So I’m Now (Apparently) A Petty Thief

Well. Where to begin?

I am now (apparently) a petty thief. That is if you ask the manager at the La Quinta Inn and Suites a few towns away from where I live.

I got a notice from the electric company about two weeks ago that our power was going to be turned out for a planned outage on May 30th. Naturally, being a mom of three and not having time for that shit, I ignored it.

A week later, I got a letter. Ignored that too.

It wasn’t until Monday, in morning of the 29th, when I got an email reminder that the power would be turned out on the 30th, that I actually started to think I should look into it.

Of course, I forgot about it until that night, so laying in bed on Monday – Memorial Day – I finally read the email to learn that our power was going to be turned off Tuesday night around 10 pm, and it wouldn’t be restored until the next morning.

In the normal course of affairs, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But with a baby and an elderly father living in the house, and with my dad’s bedroom and bathroom being at the top of a long staircase…I grew concerned. My older two kids, I wasn’t so worried about. They would be fine as long as I let them watch Netflix with cellular data on their cellphones. But what if my dad tripped and fell down the stairs and my phone had died and I couldn’t call 9-1-1? What if the baby woke up sick and I couldn’t find the thermometer in the closet or see the proper dosage of Tylenol on the package because we literally had one Yankee candle with – maybe – an hour’s worth of wick?

So I started scavenging around the house to look for lanterns, flashlights, emergency candles…anything…only to come up empty handed and pretty freaked out. (I know, I know…I need to become a survivalist and stock up on that shit. Seismologists say The Big One is going to hit Southern California any day now – be it an earthquake or a nuclear bomb from North Korea, so certainly I should be more prepared…)

I went around and came up with a conservative estimate on what we could get by with on candles and flashlights, and added it all up in this epic grocery list that added extra errands to my day …and about two hours into this whole endeavor, I realized this was all bullshit anyway, so I said screw it – I’m booking us a hotel room for the night.

Now my aunt and uncle occasionally come to visit us, and when they do they always bring their dog. Since we have no extra rooms, they have to find a dog-friendly hotel, and for years they’ve been raving that the La Quinta Inn and Suites two towns over is not only reasonable in price, but dog friendly and a pretty nice hotel.

I – on the contrary – would not normally stay in a La Quinta Inn and Suites. That’s just me, I have a preference for where I stay (Marriotts or Hyatts, sure fine – I’m a snob); and I’d wager to say that I have traveled enough and had so many bad experiences in hotels to know to stick to my go-tos. However, with this circumstance, we needed to bring the dog, and because of the shortness of time to get it all together, I figured – why not? How bad could something other than a Marriott or Hyatt be. HOW BAD?! – I reasoned as I drove over there, checked in to a room, and unloaded our things.

HOW AWFUL COULD THIS GET?! IT’S ONLY ONE NIGHT!

Well.

I drove back home after checking us in, because my kids had tennis and other miscellaneous crap going on around town. Finally, around 8 pm my dad, the baby, the two kids and the dog, all got loaded in the car and we barreled 13 miles down the highway to the La Quinta Inn and Suites. Two towns over from my amazing, protected, safe and secure home.

My kids were like “yah! it’s like a mini vacation!!” And my dad – who had just gotten back from being out of town for the weekend at a conference – was like “sweet – another night in a comfortable bed!” And I was just like “well, it isn’t a Marriott or Hyatt…but really, it’s one night…HOW BAD COULD IT BE?!”

As we parked, we were stalled in getting to our room because there was a drug arrest happening on the walkway.

Nevertheless, we got into our room, with two beds and a bathroom (all they had available – so each kid slept with an adult, while the baby slept in his rocker-sleeper…my husband was, of course, at work on overnight shift). We took photos of the baby at his first hotel stay, and posted them to his Instagram page. We popped popcorn and got into pajamas. Watched Hulu on my computer. It was, for all intents and purposes our usual evening routine.

HotelParty

Until we woke up in the middle of the night to doors upstairs slamming and people in the corridors screaming.

This morning, we got up, got dressed, packed up the car…kindly said hello to the couple making out against their red pick up truck right outside our room…checked out of the room at exactly 8:15 am…and headed off to breakfast.

It was over. We survived. It was no Marriott or Hyatt, but no one died. And our power outage problems had, in fact, been averted.

Around noon, my phone started ringing from a number in that town, two towns over that housed the La Quinta Inn and Suites and happens to also be a town my daughter is playing a tennis tournament in this weekend. So I answered, assuming that it was the tennis club to give me her start time.

Them: “Heather?”

Me: “Yes?”

Them: “How are you?”

Me: “Fine…may I ask who this is…?”

Them: “This is {garbled name} from the La Quinta Inn and Suites. Why did you leave your hotel room door open upon check out?”

Me: “Um…I didn’t.”

Them: “No, that’s not true. Housekeeping just called and said the room is wide open.”

Me: “Nope, solidly closed it before we checked it out.”

Them: “Okay…we’ll call you back.”

Thinking nothing of this at all, I went back to my day. I actually took a nap, for about 30 minutes or so. Then I woke up and was about to get up to make lunch when I looked at my cellphone and there were tons of notifications from the bank – La Quinta Inn and Suites had charged me for hundreds of dollars in separate transactions, and they (the bank) wanted to know what was going on.

Good question.

