Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter, Passover, Spring, and Star Wars

I am a bad Jew.  This is something you should know about me.  It's something I write a lot of essays about because it plagues me.  I'm basically an atheist (there goes half of my readership.  Nice knowing you.), but I still identify as Jewish because I can't quit it.  It's part of my identity.  The struggle I've discovered (and let's be perfectly honest, predicted) as a parent is how to raise my kids with spiritual and cultural integrity.  How do I teach them what being Jewish is or means when we don't practice and fold in so many quasi-Christian/mostly-secular traditions?  Case in point, we do Easter baskets.  This is an endeavor spearheaded by my agnostic husband who was raised nondominationally Christian.  We are a very confused family.  I think my husband just enjoys an excuse to buy crap for the kids, to express his love for them.  Given that Easter was always a very lonely holiday for me because ALL of the kids in my neighborhood growing up were Catholic, and therefore unavailable for play dates on that special April Sunday, I don't mind that we give the kids chocolate, allow them to hunt for eggs.  They are part of the fun.  Also, if you stand still long enough, my husband will tell you how Easter has origins in Paganism, the name Easter, coming from the Saxon goddess Eostre.  (I sat near him as he regaled a trustee at his university with this snappy fact during a luncheon.) 

True story: my Orthodox Jewish bubbie used to buy me milk chocolate Easter bunnies every year.  You remember the ones?  With the yellow candy eyes, hollow in the center.  Yum.  And, my Reform Jewish mother bought me a carton of chocolate eggs every Easter to enjoy with my Passover matzo.  In high school, she would buy me those decadent Cadbury eggs with the gooey innards.  Mixed messages?  Maybe.

But this isn't why I'm a bad Jew.  I'm a bad Jew because I spaced out on Passover completely this year. It began on Tuesday.  I realized this on Good Friday.  I also refuse to give up bread, eat matzo, or have my kids dip their spoons in grape juice to count off plagues (this is part of the Passover Seder service, in case you didn't know).  Fun plagues like "locusts" and "frogs" and "slaying of the first born."  It's brutal.  Last night my daughter asked me how you celebrate Passover, forgetting that she has attended seders in past years.  I felt like a cad, like my late mother was wagging her finger at me for this failure. Bad Jew.  Bad bad Jew.

That said, most Christian traditions have become pretty secular.  This week, my son attended a field trip to the PUBLIC library where they did Easter egg crafts and heard stories about bunnies and eggs; my son told me how his PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER told his class about the resurrection (not in a you should believe this way, I think) and gave her students a sight word egg hunt.  Oh and the Darth Vader eggs we found at Target.  Yeah, I don't think Jesus had those.

At any rate, we are going to have a peaceful Easter Sunday, not attending church, not eating matzo, probably playing Wii and putting away lots of laundry.  Whatever you do, whatever you celebrate or don't, enjoy this peaceful Sunday.  I think spring has finally arrived.

Behold the secular humanist spring basket of The Force

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SOS: It's not what you think

After a year of stalling and hemming and hawing and yessing then noing, I've made a decision: I've enrolled in Shiny Object School (SOS).  Judging by the name of my blog and the name of this academy, I'm guessing I don't need to spell out what this endeavor is about, but for those of you who haven't had your eighth cuppa, let me enlighten you.  Shiny Object School is a virtual, self-guided ADD coaching brainchild of Sarah Wagner Yost, a hilarious life coach.  How hilarious?  Well, I signed up for her email newsletter a year ago based on the name alone: Better Than Valium.  She also has blog posts with titles such as "How To Win A Fight With A 4 Year Old" and "How Not To Be Embarrassment's Bitch."  I love this woman even though she is but whispy magic on my computer screen.

I have been down the therapy route.  I've tried medications that made my heart feel like the bullet train.  And I'm tired of feeling angry/grumpy/depressed/frustrated/annoyed/disgusted with myself for not accomplishing all that I want, for getting sidetracked or just giving up.  SOS may not be a panacea for ADD, but Ms. Yost offers her own story as proof that you can make peace with yourself and move forward.  She also claims to be able to cut straight through to the heart of what's gumming up the works and promises to help you make changes at lightening speed.  I don't often fall for voodoo or magic pills, but something about SOS caught hold of me a year ago and I have to listen to that.

