Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What's wrong with this picture?

Every morning the sun peeks through my blinds and I crack open one eye, my hand invariably fumbling on the night table for my alarm clock. Of course, I already know the alarm didn't go off, because I can hear my children down the hall squabbling. I crane my head and listen for the sounds of bloodshed, while at the same time wondering why half my body is freezing and the other half is weighted down and sweating like a Turkish bath. It's then I realize the two dogs have somehow wormed their way onto the bed, and have nestled themselves snugly into the space between me and my husband. I'm pinned into place by three snoring bodies, all of whom growl at any attempt I make to move them.

You gotta ask yourself, "What's wrong with this picture?"

If you're anything like me, your ordinary day probably starts in a similar way. Oh, the characters and culprits may vary, but the basic plot remains the same. The same question reverberates from households across the country the minute the gun goes off at the gate.

I get out of bed and stumble into the bathroom, children and dogs close on my heels. It's as if a radar blip has gone off throughout the house, letting everyone know my proximity and that I'm doing something that requires privacy. I can envision mothers universally nodding their heads in solidarity.

There's an unwritten rule somewhere that we're not allowed to pee or chat on the phone or check our email by ourselves. Almost as if they're afraid we'll never come out once we lock the door behind us. My guess is that's closer to the truth than they'd care to admit. I mean, have your kids ever ventured to knock on the bathroom door while their father is sequestered inside? In my house, the roof would have to be on fire first.

The morning has now moved itself into the kitchen. Breakfast has been served and there's a sudden flurry of homework papers and folders in a last minute frenzy before the squeal of the bus is heard down the street. My husband is still upstairs, no doubt on the phone or doing something that requires adult thought, as I glance longingly at my computer and the emails waiting for me from my editor. Dish towel in hand, I wipe stray Cheerios and milk...emails left waiting, my latest deadline on hold and my muse forced to listen to muzak while I'm busy being Mom.

I used to joke with my girlfriends if you asked any successful woman what the difference was between them and a successful man, they'd answer...a wife. That, and of course the pay differential.

So, while my husband conducts business from the minute he steps foot out of bed, I'm left to conduct the business of the house like Toscanini in front of the New York Symphony Orchestra, my own work left waiting in the wings.

The kids rush off and I watch from the porch, a series of their I love you(s) still lingering in the air as they run for the bus. Closing the door behind me, I walk back into the kitchen for another cup of coffee, my eyes passing my office and my still quiet laptop. My husband smiles and winks at me over his own cup of joe, quietly handing me the drawing of our family our eight year old did in school the day before.

What's wrong with this picture?

Not a damn thing.

My inaugural post on my blog Madcap Moms...What's Wrong with this Picture April 10, 2011

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall...I Am My Mother After All

This Saturday night, my darling husband and I attended a Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser for a family we know affected by the disease. It was a wonderful event. Good food, good music, great friends and a fabulous cause...and of course, lots and lots of pictures.

That's when I realized things were no longer the same.

As we sat laughing and having a terrific time, camera phones were busy snapping candids and all was right with the world...that is until I hit the back button. I started scrolling through the pictures and found myself staring at the small lcd screen, the words "Oh my God, is that what I really look like?" reverberating from the walls of my brain.

Why is it men always seem to get better looking with age, but as a woman approaches the most vital, most productive, most creative time in her life, everything else seems to go south along with her boobs? It's the ultimate betrayal. Mother Nature's practical joke on womankind.

Sunday morning I got up and took inventory of my face. As I stared at myself in the mirror, it was the first time I saw shades of my mother looking back. The transformation isn't complete, but the outlines...along with the crows feet...are there. And for an urban fantasy author such as myself, it's shapeshifting in its most basic form.

Squaring my shoulders, I realized I had a choice. I could either view my newly discovered signs of aging as badges of honor or signs of decay. Which was it going to be?

