Sunday, August 17, 2008

I know, I know . . .

I do have the tendency to be one of "those moms". You know the ones. Those annoying broads who constantly brag about how cute their kid is. When someone comments on how beautiful Presley is, I'll unabashedly reply with a, "Yes, thank you so much. I know he is." Because he IS. Not that cute-cuz'-he's-a-kid beautiful, either. Nope. I know this boy is classically, heartbreakingly beautiful. As I type this, I literally have tears in my eyes because he is just so profound, I can hardly believe I had anything to do with his creation. I just tucked him into bed after a long afternoon in the pool, and he's bleary-eyed and sunny and so tuckered out. As I kissed him goodnight, I was overtaken with his complete and utter perfection. It made me laugh at myself for my earlier complaints today of corporate woes, sleeplessness, and annoying neighbors. They really, truly, do not matter. At the end of the day, this sweet little boy squeezes me around the neck as tight as he can, kisses my cheek, and says, "I love you, mama." I'm his mama. And I am so, so blessed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Frumpy to Fabulous

It's no secret that when it comes to work, I choose comfort over fashion. I have somewhat of an endearing reputation around the office as "the girl in the brown coat and the grandma shoes". Granted, I didn't actually KNOW about this reputation until a few months ago. I've been employed there for going on four years, and due to my inability to regulate my body temperature and the company's inhumane (says me) use of the air conditioners, I have been content to wear the same trusty old brown coat every day of my employment.

Yes, even in the summer. It's actually worse during the warmer months, because they so grossly overcompensate for the heat that I sit at my desk, teeth chattering, goosebumps, and unable to perform my responsibilities because I'm too friggin' COLD to think straight. That is, without a coat. Which is why I wear it.

Anyway. My sister gave me the coat for Christmas in 2000. The thing was already old when I discovered its true usefulness upon starting this job in early 2005, but since then, its constant wear and the fact that it's never once seen a washing machine has created this sort of "shell" that's perfectly formed to my body, smells just like me, and is more comfortable in every way than your favorite grandma's hug. Truly.

I knew its last day was soon coming, and I'm so attached to the thing that the thought of retiring it to the back of a closet saddened me more than I'd be willing to admit. Note the blown out elbows, missing button, and the dirty, matted collar. I'm not one to get attached to things like clothing, but this jacket represents the past eight years of my life. That's a third of all my years on earth! I even wore it during pregnancy when it would barely cover my sides and looked clownish. In short, I LOVE this jacket.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people are eyeing me, whispering to each other, "What's up with the girl in the coat? Does she know it's hot outside? She's kinda . . . weird." And I'm not making this up. Up until recently, Ted worked down in the factory, and every day during my lunch I'd walk along the mezzanine above him and his coworkers on my way to the employee cafeteria. The same routine I've had for years. Not long ago, Ted cautiously said to me, "The printers down there are asking me why you always wear that coat . . ."

Wait. WHAT?

I was mortified. The laborers are wondering about my apparel?! They wear sweaty t-shirts and cut-off shorts to work everyday, not to mention the fact that they only shower once a week. And they're making note of my jacket? I've never had a single interation with these people, and they were inclined to ask about the jacket. It was enough to make me reexamine what other people are seeing when I pass them in the hallways.

Then I got angry. And defensive. And rebellious. Screw them! I'll be buried in this thing, just to spite them and their judging ways!

I don't know if it was mere curiosity, or self-consciousness, or maybe a little of both. But I started to bring up the subject offhandedly among my closer workmates. Apparently, they saw this as an open invitation to finally say the things they've all been wanting to say for quite some time. Poke fun at the little hippie girl in her dirty coat when it's 85 degrees outside. "But I don't wear it outside! It's freezing in HERE! It's purely functional, don't you see?!" I was met with laughter and further prodding. And it didn't stop.

