Monday, August 29, 2016

Confessions of a Slacker Mom

It's weird when your kids get older and you start to have more time to yourself and develop friendships that aren't based around toddler play dates.  Which is why it was so weird when I was asked a question by someone who only knows me as an individual, not a mother, if I was a helicopter mom.   And I had to laugh.  Because really?   I'm the ultimate slacker mom.

I don't coddle my kids.  

I've always thought of my job as their mother to be teaching them how to be independent, self-supporting free thinkers.  And now that they're teenagers, I do see a flaw in this plan.  I never thought they'd consciously choose to listen to country music.  But sometimes they do.  How could this happen?  I guess it just proves they're more open minded than me.  So, I'm going to put this in the win column, even though I completely disagree with the validity of the entire genre.  Except for Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline.

I'll confess right now that I don't know who my kids' teachers are.  (I did know when they were in elementary school, but now they each have at least 6 teachers, x 4 kids, so I gave up.)   I also don't routinely check my kids grades and missing school assignments on-line.  And I don't drive them to or pick them up from school.  So, you'd better make it to the bus stop on time.  And if you walk to school, look up the weather in the morning and dress for it, packing an umbrella, snow boots or a jacket.

I haven't been shopping for and arranging college visits for my high school senior.  In fact, I haven't done anything.  His plan is to live at home and go to community college and figure out what he wants to do before transferring to a four year college.  Which feels like winning the lottery in so many ways.  Although, I do understand his plan is subject to change at any time.  My junior in high school doesn't even want to go to college.  Which I've come to accept, however, taking the SAT and the ACT is still mandatory.  Because, again, I do understand his plan is also subject to change at any time.

I won't buy my kids a cell phone until high school and it will be an inexpensive one thus, diminishing their social status.  If they want a flashier phone, they'll have to buy it with their own money.  Same with a car.  Licensed drivers can share the use of my car for absolutely free, the only cost is the inconvenience and of course the shame, humiliation and embarrassment of driving a minivan.  But, if they want their own, they'll need to buy it and pay for the gas.  While payment plans are available, you better keep up payments because the repo man doesn't mess around.

To afford a car they'll need a job.  Working a moderate amount of hours so that the job doesn't interfere with getting school work done, of course.  Because if their grades fall, they'll be on restriction.  Which means I confiscate their fancy, expensive phone and they live like a pauper without a car.  But they won't need the phone or the car because they'll have to quit their job and their social life will be nonexistent.  So it all works out.

I know what you're thinking, wow, you're a bitch.  But after that, you're thinking what about sports?  Sports are highly encouraged around here.  However, club sports that would require a huge commitment of time and gas money to schlepp our Olympic hopefuls all over Colorado are highly discouraged.  My motto:  Think globally, act (by playing sports) locally.  The kids can earn double fitness points if my kids can ride their bikes to and from practice.  But, it doesn't earn them a trophy or a monetary reward.  Just a good feeling in their hearts knowing they're reducing their risk of heart disease and not polluting the earth.

Don't even get me started on food.  I make one homemade, healthy dinner per day, and I don't allow for substitutions.  My kids know they always have the choice not to eat.  (I think one of my kids made this choice one dinner several years ago, but I can't say I really remember.)   And I don't make them breakfast.  And I haven't packed a school lunch in years.  Those are on them to make and clean up afterwards.

For all these rules and expectations, my kids get a free place to call home with a room that they don't have to keep clean.  Because some battles just aren't worth fighting.  However, good personal hygiene and brushing their teeth has always been mandatory.  Because,  I do have some standards.  And even with all these conditions, my kids always get the unconditional love of a bona fide slacker mom.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Olympic Sized Wedgie

PC:  Brazil Women's Beach Volleyball Team/Flickr
I can't believe the Olympics are over.  No more watching gymnastics, diving, swimming, track & field and beach volleyball.  And contemplating how beach volleyball bikini bottoms can be universally flattering on women from all over the world. I mean even if you're a ridiculously fit athlete, finding bikini bottoms with the right fit is a huge feat in itself.  Not that I want to diminish the amazing feats of athleticism women achieve while wearing them.   I don't at all.  In fact, it makes what they do even more amazing.  It's just that I can't figure out how it's humanly possible that more women athletes aren't picking Olympic-sized wedgies out of their butts.