Like with one of my stories, it became a matter of point of view, or as writers call it POV. Was I going to allow myself to wallow in what the world tells me is beautiful or was I going to do some world building of my own and create my own definition? So... Botox or battle scars?

For my own sake and for the sake of the two girls I am trying to raise 'till the day they find ME staring back at THEM from some mirror, I decided to place my bets on my own definitions. After all, words are my first line of defense, and whether or not they are on the written page or in the mantra I tell myself everyday, they are powerful.

I am powerful. I am beautiful. I am woman. What's your definition?

Ready, Set...GO!

Oh, how I used to love weekends. Especially Saturday. When I was younger I would look forward to Friday, to go out with my friends and sleep late the next day. Come afternoon I'd be on the phone, eagerly planning Saturday night and all its diversions. Sigh.

Now it seems weekends have become an extension of my work week, a time to play catch up for all the things I didn't have time to finish. As the oldest of four, I remember looking at my parents and thinking what a waste it was to spend the weekend running errands and kids around town, then watch in disgust as they parked themselves in front of the television after dinner like a couple of slugs. I promised myself that would never be me.


Fast forward a couple of decades and here I am. Slug city.

I have to admit sometimes it gets to me, but when I look around I realize I'm not missing anything. There was a time and a place in my life for all that "fun", and the nostalgia I sometimes feel is nothing more than glory days popping in to play head games.

I used to think it was just guys who had glory day withdrawals. The thrill of carousing with their friends, the all night parties and the stories that would rival the movie, The Hangover, but women have them too, they just take a different form.

We browse through the racks with our teenage daughters in stores with names like Forever 21 and Hot Topic and we sigh, remembering with fondness our own miniskirts and midriffs. We shop for bathing suits and wonder just when it was we inherited our mother's thighs and all the jiggly bits that go along with them. We sigh again and stoically reach for the age appropriate rack.


So, in our youth obsessed culture, what's a mature woman to do? Raid our daughters' closets in a pathetic attempt to hang on to our youthful self image or head straight for polyester pantsuits and boxy shirts that scream our descent into middle age?

Truth is, the choice doesn't have to be either. Smart, savvy women learn to work it at any age. And by working it I'm not talking about doing the shimmy without the benefit of underwire. No, what I mean is owning your own self worth. To accept who you are, that you're seasoned not sagging and that life experience is a currency no twenty-something can spend.

We need to remind ourselves that women are glorious at any age: in our perky, yet naive twenties, our ambitious thirties, our confident and successful forties or our fabulously finessed fifties, and so on and so forth.

As we head into our jam-packed weekends full of lacrosse games and hockey tournaments, dry cleaners and supermarkets, make sure to take the time to look around. Smile, and realize you're still you, regardless of pant size.

Originally posted on my blog Madcap Moms...What's Wrong with this Picture May 27 2011

Stop Complaining and just Enjoy the View

For the last couple of days I feel like I'm living in that Progresso soup commercial...the one where the wife calls the company to complain her husband looks like he did twenty years ago since eating their light version. Striking a pose, the husband then picks up the extension and tells her to stop complaining and to just enjoy the view... gaak!

My own darling man just took off twenty pounds and he did it in a little over six weeks. I know. You don't have to say it because I want to slap him too. sigh 

So why am I so pissed off? He looks great. I mean GREAT...yet he's still the same loving, attentive man he's always been. His little makeover didn't change him, so why is it changing me?

Two words. I'm jealous.

As sad as that is, it's the God's honest truth. I mean as women we self sabotage all the time, even if we don't want to admit it. We see a friend we haven't seen in a long time and they look toned and terrific and while we are genuinely happy for them, we secretly hope to find they're wearing Spanx or had liposuction. We don't want to look in the mirror someone else's hard work holds up to our face.

But it's not just women. We're all guilty of this kind of destructive emotion in some way. It's part of the human condition, but what separates us is the way we handle it. So I guess I'm going to put down the donuts and put on my sneakers and hit the treadmill.

