Why I went to the Women’s March

I’ve been trying to write this godforsaken article for hours now. So much of my social media feed is cluttered with people demanding to know why women across this country felt the need to protest and, as someone who participated, I felt it was my duty to explain. To respond. To…ugh…get a dialogue going.

I started a bunch of sentences. About how we’re fighting for equal pay. For the right to paid maternity and paternity leave. For reasonable access to affordable healthcare. For the right not to have our genitalia grabbed by strangers. For equality for everyone. On and on and on.

There were so many reasons. But I was getting increasingly frustrated the more I tried to justify why I decided to exercise my American right to peacefully protest. And it took me awhile (clearly) but I think I finally figured out why I was having so much trouble.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if you don’t “get it.”

I spent the day surrounded by a sea of people who did. And they spilled out into the streets to make themselves heard. They wanted their government, who works for them, for all of us, to know how a huge chunk of us felt about the direction we were headed as a nation. And it was beautiful and life-affirming and gave me hope and made me realize that this nation is already great and there are huge swaths of us fighting to make it even better.

But most importantly, it made me realize that the burden of explaining why we did this didn’t have to fall on my shoulders. Because if the sight of hundreds of thousands of women, men and children all uniting for equal rights bothers you, maybe you need to examine why it bothers you. If the idea of a level playing field bothers you, then perhaps you should examine why it bothers you.

Because if you don’t get why women’s rights are human rights, I can’t make you understand. Nor can I make you feel how oppressive it is to hear a lifetime’s worth of negative comments about how you look, your weight, your wrinkles, your clothes, your makeup, your attitude, your competence, your drive, your passion, your sexuality.

If you see nothing wrong with blaming a rape victim for being raped rather than blaming the rapist, I can’t make you see how wrong and cruel that is.

If you don’t think it’s appalling that a country as wealthy and advanced as America has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, I can’t make you be appalled.

If you don’t think it’s criminal that we pass laws that punish children for having poor parents, I can’t make you see how reprehensible that is.

If you can’t possibly fathom why a minority or a gay person or an immigrant or a young girl would be scared for their safety, I can’t make you try to imagine what it’s like to be them.

I can’t make you care about other people in this country. I can’t make you understand that just because you have it good and I have it good in this country doesn’t mean that everyone else does. These are all things you need to try to understand for yourself. Because clearly a huge portion of our population already understands these things.

We will not go backward in this great nation of ours that I personally happen to love. Not without a fight. If you understand nothing else, understand that. The 1950’s, the 1980’s, the 1800’s…whatever time period you thought America was great and are trying to get back to, was only great for a small minority.

But I, and millions of other Americans who marched Saturday, want it great for all.

And if you don’t understand that, that’s on you.

 

 

How much no is too much no?

Is there anything more surreal than being a parent?

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the midst of some hardcore parenting and thought to myself “is this real life?” Pretty much every day of my life is the ultimate performance in the theater of the absurd.

Take, for instance, when I’m arguing with my almost 3-year-old about something ridiculous. And LOSING.

TODDLER: I can’t use the potty.

ME: Why not?

TODDLER: Because I can’t.

Me: …

Or when the dog senses the exact moment the baby has finally fallen asleep and chooses that exact moment to make every old man dog noise in his arsenal (you know, groans, farts, clickety nails, unnecessarily loud yawns, whole body shakes that makes his collar chime like church bells) RIGHT BESIDE THE BABY.

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Or when your child demands toast but toast that is not warm or brown or toasted. But Lord help you if you try to give them just BUTTERED BREAD.

Or those moments when I realize I’m less a mother and more just a living, breathing, no machine.

These days, I produce no’s like Kardashians produce tabloid stories. I’m a bustling no factory. I’m a volcano of nope gushing a river of hot lava negatives throughout my children’s lives.

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Can I have a cookie?

No.

Can I wear my swimsuit to play in the snow?

No.

Can Mr. Doody have a cookie?

No.

Can I eat this rock?