There was talk of starting a departmental donation to provide me with a new coat. Blazes. They think I'm wearing the thing because I can't buy a new one? I've got four other once-worn jackets in the closet. They just don't suit. The sleeves are not precisely formed to the shape of my arms as they rest on the desk while I type. They're all too long or too stiff or too heavy or too thin. MY jacket is PERFECT.

Well, then. As for the shoes . . . you'd have to understand that I'm a bit of a princess when it comes to my feet. Life's tough, and sometimes keeping pampered feet is my only luxury. Always clean, always lotioned, always looking and feeling as royal as possible (despite my long monkey toes). But I see these young women with corns and calluses all over their toes because they insist on wearing super-high heels or strappy things that dig in to their heels and cut off the circulation, leaving their digits purple and swollen, and I just want to scream, "WHY?!" Why would you choose to walk around with blisters when you could be floating around on a Dr. Scholl's cloud like me?

I don't know. I'm just practical that way, I guess. I choose flats. Plain, black, leather flats. And I wear the same pair until the sole wears off. Who needs more than one pair of work shoes? It's WORK. Not a fashion competition, unless I'm completely oblivious, in which case I'd feign obliviousness anyway because I don't like catty shit like secret clothing wars. Blame it on my modest upbringing. Like I said, I'm practical like that.

I'm not prone to shoe fetishes, as most women. I think fancy kicks are frivolous and stupid. I'd much rather buy a pair for 25 bucks at Target and then spend what I'd save on things like other affordable pairs of shoes for children lost to the system who might never otherwise have a pair. (Or on chocolate. But, we all have our vices, right?). So what if they look like a cross between Michael Jackson's trademark and my grandmother's orthopedic shoes? My feet feel gooood. Always. And I like that. Happy feet make happy people. Sore feet make crabby bitches. It's a fact.

Now, at risk of contradicting everything I've just so wholeheartedly professed, I've been doing some thinking lately. As much as I hate to think physical appearance or choice of attire (outside of being inappropriate) might have ANYTHING to do with one's status in the workplace, I can't help but look around and wonder if my being overlooked for a promotion that winds up going to a less-qualified candidate with a more sophisticated wardrobe could be attributed to my being so content to choose comfort over style. Unenlightened people tend to call this frumpiness. But whatever. I know I'm cute and quirky in my own frumptastic way. The world (and the corporate scene) need people like me, I think. It's the hippie yin to the sheep yang. If there's one thing I'm not, it's a sheep.

Nonetheless, I need to get on in this rat race just like everyone else. Especially with a little mouth to feed, and with bottles of St. Ives to buy for my precious monkey feet. Oh, and chocolate. Always chocolate. It's not getting any cheaper to live. So I decided to step outside my frumpy bubble and try on some new clothes. And by new, I mean stuff that I originally bought for work, but has been hanging in my closet for a year or more because it goes against my modest wallflower ways.

The first thing to go was the jacket. It's been hanging on my bedpost for a month, and I've been suffering through eight hours, day after day, of painful goosebumps and popsicle fingers, cursing myself for the effort. The first day I left it at home, my department asked me if I'd accidentally forgotten it and offered to scrounge up a spare sweatshirt from down on the print floor. The second day, they threw a small celebration for my accomplishment. By now it's the norm, and I've acclimated somewhat to the chilly 65 degrees.

But a couple weeks ago, I traded in my usual solid color long-sleeved tees and wash n' wear work pants for blousy-type tops and synthetic slacks with pressed creases. Pressed creases! I also started washing my hair at night, leaving it long and wavy for my morning commute, instead of the rushed, dripping wet bun I normally show up with. I even went out and bought a couple pairs of heels. Not super-high. Small heels, still conservative by most means. And I've been wearing earrings and wrist cuffs or bangles. Complete experimental transformation using items I already owned, aside from the shoes.

It annoyed me at first. I don't like making an effort for a company that's shown me no real sign of a promising future, despite my loyalty and hard work. There are many reasons for my choice of attire, but one of them has been, admittedly, sticking it to the man. Pay me for my abilities, not for my million dollar wardrobe, you know? But I'll be the first to say, it's kind of nice to catch my reflection in a window and notice that I have a bust and a waist and posterior. Who knew? They were always covered up in loose clothing and an old corduroy jacket.

