Do You Know This Band Pearl Jam? YES I KNOW THEM SAM I AM!

I do! I do! I do so like this band Pearl Jam!

So you know I teach preschool. The kids in our care are Pre-K, which means they are either 4 or 5. Which means we deal with parents who range in age from mid-20's to mid-40's (and a few older). It didn't hit me how young some of the parents are until the day last year when we were discussing volcanoes.

"Miss Jenny! Have you ever seen a real live volcano erupt?" one of our budding seismologists inquired.

I answered in my teacher voice, "Well, no. But I do remember when Mount St. Helens erupted. That happened in another state but we all watched it on the news. It was crazy! I bet if you ask your parents tonight, they'll remember, too."

And then I did some quick math in my head (yes, I can do some quick math in my head. Just not algebra. Or fractions.).  The girl who asked me was five. Her parents were some of our younger ones, probably 29, 30-ish.

I am 47. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, when I was 14. That meant this girl's parents hadn't even been BORN yet. This was one of the first times it really and truly occurred to me: I WAS NO LONGER ONE OF THOSE "YOUNG" PEOPLE. My middle-agedness smacked me upside the head with a resounding thwap. 

Since then, I've taken note of the signs of youthfulness so many of my preschool parents exhibit. They don't look as tired or as soul-drained or as thick around the middle as many of my peers do. The women have natural hair colors, very few wrinkles and most days, it looks as though they've put some effort and thought into dressing themselves. They wear pants with zippers and fancy shoes that make my feet curl up like the Wicked Witch of the West's did when Dorothy got the ruby slippers.

And the dads: they are so much cooler looking than the dads in my demographic. They wear distressed jeans and shiny puffy jackets and knit caps. Don't get me wrong, there are oodles of men over 40 who wear these exact same items, but let's be honest: you can't hide life's wear and tear under a Patagonia jacket and some True Religion jeans. Some things just can't be denied, and age is one of them.

So anyhoo. One of our dads, who normally drops his child off in the mornings, was gone for a few days. His wife took over the drop-off and as we were making small talk she mentioned that her hubby was out of town, seeing his favorite band. We ladies all giggled as she sighed and hoped out loud that he was behaving himself. "Oh, of course he is!" we assured her.

A few days later, dad was back. Now, he's not one of our baby-faced daddies. This one has a little bit of mileage on him. God, no, he's not quite as old as me, but I'm thinking he probably remembers Mount St Helens. He hung out for a few minutes, making sure his kid washed hands, signed in...all the morning routines a preschooler has. I approached Dad and said, "So your wife told us you road-tripped to see a band? Which one?"

He looked at me the same way I must have looked at my mom when she screamed "THERE ARE NO WINDOWS ON MY COMPUTER! HOW CAN I OPEN ONE?". Or how my kids look at me when I say "What's the dealio with this "snapchat", Coolio?".

Slowly, he began explaining things to this here granny: "Well, there's this band called Pearl Jam..."


"this band" called Pearl Jam? I know a little bit about this band called Peal Jam, boy.

I wanted to pull up one of our little tiny chairs and sit down and discuss this band called Pearl Jam. Mayhap I'd regale this Dad with the story of Lollapalooza '92, where a not-so-grizzled Miss Jenny danced in the dirt wearing cut offs, a black t-shirt and a Guatemalan purse from Pier One...first we rocked out to that band called Pearl Jam, then dreamy Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, then front freaking row for Ice Cube and THEN gazed up at the toned trunks and loins of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have hazy memories of bonding with strangers in line for the porta-potties and also of pretty much melting into a grungy puddle when I saw Eddie Vedder in the flesh, understanding that we were quite possibly sharing some of the very same oxygen molecules.

I wanted to tell this Dad all about how in my dreamy fantasy life I have a reunion with the boy I loved for 12 weeks one summer, and while we are first embracing and catching up I can hear the lyrics to "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" resounding through my mind. Hands down one of the best songs ever written and damn if I don't shed a tear every single time I hear it. I may or may not sing this song, loudly and badly, at the top of my lungs when I'm throwing myself a pity party now and again.

