Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mom Friends, Part 1

There will probably be an infinite number of parts to this one, because mom friends are the best friends. I learned that—more by blind instinct than any plan—when my oldest was about three months old.

Long ago, we moved to a new town where I knew no one. I worked from home; our church community consisted mostly of retirees. No one in our neighborhood seemed to come outside. My husband worked a solid half hour away. And then we had a baby.

Long before I was ready for it, Big A. had to go back to work and I stayed at home, alone, all day with the baby. I ran up a ridiculous phone bill to my mom. I watched Oprah. I forced myself not to check the mail until 3:30 every day. And I swear the clock actually moved backwards when I was waiting for 5:30 and my husband’s homecoming.

My sister-in-law, who’d already been through it, recommended a group for moms that she enjoyed. I Googled and called and looked up directions and found one nearby. I manipulated our nursing schedule and nap schedule and hauled exactly one crap-ton of stuff with us to the meeting.

I hated it.

First of all, I don’t like meetings. I don’t like organized activities. I especially don’t like mompetition (although we didn’t call it that back then).

So I went the other way and tried another type of national group. Turns out S. and I liked that one okay, but it only met once a month. So we tried paying for a once-a-week Mommy and Me play class.

Not crazy about that one, either.

Actually, the playing part was okay. The “teachers” though—whoa. Sometimes you just want to say something like, “Oh, I am SO glad to be here! My kid hasn’t slept more than twenty minutes in days.” And then you want someone to say, “Wow. That sucks.”

These people asked me things like, “So, how do you feel about that?” and “Have you considered a more ___ technique?” or “When does she eat?” and “Do you think you are parting her hair wrong?” STOP THE INQUISITION, ALREADY!

Then I stumbled across a weekly story time for babies at the local library. We went into a peaceful, cheerful room, sat in a circle and sang some nursery rhymes, did some clapping games, and listened to a book. That took about twenty minutes. Then the kids crawled into a giant pile of toys in the middle while the moms talked.

This worked for me. I like books. I like silly songs. I loved letting S. play with other kids. I loved talking to real moms. We went to this story time from the time S. was three months old until she aged out at eighteen months. After a while, we all started going to the breakfast place across the street for lunch afterward. You should have seen our table—yes, that would be a table for sixteen or so with half high chairs.

I am still friends with so many of those moms. Others I just run into around town, but I always love seeing them. And our kids! Holy moly, they’ve grown.

And I’ve confessed to at least one mom that I always envied her because she seemed so on top of things. You know what she said? “Oh, no—that was you. YOU always had it together!” We both laughed at how wrong we’d been. But that’s what the whole thing was all about. We learned that, as different as we all are, we are all the same.

We look different, we choose differently, we have different lives and different kids. But we all have hopes and fears and dreams and worries. We also all had poopy diapers, endless laundry, sleepless nights, humiliating moments in public, joyful moments of parental pride. And we learned that it was all okay.

So that’s the first thought I'd like to throw out there. Mom friends know it’s all okay.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Random Trifecta

So I’m going to be a little random tonight because I’m happy. Why? Because—all by myself—I got all the daily chores done, the dog walked, and the kids in bed by 8pm. Without fussing at all. THAT is a night worth celebrating and I choose to party with randomness.

First random follow-up…

Since I’ve outted my husband as a Downton Abbey watcher, I’ve gotten so much love and support from other couples who watch together. Thank you all for supporting us in our journey!

I’m turning to you all with our latest challenge. Monday night—on his birthday, sweet man—Big A. and I decided to catch up on the last two episodes. We did our usual fun, snarky job of kibitzing our way through last week’s episode. Then, halfway through this week’s episode…he nodded off.

Yep, Big A.’s hardworking ways (or the British accents) caught up with him and he fell asleep IN THE MIDDLE of the latest episode. He slept through the good news, me screaming, “Oh my gosh, she’s going to ____!” and he slept through all the bad news.

