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Don’t You Forget About Me

26 Sep

blog image breakfast club

Raising a teenager is hard.

Even if yours is kind, giving and even-tempered.  Mine is not.  But maybe yours is.  That’s why I said “yours.”  (Oh my, and don’t I just sound like a teenager right there myself?  All I need is to refer to myself with a lower case “i” and I am Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club.”  Look it up, kids.  It’s a 1980’s classic where Judd Nelson, aged 45, portrays an 18-year-old.  Smoke up, Johnny.)

Any parent knows that prying information from a teenager is like trying to open a Diet Dr. Pepper without breaking a nail- nearly impossible yet so full of delight (and caffeine)- you must persist.  Get a pen cap or a dirty fork from the break room if you have to, but get that truth (and caffeine) out.

One of the best ways I have found to glean information from The Boy is by taking a nice, relaxing car ride where the possibility of eye contact is non-existent yet the probability for good music is high.

It was on one of these recent trips where The Boy, having been loosened up by listening to The Clash and then being comfortably lulled into spilling his guts by A Flock of Seagulls, (what can I say?  The 80’s were weird.  Like, David Hasselhoff weird) revealed that he “always thought that you,” meaning me, “would have become more.”

First of all, what 15-year-old has “always thought” anything?  As far as I know, kids don’t even think until they’re like, 6, and then it’s mostly caveman stuff like “fire hot,” “Judd Nelson overacts,” etc.

Now I’m not officially a child-rearing expert but I would imagine that the only thought a 15-year-old has always had is something like: “how is it possible for my dear mother to love me so much?”

Second: become “more” what?  Because if it’s more “me” he’s after, he’s about to get a dose of crazy the likes of which make Courtney Love look like Betty Crocker.  (Side note: Betty Crocker, along with White Castle, is featured in the 1986 Beastie Boys classic LP: “License to Ill.”  Are all of my references from the 1980’s?  Why would anyone do that?)  Oh, I can out-crazy the best of them.  Just tell me that we’re out of Nutella and see what happens.

Finally, I know that The Boy was complimenting me in there somewhere so I tried not to take it personally.  Given that he has forever felt this way and all.

I said I tried; I didn’t say that I succeeded.

So have I signed up for night classes since The Boy’s revelation?  Cracked open my knock-off “Josetta Bone” language CD’s and begun reinventing myself?

Nope.  Instead, I am practicing what all of my meditation studies suggest- doing less.  Because “less is more,” right?  (Examples include: having The Boy wash his own laundry, having The Boy schedule after school doctor/dentist/haircut appointments and having The Boy make dinner.)

PS: his cooking is good although it could use a little more.

Why I (Presently) Don’t Work Full Time

20 Sep

the capn

I wrote such a stellar resume and cover letter in response to a recent job listing that any prospective employer would feel foolish for even considering anyone else for this position.  And you know I mean it because I used lots of italics.

All active verbs and adjectives were prodded into action: I excel and complete things at both a high level and at a granular one.  I am not only an expert, I am also adroit, proficient and highly-skilled.  I use words like “proficient” and “adroit.”  I am a team player who enjoys working alone (especially if the uniforms are off the rack).  I am self-motivated yet capable of spacing out in front of a box of Cap’n Crunch while contemplating the contraction “Cap’n.”  I know what a contraction is, damn it, and I’m pretty certain that “Cap’n” is a fine one.

I am the greatest ________ who ever lived and I am willing to work for only a fraction of my worth.

So what’s stopping them from hiring me?  (PS: do I really want to work for a company who doesn’t have their uniforms tailored?)


Toner is what’s preventing me from fulfilling, nay, exceeding my potential by getting hired, being promoted (more than once) and taking over the company.  Toner.

Toner and The Boy.  (Which really does sound like a bad TV-cop show.)

