Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Weekend Getaway: A Different View


Weekend Getaway

The Setting: A Marriott Hotel in Colorado Springs, Labor Day weekend
The Characters:
A Young (40-something) Mother (ravishing of course) traveling with her little *princes* ages 9, 7 and 4
The College Student/Server, waiting tables at the Marriot's full service restaurant
"Loraine", retired hotel guest from New Jersey who never leaves the pool
 "Suzy Q" 5 year old hotel guest

Scene One: At The Pool

Young (Ravishing) Mother:

Okay. 45 minutes. I can do this. 45 minutes and the kids will be worn out properly. I will then feel no guilt for allowing them to binge watch the Cartoon Network while I nap. It's been a long ass day. I took them to the zoo, we stayed for four hours. FOUR HOURS. Honestly, I should win mother of the year for that shit. FOUR HOURS pushing my lazy four year old uphill (both ways!) in a stroller while listening to the seven year old beg endlessly for ice cream, juice, soda, cotton candy and souvenir pennies (for the love of God why with the pennies?) Deep breath. Okay. Here we go in the water! Isn't this fun? I'm not cold. I am not cold. I am not cold. Why the hell is the water so cold? Where is the 85 degree sunshine day I fantasized about? Maybe 20 minutes is enough. Oh but look at that smile. Oh you really are having a good time aren't you? That four year old smile. May I never forget it. Yes. I'll let you cannon ball into my arms again my darling sweet baby.


Oh no. Here come the brats.  It was so peaceful two minutes ago. My pina colada would be better with fresh coconut. They always use the cheap mixes at these places. This is nothing like Hawaii. They really should have a children's pool. Why don't they have a children's pool? Well that is just rude! I am sitting right here. Do you not see me? Jumping into the water like you are the only one here? Now I bet I have chlorine in my drink! If I wanted to be wet, I would have gotten in the water, but instead I am sitting on the side of the pool...for a reason.  Oh great. No I don't want your kid to apologize to me. Oh it is so clear he didn't mean it lady.  No. No, it's fine. Really. It's fine. Ha, ha, yes kids.... yes I see you have three on your own, but guess what... that's not my fault!!!

Suzy Q:

Kids! Kids! Kids! I wish they weren't boys! Kids! Kids! Hey do you have Doritos? No fair! My mom packed carrot sticks. You want to play? Knock Knock!! (you say whose there?) Interrupting Cow. (you say interrupting cow who?) MOOOO! Hey can I have a Dorito? Is that your brother. I have a brother actually I have three brothers, no two. Actually one and a sister and a cat. Your mom is sooo pretty (editors note, we are just assuming she thought that, duh.)  Why is that mean lady staring at us?

Four Year Old Boy:

This is the best day in the world! I saw a hippo poop in the water, and I got Doritos. Now it's pool time! Yay!!!  I hope my mom will let me jump into her arms exactly one million and seventy two hundred times!  Oh no. It's a girl. And she wants my Doritos!

Scene Two: Dinner At The Hotel Restaurant:

The College Student/Server:

No, no no! Not my section again. Oh great. Yesterday I had the family of 8 who spilled five glasses of chocolate milk, split three meals and left a disaster of saltine crackers and a $4 tip. Okay. Smile. Game time! You want a bottle of wine for yourself? Um  okay. Did she not feed those kids today? They just ate an entire basket of bread while I was taking the drink order? Wow.  Wait where did the mom go? She seems to be gone every two minutes with another kid. Why doesn't she coordinate their bathroom trips, duh? Why didn't they just go to McDonald's?

Nine Year Old Boy:

I'm dying. I am going to starve to death. Oh my God nobody cares that I am dying of hunger.  The Children's menu, really? Fine! I will order the kid's hamburger but MAKE SURE YOU PUT LETTUCE, TOMATO AND PICKLES ON IT. I am not a baby! This is taking forever. I am seriously going to die a slow painful death of starvation.  Why didn't we just go to McDonald's?

Seven Year Old Boy:

I hate this place they have nothing that I like. No! I do not like pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, nachos or mac & cheese. No, no, no! Gross Gross Grossy-Gross. Fine. I'll get the pizza but ONLY if you let me order chocolate milk too. And dessert. The cotton candy at the zoo was not dessert, it was a snack!  I want an ice cream sundae from McDonald's!


Not that family again. Good lord. What is that (*ravishing*) woman thinking taking those monsters to an establishment like this. Look at them, they aren't even properly dressed, that little boy looks homeless.  I need to remember to send my grandbaby the new fall collection from Jack & Janie. My granddaughter will be dressed like a little lady, and I am sure she will only speak when spoken to! Had I known there would be children here I would have eaten elsewhere.   That woman needs to take her circus to McDonald's.

Young (Ravishing) Mother

Where the hell is my wine already????

Scene Three: The gift shop

Young (Ravishing) Mother

All I need is a freaking pull up. They have condoms, Band-Aids, Connect-Four, slippers, batteries, dental floss, where are the pull ups? How could I have forgotten the pull ups?  Fine. A swim diaper will have to do. He is four for Christ's sake! When will it end? No. No. I am not buying you more Doritos. Because you don't need them. Because you just had dinner. Which of course you didn't eat because you devoured a bread basket before the meal. Please stop making a scene. Did I mention we could watch a movie if your good? Shhhh. People are staring. FINE. FINE WE CAN GET DORITOS.
I need more wine.

