Monday, August 27, 2012

dear teenagers, *this* is why your parents are so grumpy when you go back to school supply shopping.

1. we don't 'technically' budget for back to school supplies.

2. we don't think they should cost NEARLY as much as they do.

3. we are not in charge of the list.

the thing is, we know you're going to need school supplies. but high schoolers don't generally need their supplies until AFTER the school year begins. when each teacher gives their specific requirements. and by the time that happens it's like a month after we've started dealing with back to school. and the beginning of the shopping is all about the shoes and the clothes and oh you need a new back pack this year? your old one won't work? didn't i just buy you new underwear?

in some cases we've paid for transportation for the year or sports fees or both. then the summer packet with the fees laid out for the school comes and in some cases we've had to already pay for the yearbook, sometimes there's club fees, a PE uniform, a pre-paid dining card to load so you can eat at school.

THIRTY FIVE FREAKING DOLLARS FOR AN ASSOCIATED STUDENT BODY CARD? does it come with a massage and a free term paper?

whatever the fees, they are at least, more often than not, expected or hit early enough that they just get 'dealt' with. it doesn't mean it makes us grumble less, it's just a known quantity.

then the lull of the last days of summer set in. we start to relax. anticipate the start of school.

then the held breath, the exhalation, and the whirlwind of the first days of school hit.

and then it's like the 1st school day friday and we think we've made it through the first week unscathed and we're sitting on the couch and enjoying a (cheap because by now we feel tapped out) glass of wine, patting ourselves on the back for having made it through when BAM!

you remind us you have the requirements from your teachers.

oh? we ask. what kinds of things this year?

and you say, 1 inch binders, notebooks, dividers, etc. you answer, but are vague.

not a lot, you say.

oh? we ask. do you have a set list?

you do not.

well, we say. let's go this weekend.

we might discuss it again on saturday. mention about a list. you mention back that you know everything you need. we mention maybe you could give us an idea. you mention you know, binders. paper. the usual.  we drop it. because we forget to remember. what it was like last year. we just forget in general.

so we get in the car and go on sunday. and of course target, where everyone else has already gone, is out of everything. except the crappiest bright white binders and justin bieber notebooks. and they're WIDE ruled.

so we go to the big box office supply store.

we are lucky if we only have to hit one. because more often than not they too are out of everything. and then the driving begins.

which brings us to #2 on the list.

NOTHING and i mean nothing is on sale at the big box office supply stores. nothing we need, anyway.  and not only is nothing on sale, shit is EXPENSIVE! and i know we *just* did this last year so why am i so freakin' surprised?? you wonder. but i will tell you what, back to school supply shopping is a lot like childbirth. if you remembered the actual pain involved in doing it you wouldn't ever EVER do it again. 

and we just don't think things should be as expensive as they are. we think about how little we needed in high school, a back pack and like a folder we're muttering to ourselves. we can't think of much more we needed. kids these days with their fancy school requirements, we mumble under our breath.

but loud enough for you to hear.

of course we are being completely irrational. and it's not your fault you have school supplies you need. but it makes us feel better. best just to let us be.

to our way of thinking, a binder should be like a dollar. maybe two dollars.  you know, if it has that fancy plastic outer sleeve. a notebook should be no more than 50 cents. maybe a dollar. but binder paper should never be more than a dollar. can't you get pencils at school? since when did they stop offering pencils at school?

OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF A PACK OF DIVIDERS??? if i had any smarts at all i would have gone into the divider industry. that or disposable razors. those people are making a MINT.

ah, so now you see that pinchy look on our faces? yeah. look around. every single parent we pass has the same look. and do you notice how every parent/child combo seems to be having the SAME 'conversation' we are? have you ever seen a grumpier looking group of parents? we can't even make eye contact with each other, we parents. it's too raw and painful. it's like we're all being slowly tortured to death but nobody wants anyone else to share in their pain and we have no sympathy left to give others. we have no commiseration left in us. you have broken us. so no judgment from you, teenager.

and we haven't even made it to #3.

which brings us to #3.

we are not in charge of the 'list.' not only are we not in CHARGE of the list, there isn't even a LIST TO CONSULT. LET ALONE TO BE IN CHARGE OF. because the list is several items jotted down in several spots on several pieces of paper in your weird ass hurried handwriting. papers which you have gathered at the last minute and are 'consulting.'  and by consulting i mean you have like 6 different spots you wrote 6 different class requirements down in and you're shuffling through them like you have no idea where they are or what they are because YOU DON'T. we are standing IN.THE.PLACE.and you have NO CLUE WHAT YOU  NEED!

we know what we need. and i'm pretty sure they don't sell whiskey at staples.

this is a grave error on their part. they could make a killing. the 'speak-easy button bar' they could call it.

so there is no actual list and the person who knows what's even remotely supposed to be ON the list should one exist is you. and you are a teenager. with a now grumpy parent in tow. and you're not quick to answer our questions in the first place, let alone with any real DEFINITIVE and CLEAR intent, and add to that the fact our grumpiness and sheer need to now keep repeating the same question hoping to get some idea of what we are shopping for, how many we need, and some vague idea of how much this is going to cost us.

it's a school supply clusterfuck. it's a meltdown of college ruled proportions waiting to happen.

'so a binder. for every class? or just some? and what size?' we ask. trying to beat back the rising hysteria in our voice.

'mumble mumble don't know mumble 1 inch' you reply.

'what about these notebooks?' we grab a stack from the one and only box we see. only we've asked without looking at the size. and we will pay the price.

'those say WIDE RULED. you KNOW i can only use COLLEGE RULED.'

to your credit you don't add 'dumbass.' yay you. you get to live. 

and that's *just* the paper goods. because wait, there's more! all the times you maybe even remotely discussed with us what might be getting purchased on this trip you never once mention the extras.

the lock for the PE locker, the specific requirements for your 'sportfolio.' oh? what's a sportfolio one might ask? well, that's a good question. yes well, it's an entire binder set up with a bunch of extras for YOUR P.E CLASS. wtf? not to mention the protractor and extras for math and the graphing notebook not just loose graphing paper and don't EVEN get me started on the graphing calculator. oh my god we did that last year and i STILL can't really even talk about it.

so with the driving and the finding it's going on hour two and we are pushing the cart wondering how in the hell we got blind sided AGAIN by something we knew was coming, can't believe how goddamned expensive everything is and really want to start every single sentence with 'well back in my day...' and have NO earthly idea of what we need to buy you, how much we need to buy you, how much it's going to cost us, and we only have YOU to rely on for any kind of actual information.

and by now you have picked up on our irritation, you can't believe how old we sound when we're complaining about the prices because 5.49 doesn't seem AT ALL an unreasonable a price for a binder, hey what's that shiny thing!!! you think and you wonder if you need it because it's so shiny and so you ask us if you should get it because you don't know what it is but you're pretty sure you need it it's SO SHINY and you can't figure out why you get such a snippy answer from us to a such a simple question from you and why would we flip out on you just because you asked to go to urban outfitters 'just to look around' and maybe go out to get something to eat afterwords?


and THIS, teenagers, this is why your parents are so grumpy when you go back to school supply shopping.

the end.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

marriage is not very sexy sometimes. more often than not this is realized while shopping in target.

so the husband and i went to target. by ourselves. this is called a 'date.' oh, and also we needed trash bags.

so i have a list and he has a list and he grabs the cart.

and that's when i see them. a young couple. they look like they just rolled out of bed. they're both wearing the loose, branded clothing of their respective colleges. she's beautiful in the way young women are. when you can roll out of bed and look like she does. i remember those days. these days when i wake up i look like i just rolled out from under the bed.  i can practically smell the strawberry shampoo from where i'm standing.

she looks up and catches my eye. she looks me up and down. you know, like women like to do. and i can almost hear her inner dialogue based on the look on her face. oh my god, i will never look like that at her age. i will still be thin. i will be dressed cute. i will not let my hair go grey.

i want to take her aside and explain what 'poker face' means and how it will serve her well in the future.

instead, i just smiled at her and she tightened her grip on her boyfriend's hand and they went down the next aisle.

meanwhile, we shop.

 the husband is rattling off the list and then he says

'we can get the board to cover the cat boxes at home depot. we'll go there next. then paper towels and toilet paper at trader joe's.'

