The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

The Power of The Ombre’

Me (seeing my sister walk out dressed for lunch and shopping last Sunday): I like your shirt. I was totally thinking about wearing a chambray shirt too, today. I’m glad I didn’t, that would have been awkward.

Sarah: This is a “chambray” shirt?

Me: Yeah, that’s what they call those thin denim shirts.

Sarah: Huh. Learn something new every day.

Sarah (later, at lunch): I’m like pretty bitter at JLaw right now ever since I cut my hair like hers and it turned out to be a super high maintenance hair cut that never looks anything like how she does it.

Me: I tried to tell you…

Sarah: YOU DID NOT. You said it was cute.

Me: I said it was a cute style, but that she has a team of people who do it for her.

Sarah: That sounded a lot like, ‘You should totally get yours cut like that’ to me.

Me: Next time I’ll be less diplomatic.

My mom: Sarah, you should get an ombre’. They’re like super in. You’d look really cute with one.

Sarah (rolling her eyes): Mom, my hair’s not long enough for an ombre’.

Me: It would be more of an ‘om’.

Me (later in the dressing room at Anthro): This is a really cute shirt, right? I should totally get it, shouldn’t I?

My mom: YES. It’s super you. You have to get it.

Me: And it’s a chambray! Sarah, we can still match!

Sarah: That’s not just a chambray. That’s an ombre’ chambray.

Me: OH MY GOD, YOU’RE RIGHT.

And that’s how I stumbled on to the secret mystical power of The Ombre’. It turns out, The Ombre’ has the ability to make anything it rhymes with significantly more awesome than it already was. I submit to you as evidence:

A chambray shirt + An ombre’

chambray-shirt                  ombre_hair

= An Ombre’ Chambray

chambray ombre

 

So much better, right? But wait, it doesn’t stop there:

Laundry + An ombre’

laundry                 ombre_hair

= Ombre’ Laundry

laundry ombre

An entree + an ombre’

entre                   ombre_hair

= An Ombre’ Entree

entre ombre

Andre* + an ombre’

andre                    ombre_hair

= An Ombre’ Andre

andre ombre

I know, right? I just blew your mind. This is a clear case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It may even work with things that don’t rhyme, but as this is untested, I can’t guarantee anything. Wield the power of the The Ombre’ wisely.

*Yes, this is a guy Jason used to work with who’s named Andre. No, I didn’t ask him if I could steal his picture off Facebook. Yes, I think he should be flattered I spent 2 hours photoshopping Christina Aguilera’s hair on to him.

Survival of the Circusiest

Have you guys heard? The preppers were right; the world is definitely descending in to chaos. This is it, guys. It’s the big one. I’ve seen not, one, but two signs of the apocalypse in the last 24 hours:

1. It’s raining like a whole lot in Phoenix. No, like really a ton. Things are getting super wet that are normally completely dry. People are freaking the eff out. My sister texted a picture of the orchestra pit in her auditorium at the school she’s an assistant principal at, full of water. Cars are under water on freeways. Most everyone I know is working from home, or just standing at the window, mesmerized, wondering how people who live in Seattle ever get anything done because the rain is absolutely fascinating.

Of course, Jason was super irritated and eye-rolly about the whole thing this morning because he’s from Portland and rain is more scared of him than he is of it.

But the point is: This shit is not normal. And it’s clearly a sign of the end of days.

2. FORMAL SWEATPANTS ARE A THING. I went to lunch and shopping at Kierland yesterday with my mom and my sister and in several of the stores sweatpants ($75-130 sweatpants) were displayed like they’re not just for wiping chili cheese frito dust off your fingers on when you’re too sucked into binge-watching Breaking Bad to get up after you ate an entire bag yourself. It was like the clothing industry got together to play a big April Fools joke on all of us: No, totally, you should pay $100 for what you can literally walk into your closest Walmart and pay $7 for and look equally schlumpy in. Except it’s not April and these lunatics are fucking serious. Really guys? Toile print sweatpants? For wearing in public? Are we animals?

This can mean nothing but that we’ve outlived our usefulness as human beings on this planet and the Universe is about to clear the slate and start over.

So, you know, make your peace with your chosen deity(ies), take stock of your personal survival talents, and always remember, don’t eat the white or cream colored berries.

Anyway, mostly I’m really blogging to post the promised video of my aerial performance at my circus school’s student show this weekend. In general, I felt good about how it went. We had a little tangle at the beginning, that (of course) had never happened in rehearsal before and felt like it took about 17 minutes to resolve, but in watching the video it seems to go by pretty quick. I also rushed the ending because I was nervous that we were out of music. But I did nail the effing front walkover at the beginning with no stutter-steps (I’ve been working on that for weeks. It looks shitty when you burble your feet a bunch as you step out) and the rest was mostly clean, too.

And best of all? IT’S OVER!!!

 

 

The Market Rate for Gold Stars

What’s going on this week in The Newlin House?

