healthier than I am and live a couple of years longer than I will, I'm perfectly okay with that if it means I skipped a month of meat-flavored shakes and I allowed myself to venture into the center of the grocery store for a pack of Fudge Stripe cookies.

I may go toes-up earlier than you people, but at least it will be with a smile on my face and a happy level of sugar and sodium in my body.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Top 10 Reasons Why We Need to Save the Extra Space After a Period

1.  Because anyone over the age of 35 will have to relearn how to type and we've got enough problems trying to figure out our heath insurance.

2.  Because it changes the balance of power between the period and the comma, placing them at the same level (which makes the period bitter).

3.  Because changing rules about grammar should be against the law.  I can understand how scientists can come back and tell us that some dinosaur we studied in elementary school never actually existed or that Pluto isn't a real planet.  But getting rid of this space?  Just plain arbitrary to me.

4.  Because it shifts the focus from the real problem at hand:  people who capitalize words in the middle of a sentence that they think are important.

5.  Because it gives my kids the upper hand when they correct me as I type.  And that I won't stand for.

6.  Because typing this, and focusing on this issue, is keeping me from working on the manuscript I should be trying to finish.

7.  Because now I have to track down my high school typing teacher and demand that I get those points back that were deducted when I didn't hit the space bar enough.

8.  Because I think it makes us lazier as a society.  It's bad enough that all we do is sit around looking at our we can't take the time to hit the space bar twice?

9.  Because it brings out the rebel in me who wants to add a third space just to piss off the person who changed this rule which will lead me down a path of personal destruction.  And when I'm eventually asked by my rehab counselor why I'm there I will have to answer, "Because they took that extra space after a period away!"

10.  Because it makes people who have never given a hoot about punctuation before think they're so smart as they' post all of these funny cartoons about the now defunct extra space.  Seriously?  Did you even know there were two spaces before?  You capitalize Important Words in the middle of your Sentence, for crying out loud! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dear Grocery Store Line Encroacher....

Dear Grocery Store Line Encroacher,

You don't know me, but I'm the woman whose ankle you bruised while you were trying to inch your way closer to the checker in the line at the grocery store.  I'm the one who had to squeeze in between the front of your cart and the handle of mine because you, believing it would get you out the door faster, left me no room to move my cart.  I'm the one who gave you a dirty look and asked you to back away from the electronic signy-thingy so that I could finish my transaction and you could start your own.

Now, I realize that your time is valuable and I, too, am looking for the fastest way out of the hell I have to deal with weekly at the store.  But I am sorry to tell you that inching your way closer to the cashier and into my personal space is a very risky move on your part.

You should have figured that out when the checker scanned those maxi pads and that super-sized bag of Hershey's kisses.

In short, I realize that it seems like you're moving faster when you ram your wheels into my feet, but you're really just slowing down the process.  Now that I'm limping while I load my toilet paper and laundry detergent into my cart, you will now have to spend extra milliseconds in the store in order to buy that one jar of pickles.


P.S. - I hope that you're married to the guy who stops three car lengths behind the car in front of him at every red light.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

SPRING BREAK (or why I need to start pre-drinking to prepare for summer vacation)

I'm in the thick of Spring Break.  And I'm going a little crazy.

This year my house seems louder than usual.  I don't know if it's my kids' ages or what, but my house is in a constant state of noise.  And I won't lie to you.

If my house is like this now, it has me thinking I should start pre-drinking for summer vacation.

It's taken me a few days to realize the root of my problem:  My kids all start talking at the exact same time.  I think this started happening gradually because it really crept up on me and I had no idea how good I had gotten at translating three conversations at once until earlier this week. 

We'd been driving around in a blissful silence when...I don't know what happened...they all felt the need to start talking at the exact same time.

"Did you know that the square root of 1,267 is 35.59494346111537?"

"Mom...are you Team Jacob or Team Edward?"

"What's for dinner tonight?"

I think I've gotten so used to these conversations that I didn't even think about it before I replied:

"Really?  I didn't know that. Jacob.  Pork chops."

Yesterday, though, I hit my limit.  We were in the car and my oldest daughter was talking to me about Divergent, something that my son apparently didn't hear even though she was about 24 inches away from him, because he suddenly started talking about summer camp.  And at that moment, my youngest decided she needed to pipe in and ask what we were having for dinner.

