Tag Archives: housewives

Give me liberty, or give me naps!

Wow, my arm is really getting tired . . .

Wow, my arm is really getting tired . . .

When the alarm goes off in the morning, and your brain’s cells begin to stir, a myriad of possible “first thoughts” might pop into your head.

“The minivan needs gas for the morning car pool.” “Should I forgive my husband for the fight we had last night?” “Don’t forget to get something for Father’s Day.” “I wonder if Junior will pass his Calculus exam.”

None of these early morning contemplations can accurately predict the course of the rest of your day, but there is one particular “first thought” that is a definite Red Flag. If you wake up in the morning, and think, “I need a nap,” you can bet your overpriced wrinkle cream that the rest of your day is pretty much gonna blow.

I know this, because that is exactly what I’ve been thinking lately. I’ve been dragging my weary bones out of bed all week, when all I want to do is crawl back under the covers and hide from the inevitable calamity of my unmanageable schedule.

Is it the exams, events and final grade panic of the end of the school year that’s got me wanting to stay in bed? Well, not quite. Is it my son’s Eagle Scout Ceremony, which we insanely decided to host at our house this weekend for over 50 people? Well, not exactly. Is it the fact that my husband is being wined and dined all week while on a work trip in South America while I am left driving this runaway train? Well, yes, but not entirely.

Or could it be that we are moving to Rhode Island in a few days, and we’re nowhere near ready? Well, yeah, maybe. Or is it the fact that I am frantically scribbling this column on a legal pad at Starbucks, because I just killed my laptop when I knocked my coffee onto the keyboard 12 minutes ago, and fear that I might have to use my thumbs to tap this thing into my Smartphone to get it to the editors? Hell yes, truth be told.

But it’s not any one thing that has me dreaming of naps. It’s the totality of my circumstances as a middle-aged Navy wife and mother of three teens.

Recently, I was lamenting my to my neighbor, a 25 year Navy wife with two grown boys, when she validated my malaise. “Yea, I remember when the boys were in high school,” she said, “and I told my husband one day, ‘I’m exhausted.’ He told me to go take a nap, and I told him, ‘No, I mean, I’m globally tired after 18 years of raising kids. Thirty minutes of shut eye ain’t gonna cut it.’”

Ironically, now that her boys have flown the coop and she’s an empty nester, she’s napping more than ever, just because she can.

The rest of us middle-aged moms must keep slogging along, waiting for the day when our schedules ease up enough that we can enjoy the luxury of a delicious afternoon nap. In the meantime, we can take comfort in the [slightly modified] immortal words of poet Emma Lazarus, thoughtfully inscribed on the base of our Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your befuddled housewives yearning to break free,
With wretched refuse in their teeming heads.
Send these, the napless, tempest-tost to me,
And I’ll tuck them all into their comfy beds!”

Feel free to soil yourself

When the kids were little, I used to be good at things. I was organized, talented, nurturing, patient, creative, hard-working, energetic, and my bust stuck out farther than my gut. I was a good Navy wife, homeroom mom, team mom, committee chair, and block captain. I gardened, made healthy meals, kept my checkbook balanced, exercised regularly, scrapbooked, sewed, and was generally a damned good housewife.

But after 10 or so years of that, I started getting kinda tired. Not only was my energy level diminishing with each passing year, but my enthusiasm for the mundane everyday details of homemaking was taking a major dive. Making the kids’ Halloween costumes just didn’t thrill me anymore. The lemony smell of a disinfected bathroom had lost it’s luster. I bought a box of Hamburger Helper for the first time in my life, and felt not a twinge of guilt.

To make matters worse, my once lovey-dovey cuddle bug kids were no longer running out of school with their arms open wide yelling, “Hi Mom!” No, they were getting older and had effectively demoted me from “Center of The Universe” to “That Lady Who Feeds Us.”

I found myself seeking out activities that gave me a feeling of self-worth. I leafed through an old High School Physics text book I found in my in laws’ basement, and became hell bent on reading Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Greene. But I soon realized that no one at Bunco or Book Club was interested in chatting about String Theory and Quantum Physics.

