Listen to Your Mother

Maybe that should say listen to your Motha. Because I’m going to be part of the 2017 North Jersey production of the Listen to Your Mother show to take place this weekend. I’m super excited about being included in this production created in tribute to motherhood (because if anything deserves a tribute, it’s motherhood), and I’m honored to be included among this talented cast of writers. I’m also a little nervous. I haven’t committed my piece to memory although memorization isn’t entirely necessary as we’ll have a printed copy to read from at the podium, but I haven’t practiced as much as I should, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to draw a blank as soon as I walk onto the stage, and then I’ll stare out at the expectant audience mute before I run off stage in hysterics.

That’ show I imagine it will go down, anyway, but I’ll keep you posted.

The producers have assured us we won’t be able to see the audience from the stage, which is a huge relief. When we look out all we’ll see is a sea of black so perhaps I can pretend there’s no one out there. Who needs to see people staring back at you? That’s just awful. Why would anyone make us do that? Why would anyone make us read our work in front of other people? That’s like the ultimate torture. I don’t like reading my work aloud to myself and certainly not to other people. It’s awkward and embarrassing. If someone else read my essay I’m sure it would sound much better. But, noooo, the producers are making me do it. I think they have a bit of a sadistic side. I doubt there’s any getting out of it now since the show’s tomorrow, but my plan is to practice all day long until I’ve grounded the words into my brain. We also have practice for several hours tomorrow before showtime so hopefully I’ll be able to remember what the hell I’m saying. Tomorrow’s going to be a full day. We have to be at the theater at 10:00 a.m. ahead of the first show, which starts at 2:00. That should be plenty of time. With all that practice I can’t mess up, right?

The Terror.

Have you ever watched any of the Listen to Your Mother YouTube videos? Not one person stumbles or botches their lines. Not ONE. I’ve watched them all. Well, not all but plenty, and everybody is the consummate professional. Unlike me. I hope I don’t ruin the show.

I also heard the curtains that form the backdrop behind us on stage is mustard color. Shouldn’t be too difficult to find an outfit that won’t clash.

The Listen to Your Mother cast of the 2017 North Jersey show. LTYM in New Jersey.
The (adorable) cast of the 2017 North Jersey Listen to Your Mother show.

There we are. Don’t we look cute? See me all the way on the right sitting on the rail? Remind me never to do that again. The photographer actually encouraged people to sit on the banister. She didn’t say you’d looked all hunched over and fat, but that’s my sweater bunching up! it’s not my rolls (I hope).

Alright I have to go practice now and figure out what I’m going to wear. What pairs well with mustard?

Getting a Free Message was Even Weirder Than it Sounds

Out of the blue I got a call from my gym the other week. It was weird not only because the call was from my gym but also because the woman said she was calling to schedule a free massage. As soon as I answered the phone the woman launched in with, “I’m calling to schedule your complimentary consultation and massage. When would be a good time for you this week?” Just like that without any introduction or preamble or explanation.

I was caught off guard and stumbled around before muttering, “Oh, um, Friday?”

I didn’t know what the consultation was for (she didn’t say), and I didn’t know they even offered massages at my gym.

“Where do I go? Where are the massage rooms?”

“Back by the tanning beds,” she said.

I didn’t know they had tanning beds either. I’ve been going to this gym for well over a year, and the last time I worked out I checked around for signs for tanning beds and massages. There were none.

I wondered if I was being punked and whether I should go, but it was a free massage.

Why are they randomly calling people out of nowhere and offering this service no one knows about, I wondered. Who gives free massages? And to what will I have to agree to get it? I had so many questions to which I had no answers.

As the day approached, I grew more nervous. So I did what anyone would under these circumstances. I turned to Facebook. When I asked the people what I should do, the decision was unanimous: I should go. So I did, but it was even stranger than you think. It was stranger than I thought, and I thought it would be pretty dang strange.

A free massage is not free. How my free massage turned into a debacle. By @OneFunnyMotha
This was supposed to be me. It was not.

When I arrive, I get sent back behind the long check-in counter/smoothie bar, down a short hall to a tiny counter where the receptionist has her back to me. From where I’m standing at the counter I can see she is on her phone. I have to interrupt her to tell her I’m here for my appointment. She swivels around in her office chair and has me sign in on a sheet, which strangely says “patient sign-in.” Am I a patient? The sheet has zero other names on it. Apparently, I’m the only person who has been here all day. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Then she hands me a form to fill out, which asks me all sorts of questions like where do I experience pain, how long have I had the pain, does the pain come and go, can I describe the pain? But I don’t have any pain. I wanted to say, “You called me. Remember?”