So I called La Quinta Inn and Suites back and the gist of it is this: those people that I politely said “good morning” to, that were making out against the back of their red pick up truck, were actually thieves casing the place. They were there, waiting for someone to leave their room, so they could head in and steal a bunch of shit. A quick Google search by my husband found that it could easily be done with a copied key, possibly by an employee.

A microwave, a mini fridge, a coffee pot, and a big screen TV were stolen, to be exact.

La Quinta Inn and Suites, though, decided to charge me and when I went into it with them over the phone, the woman said – point blank – “we are charging you for the things you stole from the room…”

Um…

“…and we’ve called the police.”

If you know anything about me, you know that I am the last person you would ever imagine to a) be arrested for anything, ever, and b) break the law.

I was the coordinator for the entire neighborhood watch group for the 3,000-unit subdivision we just moved out of last fall. I still moderate their Facebook group.

Nonetheless, I started practicing my Tiger Woods-esque mug shot face as I waited for the cops to show up. And when they didn’t after about an hour, I decided to call them, and we went over the whole thing.

In the end, I did not get arrested, even though the police officer laughed as he told me the lady at the La Quinta Inn and Suites said I stole all the stuff.

My 13 year old daughter had to provide character witness for the people hanging out outside the room.

And I am now dead set that I will never stay in anything but a Marriott or Hyatt. Ever. Again.

To make matters worse, all the time this took me has delayed getting my Book Trailer uploaded…which means our BIG REVEAL has to be postponed until this weekend.

That is, unless, I get arrested for something else. Because you know, I’m now (apparently) a petty thief.

 

 

Advertisements

Let’s Just All Simmer The Frick Down

c0ac47832e2320f3132b67cc679937b3

There’s been a refreshing and, simultaneously, not-so-refreshing trend this last week or two on the Internet, and that is that people have stopped talking about the demise of American society  and values as we knew them pre-Trump, and moved back to the ol’ getting offended at everything on the Internet.

I say it’s refreshing because – you know – it’s a break from this Trumpian shit show that none of us seem to be able to do a single thing about.

I say not-so-refreshing because we should still be standing up for ourselves within our American government and politics and, well, people getting offended by everything on the Internet is obnoxious.

Case #1 – Legging-Gate

3685a41b631fe53afb0f9dda8ec36a33

If you didn’t know, earlier this week some people were heading out on a flight through United Airlines, free of charge by way of an employee friend and family benefit. To be clear: their tickets were free. *Free under the explicit condition that they follow the dress code and behave appropriately on the flight. Three of them (the kids) showed up wearing leggings (a violation of the dress code) and they were not allowed to board without changing into proper attire.

Completely understanding that they were breaking the rules, I hear the kids threw on dresses over the offending leggings, and just went about their business – being appreciative of their free tickets, I assume. Except some nosy nelly standing in line went crazy, snapped photos, went viral, and the world lost their fricken minds.

All jokes and arguments about the moral fortitude of dress codes aside, those free tickets have always come at a cost: a simple dress code and appropriate behavior, which, I will repeat, the flyers were aware of. Which they – in fact – had no problem with when reminded.

But not the Internet! The Internet had to lose its ever-loving collective mind over it, and instantly a new viral story, a variety of memes, and 200-comment-length debates were born.

Of course I engaged in one of those debates, because I am me. I was accused of being opposed to progress. Of being a robot. and a whole host of other things by someone who is at least ten years older than me, and yet is most known for posting photos of herself in her super hero underpants on Instagram.

The bottom lines to Legging-Gate are:

  1. Rules are rules. Get over it, unless you want to ruin that benefit for everyone; and,
  2. If you want to change the rules, showing up and being all “screw you I do what I want” is not the way to do it; finally,
  3. THE PEOPLE GUILTY OF SHOWING UP IN LEGGINGS FOR THEIR ENTIRELY FREE UNITED AIRLINES FLIGHT DID NOT EVEN CARE.

Case #2 – The Prom Dress Good Girls

31prom_xp-blog427

I don’t know all the facts of this case, but it’s another dress code thing that I think has been blown way out of proportion.

So prom season is coming, and some high school in somewhere – I don’t know – posted examples of what was acceptable attire and what was not acceptable attire. The acceptable said “good girl” over it, and I don’t know what the tone or connotation of that was, but it pissed people off.

Then it raised the whole dress code for young women thing, which I am in the minority (it seems) on these days, in that I believe dress codes are a good thing. I think they teach kids to respect authority (which will be important when they have jobs with dress codes they absolutely must follow as adults). They teach them how to dress for certain occasions. I also don’t always think that dress codes are about calling a girl/woman slutty or inappropriate or something to be ashamed of, but rather for their protection. And while I know that the real issue is teaching boys/young men the appropriate way to act, we just aren’t at that stage of the game yet. I wish we were, but we aren’t and thinking that pretending like we are will stop young men from acting poorly is irresponsible thinking.

Beyond that, I live in a town where the local high school has virtually no dress code that I am aware of. I have seen girls walking to the school in booty shorts and bikini tops – no jokes, and boys walking to the school with their pants around their ankles. Moreover, our old babysitter knew several kids her graduating year (just a couple years ago) that were suspended for having sex on the dance floor during homecoming. Let that sink in for a minute. In light of those incidences, alone, I’m all for dress codes for prom. And sex ed classes prior to prom. And open conversations with our kids about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. But dress codes too.

a70dbbb93cc7d15ece97a1485cc9abea_-about-funny-daddy-daughter-meme-dad-daughter_625-406

Side note: the school has since apologized for the dress code signs and good girl comment, so  everyone seriously does need to calm down on this one. It’s over.

