Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “humor”

Mid-Life: Cry, Sis

At what point is it reasonable to ask yourself whether you have, for certain, lived already longer than you will yet live?

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Heavy stuff.

I’m about to be 45. I’m in my last days of 44-ness, actually. So, I’ll have to live beyond 90 in order to be looking right now at having more life ahead of me than I have behind. Statistically, I’m not sure this is possible. So, that’s kind of a bummer.

Psychology Today argues that “midlife” is age 40-65, but I don’t see a whole lot of 130-year olds out there who agree. An economist at the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that the age of 47 is generally the unhappiest year of a person’s life, according to data collected among participants in over 130 countries. So, great…I have that to look forward to.

But, it appears that researchers and doctors and expert-types of all shapes and sizes have looked into this un-happiness “curve,” as they call it, where folks are at their highest lowness before finding happiness again as they take their long march toward death.

Apparently, though, if you’re in “midlife” like I apparently am, and you enjoy emotional self-torture, there is no scarcity of information on the World Wide Web to help you wallow in your despair. Luckily, there are a few people out there trying to help us see the “bright side,” though, so I will share some of that here in case you find that sort of thing interesting.

  1. A publication released in 1999 found that “people at midlife score higher on almost every measure of cognitive functioning than they did when they were 25.” Source
  2. Though Brett Arends at Market Watch wrote, “And here was me, thinking the midlife slump was the result of being Generation X, sandwiched between a bunch of boomers who won’t get off the stage and millennials who can’t wait to run us over,” it turns out that dissatisfaction with one’s life at our age coincides with events that just tend to happen at this age such as loss of a spouse or job. So, I mean, if you DON’T have a spouse die, then I guess you’ll be cool.
  3. A 2011 study conducted through Stanford University busted the myth that one’s youth is the “prime of life.” In fact, The Guardian reported on this a few years ago, asserting that “contrary to the popular view that youth is the best time in life, the present findings suggest that the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade.” Read more feel-good stuff from that article here.
  4. AARP, the authority on old people, published just in January of this year, an article that will let you know that what was always laughed at as the time in one’s life to divorce your wife and date your 25-year old secretary is not really like that at all. In fact, for most people, they claim, this is the point in life at which folks tend to reevaluate their lives and Get. Shit. Done.
  5. And finally if the bro-dom of GQ is your thing, you can check out this article on how midlife is a great time to get tattoos, smoke weed, and become awesome. All joking aside, the article nicely demonstrates how as we age, we become less concerned with pleasing others and more interested in being ourselves which is, indeed, pretty awesome.
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I’ll continue to surf the web in my attempt to embrace my aging-soul and become my “best self” or whatever Oprah shit I can find out there. But, the truth is that it is hard when you think about what is behind you. If you are one of those 50-year olds who started working out in midlife, what is behind you is maybe a really sweet ass, but for most of us, we just sort of think about how we used to be fun and now go to bed at 9:00.

But, I’ll try, ok? Maybe I should think about all of the cool people who were just STARTING their amazing journeys in “middle age”: Steve Carrell didn’t get his break on The Office until he was 43. Harrison Ford was a carpenter until he was 35 and was cast in Star Wars. Bryan Cranston didn’t hit is breakout role (Malcolm in the Middle) until he was 44. Lucille Ball was 40 when I Love Lucy started. Leslie Jones didn’t get into the SNL cast until she was 47. Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad until he was 38 and directed his first big film, Brokeback Mountain. In 1982, Martha Stewart published her breakout-book, Entertaining at age 41, subsequently launching her career in the business. And, finally, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Betty White. She was 51 years old when she first got the role that allowed her career to skyrocket: Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Anything that is good enough for Betty Freakin’ White is good enough for me.

Parenting During the Death of Public Education

I am going to put my ‘mom” hat back on today, but I still have my “teacher” glasses on for now.

My kids are in 5th and 8th grades. They’re pretty awesome kids. But, that’s not why you’re here.

I firmly and whole-heartedly have always supported public education. It is the way in which we build a society. It is the method by which we grow our citizens into thinking, problem-solving, collaborative adults.

That’s not to say that private schools don’t do this. But, public schools do it — for free — in your own neighborhood — while also providing a myriad of learning and support services — with fully certified teachers. As a mom, this is important to me.

