Monday, September 19, 2011

A Blogger Break

For my fortieth birthday, my darling husband surprised me with a week in Venice...romantic, non?  One romantic gesture deserves another, so while we're gone I'm turning off the computer, putting down my iphone and ignoring social media so that I can focus on the man I love. 

Big thanks to all of you who read, comment, follow or E-Load my blog.  Losing Sanity will be back on September 26th.  Until then...Ciao!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Missoni (for Target) Moment

Despite everything I needed to be doing yesterday, there was a seven letter word calling my name.  MISSONI.  For those of you who don’t know about Missoni, I won’t accuse you of living under a rock.  I’ll just tell you it’s one of the most iconic Italian designers to have ever crossed the pond.  In my mind, the words chevron pattern and Missoni are almost interchangeable.  Other words that come to mind when I think Missoni are elegant, well-made and classic. 
Given the previous sentence, it won’t surprise you that when I found out Missoni was doing a line for Target, I couldn't wait to get to the store.  Oh yeah, there’s one more word that comes to mind when I think of Missoni—expensive!  Which is why I was so excited about the Target line.  A $2000 dress is a wee bit out of my budget.  A $50 dress, now that's more like it.
I live in Oregon, which is better known for flannels than Italian fashion so I didn’t think I needed to make an effort to get to Target the moment it opened.  My mistake!  I headed to my local Target and this is what I found.
Nothing left but a couple of skirts!

This rack was picked clean.
The shelves were bare, Mother Hubbard bare.  Fortunately, I had another Target up my sleeve, a lesser-known, not overly-frequented Target.  I headed there and hit pay dirt.  See!

I came home and compared goods with my friend Jules who had foraged at the airport Target.  We assessed our purchases and the fact that the Missoni craze crashed Target’s website.
“Who are all these people filling up their shopping carts with Missoni at 8:00 a.m.?” asked Jules.
 “Ebay,” I said.  “I bet they’re going to resell it on Ebay.”
We pulled up Ebay,  put in the search term ‘Missoni for Target’ and were rewarded with no less than 12,000 items.  The cute little dress with the brown stripe down the middle pictured above was selling for $300.  I bought it for $50.  Which brings me to an interesting question. 

Is this the ultimate outcome of a retail economy?  I’m certain Target was happy to sell out of its Missoni wares within five hours but I wonder how Missoni feels about the 7000+ items being hawked for quadruple the price on Ebay?
Maybe they’re happy to raise awareness about their brand.  Or maybe they’re annoyed at the idea of scavengers emptying the shelves and reselling for their own profit.  I tried to imagine how I’d feel if the same thing happened with Losing Beauty.  I’d be thrilled, of course, to have people lining up at 5:00 a.m. to buy autographed copies of my book but I’m not sure how I’d feel if, at the end of the day, I found all those same books on Ebay for quadruple the price.
What do you guys think?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Do you ever schedule your blog post for the next day and then discover Blogger has mysteriously posted Tuesday's material on a Monday? 

When that happens do you ever spend minutes thinking "but I thought tomorrow was the 13th??"  Do you then get up and check the calendar and then go back and check your blog again only to realize that tomorrow is, in fact, the 13th but it's the 13th of September NOT August?

No?? Just me, huh.

Stay tuned.  I've already written tomorrow's post.  You never know, it might end up posting today if the whole August vs September thing slips my head again. 

I guess this is what happens when you turn forty.

Love or Money

My mother once told me that people either have lots of time or lots of money, but usually not both.  It's something I used to think about when I worked at a law firm where vacations had to be squeezed in between deal closings. 

In fact, it was the time factor, not disciplinary measures published in the local bar journal, that played the biggest role in my retreat from the practice of law.  Quick aside here, disciplinary measures make up my husband's favorite bedtime reading material.  If he finds someone who acted in a particularly irresponsible way he'll even read it out loud.  I know.  I can tell you're wildly jealous of our romantic evenings but sorry to say, he's all mine!  The rest of you will have to find your own man to whisper sweet nothings, aka, disciplinary hearings into your ears. 

