The Alarm Clock Mutiny & Other Kid-Inspired Sleep Disorders

What I learned this morning is that have far too many renegade alarm clocks in our house. We bought them. They owe their loyalty to us. But at the hands of one adorable and precocious little boy who touches and dismantles everything … Continue reading

My Guest Blog Post: Merry Christmas Expectations!

My Guest Blog Post: Merry Christmas Expectations!

I am a guest blogger today on Leslie Kelly’s blog, His Garden of Grace! I met Leslie as part of a group who enjoys Bible Journaling, which is about exploring scripture through creative imagery and artwork. Leslie’s personal testimony and mission … Continue reading

Part II: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…Is Okay

Part II: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…Is Okay

About four days after my no good, very bad day last week, I was getting ready in that unceremonious way mothers do: Sweeping hair back in a hasty ponytail, washing my face with a stale washcloth, brushing my teeth for less … Continue reading

Part I: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…is Okay

Part I: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…is Okay

It’s true. Some days just suck. I know there are a lot of very optimistic people out there shaking their heads at me right now. She’s not very grateful, they’re thinking. They’re right. Today, I’m not grateful. I know I … Continue reading

An Oscars Miracle

A miracle happened Sunday night. I watched the Oscars without throwing up a little in my mouth.

For several years, I have successfully avoided the Oscars, either out of disgust or indifference. But mostly because I feel there is something absurd and even disturbing about botox-inflated, gluten starved A-list celebrities who strut around in couture duds, dripping diamonds, and congratulate themselves for work they consider far more important than it really is. I’m sorry, but people who throw lavish parties for themselves then wax philosophical for 10 seconds of an award acceptance speech about the importance of social consciousness, etc., are either totally lacking in self-awareness or are actually trying to be phony. Yeh, like, SUPER BIG eye roll.

Of course, I indulge my own brand of hypocrisy, curled up on my couch in loose-fitting pajamas and eating cookies while I allow all those beautiful people who cause said eye-rolling to also simultaneously provide me hours of mindless entertainment. And maybe it’s because their lives are so lavish and they are so beautiful, and I just finished mopping my floor and haven’t shaved my legs in a week (okay maybe two) that I feel, in a small way, entitled to be entertained by them.

Thankfully, Sunday’s Oscars were predominantly free of self-aggrandizing remarks or political rants (well, okay, free of political rants anyway), making it bearable, even enjoyable for this pajama-clad girl. At home. With her hairy legs. Remarking to her husband through bites of cookie, “Can you believe she’s wearing that?” and, ironically, “Someone get that woman a cookie!”

So here are the 2014 Oscar highs and lows (IMO). If I am missing any obvious ones, it’s because I took a potty break or went to get more cookies:

Highlight #1) Ellen (who was perhaps the number one reason I allowed myself to watch the Oscars this year). I knew she would make me laugh, and she did. No, she wasn’t outlandish. She didn’t perform ridiculous musical numbers between award announcements. She was relaxed in that slightly awkward, self-deprecating way that is her trademark. It’s a comedic style that feels less shiny and more, well, normal (like me). By ordering greasy pizza for Meryl Streep and taking selfies with Brangelina, Ellen made the Oscars feel almost relatable, at least in how truly out of touch and un-relatable they actually are for most of us.

Highlight #2) The gorgeous Lupita Nyong’o, winner of Best Supporting Actress, who was the picture of class and elegance. She wore one of my favorite dresses of the evening. Her skin was radiant. And her acceptance speech was fresh and inspired and free of the token false humility offered, albeit poorly, by so many movie stars.

Highlight #3) Sidney Portier. What a class act! Now, there’s a man who has spent less time talking about challenging social and cultural norms and more time just doing it…and when it was far less popular and career-boosting.

Highlight #4) The husband and wife songwriting team, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who wrote Frozen’s “Let It Go.” Besides the fact that they were absolutely adorable together, their speech was both fun and memorable. My favorite part? When they encouraged their daughters to “never let fear or shame keep you from celebrating the unique people you are.” Uhm, pass the Kleenex!

Highlight #5) Bono. Who remains incredibly cool and wildly talented. His voice is superb. And, man, can he work the microphone.

Highlight #6) Tina Fey’s American Express commercials, which provided laugh-out-loud chuckles for mommies everywhere with a yogurt facial and lines like, “You owe me this because I clean your tushie” and “a lawyer that’s a monkey! Heh-Heh!”

