Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Speak, Fear.

Sometimes I think that learning to voice our greatest fears is the very path to letting them go. We think we have some unimaginable burden that we could never share with another person. But then you stay up late talking to a friend or lover, and maybe you find a moment of safety and bravery — so you speak your truth.

Sometimes we are blessed to be heard and to receive the absolution of friendship. Of love. We are left more human, more forgivable and yes, lovable even. We may spend the rest of our lives discovering and re-discovering this. We will forget and re-learn over and over again that once we speak those fears, their power over us is diminished.

But the love between us? It increases beyond our greatest hopes. Oh to remember this. Stay, sweet Insight, stay just a moment longer.











Happy anniversary to my husband — that friend with whom I can share my secrets and fears and find acceptance there.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Building a Fort.

My friend built a fort for my daughter out of the living room chair and a blanket. Because he has carpentry skills, he used a broken-down cardboard box to support the roof. She loved the little fortress so much, she didn't want to come out.

"HOUSE!!!" she wailed as I tried to extricate her.

When I got home, I built her an identical fort out of a cardboard box, a living room chair and a big blanket thrown over it. It managed to stay intact for the most part, except for when she would grab the blanket and pull down on it until the cardboard roof caved in.

"HOUSE!!!" she wailed each time it fell.

"House!" she chirped each time I put it back up.

I remember trying to build a fort out of a blanket as a kid. I laid on my back and stuck my legs and arms straight up in the air to support the roof. I tried using a cardboard pole leftover from wrapping paper to act as a prop. I tried using throw pillows and stuffed animals as walls.

The trouble was, the blankets kept falling back down. Propped up for a moment, they'd soon return to brush my face and cover my body again. No matter how much effort and how many contraptions I'd build or finagle, the blanket fell down and covered me.

Today I was thinking about that blanket and how I could never keep it off of me. Sort of reminded me of depression. I've spent a lifetime propping it up and trying to keep it off. But every so often the cardboard scaffolding I've built gives way and I feel it brush my face and cover my body once more.

Sometimes I just want to lay down in the dark and give in to it.

But most times I brush it off and try to prop it up. I rummage around for the cardboard poles and stuffed bears in my head and build walls out of plush. Sometimes it all seems so pointless.

Building an imaginary fortress against pain.

Why bother?

But that inner kid in me doesn't care about logistics and logic. I hear my daughter's voice yell, "House!" and I put the structure back in again. She needs me to keep a roof over this house of mine. She needs the shelter of my joy.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Meditated So Hard My Brain Exploded.

Not really. But I did meditate for 45 minutes straight which is kind of noteworthy for me.

Read all about it at my Buddhism blog: Buddha Mama Sans Drama.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting Laid at the Ho Ho Ho.

A couple of weeks ago my son got busted for using the F-bomb at school. He and a friend were saying it to each other at lunch to be big comedians. Ha ha ha. So hilarious.

His dad called to tell me the bad news. He also told me that he had already dealt with it and meted out the punishment, so all I needed to do was to listen to my son's confession when his dad handed him the phone.

"He's going to cry as soon as he hears my voice," I warned him.

"No, no. He's not. He's cool now," his dad assured me.

"Doesn't matter. As soon as he hears my voice, he'll cry."

"He really won't. We've already dealt with it and he's fine," his dad said.

"Okay," I replied and waited for him to hand the phone to the potty-mouthed criminal.

"Mom?" A quavery little voice inquired.

"Hi," I said.

"MoooOOOOoooom!" he cried, choking on his sobs.

Bingo. I win.

"I guess you were right," his dad said when he got back on the phone.

"Freud said the mother is conscience," I explained.

I agreed to go along with his no TV punishment for the crime. I was actually really proud of myself for not completely flipping my lid as I usually would. It's like I conserved karmic energy or something. I may have to make a note of this for future parenting.

Then, the other day, my husband and I were driving the kids to the Ho Ho Ho to get a Christmas tree. (Or as I like to call it, the "Buddhakamas Bush.") We were joking about an uptight person who's been awfully light-hearted and happy of late.

"He must have gotten L. A. I. D.," I said, spelling out the offending word.

"Laid!" my seven-year-old son shouted from the back seat.

My husband and I froze for a moment and stared at each other in horror. Then he collapsed in laughter behind the wheel.

"No more spelling words," I said.

I looked behind me at the beaming boy, so proud to be such a fast speller. Oy.

It looks like his step-dad and I are going to need to learn a common foreign language. The boy is fluent in filth.

I wonder what Freud would say about that?

Ha ha ha.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leaning Into It

Somebody's trying to tell me that when things get hard,
I've got to lean into it.