Maybe I could've told Dad that one of my crowning achievements as a parent was the day I realized that my two toddlers who were strapped in their carseats behind me were crooning "ooooh I'm still alive...." along with me and Pearl Jam. Raffi? Please. Baby Beluga's got nothing on those Seattle gods.

We could have rapped about one of the first dates I had with my future ex-husband, where we went to see the movie "Singles" and I gasped out loud when Eddie and Stone and the rest of Pearl Jam appeared on the big screen. And then I'd tell him that I bought the soundtrack and the movie and every once in a while I'll pop it into the DVD player and have a look at it just for shits and giggles.

And then I would have asked him, "For the love of Pete...how old do you think I am, man?"

As you know by now, I am not one to actually say out loud what I'm thinking at any given moment. I have these big dialogues in my head and then go home and write a lengthy blog post about it. So, no, I didn't tell Dad any of this. I think I said, "I'm so jealous!" or something equally brilliant and was satisfied to see the look of surprise in Dad's eyes when he realized that his child's frumpy middle aged preschool teacher with the gray roots actually knew who "this band" is.

I colored my hair later that night. While listening to some Pearl Jam, of course.


7 Things You Totes Need To Stop Saying if You're Over 30 (oops, there's one of them)

UPDATE: Apparently I should have added the term "butthurt" to this list. Because there's a world of hurt butts out there. People, this is not a serious post. It was meant to be read tongue-in-cheek, in a very non-serious way. Some of you need to unclench, just a little. mkay? 

A lot of us are guilty of it. Especially those of us with teens, or tweens, or kids of any age who watch kid-centric television shows or who spend a lot of time on Instagram.

We start to talk like them. Words, phrases, the flotsam and jetsam of another generation's vernacular seeps into ours and before you know it, we catch ourselves (or our friends) dropping these little beauties into everyday conversation, facebook updates, blog posts and tweets.

Someone needs to step in now, and beg of us all: STOP IT. For the love of all things good and pure and age-appropriate, please stop.

Here are the things you need to stop saying if you are over the age of 30. Or if you have a mortgage, or a job that comes with benefits. Or if you have teens. Especially, if you have teens.

1.  TOTES.  When used as an abbreviation for the word "totally", of course. If someone approaches you on a rainy day and says "Hey, I love that cute, compact umbrella! What kind is it?" and you answer, "Totes!", it's all good. But when you walk into the the living room and announce, "Dinner is totes ready!", not so good. Please stop.

2. I KNOW, RIGHT? Last summer I spent a week subbing with a beautiful, tanned, Amazonian 20-something with a beach-volleyball player's body. She was sweet, but answered everything with the words, "I know, right?". I'd walk into the classroom and say, "Holy crap is it hot out" and Tall Tan One would say, "I know, right?". I'd say "Thank God it's Friday!" and she'd look up from the Dora the Explorer Puzzle she was working on and say, "I know, right?".

Yes, I do know. Right. Because I JUST SAID IT.

Now, despite my holier than thou approach to speaking, somehow this virus-like phrase started slipping out of my own mouth. I was horrified by the ease at which it popped out, usually in response to a friend's innocent, middle aged statement along the lines of "I'm so sick of peeing my pants." Only I shortened it, and dropped the questioning nature...and in my head it sounded more like a clipped, British, Colin Firth-ish "right, then" instead of the other way. My head was wrong. It still sounded lame.

3. AMAZEBALLS And while we're at it, let's retire "amazing" for a while, too. "That pumpkin latte was amazeballs!" or "That meatloaf was amazing." No. Nobody really needs to walk around saying the word "balls" except for gym teachers and coaches and boys between the ages of 7 and 15. And the word amazing has been stuck in my craw since my homegirl Nina Badzin wrote about how it's being overused as a compliment. BECAUSE EVERYTHING ISN'T AMAZING. Sometimes it's really good. Sometimes it's yummy. Sometimes it's just so-so. We have so many adjectives in the English language. Let's dust some of the lesser-knowns off and use them for a while.

(and yes, oh the irony of the 47 year old blogger using the word "homegirl"...I almost typed "home-skillet" which would have been even more sad. Amazingly so.)

