Friday, January 6, 2012


Remember when "smoosh" was a regular word? Ah, glory days.

If you're like me - which might be highly unlikely - the word 'Jersday' means nothing, unless you've got a child between the ages of 13-32 (conservatively) or you're enjoying your arrested development a helluva lot more than I am. If you don't know what it means,  thankfully, Urban Dictionary is here to help:

Jersday: Another name for the Thursday nights that new episodes of Jersey Shore air.

How did I hear about Jersday - or as I first saw it spelled - "Jersdaaaayyyyy"? Glad you asked. It was, of course, my go-to reliable source of information regarding the heartbeat and attention span of America:


No one has a tattoo of this yet - unless Mark Zuckerburg is holding out on us. 

I  survived the first episode, added those visions of loveliness to the scrambled bits of media attention (like here and here) and recalled the fond memory of the full-size cardboard cutout of Snooki (whale sperm expert and pickle addict) that assaulted my eyes while at the mall with my 9 year old in December:

Perfumania's Personal Appearance Princess/Guidette Warning System

In a proactive "she's only gonna listen to me until she's 12" approach, I pointed to the display and told my daughter, "NEVER dress like that. EVER."

Granted, I tell her the same thing when I see displays at Forever XXI:

Golden Goddess/Golden Shower/Golden Eggs that will be bombarded by Valtrex. . .

Trying to see if I could catch the fever that is Jersday - without the need for antibiotics - I made sure my daughter was asleep and DVR'd the program.  (That's what parents like me do. I haven't watched live prime time television in nearly a decade. My choice - not one that all parents make - but it works for me - so Kidlet has a slim chance at a real childhood.)

As I watched the premiere episode of Season 5 (mainly with a quizzical look like I just figured out what calf fries were), I found myself concerned for Vinny (who was homesick - especially after seeing his family and hiding from cast mates during a surprise party). He seemed almost normal. . .and in need of people who really cared about him.

By the time the credits rolled - (thankful I could at least understand what Vinny said), I was feeling sorry for myself. Why?

(a) I'll never get that hour back,  and
(b) Vinny (aka the only one I believe has a fully functional brain with minimal damage caused by alcohol - and who also graduated with a 3.9 GPA in college) is LEAVING the show!

25 Things You Don't Know About Me: Vinny Guadagnino
(Courtesy US Weekly)
Vinny, aka the one who doesn't want to resemble an Oompa Loompa. 

What am I supposed to do now? Watch the incredible shrinking Snooki (until she gets the implants) as she tests the limits of her birth control regimen? I feel cheated (much like most of her boyfriends, it would seem.)

Now, here's the thing that's bothering me.

Why should I care that these people are earning money in a way that I'd find demeaning and demoralizing? It's their business and they're adults (despite tons of evidence to the contrary). After all,  they started out like the rest of us. . .sort of.  These young people have an opportunity to gain fame and fortune. What's wrong with that?

Let me tell you: The parent in me is freaking out that these trainwrecks of humanity will be viewed as the new normal.  They are paraded and pimped out on public appearances and are paid handsomely for it.  I believe they'll pay the piper, so to speak, in time. The problem is, so will we.

Parents are people, too, and we have the right to enjoy the absurd, obscene, ridiculous and sublime. The same is not true of those young people who can - and will - watch Jersey Shore when they are unsupervised.  How can a pre-teen have the maturity to understand, much less learn from, the consequences of poor choices when people like Snooki and "The Situation" don't? (At least that's how they're edited to look.)

As parents, my husband and I make the decisions about what our child watches. Hopefully, we're not the only ones.  I wonder how many parents don't do this - and what their children are learning - and sharing with my child.

What will be broadcast on TV  between the hours of 2 - 9 pm when my child is 12? 15? Online access to programs that are too provocative for children is available now. Parental controls on TVs and computers and phones are great, but they don't replace the control parents have.  On more mature and provocative programming, networks digitize, bleep and block out so-called "offensive" content, but how long before nothing is offensive?