The lowlights:

Lowlight #1 and #2) Harrison Ford and John Travolta. Both were weird. And Travolta could have taken five minutes to practice the two sentences he had to deliver, including pronunciation of Idina Menzel’s name. Poor girl. I really thought her name was Adela Mazina *mumble, mumble*…or something like that.

Lowlight #3) Is there any good reason, other than Bette Midler, to break out Wind Beneath Our Wings in the year 2014? I mean I know Bette is legendary, and she looked dynamite. But of all the songs to memorialize those in the industry who passed away this year…that was the best they could do? Besides, it doesn’t really work. I mean, who in Hollywood REALLY wants to be memorialized as being the wind beneath someone else’s wings? That’s right. Nobody. Which makes that choice of song insulting, as well as being total cheese.

Lowlight #4) Pink’s awkward red sequined gown. I love a good head-to-toe sequined gown inspired by Dorothy’s ruby red slippers just as much as the next person. But that red dress wasn’t right for Pink. It just seemed, well, off. Thankfully her performance was not. But I am wondering why they picked Pink at all for that number?

Lowlight #5) Karen O.’s weird baby voice in the performance of the “Moon Song” from HER. I know someone somewhere will disagree with me (including MTV who hailed her performance). But her barely-there voice, though great for the recording studio or singing lullabies to newborns, just felt awkward on-stage at the Oscars.

In closing, here are my favorite fashion statements of the night. Not because I care, but because I am still rolling my eyes and eating cookies, so I might as well also comment on the fashion:

  • Lupita’s beautiful pale blue frock. Goddess-like, but still appearing fresh and effortless.
  • Camila Alves’ pink dress, proving a dress can be both sexy and modest. Of course, it was worn by Camila Alves’, so I don’t think “sexy” was ever a question.
  • Kevin Spacey’s blue tux. Because it was sharp and interesting.
  • Jared Leno’s red bow tie. (I am a sucker for bold bow tie statements.) Not his WWJD hairstyle. 😉

Here is the full list of Oscar 2014 winners

Also I have since shaved my legs (or I will…today…yet…)

Help a Sister Out!

 

Yes, I realize it’s not yet December, and I’m writing about Christmas. But let’s be honest. If you’re a woman who celebrates Christmas, you’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Gearing up. Clipping coupons. Making lists. Trying to remember what you gave people last year. Scheduling photos for Christmas cards. And bracing yourself for the hurricane THAT IS the festive holiday season.

It’s like there is an imaginary gun somewhere, held in the air (or at our heads), while we crouch at the starter’s block. POW! The gun goes off – the race is on! Even those of us that try to pace ourselves in the beginning sprint at the end. And it’s not pretty.

While discussing the impending holiday stress with my mother today, she planted a seed of wisdom that isn’t new or even profound. It’s quite simple, really. Yet, we find it SO hard to do. She said, “Women need to help each other out by not adding to one another’s stress at Christmas time.”

In the words of my father (in his famous “women make so much work for themselves at Christmas” speech), “You [women] make ALL that work for yourselves, and then you get ALL stressed out because you’ve got ALL that work to do. *waving hands in the air for emphasis* Does that make ANY sense?” And then, despite our heavy sighs, eye rolls and verbal protests, he goes on to describe how most men are happy to sit around in their underwear, watching a game or doing nothing, eating cereal and pulling gifts (bought the night before) out of store bags. While this is a generality, it may NOT be inaccurate or exaggerated. (I have seen men behave this way without female intervention. Unfortunately. I have.)

Yep. Most of what “must happen” at Christmas is a supply/demand phenomenon where both the suppliers AND the demanders are often one in the same – WOMEN. Now, I know there are exceptions. And I know that this feels unfair. But it’s kinda’ true.

Many, if not all, of the Christmas parties, gifts, meals, traditions, cookie swaps and other holiday festivities in which myself and my family participate…are generated and organized by women. I don’t see a ton of men, of their own accord, dressing in their holiday finest to exchange gifts, sans wives. Rather, their involvement in grand holiday festivities tends to occur at the sharp behest of girlfriends or wives. (Perhaps the gun-to-the-head  hyperbole works here as well.)

This means that, if “we” [women] are going to simplify the season, we [women] need to start with each other. Because we [women] are the ones in charge hereSo for Christmas this year, I am begging you to help a sister out.

