Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Reasons Why Being Single Is Just The Greatest Thing Ever And Ever, Amen. Infinity. For Real.

Being single is underrated. Sure, there are moments of loneliness that settle in every now and then, but at times like that I chose to focus on the things that are really super amazing and awesome about being single.

1) The Whole Not Getting Knocked Up Thing: Guess what, kids? Turns out the Catholic Church was right, abstinence really IS the best way to avoid pregnancy (unless you're the Virgin Mary)! This has also proved to be cost-effective, since there are few things I love to do more than take expensive pregnancy tests after I've been within five feet of a real, live man. So thank you, men, for staying away and thereby providing me with free birth control.

2) Abandoning The Two Forks Lie: I'm a sweets girl. Put chocolate on just about anything and I will order it off the menu. So the last thing I want to do when I've just ordered something called Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love is share. I DON'T WANT TWO FORKS. I want to eat ALL of the Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love myself. If not now, then I want to take it home and sneak-eat it at 3 in the morning by the light of the refrigerator like the normal woman that I am. But that's like 20th date behavior. There's a certain level of intimacy I need to have with a man before I'm comfortable reaching across the table and biting his hand when he tries to get near my Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love. Being single means I don't have to pretend that I'm down with him wanting to get two forks so we can share. The Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love is ALL MINE, MOTHERFUCKER.

3) Accepting That My Digestive System Exists: There are few worse things about dating than reaching that inevitable point in the relationship where you're spending so much time together that you can no longer hide the fact that you are a human and, as such, have a digestive system that, if it functions normally, will demand to be reckoned with. In other words, YOU CAN'T HOLD IT FOREVER. Eventually, your body is going to be like, "Look, we get that you like this guy and you'd rather wait until he has gone home or until the middle of the night when you're sure he's asleep so you can go use the downstairs bathroom without worrying that he'll wake up and be all on to you, but here's the thing...you've been holding it for 3 days now. We tried to warn you last night with that whole fart-in-your-sleep-and-wake-you-up-thing. But here you are, still trying to talk yourself out of it. Cut the shit, sister. Everyone poops. Now get to it already before we make you VERY sorry. We have ways of doing that. You don't even want to know." As a single woman, however, I don't have such problems. My body says, "Hey!" and I'm all, "Oh, right, okay" and that's it, the beautiful dance happens seamlessly, wherein I eat all of the Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death and my body properly digests it. That is called harmony. And it is good.

4) I Always Control The TV: Sometimes I just want to sit and watch a re-run of Grey's Anatomy from back when it was good. Especially if it's the one where Denny dies and Izzy is crying in her pink dress and everything is all Snow Patroly. OR if it's the one where George dies and the way you know he dies is because Izzy is being resuscitated and then she's all pretty and getting on the elevator in that pink dress and you're thinking that's a bummer, Izzy is dead right now, and then the elevator doors open and OH. SHIT. IT'S. GEORGE. In his Army uniform. Oh my God. So, sometimes I want to just sit and watch that and cry a lot and not have to worry that someone is sitting on the couch next to me sneaking a peek to see if I'm crying because OF COURSE I AM. It's practically Pavlovian; if Izzy's in the pink dress then bad things are happening and crying will commence immediately. Being single means I don't ever have to watch football. Instead, I can watch people die on TV. You might just have to take my word for it that this is better. But it is. I swear.  

5) No Pressure To Cook Anything Fancier Than Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: My friend Karen and I used to say that we were going to write a cookbook called "How To Bake A Potato" because this was the kind of lame stuff that, when were both first married and realizing that cooking at home was a lot cheaper than getting Papa Gino's pizza every night, we had to look up. But then the internet came along and sort of shit all over that plan, so thanks for THAT, Al Gore. Eventually I learned how to cook well enough to sustain two small humans and not cause heart disease or food poisoning in my ex-husband or myself. Now the men I cook for are 8 and 10, so the general consensus is that if you can dip it in ranch and/or ketchup, then it's good eats. If I were dating, I'd most likely be whipping out the GOOD recipes once I found a guy worthy of my spending 3 hours in the kitchen for a meal that takes all day to cook, dirties every pot and pan I own, and takes all of 15 minutes to eat. But until then, it's grilled cheese.

Cut diagonally if I'm feeling all fancy and shit.


Friday, February 28, 2014

two in the morning

It's two in the morning. I can't sleep.

