The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: life lessons (page 1 of 2)

The Picture That Cost Me 1.3 Million Dollars

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sometimes a picture is actually worth a lot more than that.

Thirteen years ago this month, I quit a good job to stay home with my two-year-old son, Vincent.

We had moved from California to North Carolina—not for my husband’s job as most people assume when they hear we relocated cross-country, but for mine.

My husband agreed to temporarily leave work and do the stay-at-home dad thing while I brought home the bacon as a training manager for a technology company. I was pretty good at it (at first), and with my bonuses I was on target to earn about $100,000 that year. Well, I would have earned that much… had I lasted more than 9 months there.

But I didn’t.

Because in the fall of 2001, my sweet little Vincent came home from preschool with his first school pictures and everything changed. 

Continue reading

I’m going to listen to my mother, for once.

Ever since that fateful day in 1977 when I crashed my bike and broke my arm in two places after my brother and I followed our mother’s explicit instructions to “GET OUT. TAKE YOUR BIKES. AND DON’T COME BACK UNTIL THE STREET LIGHTS COME ON,” I stopped listening to my mother.

Leslie (left) and friend circa 1977, from my baby book. Notice the staple.

Leslie (left) and friend circa 1977, from my baby book. Notice the staple.

Unfortunately for me, that was the last time she’s ever been wrong.

For instance…

She told me not to pierce my ears. Result? Double pierced on both sides at age 13 by some clueless teenaged Piercing Pagoda trainee at the Monroeville Mall. Long term result? Thirty years later my ear holes are about as lopsided as my knockers. Continue reading

Because computer shit happens…

Here’s how I spent a big chunk of my time this week: nursing a sick iMac back to health.

sick mac

Hey, computer shit happens. It’s unavoidable. But this problem, I fully believe I brought upon myself by tempting fate and pissing off the Techno Gods with my devil-may-care-attitude, scrambled priorities, and unmanaged adult ADD. There’s a valuable lesson to be learned though. And Lord knows I loves me some life-lessons from the School of Hard Knocks, where I am a visiting professor with tenure and a key to the good teachers’ bathroom.

But there is a silver lining…

Dat Ass by The Bearded Iris

 

More details about that story In The Powder Room today. Read it. Learn from me. Don’t tempt the Techno Gods.

With peace, love, a pinch of unoriginal humor, and endless gigs of safe data storage,

~Leslie

An open letter to the rude stage mother I encountered yesterday

I’ve struggled with my frustration toward “Helicopter Moms” for years, much to my dismay. Because really, I don’t want to care so much about how or why people do what they do. I want to be a “live and let live” kind of mom and focus my energy on my own stuff and my own kids.

But yesterday I had an interaction with a fellow mother that was so unsettling, I needed to write it out to help me process it.

My 10-year-old daughter was performing for the fifth and final time as a workhouse orphan in the local high school musical Oliver!

Mini-Me, signing autographs after the show...

Mini-Me, signing autographs after the show…be still my heart!

One of her classmates does a lot of local theater and according to her mother, “has been doing it forever.” Another mom and I were talking to that girl’s mother after the show and asked her how she finds out about all the local auditions, thinking our daughters might like to do more acting too.

Well, either this mom had accidentally put her thong on backwards that day, or she didn’t want any more competition for her daughter because her response was a very chilly, “Oh, word of mouth,” followed by, “…and the more shows you do, the more opportunities you get. In fact, Emma just won a scholarship to study in New York this summer.”

Intrigued, I asked, “Do you go with her for things like that?” Because really, I was just wondering how stage moms with multiple kids support their child’s interests if it requires travel.

But instead of answering my question respectfully, this woman turned directly to the other mom in our little conversation circle, rolled her eyes, and very sarcastically replied “No. I put my child on a plane alone to New York City.”

She wasn’t even looking at me when she said this. She was looking at the other mom and smirking like “Can you believe this chick just asked me that?!”

I was so caught off guard by her snarky reply that I countered “I’ve actually put my kids on planes alone before.” (Which is true. I have. My two older ones traveled alone to visit their grandparents once. Probably not the kind of thing I would ever do again…live and learn.)

But silly me, of course this mother would never dream of letting one of her children out of her sight even for a minute.

She then looked at me like I was wearing a pelt of human infant skin and her countenance told me she was not at all surprised I would put my children on a plane alone. If thought bubbles were real, hers would have read: “Of course you have, bless your heart.”

Which of course was my cue to KEEP. ON. TALKING. Because what better way is there to deal with a mean girl than to develop sudden diarrhea of the mouth?

“I mean…I’m just curious, because you have other kids. What do you do with them when you travel for things like this?”

“It’s only for a week.” (eye roll)

“But who takes care of your other kids?” I pressed.