'you know. if you really think about it as a whole, marriage is one un-sexy undertaking.'

'oh hush. we should get more light bulbs.'

the beautiful young woman and her boyfriend pass by.

i try to hold the husband's hand. but someone has to push the cart.

we are walking down an aisle and the husband stops. he sees something. it's a bench. for the entry way. we need a bench for our entry way because we've decided we're not going to wear shoes in this house. i know, we're THOSE people. but YOU can totally wear shoes when you come over. really. i'm serious.

so we need a bench and he's looking at this bench that's on sale. and cheap. and probably kinda crappy. i know what he wants. and it's not this bench. it's an antique oak 'hall tree' that has a built in seat with a hinged top and a mirror and hooks and you put it in your entry way and it's beautiful. it's also out of our price range.

and he knows my ultra practical self would go for this as a temporary fix. even though he's not into temporary fixes. especially kinda crappy ones. so i ask

'i thought you wanted something different?'

'yeah. i do. but that's really pricey and we need a bench and this is on sale.'

'well, i don't mind it. but this is YOUR decision. i don't want you coming in every day after work looking at that crappy target bench and seeing your whole life in that crappy target bench.'

'what are you talking about?'

'you know, the whole i don't get to make any decorating decision and i don't have any say and i work all the time and i don't have any say and now here's this crappy bench and i didn't have any say.'

'when have i ever done that? even remotely?'

'well, never. but people do ALL THE TIME. and there's a first time for everything. one day you're happily married and the next thing you know you're arguing over who gets to keep the crappy bench that no one wanted in the first place. get the bench or don't, but this is your decision.'

'don't you have something else you can go get?'

'i'll go get the trash bags.'

'good idea.'

so i'm looking for trash bags. this is an 'issue.' because we bought like this HUGE ass trash can. and it needs the 13 gallon sized trash bags. only, by the time they're filled they bust when you try to take them out of the trash can. so i'm looking for BIGGER kitchen trash bags thinking that the extra at the top will give us an edge in them not ripping when they're full.

the husband and i had like a 20 minute discussion about this.

well, and as it turns out, they don't MAKE kitchen trash bags larger than 13 gal. who knew? not me. BUT, and as it turns out, there's like this whole bunch of trash bags that are like rip proof and stretchy and grabby at the top so they don't slip and rip. but now to choose which one. so i get to work and i'm already overwhelmed. i have a choice of 3 when the husband appears.

'okay. so this one is extra tough. this one is extra stretchy. this one grabs at the top of the can.'

'jesus. you'd think they could roll it all into one. well which one should we get?'

'beats me. i mean, with all the cat litter we have to toss after cleaning boxes twice a day it gets really heavy.  that's why it rips.'

and right then the beautiful young woman and her boyfriend pass by. she looks at me and quickly looks away. she looks like she swallowed something fermented. she's holding one box of band aids. they have kermit on them. isn't that cute. i think i want to punch her.

i look at the husband. studying the boxes of trash bags. in which to hold the massive amounts of cat shit and garbage our house generates. i remember when we used to have sex in the front seat. well, it was that once. he had a really small car.

'marriage. un-sexy. and here's the proof.'

'oh hush. i'm going to put these two back and get this one.'

and as he's reaching up i reach over and put my hand on his ass.

he looks at me and smiles.

'what are you doing?'

'i'm making trash bag shopping more sexy.'

the woman in front of us turns around and glares.

the moment passes.
we head over to get contact lens solution.