I thought my head was going to explode.

"Can you guys really not hear that someone else is talking?  That you're all talking at the same time?"

At which point they all started answering me at the same time and then my son asked me what's for dinner.

There are several problems with this.  First, this truly is an amazing skill that I've developed, but there is no room on a resume for me to put "Can carry on five different conversations at once with three different people."  The second is that none of them actually listen or pay attention to the simultaneous conversations that are going on.  So, I might be answering each one of them, but I will inevitably have to answer the same question again because the other two didn't listen to the answer I gave to the first one.

This has me spinning wheels I don't have time to spin.

I have been patient about this, explaining to the kids that interrupting is rude and the way we have been going about our conversations has been counterproductive.  They didn't get it at first, but I think I made my point this afternoon after I had been asked the same question ten different times by three different people.

And I stood in the middle of my kitchen and screamed.

Since that moment, I've had several conversations, but all at different times and no one has repeated the question that I answered with so much emphasis earlier today.

I guess having your mother turn beet red, plant her socked feet on the hardwood floor, clench her fists and scream, "WE'RE HAVING PORK CHOPS!" made quite an impression.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You Can Burn Down My House, But Don't Cut Me Off In Traffic (or why we hold grudges)

This week, the Today Show briefly mentioned a story that made the bitch in me sit up and listen.

 This really couldn't come at a better time for me, personally, because I've been trying to figure that out myself - why I have forgiven some pretty major things in my life...but I can't get over the little stuff.

I'm just glad I'm not alone.  I mean, if someone actually did a study on it, there must be at least 100 people out there who feel the same way I do.

For example, why is it that I can forgive the betrayal of someone close to me that's cost me hundreds of dollars in therapy, but I can't get over the rude behavior of someone I don't know very well?  Why is it that I can have some people over to my house many times in a row..and then be irritated when someone else doesn't reciprocate like I think they should?  Why is it that I hardly think about the ridiculous behavior of one person that may have even altered the direction my life has taken, but can distinctly remember the time some asshole cut in front of me in line at the grocery store?

Why is it that the little things keep me up at night while the big things have somehow been released from my consciousness?

"If the hurt is minor, we can let it fester. If the pain is major, we find ways to calm ourselves down. We do similar things when we are physically injured. A gunshot wound can cause us less overall pain than a bad back, because we go to the hospital when we're shot, while we're perfectly content to wait for weeks before we seek treatment for a bad back."

Hmmm.  Now there's a thinker.


This morning, in the Ask Amy column in the paper, a woman asked for some advice on how to handle a friend of her husband's who constantly comes over for dinner and never contributes anything.  

"He has never brought a dessert or a bottle of wine," she wrote.  "Should I continue to host someone with poor style or stand firm and not continue being a hostess to my husband's friend?"

Now, I'm betting that, being an adult and being married, this woman has had to deal with bigger
issues in her life (probably even due to her husband on occasion).  And while I don't completely understand her complaint (I, frankly, don't know many men who would think to do something like that without some sort of female influence), I do understand how something like that can fester like a boil on your consciousness.  I bet that woman has lost hours of sleep thinking about that damn dessert she thinks that guy should bring over.  Hell, it bothers her so much she wrote into a syndicated columnist looking for advice.

And I'm betting that even if he started bringing a dessert now it would be too late for her.  The grudge is there.

Now, the original article from Signs of the Times implies that we're more likely to  excuse the bigger offenses of the people who are close to us rather than the minor offenses of people we don't know well.  And that makes sense.  We have a history with some people and not with others.  With some, we can justify our feelings of forgiveness with those who have treated us well in the past while, with people we don't know well, the only thing we really know about them is that they've pissed us off.

But I don't think that's all there is to it.  At least not for me.
I discussed this issue with a friend yesterday because, as I said, it's been on my mind.  It irritates me that I keep spinning my wheels, anxious and angry about things that will never be resolved.  It's a waste of my time and energy, and yet...I almost can't help myself.  So, I asked the question:  why can I forgive big things and then stew about the little stuff?

"I think it's because with big things, it's usually a one-time thing," she said.  "But with little things, over time, there's a history and it's usually a behavior that annoys us over and over again.  When we get pissed and start holding a's almost like a form of self-protection."

