We are going to try something new.

This October marks 10 years of the Half Truth. For many of you, this birthday is meaningless. (Understandably.) For me, it’s maybe, sort of, kind of the most significant birthday/anniversary in my life. Ten years of blogging might be one of the biggest commitments I’ve ever kept in my whole life. With the exception of my husband and my love affair with mayonnaise.

When I started this blog, I was 22 years old and had graduated college with one of the top five least meaningful degrees available to a college student. After waiting for my phone to ring with an insane job offer–doing what, I had no idea, but it was going to be amazing and come with a HUGE paycheck– and eventually realizing the phone was not going to ring, I went to a staffing firm. Heather Harold (real name) was a tall, tanned, thin woman in her late thirties who told me, on no uncertain terms, that I lacked even the most basic professional skills and it would be a miracle if she could get me a job as an entry level secretary. And she felt she was letting me down easy. I wanted to be indignant, but she had a point.

I was married that September and returned to Boston from a whirlwind Napa wedding and Tahoe honeymoon to a tiny, air conditionless North End apartment, and a letter from my dad with my final rent check. With few-to-no-options, I called Heather Harold back and told her to do some Anne Sullivan shit. I needed a job. In 2006, title inflation was just starting to sweep the country. After lying on a typing test and inflating some filing experience from my father’s law firm the summer I was 14, I managed to land a temp job as a Corporate Services Manager at a corporate real estate firm. To clarify, I managed nothing and I didn’t even work for a corporate services department. Essentially I ordered office supplies and made sure the printers had paper. I was terrible at it and spent most of my days trying to get people to like me enough to 1. do my job for me 2. give me a leg to stand on when they inevitably tried to fire me.

And that’s how the blog started. I just needed something to do while sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day. I wasn’t a writer– in many ways I’m still not a writer– but it was, and is, the only thing that could save me. When no one else could make me laugh, I could make myself laugh. (A weird and not entirely enviable talent, but I do sometimes think I’m funny.) When I looked around at what a miserable failure my life seemed to be, there was comfort in knowing that 221 people I didn’t know were reading my words. The first time my blog got 500 views on a post, I drank an entire bottle of Cakebread at a Hillstone and nearly blacked out. It was silly. It still is silly. But it really did mean something to me. It meant that no matter how terrible my job was, how little I was contributing to the world, I still had my words. And 221 people who saw them.

And in a lot of ways the blog did change everything. When I didn’t have a resume to prove myself, I had the blog. When people didn’t know whether to trust that I could tell a story, I had the blog. It was the most unorthodox means for landing any civilized job, but it worked. If it weren’t for the blog, I’d probably still be lying about how much tabloid sized paper is in tray 6 of the Brother printer on the 14th floor.

And through it all, the blog itself has remained fairly insignificant. My commitment to it waxes and wanes, my confidence in sharing my stories and experiences here does the same. I worry that my becoming a mom has turn people off, or my boring suburban life has left me with nothing insightful to share. But my deep down desire hasn’t changed at all–I want to be a writer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever truly thought to be proud of. I’ve been a lot of things, a strategist, copywriter, creative director, content person, brand guru, and those things are wonderful (and pay well…) but I want to be a writer. And it turns out that there’s only one way to become a writer.

You have to write.

People constantly make suggestions to me… You should write a sitcom! Oh my god, you should be writing a book. Have you ever thought about a screenplay? Have you tried standup? But at the core of all of those things is material. Real stories about my boring, suburban life.

So I am going to try something new. Rather than think and stew and marinate on topics, I am going to try to just…share. I’m going to tell you weird stories about the husband falling asleep in the car on the ride to work and how I want to murder him by dropping tablets of rat poison in his open mouth (just kidding! sort of.) and stories about A putting on a suit and tie over his jammies and walking into the kitchen and asking me to dance.

And you may find that many of these stories are super fucking boring, but I have to write them down. Because they’re all I have.

And I’m going to be a fucking writer.

 

 

 

Successfully Failing at Motherhood

A few years ago I wrote a post called “But what’s it really like to have a baby?” It ended up getting picked up by the Huffington Post (front page) and for 24 hours I was the most equally lauded and hated woman on the planet. Mothers and childless women from across our great country gathered their spatulas and absurdly limited legal knowledge and campaigned (anonymously, online) to have my child removed from me. Why? Because I just didn’t think being a mom was the super greatest time ever. In equal contrast were the others– the mothers and childless women who were relieved to hear a version of the truth that, in some small measure, mirrored their own feelings. The feeling that children, while chock full of charm and adorable (sometimes), are also a full contact, full time sport. There’s no beginning and end to parenting. It’s not just a sacrifice of your vagina and lower abdomen (which becomes a sideshow), but your actual life.

In those two years, my baby has become a toddler. And frankly, my feelings about motherhood haven’t changed much. In the same way that I love cake and hate baking, I love my child, but I really don’t love motherhood. And as hard as it is for some people to reconcile this, or even accept it, I don’t really feel much guilt about it. My journey now has been about how to balance the choice to have a child and catapult myself into a role that neither comes naturally to me, nor gives me much satisfaction, and maintain my sanity as a human being who craves a life less consumed by the unending demands of motherhood.

For many, there’s a simple, vilifying argument. “You chose to have children. Your selfishness is disgusting.”  To those people, I say “fuck you.” If you truly believe that our society pays even the slightest of lip service to the reality of motherhood in a modern age, you are naive. We’re still taking a page out of a book that has men bringing home all the bacon, women who were groomed from a young age to become mothers and accept the role that was offered, and zero social media pressure or scrutiny. In a day in age where maternity leave is a luxury, leaving early to pick up a child from daycare causes both personal and professional duress, and the choice between children and a career is only possible if your career affords you incredible flexibility or cash, the “reality” of motherhood has been rewritten, but never published. (For example, on top of childcare, which can run about $1600/month [down from $2400 in Boston], I pay nearly $800/month to have someone pick up my child from daycare because I simply cannot leave work early enough to fetch him. I get home between 7:00/7:30 and begin the one hour sprint through bath, dinner, books, and bed.)

I was chatting with my mother on the phone the other day, relaying the plight of the modern mother– the guilt and balance and dissatisfaction. Thinking she’d have some insight (she did have THREE children), she replied, “I don’t really understand that. I was just so happy.”

Welp, there you have it. Thanks, Mother.

But then I got to thinking about it. When she comes to visit, she relishes all the stuff that makes me want to poke my eyes out. She’s on all fours, pretending she’s a pony, coloring Elsa, watching Mickey Mouse. She thinks letting him pick out ridiculous, mismatched outfits is hilarious and cute. (No. Just no.) She can build Lego towers and knock them down for HOURS. I approach Legos with a mind for building something elaborate. A color-coordinated palace with symmetry and functional exits. To A, that’s sacrilege. We build it high and then we knock it to the ground. Then we repeat that… for the rest of the week. I don’t want to be sitting there thinking about being anywhere else, but that’s what happens.

I hate that on weekends, I look forward to time to recharge, relax, and get things organized, and instead we are held captive by the whims of a 37 inch person. Rain strikes fear into the core of my being. I want to eat at a restaurant, but I’m gripped with anxiety about whether it will be a fun and worthwhile meal or an ill-fated nightmare that leaves me feeling like I wasted $100 and 2 hours of my day. Keep them indoors and they bottle up so much energy you will live to regret your decision for days. Take them outside and they’re hot, cold, hungry, wish you brought the bike and not the scooter, need to pee, don’t like the way the sun is shining, think the slide is too green, the other kids are looking at them, or want to be pushed on the swing. For the rest of the day.

And I fucking hate “mommy friends.” I don’t mean my friends who are mommies. I mean people in the world who are supposed to be my friends because we both have kids. What the fuck kind of sense does that make? I don’t like you, your husband, your politics, or your approach to life, but since we both have children born in 2013, let’s hang out and have some wine. I’D RATHER DO ANYTHING ELSE.

