Thursday, June 26, 2014

Birthday--And Why We All Need A Laptop

My birthday was last weekend, and I scored lots of fantastic gifts!  I also got to spend the evening with an amazing group of friends, having dinner and visiting a Drag Queen Theatre in Boston (generally not something I would want for my own birthday due to the lack of movement--I was hoping to take my fancy dress and go out dancing for probably only the second or third time ever--but I actually had a fantastic time and got to have strong drinks, a little friendly embarrassment, and best of all, a lot of laughter with very happy friends!)

I got to glam it up, and see the little typewriter necklace?  Read on!

One of the best things about the night was that Coffeeguy had made it a surprise, and also that he had made a theme.  Before he handed me this silver beauty, he made me close my eyes and said:  "You like to tell everyone you're a stay at home mom.  But you're not. That's not what you are. You.  Are.  A.  Writer, Baby, that's what you are."  And I opened my eyes and saw this:

Well, ok, I saw the box it was in, but it was just as exciting.  Oh, I know what you're thinking, because I thought so too.  Don't we already have a laptop? I mean, how do you write these pithy blog posts?

But I never use the laptop to write, I almost inevitably use my phone.  And now that I have downloaded Scrivener (if you're writing a long novel, or memoir, etc, please, just take my word and go look it up), I need to use a computer, so I have worked less on my novel.  But now, I have my own laptop! I can use it whenever I want!  I am a writer!!  And I shall follow the advice of my next gift:

I have also noticed 3 things about having my own laptop (because the family one is often in use.)

1.  When you write on your phone, you're not busy, and you're "fair game."  Often if I just get into the writing groove, Punkgirl, Happyboy, or Coffeeguy have a story they desperately want to tell.  I want to hear their stories.  But by the time they finish, GONZO.  I forget what I was writing.  If I'm on the computer,  I'm suddenly greeted with "Are you busy?" Or "Remind me when you're done to tell you about so and so."  BONUS.

2.  When you're writing on your iPhone, you're just "playing on your phone."  I can't tell you how many times I have been in the middle of editing my novel when my kids have said "You've been playing on your phone for an hour!" (Which, btw, is never true, because I don't get an hour to myself!). Now that I'm on the laptop, it's a respectful, "Are you done working yet?"

3.  I get things typed faster with all my fingers than with one thumb.  I don't know how that could possibly be, but it's true.

So, if you're an iPhone writer like me, consider buying a laptop, if only for the 25 minutes you might get to write in peace---worth every penny!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Camp Awesome Begins!

Its officially the first day of summer for us, and we have gotten off to an auspicious start.  We made Summer Bucket Lists last night, which included (on Happyboy's list) "hug Punkgirl every day" and (on Punkgirl's list) "avoid Happyboy's hugs daily"...

Being a former educator, I like to put my ideas into lesson plans.  I can't help myself.  It makes it so much easier to plug fun things into a day.  It's not like we have to follow it to a t, but it's nice to look and see that recipe for clay and making ornaments that I really wanted them to try.  My book looks like this: 

My favorite are the writing prompts.  In the book it says "writing prompts 1-5"...on a separate sheet, I have about 50 writing prompts, some I came up with, some I looked up online, some I asked them for.  I then torture Happyboy (who loves to create a story but hates to actually write) by adding an option to give me a 10 page typewritten (double-spaced, I'm not THAT mean) report, with evidence, that will convince me that he shouldn't have to write at all this summer.  I figure if he puts in that much effort he deserves to skip it.

Now, that might sound like I force the kids to do everything in my little book.  Au contraire.  This is the book I pull out when they say "I'm bored." Ok. You're bored.  Great!!! I have writing prompts today!  They'll either do it because they really are bored, or they'll go find something to do on their own!  Either I get something fun to read, and "free" (this word has such a different meaning for parents) time, or they go find something to do and I don't have to hear "I'm bored!"

This week's writing prompts look like this:

I can't wait to see what they come up with!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Wrong Stuff

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I am a huge advocate of seeing a good therapist.  You know why? Because LIFE IS HARD, and sometimes you just need someone to tell you it's ok to be overwhelmed, and occasionally to maybe slap you back into the realm of reality in a comforting and safe environment.

I have had great therapists--my marriage counselor was a wonderful woman (well, maybe she still is, since she's still alive), and she was able to steer our marriage from the rocks into smooth waters with a few suggested exercises and by facilitating better communication.  I firmly believe she saved my marriage.