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But, there is a shift happening in public education and it will impact our children. You may not be aware of it because you are not as far down in this rabbit hole of information as I am, so let me get you up to speed on a few things going on right now in America that are changing the way our children get their learning.

First, let’s talk about some of the absolutely bonkers stuff that is going on at the government-level. The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill that would require teachers to submit and publish a year’s worth of lesson plans on June 30 of the year prior. This is a nicely-written article about this issue if you’d like to learn more. But, here’s the thing: if you didn’t know anything about how the work of teaching happens, this might seem ok to you. What’s the big deal? Don’t you KNOW what you’re doing? Why don’t you want to make it public? What are you hiding, you peasant public servant?

But, it is pretty impossible to do this without a pre-packaged curriculum at your disposal. I mean, I don’t know next year’s kids on June 30. I haven’t met them yet. I don’t know what their needs will be. And, honestly, there are a bazillion other reasons why this is nuts. Do you know what project you’ll be working on and exactly what your day will look like…say November 14 of this year? Most people don’t. You can give an estimate, likely, but for you to fill out a detailed agenda for every day of the next year of your life might be kinda hard.

The simple answer to this is for a school to purchase a curriculum from a company like Pearson or Cengage Learning. This is a bit of a “hmmmm…” moment for me. If legislation makes it nearly impossible NOT to purchase a product, then I am forced to buy that product, thus I make some company more money. Whose best interest is being served here? As neither a mother nor a teacher do I believe the best interest being served is my kids’.

I might add that lesson plans are not fast or easy to write. I can spend hours on one lesson for one class period of one day. There is research involved, connection to standards, inclusion of multimedia, design of projects or assignments or quizzes associated, plans for enrichment for the high-achieving kids, plans for remediation for struggling kids, the material I’ll present, how I’ll present it, what my objectives are, what ultimate goal I’m aligning this all with…seriously — I don’t just sit down and go “ummm…Hamlet. I’ll just, like, talk about Hamlet things” and that’s all there is to it. And, when you think about Hamlet as an example, you might realize that I’d have to be an expert on it before I can even start writing that single day’s lesson which, ya know, might take a minute or two. Now, multiply all of this by the number of different classes I have in one day. That can be upward of 4 or 5 for some teachers. So, they’ll do all of that for 4 or 5 different classes, for every day, for 180 days. AND have it done before they leave for the summer on top of all of the stuff that needs to be done to close out a school year: paperwork, grades, reports, etc.

Similar bills are also in places like Arizona and North Carolina where the primary concern is that teachers might talk about issues relating to race, gender, and LGBTQIA+ folks. More on that in another post. So, the quick fix, again, is to BUY a curriculum from a company whose politics you like and just deliver the content as it is packaged. I ask again whose interest we’re serving here. Watch where your money is going, folks.

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Now, there are some great curricula out there and just because it comes from a major corporation doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Similarly, just because a teacher wrote it doesn’t make a lesson good. But, it does take away the need for an actual professional in the classroom. If all you need is a warm body to read from a text book, assign questions to answer, and just facilitate stuff that is in a script, you don’t really need ME. My 23 years in education, my Master’s Degree, my experience and knowledge, and understanding of students– well, none of that matters really. It’s always nice to have a seasoned veteran deliver packaged content, but it certainly isn’t necessary. It is just another brick in the wall. Your kids are just ground beef churned out by the system then.

Hey, Teacher, leave those kids alone.
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The Washington Post reports that public school changes are alive and well across the nation and these changes are with the express purpose of privatizing education, something I thought was only a problem while that jackass lady who used to run the Department of Ed was in power. Remember her? She who shall not be named. As of this writing, there are sixteen states that are in the process of increasing their voucher programs or are fighting to otherwise shift allocation of public funding to private educational facilities. If you’re not up on all of this and aren’t sure why charters and “school choice” is actually not what you should want, you can check out this article to learn about the deliberate dismantling of public schools.

