Slightly Insane Mom

"All mothers are slightly insane." –J.D. Salinger
October 17th, 2017 by Molly

Me, Too (A Partial Accounting)

That time when:

I made the “honk your horn” gesture to a truck driver while I was on a field trip, and he made an obscene gesture back. Age 8.

A grown man asked me out on a date when I was 10.

I got catcalled at age 12.

A boy grabbed my hand and placed it on his crotch at age 13.

A female massage therapist touched my breasts, age 15.

A boy grabbed my breast in the crowded hallway in high school.

A high school boyfriend didn’t stop.

A car salesman asked me for a blow job while I was at work at a car dealership, age 16.

A high school ex’s friends called me a bitch and a cunt loudly, while I was in the other room crying.

Two boys in a car followed me home one night from my job at the mall, mid-college. They yelled obscenities at me out their car windows. They vandalized my car with obscene words. And the police wouldn’t let me press charges because the boys were on the football team, promised they wouldn’t do it again, and “boys will be boys.”

I got hired for an internship, and was later told it was because I was wearing a short skirt.

A boyfriend called me names, including sexually explicit words.

A friend makes a rape joke.

Yes, me, too.

 

 

 

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February 13th, 2017 by Molly

To Mischief, on the Occasion of your Fourth Birthday

Dear Mischief,

When your brother and sister were born, I diligently wrote out their “birth stories”–the epic tales of woe and womanhood that defined me as Mother. They were easy to write and I derived a lot of pleasure from them. But when you were born, it was different. One year, passed, then two, three. I couldn’t talk about your birth. Sure, I could tell people the basic details, but to describe what it was like to be there? The words just wouldn’t come.

In ten years, you may read this and think I’m tragically lame, but I cried on the way to our front door today after dropping you off at preschool. The idea that you’re off in the world without me for 2.5 hours on your birthday seems almost unbearable. I cried because I think I’m finally ready to tell you how you were born.

The first thing you need to know is that I had a rare genetic condition that affects less than 1% of the pregnant population. This condition is called ICP, short for Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. The details are unimportant, but basically, it makes a pregnant mother’s liver go nuts and attack the baby. Long and short of it is, you (and to a lesser extent, I) were in danger from the second I was diagnosed at 31 weeks pregnant.

After my diagnosis, things went into overdrive. For the next three weeks, I saw my Obstetrician weekly, a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist weekly, and twice a week I went to the hospital for ultrasounds and nonstress tests (and no, I’ve never understood the name of that test. I was stressed, you were stressed. Shouldn’t it be a stress test?). You became a lazy baby, rarely moving. During the nonstress tests, the nurses would make me move from side to side, drink juice, jiggle my belly, all in the hopes of getting you to respond. I got steroid shots in my posterior to help your lungs develop. I scheduled an elective c-section for 36 weeks. The doctors didn’t think you would survive an induction, so we chose the safest route. But you had other plans.

At 34 weeks, I was lying in bed, beached whale style, lamenting to Daddy that I just had a bad feeling about things. I felt guilty. My liver, MY liver, was causing all of this stress on you. My own body, the thing that was supposed to be your safe harbor until you came into the world, was pushing you out into stormy seas. The guilt was immense.

At around 7:30 you stopped moving. At 11:30 we went to the hospital, where they hooked me up to the monitors and called my doctor. I spent eight hours not feeling you move, and watching the monitors for signs that you were still with me. Your heart rate would be steady, then suddenly drop. Back up, steady, drop. Over and over again for eight hours. My doctor came in at 7:30 and said, “The baby has to come out now.” I called Grandma M and Grandpa B, and Daddy called Grandma L. We asked them to pray. I messaged my friend LA and told her what was happening, and asked her if she would ask our friends to pray. I’m not sure I even believe in God, but at that point I needed all the help I could get.

They wheeled me back toward the operating room, and at that point they split us up–I was wheeled into the OR, and Daddy was taken to put on a sterile gown. They kept Daddy out of the room while they put the spinal in my back, and oh, how I wish he were there. Not for the spinal. I had had epidurals before. I knew what to expect. They had me sit up and bend forward over my giant belly. A nurse held me while the doctor placed the spinal. That part was fine. But as this was going on, another nurse said, “I can’t find the heartbeat.” And time stopped. There was no pain in my back. There were no bright operating lights. There were no people bustling around. It was just me and the nameless nurse, who held me and smoothed my hair while I sobbed on her shoulder over my baby who was gone. Because at that point I felt so sure I had lost you. So sure I was no longer your port in the storm. I held onto one speck of hope, one tiny bit, so that I could look positive when Daddy came back in.

And so I tried. I told him I was ready. I told him I was excited to meet our baby.

The doctors cut me open and pulled you out with brutal speed. I saw a brief flash of your bluish-purple body as you were quickly ushered over to a bed and half a dozen doctors and nurses surrounded you. After a minute, I heard the most
beautiful sound I will ever hear–your first cry. Tiny, like a new kitten. They let Daddy hold you briefly so I could see you, and I got to touch your perfect face and hold your perfect hand, and then you were gone, whisked away to the NICU.

It took another 12 hours before I could even sit up to be able to be wheeled to the NICU to visit you. You were so tiny and precious, and hooked up to more machines and instruments than I knew existed for tiny babies. So many moms I’ve seen talk about how disappointed they were that they didn’t get to hold their baby immediately after birth. I had to wait 12 hours to see my baby, and I got to touch you through a hole in the incubator wall. Life lesson: recognize your blessings when they come. I touched you for a moment, then swooned, the stress of the surgery and the difficulty of sitting upright after major surgery proving just too much for me. I wouldn’t see you again until the following morning.