Case #3 – Kid With SPD Gets Rough TSA Pat-Down, Handles It Like A Champ, Mom Records It To Go Viral On Social Media, World Explodes With Anger

4221396001_5375779238001_5375775405001-vs

Did you guys hear about this kid with sensory processing disorder who triggered a red flag with the TSA and had to get a pat down? Instead of – oh I don’t know – standing there and helping him through it, Mom instead demanded the presence of two police officers, and broke out her video camera, posting it on social media instantly with the caption “we were treated like dogs.”

I presume she was opening her GoFundMe account for mental anguish  immediately afterwards.

Of course if a kid got through with a bomb – a tactic often used by terrorists – the world would have wondered why the kid hadn’t been treated more doggedly.

Now even though the kid handled it like a champ, and there were police present so obviously no misconduct took place, the comment sections of the Internet went wild with people calling it molestation, calling for the firing of the TSA agent, and – my personal favorite – “no one could see what happened behind that TSA agent’s fat ass, he likely groped your son, sue the government NOW NOW NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Okay.

Case #4 – Daddy-Daughter Dances

75c00932050ab2a2fcb0b77074f2147f_father-daughter-search-and-father-daughter-meme_704-631

I guess it’s Daddy-Daughter Dance season. News to me, but I’ve seen all kinds of posts by friends and family taking their kids to them. (I think we may be too introverted of a family.)

This raised a whole issue, though, about eliminating gender-specific-themed events with kids altogether. Which I totally get – as a child that grew up in a single family home, my mother having left us when I was only 10, I was constantly left out of mother-daughter events because …well… I didn’t have a full time mother.

The issue was raised because a single mother apparently tried to take her daughter to a daddy-daughter dance and was turned away. Now, I get that the situation was a little weird – the woman dressed up as a man, she even colored on a beard. That’s just strange, even though she was clearly just trying to make a sad situation cool. Except it turned out to be completely uncool when she was turned away simply because she wasn’t actually a man.

Because. She. Was. Not. A Man.

And this was not the first time this kind of a thing has happened.

So some articles go around the Internet about eliminating gender-specific events in schools once and for all, and – big surprise – a debate breaks out. Is there anything on the Internet that doesn’t result in debate anymore?

The bottom line is that irrespective of the sanctity of your husband taking his daughter to some stupid dance every spring, or your son having a special mother-son school breakfast, this is 2017. It’s time to recognize that not everyone is living the same life as you, and sometimes those events hurt people’s feelings, especially the kids’. Go on dates with your kids on your own time.

Case #5 – Another Wardrobe Malfunction

3

Had enough of debates inspired by clothing yet? I sure as shit thought I had, and then I saw an article calling for an end to poking fun at dumb dads.

I guess it was inspired by a onesie that has instructions for a dumb dad printed on the face of it. For one, it was cute. For two, dumb dads do actually exist. For three, I want to know where I can get one for my husband, because really Nick – it isn’t funny anymore that you can’t figure out where the baby’s arm goes.

Boy did the trolls come out for that one, though – writing multi-paragraph dissertations in the comments section about patriarchy and sexism and reverse sexism and dads are perfectly capable of dressing their kids in fact they are more capable than moms and JESUS FUCKING CHRIST CAN PEOPLE SERIOUSLY NOT TAKE A JOKE ANYMORE?

I am going to say something quite shocking right now (apparently): there really does exist a subculture of male parents that could otherwise be described as dumb dads.  They are given chance after chance after chance to be just as qualified of a parent at the little things as mom is, but no matter what they do, they always fuck it up. That’s just reality, really of the human condition because – newsflash – we are not all perfect at everything. Dumb dads are actually capable of being really good parents and at the same time too stupid about little things like putting on a onesie or throwing a pony tale in their daughter’s hair.

My husband is one of them. While he’s a great parent in certain ways, he just can’t in others. On more than one occasion he’s asked me for help getting the kids dressed, and today – ironically about ten minutes after I read that article – he put the baby’s diaper on (AGAIN) in such a way that it fell off and I was peed all over.

Being peed on sucks and it’s nice as a mom to be able to vent to the Internet about that. Except you can’t because then you are questioning the parental capabilities of all fathers (seriously, WHY?).

f9b011345caf47b80c20356d6c17f6ae

Honestly, the issue isn’t about sexism or patriarchy, but rather the inability to admit that we aren’t perfect at everything. More appealing than a man so effeminate and insecure in himself that he has to get defensive every time a woman questions his parenting abilities is – without a doubt – a man that owns his inadequacies and buys the onesie with instructions himself. Because it’s funny.

I assume this is only the beginning, you guys. Trump has been in office for a couple months now. America needs to get back to the important work of being offended by everything, believing everything we read on the Internet at face-value, and refusing to ever admit that we are ever in the wrong about anything. Ever.

I think we all just need to simmer the frick down, but then we would have to pay attention to what is going on around us again. So continue on, people of the Interwebs. Continue on.

 

 

I Lost 31 Facebook Friends Today Because I Posted About My Anxiety Disorder

By “lost” I mean that I gave them the boot. They were all family. My husband’s family, to be specific.

