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An Open Letter to the “Hot Facebook Mom” Maria Kang

19 Mar

Dear Maria,

First of all, let me say that I dig that you have a message and a vision for your life. I read through your blog and I could relate to some of it (I was unmarried and not financially prepared when I got pregnant the first time too! The second time I was married but not financially prepared and now I’m neither married nor pregnant and not financially prepared for life in general).  I didn’t really find much else that spoke to me, but that’s okay. I respect your story and your journey thus far.

maria

I saw once again that you wanted to know what my, and other moms who don’t make fitness a priority,  excuse is.  Maria, while I appreciate your concern, I find what you’re doing to be just more mom-shaming, wrapped in what you think is an inspirational message.   I’m not even going to touch on the fact that I find it to be fat-shaming as well,  which I do, but for the purpose of this letter, I am just going to address the mom-shaming aspect. However, I will answer your question at the end of this letter.

Let me just say that I am a huge proponent of moms not shaming other moms for their choices.  I find parenting hard enough without having to concern myself with Polly Perfect who is constantly on Facebook proclaiming to the world how perfect her kids are, accompanied by pictures of little Sally and Billy  munching away happily on homemade organically grown apple sauce. I assume this is not the impression you want to leave, but I may be wrong about that. It seems that looks are extremely important to you, so I can imagine your need to control every aspect of what is even thought about who you are is extremely important too. I’m not judging, just pointing out that I find you to be a bit of one of those moms that I avoid at baseball practice.  Or on Facebook. Or in life. Ever.

maria

According to the picture you posted above, as well as what I’ve read about you in your blog, I know that you have three sons, born in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and that you are tired. I can only imagine! I know you don’t have a nanny or a chef and that you are not an athlete or a fitness model and you work over 8 hours a day. One of those arrows up there supposedly points to your stretch marks, but I’ll be damned if I can see them, but that’s not the point.

The above picture, which I  know is small, also says that you “practice consistency, persistence, discipline, intensity, patience, desire, focus, and faith”.   Good on ya girl! I do too, though I find patience to not come naturally to me,  I do try to practice it.  I’ve got the desire part down pat though, know what I’m saying? Yeah you do.

Maria, you are absolutely gorgeous, that is for sure. It is obvious that you have made fitness and “being hot” a priority in your life, and you have since the age of 16 when you started competing in beauty pageants.

I have NO PROBLEM with beauty pageants. My sister was in the past an actual beauty queen, and she still is beautiful, though I’ve had it with her wearing her crown for every family function. I understand  prioritizing what is important to you, that’s what life is all about, right?  I DO have a problem with your holier than thou attitude directed at those of us who do NOT make those things a priority. I KNOW being fit and being healthy are important, though just to be clear, and I’m sure you know this, skinny does not automatically mean healthy and overweight does not automatically mean unhealthy.

Maria, you may or may not be mortified to learn that we are actually not all that different.

This is from your blog,

I’m a wife, mother, business owner and nonprofit founder.

I dream.

I set goals.

I plan.

I take action.

I reflect.

And I repeat.

Well, me too bitch! I mean bitch as in girlfriend, no disrespect meant, because while you do irk me a little, we are similar. That’s right, Maria, you have a lot in common with a mom who has two boys, and is overweight, and exercises very lazily 3-4 times a week, and is right this moment drinking a Coca damn Cola, because I also dream! I set goals! I plan! I take action! I reflect! And I repeat! I couldn’t help but notice that you have a vision board next to your treadmill. GIRL, mine is in my bedroom.

I know there will always be people who insist that their way is the only and right way. The debates between those who have chosen to bottle feed their children rather than breast feed, those who choose cloth diapers over disposable, those who co-sleep rather than not, those choices are all valid and good choices.  Figuring out what works for ones own family and filtering through everything that is out there about what you SHOULD be doing is one of the toughest things about being a parent in my opinion.

I understand that you have chosen to prioritize fitness in your life, and that is a good and valid choice. Maria, I will now answer your question. My excuse I guess,  is that I just haven’t made fitness a priority in my life, but it’s not an EXCUSE, it’s a choice. It’s a choice you may not agree with, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that because you have made it a priority in your life that I am any less the person or mom that you are.  The words that are on your picture as far as things you “practice” are not exclusive to you and your commitment to fitness.  This year I have chosen to conquer fear to do something I have always wanted to do, stand-up comedy. I write daily, even if it’s just something like this, I am someone who constantly tries to learn from my past and is striving to make myself the person I want to be, not only for myself, but for my children. I want them to see a mom who is not afraid and who kicks ass. I think those are things you want your children to see in you as well, we just see the end product as something different. And it’s okay! We’re both right!

So Maria,  let’s agree that maybe you knew you were stirring up some controversy when you posted your “what’s your excuse” picture, because I think you did. You’ve been blogging for a long time, since 2005, but nobody gave  you much thought before that picture took off and went viral. I don’t think you’re a MEAN person, and I know you think you are impacting the world in a positive way. If I could wish anything for you it is that you would come from a place of support rather than shame, because we are not all that different and maybe we could learn something from each other, but it is hard to listen to someone when you feel they are attacking you.

Also, your boys are adorable and I wish you nothing but luck in your endeavors.