The next two weeks were a lot of hard work, Mischief. Mommy and Daddy took turns going to the hospital to see you, and staying at home to take care of Sunshine and Snowflake. We learned the special ways to hold you and feed you, such a tiny, weak little creature you were. And you spent two weeks hooked up to tubes and machines to make you well enough to come home with us, which you finally did at your gestational age of 36 weeks. (To this day, Mischief, I take your age and subtract 6 weeks to figure out how old you “really” are. I think I’ll probably be doing that when you’re in college.)

And then you came home. Mommy healed up, with no lasting effects from the ICP. You have some issues. You walk a little goofy, and your speech was delayed, and you have some sensory processing problems. You just got glasses because your eyes don’t focus well, but darned if you aren’t the cutest thing ever with them on.

So there’s your story, my love. Only four years late. If you ever doubt how much Mommy loves you, just read this. You’ll know, my son.

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February 8th, 2017 by Molly

Welcome to the Psych Ward: Bend and Spread ‘Em

Congratulations! You just tried to kill yourself! You’ve won a one-way ticket to the inpatient ward of Shady Pines Hospital. Oh, don’t worry! You won’t be here forever. Only until your hospital-appointed psychiatrist whom you’ve never met decides you’re well enough to leave. But enough talking! Step right this way…

This is our conference room. First, let’s go over some paperwork. This one is where you sign waiving your right to leave of your own accord. Next, you’ll waive your right to sue us should anything go awry in your treatment. Oh, and here is where you sign your consent to let us restrain or sedate you if necessary. Lastly, this is where you sign to waive your Second Amendment right to ever again purchase or own a gun. We understand you never owned or wanted one anyway, but one can never be too careful, can one?

Louise Fletcher and Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to kiss your loved one goodbye. You’ll see him again in a few days during visitors hours. Alright, now just step through these doors. I know the door seems heavy and the locking mechanism is rather loud, but it’s all for your protection, we promise. We wouldn’t want you trying to leave now, would we?

Next, we’ll have you turn in those hoodies you packed so we can cut the strings out, and all the long socks, and all of your makeup and personal hygiene products. Maybe we’ll give you some of those back. We’ll see. We don’t want you hanging yourself by your crew socks, of course!

If you could just step right into this room over here, take off all your clothes, and put on this hospital gown… Now, we’ll need you to open your mouth and stick out your tongue. Now squat and cough. Next, bend over and spread your buttocks while we shine this flashlight on you. And please, try not to feel violated. It is for your safety, after all.

Here you go, into your new room! No, there’s no bathroom door, just a foam-and-vinyl flap that sometimes stays shut. But don’t worry, the men and women who stay in this hallway try not to pay attention to what happens in the bathrooms. And here is your roommate, Angie! She talks to herself and snores like a chainsaw, but other than that, she’s quite nice.

Since you’re new here, you won’t be allowed to leave the ward for meal times. But it’s turkey dinner night! We know it’s not optimal, but it really is for your safety.

Here are the phones. If you want a handset, you need to ask at the front desk. After all, you could strangle someone with the cord or beat someone to death with the handset. So, for your safety, you’ll have to ask for permission to use the phone.

Well, that’s about it! Enjoy your stay, try not to make Angie angry (she’s a little temperamental!), and of course, here are your meds. Welcome to the psych ward!

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January 4th, 2017 by Molly

All the Things I Couldn’t Say

You’re probably familiar with the movie Finding Nemo. There’s a scene where Nemo’s dad Marlon brings Nemo to his first day of school. All the other fish dads are there at drop-off, and when they see Marlon, they say “Hey, a clownfish! You must be really funny! Tell us a joke, clownfish!” But Marlon can’t, because he’s got his own problems to deal with at the moment.

That’s how the past couple years have been. I recognize that I am funny, and I have a particular voice, but I’ve been through some things over the past two years that I’ve been unable to put into words using a comedic slant. This post is about those things. It’s just a short list, with more details to (hopefully) come on some of the items.

Maybe, or maybe not, I will someday tell you about:

  1. That time when I lost 125 pounds in nine months, and lost my sense of self in the process. The feeling of not recognizing the person looking back at me in the mirror. The sense of being scared of what I have become. What happens when moving around in the world no longer feels the same when all the padding has been stripped away. How differently I got treated once I lost weight, and my inability to reconcile that with what I know of both strangers and familiars.
  2. Moving to a new town. Being flat-out broke in a wealthy town, like Slums of Beverly Hills. Relocating three kids. Panic attacks galore. The difficulty of making new friends. Moving to a new town, hoping to put past friendship pitfalls aside, and discovering I carried them with me anyway.

    Natasha Lyonne in Slums of Beverly Hills. Approximately what I looked like on moving day.

  3. That time I had myself admitted to the psych ward, making this possibly the most prophetic blog name in history. The things they took away from me. The door that locked behind me. The rights I signed away. The people I met, with their cuts and their bruises and their scars, outside and in. The surprising feeling of belonging and the regret to leave.
  4. A diagnosis that changed my life, changed who I am, how I see myself, and yet, made everything make sense. History falling into place. The friends I lost because of my mental health, both the ones I pushed away, and the ones who dropped me when it all got to be too much. Medications. Brain changes. Life disrupted. Having to put everything on hold, including caring for my own children, to care for myself for a change. Realizing just how fucked up I am. That time I wondered how many Tylenol it takes to kill a 145-pound woman. See aforementioned psych ward admittance.
  5. That time my son sustained such a bad concussion in gym class it made his brain bleed, and he was hospitalized for two days for observation. How amazing his gym coach was through the experience. How his principal didn’t bother to call. What it’s like to realize your son doesn’t recognize you. Misplaced, illogical guilt that is the burden of all mothers.
  6. Realizing my second son, Mr. Mischief, is a Special Snowflake like his brother. See aforementioned motherhood guilt.
  7. Random medical crap. Fucked up thyroid. Fucked up headaches. Bloodwork and ultrasounds and biopsies galore.
  8. Losing my last two grandparents in the span of less than two months. Gaining a long lost cousin. Family memories, and the heartbreak of realizing all that I’ve lost.

