Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tacky, tacky, tacky...

Well. Being sick sucks. Being sick at the same time as your baby REALLY sucks.
I had pretty much thought Sam would never get sick. Sure, we have had runny noses and problems with teething, but for the most part, he hasn’t been sick. I attribute this to breastfeeding and all the leafy greens I ate when I was pregnant. Anyway, he’s a super-healthy baby. Never around cigarette smoke, gets plenty of sleep, drinks a lot of water, and eats a lot of lean protein and vegetables. Sam is Super Baby. But apparently, he has come into contact with some kryptonite. He started getting a runny nose and a cough last week, and we thought he was getting better, but last night he started running a fever. Husband took him to the doctor this morning, and the poor little guy had to have a chest x-ray. He has a lot of congestion, caused by allergies, which caused an infection. So now he’s on an antibiotic, and has free reign to drink as much juice as he wants.
Other than the congestion, though, you never would have known he was sick. He wasn’t cranky, and he continued to sleep well. Such a good boy. He waved at everyone in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, and played peek-a-boo with the x-ray machine. He doesn’t like his medicine too much, so we have a system that involves a juice box (the reward), my cell phone (the distraction), and his soft blanket (for comfort). He’s going to be fine. The doctor did tell Husband that Sam is very strong (which we knew) and quite beautiful (which we strongly suspected). We like that doctor.

We went to Paris Mountain yesterday to celebrate Memorial Day. We’ve done this for the past three years, and I think it’s a grand tradition. We pack a picnic of fancy cheeses and lovely crusty bread, sparkling cider and hummus, strawberries and grapes. We pack this lovely picnic in our fancy-schmancy picnic backpack with the matching cloth napkins and tablecloth and cheeseboard, then we spread everything out on a quilt, and enjoy the outdoors.

Allow me to clarify: We are not an outdoorsy family. We like our nature with a fine patina of Disney charm. We do not camp. We only hike far enough to find a picturesque spot to spread our quilt, and that’s good enough for us. We don’t “garden”. We find no joy in yard work. We do, however enjoy the outdoors as a nice backdrop for a pleasurable afternoon of fancy cheeses and lovely crusty bread.
I have nothing against nature per se…I love sitting on my mom’s back porch, watching the river through the trees. I love floating down that river on an inner tube, drinking a cold beer and feeling the sun warm my skin. I love swimming in the ocean, I love clear water and white sand. I will spend hours on a playground (outdoors!) and walk miles and miles through the park, pushing Sam in his rugged, all-terrain jogging stroller. I love a scenic vista as much as the next person. I just hate dirt. I hate gnats. And I hate humidity. With no shame, I admit that I love pavement. So there.

Anyway, we spent the afternoon at Paris Mountain, where we enjoyed our picnic and our lolling about, and there was much grand redneck-viewing to be done. I wonder, sometimes, whether or not these people have friends. Real friends, I mean, to tell them things like, “Honey, do NOT wear those plastic shoes,” or “Girl. Those jeans? Not for you.” The world would be so much more sensational if someone would just step up and tell these people to stop going out in public in their pajamas, to put some makeup on, and to pay attention to some basic freaking hygiene. Let’s just say that there were some people at the lake yesterday who should NOT have been wearing bikinis. Past a certain age/BMI, it isn’t just unflattering, it’s in poor taste. And poor taste, like, hurts my feelings. The word I would choose to describe this behavior/ apparel is “unfortunate”.

There were also a disturbing number of families consisting of a “me-maw” (usually in her early forties, tops), a teenager in bikini top and some tacky shorts with, like “Tinkerbell” or something written across the butt, and a dirty baby (if it’s a girl-type baby, it’s practically guaranteed that she is also wearing a bikini, and it’s more than likely a hideously tacky American flag print) who is, of course, not wearing any sunscreen. They all, of course, are drinking Mountain Dew. This? This is why I don’t have complete faith in humanity.