Love and donuts (I’m sorry, now I’m just being a brat)

Amy

It’s My Party

27 Jan

In just a few short days I will be turning 44 years old.  I have written before about things I thought I would have accomplished by this point, and I think I wrote that last year, so presumably, more things have landed on that list.

This past weekend I went to the discount store with a friend and I bought, among other things, a shower curtain. I am still loving renting and living in the house that belongs to my brother and sister-in-law, but the color scheme in the house is not my personal color scheme.  I don’t dislike it, I just have everything in shades of blues and greens and in this house there are very few blues and greens, rather maroons and browns. I had been using my old shower curtain that had circles in blues and greens all over it, and it totally clashed with the wallpaper that has muted shades of red and pink on it, with a border at the bottom of pink. I found a shower curtain and told my friend who was shopping with me that “I think things will finally start coming together for me, because my shower curtain will match my wallpaper”.  I was kidding, but it made me think  how when I was a kid, I really did think that things would just “make sense” by the time I reached a certain age.

I don’t know what age that is, but I can tell you, I haven’t reached it yet.

My eldest son commented that our house feels like a motivational seminar because of all the signs I have chosen to hang in our home. I am a huge believer in the power of the universe. I have written about my vision board and I really do feel that words have the power to motivate and bring about change. Whether that change is positive or negative depends on the words and images in which you have chosen to surround yourself. I’m not DELUSIONAL. I think it takes more than just hanging a few posters in your house to affect change, but I do think it helps.

forwhatitsworth

As I sit here typing this with the television show Iyanla Fix My Life, playing on my TV behind me, it strikes me that there isn’t a magical age where everything suddenly makes sense. I don’t know for sure,  but I don’t think anybody wakes up one morning and all of a sudden they’ve got it all figured out. I do think that each morning we wake up we can choose to try to live the life we want to live or we can choose to be afraid to make changes that may lead to that life.  I don’t want to ever become comfortable with just existing. I don’t want to be ruled by fear. I want so much for my boys to take to heart everything that is on this sign, and I want to show them by example.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”- Eric Roth

That damn shower curtain still doesn’t match the wallpaper but instead of getting stuck in thinking that by this age I should have it more together than I do, I will revel in the fact that I am not where I was 5 years ago, or 1 year ago, or 1 month ago, and that is because I have made forward movement.  Things have not fallen into place exactly how I would like them to, but this is my kaleidoscope, and I have the power to turn it myself to make a more pleasing pattern.

Really, how am I not writing greeting cards or something? That last sentence is a thing of freaking beauty.

What the Hell? Christmas Edition

16 Dec

christmas

Before you balk at the title of this post,  I like Christmas. I like the food. I like Christmas specials. I like the songs, though if I never hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” ever again in my life, that will be fine with me.  I like to get presents, and I like to give presents.  I like that this time of year seems to make people want to give of themselves a little more than any other time. I like my family and I love spending time with them. Having said all that, there are a few things about this time of year that I just don’t understand.

Let’s start with what I find the most heinous of all Christmas-related phenomenon, Elf on a Shelf. I kid, I don’t find it the MOST heinous, and I will most definitely be writing about it shortly. However, without a doubt, what I find the most heinous is that big bucket of peppermint scented poop  known as black Friday. I understand the appeal of shopping on black Friday.  For several years on Thanksgiving I would peruse the sales flyers and outline my plan of attack for the next day. The next morning I would wake up at 4:00 am, grab myself an Egg McMuffin and a coffee, and dash into the Target or Toys R Us, or Joanne’s Fabrics, to pick up  whatever was on my list. I would save some money and get the boys some toys that I might not be able to without the black Friday sales.  I understand for a lot of people, they treat it the same way I did.

Now, this is why we can’t have nice things. Black Friday is now starting on Thanksgiving day, people are literally being attacked over sales items, and do you know the number one seller at Wal-Mart during black Friday this year? Towels. A mother fucking bunch of towels. Not that I don’t appreciate a luxurious 5 thread count cheap towel, but come ON. This might fall under the category of irrational anger, but dammit, I’m angry about it.

And yes, I understand that Christmas shouldn’t be about presents and commercialization and let’s all hold hands and sing around a tree like the Who’s down in Whoville. I am ALL for that, I really am, BUT, there won’t be a Christmas where I don’t give those I love a Christmas present, even if it’s very small, because I just want to. I give of myself, and sometimes myself is in the form of a gift card or a pair of earrings.

So far, I have used the word “Christmas” rather than “Holidays”. This is because I grew up celebrating Christmas, and these rants are CHRISTMAS related. All Christmas was for me growing up is what I listed in the first paragraph. I can count on one hand the number of times I was in a church, not including for other people’s weddings,  but I did consider myself a Christian growing up. We had a nativity scene, and I knew the whole story about the baby Jesus and Mary and no room at the Inn and following the Northern star and all that jazz. I don’t recall being told the story, but I assume I was, and didn’t just piece it together through Christmas songs and specials.

