La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for December 2011

We will soon be taking the girls to visit dear friends from our former life in Georgia. It was 12 long years ago that we left to come back North, and only now are we returning. I’m so thrilled that all of our kids will finally meet, so ready to be in their company again, and yet completely conflicted about what Georgia conjures up in me.

When I think of Atlanta and Athens I feel the sweet, naive joy of being a 26 year old newlywed, the future all just what my mum would call a twinkle in my eye. I remember the smug satisfaction of living in such a cool college town with such a cool scene (oh wow, Michael Stipe looks even weirder and more disheveled in person). I remember the soft pleasant drawls–and then the auditorily jarring experience of flying home and being thrust once again into the lovable yet unforgiving Boston accent: “you have a nice flight, baby” vs. “Tommy ya queeah, the limos ah downstaiahs.” I recall in soft focus all the little places that had big meaning. Like The Mellow Mushroom pizza over which Baby Daddy proposed, even though I had been a complete and utter bitch to him the entire day for making me sweat at a Braves game (where, it turned out, his dad passed the ring to him), and for acting weird (not his usual mellow self) all day. I was, like, fine, fucker. Let’s eat the damn pizza, call it a night and maybe tomorrow you will not be ordering me to go places I don’t want to go. Or…maybe I’ll be your future wife! Aren’t you lucky!

I recall meeting my amazing friend Roberto after having driven 90 minutes home from work in Atlanta in a black mood. I was so not psyched that guests (including People I Don’t Know) will be in my house when I finally slog my ass home. But there was Bob. Funniest, wittiest, sharpest guy in the entire American South, evident within 40 seconds. Loved him instantly, love him always. I met the Notorious B.O.B through another of the babydaddy’s friends, a guy we will call Matty. I gave Matty some serious stink eye for a good few weeks because…and I know this is rich coming from me now…his stories all seemed made-up. He was shot by a bb gun while riding his bike. But that was only after he had been hit by a drunk driver. Which may or may not have been before something happened involving someone famous. I was like, “I call bullshit on this guy” and lobbied for his dismissal. But BBDD was having none of it. It was his first–and only–Bros Before Hos throwdown of our lives, and so I relented. Thank God. Or I’d have missed the fabulousness of knowing Matty, his whole extended family, and now his wife and baby, all of whom laughingly corroborated his stories when I finally confessed to my previous suspicions.

So, I guess what I love about Georgia is that I was young and free and a bitch. :). Although, karma was simultaneously making me her bitch, because while Athens was freeing my inner oblivious judgmental vegetarian with an Inside The Beltway chip on my shoulder, it was also setting the stage for every single thing–good and bad–that would follow. Athens is where it became clear that something was amiss. I was tired, pale and cold. I was certain I had Epstein-Barr, and much of my memories of daily life in Georgia are a blur of fatigue and dissatisfaction. I had a Masters Degree and a profession in politics I’d left behind in DC, all of which qualified me in Athens for answering the phones at the country club. Then I finally got a marketing job that turned out to be less marketing and more serving coffee and Danish to conventioneers, the only upside of which at the time was that I did the backstage food for Counting Crows while Adam Duritz was dating Jennifer Aniston, blah blah. It seemed cool at the time. Which helped me not be too bitter that the jobs for “political fundraisers” were all volunteer and all filled by wealthy ladies with the Southern helmet hair that another GA friend JimK called, “sprayin’ for Jesus.” I hated that job with a passion I usually reserved for rapists and pedophiles. But as one sick day turned into another, and a random kook at the local hospital mistakenly diagnosed me with leukemia OVER THE PHONE, the worst boss I have ever had at the worst job I have ever had referred me to her mom’s oncologist, who sent me to Emory, who diagnosed me with Aplastic Anemia and set me on the road to where I am today. So to say that my memories of Georgia are bittersweet is to say only the very least that can be said.

But what CAN be said to my girls about my memories of Georgia? That predestined love and friendship bloom in unlikely places, sometimes in spite of ourselves. That every situation, even the least comfortable or fun, has something to teach us. That help often comes in unexpected packages.

That sometimes you really can trace the enormous arc of The Rest Of Your Life to one little spot on a map.

