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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Drive.

Since becoming a full-fledged adult, with an important job downtown that involves an office with a view in a remodeled historic district, which requires an elevator to access, I’ve discovered the five o’clock rush hour commute is a strange and magical period of metamorphosis and self-honesty.

I get into my Jeep Liberty, the pink car seat in the back still empty, and I head west on Washington. The cars are bumper to bumper, as the up and coming suit kids from downtown head home to suburbia. We drive past the beautiful west central houses, some restored to their original beauty, which we have abandoned with our hipster early 20’s, and drive due west to the 04 zip code. The established side of town. Where houses all look the same, built by the same contractor, the lawns look the same, and everyone knows about IRAs and stocks and bonds and other fancy grownup terms like colonoscopies.

But we haven’t picked up the kids yet. We haven’t gone home to spouses, to pick up the house and cook dinner (or pick up takeout). Right now, we’re on a 15-minute period of total honesty. No kids, no office where we’re required to keep up this insane charade of adulthood. Just us, in our cars. The windows are rolled down. The iPods are switched to our music that we don’t dare play with our precious snowflake children in the car, played at a volume we wouldn’t dream of blasting into precious little eardrums.

And for 15 minutes, in our tiny little pods, driving down Washington Boulevard to the safety of suburbia, we are ourselves.

The lady in the Caravan two cars ahead? Followed Nirvana on tour and held vigil after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, before she became an accountant. That guy over there in the Mercedes? Smoked more weed than you could imagine in his heyday. He might have a baggie in his sock drawer that he breaks out after the kids have gone to sleep, after swim practice and lacrosse games.

And the girl in the Jeep Liberty, blasting the Strokes and drumming furiously on her steering wheel? Was once thrown out of three different bars in one night and arrested for peeing in a Taco Bell drive-thru. Before the expensive but modest dress slacks and high heels and portfolios and vendor phone calls. Before the pink princess EVERYTHING and swim lessons and gymnastics lessons and “for-the-love-of-fucking-god-I-said-it-is-bedtime” eruptions. She was pretty fucking sweet.

We all know this is each other’s Zen time. This is Me Time. I am not How To, Official Grown-Up With An Office Full of Family Pictures and Important-Looking Folders. I’m not Mommy. I’m just How2. Crazy, sarcastic, ridiculous, falling down drunk, dancing on tables, drumming along to the Killers How2.

We recognize it in each other. With a polite nod or sidewise glance, a sheepish smile that says, “Yeah, I was really fucking awesome about 6 or 7 years ago, too,” we see kindred spirits, we see ourselves reflected as the ties are loosened and the heels come off. Sometimes literally – traipsing around the office in 4” heels wears on the arches.

Then we pick up our kids. We go home. We feed them dinner, put them to bed, quietly settle onto the couch with a glass of wine, watching mundane prime time sitcoms and going to bed at 10, because that’s when we’re exhausted now, to wake up at 6 to do it all again, the same tired act of adulthood for 9 hours a day.

But we’ll reconvene again at 5. I’ll bring the Black Keys.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Come on, get Happy.

I know this may come as a surprise to many of you, but I was a melodramatic kid with dreams of grandeur. In the 80’s, some kids dreamt of superstardom on Star Search or Double Dare. But that was for chumps. I, on the other hand, had plans that would take me through the back door and right up to the main stage – I was going to capture the hearts of America on Bozo the Clown.


But alas, Bozo was clear in Chicago, some far away fantasy land that apparently only granted admittance to idiot children with absolutely no hand-eye coordination, so the next closest thing for those of us growing up in Fort Wayne was Happy the Hobo.


Happy the Hobo was a congenial raggedy gentile who lived in the WFFT Fox 55 studio with his pal Froggy – who in case you’re confused, was a frog who sounded a lot like my mom when she started smoking again and tried to hide it from us. The show aired every weekday after school, and any kid in the broadcast area whose parents loved them made their television debut on Happy the Hobo.


Similar to Bozo, Happy featured games that pitted select audience children against each other. The winner would receive vast prizes and fortune, including Pop Weaver popcorn and Archway cookies.

