Fantasy Football

After bursting out of the Packer closet with my green and gold #4 pasties on, I find myself quickly picking up my confetti-littered clothes, and tiptoeing backwards into the closet, quietly mumbling a few “excuse me’s” and “pardon me…” along the way. 

I’m not going to get into it because plenty of my fellow fans have. And I know everyone is getting a liiiitle sick of the story. At least, they should be, my God. 

All I’m sayin’ is the warm feelings of contentedness that I had envisioning Mr. Favre riding off into the Mississippi sunset on his riding lawnmower have been caught in the blades and splattered all over the flower beds.

Ok, I’m not in that much pain, (I mean seriously, it’s a game played by millionaires, my woe about his trade only cuts so deep), but I had to work with the lawnmower reference.

So after some reflection, I have come to a decision as to what I want to see this season. I want both Rodgers and Favre to do incredibly well. Rodgers will be the New Coming, a football messiah with freakishly magical skills. Favre will prove to be a modern-day William Wallace, pumping life and blood and grit back into the battle-weary Jets. It will be a riveting, nail-biting, adrenaline-pumping, exhilarating season watching both men claw their way to the top of the pile. Yes, it will be the Best Season Ever in the History of the World. Both teams will make it to the SuperBowl for the final showdown. Everyone will be on the edge of their seats. 

And then Rodgers will kick Favre’s ass. My apologies to my sweet baboo, but no matter how much I enjoy watching Mr. #4 and his well-formed posterior, I will always root for the Cinderella story. Especially one that is seasoned with a little sweet revenge.  

Besides, I gotta live here. And there ain’t nuthin’ worse than spending a long Wisconsin winter with a bunch of crabby cheeseheads.

Emailers Anonymous

Our Internet has been iffy lately. I have had access to my hotmail and could read my messages, but lately it has decided to take it’s smoke breaks during my attempts to reply. It would always return, however begrudgringly, back to work. 

The other day, I trudged upstairs, balancing my daily cup of joe in one hand, reaching for my chair with the other before my bounding, and obviously more-of-a-morning-person-son, could beat me to it. I turned on my computer with my toe and waited for it to warm up, feeling jovial enough to scoop the wiggling child onto my lap to wait with me.

I was completely denied. My husband troubleshot here and there, clicking on all sorts of updates and Internet cleansers, but to no avail. He shut down both computers, rambling on about changes to a firewall something or other and declared, “Don’t even bother trying to get on, you’ll just get frustrated.” He left for work, leaving me standing there with an empty mug and a cold heart.

My name is Amy. And I am an Internet junkie. Hello Amy. It’s been ten years since I started using. Since then, I check my email daily, if not three or four times a day. Ok…maybe more…I’m still in denial. And its not just email. I do it all. I MUST check my blog stats, do a little bump of research, take a sip out of my Wetpaint pages, a couple hits off other’s blogs, oh, and the shared photos Snapfish account, free base the news headlines, maybe lace it with a little celebrity gossip…and ohmigod, the weather, WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER? I may start convulsing.

I have always had an obsession with communication. Plain and simple, I am a highly communicative person. I am, at times, overly communicative. Just ask anyone who has had the pleasure of my company. Before computers, it was the phone. When I was in junior high I began to fixate on the telephone. I could talk for hours. If I was waiting for a call, or even thought I should be getting a call, I would stare at the phone, willing it to ring using my highly untrained Jedi mind tricks. Limited or no access to the phone left me uneasy and incomplete. In need of a fix.

I didn’t listen to my husband. I had to confirm at least three times (okay, maybe more…) that day that yes, indeed, I still had no access to any of the above. He knows me well, I became frustrated. I was listless, incomplete. It was a full Day Without Access.

Obviously, in reading this, you can see we are back in the land of the surfing. (my husband still has “Wind Beneath My Wings”  ringing in his ears) I could tell you all the things I got done in The Day Without Access. I could go on about the quality of family life without the distractions of technology. How The Day Without Access served as a little wake-up call as to how reliant on the Internet I’ve become. That I now spend the days doing nothing frivolous, but improving myself, my household and my community. 

