The Next Stage

10616161_791205745733_6681853197444697170_nI was at Barnes and Noble yesterday. I know what you’re all thinking – but wait, we thought you hated going anywhere during the holidays! Well, I do. But I had to go to Barnes and Noble to get what was apparently the last, mangled copy of the map of the world in all of Southern California. To finish a Christmas present I had been stalling since I finished all the rest of the shopping back in October.

So I was at Barnes and Noble and it was a mob scene. A mob scene at 1 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, which sort of makes me question whether or not anyone in my community works to be able to afford to spend so much money at the local Barnes and Noble. I mean, shouldn’t all of those people have been at work?

Nonetheless, I got my map and several other things I absolutely did not go to Barnes and Noble for, and headed to the check out line for the most miserable 45 minutes of my life. Towards the end, as I was close enough to the cash register to make eye contact with the employees as three of them aimlessly wandered around behind the register station, pretending to do something else, while one, lone cashier checked out the seven billion customers – when I was that close, I heard someone behind me approach people further back in the line. “Oh my God, we haven’t seen you guys in YEARS!” she shrieked as though they were – quite literally – separated still by miles, and then they started the old game of catch up that in a nutshell involved platitudes and niceties.

As if this experience could not have gotten any worse, these were the final moments of my time in line yesterday at my local, overcrowded Barnes and Noble.

Then it happened. Right as I was starting to walk up to the cashier, I heard one of the catcher-uppers say “and Joanie will be coming home from college for Christmas break tomorrow!” And in that little statement, made by a complete stranger and completely irrelevant to my life, I was hit with the striking realization that I probably should have made several years ago. Somewhere around the time I left graduate school five years ago, maybe earlier than that.

I will never go home from college for Christmas break again.

As I drove home – another 45 minute task, because every person with a car in Southern California apparently drives around and clogs up traffic on Tuesday afternoons as well – I realized just how many stages of my life are over. I’ve never really come to terms with this, or thought about it so seriously. Accepted it into my heart and soul that there are chapters of my life so fully completed that they have been burned up, never to be read again. At least by me.

Not only will I never go home from college for Christmas break again; I will never experience the butterflies of a first date. I will never have that “new mom” feel again, just as the thrills of skipping class to hang out at the local McDonalds with the other high school seniors are gone forever.

Admittedly, I have noticed signs of the ushering in of this next era of life. But have I never noticed before when one door closed and a new one opened? I don’t believe so. At least I don’t remember noticing the passing of time in the same way that I did yesterday.

The signs have been there, though.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I rarely wear make up anymore, unless of course we’re going somewhere. And even then I find a way to justify wearing none. Or just some mascara.

My outfits used to be coordinated perfectly – I’m not even sure why. I’ve never cared much for what people think of me, and yet my underpants always matched my belt. In this new stage of life, though, it’s all yoga pants, mom jeans, and stretchies. Tucked into slippers that could pass for moccasins. Paired with a tank top that has a bra in it.

I noticed this about a month ago when I was at the mall and realized that I can’t remember the last time I wore a Victoria’s Secret bra.

Someone at a family party a while back was talking about going to a bar and out to play pool, and actually planning to get home around 3 in the morning. I remember thinking – in earnest – to myself that nothing good ever happens after midnight, which is something my grandmother used to say.

I felt so disgusted at the idea of doing anything other than watching Netflix and reading a book, that I immediately looked for an excuse for us to go home and do just that.

More importantly, while I definitely have memories involving college and high school and growing up and going out, I still can’t remember what my life was like before becoming a mom. I actually have no idea what I was doing with my time.  And I don’t mean to sound diminishing to those that aren’t mothers, or to sound so cliche. But really in this new stage of my life, being a mom is not only my job but who I have become.

I’m a wife and mom. That’s about it.

I feel so ordinary, and there was a time in my life when to be ordinary would have been like spiritual death. But that time is over and I am fine with my new chapter in life. In fact, I have never been happier.

When I was younger, I wanted to make something of myself. Be something – be someone. But I think I had a very skewed idea of what it was to be someone. Rather than be known or famous or a published author or an accomplished painter, or someone everyone knows and writes about in history books and is remembered for generations to come… being someone really just meant being myself.

