Friday, November 22, 2013

Oh, the Mintiness

Mint
Photo credit: Anthony Cramp
I've been seeing a homeopath for my migraines and I just took the constitutional remedy, which is like a magic pill that's supposed to fix everything that's wrong with me by helping my body to restore it's own balance.

Or something. 

My understanding is not required for this process to work. And neither is my belief. I don't really understand how Advil works, but it does. I've believed that all the medications my neurologist has given me over the years are really going to prevent migraines, so their failure to do so isn't on me. So if this is going to work, it's going to without my belief, which is good because the whole concept of a constitutional remedy sounds incredibly farfetched. 

But I'm going with it because nothing else has worked, and I have every reason to believe that it will.

All I have to do is pay attention to how I'm feeling and not sabotage the effects of the two wee tiny pills I took. You'd think that would be easy, but I have to avoid mint, menthol, camphor, eucalyptus and tea tree oil for the next several weeks. 

Again - not fully understanding, but the homeopathic remedy is actually more like a trigger than a remedy. Kind of like how Ritalin is a stimulant, but helps people with ADD to calm down and focus. And mint and menthol are such powerful remedies that they can interfere with that. 

This is also why they're in fucking EVERYTHING. Mint Toothpaste. Menthol in cough drops. I sometimes drink mint tea for an upset stomach and put peppermint oil on my forehead when I have a headache - but not for the next few weeks.

To make the toothpaste switch, first I dove into our travel-size toothpaste collection. (Shut up, you have one too.) And that's how I discovered that toothpaste comes with an expiration date. I did find one tube that was only a few months past the date and wasn't minty, so I was covered until I had a chance to go to the drug store.

But still, yuck. Because it was conventional toothpaste and I'm used to the unsweetened Tom's of Maine stuff. And yes, Tom's of Maine tastes weird when you first try it, but after a couple of weeks, regular toothpaste tastes gross and artificial and ew.

I went out and bought some Tom's strawberry-flavored children's toothpaste because my only non-mint adult options were fennel (?) and cinnamon clove. And I'm a big baby. (They have an orange-mango, but either my local Duane Reade doesn't carry it, or they were out.)

And there do exist cough drops without menthol. Apparently those Luden's (music warning: apparently, there's a Luden's song and it will start playing automatically at that link) that everyone told you were just candy? They have pectin in them which coats the throat. And Pine Brothers does the same with glycerin. 

So I'm covered, but I'll just have to make sure not to forget myself in the throes of the holiday spirit and accept some peppermint bark or something equally reckless.

But if this works, then I'll be migraine-free and able to eat all the foods that give me migraines. I don't know what I'll have first - yogurt or lemonade. Or maybe I'll really go wild and have cold cuts.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Showtime on the Subway

T Dancer
Photo credit: Bart Everts
There are few things that will strike fear (or anger) in the heart of the New York City subway rider than the word, "Showtime."

Those of you who know what I'm talking about have just shuddered. For the rest of you, here's how it goes down.

Two to five young men get on the train together, and one announces, "Showtime, showtime. What time is it?" and the others respond, "Showtime!" One of them may ask people to move out of the way because, "we're going to do a show." Then one of them turns on the most obnoxiously loud boom box you've heard since the last time.

And then the dancing begins. And by dancing, I mean stunts with a little break dancing thrown in. Back when this nonsense first started, there was just one dance crew that did it - one older boy and his two younger brothers. The younger ones did the worm and a trick where they formed a human wheel and rolled down the filthy subway floor. I'm surprised I didn't catch hepatitis just from watching them.

Nowadays, there are plenty of dance crews, and it's all about the pole work. Hanging off the poles, right in someone's face as they try to ignore the dancers, usually. I keep waiting for one of them do this right in front of me, so I can flip them off.

When they're done, they go around passing the hat, often declaring how they're doing this to stay out of trouble and saying how at least they're not breaking the law. Which is total bullshit because dancing and panhandling on the subway is illegal and they could get arrested for it.

I don't know what's worse - the loud music that hurts the ears and head, the danger of getting kicked in the head or knee, or the people who are actually amused and impressed by this.

On our way home Friday night, HA had a team of three in the subway car with us, while there was a solo act in the very next car. We thought that maybe they were together, but no. The solo guy came into our car and started talking shop with the other guys, and it was clear that they they weren't together.

Solo guy may be the only subway dancer in the city who's "afraid" (his word) to do back flips on the subway because he might kick someone. Bless his heart.

We also learned that he made $2 in the next car, which he didn't seem to think was much. One of the guys from the group broke off and went into that car, and after the next stop, actually started a solo routine of his own. After most of the people in there had just seen a dancer. 

The fucking nerve.

For a moment, I thought solo guy was going to start his act in our car, but no. He packed up his things, stayed on a few stops and went home.

This really has to stop. There has got to be someplace in the city where young men can dance and get paid for it by easily impressed white people without harassing people who don't want to be bothered. It's almost enough to make me miss that fascist Rudy Giuliani. Almost.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Short-Term Marriage

marriage
Photo credit: pholl000
His Awesomeness and I celebrated out ten-year anniversary as a couple by checking out the Magritte exhibit at MoMA and going out to dinner. I love surrealism, but I do reach a point when I'm all, "Come on, René. Now you're just being weird for the sake of being weird." Especially when the painter known for a painting a pipe labelled, "This is not a pipe" also has a painting of a pipe labelled "pipe." This is really unfair to one of the pipes (one of them gets to be pipe, and the other gets to be famous), and also unfair to everyone on the planet because clearly, Magritte is just messing with us.

HA can take all the surrealism you can dish out, because he's a surrealist at heart. The marmoset story was just the tip of a very strange iceberg. 

