Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yesterday, I Attended the Wake of a Life Long Friend

Yesterday, I attended the wake of a life long friend.

You hear someone say this and you think of years of weddings, parties, holidays, your children playing together, decades of commitment and memories.

The problem is, I am only 36.

In the past two years, four of my friends have died. These men were all in my age group, all interesting and fantastic in their own ways. Not one of them (minus one with a young son) got to build a family, spend an afternoon on the floor with their baby and a stack of wooden blocks, have their friends shower them with love and bubbles upon turning away from an officiant to face the crowd, hand bonded to someone who made them genuinely, deep down happy. My friends have died because of an epidemic sweeping New Jersey, permeating suburbia, causing young men with futures to lie, to disappear like so much air.

It's the vicious path; take the painkillers, run out, have less money to spend,  take the blue pills, run out, have less money to spend, snort the heroin, die.

I've watched what this does to families. I've seen my friends cry over so many less years than we all deserved together, over lost opportunities at family barbeques and rocking chairs on porches and satisfaction.

Yesterday, I attended the wake of a life long friend.

The one sentence I heard more than anything else was, "How could I help him when he wouldn't admit what he was doing?" You see, the issue is with the "open secret." We all know he's doing it, but when we confront him, he lies to our faces. Not maliciously, you see. An addict doesn't really understand how those lies will kill them. It's just the way to get to the next fix without having to listen to a bunch of bullshit about how they're hurting themselves. So, if you say, repeatedly, "Please, stop doing this. I know what you're doing. We all know what you're doing," you expect a reaction. Maybe some tears, some attempt at redemption or explanation. Instead, you get, "I'm fine. Stop worrying about me so much. I'm not going to do anything stupid."

That's what my life long friend told me a month ago, when another friend of ours died of an overdose. "I'm fine. Stop worrying about me so much. I'm not going to do anything stupid."

Yesterday, I attended the wake of a life long friend.

How many of you out there suspect that someone you love is abusing painkillers? Taking pills? Doing hard ass drugs that they warn you about in high school, the ones you see people in movies taking and you wonder,

How could they let it get that far?

Because listen to me. If you don't do something, if you don't stand up, if you don't stop taking no for an answer, they will die. I've seen it. I've seen too many photo collages, too many crying mothers, too many young men blubbering over of the caskets of people they grew up with. This isn't going to end well.

I'm pretty sure there are others in our circle still doing this. I can't prove anything. All I have is second and third hand information and fear loading up in my belly like bricks.I'm currently taking no for an answer.  But I'm ready to make this shit stop. Let's save our friends. Let's help the cops find the people who are killing our friends.

I have to do something before I'm the only one left standing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Babies Need

When I was pregnant, I posted on Facebook asking all of my mommy friends what they suggested I put on my baby registry. The list was overwhelming. There were so many suggestions for where she should sleep, what kind of clothing she might need, what baby toys would be best for her development, what she might want to snuggle. After the post had been up for two hours or so, I went to check the comments and immediately felt like I needed to go sit in a dark room and take deep breaths.

Then, a good friend of mine, an amazing mom with three kids and the most laid back attitude I've come across, gave me a piece of advice that still sticks with me ten months into first-time motherhood: "The baby only needs what you tell the baby to need."


Bam! The registry was no longer a dejected puppy staring at me with sad eyes, begging me to take it home and think about it every living moment. It suddenly became very clear - she's a baby!  A tiny, sweet baby who will need me to change her and love her and feed her and rock her and cuddle her and entertain her and challenge her. As far as I could see, I could do most of that with hugs.

I know, I know. What a mush, what a delusional hippie I am. But really, what do babies need? Let's think about this logically:
  • Diapers
  • Diaper Cream
  • Soap
  • Clothes
  • Food (Formula or Breast Milk to start)
  • Lotion
  • Blankets, Sheets
  • Place to sleep (crib, co sleeper, your bed, bassinet, etc...)
  • Books
  • Medical Supplies (Tylenol, nail clippers, saline drops and bulb, thermometer)
  • Something to cuddle besides Mama and Daddy
  • LOVE
As they get older, this list gets longer. A playpen was helpful, a swing. But really, if you have limited space, you can make things work. At ten months, my baby is crawling and getting into everything, but a good, old fashioned pillow fort still works to keep her sort of contained and safe. People will buy your kid so many toys, clothes and books you won't know what to do with them. You can let go of the list that scares you even though you're the one who made it. 

Seriously, step away from the list.

