Monthly Archives: April 2012

Garage Therapy


Every morning after I toss back the dregs of the morning coffee, I head out for a walk around my subdivision in Surburbia, USA. I have really grown to love that mile-plus loop. It is a great, predictable way to start the day. Apparently, I thrive on routine- something that took me circa 40 years to figure out. I get superstitious about shuffling my routine cards. Wake, get kids to school, walk, shower. The shower process is ritualistic too. Face, shampoo, rinse, towel-twisted up into identical turbanesque wrap each day. For someone who is prone to paralysis by analysis, this morning meander around the neighborhood keeps me linear and moving forward. There is a single rose bush in Boo Radley’s yard that I stop to smell. Checking off stop-and-smell the roses before 9am feels good. I try to walk this loop three times before I come home to begin my work with one hand on my computer and the other hand in the Triscuit box.

This is a neighborhood where the ice cream man is only occasionally stinkeyed as a potential pedophile when he cruises through too slowly and too many minutes after sunset. It seems to be a pretty safe place. We are near a college campus so the worst thing that seems to befall the hood is an occasional beer can in the yard which I happily pick up out of requisite karma. I think a beer can may have been sucked out of my Jeep floorboard once or twice in the 90’s.

Kids ride their bikes solo. Adults check the mailbox in flannel pants. We all glare at speeders. We throw dead cicadas by the fist full at speeders. We don’t call the homeowner’s association to rat out kids who are trying to master the skateboard rail on the white picket fence that surrounds the property. The point is that we are relatively free range around here. It is a place where a kid be a kid. And an adult can be nosy…

…by psychoanalyzing your garage on her morning walks.

On average, I spy approximately eight to ten gaping open garages on any given day during my walk. And as much as I try NOT to glance at the setup, it is like the moment when someone says “don’t look now but the lady behind you just stuffed a Twix in her bra“…you look. Without much pause.

Some of these open-to-the-passerby garages are so meticulously kept that when I arrive home, the first thing I do is stick my own semi-cluttered garage at the very top of the honey-we-gonna-do-this-soon list. 

I admit that I put way too much thought into garage analysis. But a garage is the place where the superfluous is relegated. It is the place for hanging tools. For folding ladders. Dusty golf clubs. Shiny golf clubs that have been the origin of spousal discord because they are so shiny- tarnished only by fresh grass-stains with use. Garages are the place for stuff that seems important enough to keep but not important enough to keep inside the house. The place where the shoes get wiped off before you finally settle in for the night.

The garage is an an entity that SCREAMS hello-this-home-belongs-to FILL IN THE BLANK. So yeah I look. I’m curious that way.

Here is what I have noticed. Worth mentioning: I don’t actually trespass so put the phone down- the police have bigger fish to fry. I am not stalking. I am merely observing. You can actually tell alot about a person from their garage at a glance. Or maybe I should rephrase…you can certainly make UP a lot about a person as trained garage stalkerazzi.

The extra carseats laying in pieces like Lincoln Logs mean that one or more of you is not entirely sure that the procreating is done.  

The yard inflatables (plural) on the shelf. This means that you actually buy these things. Something is wrong with you…I am not sure what exactly. Please take the money that you spend on yard inflatables annually and donate it to a charity that gives a real Christmas tree to a family in need.

Sports equipment, by season, in bins. Every sport imaginable. Lacrosse, croquet, basketball, badmitten, soccer, curling for crying out loud. This tells me that you like to be outside. It also tells me that you spread your time way too thin and that you likely bicker with your spouse over who is going to take the kids to the 200th practice of the year when they would really prefer to play the flute. 

Paint cans. Rusty ones. Stacked cattywampus like a rickety pyramid. Paint cans that are clearly from another century because the label looks yellowed and vintage. You might be a hoarder. Or you might still be mourning the death of your beloved grandmother whose childhood sewing room was painted in that color. 

My favorite. Full disclosure: This one is my own. Hanging half shredded tacked to the plaster walls front and center is a silouette of a human torso that my husband brought home as a souvenir from gun-toting practice. His first and only shooting range experience. This means that your wife feels that the bullet-riddled poster on display will deter potential thiefs in the event that she she accidentally leaves the garage door open. It means also that you don’t believe in alarm systems.

A ride-on mower for your tiny yard. I don’t know what that means. That you are impractical, perhaps.