I leave most of the sheet blank. When I hand it back, the receptionist has me come behind the counter, and I have to squeeze by because there’s another woman sitting in a chair smooshed in the corner behind the receptionist, and the space is tight. When I’d arrived I’d assumed this was the masseuse, but she doesn’t get up, doesn’t greet me, doesn’t move, and I wonder, Is she just hanging out? I skirt around her to one of two tiny, walk-in-closet size rooms behind the counter where a large, bearded man is waiting for me. If I wasn’t nervous before, I am now because I’ve never had a male masseuse before, and I’m not sure I want one. Actually, I know I don’t. I wonder if I will have to get naked in front of this man.

But the room isn’t set up like a spa. It has bare white walls with bright, florescent lighting and the only things in it are a low table like the kind in a chiropractic office and a minuscule desk built into the corner of the room. There’s no place to put my purse so I wedge it in next to the computer on the desk and sit on the green chiropractic table.

The guy leans against the opposite wall, which in the narrow room is about two feet away from me, and starts talking fast about doing an assessment before my free massage. I don’t know what the assessment is for or what’s going on exactly, but it’s clear this guy is some sort of chiropractor (Licensed? Unlicensed?) or chiropractor wanna-be. As he speaks – asking about any pain I’m in, my workout routine, if I stretch before exercising – he liberally works in the words free massage to about every other sentence. Then he says, “When you come back for your next visit…” and I don’t hear anything after that.

So that’s what this was about. It was about tricking people into signing up for chiropractor services for no apparent reason other than this guy was trying to drum up business for his start-up chiropractic office in the tiny space office in Retro Fitness. I’d known there would be a catch. I’m not that dumb. But I thought the consultation would have to do with selling the gym’s personal training services or the benefits of massage after a workout or something along the lines of fitness, all of which I was open to. Roping people into chiropractic services when they’re not even seeking treatment sounds kind of backwards if you ask me.

“Why would there be another visit?” I ask. I don’t even want this visit. He talks even faster, and I see sweat beading across his forehead. He says we can discuss it further after the free massage, which is in fact with the woman sitting outside in the corner. I’m relieved about that. But first he wants me to lie back, which I do, so he can perform the assessment. He moves my legs around, tells me I’m a little stiff, and then mentions we can work on that at my next appointment.

I tell him I’m not agreeing to anything, and he throws in another free massage at the next visit, making the whole thing even weirder than it already was, which was pretty weird. He hands me off to the female masseuse who leads me into the other tiny room, which is similar to the last tiny room only with a massage table and a sink. The masseuse is nice and not pressuring me and things get normal for a while only the woman talks to me the whole time so I can’t enjoy my free massage, and I’m still worried about how the hell I’m going to get out of there while avoiding the chiropractor. Are they going to lock me in the room until I agree to another appointment? Is the chiropractor’s large frame going to be looming in the doorway as soon as I open the massage room door? Will they all grab onto my forearms and not allow me to leave until I agree to chiropractic services?

The free massage is only for a portion of my body, my lower back, and lasts for about 15 minutes. I can’t say it was relaxing exactly. When it’s over the masseuse leaves so I can put my shirt back on, and before I grip the door handle I brace myself for a confrontation with the chiropractor. Surprisingly, he’s not waiting for me on the other side, and I scoot around the receptionist’s desk, eager to get out of there. Before I make it too far the receptionist stops me and asks when I’d like to schedule my next appointment. I say I won’t be coming back, and she says, “O.K.” That was it. I was free to go.

 

As I left I wondered if this scheme ever works. It seemed like an awfully backward way of going about things. But before I give it any more thought, I break into a run, fearing the chiropractor will come chasing after me to force me to sign-up for his illegitimate practice before I can make it to my car. When I reach my Jeep I turn around and see he is not behind me. I hop into my car and drive off, knowing a free massage is never free.

Trump Might Be Just What the Women’s Movement Needed

Hold off on the hate email for just a moment. As vile as that statement is (and I know, I wrote it), it seems to me an unfortunate truth. But a statement of conviction shouldn’t be mistaken for an indication of approval. Nothing has made me more disheartened and concerned for both my country and myself than the citizens of this nation installing an undisciplined, unqualified and unstable megalomaniacal misogynist in the Oval Office. Yet it can’t be denied Trump’s presidency has galvanized women (and plenty of good men) like nothing in over the past half century.

When millions marched across the country and around the world the day after the inauguration, a new revolution began. To be honest, I’ve been waiting for it for quite some time.

As a young feminist in college I was fired up about the inequities women faced, but like a fool I thought all the heavy lifting on that front had been done in this country. With all the rights and opportunities afforded women by the initial Women’s Rights Movement of 1848 and that of the Second Wave in the 1960s, I leaned back and brushed my palms across each other as if wiping off dirt. I felt we had this thing wrapped up.

Trump Might Be Just What the Women's Movement Needed

Then I got married and became a mother. The two events happened in rapid succession and were not entirely planned. Well, the marriage was planned (largely by myself). No one tricked me into that one. I willingly and happily complied when my husband got down on one knee in the middle of a swanky restaurant in the West Village and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. I’d planned on doing that anyway.