I tried to fulfill a life-long dream by signing up for sailing lessons at the base marina. However, I almost drowned when I took a Lazer out during a small craft advisory, capsized, and nearly ran the boat onto the rocks.

Finally, while my husband was on a year-long deployment, I tried my hand at writing funny essays. I entered a “Guest Columnist Competition” through the Virginian Pilot newspaper, and although my entries made the semi-finals, I didn’t make the final cut. Despite an editor’s critique which will be burned into my brain for all time (“too sociological and a bit preachy”), I found the process of writing columns strangely rewarding.

My husband returned from deployment, and while we should’ve been getting to know each other again, we were packing up and moving overseas. After settling in to our new life in Germany, I sent one of my columns out to a few newspapers just to see what might happen, and don’tcha know it, The Washington Post published it. Yup, outta the blue. Pretty cool…. but now what?

I started this blog and began submitting my columns to newspapers and magazines, in hopes that I might actually become a legitimate columnist. It seemed that, the more driven I became, the more bad news I learned about the industry. “Newspapers are dying, magazines aren’t taking humor submissions, no one will pay you, the industry is saturated with bloggers, you need to know HTML, social media, and SEO or you will never amount to anything.”  All signs were indicating, “Turn around, go back, save yourself.”  I soon had enough rejection letters to wallpaper the bathroom, but I kept at it.

Why?

No, it’s not the “love of writing.” I once heard a true story about a syndicated humor columnist who was in a bar having drinks with his agent. He was approached by a prostitute who said she would do anything for $100. The columnist took a $100 bill out of his wallet, held it up and shouted, “Thank you, Sweet Jesus!” He then turned to the prostitute and said, “Now, go write my Sunday column.” That pretty much sums it up for me.

What keeps me going is not the writing itself, but the effect my writing has on others. I just write sappy little humor columns, so it’s not like I’m changing the world here, but if I make someone laugh, it absolutely makes my day.

Some of my best reader comments have been things like, “I TOTALLY relate!”, “LOL!”, “Snorted coffee out of my nose!” and “Just peed a little!” So I guess you could say that I write to make other bored housewives laugh at themselves, wax nostalgic, and lose control of all bodily functions. Perhaps the readers’ reactions serve as a replacement for the genuine appreciation I used to get from my kids …. or perhaps I just think it’s funny that you sprayed Diet Coke all over your keyboard. Either way, I’ll keep writing as long as you keep laughing.

If my columns ever made you soil yourself, please vote for The Meat and Potatoes of Life as Top Military Mom Blog on CircleofMoms.com.  Just click the pretty pink circle below.

Riding the Gravy Train

They don’t want to clean your toilets. They don’t want to watch your kids. They don’t want to do your laundry. And they certainly don’t want to give you a sponge bath.

After major medical events such as childbirth or surgery, most neighbors want to help out in one way – by cooking food.

They cook banana bread and baked ziti. They cook chili and chicken casserole. They cook potatoes au gratin and pork chops. They cook and they cook and they cook.

The idea is simple — the neighbors take on the responsibility for feeding the family so the mother can recuperate – but hidden below such seemingly uncomplicated philanthropic events are surprisingly complex group dynamics.

As soon as my neighbors found out about my recent surgery, they quickly mobilized. Like Ralph in Lord of the Flies, one energetic neighbor assumed the roll of leader, and blew her proverbial conch. By the time I emerged from the hospital and my Percocet-induced haze, there were people assigned to bring us ten days of meals. Thanks to the unbridled generosity of my neighbors, I’ve been lazing around like a slug for days, just like the doctor ordered.

This is not the first time neighbors have cooked for us after a hospitalization.  After the birth of my second child, the wives of my husband’s command insisted on providing two full weeks of dinners. I tried to tell them it was completely unnecessary because my mother had flown in and my husband had taken two weeks of leave, but I was told by these military wives, “This is what we do. You have no choice in the matter.”