This is not to say, by any means, that all people who have babies in their teens are doomed to perpetuate this cycle of bad taste/ judgement. I have known many women who made the best of the situation, finished school, and taken that opportunity to step up and become adults. Their children are well-adjusted, wonderful contributions to society, and the world would be a sadder place without them.

But then there are the baby-mamas who I overhear in the grocery store, yelling things like, “Desiree! You get your butt back here and put them donuts down! You know better than that!” Really? Does she? Wherever did she learn it? Truly horrifying.

And, I’m sorry, did I miss something, or did all of South Carolina miss the memo that tanning CAUSES CANCER??? Cancer, people. Cancer. Tacky, tacky, tacky…

I realize, as I’m writing this, that the thing I cannot tolerate is not, as I previously suspected, stupidity. I mean, it bothers me when people can’t seem to grasp the difference between “your” and “you’re”, or when people wallow in their own ignorance, making statements like “I just don’t like the taste of wine,” or “Shakespeare is so boring.” Here’s some advice, free from me to you: if you feel this way, for heaven’s sake, keep it to yourself. Broadcasting this information makes you look like a moron. But I digress…
As I was saying, stupidity is something I actually can tolerate. I don’t like it, but I accept that it is a part of our world that I cannot change. What I cannot tolerate is tackiness. If you’re going to be stupid, by all means, go right ahead. But don’t wear it on your t-shirt. Don’t yell it across the grocery store. And don’t force it on your children.
As a bit of a community service, here is a list of things that I, personally, find tacky. It is by no means all-inclusive, so feel free to add suggestions as you see fit.
Here goes:
Acrylic nails, synthetic fabrics, all-over animal prints, being proud of watching a lot of tv, wearing pajamas in public if you’re over the age of three, blonde hair with black roots, permed hair, poufy 80’s bangs, tattoos of fairies/Tweety Bird/ dolphins, drinking wine coolers, t-shirts that read any of the following: Naughty, Bad Girl, F.B.I.: Female Body Inspector, Your Boyfriend Wants Me, etc., materialism, bigotry, homophobia, racism, misogyny, Nicholas Sparks, wearing clothes that are clearly too small for you, Burger King, tanning beds, Thomas Kincaid (the painter of light), political jokes, wall-mounted singing fish, unnecessary lawn ornamentation, contact adhesive, telling pregnant women how big they are, Playboy bunnies as anything but statements of irony, Mountain Dew, silk flowers, visible panty lines, reality tv, Hungry Man dinners, temper tantrums in anyone over three, physical violence, cruelty to animals, talking about money, the American Pie film series, touching a stranger’s baby, choosing movies over live theater, Doritos, rudeness, starting a sentence with the words “I know it’s not P.C., but…”, thinking all Southerners are inbred and uncultured, making fun of my accent, being intolerant of people of other faiths than yours (yes, this does mean that if you are an atheist, it’s tacky to make fun of Christians; that’s not very liberal of you), Fox news, flat-screen televisions, SUVs, middle school, socks with sandals, dragons, video games, Twitter, souvenir resort wear, picky eaters, injustice, kids wearing those stupid wheeled sneakers, high-fructose corn syrup, sweatpants with words across the butt.

That’s all I can think of right now.

But I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wee Mister Strawberry rules with an Iron Fist