Well, Jonas has been struggling a little bit with first grade in the behavioral department. You know, because he’s kind of a lunatic. I don’t really think he’s acting radically different from how he did last year in kindergarden, I just think his teacher was too young and new to really pull me aside and say, Listen, he sometimes acts like a sociopath and we need to do something about it. His teacher, this year, however, is more seasoned, so we’ve put in place a system of checks and balances to track, punish and reward his behavior and get him back on track.

As a result, Tuesday evening he had to sit out his skateboarding class as punishment for his behavior that day in class. Instead, while his brother skated, he and I read:

sam and the firefly

You can tell where this is going, right? Sam’s giving it away the whole plot right there with his judgy crossed wings.

If you don’t know this one, it’s about an owl (Sam) who meets a firefly (Gus) and teaches him how to write words in the air with his firefly light (it was originally published in 1958, before science was really a thing, I think). So then Gus (because Gus is kind of an asshole) uses this skill to trick people. Specifically, the first thing he does is cause a huge traffic accident at an intersection:

sam and gus 2

Me: So what do you think about what Gus did here?

Jonas (his eyes lighting up with glee after seeing the mayhem Gus caused): I think it’s awesome.

Me: But it’s dangerous! He wrecked all of those cars! Someone could have gotten hurt!

Jonas: Yeah, but it’s a really good trick.

Me (worrying this is what it felt like to be Jesse James’ mom): Jo, I want you to be the kind of person who makes good choices. Who doesn’t want other people to be hurt. I want you to know right from wrong and resist the urge to make trouble just because you can. You don’t want to hurt people or see them get hurt, right?

Jonas: Mom…

Me: Yeah?

Jonas: It’s not a real story. It’s pretend.

Me: Right. Ok. Moving on.

He’s had decent days the rest of this week. He’s probably not actually a sociopath. He just has the potential to become one. Don’t worry, I’ll hug it out of him.

Last night we went to Curriculum Night, at the school, or as I like to call it, The Humiliation Party. In not just one of their classrooms, but in both Gray and Jonas’s classes there were ‘All About Me’ posters lining the walls. They had pictures of their families, descriptions of their hobbies and dreams, self-portraits, the whole shebang. There was one for each kid. Pretty much. You know, except for our kids. Neither of them had completed the assignment or mentioned it at home. Jo wasn’t even sure he’d ever received it but was quick to reassure us it was optional (it wasn’t). Gray went silent and still while we interrogated him about why he didn’t have one up, refused to acknowledge the questions and tried to change the subject (he may have a future in politics).

After we saw the classrooms, there was a firework show out on the back lawn to celebrate the school’s status as an A+ school. Jason and I sat at the end of one of the benches while Gray and Jo ran around with their friends.

Me: There are kids who just do their shit like all the time, aren’t there?

Jason: Apparently.

Me: Why have we never had one of those kids? I mean, we have THREE. You’d think, just even statistically speaking, we’d have a reasonable chance that one of them would follow fucking directions without us screaming at him, right?

Jason: You’d think.

Me: Every day I spend like 2 hours working on fucking homework with them. I read to them, we talk about math. I poured half a container of salt into a plate and had them draw spelling words with their fingers today! It was a mess! I don’t do this because it’s fun for me! But I did it. And I read the teacher emails and I communicate with Jo’s teacher several times a week to check up on his behavior. But not once did Gray, Jo, or Jo’s teacher say, Hey, there’s this All About Me poster… and now we show up tonight and we’re the assholes whose kids didn’t bother to do the poster. And our abject failure is right there on the wall for everyone to see!! And I didn’t even get to read about what their hopes and dreams are!!! AUGH.

Jason (patting my knee): I know, babe. I know.

Me: Is it our fault?

Jason: Probably genetically speaking it is.

But then, when the fireworks started, Gray came and sat next to me on the bench (even though there really wasn’t enough room for him in that spot) and Jo pushed his way between Jason and me. So we were a family of four (Ben stayed home to work on homework) squeezed into seats for two, which was sort of nice. And I realized if kids who act out occasionally and who don’t always do their homework didn’t exist, all the other ‘perfect’ students couldn’t realize their potential as humans who follow the rules and do what is expected of them. Without my kids, they wouldn’t get their gold starts and accolades. And really, that’s all those things are in elementary school. I don’t want my entire life judged on how I acted between the ages of 5 and 12, either. I mean, I looked like this for godsake:

uglyduckling

 

As we were leaving the fireworks, a cute little girl in front of us turned around, spotted Jo and ran back to him throwing her arms around him and yelling, Hi Jonas! He rolled his eyes and said, Hi, Macy. It made me feel a little better. Not everything is about gold stars.

***

In other news, I’m performing in a student show at my circus school this weekend. It’s my very first aerial performance and it has the potential to be a total shitshow. I’m doing a duo on the silks with a friend I’ve been taking classes with for the last year. We choreographed it and have been rehearsing for a couple of months. We even ordered costumes online (because if you’re gonna perform in a circus show, you goddamn go all out):

chandelier outfit

 

I’m fairly terrified about the entire thing. Not really that it will go horribly wrong. Mostly that it will be mediocre. Which, you know, it probably will be. I’m a 36 year old mother of three pretending I’m in Cirque Du Soleil; mediocre is probably reaching for the stars. But the idea of putting all of this time and energy into a lackluster (at best) display is pretty humiliating and completely demoralizing.