All-in-all, when we privatize education, we are putting it in the hands of FOR-PROFIT companies. Maybe this is capitalism at its finest and will increase competition which will increase results. But, here’s the reality: a private school does not HAVE to take your kid. It doesn’t have to teach your kid. It doesn’t have to keep your kid when he screws up. It doesn’t have to provide services for your kids’ special needs. It doesn’t have to DO much of anything except generally keep their numbers where they want them in order to keep the money where they want it. In some places, it doesn’t even have to hire certified teachers.

Maybe I’m crazy but I think that diversity is a good thing. I think that certified teachers are a good thing. I think that teaching critical thinking and challenging kids’ minds beyond what’s “in the book” is a good thing. I used to talk with my students about existentialism and literary critical theory. Now, we read mini-articles written two grade-levels lower than expected and regurgitate information on standardized tests. My current packaged curriculum (which is a basis for my teaching, basically informing the sequencing of units, but is not the majority of my teaching) includes ZERO novels. I’m a high school English teacher. Did you know that your child could go through four years of high school and never read a book? I won’t name the company whose curriculum includes no books at all for high school kids, but they’re one of the highest-earning, well-known educational companies on the planet and their stuff is in thousands of schools.

This is not what I want for my children. I want them to disagree with me. I want them to think. I want them to criticize and evaluate and read a damn book. Hell, THEY want to read books.

For what it’s worth, you might want to check out this article that is titled, “Are You Learning at School or Just Bullshitting Everything?” And, for fun, try Googling “why >insert curriculum company here< sucks.” It works for any of the companies. The results are terrifying and maddening and hilarious and depressing.

So, my fellow parents, if you have chosen private education for your children, cool. Whatever. That’s fine. But, please be aware that the public school system is still an important element of our nation’s functional growth. And, remember: if public school dies, all the riff-raff you’ve been trying to keep your kids away from will have to go somewhere and it might be your private school.

“But, I don’t really have a point.”

Lesson #9 in our series on How To Be a Better Arguer

Today’s lesson: Prove it.

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I was reading a thread in the comments section of a local newspaper today. There are many interesting things you can learn about your fellow locals when you check out these comments sections. You may lose your faith in humanity, though.

In a thread about whether a Christopher Columbus statue in my city should or should not be removed and put into a museum, one delightful lady was enraged by how, in her opinion, this would be destroying history.

Oh. Lordy.

Two things stuck out for me in her comments: she had no backing for her thoughts, and she said at one point that everyone she’s talked to (not sure why she felt it necessary to note that she’s gone off on this topic with other people, too) all know that she’s “not going to budge” on this. No one can convince her to change her mind.

See… that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

Let’s take each of these issues separately. First, let’s consider her comments. She stated, repeatedly, but in slightly different terms each time, that her position was that removing statues like this one was a futile and irresponsible attempt to ignore history and was even creating a societal problem where people would no longer learn about important moments and figures of the past.

But, ya know, just some lady saying so doesn’t make that true.

For any real intellectual debate on a topic, you, minimally, have to have what we in the biz call a CLAIM, DATA, and a WARRANT.

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A claim is a statement of assertion. In this case, I suppose it would be something like, “The local Christopher Columbus statue should not be removed to a museum because doing so would lead to fewer people learning about historical moments and people, even if those moments or people do not represent history about which we are proud.”

Then, you have to have some data to back that up. Statistics, examples, expert opinions, quotes from reliable news sources…these are the kinds of things that you need to have. Karen comes close when she says that Auschwitz was left standing as a reminder of history we’d rather not repeat, so this should, too, and for the same reason.

But, that’s a pretty weak example. I’ll dig into this more next time when I discuss the “False Equivalency Fallacy.”

But, third, you need to have a “warrant.” That’s where you connect your data and your claim, explaining HOW your data supports your claim.

She’s missing this entirely. She’d have to explain how Auschwitz and the local Christopher Columbus statue relate and thus how the Auschwitz example proves she’s correct about the local Christopher Columbus statue. But, see, she can’t logically do that, because as one of my teaching colleagues pointed out to her, these two things do NOT connect. This, she does not dispute, saying then only that nobody will ever change her mind.

So that leads to my second problem. If no one can change your mind, why are you in a conversation at all? Here are the only options I can think of. Feel free to help me add to this list if you’d like:

1. You came to the comments section of a local newspaper to “school” everyone on the “right” way to look at an issue. You’ve decided to bless the readers with your glorious, unfounded and unsupported gobbledegook.