A word about pageants…
Generally, I have a problem with them. I think they teach children skewed values based solely on appearance. I think that if your kid wins, she will go through life thinking she is better than everyone else, and if she loses, she will grow up convinced she isn’t pretty. Regardless of who wears the crown, everyone loses. Plus, the kiddie pageants with fake teeth, huge hair and spray tans are step-back creepy. Seriously.
However, like everything in life, there are exceptions to this rule. And that exception is: Pageants are okay, as long as they’re funny. That’s why I have no problem with the Mrs. America Pageant, in which the married contestants are required to wear gigantic state-themed costumes. And that’s why I thought it was perfectly fine to enter my sweet son in the Wee Mister Strawberry pageant. He won, of course, because he has charisma AND beauty, and yes, it was hilarious. Especially when Miss Upstate South Carolina announced him…twice…as “Sam Slutz” instead of “Sam Schultz”. Everyone else was horror-struck, except, of course, for Husband and me, who laughed so hard we almost forgot to have him do his three-point turn. The flaw with the pageant was that Miss Upstate South Carolina (who, though dumber than a bag of avocados, was beautiful and wearing a sparkly tiara) was standing behind Sam, so he kept turning to look at her instead of the judges. He does love the ladies. But he charmed them, and stole the title, the crown, the trophy, the scepter (yes, scepter), the sash, and the savings bonds. His stage experience served him well as he waved to the judges with a winning, put-on shyness. And he didn’t mock the other children, which I thought was kind of him. So now he’s a pageant baby. But I will only allow him to participate in pageants that will win him a hilarious title. Like Wee Mister Meatball, or the Baby Corndog King. After all, a girl’s gotta have standards.
Songs for a New World is over and done, the costumes piled up in my laundry room, waiting to be washed. It was an amazing experience. It was incredibly meaningful for me, being in the final show of FIRE’s first season. It’s hard for me to believe that I only met these people a year ago, and now they are such a huge part of my life. They are my family. They have watched my son learn to crawl, then to walk. It’s amazing to me how much my life has changed in the past year. It’s wonderful to have this place to be welcomed home. I love it that my son gets excited just getting out of the car and realizing we’re in the parking lot, because he knows that this is the place full of music, laughter, and a lot of people who love him. People have said that it must be so hard for him to be carted to and from the theater all the time, and that it’s irresponsible to keep him out so late. But the truth is, I think it’s great for him. How many kids have the opportunity to be around amazing musicians, watching live performances by outstanding actors, dancers, and singers, and being allowed to play with the switches on the light board? It’s the best playground ever! It’s our home away from home. And it’s a good one.
Husband actually got to sit and watch the show Saturday night, which was new. I mean, he had been to several rehearsals and had stood in the back, holding Sam, on opening night, but he got to sit in a seat and just watch on Saturday. That was pretty cool. It never gets old for me, to see his face after a show. I love coming out of the Artists’ Entrance and seeing him, beaming at me. It means so much to me that he thinks I’m good. When so many people in my life won’t even ask how a show went, how rehearsals are going, or even feign interest in what I do, it’s amazing to have that support in my life. I don’t know what I did to deserve him.
We went to Barnes and Noble last night, as we frequently do, to drink coffee and let Sam play with the trains. We had dinner with Mama N and Baby Girl and Company, and on the way home I decided that if I didn’t have a coffee posthaste I would probably die. Sam was playing with the trains, being all “I’m the cutest baby in the world,” and this KID, who was like FIVE, came over and gathered all the trains up in a pile and guarded them in the circle of his wiry five-year-old arms so that Sam couldn’t play with them. I think it shows remarkable restraint on my part that I didn’t push him down, and amazing cooperation skills on Sam’s part that left the trains and found a book to read. Well, turn the pages of. No fits, no crying, just a shrug of the shoulders and a “fuggedaboudit.” Good kid.
I’m pretty sure this Disney vacation planning DVD that arrived in the mail today (yes, our trip is planned for about a year from now, but it’s never too early to start) is making me cry a little. Cousin, Her Husband and Child just got back from Child’s first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth (or else) and the pictures are tooooo precious. I think it’s slowly killing Husband to have to wait till next summer to go. He’s jonesing for some Mickey. We’re sticking with an every-other-year Disney World pilgrimage plan, which I think is more than reasonable. The best year of Husband’s life, though, is when we went twice in three months. The year we got married, played Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, drove to Key West in a haze of brand-new-in-loveness and our son was born? That year has nothing on the Year of Two Trips to Disney World. It’s weird, though, the power Disney World has over you. But, yeah, the PLANNING DVD is making me a little teary-eyed. It might be that I’m slightly doped up on a combination of Nyquil and Mucinex.
Anyhow...I must go tend to the needs of Wee Mister Strawberry. He's pretty demanding of his subjects is all I'm saying...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Songs for a New World...and a new me

I love Songs for a New World. I love its message of hope. I love the tight harmonies, the amazing voices in the cast, and I love the lighting design. Simply put, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never been a part of anything like it. And it’s an honor.