At dinner (French restaurant because we honeymooned in Paris - they brought me an entire jug of cornichons to go with my pâté, which is the most civilized thing EVER), we started talking about those short-term marriage contracts that you sometimes read about in science fiction, and that Mexico City actually talked about trying a couple of years ago.

The idea is that if you only get married for two years at a time, you won't take your spouse for granted. You'll stay on your best behavior, won't let yourself go, all the hopes of renewing the contract. And if you do split up, it'll be easier legally than a divorce. 

When I first read about this in some science fiction book in my twenties, I thought it was quite practical. Now, I see it as ridiculously impractical. For starters, it's just one more thing for couples to argue about. "What do you mean you only want the five year marriage? Why not the ten year?" and so on.

Then, how are you supposed to get a fifteen or thirty mortgage together if your marriage contract isn't for that long? Are banks going to get on board with that?

What about adoption? No one's giving a child to a couple who isn't sure they'll be together in five years - not when there are still theoretically permanent marriages around.

Marriage requires a great deal of optimism. Screw that self-sacrificing "marriage is not for you" crap. Marriage is an agreement to put up with someone else because you get something out of the relationship. I requires a leap of faith that they won't suck the life out of you, and that they'll make you happy more than they'll annoy the Hell out of you.

Marriages end for loads of reasons, but I'm not sure that they can ever start with the feeling that you'll only be able to put up with each other for five years.



A quick note: I've started a food writing blog - The Famished Freelancer. I'm planning to keep posting here Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while posting there Tuesday and Thursday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Women in Film (or Not)

Alone in a Movie Theater
Photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman
So some movie theaters in Sweden are going to start rating movies based on whether or not they pass the Bechdel test. What's the Bechdel test, you ask? 

To pass the Bechdel test, a movie has to have two (2) female characters, who talk to each other, about something besides a man. These characters do not even have to be named.

You know what movie fails the Bechdel test?

Almost all of them.

Even though it's not that hard. This past weekend, HA and I watched Iron Sky, a Finnish satire about Moon Nazis, for fuck's sake, and it passed the Bechdel test. 

Only one of the eight Harry Potter films passes the test. The books pass, but when things get cut between book and film, women get cut first. 

I was discussing this with His Awesomeness, a filmmaker himself, and he pointed out that the Bechdel test is problematic. 

HA: Look at Gravity. Sandra Bullock is on screen the whole movie, playing an astronaut, but it fails the test.

Me: Movies with two characters aren't the issue. We don't get pissed off that Waiting for Godot has no women in it. It's the ones with a cast of thousands, but none with boobs.

HA: What about Star Wars? Princess Leia goes around kicking ass.

Me: And they couldn't cast a single woman to run around in the background to climb into an x-wing. Or be support crew. Are X-wings piloted with penises? The rebellion is so inclusive (as opposed to the all white Empire) that they even include clumsy, annoying Jar Jar Binks in the party. But still no girls?

It isn't the only thing that we should be measuring films by, but representation matters. I just read in Entertainment Weekly that they deliberately decided to make the new elf character they created for the latest Hobbit movie a woman because otherwise, it's a complete a total sausage-fest.

Back when we were dating, HA subjected me to Lawrence of Arabia. All four hours of it. It's a beautiful movie, don't get me wrong. But it wasn't long before I was wondering where the hell the women were. Not a single one. Not in the background. Nowhere. When the Arabs rode  off into battle, I finally yelled at the TV, "Where the hell are the ululating women?! You cannot ride into battle without ululating women!" And then they appeared, way off in the distance, completely covered so they could've been the male extras from other scenes dressed differently.

Lawrence of Arabia is a boy movie.

Not because it's about war and battle and stuff like that. But because there are no women in it.

Now, I love Star Wars. I even found a way to love Attack of the Clones. (I decided that it was a short film about Yoda and Christopher Lee having a fight and blocked out the rest.) But come on, guys. Girls can fly space ships too. Having a teenaged girl running a planet is more plausible than having no women in your air force.

If a movie with fucking Moon Nazis can remember that women exist, then it shouldn't be that hard for everyone else. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Look - Baby Animals!

This weekend I went to the Prospect Park Zoo with a friend to check out the five-month old baby red pandas. But those weren't the only zoo babies. The Himalayan Baboons have a little addition - Momma keeps leading him/her around by the tail, which is as effective as it is hilariously adorable.

Total bonus - the marmoset had given birth the day before. 

Dudez - day-old baby marmosets. Mucho cuteness. All three of them were hanging onto Momma Marmoset, positioned so that they were almost perfectly camouflaged. 

Here they are with arrows so you can see them better:


They're so wee tiny, I could probably hold all three mini-marmosets in my hand at once. 

I was so blown away by the cuteness, that I forgot which animals they were almost immediately. I'm pretty sure they're marmosets - and there's nothing online about any zoo babies at the Prospect Park Zoo besides the red pandas. If I'm wrong, please tell me in the comments - after a while, all the adorably fluffy primates start to blend together.

It was kept such a secret that the volunteers didn't even know - the one who was stationed by their habitat had heard about it from a patron. She said that the keepers must've known since they examine all the animals, but didn't tell anyone else for some reason.

I imagine they didn't want to freak out the poor critters by having a baby watch going on. I mean, no wonder there are so few pandas being born - no privacy, lots of pressure. 

I was pretty beat after all the walking around and zoo-ing, so when I got home, I took a little nap. But first, I asked His Awesomeness to tell me a story about marmosets. 

