Hot and Bothered

As a writer whose life is an open blog, I’m often asked for advice on a number of sensitive subjects. Luckily, I have no shame. Today’s topic is how to spice up your relationship after those white-hot first months as a couple have passed. I’ve found that social media and electronic technology are wonderful tools for staying connected with your partner, which will enhance your relationship both in and outside the bedroom.

Below, you’ll find a number of sexy tips along with real life examples from my own 16-year marriage to the handsome and talented Ad Man. I don’t mean to brag, but as you’ll see, our sex life is still smokin’ hot even after two kids and many long years together. Here are some things that have been successful for us:

1. We try to keep our lines of communication open at all times.

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2. We surprise each other with flirty text messages during the day. For example, I’ll entice him with something like:

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Ad Man’s texts rarely vary, but they never fail to get me all hot and bothered. Two of my favorites are:

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3. I take photos and email them to him at work so he feels more connected with the girls and I at home. Here’s one from a few years ago…

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4. Because Ad Man is often out of town for business, he posts photos on Instagram so it’s almost like I’m there with him. Almost.

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5. Sometimes we even bring technology into the bedroom.

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6. I’ve taken advantage of Facetime and Skype to have intimate conversations with Ad Man while he’s on the road. I don’t have video, but a few months ago I called him via Facetime late at night, all wet and completely nude. Our conversation went something like this…

“I’m running around naked because your daughter just barfed all over her bed, herself and me! Why doesn’t this shit ever happen when you’re home?!”

Well, I hope you’ve picked up a few tips for using technology to help keep your sex life fresh and exciting. These are just a few examples of what has worked for my marriage. I’m sure you’ll think of many others. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go text a sultry photo of my bare derriere covered in mosquito bites as yet another reminder to my dear husband that if he doesn’t call the exterminator tomorrow, he’ll be sleeping in the back yard. Yep, we’re sexy like that.

Calling for Peace in the Parenting Wars

judging-new-parentsLast week, I went to hear Jennifer Senior, author of the universally lauded book on modern parenting All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, speak. I have not yet raved here about Senior’s book just because I feel like it has been reviewed and praised in so many publications already. It’s unlikely you haven’t already read a review, read the book itself, or at least seen it on the bestsellers’ shelf at the bookstore. Suffice it to say, it is a fantastic book about the changes that have occurred over the past 70 years or so that have completely changed the face of parenting and what those changes mean for today’s parents.

all_joy_no_fun_bookAll Joy and No Fun isn’t a how-to parenting book, however. Senior, a parent herself, readily admits that, like most people, she’s just “winging it” as far as raising her kids goes. We’re all pioneers in this wild new landscape of modern parenting. Senior’s book presents astute observations in a nonjudgmental way and this is one of the things I found so rare and refreshing about it.

You can go to any bookstore or spend just a few minutes on Amazon and find countless books written with the intention of convincing the reader that the author’s theory on raising children is the correct one and that all other parenting methods are tantamount to child abuse. Really, it’s come to that level of dispute and hysteria. It’s a virtual cage match between Attachment parents, Free-Range parents, long-term breastfeeders, Tiger moms and dads, No-Cry parents, anti-vaccine evangelists, family bed advocates and on and on and on.

I’m not going to claim that I didn’t delve into more than a few how-to books myself as a young parent. (Or, more appropriately, a “new” parent…I had ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE stamped on my OB’s medical files from day one!) There are a thousand different situations that arise just in the first few months of your firstborn’s life for which you have not the slightest bit of preparation and it sure would be nice to have a manual to refer to for step-by-step instructions. But, unfortunately, that’s not how this maddening parenting thing works. In reality, you do your best and then wait 18 or 30 years to find out whether you completely fucked up or not.

And yet, that hasn’t stopped an army of experts and lifestyle gurus from getting rich on books that purport to show you “the way” through parenthood. I was just reading a review of Alicia Silverstone’s new book The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning. If that doesn’t sound like a woman who thinks she has the answers, I don’t know what does. In addition to being an actress, Silverstone is also a vocal vegan, animals rights activist, fairly new mother and best-selling author of The Kind Diet. (Full disclosure, I own Silverstone’s first book and refer to it often for recipes and information about vegan eating.)

the_kind_mama_bookAs an influential Hollywood hippie-type (no judgment intended…you know I love my LA hippie brothers and sisters), Silverstone has taken it upon herself to extend her vegan, Earth-loving “brand” to parenthood. Not surprisingly, The Kind Mama advocates strongly for attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, the family bed and vegan eating for the entire family. Some of the controversial assertions Silverstone makes in the book are that: 1) meat, dairy and processed foods “track toxic sludge through your [uterus],” 2) diapers are “pseudoscience,” 3) eating plant-based foods can “demolish your need for pharmaceutical drugs for things like depression,” 4) tampons may make you infertile, and 5) some babies are “never the same” after receiving vaccines.