Four Year Old Boy:


Suzy Q:

No fair! Those kids get Doritos again. I want Doritos. Will you share your Doritos? What's wrong with their mom? She looks likes like she has had a lot of birthdays since this afternoon. Funny.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Motherhood: The Next Chapter

When I started GetRealMama so many years ago, I was knee deep in diapers and baby food. My life revolved around playgroups, story time, and Music Together. It was a time of strollers, pack and plays, bounce houses and baby showers. A time when it seemed to take forever to get anywhere and when we took mountains of gear everywhere we went.   I was always surrounded by crawlers, toddlers and nursing mothers. It was an amazing period of my life, one where  I witnessed first steps and saw my young children experience things for the first time. It was also a period of stress, brought on by sleepless nights, ear infections and some really, really boring birthday parties (hello, where are the adult beverages???)

But that was then. Time marched on and I have (almost) left the huggies behind.  I haven't attended a playgroup in years and completely bypass the baby section of Target. My boys are now (almost) 10, 7 and 4.  That means a fourth grader, a second grader and a preschooler. Man have things changed.

A little over a week ago I sat through back-to-school night. During fourth grade orientation I was struck by how old all the parents in the classroom looked. We are talking straight-up- grown ups. Middle aged grown-ups. And I fit right in.  Now of course there are some outliers, parents who have older children in middle or high-school and are now seeing there youngest child through the final stages of elementary, but for the most part, we are no different than the other families. As I saw the grey hairs, and the fine lines etched in the other parent's faces I realized, that's me. (Though, knock on wood, I really haven't turned grey... yet!) And I looked at my son, his feet nearly the size of mine, all muscle, not one trace of baby left and I knew I had truly entered a new chapter in my life.

Even during my youngest child's orientation I could feel the difference. Packed in the preschool classroom were many first-timers. Parents taking their only or their oldest child to preschool for the very first time. Parents who were attending to a younger siblings needs, fixing a bottle, checking for a dirty diaper, while listening intently to the preschool teacher inform them about the four-year old's transition. There child might cry, this is normal. Their child will be exhausted, this is to be expected.  Their child will... I found myself tuning out as the teacher went on, I busied myself filling out the forms and wondering how I would manage to keep track of dates, and assignments.  I already knew that lied ahead. Julian will learn to read, and write, add and subtract and will give up his nap. He will start to lose the rounded toddler belly as he continues to grow. Next year he will make a leprechaun trap in Kindergarten. In first grade he will start having sleepovers and keep a reading log, and it will all go by so fast. So very fast.

As my final child passes through each stage I realize that I am leaving behind my old life and thus, my identity is shifting. In some ways it is refreshing. I am no longer loaded down with a diaper bag and baby food jars, I can enjoy the freedom that comes with more independent children, and I find that my adult conversations no longer focus around diaper rash and sleep training.  But as I drift further and further away from the mommy-and-me demographic, I  feel a profound loss.  For all of the sleepless nights and blouses stained with spit up, it really was a magical time, hazy, not perfect but magical all the same. And
I will miss it. Probably forever.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I am sitting in my office this eve of my middle son's 7th birthday, wrapping his gifts and sipping red wine.  While in the midst of trying to neatly encase odd-shaped packages in "happy birthday" paper my eyes are drawn to the bookshelves.  My office is filled with basically, the shadows of my past. College text books, scrap books, and old photographs, worn novels and nick-nacks.

Perhaps it is the nostalgia I feel with Evan turning seven, or  maybe it is the wine, but for whatever reason I decide to take a closer look.

First the text book.  I was a Child & Family Studies Major. I purchased the book used, so it was already weathered and time has done it no favors. The Fifth Edition Human Development, written by Diane E. Papalia and Sally Wendkos Olds.  As I page through I see the yellow and orange highlights, the scribbles in the margins, the chapter headings: Pieaget's Cognitive Structures, Abraham Maslow: Self Actualization and the Hierarchy of Needs, Stages of  Childbirth, Pschosexual Theory: Sigmund Freud, Development of Social Speech, I can't help but find it humorous that I studied, wrote papers and was tested on these topics, 13 years before I would become a mother. I wonder if I should read the text again, but notice that the book sites studies from the early 80's and conclude that it is now very much outdated.  I try to recall what I took from reading this text at 19 years old. I realize at the time, it was read with the goal of achievement, to memorize the content with little thought of how I could relate to the material.  I have concluded that we finish higher education at much too young an age.

Next I see The Norton Anthology of Poetry. The works of William Butler Yates, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, and more.  Frantic notes in the margins- could mean God? directionless, mourning? And in some unknown's scribe: "I love Kelli"  Trying so hard to make sense of these complex beautifully composed pieces, words that fit together, but the meaning alluded me. Perhaps it was because I had not yet lived enough to grasp the author's intent. One poem in particular grabs me. Highlighted in pink and underlined:
When You Are Old 
William Butler Yeats 

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true, 
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars. 

I am not sure why I am drawn to this poem today. Perhaps it's that I feel my life accelerating forward to the old and gray, and I wonder, what I may see through my own eyes with shadows deep. 

Then I move on to Illusions,: The Adventures of  a Reluctant Messiah, a short self-help sort of book I received just before leaving my home town of Madison, WI, to join my boyfriend in Minneapolis. It was a gift from a male friend who may or may not have had a secret crush on me. The inscription on the inside reads: Oct, 1997 To Rachel, to help guide you on your journeys. Keep it, or pass it on. Love, (we will leave him anonymous)  I read it, and I kept it. And the sad truth is I don't remember one damn part of that book. It was supposed to be life-changing and I have no damn clue what it is about.  But I remember the intent with which it was gifted to me, an adolescent angst and romantic view of the world or "journey" that lied ahead.   It was a sweet gift, and though I have long since lost touch with the person who gave it to me, I will hold on to it, remembering how touched I was to receive it. 

