Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Invisible Woman

I'm old enough to remember when the 70's sit-com, "Soap," was in it's original run. One of the characters, Burt, has a mild psychotic breakdown and believes he can make himself invisible.

I believe I can do the same. Problem is, I have no control over when this happens.

For example, last night The Husband fell asleep on the couch fairly early in the evening. I took this opportunity to go upstairs to hang some prints I received as a Christmas gift in our tiny bathroom. Not more than five minutes after I went upstairs, he came up and asked what I was doing. Not only did I go into detail about what I was about to do, I had the prints laid out on the bed in formation and was holding a hammer. He then proceeded into the tiny bathroom and spent the next 20 minutes cleaning his teeth. I stood in the bedroom with my mouth open and hammer in hand for the same 20 minutes.

This bathroom is really tiny. It's not even a full bath, and is considered, what I believe, a bath-and-three-quarters. One could pretty much sit on the toilet and wash one's hands in the sink or stand at the sink brushing one's teeth, and lean over and shave one's legs in the shower. I've pretty much done both of these activities. So hanging the prints while he was in the bathroom was pretty much out of the questions.

When he finally came out, I went in and started hammering nails. He poked his head in: "What are you doing?"


I said, "Hanging up these prints LIKE I TOLD YOU TWENTY MINUTES AGO I WAS GOING TO DO."

I can come up with no other explanation for this, other than the fact I was indeed invisible when he first came upstairs, and therefore, he could neither see nor hear my detailed explanation.

This happens to me all the time. Especially with my kids.

I can give them extremely detailed instructions on upcoming events, or tasks I ask them to do, sometimes even written and with illustrations, and after I've completely gone Joan Crawford-Mommie Dearest on them, will look at me as though it were the first time they were receiving any kind of instructions.

I've also been left behind many times in my life, because people just forgot I was there. Most memorably, I was locked in at the bookstore where I worked, after closing, even though it was REQUIRED that all employees sign out at the end of the day.

The manager just forgot about me, and apparently my name on the roster was also invisible.

Now if I could only harness this super-power at will I could probably rule the world.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"The Gretch Who Stole Christmas"

OK, I totally stole the title from The Daily Show, but it's just plain awesome.

What compelled me to write my previous post, was the kerfuffle that Faux News reporter Gretchen Carlson made about a parade in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my hometown. Basically, she had her panties in a wad because the annual holiday parade held there did not use the word "Christmas" in its title.

When the parade started years ago, it was called the P.S.O. Parade of Lights. It was sponsored by P.S.O., the electric company based in Tulsa. I'm not sure when it started, but it must have been after I moved away, because I don't remember ever going to it. My understanding that it was modeled after Disney's Electric Light Parade, or something like that. Anyway, after a few years, P.S.O. dropped its sponsorship, and it was taken over by my favorite Irish Pub,McNellie's. (sidebar - the sweet potato fries there are heaven on earth.) After they took over, the name was changed to Holiday Parade of Lights.

Not really earth shattering news. But for Gretchen Carlson, who was apparently having a slow news day, it was the end of the world as we know it. If you watch the video, my favorite part is the incredulous look on the guy's face as she's grilling him. And the video is just another reason I heart Jon Stewart and all the writers of The Daily Show, or as I call it, The News.

As an atheist, one would think that I'd be all for using the politically correct "Holiday" instead of "Christmas." The truth is, I don't really give a rat's ass.

I actually LOVE Christmas. I worked for about a decade as a visual merchandiser (basically a department store decorator) and we VMs spent about four months of the year planning, prepping, installing and removing Christmas decorations. As a result of my time doing that, I go pretty big on putting up the decorations at home. At one point, I had about 15 Rubbermaid totes filled with Christmas decorations. I have winnowed them down to about 9 now, but still love getting them out every year. Feels like seeing old friends when I drag them out. My mother is big on Hallmark ornaments, and thanks to her, we own about 150 of them. I used to put up at least three trees, but have downsized to the regular tree and the Barbie tree. Yep. We have a Barbie tree. This year, it is bright holographic pink tinsel, with lights, silver balls and bows. I think we're up to around forty Barbies on it.

