Category Archives: Politics

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.

 

 

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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. 

 

I ran 13.1 miles & all I got was this lousy self-esteem

People do dumb things. It’s one of the few things you can rely on. You’ve probably heard that old quote that goes “the only constant is change.” But really it should be amended to “the only constants are change and people do dumb things.”

I should know. I am a people and I just did something dumb.

I ran a half marathon on Saturday.

Not dumb enough for you? Just wait, there’s more. I ran a half marathon during a Nor’easter, which is a wicked storm featuring heavy rain and snow and strong winds.

Still not dumb enough for you? Here’s the best part. I paid not-dumb people $80 for this privilege.

If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would one day sign up to run a half marathon, I would have rolled my eyes so hard at you I would have seen my brain. Shoot, if you would have told me just last year that I would sign up to run a half marathon, I…well, I wouldn’t have heard you over my screaming children. But after I asked you to repeat it four times I would have responded by laughing so hard I probably would have woken up the baby and then I would have thrown a pan at your face for making me wake up the baby.

And yet, there I was. On Saturday in Cape Cod. Running 13.1 miles. In a row. On purpose.

Not only that, I trained for it. For months, I was getting up at 4:30 in the morning and strapping on my shoes and running four, five, six miles in the dark. On the weekends, it was seven, eight, nine miles. All on voluntary terms. All without anything chasing me. And all with no other purpose than I needed to run a lot to get ready to run even more.

Like I said, dumb.

On the plus side, it was also hard and painful and exhausting.

But it was transformative.

For some reason in our society we have this idea that people don’t change. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. But I do know we evolve.

We evolve with each trial and tribulation we overcome. We evolve every time we learn something new. With every new experience, every new person we meet, we evolve. We evolve every time we fall in love. We evolve with each heartbreak. We evolve when we hold our children for the first time.

And we evolve every time we conquer what we think is the unconquerable.

That’s why I signed up, dumb as it was. It’s easy to think that the way things are, the way you are, is how it will always be, how you will always be. I was a tired, overwhelmed mom who was getting increasingly frustrated at both herself and the way the world was.

But change is the only constant. And that’s why I ran (limped) for miles in a storm. To prove I could evolve. That I could become the kind of person who crosses the finish line. That I can be whoever I want.

And now that I did, I have a whole list of other unconquerables. I want to write a novel. And a children’s book. To become a decent photographer. To buy a house and foster orphaned pets. To be the best mom and wife and daughter I can. And, lord help me, to run a full marathon.

And there are now fewer doubts in my mind that I can do all these things. Because I evolved. Because through this experience, I became a better version of myself.

And look, this could just be the endorphins talking here, but finishing that half marathon gives me just a little bit more hope for all of us. We can be better. We can make this world better. We can do the impossible because history has shown us that doing the impossible is what humans excel at.

All we have to do is try hard. Forgive ourselves. And try harder.

And yes, I realize how naive this all sounds but hey, we could all stand to be a bit dumber that way.

This blog post is just one long internal scream

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Thanks for reading.

 

Because this Facebook post is going to save America

I’ve been reading a lot of Mark Twain this summer. In fact, a few weeks ago, I dramatically declared to my husband that “this is The Summer of Twain!” while wearing a straw hat and holding a fishin’ pole (because everything is more fun when you can annoy your spouse with it).

It started out that I simply wanted to re-read the adventures of Tom and Huck on long, hot, lazy afternoons. But then, while searching for my copies of these books, I found seven other Twain books languishing on my shelves. Challenge accepted! I thought to myself as I instantly started searching for fishin’ poles on Amazon so I could properly break the news to my husband.

I’m happy to report that so far it’s turning out to be one of my better life decisions (much better than my decision last summer to sign my toddler up for soccer). It’s also having some unexpected patriotic side effects.

I was halfway through “Tom Sawyer,” for example, when a flood of memories from my semi-feral childhood in rural Ohio crashed into my brain. The next thing I know I’m asking my kids if they want to go down to the “crick” and have a picnic (to which they responded by staring at me with professional-grade disdain).

I was only one chapter into “Life on the Mississippi” before I found myself doing CPR on my ancient, wheezing junior high plans to visit every state in the Union.

And then there’s the quotes. Oh, those quotes. The man would just spit out viral-ready gems like “Loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the government when it deserves it” long before the Internet was even a twinkle in Al Gore’s great-grandpa’s eye.

It’s that last one I blame for convincing me it was a good idea to write a political post on Facebook even though previous experience has taught me that there is only one way that ends, which is with all parties involved concluding this world can only be cleansed by fire.