Next a beat up 1996 edition of Let's Go USA. Pre Google, Yelp, Expedia... I had a book. A book now worn and tattered that came with me on every road trip adventure. It was the bible. It guided me through New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California.  There are campgrounds and hotels underlined, check marks next to the hostiles I had contacted. It brings back so many memories, memories that would now be lost to an internet search. 

Then there is a copy of Memories of a Geisha Girl which I read cover to cover in two days on a beach in the Dominican Republic, There is my college diploma, a copy of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, one of the worst books I was ever forced to write a paper on, a guide to Portugal where I spent my honeymoon, Canine Colorado (purchased when my dog was my only baby), a People Magazine dated September 24, 2001, the smoking Twin Towers on the cover. and a funny stone frog a friend brought me back from a vacation. There are pregnancy books, of course plenty of photo albums, birthday cards from years past, and yes, even my cat's ashes.   

As I sit here, I notice that these bookshelves represent so much of my life, my development who I was, and perhaps a glimpse of who I will someday become. I have some empty shelves left and I wonder what will fill them, and if in twenty years, I will look back at the contents and smile. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Still Here, You Are Welcome

A rainy spring
I haven't written in so long I don't know where to start.  Life has been busy, duh. You know. Two working parents and three kids. When I do have time to myself I often find myself... napping. Sleep that elusive beast. Put aside my ongoing insomnia and my new bouts of age induced night sweats, we have a nine year old who can't make it through the night... That's right. It's been like having a newborn. Zachary comes into our room by midnight every night, scared. He hears noises. Someone must be in the house. He can't sleep. He wet his bed.  (He is going to kill me for writing this someday.) For a couple months we fought it. We sent him back to his room. We tried breathing techniques, punishments and rewards and ultimately, for better or worse, we gave in. Now in the middle of the night he comes into our room and makes up his little bed on the floor.  I take comfort in the fact that most 16 year olds do not sleep in their parents bedrooms.....

Damn Straight Mom ROCKS!! :) 

Our weekends have been taken over with soccer. Two boys, and... too many games. I feel like a crap mom when I say this... but I am not loving spending so much time watching soccer. Yes, I love my kids, and yes I enjoy watching them do things that they enjoy....but does it have to take up so much of my precious weekend? The worst part is... I know it is only going to get worse. Right now it is only the two older boys playing, we haven't yet added the Julian factor to the mix. I am really hoping he will take up creative writing, knitting or meditation, but seeing as he already has a pair of pint-sized shin guards, I think we are in for the triple whammy!  I tell myself that watching will get more entertaining when Evan evolves beyond staring at the ball rolling past him while sucking on his tee-shirt.

We have also hit birthday party planning season at Casa Kargas. Evan turns seven June 12, and my baby, my sweet baby Julian will be four years old on May 31st. (How the hell did that happen??? Four!!.) I am taking the "easy" way out and throwing the joint party I said I never would.  I have always thought it was so...wrong. Each child is special, they each deserve their special party. Except that Julian isn't in school and he really has no friends to speak of, and Mama is growing lazy in her old age.  So we are having a dual themed party. PAW Patrol for the little guy, Dinosaurs for the bigger guy. Yup. 2 cakes. 2 pinatas. One party. Bam. Done. Maybe I won't even clean for this one.

The husband has been traveling loads, leaving me with plenty of single mama shifts. Believe it or not it used to be easier when they were younger. No homework, soccer practice, school meetings or conflicting events. When they were younger, I owned the schedule... now the schedule owns me.  And damn does it own me.
Spring Break

We have found time for fun. Life isn't all work. We had spring break in Florida, which the kids ADORED, and mostly involved swimming and lots of ice cream consumption. I made it out to San Francisco for work and actually squeezed in visits with some of my besties. I had a very nice mother's day complete with one of those get drunk while you paint classes. (Guess which part I liked best??) and I have played many, many, many games of Spot-It with the littlest Kargas.
Favorite Florida Activity 

Sarasota Beach
I have had some blogging inspirations here and there, like the punk redneck who criticized my parenting while I was waiting in line at a local gift shop.  I was ready to go all People I Want To Punch In The Face on that jack-ass. Long story short, the tactless busy body took it upon himself to inform me that my four year old was beating the crap out of my seven year old.  When I looked over at the boys I saw them lightly wrestling and laughing.- yeah maybe a little rowdy for a public space, but damn it, it had been raining all day and I was doing the single mom thing so as long as they weren't a)breaking valuables 2) screaming profanity 3) publicly disrobing  or 4) actually beating the crap out of each other, I am just fine. But Punk Redneck was not fine and pressed the issue, until I told him that I didn't need his parenting advice thank you very much. No. It didn't shut him up.
Me & The Lovely Hannah!
But honestly I haven't had the time, energy or true inspiration to write. So here we are in May and you are essentially getting a boring update of a day in the life of a typical mom.

You are welcome.

I missed you Erica!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Favorite(s)

Do you have a favorite?

It's a question that we parents hate being asked. How could you answer that when you would give your life for any one of your children? When you would take down any little brat that laid a finger on your precious baby, or any bully who hurt their tender feelings?

A favorite? If I answered that question and a "less" favorite child some how learned of my "preferences" would it not be emotionally damaging at best?

I once read a book that advised parents when presented with the question by one of their children to say "I love you all differently."  And this is true. I do.

My boys are ages 9, almost 7 and almost 4.  I relate to each one of them differently.  I am going to be honest, it is easier to feel in love with my baby, my Julian.  He is still innocent enough that he doesn't know the power of words ("Mommy I hate you" can be followed up with "You are the best Mommy ever!" only minutes later.) He is still willing and ready to give hugs and kisses freely.  He is still at the age where my attention is more important than that of any other human's on the planet.  He learns new skills every day and is so proud to inform me "that is the letter J!" or "mommy, I went in the potty!" Even when covered in a nasty collage of dirt, chocolate and snot he manages to look adorable. God. He is easy to love.

