Schools Back In: Some Things Good and Somethin’ Bad

Back to school kids

School has started! At least, it has here in the South, and for that we can all toss a handful of glittery confetti into the air in celebration of days more ordered and children more occupied. (Those are my big babies in the image above, modeling for Country Outfitter.)

Yes, cheers to all us newly free parents! Except that I’m less gleeful than I should be. I’ve started to turn to the dark side, the sappy side. Time is starting to betray me, specifically, the time I’ve been allotted with my children while they are children. After a trip to visit colleges this summer, and working daily in close proximity to a woman who has lost her eldest baby bird to the world of dorm rooms and keg parties, I’m becoming one of those moms. It didn’t happen when my kids went to pre-school or Kindergarten. It didn’t happen when they lost their teeth or learned to ride a bike. Apparently I’ve been saving up my sentimental weepiness, and now I’m ramping up. Stay tuned for a full-on psychotic episode when my son leaves for college.

But first, I’ll have to survive his driving.

Summer was busy, as usual. In addition to driving through Texas (all the way to Corpus Christi) I got to interview Sidney Moncrief, and hang out on the red carpet of the CMT Music Awards. (I may or may not have been fully credentialed.) Finally, I received a tremendous honor this summer when Citiscapes magazine profiled me in their July issue. One more reason I love Northwest Arkansas.

Lela Davidson in Citiscapes magazine

Other things that are new:

  • I cut my hair.
  • Someone I know touched Kevin Bacon.
  • Blacklisted from the PTA turned three!
  • My next essay collection is more than a little complete, with parts of it already in the hands of a talented new (to me) editor, and tentatively scheduled to arrive in your hands or your readers sometime in 2015.
  • I have now spent more time in Nashville than Vegas. (And yes, I should have been more impressed when I met those Florida Georgia Line guys, but I just can’t.)
  • Every day I get to work with smart, funny, slightly off-balance people, like these ones who decide to do things like this Miranda Lambert tribute:

Happy back-to-school season. Make it memorable!

Things I Don’t Do #83: Bikini Wax

I have been married for nearly twenty years. We’ve made it work for hundreds of reasons, not the least of which are today’s unreasonably high bikini area standards. In a marriage you set certain expectations early on and when I got married a Brazilian was a person from South America. I have certain non-negotiables: Watering plants, taking cruises, and waxing my “bikini”. No level of vaginal beauty is worth that kind of pain.

I mean, seriously, who does this?

Thanks to Jessica Bern at Two Funny Brains for the confirmation that I set my boundaries wisely. Thanks to my husband for loving me anyway.

Botox is a Business Asset

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Botox is weird, right? We can all agree that the idea of voluntarily shooting poison into your face, effectively disabling certain muscle groups that one would assume are there for a reason, because it theoretically makes you look younger, must be based on some pretty messed up thought processes. And yet, here we are. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2012 statistical analysis of American vanity (or something like that), more than six million Botox procedures were performed in 2012. But hey, some of us are over-40 and we need help, sometimes from friends who don’t let friends wear floral, sometimes from a very tiny needle. The importance of looking good cannot be overstated, but there are actually other, more practical reasons to use the wonder injection.

My friend Abbie likes to say, and I agree with her, that Botox can save marriages. Because if he can’t see that face you’re making, because you can’t make it, he still thinks you still think he’s fantastic. And all of us know more than one marriage that has not survived a man’s sudden knowledge that his wife doesn’t think he’s fantastic all the time. Or half. Or twenty percent. Up your odds! Shoot up your face.

Hey, it worked in Stepford. It can work for you too.

If marital bliss doesn’t sway you to the side of calculating how many units it will take to disable your visible irritation lines and start filling up your Botox punch cards, think of the business advantages!

We all work with idiots, right? I don’t care how much you love your job. I don’t care how connected you feel to your colleagues. I don’t care how high a road you aspire to take. I guarantee there are some morons working beside you. Or, if you’re like me, just dozens of temporary morons, aka very smart people who suddenly become stupid when they don’t agree with me.