The most distressing to me though is The Brass Wall of Fame. And for some reason, this garage is always open. In a display of crazy, perfect  precision hangs a grid of trophy plaques. Maybe 30 of them. The old wooden kind with the brass cleat or the chippped football mounted above the engraved name of the celebrated athlete.  They are a variety of shapes and sizes. Someone relegated those to the garage and I dont think that it was the Trophy Guy. If they weren’t important to the Trophy Guy, they would be in a box. In the attic. That is where my husband’s are and he was a hella hockey player in his spring chicken years. Of course, I have it in my mind that some mean, controlling wife banished trophies from the home with one big exasperated Get A Life and roll of the eye. Why I am on the hubs side here, I have no idea. Just that if something is important to someone you love, then maybe we should honor that even if it clashes with our prized Eames chair and mod ensemble inside the house. 

I once knew a guy whose couch in college was nicknamed Baba Ganoush. It’s not like this guy was asking to bring in Baba Ganoush inside for the marital home’s centerpiece. 

Maybe my theory is way off. Probably. But either way, I want to thank the phantom mean wife over there. She made me reconsider how to handle the day that Matt asks where he can put the Christmas Story leg lamp. Or the neon beer sign. Or the buck mount the size of a big-screen from the hunting trip. GULP. Of course not in the garage. In the scrapbooking room would be just fabulous. Or the basement basking a new glow on the pool table. Just like the glory days of old.

And of course, there is one more ritual to speak of on this morning walk. When you see this grown, garage-stalking woman strolling with her ipod everyday, you will notice that every single time she passes the The Brass Hall Of Fame…she gives Trophy Guy a fist pump to the sky. No lie. Every. Single. Time. 




Confessions Of A Teacher


*Make that Confessions Of A Teacher Former One


Teachers don’t actually enjoy delivering bad news about your kid.


It will not deter them from doing it anyway. It is a part of being true to the gig.


Your child was caught cheating on a test today does not equate to you are the world’s shittiest parent and I can’t believe the universe saw you fit to conceive. I am holding my white flag/sign over here. It says This Is Not A Job Review For You.

Letting you in on the fact that junior has exercised his or her right to be a completely uncivilized goonhead is not the highlight of our day, week or month either. Promise. Cross our heart, hope you don’t die (just that you get sick enough to not be able to come chew us out at the parent/teacher conference).

Moreover, can we discuss a way that we (not just you BUT we) can take this hardwon info and do something with it? Something that doesn’t include wadding it into a sharp-cornered grenade and pegging it at our greying head. Believe it or not, good teachers are fantastic collaborators. They want your help because think about it… You are the expert on your kid. Of course, teachers need you as part of the solution to your suddenly problematic offspring.

No, the behavior or learning issues are not a result of being trapped in the birth canal for too long. No, it was not because you drank coffee by the gallons while breastfeeding. We get coffee dependence too.

Some of us get so nervous about telling you that your kid is a closet-clown and catalyst for classroom mutiny that we rehearse in the mirror beforehand then practice the bob n’ weave to dodge the daggers you may or may know throw our way. Because we know that you think Junior is an angel. Maybe he is, maybe she isn’t. Maybe she just had a bad day like a newly shorn Britney in the throes of meltdown.

Here’s the deal. Teachers don’t get extra square footage in their mansion in heaven by lying to you about your kid. Please don’t shoot the messenger. It does you and your child a grave disservice in the long run to sugarcoat these things. It really and truly does. Cross our heart, hope to die but not before spring break.

Remember the time you raised your voice at your child’s teacher during the school conference because Johnny got caught cheating on a test? Remember the alibi that you offered him as he sat there beet red with guilt? We do. According to you (but not to him), he must have just been checking his already correct answers with the calculator stuffed sideways in his sock.

Or that time you sent that scathing email because your kid missed the end of quarter class party after they threw a pork chop in the cafeteria and blamed it on the timid, quiet kid who was too afraid to protest? Or the rumors you spread about our purported favoritism because your kiddo was never elected to the Good Citizen assembly for recognition.

And I admit that I WOULD NOT be making this confession here if I still actively taught these days. It could have cost me a future paycheck – the one I would’ve needed to sign over to my therapist after you were mean to me. 

Truth? Hope you can handle the truth.