So I’m trying to shake off the feelings of foreboding and live in the moment. The dress rehearsal went really well, which either means it’s all going to be fine, or it was a terrible omen because a bad dress rehearsal means an amazing opening night, so the converse has to be true. One of those.

I’ll post the video next week so you can help me determine which it was.

Why I Run Relays

I’ve done four of these relay-type races now (3 Ragnar Del Sols and a Hood-to-Coast) and without fail there’s been a point in each of them where I ask myself: Self, why? Why?? WHY IN GOD’S NAME DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?”

It’s usually between 1 and 4a.m., after I’ve stopped drinking fluids because the horror of peeing in a dark porta-potty (or ‘honeybucket’, as they’re called in Portland) is too much for me to bear and I’d rather die of dehydration than from my bladder bursting. It’s when I’ve been trying to sleep sitting up for an hour or so, but have only succeed in self-inflicting scoliosis and encouraging my knees to harden into permanent right angles. It’s when, if I’m in van 1, it’s just about time for me to struggle into my third sports bra of the last 24 hours (if I’m in van 2, it’s only my second, which is almost even more disheartening) and stick my feet back into my shoes that haven’t even dried out from the last time I’ve worn them.  It’s when I’ve eaten little besides runner muchies, I’m sleep deprived, terrified of what I might encounter in the pitch black, and worst of all (yes, WORST OF ALL), I have to leave the warm confines of the (stinking, but warm!) van, only to immediately begin shivering and then run between 4 and 8 miles. In the dark. The cold, cold, murdery dark.

This last relay (Hood-to-Coast, the original relay upon which all other relay models are based, in its 33rd year of existence) that moment came in the wee hours of the morning  while we were sitting in a dead-stop, turned-off engine traffic jam just outside of some godforsaken Oregon town named Mist. Mist, was, appropriately enough, covered in terrifying, Stephen King-ish, killer-creature-obscuring mist, and completely devoid of cell service. So this time, not only was I exhausted, sore, starving and freezing, I was also pretty sure we were inching toward the apocalypse, and I couldn’t even tweet about it.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking if I had 2 braincells to rub together I’d quit putting myself in that situation. You’re thinking I knew good and well what I was getting into and I should stop my bitching. You’re thinking what this chick says at 3:19:

And you’re not wrong. It’s kind of insane. But it’s also the only type of race I’ve had any interest in repeating. I’ve run one half-marathon, one color run, one obstacle-coursey (try not to die) thing, but four relays! Why do I keep coming back to this torturous mistress? Am I just a masochist at heart?

I’ve been mulling the whole thing and I think I’ve actually figured out what the great draw of these are for me. No, it’s not the free hand sanitizer you get with every visit to the porta-potty.

The reason relay races are so great isn’t despite of the misery they involve, but rather, because of the misery. Not just the misery part, of course, but the misery in direct juxtaposition with the joy they also involve. Which, really, if you think about it, is what’s enjoyable about running, itself. It’s awful, with the sweating and the joint pain and the chaffing, but then, for a minute, sometimes only after you’re finished, your body is humming, you feel amazing, and it makes it all worth it, right?

The same is true of a relay race. In 36 or so hours, it encompasses both the lowest lows and the highest highs. Sure, you wake up after 45 minutes of “sleep” in a moving vehicle with something crusted on your face and you don’t know if it’s salt crystals from dried sweat, drool, or Nutella with pretzel dust from your midnight snack. But you also lay in the sunny grass at a rest stop and listen to someone you didn’t even know 24 hours before tell the filthiest, most hilarious joke you’ve ever heard.

It’s that the horribleness actually makes you appreciate everything wonderful so much more. A dirty, unisex, gas station bathroom is magically transformed into a beautiful thing, merely because you have the luxury of washing your hands and it’s not a porta-potty. Miller Light out of a can on the side of a road is better than champagne, simply because it means you’re done running.

In 36 hours you hate everything and everyone, but then you love everything and everyone. You experience the full spectrum of human emotions, sometimes all at once, even, during one horrible, beautiful, hilly, terrifying leg of the run.

I guess I run relays because they make me feel things. Which I sort of like.

Bad Choices in Boston

My sister: Hey, did you call me a few minutes ago?

Me: Yeah, I was just calling to tell you about how I am SUCH AN ASSHOLE. Do you want to hear why?

Sarah: Um… yes. I do.

Me: So you know how I was in Boston?

Sarah: Yeah, did you have fun? Her dress looked gorgeous in the pictures.

Me: Yes. It was. She looked beautiful. And her husband is really nice and funny. It was a great wedding.

Sarah: That’s good.

Me: But so, on Saturday, the day of the wedding, I had all this time to kill by myself, so I decided to do some sightseeing. You’ve been to Boston, right?

Sarah: Yeah, for Katie’s wedding, but it was a long time ago and I don’t really remember…

Me: Well there’s this thing called The Freedom Trail which is a brick path that goes by a whole bunch of historical sites. I took the T over and walked most of that. Towards the end of it is the Bunker Hill monument. It’s a really tall pointy building.