We open tomorrow night, and for once, I’m actually ready. My costumes are finished, everything else I was supposed to do (for this show, it was minimal; I had to make a 95 lb. high school senior look like she was about to have a baby in, like, ten seconds, a feat that I accomplished with cotton batting, muslin, a six dollar bra from K-Mart, hot glue, and safety pins…pure genius) is done. As far as tech goes for me, it’s pretty simple, which is good. I don’t have any really fast changes; my hair and makeup don’t have to be insane. I don’t have to create enormous, droopy, false breasts made from a nursing bra and two of Sam’s sweaters. What I do have to do is remember the words to these songs, and to remember the alto line. Here’s my dirty little secret: I’m not really an alto. I’m a soprano with a freaking huge range. But in nearly every choir I’ve ever sung with, I’ve sung soprano. And sopranos? Sopranos sing melody. Sopranos have it soooooo easy. Because we just pick the top note and sing it. Even if it isn’t the melody, it’s easy to pick out: it’s the highest note. Duh. But altos have it rough. The alto line frequently consists of no more than three notes, no more than a half-step apart, and we’re the ones with the weird, dissonant notes. So this show has been really hard for me to learn, because I’m trying not to sing soprano out of sheer habit AND to remember which of the three notes I’m supposed to sing when. It’s tough music, but gorgeous, and I’m crazy about it. It’s a challenge. I needed that. Also, it has given me some much-needed perspective and empathy for my alto sistas. I feel ya, hons.

I’m completely carried away, giddy, one might say, with my costumes. My mommy made them, then I covered them with glitter and hot glued marabou trim to them. (Is there anything hot glue CAN’T do?) They are completely preposterous, hilarious, and, in their own weird way, beautiful. I’m so completely tickled with myself in them; really, I am.

