Take me off this thread before I turn it into a noose and hang myself!

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“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE TAKE ME OFF THIS THREAD ASAP. I CANNOT DO IT MYSELF AND NEED TO BE PERMANENTLY REMOVED. Thank you and happy new year.”

That is the first text I sent this year. It was 12:02am on January 1st, 2019. After receiving a flurry of ridiculous celebratory texts with exploding fireworks, streamers, and flashing metallic symbols, I simply snapped.

Texting can be useful. I am still young enough that I prefer to text than call via old fashioned cell phone. Texting is easier, less complicated, more to the point. I admit to being frustrated by folks who insist on a more “personal” approach and only respond to an actual voice a la old- timey Ma’ Bell telephone line. But come on, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

I joined my most recent group text because my good friend was undergoing back surgery in Phoenix and I wanted to be kept abreast of all surgery-related details. I fully understood how overwhelming it would be for her out-of-state brother to text all 35 of her BFFs  with multiple and individual updates. I dutifully followed her as she prepped for surgery, went under the knife, and began her convalescence. That was two weeks ago.

I’ve been able to talk with her since, visit her in person, and gratefully acknowledge her slow and steady commencement towards recovery. So why am I still receiving 50 texts a day from her family and entourage? I know I sound mean. I sound selfish, nasty and uncaring. But I can’t take it.

I have a lot of people in my circle who require time, energy, attention, patience, bolstering, etc… I do my best to be there for those to whom I’ve promised those things. I also love meeting and inviting new people into my personal realm. But I did not choose all 35 of these newcomers and I don’t need to know how much “love and healing energy” every one of them is sending twelve times a day. I really don’t. Nor do I need to know who is making the CVS run at 2pm, who is “not really stepping up,” or who looks best in their NYE sparkle.

Plus I’m fairly annoyed by technology in general these days. 1. It works for everyone except me and only works for me when I don’t actually need it. This serves to piss me off on an hourly basis. 2. Nothing technological is intuitive to me. For a time-saving, revolutionary mode of communication, it takes me an absurd amount of time to accomplish the simplest tasks. The other day I spent 3 hours (literally) trying to figure out how to post a blog on my new website. (Luckily my 14 year old son heard me sobbing in a corner of my closet and accomplished this nearly impossible feat within seconds.) 3. Apple is evil.

I have a love/hate relationship with Apple. I love my MacBook pro, my iPhone 10, my awesome camera and video capabilities,  and  the ease of editing on iMovie. I hate that every few months all of my charger cords stop working, you constantly need to upgrade hardware and software with the newest and shiniest stuff, not because it offers you any improvement in performance whatsoever, but because the almighty Apple stock holders and executives need access to ever- growing revenue streams. Finally, I hate Apple because  I cannot stop iTunes from randomly playing “Abba Dabba Dabba Said the Monkey to the Chimp.” every time I put my Fiat 500 into reverse. It’s weird. And creepy.

But now I have truly discovered their sick, twisted plot to drive us all insane. There is no way out of group texts! Oh sure you can find easy-to-follow instructions on line. They tell you to simply click here and here, then  hit “leave this conversation,” and you’re free. But that only works if everyone on the flippin’ list is using iMessage. If there’s even one Android user, you’re screwed. I am not making this up! If it’s not a “pure race” of apple users, the best you can do is mute the ever-constant notification bings. But you can NEVER fully escape!

I am not a big “regulate the internet” advocate. I actually dig the whole wild west spirit of bold risk leading to bold rewards. But somehow we need to protect those of us who made the mistake of gently joining a thread of well meaning do-gooders, only to learn that they are eternally and inextricably bound to this gaggle of arbitrary strangers until death do us part.

Please, write to your senator or something. Or at least remove people from your thread efficiently, kindly and respectfully.

Shit happens

imagesShit happens. It’s one of those proverbial laws of nature. Given that, I’m not so sure why it always seems to knock us for a loop when it comes to pass. The truth is that we craft our lives in ways we think will allow us to bypass the shit nature inevitably is going to splatter all over us. Until we can’t. Until one day you meet the shit storm of your life and it confronts you, collides with you, commands your attention. And when that happens, you’re almost always naked, or wearing your crummiest pajamas and no make-up. But shit is not something you can ignore. There’s no room for denial on the day the facade crumbles. No euphemistic way to steer clear of the storm that threatens to destroy you and decimate your home and family.