Anyone who knows me knows what a challenge I’m facing now. I really want to talk about how THIS is why we’re grateful for certain modern ________ and how it’s about evidence-based _________, not one way being better than another.

And I just want to have a big “OMFG!” moment with him.

Oh, well. We’ll try again this weekend.

Second random follow-up…

So, regarding bad behavior in stores, I really wanted to try some today. Here’s why.

I usually go to the pet food store at mid-morning and it’s usually sleepy-quiet-empty. Today, perhaps, because of season, perhaps because of a bizarre astronomical arrangement, it was HOPPING.

I think nearly every poncey pom in the county got groomed and came to walk be pushed in a cart through the store. I saw at least ten dogs—and even worse, they brought their humans. 

Please picture me in my workout clothes, picking up a thirty-pound bag of Large Dog food and carrying it on my shoulder to the counter. Realize that I stand out like a giraffe on a polar iceberg.

As I wait in line, the dog in the cart in front of me sniffs noses with the dog in the cart coming in the door. The dog in line starts whining as the other dog moves off. The other dog’s humans say, [and I am not exaggerating at all] “Oh, look, pwecious—anudder dog as bootiful as youuuu! Listen, pwecious, baby’s cwying for youuuuu. Awwww!”

I SO wished I had my Large Dog with me at that moment!

And that he actually was scary.

Or at least half as scary as he sounds.

And, finally, I offer you a random poem. I wrote this (or composed it and then worked really hard to remember it until I got near paper) when the kids were wee little ones.

A sticky-fingered mosaicist, I
stealing moments
pasting affinite fragments
into a whole

taking tag-ends of time
to jot, to journal
to think
Ah, to think….

I clutch each slick, slippery subject
slicing my fingertips
on sharp points
but holding on, holding

Until, at last, release!
Pen meets paper
Memory relieved
My notion is noted
My inner artist sated
Poetry set in paper stone

See? Random. I like it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Little Bit Forward

A couple months ago, I wrote a a blog about just being nicer to each other—cooperating instead of competing—especially when it comes to parenting.

I know I can get tunnel vision pretty easily. We all tend to think I just need to get through this…and not really look around us. So I’ve been trying to pick up my head and look around for chances to do something nice. And I’ve seen signs of others doing the same—even during season here is southwest Florida!

Just yesterday, a really nice barista let me get my coffee even though I was two cents short. You’d better believe I’ll be going back with a nice tip next time! So there’s the kindness of strangers on top of the generosity of our friends, which constantly awes and inspires me.

And that’s good, because I have a dilemma. How do you…deflect?...truly rude people without adding to the darkness of the world? How can you nicely point out to someone that they really need to back the #@$% off?

I don’t usually get upset about things that happen to me. (My kids are another story; see below.) Yesterday in Michael’s, though…

Two registers were open and each had a customer. I got in line behind one, then realized that there were about five adorable older ladies lined up across the main aisle, kind of between the fake flower displays. I said, “Oh, sorry!” and went to the back of the line. The first adorable older lady said, “We’re just taking turns with whichever register comes open.” Sounded good to me. And they were even leaving the main aisle clear for traffic—so thoughtful!

Enter middle-aged, well-dressed, Loud Woman, who “cuts” in line as I did, then sees the line, as I did. Please read her lines below in the most bossy, judgmental, superior tone you can imagine.

“This is ridiculous! You can’t do that! You’re holding everyone up.” (Turning to bystander.) “I mean, what if they had five registers open? You can’t just stand in one line.”

Loud Woman then walked up to the ladies, one at time and said, “Pick a line.” then “Which line are you getting in?” And when someone else came up and looked puzzled, she said, “Everyone has to pick a line. This lady was holding everyone up.” (Indicating the first lady who had been waiting across the aisle.)