Also, each kid on the show was “interviewed” by Happy, with some question of the segment, and you had two seconds to give your answer.


Most answers were, by my estimation, lame. Some kids cried. Some were shy and didn’t talk. But more than that was the lucky kid who would be the last one “interviewed” before a commercial break who got to say “We’ll be right back.”


In my five-year-old mind, I NEEDED to be this child.


So when my parents announced we would be going on Happy’s Place, my mind went into overdrive preparing for what was surely going to be my fast track to stardom. I schemed ways that I could get to be the kid to say “We’ll be right back.” I would sing it just like Paula Abdul would. Happy would be so floored by my panache, my “it” factor, and people watching the show would be so taken by this talented and precocious child with the huge white permed fro that stuck five inches off her head, that I would be destined for greatness. It was inevitable.


And so came the day, and I could scarcely contain myself as I sat with the other children in the audience. Happy came out juggling bowling pins and telling jokes, and I made it a point to be AMAZED by every trick, to laugh louder than ANY other kid, to show just how clearly outstanding I was. The time for the interview came, and the featured question was “If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?”


As we lined up, I gauged how long it would be before a commercial break. I was too close to the front of the line; I knew my turn would come and go before I would even have the chance to say “We’ll be right back”. So I began letting kids in front of me in line, under the guise that I was A.) the benevolent line saint, and B.) very shy.


It’s on tape somewhere, which I think my parents still have if my father didn’t tape Lethal Weapon over it and I didn’t tape N Sync videos over it in junior high, the abnormally tall child in the line, wheeling and dealing on camera letting kids in front of her. Nobody knew my ulterior motive but I was going to tell the world we’d be right back, and I would have ARRIVED.


Then Happy asked me the question. My answer? A fox. I’d like to say my skill for marketing and PR shined even then (the station was called Fox 55), but the truth was I was just sort of obsessed with Fox and the Hound and all the lame kids were saying stupid shit like horses. Horses! PFFT!


And I stood and waited after Happy noted what a great response that was.


And I was motioned to step aside.


That was it. That was my chance. And I blew it on “fox.”


And then he asked the little boy behind me to say “We’ll be right back.”


OH THE DEFEAT. The kid had been picking his nose the whole time and Happy picked HIM? WHAT THE HELL HAPPY?


I proceeded to go cry to my parents, who were in the parental section of the audience off-camera, so very, very disappointed with how things had turned so very much against me.


Maybe because he saw me crying, maybe because I trampled the other children when he asked for a volunteer, but Happy later picked me to be a contestant in the GOOFY GAME-O-RAMA.


THIS was it, guys. THIS was my moment. This would be where I would shine. Would it be throwing your shoes in a pile to see who could pull them out first? Oh I hoped so.


Again, cruel fate turned me to the cold.


Happy pitted me against a huge girl, who, in my mind’s eye, was like, 16, but in all reality was probably like, 8. And the game? Hula hoop contest.


I have a secret confession to make. I can’t hula hoop. I can’t now, and I sure as shit couldn’t when I was 5. I also can’t jump rope – which, contrary to what my middle school gym teacher told me, you CAN get into college and become a successful adult without being able to do, like climbing a rope to the gym ceiling and putting mind over matter on menstrual cramps (whatever, if you’re mad, you’re just mad YOUR mom didn’t write you a note).


But I couldn’t risk giving up my one shot at stardom, since I had blown my interview, so instead of saying simply, “I can’t hula hoop,” I proceeded to hurl the hula hoop around my mid-section and do what wasn’t much unlike seizing. Happy, unfooled by my tomfoolery, kindly escorted me out of the game and picked some other kid to participate. My Achilles heel of competition, and he had found it.


Not long after this embarrassing, shameful turn of events, Happy "retired" and let his cousin, "Happy's cousin," take over the show, a move I never understood. I personally would never let my cousin take over my job; mostly because he's a convicted felon whose claim to fame is that his prison cell is in the same block as Maurice Clarrett's (something any red-blooded Ohioan would be proud of, really), and if he tried to take over my job, he'd probably just work for cigarettes and stab someone in the break room before the day was over. Moral of the story: your cousin shouldn't take over your job.