Sarah: That one you posted a picture of?

bunker hill

Me: Yeah. It has something to do with not shooting till you see the whites of their eyes.

Sarah: Oh?

Me: It has a tiny little winding staircase that goes up the entire thing to the top, where there’s just a little square room and 4 windows. I hadn’t gone running that day, so I decided to run the stairs. There’s 394 of them to the top. When I was coming down, a guy passed me and I told him I was just taking my time so I didn’t go tumbling down.

So then, when I got outside at the bottom, I was dripping with sweat and my legs were all shakey, and that guy who passed me was sort of hanging out right outside. I’d been alone for like 5 hours by then and I really just get to the point where I’ll talk to ANYONE, so I was like, “That’s a workout, huh?” and he was all, “Yeah, I live near here, so I run it like 4 times a week.” And I was like, “Huh, I was wondering if people actually do it for exercise because it’s free and it seems like it would be an interesting way to get a workout in.” He asked me if I was walking The Freedom Trail. I told him I had been, but that I was in town for a wedding and I needed to figure out how to get back to my hotel pretty soon so I could get dressed.

The guy was like, “Well, I could point you in the direction of the nearest T station if that would help.” And I was honestly confused as to where I even was, because I’d started at the beginning of this Freedom Trail thing and walked a couple of miles to Bunker Hill, and I didn’t have time, or the desire, to double back and get to the station I’d originally come from. Plus my phone battery was getting really low and I was kind of nervous it was going to die before I successfully made it back. So I said, “That would actually be super helpful if you could point me in the right direction.”

Sarah: OK…

Me: But it turns out, instead of ‘pointing’ me in the right direction, he really meant walking me like half a mile to the station personally.

Sarah: Oh jeez… I see where this is going. But you had your wedding ring on, right? So he knew you’re married.

Me: OK, see that’s the problem. I totally didn’t.

Sarah: WHAT?! Why not?!

Me: I haven’t been wearing it lately because I can’t wear it to circus class and then my knuckles swell and get really sore for a few days after class and it hurts to put it back on. So unless I’m going to be not taking class for a few days, I’ve been leaving it in my jewelry dish at home so I don’t lose it. I totally made a mental note when I was running the morning before I left to put it back on, but then I forgot until we were halfway to the airport.

Sarah: So when you were walking to the station did you work your husband and children into the conversation?

Me: Well, in retrospect, that seems like it would have been the smart way to go. But at the time, we were just making small talk about running and he was telling me how he’s training for a sprint tri and about some of the restaurants in the city and the farther we walked, the more sure I became that I would not have found the stupid station by myself and that I actually kind of needed this guy’s help. It seemed like it would have been super weird for me to just randomly be all, “So, I’m married… just FYI,” when he hadn’t even said anything but normal, friendly smalltalk you would say to anyone. I mean, right? Don’t you think that’s what anyone would have done?

Sarah: Um no. I would have done my workout and not made eye contact with random strangers.

Me: Ok, I know. But I get lonely! I made friends with like eight people in the airport on the way to Boston. And I sat next to an old British guy who was drinking coffee at the Cheers bar and talked to him for awhile.

Sarah: He was drinking coffee at the bar?

Me: That’s what I said! I told him I don’t even like beer but I was drinking one for the novelty of being at the Cheers bar. And he said he actually likes beer but he just felt more like coffee.

Sarah: Weird.

Me: I know.

Sarah: No, you. You’re weird. So what happened when you got to the station?

Me: UGH. It just gets worse. So we got to the station, and I thanked him for helping me and he asked if I had a Charlie Card so I could take the T.

Sarah: What’s a Charlie Card?

Me: It’s the subway card you put money on so you can ride. And I did not have one, but I’d paid cash previously, so I told him I was just going to do that. But he insisted I take an old Charlie Card he had that had like 50 cents on it.

Sarah: Oh my god. This is so awkward.

Me: I KNOW. But I felt like couldn’t stop it at that point. He was just being really nice, not creepy in any way or asking me out or anything, but I know he wouldn’t have put the time and effort into it if he wasn’t hitting on me, you know?

Sarah: Yeah. How old was he?

Me: I don’t know, like late 30s?

Sarah: Was he good looking?

Me: He was fine. Not like super handsome, but not weird or unattractive.

Sarah: So you didn’t give him your phone number, did you?

Me: Well… see… I did.

Sarah: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???

Me: After he gave me the Charlie Card he was like, “Why don’t I give you my business card?” and started searching his pockets for a card. And I thought to myself, OK, this is perfect, now I’ll have his information but he won’t have mine and this will all be over.

But then he couldn’t find a card and I’d already made positive noises about accepting his card. And when I didn’t offer to put his number into my phone, he was like, “Or, you could give me your phone number…”. I felt like there was nothing to say but, Sure!

Sarah: So did you give him a fake number?

Me: Again… in hindsight, that makes sense. But I feel like maybe you have to be in the practice of giving out fake numbers to pull it off in a way that seems legitimate at all. Which I am not. When the the thought crossed my mind to give him a fake number, the only number I could think of besides my own was Jason’s!