I have an anxiety disorder. It’s mostly hormonal at this point, but the more I deal with it the more I realize it’s also situational. Situational in the sense that I feel a huge conflict between who I am and what I feel I’m allowed to be.

What I feel my husband’s family allows me to be.

To the point, though: right now, I’m in a bad place anxiety-wise. Depression too. It’s OK for me to say that. It’s OK for me to talk about it. And it’s OK for me to set limits and boundaries with all of that in light.

That I feel I have to say any of that is absurd.

So we have been thinking about moving out of our neighborhood basically since we moved in about two years ago. There’s a lot of crime in the community, which is crazy because it’s a beautiful neighborhood with a lot of wonderful people. But moreover, the situation with living in a family-owned home was stressful. And…it just wasn’t enough room for our family.

Finally, several weeks back we found a couple rentals within our price range. Rentals that were bigger. Rentals that didn’t make us feel we were responsible for maintenance because of the family nature of it. Rentals that were a real step up for our family. We started looking at them, applying for them…and within a day or two of even looking, we got the best of all of them.

So we’re moving out of the family-owned townhouse in the crime-ridden community with AMAZING neighbors (that part is in no way sarcastic…except for the ones from that whole pee gate episode a while back, I have never met nicer people)…and the family owned townhouse is up for rent.

Today, my father in law just showed up at the townhouse, though, insisting he be allowed to come in and inspect the place to see what kind of work he would need to do.

To start, we have put so much work into the place simply because my husband and I felt it was our responsibility. Nay, it was said it was always his and his brother’s responsibility. So to be so freaked out and worked up about how much work it may or may not need before it goes up for rent again was a little…suspicious… Moreover, we paid through the 31st. If we need until then to move out, we sure as hell can. And if you really have to get all freaked out and come over – is it so hard to make a phone call and ask when a good time would be? REALLY?

Apparently.

In any event, my husband walked outside and asked politely that he come another time. Today was not a good time. My anxiety level was already through the roof. I have spent every day since Saturday (today is Wednesday) crying, most of the time for reasons I’m not sure. I’ve used more Xanax this week than in the last several weeks. In short: I’m a mess.

The move, however, has been going PERFECTLY. We have just a couple more days in the townhouse and the new place is basically all set up already. And my husband knew that I needed to know that THAT aspect was under control, since everything else seems to be falling apart. Not to have the added pressure of any complaints about the townhouse on my shoulders.

Also, my home is – right now – my only safe place.

His dad pushed his way past him, and barged into the house.

Terrified of my personal space being violated like that, I went up to our bedroom and shut the door. I stayed in there trying to stay calm until he left. It isn’t that I can’t be around other people, it’s just that my home is my only safe space and I need to feel that way. And who knows, anyway? I could have been in the shower. The kids could have been running around in underpants… Who thinks they can just show up and barge into another person’s house like that? ESPECIALLY someone you know has an anxiety disorder?

Once he left, I felt completely panicked and violated. My safe zone was taken control of. I’ve been working so hard to have safe zones – things that help me stay calm, help me keep my anxiety under control… now I have lost that one. Sure, we are moving out in just a couple more days…but a couple days with a panic disorder is an eternity.

So, naturally, I took to social media to vent my frustrations. I did it as vaguely and anonymously as I could. There was NO WAY anyone would know who or what I was talking about. NONE!

I had no intention of even going into specifics as to what happened. I wasn’t planning on blogging about it, like I just did. I. Planned. Nothing. But. To. Post. A. Vague. Vent. And. Reminder. (And note: my husband’s dad is not on Facebook, so would never even see this.)

Here was the pertinent part (the rest was me talking about how much I truly hope to keep the friendships I have with my former community)…

facebookpost1

Within minutes, though, the family brigade came out in full force. First, my husband’s mother, who is never online and was at work at the time, suddenly became active enough on Facebook to see my post and decided to reveal in the comments who the offender was. Suddenly aunts were telling me I am ungrateful and should delete my post. That I should be thankful for everything they’ve done for me (to be clear: the only person that has done anything for us has been MY dad, and my husband will be the first to admit that). Shame on me for being such a terrible person!

Shame. On. Me. For. Having. An. Anxiety. Disorder. That. Necessitates. I. Need. A. Safe. Space. That. Being. My. Home.

I tried not to respond to their shit, but finally I did and just defended myself. Which I know I shouldn’t do. I’ve been going to therapy for this anxiety, and the therapist even tells me if I don’t stop defending myself to these people nothing will ever change.

But it just kept going. Suddenly uncles were revealing gossip that had clearly been spreading through the family about us moving out (the idea that we gave no notice that we were moving out). MY near and dear and long time friends were coming to my aid, and family were telling – Internet screaming – at them to butt the fuck out of family affairs. Family members were making public calls for other family to join in and back them up about not tolerating MY TOTALLY AND UTTERLY EGREGIOUS BEHAVIOR ANY FURTHER (it sounded a little drunk-Facebooking at that point). My husband, at work, started getting phone calls from people not even affiliated with me online to get me under control.