And really, he's my step-cousin. But anyway.


To this day I can’t hula hoop. I can’t eat Archway cookies without feeling like I didn’t earn them, and I am fully prepared to belt out “We’ll be right back” while doing a full song and dance number. Mr. Hobo, I am ready for my closeup.


No really. Please?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Uphill battle.

Let’s just get one thing straight right now: I am not a cyclist.

I am so NOT a cyclist that I initially typed “cycler”. That’s how non-cyclist I am.

So you can imagine what a foreign experience it has been for me to actually partake in a spin class. I’m not out of shape by most definitions – at 5’10, I’ve never really seen the other side of 170 lbs. (with the exception of pregnancy), I don’t smoke, and my drinking habits only lightly cross the line of “crippling dependency.” But since embarking on my new employment a few months ago for an organization that A.) stresses health and wellness and B.) gives me a free gym membership, I figured, what the fuck. Let’s get on a tiny pretend bike.

My first venture into spin class happened to fall on a day on which I was getting past a nasty cold, and had a lingering cough that would flare up if I inhaled, let alone huffed and puffed through spin class. But illness be damned, I had committed myself to doing spin class that day. So I chugged half a bottle of children’s Dimetapp before leaving for the gym, and hoped for the best.

It’s bad enough to be known as the new person in a spin class. It’s worse to be known as “the new girl who puked purple nightmare all over spin class.”

Moral of the story: don’t do spin class after chugging half a bottle of children’s Dimetapp. You will puke. I don’t care how good of an idea it may seem; you will puke. And terrify all the children coming out of swimming lessons. Just sayin’.

More than my faux pas, however, is the fact that the majority of people in spin class are, in fact, insane – if for nothing more than the fact that they are getting on a tiny pretend bike and pretending to go up pretend hills on their pretend bike, and are insane competitive assholes while doing it.

Somehow every time I go, I wind up next to the triathlete who is training through the winter and thinks we’re in some sort of race. Chill, dude. I am not going to race you up a pretend hill. I am not going to sprint faster than you. I am just trying to keep this tiny pretend bike’s tiny and very-real seat from breaking some unknown second hymen because CHRIST these things aren’t made for an ass like mine.

And even if – and when – you DO beat me up the hill…way to go. You beat the chick who puked purple all over the place last time and then pretty much crawled away from the class like Lucille Ostero in the vertigo clinic. (+2 to anyone noting that Arrested Development reference.)

Going into an established class is like being Forrest Gump on the school bus on the first day. Everyone has their assigned bike, officially or not, and everyone bikes next to the same person. Everyone knows all the bikes and all their tiny nuances. So I don’t know who I’m going to piss off by getting on this bike here. I don’t want to step on any toes, clad in tiny little shoes that snap onto the pedals all like whatthefuck. So I’m just going to stand by this bike here, all noncommittal, and see if anyone comes and looks especially annoyed by it before 9:15 when the class starts.

Or one day I came in, and lingered by a bike, put my tiny backpack down and put my entirely-insufficient water bottle in the rack when the girl next to me said, “Careful, that one’s finicky.” Like this means shit to me. I mean, is this a horse? Does it have a stubborn streak? Is it easy-going? I don’t know, I don’t even know what she means by this, but I nod solemnly like I know what this means, and I go stand by the bike over there in the corner instead in my non-committal pre-class bike considering stance.

When I don’t vomit, I spend most of the class cursing the instructor, who for all intensive purposes is probably a delightful woman, but for those 45 minutes she can GO STRAIGHT TO HELL ON HER TINY LITTLE BIKE. The instructor, the stupid uncomfortable seats and my crushed pelvic bones all say, “Stand with the class as they go to position 2!” and my glutes – and my mouth hole – are screaming, “JESUS TAPDANCING CHRIST NO!!!”

