Thursday
Jan162014

Ethno-frantic

 

Many years ago, Mrs. G. and her friend Ann signed up for an ethnocentric dance class at a small studio in Seattle. They had no dancing history together so agreeing to participate in this activity was near heroic in Mrs. G's mind. The last person who had seen her dance was Mr. G. -- 14 years earlier, both of them loose limbed from lust love and Tanqueray martinis. When it comes Mrs. G's dancing, Mr. G's fresh devotion undoubtedly blinded him to the spectacle. Unlike the suggestion of inspirational posters in every therapist's office in America, Mrs. G. wishes she could dance like nobody is watching. But people watch. They can't help it. Mrs. G's style is the whitest white bread with an unpredictable break in to the Swim. It's well intentioned but stilted and, honestly, distressing.  

So she was nervous when she picked up Ann to drive to class. Mrs. G. felt vulnerable but determined to shift their friendship to a deeper level -- the level of affirmed affection and lifelong loyalty known as potential humiliation. Ann, a good dancer (Mrs. G. had admired her several times from the edge of the dance floor), was cool, even. No sweat, Mrs. G. thought, no sweat

But sweating commenced when she and Ann walked into the class in jogging pants, ratty t-shirts and running shoes only to be faced with a somewhat threatening number of women in leotards and dainty little, Mrs. G. isn't sure what they're called, so she'll call them dancing skirts for small asses, the short flowy kind usually paired with ballet slippers and messy chignons. It looked like two northwestern hillbillies had crashed the Bolshoi. Both clearly nervous and avoiding direct eye contact with anyone, including each other, slipped off their shoes and took their place in one of the four long lines of lithe women. She can't speak for Ann, but Mrs. G. knew she was up a creek. No paddle.

Within seconds of the stretch warm-up, the pounding of bong drums heated up and the teacher began swinging her hips and waving her arms like this...

It only got worse from there. Mrs. G. and Ann were frantically running and jumping and twirling diagonally across the dance floor. Mrs. G. is reluctant to say this for obvious reasons, but Ann looked as stupid as she did. They stood out in the crowd, which isn't always the desired outcome when you are uncontrollably shaking your butt against your will.

When the class finally ended, she and Ann put their running shoes back on (again avoiding eye contact, even with each other) and headed out the door to a bakery a block down the street. They didn't say a word until they sat down at a table with their chocolate croissants and decaf. They were at a friendship standstill -- unsure if the other liked the class, not wanting to torpedo her joy or acknowledge that the relationship would have to end if she did because come on.

"Whew," said Mrs. G, "that was an interesting class."

"It was," said Amy. The benovolent standstill continued.

"I'm not really sure what to say," Mrs. G. said, inching closer toward the truth.

"Please don't make me ever come back," said Ann.

And with that, the friendship was cemented.

 

Wednesday
Jan152014

Wednesday Five! No Reason, No Motive. Just Curious.

 

1) What is your favorite card game?

2) What is one place you hope to see before you expire?

3) What is one gift you have never forgotten?

4) If you could wish for one thing to come true this year, what would it be?

5) Whatcha cooking for dinner tonight?

Wednesday
Jan152014

Ronnie P.

00:00:25

When Mrs. G. was in grade school, she had a friend named Stacy. Stacy was good natured and nice enough, but she was so submissive playing with her was a spiritual trial. Stacy lacked entertainment foresight and leadership; she was oblivious to the inherent childhood doctrine of playtime governance: first you, and then me, and then maybe me again and then for sure you. Stacy was a party without a host, a city without a mayor, so Mrs. G. was responsible for initiating every activity. Without direction, Stacy would spend an entire afternoon directing yes and no questions to the Magic 8-Ball, shaking it relentlessly -- genuinely affected by each inky blue answer.  It was up to Mrs. G. to steer fun and games beyond ten dubious, inconclusive answers. Without a doubtsigns point to yesoutlook good...for apoplexy shortly followed by a play induced coma.

It is fair and reasonable to ask why Mrs. G. subjected herself to weekly days and nights predicated on little more than what do you want to do?  I don’t know, what do you want to do?

But the answer is twisted. It had nothing to do with Stacy and everything to do with Stacy’s mother, Ronnie.

Ronnie was unlike any of the other Catholic school mothers. She was as inviting and sugar coated as a grocery store cupcake. She had frosted hair, frosted lips, frosted eye shadow, frosted frost. She wore pastel sweaters with matching slacks and earth toned macraméd wedges. Ronnie clicked her pearly acrylic nails on the steering wheel as she drove carpool in the peacock blue, wood paneled Vista Cruiser she called the Mother Ship. She could pop her gum and smoke at the same time. With the windows up. Ronnie was a pragmatist and would have scoffed at the idea of the ills of second hand smoke. Cancer Schmancer. What did doctors know anyway? Your number was up when it was up. In Ronnie’s world, that dog wouldn't hunt and you could take everything to the bank. She was a kidder. The check was in the mail. Her beauty and superiority were only cemented by the cold shoulders she encountered from the other Parish moms, who never ever wanted her on their committees.

