You can now see our essays in super concentrated form at TheSmartly.com
I am a Christian. My husband is a Christian. We both came from non-religious households. My husband’s family did have a slight Jewish side to it though. His mother’s side is Jewish but he never went to Synagogue nor did he have a bar mitzvah. So for him becoming Christian wasn’t about “switching faiths” it was about finding faith for the first time. His mother, however did not have the same view. She was devastated. She yelled, she wept, she completely flipped out.
How could she have such strong feeling about his choice of religion when she never guided him as a child? She never taught him about the Jewish religion. She never took him to Synagogue. How can she possibly care?
It was a messy, emotional day when my husband announced his new found faith to his family. Only now that I have been apart of this family for years do I have some insight to her freak out. Though she isn’t a practicing Jew, I do believe she see’s herself as a Jew in a cultrual identity, as her people. And though it is certainly her heritage and her history, it is in no way her religion. I believe many people make this mistake. Just because your parents were Christians that doesn’t mean you are…or Jewish…or Muslim.
85% of Americans classify themselves as Christians – but are they really? Do they really believe in Jesus and what it means to follow Jesus everyday? Or is it just something they say because their parents say they are Christians or their parents go to church and bring them along sometimes.
Religion and faith are personal decisions. It’s not what country your parents or your grandparents came from or the food you eat. Religion is about God, whatever God you believe in or how you view this crazy thing called life.
So, if you are a parent and you want your child to identify with one specific religion then I suggest you teach him/her that religion throughout his/her life and you follow it yourself. Because as we all know, actions speak louder than words.
For about five minutes, several years ago, the title on my business cards was to have been She Ra Princess of Power. Really. We were re-tooling the department, brainstorming new titles that would better describe our actual job functions. I suggested She Ra, because, well, I figured I was that all-powerful. That, and because I wanted a tiara and a sash.
Up on the white board it went. And there it stayed, until someone suggested a few more business-like titles. What stuck was Strategic Relationship Manager. Utilitarian, sure, but with little pizzazz. I told everyone the story though, of how I got to be She Ra, Princess of Power for a little while. I say all this because, deep down, I really do believe I am She Ra. Or at least that I have She Ra-like powers. Mostly. There are times when I want to shout “If you’d just do it my way, the world run so much smoother!” And by the world, I of course mean my life: if you all would just follow my rules, my world would run infinitely better.
Really. They’re not difficult rules. Here’s a sample:
If God had meant for their to be flavored coffee, God would have created flavored coffee beans. Cream is acceptable. However, if you add whipped cream, you now have a milkshake, not coffee. Even if it’s hot.
Drive-through lanes were invented for speed and convenience. They are not designed for question-and-answer hour. Seriously— when’s the last time the menu changed in any meaningful way? It’s a burger. Or chicken nuggets. Or fries. Move on. Drive through. Oh, and this doesn’t mean drive-and-then-stop-and-check-your-order or contemplate-just-how-hot-that-coffee-is. It’s hot; trust me. Put the cup in the cup-holder and drive.
Lettuce doesn’t belong on a sandwich. Ever. It is slippery. No good can ever come from a slippery sandwich.
You are not the arbiter of how fast the fast lanes on the highway should be. If you find yourself zipping along in the far left lane, happy in your three-miles-over-the-posted-speed-limit haze, oblivious that the car behind you is all but kissing your bumper, and more cars zoom past you on the right (some of whose occupants are looking decidedly annoyed, and some gesticulating madly, one finger at a time)— move over. Highway driving is a cooperative effort, people. Cooperate.
You’re not so special or so important that you cannot wait the extra two minutes and NOT block the intersection. And stop being fake-surprised when motorists with the actual right-of-way give you snarky looks. You drove into that intersection precisely so you would get caught and wouldn’t have to wait for the next one.
Regardless of ever-changing grammatical rules, irregardless is not a word. Ever. And while we’re at it— “your” is NOT the same as “you’re,” and there’s a difference between “who” and “whom.” Likewise there, their and they’re take some thought. There’s no excuse for bad grammar or bad spelling— even while texting.
I am all for your religious beliefs. Have at ‘em. Practice with all the fervor and passion and joy you can muster. Do not, however, mistake your faith for my fact. Feel free to do or not do as your God commands, but don’t legislate those thou shalts and thou shalt nots for the rest of us.
Simple rules, right? Follow them, and the world continues to spin on its axis, and I don’t spin like a mad dervish, riffing on some nefarious infraction or misstep. I can be a benevolent Princess of Power, as long as you play by the rules. My rules. It always comes back to that.