Read all about it on my Buddhist blog, Buddha Mama Sans Drama.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vive Le Nerd: Foreign Language Film Edition

Over on my blog friend Joshua's site, Vive Le Nerd, he's got a foreign film conversation started. This is why I love his blog. I can go there and nerd it up to my heart's content.

He posted his top five foreign films list and I gave him my top ten. Does that make me a gigantic nerd that I even have a top ten foreign films list? Or am I just a nerd one-upper and I had to take his top five and raise it five? Oh, it's a nerd battle royale and it's on like Donkey Kong.

Just kidding. I don't play chess or video games. I lose.

Is it just me, or did your college professors make you watch foreign films up the wazoo? Now that I think about it, I did take one (and only one) film class in college, and it was a French language class so it was like, doubly nerdy. My Chinese Civilization prof also had us watch a ton of Chinese flicks. This may be why my top ten list is dominated by French and Chinese movies of the early 90s.

For your viewing pleasure:

1. Raise the Red Lantern (Chinese)
2. Life Is Beautiful (Italian)
3. Camille Claudel (French)
4. Au Revoir Les Enfants (French)
5. The Wedding Banquet (Chinese)
6. Journey of Hope (Turkish)
7. Shall We Dance (Japanese)
8. Jean de Fleurette (French)
9. Red Sorghum (Chinese)
10. Ran (Japanese)

Those are my top ten. May not be the critic's top ten but there you go. Be warned, however, that I like insanely, slit-your-throat, depressing kinds of films. It's called catharsis. Though I don't know how to say that in French. (It's probably the same thing.)

Go on over to Joshua's blog and celebrate your inner (or outer) nerd.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Luck Be a Lady, But Not Your Mama

My husband is out of town for work, so I set my alarm clock early so I could have time to shower before my one-year-old daughter woke up. My alarm went off at 6:30 and I did something to it to make it stop making that horrible noise.

The next thing I knew, I heard a little voice across the hall calling: "Ahma? Ahma?"

I fumbled for my phone to register just how long I'd overslept and read 7:55.

Crap.

I fumbled my way out of the bedroom, so sleepy I was grabbing the wrong side of the door to find the knob. I think I'd stumbled out of the wrong side of the bed and then somehow got turned upside down and all around. It was like I was in a fun house.

Next I grappled with the nursery door, my fingers slipping on the glass knob until I finally pushed the door open to the sounds of my daughter's multiple crib toys singing/jingling/chirping and whirring. It's basically a disco.

She's a whizz at operating all these musical entertainers and soothers. With her right arm she can reach out and pull down the Baby Einstein Lights n' Music Show like a wizened gambler going for one more shot at the slot machine. I swear she's casually puffing on a cigarette with her left hand and giving me the head nod as if I were a cocktail waitress in a skimpy outfit rather than her mother in underpants.

When her left hand is not casually puffing on imaginary cigarettes, it easily reaches for and pushes the one enormous button that activates the blue light of the Ocean Wonders crib toy. Bubbles gurgle, fish tilt and sway, and music chirps her to a soggy sleep, I guess.

So this morning I stumbled into her whirring/chirping bedroom bathed in a blue glow and fumbled my way into crib. She was sitting up in her sleep bag looking at me rather cautiously. I think she could sense I didn't have my wits about me.

I reached for her and as I did so, she tilted herself forward. My sleepy brain misread her cue as a move towards the Ocean Wonders toy. I thought she was moving away from me and towards her toy for one more push of the magic button before she started her day.

As a courtesy, I pulled my hands away from her armpits so I wouldn't get in the way. Instead of reaching her arms out towards the toy as I expected her to do, she did a complete face plant in plastic screen of the toy.

"I'm so sorry!" I cried and quickly peeled her face off the Ocean Wonders toy where she was already doing the silent intake of breath before the scream.

Poor thing was leaning into me — leaning into me picking her up — not leaning towards the damn toy. It's like I just failed at the game of trust with my one-year-old baby. Now she's definitely going to turn to smoking, gambling and drinking. Those things never let her down. Unlike her pants-less mother.

Or is that pants-less wonder?



Friday, October 14, 2011

Ballroom Dance Lessons


My husband I were supposed to start ballroom dancing classes three weeks ago. But the building was out of power. Clearly, The Universe didn't want us to dance, but oh no, we didn't listen. Screw you, Universe, the rhythm in our hearts cannot be contained by a power station.

The next week, the building was dark once again. I was beginning to think the forces of nature were so horrified at the thought of us trying to dance that they were conspiring against us. Turns out it was closed for the Jewish holiday.

Last week was our most recent attempt at becoming graceful gazelles that float across the floor on a cloud of sexy chemistry and hardcore foreplay. Sorry, if that's TMI, folks, but we all know it's the only reason my husband agreed to this.