In the meantime,  I think I'll head back to the mall and wrap the Snooki cardboard cutout in Caution tape.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Honey, have you seen that box. . .?

"People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened." - You've Got Mail

This morning I asked friends for blog topic suggestions, since this is new to me and I'm trying to figure out what makes a blog entertaining  - I mean, besides resorting to bathroom humor. . .

Sacrilegious Urinals
Why does Paul Simon's "Mother & Child Reunion"  pop into my head as I look at this?
(Photo courtesy of Clark Sorenson, via Atlantic Monthly and Toilet (the book)

A good friend suggested I write about our move from Texas to the Carolinas, which began in late July and ended in late September.  

Would you like to know what's great about a cross-country move that takes 3 months to complete? So would I. Leave a comment below and we'll discuss it. 

How did our adventure in cardboard, bubble wrap and tape begin? So glad you asked. My husband left Texas after our daughter's 9th birthday celebration, traveling 1100 miles two weeks after a job offer was made and saying goodbye to the charming wife and only child. In May, he had been laid off after 13 years when the employer was bought out by a competitor.  Luckily, he had been offered a job with the new company - but in Phoenix, which we agreed had a view that could less than pleasant:

An asthmatic's dream, no?

We lived in "tornado alley" for most of our lives, Texas was in the middle of one of the worst droughts in history, which meant we'd be packing enough dust in the moving boxes, thank you very much. 

We took a pass. 

So, hubby packed up a few things, drove for 2 days to the Charlotte area, found a one-bedroom apartment (?!) in South Carolina and settled in, going to work at 10 pm, walking to the lake every day, feeding fish, hanging out by the pool, eating baked beans whenever he wanted. . .adjusting to the new normal, I guess you could say. In the meantime, what did I do? A little bit of this and that - and EVERYTHING ELSE. Good times.

In a later post, I'll talk about how we are adjusting as a family to this new state (which they refer to as "The Carolinas" - like the north and south are conjoined twins), but it's hard to appreciate what makes the Deep South special. . .when you look at the map and see that your home state is, well, deeper south, geographically speaking. 

What was the move from Texas like? If I don't dig too deeply, I can say it was one of the most challenging things I've ever done. I'm proud of handling a lot of responsibility on my own: downsizing the contents of our home of 10 years, coordinating its rental, packing things up and working with the movers who showed up one day early, then 6 hours late the next day - and giving them something to eat and drink (Thanks, Aunt Judy, for the tip!) It was also empowering to drive over a thousand miles with a nine year old daughter and a cat (and the litter box. . .who needs rest areas and gas station rest rooms?). I'm the same woman, who, at age 16,  drove into a maize field because she was trying to roll down the passenger window at the same time. 

What?! No power windows? What am I supposed to do with this? 

Ohhhh, that's MUCH better.  

Before the move, my husband and I tried to focus on the good things about the situation with our daughter - who was brought home to that big house with the big yard on the corner in town over 9 years ago, who met her best friends when she was 18 months old at the Baptist Church, and who loved their moms like family.  What did we do? We turned her into the girl who left after the first six weeks of school - a new school where she was settling in, singing every Friday during Mass and learning Spanish. Those classmates all sent her handmade Christmas cards last month, which brought tears to my eyes  - and a huge smile to her face. I'm sniffling as I type about it now. (Talk amongst yourselves. I'll be right back.)

SEGUE! (Let's move on, shall we?)

Was our move a big deal to our families? Here's a little imagery to paint in your mind. :) 

My husband and I are in our 40s, parents to one and siblings to none. We are a family of 3 "only" children. (The family tree has a few more branches, but I'm not talented enough to figure out where they belong.)  Our parents still live in Texas, in the same county we did. They are in their 60s and 70s - still married - to each other.  If we're not there for a family celebration, it's safe to say there really isn't one. In 1994, my husband and I married the Saturday before Mother's Day. Self-centered? Us?! 