Like really?

e31

To all of this bullshit, I have a few things to say:

  1. It is not OK to just show up at someone’s house, under any circumstance, for any reason whatsoever, and just barge in. You may be stupid. You may have no manners. You may be a blood relative. Doesn’t matter – it is never OK.
  2. It is not OK to shame someone for having an anxiety disorder that requires a little extra consideration about the rude and ignorant shit you do and say.
  3. People are allowed to have feelings and express them.
  4. If you are so stupid so as to respond to someone’s vague post about something with all the specifics, YOU ARE TO BLAME when that escalates out of control.
  5. Facebook friends should be people I would actually be friends with in real life. I would never be friends with people that shame someone for having an anxiety disorder and asking that their personal space at home be respected because of it.
  6. My husband’s family never responds to all the positive and bad ass things I post online about our lives. Adorable pictures of the kids. Silence. Husband got a promotion. Nothing. Heather has an anxiety disorder. FUCK YOU HEATHER YOU DUMB CUNT HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT THIS FAMILY LIKE THAT.

Here’s the thing about it all that I have come to realize and think about over the last several months – not just today. Our kids are witnessing all of this. They hear about it or see it or feel the effects of it at a family party. Is this really the lesson I want to teach my kids? That people can bully and shame others for sharing about their mental health? My oldest daughter has generalized anxiety disorder – should I teach her that she should hide it and not set boundaries with others to keep that under control?

At this point, this isn’t even about me anymore. It’s about my kids. They deserve extended family that is accepting and loving and compassionate and doesn’t act like a bunch of psychotic drunks calling publicly for a revolt against someone that says something they don’t like. If someone doesn’t gel with those values I want to raise my kids with, they’ll be deleted and blocked from online and real life. Tonight, it happened to be 31 of them.

 

 

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. Especially If You Were Wrong To Do It.

For some reason, I open myself to a lot of criticism from the people in my life.

I’m not entirely sure how it got to that point. Maybe I overshare, as in I tell people way more information than they need. Or possibly I have let people believe that I’ll take it. (I think it’s a little of both.)

It’s always about the weirdest things too. Like who criticizes someone for bringing chips and salsa to a party? I’ve been criticized for that one twice (“Heather it is rude to bring something unless you are explicitly asked.”)

Every time I feel criticized or judged, I just stop doing the thing to try and make them happy. That doesn’t make me happy, but then neither does being criticized all the time. It’s lose-lose.

The ironic part about it though (and ironic is putting it extremely nicely), is that those people then turn around and do the exact, same thing.

The person who criticized me for bringing chips and salsa to a dinner brought a tray of dried fruit to a party we threw several years ago. She had not been explicitly asked. Unlike her, though, I didn’t give a shit.

oh-boy-here-we-go

I stopped talking about how much crime has gone up in my community, even though it factually has, because someone told me our town is great and I should be grateful and shut my mouth. Several people chimed in.

That person now – apparently – wants to move out of my town because of …wait for it… how much crime has gone up.

I stopped sending out handmade or paper birthday invitations for my kids’ things well in advance, and I just started texting everyone a week or so beforehand. Because I was told it’s a little much to expect people to remember things more than a week out. And because it makes people feel bad about themselves when I send out old fashioned paper, or homemade invites. Things I did of no consequence to others made them feel inferior.

In the last week we have received three handmade or paper invitations in the mail, all 8-10 weeks out, none of them for special occasion type things like weddings, all within this town. Two from people that used to criticize me for doing it.

It’s so not like me to do this, and yet for YEARS NOW it’s exactly what I’ve done. I started caring too much about what other people thought. And rather than blow it off and be me, I changed everything.

Only recently, I realized that the real crux of it all was when someone judged me up and down – publicly and without relief – for being a stay at home mom. And others chimed in then too. For the years that she and others openly went off on me about how stay at home moms are lazy and have it so good; after she in particular berated me for at least 15 minutes about how she could never do that and find meaning in her life (a sentiment many of the people I know, unfortunately, share), I started looking for a way to mediate that one too.

When the truth is, all these people are totally and utterly full of shit.

But this stay at home mom thing really hit me hard, and it’s taken close to six years for me to really and truly stop caring so much about all the comments and the bullshit.

I don’t know if it’s just here, in California, where everyone’s opening line at a party is “so what do you do?” Or if it’s an American culture thing. But every time someone asks me that dreaded question, and I respond that I’m “just a mom,” I get a look. A look and then a pause and then a “well…that’s OK…” and a swift change of subject.

The whole concept that someone who is just a mom is worthless and contributing nothing seems very foreign to me. Raising the future generation seems to be the single most important job on the planet. Without it, all the other jobs don’t happen quite as well. And sure, there are a lot of moms that do other things and are also moms, and they are great too.

But really now.

When I left graduate school in 2010, it’s true that I was planning to soul search and meditate and do all that hippy shit 20-somethings do when they find themselves and redefine their lives. But no matter how much I tried my hand at other things, the only thing that really seemed even remotely fulfilling to me was raising my kids.

Now, six years and a lot of criticism from the outside world later, I’m OK with that.

I have spent time and money and effort and stress and worry and a lot of heartache trying to do other things besides being a mom, though, all as a reaction to this idea that being “just a mom” is not enough. And at one point, I even tried to mom so hard just to prove that “just a mom” was OK because look at all this other shit I’m doing!

Really. Why do we have to keep justifying our existence and place in life?

I go without all the time so I can be “just a mom.” I have never been on an exotic vacation; in fact, since I decided to be just a mom we haven’t been on a vacation other than to visit family. I don’t get my nails and eyelashes and hair done as regularly as most women. I wear Gap Outlet-brand yoga pants most days of the week and carry a purse sold in the clearance section at Target.

My list of financial, emotional, and personal sacrifices is huge, much larger than the above paragraph. But do I or anyone else really have to list these things off to make things right and explain ourselves when people start criticizing?

