Saturday, November 25, 2006

Counting The Ways To Where You Are (100 Things)

I'm trying to get over my inner blog hurdles by revealing more personal (yet totally cyber-safe) info about myself, so I figure the quickest way to do that is by creating my own "100 Things About SAM" list, now conveniently repackaged in one long, easily linkable list. So here we go ...

(Last update: Nov. 28, 2008)

1. I can't fold towels.
2. I'm allergic to Band-Aids.
3. I'd gamble more if I'd ever won anything ever.
4. My parents went to four proms together.
5. I've been baptized. Twice.
6. My favorite apple is Braeburn.
7. I've never been the driver in a car accident.
8. Bumping a parked car in a rental Sebring doesn't count, right?
9. I own every Prince album released between 1976-2001.
10. I have just about given up trying to be cool.
11. I'm slowly working through my avoidance of wearing black.
12. I'm not really sure how tall I am.
13. My 13th birthday was on Friday the 13th.
14. I've been to 25 states.
15. Newt Gingrich quoted me on the floor of Congress. And no, I couldn't stop him.
16. I like my mom.
17. I look like my dad. (And I like him, too.)
18. My childhood/lingering family nickname is Geegan.
19. I'm a great driver and a terrible parker.
20. I have a birthmark.
21. I grew up (in the 1980s) thinking The Supremes and The Temptations were contemporary groups.
22. I'm even less likely to make eye contact if I'm talking about myself.
23. I have learned and forgotten how to knit.
24. I have unusually small hands and peculiarly large pupils.
25. My favorite Christmas carol is "O Holy Night."
26. I know how to shuffle off to Buffalo.
27. I got drunk three times during my 20s.
28. I was my first grade class's student council representative and hated every minute of it.
29. The first movie I saw without a supervising parent was Footloose.
30. I'm uncomfortable starting this many sentences with "I."
31. My face doesn't sweat.
32. I got into 4 of the 5 colleges to which I applied. Stupid Pomona.
33. I've been admitted to the hospital twice: to be born and to have a baby.
34. I didn't start wearing pigtails until I was over 25.
35. I physically recoil from playing charades and most demonstrative group games.
36. Most of the DVDs I own are unopened.
37. It's safe to assume that my belt matches my shoes, my earrings match my buttons, and my bra matches my underwear.
38. My best dish is lasagna.
39. I wasn't a very good roommate.
40. My feet are always cold.
41. I never had an imaginary friend, unless you count Rick Springfield.
42. My two biggest fears are knives and fire.
43. I don't like cooking (see above).
44. I have two chicken pox scars on my face because I just wouldn't stop scratching (sorry, mom).
45. I get strangely depressed by the ocean but have a growing tolerance for the beach.
46. I gave birth without any pain medication. Twice. Once in my house.
47. I have a hard time making phone calls.
48. My senior prom dress cost less than $4.
49. My ACT score qualifies me for MENSA.
50. I took linguistics to get out of my college math requirement.
51. I dated my linguistics study partner for a year.
52. My favorite flower is lily of the valley.
53. I can draw just well enough to wish I could really draw well.
54. I went to three elementary schools in three states.
55. I write and bat left-handed; I throw and bowl right-handed.
56. I absolutely, positively cannot read in a moving car without getting ill.
57. Starting in 8th grade, I've gone through several cycles of severe anxiety attacks.
58. I'm better at leaving churches than attending them.
59. I regret that I don't write letters anymore.
60. I can't eat anything that has been in the vicinity of a bell pepper.
61. I have unplugged the toaster after every use ever since seeing The Bourne Identity.
62. I've climbed to a peak in the Rockies.
63. My 10th grade English teacher set me up with my first kiss.
64. I can recite the entire roll call of my 4th grade class by memory. (Baressi, Bohlander, Brown, Casper, Chou ...)
65. I'm a super-taster.
66. I don't buy anything that's dry clean only.
67. I'm embarrassed by my girly fixation with purses and shoes.
68. I was one of the best singers in my high school's worst choir.
69. I have a dirtier mind than anyone suspects.
70. If I won the lottery, I would have homes in Manhattan, Tuscany, and Summit Avenue in St. Paul.
71. I'm near-sighted with astigmatism.
72. I'm drawn to body products that smell like baked goods.
73. I didn't care to learn how to ride a bike, but now I ask for one at every holiday.
74. The only bone I've ever broken was my big toe.
75. I'm dying for someone to invite me out dancing.
76. I'm a decent poker player.
77. My first job was at a candy store.
78. I refuse to learn how to golf or play bridge.
79. I will instinctively turn down the first offer for something to drink.
80. I would have a hard time liking anyone who didn't enjoy The Commitments.
81. I'm patient. Usually.
82. I can never go back to packaged pancake mix.
83. I've been stung by a bee inside my mouth.
84. I can't be trusted to take care of real silver.
85. My desert island album is Sign O' The Times (Prince) because it covers the entire spectrum of human experience, from birth to death and getting ready for a hot island date in between.
86. I can't change the channel if Pretty In Pink is on.
87. My inner feminist doesn't like admitting how much I like John Irving's novels.
88. My inner intellectual-rebel pretends to have read more Vonnegut than I really have.
89. My inner 14-year-old will quote The Outsiders at any opportunity.
90. I can't get anyone to teach me to play guitar.
91. I hate practical jokes.
91. I don't use religious figures as swear words.
92. Nail files and all similarly abrasive surfaces make me cringe.
93. I seriously considered majoring in theater.
94. I can't remember the topic of my college honors thesis.
95. Perception of my eye color varies to such a degree that I've had two different shades on my driver's license.
96. Having a child made me more scared of dying than aging.
97. I'm extremely proud of my sister and she probably doesn't know it.
98. I think most people would be surprised by my personal system of beliefs.
99. I'm not good at finishing things.

