Finding Diana

An everyday woman's guide to figuring out what the hell happened to her life


Finding Diana
An everyday woman's guide to figuring out what the hell happened to her life

Pissed Off

Today I am very pissed off.  It started with Facebook.  I am so very sick and tired of looking at it and seeing the happiness and utter joy experienced by everyone else while I sit here frustrated by life's annoyances big and small.  So why don't you stop looking at it?  I ask myself.  For the same reason I obsessively check a zit on my face that I hope is disappearing but seems to exponentially grow bigger each time I check.  I don't know.  I must have a master's degree in self torment.  I'm working on a doctorate in self deprecation in order to prepare for my career as a professor in the instruction of self worthlessness.  OK, that's a little much, but you get the picture.

I recently went back to visit Texas, where I used to live.  I went on a work related project but also stayed with a friend and got to see a bunch more.  It struck me before I went down how many people from work I felt comfortable reaching out to but how relatively few friends I felt comfortable contacting.  I felt suddenly shy and uncomfortable when I thought about who I would want to see in the evenings.  I felt like I would be bothering people who would or would not put on a show of being glad to spend an evening with me.  Ultimately, I contacted very few people and spent my free hours in the company of my special love, Chicos.  Yes, I am a Chicos gal who loves the "funky old lady" style, forgiving waist bands, ridiculous sizing scheme and the feeling that with my Chicos Passport card, I can go anywhere in the world and come out looking like Bea Authur's character Maude.

Anyway, I guess it makes sense that Facebook pisses me off way more than Linked In.  With Facebook the fake happiness is based on your personal life where there are no rules.  Anyone in any category, social strata, age, grouping, etc. can claim they are having a euphoric existence of their own making on Facebook.  Whether it's being a Dungeons and Dragons Master Princess (if that's a thing?) or a perfect mother, or the very bestest friend on the planet, or a LGBTQ warrior or a master pet authority or the most sympathetic friend to someone experiencing cancer/homelessness/divorce/empty nest syndrome/hemoroids, etc. you can craft yourself into a whirlwind of perfection.

I can't do that.  I can't fake things very well.  Even if I look nice in an outfit, I feel compelled to tell someone that it's really the Spanx that makes me look good.  I can't fake being happy about something.  I can't brag about my children because I realize that its lying to only share the good and not the bad.  I feel it's no one's business to know the bad because it violates their privacy.  I am a terrible liar.  I cannot play poker with you.  Not even video poker in a casino.

I'm not saying this is a good quality.  It's not a moral choice.  It's just how I am wired. I would prefer the option to be duplicitious.  It's just not an option.  I can't pull it off.  I would prefer to tell smallish lies and get away with them, but I'm not good enough at lying.  Maybe that's what makes me so pissed off.

In any case, I thought I would return to my blog since many people have recently asked me to and I felt flattered enough to do it.  So, if I can take a flattering selfie, you may see me on Facebook pretending to be having the best time ever, but you will be able to tell that I am not really.

Where is my voice?

It seems that I am stuck in this paradox where I feel like no one hears what I say, and yet I am held accountable for things that others think I said.  Clearly, at home no one listens to a single thing I say.  No matter how many times I ask a question, I rarely seem to get an answer.  I can ask my kids twenty times if they did their homework and get no response.  But if I mumble that I would consider taking them to a water park at some point this summer, I am held to that because "I promised". 


If I try and turn the tables to say "what about your promise to do your homework"  I get the response of "that's different." It's as if a panel of experts convened to create the most frustrating scenario known to man kind and gave my children intense training on how to implement it.


Other places in life, you have to watch what you say.  I learned the hard way never to say anything remotely negative or that could be construed as negative in a mommy group.  Even if it's warranted, you will still be punished for saying it.  For example, two years ago when a crazy mother called ahead to a field trip I was on with my child and told the director of the nature camp to watch out for me, I thought that was pretty crazy and inappropriate.  But the response I got from some of the other mothers when I mentioned it was that "I don't want to take sides".  I wasn't trying to amass a coalition of mothers to put a question on the ballot of whether or not this woman was crazy, I just wanted someone to say "wow, that was extreme.  I'm sorry you had to deal with that".  No such luck.


After my cross country move, I have not tried very hard to make a new group of friends.  I still have an aftertaste of the tension and stress associated with having to map out all the social angles.  I need someone I can just relax and be myself with.  Until I find my new peeps, I am very content to not deal with the social pressures of the social circles.


Anyway, I guess that means that I am using my quiet, rather than my voice, to be more selective and care less about the opinions of people whom I don't enjoy.  In a way, it is very empowering to make that decision and not pursue a new group.  It is an uncomfortable feeling to pursue others. I feel like I am trying out for a sorority and hoping that people vote me in.  I have evolved to just hanging out in the student union and seeing if there is anyone whom I want to hang out with.


I'm not sure how I got so far away from the topic of where is my voice, but I'm sure you will figure it ou.

Put on a happy face

I understand the need for people to put on a façade and hide their flaws.  I even think it is necessary most of the time.  After all, it’s kind of selfish to impose your misery on the rest of the world.  It takes up other people’s emotional time and energy to be constantly responding to someone else’s problems.  That energy should be spent trying to deal with your own crap. When someone is constantly complaining there are two responses I have.  The initial response is to try and listen and determine if they are asking for advice or simply want sympathy.  However, if the same person is consistently moaning and complaining, I find it hard to repress saying “listen bitch, you think you have problems.  I have my own problems.  Some people have terrible illnesses or addictions.  Some are homeless or living in poverty.  But please, tell me again how your internet is too slow or how you can’t find the Lululemon sign on your pants.”

Who doesn’t love to complain?  After all, it’s kind of fun to express your problems and have someone else acknowledge them.  But, it also takes something from the other person.  After you have unloaded, they are still thinking about the problem and feeling sad that you are upset.  For some reason, I think this is true for fictional characters as well.  I am still really mad at a character in one of my favorite TV shows who left his wife, that bastard.

On the other side of the spectrum is those people who go around pretending their life is perfect.  I hate those people more because they are closed and unreal.  I never feel comfortable talking to someone who always says her kids are great.  No one’s kids are always great.  Every kid is annoying and does something that you wish they didn’t.  But the mom who pretends her kids are great makes me angry.  It makes me want to hire a private investigator to find her kid doing something wrong and post it all over the internet.  Perhaps that is insane of me, but this façade of perfection makes me think that this person is dishonest and completely unreal.  I cannot relate to someone who claims their child goes to bed on time, is never disrespectful and hates sweets.

Since these are my thoughts and I get to decide how the world should exist, I decide that people should have a scale of 1-10 for their façade.  If you are talking to a sister or best friend, you get to be a one.  You can complain, cry your skin blotchy and wear unflattering sweatpants. (As if there are flattering sweatpants!)  If you are going on a job interview, you should be a ten.  Although I must confess that I feel totally fake on job interviews and want to yell at the job interviewer that I will only wear spanx during the interview and will devolve into a sensible-shoe wearer by the third day on the job.  In fact, I got the job I have now because I already had a job offer and was less concerned about the façade.  I was a little more real, without cursing or referencing my undergarments, and was offered a better job.

Anyway, it’s important to read your audience and figure out what number they are on the scale and then act accordingly.  Too much on one side or the other and you will end up with the wrong crowd.  

Whose your Mama?

Let’s talk about that awkward moment when you are at a function with other parents and the moms ask if you work or stay at home.  For many many years I was a stay at home mom.  I know how hard it is and frankly, I think it’s harder than being a working mom.  The main reasons I think it is harder to stay home is that you don’t get a break from your kids, you are rarely told you are doing anything right, you are often told you are doing things wrong and most people had a previous profession for which they trained and feel underutilized. 

For me, it was all of the above plus dealing with the other stay at home moms.  There seemed to be a competitive channeling of energy into who was doing the most for their kids.  This is made a thousand times harder because you cannot compare the needs of one kid to another.  So for some kids playing violin, soccer and volunteering at the animal shelter may be an average amount of effort.  For other kids, getting through one playdate a week might be a herculean effort.  But it’s hard to be the mom who brags that her child had a huge accomplishment of not biting another child.  There are no trophies or ribbons for that.

Fast forward a few years and now I am a working outside the home mother.  I have gone from the realm of moms who provide creative home-made bento box lunches for their kids to the mom who relies on the kindness of the lunch lady to extend them credit because I forgot to fill up their accounts.  I no longer have any input or care into which parts they get in a play.  I am unknown to most of the other parents.  I sometimes miss those convenient mid-day “read with the class” activities. 

I don’t want to come off as feeling superior to the stay at home moms. Instead, I feel happy not to be one because to be brutally honest, my kids can drive me crazy.  Being a stay at home mom made me feel incompetent.  The goals I set were for my kids, not me.  I had no way of knowing if I was heading down the right path.  I had no boss to check in with to provide me with some perspective about the outside forces which I couldn’t see.  Instead, the stakes were too high and I was lacking the right training. 

I want to hug stay at home moms and tell them I know their pain.  However, that would be arrogant because most stay at home mom’s like what they do.  They do not have my kids or my insecurities.  They are happy to be with their kids all day.  So I guess since I can’t be a happy stay at home mom, I will be a happy working mom.  Or at least a moderately grumpy mom.

Whose your Mama?

Let’s talk about that awkward moment when you are at a function with other parents and the moms ask if you work or stay at home.  For many many years I was a stay at home mom.  I know how hard it is and frankly, I think it’s harder than being a working mom.  The main reasons I think it is harder to stay home is that you don’t get a break from your kids, you are rarely told you are doing anything right, you are often told you are doing things wrong and most people had a previous profession for which they trained and feel underutilized. 

For me, it was all of the above plus dealing with the other stay at home moms.  There seemed to be a competitive channeling of energy into who was doing the most for their kids.  This is made a thousand times harder because you cannot compare the needs of one kid to another.  So for some kids playing violin, soccer and volunteering at the animal shelter may be an average amount of effort.  For other kids, getting through one playdate a week might be a herculean effort.  But it’s hard to be the mom who brags that her child had a huge accomplishment of not biting another child.  There are no trophies or ribbons for that.

Fast forward a few years and now I am a working outside the home mother.  I have gone from the realm of moms who provide creative home-made bento box lunches for their kids to the mom who relies on the kindness of the lunch lady to extend them credit because I forgot to fill up their accounts.  I no longer have any input or care into which parts they get in a play.  I am unknown to most of the other parents.  I sometimes miss those convenient mid-day “read with the class” activities. 

I don’t want to come off as feeling superior to the stay at home moms. Instead, I feel happy not to be one because to be brutally honest, my kids can drive me crazy.  Being a stay at home mom made me feel incompetent.  The goals I set were for my kids, not me.  I had no way of knowing if I was heading down the right path.  I had no boss to check in with to provide me with some perspective about the outside forces which I couldn’t see.  Instead, the stakes were too high and I was lacking the right training. 

I want to hug stay at home moms and tell them I know their pain.  However, that would be arrogant because most stay at home mom’s like what they do.  They do not have my kids or my insecurities.  They are happy to be with their kids all day.  So I guess since I can’t be a happy stay at home mom, I will be a happy working mom.  Or at least a moderately grumpy mom.

Where the hell have I been?

I have been away from the blog for the past year or so for no particular reason.  Although a lot has been going on in my life, including a cross country move to my native Massachusetts, sending a child off to college, leaving a job I loved, interviewing for many jobs I almost got, finally getting a job I love and a mild canine injury, I still could have blogged.  Like the many photos of my first child, my thoughts remained unorganized in a box.


Now it is time to share what I have learned from all of these experiences:


Friends are important

It was hard for me to leave my friends in Houston.  Friends are especially great because they voluntarily hang out with you.  It’s not a school or work obligation.  It is not a family obligation that involves eye-rolling.  It is a choice that another person or persons make to spend time with you.  That is very affirming. 


The other side of that coin, is that when you move, you have no friends.  I am blessed to have close family to spend time with.  I get that having three kids at home plus working full time does not leave a whole lot of socializing hours.  But still, you need your friends.  It feels creepy to approach other adults and try and get them to be my friends.  Like a Halloween costume I once wore in college, it makes me feel like a Hare Krishna.  If someone came up to me and said “Hello fellow adult with like demographics.  Would you like to spend time with me to see if we are compatible as friends?  Would you like to see if our spouses can tolerate each other?  Perhaps the big leap to see if our kids get along.  Oh, and can we do this from 8:00-10:00 pm on a Saturday?”  I would take out a restraining order.  Yet there does not seem to be a good way to easily make friends.


I have considered joining various groups and will still try this route.  But it is a long and arduous process.  It is also a big leap from sitting next to someone at a lecture or cooking class to setting up an actual time to socialize.  I don’t want to assume the other person likes me enough to invade their calendar.  And yet, if I say nothing, I get nothing.


The next lesson I learned is…. Oh wait. I forgot what it is.  That’s what happens when I get excited about a train of thought.  The other train leaves the station.


The other things I bring from Houston are the memory of the three friends I lost there.  Robin and Josh are always in my thoughts.  I don’t mean to sound mushy, it is that they are literally always in my thoughts.  It is not always a good thing.  But I try to remind myself that my job is to be grateful and appreciative of all the things I get to experience.  And if that means that I cry like a baby at the fifth grade winter concert, so be it.  I think about how Robin and Josh can’t be at their children’s concerts anymore and I am wistful and grateful at the same time. 

Yes, I did write three.  I also lost a friend, Shari, who was a mom of another girl in my youngest daughter’s class.  She was taking a morning walk when she was hit by a car which had lost control and came up onto the sidewalk.  The look of loss in her husband and daughters eyes still haunts me. 


Over the last year, I had some unpleasant experiences with another mother in that same class.  I need a new box of wine before I start to blog about that, but I promise it’s coming.  Since I’m no longer in Houston, I do not have to worry about the repercussions of being completely honest.  Watch out!


Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I appreciate having an audience for my insane rantings.  

An Exercise in Frustration

Perhaps it's just me, but I don't think so.  The maddening frustration of my evenings is driving me to drink.  What could bring an otherwise competent and fabulous woman to her knees?  Why, fourth grade homework, of course.