That said, there's nothing worse than a bad therapist, and there are just as many bad ones out there as good ones.  I've had some craptastic therapists, so  I'm going to give you the benefit of my experience, to save you time and money.

With the disclaimer that I am not a professional, and my only experience with therapy is actually attending it, and you should discuss any mental health concerns with your primary care doctor, this is my list of therapists to avoid:

The "Mountain Out Of A Molehill" Jerky Jones: I once had a therapist belittle my feelings to the point that I would have anxiety attacks about going to therapy.  Your feelings are not stupid.  They are feelings, and you dread your therapy appointment so much that you find yourself choosing to schedule that long-awaited dental surgery just to avoid it, you need a different therapist!

The "All About Me" Chatty-Cathy:  If more of your appointment is spent hearing about your counselor's life than talking about your own, you've got the wrong person.  If you know your therapist's family structure down to how many kids or grandkid's she or he has, something's not right.  There's a difference between empathizing and using a patient as a sounding board.  And don't feel bad about changing therapists--it's only business, and your business is what you're paying to get off your chest!

The "Tell Me Again" Annie:
If your therapist forgets your name and/or your issues from one session to the next, run away, and don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.  If your problems aren't important enough for your therapist to remember, you'll never get the help you need.  Remember, you are the client, and that means your anxiety attacks or feelings of anxiousness, anger, or depression are real to you, and important to you, and they should be equally important and real to a good therapist.

The "Belligerent Bob":
Your therapist may tell you things you don't necessarily want to hear.  But a good therapist is going to let you get there on your own time, and help you see it for yourself.  If your therapist seems angry with you, puts you down, or otherwise antagonizes you, say "no thank you" and find a new one.  You're paying someone to help you get through a tough time, not to add on to the stress you already have or to make you feel anxious or worse, afraid.

And finally, the "High Horse Hannah":
If your counselor looks down on you or treats you like a child, show her/him you're an adult by being firm but polite when you show them the door (figuratively speaking.)  You are a human, and they are a human, and while they may be trained in communication and issue resolution, that doesn't make them better than you.  A good therapist's job is to teach you conflict resolution and to listen to your concerns and feelings.  They are there to guide you, not to rule you.  

If you're in the market for a good therapist,I suggest that you check with a healthcare provider that you trust, or a trusted friend or family member.  If you have no luck there, check out this website:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Confessions of a Control Freak:Birthday Jitters

Confession of a Control Freak:

Sunday is my 42nd birthday, and to celebrate, we're having a night out with some friends tomorrow night.  Coffeeguy has elaborately planned a surprise night, and I know nothing of the details of where we are going or what we are doing.  To give myself a little credit, I was totally ok with that, excited even, until last night. I started thinking about my outfit (he only gives me hints, and this one was that the girls are dressing up Up UP.) So I picked my outfit out, but am now thinking (as I do), "What if it's not right for where we are going?? What if we're doing a lot of walking??  What if there is air conditioning and I'm freezing???"

 I'm also thinking, "Will there be gluten free food? Of course he must have checked, right? Will it be good, or look like this:"

Last night he was making little gift bags (I love adult party gift bags!!) and mentioned that he originally didn't think he'd had enough for 8 bags, but luckily he did.  I mentioned that he must have meant 7, the usual number of friends, and he said, no, there are 8 people coming.  Now of course I am thinking, "WHO IS THE EIGHTH PERSON??? Is it a friend from out of town? A fun friend of a friend? A guide in the city of Boston???? Who is the mysterious 8th person???" 

And where are we going? Dinner, that much I know, but then what?? It is killing me! Is it dancing, bowling, or maybe:

I can't ask.  Then I would spoil the surprise, and he has kept all of this secret for a month and a half.  

Then there's the babysitting.  My mother had heart surgery, so she's out of the running.  Coffeeguy says my 13 year old can handle it, but what if I come home to this:

It's a lot of stress for a plan-ahead kind of woman....

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pride Parade Boston

I took my kids to the annual Pride parade yesterday in Boston.  If you've never been to Pride, I have never had a more wonderful, celebratory experience than the Gay Pride Parade.  It's tame, compared to some other states' parades, but that also makes it very family friendly.  And what families there are!! There is no difference in a Pride parade between same-sex, hetero-, black, white, green, whatever, couples or families.  There is just love and acceptance (well, not counting that one guy holding the Jesus destroyed sodomy sign), and it's a beautiful thing to see.  

