Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Because I am not going to live forever

Last night I lay in bed and listened to an interview Nora Ephron gave to NPR 2 years ago. She talked about not knowing what meal would be your last, how more and more people were getting sick and dying - and it was inevitable that, at some point, you would be next.

And I cried.

I have to confess, I've been crying a lot these days. Changes - from minor bumps and adjustments to ground shaking, mind-altering "oh fuck" moments - have been presenting themselves fast and furious. It has not helped that I have been reminded over and over and over again of my own mortality.

It's not that I want to play ostrich or that I was surprised or taken aback by the realization that I was going to die (eventually) but it was a nudge. Seize the day, don't sweat the small stuff, do what you love, spend time with those you care about, tell people they are important to you, show appreciation, etc. etc.

 Don't waste a moment. And always order exactly what you want on the menu.

I had a huge revelation about this fact last week, actually. The little voice in my head, as I sat there debating whether I should splurge and spend the extra $10 on the steak I really wanted, said "Ten dollars isn't going to break you. If you can't afford what you really want on this menu, you shouldn't be eating here." Point taken. I got the steak. And I enjoyed every single bite, instead of worrying about it or feeling guilty.

I'm tired of feeling guilty, or doing things because other people think I should.

 So I shaved the side of my head yesterday during a hair appointment where I was supposed to be getting a trim, in a burst of joie de vivre. I have no idea why I did this, but I also have no regrets. It's refreshing. You should try it. I'll help - I have clippers.

It didn't change anything. I'm still going to die eventually - and so will you, by the way.
In case you forgot.
You're welcome.
Clippers, anyone?

Nora Ephron's passing was hard to comprehend because not only is her catalog a huge source of inspiration in my writing, but also because I was totally shocked to see that she was 71 years old. How could that be? I just didn't realize, I guess. Her writing was so timeless that it doesn't seem dated - so you forget that some of my favorite stuff was written when I was in diapers and underoos. And then I read that she died from leukemia. Fucking cancer.

Seriously. Fucking. Cancer. How is it that we haven't eliminated cancer yet? It boggles my mind. You know what else boggles my mind? People who are young and otherwise healthy who die of cancer while some 80 year old down the street smokes two packs a day, eats crap, drinks like a fish and is still doing JUST FINE thank you very much.

Cancer is a stupid bastard. I know this is true because earlier this month, a woman I knew in high school died - she was younger than I am, and the mother of two children. She was the second friend from high school in as many years to die from cancer. I read the obituaries in stunned silence, stared at their senior portraits, watched as friends supported each other on Facebook when they learned of their passing. And all I could think was: Fucking cancer.

I guess as we get older, we will say good bye to more and more people we know, love, respect, and can't imagine living without. I hope that every time I hear of another death, I have a strong reaction to it. I don't want to get used to losing people. I want every death to remind me - and everyone else - that life is short. I want to remember every time I see an ambulance, or a hearse, or a backhoe at the cemetery, that we need to enjoy life today - live it, respect it, and appreciate it as the gift that it is.

 So here is my vow, at the beginning of this beautiful summer day:

I promise to let go of the bad and embrace the good.
I promise to stop and smell the roses.
I promise to appreciate all that I have, and stop worrying about the future.
I promise to be kind, and to think before speaking.
I promise to stand up for myself, and for others.
I promise to trust my gut instincts.
And I promise to remind myself from time to time that every breath is a gift, and every moment is fleeting.

I am glad you are here. I am glad *I* am here. I appreciate you, and I am excited about tomorrow - and all the tomorrows to come. xoxo dc

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Baby Showers

Saturday I had two baby showers to attend. Both began at 3pm. Both were for good friends, thrown by good friends, near my home. I had no excuses - I was baby-shower bound.

The truth is, I don't attend baby showers. I just don't. After my hysterectomy, I decided that baby showers were too hard for me. I would bring a gift to the mother at another time, and love on the babies and take photos and be proud auntie and babysit and bring hand-me-downs and every other thing that one does when a friend has a baby. But I don't do showers. Being around pregnancy makes me sad and it is just so damn hard, still. I thought it would get better with time - but it hasn't. Until recently, I couldn't bring myself to even touch a pregnant belly. But slowly, over the past year or so, I have gotten better. Stronger. And I wanted to go to these baby showers and try to break through all of the nonsense and anxiety swimming around in my head.