As you can imagine, the responses to the review I read and comments on Amazon regarding the book itself are passionate to say the least, though the word combative seems more apt. A few responses, both positive and negative, were thoughtful and constructive. However, the overwhelming majority of comments made it abundantly clear that otherwise sane people will readily resort to insults, name-calling and threats against those purporting to tell them that their beliefs and philosophies, especially regarding parenting, are incorrect.

start_cola_earlierI’m not trying to defend Silverstone here. The author herself resorts to the same tactics when she describes forcing your baby to sleep “in a barred-in box, completely alone,” AKA in a crib, as the equivalent of child neglect. And, I personally think her anti-vaccine stance is misguided at best and, at worst, deadly. What is clear, though, is that the so-called “Mommy Wars” have now grown into full-blown “Parenting Wars.” You will now be judged not only on whether you choose to work or be a stay-at-home parent, you will be second guessed on every decision you make regarding every aspect of raising your child, from when you decide to start the kid on solid foods to whether your children will be expected to contribute toward the cost of their college educations.

You know, it used to be considered extremely rude to tell someone how to raise his or her children. Not everything was up for passionate public debate. Were there “experts,” books and magazine articles, friends and complete strangers standing by to shame my mother when she was unable to successfully breastfeed me? Hell, no. Did she have to justify her choice of diapers or where she put me down to sleep or what vaccines she “allowed” the pediatrician to give me? No, again. She sincerely did what she and my dad thought was best for me and it was no one else’s damn business.

beer-breastfeedingWouldn’t it be nice if we could return to those days? Thank you, researchers, for your findings. Thank you, doctors, for your medical advice. I am now going to go ruminate on those facts and opinions and take the action that my husband and I deem is in my child’s best interest. No, woman at the grocery story, I don’t need to know what you think of our decision. No thank you, I’d prefer not to read the book filled with doomsday predictions about the horrible things that will happen to my child and, indeed, the universe if I fail to buy her organic, GMO-free toothpaste.

Can we all just go back to viewing parenthood as a series of personal decisions people make as they’re stewarding little humans from infancy to adulthood instead of a political stance to be analyzed, debated and voted upon by all citizens, everywhere? In other words, they’re my kids, I’m doing my best and everyone else can shut the fuck up. Oh, I’m sorry. Was that too harsh? I forgot mothers aren’t supposed to get angry or swear. Surely, that outburst will have a dire effect on my children in the future.

Something About a Sandwich

eliza_cook_cowboy_boots_0314I was chatting with Biggie’s teacher one day and she asked me if I’d heard from Whosit about the whatsit contest Biggie won. I said no, but, “Yes, definitely, very exciting…have her send me the paperwork…” nodding my head knowingly all the while having not the slightest idea what she was talking about. All I could gather was that it had something to do with a sandwich. I somehow got through the conversation without revealing my utter confusion and ignorance and pumped Biggie for information as soon as she got off the bus that afternoon.

Apparently a number of classes entered a healthy sandwich recipe contest a few weeks before and two kids at the school won, Biggie and a boy in her class. They were now invited to move on to some sort of cooking contest. The details remained sketchy. Biggie couldn’t remember the exact recipe she submitted, but she knew it contained turkey, “monster cheese” (muenster) and pickles. She wasn’t sure about the bread, but she had a vague notion that it was on a rolled up tortilla.

I had no clue who was sponsoring this contest, what the cooking competition would involve or how in the hell Biggie won with a turkey, cheese and pickle sandwich. About a week later, I received the mysterious paperwork in the mail which included some details about the event and a photo release I was required to sign and return. The photo release put me on alert that this might be a bigger deal than I originally imagined.

future_chefs_vert_0314It turns out that this was part of an annual “Future Chef” contest organized by Sodexo, the company that manages the fine dining at school cafeterias across the country. In a few weeks, Biggie and an unspecified number of other winners would move on to the district finals where they’d be required to make their sandwich for a panel of judges and fifty other people. Fifty!  All ingredients would be provided, each contestant would have one adult helper and the event would take approximately four hours. Four hours!