The baby was different. The baby came out of nowhere. When three weeks after my honeymoon I stood in the bathroom of our Brooklyn apartment staring down at the pregnancy stick as a little blue line materialized, I stumbled back against the wall. This most definitely was not part of my plans. 

Despite our five-year courtship – living together for three – before making our commitment official, marriage and children had never been on my vision board. This was mostly because vision boards are a little hokey and because they didn’t exist in the late 1990s. But if they had, mine would’ve been thumbtacked over with plane tickets and photographs of exotic beaches and tear-outs of The New York Times best sellers lists and flyers for literary events and maybe a photo of a corner office or any office in a tower high above Manhattan because all I ever wanted since the time I was a child was to have a fulfilling career, and since I didn’t think I could write I set my sites on becoming an editor.

I didn’t need a vision board for that. I’d held my plans in my heart and head for over 20 years. Throughout high school and college and into my early adulthood, I directed all my energy toward them. My first job out of college I managed to land a position at a publishing house. I thought I’d actually done it. I was mere inches away. If I reached out my arm and stretched my fingertips I could almost grab ahold of my dream.

Then I got pregnant. After that my vision constricted. When I found myself out of a job a year and a half later, my vision narrowed even further.

After my maternity leave I’d gone back to work, but I’d arranged to return part-time. A few months later when we bought a house and moved to the suburbs, I continued working part-time but rearranged my schedule again to accommodate the commute while getting Kate back and forth to the sitter. I was lucky to have this arrangement, which was only afforded to me by the kindness and generosity of a boss who was willing to work with an employee in the throes of managing the massive dual responsibilities of career and keeping another helpless human being alive. At the time I was the only person in my small department of all women to have a child. But not long afterward, when my company sold off my division I found myself once again in the daunting position from a year earlier. Again I had to patch together some kind of system largely on my own with little margin of error that would allow me to work while also managing most of the responsibilities for another (very little) person’s life. Only now I had to do it without the benefit of an understanding boss.

With no daycare centers offering the hours I’d need to find full-time work in the city, where my industry existed and where I’d need to go to continue my career (12 hours a day with the commute) and reliable babysitters nearly nonexistent (my sitter couldn’t offer the hours either), I made the reluctant decision to stay home to care for Kate.

At home with no family, no friends and not even much of a husband around, my increasing solo responsibility for Kate became so absolute that my prospects for work or any kind of life outside the house dwindled to nearly nothing. Kate may have had two parents, but when it came to the day-to-day, demanding, ceaseless work of childcare, those jobs fell almost exclusively to me. I scheduled Kate’s pediatrician appointments and attended the visits. I ensured she ate the requisite amount of fruits and vegetables. I figured out when and how to potty train her. I kept track of and enforced her eating, sleeping and bathing schedules. I planned the birthday parties and sent out the invitations and wrote the thank you notes and bought the gifts. I read her books and took her to the library. I researched and visited all the preschools. I made the rules and set the limits. And, if I had a job outside the home, I was aware these childcare responsibilities weren’t likely to change. I couldn’t see how to manage it all. While my husband left the house early every morning and returned late, making rent, I was confined to the house and child. His life continued on as if nothing ever happened while mine had been completely upended.

How could this be? None of my college professors nor any of the mothers who had come before me ever mentioned a thing about this. At the age of 29 at the dawn of the new millennium, I found myself inexplicably and without warning in what felt like the era of my grandmother. Frankly, I felt duped.

While I was unprepared for a child when I had one, I recognized most women in the world, a large portion of whom worked outside the home, eventually do have families. My question was: How? When I tried to combine a family and a career as I had every reason to believe I would, I found it nearly impossible. I felt thrust out into the wilderness, left to piece together some kind of solution on my own. There was no structure, no procedures to follow, no actual system in place for people with families, which was odd since that segment of the population included nearly everyone on the planet.

The system we were going with seem to be every woman for herself. See what you can cobble together. Lots of luck.

After being home with my daughter for a few weeks, I stood at the kitchen sink, having cleaned up the breakfast dishes, and stared out the window. I wondered what ever happened to the women’s movement? In the plaintive tones of Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” I cried, “Where have all the feminists gone-on-on?”

We had a lot of unfinished business to take care of.

Undeniably, extraordinary advances in women’s rights have been made, allowing me to write this piece for example. Women do have the opportunity to work – just as long as we still manage to do everything else, a truth astutely noted by Arlie Hochschild in The Second Shift. But that observation was made in 1989. How at this late date did we still have no solution? Anne-Marie Slaughter wondered the same as late as 2012 when she wrote her notorious piece in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The article riled up plenty of women and caused a stir in the media, but Slaughter simply stated what I’d been experiencing for the past decade. And I was no policy director in the White House. The situation reminded me of the catch-22 situation of Cinderella and the ball. Cinderella could go to the ball as long as she got all her chores done, but of course the work would never be done. In the case of mothers the work involves the monumental, perpetual task of molding helpless human beings into capable, confident, productive citizens. It’s not to be taken lightly, can’t be glossed over and needs practical, viable, wholesale solutions.

