For sitting on my ass about 10 hours, I sure got a lot done today

Every once in a while, we have to take a step back and ask ourselves: am I spinning my wheels?

Am I running on empty?

Is something burning me out?

Two things happened last night – besides that whole food thing I wrote about earlier today – that contributed to me sitting on my ass for the majority of today. I think it was about ten hours, in total.

1. My daughter broke my heart and told me, completely out of the random and for no reason at all, that she sometimes thinks of me as a birthday candle that tries too hard to stay lit, but as a result has very little left because it’s all burned away.

She’s very wise for her ten years.

2. My old friend Period Pants showed up, and not in the subtle way she normally does. There was no taking her sweet fucking time to get going, giving me a day or so to prepare myself for the carnage of her monthly hormonal fluctuations. I had no opportunity to “pre-med” (take plenty of Ibuprofen the night before shit gets real so as to minimize the pain.)

Nope, this time she just came stomping in the door, around 11:30 at night.

When I’m really stressed out, she does this. First I get sick, then in about 45 seconds I develop cramps no amount of over the counter painkillers could fix. Then I get really hot and headachy until my brain catches up with my body, realizing that I need to slow the fuck down and relax while Period Pants resets my body.

It’s all in good fun, and yes I’m sure you all didn’t want to hear that much detail. But it’s not like I’m talking about freebleeding under my dress, or knitting sweaters with fallen pubic hairs or anything; so just get over it and understand my point. This happened, forcing me to slow down and calm down and remember that my body is going to tell me when I’m going too far on the stress-o-meter.

Needless to say, when I got up this morning I had – again – remembered the point of this all. I asked myself those questions: am I spinning my wheels? Absolutely. I’m cleaning and yet nothing is really getting clean. I’m cooking food that isn’t being eaten. I’m making efforts when I know the effortlessness of others will make it all moot anyway.

Am I running on empty? You bet I am. It isn’t that I’m physically tired, it’s that I’m mentally exhausted. I can’t think straight most of the time, and I’m so scattered I have a hard time even paying attention to the book I’m reading, the painting I’m painting, and the blanket I’m knitting. And then there is that simple fact that – for the fifth time in a day – I put my keys in the freezer. My brain is trying so hard to escape this situation, it’s become almost nonfunctional.

Is something burning me out? Yes. Activity is burning me out. Constantly having plans and activities and errands and projects and expectations from others and of myself is burning me out. Life is burning me out.

So today I decided I was going to take a break. I mean I’ve really tried to make an effort to cut back on activities and giving a fuck for some time now. I wear yoga pants and comfortable sweaters most days of the week, now. I’m worrying less about things like the placement of the towels in the bathroom as well.

But this overwhelming sense that I need to justify my Stay At Home existence with constant movement and nonstop commitments has me occasionally heading down this path of bodily pain, and metaphorical burn out, that tells me I haven’t done enough to have a healthier balance in life.

I started out planning – intending – to spend the majority of my day on Pinterest and in front of Netflix. As I started to destress, though, I thought that what I’d really like to do is write. (So I wrote 20 pages of good, solid fiction.) Then I destressed even more, and decided I would get up and bake some Valentine’s Day cupcakes for my husband to take to work later in the week. And as I calmed down more and more, feeling Period Pants calm her ass down as well in the process, I decided to write a blog, do some marketing, and I even did a Fiverr gig I had waiting to be done.

So what I’m saying here is that I got more work done today while I sat on my ass than I have probably gotten done in the past couple of weeks.

What I didn’t do was run errands or return phone calls I had no interest in returning. I also didn’t worry about making a fancy dinner; and – for once – I just let the laundry from the last two days continue to pile up.

The moral of the story is – I think – that when we force ourselves to slow down, we realize the path to do more meaningful, balanced things.

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Just When I Thought My 30s Could Not Get Any More Annoying, New Years Eve 2013 Rolled On In

1098401_184942645012006_2101961229_nHappy fucking New Years. Seriously. I hope you have a really nice fucking 2014. Eat a dick.

That was directed at my 30-something friends, 30-something bloggy people, and 30-something colleagues in this illustrious career of a pajama jeans-wearing, ass-wiping Stay At Home Mom. The rest of you can skip the dick eating. Unless of course that’s your thing (GROSS).

It was only recently that I became physically able to say that I am 31. I mean like a couple of weeks ago, and even then it was ugly because I couldn’t remember if I was 31 or 32. Pretty fucking hideous state of affairs, huh?

I’m already back to saying I’m 28.

