Thursday, December 17, 2015

Are You a Travel Addict?


Are You a Travel Addict?:  A Diagnostic Test

It seems these days everyone is addicted to something.  Sugar, shopping, coffee, crossfit and social media included.  That, of course, is in addition to the other more obvious addictions out there.  Don’t have any of them?  Have you ever considered you may have a travel addiction?   Take this quick test to find out.

  1. Is your screen saver a photo of a travel destination?
  2. Do you spend more than an hour a week visiting discount travel websites and/or reading travel magazines and/or blogs?
  3. Do you enter on-line sweepstakes to win dream vacations knowing all you’re likely to win is an e-mail spamming?  
  4. At work do you find yourself lying on the floor sunbathing in the sunshine streaming in the window daydreaming about Hawaii?
  5. How about a crush on Anthony Bourdain?
  6. Do you put off important home improvement projects in order to save money for travel?
  7. When you’re at a party do you always have a fascinating travel story to share?  e.g. “This one time, when I was in New Orleans....”
  8. Is your house decorated with souvenirs from your travels?  And/or World Market's entire collection.  (I'd say Pier One, but we all know that's too expensive and it'd be cheaper to travel to Indonesia to get that coffee table and export it yourself.)
  9. Do you know your preferred seat on different types of aircrafts and reserve it early?  Also, do you know how to reserve early?  And order a special vegan meal for the flight?    
  10. Do you ignore the flight attendant safety spiel and/or video because you already know it by heart?  Or because you've already fallen asleep with your travel neck pillow on?
  11. On travel day do you purposely wear slide off shoes and wear your one unholey pair of socks for TSA efficiency and to avoid embarrassment? 
  12.  Have you chosen your next travel destination before you’ve even arrived back home      from your current one?  
  13.  Is your favorite book series Lonely Planet?  Or is it Fodors?  
  14.  Is your DVR filled with programs from the Travel and National Geographic channels?
  15.  Do you have a penchant for globes and maps? 
  16.  Do you use the credit card that accumulates the most thank you points to redeem for free airfare?
  17. Can you pack your luggage to go anywhere in the world in less than 15 minutes flat?  
  18. Do you use the word 'travel' as a verb more than a noun?  
  19. For your birthday or Christmas would you rather go somewhere with friends or family than receive a gift?
  20. Are you currently reading this on a plane, a train or in the car?  (Please don’t read and drive.)

If you answered yes to 11 or more of these questions, you may be a travel addict. I know because I too am hopelessly addicted to travel.  What can you do to cure this condition?  I have no idea.  Why would you even want to anyway?  I’ll let you get back to googling the Maldives now.  Wherever your addiction, I mean adventure, takes you,  Bon Voyage!

ADDENDUM:  I'll be taking a blogging break for a few weeks to feed my own travel addiction.  I'll be back in the new year with lots of new misadventures to share.  Peace.  ~Marie

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brave

Photo courtesy of answersforpilots.com

It was my 16th birthday, the day every teenager dreams of.  I'd finally be behind the wheel by myself without my instructor, completely on my own.  But not in a car, because I hadn't driven one yet.   This was to be my first solo flight in a plane with me as the pilot.  But because of a crosswind, I'd have to wait until the following day to fly.  Alone.

Like most teenagers, I lacked confidence, but on top of that, I was painfully shy and a certified, card carrying people pleaser.  And the person I wanted to please most was my dad.  He, of course, was a pilot.  Plus being a pilot sounded adventurous, and if anything appealed to me, adventure did.  So, I knew I had to do it.  But first I needed the money.  So, I applied for and won a flight scholarship to pay for the instructor, rental of the plane and fuel.   

Turns out, I was a natural.  

On the ground I was insecure and anxious.  But, in the air I was confident and fearless.  The most nerve wracking part was talking to my instructor because of my social anxiety.   With a mere 8 hours of flight time, my instructor deemed me ready to fly on my own.  Not only did I feel ready, but I was relieved not to have to make conversation with anyone other than the control tower.  And that required only the most minimal, concise and factual communication.  I could do this.  

When the day came with my mom and instructor watching from a window in the small airport of my hometown, I conducted the preflight and taxied out to the runway and took off, gingerly pulling the nose up, the wheels leaving the ground.  That's when the stall siren in the Cessna broke the silence warning me of imminent danger.  And a weird thing happened.  Nothing.  I didn't second guess myself.  I didn't radio anyone to mention the malfunction.  Because for the first time in my life, I trusted me.  I wasn't in a stall,  my flying was text book and I figured the indicator must be broken.  I flew the flight pattern three times around the airport as was required, with a siren blaring at me the entire time.  Before I brought it down for the perfect landing.  

I'd never been proud of anything I'd done up until that moment.  

And that's why what happened next may seem out of the blue.  I quit.  Not because the money had run out, although it had.  But because it wasn't my passion.  I knew I could've gone on to get my pilot's license, but I also knew that I didn't love it.  And I knew doing it simply to make someone else proud of me wasn't reason enough for me to continue.  I didn't need to prove anything to anyone else.  I needed to give it up to find myself.  Because I'm brave.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Assholes


I found a spot in the back row and pushed down the wooden auditorium style seat at my daughter's gymnastics class and settled in.  Fetching my reading glasses from my purse before tucking it under my seat and out of the way.  I ran my fingertips over the smooth, stiff cover of my new paperback and then gingerly opened it so as not to crack the binding.  I'd anticipated this moment all day long.