And then there is my eldest son Zachary. There is no trace of baby left in him, rather I see the outline of the teenager he will soon become.  He has piercing blue eyes and an incredibly toned, muscular body for boy his age. He is moody, sensitive and has a mean temper that is shared only with those whom he is closest with. His anger is mostly turned inwards, a perfectionist, like his mother, he can fly into a rage when he feels he has failed, even if that "failure" is a lost game of Uno. As a parent his behavior can be maddening, for the LOVE OF GOD child, it's a card game why are you freaking out like a meth addict on a deserted island without his fix? But he is smart. Damn that kid is smart. Not only in his understanding of academics, but in his dealings with others.  He knows when you are stifling a laugh at his epic meltdown over a missing lego piece. He knows if there is any hint of disapproval in his choice of language, outfit or his school performance. He knows if someone is feeling left out and hurt. He knows when someone needs a hug. So my Zachary can be "difficult" to love when he is in the throngs of a near puberty, door slamming, eye rolling, profanity infused temper-tantrum, but he is raw, and real and honestly, an open book that I cannot help but identify with and adore.

And finally the Middle Child. Evan. Does he get lost somewhere between his genius older brother and his adorable younger sibling? He isn't the first to achieve anything, or the little one we look at, teary eyed and sighing "the baby"  Nope. But Evan couldn't possibly be anymore lovable. He has the best smile and the saddest face when he cries, the quivering fat bottom lip that makes the mama heart melt. He is less serious than my eldest son, less innocent than my youngest, a lovely blend of sweet, smart and goofy.  Evan was the baby I thought I wouldn't get. After nine plus months of fertility treatments, a false positive pregnancy test, and many hormone induced rages I finally got knocked up, only to give birth to the most challenging newborn in all of my experience.  Yet, here he is. Creative, thoughtful, caring, kind and NAUGHTY. The kind of naughty that is so easy to forgive, because, damn it, look at that face!

So... do I have a favorite? I have a favorite sweet baby, a favorite crazy-smart, sensitive pre-teen, and a favorite goof-ball,

Sure depending on the year, the month, the week or the day each one of my children can be easier to relate to, to empathize with or to have fun with. But do I have a favorite? I don't know do I have a favorite ice cream flavor? Cookie Dough, Salted Oreo, Double Fudge Brownie? I love them all in different ways, and while at any given day I might be "feeling" one kiddo a little more than the others, I can honestly say that I don't have one favorite, no, I have three :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Somebody's Daughter

I spend a lot of time writing teary pieces about my babies growing up. I know I often sound like a broken record as I describe my experiences weeping softly while I pass by the infant section of Target, knowing it holds nothing that I will ever need again.

Today I will take a different approach. This isn't about my kids growing up and away from me, but about me, savoring the fact that I am still somebody's little girl. My mother and stepfather are visiting for the week and nobody cares for me like they do. Nobody. My folks are interested in absolutely everything about me, in a way that nobody else in their right mind would be. I could blab for 30 minutes about my laundry and they would listen intently. God bless them.

Yes, it's true there are times when the (often wise) advice my mother doles out about skin care or how long chicken keeps wears on my nerves (mom, I'm a grown woman, I know) but who else cares enough to lose sleep over the state of my smoke detectors? Who else is actually interested in every single picture that I post of my children? Who else can look at me and remember the little girl that I once was?

It struck me yesterday when my mother accompanied me to the salon while I spent two hours getting highlights and a trim. She sat in the chair next to me, knitting and occasionally making conversation. She was happy enough just to be spending time with me, any time at all.  After my hair was done we went into the boutique next door and I tried on a little black dress that I just couldn't live without. I am of course more than capable of buying my own clothing these days, but as I was hemming and hawing about the expense my mother took the dress from me and whipped out her credit card, in that moment I realized that I am still her little girl, and that felt great.

After my grandfather passed away at 94, I remember my mom telling me with tears in her eyes those very same things.  That even though there was a role reversal in the recent years, and she was doing the care taking, her father still made her feel a way that nobody else could.  She grieved that loss, that she was now no longer somebody's daughter.  Would anyone ever want to just sit with her in the living room in silence again and just watch her knit? She not only lost her parent, but she lost her place in life as as someone's child.  

I think of that when I am with my parents. How special the time is. How much I like being their daughter. I am lucky to have parents who love and care for me the way that they do.  I want to cherish my time with them because I know someday, I won't be anyone's little girl anymore.

Thank you mom, for making making me feel like a treasured child again.  And thank you for making me look like your sister in my new little black dress!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cindy Crawford: The untouched photos that touched so many.

There are just some words you don't want to hear on a Monday morning after a workout;  but you can't stop people from opening their mouths.

I was leaning with my belly pressed up against  the counter at the local rec center trying to check out some equipment from the late twenty-something behind the counter.  She looked at me and asked "Are you expecting?" I instantly felt my face grow warm.

 "No I am not." I muttered, trying to keep my composure.  
"Oh" she responded, "it must be your pants."
"Yes" I said with faux confidence. And for whatever reason I felt the need to prove it to her, stepping back from the counter and lifting my t-shirt to reveal the worn-out, high wasted yoga pants, adding the extra girth responsible for my "fetus."
"Sorry" she said, with little sincerity. "I didn't mean to offend you."

But of course I was offended, if only briefly, and I know why. I know why those careless words stung the way they did. Because I had heard them before. 

I have never been happy with my middle, always wishing for a washboard stomach, always sucking in for photographs, passing by a cute dresses that clung too closely to my shameful middle section.  The truth is, for most of my life my stomach was just fine, but it never lived up to what I wanted... "perfection."  