And so here I was, committed to attending two of them. On the same day. At the same time.

I headed off to the first one full of trepidation. It was going to be a low key affair, women only, cupcakes and tea and champagne and lace table clothes and quiet music and children playing outside in the orchard. But first, I had to get strawberries. I walked in through the automatic doors of our small market, and marched purposefully to the strawberry shelf in the cooler, which is always loaded with strawberries from the farm down the road.
It was empty
I froze.

How could they be completely out of strawberries? THIS IS NOT GOOD.

So I got back in the car and talked to myself for a few minutes, with the kids eyeing me nervously because they both know how I am about pregnancy in general and baby showers in particular and I think they were kind of waiting for the emotional breakdown to kick in like usual.

I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. "Okay, so no strawberries. We just won't bring them."

"We are going to a party without bringing any FOOD?" Lucy said incredulously from the backseat.

"I don't know what to do." I stared out the windshield and tried to think. "Okay, we'll go to the party and I'll see what they need and then I'll run back out and buy it. I don't know what else to do." I was dangerously close to crying. This was not good. I could feel the anxiety building and I was starting to feel short of breath and I gripped the steering wheel more tightly.

Panic Attack. Xanax time.

We drove to the shower in silence. When we arrived, the hostess assured me that she did NOT need strawberries, and indeed she had things well in hand. Her house was spotless and filled with light, and she was setting out a tray of cupcakes topped with puffs of pastel frostings and pearls. The Xanax was kicking in nicely. I opened a bottle of champagne and wrote little signs out to identify all of the different juices and teas on the counter.

Instead of playing the usual baby shower games, the women talked quietly and colored in paper birds that were being hung from a branch to make a mobile. They wrote little notes of love and support for the mom-to-be to put in a baby book. They sat on the deck in the sunshine enjoying the incredible view and a colorful buffet of food the guests had prepared, made with wholesome organic ingredients. There was a tapestry on the floor and cushions all around it and there would be some sort of blessing ceremony later. We sipped champagne, poured glasses of honey chamomile tea and mango nectar, and took turns hugging the expectant mom who beamed and welcomed everyone while music played quietly in the background.

It was beautiful and elegant and I could have basked in the gorgeousness of it all, put the entire thing on Pinterest and called it a day.

But I had another shower to attend.

As soon as they started gathering for the blessing, I gave the kids the nod and we headed off. Listening to women talk earnestly about how beautiful and empowering pregnancy is might have pushed my already tenuous emotional state into a free fall. Better to hit it and quit it than to start bawling during someone's heartfelt offering.

The second shower was themed: Pin up Girls and Hot Rods. It was being thrown by the roller girls and costumes were strongly encouraged, natch. We rolled up to find our friends under a tent on a wide lawn in a gentle mist. The honoree was grinning ear to ear, taking pictures of everyone, decked out in an incredible dress that one of the hostesses had made for her - complete with accessories. The crowd was raucous and addressed via megaphone - there were suits and stogies, petticoats and stilettos.muscle tees and Doc Martins. There was a table set out with a wide array of foods that people were setting on with gusto - fried chicken, chili and rice, spam musubi, chips, dips, cake.... pretty much every craving was covered. I threw down my crockpot of BBQ meatballs and went inside for a jello shot. I discovered an enormous tureen filled with mojitos, and a blender for margaritas - they had run out of vodka, but that's a risk you take when you arrive 2 hours late to a party. I got busy filling baby bottles with Bud Light Lime, and took them outside to watch the first contest - to see who could drain their baby bottle first. There were other games, with clothespins and stories, and people laughing hysterically and running around inside cardboard muscle cars. After a while, It was time for the pinata.

The pinata in the shape of a pregnant woman.

As I stood in the rain and watched my kids beat the hell out of that thing with a cardboard tube, I had two thoughts:
I am so glad they aren't using a bat, because that would be creepy
Man, these were really different baby showers

The bottom line is, of course, that I survived both of them. And that the two mothers-to-be were surrounded by friends and love and laughter, and that their parties were a reflection of the amazing people that they are, and the incredible friends that they have - which is all that really matters. Well, that and always bringing an extra handle of vodka to a derby party. Live and Learn.