I can definitely see that in myself as I've gotten older.  My sister used to say that I would forgive just about anything.  But, having been screwed over multiple times in the same ways but by different people, I don't have a whole lot of patience anymore.

Take my previous blog for example.  When my oldest daughter was younger, I would pretty much let any parent walk all over me when it came to play dates.  As the years went on and my son started making friends at school, I started on the same path and then suddenly realized what was happening and put a stop to it.  Now that my youngest daughter is entering into the play date age, any signs that a parent or child is going to take advantage of us...I cut them out of our lives immediately, rather than wait for repeated behavior that I know is going to keep me up at night.

Now, this means that the parents of my youngest daughter probably think I'm a complete bitch.  What they don't know is that they're paying the price for the bad parenting of others in my past.  All of that little stuff has built up over time until I just couldn't take it anymore.

Just like when I get cut-off during rush hour on the highway - the the first time that happened when I was a teenager, I was probably more scared than angry.  But after 20+ years of being cut off...I'm not afraid.  I'm staring at my ceiling at 3 AM fantasizing about throwing my Super-sized iced tea cup at the offending car because I'm so irritated about all of the times it's happened before.

The first time someone didn't show up for a lunch date, I don't remember being angry and probably
even justified it by saying, "Oh, they're so busy.  It's okay."  But if anyone does that to me now, I assume that they have no respect for my time.  And that annoys the crap out of me for weeks.

The problem is that it's impossible to let some of these things go.  As we get older and more experienced, it's easy to get jaded, again, as a way of self-protection.  If it's something bigger, it's usually a one-shot thing, something that we've never experienced before and so, since we don't have a past with that particular issue, it could be easier for us to let it slide. But with the little's probably harder to forgive because something similar has happened to us before and we'll be damned if we're going to let it happen again.


As you can imagine, this has made dating a lot harder for me.  When I first began dating after my husband died, I hadn't been out there in a while and was, therefore, pretty inexperienced.  I had guys who would show up late or show me very little respect in general and, at first, I thought this was how it was going to be.

Six years into dating and, because of my previous experience, it takes a lot for me to even go on a first date with anyone, much less think about a future with them.  I know now that it's not okay for someone to be late.  It's not okay for someone to think they're going to be able to take advantage or manipulate me in some way.  It's not okay for me to settle for anything less than the way I think I should be treated.

Again, this makes me jaded.  And it also gives me a very definite idea of what I think is right and wrong.  Part of my frustration and why I hold these little grudges is because I know I can't change people and to make them do what I think is right.

Oh, if we could all only be as perfect as I am, right?

But isn't that what frustrates YOU?  When someone does something little that irritates you and keeps you awake...isn't it because you know you can't change that person and you know they're going to keep right on doing it?

Of course, when I really think about everyone operating the same way I do, it also sounds slightly boring.

I mean, if I didn't have a few bad dates, people who irritated me, and the public-at-large out there with absolutely no grocery store etiquette...what would I have to blog about?

Grocery Cart Rage: A Woman On the Edge of a Meltdown in Frozen Foods

It seems like for the past few months, I’ve been asking myself over and over, “Were certain things in life always this aggravating?  Are people getting more exasperating or am I just getting older and more crotchety?”

And, lately, I’m usually asking myself that question while I’m at the grocery store.

When we go grocery shopping, there are no signs on the walls explaining the system, which I think is a huge mistake.  I mean, most people are okay.  They know what the unwritten rules are and they follow them.  But there are always a couple of people who go about their shopping business, completely oblivious to the fact that there are 200 other shoppers in the store.

That’s right.  You know who I’m talking about.

The guy who unloads 30 items in the Express Lane.  The woman who has parked in the center of the aisle while she peruses 500 different varieties of soup in order to figure out which combination fits the “buy 10, get 1 half off” coupon she’s holding in her hand.  Or the person in line in front of you who only has ten items, but needs to split them into seven transactions and has to write a check for each one.

I thought I was the only one who needed to decompress with a glass of wine after my weekly shopping, but I recently brought this topic up with a couple of friends at lunch and you could almost see the blood pressure rising at our table.

“I was in the Express Lane with two things, trying to get out the door to pick up my kid,” said my friend.  “This woman in front of me was using one of those electric scooter carts and managed to wedge herself into the lane so badly that the scooter was completely stuck and even the cashier couldn’t get her out.  It took three guys to push her through.  Really?  No one saw that coming?”