OR, I could be grateful for the tool that allows me to start projects, write, keep in touch with friends and family who live thousands of miles away, educate my son with interesting facts at our fingertips, provide me with a much-needed escape, and help us prepare for rain.

Yes, I think I’ll pick the latter. Why deny who I am? My name is Amy, and I am a proud and proficient user of the Internet.

Now I better go check the weather. There’s an exciting front moving in.

I’m Sorry, We Don’t Do High-Fives

Due to a series of twists and turns in my early twenties, I found myself residing in sunny San Diego. For five years, I regularly watched the sunset over the Pacific, kept the windows of my pumpin’ ’85 Nissan Sentra rolled down in the middle of winter, and fell deeply, wholeheartedly in love with sushi. But living in paradise comes with a cost. And my trade-off was enduring the annoying, steady stream of high-fives.

The high-five has a brief, understudied, but witty history. I won’t go into details here, but if you’ve got too much time on your hands, as I apparently do, check out this or this for your high-five education.

I’m not an athlete, and I was never in a club with a secret handshake. I never grew up in a family that said “Dude, that was totally AWEsome!” after a proud moment. We simply weren’t the high-fivin’ kind. But certainly even I could understand a victory high-five after a half-court shot that wins the game. Or a good-natured high-five when a friend shares some great news. 

Yet I had embedded myself into the land where a hand is lifted no matter what the celebration. People raised their hands up like a free-for-all. For good, not great, news. For the decision to purchase another beer. “Dude…!” Anytime I said something funny. “Dude….!” And I stood out as a fairly funny person in those parts. So I don’t think I got through an entire conversation in that town without having to slap a hand, if not several times. Some of my acquaintances should have just propped up their hand in an automatic high-five position, because it was as constant as a laugh track in a bad sitcom.

Yes, I grew weary of the high-five. I am guilty of leaving people hanging. My friends who knew me well, knew not to high-five me and enjoyed watching my looks of discomfort if cornered by a particularly eager high-fiver. I even reached a point where I risked being a flat-out bitch by either ignoring the palm that faced me, waiting for my smack, or by waving it away and muttering, “Ugh…no high fives”.  

Alas, parenthood finds me revisiting my old ghosts and I must comply with the social pressure to high-five again. Through other adult and peer influences, my son is receiving and expecting props after sports-related and other victories. I know the high-five, or derivative thereof, is the cultural norm, particularly for the male species. (Unless you live in San Diego, where it’s frequency is shared lovingly between the genders). Learning to high-five is a rite of passage for little dudes everywhere. What kind of mother would I be sending him off to school without any practice? Or to teach him and his little friends that in this family, we don’t do high-fives, because his mother had some bad experiences in the San Diego bar scene.

It seems there is no escape. So my plan is to bring back the low-five. Whatever happened to the low-five? Its much more subtle, can be done quietly and gracefully, keeping the hands at waist level or even lower, rather than the fanfare of flashing your hand close to or above your head, calling attention to your eager face. Flapping in a breeze of painful embarrassment if left hanging. Don’t leave me hanging….

Yes, if all goes according to my plan, a new generation of fresh victories will be celebrated with the much cooler, calmer low-five. It’s like a whisper….Dude.

Mrs. Fay

 I’ve always wondered what went through her mind the night she met us. What churned in her brain as she smiled across the Manitowoc Pizza Hut table at two pubescent girls in braces who had entered a fit of age-inappropriate giggling and were now trying to hide under the table? Now what did I get myself into? 

I concluded that my dad’s new girlfriend was cool from the git go. Maybe it was her little red Honda Civic with the New Mexico license plates and wooden bead seat covers. Maybe because I thought she was sort of hippy-ish, and clearly more interesting than the average bear walking around the small town where I grew up. She was a vegetarian, and that was definitely exciting. 

But I know it was her smile. A ray of sunshine. You couldn’t not like her.    

Then she won me over with her genuine interest in life. Her curiosity about people. Her intrigue with the odd. Her patience with and love for my dad. And us. The way she pointed out a speck of a highlight in the most mundane. The way she quickly shakes her fists and exclaims, “Eeeeee!”, when thrilled. The flash of spiky blonde and the swirl of colors that she wears. The way she remains classy when the rest of us don’t.      