I had a friend who used to say, “The only way through stuff like this is…through stuff like this. There’s no plane you can take to rise above it, no speeding locomotive through the beautiful countryside, not even a Vespa.” You have to walk your path, wherever it leads. I guess that’s the scariest part. Once you realize that all the planning, precision and platitudes aren’t worth a hill of beans, you can’t ever go back to the myth that you’re in control of your own destiny.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it doesn’t matter how you play the game. It matters — a lot. But sometimes the rules change and you didn’t get a say in it. At that point, you can sit on the bench and opt out of playing altogether. But the better options seems to me to be to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, resolve to memorize the new handbook and go at life with a renewed vigor and determination to win that’ll prove to the world who you really are and just what you’re made of.

So forgive me for sparing the details in this little diatribe. Suffice to know that we are regrouping, huddled tightly together as a family, and preparing to face the challenges and uncertainties of life’s fickle finger with bold, fearless persistence, tenacity and commitment.

It’s an adventure. As one of our newly proclaimed villains used to say, “We asked for a roller coaster. Life’s never going to be boring.”

With heartfelt gratitude to all for the love, support and positive energy.
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Motivation

Sometimes we all just need a little push from a big supporter.

“I don’t want to do it” she said. “ I have been too busy”.

“but you love to do it!” I exclaimed!

I told her to think about how much she loves to do it. If you love something you will work hard to do it. It teaches us a lesson to do what you love and work towards that. If there is something you love to do, your life should include that in it.

Even if things aren’t working out for you in this thing, you love it. You will work hard for it even when you are busy. It is so important! No matter how hard it is, it is important to your life. Think about this thing in your life, Just think.

This was a recent conversation with my mom. She has been behind on blogging. I helped her stay motivated.

– Levi Rich Gettleman (Age 12)

His first dance

nina-leen-young-boy-and-girl-taking-dancing-lessons

“Whose problem is it?” My husband, the pediatrician, patronizingly posits.

“Look, I know it’s his problem,” I say, already on edge from his tone of voice, “I read all the ‘Love and Logic’ books too. But sometimes a parent needs to step in and avert an impending disaster.”

“You need to let him fail, Debra,” He councils.

“But this is such a bad idea!” I assert. “He’ll be totally humiliated and then…well, he’ll be scarred for like ever!”

“If you take this on as your issue,” he warns, “You are robbing him of an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson.”

At that point I wanted to slug him. Instead I furiously stormed out of the kitchen and rushed into his office where I began to systematically rip the pages out of each and every “Love and Logic” book I could find. All the while yelling at him, “I hate this ‘Love and Logic’ crap! This whole notion of natural consequences sucks. If it’s all about letting your kids fail, then what do they need parents for in the first place? Let’s just step back a bit further and really let him make his own choices…”

After I vented, I took a deep breath and looked seriously at my spouse. “How can you set our son up for this kind of devastation? Don’t you care about his feelings at all?”

“Debra,” he voiced in a genuinely warm tone, “I don’t want him to suffer any more than you do. But you told him it might be better to ask the girl to the dance in private instead of doing it in front of the entire sixth grade class. Didn’t you?”

I nodded sheepishly.

He continued, “And he decided he wanted it to be big and bold and dramatic. We have to let him do it his way.”

That’s when I realized I hate being a parent. I never should’ve gone down this path. It’s painful and frustrating and there’s virtually no positive reinforcement. My kind, sensitive, thoughtful 12-year-old boy is about to ask a girl to his first dance ever in front of his entire class and I can’t convince him to change course. And spousal support? Ha! My husband behaves as if he’s Switzerland during World War II.

The following day was grueling. I didn’t mention the dance invitation that morning en route to school. It was none of my business. Not my problem. If my adoring little boy got his heart stomped on by some brazen hussy, it was simply going to be a natural consequence that would teach him to be more cautious in exposing his sentiments in the future. Surely that lesson will serve him well in the long run.