Sarah: OH MY GOD, YOU DID NOT GIVE HIM YOUR HUSBAND’S NUMBER.

Me: No, no, I’m not that dumb. But I totally did give him my real number.

Sarah: So did he text you?

Me: Yeah, as soon as I got on the train he texted me that it was nice to meet me and he hoped I made it back to my hotel ok.

Sarah: But you didn’t text him back, did you? I’m like, kind of afraid to ask.

Me: I just felt like I would be SUCH a scumbag if I didn’t just tell him I made it back ok.

Sarah: Of course you did.

Me: But then I didn’t text him back ever again! But here’s why I called you today: He totally texted me today. Like, “Hey! How was the wedding? Did you make it back to AZ? I might be coming to do a rafting trip in the Canyon soon!” So now I don’t know what to do. I feel like I should probably text him, “Hey, I’m totally married. Sorry that wasn’t clear.” or something, just to put him out of his misery. But I like really, really don’t want to because it feels so uncomfortable. I’M SUCH AN ASSHOLE.

Sarah: Well… I think you had several avenues you could have taken to keep from getting to here. Like just wearing your wedding ring to begin with. Also not talking to strangers. But at this point, I think it’s actually more humane to just not text him back at all. If you tell him, now, that you’re married, he’s going to go back through the whole scenario in his head knowing you were married and feel like a total jackass. Now, maybe he’ll just think you’re not interested in striking up some long distance romance or whatever it is he’s looking for. I mean, what really, could he expect? He knew you were in town for 2 days and from all the way across the country. He banked some good karma helping you out. I think you should take it as a lesson learned and stop beating yourself up.

Me: It’s totally a lesson learned. I think I’m going to get a wedding ring tattoo.

Sarah: Oh definitely. You absolutely won’t get divorced like 30 seconds after you do that.

Me: It is sort of tempting fate, isn’t it?

Sarah: You need to make better choices.

Me: *SIGH* I know.

 

Division Halloween

Gray: Which one do you say first, the inside or the outside? Is it 72 divided by 8 or 8 divided by 72?

halloween math

Me: You say the inside first. 72 divided by 8. But I can see how that would be totally confusing.

Gray: I like to think of it like it’s Halloween and 8 is planning to scare 72, but 9 is totally hiding on the roof to scare 8.

Me: … I’m not sure how that helps with the math, but it’s fantastic.

A Blog Post

See, there? I’ve had ‘Write a blog post’ on my to-do list all week. I did it, so I can check it off.

on a plane

OK, fine. I’ll write some more.

I’m on a plane to Boston for my college roommate’s wedding. (Woo super expensive technology that doesn’t even stream Netflix!) The kids started school this week (which I thought was going to be all Yeah!! Naked dancing in the house! Eating ice cream for breakfast and cocktails for lunch! Total freedom and debauchery all the time! But instead it was all Work a lot. Work some more. Drop off kids. Figure out what to feed people.) so Jason stayed home with the small people and I’m traveling alone.

TRAVELING ALONE, guys. Like… all by myself. It’s weird, right?

What? People do it all the time and some of them totally enjoy it?

hmm… I am not one of those people. Like I’ve literally never stayed in a hotel room alone before. And I feel kind of super tense about it. What if I lose the key card? I mean that’s definitely going to happen, right? How will I sleep without the snoring background noise and the cat attempting to curl up in the center of my chest? The quiet is going to keep me up all damn night, I know it. Also, who, WHO, I ask you, is going to zip my dress up for the wedding? I’m going to have to wander the halls half dressed begging for someone to help me. Not to mention the really serious problem of who is going to listen to all of the thoughts in my head for the next two days. They’ll get trapped in there, die, become septic and then I’ll get Thought Cancer. That’s how you get Thought Cancer. It’s really sad. I donated to the foundation once.

I did make some friends while I was gulping cocktails at the airport taco bar this morning. There were the two guys on their way to some car expo thing in New Jersey. One had facial hair like Aaron from Fast N’ Loud and the outlines of new tattoos on his arms. He was nice. Now that I think of it, it totally could have been Aaron. I should have asked him. Then there was a financial consultant lady flying through Phoenix home to Massachusetts. She was not. pleased. with how the bartender made her Tequila Sunrise and ordered an additional shot of tequila to pour in. At 8:45AM. I liked her immediately. Sadly, as the alcohol began to take effect she confessed to me that although she’d flown through Phoenix dozens of times she refused to step outside of the airport because of the political climate here. “My husband is Puerto Rican,” she said. “The governor here is a total racist.” She had two cell phones with bedazzled cases.

I haven’t gotten to know the lady sitting in my row yet, because we’re both enjoying the fact that there’s no one sitting in the seat between us, so we don’t have to worry about bumping elbows or anyone falling asleep and drooling on anyone else. Between the empty seat and that fact that I was ushered into some magical security line where you don’t have to take off your shoes or remove your electronics and liquids from your carry-ons, I’m pretty sure I’ve used up all of my good traveling karma for this trip and my hotel will have bedbugs or it will turn out Boston has banned Diet Coke.