(Dear People of Country Outfitter, my other job is making ladies laugh. This is all just lies and stuff. NONE of you are idiots. Ever. Not even temporarily. Not even that one guy. You know the one.)

How great would it be to simply look upon these poor unfortunates among us without a hint of expression? With zero physical manifestation of judgment? Surely, a person who could master this trick would soon win ALL the friends and influence ALL the people.

I’m onto something here. If you have a speck of gray matter inside that skull, you’ll agree. If not, that’s okay. You won’t see the scorn hidden beneath these immobile facial muscles.

I almost forgot the best part: Guys can do it too! Finally, a business advantage that’s not just for the ladies.

(Dear People of Botox, this could double your business. Please structure the brand ambassadorship offer accordingly.)

Photo Credit: Lorenzo Sernicola via Compfight cc

Four Spring Fashion Trends to Skip if You Are Over 40

There are certain fashion trends that women of a certain age should not adopt, no matter how hard you think your abs are or how young at heart you feel. I wrote about the temptations of shopping at the same stores as my daughter in Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? and recently spoke about the dangers of the mall at a sorority’s Mother Daughter luncheon. We may want to be one of the cool kids, but our time has passed, I promise you. Some of the best fashion advice I’ve ever received:

If you wore it the first time around, don’t wear it when it comes back.

This is nearly always true. Except about gigantic shoulder pads. I am going to rock the gigantic shoulder pads again soon. Hello– they give you a tiny waist. It’s science.

The next time you are tempted inside a Forever American Postal, or wherever they want to shop this week, heed these warnings.

Four Spring Fashion Trends: Moms, Do Not Try This at Home

Shorty-Alls

The shorty denim overalls, or really any overalls. Unless you are two, twenty-two, or a bona-fide farmer. You need to let this one go. Yes, I too enjoyed many a dollar-pitcher of beer while exposing my freshly sun-damaged skin to boys name Curt or Kurt, but that was two decades ago. Count them. Two. And a half, if I’m being honest.

Crop Tops

No explanation required. One would hope.

Floral

There is a fine line between fashionable and frumpy. During your forties you must be super careful to stay on the right side of that line. A grandmotherly frock can look ironically hip on a twenty-something. On you, it looks like you raided the wrong end of an estate sale. Unless you are Anna Wintour or one of her better minions, steer clear of anything that a church lady could wear.

Fanny Packs

Don’t they look so cute and trendy there next to the funky jewelry? Do not be fooled old grasshopper. Nothing good can come of strapping bulk to your mid-section. I know, it’s adorable, but step away from the fanny pack.

Your time for all these foolish things of youth has passed.

Aren’t you happy to hear it?

Free Range Kids: Kindergarten Edition

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There is a lot of parenting variation between letting kids run wild and hovering over them in a constant sate of anxiety. Outspoken opponent of overprotective parenting and author of the book and blog Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy, was publicly shamed for letting her seven-year-old ride the subway alone. We’re not all ready to put our kids on a subway, but we can let go of the little things with lower stakes. Since my children were very young I have tried to give them as much responsibility and freedom as possible while keeping them safe and healthy. I’ve made plenty of mistakes but they have grown into competent, well-mannered teenagers anyway. They know how to prepare a meal, clean a house, and resolve a conflict.

Trusting your maternal instincts and teaching your children independence and responsibility takes time and practice. Try with these things even very young children can do all by themselves.

Read the rest of this post on iVillage.

Photo Credit: rolands.lakis via Compfight cc

Smudging: Not Just Anyone Can Pull Off This Ancient Ritual

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Smudging: Should you really try this at home?

The word “release” in the headline should have tipped me off. As in 13 Ways to Release 2013. But how could the article, written by a perky blonde life coach, be anything but deeply enlightening? Release 2013. Let it go, mindfully, intentionally, with gratitude. And if all that doesn’t work, special pricing for one-on-one coaching.

I couldn’t help but click. As one does during the first week of January, I had been eating right, replacing evil incandescent bulbs with LED, and organizing closets as if the fate of Earth depended upon my ability to locate a single set of matching sheets on command. I was ready, desperate even, to get rid of the old and usher in the new. Be gone old nasty. Bring on the glistening fresh 2014.

