Thursday, October 19, 2017

Me, too, or death by a thousand paper cuts.

I've been a tiny bit reticent to jump into the "me, too" fray for one seriously messed-up reason: what happened to me wasn't *that* bad. Like, it could have been so much worse.

When you feel like being harassed instead of physically assaulted means you maybe don't have a right to be upset? That's all kinds of systemic sexism, like layers of being told "it's not that big of a deal" have grown into our skin, becoming part of us.

Eww.

So let's talk about the "it's not big enough of a deal to report" stuff. Like the boss who came up behind 20-year-old me and started rubbing my shoulders. "You're so tense," he said. (Note: Yes, I was tense because my 50-year-old boss just started massaging me.) "You should come over to the house and sit in the hot tub. It will work those knots right out."

I think I responded with a half-hearted "Ehh-huh" - just enough to make him walk away. I was 20. I didn't know what to do. I was just a baby.

But as an adult? This is how it went down.

My Guy: "I had a great day. I figured out the fix to a big problem. I feel good. How was your day?"

Me: "On the drive into work, this guy was waving and smiling at me, right on the freeway. I finally figured out that he was adjusting his mirrors to look at my chest. Then, I got to work and had a conversation with my male coworker, who insisted that I set up a meeting for him. I refused, since the meeting had nothing to do with me. But he wouldn't let it go. So I ended up yelling, 'I AM NOT YOUR SECRETARY' into the phone before hanging up and slamming my head against my desk. Then, I figured out how to fix a big problem. Nobody paid attention to my fix until a male coworker half promoted it / half claimed it as his own idea. My boss later thanked me for my work but called me "kiddo." Then, on the way out of the parking garage, I got behind Creepy Rajeev, who was driving 2 miles per hour because he had his window down and was driving alongside and talking to every woman walking to her car. He followed four different women. It took me 20 minutes to get out of the garage. I AM SO FUCKING TIRED."

Just think of how much more women could accomplish if we weren't dealing with this bullshit every day. Because all those tiny moments of gritting teeth, of pep talks in the mirror in the ladies' room? They take a lot of mental and emotional energy. And now? NOW WE ARE TIRED.

And done. We're done.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Why I stopped writing.

I kind of stopped writing because I started to think that my stories didn't matter.

It's such a ballsy thing to stand up and say, "Yes, my story matters. It's important and I must get it out into the world and it will make a difference."

But I was depressed and couldn't imagine such things. So I made excuses. I was tired. I was working on writing that pays, writing about Joe's Mattress Shack and their new pillowtop ultra extreme bedding extravaganza. I wasn't denying the world anything of value.

Except I was. I am.

It's so easy to look at other people's stories and say, "YES! This is of value! Get this out in the world!" Like the story that Mary-Claire King tells about Joe DiMaggio babysitting her daughter at the airport. That's an important story.

But the gist of that story is that you never know what ripples a simple act of kindness will have in the world. In Mary-Claire's case ... well, you should just read the story.

In my case? Maybe somebody just needs to hear, "Me, too."

Or maybe I'm more of a cautionary tale. Whichever.

Either way, I'm getting back on the horse. I'm telling my stories, even when it hurts.

Here's what I've been up to:
  • Rehabbed our rental house, put it on the market, and got a full-price offer within an hour. An hour! Last time I tried to sell a house, it took nine months, so this was amazing. Except ... we knew we had to replace the roof. The roofers didn't tarp the roof correctly. We had a torrential rain. THE CEILINGS INSIDE THE HOUSE COLLAPSED FROM THE WATER DAMAGE. It's all so stupid. The roofing company took responsibility and it only moved our closing back a week, but My Guy and I both lost about 10 years off our lives due to stress.
    Dude. That's not supposed to look like that. Also, just out of frame? My husband and I having simultaneous heart attacks.
  • Obsessed all summer about going to the beach. It was to be my finish line after a summer of the aforementioned house flipping madness. I am one of those people who just neeeeeeds water. We were scheduled to go to Florida ... during the hurricane. When I called the hotel to cancel our non-refundable reservation, I was all, "You don't want me during the hurricane! I have no skillz!" and they were like, "You're right, we don't want you. Here's all your money back." I was relieved but ... slightly hurt.
  • Been mauled by this now-50-pound dog.
"Hey! I'mma jump on you, 'kay?"
So. Let's catch up. What's up with you?