Ronnie’s husband’s job included frequent travel. She had maraschino cherries in her fridge.

There was talk.

Such bingo-night speculation (why only one child, what does she do all night) only fueled Mrs. G’s affection. Stacy or no Stacy, Mrs. G. never refused an invitation to be in Ronnie’s environment. Ronnie was not a mom who offered homemade cookies or wanted to join Stacy and Mrs. G. in a game of Operation. A sleepover generally included a spin through the Taco Bell drive thru and an expectation to leave her be. She checked out and rarely checked in. Mrs. G. remembers Ronnie scooting her and Stacy off to bed because it was 9:00. As Mrs. G. struggled to sleep, she heard the theme song to Barney Miller, which started at 8:00. Ronnie had set the clock an hour ahead. She was foxy. She was complex. She wore Jean Nate.

Looking back, perhaps Stacy was a playtime bummer because, really, who could compete with such a breathtaking, staggering mother. Or perhaps she was just a dud. It’s hard to say and hard to see when you are blinded by a snap of such seventies perfection.

Tuesday
Jan142014

The Spanish Class, Part Dos

Tonight's Fun Facts On The Unfolding Aventura

1) Mr. and Mrs. G. only arrived thirty-five minutes early for class.

1) Mr. and Mrs. G. managed to share one book, though in a moment of frustration, Mrs. G. defaced one page with a blue Sharpie.

3) At one point Mr. G. turned to Mrs. G. and said of the teacher, "It's like she's not even speaking English."

4) The teacher asked each student to take a minute and write a sentence describing something another student was wearing and Mr. G. asked Mrs. G, "What color is your brassiere?"

5) When they were leaving, Mrs. G. told the teacher, "Adios." Mr. G. followed up with "Buenas Nachos!" Mrs. G. told him in the car if he ever said "Buenas Nachos" again, heads were going to roll. He snorted.

In case you hadn't noticed, this is marriage.

Until next week, despedida. 

Monday
Jan132014

Starfish Throwers Wanted by Jenn Q.

Jenn asked me last night to help spread the word and 1) I would do anything for Jenn and 2) putting it here is the best possible way for me to do that. Eating disorders are deadly serious  Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, so calling all Starfish -- help some fellow humans out. You can read more of Jenn here.

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When the PITA moms started (here's some background on my blog and on FB if you need it; Laura Collins, co-author with Charlotte Bevan of Charlotte's Helixfame, of the fabulous eating disorder primer, Throwing Starfish Across the Sea, has some nice things to say about us) we, along with Jenny, always knew it was the beginning of a magical happening destined to help not just Jenny, but others who struggle with eating disorders and woefully inadequate access to services.

As I wrote the above paragraph and was doing the linking, I came across the news that Charlotte is in the last days of her fight against cancer. It seems almost kismet that on this day I should be asking YOU to consider become starfish thrower in Charlotte's mold.

Doing re-feeding and meal support for a person with an eating disorder is a teachable, coachable skill. If you have successfuly re-fed, using FBT/Maudsley methods, you have worked damn hard to aquire that skill. It's like you've been through the SEAL program of parenting. The knowledge and skill you have gained is a gift--a gift that can help save someone's life as surely as donating an organ would.

You know when people say "If my tragedy can help even one other family . . .?" This is a chance to give that help. Or maybe there was a time when you made some promises to God about helping others if you could just get through this. You can keep that promise. Maybe you got great treatment (as was our case) and you feel like you need to pay it forward.

Where am I going with all this flattery and gentle coercion?

The PITA moms need help throwing a starfish. Gretchen is a 21-year old young woman in Canada who struggles with anorexia. Due to an administrative error, a bed that was supposed to open for her at a treatment center in Toronto won't happen until the spring. She is very sick, but also very much wants recovery and has checked herself into a psychiatric hospital. The problem is that this hospital, as is true of most psych hospitals, doesn't know how to handle eating disorders. She's getting worse by the day.

Gretchen's mother, Janet, mother reached out to Lisa, one of the PITA moms, and because we are clearly both passionate, compassionate, and occassionally a wee bit nuts, we almost immediately came up with an idea of how to help.

Provide Skype meal support for her (in the hospital and then at home), using volunteer moms just like us (we'd do it, but Jenny and fighting Amerigroup have us pretty busy right now). The time committment (if we get 12 moms which is our ideal number) would be 30-60 minutes once a day, every other day. Mom Janet will get the food piece into place on-the-ground. Lisa would administrate, organize and train the group (so much easier than you would think thanks to Facebook). We'd love to have moms from around the globe as that helps cover all times without disrupting lives. Our timeline for continuuing this (at home once she is out of hospital) is the two to three months until she gets into a program.

