Monthly Archives: August 2019

Lisa Frank & the other loves of my life

I don’t have much proof. I’ll admit that right off the bat. But just hear me out. I’m starting to suspect that my son is not my child. 

I mean, sure, he acts just like me (NO WE’RE NOT DRAMATIC, HOW DARE YOU!) But he was born via C-section. I couldn’t see anything past that weird blue screen they put up, not even them pulling a human body out of my human body. Who knows what happened down there? And, yeah, ok, my husband claims to have witnessed it but he could be part of this whole conspiracy. So, really, who’s the crazy one here? 

Because the biggest piece of evidence is that my son (“allegedly”) starts kindergarten in a week. And he is not excited. At all. According to him, after one year of preschool, he’s all set education-wise.

“But Momma! I went to school last year, remember? I learned everything already.” 

And I know. I know what you’re thinking. Maybe he’s just scared. But that doesn’t seem to be the case either. Yesterday I sat him down and started going off on this whole heartfelt spiel about how I was terrified on my first day of kindergarten and, funny story, was actually sent to the corner on my first day of school (I was framed basically and that’s all I’ll say about it and Amy knows what she did). But he stopped me, while I was mid-monologue and teary-eyed, with a wave of his hand. 

“I’m not scared. I just don’t want to go.”

The boy isn’t even excited about getting new school supplies. SCHOOL SUPPLIES, guys. 

“Do you want to get a new backpack for this year?” I nonchalantly asked him last week.

“Nah. I’ll just use my old Paw Patrol one.”

“Well, we can buy you other things.”

“Nah.”

“But have you ever smelled a fresh notebook? Or lovingly held a new box of crayons? All sharp and unused and full of potential? Want me to buy you a Trapper Keeper?”

“What’s that?”

“The single coolest invention of all time.”

“Nah.”

WHO IS THIS CHILD? I’m not going to lie. A good 30 percent of the reason I had kids was so I’d have a legitimate reason to wander up and down the school supply aisles, creepily smelling notebook paper. But now the girl who was once too school for cool has a son who is too cool for school. It’s like a super messed up Dr. Seuss story. 

I loved school. I was that kid raising their hand going “ohohoh, pick me!” I was that kid who joined everything. T-ball, volleyball, basketball, track, one ill-advised year as a cheerleader, school plays, band, Spanish club, yearbook staff. And yes, I was probably that kid you hated and rolled your eyes at. 

Not that school was always great. It had the typical amount of suck. There was some hardcore psychological warfare going on in third grade among my clique of friends. And then again in fifth grade. And half of sixth. I spent grades four through nine in one long awkward phase. (Tenth grade I was also pretty awkward but had at least learned how to pluck my eyebrows so there were officially two). Once a boy asked me out as a joke. Twice I tripped in the cafeteria, spilling my food and dignity everywhere. And I can’t count the number of times I got busted for falling asleep in class (one, because I was asleep and two, because it was almost always in math class). 

Yet the good still outweighed the bad. And I earned a life-long love of learning. Of challenging myself. Which is what I was hoping for my own children. They don’t need to get straight A’s. Or get involved in sports. Or fake their way through Spanish well enough to become vice president of Spanish club (el gato esta en la microonda!). But I do want them to use this time to try it all, experience it all, learn it all. To discover who they are and what they can do. 

Alas, my son is not me. Nor is his younger sister. Which is something I’m trying to keep in mind as we step blindly into this new phase of their lives. I can’t make them love school. I can’t make them see with 20 years of hindsight what lies before them. 

What I can do, though, is be their cheerleader (albeit an admittedly bad and inflexible one, just like when I was in school). And I can be there for them when things get hard, and then they get easier, and then everything changes and it all gets hard again. And I can listen to them when they have a bad day, a bad teacher, a big bully. 

And most importantly, I can impart my hard-won wisdom onto them that these years are only a small window of time where they can carry around a Trapper Keeper without looking like a crazy person. 

 

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Tired.

I’m tired. 

But don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those pieces where the author spends 800 words telling you just how much MORE tired they are than you. (Although I only got two hours of sleep last night. Not that it matters. Because, again, this isn’t THAT piece). 

See, I know you’re tired too. We’re all tired. The whole world is tired. None of us are getting enough sleep and all of us are under more and more pressure to do more during our waking hours. 

Which is why, I suspect, we as a society have turned tiredness into a competition. We all feel guilty that we aren’t doing more so we try to win the only contest we can: Who is more tired?

Person 1: “I’m so tired.”

Person 2: “Me too. I only got five hours of sleep last night.”

Person 1: “I only got four.”

Person 2: “Did I say last night? I meant for the whole week.”

Person 1: “I meant for the whole month.”

Person 2: “I basically haven’t slept since I was a child.”

Person 1: “Must be nice. I haven’t slept since I was literally in utero.”

Person 2: “Really? I couldn’t even sleep in there, what with that constant beating of mother’s heart.”