2. You thought everyone was going to agree with you and this was going to be a celebration of how awesome we all agree you are because you share our inexpert opinions.

3. You don’t understand the issue but aren’t smart or educated enough (or are too stubborn to) recognize that.

4. You aren’t willing to admit that issues do have two (or more) perspectives.

5. You think people should listen to and agree with you, but you’re not interested in extending them the same courtesy.

Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

6. You like fights.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the point of debate was to hear each other out and (hopefully) persuade the opposition to consider (not AGREE with necessarily) your perspective. A statement of “La La La La! I’m not listening!” doesn’t exactly say, “let me explain where you’re wrong so I may persuade you to see things my way,” ya know? It also outrightly refuses to be open to considering the opposition’s ideas or where you both may agree, even if only in part.

So, what do you do in this situation? I feel like there’s not much you can do.

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If somebody says, “there’s nothing that will get me to change my mind,” there’s no real point, right? You’re arguing with the wind.

You can, however, try to present your side rationally. Perhaps others witnessing your discussion might still be persuaded by your words and that’s not nothin’.

Or, you can just duke it out, call her names, and let it be juvenile and ugly. I mean, you won’t get anywhere, but if you needed an anonymous victim for your verbal assaults because you just feel like getting belligerent, then, ok, I guess. I mean, I don’t officially and professionally RECOMMEND this, but, like, you CAN do it.

So, next time I’ll get into that issue if the false equivalency. I think you’ll agree that it’s all too common of a tactic used in disagreements.

Stay tuned.

As usual, I’m Off Duty Mom and this is my Masterclass.

#thankyouforcomingtomytedtalk

Be A Better Arguer: Lesson #3

“I read somewhere…”

“Studies show…”

“I’ve heard from reputable sources…”

“They say that…”

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Ahhh… the “Appeal to Anonymous Authority.”

This is a logical fallacy (definition: a flaw in the structure or line of reasoning in an argument that renders it invalid). It’s probably the one I see most commonly on social media…where all the “experts” (wink*wink) are.

People on the internet always have opinions, don’t they? But, see, most people are using that word wrong. An opinion, in its truest sense, is an idea based on an appraisal of available circumstances or data. I mean, anyone can have an opinion in the sense that they can have likes, dislikes, faith, beliefs, or interests. But if you want to be in an ARGUMENT, an “opinion” is different and you just gotta have some sources, proof, evidence…ya know…stuff that isn’t just randomness from your own head.

Here’s what to do when faced with someone whose argument is invalid because of the use of the “Appeal to Anonymous Authority” fallacy:

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1. You fight facts with facts. You fight “opinions” with…facts.

To have a quality, reasonable, logical argument, you need to have evidence or data to support your claim(s). Data/evidence can exist in several forms including, but not limited to:

—numbers,charts, graphs, and figures from recognized experts in the field most relevant to the issue at hand

—conclusions, studies, and opinions (in the true sense of the word) from experts in the field (even better is when you can find the same conclusions drawn by multiple experts).

—quotes from reputable news organizations and written by reputable writers (click on the name of a journalist on any article – you’ll be taken to their credentials. If there’s no writer listed, run away. If there are no credentials listed, run away.)

—scientific studies that are peer-reviewed

2. Comment reasonably and intelligently on your data.

Don’t merely provide a list of facts. Explain simply and clearly HOW those facts support your claim. This is actually tougher than it sounds. I consider myself lucky if I can get 75% of my students (who avidly study and practice this) to write good commentary. But, really, if you don’t connect the dots, clarifying what you suggest the data you’ve presented shows about the claim you’ve made, you’re just listing facts. Lists don’t persuade. They bore.

3. Evaluate the potential holes in or objections to your argument. How would a good arguer respond to my words?

If you can think objectively about defense, you can build a stronger offense. This, in turn, can shorten the duration of the argument as a whole and can make it clear that you just may be the only one who came truly ready to play. However, upon presenting a well-researched, supported point of view that’s pretty failsafe, you might be met with an attack on your intelligence, looks, age, etc. That’s another logical fallacy: the ad hominem attack that I covered in an earlier post. Sometimes people just feel the need to have the last word and, “bite me, donkey face” can feel better to them than letting your claims rest without retort.

