I Will Make You Feel Better About Yourself

I’m that friend. If you’ve gained 10 pounds, rest assured I’ve gained 20 (I really have). If you got a parking ticket, there’s a warrant out for my arrest for dodging traffic court. If you gave your child Mountain Dew in a baby bottle, well, that’s on you. That’s just plain wrong.

So it was no surprise when I received this text from a dear friend that I was able to cheer her up:

unnamed

 

 

To which I replied:

unnamed

And then I shared with my old friend the amazing capacity my new friend has for, well, me. This is a text within a text. Try to keep up:

unnamed-1

The girls’ night I had was with three women I’ve become friends with in the past couple of years. Those of you in your 30s and older know what I mean when I say it’s not easy making friends past a certain age.

  1. It’s simply more difficult to get to know people when you’re not shoved into social microcosms such as high school or college. It takes so much more time to get to know other women, and then you have to figure out which ones won’t be horribly offended by your borderline alcoholism and awkward blurts.
  2. Once you find other women you click with, you have to find the time to “date” them. Add kids into the mix and the time you have to meet up and go out with just friends is limited and precious.
  3. If you are lucky enough to find good friends in your 30s, you will want to keep them. A good way to do this is to not throw up on their furniture in the middle of the night. But if you are as fortunate as I am, that friend will not only be forgiving, but empathetic. At least this time.

I’m a 38-year-old mother of two. My career peaked at 24. A month ago I found myself spot-treating the skidmarks out of my husband’s mankini (which he owns purely for humor), wondering what happened to my life. About a week later, I puked on my friend’s pull-out bed. I truly feel things can only go up from here. In the meantime, at least my bottoms can serve to buoy my friends’ lowest moments up toward the surface (isn’t that how it works? I got a “C” in oceanography and physics). It’s not the purpose I was aiming for, but anything for a friend.

I Should’ve Spent More Time on Facebook

…Said no one ever on their deathbed. But it was actually a friend’s Facebook post that served as a wakeup call to me that I was wasting away in one of my anxiety-induced future-planning panics and not being present.

This friend was one of the first moms I ever met in Asheville. We had our sons within days of each other. We went to story times together at the library. Her son’s first birthday party was my first kid’s birthday party. I was so blown away by the artistic talent she displayed on the invitation that it remained pinned on my bulletin board for several years. We still run into each other every now and then and have mutual friends. We are no longer what I would call friends, but acquaintances sounds so cold, and “cold” is not an adjective anyone would use to describe an interaction with “Sarah.”

We are the same age. We have boys the same age. And she was diagnosed with advanced, aggressive, incurable bile duct cancer. When I read these words that she found the courage to write and share, my heart rose into my throat, then sank to the pit of my stomach.

I started this post two weeks ago and yesterday found out that Sarah passed away. I’ve always empathized deeper than I probably should. In preschool, I sobbed when my friend Shannon (not a good friend) told me her grandmother (who I never met) died. I just couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes, imagining how Shannon must be feeling, and it hurt so much. So now, even knowing Sarah as briefly as I did, I’m overcome with sadness for her family and friends. And sad for her that as a mother, she didn’t get to see her child grow up.

I’m hugging my children a little more this week, spending a little more time on the back deck staring at the mountains and enjoying the outside sounds, spending a little less time on Airbnb planning my next escape.

Fuck a bucket list. I’m keeping a Fuck It list… a list of people, places and things that aren’t worth my time or energy. I may never make it to that women’s surfing/yoga retreat in Mexico, but when I find myself sweating the small stuff or reaching for that imaginary Xanax, I can take out my Fuck It List to remind myself that life is short, and can in the most tragic of situations, be even shorter. Will I wish that I traveled more? Maybe. But I know I won’t wish that I’d been scrolling more through Facebook to see friends on their beach vacations, kids all smocked clothes and smiles, while my own daughter stamps our walls because I’m too busy “liking” everyone else’s lives to notice. Facebook? Fuck it.

 

 

How to Pick Up a Babysitter

adventures-in-babysitting-2

Dave and I started dating in college, so I hadn’t been “out there” since before cell phones. Cell phones, people. I’ve had to bring my game out for friend dating, but what happens once you make friends is that you want to go out with them. Without kids.

If you don’t have parents in the area to watch your kids, or if you’ve decided the push/pull of passive-aggressiveness and guilt that comes with it isn’t worth it, you’ve got to find a babysitter.

Asking a friend for the name of their babysitter is like asking a serial killer where he keeps his victims. They’re not going to give that shit up without a fight — some things are too sacred. My mom still talks with contempt in her voice about how our neighbors stole our best babysitter from us, only to leave us with her less responsible sister, Julie, who would throw parties at our house while they were out. Julie would tell my sister and I we were playing hide and seek, and then never seek us. She bribed me with a giant stuffed Jokey Smurf. (I was four, and an easy target.)

