Monday, June 25, 2012

Beauty is a Beast

I can handle the fact that my body is changing and gravity is having its way with me. There is a freedom in acknowledging “The ole grey mare just ain’t what she used to be.” I can go grey and thumb my nose at the exorbitant cost of hair color. I can laugh away the Lyrca on my hips and tummy while shouting, “No more!” No more straining to pretend I have a perfect body in an imperfect world. I especially don’t want to look like a similar version of other women my age because of Botox and fillers. If it makes you feel better, if it floats your boat, go with it. Me? I’ve been tempted and I’d be a liar if I said I haven’t thought about it. In the long run, I think I’m sailing away just fine in spite of the wrinkles in the sails and the extra cargo I’m carrying along.

Who says we must be wrinkle free? Photos are airbrushed in every single magazine. Makeup conceals, breasts are lifted or enhanced, tummies are tucked and we’re still going to grow old. I’m not saying go for the dumpy look and let it all hang out. Heaven forbid! I’d start a stampede of people running away from me if I did that. I mean, beauty is a real four legged beast. We preen, we pluck, and we spend mega bucks on simply keeping up appearances. I enjoy a pedicure and manicure and having my hair styled. I enjoy buying new lotions and eye gels, hoping they’ll turn back the clock, but it’s the extremes that I see others go through that make me shake my head.

Twenty and thirty-year-old women are altering their faces and bodies at such an alarming rate that I wonder if they’ll recognize themselves when they hit forty. I am concerned for the younger women around me. It almost appears as if people are starting to prefer beauty over intelligence. In the UK, a new survey was recently completed and the results are, that given the choice, women would rather be more attractive than be smart. Isn’t that just swell?

I Googled the key words, aging naturally, to see what was out there on the almighty internet. After the first page, everything was about how to reverse aging naturally. Gracious! There is so much natural beauty in each and every one of us. I think we’ve been brainwashed by advertising, designers who pick stick thin models, super stars with trainers who take them through three hour daily workouts,and the aging ultra-rich who've had so many cosmetic procedures that when they cross their legs, their mouths hang open. Have we forgotten to look at the “real” beauty in each and every one of us? I worry about this stuff because I have a daughter. I worry because I see so many going too far and actually putting their health in harm’s way to have yet another procedure. I worry because I thought our minds were just as beautiful as our outward skin. If we’re not careful, I worry we’ll forget that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what a wonder real beauty is.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bullies - Go AWAY

Very few of us who follow the news with any regularity have missed the story on the elderly bus monitor in New York. She was bullied and harassed by middle school (MIDDLE SCHOOL) students. If, like me, you have tried to watch the video to see what the hullabaloo was about (here's the link to CNN's article with the video), you may have turned it off before being done. Some of you may have even had the same reaction I did - I cried. 

The video is vile. The language is such that you expect to see either a rap star or Mel Gibson at any moment. Certainly not kids. Definitely not kids in the same age range as my own children. But the language is not the worst of it. The taunts, the cruelty, the threats - there lies bullying at its normal. Bullies seek to attack your vulnerabilities. They want to put you in your place and in their minds that place is one of humiliation.

I was bullied. I know what it is to have people call me cruel names, and, threaten to beat me up, follow me home... you wonder if bullies are given a book, "How to Intimidate and Threaten". In fact I was beat up twice in one year. Once on the bus. Once while waiting for a late bus to arrive. After the second beating, my parents began driving me to and from school (No judgement - they had been assured it would never happen again. Three kids, two jobs - not sure I wouldn't have trusted the school, also).

Of course all that really meant was the bullies had to wait until I GOT to school to start. When I watched the video, our rising 9th grader watched some of it with me. He stopped before I did. You would think an Honors English student could come up with a better word, but he didn't. He called them "douche bags". Never have I been prouder of his language, though. I know that I don't KNOW everything our teens may say and do. But since they were young, I've discussed bullying with them. We have a saying, Momma is intolerant of intolerance. You are not to make fun of someone's appearance, religion, sexual orientation, mental capabilities... Of course, they're also aware that if I caught them....

