Thursday, November 23, 2017

I'm Crying Because I'm Thankful. Obviously.

"Why is mom crying?” my 9 yr old asks.

Last night, our family went to see Wonder. I started crying about five minutes in and cried on and off the whole time. The kids were elbowing each other, pointing to me, completely dumbfounded.

There's no way they can understand. How can I explain I feel that mother's pain - even if she is pretend - when she panics to save her sick child at school? How can I explain the guilt I feel when I watch the older daughter walking into her room feeling neglected, wondering if I've done the same to mine? Or the sick feeling of remembering sitting alone in the lunch room so many years ago?

Sitting here on Thanksgiving, I'm reflecting on the many moments that affected me for so long that I didn’t understand their impact until far later.
  • Running my infant to the ER vomiting blood
  • Walking into the nursery where she fell over the crib and broke her arm
  • Spending the night on the floor when he broke his leg, while my parents drove all night to make sure we had Christmas the next day
  • Sitting in the hospital being told a child could lose his vision, or even his life, and they couldn't find the cause
  • Sitting in the hospital being told he could have a lifelong heart problem
  • Finding my daughter on a toilet with her bowels hanging out, unable to get up
  • Spending holidays picking out lice, cleaning up vomit... you get the drift
So why do I cry during movies and commercials and generally in inappropriate settings? Why do I cry when my kids win or make me proud or do something amazing? Because I've visited the other side, and on the other side it's too terrible to cry. On the other side, you have to be the strong one, look them straight in the eye, and tell them it's okay to keep them from falling apart. The other side is where you hover, always waiting for the next anvil to fall, because things have been bad for so long that you can't trust anything that goes right or believe it will last and getting your hopes up then having them dashed is worse than not having any to begin with.

So on this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful everything in my life is so wonderful that I’m free to cry. I wish you all the same.

Monday, August 22, 2016

You always remember your first fix

They say you always remember your first fix. I don't know who "they" are and I've never done a drug, but this first fix of mine is definitely something I'll remember, if for no other reason than it provoked me to post a picture of my ass on the internet, which my husband will never allow me to forget. But I digress...

A few weeks ago, I got a strange little card in the mail offering a personal stylist on the internet. Mailers usually go straight into the garbage at my house along with all the coupons I forgot to take to the grocery store, but fate (or my husband) sorted this one into my stack of bills, so it reappeared right at the moment when I was reconciling the nauseating amount of money I’d just spent on school clothes for our kids, only to change their complaints from, “I don’t have anything to wear,” to, “I can’t pick what to wear.”

I read over the mailer, which offered a one-time free “fix” of 5 clothing items tailored specifically to my measurements and style and then looked down at the Pottery Barn towel I was wearing, courtesy of a bunch of shorts that refused to zip. Then I googled Stitch Fix. Some clients seemed happy and some were blah about it, but the one thing that stuck with me was how many people liked their jeans. Earlier that week, I’d spent no less than 3 hours trying on jeans only to come home empty-handed.

So I decided I’d fill out the profile. I didn’t intend to order. I wanted to see what type of questions they’d ask or if it was just credit card bait. But once I went through the website, I was impressed enough to fork over my credit card number and order, complete with the guarantee that my first fix would be free if I didn't keep anything thanks to my mailer. I set my fix to arrive on the first day of school – a present to myself for surviving the summer working from home.

Okay. So on to the reason you're actually reading this - just to look at my ass. Or to check out the clothing. Whatever. I'm a 41 yr old mom, not a 21 yr old supermodel. I work out a lot, but I also have been known to sit in the Walmart parking lot and eat a whole fried chicken so it balances out.

These are Dayna Skinny Jeans from Kut from the Kloth and they're everything they were hyped to be. I love them. For $88, they're a steal when I calculate the money I can make working during the hours I would otherwise spend jean shopping.

These jeans fit my thighs and my waist. They stay up when I sit down. Yes, I'm annoyingly bow-legged, but my thighs are still my limiting factor for jeans. From the side, they're quite thick, hence the reason I didn't photograph them from that angle. Obviously.

The green Suri Knit Top from Laila Jayde ($58) costs more than I'd generally spend on a glorified t-shirt. As an engineer, I work in dirty environments, which means my clothing gets ruined at times and I'm usually wearing something from TJ Maxx that can be replaced for $10, but I love both the color and the fit of this shirt. I won't be stocking an entire wardrobe of them, but I'm happy to have it to wear either alone or under the Martina Slub Knit Open Cardigan by Pixley ($48). I wear tons of cardigans, but have nothing like this. It's made of cotton like a t-shirt. It's perfect to throw on to go from a plant floor to lunch with the manager and lighter than a sweater. Plus it matches my steel-toe shoes.