That's when it was ruined, by some asshole kid.

He came out of nowhere on my right hand side and instead of saying "excuse me", he hopped over my crossed legs.  (See above photographic evidence.)  And if it wasn't enough to have one 9 year old asshole kid, he was quickly followed by his 11 year old brother.   Then they proceeded to sit down next to me on my left hand side.  But only after flicking their seats up and down about a hundred times first.  After which they began playing cards with each other, before they started throwing the cards under the front row seats.   Which preceded my personal favorite,  the impromptu seated wrestling match.    

Which asshole was their parent?

When I looked around, I found their mom right away.  She was sitting in the first row on her laptop, furiously typing away messaging three different people on Facebook.  Ok, you could say I'm an asshole for reading over her shoulder, but you know you'd do the same.  Especially when she birthed two rambunctious assholes.  I mean really?  She deserved it.   Plus, she was stupid enough to sit in the front row so everyone could see what she was reading.  Which is like having a private conversation really loudly on your phone while in line at the grocery store.  Things done openly in public, cease to be private.  And doing things publicly expecting privacy solidifies your status as an asshole.  


  Assholes are everywhere.

And just when you think you've had your quota of assholes and their assholeness, that's when another one walks in.  Enter the well coiffed, mature lady who took the seat to my right.  Maybe she'd give the boys a stern glare to put them in their place, because obviously I was way too involved in my book to take care of the problem myself.   Anyone in that crowded little room could clearly see that.  But, about 30 seconds after she sat down, her old lady perfume, that she must have bathed in, caught up with her and assaulted my nose and then my throat, because I swear I could taste it.  And it tasted like pressed, antiqued embroidered table linens.  

That's when the asshole kids made their move.

To their dad, who wasn't even on my radar.  He was just sitting in the first row on the edge of his seat, elbows propped on his legs, eagerly watching his daughter spin, twirl and flip.  He didn't have the distractions of social media, a book and wasn't abusing Drakkar Noir.  At least to my knowledge on the latter,  I wasn't close enough to actually confirm that.  And here I was,  engrossed in diagnosing assholes and waiting for the ensuing drama of the shit show to watch my own daughter. 

Who's the asshole now?
I am.

ADDENDUM:   I highly recommend the book, Assholes:  A Theory by Aaron James, and who doesn't love to read about assholes? Assholes, that's who.  Don't be an asshole.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Private Property


I have three teenagers and a tween who thinks she's a teenager, so there is nothing more prized in our house than privacy.  Stepping into one of my kids' rooms without permission, is like crossing the 38th parallel or invading the Gaza Strip.  Don't do it!  Plus, their rooms smell like rotting socks and are scattered with candy wrappers and a bizarre assortment of other garbage that fell out of their hands and landed there because putting it in the trash is too laborious.  Not to mention the landmines comprised of dirty clothes that didn't make it into the hamper.

What more deterrent does one need to keep out?

Even with all the individual coveting of personal privacy and the unintentional preventative measures to ensure they're respected, there are still occasional battles waged in our house over property rights.  Undercover tactical maneuvers carried out to recover items one kid claims is rightly his or hers, which therefore gives them the right trample someone else's rights in order to reclaim it.  

Does this sound like the Middle East to you like it does to me?

That's what my house is like.  Unless it's more like a Siberian Gulag.  Because while my kids occassionally do have some respect for each other's things and space,  this is a luxury I'm not afforded.  Ever.  What's theirs is theirs and what's mine is theirs too.  They rummage through my closet and borrow things (ok, steal them cause they don't get returned), read letters from my pen pal and text messages on my phone, find and deplete my secret chocolate stash.  And I didn't even mention raiding my purse.  Who holds the purse strings?  They do.  And they probably broke them and you'll have to buy yourself a new purse because they aren't delicate rummagers.  

Apparently, the cost of parenthood is privacy. 
Not to mention college tuition and your sanity.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

If...


All my kids love to play this fun game called What if.  And they play it all day, every day.  Imagining and dreaming about the possibilities the world has to offer.  I suppose when I was young, naive, full of hope and utterly delusional, I used to do the same thing.  Because I bought the above pictured book several years ago, spending my hard earned money back when I actually earned a paycheck to play the game of life by someone else's rules.

But that was before I was old, bitter, discouraged and distrustful.  So, essentially, before I was a realist.  

My kids know of my absolute hatred of this game, but they want to play it with me anyhow.  Because again, they are young, naive and hopeful.   Which in a way I'm envious of and in another way, I can't wait until they go out into the real world and realize what a shit show it is.  And realize that they'll never be the President of the United States.  Not even a chance.  Mostly because they were born in Russia.  Although, they could work to change that, but how exhausting would that be?  Just thinking about it makes me tired.  

If...

...adulting wasn't constant what if-ing, maybe it would be fun again.   But, I get to play the real life version of what-if every day.  What if...I forget to pay the health insurance bill and then one of my kids takes the dogs out for a walk on a snowy day and the dogs, Clyde and Bonnie, chase the UPS truck down the middle of the street and my kid is skiing behind  them, hits a speed bump and knocks out their teeth.  The very teeth I've spent a fortune on and then the car behind my kid can't stop because of the ice on the road and runs over said kid's fingers.  Then Clyde, because they kinda look like sausages, eats the detached fingers.  Then we have to get them surgically removed from his stomach to get them reattached to my kid's hand. Then there's the dentures.  Then, the stay over night in the ICU because of the concussion. Then because of the lack of insurance, the medical/vet bills and before you know it, we're homeless.