So when my daughter’s preschool teacher introduced me to Sarah*, I didn’t waste any time. Here’s how I picked up my babysitter — and how you can, too — in 4 swift steps:

  1. Assess your surroundings. Where are you meeting her? I was meeting Sarah on the playground at my son’s elementary school where she works with the after school program. This tells me already that she has experience with kids. If I were meeting her in a bar, at 1am, I might be a tad more wary.
  2. Lay it all out there. This isn’t a potential new friend, so you don’t have to play it cool. Don’t be afraid to let her know how much you want her. But also let her know upfront what she’s in for. If she gets to your house to find out you have 3 dogs and she’s allergic to dogs, there goes your babysitter and your evening.
  3. Exchange contact info. Don’t put it off, saying, “Oh, I’m running late so I’ll get your number from X later.” Later will turn into never.
  4. Set a time to follow up. If you don’t have a specific date in mind for the first babysitting gig, tell her. That way she won’t wonder why she’s not hearing from you. If you do, go ahead and get it in both of your calendars. Really good babysitters are in super high demand — Abbie’s preschool teacher is booked with babysitting, dogsitting and housesitting jobs through the fall!

Now it’s up to you whether or not you want to talk money right away. For me, unless she says she charges $20 an hour for two kids, there’s not much she’s going to say that’s going to turn me off. We are REALLY in need of some nights out with and without friends, but DEFINITELY without kids. I’d rather lure her to the house first where there’s no turning back and then negotiate the rate. That being said, we also make sure to tip really well, especially the first few times, to make sure she knows how much we appreciate her and to gain her loyalty.

So we now have a great babysitter and I’m so excited I can’t stand it! It’s like how I felt when I found my first true friend after college, but the next level. I’m not sure what’s after this… I’m sure whatever it is will make me feel even older. Perhaps it will lead to a, “How I Found the Perfect Plastic Surgeon” post. But then you’d know I had work done, which of course I’d never do.

*I’ve changed the name of my sitter to protect her privacy and also to keep you from stealing her.

The Baby Whisperer

My friend Emily visited this week with her four-month-old daughter, Maggie. It was the first time I’d met Maggie and it was love at first sight…

Maggie and Me

…at least it was for me.

Jed was so adorable with her. In addition to telling me over and over, “I love babies,” he also gave her his lamp to use in the guest room and offered to share his crackers (which she politely declined via Mommy). I’m not under the delusion that a more permanent junior resident in our household would yield the same enthusiasm, but it was cute to see how Jed reacted with a baby.

Not only did Emily bring the cutest baby ever, she also brought the most thoughtful gifts for her hosts. First for Jed, who loves to read:

bedtime shadow book

;

This book is so clever! Jed was so excited to use the flashlight to see the pictures that there hasn’t been one “negotiation” to get him into bed this week.

For me, Emily read my recent post on Orla Kiely and got me this stationery:

Orla Kiely notecards
Photo from LRstitched.

It’s a gift that says both “I know you” and “I read your blog.” Gotta love that:) And what I love almost as much is the gift bag in which it came:

cupcake gift bag

The best thing of all was just having them here. Rain and ick made it difficult to explore Asheville with a baby and toddler (not to mention opposite nap schedules), but when you’re with a good friend, does it really matter where you are? Unless of course you’re trapped in a gas station bathroom together with Kenny G Muzak playing on repeat. That would suck.

Flower Power

I got these gorgeous flowers as a very generous but unnecessary thank you for the baby shower we threw the other week. Have I mentioned that we have the best friends here in Asheville?

I love how FTD sends flowers in their budding stage so they last longer. Over the past three days, I’ve literally watched them bloom before my eyes. So pretty! Getting flowers as a thank you was a wonderful surprise. And finding out how much I truly love getting them was a nice surprise, too.

When I first wrote this post, it was simply about the fact that I loved these flowers and the surprise of getting them. But after I hit “publish”, I started thinking about why I’ve been so resistant to embrace things such as flowers and chocolate. Why do I cringe every time I even come close to resembling a cliché? At first, I chided myself for being pretentious and self-centered. Perhaps I thought I was too special for things that were so obvious and bourgeois. But then I realized that’s the eight seasons of Frasier reruns I’ve been watching on Netflix talking, not me. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a gesture because it wasn’t good enough for me. If I like something a little different it’s only because I’m a little different… some might even say quirky. Some have flat out said weird (which I take as a compliment). And then I realized why I resist the joy of flowers and resent the housework that rightfully comes with the territory of being a stay-at-home mom.

I love wearing skirts, reading chic lit, eating ice cream in my sweatpants and drinking too much wine with my girlfriends, but I’ve come to the realization that I (albeit subconsciously) earmark certain female stereotypes as signs of weakness. I never wanted to be the blushing girl at her desk getting a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day. When’s the last time you saw a man get flowers at his desk? Men and women shouldn’t be viewed differently, but they are, and flowers or a mousepad that says “You Say I’m a Bitch Like It’s a Bad Thing” doesn’t help blur that line.

I supposed this threshold is different for everyone. I know there are people a lot less neurotic and “quirky” than I am who don’t even have a semi-feminist threshold.

I also know flowers delivered from friends to your home is not the same thing as getting a bouquet from your hubby at work. And perhaps that’s where my line lies. I can be a blubbery PMS-ing housewife in my “Head Bitch” t-shirt*  guzzling wine and ice cream** by the gallon at home, while putting on a strong, put-together face for the world. Like a superhero with two identities… or an everyday woman trying to balance work and life without going crazy. Potato, po-tah-toe…

All this from flowers. No wonder I don’t get them often:)

*T-shirt description is for dramatic effect. I do not own said shirt.

**Ice cream is used here for stereotypical purposes. In my case this would be replaced with cheese, which I wish was sold by the gallon.