Monday, February 29, 2016

If Only Cher Had My Son

Cher can't do math. It's hard for her when people give her a phone number and they go too fast. Our house number has eight digits in it, I keep it written down on a piece of paper in my purse inside pocket so when I go to the post office to pick up my mail, I can give the clerk the first two numbers in the right order.

After 14 years, I still keep my best friend's phone number taped behind my kitchen wall calendar because I always dial 8-5-9 and it's 6-5-9.

Numbers strike terror in me.


The first time I felt the prickle of a hot panic was in the first grade, with math. I had been able to do the problems along with the rest of the class until that morning, when there were smaller numbers sitting above bigger numbers. I stared at the white sheet and drew hash marks at the bottom of the page and tried to find a way to take seven things away from three things. The other kids in class finished and walked their sheets up to the teacher's wire basket while I tried to not scratch my stinging scalp wondering how this could be done.

I had to stay in and miss recess until I found out how to take a big piece out a little piece. I never did and the teacher wrote in red, “NEEDS TO PRACTICE HER SUBTRACTION.” I remember this because the letters were big enough to block out the two rows of four problems each.

One day I knew how to do math, the next day I didn't. Things had changed and I don't know how, but everyone in the class seemed to have been told about the shift from adding together, which I could do, to taking away, which I found out that thinking flipping the numbers would work, was wrong.

By the time we moved out of second grade and subtraction and into third grade and multiplication, I had grown too scared of numbers to understand what the teacher was saying, and the worry that I wouldn't understand blocked my brain from following along in the book. Too hard too hard too hard. Numbers didn't look the same way to me that they did to the other kids.
When it came to learning how to tell time, I felt the locked knee paralysis of not being able to decipher the code of numbers again. Everyone in class was able to answer the teacher's question about what the clock on the classroom wall read. I wasn't. My mother thought that having my own watch would help and so one day she came home with a paper bag from the department store. Inside was a square box with the gold letters TIMEX etched along the bottom. I felt a wide-eyed panic.

Please don't be a watch please don't be a watch. Of course, that's what it was. A neon orange patent leather band with Snoopy on the dial's face. Large psychedelic numbers swam in wavy shapes around Snoopy and they matched the near fainting I felt at what I knew would happen with a watch this hard to ignore. “What time is it, Alexandra?” Hell if I would ever know the answer to that question.

My mother made me wear the watch to school, she strapped it as tight as she could but when you're 56 pounds, and the watchband could circle a small cat, there's no way to keep a neon wrist undercover. When I got to the classroom, I tried to keep my sweater over my wrist but I forgot my head at recess and was leaning away while pulling at the step's metal railing and when I looked up, my eyes locked on nosy Jackie Peterson's face. I saw her mouth open with a flash of the devil when she lit on a flash of orange at the end of my arm. Since everyone knew I couldn't tell time, she screamed, “Alexandra! What time is it! You can't tell us because you don't know!”

After that, I would wear the watch to school but take it off and hide it in my pocket.

Bad at math, bad at numbers, and tens of stories more about the struggle in grade school, high school, college, when it came to work with numbers.


I have three children, they have no fear of math and took to it with a love for patterns, completing puzzles, pride in working through problems and finding the answer. They know how much I am in awe of their minds and ability to learn things with a relaxed ease I know nothing about.

My children try to teach me, they explain things to me with a tenderness and patience that makes a lump in my throat. “See, mom, if you look at things this way, you'll recognize a pattern.” “I can't, you guys, I don't see it like that.” “Just try it, try to think of it a different way this time.”

There's a field trip I'll be chaperoning with my youngest son's seventh grade class soon. It's one of the last field trips I'll take with my children, the parents around here are heavily involved in kids and school and the chance that your name gets chosen is about every two years. My name was picked, I won the lottery. The class is going to a financial park. I have to arrive an hour early for training and learning the day's session of teaching basic accounting to my son's class.

My scalp is prickly. My mind is already stiffening up with the wall that doesn't allow numbers in.

“Auggie, I don't know how I'm going to do this field trip. I don't want to miss it, I won't get another chance to go, I know it. But it's a finance park, it's math.”