Nope.

Can I have two cookies?

Hahaha…no.

Can I use your body as an elaborate jungle gym as you are making an important phone call?

Ow. No. Ow.

Can I draw all over the TV in permanent marker?

NO. NOOOOOOOOOOO…

Can I bang incessantly on the table with these two huge sticks I illegally procured at the park, producing a sound I imagine they play on a loop at the entrance to Hell, for 45 minutes straight while staring directly into your eyes because I’m hoping for some kind of passionate reaction because that is how I get a perverted toddler thrill?

*gritted teeth* No.

Even the baby gets told no pretty much around the clock. And she can’t even talk yet.

Can I bite your nipple with my two brand new and razor sharp teeth?

No!

Can I head butt you when you least expect it?

No–oh my god, that’s so much blood.

Can I only nap while you are holding me?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, ok, fine, whatever.

And yes, sometimes I feel awful about always having to tell them no. It’s no fun being the fun police. But the alternative is to say yes, and if you’ve ever met a small child, then you know that they simply cannot handle the freedom of unrestrained yes.

See, as far as I can tell in my limited experience, the main goal of a small child’s life is to kill themselves in the most spectacular manner possible. Whether that manner is death via sugar overdose, or jumping off very high and very unstable items, or running up to hug the huge and clearly agitated stray dog that looks like a mix of Cujo and Vin Diesel, is really up to them. But as someone with a working knowledge of physics, and the limits of the human digestive system, and wonderful yet cheesy cinema, I simply can’t stand by and watch it all unfold.

Thus, it is my job to stop that spectacular death from happening. And I personally choose the Sword of No as my weapon in this daily war.

Oh sure, I could use the Shield of Compromise or perhaps the Scythe of Indifference, or even, in desperate times, the Cuddly Ax of Indulgence.

But I like my kids. And I want them to live forever. And more importantly, I want them to live forever in such a way that they can eventually function in this world without me. And be successful in their own lives. And afford the fancy retirement home for me and their father.

So, I am currently ruining their lives with a never-ending verbal conga line of no.

They’ll thank me some day.

Actually, they won’t.

But at least I’ll have the consolation of eating all those cookies I won’t let them have. Which I will do in secret. In that dark corner of the kitchen. While laughing manically.

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I bet Hell is nice this time of year

Well, Christmas is over. Meaning life is basically over. Nothing to look forward to now except a bleak, never-ending winter and easily getting all my cardio in with the Herculean exertion it takes to stuff two squirmy tiny humans into snow suits and winter coats and mittens and hats and snow boots that were designed by engineers who have apparently never seen a child’s foot before.

Welcome to the most depressing time of the year! Cheers!

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Every year it’s the same thing. I spend the next four months just trying to survive. I pretty much put my entire life on hold until the day I can crawl out of bed without mentally weighing the pros and cons of moving to a warmer climate, like Hell.

But this year on December 26, as I was doing my post-Christmas manic purging (you know, picking up all the wrapping paper, breaking down all the Amazon boxes, coping with the plastic Mount Doom in my living room after liberating all the children’s toys from their synthetic prisons, and then trying to stealthily burglarize the kids’ rooms of old clothes and toys to make room for the new ones…)

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…it hit me. It doesn’t have to be this way. This year I could try to appreciate all that the winter season has to offer (besides making it socially acceptable to drink whiskey at 3 p.m. simply because “it’s so cold out.”). I could actually embrace it instead of just waiting for it to be over.

Of course, I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own. That kind of mature response to adversity is not in my nature (my nature being more drink whiskey at 3 p.m. and drunkenly yell at falling snow when it hits my face).

No, I came to this enlightened conclusion after reading an article by an old friend, Stacie Kenton, who is an outdoor enthusiast and lives on a 22-acre farm in Ohio (and was, like, a super chill senior when I was a freshman in high school and bought me beer that one time). She wrote a great piece about enjoying your connection to nature during winter and how we should all try “to live in this winter and not just through it.”