As an adult, I don’t consider myself a Christian, more like an agnostic, or sometimes, an atheist, depending on whether the University of Alabama wins its football games or not (settle down, I’m kidding). I have tried to educate my boys about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the fact that some people don’t celebrate anything at all, and that to some people Christmas is more religious than it is for us, and  it’s all fine and good. The same rule of life applies, believe and/or celebrate what you want, as long as your beliefs and/or celebrations do not hurt another living creature.

I tend to say “Happy Holidays” as a catch-all for this time of year. Does this make me ANTI Christmas? Is this me waging my own personal war against Christmas?  Hell no, it’s not. This is me being cognizant of the fact that not everybody celebrates Christmas. Why in the tinsel covered hell does it matter if someone chooses to say “Happy Holidays” OR “Merry Christmas” OR “Happy Hanukkah” OR “Happy Kwanzaa”? It doesn’t to me. Thank you for the greetings, may you have a happy whatever as well. End of story. I don’t feel the need to go into this further because it is Elf on the Shelf time.

I don’t get this Elf on the Shelf thing. At all. I read that it was to help children become “more excited” about the impending holidays. WHO ARE THESE CHILDREN WHO NEED TO BECOME MORE EXCITED ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS!? The day after Halloween, mine start counting down to Christmas. I don’t need and/or want some creepy elf to help us in any way, thanks. Maybe I saw Poltergeist one too many times, but the fewer clown/elf dolls in my house, the better.

Happy holidays everybody.

elf

Slumlords, Hell Holes, and Gratitude. This Post Has It All

20 Nov

The calendar has moved beyond all things spooky towards the season to express gratitude.  However, I feel I can’t do that fully without first talking a little more about something scary. A haunted house of sorts. No, this has nothing to do with the terrifying creatures  in Washington DC, this is not another political post.

The house I’m referring to is not so much a house as a yellow trailer covered in tin sheets the same thickness as aluminum foil. A place that was literally falling apart under the feet of all those who dared enter. Someplace so horrific that hot water refused to make its presence known. Are you stumped? Cue dramatic music…..it’s where I USED TO LIVE!

I moved the boys and myself into the above-mentioned hell hole because I could afford it, it was a nicer part of town than the hell hole where I lived before, and it had a big yard for the dog. I am a woman who has made some stupid decisions, and lots of mistakes. I am nothing if not fully aware of how imperfect I am.  Choosing to “make do” in the little yellow trailer was not in my top 5 of dumbest decisions I have ever made. That should tell you how many mistakes I have chalked up in my 40 something years. It was solidly in the top 10 however.

The place itself wasn’t HORRIBLE at first. The landlord said we could paint! How nice! I’ll just throw away all the weird stuff left behind by the last tenants. I don’t think I need any more Halloween decorations, especially not jack o”lanterns that are supposed to plug-in and light up and have cords that look like they have been chewed by…um…something…and are covered in electrical tape.  I also don’t need any more Easter decorations featuring creepy bunnies wearing sundresses and straw hats. That in itself is not bad, who doesn’t love a rodent in clothes, but the dresses were covered in some kind of red and presumably sticky substance. I’m going to say raspberry jelly just in case any of you are eating while reading this.

So, I painted the living room dark green and made curtains with greens and blues in the fabric. It was adorable! I couldn’t open the windows because the ones that were not painted shut didn’t have screens and this is Florida, open an un-screened window for 2 seconds and risk catching malaria (and whatever else mosquitoes carry).

The boys picked out a nice bright blue paint for their room. This would be fine. This would be just fine. Until things started breaking and it became very apparent that my landlord insisted on making the repairs himself, and that meant a full day with him in my place, tinkering away with parts that he had more than likely pilfered from junk yards, and the repairs would not stick. The only time that something that he fixed stayed fixed was when he replaced my air conditioner when it went out. In July. In Florida. And he didn’t return my call about it being out for 2 1/2 weeks.

I learned tricks to keep things working that were almost broken. My refrigerator teetered at death’s door for months and months, but I learned that if I adjusted the temperature every now and then, that would breathe some life into it. I changed the door knob myself when it became so loose that my door could be opened whether it was locked or not.

When my hot water heater stopped working I could not fake or fix it myself. It was still summer, so I was okay with taking cold showers, but the boys weren’t as easy-going about it, so I broke down and called the landlord. After a couple of weeks, he arrived with duct tape and screwdriver in hand. I don’t really know much about water heaters, but to me, this seemed like he was woefully unprepared to actually fix the problem. I was correct in my assessment of the situation. It broke again a few weeks later. I called him again and told him that I had no hot water once more. Here’s where it got really ugly. It broke the second time at the end of the month. I told him I would not pay rent until it was fixed. He would not fix it until I paid rent. We had reached an impasse. One that meant I would be living without hot water for the next two months.

At this point, I had heard from a lawyer friend that what the landlord was doing was illegal. I did some research on this thing called “the internet” (thank you Al Gore) which is really so much more than cats and porn and blogs (not that I don’t love blogs…and cats…and porn) and discovered that my friend was right, the slumlord was wrong, and I sent him a letter using the words “pursuant” and “statute” and I told him that he was wrong and that he must be used to dealing with people who were afraid of him and/or stupid and that I am neither of those things. He showed up, sprayed some tire sealant all over the hot water heater (no joke. Tire. Sealant) and called it a day. My water still wasn’t hot, but it was very chemically tasting and smelling, so it was a good trade-off.