The morning our kidlet and I left for Texas, my mother-in-law asked to be taken to the ER because of a migraine.  When I was hospitalized last month with an infection and pneumonia, she flew out the same day to "look after things" while I was sick.  Whenever she and my father-in-law pick us up in their car, she moves to the back seat (with her granddaughter) "to give me more leg room" up front.  

(Sure am glad my husband is the reason we had to move. . .ahem.)

My parents? They were excited for us, saying it would be a great adventure - just like it was when I was a child and my dad was in the Air Force. The difference? You had shared experiences as a military family relocating every few years - and my grandma usually came and stayed with us. Often. For months at a time.  Lucky dad.

The reality? We are the kids who moved away when most children are coming back to spend time with their parents and help when needed. My parents are older, and they'll need my help sooner - and I'm not there. Before we left for the Carolinas,  Mom & Dad told me I didn't need to come back if "something happened." These are the same people who have been helpful enough to joke about going down to the funeral home to make sure their cremations are paid for so I don't have to do it myself - and to remind me that Mom's ashes go in a Windex bottle to be displayed on the mantel.  

The reality, however, is that Dad can't travel due to COPD - which basically means that because he smoked for most of his life, he has the lung capacity of a 110-year-old. (Don't ask me how a machine can calculate it, but it did - and TriCare paid for it.) My parents won't be coming here to visit. Ever. 

My in-laws will come, but they'll need us, too. It's not a matter of if they'll need us, but when.  How do I know this? In the past two weeks, my father-in-law has driven his Mercedes convertible over a parking spot curb (tearing off the front bumper when he backed out), broken the mechanism that controls the convertible top - and, yesterday, backed into a pickup. (The pickup won.) 

I know it's not the worst thing in the world to be far away from family and friends, but it's not a reality check you want to write very often.  Keep that in mind. Relocation wasn't optional. In this economy, we went where the work could be found, but my husband, daughter, parents and I are all paying a price for it - in time. 

I think, as I spent six weeks sorting, packing, cleaning, clearing, and compartmentalizing everything in sight, I tried to do the same with my thoughts and feelings and the conflict I faced. I've kept some of them in storage until I find the time and the space to open them up again. That's not written on any moving checklist, but it should be. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No Quitter, Go Getter

"You look like the type who'd dig Lil Wayne."

The voice? Self-assured.

The smile? Confident.

The goal? Dominance.

The speaker? A young man I'd never met.

The intended audience?

Oh! that would be. . .

Swagga so bright I don't even need light. 
(*Pimp cup and grill optional) 

That's me - a grown-up pleaser kid, former teacher's pet and a late 20th century selection from the palest of the pale suburban moms collection (note the non-existent eyebrows and distinct lack of melanin).

Now, I'm married to a man named Wayne (his middle name, which appears to be the most popular middle name for serial killers, by the way), so the concept of "Lil Wayne" would just be a distraction and a fit of giggles I could not afford at that moment.   I'm telling you - double entendre is a gift that never gets old.  Trust me on this one.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah.

Why was this kid pouring charm and humor on me like a water hose on his baby sister?

Simple. It was the location: a high school classroom. I was "the sub" - and it was my turn to be tested.  It wasn't the first time, nor would it be the last.  (By the way, listening to Lil Wayne should be mandatory for all educators. Know the voices in the students heads that can be louder than yours if you're not careful.)

What was I doing in a room full of estrogen and testosterone run amok? Had I lost my mind?

Actually, no - at least not yet. I had worked in offices before my husband and I had our first and only child in 2002, and I decided I didn't want to return to work full-time after all we had endured to bring the little tax deduction and sleep deprival unit into the world.

I loved being a mom (still do) and was happy to take care of our daughter while my husband commuted 75 miles every night to work a 10-hour shift - and sleep during the day.  I enjoyed watching Blue's Clues and The Backyardigans as much as any stay-at-home parent can - and even more, since I sang along -  but there's a point where Mommy had to re-establish contact with the outside world, or she might build a shrine in her medicine cabinet to her pharmacist:

So, with my emotional well-being and mad money earning potential in mind, I decided "subbing" was a great way to get to know people in my husband's small hometown, and learn about the schools my daughter would attend from Grades K-12.

