Dear Social Media: Sometimes you really wear me out.

Life isn't a competition, but according to Facebook, I'm kicking your ass.

I like to talk. Given the chance, those who know me best will tell you that, in fact, I love it. Maybe more than anything. Except bread. God knows I’ll gladly give you a kid for a warm loaf of bread with honey butter. Add a Diet Coke to that order and you can have both my beautiful offspring.

But since My Space (remember that?), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Pinterest, Etsy, and countless other social media channels have entered my life and each taken a turn at being my primary diversionary obsession, I find that I am….tired.

For me, that’s a painful fact to reconcile…the idea of being tired of talking. In my world, that’s blasphemy.

However, the truth is that social media can be a little like a parasite eating away at my will to remain appropriate. There are so many venues to express myself and yet, I can’t escape the feeling that these channels are just countless new / additional places where I must be a pale version of myself.

The Internet, after all, is forever. And that means those of us who don’t get paid to get our freak on for the amusement of the World Wide Web must think before we speak (or write).  Bummer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media.  But too often, playing in the social sandbox feels a bit like being continually sized up by the cool kids — the ones always looking to see if you measure up. Are you funny but not crass? Smart but not nerdy? Opinionated but not alienating? 

Sigh. Perhaps I am the only one yearning for authenticity. Honesty. The full picture. But alas, there’s just too much pressure to appear a certain way online. 

May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.

Too tired to even fake it anymore. Sad, isn’t it? My husband, too, is dismayed.

In the beginning of the online social revolution, the feeling that we were together yet alone was exhilarating. After all, what was the chance someone we knew was really going to come across that blog post?

Not anymore. In a few short years social media has created unprecedented levels of global human connectedness.  And that’s fantastic. But it also means that everyone is going to see that picture of you playing tip cup. Last weekend. With your kids in the background doing virgin jello shots.

It’s kind of exhausting.

Then again, I’m sure this is just my problem. And in spite of everything, I always did like running with the popular crowd. So breaks I may take, but I will always be back.

Maybe soon, dear social media, we can drop the charade and really get to know each other.  In a totally appropriate way, of course.

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She’s a Superstar…

Molly Shannon on the red carpet as a 'Superstar!'

Mothers are notorious for telling their children they can be — or do — anything they want in life.  This is not, as I suspect some teenagers may believe, an attempt to blow sunshine up the dark orifices of an entire generation.  Rather, it is a mother’s keen understanding of the true possibility and potential of her offspring.  It’s our little way of saying, “Hey kid, make good choices and stay out of your own way, and you’ll go far in life.”  We’re trying to inspire confidence, for God’s sake.  You’re WELCOME. 

(Also, we happen to truly believe that you are fantastic. Gratitude can be expressed in your choice of especially thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts or by successfully completing adolescence without the need to be bailed out of anywhere.  Take your pick.)

While most of us fall into the category of “could have climbed a little higher on the life ladder if we’d only had a tad more nerve and the discipline to forego 10-20 fewer Saturday night keggers,” there are some people who come into this world as a force of nature.  There’s no doubt these little suckers are going somewhere…it’s just a semi-frightening matter of whether they choose to use their powers for good or evil. 

Case in point:

Independent third-party predictions for the manner in which Addison will bring the global masses to their collective knees have included President of the United States and cult leader.  These assessments were levied by people I consider to be fairly informed and reliable sources:  her preschool teacher and one of the Hub’s coworkers who is a confirmed hater of small people who are clearly immature and germ-infested. 

Suffice it to say, it was the former who predicted Addison will someday bust up on Barack in Chicago and snip, “Yeah, you were first. In your own little way. But the girls are in the house now, baby, and I am so gonna kick your legacy’s candy ass.”  As the only rooster on his own little chick farm, it’s my bet that he’ll find this at least mildly amusing.

Addison herself, is still in deliberation.  She announced this morning that she would like to be taken to Hollywood…the sooner the better.  I’d like to say that she added something especially funny like, “because I’m a superstar,” but the manner in which this request was delivered clearly denoted that part was implied.  While I”m sure I’d make a smokin’ hot stage mom, my response was to suggest that she wait a few years.  Like until she’s 18 and waited enough tables to come up with her first month’s rent.  Because I’m not footing the bill for super-stardom until she demonstrates a little initiative. Or at least a willingness to perform “Henry Pickle” on cue for family and friends in a manner that truly befits her level of talent and stage presence.  I think it’s important to be practical about these sort of things.