Is there double-sided tape involved?  What about rogue tampon strings?  And seriously, white tiny bottoms?  That's a Tampax commercial waiting to happen.  And what about plumber's crack?  How do they perform with the constant threat of a (world wide televised) wardrobe malfunction?

There was only one way to find out.  

Delusional because I was high on the Olympic spirit, I shopped for some beach volleyball bikini bottoms.  Because I'm an amateur athlete who performs in bikini bottoms, I'm always looking for another pair.  Preferably ones that make my butt look good.  Because I work my butt off for this butt.  And who doesn't want their butt to look good?  Exactly.  No one.  So, I got on Amazon and put a pair of skimpy skivvies in the cart.  Then I decided this whole thing was a stupid waste of money and decided not to order them.  But, then my husband did some Amazon shopping and ordered everything in the cart.  Including the Asics bikini bottoms I didn't delete from the cart.

Now for the test.

Would they make my butt look good?  And could I dance in them without a wardrobe malfunction? Time to take them for a spin.

And now I know the secret of women athletes everywhere who don't pull wedgies out of their butts. Turns out it's pretty simple.  Be so invested in what you're doing that the last thing you're thinking about is whether or not you have a wedgie.  Just do what you love and wear what makes you feel good when you do.

Monday, August 22, 2016

To the Contrary

Early last week I went to a book marketing presentation at the library.  Since lack of effective marketing is my downfall and the ad promoting it promised time saving strategies, I figured I didn't have anything to lose.  But, to the contrary, it was a time suck of everything I already knew and refused to do.  Focusing mostly on social media and the images writers can use to draw attention to their work.   So, I left during the break feeling satisfied that no marketing is better marketing than disingenuous time sucking marketing.    

So, I got back to work. 

The next day I wrote a blog post on the burkini.  Of course, if I wanted anyone to read my words, I'd need a photograph to accompany my story.  So, I put on my burkini, went out to my backyard with my phone and tripod and took a photo.  Then I reread my post, making sure that the content of my post was both clear and concise.  When I deemed it was, I posted it.  Then linked it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the most passive, time effective marketing tool and also extremely free. Which is pretty much the extent of my massively ineffectual, but cost effective, marketing plan.

Then, suddenly, it seemed like it was starting to work. 

It was my new found confidence in my long standing belief that marketing is bullshit and that I didn't want any part of it, I was sure of it.  But, to the contrary, it was an image that got the attention of the PBS show To The Contrary.  The photo of me in a burkini that caught their interest.  Could they use my image for an upcoming show discussing the ban on the burkini in three French cities?Um....really?  Because, surely, a Muslim woman wearing a burkini at the beach would be a better image to portray the controversy.  This must be some kind of scam.  So I googled the show and their social media.  It wasn't.  

Then, I started to work out how I felt about that.

About how many ways my image on its own without my accompanying words could be misconstrued.  We live in a world where there are some crazy people who have nothing better to do than look for new and exciting ways to be outraged.  Like Gabby Douglas not putting her hand over her heart on the medal stand.  I mean clearly that heinous act is worthy of all the press it's gotten.  (That's clearly written in the sarcasm font if there are any crazies out there reading this.)  My conclusion was that potentially there was something for me to lose, but yet nothing for me to gain by allowing them to use my photo.  So after much contemplation, I replied to them, not expecting to hear anything further from them.  

The problem with our society is that images trump words.
Unless you say something really stupid, of course. 

Wait, did they say they'd post a link to my blog on Twitter?  I'm pretty sure they didn't read my blog post in which I used the term "banana hammock" before making that kind offer.  Because my post is more Comedy Central than PBS. (You can find my post The Great Burkini Debate here.)  But, this would give me exposure for my words.  So, I wrote back agreeing to let them use the photo in exchange for a Twitter link to my writing.  And, just as I expected,  I never heard back from them again.  And they didn't tweet a link to my post.

The next day, the program aired.  But, since my local PBS channel doesn't carry the show, I could only listen via podcast.  Unfettered by whatever visual they ultimately chose to accompany the content of the program.  However,  I didn't find that they got to the crux of the issue.  To the contrary, I found their discussion to be both lackluster and disappointing.  I can only hope that at least one college intern at To The Contrary got to read my blog post and consider whether or not we should be banning banana hammocks (there is a huge invasion of them on the beaches in France after all) instead of burkinis.

This is my brilliant, ineffectual but really cheap marketing plan hard at work.  Getting me nowhere, but like really, really fast.

