This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Friday, February 24, 2012

So, You Thought Your Family Was Nuts -- The Incident

The last post introduced you to my friend and her husband, The Smiths, and her husband's family, The Dimsdales (and Mrs. Mealy, the grandmother). This one is going to tell the story that started it all. Wait -- that is not exactly true. This post will be about the incident that revealed the true colors of the Dimsdales and Mrs. Mealy. This is NOT the beginning, not really. The beginning was years ago. Keep reading and you'll see what I mean.

Last summer, Mrs. Mealy wanted to have a cookout, so The Smiths offered to host the gathering. Everyone was invited. The Dimsdales declined because they were busy doing some home improvement projects, but they sent their daughter along with Mrs. Mealy. (Now, first of all I would be a little insulted if I was hosting a "family" get together and my family said "No thanks, we're gonna stay home and paint" but my friend wasn't fazed by this.)

As I said in the last post, my friend's daughter and her cousin are pretty close. As the day's activities were drawing to a close, the two of them tried to cook up a scheme to spend the night together. My friend was cool with it, and grandma was okay, but said that the little girl would have to call and ask her mother.

(I should probably point out that although my friend's kids had spent the night with this little girl at their grandma's house and the girls had spent the night together at the sister-in-law's house, The Dimsdale's kid had NOT spent the night at my friend's house except maybe once. Every time it was suggested that this little girl come over to my friend's house, the parent's had an excuse and would say "We'll do it another time." THIS time, however, it was just more than obvious that there was an issue that could no longer go unnoticed.)

So my friend calls her sister in law to see if the little girl can spend the night. Here is basically how the exchange went:

Mrs. Smith: "Hey the girls want to spend the night together. Do you care if [your child] stays over?

Mrs. Dimsdale: "Oh that would be fine, but they can spend the night over here. I don't mind."

"Well, since they are already here, why don't they just spend the night at our house tonight?"

"Oh well it's no big deal if mom doesn't want to drop them off on her way home I can come and get them."

"No, I don't want to send kids over to your house when you have been working all day."

"Oh I don't mind, just send them over here.”

"Well why don't you guys take the night off and go out to eat, and I can bring her home in the morning."

"Well we could, but I really don't mind. It's not a problem you can just send them over here. They can spend the night over here."

"No, I wouldn’t feel right about that since you guys have had so much on your plate with painting. Why don’t you let them spend the night here?"

"Well...put [my child] on the phone."

The little girl got on the phone, and went into the other room to talk privately with her mother. She eventually came back to the room after hanging up with her mother, saying that they would "Do it another time." My friend smelled a rat. She knew that a spend the night party at her house with this kid was never gonna happen, and she wondered what kind of mother would put her kid in a position to be dishonest with another adult -- family no less. The little girl got her things and went straight to the car. My friend confronted Mrs. Mealy, who after a little poking and prodding finally informed her that "Well they don't want her to spend the night because well they are afraid [your son] might pull his pants down and show her his penis and then they might start experimenting with each other." My friend was so appalled she just turned around and walked back into the house. There she found her daughter crying because The Dimsdale's kid had told her the same story, but worst of all her little boy had heard why his cousin was not allowed to spend the night.

Like my friend, I found this more than a little ridiculous and deplorable behavior on the part of adults and family. They are cousins after all, and HE IS EIGHT. It is not like he is a little flasher running around in a trench coat. The Smiths were wondering what in the hell these psychos were talking about. I mean, the kids had not all been together at the Smith's house over night for years, so if any supposed exposure had ever taken place it would have happened either at their house or the mother-in-law's house. The other thing that reeeeallly pissed her off (and would have pissed me off too) was that they had basically LIED to them about it for God knows how long. Yep, for all of their moral superiority, they were big fat liars. Their pants were fully ablaze every time they had said "Maybe next time."

So, my friend was naturally a little obsessed with this situation.  We discussed it ad nauseum on the phone and in person. Because the daughter had talked to her cousin and had gotten the low-down from her, the little boy was fully aware that his aunt and uncle were claiming that they were not comfortable with him. It made him sad. It made The Smith's FURIOUS and just flat out pissed me off. This little boy was led to believe that he was "wrong" somehow. Finally (after about 5 days) Mrs. Dimsdale sent her a text saying that she wanted to get together with them and "clear the air" about things. Now, I know that 5 days after a blow up like this seems like a pretty long time to wait -- especially since this is family that we are talking about, so I tried to put myself in this woman's shoes. She is a very religious, and mealy mouthed individual, and she has pissed off what is basically a more volatile and blunt version of me. It would probably take someone like that a few days to get the courage to talk about this. I was trying very hard to play Devil's Advocate with my friend and give Mrs. Dimsdale the benefit of the doubt.

FYI -- I have had a little experience with the whole nudity issue (go HERE for that story). But in my case, it wasn't family, but a neighbor. She called me immediately, we addressed it immediately, and it was over. Immediately. Her kid still comes to my house and my kids are welcomed at her house -- no big deal. So my friend and I decided it was not the nudity that was at issue here.

After discussing and analyzing the situation at length, we reached a few conclusions:

1)      The problem isn't really the 8 year old. If it were, then all 3 of the kids would not be allowed to spend the night together with Mrs. Mealy.

2)      The problem is more likely my friend and her husband or their parenting style -- in other words they do not trust them to keep the 8 year old dressed, keep the TV tuned to PBS, and keep the computer turned off. The Smiths are of a different denomination than the Dimsdales, and obviously their religion of choice was not "religious" enough for the Dimsdales.

3)      The bigger problem is the dishonesty and disrespect shown to my friend and her husband. (The Dimsdales treated The Smiths like they were inferior -- they had a "Well, you know how 'they' are" attitude toward them). The Smiths would have gladly bent over backwards to accommodate any rules that The Dimsdales might wish to have imposed, but they were never asked or given the chance.

4)      Then there were the hurt feelings of not just their son, but of my friend -- Mrs. Smith had held Mrs. Dimsdale's hand through her husband's affair. She had helped her find extra work when her husband had stepped out on her. She had watched her kid for her so that she could work those extra jobs. This wasn't just a slap in the face from the sister-in-law -- this was Mrs. Smith finding out that someone who she had thought of and treated as a close friend did not hold her in the same regard. Not even close.

