Monday, May 23, 2016

Travel with Toddlers vs. Teenagers

My brood in Chile last December
I've traveled internationally with both toddlers and teens.  And for a few years when my kids were in elementary school we hardly traveled at all, which, looking back, I completely regret.  Because even though I'll be the first to admit that it's a huge pain in the ass to travel with kids, it's also totally worth the expense, the endless hassles and inevitable exhaustion.  For one very important reason, the memories.  Everything seems more romantic in a photo.  Because pictures don't whine or complain.  Which kids of every age do. 

When my kids were toddlers I deluded myself into thinking traveling would get easier when they got older and I didn't have to carry baby wipes and snacks around listening to them complain about how their feet were sore from walking.  Except that never happens.  Sure, maybe you don't have to wipe their butts with the baby wipes anymore, but you're still carrying a great big bag of essentially the same stuff, but bigger because your kids are the bigger their insatiable appetite.  Which increases the need for more wet wipes.  And teens have extremely large vocabularies allowing them to articulate their displeasure over whatever you're doing in excruciating detail.

Sure, when they're toddlers you might have to restrict your itinerary to schedule downtime for that ornery kid who turns into a demon if he doesn't have a nap in Athens.  Prague.  Switzerland.  Austria.  France. Florida.  Because Damien (please note this is an alias to protect his identity) would not nap in the car, on a plane or in a stroller like a normal toddler, requiring us to return to the hotel room mid afternoon.  Which would (hopefully) result in a peaceful hour of silence in the hotel room.  The only way to get a peaceful hour of travel with a teenager is with wifi.  And do you know how hard it is to keep connectivity and charged electronics while traveling abroad?  When four kids are fighting over one outlet?  Harder than you think!

When they're toddlers they're just happy to go anywhere.  Because they don't know any better.  My kids loved walking to the neighborhood dump to watch the trucks when we lived in Germany.  That would entertain all of them for a couple of hours.  Now that they're teens and half are boys and half are girls, they have vastly different interests, there's nothing (and I mean nothing) that they can all agree on.  Well, except when they think the hotel is a dump.  So there's that.

There's almost nothing toddlers love more than hamming it up for the camera.  You can take a picture of them doing almost anything.  Or nothing.  Snuggled up with you even.  And they smile.  Teens are allergic to cameras.  And their parents.  They'll do anything to avoid getting their picture taken. Especially with their parents.  So, the hundreds of vacation pictures you have of your precious little dwindles to one picture you had to bribe your kid to take and then you still may not get photo approval to post it to social media or on your blog.

But, by far the most difficult part of travel with teens in going anywhere at all.  Because they have school, sports and jobs.  JOBS, I said.  So, this summer we won't be going to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore or Glacier.  Again.  In fact, we've never been to any of those places. Why did we take a break for traveling for those few years when they were in elementary school?   They were so easy to pull out of school at that age for the perfect fall or spring cheap travel, good weather, beat the crowds off season travel deals.  It was probably the best time to travel with kids and we missed it.

Take a bit of travel advice from me:
Travel now.
There is no better time.
Pack wet wipes.




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Loss

This photo has been heavily filtered for your viewing pleasure.
And I just colored my hair, so all of my grays are covered for a full 24 hours.
I feel the loss.  Mostly when I'm in the shower mid conditioner ineptly squatting down shaving my legs contemplating the wading pool full of water at my feet encroaching on my ankles.  Because now that I'm in my mid-forties I have more hair clogging my shower drain than I have on my head.  Just when I thought I loved my forties, with this new found confidence to be the person I truly am.  Although I barely recognize myself anymore, I blame my declining post forty vision.  And there's nothing to see here anyway but weight gain, sun damage, scowl lines and gray hairs.

Oh, and now slowly going bald. 