Around 15 years old, I experienced what many teenage girls do. Weight gain. Our bodies developed and changed and in those awkward phases they didn't always change in the way that we wanted them to. At 15 I wasn't blessed with beautiful C-cups, and a flat tummy, No, my "extra" weight went right to my tummy, and I was well aware of it. Baby doll dresses were in fashion at the time.  (They resembled todays maternity style, if you are not familiar.)  I was sporting the latest style, and will never forget a day in history class  when our star basketball player (who went on to become prom king a month or two later) sneered, asking the girl next to me in a very audible "whisper" "Is that girl pregnant?" Already aware of my "flawed" body I felt my eyes sting and the tears come. I was so ashamed. So very ashamed.  I was 15 years old, nearly 5'4 and probably 115 pounds.  I hated my body.  

Although my body evened out over time, I never did achieve the abs of my dreams, however, looking back, I should never have feared a bikini or felt the need to cover my "problem area."  I wasted so much time worrying about that damn tummy.

Today, at forty, and after three C-sections, my belly is far from ideal.  I have loose skin, a deep indentation where the scar is, and it is still my body's favorite place to carry any extra weight. It is so easy for me to feel shame. Shame that my body isn't perfect. Shame that I look nothing like the airbrushed beauties in Sports Illustrated's "Swimsuit Edition"  or even the thirty year old women I see on Facebook.  Shame that will rush full force in self-inflicted rage when an nit-wit girl at the rec center inquires "are you pregnant?" It's why I felt the urge to prove that I wasn't actually "fat." It was really just my clothes.

Luckily within moments of today's incident at the gym, I was able to calm the old feelings of self-loathing. I was able to rationalize that it was a really stupid thing for an ignorant young woman to say. (Note: unless she is wearing a "baby onboard" t-shirt,, holding a copy of What to Expect When Your Expecting and loudly discussing her due date, you do not ask. You. Do. Not. Ask.) And while those words could of ( and actually previously have) spun me up into a frenzy of self-hatred, it didn't this time. Perhaps because I am older. Perhaps because I know that my body made three kiddos.  Perhaps because I was there, at the gym, doing what I can to stay healthy and in shape. Perhaps because I have heard my friends talk about their own imperfections. 

I would be lying if I didn't add that Cindy Crawford's "leaked" untouched photo that recently hit the internet didn't give a little bit of additional confidence.  If you have missed it, this picture is unlike any picture you have ever seen of any super model, ever.  It's Cindy in her late forties in a bra and panties set bearing a middle that is far from the airbrushed "ideal." There are wrinkles, sags, and discolorations. She looks.... normal. She looks like women I know. She looks like me.  And I wish. I wish at 15 I had seen more of this. More bodies that look like mine. Diversity of form. Less airbrushed "perfection."  It makes me mad. It makes me angry what media has done to us, evening out  skin, shaving off inches, erasing lines, scars, freckles and wrinkles.  Making us feel less than for being human. For not being the manipulated fantasy of technology. 

And I am not overstating this. It has ruined lives, and days of lives. Every day a woman sits wrapped up in a towel on the beach not wanting to feel the waves, because she is ashamed of her body. Every night a girl sits at home instead of going to a party because her skin isn't perfect, or her thighs are "too fat" for skinny jeans. Every mother who avoids the camera because of "flabby" arms. Every dollar that is spent by those of us aging, trying to disguise the evidence.  

I'm a victim to it, I will not play holier than thou.  I fall into the trap more often than I would like to admit.  Only recently I dropped $500 on "filler" to try and erase my well earned laugh lines. (By the way,  $500 later, I noticed zero difference.)  But today. Today in the gym when I heard those trigger words "are you pregnant?" I was stronger than I once was. I did not break at those words. I credit in part the wisdom that has come with age, in part the experience of motherhood,  and yes in part that beautiful Cindy Crawford photo, uncovering not only the lies we have been told about the female form, but also the beauty that lies underneath the lights and photoshop. The beauty that is you, me and humanity. 

I'm learning. The media can help. The media can help by being truthful about aging, beauty, and the human form.  Please. Let's see more of these untouched photos, it could in fact, touch so many, it could change lives.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wish You Were Here

It was my first concert. I'll never forget the easy coolness of a late spring evening. May, 1988. We walked to Camp Randall stadium a group of four giggling girls at sixteen, trying way too hard to look older, edgier, cooler.

I had the cassette tape, Momentary Lapse Of Reason, which I listened to over and over again, memorizing and analyzing lyrics. How many times had I sang along to "Learning To Fly" while crouched in front of my full length mirror, curling iron in hand, practicing a pout of a much older girl? Too many to count.

The first thing I did upon entering the stadium was pick out an overpriced, oversized t-shirt.  I think I still have it to this day, packed away. Black with laser beams shining this way and that. How psychedelic.

We found our seats, four girls in concert t-shirts and jean jackets, in front of a group of what I assume were young college kids. They groaned at the sight of us. We were babies. But I didn't care. That feeling, the night air, the music which I felt defined me, made me feel alive.

Dogs of war and men of hate
With no cause, we don't discriminate
Discovery is to be disowned
Our currency is flesh and bone
Hell opened up and put on sale
Gather 'round and haggle
For hard cash, we will lie and deceive
Even our masters don't know the web we weave
One world, it's a battleground
One world, and we will smash it down
At 16, bobbing my head up and down, not questioning what drove a man to write such hardened lyrics, it spoke to my teenage angst. Singing along with thousands of Pink Floyd enthusiasts I felt a part of something.
There was smell in the air I was not yet familiar with, pot, one of my more savvy girlfriends informed me with a wink. Could we find some? We could not. We were too straight laced and obedient. We may have been the only stone-cold concert goers there, but it didn't matter.  I was literally high off the experience. The experience of being young, but on the cusp of something. The new found freedom of being allowed to go to a concert sans parents, the air so crisp, full of stars and promise.
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here
When they moved into Wish You Were Here,  my eyes welled up with tears.  A song so hopeless, left me feeling so full of hope. Such happy anticipation for the years ahead.

