Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Truth About Cats, Dogs, and Kids

All young animals eventually need to separate from their mothers - I try not to take it personally when my boys avoid my hugs, or give me monosyllabic grunts instead of answers to questions, and god forbid I ever touch them in public. But I can't help missing those days when they clung to my hand in public, crawled on my lap, or even followed me into the bathroom (anyone else remember those days of never peeing in private?) I realized the perfect analogy for the transition - I was talking to my girlfriend Danielle, whose son is about to come home for holiday leave from military training. She was trying not to feel too hurt that he was going to spend time with friends (and show off his uniform) before he hung out with the family, but she planned to make his favorite pot roast as an incentive, and I blurted out, "Teenage boys aren't dogs, they're cats; not willing to express any affection, but eventually coming home for food."

I've always been a dog person - I love that our beloved mutt, Lucy, follows me everywhere I go and seems to have no interest in anything but whatever her humans are doing. Cats are aloof and snooty, only condescending to acknowledge humans when food or other necessities are involved. So kids are like dogs until they hit puberty, then they become much more feline, and so I'll have to content myself with slobbery kisses from my dog, and the occasional texted 'I love you, mom' whenever the boys want me to do something for them! (However, my friends with older children assure me the boys will become affectionate puppies again once they have their own children, appreciate all our sacrifices, and need advice . . . I'm counting the days!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Two of my biggest challenges in life are computers and kids - I deal with them on a regular basis, I have no idea how they work, and they frequently frustrate me. I tend to stumble along and hope things will work out - "My hard drive is making a funny noise but it's not urgent", or "Yeah, I should call about tutoring/therapy/trying to find pants for them, but I'm swamped this week . . . "

However, yesterday I had no choice, my laptop was completely on the blink, and given how much time I spend working in the car while I wait for the boys at their various activities, this was like having a non-functioning right arm. So I fought through my fears (It'll take forever! They'll think I'm an idiot! I won't understand what to do and I'll cry on the phone with a total stranger!) and called the Apple Care number - a charming (and handsome-sounding) young man walked me through re-installing my system, without shaming me, and he even made an appointment for me at a local store to have the battery compartment screw fixed and the loose 'C' key re-attached. The best part? (Apart from my brandnew computer customer service agent fantasy?) It was quick, easy, it worked, and now I know what I'm doing!

So all I need is a 1-800 number for my kids. I can't help it, I'm always second-guessing myself; When is a reasonable bed-time for a 12-year-old? Where's the line between age-appropriate separation and unacceptable rudeness? How do I encourage good study habits? What do I say to an over-extended over-tired 15-year-old who moves understandably slowly in the morning? (Apparently, "Time to get up, you're going to be late" isn't correct, given the crabby reaction I got today!) I want to call some nice, understanding, handsome-sounding customer service agent who will walk me through all my conflicts, make me feel competent, and set up all the appointments I need (tutoring/therapy/trying to find pants to fit a short 12-year-old who won't wear jeans, and a lanky 15-year-old whose pants size is 30/34 except no one on the planet makes those!)

Until someone comes up with that hotline, I guess I'll muddle through like I usually do, call my girlfriends for advice and reassurance, and remind myself that our parents survived without internet, parenting books, microwaves, ziploc bags, or spanx . . . it could be worse!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Celebrities ARE just like us! (Yeah right.)

Breaking news: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes just spend several hundred dollars at FAO Schwartz, buying toys for a children's charity (and apparently they spent several thousand dollars and p.r. releases about their generosity). Okay, folks, can we declare a moratorium on gushing over celebrities' so-called generosity? Compared to their income, that shopping spree represents a tiny percentage - about the equivalent of people in my tax bracket giving $1 to the high school food drive. Plus the store was closed so they could shop in private, without the hideous inconveniences of waiting in line, dealing with other shoppers, and all the other privations that would have dampened their holiday spirit.

I don't mean to disparage celebrities who use their fame for good causes, but face it, what they do isn't that hard. For example, Anne Hathaway offered herself as a 'date' to the highest bidder, to raise money for a crisis center for LGBT youth. Her hard work involved going out for drinks with three admiring fans who spent $12,000 for the privilege - sure, I admire her for helping raise awareness, etc., etc., but it doesn't sound nearly as stressful or laborious as stuffing Thursday envelopes at school, or standing out in front of Safeway in the cold trying to collect canned food. So where is the People Magazine profile of all of us and our charitable efforts?