Here’s the thing though: I’d give them all up, every single one of my beloved rules, if we could all practice these:
Patience. Tolerance. Kindness. Love.
Let’s face it: we all have our own battles to fight and demons to exorcize. It costs us nothing to comfort or care. Indeed, a kind word can heal a broken heart or give hope where once there was none.
Even She Ra, in all her glorious power, can’t hold a candle to that.
Interested in reading more about the world according to Stacey? Check it out here.
I got The Call this morning. No, not a Divine Call to join some religious order or nunnery. Wrong religion, wrong calling. Although, come to think of it, that may have been an easier call to have received. Me and God, we’re tight these days, and I enjoy semi-regular chats with Him/Her. It was also not the call of the wild, or, sadly, even a call from a telemarketer. No, I got the Call From School. My son, far from being sick or being awarded some educational accolade, was being given a detention. Dammit.
I know, I know: it’s really no big deal. He’s twelve. It’s a detention, not hard time on a chain gang. But, well— it’s a detention. It’s one more thing I have to deal with.
My first impulse was to reach for my dog-eared copy of The Rule Book: A Parent’s Handy Dandy Guide to Raising Perfect Children. Oh wait— there is no such book. Or, if there is, I must have been out grabbing a cup of coffee when They (the omnipotent, omnipresent They)— I was out when all the other parents were getting their copies. As an added bonus, I had apparently also been absent when They handed out The Single Parent’s Guide as part of the divorce decree. I was on my own. Again.
Ah— the joy of single parenting. It hits at oddly, all sideways and slanted and so totally unexpected. They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you makes you stronger. Right. At this point, I am Atlas, and all I want to do is shrug.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my son, fiercely, unconditionally, wholely. There is nothing I would not do for him. But these moments, where I am so certain that I’ve committed some grievous parenting error, provided him with fodder for future therapy sessions, these are the moments I would gladly trade. These are the times I want to call for a timeout. The Universe is less than obliging.
This isn’t big stuff. Hell, the big stuff is easy. I am the Fixer of Broken Things. So I fix. I act. I do. You shoulder the big stuff because you can’t do anything less. I never realized that it would be these small moments that would trip me up, leave me clueless and frustrated and slightly panicked. You find out the hard way, when it’s 10:00 and you realize you’ve run out of cream for tomorrow’s coffee. It’s that chasm of infinite guilt as you send your kid off to school with that nasty, nagging cough because you have a meeting that you just can’tmiss. It’s not signing up for Little League because you work and who calls a practice at 4:00 in the afternoon for God’s sake, and hearing your son say, as you drive past the ball field, in that voice that’s way too mature: “It’s ok, Mommy. Maybe next year.” It’s going it alone, again, ever and always, as you try to navigate through all the lonely, silent days. It’s the easy stuff, the quiet stuff that makes it hard to breathe sometimes.
The falling apart comes later. It comes in the long, dark night of the soul, when I lie sleepless and wide-eyed and still. It is the silent rant against my Ex, who of course is absent, of course deflects and defers and derails, who doesn’t realize that twelve year olds are like puppies: you have to discipline them now because in two days it will be meaningless, they will have forgotten their misdemeanor, will have forgotten their remorse, but whom you want, please God, just this once, to show up.
And then I remember: it is a detention, nothing more. Time served, punishment meted. Small stuff.
For all that it can be sad and lonely and silent, it is small stuff. And when I gather in all these moments– not just the minor panic and small fears, but the triumphs and joys, too— I get a life. My life. Far from perfect, far from solitary. Filled with everything and then some. I remember that it is all small stuff and I am filled.
Go here to read more adventures in parenting and life and faith.
Let me tell you, I felt torn. I wanted to sell our condo so bad. I was beyond the point of desperation (or so I thought.) I dropped our home sale into every conversation, brushed up on market stats, selling trends and tips for staging and showing. I worked as hard as our realtor. When I agreed to a showing, I agreed to a perfect presentation. I also agreed to a cleaning regimen that would put Mr. Clean to shame. My house was so clean for each showing that potential buyers seemed amazed that children lived here.
The dueling voices sat on my shoulder trying to decide what to do.
Voice 1 :“It’s your birthday.”
Voice 2: “You could sell your condo today.”
Voice 1: “The housing market is dead.”
Voice 2: “You’ll still have time to enjoy your birthday.”