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's summer vacation. The children are ready for their round the clock entertainment now.

Last week was the kids' first full week of summer vacation, and the novelty of it was a beautiful thing.

This week, sitting around all day in your pajamas is not holding the same mystique. And that, my friends, is a crying shame, because I got nothing. We leave for the East Coast in two weeks, so the idea of signing them up for camp seemed foolish.

Let's stress the past tense there - SEEMED foolish. Seemed foolish at the time, when the idea of sleeping late and gardening in your pajamas and "chasing the shave ice truck" as our only form of exercise sounded fanfuckingtastic. Plus last week we had Amber here and celebrated Jersey's birthday and there was a babysitter somewhere in the middle while I worked my last day in the office in town and WHEW we were going a mile a minute and it was all sunshine and roses.

Now we are sunburned and the bloom is off the rose and other kids have started camp or summer school and my kids are standing around staring at me slack-jawed and bewildered that I have absolutely *nothing* planned. And I'm not having the best time either. There is a whole lot of whining and Amber is gone and I am faced with a huge pile of laundry and no childcare because I don't have anything on the horizon which would require childcare. I figured we would all be happy with a game plan that centered around sleeping late and napping and trying to eat all of the food left in the pantry and freezer before we leave for the mainland.

I was terribly mistaken.

Max just volunteered to go to summer school.

So I am trying to come up with a list of things we can do to keep busy for the next two weeks. You know, something even BETTER than summer school:

Throw fruit and/or seeds in the ground and don't bother to water or fertilize.
See if anything grows.

Wash the car, including the roof. Climb on the hood if you have to.
Rewash the car to remove the dirty footprints from the hood of the car.
Get the plunger and try to pull the dents out of the hood of the car.
Rewash car when you realize you should have washed the tiny pieces of dried toilet paper off the plunger first.

Walk the dog. Get to the end of the street and spot the shave ice truck.
Drop the leash and run home for money.

Begin a complex art project involving cutting paper into minuscule pieces.
Scatter shreds of paper on carpet like snow.

Have a picnic on the deck. Abandon the dirty dishes for several hours.
Bring in dishes and stack on counter, oblivious to the ants now covering them.
Throw dishes out the window onto the lawn and hose them off.

Search the house for change. Count it. Put in ziplock.
Go to the store and see what you can buy for dinner with the contents of your ziplock.
Let cashier re-count the change to make sure you have enough. Refuse to use the CoinStar machine by the door because you don't want to pay the 8% counting fee.
Discover you are short 43 cents.
Return to deli and ask them to take out 2 slices of turkey to get the price down.

(Me) Lie on the sofa cruising TMZ, Facebook, and The Awesomer.
(Them) Lie on the sofa cruising and playing Draw Something while listening to an audio book.
Hit Refresh.

Stand in the pantry with your eyes closed.
Reach out and grab something off the shelf.
Eat it. Even if it's a can of pate a friend brought back from Paris 7 years ago.

Sit around the dining room table talking about how much vacation sucks and how it could have been so awesome if only mom had ____.

See? Who needs summer camp? This is obviously So. Much. Better.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Things I am Not Afraid to Tell You

Last week a group of blogs led by the lovely Leslie posted the third installment of "Things I am Afraid to Tell You". I would have participated, but I think we all know that I am not afraid to tell you anything. I don't have enough common sense for that sort of thing.

My oversharing light does not have an off switch.

I do have a filter, though. It may not seem like it, but I do. I spare you some of the details for the sake of brevity, and I skip the minutia in order to keep things fresh and exciting. But when I read first Leslie's and then the rest of the women's lovely, heartfelt, honest posts last week (the links are all at the bottom of Leslie's post noted above), all I kept thinking to myself was "Hey! ME TOO! I do that TOO! That happened to ME! I always worry about that! I thought I was the only one!" and so on and so forth. I was inspired.

Instead of - FAR FROM - judging them, I felt a camaraderie. It was like one of the "Movie Stars: THEY'RE JUST LIKE US" columns you see in magazines with photos of celebrities grocery shopping in sweatpants with bedhead, or getting a parking ticket, or some other totally unglamorous thing. I read these posts, and my first thought was "Sister, you are not the only one." Followed swiftly by "Maybe I need to hold back a little on my 'open book' blogging style." It was a moment of enlightenment - not the anecdotes they shared, but the fact that they had been hesitant to share them in the first place. I had a moment of pause.

