The Exploder

In 1991, my dad bought our family a Ford Explorer. It was the very first edition of that car and, back then, SUV’s looked enormous on the road. The gigantic family SUV craze was just getting started. Our Explorer was black with a single, red pinstripe wrapped around the exterior, and had red leather interior. As I recall, my mother was horrified to see it in our driveway. My dad is a pretty straight-laced guy, so it was alarming for him to buy a car with red leather interior. I guess there really was a certain “je ne sais quois” about that car.

After ten years of my family using the car getting us to and from everywhere, “The Exploder”, as I affectionately named her, became mine during my senior year of high school. I lived at a boarding school where lots of kids had really nice cars, so the Exploder was a misfit amongst the shiny new Jeep Grand Cherokees, but I was so happy to have a car. Having a car as a teenager is the ultimate freedom, and I had longed for it since getting a license. I drove her to parties on the weekends, I’d drive it to parking lots to make out with my boyfriend before study hall, and all over New England on the weekends. Because I went to a boarding school, my friends lived in all different towns and states so, though the Exploder didn’t get a lot of day to day use, it went on countless weekend road trips. I practically lived out of it. The summer after I graduated, there were weeks of parties and I had folded down the back seats and put a mattress back there, so my friends and I could sleep in the trunk.

When I went off to college in Vermont, the Exploder came with me. It withstood major snow storms and horrific driving conditions, but, somehow, always got me everywhere I needed to be. During my Freshman year, my best friend and I were driving home for winter break in the middle of a bad snow storm, and the windshield wipers completely stopped working. I drove on the highway with ski goggles on and my head out the window until the next exit with a gas station. Being Vermont, the exits are far apart and it was a good, scary while until we reached a place to stop. We stole a squeegee from the gas station and bundled up.  Once we were back on the road, we periodically leaned out the window and reached around with the squeegee to wipe the windshield, all the way back to Massachusetts. That probably goes down as one of the stupidest things I have ever done, and still can not believe we made it home without getting into an accident.

By the time I was a sophomore in college, the only way to keep the car from stalling was by never coming to a complete stop. It’s hard work never letting your car stop while you’re driving it. Every intersection was a miniature panic attack. About ten yards into the approach I would start switching my foot back and forth really fast between the brakes and the gas, praying that the traffic light would turn green. I was constantly getting honked at and had many an expletive shouted in my direction.

One day, while home for the summer after my sophomore year, I was headed off to work. I waited tables at a local restaurant, a job which I needed, but thoroughly hated. I was running late and could smell the engine burning, which wasn’t totally unusual, but then smoke started pouring from the hood. I couldn’t stop the car because I knew it would stall and I wanted to get as close to the restaurant as possible, so I coasted to the bottom of the hill I was coming down, yanked the wheel to the right and pulled over onto the side of the road into a grassy area. The Exploder finally exploded. I was still about a mile from work and already late for my shift, so I idiotically decided to get to work instead of dealing with the car. It was a hot August day and I was dressed in a head-to-toe black waitressing uniform, and my only option was to jog the rest of the way to the restaurant. I trotted down the main road in our town praying not to be spotted by anyone I knew.

My shift ended late and I got a ride home after almost forgetting entirely about the Exploder. The town police called the next day after running my plates to “alert” me of the car’s whereabouts.  I told them what happened and didn’t end up getting in trouble, luckily, because it’s illegal to abandon a vehicle. They suggested I call “Kars for Kids” to come get it, which worked out perfectly because I had no plans of paying a tow truck or mechanic to deal with it. I don’t know if the Exploder was ever resuscitated, but she had 283,000 miles the day she quit on me. I think every kid should be forced to drive the shitty, old family car for a while.

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Success

My grandparents came to visit recently. Being with old people tends to make you reflect upon what’s truly important in life. It’s hard to define your own personal success. When you are young you imagine your life’s path and, by the time you’re into your thirties, you should be on your way to accomplishing your goals.  I always imagined I would make a lot of money. I used to tell my dad I was going to buy him his own golf course someday.