As I see it, I’m a fucking war hero. I survived that phase when everyone was getting engaged and/or married. I mean every damn weekend someone was posting photos on Facebook of their engagement rings (ain’t nobody doin’ that no more). Engagement pics were up next, and then of course the wedding planning status updates and social media meltdowns leading up to the big event.

I didn’t get invited to many of the weddings, though to be fair I didn’t invite many to mine. The ones I did – where I actually attended – were equal parts intolerable and lessons in banality.

And the drum of growing up marched on with its beat. I held my head high as my husband and I have slowly, but surely, become two of the few people we know that does not own their own home. I smiled as suddenly everyone was becoming those people that go on cruises for every, single, fucking vacation they take.

Currently, I am navigating my way carefully through the early divorces, and the baby-belly pics. I’ve learned to “hide all” from friends that share their nude popped-belly-button photos. I’ve managed to avoid conversations about breastfeeding while out for dinner and drinks. Everyone does it, why the shit do we have to talk about it? That’s what Le Leche support groups are for, not fucking girl’s night at the local Applebees.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m definitely excited for all of the people I know that are going through these awesome stages of life. And for the parts that I am partaking, I am happy for myself too. This is what it means to be in our 30s – all these great things (new jobs, new lives, new families, new experiences) and more.

But do we have to fucking remind ourselves of this every step of the way? That we have moved on beyond those treasured years of our 20s, when we didn’t always need caffeine to get going in the morning? When we could go out and have a few drinks and dance without having to call the goddamned babysitter to see if anyone puked? Can’t we just allow ourselves to stay nestled in the security of feeling like we will be young forever, rather than reminding ourselves constantly that time has not paused, and will not ever stand still?

I hope you all can sense at this point that my 30s felt up until this point that they could not get any more annoying. I truly thought they wouldn’t. Then New Years Eve 2013 rolled on in and it got even fucking worse.

1501770_10151848041001395_1761194694_nI logged onto Facebook at some point today and what did my newsfeed unveil to me but post after MOTHERBITCHING POST about staying at home in pajamas. “I wonder if I’ll be able to stay awake to midnight!” was perhaps the most commonly said phrase by people I know in their 30s. Suddenly people that were posting shit-faced photographs of themselves in the bathtub on New Years Eve just a couple of years ago are wearing their goddamned matching flannel pajama sets and playing Scrabble in bed. SCRABBLE IN BED.

Now sure, I stayed home this year too. Quite frankly, it’s the best thing to do on the most dangerous night of the year. Also, I’m tired and fucking lazy, and while we did have plans to go to a family party we ended up staying home instead and just hanging out. Truth be told, I cleaned until about 45 minutes ago. But was I yucking it up left and right about how old I’ve become? “OMG we have become soooooo old we will have to sleep a week to make up for staying up past midnight!!!” How I have passed on through this right of passage that apparently says that to prove you’ve become some old piece of shit you have to suddenly tuck yourself in before 6 pm on a night you used to let last until 6 the following morning?

Ugh. Seriously. Eat a dick people.

I get it. We’re all getting older. We’re getting more tired. We have more responsibilities, like kids and shit. We are done with the nonsense and the games, and drinking and partying all night just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’ve been around the block a couple of times.

But looming over all of this is an image of my future: a future New Years Eve that all this pajama-comfy-night-wonder-if-I’ll-make-it-to-midnight-Facebook-bullshit says is speeding towards me at an unprecedented rate. That image is of me as an old woman. An old woman sitting in my easy chair, hair in curlers. My New Years Eve will be spent not partying but watching the Perry Mason NYE marathon. I’ll sit there while my dog licks toe jam off my feet, eating frosting directly out of the can until I fall asleep around 9:45 only to drool all over myself until one of my seventeen cats wakes me up to go to bed. I get that this is what’s probably next. Who knows when it will strike, but if only my 30s could just slow the fuck down with all this getting-old bullshit and let me just enjoy my warm, naive ignorance for a little while longer.

Happy New Years. May 2014 be as full of denial as I clearly hope it will be.

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8 Ways I’m a Bad Mom

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I’ve been reading a lot about being a mom lately. It isn’t that I’m – like – researching it. It’s that a lot of people are writing about it. In case you all haven’t noticed, mom blogging is pretty much the cool thing to do right now. Anyone who has either dropped one out the vagina, become a stay at home dad, or in some way or another started mothering, is jumping on the bandwagon of blogging about parenting. Wee! Isn’t it great to have the opinions of many?