4. CRAY (OR CRAY-CRAY).  Crazy just sounds better. Or one of the ten million synonyms for crazy. I like a good "crazier than a shithouse rat" but I can't say that when I'm surrounded by 5 year olds. So I oftentimes use "whackadoo". When I hear you say "cray" I think you were going to talk about either crayons and had a brain freeze or else Robert Cray, who happens to be a pretty badass blues guitarist.

You might say he has some cray cray skills.

5. I WILL CUT YOU/ I WILL CUT A BITCH  No, you won't. You're sitting behind the wheel of a Honda Odyssey, you have groceries from Costco melting in the back and you're in the parent pick-up line at school. You're not a character in Orange is the New Black. You're not going to be cutting anyone any time soon so please stop saying you will.

6. ADORBS Are you saying this with any sort of frequency at all? Are you 14 and talking about your BFF's new Harry Styles iPhone case? If the answer to my first question was yes and the answer to my second question was no, then this word needs to stop coming out of your mouth.

7. INTERNETS/INTERWEBS I'm guilty of using this one. And I have no rational explanation for doing so. If we call it Internets does that make it cooler? If we call it what it truly is, "the internet" does that make us sound stodgy and old? I guess it probably does, because who really uses the word "internet" anymore? "Mom, I'm going to access The Internet and get some homework done!" or "Billy, I was using The Internet to look at your grades on Infinite Campus. We need to talk."

Okay, so maybe 7 could use some tweaking. But like that funny lady on YouTube says, "ain't nobody got time for that." Oh! And the word tweaking reminds me of one other thing we should all stop saying:

8. TWERK/TWERKING I know it's kind of ironic when a middle aged mom uses the word "twerk", like when she threatens to start twerking in front of her kid's friends, but honestly, I think the closest any of us are going to come to twerking is that spastic thing our bodies do when we see a big bug in the shower.  Like a centipede. Augh.

That's all I've got. I was going to add that thing where people refer to cats as "kittehs" but that one is over now, right?

If you need me, I'll be channeling Gretchen Wieners from Mean Girls and trying to make "fetch" happen.

Did you get big mad feels after reading this? Then you need to A: pull the stick out of your nether-regions and then B: READ THIS


Five Ways Toddlers Are Easier Than Teenagers

Oh mommies. I read so many blog posts and articles about the trials and tribulations of raising toddlers. And YES, oh sweet 18-month-old Jesus, YES they are all spot on: having a toddler (or two) at home is kind of like having the most obnoxious, handsy, drunk frat guy at the party living with you 24/7. Parenting the two, three and four year olds deserves its own special child-proofed circle in Hell some days.

But let me tell you something, ladies. There will come a day when you look back on these years with something that feels like wistfulness. A longing, even.

Because that pea-soup spewing, head spinning, chicken nugget-clutching abomination in the car seat behind you is going to be a teenager some day.

And then things get really fun.

I can't write something like this without first pointing out the merits of teens. They are a wonder to behold. Some days it's like living inside an ABC After School Special without any commercial breaks. You get to relive your teen years, good or bad. Every single thing you did as a teenager comes back either to haunt you or to give you fodder for speeches and diatribes and guilt trips to lay upon your own teen.

You can have conversations with teenagers, which is mostly cool. They can do things like drive and tie their own shoes and use the stove without supervision. Most of them are adept at personal hygiene and rarely need help in that area, except when they scream from the downstairs bathroom that they need a towel.

Don't get me wrong: I love my teens. Which is good, because at the moment, I have four of them living under my roof. We have some good times together, me and my gaggle of teens. We have interesting talks, we watch The Walking Dead together, some days our coexistence feels a lot like harmony.

But the past few weeks have been a doozy. I've gone apeshit with my teens. My least-proud moment was when I was driving around a nearby city looking for "a Dairy Queen" trying to find my 17 year old daughter who had gone there after school with some friends. I'd been trying to get the map feature on my phone to work, and it kept stopping. It was dark, I was pissed because that had been the one and only night my youngest didn't have hockey, and there I was, driving like a tourist and scanning the horizon for one of those freaking Dairy Queen signs. "Mom, where are you?" she called to ask. "I'M DRIVING AROUND HOPKINS LOOKING FOR EFFING DAIRY QUEEN, THAT'S WHERE I AM!! WHERE IS THIS DAMN PLACE?" I barked back at her. "God, Mom, it's not that hard to find. It's down the road from the movie theater." She sounded like she was smirking as she said this. I could tell. "CAN YOU BE MORE MOTHER EFFING SPECIFIC?" I shrieked into the phone. I heard muffled laughter and felt a shameful hot horror as I realized she had put me on speaker.