I'm so anal retentive about how my Christmas trees are lit, that I spent the better part of three hours when we set the tree up a few weeks ago, removing a burned out strand of lights and replacing it. (another sidebar - this is a pre-lit tree, and when I finally got the strand off, found it was three strands of lights, joined at each end by male plugs. I don't think the Underwriter's Laboratory approved of this.)

I also love making out the list of presents I'm going to get for everyone, shopping for said presents, and my favorite thing, wrapping them.

So even though we celebrate Christmas at our house, it's a non-secular holiday, and we make it about spending time together and making traditions. We always do Christmas morning at our house, big dinner, a movie, then drive around and look at Christmas lights. It's not about a religious holiday, it's about a FEELING. FEELING grateful, happy and concerned for others.

So when people like Gretch make a big deal over what they feel is politically correct, here's what I'd like them to know:

Get a fucking life.

If anyone should feel that their rights are being violated by wishing someone "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," "Happy Hanukkah," "Joyful Solstice," "Happy Kwanzaa," or "Happy Festivus," it should be the atheists. Maybe it's my Southern/Midwestern upbringing, but when someone wishes me a holiday greeting, I feel that they're just feeling happy, being friendly and using good manners. I have no problems saying it back either. Any friendly exchange amongst the human race is a good thing.

So, Gretchen Carlson, and the rest of you self-righteous so-called Christians, instead of worrying about what other people are saying, you should focus more on the message you are sending.

WWJD, indeed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When I was in the fourth grade, my favorite library book was D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. This was the book I checked out over and over again and never got tired of.

It didn’t take me long to figure out the similarities between Greek myths and Bible stories. Noah’s Ark? It’s in there. Virgin births? A bunch of those. Parents sacrificing their children? Got that, too.

I was not an exceptionally bright child so it seems like it was just common sense that allowed me to draw these parallels, and ask questions:
• “Weren’t the Greeks around before the Christians?”
• “Weren’t these stories around before the Bible was written?”
• “How come these stories are the same?”

Captain Obvious strikes again.

My family attended the Episcopal Church, which really wasn’t too “churchy” back then. We basically went to services (Episcopalian aerobics: stand up, sit down, kneel), Sunday school and I was a member of the EYC. I was confirmed, but never attended a Bible study class and was one of the first of the female acolytes in our parish. For me, church wasn’t a huge deal as far as religious education was concerned; it was more for socializing and they had an awesome bazaar every year. So it probably wasn’t that much of a reach that I made the parallels between the stories.

I stopped attending church after high school and made an attempt when The Big One was about four to go back. I found a church I liked, but it soon became clear that this particular church was intent on becoming a mega-church, and was going full court press to make that happen, no matter what. I finally left after I received a letter from a group of “like-minded members” urging me to vote for a fellow member who was running for office (um, illegal much?) and when the church voted itself out of the Episcopal Church because an openly gay man was appointed a bishop. Plus, The Big One kept begging to not go, and I really sensed something weird was going on with that, since she was very complacent when she was little.

So I went looking for something to fill that spiritual hole.

Here’s what I learned:

Organized religion is a crock.

Even as a kid I figured out that mankind created its gods to fill in for the unknown. Once the human race learned that lightning is caused by electrically charged ice and moisture particles, the notion that it was Zeus throwing them off Mount Olympus was abandoned. As science was expanded, superstitions disappeared.

My theory is that “God” is x, the unknown. For what we cannot yet explain through science, “God” is used as the fill-in. There is so much that is unknown to mankind, and progress is painfully slow. I’ll feel we’ll eventually catch up, but it will probably take about 10,000 years.

I’ve had people argue with me that they have proof of God in that when they pray, God answers their prayers. My response is that everything contains energy, and since so little is known about how energy can really be moved, wouldn’t it stand to reason that when a person is directing their energy in a particular manner, it disrupts and moves other energy, so that there is a change. They usually look at me like I’m a nut at this point, but if they are allowed to believe that there is an invisible man who lives in the sky who is in control of everything, I’m allowed to believe that energy can be moved. When they say they always feel better after praying, my answer is: “Of course you do. You’ve released that energy from your body and your body can physically feel that.” Again, the crazy lady looks.