Okay, actually it is (within reason), because it makes us loser moms feel much less alone. You know us. We are the ones that don’t necessarily socialize with the other parents at the soccer matches. We aren’t always there with baked goods at the kid’s school Halloween party. We drink more than W. did during his tenure at Yale.

I’ve come to embrace my shittiness as a mother. I got to a point where trying to be the perfect mother was making me a little insane and intolerable to everyone around me. Who am I kidding, I’m still intolerable to everyone around me, and am waiting for my fitted straight jacket; but at least now that I’m not trying to be Mom of the Year all the time, I’ve lightened up a bit.

In any event, I’ve come to accept eight pretty glaring ways that I’m a bad mom. A super duper bad mom that will probably have some of you calling Child Protective Services…

#8 I sometimes serve Gerber meals to my nine year old

This isn’t often, mostly because I rarely buy the things. But every once in a while I know we’re going to be busy the next day, so I grab a couple at the grocery store “just in case.” Just in case always pans out, and now my nine year old is eating a toddler’s (or preschooler’s … they have preschool ones too …) meal with that fat baby’s head on the front of the package.

So I’m not talking about baby food, though. I’m talking about those meals with the pasta and the veggies on the side. They are super low cal, super healthy for any kid, and she loves them. She’d lick the inside of the little plastic plate they come in, if she didn’t have any manners that is.

I refuse to head to McDonald’s just because we’re really busy; and I also am not one to open a can of Chef Boyardi and slop it out. She just doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly like every other kid on the planet, so this seems my only option. Still, there’s something very odd about serving “pick me up pastas” to a little girl that may sprout boobs any day now.

#7 I rarely apply alcohol and Neosporin to minor scrapes

When did everyone start making such a fuss over minor scrapes and bruises? Sure, I’m a hypochondriac of the worst kind. I carry hand sanitizer everywhere. I have a “wash your hands when you walk in the house” rule. I don’t allow rides in shopping carts during cold and flu season.

But then I follow it all up by being as lax as possible when it comes to something like a minor scrape. Sure a cut will get some Neosporin. A burn will get some of that Aquafor ointment. Yet I see absolutely no goddamned reason why we should apply gobs of expensive antibiotic cream and half a box of Hello Kitty bandaids to a scrape I can’t even see without a magnifying glass.

#6 Unless we have a serious and immediate issue going on, I usually do two weeks of “wait and see” before calling the pediatrician. I also don’t believe in the emergency room for non-life-threatening emergencies

I think one of the biggest problems in America is that people go to the emergency rooms for back itches, elbow pain, crotch rot, and other various non-emergency situations. I further think that it is ridiculous for people to run screaming bloody terror to their pediatricians every time their kid sneezes. Get over it.

#5 I swear, a lot

Let’s be clear about this: I do not swear around other people’s kids. I don’t know if they teach their kids in the same way I do. And to be fair, I don’t drop the f bomb every other word at home, like I do on this blog.

But sometimes I do swear, and loudly. Fortunately, I have been able to teach that mommy’s using “big girl” words that “little girls don’t use.” It’s worked, so far. There are a lot of “hells” and “damns” and “shits” at our house, all of which come from me. And of course everyone sees my “Star of the B(itch)” certified star certificate, hanging in the bathroom. Sue me.

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#4 I take out the vulgarity and all the talk about cooters from my blogs, and read every one of them to my entire family

Which means that when I read this blog aloud, this point will be entirely taken out.

So I am that mom blogger. The one who thinks her blog is so brilliant that the entire world should have it foisted upon them. I also think that my family gets great entertainment out of my blog (for whatever reason, I’m not sure what). It probably has something to do with how often I self-depricate.

#3 I throw away tons of schoolwork

Look. I’m not going to beat around the jon on this one. We homeschool every day of the year, all day long. That’s work sheets and art projects and science experiments and nature walks and more art projects and flash cards and more art projects and reading logs and coloring pages and more art projects. And even some more art projects, plus maybe a few more art projects for good measure. If I didn’t recycle the majority of the schoolwork either into the recycle bin, for Christmas presents, or to be used as toilet paper, I’m not sure where I’d store it all.

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#2 I show my emotions

When my grandpa died in February, I cried a lot. I still do. I’m not one of those austere parents who’s going to hide their shit from their kids, thereby teaching their kids that emotions are things to be shoved into a bottle – only to be let out in occasional, explosive fits of rage. I don’t lay my drama on anyone else’s doorstep either, I just think it’s really important to teach kids that our emotions are a good thing. Even the bad ones.