And mostly I hate that I’m always fighting with my husband about nothing. We aren’t even fighting with each other, we’re fighting with the invisible blob that is parenthood. The intangible piece of shit that is blameless and evasive, so you have to yell at your physical spouse. Because obviously the husband deserves to take the entire blame for the fact that I’m wound like a top because my child thinks it’s absurd that we don’t kick people in the tits, I haven’t been able to eat lunch without a chopstick flying at my face since 2013, every dollar we make is assigned to childcare, college funds, savings, mortgage and alcohol, and every time my kid finishes a bag of ANYTHING, he flings the crumbs around the backseat of the car. (WHATTHEFUCKISWRONGWITHYOU?! JUSTPUTTHEBAGDOWNLIKEACIVILIZEDGENTLEMAN!)

I miss energy and free time. I miss the gym. I miss extra cash flow. I miss investing in stupid shit like absurdly expensive sushi and shoes. Because as terrible as that sounds to other people, I love both of those things.

But the very, very worst part is that I know I will miss this. Because as much as I don’t love motherhood, I love him. I love his tiny face and his absurd lexicon. I love watching him learn things and his enthusiasm about damn near everything. I love that he thinks we are the absolutely greatest. (Though frankly he far prefers my husband to me. I’m sure you’re shocked.) I love that he wakes up first thing in the morning and asks if today is the day we get to spend the whole day together (weekends). I even love that he tells his entire swimming class that his Mups’ boobies are falling out of her bathing suit. (They weren’t.)

I know that there will come a time when motherhood does become me. At some point, some age, the winds will shift and motherhood will too. What my child needs and wants will be something I can offer. The sacrifices will become less physical and more emotional. And I’m sure that hindsight, that bastard, will be 20/20. I’ll laugh at what seems like petty, long-ago misery and cry as he walks across a stage or down an aisle.

This idea that we as humans are expected to sacrifice our lives for the lives of others isn’t sustainable. I want for “motherhood” to be a parallel journey to the bigger one that I am on, the journey of life. I don’t want to feel that choosing to have a child means choosing to jump track from continuing to become the person I should be to dedicating everything I have to someone else’s journey. I want to set him up. I want to help him find his path, but I want to stay on mine too. I don’t want to be consumed by motherhood. I just want to be a woman whose journey includes a child.

And I think that should be okay.

 

How I got almost obese

There are a lot of things that I am really glad I don’t ever have to explain to my 15-year-old-self. Among them? My current figure. (A combination of the Venus on a Half Shell and a Mr. Potato Head.)

This morning I “weighed in” to get an official number for my now very necessary weight loss. I weighed 197.4 pounds. To give you some idea, the last time I hit 197.0 pounds I was about eight months pregnant. So the last time I was this size it was because I was carrying around another human life. Like a whole ‘nother person.

When I got pregnant, I was by no means at my fighting weight. I had started to creep up the scale after “retiring” from running because I hated it. I had meant to lose some weight, but because I was about to get knocked up, I didn’t really care THAT much. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I was nearing 170.0 pounds. (Oof.) Previous to that, I had enjoyed a few years of being about 150 pounds. Too thin by some folks standards, but man did I look great. Hungry, but great.

As many of you know, weight is a tough subject for me. Despite every reason to be a normal and well adjusted gal with no body image issues at all, I instead opted to go down the path of being a hugely fucked up gal with lots of issues. I started throwing up my food when I was in first grade. I was at a pool party and I was eight years old. I ate too much cake and I felt bad about myself and for some reason my eating-disorder-preconditioned-brain connected some super fucked up dots and I made myself throw up. That was the start of a 17-year battle with bulimia. (Though I’d argue that was just the first outward manifestation of a life-long battle with food and eating.) Having my cake and throwing it up too was easy. It made sense. There are times even today that it still makes sense.

For starters, I do not eat bon bons. I don’t scoop ice cream into my pie hole while bemoaning my existence. In the traditional sense, I don’t use food as comfort. I know cake doesn’t love me. I realize that BLTs don’t care about me as a person. For me, eating has always been about seeking stimulation. When I’m bored or restless I look forward to eating. Maybe it will be fun! Maybe that feta salata will be entertaining!

Another important thing to know is how healthy I eat. Kale, sprouted nuts, salads, cottage cheese, kombucha, no red meat, lots of herbs, olive oil…. We spend hundreds of dollars a week at Whole Foods on really good quality food. I’m living proof that you can get pretty fucking fat on large quantities (accidentally large quantities) of healthy food.

And I drink. Again, I’m not guzzling growlers and slinging White Russians. But I do drink beer and wine. Usually 3-4 days a week I have a glass or two of wine and then on the weekends maybe more. Depends. But I’m not taking out a bottle a night.

But because I don’t have these crazy swings of totally out of control behavior, losing weight is nothing short of just plain annoying. Because I’m not saddling up to the bar and ordering cheese fries and bacon cheese burgers, the thought of having to lose 40 or 50 pounds seems cruel. I don’t deserve to be punished when I didn’t do anything wrong. But that none of that changes the cold, hard facts. I am 4.5 pounds from OBESITY. Those tiny weights you grab at a step aerobics class are all that stand between me and obesity. And I’m not the kind of girl who was supposed to be obese. Seriously.

But it goes like this.

You stop running after four or five half marathons because you hate running. Running sucks. And then you start having a few more beers or don’t reduce your carb intake even though you’re not running 30 miles a week. Then you get pregnant and you finally find something YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT. I excelled at being pregnant in a way few can. I was SO good at it. And you’re pregnant so no one is like “why is that chick eating two entrees?” They’re like, “you are so cute and pregnant!” (Wee!)

And then your baby comes and he doesn’t latch so you’re pumping all the time. You’re pumping in a unisex, single bathroom in the hallway of an industrial building at 9AM and 1PM. You’re rushing home to pump again before your boobs explode and your nipples take someone’s eye out. You can’t jog because you wear a 40EE and any sudden movement causes pain and leaking. And no one likes a leaky jogger. Fortunately, breast feeding takes a lot of the baby weight off. (Not all, but a lot.) And you’re feeling pretty okay.

And then after about a year you have to stop pumping. Because pumping is a prison. And breast feeding is making you nuts. And you’re crying a lot. And something is totally up with your hormones. So you stop and you gain a few lbs, but it’s not the end of the world because you’re going to start exercising again because your boobs are no longer weapons of mass destruction. But then you get a new job. And it’s terrible. And you have to buy a Prius and you’re driving to work in the morning, crying, and then driving home in traffic, cursing the clock and trying to make it in time to let the nanny off. And you’re tired as fuck when you get home and your baby hasn’t seen you all day and you have about an hour before he has to go to bed. So you eat some cheese and olives and crackers and wait for your husband to get home. And you stress about money and feel guilty about your baby and your terrible job. And so you open a bottle of wine and you try to just breathe and relax. And then he gets home and you look at your baby and he has some wine and then you talk about dinner and then OH FUCK YOU TOTALLY FORGOT THAT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GO JOGGING. Maybe you’ll wake up at 4:45 the next morning and exercise before going to your terrible job? Maybe? (Answer: no.)

So then you leave your job. And that’s a huge relief but it’s not a relief to be without a job, a primary breadwinner, and panicked as shit that you need to do something. So you start hustling. Because the nanny has to get paid and the rent doesn’t pay itself and you’re arguing with your husband and eating cheese and crackers because it’s easy and dinner is a distant memory when you’ve got a little guy who needs to take a bath and go to bed. Maybe you’ll cook some chicken later. Or order Chinese. Or both.

AND OH FUCK YOU FORGOT THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT. So you don’t.