Out of college I took a job in fundraising which, as far as I know, is generally not the career path of most golf course owners. I did come to know a lot of super wealthy people, and met a fascinating cast of characters, however. On a story telling scale, I was living an interesting life. I attended fancy dinners with celebrities, I traveled to Monte Carlo, met government officials and, learned some important lessons. Most notably, I have a photo of Bono resting his head on my boobs (I’m tall). I had a lot of fun, probably way too much fun to be getting paid for, and I had a lot of unusual experiences, but I lived paycheck to paycheck in Manhattan throwing my money away on rent and cheap evening gowns. The entertaining was also wearing thin on me by my late twenties, so, shortly before I got married, I took a new job. I started fundraising at a school which provided a family friendly lifestyle, but, again, would not deliver financial prosperity.

When I had my first baby I became primary caretaker at home. As a woman, it is very hard to have it all. I have an overwhelming instinct to take care of my children, yet I question if I left something on the professional playing field. At times I am angry I did not build more of a career, but maybe I took a job whose paycheck was easily abandoned because, at heart, I knew I wanted to be a mother. Being home is a lot harder than going to the office, but it delivers immeasurable rewards, and is a privilege I am afforded because my husband’s salary allows for it. I think I would feel like I was making a huge sacrifice to be away from my kids to have a huge career, so then is it entirely my ego that wants success on a more quantifiable scale?

Women in my family have historically deferred to the men, and I think that is due to the emphasis and rank placed on the role of the bread-winner. I’ve been ingrained to assign the greatest worth to the family member who makes the most money and, maybe because I am a competitive person, I feel like I am failing in a way.  It’s ridiculous because I know how much my husband appreciates me and what I do for our family. We also both agree, for our family, it is most beneficial to have a parent with the children the majority of the time, so, with all that in mind, I should be ascribing immeasurable value to my work.

My mother, for the majority of my childhood and teen years, stayed at home with my brother and me. My parents divorced when I was in high school and my mom ended up getting a great job and going back to work full-time to support herself. My father remarried some years later and once made a comment to me that his new wife helped him more in his marriage than he ever had with my mother, which I took as all being relative to her financial contributions. His new wife, who he is no longer married to, worked full-time and had done alright financially, but she had also never married and not have any children.

His statement really struck me. He said it shortly before my own wedding, and I was already in a job that was paving the way for me to be a stay at home mom in a couple years’ time. He didn’t say it to hurt me, but how could I not feel like my impending role as a mother would not be enough. My mom was an unbelievable mother. She was she was caring and affectionate, an amazing listener, super fun, goofy, and a gourmet lunch maker. I was picked up and dropped off on time, I had clean clothes, and hot meals, and all of her love and support played an integral role in my development. I was really disappointed by the comment my father had made because if he felt like all that work my mom had done was not helpful, then would I also be letting my own husband down if I didn’t myself endeavor on a financially lucrative career path? I think, perhaps, my dad was being defensive at the time he made this statement, and if I confronted him on it now, he would probably apologize for that, but the mere fact he said it reaffirms some of my hang-ups with success being weighted so heavily on a financial scale.

Listening to my grandmother’s stories during her visit was magical. I just love hearing her talk about her life and how things were when she was young. She actually has dementia, so she repeats herself constantly, but the themes of her tales are perpetually family. By the time you’re 90, it’s all that matters I guess. In my personal life, I feel so fulfilled. My husband and I have a great marriage. Our ideals and values are well-aligned and we laugh a ton. We respect and appreciate each other. We have two children, who are healthy. I cannot think of any greater blessings. Don’t get me wrong. Money makes life a lot easier, and is often a direct result of hard work and intelligence coming together. It is commendable and it is important to have money to live comfortably, but it’s not the most important thing. Love, health, and the relationships we cultivate are the most important things.

In reflecting on the most meaningful things in life, my challenge is to value my role in our family. I think I know if I work hard and apply myself, I could still achieve my own financial success, but I must start to attribute value to my success as a wife, mother and my personal relationships which, as my grandmother clarified for me, will be my most treasured roles in life. If there is something more for me, I will find it, but my happiness should be defined by the strength of my most cherished relationships, not the size of my paycheck. In the words of Dorinda Medley, “I cooked! I decorated! I made it nice!”

All we need is just a little patience…

My theme song for this week is “Patience” by Guns n’ Roses. It always helps to sing a song when you’re feeling like you’re about to lose your shit, so this song seemed fitting. I like to do the whistle at the beginning of the song too because it makes me laugh rather than wanting to throw myself out the second story window. The lyrics are great:

Said woman take it slow and it’ll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience
Said sugar make it slow and we’ll come together fine
All we need is just a little patience

When I was little and my mom would lose her patience, right before turning into the Hulk, she would put her fist up to her mouth and bite her forefinger. She would tense her muscles and shake a little, and it looked ridiculous. It always made me and my brother anxiously chuckle, and then we’d run for our lives. I used to ask her why she would bite her own fist and she would tell me it was to keep herself from hitting me. Thanks, mom, I guess.