Anyway, given my general lack of cooperativeness, she has currently decided to settle for an as-yet-unplanned trip to Disney World, where she can get her princess on.  Royalty, I suppose, will have to suffice until she can round up the cash for bus fare to the Big Time. 

For my part, I’m glad to have a few more years to see how my tiny tornado takes on the world while still having the safety of our little family to retreat to after a tough day of directing teachers and classmates presumably less qualified for greatness.  I hope she finds a way to keep all her confidence and moxy intact to adulthood.  If she does, the world had better watch out.  The Force is strong with this one…

The case for hoarding

As a general rule, I feel compelled to have actual content before bothering anyone with my random thoughts.  But it’s Wednesday.  And here in la-la-land, that’s You Can Do It! day, so indulge me.  Or wait for Thursday, when I get back to real writing.  Because right now, we’re boarding the bus for “Things Laura Gets Excited About And Then Realizes She Doesn’t Have The Right Curtains For.” 

So, I was reading another blog this morning and I came across this:

Tie Dress

And I thought, Oh my God, that is so kind of…HOT…and it’s just like those curtains my mother-in-law made me for the office, like, 10 years ago.  Except those are not hot, but MAN, what a great post this would make!  And then I saw this:

Tie wreath

And THIS:

Tie clock

And I thought, OK, now seriously, I totally HAVE to do the tie post.  So I go running downstairs with my camera and the cutest belt I can find because at this point, I am completely committed to modeling the latest in tie-curtain-dress fashion, and it turns out that at some point during the last move, I THREW THEM AWAY.

This is something I do often.  Throw things away. I hate clutter and having arbitrary things l don’t really need.  So every couple of months, I’ll pick a closet or drawer and just start chucking stuff.  My husband — the one who still has his ceramic baby booties (don’t get me started), a moderately inappropriate scrapbook made for him by his high school girlfriend, and shreds of a once-thought-to-be-cool University of Colorado t-shirt with a middle finger on it — hates this behavior.  But I have kids with a crap-ton of stuff and therefore I absolutely loathe having other at-the-time seemingly useless stuff shoved in random places around my house.  

I will admit that my predisposition towards roomy drawers does sometimes come back to bite me in butt.  Like when I can’t find a single white button-up shirt to wear with jeans because I’ve thrown them all away due to possibly-imaginary-but-really-probably-there yellow stains under the arms.  Or when I want to craft a tie-curtain-dress masterpiece. 

So maybe the hoarder is right.  Maybe I should save more.  That way, when maxi-pad minis and coupon-covered lamp shades come into vogue, I’ll be totally ready.

Finding my religion

Some women claim they do not pray.  These women are childless.  Because I’m here to tell you, buy a couple shots for 90% of the mothers in this world, and they will cop to clawing open the little red box under the bed that bears the words, “In case of emergency, break glass, grab rosary, apologize for being an idiot and pray like hell.”

When you are a carefree and rebellious youth unfettered by the responsibilities of family life, it’s fine and dandy to go around questioning your religious convictions and popping off about how you may or may not believe in a Higher Being.  But kids have a knack for bringing you to your knees early and often, y’all. 

I’m not sure if fathers pray.  My experience is that the just-fix-it gender prefers to take the ‘keep your own counsel, go with your gut and cuss a lot‘ approach to parenting.  But I think mothers are different.  Yes, we trust our guts.  We also trust medical professionals, writers impersonating child-rearing experts and really old deli ladies who claim to have successful offspring.  We’re hard-wired to look beyond ourselves in search of answers.  Call it an innate desire to get this whole Mommy thing exactly right.  Or a natural affinity for being attuned to the metaphysical workings of the universe.  Take your pick.  I’m good either way.

As I so subtly suggested in an earlier post this week, I was raised Catholic.  Not the real kind.  My mother favored the ‘Damn, I’m so busy I can barely keep my head on straight, but this is important, and you people need some kind of solid foundation to make a decision about religion, and I need back up on the whole no-lying-stealing-premarital sex thing, so for Christ’s sake we’re at least going to church on Christmas and Easter‘ version of Catholicism.  I can relate. 

My point is, I prayed before becoming a mother.  God and I chatted on a semi-regular basis.  About tests I didn’t study for, acne I didn’t like and boys I did.  And because I clocked enough time in Catholic school to know that God quits tuning into your channel if all you do is gripe, I tried hard to be grateful.  “God, Vanilla Ice is a hot mess. I am so glad I’m not a rapper. Thank you.

