I’m not sorry

Growing up, I had a great uncle who was a millionaire. He lived out of state and we only saw him every few years, so this relationship generally translated to terrifying dinners at restaurants without children’s menus and occasional dog-sitting for his two full-sized poodles, Spike and Spikeson, while he and my grandmother went for a swim in the hotel pool.

I honestly have no idea where my parents were during these dog-sitting rendezvouses—I can’t really imagine my grandma and great uncle willingly being like, “For sure, we would love to have this awkward pre-teen hang around while we catch up after years apart!” Chances are, I forced myself upon them, because I found my Uncle Jim super glamorous, not so much because of his money, but because he had written and published a book. It was a book about business, and it was self-published, but dammit, he was an author, which was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Along with the lead singer of The Bangles. And also Jem.

It was during one of these outings to the hotel that I remember having a very short conversation with Uncle Jim. I can’t even really remember what it was about, but I do remember him saying “You can’t make everyone happy all the time.”

To which I responded, with great dignity, “No. But I can try.

And I did. Try, I mean. I actually completely failed at the making everyone happy part. But no one can say I didn’t try.

I don’t know why or how I turned into such a people pleaser. I do enjoy making other people happy, but I also love basking in the knowledge that, for the most part, I am universally well liked. (There is, I should point out, about 10% of the population that has a violent reaction of hatred toward me, which I can’t really explain. Is it my awesomeness? Or do they just have the ability to see through my bullshit?) I feel confident that if I died right now, my tombstone would read “I liked her, she was nice.”

But trying to make everybody happy means often neglecting your own happiness, it turns out—a lesson I learned the same night as the conversation at the hotel, when, in an effort to impress my uncle, I ate a cow’s pancreas and nearly had a mental breakdown over its awfulness. It was a scene that would play out again and again during the course of my life, though usually with less pancreas. Other people’s happiness became what made me happy.

So for now, I’m going to try an experiment—I’m going to try to find out what actually makes me happy. I suspect it might be copious amounts of television and pizza? It’s definitely not pancreas. But whatever it is, I want to find it, and I want to worry less about whether what I’m doing is making other people happy.

(–she said, while secretly worrying that everyone was going to be offended when they read this, and assume it was about them, because that’s what she would do. But then she remembered that creepy Madonna video where she was covered in latex and wearing cornrows for some reason? And she allowed it to be her new anthem. For now. Along with “Milkshake,” by Kelis.)

Stitch Fix Fever

Except for the fox shoes incident, I have never really considered myself a fashionable person. I mean, I have definitely upgraded from my college days, when I routinely wore second-hand bowling shirts and my mother actually wrote a letter to my college paper, in which I had a column, begging the editors to help me find a way to be more stylish.

In the end, it was not the kindly but ultimately also sartorially-challenged staff of the Ashland University Collegian (listen, it was the late ’90s, mistakes were made by all) but my desire not to die alone, probably under a heap of used local softball team shirts, that caused me to update my style. Finally capturing and ultimately maintaining a boyfriend kept me mindful of my clothing choices, as I didn’t figure Ben would want to be seen in public with me in a pair of overalls and a hand-lettered T-shirt reading I CONQUERED THE BEAST OF INJUSTICE (I still have that t-shirt, actually, it’s pretty awesome).

But lately I’ve been feeling kind of blah, both inside and out, and it feels as though a makeover is in order. A haircut is basically out of the question, because when you have naturally curly hair, the only two options available to you are Long Insane Hair, or Pube-y Felicity Hair. So I am turning to Stitch Fix to see if I can breathe some much-needed life into my sad wardrobe.