I know this sounds crazy--and it is--but it is also amazing and magical and a gift of love and wouldn't you want someone to help your child like this?

All that is left is to ask you to email if you are interested at jdeniseouellette@gmail.com or friend me on FB (Jennifer Denise Taunton Ouellette) and message me.

Time committment: 1 hour every other day for a few months . . . Reward? Helping save a life . . . Value? Priceless.

 

P.S. If your excuse is you don't Skype, neither did I! If it's because you don't use FB, that's easy to solve! If it's because you're worried you will fall in love with Gretchen as we did Jenny, I say, it's worth it!

Monday
Jan132014

Our Fearless Leader by Annie

 


This, in more of a Pilgrim's Progress sort of way, is what my 2nd grade teacher looked like. Even for a rule follower like myself, Mrs. Roach could be and was frequently terrifying.

A stern, pale, and skull-faced woman of late middle age who pulled her hair back in a no-nonsense bun, my teacher wore what were commonly referred to as "cat eye" glasses and her mouth was a horizontal slash of red, courtesy of the House of Avon. She wore dresses with slips underneath, silk hose and high heels with pointy toes. Every single day.  Mrs. Roach pulling her Pontiac into the teacher's parking lot in a pair of stretch pants would have have been no less shocking than discovering an aproned minotaur in a hairnet serving up tater tots in the cafeteria on Hamburger Day. 

When it was time for math, you did not ask why and then pretend to lose your pencil. You had at least five other Eberhard Fabers (always sharpened) in the "side pocket" of your desk which you lined with a brown paper towel so that pencils and crayons didn't fall through the holes. When it was time for handwriting, you did not cleverly substitute the capital "S" in your last name with a treble clef  (even though they sort of looked the same) unless you wanted it circled in red pen with a note to erase and do it over. When it was time to read aloud, you did so in hopes of hearing a "Nicely done!" before she selected another victim student.  That was high praise enough. We didn't need or expect a 21 gun salute and an application to MENSA.

When accused of chewing gum in her class you did not roll your eyes and say, "I don't HAVE any gum" in an exasperated tone which--although-- technically true because you were chewing something, it wasn't gum. It was Captain Crunch. Because you didn't have breakfast that morning (As if that was somehow her problem or responsibility. But go ahead and suggest to her that it was her responsibility and then wait for the Apocalypse.) Better yet, have your parent do it. Same result.

You did not try to be the class clown by burping words to the Pledge of Allegiance or ask her if this was her "real hair" or if she dyed it.  When she asked for your homework you did not fix her with a smarmy grin and tell her you didn't do it because "I was busy".  The only notes you wrote in class had damn well better be from the assignment on "How to Write a Letter To a Friend" and not to your actual friend who had a different teacher altogether who wouldn't have cared if that same friend spent a brief moment of class time reading your synopsis of last night's episode of "The Monkees".

If you were told to carry a sealed envelope home to your parents, you were clueless about its contents and you did not ask. It could have been a letter about a PTA matter or a request to have you publicly flogged. It mattered not because it wasn't any of your damn business because it wasn't addressed to you and hiding it for two weeks inside your copy of Encyclopedia Brown wasn't going to make it go away.  Later, your parents weren't ever going to go all Liza Minnelli crazy when questioning Mrs. Roach like she was at her own trial because you didn't bring the note home. Why?? Because that was a parenting issue and your parents--God love them--were smart enough to know it.  However, your ass would be--as they say--grass even though the note was about being a homeroom mother, you paranoid maniac.

Had the internet existed back when you were a kid, Mrs Roach would have been listed on Wikipedia as the country's seventeenth line of defense. Just ahead of the Boy Scouts.

Mrs. Roach was a teacher, not a convenient doormat to be stepped on by lazy-ass parents who expected her to offer free tutoring for class days missed because of a surprise birthday trip to Carlsbad Caverns which necessitated lying about being sick for two days so that it would be excused. She wasn't about to be trifled with or disrespected during professional development seminars by being asked to remove her teacher hat for the day and pretend to be a student learning the same shit she was already teaching in real class. One didn't tell Mrs. Roach that she would be taking and grading work from any and all children who had sufficient time to turn in their assignments but didn't do so....for five weeks.