Several times a day lately, I feel like I am going to scream and I either lose my patience or am on the brink of a total freak-out. I feel out of control, frustrated, and like an idiot. If any of my friends saw my pre freak-out face, I’d be so embarrassed. Now I understand exactly how my mom was feeling when while biting her own hand.

I have had a couple conversations with family and friends lately asking for some advice and perspective. Like any advice, you take some and you leave some. For instance, I decided to disregard the tidy little expression, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Well, fuck me! I didn’t know I could plan on a 25-minute meltdown from my two-year-old when he woke up from his nap for no reason whatsoever, followed by my nine-month old throwing her entire bottle up all over me, and then my two-year old calming down just in time to tell me he needs to poop while I’m shirtless bathing the baby who just threw up on me.

Some of the advice that has been most helpful is centered on the idea of “expecting the unexpected”. This advice is a little annoying too, but true. There is so much of what happens in a day of parenting that will never go according to plan. As moms, we need to adjust our own expectations. It’s near impossible to get through a day that runs smoothly without any hiccups. We have to stop hoping for things to go according to plan and stop blaming ourselves when they don’t. Usually I can predict the kind of things that will set off my two-year old. I know with certain words, inflection and actions, I will generally yield a positive result from him. If I make one false move, however, he can become totally unhinged. For instance, in reference to his post-nap meltdown earlier, I set him off when I removed the books that were littering his crib when he woke up from his nap.  I was pissed off because he spent the first hour of “nap” rattling the rungs of his crib as he ran the books across them. He’d made enough noise to wear himself down so he could sleep while simultaneously waking up his baby sister and, therein, abruptly ending my coveted one-hour of down time.

I spent the next hour stressing about how I might avoid future meltdowns or amend the nap schedule, but the truth is, these situations are immune to a perfect execution, and I need to accept it. If the day doesn’t go perfectly, it should really just be lumped in as a normal day. There are real issues in the world for parents to deal with and making sure no one gets upset and everyone takes a three-hour nap is not one of them.

When I only had one child things were pretty easy and an unplanned hiccup didn’t throw me off in the same way. If I need to comfort my son, but also make sure my daughter doesn’t die by sticking her finger in an electrical outlet at the same time, it adds an element of pressure to the situation. I need to work on being comfortable with chaos and not viewing a chaotic situation as a reflection on the strength of my parenting ability. Everyone is loved, clothed and fed. Chaos is a guarantee regardless.

Another piece of advice I was given was “don’t wish this time away”. The day to day struggle with young children is real and it’s OK to wish for a “fast forward to bedtime” button some days, but the day is a lot more bearable and enjoyable when I don’t allow little things to anger or frustrate me unnecessarily. The time before babies become toddlers, and toddlers become little kids, and everyone’s off to school is a blip in the grand scheme. Let’s face it, babies and toddlers don’t really know what the hell is going on. Even though it may seem like it, they are not plotting to make you lose your sanity. A person that eats things covered in syrup with their hands is not sophisticated enough to have the mental edge on you. Remember that and keep on keeping on, mom!

‘Merica

I have a very dear friend whose life has closely paralleled mine throughout a lot of our major milestones. We went to college together, we played on the same team, we moved to New York at the same time, we got married within one month of each other, our first babies were born within one month of each other, and now we are both due with baby number two within weeks of each other. It’s pretty crazy how our life timelines have synced up, yet we are living in totally different realities on a day-to-day basis.

My friend is currently living abroad in Malaysia and the air is so polluted right now she can’t even leave her apartment. The schools have shut down, people are falling ill to respiratory illness by the thousands and even dying, and the hospitals are way overcrowded. My friend spent two thousand dollars this week on a machine to clean the air INSIDE her apartment. She has a two-year-old little boy and she cannot take him out to play. Her mom is coming in a couple of weeks to visit and she is bringing gas masks because they are sold out of them in Kuala Lumpur.