Here’s where the gratitude part comes in. I was able to tell my landlord that very next day that we would be moving out within the week. I could do this because my brother and sister-in-law offered me and the boys the chance to move into their HUUUUGE house in a beautiful neighborhood in town, for rent that I can afford, because my brother had moved to Texas and my sister-in-law was ready to join him.  As of a few weeks ago, the boys each have their own room, we have two bathrooms, I have an indoor laundry room, a dishwasher, closet space, a yard for the dog, and so much more. To say I am thankful seems like an understatement, but I am so very thankful for their generosity. I am extremely fortunate to have a generous and supportive family who COULD very well let me flounder in my own stupid mistakes, but they don’t. They help and comfort and support me and have never made me feel like a loser who makes bad decisions.

thank you

In the midst of hot water heater-gate, part 2, I had a little breakdown after a very unladylike screaming match in the yard with my FORMER landlord who dropped by to ask for money one night. I had sent the boys inside so that they wouldn’t be scarred for life at hearing their mother cursing at an old man, but they snuck out onto the porch and heard me doing just that.  After he left I was crying and saying that I was so sorry for making the boys live someplace so awful and that I was trying to get us out as soon as I could. It was a great moment in parenting for sure.  My eldest, who at 12 is smarter and more sensitive than a lot of adults I know, said “oh yes mom. Be sorry for putting a roof over our heads and working to feed us and give us things we need. Suck it up”.

I am so grateful that the boys appreciate that I AM trying. We appreciate our family so much, and we can all agree that we will NEVER take hot water, or each other, for granted. This Thanksgiving, or EVER.

gratitude

 

Dear 12-year-old Amy

27 Aug

typewriter

When I was writing this, it sounded very familiar to me and I realized why.  The advice I’m giving myself as a 12-year old is essentially the same that I gave to my boys in the post, A Letter to my Sons.  It makes sense. I have often said that children sometimes act as mirrors and reflect back to you those things you like about yourself, and what you don’t like so much as well.

I see so much of myself in my boys, for better and for worse. I want them to “GET” things earlier than I did, I want them to not beat themselves up for being flawed, I want them to learn from their mistakes, but mostly I want them to know that they can do so much more than they think they can because they are amazing. I let the fear of failure, and on many levels, the fear of success, color my choices. I hope the boys realize the only thing standing in their way is themselves.

None of us can go back and do things differently, and by and large, I don’t want to.  I do wish I had more time with my dad, and Brett, and I lament some of my choices, but even if I had the chance to go back and change things, I don’t know if I would because I feel like every broken heart, every rejection, every seemingly wrong turn, led me here, parent to the two most incredible boys on the planet. BUT, if I could go back, this is what I would want to tell myself.

Dear 12-year old me,

You’re kind of mess right now, aren’t you? You feel like school sucks, your parents are dorks, your siblings are jerks, your hair is a nightmare, your braces will never come off, and you will always live in a tiny town and feel something like a fish out of water. Well, never fear, 43-year old you (me) from the future is here to soothe your troubled soul. Granted, your hair will always be kind of a nightmare, but the rest totally works out.  I have some guidance for you to help you on your journey.

When you start high school, you will meet some fantastic people. Brett will be one of your closest friends. He will be there for you when few others are. Cherish him. He will be gone far too soon.

Dawn is someone who is very special and she will teach you about strength and love. Don’t lose sight of her.

Mom and dad love you but yes, things will get weird. Dad’s a complicated man and slowly you will start to realize that he is a human being, not a super hero. That’s okay. He can still be your super hero. He gave you his sense of humor and he loves the hell out of you and would do anything for you.

Emulate mom if you can. She’s incredible and totally comfortable in her skin. Also, give her a break about crying over Little House on the Prairie episodes and long distance carrier commercials. You will be exactly the same way. Also, you will do other things like she does too, so…keep that in mind the next time you laugh at one of her eardrum shattering sneezes.

Missy and Clay will always have your back. Clay will become one of the best guys and fathers you’ve ever seen (and probably won’t fart on either of his children’s heads even once like he used to yours) and Missy will grow more than you thought possible and will teach you about introspection. Listen to her. They will be your friends forever. Don’t fight with either of them about stupid shit. It’s not worth it.

Your family will grow to include a sister-in-law and two nieces.  Enjoy time with them when they’re little because soon enough they will be grown up and you will be in awe of the women they become.

In the coming years you will feel immortal and you will drive after having had a lot of alcohol to drink. You will do this more than once. Don’t do this ever, you freaking idiot.

Stay in journalism class. Continue in college. Writing is the one thing that you have always done and it is what you will always do and it would be fantastic to be paid for it.

Rethink that crush on Ashley Wilkes.  Weakness is not a quality to be desired. Trust me on this. Ashley could never have handled Scarlett anyway.

I know it seems like a self-destructive streak in boys is fun and desirable, but realize, that streak is inside you. Don’t seek it in them, deal with your own.

You feel like the chubby funny girl who boys don’t like. Boys DO like you, exactly how you are, and if one boy doesn’t, another one will.

Don’t even think about changing yourself for anybody. Ever.

