Calendar This

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My husband’s company recently switched from the antiquated Lotus Notes to Google for all their messaging. This was the catalyst for me to finally convert from an equally obsolete paper calendar to an electronic one. My husband and I could finally synchronize our calendars. Never again would we speak in clipped tones about the “surprise” soccer practice or missed dental appointment. And all without persistent verbal reminders from me. Either one of us could create an event and invite the other to it. Finally, a solution for eight out of ten of our marital disputes.

The first thing I did—after filling in the requisite parent-teacher conferences and basketball games—was invite my husband to: Sex, Tuesday, 6:30 am. I received his response right away. He declined. Then the phone rang. However, I was busy scheduling good intentions into all those rectangles, so my husband left a message with our daughter. She handed me the note, written in her childish scrawl:

Dad says that’s not funny. He could get fired for that.

This did not bode well for the new system. If I couldn’t get my husband to pay attention to such an inviting appointment, what chance did I have with morning carpool?

I’ve had a thing for calendars since I was a 20-year-old bank teller with my first At-A-Glance. It showed a full month in square-inch boxes, few of which actually had anything written in them. I like calendars so much that I keep them. Deep in the back of my closet are chronological records dating back to 1991. If some future descendant ever wants to reconstruct my life, he or she could plot the highlights: met my husband, graduated college, got married, had a baby, had another baby, etc. through the scribbled evidence of my days. These boxes may someday provide valuable insights about life at the turn of the century. Right there on December 31, 1999 it reads: Y2K Semiahmoo. A party at the end of the world. Except that the plans I had in the weeks following came to pass. The apocalypse did not arrive as promised. Instead, I got a haircut and went to a pre-natal appointment.

I’m a little sad I won’t have those physical mementos anymore, but I’m not going back. Much as I love paper, you can’t access a 8 ½ x 11 spiral bound calendar from a smart phone. My attachment to seeing the whole month on one page held me back for years. It hurt my back to carry a stone-age calendar around in my bag. I envied friends who whipped out their phones to schedule appointments. Online calendars are the over-committed woman’s crack pipe, and I loved mine from my first hit. The high-tech convenience enables—no, encourages—the tendency to over-schedule by making every obligation fit so easily and efficiently among the others.

My husband liked his new calendar too, but the longer we used our new toys, the clearer it became that being on the same electronic page did not help to synchronize our schedules. Immediately after inviting him to sex I added all my trips to his electronic calendar. Together, we reviewed a print copy to identify any potential conflicts or gaps in childcare coverage. With highlighted boxes and multiple email alerts in place, we were golden.

Not so fast, Execu-Mom.

A few months later my husband “just now remembered” a very important trip he had scheduled “a long time ago.” With complete disregard for my carefully crafted minute-by-minute timetable, he had planned this trip without consulting his digital calendar or the handy paper backup. When he suddenly recalled this critical trip that could not be rearranged, I remained calm. As did he. My outer peace was an intentional strategy to resist the strong urge to solve the problem for him, after I stabbed him with a highlighter.

His serenity was based in blind faith.

“My parents can come up,” he said.

This is his go-to answer for all childcare, home improvement, and pet sitting needs. Never mind that his parents, with a combined age of 163, maintain a fully loaded bridge and travel schedule of their own, and live five hours away by car. Surely they would drop everything to pack up the fish oil capsules and merlot and race off to babysit the grandkids. I did not ask my husband if he would make actual requests for definite dates, and then record those dates in a systematic way, such as on a calendar. To do so would have displayed a lack of faith in him.

He said he’d take care of it and I trusted him to do so.

A week before our coinciding trips, feeling guilty about missing my daughter’s only band concert of the year, I reassured her that her grandparents would be there to watch her.

“They don’t get to see you do this kind of thing very often. It’s special.”

My husband was in earshot.

“Hey, um…” he said, “have you… um…. talked to my mom at all?”

“About what?”

He started to scratch his head, just like his father does when he’s frustrated. “Are they coming up next week?”

Oh, the things I did to him in my mind, things right out of a Mexican soap opera.

Which brings us back to sex, and those handy invitations. For all my love of a good planner, and all my lists and matrices, I never thought I’d become someone who put sex on a calendar. Sure, the invitation started as a joke, but seeing the words there on my screen so official and certain in a business-like font has its merits.