For fifteen years I’ve been ready for the revolution. Waiting for women to rise up, demanding finally to be viewed and treated as equals in all realms, on every account, definitively. I’ve been wondering for years where the outrage and resistance was. On January 21 I found it.

But the revolution has only just begun. It continued with rallies in support of Planned Parenthood that took place across the country the following month. And today on International Women’s Day women will #resist with a strike for a “Day Without a Woman,” showing the world (and our families, bosses and coworkers) exactly what a woman’s worth is.  

If one good thing is to come of this presidency, let it be this.

Just to Clarify About Jesus

Last week on Facebook I posted what I thought was a somewhat funny and rather benign comment. If you missed it here’s what I said:

“A woman who just started following me on Twitter has a bio that reads: Christ follower/ Wife/ Mom/ Dr. of Psychology/ Blogger of joy, life and parenting. That is the exact bio that makes me NOT want to follow you.”

Much controversy ensued. Who knew religion was such a touchy subject?
I was accused of mocking and discriminating against people of the Christian faith of which I am a quasi part. I didn’t quite see it that way. I wasn’t saying I wouldn’t sell this woman a wedding cake if I were a baker and she elicited my services. Or that I wouldn’t give her a job if I were hiring and she applied. I was simply stating that if you feel the need to mention religion in your social media bio, we’re probably not a match. I wasn’t disputing this woman’s or any person’s right to believe in Jesus, to love Jesus, or to praise Jesus – or any other God of their choosing. What I was objecting to was their need to profess that love. Actually, I wasn’t even objecting to that. I was saying it wasn’t for me. My feeling is if you choose to include a religious statement in your 140 character Twitter bio, we probably don’t have a whole lot in common.
My feelings on God, Jesus and followers of Christ or any religion.

As far as mocking religion, I wasn’t. I mocked professing that religion in a Twitter bio. And I would do that across the board about any faith. I’m an equal opportunity mocker. I pride myself on that. If I see an opportunity to mock, I take it. Just ask my kids. Poor things.

Did I make a snap judgment about a person without much information? Yes, but that’s what a Twitter bio is, and the judgment wasn’t made without having spent several decades on this planet and having made an observation or two.

The issue lies not with those who practice a faith. It’s when people use that faith as evidence of their moral superiority that I run into a problem. Including it in, say, a Twitter bio gives me a little taste of that. In my experience the people who go about their business without making a big fuss of how they’re going about their business tend to be the modest, humble, decent ones. Those who hold their religion up as if it’s some kind of proof of being a good person are the ones I’m leery of. Of course neither case is absolute, but one is shown to be a decent, kind, generous human being by one’s deeds not the labels she affixes to her name.

I’ve also found the people who are the most vocal about their religion (say, putting it in a Twitter bio) are frequently the least tolerant, least flexible, least accepting and least nonjudgemental. Again, not always the case, but often those who are fairly religious can’t see an argument from another perspective because their views come from a divine power and are therefore indisputable. The trouble is religion’s not based on any fact only belief, one that grows out of texts written by groups of men thousands of years ago. This doesn’t preclude anyone from believing, but in my book it does open up the teachings to questioning. Religion has taken care of that issue by teaching the flock not to question. But the bible, as with any religious document, is subject to interpretation, and when followers pick and choose the teachings and interpretations that suit them and then claim it as God’s word, we run into problems. The trouble for me is not with a belief in God but in organized religion, which is man-made and therefore subject to all human vices and failing.

These reasons I believe are why religion has always made me uncomfortable. I’m aware of the danger in it. Mostly that humans have a hand in it. If you need some evidence just take a look at our current state of affairs. We happen to be pitted in a battle against extremists of the Islamic faith at the moment, but it could be any religion, and at different points in human history it was. Religion by it’s very nature is exclusionary. It says one group’s beliefs are right and by virtue of not being a member of that group others are wrong. But who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong?

It’s my belief that God loves us all, man, woman, child, gay, straight, trans, human, bird, bee or tree. We are all God’s creatures. Isn’t that what the Bible says? But organized religion is a human creation, and humans are fallible. I grew up Catholic, though not in a religious home, but when I realized the beliefs espoused by the church didn’t align with my own, I stopped practicing. It first came with the realization the Catholic church, as with most other religious organizations, was a sexist institution. I didn’t believe that’s what a true God would want. It didn’t make sense for a God who loved all people to show preference for some while subjugating others. I would stand up for my own rights before I’ll let any man, religious or otherwise, tells me what my rights should be. And that’s where my separation from the church began.