I am at a loss as to what we can do, but these children need help. And society needs help, if it allows our youth to be this vile. Some of the people who bullied me are now your basic middle aged person not out to hurt anyone. So we can all change. As for me, being bullied taught me empathy. But it would have been nice to have picked up empathy in some other way without kissing the floor of the bus.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Want to be on Summer Time

It’s the third day of summer vacation, and I hear the dreaded words: I’m bored.
Yay, I say, summer has begun, it’s weaving its spell. Go kill some flies on the porch, I say. He calls a friend down the street instead, who says, miraculously, I’m bored too. He comes down to swim, where they spend hours and then have a sleepover at the friend’s house. Thank God for neighborhood kids.
I was working from home that night so logged on at 4 p.m. in my raggedy sundress. At 10 p.m. the Dad of another friend calls inviting Dylan to ride go-karts the next day (his wife was out of town, he explained, sorry for calling so late)…clearly he didn’t understand the magic of boredom. I said sure, I’ll meet you at 9 a.m. with my ripe from sleepover kid. If I wake up.
I picked Dylan up at 4 p.m. the next day for a dentist appointment, after I’d spent the day with Dad. At some point work called, catching me off guard, and I agreed to pick up the night shift and log on from home again because the husband’s still out of town. At 5 p.m., the car overheated 30 miles from home. I am still not bored.
Dylan’s tired from no longer being bored and lack of sleep. Holding the popsicles the orthodontist doled out—yes, you read right—I pulled the steaming car into a gas station, wishing for the old-timey full-service stations where a mechanic was on duty. I bought a gallon of water and cursed my foreign car. Found a good Samaritan to help. Water gushes out as fast as we pour it in. Clearly the car is not driveable. Dad picks us up an hour later. The car’s towed to the mechanic. I’m home just in time to log on.  I want to be bored. Summer is fleeting and soon gone.
The next day, the husband finally gets home and I pull out my silent scorn and fling my pointy as a dagger cold shoulder his way. Dylan spends the morning catching flies with his hands like Spider-Man. I try to start the spare car in the garage. Dead battery of course. I am late for work that night.
I want to spend my summer time upside down on the couch watching Phineas and Ferb, playing MX vs. ATV Alive on Playstation, killing flies and time. No homework, no school bell, nowhere to be. A car that runs as it’s supposed to, a job that doesn’t expect me, a husband home where I left him. I don’t want “playdates” or dental appointments or to-dos. I want to be on summer time, where it’s endless, never runs out, flies on the wing, sifts through your fingers like sand on the beach.
I am spoiled by work-at-home summers. I wish everyone the joys of true boredom, time ill-spent, where BLTs constitute every dinner and a world where dentists dole out Fudgsicles. Just because it’s that magical out-of-school no-routine heat wave of summer. Summer well.
If fall is back to school and winter is cabin fever and spring is spring fever, then summer is none of these—the opposite, the life outside the box of space and time timelessness, the we-have-nothing-to-do how glorious.
“I’m so bored” means I summered well.
The next day all I had to do was buy strawberries and peaches and make shortcakes and buy Father’s Day gifts and help the boys pack the camper and visit Dad and be home by 7 for a meeting. Too much for a summer Saturday. Today I’m considering pitching that $150 worth of mulch they delivered as a Father’s Day gift and finish mowing. Summer eludes me. I still need to mop, clean the baths, get groceries, and make dessert. I’ll count on the endless hours of a summer day to grant me enough time to do that all.
But I just want to be bored.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Face Painter, Soothsayer or Quack?

There is nothing like a small town where everyone seems somehow connected. There is a certain pride of place, and the people of the town smile easily, wave readily and know the meaning of hospitality. The small town I live in is active in the arts and in the community. The beginning of every summer they have an art and music fair and come September, The Harvest Festival fills the main street with vendors, antique cars, music and more. There are so many positives to a small town, but the odd and strange live there as well.

Every year, our family makes it a point to go to the art fair and enjoy the local artisan’s wares, and a snow cone or two. My daughter entered the sidewalk chalk art competition and my son just enjoyed running free, and did I mention the snow cones? Anyway, we enjoyed the day, eating lunch with friends at the local pub while the kids enjoyed running in the sunshine. It was a perfect day, well almost.

My five-year-old son patiently waited his turn to have his face painted; the promise of a lollypop from the vendor had him sure to sit still. He walked away happy, a blonde version of Batman with a lollypop that he thoroughly enjoyed. We were listening to a local musician jam on the guitar, when the “face painter” sidled up to me.

She leaned in and told me that I “really, really ought to” have my child tested for Autism, she was studying to be a psychologist and she recognized that he worried three separate times over getting a lollypop, and that worry is one of the major signs of Autism. I didn’t know what to say. I was in shock, I was bewildered, and I felt the bottom dropping out of my heart. Had I missed something? To be sure I would know if my child needed attention? Before I could ask her anything more, she walked away and started packing up her kiosk.