5)      Finally, there was Mrs. Mealy. Mrs. Mealy had been fully aware of her daughter and son-in-law's opinions of her own son, daughter-in-law, and their kids but had not said or done anything about it. Seriously, this one took a little longer to sink in for me, but she had betrayed The Smith's trust every bit as much as The Dimsdale's had by keeping quiet.

I had a lot of sympathy for Mrs. Mealy at first. She most likely knew the real reasons, whatever they were, for The Dimsdale's behavior.  I could imagine being in her position, standing in her son’s living room having to level with adults her daughter did not have enough respect for or the guts to tell the truth.  What was she supposed to say? I had a hard time however, excusing her perpetuating a lie for what had to be YEARS. I know that if this were MY family and MY mother, then at the first whisper of a problem she would have nipped this in the bud so to speak. She would have sat me and my sister down and made us work through whatever the problem was. She NEVER would have lied for either one of us and she would not let us lie to each other. There might be lots of yelling and anger, but it would have been settled fairly quickly -- no way that this level of deception would have gone on and on like this. (Yes, my sister and I are both nearly 40 but you've never met my Mama). Mrs. Mealy is nowhere near up to those standards -- she got very indignant and passed along info that she knew to be a lie.

I think that Mrs. Mealy and The Dimsdales are basically such dishonest people that the way my friend and her husband relate to each other and handle conflict (which is head on and toe to toe) scares the hell out of them.  They are intimidated by them and afraid to confront them because they are basically too scared to confront even each other in their own marriage. To treat someone else like they are not even worth the truth is really arrogant  The way they tried to pass themselves off as somehow better than the Smiths - better parents, better Christians, better people would have almost been funny if they hadn’t been such two faced liars about it.  There is one thing for certain – People who feel the need to assert themselves as morally superior are usually neither. (And we know they are not since their own marriage had been in such a shambles).  

Mrs. Mealy doesn't know how to deal with my friend’s intense fury over this and her inaction has been detrimental to the relationship she once had with her daughter in law.  She prefers the no conflict dishonest happy-happy-joy-joy policy that her daughter has with Mr. Dimsdale. No yelling, no arguing, no conflict, just quiet judgment of everyone around them while you go and have an affair with the church secretary. I think that her perpetuating this lie was her way of diffusing the situation, but she gave no thought to the long term effects -- it was like putting duct-tape on a leaky pipe. It'll hold for a little while, but it you don't find a more long term solution you're gonna have a real mess.

My friend had already decided that when they met to sit down and talk, she would do her best to remain calm. She was going to do her best to appear accommodating and let them talk. But she would hold them accountable for the way they had character assassinated her son.  And if they did not end this meeting with some sort of resolution that allows the little girl to come to her house, then her kids will no longer be allowed to go to their house either, because she did not want her kids to be exposed to this insane behavior any more than necessary. I agreed with her.

If only it had been that easy....

The next installment will be ~The Confrontation~

FYI -- this next part may take several days to get right.  While I know the gist of what happened, there are a lot of details in the dialogue that went on that I don't know.  Just be patient.  My friend has a job and she and I both have families that prevent us from working 24/7 on getting the juicy details all down on paper, and we want to make sure that we get it right.  This post took longer than expected because I (knowing the WHOLE story already), had gotten a few things out of order and she had to correct  me.  Also, I am really bad about interjecting my own opinions and imposing my anger and outrage onto her "character" in all of this, when at this point, she was more stunned and shocked than she was angry.  So it's gonna take a little time to get things all sorted out. 
(Oh, and for all of you who have sent me emails and messages wanting to know if this is about certain people in your own lives, I am trying to keep this completely anonymous, so all I will say is "Hmmmm.....could be!")

Thursday, February 23, 2012

So, You thought Your Family Was Nuts -- The Beginning

I have an incredibly long story to tell.  It requires some set up -- sort of a prologue to introduce you to all of the players in this family drama.  This is a true story, that involves a friend of mine and her insane family and how they are a bunch of narcissists and narcissistic enablers and how she married the only normal one and they are now forced into dealing with the insanity.  So this post will be all about introducing you to my friend and her relatives.  I will follow with the incident that went off one Summer afternoon like a powder keg and has resulted in a minefield of crazy that my friend and her husband have been walking through for the past 8 months.  She has given me permission to tell this story as long as I keep it anonymous, so for the sake of these posts, my friend and her husband are "The Smiths" (because they are a fairly average, normal family) and her sister and brother-in-law are "The Dimsdales" (my well-read friends might recognize the reference).  My friend's mother in law will be referred to as "Mrs. Mealy."  I will ask that IF you know (or think you know) who this story is about, PLEASE keep that info to yourself -- I don't want to be sued or cause any more problems for my friend.  Lord knows they have enough trouble dealing with these psychos.

My friend, "Mrs. Smith," has 2 kids -- a boy and a girl. She and I are pretty similar when it comes to our parenting styles, but she is more vocal than I am. For example, I let it slide with the 3rd grade Nazi that my kid had as a teacher this past year for a long time before I got snarky with her (go HERE for that full story), but I DID get snarky. You might say that my friend is a "bit" more volatile than I am. She is incredibly smart, can be witty, but she is ALWAYS a straight-shooter. Some would say she lacks tact, but I don't think that's it, she is just very blunt and calls it likes she sees it. You never have to wonder where you stand with her, because she has either told you, or screamed it at you to make sure you got the message. She also loves her kids and her kids are pretty awesome. Her 12 year old is very amenable. She can sit quietly through the longest of sermons at church, or carry on a conversation with adults. She is an avid reader and plays the guitar. Her 8 year old is more devious. He took the phone away from his sister while she was talking to her "boyfriend," imitated her voice and said "By the way, I am breaking up with you!" and then hung up the phone. On the 100th day of school, his teacher told them all to draw a picture of what they would look like when they were 100 years old; he drew a headstone because he said that if anyone was looking for him in 100 years, he'd be dead. He makes up silly songs and dances. He is an 8 year old boy. But he also sweet and kind, and he sometimes gets the shaft because on the surface he looks a little like a delinquent compared to his saintly sister. She and her husband fight like 8th grade boys sometimes.  It is who they are -- neither one of them holds their tongues, or minces words in an argument.  As volatile as their relationship might seem, they love each other and will defend one another no matter what.  They even have arguments and fights in front of their kids.  But you know what?  They also make up in front of their kids.  Their kids have no doubt that mom and dad love each other.  They have learned that its okay to disagree, it's okay to fight, and that sometimes you say things when you are angry that you don't mean and it's okay to admit when you are wrong.  The kids see them fight and they see them make up -- and I think that this gives them a head start on understanding a healthy relationship and how it works.