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My mailbox is ready and waiting for the hate email, so let’s dive right in. Every year around this time we are subjected to breathless and outraged articles about political correctness, the War On Christmas, and Keeping the Christ in Christmas against an onslaught by unbelievers. Please allow me to suggest a compromise. Now, this compromise will require everyone involved to put on his or her grown up underpants and get over themselves. Can we do it?

I propose that people not celebrating Christmas will simply say, “thank you, you too” when wished a Merry Christmas at the Gas n Sip. We will not get our panties in a wad about What It Signifies about Inclusivity in America. We will just accept it like we do every other time of year when we are wished “a nice day.” you don’t see us correcting the cashier, “actually, my gout is acting up so it won’t be a good day.” We just accept the commercial valedictory for what it is. Let us do the same in December so we can stop with the terrible Happy Holidays already. After all, the store ain’t decorated and open at midnight for Diwali or Kwanzaa, right? We are all here because of Christmas, so why not just say so.

For my Christmas-celebrating friends, I’m going to say this kindly but firmly: there are many locations across the globe where Christians are persecuted. Persecuted. As in, loss of possessions, education, basic human rights, life itself. Friends, the United States of America is not one of those places. So please ratchet down the Defcon threat level when you discuss how it stinks that you can’t put up a manger in City Hall or bring Christmas cookies to 4th grade. It demeans those who truly suffer for their beliefs…and it makes you sound like an entitled whiner, and Santa leaves lumps of coal for entitled whiners.

Which gets back to my point for all of us. We all need to just stop the fucking whining. Being offended is a choice you make. Harrumphing around about how this and this and that is disrespecting you and your way of life is behavior we don’t tolerate in children and yet we all work ourselves up into a froth every December for just that purpose. So, from the Jewish tradition, I repeat the phrase on every dreidel: A Great Miracle Happened There. Let’s see that miracle in one additional way–as the existence of this great country, where we are all free to worship–or not–as we please, in December and on every day that ends in Y. And for my Christmas-celebrating family and friends, whether of the Santa or Jesus perspective, I offer my favorite line from A Christmas Carol: God bless us, EVERYONE.

Jerry Seinfeld once described life with a 2 year old as akin to operating a blender with the lid off. I would like to offer my thoughts on living with my particular 3 year old: it is akin to living with an angry drunk. Baby Sister has always been our little Nutball. She has never been demure or cautious or malleable, so her twos were challenging, as they are for most. However, turning three has turned her into the ultimate obstinate, opinionated conflict machine who can talk but won’t nap. It’s a perfect storm wherein she has just the right amount of ability in multiple areas to be dangerous– and pissed off. As a result, she is frequently annoyed at me for not being able to read her mind, understand what a whiny, “shooooooeeeeeesssss” means (shoes off? Shoes on? Shoes are hurting? Throw me a bone here, kid!), and for suggesting that she may be tired (“Me not tired! You tired! You not talk anymore!”). Simple tasks require extra time built in for tantrums, because Mama don’t negotiate with terrorists. I told the BabyDaddy that hanging with BabySister is just straight up exhausting because, well, high maintenance, outburst-prone people who alternately create and forget drama in minute-to-minute cycles are exhausting, whatever their age.

At the same time (and at alternating moments) Baby Sister is also the sweetest, kindest, funniest, most compassionate girl in the world. I can prove this because her preschool teachers swear that this is the only BabySister they see. At school she apparently complies with all requests, follows all directions, and is an unalloyed joy to work with. We walk in there every morning, fresh off a bench-clearing brawl because she has refused to wear underpants and, while I may run a rather slack operation at times at Chez Jones, underwear is entirely non-negotiable. She just runs over to her friends and gets happy. (She has a particular preference for the Israeli boys, who completely love her right back). You would have zero indication that the preceding 15 minutes had been a study in total effing irrationality about a pair of drawers.

And so this is my life. Which should answer your questions about why I look so damn haggard 25-8. But it also, in a twisted way, should answer your questions about why I am happy regardless. First, because This Too Shall Pass. She won’t be 3 and a drunk forever. Soon she’ll be a teenager, which is probably like an angry drunk who can drive your car. So I’m trying to enjoy the good moments while they last. Second, because her infinite capacity for sweetness (mama, you my best friend) trumps her infinite capacity for dramatic willfulness. And third, because Baby Sister obviously feels safe and secure enough to behave like a complete head case with me. My mom friends and I joke that our kids save their worst selves for us, and I think that’s a good and special thing, even if the bags under my eyes don’t agree.