What's the worst that could happen?

I'll tell you: high school freshmen. They haven't returned to a fully human state yet, so it's a bit like seating 20 gorillas in a library when one of them smells like a banana and another is in heat.

. . .which brings me back to that high school campus.  The same student who smiled and cajoled, pleaded and placated to listen to his iPod during class? He was the one, when I subbed for a science teacher whose health crises in class proved more educational than her lectures, who told me he was grounded if his grades fell below 95. He was at school with his jaw wired due to an injury,  consuming nutrients through a straw.  He's also the one who earned a $25,000 scholarship his senior year - the only one -

 - but he wasn't the only one who listened to Lil Wayne.

Because of students like him, I accepted a full-time job at that high school - coincidentally, during his senior year. I sat at the front desk, answering the phone, greeting the public, helping anyone who asked. . .and learning a little bit about what it means to be a student in a small town in the 21st century (with a little translation help from Urban Dictionary, so I could figure out what they were talking about.)

Rainbow Party, Skittles Party,  Train Party. . .all terms I learned in 2009 from students in rural Texas, where even muddin' has clothing-optional potential.

Because of students like him, I learned to try and keep my eyes from crinkling shut when I laughed out loud, from widening in shock, welling up with tears or rolling skyward in exasperation when they talked about what this teacher said, or what another student did, or how they separated their fighting little brothers in the front yard at 6 am after prom. (Answer: chase them with a bat.)

Silence! I kill you!

I never quite pulled off a poker face - but they knew it - and seemed to know that what I wanted, more than anything, was for them to be okay.

Most importantly, I learned I could NEVER shut my eyes to avoid seeing their reality. . .because they wanted someone to see it, to listen to them talk about it, and to honestly care what happened to them.

Seeing the relief that they "blew a zero" at a party busted by cops. . .seeing their bloodshot eyes when they came to school "blowed" - just another day on the job - 187 in all.

In this small town, predominantly Caucasian, Catholic and Czech, with involved parents and lifelong friends who graduate, go to college and come back to raise their families, time did not stand still and problems didn't stop at the city limits sign.  It just seemed many over the age of 30 were supplied with blinders once kids reached 13.

There are always students facing realities no one should - and this school I love was not immune (hunger, poverty, prescription addiction, alcoholic parents, attempted rape, teen pregnancy, custody battles, molestation, abortion) and in our town, teens drinking, driving and dying (every few years - for decades).  The town holds their collective breath on school holidays and three day weekends. Kids see their parents on Thursday morning, go home with a friend after school and conduct alcohol poisoning contests with beer pong, Jell-O shots and swamp water until they come back home wiped out and hung over Sunday night.  They can be 15 years old - with loving parents who naively trust adults who supply the location and the liquor.

Budgets are tight in schools, and teachers are overwhelmed, overworked and underappreciated - and occasionally micromanaged by administrators. Some should have left the field long ago, when they ran out of patience for students who are basically raising themselves - through experiences I just listed. If a friend confesses to another that she's a victim of sexual abuse or a dyslexic student took care of a vomiting sibling all night,  the importance of calculus or a research paper falls down the list, if not completely off.

So, what did the students teach me? What do I think you should remember when you hear about public schools, underperforming students and budget cuts?

  1. A student's radar still works. They know when an adult doesn't give a damn.  They sense it when they're 18 months old and they can see through the fake smiles and psuedo-concern when they're 18 years old. They're just tired of pretending it doesn't matter or hurt once they reach puberty. Don't even try.
  2. Young people always trust the wrong person at least once - usually of the opposite sex - who will  hurt them deeply, and they will die a little inside, blame themselves - and likely do the same thing over again if an adult doesn't listen and support them.
  3. Teens take it to heart when someone they respect gives up on them - and it motivates them to give up, too.
  4. Adults and second chances are NOT a combination teens put together willingly. EVER. 
  5. Teens are educating themselves through every means available to them -  including sexual experimentation with peers (hookups with random people they meet at parties/friends with benefits/longterm relationships). They feel like adults because of their actions, but aren't yet wired to adequately handle the psychological price of all they see, hear and do. 