But since I set sail on the Good Ship MomNPop, God and I have been getting together a lot more frequently.  Like daily.  In the early years, my prayers took on the appearance of frantic pleading.  “Please God, just give me four straight hours of sleep.  I can do anything on four hours.  I swear.” 

If I was particularly desperate but concerned that the Big Guy might be too busy with other things — like you know, war in the Middle East or hostile pockets of frustrated Hari Krishnas assaulting travelers with wilted flowers — I’d try to back-door my request, just to get it on the list for later. 

Sweet Mother of God, the kid is biting.  PEOPLE.  He’s on the verge of being expelled from daycare, and if that happens, I’m going to have to quit my job and stay at home.  I don’t think I can do it.  I’m not like those mothers.  They’re strong.  They have better gag reflexes for the whole ‘rinsing out the crappy underwear in the toilet’ thing.  I’m sure Jesus wasn’t a biter, but could you just help me out here? I NEED to work.”

Over the years, my relationship with all beings holy has evolved.  I still pray frequently.  Out of gratitude, relief, frustration, and blind rage that I fear may lead me to lease the little people out to young, unmarried couples who are blasé about birth control.  But today, there are a lot more every day invocations.

“Good God in Heaven, is there even a possibility that you could flush this poop down the toilet after you use it?  This is unsanitary.  And it’s grossing me out!” (Yes, we’re still in the ‘poopy’ portion of the program.)

So help me God if you touch your brother one more time, we will strap you to the roof until we get to Grandma’s house. I am not even kidding.

I swear to the Sweet Virgin Mary, if I come in this room one more time and find a mix of clean and dirty clothes scattered about the floor like a modern art display, I will stop doing laundry.  Forever.  You can go to school in your underwear.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph help me.  PLEASE just…[insert one] brush your teeth/go to bed/get up/get dressed/eat your breakfast/stop getting those red lights and letters on your weekly conduct report…”  Yeah, that list kind of goes on and on.

Overall, the Powers that Be have been good to me.  But I am starting to think I’ve got to be a bit more judicious with the invocations.  Or they’ll shift their focus back to Britney and Lindsay.  Because you know, those girls are a hot mess too.

Annual Performance Review (aka Mother’s Day)

I have to be honest, given the comments I received during last year’s performance review, I approached Mother’s Day 2010 with trepidation.  I mean, “I love you even when you yell at me” (Griffin, 2009) is not exactly a glowing assessment.  Even if it is just a slightly modified version of the assurance I regularly deliver when they’ve pushed the button clearly marked, ‘Mommy Harpie: Activate at Your Own Risk.” 

You see, when I applied for this job, I was under the impression that once annually the little people I carried, birthed and have subsequently bathed, fed, clothed and loved, would overlook my occasional fall from maternal grace and throw me a bone.  Preferably one wrapped in colorful tissue paper with a tag reading, “To the best Mommy EVER.”  Not so.  Kids give it to you straight every time, my friend.  So if you’re looking for a stellar review, it’s best to let them have ring pops before dinner, at least in the week preceding your evaluation. 

So anyway, the 2010 ratings came in yesterday, and let me tell you, I am still wiping the stick of ring pop from my cheek and heaving a sigh of relief.  Turns out, with commitment, dedication and patience rivaling that of Mother Teresa, it IS possible to achieve the rank of ‘Top Performer.’  Witness the evidence: 

Griffin's Mother's Day Card, 2010

Exhibit A (From Griffin): I do read a lot, but I'm guessing he was running out of fine attributes to list here.

Griffin's Mother's Day Letter 2010

Exhibit B (From Griffin): In case you can't read it, it says Marvelous, Outstanding, Terrific, Halarias, Extra Ordinary at writing, Respectful Mother. In the whole wide world. I wonder, did he mean extraordinary or extra ordinary?

 

Mother's Day flowers from Addison

Exhibit C (From Addison): Step off, Martha Stewart. The four-year-old made these with her own "one hand." From pipe cleaners and construction paper. Boo-yah.

 

Addison's Mother's Day Card 2010

Exhibit D (From Addison): The fingerprints poem gets me every time.

And finally… 

Addison's Mother's Day Letter 2010

Exhibit E (From Addison): Is there any more to know, really?