“You think that’s bad?” my other friend replied.  “I was about to pick up the last box of Fiber One when this woman literally came running down the aisle and snatched it up right in front of me.  I could have fought her for it on principle, but I’m guessing that anyone who needs fiber that badly is not to be messed with.”

Years ago, when my husband was in the military and I would shop at the Commissary, there were arrows in the aisles.  That’s right.  You could only go one way down each aisle.  So, if you forgot band-aids, you had to loop yourself around until you were going in the right direction.  And if you didn’t, one of the 80-year-old retired military wives would yell at you.

When I was 20, I didn’t get it.  Now, not only do I think each aisle should go one way, I think we should install turn signals on each cart to warn people when we’re pulling over for milk or making a sharp right into the diaper aisle.

Self check-out has only added to the confusion.  Now we stand in one big glob, wondering who is supposed to go next.  Not too long ago, I’d actually been waiting for awhile in the self-checkout clouge when this couple walked right in front of me to one of the stands that had just been vacated.  The man turned to me with a little smirk and said, “Oh.  I thought you were waiting for that one over there.”

I sat there sputtering, “But…but…there are rules!”

And as I looked around for someone else to defend me I realized…there weren’t.

Until now.
  1. Texting and shopping makes life difficult for everyone.  Please pull over and finish your message.  This especially applies to those using the “car carts.”
  2. This is America.  We drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  3. This is an addition to #2:  Most of us were born with peripheral vision.  If you know that you are taking up most of the aisle, pay attention to who’s coming your way so that you can step back for two seconds while they pass.  Then you can get back to your in-depth research on how much you are paying for each dried bean.
  4. I have a deep respect for people who are coupon shoppers.  But please don’t wait until all of your groceries have been tallied before you start searching through your enormous binder to find all of your coupons.
  5. The “15 items or less” sign at self checkout does not mean “15 types of items” (example:  I may have 70 individual folders, but technically that’s really only one type of item).
  6. Please don’t double park.  I had no idea that someone could do that until last week when I got wedged into the Oscar Meyer section by someone looking for the fifty Lunchables she needed.
  7. Don’t weave.  That’s right.  To the guy I was trying to get around who seemed to enjoy blocking me…a grocery cart to the back of the ankle is no fun.  Remember that, buddy.
  8. If you are purchasing an entire cart full of produce, please do not use self-check out.  It does not make you get out the door faster when you do it yourself.
  9. I’m sure your child washed his hands thoroughly at some point today.  But I’d still rather not see him stick his arm elbow-deep into every bulk food bin within his reach.
  10. Finally, as you are exiting the grocery store and making your way to your car, please do not walk up the center of the parking lot aisle.  I’m in a car.   You are not.  And I’m already frustrated because I’ve just waited as you self-checked 70 folders.
Happy shopping, everyone!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I AM NOT YOUR DAYCARE (and other play date violations)

As a mother of three children who span the "we need to set up a playdate" and "Mom, my friends and I just want to hang out" ages, I have spent years dealing with other parents and have worked hard to remain as diplomatic as possible when communicating with different personality types.

But I'm starting to realize that I'm one of the very few who seem to try and work the "play date" system with any sort of tact and I've now figured out why so may of the kids who come to my house seem to be devoid of any manners.

It's because their parents are.

So, for all of those parents who are like me and worry about things like whether you have invited my child over to your house somewhat equally to how many times I've invited your child to mine or who take any consideration for my time and effort and try to put forth the same...I say THANK YOU.

For the rest of you...I'd like for you to get that We're Not Gonna Take It song by Twisted Sister stuck in your head for a while.

Because I'm over it.

1.  I am not a daycare:  

Did I hand you a release when you dropped your kid off for that first play date?  Did I check to see if your kid had been immunized?  Nope.  Because that initial invite was not a blanket offer for you to drop your kid off at will whenever you need to pop down to the gym.  I've got a newsflash for you:  I would love a good workout (or at least the option).  I would love to meet a friend for lunch.  But I don't think it's your responsibility to watch my kid (unless an earlier agreement has been reached) at my leisure while I go get the much-deserved pedicure I couldn't seem to find the time for between the hours of The View and Ellen.

