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.

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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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My Christmas Wish List This Year

I wonder if I just became as obnoxious as Home Depot putting out their fucking Christmas decorations in July; or Target playing Christmas music in October. You know that Black Friday actually begins for many stores at 7 pm on Thanksgiving DAY, now, too. Retailers are literally ramming Christmas up our asses.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should go ahead and admit that I do all of my Christmas shopping in the months of August and September. That means that as of this day – October 10th – I have actually been done with Christmas shopping. For 10 days. That’s everyone in our families, for the Pookies, my husband… everyone. It’s just so much more tolerable than standing in long lines, and fighting with people over bargains.

This means that while I was shopping, I officially scoped out all of the things I really really want for Christmas.

Before going into my wish list, though, let me tell you a little story about the Sodastream. A few years ago, my husband got me that for Christmas. It was well-intentioned, sure. I drink Diet Coke by the bucket-load, which means obviously getting me a machine that would let me make my own bucket-loads of my aspartame and caffeine-filled beverage of sheer delight would be a win, right?

Wrong. I can totally taste the difference. What I like about Diet Coke is actually the exact ingredients and exact composition and exact carbonation of the Coca-Cola brand Diet Coke. Maybe it’s all mental (it’s probably all mental); nonetheless, I never use the Sodastream.

Quickly after I opened the gift that year, though, it became vaguely reminiscent of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer buys Marge a bowling ball (with his name engraved on it), in spite of the fact that Marge had no idea how to get the ball down the lane. Within a day, my husband was experimenting with flavors on the Sodastream. He even drank directly out of the bottles. He still does.

Since that year, I have made it a point to make an explicit wish list for Christmas. Last year I really wanted a deer head for our bedroom. I made it explicitly clear; I got a deer head. This year, though, I’m going for quantity… I want to feel the excitement of opening lots of gifts on Christmas morning, like I did when I was a kid again.

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1. A Day of the Dead wine bottle opener/corkscrew from Paper Source. We were shopping a few weeks ago and saw them, and I fell in love. (Note to my husband: Day of the Dead is like two days into November. So…time is of the essence….)

2. Removable plastic sheets for my iPad!!!!! This is an infuriating request for me, because it’s super cheap and available online as well as at Sur La Table as well as at Bed Bath Beyond, and fuck it’s even around $10 for 100 at Target…and I asked for these for Mother’s Day – it’s all I wanted, I didn’t even mind cooking on Mother’s Day, as long as I could have those stupid plastic sheets so that I stop getting food all over my iPad when I cook. It was a REQUEST DENIED, though, so I’d really like some for Christmas.

3. Lots of good smelling stuff from Bath and Body Works, especially the winter scents (like Winter Candy Apple). I have an addiction to purchasing Bath and Body Works products, but lately haven’t gotten that many to try and pare down my stockpile. Around Christmas I will be totally out, though, so it would be totally awesome if someone in my family would replenish my stock – especially since I love the winter line all year long. I really love all their scents, though. Except that Japanese Blossom one, because that stuff smells like a cow’s ass.

4. A “People Mom Would Have An Affair With” personalized 2014 calendar. I would like the months to be as follows:

January: Wolf Blitzer. Duh, I have a huge s(he)hard-on for him.

February: Jay Cutler from the Chicago Bears, but he needs to be in the middle of one of those weird neck/shoulder twitch things he does before a play or during an interview.

March: Jim Cantore doing push ups while reporting from a hurricane.

April: Vladimir Putin. It would be totally rad if he were wearing some kind of a fur headpiece too…

May: Albert Camus. Yes, he is dead. Yes, I would totally cheat on my husband and jump his dead, old bones. Gross, but not sorry.

June: Hulk Hogan. Preferably in tight spandex, in the middle of administering a pile drive (the wrestling kind).

July: Bill Clinton. I would be in a binder of women delivered to his desk any day.

August: Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox (hopefully at this time in the year he will still be with and playing regularly for the White Sox… and hopefully the White Sox won’t have blown it at this point like they had in 2013… and every other year…………)

September: Any random guy with long hair pulled back in a pony tale, a nerdy “I play MAGIC the Gathering every Sunday” kind of look to him; but with no acne and definitely well-presented enough for it to be clear he doesn’t live in his mother’s basement… in the middle of a LARP. Don’t ask me why, but sometimes that Lord of the Rings shit gets me going.

October: As many members of the NBA that will fit onto one page. (Don’t ask.)

November: No photo, just my mantra in large lettering: “No car, no job, no service.”

December: Fuck it: Gandolf.

The way I see it, this is sort of like the people that do those sexy photos for their spouses, only instead of looking at photographs of my husband on a pillowy bed with feather boas all around him and shit, I’ll be looking at the meaty men that I salivate over regularly, in a totally creepy and mental-infidelity kind of way.