Seriously, what if?

While it sounds ridiculous,  you know as an adult that you've heard crazier stories that were completely true.  And that anything can happen at any moment.  Like I could someday find that If... book that my oldest read and promptly lost.  But I think we all know that that's highly unlikely.  As is them stopping from playing the game anytime soon.  And maybe that's a good thing.  





Monday, November 30, 2015

Deep Thoughts

Courtesy of Jack Handey

Most of my thoughts are random, cyclical and stupid.  A waste of a semi-intelligent mind that should be doing far more important things than considering what the stupidest song ever recorded is, how many sweaters I have shrunk in the drier over my lifetime and if we started a family band wearing tiny sweaters could we record a one hit wonder.  Again.   And then there's other times, when I have deep, lofty, penetrating, paramount, life altering thoughts.

These occur in one of three places...

1.  Exercising

There is something about your heart racing, sweating profusely, gasping for air and feeling like you're about to die, that makes you feel so alive.  And this is when my brain surges with ideas.  The first of which is always, "Why the hell don't I just stop exercising?"  Actually, that's the first 10 ideas.  But, if I can ignore those and press on and become a little delusional from lack of oxygen, eventually I'll come up with a creative idea.  Or I'll pass out.  Whichever happens first.  

2.  Showering

Oh, every time I go into the shower I plan to be quick, conserve water and thus single-handedly save the planet, but that's never what happens.  NEVER.  I get under that warm (ok, scaldingly hot) water and my mind drifts.  And I ponder all kinds of things.  While I think about the world and how I'm going to hell for using too much hot water and how other people don't have clean drinking water, I will inevitably shave one leg and forget to shave the other.  Cause first world problems.

3.  Driving

You know how sometimes you're in your car and you start driving on autopilot and you don't even realize where you're driving to because it's like your minivan could drive there itself?  Yeah, I  know it's bad!   I know I shouldn't be daydreaming while I'm driving, but as John Lennon said...."You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."  Be honest, you know you do this too.  Wait, you DO do this too, right?

What do all these things have in common?

You can't write anything down when you're doing them!  Which is why I don't have any record of any of my brilliant ideas.  Because I forget them before I can document them.  And if I don't have anything to show for my deep thoughts, it's like I didn't even have any at all.

These have been not-so-deep-thoughts by Marie





Thursday, November 26, 2015

Seasonal Stress


I'm just going to say it,  I really don't like the holidays.  Maybe because about 75% of my family and friends have birthdays in November and December, right smack in the middle of the holidays.  I've tried skipping Christmas altogether by taking my family on a big international trip.  But, everyone knows you can't skip it, especially with kids.  Leaving before Christmas just means you have to finish your holiday shopping before your departure date, thus shortening and condensing it, making things that much more hectic.

 'Tis the season to be stressed. 

Overthinking everything.  Like why the hell would I even think of getting my kid a leather jacket when he can't even keep track of a hoodie?  Seriously, how many days will he have it until he loses it?  Or are we talking hours?  And how is he ever going get a girlfriend without a hoodie?  Should I give the mailman a gift again this year when I didn't even get a thank you for last years gift?  Did the boy who sang 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause ever get some counseling?  Also, did he grow out of his lisp?   And playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving should be illegal.    In fact, it should be illegal to play Christmas music in stores period.

Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Take that Connie Francis with your "Baby's First Christmas" song I'm sure you recorded while on Valium.   Because seriously have you listened to it?  Honestly, there is no greater stress than having a newborn AND Christmas.  Babies can't get excited about tearing into the wrapping paper and then playing with the box of whatever expensive toy you just had hand to hand combat with another parent to get the last one on the shelf. No.  You're just freakin' tired, not knowing that you'll never be not tired as a parent ever again.  Especially around the holidays.  Sure, Christmas is fun during those toddler years when they still believe your deceptive lies about flying reindeer and that your favorite cookies are also Santa's.  But when that's all over and the kids are older,  guess what, you realize you're older too.  And much broker.

Happy Holidays!










Monday, November 23, 2015

Dinner Dilemma


Every evening is pretty much the same at our house.  I make a delicious, gourmetish home cooked dinner for my family.  Taking into account the season and the weather, because those things are a large factor in what I cook for the night, and then consider the time available to prep and eat it based on the activities I need to chauffeur the kids to either before or after.    But, no matter what I do, the result is pretty much the same...

...eating dinner with kids sucks.

Sure we have some great discussions over a nice meal sometimes.  I'll give you that.  But that is a mere 1% of dinners and it comes at a high price.  And that price is my sanity. Because most dinners I'm reminding the kids not to pet the dogs at the table and  to chew with their mouths closed.  (If you have toddlers and think this kind of rudimentary stuff ends by the time they're teenagers, I assure you, this is NOT the case.)  Most of the time we have the same recurrent discussions, which are really actually recurrent arguments.  Such pivotal life changing things such as is Ford better than Toyota?  Every.  Damn. Night.  Don't even get me on politics.  And random facts you could look up on a computer and have a definitive answer in 3 seconds.  But they won't.  I have begged them to look things up so they would stop fighting.  But no, they enjoy the polemics.   Then I realized something...