Yep. I'm that mom. The spastic f-bomb dropping one. In my defense, I'm also the one who always lets the kids have oodles of friends sleep over and I provide donuts in the morning. Bacon if I'm feeling rich. So there's that.

But this morning, I got to thinking of my kids as they used to be. I actually got moist eyes thinking about my directionally-challenged daughter as a toddler. She'd wear these stretchy knit headbands all the time, so that she looked like a mini-John McEnroe. She loved wearing her older brother's training pants. She'd often leave the house wearing Batman undies beneath her sparkly tutu. She was obsessed with backpacks so much so that I took to calling her "Packy" and at any given moment she'd have one strapped to her back, stuffed with treasures.

I then remembered her tantrums. I remembered the poopy pants and the croup and the sibling rivalry and the endlessssss bedtimes.

But still...for just a moment this morning, I kind of wished I still had toddlers. And I came up with a few reasons why TODDLERS TOTALLY TRUMP TEENS:

1. SLEEPING: I'm sure you've heard of the book "Go the F*ck to Sleep". Get ready for the teen version I'll be writing called "Get the F*ck Up, You'll Miss the Bus". Seriously. These people sleep like vampires. Sure, no more being awakened by two scary eyeballs peering at you from the side of the bed at 5:00 a.m., but waking a teenager is kind of like reenacting "A Weekend At Bernie's". God help you.

2. INAPPROPRIATE USE OF TOILETRIES: Oh it's so funny when Junior gets into your lipstick or maxi pads and gets all messy. Sometimes you take pictures of them and post it on Instagram. But get ready for the waves of nausea when you find your good bottle of body lotion tucked in your 14 year old son's underwear drawer. Alongside two dozen wadded up tissues. You won't be so quick to post those pictures, my friends. (this seems like a good time to tell you: HIDE THE EXPENSIVE LOTION, LADIES..keep only the Suave and St. Ives within child reach)

3. HOMEWORK: Your toddler has none. Boom. I'll be honest here: I became useless as a homework helper around 5th grade. Math has changed since I was in school, and even back then I couldn't do it. Now, if you want me to help you write something? Bring it on. But not the math. Please, God, not the math. My kids stopped asking me for help years ago. Phew.

Teens have a lot of homework and while you may not be asked to help out with it much anymore, you will certainly have to hear them bitch and moan about doing it, and you might have to run damage control when they magically remember that they have a ginormous project/paper/4-course meal to prepare for culinary class at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night. And yes, I did live through the 4-course meal thing. Thank God for a best friend who can cook like a boss and who doesn't judge when you call her, sobbing, and ask if she can "HELP US MAKE A FOUR COURSE MEAL" at 10:04 p.m. on a Sunday night.

4. AXE BODY SPRAY: You think you're sick of smelling poo and pee and sour milk and ketchup? Just wait.

5. SLEEPING (YES, AGAIN):  When you have babies and toddlers, you want to sleep but you can't. When you have teens, you finally can sleep but you don't want to. Because teens go out. Without you! And sometimes, you don't know exactly where they are, or who they're with. Out of sight definitely DOES NOT mean out of mind when it comes to being the parent of a teenager. Out of sight means your imagination goes into overdrive and every worst case scenario unfolds in your head with ugly clarity. You don't mentally exhale until you touch base with your teen/baby.

I imagine that I'll probably be able to sleep again someday. Like when I'm dead. Which reminds me, I should probably tell my friends to put my sleep mask with me in the coffin....mama gonna sleep, y'all!