If you are an asshole to your child’s teacher, it will not in any way, shape or form benefit your child. Even a nice, fat gift certificate to Morton’s will hardly erase the damage done because the teacher will have already lost at least a full week’s sleep over you…maybe even a month. We are teachers. We are nurturers. Nurturers are sensitive. We will handle your child with care on their good and bad days. Please handle us with the same care.

For a little while, the teacher will try extra hard to like your kid to compensate for not particularly liking you. Then this is what happens, the harder they try to like your superbly enabled kid, the more they see …. YOU. Fruit metaphor. The apple never falls far from the tree.

For the longest time, I felt unqualified to write about this. I was either:

   A teacher who was not yet a parent

   A teacher and a parent simultaneously

   A parent on a hiatus from teaching

   A field trip chaperone/volunteer

So I have had an opportunity to stand on each side of this fence.

The tough truth of the matter is that when you are a jerk, your teacher develops a heightened sense of awareness for the jerk factor in your child. IT HAPPENS. It happens the same way that your car comes to a complete stop at a 4-way after having a collision at that same intersection a week earlier. The same thing happens between the teacher and your child. 

So when you respond to your child’s teacher about your child’s acting a fool with something like “Fine but there will be no consequence at home if there is already one at school.” then you are cocooning a monster who is unafraid of any consequence or tools for incentive that we might be able to offer to improve their learning environment. 

So while we may not want to do it- while your tattoo of a fire-breathing dragon does nothing to soothe our nerves, we will still deliver the truth about your child. The good. The bad. The ugly.

If you really do love your kid which I am sure that you do…If you really do want what is best for them (and for all of the children with whom they share this year of their lives in school), then find a way to team up with instead of against the teacher. It is a hard job. It is the best and hardest job on the planet. And I am talking about yours- not mine. Well, ours. Or theirs.


The Top 6 People With Whom I Would Like To Parent Conference:

In case any parents out there are looking for mentors….

  • Louie CK (Comedian)
  • Glennon Melton (Author of Momastery Blog)
  • Tracy Moore (Writer, Jezebel)
  • Your Grandmother- Because she gets it by now.
  • Reese Witherspoon (She would probably have her kids even write a thank-you note afterward)
  • Daniel Tosh (What do you even call his job? But only with his wife present for fear of becoming one of his televised Web Redemptions)




I’ll Have What You’re Having


Two out of four of us have become pollen prisoners in our own home this week. So please forgive the cabin fever that begets a little stream of consciousness today. Tennessee in full bloom is no more of a joke than our moonshine. We spent two full days trapped indoors last week. Not snow days. Pollen days. Passing the time, we painted a window mural of a menacing thunderstorm across the kitchen panes to try to block out our yellow-dusted bikes lying dormant in the sunny grass. A lame attempt at a mind fake to make the great indoors seem more appealing.

See what happens here? Give me an open highway (a blank page) and inevitably, I’ll end up writing about what I know. I know runny noses, mucus viscosity, and which allergy med holds the ephedrine. I know that fits of sneezing after you have delivered a couple of babies will never be as safe as it once was (without a change of clothing). I know that the parenting manuals deliberately leave that out. Strangely, these are the very things that keep me going. Getting initiated by fire- then by slow, unanticipated rounds into this club called motherhood.

It is in those small, sneezy moments that the we versus they mentality incubates. We who have kids versus they who do not.

At one point in the not so distant past (college), I had dreams of finding a career then changing the world- in that order. Instead, I graduated and went to work on a dude ranch in Montana in hopes that the big sky would tell me what to do with my life. It never really told me. I was having too much fun to notice if it did. Somehow I ended up here…blogging between witching hours while one kid reads and the other plays the Wii…. or whatever they’re doing in the other rooms quietly right now.

Setting: Last Weekend. Wedding Shower. One of my closest friends is getting remarried. I am very happy for her. Lots of people are. She is one of those people who has spent her teen and adult years being very generous to others. She is the quintessential oldtimer pal with over two decades logged in one long, very confidential journal that is still writing itself.

We had our first and only seance in 7th grade over the Ouija board over 20 years ago. I still remember trying to lift the sleeping person into the air on our pinky fingers with four people stationed at each corner of the sleeping bag. This is the friend who knows all of your dirt and loves you anyway. The one who takes some of your dirt and smears it on herself so that you’re both…well, covered in dirt? The one who never screens your speed dials…even when the airline steward is threatening her with excommunication from not only first-class- but the whole plane.