Gone are the days when you merely solved a math problem. In today's homework labyrinth you must first draw the problem, then express it with specific shapes, then define it, then express your feelings about it, then ponder it, then review how it was taught in class, then look at it again, then convert it into groups of numbers.  Only then can you begin to solve the damn problem.

And then you must review the problem and highlight the pertinent parts in specific colors.  Gd help you if you don't have the right color highlighter.  

Every day I go through this for at least 20 problems.  Then onto reading interpretation.

Gone are the good 'ol book reports.  A monster has taken their place - the Reading Response. Just the name of it sucks the joy out of reading.  Now you must read for 30 minutes per night, fill out an extensive log requiring information such as the genre of book and what pages you read, and then prepare to write a specific response to what you read in a journal - EVERY night.  If I had to do that every time I read, I would quit reading and only watch You Tube.  

While my child is extremely frustrated, I am beyond insane about this.  I just want to grab the pen and write out the stupid journal entry instead of watching her struggle over the many meanings of a Judy Moody book.  I believe there is a pill to help Judy with her moods.  

I firmly believe there is a vast right wing conspiracy between the vineyards of Walmart and the teachers - how else could they increase wine consumption so much?  

Holiday gift giving is stupid

After work today, I found myself in a store called "Tuesday Morning".  This store, which is a complete mystery by it's name, is a gift store.  As I looked around at the other customers, I noticed that we were all women and we were all looking for cute gifts for friends and colleagues.

Then I had this sudden chill go down my spine and realized we were all in some kind of strange twilight zone episode.  It could almost be a reality show.  Here were a bunch of people shopping for a bunch of crap no one needed or wanted in order to be polite.

Each aisle I went through lead me to become more desperate to find an appropriate gift.  Where is cat-themed dish towel when you need one?  How would an acquaintance feel about getting a set of dessert plates embossed with pictures of high heels?  Would that satisfy my gift giving obligation?  Why would anyone want that? Does anyone ever use dessert plates?  Would they think I'm creepy?

What about popcorn covered in some kind of flavoring?  There are hot and spicy or sweet and savory toppings.  Is that something anyone would remember? Would I be known as the disgusting popcorn woman?  Or perhaps a BBQ sauce with an unusual flavor that absolutely no one would ever ever use?  Ever.  Many people are seriously lacking in trivets.  In fact, I bet my co-worker is sitting at her desk right now fretting because she has a trivet deficit.  I could be her hero with my snazzy gift.

Being on the receiving end on these gifts is also a challenge - a challenge of how to re-gift it.  Would the mailman like a tin of butter cookies?  Or how about an over sized wine glass that says "tis the season"?  

At the end of the day, I will have spend a couple of hundred dollars on crap that no one will like receiving.  I don't know an easy way out of this.  Giving money is tacky and telling someone you contributed to a charity in their name is lame.   

Perhaps I can start a support group with all the "Tuesday Morning" shoppers and we can all donate our stuff to some country overseas who is none the wiser to our strange gift giving traditions.

I'm sure there is a Yurt in Mongolia who lacks trivets. 

Stressed Out!!

As I watch my daughter apply to college, I see things very differently from when I was that age and trying to chart my future. Back in my day, I was so worried about going to the right school, picking the right major and starting my career. Looking back now, what they should teach in college is a full year of time management and stress management. That would have been useful. Now, I could be the professor in these subjects. Here is what is stressful:

Simple math- It doesn't add up how much work people, especially women, have to do and how little is accomplished at the end of the day. Hours of planning, preparing, schlepping, carpooling, cramming in errands while the kids are doing an activity all yield just about nothing at the end of the day. No child will thank you for being clever enough to slip in an oil change during ballet lessons. No husband will appreciate the specific type of apples you bought and no one except you will notice how you went to three stores to get just the right kind of cereal. At the end of the day, as you lie exhausted in bed, spending what little energy you have left, planning the next day's activities, all that expended energy will have little use or appreciation.


Whatever you think is important, is in fact, not important. Sometimes when I feel strongly about something or someone, I expend a lot of mental energy worrying and plannning and scheeming. I will be driving and thinking about a project or a person and all that energy spent will be for nothing because a week later, I will not remember what all the fuss was about.


You cannont anticipate what will happen or how it will affect you. I first learned this on 9/11. Having worked in the World Trade Center previously, it was unfathomable what happened. All those sad stories of innocent people who were killed on a regular workday reminded me that we have little control over things. Since then, having lost 3 friends in car accidents, I am still very aware that we plan and God laughs.


Small things consume lots and lots of time and energy. I learned this the hard way in my 30s when I volunteered at the school and synagogue. It was always the smallest projects that kept me up until 2:00am gluing center pieces together or editing a newsletter.


Friends are key to reducing stress. It is so important to talk to someone who gets you and who you respect. This helps enormously. I make it a point to be there for friends going through hard times.

If I were planning a college course today, I would have the followig items on my syllabus:

1. Time management: Figure out how much time you will allot for each of the following situations and stick to that limit:

boyfriend breakups

Frenemy drama

Arguing with parents and siblings

Reality TV

Waxing and other personal grooming

2. Coping skills:

disappointment at work and home

Not judging yourself too harshly

Don't compare yourself to anyone at the gym

Rich people have problems too

Alcohol is your friend

3. Get over yourself:

You are not the end-all, be-all in the world

Everyone else is only thinking about themselves and do not care whether you wore those same pants last week

You need others as much as they need you

Don't feel bad when other people's kids seem perfect - Jeffrey Dahmer was well behaved and charming, I'm just sayin'




Back in the saddle again


After being away from the blog for many months, I am returning in full force.  Why have I returned?  I have had several requests and I also need an outlet to vent my pent up rage.  Sounds like a fun ride. Here goes....

Here is the rant of of the over-stressed mother (what I would actually say to my kids if I could afford to pay for the therapy needed to process this):


Why on earth do you think that just because you were born, that gives you a never ending entrance ticket to the unlimited buffet you call the kitchen?  I'm so sick of constantly standing in the kitchen taking orders for an endless varity of foods.  Or worse, the child who will only tell me what she doesn't like.  Tuna?  Sure, I will take out the food processor, assemble the ingredients, put it in a sandwich and before I can rinse out the bowl hear "what else do you have?  I'm starving?".

Sure, I can make a grilled cheese, after painstakingly reassembling the last broken piece of bread because Gd forbid one of my children should have to eat mangled bread, only to hear "I never said I wanted grilled cheese, you know I meant a hamburger when I said that". 

At the very same moment comes the "I can't eat that" child.  Can't eat half the foods in creation due to extensive orthodontia.  Can't eat foods that have a crust.  Or contain brown.  Or have cheeses other than cheddar. Or are past their expiration date, which everyone knows is a corporate ruse to try and get me to throw out marginally good food.  Can't eat anything that may look spicy. Nothing with too much green.  Unless it is broccoli.  But wait, she will only eat broccoli with a specific chicken dish I make.

Then is the super skinny teenager who will only eat foods she deems "not gross".  That is limited to about four items, one of which is sushi.  Why don't I just make sushi.  Sure there are a lot of large white women rolling up their sushi mats to try and please their teenager.  Surely that would cost a fortune in ingredients I would never ever use again and equipment that would require extensive washing.  Of course it would come out "gross", and why was I too cheap to just take them all out to dinner every single night.

OK fine, let's go out to dinner. But not before a 45 mintue screaming match about where to go. No one wants the same food as any other.  When we get to the restaurant, there is so much whining and moaning that I could have stayed at home to be uncomfortable and annoyed.  Why pay a restaurant $50 minimum when they will all complain anyway?

Well, to hell with it, I am going to drink my box of wine (go ahead and judge away) so I won't much care what damn food the kids eat tonight. 




That'll Cost Ya

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That’ll Cost Ya

It is very clear when we browse through the clothes at Nordstrom Rack exactly what it will cost us to get that fabulous pair of jeans.  Whatever the tag says will tell you once and for all what that will cost you.  Not so with our friends and acquaintances.  

Many relationships ebb and flow, and with that goes the cost of sharing information.  Imagine that you feel close to someone you don’t know all that well.  You might even be trying to impress them or get in with the cool mommies - something I have long since given up on.  So you share a juicy rumour that you heard from a very reliable source, your friend’s cousin’s ex-wife.  

Or you may share something very personal about yourself.  You may reveal something you did long before you were married that may or may not have resulted in a misdemeanor.  You might reveal that you are a frienemy to a mutual acquaintance or share inappropriate financial information.

A few weeks later you notice your friend is distant.  She is too busy to meet for coffee and her child has taken up kick boxing and is never available for a play date.  You immediately start to panic.  You have no idea what she will do with the private information you shared.  Will she tell her new BFF?  Will it be an agenda item at the Parent Teacher Organization?  What will it cost you?

We all have very close long term friends that we share all sorts of things with.  These people have stood the test of time and have earned our trust.  Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold - not my words, but that of a Girlscout song. You can be fairly confident that none of them will be putting your tummy tuck in the alumni newsletter.  If for no other reason, than you have a huge pile of dirt on them.  It costs less to tell them your innermost dirt because you have a trust and an insurance policy that binds you together.

Even with your own family, sharing things can cost you.  When I was younger and had a fight with my friend at school, I told my mother all sorts of things about this girl.  Some of them were even true.  Of course two days later we were friends and I invited her to my house.  My mother only had this image of a she-devil who wanted to socially ruin her daughter.  You cannot hide the evil eye of your mother.  There is really no way to explain to the friend why my mother was so cold.  

Sharing is an important part of life, without it we cannot connect with others.  But because these connections are both valuable and fragile, we better be aware of the cost.

Getting it Together

My cynical view of people's behavior has been challenged.  I tend to think that often times when someone is doing something nice, they are doing it for selfish reasons.  Perhaps they want to appear to be a saint or they like to be in the middle of things.  Often times people flock to the scene of an accident, not to help the victims, but to take in the visual drama as entertainment for themselves.

That is how I have looked at efforts in the past to be "helpful" to others, at times.  Is that lady at the door with the casserole really trying to bring comfort to a grieving family, or are they just wanting to tell their friends that they came to the house and know the real story about what happened?  Is that acquaintence coming to your house to see your newborn or report back what a pig sty you are now living in?

I know, I know, I'm very cynical about this.  Why?  Because I have been burned like this in the past.  People who were being "nice" turned into gossips or disappeared when you really needed something.

Now I have seen something different. 

After the death of my friends, Robin and Josh Berry (Gd, it even hurts to type those words), people have been coming out of the woodwork to help in ways that are actually helpful.  Rather than have hundreds of people mobbing the hospital or the doorstep of the mourners, people have been doing grassroots fundraising to get the surviving injured children what they will really need - Money.

This part is not cynical.  Money is really what they will need.  Their family will provide compassion, love, healing and support.  That is a given.  But what is hard to ask for from others, is money.  It costs a lot to raise three kids, it cost an unthinkable amount to raise your siblings orphaned and paralyzed three kids. 

Think about the new, handicapped friendly  house they will need, nursing care, motorized wheelchairs, etc.  And lest you think that insurance is going to cover it - think again.  Many health insurances have lifetime maximums.  Also, any only cover 80% out of network benefits.  Not to mention the medical planes that had to be involved to transport the kids  to their rehab place.

People from all around the world have been touched by this and are doing the two things that can actually help this family.  Sending messages of support and money.  Everything from Lemonade Stands, Bake Sales, Stores donating percentages of sales, all the way to a connection reaching out to Justin Beiber who started a celebrity awareness campaign. 

I have seen some comments on some of the news stories from people who say that giving to one family, rather than another, is unfair.  But what is really unfair, is having another driver cross over into your lane because he was looking for a DVD in his car and killing your parents.  What is really unfair is not being able to walk when you are 8 and 9 years old.

Yes, there are tragedies every day.  But most people feel better helping a family that they can put a name and a face with. 

What I haven't seen, thankfully, is the cynical behavior I was dreading.  I haven't seen people jockeying for position or attention.  I haven't seen a "mine fundraiser is better than yours" attitude.  I haven't seen a "no, I'm too busy with Pilates to help" response. 

I have seen people who loved Robin and Josh, who have never met or heard of Robin and Josh or who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone, all gathering together to help the Berry kids.

So lets give ourselves all a big round of applause and recognition for being superhuman, rather than just being human.

What I learned from the Berrys

On July 2, the unthinkable happened.  A family was driving home from vacation when a car veered into their lane and hit them head-on.  No alcohol was involved- so don't even go there.  The two parents, who were friends of mine, died instantly.  Their two boys, ages 8 and 9 are currently paralyzed.  Their daughter, age 6, broke several bones, but will recover.

We all hear things like this on the news and say "Oh, that's terrible" and go back to washing the dishes or whatever else we were doing.  But when people you were close to and you cared about die in such a tragic and catastrophic way, it turns your life upside down.  

In my sad and desperate attempt to make any sense out of this, I decided (at least for the next 10 minutes) to concentrate on what I could learn.

Here it is:

Open your heart- Robin was insatiably kind and friendly.  She would greet everyone as though she were really happy to see them.  Even if you saw her at Starbucks 10 minutes ago, she was really happy to see you again.  Very few people are like that.

She opened up her home on holidays and never gave a moment's thought to capacity or fire regulations.  She invited so many people!  Somehow, everyone fit and the house was filled with laughter and fun.  You never knew what connection you would find with a guest at her house.  I was happy to pay her back at my son's Bar Mitzvah when she discovered my cousin was one of her friends in DC.  Small world.

After someone dies, many people claim to have been close to them.  But in Robin's case it is true - she was a good friend to countless numbers of people.  She somehow managed to be beloved long before she took that last family road trip.  No one gossiped about her because there really wasn't anything to complain about.

Robin took the time to break out of the insular born-in-Houston comfort zone that many people enjoy and reach out to befriend many new Houstonians.  She gathered Israelis together and I somehow joined that group (I assure not because of my toddler-like Hebrew), and we got together for dinners, nights out, etc.  

Now, this is just one half of the couple.  Joshua was the kind of person who loved having friends of all different ilks.  He was like a walking diversity workshop.  He drew people in through beer night, chili cookoffs, running and many other things.  Somehow he joined all these parts of his life together to form a rich fabric of interesting friends.