“I already have it figured out. I'm going to make sure I'm in your group and I'll stand right next to you. I'll answer the questions before you have to ask them. You don't have to worry. I'll be there.”


My son brought some worksheets home today, he's working on a speed record with his Rubik's Cube. He explains how any pattern can be solved by understanding the steps needed to get there. I want to follow along, and I concentrate hard. But the squares look random to me. He walks me through the steps he's taking to get the cube's squares aligned. He's almost finished, all that's left is his favorite part--the satisfying last turn of solving the puzzle, when he turns to me with the cube.

“Here, mom, you do it. You'll never get to finish a Rubik's cube on your own so you do the final click.”

My heart heaves with the love he has for me, for his patience and his acceptance of who his mother is.

I'm bad at math, I'm as bad as Cher is in taking down a phone number. But I'm about to do one thing that Cher has never done. I reach over and accept the offering from my son, and I give the cube its final twist.
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Friday, February 26, 2016

Auditioning For the First Time? Here's Some Real World Tips

Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee holds its 2016 show auditions this weekend and our production team nerves are sizzling and cracking right along with our soon to be heard auditionees.

Whether on the production side or the presenter side, we all want the same thing: to be and bring our best to our audition. And you know what can be a bothersome intruder during these times? Our jingly jangly nerves. The same ones that make our knees knock and our shoulders shiver. We can't help it, our excitement and palpable joy of connecting through our written work builds inside of us until we are ready to pop. Sometimes that comes out in a helium squeaky voice, tight and in a pitch you've never heard before. Whut? Other times we sound like Darth Vader after he's climbed a flight of stairs.

Me? I sound like I’m standing on a foot massager when I go outside of my comfort zone.

In the past few years, I’ve taken some classes on public speaking and have been fortunate to have worked one-on-one with successful onstage presenters. Of course, I’ve taken notes along the way, because I write everything down -- it's what I do.

Here’s what I have to share with you in the sincere hope that a few tricks of the public speaking trade will help to calm those Audition Nerves:

-Begin by reminding yourself that excitement is good. Though we may hear our shaky voice differently in our bone conduction heads, chances are your audience will hear it as joy, energy, enthusiasm!

-Practice and practice.
Practice reading slowly and clearly so none of your words catch you by surprise. Mark your script so you feel confident where to pause, linger, or change up your voice. Do not rush through your words as if you’re apologizing for making anyone sit through what you’ve written. Believe me, we want to hear your stories, so give us every word, loud and clear, so we don’t mistake you for the pork council auctioneer (forgive me, I live in Wisconsin, pork is big here).

-Monotones make people stop listening. So talk to us the way you talk to your friends and family: like you’re ALIVE. Variety and with your voice riding up and down the scale of human emotion.

-Look up. Even if you don't want to! Plan ahead just that moment when you need to look up and connect with your audience. Mark it on your paper, then you don’t have to worry and fret about when when when will you get the guts to look away from the security blanket of black words on white. Underline the spot, it could be the punch line, it could be the setting of a scene. You only need to look up three times to make a connection, so plan the place to do it.

-Be loud enough. Tell that inner shy to shuttup. Push that fear, anxiety, doubt, Negative Nelly to the back and out of your way. (I mean, visualize the push, you know?) Be proud of what you are bringing to this audition and believe in your work. Passion and commitment calm nerves with a sense of purpose. A straight spine releases some courage, too (your mother was right).

-Roll your shoulders. Breathe. Roll your shoulders. Breathe. Roll your shoulders. Breathe. Use your commas and periods to catch some air, and exhale.

-Do the motorboat with your lips to loosen them. Right before you go on, say and hold aloud a few “OWWWWWWWWWWW” as if you just bumped your big toe into your grandma’s parlor piano.

-And, when we call your name to read, take two seconds to stand straight, chest out, hands on hips, in the Super Woman stance. Then, look up, smile and -

Go ahead ('cause you're amazing)
Find those hips (they're under there)
Do it  (gotta play to win)

See what I mean.

Now, go and dazzle ’em with your brilliance!