Now, to me, this is not only completely illogical, false, and untrue (which always makes me want to open the offender’s mind with a giant Common Sense Bat), it’s also disrespectful of our elders, insulting, and borderline verbal abuse.

So the lady “holding everyone up” finally, goaded by the third variation on that theme, said, “I was not,” checked out and left. By then, Loud Woman got to me.

“Pick a line.”

Moment of truth. What do I do?

And seriously, I had time to (in split-second flashes) consider the things I WANTED to do and what Loud Woman might learn from those things if I did them and even give fleeting consideration to the thought that I don’t know her story and she’s just doing her best like the rest of us.

All I could come up with was nothing.

I looked in her eyes for a good moment, then moved into a line.

Really, what could I have said? Maybe, with time, I can get to something like, “Thank you for trying to help.” (I’m trying to imagine what Ghandi would say in that situation.) And, in a perfect world, maybe that would give her the clarity, support, and space to realize she could do things better. I don’t know, though.

And that’s just when it’s me and strangers! When someone’s rude to my kids….

You may have heard about the waiter who recently went to bat for a boy with Down’s Syndrome. If not, you can read about it here. I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to do what he did, and thank goodness the management supported him! As someone who’s had people ask to switch tables or switch seats in church or make loud comments on an airplane because of my children, I am so grateful that there are folks like him!

And before anyone quibbles (which they should, since my kids are capable of being truly obnoxious!), I would not be offended if someone moved away from my family because our kids were acting up. I am only offended when they just LOOK at the kids and leave/make rude comments, which is what happened in all three instances above.

So the big question is: then what do you do? I admit that those were, “Honey, please hold me down so I don’t get arrested” moments for me. But, in the end, the best revenge is living well. All the people in question got to see our kids make it through dinner, church, or the plane ride without going nuts, so they had the opportunity to learn if they wanted.

I can aim for Ghandi-esque behavior. I’m really TRYING to add to the light in the world, here!

On the other hand…
To the %$# who keeps driving really fast around the corner where my daughter and her friends get on the bus every morning WHILE the bus is parked there with its lights flashing and the children are crossing the street to board it…you’re a different story. This mom is getting medieval on you.

Fair warning.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Poets Anonymous

My name is Rosanne and I’m a poet. And, though you may not have realized it, this blog has been a desperate cry for poetry.

Hold on there—don’t run away yet!

For lots of highly technical reasons—ones I probably shouldn’t discuss since I haven’t received a stamp of approval Ph.D—all writing operates on the same principles. As a freelance editor, I get paid to explain those, so if you want to hear that spiel, contact me separately.

Bring cash.

Of all the forms of writing, humor, songwriting, and poetry have the most in common. They have “PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER: itty-bitty living space.”

Poets, songwriters, and comic writers aim to wreak the most havoc with the fewest words. They face strict rules that must be both followed and broken. It’s tough stuff, yet, if they succeed, they get a direct line to a person’s being. Not too shabby. Hard as hell, but not shabby.

So you’ve been effortlessly enjoying my humorous blog without realizing it’s poetry attempting to make its way in a world that loathes poetry.

At least I hope you enjoy it—if not, why are you here? Masochist.

But I bet you’re not sure if you’d really go for the poetry, straight up. You wonder if you’re part of that poetry-loathing majority.


You want to know what I think trips everyone up about poetry? Here it is. I’m serious. The big reveal is……………………now.

People hate poetry because they try to understand it.

Seriously. Think of your favorite comedian. Think of a Jon Stewart or Bill Cosby or whoever doing a spiel that had you holding your sides. Heck, think of a funny story from this blog. Are you ready? Now try to UNDERSTAND it.

I’m guessing it’s not so funny anymore.

Now, some humor isn’t for you; some days even your favorite comic leaves you cold. That’s art! But you don’t give up on humor entirely, right? Well, I demand equality for poetry!

So we’re going to try a literary experiment. I’m fomenting a revolution and I don’t want to be the only barricade out there, okay? We can do this. After all, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Who’s with me?