But hey, I did get my hair cut and I’m wearing a new dress that my mom bought on clearance at TJ Maxx and then spent like 11 hours hand sewing the beading that was falling off back on (totally canceling out anything she’d saved). And one of the flight attendants is wearing a ludicrous wig I’m fairly entertained by. So… maybe I’ll live through this without dying of loneliness. We’ll see.

Schizophrenic Intervention

Me: So, we need to talk.

Also Me: Uh oh… this sounds serious. It’s not about the drinking, is it? Because that’s totally under control. It’s not that I have to drink, it’s that I like to drink. Two totally different things.

Me: It’s not about the drinking. But dude, you sound like an intervention waiting to happen when you talk like that. Work on your rationalizations.

Also Me: OK, then what is it?

Me: I want to discuss your goals. I’ve been doing some thinking and I feel like you’ve lost sight of your dream.

Also Me: Which dream?

Me: Your single biggest  lifelong dream, dummy.

Also Me: Joining the circus? Cause I’m totally working on that, yo. It takes time.

Me: Not joining the circus! First of all, that’s an unrealistic fantasy and you know it. Secondly, it’s been your dream for like 10 minutes.

Also Me: At least 3 years-ish! And it hurts my feelings when you say it’s unrealistic.

Me: *Snort*

Also Me: My dream to have a threesome with Christian Slater and Winona Ryder on a croquet court?

Me: Not that one either. But I think you could potentially make it happen now. I’m pretty sure neither one of them is doing much right now.

Also Me: The one about breaking the Guinness World Book record for consecutive days napped?

Me: OH MY GOD, NO. Your dream from the time you were 6 years old to write novels! Hello??

Also Me: Oh, totally. You’re right, that is my lifelong dream. I forgot.

Me: See, that’s the thing. If writing a book is really something you want to do, it needs to be one of the main focuses of your life. Instead, you’ve mostly just been telling yourself for the last 30 years it’s something you’d be really good at if you just put your mind to it, and you’re totally gonna… one of these days.

Also Me: Well… I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m just really super busy right now. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I have three kids and this whole time-consuming real estate career-

Me: And a million working out hobbies. Plus you read a ton of Jezebel/Gawker articles and still manage to have time to drink wine and watch god knows how many MTV shows at night. You have time for what you want to do and you know it.

Also Me: I’m working up to it. I’ve been writing this blog fairly religiously for four years now. That’s progress.

Me: It was progress. You’ve learned a lot about voice, pacing and cutting fat from the story to get to the action. And you’ve still got lots more to learn. But you plateaued long ago. You’re paralyzed by the idea of long form.

Also Me: I think about it all the time. I have all these ideas, but I’m afraid I don’t know enough about perspective and point of view to even get started. What if I get going and commit all of this time and energy to a project and it sucks ass because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing? What if it turns out I’m not cut out to write novels at all and I have to completely rethink my entire identity? I know I’m the only one who thinks of me as an Eventual Novelist, but it’s a fairly ingrained state of mind. If I’m not ‘Meant to Write’, I’m not even sure who I am.

Me: You need to get over that and come to grips with the fact that it is going to suck ass.

Also Me: That’s super helpful. Now I totally want to devote a large chunk of my life to a project we all know is going to be terrible.

Me: When you started running, almost exactly three years ago, was it your goal to be the best runner? The fastest?

Also Me: No, I just wanted to be able to do it.

Me: Right. And it was super hard at first, right?

Also Me: Yes. I remember the first time I got through 2 miles in intervals of running and walking. I thought I was going to die. It felt like the supreme amount of effort.

Me: And is it easy now?

Also Me: No. It’s definitely easier than it was, but it’s still, for the most part, an enormous pain in my ass to get out of bed early and I spent nearly all of most runs try to talk myself into continuing. But now I know it will be worth it in the end, and that I don’t want to lose my momentum, so there’s way less mental work on the front end to convince myself it needs to be done.

Me: Because you’re the fastest? You’re the best at it?

Also Me: No. I’m not fast at all. I’m not the super shittiest at running, but I’m not going to win any race. The physical and mental benefits are just worth it. I feel good. I feel proud of myself for doing it. I enjoy participating in events. I like being strong. I like seeing muscles in my thighs. When I want to murder/suicide my family and myself, going for a run helps. It’s a reset. It’s an accomplishment.

Me: And now, according to Map My Run (which doesn’t track your treadmill miles and you didn’t even start using until a couple of years ago) you’ve run more than 1,400 miles. You’ve spent hundreds of hours at this thing you’re only moderately skilled at.

Writing a novel isn’t one of those things anyone is just born knowing how to do.

Also Me: But S.E. Hinton-

Me: Was like 15 when she wrote The Outsiders. Yes. Some people are prodigies, but if you think she didn’t put any work into that, that it didn’t kind of suck until it was edited, molded, shaped, then you’re kidding yourself.

You’re good at lots of things, but were you fantastic at any of them the first time you did them?

Also Me: No.