So they cooked, and they cooked and they cooked, and we got used to it real quick.

There were chicken enchiladas with all the fixins. There were baked potatoes with chili, cheese, and corn bread. There was beef bourguignon with cream puffs and chocolate sauce for dessert.

As the days passed, we started growing accustomed to having home cooked meals delivered to our door. We started checking our watches and saying things like, “Where the heck are they? I’m getting hungry.”  We started scrutinizing and comparing each meal. By the middle of the second week, we were secretly ranking the meals with an intricate rating system based on quantity, taste and creativity.

It may have been thirteen years ago, but I will never forget the meal that received our worst rating. It came in three 8 x 8 foil pans, which we knew right away could not hold enough food for our gluttonous appetites.

Upon peeling back the foil from the first pan, we noticed that it contained a meager casserole consisting of an unseasoned layer of white rice, topped sparingly with crumbled ground beef and green pepper strips, adhered together with what appeared to be cream of mushroom soup. From its weight, we thought the next pan was empty but found that it held a salad of sorts made of the thick colorless center leaves of iceberg lettuce, some carrot disks, and more of those sad green pepper strips.

But the worst was yet to come. The last foil pan contained “dessert.” While it is true that a great dessert can compensate for a bad meal, this poor excuse for a dessert was merely the nail in the coffin. Inside the pan were a dozen pre-fab shortening-laden canned cinnamon rolls. How that qualifies for dessert, I’ll never know, but to make matters considerably worse, they were burnt on the bottom

Without so much as a nibble, we threw the whole meal out onto our compost heap and dug happily into the remaining chicken enchiladas.

Thankfully, our newfound smugness dissipated as quickly as the leftovers, and we realized how fortunate we were to have been treated so indulgently by our fellow military families.

About a year later, another military wife had a baby, and I offered to cook. Apparently, this particular wife was quite popular, and had been inundated with calls. I was referred to her “meal coordinator,” who told me that the schedule was full. I did not make the cut. “Are you kidding me?” I thought, “I can’t even cook a flipping pan of brownies?”  I felt lost and rejected, and secretly dropped off a bundt cake, just to ease my own suffering.

These experiences taught me that there is a basic human need to cook for women who have been in the hospital. The cooking is both healing for the recipient of the meals, and cathartic to the concerned cookers.

So if you have been in the hospital and your neighbors offer to cook, accept their generosity and be grateful. The gravy train doesn’t come around often, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Potatoes au gratin by sa

Image via Wikipedia

Sick Fantasies

I am a frustrated housewife. I’ll admit it. As much as I’d like to say that my mind is solely preoccupied with nurturing thoughts about my family, I must confess that I have a dark side.

I have fantasies. Sick fantasies.

It all started after many years of housewivery, when I realized that there really was no end in sight. No end to the dirty socks, the crumbs, the dog hair, the car pools, the homework, the soap scum, the grocery shopping. My daily tasks were not only completely devoid of mental stimulation, they never seemed to be done. Never.

No sooner would I wipe a glob of toothpaste from inside the kids’ sink, when another one would appear. Dust particles descended stealthily through the air every second of the day, making a mockery of my weekly furniture polishing. I swore the dirty laundry was breeding in its baskets just to spite me. If I had a nickel for every time I thought the house was clean, and then saw a tumbleweed of dog hair blow across the floor, I’d be rich.

I started to realize that I was on a never-ending treadmill of mind-numbingly boring and mundane daily chores. Even vacations didn’t seem to bring relief because our family trips were a heck of a lot of work, and I found myself saying things afterward like, “Sheesh, I need a vacation from our vacation.”

Then one day, most likely while wiping spaghetti sauce splatter off the inside of the microwave for the umpteenth time, my mind began to wander. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain, a wicked thought was hatched.

What if, just what if, I sustained some kind of non-life-threatening injury or illness that would require me to be in the hospital for a couple weeks, I thought, and my eyes widened at the exciting prospect of mandatory bed rest, three squares a day, and my family forced to fend for itself.