This friend of mine also happens to be a very successful businesswoman. I try on her Louboutin heels when I visit her in New York and try to walk in them with my rolled up yoga pants just for fun. I need the wall to brace myself. I need her to brace me too…literally and figuratively most years. And she does. One of us has kids. The other does not yet (although two beautiful, lucky daughters are getting an equally lucky mom this June).

Being a parent can isolate you from the otherworld. When you are busy racking up those million joys and sleepless nights that come with being someone’s mother, there is this other world still spinning heartily without you in it. I try to keep my gasoline can of Type A hidden around the corner to ignite things when the going gets slow and lessons in shoe-tying get tedious.

My friend knows this about me. That I am still sitting on a goldmine of Type A-ness. That I’m still cool…that I still have the best dirty joke in the room right in my back pocket and that at the bottom of the  diaper bag, there is most assuredly a bright red lipstick. But when I am around other women who are married to their extraordinary careers, I clam up. Get dizzy. Tread the air for common ground.

There I am- seated next to the CEO of some publicly-traded Inc. What the hell am I going to talk about if I can’t rip Dora the Explorer – or discuss natural ways to remedy child constipation – or why it is freaking fanastic that the latest school fundraiser didn’t actually require me or my kid to sell anything? My hardwon vocabulary has dwindled to include … can’t even think of the word for it right now.  

When I do open my mouth, stuff like this comes out: This chicken salad is so good. Then during what seems like an appropriate lull in the conversation, I launch into a completely inappropriate story about my history with the bride-to-be in an attempt to make our friendship seem relevant. Then it happens. I am set free when another person at the table wonders aloud about the American Girl phenomena. From here, the childless folks get much new knowledge from me and the other moms-in-hiding that probably solidifies their decision about not having kids. And we, the parents of small people, actually get to teach them a thing or two about why they might have chosen the best route for themselves. It all comes out in the wash. See…even a laundry metaphor? 

Simply put, having kids is not a required rite of passage for everyone. And when I meet someone who doesn’t have kids, I don’t think to myself what a cold cold heart…they will never love fully.  

And I will admit, there are hours (ok, sometimes entire days) where that grass looks awfully, awfully green.

Sometimes, when I’m working on a freelance project at the local Panera and I side glance career ladies in suits that cost more that my last month’s salary, I do get a little bit (here’s that darn word) jealous. And after that annoying emotion subsides, the what-if centaur seizes an opportunity to rear it’s ugly little head next. What if I had done this instead of that? 

Stupid what-ifs. They are not welcome here anymore. Not here where the grass is so green you to sneeze to cope.

In the meantime, I have a full-time job. It is called my kids. So forgive me if I talk about my job a lot. It is not a contract that I want to botch. I am up for review every single day. The critics are not that harsh but they need lots of reinforcement along the way. Many, many thanks to the friends who are not currently on diaper or carpool duty but are still hearing me out when I relay the minutes from the day’s agenda. Without some brilliant momtrepreneur, we would not have Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (the world’s best diaper rash remedy). All of us are needed to keep this world spinning.

My friend and I- we report to polar opposite jobs. She owns a thriving company. I own a goldfish. But we find a middle ground and still relate now just as much as ever. I would like to think that we keep this tipsy world a little bit more balanced by all doing what we love and loving what we do. One ruling the world, one trying to raise it. I probably wouldn’t last a day in her shoes. She may not last one day in mine, but we don’t need to tell each other that.

And it is acceptable (to me, anyway) if the wrinkle and child-free Gen X’ers roll their eyes in the nice restaurant when my child’s starts begging for an exorcism. I am sure that they will secretly be glad that they are ten tables away and happy in their decision to not sign up for this gig. I am happy to provide that service if they are happy to receive it for a minute.

I’m also sure that I will sit there and think before ordering…I’ll have what I’m having with a side of what you’re having too. We really are kind of in this together. 

Pass the cloth napkin. No, I am not crying. 

P.S. Yes, I know there are a few of you out there who are running companies and changing diapers. I know you exist. I can’t even talk about you yet because I don’t know where you stash your cape. It ain’t in your closet. Because I’ve looked.