The next thing in my box was a Khloe Sleeveless Open Cardigan by Absolutely ($48). I put it over a tank top, although it's cute over the green shirt as well. This is not a piece I would've picked out in a store, but I love it. I can totally see myself wearing this through the airport when I'm traveling, or when I'm going out with a friend, or when I'm trying to impress someone and look like I've got my shit together and don't wear towels at home. 

So that brings us to the last piece in my box, the Barros Lace Overlay Blouse by Collective Concepts ($64). This is the one piece I don't love, although my scowl in the picture is from being interrupted by my kids no less than forty times during the writing of this post. The shirt is okay. It opens in the back and the idea of it is adorable, but the fit isn't my favorite. The layer underneath is a little tight across the chest even with my most flattening bra. The hem hits right at the widest point of my hips and emphasizes that line. It definitely looks better with shorts than with pants. In the picture on the right, I separated the back so you can see how the under layer is more form-fitting and, in my opinion, more flattering than the top layer. It would look better on someone with an apple shape.

All together, my Stitch Fix came to $306. I would've returned the Barros Lace Overlay Blouse, but if you buy the whole box, you get a significant discount ($25% + $20), which brought my total down to $209.50. It's cheaper for me to keep it all than to return the one item.

As an adult, there aren't many pleasant surprises in life and this definitely was one. I'm sure I'll use Stitch Fix again since I need something to look forward to in my life. Like my 8 yr old always says, "People pretend that what's on the inside counts, but all they really care about is how you look." She's wise for her years. Hopefully she won't grow up to be one of those women who posts pictures of her ass online just to get attention.

Just in case you wondered, this post is not sponsored by Stitch Fix nor do they have any idea who I am other than just another random mailer customer.

Friday, August 7, 2015


I think a lot more about real sex than I do about sexism because sex is fun and interesting and complicated, but sexism is just a given in my profession. I understand that, as a female chemical engineer, certain work connections will never be available to me - not because I wouldn't sit at a strip club with the guys from the office, but because those guys would never ask me to come along - probably because they know the girls would rather talk to me than them. It's a club I'll always be outside.

When I first graduated from college, a co-worker told me a story where she was forced to crawl through a confined space so the guys who were with her could look up her skirt. I've never experienced anything like that so I've considered myself pretty lucky. Sure, I've had guys comment on my weight instead of my work. Sure, I've had guys wink at me and rub my shoulders when I'm trying to collect information about their processes. Sure, I've had men attempt to accompany me back to my hotel after business meetings, but I'm an expert at letting those things roll off and keeping a professional distance in my interactions. Hell, just ask my husband. I can talk any man down.

However, this week, I've had two separate instances of men telling me that women aren't competent and I've reached my boiling point. One was a random Facebook comment to the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign on my wall. I deleted his post, ranting about how he'd never met a competent female programmer, and all I could think was how limited his experience must be since I've known a few of them and programming isn't even my niche. The comments really said more about him than it did about any female who has had the displeasure of working with him, but I would challenge any man with that attitude to place it on his resume and make those same comments on LinkedIn. Make an appointment with your CEO and explain how you can't work with female co-workers because they're beneath you. Please. Do us all a favor. Oh, and for the record, #ILookLikeAn Engineer - an engineer, a 40 year old mom of 3 kids, a wife, an author, and a real person who would usually rather discuss sex instead of sexism.

The second comment this week -  the second one was personal. I'm working with government regulators to update one of our manufacturing sites to maintain environmental compliance. While attempting to collect information that had been requested by the government, I was told, "You really should tell (the government official) that I've been out for surgery and then just talk about whatever you girls talk about because it'll probably be a while before I'll look at this." Whatever us girls talk about? Like we're discussing knitting patterns? We're talking about the regulations that will be written into a permit as your operating parameters on a deadline that's been mandated by a government agency. Would you like them to walk in and shut you down tomorrow? When I'm not busy killing spiders with staplers, I'm keeping you legally employed. Either way, I'm not reapplying my lipstick. You're welcome.

In some ways, I feel sorry for these guys. Their lack of exposure to strong women makes their career paths seem rather stagnant. The second, whom I know well, has worked in one facility, and one job, his entire life. His perspective is limited, so I find myself sucking it up, letting it roll off as a joke, and playing nice because I'll probably need information from him again tomorrow. But the older I get, the more I notice that I always have to be the one letting it go. Apparently the men are already doing their part simply by lowering themselves to work with me.