When I was little my mom made me keep my hair short.  She was especially fond of the pixie cut.   Which, if you're unfamiliar,  is basically what they call it when a girl has a boy's haircut. I'd beg her to let me grow my hair out like the Bionic Woman, the only feminist with fantastic hair I knew back then.  Instead she let me experiment with the frumpy haircuts of the day like the Dorothy Hamill cut.  Which is basically a pixie cut with 3 months of growth.  So...bonus, I didn't even really need anyone to cut my hair at all.  Which might explain why I'm extremely hair challenged, because I never really had much to work with growing up.   Which was a huge setback for my hair growth, if you know what I mean.

Of course, it got worse before it got better.        

When I was in high school just outside of Buffalo, I used to walk to school with wet hair. So, in the winter  my short feathered hair froze and was white by the time I got to school.  Making me look like one of the Golden Girls.  (And I'm sure I looked more Dorothy than Blanche.)  In my senior year, I grew the back out into a mullet. Blame the 80's.  In college I shaved the sides off to create a super mullet.  Blame my poor taste.  Before I finally grew it out, which took the rest of college.  And by my senior year I had the big Aussie Sprunch sprayed New Jersey mall hair of my dreams.  In the twilight of the trend.  Then I moved to Miami cut it into a bob, dyed it black and straightened it. Which was both ridiculously unflattering and futile for curly hair in ridiculously humid climate.  What can I say? Those were the Janine Garafallo years.  (Although, I actually looked more like Rumer Willis.)  My longest hairstyle, was when I wore it up for over a decade because I simply didn't know what to do with it.  Then there was that time I shaved it off entirely for charity.  Which did break up the decade long up-do.  So, there's that. 

Basically, I've had forty years of atrocious hair.

Then, last year I ran into someone who had virtually the same kind of hair as mine.  Really thin and fine with lose curls.  And she told me step by step how to take care of my hair like I was in a remedial beauty school class.  Comb it in the shower with conditioner on.  Gently pat dry with a soft towel.  Use mousse.  Blow dry with a diffuser.  (The last step I translated into air dry because I'm lazy and short on patience.)  That was it.   It was the owner's manual I never had.  This is when I started wearing my hair down and curly as nature intended.  In a nice shade of auburn nature didn't provide, but Natural Instincts in a box did.  It only took me 45 long years to figure out what to do with my hair.  

Now my good hair years are being cut short.

This is some cruel joke right?  I'm blaming it all on my mom, because I inherited her hair.  Unless I blame perimenopause.  Or Donald Trump.  He just seems like a good scapegoat for everything. Anyway, I bought a natural hair loss shampoo and conditioner to take matters into my own two lather laden hands.  Except I forgot to take a photo of how much hair was left in my comb before I started using the shampoo to compare with how much is left in the comb now.  How am I going to know if it's working or not?  I guess I'll know if I have to start doing the comb over like Trump.  


Monday, May 16, 2016

Public Toilet Courtesy

Photo Credit:  sedonaobserver.com


I love public toilets.  I know it's weird, but let me explain.  I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  So, I get the urgent and uncontrollable need to poop when I'm anxious or when I've just eaten spicy or greasy food.  Also at that time of the month.  And sometimes just for no apparent reason. Which means I'm always on the verge of shitting my pants.  Basically, public toilets have saved my ass public embarrassment too many times to count.

Public toilets are my hero.

Last week after a lunch date with my husband we went to Home Depot.  Which is where all dates with your spouse end up.  Unless it's Lowes.  And by "we" I mean he went in and I stayed in the car because I follow him around like a puppy dog in that store which annoys him.  So, it just works better for both of us this way.  Plus I get a cat nap in.  I was in the car when my gut started with that familiar churning.  It was the nachos.  Oh shit.  I grabbed the car keys and made a beeline for the bathroom.  I passed my husband in the parking lot.  Who knows the only reason I would be speed walking into Home Depot.  "You know where it is right?" Of course I do.  I know exactly where the toilet is.  In almost every store.


Insert silent prayer here.


Oh god, please, please don't let me shit my pants.  Also, don't let me run into anyone I know who'll want to stop and talk to me.  And for the love of you, don't let  it be closed for cleaning.  Or even worse, there's a line.  I WILL use the men's room.  I do kinda dress like a guy so maybe I could pass for transgender.  And I don't care what the law says in whatever state I'm in.  Because right now I'm in a state of panic. 