In order to really connect with your Stitch Fix stylist, they ask you to take a good hard look at the clothes you have now, and ask you to pin clothes you would be interested in trying to your Pinterest wall. Up until now, I have used Pinterest only to find cross-stitch alphabets in which to write pithy sayings (my Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems cross-stitch is amazing), so I basically had to start at the beginning. So far, this is what I’ve learned:

  1. I have a lot of gray clothes. Like, a lot. Because apparently my subconscious wants to dress me up as an elephant. That’s a shit move, subconscious.
  2. I also have far too many of the following items:
    1. Striped shirts (I am an elephant pirate, apparently)
    2. Polka-dotted shirts
  3. I am currently a big fan of shirts with tiny prints of animals on them. Birds, rabbits, horses, I have them all. And I don’t plan on stopping until I become the twee manic pixie dream girl I have always imagined myself to be, even though manic pixie dream girls rarely work in insurance
  4. When all compiled together on a Pinterest board, it becomes apparent that my aesthetic is 1940’s Librarian
  5. I am all about the new tunic-and-leggings trend, as from the knees down, I have the body of a supermodel

My first Fix is scheduled to arrive on Saturday, so I’ll follow up with a review. I just assembled my pin board today, in a fit of ennui brought on by my umpteenth day in jeans and a polka-dotted sweater, so it might be too late for my stylist to use it when choosing my first fix. If she has to go by my initial profile alone, all she knows is that it is imperative that my bra straps not show in any shirts she sends, because apparently I was very concerned about that the day I set up my profile.

So if you see me wearing a bunch of gray striped turtlenecks over the next few days, you’ll know what happened.

The rolling garbage heap

I came to grips a long time ago with the fact that I’m not the kind of person who takes good care of her things. I don’t waterproof my boots or Scotchguard my furniture; the Dry Clean Only tag inside my shirts might as well just read “Wear Until Too Smelly Then Bury In Closet In Shame Forever.” For this reason, I never really spring for the expensive stuff—I had a Coach purse once that gave me extreme anxiety whenever I carried it, terrified that if I breathed on it the wrong way it would spontaneously disintegrate leaving behind a sad pile of sunglasses and Chick-Fil-A receipts that I would have to carry home in a Giant Eagle bag.

But no matter how frugal you are with your clothes and accessories, it’s basically impossible to cheap out on a car, so I have always tried to keep mine relatively tidy. I was never the type to spend hours detailing the inside with Q-Tips or anything, but I kept the dashboard clean, the carpets vacuumed. Sometimes I might have a dangly novelty air freshener in there to spruce the place up a bit. No one was ever super impressed by the inside of my car, but no one ever recoiled in horror.

Until I had kids.

Now, my car is basically a rolling garbage heap. There are gummies worked so deeply into the fibers of my floor mats that they have now officially logged more miles than the car’s previous owners. The floors are littered with French fries, Lego pieces, board books that literally no one ever wants to read until you dare to throw them away, at which point they are rescued from the donate pile and taken into the car to peruse once, and then you just escort them to and from your every destination for the rest of your life.  I tried adding a toy cubby between the car seats to hold it all, but that just served as a delightful dumping tool slash kooky hat.

To make matters worse, I made the rookie mistake of letting my children eat and drink in the car, leading to milk spills and the incorporeal funk that accompanies them after they inevitably spoil. In the summer months, my car routinely smells like the cow barn at the county fair, all earthy shit and rotten milk.

I try to fight back every few weeks, cleaning out all the old detritus and sadly wiping things down, but before I even manage to make it to the grocery store and back, a new unsharpened pencil, doll hat and copy of Ten Apples Up On Top materializes out of nowhere. Thankfully, the two car seats in the back mean I can basically never drive any other adults anywhere, but I live in fear of the impromptu work lunch where someone asks “can I just grab a ride with you?” NOT UNLESS YOU’RE WILLING TO SPEND TIME IN THE MOUTH OF HELL, LADY! Don’t mind the Goldfish crumbs.

When we finally get a new car, I’m thinking I’ll be smarter about it—no more food or drink, no more than one toy per rider. Or I may just ban the kids altogether and make them walk. I mean, we’re always getting on our kids to get more exercise, right? And besides, then maybe they’d finally stop wanting to bring that Rock Band drum set with them everywhere they went if they knew they had to carry it.

