Category Archives: Parenting

Raise a Glass

There have been many funny episodes in my life that involve alcohol, and a fair number of embarrassing episodes, and I’m not admitting to any pure straight up dumbass ones.  Plus, you have no proof of those — let’s hear it for coming of age before social media! Alcohol has also played a part in two of my prouder achievements.

But before we get to that, we have to go back to a job I had many years ago at the nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education. You know, adult education, where people in their 20s pretend they’re “expanding their horizons,” with tai chi, or how to make a business plan, or making sushi, but they are really just looking to find other singles. And the joke is always on straight women, because most of the classes are filled with other straight women. Or was that just me? Anywho, this was way after the “Mad Men”/5 martini lunch era and way before start-up beer in the fridge and Foosball tables in the conference room era. Do you see how we Gen-Xers were completely left behind as far as alcohol in the workplace? Well, the BCAE, as we affectionately called it, created my noble desire to leave no alcoholic beverage behind. It used to be housed in an old mansion, so wedding reception rentals provided an income stream. Fortunately for us, our archaic old-ass Puritan Massachusetts laws prohibited the couple from taking any leftover alcohol with them. As a result, we always had a stash of wine and other spirits that were kept in the “wine closet.” That was an actual thing in my workplace. Of course my office supplies were kept in a built-in sock drawer and I worked in what had been the master’s bedroom (the house mrs. slept in the room nearby), but that’s a whole other blog.

All I’m saying is, when you are a Gen-Xer and 30 years old making essentially less than the minimum wage of today, but it’s OK because you are helping people, having wine at work was pretty damn exciting. And so every once in a while the education director would check the wine closet situation on a Friday afternoon and in no time we would have a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, and nibbles, fit for a wedding reception.

I vowed to leave no alcohol behind, so I knew what I had to do at my next job at a health newsletter publisher (remember those? So cute, those print newsletters, aren’t they?) When I got there, there was already a cruise director of sorts who organized movies at lunch and company outings. I didn’t want to step on his toes, so I waited patiently, and when he left, there was a wide open space. Apparently most people don’t like to organize fun at work. Who knew? I started off slowly with “tea time” — with tea in a real teapot and little teacups and cookies and little yummies. Once I had them enjoying that, it was a short leap to “wine time.” That was very cool until we got bought out by another company that seemed to prohibit alcohol in the workplace. Wha?

I say “seemed” because, ever the resourceful employee dedicated to the vision of drinking at work, I carefully scoured the fine print of the employee manual and discovered this fateful phrase: that alcohol was allowed at “company sponsored” events. Score! Just to be on the safe side though we referred to the “company sponsored” events as “tea time.” What can I say, our headquarters HR lady would visit once a quarter and we called her Catbert.

I eventually left the company, and that satellite office closed less than a year later, but a group of us continue the ritual in the more traditional venue of a bar after work. Now we get to call it a drinkfest, a nice name for my favorite work achievement.

My second alcohol-related achievement is that I got my mother to drink with me. Truth be told, this would be the second time her children have persuaded her. I believe my sister had the first honor when she came back from college a beer fan and got my mom on board. Having gone to an all girl high school and trying to be a nun after that before she got too sick to continue, my mom had missed out on a lot of teenage shenanigans. So it was up to us to make sure she made up for it in mid-life.

Fast forward to her recent move to assisted living. The two items in my mom’s fridge right now are beer and prune juice. And I think at age 88, that pretty much covers the bases. When she moved we tried to help her keep her rituals from home, one of which was every Saturday night she had beer and pizza. Her assisted living doesn’t have pizza that consistently, so she stopped drinking, can you imagine? When I told her to drink a beer after dinner on Saturday anyway, she said she doesn’t like to drink alone. Which is funny, because she drank by herself at home, and there weren’t even 100 assisted living neighbors within 20 feet of her, just my dad hanging out in another part of the house.