Folks, I have a bee in my bonnet. ( I am trying to use fewer “vulgar” as my mom says, metaphors). My particular pet peeve is not only rampant in our society, it is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE! Friends, I’m having an ongoing hissy fit about intellectual dishonesty, otherwise known as inconsistency or hypocrisy.

It all begins with Bambina bellyaching about some girl at school she deems “bossy” and “always wanting to be the mom when we play Families and everyone else has to be the kids or babies.” think of it what you will, but “bossy” is a damning indictment among the second grade set. So now that Bossy Girl has been so named, everything she does irritates Bambina. Everything. Even stuff Bambina and her friends do on a minute to minute basis is an unconscionable act of moral turpitude when committed by Bossy Girl. So, in the interests of not raising a queen bee bitch, I not so gently point out this inconsistency to Bambina. No takers. “it’s not the same!”. She also talks trash about spoiled kids and in the same breath gasps with outrage that she can’t get a third American Girl doll. It got so bad for a time that I simply started saying, “all right, Veruca darling” in my best British accent whenever she’d bring the hypocrisy. She’d flip out at me, and then I’d explain how sometimes when you don’t like someone or are irritated with someone, every single normal thing they do is further proof that they are exactly the monster you think them to be. And yet we often put up with bad behaviors in people we like–including ourselves–because, well, we like them. If we are honest, we all do it. But I don’t want my daughter to do it unless she’s prepared to acknowledge the internal dishonesty it takes to maintain the practice. Either “spoiled” exists or it does not. Either “bossy” exists or it does not. Bambina’s gotta choose.

Think I’m a hardass? Well, you’re right. But just look around you and see the effects of this behavior on our larger civil society if not our personal relationships. Consider the intolerance we have for people we don’t like because they are not like us or they don’t think like us. Note the rapid shift in our political discourse from, “I disagree with every policy that guy has” to “he is a traitor, a liar, a despicable human being.” Or very honestly ask yourself why you create a terrible backstory in your head about the guy who just cut you off rather than assuming he made a mistake or wasn’t paying attention. If we cut someone off in traffic were all, “oops!” but if we get cut off, we are certain the person (insert ethnicity different from your own here) is a fucking moron who woke up today so he could wreck your commute.

So on a general level, we have stopped giving other humans the benefit of the doubt, and on a more specific level, it’s because we as individuals and a culture have succumbed to the lazy thinking on which intellectual dishonesty thrives. Why is it class warfare if we are aiming the remarks at rich people, but it’s just Newt Gingrich tellin’ the truth when he is aiming his remarks at poor people? Class warfare either exists or it does not. Believing in one but not the other is inconsistent, and please believe you’ll get grounded at Chez Jones for your intellectual laziness. Do the Obamas have too many Christmas trees at the White House because they don’t care about suffering Americans–or are they godless liberals who hate the Baby Jesus and therefore minimize the celebration of His birth at our nation’s home? Do we as a nation revere our military members and their families? Or do we dislike homosexuals regardless of their vocation? Do we truly believe WWJD or do we just like to wear bracelets while we talk smack about the poor, the hungry and the leper? Do we believe that a patriotic American believes in the precepts of our Constitution? Or do we think those opposed to prayer in school are unAmerican?

Our entire political and social landscape now seems to be predicated upon assuming the worst of others–and contorting ourselves to maintain our “beliefs” in the face of all evidence or examples to the contrary, even among those people we like. Well, I’m trying to do my small part to right the ship, simply by forcing myself and my family to get honest–or get mocked. Because the last thing America needs is one more spoiled, bossy citizen who yells “asshole!” at fellow motorists. Right, Veruca darling?

45 and Goal

Posted on: December 9, 2011

I was recently asked a lovely, quaint question that will soon cease to have meaning to anyone under 40: What was the first piece of music I ever purchased?