This concerned me for a number of reasons. First, the event would begin at 8 am on a Saturday morning, at a school about thirty minutes away. As is my luck, on that particular Saturday morning (and for numerous days before and after it) Ad Man would be schmoozing and partying his way through the interactive section of South by Southwest (“SXSW” for you hipsters) in Austin, Texas. This meant that I would have to get two kids up and ready to hit the road by 7:15 am in order to go sit at a cooking competition for hours. This was far from my idea of a relaxing Saturday morning.

I was also concerned (or maybe the better word for it would be ‘hopeful’) that Biggie would want nothing to do with this. My eight year-old self would have run for the hills if someone told me I had to make food for fifty people and present my dish to a panel of judges. Not Biggie. She was super excited and ready to go!  It occurs to me that maybe she’s not actually my child. She was conceived in a petri dish after all. Any number of things could have fallen into that dish.

Over the next few weeks, she practiced making her sandwich and figured out the best way to serve small portions to a crowd of people. Concerned that she’d be crushed at the competition by other, more creative, sandwiches, I suggested that she might want to add some sort of condiment…mustard, mayo, hummus? But, she stood strong and insisted on sticking with her turkey, cheese and pickle sandwich rolled up in a tortilla and cut into cute, sushi-like rolls.

By the time the big day arrived, I was already in a frazzled, pissy mood from single-parenting while Ad Man posted daily online reports about drinking moonshine, bumping into old friends and going to see astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson speak. (N.DeG.T. is one of my biggest crushes, by the way. Seriously, that man’s brain is so damn sexy!) Thankfully, my friend B, offered to take Smalls for the morning so I wouldn’t have to try to entertain her for hours in a place I knew nothing about. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to wrap my mind around what this event would be like and why the hell it would take four hours to make some sandwiches!

Biggie and I left home slightly late and I knew we’d be cutting it close, but I had to stop and grab a large tea en route or I feared I’d spend the entire morning with a raging headache. On the way, I attempted to lower Biggie’s expectations a bit. I told her that she shouldn’t be disappointed if she didn’t win and that I was already really proud of her for having her recipe chosen and for working so hard on practicing her sandwich. Biggie, ever the optimist, replied, “Yeah, I know, Mom. I might only win, like, third place or something.” Oh boy. I had no doubt we were walking into a kids’-cooking-competition bloodbath.

As it turned out, we arrived a few minutes late after cluelessly wandering around the school until we spied a few balloons marking the entrance to the event location. The cooking contest was, of course, held in the school cafeteria. I don’t know why I expected a ‘Top Chef’-style soundstage complete with high-end kitchen appliances. Too many years spent living in LA, I guess. There was a long table set for five judges, a table overflowing with goodie bags, prizes and trophies and signs and balloons everywhere. The rest of the attendees, mostly parents and siblings, were directed to the cafeteria tables.

It was not thirty seconds after we walked in the room that, sitting down to fill out some paperwork, I managed to spill my giant chai tea latte over every important document for the competition–sign-in sheets, photo releases, the judges’ name tags–everything!  Not only did I feel like an ass, but that also left me with no goddamn tea! And I couldn’t get any more for four hours!  Four!  (Sorry, lack of caffeine affects me in many ways, one of which is excessive use of exclamation points.)

After I helped mop up the welcome table, the event started chugging along. One of the organizers called out the childrens’ names. Our melodious surname is Schokchtckhtshechkt (or might as well be) so, unsurprisingly, the woman butchered Biggie’s name and attributed her to the wrong school. That was one of the few times I saw a crack in Biggie’s confident veneer. However, her chest puffed right back up as soon as she donned her very own ceremonial Sodexo apron and chef’s hat. And, she looked so damn cute, the ice in my heart actually began to melt a bit too.

eli_smile_pesto_0314The kids were matched with their adult helpers and ushered into the cafeteria kitchen where they were given a short safety lesson and a copy of their original recipe. They were each assigned a workspace and the countdown began. Because of the long time-frame, I was expecting that there would be countless children in the competition, but there were really only about fifteen kid-contestants. They were given one hour to complete their cooking.

Parents could see into the kitchen, but we were kept behind the cafeteria-tray ledge during this prep time. I got as close to Biggie as I could to take some pictures of her working and she held up a slice of bread to me with a quizzical look on her face. I mouthed to her something like, “No tortillas? No problem. Just do the best you can.” I then saw her having a serious discussion with her sous chef about the bread options, ultimately deciding to go with a whole wheat baguette. I thought this was a good culinary choice and an inspired tactical move since this was a healthy sandwich contest and returned to my cafeteria seat confident that Biggie had things under control.