So that’s my short list. 2016 sucked. I’m glad it’s over. But maybe I’ll get my act together with blogging this year so I can tell you more about some of these things, and possibly get back to my old clownfish self again.

 

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October 30th, 2014 by Molly

Party Planning Hell: A Scary Halloween Tale, Mom-Style

Against my better judgment, I volunteered to be a party mom for Sunshine’s class Halloween party. The first indication I had that this event was Not Your Mother’s Halloween Party was the email from the “Party Planning Committee Chair,” notifying me that I was to attend the Official Halloween Party Planning Meeting in the Cafeteria on Some Date I Don’t Remember Because I Have Three Kids.

Now, let me preface this whole thing with a little reminiscence. Do you remember classroom Halloween parties in the 80s? You wore your costume to school. A basic Level 1 costume was some sort of polyester getup your parents bought at Walgreens. It included a mask with tiny slits to see and even tinier slits to breathe. Level 2 involved full face paint, probably containing some variety of carcinogens, and possibly fake teeth. Level 3, the Gold Level, was the Homemade By Moms Who Could Actually Sew costume, the Costume That Also Involves an Elaborate Hairdo Sprayed with Rave or AquaNet, or the Costume Constructed from Cardboard and Spray Paint Made By a Dad with Engineering Skills. (There were also a few kids with “participation ribbon” costumes. You know, the ones who phoned it in with a “hobo” costume with a flannel shirt and a bandana on a stick, or a “bum” costume with a trash bag with holes cut out for the arm and neck holes.) But I digress. At your typical 80s Halloween party, there was some candy, donated by generous parents or broke teachers. You may have sat at your desk and eaten candy, and may have done a Halloween-themed crossword or word search (run off on the Ditto machine, of course). And then you went home and Trick or Treated without your parents, after dark, then came home and ate yourself into a candy coma. Ah, the memories!

But I digress. Back to the Party Planning Meeting. The cafeteria was organized with each group of classroom moms at their own table. Our table was set with a folder containing several documents outlining the party planning policies and procedures. Sunshine’s class had 5 moms signed up for the party planning committee. Me, Samantha, Danielle, Angela, and Becky. After waiting 10 minutes past the Official Start Time of the meeting, Becky was a no-show, so the rest of us plowed ahead. The instructions in our folder told us that the party would be 2 hours long. The children are not allowed to wear their costumes to school, of course. Back in the 80s, before No Child Left Untested, we didn’t know how distracting those padded He-Man chests and pointy witch hats were. Now we know better, so we make the children change into their costumes at school. So, 15 minutes for getting dressed. 30 minutes for the Costume Parade around the track outside. Which leaves one hour, 15 minutes left, to be divided into 15 minute time slots, all of which need to be detailed on the Party Schedule Sheet, which must be approved in advance by the teacher.

The first 15-minute time slot is obviously devoted to the Nutritious Snack That Isn’t Candy. Our committee chose an oh-so-Pinterest-worthy snack: Banana “ghosts” with tangerine “pumpkins,” a whimsical and healthy morsel found on a cooking website for moms with too much time on their hands (See below.) The ghosts and pumpkins will be served with a side of pretzels. The remaining four 15-minute time slots are devoted to “stations,” in which the kids will participate in Festive Themed Activities. Our stations include a Pumpkin Ring Toss (good for building hand-eye coordination), a Cauldron Game (sensory activity!), and a toilet paper mummy game (look at those gross motor skills!). I will be at the helm of the craft station.

from weelicious.com

from weelicious.com

Now, I am not crafty by any stretch of the imagination. Crafty moms are able to bring in a box of toilet paper rolls (which they are ALWAYS saving JUST IN CASE a craft opportunity should arise), bottle caps, and glue dots and have the kids create 3-story haunted houses. Uncrafty moms such as myself go on Oriental Trading (and for log’s sake, WHEN is this company going to change it’s name to something less racist?), spend $50, and end up with a bunch of shit for the kids to string into necklaces. But hey, fine motor skill development!

So we fill out our Party Schedule Sheet, plus our Snack Sheet which details all food being served, to cross-reference with any possible food allergies.

Then there is the list of supplies. I was in charge of creating the supply donation list on VolunteerSpot, a completely ingenious website designed to guilt parents into donating stuff to their kids’ classrooms. This website is fantastic. You input the specific supplies and quantities you need for the party. In our case, the list includes things like “Set of 30 small plastic Halloween-themed toys–3 quantity” and “24 pack mini bottled water–2 quantity.” And–here is the genius part–the list gets emailed to all the parents, and when they log on, they can see what needs to be donated, and also who donated what. So what happens is, Billy’s mom will log on and see that Sally’s mom has already signed up for 2 sets of party favors. Not to be outdone, Billy’s mom will sign up to donate all the paper goods. I’ve often logged onto the site and had the following conversation with myself: “I hope I can donate the plates and napkins. Oh damn, Nicole’s mom got those already, that cow. Alright, how about I do a bag of chocolate chips. Wait, Marissa’s mom is sending in two sets of favors, I can’t JUST do a bag of chocolate chips, I’ll look like an asshole. Okay, chocolate chips, and two sets of favors…” and so on.