To say that my friend and her husband differ from his sister and her husband would be like saying that black is a little darker than white -- you really couldn't get more opposite.

"The Dimsdales" are almost Puritan in their pious behavior.  They maintain a moral high ground that few could approach without being scolded about their own moral ineptitude.  Most of you know that I do not really fault any parenting style (even though I may make fun of it) as long as the parents are doing what we all do -- loving their kids and trying to do what is best for them. My friend is more of a free-range parent like me who allows her kids to do a lot for themselves, make their own decisions about what to wear, what to eat (to an extent), and they are happy, healthy, easy-going kids. Her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Dimsdale, are not like that. Not even a little bit. They are control freaks (emphasis on the "freaks.") They have one daughter who is a little older than my oldest girl -- I think she is 10. They do not let her read certain books, watch certain TV shows, eat certain foods, wear certain clothes, etc. My friend discovered on a family vacation when the kids were all younger just how serious the Dimsdales were about this when she irritated them by letting their daughter read a book that had (gasp) dragons in it.  Dragons, are quite obviously of the devil, as are all Disney movies because they have satanic magic, and they do not want their precious child exposed to anything from the occult.  They home school her and they have a very short leash on her with the intention of raising her in a certain way. I do not have a problem with that, even though I may not agree with it, and neither does my friend. She laughs about it of course, but she tries to accommodate their desires for their kid's sheltered upbringing whenever she is given the opportunity, which isn't often. 

The Dimsdales would never dream of arguing in front of their daughter.  They never raise their voices.  They never talk about things that have them irritated.  Everything is swept under the rug and hidden from their friends and family and from each other so that everything looks just hunky-dory from the outside.  For appearances sake, they are constantly bending over backwards for each other and very careful not to say anything that might be perceived as a criticism of each other.  It's all very....weird. 

Now, Mr. Dimsdale is not someone whom I would take moral criticism from very well.  He was working with a local church as some sort of pastor and had an affair on Mrs. Dimsdale with a fellow church member several years ago.  He ran up an obscene amount of debt wining and dining this other woman (who obviously must be a great temptress to have broken through his fortress of righteousness) and lost his job as a result of the affair.  Mrs. Dimsdale was the very picture of a woman wronged, but instead of kicking him out on his cheating butt, she took him back.  She also took on extra jobs to help pay off his slut-debt since he had been fired.  But because they were all such upstanding Christians, they ALL STILL GO TO THE SAME CHURCH.  Yep, every Sunday the Dimsdales sit singing across the sanctuary from the woman that came between them.  I know what you are thinking -- "Poor Mrs. Dimsdale!"  I know, because that is what I would be thinking if I didn't know that this woman did not object to staying at the same church with the woman that her husband very nearly threw her away for.  Nope, she enjoys it.  She enjoys going to church with her husband on her arm every Sunday as a big "Screw you" to the adulteress.  She relishes the fact that he ultimately chose her and by rubbing it in this woman's face every Sunday she is maintaining some sort of control over both her and him.  There may not be a scarlet A on the woman's collar, but there might as well be because everyone in the congregation knows what happened.  Of course, they all work very hard to keep any whisper of the torrid affair from their naive daughter because it would mean explaining S-E-X and she's nowhere near old enough to even say that word out loud.  They stupidly believe that "she never has to know" but having grown up in a church, I can assure you that if she doesn't already know, it won't be long before some other church kid breaks it down for her.  When that happens, I have no idea what they'll do.

Mrs. Mealy is a doting grandmother who loves all of her grandchildren.  She is Mrs. Smith's mother-in-law, and Mrs. Dimsdale's mother.  Until recently, in all appearances, she loved and treated her children with great equality -- willing to help out or whatever whenever needed.  However, as this story unfolds, you will see that her true loyalties lie with her daughter and all of her moral fortitude and not with the dragon-book-reading son and his wife, my friend.

Now that you have met the players, let me say that over the past 15 years that my friend has been married into this family, she had no idea of the insanity lurking just below the surface.  She was aware of their odd take on child rearing, and she knew, of course, about the affair and it's aftermath as she had held Mrs. Dimsdale's hand and helped her find those extra jobs after Mr. Dimsdale returned from his frolic with the trollop, and she thought that whole situation was weird, but took a "whatever works for them" approach.  Despite my friend's daughter being a little older than her cousin, the girls were pretty close and they love each other.  After all, most of us can say that some of our first friends were family.  They would all spend the night together at Mrs. Mealy's house -- all the cousins playing together and having fun with their grandmother.  At least, they used to.....

~~The next installment will tell the story of the incident.~~

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Relinquishining Control

It's one of those days where I SHOULD be doing stuff but I'm not.  I got the oldest up and off to school and then decided that the 2 youngest could skip preschool today.  I decided that rest and relaxation was more important.  Some people would say that makes me lazy.  Oh well, I guess I'm lazy then.

I got an email from a reader asking me if I was ever "Normal" before I had kids. The answer is emphatically NO. I have always been a snarky, sarcastic, fun, kind of person, which in my experience is kind of far from "normal." I was, however, a lot more organized before these 4 minions invaded my life, but I cannot for the life of me remember the appeal in that.

In fact, I was diagnosed with OCD and General Anxiety Disorder.  Not officially.  I worked for a psychiatric office and the doctors had a problem with some of my "rules" about charting.  I had lots of rules.  And I was anxious about them.  Once in a staff meeting when I was (once again) going over how things were "supposed" to be done and how they were falling short, one of the psychiatrists looked at me and said "I have one word for you: Paxil."  I wasn't offended because I knew I was right, so i said "Why should I take medication because my OCD bothers you?  Maybe YOU should take some Paxil."