So he told me about Trevor the marmoset who has no wisdom teeth (because none of them do - he was sneaking peeks at the WIkipedia). The other zoo animals give him a hard time about it, but he doesn't mind. Who needs wisdom teeth anyway? Trevor watches Seinfeld reruns along with the zookeeper, who doesn't realize that Trevor is watching along through the glass between his habitat and the zoo office. Trevor's favorite character is Newman and he claps whenever Newman comes on. 

Trevor is also friends with Paul McCartney. They correspond by letter - Trevor dictates his letters to the zookeeper using sing language. And when Sir Paul is in town, they jam together, usually on rock n roll oldies. 

Trevor is a very implausible marmoset.

I mean, come on. How can the zoo keeper not notice that he's watching Seinfeld with him?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Anniversaries

I decided a while ago that the anniversary of The Kid leaving us was going to be significant. That once it was past, I would feel better, less angry, less hurt. 

The feelings were in my head, so deciding that they were going to change on a certain date seemed perfectly reasonable. So now that the anniversary of that ridiculously crappy week is past, have I experienced all sorts of healing?

Eh. I dunno. 

I've started seeing a homeopath who started me on some drops for my PTSD. That's helped quite a bit, and I'm not obsessing over the events of that week, or other lousy, horrible, why is everything so fucking hard events that occurred in the weeks leading up to that week. We tried so hard to be a family, and then we weren't. 

And as we were packing up the pieces, we also had to sift through the sodden rubble at my parents' house, and help my relatives figure out if organizations handing out money were legit, or trying to steal Sandy victims' personal info (they were legit), and bringing whatever material comforts we could (we made grilled cheese sandwiches for my parents, as we were heroes). 

So a year later, what's left? Physical scars, of course. Emotional scars? Well, I may smack the next person who spouts platitudes at me, but I'm feeling a certain absence of anger. Because I decided it would be gone by now. Because there's no point anymore. Because a horrible thing happened - a series of horrible things happened - and there's no changing that.  Because it was inevitable, given The Kid's background and the complete cluelessness of the social workers who were supposed to be supporting us. 

But there are kids who do want to be part of a family without fighting every second of the day. There are excellent social workers out there who don't undermine and sabotage placements. I'm ready to believe that things will work out next time. 

So I guess, yeah. I'm feeling better because I decided to be. Thanks to everyone for being so supportive and thoughtful. 

We also had our wedding anniversary this week. That's right - the shit hit the fan with The Kid the day after our fifth wedding anniversary. Maybe that's why I gave this first traumaversary so much weight - we had to move the hell past it so that it didn't color every wedding anniversary afterwards. 

We went shopping at Target, which is a rare treat for us, but is totally normal for most of you. On the way there (on the subway), it was like we were riding the covered wagon into town, discussing the random items that we were going to get. A wall mirror. Slippers. A skillet. 

I remember back before the big box stores when you couldn't buy slippers and a mirror at the same place. It still seems unnatural to me. His Awesomeness also scored a pair of Batman boxers with detachable cape. He has already run around the bedroom wearing them so I could see the cape trail behind him.

We were so tired after shopping that I turned to him on the way home, and said, "Do you know the sexiest thing you could say to me right now? 'Let's stay in and order Indian food.'" So we postponed our traditional French dinner (we honeymooned in Paris) and ate in. We did do the traditional watching of the wedding video.

In a couple of weeks, we'll have another anniversary - the tenth anniversary of when we became a couple. This blows my mind and also makes perfect sense because life before HA is kinda vague. I know there was a time when I wasn't surrounded by Doctor Who, but I can't quite remember it. 

There is great comfort in how long this guy has been in my life, making me laugh and letting me sing him spontaneously composed songs about him. Even without a kid, we've been a family for quite some time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Am Not OK

NOT OK
Photo credit: Falk Lademann
We're in the anniversary of the months when The Kid was living with us. More precisely, a year ago this month she was acting out really badly in ways that I still can't tell you about because I have to protect her privacy. 

So there are bad memories everywhere. I see Halloween decorations on Facebook (or articles about last minute costumes, which btw internets, it's not the last minute when there are two weeks to go) and I'm reminded of her atrocious behavior last Halloween. Which set off the sequence of events that led to her hospitalization and removal from our home and which I can't tell you about no matter how much sharing publicly might help my own healing. 

Or someone mentions the impending anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and instead of thinking of the overwhelming destruction faced by my extended family, I think of how The Kid acted out after too much storm-imposed pleasant family togetherness. Which would've prompted a 911 call on any other day, but when the city is in a state of emergency, you hesitate to bother the cops for a little ol' EDP. That's emotionally disturbed person to you civilians. 

I don't expect to have flashbacks every Halloween for the rest of my life. I'm hoping that this is the last of it. One last agonizing month and then I can move on. Because with time and therapy, I've come to realize and accept that this wasn't my fault, our support system was an unsupportive as they could be, and The Kid never should've been put in this position.

But knowing this hasn't completely convinced me that the next kid will be on board with being a member of a family. And knowing this hasn't allowed me to let go of all the hurt feelings and frustration and anger.

There are all sorts of rituals of dealing with the grief of miscarriage, stillbirths and deceased children. But what is there for disrupted pre-adoptive placements? I don't want any sort of relationship with The Kid in the future. Her behavior one year ago made it so that I don't miss her. The disruption has been the best for all of us. 

So am I grieving an abstraction? Grieving what I could have had? What I should have had by now, and would have if not for this fiasco? Am I grieving for something I'm going to have with another kid in the next year or so? Or is that I can't bring myself to believe that it'll happen?

I keep a five-year journal, and I look back and see last's years entries and the hopeful ones are the worst. At one point, I wrote that I think we've hit a turning point with The Kid. And the next day. The next fucking day, her behavior hit a new low point. 

When you come out of a situation that was doomed from the start, how can you find hope to try again?