Most importantly - now, more than new uniforms, dual credit classes or technology grants for the classroom materials - they need adults who care enough to see what's really happening, to listen to them, to support and reassure them in difficult times and to let them know they can still become the kind of person they want to be - and how they can accomplish it. If their parents aren't listening, they're hoping to find someone who will.

If you're a parent, LOOK. LISTEN. SAY SOMETHING.  Ask the questions, challenge the answers, negotiate the solutions when there's conflict. Don't assume anything - good or bad. YOU have the responsibility to teach your child how to live in their generation, not ours.

Don't baby them or sugarcoat the truth. Acknowledge their maturity and experience, but let them know there's more to come - better and worse - and they need to be able to be in control of their lives, not the other way around.

Oh, and what about Lil Wayne? Can he teach us a lesson or two  -  aside from how to go to jail for weapons possession? Well, yes.  He can. The reason his music connects with young people is because he listens to them, and gives them a message they want to hear:

No stress visibly
Neither does it enter me
I think positively
You can't harm me mentally
Not physically
Not spiritually
You'll never get rid of me
I am the epitome
Of "this is what you did to me"
Nothing is what you did for me
Nothing is what you give to me
I take whatever I'm visioning
Now break all the limiting
Now shake all the gimmicking
The fakery
The trickery

And I'm no quitter cause I'm a go I'm a go I'm a go getta and I'm no quitter cause I'm a go I'm a go I'm a go getta
Yeah I I'm gon get it I I'm gon get it yeah I'm gon get it yeah
Cause I'm a go I'm a go I'm a go getta

Who knew? That freshman nailed it. I was the type who could dig Lil Wayne. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Life is short. Sing in the car!

It's hard to believe that I will meet the blog count of 2011 so early in 2012.  It's a giddy feeling - or it could be the Dr Pepper Ten (for men only, my a$$) I've consumed all day. Are you ready for the dregs of the day in Blog Numero Dos? Let's see.

Confession: I absolutely love singing while I drive. Granted, as a wife, I also control the radio when my husband drives. He lost the right to the radio when he admitted he would listen to a) talk radio or b) Tejano music on his 75-mile commute to work because that allowed him "to think." Puh-lease.  That would only provoke me to either think hateful thoughts about her:

or him:

and friends and fellow Facebookers know how much I want to support blonde women and William Shatner - especially his musical career.   It all makes perfect sense - at least to me - so I choose the music (and I have no control issues at all.) ;)

As a teen in the 80s, I'd put on the gorgeous vinyl and plastic AM/FM radio headphones that resembled techno earmuffs before firing up the riding lawnmower to landscape the back 9. It looked something like this: 

(Okay.  I was actually in high school and had ear sweat pouring down my red face as I basted myself for skin cancer.)

Anyway, my parents (who never sang anywhere - EVER) were the first to recognize how much I loved to sing along with Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper, Queen, Madonna.  Nothing touches a Dad more than the sound of mower blades chucking limestone and branches across the yard (before the blades bent) while his only daughter belts out "Like a virgin. . .touched for the VERY FIRST TIME!" as he sits in the den trying to read the paper.  Mindful of your self-esteem issues (not everyone can wear stirrup pants, shoulder pads and jelly shoes and look adorable), those kind, loving parents mention it at dinner and you realize you won't be appearing on MTV anytime soon. Thankfully,  you escape to your room,  tune them out and pray for the day you get your own car. 

Why? In your car, you took center stage.  Whether it was the vintage muscle car, grandpa's old pickup or a baby blue Ford Pinto (yes, I was that cool),  your solo career dreams could flourish. Your commanding presence and vocal stylings would bring an audience to tears (unlike Dad's watery eyes as he took the blades off the Craftsman. Again).   Were we supposed to outgrow that? If so. . .OOPS. 