All jokes aside, I had a lovely Mother’s Day replete with kisses, hugs and a veritable plethora of kind words uttered lovingly on my behalf.  The husband (bless him) even offered up a mani-pedi-massage combo complete with his own assessment.  I believe his exact words during the dinner toast were, “I am grateful to have such a..blah, blah…wonderful family…blah, blah, and beautiful wife who is such an excellent mother to my children.”   It just doesn’t get much better than that, does it? 

So tell me, please, how was your Mother’s Day?  I hope it was as divine as mine.  If not, don’t dismay.  Those people usually come around in 4-8 years.  And when they finally do, it’s worth the wait.

Getting your game on: An NFL primer for new fathers

If at any point in the last 24-48 hours you found yourself narrowly avoiding a collision with a formula can (or breast pump) moving at mach speed past your head, you are a new father.  Congratulations!  Welcome to the miraculous and joy-filled game of Parenthood. 

Please note: The NFL (National Father’s League) does not sponsor, endorse or condone training camp for rookies, so strap on your pads and prepare for orientation on living the dream, dude. 

Understand the environment.  In all probability, conditioning to reach your current state of athletic prowess has involved extensive participation in this or other sports (e.g, dating and/or marriage).  You are no doubt versed in the basic tenets of the game.  But this is prime time, buddy, and let me clue you in:  you aren’t in Cornhusker country anymore.  You are standing on a field in a stadium filled with no fewer than two dozen screaming fans and an enraged quarterback who is, make no mistake, also the head coach.  They will turn on you in a second if you drop the ball.  

Acknowledge your fear, and find a way to make it work for you. For new players, the transition from the relative-predictability of college ball (marriage) to the pros (family life) can evoke a full range of complex and often overlapping emotions.  Yes, feelings.  Get used them, they’re going to be hanging around for awhile.   Chief among these feelings is fear.  Particularly during the first game.  When the ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in, be prepared to man up or suffer the wrath of a particularly terrifying defensive lineman known as ‘The Mother-in-Law.’ 

Pregame analysis.  Before we get to the good stuff — the stuff that will keep you upright and intaking air until the end of the game — allow us to address a few concerns: 

  • The QB’s ‘weight issue’:  Sure, the chick throwing the passes is carrying a little extra weight due to over-excessive, off-season binge eating.  But with proper support and encouragement from you, she can and will snap back into some semblance of her prime form. If she does not, make like Michael Vick and LIE. Convincingly. 
  • The ball (your baby) is crucial to the game, but you can’t play without a team.  Let me reiterate:  Quarterbacks need receivers every bit as much as they need the ball.  However, balls (in this particular instance) are small, helpless and require 24/7 care. Transforming yourself into a like being will not get you the same level of attention or adoration.  It will get you smothered with a stack of rancid jocks.

Getting your game on.  This is the important part, so put down the Blackberry and beer and pay attention.   The handy nuggets below represent the new game plan.  Get on board, and you will be the guy catching the game-winning pass with two seconds left to go in the Super Bowl of Domestic Bliss.  Trust me, the crowd will go wild. 

1.   When the ball is delivered onto the field, act impressed.  Your team leader has labored anywhere from 8 to 24 hours to deliver a bright, shiny, perfect new football in order for you to get your game on.  The least you can do is act impressed.  Shed a tear, for God’s sake.  Or at least look like you’re fighting one back.  Tell her she’s beautiful.  Or that you can’t believe the team was lucky enough to have scouted and effectively drafted an athlete with such grace and cut-throat competitive instincts. (See also: push presents.  Quarterbacks like shiny stuff. Especially on Mother’s Day.) 

Mother's Day is Sunday, May 9. Yes, this Sunday. Dust off your credit card, Daddy.

You can thank us for this public service announcement later.

2.  Know your role.  The economy has hit everyone hard.  Fans are dispersed all over the country and just can’t support the game like they used to.  So we’re gonna need you to pick up a little slack.  This does not mean you get to assume the role of head coach.  When you pass a football through your urethra, you can call the shots, my friend.  Until then, know that in addition to kicking and receiving, you get to be head cheerleader (cute skirt not included), custodian and head concession cook.  That’s right…I said COOK.  This involves gathering ingredients and heating them to a temperature that kills bacteria.  If you are unfamiliar with how to execute this activity, call your mother.  Or take a class.  The days of some cute, tight-t-shirt-wearing desperate housewife waiting for you at the table with a hot meal are over.  At least for now. 