One week after the meeting: The official party schedule is approved by the teacher. A crisis arises: one of the children is gluten-intolerant. Gluten-free pretzels are added to the supply list.

October 25, 6 days before the party. Sunshine and I do a test run of the craft. The plastic stretchy cord I ordered doesn’t tie into knots. I add a trip to the craft store onto my to-do list.

October 29, two days before the party. Samantha sends the group an email. “Finally heard from Becky. Turns out she just had a baby, so she won’t be able to make it, but she’ll send in some treats.” Well, what the fuck, Becky? Party committee sign-ups were in September. Did being 8 months pregnant somehow slip your mind when you were signing up for an event taking place on October 31st? And “treats”? Those aren’t preapproved, Becky. Get it together. I respond to the group, asking who is going to cover the pumpkin ring toss. *crickets*

October 30, day before the party. I’m doing the craft station. Danielle wants to run the TP mummy station. Samantha is all over the Cauldron game. I sent an email to the group. “Still looking for someone to do the pumpkin ring toss.” No reply. Earth to Angela! Hellooooo, Angela! If the kids end up standing there, woefully unoccupied and unstimulated for 15 full minutes, THAT SHIT’S ON YOU, ANGELA.

Tomorrow it all goes down. I will show up wearing an embarrassingly Oriental-Trading-Style crafted necklace, box of supplies in tow. There will be Mirth. There may even be Merriment. Somebody will forget to donate their assigned supplies. Somebody else will send in overly ambitious and show-offy goody bags so they can claim their Mother of the Year trophy. And at the end, we battle-worn Party Moms will go home, pop a Xanax, sigh a little for the lost Halloweens of our youths, and comfort-eat a few fun-size Snickers before heading out to Trick or Treat with our broods.

And then it will be time for people to sign up for the Winter Holiday Party. I expect you to pull your weight this time, Becky.

 

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October 12th, 2014 by Molly

Droppin’ It Like It’s Hot

At the start of fall, I decided to go back to school. Not because I fancied a change of career. Not because our finances dictated that I find employment urgently. And not because I missed my former life as an editor and educator. Mostly, I went back to school out of guilt.

I stepped away from the cubicle when I was 5 months pregnant with Little Miss Sunshine. At the time, I was thrilled with my decision, and looking forward to spending day in and day out with my baby girl. But now, eight years later, the shine has worn off. Don’t get me wrong—I’m intensely grateful and gratified to stay at home with my kids. But I do miss the daily adult interaction, as well as the ability to make it through a day without getting snot on my shoulder and pre-chewed graham cracker slime on my pants.

Ultimately, though, the decision to go back to school was made out of guilt: the giant, heavy, soul-sucking burden that all moms carry with them to some extent or another.

Are you a working mom? Look at all those milestones you’ve missed! Did you stop pumping breastmilk—every 2 hours in the supply closet next to the post-its, or on 5-minute breaks between classes, or in the airport lounge praying it would stay cold enough on the flight to that important meeting—because it was just a little too hard? You should have kept that up longer. Hey, why aren’t you at the oh-so-inconvenient 10 AM meeting of the PTA at your kid’s school? And how come you didn’t have time to hand-make the peanut-gluten-dairy-egg-HFCS-rBGH-BPA-free treats for your preschooler’s Earth Day party? Only losers send in pre-packaged snacks, you know.

But hey, stay-at-home moms! You should feel bad, too. Look at that degree you worked so hard for, collecting dust there. You’re not contributing any income to the family! If your kids don’t get to go to Disney World this year, you have no one but yourself to blame. Look at this house! This is supposed to be YOUR DOMAIN, and it’s a wreck! And what are you going to do about that resume? The last employment year on there started with a 2 and had two zeroes in the middle! The working world is passing you by, sister, and there you are like a booger-shouldered schmuck, watching it sail right past. What a shame.

And that’s why I went back to school. Because my resume was dusty and my brain was filled with cobwebs and my heart was filled with the crushing burden of wondering if my family was floundering because of me.

So I paid lots of money and I did lots of work, and two months later… I am still filled with soul-sucking, heart-crushing guilt, but now it’s because I realized that I’ve spent every weekend of the past two months studying, and naptimes studying, and my kids didn’t get to pick apples or go on hayrides or run through corn mazes or other sources of Fall Mirth and Merriment.

The struggle. It is so real.

John Belushi in Animal House

“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

I dropped one class, hoping that would make things more manageable. It helped a little. But not enough. Because what I realized was that I wasn’t working my ass off out of any burning desire to go back into that particular career field. I was doing it because I didn’t know what else to do. I started thinking about the hours I was spending each week on studying to go back to a career that I wasn’t all that passionate about, and realizing that if I devoted those hours toward stuff I actually CARED about, maybe my life would feel a little less overwhelming.

Before I made my final decision, I decided to talk to my stepmom, whose advice I value highly. “The thing is,” I explained, “I’m just not that passionate about it.”

“Say no more!” she exclaimed. “I would drop that like a hot potato!”

And that confirmed it. Tomorrow I will call the registrar’s office and add “college dropout” to my list of accomplishments or foibles, however you want to look at it. And maybe this week I’ll take my kids to the park to enjoy the weather. It is, after all, fall.

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August 29th, 2014 by Molly

New Adventures

I don’t exactly know what happened, but something in my brain snapped and I decided to go back to school. Maybe it was one poopy diaper too many. Or perhaps the realization that I can sometimes go DAYS without reading or thinking anything more intelligible than “When’s the next episode of Project Runway?” Whatever the case, I’m going back to school for a second Master’s degree (because I guess the first one didn’t stick?).