After couple of weeks of that suggestion being ignored, and she still wasn’t drinking in her apartment, I knew I had to act swiftly and hatched a plan. We FaceTime with each other every Friday night, and I always have wine on Fridays (and Mondays and Tuesdays and…but I digress), so I invited her to drink with me. Sure enough the next week she was hoisting her beer with me. This week she even finished hers before I finished mine. It was a proud moment.

 

Don’t Fall Asleep in the Snowdrift

This is a really bad time to be a person who tries to find humor in everyday life and write about it. It’s also a bad time to be a person of color, an immigrant, a woman, or  basically anyone who is not in agreement with the Cheeto flea and his minions. Or maybe he is their minion. It’s hard to tell — this shit gets confusing.

The current crisis of the immigrant children warehoused like, well, let’s just say it — the prelude to Jews and gays and other non-Aryan people sent to the Nazi death camps, is wrong on every single level. It scares the hell out of me. It exhausts me with pain and anguish. I can’t imagine what these families are being put through. And it also pisses me the hell off.

Hey, Cheeto asshole, you know what you get when you treat children like worthless animals? The ones who survive learn to hate, and they find acceptance in groups like ISIS and other religious extremists. And then they find ways to hurt the people and the country who made them. This is so basic, I get paralyzed thinking how Cheeto and the minions cannot know this. And by the way the Bible is not a tool for making policy, but if you want to quote shit, how about this? “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” And the kids will come back and give you back 10-fold what you gave them.

I want to go numb. This new, next level of WTF-ness  is so relentless, and seems to be getting worse.

So, I have very little humor for you, but rather, I hope I can give you inspiration. I receive email once a week about practical things to do, put together by Jen Hofmann called Americans of Conscience Checklist. You can sign up for it here. 

In this week’s email she talks about being overwhelmed by this whole putting kids in cells thing, and included an inspiring article about why we can’t go numb now. The writer Dahlia Lithwick writes, “And this is the scene in the movie where even though you want to fall asleep in the snowdrift, you need to get up and walk around. … Because “going numb” is the gateway drug to acceptance.”

So hang in there. The article also calls for us to “Choose for yourself. Sure, tune out that which makes you feel hopeless. But hold onto what motivates you to act. Find all the humans you can find who agree with you and make calls and register voters.”

I’m focusing on social justice. I’m trying to do it in with honey, rather than vinegar. But maybe at this point, all that really matters is that you do something.

Photo credit: Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Association.

 

 

In Your 20s and Confused? Get Over It

I try to stay out of the internet fray. In my 20s I remember getting steamed over all the articles about about the baby boomers. You couldn’t pass a newspaper or magazine without seeing a headline about how many of them there are, their spending habits, who they were marrying, where they were choosing to live. And the TV shows! I let “Thirtysomething” piss me off every single week. (Apologies to my beloved sis who loved that show — love you!) There were way more of them than my Gen X, and it seemed to me they were just this giant vacuum cleaner of materialism sucking up all the resources in their path. The media coverage of it led them to think they were entitled to it. Meanwhile Gen Xers were left with their crumbs and dust and a string of Republican presidents to try to patch together a life. So, yeah, that’s why they call us cynical.

Did me getting pissy about it change anything? No. Did I manage to patch together a life? Yes. And maybe I could have done it faster if I hadn’t wasted so much energy getting my panties in a twist about them. Or maybe that’s just the nature of being a 20-year-old. Your fairly new life panties get twisted about stuff. You are at the start, and while you know the most you’ve known in your whole life, it’s still not actually that much. You have to figure it out as you go. One thing I learned from those years is that I am happier if I don’t get caught up in the media stories about stuff that is only a thing because they are writing about it. Sometimes it’s insightful or entertaining, but mostly it just makes you feel bad.