Rose is too young to know what everyone is marching for.  She's too young to know that many of the people marching fight a battle every day just to love who they love, or just to be who they are.  She doesn't look at a transgender girl and wonder why a "boy" is dressed in "girl clothes."  She doesn't look at two moms and see something unusual.  That's one of the reasons we go to Pride, because someday the two moms she sees could be her older sister and her sister-in-law.  She will see the love that flows between them and know that it's the same love that Momma & Daddy share, it's the same love that her brother and his spouse share, it's the same love that she will find one day.  

   Equality is serious business.

For now, she sees a big party.  She claps, she smiles, she cheers.  My hope is that as she grows older, she will clap and cheer for the freedom to love who you want and be who you want, instead of just the music, balloons, and bright costumes.

   Rose is an equal opportunity clapper

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Narcissist Rose

Like most toddlers, Rose has become "all about me."  She particularly loves to see pictures and videos of herself, and has been known, at times, to grab at my phone and cry "Bebayyyyy!!! Bebayyyyy!!!", looking pitiously for the little baby in the box.

Lately her favorite thing to watch is a video that I'm bound to regret when she is 12.  Normally, we do play popular music, but we pay attention to lyrics and keep it pretty appropriate, but Fancy just happened to be on Coffeeguy's playlist, and Rose felt the need to jam.  We weren't expecting  You can see the "Bebayyyyyyyy" here:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Scent of Success

So this month I decided to participate in a diaper study.  It's a study where you get 16 days worth of diapers, you try them out, record data each day, and hand the diapers (which you put inside heavy ziplock bags and then inside a construction-weight trash bag) back in with your paperwork a couple of times per week.  At the end you get $190 for your time, effort, and baby poop.  Sweet deal, right?  I have to change Rose's diapers anyway, so now I'll just get PAID to do it.  Plus, 16 days' worth of free diapers, yo.

       Rose thinks that's pretty cool.

I'm going to digress here and tell you that if you are a SAHM or hold a part-time job, go find the nearest focus group company around you.  I get emails from a group called Focus on Boston, and while I don't qualify for many of their studies (food allergies, or I'm not diabetic or the right age, etc), the ones I have done pay really well.  Like this one, they take up a small amount of your time, and you get paid the day it's complete.  

Back to my original story.  The first week I turned in my bag of diapers & paperwork and thought, "PIECE OF CAKE!!" This is going to be soooo easy!  Everything was organized by the company, plus they sent email reminders on which diaper to use on which week.  It was making me feel pretty successful, and like I was making a contribution to the household bank account (and also a little bit to my own personal wallet, since I feel like, in doing this work, I've earned it.)  

Then came this week.  Now, I worked in early education for 17 years.  I changed diarrhea poops and cleaned up vomit, even got pooped on once and had to go home and (shower and) change.  I'm no stranger to the yuck that comes with children.  That is until I realized that, even though the instructions told me this already, I was going to actually have to "shake the BM into the toilet."  Now, if Rose had perfect little formed BMs this wouldn't be a problem, but for whatever reason that kid has the mushiest poop in the universe.  It's impossible to get it all off.  Couple that with the fact that I have to keep the diaper, and this week is the longest one during the trial (you go from Tuesday to Tuesday before turning it in) and you have a recipe for stench.  I've bagged the plastic Baggie inside the construction bag INSIDE A SCENTED TRASH BAG and the smell is still over-powering.  I'm convinced if I left it on the porch it would scare away neighboring coyote, but I can't take the chance that a skunk might think he's found a new lover in that bag.  No, who am I kidding, even a skunk would be afraid.  

I've got two more days before I can turn this bag in, and I now have a "stick-up/glade" on my grocery list for today,  but you can bet that since they open at 7:30 a.m. I'll be out the door in record time on Tuesday.  I can't wait to get rid of the smell of success.

Friday, June 6, 2014

That Comic Book Smell, and Other Memories

Do you remember your childhood places?

Growing up, my brother and I used to frequent the same comic book store every week.  It wasn't anything fancy, just a small sort of hole in the wall, but upon walking through its doors we were transported to our world, a world where story after story came to life on inked and colored paper.  

There was a kid behind the counter, an Asian-American boy with a ponytail and thick glasses.  In the "real world" he was probably a total geek, was probably picked on at school, was maybe an outcast.  Here he was someone special, the cool guy, a Comic Book guru and a font of knowledge.  