Fortunately, the building was lit up like a Christmas tree. This dance lesson was on like Donkey Kong in a tutu and tap shoes. Which, interestingly enough, was exactly what I was wearing. We proceeded to the basement, in a room with a low ceiling and five couples. The dance instructor separated us into boys on one side of the room, girls on the other. Like middle school, yes. Only this time one of the boys was actually taller than I was and he was obligated to dance with me.

If only my middle-school self could see me now.

*Pumps fist*

I watched my husband's face as the dance teacher demonstrated how to walk, how to place your feet, move your hips and hold your arms. His face was a peculiar landscape of anxiety, dread, mystification and horror.

I almost felt bad for him but for the most part I was delighted. You see, it was clear to me that he was doing this entirely for me and me alone. His lighthearted and carefree "Yeah, sure" to my request to take dancing lessons belied his total and complete fear.

At one point, the dance instructor flat out called the class "foreplay." Of course I had to waggle my eyebrows at my husband across the room. He tried to keep a straight face because the instructor was facing the men. I was free to ape and ham it up while he was right in the spotlight.

When the instructor informed the men that they had to put their "finger in the hole" in their partner's back, next to the shoulder blade, I stared hard at my husband and opened my mouth wide in silent laughter.

No reaction. He was unmoved by my antics and I found this was wholly unacceptable.

When she went on to explain that they could probably fit "two fingers in the hole" I opened my mouth even wider and made bug eyes at him. This time he had to stifle a laugh and look down at his shoes.

Success!

My husband's pained expression really didn't leave his face for the duration of learning the steps. We were getting the basics of the Foxtrot, including "The Magic Step" and "The Box Step." I tried to use sign language to communicate to him, "I've got a magic box for you ... ha ha ha!" But sadly, that didn't work either.

The only time he looked like he was enjoying himself was when the instructor told the men that they'd have to push their women around in order to lead. She wasn't exaggerating. She showed us how the men actually have to push the woman to step backwards, or pull her forward, or pull/push her to the side.

"Like a horse!" my husband said. I narrowed my eyes.

When it was our turn to dance, he started forcefully shoving me around the dance floor. I had to follow his lead and do what he said.

"The man is always right," the dance teacher said. "The lead is never wrong."

I watched my husband's face light up as he pushed me and I went where he wanted me to go. Sure we stepped on each other's feet and neither of us knew which way to go on a few of the steps, but locked in each other's arms I was forced to follow his lead.

"I like pushing you around!" he said.

It was a little disturbing, frankly. But he felt strong and in charge, which was sort of hot. It really did end up being an awkward hour of foreplay set to music. I have no idea if we'll ever actually learn to dance, but pushing me around for an hour once a week seems to make my husband happy.

That wasn't my plan exactly, but I'm willing to follow his lead.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Am Every Buddhist

What do you do when someone asks you to speak publicly about your religious beliefs?


Even if you dread it.

*Laugh*


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amah's Girl


I just bought this Halloween costume for my one-year-old daughter. I swore I wouldn't go all girl crazy with her. I was going to try and keep it a princess and Barbie-free zone in our home.

It still is.

But last year she was an Ewok and this year I'm strapping lady bug wings to her back. So there you go. And oh hell yes I bought the lady bug wand. So sue me. She may also happen to own a pair of bright red patent leather Mary Janes imported from Italy.

C'mon. The shoes totally make the outfit.

I'm not making her conform to gender stereotypes. I'm making her conform to fabulous. Okay?

She has also been known to rock the pigtails so hard it will make your ovaries twirl:

They are not pigtails. They are an explosion of hair happiness.

She can say "car," "baby" and "Elmo." When she is hungry she runs towards her highchair shouting, "Eat! Eat!" while she repeatedly puts her hand to her mouth. I think she is concerned that her father and I are a little slow. She also runs for the stairs and yells, "Baf? Baf?" every night before bed. I think she doubts our ability to feed and bathe her without prompting.

She said "Dada" long before she ever said "Mama." And she never really said a proper Mama. I'm not a Mommy. Long ago I decided that I would be a Mama and not a Mommy. As one friend put it, "Mama is more rock and roll."

But our dancing baby girl doesn't call me Mama or Mommy. She calls me Ah-Ma. Or Amah. She sounds like she is speaking English as a second language, which I suppose she is. It is sweet to hear her little voice in the morning, calling from the other room:

"Amah?"

"Amah?"

As though calling for her staff. She then pantomimes, "Eat" for me, and runs towards the TV yelling "Ehmo?" We pretty much follow her around and obey her commands. She knows her way to the park and she frequently walks her father there. Once there, she refuses to leave. I often get text messages from him, saying:

"Baby refuses to leave the park."