I'm never more religious than when I make it to the toilet without incident.  And I don't give a shit, I'll take the first stall.  But, the problem with that is, someone is always in the second stall.  The second stall is just safer.  It's perceived to be cleaner and less frequented, but it's not.  Everyone uses that one.  It's probably the most frequented stall in the entire bathroom.  And this day was no exception.  Of course, I didn't realize that until I got into the stall, dropped my pants and saw the shoes of someone who had clearly been in there a while in the neighboring stall.  I assume someone having the exact opposite problem of me.

Oh shit.
 
Because what I need to do is going to be unpleasant, to put it pleasantly.  And it was completely and totally quiet in there.  You could hear crickets.  Except crickets avoid restrooms because of the stench.  Now, I'm not quite sure why I owe the shoes in the next stall the courtesy of trying to do what I need to do without a smell or a sound, but I feel it's a necessity, even though I'm in extreme pain.  I memorized my neighbor's shoes and I'm positive she (or he) has done the same, so once we exit the restroom we'll surely recognize one another while avoiding any and all direct eye contact. Naturally this means I have a contractual social obligation to make my shit not stink.  Which is impossible.  Cause nachos.

Then I wait.

Maybe the shoes in the next stall will poop first.  Then flush.  Giving me the opportunity to try to get my noisy business done within the time constant of this audible distraction.  Then the silent standoff began.   Who'll break the silence?  It took about 5 seconds during which it never occurred to me I could pre-courtesy flush the toilet to mask the heinous sounds I emitted until after I had committed the offense.   And while I was horribly embarrassed, I was also greatly relieved.  Not only that, I didn't have to sit there basking in someone else's stank waiting for the magic to happen.  Those sensible shoes were probably crazy jealous that I got to walk out of there first.  (After washing my hands of course.)  Then, they'd be the ones walking around the store looking for my shoes while recounting my heinous discourteousness in the toilet with a shopping mate.  While I was long gone.  And anonymous.
 

And on the controversy raging about which toilet a transgender person should use?  This is where I stand on that...

(Also, this is one of my favorite, albeit, completely unpopular tweets.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Failing at Failure


The thing about writing a book is it's a long process.  Giving the writer (moi) a lot of time to think and divert themselves from actually writing the damn book.  Which leads to ruminating on insecurities and failures.  After all, I got rejected from every agent and then every publisher I queried for my first book.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  ONE.  And I'll probably never even break even on the book I self published and fronted the cost for. So, why am I writing a second one?  Maybe I'd be better article writer.  That's probably it.  I should do that.  Which is how I came to obsess over writing inspirational articles for an on-line magazine.  Not that I wanted to be an article writer.  I just wanted a little damn success.  Just a taste.  And a clear direction of where I should be going wouldn't hurt either. Some kind of validation that I wasn't the epic failure that I'd convinced myself I was.   

I'd had two articles published already.  And with my third rejected, I decided the 4th attempt would be my last effort.  (Although I tend to lie to myself...so last effort means more like "last effort for an undetermined temporary amount of time that's not yet determined until I swirl back through this entire conundrum yet again like I'm on the spin cycle in a washing machine".)  What could I possibly write that would be true to the self deprecative person I am while also trying to be inspiring and give the magazine what they want?  Which honestly, I'm not even sure exactly what that is.  And writing is so subjective it all depends on who reads it whether is a success or a failure.  That's it!  Failure.  I'll write about failure.  Something I know all too intimately.  

Here was my submission: 

How To Be A Successful Failure.

If there’s one thing I really excel at it’s failing. I have tons of experience. And while failing isn’t hard to do at all, because everyone fails at something at some point, becoming a successful failure is actually a lot of hard work. Which is the bad news.  However, the good news is learning to become a successful failure can lead to becoming a success. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but it’s true!