Inside Edition: Bathtime

You know those adorable photos that every parent takes of their child or children in the bathtub, sporting a bubble beard and Cindy-Lou Who pointed hairdo? They give you the impression that bathtime is a time of great joy in any household, all golden light and laughter and cleanliness. But you know what? Those pictures perpetuate a pack of lies.

What the pictures don’t tell you is that immediately beforehand, the children in question spent ten minutes doing cannonballs into the cramped tub, threatening life, limb, and the integrity of your tile floor. They also fail to mention that one or both children will almost immediately pee into the bathwater as soon as they get in, a fact that they will proudly announce, and you will wish they hadn’t, because if you hadn’t physically known the pee was there, you wouldn’t have had any qualms about washing them with it. But instead, you have to drain the tub, leaving you with cold, angry, soapy, urine-dipped children who exact their revenge in the form of liberal pants-soakings as soon as you try to wash them.

I have tried everything to cut these things off at the pass. I have even gone so far as to bathe my children while basically naked, just to avoid the disgusting feeling of wet leggings and socks after my fifth consecutive tsunami of soapy bathtub cannonball water. But somehow, they always get me. Whether it’s a run-of-the-mill splashing, or the unceremonious dumping of an entire bottle of conditioner into the bathwater, or, once, a piece of installation art that required the use of every single one of my clean washcloths, pasted to the shower wall with toothpaste, bathtime never fails to serve as a harrowing reminder of my mortality.

Even the mere act of coercing my children into the bathtub must be on par with the talents of some of our nation’s top hostage negotiators. There is much begging, pleading, bargaining and threatening required to get them into the tub, and even more to get them out again. Generally, by the end of bath night, I find myself with a soaked bathroom floor, no towels to spare, and the enviable task of needing to arrange for Justin Bieber to play a concert in my backyard. With ponies.

Now, it’s true that when they finally emerge from the bathtub, smelling all good and looking so clean, they are basically at peak cuddliness, particularly when wrapped in their hooded owl or dinosaur towels. I love making little comb lines in their hair, and wrapping them up all tight in their towels and hustling them into their little pajamas. Maybe that’s the moment you’re trying to capture when you take that bathtime pic– that little bit of peace and comfort that comes with a clean kid. Which lasts exactly as long as it takes for you to slip on the giant puddle they leave on the bathroom floor, cursing society for requiring cleanliness and reminding yourself to invest in dry shampoo and baby wipes.

Wait For It

It should surprise exactly no people that in high school, I was a big musical theater nerd. I’m talking Life Transformed By a Regional Production of Les Miserables, Holding a Cassette Recorder Up to my TV to Capture Songs From the Movie Version of 1776 Because I Shockingly Couldn’t Find the Soundtrack at Camelot Records level nerd. The first CD I ever owned was Highlights From the Phantom of the Opera.

Sadly, I appeared in only a few shows before my dream of basking in the footlights of Broadway was cut short by a director who informed me, after I asked why I had been placed behind the scenery to sing in most scenes, that I was “not thin enough and not pretty enough” to make it in theater. This is definitely something a sixteen-year-old girl needs to hear from a trusted adult at some point during her life, so I very gratefully took her constructive criticism and retired from theater, while beginning an active career as a writer of bitter, rhyming poetry.

But my love of musical theater stayed with me even if I was too fat and ugly to actually participate in it, and even now, I find myself geeking out over new shows and choosing which part I would play if I happened to find myself in attendance at show where the character of my choosing were to suddenly be overcome with explosive diarrhea.

My current obsession is Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop bio of the life of Alexander Hamilton. Every song in the show is genius, and thanks to Kanye West, I have secret ninja rap skills that make me perfect for it. One would think that I would want to play Alexander Hamilton, but my loyalties lie with Aaron Burr, because his character is more complex and nuanced, and also I have a freakishly low Darth Vader voice and Hamilton’s part is too high for me.