I don’t know how we got to this point. Maybe it was the Internet, connecting us all to the world 24/7. Maybe it was the rise of social media, connecting us all to each other 24/7. Or perhaps it’s just hard to get a solid eight hours when the world feels like a dumpster fire. But whatever the reason, it appears there is some fierce competition for the title of “Most Tired.” Because you can get into this competition with pretty much anyone. Take moms, for instance. 

Pregnant woman: I’m so tired. 

New mom: HAHAHAHA…just wait until they are born. 

Mom of toddler: Aw, that’s cute. Mine is mobile and can open doors and has opinions. 

Mom of teenager: Well, I haven’t slept since mine got his driver’s license. 

Mom of multiple teenagers: I’M TECHNICALLY DEAD. 

There’s also the generational tiredness rivalry. 

Old person: I’m so tired. My angina and trick knee kept me up all night.

Middle-aged person: I was up worrying about taking care of my aging parents and my growing kids. 

30-something: My career is killing me. 

20-something: I work three jobs and have no money and no future and the Arctic is literally on fire. 

College student: I had to pull an all-nighter for exams and then work all day at my unpaid internship.

Teenager: I had to pull an all-nighter for Fortnite. 

Everyone: Oh, shut up, Kyle.

Teenager (sulkily): I won, not that anyone cares.  

There’s also usually a romantic partner daily exhaustion war. My husband and I are experts at this. 

Husband: I had to finish 57 projects today and re-do the entire website and fight the crowds for the train home. 

Me: I had to drag two little kids all over town while dealing with 23 tantrums and 15 meltdowns and I have insomnia and I need to finish my blog about how much more tired I am than you and everyone else in the world.

(Again, NOT that this is all about how much more tired I am than you, dear reader. Even if it’s true, it’s not the point). 

And then there is all the situational tiredness. The bad job tired. You ever had a bad job? It’s exhausting. There’s the bad relationship tired, where your brain basically turns to mush rehearsing all the things you should say to your crappy partner but never do because you’re just too tired. Or the financial problems tired, where you trade sleep for calculating which limbs you can sell to make ends meet this month. 

And that’s all just the level of tiredness you feel when everything is going fairly well in your life. It’s a whole new level of fatigue when you are, say, battling a chronic disease. Or a mental illness. Or raising a child with special needs. Or dealing with racism and sexism and bigotry every day. Or struggling in poverty. Or…yeah, you get it. 

We’re tired. 

So who wins the award for most tired? I mean, clearly it’s me. Although the rest of you put up quite the battle. Which is why I’m going to pull a Cady Heron from “Mean Girls” and break apart the crown and give us all a piece of the title. 

And as for any solutions? How do we stop being so tired? Truthfully I have no idea.

But I’m sure I’ll be up all night thinking about it.

 

 

What’s in a name?

People often spell my name wrong. This is usually through no fault of their own but rather because of an impulsive decision I made as a young girl. One of those passionate and spontaneous moments of childhood that only happen in childhood because sometimes when you’re nine you know yourself better than when you’re on the cusp of 39. 

For those of you who don’t know, or never noticed, I spell my name with two L’s. I changed it in the third grade because every parent in the early 80’s in western Ohio thought April was just a super terrific name and, as a result, there were what felt like hundreds of us in my small elementary school. Technically at least seven. Most importantly, three alone just in my class. Tired of being April B., I decided to set fire to the old me and emerge from the ashes as Aprill. 

Aprill! Yes! Because Aprill is so much more exotic than plain old boring April. April was a month. Aprill was a force of nature. Aprill could do anything. Wear her jeans pegged! Rollerblade without a helmet! Know all the lyrics to a Tupac song! (And not the radio edit version!) With a name like that I was destined for big things. Like becoming the first supermodel doctor archaeologist who wrote novels on the weekend. 

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Granted, not everyone was on board with this change. My teacher repeatedly marked my grade down on all my spelling tests because I spelled my name “wrong.” Nevertheless, I persisted. Unfortunately so did she, which is why I got a C in spelling that year, but I think I made my point. 

Because eventually everyone did forget that April B. ever existed. Soon I was known as Aprill, that girl who puked on the playground that one time! (It was hotdog day. It wasn’t pretty). 

And thus things remained until last week when I went to Starbucks, where I discovered I hadn’t been nearly ambitious enough with my name change all those years ago. Because right there, on my cup, staring back at me in black and white, was the most beautifully unnecessary way yet to spell my name. 

“Aperal”

APERAL. I mean. What? 

I’ll admit I laughed at first. Even shared it on social media to get some laughs and also show everyone that I am a very important writer who writes very writerly-like at Starbucks with all the other important writerly writers of our generation. 

But, and I’m not proud of this, but it got me thinking. What if that was my name? What if I was Aperal? And if I was, who was this Aperal? 

I mean, sure, Aperal looks like a cross between the name of prescription drug with horrible side effects and a fancy drink women in their mid-40’s order at two in the afternoon. But you have to admit it’s memorable. 

I’ll tell you one thing, Aperal is probably not the kind of person who only wins arguments in the shower. Oh no, Aperal would win them right then and there and while completely dry.  