It's human nature, we all need a villain.

And after pleading with them to stop, throwing my hands up in the air and then just quietly observing them, I noticed something.  The less they like dinner, the more they will band together in solidarity over their mutual disdain.  The more they like it, the more of their conscious thoughts gets devoted to how much they can't stand each other.  It's so ridiculously obvious!  Humans need something or someone to vilify.   Take a look around, this is kinda what makes the world spin.  Which is why I'm only cooking meals they are guaranteed to hate from now on.  


This is how I'll solve the dinner dilemma and keep the peace.
Either that or I'll sign them up for the debate club at school.    














Thursday, November 19, 2015

Old Fashioned Girl


I still hold doors open for people, bring a gift for a party hostess, make eye contact, say nice things to people and/or I'm sorry when I mess up and I read books.  Real tactile books that you can glide your finger along the cover, dog ear the pages, carry around with you and hug to your chest.  Ones that you possess and find a home for on your shelf when you're done reading it, so you can admire it.   Even if you never open it again, you know it's there waiting for you if you do.

And this is where I'm torn, like an old tattered book...

...I know it's not as cost effective, convenient or efficient as a Kindle.  I know it's not environmentally friendly and uses far more oil and trees resulting in more pollution.  And yes, I feel completely guilty about that.  But, not enough to change my ways.  I will burn in hell for this.  At precisely 451 degrees Fahrenheit.  I'm sure of it.  Especially because I just ordered Fahrenheit 451 from Amazon.com just yesterday, even though I've already read it.  And I'm just going to admit right now that I also ordered seven other books in paperback too.  

Because I'm an environmental terrorist.  

And it gets worse.  I also have my music on cd's.  What can I say?  I'm just an old fashioned girl thwarting the high tech world.  Like Clarisse McClellan in Fahrenheit 451, the optimistic outcast in a bookless society refusing to conform for the sake of fitting in, but rather, questioning the meaning of it all.  So when the apocalypse happens and kindle's no longer work, you know I'll be saving all the books.  And you know where to come if you want to borrow a book from my library.  






Monday, November 16, 2015

Oh the Humanity

This is an article I wrote a year ago for a travel magazine that was never published.  
I'm posting it today in light of the tragedy in Paris.


In this day and age of ISIS and Ebola, it’s easy to lose faith in humanity.  Corrupt politicians and religious leaders are everywhere.  As are natural disasters and seemingly indiscriminate shootings.  How can anyone even consider traveling in times like these?   But, the real question is, how can we afford not to?

I’m as disheartened as anyone else watching the news.  The truth is, I don’t watch it very often anymore.  Because it’s always heartbreaking and I always come away feeling depressed about the things I can’t change in the world.  Fear stemming from hatred exacerbated by regimes resulting in devastation and destruction. Tearing the world further apart, rather than bringing it closer together. 

I’m just one person with a long list of things that I’m not good at or qualified to do.  And Secretary of State, nurse, executive director of an NGO and missionary are very near the top of that extensive list.  Leaving me feeling isolated and helpless to help solve the many problems of the world.  Although it’s a lie.   None of us are insignificant unless we choose to be.  Humans are industrious and adaptable, but never helpless.  

I’ve seen it in my travels all over the world and it restores my hope in humanity.   People are not the politics that govern them, nor the faith that guides them or the economics that may impede them.  In the words of Depeche Mode, “People are people.”  Though our politics, faiths and economics may be vastly divergent, we all share the same basic needs of safety, health and freedom.  We are all simply human. 

Which I witnessed first hand in Egypt in March 2011, immediately after Arab Spring.  Of course I didn’t realize when I bought the tickets two weeks before the revolution that I’d be a witness to history.  Nor did I realize how important it was for Egyptians to see tourists.  Especially at the end of their tourist season in the aftermath of change heading into a long unsure winter. The Egyptians I met on that trip gave me hope that real change, brought about by real every day people is possible.  And I gave them hope that the world still cared about them by simply being there and helping to stimulate their economy one Egyptian Pound at a time.  

I know it doesn’t seem like much.  After all, I didn’t cure anyone of a life threatening disease.  I didn’t change any policies.  But maybe, just maybe, I brought a smile to someone’s face.  Or bread to their table.  And at most, maybe something about me being there changed someone’s perspective on the world, if only for a little while.

When I was at a rug shop in Turkey, I know I did just that.  My husband and I were talking to the shop owner for quite some time about his hand made carpets and his kebab restaurant next door as our kids listened quietly and intently, the way they do when strangers are around.  That’s when he asked the inevitable travel question, “Where are you from?”  When we told him we were American, he refused to believe us and insisted we must be European.  Was it the temporarily obedient children?  Or because we weren’t wearing the stereotypical American uniform of jeans, sneakers and baseball caps?  It was neither.   “You can’t be American!  You’re not fat!”, he exclaimed.  Oddly, he was Turkish, and didn’t have a unibrow.  Go figure.  