I picked him up promptly at 3:15. “How was school?” I nonchalantly queried.
“Oh, it was okay,” he contended with the neutrality of a poker professional, cards close to his vest.

“Anything out of the ordinary occur?” I tried not to sound as pathetically desperate to know the story as I obviously was.

“No. Not really,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Just your average day.”

I bit my tongue, literally, to keep myself from uttering another word. Suddenly he chirped with excitement, “Oh, mom, I almost forgot. I asked Jessica (not her real name) to the dance this afternoon.”

“Oh you did?” I casually inquired. “So…how’d it go?”

“It was amazing! I played this One Direction song at the end of Spanish called ‘That’s what makes you beautiful,’ and I told her I wasn’t Nile, but I’d still like to take her to the dance if she’d go with me. The whole class was cheering and saying, ‘Say yes. Say yes.’ It was such a cool feeling to have everyone wanting me to succeed. And she did say yes, which made it even more cool.”

OK, I did not see that coming. My whole body heaved a heavy sigh of relief. Thank heavens that catastrophe was averted. We pulled into the driveway and I saw a series of texts had come in from my husband. “So?” “What happened?” “Did she say yes?” “Is he okay?” Well, how do you like that? Mr. “I’m so uninvolved emotionally and capable of keeping my feelings out of the situation” is actually waiting on pins and needles to know the results from today’s event.

I started to text back the good news when it struck me that it wouldn’t kill my husband to wait a few more hours to learn the verdict from today’s challenge. After all, I wouldn’t want him to take things on too personally and rob my son of his learning experience.
I texted back, “He prefers to talk with you in person.”

Yes, I know it was a bit childish. O.K., maybe even passive aggressive to purposely lead my husband astray like that. But it wasn’t a lie. Not really. Just a…a…an extension of the truth. And one that cheered me immensely over the course of the afternoon. Honestly, can you blame me? It’s not easy being married to a professional parent who always seems to have all the right answers.

Benign neglect

imgres-5I feel guilty. I mean for the past few years I’ve religiously written a weekly blog that happily gets sent out to hundreds of awesome subscribers. But I’ve been inundated with work deadlines, life, family responsibilities, etc…And I’ve neglected my blog. It’s actually painful to come back after this kind of inadvertent vacation.

It’s like that cousin you’ve been meaning to call for a few weeks, then a few months, then it’s like seven years and you’re estranged for no real reason other than the awkwardness of not wanting to call after a two week hiatus.

The truth is, I haven’t had any terribly impressive, prolific or provocative ideas in the past two weeks. And I am vehemently against anyone who blogs about the inane trivialities of day to day living. Like what’s with those people who send out five, six, even 10 new blogs or tweets every day? Really? Do they honestly believe anyone cares? Hey, bloggers, we are deleting your frickin’ posts before even reading them if you’re inundating us with multiple reminders of how banal your everyday life is.

The same goes for Facebook. I mean, come on. Who gives a crap what you ate for lunch or where you went with your family or how many times you’ve watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” NOBODY is interested. I actually stopped going to FB because I have several “friends” who post incessantly about inane nonsense. Sure I could have “unfriended” or “defriended” them or whatever it’s called. But I’m even more opposed to confrontation than I am anti-triviality.

So I remain silently devoted to all of you. Forgive my temporary lapse in the epiphany arena. Surely the muse will attend to me at some point. Then, and only then, shall I pick up the pen (or rather strike the keyboard) to share my deep and philosophical revelations.

Happy Chanukah!

So, what do YOU do?

Political correctness has paralyzed me! Last night we were at a party. I was excited to meet a slew of new and interesting people. It was a family event at someone’s home so kids were happily racing around, playing Wii, watching videos, etc… Someone asked my husband what he did? “I’m a Pediatrician,” Mark responded. Then I piped up and asked the inquiring man what kind of work he did. He answered with a complex I.T./consulting/mathematical response that left me speechless. Then I looked at his wife and wanted desperately to know what she did “for a living.” But something inside me said, “no. That’s not an okay question to ask.” But I wanted to know. The potential to meet a new friend who might have similar interests, might share a common language, might connect to me at a deeper level was impelling me forward.