You see, here’s the thing: last night, I put on a pair of pants I haven’t fit into since high school. And you know what I felt? Complete disbelief. I fit into the wedding dress from my first marriage. More easily than I did then, actually. (I'm thinking a party is in order: I'll wear the dress, we'll dance in the streets, and celebrate my liberation from the Ghost of Husbands Past. Margaritas will be served, and there will be Dancing Boys. I'm recruiting Mike and Charlie. So step to it, boys.) It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve actually done this. I’ve lost nearly sixty pounds. That’s, like, a fourth grader, right? I’m thinner now than I have been since I got back from my honeymoon with my ex-husband. That’s a reference point for you. (After months of crash dieting to fit into a wedding dress, then hopping into a car with a college boy who could survive, seriously, on nothing but Coca-Cola and Cheetos, you tend to slip up from any healthy eating plans.) So…since 2003, I had been gaining weight, then I met Husband, who was all, “You are so beautiful and it doesn’t matter what you weigh…here…have some cake,” and then I got PREGNANT, and God only knows how I managed to gain any weight at all while I was throwing up constantly, but somehow I gained a billion pounds. Granted, he was a nine pound baby, but still…it was pretty impressive. When Sam was four weeks old, I was so depressed and miserable that I had to do something, so I went to Weight Watchers. I will never forget that day: it was freezing, and I was wearing maternity pants and one of Steve’s shirts, and a bandana over my hair. I sat in the back of the room, nursing Sam (which is what I did ALL THE FREAKING TIME) and thinking this would never work. And you know what? It did. It totally worked. I have sixteen pounds left to lose to reach my goal weight, which is what I weighed when I was a sophomore in high school.
What’s weird about it is that it’s hard for me to see myself. I can’t look at myself and see, “Oh, I’ve lost all this weight.” I have to look at the clothes, the numbers, the measurements. I have to look at how people treat me differently. Sometimes it makes me really mad, because I’ll walk into a store and people are SO much nicer to me now, and ask if they can help me find anything. Before, I was invisible. It’s a real eye-opener. Kind of like when Tyra Banks wore the fat suit as a “social experiment” but a little bit less offensive and a lot more real.
Some things haven’t changed at all. Husband, for example. He’s glad I’m happier and healthier, and that I’m going to probably live a lot longer, but there has been no change in his slavish devotion to me, and he has never ONCE said that I look “so much hotter now,” which I had been dreading. To say that would be to negate all the things he told me when we fell in love, and he would never do that, because I don’t think he believes it. He is one of those rare, beautiful people who really does see what is inside a person, and it really didn’t matter to him what I weighed. He loved me the first time we rolled our eyes in unison to something Dumb Girl said. Then our eyes met, mid-roll, and I knew I had found my soul mate: someone to openly mock stupid people with for all time. I’m sure we’ll be in a nursing home one day, and I’ll turn to him and say, “Did you see how tacky Florence’s shoes are?” and he’ll snap his arthritic fingers and say, “Whore,” and I’ll look deep into his eyes, reflecting our many beautiful years together, and I’ll say, “Who are you again?” We were truly made for each other.
But I digress.
My point is that I’m unable to look at my own reflection and think, “I look hot.” That’s simply not something I’m able to do. Sure, I can say that my hair is kicking major butt, or that I have outstanding fashion sense, but I remain the harshest critic of the overall package. After so long, I just can’t think of myself that way. Yesterday, a creepy guy at CVS was hitting on me and I genuinely believed that he wanted to know where I got my bumper sticker. (Malaprop’s in Asheville) It just didn’t occur to me that he was interested in me until he asked if I was single. It’s a whole mindset thing, you know? I usually have a baby attached to me, and men don’t tend to approach that. But when I put on the costume of a character who is beautiful (albeit in kind of a skanky way), I can see it. I can see how far I’ve come. And I can see that I’m never going to go back.
Kirstie Alley was just on the cover of People magazine for having gained back 83 pounds after quitting Jenny Craig. Well…of course she did. Jenny Craig doesn’t teach you HOW to eat. They give you food, prepackaged, and tell you, “Eat this and you’ll lose weight.” Well, sure. But what about the real world? How can you learn healthy eating habits when everything is done for you?That is also my problem with Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious”, in which she includes recipes for sneaking vegetables into your family’s meals so they don’t know they’re eating something healthy. While I think, sure, if you’re making macaroni and cheese anyway, why not stir in some butternut squash puree, but here’s the problem there: once your kids grow up, and go into the real world, they’re going to continue to eat the way they were raised to eat. But no one is going to be sneaking veggies into their food in the dining hall on campus, or in their first apartment. Teaching your child to eat fruits and vegetables is the job of a parent. Period. That’s what you’re supposed to do so that you kid will grow up strong and healthy. Sneaking spinach into brownies is not only, you know, gross, but it isn’t going to help your kids learn healthy eating habits. Sorry. Okay. I’m done with my vegetable tirade…
The thing about the weight loss is that it has allowed me to do something I never thought I would be able to do: to stand on a stage in a really short skirt and really tall boots and feel completely confident. Yes, I know I look ridiculous. But it’s my joke this time.
Come see Songs for a New World. The music is amazing. And after sixteen months, so are my legs

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How to Do Things Right

So…there are all these magazines that list Do’s and Don’ts, Ins and outs, sexy vs. skanky, etc. What I love is that these things are soooo arbitrary, and seemingly unrelated. But hey, why not, right? It seems like a pretty good format. So here’s what I think:

Yes: Tuxedos
No: White tuxedos. Unless, of course, you’re in a play. Or, like, a dream sequence.

Yes: Women who manage to be funny and beautiful at the same time (Ana Faris, Tina Fey)
No: Women who manage to be tragic and beautiful at the same time (Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears)

Yes: Either staying pale (I prefer to call it alabaster) or using a self-tanner.
No: Tanning beds or “laying out” in the sun. (By the way, it’s “lying out”. If you’re going to do something that stupid, don’t make it worse by committing such a grievous grammatical error as well.) You know what doesn’t make you look good? Melanoma. And you know how you can keep that from happening? Wearing freaking sunscreen. Let’s be realistic: isn’t the best case scenario here that you’re going to look fifty when you’re thirty-five?