It feels like you’re the girl who will never be kissed.  Not only will you be kissed, you will fall in love, several times, and boys will fall in love with you. You fall hard and you always will. Things inevitably end and it will hurt. It will not hurt forever though. I promise.

There are other things you could change and do, but it is imperative that you go to the On the Border restaurant with Missy and one of the guys she works with and one of his friends. The guy she works with will be more into Missy, but just hang in there. Meeting him will lead to two of the most amazing creatures ever.

Life is short. It’s really short. You will make choices in the coming years that you will not believe sound like a good idea to you at the time, and they probably aren’t, but I think you have to make them to get to where you end up. Remember this, nobody can beat you up the way you can. Give yourself a break after you make amends for your mistakes..and you will make so many mistakes, but everything will be fine. It really will.

Trust yourself, know your boundaries, love with everything you can, learn from and clean up your messes. You will be just fine. 

No Child Left Behind…Unless

26 Jun

newspaper

I wrote this way back in 2006 on another blog and am posting it here because I find it just as relevant now as I did then. The thing is, I don’t know HOW to go about trying to change things.

Salt Lake City, Utah. Two fair-haired girls, both abducted from their homes. One named Elizabeth Smart, the other named Destiny Norton. Elizabeth Smart was taken from her bedroom on June 4, 2002 by a man armed with a knife. Destiny Norton was lured off of her porch by a neighbor. From here, the stories go off in two very different directions.

As soon as Elizabeth’s sister reported to her Mom and Dad that she had seen Elizabeth be abducted, the media got involved. Elizabeth’s father Ed went on television and asked the kidnapper to return his daughter. Using the technology of the internet and the media, the search for fourteen year old Elizabeth Smart moved into high gear. Up to 2000 volunteers a day were dispatched to the area surrounding her home trying to find any trace of the missing girl. Word spread quickly as an impromptu coalition of websites facilitated the distribution of information about Elizabeth Smart with pre-formatted flyers that could be downloaded for printing or immediately circulated online by email or Internet fax. Night after night, talk shows such as CNN’s Larry King Live featured numerous commentators with one opinion or another regarding the kidnapping. Elizabeth Smart was thankfully found alive on March 12, 2003, 9 months after she was abducted.

Five year old Destiny Norton had just taken a bath on July 16, 2006 when she asked to be allowed to go out in the back yard. The yard has a chain-link fence and gate. She vanished in the five or 10 minutes before her father went to check on her. Hundreds of people had helped in daily searches for Destiny, including 700 on Saturday. A $30,000 reward was offered for information leading to Destiny’s recovery. Destiny’s body was found in her neighbor’s basement on July 25, 2006.

Besides the outcomes of the cases, I can’t help but notice the way the media handled the girls’ abductions, and wonder if the handling of the two cases contributed to the outcomes. The day after Elizabeth Smart was abducted, CNN.Com featured an article about it on the opening page of their website and included her picture and a heart-felt plea from her family members asking for the kidnappers to return her. CNN.Com reported on Destiny Norton only after her body was found, and even then only under the heading titled “more law news”.

Elizabeth Smart’s family lived in an affluent neighborhood. Their house was on the market for 1.19 million dollars. The Norton household included several people who were not biologically related, but referred to themselves as family. The Norton’s and their extended family were considered hippies and had, by their own admission, been “hassled” by police for panhandling.

Forgive me if the above seems rambling, but as I sit here, I am taken back by the undeniable fact that in our society, there are people, even children, who are considered throw-away or expendable. I learned this first-hand when I worked at an Early Intervention Center, a developmental preschool for children with special needs. The Center lost funding after being in operation for many years. These parents were told that they would not have a place to send their child with down’s syndrome, or CP,  where they would receive physical, speech, and/or occupational therapy, and that they would not only have to pay for services for their child but that they would have to FIND services. No Child Left Behind, unless they have special needs, or are brown, or are poor. I’m concerned, as the mother of 2 boys and as a human being , that the exceptions to that rule will continue to broaden. No Child Left Behind, unless they have brown hair, or are left-handed. It sounds silly, but are we close to that? Do our children have to fit a certain criteria to be considered important?

It’s a Boy. Two, Actually

30 May

booksThe last day of school is approaching in T – 4 days. Tuesday, June 4, is the day. The day I have circled in red marker on my calendar. I have never looked so forward to the end of a school year in my life.  Not even when I was the student. It’s so much more stressful as the parent.

It’s been tough, as any and all of you who read this blog on any kind of regular basis know. If you don’t read on a regular basis, let me sum it up – eldest son lost his mind this year, his first year of middle school, and decided to do as little as possible AND do everything with a terrible attitude and argue everything from the color of the sky to his middle name (slight exaggerations MAYBE).

Thanks to his super freak out plus modern conveniences like school websites that show practically up to the minute updates on his progress, (or shows what homework I know he DID, but did not turn in for whatever reason) as well as teachers (and I do appreciate it) emailing and letting us know what we knew already because of the websites, his dad  and I have been big balls of stress this year.

Facebook updates from parents who seem to never have any problems or issues with their kids certainly don’t help, nor do reading comments on those posts that say things like “that’s a reflection of great parenting!” True, it probably is, but that means that we are NOT great parents?  But I know I’m a wear my heart on my sleeve parent, and person, and many parents, and people, feel the need to present a certain front. I should probably do that…but I don’t.