In fact, my part of choice is almost always the villain in any given show– Judas kills it (both literally and figuratively) in both Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, and Rizzo is far superior to Sandy in Grease. Aaron Burr literally murders Alexander Hamilton on-stage, and I think you’re not supposed to like him for that? But I’m just like, damn, dude, I’d murder someone, too, if I got to sing “Wait For It.”

Unfortunately, Hamilton is still only on Broadway, and tickets cost more than my wedding, so it’s unlikely that I’ll get to make my debut as Aaron Burr anytime soon. I am offering on-demand performances in my car on I-90 most mornings, if anyone cares to drop by. And when the national tour finally makes it to Cleveland, I will be strategically situated in the front row with a three-day-old burrito in my purse to offer Aaron Burr before the show starts. Just in case.

Let’s all stop for a minute and admire my senior picture

You guys, the world is full of strife and hardship. Our political system is broken; student loan debt is crushing an entire generation; many people are unable to afford to live on the wages they are being paid.

I would like to do something to help, but I don’t know what. I am only one woman, I say, head in hands. What kind of change can I affect that will make a lasting impact on society.

Honestly, the answer is probably none. Except to give everyone the gift of my 1997 senior picture:

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My junior and senior years of high school, I worked at the Aurora Public Library as a page, which meant my job was reshelving books and desperately trying not to notice my classmates making out in the stacks. A few of the librarians had children who were in my graduating class, so when they gave me the name of the photographer they were using for their student photos, I accepted it blindly. What could go wrong at a place called Bear’s Photosorcery?

Bear, it turned out, made his living primarily by photographing bikers. Sure, he had the standard Lean Jauntily Against This Pole With Your Letter Jacket Thrown Casually Over Your Shoulder set, and the It’s Just Me, Chillin’ On Some Steps set. But he also had a real, taxidermied lioness. And I have no idea how anyone could pass up the chance to be photographed with a dead lion, so I went for it.

There are just so many things that make this picture great. The dead lion, of course. But also the white knit pants with sewn-in pleats and cuffs. The disembodied floating head. The plastic toddler barrette nestled comfortably in the floss-like cocoon of my hair. The smirk that radiates, even now, nearly twenty years later, the obvious knowledge that I look super badass.

Sadly, when it came time to submit the photo that actually went into the yearbook, full body shots were not permitted, so I had to go with something more conventional and less dead lion-y. But you can bet that when it came time to choose the prints that would be passed out, trading card style, to all of my classmates, this is the one I chose.

I can only hope that every once in awhile, a member of the Aurora High School graduating class of 1997 stumbles upon this bad boy and marvels at its awesomeness. And now I share it with the world, in the hopes that it can bring joy to a world too crowded with confusion and doubt.

I’m also sort of hoping to spark a comeback for those pants. Those things were comfy as fuck.

The adventures of Margarine

To be honest, I find parenthood a lot more baffling that I thought I would. I wasn’t expecting so much talk of butts from my five-year-old, for instance. I didn’t expect Rosie to take great joy in destroying our home and everything we hold dear like some sort of pint-sized Godzilla. I didn’t know I was going to be required to introduce myself to every kid at the playground in an attempt to play matchmaker for Addie, and I wasn’t aware that I was going to have to make sure she wasn’t just putting on a new pair of underwear over top of yesterday’s pair every day for a week.

But one of the accouterments of childhood that I am having the hardest time with is Shopkins.

Shopkins, for those of you not in the know, are inch-high, anthropomorphic representations of common household and grocery items. They inexplicably  have giant holes in their butts, for reasons that are never fully explained– maybe Shopkins are supposed to be pencil toppers? Or maybe in the bizarro world that they come from, giant gaping buttholes are de rigeur? I don’t know.

And I mean, I get it. I had my own weird toys when I was a kid. Bears that shoot glee or something from their bellies? Yes, go for it! Armless, legless people who somehow manage to be farmers and airline pilots? Sure!

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But you guys, Shopkins are literally tiny, colorful plastic molds of mundane shit you can find around your house. I just can’t imagine a situation in which I came home from a hard day in kindergarten, kicked off my pink Crocs and relaxed with a soothing game of Tiny Vegetables With Faces:

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I feel like Carrot’s wink is making everyone uncomfortable

And it’s not just food, it’s literally just anything you could find around your house.