My husband saw my face and asked me “What was that all about?” When I told him, it seemed as if a myriad of thoughts flashed across his face, along with disbelief and a good portion of outrage. I knew what he was feeling. I’ve been known to verbally eviscerate an individual when they’ve overstepped a line where my children are concerned, but this woman caught me completely off guard. I couldn’t think of a thing to say because I knew that SHE thought she was doing me a kindness. She had spent less than 15 minutes with my child and she diagnosed him as Autistic.

Being the worry wart that I am, I went home and Googled everything on Autism. The only benchmark/symptom my son had was worry…over a lollypop. That’s when I started to chuckle. What kid won’t worry the pants off a parent when it comes to candy? Think about the checkout line in the grocery store. I can’t even count the times that BOTH of my children have pleaded, as if their lives depended on it, over a candy bar or pack of gum. To top that off, how could the pediatrician that my son has been going to since birth have missed this diagnosis?

The following weekend, while getting my hair cut, I relayed the entire story to my hair dresser. About the time I finished the story, a little boy and his dad went to check out to pay for their haircuts. In quick succession the little boy asked, “Can I have a lollypop now Daddy? You said you’d let them give me one if I was good. I was good, wasn’t I Daddy? Can I have it now?” To which my hair dresser replied, “He must be autistic too.”

Every single child born is a gift, PERIOD. Those of us graced to be parents are just that, graced.  As parents we worry over our children regardless of condition, disabilities or society’s varying degrees of “normal.” It would have done me no good to debate with the face painter, because a little knowledge is such a dangerous thing. There is an old saying by Syrus; “Many receive advice, few profit by it.”  I say, beware of strangers giving advice.

How would you have handled the situation?
How would you feel if a stranger approached with an “out-of-the-blue” diagnosis regarding your child? Would you let it go? Would you pursue what the woman’s intentions were, or would you have just gone for another snow cone?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One True Love

The song “HardCandy” by the Counting Crows was playing on my iPod Friday as I was taking my lunch time walk. It stopped me cold in my tracks all because of the lines, “When you sleep you find your mother in the night, but she stays just out of sight. So there isn’t any sweetness in the dreaming.”  I was suddenly overcome by ridiculous snotty hic-ups from crying and trying to catch my breath. My Mama died over thirteen years ago, and there are moments where missing her washes over me like a rogue wave, splattering me down on rough sand, leaving me breathless and worse for wear.

The catch of loss hits, unexpected. The sun literally glints off of my son’s hair, and I suck in a breath knowing my Mother can’t share that beauty with me. My daughter walks across a stage without fear, and I wonder if my Mama knows. I wonder if she knows that every good thing I do comes from her. Every random act of kindness I have done is because she did, with little thought or effort, while my sisters, brother and I watched.

I feel her in the company of my sisters, and I revel in the gift of those moments. I miss her. I don’t live in the past, or rush towards the time to be with her. I long for that one true love. I know what I feel for my children, she felt for me, and if I am very fortunate my children will pass that gift on to their families.

I finish listening to the song. I walk on, changing tunes. I continue, slightly red-eyed and hic-upping, blessed for what I had, and hoping what I give measures up.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Local Mom Strikes, Film at 11

There is a union for Mom’s, right? Oh what was I thinking, of course there isn’t, but in our little corner of the universe I’m thinking of starting one. You know what it’s like. You’ve picked up a million little things throughout the day, listened to bickering between the children, heard the heavy breathing from the teen while eye’s roll at your apparent stupidity, and watched your husband shake his head in disbelief that you could be upset over such “a little thing.” I thought they had heard of the old saying “if Momma isn’t happy, nobody is happy.” 

I figured that in my role as wife and mother I’ve jumped through all the hoops one possibly can without being a side show at the circus. If something needed to be done, it was done, often leaving what I wanted to do to come last. Don’t get me wrong, it was my choice, but every now and then you want to know you’re appreciated.  Yet, for some reason no one in my family can seem to do what I ask without heavy breathing being involved. Now I myself like a certain variety of heavy breathing but this particular kind isn’t what I have in mind.

In the course of a regular day, along with the things I have to do; helping out the kids, doing laundry, cleaning the house, feeding the dog and the family and oh yeah, going to work, I figure I add on at least twenty to thirty little things to do. I remind my children to take their shoes off the staircase and put them up. I carry several days of clothes down to the hamper in the laundry room AFTER I’ve already done three loads of clothes, or take the wrappers from candy and chewy’s out of the living room and put them into the garbage. Every Mom out there knows what I’m talking about. I don’t want an immaculate house; I just want a house I can walk though without it looking like it’s heading for an episode of “Hoarders.”  I swear, if I didn’t pick up we’d be digging tunnels just to get to our rooms.