I knew better. You reading this know better. My dog, who has his own Twitter account, knows better. Yet, there I was, romanticizing in my head how Twain brilliantly shed light on our faults as a country and why can’t I do that? I mean, I know words and stuff. Sometimes even BIG words. And with that fail-safe logic, I quickly assured myself that this Facebook political post would be different.

Not only that but it would MAKE all the difference.

It will be well-thought out, says I, clever even, a bit funny, yet poignant, a chastising that morphs into a rallying cry but with a sprinkling of self-deprecation so as to make the medicine go down easier. I mean, I’m not such a Pollyanna that I think a cheesy little paragraph on social media could truly solve anything (I’m only a quarter Pollyanna on my mother’s side). But, on the other hand, these four sentences could be the wisest and most courageous thing the Internet has ever seen.

I won’t know until I try, right?

So I type it out on my phone while pacing the dining room floor, my fingers flying over the tiny keyboard. I’m excited. Nervous almost. So much so it takes a while because I keep making typos. I reread it. Erase that part. Think it over. Put it back in. NO, SWEETIE, MOMMA CAN’T HELP YOU WITH YOUR UNDERWEAR. SHE’S BUSY SAVING AMERICA. Change the wording here. Is that how you spell “tyranny”? I don’t want to get ahead of myself but can you win awards for these kinds of thing? SO GO NAKED THEN. I’LL HELP WHEN I’M DONE BEING AN AMAZING PATRIOT.

I quickly post it. Before I lose my nerve. But already regret has started to set in. I take a deep breathe and remind myself it will all be fine. I just need to remember not to respond to any comments. I already said what I had to say. Let everyone else sling mud at each other down in the gutters.

And I firmly stick by that. For all of three minutes. It’s just this one guy, you know? He’s so smug. So I gently point out how he’s wrong. And three exchanges later, I gently point out how he can suck it. I’m outraged and also nauseous that anyone could believe the things this random person I now hate believes. But I can’t stop. I can’t just WALK AWAY. I have to win this fight. I have to make them see how stupid they are. Win the online fight, win AMERICA.

Except no one wins. Except maybe Facebook.

Hours, sometimes days, later, it’s all over and I feel vaguely dirty and vow to never, ever discuss politics ever again.

But I will. Because this country has been very good to me and I love it for that. So I’m going to keep fighting to make it good for everybody.

And because I may just be another idiot arguing on the Internet but I refuse to let those other idiots have the last word.

Maybe I don’t know everything

Here’s a fun perk about parenting that doesn’t get talked about often. When it comes to little kids, you can usually count on being the smartest person in the room.

Seriously. Children come into this world knowing nothing. Like, nothing. I literally had to explain to my almost 2-year-old what the sky was the other day.

It’s flattering in its own way. Your kids just assume you are the ultimate authority on everything. Which almost, ALMOST, makes up for the endless barrage of questions that pour out of their mouths on a daily basis.

Momma, where do squirrels live?

In trees, honey.

What is ice made of?

Frozen water.

Why do I have to go to sleep?

Because your body needs sleep to grow big and strong. And Momma is super behind on “Supernatural” episodes.

In the morning, answering these questions usually comes as naturally as breathing. In that I can’t stop to think about what I’m doing because then all I’d be doing is answering questions. So I just respond without even thinking about it as I go about my business.  

Are Kermit and Miss Piggy married?

It’s complicated, darling.

Why?

Because Kermit is afraid of commitment.

What’s that sign say?

Don’t walk.

Why are we walking then?

Because that sign is not the boss of me.

How does someone get to become President?

No one knows anymore, baby.

But as the day wears on, I start to stumble a bit. My all-knowing authority starts to show signs of weakness, their never-ending questions poking tiny logic holes everywhere.

Why can’t I watch TV all day, Momma?

Because it’s bad for you.

Why?

Because…sigh...because your brain needs stimulation.

What’s stimulation?

Um…everything that happens when you aren’t watching TV?

Do fish talk?

No, sweetie. Wait…I mean…yeah, no, they don’t. But I’m sure they communicate in some way. They’d have to, right?

And by the end of the day, when the caffeine has worn off and I’m exhausted and some pretty major parts of my brain have been liquified because my kids won’t stop saying “momomomomomomomom,” I begin to question my own grasp of this seemingly basic knowledge I am imparting to them.

Why can’t I say bad words?

Honestly? Mostly because it just reflects poorly on my parenting. Like, it’s cute if a 2-year-old says “damn it” but gets significantly less cute the older you get.

But don’t you say bad words?

I do. And I’m allowed to because…well, um…because I pay taxes. And the day you have to pay taxes, you can say all the bad words you want.