The Boy, who, for who knows how long, has covered the walls of his room with downloaded pictures of Zooey Deschanel, Sophia Vergara and Tina Fey.  (I really should go in there occasionally.  If only to retrieve all the cutlery that he has also been stashing under the bed for who knows how long.)  It’s a teen version of “binders of women” on those walls- without the creepiness.

And I understand where he’s coming from: the shiny hair, the bangs, the curves and the general loveliness.  (Although he says that in Tina Fey’s case she represents smart and quick-witted women everywhere.)

It’s just that for as long as The Boy has been printing, he has also been putting empty toner cartridges in the place where full cartridges used to be.  And you know I’m mad because, again, italics.

(Side note: should you get an interview and decide that you no longer want the job, say, because the morning commute is eastbound and the early sun can damage fine skin, do what others have done: during the interview, drop random words into your answers then flee leaving the employers feeling, what I like to call, “dazzled and confused.”  Beginners will often start by referencing more popular words like “the Google,” “the Netflix” or “Sanford and the Son” while more seasoned interviewees know that the fun lies in making references that only your friends will understand.  Phrases like: “the Dufresnes study, as presented by Mr. Hedberg, puts forth that humans have limited patience.”  Or, “Robert Lee has been instrumental in introducing Asian philosophies to today’s workforce.”  The less they get, the more they will insist that the office cannot run without you.  That’s my theory.)

So, to answer your question, Spouse, The Boy is the reason I don’t have the perfect job today.  He used up all my toner and now I’ve lost all my mojo.

“Missing Her Mojo:” How one mother’s search for employment leads to an entire bedroom makeover.  (On Lifetime this Fall.)

Rubber Stamps (Volume One)

13 Jun

blog image super pinky

Marriage is work.

Sometimes you just need a break from the daily participation of being married yet still want to be present in your relationship while, simultaneously, you have grown weary of hearing yourself repeat the same things.

For those times, I present a collection of rubber stamps designed specifically to improve communication by saving both time and oxygen.  Available on Etsy (Holiday 2013) and includes the following:

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re right.”

“I was hungry when I said that.”

“It’s only _______.”  (Fill in with relevant word(s) such as: money, a new roof, a minor dent, the weather, what I’ve been yelling about for the past three weeks, etc.)

“I was thirsty when I said that.”

“NO, I don’t want to go to the ________ concert.”  (I’m thinking Esperanza Spalding at Tanglewood but feel free to insert your own.  You can ask me over and over, every day from now until Sunday, August 4, and I’m still going to say no.  Hence the rubber stamp.)

“Are you kidding me?”

“I love ________.”  (Sure, you can go for the obvious, but who doesn’t appreciate a quirky fill-in-the-blank?  Examples include: wooden roller coasters, high heels, oatmeal, knishes, a belly laugh, Pinky balls and Mark Rothko’s No.  61.)

“Quirky is overrated.”  (Case in point: Zooey Deschanel.)


“I was tired when I said that too.”

(Available Mother’s Day 2014: the “I Hate You Too” Collection and the “My Purse Is Like My Vagina: Stay Out And There’s No Money In It Anyway” Series.)

Just say it already

2 May

blog image leonard cohen 2

Somehow The Boy and I ended up in a conversation about character flaws and I encouraged him to tell me one of mine.

What the hell.  I was feeling generous and we were bonding and I was not yet aware of the talcum powder explosion in his room so “you’re a yeller” was not his first response.

What he offered, instead, was this:

“Well, I don’t want to say that you’re flighty or that you can be unfocused.  You’re energetic and somewhat crazy, but that’s not quite right either.”

Continuing to sound like a fortune cookie fortune, he went on:

“You freak out at the slightest thing and get cranky when you don’t drink enough water.  I hesitate calling you moody because I think that some mood swings are caused by hormone imbalances but if I even mention hormones you become insane even though you are a girl and part of being a girl is acting crazy because of a hormone imbalance.

I would say that you are a “less than stellar cook” except you make that lentil bean loaf that I really like so that rules that out.