It was 1979, somewhere in the UK, when record stores were ubiquitous and their employees fantabulous. It was 1979, and there were no music videos, no downloads, no means of hearing music besides buying the record, watching Top of the Pops, or attempting to tape your song from the radio, hopefully with as little DJ chatter as possible. It was 1979, and the only path to ownership of music was the record store where there was an unofficial DJ playing only the best hits by the biggest artists while you shopped. It was 1979, and I was there with my Auntie Julia, herself a tall, slim, 18 year-old shiny pants-wearing disco diva. She and my Uncle Bill were the absolute pinnacle of cool as I imagined it at 7 years old. They dressed in shiny clothing, they knew all the words to Le Freak by Chic, they had been to actual discos (which I imagined to be real-life manifestations of every Blondie performance ever televised), and they could navigate a record store packed with cool people like no one I’d ever seen. It was 1979 and I wanted nothing more than to own one particular song. So Auntie Julia procured it for me, got the store DJ to play it on his turntable to ensure it was not scratched, and put the 45rpm and its little paper sleeve into my eager, waiting, so-excited-they-trembled-with-embarrassment hands.

It was 1979, but I’m writing this now, so I want to claim that my first record was Bowie or Chic or Queen, but the truth is far less cool. It was 1979, and my heart skipped a beat as we purchased….this:

Www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ObqanR5p9w

Oh yes. The Dooleys. Who? I’m sure their work never made it past Wales, much less into the USA, but in 1979 they were UK huge, and I sang this song with a gusto most people reserve for drunken karaoke renditions of Sweet Caroline.

Yes, it was 1979, when I was seven and music felt timeless, when lyrics were not widely available, when the lack of 24-hour instant access made it feel valuable. It was 1979, when buying a tangible piece of vinyl that let you have Freddie Mercury in your living room felt like owning your own personal treasure. It was 1979, when buying your first record was a momentous rite of passage, even if it was The Dooleys.

It was 1979. When I jubilantly walked out of a store, finally a member of The Chosen Few.

Flop Chef

Posted on: December 4, 2011

Tonight I went to my awesome friend B’s Pampered Chef party. Those of you who know me and my mad kitchen skills will probably need a few moments to pull yourselves together after reading that.

All set now? Yes, it’s true. I, Mama, went to an event about cooking. I had a great time, met some really great people, ate twice my weight in onion dip; so all in all a successful night. But I have to confess to a few things:

–When the lady said she was going to use a mandoline, I very seriously thought for a minute that she was, you know, going to give us a little “oh Susannah” or “Polly Wolly Doodle” with a small guitar-like instrument. Color me surprised when she pulled out a Food Guillotine and began executing zucchini like her name was Robespierre. Holy crap! People have these things in their homes!? Near children?! That thing is a one-way ticket to a 4-fingered hand. At least for me. Like, where does one store one’s mandoline? I’m thinking it should have rifle-like guidelines, like bullets in a box in a separate, locked location. Those blades “that just slide in and out very simply” would be in my house about 10 minutes and I’d take off a layer of skin by accident. No thanks. What else you got?

–Really cute baking pans and state of the art cooling racks that neatly stack so you can save counter space when baking those multiple batches of cookies. Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, because apparently there are people who not only bake but who bake in Multiple Batches. Who knew? I have our one rack onto which those Pillsbury pre-decorated sugar cookies fit quite nicely. Even semi-burned.

–Space age cheese graters that flip up and over and what-have-you so you can get the precise grate you seek. Very cool to look at, but when the lady asked for volunteers to come up and try the grater I immediately felt transported back to freshman Microeconomics and I haven’t done the reading because it was so effing boring and please god don’t notice me don’t call on me don’t notice me don’t call on me. Because if I had been invited up I would have first picked up B’s phone and dialed 9-1- just so we could have a head start on the inevitable ER call to reattach my distal phalanges.

So I had fun, I looked through the catalog for something to buy but kept thinking, “what would I use a measuring cup with no-spill pour spout for again?” and reconfirmed for myself that I am not a chef, pampered or otherwise. I was thinking my attendance at a cooking event is akin to sending Scottish Gandma to a sarcasm symposium. Or Baby Sister to an overcautious convention. Or Newt Gingrich to a sensitivity and fidelity workshop. One of these things is not like the other.

But no matter, because I came home (a little early since it had been a long day with Baby Sister in the ER after smashing her face on the hardwood floor and her nose growing to twice its normal size; see above overcautious remark), to find our house smelling deliciously of pumpkin bread.

Bread which the lovely Baby Daddy not only baked, but baked in multiple batches.