I never get up at night. I've lain awake staring at the ceiling all night long and not gotten up. But my mind won't stop racing. My heart won't stop clanging around in my chest. My plate is full and there are many problems that need solutions, solutions that can't be worked through in a single night. I tell myself this, but I don't listen.

So I get up. I go down the stairs. The third step creaks.

Just as I knew it would.

Just as it always has.

The living room looks strange in the dark and I feel almost as if I'm intruding. You're not supposed to be here, it's saying. Back to bed with you. Go.   

One year ago, two years ago, this night would have been different. I would have come downstairs and felt cold and alone and probably sat in the dark and cried. Sometimes I still feel the cold. A lot of times, I do feel alone. And I will cry whenever I need to.

But it's all different now.

I'm no longer afraid that the cold is going to seep into my bones and settle in so deeply that I never feel warm again. I'm no longer afraid of the vacuum that is the empty side of the bed, that it might slide up and press against me, wrap its arms seductively around me and then swallow me whole. I'm no longer afraid that I might kneel on the floor and cry out my heart, my soul, my tumor, my hope, my passion, my disappointment, my words, my anger, my music, my funny, my body, my life, my love, my love, my love, until I'm drowning in all of those tears.

Now, I know how to warm myself when I'm cold.
Now, I know how to stretch out into the empty side of the bed.
Now, I know how to swim.

Now I lie on the couch and look around at the dark living room. Soon this won't be my living room anymore. It will belong to someone else. Strangers will watch their TV and read their books and drink their wine and kiss their lovers and talk on their phones in my living room. But it's okay. Because I will be watching and reading and drinking and kissing and talking in a new living room, too. This is all okay. I don't like it. But it's all okay.

There are white Christmas lights outlining the windows and I wonder for a moment if I should plug them in. Long after the ornaments had been put away, the tree dragged to the curb, the needles vacuumed up, the lights remained. They make everything feel softer, sweeter, younger. They are romantic and silly, but I plug them in on nights that my sons aren't here. Because I don't want to ever stop feeling romantic and silly. Not even when it's two in the morning and I have a full plate of problems, each begging for a solution.

I opt not to plug in the lights.

Because I'm not afraid to sit alone in the dark.

I'm not afraid.




Monday, January 20, 2014

"Touch Me, Take Me to That Other Place..."

People need to be touched.

When our babies are born, we pull them up to our chests, their little hearts beating against ours, their skin against ours, their warmth entangled with our own. When we feel compassion for friends or family members, we reach out and touch their hand or pull them in for a hug. When we are in the various stages of falling in, or being in, love, we rest our heads on chests and drape our hands over knees. We wrap our arms around waists, we nuzzle into necks, we trace our fingertips gently along the lines of a body because we crave to be closer, closer, ever closer.

We need to be touched.

I sat in my best friend's kitchen one cold, gray day not long after my father died. She was cutting my hair, snipping away until she had finished. She dried it. And then she styled it, brushing it this way, fluffing it that way, smoothing it down. Tears streamed down my face as she did. It had been so long since I had been touched by someone who wasn't one of my squirming sons that I had forgotten what it felt like. Or just how much I missed it. My loneliness, my sadness, my longing, it streamed down my face.

Because she had touched my hair.

In the days between discovering the brain tumor and the surgery to remove it, my home was filled with friends and family. People I hadn't seen in years came to see me, wished me well. My living room, my kitchen, my dining room, they were full of people who brought me food, brought me magazines, brought me flowers, brought me toilet paper, brought me love.

But at night, the house was empty and still. And the very thing that was keeping me going during the day, this sense of strength that I had discovered, this certainty that I had everything I could possibly need in my life, even without a man, would crumble in the dark as I longed to be touched. Not in a sexual way. I wanted to be taken care of, to be comforted, to be held.

To surrender.

Just for a bit. Just until morning.

The last thing I saw before my surgery was my hand as they injected medication into the IV.  How many people had I touched, comforted, connected to with that hand? How many people had held that hand within their own?

I was staring at my hand, offering up gratitude for my life, for all the things I had done and felt and for the people I had loved.

For the people I had touched. For the ones who had touched me.

Because people...people need to be touched.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Virgin Mary's Birth Plan

The Virgin Mary's Birth Plan:

-If a birthing ball is not available, I would like to labor while riding a donkey.