And we'll now close with the 10 questions made famous on "Inside The Actor's Studio," originally featured on the French series, "Bouillon de Culture," hosted by Bernard Pivot.

1. Q: What is your favorite word?
A: Effervescent.
2. Q: What is your least favorite word?
A: Pus.
3. Q: What turns you on?
A: The mix of competence and humility.
4. Q: What turns you off?
A: Smarm.
5. Q: What is your favorite curse word?
A: F%*&king-a.
6. Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: Mourning doves.
7. Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: An unwatched television droning in another room.
8. Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: Talk show host.
9. Q: What profession would you least like to do?
A: Food service.
10. Q: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
A: Nice kids.

Friday, November 24, 2006

No Matter How Far Away You Roam

Thirty years in, and I feel like I'm in some sort of holiday limbo. My mom (now better known around these parts as Cha Cha, or on formal days, Grandma Cha Cha) called at about 10am on Thanksgiving, while she and my dad (aka Pops) were on their way to Uncle Pete and Aunt Greg's house. Pete has been the host to my family's Thanksgiving dinners for the last two decades, which makes it as close to a family tradition as our nomadic tribe is likely to accomplish. As I was talking to Cha Cha, I could practically smell the turkey, duck and venison laid out in the dining room, and at least four homemade pies waiting in the wings. Even though it's been at least eight years since I spent Thanksgiving in that room, it's still what I think of when the holiday comes around.

But for those last 8 years, The Admiral and I have been working to make our own holiday tradition. Since there are only two of us (who eat like humans, anyway) we came to settle on a Thanksgiving feast that revolves around that most versatile of foods: cheese. We cook up a gouda ball in the afternoon and finish off the day with Triple Cheese Pesto Pizza. Somewhere in between, we watch the parade, flip through edited-for-TV movies, maybe go for a walk. It's not a bad way to spend a day, but I don't think either one of us feels like it's Official.

Christmas is even more complicated, since we alternate between trips to our native homelands in the north. We decorate the house and crank up the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, but since we're not actually here on the 25th (but our giant gun-toting housesitter is, you nefarious criminal-type blog-readers!) and most of our gift recipients are out of state, we don't even bother putting up a tree. I rarely shop offline because everything has to get shipped anyway, so I don't even get the cheesy peripheral Christmassyness of the mall scene.

Now, now, I'm not trying to make everyone all sad. We have happy holidays and we enjoy the time together, whether it's just our nuclear family or a multi-generational free-for-all. But now that we have a pre-schooler and another baby on the way, we're starting to feel like it's time to pull our ever-shrinking anchor out of the tundra and nurture the roots we're starting to form down here (mixaphorically speaking). We don't have extended family, but our family itself is starting to extend. Soon there will be four of us, but that doesn't take into account the friends who have taken us into their own families. As I was growing up, we lived 2000 miles from my parents' parents, yet I only have rich, happy memories of holidays spent with our close-knit clan of neighbors and the occasional visiting relative. It's hard to think of giving up time with my parents and sister, even thought it's just a week every other year, but I want my children to grow up feeling like their house is enough, that their family is complete, and that anywhere we're loved is home.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sometimes You've Got To Get The Joke

Wow. That was ... fun. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Unforgettable.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I signed myself up to participate in The Funniest Mom In America search, a national contest put on by Nick At Nite. Last night was the open auditions for the Memphis area, which apparently expands from Little Rock to Nashville. I can't possibly give a more thorough recap than Stacey, especially since I wasn't taking notes all evening, but what I remember is this: I did it. I got up on a stage, I took a mic, and I did what I could to make a whole bunch of people laugh. Which, fortunately, they did.