That’s not to say I don’t recognize the good religion can do or the solace and comfort it has provided many people, one of them being my mother-in-law who has always been active in the church and depended on it when she was raising all of her kids as a widow and single mother. Or the man I married who is a good Irish Catholic boy. Or my aunt who is a nun. Guess who her favorite in-law is. That’s right. The heretic.

We haven’t even touched on the “blogger of joy” line in the bio. That might be the most objectionable statement of all. If there is one thing above all I’m not, it’s blogger of joy. I’m more a blogger of cynicism. I think it’s great if you seek joy and even better if you find joy, but if you always espouse joy, I’m a little skeptical. The human condition calls for a full range of emotions, and if you only display one it rings false to me.

I think God’s pretty hip to who’s trying to be a decent human being and who’s not. She doesn’t miss much. Simply claiming to be a follower of Christ doesn’t automatically get you into the pearly gates. Basically I believe God placed us on Earth, said do the right thing and washed her hands of us all. I think God is probably pretty sick of us with all the bickering and fighting and finger pointing and destruction of the planet. I know I am, and I’m not nearly as good as God.

The other day I caught a clip of Stephen Colbert interviewing Ricky Gervais. You all know how much I love Stephen. I would convert for Stephen, but in the exchange Gervais had a point, and even Stephen had to concede that.

Perhaps I’m wrong about all this. What do I know? I’m not God.

And neither are you.

One Woman’s Run to D.C. Women’s March Sparks a Domino Effect of Activism

I know I’ve been under the radar for a while. Did you think I ghosted you? I would never do that to you. I’ve just been caught up with the book. You know how it goes. I might have exciting news on that front soon, but I don’t want to jinx it so enough about that.

What I really want to talk to you about is this amazing woman I met. No, I’m not leaving my husband or switching sides or anything like that although that does seem to be going around, and it would be juicy, and if it comes to it, I’m not above creating some drama in my life so I can write a book about it and become a bestseller.

But this post isn’t about any of that. Let me get to the point.

After I attended the march in New York last Saturday, I raced to the T.V. the next morning and flicked on the news looking for reports about the events. I had to know everything. What happened in Washington? Who were all the speakers? What did Gloria say? Basically, after marching in New York, I wanted to attend the one in Washington via the T.V.

But I couldn’t find it. This was the largest march in U.S. history, and yet it was difficult to find coverage. How could that be? The news channels showed the same five pictures of the marches around the country (and around the world), but they showed no clips of anyone on the ground reporting on them or interviewing participants. The media only showed one two-second clip of Gloria Steinem and the same five-second clip of America Ferrera at the podium. Where was the rest of the event? What actually went on in Washington? What the hell did Gloria say?

There had to be something, I thought. It was inconceivable to me that such a historic event would garner such little coverage. I kept flipping through the channels until I landed on AM Joy on MSNBC where she had a woman on I’d never heard of before. The woman wasn’t a public figure or celebrity, but she was a serious activist in the women’s march so I was surprised I hadn’t seen any news coverage of her before.

This 31-year-old runner, Alison Desir, decided to run from New York City to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Planned Parenthood. I slowly backed into a seat on the couch, never taking my eyes off the screen. I was mesmerized by this woman’s moxie, her fierceness. Here was a woman, just a regular person from Harlem, who woke up one morning and said, “You know what? I’m gonna run from here to D.C. and I’m gonna raise $44,000 while I do it, too.”

She could have been anyone, and that’s what struck me.

So many of us felt shock and despair after the election. We didn’t know how exactly to go about getting involved or what we could do to make a change. We felt powerless. What could just one person do after all? But Alison Desir is just one person, and this is what she did.

I was so impressed by her, I felt compelled to somehow meet her. So I contacted her. I arranged an interview to hear the whole story. I knew it would be uplifting and at a time with so many doubts as to the direction of our nation, I thought we could use a little of that. But the story, not just of Alison, but of all the people who came out to support her just kept getting better and better. In the face of all the negative news, I was actually hopeful again about our country and its citizens. Still, the whole time I couldn’t help from wondering, where was the national news coverage? Why wasn’t Alison’s face plastered across every newspaper and magazine cover? Why hadn’t we heard of her before? Might it be sexism? Might it be the very thing the March was designed to protect against?

More people needed to know about her. More people needed to hear this story. So please, if you’re feeling adrift after this election go read the article on Scary Mommy. You’ll feel different afterward.

Election Day Blues

I wish I could feel happy this election day, but I don’t. Whatever happens I feel like the damage has already been done.
 