Mega, huge, completely indebted thanks to reader Cyndi B. who reached out to say she missed my writing. Thank you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

In which my husband's feet give me a mental breakdown in the HyVee parking lot.

There was something in the air - the planets were aligned, or maybe there's just something about a 70-year-old's birthday party that makes people think, "Hey! I'm gonna ask that 40-something lady why she doesn't have kids!" But it happened.

I was at a birthday party. I knew three people there. Two of those people were men who asked me - separately, but within about 20 minutes of each other - why I didn't have kids, or what I was waiting for, or when My Guy and I were going to get on that already.

When an acquaintance asked me, I surprised myself. Deep within the darkest recesses of my black, black heart, a gracious lady arose. Like a glamorous phoenix! She knew just what to say. I opened my mouth and "Well, we wanted kids, but it didn't work out. But we decided to be happy anyway" came flowing out. Even as I was speaking the words, I thought, "Oh, wow. This is some klassy shit."

When a friend asked me the same question mere minutes later, I had used a good portion of my grace and dignity for the day. Plus, we were pals who gave each other a hard time. And I was getting tired. My response to him? "Shit down there is broken."

And ... that was an effective way to change the subject pretty quickly.

I felt good. I felt like I had successfully maneuvered two conversations that a few years ago would have left me reeling. Instead, I thought about how people usually have only the best intentions. I was mature and strong and had it going on.

On the way home, I ran by the grocery store. I cruised up and down the aisles, thinking about my grand infertile lady triumph, about how not having children in the Midwest in 2017 still makes you kind of a weirdo, but it was OK. I was so calm and mature and Oprah-like.

And then I left the store. As I was walking out, I saw a dad put his cart away and move to lift his 3-year-old son from the seat. The little boy had a rather unfortunate haircut but clearly thought this grocery outing was a grand man expedition with his dad.

Before picking up his boy, the man planted his feet - one foot slightly in front of the other, about hip-distance apart.

Now, I'm not sure how this happened, but I married a jock. My Guy loves any activity that involves a ball, bat, club, disc, or racquet. He has coached. He once held an informal clinic to teach my entire family how to throw a football because, God love us, we are quite indoorsy. He's that guy.

A lifetime of athletic endeavors means that there are some things My Guy does without thinking. Any arm movement - even if he's just tossing a dog toy - comes with a nice follow through. And I don't think he's capable of picking up even a can of dog food without first planting his feet - one foot slightly in front of the other, about hip-distance apart.

So when I saw that man getting ready to pick up his son outside the HyVee, my gut reaction was, "Oh! That's how My Guy would pick up his son."

Except he doesn't have a son. Except, except, except.

Not having kids is fine except when it isn't. And it's not a rational kind of crazy - it's a weird grief that pops its head up whenever it feels like it, even if it's been away for a while.

I didn't tackle the man and start crying. After all, he had his feet properly planted and would have therefore been able to swat me away like a fly. No, instead, I walked past with a somewhat contorted face. I got into my car and had a rational inner conversation about the merits of losing my shit in the parking lot of the grocery I frequent several times a week.

Pro: It might feel good.

Cons: Someone might see me and I come here all the time. I am so close to home, surely I could just have my mental breakdown at home like a lady. Crying makes my face puffy and who needs that?

I drove home. I didn't cry at all, even after I was safely ensconced in my fortress of solitude. I was just ... sad.

And the next day was Sunday, and it was a Sunday when My Guy and I didn't have to go sit at a soccer field for six hours because we don't have kids. Life was good. But sometimes? Sometimes, being childless means lots of little flesh wounds.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

All Walter does is win.

It's time for America's favorite game show ...

WHAT'S!

IN!

YOUR!

MOUTH!

