Pauvre De Moi

I’m not so good with handling The Stress.

Seriously, is anyone good at absorbing 50 things that are happening all at once with increasing degrees of involvement required from them?  Without pharmaceutical assistance?  And I’m not talking about catastrophic Oklahoma Tornado kind of stuff.  I’m talking about normal life stuff, that ebbs and flows and usually you can just handle it because not all of it flows in at the same time.

In the past month, I’ve felt like the tide’s coming in, and it’s just kept coming.  And coming.  And holy crap still coming.  And usually it’s just “Eh, lots going on, it will slow down” but this time I couldn’t get a grip (HA!) on the “it will slow down” part.  I didn’t really let on that I was on edge about everything.  I figured that the old adage of “fake it till you make it” would apply and shit would just work itself out as it so often does.

So what did I do?  Well, I drank all the wine and ate all the carbs.  And that has helped me feel IMMENSELY more in control, because now everything that was freaking me out has paled in comparison to the fact that now I can’t fit into my pants.

This weekend, this Wine and Carbs Method of Handling It finally expired, and my stress manifested in a glorious eruption of hives and acne.  I saw my dermatologist today, because all things can be fixed with ointment.  He looked at me and said “Tell me about this stress…”

I’m so unusual, I know, with my Many Major Obligations.  I work full time!  I have a child!  My husband is also busy!  My relatives drive me nuts!  Yeah, I’m the only one sitting at that table, I know. I do have pharmaceutical assistance, and I’ll be the first to laud the merits of getting a little help in that manner.   I’m explaining this to my dermatologist and I just feel like an idiot, because you’d think by now at my age, I could handle my Suburban White Lady problems.

I now have some prescriptions (ointment! yay!) and a confirmation of something that I already knew, that perhaps Talking To Someone About It might help.  Oh lord.  Really?  Ugh.  I’m not a big believer in therapy, because I have a BA in Psychology so obviously I already know all about what they’re going to tell me.

Also?  I’m going to pay someone to listen to me talk about stuff that I’ve been talking to people about for the past 25 years?  The same stuff?  Has that stuff not been talked about ubi omnes recessit vinum?  Why is talking to someone who isn’t part of the problem going to help?  I can’t imagine.

And also again?  Have I discussed how Very Busy I am?  Because I am.  I have responsibilities and obligations, and I spend my days talking to people and then at the end of the day I’m tired of talking.  Why on earth do I want to actively seek out more opportunities to talk?  I’m an introvert.  Talking, especially about myself, is just an effort.  Pauvre de moi.

There are a ton of reasons why Talking To Someone About It just seems like a bad bad bad idea.  These reasons are overshadowed by the good reasons, though.  I’m setting a horrible example for Boo.  Do I want her to go on Oprah when she’s 30 (there will always be Oprah, I believe) to talk about how the coping skills she learned as a child include wine, carbs, and just letting the laundry simmer in the dryer for a week (true story…).  Well that’s just embarrassing.  I can’t have her telling Oprah that.

I also cannot have my husband telling whoever’s hosting Divorce Court (maybe someone fabulously flawed, like Lindsay Lohan) that he cannot take another day of my sad yoga pants and overall indifference that is only interrupted by the aforementioned hives and acne.

My house is organized, and I am a total mess.  This is my deepest darkest secret, and I’m putting it on the internets, and intentionally sharing the link with people who know me.

Get A Grip is going to go through some changes, because I’ve got to get my shit handled before I can say another word about how anyone else should handle theirs.

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The Epitome of Letting Go

Yesterday was my daughter’s fourth birthday.We decided to have a simple birthday party at the house, with friends and family and a few of her friends from school.  And it was pretty simple. I asked her a while back what sort of party she wanted to have.  “Pink and purple and race cars”.

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Also? Sugar. Sugar was our theme.

That bundt cake on the left was my own creation.  I thought, “I have fancy pans that can make a cake look like a rose!  How hard can it be?”  Then this happened.

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If you squint, you can see how it looks like a rose.

Fortunately, we had a second box of mix.

When I say that we had a simple party, I really do mean it.  Our decorations were balloons and a plastic tablecloth.  The plates didn’t match the napkins, and neither matched the cups.  We used what we had, because the last thing we needed another year’s worth of leftover party supplies.

We didn’t have a bounce house or an organized activity.  No super awesome balloon animal guy (although we do know of one, and he can make ANYTHING out of balloons) or magician or science demonstration.  We served pizza, pizza rolls (best appetizer EVER), candy, chips and crackers and veggies with dips, and the cake and cupcakes came from the grocery store.  There was beer and wine, which I have decided are utterly acceptable at children’s birthday parties.