When my husband and I were first married, he owned his own contracting business building fences, decks, doing concrete and pools, etc.  I used to make him take his boots off outside because I could not stand the dirt in the house.  I was meticulous about cleaning.  I spent HOURS scrubbing the floor, the bathrooms, the kitchen, etc.  I dusted several times a week instead of several times a year.  My closet was organized first by color, then by season, then by function of the clothing, and my shoes were all lined up neatly under the hanging clothes in color order and then in heel height.  I was a cleaning and organization freak.

Then I got pregnant.

Four times.

In less than 7 years.

I went through about a 5 year transition period when my kids were little, but by the time number 3 was here, I was pretty over my feelings of anxiety about not being able to keep the floors clean, or the toys put away, or the laundry done, or any of it.
And all of a sudden, my OCD was cured.

It is sort of liberating.  I struggle with it sometimes....wanting everything to be clean and orderly.  I go back and forth between being okay with the chaos of my life and feeling completely inadequate.  Even though I still have relapses every once in a while (like when my mom comes to visit), I am pretty much over the need to have control of everything.  Which is a good thing since it is impossible with four kids in the house.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

I am sitting in the surgical waiting room as I type this and the hospital system does not like the spell check on Blogger, so forgive any typos.  This is a rather disjointed post -- big shock -- as I am just sitting here typing to pass the time until my daughter gets out of surgery, but if you have a couple of seconds, all I want for Valentine's Day is a vote.  Over there on the right hand side, there are 2 buttons to click to cast your vote.  As soon as the other sites come up, you're done.  Thanks, and I hope that my scattered thoughts on Valentine's Day don't feel like a waste of time....

It's Valentine's Day. I know this because of the barage of commercials about going to Jared, chocolate diamonds, sending flowers, and the constant reminders that I get from the 1,243,672 emails I have received from Groupon, LivingSocial, 1-800-FLOWERS, and everyone else. I even got a Valentine coupon from the Jiffy-Lube place because nothing says I love you like a good radiator flush. I'm actually pretty indifferent about Valentine's Day.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE romance. But with Valentine's Day there is way too much pressure. Flowers, candy, jewlery, heartfelt cards that make you swoon, dinner -- it's too much. I have had some perfect evenings, but not one of them was on Valentine's Day.

The entire holiday is about making women feel unloved and men feel inadequate. If you are a girl, then you want and on some level expect to be knocked off of your feet by a grand gesture the way your favorite character from your favorite show was by her guy. And if you're a guy, then whatever you do will fall horribly short of what your girl has seen on TV and in the movies. If we had a bunch of writers and a crew to set the scene for us and had multiple takes to get it right, then we could have all of those perfect, mind-blowing, Valentine's Day moments like we see on screen.

But we don't, so we always feel at least a little short changed.

And not to mention that everything costs 2-3 times what it should cost on Valentine's Day. Those roses that you bought and had sent to your sweetie that cost you $100 today would be about $40 next week. The $5 card will be on clearance tomorrow, and the candy will all be on the 10 for $10 table as they make room for Easter goodies. If my husband sent me $100 roses on Valentine's Day, I'd be pissed because any other day of the year, he could have sent me flowers for a third of the price. In fact, I'd rather have the $100. That way I could go to Aldi and get roses every week for the next 6 months.

But today, I don't have to worry about all of the Valentine's nonsense. My husband and I will not celebrate romance until the resturaunts are less crowded, the chocolates and cards are on clearance, and the flower prices have hit the semi-normal range. Nope, we just don't buy into the hype. There will be a time in the future when my kids will deal with all of the Valentine's crazy. They will have their hearts broken by boys who don't deliver the major drama, or by girls who expect too much. But luckily, for now at least, the biggest concern with the holiday is making sure not to send the wrong message to the boys or the girls in their classes with the Star Wars or Justin Beiber Valentine's from the grocery store.

No, today, we are at the hospital having pins put in Bella's broken arm. Last week, she decided to make up her bed. With her feet. So as she was standing on her bed, smoothing her covers with her feet, she fell. She broke her left arm just above the elbow. Today she is getting pins put in to stabilize it. After her knee surgery in December, we've seriously considered just keeping the orthapedic surgeon on retainer.

So my Valentine's Day is about mending broken bones, not broken hearts. At least for now.

My Valentine's Day advice? Don't get your hopes up. Expect nothing and you will be thrilled with anything. And if you get nothing? You won't be surprised or disappointed. I never expect anything for Valentine's Day. I married the most unromantic man in the world. He's awesome in so many other ways that it was a trade off I was willing to make.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let's Just Leave Sexy Alone, Okay?

Things are a little tight financially right now.  Actually, we are BROKE.  This is a temporary situation, caused by medical bills left over from the oldest girl's knee surgery in December.  So when some friends of ours offered to come over, eat dinner with us, hang out for a while last Saturday, and then take all 4 of our kids home with them so that the husband and I could have an evening alone, we jumped at the chance for an inexpensive "date night."

After an enjoyable evening with our friends, we attempted to get all romantic.  The husband poured me a glass of wine, lit candles, and drew me a bubble bath.  I was in heaven.  Before sinking into the bath, I rummaged through my drawers and found a nice, sexy, black, satiny, nightgown and stowed it in the bathroom.  I also had a plan to kick it up a notch -- those shoes.  You remember the shoes, right?  The Leopard print, 5-inch heels that I wore in Chicago?  Well, the husband hadn't seen me wear them and I was going to put them on with that nightgown and strut out of the bathroom after my bath and knock his socks off. 

I had great aspirations of "bringing sexy back."

As someone who seriously ONLY wears yoga pants and t-shirts, this was going to be a big deal.  I rarely wear "real" clothes or make-up and while the husband loves me no matter what, I wanted to get all gussied up for him. 

In the tub, I shaved my legs -- even above the knee, and I used my Mango-Papaya Body Wash.  After my bath, I emerged from the tub, slathered my now smooth legs with lotion, spritzed on some of my perfume and got dressed.  Then I piled my hair up all loose and sexy up on top of my head and put on make-up.  This was a big deal -- we hadn't been alone, without kids, in THIS house, EVER.  I was making the most of this golden opportunity and pulling out all of the stops.