In a world where it is often hard for men to reach out and make friends, Joshua managed to do just that.  To step over that weird dynamic men have and truly be a friend that made you feel like you mattered in this world.

To Hell With The Small Stuff - One of my pet peeves is people who are petty (How's that for a tongue twister- I should have added "by the seashore").  I really cannot tolerate people who are constantly tallying social infractions and who look to judge as if it were the Westminster Dog Show.  Robin and Joshua were able to "let it go".  If you spilled something on the floor at their house (not that any of my children ever did, ahem ahem) they did not bat an eye.  If our kids were running around like banshees, we would still continue our conversation as if we were at an intimate cafe.

I felt so comfortable with Robin that I when confronted with a social dilema, I felt I could just call her up and speak my mind.  For Joshua's 40th birthday, We received a "save the date", but the invite never followed.  Normally, I would just be annoyed and hostile and act like a pouty 14 year old (as if there are any  other kinds of 14 year olds), but since I felt I knew Robin, I called her up and said "Oh My Gd!  The postman has a secret crush on Joshua and stole my invitation.  That must be where it went."  Of course she laughed heartily (especially since they were done by email) and realized she mistyped the email addresse.  She really was glad I had the cojones to call and basically demand to be invited.  I guess I hadn't learned the lesson about class yet.

Be Great Parents - Robin and Josh often spoke about what great kids they have and how much they loved them.  They really valued their individuality and were very proud of them.  They did not try to stifle them or have them conform to anyone else's standards.  By treating them with respect, they provided the space for them to grow and flourish.  They each knew they were truly appreciated for who they are.  Not many people can say they had that kind of relationship with their parents.

Inspire Others With Actions and Not Merely Words- Josh was a vegan who got other people interested in checking it out. I even have Tofurkey in my freezer to prove it.  And believe me, I would not do that for just anyone.  Without being preachy, he modeled a lifestyle that felt good.  He even made exercise seem tolerable.  

Robin impressed me so much one night at a back-to-school night.  Our boys were in the same class and I saw how she spoke to so many different people.  Clearly, some of these people were very annoying and talked way too much (no, I'm not talking about myself so don't even think that).  I asked her at the end of the night how she managed to talk to everyone and seem so  happy about it.  She told me that of course she was annoyed by Mommy X (names have been changed to protect the innocent).  I honestly could not tell.  I wanted to know how she did that.  People can look at me across a room and see if I am losing my attention or patience with someone.  The answer is simple - It was effortless for her because that was her nature.  She really was deeply kind.

Now, I, like the rest of the community and beyond, am still completely devastated and non-functioning. I still cry at work, in the car and when my kid's turn their eyes to the computer.  In fact, I am crying right now.  But I will try to take away from this unspeakable horror, that Robin and Josh had great lives because they made them great.  They did not allow the untimely deaths of their fathers to ruin their lives.  They did not use it as an excuse to check-out and retreat.  To honor them, I will try very hard to do the same.  To be the inner Robin and Josh that all of us want to be.


I don't know if I have a visual disorder or I'm crazy, but in my head, things look different than they do in reality.  These mostly have to do with the sizes of things.  I ordered something in the restaurant and when it came out I thought "that doesn't look like it's a lot of food".  Now before you take out your Weight Watcher's scales, sometimes things don't look like all that much.  I was quite full eating it and even left some over (very unusual), but my initial impression was how small it looked.

Conversely, I have the opposite problem with clothes.  I was shopping for a dress today and picked out a couple of things one size smaller than I am and thought "Wow, these look so big, how could they possibly fit me".  I tried them on and quickly remembered why the tag had a lower number than usual.  Why do I look at clothes on a hanger and think they are huge, yet they can't fit over my tush.  Now, before you jump to conclusions, I realize that the tush is not small.  But still, it feels like I am taking a pop up tent into the dressing room and seeing if it would look good with heels.

Similarly, I have the same misconceptions with time.  I can't imagine how I could fill an hour waiting for a child to finish a party, yet I am late to pick them up because I miraculously found something to do.

I guess my perception of things is way off.  No surprise there.  Thank Gd I buy my bathing suits on-line by the size number or I might be giving someone out there quite an eyeful.

Bar Mitzvah Blowout

I have been remiss in writing for a good reason - My son's Bar Mitzvah.  It was modest by most standards, yet it required an intense amount of planning and preparation.  From daily 30 minute sessions of practicing to hammering out details such as the menu of the meal, it is time consuming.

Usually I am cynical about many lifecycle events.  Hard to believe, no? It is hard to go to your friend's children's birthday parties and feign interest in their unique finger painting artistry.  It is hard to watch someone get married when you know it won't last.  It is hard to go to a funeral to say goodbye when you are not ready to do so.

But the Bar Mitzvah had special meaning, if not to my son, then to me.  It was unbelievable to watch him accomplish this herculean task.  After all, to my non-Jewish friends out there - it must seem ridiculous to explain that I expect a 13 year old boy to spend six months or more learning to read the bible in it's orginial form before a large group of people.  Further, he is supposed to be happy about this.  Even odder, his parents create a sometimes circus-like atmosphere to celebrate this.  Then all further biblical education suddenly ceases. 

It is a little different for my son.  We had a modest breakfast after the Bar Mitzvah.  My whole family (minus a sister-in-law whose child care ran screaming from her house) came together.  We are generally a fun bunch.  We get along and share the passion of eating.  Constantly eating.  Eating any and everything that we can.  Then we discuss eating and drink while we are having this discussion.  All that talking and drinking makes us hungry.... I digress (and just had a snack).  The great part was having everyone come in from all over the country just to show their love and support to me, my husband and kids.  I really felt the love (and felt like eating).

I thought about what it must sound like to other people. "Boss, I'm going to need a day off so I can fly across the country to hear my nephew chant Hebrew old testiment for an hour.  Then I will eat a lot and turn around and fly home."

Of course, as a supervisor myself, I have heard stranger things. 

All in all, the blowout was the demonstration of my friends and family who came together to make us all feel loved.  I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true. (umm...cheese)

Now that two of my four have been Bar/Bat Mitzvahed, I can see ahead to high school graduation.  I'm already planning the menu.


High Anxiety

I have discovered something about myself.  Whenever I have something big to worry about, such as a big problem with the kids, a large financial issue or a job change, I do what is most counter productive - I focus on any type of minutia that I can think of.  All of it unrelated to the problem at hand.  

If I have a big tax payment due, it is obviously the best time to obsess over which drive through pharmacy to go to.  Worried about a learning disability or allergy?  Try spending several hours thinking of ways to get more vegetables in everyone's diet.  Don't even get me started on the merits of Tylenol vs. Advil.

I cannot help it.  I have fear of dealing with big issues because I am afraid I will make the wrong decision and really screw things up.  So instead I worry about things where the ultimate decision isn't that important.  Why should I worry now about whether to take the local streets or the highway to work on Monday?  How come I am wondering if I will remember to buy that graduation card I need?

When I made the move to Houston, there were some big decisions that I hadn't put enough thought into that have come to bite me in the ass.  Now I know I can't think of the repercussions of all of my actions - Gd knows I wouldn't want to face all those- but it has put me in a situation where I cannot bear to face huge decisions.  On the other hand, I certainly don't want other people moving forward and making large decisions without my input.  So that puts me in a conundrum.

Usually I assume that enough alcohol and really bad tv (can't wait for teen mom 3 to start) will give me the perspective to solve all of my problems. Surprisingly, it doesn't work.  Instead I worry about the teen mom's problems and yell at her to forget about her loser boyfriend.  

When I realize that I can't obsess over small things anymore I start to daydream.  I'm sure that if Tina Fey only got to know me, she would put me on her show.  I have hatched a plan for us to somehow get acquainted and form a close friendship.  We are so much alike, I'm sure she would love me.

I also fantasize that Donald Trump will come into contact with me and be so impressed that he offers me a million dollar a year job.  Or to pay off my mortgage.  Or to put me on apprentice.  Or to let me babysit Ivanka's child.

Finally, I fantasize about going on HGTV and getting a fabulous home makeover.  After all aren't I more deserving that that family with the blind children?

See, even in my blog, I digress.  So while I should be worrying about some major stuff going on, instead I will worry about which desperate housewife will survive her difficult children and whether Brie will ever loosen up.

Ahhh, what a woman wants

Everyday, when I am stressed, or bored or whatever, I think of that special thing that makes me feel soooo good.  I think of the way it makes me feel, how my body is so liberated and how I hate to leave them.  That's right....pajamas.   Now I know people take them for granted, but hear me out.


At the end of the day, you remove your clothes that encased you while you were frustrated, anxious, nervous and over-whelmed.  And then you slip into the non-judgmental, loose-fitting, skin-pleasing and just heavenly pajamas.  It truly signals a change, a time to relax, the beginning of the end of the day.  Who isn't happy in pajamas? 


Of course, the pajamas have to be comfy.  No belly shirts, tight pants, button hole gapes or worn-out waistbands.  Just plain old cotton, satin or whatever material that's not spandex, pajamas.  I wear them long past their due date.  It was only this year that the last of my maternity pajamas finally gave out.  I cut them up into rags so that I will be comforted when cleaning.


I don't like anything fussy, itchy, scratch, ill-fitting, or odd.  I don't like nightgowns or sleeping shirts.  And I'm not talking about lingerie - that has little to do with sleeping (hopefully).  I mean the clothes that are just for you - not a work like uniform, not acceptable mom clothes and not anything formal with shoes that pinch your toes. 

So here's to my favorite part of the day, pajama time.  Just call me a pajama mama.

Back from Cabo

I have been remiss in my blogging - sorry.  Sometimes I just get so bogged down in the everyday nonsense of life that it consumes me.  What jolted me back was my recent vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Yes, that's right, I went on a vacation.  It was my first time leaving the country in the past 11 years.  It was my first vacation without kids, since I only had two of them.  It was the longest I had been away from my husband since 1989.

It was like a reality show - Here in Mexico to celebrate my sister's 50th birthday were 12 women sharing a house.  

Do you know the first thing people asked me when I got back?  Aside from the comments about the crime rate in Mexico, every person asked me "did it get catty with so many women?"

What kind of question is that?  We were not seventh grade girls, we were middle aged women on a mission to have fun.  It was all about eating, drinking, shopping, drinking, sun bathing, laughing and drinking.  Fun in the sun - the ultimate vacation.

There was minimal cattiness.  Probably because being on vacation in an idyllic setting doesn't leave much room for anger or pettiness.  

Especially when all your doing is eating and drinking.  It was very interesting to see people from different economic, religious and domestic situations.  We connected to each other on a unique level.  Unique because we were on vacation with no stress. I'm sure we wouldn't have had such a great time if we were all in a stressful work situation or Gd forbid, near our children.

Lessons Learned:
- Superficial things are good- There is nothing like bonding over the same junky TV programs, fried food and People Magazine articles.  It gives an easy entrance to a deeper connection.
- As much as I hate the title of the book - Don't sweat the small stuff.  Letting go of score keeping and detail mongering leaves you open to sit your tushy on the beach and marvel at the waves and mock the other people on the beach.  No use worring over who will call the next taxi or whether to fret about who owes whom money.  It will all work itself out.
- Self images are warped- Everyone, even the most gorgeous ladies, fret about their bodies.  And I never realized how bad I looked standing next to my buff friends.  I am definately going to get photoshop.
- A kind word is the the smart thing to say - Everyone likes to hear something nice about themselves.  It makes people more open.  Obviously don't make stuff up so that no one trusts you, but there are some standards "you have such a great smile" (translation- and a huge ass).  "You have such nice shoes" (but are a nasty bitch) "You are such a people person" (you filthy slut)
- It's not about yourself all the time - recognizing someone else's situation can help you improve yours.  It takes a huge burden off me to realize that if someone is in a bad mood or upset, it has nothing to do with me.  I don't have to fix it and I'm not responsible for it.
- Finally - It's great to get away from it all.  I miss my new and old friends and I was very lucky to have had that time with them. 

NY TImes article on over-the-top mom

Retreat of the ‘Tiger Mother’

TRY this at a dinner party in one of the hothouses of Ivy Leagueaspiration — Cambridge, Scarsdale, Evanston, Marin County:

Bob Daemmrich/Polaris

The author at a 2007 book signing.


Is Extreme Parenting Effective?

Does strict control of a child’s life lead to greater success?

Lorenzo Ciniglio/Polaris

Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, and daughters Lulu, left, and Sophia.

Declare that the way Asian-American parents succeed in raising such successful children is by denying them play dates and sleepovers, and demanding that they bring home straight A’s.

Note that you once told your own hyper-successful Asian-American daughter that she was “garbage.” That you threatened to throw out your other daughter’s dollhouse and refused to let her go to the bathroom one evening until she mastered a difficult piano composition. That you threw the homemade birthday cards they gave you as 7- and 4-year-olds back in their faces, saying you expected more effort.

Better yet, write a book about it.

What kind of reaction might you get?

In the week since The Wall Street Journal published anexcerpt of the new book by Amy Chua, a Yale law professor, under the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” Ms. Chua has received death threats, she says, and “hundreds, hundreds” of e-mails. The excerpt generated more than 5,000 comments on the newspaper’s Web site, and countless blog entries referring in shorthand to “that Tiger Mother.” Some argued that the parents of all those Asians among Harvard’s chosen few must be doing something right; many called Ms. Chua a “monster” or “nuts” — and a very savvy provocateur.

A law blog suggested a “Mommie Dearest” element to her tale (“No. Wire. Hangers! Ever!!”). Another post was titled “Parents like Amy Chua are the reason Asian-Americans like me are in therapy.” A Taiwanese video circulating on YouTube (subtitled in English) concluded that Ms. Chua would not mind if her children grew up disturbed and rebellious, as long as she sold more books.

“It’s been a little surprising, and a little bit intense, definitely,” Ms. Chua said in a phone interview on Thursday, between what she called a “24/7” effort to “clarify some misunderstandings.” Her narration, she said, was meant to be ironic and self-mocking — “I find it very funny, almost obtuse.”