So a couple of days ago, I hit a wall. My hubby and I had butted heads over a simple task, and it seemed apparent to me that I was making much ado about nothing. The next day I got off of work early and was looking forward to spending time with my daughter. The “tude” that I got from her was enough to sink the Spanish Armada. Seems we differ on everything, very much like “The Taming of the Shrew.” I’ll say it’s the sun, and she will insist it’s the moon. What I hoped would be a small, sweet segment of time spent together, had knocked the wind out of me.

Then, in relaying what had happened to my husband, my son interrupted and yelled, “You have to play cars and trucks with me tonight.”  It all hit me entirely the wrong way. Everyone could tell me what to do, infer that what I wanted was not important, and show their attitudes without hint of apology. Yep, for this I get one day a year called “Mother’s Day” and an ulcer.

I dropped my basket, lost my head, went out on a limb, and when I walked in the door at home, I wrote my manifesto:

“For the past three months I’ve been working outside of the home, and contributing to our household and family as always. But, no more.

Until I am heard, and treated with a respect I feel I have earned, until the “little things” I ask for are done and remembered, until I can ask someone to do a task without eye rolling or asking multiple times, I am on strike.

This means I will not:
Do laundry,
Participate in family functions,
Run errands,
Go to the grocery store,
Plan outings,
Go to performances, games, etc.
Pick up or drop off anyone to school.

I’m tired of not being listened to, of not being heard, of being talked down to, and underappreciated.
I will do my own job where they pay me and appreciate ME for trying to do my best, which is all I ever expect from all of you.”

Luckily, for the family, they had gone out and I didn’t stick around to see what they would do when they got home and found no supper on the table. I went to the bookstore, then bought some blouses, grabbed a sandwich, and read until 9pm with my feet propped up at Starbucks. It was wonderful.

We’re on day four of the strike. I haven’t cleaned, cooked or run a single errand and I feel like a heel, but I’m soooooooo relaxed. They’re looking a little wide-eyed and my daughter hasn’t rolled her eyes once. My son asked me to “Please play cars and trucks,” and I might, but for now I’ll let it ride until my demands are met.   

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Camp Prayer

I wanted to write something funny and witty this morning. Actually I’d love to be able to do that any morning. But I’m in a very reflective mood this morning. And I know why. I sit here in a quiet house with little piles of stuff surrounding me. Both our teen sons leave tomorrow for a week long camp in the mountains. When I was 13, I went to a camp in the mountains. The camp was lovely. The experience was not. I became the target of the girls in my cabin. Most of the girls were lifelong friends. And here I was – odd girl out, and odd already. I was short and skinny with buck teeth and braces. I used an obnoxiously high-falutin’ vocabulary which only made me even more of a target. After all when you call someone obtuse and they think you just called them fat – well, they retaliate.

I’ve been the target of bullies most of my life. And it affected my life in many ways. But if you can find a positive in it, it would have to be that I am very conscious of how others are treated. And I’ve discussed bullying and its effects with our sons many, many times.

I changed the wallpaper on my iPhone this morning to a picture I took of the two of them headed into our school district’s Fine Arts Center before a band concert. The picture is evocative to me because you only see their backs. As I see it, my purpose in raising our children is so they can walk away from me into the world and make the world a better place. And that is my prayer as they go to camp. Please let them touch the world in a positive way and leave it better. Amen.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World After All

Sigh, it happened again this morning. It’s so reassuring to find out your place, your status, your worth. Let me give some examples:

May I speak to your husband? Sure, and tell him to finish cleaning the toilets while you’re at it…

Is your husband home? Home? For the love of god I can’t get rid of him.

Would it be possible for your husband to be there when I give you the quote so he could decide then? Why, sure. And the fact that he could care less what color I paint the laundry room is completely inconsequential…

I can’t give you that information without speaking to your husband. Would you have to shoot me if you did? I swear, he’s not my mama.

Do you work? Well, of course not. We all know that housecleaning and yard work and child rearing have zero labor component involved. It’s a freakin’ miracle around here…all the time.

Do you have a real job? And you think you’re being more politically correct by phrasing it this way. You think wrong. It’s real, what I do, real irritating, real annoying, and at times real rewarding…just like a real job.