If only I can get my husband to accept my invitations.

This is an excerpt from Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collection, Who Peed on My Yoga Mat?

Photo Credit: .reid. via Compfight cc

Stick Around For Small Stories

Welcome to my small stories. So happy you stopped by.

These stories are probably not going to change your life, but they might make you realize that your troubles and frustrations are not so different than anyone else’s. That thing that you thought no one else did– they do. That time your son didn’t pick up his backpack quickly enough so you screamed at him because you were really mad at your husband because he doesn’t understand why it’s so important not to use the kitchen towel to clean up the chicken juice and then put it back where it was like it’s still clean– that time? We’ve all been there. At least, I hope it’s not just me. That’s why I share my stories.

Stick around if you’ve ever been blacklisted from the PTA, or had a yoga practice disrupted by life.

Stick around if you’ve ever answered work emails during your daughter’s soccer game. Stick around if you quietly (or loudly) judge the parents who do.

Stick around if you wish your children would stop comparing their lives to the imaginary ones they see on Facebook, even if you can’t quite achieve that for yourself.

Stick around if the idea of a clean house and an organized closet makes you tingle a little. Or cringe.

Stick around if in your head you absolutely understand that no one ever died from missing a piano recital, but in your heart you know that you have brought a hundred year shame upon your house and ruined a child because you haven’t learned to work a calendar.

Stick around if you eat entirely too many corn chips.

Stick around if you think your family is better than everybody else’s, even though you know they’re not, but they really are.

Stick around if you don’t like other people’s children. You don’t have to say it out loud.

Stick around if you’re pretty sure the people you work with have figured out you have no idea what you’re doing. Or if you’ve managed to fool them all.

Stick around if you agree that we’re all just playing pretend, and we may as well pretend something fun.

Stick around if you’ve learned that even the best designer bags go out of style eventually.

Stick around if you default to yes and figure it out later, or if no is your go-to answer.

Stick around if you love talking to strangers. Or coffee. Or lipgloss. Or weird yoga moves. Or really good black eyeliner. Or gossip. Or the sound of the keys clacking out a message.

Stick around if you agree that high heels grant women power, and so do flats. Depends on the day.

Stick around if gin is your juice, or if you walk the sober line and observe the shenanigans.

Stick around if you’ve ever been left out of the boys’ club, so you started your own.

Stick around if you listen to your mother, be she sane or not.

Stick around if you’ve ever painted just the three toes that show when you’re wearing a peep toe shoe. Because whose business are those hidden digits, anyway?

Stick around if you know that your friends are the family you choose.

Stick around if you believe that life is indeed too short to fold fitted sheets, but damn it, you do it anyway.

Stick around if Pinterest is your frenemy.

Stick around if you’ve ever been caught dancing with your steering wheel.

Stick around if you’d like to grow old youthfully.

Stick around if you share too much and keep too much private, all at the same time.

Stick around if you relentlessly pursue your own happiness, even if that makes you selfish sometimes, because you know deep down that is what you’re supposed to do.

Stick around if you dust only when necessary, like 5 minutes before dinner guests arrive, and only in the spots they will see.

Stick around if you’re determined to smile, sparkle, and smirk. Every day.

Stick around. Let’s be friends.


 

Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale. 

Working Mom Life: Expectations Are For Suckers

#WorkingMom Eileen Jennings

Working Mom Life is an interview series featuring real working mothers who are figuring out how to get the job done. Because there are more ways to be a working mom than there are ways to fold a cloth diaper, we can all learn from each other. I hope you’ll join the conversation #WorkingMomLife.

Eileen Jennings is a commercial banker, clothing designer, homesteader wannabe, and breast cancer survivor. She is also mom to a six-year-old daughter, Scout. And as you can see from her homemade meme below, she’s an enthusiast for showing off your personal awesome. I love Eileen’s reminders about expectations, the ones we set our for ourselves, and the ones others set for us. I hope you have 3 minutes to read the whole thing, but if not, here are 3 key takeaways you can use right now:

  • You get to define how you measure success. Make sure the accomplishment of “keeping a helpless human alive” gets the proper respect it deserves.
  • Unless your partner is a psychic (and even then because most of those guys are fakes) you have to talk about roles and responsibilities out loud.
  • Expectations change over time and with changes in circumstances. Prioritize and adjust accordingly.