But reading the book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” it can be hard to tell when she is kidding.

“In retrospect, these coaching suggestions seem a bit extreme,” she writes in the book after describing how she once threatened to burn her daughter’s stuffed animals if she did not play a piano composition perfectly. “On the other hand, they were highly effective.”

In interviews, she comes off as unresolved. “I think I pulled back at the right time,” she said. “I do not think there was anything abusive in my house.” Yet, she added, “I stand by a lot of my critiques of Western parenting. I think there’s a lot of questions about how you instill true self-esteem.”

Her real crime, she said, may have been telling the truth. “I sort of feel like people are not that honest about their own parenting,” she said. “Take any teenage household, tell me there is not yelling and conflict.”

Ms. Chua is one half of the kind of Asian-Jewish academic power couple that, as she notes, populates many university towns. Her husband is Jed Rubenfeld, also a Yale law professor, and the author of two successful mystery novels. Ms. Chua, herself the author of two previous books, was reported to have received an advance in the high six figures for “Tiger Mother.”

If she has one regret, she said, it is that the Journal excerpt, and particularly the headline, did not reflect the full arc of her story.

Her book is a memoir that ends with her relenting (sort of) when the younger of her two teenage daughters refuses to go along with the “extreme parenting” Ms. Chua uses to prevent the kind of decline that she thinks makes some third-generation Asian-Americans as soft and entitled as their teammates on suburban soccer teams where every child is declared Most Valuable Player.

“I’ve been forced to answer questions about a book I didn’t write,” she said. “It’s not saying what people should do, it’s saying, ‘Here’s what I did, and boy did I learn a lesson.’ ” All this is captured, she said, in the book’s three-paragraph subtitle, which concludes with the words, “and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.”

Born to Chinese parents who were raised in the Philippines and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ms. Chua, 48, graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law, where she was an executive editor of the Law Review. She confesses in her book that she is “not good at enjoying life,” and that she wasn’t naturally curious or skeptical like other law students. “I just wanted to write down everything the professor said and memorize it.”


Is Extreme Parenting Effective?

Does strict control of a child’s life lead to greater success?

She was determined to raise her daughters the way she and her three sisters had been raised — which, she said, left them adoring their parents. By her account, her elder daughter, Sophia, complied, excelled and played piano at Carnegie Hall. But the younger, Lulu, rebelled. At the turning point of the memoir, Lulu, then 13, begins smashing glasses in a Moscow restaurant and yelling at her mother, “I HATE my life, I HATE you.”

Ms. Chua’s husband appears only peripherally in “Tiger Mother” — though there is one battle in which she lashes out at him after he worries that she is pushing their daughters to the point that there is “no breathing room” in their home.

“All you do is think about writing your own books and your own future,” she says to him. “What dreams do you have for Sophia or for Lulu? Do you ever think about that? What dreams do you have for Coco?” He bursts out laughing — Coco is their dog.

She concludes, “I didn’t understand what was so funny, but I was glad our fight was over.”

Initially, Ms. Chua said, she wrote large chunks about her husband and their conflicts overchild rearing. But she gave him approval on every page, and when he kept insisting she was putting words in his mouth, it became easier to leave him out.

“It’s more my story,” she said. “I was the one that in a very overconfident immigrant way thought I knew exactly how to raise my kids. My husband was much more typical. He had a lot of anxiety, he didn’t think he knew all the right choices.” And, she said, “I was the one willing to put in the hours.”

Still, she said, her children got pancakes and trips to water parks because of their father, the son of parents more inclined to encourage self-discovery.

The reaction to the book was particularly anguished among those who are products of extreme Asian parents. “I’m horrified that she’s American-born and hanging on to this, when most of us are trying to escape it,” said Betty Ming Liu, the daughter of Chinese immigrants from Vietnam and author of one of the many blog posts about the book. A California woman recalled how her sister became the perfect Asian daughter Ms. Chua aspires to produce, only to kill herself because she was afraid to tell anyone she suffered from depression.

Ann Hulbert, the author of “Raising America,” a history of a century’s worth of conflicting child-rearing advice, who is writing a book about child prodigies, notes that it is not hard to reignite the Mommy Wars.

“There is a kind of utter certainty in her writing,” she said of Ms. Chua, “and that confidence goes so against the underlying grain of American parenting and child-rearing expertise that it immediately elicits a response that then suggests a kind of certainty on the other side that isn’t there, either.”

Friends describe Ms. Chua as self-deprecating and a dry wit, her children as happy, and their home as humming with music and activity and, yes, love.

“Not that she’s without opinion, but she’s writing a memoir, not a parenting guide,” said Alexis Contant, who describes Ms. Chua as her closest friend for 20 years. “She will say sleepovers are overrated, but I have never heard her say, ‘I can’t believe so-and-so let their kid do it.’ ”

Ms. Chua said that her daughters have been eager to speak out in favor of the book; she is shielding them from the publicity. She said, however, that they did ultimately have play dates — though not many between the ages of 9 and 13, due to music practice. Sophia, now 18, has a boyfriend, she told me. “My kids have whatever those things are called — iPods,” she said. “They have iTunes accounts.”

Ms. Chua wrote most of the book in eight weeks, yet struggled with the end, she said, reflecting the East-West tug on her parenting. “It’s a work in progress,” she said. “On bad days I would say this method is terrible. I just need to give them freedom and choice. On good days, when Lulu would say: ‘I’m so glad you made me write that second draft of my essay. My teacher read it out loud,’ I think, I’ve got to stick to my guns.”

This week, her book tour will take her to the places where she has surely sparked the most debate: the Bay Area, Cambridge and the northwest quadrant of Washington.

But first, the family was planning to celebrate Lulu’s 15th birthday. They were taking her and eight of her friends to New York City. For a sleepover.

Admiring and over-driven mom from afar

This edition is a reaction to the new book by Amy Chua about how she raised her two daughters.  She raised them in the Chinese tradition of being extremely focused at their outcomes - prizes, admissions to good schools, etc at the cost of their childhood fun.  I will attempt to link the article at the end of this post.  She never allowed them a playdate or sleepover and threatened to burn their stuffed animals if they didn't master tough piano pieces.

In other words, she was a mommy-tyrant.  Now before everyone goes off vilifying  her, there is an element of respect towards someone who has the drive and discipline to make their children the best they can be.  That goal is very subjective and many parents would rather have their children happy and middle class than miserable and wealthy.

Still, I admire her discipline.  Of course I read about her in an article while my kids were on the couch watching TV.  Oh, how I always crave Finnius and Ferb so I can get a moment's peace.  I can tell when the commercials are on because my kids begin to stir and start demanding things of me.  I wish I could have made my son stick with piano for more than a couple of months.  I admire her dedication to her children's success at the cost of her own downtime.

I fully admit that some of my parenting is dubious because I just need a Gd damn break from the incessant demands of four children.  I do lock the door and hide out in the bedroom sometimes.  And my husband's suspicions of why I spend so much time in the bathroom are correct - I am in fact reading a magazine and inspecting my face for new wrinkles.  Even when the kids are pounding on the door, I respond "Do you really want to come in and see this?"  that usually quiets them down.

I do not have the energy to schlep them to multiple activities and far-flung interests.  And everyone knows, the secret reason that moms and dads plan playdates is that their children will be entertained by another for a short period of time.  It's cheaper than sending them to the movies.

Even having an afternoon sitter to drive the kids around since I work full time, I still don't sign them up for more than one activity each because I can't handle the schedules, demands on the parents and the conflicts that arrise from having so many things going on.

I have often said that I feel like the metal ball in a pinball machine.  When I wake up the lever is pulled and I am propelled into a world that consists of trying to reach each bonus point before being swallowed up into the hole in the middle.  I feel like if I accomplish anything, it is a bonus round and I get extra points.  When I am exhausted at the end of the day and finally settle down, I feel the two little arms at the end of the machine propelling me back into the foray as I remember all the paperwork I forgot to do.

OK, now I know people of this generation have never seen an actual pinball machine, but for those of us who grew up on them ( at 1001 plays in Cambridge or the skeevy one in Framingham) it rings the proverbial bell.

So, while everyone else comes down on this driven mom and blames her Asian sensibilities, I applaud her effort.  I would never have the time in my schedule to schlep to Carnigie Hall, just because one of my kids was a piano prodigy.  It would probably conflict with the little league schedule anyway.


Resolutions are all around us now that the new year has begun.  I personally hate them.  I think they are setting us up for failure.  Why put so much pressure on ourselves?  Now that we are done over eating and over spending, don't you think that we would automatically know to cut back a bit?

Apparently not, because every commercial on TV, in the paper and on line is about fulfilling those resolutions.  There are three main ones, in this order: losing weight, saving money and meeting your mate.  I am very fortunate not to have to worry about number three.  Although the idealized commercials of new couples meeting through dating sites and falling instantly in love doesn't help when you and your spouse are dealing with the effects of all that over eating and over spending.  I learned never to say "Honey, do these pants make me look fat"  Because I know in my husband's head he is thinking.."Its not the pants, it's what's in the pants" but he would never live long enough to finish that sentence if he uttered it out loud.

So, what about problems one and two.  I am always very tempted to go ahead and order the Nutrisystem.  After all, you can eat pizza and chocolate desserts and lose  at least 20 pounds.  They must be magical because I eat plenty of pizza and chocolate desserts and somehow, never lose weight.  Therefore, these foods from Nutrisystem are magical.    Well, a few years ago I actually went ahead and ordered nutrisystem.  The foods are in fact magical, but not because of mystical powers.  They are magical because the portions are so small they disappear before you can even taste them.  I have no idea if there pizza was good.  I needed a microscope to find it on my plate.  I'm pretty sure an ant walked off with it before I could get a bite.

The chocolate desserts were worse.  You mix them with water (yum) and a thick goo appears.  It looked more like an expensive facial than a dessert.  Still, I tried to eat it. It was vile.  It tasted more like a facial than food.  All of that left me not only hungry, but angry.  Of course for me those are the same things.  If I am hungry, I'm angry and if I'm angry, I eat.  Go figure.  Not a great combination.    It's a bad day if I was taking hits of Gerber's baby food because it looked better than the Nutrisystem.  Mashed green beans never looked so good.  Besides, how much nutrients do my children really need?  They could live with a little less if I could feed my pureed food habit.

It was then I realized that this wasn't going to work for me.  Time to try something else.  I know Weight Watchers is the only real program that works, but it takes time, energy and commitment.  I never have all three of these at the same time.  In my head, I commit and spend time planning on how great I will feel if I could knock off a few pounds.  But I lack the energy to carry it out.  Other times I will have the energy, but lack the commitment.

Oh well, I guess I will have to resolve to put less pressure on myself and not obsess over these things.  There is no use pouring energy into a lose-lose situation, unless one of the loses is weight and the other is self-doubt.

A fish out of water

What do you do when two people in a relationship want different things?  In this case it's fish.  Not the delicious pistachio encrusted halibut that I dream about.  This is about pets.  Pets that live in liquid. 

My husband wants to get a fish tank and fish.  He loves animals of all kinds and really wants fish. I, on the other hand, do not want anything that either costs money, entails responsibility or both.  I have four children and a dog for that.

So what are we to do?  I am hearing the familiar refrain that I will not have anything to do with them and that they will not be my responsibility.    I am skeptical about promises of any kind.  I don't believe in them because as circumstances change, sometimes its not possible to keep your promises.

So here we are at a crossroads. He wants fish, I don't.  There isn't a lot of room in the middle.  We can't get half a fish, or rent them for a week to see how we like it. 

I guess the challenge is to see how to solve these types of problems.  More important than the actual fish is the process of handling the negotiation. By definition negotiation means taking opposite sides.  But, as spouses, we are supposed to get along and survive the negotiation process.  Either way the one who "wins" really loses.  The one who wins ends up with a spouse who is resentful.  At least for my husband. 

I don't think its really possible to come to a resolution we will both be happy with. If there were something I wanted in return, we could make a trade.  But I don't want anything right now.   

Probably what will happen is he will get the fish and I will have an IOU stuck in my head so that when something comes up that he isn't thrilled with, I can take out the fish.  It's almost like banking a compromise.  I would like a hotel on Boardwalk made out of fish, so that when we roll the dice I have a way to avoid monopoly.  I'm sure there is some kind of message in there, but I haven't figured that out yet.

Lessons my father taught me

I am sorry if you are sick of reading about my inability to handle the death of my father.  But, this time, on what would have been his 74th birthday, I am focusing on the lessons he taught me by accident.  These are not the lessons I endured countless hours of lecture about, nor ones that I was quizzed on in school.  They don't even contain SAT words.  I will share three today:

1. True friends make you happy.  This seems cheesy, but I apply it to my life by remembering that my friends are people who make me happy and whom I'm comfortable around.  This exempts me from the social climbing that I witness around me.  I often see people worrying about who is invited where and how often.  Which friends spend too much time with one person and not enough with another.  In other words, the politics of seventh grade never dies - unless you choose to ignore them and just be a great friend.  No one can ever accuse my father of picking his friends based on their social status.


2.  Try not to look back - My dad spent too much time looking back and saying that if he had made a different decision at different times, his life would have been better.  Well, duh, all of us feel that way.  Everything from the unnecessary brownie I ate yesterday to jobs I should have taken and trips I should have scheduled weighs on me.  But it doesn't do me any good.  It is my biggest struggle to look ahead and not behind, but I try every day.


3. You never know what will happen, so don't over-worry it.  This was not a lesson he meant to teach me.  My dad was a healthfood fanatic who never ate red meat, excercized frequently and most of his food looked like cardboard.  This is supposed to keep you healthy.  That didn't end up working out.  So now I don't respond to every study that comes out saying "eat more fish" then the next week "too much fish will poison you" then the week after that "Why aren't you eating fish, dammit?"

The only study I really listen to is the one that says "drink red wine".  That one I can handle. 

Tis the season

Happy Hannukah or whatever.  I say this because I really can't understand the competition between Channukah and Christmas.  We don't try and compare Chanukkah with Diwali or the Tet holidays.  Maybe they do in India and Vietnam, but I think the whole thing is silly.  Here are my politically incorrect views on the subject.  ...don't hate me...