Okay, that wasn't such a quick aside.  Getting back to my mother's sage advice and my transition from corporate lawyer to writer.  From the outside looking in, being a writer sounds dreamy.  Work from home, be creative, wear flowy dresses while reading long passages out loud to an empty living room.  Like most things, the reality is a little different from the dream.  While I do work at home and get to make up stories, I'm discovering it can still be stressful.  There are the days when no words come to my head.  There are also the days when lots of words come to my head but they're for another book.  With the publication and impending print copy of Losing Beauty looming, there are publicity requirements.  My publisher wants to know how far I've gotten on Losing Hope and will there be a third book in the series and, if so, what's it called. 

I guess what I'm saying is nothing is perfect.  I love what I do and the flexibility of my schedule but there are trade offs.  I have to be disciplined and work hard, sometimes even on the weekends.  My salary as a writer is a fraction of a decimal point of what I made as a lawyer, but I get to make up stories, talk on-line and pick my kids up from school in the afternoon.  In a perfect world there would be enough hours to play, cook, entertain like Martha Stewart, exercise, write, and connect with the billions of people on the internet and I would be well compensated for all of this.  Except, I'm beginning to realize that no one has it all, which, come to think of it, was another one of my mother's favorite sayings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Are you an E-Loader?

I'm not talking about the beer

My wonderful friend Georgie sent me a text recently that said, "I've thought about it and realized I'm an E-loader.  It's like being a freeloader except it's all virtual."  Over the course of the day she sent me a series of texts with confessions such as, "I read your blog and never comment."  "I watch So You Think You Can Dance and never vote." "I frequent cooking websites and never leave recipe reviews."

"You should write a piece for my blog," I told her.  "Nope," she said (via text).  "I've said all I have to say about it."

I thought about this, which is probably why I'm a writer, I tend to think about everything.  After I was done thinking, I decided that while Georgie might have said everything she had to say, I hadn't.

The concept of an E-loader is better than a lurker.  Lurker sounds like you're afraid to comment but E-loader gets at the essence of why most people don't comment or talk on-line...they just can't be bothered.  I think it all comes down to what you're looking for from your relationship with the internet (and, I must admit I'm a little disturbed by the words relationship and internet in the previous sentence).  Still, there it is.  Our society has changed so we now have relationships with people we will, in all liklihood, never meet.  Or not.  My friend Georgie works full time, has two kids and a social schedule that makes me shudder.  She doesn't go on-line with the thought of making friends.  She goes on-line to get things done.

Me, I go on-line with a different purpose.  Even though I downplay it in my blog, one of the main reasons I spend time blogging, twittering and G+ing is to sell books.  There you have it!  I've given you a sneak peek inside the core of my mercenary soul.  Of course, the by-product of all the time spent on-line is I've discovered an amazing, wonderful,supportive, fabulous, superb group of friends.  Even though it's unlikely I'll meet more than a handful of them, I still think of them that way.  Friends!

In the end, like anything in life, you get what you give.  Which brings me to my question for you.  What do you give on-line what have you received in return?  And, why do I have a sneaking suspicion that the E-loaders will read this column, smile and then swiftly move on to the next point of business.  That's okay E-loaders!  I'm happy to have commanded your attention even for the few minutes it took you to read this blog post.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week One: We Survived!

Today's Friday!  End of the first week of school AKA the longest week of the year.  Who knew that being a mom would mean I would get to suffer the pangs and indignities of childhood doublefold.

Here are the low points and high notes of week one.

Child #2 walks home sobbing because he's already incurred three time outs.  I experience a pang of resentment for his teacher, even as I remind him of the importance of listening, instead of talking, (he's my chatty one) and keeping your hands to yourself (also my grabby one).  A short chat with the object of my resentment the next morning reassures me they weren't so much time outs as reminders to listen.  Hmm, that explains why he described them as short time outs.

Child #1 realizes that all her best friends are in the other fourth grades.  "Mom, every one is friends with each other and no one is friends with me."  My heart breaks.  Honestly and truly, it just breaks but I hold it together and point out how lucky she is to have the opportunity to make a whole bunch of new friends this year.  "You'll have all your old friends AND all the new ones you make this year."  She looks skeptical.  I don't blame her, but she does agree to ask to try to sit with a couple of the nicer girls at lunchtime.