And if someone told her that she would be expected to tiptoe around a mentally ill student who hears voices that tell her to do bad things and if said student was demonstrating those bad things in class and began to otherwise act strangely like having a conversation with her own shoeand that she--Mrs. Roach-- was required to halt the educational process for everyone else in the class, hit the panic button on the wall and then step ALONE(?) into the hall with said mentally ill student and wait until help came? Well...Mrs. Roach would have poured those people a big old glass of OH HELL NO and stood calmly while they drank it down with a side of KISS MY ASS cookies. Guaranteed Mrs. Roach did not have to aid her nightly sleep with  five melatonin and a martini chaser because even though she was required to dress like June Cleaver and she was paid like crap and the moral turpitude clause in her contract prohibited her from being seen buying or consuming alcohol, she was respected. By everyone. Or they did a really good job at pretending. Period.

It's not hard to see why my colleagues and I look wistfully into the rearview mirror and sigh before pouring ourselves another stiff drink. Even on a good day, I'm forced to behave less like Mrs. Roach and more like the friendless kid who converses with her sandwich. We live in an era where teachers are everyone's whipping boy and--like my friend Nance says, no one's boss. I live for the days when I can say "no" or "yes" and actually be granted permission to follow through on my own decisions. Sure, I'm allowed to wear pants, but only in the literal sense. Never in the figurative.

But I can hoist a glass and so I do. Here's to you, Mrs. Roach.

 

annie

You can read more of Annie at Rainbow Motel. Go say hey to her!

Friday
Jan102014

Full Confessional Friday! 1/9/2014

Photo by Pink Sherbert Photography

Be it Venial or Mortal (there's no escaping Original), we've all got secrets -- light, dark, funny, sad -- worth bringing to light. The act of confession can be liberating, mollifying and entertaining. Contrition? Repentance? A shot of Tequila? That's your call, sister.  

Thursday
Jan092014

The Helpline by Clara B.

 

Dear Clara,

My mother-in-law of almost ten years talks AT me about her life, her aches and pains and my many shortcomings. She never asks me about my life or the lives of her son and grandchildren . A conversation with her feels like I'm not even there. She often calls me twice a day just to give me an hourly account of her day. I've put up with it all these years because I don't want to create family strife but lately I feel like I am going to explode. My husband tells me to just to not answer the phone when she's on one of her "here's how you make a cake that is light and fluffy" jags, but again I don't want to piss her off because she really holds a grudge. I need help in dealing with her.  Can you offer some? I'm getting too old for this horse sh#t!

BB

Dear BB,

Mother-in-laws are fierce, yet delicate creatures, and must be handled with a little bit of care.Some people are lucky enough to have wonderful MILs who are caring, supportive, and know when to butt out.  And then there are the rest of us.

I'm getting from your letter that your MIL is a drama queen.  She calls you and complains because you, you shameless hussy (not really), 'took' her son away from her.  The very idea that he can have a complete life without her at the center of it is too much for her to bear.  So, she feels it's her duty to call you and vent and remind you that she was the first woman in his life.  

It's nice that you don't want to piss her off, but I have a feeling that she would blow a gasket no matter what you do. She could be lonely and just wants someone to talk to, or she could be a raging she-monster.  Whatever her issue is, it's just that- her issue.  Some MILs will never be happy with their child's spouse no matter what.

I commend you for putting up with this for ten years now, but BB, enough is enough. If even your husband is suggesting that you cut her off mid-jag, then he knows her issues.  It sounds like the root of her problem is lack of attention.  Your husband should say something to her, I think, but you can tackle this, too.  Shower her with it for a bit and she might back off and give you some breathing room. 

I would try some of the following tactics to dial down her wrath a little.  When she's got you trapped on the phone, drag one of the kids in to the room and exclaim, 'why Jimmy here would love to talk to Grammy! Here he is!', and hand the phone off to your little darling.  It gets her off your back for a moment, and forces her to connect with her grandkids.  Hopefully this won't cause any long-term damage to little Jimmy, and I doubt it will.   Call her before she calls you.  Ask her how she's doing.  It could very well be that she's jealous of you and the fact that you get to spend so much time with her son.  Offer to take her to lunch or bring Jimmy over to her house for a visit. (I'm presuming that MIL doesn't live too far away).  If that's not possible, have the kids make a card or a picture to send to her, have them call her, whatever.   

As for her nasty habit of pointing out your 'faults' (i.e., you don't do things the way she does, therefore, you are wrong, Missy), you have to stand up for yourself.  Yes, easier said than done, but you're a Derf, BB, you can do this.  If she's picking at you, simply smile (pleasant phone voice, no gritting of the teeth, please) and say that her son seems to love what you do, and that as long as he and your children are happy, you're happy.  Repeat as often as necessary.  Kill her with kindness, BB.   I hope these suggestions help, and I  hope our fellow Derfs can pitch in with their own MIL horror stories and how they've dealt with them.  

Love
Clara

 

Clara B. is an anonymous Derf with a healthy sense of humor and good old common sense. Mrs. G. thanks her for her service.