When someone asks Aperal what she does for a living, she wouldn’t go “oh, I’m kind of a writer.” Oh no. She’d say “I’m an award-winning columnist.” And then she’d probably do something really cool like chug an entire martini and throw the glass into the fireplace (because Aperal is the kind of person who is always casually hanging out by fireplaces). 

And Aperal would definitely have the nerve to get a pixie haircut and dye it platinum blonde like Aprill has been wanting to do for years.  

Aperal probably doesn’t have insomnia either. Nope. You’d never catch her slowly eating an entire block of cheese dipped in guacamole by the glow of the refrigerator light because she hasn’t got a good night’s sleep in three weeks and nothing matters anymore. 

Aperal can probably get into her sports bra without pulling a muscle and knocking over a lamp. 

Aperal could send a text without agonizing over its content until she got a reply. 

I bet Aperal even knows how to French braid. Like some kind of hair wizard. 

And when Aperal’s kids misbehave in public, Aperal would get them in line by turning into a stern but lovable Mary Poppins as the entire playground looked on in awe, as opposed to growling at them and whipping out her Darth Vader voice, terrifying everyone within hearing distance.

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Sigh. It does sound nice. Completely reinventing myself again. To become that better version of myself that is hiding underneath all the ketchup stains and undereye bags. 

In the end though, Aprill, for all her faults and pretentiously referring to herself in the third person, isn’t that bad. And Aperal, for as amazing as she sounds, wasn’t the one who built this life from the ground up. A life full of mistakes but one I’m happy to call my own. 

Besides, wasn’t it someone famous (Aperal would probably know) who said “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”?

So, I think I’ll stick with remaining Aprill for now. 

But I’m keeping Aperal in my back pocket. Just in case I’m ever casually hanging out by a fireplace. 

 

If only thoughts and prayers were bulletproof

I’ll be honest. When I heard about Gilroy, and then El Paso, and then Dayton (which is 45 minutes from my hometown), I felt nothing. I just stared, dull-eyed, at the news and at social media feeds and as people lamented the evil in the world while being very careful not to name any specific evil. 

And then, yesterday, as my husband and I were getting dinner ready for the kids, I went to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror. And I lost it. I sobbed. Gasping sobs I tried to muffle. Because I didn’t want him or the kids or my visiting mother-in-law to hear. No need to make people uncomfortable when this kind of thing literally happens every day in America. 

And I’m going to be even more honest. I’m not sure if I was crying because of the horror of all those senseless deaths. Of the horror that it won’t stop. Of the horror that nothing will change, no matter how high the death toll. Of the horror that it’s only a matter of time before it’s me or someone I know. 

Or, just as horrifyingly, if I was crying because I realized I finally really am numb. And the only reason I was crying is because I was mourning that part of my humanity that also died in the latest hail of bullets. 

Does that sound defeatist? It is. Because I’m defeated. And maybe you are too. Because the biggest horror of all is that we have decided this is ok. We might say it’s not, we might scream until our voices are raw that we can’t let this be the new normal, but we won’t do anything. It doesn’t even matter what we think is the cause behind these mass shootings anymore. 

Is it a gun problem? 

Is it a mental health problem?

Is it a young, white, male problem?

Is it racism?

Is it hate?

Is it an uncaring society? 

Is it all of the above? 

Again, it doesn’t matter. Gun control measures never get passed and still we elect the same people over and over in Congress. Money will never be given to expand mental health care services. People can’t even get healthcare for the physical bodies, let alone their minds. These killers leave behind manifestos specifically citing racism as their reason for killing dozens of innocent people and yet America still can’t take a good hard look at itself and say unequivocally that we have a massive problem with racism. Hate? Maybe if we all just hug each other more. Except kindness isn’t bullet-proof. Neither are thoughts and prayers.

But, hey, I get it. It’s easier to say this is a heart problem, a problem within these individuals, and then get back to the business of living than it is to realize that we have all contributed to this dystopian nightmare because of our collective complacency. Let alone do something meaningful about it. We can’t even be moved anymore by the images of young survivors of a school shooting on TV pleading for us to do something to save their lives. 

Tough break, kids. But really it’s your fault and all those video games you play. 

Afterall, the world can’t stop for every mass shooting when it happens all the time. We still have to make breakfast for the kids and send them off to school. We still have to go to the office. We still have to go shopping and head to church. It’s easier just to teach our toddlers how to run and hide when they hear gunshots going off. Easier to just turn off the news and shrug our shoulders at the growing piles of bloody dead bodies and dash off short tweets about how there will always be evil in the world. No need to actually try to stop it. 

Does this make you angry? Sad? Does it make you feel anything? Does it make you want to do anything? Are you nodding your head in recognition? Or getting ready to dash off a scathing comment about how they’ll be coming for your guns now even though no one has ever come for your guns? Not even after a classroom of kindergartners were slaughtered. 

Because it doesn’t matter. We can argue about this forever. 

And while we do, more of our children and friends and lovers and neighbors and classmates will die. 

And we’ll still be right here. Where we started.