Granted, as a mature, responsible adult behind the wheel, you know proper driving procedure. All bets are off, though, when you name that tune in 3 notes or less.  Then, as the vocal Olympics begin, you notice the guy in the car next to you.  You know. That guy. For him, the driver of the Audi next to your moderately priced late model used car at the stop light, you are the reason to change lanes as quickly as possible.  We won't go into great detail about what your children think when you belt out Steve Perry, Freddie Mercury or Katy Perry as you drive them to school.  Add some dance moves and watch them visibly shrink. It's a beautiful thing.  

If it's been awhile since you serenaded the general public from the comfort of your coupe, sedan or SUV,  I encourage you in the spirit of the new year to give it a try. Channel your inner Reba, Adele, Bruno Mars or Cee Lo (as long as you don't rewrite John Lennon lyrics). Granted, it's a bit more risky with the windows rolled down, but life is too short NOT to do something that makes you feel better - either through music that gets you out of a bad mood, or songs that suit the darkness in your soul (at least for the next 3.5 minutes.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to run a quick errand. . .with Steve.


Well, hell.

I thought I'd be so productive today. Blogging for the first time on a new site, having written a grand total of TWO posts on Wordpress in 2011. Last year was a mixed and damn heavy bag of crap, stress, exhaustion, loss and a year-end surprise of hospitalization.  Did I write about it, journal, vlog or Tweet? Nope. That would have been therapeutic, helpful, healthy. Please.  Sure, I'd post on Facebook, but that was limited to tidbits of snark and glimmers of acid-tongued rants, along with links to whatever entertained, distracted or inspired me to not get in my car and run over small creatures or the people who had pissed me off.

So I started this morning on (the practical choice, since I'm a burgeoning Google-phile). I began by being snarky regarding a society (ours, that is) that will keep Kim Kardashian in Spandex well into her 80s, with her parental unit/pimp Kris Kardashian pushing, plotting and padding the financial portfolios for years to come. I was feeling almost pleased with my work. . .and then POOF! The post disappeared. Did I highlight the entire text and delete? No. Did I hit the back arrow by mistake. Nope. Did I remember to save the post as I was typing. Well, of course not. Am I capable of accidental self-sabotage on a regular basis? No comment.  I decided God must like some big butts better than others, because a Kardashian kiester was not to be roasted this morning. Let go and let God, right? I do wonder how Kris will get 10% from that personal appearance (wherever Kim ends up).

After cursing - hence the title of this post - I regrouped and thought I might as well post something that will help Kendall understand how her mother's mind works (because her father is clueless about such things) - and when karma knocks me down a flight of stairs and I have amnesia, I can come here to rebuild the inner me via this bionic blog.

That being said, here's a list of some of the sites I visit for inspiration, distraction, delusion and to bring about a feeling of faux emotional stability. My justification? No matter how much crap was delivered to my door (on a fairly consistent basis, might I add), I feel better knowing I'm NOT these people.  You seek your psychological well-being where you can, right?

1) Source of all Kraptastic Kardashian: People Magazine.  The latest Kim Klaptrap? To bang or not to bang.
2) Looking to malign Miley Cyrus? Look no further than The Superficial. (Just try being a mom of a 9 year old and NOT develop an intense aversion to filling the Cyrus coffers.)
3) Fun, fabulosity and my favorite: Les News. I like Trent's posts as author of Pink Is The New Blog. Much better than Perez - with a lot less pandering.
4) Reading this reminds of Big Bang Theory - without having to Google words you don't know: i09.
5) Quenching the thirst for knowledge (so you can understand WTH people under the age of 25 are posting, texting and Tweeting): Urban Dictionary
6) Having a bad face day? Not any more, you're not: Stars' Plastic Surgery

Now, you've had a peek inside the online mood medicine cabinet I keep fully stocked at all times.  I may post music from YouTube, too. (That's the advisory portion of this post. You're welcome.)

*Tim Minchin is NOT Jesus.  Thankfully, Woody Allen isn't, either.

Now it's time for me to stalk people on Facebook. I highly recommend it. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so get all the good stuff while they try to figure out the privacy settings.