Today's contestant is our reigning champion, Walter the Wonderdoodle! Walter initially came on our show at his mother's urging, as she was astounded by the number of times each day that she asked him, "Walter, what's in your mouth?"
"Am serious dog. Take challenge seriously."
During his reign as our "What's In Your Mouth?" champion, Walter has had many interesting things in his mouth, including bark, socks, mail, underwear, shoes, silverware, pens, newspapers, paperclips, a nut and bolt combo, rocks, toilet paper, and his brother, who is a miniature dachshund. It's all part of what makes Walter such a winner!

Today, let's see what Walter has for us. Hey, Walter!

WHAT'S!

IN!

YOUR!

MOUTH!

Drum roll please ... oh, folks, this is truly a thrill. Walter the Wonderdoodle has really stepped up his game and has something special for us today. Walter, what's in your mouth?

Ladies and gentleman ... it's a box of matches!
That's no little matchbook, folks. That's an entire box of kitchen matches! Turns out our lovable little doodle is also a burgeoning pyromaniac, the little scamp. Let's hear it for Walter!

And thanks to his creative choices, Walter wins ... a heart attack for his mother! Oh, isn't she a lucky lady? Congratulations to you all!
"Am dog. Am very good boy."
Will Walter be able to keep his streak going? We wouldn't bet against him! Join us next time on America's favorite game show ...

WHAT'S!

IN!

YOUR!

MOUTH!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Eat the damned pancakes.

Food is what makes America great. I'm talking potato salad, your auntie's secret marinara sauce, ham balls, spring rolls, fajitas, that Korean dish you can't pronounce, and all the rest. And don't even get me started on desserts. In the United States, we know how to eat.
Merica.
And yet sometimes, we don't.

This holiday, as we celebrate the Declaration of Independence and all that makes our nation a patchwork of awesomeness, I ask - nay, beg - that we all use a little common sense. Lady at IHOP, I'm looking at you.

My Guy and I recently reveled in the magic of Breakfast as Dinner at an International House of Pancakes. While other restaurants use parsley or perhaps a small orange slice as garnish, at IHOP, all the meals are accompanied by a plate of pancakes. It's what makes this country so amazing.

But what doesn't make this country so amazing is ordering the wrong thing. So, lady at IHOP? You were at a restaurant called International House of Pancakes. And you were in Missouri. And you ordered THE TILAPIA PLATTER. And then you sent it back to the kitchen three times.

Now, I'm guessing it wasn't the best tilapia. And you are well within your rights to send back your meal if it wasn't to your liking. But please, let's take some personal responsibility here.

You ordered tilapia. At an IHOP. In a land-locked state. And then you were shocked and angry when it wasn't awesome tilapia.

How about next time, you order pancakes? Because at an International House of Pancakes, they make pretty good pancakes. Note that the restaurant isn't called International House of Fish. Because they aren't known for their fish. They are known for their pancakes.

In America, we have room for - and need! - all variety of people and businesses. And no one should be all things to all people. You don't buy groceries at a Jiffy Lube.

Let's try to embrace folks for the special gifts they bring to the table. Because sometimes, what they bring to the table are light and fluffy pancakes that will fill your belly with joy.

And IHOP? Take the tilapia off the menu. Stick to your strengths. Because that fish smelled rank.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I am having a bloody mary on a Thursday morning and I don't care who knows.

My Guy and I have been rehabbing a house. Not our house. Our rental house. The house he lived in before we got married, the house we couldn't sell during the recession and so have been renting for lo these long six years. The house we very much want to sell now.

The tenants left the house ... asunder? That's too Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-musical kind. Trashed? That sounds a bit too punk rock. Lemme put it this way: In the midst of arguing with my husband about why she should get the entirety of her deposit back, the tenant mentioned off-hand, as you do, that her 4-year-old had been using the carpet in one of the bedrooms as a toilet.

She wants her deposit back. Every last cent.

Holes in walls. A youngster who is now evidently quite adept at signing his name, seeing as how he practiced - in marker - on most of the walls in the house. Trash, trash everywhere.
Nothing to see here. Just a wall. Like all the other walls.
We are doing most of the work ourselves. Everything takes longer than we think it will. And the work we are contracting out costs more than originally anticipated. Like, say, the floors. Why, just this morning, the flooring crew showed up and informed us that instead of taking one day, the job would take three. And they'll need to remove the kitchen cabinets, even though the new countertop was just installed. (You know, the countertop we had to replace because the tenant didn't think the leaky kitchen faucet was worth mentioning, but the entire counter ended up rotten and moldy? That countertop?) Oh, and this whole deal will move the carpet install back anywhere from three days to a week. And this whole thing will cost us 1500 more American dollars.