Also, To The Contrary should actually be To the Contrary.  So, who got the last word now?

You can listen to the To The Contrary podcast discussing burkinis here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Great Burkini Debate

I'm sure you've heard the debate about burkinis in the news recently.  This modest swim attire has been banned on the beaches of three cities in France for being a "symbol of Islamic extremism".  Are you effing kidding me?  Look, I get that France is reeling from the recent tragedies there.  But, this is downright Islamophobic.  Not to mention sexist.  And what the hell did the burkini ever do to you anyway?

I happen to be the owner of a burkini I bought while I was living in Morocco.  (You can read the story of how I purchased my burkini  here.)  No, I wasn't required to wear a burkini as a foreigner.  Neither are Moroccan women.  All women in Morocco have the freedom to wear whatever they choose to on the beach or anywhere else.  Personally, when I'm on the beach, I wear a bikini.  Mostly because I have such a long torso a one piece bathing suit becomes a thong on me.  Sure, sometimes I got looks, but it's not as if women on Daytona Beach don't get ogled even with most of the female population wearing a bikini.  And it's not as if you won't get leered at in a burkini.  Also, it's not as if women don't check out men in their swimtrunks or a wetsuit either.  Cause we do.  This is how the world works and why we've got over 7 billion people in it.

But no one dictates how a man dresses.
Though I personally think banana hammocks should be banned.
Sometimes less is just way less appealing.

But wait, isn't the burkini an oppressive sexist symbol?  (See what I did there?)  If some misogynistic regime forces you to wear a burkini, that's sexist.  If a woman wears one because they don't want to shave, wear sunscreen, expose their cellulite, stretch marks or their tampon string because of modesty (religious or otherwise) but still kinda wanna look like a badass ninja Bond girl, that's a choice.  You're starting to see the appeal aren't you? If Islamophobes force women not to wear burkinis, that's also sexist.

Banning burkinis is about misplaced fear.  Which there's far too much of in the increasingly reactionary world we live in.  We're too quick to hate what we don't understand.  Like why grown men and women would use filters to make themselves look like cartoon cats on Snapchat.  Or why anyone would purposefully make themselves orange.  Or a huge hateful, racist misogynist. But, that's their choice (within the letter of the law, of course).  You can't legislate people out of fear or hate.  But, legislating using fear and hate only proliferates what's already wrong in the world.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Confessions of a Socially Anxious Person

My name is Marie and I’m one of 15 million Americans who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder. The mere thought of social situations infused with forced small talk jump starts my heart with erratic palpitations causing my palms to sweat.  Then I get the cold sweats all over and my head starts to swirl with all the possible faux pas I could possibly commit at said social event.  Which starts with the likely, flows into the moderately plausible and doesn’t stop until I’ve reached the irrationally absurd.

I’m an introvert’s introvert.

I know it’s ridiculous. I want to stop. I try all the time. But, the more I try to stop it, the more I obsess over it.  Every minute detail. Of nearly every human interaction. Unless you happen to be in my extremely small social circle. Consisting of my immediate family and a handful of close friends.  In which case, I will only mildly obsess about things I say or don’t say. Because I guess I’m a bit callous with the ones I love.  

I’m constantly worried that I’ll offend people or slight them in some way. Either on a minuscule or monumental scale. It doesn’t really matter which, because both plague me about the same. Which is why I try to avoid as many social situations as possible. But they aren’t all avoidable. Because there are people everywhere!

I have strategies for the everyday events that could turn social at any moment.  I grocery shop in the early morning to beat the crowds and use the self check out to avoid exchanging pleasantries with the cashier, which I find excruciatingly unpleasant. I usually have a paperback book in my purse which can be used as a shield  from potential interaction should I need to wait at the pharmacy or anywhere else. If I forget my book, I always have my phone as a backup plan. 

If I can’t somehow get out of going to an event with my arsenal of excuses, I’ll show up first, rationalizing that this allows me to leave first.  If at all possible, I will leave the party without telling anyone, disappearing into thin air.  This is after spending most of my time in a quiet corner on the periphery of the action petting a dog if there is one. However, a cat is also an acceptable alternative. Maybe even better, because I’m allergic to cats, giving me a completely valid and socially acceptable excuse to leave early.