“Do you work outside the home?” I thought about asking. But her children were older and of course she worked outside the home at this point in her parenting career. Something must be wrong with her if she didn’t work outside the home I surmised. But I couldn’t be sure. “And what kind of work do you do?” I toyed with asking. This way I could leave her the out to say she chose to volunteer or offered aide at her children’s school instead of punching a clock at some corporate warehouse or laboring menially in a cubicle under fluorescents.

She looked at me inquisitively. She’s probably wanting to ask me the same thing, I mused. Finally I came up with, “So do you exercise?” Why I asked that I have no idea. She smiled genuinely and shared that she was training for the Komen three day breast cancer walk. She walked nearly 20 miles a day she told me. Hmmm? I thought to myself. That takes an awful lot of time. Must not work outside the home. Good thing I didn’t embarrass myself by asking. Later I followed up on a clue she let slip about working with children.Turned out she was a preschool teacher. But by the time I realized that, it was too late to delve into the details.

Throughout the night I found myself in similar situations with numerous women. No one asked me what I did. I asked no one what she did. It was as if we had all signed a tacit agreement upon entering. We will not ask about careers, professions, or achievements because somehow the mere asking about these things suggested some type of judgement. But in failing to ask, I failed to find a path inside these women’s souls. I left at the end of the night feeling as if I hadn’t really met anyone, hadn’t really shared any part of myself, hadn’t really explored or revealed anything to anyone.

Sometimes I wonder if we, as women, miss out on genuine connection because we are working so desperately to avoid offending one another. I have met very few women who actually do nothing all day long. But the delicacy required to inquire about a woman’s daily activities seems almost paralyzing. The fear of insulting or sounding judgmental freezes us and renders us completely inept at conversing. It keeps us locked up inside ourselves and isolated.

Does anyone know the right way to forge ahead in these types of situations?

Ancient battles

I’m not a poet. I wouldn’t know how to technically craft a poem to save my life. I like to write funny. Funny is safe. Funny is easy. But sometimes nothing feels funny. Every moment hurts. Bitterly.

 

 

 

Ancient Battles

When they are small it’s so easy to

kiss away boo-boos,

Wipe soggy tears,

And dab ointment on cuts and bruises.

A mother’s salve.

Healing.

 

But time changes all that.

And pains become immeasurable.

My words cannot erase the hurt

of treacherous laughter

and taunting betrayal.

 

My heart aches inside me.

I want so to help.

Instead I remain outside his fortress,

Unable to soothe.

Ill-equipped to protect him from the child warriors

who rage at the walls of his porcelain ego.

 

We are both wearied from battle.

“Don’t give up,” I manage to eke out the words

like a fallen soldier,

desperate to embolden the barely breathing comrade by my side.

“You will win in the end.”

 

He tries to believe me.

The corner of his mouth curls just enough

to tell me he’s not ignoring me.

And then silence.

We drive on through the night

alone —

together.

His fresh wounds bleeding.

My scabs ripped open to

once again remember the agony of childhood.

 

Don’t mean to depress anyone. But this is where I’ve been living this past week. So many good, kind parents have no idea that their children are viciously tormenting others. Please, talk to your kids about bullying. Teach them that cruelty wounds deeply and childhood scars can last lifetimes. Even if you’re certain it’s “not your kid,” think again. Because it just may be.

Kids say the darndest things.

Maybe stationary and writing utensils should be verboten at camp!

I stood there for a long time looking at the letter. It felt so light. I thought that was funny. How something as weighty as what could be inside could feel so…flimsy and insubstantial. I had just returned from the gym where one swollen-eyed mom had shared her devastating sleep-away camp story to a gaggle of us who hadn’t heard from our own kids since they jetted off to overnight camp for the summer. What could be inside this envelope? I was almost too fearful to open it. “Maybe I’ll wait till my husband comes home from work,” I thought. That was too 1950s subservient housewife for me though. No. The letter was to me. I needed to open it by myself.

Images of my 9 year old self flooded my memory. My first summer at sleep-away camp was devastating. I wasn’t ready to leave home for 8 weeks. But, that’s what upper middle class families in the Midwest did back then. Moms needed a break so kids were shipped off to camps in the North Woods of Wisconsin and Michigan and parents got two months of time off from parenting.