You read a lot and sometimes you don’t look up when I am speaking but do I really want to waste this opportunity by naming reading- and not even very good books by the way- as a flaw?  Also you talk on the phone to the same people about the same things as far as I can tell.  Who cares about coupons anyway?

And the way you insist on hanging laundry outside when we have a perfectly good clothes dryer is something I’ll never understand.  Then you just go on and on about how heavy the basket is and how when you were a kid you wore the same pants two or three times before you washed them.

You always open the car window even if it’s freezing out.

I want to say that your singing is terrible but your Cindy Lauper impression is spot on and sometimes you sound just like Leonard Cohen without even trying!

I guess I’ll say that you’re feisty.  You know, feisty in a good way.  In a good, flawed way.”

And I offer, in return, that The Boy is honest.  In a good way I guess.  You know, honest.

Hey, at least he knows who Leonard Cohen is.

Boy, Bath and Beyond

11 Apr

blog image hygiene

I thought we’d reached a milestone when The Boy got into the car and immediately flipped down the visor.

“He cares about his appearance!” I thought.

“He’s going to check his hair and teeth and then wave at someone!”

I was beside myself.  I envisioned a future where:

I no longer yell about soap- its purpose, its required use, and where it can be found throughout the house.

Lengthy diatribes on shampoo, warm water and the importance of blotting oneself dry are abolished.

Gone are the days where The Boy can be located by smell.

We are closer to a “loofah, body wash and après shower” regimen than ever and, upon mastery, will surely be followed by “nail and hand grooming, beginning pumice and pore maintenance.”

From here he will empty his pockets before putting clothes in the laundry and take off his muddy shoes upon entering the house.

He’ll load the dishwasher without being told, empty the compost bucket because it’s the right thing to do and add windshield washer fluid to the car simply because he noticed that it was running low.

Hobbies will include: finishing homework, calling grandparents to thank them for sending birthday/Christmas/ Valentine/Easter/Halloween money and writing thoughtful notes to teachers who have meant so much.

Any remaining time is spent dreaming of apps designed to make a mother’s life easier (“Hall Monitor”- an alarm that stops kids from bringing sandwiches into the bathroom because they’re hungry yet they have to go), and searching for grant funding for bloggers.

I have seen the future and it is tidy and solicitous.  This Boy who I picked up was not the same Boy that I dropped off at school this morning.

That, or the sun was in his eyes.

And given that we have not had any solar exposure in months, he did what any 15-year-old would do: he took it personally.

“Why does the sun have to burn me right in the eyes?!” sighed The Boy as he flipped down the visor.

Milestones are so overrated.

Why I will never vote for James Sacket

5 Nov

It’s that time of the decade again.  And while I sort of know what the DA does, I’m not even sure if we are due to pick a new one.  What I (and possibly Oprah Winfrey) know for sure is that I (and probably Ms. Winfrey, definitely Gayle) would never elect a politician who gives matches to children.

And when I say “gives matches to children,” I am not using some political expression like “pork barrel” or “bridge to nowhere” that is strictly a euphemism for political gain.  (Besides, what could “pork barrel” mean other than “Chris Christie Eats Here?”)

What I mean, literally, is that circa 2006, while The Boy was briefly* left home alone (at age 8 or so), Schoharie DA candidate James Sacket left a book of matches (along with other election year swag) hanging from the front doorknob.  Obviously, The Boy was too scared to answer the door (good to know all those “Stranger Danger” drills worked.  Also if we ever get separated in the grocery store keep making left turns until you reach a corner and stay there.)

*The word “briefly” has been added at the request of Spouse who, back then, had concerns about leaving The Boy all-by- himself-alone for even the tiniest of moments.  Now that The Boy is 14, Spouse disappears for hours at a time “buying parts.”  (Read “When this whole world starts getting me down” (March 21, 2012) to learn how that worked out.)

Yes James Sacket, who, as quoted from the back of the matchbook, is “professional, reliable, impartial, organized and responsible” left a pencil and matches for our child.  I ask you: what is a pencil if not kindling with an eraser on top?