I was curious, too. How does one shed last year? Isn’t it already… gone? But I felt confident the wise one knew some secret magic for saying a permanent farewell to 2013. And of course, by magic, I mean concrete advice that could be accomplished without using my credit card or a hiring a domestic staff.

I had to know.

At first skim, the oracle’s advice looked promising. Much of it consisted of making lists of different types, and then accepting, celebrating, or burning said lists. (Ritualistic dancing optional.) Lists I can do. Lists are my oxygen. Lists are humanity’s greatest technological feat. And burning stuff is fun. So far, winning.

From there, however, our fearless leader’s tips became increasing less illuminating. There was some vague advice to “feel grateful,” followed by a suggestion that we might quite literally wash away the past year with a salt bath. No offense to the wise one, but I prefer a salty martini.

I read further with the beginnings of a eye roll forming on my I’m-cynical-because-I’m-alive face, when our resident font of wisdom blasted my optimism into a pile lifeless fairy dust. The pinnacle of her system, after I had presumably made my lists and lit them on fire while feeling grateful in a salty tub, was to “smudge” my home.

Call me an over-achiever, but at this point—with one husband, two teenagers, a dog, the occasional uninvited pest, and my a seasonal aversion to cleaning products—my home is already quite adequately smudged. The last thing I need is more mud on the floor and makeup on the countertops. Not to mention whatever substance keeps causing my dog to drag her ass across the carpet.

But this wasn’t what our guru was talking about. Sadly, she was also not referring to any kind of eyeliner, which is unfortunate because, never mind release, a trip to Sephora is always cause for celebration. And not just because I could have made a list. There’s not much in this world that can’t be improved with plumping lip gloss, black eyeliner, and a steady hand.

The smudging our authority suggested was the ancient practice of bundling sage or other herbs, lighting them afire, and using the resulting smoke to purify the area (or aura) of any negative energy, bad feelings, yucky thoughts, or wayward spirits. For centuries, respected religions and native peoples around the world have practiced some form of smudging, which is pretty amazing when you consider that they DIDN’T EVEN HAVE THE INTERNET to teach them how to do it. And smudging is just one way to release the year gone by. How primitive cultures ever figured out the other 12 without the aid of wifi and broadband is inconceivable.

Unlike practitioners of olde–whom I imagine gathered their herbs mindfully, in a sacred place, perhaps on a day ordained by one god or another—the modern medicine woman has to remove her negative energy in between work, school, mani-pedis, and catching up on Downton Abbey. Lucky for her, a 2-pack of smudge sticks goes for less than seven dollars on Amazon. (Who said that Prime account wouldn’t pay for itself?) Or, if she’s more committed to the lifestyle, she can pick up her sticks from the Shaman’s Market, a highly reputable online retailer that reminds customers, “smudges put out a lot of soothing smoke.”

Soothing, said no evil spirit ever.

Pre-internet, in a faraway land called the west coast, I witnessed plenty of smudging, mostly practiced by people next to me at outdoor concerts. Oh, the sage I’ve inhaled and the floaty-dancing I’ve observed. In hindsight, perhaps I was the evil spirit these liberated souls were attempting to purge. We’ll never know for sure. All I’m certain of is that, unfortunately, the poultry seasoning high does nothing for me. So, enticing as the idea of lighting yet another thing on fire in service of clearing out the old sounded, smudging probably wasn’t for me. I’m not native peoples. And I’m not a girl in a flowing skirt and a halter-top. By the looks of it, neither was our coach.

So, why?

Why had she embraced smudging? Was it simply another bullet point to round out the article? No one could blame her for that. But why not, “Light a candle from Bath and Body Works”? That might have been more on-brand.

I’m no coach in the game of life, but I say release all you want, make the lists, clean out the cupboards, drink the kale juice, but leave the smudging to professionals. Most of us have no business burning herbs for bad-mojo-removal sake. That goes double for accountants, engineers, people who would ever precede the written “smudged” with a hashtag, and anyone with an asymmetrical bob.

Sorry, coach, I’m sitting this one out.

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Thanks for reading and spreading the good word.