It also seems that I have read many tug your heart-strings stories about kids who are saddled with the task of raising their siblings while working a part-time job and living in a box all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.  SO, as any concerned parent would do, next year I am kicking my 12-year-old out of the house. I am kidding, of course. It does make one wonder just what the hell factors are present that motivate some children and how I can do the same.

My kids are awesome. I just want them to do the best they can do and my eldest has not done that this year. They are both so clever and  could do anything, and anything is what I want them to do. I want the world to be their oyster, not their dried up chicken nugget. I really should have eaten dinner before writing this.

So here we are at the end of the year, and even though math camp and some extra work on math programs loom in the summer horizon for my 12-year-old, the summer will be so much more relaxed than the school year.   I can be a mom again, not some stressed out drill sergeant wildly clutching my chest as I vacillate between helicopter parent and letting  my kids have autonomy and dealing with the consequences  on their own if/when they don’t do what is expected of them. I can also get to know my kids again.

About 10 times this year I have said “that’s it! I can’t do it. I’m done with this” to my friends and/or the boys dad.  I’m not even sure what I meant, but I imagine I meant I was done with this being a grown up responsible parent thing. This summer, I’m going to be less of one. We all deserve a break dammit. We’re going to try all the new frozen yogurt places in town (Three have opened in the last few months) and stay up until 10 and go to the beach and start with a clean slate in August.   I have missed my boys.

We have had plenty of talks about how the behavior that was exhibited this year, will not be exhibited next year. He understands, he says that he had trouble adjusting this year. I nodded my head and agreed with him and gave him a big hug rather than going over in detail any issues he has had. We’ve already done that. And this is the beginning of a stress less summer. EXHALE.

sand heart

That Time I Got Lucky in Las Vegas

23 May

Way back when I was in my 20’s, I was fortunate enough to have a job that allowed me to travel all over the country. I was a , we’ll call it, “meeting planner”, because I really don’t know what other title to attach to it, and when I preface it by saying “we’ll call it”, it sounds very intriguing, and since I recently bought a pair of very large prescription sunglasses, and one person told me I looked like a European movie star from the ’60’s, I am all about intrigue.

SO, here I am in my 20’s, traveling all over the country setting up “meetings” for a “company” that may or may not (may) have had some “unsavory business practices”, but I was very naive, and nobody was getting hurt, except for the people who were using their life savings to buy into what the company was selling, but again, I clung to the hope that perhaps SOMEBODY was making the kind of money with the system we were selling that they were told they could make. Also, I was very selfish about enjoying the travel and money. I am AMAZED that many people in their 20’s seem to have their shit together, because my 20’s were all about me and partying, unlike my 40’s that so far are about my children and…hmm…can I say my children twice? Because there ARE two of them.

Anyway, one of my business trips took me to Las Vegas, NV (NV is probably not necessary but there it is). I was so very excited to go to Las Vegas because I have said for slot machinemany years that I plan to retire there and be one of those old ladies who spend their afternoons in the casino, bucket of quarters in one hand, gin and tonic in the other. Sadly, now all of the machines give out a ticket or some such nonsense when you win and also even more sadly, I really hate gin and tonics, but that part of my white trash dream can be modified easily enough.

When I used to travel, I would park my car in long-term parking in a lot that was located off airport property. The trips would take me away for a week at a time, sometimes more, so this lot was a necessity. From there I would take a shuttle bus over to the airport and go on my merry way. This was all pre 9/11 and I haven’t flown much, if any, since then, but then I would roll my giant ass suitcase (filled with booklets and other crap for the meeting), and my not so giant suitcase filled with sensible work dresses and 3 lbs. of makeup (I don’t even wear a whole lot, but I own a lot and I travel with a lot), off the shuttle bus, tip the nice men generously to check my suitcases and I would go relax and have myself a latte and peruse the airport shops for some worthless shit that I did not need. The money I spent on soy candles and earrings and corkscrews or whatever interesting must-have item I found in an airport shop every single time I traveled is sorely missed these days. OH 20’s…you came and went too fast.

The lot where I parked was not free, of course, as not many things in life are. I usually managed to save just enough money from my trip to get my car out of the lot, but not much more. For some reason that I cannot remember now, I did not have a bank account. I traveled with CASH. I know, right? What was I, a damn caveman? This means that not once but twice, both times involving a bar, I lost all my money and had to borrow money for the rest of the trip and to get my car out of the lot. The times that happened, I was fortunate enough to be traveling with a group of wonderful people who were also in their 20’s, but had their shit together more than I did and at least had credit cards and bank accounts.

I traveled to Las Vegas alone, which is pertinent to the story. On the way back home, I had just enough money to get my car out of the lot. I was so proud of myself. If ONLY there hadn’t been a delay in my flight and I wasn’t stuck at the airport being taunted by those slot machines. They would beckon to me “come on, stick a quarter in me. You may win. You may win BIG”. I have no willpower. NONE. I slowly fed all my quarters into the slot machine, and I watched my money dwindle down to nothing. What’s even crazier is that I told myself that if I won really big I was going to just stay in Vegas. I didn’t have much in Orlando any more, and my friends there would love to come visit me in my high rolling bachelorette pad, and the guy I was dating would just have to find a way to pay for his own food. And gym membership. And clothes. And other girlfriend.