#1 Sometimes I just don’t care

And herein lies the #1 reason I’m a bad mom, and also the reason you all relate to this post. Sometimes I don’t give a flip if Barbie is going on a date with Ken. Every once in a while, I could give two bananas what happened in your cupcake chapter book. On occasion, I don’t give a wad about what happened on Good Luck Charlie or Peppa Pig or  whatever the stupid kids shows that are ruining America happen to be big in our house right now.

Sometimes I just don’t care. I don’t say that I don’t care. I just don’t.

So there, I said it all. Call me a bad mom. Call me a horrible person. Tell me I’m a nasty ho who deserves nothing but to rot in hell (got one of those gems in response to a blog last week …). Notify the authorities. Do whatever you want, I know that where it counts I’m a good mom and with all this other nonsense I’m likely just a human being.

Are you a bad mom?

Three Years Ago, Today…

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Today is a big day for me. It’s the anniversary of the day I reinvented myself and changed to an entirely different path down the hellish walk of life. Of course it’s taken about this long to actually accept that it’s the way to my future, whether I like it or not – but let’s not get too esoteric and critical of just what I’ve been doing with my sanity for these last three years.

I’m getting ahead of myself, and at the same time being very vague. Let me be more specific.

On March 11th, 2010, I officially withdrew from graduate school. I started working on a book (I have yet to publish, maybe never will). I started this blog.

Leaving graduate school was a really big deal for me. My eyes had been directed towards that Ph.D. and university teaching career for as long as I could remember – it’s why I moved to California, it’s why I worked to get experience and recommendations in politics, and it’s what I lived and breathed for close to a decade. Asking me to give all of that up – at the time – was essentially asking me to destroy those ten years of hard work and dedication. It was in essence wiping “me” out of existence – I truly defined myself by that chosen path (stupidly).

But I gave it up anyway, because I valued my marriage and family over a career. In spite of how hard it was, and how much I wanted there to be a way to work it all out, I realized that everyone should be willing to make such a sacrifice. At the end of days, none of us will say “I wish I had worked another day.” I guarantee you that.

So in the blink of an eye, a signature on a piece of paper, and a return of my student loan money, it was all gone. Now I’m a Stay at Home Mom and housewife. I’m a mom blogger, or humor blogger if you will. I write a lot, but haven’t published much beyond this blog (just yet). I knit and read voraciously. I homeschool. And I’m getting back into painting and drawing – my original passion as a studio arts major upon entering college.

Today, though – on the third anniversary of that fateful day in the history of my adult life (of which I’m sure there will be many) – I think I’ve finally accepted this new station in life, and I realize how much it’s changed me, fundamentally.

I Have Much Stronger Opinions About Parenting

I don’t want to be one of those assholes that takes a side in the Mommy Wars and dukes it out to the bloody death. Ultimately, I could give two coconuts less if you breastfeed or bottle feed; work or stay at home; homeschool or compulsory day school. Everyone has a different situation and a different life to live – who the shit am I to tell them what to do?

644338_663594834023_1303244296_nBut for myself, I have much stronger opinions. For example, I would feel horrible if I stopped homeschooling, because I can see the amazing impacts it has had. I think it would be terribly selfish for me to go work full time just because I want more consistent adult interaction too. Everyone has a different situation, I know; but a part of me wants to ask about the mothers that work around the clock, when they don’t need to.

My husband and I talked about his carpool lady just the other night; and while I don’t want to judge and feel she’s a monster (I already dislike this woman for how inconsiderate and flaky she is with the carpool anyway), I can’t help but question how this woman can leave her four year old daughter every day from early in the morning until late at night – for one reason and one reason only: she likes to edit. She never has dinner with her daughter. She doesn’t work close enough to pop in for a school play, or to pick her kid up after school gets out. She leaves at 7:15 in the morning and comes home between 8 or 10 o’clock at night, because (as my husband puts it): “sure, she doesn’t need to work because her husband has a good job, but editing is her thing.”

So while I would never go on Dr. Phil and say that a woman is selfish and shouldn’t have kids if she works out of home, or conversely that she has no meaning in life if she stays at home, as this third year comes to a close, I am finding it harder and harder to keep my opinions to myself as I find some of these issues to be a lot more complex than they are on the surface.