The cafeteria was spotless, but that didn’t keep the lone cockroach from zeroing in on me and running across my foot as I was making small talk with the parents of the other kid from Biggie’s classroom. With the classmate’s little sister yelling, “Squish it, squish it!,” I used my cat-like reflexes and stomped on the offending roach. I was haunted by the sight of its flattened corpse for the rest of the morning.

With all the excitement, the hour passed fairly quickly and the judging phase of the event began. An organizer introduced the judges which consisted of bigwigs from Sodexo and the Atlanta Public School District and a reporter from the local “11 Alive News.” Damn near every person in the room was introduced and thanked, including the Sodexo mascot, some fuzzy, blue, star-shaped thing named Lift-Off who had been enthusiastically cheering on the young chefs. Nervous children stood patiently clutching their completed dishes.

The way judging went was that each kid would walk up to the judge’s table with his or her presentation plate. The judges munched on their tasting samples and asked each young chef some questions. Meanwhile, everyone in the audience also received a sample of each sandwich. As she waited, Biggie looked a little anxious which made me a complete nervous wreck!

eliza_cook_judging_0314Biggie’s turn eventually came and she was amazingly poised, explaining her recipe and responding to the judges’ many questions. I got my sample of her sandwich, picked off the turkey (Biggie’s creativity was clearly not stifled by the fact that I don’t eat or cook meat) and took a bite. I was shocked to discover that it was quite tasty! As it turns out, she had completely forgotten the recipe she submitted. Her actual recipe called for a lightly toasted baguette, with turkey, muenster cheese a pickle and pesto. (Aha…the forgotten secret ingredient!)  She’d specified in her recipe that the sandwich should be lightly warmed so that the “monster cheese” would melt a bit into the baguette. She also mixed together a little pesto and butter and swiped it on top of the toasty bread. I was no longer baffled as to why Biggie was a winner in the recipe contest. I was, however, still baffled as to how she came up with such a tasty recipe. I mean, I love to cook and I’ve baked and cooked with Biggie and Smalls since they were toddlers. But, it’s not like I’ve had them studying old episodes of ‘Chopped’ like football players watching game films.

eliza_mommy_cook_0314After judging, Biggie came and sat on my lap, needing a snuggle after an action-packed hour of cooking. I was so proud of her. It was a rare treat being able to witness her taking on something new and challenging with such confidence and grace. It was nice to think, for a moment, that maybe my daughters won’t be saddled with all my neuroses after all. And to think that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t completely failing at this whole motherhood thing.

In the end, Biggie shocked us both by winning 2nd Prize!  The look on her face when they called her name was priceless and not even the mangled pronunciation could dim her smile. I would have cried if I weren’t so busy hugging her, snapping photos and texting everyone with the exciting news. I really wish Ad Man could have been there with me to see our little girl glowing with such an empowering sense of accomplishment. There are many, many days when parenting can be the most thankless job in the world. And then there are those rare days that make you realize that all the work, anxiety and frustration are worth every crazy minute. This was one of those days.

I Am Not Worthy

bandaid_handsI want to thank my dear friend Kanye West for filling in for me last Friday.  I hope you found his parenting advice helpful. I must apologize for being a bit of a slacker this week. I’ve been (gasp!) working. Yes, I’m engaged in some seasonal labor. No, I’m not the mall Santa’s new grumpy middle-aged elf. I can barely manage my own children let alone hundreds of kids who are up past their naptime, wearing their itchiest Sunday best, and wired from a steady diet of candy canes and goldfish crackers.

Actually, my friends K and G own an amazing gourmet sweet bread company and cafe here in Atlanta called Breadwinner. I can’t help but boast…their bread was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things in 2011. And you know Oprah is the world’s foremost expert on Things. Anyway, they do a ton of business at the holidays, shipping thousands of breads across the country. So, I’ve been doing some pretty serious packaging and shipping these days. As I sit here, I have a heating pad on my neck and shoulders and band-aids on the bloody stumps that used to be my fingers.

This little trial run as a working mother has been eye-opening. Thus far, I’ve worked a total of three, five-hour days. I’m still getting home in time to meet Biggie and Smalls when they get off the bus, but I am completely exhausted! Granted, as I mentioned, it is fairly physical work (I mean, those bows don’t just tie themselves!), but you’d think I could handle a few measly five-hour days. Instead, until now, I have not managed to write one word for this blog, do a moment of exercise or wash one piece of laundry. The house is in shambles and our dinners this week have been, shall we say, uninspired. As far as experiments go, I wouldn’t exactly call this one a rousing success.