EcardTalents

In this new stage I am myself, and very few people know me. I’ve accomplished very little and have many talents. Not one of them results in a paycheck and that’s totally cool. I don’t wear make up often, and prefer comfortable moccasin-style slippers over high heels, even when high heels are the status quo.

And when it is my turn to run into people at the local Barnes and Noble that I haven’t seen in ages, my most exciting update on what I’m doing with myself and my life will be simply that I’m a wife and a mom. Some may find that meaningless or boring, but that’s what I’m doing, and it’s the most Me I’ve been in years.

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4 Ways Our 30s Are Still Very Much Like High School

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Are you in your 30s? I am. I mean I’m really 28. Again. But according to my driver’s license I am officially a 30-something. Screw you, DMV.

In any event, I am still really good friends with a lot of my friends from high school. And as the years have gone on, people I knew only marginally while wandering the halls of those four miserable years have become better friends now as well. This summer I’m throwing a baby shower for one of these people while I’m in the Midwest, and as I combined her and her boyfriend’s guest lists today to send out a save the date, I realized that her shower could also be known as “high school reunion 2013.” In some respects, at least.

That’s the great thing about these big life events – they give us an opportunity to catch up with the people that are so much a part of who we are. And they give us time to reflect on where we’ve been, where we’re going, blaa blaabity blaa. For me, it’s made me relive all of my high school memories – the good, the bad, the pot-induced; and more than anything, come to a startling epiphany amidst it all: that our 30s are still very much like high school.

#1 People Are Still Loud

In high school, everyone was loud. People yelled down the halls. Girls screamed at their boyfriends in that oh-so-pathetic “help me” way when they needed their lockers opened or their bags carried. And don’t get me started on the ridiculous cheers and chants we were all required to do at our mandatory school spirit rallies. (How in the hell can anyone mandate spirit?)

I always thought that when we got out of high school, shit would quiet down. But it didn’t. College was just as loud, only without the lockers. The workaday world was loud too, only a different type – people yelling at you, phones ringing, and so on. And now our 30s. Our 30s are filled with the permeable screams of children running a muck and the arguments about money/time/priorities/and so on we get into with our spouses.

The noise level has not changed.

#2 Nachos and Pizza Still Sound Tasty

That’s another thing I thought would change when we got out of high school. Everyone ate crap at my high school – nachos, pizza, and the always-daring pizza dipped into nacho cheese (puke, I never did that). I don’t want to hear anything about obesity either, because if you are my age you know that we come from a time when kids still actually did things besides sit on their computers.

But I still – for some reason – thought that when we got out of high school those things wouldn’t be appetizing. Suddenly I would be transformed into an adult. I would crave baby arugula and spinach salad with roasted pine nuts, organic heirloom tomatoes and just a hint of basalmic vinegarette. I would look at imitation chicken and squeal with delight. Soda would instantly be disgusting.

It’s quite the contrary, though. Nachos and pizza still sound tasty to me over baby arugula any day. And let me tell you something about balsalmic vinegarette: it tastes like licking the inside of my husband’s asshole. The only reason we say those things are tasty in our 30s is to make us feel better about the fact that we can’t eat nachos and pizza and pizza dipped in nacho cheese all the time without gaining weight anymore.

#3 Clearasil Remains In The Medicine Cabinet

When exactly do breakouts stop? I’m just wondering, because in my 30s I expected to stop getting a huge zit on my forehead before date night. And yet it happens. All the time.

#4 Everyone’s Still All Judge-y

Yesterday I posted about that “Dear Mom On the iPhone” thing that was going around Facebook, which made me think a lot about how judgmental we are in our 30s.

In high school, I could not wait to get out because it meant life would cease to be about worrying constantly what others thought. Anyone that says they weren’t self-conscious in high school is a total jerk, and a liar to boot. There were cliques in high school. We were all trying to find our places in the world, and define ourselves beyond what our parents told us to be. And bullies were everywhere. We didn’t have anti-bully campaigns to protect us, either.