Now, make a new one. Think of what you really need. Stick some stuff you want in there because you're pregnant, your hips hurt and you deserve random cuteness. And go put your feet up. nap contentedly. Spend your time on stuff that makes you happy and NOT STRESSED AT ALL. All that's over soon, Mama!  ;-)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My First Mother's Day

Today I was telling my husband what I want to do on Mother's Day.

It is, after all, my first one.  It's like a rite of passage, being loved on that special Sunday when there are flowers and jewelry blanketing the public like sky. I suppose that in that moment, I thought I deserved to relax, to be paid attention to.  But the truth is, that's not what it's all about. I don't want to lay on the couch and watch Scandal. I don't want to get a massage. I don't even really want to sleep in and miss the look on my baby's face when she wakes up happy, standing up in her crib like a big girl, bouncing up and down to get to me.  I suppose I am a mother because all I really want is to be with her.

Don't get me wrong - it's been awhile since I've slept late.(Understatement of the year. Mamas, am I right??)  And at the very least, I will take my husband up on his offer of hanging with the baby while I go for a run all by my lonesome with earphones and no specific mileage in mind - and then take a long, hot shower after.  I am human, you know. But mostly, I just want to strap the baby into her stroller or car seat and show her stuff.

Flowers, aquariums, zoos, parks, picnics, trees, all manner of Spring and play. Her face as she discovers a new texture, the air on her face - this is what I want to spend my time looking at.  Olivia Pope, I love you, but you're just not as amazing as that ten month old little girl.

So on Sunday, I'll be right here with my baby. I don't need jewelry or sleep or chocolate. I just need baby giggles and snuggles, gummy smiles, shaky steps and a crawling munchkin zooming across the room to me. My first Mother's Day - and all I want to do is be a Mom.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Improving Myself

We all need to improve, right?

Someone said to me recently, "I'm done with all this self-help bullshit. It makes it all too complicated. If you want to improve, just improve." I have to say, I agree with such sentiment. The amount of self help books I've read, videos I've watched, "gurus" I've listened to can seriously boggle the mind. They all have a program with steps that you can take.

Be more effective!

Kick your bad habits!

Change your state!

And listen, I get it. There are habits I want to kick. Ways that I want to be a better person and a better mom. But the thing is, if I'm truly being honest with myself, I already know what I have to change. So, as mentioned above, can't I just ... improve?

Why should I have to listen to some dude I don't know in order to gather my own strength?  Help is always good, but I can't help but feel like using a self improvement expert and leaning on this person goes against the whole point. How can you learn to improve yourself if you can't be strong enough to do it on your own?

Let's take a look at some really famous self help books:


We all want to have spiritual growth, be effective, stop worrying. But aren't we all capable of identifying our own worry? I agree that certain approaches can be helpful, but I think there's an overload of these sorts of texts. They stare at us from the bestseller list, daring us to fix our lives on our own.  In the end, though, people figured out life long before all of this. So tell me, what is it that you want to fix? Do you think you can do it on your own?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I've Made a Decision and It's Going to Make Disney Mad

I'm the first time mom of an 8 month old and I've made a decision; I just don’t want her to love Disney princesses. Don’t get me wrong. I was a HUGE Cinderella fan as a child. Something about the idea that  your dreams could come true if you wished hard enough, that if you were a good person, good things would happen to you, drew me in. For a good year, I watched that movie every single day when I got home from school with a bag of nachos and some heated Cheez Wiz. (Listen, my diet is not the issue here.) It was the first “I’m enjoying myself by myself” ritual I can remember and one that resides happily in my heart.

But Cinderella was a weakling. She couldn’t get herself out of a bad situation, could not rise above the poverty line without magic and a man to save her.

And let’s not stop there. Ariel gives up her actual identity just to be with a man who does not even recognize her. I mean, with the whole scene of her singing and looking at him longingly with her impossibly big eyes as he lays there, you would think her face would be burned into his consciousness.

Snow White takes it upon herself to clean the dwarfs’ house before she’s even met them, because that’s just what women do. Sleeping Beauty can’t possibly wake herself up. Little Red Riding Hood is a stupid girl who cannot look out for herself or foresee any danger in her future. She’s can’t even tell that her grandmother is not her grandmother but an actual wolf, a disgusting, feral wolf who probably smells like wolf and can’t even bake a good pie. These women are not strong. Their stories do not present a world in which my daughter will be able to see herself taking care of herself, being strong and independent, being her without a him, without magic, without the mercy of a huntsman who, of course, is the only one who can spare her life.