'oh wait. let's go down here. i'm going to have my period soon.'


and there she is again. WHAT IN THE HELL! is she fucking following me?!

and now she looks at me with horror and revulsion. she looks at the husband calmly marking off his list while i've been caught red handed buying feminine products IN FRONT OF HIM. AS IF IT ISN'T ANY BIG DEAL. oh. the horrors. stop.

she had been looking at the sun screen on the end cap. she still has the band aids.  she puts down the sunscreen and grabs her boyfriend's hand.

'let's go.'

'didn't you want to get that?'

'i'm done.'

and i start to chuckle. and i SO want to shout something after her. but i don't. and i don't know what i WOULD shout. 'it gets better!' maybe? as in one day it's going to be comfortable to be with the one you love. one day you'll finally feel comfortable eating in front of him. one day you can buy more than a box of band aids with kermit on them just because they're cute. because you're stalling. you came to target for that? the hell you did. you probably had something else you needed but were suddenly too shy in front of your boyfriend. and now you're here like YOU DON'T NEED SOMETHING? you're in target, beautiful young woman. CIRCLING 'health & beauty' and there isn't ONE THING YOU NEED? and yes i'm assuming and judging BUT THIS IS MY INTERNAL FANTASY SHOUT SO I GET TO! AND I'LL BET SOME OF THAT RINGS TRUE ANYWAY! oh, and yes HERE'S ANOTHER ONE:  one day you might even be buying a bra here! IN FRONT OF YOUR HUSBAND! yeah that's right! a bra! and maybe even PANTIES! in the same place you buy garbage cans and motor oil! IT CHANGES HONEY! and it may not be sexy but it's REAL! and sometimes that's even BETTER! because you finally get to let out that breath you didn't know you were holding! AND THAT'S WHY MY STOMACH ISN'T AS FLAT AS YOURS! IT'S CALLED BREATHING! i'm finally breathing! well and i should be doing more pilates but that's neither here nor there right now missy because this is about you! and my advice to you is to just ROLL WITH IT! EMBRACE IT! because if you don't there's a greater than average chance you could end up SUPER UNHAPPY! and for god's sake i hope you're wearing SUN SCREEN WHENEVER YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE EVEN ON OVERCAST DAYS BECAUSE YOU HAVE GORGEOUS FLAWLESS SKIN!

we finish our shopping and are heading across the parking lot to the car.

'did you see that girl?'

'what girl?'

'the really pretty one. with her boyfriend. she was like everywhere we were.'

'huh. i didn't see her.'

of course he didn't see her. because he's the most confident person i know. who literally could not care less what other people think of him. what they see when they see him. he's content. he's got a few hours with his wife. the day is fine. he solved the vexing shoes in the entry way problem with the cheap crappy bench. he's got a half checked off list (if you're an aquarius this is a lot like winning the lottery. a whole checked off list never happens because if you're an aquarius you keep adding to the a half checked off list = golden.) he's a happy camper. today and most days. if i didn't love him so much i'd probably be really annoyed by that.

'she was all over the place and i swear she was looking at me and glimpsing some kind of future and she wasn't pleased. didn't like what she saw.'

the cart is heavy but he takes one hand off the handle and puts it around my shoulders. he easily steers the heavy cart with the remaining hand. he kisses me and says

'she should be so lucky.'


Friday, August 17, 2012

home of the brave.