And…if I – “just a mom” – or someone else – “a [fill in the career] AND mom” – wanted to spend to have any of those things, can we not just fucking do what we want without comment?

For years now, I have met that “just a mom” look and pause with my own self-criticism of what a mom should be. Every time someone questioned it, I responded with doing more to justify my existence. I baked more. I cooked more. One Christmas Eve, at my husband’s family’s annual Christmas party, I must have brought 10 desserts. Not one. Not two. Ten. (Okay probably five.) I handmade Christmas gifts that year too. Every. Single. Gift. Have any of you heard that joke: why buy it for $7 when you can make it for $92 in craft supplies? That year our Christmas budget was blown ten times over.

But I got criticized for it too. No one wanted my desserts. Other people wanted to bring desserts too and here I brought some and now theirs may go in the trash. Everyone thought I had done too much. It wasn’t said in a sweet, saccharin way either. It was seriously and tersely instructed: “Heather stop doing this.”

why-buy-it-for-7-when-you-can-make-it-yourself-wit.jpeg

So I did. But now you guys get the conflict: if you are “just a mom,” you aren’t doing enough. If you are doing a ton of stuff, you are wrong and doing too much.

That’s when I started looking for things to volunteer in. So that when people said “what are you doing this weekend” I had a laundry list of busy activity, besides just taking my kids to tennis or making dinners and cleaning the house. And yet every time I was at one of those volunteer things, or sitting in a meeting for my volunteer work at the local art center or the neighborhood watch group, I could not stop thinking about the remorse I felt over missing one of my kids’ things. I didn’t want to miss their things or them to do this other crap. I still don’t. Yes, I want to do things for myself. Be in a book club. Get my nails done when they’ve just gone too far…

But otherwise, I really and truly want to just be a mom.

I also want to be who I am. When people ask what do I do, I want to say I’m “just a mom” and then talk about things that make me who I am other than that. And those other things are OK too…a philosophy graduate who still years after grad school reads voraciously and thinks about esoteric ideas while standing in line at the grocery store; someone worried about the crime fluctuations where I live; someone who makes birthday invitations by hand for her kids; someone who always brings a bag of chips and a bucket of salsa because a) it’s polite to bring something, and b) who doesn’t love chips and salsa? What I do does not define me necessarily, anyway. Being a mom and being unemployed by choice does not mean I lack substance.

It’s so hard to be a mom, whether you work or stay at home; and I think all the other stuff comes as an extension of that. You are held up to so much judgment and varying opinions, and suddenly everyone on the planet thinks they have the right to foist their comments and criticisms on you. Even people that aren’t moms, themselves.

Anything you can do, I can do better. Especially if I previously thought that what you were doing was wrong.

Here’s the thing: people like to judge and criticize, until they are in that position themselves. It’s like the old joke about how great of a parent you were before you had kids. In the last couple of years I have changed so much about who I am in response to people’s criticisms, and that was the wrong thing to do. Now the scores of criticizers doing those very things themselves makes that all the more clear to me.

Just the other day, I learned the most striking of news, that was like the ultimate moment of clarity which turned all of this on its tail: the person that used to criticize and judge and vehemently lambast me for being a stay at home mom …wait for it again… is becoming a stay at home mom, herself.

That was about the only wake up call I needed.

 

 

Swimming In Debt Is Cool If You Just Pretend Everything Is Fine

 

I have known so many people with that philosophy. They don’t have very good lives in the end – they foreclose on their homes, lose their cars, die of heart attacks at 40… but in the moment that they live it, where they swim in debt while pretending everything is fine, they really are happy.

And how couldn’t you be? Exotic vacations you can’t afford. Boats. RVs. Long weekends. Hair and nail appointments every week. All the while completely oblivious to the fact that sometime, at some point, you will actually – yes, this is real – have to pay all that shit off.

I, personally, can’t live like that. I am excessively frugal, to a point of absurdity. I think I learned it from my grandmother, who was most known for going to buy Diet Coke when it was on sale in her red pick up truck. She would pull up in her driveway, and open the back of the truck for us to see an entire truck bed lined with 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke that she had bought on sale. We’d all have to help her load it into the garage, and she would be set until the next time it went on sale.

So now, taking after my grandmother, when our groceries are delivered, and we get 75 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese, or 200 cups of applesauce, my husband always thinks I’m insane.

I also find myself envious of local family and friends, who get Botox while my crow’s feet under my eyes grow deeper and deeper. Or who get their eyelashes and nails done every two weeks, while my toe nails typically look something along the lines of what you would find on an elderly gargoyle. I wear make up maybe once a week, because there’s no need to waste the money on it if I’m not going anywhere; and my hair…well…let’s not go there.

Typically, we don’t take exotic vacations either. We don’t do trips to Cozumel or Europe; and sure, we have our family weekend trips out of the area, or occasional vacations to places like the Grand Canyon or to use our Disneyland passes. But it’s always carried with a sense of frugality, including always finding places we can stay where I can cook our meals to save money on eating out.

My kids and husband get haircuts by yours truly, and absolutely every single one of my purses was purchased at Target.

I think you all are getting the point: we live on a tight budget, and we don’t go for all the extra unnecessary things. This is all done so that I can stay home with the kids, and so that my husband can work in his industry of choice (film, a volatile and sometimes poorly paid industry to work).