So I set up a bubble against what I think of as psuedo news stories (as opposed to fake news — that’s a different post). Pseudo news is: yes, it’s true that the boomers are a very large and influential generation; however, that fact alone does not make them news. Of course staying in the bubble was much easier when it was just print and TV. The internet pummels the bubble much more, and it’s inevitable that things slip through. Just retrieving my email on Comcast, I get pelted with clickbait headlines and pictures of people I don’t recognize, “ripping” other people I don’t recognize. But no matter, I’m older and crabbier now, so even when the bubble is breached, my alter ego Blanche takes a drag on her ciggie, downs a shot, and says we don’t give a flip. I get my real news elsewhere.

Except on rare occasions when my pissy 20-year-old is poked.

I read a story about how all the #metoo and attention on sexual abuse has got men in their 20s questioning their own behavior. That’s a good thing. The situation also seems to have men and women in their 20s allegedly confused about the rules of dating. The article earnestly quotes men and women who say they don’t know how to act, and interviews with concerned therapists who say their male clients are so befuddled they are afraid to even go on dates. Wah, wah, wah.

Cue eye roll. This, my friends, is pseudo news.

Just because you have more information about something, especially about sexuality and dating, don’t expect it to make things easier. In fact certain information will make it a lot harder. But that’s what is called “growth,” which often hurts like hell when you are going through it, but can make you a better person.

Twitter alert: Life is just awkward and uncomfortable, if you’re lucky. It can also be much, much worse. If it’s just awkward, count your blessing and move on. And if you happen to be a confident, focused 20-something, you will hit a confused patch at some point. There’s no skipping stages.

So forgive me if I’m rolling my eyes at the 20-somethings who are confused about dating. Since the cavemen were trying to hit cave women over the head as a way of asking them out, or hoping her brother was home instead, or she was more interested in gathering nuts and berries with the hot cave ladies, dating has always been confusing. More so when you’re 25, but it’s no picnic for anyone. If you work at it, you just get better at knowing your worth and what you want. And even when you do, you still sit across from your date and think, does he like me? Should I go home with him? Is spinach in his teeth and his collection of antique dentist equipment a deal breaker?

Wah, wah, you’re confused about dating. Welcome to Human 101. Now you’ve forced my hand, and I have to tell you a Story. One of those Older People Stories you hate, because who gives a flip about older people? Well, you brought it on yourself, so listen up.

When I was in college, my friends and I went to a frat party, and did all of the usual things one does at frat parties — drink, dance, and then sneak past the “Private Do Not Enter” sign in the stairway to raid the refrigerator on the 3rd floor when our drunken snackies set in. What? Like anything in a frat house is private, and BTW we were the ones in danger — it was food that 20-year old boys were pretending was edible. It was slim pickins, believe me, but we represented ourselves well.

Anywho, a very large, drunken frat brother named Quentin started dancing with me. As a nerdy, introverted woman, I had ZERO experience with boys. In high school I had an unrequited crush on a friend, and as a junior I went to the senior prom with THE king nerd of the class, pocket protector and all. He was a nice enough, but two shy nerds do not a make out session produce. Freshman year in college was no better. Another unrequited crush on a friend, and I had been hit on by a super awkward guy in a chem lab class (it mostly involved staring, so I have to take my friends’ word that he was hitting on me). Another friend had professed his like for me while he was drunk and I was trying to get him home safely. Not a super turn on. Oh, also, I had been told plenty of “scared straight to virginity” stories. And I was brought up Catholic. See? You think you have dating problems? Puh-leaze.

So there I am dancing to Micheal Jackson with Quentin; then a slow song came on, and I was enveloped by his gentle, yet giant bear-like arms, and suddenly there was a tongue in my mouth. A sloppy, drunk tongue, if I’m going to critique it 30 years later. Okaaaay. I was not really enjoying it, but here’s the thing. He was black, and I thought if I pulled away, he would think I was a racist. See? This is what I’m saying about awkward, stupid shit in your 20s. So I let it go on for a while, plotting my escape. I think he may have asked me if I wanted to go back to his room. So I took the opportunity to say, “Wait here, I just have to tell my friends.” I know, I know! Why not just say “No, thank you,” and move on? Because you’re 20, and you don’t know what the hell to do because Catechism never covered this, except to tell you never have sex. So all you are left with is to do dumb stuff like try to prove you are not a racist and running away.