If we want something real newsworthy, how about a celebrity who cleans his own toilet or does her own yardwork? (On a regular basis, not just for the photo op under "Celebrities are just like us!")

Friday, December 5, 2008

Late Bloomers

Tomorrow I hit a major milestone birthday, and you won't be hearing about it on the news ('movie star turns 33'). That's mostly because I'm an obscure suburban mom who occasionally writes and performs comedy, and whose albums sell by the dozens if I'm lucky; but I prefer to think of myself as a late bloomer, someone who won't achieve noted success until later in life. (And my milestone is the big 5-0, so I'm already 'later in life'!) I've always found it odd that we expect people to achieve creative success early in life - frankly, I'd much rather read, watch, or listen to someone with the broader perspective of age than take advice from some young snip. (I remember a few years ago, the singer Jewel published an autobiography at about age 25 - I know I was an idiot at 25, and I didn't want to read about anyone else at that age!)

In most professions, one's ability is only enhanced by age, not to mention having more experiences to draw on. (The exceptions being supermodel and professional athlete.) So here are a few examples that at least make me feel better about my late-bloomer-to-be status:

Rodney Dangerfield didn't start doing comedy professionally til he was 42.
KT Oslin was 47 when she released her first album.
Zelda Rubenstein (the medium from 'Poltergeist') didn't have a major movie role til she was 49.
The Marquis De Sade wrote his first book at 51.
Poet Wallace Stevens was an insurance salesmen until he began publishing his poetry in his 50s.
Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe at 58 (and back then, 58 was OLD!)
Alfred Hitchcock made his best films (including Rear Window, Psycho, and North By North West) between 54 and 61.
The paintings Paul Cezanne made in his 60s are 15 times more valuable than those he made in his 20s and 30s.
Maya Angelou was in her 60s when her books and poetry became popular (and she appeared on Sesame Street).
Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first "Little House" books in her 60s.
Colonel Sanders began Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 60s.
Grandma Moses was in her 70s before she began painting.

Colonel Sanders and Grandma Moses are the exception - most of these artists, like Hitchcock, Cezanne and Angelou, began their creative efforts early, but their work continued to improve as they aged, like fine wine. So that's me - a mature cabernet, rather than a beaujolais nouveau-esque child prodigy. Besides, many early successes, like Mozart, also died young. In fact, when Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for 15 years. Actually, I'm not sure if that makes me feel better, but I know I'll use my father's line, when people ask if I mind turning 50 - "Not when I consider the alternative!"

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Age of Aquarium

Last night, Uncle Andy & Uncle Bob came over with the boys' chanukah gift, a complete fresh-water aquarium with all the paraphernalia (filter, air pump, heater, siphon, and 2 fish, one of whom looks pregnant). The whole point was for Ben & David to take on this responsibility, so I forced myself to stay in the kitchen cooking dinner while the boys got a tutorial in how to care for the fish and the equipment - and now I have no idea how to do any of it, which was the point. I wasn't going to go through another round of "Oh, mommy, please can I have a hamster/rat/lizard/bunny?, I'll do everything, I promise."

Andy is my dearest friend from college, and when I first moved to San Francisco and reconnected with him, we became so close that we discussed the possibility of getting married; we were both pianists, we liked vintage music, we'd both given up on meeting the right guy. I mentioned the possible marriage to my mother, whose immediate reaction was, "Oh, but honey, you know there's a problem. . . . . he's not Jewish!" When I pointed out that being gay might be a larger impediment, she stammered something about 'everything is negotiable.' However, things worked out for the best, and we're both happily married to the men of our dreams (it just took me one extra try). And naturally, when we asked Andy & Bob to be the boys' godparents, they each wanted to know which one got to be the fairy godmother.

Looking at the hypnotic bubbles and undulations in our new aquarium - I think they're both a bit of a fairy godmother, giving us all so many wonderful new experiences, from watching the miracle of undersea life to the even bigger miracle of having a pet that I don't have to take care of! (And yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition, but watching the fish has made me too mellow to care . . . . )