Now, I should mention that Stacie is the love child of Diana the Huntress and a mermaid, so, pretty much my complete opposite (I’m more like if Lorelai Gilmore and a bottle of gin had a baby). Meaning it is highly unlikely I will ever achieve her sincere level of love and light and calm when dealing with the world.

But, hey, who’s to say a girl can’t change in the name of self-growth?

I plan to start small. For example, usually this time of year, when a blast of icy wind hits my face, I unleash a torrent of curse words so harsh and horrifyingly creative it’s been known to make grown sailors cry. But this year, I’m going to try to embrace the fact that when the air hurts my face it’s letting me know I’m alive. Even though I want to die. Just curl up in a snow bank and wait for sweet, sweet death. And even though Father Winter is a vindictive douchebag who is targeting my face specifically. And even though winter is stupid.

But no! Not this year! I’m alive, dammit! Feel the freezer burn!

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Winter also means all the bugs and mosquitos and ridiculously hairy spiders are dead. And they probably died a horrific death, screaming their tiny bug screams as they lay there and raged against a world so cruel before their tiny lives were snuffed out. Ha! Ha! So, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.

Not to mention, this time of year offers a whole new slew of opportunities to make memories with my young family. For example, I want to take the kids sledding! Or at least the one who doesn’t currently flop over without an extensive chair support system.

I want to take walks in a quiet snowy wood (and not complain the whole time about how that vindictive douchebag Father Winter is a part of our U.S. system of patriarchy and is, again, targeting my face specifically)!

I want to build a snowman and drink hot chocolate and not stress out about the trail of snow and salt and grimy dirt all our freaking shoes drag through the house that is bound later to be licked up by the aforementioned infant who constantly flops over and makes out with the floor like it’s her job.

I’ve even Googled local skiing resorts where you can go and not actually ski but just drink booze in front of a fireplace and they don’t kick you out.

Winter! Yay…!?!

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So, yes, I’ve decided I’m embracing this post-Christmas winter season whole-heartedly. And by whole-heartedly I mean half-assedly. But hey, it’s a start.

Life is too short, my friends. Too short to wish for an entire season to be over. Even if that season is dumb and cold and makes it impossible to find an effective moisturizer.

So, here’s to appreciating what’s in front of us right now!

Right after I finish this hot toddy under my electric blanket fort and cry for a few hours.

 

 

I’m a Fitbit person now

Guys, it’s been nice knowing you. You’re all swell, really. But eventually all good things must come to an end. So, while I enjoyed our time together, it’s a new year and time for me to move on. Time for me to leave you in the dust as I walk exactly…*checks wrist* …6,101 steps away from you.

I’m a Fitbit person now.

Yes, dear readers, thanks to my husband and a very merry Christmas, I am now the proud owner of a Fitbit, those magical little devices that shoot laser beams into your arms and let you know just what a lazy sack of human pudding you are on a near constant basis.

What a time to be alive!

Needless to say, I instantly fell in love. There is something weirdly intoxicating about having every single movement and moment of your day logged by a tiny robot who gives you electronic stickers and trophies when you do good (like walking in a circle around your house while eating frosting straight from the container instead of eating it on the couch like some kind of barbarian). I should hate it. The lazy me terrified of Big Brother that I have been for the past 30-odd years should absolutely loathe it. But I don’t.

Because I’m a Fitbit person now.

And don’t worry. It’s not like because I have a Fitbit now that I’m a better person than you or anything.

Except I’m a better person than you now.

Just look at how this divine little watch has improved not only my life, but the life of my family. Our house is now filled with health-conscious conversations such as this:

Me: Guess how many steps I’ve taken today!

Husband: Is it much different from the amount you told me 15 minutes ago?

Me: 879! Wanna know how many times I was restless last night while sleeping?

Husband: I haven’t even had my coffee yet, babe.

Me: You only have yourself to blame.

And this one:

Husband: Hey, can you run upstairs and grab me the tape? I don’t know where you put it.