Yesterday, a co-worker stopped by my desk. He's the macho man of my department. Early thirties, heavily muscled, a bit too tan, and cockier than the worst of men. He'll argue with you on any point, even if he knows he's wrong, because he simply has to be right. Always. He's like my cantankerous older brother who never knows when to shut his arrogant yap.

Needless to say, I was in complete shock when he sauntered over and said, "Heyyy . . . so, I know you're not usually the best at receiving compliments (ouch), but you should know . . . uh . . . what you've been doing lately? This, uh . . . new look? It really suits you." Awkward pause, as he proceeds to turn a brilliant shade of red. "I mean . . . ! Not that you looked bad before, but you know . . . you know! You never used to wear heels, you know? You look really put together. It's good."


If I find myself being "suddenly" recognized and rewarded for my countless contributions toward the betterment of this company, not to mention the tens of thousands of hours spent putting up with corporate injustices, I'm going to kick my own ass for the past three and a half years if all it took was a pair of heels.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beating My Child

Presley is a dawdler. The more you ask him to to hurry, the more he will try to make your objective a painfully slow process, and in most instances, it becomes extraordinarily frustrating. For example, we live in a second-story apartment. For reasons I'll never know, it's always taken a great deal of coaxing, begging, and threatening to get him up the flight of stairs upon returning home from an outing. He'll just never go on his own accord. After awhile, it occurred to him that my pleas and threats don't mean a whole lot. Especially when I've got four bags of groceries on each arm that are starting to dig into my flesh. I ask politely through pained grunts to please hurry up the stairs before Mommy loses two very important limbs, and he stares at me blankly like he hasn't even heard the request. Or more often, he giggles at my helplessness. The little brute.

I, with my motherly observatory skills, have come to notice the competetive side in this kid as he gets older. He doesn't like to lose, and everything is a game he must win. Particularly, everything is a race. I realized I could use this to my advantage, and a couple months ago I tried out a new trick to get him up the stairs without such great efforts. And it worked! In fact, it's been failproof every single time since the first day I used it.

Me: "Presley, please go upstairs."
Him: (blank stare)
Me: (louder) "Presley, I said please. Please go upstairs, right now!"
Him: (giggle)
Me: (very loud) "Uh-oh! Presley . . . if you don't get up there right now, I'm going to BEAT YOU!"

And I put one foot on the bottom step to let him know I mean business. Sure enough, he'll have none of that. He races past me and gallops to the top, cheering, "I won! I wooonnnn! Mommy, I beat you!"

Did I mention that the walls in our building are paper-thin? Standing in the outer hallway, I can hear everything that goes on in all four units. Every word, pretty much verbatim. And it dawned on me a few days ago that every time we get home, three other families with children are hearing me bark, "PRESLEY! I'M GOING TO BEAT YOU!"

I'm surprised that I haven't yet been visited by Child Protective Services.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Hairy Decision

Presley was completely bald until he was a year old, and even after he sprouted some hair, it was only a little tuft of fluff on top until he was close to two. But by the time his hair really grew in, there was no way we were cutting it off. Gorgeous blonde locks to frame his perfect angelic face. He was never once mistaken for a girl. And with a name like Presley Steele, he was born to have Rock & Roll hair. It fit his free-spirit and his deep, husky little voice. I was in love with it. (I'll admit that I was also in love with how his father's pretentious side of the family scoffed at it.) But it wasn't just my own vanity. Pres loved his hair, too. Whenever you asked if he wanted a hair cut, it was a flat, "No. No further questions, please" in toddler-speak. And I'm a firm believer in letting kids rock their own style, within reason. Long hair is within reason. The day he asks for an eyebrow ring will be met with much different results.