If anyone behaved “responsibly” here it was The Boy.  Not only did he not use the matches to burn down the house, he also refused to acknowledge weirdos knocking on the door.  (Good to know that all that Jehovah’s Witness training paid off too.)

Then again, it’s also possible that The Boy was listening to the rock and roll at such a loud volume, he didn’t even hear the crime-fighting, flame-making lawyer at the door and I have, instead, given him way too much credit (along with future hearing loss issues).

In any case, this November 6, do the right thing and vote.

Just leave the pyrotechnics at home.

James Sacket.  Flame we can believe in.

Brian Wilson is my Co-Pilot

19 Sep

Ever since The Boy became old enough to sit in the passenger seat, he has controlled the music we listen to on our morning commute.  His taste is outstanding-from Wagner to The White Stripes-his choices are often awesome.

Except for his most recent selection.  Some things you should know:

a.  I am not a morning person.

b.  I have nothing against Brian Wilson.  In fact, I think that he and I have a lot in common: we both should (and I know I do) hate Mike Love.

c.  “SMiLE, ” the Brian Wilson CD that The Daily Telegraph claims is full of “groundbreaking complexity and sophistication” does not sound good at 7:30 in the morning.  I’m not sure that I would enjoy this groundbreaking complexity at any time (nor with a fox nor on some rocks) but I will say, without question, “SMiLE” is not meant for the early morning-rush to school-commute.  I am not meant for the early commute either, but somehow I manage it.  Martyrdom yes.  Mornings, no.

I’m sure that the record makes sense on a million levels: artistically, mathematically, scientifically and all those other genius things that go on inside Brian Wilson’s head but as wake up and focus music goes, it sucks.  There are oddball flats and diminished chords that hurt my eyes and make my back ache as I drive and attempt to teach road etiquette to The Boy: “don’t flip the bird at the cop; keep it below the window where he can’t see.  It feels just as rewarding and you avoid the hassle of getting pulled over.  Think before you flip, Boy,” and so on.  Ah, a mother’s wisdom.

What “SMiLE” does excel at, however, is inducing road rage.

d.  “Road Rage” first appeared in the OED in 1990.

I have discovered that if I drive with “SMiLE,” merely playing in the background, The Boy and I arrive at school as many as 7 minutes earlier than usual and by the time I get home, I am anxious to fix all that’s wrong with the world (or at least tell everyone on Facebook exactly what the world’s problems are).  Bonus: my teeth grind like a busted transmission and I have neither consumed extra calories nor spent money on a Starbucks Espresso Macchiato.

All the bonding time that we are spending; it’s like every drive is never-ending.  Not nice at all.

A High School Tale

5 Sep

It was the night before High School

and all through the house

there were critters in the walls-

way more than one mouse.

The Boy was jumpy with nerves and with worry

yet still, in the walls, the creatures did scurry.

And so the Boy continued to pace

with expressions of doom etched on his face.

What could I tell him to help ease his pain?

That the horrors of High School are all in his brain?

That High School does not resemble real life

anymore than Mayberry or Barney Fife.

That the best you can wish and probably hope for

is that TVLand will never bring back Mr. Roper?

And how can you fret about going to school

when there are mice in the walls which is really uncool?

Your mother works hard

to build a home without mice

and here you are hoping

your homeroom teacher is nice.

How about your poor mother

who wakes up every day

then goes back to bed

once you’re on your way?

Do you think that it’s easy-

living with vermin?

And who decided to name

hermits Herman?

And why are my thoughts

at times such a mess?

But back to the Boy-

I sometimes digress.

In the morning I delivered him

I’m not sure if he slept

and I bet you are thinking

here’s the part where I wept.

No, I did not cry

not a tear did I shed.

I threw open the passenger door,

kissed the top of his head.

And yelled to his peers

as I drove on my way:

“Your first vacation

is Columbus Day!”

And as for the mice

and critters who crawl,

upstairs we have traps

and D-con for you all.