2.  I don't want all of your kids:

My cordial invitation was not meant for all of your children.  It was meant for the child that my child goes to school with.  So, while I'm sure that they are all a delight...they can be delightful at your house.

3.  My cell phone is NOT a way for your child to communicate with mine:

Hey...guess what???  I work.  And I have shit going on.  So, when your child picks up your phone and starts texting mine with messages like "are you home?  hello?  hello?" or "I want to come over to your house" or the message "it's me" 50 times, I really don't appreciate it.  The first time it happens, I'll assume that you don't know they've done it.  By the fourth, I'd like to text back "You know, your mom mentioned that she'd really like you to put her cell phone in the toilet."

4.  Invite my child to YOUR house.  Don't invite your child to mine:

This one just astounds me because my elementary school-age children know better.  It is not polite to invite your children to someone else's home.  So, when you text me with "how about my kids come over to your house this weekend?" (I'm not kidding...I just got that text last night), you are violating several rules of etiquette and are going to get back a big HELL NO in response.  And I have news for you - now I don't want to extend the invitation again EVER.

5.  Talk to your kids about proper manners at someone's home:

I once had a child come over uninvited, stay all day, and then walk up to me and say, "Hey.  What's for dinner?"  I have since asked my children if they have ever said that to another adult and they looked at me like I had a third head.  When you come to my house, you are not allowed to rummage through my pantry without permission, play in a separate room from the friend you came over to see, or generally treat my house as your own.  You are a guest and if you don't know better...your parents are failing you.

6.  Be clear about your intentions when asking for a play date:

Okay.  I've had this happen before, too.  I've had plans and a sitter has canceled or I'm running late to let my kids in the house after school.  And what do I do?  I call someone I trust and say, rather apologetically, "I'm so sorry, but I'm running late.  Can you get my kids for a few minutes?  I'll be happy to return the favor sometime."  I have not, however, called another mother and said, "My son really wants to have a play date with your son!"

"Great!  When would you like to set something up?"

"I'm on my way to your house right now!"

That mother ended up violating rules one, two and four when she dumped her other kid on me while she ran to the gym.  Needless to say, they haven't been invited back and I don't even pick up the phone when she calls.  I'm no fool - I'm not getting trapped into that again.

7.  Reciprocate:

I used to think that it was common knowledge that if someone invited you over to their home, you returned the invitation at some point.  Not so much.  I have had many kids come over to my house many times and my children have never even seen the inside of their friends' homes.  And while I understand that some homes may not be conducive to guests (could be remodeling or just not possible for some reason), it's quite okay for you to call and say, "We're going to the park today.  Would your child like to come along?"

8.  Tell me ahead of time if there could be a problem with your child:

None of us wants to think that our angels are anything less than perfect, but sometimes they are.  And it's only fair to warn the receiving parent that there could be issues.  The night that I had four boys over for a sleepover and one of them was a total would have been nice for his mother to give me a heads-up rather than say the next morning, "Oh, yeah.  I thought that would be a problem."

Thanks, lady.

9.  Say "THANK YOU":

I happen to live on a block where kids are in and out of each others homes constantly.  So, very rarely is a parent dropping them off or picking them up.  And in many cases, there is one house in particular the kids seem to gravitate towards - the house where they eat snacks, play with toys, and generally use up resources.  For the parents who don't have the common courtesy to say "thanks" every once in a while (and usually raise children who follow suit), don't be surprised when the hosting parent finally throws up her hands in frustration and says, "NO MORE!"

Everyone has their breaking point.  And that last pack of cheese and crackers that your kid just took out of the pantry without asking could be it.

10.  Don't be an ass:  

Hey, guess what?  When you consistently violate any or all of these rules, PEOPLE NOTICE.  And here's a newsflash for you - when we're sitting in the bleachers watching a soccer game or waiting for a recital to start...we're usually bored and talking to other parents.  So, if there is an issue with one kid or set of parents, usually everyone knows about it.

And no one wants to be the subject of that topic of conversation.  That shit sticks with you until those kids are in college and they have a new set of people to annoy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Three Question Test: How to Avoid the Self-Absorbed Man

I've been swimming around the dating pool for quite a while. 

Sometimes I feel ready to dive in head-first and sometimes I'm shyly testing the waters with my big toe.  In the beginning, I was probably more open-minded than I am now because I was just so anxious to get out into the world and meet people and I didn't give much thought about the people I was actually meeting.