At a time when gifts beget gifts and baked goods more baked goods, the best way to let ourselves off the hook is to let others off the hook, too. You might consider saying to your friends, “Let’s not worry about exchanging gifts this year. We’ve got enough to do.” Or scheduling a get-together in January or February instead cramming everything into December. Or toning down the number of gifts Santa brings and instead do something with your kids for someone in need.

I began the 2013 Holiday Season with the simple decision to forgo cookie exchanges. Some women love them. But for me, baking is not fun. And I don’t need the calories. So why do it?

You may pick something totally different to forgo. Good.

Christmas might not have all the same bells and whistles if we let some things go. But Christmas was NEVER meant to be about the bells and whistles. Or guns. So before that starter gun fires (and I think it already has): Help a sister out. Find ways to simplify. Make time to breathe. And help others do the same. We’re in this together.

 

Downsizing My Life: J-E-LL-O?

Image

I don’t even really like Jello. And I mean no offense to Bill Cosby or those little kids who shake their Jello shapes for the camera. (I haven’t seen a recent commercial for Jello, so I realize I’m going back a few years.) 

 
I also don’t make Jello for my son, although I could. But, really, what is the nutritional value of it? Anyone? Bueller? 

 
So why in the world do I have nineteen boxes of jello and/or pudding in my possession??
 
(Pause for effect)
 
NINETEEN!?!?
 
Am I a Jello hoarder?!
 
Last week, I decided to purge my house of unnecessary stuff, beginning with the kitchen. That was, Thursday, maybe? It’s Monday, and my kitchen is still in disarray. In my defense, this is no easy process. I have combed through cupboards, drawers, the pantry, the fridge and the freezer to rid myself of excess…cleaning meticulously as I go. Guilt-cleaning, as I like to call it.
 
The wasted food is always a tough pill to swallow – particularly when there are people in the world who starve while I throw out stuff that expired in ’08 (or ’02). Of course, acknowledging this really only serves to assuage my guilt and does absolutely nothing for those people who are actually starving. Because, let’s face it, most of us throw food out all the time, and our biggest concern is our own wallets.
 
Minimizing doesn’t solve all the world’s ills. And it doesn’t absolve me of my responsibility to do more than just feel sorry for unused boxes of Hamburger Helper. It can, however, teach a power lesson about excess – quite simply put, I don’t NEED everything I want. I don’t DESERVE it either. There are so many things I can live without. 
 
Like Jello, for example. 
 
And cheese cutters. Why do I have so many cheese cutters? 
 
Also, how often was I eating mushrooms when I just HAD to have a mushroom slicer? Did I not somehow realize I could buy them already sliced??
 
And what about coffee mugs!? My Kuerig allows me to brew one delicious cup of coffee at a time, and I rotate between probably three coffee mugs. So why exactly do I have two dozen other mugs sitting on my shelves? How terribly resentful they must feel after years of neglect and rejection. They were born to carry coffee, not collect dust.
 
Another important question – why do I keep things that are broken or missing parts? Am I expecting the tops to various tupperware containers to knock on my door one day and apologize for their long absence? If it hasn’t happened with my socks, chances are it won’t happen for my Tupperware.
 
And, finally, one more time – why do I have NINETEEN boxes of Jello? Was I worried Bill Cosby would unexpectedly pay me a visit, and I would have nothing to feed him? Was I planning to build a bridge or tower made entirely of Jello boxes? Was I concerned a natural disaster or Zombie invasion would not permit routine grocery store visits, but “Don’t worry, we have enough Jello reserves to keep us until we can raid a Jello truck or kidnap Bill Cosby and demand Jello ransom. That’s a relief!”
 
Yeh, I’m pretty sure no one NEEDS that much Jello. Not even Bill.

Z is for Zumba

I waited until after New Years to return to the gym. Not because of any resolutions, but simply because the holiday rush left zero time for working out. So last week, I got my butt back to the gym. I love Zumba – but after a few months of no Zumba, I returned angry. I allowed that anger to fuel my workout. I moved my body to the music, but I didn’t smile much. My legs felt like lead. And my bouncy parts were bouncier (and not in a good way, I might add). But this is the only way.

A few classes later, I am slowly returning to my previous Zumba self. I feel stronger. I dance harder. In time, I may even feel like a sort of 21st Century Ginger Rogers, if Ginger wore her husband’s ratty old t-shirt and some elastically-challenged seven-year-old workout pants. I do not dress like a Zumba dance goddess. But I do dance like one. Just kidding, I don’t do that either.

Here are some things I love about Zumba, in no particular order:

The room is dimly lit. Good, because I sweat A LOT. It is NOT pretty.