And so they stay for two hours.

This little baby girl runs our house. She has her father, her brother and me all wrapped around her finger. Occasionally she deigns us with a kiss goodnight, which she delivers with lips puckered like a fish.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Forty Lawyers Walk Into My House

It sounds like the start of a joke, right?

For some reason my husband and I thought it would be a good idea to have 40 people over for dinner tomorrow night. Hahahahaha. Aren't we funny? Did I mention that they're lawyers? Remind me not to argue with anyone.

Slowly, we began to wonder what 40 people in a 1,450-sq.-ft. house might look like. And really, the downstairs is less than that, right? I can't do math, but I think you get the idea:

Lawyers in a can!


So I rented tables and chairs. I called in for help. I have two assistants coming over to help me serve at the party. I took a day off work to start cooking. In fact, I've been cooking since 9 o'clock this morning. I'm just waiting for a chocolate bundt cake to cool so then I can frost it.

So far today I have made approximately 20 lbs. of spinach lasagna:


I was really motivated and artistic at the start of this.


5 lbs. of Swedish meatballs:

It's hard to make ground meat attractive.


And the aforementioned bundt cake:


I glazed it right in the middle of this blog. Soooo talented!


I've still got brownies and grilled chicken to go before I take the rest of the day off. I'm tired and my back hurts. I think this is why people cater events. I think I must have wanted to test my limits. That's the only reason why I can fathom I decided to do this. Oh yeah, I'm a big idea person. Of course, I have to live with the consequences of those big ideas.

*Sigh*

We've hosted 20 people in our home before and I've cooked for 20. I wanted to see if we could double that. I mean doubling that doesn't sound that hard, right? Sort of like a marathon of entertaining. I don't know if I'll repeat it but I was certainly interested to try.

Have I mentioned I've had an entire pot of coffee and a Diet Coke today?

I am wiiiiii-rrrrred.

I am a baking machine!

I'm having thoughts like:

"I should go into catering! Cooking all day is much better than writing all day. I'm all by myself and no one is criticizing the job I'm doing. No one in the editing department is re-mixing my cake. I don't have any account people second-guessing how much pepper I put in the Swedish meatballs. The client isn't going to send back the vegetarian lasagna they specifically asked for and tell me they wanted it with meat instead. This is totally awesome!"

But I'm sure as soon as this caffeine high wears off I'll start appreciating my desk job.

Although right now cooking seems AMAZING and I am a SUPER-CATERER TO THE LEGAL STARS OF METRO DETROIT.

Okay, even writing that sentence took away from the high that is quickly evaporating. I have to admit, I stopped to glaze the bundt cake after writing that sentence with all caps and now I'm tired. The thought of making brownies or grilling chicken exhausts me.

Maybe I need to start doing cocaine?

Uh oh. Now I'm re-thinking the whole career in catering. The mere thought of it has turned my mind to drugs.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rear View Mirror Conversation

I love driving my seven-year-old son to school. We always have conversations in the rear view mirror.

This was this morning's conversation:

"If I want to have a girl, I have to be nice to her," he said.

I laughed.

"Where did you hear that?" I said.

"You."

I laughed some more. I felt like a good mom.

"I wish I could find a genie and get five wishes," he said.

"Why five?"

"Because I don't want three."

I looked at him in the mirror and he was holding up five fingers, counting to himself. It dawned on me then that he had thought up five things he wanted, not three.

"What are your five wishes?" I asked.

"One, when I die I want to be reborn as a baby and have all of my family. Two, I want a light saber. Three, I want all of the toys in the world. Four, I want a thousand dollars. Five, I don't want my frogs to die."

I looked at him in the mirror and wanted those five things for him too.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Nonsense

Since I have writer's block about my own life, but I'm apparently overflowing with creativity when it comes to popular culture and sex, I'm just going to claw my way through a blog and let it just be terrible, without a clear beginning, middle and end, and possibly a run-on sentence or two.

Things That Happened This Week:

1. Someone posted a passive aggressive note about dirty dishes at work and I have resisted the urge to blog about it because I try not to blog about work. Even though I just did.

2. My son saw his two frogs in their tank and cried out: "Oh look, they're playing piggyback rides!" I could not stop snickering and he kept asking me why. "Piggyback rides are just funny, " I said.

3. My son learned how to ride a bike this week. I have a massive bruise on my leg from my one failed attempt at teaching him. Props to his step-daddy for his dedication and patience in this task. Thanks to him, my son will not enter the second grade without knowing how to ride a bike.