Me: Your first circus class was fun, but you couldn’t even climb halfway up the silks. You were sore for days. You’ve been working at it for almost a year and you’re still only getting to where you have the stamina to do much at all in the air.

Also Me: True.

Me: So what makes you think you can write a decent novel without sucking hard at it repeatedly before you figure shit out?

Also Me: That was excessively vulgar.

Me: You know what I meant.

Also Me: Yes. I know. You’re right. If I’m gonna do it, I gotta really do it. I have to stop being so afraid to fail.

Me: You need to embrace that you’re going to fail! You need to take it to bed with you at night and get all cuddly with it and maybe even let it get to second base. Failing is how you get to succeeding! Failing is the casting director you totally have to bang if you really want to be a big star.

Also Me: Now that’s just wrong.

Me: It’s possible I got going down a road and I crossed a line. I apologize.

Also Me: Accepted.

Me: What was that running goal you were tossing around in your head the other day?

Also Me: I was thinking about how many miles I average a week normally and thinking it might be cool to make a point to run 1000 miles in a year. I tend to run 12-15 miles a week, and that would require me to average almost 20 miles a week. Which would be a significant bump, but accomplishable, I think.

Me: OK, so just for the sake of round numbers, let’s say you average 10 minute miles.

Also Me: Yeah, that’s not too far off. In the winter I’m faster, but not a ton. Like I said, I’m not what you’d call fast.

Me: So we’re talking about 10,000 minutes devoted to running for the next year, right? Which is like 167 hours, yes? You feel like that’s more than you’re doing right now, but not a ton more.

Also Me: Yes.

Me: So what if, instead, you make it your goal to devote 10,000 minutes to your novel in the next year. 167 hours with no internet or distractions, only writing, broken up into 200 minutes a week. Four 50 minute sections. That’s palatable, right?

Also Me: I guess so… although it’s hard to get 50 minutes straight without a kid/husband/client/Jezebel article bothering me.

Me: Bullshit. You already do it 3-4 times a week when you run. They can’t bug you because you’re out. You just need to make it a priority. It’s a reasonably short amount of time, you just need to schedule it in and figure it out. You might have to get up early or stay up later. You might miss a night of TV or two. You’re going to have to muscle your way through it and convince yourself, minute by minute, word by word, at first, to keep going. But it will get easier. It will become habit. You’ll start to see progress and growth. You’ll feel the benefits. It will be easier to keep going. It won’t ever get easy, but it will be worth it.

Also Me: Fuck you. Fine. I guess that makes sense. When do I have to start?

Me: Now, dummy. This week. No time like the present.

 

 

Orienting

I woke up this morning awash with the nervous excitement of a special day. In the shower I took the time to wash my hair and even shave my legs (ok, my shins). After carefully putting on makeup and curling my hair I contemplated my wardrobe. What does a hip mom wear to freshman orientation with her oldest? I asked myself. It needs to be casual and cool, but not like I’m trying too hard to fit in… Plus we’re going to be doing a lot of walking around the campus, probably, and it’s hot out, so it needs to be not too sweaty. First impressions are really important.

When I finally achieved the perfect balance of effortlessly rad and practical, complete with just the right amount of accessories, I came downstairs to find all three of my kids eating cereal around the kitchen island.

Me: OK, so while we’re gone, you’re in charge, Gray. You guys can play your electronic devices and if you find Jo’s skateboard while I’m gone I’ll take you all to get ice cream after lunch.

Jo: It was stolen, Mom. We’re not going to find it.

Gray: When will you be back?

Me: I’m not sure. And I can’t believe someone came all the way into our garage in a gated neighborhood and took only your skateboard! It has to be around here somewhere.

Ben: Well the orientation is from 9-11:30, but I’ll just text you when I’m ready to be picked up.

Me: …You… don’t want me to come with you to the orientation?

Ben: It’s not that I don’t want you to go, Mom. It’s not for parents. Parents aren’t even allowed. You have your own orientation tomorrow night. You knew this.

Me: I know, I just thought I would go to both! Are you sure parents aren’t supposed to come? You don’t have the best track record for knowing details about this kind of stuff. What if you get there and all the other kids have their parents with them? I’ve always gone with you to Meet The Teacher before! Why would it be completely different this year? I feel like they wouldn’t just randomly change the rules of parenting without warning us…

Ben: If, for some reason, I’m completely wrong and there are tons of parents there, I will definitely call you and you can come find me.

Me: Do you PROMISE???

Ben: Yes. Even though it’s not going to happen.

Jo: So Gray doesn’t get to be in charge?

So that’s why I just dropped my 14 year old off at an enormous high school all by himself and watched him self-consciously disappear into a stream of parentless teens, while I sat in my car and wondered if this is the end of… something.

It’s also why I’m leaving to go shopping and buy myself a breakfast cocktail. The little ones don’t want me, the big one doesn’t need me, and I’ve already cried all my perfectly applied ‘cool mom’ makeup off, so I might as well get drunk and buy myself something pretty.