I can see why people might not like Hilary. What I can’t understand is how people could support Trump. Whether he wins – God forbid – or not, he has a lot of devotees. That thought depresses me. I had hoped we were better than that. I can’t help but think this election has brought out all the racists and bigots and misogynists I always knew existed but not in these numbers. The saddest part for me is the women who defend Donald Trump. That I just can’t wrap my head around. How anyone  – man or woman – after this entire election season, can still think Trump will work for them, the little people, when all he’s ever done is cheat them and enrich himself, I’ll never understand.
Election Day Blues. No matter what happens this election day - whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump wins - I can't help but feel the damage has been done. 
Even if Hilary wins, she has her own sordid past (I’m not talking about the emails. I don’t give a shit about the emails, which were standard operating procedure until a woman did it.) Hilary without question is qualified for the job, but it’s been hard for me to parse out what’s been sexist, bias coverage of her because she’s a woman in a man’s world and what’s plain unseemly and shady. She is married to Bill Clinton after all. That’s hard to overlook. I get that all politics is maneuvering and calculating and deal-making, but it leaves me cold.
 
Still for me the election was a no contest. I’m pretty sure it would have been a no contest for the entire nation if one of the candidates hadn’t been a woman. The fact that a petulant, overgrown child with the mentality of a 3-year-old and no actual experience could pose a real challenge to an intelligent, capable, competent, sophisticated, extremely experienced woman just demonstrates how desperately we need a woman in the White House.
 
I’ll be taking my daughter with me to the polls today because I want her to be there when I vote for the first woman president of the United States. Still in my heart I wish I was voting for Michelle. I wish like mad I was voting for an Obama again. Someone I could take real pride in when I pulled the leaver. I don’t have those feelings this time. But I am happy at long last this country will be representing all of it’s people.

Trump on a Stump: The Terrorizing Troll Parents Can Use Any Time of Year

Trump on a Stump (trademark pending) is the new and improved toy parents can use to terrorize their kids – now at any time of year! Everyone’s familiar with the mischievous yet lovable Elf on the Shelf whose watchful presence is meant to keep the kids in check but who only descends from the North Pole once a year. Well, now we have a vile, demeaning, spiteful troll to do that job year-round. Just look at that wrinkled, orange, hate-filled face. It’s bound to strike terror into the heart of any child.

Now, whenever little Jonny pitches himself into the middle of a pile of Thomas the Tank engines, shrieking he doesn’t want to clean up all the toys he dumped onto the living room floor, simply smile and say, “Do you want Trump on a Stump to come?” Then watch as Jonny jumps up and launches into a feverish race to clean up every last track, LEGO, and train in the room. You didn’t even know the child could move that fast. Within minutes your living room will be gleaming and ready for company.

Whenever little Sally balks at the lunch prepared at her request, insisting she only likes orange macaroni and cheese not the yellow kind, ask her if she would like to tell that to Trump on a Stump because you could call him. You have the number to his 24K-gold encrusted cellphone emblazoned with “TRUMP” in big, box letters. The lunch is sure to be gobbled up, possibly causing the poor tike to choke, but the standoff will be over and you will have made your point. She may even, without any prompting at all, scarf down the baby carrots placed on the side more as a comfort to yourself than out of any expectation she would actually eat a vegetable.

Trump on a Stump - Now Parents Can Terrorize Their Children Any Time Of Year

The best use for the Trump on a Stump troll doll, though, is as a fun prank to be played on your kids for no particular reason other than your own amusement. Simply tip toe into your child’s bedroom at night and pose your Trump on the Stump troll over her bed as she sleeps. Hearing her petrified screams in the morning as she wakes to his beady, little eyes leering down at her is certain to give you a hearty laugh. You’re sure to have no problems with your child that day.

The real value in the creepy, menacing troll is his versatility. You needn’t wait until Christmas to pull a Trump on a Stump. He can be used year round in all manner of situations. Come the start of the school year and your kids grumble about getting out of bed in the morning, invoke Trump on a Stump. In the dead of winter and they argue about wearing a coat in the sub-zero temperatures, mention Trump on a Stump. When they’re petulant and demanding at the mall mere weeks before the onslaught of never-ending Christmas gifts, bend down and whisper into their ears, “Trump is watching you.” You’ll never have to resort to bribing them with presents agian. Their behavior will be motivated by utter fear.

Parents, Trump on a Stump does what the Elf on the Shelf could never do. He can haunt your child’s every waking moment, always watching, always shouting, always spewing vitriolic hatred at whomever differs in opinion or isn’t exactly like him – a privileged, ignorant, white man-child with the most comical comb over not even the writing staff of “Saturday Night Live” could have dreamed it up. Your children will instantly relate to the troll on the most basic level because emotionally and intellectually he is their peer. They will recognize him as the school bully, the one that holds the power to destroy everything they hold dear: their ability to freely express their opinions, their ability to question authority, their basic human right to be treated with respect and dignity, and their ability to see their world as a fair, safe and compassionate place. Kids will see him as the real, live, walking and sneering Grinch – only an orange version instead of green.