4. I played piggyback ride with my husband a few times this week.

5. I know, that last one was totally inappropriate but it made me laugh yet again.

6. Piggyback rides are comedy gold.

7. I found out that my dentist is going to use me in a paper about how you can create a dramatic difference in your smile without the use of veneers. So, I will basically be a dental superstar. I wonder if they'll want me to do signings and public appearances?

8. My daughter discovered tomato sauce.

9. My husband asked if we could have a few work associates over to our house for a party and now the total "Yes"s are up to 30 people and the "Maybe"s are outstanding at 10. That's 40 potential people, people. We have a small house. I'm considering installing a disco ball and a karaoke machine because what else can you do with that many people in that small of a space? It had better not rain.

10. Do I talk about how awesome my husband is? Is it annoying if I do? I've known the man for six years and I feel like I get to know and understand him more and more with each passing year. I also feel like knowing him and growing with him as a person has enabled me to be a much better person than I ever thought I could be. He inspires me. He makes me laugh. He's truly my best friend. He's good in bed. And he regularly sends me news stories like this:


That's my week, in short. Tell me something that happened to you this week. Or something that didn't happen, but should have. Did you get any piggyback rides?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Moosejaw: American Apparel Wannabe?


For some inexplicable reason, my local outdoorsy retailer, Moosejaw, has decided to become the American Apparel of Michigan. Or maybe it wants to be the Detroit version of Abercrombie & Fitch? Why should Columbus and L.A. hog all the sexy?

Don't even get me started on cutesy, self-aware copy. In case you can't read it:

"Not a chance that anyone is looking at this text instead of the pretty, so I'm not bothering to write anything good here."

Oh good. That explains the gratuitous crotch shot.


Mary Karr on Forgiveness

I just finished reading Lit by Mary Karr. To say that the book has moved me is an understatement. To say that I have laughed, cried, gasped and raged my way through the pages is truth. For the second time in my life I have considered writing an author to thank her. This is how much the book has meant to me.

In it, Karr writes about not only her mother's alcoholism, but also her own. She writes about both of their paths to recovery. She starts the book by speaking of her son and of what she put him through. She speaks of her own mother and what she put Mary Karr, her daughter, through. She writes that her wish for everyone, for everything, is "blamelessness."

I cocked my head at that.

I read her story and it was a journey of forgiveness. To forgive her mother, yes, to forgive her ex-husband, but most of all, to forgive herself. To put a cope of blamelessness over her whole life and everyone in it. At first that thought might be maddening if you have unresolved issues, yes. But if you've tasted forgiveness or hungered for it yourself, you can see its appeal.

The book is not for everyone. There were days when it threatened to sink me into depression. There were times I had to shut the pages and walk away from it. My husband would catch me sitting at the table, closed book in front of me, staring out the window.

I shook myself out of it. Just as I shook myself out of my own childhood and my own issues through ten years of therapy and twenty of Buddhism. I've done my work. I've let go of a lot. I'm a happy person today. Are there ghosts in my attic? Yes. Do they rattle their chains? Infrequently. But do they? Yes.

I finished the book and was left with a feeling of wonder at her forgiveness. Such a universal and encompassing forgiveness — a forgiveness that was given without being asked. Grace is like that. A gift given though undeserved. Light cast upon a darkness. A blessing for a sinner. Yes, please, God. Do that for me.

I desire forgiveness. I desire to forgive. I desire both to be given and received as unselfishly and as free from expectation as Mary Karr writes.

But I'm not sure how to do that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm Writing About Intestinal Distress

On the road from Delhi to Agra.
You can't tell from this picture, but something is amiss in my digestive tract.



Today I'm writing for Studio 30 Plus. If you're not familiar with Studio 30 Plus, you should check it out. It's a community for bloggers over 30. Of course I'm only 29, but they made a special exception in my case.


Please read today's post here:

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Upside of Humiliation

I confessed to my husband that I have a problem in my "nether regions."

I use that expression to reference a body part unmentionable. The good of the phrase is that it is vague and imprecise. It affords me the slight chance that the listener's mind might be diverted from the precise target of my humiliation.

Besides, I'm not willing to discuss precise nether regions in a forum where my co-workers, parents, siblings, friends, enemies and elementary school teachers can read it.

So I admitted to my husband that my non-specific nether regions might require medical attention.

He looked at me.

"You'll be fine," he said.

"But what if I need surgery?" I asked, leaping to the worst and most humiliating conclusion possible.

"You won't need surgery."

"Can you imagine?" I pantomimed spreading someone's cheeks apart. "Can you imagine laying face down on a table while a room full of medical professionals scrutinize that place?"

My husband paused and considered my dilemma.

"I'm going to say one thing," he said. "I'm going to say this one thing and it will make all of this better for you." He was certain. He was strong. He was full of conviction and handsomeness. Never in my life had I wanted him more.

"Yes? What is it?"