I was interviewed beforehand and a producer asked me why I signed up for the contest. I said something along the lines of, "The chance was right there, and I figured that if I didn't take it, I'd lose the right to say it was my lifelong dream." Because, as ignoble and narcissistic as it may be, it has been my dream for a long, long time. It's something I've spent 20 years wanting to do, and something that, given an opportunity, I felt I really could do.

I was totally prepared for the fact that I might be wrong about that. But I had to try.

I don't mean to get so serious and reflective about a comedy bit. It was three minutes of silliness. But it was also one of those moments that other people, people not at all like me, tend to seek out. A moment that could end in tremendous glory (on scale with killing at a Memphis comedy club) or deflating embarrassment. I'm the type of person who usually walks the middle ground, which means avoiding both extremes. I think that's why so many of my friends jumped at the chance to come out last night. They wanted to show support, of course, but I think they also couldn't resist the chance to see me jump so completely out of character. Or, more accurately, to see a side of myself that rarely makes a public appearance.

Thank you a fazillion times to Chip, Shiloh, Kristy, Mike, Mark, Mary and of course Stacey for coming to support me on one of the most adventurous nights of my life. Thank you to Jeff for patiently waiting for me to say it was okay for him to come. Thank you to Stephanie and Richard for wrangling the monkeys so everyone else could be there. Thank you to Steve for the indispensable help in preparing my set. And thank you again to Stacey for telling me about the contest in a way that clearly said, "If you don't do this, you're nuts." I don't know what will happen next (and won't find out until late December), but I'm already grateful for the experience.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Seeing Places That I've Never Seen

I always feel a constant low-grade anxiety whenever one of my folks is out on the road, and this week the feeling is doubled as both CB continues his westward push through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California while Kim makes her first northern trek to conquer the frozen hearts of Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis. CB's out with a full band, plus his manager, so my only real worries are that the clubs will live up to whatever they promised me three months ago. Kim's out alone, though, and hitting some of these cities for the first time on a professional basis, so I'm feeling very protective and not only hoping that her shows go well, but also that my Midwestern people will unite to assure her a safe journey. I'm really confident that she'll be much appreciated and make a lot of new fans on her way, but that won't make it any easier for a Little Rock girl to navigate freezing rain on I-94. I wonder if there's a Memphian-Minnesotan mom voice program for her GPS unit that can say, "Now, it might not be a bad idea to just pull over in Baraboo and wait for the salt trucks to pass ..."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Guy Said Honey, You're A Funny Girl

I had been hoping to launch an unofficial NaBloPoMo over here, but I've been too busy working on my bit for the The Funniest Mom in America competition. Yes, the agent is stepping out of the green room and onto the stage, thanks to the supportive goading of Stacey and the somewhat unsupportive smirks from certain friends who think I can only be funny in two dimensions (suck it, Cory!). It seemed like an amazingly well-timed chance to follow up on my life-long dream of pursuing stand-up comedy, so in a swift move that surprised everyone who's ever met me, I read about the Memphis auditions and immediately emailed the local comedy club for a spot. And I got one. And now ... I have to show up. With the funny. I secretly slipped some of my bit onto the playgroup moms this morning, and it went very well, but I know that the Wednesday night crowd at Comedy, TN isn't likely to be a bunch of sleep-deprived mamas. But hopefully, it'll be some of you. Did I mention that it's November 15? At 8:15pm? Bring all your hard-drinking, child-humor-loving friends!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hold On To The Feelin'

Over in my other world, I just posted and mailed a lengthy missive offering up the store for sale. It's something I've been thinking of doing for a long time, and something that seemed imperative once I saw that second line on the EPT, but it was still hard to do. Before I was the owner of Mothersville, I was a devoted patron, and I spent many, many days of pregnancy and new motherhood sunk into the big comfy couch, talking to other moms and trying to figure out just what exactly I'd done to my life. I developed a brand new circle of friends among women brought together by their choices (and sometimes, lack of choices) in parenting. I found a compatible childbirth educator, invaluable doula and doctor recommendations, support with breastfeeding, and most importantly, a place to ask questions or just vent about the daily struggles of baby life. There were a lot of mornings when the support "group" was just Kristy and I, and her friendship and unwavering support got me through what I only now realize were some of the darkest days (and weeks, and months) of my adult life. (Which I've never properly thanked her for, but I'm sure she can read the effusive Nordic praise between the lines.)