Break a leg and reach for your dreams! It's not right to deny the world the gifts you bring. If I hadn't made myself audition for Listen To Your Mother in Madison six years ago, I'd never have brought the show to Milwaukee and gone on to be part of the production team here. So, yeah... chew on that. But make it a confident chew. Because you're a force to be reckoned with.


Listen To Your Mother/Milwaukee

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What About Listen To Your Mother Shows?

Six years ago, I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother Madison. I had never auditioned for anything before, and even the word 'audition' gave me a hollow feel in my stomach. But I knew that the open call to come tell your story about motherhood wouldn't leave my mind.

I had a story to tell. It wasn't about my mother, but it was about motherhood. I sat in front of the computer, fingers over the keyboard, and had to keep telling one side of my brain to let the other side of my brain write. Who was it, who thought, they could tell me I had to be experienced to tell my story? Where had they seen "professionals" only? It was up to me to believe I had something to share, to follow that instinct that led me to seek connection.

I kept working on my audition piece, and I made an appointment to try for the Madison show. I drove 90 minutes and held my pages of written story before the Listen To Your Mother production team. Brave enough for my voice not to shake but not yet brave enough to look up from my papers.

But on that overcast February morning, I was there, I had shown up with belief in myself enough to audition, and that moment of empowerment clicked something on in me. My life was switched to a different track. It didn't matter to me if I made the cast, the real change that occurred was in how I began to think of myself that morning at auditions.

Since then, I have become a live storyteller, a writer, a blogger, a humorist, published author, columnist, public radio essayist, and now, a co-producer of Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee.

All because of that day in auditions, when I listened to the voice inside me that pushed me to share my story and seek that connection.

You, too, can answer that call and listen to the advice of my mother, "Never tell yourself you can't."
Our LTYM shows are now in 41 cities, and they are transforming: not just for the reader, but for the audience, too. We find ourselves in each other's stories, and we show up for each other, by witnessing in this share. Find a show near you, audition for a show near you. Give this a listen, and then, write down your Listen To Your Mother Story.

Here's some footage of me getting passionate, geeky, fire in my eyes, about the Listen To Your Mother Show process:

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Happy Coffee-Drinking to You

Once upon a time, a person told me I was going to ruin my blood pressure and de-line my stomach with my coffee-drinkin' ways. So she soul-searched my eyes and roughed up my inner psyche, to find the truth of my life-embrace of coffee. She heard me out, then she pulled a glass jar of Sanka out of her purse. "Just try it."

I stared at the orange-lidded jar.

 I tried it, this happened.

[read the rest of the story on Scary Mommy]

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why I'm Voting Keith Richards for President

Needing a birth certificate from the US of A to run for President has become unnecessary. We've seen that. Toss out that picky detail and let's start casting our votes for some real American leadership.

Keith effin' Richards.

Picture this: a 67-year-old-takin'-on-double-pistol packin' crazed (or determined, depends on perspective) dude who’s standing right in front of you, set to kill you, and you commence to beating them, with your cane.

That’s what America is looking for. We had it before, with the scenario above featuring Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson. And if we vote Keith Richards, we can have it again.

If  Keith Richards were President, you know he'd be "Old Hickory” all over again. Andrew Jackson was born on the Ides of March, and the 6 foot 2 inches 140 lbs Jackson lived an I don’t give a shit about it life beginning at age 12, when he joined a local militia and quickly became a prisoner of war for the British. When ordered to polish a British General’s boots, he told the requesting officer that he’d shine his boots the day the officer got to know a donkey biblically. The Brit General slashed an X with his sword on the baby Jackson’s face, and Jackson again issued the invitation, in case it wasn't heard the first time, “Go to your beast, sir.”

Go.To.Your.Beast. Zazzle, give me that Tshirt now.

His mother and father were both dead by age 14, and being an orphan meant he was dirt poor–and yet he grew up to be el presidente. He taught himself country lawyerin’ Matlock style, and thus began his political career.

The very first assassination attempt on a U.S. President was against Jackson, when an unemployed painter aimed a pistol at Jackson and misfired. Jackson whipped out his hickory cane and proceeded to beat the poor idiot of a man about the head so severely that members of congress had to pull Jackson off.