And so I went through a patch of massive sadness. And now I'm in a patch of massive Hulk-smash anger. With a side of the flu, so that's festive. Should be interesting to see what emotions I bathe in next week. 

November has got to be better.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Columbus Day Loser's Club

Columbus Circle
Photo credit: Erik Drost
I was on the speech team in high school, which was an excellent way for a social misfit like me to make friends. It's not like we had a theater club or a show choir or anything like what the cool misfits are into these days.

At some point, our coach was promoted from teacher to head of development. This meant that several of us got to skip class every now and again to go to some school to convince 8th graders to apply to our school. which was a nice change of pace. 

Another part of her job was raising money for the school. There was one event that she took a bunch of us to that is permanently etched in my brain. I will be in the little old hipsters home, Guns 'n Roses playing on the PA and I'll still remember this story.

There was this old Italian guy, who was so proud of his heritage and/or Christopher Columbus (who neither discovered America or was a stand up guy) that he decided to make a grand gesture in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's (non) discovery of America in 1492. 

I graduated high school in 1988, and I wasn't the oldest student in our group, so let's say that he was getting a 5 to 6 year head start on the thing.

His grand plan was to fund Golden Rule clubs in high schools all over Brooklyn. You know, the whole do unto others as you would have do unto you (unless you're invading their land) thing. 

I can picture it all vividly. The white building where the big launch meeting was. The folding chairs. The speeches that took their own sweet time getting to the point. Thinking, "You want us to do what?"

All we had to do to get $500 for our school was to start such a club. Which was never going to happen because some things are too lame even for nerds in Catholic school. Mrs. C cajoled, she guilted. But we did not budge.

I don't know if she was concerned about her fund raising numbers, or if she would've been allowed to use the money for something else after we founded the club and then never had a single meeting. But we weren't going to do it. 

All I could picture was having to make and post flyers for this lameass group, and this was too much even for rule-following, authority-pleasing (most of the time) me. This wasn't going to be the Golden Rule Club. It was going to be the Social Suicide Club.

Which is an excellent movie premise, but not something you should dabble with in real life.

I sang in the folk group at masses. I was a Eucharistic minister (yes, I was once so Catholic that I distributed the body and blood of Christ). I started a fund raising effort to fight world hunger. But starting a Golden Rule club in a school where we were already being taught the Golden Rule (it's totes biblical) and where the students treated each other better than the teachers treated us? That was on the other side of a line I was not about to cross.

I'm so horrified that anyone thought we were going to get on board with this that I get flashbacks every Columbus Day.

So what are your Columbus Day memories?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Great Butcher Paper Drama

silas wrapped in butcher paper
Photo credit: Timothy Vollmer
I was reading this post on Epbot about the giant clock Cake Wrecks Jen and her husband built for their bedroom, when I spied the words, "White butcher paper is ideal, since it comes in big rolls (check specialty paint or hardware shops)" and had a flashback to the fifth grade.

My teacher decided that we were all going to trace our bodies onto butcher paper, then...I don't remember - probably draw in all the major organs. Which, OK, fine. Totally educational there. 

But we had to obtain the butcher paper ourselves. All sixty of us. The teacher told us to just go to the butcher and ask for 5 feet of butcher paper. The one butcher in the entire neighborhood.

Because apparently, she couldn't just ask the one butcher in the neighborhood to donate a roll of paper. She had to ambush this long-standing family business with SIXTY separate requests for paper.

I mean, this was Catholic school. She could've just sent over a nun. But no. It was the 1980s and adults were not expected to have their shit together.

So I obtained my 5 feet of butcher paper, or more likely my Dad did. Then the big day came. And I forgot it at home. We didn't need it until after lunch, so I had time to get it. 

Except that I wasn't going home for lunch that day because my mom was substitute teaching at my old school (the Montessori one, the one where I was never sent on crazy art supply finding missions). That day, my brother and I were having lunch at my Grandma's house - a few blocks away from school.

My house was a mile away from school, and we always took the bus to and from school. So taking 30 minutes out of my lunch hour (which was really 45 minutes) to walk home and get the butcher paper wasn't really on the table. And Grandma didn't have a car that day for whatever reason.

So we called my Dad at work, who called the butcher to ask them to set aside another five feet of butcher paper for me. I stopped by the butcher on the way back to school and asked for the paper. One of the guys behind the counter said that they were out because all of my friends had cleaned them out. 

I was heartbroken. Horrified. I'm getting chest pains just thinking about it.

The guy was awfully nice about it. Just think how pissed off they must've been to have an unexpected run on paper. Paper that they usually wrap around meat that they sell to paying customers. They were probably down to half a roll and were hiding it in the freezer.

I was NINE. It was like I'd run right into a brick wall. I said, "But my Dad called," in the saddest, most defeated voice I'd ever heard come out of my mouth. 

One of the other butchers stepped in and handed me the one last roll of butcher paper that they'd set aside because my Dad had called. I don't have words for how relieved I was. I'd been spared the humiliation of being the only one in class who hadn't obtained their regulation five feet of butcher paper. 

So what did I learn from this class project? Not whatever the teacher was trying to teach us, that's for sure. The whole thing about drawing the major organs is just a guess. It sounds reasonable.

At the time, I learned that Catholic school was bullshit. I mean, come on. The tuition, the required $5 minimum donation to the Church every week, the fundraising chocolate bars - did none of it cover the cost of a roll of art paper? The teacher had to do a lesson plan far enough in advance that she had enough time to order one from a catalog (or from the butcher). 

The forced, insincere praying four times a day was bad enough. Did they have to dump a huge load of stress on me over paper?

I swear, parents these days are so hyper-organized and Pinterest-happy because we were  foraging for school supplies when we were ten. It was only going to escalate from there.