Me: No.

Husband: Um…please?

Me: I can’t. My Fitbit is charging.

Husband: …

Me: I want credit for walking up the stairs.

Husband: …

Me: You only have yourself to blame.

And this one:

Toddler: Momma, can you carry me?

Me: I wish I could, sweetheart, but then my Fitbit doesn’t log my steps when you’re in my arms.

Toddler: …

Me: You only have your father to blame.

I mean, can I help it that I’m pretty much the healthiest person alive now? I have a resting heart rate of 55, thanks to lugging around two adorable children (who I’m pretty sure are made up of chicken nuggets and quark-gluon plasma, the densest material ever created) all day around the city. And thanks to living on the second and third floor of our rented house, I climb on average 18 flights of stairs a day. Shoot, I burned 43 calories just in the time it took me to eat half of a leftover holiday cheeseball.

And, AND, I managed to get 15,000 daily steps in last Wednesday, enough to earn me the Urban Boot badge, thankyouverymuch. I can’t believe I spent all those years walking around without a computer logging every step like some kind of idiot. What a waste!

Alas, clearly, my family doesn’t understand.

I guess I can’t blame them. I mean, I’d be bitter too if I had never earned the Happy Hill badge or the Weekend Warrior trophy.

But I’m hoping, my dear readers, you do. That you do understand why my health has become my top priority and why I only want to talk to other people who know at any given moment exactly how many steps it took them to walk to Starbucks in their fancy athleisure wear.

So, please, by all means, keep reading my blogs and columns. But if you see me in person, let’s just ignore each other and awkwardly avoid eye contact. Which should be easy enough. I’ll likely be looking at my wrist anyway.

I’m a Fitbit person now.

 

Dear Virginia, where the hell is Santa Claus?

There’s a famous (at least for me) story from my childhood where I looked at my mom one day and just bluntly said “Santa Claus isn’t real, is he?”

“No, he’s not, sweetie,” my mom replied.

And that was that.

But the famous (infamous) part came next. Because I went to school the following day and felt it was my duty to kindly inform several of my fellow 2nd grade peers of this breaking news.

Surprisingly, this did not help my popularity.

And now all these years later, the joke is on me. Oh, karma, you wily minx. Little did I know that in my 30’s I’d still be dealing with the whole “does Santa exist?” question. Because I’m a mom now and I gotta tell you, I can’t find that bastard anywhere.

But let’s start at the beginning.

My son’s first Christmas, when he couldn’t have cared less (since his only interests back then were my boobs and old, gross, fast food receipts) we were lucky enough to randomly run into a Santa while out and about in early December. So we plopped our son down and took a million photos as you are legally required to do. Easy peasy. And they are photos we cherish to this day even despite the fact that both my baby and Santa look like they’re being held at gunpoint.

So, naturally, I just assumed that was how it worked. Last year, I figured we’d run into another one while out shopping or looking for a restaurant that sold spaghetti tacos (did I mention I was pregnant again?). We never did. Luckily, my son was still young enough that it didn’t really matter and I didn’t really care about anything except spaghetti tacos and not puking on random strangers whenever I left the house.

But this year, oh, this year, I came prepared. He’s almost three. And this is his sister’s first Christmas. Time to stop phoning it in as a parent. So, starting the day after Thanksgiving I started Googling where and when Santa would be. I was leaving nothing to chance.

Imagine my surprise then, when two Sundays ago, we went to meet Santa and he wasn’t there. Apparently “Santa will be taking photos until 5 p.m.” meant if you showed up at 4:30 p.m. he’d be gone on what I can only assume was a very important Santa emergency involving happy hour eggnog shots. Luckily, people working the event were super helpful and reassured us that they had “no idea where he was or if he’d be back.”

I was mad, sure. The Momma Bear in me wanted to start mauling people with my festive Santa hat. But I managed to keep my calm. We still had one more weekend before Christmas and my toddler got chocolate as a consolation prize, so crisis averted.