14212719_1288792577809401_8493362140998943476_n

You can imagine, then, my frustration when we start getting socked with bills, and they just keep coming and coming and coming, and in spite of all the cuts and the tightening of the belts they just get worse. It seems wholly unfair. As if I have not sacrificed enough, suddenly our insurance doesn’t cover something they always used to cover and we have a $410 bill with a due date 10 days from now (and a hospital absolutely refusing to negotiate). I get a bladder infection, and the urgent care – who is legally required to notify us if they are sending out the “sample” does not – and they send it to a lab out of our network, and we get socked with another medical bill that is beyond reasonable, with everyone saying “tough shit, that’s life.”

Then our water softener alarm starts going off, and we find out the filters need to be changed even though we literally had no idea there were filters in the thing. Then one of our kids gets sick and – big surprise – the medicine she needs isn’t covered, and beyond that I have to spend a whole tank of gas driving all over the place looking for a pharmacy that has it. Then a short in our garage refrigerator triggers a chain reaction of all the things in the garage going out of power, which we don’t catch for over 48 hours and literally thousands of dollars of food being stored out there (between the fridge and the deep freezer – see previous notes about buying things on bulk when they are cheap) ARE RUINED.

It just never stops. You think everything is fine, you are in a good place and everything is working out and then a domino effect begins of one costly thing happening after another, until you finally get to a point where you just want to do what everyone else does and pretend like everything is fine.

Sure, we just lost thousands of dollars in food and I have no idea what we are going to do to replace it…but I’m going to go get my nails and hair did anyway.

67198601

I mean yeah, tons of medical bills are piling up and we have probably $1500 in unpaid bills that suddenly found their way to our doorstep this week, alone…but I need a vacation, so let’s go on a little weekend getaway.

My current purse just ripped a huge hole in it, one that could arguably allow money to fall out…so rather than worry about the food and the medical bills and the electricity issue in the garage…I think I’mma just go get me a Coach purse because – honestly – every time I see someone carry one, I tuck my Target variety bag under my arm in shame.

Because this is California and your handbag is about as important as your position in life will ever get [sarcastic eye roll].

No matter how much I joke, though, the reasonable me just can’t do it. Instead, I sit here hours on end worrying about where the fuck all this money is going to come from, as my husband gets sent home from work earlier and earlier every night because it’s the slow season for movie trailers (and he is hourly, so an early night means…you got it, less pay). I contemplate going back to work every three or four days, but then spend an entire day working out the expenses that would be involved in doing that (daycare for the kids, extra commuting cost for me, and so on), and THAT doesn’t make any sense, so then I go back to worrying and trying to find any fucking sale price ground beef and ham steaks I can buy in bulk and freeze just to make myself feel like our finances are getting back on track, once and for all.

This is where I’m at right now. Swimming in debt is NOT cool, but I wish it were.

 

 

It’s Been Over Two Months Since I Wrote a Blog. You Can Thank All My Thankless Volunteer Work For That.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with blogging. I was told when I became a writer that all writers had to have blogs to help sell their writing; that an agent or a publishing house won’t take you seriously if you don’t already have an audience.

Well that didn’t – exactly – pan out as planned on the ol’ book sales, wouldn’t you say?

At the same time as all that, I did like having a place to vent or just ramble. But I also think that blogging is, in some senses, vaguely…narcissistic. Like people seriously care about my life and opinions and beliefs so much that they’d check in regularly about what I have to say, or how much I had for dinner, or whatever.. Really?

Well I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe really. Not saying people care about me, but I do think they (they being the general public that peruses the Internet) likes to hear they aren’t alone. In whatever it is they feel alone about.

So out the door of this blog post, this blog post that is my first in over two months, I’m going to commit to you guys to just do it, just write. Because maybe there are one or two of you out there who do give a shit. Or maybe you are family that are just waiting for something to gossip about me over, and here I’ve been denying you that, lo these last few months. I don’t know, but I promise I’ll do better.

Mostly I’ll be able to do that, though, because my brief hiatus from writing on this blog wasn’t so much about this love-hate relationship I have with blogging so much as it has been that I have been fucking busy. Fucking busy doesn’t even begin to address it, you guys. It’s been madness. My daily life has been a track towards the next thing on an endless list of to-dos.

Beyond just the typical mom life daily shit, though; along with other stuff I’ll get into over the course of the following weeks as I get back into writing here more often and fulfilling my commitment not to disappear for such long periods of time anymore…it’s my thankless volunteer work that’s been keeping me on the move.

Lucky for you guys (if there are “you guys” out there), I’m quitting all that shit.

Well, sort of.

Over the last year or so I’ve gotten heavily involved in two things: my local center for the arts, and the neighborhood watch program for my 3,000 resident, middle class community.

,13147486_926917560753766_1216042024663863825_o

My capacity at the art center is newsletter person (duh, I’m a writer) and then I volunteer to teach a class in drawing. It’s all fun and games, though, until you start helping more and learning about how much the president, vice president, and other leaders of the organization are criticized regularly by these old codgers that never come to a GOD. DAMN. THING.

Then the criticisms started coming at me. I made a suggestion – being the young, whippersnapper that I am – that we transition the newsletter from that age-old foldable thing that was being emailed out from my personal email account as an attachment once a month, to a digital, weekly, totally legit HTML email blast. I did the research. I provided statistics about how this could increase membership and involvement. The executive board of the place LOVED the idea. I, of course, was happy because this meant I no longer had to use my personal email account.

