Monday, March 28, 2011

Mama's Little Rocker

It's probably a sin to be this proud of my kid.

I don't care.

This is my thirteen-year-old performing in her middle school's production of Fame.

The kid ROCKS.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Facebook Fail

I had to quit Facebook cold-turkey this week.

I was seriously addicted and it had become this enormous time suck.  I was checking it every time I got on the computer and posting mobile updates from my phone.  I even found myself thinking in terms of status updates!

Plus, you know,  Facebook gives the ILLUSION of real connection with people, but it's not really connecting at all, at least for me. It's more like touching base with people--which certainly has its uses, but probably shouldn't be confused with meaningful interaction.  And you know what else?  For me, distilling my life down to 420-character status updates left me open to judgment by people who had nothing else to go on. Some of that judgment was very hurtful, especially from people I thought should have known better. Blogging seems a safer medium for me to share my spastic, crazy, heartfelt, wide-open life, and the connections I make here seem deeper and more lasting.

So, anyway, that is not to say that I haven't been going through a little withdrawal.  If you'll indulge me, here are all the status updates I would have posted over the past week, starting with today:

For my Texas peeps, this is what March 24th looks like in Huntington, NY.  Y'all think about that when you're taking your kids swimming in the outdoor community pool today (not that I'm bitter.)
I was never a crier before I had children.  I am the BIGGEST crybaby now--really, it's just embarrassing.  I cry when I'm low-blood sugar, at stupid sappy songs, at people being kind to me... it's like I had kids and broke the seal or something.

Overheard: two girls, about ten, walking into Jane's school, deep in conversation, "The thing about the Rocky movies is that it's really just the same movie over and over and over."

Just had the most infuriating conversation with my 13-year-old about whether or not Patty Griffin should be classified as "country."  Reminded me of the time I told Coop that I thought Bob Dylan had had as much influence on popular music as Paul McCartney.  I thought I was headed for divorce court RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

But seriously, this is called country?


Jane, 10, just sent a very excited note to her dad at work because Jumbo Fluke Fishing starts May 1. I know that's going on MY calendar.  

I think I may have just re-broken my newly healed broken toe. I ran it right into the washer and I felt that kind of sickening...sensation that heralds a broken toe. On the plus side, this is a good indication of how much acupuncture has done for me. Seriously, before acupuncture, there is no way I would have been barefoot in my house without excruciating pain.  I mean, I used to get up and put my shoes on with my nightgown just to get downstairs. Now I'm going barefoot and breaking toes!  Really, it's a cause for celebration.
It turns out that two cats on the bed at night is just a lot more than 30 pounds of cat.  Maybe there's some sort of multiplying factor that I was unaware of.  All I know is that last night I had to leave the bed to the cats and go sleep on the couch.
Ana is a cast member in the musical "Fame," and this is her 80's costume. I wish I'D looked that good in the 80's.

For the second day in a row, I am dressed in black head-to-toe.  (Yesterday Ana told me I looked like a Ninja.) Aside from the fact that this is something of self-defeating theory of action in my house, given the amount of pet hair, I'm also kind of worried that people are going to expect me to start singing Johnny Cash songs.
Just got back from taking Ana's guitar and amplifier up to the middle school so she would have it for rehearsal this afternoon.  The pervasive negativity of the kids chatting as they passed kind of froze my blood.  I wish I could be a tiny voice in their heads telling them to choose positive reinforcement of each other, instead of the slow torture of the hormonally poisoned. Man, it's a wonder any of us survived that time in our lives.

Jane took Coop to the driving range on Sunday, where she experimented with several new grips.

So, anyway, these posts won't be found on Facebook.  And honestly, I am glad I gave it up--it's like I gave myself two extra hours a day and I'm using those hours to do some serious writing on my new book.

(If y'all want to share this post on Facebook, though, you should feel free!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's a Full Time Job

It seems to me like there has been an epidemic lately (epidemic meaning two) of people asking me what I do all day and why I'm not working at a paying job.  It took me aback, actually, because, A) the question seemed a throw-back to a less enlightened time when few people saw the value in a person staying home to raise children and B) I didn't really have a clear, concise answer.