What do you do for a living? I breathe in and out…how do you keep living?

We refinanced our mortgage recently. And I so thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I loved, loved, loved it when I called to close out the home equity line, which we had never drawn a single penny on, and was informed that they could only do it with my husband’s consent but did not need mine. This despite the fact that I signed all the papers for it and my name was on it. Hubby called them and they said it was just that I was not considered a responsible party - woo hoo, time to replay my teenage years, this time with money - despite my name being on it. Hmph, betcha they wouldn’t have had a problem tracking me down like a dog if we’d taken money on it and hadn’t paid it on time, uh huh.

And after the refinancing was completed the mortgage company has about broken their necks to thank hubby for allowing them to have our business. Ask me if I’ve gotten a thank-you call or email – go ahead, ask me, I dare you. Now who do you think pays the bills around here? I don’t mean makes the money, I mean gets all the bills set up to draft on time or the checks in the mail? Hmmm? Why that would be the person with that Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting whose work in the world used to be worth a pretty penny…But I’m worthless in the world now because I bring in no income of worth.
I’m sure all of you have heard about the famous heel-in-mouth moment by Hilary Rosen, a political strategist who was quoted as saying that Ann Romney had never “actually worked” a day in her life. I blogged about it, and Mary blogged about it as did many others. But the issue is deeper than the Mommy wars. Long ago I realized that the only judge that counted regarding my children was my own conscience. I didn’t stay home to make a political statement and when I was working it wasn’t to make a political statement either. It was to make sense of where I was supposed to be at the time.
And whether I’ve been in an actual workplace or at home, the dismissal of women has been a recurring theme. Let me share some more examples, this time from my prior life:

Can you take the notes? The secretary is out. (Why, no I can’t. See I’m at a higher level than you are, so you take the damn notes.)

What would you do if we had an emergency at the plant and you had a sick child? (Well, I’ll just tell my kid to call a cab, of course. He’s brilliant for a two-year-old.)

Can you make us some coffee? (Nope, I don’t drink coffee. Perhaps you should ask one of the admin’s instead of the CONTROLLER.)

Every single statement I’ve used has actually occurred. My answers have not, well, except the once – I’ll let you pick which one that might have been. Sadly, I could give more and more examples. And even sadder, there are women who dismiss other women – because they can’t seem to comprehend our own value. They’ve been brainwashed…or they’re just stupid, err unenlightened…take your pick.

Women are often summarily dismissed. I lay part of the blame at how we are raised to be accommodating to others, but at some stage of life, you would think most reasonable people would recognize how unreasonable it is to dismiss others. Perhaps we should judge people based on how they treat others and not on their income. As the mother of two sons, I am thrilled anytime they discuss topics with me on an equal level. Of course since they are teenagers I’m actually thrilled if they just acknowledge me, but on a deeper level, I want them to know that women are not to be dismissed. And it actually is a lot of work to raise men out of boys, especially men who recognize the worth of a woman.

Monday, June 4, 2012

London Bridge Is NOT Falling Down

I have an obsession. Well, not a full blown one. It's not like I bought one of Diana's dresses or have a room dedicated to memorabilia, and I've only been to London once, and that was ages ago. But I do adore me a royal... And the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is right up my alley. The clothes, the pomp, the pompous, all of it. Of course I have my favorites - the Queen, Prince William or as my Momma likes to say - that good lookin' youngun, and Kate, err, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. With apologies to my blonde friends, it's a relief to see someone gorgeous and truly brunette. Though at times I do wish she would eat some cake.

I enjoy watching their lifestyle from afar. It's a guilty pleasure, and one that I know I am not alone in. It's hard not to spend a moment imagining the wonder of such a life - never cleaning, nor cooking, no car lines at school or waiting at the doctor's lines anywhere unless you WANT to be in one...the idea of which mystifies and amazes me. Never a worry about money, and losing your job no longer means losing your head. In fact part of your duty is to have sex with your spouse so you can produce an heir....not much else to say there, huh? It just doesn't seem like a hard life.

But for as much as I enjoy being a royal voyeur, I have realized a life lesson along the way that tempers my enjoyment. No one is immune to life. Sadness, grief, divorce has its way with all of us. We see the highlight reel of others lives and equate it to the underbelly of our own, and it's not a fair comparison. I'll watch and read about the lifestyles of the royal and famous. I'll remember the thrill of walking on London Bridge, seeing the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and so many incredible historical sites. But in the end my life is mine - the good and the bad. Though I could do without a line or two, at least on my face.