Did you have some ridiculous drama in grade school?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Great Cookie Non-Theft of Williamsburg, Virginia

gun cookies
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker
I was browsing through Kludgy Mom's Idea Bank for something to write about today and I hit on #45: I was wrongly accused of... and it made me think of something that my little brother was wrongly accused of, and you know I'm not just taking his side because ratting him out was one of my favorite hobbies. Hell, it took me something like 30 episodes of Phineas and Ferb to stop getting all worked up, thinking that Candace was about to finally bust them this time.

Also, I was wrongly accused of shoplifting at the drug store that time, but didn't even think of that injustice at first.

So one summer, my parents took us on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg because all the togetherness involved in a road trip and hotel stay always seem like a good idea before you actually do it. Oh, and it was educational and stuff. We always enjoyed visiting Old Bethpage, so why not visit someplace else old timey?

One of the exhibits was a working bakery, and I remember big baskets of cookies. All the tourists lined up along the rope that lined the work area as we watched what was going on, and probably ended up at a spot where we could buy the cookies. My brother was pointing out some cookies to me, but not the ones in the basket closest to us - the ones farther away. Now, grown-ups who are used to the subtleties of talking with their hands would indicate the far basket by pointing higher up, or over to the left. But my bro wasn't even in high school yet. So he leaned over the rope as far as he could so that his finger could be pointing as close to the basket he meant.

One of the bakers saw him, and shook his finger at him like, "don't even think about it, buddy."

Which he wasn't. So whatever. The parents were on line ahead of this and completely missed the whole thing.

Later, we were on line outside another historical building and two women got on line behind us. And I heard, "Those are the two children who were stealing cookies."

My mother didn't hear this. I know she didn't because she turned to me and smiled for some random reason. I'm sure the ladies behind us saw and decided that my mom had raised us to steal historically baked cookies. For thrills. Obviously.

Meanwhile, all I could think was, "Shut the fuck up, lady. He wasn't stealing cookies and how exactly did I become an accomplice?"

I didn't say anything to the women, or to my parents for one simple reason. My mother would've had a screaming fit. She went on to teach junior high. She is not someone you fuck with. She also used to bake a lot, so we really had all the cookies we needed at home.

But she didn't subject us to the torture of Catholic school to have us accused of cookie theft. And her father was a cop, so she'd probably cut a bitch for saying her kids were cookie crooks.

You save the Wrath of Mom for situations that really call for it, is what I'm saying. And some nasty bitches who we were never going to see again just didn't rate.

And now I really want to bake some cookies.

Have you ever been wrongly accused of something?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Remember the Teacher

Kindergarten room
Photo credit: Contract Surfaces, Inc.
This week's Remember The Time Blog Hop is about teachers. Which leads me to this confession:

I'm Facebook friends with my Kindergarten teacher. 

I feel like this fact is more interesting than the time my high school English teacher diagrammed a sentence he'd overheard in the hall ("Wes was going" - that's not referring to a person named Wes, but it's a double plural - "we" with an s on the end.) because he just had to discuss how many ways that sentence was wrong. Mr. Black loved lamenting how stupid and provincial Brooklyn teens were (some of his students  had never left Brooklyn), and I kept thinking - dude, we're from here. You voluntarily moved here from another state. Who's the bigger dumbass in this situation?

But back to Miss Norma from Kindergarten. It was Montessori, so there was a lot of learning at your own pace. But other than that, it was pretty standard Kindergarten stuff. Cubbies. Sitting on the floor. Snack time. I was little, so it was all a bit of a blur. But my mom substitute taught at my school (and then eventually taught there full time), so she socialized with Miss Norma and some of the other teachers.

I remember going to Miss Norma's apartment in Greenwich Village once. OK, just Norma - she keeps asking all her ex-students to stop calling her Miss Norma on Facebook and it's a really hard habit to break, but she doesn't talk to us like we're still five years old, so it's only fair.

Anyway, her apartment in the Village was this totally old New York place with a bathtub in the kitchen. Because at some point in the history of NYC, this was considered a reasonable thing to do. Now, I'm jaded about crazy New York apartments, but as a kid? Mind. blown.

She told me recently that one time (possibly on the same visit), my Dad banged on a fire hydrant on the street to get her attention. Maybe the buzzer was broken. Maybe it was a walkup and he was trying to avoid the walk up. I dunno. My Dad makes about as much sense as New York real estate.

Now Norma is all plugged in with an iPad, hanging out on Facebook and playing her games. She saw a FB post of mine about Broadchurch, and asked where she could see it (since the BBC America run had just ended). She then power watched it in a day. 

Because this is the world we live in now. You get all excited about a murder mystery starring that bloke who used to play Doctor Who and then you turn your former Kindergarten teacher onto it. Who can then watch it online legally. 

Because we are living in the future.

You can steal me and use me as your own

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Idiots - I Knows Dem

wheelchair sign under a fresh coat of paint
Photo credit: man pikin
I've just discovered the Idiot of the Week blog hop and my brain temporarily broke trying to think of which specific idiot to write about. Sadly, as is all too common, I know too many idiots who are just not funny. But eventually one came to mind.

I used to travel a lot for work, which meant spending far more time with my co-workers than was strictly healthy. Sometimes this even meant going to the same city week after week.

Once, the monotony was broken by the arrival of a wheelchair tennis tournament at the hotel we were staying at. Mind you, the actual tennis happened offsite and very few of the rooms were wheelchair accessible, so I don't know how any of this worked.


But that week, the hotel was full of people there to hang out and socialize (when they weren't playing tennis). Since the hotel was usually full of business travelers, or tourists who kept to themselves, the joint was not usually jumping. Hell, I usually had the tiny gym to myself.