“My husband.”  (unspoken body language: “Duh.”)

“Does he work from home?” (me, not letting go)

“Yes.” (unspoken: “Get a clue. And why are you wearing a pelt of baby skins?”)

Better late than never, I finally got the message she was not going to be more friendly or helpful or even civil in this conversation. She clearly had the market cornered on how to be a successful stage mother and she wasn’t going to give us any insight into how she keeps so many balls in the air.

Bitch.

I’m pretty sure these aren’t really the kind of situations Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had in mind when she said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” She was probably talking about much higher level scenarios like negotiating with international terrorists or the women who answer the phones at the pediatrician’s office.

But still.

How hard would it have been for that mother to be pleasant, or helpful, or just not a fucking asshole?

And it finally dawned on me why Helicopter Moms like her irritate me so much.

It’s because their extreme hovering makes me question if I’m doing a good enough job mothering my own children.

Because sometimes it’s hard to know what came first, the independent children or the non-hovering mother? And does it even matter? Why does there have to be a right way and a wrong way to do this?

Should I be pushing my kids to win summer camp scholarships? Should I be attending all five showings of this 2.5 hour play (at $12 a pop, to see my kid in one five minute scene)? Should I not have allowed my two older kids to visit their grandparents without me that summer? Should I be writing this blog post when I could be vying for a good position in the carpool line or making flashcards or researching which extra curricular activities will help my kids get into the colleges that will ultimately help them earn the kind of salaries they will need to buy me the best nursing home money can buy?

Of course not. Because that is not my style or what my kids require.

I am exactly the kind of mother my children need.

I am exactly the kind of mother my children need.

My kids are creative, and independent, and can make people laugh and recite haikus about poop and have unstructured fun and study for tests without Pinterest-worthy embossed flash cards.

And they will be okay regardless of what I do or don’t do to help them. In fact, I know in my gut that they are better off for having to figure some things out on their own without my constant presence or input.

But it never makes it any easier to deal with those sanctimonious Helicopter Moms when our paths do cross.

Perhaps they are put in my life to help me grow as a loving, compassionate woman. For I have no control over the things they say or do…only the way I respond to them.

In which case…

Dear Stage Mother Superior,

Thank you for reminding me yesterday that I am an awesome mother. And so are you, in your own special way, bless your heart.

Kindly, and with compassion for your lack of grace and social skills,

-Leslie

PS – Watch your back, because my daughter WILL be at that next audition, and I’m letting her borrow my baby-skin-pelt. See you there! 

 

 

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6 More Things I Learned at EBWW

Have I mentioned that I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio, last weekend?

Kidding. Obviously I can’t stop talking about it. But the rules of good blogging still apply and thus I have chosen to divide and conquer with several posts instead of one so as not to overwhelm or bore you to death. See? See how much I care for you people?

So, picking up where I left off last week… here are the rest of the gems I simply must share with you about my EBWW experience.

7.) It can be a real pickle to write your truth about people you know and not be chased out of town with torches and pitchforks. But here is the best advice I heard all weekend about how to walk that fine line:

“Cut as close to the bone as you can without getting sued or divorced.” ~Adriana Trigiani

In other words, change their name and write the hell out of that sucker. Wise words indeed! (Love her!)

8.) When you declare your intentions to the universe, the universe will send you all the resources you need to stay on your path and achieve your goals.

"One of these things is not like the other..."

That photo was taken at dinner last Friday night with writers Michelle Freed and Kathy Buckworth. Earlier that day, Michelle gave me a family sized pack of my current vice of choice, York Peppermint Patties, just because. How awesome is that?! Somebody better stop me before I break into a Dionne Warwick song. And you know I will, dammit.

The next day, I met Ernie. 

Ernie and Leslie at the Erma Bombeck tree dedication.

Ernie and I hit it off right away. We both wear funky glasses, we both have a fondness for hair styling products, we’re both fluent in sarcasm, and neither of us were imbibing. We were pretty much attached at the hip from the moment we connected. Thank you Ernie! You were just what the doctor ordered.

9.) The banana phone is alive and well in Dayton, Ohio. And if you ever want to make friends real fast in between conference sessions, whip out your banana phone and call someone. It’s a real crowd pleaser, believe you-me.

Check out my sisters-of-slapstick, Julie Ott of ott mama and Stacey Hatton of Nurse Mommy Laughs, working it old school.

10.) You’re never too old for the buddy system, especially while traveling in a strange city. Plus, a travel buddy makes it safer to share your cab with a strange man in Uni-Bomber sunglasses who may indeed turn out to be not so strange after all. In fact, he might just turn out to be one of the highlights of your trip due to his incredible wit and willingness to go with the flow…even in the midst of a very invasive trip through security.