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How many wacky adventures can Margarine get into? She has a knife in her head! And lotion soap is just happy to be here. Those two tacos with the girl eyelashes and the mustaches are sending very confusing (but body positive!) messages, although I don’t even really want to think about what is going on with the one that appears to be full of ground yellow meat.

Addie and her friends cannot get enough Shopkins, though. When she’s not playing Shopkins, or organizing her Shopkins, she is scheming new ways to get more Shopkins, most of which involve picking up one sock from the floor, putting it in the hamper, and yelling at the top of her lungs “I DID CHORES YOU CAN PAY ME IN SHOPKINS LET’S GET TO TARGET TIME’S A-WASTIN’!”

Even Rosie has fallen under their spell– I can hear her in Addie’s room right now, actually, playing with the Shopkins set Addie got for Easter. When I was downloading the pictures I had taken of the Shopkins onto the computer, she pointed at them and said “Shopkins!”, which may not sound impressive until you realize that she still thinks her own name is just “MEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I mean, I guess tiny refrigerators and macarons can have just as plausible of adventures as glee-shooting bears or horses with tattoos on their butts. But part of me wonders if I can just slap some googly eyes and false eyelashes onto common kitchen items and try to pass them off as toys. I could really use one of those mixers…

Rise and shine and then lay back down indefinitely

Society perpetuates so many lies in order to keep our species thriving—“Have kids!” they say. “It’ll be so fun!” they say. “It won’t be weird at all to have sex with your husband while your two children may or may not be asleep less than 15 feet away in their own rooms, and could easily walk in at any time, scarring everyone for life and requiring years of costly therapy!”

But to me, the biggest, most unforgivable lie of all was this:

You’ll get so used to getting up early that you won’t be able to sleep in anymore!

Perhaps this is true of normal people. Clearly, someone is getting up earlier than me, and getting to the doughnut shop and taking all the good doughnuts before I can even get there, but fuck that guy, because while he was up at the butt crack of dawn to commune with Satan or whatever it is people do before 6:30 a.m., I was catching those sweet, sweet Z’s, which have far fewer calories than doughnuts. Although now that you mention it, I would like a doughnut, too, please.

I will never not be able to sleep in. I am like a black belt at sleeping in.

My children, however, are not.

It’s been five years, and I keep waiting for that day to arrive when I finally spring from bed without prodding at 5:30 in the morning, smiling and ready to face the day. “I couldn’t possibly have slept another second!” I will say to myself. “Thank God it’s finally time to get out of this amazingly comfortable sleep nest I have built for myself out of comforters and pillows and head out into the world where people will insist on interacting with me!”

But amazingly, this day has not yet come.

I was promised it would. People pointed at the elderly as examples. “My grandparents get up every morning at 4 and head over to the local McDonald’s to drink coffee with their friends!” But what they often leave out is that their grandparents also tend to go to bed at 7:30 at night, and even then I say they are missing out on at least another three good hours of sleep in this scenario.

And besides, grandparents are also famous for not understanding the internet and awkwardly referring to African Americans as colored people, so we may not exactly want to be modeling ourselves after them.

I really would like to become a morning person—getting up earlier would give me another few minutes to myself each day, to exercise, or write, or eat my aforementioned doughnut without having to share it with anyone. But no matter what I try—moving my alarm clock across the room, refusing to allow a snooze option, setting it for 40 minutes before I would usually get up—I always find a way to sneak back into bed until the last possible second.

I’m just really trying to ride it out until my daughters hit the teen years, when I will easily be able to sleep in until 10 every Saturday and still make them feel guilty for not getting up until noon. Until then, does anyone have any good tips to get me out of bed a little earlier? Or better yet, would anyone be interested in a job as my personal waker-upper, forcibly dragging me out of bed at the appointed hour? I won’t be able to pay much, but you can use my bed nest when I’m done with it. I’ll even warm it up for you, if you just let me lay here five more minutes.