5.A gift card to The Cheesecake Factory. You guys may be thinking that I just threw this one in there because I had nothing else for a #5, but I’m totally serious. I never eat there unless I have a gift card. It isn’t the cost, it’s just the place never comes to mind when thinking of where to go. And if there is one thing I need more of in my life, it’s motherfuckin’ cheesecake.

I still think it’s awful that Christmas season starts earlier and earlier every year; mainly because it gets old after a predetermined period of time, and it would be really awesome if that time weren’t before… oh, I don’t know… Christmas. Nonetheless, it was important to share my Christmas wish list early. You know, to give my husband enough time to make up some excuses why he got me another Sodastream instead.

Reasons the B(itch)’s a Grinch

Is anyone surprised that I dislike Christmas as much as I dislike Thanksgiving? …or as much as I dislike anything, I suppose…

I can be a bit of a negative nelly; although, I prefer to consider myself realistic and just very anachronistic. But in recent years, I have noticed that my vehemence towards the holiday season has gotten considerably more impassioned, more negative you might say – so much so that I have even considered not celebrating them. I feel I have some good reasons though.

#1 Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, not gifts. Need I remind you all of the Macy’s bag nativity scene from my experience at the mall last week? Nothing disgusts me more than the blatantly materialistic consumerism that has taken over the people in our culture. Maybe it’s just a California thing, but as the years have gone on Christmas has become less about the meaning of Christmas and more about what did you get me?

#2 Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, not food. I totally get that food is good, and nothing is more fun than getting together with friends or family (or even just your dog) and having a nice meal. But for Christ’s sakes (no pun intended) – Christmas is not not not about eating! Last year I was at the in-law’s for Christmas Eve and by the time we left, I had seen so much food consumed that I (myself) felt ill, despite how abstemious I had been in my portions. For these people, special occasions (and especially Christmas) are all about the food that is going with the day, but this is and never was the meaning of most of the holidays that are being celebrated. It’s disgusting to see how many people in this country gorge themselves on so much food – especially people who may not even really understand what Christmas is supposed to be celebrated for – while others much less fortunate go without. It’s almost sad how easily people forget when their oversized bellies begin to growl.

#3 People are a bunch of ungrateful assholes. Today I received four different emails from Bath and Body Works, Urban Outfitters, and other trendy, bullshit retailers who don’t seem to understand the meaning of “unsubscribe from email list” – all of which contained variations of the same message.

This is such horse shit! I know it’s nothing more than an advertising technique, but why is it that people returning crappy gifts they are totally ungrateful for has become a cutesy cliche? People are such ungrateful jerks! If you hate the gifts others give you, chances are they feel the same way about the Hello Kitty toaster or tasteless sweater that you get them every year – so why not save the ungratefulness and make a donation to a needy charity instead?

Oh … I know why. Because people are even more ungrateful when you give donations in lieu of a gift. This year we gave gift baskets to everyone with wine and a donation card that had been made to a local literacy foundation. A couple of the people we sent these to, though, actually complained – actually complained to us – that they had sent us a list of things they wanted. Jerks.

#4 Family events are stressful. I’m sure a lot of my faithful blog followers love spending time with their overwhelmingly large families at the holidays; I, myself, am even cooking for my grandparents and parents this year. But pretending like family events are always a walk in the park is just about as childish as thinking that rainbows really come from the assholes of unicorns.Families are great, but they are also not – which oftentimes makes family events stressful. If you are anything like me, your family events usually come laced with gossip, drama, too much alcohol, more gossip, more drama, gossip’s transcendent partner, shit talking, and people waffling between judging others and pitying them. I’ve said this before: there is a reason there are so many jokes about how much bull shit family events can be. Because for the majority of people out there, they are.

#5 Most modern Christmas movies make me want to gouge my eyes out so I never have to see them again. Home Alone was awesome. Charlie Brown Christmas will always be one of my favorites. A Year Without a Santa Claus is an awesome work of nostalgia and art. But Santa Buddies? Barbie Nutcracker? Arthur Christmas? And if it isn’t these terrible children’s Christmas movies, it’s Lifetime, ABC Family, and Hallmark shoving bull shit Christmas wish movies down everybody’s throats. And I know I’m going to be in the minority on this one, but The Christmas Story on repeat for 24 hours on TBS every year is annoying. The movie isn’t even that good.