In the end, I chose to spend my birthday cleaning. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to jinx the results, or have people think I was crazy. I became paranoid that my cleaning wasn’t good enough. A film crew would be in my home. I contemplated vacuuming the cat to keep her from shedding that day.
I finished just minutes before our realtor arrived. I was sweaty and irritated with myself for saying yes to this slim chance that this would be our ticket out of condo hell.
Then came the waiting part. We had to stay out of the house for who knew how long. All four of us were hungry. We had plied the children with snacks until we left; afraid that lunch would a) take too long b) leave another mess to clean up and c) leave lingering cooking odors that might dissuade the couple from being interested. We hung out at the Metra train station food court, ate, and waited for the safe to return call.
I collapsed on the sofa in my clean house. I knew there would be no fancy dinner or cake to look forward to. The only signs that a film crew had been there were a few items out-of-place and some footprints in our bathtub. The worst part was that we never heard back from the program at all. Not even an air date. It all seemed like a cruel joke or a bad dream.
We did sell our condo eventually. I learned my lesson though. Birthday’s are sacred.
I have a friend who is going through some big and scary stuff: life-altering, soul-changing, potentially transformative and possibly transcendant stuff. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what will happen. I feel so alone,” she said. Her pain was palpable.
God, I know that place. That sticky, scary place. Crossroads? I wish it were as simple as that! That place isn’t a fork in the road; it is a whole service for twelve, all jumbled and junk drawer worthy, a snake pit of messy choice. It isn’t dark. Dark implies the possibility of something not-dark. This is the total absence of light. It is a teetering precipice, the pain of the present licking at your feet, coiling upwards, the fear of the unknown breathing hot and harsh on your skin.
This place is alone.
Her words take me back to my early days in a twelve step recovery program. I spent hours in the rooms, on beat-up couches, drinking horrible coffee, breathing in air that reeked of cigarette smoke and bleach. Hours upon hours of shiny happy people and their endless chatter, who had miraculously been plucked from the depths of their despair and given new life. New hope. And they passed it on to me. Headier than any wine, more intoxicating than any drink I’d ever guzzled. Hope. In the telling of their stories, I found hope.
“I’ve been there,” they all said, in some iteration or other.
No fanfare, no drama. Just this quiet moment of intimate connection. They’d all been there— that same place where I had stood, rooted and lost and broken and alone. It may have looked different from the outside– some talked of boardrooms on Wall Street, others of a curb along Madison Avenue– those exteriors were facades that hid our utter devastation from public view. How could I not find healing in these words? How could I not take hope? They sat pretty comfortably in their own skins, putting one foot in front of the other. Moving, acting, choosing, deciding. Feeling. Feeling everything. Not drinking. Not drinking. And they shared that all, with me, with each other, every day, endlessly, hour after hour. It got so I believed I could do all that too.
And then they left and I went home. Alone. Home, to an empty apartment that echoed. Home, to sit and think and climb the walls, to feel the silence pound. While I didn’t crawl into a bottle, I climbed into my head, taking strange refuge in that nightmare landscape. In the end, I stand here alone. For all their laughter and sharing and connection, I come home alone. And who will be there to catch me when I fall, when I fail?
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what will happen. I feel so alone.
That place. That fear. That place that is absent of light. I know this place all too well.
In the end, we are all of us alone. But here’s the miracle, that bit of grace within that singular moment of clarity: there are breadcrumbs. Strewn along that rocky, tortuous, treacherous path, with all its traps and quicksand and trails that go nowhere and the scary monsters who hide behind poison-spitting trees, there are breadcrumbs. There are stories and connections and hope, left for us by those who’ve gone before. And if we’re lucky— really, really lucky— there are hands to hold in the darkness, torches placed along the way.
Yes, I take my leaps alone. Yes, even now, I can stand rooted in the muddy, messy Middle, unable to go back, afraid to move forward. But there is hope. Grace. Hands to hold, torches that shine. And should I fail, should I fall, I will be caught. God, or some Higher Power whose name I don’t yet know will allow me rest and comfort until I’m ready to go it again.
I’m here, I tell my friend. Feel free to fly, to fall. To hope. I’ve been there my friend. I’ll be waiting for you, breadcrumbs in hand, and hope enough to share.
Read more about Stacey’s forays into hope and the unknown here: http://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com
Carb Face is what happens after heavy binge drinking or eating a large, lumberjack-sized meal such as, Thanksgiving or Passover.
Other culprits include: pasta, bread, Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, pizza, french fries, burgers, etc.