So there's five ways toddlers are easier than teens. Now, we could flip this around and go all Opposite Day and say Oh yeah, Jenny? Here's how teens are easier! They can talk! They don't crap their pants! They don't crawl into bed with you and lose control of their bladder! They don't need their hot dogs cut into non-lethal bite-size chunks! They don't cry at Target! They dress themselves! They don't go boneless and refuse to move in the middle of your Mommy and Me class, the one with the perfect mommies who silently judge your shitty parenting!

And you know what? We'd be right. Parenting is hard. It doesn't matter if your charges are tiny and have soft little feet or if they tower over you and sometimes startle you with their man-voices.


Just different kinds of hard, that's all. And here's a little secret for you, something I think about when my four teens are all seemingly conspiring to make me insane:

If you look hard enough, you can still see your toddler in there. It might be the curve of a cheek, it might be the way they twist their hair, it might be the way they sleep with their mouth open and one hand curled up near their face (yes, it's okay if you sometimes sneak a peek at your snoozing teens, people, just avoid the underwear drawers). Sometimes it's an expression on their face or that certain stance of theirs that jumps out of nowhere and says "BOO! I'm still in here, mommy! Miss me??"

And when you do get that glimpse of what once was framed so beautifully in what is yet to be? It takes your breath away.

Here's to all of us and our sometimes-impossible children, big and small. May they always keep us tired and worrying and cleaning....

and loving.

Packy in the crack den.


Fall Like A Lady

I'm not the most graceful person you'll ever meet. I tend to walk with my head in the clouds, which means I miss a few potholes here and there. And edges of rugs, and bottom steps, and patches of ice. 

Every once in a while I have a great fall. There's at least one spectacular spill every winter, living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes means there is no shortage of ice. One of my most memorable winter falls was a million years ago, back at my old house. It was the dead of winter and every flat outdoor surface was coated with a thin, shiny layer of ice (sometimes in Minnesota winters everything looks like a giant glazed donut)(at least to me). I had a set of 8 thick, glass tumblers from Ikea, you know those heavy, clear glasses with the beveled edges? So I had a set of those, and on that particular January day one of them met its demise on the kitchen floor. 

For some reason, I had decided it was a good idea to walk the pieces of broken glass to the garbage can outside. And that's what I did: proceeded to descend the slippery front steps, both fists curled around jagged shards of glass. Because I'm brilliant like that, folks. I believe anthropologists call it "survival of the fittest" or something along those lines. 

Of course I fell. It was a comical, Broadway-worthy pratfall, complete with a guttural exclamation from yours truly as I cannon-balled onto the sidewalk. Now, the first thing a lady does when she falls out in public is to look around to make sure nobody saw it happen. Which I did. And then I checked for damage. Somehow I had managed to fall down those steps clutching broken pieces of glass and the only thing that was really hurt was my pride. And my butt. 

That's because I fall like a lady, dammit.

I grew into adulthood watching Eddie Murphy. The Golden Years of Eddie started when he was a fresh-faced baby on Saturday Night Live (Velvet Jones, anyone? I WANNA BE A HO!) and ended around the time he did "A Vampire in Brooklyn". 

A rite of passage back then was to wait until your parents were asleep and then watch one of his naughty stand up routines on cable. My favorite of those was "Delirious". I can still remember sitting in the dark on a scratchy old couch that smelled of cigarette smoke and cats, watching Mr. Murphy pace back and forth on that stage, jacket open to the waist, his tight red leather pants leaving very little to my hormonal imagination. 

Delirious brought us the most totally awesome "Ice Cream" bit, wherein Eddie described how the poor kids in his neighborhood would taunt the poorer kids who couldn't afford a treat from the Ice Cream Truck. And Delirious is also where we met Eddie's Aunt Bunny. 

A couple days ago, I became Aunt Bunny.

Mornings are whackadoo in my house. Granted, now that the oldest child is out of high school and is in college where the classes start later, they are easier. Less draining. Less everything. But, since I have to be to work by 7:30, and the three remaining children need to be on a bus or picked up by friends around 7:00, there is still a scramble.

Three minutes. 

That's how late I am for work, pretty much every morning. Doesn't matter if I've dragged myself out of bed at 4:30, doesn't matter if each kid got up in time, showered, ate something and made their bus/ride. I'm consistently running three minutes late. Luckily, my "boss" is someone I've known for years, and in my line of work we are kind of creative with our schedules. Three minutes late gets made up when you have to stay five minutes after quitting time. It all comes out in the wash.