Photo Credit: HannahAradia via Compfight cc

Pitbull's Timber Lyrics, As Heard By the Mother of a Teenage Girl

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I like Pitbull, I do. For better and worse. I like him in spite of his skeez factor, and sometimes because of it. Pitbull might not be a great musician. I don’t care. He might not be a wonderful human. Not my problem. I like to sing along, and when nobody’s watching, move my hips the way I used to do in public, the way mothers of teenagers should never ever do in front of their children. Or maybe anyone.

Speaking of my teenagers, I spent the weekend painting the bedroom of the Girl. We weren’t sure if Gleeful, the brightest hue of green we could find that wasn’t highlighter ink, would actually inspire glee or nausea, but we committed to the task. It took a long, long time to paint her bedroom and her closet. And because this was all about her and because we are not evil parents, instead of Prairie Home Companion and that awful Irish music NPR plays on Sundays, we listened to her station. They play the same eight songs on a forty-five minute rotation intermixed with Katy Perry soundbites and ads for I Heart Radio concerts.

I got to hear Pitbull and Ke$ha’s Timber at least a dozen times. I like it so long as I don’t listen with my Mama ears. With each playing, over two blissful days, I got to experience those lyrics with fresh maternal delight. Here are the real lyrics:

It’s going down, I’m yelling timber
You better move, you better dance
Let’s make a night you won’t remember
I’ll be the one you won’t forget

In my mind, Ke$ha says:

Let’s go out and get super wasted so I can attempt to impress you will my sexual adventurousness. Afterward, I won’t be satisfied unless you stalk me.

Then it’s Pitbull’s turn:

The bigger they are, the harder they fall
These big-iddy boys are dig-gidy dogs
I have ‘em like Miley Cyrus, clothes off
Twerking in their bras and thongs, timber
Face down, booty up, timber
That’s the way we like to. What? Timber
I’m slicker than an oil spill
She say she won’t, but I bet she will, timber

What I hear is:

I’m going to rub up on your daughter, who doesn’t think she’s going home with me, but by the end of the night I will change her mind. #roofies

The catchy tune plays on:

Swing your partner round and round
End of the night, it’s going down
One more shot, another round
End of the night, it’s going down
Swing your partner round and round
End of the night, it’s going down
One more shot, another round
End of the night, it’s going down

And now I’m hearing… My own voice in my head telling my daughter to never ever ever let a boy bring her a drink. Like NEVER. And never leave your drink alone. She is thirteen. That’s not too young for the message, is it? Surely, this was about the age my mother started instilling me with The Fear. And we didn’t even HAVE Pitbull. Or Robin Thicke.

But I kept quiet. Because all my daughter heard was Timber, you better move, you better dance and we had a room to paint.

And, like I said, I like Pitbull.

Welcome to My Midlife Birthday Breakdown

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I always thought I’d go to law school or get my MBA. At one point I seriously considered getting my PhD in Accounting. I still kind of want to get an MFA, but all that will have to wait, maybe forever. It’s my kids’ turn to get their degrees. Besides, I need to focus all my academic faculties on the critical issues at hand, such as the subtle differences between the shades of Nomadic Dessert and Kilim Beige on my office walls.

If you read Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? you may remember I get a little crazy when I have to pack all my things into boxes and then rearrange them in another location. Luckily we haven’t had to move in ten years. This time has been better. And while I wouldn’t go all the way to “fine,” before my little sad session the other night, I’d say I’ve been handing things well. I don’t even think my husband is sleeping with that whore, Henrietta. (Pick up a copy of the book.)

Disorder makes me insane. My husband told me he noticed the other day that I get upset when things are out of my control. Twenty years in and he noticed this the other day. Apparently he has forgotten the time I took a spreadsheet to Disney World detailing meal locations and ride times. Controlling? Maybe, but damn if we didn’t have the vacation of our LIVES.

The crazy has been hibernating, curled up with the masses of newspaper and bubble wrap protecting things nobody needs. I’m looking at you, bright yellow ceramic plant holder. And how did I become a woman in possession of hundreds of colored glass pebbles and enough fake flowers to decorate an Olive Garden? I’m not complaining. Life is good. It’s just so new right now. I have a new job, my husband has a new job, my daughter goes to a new school with new friends, and my son has new facial hair. Our whole life is new.