I finally came out as a full-fledged atheist a couple of years ago, after seeing Julia Sweeny’s monologue “Letting Go of God.” She was able to articulate what I could not, I immediately had an “ah-ha!” moment and realized it was really okay to be an atheist and still be a good person, and in an instant, let go of that part of my psyche.

Here’s the really weird part: almost immediately I started experiencing major positive life changing events.
• The Big One’s academic team won their state title and a place at the national competition in Washington DC.
• Out of the blue, a friend was able to procure gratis lodging for us for the trip
• I received a job offer when I had not been looking for new employment, with a substantial bump in salary
• I met my future husband
• Because of the salary raise, I was able to refinance and get The Ex off the deed for my house
• I had several unexpected windfalls of over $1,000 each

All these things happened within the first three months of my coming out. I am positive that they happened because I had let go of beliefs that were not working for me, and that made space for things that would work for me to come in.

The Little One is at that age where she’s adamant there is no Santa Claus. At first, I said “Are you sure? Because that’s something you don’t want to mess around with.” The other night I told her, “You know, if I don’t expect you to believe in God, I shouldn’t expect you to believe in Santa. They’re both just make-believe.” I got no argument from her and we agreed to still pretend some of the presents are from Santa.

The thing is, I think I lead a better life now that I’m not constrained by some pre-determined dogma. I’m more open to listening to both sides of a story, and more open to new ideas in general. My kids have always been kind to others, and for me, that’s one of the best qualities they can have.

And they’re doing that without the benefit of an invisible man in the sky.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I had a follow up visit today with The Big One's guidance counselor regarding her Individualized Education Program.

It went really well, and the nice thing about this meeting was that The Big One got to sit in with me, the guidance counselor and one of her teachers. We reviewed her grades, and reviewed her planned "Course of Action," that is, what her schedule would be, semester by semester for the next three and a half years.

Things have certainly changed since I was in high school, as back then, I was doing well to know what my next scheduled class would be, much less one I'd have in the future. But she seems to be doing well, and doesn't seem stressed out by the extra work.

However, once again, it was brought to my attention by education professionals that my daughter is "too quiet." Not that's she's shy, or too introverted, just "too quiet." This characteristic was deemed questionable by said education professionals when I appealed to get qualified for the gifted program. The teacher that sat in on the meeting again mentioned this, and this time, I was glad my daughter was there as I questioned this opinion.

"Look, if she had the opposite personality trait, we be here discussing what meds to get her on. 'Being quiet' is not a personality or intelligence deficiency. It's really OKAY to be quiet." They agreed, and decided rather than expressing herself verbally, perhaps she could do it in writing or individually with her teachers.

Finally. And I'm glad The Big One saw me do that in front the authority figures, so she'll have proof that at least on one occasion, I had her back.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy

I am terrible about remembering things with numbers such as phone numbers or dates. However, there are a few dates I will always remember:

October 3, 1897, my grandmother's birthday
November 2, 1979, the day my BFF and I got our braces off
April 18, 2009, first date with The Husband
The birth dates of both my children
July 5, 2010, wedding anniversary
January 28, 1986, the Challenger exploded
December 9, 1980, the day I found out John Lennon had been murdered

As I mentioned before, I've been a Beatles fan since the ninth grade. In December 1980, I was a high school junior. I got up on December 9, 1980, got in the shower, dried off and got dressed, and then my dad stopped me in the hall.

"There's been an assassination, honey."

Those were his exact words. I can still hear them. His choice of the word "assassination" is what still rings in my ears thirty years later.

I first, of course, thought he meant the president, who at that time, was Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan had just been elected, and would have an attempt made on his life 69 days into his presidency.

Then he said, "It was John Lennon."