So I ran off and found my friend Rosemary, who I unceremoniously grabbed and marched her home with me. And during the 20-minute walk home I was on a drunken, sobbing loop to her: Dance, tongue, big arms, he’s black, I’m not a racist, I just don’t like tongue in the first 5 minutes of a non-date; Dance, tongue…and on and on until we got home.

The next day found me immobilized with the double-whammy of physical and emotional hangovers. I sought out Rosemary to apologize and studiously avoided Quentin (who of course lived in my dorm). But here’s the thing:

Neither of them remembered anything about that night. Rosemary stared at me blankly during my apology and then laughed at me. At one point Quentin saw me, and I saw the same blank face. Had I gone to his dorm room, he would have surely had that face in the morning. Awkward.

The racism guilt lingered until finally my friend Sonia, who is black, told me to knock it off. So I did.

As the Who sings in “Another Tricky Day,” “You irritate me my friend, this is no social crisis … just another tricky day for you.”

I get it, it is confusing. We’ve all been there, and there is no magic way around life’s obstacles. Keep your good friends close, have an escape route, do your best to learn what you can from each awkward encounter. Oh, and stay off the internet. That thing will make you crazy.

Photo credit: Flashbak 

Top 6 Posts of 2017

Well, kids, looks like we made it through year 1 of the Cheeto flea, and that alone is worth celebrating. But even better would be to forget about him altogether. As you run the highlight reel of the past year in your mind, acknowledge the not-so-great stuff, but give priority to the good things — the people, places, and events that gave you a lift. I’m reminding myself as much as you on this one. I think of myself as a positive person, but I’ve been noticing that I can get focused on the one bad thing sitting amongst all the good stuff. So I’m going to try to keep an eye on that in 2018. I’m also feeling like my tank is empty, and, yes, I had a big year (as the posts below will attest), but most of the big things are past, so I also wonder if it’s real or a habit? I will keep an eye on that, too.

But for now, it’s time to look back a bit, take a deep breath, and head out to 2018.

6. The big news of the year was getting the kid launched, and it was official with this post. In the process, there were highs, lows, lots of wine, and a few moments of full-blown panic. But the deed got done with Mission Accomplished.

5. I reread this one, and thought, damn, that’s good! I’ve been feeling less than inspired lately to write. In keeping with my positive theme, I’m going to recall the words of a painter friend many years ago, when I was hit with my first case of writer’s block. I had just finished a bunch of essays and thought, now I’m ready for the next thing. But I wasn’t. The faucet had nary a trickle. He told me not to worry — I was merely filling up again. So, I’m going with that. Don’t know how long the filling will take, so be prepared for reruns if you’re a long time reader and for cool old stuff if you’re new. In any event, this piece reminded me that, yeah, I still have some writing mojo. Happy Anniversary.

4. That this one is in the top 6 makes me laugh. I thought it was just me, but apparently this was something a lot of people could relate to. For the love, Leave the Curtain Rods.

3. Because I have memory issues, er, I mean, I live in the moment like Eckhart Tolle. I’m a super advanced human, I swear. Anywho, I thought this one was about Cheeto flea, but it was more subtle than that. Either way, it never hurts to remember It’s a Marathon not a Sprint.

2. I just reread this one, and it reminded me I have a blog to finish about bystander intervention. Also, it reminded me that Life moved with me to my new apartment and is still sitting in my chair, giving me the look, and motioning me to get her another drink. Happy new year, bee-atch! Dammit!

1. Oh, Celine. I hope where ever you are, you have all the happiness you deserved when you walked among us. Goodbye My Friend.