Rule Number One: I will still be funny. It will happen—the kids will be brilliant, adorable, illogical aliens and I will be a great big smarty-pants. I will dance in those smarty pants. Enjoy! Or leave, that’s cool, too.

You’re still here?

Rule Number Two: When the urge or the muse or a 50-million-volt shot of electricity strikes, I will post a naked poem. Then we will try the new food without ketchup, listen to unexpurgated rock and roll, drink liquor without mixers, jump without looking.

Rule Number Three: No one will try to UNDERSTAND the funny. No one will try to UNDERSTAND the poetry.

That is our contract. Sign it in blood and email it to me by morning.

Do NOT tell anyone with a graduate degree in literature—unless they’ve got one of Hermione’s charmed Galleons. Then just make them do the Truffle Shuffle and let them in.

Bonus points to anyone who caught at least three references to classic (funny!) movies. Double points to anyone who caught the movie referenced twice. Quadruple points to anyone who caught me making a reference I didn’t realize I’d made, in which case, it is NOT theft of intellectual property, just sleep deprivation.

And NO! Harry Potter does not count as a movie. Geez.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Going Downton

Two things here. If you don’t watch Downton Abbey (and you probably should!), this won’t be much fun. And, if you do or might watch Downton Abbey but haven’t gotten to the third season—well, I will try to tap-dance around spoilers.

I missed the first season of Downton Abbey on PBS, but I heard so much about it that I thought I’d give it a whirl. Needless to say, I was instantly addicted.

I kept doing this: “It’s over? How long’s the next episode? Forty-two minutes? That’s not even an hour. It’s only 10:30, so I can watch it.”

Then Big A. got involved—but as a spectator only, the first season. When [SPOILER ALERT] O’Brien moved the soap, I started screaming at the TV. “Oh, no, she DI-DN’T!” I may have used a naughty word as well.

My husband called to me, “What are you watching in there—football?”

Season Two came along soon after that and he started casually sitting on the sofa at some point Sunday night, just ending up there before it began. This cracks me up because, generally, any period piece with British accents puts him to sleep. He calls them “I’m just a bit tired” movies/shows—a tribute to The Remains of the Day, of course.

He stays awake for Downton Abbey, though. And, at the end of last season, he seemed a little shocked to find out we had to wait until January 2013 for the next one.

So far, this season has been really fun. Like everyone else, we enjoy Matthew and Mary. During the first episode, we realized that might be because Mary has some traits that remind us of our own daughter. She’s both persistent and dramatic, for starters.

When Mary burst into tears and left the table the night before her wedding, Big A. and I just laughed ourselves silly, having watched S. do the same thing at our table earlier—well, except S. curled up in a ball on her chair. (In case you’re wondering why she was sobbing, you should know that we’re not cruel to S. any more than anyone is to Mary. I think Little A. looked at her or something.)

The best part was last night, though, episode two. Big A. and I have taken opposite sides of the Matthew/Mary debate. [I’m trying to avoid spoilers here.] Although he goes to extremes, I understand Matthew’s point of view; Big A. does not. He’s all with Mary on this one! I even tried to get him to put himself in Mr. Swire’s position, but no luck.

So when it came time to decide at the end of episode two and Matthew looked like he would continue to be stubborn, Big A. said, “If I were her, I’d just hit him in the head right now.” Not two seconds later, most of you know what happened.

Mary says, “If you [spoiler deleted]…then I shall have to beat you about the head.”

So there’s no hiding that we get into our DA watching. Then, as we watched the previews last night and the credits rolled, Big A. turned to me and confessed the real reason he resisted the show in the first place.

“I can’t believe you’ve got me watching a British soap opera.”

But, come on! Scenery, architecture, clothes, drama, intrigue, repression, love, biting sarcasm (wit, not vulgarity!)—if you’re going to watch a soap opera, THAT is the way to do it.