But not this week. The wheelchair tennis tournament crowd was there to talk to strangers. 
They had that vibe that college freshman have - we're in a big happy group and you should join us so you can be happy too. I started chatting to one guy and ended up hanging out with a bunch of people much closer to my age than my co-workers in the hotel bar one or two evenings. I was less miserable than usual. It was nice.

This was pre-social media, so instead of becoming FB friends or Twitter buddies with my new pals, I never saw them again.

The next week, as we were flying back down to the same exact place, I said to one of my co-workers, "I hope there's another tournament or conference at the hotel the week. People at those things are so friendly."

And she replied, "Oh, yeah, I saw you had a good time last week. But it made me so sad to look at their shriveled legs."

So apparently, she thought I'd just said that people in wheelchairs were friendlier than the able-bodied. Which, just, what? Is that a stereotype that exists out in the universe? Or just in her brain?

Also, if the brace hadn't worked, my limbs wouldn't be perfectly formed either. So would looking at me make her sad too?

So extreme was her discomfort around the disabled that her hearing shut down and she decided that I'd just said that wheelchair bound people are especially friendly. I bet if I'd called her on it at the time, she would've had a whole explanation, like maybe they're friendly because they have to be because they have to ask for help all the time.

Which, just. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy Hangover Anniversary

This week is my Uncle Richie & Aunt Carrie's 29th wedding anniversary. Which means that it's also the 29th anniversary of my first hangover.

I'll save you from having to do the math - I was 13. Just a touch under the drinking age.

This isn't going to be a bleak and sordid tale of teen alcoholism, so you can relax. It was 1983, and like many things that happened in the 1970s and 80s, it was a tale of adults not paying very close attention to the kids. With a bit of adults thinking, "oh, what the hell," thrown in there.

It all started during the formal photos after the ceremony and while the non-members of the wedding party were all at the cocktail hour. (I was a junior bridesmaid. The dress was lavender and floor length and incredibly tasteful for 1983.) The bride & groom had a lot of formal photos taken, and I'm sure it didn't help that photographers have no idea how to cope when the bride is a foot shorter than the groom. (There was a lot of making him stand in the gutter to lessen the height difference, but keeping their feet in the shot so that it was totes obvs.) This was a lengthy process that didn't require everyone's participation.

After a while, my Aunt Bea decided that the best way to pass the time was to introduce me and my cousin Kristen to champagne. (I'd had it before, but never in a "here, have all you want," way.) One hour and three bottles later, it was time to go down to the reception.

Where Kristen and I hung out with her two brothers and another cousin. Every time one of the guys went to the bar to get us drinks (3 beers and 2 champagnes), the bartender just handed them over. 

It was 1983.

It was also a yacht club, so it may also have been completely legal at the time.

I can tell you nothing about the food, the music, the first dance, any of those things that people remember about weddings. But the champagne? Yes, this is a thing that I remember.

The next day was a Monday and my parents had decided in advance that we wouldn't have to go to school since we'd be out late at the wedding. My mother had also concocted a nice idea involving going out for brunch.

At 3pm, she woke me up, furious that I hadn't gotten up yet, killing the whole brunch thing. 

Now, have you ever had a champagne hangover? It's not so much the alcohol, but the sugar.  I thought I was going to die, or worse - live. You know, all the cliches about first hangovers. 

And my mother did make me shower and get dressed and leave the house in this state. Because brunch. I'm also not sure exactly when she discovered that I was hungover. Because she didn't notice that I was drunk at the reception because I was off with my cousins the whole time.

And now we come to the part of the tale where you expect me to say that I never drank enough to get hungover again. But...no. I'd like to say that it was the last time I got drunk on champagne because of the sugar hangover, but there was a New Years Eve in my early 30s, shortly after I'd discovered Veuve Clicquot.

When was your first hangover?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fuck Diplomacy

Being nice is a habit from my corporate lackey days that I really need to give up. Not that I want to be a Malcolm Tucker type, screaming and cursing at everyone while still holding a job and getting promotions, and who the fuck am I kidding? I totally want to be like that. Not that I want to make everyone around me miserable, but I've worked in multiple places where I've been told, "we've spoken to Crazy Ted several times about his behavior, and he's just not going to change. He's going to keep working here and he's going to keep being crazy/rude/whatever to you, and you're just going to have to take it because standing up to him is unprofessional." (Note that in many instances, Crazy Ted is Crazy Tina. Obnoxious co-worker behavior is non-gender specific.) 

But my deep seated desire to be socially allowed to curse out people in the workplace is not what I'm talking about here.

What I'm talking about is spending an hour crafting and revising an e-mail over and over again so that I don't cause offense. Because that's what you're taught to do when you work with Crazy Ted. Managers insist that it's possible to avoid setting off the crazy if you just try hard enough. (I suspect that they don't really, really believe it. They just think they do because they lack the power to fire Crazy Ted.)

The problem is that you can't avoid setting someone off. Case in point, the reunion story. In which I made an offhand comment about how the cool kids had taken the online planning of the junior reunion offline and made some questionable decisions. In the resulting shitstorm, people started testifying to their own personal experiences with coolness and had no opinions on the decision to not bother tracking down the rest of the class, or illogical location decisions.

The people who'd made suggestions, or offered to help tie down locations said nothing. Which kinda undermines that whole "I've rarely regretted saying nothing" quote that's been going around. Way to let me take all the heat for saying, "hey what about so-and-so's idea?"

Only a true asshole thinks they're never to blame. But I'm starting to realize that how I phrase something isn't going to determine how someone is going to take what I'm saying.