The instructors dress like hip hop moguls from the 90’s in ripped neon tanks and pants with all kinds of zippers. I find it daring to wear so many zippers while whipping your body around in a frenetic frenzy. Clearly, this is not a new concept (see my earlier 90’s reference), but it still fascinates me.

I love the music. Who doesn’t feel inspired and instantly sexier with a little Shakira in the house? I even begin to like the music I didn’t like the first ten times I heard it. I was never into clubbing. But now, at the age of 33 and with a toddler, Zumba is as close to a crazy night out as this girl gets. I can appreciate that.

Zumba makes me feel sexy. I love that the women in the class are every age, shape and size.  They are shaking their booties like the best of them. I notice the regulars. I don’t know most of their names, so I assign them descriptors. The lady with the big earrings and sparkly tops. The girl who loves the mirror. The pregnant girl with the wild eyeshadow. The girl with no hand-eye coordination, God bless her. The lady who must be at least 60 years old, yet incredibly more fit than I am. I wonder how they would describe me – the tall, angry girl who desperately needs a workout-fashion makeover. It doesn’t matter. We are all there for the same thing. Sexy is relative.

Zumba teaches me this life lesson – don’t take yourself too seriously or you can miss out on some serious fun.

Love,

J. Laurel

Hot Mess Jess & Awkward Conversations with Children

I am working on a book (in my free time, haha). Not sure what will become of it. But here is an excerpt. This is a rough draft, so sorry for errors and improper formatting.

And, yes, this actually happened…

**********************

[On Halloween night]

A girl in costume approaches my front porch.

“Hi there! Are you a character from Harry Potter?” I ask. Finally, a costume I recognize.

Girl nods.

My mind starts racing. Who are the characters in Harry Potter? Never read the books. Never watched the movies.

“Are you Harry Potter?” I ask. Ok, surely you didn’t just ask this poor girl if she dressed like a boy for Halloween. I mean, no, you don’t know any other Harry Potter characters. And, yes, she looks like Harry Potter with slightly longer hair. But she is still a girl. And no girl wants to dress like a boy for Halloween…Well, most girls don’t. But maybe she just really likes Harry Potter. Maybe she doesn’t care if she’s a girl dressed like a boy for Halloween. I mean, it isn’t politically correct to be gender specific anymore…Then again, maybe she isn’t a girl at all. Maybe she is a boy with really long hair…Gasp!

“No,“ Girl (or boy with long hair) say…and looks confused.

“Of course not, you’re a girl,” I say a little too loudly. Did my voice just go up at the end as to infer that was a question and not a statement of fact?

“You’re the girl in Harry Potter! What’s her name?” Is it just me or is it unseasonably warm for October? I start to sweat.

Girl mumbles the name.

“Her-mi-un?” I pronounce awkwardly. “Her-mine.” I try again. It is like I am speaking a second language.

Girl mumbles the name again, correcting me.

“Her-mi-un.” Ok, I just pronounced it the same as the first time, but slower.

Girl looks annoyed.

 Do eight year olds get annoyed? Is she eight? Maybe she’s, like, 12. Really? I can’t guess this kid’s gender OR age?!

“You know what, I don’t watch Harry Potter movies so,…” I put my hands up defensively and shrug my shoulders. Why am I defending myself? And what is wrong with me? You don’t say that to a kid who likes Harry Potter movies…who dresses like Harry Potter characters…who you just insinuated may look like a boy. It’s a slap in the face. I might as well have said, “Your world isn’t important to me,” OR “I don’t care about what you care about.”

“You know what…have a few more spider rings and a Kit Kat!” I drop another handful into her pillowcase.

Girl walks away. I muster an awkward wave to her bewildered parents who are, right now, silently planning how they will help her through the terrible trauma of being called a boy on Halloween night by the lady at [house number].

“Happy Halloween!” I exclaim, a bit too cheerfully. Then I eat another Kit Kat.

Notes from A “Hot Mess” (Yours Truly)

Here is my confession in black and white. I am a “hot mess.” It is a term used frequently by a close friend of mine, and I love it so much I have adopted it as part of my own vernacular. Sadly, I find myself using it the most when describing, you guessed it, myself.

What exactly is a “hot mess,” you might ask? Well, the Urban Dictionary describes it first as “a person who is a handful, a piece of work, a colorful character.” My definition of the phrase is slightly different – as definitions of this kind can be manipulated to serve ones own purpose. My own definition describes my perpetual state of being as one that neither looks or feels in control…of anything…ever…and thus says and does things that others find strange, embarrassing or even irritating. Someone who doesn’t truly fit into our commercialized culture that insists on outward perfection. Someone who can’t seem to get her poo-poo together.