-If the baby and I are healthy, I would like to have a manger birth.

-I would like to have an unmedicated birth. (Unless the child's father, God, decides to intervene and take the pain away. Which would be nice. Since I'm doing Him a big solid here, what with the whole pregnancy-without-sex thing, which really gets people talking, by the way. I'm just saying...a little Divine Intervention would be nice.)

-I would like music during my labor and delivery. If angels do not appear to provide musical accompaniment, I will bring my favorite Enya cd.

-The following people are allowed in the manger during labor and delivery: Joseph (life partner), Wise Men (no more than 3), shepherds (no more than 3), and various barnyard animals.

-The following people are not allowed in the manger during labor and delivery: Innkeeper

-I will be exclusively breastfeeding. Please do not give my baby any bottles or pacifiers so as to avoid nipple confusion.

-Please do not allow barnyard animals to eat my baby.







Friday, December 6, 2013

A Letter To Santa Claus, From The Committee For Elf Welfare (Internal Affairs Division) Re: Immediate Suspension of The Elf On A Shelf Program

Dear Mr. Santa Claus,

We are writing today to express our concerns regarding your Elf On A Shelf program.

As you know, the Elf On A Shelf initiative was a fundamental component of the 2009 Creative Recessionary Elf Employment Program (or CREEP), an effort launched by this committee in order to minimize the effects of the Great Recession upon the North Pole's economy. We have always believed that the key to maintaining strong North Pole economic growth lies in ensuring that our elves have ample employment opportunity.

Initial implementation of the program was anticipated to be successful: elves who were ineligible for positions as toy makers, reindeer handlers, Keeblerian cookie bakers, or cobbler assistants, would be assigned to a household with children. The elf would observe the behavior of those children and report back nightly as to whether the child should be placed on The Nice List or The Naughty List. Enthusiasm for this program was high, as it had the potential to not only open up job opportunities for otherwise unemployable elves, but to also ensure workshop operations could be most efficiently utilized, as toy production could be tailored to appropriately reflect a child's most current Naughty/Nice List status.

However, now that the program has been in place for a few years, it has come to our attention that the elves involved are spending less time observing the behavior of children and more time engaging in activity that we find troubling.

The committee recognizes that you, Mr. Claus, are a very busy man. Given your hectic schedule, we understand that perusing social media sites may not generally be a productive use of your time. However, we believe that if you take a few moments to log onto Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, you will find ample evidence of the inappropriate behavior a number of the Elf On A Shelf employees are engaging in.

For instance, we have seen photographic evidence of elves ingesting illicit drugs, consuming alcoholic beverages, destroying personal property, and engaging in inappropriate sexual activity with Barbie dolls. Each of these offenses, as documented, has occurred during work hours and within the home of the elf's assigned family.

This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated. Not only does it inflict serious damage upon the positive image and credibility of North Pole elves, but our legal team  has advised that any litigation resulting from such elf misconduct could take years to resolve and  have far-reaching economic consequences.

Therefore, it is our recommendation that the Elf On A Shelf program be suspended immediately and all guilty elves be placed on the Naughty List indefinitely.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Warmly,

The Committee For Elf Welfare
Internal Affairs Division

Friday, November 22, 2013

Losing Santa

It started with the Tooth Fairy.

"I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy," my oldest said when he was 8. "I think it's just your parents."

He was watching me as he spoke and I could hear the question lurking behind his statement.

I looked everywhere but at him. "Well," I began, unsure exactly what to say next. I was willing to throw the Tooth Fairy under the bus, to strip her of her magical powers and own up, if I knew it would satisfy him. But I feared the avalanche of scrutiny outting her would spark.

Before I could decide how best to respond, he asked me flat out, "Is the Tooth Fairy real?"

Once he asked me directly, I could not lie. I gave up the Tooth Fairy.

And then I hauled ass out of his room before the flames of doubt could spread to Santa.

But just a month before Christmas, he went to his dad and asked the big question. And his dad was honest.

He waited until one night, right before bed, to break the news to me. I was prattling on about Christmas when he finally said, "Mom, I know Santa's not real. Dad told me it's you guys."

My heart broke.

I knew, at some point, this day would come, that eventually my boys would get older and no longer believe. But I wasn't ready for it at 8. I wasn't ready for this shred of innocence to be stripped away. They have the rest of their lives to question, to analyze, to sit with the reality of life.