No gentrified country leader, Andrew “The Mob” Jackson organized a group of pirates to defend New Orleans. The British attackers totally freaked at finding pirates on dry land and ran yelping away with their tails between their legs. He was in over 103 duels in his life, the most famous one for once shooting a man who looked at his wife, Rachel. Oh, and Rachel? Yah, well, he married her while she was still married to another man.

He held his Presidential ball–which worked out to be a Presidential brawl because he invited the entire nation–on the lawn of the White House; while he went and stayed in a hotel with his wife. The White House was trashed inside and out, and Jackson was nowhere in sight.

Jackson was the only President to leave office with the country in the black and the entire national debt paid off, by strong-arming other countries into paying back every cent they had ever borrowed from the United States.

Like I said, squirt a dollop of white frosty Cool Whip on Keith Richards’ head, and you don’t even have to squint to know what you’ve got.

Old Hickory Richards himself.

There's still time to register and vote. Don't make me send you to your beast now.

Photo credit: From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Photo credit:

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Moth Comes to Madison!

Live storytelling. There is a communal energy that can only be described as electric when we all share in each other's stories.

There are no phones, no interruptions, no glancing at screens or any place else. We are together with the voice of another in front of us and the audience shapes the story with its listening no matter the preparation of the presenter.

There is nothing like it. All that is outside, remains outside, as we sit and share in each other's lives. We listen, we tell, and we connect with our stories.

I have been listening to live true to life stories on The Moth since I discovered their existence six  years ago. The Moth began years before but I was late to the storytelling train. Since then, I haven't missed a day without five minutes spent in hearing about the surprise twists turns and detours that life sends our way.

Stories are addicting, and when you hear them with the emotion of the one who experienced the event? Your storytelling addiction is born.

Three years ago, I brought my husband along for a Moth StorySLAM. He wasn't overly enthusiastic, but he was game. His innocent question, "So... is this like us listening in on a group therapy?" With the first story on stage, he understood my passion for hearing a story. "It's the moment they walk on stage, the minute they take before they begin, you just want to know, what are they going to tell us?"

If you have the opportunity to attend a Moth event, don't pass it by. If you are looking for riveting stories that connect you to the world, click here.

Last night, Madison, Wisconsin held its first Moth StorySLAM. The theme was "Love Hurts."

With my heart pounding, I put my name in the hat to be called. When the name they pulled for the first story for the first Madison StorySLAM was mine, I fell into my boots. When I clodded up to the stage on knee-locked legs, I looked out into the audience and bet against myself that I'd last three seconds before I'd faint.

And as I licked my dry mouth and began my story of the power of love, I could hear the high pitched shrill of plummeting low blood pressure. But the audience laughed, hard and loud with my third sentence and I began to feel blood pump back into my numb arms. When I pointed out to the crowd and apologized to my husband for the story I was about to tell, the laughs rose up into a wave and I began to breathe instead of hyperventilate.

The rest of the story happened by magic. Five seconds later I heard the timekeeper ring the bell that I was at the five minute mark and I stopped myself from turning to her and asking, "How and where did five minutes go?" That is the transcending experience of telling a story.

Everything around you disappears. Not only for the storyteller, but for the storylistener, too.

Time stands still when you're at a Moth StorySLAM.

The scores of the ten of us, the ten inaugural storytellers, were close, tenths of a point close. But the Madison judges chose my story as the night's winner.

I am still flying high from that honor.

Thank you The Moth for existing. And thank you, Madison, for being welcoming and sharing, in my appreciation for the power of storytelling.

To find a Moth event near you, click here

As a friend to you, I mean this sincerely, attend a Moth show. And put your name in the hat to tell a story. Then come back here and let's share about each other's lives.

"The Moth, founded in 1997, is a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling."

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Happy Freakin' Valentine's Day - A Blog Hope

You all know who does the best blog hops - it's Nancy Davis Kho. This time, she's gathered some of my favorite writers for a blog hop(e) as we weigh the hearty issue of Valentine's Day. There's beauty in the depth of love we feel with heartbreak, and when there's company along the way, there's our hope. When you toss in bloggers with tender hearts, you can hum along in hope. Here's what Valentine's Day means to us in the language of the heart, song. And a hot beat always helps.