"Blog material," he said.

"What?" The wheels in my brain creaked to a halt.

"Blog material," he said, nodding his head. We stared at each other for a long time.

"You know me so well," I replied.

And that, my friends, is why I blog. Humiliation is nothing if it makes for a funny post. That is the universal law. Someone said the other day that if you're a writer, you must write as if no one will ever read it. It's the only way to be any good.

My nether regions be damned.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When You Can't Fix It, Make Someone Else Happy

Many years ago when I was in an unhappy marriage, I got some advice from my therapist that didn't work.

It's not so much the marriage that was unhappy, but the two people in it. The root cause of our unhappiness was not each other. Unbeknownst to me, he was descending into schizophrenia. Me, I was trying to crawl out of life-long, low-grade depression.

I came to a point of frustration. Frustration with my husband. Frustration with myself. Frustration with the marriage itself. It was stagnant. It was institutionally and fundamentally sad. I felt helpless to change any of it, most of all myself.

"Sometimes when you are unable to make yourself happy, it can help if you try and make someone else happy," my therapist suggested.

This was new.

This was different.

This was mildly annoying.

Yet I did attempt acts of kindness for my then husband. I offered back rubs. I made meals. I tried to strike up conversation. I even left the couch and slept in our marital bed for a change. I spooned.

None of it worked. Not even a little.

I was even more miserable for having tried it and failed, and he didn't seem the slightest bit interested in any of my gestures. I chalked it up to some monumentally bad advice from an otherwise terrific therapist. Yet here I sit, a decade later, and I still remember that advice. It stuck with me for a reason.

What I have found is that I am able to follow my therapist's advice when it comes to my children.

For instance, I was thrown for a loop this weekend. I rather spastically and inexplicably threw my new Blackberry Torch in the bathtub with my baby daughter. I know! It seems impossible, but it happened. I'd been holding it a few feet away from the tub when it started to slip. Rather than let it fall harmlessly to the floor, I freaked out and started bobbling and batting at it until I hurled it high into the air, where it made an Olympic dive into a bubble bath.

I can still hear the splash.

I'll spare you the details of the three AT&T stores I visited, the multiple visits and phone calls, the black tape, the out-of-town husband, the one-year-old and seven-year-old children who couldn't wait that long in a store, the benevolent niece who accompanied me and talked me out of my cellular-induced emotional breakdown. (Slight exaggeration, but I was pretty riled and I'm normally unruffled by such things).

It all added up to me being a pretty high-strung madre by Sunday afternoon.

So I took my children to Chuck E. Cheese. There was so much built-up tension on the Saturday of the Smartphone Swan Dive, I knew something had to give. My seven-year-old son is a sensitive little soul. He was worried about me. He knew I was agitated, irritated and mad about my phone. He gave me a lot of moon-eyed looks of concern. I felt bad about that.

Because I couldn't fix me and I couldn't fix my phone situation until regular business hours on Monday morning, the only things I could fix were the two little people who depend on me. I packed them up and took them to Chuck E. Cheese for no damn reason on a Sunday afternoon.

I'm basically a parenting god.

My son was overjoyed. He couldn't believe his good fortune. My one-year-old daughter wandered around admiring the sights and sounds for two hours, uncomplaining and thoroughly entertained. She had a sweet little smile on the toddler rides and toddler slides. My son marched around with a cup overflowing with tokens and tickets draped around his neck like a paper garland.

That night, I went upstairs and examined my son's face as he slept, his arms wrapped around his stuffed kitty. Such a cherubic face. The round cheeks, the dark lashes, the tender little hand curled under his chin. He's such a tall, slim boy now and he's getting so big I can barely hold him, but in the darkened room I saw him for the little boy he still is. And he was at peace with his world.

I made somebody happy.

Maybe there's hope for me yet.

Friday, July 29, 2011

BlogHer Block


In a dazzling twist of fate, the fact that I'm going to my first blogging conference next week has caused me to have a monumental case of writer's block.

I'm excited to attend BlogHer '11 in San Diego. I'm looking forward to meeting many of the bloggers I read and new bloggers I've come to know in the past few weeks leading up to the event.

But now I don't have a damn thing to say about any of it.

Part of it may be nerves. In addition to being excited about the conference, I'm also nervous about my introversion flaring up. My husband was also shy in his youth. As a young adult, he decided that he didn't want to be an introvert so he decided to "fling himself out of it." He pushes himself out of his shell and forces himself to approach people and talk to them.

I, too, have tried to fling myself out of my shyness. I'm often successful. But I also retreat into silence when encountering large groups of people. Perhaps my introversion is seeping into my writing (or lack thereof) now?

Perhaps I can fling myself out of it by writing this?