114b2d254c65a6d835629d2bf1e61a32767d1059bc0248384f3e6f0e56ccfa93

The general membership, however, did not receive it quite as well. Since the switch, I hear nothing but bitch-bitch-bitch, gripe-gripe-gripe about people not liking the new way they they receive their newsletters. Some in the form of not opting in. A select few in constant emails and comments. They don’t like the format. They want something they can print and read at their leisure. About three people have this now as their mission in life to harass me over, and they will not LET. IT. GO.

But then today I was talking to the vice president of the place, and she said it perfectly: “every time someone has a criticism, I’m planning to ask what they’ll be volunteering to do if they don’t like it.”

THANK. YOU.

Dealing with some of this drama has taken far more of my time than I would have liked. I’ve spent more time responding to emails, answering phone calls, and more than anything just generally being annoyed by it than I should.

So I’m going to let it go myself. I’m not going to quit, no…I still love art and culture. I’ll still do the newsletter, help however I can…teach my classes…

But I ain’t wasting my time being upset about this anymore.

44959974

Then there’s the more complicated volunteer thing I do: the neighborhood watch. I’m the coordinator. If you know anything about neighborhood watch, I’m like the crazy lady who gets interviewed by the local news whenever some shit goes down in her neighborhood. The one who spends the majority of her time encouraging others to spy on their neighbors.

Beyond that, I get the meetings together, I raise the money for our signs – which, I will add, I chose without the creepy criminal pictured on it – and I send out all the crime alerts.

canadian-guy-vandalizes-a-bunch-of-signs-1

I told you guys a few months back all about PeeGate. Where I posted in our group page on Facebook about how it is absolutely and without a doubt illegal for any human being to urinate on another person’s lawn; and the moms of my community came out in FULL FUCKING FORCE to tell me why I was an asshole. For doing my job.

Things got a little dull, quieter after that. Arguably that had nothing to do with the fact that the community had gone crime-less. Quite the opposite. For a middle class neighborhood with some homes going for 1.2 and 1.6 million dollars (*snort*…definitely not ours, though), I am flabbergasted by how much petty crime and general hillbilly shit goes on in this place.

Just the neighbors got busy, or something, because they weren’t griping in my direction for a while. They let me report the crime with little backlash. Occasionally they reported it themselves, though you dare to tell someone whose car is being broken into or whose bike is stolen to call the police and you’ll get a “will consider doing that next time”…

Then I had to go and say something about Pokemon Go.

The real problem with Pokemon Go from a neighborhood standpoint is this: kids milling around in a neighborhood that has a lot of petty street crime already makes it hard to distinguish between suspicious activity and just kids playing a game. The sheriff’s department sent out a neighborhood watch coordinator email about it, and so I shared in our Facebook group some tips for parents (tell your kids to be respectful, don’t touch people’s cars or property, observe city curfews, etc.).

Nope! The moms of Facebook weren’t having that one! How dare you tell us what to do with our kids! How dare you suggest an innocent Pokemon game could have unintended consequences in our neighborhood!!! You said don’t act like PUNKS in the comments?! PUNKS!? YOU are not doing enough to control crime in our community as is! I’ll have you know there are military families in this community, how dare you refer to them as PUNKS (wait…what?!). I saw it escalating quickly, as with PeeGate, so I shut it down before it could go any further.

Then tonight – I don’t know, three days later – not another word was said online or in public about it for days, and someone bring it up again by posting a comment on a two week old security video someone shared of their bike being stolen (think about this timeline for a minute, it’s as if this guy was just looking for days for a way to bitch about my Pokemon Go safety tips)…

NW

OH MY GOD – SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Within minutes one of the moms of Facebook had “liked” it. BECAUSE I posted some tips to stay safe, not get in trouble, and observe the law.

And that…that was the final straw for me. I always knew it would be over something really stupid, but fuck it. I do not get anything out of organizing this group of lazy complainers.

I’ll keep organizing them – for now. But just like with my local center for the arts, I ain’t taken the bullshit anymore. Don’t like it? ORGANIZE IT YOURSELF.

 

bb35ca7140b836d8a349a67a76412dacde5966cae577e6fc24ffd1d5a2bb3b20

Here is the bottom line that I’ve learned in all of this: people who do nothing are always the most critical. They sit on their lazy fucking asses and just bitch at the people that do everything. They refuse to call the police when a robber is breaking down their door. They do nothing to organize their own street, or to keep things under control or to even know their neighbor’s names. They see their local center for the arts struggling financially and they can’t even drop a dollar in the donation box.

Volunteer organizations seem to always end up this way: with a small number of people doing everything, in the most thankless and unappreciated positions ever.

And I get it now: this is why so many people don’t ever volunteer for anything. They don’t get involved because it ain’t worth the bullshit. Just think for a moment how great this world would be – how many problems would be solved, crime would be avoided, and lives even were saved, if only people felt like volunteering their time to the greater good was ANYTHING but a fruitless endeavor. It kind of makes you feel nauseated to your absolute core to think of it that way.

If only all the bitchy, whiny complainers of the world would sit down and shut up so the people that actually want to do good can do it.

Well I’m retreating, like I said. I’ll still volunteer, but I’m not getting tied up in all the drama and bullshit anymore. If anything, I’ll just write about it on this blog.

3cd8a33a