I knew she was cool, years later, when we stumbled through the Greek ruins of humble homes, chose a foundation to lie on and stared at the millions of stars because ample amounts of retsina and red wine severely hampered our astrological skills in reading the glow-in-the-dark constellation map. We relied on our blurry eyes to scan the skies for Greek gods and shooting stars who could fulfill our so very many wishes, spoken and unspoken. She was with me at that dark moment. My spiky blonde spot of hope.

And that’s her. She’s one of my favorite people, because she always gives me hope.  

Yes, I would say my father is a good picker. I really lucked out in the stepparent department because my mom picked well too, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Today, it’s about her. Because today is her birthday. And I wanted her to know I still think she is pretty darn cool.

Happy Birthday to you Mrs. Fay.

The Strength to Learn

I don’t engage in deep political discussions too often because, basically, I don’t want to look stupid. I’m not a buffoon; I can generally speak to the current state of affairs and have a good idea where I stand on most issues and why. But when trying to follow conversations with political analysis prodigies who can drop names, dates, cite statistics and have an esoteric but completely poignant quote from a 19th century philosopher on the ready, I come off looking like Barney Fife.

But I recently had a debate with a close friend that had me clearing my throat and shuffling my debate papers. In a tiny nutshell, we disagreed on a chain email she had sent me. And because I initially had the privilege of arguing in my preferred form of a written response, (you get a moment to clear your head and do some research) I dove in.  

For the record, my friend and I bat for different political teams. We have some messy boundaries, but it’s pretty clear we’re voting quite differently behind the little curtain. And for two people who don’t often engage in conversations that reveal that blatant and potentially conflicting difference between us, I would say that we handled our debate with grace. Ok, so we’ve been friends for 27+ years and our sons and husbands play well together. But to our credit, I think it has more to do with our ability, and flexibility, to keep it smart and respectful. Of course, this speaks to how incredibly wise and cool we are.

The art of debating, at every level, seems endangered. I realize now that the debate class required for my major taught me some of the best lessons in life. If you’re going to run off your mouth, you better have something legitimate to stand on, even if it’s wobbly. Consider your sources and pick good ones. Don’t go off on vaguely related tangents or you will lose your audience. Speak only to the degree that you know your shit, or it will quickly become apparent that you are lost. And if you want to maintain some integrity, no personal attacks.

But as I have noticed on message boards and in comments to other bloggers (as well as from my own Feral Cat Controversy) no one follows those rules. We would rather remain inflexible. Stick to your agenda regardless of any new information to the contrary. Continue to swamp message boards with the same point repeated eight different ways. (yes, we heard you…stop typing) Attack the character of the person who god forbid, disagrees with you. Say things you’re too chicken to say out from under the safe guise of your username.

Now, I’m not claiming to be the most well-mannered arguer. I’ve stooped, oh yes. But it WAS nice to disagree with a friend because neither one of us spit out extremist dialogue. We were willing to listen. We may not have convinced each other but I did learn a few things. I did critically rethink how and why I stand where I do. It’s always nice to exercise the old rationale.

Ultimately, It’s hard for me to listen to anyone who is extremely anything…right, left, religious, angry, happy, hippy, or horny, because they allow the extreme to define who they are as a person and what comes out of their mouth. I like continuum scales. I like blends and shades and complicated layers. I respect people who are strong enough to change their minds.

So I may risk revealing my political weaknesses and start to engage in more debates. Because the flexible and willing to learn are sorely misrepresented out there.  

In Defense of the Popcorn Clutching Sisterhood

A few days ago, Judith Warner wrote a post called Women in Charge/Women Who Charge in her Domestic Disturbance blog for the NY Times. She examines the current environment in which the downfall of Hillary Clinton’s campaign can occur simultaneously with the popularity of the Sex and the City movie. And in referring to the movie as “bubbling idiocy”, this is a co-existance that apparently displeases her.

She first recommends a video that compiles much of the sexist media circus surrounding Clinton’s campaign. I loved/hated the video and recommend it as well. I was well aware of the anti-Hillary attacks throughout her campaign, but this is a sickening and powerful anti-tribute to the reality of how far we haven’t come as women.