If I act like a man who is driven, I'm a bitch.
If I act like a good family man, I'm distracted by my family.
If I act like a compassionate manager, I'm a pushover.
I'm I act like a workaholic, I'm neglecting my kids.

Thank God I wasn't raised by one of these men. I was taught I could be whatever I wanted, and even at this age, I still believe it. I'm only limited by my perception of myself - well, that and I have to be done by 4:30 so I can start thawing dinner and drive the dance carpool. But you know what? While I'm doing that, my husband is running the laundry and shuttling kids to track practice. No one ever said that made him less competent.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I love you so much I didn't make you cupcakes

If you didn’t know already, I went back to work about a month ago. It was completely random and unplanned – the company I worked for years ago called and offered me a position that I didn’t apply for. In fact, I don’t even own an updated resume and haven’t officially applied for a job since college. So with absolutely no warning or preparation for my family, I went back to work. Now that I’m a month into it, I can safely say I love my job and have nothing to complain about. It’s like I’m not even me anymore.

Then, yesterday, I was talking to one of my son’s teachers and she made a passing comment about how sad he seems. She asked, “Do you think he’s having a hard time with you going back to work?”
That question weighed me down for the rest of the day. Ten years ago, part of the reason I quit my job was because I didn’t feel I could do everything well and I’m a compulsive perfectionist. I felt guilty. Maybe I didn’t give my son enough time to adapt or prepare him. Maybe he’s miserable and it’s all my fault.

After school, I asked him if he was okay. He said, “Fine.” But later, I found this on my bed:

My ten year-old son's ability to communicate blows me away. Most grown-ups aren't emotionally astute enough to recognize "what really stresses me out is my expectations for myself."

So last night he and I talked. His sadness has nothing to do with me working at all. He’s upset about the dynamic in his math classroom. He’s frustrated because he feels he and one of his teachers can’t communicate and math has always been his best subject. Yes, he’s upset, but it has absolutely nothing to do with me. And as we talked, he came up with a plan for how to handle his problems.

He let me off the hook. It isn't my fault. Even when something goes wrong in my child's life, it isn't always my responsibility to fix it for him. Last night reminded me that working doesn't change my relationship with my child.

This morning I woke up, helped the kids get off to school, and then sat down to check my work email. But instead of opening Outlook, I opened Word and wrote this.

Dear C,

I love you so much that I didn’t bake you cupcakes. I taught you your alphabet and read to you and made up silly songs with you, but I didn’t worry about looking perfect in front of the other moms in your class on party days.

I love you so much that I didn’t hover in your classrooms while you were trying to learn. I’ll always fight for you to have a fair chance, but I’ll never fight for you to have special favors or privileges. You know how to work for those and gain them on your own merit.

I love you so much that I don’t buy you gifts other than for holidays and birthdays. I don’t bribe you for grades or to perform at sports or to do your best. I don’t offer rewards for good behavior and discipline. But I know from your attitude and perseverance that you know those things are their own reward.

I love you so much that I never did your homework for you. On the nights when it was difficult and you wanted to give up, we talked and cried through it and your grades always reflect your hard work.

I love you so much that I never did try to solve your problems for you. I will always be your biggest fan, your sounding board, and hopefully the person you can tell anything to. But I also have faith in you. Faith that you can handle life when it gets rough. And no matter where I am in this world, I’ll never be more than a phone call or FaceTime away for you.

I love you so much that I won’t live through you. I won’t pressure you to do or be anything for me. I’ll have my own interests, my own life, and I won’t make you fill a void in me. I love you so much that I want you to have the opportunity to be exactly who you want to be – for yourself.


Monday, August 4, 2014

This is definitely not a poem

I know very little about poetry. I like things that are juvenile – things that rhyme – and most poetry makes no sense to me. A poem is supposed to have a meter and a flow which all sound great in theory until I read one.

So I wrote a jumble of words. Is it poetry? Honestly, I don't know or care. It's definitely a mixed meter. When I write – no matter what it is – all I want is to feel something. I hope you feel something too, but I’m not selfless enough to write for an audience. I want to make myself laugh or cry or think because most of my waking moments are spent trying to dull or ignore those emotions.

