A Real Douchebag

…or how I learned that it’s important to ask if you don’t know.

As a young girl, on occasion I’d have to shower in my mom and dad’s bathroom instead of my sister’s and mine. It was always kind of special to be in the “master bath,” and there was this cool thing in their shower that we didn’t have in our regular one. This apparatus hung on the shower door. I figured it was some sort of cleaner (very astute assumption, what with it being in the shower and all). It was a hot water bottle with a hose connected to it that had an interesting looking white thing at the end. It had holes in it with a nicely rounded tip. I imagined it was a cool personal mini-shower, because when I filled up the water bottle, a lovely spray would come out of the end.

I thought it would make a fine microphone that would spout while I sang. Around that time, Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady” was a popular song. My sister and I would always giggle at how when Jones performed it on TV, he would practically swallow the microphone on the “whoa, whoa, whoa, she’s a lady” part. We used to goof around and sing it while making the same gesture. Of course, this was a song high in my rotation when I would sing with my special microphone…And you can imagine how very close to my mouth this lovely little “spout” was…in fact, I can assure you that I would let the water that came out of it spray into my mouth. Yes. Therapy has been a part of my life.

My mom was not a proponent of talking directly about things related to “womanhood.” To put it in perspective, she never uttered the word “vagina.” It was either “birth canal” or, if she was feeling particularly forthright, “vaginal canal.” But never full-on vjayjay. So one day my mom came in while I was singing with my special mic and had a look come over her face that let me know that all was not right with the world. “What are you doing with that??” she asked… “Nothing. Just singin’.” She promptly suggested I end my song and not use it again. This was an era of child rearing where one did not hear a lot of “But whhyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?????” like one does nowadays. The look my mom gave said “follow directions and don’t ask questions.” And I did follow, and I didn’t ask. And she turned on her heel and left the bathroom. There was no follow-up to this conversation.

Though her behavior made me curious (and a little freaked out), I don’t think I pursued the answer right after that. In fact, I don’t even remember how I came to understand that my spray microphone was really a “feminine hygiene product.” It was probably the lovely Massengill Douche commercials that helped me piece the puzzle together…And when I did, I was absolutely mortified. It still makes me shudder to think that I got that indirectly close to my mom’s lady business.

The moral of this story? Never assume a microphone is a microphone. Though this experience alone didn’t provide an “a-ha moment” that taught me to make sure to ask questions, it did add to my overall desire to find answers to things I don’t know. Like looking up the word “offal” when I read it as a kid because I thought it was a weird way to spell “awful.” And…I kinda do find offal awful. Thanks, but I’ll pass on the haggis.

In essence—both real and metaphorical—life’s douchebags have taught me to seek the truth. And that is indeed good to know.

How Did Our Parents Do It?

While the refrain, “When I was your age…” makes for eye rolls in kids, I must admit I am guilty of uttering it numerous times to my son. Yes, the rose-colored glasses of reflection make for softer edges around what once was, but…times are indeed different. And on the flip side of what was different when I was a kid for kids themselves, I think about what was different for the parents. After nights where my husband and I are finally done with our Have Tos around 10pm (to then finally sit and check email), we ask ourselves…how did our parents do it?

I don’t know about you, but I never remember my mom or dad consumed with ToDos like I am. Let me adjust my rose-colored glasses for a moment, but here’s what I recall of an average night when I was a kid: My dad came home and read the paper a bit while my mom finished getting dinner ready. We ate a leisurely dinner at the kitchen table. My sister and I took care of the kitchen while my mom and dad went to the family room…maybe they worked crossword puzzles, maybe they finished reading the paper, and—of course—there was the TV to enjoy. End of scene.

Yes, the nights where I had a softball or basketball game meant the leisurely dinner didn’t happen, so we did indeed juggle that in some way. And my kid isn’t old enough to do the dishes yet (and have them actually be clean), so there’s that to look forward to. And my mom was a stay-at-home mom, so I’m sure that helped, too. One thing I recall, though, is that we kids weren’t in several activities at once…it was almost always one thing at a time, until I was in high school. Today it seems like parents need a flow chart to route their kids to their next activities accordingly. So…I ask…what are we doing to ourselves? Is our push to give our kids “everything” really in their best interest? In ours?

And then I think of all the things that have since been created to make things happen “faster” or “better.” My mom never needed to bother with email, and she certainly didn’t feel the need to clear her Google Reader. My dad came home from work at 5pm. And he was HOME. He didn’t get work emails or texts. While work may have been on his mind, it wasn’t gobbling up his home time. The lines of distinction were much clearer. Now…everything is a blur. Thanks to technology, we may be freer to be more mobile, but we are also expected to be “available” at all hours. And I am guilty of feeding right into it all…getting screen sucked from one thing to another. I fear it is a black hole of “progress.”

There is no turning back, I know. But my desire to better balance life’s tugs is ongoing. I’m not ready to throw in the towel. And even if I did, I’d just get a late-night Google Calendar reminder that it was time to do the laundry anyway.

Living the Juggle Struggle

Thanks to Bozo Circus, a Chicago area TV show I grew up with, I am acquainted with the fine art of plate spinning. I’m pretty sure it’s a lost art, because I haven’t seen anyone doing it for many years. But the notion of someone taking numerous vertical rods and placing a plate on each of them—where the only reason that they remain atop them is because they are spinning—is a concept that I have metaphorically understood ever since then.

Another thing I learned at a very young age was how to juggle. For some reason, my grade school felt that this was an important skill. Well, not really. But they had this group come in that put on a juggling show and then taught the students how to juggle afterward. I can’t do bowling balls or knives, but I can juggle. In fact, it so impressed my high school gym teacher, that I ended up winning PE Student of the Year my senior year. True story.

From early childhood on, keeping many things going at once became a familiar concept to me, and I’m sure it’s one you can relate to. Many people’s daily agendas are challenged to keep their plates spinning. I call it living the Juggle Struggle.

I work part-time in one world, try to write in another, manage a household in yet another, and finally try to be present in my various relationships, including wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, coworker…and whatever else I’m forgetting.

Yesterday is a relatively typical example of a classic juggling day. Scheduled for jury duty, I first needed to set up an after school “pickup plan” for my son. Thankfully, I have some key friends that I can rely on for help. After that, it’s go-time. Get ready for the day, get the linens in the wash (it’s Wednesday! Linens must get done!), get the kid to school, and head to the courthouse. After several hours waiting in the jury lounge (which I loved because I got to sit and concentrate!), we all got sprung—leaving me just enough time to run and get my son myself (thanks for being there, though, friends!), head off to errands…home to help with homework, make dinner…After, do dishes…make tomorrow’s lunches…you get the idea. Sound familiar? Your itinerary isn’t the same, I’m sure, but I bet the personal twists that make it your own are quite a similar swirl of Have Tos and Need Tos. My little rundown of my day here isn’t to whine about it (though that is a reality sometimes, as is wine. Doesn’t whine always go better with wine?) The point is that this is everyone’s every day. We all struggle to juggle it all.

In this blog, I want to share some of my struggle and connect with yours, because I’ve learned that this helps. It helps me to know that others are dealing with the same kinds of swirlies that I am, and I hope it helps you, too (or is at least worth your time to read).