On a trip to Italy, I expected that Italians wouldn’t look kindly upon us, traveling with four small children in tow.  I was positive that European children would be much better behaved than my extremely jet lagged American children I was forcing to march thorough the streets of Rome.  What I didn’t expect was for my children to be doted on everywhere we went.  For, get this, their good behavior.  Which to me, didn’t seem very good at all, especially while I was trying to force them to appreciate a foreign culture.   In their defense, they did appreciate the food in Italy a lot though.   

I was living in Morocco when a tsunami struck Japan in 2011.  I was devastated listening to the death toll and destruction.  I’d never been to Japan nor did I have any ties there. But, I had nothing but empathy. That’s when an old friend from high school contacted me about something completely unrelated.  Her uncle was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive cancer and didn’t have money for treatment.  Could I write something her family could use to fundraise on his behalf?  I couldn’t help anyone in Japan.  But this, this I could do.  And it didn’t even require me traveling anywhere except into the creativity of my own mind, to help someone who needed it.  Someone half way around the world from me that I’d never met.  

Sometimes traveling leads you to an exotic destination, sometimes it’s a dream of faraway places while you’re on a staycation in your own home.  Travel is an opportunity to think outside the box and go on an inner journey to the depths of humanity.    To realize that changing the world starts small from inside each one of us.  With an open mind, choosing love over hate, starting in our own communities.   And if we don’t make the journey what hope does humanity have?



ADDENDUM:  I have  Warning to the West by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn an extremely relevant book in these turbulent times in my reading queue.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Woman Envy


You know that woman who always looks put together that you want to be like but you're much, much too lazy to put in the effort?  You kinda admire her and kinda hate her at the same time.  Because seriously, how can one conquer the need to be comfortable and warm for the sake of fashion?  And why would anyone want to?  So seriously, why am I kind of envious of women who do?  It doesn't even make sense.

Because we all want to be something we're not.

At least temporarily.  Like playing dress up.  There's something about trying out a different look that brings out something different in your personality.  As much as I wish it weren't true that clothes affect what you think and therefore, what you project, they do.  And as much as I want to be put together, that would be a lie.  I'm not together at all.  And in addition, I'm no slave to fashion.  


I'm a slave to comfort.

And, if I'm being perfectly honest, to laziness.  So I'm not going to iron a shirt, style my hair or wear the pretty, but itchy underwear I bought for some unknown reason that only crowds my drawer and makes it harder to find my comfy cotton underwear.  I'm also not going to wear a head band, red lipstick, straight black hair, high heels or skinny jeans.  Again.  Really, what the hell was I thinking the first time?  Because times things that look chic on other women, are destined to make you look ridiculous.  Especially when you walk like a trucker in heels.  

That's how woman envy works.  

We get so caught up in how we don't look like Jessica Alba.  This might explain the with the head band, lipstick, straight dark hair, high heels and skinny jean trials.  But in my woman envy, I'd forgotten what truly matters. Substance.  And honestly, what's important is that Jessica Alba's Honest brand sunscreen honestly doesn't work.   Maybe she's just trying to sabotage all the other women she's envious of.  Cause maybe all she wants is just to be comfortable in her own skin.

Maybe...




  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Just a Phase



You learn so much as a parent.  Mostly, that you don't know jack shit about parenting.  Oh, you knew everything before you were a parent.  But, you forgot all that when a whining, sniveling little person, the neediest human on the planet, started following you around making ridiculous questions and even more ridiculous requests.  And you question how anyone ever deemed you qualified for the role of raising a kid.  But, no one did.  You did.  Because you foolishly thought you knew everything.  Like a teenager.  And you thought you were far more mature than that, but you're not.

Don't worry, it's just a phase.

And phases don't last long.  Well, when you're in them they don't seem to last long, but when you're kid is in one they seem to last forever.  And then you begin to question everything and become religious, even if you're not religious.  It must be my fault that my kid ___________(fill in the blank) because I __________(fill in the blank).  Which isn't nearly as bad as the pleading with god or the universe or whatever you believe in.  Please, please ________________(fill in the blank with the deity or lack thereof of your choice) LET THIS JUST BE A PHASE!!!

Because what if it's not just a phase?

What if it's part of your kid's permanent set of personality traits?  What then?  Even if you can somehow tolerate that super annoying thing (or let's be honest, 'things') your kid does that drives you absolutely insane until they (hopefully)  leave for college and finally begin their own life, you still have to worry about them.  How will my super annoying kid ever keep a roommate with the way she slurps cereal?  And how will he ever find a life partner with his righteous indignation?  Then you feel all defensive.  I taught him/her better.  I did.  I swear.  I did the best I could! 

I thought it was just a phase!  

That's when you plead.  I'm so sorry!  Please don't leave him/her.  Because then they might move back home.  With all that slurping and righteous indignation.  And I've already done my time.  I can't do it anymore!  I'm finally in a good phase in my life.  I feel like a teenager again.  I can slurp my cereal as loud as I want both righteously and indignantly.    

I'm just so phased out!





Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Name Game

Top definition on Urban Dictionary

While nearly every other woman in America has the middle name Marie, it's my first name.  Other Marie's include:  Marie Osmond and Ray's overly concerned mother in Everybody Loves Raymond.  Don't forget about Marie Antoinette.  So essentially, we're a very diverse group fueled by Weight Watchers, martyrdom and cake.  And somehow, all 3 of those things do seem related.

When I was growing up, I didn't like my name. 