I’m not supposed to laugh when my husband and I are arguing, or when my kids are upset, but I do. I’m not supposed to cry when my kids are singing with Miley Cyrus in the back of the minivan on the way to dance lessons, but I do. And thinking? Well, I either do too much of it or I shut down and do none at all. But at three in the morning, everyone is asleep and I can feel whatever I want.

So no, I don’t think this is poetry. It’s a jumble of words that mean something to me. Oh, and they rhyme sometimes because I like it.

Every time I think of you
I pop an elastic band around my wrist
– it’s painful, too –

to clear a thought or memory
of things you never did to me.

More a habit, never love,
now it’s not you I’m thinking of.
A mindless blank, an open space,
my thoughts of you they do replace.

They’re uncomfortable like misfit pants.

Better discomfort does remain.
I’ll always choose to pick my pain.
I’ll find a thought to swaddle me.
You’re not even a memory.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Porn, Predators, and Pinterest Projects - Oh, my

Ah, the horrors of the internet. We all fear what our children will be exposed to - porn, predators... My 5 year old’s newest obsession is You Tube. She pretends to be incompetent when we ask her to clean her room, but if we look the other direction, she takes her Barbie movies over to the computer and copies the words off them into the search engine to find related videos. And what she’s found is shocking. There is a whole segment of the adult population that spends their spare time recording themselves playing with dolls. Not blow-up dolls, which is what I would’ve expected her to find, but real, actual dolls. Then there are others who construct doll accessories.

Three days ago, (the first day of summer vacation) my daughter started begging to build a bed for her doll, Elsa. At first I thought she’d dreamed up the idea on her own and warned her that I'm not a preschool teacher and her expectations were a bit too high, but then she showed me the video of a guy named Chad Alan who constructs doll beds. Chad, if you’re reading this, I beg you to stop making doll beds and go drink and get laid like everyone else your age. You’ll have plenty of time when you’re frustrated and middle aged to do this shit. Trust me. You’re ruining my life.

But guilt makes people do funny things. This is the time of year I feel pressure to round out my children’s education and teach everything they can’t learn in school. So while most people are probably sleeping in and enjoying their first weekend with no homework to contend with, we’re building a bed for Elsa. See? I do things other than criticize our school system in my spare time occasionally. My 5 yr old and I are breaking down the problem of making the bed and working on it together. What supplies are used in the video? What do we have around the house that could be used instead? Does she want to spend her own money on supplies or use substitutions from our recycling bin?

Since I’m so thrilled with this experience, I thought I’d give you pointers on how to build one, so you, too, can share in my misery. Our bed is shamelessly plagiarized from Chad’s example, seen in the picture below.

But we don’t have beautiful Christmas icicles randomly lying around, or perfectly cut Styrofoam, or a professional, matching star, so we had to improvise. This bed cost us $0 and only a marginal amount of my sanity since there wasn’t much left to begin with.

Things we used:
Wooden BBQ skewers
Craft beads and sequins I’ve had in a box since high school
Blue craft paint/brushes
A cardboard shipping box from Nancy Meyer (I highly recommend skipping making this bed altogether and shopping at Nancy Meyer instead)
Clear plastic forks
A spare piece of scrapbook paper that sort-of matches
A clear plastic sunflower seed container (or any plastic food container you're ready to dispose of)
A glue gun
Clear school glue
My 11 year old daughter

Step 1: Cut the box into bed pieces & paint the pieces and 5 skewers. If you want to skewer your child before you finish this section, I recommend you abort the project because it only gets worse. Also, enjoy your child's enthusiasm now, because it'll quickly diminish.

Step 2: Cut part of the plastic container into something vaguely shaped like a snowflake and add sequins with clear school glue.

Step 3: Break the tongs off the plastic forks to make them look like icicles.

Step 4: Glue sequin and scrapbook paper decorations to the headboard and footboard.

Step 5: This is where the magic happens (and there are no pictures to prove it because I can't hot glue and take photographs at the same time). Hot glue the bed pieces together. Glue a skewer to each corner and add decorative beads to the ends. Cut the 5th skewer into smaller pieces (regular scissors worked fine for this), add similar decorative beads, and stick them on the headboard. Then sick the plastic-fork icicles in between and hot glue them, too. Fold the rest of the scrapbook paper over the bed as a sheet. Then coerce an 11 year old to make a pillow out of random fabric so you don’t have to.

Presto! You have a bed for Elsa, hopefully a child who is more enthusiastic than mine, and no fingerprints, thanks to the hot glue. Today is only the 3rd day of summer. I'm not sure how much longer I can pretend to be an engaged parent. I wonder if Chad Alan wants to babysit.