I didn’t win big, BUT I did win enough to get my car out of the lot. Lesson learned, right? Not so much. I was YOLO before YOLO was even a thing (mom, that stands for You Only Live Once), sometimes to my detriment (please see years…too many to reference here) but SOMETIMES, it is fabulous and fun and amazing to fly by the seat of your pants.

As a mom, I see SO much of myself in my boys and I have NO idea how to tell them how to figure out when they should go with their gut, and when they should carefully measure their decisions because honestly, some of my fly by the seat of my pants decisions have led to amazing things, and I don’t want them to miss out on THEIR amazing things.

There is no pretty bow to tie this up at the end. We’ve established that I make poor decisions sometimes,  but sometimes they work out okay, and sometimes better than okay, and sometimes they hurt like hell (me and others). My wish for the boys is that they experience their amazing things AND they make measured decisions. There HAS to be a happy medium, and I think they can find it, especially with my constant story-telling about the time I almost had to resort to prostitution to get my car out of a parking lot or the time I thought that eating escargots all night then drinking copious amounts of whiskey would NOT end up with snail carcasses being vomited down the side of my sister’s car. Kids love stories.

That’s Hilarious, Now Watch Your Language

21 May

parental_advisory_magnet

My 12-year old is the source of many posts on this blog, mainly because of the “rough patch” he has been going through in regards to refusing to do his homework, his need to be right even when I’m pretty sure he knows he is wrong, and his sassy mouth.

That mouth of his definitely gets him into trouble sometimes, but it seems whenever I share something he has said that is particularly sassy, I am met with comments like “oh where DOES he get that, I wonder?” and “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”, and often I find myself nodding my head and agreeing that my boys’ dad really is an epic smartass, but then I realize I think they might mean ME.

Of COURSE they mean me, I am not delusional (in this sense), but in my defense I come from a long line of funny smartasses, on both sides of the family. My father was a mad genius/smartass, my aunt majored in biting sarcasm in school. Cousins, uncles, and my grandmother, all well-versed in the fine art of sarcasm. My sister and brother carry the gene as well, as do my nieces.  My mom has a subtle sarcasm that sneaks up on you. Sarcasm and smart-assery have been elevated to new heights with my children however,  and I am simultaneously horrified and proud.

georgeBesides being delightful smartasses, my children cuss sometimes too. Thank George Carlin for that bit of parenting advice, though he didn’t actually use it as parenting advice, my ex-husband and I took it upon ourselves to decide that we would apply a famous comedy bit of Carlin’s to parenting, and our children would be allowed to use words deemed “wrong” because really, they are just words.  Carlin’s “Seven Words you can Never say on Television” was the bit and I still stand by my original assessment that it is STUPID that some words, regardless of context, are deemed “wrong”. This applies to what is known as curse words, not words that refer to any group of people.  I believe some of those words are FAR more offensive than the word “tits”, for instance, and the boys would be severely reprimanded by us if they used those words.

We have told the boys since they were born that as long as the words are not being used maliciously, that they would not get into trouble for saying them. We have also told them that they are not allowed to use the words in school or around grandparents (hey, we don’t want our parents yelling at us for our children’s use of curse words, plus there is a matter of respect, of course).

In hindsight, this bit of parenting was probably a misstep. The boys have stuck to the rules and very rarely, and usually only with each other, do they use the words in any kind of malicious way, but still, other parents probably wouldn’t be too thrilled when my kid loudly proclaims “SHIT!” on the playground after falling off the”mother fucking balance beam”. The previous scenario is fabricated, but it could happen. Backtracking and trying to regulate what words your now 8 and 12-year-old sons are allowed to say is a bit like trying to put silly string back into the can after you have squeezed it all out.  Or string cheese. Look, I’m bad at similes, but you get what I’m trying to say.

After that set up, I wanted to share some funny quips penned by my eldest child. I have to say, yes, they might be a bit racy and include curse words, but they also are really funny and are not MEAN in any way and the fact that these are from the same child who gave up his chair this past Sunday so an older man could sit down, and did this when he didn’t know I could see him,  makes me think meh, they are just words.

This is part of a blues song and is an ode to a woman who works as a clown  –

Spending all my money on your big ass shoes

Seriously, that line cracks me up every time I read it.

Brace yourselves,it’s racier than the other, but for a 12-year old boy, still not too bad, and it really is funny –

I’ve got a fire dick

You’ve got a water hole

Baby our love is like stop drop and roll

I am telling you, that is better than like 90% of the songs on the radio these days.

I think the boys are turning out pretty okay, even with all the doomed sarcasm genes and iffy parenting.

* Parental Advisory picture from Stabilitees

* George Carlin picture from his official website

A Letter to my Sons

17 May

typewriter2.jpg

Hello my boys,

As I write this, you are 12 and 8 years old, and I am 43.  I have lived probably about half my life, give or take some years. Although you both think I was born this age, I actually started out as a child! A baby even. Weird, I know.  I started as a baby and grew to this age, and along the way, I learned a few things that might help you in your journey to whatever lies at the end of this road.