I usually wear myself out in the days before Boo’s birthday party, worrying about whether the day will be perfect, will everybody have a good time, will they think I’m lame, will their children destroy the house, and on and on.  I’m a classic, textbook introvert, and when too much is happening, I get overloaded.

This year, Mr Incredible actually commented on my lack of freaking out.  I was remarkably calm, to the point of even taking the time to get myself ready before people arrived (I’ve been known to be the one non-impeccable thing at events that we host, because I’m too worn out to fix myself).

I finally figured out what made this year different. This year, I didn’t try to put on a show.  Yesterday was, start to finish, quintessentially us.  We’re not fancy people.  But we’re a boatload of fun and freaking hilarious, and we have managed to surround ourselves with others who are also boatloads of fun and freaking hilarious.  And our kid?  Shoot, her friends and their families?  FUN AND HILARIOUS.  And that’s why yesterday was so awesome.  I let go of what I thought my daughter’s birthday party SHOULD be and I just let it happen.

There was this moment after the cake and presents had happened, when all of the adults were just hanging out and all of the kids were tearing up and down the stairs like maniacs (there was stair diving, which was at once exhilarating and terrifying to watch) and the boys started stomping on balloons and the girls were squealing, and I felt like Mary Steenburgen in Parenthood.

This morning, the house looked like Jake Ryan’s house in Sixteen Candles

It looked like a bomb had dropped.  Toys everywhere, kitchen counters piled two feet high, just chaos.  It took about 4 hours to get it back to normal.  Totally worth it.  As much pride as I take in having a nice clean house, I felt like the Champion Of All Mothers because my kid got to have a blast with her friends on her birthday.  There was no fussing about the mess, no “now now you’re getting too rambunctious, something’s going to get broken” (although we did calm them down occasionally for purely safety reasons).  Nothing broke.  There were a few bumps and bruises, as should be expected when you’re popping balloons with your bottom on a tile floor.  The kids and the adults had a good time, and so did I.

I’ve come to appreciate the value of just letting stuff happen.  Because stuff’s going to happen whether you bust yourself trying to orchestrate it or not.  I decided to enjoy the day, and that made it possible for everybody else to enjoy it as well.

Basking in the glow.

Basking in the glow.

 

 

“I promise I’m not an idiot”: what to do if you lose every single piece of identification while you’re on a trip

OK so this past weekend, I met up with some of my gal pals (who are LOVING that I just called them that) for a long-awaited weekend of beer and cursing relaxation.  I flew from Vegas to Baltimore on Thursday afternoon.  About 3 hours into the 4-1/2 hour flight, I took out my wallet so I could buy a cocktail.

Cue the foreshadowing music.

Roughly 18 hours later, I was at my friend’s house in Hershey PA (you know you were wondering where the Vegas locals go for vacay…) and I grabbed my purse because we were ready to go get some food.  I started pulling stuff out that I wouldn’t need with me (i.e. flight snacks) and I realized that my wallet was not in my purse.

I was 2100 miles from home with no money, no cards, no driver’s license.  What’s a girl to do?  I answered a round of “You’re kidding, right? Are you sure? Is it in your suitcase/in the car/under the couch?” and then it was time to deploy.  The first phone call was to Southwest Airlines, who told me 25 minutes later that I needed to go to southwest.com to fill out their lost item report.  Because nothing is more reassuring than telling the internets that you are adrift in Central PA with nothing that says you are who you are.  Yikes.  Clicking “submit” was like telling Jesus to take the wheel, let me tell you.

Then I called Mr. Incredible at work, which was humbling.  “We may have a situation.”  As ever, he hit the ground running and cancelled cards and did All The Right Things.  He’s good in a crisis.  And then after that, there wasn’t much to do.  It was day one of a 4-day bender trip, and I was in good company who, I must say, rallied to my aid.  Those bitches ladies do not let one of their own go thirsty hungry.

In the back of my head this whole time was the nagging question, “How exactly, in this post-9/11 era, does one travel without identification?”  I called Southwest again, because talking to people is more comforting than clicking around some anonymous website.  “Randy” told me “Oh, just go to the airport, they’ll know what to do.”  Um…..?  That’s not very reassuring, Randy.  Can you give a sister a heads-up about what’s in store?  “There’s a process.”

Cue more foreshadowing music.