But still...three minutes. It kills me. I like to be on time. So there I was Tuesday morning: ALL READY. This was it, folks, I was going to walk into the classroom, a smile on my face, homemade iced coffee in hand at 7:30 on the dot. I had a spring in my step, and felt a bit smug as I donned my long down coat (oh yes, it's winter here) and made may way through the porch and out the door that leads to the garage.

Here's the thing about long coats: they sometimes get caught in doors. Especially when the person who is wearing them is smug. And holding a cup of homemade iced coffee in her hot, smug little hand. 

The steps in my garage aren't plentiful, but they are steep. As in, "feels like you're doing a lunge when you climb them" steep. So when my coat got caught in the door, it knocked me off balance, and I dangled there for a few seconds before my weight pulled the fabric free from the door frame. In those few seconds I had time to think. Here's what went through my mind:

"This is not going to be good."
"Please don't drop the coffee."
"Oh shit. Is that my bike down there?"

And then, like Eddie Murphy's beloved, fat Aunt Bunny, I fell down the stairs. Time slowed down and I had a few more thoughts.

"Yep. That's my bike."
"Please don't drop the coffee."
"Yay! I have great health insurance!"
"I'm halfway down!"
"I haven't shaved my legs in a month. If I break anything, I'm army-crawling into the bathroom and shaving them before calling help."
"This is definitely going to make me late for work."

Impact. Pain. Almost had an intimate penetration encounter with one of the pedals on my bike. Even though I was in a dark, closed garage, I looked around to make sure there were no witnesses. I got up, did a cursory broken bone check. Gingerly lifted my yoga pants, parted the sasquatch hair and decided that the gash on my knee would have to wait for a Dora the Explorer band-aid at school.

The coffee survived. Because that's how a lady falls.

And of course, I was three minutes late to work.

Watch your step, friends. 

Have you met Aunt Bunny? Here's Eddie Murphy describing her descent. WARNING: So many swear words in this one. Use your headphones, dears.


Old Things

This is not a post about what you'd find in my underwear drawer, despite the baiting title.

Nope. It's about things that we keep around, even though they're old. Things we don't toss out, or donate, because they still work. They do what you need them to do.

Here's a picture of the glamorous array on my nightstand:

Yes, that's the vicodin I've been hoarding since my root canal. And you can see that my nightstand is also where I file receipts for taxes. But that's not what I was focusing on. Feast your eyes on my sweet Sony Dream Machine, circa 1989. I've been using this alarm clock for 24 years. Some of you were still just eggs chillin' in ovaries back in 1989, weren't you?

Please note that aside from one little digital line that has quit working (it was actually 9:10 when I took this picture), this thing works perfectly. Not that I need an alarm clock anymore, since my sleep cycle now resembles an old-timey farm lady's. I wake up before it has a chance to go off, sometimes on my own and more recently, thanks to the mother effing flock of turkeys who roost in the cluster of trees next to my bedroom window and start gobbling before the sun rises. Yes, turkeys. And no, I don't live in the country. We can discuss those later.

Here's one of those loud feathered bastards in my driveway.

I've never been one to hop on the NEW AND IMPROVED bandwagon. Maybe it's something I inherited from my Depression-era grandparents, maybe it's a trait handed down from my uber frugal dad who can pinch a penny until Abe Lincoln screams like a little girl. Maybe it's just me. 

Is it a habit that develops during times of financial leanness? I'm sure that's part of it. After all, when you can't afford to replace things "just because", you take really good care of what you have. My car is a janky piece of aluminum foil with Hot Wheel tires attached to it, but you'd better believe I get the oil changed on the regular and take it in for maintenance when it needs to be done. Because if anything happens to it, I'm screwed. 

But, I have friends who can definitely afford to replace anything, and they are also in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" camp with me. So I think it might be more of a personality characteristic than anything else.