I Care About Different Things Now

When I was in school, I cared about arguing philosophically. I was passionate about Plato and Aristotle – in fact friends of mine would start arguments about the Forms while in a bar. I was genuinely concerned about politics in America, and I truly believed that my political philosophy would help shape the future (even when I knew how naive and unrealistic that was, I still cared). I didn’t care about reading good literature, I wanted to read boring essays about epistemology and logical syllogisms.

In other words: I was a jerk off.

Now I care about good books. Books that I can escape in, or that mean something other than an erudite’s egotistical view of reality. Sure, I still wax philosophical, and I look for meaning in everything – but now it’s actual meaning that I’m looking for. Not just ideas that mean nothing to my life.

I care about relationships now too. When I was in school, and to some degree when I worked in politics, anyone that got in my way or sucked time from my valuable career path was a sacrifice worth making. I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, either – friendships, family relations, you name it; I didn’t give a shit if it didn’t have to do with getting my Ph.D. and becoming a teacher. In fact, I was so sucked into the most important thing (myself) that I didn’t visit my home, my family, and my soul (Chicago) for that entire decade. For the sake of attaining some ridiculous goal, I completely rejected my former life and anything that got in my way.

What a terribly pompous and vacuous existence I led for those ten years. To even admit that this was how I thought and felt brings shame to the forefront of my heart and mind.

My name is Heather and I am a recovering douchehole.

535492_663351297073_1206119718_nSo in the three years since leaving graduate school, my entire life and my entire self have changed. I no longer lament the end of the person I was, because the person I’ve become is so much more rewarding. Blogging, momming, wifing, writing – these things have helped me learn that what defines me is not what I do, but who I am. My husband got me a star registry for Valentine’s Day this year and – much to his dismay – I named it the Star of the B(itch). I thought that was so much more meaningful than just my name. It isn’t to say this blog is who I am, or that I am inherently a rancid bitch (well, I am); and it further shouldn’t imply that I believe “Heather Christena Schmidt” is a bad person. It’s just that I like who I am as Queen B(itch) now, rather than the lonely court jester I was just three years and a day ago.

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48 Hour Technology Strike

Keep track of my strike time at http://countingdownto.com/countdown/223092

I’m going on strike. Not from a job because – I think we all know – I don’t work. I mean I work at the most thankless job on the planet (housewife and SAHM), but there is no monetary compensation for that.

Yet.

No, I’m going on strike from technology. For the next 48 hours I’m ditching my cellphone, laptop, and iPad, and I think you should too. Here’s why:

#1 There Is A World Outside Your Cellphone

I just have had it up to about my eyebrows with sitting at dinner with people that spend the entire time texting and BSing on their cellphones. My husband is notorious for doing this; and the most egregious part is that he’s just scrolling through his apps doing mundane updates that are entirely unnecessary. It’s so rude, and reeks of the implication that the only world that exists to the people committing this etiquette faux pas is within their cellphone and computer. That the world in which I am – sitting across from them at the table – does not exist when the world of technology is around.

There is a world outside your cellphone. And your computer. Not getting Facebook updates is manageable, dare I say – not a big deal.

Just today I read an article about the growing problem of Facebook addiction, in which it was reported that as many as 1/3rd of people that were interviewed admitted to experiencing feelings of envy when viewing photographs and other updates of others on Facebook. This implies a number of things, but as for this point I think this has a lot to do with the fact that some of us think there is no world outside of Facebook.

1313897240072_6858395Do you faithful blog followers actually believe that life is as wonderful and exciting as it appears to be for some people on Facebook? Every photo is from a party; therefore life is a party? Every update is positive, fun, and full of excitement; therefore nothing bad ever happens to the people on your Facebook page? Nonsense! The only reason why people post on the social networks great and wonderful and awe-inspiring news is because it’s looked down upon to report anything real that happens. People call reality “bad” and “negative” – two words that have been demonized by our terribly childish social network culture.

There is a world outside of your computer. A real world. A world where you are not alone.

#2 Capturing Photographs Is Not the Point

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Recently I realized that I spend more time capturing some moments than actually experiencing them. A blogger, I’m constantly trying to shoot things that can be used for my blogs; but now it’s leaked into every aspect of my life. Yesterday I snapped over twenty photographs of my car being towed. The experience from beginning to end was captured on photograph, and yet when it came time to recall the tow truck driver’s name today when AAA called to survey the experience, I had no idea. The guy really went the extra mile in taking care of us and I was so focused on my own photographic evidence that I couldn’t even take the time to learn his name.