And then you move. Because you and your husband finally decide that something’s gotta give. So you move. And it’s great. But now you commute three hours a day and the baby has daycare and once again working out is going to have to be before 6AM or after 8PM and while that’s not impossible, it’s just not motivating. And you’re happy in your new house and you’re starting to feel like maybe being fat isn’t that big of a deal. And you take on a persona. And you get a little less beautiful to yourself. And your underwear get HUGE.

And then you get on the scale one day and between what felt like yesterday and now you’ve put on more than twenty pounds. And you feel a lot of sadness and guilt. And no matter how many times you say to yourself, “I am more than this number.” It doesn’t make it less humiliating. It doesn’t change that you can’t buy new clothes and you don’t want to see old friends because you know what they’re thinking. They want to know how you got almost obese. And you want to be able to explain it, but you know that at the end of the day the real reason is that you chose this over losing weight. I’m almost obese because I chose to be. And I didn’t even realize that’s what I was choosing. I was just trying to get through another day or season or situation. And ten extra pounds seemed manageable. And then twenty was only ten away from ten. But now…

Now I’m 25 lbs from where I started, 40 lbs from where I “should” be, and 55 lbs from where I once was. And it sucks so bad.

So today I got on the scale and I got the number and I wrote it on my fridge. (Which isn’t symbolic, just centrally located.) And while I know it isn’t about a number, I also know that’s what motivational people say to fat people. It’s about a number. It shouldn’t be about an unrealistic number, but these numbers are a necessary guiding principle. Girl got fat and she’s got to get un-fat. Before I get obese.

Because that, friends, is how I got almost obese.

Are you a hoe?

We are homeowners. If you aren’t a homeowner, I will let your mind at ease. You don’t need to be a homeowner. If you are currently living in a swanky rental where someone else takes out your trash, replaces broken things, and worries about insurance and other random things, you are doing a-okay. I never really understood the economic incentive of homeownership– and truthfully I’m not sure I do now– but sometimes you crunch some numbers and you’re feeling all American-dreamy and POOF! you end up with a home that’s all your own.

Don’t mistake my honesty for dissatisfaction; I’m having a gangbusters time owning a home. (It’s a condo. I don’t want to lie to you.) But I know that there is not always a reason to own. In all fairness, we bought a new conversion condo that was almost as turnkey as they come. There are some #firstworldproblems, like I don’t like the blond wood of the bannister and the cherrywood of the cabinets aren’t what I would have picked out myself, but whatever. Cry a fucking river, Caroline.

But when you’ve lived in apartment rentals– especially in the city– for almost 15 years, there are things about homeownership that can be a real beast. Never mind taking out the trash myself and sorting my own recycling, I’m getting pretty good at that, and I’m even ramping up to changing my own lightbulbs and remembering to lock my own front door, but as the summer approaches, things begin to emerge. Homeowner things. Like tiny toothed monsters hiding in the shadows.

We did not want a yard. In some ways, it made us the perfect buyers. Yard? No thank you. I hear yard and I am tormented by the years I spent slaving as my mother’s stand in Indonesian factory worker, her personal weeder and earth whisperer. Saturday mornings spent hunched uncomfortably in a dirt bed riddled with dog shit, praying to every known deity that I wouldn’t find an earthworm or beetle of some kind. Because then I would die. And while I understand the desire for a green space to… do whatever you do on it… I’d rather a nice slab with a patio table and some twinkle lights. As for the child, he’s fine. He has a park, a room of toys, colors, tables, and whole city. He’ll live without a yard.

But we didn’t get away totally scot free. There’s a patch of earth. It’s about 3×2 feet on the side of the driveway. My initial thought was that we should buy some nice shiny rocks and fill it up. I was ignored. There was real enthusiasm for planting, which I was not UNenthusiastic about, but I was a little indifferent. When the snow melted, it revealed what I thought was a bunch of dead shit. Turns out, they were something called “annuals” and they weren’t actually dead, just holding out. If I ever look like that while I’m “holding out,” just take me out.

We had a Very Official meeting of our condo association. (Me, Corey, the downstairs neighbor, some cheese, two bottles of rose, and Author running up and down the hall.) We decided to get ready for summer by hiring some students to clean and paint the patio furniture and “prep the bed” for some planting. We made a list of items we’d need to pick up:

• Rustoleum Primer

• Rustoleum Black Enamel Paint

• Phosphoric Acid Prep and Etch

• Rake

• Hoe

• Shovel

• Wire Brushes

• Hose

• Hose mount

• Broom

• Hose Nozzle

• Compost Soil

• Mulch

I think that was everything, all of which would be available at Home Depot. I volunteered to go get the stuff during the week so that the students could hit the ground running on Saturday.

What should have been a quick trip to the hardware store quickly spiraled into a hot spot of self actualization and doubt. Do you have any idea how many different kinds of hoses there are? How many lengths, styles, colors, and types? Do you want a rubber hose or a vinyl hose? Do you want it to coil or spiral? Green or black? Expandable standard? Will you be using it to trickle beds or spray flowers? I DONT HAVE ANY IDEA. At this point I hadn’t even made it to the Home Depot. I was at the Target. I asked a couple who was passing by if they had any knowledge of hoses, to which the man, who had thick tattoos all around his neck and upper chest, responded, “They spray water. What’s there to know?” I explained that I was buying my first hose and he looked at me incredulously. I explained that he might be surprised how little use one has for a garden hose in downtown Boston and he looked at me like I’d no sense at all. He pointed at a plain green hose about 30 feet long. “Just get that one.” He started to walk off, but I knew I needed him to direct me to the correct nozzle. “Are the nozzles universal? Like can I use any one with any hose?” This time his wife/girlfriend responded. “What are you doing with the hose.” I wasn’t trying to be an asshole, but it just came out. “Getting water out of it.” She explained that there were different settings for different kinds of watering and I should be sure I was getting the right settings. After a somewhat exhausting back and forth, I realized that the most expensive nozzle in all the land was only $9. “Oh. Well this is dumb. I’ll just buy a few.”

What she heard was, “I’m an elitist hose whore who thinks money grows on trees and will simply surround myself with solid gold nozzles and scoff at other, nozzleless persons.”

I made it home with a hose and a nozzle. So about a 10th of my list. I wasn’t deterred. The problem was Target. Not me.

The rest of the items I knew wouldn’t give me a problem. Couple of cans of spray paint, bag of dirt, rake. I ran to the Home Depot to pick up the items after dinner.

Now look. I am not suggesting that the employees of the Home Depot are not helpful, as in, they desire to help you. But I can read labels just like the next guy. What I actually need is some expertise. Some knowledge that goes beyond what the hapless copywriter was able to get on the label. (Believe me, as a copywriter I know the drill.) When I suddenly realize that compost and soil are not interchangeable, and that there’s been a lot of fucking around with dirt since I last bought a bag of it, I need someone with some real information. There was no one. I wasn’t about to go home without dirt and try to explain that with all my brains I was actually dumber than dirt, so I stood in the nursery section for a solid 45 minutes reading bags. I learned nothing. I would have to just pick.

When I finally made my way to the gardening utensils section, most of my smugness had faded. I was glad to be able to grab the last few things and go on my way, but of course that didn’t happen. Because something happened to hoes since 1997 and it turns out I can’t pick one out of a line up. Hoes have changed. Hoes are in a whole new league.

The part that still makes me laugh is how I allowed myself to become convinced that I was being punked. Even though the display said “gardening hoe” and I was holding a thing with a “gardening hoe” label, I refused to believe that it was actually a hoe. Why did it look like that? And because I don’t actually know what a hoe is used for, I couldn’t accurately decide whether this nouveau hoe would work for my needs. My phone battery was getting too low for an extensive research effort so I did what I do best, gave up.