When my sister got married, she was forced to take pre-marital counseling by the church where she was getting married. She learned that she and her husband had a fundamental difference: she was an introvert, he an extrovert.

One of the primary ways to figure out whether you're an introvert or an extrovert is by examining how you feel after spending time around people. Are you invigorated and charged up after a party? Or are you exhausted and need to crawl into your cocoon?

I'm definitely more of a social caterpillar. But I'd like to be a butterfly.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Tomboys


Do not eff with the Franklin Mavericks.

I read a blog post the other day about how a mother lamented the fact that her daughter insisted on wearing boy clothes. She had gone so far as to attempt bribing her daughter to wear a dress for five dollars. That made me laugh.

The daughter said hell no.

The one and only time my mother insisted I wear a dress was for my aunt's wedding. I cried. As I recall, I had a somewhat similar stance and look as I do in that softball uniform. In fact, we left for the out-of-state wedding immediately following my softball game so I drove from Michigan to Georgia in it.

I think I even suggested to my mother that I could wear it to the wedding. She, being the cruel and heartless mother she was, refused. And thus I was forced to wear gender handcuffs in the form of a blue and white floral dress. Floral! I mean, talk about putting salt in the wound.

From what I can see in the childhood photos I have, I spent most of my time in cut-offs and a sassy bowl cut:


Here I am beating the family dog.




Moments before I reached my arms around his pony neck and strangled him.


Animal abuse jokes aside, I was a pretty butchy-looking little girl with a love for animals, trucker caps, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dorothy Hamill. It's no wonder I never had a boyfriend. Then again, I probably shouldn't have modeled my fashion choices after my older brother:


We never met a plaid shirt we didn't like.



Though to be honest, I was probably a little more Mark Hamill than Dorothy Hammil:

Which one is the boy? Bowl cut on the left or bowl cut on the right?

That one was a trick question. I gave you two sandy-headed kids in bowl cuts. One is wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt and the other is wearing plaid. It's basically an IQ test. You can provide your answer in the comments section and I will give you your Tomboy IQ. Then we will form our own little plaid Mensa society right here on Blogspot. Everyone will want to be a member.

I provide this photo evidence for you today as a public service. You can let your little girls dress like lesbians as children and it does not mean you are trying to turn them gay. You may still get grandchildren out of them, so calm down and let your little princess be a prince if she wants to.

Besides, gay children are the best children. They can either help you decorate or fix your car. In fact, if I could have ten children (and my husband would go along with it), I would. But only so I could be guaranteed at least one gay child. It's my way of helping humanity. We could definitely use a little more rainbow in this world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You Are So Beautiful. To Me.


I have recently become obsessed with the mandolin. Some of you may know this if you follow my tweets and status updates. Some of you may already be alarmed.

It's true, some folks take obsession lightly, but as with most things in my life, I take it to Defcon level. It has to be addressed immediately. My mind fixates on it and not only do I have to have it/do it/be it/buy it/see it, I have to be the best at it and/or it has to be the best. It may have something to do with my unofficial OCD-lite diagnosis. Whatever the case, I choose to embrace it rather than medicate it.

So I began researching mandolins. I listened to mandolin music. I dreamt of mandolin music. I heard mandolins sweetly playing in my head when I awoke each morning. I talked about mandolins. My husband would come up behind me on the computer and catch me looking at mandolins online.

"Be honest with me," he finally said. "How many hours today have you spent looking at mandolins?"

I felt trapped.

"Do you mean looking at mandolins to purchase or do you mean listening to mandolin music?Or are you referring to watching mandolin players on YouTube or researching mandolins in general? Because they are all totally different activities."

He stared at me.

I stared back.

"I mean total time spent involved with mandolins in any manner whatsoever," he said.

I pursed my lips. I looked up towards the ceiling and counted on my fingers. I hemmed and hawed. I looked away for a while and then looked back at him, hoping he'd lost interest and had wandered off. But he had not.

"Four hours?" I said.

We stared at each other for a while more and then he finally laughed.

"How did this happen?" he said, as though it were preposterous.

"How can it not happen," I intoned and nodded my head sagaciously at him. In times of trouble, I like to get all zen on people to confuse them.

He just shook his head and went to find his iPad.

That's love, people.

I will remind the jury, however, that I was there for him during his great shoe obsession of '07 so he owes me. I think it's a little more disturbing to catch your man surfing the Alden website late at night, okay?

Or not.

Whatever.

The point is, we both married well.

Back to the mandolin. It's not as though this obsession with mandolins is sudden, per se. I played both violin and guitar so it's not like I'm switching from winds or anything crazy like that. Add to that the historical significance of my very birth name. As soon as my mother named me "Amanda Lynn" my father started teasing her about naming me after an instrument. I've been "Mandalyn" or "Mando" ever since. In fact, I never realized they called mandolins "mando" until my recent internet obsession, er, research. See, it's almost kismet.