I confess that the question is still bugging me --making me feel a little defensive, as if I need to justify why my choice to stay out of the paying work force is the best choice for my family. Which speaks to my own insecurities and narrowly defined work ethic, I guess.  If there's no pay check, can it be considered work?

It IS work, though.  In fact, if you add up my hours per day, I often work longer than an eight-hour day, despite the fact that my children are in school for seven hours.  (No, seriously --I sat down with a pencil and counted the hours up.) AND, I don't get weekends off.  It's not very glamorous--laundry, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, acting as doorman to the pets --but there are also things I do that call on my creativity, like pretending I understand fourth grade math. I stay busy.

So, anyway, I started thinking about pulling a résumé together and starting a job search.  After thirteen years away from the work force (except for a stint as Editor of Austin Family Magazine, which was a dream job except it was A) part time and B) impossible for ME to do part-time and C) impossible for me to do AND care for my family), it was hard to know where to begin.

I studied Journalism in college and clearly, there is no huge demand for true journalists today.  Plus, I didn't ever work as a reporter anyway.  In my life before children, I was a Development Director for various non-profit organizations. I couldn't return to work in that field because I don't have the contacts anymore to raise the kind of money I used to raise, plus I don't think I ever worked less than a 60-hour week in my entire career which would make it a little hard to pick up my kids from school.

So, okay, what skills do I use now that might be marketable in today's job market?

  • I am an excellent laundress.  I'm not sure there's a CAREER in it, exactly.  But I can wash me some clothes, sure 'nuff. I guess I could work in a hotel if I could learn how to fold sheets.
  • I am used to cooking three separate meals at a time and having no luck getting anyone to eat anything.  Again, I'm not sure there's an actual CAREER in this, since most of the meals I make consist of plain, dry sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, tacos and spaghetti, but at least I am immune to complaints.  (Mostly.) Maybe a Diner for the Culinarily Challenged would hire me as a cook.
  • I am a truly fantastic Car Singer.  I can't write music nor play an instrument, but if you want me to belt out some Ruthie Foster for you as I am driving you to your Tae Kwon Do lesson, all you have to do is ask.  Of course, my KIDS don't really appreciate this talent... (Small-minded of them, don't you think?) I guess there's no career in THIS, either, unless I could start some kind of Singing Cabbie service.
  • I am an excellent house cleaner.  Maybe I could start a housecleaning service! Except the thought of cleaning OTHER PEOPLE'S toilets makes me want to barf.  Actually, that's why I have cleaners to come clean my own house--I don't want to clean OUR toilets, either.
  • I am really good at being Doorman (Door Person?) for our pets. I'm not sure that I could work as a REAL Doorman (Person), though, because I find it impossible not to comment every. Single. Time.  "Didn't I just let you out?" "Oh, you don't really WANT to go out?  You're just checking the weather?" "Why yes, it's raining in the front of the house AND the back."  I think Real Doormen (People) are probably the strong silent types.  (Of course,  THEIR clients probably tip better than mine.)
Okay, I guess the reality is that I have no marketable skills.  I guess I should just stick to doing what I already do, which is making myself happy.  

It's a full-time job.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ana Turns Thirteen

Dear Ana,

Today you became a teenager.

I would do my normal, "WOW, how did that happen?  I JUST brought you home from the hospital!" routine but I'm kind of... well, stunned. Dude, I JUST brought you home from the hospital!  You were the most perfect, beautiful, calm baby--I was just madly in love with you from the first instant I saw you.

I guess some things don't change, even in thirteen years.  You are still such a perfect, beautiful and serene person.  I am still madly in love with you.  Some days, it doesn't seem like my heart can possibly contain the joy and pride and awe I feel when I look at you.  I am truly honored to be your mother.