Hoeless and pushing around a bag of dirt, I finally found the spray paint. (The expert at Home Depot told me it was “halfway down aisle four.” What she meant to say was “it’s all the way down at the end of aisle four. Like the very end. Before you hit the bathtubs.”) I may have made an involuntary whimpering sound when I looked up to find 3790032 different kinds of RustOleum. I know that I said, “you’ve got to be shitting me” out loud. My hoe problems were the least of it. There was no way I was going to be able to figure out what kind of paint to get. And how much did I need? I deferred to the friendly Home Depot expert who read the label and then stated, “well, it says here you can get 50 sqft from one can so I guess you can get about 50 square feet.” I really didn’t feel like being bitchy because it occurred me that she really did think she’d just done an incredible job servicing me.

“Oh great. That’s awesome. I’ll get two.”

i.e. I don’t have the energy to point out to you how useless that information was to me. I’d try, but I’ve been beaten by hoe and a bag of dirt and have nothing left to give. I’m just going to get these two cans and if they aren’t enough, I’ll huff them in my car before coming back to talk to you about getting more.

Two wasn’t enough. I should have gotten four.

When I got home, full of tales of the hoe aisle and dirt differences, the hubs gave me one of his usual smug responses. Something along the lines of “you weren’t asked to pick out a cure for cancer.” His smugness was short-lived, though, as I had compensated for my inability to find anything for us to use by buying miniature versions of everything on the list for A. There’s nothing that makes the hubs’ crazier than my facilitating the boy being all up in his shit while he is trying to get something done.

“…. and this tiny shovel so he can help you clear the beds! Oh! And did you see this ridiculous mini push broom?! How cute is that?”

Next stop, the plant nursery!

Why David Sedaris isn’t in love with me

“You were a mess.”

Those were my husband’s encouraging words to me after waiting in line for two hours after a Sedaris reading at Boston Symphony Hall on Wednesday. When I responded that I hated him and wanted him to jump off a bridge he responded, “No. It was really cute seeing you completely lose your cool and be so ridiculous.” Jesus, thanks.

Here’s the thing, I don’t stalk celebrities. I don’t generally talk to them or bother them or try to tell them all about what good friends we would be. Mostly it’s because I realize that I don’t want to be friends with them. I want to be friends with whomever they play on TV. (There were two celebrity instances that broke this mold, both not optimal. One involved Tom Brady and the other The Boss. But those are for another time.)

I’ve been going to Sedaris readings for almost 10 years here in Boston. I have even been to some alone, which, if you know me, you know is a Huge Deal. I don’t typically do anything like that alone. I can’t even eat alone unless I have a stack of papers and a Very Important, Very Busy look on my face. But I have, indeed, bought a ticket for one and sat my ass in a seat at Symphony Hall on more than one occasion to hear Mr. Sedaris tell me all his stories. Tell ME.

I really, really believe that he would benefit greatly from the remarkable friendship we would have if he would just give me a chance. No, seriously. I actually believe this.

But every year when it comes time for audience questions or book signings, I slink down in my seat and get all nervous and sweaty palmed. Again, if you know anything about me, you know I don’t ever get nervous or sweaty palmed. I could stand up in front of 20,000 people and talk about any random topic without so much as a butterfly, but ask David Sedaris to be my friend? OMG NO.

This year was different. This year I decided that I was going to wait in line with my book and I was going to have him sign it. I was going to use that time to seduce him with my wit and charm and by the end of it he would be begging me for my home address. I even went one step further on the crazy ladder and wrote him a note. Unfortunately the only paper I had in my purse was a print out of the contagious disease page from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, but I did not let that deter me. I told him we needed to be pen pals and then outlined in great detail why this was going to be so wonderful. I explained that I had tried to just BE his pen pal by locating his address on the internet, but that I didn’t want to exhaust too many resources because I knew it would look creepy. (I also left out the part about how, if I was taking notes during the last ten years, I could probably use random context clues to triangulate his location in England.) I told him about how normal I am and how I would even send the occasional care package. The note was wrapped about a business card so that he could Google me and see just how normal and pen pal worthy I am.

The line after the show was long. Two hours long, in fact. And that was after I bought some other random author’s book so that I could cut to the shorter line. (I had to have him sign it, which was awkward because I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the book was about or who he was. And he was Indian and you know how my humor doesn’t translate with the ESL crowd.) For the most part, the hubs and I spent the two hours chatting about random stuff to keep my mind off the fact that I was just hours away from the biggest moment in my life. I was going to have 5 minutes to charm the pants off of my idol. The only writer I’ve ever actually admired. The only writer I KNOW needs to be my friend. Occasionally the hubs would ask what I was going to say and I would just look at him with that “stop talking or I’ll puke on your shoes” look and he would laugh and tell me he really did support me. He thought it was great that I was going for it. (I now realize he was mocking me.)

Adding to my stresses was my outfit. About six weeks ago I bought this dress thinking it would be something a little different. By something a little different, I apparently meant “dress like a fat hooker.” I don’t know what my deal is. I know that I am chunky and I know I need to lose the weight, but I go into these strange empowerment phases where I suddenly get all “power to my body” and buy things that, upon reflection, I have no business wearing. Between that dress, the no makeup, and the 68 and raining hair, I looked every bit the crazy stalker I was going to convince him I wasn’t. Oh, and I was breaking in some new over the knee boots, so I looked like a swashbuckling hooker. Because I had a limp. Like a peg leg. From the boots.

Unbeknownst to the hubs, I had decided that the best way to get David to warm up to me was by telling him that my husband had a fatty tumor. My best friend David had told us all about his fatty tumor during the show and I knew that this knowledge would make him feel some kinship for me. He would definitely say, “that’s all I need to know. Let’s go get ice cream and then head to your place to watch Hart of Dixie on Netflix.”

After two hours of waiting, and a very awkward signing of The Other Book by The Other Author, it was time. There he was. Sitting at the little table with his pen and personality just waiting. I took a deep breath and turned to the husband. And he was gone. He had gone about thirty feet away to stand in the corner. He was pretending not to know me. I blame this entire unraveling on him.

Have you ever heard the term “word vomit”? It’s exactly what it sounds like. After that night, word vomit has a new meaning for me. I actually visualize type writer style words flowing from my mouth, covered in some kind of viscose nasty, hitting the table and splashing my best friend in the face. I should have aborted my pen pal mission, but I couldn’t. I started with the book and who to sign it for. I tried to pull up a picture of my son so he could see who he was signing it for. Total disaster. It pretty much looked like I was making up the kid. I immediately switched to the Fatty Tumor Plan, but with the husband hiding in the corner I was going to have to yell at him to come as proof. And if you know my husband, you will not be surprised to learn that he all but looked up and said, “what fatty tumor?” My best friend David was UNBUTTONING HIS VEST to show us his tumor while my husband just stood there. Panicked, I vomited some more.

“Well, at least it’s a fatty tumor and not skin tags. His grandmother had hundreds of them. Like fringe.”

WHATTHEFUCKCAROLINE?!

“Skin tags?” David asked.

“You know. Those horrid floppy skin pieces that grow on people. Totally gross.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his notebook and jotted down the words “skin tags.” (Now, for as poorly as this whole thing turned out, at least I can say I inspired him to write in his notebook.)

If you weren’t already visualizing my profuse word vomiting accurately, be sure you take into account the sweeping hand gestures I am employing, and the acting out of the husband’s grandmother (God rest her soul) covered in skin tags.

I realize that my  time is waning. The book is long signed and I still haven’t connected. He clearly does not find me charming and my options for wooing him are pretty much nil. I pull out my note, which now feels entirely creepy and not even a little bit charming. I start explaining veryquickly how I’ve written him this note, which isn’t creepy at all, about why he should be my pen pal. I’ve never seen such an obvious “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me” face in all my life. Ever. He opened his mouth to speak and I silenced him.