First, I am happy for Christians to celebrate Christmas.  There is no reason to diminish their holiday by comparing it to a relatively minor Jewish Holiday.  After all, how can you compare the birth of their savior with the victory of yet another war?

Second, I feel no compunction to compare my religious celebrations with other religion's celebrations.  I can't imagine the Christian response to Sukkot.  "Oh yeah, those Jews build temporary huts to celebrate the harvest, well then we will build a Costco every year to celebrate abundance."  Its silly.

Third, everyone should teach their children and themselves to be comfortable in their own skin.  How can you do that when you are putting up a "Hanukkah Bush" (not sure if that is a presidential salute or something more obscene).

Fourth, I feel bad for Jews who only acknowledge any education or identity once a year - and only in response to a competition.  Its more important to keep some level of awareness and education during the year.  Not in a preachy way, but to let yourselves and your children know who you are and what your values are.  Don't give into the seasonal guilt!  

I don't want to sound like I'm on a soapbox. I think everyone should adopt a lifestyle they feel comfortable with - just with some forethought and not as an afterthought.  

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the holiday season.  It's all good, whether you are eating Chanukkah food or feasting on Christmas dinner.


Anyone who has young children, boys or both knows that feeling that starts in the back of your neck and turns into full blown panic when you are at a public place or someone else's house and they start to act wild.  The wrestling, the screaming, the intense demands on you to deal with a Pokemon issue, all cause you to feel like you should somehow whip out the duct tape and cover their mouths and hands. 

I feel responsible for trying to make sure my boys don't bother anyone else or break anything, but that is like trying to contain sand in a mesh bag.  It is a futile effort that leaves me angry and exhausted.  Yet, I cannot let them run wild.  Guaranteed - they will break something or someone.  I try two different approaches - proactive and reactive.  Proactively, I explain to them why they need to behave and what the consequences are.  They of course, ignore me.  I plead with them to act, and I use the word act for a reason, like normal human beings.  I tell them that if they fight they will get thrown off the plane and I will not get off with them.  It doesn't necessarily work.

Reactively, I try and explain that if they keep throwing a rubber ball around, it will break something or hurt someone. I take the ball away and before I can slip it into my purse, they have found a way to make a plastic bag into a weapon.  There is a reason why MacGyver was male. 

I talk in hushed tones telling them not to stand on furniture.  I  am not above giving them a small pinch to not throw straw wrappers in a restaurant or talk to loudly in my mother's condo.

Just so you know I don't expect them to be in straight jackets, I give them outside time.  I have them play where they can release their energy in an appropriate place. I bring lots of electronic gadgets on the plane along with plenty of snacks.

I understand that the nature of a child is not to be confined and restricted.  But if I don't teach them proper social norms, how will they ever function in the real world.  And worse, they will need to move back home after college. 

So I continue my struggle with letting boys be boys and not being sued for assault with a deadly weapon when one of those bouncy balls "accidentally" knocks out a senior citizen's teeth.

Am I Missing Something?

I have strange mixed feelings about missing two reunions within the past 2 weeks.  My 25th year high school reunion was last weekend.  I really wanted to go, but it wasn't possible.  So through the magical world of FB, I was able to see the pictures.  At first, since no one was identified, I thought that I am loosing my memory and that people must have changed so much that I didn't recognize anyone.

That would have been nice, but instead I realized that I didn't know most of the people because I didn't know most of the people.  Having gone to a school with over 600 kids in the grade, I realize that no one knew everyone.  But for me, having gone to a different junior high than almost everyone else and not being popular (I know it's hard to believe) I thought back to my high school years and realized I kept to myself because I was under-confident and over-nervous.  

I thought everyone else was much better, smarter, prettier and more confident.  Of course I know that's not true.  But I think I was very uncomfortable because I didn't know anyone going into high school.  

I was also concerned that going to the reunion would consist of an evening of judging and comparisons.  "Hmmm.... that one is still thin, but she has an ugly husband who doesn't have the income to make up for it"  "That one over there is fat and bald.  She looked much better back in the day"  " I remember that guy as being such a freak, and now he owns Google"  "That one was such a bitch, but she looks like she has lead a hard life.  Plus she has wrinkles."

Maybe it's better for my class that I didn't go.

The other reunion was from my first job.  It was at the Government Accountability Office, a congressional agency who audits other government offices.  This office had about 100 people and I was there for seven years.  I wish I could have gone to say hi and see my old colleagues.  I am among the youngest in that group, so you can imagine how much I wanted to go.  

I guess all this looking back makes me sad.  I still have that residue feeling of not quite fitting in.  I wish I had the insight and confidence to have put aside my insecurities and open up in high school.  I wish I was friends with some of the happy looking people in the pics.  

But then again, do I?  Isn't it all just my self imposed impressions of people.  Maybe it was good that I wasn't friends with some of them because we had nothing in common or would not have gotten along.  Maybe if I had been more self confident, I would have taken some poor risks and not have ended up any better.

Who knows?  All I know now is that I am very grateful for the friends I have now.  They are of my own choosing.  I am at the point where I really don't care about school yard politics or social slights.  I can barely handle four kids, a husband, dog and a full time job.  Why would I want to be bothered with people whom I didn't enjoy?

So in the end, I still have mixed feelings, but also a sense of being comfortable enough to rejoice in my great friendships.

A close call

What a terrifying experience I  had yesterday.  I was sitting in my office, attempting to bill Medicaid, which is very similar to Alice in Wonderland's tea party, but not as satisfying when the phone rings.  "This is the school nurse".  "Which school?  I have kids at three schools".  Ok I figure out it is my older son's school (because the nurse told me so) and she says "I'm concerned about Joe".  And I though, "Yeah, me too - who isnt?"  In my head I'm thinking that it must be some sort of stomach ache that shouldn't necessitate me picking him up.

No, that wasn't it.  She said that he was playing pick up football with friends at recess and he was tackled and hit his head.  At first it didn't register with me that it was serious.  I was still thinking that maybe he had a cut or scrape.  Instead she said that he may have lost consciousness and had an altered mental status.  He kept repeating the same phrases and wasn't responding to her questions.  She wanted to know if she should call an ambulance or if I wanted to come get him.  As soon as she uttered those words I transformed into Major Adrenaline Mama (MAM).  I shut down my computer and grabbed my stuff while she was still talking and told her I would come get him because I thought he might be too scared to go alone in an ambulance.

I ran into my boss' office and told her that I was leaving and I ran out the building into my car.  I recalled my Boston driving skills and sped out of the parking lot.  Not being able to go too crazy because I work in a downtown area full of pedestrians, I went those few blocks to the highway calmly, but aggressively.  Then I was like a bat out of hell.  Driving over 80, I weaved my way to the exit in record time.  While doing this I was calling my husband and texting him the number to the school nurse. Once off the exit, I figured that if right on red was for regular times, then left on red should be for emergencies.  As I entered the parking lot, I threw my car into a space,  and bolted for the door.  

Once there I went straight to the nurses office and saw my son sitting there staring off into space.  He knew his name and who I was, but he couldn't remember most of the day and kept repeating the same five questions over and over.  I felt a cold wash of dread go through my body and a knot in my stomach.  I calmly put him in the car and repeated my creative Bostonian driving to the Children's Hospital.  I handed the keys to a valet(thats how you know it's serious) and accidently left my phone in the car.  I took him in and was frustratingly told to fill out paperwork before they would see him.

After waiting 30 minutes, which I realize isn't bad in an ER, but still every time they called someone else I had to restrain myself from asking the nurse if that child was so sick that he/she took precedence over a head injury.  Finally, the triage nurse took us back and at that moment my husband walked in.  They interviewed Joe, who could tell them what day it was and who the president is, so they told us to wait in the lobby for 2 hours and then come back for reassessment.  During those 2 hours, my husband played with Joe on the iphone and joked around with him. I couldn't even speak.  Imagine that?  I was so upset, I couldn't say a word.

We went back after 2 hours and they put us in a room.  A nurse came in and hooked Joe up on a heart monitor, blood pressure monitor and pulse Oxygen monitor.  Then a resident came in and assessed him.  Finally, the attending came in and ordered a CT scan.  Joe was in good spirits and seemed to be coming back to his self.  Still, he seemed kind of out of it.  Eventually, three hours later, the doctor came back and said that his CT scan was negative.  I left to go home to the other kids and to relieve my babysitter.  It was almost 9:00.  Meanwhile, I had to call back his teacher and let her know what happened and what to tell the other kids, who had all been calling to see how he was.

Finally, Joe and my husband got home after a stop at Subway because Joe hadn't eaten in ten hours and usually he eats massive quantities of food every couple of hours.  

Once I was in bed, I began to think about what could have happened and how horrible it must be for other parents.  We were fortunate that Joe was OK, but it made me think of this BU hockey player who was injured when I was there.  He had dreamed of playing college hockey his whole life.  His first time out on the ice at BU, he was hit within the first five minutes and his spinal cord was damaged.  He became a quadrapalegic.  Imagine how his parents felt!  Imagine how horrible he must have felt.  For many years, they dedicated games in his honor and he would come in his wheelchair.  I wonder if they still do that, or if he is forgotten.  I wonder if he was able to make a life for himself.

Well, I told Joe that his football days are over.  He is upset he has to sit out two weeks of basketball, but that's a very small price to pay.  I will never let him play football or ice hockey.   I'm way too paranoid.  Besides, basketball is easier - no bulky equipment or early ice times to deal with.

Anyway, I am still shaken and look forward to a large glass of wine and facinating TV to quell my nerves.  

Election day

Tonight is election night.  I never feel good about who I vote for.  Usually its the lesser of two evils.  I don't belong to any political party because I am disgusted with both of them.  They are both full of obnoxious people who focus on telling us why the other one is bad.  Its like two fighting siblings.  Neither is right and obviously, neither have the answers.  I don't care whose fault anyone says a problem is - no one has been able to solve so no one is an ideal person to have running the show.

OK - now that I have had my turn as a pundit, I will move onto much more important topics such as how much I hate to cook dinner.  Oh yes, it's bad enough on routine days when I am sick of trying to come up with decent food that my family will eat.  Especially because I would be happy enough with a lean cuisine.  What's worse are days when I get home late because of a sporting event or meeting. Then I am faced with a hungry brood and no energy left to deal with them.  Somehow, no one else is capable of cooking anything in my house.  Why is that?

It is now 10:30pm and I am still helping children with homework.  Why do the teachers do this to me?  Do they not understand that I have four kids and work full time?  They should really be more considerate.

I will go and put something in the crock pot so that I will have dinner ready for tomorrow.  Didn't I just feed them dinner tonight?  Do they have to eat every night?

I support you

It was like a bad sitcom, only it was my real life.  I finally decided that I need to find a grief support group to help me deal with my persistent feelings of sadness and loss about my dad.  So, I looked around and lo and behold, my synagogue has a grief support group.  So, I planned my week around it, cancelled some plans and made sure I could make the wednesday meeting.

After throwing dinner at the kids and leaving my husband in a sea of screaming children, I arrive at the synagogue ready to grieve in a group.  I walk in and there are plenty of groups meeting in rooms.  None of them look sad, so I asked the rabbi who was in the hall where the grief group is.  He said that it wasn't meeting any longer because not enough people signed up.  

What?  Am I the only person in Houston who grieves?  Is everyone else happy with their losses?  Does no one else feel like there is an empty hole in their life?  Apparently so.  Talk about feeling alone!  What am I to do?

I realize I could see a therapist, but I really don't have the time.  I work full time and have two children in sports.  That alone puts me at home at 9:00 two nights a week.  I try to make plans once a week to meet a girlfriend for dinner and let my husband go out with the guys once a week.  There is all my time.  There is no time to commit to seeing a therapist every week.  Thats why a support group, without the commitment, seemed like a good idea.

Oh well, maybe I could pretend that I went to an overeaters anonymous group and it had disbanded.  Or lap banded.  Therefore, I am off the hook and free to gorge on halloween candy.  Perhaps I could go to a Resenters Anonymous group.  I have a lot of resentment about the demands on me and the lack of appreciation I feel.  I would drop dead of shock (and thus causing someone else to need a grief support group) if I ever came home from work to a dinner that was made, laundry folded, homework completed and a kind, nag-free evening of watching my favorite shows.  I think that is what they call heaven.

I could have a lot of fun making up support group.  I'll begin with road rage anonymous.  How come I am the only one with good driving skills wherever I go?  Not all the people on the road would agree with that statement, but it's my group so lets go with it.  I could have this group where we re-live our most stressful moments on the road and scream obscenities at each other.  Since I assume everyone in both Texas and NY are armed, I can never scream at them in real life.  I don't think my suggestions about where they should put their drive shaft are appreciated.

Supermarket fatigue support group.  Am I in the Groundhog's day movie or do I constantly find myself wandering the same isles of the supermarket?  Somehow I expect that a great and easy dinner idea will jump off the shelves and into my arms.  Instead, I go to one end of the store and realize that I must have an ingredient all the way of the other end of this olympic stadium sized store.  No way I can do without fresh rosemary for a recipe I may or may not make in the next 10 weeks.  Better to trapse for fifteen minutes pushing an overflowing cart of processed products than to go without it.

Any ideas for more support groups that wont be empty when I show up to them?

Just what kind of parent are you?

I am proud to say that I am not the kind of parent you will see on TV (except maybe Jerry Springer) who hovers over their child -or for that matter even remembers their names.  I can never remember who is doing what activity unless I am reminded several times. 

When it comes to school, I am not the parent who takes their kids' side on anything.  I assume the teacher would not be wasting their time unless there was some issue that my kid was causing.  I work with the teachers to make sure that the home/school consequences are in sync.

However, on the extremely rare occasion that I take my kid's side - watch out.  Such an occasion has arisen and I am struggling with how to handle it.  My over-anxious and meticulous high school student is having trouble in her favorite subject. I have seen the teacher's comments on her papers and read her assignments.  In fact, I ended up rereading Macbeth in order to help her with an assignment.  Now I am a witch fortelling a scary future.  The teacher, who appears to be in her early 20s and in need of some spanx, has left sarcastic comments on her papers that do not help her improve.