She told me yesterday that they played with paint in the bathtub and then poured flour on their heads pretending it was snow for two and a half hours and this was only one day in the midst of a tragedy that has been ongoing since the summer and is expected to continue right on through the New Year. I don’t know if you’ve ever spent two and a half hours in an enclosed space with a toddler before, but it might be worth considering using as a torture tactic at Guantanamo. “Tell us who you’re working for now, or you get the hole with the two year old, again!” I’ll tell you what I would be doing in that bathtub if I were her…. making gin! On top of all this, she is within three weeks of her due date with her second child. Can you even imagine bringing a newborn baby into the world under those conditions? She is frightened.

Apparently much of the air pollution is coming from the (illegal) burning of peatlands in Indonesia by major companies for palm oil plantation as well as the use of slash and burn farming method to make way for new crops. The government should be shutting this down completely, but they have yet to take a serious stance on the matter probably due to the major corruption of their system.

While I take a lot of issue with our current political system and our very smug president who refuses to enforce the proper sanctions to protect our citizens from the threat of nuclear warfare despite pleas from both sides of the congressional aisle, as of now, I can walk outside my home with my son and my unborn child and breath clean air, and that I do not take that for granted.

I often think about where I truly land politically, and it is very difficult for me to pinpoint a stance. In terms of our political system, I suppose I am an independent. I believe in capitalism and a free market. I believe in the notion that the harder you work, the more monetary success you are entitled to achieve without limit or guilt. I believe the government has been providing too many entitlements to non-contributing members of society for way too long and it is not helping them. I am not talking about the mentally or physically ill; I am talking about those who are capable of working, but continue to drain the system with no stopper in place to ensure a fair timeline of government assistance under the circumstances they are drug free. I suppose my ideals come from a place of wishing for less government intervention on the whole. It’s no one’s place to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body, and it’s no one’s place to decide who should legally be able to marry. I honestly can’t for the life of me figure out how these matters are in the hands of the government at all.

When it comes to matters of the safety of our general masses, however, I want the government to step in. I want them to crack down on gun control and impose much tougher sanctions for issuing weapons; I want them to take a hard stance when it comes to foreign entities who pose a national security threat. My husband and I work in New York City and the risk feels very real to me; And, I certainly want them to step in when a neighboring country is burning up their land so ferociously people are unable to breathe fresh air for hundreds of miles.

While we have a lot of issues in the United States, I feel thankful to be a citizen of this country where we are afforded an incredible standard of quality of life. I am hopeful for progress in the pending presidential election, and I am grateful to stand up from my computer and take my son for a walk to the park. God bless America.

#bethepower

I hate to be the one to point it out, but I can’t help but notice a strong correlation between single women and the inspirational quotes littering my social media feed.

While I’m not a psychologist, I would say that people scouring the internet for inspirational quotes are hoping to find solace in a part of their lives that is unfulfilled. I’m here to let you know that posting an inspirational quote on social media will never, ever fill that void. It seems, in fact, there is zero correlation between the frequency of such posts, and actually living by the words you have posted.

Ladies, stop these posts! Go ahead and read all the self-help material you need in order to remind yourself that people who spread negativity are not worth your precious time, but for your own public image, do NOT, for the love of God, click “share”. It makes you look bat shit crazy, and is almost certainly perpetuating your singleness. If you get off on vulnerability, then at least do something more ballsy like walking around the gym locker room naked. If all the old people who go to your gym can do it, so can you! (Seriously, old people are so, truly liberated. If I see one more 65-year-old bush blowing in the wake of my hair-dryer in the gym locker room, I’m gonna hurl.)

I realize I sound very judgmental, and I want to make a point to say that I am not immune to doing crazy things that would make others question my stability. There are things I do on my own that are definitely way, way out there. The difference is that I use discretion when flaunting my crazies. Wave your freak flags in private, please. If this post sounds a little harsh, a little too familiar, by all means, take it at full face value. I’m doing you a favor.

Rogue Sperm: Friend or Foe?