The program is online, which will allow me to be at home with Mr. Mischief for the next few years, at which point I’ll go back to work and the kids can fend for themselves unsupervised, living off PB&J, running wild through the neighborhood, and trying not to burn the house down. Or maybe I’ll have my mom come and watch them. I’m still working out the details.

I also decided that I needed a new hobby, so I started selling Jamberry (check it out! http://fancyllama.jamberrynails.net/). If you haven’t seen these things, they’re vinyl nail wraps that come in oodles of adorable patterns. I’m a little obsessed. Look how cute my nails are.

20140823_193219555_iOS

And now you know why there’s been radio silence on the blog lately. That, and back to school season for the bigs has kicked my butt. Sgt. Snowflake starts school next week, thank log, so hopefully I’ll have a smidge more time to write.

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July 14th, 2014 by Molly

Up Shit Creek, or This One Time, At Girl Scout Camp

A few weeks ago, Little Miss Sunshine and I attended our first* Girl Scout Camping Trip. It’s been a few weeks, the bruises are mostly healed, and after extensive inpatient therapy a brief rest, I feel that I’m finally ready to tell the tale of the Tragic Canoe Incident.

I’m going to preface this story by telling you briefly about my own Tragic Canoe Incident that occurred when I was roughly Sunshine’s age. On a YMCA day camp canoe trip, I was a passenger in a canoe, and had my hand dangling over the side of the boat. In a rough current, another canoe careened into ours, smashing my ring finger and ripping out my fingernail. Afterward, I told several adults, none of whom helped me, and I spent the entire 2-hour bus ride home clutching my oozing, broken finger. At the ER, the doctor SHOVED MY FINGERNAIL BACK INTO THE NAIL BED. Which hurt as much as you would expect it would. My mom, of course, was furious about the whole thing, but she didn’t sue the camp organizers to cover my medical bills, because it was the 80s and that wasn’t a thing back then.

Okay, so, fast forward 20-whatever years. Sunshine and I are ready for our Girl Scout canoe trip. We arrive at the canoe rental place with the rest of the troop. The sky is overcast, but we’re holding out hope. That was our first mistake. Which brings me to Girl Scout Canoeing Pro Tip #1: If It Looks Like It’s Going to Rain, Go the Fuck Home. Which, of course, we didn’t do. So we get checked in, get our life jackets, and board a rickety bus to head to the drop-off point, 6 miles upriver.

The river in question. Don't be fooled by the tranquil nature of this photo. Danger lurks slightly downstream.

The river in question. Don’t be fooled by the tranquil nature of this photo. Danger lurks slightly downstream.

We decide as a group that each mom-daughter pair should canoe with whichever mom-daughter pair they’re bunking with. In our case, that would be Stella and her mom, Miranda**. I’ve never steered a canoe before, but I can paddle like the dickens (does anyone actually know what a “dickens” is?), so I say I’m comfortable being in front. Miranda says she can take the back, because she and her husband have canoed before, and while he’s always been the one who steers, she knows in theory how to do it, which should be good enough.*** Which brings me to Girl Scout Canoeing Pro Tip #2: Get in a Boat with People Who Know What the Fuck They’re Doing.

We get ourselves into the boat, and off we go, paddling happily down the river. It’s a lovely day, not too hot. We take a few minutes to figure out how to keep the canoe going in a forward motion, and then we’re all good. Not 5 minutes into the ride, we see two hawks perched on a tree branch overhead. They take off and glide majestically over the water. The four of us watch the hawks, uttering exclamations of Awe and Delight because Nature is truly Magical and A Sight to Behold. Girl Scout Canoeing Pro Tip #3: Do Not Assume Nature is Your Friend, Because She Will Unleash Upon You Her Fury and Slap Your Ass Back to Reality.

Pitter patter, drip drop. A few raindrops begin to fall. As they splash down, we remark on how Refreshing it feels, and what an Adventure it is to canoe in the rain. At which point, the clouds roll in, a mighty thunder clap reverberates through us, and suddenly it begins to pour. The girls start to make little noises of complaint. We’re coming up to a bridge, and we see other canoeists pull over to wait out the rain under the bridge. But we decide to carry on because we are Girl Scouts Enjoying Nature.

via gifsec.com

Nature which is quickly accumulating in our boat, by the way. Miranda and I attempt to put a positive spin on it (“Well, now we don’t have to shower in the gross camp shower!”) but the girls are having none of that. Stella gripes that her feet are getting soaked, and Sunshine begins to sob and say she wants to go back to camp. Miranda and I recognize a lost cause when we see one–we pull the canoe over at a good landing place, get the girls out, and use our life jackets to cover our heads and keep the rain out of our eyes.

Luckily the rain stops as quickly as it started, the clouds part, and we’re able to dump the water out of our boat and get back underway. We spend another mile or two Enjoying Nature. It’s a sunny Saturday on the river, and the water is packed with canoes and kayaks. We remark about how crowded it is as we occasionally bump boats with other amateur paddlers. We joke that it’s a good thing the river is so crowded with people because (FORESHADOW!) if we crash, there will be lots of people around to help. Which brings me to Girl Scout Canoeing Pro Tip #4: Don’t Fucking Joke About Crashing.