It’s all the same in our 30s, though. Sometimes we’re judging each other for the same things – weight, height, boob size. Other times it’s a little different, like about our parenting style, our lifestyle choices, and whether or not our weddings/bridal showers/baby showers/homes/living situations are ghetto.

Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely ways in which things have changed. For one, it’s no longer a scandal when someone announces they are pregnant. That lasted for a little bit into our 20s and then it became the norm. Now it’s almost scandalous for people to not be having babies. Princess temper tantrums don’t go over too well anymore either, unless you are a bridezilla.

But above and beyond all that change is the sense that nothing ever really will. Maybe it’s because we still feel young – we still feel like teenagers, trying to craft an existence of our own in a world that is terribly confusing and ever-changing. Or perhaps the real truth is that high school was our grand entrance into the real world. That it didn’t happen anytime after high school, but rather while we were there. What a terrifying thought that is.

“I’m Pregnant!”

Hah! Man … did I fool you suckers.

There would be so many terrible, terrible; horrific things about me saying those words in earnest. For one, that would have necessarily required me to experience an awkward 30 seconds with my husband some time in the last month. Yes, that’s right: Poor Nick and I would have had sex. Ick, we’re married – I prefer bickering until we fall asleep, thank you very much. For two, the poor kid would have come out with some major fetal alcohol issues, because Mama Bear’s been sucking back the ol’ box -o- Franzia pretty hard this month.

So, sorry to announce, but there will be no more Pookies added to the clan. At least not this month. (Unless shit gets immaculate conception, in which case we are all screwed.)

It’s amazing, though, how those two words change over the course of our lives. In the last few weeks, I’ve had a whopping total of four friends – count them, FOUR – inform me that they are withchild. Each is in a much different situation than the next, too. So while I’ve sucked back my Franzia and shoved my tropical flavored marshmallows down my gullet in celebration, I’ve done a lot of thinking about just what the appropriate responses have been over time.

Teens – “I’m Pregnant!”

I think the only response to a teenager winding up pregnant is “oh fuck.” Or “oh shit” – or some variant of either. I had a few friends in high school that ended up having babies by the end of our senior year. It wasn’t pretty for any of them, and they were each amazing young women to deal with it all if you ask me.

Nonetheless, when a teenager winds up pregnant it’s one of two scenarios. Either it was an accident and she is terrified. Or she’s psychotic, in which case the dude should run and hide. I’ll never forget that episode of Jerry Springer with the teenage girls that wanted to get pregnant. During his final thought, he mentioned how “not right in the head” they all were.

20s – “I’m Pregnant!”

This could go one of two ways, and sadly the majority of the people in their 20s that I have known have been in the latter. Either it is someone that got married and had babies early. Or it’s another accidental pregnancy, although not necessarily a bad thing in the end.

Because of the uncertainty of just what “I’m pregnant” coming from a 20-something (especially earlier 20s) means, I have always considered that the most important time to tread lightly. One friend who got pregnant on a one night stand when we were only 22 dealt with it rather well; and she is now one of the greatest mothers I know. Another who had been married for a few years sobbed uncontrollably for three days.

Tread lightly.

30s – “I’m Pregnant!”

Here is where I am now and I’ll tell you: it makes me feel old.

No matter what situation anyone is in, when you are in your 30s, your clock is ticking and finding out that you are pregnant is going to bring nothing but a lot of congratulations. It’s going to bring on baby showers. It’s going to bring on excitement.

And if it isn’t, you are in a position in life where everyone around you knows exactly what will go down. And you are all mature enough to handle it maturely.

When you are in your 30s, there’s no more “oh shit … what are you going to do?” There isn’t any more gossip or shit talk. If a woman has a baby in her 30s and doesn’t have a boyfriend or husband, everyone just assumes she did it through IVF or some other donorship arrangement. If a woman has a baby in her 30s and has a boyfriend or husband, no one ever jumps to Maury or randomized state paternity testing to make sure the baby daddy is accurately identified.

In your 30s, a baby is pretty much the status quo.

40s and 50s – “I’m Pregnant!”