Ricky Martin’s pelvic thrusting “Living La Vida Loca” is not going to make me get off my ass and try to stand while pedaling for 5 minutes. It’s just not. So I sit in the remedial corner of the cycling class and pedal the entire time, pretending to increase my resistance along with the class while we go up this so-called “hill,” when really I’m just pedaling slower so the instructor stops yelling at me.

I am not a cyclist. I don’t know why I keep going to spin class. My vagina hurts.

I just keep repeating that to myself the entire class. I think it makes the triathlon guy next to me uncomfortable.

But still I press on, up the hills and down the hills, increasing resistance and decreasing resistance, because I love the thrill. I love the challenge. I love the wind in my hair and I love being yelled at and berated in front of a group of people.

No, no I don’t. I’m just an idiot on a tiny pretend bike with a bruised ass and an apparent case of Tourette’s, because as long as I claim that, they can’t throw me out for “unwholesome language.” SHITFUCK DOGBALLS.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alone.



I’ve always loved this poem and this video.

I know a lot of things have probably changed in your life since I last posted; a lot of things have changed in mine, too.

I’ve learned how to be alone.

It’s a strange feeling, walking through the rubble of consequences to your actions and choices and forcing yourself – despite the very natural and human response to ignore it, or blame others, or dwell in excuses – to admit that you have nobody to blame but yourself. It is hard, gut-wrenching, to look at the carnage of what once seemed like such a happy, full life and know that this smoking, empty rubble is of your own doing.

The people you hurt. You have to look at them, like a long hallway of morose and accusatory faces. Your partner you failed, your partnership you abandoned. Your child you have let down, whose life you have forever altered because of your own decisions. They all stare down at you as you pass by, and you have to look at them.

On the long walk down that long hall of regrets; decisions made and choices chosen. The long walk down the long hall as you learn to be alone.

You go home to a quiet apartment. Gone is the house full of laughter and memories but instead it’s a new place, that you decorate to your heart’s content in a style you like without worrying about what a partner will think. A hot pink and black bathroom where you take long hot baths with a beer and a good book. Butterflies splashed across the wall’s of the little girl’s bedroom that you try your hardest to make homey for her, to ease the transition and the uprooting that is inevitable.

You cuddle up with your dog in bed, your only bed partner besides the ghosts of your past that come to take up the other ¾ of the queen sized bed you picked out for yourself, with the damask-print bedding you chose without worrying if it was too girly or ugly or the wrong color.

Those ghosts take up more of the bed as time goes on, it seems.

You have nobody to answer to anymore. You have an apartment, though hardly a home. You have a child you love more than your very own life, though you know your choices have altered her own life path. You have regret, and loss, and pain. There’s lots of pain.

You take your long hot baths, eat small meals for one – if you eat at all, there’s nobody to really notice if you eat or not and what the hell, you could stand to drop a few pounds, you watch the TV programs you want and go to bed watching movies like Sex & the City and The Devil Wears Prada and shows on DVD like True Blood, and you fall asleep sprawled across the bed with nobody to complain about it the next morning.

And you mourn.

You mourn long, and hard, because this happy, autonomous fa├žade is just that – a mask for the intense agony of accepting the repercussions for your own actions and decisions.

You look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud, “You did this.”

“You wanted this.”

You mourn the loss of a partner, the loss of what you dreamed it could have been and what you thought was possible at one point. You mourn the pain you’ve caused and the people you’ve hurt. You mourn this apartment that has nothing but hurt in it, even despite your best efforts and pink Christmas trees. You mourn the death of the family your little girl deserves, the death of a dream that died by your own hand.

You did this.

You mourn because this is what you wanted. Right?

The days blur after awhile, a combination of hurt and pain and regret. You learn to sleep without the warmth of that body beside you, the one that was next to you every night for so long, and you wake up to the quiet apartment and the dog at your feet. It starts over again. From the moment you wake up to the moment you get back in that intimidatingly large and empty queen sized bed with the damask comforter set, you fight through the day with regret and hope, sadness and optimism.