Around halfway through our trip, things start to go south. The girls are starting to say they’re hungry. Stella declares that she’s starving, and opens Miranda’s backpack to fish out a sandwich. The river gets a little narrower. There’s a lot of debris in the river: downed trees, and big clumps of branches that have accumulated in huge piles like beaver dams. The river is surprisingly shallow, about 3 ft at its deepest. Our canoe frequently bottoms out on sudden shallow spots that spring up without warning. The other boaters in our area are, like us, having difficulty navigating all of these obstacles. We get stuck a few times and have to shove ourselves off the offending obstacles. There are a number of experienced canoeists and kayakers on the river, and they help people turn their boats around, get themselves unstuck. It’s a mellow, friendly, helpful crowd.

Which comes in handy should you, say, find yourselves in the following situation: A large tree root looms ahead. The current is moving your canoe swiftly along, and you find yourself trapped, unable to steer and bearing down on the tree. The current sweeps your boat sideways. You brace yourself for impact. The boat tips on its side, all contents and passengers dumped into the river.

So there we were: the canoe was sideways and lodged on a giant tree root. The girls and I were trapped against the inside of the canoe, the water rushing against our legs and into the canoe. As you may recall, Stella had opened Miranda’s pack to retrieve a sandwich just minutes earlier, and Miranda was now in the unenviable position of chasing her backpack and all its contents down the river. (Stella, meanwhile, was holding the sandwich aloft so it wouldn’t get wet. Above all else, SAVE THE SNACKS!) A movement in my peripheral vision causes me to turn my head, and I see another canoe containing two Dudes, bearing down on us. They tip and dump themselves out of their boat, but are unable to stop the boat itself from slamming into us. The girls and I are now pinned in between two canoes like the meat in a Canoe Sandwich. The Dudes attempt to pull the canoe off of us, but struggle mightily against the rushing water. The only thing keeping the girls from being squished are my legs, which are being crushed between the two boats and the force of the current. Enter Girl Scout Pro Tip #5: If You Crash, Try Not to Have a Full-Scale PTSD Meltdown.

via weknowgifs.com

Which is exactly what I did not do. Because as the torrents forced the two canoes together, crushing my calves in between, I decided it would be an ideal time to FREAK THE FUCK OUT. Realizing that I was about to experience amputation-by-canoe, I promptly began to scream, causing Sunshine to scream, and Stella to take another bite of her sandwich. I spent the next Seemed-Like-An-Eternity-Minutes gripping the girls by their arms so they wouldn’t get swept away, and praying to Jesus, Allah, and whoever else to please not let me lose a leg on a Girl Scout canoe trip, because that would be really fucking embarrassing.

Miraculously, the gods heard my pleas, because the Dudes were able to pry their canoe off me and haul it to the shore. I began to try to usher the girls out of the current and toward land, gripping each girl by an arm. Dude 1 handed me a pack of Wet Ones that had fallen out of Miranda’s backpack. Which was EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED to help me pull two girls out of the raging waters. Dude 2, being INFINITELY MORE HELPFUL, hauled our canoe up to the shore for us. The girls and I collapsed on the side of the river, at which point Miranda waded back, reporting that not only did she lose nearly the entire contents of her bag (except for those Wet Ones! Thanks, Dude 1!), she also lost her phone, and her paddle.

I know you know where I’m going with this: we were LITERALLY up a creek without a paddle. (Girl Scout Canoeing Pro Tip #6: Hold onto Your Fucking Paddle.)

via thethinkingblue.com

The four of us sat by the side of the river for a good ten minutes, watching other boaters go merrily by, and trying to figure out how the hell we were going to get out of this mess. Stella declared she was hungry again, having polished off her sandwich. Luckily, my backpack was not upended, so I had snacks. (Girl Scout Canoeing Pro Tip #7: Bring Snacks.) The girls ate pudding cups, Sunshine intermittently hiccup-sobbing, Miranda lamented her lost phone with all its photos of important life events which were so important she didn’t back them up onto her computer, and I wondered aloud why the canoe rental place didn’t offer a Rescue Service for Incompetent Canoeists. Stella was still hungry, so she had a granola bar, because why the hell not.

Just when we were giving over to despair, the heavens parted and a Savior appeared, in the form of a middle-aged kayaker who had somehow found our paddle! This wonderful man actually parked his boat (parked? Is that what you do with boats? Park them?) and walked our missing paddle back to us. Miranda greeted him with a hug, he helped us get back into our canoe, and we all thanked him profusely. Well, all of us except Sunshine, who was still crying.

The next couple miles were spent reassuring Sunshine that we were near the end, although in truth, none of us had any idea where we were. Stella chattered away, trying to reassure Sunshine. “It’s okay, Sunshine! We’re doing great!” If the Girl Scouts gave out a merit badge for being a BAMF, Stella would deserve it. This kid was Cool as a Cucumber the entire time.

via shadez-of-gray.com

We finally, FINALLY met up with the rest of our group. After regaling them with our Harrowing Tale of Survival, the group decided that Miranda and I should part ways and be placed in canoes with “more experienced canoeists,” aka People Who Know What the Fuck They’re Doing. (See Pro Tip #2.)

The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. I was paired with Competent Steering Mom, and while Sunshine wasn’t exactly chipper (okay, she was still huddled in a sort of upright fetal position), she wasn’t crying, either, so I called it a win.

We arrived at the pickup point, 4.5 hours after our departure. Bedraggled, bespattered, and some word that starts with “be” that means tired fucking exhausted. And then we had to wait 45 minutes for the buses to arrive to pick us up because they were stuck by–I swear to log I am NOT making this up–a tractor parade.

Upon our arrival back at camp, Sunshine and I decided that the day would be greatly improved by the prompt acquisition of ice cream. Two scoops of cookie dough ice cream later, all was right in Sunshine’s world, and I was happy to have my Happy Camper back. Which brings me to my final Girl Scout Canoeing Pro Tip #8: Buy Ice Cream.

