Friday, June 29, 2012

Baby Talk

It seems as if one day all my friends, and all their friends woke up and heard (in the crazy monkey, Raifiki, voice from The Lion King):

"IT IS TIME make the babies." 
I don't get it.
When did this change occur?
Why didn't I hear the voice?

We all drank the same Jameson shots till the bars closed, danced to George Micheal like the drunk idiots we were calling each other inappropriate names, demanding Wham be put in rotation.  Smoked, cursed, yelled.  Someone inevitably would trip and fall. It was great.  We were like pirates who danced to pop hits of the 80's.

And now something has changed.

There are babies. Everywhere...

And if the actual eating, sleeping, crying, shitting babies haven't arrived yet, people are pregnant with them, planning for them, or just talking about them.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love the little buggers, and someday I feel confident we'll have one to call our own.   I have lofty and magical dreams of the future family I'll have.  (Although mentally I totally skip the pregnancy, and of course, the birth.) The moment the hubs and I will bring "Baby" home for the first time and tenderly place "it" in some sort of bed inside a cozy nursery.  It's a huge deal.  I think it was Seinfeld who joked that any event where two people go into a room, and three come out, is a BIG deal.  And it is.  

I imagine our dog, Piper, sometime in the future, finally matured and calm, snuggled up, overlooking and protecting, perhaps babysitting, our sweet-smelling infant. Whereas today I would fear she'd jump on it and be the dingo that ate my baby

Hell, I even have some baby names, which I refuse to tell anyone because that sounds like some serious cliched action, and I have to keep my street cred. In a world of pro-breeding I have to be anti-baby.  It stems from those angsty high school years of being against the man.  It's not that hard either since I'm scared shitless of being a parent.

Everyone willingly shares the professionally polished pictures of their offspring with cherubic smiles and spotless outfits in the field of bluebonnets, but no one shares the images of what really happens:

And I'm not trying to be the Debbie Downer without kids.  I know a few things about the babies.  As a teenager without a license, and clearly sans car, my job options were pretty limited.  But what wasn't limited were the amount of neighborhood parents who desperately wanted a day, a night, an hour of sanctuary away from their beloved buggers, and who did they call?  Moi.  I was a great babysitter. Call me Mary Fucking Poppins. There was singing, poetry writing, fashion shows, synchronized swimming if a pool became available.  (Those were the good jobs.) I was also terrified someone was always watching my performance, and this was even before the "Nanny cam" scare.   The point is that despite the fun and games though, sometimes a spoon full of sugar just didn't do the job.

One time taking care of my own cousin--a family member for God's sake--I had fought with her about taking her nap.  She was a toddler at this point so I'd place her in her crib, talk to her a little in my best soothing and dream-like voice, then back out slowly, and quietly close the door.  Minutes later, she had clambered out of her crib and come downstairs. Giggling with euphoria from her recent prison break, I swooped her up, fussed at her and climbed back up stairs.  So, we repeated the process a few more times, and low and behold, this final time she stayed!  I thought I'd worn her out.  I thought my tenacity was noteworthy.  I thought this parenting is all about discipline and consistency.  What's the all the brouhaha about?

After forty minutes or so, when I still hadn't heard a peep and was still congratulating myself, I silently peeked inside her once immaculate and beautifully decorated room to find it absolutely covered in this white, greasy diaper cream that was apparently within arms reach from her crib.  She'd decided to do some redecorating in lieu of her nap.  This white shit was everywhere!  Walls, books, stuffed animals, the fancy rug.  Her face, her ears, her legs, and then, where her diaper should have been there was more diaper cream to be found in all sorts of hard to reach areas.  I had no idea such a small container of ostensibly helpful cream could go so far and do so much damage.  And where was the artist?  Standing in the middle of her masterpiece with the most shit-eating grin you've ever seen.
This isn't her, as I was blinded by rage when the actual event occurred, but you get the idea.

Now my cousin is a gorgeous and talented 14-year-old whom I love very much, but on that particular day, I wanted to murder her.  

So, my question is when do you know you're ready?  When will Raifiki tell me "it is time"?

Other people clearly trust us with their children.  Just the other day over beers at a baseball game we were asked to be the Godparents of our best friends' children.  I was quickly shoving a hot dog down my throat so I could get a free hand for another giant beer before we sat back down.  Really?  I thought.  You think we're Godparent material?

Don't get me wrong.  It's a huge honor.  We adore this couple--they actually were the reason my hubs and I met, and their children are ridiculously cute.  But I looked this up on the Google machine.  I might not fit the bill.  A couple of areas where I should be disqualified by the fancy standards:

1.  I'm not Catholic and consequently haven't done Catholic-ish events, like communion.
2.  I don't hold one religion over another and would allow my children to make their own choice.
3.  I wouldn't call myself a "public sinner" which equates to prostitution apparently, but I ain't no saint!