Maybe your redemption will come someday. If you beat yourself long enough for the sins you’ve committed against the people you loved, eventually the pain dulls, like a long and complex tattoo. Eventually you learn to live with the pain and the regret.

You feel hope for the future sometimes.

You feel remorse. And regret. So much remorse and regret. You’re so, so sorry. You did this.

And you are alone. And it’s okay. You’ll be okay. He’ll be okay. She’ll be okay. You’ll all be okay. It will be okay.

And that’s what you learn from being alone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Been a minute

Okay. I get it. I haven't updated in...uh...forever. Let me survive Christmas and we'll talk. In the meantime, I've been shopping for things that are neat, because I generally have neat people in my life, who enjoy neat things. I also like to buy love because I'm really lonely and dead inside.

Then I kind of got obsessed with Skin AT on eBay, and basically realized that any gift I ever give anyone else, ever again, will be in vain, because these things are awesome, and great for the Mac jerks in your life who think that they are superior when they're not, and clearly you are still the favorite child, and SCREW YOU CAMERON AND YOUR STUPID MACBOOK...

Er, I mean. Check them out. This stuff is cool.

Christmas shopping tip from me to you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SHAH UP.

Okay, everyone stop being sad assholes for a minute. Stop being sad, stop crying, and above all:

SHAH UP.

You heard me. You shah up.

Much to my own surprise, Punk hasn't picked up as much of my foul mouth as you'd expect. I've caught a "shit" on a couple occasions, but not recurring. But the one thing she HAS picked up, and I swear it's been from the kids at the babysitter and not me...probably... is "shut up." Or "SHAH UP" if you are fluent in the Punk dialect.

It's gotten me more than a few dirty looks and become quite the favorite phrase of hers. The more I try to correct it, the more she insists on screaming it. It was originally an inside issue until one day when we were in line to check out at Target. In front of us stood a young mother with a very tiny baby, obviously stressed as the baby cried and she waited to check out. It was obviously her first time at this rodeo.

It wasn't that long ago that I was in the same position. I recall it well... Punk was maybe two months old, I was trying to check out at the U-scan while quietly shushing the screaming Punk (unsuccessfully). There was a tiny old woman behind me, and while I was trying to do it all by myself, she swooped in to my salvation and talked so quietly and sweetly to little Punk, allowing Punk to hold her fingers while she diverted her fury long enough for me to check out.

So two years later, I hoped I could pay it forward, so to speak, as I smiled at this young mom empathetically and smiled at the baby. Then Punk intervened.

"SHAH UP BABY!"

This is where the dirty looks start.

So I tried to descend upon the behavior, quickly shushed her as I lectured (loudly enough that everyone could see that I don't encourage this behavior, I AM A GOOD PARENT, SEE?!), "No, no! We don't say that! No, not cool! We don't say 'shut up'! We say 'shhh'!"

Punk furrowed her brow further. Looked at me. Looked at the baby, and put her finger to her lips as she uttered, "Shhhh....

"...AH UP BABY!"

This was the point where we decided to go to another line.

I was really hoping after another lecture, after this incident, that we'd squashed the behavior. And really, I thought we had. I hadn't heard it out of her in awhile, and all seemed well in the world, where we could freely express ourselves around each other without a toddler screaming at me to SHAH UP.

Then I put her to bed last night. After another long day of work and toddler wrangling, it was none too soon that I got her to bed (in her big girl bed, have I mentioned we upgraded? Well we did and now you know). I shut the door and all was silent for awhile til I heard her jibbering in her room. I muted the TV for a minute and listened, and finally I began to make out what she was yelling.

"SHAH UP BIG GIRL BED!"

"SHAH UP ZUZU!" (her pet rat. We got a pet rat, if you didn't know that.)

"SHAH UP TOY BOX!"

"SHAH UP DIAPER!"

"SHAH UP CLOSET!"

"SHAH UP ROCKING HORSE!"

She was listing, individually, everything in her room. And telling it to shut up.