When Kristy decided to leave the store, I didn't see how it could go on without her. She wasn't just the owner, she was the Mother of Mothersville. But when another mama bravely jumped in and put herself on the line to keep the store open, I realized that the only thing worse than Kristy leaving would be for the store to go with her. So we partnered up, U and I, and the doors stayed open. The sign went on the front. The mamas kept coming, new groups of them popping up every few months like seasonal bulbs.

When U decided to leave our partnership last winter, I was again uncertain about the future of Mothersville, but I felt more determined than ever to keep providing this resource to the mamas of Memphis, or at least the 5% of them who needed us. I've learned a lot in the last two years, learning that has translated into better sales and lower losses, and I know that if I could hang around longer I'd learn even more. But I can't. I'm at a crossroads where I either need to make a huge plunge or gather up my marbles and go home. And I don't have any more marbles to spare. Thanks to my corporate lay-off four months into motherhood, our family income is 40% less than it was 1.5 kids ago. So it's time. I've put in what I can and now it's up to the next mama, or hopefully mamas, to take the reins. It's been an unconventional business model to this point, but it pretty accurately represents the constant hustling and shuffling most new moms have to do. Doing what works as long as you can, and then figuring out the next thing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hit Me, Baby, One More Time

After a few years of this, I'm used to the idea that parenting means making sacrifices, but it's still jolting to see how those sacrifices manifest themselves. I've spent the last four months putting together a 20-city tour for CB, the first one he's ever done with a full backing band, and last night marked the kick-off date for this auspiscious run. And I missed it. I popped in for sound check but had to excuse myself before the Marlboro haze descended on the Hi-Tone. Not because I didn't want to snuggle up to my three-year-old with cigarette funk in my hair (she's gotten used to that), but because of the tiny little client in my belly. Yep, folks, I'm on my way to being a Secret Agent Mom of Two.

As excited as I am, it's still hard to retreat back into the mode of selflessness that is required of pregnancy and brand-new-parenthood. I'd just started getting used to the fact that I could eat a full meal or read a book or complete a day's work without constant interruption, and now I see all that being pulled away again. It's easier in a way, though, because now I know how quickly it will pass. Those sleep-deprived, half-starved, entertainmentless months seemed endless, but looking back, I realize they weren't as long as they seemed. And I also know that I won't be a shriveled, fun-shunning curmudgeon by the time they're over, which was another one of my fears the first time around. Not unless I want to be, anyway. I have to admit, getting home and into my flannel pajamas by 8:30 didn't seem like such a bad way to spend an evening. Maybe it's not just the babies who grow up.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Girls Girls Girls

When I was pregnant with M, and for the many years I considered motherhood before that, I hoped for a son. My primary explanation for this feeling was the fact that boys are much less likely to turn rabid on their mothers when they hit adolescence, but now that I have a daughter, I see that I had other, deeper reasons for this preference.

We were out trick or treating with two of M's friends last night, and there they were, three adorable little girls filled with excitement and anxiety and a total sense of wonder. They clung to each other's hands and walked down the dark, muddy sidewalk in an impenetrable line of cuteness. And then, of course, the fighting began. M wanted to hold L's hand. J wanted to hold L's hand. M didn't want to hold J's hand. J wanted to hold L's and M's hands at the same time. (And L pretty much wanted everyone out of her personal space for one freaking minute.) And all I could think was, well, here we go. The first stop on the long line of female tension over friendship, affection and belonging. It's a straight shot from here to awkward middle-school slumber parties and demeaning pledge nights.

Which is, of course, ridiculous. They were just a bunch of pre-schoolers having some normal social tussles. But I can't help my mind from shooting backward and remembering my own struggles to fit in among my female peers. I've had one or two close girlfriends along the way, but for the most part, my childhood, teenage years and most of my twenties were spent feeling well outside the walls of Girl World. I didn't get the rules, I didn't speak the language, and I never had the right shoes.

I've realized that my desire for a son was not caused by my fear of having a daughter so much as my fear of being one. It was hard enough going through it all the first time, I can hardly imagine how it might feel to see looks of rejection and embarrassment reflected in my daughter's eyes. I know that being a boy wouldn't spare her from that, but my empathy wouldn't be quite so deep and raw. But maybe it won't be as hard for her as it was for me ... which brings up my even greater fear: that she'll be the girl doing the ostracizing instead of the innocent ostrich.