And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
No, I thought. No! I would not. I was going to do great things. I was going to be something. No walk on parts for this girl. That night. That fabulous, beautiful night, I felt like the world was mine. Screw the college kids behind us poking fun,  screw the fact we couldn't buy beer or find weed, we were there. We were free. We were just beginning.
Wish you were here. Sometimes I wish I was there. Back in 1988, that teenage girl full of magical anticipation, my whole life still unwritten.  Here and there I experience moments that take me back. Whether it's hearing a song on the radio, meeting someone new, watching my children or awakening from a sweet dream. 
I suppose that was one of those coming of age moments. One that I will treasure, and take out every time I am in a bar or my car and a Pink Floyd tune comes on, taking me back to that magical moment in time.

LinkedIn: What's not to like? I'll tell you!

How many recruiters out there remember what it was like to recruit pre-LinkedIn era? What it was like to scour the World Wide Web to find a mid level sales person in a fortune 500 company? To pick up the phone and put on your most official and authoritative voice and ask the gate keeper if you could  please speak with a sales manager who handles B2B sales for small to mid-sized companies?

If you are raising your hand and saying "I do! I do!" then, like me you have the utmost respect for all the glory that is LinkedIn. As recruiters our livlihood depends on it.  If the site goes down for even a few minutes our heart rate spikes and we develop the shakes.  And while I rely on LinkedIn like it's oxygen, it has it's strengths and weaknesses.

So as a professional venting session I'm going to list a few things that I don't like about LinkedIn. Please let me know what I have missed in comments!

  1. Endorsements. Useless endorsements. Hi perfect stranger, thank you so much for endorsing my skills in employee relations!  Unfortunately, I have no skills in employee relations because I am a recruiter not an HR Generalist.  No perfect stranger, I'm sorry but I will not return the favor and "endorse" you for your java coding skills, since I know nothing about java except that I enjoy a nice steaming cup of it now and then.  
  2. People who mistake LinkedIn as a dating site.  LinkedIn is not the next Match, Ok Cupid or Tinder.  It is a professional networking site. And anyways you live in Thailand and I live in Denver so go away. 
  3. Greeting Cards. I have never met you. I get enough spam. I honestly don't care if you wish me a happy solstice. Just. Stop. 
  4. Declines. Okay. I understand if you aren't interested in my FANTASTIC job opportunity, but do you really have to "decline" me? Perhaps something a bit more gentle? A nice "thanks, let's keep in touch" is always appropriate. It's all about who you know. Connect with me. You never know where life may take you.
  5.  This last one is honestly my own fault. Some time ago I put my personal contact information on my profile, including my cell-phone number. Don't ask me why. It was a bad idea. It doesn't happen often but every now and then I will get a call at 8:30 on Saturday night. I pick up. (Yes, yes, this is all my fault!) and it is an applicant inquiring about a job posting in Miami. Which means its actually 10:30 Eastern Time. On Saturday. Yeah. You aren't getting the job. And yes. I am removing my phone number from my profile!

I am sure there are many other quirks I have missed. And while I complain, I do admit that LinkedIn is my life blood and I don't know what on earth I would do without it. But I complain. It's what I do. :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Transition: Moving From Mommy To Mom

Sometimes I wonder if I am just not cut out for this mom of elementary age school kids thing.  I mean, I kind of had it figured out when they were toddler and preschool aged.  I liked what they liked. Story time. Sing-a-longs, park play dates with fellow mommies (and wine) on a sunny day.  I knew that giving a meal a special name ("sunshine carrots" "pizza cupcakes" ") or cutting sandwiches into dinosaur shapes could fool them into eating healthy foods. I knew that the promise of a sticker or a balloon could make a trip to Target, Safeway or the liquor store tolerable for everyone. Bedtime was at 7:30. They liked the bath. They let me dress them. I knew what the hell I was doing.

Kindergarten wasn't too bad.  Homework consisted of reading and an occasional worksheet. The after school activities were of our choosing and we picked based on convenience.

But shit started getting real once we entered first, second and now third grade and I just don't know if I can keep up.  My kids are no longer as easily bribed, or motivated by the dollar bin at Target. They have opinions about how they want their hair cut. They have hours of homework, fierce tempers, and so very many interests. Soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming-  I know this is practically sacrilegious to say but I don't want to spend my Friday night in a run down gym watching my six year old running basketball drills, or my Saturdays in back to back soccer games. It's a full time job trying to keep track of their social, school and extracurricular activities. How am I really supposed to remember that the third Saturday of the month is Evan's snack day for basketball (and one kid has a gluten allergy,) and Zack's snack day is the following Tuesday-no nuts!!  When they were younger, the kids did what we wanted for the most part, with a few easy adaptations, now however... we aren't running the show.

I guess I'm a little selfish.  But that isn't the only hurdle of parenting school-aged kids I have encountered.  There are others. I mentioned homework earlier.  Oh the damn homework.  It was one thing when we were doing simple addition flash cards and practicing writing the alphabet, but long division, who does long division anymore? Third graders that's who.  And it is embarrassing when I have to reach for me phone to find the answer to 463 divided by 18. And it's too much. The homework is too damn much. At the end of a long day the last thing the kids and I want to do after dinner is more work, and yet it needs to be done, often times with kicking and screaming.