It's something I'm working on, on top of all her other issues, including cooking babies, taking off her pants in public, smearing poop on the walls, and killing other children. In the meantime, I'll just take it for what it is; my household's own obscene and inappropriate version of Goodnight Moon...


SHUT UP MOON.
SHUT UP AIR.
SHUT UP NOISES EVERYWHERE.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Uncharted territory.

There are a lot of things people don't tell you about being a parent. The first three months suh-huuuccckkk. Your boobs will never, ever be the same, even if you're *ahem* lucky enough to dodge stretch marks. Your kids will do things like this:


And this...

Oh, and don't forget this:

But one thing nobody adequately warns you about -- because if they did, you'd immediately rip out your reproductive organs and throw them in the garbage disposal -- is toddlerhood. "Terrible Twos" barely grazes the surface of this dodecahedron of sanity deprivation. So here, let me put it to you in ways that nobody else -- or at least, nobody with any interest in furthering the human race -- will tell you: sometimes, two-year-olds are real assholes.

Nobody tells you about the brain-shredding whining noise they make or that shrill scream that comes the minute the word "no" pierces into their tiny little cognitive process. In one morning alone this week, in the 90 minutes between when Punk and I wake up (when Punk wakes up and incidentally, wakes me up by alternatively screaming and shrieking "MOMMY NOW! MOMMY WAKE UP!") and when we leave for daycare/work she had six -- SIX! -- meltdowns. These meltdowns, which involve huge tears streaming now her face, banshee screaming, and flailing, erupted over:

  • Sternly telling her to stop kicking me, after she aggressively connected foot to cheekbone, while I was changing her diaper.
  • Telling her she could not have cookies for breakfast.
  • The Imagination Movers being on TV.
  • Not allowing her to bring her entire stuffed animal collection to the car.
  • Not stopping the car to retrieve her Sophie Bear, whom she had chucked -- by her own crazy toddler free will -- into the cargo area of the Jeep. This created a screaming meltdown for 3/4 of our drive to daycare, while I cranked up Dead Kennedys and stared straight ahead at the road, wondering just where my life went so horribly, horribly wrong.
  • Sternly telling her, before releasing her from her car seat, that today we are going to be a NICE GIRL at daycare (that's another topic I will discuss here shortly).
Seriously. For the love of tapdancing, menstruating CHRIST, kid, cut me a break. By the time we got to the daycare I was about two seconds from opening the door, kicking her out and screaming "TUCK AND ROLL, KIDDO!"

She's not just being a pain in the ass for me, either. The sitter's damn near had it with her, and I don't blame her, either. This past week, every day I went to pick Punk up, it was a new story of hitting (Monday), biting (Tuesday), taking toys and slapping (Wednesday), attempted homicide (Thursday) and pushing (Friday).

Did she just say "attempted homicide"? Yes I did. Punk's apparently working at thinning out the herd by pushing a fellow toddler OUT OF THE TREEHOUSE, where he fell five feet to his doom. By "doom" I mean a bruised cheek, some sniffling, and a lot of profuse apologizing by me to said child's mom. But I mean... really, kid? We're now ATTEMPTING TO KILL CHILDREN?

She's a little girl! She isn't actually trying to KILL kids! Oh I'm sure she is. She wanted to drive the steering wheel in the tree house and fuck anyone who stands in her way. I'm not fooled by her big brown eyes and deliciously nommable cheeks. The kid's a sociopath. A baby-cooking, child-killing, meltdown-throwing sociopath. I love her with every ounce I have in me, but sometimes.... sometimes my kid's a real asshole and you regret inviting her to the party, if ya know what I'm sayin'.

But all you can do is charge forward. There's nothing else that can be done. All I can do is buckle her, thrashing and screaming and biting, into her car seat and repeat over and over to the sitter's our daily mantra of, "We will not BITE. We will not HIT. We will not PUSH. We will be a NICE GIRL." Most of that's for me, especially if you understood my boss, but it's applicable to her too, I suppose.

And all I can do is buckle myself in, thrashing and screaming and kicking and biting, and keep on driving.