As a writer, the realization that I can't write my way out of someone misinterpreting my meaning and jumping down my throat? Mind blown.

In college, I took a journalism class. The professor was a freelance investigative journo who was teaching one class just to have a steady income. He'd pretty much done it all - music journalism, celebs, politics. He had the grizzled no nonsense attitude that came with the ability to interview Mick Jagger and not be too intimidated to get a decent interview.

One class, he was talking about some little bit of ethics. Not making up sources, probably. "If you do that, people will think you're a jerk," he said. And, of course, jerks don't get hired.

Everyone in the class got it. We did not want to be thought of as jerks.

Last week, a writer acquaintance of mine did a blog post that broadcast her own ignorance about something writing related. (I'm being deliberately vague here because I'm not looking to publicly embarrass her or call her out for her later actions.) I thought it would be ungenerous to let her continue broadcasting her ignorance since she's a pro writer and was intending to continue in this vein in a larger venue than her blog. So I sent an e-mail saying, hey you probably don't know this, but here ya go. 

She responded saying, essentially, I don't need to know that, I'm a hack.

Instead of writing her off, I replied saying as gently as I could, yeah, you do need to know that and why are you disrespecting yourself and what you do? I spent an hour I could have spent on my own paying work trying to encourage someone else and give her a pep talk. 

And that's when she accused me of being condescending. This has been followed by nasty comments on Facebook including one from a complete stranger who seems to think that insulting my lipstick is part of a valid argument.

So fuck this. 

His Awesomeness told me not to bother. He told me it would only lead to aggravation. I have allowed him to do the I Told You So Dance. How is it that he's the kinder, gentler one of the two of us, but I'm the one who refuses to learn that people are eager to take offense? 

I don't think I can stop trying to pay it forward to people. I've gotten great unsolicited advice and I know I'll need more along the way. I've made so many mistakes in my life that if someone told me that I was making an ass of myself, I'd probably roll my eyes and say, "Oh, what did I do now?" without even bothering with the kneejerk defensiveness.  

But it's just not in me to decide that someone less experienced than I am is hopeless and unworthy of help.

But I'm done wasting time trying to be non-confrontational. 

Because the people who will get it, will get it. Whether you say, like my teacher, "if you do that, people will think you're a jerk," or if you spend an hour looking for the gentlest words known to mankind. Crazy Ted in the office is going to find some excuse to cut loose, so why spend time trying to avoid it?

What's your policy on advice? Do you let people sink or swim on their own? Or do you give a helpful word when it's warranted/welcome? And how do you judge when that is? Please no comments on the recent sitch - people have been blocked on social media and it should die down soon. This post isn't about that. It's about how we don't actually have the power to prevent people from getting mad at us. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Time I Was Almost Assaulted By An Off Duty Clown

The Clown
Photo credit: Doug Hay
The problem with Gerritsen Beach, the neighborhood I'm from, is that it's a pretty uneventful place. There's a coupla bars and not much to do. So nothing much happens. Until something does. Like almost getting fucked up by a clown.

Let me back up.

That evening there was a fundraiser for the local Catholic school. A card party. You don't play cards at a card party, although I suppose at some point in the misty past cards were played, hence the name. Nowadays, you eat a catered meal - something nice but not extravagant like chicken francese with a potato croquet and side of green beans or some veggie - I don't remember. 

You get a bunch of raffle tickets with your entry fee and you can buy more. The raffles are for different prizes - mostly stuff for the house. I won a basket of liquor one year. There's a cash bar to bring in some extra money and because things can get a mite tedious. One year the priest reading off the raffle winners got a bit slap happy and started making fun of one of the prizes - a world clock that was a little bit god awful and little bit nice, and someone donated two of them every year. The poor woman who'd actually chosen the first of the two clocks was mortified that the priest was mocking her new clock because no one else had  picked the other one. But she also thought it was hilarious. 

You know, the power of wine.

So anyway, one year, a bunch of us went to a local bar after the card party to see a local band play. And some of the card party attendees came as well. Including the priest and an off duty party clown who I will not name because the neighborhood only had one and I want to be able to go back home without risking getting my ass kicked.

At one point, Drunky the Clown actually stepped up to the microphone to sing What Child Is This? in honor of the priest and Christ Almighty, why didn't her friends take her home? And why the hell can't cover bands take a set break without someone trying to jump into the act?

Not long after that, I went to use the ladies room. As one does. Drunky the Clown appears outside the stall, peeks through the space between the door and the wall and sees that I'm buckling my belt. She orders me to get out of the stall because I can do that outside. She spouts some crazy shit about not being able to wait because she has kids. Which, OK, clown needs to do some kegels. And get to the ladies room a little sooner because there are plenty of intoxicated leaky moms who don't try to order people out of the toilet stall.

That's right. Tried to. Because you know I didn't budge. I am not about to be pushed around by some crazy drunk off-duty clown even if she has a hundred pounds on me. Because I'm more stubborn than smart.

I made it back into the bar unscathed and told my friends what had happened. I was just all, bitch is crazy. One of my friends is the one who started laughing and shouting that I'd almost gotten my ass kicked by a clown. 

Because the only things that seem to happen in Gerritsen Beach are kinda lame or incredibly bizarre. Like clown assault. 

Or a really hot guy showing up at the bar dressed as Christopher Columbus, but it's not Halloween. Or Columbus Day, if I'm remembering correctly. But that's another story.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Infertility and Longing and I Still Don't Want a Baby

Baby Shoes
Photo credit: Playingwithbrushes
In the past, I've ripped into 30 Rock for doing such a crap job of portraying adoption. Yes, it's a workplace comedy and Liz Lemon's personal life not being the focus was kinda the whole point. But Tina Fey's general awesomeness means that she gets held to a higher standard than everyone else. Which is also one of the things that sucks about being a woman. 