"What do you think we could be if we didn't have to be brave."

this was in a book i just read. i read that and then put the book down. in full and fair disclosure i cried. but you knew that.

the thing is, i have thought this very thing so many times in my life. what might i do, what i might become if i didn't have to keep doing 'this.' keep being brave. picking myself up.

i think many people with difficult childhoods or difficult circumstances have had the exact same or a similar thought.

what else could i have been or done if i didn't have to put my energies towards bravery?? just getting by. just making it through. imagine the possibilities. imagine the me i could be.

i was in my hometown when i read this book. a place i rarely go. a place that holds memories both good and bad. so many of each.

the boys asked to go by my old house. this is not usually on the agenda during my rare visits. but, they had never seen it and of course were curious. i joked to a friend on the phone when he asked what we were up to that day that we were going to strap on our kevlar and head over to the old neighborhood.

it's not that bad. maybe it is. it's hard to know when you're not really there. it was fine growing up. i mean as a neighborhood in general. i guess. from what i remember. i mean there were neighborhood bullies and the occasional flasher. one neighbor drove his big old convertible drunk and with kids all piled in on the regular. the other neighbor sometimes forgot to feed her kids. we think the lady who lived upstairs was a hooker. when i was older i wore a low cut shirt and got a good deal on a set of used tires from the guy who lived behind us. i walked to all three schools i went to, walked to the store. bought cigarettes for cinnamon's mom at the corner store with a note saying please let my daughter buy cigarettes for me. and her mom signed it. so, you know, the usual neighborhood dynamics.

anyway, i was a little reticent. the last time i went home i ended up in a puddle on my hotel bed. crying to another friend on another phone call. i couldn't even fathom driving down that street. by the old house. why couldn't it have been different, i cried. why couldn't it have been easier, i cried. blah blah blah.

so i'm in the car and driving the boys towards my house. i see the shopping center that had the grocery store and the place we used to buy 10 cent boxes of candy. the video store was there. i remember when it opened. this was right when VCRs came out and video stores started popping up. you could rent a VCR then because so few people had them. my father used to rent a VCR and 3 movies there every friday afternoon. he'd watch them and do a review column for a local paper.

i see that ernie's liquors is still a liquor store but called something else. i remember going in there with my father when i was little. i remember later, more recently, sprinting in there dressed to the nines for the goddess mother's wedding. i was supposed to be at the church already. supposed to be marrying her and her husband at nearly that exact moment. i was still miles away.  i was late. the laptop ate my ceremony. the duke nursed too long. my hair and makeup made me look like i spent a little too much time at home with mother's little helper. i sprinted in there and grabbed a bottle of jagermeister.

mother's little helper indeed. liquid form.

the husband was driving and the duke was asleep in the back. and there i was, sweaty, freaked, and late. cermony-less. shooting jagermeister and muttering to myself.

it turned out beautifully.

it's true. ask anyone.

the car made its way past. i shook off the memory. there's the apartments on the left my father told me never to go to alone. sometimes i did.  there's the park on the right that used to be an orchard. there's my street. shit. i nearly passed it. how in the hell did that happen? this street has its own freaking barbed wire wrapped wing dug right into my soul and here i almost missed it. i turned off and expected it all to come flooding back. you know, it. it. the it of the difficult childhood. it. like it always had when i had gone back the few times before. expected something that didn't come. instead, i played tour guide.

there's where melvin lived.

the kid with the rotten teeth who always cussed?

yep. oh, there's cinnamon's house! it looks so small.

that's where she lived? is that the tree? you were lucky to live so close to your best friend.

so lucky. oh! there's allan's house. god it looks so small. the yard was always perfect. too bad it looks the way it does now.

was that the kid who always wanted to play border patrol?


i slow the car.

pointing out allan's house had almost made me miss my own.

i stop.

i point.

that's my house. look at that fence and grass. we didn't have grass or a fence. it was prickly bushes that smelled like cat pee and beauty bark instead of grass.

it's cute. i like the brick.

it looks exactly the same. look at how big my father's peach tree has gotten. i remember when he planted it. so he could always have fresh peaches. for cobbler. and pie.

i put the car in park and briefly i remember how my father made a list of foods that he wanted me to cook for him when i came to visit. last year. when he was dying. peach cobbler was on the list. i made most of the food. he had a plate, but didn't eat any. i never got around to making the peach cobbler.