...and when my husband comes home tonight I'm going to do more than just enjoy the view!

Originally posted on my blog Madcap Moms...What's Wrong with this Picture July 15 2011

Show me the love...please!

February is usually a feel good kind of a month. At least for me. There's Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, and spring is on the horizon. But this year, it was a little harder to muster up the warm fuzzies.

It seems everywhere I go these days, people have forgotten the basic rule of treat others the way you want to be treated or my mother's favorite, if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all.

It seems this way of thinking has become pervasive, from impatience on supermarket checkout lines, to the mean spirited dialogue written for characters on TV, to the God-awful comments people leave anonymously on the internet.

I spend my days creating characters that are independent and strong, yet still compassionate. I pour myself into how I craft their nature, developing them into three-dimensional characters, tested and pushed, but still finding strength within to hold onto their humanity. However, in the real world lately, I've had a hard time convincing myself goodwill isn't dead and buried somewhere under a headstone that reads, "Here lies the Humanity." An illusion that no longer exists.

People will say, "Well, you're from New York, what did you expect to find? Please, excuse me and thank you?" This antagonistic apathy isn't something limited to my cynical city. It's all over and I don't know what to do about it. What's worse, I see it popping up in the school my children attend, in the way the kids speak to each another. Of course, the reason is they're mimicking what they hear and see around them.

As a society, have we become so soulless that our idea of humor is so entrenched in the self-serving, the lines between mean-spirited and funny are forever blurred? And where is it written it's acceptable to leave non-substantive yet hurtful commentary all over the internet and that today it's not only expected, it's considered ratings worthy?

Part of me cringes, because I know I sound like my grandparents back in the day when they protested that Rock-n-Roll Rubbish. However, in this case, it I don't think  this is so much a shift in freedom of expression as much as a blatant disregard for common respect, consideration and right vs. wrong.

Some argue this is fallout from not enough accountability and too much entitlement. And while I don't know about that, I do believe the warning signs are flashing red. Perhaps it's not as bad as my experiences this past month have made it seem, and there are people out there who still believe you go farther with a kind word than a nasty one, and that a job well done is worth the effort you put in. One can only hope. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Originally posted on my blog "Madcap Moms...What's Wrong with this Picture?' February 26, 2012

Where has the time gone?

It seems like yesterday my kids were these delicious little gremlins, reminiscent of cute Anne Geddes photographs as they sat in their strollers, and everything I needed to keep them happy and safe was in a compact diaper bag.

But, like everything else in life, things change...

Somewhere along the line, I traded in my diaper genie for a chauffeur's cap and joined the ranks of other suburban moms ferrying their children around from place to place. Oh, the destinations changed as the years flew by, moving from kiddie parties and mite hockey games to, "Just drop me off at the mall," and "Mom, I need a new dress for the dance," and "My hockey team is going to Lake Placid to skate the Olympic ice!"

However, all of that pales in comparison the day they turn to you and ask,"Mom, can you teach me to drive?"

If you're like me, you pretend you didn't hear them. Of course, the reality is you did hear them, but your head is swimming and you're suddenly incapable of coherent speech. You muster every conceivable argument you can find to try and stave off the inevitable, but it's a lost cause. Life just took sharp curve and pushed you out of the driver's seat...literally.

As you fight panic, along with nausea and nail-biting at the fear of everything that can and will go wrong, you stop and take a deep breath.You look at your child and find yourself muttering about where time has gone, baffled at how your beautiful, little baby grew into this gorgeous teenager, ready to take the helm and start their own life's journey.

And then it hits you. Besides the worry churning in your stomach, a cold reality dawns it is no longer your time, but theirs. The spotlight has shifted and you've been directed to exit stage right. It's a sobering moment. For me, my maternal worry was followed by an immediate sense of loss, of suddenly not being needed, of growing old. But I looked at my kids and amazingly it dissipated, replaced by an overwhelming sense of pride and unconditional love.