It's a really big birthday, thirteen.  It's the start of a unique time in your life --you are poised on the cusp of infinite possibility.  My own teenager years were not easy.  I didn't have your deep sense of calm, your quiet self assurance, your assessing nature.  I was more of a "rush headlong into traffic, cry hard when I got hit by a car" kind of girl.  I was thinking about what I wish I had known when I turned thirteen, what I wish someone had told me, and it really boils down to three things:

1. The bad times won't last. No matter how bleak, or embarrassing, or awful today is, tomorrow will be better.  It just will.  Wait it out, you'll see.  Nothing is so permanent that it can't be fixed or changed or gotten through.  No matter how mean kids can be, no matter how alone you feel--it will pass.  You will get through it, and go on to a life full of wonder and joy and happiness.  Make the best choices you can and leave the rest to time. Five or ten or twenty years from now, I hope you'll look back on your teenage self and feel great compassion for her. Meanwhile, this is a time for trying your wings.  I'll be here to catch you if you want me to because...

2. I'm on your side.  I know that we disagree sometimes and that you think I can't understand the unique pressures in your life. It's true; I probably can't really understand all that you go through.  But I think it's important that you hear this from me: my only goal is your happiness and well-being.  I don't care what situation arises, whatever happens, I am here for you.  I have your back.  When you want to kill me for my stubborn obtuse adult-ness, please remember that everything I do is motivated by this huge love and awe I feel over getting to be your mother.

3. Who you are is enough. Everything in this world seems to conspire to tell you how to be better, stronger, richer, thinner, smarter, savvier, funnier, sexier, prettier ...don't you fall for that.  Whole industries are built around making people, especially women, feel that they need to BUY STUFF to make themselves more...whatever.  Prettier, thinner, fashionable, credible. It's a total racket. You are enough, exactly as you are. You will grow and learn and change because you are ever-evolving, but I hope nothing ever makes you feel like who you are isn't sufficient.  It seems to me that the teenage years are the toughest in this regard --there's a battle that wages in our minds between establishing our individuality and fitting in.  I hope you'll choose yourself, because who you are is really incredible and you are a gift to this world.

(The other thing I wish someone had told me doesn't seem as big and profound as the others so it doesn't get its own number.  Here's the thing: teen boys are pretty stupid.  Don't let them determine your self-worth or happiness or your agenda. Don't give away essential parts of yourself to please some boy.  Think about what YOU want and go for it! But if a boy breaks your heart?  I will be here for you. (See No. 2 above.))

I love you, Ana --more every day.  I love watching you become the person inside you. I love watching you navigate the world with grace and good humor. I love your sense of style and whimsy. I love your kindness to all things and that your first response in any situation is one of compassion and empathy. I love how smart you are and how you retain little random facts--I love talking to you.  I love that you are such a bulldog when it comes to things you want to achieve--you never, ever give up. But most of all, Ana, I love being your mother and getting to be with you every day.

Happy birthday, my sweetheart.  I hope it's the best year yet.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Momcation 2011, A Cautionary Hair Fable

(Before I forget, I have the results for the Smelly Lotion Giveaway.  anash and TruBrooklyn, you have both won smelly lotion and/or yarn and/or my book. E-mail me at with your addresses and preferences for gift items.  Thanks for playing, everyone.  Y'all are so fun!)

I have been quiet.  Thanks to everyone who wrote in asking if I was okay or if I'd managed to, you know, like, break my arm while filling my car with gas or something. I'm fine, no (additional) broken bones. I think maybe that for me to really process the rather large shifts in perspective I am undergoing currently, I need a lot of silence and stillness and I only get that during the time when I would normally be writing. So, I guess I haven't been writing as much.  I'm sorry.

So, hey, I'm 46 now!  Do I look different?

Yeah, I don't feel much different, either, although I will tell you that this past week has been HUGE for me because it's been my annual Momcation: the week when my husband takes our daughters skiing and leaves me for an entire week of solitude, creativity and pet wrangling. It was a great week, very contemplative for me. I needed it.

I finished up some projects.

Updated the photo walls:

And finally finished tiling the butler's pantry backsplash:

I did some basic maintenance--cleaned some drawers and washed the couches.  (The puppy still insists on sleeping on at least one couch every night.)

And then?

I threw a party.

It was really fun and kind of like an Artist's Date for me, although I did NOT wear a prom dress. (I was tempted to wear a tiara but I couldn't find one I liked.)