However, I know my sweet friends don't hold these things against me.  It's a wonderful privilege to be a special part of their lives and I get it.  They are ready and willing, right now, to say that if something happened to them, they would want us to be the ones to raise their children.  To make all those important decisions.  So, if they think we're ready, why don't we?

Until we figure this out, I'm putting my Momma friend on a diet and exercise plan to lower her unreasonably high cholesterol level to keep her ass alive as long as possible, and popping birth control like tic-tacs.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Money Matters

I never bought into the idea that another person would “complete” me, which contradicts most romantic comedies including the famous Jerry Maguire scene that made women—and some men—swoon. The concept of one person fulfilling another's needs is both dangerous and ridiculous. The term soul mate is thrown around all the time for cards, movies, and country music and people eat this shit up. The rest of us just throw up a little in our mouths.

I think, however, one should be a fully developed entity that finds another complimentary and completed entity in which to join in partnership. Like, two random (and whole) shapes that happen to fit ever-so-nicely with another random (and whole) shape.

Kind of like this, except I'm not into threesomes.  Just take one away mentally.  

My husband—and complimentary partner in life-- P, and I married almost a year ago. Even putting the wedding together was evidence that this union worked. P and I spent countless hours in preparation searching online, created, addressed and stamped invitations, traveled to a thousand locations around the city for supplies, prepared our own potato salad (huge mistake), and finally on June 11th, we celebrated with 150 of our favorite people. Despite our tight budget and the outrageous prices of anything labeled "wedding," we put together quite an event—even if I am totally biased.

Then, real life began. Knowing how well we worked together I wasn't afraid of spending the rest of my life with this man. However, I was terrified to give him my ATM PIN number.

That’s right.

I’d committed my life to one person, “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health. ” We’d even talked about our hypothetical children and what kind of parents we'd be.  I'll be neurotic and he'll help with math homework.  Then what we’d be like as grandparents. I already really dig Luby's, naps, and yelling at young people. He likes to be asleep before 9 PM.

So why did he need access to my bank? Why was he really asking about the balance on my credit card?

The reality was I’d been (poorly) handling my own affairs for years including my finances, as I am a grown ass woman. I was making a decent living, but I still had my college loan to pay off, a car payment, and the seemingly insurmountable credit card debt. Damn you interest. Damn you! These were my deep dark secrets that I’d alluded to but didn’t really want to discuss--EVER. My plan was just to slowly take care of it and in about thirty years, then I could talk to him about what still remained.

So, what happens in a partnership? Well, apparently you have to share, which means specifically you have to be honest and open.

I don’t like to be honest and open about money.


I was embarrassed and ashamed. This was my debt—my life—my problem. I should be the one to suffer the consequences and pay off my own debts. But my new husband lovingly responded that this was not my problem—this was our current situation. I had to learn the challenging lesson of letting go of my own pride and allowing someone to help me even though it made me uncomfortable. We joined our bank accounts (yikes!) and made a very specific financial budget (whimper...) with a strategic plan for our future. And although we are still paying our bills while trying to save a little, the relief is tremendous.

Do I fear being too reliant on him, depending on him for things that I should be able to do on my own? Absolutely. Hello. I’m constantly taunting myself:

What would happen to you if he wasn’t here?
You don’t even know when to change the oil in your car anymore!
Where's your self-reliance, you pansy?
You are a disgrace to women because it took a man to fix it.

But then I tell the mean bitch inside my head to shut up and enjoy relying on someone else for a change, because P is here for me now.

It’s not about giving in, or compromising core values, but rather it’s about shedding characteristics or mannerisms that don’t support the success of your partnership. In my attempt to be independent I was actually just trembling in my boots. I shouldn't live a life questioning the “what if” scenarios because that's not fully embracing life. In letting go of my ego just a tiny bit, I was able to gain so much more.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Slippery Slope

This entry is going to annoy all those folks in regular jobs without a summer vacation.  On the other hand, teachers will be nodding along with me.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

My name is Jennifer and I'm addicted to schedules.  Every summer I set lofty goals and high standards for myself like: I will not sleep in, I will run more, I will eat healthier food, I will get back in shape--whatever that really means.  I really will start thinking about graduate school and preparing for the GRE. (The math section terrifies me.)  There are others like deep cleaning, and I mean the shitty parts no one really sees but you, like the baseboards or the bottom of the crisper drawer in the fridge.  Gross. Another is reading all the novels that have been recommended over the school year which I never had time to read because I was laboring over shitty essays. Then the smaller ones like organizing the closets, Goodwill donation drop-off, bla bla bla.