We were geeks, too.  My brother was the "fat kid" and I was the "dorky girl", but there, we blended into the crowd.  We bought the newest comics every week, and sometimes back issues of some of the better storylines.  We might get into a conversation with (let's call him Tom), or he might suggest something that would compliment our selection. I'm sure we were slightly memorable, if only because we often came with rolled up change, in significant amounts, courtesy of my father, who used to throw all the change from his tool box into a jar and give it to us for comics.  (He stopped doing this the year he realized he had given us $122 in one bag of coins.)

As life got bigger, as we grew older, we stopped going.  We had buckets full of comics to read through, but we didn't make the weekly trek any more.  Several years after we stopped going, my brother died.  Years of visits to the comic store disappeared in an instant, lost with the shared memories that my brother and I had.  Nobody else would remember the way we would negotiate which comics we were getting that week, and if they were going to be new or old, or a combination of the two.  Nobody else understood the way we hunted for specific story lines, because they interacted between titles, or the need to have the Classic Xmen comic even though we had the same stories printed in the original version.  Over time, the memories began to fade, because no one was there to really share them with.

They were gone until my kids turned 12 and 10.  They asked me one day if we could go to a comic store, and the memories of such good times came flooding back.  Instead of going to the place down the street, with it's limited comics and funky fashions, we made the drive to the next town over, back to "our store", on a little corner on Hancock St.  I took my kids down the alleyway, which is how you get there from the parking garage, and it's also how you get to see all the comic book posters covering the window of the store.  The excitement began building the moment I saw the Xmen logo.  Sleek designs, superheroes in colorful costumes, and the smell of old paper hit me as I walked in the door.  

And there behind the counter, sporting a white-haired ponytail, was good old Tom.  

I don't think he remembered me--why would he?  I was one of thousands of customers.  But I remembered him, and in remembering, memories of my brother and the time we spent there came flooding back.  Tears filled my eyes, and I had to disguise them by sticking my face into the bins of old comics.  Coffeeguy realized that it was a moment for me, and showed the kids around a little while I composed my 41 year old self.  

I got it together, and began to show them the old comics, the newest comics, and introduce them to my favorite titles.  They were fascinated, and my heart swelled, watching them look around exactly the way big brother and I had.  

They now ask, whenever we have extra time, if they can go to the comic book store, which makes me so very happy, to pass on a tradition that was such a huge part of my childhood.

The last time we went, just the other day, Coffeeguy had a jar with him.  I asked what it was, and he said, "I remembered the story about the change.  I've been throwing mine in here, and I figured we could give it to them when we get there."  I love that man.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Hero's Doodie

The Gift I Never Thought I'd Love

For my wedding shower 16 years ago my Dad bought me a set of steak knives.  At the time, I thought it was kind of a weird, impersonal gift.  I didn't cook--so certainly I didn't know that they were very expensive J.A. Henckels steak knives, not that that would have made a difference to me.  I simply thought, while any gift is nice, it was a weird one to get from my Dad.  He told my husband they were the "never-dull" kind, as if this explained his choice.  I thought of it as this little inside Dad, rather than giving me something that was sentimental and would make me cry, gave me boring old steak knives.  

We danced at my wedding, and had these great moments that I will never forget.  But he got sick in 1999, and didn't find out it was lung cancer until it was too late.  He passed away in February of 2000.

You might wonder what this has to do with the knives.  But I'm not digressing, I'm just letting you know that I loved him, and I lost him.  The knives come in now.  I started doing all of the cooking when I became a suck at home mom.  At first, I really did suck at it, and we ate a LOT of hotdogs and plain baked chicken or pork.  But as the months went by, our wallets got thinner and I got so sick of having chicken the same way all the time.  I began to buy fresh foods, because believe it or not, they were cheaper.  I could make a dish that would last for days by cutting up all the veggies and making a big pot full of chicken stir-fry, homemade chili, beef with broccoli, etc.  I could spice up meat or pork with my trusty sea-salt and garlic grinder (that thing is magical), so that it would be tender and delicious. I cut the vegetables with--you guessed it--my Henckels knives.  I cut my steak & pork with--right again--my Henckels knives.
  And every single time I use them, I think about how I once thought they were a boring gift, not sentimental at all.  Not sentimental, except for those tears that sneak up to my eyes, because my Dad gave me those knives.  

(And FYI...they're still sharp:)