I'm going to tell you something truthful here, holidays always make me blue. I can't give you an exact reason for it, but I can give the source for my downcast eyes and slumped over shoulders: it's all the ads out there telling me what love means. And if someone doesn't do this for me, then is it real love. Is it?

I think it's time, and this blog hop was the last push I've needed, to claim the holidays in my own way. And I'm starting with Valentine's Day. I'm not going to let my brain along with my beautiful heart get sucked into thinking that love means someone buys you things and love can't start until you look perfect in a wrap around sizzling red dress from Vera Wang.

Valentine's Day can begin with me here in these red flannel pajamas with a bag of mini marshmallows in my lap. Who knew! I can be in charge of my own Valentine's Day!

The only way to kick this off is with Mick Hucknall of Simply Red. Though coming up with this playlist had hundreds of song titles exploding in my head, there was none like this one. Ahhh. Made me remember the lyrics that rented out my heart like they were meant to live there. Simply Red, simply heart-clenching, "Holding Back the Years"

Cause nothing here has grown
I've wasted all my tears
Wasted all those years
And nothing had the chance to be good
Nothing ever could yeah
I'll keep holding on
I'll keep holding on
I'll keep holding on
I'll keep holding on

HOLD ON, Alexandra!

You know where I should have gone, all those wasted years filled with wasted tears? I should have gotten myself to church on time. Because my boyfriend David Bowie was there. Just waiting. Even when you don't want to go out, you can always make it to church on time. "Modern Love"

We're gonna make it to the church on time
We're gonna make it to the church on time
I'm gonna get my soul in line
I'm gonna make it to the church on time

No one can get your soul in line, like David Bowie. And no one ever will again. So, please excuse me while I go have my 37th cry over this man being gone.
Another life-love lesson? How about if we make it about them, not us. How about if it's us offering our love instead of waiting for someone to come and love on us. Do it. Drop off a box of chocolates in someone's mailbox, send a card to a friend recently divorced, make a call and take a single out for heart-shaped pizza. They'll appreciate you thinking of them and you'll remind yourself how lucky you are to have them in your life. For this reason, Cheap Trick's "The Flame" will always sear my heart. Be the one who is there to keep their flame going:

Wherever you go, I'll be with you
Whatever you want, I'll give it to you
Whenever you need someone
To lay your heart and head upon
Remember, after the fire, after all the rain
I will be the flame
I will be the flame

I don't care what the theme of a blog hop is, I will always find a way to work in The Flame.

When I was in high school, my heart was smashed into a thousand pieces. Partly because I have a heart of glass, and other-partly because nothing hurts like a first broken heart. You don't get used to the pain of your heart being made into a puzzle, but it doesn't clap the air out of your lungs the way it does when you've barely walked the planet two decades. When I did meet a new friend in college who would have liked to be a more special type of friend, it was this song that ran through my veins. I wanted this new guy close by, I wanted to see if we could try – but these tears, dear baby jesus, these tears  from the dude before him. Also, Rod Stewart will always understand, "The First Cut is the Deepest"

I still want you by my side
Just to help me dry the tears that I've cried
But I'm sure gonna give you a try
If you wanna try to love again
Baby, I'll try to love again, but I know

Since I'm sure I haven't cheered you up enough yet for Valentine's Day, why don't I escort you into your own weekend of love with the soundtrack to my pillow soaking: Nazareth. Oooooooh, Nazareth. "Love Hurts" kept me company many many one more time many a Valentine's Day. I was positive it was written for me and it logged in a count that numbered at least 100 tear hours. You know what would have been salve to my marred scarred 20-something-year-old heart? Placing it on this barely-shirted chest:
Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and marks.
Any heart not tough or strong enough (I like to sing it “Ennnny”)
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain (at this point, I clutch my chest with a open hand)
Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain (now I look up at the sky, asking, why, why!)
Love hurts,
Ooo-oo love hurts

I told you above this was going to be a truthful post. So it wouldn't be fair to paint myself as an angel of love. When I was in college, and went on to a new boyfriend while still dating another, I never felt worse about what I did, than when Michael sent me a mixtape with this gem on it.
Queen's "Sail Away, Sweet Sister"


What a joyful, hot and sexy playlist, right? Well, I am slowly learning what I wish I would have known decades ago: love is you.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you lovelies!