#WorkingMomLife

Interview with Eileen Jennings

LD: How old was Scout when you went back to work, and what was the biggest challenge of returning to work at that time?

EJ: 12 weeks. I was fortunate to have her daycare two blocks from my office and would visit and nurse her. The biggest challenge is managing expectations. You can’t do everything you were doing. You have to change how you measure successes, large and small.

I also incorporated Scout in a lot of work and volunteer obligations.  She attended countless baseball games when I was hosting the suite, been to Chamber after-hour events, and also has been to her fair share of Junior League board meetings, Children’s House work days, etc. Not every event is kid-appropriate, but I found that if I incorporated her into the event and turned her into a participant rather than a prop that I needed to apologize for, things went more smoothly. I never had a customer complain and actually, they enjoyed being around a baby, toddler, etc. Because of this, Scout is very comfortable with adults. She asks about their businesses, why they do what they do, and how they solve problems. She feels like she is part of the situation, not just hanging around until things are over.

LD: When you talk about managing expectations, are you speaking of your own, or those of the people you work with?

EJ: I had to manage my own expectations. When Scout was 18 months old, I had my first ever anxiety attack and went through some counseling. I had not done a good job of managing my expectations and was comparing myself to other mothers, etc. We worked through it and laid some new ground rules for myself. It was extremely helpful and I am a strong advocate for therapy/counseling. I came to accept that if our family was together and enjoying each other, that was a success. If we all made it to an event together on time, that was a bigger success. A good partner is essential. Whether you lean on your husband, MIL, neighbor, sister, etc., you have to have help. The sooner you realize that the better. And a frank discussion early on about expectations and perceived duties is a must.

LD: What keeps your family running?  

EJ: Lots of sleep, and shared calendar appointments. My husband and I send outlook appointments to us both. If he schedules the next dentist appointment, we both have it on our calendar and can decide who needs to take her. Also, good, clean food with lots of vegetables and protein. We eat a lot of frozen veggies and fruits. Scout loves eggs with veggies and whole wheat pasta, and I make things on the weekends and then heat them up throughout the week.

LD: During a major health challenge, you still managed to work, feed your child, and stay married. How did you pull that off?  

EJ: I’m good in a crisis, maybe better than when things are calm. We prioritized and just let everything else come out in the wash. I had a good team at the office and amazing friends and family that helped so much. We also bought a microwave. When you are going through something big, people’s expectations of you change. You have to become self-focused and get healthy so you can get back to your normal life.

LD: Have you ever received any really good advice about winning the #WorkingMomLife game?  

EJ: Be flexible. We tend to formulate how situations and events are supposed to unfold before they do. This can make for disappointments. It’s good to envision the life you want–blah, blah, blah–but know that things can change and you’ll have to roll with it.

LD: What is your advice for new moms who plan to work, or for seasoned moms headed back to work?  

EJ: Do what feels right to you and go tell your critics to take a long walk off a short pier. It’s so easy to compare yourself to other working moms that seem to have their act together. More than likely they’re at home hiding in the closet, eating ice cream and drinking appletinis from a can. (Editorial note: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Work won’t be the same. It can’t be. It’s now your responsibility to keep another human alive. Things will change. Especially if you have a job that is more than just 8-5. Women tend to apologize for the change, men don’t.

And with that, I’d like to thank Eileen and encourage the rest of us to keep those expectations in check. Imagine that life of your dreams–blah, blah, blah–and then take what actually comes and make it work.  

Portrait of a Junk Drawer

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As a kid I once opened the wrong drawer at a friend’s house. Instead of the spoons her mother had asked for, I found a broken ruler, chewed pencils, and a padlock splattered with paint.

“Junk drawer,” the mom said. “Everybody’s got one.”

What a relief. We had a drawer at home that held hair bands, restaurant matches, and inkless pens. I’d assumed this was our family’s particular shame. Learning that other people suffered the junk-sickness was comforting, but still, I wanted better for myself. When I moved away from home, I tried not to repeat the pattern, but somehow ended up maintaining my own junk drawers in apartments and houses across the country. All the while I dreamed of an organized space with cubbies for keys, picture hanging hardware, and miniature screwdrivers.