BUT, I do take issue with coupling a discussion of the climate of Hillary’s candidacy with the fame of Sex and the City. If the movie were a particularly fluffy and unrealistic storyline about a female politician, I could understand the critique. But to question the attractiveness of this movie with the insinuation that it is the downfall of intelligent female culture (“when ‘angry’ is out and Restalyne is in”) is, in my opinion, as direct of an attack against women as calling Mrs. Clinton a bitch.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did watch several episodes of the series. Despite the obvious lack of representation of women of color and the lower/middle class, they were spot on about relationships or lack there of, about emotions, and spoke frankly about a women’s role in sex. I liked the show. I wasn’t alone.   

Why? Although it does not meet all the requirements of a soap opera, Sex and the City may be loosely classified as such. There is a narrative link between episodes, and viewers understand and enjoy each episode based on their knowledge of the characters from previous episodes. Each episode leaves some loose ends. We come back for more.

A “woman’s” genre, the soap opera originated with the radio dramas of the 1930s. Soap operas are the most popular genre of television in the world, and probably in the history of world broadcasting. And like most soap operas, stories like Sex and the City come with a bad rep. They carry a “cultural and aesthetic label of being inconsequential and unworthy”. It is assumed, (usually by those who don’t watch the shows), that the audience has superficial tastes and limited capacities. It appears Judith Warner assumes this about the “popcorn clutching sisterhood” who flocked to see Sex this summer.

What she may not know is that soap operas are defined as one of the most “narratively complex genres” of drama, have consistently appealed to their audiences for over 70 years, cut across social and demographic lines, have demonstrated they are the “most effective and enduring broadcast advertising vehicle ever devised” and are proven to be the “extraordinarily malleable and responsive to a wide variety of local institutional and social requirements”. Perhaps Clinton should have taken a few lessons from As the World Turns.

What Warner is denying is that women don’t always want to fight the power. We are well aware that sexism runs rampant in our world, that we still make 70% of what men do in parallel careers, and that we are one of the few developed nations left to elect a female leader. We COULD be angry all the time, if focusing on the ever-dismal political and social climate of our time. But we are so very busy working, studying, running households, raising children, dealing with faulty toilets, educating ourselves, getting our families, our businesses, and our lives organized, walking the dog, staying healthy, running errands, and maintaining relationships. Most of us ARE working hard to positively impact our lives, even if it’s only within our own realm. And we will stop, thank god, for a minute to breathe and see how Carrie Bradshaw is faring.

Because Sex and the City is a guilty pleasure. For hundreds of thousands of women. Highly intelligent, liberal Hillary-voting women. Well-spoken Republican women. Single mothers. Cosmo sipping AND beer guzzling women. Women working on their GEDs. Wal-Mart employees. Strippers. We come in all shapes and sizes and political commentary is not always our forte. Most of us can’t even afford Blahniks and Botox. We go to the movie in wrinkles, Target and New Balance.

And what we do for pleasure should not be a commentary on our intelligence.

We are drawn to the characters that have been so entertainingly developed. They are over-the-top, fictional characters, not us. But we like watching them. It is a show that speaks to us about struggling with companionship. Aging. Being single. Being married. Being sexy. Or being scared. Because yes, those are important topics in our lives too. It does not mean we are “dumbing down”. It means we are taking a break.  

And that, Ms. Warner, is exactly why Sex and the City  NEEDS to exist in the same environment as the misogynist climate of Clinton’s campaign. And why stories like it have endured the test of our rocky times.

Women discovered an effective escape into stories in the 1930s. And for over 70+ years, we have relied on them to take us away, if only for an hour or so, from the insanity that is our lives. 

Podunk Wisconsinites and the Feral Cat

In April 2005, my fine state supported a proposal to make feral cats an unprotected species, a classification that would allow them to be hunted and killed. Despite the fact that 51 of 72 counties in the state voted in favor of the proposal, Gov. Jim Doyle dampened our kitty killing spirits by claiming it was making Wisconsin a “laughingstock”.

A feral cat is a free-roaming, unowned and untamed domestic cat. These are not to be confused with stray cats, previously owned and lost, or the 80’s rockabilly band with pompadors. Raised without human contact, feral cats (not Brian Setzer) revert to a wild state and form colonies wherever food and shelter are available. One source cites that nearly 2 million free-range cats call Wisconsin home.