Bathed in candle light, I opened the bathroom door into our bedroom and my husband's eyebrows shot up and he grinned.  I grinned back.  Things were going just as planned.  The house was kid-free, I had relaxed in the tub and primped myself up worthy for a night out on the town, but it was all for my husband in the privacy of our bedroom. 

Then I told him that I had a surprise, and I went to slip on the shoes.  Those, awesome, sexy shoes that would complete the look and give me that edge I wanted for such a rare occasion of having a kid-free house.

And that's when it happened.

My shoes betrayed me.

I slipped on the right shoe, and as I stepped backwards to put on the left, I fell like a sack of potatoes onto the bathroom floor.  Hard. 

And it was in that moment as I sat on the floor of the bathroom with my husband and I both laughing that I decided "sexy" is fine right where it is. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Just In Case

Since you all asked for it, this is my guide for surviving the Apocalypse.  There will be a few parts that might make you chuckle, but all-in-all, this is gonna be a lot more practical than you were thinking it would be.

It's 2012.  The world is slated for total devastation in just a few months.  You need a plan.

I don't know if the earth will flip on its axis, if there will be economic collapse, if there will be a zombie outbreak, or World War 3, but all signs point to something major going down in about 10 months or so and you need to be prepared.  Even if you believe that nothing at all will happen in 2012, you have to recognize that there are just enough nut-jobs out there to create their own apocalypse and drag the rest of us right along with them.  The plan that I will lay out for you is a worst-case scenario kind of thing. 

Since I am a firm believer that these things happen in threes, we are going with major economic collapse that leads to World War 3 resulting in a zombie apocalypse. 

You're not.  I promise.

Assuming that you survive the first 2, this will give you some tips on surviving the last stage.  Remember, a large portion of the population has been eliminated with a nuclear blast, and now many of the survivors are the walking dead.  The key word here is DEAD.  Avoid getting bitten and therefore infected and you can survive until they all rot away.

STEP ONE -- Basic Food and Water: 
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This is a start, but plan for 2 weeks of staying put.
This one you can do now. You will need to get some seeds. Opt for seeds that will produce foods that you and your family will eat and that hopefully produce MORE seeds. Think of yourself as an extreme couponer and start your stockpile -- seeds, canned goods, non-perishables, first-aid supplies, etc. You may need to barter some of your food or other supplies (I imagine toilet paper will become a hot commodity), so plan for this. Once the crap hits the fan so to speak, prepare any and all perishable foods in your home first. You'll need to have enough water on hand for each person in your family to consume one gallon per day as well as water for cooking, cleaning and sterilizing, and at some point, bathing. You cannot rely on public water supply or electricity. Those services will stop almost immediately. You'll need a cistern to collect water in (provided that the nuclear warfare wasn't extreme enough to cause a nuclear winter or acid rain) and you will need a grill, camp stove, or at the very least, fire pit. You will have to be extremely cautious while cooking anything because the smell of food might draw zombies to you who will try to eat you. Or worse, looters or other free loaders.  Make sure you have a few MRE's, protein bars, and other easily carried foods on hand.  Also, you can do a sort of dry-run on this by planning a 2 week period where you don't buy anything, but make due with what you have on hand in your house. 
STEP TWO -- General Safety
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Don't be part of the Zombie Buffet Line.
You will need to secure your home if you are planning on staying put.  (By the way, I highly suggest that you stay put for at least a little while until you can scope out how active your area is.)  Many people may think that you should hit the road immediately or that securing your home should be step one.  They.  Are.  WRONG.  What is the point of running out onto the roads to get stuck with everyone else and create the longest buffet line ever for the zombies?  And what good would shutting yourself and your family up in your home be if you have no food, no water, and no means of survival?  However, again, there are steps that you can take for this now.  Trust me, after an economic collapse, a nuclear war, and a zombie outbreak, you are not going to be able to just run down to the Home Depot and pick up a few things -- and chances are, some yahoo has already looted the stores.  No, you need to be ready before everything goes down.  Here's the types of things that you should have on hand: enough plywood to board up every window in your home (zombies can break glass), nails and screws to secure that plywood into place, tools with which to perform this work, a drill to place sight holes through the plywood, chains to secure doors, rebar for garage doors, etc.  If you have kids, they are going to be freaked out and going nuts....until they get bored.  I suggest finding kid games for them that will also hone their survival skills.  Get them a Nerf Crossbow and set up targets in the house for them to practice on while you are busy boarding up the windows.  It could come in very handy.

STEP THREE -- Weaponry:
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You cannot rely on just guns.
Your first instinct on weaponry is gonna be to stock up on as many guns and ammo as you can possibly get without getting on some government watch list. I agree that you need some guns and ammo for extreme emergencies, but if there is one thing that I have learned from zombie movies it is that zombie mobs are attracted by loud noises. So if you can get a silencer, get one. However, you need to consider that there will be no more bullets being manufactured, so your supply will be finite unless you are able to make your own. Once the zombies all decay into nothing, you will still have to hunt for meat to feed your family, and fight off undesirable human elements. Invest in a crossbow or two. Study the structure of the arrows, the mechanism, everything that you might have to replace or repair on your own. Retrieve your arrows whenever possible. Also, adopt a Mr. Miyagi approach -- everything can be a weapon.  Aim for the head.  Put all of your weight behind it.  Don't miss.
This is really all you need to remember.