Successful failures take risks even though it means they might fail.  Having the courage to try something new and risk possible (sometimes even public) embarrassment in the process is often the most difficult step, but also the most important. Plus, opening up to new opportunities can be it’s own reward. In my late thirties I watched a tv program about roller derby and made a promise to myself that if I ever got the chance, I’d give it a try.  The next month there was a roller derby bout in my hometown and I went to watch the action.  The next week I went to the league’s open recruitment night and actually became part of the action when I signed up. 

Failure is valuable experience in what doesn’t work. Successful failures consider it hard earned research in figuring out what does.  Looking for patterns in past failings, assessing lessons learned and strategizing what can be done differently the next time to try to attain a goal.  When I started in derby, I learned the rules, trained hard for hours on end trying to make my roller derby queen dream a reality.  It was exhausting and I had bruises all over my body from getting knocked down by women who were both faster and fiercer than me. But, it was the hit that my ego took that left the biggest bruise. Why was I putting so much time and effort into a sport I was terrible at?  One that was depleting and demoralizing my sense of self?  That’s how I came to realize competitive sports aren’t a good fit for me. 

Successful failures know when to switch gears. Sometimes failure leads to another goal that’s an even better fit. Something that wasn’t even a consideration before pursuing the original objective. And it opens new possibilities. I quit roller derby when I spontaneously moved to Africa, a world away from any roller derby leagues. I admit, even though I wasn’t good at roller derby, I felt like I lost some of my identity when I left it behind. That is, until I started a belly dance class a few days after I moved to fill the void. Non-competitive, low impact belly dance. I’d never even contemplated dancing before. And shockingly, I wasn’t completely atrocious at it.  

Fear of failure can be fuel to work even harder to achieve an objective. Because once there’s a glimmer of some success and the reward for all that hard work is so close, giving up would make it become an even greater loss.  Which is why I kept dancing. Although I traded my belly dance shimmy in for spins around a metal pole when I took up pole dance.  I’ve been working a pole for fitness and fun for three years now. I love it and I’m really good at it. I’ve finally found something I’m successful at.  Who knows, I may even give up my day job to become an instructor. Although I’m content to just dance for the sheer enjoyment of doing something I love. For now anyway.    

If there’s one certainty in life, it’s that sooner or later everyone fails. Let’s face it, it’s usually both sooner and later.  Because the more things one tries, the more things one fails at. It’s not a personal vendetta from the universe, it’s just statistics.  Successful failures know that failure doesn’t make them a loser, giving up on trying to achieve their dreams does. And having a sense of humor about it all doesn't hurt either. 

It's definitely not the best thing I've ever written, but it's also not the absolute worst. Forced inspiration is more difficult and time consuming than it appears to be.  Here was the response I got:


Dear Marie,

Thanks for putting yourself out there. The term successful failure is fun and interesting, but the content of the article is pretty commonplace. Try to dig a little deeper and come up with something unique that we can be excited to share.

I FAILED AT FAILURE!

Which in a really pathetic way is really pretty freakin' hilarious. But, it doesn't definitively answer the question of where I should focus my time.  Unless it's not book writing or article writing.  Maybe I should quit my day job and become a pole dance instructor. Maybe that's what this means.  And forget all that bullshit I wrote. Having a sense of humor about it all doesn't really help either.

If you're interested in my two articles published on elephant journal the links are below.

Why I Don't Care If My Kids Go To College.
Stripped.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bittersweet Summer


It's approaching and I dread it.  The birds are singing the annoying songs of summer way too early, which sounds a lot like the screeching sounds of your kid learning the recorder at 5am. (Speaking of which, I'll be donating my youngest's recorder to Goodwill the day after school ends.)  I'm stocking up on sunscreen that I will still have to nag my kids to wear.  I'll also have to help them apply it because somehow they are still incapable of putting it on without my assistance.  I'm mentally preparing for the barrage of my kids and their friends in my personal space 24/7 eating all my food and leaving their dirty dishes everywhere.

But, that's not the worst of it.  