I would say approximately 10% of the WI feral cat population has established a thriving colony in my backyard and intend to become a fully independent state.

We enjoyed their presence for a brief moment in history. We spotted one fluffy guy venture into our backyard and named him Sergeant Tibbs. We mused how he and our tortoise shell cat shared a forbidden loved despite the confines of her impenetrable window. The skittish black one with glowing eyes became Sneaky Pete. But wait, is that another Sneaky Pete? That’s Sneaky Pete’s son, my child explained. Are there two or three orange cats? Five? We would crouch behind the lilacs like Dian Fossey in the bush, noting the habits and behaviors of about thirteen primitive cats.

But my husband lovingly built me two raised beds one Mother’s Day so that I could support my family’s diet with chemical-free vegetables. Upon digging, I soon came up with a handful of cat crap. My beds had become giant litter boxes. The amount of cat shit found would trigger any normal gag reflex. Those with tender tummies would be vomiting by now.

I love cats. I normally don’t seethe with rage at Little Whiskers. But after flinging one last pile of poop into my neighbor’s yard, (my only logical military strike against the woman who’s been feeding them all winter) I was ready to start picking those critters off one by one with a shotgun I don’t even own. But I don’t live in South Dakota or Minnesota, where they are allowed to shoot feral cats. I had to resort to chicken wire to exclude the colony from full citizenship rights to my beds. My lovely little seedlings are now incarcerated.

Which led me to rethink this kitty huntin’ proposal. The Humane Society’s answer of Trap-Neuter-Release returns the feral cat back to its colony under the watch of a designated “caretaker”. I support this, as it works to some degree, but it doesn’t cut down on the number of birds killed in my backyard (in WI, 39 million per year perish in the jaws of the street-wise tabby) nor does it eliminate the dumping of toxic waste on my vegetables.

The Humane Society and Alley Cat Allies argue that the logic behind “if you don’t feed them, they’ll go away” is faulty. Feral cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food (!?!?) They tend to encroach closer into human habitations as they grow more desperate. Their malnourished condition makes them more susceptible to parasites, which they will spread. The cats will continue to reproduce despite the effort to “starve them out,” resulting in the visible deaths of many kittens. (Aaggh! Kitty deaths!) Keep feeding them, they say.

On the other hand, others say feeding strays maintains high densities of cats that kill and compete with native wildlife populations. Cat colonies will form around sources of food and grow to the limits of the food supply. You can’t realistically trap and neuter all wild cats to the point where you control the population. Colonies can grow to include dozens of animals, who will then eat smaller native species and dump on my vegetables. Ever hear of toxoplasmosis?

In reflecting on my feral cat situation, I am riled by the thought that Doyle was worried about being a “laughingstock”, insinuating the proposal was created by backcountry simpletons. So what else is new? As a Wisconsin native who lived outside of the motherland for eleven years, I experienced a widespread, ignorant opinion that most Wisconsinites were less civilized and unintelligent, usually based solely on our accent. The movie Fargo, although not even filmed in Wisconsin, did nothing to help my cause. Even my closest, most liberal friends think its hilarious to point out how “incorrectly” we speak, but wouldn’t dream of doing so to any other ethnic group. 

Are there ignorant rednecks in Wisconsin? Absolutely. But believe me, yahoos are alive and well EVERYWHERE. I recall finding it annoyingly humorous that my Californian hippy dippy friends would cut me down for the way I said “bagel” (and try to correct me as though I were a child learning to speak) in the same breath that they’d tell me they don’t listen to or read the news because its just The Man talkin’. But you didn’t find me driving all the way from Santa Cruz to the Grand Canyon only to find the park closed during the federal government shutdown of 1995. Hey, I warned them. I read it in the newspaper. Now hand me my baaagel.