STEP FOUR -- Travel:
The neighborhood is not a long term
residential solution.
Eventually, unless you already live on a farm or in a remote cabin, you are going to have to leave your house.  Start small.  Conduct reconnaissance in concentric circles around your house to gauge the danger level.  If you can, employ the use of a vehicle.   Prior to the collapse of the world as we know it, you should have an area in mind to head towards, and have several options in mind (you never know where the nuclear warfare will occur, your first choice might be contaminated).  It needs to be a remote area with plenty of land cleared all around it so that you can spot potential threats coming.  You will also need land to plant food.  I suggest making alliances NOW with a few other families that you can team up with to build a sort of zombie-free commune. All of those involved should invest in a few hand held radios for communication with each other.  Set up the frequency that you will use beforehand.  Decide now who will do what so that when the time comes, everyone knows their role.  Plan a rendezvous point with these other families so that you can all get to the designated area together.  Large groups are less likely to fall prey to vandals.  During your journey, be smart.  Bring as much as you can carry without slowing yourselves down.  You'll need a sewing kit, some type of shelter, food and water, etc.  Carry a siphon so that you can obtain gas from abandoned vehicles, drive as far as you can, keep an eye out for resources that you can use.  Should you be fortunate enough to pass a library, grab a few books on growing your own foods, a medical handbook, construction techniques, etc.  There will be no Internet for you to Google all of that crap when you get to your destination.  Remember that it is okay to have a few people in your group that do not really contribute anything, but don't get attached to them because in the event of an attack, you will probably have to sacrifice them for the good of the group.
Make sure that A) They can contribute to the good of the group,
and B) you actually like them.

STEP FIVE -- Survival:
Kids are the exception.
Abandon any liberal hippy agenda that you have about helping everyone else out of their situation.  If the zombie apocalypse happens, it will be every man for himself.  The world as you know it is over and there is nothing left to save except yourself and those that you love.  The minute this whole thing started, every survivor on the planet became a raging Republican.  Embrace your new role, and become a zombie killing bad ass with no regrets.  There is no sense in crying over all the ones you couldn't save, just focus on your family.  Once you arrive at your new, remote, location and begin settling in, you will occasionally have strangers who will wander across your land.  Don't kill them unless you have to, but don't welcome them into your group either unless they have some invaluable expertise to offer.  We have become a nation of academics, and as important as I think knowledge is in today's world, in the post-apocalyptic world we are talking about here you better be able to hunt, cook, build, dig, or do something useful with your hands.  No one is going to be sitting around discussing String Theory or Quantum Physics.  If you are an academic, or if your entire skill set is centered on technology that will no longer be operational, then your new hobby should be learning how to sew or knit or make bullets.
At least I will if you're a freeloader.
STEP SIX -- Sustainable Society
You need mad skills to be
in my commune.
You and the families that you have joined up with are now the government for your little commune.   Once settled in, you will need to form some sort of council to decide on issues facing your little corner of the world.  Every family gets one person on a council.  I suggest that you put the women in charge of this where possible.  The men can express their opinions to the women, and then the women can all meet and discuss and make the final decisions.  All of you are stuck together now and the women will be less likely to let ego cloud their judgements. You will need an education system of some sort so that future generations will understand how and why all of this happened, and to hopefully prevent it from happening again.  Everyone needs to participate in this.  Do not think that you will be able to push this off on the women in the group.   By having everyone share in this, the group will have multiple viewpoints.  Reading, writing, math, history, are all important, but you will also need to have time set aside to teach survival skills and trades.  I recommend that the adults participate in this as much as possible.  If you have one person who knows how to make candles, and that person gets bitten or sick, then you will be in the dark forever -- you see how redundancy is important.  Finally, you will need to employ ingenuity and imagination.  This is where your kids can help.  You should have regular sessions where the kids can brainstorm about ways to make life easier.  You may think this sounds silly, but the first time some kids suggests a network of zip lines to quickly get from the fields to the houses or designs an alarm system for the outer perimeter of your commune, you'll thank me.

This is a GUIDE.  You will have to adapt and change it to fit your particular Apocalypse situation.  I didn't cover everything, because some things are common sense and because I don't want everyone doing everything that I am doing because frankly, I've already got my team picked out; if you all followed my EXACT plan, things could get real crowded, real fast.  It is important that you don't get wrapped up in all of the things you no longer have -- cell phones, computers, electricity, running water, etc.  Instead, rejoice in all of the stuff you no longer have to deal with.  Never again will you have to worry about paying taxes, protests, congressional misconduct, politicians, nosy teachers, special interest groups, lobbyists, corporate greed, etc.  Nope, from here on out, the world is what you make of it.  So be prepared.  Get your team together, make a plan, and you can contribute to the survival of the human race.
I think my chances are actually a lot higher than this, but this is the best image I could find.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fuh-get About It!

I laugh all of the time about things my kids say.  I have often thought, "Man, I'm glad you said that at home" or "I am so glad no one else heard you say that" because some of the stuff that comes out of their mouths could easily be misinterpreted if someone didn't know the context.  This afternoon, I found out how very true that is.  I got an email from a teacher at my kid's school.  It is not from HIS teacher.  Just some random teacher that looks over the class during lunch and recess.  I wish that I knew how to screen-shot it, because it has this frou-frou border of hearts and flowers and vines, but I don't, so I'll just copy and paste and then change all of the names.

Dear Mrs. Caballero,
I wanted to touch base with you about something that has me a little concerned.  I recently overheard your son telling some other children about the secret compartments that you have in your car that you use to "smuggle contraband."  I pulled him aside and tried to speak with him privately to discover the origin of these stories.  At first he seemed confused and then he told me that he wasn't allowed to talk to me about it because I could get his family in trouble.  I asked him what contraband was, and he refused to answer.  When I pressed him about how he shouldn't make things up, he looked relieved and began nodding and eagerly agreeing with me that the stories were made up.  I have spoken to the assistant principle about this issue and she and I both agreed that since we don't really believe that your family is involved in anything illegal, that we'd bring this issue to you.  I hope that you can resolve this issue at home with him.  (Also, if you wouldn't mind, I'd love a little background on this situation as I am thoroughly confused).
A Concerned Teacher

My son said WHAT???!!!

After reading this, I called the little offender downstairs to talk to him.  At first, he denied the whole thing saying that he had no idea what I was talking about.  But with a little prompting, it rang a bell.  After he got started with his story, I had a hard time keeping a straight face. 