Why am I telling you this?  Because you're coming along for the ride, dear readers!  I'll let you know what my plan is, what wisdom I learn along the way, and whether I think SOS is a good fit for the likes of you, too.  Once I get acclimated I will share and make this a weekly feature of the blog for the short time I am enrolled (6 weeks).

Until then, stay focused.

Or pin a bunch a things.  It's your party.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Putting the coat away (or why I'm not having more babies)

A friend of mine - mother of one of my daughter's classmates - said hello to me at a school function a few weeks ago.  After pleasantries were exchanged, knowing we weren't going to have a long conversation - she was sitting, I was on my way somewhere with one of the kids in tow - she asked a seemingly harmless question.


"Oh, hi.  How are you?"

"Great.  Busy.  How are you?"

"Me too.  Always.  Oh my gosh, are you pregnant?"

Before you are outraged for me, before you rake my innocent acquaintance over the coals, read my level-headed reply.

"Hell no!"

At this point I looked down at my belly to wonder at her confusion.  I'm not fat.  Chubby, maybe.  Zaftig, yes I would appreciate that label very much, thank you.  But pregnant?  My new Target pea coat hits at hip level, bringing the pockets to my waist.  The coat is boxy.  I thought it stylish when I bought it.  Even a little daring because I usually hide my ass.  Not in this coat.  Then I noticed that I had shoved my suede mittens deep into the pockets, inflating the coat and giving it a rather roundish appearance.

"Must be the gloves," I said, removing them so there would be no doubt.

My friend was immediately embarrassed and said something like,

"I know better than to ask that.  I'm so sorry."

The funny thing about this interaction is not that I was offended or that anyone thought I was pregnant at 44 (which is entirely conceivable *ha!  pun* although rare).  The funny thing (at least to me, anyway) was that I reacted as if someone were suggesting I get pregnant again.

"Hell no!"  This response says so much, doesn't it?  I had two relatively uneventful pregnancies, but I lived in constant fear that something would go wrong because I have a chronic illness and because I refused to believe my doctor when she said everything was fine.  When you know as many people as I do who have had traumatic miscarriages or diabetes or high blood pressure, you tend to worry.  Aside from the worry, I was crazy uncomfortable.  Not just the swelling and itching and waddling and not being able to tie shoes.  Not just the exhaustion or weird cravings or irritability.  No, I was nauseous every waking moment of both pregnancies.  At the baby shower my mother-in-law threw for me, when I was just entering my third trimester, I spent half of my time throwing up in the bathroom.  At work, I yelled up the stairs hoping my friend Leslie would hear me and grab a trash can as I threw up on the landing.  I threw up so much that I was losing weight instead of gaining.  My ob-gyn prescribed me two milkshakes a week to  reverse the weight-loss trend.  The sweet lady at the McDonald's drive-through became my friend.  I miss her.

"Hell no!" also suggests that I am done having babies.  I had two planned C-sections so I can't complain about the birth.  I can complain that my son inhaled his meconium and was rushed to the NICU.  I didn't get to see him for six hours!  I can complain that both of my kids had trouble nursing and I ended up supplementing so much (under the care of two different lactation consultants) that I gave up and switched to the bottle.

But I love my kids and wouldn't trade them or the hardships of our early days for anything.  I'm just ready to keep moving forward.  I love experiencing every age with them.  Right now they are six and nine and loads of fun.  Another baby would take me away from them.  Another baby might send me over a cliff.  My husband is the one having baby lust.  He keeps teasing me with the question, "Come on.  Just one more?"

To that I must answer, "Hell no!"

Thank goodness spring is here.  I'm putting that coat away for a long time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Into the Virtual Wildnerness

Something just occurred to me that I find curious and wonder what you think.  In general, I'm a city girl.  I love having conveniences that are walking distance from my home - bakery first, of course, but also florists, bookstores, novelty stores and low-end boutiques, consignment shops and most important, coffee shops.  We have parks nearby to satisfy my need for green space and playgrounds for the kids.  It's a small city, so we don't have the smog and the skyscrapers outside of downtown, and even downtown has become more green-conscience and locally-owned.  I love where we live in our 90-year-old dutch colonial house.  That said, I've been persistently nagged by thoughts of rural life, life off the grid.