I remember I had to lean against the wall to avoid falling over. I know the expression "felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach" may be bandied about, but that's exactly how I felt. I started sobbing and my dad held onto me.

I immediately called one of my best friends, High School Mel (whose gift of an awesome "Happy Christmas from John and Yoko" t-shirt I still have, 30 years later). She had heard the news the night before. Back in those days, we were not allowed to call our friends after 9:00 PM, so she'd had a rough night.

I got to school and stumbled into home room. French with Mme. Sanchez. I remember that a senior named David came in after me, we made eye contact and we both knew what each of us was thinking. I can still hear him plop down into his desk behind me and let out a little groan. The rest of the day was a blur within a fog.

As the details about his murder came out, I felt the same feelings of waste as I'm sure millions of others did.

I could go on about the senselessness of his murder, the state of mental health care in America, gun control laws and whether or not Yoko really broke up the Beatles, but it still wouldn't bring back a man who truly and earnestly wanted to make the world a better place and wanted nothing but peace.

I don't believe in Zimmerman,
I don't believe in Beatles,
I just believe in me,
Yoko and me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional

So for Thanksgiving being the first major blended family get-together, I have to give thanks for how smoothly it went.

Seriously, we were practically the freakin’ Brady Bunch. That is if the Brady Bunch consumed copious amounts of narcotics and alcohol.

For about the past 10 years, I’ve always taken the girls back to my parents’ home for Thanksgiving. Even when I was married to The Ex, he maybe only joined us on one occasion, due to his work/gambling schedule, so we had a pretty set routine: Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house or my brother and sister-in-laws, a movie Thanksgiving evening, up on Black Friday (not crazy early, though) for breakfast and shopping with The Big One, and catching up with my school friends who happened to be in town that year. I had some concerns about disrupting this routine, since The Husband’s HUGE family has a big get-together every year, and I wanted them to participate in that, but knew it would be kind of a drag for them. The Husband had even voiced his concern, since he has personal experience in attending the step-family events, and wanted to be sure they were comfortable with the idea.

We compromised by agreeing to have lunch at my brother and sister-in-law’s place (M & M), and dessert at The Husband’s family gathering. According to The Husband, the food usually sucked at these gatherings, and M & M can cook up a storm, so it was really a win-win compromise.

So lunch at M & M’s was great. We got to see the Baby Cousins, Thing One, Thing Two and Surprise, and M’s brother and sister. The food, of course, was amazing as M & M always do a fantastic spread. We were entertained by all the Baby Cousins, especially when Surprise down-dog crawled over to the refrigerator, opened it, and pulled out a bottle of wine.

And at only 17 months of age! My kind of girl.

We hefted ourselves over to the in-laws and ate some more and got to know the fam. The Husband’s father comes from a family of about 5 or 6 kids (sorry, I can’t keep EVERYONE inventoried) and I was close to one of his uncles and his wife when I was in high school. The last time I saw them was on my 25th birthday, so it had been a couple of decades and change since then. When I mentioned that my 25th birthday was the last time I’d seen him, Uncle C said, “So it’s only been three weeks?”

I heart Uncle C.

Back then, they had a two year old who is no longer two, who I have gotten to know through FaceBook, and was really looking forward to meeting her, her sister and one particular cousin.

I was not disappointed in any way. These girls are the shit.

I would like to say they reminded me of me when I was their age, but no way was I ever as cool. They are the cool girls I wanted to be.

Anyway, I had a great time talking and getting to know everyone. There were maybe 25-30 people there, and I missed out on some introductions, but it will probably take me years to sort everyone out anyway. Another one of the out-laws, who’s been married to this family for 25+ years, said it took her at least 5 years to get everyone straight. And she lives in a much closer proximity than I.

The Girls did okay with the new in-laws. The Big One found a friend in one of Cool Cousin T’s daughter, who’s a couple of years younger and played with CCT’s three-year old. The Little One was feeling especially contrary, so she mostly sulked. I told her, “Next time, bring a book.” I know this was an intimidating situation, but she wasn’t even trying. I think she acts that way, just to get my attention.