And some kids did great for those two months. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. I wrote treatises to my folks, promising to do all the chores I could think of around the house, and agreeing to let overbearing relatives with boundary issues cuddle and kiss me without complaint. If only they would come and take me home. The letters must have been heart-breaking. I never once thought about how they would affect my parents. Until now.

What if Levi, my 10 year old, was lonely? What if he was sad? What if he hadn’t made any friends and cried himself to sleep? What if he wanted to come home? I couldn’t bear to think of him so far away and so unhappy.

I also wondered if there really was some kind of karmic poetic justice in life. My gut-wrenching camp letters coming back to haunt me as an adult. I did have a moment of levity, however, recalling the second year I returned to camp and copied letters from Art Linkletter’s book “Letters From Camp.” I plagiarized the wackiest pages of that book and sent ‘em home, signed by me. I never imagined my mom would actually believe the ridiculous scenarios I created in print. I hope Levi never saw that book.

I took a deep breath and opened the letter. It was short but moderately legible. He was happy. He loves camp. He’s got friends. He’s got great counselors. Hooray! This was a good thing. No tear stains. No pleas to come home. He did say he missed me. That felt kind of nice. But my boy is doing well on his own. He’s only there for 12 days. I think that’s plenty of time for now. If he wants to go for longer in a few years, I’ll be okay with that.

But for now, I can rest easy, knowing that my young man is safe, happy and not trying to torment me with colorful letters from someone else’s imagination. Btw, mom, I’m sorry I scared you by copying Art Linkletter’s books. I was just trying to make you laugh. Honest.

WWLD?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathe...deeply!

I  love Lulu Lemon. Not because I’m some peace-loving, zen yogini or anything even close. I just love the style, fit and feel of their clothes. Plus the whole vibe of the store makes me happy. But do you know what I really love most about the place? The bags.

Come on. You love them too. They’re cute. They’re uplifting. They’re the perfect Trader Joe’s reusable grocery bags. But here’s the moment of truth. What do the bags actually say? Don’t look! This is a challenge I’m putting before you. Everything on those bags is thoughtful, philosophical, and inspiring. But I bet, no matter how many tata tamers you have, you can’t come up with 10 phrases that adorn that bag. Too hard? How about five? Three? One?

I wouldn’t ask you to attempt anything I wasn’t willing to try myself. So here goes:

1. Listen intently…to someone?
2. Breathe.
3. Friends are more important than money.
4. Something about sweating every day.
5. Do something every day that scares you.
6. Life is a journey, not a destination. (Okay, I’m stumped and this was the first generic philosophical phrase I could think of. But It could be on the bag.)

I have now retrieved one of the many red and white sacks I possess and am moderately horrified by my performance. I got 4…sort of. “Breathe” is actually “Breathe Deeply.” But I think I deserve at least a half point for my effort. It’s “Listen, listen, listen and then ask strategic questions.” But who would ever remember that? I didn’t get “Love,” which is so blatantly obvious it’s almost embarrassing. I missed “Dance, Sing, Floss and Travel,” “Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment,” “The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.” I could go on. But instead, I’m just going to encourage all of you to step away from your computer and go into your bedroom, closet or the trunk of your car and pick up one of your Lulu bags. Then grab a cup of tea or a mug of French press coffee, sit down and really read what’s on that bag.

It’s kind of nutty to think that a tote from a retail establishment could honestly change your life. But I really think this one can. Because it’s true, “Friends are more important than money,” and “Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself.” The bag is like a modern day totem pole, celebrating today’s overwhelming obsession with spiritual enlightenment, and saying to the world and generations to come, “This is who we are. This is what we believe. This is what we are striving towards.”

It’s actually kind of cool to think about this as an emblem of our people. Probably a little kooky too. I doubt that the marketing guru who came up with the bag design considered herself a modern day messenger of current societal standards. But who knows. Maybe Sarah Palin, in one of the upcoming Republican primary debates, will cite Lulu as her favorite political philosopher, just as George W. did in the now infamous 1999 debate when he chose Jesus Christ as his. WWLD?