I've also been listening to more bluegrassy type of music lately. I've always loved the blues but anything remotely country was a turnoff. But with bands like The Avett Brothers, even city slickers like me can get down with a fiddle and a banjo. Or even better, a banjolin!

Other performers like Sarah Jarosz and Mandolin Orange are also making the mandolin a more popular bluegrass/folk/pop instrument. And our very own Jack White of Detroit's hometown band, The White Stripes, plays mando too.

So see? It's totally cool, I swear.

I finally went on a 90-minute trek to buy my first mandolin yesterday. I'd had my first lesson this past Saturday and knew my love was real as soon as I held the instrument and strummed it. My instructor sent me off to Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan to find the right instrument.

I brought it home and proceeded to spend an hour on it. I spent another half hour on it after the kids went to bed. I'm not going to lie, today my fingers hurt as I type this.

I think I'll name her Lucy.

I can't quite explain why I love the mandolin like I do. I was never so excited to buy or play an instrument in my life. I liked the guitar. I tolerated the violin. But I never loved them the way I love this.

But then again, love was never rational, was it?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Camera That Loved Too Much

I was in a photo shoot today.

There were bright lights and a camera in my face. The flash kept flashing and the room full of people shouted, "The camera loves you!"

The director called out: "Strike your favorite dance pose" or "Pretend you're a mime trapped in a box" and "Flex your muscles!"

I won't lie. I loved it. I ate it up. I let go and went with the adrenaline rush. Everybody loved me in the hot glow of the lights. I was a superstar.

Then I walked out of the studio, into the cold dark hallway where I stood alone, wondering what the hell had just happened.

This could prove embarrassing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

He's Never Leaving Home

This morning I had a conversation with my seven-year-old son.

"Mom, how long is college?"

"Four years," I replied.

"FOUR YEARS!" he said, eyes popping out.

"Yes, but you can come home on holidays."

"Valentine's Day?"

"Oh, well, no. I mean big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas."

"I can't come home for Valentine's Day?" his eyes got bigger and more worried.

"Well sure you can come home for Valentine's Day if you want to, you can even come home every weekend if you want to..." I started to reply.

"Oh, good!"

"But I doubt you'll want to. You'll be a big college kid and you'll probably have parties and friends to hang out with on the weekends."

"What? No I won't!" he looked mortally wounded.

"Okay, okay. You can come home every weekend," I said, vowing to write this down so I can read it to him when he's eighteen.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hammer Time!


I swear to the shoe gods I tried to wear ballet flats. I've been wearing them for a few weeks now. But a shoe addict can only go for so long without a fix. I swear it'll just be this once. Or maybe just a Friday treat? Once a week, I swear it.

Oh dear. I sound like I have a problem.

The good news is that my seven-year-old son did not make any comments or cast any disapproving looks at my shoes this morning. Maybe they work with the ankle-length skinny jeans in a way they did not work with full-length skinny jeans? That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

(I'm disregarding the theory that he was up late playing hockey and was too tired to notice.)

I had another brilliant idea this morning as I walked into work. We have two dedicated spots for pregnant ladies. I think I'm more disabled walking in these shoes (I'll admit, they're a little high, even for me, at least for an entire work day) than I was when I was pregnant.

I think we should have two dedicated stiletto parking spots.

Brilliant, right?

My ad agency does all sorts of special parking. We used to have special logos for you to park in if you drove a certain kind of car. We have a dedicated spot if you do something phenomenal. We have dedicated spots for certain executives, spots for visitors, spots for the handicapped...you see where I'm going with this.

What's two more spots for the heroes of fierce shoes?

Maybe if I suggest putting two spots for clogs way in the back, you'll get on board?

*Looks hopeful*

A few observations on my feet:

a. That's a heel pad so the shoes don't slip off. It is not a band-aid because these shoes are torturing me.

b. Those are my hammer toes. I've always had them. And yes, when I say "Hammer Toe" I do in fact sing it to the tune of "Hammer Time!" and then I do a little sideways crab jig. (But not in these shoes. I'm not a circus freak.)

c. If I knew how to Photoshop out those freaky foot bones, blue veins and wrinkles, I would. I'm sorry to subject you to the horror that is my feet. And seriously? Have you ever tried to take an attractive self-portrait of your feet? As it is, I had to take this picture upside-down and reverse it once I got into photo-editing. I have no skill for foot photography so please stop sending me those job offers for the hammer toe fetish site. It's not gonna happen. I don't care how much you offer me.

Wait. I might do it for a premium parking spot.