Even Christmas and other gift-giving holidays have become harder.  The kids who were once overjoyed by a stuffy, a small set of legos or some Hot Wheels now had Iphones, Ipads, gaming systems, laptops and large sums of money on their wish list. Nothing shuts down the romance of Santa than getting NOTHING on your list. (Sorry son, the elves in the North Pole don't make I-anything!)

Finally, there is a whole new world to navigate.  A world where they meet kids at school who watch R-rated movies. A world where my nine year old has his own email account and knows how to navigate the dangerous world of the worldwide web. A world where I find my children joking about vaginas and talking about kissing. A world where they know how to turn on the TV and stumble on an episode of The Family Guy.  A world where one kid has more friends than the other. A world where my kids can actually do real damage to each other in a battle over a Nerf gun. A world where the boys start asking questions about drugs and the wine we are drinking.

A world when those babies are growing into people, people with their own ideas, desires, personality quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  It really is an amazing, and sometimes scary thing to watch. Once I held my baby in my womb, then later at my breast. The first few years that followed, those kids held my hand and looked to me for everything, and yet now I see them separating, a little more each day. And each day as I give them more room to be independent, I feel myself letting go of something. It isn't love or attachment, but it's something.  I'm not a Mommy anymore. I'm turning into Mom. Mom who administers homework and cheers from the sidelines. Mom who gets an occasional eye-roll and a smart mouth.  Mom who is no longer called upon to plan birthday parties with goody bags, but to book the event and stay out of site.  And in my head I know. I know that this is right and good.   But sometimes my heart aches a little as I see my youngest, my three year old, and I know that he is the last little hand I will hold to cross the street, the last little guy I will watch PBS with, the last one to ever utter the word "mommy" in my presence.

I remember being nervous and a little afraid as I awaited the birth of my first born son.  Would I be able to nurse him? Would I drop him in the bath? What if he got sick?  Yet I mastered that. I figured it out with time, and now as we enter a whole new phase of parenthood, I have to trust that I will figure this out as well. We will get through the homework, and the crazy schedules.  We will guide our children into adolescence the same way that we navigated sleepless nights and potty training. Sure, there will be mistakes and there are things we will wish we would have done differently. But we will get through it, and I have a feeling that someday I will be sitting at a keyboard writing a similar post about sending my boys off to college. Perhaps I will write about missing their big shoes and their  sweaty gym socks cluttering the living room floor.  I am guessing that I will feel nostalgia for the back-to-school nights and a basement full of noisy little men.

There is one thing I am certain of, one constant that will stand the test of time:  I won't always be a mommy, but those boys, they will always, always be my babies.

Monday, January 12, 2015

And The Mother Of The Year Award Goes To....

I can admit to the fact I am not the most organized mom on the block.  Okay, that is actually being generous I might actually be the least organized mom in the whole school district.  It isn't that I don't try.  I go through periods where I attempt to get some sort of semblance of structure and planfulness. Just at the beginning of this school year I took Parenting Magazine's advice and put together what was supposed to be a "command center." I got a planner so we could write down important dates, I got a file holder to store homework and notices. I got a whiteboard because Parenting Magazine said I should.  Now I have an empty planner, the whiteboard went missing before I put it up and the file holder has basically become a wasteland of crap I don't know what else to do with.

I have an appointment reminder postcard from the kids dentist on my desk, from a date I missed months ago. I have misplaced the class directory, and I'm starting to develop panic attacks knowing that it's almost time to start summer camp registrations.

That said, my kids usually have clean clothes and a hot meal, we show up at birthday parties on time, they have their necessary immunizations and we made it to one of two of our kids parent-teacher conferences. 

But last week we really screwed up. No. Really. The kids had been off school for TWO WEEKS. That's right two weeks of  "I'm bored." "What can we do?" "Evan through a shoe at my head and now I bet I have a concussion" "I'm hungry" "I'm not hungry", "We have only been watching tv for 2.5 hours, can't we watch another show?" Anyways, by Sunday January 4 we were more than ready to send the rug rats back to school on Monday.

On Sunday the kids moaned and cried as we told them it was back to the normal bedtime since there was school tomorrow. Monday morning we packed up the backpacks and lunches in the usual frenzy of beat-the clock. At 8:35 we passed them off to our dear nanny who rushed them to school since they were late.  The husband then dropped me off at my office downtown and we were ready to start the day.

I glanced at my phone. A voicemail. From the school. It was the the secretary. Our children were in the office and today was an inservice day. No school. We had sent our kids to school and left them there when there was.... NO FREAKING SCHOOL.  The nanny had assumed that since she was late that all of the children were already in their classrooms, and hence she sent them in, unaware that (I'll say it again) the was NO FREAKING SCHOOL.

Had I utilized my family planner, perhaps I would have made a note of that. If I had synced the school calendar with my phone, perhaps I would have known that. Had I written it on a flipping whiteboard this may not have happened. Had I not been so totally and completely the opposite of organized, maybe, just maybe I would not have traumatized my sons by sending them to school on a day where there was NO FREAKING SCHOOL.

And the Parenting Of The Year Award goes to..... your's truly.

Time to get my act together.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In My Life

2015. The New Year. A time to come up with resolutions, plans for a better year. But I think it is also time to give pause and reflect.  Nothing makes me more nostalgic than a Beatles song. I listened to it recently and tears formed in my eyes as memories of the past 12 months, and the past twenty years surfaced to overflowing.

It's amazing how people come and go in your life. They may fill your day to day for months, years or decades and then slowly fade, eventually  reduced to a Facebook status update and an old photograph. The memories once vivid and bright become hazy and muted.