Yes: Being crazy in love with your husband.
No: Marrying someone just because he’s there, and then spending the rest of your life complaining about him. That’s what divorce is for, honey. Or better yet, just don’t marry him in the first place.

Yes: Throwing your entire soul into a performance.
No: Being a drama queen.

Yes: Weight Watchers
No: Atkins, South Beach, the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, the 48-hour Hollywood Miracle Diet. Anything that has an “induction phase” reminds me of a cult.

Yes: Makeup
No: Interrupting

Yes: Feeling good about your life choices.
No: Assigning a morality to foods. There is no “good food” or “bad food”. There is moderation.

Yes: Doing what you know is right for you, even if it upsets/ disappoints/ surprises/ disgusts those around you.
No: Whining about how people judge you. Like, who cares?

Yes: Being passive because you really don’t care that much.
No: Being passive-aggressive because you really do care but don’t have the guts to step up and do something about it.

Yes: Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
No: Racism, bigotry, sexism, rude people.

Yes: Red toenail polish.
No: Macramé.

Yes: Drinking whiskey in the bathtub.
No: Brushing your teeth in the shower.

Yes: Not stooping to their level.
No: Letting them know you’re not stooping to their level.

Yes: Having convictions.
No: Deciding before you know the facts.

Yes: Books.
No: TV. (Addendum: there’s nothing worse than someone who goes on and on about how much they hate TV, and yet has over 100 channels. If you like TV, that’s fine. If you don’t, don’t have one.)

Yes: Respecting your family.
No: Acting a fool.

Yes: Loving your curly/ straight/ frizzy/ fine/ flat/ gray hair. Because at least you have some, right?
No: Obsessing about something you can’t change.

Yes: Finding and celebrating the beauty that you are.
No: Making yourself miserable because the number on the scale, the jeans, the dress…whatever…is “too high.” It’s a number. It has no power over you.

Yes: Making time for romance in your marriage, even though jobs, kids, church, tuba lessons, etc. make you crazy busy.
No: Making your spouse the bottom of your list of priorities.

Yes: Text messaging to save time.
No: Text messaging while driving.

Yes: Evita, the musical
No: Cats, the musical

Yes: Cats, the animal
No: Having over eight of them.

Yes: Shakespeare
No: Nicholas Sparks

Yes: Harry Potter
No: Twilight (Yes, I read them. I even enjoyed reading them. But they weren’t lifechanging. So move on. And don’t wear the t-shirt. It makes you look like a jerk.)

Yes: Breastfeeding
No: 1) Not even trying to breastfeed your baby, or 2) being so adamant about breastfeeding that you make people who, like me, did it as long as they could and then had to stop for reasons beyond their control feel like horrible, abusive mothers.

Yes: Disney World
No: Six Flags

Yes: Empathy
No: Insensitivity

Yes: Cake auctions
No: Camping

Yes: Barack Obama
No: Adam Sandler

Yes: Daffodils
No: Leprosy

Yes: Being excited when you hear a friend or relative’s good news.
No: Trying to one-up them, diminish their accomplishments, or point out how it all could go horribly wrong.

Yes: Scrapbooking, sewing, baking , photography, theater, whatever satisfies your creative urges.
No: Rolling your eyes and telling artists that they “have too much time on their hands.” We all have the same 24 hours. We just choose to use it in different ways.

Yes: Unbridled enthusiasm.
No: A detached air of superiority.

Yes: Cooking a meal for your family.
No: Cooking separate meals for each member of your family, because little Dwayne won’t eat chicken and Tammy only eats white foods and Leon insists on waffles for every meal. Seriously? If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. Picky eaters aren’t just picky; they’re rude.

Yes: Using a jogging stroller on uneven terrain.
No: Using a jogging stroller in the mall.

Yes: Optimism
No: Black mold