The Funniest Tweets on Trump

On this blessed day, the one after the final presidential debate, I’ve gathered up the funniest tweets of the election season so you don’t have to. And by funniest tweets of the election season I mean the funniest tweets on Trump because, man, does he lend himself to mockery. He’s like a walking talking caricature with the foolish combover, the Cheeto-toned complexion, the childish antics. As my friend Beth keenly observed:

Definitely a correlation there. Not sure what it is but…

Has anyone deciphered a correlation between Trump’s chronological age and maturity level yet?

Anyone know?

Not only that but…

Which is why the American electorate is like

I know that’s how I feel. Actually, I feel way more terrified.

To be fair, Trump did say he respects women.

He’s a real charmer, that one, a true gem. He’s not fit to represent reality T.V. let alone the highest office in the country.

The Funniest Tweets on Donald Trump by @OneFunnyMotha

Then I was listening to the news on the radio the other morning and this happened.

If only throwing our radios and T.V.’s out the window were enough to make this all go away. Please, Lord, let that be enough. Even if someone supported Trump, how in the hell could he be so delusional as to call him “a beacon of light.” If there’s one thing Trump’s not, it’s that.

He can be amusing, though.

Even aliens think so.

That’s exactly how I feel. Exactly.

But my absolute favorite tweet is this.

I wish they could have employed that for last night’s debate. That would’ve been fun.

Trump did bring along a few guests for last night’s debate.

And so did Hillary

Drops mic.

Yoga (but Not Naked Yoga) as Antidote to Anxiety

I went to yoga the other day. I didn’t want to. I mean I did, but when I woke up I came up with all sorts of excuses for not going. I had too much to do. I hadn’t yet read the multitude of emails from school, and school was starting up in a few days. I never ordered one of the summer reading books for my son, which I’ve been meaning to do for over a week. I’m tired. I don’t have the energy. I have a query letter to write and research to do. I have a book to finish. But the library in the next town offers a free yoga class on Mondays during the summer with Labor Day being the last one, and I had to drop my daughter off at band camp a few minutes before the class started so I’d already be out and in the car ready to go. And, I had to go to the library anyway, which opens when the class ends, and I’ve been meaning to take up yoga again – remember my New Years resolution?

I knew that final class would be good for me, though, so I forced myself to go. So far this summer I’ve managed to make it to two classes. Years ago my therapist recommended yoga to me (but not naked yoga because that would only make things worse) to help quell the anxiety. But, again, who has time for that? I’d much rather walk around hyperventilating and trying to ignore the pain in my stomach while I spin my wheels and piss the time away. I feel more productive that way.

Yoga as Antidote to Anxiety. By @OneFunnyMotha

Once in Puerto Rico I did yoga under a banyan tree. It was and still is the best yoga experience of my life, and not just because of the location. The setting, overlooking a crescent strip of sand studded with palm trees fluttering against the cerulean sky, didn’t hurt, but that wasn’t it. It was the instructor. The practice wasn’t really about yoga posses, or at least it wasn’t about the strength and stamina to hold downward dog indefinitely. It was spiritual. Throughout the instructor implored us to appreciate the sun beating on our shoulders, the chirp of the coqui, the beauty of the old banyan tree. We were practicing yoga on a warm, summer day, and the present moment was all we had to think about. Just that moment. Nothing else.

Toward the end as I laid on my back under the shade of the thick, squat tree, looking up at pure white clouds drifting lazily overhead as palm fronds rustled in the breeze, the instructor said in a voice so smooth and assured as to be unimpeachable, “Everything in the universe is fine. Everything is as it should be.” And for someone constantly trying to stuff the world into place, someone plagued by worry and doubt and fear, someone trying to find order and control, those words provided such relief that I continue to think of them to this day.

Maybe she’s right. Maybe everything is happening the way it should be. I’m just not privy to it. God, for some reason, has not filled me in on what that is. Why won’t God tell me these things? For Pete sake. Whatever the case, I needed to hear those words. I needed to hear someone say, “Everything is okay.” It gave me permission to believe it.

Suddenly my shoulders dropped into the turquoise mat, the crease down the middle of my forehead smoothed out, all the muscles in my body released. I was lighter. Afterward I floated through the lobby to the breakfast buffet at the open air restaurant, no longer trying to hold everything so tightly together because if I didn’t the world might crumble and collapse.

That’s the message I need whispered into my ear every morning. I need to hear those words. My husband used to do that for me. He didn’t say the words exactly, but his presence, his calm demeanor always reassured me. But we’re older now with kids and all the complexity that brings, and he’s too busy with work, emails constantly pinging on his cell phone, business trips, meetings and commitments, for me to bother him. I don’t think he has time to tell me everything is okay. I’m not sure he believes it himself anymore. But if her words are right, if everything is as it should be, then I have nothing to worry about. That’s hard for me to accept, but I’m trying.

That’s the class I’ve been looking for since Puerto Rico. That’s what I’ve been missing. I got a little glimpse of it this summer.