 Sometimes recalling old friends overwhelms me with sadness. The loss I feel that I no longer hear their voice every day, that I no longer acknowledge their birthday, that I can no longer share the day to day minutia of my life makes me feel lonely.

Life is fluid and if I think about it, each person who has touched me with their friendship, shared their lives with me, laughed with me, cried with me, has left a mark.  They have changed me. They have made me who I am. I remember your laugh, your heartache made me softer, your triumphs inspired me, your love touched me.  So I thank each and everyone of you. Even though we may no longer share our stories and our lives you will always be a part of my history. I carry you in my dreams when you pop  up unexpected exactly as you were ten years ago. I hear you through a song, I recall you when I smell your perfume or when I think of a silly inside joke.

In my life I've loved them all.

Happy New Year. Thank you for being a part of my life!

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Advice from a Recruiter. And some cute cat pics.

Don't forget pants. 

I don't write much about my job on this blog. In fact I don't believe I have revealed who my current employer is, and for all kinds of reasons I am guessing it's probably not appropriate to share in this forum. I can tell you that I love my new company and even though I am a recruiter and only have been onboard for the past two months, I can honestly say I am excited about bringing people into the organization.

But generically, I am a recruiter for a software company and I hire sales people.Previously I have recruited for all kinds of companies, from Kelly Services, to Coors Brewing Company and major PR agencies. I have been doing this work for around sixteen years now. It's hard to believe.

Nobody goes to school to become a recruiter, right? When you ask kids what they want to do when they grow up you may hear firefighter, veterinarian, doctor, teacher or (in my case) even therapist, but you don't hear recruiter. Yet it is the perfect occupation for me. It's all about networking, listening, communicating, and talking to people from all walks of life. Yes. I have stories. Lots and lots of stories.

As a recruiter I have the privilege of sitting across the table from people who are sharing their life story with me. They are telling me about their education, there life decisions, what they have learned from various experiences, their passions, kids, mistakes, even divorces and tragedies. And often times as the gate keeper it is up to me to decide if they will be considered for an opportunity with my employer. It's a lot of responsibility really, in some ways you are holding people's "lives" in your hands.  Employment is a big deal. Without it, one can't pay their bills. Sometimes this is an individual's dream job, and I know they are laying awake at night tossing and turning and waiting for my call. I know that there are plenty of days that my call either makes or breaks someone's entire week. Making the congratulations calls are the best part of my day... and making the decline calls are the worst, unless on the rare occasion I am dealing with someone who has been a complete ass during the interview process, then it's not so hard.

So anyways, I thought perhaps I would share some of my recruiting knowledge and crazy stories, on the off chance it may actually help a few people land their dream job.

Applicants, your "To-Do" list:

  1. You have found a great job and you want to apply: While you should go ahead and apply online as directed, it can't hurt to reach out to your network for an extra "in." Check out your LinkedIn, remember that? It isn't just a waste land of bad profile photos and worthless endorsements, it's also a wealth of information and a great asset to your job search.  There you can find out who the hiring manager is and reach out to them directly. Unlike recruiters, they are not inundated with tons of applicant emails and he/she may pay more attention to your note and application. In addition you can search for other connections who may have a relationship with the company and ask for an introduction/recommendation.
  2. Speaking of LinkedIn profiles- your picture should not include anyone but you. Not your blushing bride, your new baby or even your dog. Just you. This should not be a picture of you at a club, holding a pina-colada in the air and revealing your midriff. It should be professional.
  3. Phone interview? Be prepared. It makes a terrible impression if the recruiter is trying talk to you while you sit on a park bench in front of a noisy construction site,  soothing your crying toddler. Find a quite place with no distractions. 
  4. When the topic of compensation comes up, don't avoid it. It is important to know upfront if this job is the right fit for you. If the company is paying $20K less than what you need, do you really want to dry clean your suit, blow dry your hair and do your nails, lie to your current boss and cross town for an interview?  Recruiters inquire about salary for a reason. It's to make the process more efficient and effective for all parties.  
  5. Do your research. Learn about the company and your interviewer. Come with well thought out questions. While I'm thinking of it, if you write a cover letter with your application, be sure to get the company name right. Nothing is worse for a recruiter than reading about how much their applicant wants to work at a different company, in a different state. 
  6. Send a thank you note. Handwritten or email. But something. Demonstrate that you are interested and that yeah, you are grateful for everyone's time. Please note: spell check all of your written communication with the potential employer. I can't count how many times applicants have done more harm than good by writing a sloppy note of appreciation and you would be surprised by how many people misspell detail when describing how detail oriented they are. *sigh*
Because I am hoping cute cat pictures will drive more traffic to my blog
Applicant No-Nos: 

  1. Don't be too pushy it's annoying.  You know the fifth time in a day where you leave a voicemail inquiring about the status of your application? Yeah, now you are a stalker. Lay-off. 
  2. Do not take a cell phone call in the middle of an interview. Yes. It happens.
  3.  Do not spend your whole interview asking about compensation, advancement and work-life balance. Yes, these are all important concerns, and should be addressed throughout the conversation, but too much focus on these issues upfront can lead your potential employer to feel you are only in it for you.
  4. Do not bad mouth all of your former employers. Sure it's okay to address reasons why you left an organization, but too much negativity will leave your interviewer feeling like they are talking to Debbie Downer or Wendy Whiner.  
  5. Do not send professional communication on stationary that has kittens, hearts or unicorns on it. Seriously. No Seriously.  

Thus concludes my first ever blog post about recruiting. If it gets good response, perhaps there will be more.  Until then, for those in the market: Happy job hunting! Be nice to your recruiter! :)
I would hire Neil Patrick Harris. Just saying.