But what kind of non-life-threatening injury or illness? I wondered. Perhaps a large can of pumpkin could fall from the pantry, striking me in the head and causing amnesia for which I would need monitoring in the hospital? Nah, too far-fetched. Maybe I could trip on one of the kids’ scooters in the driveway and break a hip? Nah, too painful. What if I got a bad batch of wrinkle cream from the drug store that caused my skin to fall off? Nah, too disfiguring.

This little “what if” game became its own welcome escape from my daily grind, and I found myself having fun trying to think of the perfect hospitalization fantasy. But before I could fine-tune my dream, the fantasy became a reality when my doctor scheduled me for minor “lady surgery” requiring an overnight hospital stay and two weeks of bed rest at home.

While fantasizing, I may have rejected this type of situation as “too embarrassing,” but I’ll take what I can get. So grab me some pain meds and let the laundry be damned. I’m gonna milk this for all it’s worth.

WANTED: Mom Manager

I was late for the meeting. Again.

With an armful of crumpled papers, I pulled my calendar from its tack on the wall, and rushed down the hall. Sheepishly, I found a seat at the table, spread my papers out around me, and began with as much authority as I could muster:

“This meeting is called to order at, let’s see, twelve minutes after nine. If you don’t mind, I would prefer that these weekly organizational sessions start promptly at the top of the hour. Now, without any further delay, let’s get right down to business.”

“The van still needs new brakes, and if you wait much longer, you’ll be paying for rotors too. Hayden has Driver’s Ed on Tuesday at 4:30, but you must somehow get Anna to her orthodontist appointment at 4:45. The checkbook hasn’t been balanced in three months, which might explain why you bounced a check last week,” I continued.

“Francis is on his last pair of clean underwear today, so please put a load of hot whites in at your earliest convenience. Dinghy is due for his monthly flea treatment. You must write two articles this week. The repairman is coming on Thursday between eight and two to fix the washing machine. And you need to get serious about that diet. Now, how do you plan to get all that done?” I finished, and took a slurp of coffee.

Crickets.

No one responded, because no one was there. I was having my weekly meeting with myself, and as usual, I had no idea how to answer my own demands.

I scribbled a “To Do” list, marked a few things on the calendar, and then went about my day, determined to get it all done this time.

But deep inside, I knew the inevitable pattern of my life would repeat itself again. My week would start out OK, productive even. But soon, something would crop up to throw me off track – a school project, a sick kid, writer’s block. One item on my To Do list would collide into the next, and the ensuing pile up would become overwhelming, causing a strange contradictory reaction in whereby I would completely shut down and get nothing done.

By Thursday, my husband would come home from work to find no dinner, the kids run amuck, and me, dazed and unshowered, draped over my computer chair where I have been surfing vintage Tupperware on e-Bay for the last three hours.

Recently, I decided I’d had enough, and set about figuring out: what fundamental flaw in my character has made it so difficult for me to keep up with my responsibilities as a housewife and mother?

After some thought, and half a box of Cheese Nips, I realized that I have always been a follower, not a leader. An Indian, not a Chief. A Workerbee, not the Queen.

I’m not lazy. I’m not incompetent. I’m not disorganized. I just need a supervisor, a boss, a Manager to watch over me and keep me on track.

Ahh, how different things would be with a Manager to offer clear direction and guidance. Of course, I would subject myself to periodic evaluation and take whatever criticism my Manager might propose.

“Ms. Molinari,” my Manager might say, “While it is clear that you are no stranger to hard work, there is room for improvement in the areas of task prioritization, self motivation and personal hygiene. It is my recommendation that you avoid distractions from your daily priorities such as TJ Maxx, free samples in the grocery store, and mid-day reruns of ‘Mob Wives.’ Also, it would be highly advisable that you start showering every morning.”

But I have to face reality. Unless I find someone willing to be compensated in laundry services and meatloaf, I can’t afford a Manager. I am the Manager, and I have to take responsibility, darn it.