And that’s how Nicole and I met Jef, of The Cult of Jef, a blog that’s “Sporty, yet casual.” I have found myself repeatedly laughing out loud at everything I’ve read there so far. Do yourself a favor and check him out. Here’s a good place to start.

11.) Pack your dirty skivvies in a bag at the BOTTOM of your suitcase so the poor man searching your luggage for the giant metal EBWW souvenir water bottle that looks incredibly similar to a pipe bomb doesn’t have to touch every. single. filthy. garment in your bag. Oh dear God in heaven, now I know why those poor things wear gloves. Bless his heart!

"Lord Almighty, what is that smell?"

"Ma'am, is this your large metal cylindrical object?"

Not unrelated, the brand name of the EBWW souvenir water bottle is “Bullet.” Not kidding. See for yourself:

Yessiree Bob, there’s nothing quite like transporting an extra large silver bullet through airport security. Good times.

12.) Normally I don’t advocate cracking jokes about granny panties with just any TSA Agent, but I must say, this sweet man was a wonderful sport (and quite gentle with my delicates). Life lesson: asking a stranger for a hug can really make almost any embarrassing situation feel a little better.

I always enjoy a little cuddle after my full body cavity searches, don't you?

And that concludes my list of all the wonderful things I learned last weekend thanks to the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. Please tune in tomorrow to read about all the qualities I look for in a good roommate! (Don’t worry Nicole, your secrets are safe with me.)

your travel buddy,

-Leslie

6 Things I learned at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

Well the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop afterglow is slowly starting to subside. But it was such a life-altering experience for me that I can’t help but revel in its glory just a little longer.

I’ve been reflecting all week on some of my favorite moments and life lessons from the workshop, and honestly, I could fill a book. But if I had to pick a few, these would definitely make the list:

1.) I am a sucker for funny Jewish men with ginormous hands.

Leslie with Alan Zweibel, one of the original SNL writers. (OMG!) Such a funny and charming guy. Check out that catcher's mitt. Rarrrr.

 

It’s my Dad’s fault.

 

Hey now, no need to get all Freudian there penis. I know what you’re thinking bowling ball hold and you’re wrong. That’s just weird. Look at that punim, even then I was all hell no. Besides, I married a Catholic Italian. A Catholic Italian with really big hands. Shut up. Okay, you’re right. There’s something very wrong with me. Daddy issues are just the tip of the thumb iceberg.

2.) Pace yourself. Don’t drop it like it’s hot on the first night of a conference buying half of the keynote speaker’s library. There will be many additional fabulous speakers over the course of the next few days whose books you will also want to buy and have signed. (Dammit.)

Fortunately for me, Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel is Bucket Head’s new favorite book. We have read it every night this week and I don’t even want to hit myself with it like I do when he picks almost anything else. It has that magical mix of laughter and tears that keeps us both coming back for more. Truly, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone should have their own Steve.

3.) The elegant, quiet woman sitting next to you might not necessarily loathe you just because you have celebrity-blogger-proximity-induced-diarrhea of the mouth, she might just be painfully shy. Talk to her. And no, “please pass the creamer” doesn’t count, dumbass.

4.) Yellow is my color. I know this because three different people told me so, including  THE Karen Walrond. And frankly, if that woman told me I looked good in a pelt of deli meats and pimento cheese, I would wear that mofo 24/7.

leslie with karen walrond at ebww

Leslie relishing a hug from THE Karen Walrond, and then editing the photo into a super creepy romance-themed vignette for funsies.

 

Sadly, I am only just learning this about the color yellow NOW, at the ripe old age of 42. Ack…better late than never. And that’s why I’ve been wearing my new yellow sweater all. damn. week.

This is me writing in my awesome new journal...because Karen told us to. That's why. (Suck up.)

 

That’s right. Get used to it, people. You know that song Lady in Red? I’m commissioning a rewrite called Crazy Bitch in Yellow.

5.) According to Suzette Standring in her incredible session, Hypnotic Recall Fills the Creative Well, self-hypnosis, meditation, and guided imagery are all the same thing, and a great way to access memories and details for one’s writing. Also, people who meditate tend to look 10-15 years younger than people who don’t, so guess who’s got a first class seat on the meditation bandwagon this week! {OHM.}

“I write. I heal. My writing serves others.” ~ Suzette Standring

6.) Photo-bombing can make any social situation more fun.

Front row: Kim Katcham, Deb Amlen, Nicole Morgan, Tracy Beckerman. Back row: some nutjob (ahem).

(photo used with permission by EBWW on Facebook)

So, this actually doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the wonderful things I learned at Erma. I think you better come on back tomorrow and hear some more.

fondly,

Leslie (formerly known as Iris, but whatever, call me anything, just call me.)

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