So Monday afternoon, well before my flight, I got to the airport.  I went to BWI lost and found, just in case.  Nope, nothing there, but go downstairs to the police and see if they have it, because sometimes they put stuff like that in their safe.  HOPE!  Alas, nothing there either.  Le sigh.  So I schlep back upstairs and two terminals over to the Southwest counter.

“I lost my wallet on the way to here.  I don’t have any ID at all.  Can you help me?  I promise I’m not an idiot.”

And he did.  He did some quick verification as to who I am and where I’m going, and then he checked my bag, so I wouldn’t have to get a suitcase through security.  Then he gave me my boarding pass and sent me to security.  “Good luck, ma’am.”  Eeeek.

So I’m cool like Fonzie (“ayyyyyyyyyyyy” *two thumbs*) in line.  I get to the “picture ID and boarding pass please” lady, and I say “I lost my wallet.”

“I’mma need help up here”, she calls over her shoulder.  Everyone in line immediately looks at me like I’m Up To Something.  I step over into the penalty box and try to look inconspicuously wholesome.  A few minutes later, TSA Officer Dash comes up to me and starts asking questions.

“What happened?”

Duh.

“Do you have anything in your purse with your name on it that you didn’t make?”

No.  Not even a business card (stupid no-glory job).

“What time’s your flight?”

About two hours, and it’s delayed.

“Are you a smoker?  Smoke ’em if you got em.”

Geez.

He then gives me a form to fill out, which grants him and the TSA to access “A Database” that contains my information.  I will be answering some questions about my life, and that will verify my identity.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

He gets on his batphone, hits 1 and CALL, which means a red phone rang in a secure room somewhere off premises.  He gives his own verification code, gets one back, and gives my name and date of birth to start the process.

He asked where I work, where I live, where I lived before that because I haven’t lived where I do for very long, what kind of car I own, the name of one family member, and a couple other questions that only I would know the answers to.  Basic life stuff, nothing really invasive, and it’s all in a database somewhere.  Freaky.

I get past that portion of the program, and it’s time for the swimsuit competition.  I receive a THOROUGH pat-down from a very nice and professional female agent.  Let’s just say, she and I became, and shall remain close, and I will always remember this encounter fondly and with no regrets.

And then I’m through.  So if you lose your wallet on a trip, there’s hope.  You’ll get home.

Here’s what I wish I had known or done in advance:

  1. Quick inventory of what is actually in my wallet.  Insurance cards, AAA card, etc.  For no other reason than to be able to determine quickly just how up the creek I really am.  Also, cleaning out anything unnecessary (am I going to Costco on this trip?  the children’s museum? work?  then I don’t need those cards.)
  2. Copy of at least my driver’s license somewhere in the world.  Even if it had been at home on Mr. Incredible’s computer, he could have emailed it to me, and then I wouldn’t have been *quite* so sketchy at the airport.
  3. Dude, check around the floor before you get off the damn plane.  Really.  Are you new?

As an epilogue to this adventure, I received an email from Southwest Lost and Found yesterday:

“We are happy to tell you that we have located an item that closely matches the description of your reported lost item.

You only need to reply to this email, within 45 days from today’s date, with the following information to facilitate its return:

1) Verify the shipping address for your item.

2) Method of payment for the shipping cost. (Why do I have to pay?)

  • We use FedEx ground to return items and would ask that you supply a FedEx account number to pay the shipping fees directly to FedEx.
    • If you do not have a FedEx account, one is easy to get by clicking here.
      or,
  • If you have a preferred shipper, please give us the company name and your account number and we will do the rest.

After we receive this information, the item will be shipped to your desired address and we will close the report. We cannot hold these items in perpetuity, so if we do not receive a reply within 45 days, the item will be salvaged and the report closed.

We would like to thank you for flying Southwest Airlines and to invite you to try us again.

Sincerely,

Southwest Airlines Lost Item Recovery Team”

You better BELIEVE I’ll be flying Southwest again!  HOLLA.

An Embarrassment Of Movie Riches

Movies are our thing.  As a family and individually, if we’re home, we’re watching a flick.  On my first date with Mr. Incredible, we went out for lunch and then came back to my house and watched National Lampoon’s Vacation (true story!).  My paradise is a trip to the Sundance Film Festival with a few friends and a backpack full of foldover sandwiches and six movies back to back (this has happened, and it raised the standard for movie awesomeness).