Rather, sarcasm from a teacher as well as an obnoxious attitude raises up the Mama Bear in me.  At the back to school night, this same teacher said that she didn't expect students to do the assigned outside reading.  This is an AP class in a Jewish high school.  Are you kidding?  There isn't a parent in the room who wouldn't have made sure their child did the reading and wrote an optional report on the book.  Some may have arranged for the authors to come visit the house and explain the underlying meaning in their prose.

So on Monday, I will sit face to face with this teacher and try to politely point out that she is not helping her students by being indirect and obtuse.  I have to be careful not to use too many big words because I'm sure I don't know their definitions and will misuse them.  

It is always difficult to talk to someone who will be with my daughter all year when it is an adversarial situation.  I don't want to attack her teaching methods, but I do want her to change them.  Even though my kids accuse me regularly of not caring about them because I work full time (don't get crazy stay-at-home moms, they did the same thing when I stayed home full time), I do make sure that  at least their academic life will succeed.  The last thing I need is for kids to have to live at home when they are older because they never were academically successful enough to parlay that into a job.  Anyway, I am gearing up to tell this angry, unattractive 20 something to get her classroom in shape.  Not an enviable situation for either of us.

I will keep you updated as to how it turns out.  I hope they have internet access in jail, in case things get ugly.

Left out or opting out?

We have all been on both sides of this equation.  On the one side is the power holder.  The person or people who we really want to invite us to hang out with them.  We look up to them, think they are entertaining, cool and socially slightly above us.  We really enjoy their company and want to be just a little bit like them.   They invite us to hang out and to go places and do things.  It really makes us feel great.  Until.....we read on Facebook or hear from another friend that they went off to do something really fun with someone else.  Now you feel like a jilted lover.  How could they go see that movie with another person and not invite me?  What did I do?

As you get older, you realize intellectually that people can socialize with whomever they want.  That no one owes you anything and that it is not disloyal to have a wide group of friends.  But emotionally, you are still sitting in the sandbox left to play by yourself while all the cool kids are going to the see saw - which only has room for two.

As you get older, this competitive socializing can take on a life of it's own. It starts out innocently enough and then before you know it you are acting like a politician trying to get votes - kissing babies, shaking hands and making promises all in the hopes of keeping yourself with the IN crowd.  You get jealous when you hear about a card game you weren't invited to or a coffee that you missed.  You start to drag your family to events that no one else wants to go to in order to maintain your status.

But where are you in all this?  How easy it is to lose sight of what we strive for as we leave adolescence and go through adulthood - our own identity.  So what if your new friend didn't ask you to the ladies night out - maybe it wasn't her decision or that some dynamics just don't work.  You shouldn't take it personally.  Maybe she didn't ask you because as much as she likes you, she needed to hang out with a different group of people that gave her something she needed.  It could be more empathy or emotional support or comic relief.  It doesn't matter, no one can or should want to be all things to all people.

This leads to the other side of the equation.  There is always someone who really likes you and wants to do everything together.  Naturally, this makes us feel uneasy and gasping for air.  Everyone likes variety.  We have some friends we can bear our soul to but couldn't stand shopping with.  Others who are charming, but not someone I could discuss politics with.  And still others whom you like, but you hate their other friends or their spouse.  So the dilema becomes how do keep their friendship without it crushing you?

I don't have the answers.  I have been on both sides.  One famous example was a couple who I really liked and admired when I was younger.  We went out to dinner and when we finished it was like 9:30 on a saturday night in New York City.  My husband and I were ready to hit the town with our great friends.  But as we walked out of the restaurant, my frenemy said "which way are you going?" and then went in the opposite direction leaving us standing there like fools. Ouch. This same friend, on a different occasion, let it slip that she went to a mutual friends bridal shower - and she knew I wasn't invited.  It took me years to get over this rejection.

It wasn't until I realized that I could give as good as I could get that I could move on.  Although now, I must admit, I avoid her Facebook page and anything else that reminds me of that awful feeling.  Yet I have had people who wanted to be my friend.  I liked them, but not enough to want to spend every waking moment with them.  So I backed away and felt horrible about it.  I felt suffocated and grew bored of them.  It wasn't nice, but I was the dumper instead of the dumpee.

I am now hitting my stride where I can hang out with a group of people and enjoy it.  When I hear that other things went on without me - I'm cool with that.  I appreciate the time to chill and not have to be "on" all the time.  I also like having different groups of friends to bounce around.  It gets monotonous having the same people at every social outing.  Also, you can't bring some groups of people together, so it's better to enjoy them separately.  I make time for people I care about and cut out people that I feel I have to try too hard with.

Not to say that there aren't hurt feelings from time to time.  I had a couple we were friends with who borrowed a table because she was having her good friends over for a celebration.  Needless to say I wasn't invited.  It is kind of a joke or code word now in my head.  Still, even at my advanced age when I can laugh at it, I'm always crying just a little bit inside.

So the moral of the story is that we never exit seventh grade.  Pretty scary.

Worry wart

"Relax, chill out". These words  make me nervous and anxious.  Who can possibly relax?  Apparently many people who are not me.  Its not that I don't want to relax, I would love to.  But I have a constant "to do" list going on in my head.  Its like the credits at the end of a movie that just keep rolling. How can I sit and enjoy my TV show when there are three loads of laundry to be folded?  How can I kick back when there are mounds of paperwork to go through, bills to pay and emails to answer?

During those rare occasions when I am able to put these thoughts aside, I fantasize about winning the lottery.  Then I figure out what I would do with the money.  Which in turn gets me anxious.  I figure out how much money it would take to pay off everything and it puts me into a cold sweat.  Then I think about how to share the money with siblings, and mom; which charities would get big donations and to make sure not to become ostentatious.  Soon, I argue with myself. Should I give the money to people I know who could use it?  But only anonomously.  Would that cause more problems?  Would it really be the right thing to do?  

OK, so I will never have to actually worry about that - especially because I rarely play the lottery.  Other times I think back to happy memories.  But then I get anxious that these good times have passed.  I will never get these days back.  I wish I could turn back the clock.  But that makes me feel old.  Then I get anxious about feeling old.  If I feel old now, what will I feel like in a few years?

Can you see how nuts I am?  I can't stop thinking these crazy things.  I think about how my kids will be when they grow up.  Then I worry about them and what the world will be like when they are adults.  Will they have happy relationships and good careers?  Will they want me to babysit excessively? What about all the jealousies between them?

OK, even writing this is making me feel anxious.  The whole point of this blog is to help me sort out what goes on in my head.  So, did this help me tonight?  I don't know, I'm worried about whether I'll have enough to say for my next entry.

The road not traveled

Do you ever find yourself wondering what would have happened if you had chosen differently?  What if I had taken another job?  Another school?  Another city?  Never had kids?  Had fewer kids?  Had more kids - OK not that one.

Lately, I find myself fantasizing about how things could have been different.  Sure, I only think of the great aspects of these choices - not other missed opportunities.  What if I had stayed in Manhattan, never had kids and led the life of a career woman.  I would be rich by now.  I would not have to pay only portions of each bill every month to make sure that while not being late, I am also never quite caught up.  I would have been thinner, had better clothes and been inundated with cultural activities.  Sure, if I followed through this fantasy, i might have still been working in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  But lets not get too picky.  

I think about the years I stayed home with my kids.  All those years of stress and hair pulling and for what?  For teenage years of fresh mouth and lamenting about how I don't do enough for them.  I could have been earning a nice salary and received the same ungrateful attitude.

Oh, and the travel i missed!  Having four kids brings a lot of joy, but it doesn't allow for a lot of travel.  Six plane tickets - yeah right.  Everything is built for families of four.  Hotel rooms, rental cars, vacation packages.  It is an ordeal for us to travel by car a few hours away.  

Yes - I am well aware that the realities of these situations would not be so rosy.  Perhaps I would be lonely with a fab city  life (unlikely) or jealous of  my friends with kids.  Maybe I would feel like I missed out on my kids milestones if I had worked full time (not so much after the first kid) and I'm sure schlepping through Europe with kids is not the same as a honeymoon (but I'd like to find out for myself).  

I think I need some rose colored wine to go with my rose colored glasses.

Superior vision

I apologize for being away from the blog for a while.  I was dealing with some health issues.  Nothing that will kill me and nothing that is anyone's business.  I don't want to get into the details because I don't want a lot of unsolicited advice.

Anyway, I noticed today that I, along with most females, have a unique ability to see things that others cannot.  No, not x-ray vision that would get me a job in airport security, that would be too easy.  And no, not the kind of vision that can see through scratch-off lottery tickets, no such luck.  Instead, it seems like only I can see the mess that is left all over the house.  How do I know this?  Because no one else sees these things.  I can tell by there lack of actions.

I walk through the house and lo and behold there are a legion of miscellaneous socks strewn about.  But only I can see them.  They sit about completely invisible to everyone else.  Except other women who would come into my house and wonder why my house is such a mess.

I stroll to the kitchen and notice that all of the spoons we own are dirty.  I even notice that I need to put them in the dishwasher.  Because no one else will see this until the morning when they want cereal.  

I am the only one who can see school forms.  OK, not all the time.  I may have forgotten a few of those.  

Why can't I see the couch that everyone else is sitting on?

Can you at least say thank you?

I think it's a mistake to think too much about things. I tend to over-analyze situations and it depresses me.  Why can't a comment, just be a comment instead of a hidden meaning?  Also, I tend to see only negative comments, rather than positive comments.  It's entirely possible that there are more positive underhanded comments flying around out there that I am missing because I am too focused on what possible negative undertones someone could mean.

Lately, I have just been assuming that people aren't thinking or talking about me, and that the world doesn't revolve around my perspective or boundries.  Sometimes, people say and do things that can be construed as negative by me, but are not intended that way.  I have decided to only pay attention to those comments and actions that are specifically directed at me.  

Why do I say all this?  I had a situation at work this week where someone I supervise asked me for a special favor.  She needed me to alter her work schedule and she wanted this done in less than two days.  So, I tried to explain that I needed to check with HR, and make sure that it was OK with them.  I also needed to see what our department policy was.  She couldn't understand that it wasn't all about her- that there might be other people in the workplace affected.  So, I went out of my way to make it work for her.  This involved me spending two days working with HR staff, drafting a new agency-wide policy, re-working other people's schedules and duties.  In return, all I got from the employee was "I don't know what all the fuss was about."

I was pretty infuriated.  Rather than "Thanks for going out of your way to help me out" or "You are the best boss that ever lived"  I got a scowl and a giant FU.  Now, I realize this isn't really about me.  Its all about what is going in her head - none of this is really about me.  But still, it would have been nice to have gotten a positive nod.

Anyway, its not about me, so I will take a deep breath and try and teach this employee that when they ask for a favor and for others to go out of their way, she needs to react accordingly and not burn bridges along the way.  

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

In addition to all of my other accomplishments, we can now add diplomat.  I have figured out how to solve the ground zero Mosque issue.  First, let me tell you that I worked at the World Trade Center for seven years, so this is a very sensitive subject for me.  Also, I am Jewish, so the whole Islamic thing is kinda scary for me.

At first I struggled with both sides of the issue.  To be honest, I had to first get over some issues with the Mosque.  First, Islam doesn't seem to be very nice to the ladies.  Not to be close-minded but the whole "honor killing" thing doesn't sit well with me.  And while we are on the subject of killing.... while many religions advocate killing for their cause, in today's world, it's only the fanatic faction of Islam that has suicide bombers killing other people, fellow muslims and anyone for any reason.  

Finally, Muslims have a major PR problem.  There is no Ghandi or Martin Luther King to be the voice of peace and non-violence.  There is no positive singular leader that the West can relate to.  People are looking for a positive icon, but there is a huge vacuum there.  In fact, even when there is a cartoon that Muslims don't like, the response is violence and rioting.  But that is an unfair depiction of all Muslims.  Therein lies the Public Relations problem.  What they really need is a good face - a Muslim Oprah-  Everyone seems to agree that Oprah is the face of reason.

Anyway, back to my diplomatic brilliance.  They should turn the Ground Zero Mosque into a multi-cultural central with a mosque, synagogue, church and meditation room all in the same center.  It should also have a theater, Kosher/Hallal cafe, gym and community gathering room.  This would truly be promoting peace and understanding between people of all faiths.  Further, the vaguely identified funding from the Imam should pay for it as a gesture that they truly mean business when they say peace and healing is what they want.

I hope this doesn't result in a Fatwah on my head.  I am not mocking anything about Islam or advocating any form of discrimination or violence.  Rather, I am seeking understanding of how we can come to terms with something that is hard for most Americans to digest.  Maybe some Baklavah would help.

Back to school shopping

Despite the cutsey commercials about pouty kids and gleeful parents going back to school shopping, it is, in fact a nightmere.  First, you spend a lot of money on clothes.  Why? Not sure.  True they grow, but at a certain rate, like plants. Why they suddenly need a whole  new wardrobe when three months ago their clothes were fine for school is a giant mystery.  Apparently in these three months, all the styles have changed.  What was hip and "in" is now passe, and so-five-minutes-ago.  And these are kids who wear uniforms to school. 


After somehow spending a ton of dough on new shoes, sox, underwear (really, your underwear is now out of style?), uniforms, weekend wear, accessories, hair ribbons, watches, glasses and belts, its time to hit the office supply stores.  With the younger kids, I got a list a mile long for obsolete items such as blue erasable pens.  I believe thats what pencils are for.  Or 220 pages of notebook paper.  Of course they are only sold in packs of 150 pages.  Lest we forget the index card holder and the six quart clear boxes. 


This year my philosophy started out very sane.  If they didn't sell the school supply in the same Walmart where I buy my groceries, I wasn't getting it.  No more chasing after odd, custom-made sizes of poster board.  And lest you scoff at the Walmart reference, their food stores rock.  Same food, but cheaper.  And they sell wine and beer.  What more can you ask for?  True, i have to go to different stores for some fancier ingredients, but thats OK.  I am happy to do most of my shopping where I spend less on the staples.  Plus, I feel good knowing that I feed my kids for the absolute lowest price.