“Just take the note. Maybe you’ll feel bad about what a hot mess I am and change your mind.”

He took the note graciously, holding it like one might hold a baggie full of human shit.

“Okay. Thanks.”

I knew I’d failed. I didn’t even want to take my signed book off the table because it represented the door of friendship being slammed in my face. In that moment I think I managed to accidentally look like the saddest, most defeated person to ever walk the earth. I looked at the line of people behind me, many of whom I’d been mocking just minutes before, and realized that they were all going to be BFFs with David Sedaris and I wasn’t. I was going to end up on some kind of list. I’d inexplicably be unable to get tickets to next years show.

Walking home, I tried to get excited about the fun note he wrote for Author and how exciting it was to meet him, but it was an act. I’d flubbed epically.

“On the bright side, you may have inspired him to write something.” said the husband.

“About skin tags?” I asked, remembering that I’d inspired him to jot down the note.

He didn’t reply. He looked at me with pity for the first time in our relationship. He didn’t have to say it. I knew. The words were hanging there like yellowed sheets on a clothesline.

“No. Not about skin tags…”

Caution Parenting Failures Ahead

If someone would do me the favor of writing me an advance check that would eliminate the need for a day(ish) job, I am all set to write my series of pregnancy and parenting books. There will likely be three or four in the series, but since I haven’t even gotten my human yet, I can’t be entirely sure that it won’t be closer to 6. Like Game of Thrones only less like Game of Thrones and more like Game of What the Fuck Were YOU Thinking. 

We’re in the third trimester. Unlike the prior trimester– the second one– which was a big bag of lies and deception, this trimester feels like pregnancy. I’m no longer wondering whether people aren’t giving up their seats because they can’t “tell” if I’m pregnant, but rather standing uncomfortably close to people who won’t get up so that they may enjoy the feeling of being trapped and wonder what exactly that smell is. (It’s not a bad smell, per say, but it’s not anything easy to identify. Some combination of powder, corn chips, an Inkan village, and peppermint.) There are also entire days that go by when something doesn’t feel quite right, but it’s not until I’m in hysterics, naked, at 2AM, eating Triscuits, that I realize I it’s just hormonal. That happens. You spend the day wondering if maybe you forgot to eat or take medication or poop and in the end you realize you didn’t forget shit. Your body actually does chemically hate you. 

Periodically I have an enlightened moment in which I realized I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life, not only by being knocked up, but by marrying the hubs, living in Boston, choosing the career I’ve chosen, picking the apartment I live in, driving the car I drive, along with a whole litany of other things. (Fuck this fucking shampoo and it’s stupid fucking smell and the people who make it.) In those moments I find it’s best to simply lie on the floor and let the tears flow silently from my eyes. After ten or fifteen minutes I usually feel better and then commence the Kafka-like task of rolling around on the floor like a bug on its shell trying to get up. That either ends in laugher or another 10-15 of silent tears. 

But by far the most rewarding part of the third trimester is watching our inner parents slowly creep out. We’re slowly becoming comfortable judging our friends and the choices they’re making with their offspring, confident that while we don’t have the baby here yet, we’ve clearly observed enough to be superior. Turns out the hubs is the horrifyingly irrational and overprotective one, determining everything introduced to the nursery a murder weapon in soft, organic clothing. As for me, I’m more of a mad scientist. “If we do this, what do you think will happen?” (Cue disconcerting laugh.) 

In all seriousness, though, shit is getting real and the conversations about who he will be when he grows up have quickly shifted to “who the fuck is going to take care of him after six weeks?!” The books we’re reading no longer mention lower back massages and pregnancy friendly sex positions (like we’re having sex…), but what to do when your mucus plug makes an appearance in your tent sized panties or how to cope with giving birth in a taxi. (Pull over. As if the backseat of a car isn’t how you ended up here in the first place, Dirty Legs.) 

One thing we’ve been very diligent about is training ourselves to stay focused on our baby, not other people’s babies. I know first hand that grade A underachievers can still grow up to be real people. (Uh hem… every member of my family. Immediate and otherwise.) The small boy may not be speaking on time, but so long as he eventually finds an acceptable form of communication that doesn’t require poo flinging, I think we’ll be okay. He certainly doesn’t need to go to an Ivy League college, but it’s important that he not limit his options via laziness. Like his mama. 

Already we see it emerging. Friends asking friends if little buttercup is rolling over yet or lamenting that moonbeam hasn’t found her hands yet. Frankly I wish I’d taken me a little longer to find my hands– what’s the big deal? But the creeping envy and judgment is there. Meanwhile, despite the pregnancy books that insist the small boy must be having a party in my uterus, he continues to prefer a more sloth like existence. The day is dead to him, the night an opportunity for some light rearranging. Something could be wrong with him. Or he could be exactly like his parents. 

Stuart has provided some much needed context for our upcoming parenting endeavors. His continued belief that the changing table is a luxury cat bed has ruptured the hubs’ brain and his crying for love despite having food, water, and a perfectly good home is a daily reminder that if I don’t grow some patience soon someone is going to take my baby away. (Which would be really tragic, but also good fodder for a book…) 

With the light shining opaquely up ahead, I’ve realized three things: 

1. This was absolutely a poor decision.

2. Poor decision making is a hallmark of my life

3. The hubs has even less of a clue than I do

But all of that has led me to a very Zen-like place (save the aforementioned naked Triscuit binges). Every great decision of my life has had those exact things in common. I’m like a Phoenix or a Lotus flower. Poor decisions are a breeding ground for great Caroline success. I’m an adversity master. And while the hubs isn’t exactly a Lotus flower, he is consistent, even if it means consistently telling me I’m wrong. 

Wrong I may be, but at least I don’t think a pacifier is a baby suffocation device. 

 

 

T is for trauma

I’m busy. I’m the kind of busy that doesn’t go to the grocery store or feed her husband. I’m the kind of busy that wishes her car could transcribe speech and print it out of the CD deck. What I’m getting at here is that I’m the kind of busy that has no business taking time out of the day to blog. But this is an Extreme Circumstance.

To give you some background, I’d like to review a few things, namely that I’m from Texas. For those of you who haven’t had the distinct pleasure of visiting that country, let me give you a quick overview. It’s big. The people are obsessed with it. It gets really hot in the summertime and sometimes it also gets hot in the winter time. There’s no such thing as snow, no such thing as seasons, really. And while that leaves a lot of people scratching their heads about why anyone would spend any more time than absolutely necessary there, the truth is that Texas is a hell of a place. Friendliest people on the plant, diverse culture– and by that I mean not a single black person, but lots of lots of Mexicans– and delicious food. Considering its size, I find it absurd when people say they hate Texas. It’s like people who say they hate seafood. Really? You tried everything under the ocean and not of it was for you? Fine. I don’t like beverages.

I genuinely love being Texan. I plan to send my children to Texas in the summers to spend time with their grandparents on the farm. They’ll attend summer camp for a few weeks and then go stay with “Gemmie” and “Farmer” (my grandparent names I’ve given them) and learn all about… I’m not sure. But it will be something good. At the very least it will give them a sense of space. Something they won’t find back home since  their parents have stacked them three high in a bedroom that’s actually more of an office.

But I live in Massachusetts. I actually live in Boston. I would never say I live in Massachusetts because for the most part I think it’s a stinker of a state, but the Boston part is pretty dandy. I’ll probably never live in Texas again; truthfully it’s unlikely I’ll ever leave the right side of the country, but it’s not because of the heat or the culture. It’s certainly not because of the food. It’s because I hate bugs. More pointedly, I’m phobic of bugs. I will never go on Fear Factor. If my life (or, to be honest, anyone else’s) depended on me sitting in a small room with a roach or grasshopper I’d have blood on my hands. The technical parameters of “bugness” are a little blurred, but I include anything that doesn’t have a face I can relate to in some way. Slugs. Snails. Roaches. Beetles. Crickets. Centipedes. Flies. Spiders.