Let me stop here to explain something important: I wouldn't last a week off the grid. 

I needs my wi-fi and my apps.  Let me also explain something else of equal importance: I am a big wuss.  I've never camped a night in the wilderness or even KOA-approved campgrounds.  Too many bugs and not enough flush toilets.  But part of me must long to go back-to-nature because I read things like Wild, and Into The Wild, which both have the word "wild" in the title; I drool over the Title 9 and Athleta catalogs as if I'm going to take a run in the woods, surf, or throw a boomarang on the beach.  A boomarang!  That's what their models do when they aren't doing yoga (also on the beach) or windsurfing.  (Why do all of their models live on the beach?) 

I do this all the time.

That's me with my tiny waist and compulsive hula hooping in sunny, land-locked Kentucky
 These catalogs serve an audience of women who need sportswear that offers support (for bouncing boobs during cardio workouts) in attractive colors and prints.  Why do I want to dress like a surfer when a walk on the beach brings about irrational panic attacks over misidentified jellyfish?

In addition to reading material and clothing lust, I moon over rural destination vacations, long to inhabit a writing cabin in the woods or the prairie or overlooking a fjord; I pin photos of pretty lakes (I'm not a strong swimmer) and woods (I hate ticks) and gardens (I love to garden, but my yard is currently an overflowing swamp of dog-poo and bare soil). 

Am I living in Country Living fantasyland because it's escapist, or is there something deeper, something visceral that the rural landscape communicates to me?  Do you suffer from this contradiction too, my fine friends?  Do you sit in a local Starbucks plucking away at your laptop where you surf from one beautiful Flickr landscape photo to the next?

In an attempt to quiet this contradiction, I enjoyed two unplugged days with my kids.  We spent some outdoor time on the porch swing on Saturday, but a freak snow/sleet storm drove us back inside yesterday.  I woke up today feeling more refreshed and less frantic than I usually do, so I'm thinking that Weekends Unplugged is my new recharging (pun intended) habit.

 (source images: Title 9)

Friday, March 15, 2013

March Madness

Hello Y'all,

Don't take my absence personally (although you in the corner, in the yellow shirt, I do blame you. Jerk.).  March Madness is upon me, only it's not the kind that involves an orange ball and brackets and lanky young men.  Strange, because I live in the heart of basketball country.  No, my madness centers around several annual events that I help organize/attend/completely make a mess of/worry endlessly over/volunteer for, or by which my life and the lives of my family are consumed.  It's actually a short list of activities, but they all converge in a manner of weeks every March.  Hence, the crazy leaking out of my brains.

(When I met my husband, I told him that March was my favorite month because you never know what's going to happen.  One minute it's freezing and snowing - as it was last Saturday in Boston, where I attended the Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) conference - or it might be warm and breezy, like it was also last Saturday in Kentucky, where I returned from the Association of Writing Professionals conference.  Little did I know that March would be a predictable mess of volunteerism, rehearsals, and preparation.  Convergence.)

Let's just say I've been busy and leave it at that.  My poor dogs are a-sufferin'.  Today, I left and came back and left and came back and left and came back.  Charles the Terror was cooped up so long this happened:

Yes, that's Charlie's Positively Puppies graduation diploma that she angrily chewed up with a droplet of poo next to her pissed off face for extra emphasis.
The writing conference was eye-opening and rewarding, but not in the way that you might expect.  Yes, I went to many interesting panels, met one of my current favorite essayists (who signed a book while inconspicuously eyeing my name tag), and learned some great ideas about endings, structure, and publishing a collection of stories or essays.  But, just as in college, most of my learning happened extracurricularly or via social observations and interactions.