I realize that I am a round peg in a world (or culture) of square ones. I go punching into life with a lot of “ouches” and “ughs.” Some people find it endearing. A lot of other people find it annoying. I have tried to become more organized, punctual, eloquent and graceful – not all at the same time, of course. (Baby steps, people!) But sometimes it seems like the more I try, the more I frustrate myself with a growing list of perceived failures.

I want to be thankful for all the individuals in the universe who, at least on the surface, don’t appear to suffer from this state of being. Most of them are Type A personalities who find a way to manage their lives, so that they are not, well, messy. I wish I didn’t drive them all crazy. But sometimes, I secretly like that I do, because after a while, they really grate on me too. Why are they so much better, because they were born with the organizing gene?

Call it heredity, a mental disturbance, A.D.D. — but, my hyper-hot-messiness is not going away. Sure, I can learn skills for organizing and keeping better track of all the details. But I will never completely change. I will never THINK like “them.” It will never come second nature. And I have tried to fake it. To fake that I am that detailed person. Or that I am capable of keeping all the balls in the air. But it’s not long before the ruse is up. So here is my question – why am I always seeking to be the opposite of a “hot mess” – calm, controlled, organized, tactful…oh the list goes on. Why is it so hard for me to embrace my true self? The one that feels a little like Charlie Brown’s “Pig Pen.”

Maybe, because the world doesn’t celebrate differences like it should. And maybe our culture likes the Martha Stewart types. Everywhere I turn, a magazine, newspaper or talk show offers me new rules for living a Type A life as if we were all meant to put down roots there. The world seems full of tips for color coordinating your sock drawer, hyper-alphabetizing (I made that word up) your media collection, labeling your kitchen utensils and clutter-proofing your house. What if I believe life wasn’t meant to be as tidy as a Lysol commercial, even if it were possible?! What if that isn’t what turns me on? I know some people love doing these things. Great, clean and organize all you want, but I don’t want to adopt all your rules for living. I can’t. And if I did, I would probably break them in, like, two minutes.

This is simply the tip of the iceberg for us hot messes. There are many definitions of this state of being for which I would think every one of us could relate (even Martha Stewart). But today, I wish to celebrate all the hot messes, like me, who couldn’t lead Stepford lives if their very lives (and those of their family members) depended on it.

I would like to step out and claim my hot messiness as a gift and not as a curse. I do so via the imaginary Hot Mess Anthem (a publication that is neither bi-monthly or monthly but rather…sporadic at best). Anthem headlines boast things like “How NOT to Use Every Free Minute Cleaning While Life Literally Passes You By” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People With Your Fun Personality and Great Sense of Humor Instead of Your Manicured Hair and Perfect House.”

Here are a some hot mess rules on various topics lifted from the latest installment of the Anthem (it’s imaginary, People, roll with it). Take a walk on the wild side with me…

Tip #1: There is no reason to color coordinate anything except what you are wearing right now (and even then, some days, that is also optional).

Tip #2: If you show up late and feeling like a hurricane entering some social gathering, smile and be glad you made it at all. There are worse things in the world – like an actual hurricane.

Tip #3: In the olden’ days, most people had dirt floors. There are several morals to this story, but I will leave you with this one for now: If your tiled floor doesn’t sparkle constantly, you will somehow survive. And survive, you do.

Tip #4: When you don’t want to do a full clean, do a half clean. By this, I mean the bare minimum. That’s right, wipe it down with a Clorox wipe, and be done with it. And don’t tell me you “just can’t stop at that” – get off your high cleaning pedestal – you have been feeding yourself that lie for years until you started believing it was true. Too many Lysol commercials – I am cutting you off!

Tip #5: (And this is a good one) A little clutter makes mean people judge you and nice people relax a little. Who would you rather have visit longer?

The list continues (stay tuned for Part II), but it is past eleven o’clock and I have Zumba tomorrow morning (I wrote this last night.) I will leave you with this parting thought before I go to sleep without washing my face. I may not be able to color-coordinate and uber-organize my life like Martha Stewart. But, may I remind you of something it appears many people have forgotten…Girlfriend went to jail! And somehow I bet that, in the “Slammer,” her closet-organizing skills turned out to be completely useless. Just saying.

To be continued… 😉