Speaking of Staples, eldest child is picky about school supplies and insisted we drive 30 minutes away to find a Staples because she likes their brand of binder.  Nevermind that we live five minutes from an OfficeMax, Target, Walmart and ten from Office Depot.   Plus, I was on to the Staples trick of having a great price on a couple of items, and very high prices on everything else.  Sure I saved $3.00 on pencils, but I spent an extra $49 on binders.  Never would have happened at Walmart.


Anyway, I know that the first day of school is coming and I will see the children go into the school and meet their teachers.  At the end of the day, I will ask them how the first day went.  And they will hand me an additional list of school supplies that they will need by the next week.....

Why did you have to do that?

The hardest part about being a parent sometimes is resisting the urge to choke your children and scream "you idiot, if you would just behave a little bit then I would be able to give you so much more instead of spending my time punishing you".  Sounds like an episode of Sex and the City but it is really an episode of Teenager in the Suburbs.  

In this case, my darling teenage daughter, could not stop fighting with her younger brother.  I tried to remind her that if she could just be civil, even just not speak to him at all, then we could have our special evening together after the others went to sleep.  It involved covert chocolate and trashy TV.  What more could anyone ask for?  I practically pleaded with her to weigh the importance of making her brother cry and spending a whole night of privilege with me.  But she couldn't help herself.  It was too tempting.  With one shout of the F word she put a screeching halt to all our plans.  I will consume all that chocolate by myself.  I will erase the shows from the DVR.  I will not reward her for being cruel.

We all make bad decisions in our lives.  I can look back and see that my prospective on things was blurry, skewed by emotion and circumstance, and there are things I should have done differently.  But luckily none of them were terrible.  In the life of a teen, they can do life damaging things based on pride and mostly stupidity.  We all read about it in the paper and watch the TV movies (mostly staring Melissa Gilbert or Alissa Milano I confuse the two).  I can only pray that my daughters impulsivity will not get her into more trouble.  

At the same time she is learning how to drive.  What a bad idea to have poor decision makers behind the wheel.  Believe me, I am well aware of the convenience having them running the errands and driving themselves from place to place. But I think they should be in specially marked cars.  Like those pizza delivery cars with the huge triangular sign on top.  They should have to put those on top of the car when they are driving it.  It could diplomatically say "Teen Driver"  but when you flash your high beams on it, it could read "poor judgement".

So now I am in the position of being the punisher when I wanted was to be the peacemaker.  I can't relent and reward the bad behavior, as much as I was looking forward to our evening together.  I also have to let the other children know that nasty behavior will not be tolerated.  

Oh well, it gives me an excuse for some "me" time, which as we all know will just mean that I fall asleep by 9:30.  

Its a Different World

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are completely and utterly out of place and in a different world?  Sometimes you can embrace it and/or view it as an anthropological study.  Today, for a business meeting, I had to go into a neighborhood right out of a Spike Lee movie.  Not a bagel shop in sight.  Not even big chain stores.  Just hair salons and fried fish restaurants.  I entered the meeting, one of two caucasians, and was wondering if this meeting would be any different because the demographics were so homogenous in a way I'm unacustommed to.  I imagined that many African American people must feel the same way whenever they attend a meeting full of white people.


There were only very minor differences.  One was that there was a prayer.  I think that was more of a Southern/Texas thing than an African American thing.  I am never freaked out by this because I am not uncomfortable with other people praying.  I am comfortable enough with my own religion and spirituality that I enjoy watching others get something out of their own prayer services.  I don't participate, because that would feel wrong to me, but I take an academic view and enjoy learning about how people pray and in my head compare that to all the TV and movies I have seen about church.  Occasionally, I will get a vision of Fred Sanford stuck in my head telling his deceased wife "Lizbeth" that the Lord was coming to take him.


The only other minor difference was more vocal agreements during speeches.  Kind of like on TV, where a lady yells out "Amen brother" there was a lady doing that in this meeting.  But again, I really enjoyed it.  I am very expressive and think that us uptight white New Englanders could learn a thing or two about interjecting "Lord, I hear you brother" when being presented with the current state of a clinic's operations.


Finally, everyone was warm and welcoming.  They all hugged me and we exchanged cards and thought of ways in which we could be mutually helpful to each other.  The underlying business model of the place was impressive and well thought out and well funded.  I was happy to see that with all the strife and differences I read about in the paper and see on TV, in real life I felt very comfortable and happy that the only differences are the ones that we make up in our heads.  Amen brother.   - There is one funny thing that happened earlier in the day.  I got on an elevator and a large black woman started singing the theme to the Jeffersons.  How often does that happen?

To the Mall!!

Todays thoughts are going to be about the American mall experience.  Yesterday I took my daughter shopping for some clothes.  Sounds like a simple task, but it is analogous to saying "I just went into Iraq to pick up Osama Bin Laden."  Only, its more exhausting than that.  Because it involves hundreds of teenagers and even more anxious, overwhelmed and throughly exhausted parents.  

First, we went to a shoe store.  Now, these shoe stores are very very clever.  They use a rouse to trick you into thinking that it is normal to pay $60 for sneakers.  How do they do this?  By telling you that if you buy one pair, the second pair is half off.  Of course the prices have been jacked up at least 400%, so you end up "saving" -350%  If I remember correctly from my finance classes, when I was getting my MBA, that is bad.  In order to overspend on the shoes, I first had to endure 80 minutes of watching my daughter try on shoes. She has been blessed with my size 10 foot size, which means finding the shoe of your dreams, then looking for 10 minutes at the boxes of shoes on the shelf underneath, eagerly awaiting the box that contains your pair.  Keep looking, and looking, but wait, there are no more boxes?  Why don't any of the sizes in this pretty shoe reach the dreaded double digits?  Because life as a size 10 foot is a bitch.

So, you keep going and going until you finally find that size 10.  But it is ugly, so you go to the clearance rack to see what they have there in the size 10 section.  Worse, being a size 10, you are relegated to the "Size 10 and up" section.  You have to be in an infinite category of Sasquatch foot.  Well, they must have a lot of trannies that shop at the Foot Locker, because all the shoes in that section look like either tranny wear or hooker shoe.  Which of course is the same thing.  The only other selections are the "butch wear" items of birkenstock-like fakes and what may or may not be a scandinavian sandal, but looks suspiciously like a rubber mat with straps.

We finally left the store with only one pair of shoes and entered one of those teen clothing stores.  First, I was assaulted by the blaring music sounding like one of those cars whose back seat was replaced with speakers was following me around.  Then, there were thousands of teenage girls and their mothers attacking hundreds of racks of crappy-made clothes.  After about an hour of circling the store, we headed into the dressing room with 14 items.  Wait, there is a six item limit.  So I stood outside the dressing rooms waiting for my daughter to come out after trying on each outfit.

I am not very patient to begin with, so this was excruciating.  Plus, in a cruel joke, there was no phone reception in the store, so I had no distraction other than people watching.  Yes, I got to feel superior and judgemental to overweight 15 year olds. I'm sure there is a special hell waiting for me, other than the inside of my minivan.  These girls were trying on clothes that put an emphasis on parts that should be hidden.  There is no shame in pretending to be Bohemian because you are really wearing flowing garments to cover fat.  Maude was a fashion queen who was not recognized in her time.

Keeping a poker face as these girls trapsed out of the dressing room with ill fitting garments and too-short skirts, I waited for my daughter to spend 15 minutes in front of a mirror deciding on a tank top.  I tried not to scream "Its a friggin' tank top dammit.  It doesn't take this long to build an actual tank".  Eventually, after several more trips in and out of the dressing room, exchanging tried-on clothes for new ones, never to violate the six garment limit, she decided on two items.  

So, I went to pay for them.  For all the money the store puts into merchandise, lighting, music and posters, they only managed to hire two cashiers.  I waited on the line, behind someone who was about 12 buying one item that somehow took 5 full minutes.  Eventually, we were permitted to leave the store, bag in hand.  

"Where are we going next?"  asked my daughter.  Before I could reply that I would be going to the morgue if I didn't sit down and have a large coffee and perhaps a Cinnebonn, the only real reason for visiting a mall, she was already heading into another store that was almost the same as the one we just left.  

By the end of the day, when we finally found my car in the poorly marked mall parking lot space, I could barely summon the energy to look at her and say "I had so much fun spending time with you today".

Tattoo You

No kidding, I could not make this up.  Yesterday I saw a man with a tattoo on his forehead that said "".  On his forehead.  You cannot hide that.  Not even with bangs.  When asked about it, he said that he had a job at a tattoo parlor and he was so greatful for the job that he had the staff tattoo his forehead.  Great judgement- he is no longer working there, but the tattoo is still there.

I really think its incredible when people decide to do something so stupid.  What would be going on in your head to decide that a tattoo is a good idea - on your face no less.  There are so many other things you can do that are equally expressive but not as insane.  

For a long time, I thought that if I were to get a tattoo, it would be of the Boston Red Sox logo.  I can't imagine where I would get it though.  There is no good place.  There is not much skin I like to show.  If it is on my arm, it would swing like a trapeeze.  If it were on my leg, it would looks strange and would change shape after a while.  I certainly would not get it on my forehead.

I also laugh at people who get a love interest's name tattooed on them.  That is a surefire way to doom the relationship.  I'm sure within a week or two the relationship ends.  Imagine how Bristol Palin would have felt if she were to have Levi's name tattooed on her.  Of course being that her name is that of a shaving cream and she named her son Tripp, an accidental act that causes injuries, I am pretty sure good judgement is not one of her better qualities.

In any case, think before you tattoo.  Don't get anything on your face - what would your mother say?


Oh, the unimaginable frustrations of trying to make someone else do something.  My son does not want to do his summer book report.  This sounds like a small thing, but it's not. It's a symbol of the overall frustration many people, especially women, feel everyday.  

In this case, my son avoids the work, causing me to nag, nag, nag.  I can't do it for him, so I feel powerless and enraged and resentful.  This is also how I feel about housework that others are supposed to do that doesn't get done.  I don't want to be a nag, so if I don't say anything and let him face the natural consequences, he will suffer.  I let this happen when the consequences aren't too bad.  But when you are starting a new school and you really need the practice writing, it requires nagging.

It is a very frustrating feeling to feel powerless to make something happen that you feel responsible for.  It makes me feel resentful and upset that I have all the pressure and none of the tools to make it happen.  When I do have the means, I get stuff done.  A lot of stuff.  Crazy amounts of stuff.  I can make elaborate dinners on short notice, stay up with children completing assignments deep into the night, arrange for complex carpools, and plan a birthday party - all in the same day.  Without the obstacle of having to depend on someone else to do their part, I can move mountains.

I know that makes it sound like I don't like to share.  Not true.  I would much rather be a cog in the wheel than have to reinvent it all the time.  Its also not that I am a control freak.  I am very happy to let the other ladies run school events and I can volunteer to be bossed about.  I don't feel the need to add my two cents because my responsibility is limited to the task that I am handling.  

So when can I relax and not have to be held hostage by the crushing amount of responsibility?  I guess thats what the retirement home is for.

Money reflections

I am definately considering it a bad sign that not one, but two of my psychiatrist reading fans have contacted me and urged me into counseling.  The fact is I would love to go into counseling, but who has time?  Also, I consider it too self indulgent.  I can't help feeling that the poor therapist looking at me must be thinking "milk, eggs, cheese, bread" composing their shopping list in their head.  It feels kind of narcissistic to think that I have the right to complain to someone for an hour.

Anyway, I already have no time to do what needs to get done.  I only recently got my hair cut because my teenage daughter threatned to make me wear a burka unless I did some major self grooming.  I admit, it does feel good not to get confused with Kenny G anymore.  

I also recently agreed to write another article for our local magazine.  This time its about kids and money.  My kids know plenty about money - don't answer the phone when any creditors call or when the caller ID has a university telephone number.  They are just asking for money.  Also, I am relatively cheap and they know that if they complain about eating Walmart brand food, I will take it away.  If I could find out where to get government cheese, I would get some.  It would be fondue night every tuesday at my house.

Although my sibs and I relentlessly made fun of our parents for not using heat or air conditioning, I now see the value in that.  In Texas, I have to use AC because I did an analysis of the out of pocket maximum I would have to pay for heat exhaustion with my health insurance and the extra electric cost, but I keep slightly uncomfortable.  I am hoping to lull the kids to sleep at all times.

Also, if a towel from another child comes home in the backpack, I assume it's a gift from another parent.  Hotel shampoo is to be used before I open a new bottle of Suave (what a dumb name) and no one goes home from the dentist without some oral healthcare swag.

I gave up HBO because it wasn't worth it to me since I can stream shows on Netflix and all pay-per-season subscriptions should be watched in bars, as they were intended to be.  I do get looks when we travel and our family of six crams into one hotel room, but I can't let my kids stay alone in a hotel room or I will have to pay for damages.  Of course, I try to stay in hotels with a free breakfast.

I do have some standards.  I never drink wine where the bottle costs less than $4 or buy any discounted meats.  I spend a lot on my children's education in the hope I won't be supporting them later in life.   

Can we just get there please?

Some days you feel like a higher power is testing you.  I always have great anxiety about getting places on time.  Not because I am OCD or neurotic.  Its because I have to transport so many people and things all the time.  Take this morning....I get up extra early to make sure that I can leave on time to drop off one child at camp A and two other children at camp B before work.  Of course camp B will not let you drop them off before 8:30.  I am supposed to be at work at 8:00am.  

I get them all in the car and am backing out the driveway when one son remembers that he left something crucial at home.  OK...go back and get the item.  Start out again.  Hit every red light imaginable and then things start to pick up until....the train tracks.  Oh yes, a train was passing in front of me and I was the first one in the line.  Soon lots of people were behind me.  So I calm myself down and just wait for the endless train to go by.  Except that this train stops.  Not just for a minute or two, but the whole train just stops and doesn't move.  After about 10 minutes, I frantically start trying to back up enough to go on another road.

Of course, since there are so many cars behind me this is no easy feat.  But the other drivers know that I have nothing to lose.  I am an angry, overwraught mom in a minivan, a Toyota no less, who is late to get her kids to camp and herself to work.  The minivan is old and has scratches, so I have no qualms about using my finely honed Boston driving skills to drive over grassy medians to get where I am going.  I must have that trapped animal look because the cars behind me start to all back up so that I can get out.