I bow down to working mothers everywhere. I am clearly not worthy to stand in their shoes. When I was first out of law school and working as an associate at a law firm, that there were weeks on end when I didn’t get a day off. I always worked at least one day each weekend and rarely left the office before 7 pm. Twelve-hour days were typical. I’m not saying it was fun, but I managed to keep up that pace for a few years without falling apart physically or losing my mind, which I’d say is a win. So I have to question whether I am a weenie now because I’m old or just because I’m out of practice.

Don’t get me wrong, there have also been some very positive aspects to working outside the little fiefdom of my house. I don’t fall into the Today Show/Facebook black hole in the morning while drinking my tea, failing to emerge for hours. I actually get up and shower every day. I’m eating an actual lunch instead of scarfing an energy bar and a handful of nuts between errands. I’m having contact with human beings other than the person working the Starbucks drive-thru. I take pride in my work. My ribbons are tied and trimmed beautifully, my breads are carefully packaged and I only occasionally find a crucial enclosure card left on the table and have to unpack 50 boxes to figure out which one is missing a card.

Most importantly, I get a real sense of accomplishment from the work. You can’t wrap and pack 300 loaves of bread for a corporate order without feeling a certain satisfaction. That is one thing I’ve sorely missed from my days of working full-time. Being a stay-at-home parent is a marathon rather than a sprint, and you rarely even see the finish line on the horizon, let alone cross it. Most of the things you do accomplish in a day…cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking, helping the kids with homework…just need to be done again tomorrow. I really miss the finish line.

Luckily, in the next few weeks I have, among other things, a birthday slumber party to throw for Biggie, Christmas presents to buy, wrap and either ship out or hide, stockings to stuff, cookies to bake, a holiday party to throw for Ad Man’s employees and a blog to write. Maybe it would help me to visualize all those tasks lined up before a finish line beyond which lies copious amounts of wine, a pint of ice cream and a nice, warm bed. If not, I’ll just take the wine and a few Xanax-laced Christmas cookies, thankyouverymuch!

Stick a Fork in Me

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These people are lunatics. I blame them.

That’s it…I’ve had it!  I give up!  I would like to be admitted to the hospital, preferably Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.  I am suffering from exhaustion.  It may be a questionable diagnosis, but if it’s good enough for movie stars and rock stars, it’s good enough for me, dammit!  In fact, my condition is so dire, I’d like the Beyonce Suite, please.  Didn’t Jay Z pimp out like a whole floor of the hospital for her when she squeezed out Blue Ivy?  Yeah, that’s the one I want.  (I can assure you, I saw no gold plated birthing tubs when I had Biggie there 7 years ago.)

Since this is a self-diagnosis, I suspect the doctors and my insurance company will require some empirical data before they’ll check me into my suite and begin the massage treatments and bonbon deliveries. So, in the interest of science, I am providing the following documentation of my day thus far.

It began as does every other day at our house…with the morning meltdown.  Alarms went off obscenely early, as always, so we would have ample time to get Biggie and Smalls ready to hop on the bus by 7 am.  Unfortunately, we were not up early enough to provide a sufficient cushion for this morning’s super-sized meltdown.  Today’s drama was due to my utter inability to choose the correct socks for Biggie and Ad Man’s ridiculous choice of breakfast foods for Smalls.  Approximately 30 seconds before the scheduled departure time, we were dragging Smalls out from her favorite tantrum spot under the bed, attempting to brush her teeth through her cries of injustice and stuffing Biggie’s feet into whatever socks were closest to the door…quite possibly the dirty ones she dropped there yesterday.

With two kids successfully deposited on the bus and Ad Man off to work, I began the most pleasant part of my day, the sweet, sweet hours in which no one is whining at me.  As much as I wanted to crawl back into my still warm bed, I had many things to accomplish before the beginning of the afternoon’s homework meltdown.  I ran to the gym for a pathetic attempt at a workout.  I thoroughly researched and bought a new flat iron to replace the one that crapped out this morning leaving my hip-mom shag looking more Carol Brady than Sally Hershberger.  I stalked Goodwill for missing elements of the girls’ Halloween costumes and then headed to the grocery store to purchase the items necessary to make a healthy and delicious minestrone soup for dinner.

I was hurrying home from the grocery store so I would arrive before the school bus when I got a call from Smalls’s teacher.  It seems I’d totally forgotten I’d planned to pick up Smalls in carpool instead of having her take the bus since Biggie had an after-school activity at the other campus.  Instead of unloading the groceries from the car, I immediately turned around and headed to school.  Visions swirled in my head of my poor, abandoned child sobbing alone on the sidewalk as the last car pulled up to the carpool pick-up area and she saw that her mother was not inside.