Rule of thumb: Anything that’s going to make your ass fat will make your face fat too.
I first learned of Carb Face in college. Oh, the glory days.
I used to take a 32oz cup, pour in 4 shots of vodka, add a bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, a generous glass of Champagne and a splash of OJ. I called this special concoction, Vodka Surprise.
The surprise was – you’d wake up the next morning and not remember a thing.
Although reflecting back it’s more like, “Surprise! You were an alcoholic!”
Did I mention this was my pre-party beverage of choice? Believe me, I’m not bragging.
Anywho, after a long night of vodka surprises, double vodka waters (yup, vodka and water), shots of tequila, beer bongs and whatever else I consumed, I’d wake up with a face the size of my ass.
Friggin’ carb face strikes again.
So what’s a gal to do? How do you recover from the Carb Face?
- Hide in bed until the swelling subsides
- Pour yourself a mimosa, and just keep on drinkin’ till you can’t see your face
Growing up, I knew cocktail hour was always at 5:30 p.m. sharp. No, I wasn’t drinking as a child, but that’s when my grandparents would have their cocktails. My grandpa would get home from work at 5:30 at which point both he and my grandma would have their respective drinks. For him? Dry gin martini, rocks, with a lemon twist. For her? As long as I could remember, it was a glass of chardonnay. (Apparently back in the day, Grandma fancied a scotch on the rocks. I think this officially makes her a bad ass. As a result of that, I have bad ass in my blood. I always knew that, though.) After my grandpa retired, cocktail hour got progressively earlier in their house. I believe it is well-settled that my grandpa can have his one (yes, he only gets one) martini at 3:30 p.m. now. My grandma will drink her chardonnay. Well, unless I have brought her some Charles Shaw. She loves that Two-Buck Chuck Merlot like nobody’s business.
It is from this background that I can make the very solemn and serious proclamation: I love a nice cocktail. I also love the resurgence of restaurants and bars going back to the classic cocktails. Whether it is a Manhattan made with cherry-infused bourbon or a Moscow Mule made with house-brewed ginger syrup (word to you, Violet Hour), I love the twists on the classic cocktails. Sadly, I cannot often afford the $14 per cocktail (again, word to YOU, Violet Hour).
Therefore, I will make another proclamation, one that is just as serious and solemn as my first: 2011 will be the year that I become master bartender in my house. No one will make a better martini than I. James-freaking-Bond will want to stop by for a night-cap. My handsome partner will love me for my Manhattans (bourbon, rocks, extra cherries) that I lovingly prepare for him on a cold winter’s evening. My dad will have to give me his killer recipe for the best Grasshoppers in the world (seriously, ice cream AND liquor? That has win all over it.) so that I might conquer that spectrum of the cocktail world. You name the classic cocktail, by the end of the year, I shall be able to make it for you.
Pardon me, I have some practicing to do. Now, if I can only find some willing guinea pigs. Send ‘em my way, will you?
Photo is property of the author.
Read more from Fabulously Awkward on her site here.
I have recently become unemployed. This is something very new to me. Unemployment and I do not go together. I was working for an advertising network for about 7 months; I was the girl that was attached to her blackberry, worked late hours, and even worked from home on evenings and weekends. I personally thought things were going well, until the president of the company dropped the bomb on me and said he had to let me go due to company lay-offs. I held myself together, refrained from tearing up, and stuffed as much of my crap as I could into an old shopping bag. I think the worst part about the entire situation was the fact that I had to pack up my things as the president of the company pretended not to watch me while he “worked” on his iPhone.
When I lost my job, I became angry. I felt that I worked too hard to be the one who was let go. I did nothing but work my tail off for that company and what did I get in return? Nothing but a shopping bag filled with office supplies. My anger soon turned into the realization that I am a confident, hardworking individual, who was a great asset to the company. Bitch mode translation: they will regret their decision.
Anyhow, I now live the life of what I like to call funemployment. I am lucky to have a couple of girlfriends who got the boot as well, so the three of us united as a team of determined, young professionals who spend several hours a day working on our computers, editing our resumes, applying to jobs, networking, and, of course, stalking on Facebook.
Although this funemployment situation has only been going on for a little over a week, I feel like it is a blessing in disguise. I have never been more organized; I have a huge to-do list hanging on my fridge. Yes, on my fridge… can you say nerd alert? I have a specific daily routine that I do every single day; I wake up every morning at 8am, work out, cook all of my own healthy meals and I have more time to write and blog. Can this situation get any worse? I always said if I become unemployed I would have a hot body, so I’m going for it by working out 5 days a week.