It was too old fashioned and I could never find a key chain with my name printed on it.  Probably because they thought the name had gone extinct.  I don't know why it even bothered me, because as the last of 6 children, no one ever used my name.  I was just called a sibling's name.  Or 5 other sibling's names.  If you call me "Sue-Jim,-Kathy,-Tom-Dan", I will still turn around to this day. 

My dad wanted to name me Mary.

Apparently everyone at school knew that, because I was often mistakenly called Mary.  And I still am by people who see my name and mispronounce it Mary.  Either that or I'll say my name is Marie and they'll spell it Mary.  Because, again, apparently the name has all but gone extinct.  

Except in Miami, where it's pronounced Maria. 

So I went from having no name, to Mary, then Maria in grad school when I lived in Miami.  It didn't help that I accidentally dyed my hair black during that period.  (It was supposed to be temporary!)  Or that I spent a lot of time at the Cuban sandwich place by my work.  Where they would call the order for "Maria" and 20 women would rush to claim it.  Including me.  

I love my name now because it's classic, but also pretty unique.


Although no one calls me by my name now.  I'm just "Mom" these days.  Or "Ma'am" when I'm at Costco.   Not that anyone ever did call me by my name.   It makes me want to sing that Destiny's Child song,  Say my name!  (And trust me, you don't want to hear me sing.)  And if you do, for god's sake, pronounce it correctly!  

Just for fun, Google your name on Urban Dictionary and see what it says about you.  


  














Monday, November 2, 2015

The Competition



I hate awards and awards shows.  And I hate trophies.  I have no trust in the powers that be that classify and quantify those things.   Because they're usually based on popularity.  Which I also abhor.   I find popular culture and it's icons vacant and vacuous.  It's not that I'm not competitive, because I am.  I'm just not playing the same game,  because I'm only competing against myself.  

I'm in a marathon game of solitaire.  

But sometimes, I forget that for short periods of time.  Usually because of some outside pressure.  And it usually starts with an extremely well meaning person and the words, "You should...".   That's when I consider the options that I've considered so many times before.  Should I market my writing more?  Should I compete in pole dance competitions?  Should I give up writing altogether and teach pole dance?  Should I forget about all that and become a river rafting guide?  

My head clouded with competing thoughts. 

The very same thoughts I've cycled through so many times before.  Resulting in the very same conclusion I've come to so many times before, I'm right on track.  A convoluted, zig zagging path of authenticity and substance.  I don't need numbers or awards to validate me.  All I need is to be true to myself, striving to be just a bit better in some way than the day before.  All while keeping my life in balance.  And you know what?

Turns out, I'm a pretty fierce competitor.  





Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Management


Remember when you used to have to plan everything in advance.   You had to do your banking during banking hours.   And no one had a cell phone.  So meeting up with friends required  you to designate a concrete meeting spot and a time.  If they stood you up you'd hold an epic grudge followed by the silent treatment.  Until you found out later through the grapevine much later  that their car broke down.  And then you'd feel like shit.  Back then life just moved slower and your emotions really got a chance to simmer before your realized how misguided you were.

But now, with electronics we live automated lives at warp speed.  

We can do almost anything at anytime.  We can get so much more done.  And it's just so much more efficient.  When things work exactly like they're supposed to work.  Which is exactly never.  Because electronics are exactly as flawed as the people who make them and the people who use them.  And drop them.  And shatter the screen.  Because the owner chose the pretty, environmentally friendly case over the ugly, bulky, highly  protective one.  And bonus, now you can realize how misguided you were virtually instantaneously.


But, the stuff that makes life simpler, makes it more complex. 

Managing all the stuff that makes things convenient is really inconvenient.  Like remembering all the log-ins and passwords in your life.  And just trying to keep up with technology, mostly so you can spy on your kids who already know and use the latest technology and have to explain it to you.   And I'm still totally cloudy on the cloud.  In fact I got off the cloud because it freaked me out.  Or at least I think I got off the cloud.  I'm cloudy on whether deleting anything in this day and age actually deletes it forever or if it just hovers waiting to be retrieved.   And I didn't even mention the nightmares of viruses and updates.  And how we're tracked doing everything.  And then marketed to and hacked.  

The management sucks!  
But not as much as my management skills.  

   



Monday, October 26, 2015

Becoming Amy Winehouse


Every year for Halloween I get ridiculously excited when I come up with a costume idea for our annual Halloween party.  And then I tell my husband and I also tell him who he's going to be so we coordinate.  Because I'm a Halloween dictator, apparently.  This year I decided to be Amy Winehouse.  Although I didn't know how difficult it would be to transform myself into her.

Before

Because I'm lazy and not very skilled with make-up or hair.  And becoming Amy Winehouse is all about black eyeliner and her enormous beehive bump.  And I seemed really under qualified to do either.

First I tackled the hair with a wig.   Actually 2 wigs sewn together.  I cut bangs in the first one and rolled the second one into a bump and attached it.  Maybe I was meant to be a wig stylist.  What if that's my calling?

After

The make-up was more challenging.   Applying gobs of black eyeliner straight and symmetrically on both eyes is damn near impossible.   I was at it for about an hour.  Drawing, layering, fixing, washing off, correcting.  The end result was more Uncle Fester than Amy with all the shadowy smudges.  I have no idea how you'd be able to pull off this look under the influence of alcohol or drugs because I couldn't even do it sober.  That's when I  finally I asked my husband to help.  He's much more creative and attentive to details than I am.