My opinion is that when a woman reaches her 40s or 50s and announces to the world that she is pregnant, that she gets a little more scrutiny such as she would have in her 20s.

This doesn’t mean I think there is anything necessarily wrong with it.

This isn’t to say that I am saying people are bad for doing it.

I just mean that a lot of people in society question people’s decision to have babies so late. Is it safe? Why wait so long? And so on. Although I don’t really know because I haven’t encountered anyone that has had babies that late in the game.

Yet.

60s – “I’m Pregnant!”

You, old bitty, are off your fucking rocker. Or you’re one of those weirdos that gives birth to their grandkids since their daughter or daughter-in-law is drier than the Sahara Desert.

I won’t even go there.

So am I reading too much into this? Perhaps I am. Perhaps I am thinking too much about it in an effort to justify the excitedness with which I approached the pregnancy announcements of all four of my friends this last week. Or maybe I’m trying to just over-think things to silence the noise of my own biological clock ticking slower and slower each passing year.

But ick. That would mean an awkward 30 seconds with Poor Nick. And while it would only be about 30 seconds, there are plenty of other things I could do with that time. Like suck back some more of my box -o- Franzia. Or do some 1-click purchases on Amazon with all that baby money being saved.

Congratulations to all my friends that have successfully inseminated and recently given birth!! You are all the greatest moms this Mama Bear could ever be lucky enough to know!

Buy My Memoir, Or Else I’ll…

… hunt you down and show you a picture of a cow giving birth to a pig.

Okay, I guess I’ve already done that now. Gross, huh?

… cry all day long until my screaming tears of pain and mental anguish are so loud the neighbors have me hauled off in an ambulance and a straight jacket for one of my routine stays in the local mental health facility.

Alright, that was how I spent my weekend.

So seriously, you people should consider buying my book. Here are all the reasons why:

#1: It’s a steal. You can get it either in paperback or Kindle edition; for $6.99 or $2.99 respectively. That’s less money than you’ll spend this week on hookers and blow.

#2: It’s concise and funny. It’s pretty short (125 pages), so a quick read. I like my books short. I think verbosity is a sin. Anyway, so a lot of my life has been a real shithole with absolutely nothing humorous about it. I left all that out, or rather I glossed over it with some fancy PowerPoint action. Maybe one day I’ll write a second memoir and include a supply of Prozac long enough to get through it. Until then, we’ll all laugh heartily through this one.

#3: I used the terms “whack off” and “jerk off” so many times I lost count. What is so tragic about this is it comes from the story I recount of when my mom gave me “The Talk.” I swear a lot in the book too, but it’s in a fun way.

#4: As if you didn’t already understand why I call my mom my “Trailer Trash Mom,” you will now learn exactly how she got the title.

#5: That voodoo doll I made for the book trailer and book cover may have real powers, and I could stick pins in it to punish you all.

(Okay, so I wrote “World” on it and then threw it in the trash, so we may all very well be screwed at this point.)

#6: I already added it to Goodreads so you can show up all your yuppy Goodreads friends with a quick and fun read to combat their 50 Shades of Shut the F Up, or whatever the hell that women’s porn book is called.

#7: Oh, did you actually want to know what the book is about? Well, I’ll let you be the judge, but it’s my memoir about surviving childhood by becoming a cynic, and navigating motherhood by embracing misanthropy. I think it’s sort of inspiring at the end because I talk about overcoming my mother. Inspiration is always a reason to buy something.

#8: I made this fancy book trailer for it.

#9: The last thing you want me to do is find that my sales from online and in-person promotion are so low that I resort to street-sales. Who knows what could happen when I wonder the dark alleys of suburbia trying to peddle my wares.

#10: It’s really easy to find. Just click the book cover here and buy it! And you can “like” it on Amazon, or even write a nice review too.

For the paperback version:

For the Kindle version:

(For some reason the two aren’t linked yet)

Seriously, though – you faithful blog followers rock my socks off. Whether you buy my book or not, I dig you all. But please buy my memoir anyway, or else I’ll …

What, Exactly, Are Big Girl Panties?