The point of having a good meal is not to capture a photograph of the food. The reason for going on a hike is to get exercise, fresh air, and experience the outdoors. I have friends that have so many photographs of their experiences that I wonder if they even would remember what happened if it weren’t for the photographs, much like I can’t recall the tow truck driver’s name.

And is a memory not sufficient anymore to prove that something happened? Take a picture of your kid at this park, then that park, then this other park, then another. We get it! You take your kid to the park. We would have believed you if you just said it once. 7,000 shots a day of the kid running in the grass gets old. Really old. This isn’t to say that the kid isn’t cute, or the food doesn’t look as tasty as you describe it.

It’s just that technology is replacing even our most intimate moments and experiences.

#3 Technology Really Makes Me Hate People

And lose respect for them. This person didn’t respond to an email I sent in due time. A text message got ignored. People didn’t “like” or comment on my blog.

How many times have you Tweeted someone for them to never respond? How many times have you followed a blogger only for them to ignore you, as if they are too “big” to follow back?

The list of Internet etiquette grievances is a long one – not just mine, but the conglomerate list of all the billions of people using the Internet regularly. Sometimes it makes you hate people to be connected all the time. It makes you hate how not everyone operates by the same standards you do. And it makes you loathe the ways in which they think and act – from political posters on Facebook, to people that use their cellphones and computers as a way to bully; technology has just made it easier for the whole of humanity to act like assholes.

While I am definitely a fan of general misanthropy, I get too angry when I’m online too much.

#4 I Need a Break From Web MD

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I need a break from Web MD. And the news. And Google flu trends. And Sickweather.com. I’m such a hypochondriac, with a glaringly unhealthy level of OCD, that I am obsessed with what’s going on around, who has which diseases, and whether or not I have [insert obscure, unlikely disease here].

I need a break from all that nonsense – I wash my hands; cover my cough; and avoid sick people. How exactly does checking up on where people are sick in my area every day make us any more safe? Am I going to avoid running errands because a few people Tweeted that they had the stomach flu in my area? No. No – we still need milk, eggs, and bread.

But it’s also a matter of not just health, but of the news. This is another thing my husband is horrible with – he is obsessed with the news, and occasionally I am too. It isn’t just one article on something that happened, or a study that was done; it’s all of them that show up in the Google News Aggregate. While I don’t think it’s good to stick our heads in the sand, sometimes shutting it all off is for the best. There is nothing I can do about the fact that North Korea issued another threat to the United States. The fact that emergency room visits from energy drinks have increased by 47% bears absolutely no effect on me.

Obsessing over all of these things is just another way that technology has a hold of our lives, just as in the case of cellphones leading us to believe there is no world outside, and photography applications robbing us of having actual experiences.

Realistically, 48 hours off technology is nothing. I still remember a day when I never used a cellphone or a computer. When I never used a computer – oh what I would give to say I still did that now. What I would give to be able to say that any of us could be successful at anything without all the advances computer and cellular technology can offer. Sure, my Klout score may go down about a point from being offline for 48 hours. I may offend someone much in the way I have been offended by not responding soon enough to an email or a text message. But think of all the things that can come of unbinding myself to the chains of my technology. I don’t even know what the next 48 hours holds. It’s kind of exciting to know that they won’t involve a cellphone or computer.

The real question isn’t “why should I do it?” though. It’s “can I do it?” Can you?

When Your New Car Breaks

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Try and stay positive!

I absolutely loath when people say that. First, and foremost, I think talking about people being “negative” or “positive” is – in a word – childish. Those are just more labels we as a society use to peg people that we think are doing something either right or wrong, by our standards.

So I really and truly want to punch people in the nads that throw that “try and stay positive” crap in my face. Sometimes, you just have to be realistic. Sometimes staying positive is a recipe for getting your own self punched in the nads.

When your new car breaks, I would highly recommend not trying to stay positive. I would highly recommend flipping out, because as soon as you come down from your moment of temporary insanity, it’s a lot easier to figure things out realistically.

I bought a new used car approximately three weeks ago. My husband crashed his car into some 16 year old on the way to work back in October, and after months of deliberation the insurance company finally decided to total out his car. My Yaris got amazing gas mileage; I needed something bigger … so we did a little swap. I got the money for the insurance pay out and bought a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I did the research. I drove it multiple times. I did everything right; and (despite the fact that I was pretty sure the private dealership was owned and operated by the leaders of the local mob) it seemed like the right decision.

I should be clear, I have been hit (not hit others) in quite a few car accidents since moving to California, so I have a lot of experience buying cars. The Jeep was my fifth purchase.