Six years later, still single...I'm paying more attention.

I didn't anticipate becoming as jaded as I am now, but after each encounter - whether it's a single meeting over a beer where you just know it's not going to go anywhere or a long-term relationship that takes you a little while longer to come to the same conclusion - I can't help but walk away with a little more insight into what I want.

This awareness has provided me with some short-cuts that have sometimes sped up the "this isn't going anywhere process."  And while I'm hoping that these rules aren't cutting out anyone who should be making the cut (I don't think they are), I truly believe that they are saving me a lot of time, frustration, and beer money.

Most of them are obvious.  I've already written about the things that turn me off when looking at a guy's profile online - pay attention to the crap in the background of your picture, don't take a picture holding a large fish, etc. - but should someone actually make it past the profile stage to actual communication...that's when the real challenge begins.

The "Please Don't Start Sexting Me Before We've Even Met" Rule:  I would like to think that most woman have the dignity to hold on tight to that one.  While I like an assertive man (to a certain degree), I can't help but wonder what they're thinking when they do that.  What happens if I show up to meet you and I weigh 500 lbs and have a hair growing out of the wart I Photoshopped on my profile?  Golly...won't you feel foolish.

The "Don't Immediately Start Bitching About Your Ex" Rule:  I get it.  We all come with baggage.  But I know enough by now to realize that every story usually has three sides (yours, hers, and the truth) and it's actually more comforting to hear, "We get along for the sake of the kids, but other than that I really don't have much to do with her" rather than a laundry list of how you've been done wrong.  Because, usually the longer the list, the more I start realizing that you're either not over her or are so bitter about your situation that you probably wouldn't know something good if it sexted you.

But here's my new little test.  And it's not something that will make me want to completely dismiss someone as a possibility, but it definitely sends up a little red flag.

If I have asked you three questions about yourself and you haven't even asked me one...this just might not work out.

Think about it.  I'm interested in you, but I have things to talk about, too.  Yes, I want to know all about your kids, your favorite sports teams, and hear the story about that fish in your picture...but I have a life as well.  And I'll tell you this - I'm not spending my beer money, my time, or the rest of my life with someone who is so into himself he doesn't really care to hear about what I've got going on.

You are not interesting enough to fill up a lifetime of conversation on your own.

This is the part of that movie "Hitch" (remember?  Kevin James?  Will Smith?  The dating expert?) that is so true.  One of the main things he tells every guy is to listen.  Don't just ramble about yourself.  Don't be so into your own story you don't care about someone else's. I mean, for crying out loud - you could end up months from now, chained to a woman you don't even like just because you didn't get to know her way back when during those first few dates and you just realized what a bitch she is because you finally gave her the opportunity to talk.

So here's what I do.  I ask questions to keep the conversation going.  And if a guy hasn't asked me one question about me or even stopped the conversation long enough to let me interject anything, I'll stop the inquiry.  If the result of the silence is my date asking me a question, then he might just have a chance.  But if the only way the guy can think to fill the lull is yet another story about himself...well...

He might have better luck talking to that big ol' fish.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ten Things to do Now to Prepare for Frozen Pipes Tomorrow

Given the fact that I have just had yet another plumber over here to "shock" my pipes into action (okay, that sounded dirty, when I assure you it was just expensive), I feel like somewhat of an expert on how to prepare yourself for the possibility of frozen pipes.  Since most of us in the US are experiencing a delightful little phenomenon called the "Polar Vortex" I'm sure I'm not the only one this is happening to.

And if it hasn't happened to you...BEWARE.  You could be next.

So, here are 10 things you can do now to prepare yourself for frozen pipes tomorrow.  As I said...I speak from experience:

1.  Be nice to your neighbors:  Sure, they may not be your favorite people.  Sure, they like to rev their Harley at 3:00 in the morning, let their dogs bark until you feel violent urges you've never experienced before, and borrow your crap and never give it back.  But keep in mind that someday you may be in desperate need of their plumbing.  So let the little things slide (that sounded gross with my previous sentence, but you know what I mean).

2.  Join a gym:  Not to work out, silly.  But that membership paid for itself a couple of months ago when I was two days into frozen pipes and no shower. I was just one more person who looked crappy on the way in and put-together on the way out.  So what if I skipped that pesky workout in-between?