But I digress. Back to feral cats. When taking this proposal out of context, you may find the Conservation Congress, the independent group that advises the state Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources, seem a bit like podunk fools. But some quick research on feral cats, (what fun!) and any educated reader would see the proposal was an attempt to educate and alert cat owners. Congress Chairman Steve Oestreicher, clearly stated that people are overreacting (surprise, surprise) if they imagine hunters are going to grab their guns and go hunting cats willy nilly. “We are not advocating a hunting season or the shooting of cats,…this is really to get the attention of the pet owner that when you get tired of your cat, don’t take it out into the woods and dump it.”  Makes sense to me. Eight of my childhood cats were acquired through neighborly cat dumping, not to mention the four or five we took to the Humane Society because we were at our household feline limit. Never have to pay money for a good cat in these parts.

And the U.S. spends over $50 million a year to shelter wild cats. Hmmm…and that ’05 education-oriented  proposal was idiotic?   

If this proposal would have passed, I doubt I would be the person sitting on my back porch with a rifle across my lap waiting for the little buggers to get into close range. But these days, I ain’t going to blame the person who would like to exercise their right to grow shit-free lettuce. Family health trumps wild kitty.  

So time will tell if feral cats will rule the world. If you are a feral cat lover, I suggest on October 16th, National Feral Cat Day (yes, there is one) you take a trip to Rome, (its population has been estimated to be between 250,000 and 350,000, organized in about 2,000 colonies), or a Greek holiday, where the affection for the stray feline remains strong. I’ve been there. Its not cute. Its gross. And watch out, if the origins of our modern civilizations started there, why can’t theirs?

Terrorists be damned, it’s the dawn of the feral cat. They are organizing, I tell you, revolution is near.  

All Grown Up

While in the process of “staging” my home for the impending Big Sell, I decided that a nice bedspread for the master bed was essential. We did some quality work renovating that room, so the old-dog-paw-hair-infested-once-puke-brown-then-dyed-blue piece of crap we call the Sophie Sheet just won’t fly at the Open House.

 I’ve always had a Sophie Sheet. I’ve never owned an official bedspread. My parents never splurged for the matching set of cartoon bedding. And I’ve never considered myself the “matching set type”. From college on, I’ve always bought king-sized sheets in nice, bold colors to not only to spruce up any sparsely furnished roach-infested apartment, but to protect other bedding from Sophie’s shed and paw residue.

 Now keeping Sophie OFF  the bed isn’t an option. As a half-assed disciplinarian, I crumbled one particularly cold New Mexican winter night in a mildly heated (roach-infested) apartment and called my little 6 mo. old snuggler into bed, letting her burrow down at my feet like a little lump of toasty coal. We were both happier, and have been enjoying this sleeping arrangement for the last nine years. Oh, she’s been demoted to the foot of the bed now. She actually used to sleep alongside me, making appropriate use of the pillow. Jeff saw to her reduction in the bed ranks after his attempts to completely banish her failed. She’ll protest with low groans now and again when having to, god forbid, shift her body to avoid our tossing and turning feet, but she’s still one happy sleeping pups.

 But even pre-Sophie, I had a Kitty Sheet. Yes, I got a lot of mileage out of my bold king-sized sheets. Oh they work wonders as couch covers as well. Such clever yet frugal fashion.

 But its time. Its time for a big girl cover. One that says, hey, I’m worth something solid. Something quality. Something that doesn’t say penny-pinching, incense burning, thrift store decorator. Nothing fancy, just a good deal. But good deals eluded me.

Normal bedspreads, as it turns out, are no cheap fix. I was willing to see what I could find at Goodwill, had my husband not visually demonstrated some repulsion at the thought. And after parting with another round of dollars at Home Depot, it seemed that a fresh, bold new king-sized sheet might step up to the plate and serve its dutiful purpose once again.  

Lo, the skies opened and the angels sang above the back wall in the Kohl’s Bedding Dept. today, where we happened to take a peek before fulfilling our mission to finally buy poor Jeff some new work pants… There it was, an entire wall of four-piece bedding sets, normally priced at $99 now on sale for (dramatic pause) $18.99. We were so excited, we bought two pairs of khaki’s in celebration.

 I have never owned a bed skirt. Or a sham. We didn’t even know what a “sham” was. I now own two shams. We now keep peeking back into the bedroom to look at our new toy. Ah, so pretty. Jeff calls it Asian Delight. I’m going with Regal Asian because the colors and designs suggest royalty. We feel official. We feel a little more adult. And with Regal Asian on our side, I think we can hold our own in this world. 