Child #2 describes his teacher as "hot".  "She's hot?" I ask.  "Yeah, especially in the afternoon 'cause there's no air-conditioning in our class." 

Child #1 comes home excited about maps.  "Did you know they made the first maps out of clay in Egypt?  We get to make a bumpy map [topographical] that shows mountains and volcanoes out of packaged frosting."  Child #1 has a deep fondness for packaged frosting ever since I banned it from our home.

It's ups, it's downs.  One minute they're happy.  The next, life is terrible, miserable, awful, end of the world.  I mirror whatever they're feeling with an intensity they would find laughable.  In the end Child #2 says it best, "This week's been kinda good, kinda bad.  Mostly, I'm looking forward to the ice cream social on Friday." 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Writer Love

There I was, catching up on all my favorite blogs, balancing the check book and thinking about just how I want to go about tackling Losing Hope when I saw it.

A post on Facebook from a good writer friend who said he was jealous of all of us who get to stay home and write full time. 

What followed that post was a detailed description of other writer friend's daily schedules.  I read them in awe.  These are all talented writers who work forty to sixty hours a week at something besides writing.  Afterwards, they come home, take care of their families and THEN sit down and write amazing novels.  It's awe-inspiring.  And a little embarassing, since I've spent a large portion of the last twelve weeks whining to my husband about how I don't have enough time to write with the kids home for the summer. 

It's kind of like the pep talks I give to Child #1 when she asks for something in a way that strikes me as self-centered or overly-privileged.  "Look around you and take note of all the wonderful things in your life.  Don't think so much about yourself.  Think about other people and what you can do to make the world around you a better place.  Be kind, be empathatic and for heaven's sake stop complaining and be grateful you have food on the table and place to rest your head at night missy because there are plenty of children..." Okay you get the picture!

It's good advice.  I'm going to take it for myself.  As for making the world a better place, I'm a firm believer in stories.  I think I'll start by reading more books written by my writer friends and spend less time complaining about how I don't have enough time to write.

The first writer friend book coming my way is Dean Lappi's, Black Numbers.  Seriously, I can't wait to read it and one of the Sista' Wives has already laid claim to it as soon as I'm done.  You've got a book you want me to read?  Leave the title here, keeping in mind that I'm print biased but otherwise a reading omnivore.  Can't wait to do my little part to make the world a better place by supporting the creation of stories.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Truth and Beauty

A quick thanks for all the great comments you left about the Yellowstone blog.  Even if I didn't have a chance to respond, I read your comments and loved them.  My blogger friends were especially generous about stopping by, especially since there was no reciprocation while I was off running from bears and bison!

Now we're back and today is the first day of school.  Can you hear the choir of angels singing joyously?  No?  Maybe, that's just me.  Truth be told, I kind of miss my entourage of two when they go back to school.  Today is all about easing them back into the routine with Back-to-School Breakfast (blueberry crumb cake) and figuring out where their lockers are (we missed the orientation last week).  Today I will kiss them good bye and then come home to an uninterrupted six hour block of time.

This is good news for fans of Losing Beauty because it means I now have time to get my tushy in gear and finish Losing Hope.  There's also more good news coming later this week for would-be fans of Losing Beauty, i.e. those who have been waiting for a print version, but you'll have to wait just a little bit longer I'm afraid (and not just because my publisher might blow a gasket if he discovered I'd buried a big announcement in the last sentence of the second paragraph of my blog). 

And now, finally, this is where I come around to the title of this blog post.

Truth and Beauty.

It's a book by Ann Patchett.  It also happens to be what I'm reading for book club this month.  It's a story of the friendship that develops between two writers, Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy.  I love it, but I'm a writer and so this kind of story is right up my alley.  I can't wait to hear what the rest of my book club thinks.  More importantly, and the reason I wanted to talk about the book is because, in the space of a couple sentences Ms. Patchett has set me free.  She discusses the dread most writers feel before they begin to write.  The way they will do almost anything (dishes, laundry, organize their desk, talk on the phone) before they finally drag themselves down to the dirty business of writing. 