As it turned out, Smalls was unaffected by being abandoned and was happily coloring in the front office when I arrived at school.  I, on the other hand, slunk in with my head bowed in shame hoping that none of the upper echelon of PTA moms would spot me claiming my forgotten child…in a Carol Brady shag no less.

Milking my guilt for all it was worth, Smalls requested that we stop at the park for King of Pops chocolate sea salt popsicles before retrieving her sister.  So, we went to the park, grabbed our pops and sat down at a picnic table so Smalls could do homework. She, of course, dripped chocolate all over herself and her homework and spent half an hour denying that the dance she was doing was in any way related to the fullness of her bladder.  I checked my phone and saw that we were going to be late if we didn’t leave to pick up Biggie just as Smalls began chanting, “I have to pee, I have to pee, I have to pee!” No shit, kid!  Really?!

diagnosis_kidsWe jumped back in the car, headed over to Biggie’s school, ran into the building and located the closest bathroom where Smalls flat out refused to sit on the potty because the door to the stall wouldn’t latch to her satisfaction.  Because, you know, heaven forbid a stray 2nd grade girl should wander in and see a sliver of her sitting on the toilet through the ever-so-slightly open door.  At this point I was pulling my hair out, biting my tongue to keep from yelling all kinds of naughty words in an elementary school and wishing I had a handful of Xanax to munch on.

We managed to track down Biggie who was the second of my two children to wander around looking for her missing mother today and raced home with Smalls’s overextended bladder threatening to blow at any minute.  We skidded into the driveway, unlocked the front door and Smalls ran to the bathroom just narrowly avoiding a pee disaster.  I unloaded the melted groceries from the trunk of the car and thought, “Aaahhhhh…finally, things are starting to look up!”

I was settling in to start overseeing homework and chopping vegetables for tonight’s dinner when it became clear, after a frantic search, that Smalls’s backpack was no longer in our possession.  FUUUUUUCCKKK!!!  Rather than herding the girls back into the car and schlepping them to every location we’d just been to, I called my friend A, sent the kids over to her house and told her to be ready to drink with me upon my return.  I then texted Ad Man and asked him to bring home Mexican food because there’s was no way in hell I was going to cook dinner tonight!

Really, the only bright spot in this day was when I found the backpack sitting right there in the park where Smalls and I left it earlier.  And now finally, after a glass of wine with A, I’m again able to form a complete sentence.  So, here it is…I’m done!  Stick a fork in me. Beyonce Suite, here I come!  I’ll have my driver drop me off at the secret back hospital entrance usually used for whisking in overdosing celebrities.  Make sure that bed is made with 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and get my bourbon I.V. ready to go!

Over-educated, Under-employed Mom Seeks Career Counseling

help_wanted_lgOK, here is the blog post in which you, dear readers, get to play career counselors and solve all my problems.  (Thanks, in advance.)  I am going to tell you all the diverse things that float my boat and you, in turn, will tell me what my next job should be.  Ready to play?

First, a quick outline of my experience for new readers: I am an entertainment lawyer who represented film studios and talent agencies.  When I was not busy being verbally abused by one particular partner at my firm, I spent my time writing briefs, going to depositions, making court appearances, trying to be cool when walking around film studio lots and crying in the file room.  Highlight: Cher once borrowed my bathroom key.

My other main role was as a TV, film and video producer.  I developed numerous television commercials and video projects for one particular client, a scandal-ridden, major mortgage lending company.  One of my strengths was remembering which make-up artist the CEO prefered (hint: the hot one with big boobs).  This former CEO has been referred to by CNN as one of the “Ten Most Wanted Culprits” of the 2008 financial collapse in the United States.  Top ten, baby!

At this same company, I also produced a feature-length documentary about homelessness in Los Angeles which won a couple film-festival awards and played at Cannes.  Highlights included staging and filming a one-man theater performance that was then incorporated into the documentary, filming in Skid Row, LA while 8 months pregnant, trying to find a dress to fit my postpartum body for the Beverly Hills Film Festival awards dinner and managing not to spring a breast milk leak during the lengthy ceremony.