For some more music fun and company as we contemplate Valentine's Day, hop/hope on over and check out the magic with these true-hearted souls. They won't disappoint you:

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Life as a Crabby Person

It's been months since I've woken up smiling and eager to start the day.

Wait, let me start over, I don't want to begin this confessional with a lie.

Dear reader: Bless me for I have been crabby. It has been years since an alarm clock found me with a smile on my face.

A frown and a muttering dialogue of how morning comes too early and nights end much too fast has been my go-to a.m. behavior. Can I be nice before 9 a.m.? Was I ever nice before 9 a.m.? I go to bed so I get 7 hours of sleep, I bought the softest microfleece-lined coverlet Pier One offered, and my pillow is like sinking into a flotation tank - I don't know where my mane ends and the dense foam begins.

Yet I still trundle out of bed like a bear jarred awake too early from hibernation. Being cranky is nothing new to me. I've been cranky long enough to give up trying to be nice in the morning. The whistle while you work attitude is never going to happen in my lifetime, not anytime before the sun rises anyway. And I am up to my Eustachian tubes with recommended Vitamin D and soy supplements, I am bone-weary with advice to make time for the 5:30 a.m. cardio/pump/your mama wears combat boots work out, and I say no more to kale powered breakfast smoothies.

I am what I am, so instead, I have re-worked my environment to accommodate Life While Being Crabby. But I think of you, my sweet friends, some of whom may be caught off guard by what the addition of years in your life have brought you to, this state of being too mean to live lately.

You can count on me and my following crab-busting house-hacks:

Buy a oil-drum sized barrel of window cleaner and drown your windows in it. Sunshine sparkling through is just the beginning of the push I need to maybe consider turning this frown upside down.

Vote yes to year-round velvet bathrobes. Linger in it a bit longer, who says lunch has to be done in panted attire? Feel the liquid smoothness of velvet on that hard working a** of yours. Who wouldn't smile...

Configure a daybed in every room. Nothing fancy or Ikea made - some oversized pillows, a pile of blankets tossed about, even occupying your dog's bed when he saunters away from your scowl. Grab it, make it yours, I mean, I feel a smile on my face whenever I'm horizontal.

Colorful art. Color. Not just a touch of it but a visual assault of it. I have two canvas prints of red poppies placed three feet away from where I work. I see them, I know I have them there for me, and what? Is that a grin breaking out? It's trying hard, and yes, it is.

Flowers. Real ones. No silk synthetic Michael's specials. Do you really want to spend any minute of your life dusting fake flowers? I can't think of anything that would make me crankier. So, get some $5 daffodil bundles next time you're picking up the roasted chicken special because one shouldn't cook when they're grumbling - too risky for that negative energy to sneak into your family's dinner.

Say OK to creating your own corner. I would see this written around in magazines and think it was stupid. But it works. I have a chair, it's to the west side of the front windows, and it's there that I sit with this tiny coffee table I found for $45. No one else likes to sit there, and it's my corner and when I'm there, it gives me quiet and peace. The quiet makes my top lip curl up, the peace makes my bottom lip follow.

I make my bed. I do. Cranky is an easy excuse not to but if you let cranky make your decisions for you then every time you pass your unmade bed it'll remind you of what a crab you are and then you'll get even more surly, so, make the bed. A smile will creep in because at least you did one thing today.

And my favorite cranky conquering cure: the daydream.

Daydream about it all. Sit at the kitchen table, with your chin in your hands and daydream. Close your eyes, imagine what you'd do with 50 million bucks, design the house of your dreams, think about a Jamaican vacation so hard you begin to hear the ocean and what if you could buy your neighbor's convertible Alfa Romeo. Gimme a D, gimme an A, gimme a Y. You know the rest, so turn your face up and toward the dream life that makes you smile.

And to all my crabby friends, you're not alone. I have absolved you of your sins done while cranky. Go forth  and continue in peace, free to grumble guilt free. We all know the Smiley Sunflowers have petered out by 3:30 p.m. and that's just when our sunshine will be starting to break through.