And then he made me this tattoo out of sharpie to complete my look. 
 Before he got into his Kurt Cobain costume.  Which took him a whole two minutes.


Conclusion:  Being Amy Winehouse is way too much work.
Plus, I was kinda hungover the next day...
...kinda like Amy Winehouse.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pretty Little Liars


Every kid lies.  It's just when they're little it's almost kinda cute.  Like when my youngest wrote her name in sharpie pen on the kitchen table and then denied it when I asked her about it.  But, when they get older and the lies get bigger and more malicious.  Like when they learn to write their sibling's name on the furniture in sharpie pen.    And then they evolve into teens and learn how to deceive you, while trying to make it sound like they're mature.  While using their expansive words to completely bullshit you.  While you're just hoping that their expansive vocabulary is reflected in their SAT scores. 

It's like they don't know that I have a whole degree in bullshit.  

Because no one is a better lie detector than a liar.  And I confess I've done my fair share.  Telling my mom I was going one place when I was going another.  Like that time I skipped swimming lessons and rode my bike to the park instead.  It didn't occur to me that I'd be caught on the technicality of returning home with dry hair.  Which in hindsight was a stupid rookie mistake, which could have been easily rectified at the park water fountain.  Duh.  I could recount many such stories, but the list is way too long to um...list.  But, suffice it to say I get it, because I did it.  All of it.  

Unfortunately, it doesn't make it anymore palatable to be lied to.  

In fact, it might even make it worse.  Cause then you just have to assume that your kids think you're idiotic enough to buy the lies they're selling.  Which just really pisses you off as a parent.  As does the fact that the more kids you have, the more kids you have to suspect and confront.  And thus, the more complicated it is to determine the exact involvement of each suspect.   It's like I have to Sherlock Holmes everything, like who didn't flush their dookie in the toilet.  Or zip up the cheese.  Turn off the lights downstairs, etc.  All these stupid and ridiculous things,  even though they're teenagers.  I just assume at any given moment of any given day, at least one of my kids is lying to me.  

And I'd be a pretty little liar too if I didn't admit...
 that paybacks are a bitch.  


Monday, October 19, 2015

Maintenance


There are times in your life where enormous leaps of personal growth occur.  They're usually both heartbreaking and exhilarating, stretching you beyond what you thought possible.  The ability to see things from a different perspective accompanied by a surge of creativity.  And then there's other times...

...maintenance mode.

Where you're just surviving, going through the motions and accomplishing the minimal.  It can last for days, weeks, months, years and even decades.  Sometimes it's just unavoidable.  Like after a big break-up or the birth of a child.  But, sometimes the need passes and you end up stuck there.  Existing, but not really living.  A  homeostasis, that may leave you fairly home bound.  

Then you have to maintain the fortitude to change course.  

How do you do that?  It's different for everyone.  But it generally begins with one modest vicissitude at a time.    Plodding the course to a destination.  Trudging along when all you want to do is quit.  Reconvincing yourself it's worth it over and over again even if you doubt yourself,  even if no one else understands.  Especially if no one else understands.   

Maintain your truth. 
To live life with passion. 












Thursday, October 15, 2015

Righteous


If there's one thing about parenting I like the most, it's got to be being right.  I LOVE being right.  Everyone does.  And if you say you don't, you're a liar.  I'm positive I'm right about that by the way.  My righteousness is exacerbated by the fact that I have teenagers who think I'm a moron convinced I don't know crap because they are also righteous.  I'm positive I'm right about that one too.  Because that's exactly what I thought of my mom when I was a teen.  

But I was wrong.  

Of course I didn't realize how much my mom got right until I was a mom myself.  Which is exactly when I started being right all the time.  (This may be an outright lie.)  So much of parenting is pretending you know the answers and what to do, that sometimes you forget you actually have no idea what you're doing.   Because you're simply so lost in the charade of adulting and trying to win the Oscar for parenting.   But alas,  there is no Oscar for parenting.  So why the hell do we try so hard?  

Because it seems like the right thing to do.  

But then, sometimes, you are right.  And your teen will come to you and tell you some utter bullshit.  And you'll calmly tell that child that you think that's really interesting, but that you're concerned for this particular litany of reasons, because of these potential outcomes.  And that outcome may blow up in their face.  Then you allow them to choose.  Secretly hoping it will blow up in their face.  Not enough to cause permanent damage.  Just some painful yet superficial flesh wounds.  And when everything plays out exactly the way you predicted, you're so relieved you were right, you want to shove their face in it so bad.  Of course, you won't.  But, on the inside you totally are.   Not that you wanted to be right, cause you didn't.   But, it's just that they'll learn more, faster from failing on their own.    

And then you feel a little bit righteous for just a little bit.
Maybe I do know something about being a parent after all.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Old Curmudgeon


I like staying home, listening to NPR, watching 60 Minutes, eating meat loaf,  hanging out at the library, composting, complaining about modern society and avoiding crowds.  I dislike technology, I'm distrustful of the government, I don't go to the movies or drive at night and I don't answer my phone, but mostly because I don't really know how to use my phone.


My transformation into an old curmudgeon is complete.