I read her words and they were like a mini-epiphany.  Everywhere I look, writers are talking about their love of writing.  It's the first thing they do in the morning, their treasured time when they are their happiest.  The best thing they do all day.    

Whenever I read these kinds of sweeping statements all I can think is what the hell is wrong with me?  Writing isn't my treasured time, unless you substitute the word tortured for treasured.  It's work, and it's the kind of work that I often postpone until I can't postpone it any longer.  True, there are days when I'm compelled to write, but the days when I have to drag myself to the computer and write five hundred words that I know will be thrown out in the editing process are much more common.

So, thank you Ms. Patchett!  For writing a great book and for letting me know that, at the very least, I'm in good company as I alphabetize my cookbooks or send out another Tweet, just one more Tweet, in a last ditch attempt to avoid writing. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yellowstone...If you see a bear run faster than the person behind you.

"I think I'll stay here for the rest of my life," has been the theme song for our kids this week.  As the week draws to a close we are busy trying to fit in every bit of fun and bonding we can with our Minnesota counterparts.  Yesterday, after completing their Junior Ranger work *note to National Park system, those worksheets felt a lot like homework* everyone got their Junior Ranger badges and the promised trip to the gift shop where small stuffed animals were purchased.

The animals are named Bisony, Beary, Wolfy, Elky, Grizzy, Moosey and Horny.  Yes, Child #1 decided to christen her moose Horny because, duh, he has horns.  The animals immediately became friends who stampede a lot and talk to each other in high-pitched baby talk causing Mr. Minnesota to threaten to leave early.     

We hit all the major hot spots yesterday.  The hot, boiling, bubbly spots technically called geothermal features.  The good news is nobody fell in and nothing was dropped off the path.  Lesson learned for the day, don't yell out, "Sista' wives time for a group shot," unless you want a lot of strange looks from a bus full of tourists.

In a model of efficiency, that was an endless source of delight to Rach our efficiency expert, we managed to see the "Welcome to Yellowstone" movie, hit a ranger talk and be on scene for Old Faithful's spout in quick succession.  What was even more impressive, this all happened without any bathroom breaks--a happy event for the husbands, who have taken to grumbling, "Can't someone put a cork in those kids?" at each rest stop.

We ate dinner at the historic Yellowstone lodge where a darling girl from Texas painted a picture of the freewheeling and idyllic post-college existence.  "I'm here for the summer," she said, "And then I'm taking a few months in Thailand."  We all sighed.  The idea holds a lot of romance when your dining companions can't stay in their chairs and regularly spill beverages.  We tipped generously because we're all with her in spirit, if not in fact.

Tomorrow is the culmination to our love fest.  It's been amazing.  We don't want to leave.  On the other side of our happy family Von Trapp awaits the collective obligations of work, school, homework, piano, hockey, soccer, cheerleading, choir, ballet, girl scouts, tennis and Spanish.  We'll make it through, but a little part of each of us wishes we could all live together on a giant compound right outside the North entrance to Yellowstone.  

Daily Statistics

Teeth lost:  One
Buffalo spotted:  Seven
Bathroom breaks: Constantly, like our kids are suffering from a collective UTI
Bloody noses: Four
Time in car: Too much
Antelopes:  Herds and herds, almost like pests on people's lawns.
Number of children sleeping in their assigned beds:  Zero
Miles between Oregon and Minnesota: Three thousand

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yellowstone: A Love Affair

Mammoth Hot Springs
This morning we left the Chalet at the crack of ten (much to all of the husbands' dismay).  We started our day at Mammoth Hot Springs where we instructed the children that failure to remain on the path might end in disfiguration or death.  We took a short hike where we heard, "Mommm, is it time to go back to the car yet?" in no less than six different languages. 
Next stop lunch.  Afterward, we headed to Canyon Visitor's Education Center where seven children became newly annointed Junior Rangers.  Georgie would like me to add that she needed to bribe her children to participate in the Junior Ranger Program by offering a trip to the gift store after Junior Ranger Activity Books were completed. 
Actual picture!
On the other end of the spectrum, we had Birdie and Rach's kids who frantically filled out their forms, quizzing us on the type of rock found in various areas of the park.  We loaded everyone back into the car and then pulled over two minutes later so all fourteen of us could hop out to snap pictures of a grazing bison.  