I will hang out with a rat and all his rat friends til the cows come home, but find a daddy longleg and I’ll move to the nearest hotel. Texas has bugs EVERYWHERE. Let me say that again. Texas has bugs EVERYWHERE. Clean people have roaches that sometimes live in their trashcans and pop up to say hello. Sometimes roaches like to burrow in the dark moist toe of a shoe, something you won’t discover until the shoe is on your foot. Anyone familiar with June bugs? I have apocalyptic dreams about trying to ring someone’s doorbell but instead being pelted to death by the errant flight patterns of these beetles. I dreaded trick or treating. It combined two of my very least favorite things: being scared and going near people’s doorways. The moths swarming the porch lights, the June bugs… AHHH!

But here in the civilized city of Boston, bugs don’t come around. It’s too cold for roaches (I hear), which is strange because I have it on good authority that the only thing surviving the end of times is bunch of roaches huddled in a Twinkie box. (Which I’m also afraid of.) And truthfully I don’t know where all the other bugs are, but I haven’t seen them so I assume they don’t exist. I’ve gotten so used to this bug-free life that I find it hard to go visit my mom sometimes. I find it hard to go visit anyone, really.

The way it plays out is generally some variation on the following: a bug is sited by myself or someone else in my proximity. After I am made aware I either take action to have said bug killed AND FLUSHED or panic and leave. That may include leaving semi-permanently. Like the time I checked into a hotel after losing a roach under my bed while living in Manhattan. No fucking way was I going to stick around for his late night reappearance. In the brief moments I allowed myself to slip into contemplation I imagined him crawling the length of my body, meeting up with his lover somewhere around my navel, and laying eggs that would later hatch. One day I’d look down to see millions of roaches streaming from my waist. I just dry heaved. Okay, it wasn’t completely dry. I need to move on.

You remember Stuart, right? The only other inhabitant of 12 Comm. As a pet, I’m not certain how Stuart fares, but as a soft accessory, he is perfect. He never wakes us up in the morning by crying or begging for food. He respects everyone’s right to sleep when and where they want to. All he asks in return is that we do the same. And we do.

So imagine my surprise when I am awoken in the wee hours of the morning by a frantically meowing Stuart. He is pacing in circles. On my face. And pushing his paws in my eyelids as if to say, “open them or ye shall feel them be opened.” I have no idea how long this went on, but when I finally woke, it was because I heard a loud noise. Stuart had begun pulling the GIANT picture frame above our bed away from the wall. As it slammed against the concrete wall it created quite the sound. As well as giving the distinct impression it was going to come off the wall and onto our sleeping faces.

BAM. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW. BAM BAM BAM. MEOW MEOW MEOW. BAM! BAM!

That’s when it came into focus. That’s when I realized that Stuart was my Lassie. He was trying to get me out of the burning house before the rafter trapped me. There was something crawling on the wall. I sat up so fast I knocked Stuart off the bed. He managed to get back up and continue stretching towards the bug, trying to get it with his cloudpuff of a paw. He may as well have been waving an invisible feather. I flicked on the light and started shaking the hubs. I’d checked my phone and knew he was up late, but it didn’t matter.

Sidenote: It’s in moments like these I actively relinquish all claims to feminism.I don’t care if I’m the lesser sex. I don’t care if I don’t get paid equal wages. WAKE UP AND GET THIS MOTHER FUCKING BUG OFF THE WALL NOW.

In his stupor, the hubs seemed to believe this was an observation exercise. He looked up, acknowledged the bug, and rolled back over.

Cue screaming.

Cue husband lift arm to get a tissue. (Admittedly, I flinched. I know he’d never hit me, but the moment was intense. And he was tired.)

He missed.

I almost died. Clutching Stuart to my breast I insisted that the hubs remove the picture and find the bug.

Cue the “are you fucking serious” glance.

Cue my “move the fucking picture frame or face a lifetime of sadness and turmoil” face.

As the picture was removed, the bug flashed across the wall. The hub’s lightning reflex caught it. (For some reason I immediately imagined him opening his fingers to check, only to have the bug leap from his fingers and up his nose and into his brain. Where it would occupy and multiply. And he would die.)

And then he threw it in the trash.

Cue screaming.

ARE YOU SERIOUS?! YOU HAVE TO FLUSH IT. EVERYONE KNOWS YOU HAVE TO FLUSH IT! IT WILL COME BACK! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! GET IT OUT OF THE TRASH CAN! ITS DEAD BODY MAY STILL BE ABLE TO REPRODUCE! WHAT IF THE FAMILY COMES FOR THE BODY?

I was a broken shell. In my weakness I Googled the bug. That was it. I was never going to sleep again. As I read through the list of attributes and environments I slowly lost my mind.

Can live in pillows. I immediately threw the majority of our bedding to the floor and tucked my legs under me. (This is when the phantom crawling started. I could feel them everywhere.)

Then I started seeing them.

Like cereal. The bile began to creep up. My favorite food. I’d brought this plague upon my house through reckless passion. My addiction to slightly sweet carbohydrates had made my home uninhabitable. What about the box in the kitchen? Had he been there? Had my cereal been compromised?

By that point I had turned the hubs into a sleeping human raft. I perched on his back, still clutching Stuart. As he slept I imagined all the dark corners, all the pillows, all the “forgotten crevices.” I considered getting up, but in my mind they’d already covered the floor. So I started looking at real estate listings on Craiglist.

Stuart and I floated there on the sea of uncertainty. Like Jack and Rose we clung to our only salvation. A sliver of board (man) that kept us from being consumed by urban centipedes.

And we waited for morning.

weight! watch this!

Last year was the worst year of my life. It’s no more than a statement of fact. I don’t need people feeling bad for me, and I definitely don’t need people comparing my worst year of life to that of, say, one of the lost boys of the Sudan. Last year was a bad year relative to my other years. I get that.

But it doesn’t mean it didn’t take me down a peg. Friends were dropping like flies, my job was in a never ending rough patch (we know how that turned out…), and I couldn’t seem to find my mojo. It was really lost. Actually, I think I ate it. Along with everything else that wasn’t nailed to the floor. I excel at eating and drinking my way through personal trial. And so it is that this year, the not worst year of my life, I am getting things started with an extra twenty pounds of me. Unfortunately, there is no prize for having more of yourself. Unless you consider self loathing a prize.

Unlike my previous weight loss effort (Super Slim Down 2009), where I whittled myself down to an almost unrecognizable hottie, I don’t have the motivation. I’ve already run a half marathon. I already got my yoga certification. I already got skinny and hot and realized that it’s a lot of work. So. much. work.

I’m lamenting to my mother on the phone about my current physical appearance, telling her about how I know there’s a problem, but I don’t have the energy to solve it. Since my mother believes everything can be traced back to severe depression, she was quick to point out that it sounded like I was depressed. After assuring her that my medication was all order, she immediately found a new solution. After two months of searching for the perfect birthday present, she was going to buy me a subscription to Weight Watchers Online.

Now, before you freak out about my mother being an asshole– which I usually wouldn’t argue with you about– you should know that she does have insight into my darkest corners and she knows that I don’t like being a fat kid. As much as I don’t want to lose this weight, I want to be a fat kid even less. She was being a straight up problem solver. Plus my mother and I have spoken open and honestly about each other’s flaws for many, many years.

I won’t go into the details of Weight Watchers, as I’m sure many of you are familiar with the system: track points, lose weight. And, if you’re so inclined, go to meetings. (This is key to building a support system, or so I’ve heard.) Nowadays tracking points is–theoretically– a cinch. I’m sure you’ve heard Jennifer Hudson singing about it. There’s an iPhone app to help you with points, both how many certain foods are and how many you have left for the day. There is also an online community of people who say sickeningly inspiring things to one another. It’s like cheerleading camp, except not. Because cheerleaders just do a few cartwheels when they need to drop a few.