Even if it feels like I’m constantly being dragged through life behind my dirty white minivan, I’ll continue this never-ending game of catch up until my job is done. I’ll try to avoid getting tangled in the minutiae – the e-mails, the dust bunnies, the bills, the burnt dinners, the dark roots – and focus on the big picture: Keeping my family happy and healthy.

The value of our shares may fluctuate day by day, but long-term analysis indicates that this family is on an upward trend. Our employees may complain from time to time, but all in all they report excellent job satisfaction. Management lacks efficiency when it comes to goal attainment, but she is dedicated, sincere, and works overtime and on weekends without pay.

Final recommendation: Despite its flaws, this family business is thriving, so there is no immediate need for a change in management.

Exposed: Filthy Secrets of A Modern Housewife

Every morning at about nine-o-clock, a little ray of sunshine comes through the window of my kitchen and ruins my life. It taunts me, mocks me, and points a gleaming spotlight directly on my flaws, exposing them to the world.

I am not sure if that beam of light is a random act of nature, or a call to action. All I know is that it shines right on what I thought was my relatively clean floor, clearly magnifying a shocking amount of dog hair, fuzz, crumbs and dirt.

Each time this truth is revealed, I grimace and run to the laundry room to grab the broom, mop and dustpan. As the shaft of light moves around the room, I follow it, frantically extracting the newly discovered filth.

Some days, I wonder if my reaction to this exposure is healthy. Do a few crumbs really matter in the whole scheme of things? Is there something wrong with me because I want my floor to be clean? Am I “anal-retentive?” Do I have OCD?

Over the years, philosophies on the importance of cleanliness have run the gamut. The best-known adage, “cleanliness is next to godliness,” has biblical roots, and similar proverbs about the spiritual benefits of being physically clean are found in both the Talmud and the Koran.

Now that Leprosy and The Plague are no longer a worry, the maxims of modern society attach a negative stigma to cleanliness as if it were a disease itself. Refrigerator magnets tell us, “Immaculate homes are run by dull women.” Paperweights and coffee cups suggest, “An untidy desk is a sign of genius.”

Somewhere in the 1980s, use of the Freudian term “anal retentive” became trendy, showing up in “you might be” lists and Saturday Night Live skits making fun of people who thrive on order and control. Similarly, the psychological label “obsessive-compulsive disorder” has become a part of pop culture, as evidenced by the fact that it is the primary feature in TV shows like “Monk,” “Obsessed,” and “The OCD Project.”

Today, one can’t wash one’s hands without being labeled a “germophobe.” One can’t dust the knick knacks for the risk of being branded dull and boring. One can’t reorganize the junk drawer without being called “anal-retentive” or “OCD.” But, do these popular terms really just provide the Me Generation with another excuse to be selfish by implying that cleanliness is a sign of dysfunction or lifelessness?

During bunco last week, some wives and I chatted during a break in play.

“I hate dusting,” I said, and a few others agreed.

“How about stubble in the sink, drives me crazy.”

“But hair on the bathroom floor is the worst,” another wife offered, and we all gave approving nods.

“Guys don’t even notice. There could be tumbleweeds of hair rolling around on the tile, and he will still stand there, obliviously rubbing his hairy rear end with a towel.” Shaking our heads, we all felt her pain.

The banter went on, covering issues such as the dehydrated peas and carrots under the fridge, the dust on the fan blades, the unmentionable substances behind the toilet seat, and gloppy hairballs in the drains. We all agreed that there is nothing more satisfying than putting the crevice tool on a Shop Vac and sucking it all up – the dust, the hair, the old candy wrappers under our teenage sons’ beds, and the peanuts between the couch cushions. None of us was ashamed or embarrassed to admit it – we like our houses to be clean and tidy.

Notwithstanding the negative stereotype good housekeeping has been assigned by pop culture, the fact remains that most people want to live in a tidy house. Despite modern society’s attempts to grant merit to tolerating mess, the virtues of cleanliness persist.

That is the truth that is illuminated every day by that pesky little ray of sunlight that shines through my window. Call it godliness or OCD, as long as the sun continues to shine, I will run and get my broom. 

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