3.  Have an affair with a plumber:  I don't care what gender you are or if you're single.  I want you to go to the nearest bar and flirt your way into the heart of any man there wearing a shirt with his name ironed on.  Believe me, there is a price on your dignity and it's less than what it costs to unfreeze your pipes.

4.  Stop eating fiber.  NOW:  You have no idea how often you feel like you have to go to the bathroom until you don't have immediate access to one.  Cheese, bananas, french fries - these are your friends.  You'll thank me later.

5.  Potty train your kids:  Sure, I know that most kids know how to use a toilet, but they all need to be potty TRAINED when you have no flushing toilets.  All children need to know that potty times happen only between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM when they're at school.

6.  Identify an interesting point on your wall:  You'll need something to stare at while you wait for the plumber and wonder how this could have happened to you, how you got to this place in your life, and whether or not anyone will ever find true love on The Bachelor.  Finding that spot now will really take a load off your mind later.

7.  Make a Potty Map:  Take out a large piece of paper and draw a map of your neighborhood and the surround area, including gas stations, grocery stores, and the porta potty you know is outside your neighbor's house while his kitchen is being remodeled. 

8.  Buy plastic dishware:  I have three kids, so I really don't use anything else, but for you classier people out there, it's worth a CostCo trip to stock up.

9.  Buy liquorSure, you'll regret it in the middle of the night when you have to pee and you're trying to read where Point A is on your Potty Map, but we all need to relax a little when something like this happens.

10.  Go back and buy more:  A couple more glasses and you can just pee in the backyard.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Look at Me

I'm going to try and write this without sounding holier-than-thou, preachy, or a like complete bitch.

I'm worried about our kids.

This morning, I read the horrifying story of the high school student who tried to light himself on fire in a suicide attempt at high school here in the Denver area.  I don't know this student.  I don't know this family.  There is a good chance that there is a mother who is sitting in the waiting room of a hospital for news of her son's condition, in utter disbelief that something like this has happened because she thought she had been doing everything possible to help with his issues.

There is the possibility that she knew this might happen and felt powerless to stop it.

And there is the possibility that she has been completely blindsided by this because her kid either hid his issues from her so well that she didn't know about them OR that she may not have been paying attention.

Again, I don't live in their home.  So I don't know.

I'll tell you what I do know and that is what I see surrounding my children at school.  My kids ages go from early elementary to pre-teen so I see a variety of situations that make me stop and go, "Huh?"  And let me tell you...I am one of those people who like to believe the best in everyone so when I see children being treated the way they sometimes are....

It shocks the hell out of me.

Here is the bottom line:  You don't have to physically hit a child to be an abusive parent.  When I see a child walk out the door to go to school in -18 degree weather in a t-shirt and shoes with no socks...that's abuse to me.  When my daughter comes home and tells me that some of her friends don't eat all day long because their divorced parents are fighting over who should put money in their lunch account...that is abuse to me.  When you have no idea where your 8-year-old ends up after school every day because you can't be bothered to set up childcare for him or her and they're wandering the street alone looking for some place to're damn lucky you still have a kid.

I read these articles about school shootings, suicide attempts, and other things I just can't wrap my brain around and I wonder what happened.  I would honestly like to think that there are parents out there who are completely heartbroken because they have done everything they can to help a child who couldn't be saved.  But the truth is that I look around at some of the situations surrounding my kids' friends and I wonder if one of them could be next.

Just because no one was paying attention.

I'm not a perfect mom.  Far from it.  No one is.  My house is a wreck, I have four loads of laundry that need to be folded, and we had take-out three times this weekend.  I have made mistakes and I will make more.  I guess there are some ways I probably coddle my kids too much (I don't think I'm a total helicopter parent, but who knows?  I may be to some people).  I'm a single mom who is outnumbered and, yes, there are times when I fall short.  While I would like to think that I will never be a parent sitting in a hospital, stunned with the knowledge that one of my children has purposely done something to harm themselves or another person...I'm not stupid enough to think I am completely immune. 

But there is something I think I do pretty damn well as a parent.

I listen.

Even though I am outnumbered, I look each one of my kids in the eye and ask how their day was.  If there is an issue, we talk about whether they want me to step in or whether they'd like to try and handle something on their own.  They tell me about their friends who are having a hard time and we discuss what we can possibly do to help.  They express frustration about specific teachers they have and we talk about what should be done about it.  I have told them many times that if they have a problem they don't always have to talk to me about it - there are other adults surrounding us that I am completely comfortable with my kids confiding in.