Still, again, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I checked, then double checked, then triple checked when and where Santa would be this past Saturday.

7 p.m.

No less than three local event calendars said 7 p.m.

Santa would be hanging out in this particular location until 7 p.m.

Looking back, I should have known better. It was the same location that Santa had abandoned to go on a bender the weekend before. But, silly me, I thought if we showed up three hours before closing time, he’d be there.

Ha!

He wasn’t.

Needless to say, I was frothing at the mouth at this point. And again, the helpful people working the event assured us that “um…I don’t know, man.”

So, again, my son got chocolate as a consolation prize. But I am running out of time and one more no-show by Santa is likely to give my toddler diabetes.

I need some chubby, red jerkface to sit on his ass and interact with my freaking children before I lose it. I need a photo of my baby girl screaming on his lap and one of my son doing that weird toddler smile where it looks like they forgot how to smile. It’s Christmas. Why the hell can’t I find a Santa? Why is this so hard? WHY AM I BEING PUNISHED FOR A MISTAKE I MADE WHEN I WAS SEVEN?!?

Sigh. This is a good lesson for you kids though. Apparently once you’re on the naughty list, you stay on that naughty list. Santa does not forgive nor forget.

Well played, fat man. Well played.

 

What parents really want for Christmas

Christmas is great, isn’t it? Magical when you’re a kid. A celebration of the beautiful life and beautiful lives you’ve created when you’re a grandparent.

And a red and green tinged tsunami that destroys your home, your finances and your sanity when you’re a parent.

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Ah, yes, ‘tis truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Of course, don’t get me wrong. I still love Christmas. The endless excuses to drink booze alone is enough to make any self-respecting writer love this holiday.

I just hate that I’m the one in charge of making it happen now. The decorating, the cooking, the gift buying, the logistics of holiday travel…sigh. And no matter how much I bribe my toddler, he refuses to take over the responsibility.

Is it any wonder that this time of year turns all of us parents into stressful balls of burning rage?

So, with that in mind, I decided to create a list of what we adults of the parental persuasion really want for Christmas this year. Because, sure, another sweater is nice, but the ability to go into a store without any meltdowns over a 99 cent candy bar is the gift that keeps on giving.

And so…ahem…

Number one with a bullet: A nap.

Number two with a tomahawk: Another nap.

The ability to wrap presents without a dog or cat lying on the wrapping paper.

The ability to wrap presents without losing the scissors every 30 seconds. Ditto the tape. And that stupid pen. IT WAS JUST HERE.

To lose 10 pounds every holiday season while still eating an entire cheeseball on the couch as you watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” for the fifth time.

A working eggnog fountain (with extra bourbon) in the kitchen.

Pets and small children who consistently admire the Christmas tree from a three foot buffer zone.

Mandatory shock collars for people who whine about the war on Christmas and Starbucks holiday cups.

Actual snow on Christmas. And then we just fast forward to the month of April.

That your child forgets that VERY BAD WORD they think is hilarious to shout in public.

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No lines. None. Not to buy gifts, not to see Santa, not to get overpriced holiday-themed lattes in allegedly controversial cups.

Stabbing the Elf on a Shelf in a violent fit of rage and then burning the carcass in a cleansing ceremonial fire without scarring your children for life.

To hear “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” just once without someone pointing out how creepy and rapey it is.

A worldwide shortage of batteries.

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A worldwide surplus of wine.

Not getting further into debt.

Christmas tree lights with anti-tangle technology and a lifetime guarantee for each individual bulb.

Time to read all those books you got last year as presents.

A machine that dresses your children in winter gear so they can go play in the snow while you sip coffee and flip through a magazine.

Bags under your eyes that don’t look like you had to pay the extra airline fee because they’re so heavy.

Socks. (Seriously, I’m out).

More time to cuddle with your kids, less time cleaning up their room and explaining why we don’t take the marker and color all over Momma’s unattended watch when she’s in the other room.

Old school office Christmas parties with free booze and lampshades.