It seems that he was telling his friends on the playground about our new van.  It has "Sto-N-Go" storage compartments beneath each seat.  He told them it was like being a smuggler and about all the stuff he could put in them.  In the telling of this most intriguing tale, he mentioned the word "contraband."  I stopped him here and asked him what contraband meant.  He said "I dunno.  I think it's just stuff.  I heard it on Star Wars."  I nodded and told him to proceed -- no sense going into all of the varied meanings of the word contraband with my 10 year old.  Well, he tells me that this teacher heard him and "went nuts" asking him all about this contraband, where it was hidden, whose it was, etc.  He said that he told her that he didn't want to talk about it because she was just trying to get his family in trouble.  [Sidebar here -- some good friends of ours had CPS (Child Protective Services) called on them by someone who was trying to make trouble (whole other story there).  He knew about it and thought this teacher was trying the same thing.]  Then he said that she started saying "IF you are making these stories up, you need to stop" and he was trying to end the conversation because recess was over and he didn't want to get into trouble for not going inside with his class, so he started nodding and agreeing with her. 

Ooooookay.  Now that I know what has happened, I am no longer annoyed with my son, but this teacher needs an intervention.  I am quite certain that anyone nosy enough to eavesdrop on a group of fourth grade boys on the playground could really use a hobby.  Surely there was juicier gossip from the girls.  Or here's a thought, why don't you restrict your busy-bodiness to the adults.  I guarantee that the stories in the teacher's lounge could put my kids smuggling tale to shame.  I mean, wow, talk about blowing things out of proportions.  This is a prime example of someone looking for trouble, creating conflict, and cultivating drama.  And people sticking their nose, or ears in this case, where they don't belong is how things get twisted around, misinterpretted, and cause real problems for families. 

My first reaction was to just ignore this.  But we all know that letting something like this go just isn't in my make up.  Still, since I have 2 kids at this school and 2 more who will attend in the next few years, I may have to deal with this woman in the future, so I needed to tread a little lightly here. 

I thought about being a total smart ass, something I am very good at, and making her think there might be something going on but not giving any indication that there was anything illegal involved by responding with something random and vague like "DID HE MENTION THE LEGOS??!!" with the hope that she would think that I was either completely insane or speaking in some sort of code.  Then I toyed with the idea of playing this out, leading her to believe that we WERE in fact smugglers or drug runners, or perhaps the kingpins of a human trafficking ring.  I could allude to a "family" connection or something like that (I actually have no idea how i would do this since my biggest brush with the law was doing 90 in a 65).  But if I took that route I ran the risk of CPS being called in and that is a headache (and potential heartache) that I don't want to deal with or put my kids through.  I saw first hand how stressful that can be even when the accusations are ridiculous and false because that's what happened to some very good friends of ours.  Also, posing as a smuggler could potentially draw the attention of the police, the FBI, or the ATF.  Or even worse than that, REAL SMUGGLERS -- some scary cartel or the mob.  (Yes, I am completely paranoid, go HERE if you need further verification of the insanity).

So to avoid any horse heads in my bed, police surveillance vans in front of my house, or CPS interviews, I simply emailed her back in my own personal style.  Without any frilly email stationary of hearts and vines.

Dear Concerned Teacher,
I'm sorry that my evil little mastermind has somehow convinced you that he is living in an episode of "Sons of Anarchy," but I assure you this was a gross misunderstanding.  As much of a welcomed change of pace a smuggling career might be to the day-to-day life of a stay at home mom, I am sorry to have to break it to you that we are not, in fact, working for any drug lords or human traffickers.  

Had this been any other day of the week, you might have been emailing me to find out if we actually had Jawas or Wookies or droids in our back yard (which is about as likely as us being smugglers). Seriously, the only place my kid has even heard the word "contraband" is on Star Wars when Han Solo and Chewbacca ran contraband in the Millennium Falcon.  He has Star Wars on the brain.  I taught him math with word problems about X-Wing Fighters.

Here is the explanation of what you overheard and misinterpreted:  We recently got a new van with "Sto-N-Go" storage compartments.  The kids are fascinated by them.  William has referred to them as "smuggler bins" because, well, he is a 10 year old kid and thats just the sort of thing that 10 year old boys do.  This afternoon my 7 year old daughter tried to hide in one.  She nearly fit because A) she is a tiny, tiny, human being, and B) the storage compartments really are quite large.  However,  I can assure you that the only things hidden in them are crumbs, stray toys, and wet wipes. 

If you promise not to turn us into the cops, I could totally score you some stale Cheetos from the bin in the back.

Amused, But Completely Mundane Mom

Hopefully, this adequately delivers the necessary message.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Well, Since You Asked....

My husband has a job.  I am very thankful for the fact that he has a job that pays well enough that I am able to stay home with my kids, sit on my couch in my Yoga pants writing this blog, the occasional story, and cultivate a Facebook addiction that is bordering on a classifiable mental disorder. 

See, as thankful as I am that my husband has a job, I want to throat punch the powers that be in his current company.  They are working on transitioning into a management style that will result in at least half of the managers and supervisors losing their jobs.  They announced this about a year ago, by telling everyone that for the next 18 months they should think of their work as one long job interview.  They needed to "prove themselves" worthy of keeping their jobs.  Really?  When did psychological warfare become an acceptable motivation tool?  They've already started trimming the fat, so to speak and have had 2 rounds of "lay-offs" which aren't really lay-offs, but more like firings.  Those who were dismissed got 6 weeks severance and nothing else.  And every time this happened, it reminded those that remained that they could be next.  Just before the end of the year, the powers that be announced that of those remaining, one half would lose their jobs by April of this year. 

Those that remain, will be doing 2-3 times the work that they are currently doing for the same pay.  To make it easier for the company, they are providing laptops so that managers and supervisors can monitor the plant from home, during the shifts that they are not scheduled to work, in order to keep management costs at a minimum.  On their time off.  Without getting paid.  So, yeah, we're looking for something else.  And since we really miss "home," we are focusing our search around North Alabama.

My husband is a supervisor in a manufacturing plant. Or a manager. Or a "team leader". Or a "resource". Or whatever. See, in manufacturing, there is no "across the board" standard for job titles, so every company can call you something different (and the pay has a $40K range depending on what any given title means at that specific plant). You may be a supervisor here, but at that company you'd be a manager. Here, you may be called a "team leader" but at another company, the team leader is the head line worker. There is no standard. This sucks when you are trying desperately to get a new job in a new company closer to your "hometown" like we are trying to do. 