Now today I was driving on the freeway from our lunch out to Barnes and Noble. I made it no more than two miles down the road, though, when all of a sudden my car started jerking, and violently. I got off at the next exit, called my husband then my father and both said I should try and make it home. When I put the car back into “D” though, it made this horrible, loud thud noise and the entire car jumped. It was barely drivable after that.

We ended up getting towed. Within a few hours I learned that the entire transmission needs to be rebuilt, of course not a covered item on the 90 day limited warranty. Blah blah blah. Let’s get to the positives.

But wait! I said I didn’t want to try and stay positive. I said that when your new car breaks you should let yourself freak out, rather than living in a false sense of naive idealism that everything will just magically work out for you!

Those aren’t the kinds of positives I’m talking about. I’m talking about the stories that come from being towed.

Humanity Is Evil

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The tow guy got there and attempted to drive my car up onto the tow ramp. But as he was backing the Jeep up to pull it on, this crazy broad pulled up behind him and started honking her horn. Then she yelled “get out of my way!!” The tow guy pulled the car in front of his tow truck, which was a huge mistake. No less than twenty cars then proceeded to drive past the tow truck, no one stopping for him to get my poor, broken Jeep up onto the ramp.

You may be thinking this is normal for a street, but then I have to tell you the best part: I was in a goddamned parking lot with about ten others rows that people could have driven down instead of the one we were in.

Nothing says “this was a good a experience” like a harsh reminder that humanity is evil.

Some People Are Truly Amazing

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But then – when all seemed to be at a total loss – a woman walked up to me and said “is that your car being towed?” I told her that it was, and then told her that no one was letting the poor tow guy get it up on the ramp, though.

She said: “hold on, I just had lunch with my ex-husband and I’ll have him pull up and block the driveway until your car gets up there.”

No, I am not kidding you, faithful blog followers. The guy pulled up and blocked the way, then pulled forward and asked if he could help with anything else. I thanked him, he drove off. Then the woman asked if we were being picked up, or if she could drive us home.

As horrible as this world is, every once in a while there is a light of hope hanging on.

People Are Full of Surprises

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Once the Jeep was loaded, we just had to get into the tow truck and ride with him to the auto care center, closer to our apartment (about fourteen miles away). There, my dad was going to meet us and help me get everything handled.

As we got into the tow truck, the tow guy – who seemed like your average, run-of-the-mill tow truck driver – took the kid’s stuffed bear, set him in the middle of the backseat, and clicked him in. Pookie smiled, said thanks, and held the bear’s hand the whole trip.

I have never seen a service person, who deals with the nastiness of public on a regular basis, show such an unbelievably humbling sweetness in my entire life.

The only other note of excitement for the trip was that we had to go through a weigh station, since we were over a large hill that the heavy truck was going to have to go down. I had never been through a weigh station before, and always thought it was some sort of complicated ordeal involving scales and measures and paperwork and police. Sadly, it was not as exciting. We pulled through it, just driving slowly, and continued down the hill.

When your new car breaks, I highly suggest freaking out. Don’t listen to those assholes that tell you to try and stay positive, because there is nothing positive about car repairs. There are, however, pretty awesome reminders you can learn along the way – no matter how ugly or unbelievably touching they may be.

Four Parenting Lessons I Learned From My Mom

People sometimes tell me I look at the negative side of everything. I always think it’s funny when they say that, though, because it is only through being honest with yourself about a situation that you can make it better. Haven’t you ever gone to a wedding and thought to yourself “jeez, I’d never do that at my wedding?” Or had a shitty job and accepted the shittiness of it to push yourself to find something better? People with that gloriously naive-“must always look at the bright side of things”-approach to life generally (in my experience) stay in bad situations longer than they should because they can’t be honest about the uglier stuff that needs to change.

I refuse to waste my life accepting a pile of crap as a bed of roses just to sound pleasant to others. It’s just my opinion and approach to life, though. You don’t have to adopt it.

So last night I made my husband watch Mermaids with me. I’m on an 80s and 90s movies kick right now. It started with watching all the films Esquire suggested “all women” should watch, which included some 80s gems. Then as I perused through the Netflix Que, I noticed there were a ton I haven’t seen in ages. Some I had never seen at all.