I’m not quite there.

We have two junk drawers now: his and hers. His catches manly items like lighters, electrical tape, and the occasional nut and bolt. Mine is for the stuff of daily life. I open it no less than ten times a day and I organize it over and over in my continuous effort to get it to close properly.

First, I root out garbage because trash gives respectable junk drawers a bad name. I don’t need an old church program or last May’s third grade spelling list. I toss cardboard boxes and brochures for $45 bottles of acai berry juice. Of course, not all trash starts out as such, but is rendered useless over time. What good is $3 off a car wash in 2004? Was I planning to time travel? I find idea notes for stories scratched off on index cards: Red Explorer-leaf pile playhouse-childhood dream with circus rat. That’s useful.

Some things inspire guilt, like my daughter’s crumpled artwork. While my firstborn’s early masterpieces hold a place of honor in a plastic tub somewhere, the second child will surely need art therapy later. There is the Scalpicin I bought before I realized the itchy scalp really was lice and not just some other irritant that, God forbid, the neighbors might mistake for lice. I debate where to put the telephone number to Poison Control (in case I splash nail polish remover in my daughter’s eye again).

Then there are essentials. Sure, I can live without the nutritional information for McDonald’s and Starbucks, but not my bent and faded Weight Watchers Points Counter. That stays. Also, Post-its, Sharpies, tape, and paper clips. These are must-have supplies in a well-stocked kitchen.

I finally reach the bottom of the drawer, only to find that uncapped pens have created inkblots that inspire me to peer deep into my psyche. Not good. The ink needs covering up—quick. Back into the drawer go immunization records, pencils, candy, scissors, and erasers. Back in for binder clips, thumbtacks, and take-out menus.

Done. One little spot is relatively organized and I feel lighter. Though my drawer may not be perfect, it gets me through the day. And it shuts—for now.

Which is more than I can say for the silverware drawer.

This is an excerpt from Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collection, Blacklisted from the PTA.

Photo Credit: Elsie esq. via Compfight cc

What’s Your Super Power?

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If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be? This is the question I started asking myself in late December after clicking the kind of headline that sucks me in every time: The One Question All Successful People Can Answer Immediately. Who doesn’t click that? Don’t you want to be successful? Like, right now? Ever since I went back to work I’ve been devouring stories like this from The Muse, these promises to make me better after an easy 2-minute read. They usually deliver. Articles on The Muse and LinkedIn have helped me bridge the gap between yoga-panted freelancer and respectable business leader who works well with others and no longer refers to “decks” as “PowerPoints.”

According to the author of the superpower post, knowing your superpower provides focus and therefore competitive advantage. (I’m quite certain my powers are spreadsheets and sarcasm, thanks for asking.) I say knowing what you’re good at is important, but knowing your Kryptonite might be even more important. I, for example, am not the most relaxed person. Surprise! I might overreact here and there. The general tendency of my family to leave their dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is right there are you kidding me? may have compelled me to shout obscenities through the house on more than one occasion.

This is not the best way to have a peaceful home.

Dirty dishes aside, maintaining calm in the face of chaos wins in business too. More than good ideas, more than strategy, more than flawless execution, maybe even more than luck–what separates successful people from those who consistently struggle, is the ability to keep calm. That’s not always easy, especially when your default mode is “Freak Out.”

So, if we get to pick, and we do, my superpower of choice is Calm. I’ll keep working on that. In the meantime, my spreadsheets will have to do.

What’s your superpower? What do you wish it were?

Making Babies, the Sexy Way

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The baby making started one Saturday afternoon, sitting in our very cool Seattle condo, the one with the herbs growing on the tiny lanai and the Trader Joe’s across the street. Within walking distance was the gym where I spent no less than six hours a week, amazingly good and affordable restaurants, killer views, concerts, and half a dozen coffee shops. My husband and I did whatever we wanted. At twenty-seven, I felt the pressure of my biological clock. No one in my mother’s family had made it past twenty before popping out at least one offspring. My mother-in-law had started referring to our cat as her only grandchild—maybe because we kept the kitty’s portrait in a gilded frame on the mantle of the flip-a-switch gas fireplace.