Around the same time, How I Met Your Mother did an episode that did an amazing job of addressing infertility. For some reason, I didn't write about it at the time. I've decided to change that because Entertainment Weekly recently named it the best HIMYM season 7 episode (though I'd argue it's the best, period). Also His Awesomeness and I watched it this weekend and even though it was the, let's say fourth time I've seen it, I bawled my eyes out. Again.

I'm talking about Symphony of Illumination, available on Netflix streaming. Instead of Future Ted narrating the episode, we get Future Robin narrating to her future kids. Robin has a pregnancy scare and celebrates like crazy when she finds out she's not pregnant. Then she gets called back into the doctor's office. It turns out that she can't get pregnant. Ever. 

She never wanted kids, but she's still upset. It's one thing to never want something, but it's another to be told you can never have it if you change your mind. And she can't tell her friends because she knows them well enough to know that they won't react in any way that will help her. And Lily is pregnant, so of course they have to go to a baby store to help her register for the baby shower. Twice.   

In the end, we discover that the kids Robin was talking to are imaginary and it's hasn't been Future Robin narrating, but Robin Robin sitting alone in the park working through this.

For some reason, I also cry my eyes out at the end, when Robin returns home to find Ted who's determined to comfort her even though she refuses to tell him what's wrong. He's decorated the apartment with Christmas lights programmed to flash in time with AC/DC's Highway to Hell, which makes perfect sense with the B plot.

And Robin finally cries.

The best thing about all of this? Several episodes later, Robin tells her boyfriend about her infertility and he figures that adoption is still an option. But no, even after discovering how much it hurts to lose the possibility of something she didn't want, Robin still doesn't want it. She hasn't changed her mind - she still doesn't want kids. And so they break up.

I love that they let her have complicated feelings about the issue without changing her mind. She can look at babies and think they're cute as fuck, but still not ultimately want one of her own.

And I'm right there with her. I wasn't never that hung up on the idea of gestating my own young. So when I couldn't get pregnant and we turned to older child adoption, I rolled with it. And then the attempted adoption went all to hell. Now the sight of a pregnant woman annoys the hell out of me. Hearing that a hopelessly infertile blogger I follow is now knocked up makes me want to smack her with jealous rage. I can cry my eyes out because a sitcom character is infertile too. 

But once my tantrum is over, I don't want a baby. My life choices haven't changed just because I experience griefquakes (TM OV Hawkins)  over the twin losses of the child I couldn't conceive and the child I tried to adopt. The Kid's rages and compulsion to fight me every single second of the day make me long for a baby because kids you raise from birth will not try to run away several times a week, heading for the fire escape when you have the front door blocked and what the hell are you supposed to do if you have more exits than adults to block them? 

But the truth is that there are children in the foster system who have experienced less trauma than The Kid and are therefore easier to parent. Because ultimately, The Kid didn't want to be part of a family. It was too painful and upsetting for her. As soon as she let herself get comfortable, she exploded.

I'm glad that we've had to delay starting the process again until after the one-year anniversary of The Kid leaving us. So much still reminds me of her. There was an annual street fair near our apartment yesterday, so of course I remembered last year's fair, when The Kid was with us and not the other years.

I hope that once we pass the anniversary of her last, horrible night with us, something in me will be exorcised. I hope that something will be gone. So that I can be some other kid's mother without constantly bracing myself for a violent tantrum. Intellectually, I know that we're not going to repeat our experience with The Kid. But I don't feel it in my bones yet.

So when I feel baby jealousy or baby longing, I haven't changed my mind about dirty diapers or lugging a stroller on the subway. It's just my desire for a non-disastrous parenting experience. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Class Pictures - Because School Isn't Awkward Enough

Camera van (Maker Faire)
Photo credit: Logan Ingalls
One of my most vivid memories from 5th grade is having my school picture taken. We were all herded down to the gym where we each took our turn sitting on a stool in front of a lame backdrop while a photographer snapped our picture. Afterwards, we were supposed to get up and go to our left. For whatever reason, I got up and turned right. 

This completely ruined my class picture and it had to be retaken. Because...I got nothing. There is no real, actual reason for this to be the case. Maybe the crazy bullshit of Catholic school rules permeated the camera. I dunno.

I had just switched schools and was having a really hard time of it and I was nine, so there was no way I was going to turn to the photographer and call bullshit. If it had happened in the first month or so, I might've said something, because I was in a haze of WTF for weeks because that's what happens when you switch from someplace laid back like Montessori to someplace with regimented, mandatory insincere prayer 2-3 times a day.

It's not like there was really any hope of a flattering picture since our uniform was green, gray, black and yellow plaid. 

It was just as ugly as you are imagining. Which is why I'm not even going to look for a picture to scan.

My husband went to public school because his parents were much less interested in screwing him up than mine were. In second grade, his mom let him wear his Star Trek uniform t-shirt for his class pictures. Because it was his totally favorite shirt. And he was the cutest thing.

His mom also saved the class picture and there were other kids all dressed up for picture day in nice sweaters. In the 80s, you just know that a kid showing up for picture day in a Star Trek tee would've led to nasty gossip. In the 90s, possible re-shoots of the class photo. In the Aughts, dozens of fraught e-mails and photoshopping.

But it was the 70s. I'm sure everyone just rolled with it. If any mom was annoyed that her dream of a perfect Norman Rockwell class picture had been besmirched, she probably just grumbled into her bourbon and had a smoke. On the way to the obstetrician. 

Got your own school picture stories? Share 'em in the comments. Wanna read about other people's school pictures? Check out this week's Remember The Time Blog Hop.

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