Little Miss Sunshine with mood-stabilizing ice cream cone

Little Miss Sunshine with mood-stabilizing ice cream cone

That evening the girls watched a movie in an outdoor theater, and the moms chatted by the campfire. Sunshine wanted to sleep next to me that night. As we were going to sleep, I asked her if she wanted to camp again next year. She got quiet and didn’t reply. I told her we’d think about it for a while. For now, we have a good story to tell, we solidified our mother-daughter bond through an Epic Ordeal, and I earned my very own merit badge.

Ouch

Ouch

*And possibly last.

**All names have been changed to protect the incompetent with a paddle innocent.

***Theory = not good enough.

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July 2nd, 2014 by Molly

Worthless Crap Wednesday: Internet Things That Need to Die a Fast, Painful Internet Death

After a month-long hiatus in which I engaged in a bit of self-pity and simultaneously gained 5 pounds by binge-eating ice cream, I’m back, and I have a few things to talk about. I need to tell you about Little Miss Sunshine’s first Girl Scout camping trip, Sergeant Snowflake’s new behavioral therapist, and I should probably talk about Mr. Mischief a bit, too (I swear, he does exist, and he’s awesome!). But before I can do any of that, it’s time for another edition of Worthless Crap Wednesday, in which I talk about things that are of absolutely no importance whatsoever.

This week’s topic: Internet Things That Need to Die a Fast, Painful Internet Death.

Much like LFO, those jeans with the pleather chaps attached, and Pogs, some trends are stupid and need to be forever scattered to the winds of pop culture history. Unfortunately, now we have the internet, which means that stupid things that would have been a flash in the pan in previous decades are now drawn out agonizingly, in every possible iteration. We all have different pet peeves. My brother-in-law, for example, hates Buzzfeed quizzes, whereas I am ALWAYS down for them, as I find them to be stunningly accurate windows into my soul.

Here is my own personal list of Internet Things that induce instant, teeth-gnashing rage whenever I see them:

1. “Nom nom nom.” Why are people still saying this? It’s stupid.  Don’t type it, and for fuck’s sake, don’t say it out loud. Don’t even think it. Let’s just go back to “yum” and save ourselves 2 syllables worth of idiocy.

2. The Condescending Wonka meme. The one about North Face jackets was funny.

northface-adventures

via knowyourmeme.com

Since then, they’ve all gone downhill.

3. Posting an article on Friendface, with the comment “THIS.” Listen, I get it. Sometimes you’re so enraged or flummoxed or coffee-deprived that you know you won’t be able to articulate anything nearly as concise as the author of the article. But friends, I really think we need to aim a little higher. Tell us why this link to a Colbert clip means something to you. Give me four or five words about why Matt Walsh’s latest right wing rant sums up your existence. Or–and here’s a concept–don’t say anything at all. Let the piece speak for itself. I know that little rectangle on the share window is beckoning, but if you must fill it with something, fill it with an actual thought. I’ll take an “LOL, this is awesome!” over “THIS” any day of the week.

4. Rape Sloth memes. Not everyone is familiar with the Rape Sloth, but believe it or not, it’s a thing, and it needs to go away. Much like sloths themselves, the Rape Sloth meme is creepy to the extreme.

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via memegenerator.net

The original meme started as a parody of a fashion spread–a model poses in a photo shoot with a creepy sloth whispering in her ear–who comes up with these things?! The problem is, rape is not funny. It’s never, ever funny. Not in meme form, not in stand-up comedy form, and not in casual conversation. I know this post is supposed to be about Internet Things, but now I’m off on a tangent and it’s my blog so I can do that. While the Rape Sloth is an Internet Thing, rape jokes are a Human Thing, and they need to die a fast, painful death.

5. Making fun of obese people. So there was this photo posted on a popular humor site and passed around the Interwebs. I’m not going to show it here, because I don’t want to contribute to the subject’s continued embarrassment, but I’ll describe it as best I can. Picture a grocery store soft drink aisle. In the middle of the aisle is an obese man who has tipped over his motorized scooter while trying to reach for a 12-pack of pop. This photo has made its way around the internet, always with a caption along the lines of “Must… Reach… Diet Coke!” And I’m assuming the message we’re supposed to take away from it is, “Ahhh, fat people! So funny!” It’s also supposed to be a commentary on the obesity epidemic in America. But to me, it’s more of a statement about the insensitivity epidemic in our country. A disabled person has fallen in a grocery store aisle, and rather than help, someone whips out a cell phone and snaps a photo that gets shared by thousands of people.

Think before you share insensitive bullshit. Also, those apps that take your photos and make you fat or old? Those things need to die, too.

6. Upworthy. Has there ever been a smarmier name for a site? This site owes its continued existence to suckers who fall for its click-bait headlines. “The Most Important Video You’ll See All Day.” “You’ll Never Believe What This Little Girl Does Next.” “What this Veteran Does Will Amaze You.” Folks, you’re being manipulated by these words to click, share, and increase Upworthy’s ad revenue.