3.  Anticipate the routes.  Your Quarterback does not need ‘help.’  (No matter what her current hormone levels may indicate.)  She needs a TEAM PLAYER.  Cheerful compliance is a good thing.  But to win, you’ve got to anticipate the plays.  Ask questions.  And when you’re on the way to practice, call and see if she needs anything.  Like formula.  Or lunch.  Or Valium.  Execute effectively here and… 

4.  You…could…go…ALL…THE…WAY!  Yes, if you play hard and adhere to the game plan outlined above you will eventually score.  Again.  Someday.  Just remember, the rules of this game are different.  On your mad dash to the end zone, don’t forget to secure the ball.  Preferably into a high chair with a chocolate-frosted brownie or on the couch with an action-packed episode of Spongebob.  The ball’s attention span is short, so keep in mind that you may only have 11-16 minutes to undertake the entire process from the time the Quarterback calls the play until you’re doing your ultra-cool Super Bowl shuffle.  Pay attention.  Act quickly.  And don’t even THINK about uttering the word ‘nightie’ or assessing the pattern of hair growth on the QB’s legs.   That’s not even a little bit funny.

“Clean up on Aisle 5”

It’s a little-known fact that the grocery store industry is run by an underground ring of satanic processed food worshippers.  Over the years, I’ve often fantasized about spearheading a nationwide boycott.  Seriously. It’s up there with the very detailed plan I have for how to spend my lottery winnings.  

But since grocery stores have a monopoly on Cool Ranch Doritos, I’ve kept my mouth shut.  Well, not today.  Today, I’ve got a bone to pick with good old Chuck.  Chuck is the general manager of my local grocery store.  We’ll call him ‘Chuck’ because that’s his name.  Actually, his name is ‘Charles,’ but it’s hard to get your Clint Eastwood on when you’re in a stand off with a guy named Charles.   

So, Chuck recently got word from the home office that impulse-purchase-based profits are in the toilet, which clearly means that local shoppers are not nearly disoriented enough to take advantage of the “buy two get one free” special on powdered milk.  Time to reorganize. 

Based on the way this order was executed, I can only assume that Chuck is either: 

A) Completely asleep at the wheel, or 

B) A corporate top performer and out-of-the-box thinker who is conspiring with his 9 year old son to make sure there are plenty of hysterical, hyperventilating housewives to cart out of aisles and into the back room where they keep all those people for whom the experience is just “too much.”  

Having seen Chuck’s picture at the front of the store, it really could go either way.  But I’m gonna go with ‘B’ here.  Because only a 9 year old with an early bedtime would elect to commence removing and relocating all the items on 50% of store shelves at 8 AM in a retail location that’s open 24 hours.  I’m sure his mom didn’t want him up late on a school night.  An evil genius needs his rest, after all. 

But all’s well that end’s well, because I gotta tell you, the result is a masterpiece.  If you don’t leave this store with 10 packs of tropical-flavored gum, 60 rolls of toilet paper and the shakes, you’ve got a bright future ahead of you in the grocery business, my friend.  Try not to squander your talent on something silly, like science.  Or technology. 

Witness the work of an artist…Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

Layout of Ingles grocery in West Jefferson, NC

Super intuitive store layout

Impressive, eh? Not only are the saucy noodles I needed yesterday NOT in the dry pasta aisle, but tortillas are shacked up with Hogs N’ Heaven pork rinds on a random kiosk strategically positioned in front of the ground turkey.  Am I alone in thinking that dry noodles — be they pouched or boxed — are dry noodles and should all be located on the aisle that is clearly marked DRY PASTA?  Or that tortillas belong with International Foods and pork rinds with Snacks?  Unless of course you’re making your world famous pork rind roll-ups for the kids’ lunch.  In which case, it makes perfect sense.  

Why put juice with cereal?  Maybe we’re considering it part of breakfast.  But think of your target market!  Put juice where it belongs, Satan — near the TONIC WATER.  Because I swear to the Sweet Virgin Mary if you do, I will hop on the powdered milk special train just because you made it easier for me to get the mixers for the stiff drink I’m going to need when I leave this place. 

The examples go on and on.  I know there’s a method to the madness, and it has nothing to do with making the store an easy, convenient and pleasant place to shop.  Innovative artists like Chuck are rarely understood and appreciated in their lifetimes.  Still, I have to believe that somewhere Chuck and his son are carefully crafting the speech for their “Psycho Store Organizers of the Year” award.  

Nice job, Chuck.  Keep reaching for the stars and separating the good guac from the processed, avocado-colored dip masquerading as the real thing.  I, for one, do not begrudge you success.  Just send the guys to peel me up off the floor in Aisle 5. 

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