I have been trolling job sites and submitting applications and resumes for the past few days.  While he sleeps, I try to find a better company for him to work for.  But, I am having issues with many of these company's application processes.  Typically, this is how it goes:

1)     Create a profile on their website
2)     Upload a resume and cover letter
3)     Complete their online questionnaire (anywhere from 3-12 pages)

Here's where I get annoyed.  With the questionnaire.  Seriously, who makes these things?  I have completed so many of these and most of them ask for all of the information that is in the resume and cover letter to be regurgitated in their profile questionnaire.  And they ask it...wrong.  I have tried many approaches to these things.  I've been humble and I've been cocky, and I'm always honest, but I'm really having trouble keeping my sarcasm in check lately.  I started compiling a list of some of the questions that annoy me and a few of the answers that I would like to put down.

1)      What are your location restrictions?

Well, as I stated in my cover letter and on page one question 3 of this same questionnaire, and again on page 4 question 7, I’m looking to relocate to within a few hundred miles of North Alabama. Perhaps you thought my desired location had changed in the 3 days that it has thus far taken me to complete this application.

2)     My qualifications specific to this position include:

I am incredibly talented at being the translator between out of touch management who has no clue what actually goes on in the plant and the employees that think that the world revolves around them.

3)      Please share your compensation expectations.

I’d like to get paid like a member of Congress -- free insurance, huge salary, and lots of time off.   Seriously, I'd like my salary to be as much as you can spare really, I’ve always wanted a house in Tuscany.

4)     Briefly detail your employment history, explaining the reasons for transitions between positions.

Again, all of this is in my resume and cover letter. Why did you ask for it if you weren’t going to read it?

5)     We hope not to miss an opportunity with you just because the timing doesn’t work out. Where are you in your job search process? Do you have other interviews or offers pending? We will work to partner and consider your timing needs.

Is this a trick question? If I say I’m just starting my job search, you’ll jerk me around for a few months. If I say that I have been at this a while then you’ll assume that there is some reason no one has hired me yet.   I'm keeping quiet.  Why don't you just assume that you need to hire me.  Quickly.

6)      What was your most significant professional or academic leadership experience?
Well, since each experience is the direct result of the experiences that preceded it, I do not think that I can classify one as more important than the other.  All of my experiences are equally significant. 

7)      Do you have experience working in a manufacturing environment?

Of course I do.  What kind of question is this?  Why would I apply to be a manufacturing manager if I had no experience in that environment?  (And seriously, why DID you ask for my resume?)

8)      Do you have experience mentoring, coaching, and developing others?
I have 4 kids. And I am a plant supervisor. This. Is. All. I Do.

And when they ask if I have any additional comments I'm always tempted to ask:

"What else could you possibly want to know? We aren't going to have anything to discuss if I get asked to come for an interview."

But of course, I would never actually answer the questions that way.  I do want him to find another job where they treat him better.  Perhaps I should write in to some of these companies and tell them that I will free-lance for them to re-write their employment questionnaires.  I would not doubt it if some applicants pull these things up, take one look at how long and ridiculous they are, and say "Forget it, I think Wal-Mart is hiring."  And now that I have complained, I must go and fill out more ridiculous questionnaires and try to keep the snark in its cage.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Morning Relay

Last night I couldn't sleep.  I had a lot of things on my mind that I just kept over analyzing.  I tossed and turned until after 2 AM, knowing full well that when my alarm went off at 6:30 it would be difficult to get out of bed.  I mean, more difficult than usual.  It is NEVER easy for me to get out of bed in the mornings.  If I could, I would sleep until at least 10 AM every morning.  I am not ashamed to admit that I have considered homeschooling simply because it would allow me to sleep more.  (Oh, and all of that over-analyzing did not produce one tiny bit of productive thought.  It did, however, produce 8 pages of "notes" that do nothing beyond prove the insanity).

So I did fall asleep, finally, and my alarms began going off as scheduled at 6:30 in the morning.  At least I assume that they did since there is no reason for them to not go off.  However, I have no recollection of them going off because when I am asleep I do all sorts of crazy things.  Like turn off my alarms.  Because I am such a lover of sleep and getting up early is a challenge for me everyday (not just when I stay awake obsessing over things that cannot be changed until 2 AM), I have 4 separate alarms set -- 6:30, 6:45, 6:55, and 7:00.  Usually, I hit snooze at least until 6:50 or so.  If I continue to hit snooze until 7:00, I am running late.  I can still get the kids up, get them dressed, make their lunches, and get them out the door for their ride by 7:40 or so, but if there are any arguments to referee, any spilt milk or cereal to clean up, any lost homework to find, then it causes a great deal of stress for the kids and for me that results in yelling and I really hate yelling in the morning.  But today, I did not become even semi-conscious until my husband called to make sure that things were going smoothly. 

He called at 7:36.

The kids' ride is here by 7:40.


So I jumped out of bed like my pants were on fire and yelled at my children like a drill sergeant.  I found their socks and shoes while they pulled on their clothes like a couple of rookie firefighters.  I brushed their hair while they put on their socks and shoes.  As soon as they each had on one shoe, we heard the honk of the horn from their ride.  I motioned to the dad who picks them up in the mornings that they were coming, just give me a minute by holding up one finger to the screen door.  I dug in my purse for lunch money for them because I had no time to make lunches.  I explained that I was giving them an extra 50 cents so that they could get ice cream since they hadn't gotten breakfast (hey, it was early.  It made perfect sense at the time when I was doing anything I could think of to make everything but the clock move faster).  They reminded me that it was picture day and I took a second to acknowledge that the shirts they were wearing would suffice for the standard school picture pose.  I whipped off a note to the 8 year old's teacher asking her to please allow her to brush her hair again before the picture was made so that she wouldn't look like the chick from "The Ring."  I sent them to quickly brush their teeth while I crammed things into their backpacks and then I kissed them on their heads and sent them out the door.  The 10 year old called back to me with a grin, "That was awesome.  We've never gotten ready that fast!"  I smiled and waved casually as if I agreed with him and then I went back into the house to make coffee.

The clock in the kitchen said 7:45.

I got 2 kids up, dressed, and out the door in less than 9 minutes.  I bet that is a record somewhere. 

I think that the morning relay could be an Olympic sport.  I'd be the gold medal holder.