Will there ever come a day when they feel like they're pinned in with so many problems and no outlet?  I hope not.  I hope that they always know that I'm here - I am their constant - for anything they might need.  Because I watch these other young kids who are sad, confused, and behaving in a way that just says one thing.

Look at me.

When I see these kids, these friends of my children, I hug them and they hug back.  Their faces look pale and tired and they always seem a little on edge - like they're fearful of what might come at them next.  I lay awake at night wondering if I should be the one to step in in any way or if it's even my business.

And then I wonder...if I don' I just as at fault as the parents?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Famous for Nothing

As I was making my kids' breakfast this morning, I had the Today Show on, which I sometimes do, so that I could hear Al Roker say, "And here's what's happening in your neck-of-the-woods" and get my weather report.  Again, as I sometimes do, I listened with one ear to some of the issues and stories they were reporting and I am embarrassed to admit this, but I stopped what I was doing to watch the story on Kate Gosselin.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not because I like her or have ever been a fan of her former show, Kate Plus Eight.  It's because that in last few years, her attempt to get back into the media has been like a train wreck that I can't stop watching.

As a mom, I watched in horror as she brought her two 13-year-olds on the show so that they could talk about how completely "fine" they were after a childhood spent in front of the camera.  And I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as the two girls remained silent on either side of their mother, who continued to insist how much they love the exposure.  Kate said how she feels like she has to defend them against what people in the media say and clear up all of the misconceptions.

Kate.  I've got news for you.  If you'd stop going on all of these shows, appearing in magazines, and get a real job...I don't think people would remember you for five more minutes and, therefore, wouldn't talk smack about your family.

But you probably know that, don't you?

Of course, at the end of the interview, Savannah Guthrie asked if they would want to do another reality TV show, and both girls replied with an enthusiastic "yes," adding that they'd like to do the same thing, only more "fabulous."

And that's when I really wanted to reach through my screen and thump old Kate on the head.

I'm just going to say it.  I'm appalled with some of the kids belonging to the same generation as my own.  Their desire to be famous for absolutely nothing just astounds me.  Gone are the days of children saying they want a gymnasium named after them because they flew on the space shuttle or that they have dreams of headlines screaming their names because they cured cancer.

They don't want to do anything.  And they want everyone to know it.

It's my generation's fault.  I mean, we're the ones who have shown this is possible.  All of these reality TV shows that make people famous because they procreated or - gasp - went out on a date (or twenty-seven within two days) are what our kids think they have to look forward to.  Why go to college or do something to inspire others when all it takes is a carefully leaked sex tape to put you on the map?

I actually had a conversation with someone not too long ago whose daughter is going to graduate from high school this year.  I asked the mother what the girl's plans were - job? college?  maybe a trade school? - and she she sighed and said, "I don't know.  She really just wants to be famous.  But she really doesn't know how to do anything." 

I think I missed that option on my list of majors in college.  I wonder if it still would have required all of those gym credits? 

This is actually a topic I'm somewhat sensitive to right now.  While I don't think that my family is about to be thrust into the spotlight, I did just write and release a memoir about the death of my husband.  Because my children are a huge part of my life, there are stories in there about them.

And this may have been a mistake on my part, but...I didn't ask them their permission.

A little Kate-like?  Maybe. 

My guilt about this grew two weeks ago when I was trying to figure out a passage to read at my first book signing.  I pulled my son aside and asked him if I could read a section that included a story about him when he was four.

"That's in your book?" he said, his face turning red.

"Yes, it is," I tried to explain.  "But don't you see how important it is?  Can't you see how telling it might help someone else?"

"Whatever," he replied.  "But you cannot read that if I'm there."


On the flip side, I feel like I did something that other moms may not have done.  I listened to my kid.  I chose to write this book and, therefore, I'm choosing to take the credit and the heat for it.  Some kids might revel in the spotlight...mine don't.  The idea of being famous, frankly, appalls my kids.  They've got bigger, better fish to fry.  I know this because right after I had this conversation with my son he asked me, "Mom?  Did you know there is such a thing as a LEGO Engineer?"

I smiled and said, "Go for it."