So, how do I teach her about the lessons that matter from those stories - mercy, love, belief in the good of the world - without her subconsciously grasping onto the absolute weakness and inability to be self-sufficient that many of these princesses represent? After all, it’s not all bullshit. Just the parts about what women do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wait, so why do Kim Kardashian's nude photos constitute news?

Let me be clear from the start; I am a pop culture junkie. I talk about movies at dinner, text with my sister to address Julianne Lewis's frowny face in Secrets and Lies, (the struggle to smile is real, people), and love to watch Jimmy Kimmel's "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" series.  As a professor of mostly 18-19 year old millennials, I like to keep up on what's going on.  I mean, they asked me about the blue and gold (yes, I said blue and gold) dress a couple of weeks ago when I walked into class. How would it have looked if I had no idea what they were talking about? (Also, I'm only 36. It's not like I'm listening to Frank Sinatra, complaining about the price of milk.)

But I just don't see how Kanye West posting nude pictures of his wife is news, even pop culture news. We get it, she's hot. I think the world has known that for some time, even before Kanye and his over-willingness to tell/show us all stuff we didn't need to know about his love life. And I'm not one of those people that will say, "Oh, there are real struggles going on in the world. Who cares about celebrities?" I believe that celebrities and popular news allow us an escape, create broader conversations and listen, after a day of being a professor, a mom, a wife, an intellectual, someone who can carry on an intelligent conversation, I could stand to read some slush.  But this? This is just stupid.  I don't know of another way to say it.

And "Swish?"  What the hell does that mean?  I'm reminded of Mean Girls. I just don't think "swish," like "fetch," is really going to happen.  Also, Beck is awesome.  See the connection I made there? Heh?


So, while I won't say that we should be paying attention to the larger issues in the world instead of celebrity news (we should, but hey, we all need a break), I will say that there is better celebrity news out there than this pompous, albeit amazing, rapper, showing us all his wife's boobies. Get over it, dude.  We've all seen it before.  And we don't all want to look like that.  And really, as a woman, I'm kind of pissed off at you ogling someone you see every day, and asking the rest of the world to ogle her too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Used to Be a Waitress

Last night, I had the dream again.  I was waiting tables and I was in the weeds.


If you have never heard this term or you never worked in food service, allow me to explain. The weeds is a place you know you will visit on the busiest night of the week, but you always hope it will be just a bit more welcoming, a bit less like the place you think you will finally die. It's when the server in the section next to you comes down with the stomach flu at 7:00 on a Saturday night and you take over her tables. It's when you have three orders to take, five drinks to get and a some woman is changing a diaper on the table where you need to drop off sizzling fajitas. It's a place where you feel like you'll never get your breath back, there's a line out the door and an hour long wait for a table, an 18 year old couple just left you $3 on a $70 check and you just got sat with a brand spanking new ten top.  It's the busiest, most multi-tasking place you'll ever be, but it's the only way you'll make money and it sure does make the shift go by faster.

So, here I am, about 11 years after the last time I worked at a restaurant.  I'm a college professor. I have a family. I attribute many of my  multi-tasking skills to Chili's or Outback Steakhouse on a Saturday night (or IHOP on a Sunday morning. Really.  Check that place out the next time you drive by. It's as if pancakes are only served for five minutes and everyone's trying to eat them at the same time). And every now and then, I have the dream.

In the dream, I'm in the weeds and it's all very specific.  I can never remember my employee number to enter into the computer because even in the dream, it's been awhile and my boss always has to look it up.  The dream always take place at Chili's.  The boss is any one of the many I had at the many restaurants where I made rent money, tuition money, drinking money in college. There are variables; last night, for example, the Chili's was in London.  But no matter what, I'm always in the weeds.  I get chips and salsa for the table and when I turn around, it's gone.  I go to the bar to get the drinks for another table and we're out of Jack. The cooks are angry at me for being away for so long and my salads aren't ready. I finish the shift with a piddly amount of money in my pocket, feeling like I've never been so bad at this. Ever.

I'm helpless. And I'm in the weeds.

I'm pretty sure I don't need one of those overpriced dream dictionaries to figure this one out.  I have to hone my multi-tasking skills. I must feel, deep down, like I'm lacking, like I can't handle what's being thrown at me.  But the thing is, I survived those nights. I survived multiple Mother's Days at Outback. (You wouldn't think it, but this is the busiest day of the Outback year. I remember running to the basement to smoke a cigarette after ten hours straight because I just couldn't take it anymore.)  And I did it well, for years.  So, how hard can the rest of this be?