I was going to start yesterday, but after adding up most of my day I realized I was over my allocation by 100% and that didn’t seem fair. So I started today. And let me tell you something, those assholes running this Ponsi scheme have not pulled the wool over this girl’s eyes. I know EXACTLY what is going on here.

First of all, kiss your benders goodbye. This program is designed to ensure you never get to binge drink again. Forget vodka sodas. Forget everything you ever learned about getting potted for the lowest number of calories. They’ve rigged the system. If I sacrificed all my food for a whole day I would be allowed seven drinks. Now, I don’t want to scare anyone, but come on. What about Sunday Funday? Nope. I might as well take up Christianity. My Sundays are now open.

Now the points are based on a top secret algorithm that takes into account fat to carb to protein and fiber ratios. But you want to know what the super secret is? You’re never eating another carbohydrate again. At least not a good one. I spend 1.5 hours at the Whole Foods today calculating the  points in every form of carb I walked by. Nope. Nope. Nope. I spent 20 minutes on pasta alone. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO PUT UNDER MY TOMATO SAUCE? A PLATE? Apparently.

Bread. OUT.

Pancakes. HA.

Tortillas. POBRACITA!

And in case you weren’t feeling sorry enough for me, they’ve rigged the cheese too. The only cheese that is low enough in points and high enough in quantity is Babybel Minis LIGHT. Like chewy pucks of spackle. And forget eating them on something like a baguette. Perhaps you’d like to count out some Wheat Thins? Maybe a Triscuit or two?

I get it. I know that it’s a clever way to help people understand portion control and the importance of moderation, but I don’t want to know the importance of moderation. I want to know the power of a high metabolism.

In an effort to jump into this with enthusiasm and optimism, I decided to go online to the “community” part of the website and see what it was all about. It’s basically a mini Facebook with a little Match.com sprinkled in. You can ask to be someone’s friend based on similar interests or join a group of people who share a common interest. Unfortunately it appears that I do not share any common interests with the people of Weight Watchers Online. I spent the majority of my evening responding to questions about why it was so hard to find Weight Watchers friendly options at major chain restaurants. I went there looking to see if anyone knew how many points were an eight course tasting with wine pairings.

I’m still a person, though, and it hurts that no one has requested to be my friend. Where is the welcome wagon? It’s not like I’m expecting a muffin basket, we all know these nazis don’t allow for anything that good, but maybe a few fluff friends so I didn’t feel so all alone?

As day one comes to an end, I’m paralyzed. I accidentally ate some leftover mousse cake from an office birthday party. It didn’t completely derail me, but I also wonder if I should forgo dinner so that I have extra points for my alcoholism tomorrow. You can eat lots of vegetables for no points, but don’t get near a sauce or condiment or you’re going straight to points hell. I haven’t even looked at mayo yet because I know it’s going to break my heart. Is there no compassion left in this cruel world?

One day down. 15 pounds to go.

Go me.

 

stuart. our precious little fuck face.

slumpystuart

Earlier this year, the hubs and I lost our prized kitty Milo to some sort of mysterious medical phenomenon. We’re not exactly sure if it was an actual phenomenon or if they just told us it was so that they could spend 10K trying to figure it out. Apparently the hubs and I have “I’m with stupid” tattooed on our foreheads, because they milked us like a wetnurse. For money we didn’t even have. I didn’t blog about the experience at the time because I was so mortified at how emotional I was about the whole thing. I was like one of those dry wombed women. I would well up with tears every time I saw a Jewish BU girl in sunglasses walking down Newbury St. You know, because they all look like owls, and owls love mice, and Milo loved those little, furry, catnip-filled mice from Target. Everything in the world was an emotional trigger.

After I watched my 10K dead cat get carted off by the vet, I had an unexpected moment. I hadn’t made my way through the (however many) steps of grief, but I can say that in addition to being overwhelmed with sadness (he was, afterall, only three, and it was totally unexpected), I was overcome with the urge to have him taxidermied.

Now, you may be thinking “what the fuck is wrong with you, Caroline?” But truthfully I was in a very fragile emotional state and the only thing pulling me through my cloud of grief was imagining all the ways that I could use his marble-eyed, sawdust-stuffed body to scare the piss out of people. Ala Scrubs, I would probably have him done with his little arms hooked up in front of him so I could hang him over the back of a chair, or over a door– peeking over to see everyone. Then when people saw him, I could say really fucked up stuff like, “Silly Milo, he just LOVES being a part of the conversation” or “Oh! Be sure to scratch behind Milo’s ears; he goes CRAZY for that sort of thing.” Not unlike those women who have life-like baby dolls made to look like their departed children. (You think I’m fucking with you, Google it.)

Alas, my willingness to spiral out of control is always cut short by the hubs’ refusal to go down with me, so Milo was donated to a class of sniveling Ruskies at the Tufts vet school. C’est la vie.

In the weeks that followed, I made dramatic statements about how we just weren’t ready to bring another cat into our lives, or how we just weren’t sure that any other animal was going to be able to fill the void. Ultimately it was just that we had a few pre-planned vacays coming up and we were pretty sure we couldnt find anyone to care for the new addition. Just for fun, though, I made inquiries to all the shelters, letting them know that my husband and I were “just starting our search” and if they had anything to please let us know. (Let me tell you, Madonna thinks she had it hard? Try adopting an animal in Massachusetts. Children can go home to their crack whore mothers and eat moldy Wonderbread three meals a day, but if a productive member of society wants an animal, they better call in Chavez or whatever the fuck his name is, because unless your home is a nest of love and 12-hours-a-day free time to love and cherish your animal, you are going home empty handed.)

We were put on a list of “potentials” and occasionally I would get a call that Garfield or some such stereotypical nonsense was ready to start interviewing potential parents. The system–quite literally– involves a two-hour animal interviewing process wherein an animal psychologist assesses the compatibility of pet and owner. If you fail, you’re name is going down to the bottom of that list, right above Michael Vick. Eventually, my liberal and earth-loving facade started to crack and I was dialing up kitten mills up and down the eastern seaboard. There was not a one of those ten-children, twenty-cat households that was going to deny me a cat because I had a day job. A familys gotta eat.

We were looking for a 6-9 month old orange cat. We didn’t want a kitten because the brutality of having a small being in our midst made the hubs think about children and then his nuts would shrivel, and quite frankly anything that needs “love” in order to make it through the day isn’t going to last long around here.

Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. To that point my loving mother called me one afternoon with a wonderful surprise (ironically, I was standing in a cat house about to do a good deed and adopt an antisocial curmudgeon cat when she called). She found us a cat. Better yet, he looked like Milo and had a bunch of extra toes like Milo.

Oh.

It wasn’t that we were ungrateful, but like a couple who has waited years for a little Asian baby, only to find out that they’re getting an accident from Kansas, we felt like we weren’t in control anymore. This new cat was coming into our home with no pre-interview. There was no pet psychologist to sign off on the acquisition. What happened if we couldn’t love him.

Well, we were about to find out.

Stuart Wayne George Beaulieu was brought to Boston in September. Not only was he not orange, he was not 6-9 months. He was so young that is age was mentioned in weekly increments, which meant that in addition to food and water, he needed the one thing the hubs and I couldn’t give him. Love.

Unlike his noble predecessor, he was not a couch-loving, prim-time-TV watching kitty. He didn’t have any catastrophic health problems that were unknowingly responsible for limiting his motor skills, thus making him the greatest animal ever. Stuart was young, vibrant, and totally vocal. The cat has a voicebox that wakes the dead.