I guess this is what my parents meant when they said, "One day you''ll understand."

The truth of it is we were all on that same threshold at some point. Every one of us has war stories and glory days, and most of us can easily recall our own teenage battle cries, our zest for life in all its forms, regardless of consequence. The memories maybe soft and hazy with nostalgia, but catch yourself talking with friends, especially ones who knew you when, and watch the smiles blossom. They might be embarrassed, 'what was I thinking' sort of smiles, but still chuckle-worthy.

Now it's our children poised at the starting gate and no matter how much our fingers clutch at the air, we need to let them go. We need to have faith in them and in the lessons we've taught, however flawed. It's their time. Their rite of passage. We need to let them sound their own battle cry and run, fists raised into life, to make their own mistakes, their own memories, and all we can do is pray they don't get caught in the crossfire.

I taught my kids everything, from how to talk and walk, to how to reach for their dreams. It may no longer be my time in the spotlight, but it's certainly my time to watch my children soar, knowing I'll always be there for them regardless of the thuds along the way.

Originally posted on my blog 'Madcap Moms...What's Wrong with this Picture' April 17 2012

Men...Can't live with 'em, just can't shoot 'em.

The Forrester Sisters had a terrific song out a few years ago, with the best line I've heard in a long time. Men, can't live with 'em, just can't shoot 'em. Ladies, if you've been married for more than a few years, you know what I'm talking about. Oh, it's more than just a Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus thing... hell, sometimes I swear we aren't even part of the same solar system.

The realization dawned on me not too long after the birth of our first child. Now granted, this was almost twenty years ago, and the title of new parent applied as much to my DH (Darling Husband) as it did to any new father, but I remember this one poignant moment like it was yesterday. That day, I asked DH to pack the diaper bag for a family outing we had to attend. It was to be an all day affair and I had errands to run right before we had to leave. I'm sure I don't have to go into detail as to what essentials were missing, just use your imagination and picture your own face when you unzipped the diaper bag at a crucial moment and then needed to explain why more than one diaper was necessary to the skeptical face on the man standing over you.

Fast forward ten years. I'm sitting with a friend at lunch and she relates a story that had me both laughing and shaking my head. The feeling of been there, done that, resonated like church bells on Christmas...not in its specifics, but in the truth of just how 'real' it all is when it comes to the differences between the sexes. She had just come home from a day of errands, leaving her two children home with her DH for the better part of the day. He was in the yard, the house looked like a Nabisco Snack Factory exploded in the kitchen, and the kids were still in their pajamas. Dumbfounded, she walked out the back and ventured the question, "What happened today?"

"Whaddya mean?"
"Honey, the house is a disaster and the kids are still in their pajamas, what do you think I mean? Did you even give them lunch?" Her voice raising half an octave.
He shook his head.
"Why?" She asked, almost afraid of his answer.
He shrugged. "I wasn't hungry."

We've all had moments like this and the combined experiences have led my sisters and I to coin the acronym, OMC. Oxygen Mask Club. We firmly believe all men belong to this club in varying degrees of membership. But why Oxygen Mask Club? What does oxygen have to do with the differences between the way men and women view the world? It's simple. Picture an airplane. Everyone is seated and awaiting take off and per FAA safety protocol, flight attendants stand mid-aisle giving their pre-flight safety demonstration. At one point they hold up their hand and simulate oxygen masks dropping from ceiling compartments and what do they instruct next? For passengers to always "fit his/her OWN oxygen mask BEFORE assisting anyone else."

Need I say more?

While most men, my DH included, are loving, caring, responsible men who would give their lives for their families, they are nonetheless connected at different times, in one way or another, with the OMC. So, the next time your DH leaves you with an expression of stunned disbelief, just laugh and remember he may be a charter member of the club. I swear some days my own is the Grand Poo-bah of them all, but I love him dearly, regardless. ;)

Originally posted on my blog 'Madcap Moms...What's Wrong with this Picture' April 23, 2012