It’s been so long since I last watched Mermaids that I had forgotten the crux of the story. It’s all about this teenage girl learning lessons in life from the negative bad-mom aspects of her “town tramp” of a mom. Reminds me a lot of my mom. For those of you faithful blog followers that are relatively new, I won’t beat around the bush: I call my mom Trailer Trash Mom for a reason. In the years since she divorced my dad, she has become a trashy, hillbilly, user and abuser; who has stolen, lied, and cheated more from me than anyone would tolerate. That whole “debt for life” thing has been repaid to her ten-fold at this point; although, I just can’t cut the ties because I want a relationship with my grandparents, which can only be facilitated if she is around (they think she’s the greatest thing next to stick butter, likely a consequence of old age and a very hefty piece of wool she’s pulled over their eyes).

In any event, watching Mermaids reminded me of the parenting lessons I’ve learned from the more negative aspects of my own mother.

Lesson 1:

Never make a promise to a child unless you plan on keeping it

Fortunately, when my mom breaks promises to me now, I only cry for about a day. When I was little, though, I’d cry for days – once a whole week.

I’m not talking about stupid promises. “Oh yes, you can ride the automatic-disease-ridden-pony in front of Toys ‘R’ Us next time, I promise.” I’m full of shit every time I say that, because that promise is to get the kid to stop bitching; although, will still not be happening. The thing has been covered with an unidentified slime for as long as I can remember.

I’m talking about big promises. “Dad promised he’d be at my Little League game and he didn’t show up or call!” is devastating, especially if it happens frequently.

Lesson 2:

Don’t turn your kid(s) into the parent

There’s a scene in Mermaids when Winona Ryder’s narration acknowledges that her character feels like the parent sometimes. And she is. Her mom is too much of a two-bit town whore (although she tones it down at the end) to even prepare a regular meal. This is something my mom used to constantly do.

When my mom first left my dad and moved across the country to Seattle, I’d visit twice a year. In the beginning she was the “other woman” to a married guy in the military, who was a night guard in the prison. Naturally, when her only daughter came to visit, she couldn’t run the risk of losing her status as the “other woman,” though, so she’d leave me sitting downstairs to fend for myself the entire trip, while she’d entertain him upstairs all day while his wife was at work. I even had to cook my own meals, which was difficult since I was only 10 at the time. I once threw Cheetos into a bowl of white rice I found in the refrigerator. Fucking disgusting.

Nothing sucks more than having to grow up too soon because your parent has the maturity of an infant.

Lesson 3:

Don’t ever introduce male suitors as “uncle”

I have had so many uncles in my life, it’s a good thing they weren’t real or family reunions would need a bigger venue.

My mother had so many men coming in and out of her life until only recently, when she married this guy that lives in a trailer out in New Mexico, I have lost count. I do know there were at least eight Mikes, three Rons, two black guys (the first was Marvin Gaye’s drummer), six with gambling problems, and one nice guy out of the bunch (who, of course, my mom dumped for no reason). Each of them was referred to as uncle, which just traumatized the shit out of me.

In recent years, she’s started introducing her boyfriends as “grandpa such and such” to the Pookies, which is when I realized the importance of this Lesson 3. I immediately put my foot down. No to “Grandpa Bugsy”. No to “Grandpa Yogi.” No to “Grandpa Mike.” And no … the hillbilly husband will be no “Grandpa Dennis.”

Lesson 4:

Never settle for less in life, or expect your kids to either

When I worked in pharmacy during college, I worked with a girl that would not allow her daughter to have any conveniences that she was not given as a child. She wouldn’t let the poor girl even go to birthday parties of other kids because she had not been allowed to as a child. It made me so sad every time I saw it happen, which was a lot in the six years I worked there. My mother has always been like this.

After divorcing my dad, my mom did nothing but settle for less. She’d debase herself to settle for men she found in bars. She’d settle for less with jobs and cars and housing and friends over and over and over again. She still does. Her most recent stunt of settling for less is starting to bite her in the ass – marrying this hillbilly in New Mexico. He’s a total jerk to her and she has the nerve to say that since she’s settling for jerkish behavior that I should too.

I don’t think so.

These four lessons that I learned from my mom are pretty important ones, and I wouldn’t have learned them had I not looked at the negative side of my mother’s behavior over the years. I almost feel grateful for my “negative” approach, because had I not taken it I may have just accepted these behaviors as acceptable and continued the cycle I see so many other women in my community continuing with their own kids. When you look at old movies, like Mermaids, you can see that a lot of people used to hold this perspective. Look at the world for what it really is and overcome it. Not just settle for happy positivisms all the time just to make everything seem great to others.

See how much happier I am in my “negativity”? I mean, can you even still call it “negativity” when so much good is coming out of it?