In addition to his twelve meals a day, he likes to sustain himself during the long, lonely hours by snacking on paper products. While he particularly enjoys the subtle flavors in a roll of Viva papertowels, he’ll gladly take down an $8 birthday card, or even a semster-long drafting project. Super.

Sometimes the hubs and I will stand in the kitchen, staring blankly between his full food bowl, overflowing water dish, scattered neon plastic toys, and his small meowing body.

“What does he need?” we’ll silently ask each other.

And so the hubs will pick him up, sling him over his shoulder, and continue cooking dinner. As Stuart watches silently. Loving every minute of it.

the bathroom ninja

I’m constantly mortified by my apartment. In my mind, I’m a delicate cleaning flower. I hang my clothes up after work, open drawers and place thing neatly inside, clean up after myself as I cook a meal. But in reality, I’m a whirling tornado of horrifying mess, never understanding where everything came from. How did I end up with 26 loads of laundry? Why are there eight empty water glasses next to my bed? And where the fuck is my other shoe?

The worst part is that I fear if left to my own, I may not ever clean. Would I seriously bask in the filth of my own lifestyle for eternity? No. No, I tell myself, I wouldnt. My mother once told me that a friend of her’s husband left her because she was a mess. I know it was partly untrue because my mother told me, and because she has always lacked the reasoning skills to understand that not everything can be traced back to an Electrolux, but it really got me thinking. I don’t mind if I think I’m a mess, but I certainly don’t want other people thinking it. And the last thing I want is to try to explain to people that my marriage ended because I couldnt get my shit together– literally.

About a year ago, I was preparing for a dinner party. A friend of mine was over at the house watching me tidy (Swifer, vacuum, blow dusk off of picture frames, and Fantastic the counters) when she suddenly looked up and asked me if I wanted her to Windex. Windex what? She explained that she would Windex the mirrors in the bathroom, and the glass panes on our French doors (they are indoors, not out). Apparently she Windexed her mirrors and crystal every Sunday. I was torn between whether to be fascinated by her, panicked that it had never, ever occurred to me to do any such thing, or simply kicked her out. And uninvite her to my party. Who the hell spent her Sunday Windexing the bathroom mirrors, let alone those teensie glass squares in the picture frames? She did.

I blew it off, but later on it started to get at me. Was something wrong with me? Why didn’t I hop out of bed on Sundays, ready to right the wrongs, make things shine, and prepare my abode for the week ahead? Here is what I came up with: Thresholds. Everyones got a Threshold.

To my poor friend, a low Threshold. The slightest sign of dust, the vision of one glass awaiting its turn in the dishwasher, was enough to send her to the other side… the dark place. She needed to know that at a moments notice there would be no doubt in her separate-sponges-for-counters-and-dishes mind that a guest could arrive unannounced, a neighbor could drop in for tea and cookies. As for me? Practically no Threshold at all. The amount of work required to make those things happen doesn’t begin to compare to the mental relaxation of not doing them at all. It’s not like I leave things rotting and festering around my house, but I have been using the same disposable dusting cloth for 2 + years.

But there in the distant future is a Threshold. It doesn’t inspire me to oil the floors on Thursdays, or organize DVDs alphabetically on Saturday afternoons, but it does pick holes in my conscience until I feel an enormous amount of guilt. And guilt is as good a motivator as torture.

I’m generally on a six to eight week cycle. Every six to eight weeks I have a push that is equal-to, if not greater-than, the sum total of what others do during that entire period of time. The hubs often complains that when I take on “cleaning” I generally start by making an insane mess beforehand. I can’t just pick up the various and sundries around the apartment, rehang coats, and wash dishes (which I do on a MUCH more regular basis), I have to first reinvent the wheel. Before I hang up coats, I need to take everything out of the closet. I have to visualize how the coats are going to fit, what the hierarchy of needs will be, so that I can rearrange the closet accordingly. It’s sick, and very time consuming, but if I’ve learned anything from the hubs, it’s whole ass or no ass.

Unfortunately, sometimes I get tired midway through. Then I’m left with a half organized closet and twice as much shit laying around on the floor. To this point, there is the method by which I tackle more aggressive cleaning issues– anything involving a product. If I’m going to get out the Comet, there better be an entire afternoon and some yellow rubber gloves. And someone sequester the cat.

As of yesterday, it had been approximately 6.5 weeks since I last attempted laundry. It’s due in part to a self-diagnosed anxiety disorder that keeps me from gearing up to do laundry for fear that I will get everything together, lug it down to the basement, and then discover that there is a line until Tuesday. When it comes to doing laundry in a community setting, everyone is your enemy. Fuck your neighbors. In addition, our family penchant for Aqua Net aerosol extra hold means that everything that dares to enter the bathroom will eventually become shellacked to the tile beneath a generous layer of the Secret of the South. That, and Stuart loves to roll his body in anything liquid. It’s a miracle he isn’t shellacked to the floor. I had gone to yoga in my pajamas, which I took to be a sign that I needed to get my domesticity in check, so I decided that I was going to take care of it. Tired of being embarrassed that our bathroom showed signs of use, I got out the Soft Scrub, the Tilex with Bleach, the Clorox, and a spong. I went in and surveyed the area. I locked Stuart in the bedroom. And then I remembered that the last time I cleaned the bathroom I got so high that I nearly passed out on my couch. (Which does beg the question of what said products are doing to the ozone, but I’ll tell you, I haven’t had much success with the greener, less abrasive versions of my favorite cleansers.)

So there I was, standing in the bathroom, a black silk-blend cocktail napkin tied over my nose and mouth, the tip pointing downward towards my breasts, looking exactly like an extra from the latest Al Quaida hostage video. To complete my outfit, I stripped down to my black boy short pannies and black sports bra. I was the bathroom ninja.

Outfitted in my nimble gear, I was able to tackle soap scum in a way that few can attest to. The stains cried out in consternation. As if they thought, after four to six weeks, that I would not be back. When I finished with the bathroom, after I had polished the grout, gathered the fur and hair from every corner, rearranged the products in the cabinet to better reflect their usage, the hubs stepped upon the gleaming floors with city coated shoes. His body will not be found, nor his cause of death discovered. I am, after all, a ninja.

As I continued down the list of things to do, albeit with less fervor than what I exhibited with the bathroom, I couldn’t bring myself to take off the napkin. It had become an alter ego. I was not only the bathroom ninja but the laundry ninja. I sat on my couch, my neck sweating beneath what was now my ninja necklace (I had to pull it down from my nose and mouth in order for the hubs to understand what I was saying), folding clothes like a mad woman. Hiyah!

When it was finally time to go to bed, the hubs worked to untie the knot keeping my ninja mask on. As it came off, the cool air finally giving my neck some respite from the chemically charged poly blend, I felt like my old self again. I walked by the bathroom on my way to bed, not stopping to brush my teeth, because it would only mar the sink.

When I crawled into bed I took some time to think about all that I had accomplished. I was sure that waking up, going to yoga, cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry– that it would all give me an amazing sense of accomplishment. Instead I felt defeated. I kicked my yoga pants off, leaving them on the floor, and realized that none of it made a bit of difference. By the time the next person comes to visit I will be between cycles. My living room will be scattered with boots, shoes, models of loft apartments, books, bills, cat toys and scarves. My kitchen will have empty bottles of wine on the counter, pepper under the mill, and dishes in the sink. The $80 diffuser in the foyer will be ineffective because my fuck face cat will relieve himself moments before I bring a guest into the house, sabotaging my efforts to appear clean and neat.

So this bathroom ninja is putting away her expectations. There are too many opponents, too many walls to scale, in order to feel like I am keeping up with the status quo. I’ll try to remember to vacuum if I spill something. I’ll Swifter when Stuart starts to sneeze at his own overwhelming contribution, and I’ll attempt to keep the odor to a manageable foul. But other than that, kids, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

If you don’t like dirt, you shouldn’t walk around barefoot.