What's even worse is that my oldest will be a senior in high school next year and this could be the last summer he's home driving me out of my mind wanting to borrow the car all the time.  The last summer our family camps all together.  The last time tubing down our favorite lazy river all together on Father's Day.  The last time we force all the kids to hike with us for mandatory family fun time.  The last time we have happy hour at our neighborhood pool all together, eating and swimming with friends well into the evening. 

But that's still not the worst of it.

The worst is that the next summer is the last summer with my next kid.  And then a couple years later with the next one and then a few years after that,  the youngest one.  Soon I'll have an empty nest.  They'll be no chaos.  Or plates lying around with baked on cheese from disgusting frozen burritos heated up way too long in the microwave.  No annoying sounds of screeching recorders or kids fighting over whose turn it is on the xbox or whose turn it isn't to walk the dogs.  What will I do then?

It's going to be quiet & peaceful. 
It's going to be boring & lonely.  
It's going to suck. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Wasted Time



I jot down notes on actual paper because I'm old fashioned like that.  I also tend to lose said loose papers frequently.  Because I have four kids who love to doodle on and destroy random scraps of paper.  I don't know why in this age of technology this is still a thing.  And tape hoarding.  Why do my kids love tape?  And what do they do with it?  Anyway, I should probably be happy that they are engaged in the real world even if they are polluting it and contributing to me losing my mind.  Of course, I'm not though. However, that whole explanation was a waste of time, because this post isn't about my kids.

It's about nothing.  
Like Seinfeld.

Sometimes I have a list of ideas for things to write about.  Although mostly I don't.  But when I do, sometimes my kids don't destroy that list.  Although mostly they do.  But this time they didn't.  And when I finally found the list that I don't keep in the same place (because why would I do that) there was only one idea not crossed off.  Wasted Time.  And it's not crossed off for one very important reason.  Because I've looked at it several times.  I spent time contemplating it.  And still, I have no idea what the hell I meant by it.  

What does it mean???

I think it goes without saying that this was going to be Pulitzer Prize winning piece of writing that was going to change lives.  The world even.  But, what the hell was it about?  An introspective about living every moment?  An expose on the extinction of wrist watches and how they pollute our landfills?  Or did I misspell it and it was supposed to read Wasted Thyme, a post about how underutilized and overlooked the underdog herb is in our cuisine?  Do you see the potential here?

It's as vast and elastic as time itself.  

As is my ability to waste your time while I babble on.  And after writing this contemplating what I meant, I still have no idea what I meant by Wasted Time.  Unless it was about my impending dementia.  Oh my god, that's probably it!










Monday, May 2, 2016

Reciting


I could recite the reasons why I pole dance.  That it's challenging to learn something new and do something that scares the living shit out of me.  And that as a result I'm stronger than I've ever been both physically and mentally.  Also that I've gotten to a point where I think I'm fairly good at dancing when I'm alone and no one is watching.  (No one but Clyde, my dog, who's a bit obsessed with watching me dance.  Ok, he likes to nap in the sunny spot in my bedroom near the pole while I dance.)  But, nothing scares the living shit out of me more than performing a pole dance routine I choreographed myself in front of a real, live studio audience.  Which is exactly why I do it.

Because there's strength in allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
To be seen.  

I wish you could see what I did last Friday night.  On a pole in front of people.  I wish I could say I performed my pole routine flawlessly.  But, I didn't.  Because I get nervous when I'm the center of attention and when I get self conscious with my insecurities reciting in my head, I'm prone to screwing up.  Maybe no one else can tell because they don't know my choreography or how well I can do it in my bedroom for Clyde (because most of the time he's actually asleep).  But, I know.  And you can't see the video, because it won't upload on YouTube with song playing because of copyright issues.  And the file is too big to upload directly here to my blog.  I swear, I tried!

What if I'm relieved you can't see it? 
Does that negate the therapeutic effect? 
Make me weak?
Or just technologically illiterate?

Just in case, there's a short 15 second clip of my recital last Friday night that I posted to Instagram and the only way I can figure out how to prove to you that I actually did perform it.  Therapy mode initiated.


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