And it’s not that I’m cruel,

and it’s not that I’m lazy

but the mice in the walls

are making me crazy.

Words I enjoy

23 Oct

dollop: who doesn’t love the dollop?  Wonderfully precise and fun.  Limited in use, but in a wonderfully precise and fun way.

thrift: as a clothing store but, more so, a way life.  Blessed with a stomach that enables me to eat any food regardless of expiration date, I often will.  Like the song says, “you say potato” and my husband says, “you didn’t eat that did you?  That wasn’t a potato, that was a rotten apple.”  Thrifty living made me do it.

tardy: by simply saying “I’m sorry; I’m tardy” you look like a responsible grownup but really, there’s a tiny David Lee Roth in your head and he’s got it bad.

beverage: so vast, it’s the opposite of dollop.  Best of all, when you offer someone a “beverage,” they almost always request water and I have a faucet so the only obstacle between my guest and hydration is a clean glass.

roil: as the kid who got carsick on every Thanksgiving trip to Pennsylvania, I have a special place in my heart (and stomach) for this word.  Plus, with a big enough breath, you can draw out the vowels for as long as you want and end up with a very dramatic onomatopoeia.

even: it adds a childlike sense of wonder to Chicken ala King, even.

perhaps: the ultimate in diplomacy.  As Daniella, while fitting me for a bridesmaid dress asked, “it looks nice; perhaps you want to get something?”  Now, Daniella spoke only Spanish so I just assumed that she was complementing me.  It wasn’t until later, when I tried on the dress for my spouse, and he noted that “perhaps you want to research what Daniella said,” that I realized that “ceñidor que rodea la cintura” means “control top.”  Very diplomatic, that Daniella.

uvula: my son automatically assumed that the uvula has to do with lady parts and for that reason alone, I adore the dangler.

cabinetto:  when you are responsible for a little kid, his entire vocabulary is up to you.  You can teach him that a dog is a “great googly moogly” or that balloons are “pork butts.”  It’s very amusing watching your two-year old have a tantrum at the outdoor concert because he wants the purple pork butt and mommy forgot to bring money.  Cabinetto was our made up word.  It kept the cookies fresh and let me believe that I was raising a bilingual kid.

outen: to shut off.  It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch word I was raised with- “outen the radio and go to bed.”  The quote is from a sister I was raised with.

this’n, that’n, them’s and git: again, Pennsylvania Dutch.  As in: “tell this’n here to go git that’n there so’s we can eat them’s fried tomatoes.

YES: because no means no and yes means everything.

Thanksgiving and Henry

15 Aug

My friend Henry is a loser.  The worst kind of loser: a coat loser.

Monday, October, 3:15PM, second grade: Henry gets off the bus and is greeted by his loving mother.  Anticipating fresh-baked cookies and a cold glass of milk, Henry skips toward his house when his mother breezily calls, “Henry, where is your coat?”  Henry, who managed to bring home his bookbag, lunchbox and homework, had not even realized he was coatless and replies, “I left it at school.”

“Get in the car,” says Mom.

Same day, October, 3:35PM, second grade cloakroom: empty.

Tuesday-Thursday, October:  Henry and his parents wait for the coat to be returned.  Henry wears a flannel shirt in the meantime.

Friday, October, end of day: the coat is officially dubbed “lost” and is replaced over the weekend.

October, 20 years later: Henry, a grown man who has graduated college,  forged a career in Manhattan, and experienced love and loss is on the phone with his parents.  He speaks with them simultaneously as they have many phones in their condo in Boca.  Having run out of small talk, Henry mentions that he bought a new winter coat.

“I hope you didn’t get a good one,” says Mom.  “You lose coats,” adds Dad.  “That coat from second grade was stolen,” counters Henry.

“Because it was a good one-” Mom.  “I hope you didn’t get a good one-” Dad.  “You lose coats-” Mom and Dad together.

And this is why Henry has come to dread Thanksgiving.

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