I want them to be critical thinkers.

But I also want them to be believers, to be able to shake off logic now and then and simply bask in the wonder, beauty, and magic of feeling something.

While they are little boys, that means the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

When they are men, I hope that will mean love, humanity, and life itself.

And even magic.

Because we all need a little magic in our lives.

No matter how old we are. 



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Let Me Down Gently

"Bye, Mom," my son says suddenly, because he is 8 and doesn't yet know that you don't just end a phone call so abruptly. You ease into it. Let me down gently, little boy.

"Wait," I say before he can hang up. "Last night I found one of your hippos in my bed."

"I know," he says matter-of-factly. "I left it there for you."

"For me?" I'm touched.

"Yeah," he says. "I don't need it anymore."

"Oh," I say.

Oh.

*     *     *     *     *

Originally, there was only one hippo. It sat in the corner of his crib, unnoticed, until the middle of one night when I stood outside of his room debating going in and just FINDING THE DAMN PACIFIER FOR HIM so that we could all sleep. But after a few minutes, he grew quiet. The next morning, he was holding the hippo close and chewing on its ear. The pacifier had been replaced by something he could find HIMSELF in the middle of the night.

Score.

However, even as his first birthday came and went, my son had terrible reflux, which meant there was not a single item belonging to either him or me that had not, at one time, been bathed in spit up.

So I ordered a back-up hippo. For when the primary hippo needed to be washed.

The second hippo was stashed in my closet, and the rule was that the primary hippo stayed in the crib (with an exception made for getting shots because everyone knows that rules don't count when you're getting shots).

This worked out well until I took a job working weekends. My very first day of work, I came home to find my son sitting on the living room floor with both hippos next to him.

"Buppos!" he giggled, holding them both out to me as if to say, "Can you even believe how much MORE awesome life is with TWO hippos, Mama?"

My husband shrugged. "He saw the other hippo in the closet."

So I ordered a third hippo.

"Buppos," my son would grin, stuffing the ear of one into his mouth and tucking the other under his arm while I gagged at the thought of chewing on cloth.

"Buppos," he would say quietly, settling onto my lap and into the crook of my arm in his warm, fuzzy footed pajamas as I read him bedtime stories and sang to him.

"Buppos," he would cry, his cheeks flush with fever as I tried to explain that we had only one hippo right now, that the other two were in the wash because he had thrown up all over them.

They were his buppos until, one day, they weren't. He called them hippos.

"Oh," I thought.

Oh.

*     *     *     *     *
 
A few days after leaving his hippo for me, he pulls me upstairs and climbs onto my bed, this big boy who is 8 and now has opinions about his hair and his clothes, who plays sports and asks me if it's true that grown ups use their tongues when they kiss. It's a beautiful thing, watching him get big, watching him become himself.

But it's a painful thing, too. I'm rarely Mama anymore. One day, when I wasn't even paying attention, I morphed into Mom.

How long before he stops wanting to sleep in my bed when he's scared? 
How long before he stops letting me pull him onto my lap? 
How long before he stops kissing me goodnight?

He has scooted over to the far side of the bed, the side I don't sleep on. He looks up at me.

"Mom," he says. "Can you get my hippos?"

I get him the hippos and climb onto the bed. He snuggles in, quiet for a bit, and I lie there smelling his sweet head.

Finally, he says, "I missed you in the summer. And I was sad because I didn't have my hippos that first night."

What this means, what he doesn't know how to say because he is only 8, but what I hear because I am 38 and because I know him like no one else on this earth does, is:

One day you were supposed to pick me up from school and you didn't. And then you were gone and nothing's been the same since. Tell me you'll be here when I come home from school. Tell me you won't go again. 

I pull him close. I tell him that I was sad when I couldn't come home the night I found out about the brain tumor. I tell him that I talked to his dad first thing the next morning and we made our plan to get him the hippos. I tell him that I missed him every day, but that I knew things would be normal again eventually. Or, almost normal.

The grown ups are in charge. And I was never really gone because nothing could keep me away.   

"Okay," he says, and he hops off the bed and goes back downstairs to play with his brother.

He takes the hippos with him.

Because he is 8 and doesn't yet know that you don't just get big so abruptly.

You ease into it.


Let me down gently, little boy.