After the grown-ups left, the host decided to have a cousin party. I don’t know when I was moved into the “grown-ups” category, as no one informed me, but The Husband and I were granted a reprieve, since we were borderline.

There is a reason I don’t party like I did when I was in my twenties: I am no longer in my twenties.

Anyway, it was fun just watching everyone cut loose. And I suppose there had to be one sober person there, just in case. Never thought I’d live to see the day where that person would be me. I used to be on the guest list at the Starck Club, dammit. But I digress.

We spent the rest of the weekend keeping to our usual Thanksgiving weekend activities: shopping, eating and meeting up with old friends from school. I spent way too much and ate way too much (see post below) but had a pretty stress free weekend.

The following weekend The Husband went to his much-anticipated Civil War re-enactment with BFF’s Husband. Since The Ex has gone from seeing the girls every day after school to about once a month, and was able to come visit that weekend. And since The Ex has to beg, borrow or steal lodging, it was decided he'd crash on the downstairs sofa.

Can you say "awkward"?

Actually, it wasn't the first time we've done this, just the first time The Husband would be gone. But I figure I'll take the high road, because it really is important that the girls spend time with their dad. Well, at least for The Little One, as The Big One has a social calendar even Paris Hilton would envy, and was gone most of the weekend. He did take them shopping and ice skating, so YAY for Quality Time.

So we all survived the first blended family holiday, and everyone came out okay on the other end. I met some new friends, got some great gifts and ate until I was fat enough to bake.

It could have been worse.
I’ve been mostly sick for the past week with some scrumpdillicious strep/flu/virus thing, and I’ve spent the better part of the last week on the couch.

I’m not one to spend a lot of time just lolling about on the couch, watching TV or whatever. Between working several jobs, going to school, raising kids, etc., I generally don’t just SIT and watch TV. Oh, it’s always on, but I’m always doing something at the same time such as making meals, ironing, putting away laundry, you know.

So I had some time to catch up on my infomercials and also the big, fat Sunday pre-Christmas-shopping-frenzy newspaper circulars.

Here’s what I learned:

Most of the products manufactured and marketed to Americans are designed to encourage laziness.

Seriously, it doesn’t stop with the Snuggie. There was a product in an ad for a bedside laptop desk. It’s a little desk that slides in between your mattress and box springs so a person can use their laptop in bed. I thought that’s what a lap was for. There’s the Roomba, created so a person doesn’t have to get out the vacuum cleaner and spend 5 minutes vacuuming a room. Just let the little Roomba skitter around all day. I have days where getting out the vacuum cleaner counts as my upper body workout. There’s the EasyChop. I have one of those, but I call it a knife. And the product that is my particular pet peeve, the Kindle. I have one of those too, but I call it a LIBRARY.

All of these products are slightly genius in that they have created a demand that wasn’t there. In all fairness, I can see using most of them if you’re elderly or infirm, but I’ve yet to see someone Betty White’s age shilling a Roomba.

I’ve been blessed by genetics, in that I’m 5’10” and have pretty much been on the average/lean side of the height and weight charts my whole life. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve pretty much eaten crap my whole adult life and remained basically the same size.

Until the last few months.

I have gained almost 10 pounds since I got married. My eating habits have stayed mostly the same, except we have been eating more red meat. It was generally situational that we didn’t eat that much red meat before, because I simple couldn’t afford it. Now I guess with two incomes, I’ve felt the need to splurge.

I am totally paying for that now.

When I sit, my belly now flops over onto my lap. I’ve never had a flat stomach to begin with, but this is just ridiculous. I can feel the back fat creeping up into my armpits when I get into the car. My energy is low and I feel just bloated and awful. I get out of breath when I climb the stairs. I seriously don’t know how clinically obese people stay alive as long as they do. I’m only carrying around 10 extra pounds, and I’m miserable.

I’ve also totally slacked off on walking the dog. I used to walk her faithfully almost every day, but now find excuse after excuse not to walk her, which is unhealthy for both of us.

So, for the first time in my life, am going to have to DIET or at least make better choices.

This could get ugly.