Social media, the introvert’s playground, isn’t much better for me.  I’m far more retroactive, questioning everything I’ve ever typed, than interactive. I constantly edit, revise and delete things.  Because putting things in print only opens things up for misinterpretation.  Plus, the words last forever somewhere out there in cyberspace.  And I can’t join your on-line group even if I wanted to, because I’m only going to screw it up and make everything uncomfortable by being a voyeuristic wallflower.  And this is in print even, which is my medium.  Making me completely antisocial even on social media.

Even with years of honed avoidance skills, there are times when conversing with real live humans in real time is inescapable. Where conversation is imminent. Forcing me to attempt to form cohesive sentences that convey precisely what I mean in a timely manner. Which doesn’t work well for me at all because I’m a slow thinker who likes to hand select meaningful words. Often a thesaurus is required.  And lots of alone time to compose my thoughts.  This, of course, is not conducive to conversations. Which is why I prefer to communicate in writing whenever possible. (Please reread above paragraph on how uncomfortable that is.) 

Conversations require both excellent listening skills and well timed reactions. And while I’m a keen observer, I often have a hard time actually listening during a conversation because I often get distracted trying to come up with a quick, appropriate and relevant response.  Long after the conversation is over, I’ll dwell on what I said or didn’t.  That’s also precisely when I’ll find just the right words that I should’ve said. But as I’ve discovered, some of the best responses are actually non-verbal.  Open body language, gestures and facial expressions.  Which I’m not particularly good at either.  Probably because they reveal too much and I’m constantly trying to rein them in.  Sending conflicting signals making me appear even awkwardly aloof.  

I invariably feel like a fraud pretending to be normal.  Trying to conceal that my gut is churning and that my fight or flight response has kicked in.  That I may need a bathroom in the most urgent way because of it. Because Irritable Bowel Syndrome often accompanies social anxiety. Which is probably the most mortifyingly embarrassing part, worrying that I, a grown woman, will shit my pants in public. This is always part of my worst case scenario pre-event anguish. Especially if I just ate some spicy Mexican or Thai food.  So basically, all the time.

Although I feel completely transparent socially, like everyone can see my inner turmoil and what a complete freak I am, I’ve been told the opposite. That I come across as calm and composed. Which is kinda like winning the Oscar for best actor. Except that I’m a bit conflicted about that. Of course I want to make my social interactions look effortless to make the people I’m talking with comfortable.  But, sometimes I want people to know the immense effort I put into making it look effortless. Because to everyone else, it’s invisible.  

Except that it’s not. Because social anxiety is the most common anxiety disorder and the third most common mental disorder after depression and alcohol dependence in the U.S. So, while I’m consumed with my own anxiety, it’s likely the person I’m talking to knows exactly what it’s like because they’re coping with it too. Though my social anxiety makes me feel isolated, it turns out I’m actually part of a quite large, albeit, quiet group. And talking isn’t even a prerequisite at all.  

So, let's not get together and form a self help group, ok?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Camping World

If you're a regular around here, you've probably read some of my camping posts.  And you're probably wondering how I could write anything else about the subject.  How could this camping experience possibly be different than others?  Well, camping is kinda like snowflakes like that.  Except way less pretty and a lot more stinky.  Plus, this time we have houseguests with us for two weeks.  Craig's brother and family of five.  From Florida.  And they went camping with us for the first time ever.  But, this post isn't about that.

It's about taking matters into your own hands.
And making the world a better place.
By conquering camp stank. 

The last time I went camping I blogged about how you could use a Bota Box bladder to make a camp shower.  Of course, it was just an idea, I hadn't tried and tested it.  And since we were camping with 11 people instead of our usual 6, crammed onto one shared tent pad, it seems like a greater chance for world peace to result from annihilating the enemy; B.O.  That's why I decided to be part of the solution.  To banish camp stank on the cheap with my MacGyvered prototype of the DIY Bota Box Bladder Camp Shower.  

Step 1:  Drink subpar Bota Box wine cause camping.

Step 2:  Rinse & fill bladder with water.

Step 3:  Hang in the sun to warm.

Step 4:  Watch for the Camp Host so you don't get busted for using campground water for a shower.

Step 5:  Shower looking over your shoulder for Camp Host while getting environmentally friendly peppermint soap in your eye which causes it to sting.  (What's good for the environment isn't "tear free" apparently.)

Step 6:  Flaunt your clean hair by wearing it down and urging other campers to smell it until they are filled with envy by your practicality.

Caution:  Envy may or may not lead to world peace, but who cares, you're clean!  


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