At three and a half, he's far more active than he was, say, last summer. I always picked him up from school with flushed cheeks during the warmer months, but this year he's been coming home red, panting, and soaked. I honestly didn't know that little kids could sweat so much. I thought that didn't start until puberty. Ha. Anyway, he's complained a few times recently about being "itchy" because all of his long beautiful hair sticks to his face and neck. It's extremely uncomfortable, and impossible to remedy without a rubber band. I know this from personal experience, which is why my hair is up 24/7 from May to September in Kansas. The weather is sticky enough as it is. Itchy hair grabbing at your defenseless neck hardly makes it more bearable. He may be cool enough to pull it off, but no way am I sending my kid to school in a ponytail.

Saturday morning, I bribed him into a haircut. I held back tears as an impossibly huge pile of hair grew on the floor, one pass of the clippers at a time. By the end, I was beside myself. I couldn't believe the transformation. I haven't seen the shape of his head since he was an infant. He looked like a completely different kid, and I didn't know whether to cry out in woeful remorse or celebrate that he didn't lose one bit of beauty with his hair. Naturally, I opted for the latter so he wouldn't read my face and get upset himself. I think he was in shock as much as I was. We styled it in a little mohawk, and I am still agape and doing double takes two days later. I didn't want to do it, but I'm glad we did. He's staying cool and spending more time being a rambunctious boy and less time brushing the hair from his eyes. I miss it. I miss running my hands through it and tucking it behind his ears and admiring it. But the new cropped 'do has given me free access to planting kisses on the back of his little neck anytime I want. And that's worth it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Big Wheel Keep on Turnin'

So I'm working two jobs again. Lucky for me, this time it doesn't involve slinging liquor to pompous, belligerent, chauvinists. My soul is still marred from that ungodly period of life. Unlucky for me, it's still a second job. And it's labor intensive. I am nearing the level of exhaustion that I felt as a new parent. Where everything is somehow funny, but you cry instead of laugh?

Ah, yes. And I must somehow keep it together for Presley's sake. In his little world, there is never an excuse for slowing down. I might've put in 14 hours today, but dang it, I'd better have it in me to play Legos. And tickle him. And console his multiple bouts of blood curdling screams throughout the night and wee hours of the morning when he has nightmares.

Boy, am I tired.

I actually wrote down my schedule today, just to see it on paper. It put everything into perspective. Wednesdays are alternating, which is why they're in parenthesis:

6:30 am - Wake up
6:45 am - Wake up again. Cry a little.
7:00 am - Shower, get ready, cuddle Presley
7:55 am - Drop Presley off at school
8:10 am - Get to work. Late. As always.
5:00 pm - Get off work
5:15 pm - Pick Presley up from school
5:30 pm - Change clothes, cuddle Presley, eat if time allows
5:45 pm - Drive to second job
6:00 pm - Start laboring in sweaty warp-speed
10:30 pm - Get home from work
11:00 pm - Grit teeth through the soreness
12:00 am - Pass out
2:00 am - Console Presley back to sleep
2:15 am - Pass out
4:00 am - Get Presley back to sleep. Again.
4:15 am - Pass out

6:30 am - Wake up
6:45 am - Wake up again. Cry a little.
7:00 am - Shower, get ready, cuddle Presley
7:55 am - Drop Presley off at school
8:10 am - Get to work. Late. As always.
5:00 pm - Get off work
5:15 pm - Pick Presley up from school
6:00 pm - Cook dinner
7:00 pm - Clean up dinner
8:00 pm - Bathe Presley
9:00 pm - Tuck Presley into bed
9:30 pm - Go to the gym
10:30 pm - Shower
12:00 am - Pass out
2:00 am - Console Presley back to sleep
2:15 am - Pass out
4:00 am - Get Presley back to sleep. Again.
4:15 am - Pass out

And . . . REPEAT.