What is not new? My collagen.

This week I turned 44, old enough to know that this is young, that the next four decades (God-willing) will pass twice as quickly as the last. No, faster than that, exponentially faster. The physical is only the beginning. I am not thrilled with how the skin on my jaw looks in photographs when I’m not looking up and away from the camera. I cringe at near-romantic moments that double as near-lower back injuries. I curse the intermittent aches and failing eyesight. But the worst part of getting older is all this knowing, about every single thing that can possibly go wrong. I don’t want to brag, but I know ALL the scary. I even know there’s more than what I know, and nothing is more terrifying than that.

My babies are not babies anymore. So I’ve become that mom. When my children were little they were healthy, and easy. Some food, a warm bed, and a never-ending supply of hugs was all it took to keep them safe and happy. I was relaxed. I did not hover. Now I worry that all my nonchalance is catching up with me. By ignoring the art of worry when my kids were little have I have neglected a critical component of my maternal skill set? I fear I may have inadvertently enrolled myself in an advanced remedial course, complete with extra assignments and a comprehensive exam at a date TBD.

The ugly cry came on in a burst of breathtaking sobs and snot all over my husband’s chest. Anything could happen when my son goes to college. He leaves practically tomorrow. In two years.

And OH MY GOD, I just realized– we’ll have to MOVE him.

Let the education continue. I may need a tutor.

Packing the Playroom

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We’re moving. It’s painful, and not just because of the boxes and the arguments over precisely the right moment to pack the living room lamps. While packing the playroom, I found the sole remainder of the Whore Barbie. I’m not sentimental. As I packed, most of the toys we had been holding onto, for no other reason than because it was easier to shove them in a drawer than give them a proper burial, landed in one of many plastic trash bags. But a few things I could not throw away.

I kept the Fisher Price Little People pieces that I once encouraged my daughter to love and that she did not love. But maybe her daughter will. So I saved the best of them in a plastic tub that I imagine I’ll unpack in a few weeks at the new house, tuck into a closet under the eaves, and pull out again in another life, after my husband installs gates at the top and bottom of the stairs to protect the baby who carries our DNA and toddles around our home far less frequently than we’d like.

Same with the tea set.

And the other tea set.

A long time ago I kept a few of my son’s baby clothes, including the green fleece from Old Navy that inspired me to call him my little green pepper. (I’m sorry, Son, but you really have no business reading this.) I found the bag in the hall closet and packed it away, again.

My husband found the train set that no child of ours embraced, the one we searched for last Christmas so that we could set it up around the tree.

“Did we get rid of that?”

“Surely not. We would have kept that, right?”

Neatly boxed and stashed in the attic. We had no idea we were so organized.

I have not been particular about how the kids kept the upstairs. Except when catching a glimpse of the playroom on a particularly bad day. Piles of plastic body parts, mounds of crumpled papers, and every DVD with an annoying soundtrack ever made, all seemingly multiplying before my eyes until I’d threaten to end the whole of it with an extra large Hefty bag.

“You made me cry,” my son said as we took down the curtains I sewed a million years ago.

Then we argued about the merits of a good mother. He made the case I could be nicer. I countered that nice is not a maternal characteristic worth cultivating.

I could not bear to part with the circuit kit and Erector set and an expensive system for building robotics. My husband could not let go of the broken model airplane he built out of parchment and balsa while our five-year-old son refused to feign interest.

All the mess–packed, tossed, or just remembered–told a story of childhood well played.

Finally, amid the errant Monopoly money and 627 markers, was this miniature plastic boot from a slightly inappropriate doll my mother sent in 2008. The Girl was eight years old then, still collecting stuffed animals and fitting on my lap. And only occasionally playing with make believe hookers.

The new house has a family room and a living room and a media room that may or may not be outfitted by the time our imaginary grandchild comes to visit. But there is no playroom in the new house.

No playroom.

I’m not sentimental, but I’m holding onto the tiny boot.