Since my GPS was stolen, I had to rely on my backward sense of direction to get to this camp which I had only been to once before.  This causes me to go way out of my way, getting more nervous as the clock ticks away.  I finally outsmart the train and go 7 miles out of my way to get to the camp.  Despite the fact that my son is 12, I still have to get out of the car and sign him in.  Ahhhhh.  So I sign him in, bid him farewell and hop back into the car with the other two children.

Off to camp number two. Which of course is in the opposite direction of both camp one and where I need to go.  This camp has a road that leads to it with lots and lots of speed bumps.  It is the only time in life when I wish I had a hummer so I could steamroll over them.  Instead I steamroll over them and the entire car vibrates and seems to lose pieces along the way.  Finally after practically ejecting the kids, I can begin my commute.

Needless to say, but the time I get to work, I am an emotional wreck.  Where I work, parking is scarce.  You have a choice of the very limited parking lot which is the bottom floor of a larger parking structure.  There are lots of columns all over that are painted red, and whoever painted the parking lines on the uneven ground obviously thought that only motorcycles park there.  They are so close together, that I swear they are right on top of each other in one single line.  And being that this is Texas, half the cars are pickup trucks.

So I suck in my stomach as I am parking between the huge truck and the concrete pole hoping not to further damage my car.  I fit in, but can't really open the door to get out.  So I gently touch the car next to me and hope that they have the same color paint.  I squeeze out of the door, reminding me that I need to lose weight, and go into work.  

Phew, I need a nap and a massage.  No such luck.  But I survived the crazy commute for another day, even if I am inexcusably late.

Social Boot Camp

I just got back from picking my son up from overnight camp.  He is the first one to go of my four children, even though he is number three.  Its not for my lack of trying.  I would have loved for either or preferably both of the first two to go to sleep away camp- but they weren't the type.

In may day it was different.  I am the third of four children and I don't remember a lot of choice in the matter.  I thought every kid in the country was packed up and dropped off in the middle of New Hampshire the week after school let out.  And of course, you were picked up eight weeks later.  It was only later on that I realized that not everyone did this.

The first camp I went to was horrible.  It was my father's attempt to ease his guilt about not being observant enough Jews.  Despite the fact that we went to private religious school, kept a kosher home and attended synagogue each Saturday - my dad wanted more of his very religious upbringing.  So rather than become more observant himself, he sent me to an Orthodox camp.  My dad used to say his Jewish affiliation was "Orthodox, but weak", meaning that he would have liked to have been more observant but the demands were too much.

At this camp, we had Hebrew classes in the morning, homework to be done in the bunk and sports in the afternoon.  Whoo hoo!  All of the other kids were Orthodox and it seemed like they were a part of a club I wasn't allowed into.  They were not very welcoming and since I was only eight years old, I did not know how to navigate the situation.  After the first summer, I didn't complain because I knew it meant a lot to my dad.  But by the end of the second summer I couldn't take it anymore and I cried my eyes out.  Not to mention my parent's mistake of trying to both go to visiting day at two different camps on the same day.  My older sibs were at a different camp (maybe because my parents didn't think they would tolerate the Hebrew classes and I was too young to know the difference).  No one told me that the other camp had visiting day on the same day, so I sat there waiting for my family to arrive on visiting day.  They did - two hours late.  After that summer, I switched camps to be with my siblings and there were no more pulling demands.

The second camp was much better.  I was there until I was in college.  But lets face it, it's a social acid test.  You are being asked to socialize with children of both sexes and multiple ages, all day and all night without a break for eight weeks.  In day camp, you can go home after camp and chill in your own space.  At overnight camp, it's a never ending sleepover.  And you had better be able to negotiate the mind boggling changing of fashions you are supposed to know about.  How was I supposed to know that one summer it was all neon colors and the next it was about ripped clothes.  I was still in my Wrangler by Sears jeans.

Really they should have a pre-camp school on what is the latest trends.  Because once you are up at camp, its too late.  It's out of the bag that you are not really that cool and have no idea what is going on.  It would be great to have a teenager lead classes on the right color of body glitter to bring, what T-shirts are cool.  Is is still the candy ones or is it back to concerts that the kids wearing the shirts were 20 years too young to attend?  What length are the shorts?  Bermuda? Short shorts?  Thank Gd the belly shirt error has passed - no one wants to see that.  What should be pierced?  Two holes in which ear means what again?  Its like a whole syllabus that each kid needs.

Not that I couldn't use that as an adult - its more like I just don't care anymore.  If I were a real social climber, I'd take yoga, wear spanx and join a book club that actually discussed the book.  Or is that already passe?

In any case, there were so many memories from camp that I loved, and a few that made me feel inadequate.  Mostly I felt old and wished that I could be that young kid again, excited about what was being served for lunch, doing the latest dance awkwardly (and in reverse) and trying to figure out who the cool kids are.  It was much easier to do this as a kid with no other responsibilities.  Now I have to still do all this, but while making lunches and plans and doing laundry and cooking, etc.  

I keep hearing that lyric from "Pave Paradise and Put up a Parking lot" - Don't know what you've got til it's gone.  I will try and remember that now and enjoy watching my kids have fun at camp and learn the social skills they will need, that I can 't teach them.  I swear I can hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young playing in my head.

why Worry?

How do you know what to worry about?  Sometimes I spend all my time worrying about something that might happen and then get blindsided by something I never expected.  Other times I don't worry about something and in turn, don't act and get myself into trouble. 


Lately, I have been trying to gage what to worry about and how to go about it.  I have been trying to not immediately react to stuff.  Instead, give myself some time to consider all the possibilities and the best ways to handle things.  Sometimes it works, other times its just a vehicle to procrastinate. 

So how do you know what to worry about? You don't.  Or at least I don't.  So I tend to worry about way too many things that don't ultimately matter instead of spending that time enjoying my life.  Not the best plan. 

In fact, right now, I am worrying about what I should be doing instead of blogging.  And when I am doing other things, I worry that I am not keeping up with my blogging.  Sound crazy enough?  In fact, I am signing off to go hit my to-do list so I wont worry about it.

Send me an invite

I am picking up the writing again after a conversation I had yesterday with someone at a birthday party.  Not a kids birthday party- an adult's birthday party.  I was very happy to be invited to the party.  Why?  Because it felt genuine.  What does that mean?  Well, I was thinking about that. 

First, it didn't seem like everyone and their mother was invited because of social obligations.  I hate going places where I am invited, but don't feel comfortable being there.  Everyone has this experience, where you are invited to a party, dinner, outing or whatever but you know damn well that it is out fof social obligation.  "Well, I invited Muffy and Fluffy, so I guess I have to invite Diana too because she will find out about it anyway"  or worse "I am inviting all first grade parents"  How ironic when you are invited somewhere, but don't enjoy it!


That is why I so much enjoyed being invited to a reasonably smallish gathering.  The feeling of being included in something is very good.  Especially when you like the people so much.  If you don't like the people and you have to go out of obligation, then its not so good.  Everyone has that experience too.  "Sure, I'd love to accompany my spouse to a retirement party at his work for someone I don't know"


I think everyone seeks a feeling of inclusion because it is a validation.  "Gd dammit, someone thinks its cool to hang out with me"  And of course they are right.  Sometimes I don't care if I'm not included and I find out about it later and sometimes I do.  I usually am pretty dismissive about the whole thing "I'm glad you guys had fun".  Occasionally it irrationally bothers me "you mean you had a dinner for young lawyers and didn't invite me?"


The absolute worst is when you think you are being invited by the "popular" mom, but it turns out it is a fake party to try and sell you something.  It starts out as an evite.  Ohhh, an evite that is not for my child.  What could it be?  Is it a Haddasah meeting?  No?  Ahhh... wait, its an invitation from Darcy, her daughter is in my son's class.  what could it be?  A coffee social?  A cocktails and book discussion?  Nooo.  Big disappointment.  Its a party to sell (pick one or a combination) kitchenware, clothes, jewelry, stationary, hats, and I kid you not, adult toys and lingere.  What could be more uncomfortable than being in a room full of aquaintences where they discuss how and why they use adult toys.  No discounts on the floor models.


Anyway, usually all it takes for me to show up is the promise of food and/or drinks.   Unless its a PTO meeting or a committee meeting of any kind.  Then even the allure of free steak and wine could not move me to attend. 

Summer time

Well, its been a while since I last blogged.  I am still fighting the urge to just crawl into bed and never get out. 

On sunday, my eight year old son is going to sleep-away camp.  I am full of very mixed feelings.  First, disbelief.  I can't imagine that my son is old enough to go away for a month.  Second, jealousy.  I loved going to camp and wish it was me still going.  Which leads to feeling number three - old.  How did I get so old that I am no longer a camper, but instead the parent of a camper.

As much fun as camp was, it was something of a mixed bag.  It was intense socialization.  Which is great in most ways, but a lot of pressure for people.  It is 24/7 social time.  So for kids who are naturally socially astute, it is utopia.  My son is one of those kids.  He will not want to come home.  For other kids who don't naturally socialize well and need a lot of down time, it's a hard place to be.  For that reason, I don't send all my kids.

I was in the middle.  Most of the time it was so much fun.  But there were times when the social hierarchy got to me.  There were times when I was going about my merry business and later find out that a whole "thing" had taken place that I knew nothing about.  Or I'd arrive at camp and there would be a fashion that I didn't know about and I'd be the odd girl out.

I digress.  Anyway, I am sad to see my boy go away, but happy that a new chapter in his life is beginning.

Girls just wanna have fun

What constitutes fun as we get older?  When we were younger it was running through a field or going to an amusement park or having a sleepover.  Now, when you really really think about it, what is fun for us to do?

This weekend I went to an all-ladies birthday party.  There was a lot of kareoke.  The birthday girl loves to sing.  I used to really like singing, but now, I am too embarassed to sing.  I have a horrible singing voice, but when I was at camp or with my friends in high school listening to Van Halen (dating myself much?) we would unconsciencously belt it out.  Now, I wouldn't dare hum along to the alphabet song.  The fun has left singing for me.  Why?  I don't know.  Maybe because my kids often remind me that I have a terrible voice and forbid me to sing in front of their friends.  Or perhaps I just don't enjoy it like I used to.

So what then is fun?  Hanging out with friends is fun, that feeling of sharing and acceptance.  But there is no activity associated with it.  I am envious of people who have something they are passionate about.  Like people who go with friends to surf or to hike or to baseball card shows. I don't have anything like this.  The closest I ever came was a book club.  I love to read, but that is too broad a hobby.  It would be more interesting if I had a group of friends who did jujitsu and then we all went out to dinner afterward. 

Not likely, since I never had any hobbies.  I tired some.  I tried scrapbooking, but all I had in the end were scraps.  I have to aptitude for arts and crafts.  I ended up having my pictures glued with stray dog hairs protruding.  I tried yoga.  I found it somewhat degrading to be told to assume the positions of animals.  I especially did not like sitting in rows and then being asked to bend over.  There is no way I was going to stick my tush in someone else's space.  Too humiliating. 

For a while I went to the gym.  That was good, but once I got a full time job, I can't manage to find the time.  Plus, it was one of those things where I was always at the bottom of the pack; I would never be the one training for a half marathon.  I would just barely be able to catch my breath.

The things I like doing are analyzing things and coming up with possible answers.   But I finished business school where we did this in every class and now I do this a lot at work.  It is less fun when your great answer has to fit into a political framework that requires compromise and frustration.  That is how life is. 

Even this very blog has had its issues.  While it is interesting and fun to write, there is also the unrelenting internal pressure to keep it up.  Also, where am I going with it?  Am I going to publish it?  Write a book?  Or just keep writing because it's cheaper than therapy.  I'm not sure.  I guess as long as its still fun, I'll keep doing it.

It cant possibly be time for camp yet

Have you ever had things to do that you just avoid?  You hear the other moms talk about signing their kids up for camp months ago, but you can't bring yourself to be bothered with the enormous hassle of investigating camps, interviewing people, making the decision and forking over the cash.  Then suddenly, its summer and the kids ask you where they are supposed to report to next week. Oops. 


Its not that I don't want them to have fun and love their summers.  Its that I am hassled all the time that future planning has no place in my life.  If things are sailing along, that is chaotic enough that I can barely function.  The idea of planning another detail is unbearable.  Lest you think I'm a horrible slacker, only one of my four children is without a solid plan for the summer.  And mostly its because of his age group and his inability to attend overnight camp.

I cannot imagine that in two years I will be helping my oldest choose a college.  Aside from the whole emotional "where did the time go" aspect, the idea of adding on a year-long layer of planning into my life is horrifying.  A conflict filled, stress inducing, disagreeable year of deciding the all important decision about college.  When in fact, it really doesn't matter that much where you go to college.

I mean for the ninety percent of us who will go on to lead a normal life, it really won't matter that much whether you went to BYU, BU, AU, UT, NYU, AM, or any combination of these letters.  As long as they have a good program in your area of study, most people will make friends, make mistakes, discover a little of who they are and hopefully discover love.  Maybe for a very specific few it really matters if you go to MIT or not, but honestly, there are plenty of Harvard moms in the preschool pickup line with me.  Thats right, standing in the same line, going to the same birthday parties and dealing with the same tantrum issues. 

Still, you cannot possibly explain this to a teenager who thinks that the tank top she wears today will greatly impact her life for the foreseeable future.  Afterall, the shade of purple needs to compliment the eyeliner- C'mon people.  It takes a lot of work to make it look like you don't care about anything.


Anyway, I'm looking ahead too far.  Lets get through the next couple of weeks and see what camp I can find for the 12 year old.  Some of the computer camps wanted to charge over seven hundred dollars for a week long day camp.  Hell, I will take a leave of absence from my job and open a camp for seven hundred dollars a kid.  It will be called life camp.  I will teach kids how to grocery shop with coupons- but somehow not be able to get everything you need in one store.  I will teach them to multitask being on the phone, cooking, doing laundry, wiping a nose (kid, yours or dog), cleaning and answering ten questions about frogs all at the same time. Priceless.