Is “fat” a bad word, Momma?

Oh god, kid. Um, some people think so. Although others don’t, they’re embracing it, reclaiming it, if you will. Technically it’s a descriptive word but in our society it’s been used as a kind of verbal weapon. So really it depends how much power you personally give the word. I guess. Is it your bedtime yet?

What is the coldest season?

Winter.

What is the second coldest season?

Fall. Er…although it could also be spring. Let’s just say they’re tied.

Why is it called fall? Like fall down?

Yeah, because the leaves fall off the trees during that time of year. Although it’s also called autumn.

Why do the leaves fall down? Do they need a bandaid?

Sigh…um, the leaves fall because of…is it to conserve water or something? During the winter? I think. And no they don’t need bandaids. The leaves are dead. OH CRAP, I MEAN…

What’s dead mean, Momma?

WHO WANTS ICE CREAM!?

Will you die someday? Will I? How about Daddy? Where do you go when you die? Is dead like sleeping? Will I die when I go to sleep? Can I sleep in your bed tonight?

And then by the time I’m in bed (trying to ignore the kicking and thrashing of my traumatized children) I’m starting to question everything.

But, I mean, where DO we go when we die? Heaven? Hell? Is it just a vast nothingness? Do animals have souls? Dogs must, if anything. I don’t want to spend eternity somewhere that doesn’t allow dogs in. Why would an all-knowing Creator create dogs and then not let them run around in the afterlife? What kind of cruel joke is that? WHY ARE WE EVEN HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE!? AND DID I REMEMBER TO TURN OFF THE COFFEEMAKER!?

The good news is that after this awful sleepless night I get to wake up, covered in little, tiny bruises, and do it all over again.

Morning, Momma! Why do you drink so much coffee? Can I have some coffee? Is coffee like chocolate? It looks like chocolate. Can I have chocolate for breakfast?

 

To Whom It May Concern (yes, you)

I didn’t want it to have to come to this. No one ever does. Love means never having to hire a lawyer. Or at least it should.

But, alas, here we are. It is indeed regrettable but unfortunately necessary at this point.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you, dear children, that you are in violation of our prenatal agreement.

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Actually, you’ve both been in violation of various parts of it for quite some time now. Remember Section 1, Subsection C, Paragraph 2? Thou shall not give the mother stretch marks?

(Note: I don’t really know much legal jargon so I just mixed in a bunch of Biblical vocabulary to make it sound more official. Also I was getting high on cheeseburgers every day during the drafting of the original document so I can’t really be held responsible for my state of mind at the time).

Well, I do have stretch marks. Lots of them. My hips look like they’ve been mauled by a cranky tiger.

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But since you both kept up your end of the Principal Birth Accord and came out healthy and with the appropriate amount of digits, I’m willing to waive the Stretch Mark Clause. Especially in light of the fact that you have both remained healthy and have kept all the aforementioned digits in excellent condition. (Although I do feel it pertinent to remind you at this juncture that Section 5, Paragraph 6 forbids those digits from coming within three inches of the nasal area).

However, I need you both to immediately cease and desist with any and all public tantrums. A fetus is able to hear inside the womb starting at around 16 weeks, so I know you heard me when I said “you are never allowed to flop on the floor, kicking and screaming, while occupying space on public property.” This is what’s known as a verbal agreement, kids. Which is legally binding.

Probably.

Which means that last week, when the two of you threw a simultaneous tantrum inside the grocery store because you both got the exact same number of stickers from the cashier, which made Defendant No. 1 mad because, and I quote, “I wanted more stickers than her,” and made Defendant No. 2 mad because, and I quote “MORE ‘DICKERS, MOMMA,” you were in violation of Section 8, Subsection K, Paragraph 2, AND Paragraph 7 (the latter of which specifies that any and all tantrums may not be about something ridiculous and/or dumb).

And did you or did you not kick my bladder in acquiescence when I asked you to agree that thou shalt never complain about what I cooked for dinner? Let me refresh your memory: You both did. Hard. In fact, one of you agreed so heartily that I peed myself a little.

And yet, almost every meal that is not composed of just a giant bowl of ketchup is met with a resounding chorus of whining and various other dramatic theatrics. Meaning you are in violation of Section 10, Paragraph 37, also known as the “Shut Up And Eat It” stipulation.

And I think we can all agree that last night’s flagrant disregard of Section 17, Paragraph 1, commonly referred to as the “No Pooping in the Tub” restriction, was highly regrettable and caused no small amount of distress, both mentally and physically, for all involved.    