We strike the perfect balance for when our kids come busting through the door, snarling like bear cubs after a too long day at school.
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Friday, February 5, 2016

7 Date Night Ideas That Failed Us

To keep that love alive and the home fires burning, you need to date your mate. Date them and forget about the To Do list that hangs over your head even when it's out of sight. Make the time to forget about the 1,000 things you have to do before the month is over and especially do not discuss your kids when you're together. Like, pretend you don't even know them. Little Mark, Jr. who? If you follow this advice you will remember once again, just why you are together. A bottle of wine, no - two, will help bring back smoky memories of the carefree love you shared way back when.

We have been married 20 years, and we are so due for a date night that we'd need six months at a monk's retreat to silence these buzzing brains from trying to balance life. With this not-dating guilt in mind, I decided to give Date Night a try after an article I saw as I flipped through a magazine while waiting to get my prescription for dry eye syndrome.

The whole half page was glossy with exclamation marks for quick and easy love tips for the married crowd! *By the way, not today, but sometime soon, I'd like to talk about why only women's magazines are DATE NIGHT DATE NIGHT KEEP YOUR DATE HAPPY and men's magazines are "Get yourself this car, belt, shoes, vacation and you be you, dude."

Starting with Idea No. 1 and all the way to Idea No. 7, I felt a tingle of high hopes. Well not really, but I had a flash that at least one of these would be hot fun. Poke the flames, yannow?

Yeah no.

Here's what goes wrong when you're two decades into chronically unromantic:

Idea 1.) "Short on time or money? No problem! Here's a quick and easy way to stoke those embers! (am I the only one so far going ewwww... ) Pick a new board game to play!"

What actually happened: We brought out the game. Something called Othello. I got dizzy as soon as I saw all the black and white discs and the reversible board and the 10-page instruction booklet. I had to put my head down. Meanwhile, since my husband wanted to go to bed before sunrise, he became "order-y" and saw it as one more job to delegate.

Date Night Idea #1: a bust. Let's move on ...

Idea 2.) "Pick a theme! Have fun enjoying "Irish Night" or "French Night!" (again, pretty sure it's just me, but ewwww with fake accents)

I did all right with this one. And for future reference, I told my husband the only love language for me is Jalisco's Mexican take-out. With wilting Styrofoam containers opened up on our laps, we sat and watched Nacho Libre. Then we both fell asleep on the Costco chaise-o-lounger with salsa stains on our chests. Fun? I guess it was a bit of all right.

Idea 3.) "Pop in your wedding video, look at your honeymoon pictures!  Here's some exclamation marks to get you started!"

Oh my god oh my god oh my god. Idea #3 gets my vote for worst idea ever. THE WORST. What's hot about looking at my stomach so flat and my husband's hair so dark? We both got sad-eyed and gobsmacked about how we had no idea we looked so good that we wondered why the hell didn't we just walk around nekkid back then?

Dang, we were hot. (Me: He was lucky to get me. Him: She was lucky to get me)

Idea 4.) "Feed the kids an early dinner and put them to bed!"

Still laughing about this one. Since we don't believe in Benadryl for dessert, the only ones that would be going to bed after an early dinner would be me and Mark.

Idea 5.) "Slumber Party! Pile blankets on the floor along with throw pillows and have a sleep over!"

Ummm, we already do this. Substitute piles of newspapers for throw pillows and the book we're reading for a blanket, and pretty much, there's our *Slumber Party!*

Idea 6.) "1-2-3 Get artsy! Grab a canvas and brushes and co-paint a picture together!"

I'll tell you right here and now, if my husband wanted to grab a paintbrush then I'd have no need to work 2.5 part-time jobs so I could call Rob the Painter every two years for the past ten years to paint the walls in this house.

Idea 7.) "Make a platter of favorite snacks! Pop some kettle corn and cozy up for a movie!"

What?! Now I'm the one handing out exclamation marks.
Snacks and a movie? Why didn't you say so 7 steps back?! Turns out we've been date-nighting for the past 20 years!