It took me a while to finally come to terms with my unemployment, but I am taking advantage of it. Confession: I have not come to terms with losing my mayorship on foursquare that I held for 4 consecutive months. Whatever.
So, what have I been up to besides networking the crap out of myself? I bought a crock-pot last weekend, and I can’t wait to use it and cook yummy meals for my friends. I have time to bake and send a care package to my siblings who are studying for finals. I want to go rock climbing. I want to explore the city and find unique streets and restaurants that I used to not have time to find. I also want to see that new movie Love and Other Drugs, how cute?
All and all, this unemployment situation really isn’t as bad as I thought. I am not unemployed; I am funemployed (with a little bit of work in between).
The other day, I found myself downtown Chicago. A few blocks south of the river off Michigan Avenue. My routine doctor’s appointment was scheduled for 10:30am, and my car was parked by 10:00am. Perfect. Time to spare, and only one thing on my mind – coffee.
With a three year old on my hip, I set off down the street. It was a brisk morning, so holding a warm cup of “joe” was highly anticipated. As I scanned for the green and white sign I have come to rely upon, my eye caught a glimpse of a coffee-like contraption hanging in a window. What’s that? Ah, yes! A picture of a French press and, just below it, a cozy patron sipping liquid gold from an over-stuffed chair.
Target acquired and locked.
It wasn’t my usual place, but the cold air and whimpering child in my arms suggested I try the closest alternative. As we entered the shop, the first thing I noticed was the line. Long. Really long. But, according to my previous green and white experiences, long lines often went fast. I slipped in and hoped for the best.
As I looked around, I noticed something… I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I was surrounded by very hip people. People who looked sharp, seemed sharp, and acted cool. Oversized books, drawings, and laptops covered the little tables as people were meeting and working. Hipster #1 moved his front bicycle tire out of the way so Hipster #2 could sit down. Funky girl by the window was busy writing in a journal with her fingerless gloves. There was this cool, older guy in the corner who looked like a handsome professor-type.
Where was I? Never mind. It was my turn to order.
Me: “Hi. Can I please have a venti non-fat vanilla latte?”
Him: “Uh… what’s a venti??”
(Clearly, the part of my brain that orders from the green and white place forgot to turn itself off.)
Me: “Oh, sorry. I mean, a large non-fat vanilla latte.”
Me: “Yes. Non-fat.”
Him: “Uh… we don’t have non-fat milk. Only Vitamin D and 2%.”
(WHAT?! Was this place stuck in the 80’s??)
Me: “Oh. Okay. I guess 2%. And, a kid’s vanilla soy steamer for him.”
Him: “Soy steamer??”
(Here we go again.)
Me: “I mean, a small, warm vanilla soy milk.”
Him (with attitude): “Oh… right.”
A little annoyed, I dove right into the large group of patrons who were waiting for their over-priced coffees to be served. I began regretting not holding out for old faithful – the green and white coffee shop – but, couldn’t shake the feeling that this place was onto something. Like, everyone there was in on some secret. As though they were a part of some strange coffee society.
As I stood there, I tried to blend in as much as possible. Workin’ it in my hippest mommy clothes I only wear to the city. It’s hard to look cool, however, when you’re prying your three year old away from a revolving door. I felt lots of hard stares and rolling eyes as my little man began to get restless. This was not a child-friendly zone.
Five minutes passed… 10 minutes passed… 15 minutes passed…
What was taking so long? In 3 more minutes, I would have officially been late for my appointment and, at that point, any warm, caffeinated beverage would have sufficed.
As I inspected behind the coffee bar, I searched for signs of an espresso machine malfunction or short staff. Instead, I noticed the barista. He wasn’t working three different orders at once. He attended to only one drink at a time. He carefully steamed the milk, poured the shots, and scooped the foam. He seemed so proud of his work when he was through. Each latte that came off the bar was like his own personal work of art.
My order was finally up. With a quick “thank you”, I grabbed the drinks and jetted out the door to my appointment. Not even a sip to check if it was the right one. I figured, I’ve already waited 20 minutes for this latte, what’s a few more?
Once we reached the waiting room of the doctor’s office, I was happy to unload my son and send him off to the coloring table. I put down my bag, removed my coat, and sunk into a chair. As I picked up the warm cup, I smiled at the thought of the recent escapade and murmured, “This better be one damn good cup of coffee…”
Photo by El Gregein from Flickr