So there it is, friends. I wish you all you healthy, hopeful new year. We can totally do this. We always do.

Writing Excavation

Before I get into my blog proper, I need to detour one second for this brilliant tweet from @DrAndrewThaler: “Folks, I think we need to start coming to terms with the idea that the rapture happened and only David Bowie and Prince made the cut.”

And now back to our regularly scheduled shenanigans: While packing and decluttering before I moved, I went through my filing box of writing. Oh what a treasure trove of the good, the bad, and the incomprehensible, masquerading as mastery. Here are some of the more interesting (humor me) highlights:

This one I like — I’m not a natural-born poet, brevity being rather foreign to me. However, I do have my moments. I used to take a bus to the train to get to a 7 am meeting in Boston. One thing writers are good at is turning an unpleasant obligation into art, or at least something more palatable.

Early spring bus ride, 6:20 am
The light is so nice
It’s the planet and the sun
We’re doing the tilt.

I found a lot of random notes about possible essays from when Lucas was little. Which either shows my unbridled optimism or delusional tendencies — I had no time or energy to write an essay, but as they say in yoga, intention counts. This one made me smile:

When Lucas was about 8, he played soccer. His coach Giuseppe was from Italy and had a pretty heavy accent. We used to laugh that his son who was also on the team and a great player was the ringer — the kid probably had been kicking a ball around before he could walk. The rest of Lucas’s team was pretty much what you’d expect from a group of rag-tag, half-hearted 8-year-olds. The better teams always thought they had the game in the bag until Giuseppe’s son started weaving his way around them as if they were standing still. I also loved the way Guiseppe told the kids that “practeeks” would help them win. Short of having a wine flask to help take the edge off sitting through 8 am practices in 35-degree fall weather, the Italian imported ringer and the practeeks got me through.

In an unmarked manila folder I found a thin, plastic see-through record, a 45 size, but a 33 rpm. If you are younger than 35, this sentence may make no sense to you. Kind of like this one makes no sense to me (randomly found on a celebrity gossip site): Javi and Briana rub their romance in Kailyn’s face. Who are these people?

Back to my see-through record. It does play on my record player. (Yes, I have one, read all about it here: Put the Needle on the Record). The record is called “Star Track: Stephen Saban’s Greatest Hits,” and has excerpts from interviews by the “hottest” 80s stars, with a slant toward comedians: Judy Tenuta, Julio Iglesias, Bruce Willis, Debbie Harry, Steven Wright, Emo Phillips, Lily Tomlin. I listened to it, and it’s pretty incomprehensible — there is no theme or organization, just famous people saying random things. It says “Details” at the top, which I think means it was from the hip, happening 80s magazine of the same name, which I did not subscribe to. So the mystery remains: why was this (presumably) in a magazine, who the hell is Stephen Saban, how did I get this weird thing, and for the love, why did I keep it? Was it one of those, “Oh, this will be worth a lot on eBay in the future!” moments? We may never know as I threw it away, but was fun to find.

There were many painful attempts at fiction and interview notes from when I spent a few months as a stringer for a weekly local newspaper. Neither genre is my forte, so that’s part of the pain. But it’s not a bad thing to be reminded that being a young writer is what it is — bombastic, obvious, overly earnest, and just plain bad. But I had to write all that stuff to get where I am now: bombastic, obvious, underly earnest, and less bad.

And I’ll leave you with a deliciously bad piece of writing. Here is the winner of the 2017 Best Unoriginal Sentence: Hers was a beauty that was best seen through drunken eyes.

Thank you very much.