I've known I'm old for a while now, but sometimes I forget. Which is probably due to the onset of Alzheimer's.   But there are constant reminders.  Like I can't sleep past 5:30am.  Which might explain why I can't stay up past 9:30pm.  And there's nothing I can do about it.  Well, maybe there is, but I'm just too damn tired and lethargic to care.  I'm not missing anything.  And if you're not in your jammies at the first opportunity immediately after dinner curled up on the couch with a good book, I'd say you're the one missing out.  

This is who I am now. 
And I'm content with it.

I've done the late night stuff at clubs where you can't have a conversation with anyone cause the music is too damn loud.   The expensive festivals, chock full of weirdos lacking common courtesy not to block the thoroughfare while gnawing on a ginormous Flintsone-esque turkey leg.   And don't even get me going on the complete lack of shopping cart etiquette at Costco when the samples are out.  Nor on why you would hate follow a celebrity on social media.  Or why anyone gives a crap about celebrities in the first place.  Celebrities are the Costco samples of people:  Junk food.  I don't have any time for this, cause I'm on the downward slope.  

I only have time for diatribes.  
Cause I'm an old curmudgeon.










Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Not Pictured


I confess, I take a lot of pictures of a lot of things.  And in the digital age, why not?  It's free after all and you can delete the ones you don't want later.  So that's what I do.  It's like a visual diary of my days. Except it never works out quite that way.  Because things are never as beautiful as they are with the naked eye.  And because in a diary you record the most intimate details of your life.  But, pictures are the opposite.  

The more real and pure the moment is, 
 the less likely I am to ruin it by taking a photo.

Which leaves me with a bunch of obscure photos that aren't truly representational of my life.  Not that they are intentionally inaccurate.  But, they are misleading because my photos are void of certain aspects of my life, mostly, my friends and my kids.  As I have mentioned here before, my kids don't  let me take many photos of them, let alone make them public on social media.  Also, I will rarely interrupt something, like a dinner with friends to take a photo.  And while I try to document the unsightly,  with photos of me first thing in the morning without make-up on or pictures of squat potties.  I do try to keep things presentable, pretty-ish (so people want to look at them on instagram) and try to preserve some decorum.   

Because of these things, I still sometimes feel like a fraud.  

Because I have more people that only know me soley through social media now.   And I like to keep things as real as possible, without embarrassing my family or friends.  Although I 've found that it's virtually impossible where my kids are concerned.  I still try to take great care to protect my family, while presenting myself as the flawed person I am, not the person I want you to see me as.   In order to own my mistakes, awkwardness and inner dork.  To promote self acceptance through my photos and my words.   But, I  realize I'm probably bullshitting myself.  And that none of this even matters.  Because as much as society says that images complement words, the truth is 

... images trump words.  
Every time.

This is the crux of my love/hate relationship with the digital age.  














Thursday, October 1, 2015

Internal Conflicts vs. External Conflicts


I was feeling good about myself when I stepped on the dog scale at the vet just for fun.  Because I thought I knew what the display would reveal.  But, I didn't.  I was 10 pounds heavier than I thought.  And even though I knew it was mostly muscle.  And, who's kidding, those cheeseburgers.  Not to mention the fries. Still,  I was shocked.   It was, after all, a 30 lb weight gain from when I was in Morocco.  Where I was much too unhealthy mentally and much too thin physically.   At a time when I was so unhappy internally, I got the most compliments from women on how good I looked externally.  And it was really conflicting.

Then a weird thing happened.

With a lot of hard work from the inside out, I began revealing my true imperfect self to the world through my writing and dance.  And opening up gave me confidence.  I actually like myself now.  Even those 30 extra pounds of me.  Maybe I even like those most of all.  Because that's where my strength comes from.  And I've even got some reserves in my thighs now.  Not that I don't screw up and get off track.  Because I do, all the time.  But,  I know that if I get myself off track I can get my ass back on track.  That while I can't control the external conflicts,  I can control how I internalize them.   

And that's the difference.   

I'm not gonna lie, it's not easy to plod along and stay grounded.  Especially in a world that rewards the salacious flash in the pan.   I've failed far more than I've succeeded.   And I still long to be perfect with perfectly long legs.   And my skin is still thin.  I still want to be everything to everybody.  I still want you to like me.  But, I'm not conflicted about it anymore.  I'm far more concerned that I like me.  Where I'm at.  Right now.  And I don't think that it's my problem if you don't, anymore.  Because...

I like me, so you don't have to.  
You're welcome. 











   




Monday, September 28, 2015

Last Minute Panic


I didn't see it coming.  A last minute pole dance recital.  For which I was totally unprepared.  I don't know how to choreograph.  I never freestyle to a song.  I'm not good at transitions.  And I'm painfully timid and performing in front of real live people terrifies me.  Like swimming in shark infested waters kinda terrifying.  So obviously, I had to do it.  As part of my self imposed exposure therapy program.

Why do I do this to myself?

Because I want to be more than the awkward wallflower girl who watches life from the sidelines.   I want to do the things I love without being overcome by a paralyzing fear of being watched doing them.  And exposing my myriad of imperfections in the process.  

So without further ado, here's me exposing myself...
Not like that though.
You know what I mean.





I've firmly decided, I'll like me later,  the next time I perform this and do it perfectly.  

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