I broke. I'm day drinking.

I'm trying to view this as some sort of lesson. Mostly, the lesson seems to be, "Don't anyone make fun of me when I randomly clean because that is the only thing that separates us from savages. The lack of deep grime is what differentiates women from beasts."
I've been trying to look kindly upon our tenants. If you don't come from a clean home, I guess you don't know how to keep a clean home. Surely they have many other redeeming qualities.

Right now, the only redeeming qualities I have come up with are:
  • Don't have cats.
  • Didn't leave a sex dungeon for us to clean up.
I'm hoping this list will grow, but right now? It's what I've got.

Friday, May 26, 2017

I am old and I know things and let me tell you all the things. Also? Please think I'm cool.

It's graduation time and that means a lot of stuff.

Well-intentioned but obviously clueless relatives like me write things in graduation cards like, "It's been fun watching your track and cross country exploits from afar. We're so proud of you." When really, what I want to write is, "I know you hardly know who I am and that's OK. I'm your dad's cousin and you peed on me once when you were a baby. I think you're great. Here, have $50. Also? I get it. All graduation cards are lame. But I'm sooo cooooool, I swear!"

Well-intentioned but obviously old and creepy former babysitters like me do a little stalking. I found out that the two darling little girls that I took care of for years and whom I loved very much are both ... doctors. Like, in white coats and starting their residencies and able to deal with bodily functions. I reached out via Facebook in, again, a hopefully not lame-o manner. I got friendly responses, but also, they totally didn't remember me. Doctors are smart. Maybe they are just instinctively distancing themselves from someone who is clearly way old and out of touch. See also: I write lame graduation cards.

Well-intentioned but obviously Not Cool friends of your mom like me try to help new college grads get jobs and write overbearing emails with gems like, "Here, let me tell you everything about my city and you can live here, too! And there's an IKEA, so it will be easy to set up a new apartment and here, you can just have our dining room chairs and your mom is so great and I think this would be a great job for you and I totally get it because I'm young and hip like you."

Except I'm not.

I'm old.

Twenty years ago, I graduated from the University of Missouri. On Friday, I turned 22. On Saturday, I graduated. On Sunday, I drove to Indiana. On Monday, I interviewed at Notre Dame for a graduate assistantship in marketing for the athletic department.

I met with at least five different people, including a lovely woman who only wanted to talk about my upcoming trip to the UK. Then I visited with a funny and frank man who wanted to make sure I'd be OK with being asked to do stuff like attend mass in a hotel room because a priest traveled with the teams all the time.

My main contact was a guy who was a little frazzled, which was accentuated by the fact that his linen pants were torn and held together at the hip with a safety pin (Really? Your football program brings in how much money? Even newly 22-year-old me was slightly offended.). He promised to be in touch within a week. The entire interview went well. I felt really positive about it, even though a security guard wouldn't let me drive through campus because I didn't have the right sticker. Whatever. It was cool.

Friends, I am still up for that job. Despite numerous follow-ups on my part (via phone, because not everyone had e-mail and so I had to call and leave actual voice messages and risk talking to a real human), I never heard from any of those people ever again. I can only assume that the job is still open and I'm still a viable candidate. I could be called upon to move to South Bend at any moment! They might ask me to get a tattoo of Touchdown Jesus to show my dedication to the job and the school - who knows?

Maybe I'm living a fantasy. Or maybe people should just send the damned "Thanks but no thanks" letter so some of us don't put our lives on hold for 20 years.

Here's the thing. You write the note - be it for graduation or to say thanks or to offer a helping hand - for one reason and one reason alone. You might be thinking, "Of course! Do unto others!" And that sounds nice and probably should be the right answer, but no. No, the correct answer is that you write the note so that you can keep buying pretty stationery. Also, so you can feel morally superior. But mostly so you can buy more stationery.