Now I’m Worried 

You’re only getting a short tease this week, because I’m packing up to move, and a bunch of other things are going on, including I got to see the kid for parents weekend at his school this weekend. It’s 4 hours away, so I stayed at a Days Inn, a cheap, but clean, no-frills kind of place. But maybe it was too clean. I found this little gem sitting near the TV:Hotels these days have all kinds of messages they place around the room to either tell you how efficient and all saving-the-planet they are with solar energy and washing things in a cup full of rain water collected from the green roof. Alternately they berate you to use less energy by choosing to use your towels and sheets multiple times. But I hadn’t seen this little number yet, so I took a closer look. Turns out this remote is built to allow for full disinfecting. 

Um. Eww?

I appreciate the effort, but 1) the rule of hotels is to work to make me think I’m the only one who has ever stayed there. Ever. So referring to disinfecting the remote very much violates that little fantasy; and 2) now I’m thinking about where that remote has been that it requires disinfectant. And believe me, as I sat staring at it from across the room, I went waaaaay past, sneezing and germ ridden kids. 

Suffice to say, I did not touch the remote or the TV. So maybe that’s actually how the disinfecting works. 

See you on the other side of the move! 

Mission Accomplished

Just a quick one this week. Life has been coming at me from all sides, some good, some not so good, so I feel a bit like a little kid tossed in the 3-ft wave surf. I come up gulping for air, only get tossed back under. That’s why I missed last week’s post. If I’m lucky, you didn’t even notice. I’m back and staying more above water than below, so this week this I’m concentrating on the good.

A week and a half ago I dropped the kid off at college. A couple of work colleagues said, “You must be sad,” and I got a pretty big raised eyebrow when I said I was actually really good. My neighbor across the street asked me if I missed my son now that I was all alone. They are a lovely older couple, but our relationship is pretty much regulated to waving when we’re getting in and out of cars, and they once drove the kid to school when my car had a flat. I never told them he was leaving. But I forget they are those kind of neighbors you want because they watch everything going on, including apparently us packing up the kid in a very obvious “going to college” kind of way, and not a “hauled off to jail” kind of way. I was a little less direct and said I missed him a little, but was getting used to it. Which is also true.

A long-time friend got closer to it when he asked me if I was done yet running around the house yelling, “MINE! All mine!”

I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be one of those mopey, weepy empty nesters, but I also thought it would be an interesting idea to have minor surgery on my 30th birthday, so you know, I’m not always right. But I was right about this. The weeks before were definitely up and down for both of us. The day of, as we were leaving the house, I told him I would give him a hug now so I wouldn’t embarrass him at school. He asked me not to cry, and I told him I was going to do my best not to. We got to campus, and after 2 hours of unloading and unpacking, his relief that whatever horrible thing he had worried about hadn’t happened was so great, he was actually happy and comfortable. He sent me and his dad on our way with a hug and an “I love you.”

If he had looked stricken, I would have totally lost it. But there was perfect happiness all around. I got in the car and drove home singing joyfully to my tunes.

See, the thing is, the kid never really liked school. And yet he was an honors student and knew he wanted to go on to higher education. This always mystifies me —  I only did well in school because I loved it. If I had disliked it as much as he did, I really have no idea what would have happened. I was scared of the druggy kids, I wasn’t an athlete, and there wasn’t an internet yet to offer me a career in blogging.

Since he’s been 10, I’ve been telling him college would be different. Harder, yes, but also more fun and fewer educational restrictions. In the past year, I had more than one panic attack, thinking, oh god, what if college isn’t more fun for him? Way to lose parental cred, if I ever had any to begin with. So I softened my pitch to, “Just try it for a year. If you hate it, we can come up with Plan B.” I’m such a back-peddling weenie. But nothing ruins stuff like high expectations, so back-peddle I did.

Seeing him standing by his college desk, mostly unpacked, fussing happily over his computer, was the best thing I could have hoped for. Sending us on our way was icing on the cake. Oh, I know, there is still going to be hard times, and he still may tell me at the end of the year that he hates it and is going to sell electronics on eBay for a living. But for now, he is content for the first time in a long time. And so am I.

And I’m still running around the house yelling, “MINE! All mine!”