For one thing, I threw this party just as Barb --not as someone's wife or mother or daughter.  I threw it for people I know who might not necessarily be friends of my husband's yet. This was slightly disconcerting to my friends, but they totally rolled with it because they are really good like that. I called it The Indulgence Party and asked people to bring an indulgence (food or beverage) to share.

The food people brought!  OHMYGOSH!

And, you know, I already HAD a lot of food because I usually alternate between two extremes when planning a party: I fear no one will come and I'll have to come to terms with the fact that I am a cold, pathetic, friendless, poor excuse for a human who is doomed to a lonely life of eating canned fish.  AND I fear EVERYONE will come and I won't have enough food or drink for them all, not even enough canned fish.  So, I had a TON of food and then people brought food and when they left,  I forced them to take back the food they brought.  Which no doubt alienated everyone and now I will spend the rest of my life coming to terms with the fact that I am a cold, pathetic, friendless, poor excuse for a human who is doomed to a lonely life of eating canned fish.

(Except, I don't actually eat canned fish.)

(And also, except for my friend Tina who left this unbelievable chocolate covered toffee over which I had to request an intervention the next day.)

Y'all, the party was for adults only.


I was having too much fun to take pictures so I don't have much photographic evidence of the festivities. You're just going to have to take my word for it-- there was a chocolate fountain AND brown-sugar/ cinnamon pop-tarts (the ultimate indulgence from my childhood). I wore the Beatles earrings that I only wear for very special, special occasions.

It turns out that my biggest indulgence of all (toffee aside) is having a house full of friends and laughter and music.  It was awesome.

(Clever denotation of drastic subject change.)

So, those of you who don't know me in real life (or on Facebook) might not know that I have this sort of love/hate thing going with my hair. It just... well, let me put it to you this way: whenever my mother sees me with my hair down she looks at me, slightly horrified.  "I don't know WHERE you got that curly hair from." I think she just wants to be clear that it DIDN'T COME FROM HER.

The few hours leading up to the party were somewhat harrowing, hair-wise.  First of all it, was a terrible, rainy, icy wind kind of day. Secondly, my kitty Edward was ill and had to go to the vet.  Thirdly, I was scheduled to have a house showing, an acupuncture appointment and yoga.  The house showing rescheduled, I rescheduled the acupuncturist as I had inadvertently double scheduled myself and off to yoga I did go.)  Then I stood in the icy rain for over an hour, throwing the ball for my dogs so that they would be better party guests.  When I came inside, I was almost frozen myself so I took a bath, washed my hair, got dressed and looked in the mirror.


Words cannot describe the horror when I saw my hair.  Picture Aretha's hair (from 1970-something) on my face.  (I would do it for you but I don't have Photoshop on my Mac.)

Thus began a series of events that threatened to torpedo my whole night. I'm still scarred from the remembrance so I've tried to recreate the horror for you (but today is a warm(ish) sunny and low humidity day so there is no way to accurately portray the gravity (or anti-gravity, depending on your perspective) of the situation).

 Here is an approximation of what my hair looked like when I first saw it.  Picture it much, much larger and just breathe a little sigh of relief that I didn't put anyone's eye out.
Even this picture does not do the enormity of my hair justice. 
See?  I really COULD be the lost member of KISS.
Anyway, picture very, very, very BIG hair.

(It's just impossible to take a decent picture of oneself.  I took, like, 30 pictures.  20 of them looked like this:

About five of them looked like this:

So I did what any of y'all would have done.  (Just say you would have, okay? I'm hanging by a thread here.)  I got out my hot rollers, which I still had from high school, and I got to rollin'.

Oh look, this is exactly what I looked like every morning from 1979 through 1983 until I went to college  where no one would take me seriously until I cut off all of my hair and dressed only in black.  (True story.)

After waiting and waiting and waiting, I took the rollers out and


(Wait for it...)

Suddenly I was transformed into a Miss Texas pageant contestant.

"I think it would be, like, really important to end world hunger so that, like, the starving children could get well..."
I had to really put my back into it to wrestle my hair into a clip for my party.

Here's my friend and yoga instructor Chris Gates standing with my hair and me.
Really, it was a miracle no one was injured.