at this point it's just as my sister said, everything seems smaller. the houses the street the distance to the corner. everything seems at once shabbier and brighter than i remember. i am somewhere else, but it's not painful. it feels odd for it to feel so...normal. like, hey here's the house i grew up in. and nothing more. it's just a house. where i grew up. it isn't everything it used to be. no longer the scene of the crime. just a set piece in the movie of the week of a silly mortal.

and then i remember it's probably best not to be stopped in front of unfamiliar houses. i pull forward. drive by my old elementary school. turn around. cruise by the house again. and then we're off. more places to see.

and again, i expect that thing. that pit to open me up and swallow me whole. the reminder of pain and sheer exhaustion. i expect it to hit. and, it doesn't.

instead i am pointing out my jr. high. why can't i remember that it was called a 'senior elementary' instead of a jr. high. what in the hell is that?

mama, that's so weird.

i know.

i keep driving down the street that takes me to my old high school. i point out to the left side of a duplex with a rusting car on blocks in the driveway.

i had a boyfriend who lived there with his dad.

oh. it looks um, really run down.

it looks about the same.

was this in high school?

no. after. i worked with him at the burger place. actually, technically he was my boss. he was a little older. from a trailer park in oklahoma. he used to invite me over to watch an old video of him playing in the state basketball championship. over and over and over.

oh, mama.

i know.

i keep driving. in my old hometown. here where i grew up. here where i grew my armor. and regrew and regrew and regrew my armor.

but  the more i drive i STILL don't feel it creeping up on me. i am just pointing out houses where friends lived (look there's rich's house!) and telling stories. i don't feel the need to be crushed by this trip down memory lane. i don't feel the need to be brave. at all.

i stop at the stoplight.

oh my god, i'm thinking. that's what it is. this feeling. i am not a wounded child here. i am ALWAYS a wounded child here. but now i'm just a mama showing her boys the old neighborhood.

and that's when it hits me.

that thing i always thought about having to be brave all the time. how my life might have been different if i could put my energy towards other pursuits. the possibilities. the me i could be. if i didn't have to carry around all that armor. i look over and sitting beside me and behind me was all that i ever wanted. my boys and my little family were all i ever wanted. to be a mother was all i ever really truly wanted.

and that's exactly what i got. and it's fucking awesome.

and those other things i did. things i've done in my life. those were awesome, too. i think we need to take stock more of the things we have done, and not the things we think we might have done. or missed out on. because i don't even know WHAT THOSE THINGS ARE. i mean my god what exactly has to happen to make the things we have done, however big or small, *just* as important as the things we think we might have missed out on?              

i don't know, but i think i accidentally stumbled on it at the stoplight in front of my old high school.

the light changed and then we were passing by the school. under the pretense of getting a better look i pulled over. i needed a minute. i needed a breath.

i don't know if it's because my father is gone now. or if i have finally just grown the fuck up. or if it's a combination of the two. or if it's getting back to the west coast or all the sun or WHAT. but 'it' never came. not the crush, not the sadness, not the pit. not the armor. bravery was no longer needed. at least not here.

and that was that. how quickly the shit that's kept you down falls away. and then you're left with...a deep breath. a little wiggle room. possibilities.

the me i have always been. 

just like that.

we looked at the bumpy walls of my old high school. and i told them the story of uncle nate's 'controversial' mural and how we (i won't name names to protect the absolutely guilty as charged) snuck into the school and uncovered the paint they had painted over it to hide it.

did uncle nate go with you?

no. i don't even know if he knew at the time we were gonna do it.

wait. how could you take that paint off without taking uncle nate's paint off underneath?

he sprayed his mural with some kind of anti graffiti spray. that makes it so you can take paint off the top without taking the paint of the piece.

that's awesome.

yeah. just you don't do something like that. sneaking into school property and all that. and if you do, don't let me know about it. and don't get caught.


i pulled out and we drove to the taco trucks and to sonic for slushes or whatever they're called there and to the park.

i like it here, says wingman.

i do too, i answered.