I’ve documented my various strengths and skills here previously, but I also have a number of interests that could point me toward potential career paths.  Art, design and architecture are three of my greatest loves.  I can often be found shopping for furniture and homes that I can’t afford and renovating and decorating houses in my mind.  I watch how-to videos on YouTube in an effort to determine whether I can tear out the refinished (spray-painted), formerly pink tile in the bathrooms of our 50s modern house myself or if I should put it off for 6 more years.

dead_plantsI enjoy gardening, but after numerous attempts to grow a verdant oasis in the backyard of my Atlanta home, I’ve officially given up!  Everything wilts in the hellish summer heat here and, on the occasions that I actually had a few lush raised garden beds growing, flooding from the nearby creek swiftly wiped them out like a magazine squashing a fly.  I now have two dying basil plants and one dying rosemary plant on my porch.  I call them topiaries and hope the neighbors don’t get too close.

I love fashion and, while I’m generally in my not-at-all-fashionable mom uniform, I do try a little harder on the weekends.  I am quite adept at reading fashion blogs and magazines and firmly believe the day the September issue of Vogue arrives in my mailbox should be declared a national holiday.

I’m also interested in (OK, somewhat obsessed with) perfumes.  My friends think it’s insane that I can read scent reviews and peruse perfume discussion boards for hours and Ad Man is less than thrilled with the amount of money I spend on samples every month.  This infatuation grew organically from my crazy strong sense of smell.  This talent was a bit of a burden when I was pregnant and got within 50 feet of anyone eating anything, but it has proved helpful when it comes to wine tasting, perfume sniffing and identifying that thing that stinks in the refrigerator.

I love to cook, at least on weekends when I don’t have homework to supervise and kids begging for snacks.  I even started a Facebook group called Vegetarian Mamas.  I don’t think I’d like to cook for a living though because, generally, cooks have to either get up early or stay up late.  I’m really more of a middle-of-the-day kind of gal.  Oh, and I have a freaky aversion to smelling like food.  It’s most likely a nose thing again.

A few other things you might find helpful when choosing a career for me…I have recently started this blog and discovered that I enjoy writing.  I am a certified kettlebell instructor. Kettlebells are those weights that look like cannonballs with handles.  You know the ones I mean.  No?  Well, you’re not the only one.  I am a skilled negotiator as long as the parties involved in the conflict are under the age of 10.  I plan parties and vacations like a boss.  And, I’m really, really good at Pinterest.

So, what should I do?  Take the Georgia bar (I’m licensed only in California) and try to claw my way back into some sort of legal career?  Find someone to pay me to use their money to make obscure documentaries?  Become a personal shopper?  Be a perfumista and start my own company?  Try rooting for truffles with my bionic snout?  Remain a kept woman and thank my lucky stars?  The possibilities are wide open.

The possibilities would be infinite though if all the over-educated, under-employed moms who wanted to work could band together to build something great.  In the 7 years that I have been a stay-at-home mom, I’ve met some extremely educated women who have set aside their careers to raise children.  All are as creative and hardworking as those who have chosen to, or have had no choice but to, remain in the job market.  I constantly find myself searching for a solution for funneling that huge pool of intelligence, ambition, creativity and dedication into some incredible project.

If each of us brought our job and life experience, talent and desire to the table, we would be unstoppable.  So maybe instead of just trying to map out a plan for my career, we should take more of a big-picture view and become career counselors for the group of us former professional women turned full-time moms.  So, what do you think?  Should it be a corporation, a think tank, a revolution?  Let’s shoot high.  You’ll get bonus points for creativity.  What should we make or build?  How do we grab our portion of the profits?  What can we change for the better?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We’ll Be in Touch

My mom uniformThere are number of intimidating aspects of a job search for moms (and dads…but mostly moms, let’s just be honest here) who have been out of the employment market for an extended time while raising children. For example, trying to find an appropriate outfit when meeting a potential employer may be difficult.  Digging through my extensive collection of skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans and high-waisted flare jeans (friend to many a muffin-topped mom, myself included), I find not one pair of appropriate pants.  As for tops, I own just about every available color of this v-neck t-shirt from Everlane, but nothing “blousy” or even “shirty” that looks professional and doesn’t showcase my tattoos.  And my shoe stash consists mainly of flip-flops, Vans slip-ons, boots and sexy sandals for going out to fancy events, like preschool fundraisers.

But the single most frightening part of the job search has got to be the interviewing process.  Think about it.  You’re completely out of your element and not exactly set up for success.  The interview itself consists mainly of sitting in a room with another adult and having a conversation that does not revolve around your children, your children’s school, the neighbors or the irritating thing your husband does that’s driving you bat-shit crazy.  You’re meeting with someone who is already reluctant to even consider you as a potential candidate for the job because of the glaringly obvious Grand Canyon-sized hole in your resume and is probably just doing a favor for a friend-of-a-friend (a testament to your stellar networking skills at the kids’ weekend soccer games).