I will try not to get philosophical and I will try to keep this short. I will be honest with you, it took me a long time to learn some of these things myself and some I work on still, but my hope for you both is that you actually listen to my words and you realize that I come from a place of pure love for the both of you.

There will come a time when you both will fall in love, the kind of love that will knock you on your booties. It will happen. Love is grand. Love is lovely.  I LOVE love. What you need to know about love is that you cannot “fix” anyone.  It is not your duty as a friend or boyfriend to be a magic elixir for someone else. There is a bit of a romantic notion attached to the “broken” individual. It is not romantic to be a mess or to be attached to a mess. It will rub off on you and leave you a little “broken” and messy in the process, and won’t do a thing to fix the other person. Be supportive, but realize, the hard work that needs to be done will need to be done by the person who is “broken”.

Don’t be afraid of love. Don’t be afraid to express it, and don’t be afraid when someone shares their love with you. When someone gives you their heart, be gentle with it. You don’t have to love everyone who loves you, and you probably won’t, but you don’t have to play with the hearts of those who love you. Don’t be that guy.

You will screw up. It is inevitable. How you deal with yourself and those you hurt after you screw up will define you as a man. Don’t let what others think of you enter into your mind other than as a passing thought. Try very  hard to absorb the good things that are said about you or to you and dismiss the bad.

Never forget that while you grew up living in a trailer, many grew up living in boxes, or worse. Be thankful for everything you have and have been given, and give back as much as you can to those who have less.

Hold tight to your true friends. You will know who they are.

Your family loves you. Your family may drive you crazy sometimes, but try to mend fences with them because they really do love you. I know this for a fact.

It is better to be slightly over-dressed for an occasion than under-dressed.

Keep a blanket in your car. Make sure your spare tire is not flat. Keep jumper cables in your car. Know how to change a tire. I can teach you if you want.

If someone needs money and you have some, give it to them. You both have seen me do this with people standing on the side of the road, and you have both asked why. There is the reason. I had it, they needed it, and I truly don’t care what they wanted to do with the money. My father taught me this and I have never lost one second of sleep thinking “sure hope that guy didn’t spend that $5.00 I gave him on booze”.

Help other people whenever you can. Pay for someone behind you in the drive thru if you can.

Never park in a handicapped spot unless you are handicapped.

Say “please” and “thank you”. Common courtesy should be truly common. Do it every day.

Never ever forget that everybody, every single person on this earth, has a story and has been through some shit. Try to remember that when dealing with the jerks, and you will encounter some jerks. You cannot tell by looking at someone what kind of a person they are inside. Be kind to everyone. EVERYONE.

After a break up, and I hope you have breakups because from my breakups I learned the most about who I am, take your part of the mess, look at it, own it, learn from it, then leave it in the past. We all have baggage, but yours doesn’t have to be a big honkin’ steamer trunk. A carry on will do.

Never underestimate the power of laughter, and of making other people laugh.

Travel as much as you possibly can.

Stand up for yourself but don’t be an ass about it. People can disagree with you and that is okay. Listen to them, try to see things from their point of view, and always respect them. If you enjoy debate, then debate, if the other person enjoys it too. If they don’t, and you insist on debating them, you are being a bully. Don’t be a bully.

Don’t let anybody else define you. YOU define you. Know who you are (and you will figure this out probably sometime in your 30’s…or later if you take after your mom) and be proud of it. YOU BOTH ARE AWESOME.

Water parks are not ever as much fun as you think they will be, but if you must go to one, always wear sunscreen and the longest pair of swim shorts you can find. If you go down any slides, you will thank me.

Be comfortable in your skin. If you are thin, own it, if you are heavy, work it, if you don’t like where you are as far as your body or anything else in your life, do something about it, but don’t ever shame anyone because of their body and how they look, and don’t do the same to yourself. Don’t buy into advertisements that tell you that you MUST buy or do something to be better,cooler, faster, hotter. They want your money. That’s it.

Alone time is okay and good for you.

When you are hung over, and you will be hung over at some point, wake up and drink as much water as possible and take a couple Excedrin. If you feel like throwing up, do it.  You will feel much better afterwards.

Those nights before you woke up hung over, don’t drive. Take a cab or arrange for someone to be your driver. Take turns with friends.

Play music, or write, or paint, or run, or do Tae Kwon Do or something that shakes your soul every day.

You can learn something from everyone you meet even if that lesson is “don’t sit next to Bob anymore”.

This is your journey. You only get one. Do with your life what you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else, and it makes you happy.

Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. That is them. This is you. And you rock.

Never ask a woman if she is pregnant or when she is due unless she is wearing a shirt with a huge arrow pointing to her belly. Even then, maybe just say “nice shirt”.

I am sure this is not the end, but this is the end for now.  I cannot imagine my life without both of you and even though there are times that we seem to not like each other very much,  I want you both to know that I am proud of you and I cannot wait to see you grow into men. You will both be EPIC and kind and original and hilarious and I love you both every second of every minute of every hour of every day, forever.

Mom, Mommy, and sometimes Amy (stop calling me Amy by the way)

J. A. Allen

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