I have a couple purses that are older than my children (Coach bags used to be made even better than they are now), mixing bowls that have been around since before microwaves were invented and I use computers until they literally die in my arms. Up until this summer, we only had huge, heavy televisions which were the size and weight of portable dishwashers. There is a storage room in my basement that is kind of like the legendary Elephant Graveyards except instead of dead elephants there are corpses of big, unwieldy televisions. 

My kids have grudgingly hopped on board this particular car of the crazy train. Probably because they have no choice. Comforters are used until the morning one of them wakes up looking like they've been tarred and feathered. Hoodies and jeans are worn until people start throwing change at them on the street. And school supplies? Forget about it. My kids are the ones at school with the spiral notebooks that have two subjects crossed out on the covers and a new one written under those (BECAUSE THERE IS STILL A TON OF UNUSED PAPER IN THEM). 

I'd like to think that I have a firm grasp on reality, and we aren't the Minneapolis hillbillies. I don't let things go too far, and yes, when we are able to do so, we will splurge and buy new things. When our last giant t.v. died, I used some of my tax refund to buy one of those new-fangled flat screens. However, I did research and price comparisons and waited until the cheapie off-brand one at Target went down even lower. And then used my Target debit card to get an extra 5% off of that low price. For the record, I cringed when I paid for it. Spending money is never easy once you've been down Poverty Road. I wonder if that ever changes?

There will come a morning when I roll over and my trusty old Dream Machine will be flashing some illegible hieroglyphics, or simply not flashing at all. I imagine there will be a moment of silence. Knowing me, I'll probably try to fix it by unplugging it for a few minutes and then plugging it back in. 

I have already decided that when the time comes, I will donate its lifeless remains to the preschool. One of our teachers loves to let the kids go to town on dead appliances with screwdrivers and tweezers. I used to let my own kids dissect broken electronics, and I think it's a dignified end for such a loyal, trustworthy alarm clock. 

If you know me, you know there's an analogy buried in this post. Yes, if we were smoking wacky tobacky and getting real deep and all philosophical-like, you could say that I AM MY ALARM CLOCK. I'm old, I've seen lots of things, I have some battle scars, but dammit. I still work. Oh sure...the digital display works better on the newer models, and the sound is probably super crisp. When you have visitors in your bedroom they'll notice that you have the latest and greatest alarm clock. But I have a feeling that the new one won't last as long. 

They don't make 'em like they used to, you know. Thus ends the analogy portion of today's post. 

How about you? Do you have old things in your life, too? Or are you always looking for the upgrades? Not that there's anything wrong with that...without your kind our thrift stores would be sad, empty places. I love people who upgrade.

Leave a comment and tell us what you hang onto just because it still works. And please don't say "My spouse!". Although, that's funny. In a non-derogatory way, of course.

Have a super day, friends.


Hashtag: Quinoa

So. The little post I wrote about food shelves has gone kind of crazy. I'll be honest with you: 


You see, I'm not used to this much attention. And you'd think this kind of thing would be a blogger's wet dream, right? Tons of hits, seeing YOUR post shared and tweeted and linked all over God's green earth (or green internet, as it stands). Comments upon comments upon comments. Bloggers are attention whores at heart (don't deny it, girls) so one would conclude that this is just the bee's knees. 

Well. It is, and it isn't. 

It IS because, hell yeah! It's totally validating to see something that tumbled out of my head and onto a keyboard being read by so many people. Not only read, but LIKED. I keep getting emails and messages from women sharing their stories, telling me about how they ended up in the parking lot of a food shelf, willing themselves the strength to walk in there and do what had to be done. My favorites are from the feisty chicks in their 60's and 70's, who blazed the trails for me and my single mama sisters and raised families on their own back in the day. One thing in particular that I love about these ladies? They use the word "bullshit" a lot. I'm so looking forward to being the ballsy, silver-tressed gramma who wears funky scarves and says "bullshit" a lot. 

It ISN'T because it's scary to have a few thousand new sets of eyeballs reading my stuff. When it's just my "regulars" here, it's like we're all sitting in my living room, curled up on the couch and gabbing. Now I kind of feel like I need to vacuum. And maybe put on my good yoga pants. 