Ben freshman orientation

Project M.E.S.A. – An Open Letter

This is the letter I’m going to send to the principal of Red Mountain High School and the Mesa Public School District regarding Project M.E.S.A. (Mesa’s Education in Sexual Awareness):

Dear Mesa Public Schools Administrators,

I’m not generally the outraged letter-writing type. I come from a family of teachers and administrators and I know you people work hard, and for the most part put lots of thought into your leadership choices. I have been fairly happy with my own MPS education (Jordan Elementary, Hendrix Jr. High, Dobson High School) and that of my three sons (Zaharis Elementary and Mesa Academy).

That said, in reviewing the Red Mountain High School registration packet I was sent for my oldest son, who will be starting as a freshman in a couple of weeks, I came across the page describing the ‘Sex Ed’ program, Project M.E.S.A., and my head almost exploded.

project MESA

 

Apparently (at least according to this description), educating our kids about their sexuality has been reduced to a plea for abstinence? Oh, and scare tactics revolving around teen pregnancy and STDs?

Let’s break this down for just a minute:

Abstinence before marriage, while widely discussed and preached, is a lifestyle only a very small percentage of the population successfully lives. The large majority of Americans will have sex at some point before getting married (even if it’s only to the person he or she eventually marries). So I have to ask myself, why would the school district make the choice to not only recommend, but exclusively support (as the program is ‘abstinence only’) a lifestyle so far on the fringe of the community?

Because Red Mountain is a public school and there’s that whole “separation of church and state” thing, I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume the choice to subject the entire freshman population to this program is not based on religious reasons.  You guys wouldn’t try to indoctrinate my kid to fall in line with your personal religious beliefs, would you? Good.

Now that we’ve ruled that out, I can only guess you feel strongly our kids shouldn’t be having sex because it’s not safe. You know what dramatic, life-altering (and potentially life-ending) things can result from people having sex and you do NOT want that for the kids under your control. Kids having kids, kids getting STDs, kids feeling pressured into sex, YIKES. None of that sounds like anything you want them involved in, so you think the only thing to do is just tell them to stay completely away from it, right?

That, I can understand. We definitely don’t want our children exposed to anything potentially dangerous or in any way hazardous to their health. We need to protect them. They shouldn’t be around chemicals that could possibly catch fire or explode… except, you know, in Chemistry class. Where they’re taught which compounds are dangerous and how to properly handle them so as not to get injured. And we don’t let them put their bodies at risk by smashing them into other people… except on the football field, where they are given the proper equipment to minimize the risk of physical harm (which the school has deemed an acceptable downside to the benefit of physical activity and social interaction). Well, and we absolutely wouldn’t want to give kids access to a large, difficult to control weapon that kills thousands of people every year… I mean, except in Driver’s Ed.

Huh, so actually, I guess it’s our jobs as parents and teachers to educate our children about situations they’re likely to encounter that could potentially be dangerous or put them at risk, and help them understand how to navigate those situations in a mature, healthy and successful manner. Yet, apparently it’s been decided that even though we can all agree sex is something our kids are statistically likely to encounter sooner, rather than later (and almost definitely before marriage), the school stance is going to simply be: Don’t do it. It’s scary and you might ruin your life or die (which could totally also ruin your life). So you should just not do it and that’s all you need to know. 

I have to say, in my opinion, the biggest mistake of all of this isn’t the school dropping the ball on actually educating kids about how to have a healthy and safe sexual relationship (although it sucks. But, in theory, the parents should be capable of, and responsible for, conveying this information. Barring that, there’s always the internet). It’s not the flagrant waste of time and resources pulling the entire class of freshmen out for four days in a pointless attempt to shame them into not participating in an activity their bodies have been genetically hard-wired to do creates (although that is also horrifying).

The biggest mistake of this is it creates a wall of mistrust between us and our teens. They already think we’re old, weird, uncool and bad dressers. All trying to sell this fairy tale about how teens don’t have sex and people shouldn’t have sex until they’re married does is reinforce to our teens we’re not honest with them. They know everyone is having sex from TV, books, music, social media and just about every where they turn. They’re not stupid. They probably haven’t ever gotten over the whole Santa Claus ruse and now, here were are, lying to them again, not trusting them to make their own choices, just slapping their hands away from the cookie jar. What we’re doing is telling them they can’t come to us. They can’t talk to us about this scary and difficult topic they need our guidance on. We’re taking the control to parent and teach them out of our own hands and forcing them to find answers on their own.

It was my first inclination to rescind my parental permission for my son to attend this seminar, but I don’t want the poor kid to be the weirdo whose mom won’t let him take Sex-Ed. He’s intelligent and mature, and I know I can have a conversation with him to explain my disagreement with the stance the school has taken and open up a dialog between us regarding sex and any questions he may have. I trust him to recognize the error of the situation and resist any indoctrination I’m sure totally won’t be occurring (right?). Instead, I’m writing this letter to voice my unhappiness with the poor choices the school and the district have made in regard to Project M.E.S.A.

Let’s all take a deep breath and trust our kids just a little bit more. Shame and fear isn’t going to keep them out of trouble, but information and a relationship built on trust just might.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Newlin, mother of Bennett Tolar, Freshman, Red Mountain High School