Sometimes when I’m out to lunch with my dad, he’ll say something along the lines of: “yeez, Heather … you should probably stop woofing down those french fries like there’s no tomorrow, or you’ll have to upgrade to big girl panties.” The oddity that is our father-daughter repertoire aside, I always think of this when I hear someone say “time to put on your big girl panties.”

Of course when people say that, they don’t mean you’re getting a little hefty around the backside. Well maybe they do, but for all intents and purposes we’ll assume that what they really mean is: it’s time to act like a big kid. They mean that it’s time for you to grow up. For you to make a decision you don’t want to make. Follow through with an action you don’t want to do. It means that you need to make a sacrifice, be an adult, and act your age.

And it means the big R. Responsibility.

I can think of  a few examples in recent memory that I wore my big girl panties.

Yesterday,

in the grocery store parking lot

Yesterday, in the grocery store parking lot, a skirmish unfolded and I was confronted with the need to hitch up my big girl panties and move along quietly. A woman parked next to us as we were getting out to walk into the store, and she therefore was walking in about the same general area as us from car-to-grocery. As we all crossed the lot to the store, a car pulled up very quickly and started honking, the driver yelling “hurry up!!” Rude, I know, but having the Pookies in tow meant I needed to keep it down to set a good example.

“Some people are in such a hurry,” I said calmly as we finished walking into the store, but then the woman that had parked next to us turned around and started screaming at the car. “Bite me you son of a bitch!” she screamed, causing everyone in the parking lot to turn and look. Inside she was my personal hero; outside she really needed to pull up her big girl panties and move on.

Last Friday, over text message with my Trailer Trash Mom

I invited my mother over for dinner over the weekend and she accepted. I know what you all are thinking: I was being too kind. I was, but then I really wanted to get more dirt on what is going on with her Hillbilly Husband/New Mexico trailer-drama. What can I say, I like a good story. So she told me she’d let me know which day worked better with my grandparents’ schedule and then I didn’t hear from her for a few days.

Friday I texted her and said: “Hey, I just went and got all the food for dinner. Do you know whether Saturday or Sunday will work best yet?” and she responded that they were invited to a family tailgate party for the UCLA-Nebraska game, and had decided to (a) extend it into a whole-weekend-family-affair, that I was (b) excluded from on account of the fact that I don’t like either team. This is how that family usually rolls, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really like my mom, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. It was still rude that she handled it like that, though, and if I were to let it get to me I probably would have said something nasty. But did I get upset, and scream and cry about it? No. I pulled up my big girl panties and put the extra food in the freezer for us to eat later next week; then waited to smile when Nebraska got creamed.

But what if you don’t want to put on your big girl panties?

This morning when I woke up, I was immediately smacked in the face with my very real “big girl panties” problem: our rent is being increased significantly. The problem is very complex. We’re trying to move to the Midwest – something I have been waiting to do for about 12 years now. Signing a 10 or 12 month lease (the two options we were given besides month-to-month) will lock us in here for another full year. A lot can happen in a year, and as I said I have been patiently waiting and working towards this for 12 years. It will also increase our rent even at that. Another option is that we pay the month-to-month rate and starve to death. There’s also the fact that this place isn’t even worth what we pay now – we had an attempted break-in a few months ago, my outdoor vase was stolen just last week, and a child of one of the neighbors was kidnapped on the 4th of July. But moving to another place while we buy some more time to figure out the whole Midwest move thing will cost a lot of money and lock us into another lease.

Ugh, I know.

You can see why I don’t want to pull up my big girl panties on this one. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and in the end the only one that will really be suffering, acting like a big girl, and sacrificing for it is me. I’ll have to stretch the budget to make it work. I’ll have to go another year waiting. It’s very frustrating, to say the least.

So while I do believe that there are a lot of instances when we need to let ourselves upgrade to big girl panties, figuratively speaking of course; I also believe that there may be a time to say “enough is enough.” Is there ever a time when we shouldn’t have to put on our big girl panties? What, exactly, are big girl panties, anyway? I always thought they meant adulthood. Sacrifice. Responsibility. Stuff you do but don’t want to.

But is always sacrificing, never taking risks, and settling for less really living?