Today’s the first day in two weeks the knot in my stomach hasn’t lasted all day. It’s the first time I’ve felt like writing in the past three months. And the words came. What a relief. Sometimes when I get this way, well, all the time when I get this way I think it’s over. I’m washed up. That’s it. Time to hang it up and get a paying gig at Starbucks.

But not today.

How Not to Deal With Anxiety

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m crazy. I don’t like talking about it because, well, it makes me sound crazy. I haven’t written about it much, or at least I haven’t written about it much on such a public space as this because for one, I don’t like to admit I’m struggling with anxiety. I’d much rather ignore it and hope it goes away, okay? And for two, maybe I feel like I’m admitting weakness. I know this not to be true. Still, I feel like I should just be able to get over it already. I think, What’s my problem? I have two healthy kids, a husband who’d do anything for me, a home in a good school district. I don’t live in Syria. What could my problems really be?

Still, for the past few weeks the anxiety has creeped in, wrapped it’s tendril-like fingers around my throat and pulled tight. I wake up with it, the nauseating gnawing in the pit of my stomach. I try to press on with my day, ignoring it, hoping by doing so I can shake it, but I’m never able. I’d always thought my anxiety was confined to my OCD so that if I wasn’t ritualizing or obsessing about germs, I was fine, disorder-free or as close to it as one can get. And while over these past few years I’ve been able to suppress the OCD much of the time or at least to the point where it’s manageable, the thing about anxiety is it’s always with you. It lies dormant, waiting, and there’s no telling when it might walk through the door again.

Anxiety can always be counted on to make an appearance during stressful periods so it makes perfect sense that the anxiety would rear up now at a time when I can least afford to yield to it. I’ve just started querying agents with my book proposal. Which should be a joyous occasion except that for me all good news is tempered by doom. The whole process has sent me into a paralysis of inadequacy and doubt. I feel rather like a joke. I think, how long can I fool them before they figure out I don’t know what the hell I’m doing? How long can I pretend to be a capable person before they learn the truth? In a word (or six) I feel out of my league.

How Not to Deal with Anxiety
That’s me.

It’s a little ironic at the point I must present my most confident self, I am the least capable of doing so. Have you any idea how hard it is to be an eager and enthusiastic self-promoter when you’re depressed? I just want to shriek, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!” as I shake my head and fall to the floor. But I don’t think that’s a good thing to write in a query letter.

Fortunately, I’m not in a deep depression. I know what a blessing that is. If I were, I wouldn’t be writing this at all. Still, with the haze sifting around in my head, I’ve become a muted, dulled version of myself. I can’t find my footing. I am unsure of everything – myself, my work, my voice, my ability to pull this off – and fear my writing will turn out as flat and dull and grey as the thoughts in my head. The anxiety obscures my ability to see clearly, to focus with objectivity, to think. Without that how am I supposed to do anything? I try to work through it while wondering where the end is. Will I reach it?

But you can’t say any of this. Not if you want to be seen as reliable, confident, intelligent author. Funny thing, though, is that while in life you’re supposed to present a polished, assured facade, in writing you’re supposed to present the truth. I’m having a hard time bridging that gap. Maybe I’ll just publish this now so that it gets buried at the bottom of my blog and by the time an agent takes a fleeting interest in me and checks out my site, they won’t find it.

To keep myself going, I tell myself all I have to do is write one query letter a day, but of course it’s not quite that simple. Nothing ever is with OCD. First I must conduct exhaustive research. So I spend my days Googling and reading up about agents instead of actually writing the letters because that’s easier. Plus, I can never be sure I’ve gathered enough information. There’s always another link, more to read. When will I know everything?

I keep reading and wasting more time. But all the advice tells you to study up on the agents and the industry. The agents want to know why you’ve selected them, why your project is right for them. After hours of research, I still don’t know. I become paralyzed with indecision. So I do nothing.

And here we are. And I’ve wasted so much time already, and I should have landed an agent months ago, and I still don’t have a decent query letter. And there’s no one to ask. I’m the boss, and I’m not qualified for the job. I have no one else, no one to say good job or send it out or you need to rework paragraph two because that shit is stupid. Who the hell would say something like that? You’re suppose to be a writer for Christ sakes, and you can’t even write a simple letter. You sound like a goddamn idiot.

There’s just me, and if I mess up the third sentence in the last paragraph, I’ll blow my chances, and you only get one shot, and that could have been the perfect agent, and now I’ve ruined it all, and I’ll never find another agent again.

How Not to Deal with Anxiety by @OneFunnyMotha

That’s pretty much the perpetual beat inside my head, which tends to wrench the joy out of just about any situation. On a logical level I know the answer. It’s to relax and just be myself because at the end of the day, if you don’t find an agent who really gets you, if you don’t have that connection, it’s never gonna work. But that’s a shitty answer. Be myself? Who wants that? I need to be better than who I am. But how?

So you see my dilemma now, don’t you?

Photo credit: Flickr/Chris Devers