It was time.

Had there been a good movie playing that weekend, or a band we hadn’t yet seen, or maybe a special on design-your-own burritos, we might have delayed our decision. Instead, on a rainy Saturday with nothing better to do, we decided to have a baby. Apparently, we were that bored. Who could blame us? We had spent endless days riding ferries and mountain bikes, while sipping coffee in every incarnation. We had enjoyed countless temperate evenings on the lawn under the Space Needle with those excessive burritos and craft beer. We had two jobs and one car. What more could we possibly need?

Once we had committed to the task, there was no retreat. We spent the first day of our journey engaged in lighthearted procreation banter and a few practice runs. The next day, we began preparing for our task in earnest, starting at the bookstore because this was long before Google. Try to imagine a time, less than twenty years ago, when every answer was not immediately accessible at your fingertips. In order to learn about a topic in depth, you had to go to a library or a bookstore. And, boy, did we learn that day.

“It says here there is only a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month,” I told John.

Suddenly, all those years playing defense against the ever-persistent sperm brigade seemed a monumental wasted effort. According to the drawings and descriptions of the complex and interdependent biological processes involved, getting pregnant was nearly impossible.

I became a woman obsessed. Oh, yes, this was going to happen. I am nothing if not an achiever. After consulting a few more books and a few friends, I decided daily sex was the answer. Ten days in a row, to be precise. We would practice the rhythm method in reverse. Because one never knows exactly when an egg will drop, I was determined to provide all-day-every-day access to sperm, whenever my egg decided to descend. All I needed was a steady supply of sperm for a three-day window before and after the projected ovulation day. It’s a common calculation.

I might have made a spreadsheet.

John and I had heard it could take several months after I stopped taking the pill for me to get pregnant. No worries. Our concentrated sex schedule would pay off sooner or later. Surprisingly, ten-day-in-a-row sex is not that fun. Maybe a sure thing kills a mood, or maybe we just weren’t that good at it. Regardless, after the first few days, the magic was gone. Still, we’d committed to the process.

“Come on,” I said to him on Night Eight. “It’s go time.” By that point, conception was a mission. Lingerie and sweet words not required.

“Really?” He looked at me, at the bed, at my scrappy sweatpants. “Let’s sit this one out.”

Sit it out? Was he insane?

“You know the drill. Ten days in a row.” I pulled back the sheet. “Do you want to have a baby or not?”

Suit up—or in this case, don’t—or get out.

“So what if it’s not this month?” he said.

Oh, no, buddy.

We had a system. We had a deadline. The project might have become less about getting pregnant and more about accomplishing a goal.

“Listen,” I said. “We can skip tonight if you want, but when your child one day comes complaining to you that he can’t go out with his friends because he doesn’t turn twenty-one until next month, well, that’s on you.”

I’m seductive like that.

And so it was done.

A few weeks later, on a rainy Saturday, I peed on a stick and got the blessed two lines. Just as I had planned.

This is an excerpt from Lela Davidson’s forthcoming essay collection, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, to be published in September 2015.

Apology Note for Traveling with a Baby (aka Your Boss)

Should parents hand out apology goodie bags when flying with babies? I don’t think so, and I’m not one to eat candy from strangers. Rebecca Dube wrote a nice piece about why we should all oppose this weird new custom, and I agree a baby is nothing to apologize for. Not on planes, not in church, and the grocery store is a free for all, got it? However, I think maybe we could apply the practice of preemptive apologies to other troublesome travelers. Like a co-worker*.

Hi Stranger,

My name is Bob. I will be 42 on December 17th and this is my 89th flight. I’ll try to be on my best behavior but I’d like to apologize in advance if I lose my cool, get scared that a junior associate is going to take my job, or find out via in-flight wifi that I am not going to make my quarterly numbers. My team packed you this goodie bag with a few treats. There are also earplugs in case one of my many public tirades isn’t as enjoyable to you as it is to the people I work with.

Have a great flight :)

Insert a few of those cute little liquor bottles and then sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.

*No actual co-workers were harmed in the making of this post. 

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.