Obviously the things I wrote about in "Those People" touched folks. And that prompted them to share it, a lot. Which is great. Hopefully eyes have been opened, some prejudices have been dropped, and hearts have been softened. I know many people have mentioned that they've gone shopping for their local food shelves, which of course is wonderful. Every little bit helps.  

The post wasn't about what kinds of foods are appropriate for donation. I know I mentioned quinoa and artichoke hearts and tapenade, but I didn't want those (delicious) items to be the focus of the story. 

People have been asking, though, so here's some advice about what to give: donate what you can. Please check expiration dates. Fresh=good. Call ahead and see if your local food shelf has a freezer or refrigerated section. If they do? Give 'em some meat. A couple fryer chickens, some ground beef. Fresh dairy products are awesome too. I remember almost soiling myself when I walked in there one time and saw GALLONS of milk. I have four teenagers, yo. That stuff is like gold. If what you usually donate is mac and cheese? Cans of soup or vegetables? PERFECT. It's all good. People who end up at food shelves just need something edible to put on the table. Trust me, if your family is hungry, you make do with what you have.

Another thing to consider donating: toiletries. Deodorant. Toothpaste/brushes/floss. Lotion. SOAP. Toilet paper. Tampons. Pads. Q-tips. Shampoo/conditioner. I'll never forget having fumes in my checking account and then *BOOM* it was period time. You know what sucks? Having to spend $6.00 on a box of tampons when you have $10.00 to your name. Help a bloated, crampy lady out!

I wanted to write about how I felt that day in the hallway of my school. We really don't know squat about the people we encounter in our day to day routines. We don't know who is struggling with unseen health issues, who's dealing with relationship strife or wrestling with demons big and small. "Folder Lady" is not a bad person. I do regret using the word bitch in my imaginary tirade against her, the one I'd never really act out in a million years. I used her as a figurative punching bag for all the little comments and offhand remarks I've heard over the past couple of years, things that have made me bristle for just a moment here and there. For that, I'm sorry.

The only thing she was guilty of was assuming that I was her socioeconomic equal. That when the topic of who uses food shelves came up, she and I were on the same side. She assumed I was part of the US in "Us and Them". Which isn't the case, obviously. If we were Sneetches, I'd totally be the one without a star on thar. Or with. Whichever.

I wanted to tell you all about it because I learned something that day. We hear warnings to not judge books by covers, to be aware that appearances don't tell the whole story...but that day I learned those things up close and personal.

You don't look at me, and my kids, and think "They're poor." We wear decent clothes, some have been purchased second hand, some have been gifts from generous grandparents and friends, and yes, some are from REAL stores, hoity-toity ones like Target and Old Navy. I'm the mom in the stands at the hockey game. My son Henry is the kid ringing you up at the grocery store. You might have seen my daughter walking our dog around the block. We look pretty much like everyone else here in the good old suburbs of Minneapolis. You just never know.

One thing I have learned from the response is this: poorness and hunger and need is epidemic in our country. Yes, it's obvious in some places. There are people living in the streets, filling up homeless shelters and soup kitchens. 

In other places, it's not so obvious. The poor walk next to us on the crowded sidewalks, they drive past us in the carpool lane, they sit next to us in churches and synagogues. They are in the next checkout lane at the grocery store; you'd never guess that they are holding their breath, waiting to see if their debit card goes through or if it will be declined. Your child probably plays with their child on the playground. 

One of them might even be waddling down the hallway of your neighborhood school, ogling the loot in the food drive bins. 

All of us live here together. We share the same air, the same ground. Our bodies operate the same whether we have a million dollars or just a couple. Some of us have better haircuts, nicer houses, newer cars or cooler gadgets, but deep down...way down where it really matters...

we aren't so different. We want our kids to be healthy and happy and have full tummies. We want a roof over our heads, a warm place to sleep. We want to earn our keep, to be productive members of society. We all want to get through the day, close our eyes and then face the next one with hope and optimism. 

And sometimes, dammit...sometimes we want quinoa. 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your comments and emails and messages. I promise you, I'm going to answer each one of them if I haven't already, I just need a day without work, kids and laundry...so expect a reply in about four years :). And a huge thank you to Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy, not only for sharing my essay but for all she's doing to help struggling families at Thanksgiving. Jill, you rock. 
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