Allow me to illustrate:

  • I learned that just because you sit on a panel at a national conference featuring keynotes by two Nobel Prize Winners, you don't necessarily have something to say.  Case in point: the panel I attended about writing the "stealth memoir," or the memoir that appears to be about a person, place or thing (like cod or baseball, for example), but is also a personal journey for the writer.  This panel featured five writers.  The first two had beautifully written presentations that used their own work as examples.  The third reader made me want to hurl spitballs at his glasses as he chronicled his entire work history and began his unprepared monologue by telling us that a.) he used to be an alcoholic and b.) he decided not to tell us the prostitute joke.
  •  12,000 people in one building, granted a very big convention center, is not my bag.  I felt claustrophobic pretty much all weekend and hid in the hotel lounge every night with friends.  At one point, the rooms were so crowded that the Fire Marshall was called in and all exits were manned by police officers.  Crazy!
  • Escalators are excellent people-watching vehicles.  On one ride down, I saw writer Roxanne Gay heading up on the opposite elevator looking all non-challant while I wanted to shout out "Hey Roxanne!  You don't know me, but I think you're awesome!"  I restrained myself.  Another day I saw a man dressed up as a gladiator heading down the escalator, also looking all non-challant.  In case you are not aware that writers like to look artsy, here's what else I saw, although not always on the escalator: a curiously distracting couple (two women, one old enough to be the other's grandmother, but also very masculine-looking in a suit; young woman had long blonde hair and caressed the other woman's back during a panel; older woman had granny earrings and rings.  Fascinating.  No judgments on my part.  I found them intriguing and was sorry when they left early.); hats, capes, funky tights, big hair, big beards, scarves, nerd glasses, spiked hair, and of course tattoo sleeves.
  • I like my writing friends.  Not that I just learned that, but that I'm always inspired after seeing my MFA friends who live in Boston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Houston, Miami, Knoxville, L.A., and Phoenix.  I'm sure I missed a few.  Big love to you all!  
  • Paying for airfare, three meals/day, and hotel rooms may not be worth the expense, the expense being my jangly nerves.  Turns out that travel + 12,000 people kicks my anxiety level up to an 11.   My husband has called me a hothouse flower because I'm so sensitive.
  • You can get a good deal on paperbacks over at the W. W. Norton's table in the book fair!  40% off titles and free shipping.  My books arrived yesterday and I squealed:   
Available at
  •  That burning feeling in my chest and arm actually is hypertension.  See I'm falling apart!  New meds have made me a happy lady who feels incredibly old.

In other news . . . I met my goal and now have 50 FOLLOWERS!!!  Thank you old friends and new!

To keep my promise, here is the drawing I said I would post when I reached 50 followers.  Please note that I drew this in 1984 and ADD, while not diagnosed definitely had settled into my brain.  I was a fool for Duran Duran, but not fool enough to finish the damn drawing.

Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Guest blogging over at Nested!!

Hello, dear readers.

While I've been away with sickness and writing conferences, I did manage to write a guest blog for Nested.  Come visit and give it a read, then stay and laugh at all of Kate's funny:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just a little catching up

The week started off with writing inspiration which petered out after I wrote an article about paper hats and attempted to write and rewrite a scholarship statement of intent (for a writing conference) while my kids were home from school and had a double play date.  Because I enjoy making my brains explode and asking my husband to clean up the mess.

So, yeah, I had a great time with Kate from Nested and our dear friend Omar, who was in town to present a paper at a literary conference last weekend.  We talked writing for hours over sushi and ice cream (which in retrospect was a terrible combination).  I left feeling slightly allergic from the lactose and totally inspired to write more, revise better, and start applying for conferences.  One week later: I applied to a conference, am gearing up for the big guns writer's conference (AWP in Boston, y'all!), signed on to do the ads and program for our local writing festival next fall (year two for me), and am full-on sick with a cold.  Apparently, I am allergic to writing.

Image: Corbis

All of this should explain my absence last week, right?  Allergic?  Writing about paper hats? (Seriously, I'll share that when it's printed.)  Actually, the kids were off all week and it's just darn hard to concentrate, what with the needing things like food and clothes and bathing.  I can't say this week will be much better with me at AWP for three days.  I WILL come back rejuvenated, however, and full of incredible insights, and perhaps a hangover.

Oh, oh, oh thought I'd also let you lovelies know that I'm quickly approaching my goal of 50 followers!!  Thank you loyal friends who have so graciously whored me out on your blogs and social networks and interwebbings and welcome new friends to my ADDled life.  What do y'all get when I reach 50 followers?  More of my high school drawings, of course.  This time you will notice that ADD set in by 10th grade.  And I deeply fell into New Wave British pop.  Find me three more followers and you shall see . . .