 Of course my five-year old begged to sleep in the newly adorned bed tonight. He’s already tested out its bounce factor. And of course, the Sophie Sheet will be tossed over it most of the time when we are not showing the house.

 Because really, no matter how official or adult you want to feel, how can you deny a happy sleeping pups?   

Reading Lessons

The Big Shop is a long, drawn-out process that entails buying items up and down every aisle of the grocery store because you are down to one can of garbanzos and some frozen rhubarb at home. The Big Shop with a five-year old involves time, patience, a positive attitude and a baggie full of snacks.

Today I was upbeat and headache-free, so the Big Shop was moving along successfully. As we debated whether or not to splurge on a luxury cheese, I glanced over at the deli and saw a young Goth guy wearing a black t-shirt with red blood dripping letters that read: “F**K THE WORLD AND F**K YOU TOO”. Except on his shirt, the asterisks weren’t there.  

Really? F**k ME too? Nice. And the afternoon had been so pleasant. Now THIS guy is mad at me, and all I wanted was a little queso manchego.

Now I’m fairly liberal when it comes to freedom of speech. And there have been days, okay, maybe a good year or so in my life when I would have worn that t-shirt myself with a snarl on my face. I used to wear all black when I was angry at the world too. Little extra eyeliner, ooh, that’ll show ‘em. I could never pull off the Goth look completely though, because my underlying perky interior would eventually seep through even the thickest layers of sulk. Despite my failed attempts at living on the fringe, I always secretly found these dark and foreboding characters to be somewhat intriguing.

But today the attire of this angst-ridden youth just pissed me off. Not because I’m shocked by the F-word, I use it all the time. I just don’t use it around my kid. Today, my opinion of angry slogans advertised on t-shirts has changed. Because today, I am also the parent of a kid who is learning to read.

This is a really cool thing to watch unfold, Quinn learning to read. He’s putting in a solid effort and I can almost hear the synapses firing as he sounds out a word. When he does so successfully, his whole face lights up. He’s so proud of himself.

I don’t want him to learn the F-word.

I don’t want him to learn to read, “F**K YOU TOO”, on a stranger’s shirt. That pseudo-anger against the world shouldn’t include my son. 

But someday he will. I did. So I can’t control that. I can’t control that someone else’s kid will decide to throw that t-shirt on so he can stick it to the man during his Thursday afternoon jaunt to the grocery store.

I would like to think that my little guy won’t grow up wanting to f**k the world. Who knows, someday I may find myself desperately trying to talk him out of buying an equally angry t-shirt.

But you can be damn sure that it will meet with an unfortunate laundering accident before our next Big Shop.       

Shock and Awe

Five years ago today marks the anniversary of my induction into labor. I knew deep in my heart and in the bellows my extended belly that my baby should stay put for two more weeks. Technically it was my due date, but I knew, two more weeks.

George Bush did not have two more weeks to wait for those elusive weapons of mass destruction. He did not have the patience for timing contractions, false labor, and short bursts of rapid breathing. He had to get his man, and the Pentagon obviously never received the logistics of my birth “plan”.  

See, many years prior to five years ago, my husband signed up for Bush’s plan, completely unaware that the call of fatherhood and the call of duty would happen at the same time. The commander-in-chief trumps pregnant lady. We induced so that my husband could call himself a father before he called himself a solider.

There is no describing the feeling of simultaneously anticipating the birth of your first child and the departure of your husband to war. It was the most painfully surreal week of my life. Shock and awe.

By the time we brought our newborn son home from the hospital, 83 troops were dead. 

My husband flew out the next day and didn’t see his little boy again for over a year. 

So as I reflect on this five-year anniversary with the rest of America, it is deeply personal more than it is political. I cannot separate the beginning of this war from the beginning of my son’s life. And it is unfair that my son’s birth story is also a war story.     

But when I see my husband help blow out the candles on my five-year old’s cake this Friday, I will be eternally grateful that Bush’s plan didn’t permanently screw with the other plans our family has made.  

So today, my heart goes out to my son, and my husband. But above all, it goes out to the almost 4,000 families that will serve one less birthday cake in their homes this year.