Little Biggie in Mom's shoesSince just forming a complete sentence is a challenge at times for a stay-at-home mom, coming up with intelligent, witty, informed and mostly truthful answers to interview questions is likely the biggest stumbling block there is when attempting to return to the job market.  So, I have done some preparation to work through my responses to some commonly asked interview questions and help give a leg up to other readers who may find themselves in the same predicament.  Please note that, while I suspect your answers to the following questions would be strikingly similar to mine, you really should alter them a bit to fit your specific situation.

A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Responses to Commonly Asked Job Interview Questions:

Q:  Tell me a little about yourself.
A:  Well, I am a graduate of X University where I studied art (just an example of my largely useless undergraduate degree. Yours may be something like marine biology or philosophy or Russian literature.)  From there, I went on to X University School of Law (or medicine or business…you get the drill now) where I graduated with honors (or at least in the top half of my class).  That led to an offer at a somewhat prestigious law firm in X world-class city (where I no longer live because I wanted to be able to afford a house and send my children to a decent school).  Blah, blah, blah, job successes, promotions, raises, etc.,…and then I had a kid and threw it all away.  (OK, maybe not in those exact words.)  I am now looking to reenter the job market.

Q:  What is your greatest strength?
A:  I am a very strong leader and have led teams of varying sizes with a number of successful projects.

Q:  Can you point to a recent example of when you displayed your leadership skills?
A:  Absolutely.  Just last year, I managed an unruly team of 20 preschoolers to develop a project that was sold at a hefty profit at the yearly school fundraiser.  I managed to get my group to act as a unified team despite a number of obstacles including needing to use the potty, a disagreement over who got the last of the pink glitter and a tantrum over having to take the blueberry Go-Gurt when all the strawberries were previously claimed.

Q:  How do you evaluate success?
A:  At the end of the day, I ask myself, are the children all still alive?  Has my husband officially filed for divorce?  If I can answer those two questions with a yes and no, respectively, I call it a success and pour myself a glass of wine.

Q:  Why are you leaving your current position?
A:  Because my employers are tyrants, the pay sucks, the working conditions are abominable and I haven’t had a vacation in 7 years.

Q:  Give me some other examples of times you used your strengths to solve problems at your current job.
A:  Well, more than once, I’ve used my chest or my cupped hands to catch flying vomit from an ill child in order to avoid having to try to scrub puke out of a white flokati rug.  I believe this shows my creative problem solving skills as well as my ability to sacrifice my personal comfort for the greater good of the organization, or at least its interior design.  Also, I have found food on the floor on various occasions when I’ve been in a rush to complete another project and I’ve just eaten the abandoned food rather than taking the time to walk to the trash can.  This demonstrates my impressive time management skills.  Lastly, when faced with an epic exploding poopy diaper situation, rather than pulling the soiled onesie over the head of a screaming child which would have smeared feces into every orifice on the child’s face further angering her, I quickly grabbed a pair of scissors, carefully cut the putrid article of clothing off the child, yelled “Fuck it!” to no one in particular, threw the onesie in the trash and dumped the kid in the tub.  Again, creative problem solving and, um, maybe multitasking?

Q:  How do you handle stress and pressure?
A:  A daily cocktail, varying somewhat, but generally consisting of Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Xanax and alcohol.

“Fantastic, thanks for coming in.  We’ll be in touch.”

If Mom Could See Me Now

mom_and_jackie_wedding

One of my most vivid memories of my mother, and the one that haunts me the most, is the day when I, as an omnipotent, know-it-all 17 year-old, said that I’d “never be JUST a housewife” like her. She slapped me right across the face (as well she should have) and told me that any sacrifices she made, were made for me and my brother and that she was happy to do it. There’s not a day that has gone by in the last 11 years in which I haven’t regretted my stupid, spiteful words.

I’d prefer not to begin this blog with an unbearably sad entry, but today is the anniversary of my mom’s death and a wise friend suggested I honor her by making this my first blog post. It seems only fitting since the overriding purpose for this blog is to give you a bird’s eye view of my attempt to claw my way back up the cliff that once was my career. That was, of course, before I went on permanent sabbatical to become, yes, “just a housewife” and stay-at-home mom to my smart, adorable, infuriating daughters, aged 5 and 7, who already bear more than a passing resemblance to that smart-ass 17 year-old.

I promise we’ll have lots of laughs along the way. In my family, we have a long history of using humor to help deal with life’s twists and turns. In fact, my sweet mother would be laughing her ass off if she could see me now! (As well she should.)