As is noted in great detail in Section 26, Subsection F, Paragraph 3 through 119 of the Prenatal Agreement, I love you both very much. Which is why, despite these unpleasant legal matters, I am still willing to act as your Maternal Unit with the priviso that you reread and reacquaint yourself with the particularities of Section 45, also known as the “Knock It Off” contingency, and Section 48, also known as the “So Help Me” eventuality.

Cordially Yours,

Momma

 

Too cool for preschool

There are a lot of private decisions you make as a parent that you hope and pray never become public, else it makes you look like a bad parent. Like, say, letting them wear the same clothes three days in a row. Or giving them crackers and jelly beans for dinner because you can’t handle one more tantrum. Or letting them watch that third “Sesame Street” episode so you can finish emailing your editor and fold the clean laundry that has been sitting on the rocking chair for four days straight.

And then there are the decisions you make that make you wonder if maybe you truly are a bad parent.

Like, say, for instance, do I really need to send my child to preschool?

I know. I know! I can’t believe I just typed that either. I’m currently hunched over my keyboard, my whole body tense, waiting for the inevitable knock on the door from Child Protective Services.

But let me type just one more sentence before you throw the handcuffs on me…

I Googled local preschool prices.

Can you put the handcuffs away now? If you say yes, then I know you have at one point Googled local preschool prices. If you say no, do me a favor and Google local preschool prices. I’ll give you a moment…

…I know, right!? Unbelieveable.

And for the majority of you who are going along with my gag but not actually Googling anything, let me share with you what I discovered. Because I actually did research. Like a grown up. And like most research (bacon and alcohol are bad for you!), the results were depressing.

According to a 2016 study by the Economic Policy Institute, the costs of full-time childcare for a 4-year-old was higher than the cost for in-state college tuition in 23 states. Including my current state of residence, Massachusetts, which was one of the most expensive. On average, to send my precious little hellion to preschool will cost $12,781 per year.

But I could save over $2,000 if I just sent him straight to college.

And while Riker is exceptionally talented at Apple Juice Pong, I’m pretty sure they expect you to be able to wipe your own butt at college (weird fraternity pledge rituals notwithstanding).

Ever since he turned three, this issue has been keeping me up at night. What kind of monster denies their child a good education? Regardless of how much it costs? Who needs two arms AND two legs when your offspring’s very future is on the line?

Which is why I was so relieved when I started complaining to my very smart and very well-educated friend about my preschool dilemma and she responded that although they’re keeping it very quiet, she and her husband decided not to send her kid to preschool.

“You can do that!? Can I do that? Is that allowed?” I practically yelled back.

She laughed but it does feel like preschool is an unofficial requirement at this point. I have nightmares where I start teaching my son how to write his name and preschool teachers in bright sweaters kick down my door and rip the crayon from his chubby little hands.

“Literacy is only for actual students! Go watch more garbage TV, tiny peasant!” they scream at him before covering him with frowny face stickers.

And the very fact she said they are “keeping it quiet” kind of proves my point.  

But I didn’t go to preschool. And I turned out fine, she types while sipping wine through a straw and binge-watching the entire “Dawson’s Creek” series for the 45th time.

And yes, I know there is a long laundry list of benefits from preschool. I majored in education in addition to journalism so I quite literally read the book on it. But I also know that $12,000 isn’t just a “hardship” for us at this particular moment in our economic reality. It’s impossible.

So, I’ve spent the last five months weighing our options. We could always try part-time preschool perhaps, or maybe hunt down a discount early education center, like BoBo’s Preschool Kidz Barn or something.

I could try teaching him myself, but will my efforts, along with library story-time and playing on a soccer team and random play dates at the park and playground, be enough for what he needs to learn both academically and socially? On the other hand, if we do scrape enough money together to send him to a decent preschool, is it worth it if we can no longer afford family trips to museums and the occasional dinner out to a restaurant and airplane tickets to visit our families?

I could go back to work full-time instead of freelance writing, which doesn’t pay much currently. But then we’d have to send his younger sister to a daycare too, effectively doubling our childcare costs. Or maybe my husband could get a second part-time job, just temporarily, to cover the costs. Although, as mentioned above, we don’t have family close by and it’s already hard enough to take care of the kids on my own with the long-ish hours he already works. Not to mention, I need the nights and weekends to do my writing and oh my god, WHY DO THEY MAKE IT SO HARD IN THIS COUNTRY TO RAISE A FAMILY!?