It's just like this dang world to try and make us think we have to change what we've been doing when what we've been doing, is right all along.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I've Already Faked it 3 Times Today

The waiting room was full last week at the health clinic, and when I finally had my turn at the receptionist's desk, she handed me a clip board. "We need this filled out for the new year," and she pushed the paper to my hand. I stared at the sheets and had no idea what this information was that they needed, I mean, I just handed her my card. I took the forms and filled in what I could but it might as well have been a travel application to Mars. I brought the clip board back to her and laughed that same weak laugh my kids do when they are without a clue, "Oh, hahaha, pretty sure I did this right. Let me know if it's not, haha." And then I ran back to my row of chairs before someone else took my place.

I had faked it. 30 days into the new year and I have already begun to pretend I know what's going on.

This morning at exercise class, there was an instructor subbing for our regular, Jan. I go when Jan is there because she always calls out directions and moves so I can put my brain on automatic and concentrate on keeping blood clots away. I rely on Jan telling me when to go right with my hip twist. But with Sandy, today, we were on our own. By the ten second mark of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" I knew this was a solo mission. It didn't take long for me to figure that out, the way I was face to face with the woman next to me every third beat was a clear enough clue. But I kept on faking it, arms up in imitation of others and legs out when I caught an orange running shoe fly up into my peripheral vision. I knew it while I was doing it, and I thought it through the rest of the class, I am the biggest faker on the planet, look at Sally over there - she has the decency to stop and not pretend she knows where to put her left foot when coming out of the daisy chain.

50 minutes later, I had faked it through Total Body Conditioning like the intro to ballet class I took as an elective in college thinking it'd be nothing but stretched out arms and out-toeing. [here's a good spot to insert the weak laughter from paragraph one] [here, let me: hahahahahaha]

I shook my head as I drove home, how old am I? Am I still that 5-year-old kindergartener sitting at the craft table all disoriented about how the other kids know which fingers to put through the handle of the scissors? The answer is evidently yes.

My life is fakery and how is it that other people know what to do? I came home to open my emails and the one from our soccer team was marked priority. Clicking it open it has a schedule for practices along with the words "red/blue as usual, let me know if you got this." I reply back "Got it!" with no idea what is supposed to be red/blue. The fakery here is high level alert because the team manager, the one from where these emails originate, is my husband. It's a scary thing the portals that open when we allow fakery in.

It's just a bit past noon, and I've had a good talking to with myself. I'm trying to zero in on just what faking brings me, because the very reason we choose behaviors is that they reward us in some way. Faking the happy dance and pretending I know what I need to do for soccer, what's the pay off? That's a hard one to answer.

Some fakery, however, is obvious. The third time for the big F, was about 10:30ish today, when I saw someone I know through someone they know, in other words I wouldn't recognize this person if you plucked them out of the setting that is the only place I ever see them in.

As we stood feet apart in the grocery store this morning, grabbing our bread and oranges and microwave popcorn before the predicted snowfall of 4-6 inches strangles us homebound tonight, she asked me if her snow pants were too much. I looked down at her legs, pressed my lips together at what looked like to me, plain old cotton leggings. "They look fine, fine." "Oh, good. I was worried, Andrea," she started, "I mean, yes they were originally $260 but they are Les Moise. We don't leave for Granby until March, but I just had to break them in. They're less constricting-y and not as shiny-y as Gorsuch."

I just nodded, "Yah," and had already quit caring she called me Andrea. I had just faked it for the third time.

I had no idea what Les Moise is and I have even less of an idea wherewhichwhat Granby is. I am without knowledge of the binding iridescence of Gorsuch.

The big reward in choosing to fake it this time? That's an easy one. Obviously not having to sit through any answer from her that is Les Moise-y and Granby-y.

Monday, February 1, 2016

And Then They Go and Grow Up On You

We know, we know - you told us.

Our kids would grow up before we knew it. But the problem is, we can't hear you. Not over the wailing, whining, up in the middle of the night screaming for us on top of days with mind-numbing fighting over sippy cups filled with the wrong colored juice.

But our kids do grow up, don't they. And all of your warnings about it won't help us ever believe you.

I'm proud to be up on Scary Mommy today with my take on the well-meaning advice, "Enjoy them while you can."

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