Self reliance

I am a rock. I am an island!

Sometimes I write for fun. Most of the time, though, I write out of necessity. I write to make sense out of unfathomable things. And here’s todays:

Every July my family goes to California. We spend a week at a generous family friend’s beach house and enjoy for a short while, living like the other half do. It’s my kids’ favorite place in the world and a treat we all look forward to from August to June.

The first summer we visited, my eldest son, Levi, was 3 and a half and his brother, Eli, a new born babe. It was a tough time of adjustment for us. At the time, Eli had been diagnosed as blind and Levi was struggling to cope with the sudden appearance of an annoying baby brother who seemed to suck all the attention out of his world. We brought our babysitter on the trip and she had some kind of nervous breakdown and went AWOL. Seriously. She left us a bizarre, incoherent goodbye note and that was the last we saw of her. Given our stressful situation, we inadvertently let some of the household chores fall by the wayside.

We received a stern reproach from Lois, our beach house hostess, the following spring when I called to inquire about our upcoming summer visit. Frankly, it was mortifying. Accused of not leaving their lovely home in the same condition in which we had found it, I apologized profusely and assured her that I would never again allow toddlers, teething or childcare trauma to distract my attention from my housekeeping responsibilities.

From then on, I cleaned each summer like an army recruit trying desperately to impress her platoon sergeant. I scrubbed, shined and sparkled everything from the grout in the kitchen tiles to the bottom of the white marble toilet bowls. I cleaned this house like none other I had ever lived in.

Years passed and things seemed normal between us and our friends. So it was with great confidence that I sent this year’s email inquiring about a July visit. A few days later I received a phone call from Mel, our affable host who has always reminded me of my beloved father.

“This is very difficult for me,” he started. “You know we love you guys.” (Note to self: it is never a good sign when a conversation begins with a heartfelt declaration of love) He then proceeded to tell me that we had left their beautiful home in shambles last summer. I will leave out the details, but suffice to say that according to him, walls needed repainting, appliances repair, and furniture replacement. He said that we had left the beach house in bad shape before, but that this past summer was the worst of all and he simply had no choice but to ask us never to visit again.

I was seriously stunned. This seemed impossible to me. I distinctly recall our final Sunday morning cleaning session in which we washed and replaced the linens, scrubbed all the bathrooms, cleaned out the refrigerator, and did a host of other cleaning duties.

“But, we cleaned…” I stammered. “…for hours. I just don’t understand.” By this point, I was sobbing and close to hyperventilating. He graciously suggested that our definitions of “clean” must be vastly divergent. I offered to replace the recliner we had allegedly stained and cover the costs of any household repairs even though I remembered the tattered arm chair looking very near death upon our arrival last summer. He, of course, refused. No, there was nothing I could say or do to redeem myself or my family.

Beside the sheer mortification of this experience, I am deeply saddened to know that people we so greatly admire and respect believe us to be selfish, reckless and inconsiderate. I know we weren’t responsible for the damage they believe we caused. They lend out that house to countless friends and family who do not treat it with the same level of respect that we do and they probably have not set foot in the house in years. But I couldn’t argue with him. They apparently inspected the house and found several things wrong with it directly after our visit. So we, in their minds, are the culprits. Arguing seemed pointless. So I apologized again and hung up.

I want there to be a lesson in this. But I’m having a hard time finding it. All I seem to come up with is that you should never stay in anyone else’s home, borrow anyone else’s car, or utilize anything that doesn’t personally belong to you, yourself. Because the potential for something bad happening is just enormous. It’s like driving without car insurance. You’ll never have an accident until the day your policy lapses due to an overdrawn checking account.

Self reliance is the only way to go. I remember back in 8th grade when my best friend, Annie, dumped me for a more popular, less uptight burn-out chick. I sat in my bedroom playing Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a Rock,” over and over until I fell asleep. I woke up feeling better though. I guess as a mom, I’d just bought into the whole “It take a village” thing; believing that you could rely on other people, that accepting help was a good thing, that you weren’t really out there all alone.

Forgive me if I sound callous or cynical, but accepting anything from anyone leaves you vulnerable and, as far as I’m concerned, vulnerability sucks.