And that, ultimately, is the crux of the issue. Families all over this country are having similar dilemmas, these either/or situations, because there is no longer enough money to go around. Technically we’re considered middle class, but thanks to things like student loan debt and years upon years of stagnant wages and the ever faster rising cost of living, we still struggle. We still rent (and pay way too much for rent but who can afford a down payment on a house?). We own one ancient car. All our furniture is from 2002. We have a savings account but no college fund for either kid. We have health insurance but no retirement plan. Enough discretionary income for the occasional pizza but not enough for a real vacation.

And our financial issues are pretty benign in the long run. Other families are having to make decisions between much-needed medication and decent food. Or getting further in debt to move out of their crappy neighborhood to one with a decent school district and parks not littered with needles. Or finding a third job but then never seeing their kids.

It seems our family, just like so many other American families these days, can no longer afford the American dream.

I suppose I should end this with a joke since I’m a humor writer by trade, but after re-reading what I just wrote, none of this seems very funny anymore.

 

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.

 

 

Another annoying post defending Thanksgiving

Guys, I love analogies. I love analogies like how bad writers love a good cheap gimmick. Which is why I want to begin this particular column about my love of Thanksgiving with the following cheap gimmicky analogy:

Congratulations, everyone. We have all turned Thanksgiving into the classic middle child of the major holidays.

See, at one time Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal in America. But now, jammed in-between the ever-growing juggernauts of Halloween and Christmas, it always gets overlooked. And sure, just like so many other middle children, it’s maybe not as fun as Halloween or as exciting as Christmas, but it’s still a good, solid holiday.

Now, Halloween obviously plays the role of the oldest child, not so much for any particular trait per se, but because it comes first in the calendar year and I really need this analogy to work. Although, if I really stretch it, Halloween could be like your high-achieving cheerleader daughter who suddenly goes through a goth phase and dyes her hair purple and only wears black and starts getting C’s because she’s focused on writing her death poetry. And also she starts getting drunk, like really drunk, while wearing sexy Harry Potter uniforms.

And Christmas is clearly the beloved youngest child, who can do no wrong and no one ever tells it no, which is why it has turned into a spoiled brat that sucks up all of Mommy and Daddy’s time and money.

Poor Thanksgiving. The quiet peacemaker. It’s just trying to get the whole family together at the table for nothing other than good food and good, but strained, conversation that is desperately trying to avoid bringing up politics. Would you like more mashed potatoes, it quietly but excitedly asks. Or maybe some of the turkey that took 18 hours to prep and cook? Or any of these other eleven side dishes?

Except, no one hears it. Because there’s Christmas, screaming in its highchair for more attention and throwing poinsettias at everyone, while Halloween mopes and snacks on the giant bowl of leftover candy that is mostly just yellow Starbursts and generic Tootsie Rolls at this point. Thanksgiving just wanted one day that is focused on them but no, because not only is Christmas making a scene but Christmas also had to bring over its rowdy, juvenile delinquent friend, Black Friday. And now everything is chaos and everyone is at the store because Black Friday conned them into thinking that getting into fistfights over cheap flats screens and environmentally irresponsible Keurigs was a great idea.

And so poor Thanksgiving just sits there alone at the table, sullenly eating a turkey leg and drinking wine straight from the bottle (which they will replace because Thanksgiving is a polite, responsible holiday…as long as no one brings up politics).

Well, I, for one, refuse to let Thanksgiving drink that wine alone. One, because I have never turned down a glass of wine in my life. And two, this holiday is worthy of our love and attention.

I love Thanksgiving. LOVE it. I loved it as a kid when the women of my family would shoo me out of the kitchen while they mysteriously made magic happen. And I love it now as an adult when I’m the one in the kitchen mysteriously making moderate-to-severe knife cuts and a whole symphony of curse words happen (and somehow, magically, edible food).

Everyone gets all dressed up but goes absolutely nowhere, just looking hella fancy while hanging out in the kitchen. There’s no stress to look skinny in a sexist costume or pressure to find the perfect gift for a husband who thinks “whatever, you know what I like” is an acceptable answer to the question “what do you want for Christmas this year?”

The only goal for the whole freaking day is just to devour food that has been bathed in almost illegal amounts of butter. To drink wine and watch a parade and talk about the weather with your uncle for an uncomfortable 12 minutes because it’s a topic least likely to bring up politics.

There’s no pressure to have a good time, even, or to make it a magical day for children. It just is what it is. The only thing you’re required to do is give a list of things you’re thankful for and even then you can lie because, I mean, who’s going to know?

So, guys, I think we all should apologize to Thanksgiving for our benign neglect of it. It truly deserves better. A prominent place on the fridge to hang its construction paper turkey hand art.

Christmas will just have to learn some patience. *ducks as another poinsettia is thrown at her head*