7. Friendface Like Farming. I have personally shared Facecrooks’ excellent breakdown of like-farming scams about eleventy-seven times on my newsfeed. Alas, my Friendface friends still insist on sharing nonsense, so let me break it down for you. Scammy McScamster sets up a Friendface page with a name that is meant to sound legit. For my particular group of friends (30-40-something moms) we tend to fall for things in the home arena. Let’s say the page is called Scammy’s Splendid Home. Scammy trolls around the internet and finds recipes, inspirational quotes on pretty backgrounds, home tips, and those nifty “50 Great Preschool Crafts” posts. She then steals the post, giving no credit whatsoever to the original author, and posts it on her Scammy’s Splendid Home Friendface page. The page starts gathering likes, and once it gets enough, it can start making money off Friendface by posting ads for products and identity-stealing malware. So when you share that recipe for cinnamon rolls that most certainly was not written by Scammy herself, you’re encouraging the scammers, you’re endorsing plagiarism, and you’re putting your friends at risk for identity theft. If a post about How to Spotlessly Clean Your Windows encourages you to “like, and share to your timeline to save this post,” it’s a like-farming scam, no more. If you’re into sharing home tips, there’s a site for that. It’s called Pinterest.

8. Grumpy Cat Abuse. Perhaps the issue that weighs most heavily on my mind is the misuse of Grumpy Cat in memes. Poor Grumpy. All she wants to do is hang around and be mildly perturbed.

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via knowyourmeme.com

But instead, she’s got asshats making memes like this:

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via some knucklehead on memegenerator.net

She’s Grumpy Cat, not Evil Sadist Cat. Get it straight, Internet.

To sum up, friends, can we just agree to do away with some of these things? Let’s let them die to make room for the inevitable creation of more internet fuckery.

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June 23rd, 2014 by Molly

Dear Organ Donor

Dear Organ Donor,

You died on a winter’s day in 1996. I don’t know much about you, and it’s probably best that I don’t. What I know is that you were a 36-year-old man from Connecticut, and you or a loved one made the difficult decision to donate your organs after your death. My grandfather, my Pop, got your heart. He was told at the time that optimistically, he could expect to survive maybe another 10 years with his new heart. But he managed to live for 17 years. Isn’t that wonderful? 17 years of LIFE.

You didn’t get those 17 years, Organ Donor, but Pop did. I don’t know if you’re out there, but in case you are, I thought you might like to know what he did with your gift.

George_Grace, high res

Gram and Pop in the late 1970s, working on the land they loved

He saw me, his only grandchild, graduate high school, college, and graduate school.

He celebrated the 50th birthdays of his son and daughter.

He celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary, he and Gram taking a trip to Las Vegas, a place he had always wanted to visit.

He did a lot of mundane, daily-living tasks. Mowed the lawn, changed the oil in his car. These are the things you do when you’re alive, and he did them.

He lived through some happy things. He got to see me get married. In 2007, he met his first great-grandchild. And then another in 2009, and another in 2013. His first great-grandson inherited his thick, curly hair, a gift from the Greek ancestors in the family tree. So much life, carried on through genetics.

There were some bad times, too.

He watched his children struggle with addiction. His daughter got sober, but his son didn’t. Addiction can be an ugly part of life.

As he got older, his eyesight began to fail. He had to give up driving, and then gave up mowing the lawn. He had to rely on his wife and his children more to get around.

And then he buried his wife. Two years later, he buried his only son.

Just a week before his own death, Pop learned of the death of his best friend since middle school. Can you imagine that, Organ Donor? Their friendship lasted double the length of your entire lifespan! Few people are lucky enough to have a friend of seven decades, but my Pop was one of those few. He defied the odds in so many ways.

As you may have discovered, Organ Donor, life is full of ironies. This year, after 17 years of a life lived with your heart, Pop was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoma. The very drugs that kept his body from rejecting your gift caused him to develop an aggressive form of cancer that would be his ultimate demise.

He began to plan his death. He wanted to die at home, with the people closest to him by his side. My mother and I made plans. And on June 8, she called me and told me he was near the end. I was in the car less than an hour later, making the 5-hour drive to their house, praying I’d be in time.

That morning, he requested the oldies station–one of his last spoken thoughts. He loved music, and he was comforted by the songs of his youth. When I entered the room that evening, he briefly opened his eyes. He knew I was there, though he was too weak to speak. I held his hand, and tried not to cry. He was never one for displays of emotion.

My mom and I spent hours by his bedside as he slipped into unconsciousness. My mind drifted toward moments of gallows humor. What song would he choose to die with? “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley came on. It was Pop’s favorite song, and I thought, This would be a lovely song to pick. But then the song ended, and his labored breathing went on. Not the right song, apparently. Bobby Vee’s truly inane “Rubber Ball” came on, and as the backup singers chirped “Bouncy bouncy! Bouncy bouncy!” I thought, Pop, don’t you DARE die during this stupid song!

The following morning, he was still alive, so many songs having come and gone. His breathing became more shallow, the breaths farther and farther apart. I had sat with my Gram as she died a few years before–I knew this was close to the end. As his breath began to hitch, he made pained faces. We called the hospice doctor, who advised that we could administer up to 15 mL of liquid morphine. And so we did, praying that it would ease his suffering.

We watched his breaths slow. My mom perched on the edge of a chair at Pop’s bedside. I sat on the bed, gently rubbing his shin. Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy” came on the radio. We watched Pop take a breath. We waited for another. And as we realized that we just watched him take his last breath, we broke down, overwhelmed with grief and relief and pride at having given him the ending he wanted.

Because of your gift: 17 years of extra life, borrowed from you. Life, death, birth, and finally, death–all of it, because of your gift. I hope he made you proud. I hope he used your gift well.

You died far too early, Dear Organ Donor. I hope that, wherever you are, you understand that your life, while short, was so much more than just you. Your life was Pop’s life, his family’s life, the lives of the who-knows-how-many other people who received gifts from you that day in December 1996. I can only hope that I keep living my life in a way that honors your precious gift.

With Gratitude,

A Granddaughter

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