Every summer I begin rather well.  I get up at a respectable time and fix myself a healthy breakfast with fruit, put on the ol' runnin' gear, get out there and hammer out 3-4 miles and let Piper run and swim.  Come home, clean up, and have a nice lunch.  Run a few errands, read a little of one of those novels, and then in the evening prepare the hubs a nice dinner with a glass of wine.  I feel victorious.  This summer is going to be the most accomplished summer to date! I think to myself smugly of how well-read, well-rested and toned I'll be for the new school year.
(This woman is not actually me, but it's the future "me" upon the summer's closing.)

So far this summer I've done this twice.

It's only the third week of summer, and I rolled out of bed at 10:30 AM today.  I did not go run.  Instead I ate a piece of cake.  I finally showered around one and read some trashy gossip about some celebrity couple.  I have no idea what's for dinner, but I ain't cooking it.

What happened?  I'm not that kind of person who even makes New Year's resolutions, so why do I set myself up for such massive failures during the summer?  And the slope was steep this time.  Apparently when I don't have someone expecting me to do something at a certain time, I can find a startlingly amount of unnecessary chores and activities to fill up the hours.  This cannot be what housewives feel like though, since they have the job of taking care of the kids and all this entails, so I don't want to be dismissive. However, I suck at being home all day.  

I need the school schedule.  I need a million warning and tardy bells, due dates for grades, 24-hour turnaround expectation for email contacts, and every other structure put in place to make sure the establishment stays running.  

Without it, I'm drunk and pantless in the middle of the day eating thin mints. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm Not Really an Asshole; I Just Play one on TV

Bienvendios! This is my introduction by way of a disclaimer.  I’m a high school teacher which means I deal with lots and lots of shit.  Not actual feces, as I refuse to interact with those little creatures that might erupt at any given moment with fluids coming out of orifices.  I’m referring here to teenage shit, and the shit their parents will dole out in sometimes equal proportions.  Don’t forget about the shit from the administration either.  We’re up to our eyeballs in the stuff.  There’s plenty of fodder to work with here; we’ve got entitlement issues, laziness, misguided anger issues and just sheer stupidity.  So, prepare yourself.  I will get on my huffy bike without the proper head gear or elbow pads, and I will pedal my heart out, basket, streamers and all.  I will be pissy and unfair to some folks out there.  I may come across as, wait for it—a bitch. 

However, I’m not really an asshole.  Here’s what I think.  Being cynical and sarcastic are results of simply being disappointed in life many many times. The important part (the one that doesn’t make me sound like an asshole) is that in order to become this way, we must have begun the journey optimistically.  We believed the  world provided endless opportunities for us to learn, grow and yes, sometimes challenge us, but that was alright, because in the end, everything would work out.  “Oh the places I’ll go!” Dr. Suess told us.  And I’d never contradict the Doc, but the hills in the journey are a bitch. 

And you should know, I am still a teacher.  I won’t get all Hallmark on your ass, but when the job is good, it’s fucking awesome.  Not in a Michelle Pfeiffer sort of way, but in a Dead Poet’s Society kind of way—wait, that kid died, right?  Ok, the part about the kids “getting it.”  And Robin Williams, the maverick  teacher on campus, nods knowingly to his students and Ethan Hawke, the quiet student who found himself,  stands on his chair being so cute and panting  looking back at his “captain.”  Except I don’t get fired.   

All teachers have these moments or we wouldn’t stay in the profession.  But one of my favorite stories is about a student, who we’ll call Amy.  Now in ninth grade, she had never been in a pre-Advanced Placement (AP) class so when we started working in analyzing texts and writing about it, she felt overwhelmed since she lacked some of the skills her classmates had acquired through the years.  After class, several times a week, she’d drop by and we’d go through her analysis.  It was painful.  She got her first report card.  This was also painful.  She came to me crying asking as to whether or not she should stay in the course and continue banging her head against the wall or “drop” to a less challenging course.  For a teacher, this can be a tricky conversation.  I gave her a tissue, told her to buck up little camper and we went through yet another assignment together.  However, in time with her tenacity, humility and grace we got her writing level beyond her classmates.  By the end of the year she was making “A”s when her classmates were struggling.  Amy went on to graduate at the top of her class with scholarships to four different colleges.  She came to visit me on her last day of her senior year with the line every dedicated teacher deserves to hear: “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

This blog will not just be about teaching though.  Like everyone on the planet, I have been through painful experiences.  I’ve also been blessed to experience friendship, beauty, and love.  One would expect some wisdom gleaned from these.  One would assume I know things.  The irony is that although I’m paid to be a teacher, I’m absolutely still learning.  And I usually have to learn the lesson twice because I’m very stubborn.  And I don’t like to be wrong, which I often am.  I hope this serves as a way for us all to laugh at the wonderful, disturbing, unfair, hilarious world in which we all live, and how I deal with it.