We hiked down to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  Breathtaking!  Even the littlest in our group couldn't deny its appeal as they leaned over the unguarded edge giving all the mothers heart failure.  Birdie asked an international visitor if they would take our picture but was told, "It is not necessary."  Fortunately, there was another mother there with her college age daughter who was happy to step up to the task.  "Enjoy these years, they're the best," she counseled us. 

Our group

Next up, a long drive and short hike to the Boiling River, a place where a hot spring mixes with ice cold river water.  We set a record for how many Sista' wives can flash the general parkgoing public while changing into swimwear outside of a minivan.  Child #1 set a record for how many random strangers she could stress out by diving headfirst into fast-moving rapids. 

Daily Statistics
The boiling river and my shadow
Buffalo:  One
Bathroom Breaks:  Six, at least!
Number of requests to poop immediately after we left bathroom:  One    
Failed attempts to start hiking songs:  Four 
Antelope:  A whole herd
Times Birdie's husband almost ran off the road:  Five  (but we forigve him because he makes a mean Gin and Tonic)
Same Sex Crushes on Park Rangers: Two.  Those Park Rangers are so darn cute and happy to answer questions.

Best kid moments according to them "The hot springs (a general consensus here), the waterfall, it was spectacular more than I imagined, I dunno, and listening to Child #1 tell stories about 'The Horrid Life'.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Great American RoadTrip: Day 3

Last night I stayed up late watching the lightning storm.  While my husband snored, I propped my elbows on the windowsill and watched flashes slice through the sky and light up the town.  I kept expecting to see something in those brief periods of light, maybe a bear or someone running down the street like in a horror movie but no such luck. 

Speaking of horror movies, the general consensus was our historic lodging was more The Shining and less Charming Country Inn than we would have expected. 

After three days on the road, we've noticed an interesting phenomonen.   Our driving times are getting shorter but they feel longer.  We've also noticed some conceptual dissonance about Yellowstone expressed by the following question.

"Mom, do you think they'll ever take Yellowstone down and move it somewhere else?"

 The best part of the day awaited us just outside Gardener at the North Gate to the park.  The fourth element to our complicated adoring group of ten, which is now officially fourteen: the Minnesota Hardy's!  They were waiting for us in the driveway.  Even though the kids haven't seen each other for a year they fall into their old routines as though they'd only been apart for a week or two.

Rach, Georgie, Birdie and me go into full Sista' wife mode and whip up dinner for fourteen.  Rach suggests we take the Sista' wife thing one step further and have all the ladies share the master bedroom.  The husbands think we're kidding, but we're not.  All of us are fully capable of pulling an all night slumber party gab fest.  Sadly, for the husbands, we are not down with the idea of a girl-on-girl pillow fight in skimpy pajamas.

The house, which I will hereafter refer to as the Chalet, is ridiculous.  It has everything we could want, from Citronella candles to a full slew of dress-up dresses and boxes of legos.  As the kids eat their strawberry shortcake I ask them for a full sentence describing their favorite moment of the day.  Here they are in all their glory.
"I went to Mammoth Hot Springs."

"I liked getting here."

"We set up a fashion boutique in our house."

"I liked the store."

"Having strawberry shortcake right now."

"Tonight, because we're probably going to watch a movie."

"Playing with my friends."

Re-reading the above sentences, I realize it's all about the little moments.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Great American RoadTrip: Day 2

Toes on Idaho
We’re up and we’re tired.  Rach dropped her cell phone in the toilet and Georgie needs her latte.  The grown-ups may be dragging but the kids are jubilant.  They make plans for play dates in each other’s hotel rooms while we pack everything back into the cars.