Carlos and me

Just in case you were wondering, Mexico is terrible and you totally shouldn’t go there.

For instance, as soon as you step outside at their airport, it’s 85 degrees and the sun is super bright on your weak little foreign eyes, and everyone is wearing jaunty wicker fedoras and suddenly you will want a jaunty wicker fedora, even though your hair is already gigantic and expanding exponentially in the humidity and the aforementioned jaunty wicker fedora would just sit atop your wad of hair at a precarious, decidedly unjaunty angle until it fell off and was trampled by people drinking margaritas while waiting for their cabs to the hotels, because you can also drink basically anywhere in Mexico.

Like in the back of your cab, for instance. We might have done that. Just to see how terrible it would be.

Then you show up at the hotel and it’s such a hellhole:

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And for some reason, this man won’t stop following you around and telling you he’s your butler and asking if he can please do something for you, and you’re like, nice try, man, but this isn’t an eighties sitcom and we’re not a sassy blended family and no one really has a butler.

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I never got to ask if he was related to Cheech.

So now you’ve got this guy up your butt all the time, and after awhile you begin to realize that he is actually watching you when you’re not looking, like you’ll get a phone call from Carlos that he saw you down by the ocean this morning, and he wants to know who set up your cabana since he knows it wasn’t him, and you’re like, okay, one, that’s creepy that you scoped us out on the beach and I’m unsure how you did this without us seeing you, because you always wear what appears to be a black military outfit, and two, we set it up ourselves, because butlers aren’t even real.

Maybe he hid behind this death trap, its coconut bombs waiting to crush your skull into the powder soft sand, and–

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OKAY, I CAN’T KEEP THIS UP MEXICO IS JUST THE GREATEST PLACE ON EARTH EVERYTHING IS AMAZING THERE ARE UNLIMITED MARGARITAS AND PING PONG AND THE OCEAN IS LIKE A WARM HUG FROM YOUR GRANDMA BUT IF YOUR GRANDMA WERE SEXY AND SMELLED LIKE BUBBLE GUM AND I ATE A QUAIL EGG AND DIDN’T DIE FROM IT AND I THINK MEXICO IS MAGIC AND LOOK AT THIS DOLPHIN:

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AND ONE NIGHT WE CAME BACK TO THE ROOM TO FIND THAT CARLOS HAD FILLED UP THE DOUBLE JACUZZI TUB IN OUR ROOM WITH BUBBLES AND WARM WATER AND I WAS LIKE THAT’S A LITTLE CREEPY BECAUSE THAT’S PROBABLY BASICALLY JUST A SEX TUB BUT REALLY VERY NICE THAT HE DID THAT FOR US, AND THERE WERE CATS THAT LIVED AT THE RESORT AND WE NAMED ALL OF THEM AND INSTEAD OF SQUIRRELS THEY HAVE IGUANAS:

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AND LITERALLY THE ONLY BAD THING THAT HAPPENED THE ENTIRE TIME WERE WERE THERE WAS THAT FOR SOME REASON THEY SHOWED A BEE-GEES CONCERT ON THE BUS ON THE WAY HOME FROM OUR EXCURSION TO XEL-HA.

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In short, Mexico is a perfect paradise of awesomeness, where you can wear a bikini and it doesn’t matter because you’ll never see anyone again. My only regret is that we didn’t find a way to stay a little longer.

And that we didn’t really use Carlos enough, because he genuinely seemed hurt that we kept setting up our own cabana.

 

Gracias, buenas noches

Listen, I know I said I was going to blog every single day, no matter what. I also told you I don’t know how to relax. But my wonderful husband does, and he has kindly asked me to put the blog on hold while we’re in Mexico, so I’m going to oblige.

 

I’ll be back on Tuesday with many hilarious stories from our travels, and also with a tan and possibly an ill-advised henna tattoo. Until then, please enjoy this GIF representation of how I intend to spend most of our vacation.

Nap