So I’m jaded and snarky, and I hate everything – okay? It should come as no surprise, then, that this B(itch)’s a Grinch. I’m sure if you counted the number of times I used the term “bull shit” in this post, you would be concerned by my excessively foul mouth. In the end, I really do believe that “bull shit” is exactly what Christmas is – not because of what it is supposed to be, but because of what it has become. But if you really got down to it on my reasons, I think you’d have to admit that I’m right…

As for me, alongside being a Grinch, I also don’t believe in scarring children for life because of my own idiosyncratic beliefs. So I’ll be playing the game on Christmas Eve – cooking the pork shoulder, baking the pumpkin pie, and placing the Christmas presents so carefully under the tree that they all are opened in the order that makes the event all-the-more exciting. But on Christmas Day, this B(itch) is off the clock. She’s enjoying a day to relax; a day when it’s quiet and she doesn’t have to go anywhere in particular or pretend to be something she’s not. She’ll probably stop by a local eatery that chooses to be open for lunch, because there are a lot of employees out there that actually volunteer those days because they need the extra pay. This year on Christmas, faithful blog followers, you should all take at least a minute to do what you want and to be grateful for the things others before us have done. And if Jesus ‘aint your thing, at least remember that Christmas could also just mean it’s time to get our heads out of our asses and be good people.

Mrs. Claus Likes Her Whiskey Sour

Today when we went on our annual trip to get a photograph with Santa Claus at the mall, I realized that this is the last year we’ll be making such a pilgrimage.

When we got there, I was quickly reminded of last year’s experience where Santa Claus continued to stumble around, making it apparently clear that he was drunk and it was only 11 o’clock. This year, Santa seemed sober, only for Mrs. Claus to take his place at the throne of Mall Drunk. For thirty minutes, we stood in line waiting for our turn and I watched her as she stumbled around, her eyes even rolling once. When in close proximity, the smell of whiskey sour was so overpowering I was legitimately concerned that if she were to belch, the Christmas candle lit next to Santa’s chair would actually ignite the entire mall. At first, I couldn’t really pinpoint why “drunken debauchery” always seems to come of dressing as the fictional couple.

But then I began to look around.

The mall decided that instead of a really big Christmas tree that you get to walk under as you go up to the platform where Santa and Mrs. Claus are waiting, this year they went the more traditional route and installed a nativity scene. It was your standard, run of the mill, life-sized nativity set, only in the place of the baby Jesus was a Macy’s shopping bag.

Really? I thought to myself as we rounded the corner to the last leg of the never-ending line to sit on the fat guy’s lap and be on our way. Yes: really.

I’m sure Mrs. Claus (and last year – Santa, himself) wasn’t actually drinking because of the sheer consumerism of the Macy’s bag-Jesus nativity set (well, if they are anything like me they might be…).  But beyond that, as I looked around while standing in line to pay $38.95 for five minutes and three photographs, I saw the utter humanity baring itself for all to see – a sight usually only reserved for Disneyland and funerals.

There were people arguing in line about what picture package they were going to get – because they had to make sure to send photographs to every single goddamned relative that expected one. This raises other issues that are beyond the scope of this blog, but as to the bizarre-factor of this situation, one couple actually began to scream at each other. Not talk in raised voices, not yell – actually scream. I was surprised the mall cops didn’t show up (although when have mall cops ever actually policed the mall?).

Further down the line, there was a pregnant woman who looked like she was actually going to give birth right then and there waiting to take her 2 year old son to visit Santa Claus. I don’t know if I have ever seen someone so pregnant before. She kept rubbing her gargantuan belly and moaning – at one point she kneeled and I almost fainted at the thought of her birthing right then and there.

Children were screaming everywhere. Some were wearing their pajamas still (which seemed ludicrous at roughly $13 per 4X6 print – but who am I to judge?). In the time we stood in line, my feet were smashed by some lady’s stroller no less than five times and I set my hand on the banister holding the line together once to learn a child had been gnawing on it (leaving my hand slobbery with some stranger’s spit).

In the end, standing in line for thirty minutes had my own mouth salivating at the thought of drinking heavily upon returning home. If I had to stand there for eight hours a day, pretending to be happy about the most material, consumeristic, and generally fake holiday of the year; all the while wearing an outfit that is hot, itchy, and absolutely ridiculous, and being put in the position of having to allow strange children to stomp on, hit, and kick me for the sake of this grand, holiday charade – I would probably be drinking before work every day too. Actually, I would probably start every day off with a whiskey sour and a handful of Xanax.

This is all nothing new, though this year I realized it was time to bid adieu to the time-honored tradition of visiting the local mall Santa Claus. As much as one may want to be understanding of the alcoholism which plagues the holiday characters each year, it is still an overwhelmingly sad situation (when you really think about it, which I try not to) and sets a horrible example for children. Why this year did I finally draw the line, you ask? Because for a two year old or three year old, or an infant – you don’t notice. Santa just has “bad breath” or Mrs. Claus is just tripping. But as we walked away today, (seven year old) Pookie acknowledged that she knew Mrs. Claus was drunk when she loudly pronounced, “…well, at least Santa wasn’t the drunk one this time…”

So drink on, Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Drink on. But we’ll be staying at home next year.