States are bigger in the West.  We have wide open expanses of land that make crossing a state line feel like a milestone.  I get a thrill when we pass into Idaho.  There’s a garlic crop growing nearby and for a few minutes the car is filled with the scent.  We pass towns with names like Jerome, Rupert and Burley

Pillow Pet Polka
The kids play in the backseat with their pillow pets.  Child #1 admonishes hers, “Do not take that tone of voice with me.”  Georgie’s daughter tells her pillow pet that she must watch one learning show that’s “good for her brain” before she can watch anything else. 
We arrive in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho.  Our hotel is historic which means it doesn't have air conditioning.  The good news is it has wireless.  A large stuffed bison head hangs in the entryway next to an equally large stuffed moose head.  We head out to the deck to celebrate with cold beverages but are quickly shooed back inside due to an expected rainstorm that never occurs.  The boys take their drinks and go soak in the hot springs while the girls race each other outside by the river.  
Lava Hot Springs is the kind of town where you can tell the desk clerk where you are going and she will get the message to your husbands, who have disappeared at the exact moment everyone starts shrieking with hunger pains.  We distract the kids by allowing them to raid the restaurant's vending machines until their pizza arrives.  They amass an enormous quantity of pencil toppers which ends in tears and screaming (in case you don't have children, plastic toys and hungry, sleep deprived children always end in tears and screaming).  We do one more quick soak in the hot spring and then convince the kids that EVERYONE would benefit from more sleep.

The Snake River

Tomorrow is Yellowstone!!!  The vistas are going to get even more beautiful than this one and we can't wait.
Daily Statistics
Miles Covered: 280
Fields of unidentifiable crops: Too many to count
Items lost:  One cheerleading jacket, one DS game cartridge and one lucky rabbit's foot
Lightning strikes seen from afar: Six
Small town girls working in fast food restaurants flustered by our (overwhelming?) presence: four
Number of poolside vomiting incidents: One
Population of Lava Hot Springs: Five Hundred Twenty-One
Slices of pizza left over after dinner: Zero

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Great American RoadTrip: Day 1

It’s ten o’clock and we’re off, fueled by Egg McMuffins and Starbucks.  We have a girl’s car and a boy’s car.  Georgie’s husband has a stack of magazines that he’s trying to hide as he gets into the boy’s car.
“Porn?” I ask.
“Motorcycle magazines,” he says, which we both agree is kind of like porn for men over forty.
In the girl’s car we sing, eat Bugles, gossip and most shockingly (since we all admit to being frivolous) is talk about politics in the form of Portland’s new garbage policy.  The consensus, we hate the garbage policy but love Bugles.
Lunch is at Roosters in Pendleton.  We couldn’t have invented a more perfect place if we tried.  It’s big with a playhouse inside for the kids.  Every meal comes with dessert.  The marionberry cobbler is crazy good.
We see amazing things on the road.  There’s a truck full of onions with the onion skins peeling off and blowing in the wind.  And then another truck full of carrots.  At first we think they’re fingers, then French fries.  In the girl’s car everyone is enamored by a forest full of trees planted in straight lines.  It takes us a while, but we decide they’re planted for a paper crop.
We pull in to Ontario and promise the kid’s a late night swim after dinner.  The pool is indoors but opens out onto the patio in the summer.  We drink Select 55 and sample bites of candy bars bought from the local store while the kids splash and run/walk between pool and hot tub.  “They’re going to remember this for the rest of their lives,” I say.  Everyone agrees.    
Miles covered: 400
Fights averted: shockingly only one
Strange items packed:  A box of rocks by Child #2
Rest stops visited: two
Lessons learned:  When the gas light goes on don’t ignore it.  The boys got lucky and managed to coast to a gas station. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Great American RoadTrip

Tomorrow we leave for Yellowstone. 

And if that's not exciting enough, we are caravaning to one of our countries great treasures with two other families.  And if that's not exciting enough, another family in Minnesota is currently packing up to meet us.

Four families, seven kids and ten days.

It's entirely possible that cars will break down.  I would bet good money that kids will break down.  We may see bears or wolves.  Hopefully no one will be attacked.  We've rented a big house together (very Big Love except with more than one husband).  The children have all been warned if they're naughty I will blog about them.  And I will.  It's punishment on a grander scale than usual, general effectiveness remains to be seen. 