There is a hair-thin line you tip-toe across on the day you realize your life will not be completely ruined if you become pregnant. I am a neurotic person by nature, and I can remember back in high school convincing myself I was definitely pregnant before I had ever even had sex. Maybe it’s because I’m Catholic or maybe it’s because I lived in fear of disappointing my parents, but my ultimate shame would have been to get pregnant. As a result, my mind would wander to some far-out places after a few of the early hand job situations. You can never be too sure that a rogue sperm didn’t seep through the condom you made your boyfriend wear, then up your pant leg, into your vagina and finally directly into one of your eggs. Even if you do get your period that month, it is possible that you’re still pregnant because some women get a period or bleed at the beginning of their pregnancies. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN! That paralyzing fear stayed with me right through the rest of my life until one day, all of a sudden, not only was I totally OK with it, but I actually was thrilled about getting pregnant.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was leaving the very next day for a spring training trip. I was not in high school thank God, but happily married for a little over a year and coaching the high school lacrosse team at the school where I work. Though I was in a great place in life for getting pregnant, the timing of leaving for this trip was pretty awful. My nausea and exhaustion had already kicked in, and being in charge of twenty teen-aged girls for the week sounded like a really unique form of torture.

The first morning before practice I actually overheard the girls discussing the intergalactic parallels of pregnancy, and how crazy it is that women grow aliens in their bellies. That was a great start to the week. I was also sharing a shitty hotel room with a stranger, the assistant coach, who wanted to go for a run every morning at 6am. I forced myself to go with her because I am too competitive and didn’t want to seem like a wuss, and then I would marinate in fury with her for the rest of the day. In a weak and desperate moment, I also licked a battery from our remote control in attempt to fix it. I really wanted to watch TV, and pregnancy makes you do some crazy things. I worried for the rest of the week about the effects of battery licking on a fetus. According to Google, there has not been extensive research on the matter.

I survived the week sustaining on chicken nuggets, ice-cream and battery acid, and made it back to New York with all twenty girls safely. It was a Saturday night, and I think my husband was out of town because I returned to our apartment and I remember I was definitely on my own. I had missed him, but if I had enough energy I would have twirled around and clicked my heels together at the excitement of being alone for a little while. I could sit on the couch in my undies and fart without someone knocking on the door to ask me what time they should put their cleats on tomorrow morning.

I lived in New York City, so I could have ordered literally anything imaginable for dinner to be delivered to my door, but all I wanted was two fried eggs (over easy) with an English muffin and a cup of Earl Grey tea. I made that for myself and grabbed a few Oreo cookies for dessert. I turned on the all-time, classic movie Baby Mama, rubbed my belly, and laughed through my black cookie teeth for the next two hours. I was pregnant and I’d maybe never been so happy.

You do what you want to do, and I’ll do what I want to do.

With every scroll through my Facebook feed, I come across an article from a mommy blog titled something along the lines of: Who Needs a Liter of Wine? This Mom!  While I do realize the intention of said articles is to appear funny and supportive of those of us whose lives mimic a day in the life at a psych ward, they have become so predictable. Beyond what seems like a lack of originality, there lies a common theme of women rationalizing taking an adult beverage at the end of the day.

The last mommy article I read began with a depiction of Jessica Lange’s character from the movie Tootsie.  She plays a working mom who un-apologetically drinks wine after work everyday. The author goes on to give Lange’s character major props and awards merit to her method of coping after a hard day of work. I have a couple of issues with this message. Let me be clear, I love having a  drink at the end of the day. What I can’t grasp, however, is why women are constantly justifying their behavior for fear of being judged. If happy hour is your thing, great. If it’s not, you’re probably a little boring, but that’s great too. Who cares!

Men don’t do this. Men do not rationalize their behavior to each other. Imagine two men having a similar discussion:

Dude 1: Can’t wait for that beer after work – today has been so stressful.

Dude 2: Dude, me too.

Dude 1: I just can’t be perfect all the time and I want to proclaim that having a couple beers at the end of the day doesn’t mean I have a drinking problem, and I don’t want to get judged by any of my kids’ friends’ parents for it, OK?!

Dude 2: You sound like a complete puss bag.

Women are way too apologetic. Stop writing about how you’re not going to apologize for having a glass of wine (or bottle, wink, wink wink, nod, nod, nod, elbow, elbow, elbow) when your kids make you crazy, because your rationalization just sounds like one giant apology! I’m glad there are women who are discussing the perils of motherhood with the public because a lot of days I feel like the ticket collector to the two-dollar side show too, but I see no need to defend myself for hating on my kids sometimes or needing a drink at the end of the day…Moms out there, newsflash: you’re adults. If you want to have a cocktail, get your shaker out and pour a martini. You don’t have to explain it. If you start doing that at noon several times a day, you can talk about it at an AA meeting. Until then, cheers.