We cancelled our cable almost a year ago, and in the interest of filling that void, we upped our internet speed and loaded our Roku Box with Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime.  We also have a shelf full of the movies that we love and must own, as well as Boo’s other shelf of all of the Disneys.  We are loaded to the gills with movies.  It’s becoming a problem.

On any given Friday or Saturday afternoon, we’ll say “Hey tonight let’s watch a movie.”  Fantastic.  We put Boo to bed by 8:30 with high hopes to start a movie by 9.  And then we start clicking through the Netflix queue (184 titles as of this morning, after a 10% purge).  Then we move on to Hulu in case there’s something they’ve added that we don’t know about.  Then we go to Amazon Prime, in case there’s something they’ve added that we don’t know about.  We’ve likely added a dozen or so movies that garner an “oh that’s a good one but not for tonight” response along the way.

An hour later, we still haven’t picked a movie, and now we’re drowsy because we’ve spent an hour slackjawed doing basically nothing.  And we end up just turning the TV off.  There’s just too much from which to choose.  We are paralyzed by the sheer size of the available selection (poor us!).

One of the reasons we cancelled cable was that we spent so much time surfing past crap (there’s really too much to link to…) to end up on one of the dozen channels we always watched.  Truth be told, a year later, all I really miss is Food Network and Turner Classic Movies.  Mr Incredible misses the ESPN genre.  Boo doesn’t really care because she still gets all her same stuff, to the point where she has skewed my Netflix recommendations firmly into Children & Family.

So what do we do?  I mean, it’s totally a First World Problem, I know.  But it’s everywhere.  We shop at Costco, and while I love what they have, I hate how much of it you have to get.  There’s just so much.  It’s like we’ve forgotten what it’s like to have enough of something.  We were watching Mary Poppins (for the billionth time) (because it’s a movie and that’s what we do) and she says in her inimitable way, “Enough is as good as a feast”.

Enough is as good as a feast.  Whoa.  Mary Poppins, you just blew my mind.

I’ve talked about my love of “galore“.  In my world, galore is when you have enough to share.  A hundred thousand available movies is not galore.  A hundred thousand movies is overwhelming to the point where I just go get a book (or I download one to my just-acquired Kindle, which has opened up a whole new world of overwhelming…).  It never ends.  It’s not a feast.  It’s gluttony.

Even though everything that is available may not take up actual physical space in our home, it’s still clutter.  It’s a mess in my head, and that’s just as bad as a mess in my house.  Worse, in fact, because it’s not like you can just un-know something and get that brainspace back.

I’m not sure what my solution is for this one.  What’s your solution?  What do you do when there are just too many options?  Are you like me and you just check out?  Or do you pick something just for the sake of picking something and settle and it’s FINE.  This is probably not the last time I’ll write about this topic.  It’s ongoing for me.

Sweet Sweet Chaos

Sometimes, a little disorder is in order.  Sometimes, what we need is a little superfluous complication, just to keep things interesting.

Today, the most wonderful contraption in the world was brought to my attention.

I love this thing so much.  It’s like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang drove to Napa Valley and went Steampunk.  The simple act of opening a bottle of wine and pouring a perfect glass becomes an event that is replete with intricacy and detail.  I could built a house around this thing.  This… what is this…. this magnificent corkscrew is to wine what this thing is to playtime.  It does the job you want done, but in a deliciously over-the-top way that turns the end result into an experience.

Would I want everything in my house to operate in the most complicated possible manner?  Do I want to live in a world where molehills are intentionally turned into mountains?  Oh heavens no.  Can you imagine trying to navigate your daily obligations while at the mercy of a crank and fifty gears for each task?  Perish the thought!  We don’t have time for everything we do to be about the journey, rather than the destination.  Everything cannot, and should not, be complicated like this wonderful winecork puller-outer.

What I’ve learned is that if most of what I have going on around me is kept simple, I have the inclination and discretion to seek out the occasional morsel of chaos.  When I’m able to stay on top of most of the important stuff, there’s room to bring in variables that lend themselves to complication.

Hi, my name is Winchestergetoutofthekitchen.

Which is why we adopted a dog.  Not a puppy, because I’m not completely insane.  I’m open to chaos, not destruction.  But a dog?  A fully-grown, mostly-trained rescue dog who needed us even more than we needed him?  No problem!  So now we deal with dog hair, and the steam mop is in frequent rotation.  But that’s cool.  I got this.  Because a happy Labrador Retriever (look at that tail in motion, and tell me he’s not happy…) is just the right amount of chaos and sometimes, it can be about the journey.