It's going to be exciting.  I'm crossing my fingers it will be perfect in that warm, summer childhood memory kind of way. 

The best part is you are all coming along for the ride, in a bloggy kind of way...depending on my access to wireless.  Stay tuned.  The Great American RoadTrip starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Off List

Maybe you don't use the term "Off List" at your house.  Maybe you do.  I have to confess I stole it from my friend Birdie, who is an endless font of the best phrases ever. 

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me explain.  Off List is the phenomonen that occurs when I call my husband and say, "Would you mind picking up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread on the way home from work."  He says, "No problem," and when he comes home he has the requested gallon of milk, loaf of bread and perhaps a $600 tent.  

The tent was clearly Off List. 

Items don't need to be expensive to be categorized as Off List.  Exhibit # 1 in the Off List files at my house is the rows of canned beets in my pantry.  I still haven't figured out why my husband thinks canned beets are essential, but the beets don't lie.  Again and again, they have called to him from the canned goods aisle and he has been unable to resist.  Maybe I should throw him a bone and whip up some borcsht.

When I was growing up my father used to go Off List with such frequency and strange results that my mother banned him from the grocery store.  Tins of smoked oysters and canned okra occupied the same spot in her pantry as beets do in mine.

Some would argue that the need for a list is outdated, old-fashioned.  But I would argue that the list is designed precisely to prevent the purchase of things like Costco sized boxes of chocolate filled liquor bottles, oddly colored beach towels purchased at a deep discount, monster sized jars of Pepperoncinis or canned beets!

Please honey, no more going Off List and no more beets!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Earth to Johanna: Being a Mom is Hard Work

I totally give lip service to the concept that staying at home with the kids is hard work.  But some days, when I'm sitting by the pool with three mommy friends drinking our Bud Lights while the kids hoot and holler and do whatever kids do, well on those days, I have to admit I feel like I might be pulling the wool over everyone's eyes.

Honestly, how is this hard work?

Yes, there's the laundry, carpooling, shopping and homework that has to be managed.  Still, it's not like they're babies.  I'm not changing diapers or making sure no one tumbles down the stairs.  My kids are seven and nine.  If they were dogs they'd be well into middle age.  As it is, they're pretty darn self-sufficient. 

It wasn't until the kids went to Camp Grandma and Grandpa last week that I had the sudden realization, much like Virginia about Santa Claus, that, Yes Johanna, being a stay at home mom is hard work.

On the first day the kids were gone I worked on Losing Hope until I hit my 2K word goal.  Then I had a two hour conference call about something exciting that might or might not be happening with Losing Beauty.  A friend called.  Could I meet her at Starbucks.  I could, because it was still only 1:00.  Seriously?   I had to look at my watch a couple of times because that didn't seem quite right.  Normally, it would be much later.

Afterwards, I went home and did the social networking stuff.  And there was still time for yoga.  When my husband came home he found me editing the work I'd started that morning.  Yes, it's so unbelievable it needs to be written again.  I was editing work I'd started that morning!  We had dinner and I called my mom and talked to the kids.

"It's funny," I told her after she'd wrested control of the phone from Child #2.  "I worked all day long and got so much done and I'm not even tired."

She laughed.  "We've been busy, busy, busy here," she said.  "But I can't say we've gotten anything done."

That's when it hit me.  All that stuff I do with my kids, the packing for the pool, the homework, the cooking of breakfast, lunch and dinner, the laundry, the reminding to use nice manners, the pep talks, the snuggles, the listening to them talk, the refereeing of arguments, the making sure they take their vitamins, the worrying about [honestly, just pick something and fill in the blank because I worry about it all].  All of that is hard work.  It's the reason why, most nights by 10:30, I can barely keep my eyes open.

So today I'm reaffirming something for myself (and anyone else who might have been doubting the genuine value of what they do).  Staying at home is a job.  It's hard work, even if sometimes you lose track of why or *gasp* have fun.    Don't underestimate the energy it takes to stay home.  And don't get down on yourself if you don't finish everything on your to-do list.  There will always be tomorrow, or the next day, or maybe the day after you pack everyone up and send them off to college.