Shouldn't I have more to show for this? Oceanfront property? An oiled-up sexy Latin manservant? Anyone?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bachelorette Pad

So this is it. My first "official" all-alone-by-myself weekend. Well, with Presley, of course. Ted's five hours away in Iowa City playing a gig with an old bandmate, and I'm left to get a taste of what's to come in about 6 weeks. Holy moly. I realized last night that I've never lived alone. Like, ever. It's much creepier than I expected. I find myself needing to fill the space and the silence up with something. Anything. Not that Ted and I sit around gabbing all night. We don't really talk much. But there's definitely something different about not having another (non-toddler) presence in the house. Noises that I've become accustomed to and even comforted by are making me nervous and agitated. That weird quiet that sets in when the refrigerator stops running. The creaky roof when a gust of wind hits it. The cat eating her dry kibbles in the kitchen. They seem foreign . . . especially at night. I stayed up until 3 am watching back-to-back episodes of What Not To Wear. I could not, for the life of me, keep my eyes closed. 3 am? Hello? On a rebellious night, I MIGHT make it to 11 pm. Usually I'm dead to the world by 10:15, whether I like it or not. Despite the fact that I'm exhausted to the point of delirium, I have a feeling tonight will prove the same fate.

The day was mostly a blur. Ted took my car, and his tags expired two days ago. Yep. I've been housebound on top of going stir-crazy. Plus, I'm broke as a joke until my next payday. Even if I could leave, I couldn't afford to do anything. So I bundled Presley up and we walked. And walked. And walked. It felt like Fall today. So beautiful. Sunny, not one cloud in the sky. Crisp air, and so dry. If everything weren't so green and plump, I'd swear we were heading into November. We walked until the poor kid plopped down on the sidewalk and declared I must carry him the for rest of our neighborhood exploration. Exactly what I'd hoped would happen. Little pink cheeks and a sweaty brow, begging for a nap as long as he didn't have to walk anymore. Like a good mom, I made him walk the two blocks home. This is probably eight miles to a three-year-old. Boy, did he sleep. Nary a protest. Victory!

Somehow, I just managed to watch a full episode of Zoey 101. You know, the JamieLynn Spears show. Campy teenage utter crap. I don't even know how I wound up on that channel. But it wasn't just background fuzz. I literally. Watched. It. I think I even asked Presley to move out of the way of the TV at one point when his little head invaded my line of sight. Proof that my brain is numb from this ordeal. My sister assured me last night that it gets easier. I won't always be so painfully restless. I know that eventually I'll get used to ruling my own roost and come to love the freedom. For now, it still feels awkward to cook for two instead of three. It feels like a death has transpired, not hearing another breathing pattern in the room. I suppose in many ways, one has . . .

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Never Enough Time

It seems there are never enough hours in a day. Is that cliche? Whatever. Lately I've noticed the utter lack of important, valuable things in my life (aside from the obvious) because my time is consumed with work and the mundane and my constant self-reminders to breathe.

What about reading? I've got a bookcase chock full of proof that I used to be an avid reader. Mostly fantasy and trashy romance novels. I once read like it was somehow going to save my mind from reality. I honestly can't remember the last time I opened a book. Years.

Nights consist of a rush to get dinner made, bathe Presley, get him to bed, and squeeze in an episode of Good Eats before passing out on the couch. Weekends are a phenomenon in themselves. They just . . . disappear. Admittedly, hours are lost to the boob tube. I think I sort of zone out while Pres naps because it's the only quiet time I ever have during waking hours. I watch in quasi-envy as first time home buyers are getting a surprise living room makeover on HGTV. Meanwhile, I am perpetually hateful of the joke of a paycheck I take home and am left to stuff my kid's face with Kraft's cheesiest. There's a complete lack of motivation to get out there and change the world when my body and soul hardly have the energy to yell, "Please, for the love of God, BE STILL."

I really want to be a productive member of the human race. I start to wonder if my role in this grand play is to do exactly as I do.


And to this day, after hundreds upon hundreds of tries, I still haven't managed to cook up a box of macaroni and cheese without spilling it on the stove.