Don't worry, the ADD kicked in right about then, and I totally forgot and went right back to facebooking a photo of my bedroom piled high with laundry and a note that said "Maybe we would have more sex if we could find the bed."

And so, continuing my grand tradition of airing my laundry right on the front lawn - and in support of all of the amazing women who have a modicum of restraint unlike MYSELF and really went outside of their comfort zone to share details that they would have been more comfortable keeping private, but decided to get off their chest - I figured I'll just go right ahead and tell you some more things that you might not know (and maybe wish you didn't know) about me.

Starting with: I am naked while I write this.
Yeah. That's right. I am sitting in bed at 6am on a Sunday because I was consumed with a sudden need to overshare, and here we are. Naked. What? You aren't naked? Well, go ahead and take your pants off and get comfortable for god's sake. I'll wait.

Doesn't that feel better? You are welcome.

Let me take that a bit further: If I am home, and if I have bothered to put on anything more than a tanktop and some underwear, it's a pair of green, bleach-spattered sweatpants I bought at Walmart last fall for $5. I like their wide elastic waistband. More room for pie.

Next fun fact: I like to have yard sales, and either sell everything for a dollar, or I am loathe to part with any of my things and set impossibly high prices and then stand there looking offended when people try to haggle,as if  they are breaching yard sale protocol somehow.

Have I mentioned the piles of laundry all over my house? Because they are there, and they are glorious. As I asked last week on twitter: "Is it possible to hire someone *just* to put away my clean laundry? Is that a thing? Because it should be."

I am a terrible housekeeper. It is not because I am incapable - I used to clean houses AS A JOB. I can clean - I just choose not to. I am such an accomplished procrastinator that, if left to my own devices, things would never get clean until they were so gross my OCD kicked in and then I would be forced to I stay awake for 24 hours straight scrubbing grout with an old toothbrush and polishing my refrigerator.

(This happened yesterday, as a matter of fact. But we also have an amazing woman who comes to clean when it all just gets too overwhelming/depressing for me - and if nothing else, I clean right before she arrives so I am not totally embarrassed by the state of the house when she gets here.)

(My house is always cleaned before guests arrive. FYI. Be not afraid.)

(And the whole OCD thing pretty much assures that my level of "dirty" is probably not anyone else's level of "dirty".)

(I have to go clean the stove right now. I'll be back in a bit.)

AND WE'RE BACK. Fresh from my trip to the kitchen, I have another tidbit for you:

My husband does the dishes. We had a conversation early in our relationship about dividing household tasks. I like doing the dishes (I find the warm water very soothing, and I have to be sure my dishes are really clean before I use them because, oh, hey OCD!) and I load dishwashers like I am being judged for a Nobel Prize, so giving it up was a sacrifice on my part. (And I frequently have to unload and then reload the dishwasher more efficiently so that I can sleep at night.) I hate doing laundry and cleaning the bathroom. But I got stuck with the laundry in order to to save my delicates.

We agreed to hire a third party to handle the bathroom in an effort to keep the romance alive.

I don't do much with the outside of the place either. There is a pile of crap on the end of the porch that I have to deal with, the yard is overgrown, the garden box is shameful, and thank god it rains or nothing would ever get watered. Is that tree dead?

In other news, yesterday I spent 3 hours hitting "refresh" on facebook and tmz.

I just capitalized and uncapitalized "GOD" three times.  True story. Every time I use the word god (God?) (gawd?) I get into a huge argument with myself about this.


(Caps lock solves the problem nicely!)

My dog lives outside. Okay, listen. IT'S HAWAII OUT THERE. But I still feel really guilty that he is not allowed to come in the house. Not guilty enough to let him inside where I am sure he will immediately sit on my sofa. But guilty nonetheless.

I eat junk food when the kids aren't looking. When they go to bed, out come the chips and candy. I used to smoke in the evenings, so I have somehow convinced myself that eating this crap is okay because Hey! At least I'm not smoking! AMIRIGHT?!

Speaking of which, I hear the kids stirring and there is a bag of candy on my nightstand that I have to stash toot suite.

Oh please, like you haven't done the same damn thing.