Old school office Christmas bonuses.

World peace or whatever. I guess.

But mostly, a nap.

When your online life is a hot mess

You know, it used to be back in my day (oh yes, I’m officially old enough to use that phrase unironically now) that you were only in charge of keeping one life in order. Or at least keeping it from turning into a major dumpster fire. All you had to do was keep a roof over your head (with only small-to-medium leaks tops), food in your fridge (30 plus containers of old takeout completely qualifying) and a little bit of money in the bank (at least $4) after paying all your assorted bills.

Beyond that, if you really wanted to get fancy with your adulting, you just needed health insurance, a pet (or kids, or anything that looks cute in a tiny sweater) and a close circle of family and friends you saw in person from time to time.

And I was doing a fairly decent job at keeping this one life in order. I had kept my kids alive, had a non-expired driver’s license (I think…?) and even paid taxes that one time.

But now? Pffft. Now we all have two lives.

Two.

Two lives we are in charge of keeping from imploding. And I don’t know about you but I was barely keeping afloat with the one involving the ancient lo mein noodles I just ate for breakfast.

My online life is a hot mess. Just completely in shambles. If it were a house, it’d be featured on an episode of “Hoarders.” If it were a TV character, it’d be Liz Lemon. If it were a celebrity breakdown, it’d be 2007 Britney Spears and 2013 Amanda Bynes COMBINED.

Take, for example, the fact I have multiple e-mail accounts, all of which have thousands of unread e-mails because does anyone check their e-mail anymore? And on the extremely rare occasion when I do check them, all the thousands of unread e-mails stress me out so I immediately log off and pretend it doesn’t exist. Until I get an alert that someone has hacked my e-mail, in which case I will spend 25 frustrating minutes trying to change the password, only to finally be successful and then immediately forget the new password. And some of these e-mail accounts have my maiden name and some have my married name and since I go by my maiden name it’s extremely confusing to everyone and the whole thing makes me want to cry into a pile of stamps while venting my frustrations to that Nigerian prince who is just super understanding.

I have roughly 500,000 photos languishing in folders across 23 different devices (some of these devices dating back to almost 20 years because, again, I is old). All of which I am likely never to see again (and if I ever do, the bulk will be pictures of cheese and extreme close-ups of my toddler’s nostrils).

In a similar vein, every piece of writing I’ve ever done since high school is also spending time in technology purgatory, trapped forever on old computers that belong in a sad, old person museum instead of the corner of my attic.

I have three Skype accounts. Three. Because I kept forgetting what I put as my username (unicornglitter_96? mermaidsugarpants?) and it was just easier to start a new account than trying to hack into my old account. Added bonus, if you held a gun to my head right now and asked for just one of my Skype usernames, I’d be dead instantly (joel_mchales_wife321?).

I have ancient accounts on MySpace and LinkedIn and Tumblr and Pinterest and Path and Vine that I haven’t deleted yet because frankly, I don’t know how nor care to learn.

Even watching TV now requires a password thanks to Hulu and Netflix and HBO Go (HBO Now? HBO I’m only here for “Game of Thrones”?). Passwords I never, ever remember. Nor does my husband. Leaving us both to look franticly for that Post-It I wrote down all the passwords on which we can never, ever find.

Instagram. Amazon. Twitter. Snapchat. Facebook (which guilt trips me into wishing 1,378 people I don’t know a happy birthday!!!!!! Emoji cake! Emoji martini! Emoji poop!).

All a mess.

Sigh.

And the hackers. Oh, the hackers. They love me. Because I am the perfect combination of lazy and technologically incompetent. At this point, I am on a first name basis with Todd, the dude in charge of identity theft at my credit card company.

In my defense, it is fairly easy to let your online life get out of control considering it’s out there floating in Internet space or whatever and not in your fridge gathering mold and possibly a conscience. Out of sight, out of mind and whatnot.

But I really should try to get my technology house in order. And I will. Right after I find that stupid Post-It with all the passwords on it.