So, come to an argument armed with facts, science, expert opinions, news sources, and support. And, most importantly, stay calm, stay on-topic, and keep it classy.

You’ve become so much smarter already from my Masterclass, haven’t you? 🤪

#thanksforcomingtomytedtalk

Next time: “No, Becky, ‘The Onion’ is not a Reputable News Source,” or, “How to Bring Good Data to the Argument”

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I Taught During a Pandemic and Then I Ranted About Shit on the Internet

If you’re joining our program already in progress, let me catch you up…

“Off Duty Mom” refers to being a mom who is tired all the time and thus needing to go “off duty” every now and again. It also makes a reference to what I do when I am “on duty” in the sense that I am getting paid to put up with children. I’m a teacher. I taught during the pandemic. I didn’t love it.

When the pandemic forced us out of schools in 2020, I started blowin’ people’s minds on the interwebs via my personal Facebook account. I started handing out free lessons about how to better argue with people since I wasn’t able to teach that content in school, ‘cuz, like, there kinda wasn’t really school at the time.

This is the second lesson in a series I published starting in May of 2020. It is republished here for your viewing and learning pleasure…

Enjoy.

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Lesson #2

The ad hominem attack

The phrase “ad hominem” translates to “to the man.” When someone attacks you personally, rather than addressing your position, that’s an ad hominem attack. Weak arguers use this logical fallacy mostly because they:

#1 hope to hurt or anger you, or

#2 can’t sufficiently argue against your points.

If you’ve been called “snowflake,” “boomer,” “sheep/sheeple,” etc., your opponent has shown his cards: he’s got nothin’.

These attacks can get even more personal depending on age, race, sexuality, gender, religion, and so on.

Yesterday, in response to a dumb joke I made on a friend’s Facebook page, I was called “sweetheart.” Sometimes terms like these (honey, sweetie, etc) are flung at women perhaps- and I don’t really know for sure- because if we can infantilize a woman, she’ll be put “back in her place.” The issues will be left to the big boys. Silly girls thinking they can say words. Haha.

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Another example might be tweeting about a group of people calling them “THUGS.” This word is racially-charged. Culturally, this term has come to mean “Black men who…cause trouble…mostly by wearing hoodies and…looking SUSPICIOUS.” Other racially-charged words (aside from the obvious) might include “homie,” “brother,” and even “boy” which again, historically was/is used to keep someone “in his place.” A “boy” is not a MAN, after all, and “man,” in a weak debate, is the highest life form (according to those who resort to these kinds of tactics).

Slurs, name-calling, and other personal attacks are attempts to suggest that you are weaker, less-than, or too stupid, too uneducated, too uninformed, or too ignorant to be worthy of speaking to the person slinging the insults.

A word doesn’t have to be a slur to be a demeaning ad hominem attack, either. Consider name-calling and “jokes” meant to poke “fun” at stereotypes: Asian drivers, Rural “hillbillies,” etc., as examples. Unless you’re arguing about whether or not Asian people are good drivers (and don’t argue that, come on), bringing a cultural stereotype into the mix is irrelevant and useless.

Look — this guy is smiling. I’m going to call him “Sam.” Sam looks like he’s enjoying being on the internet. Sam is probably being very nice to people online. You should be like Sam.
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What to do about it?

1. Do NOT play their game. If you’ve been attacked personally, rather than your opponent pointing out flaws in your argument, don’t respond in-kind. He’s dragged you down to his level and then you’re fighting instead of arguing if you do. Don’t just make an insult-fest.

2. Know that if someone has gone this direction, they’re either out of things to say that are valid or are more concerned with hurting your feeling than with having a dialogue. It may be best to walk away. This might prompt more name-calling, but remember how Marty McFly’s responses to being called “chicken” didn’t turn out well. Learn from Marty’s mistakes.

3. Realize that bullying and being a general meatball aren’t, you know, GOOD things. So, resist the urge to escalate the situation. Do not threaten to go to the guy’s house and punch him in the throat. This makes you MORE wrong now. Once you become the bad guy, that’s pretty hard to reverse. And, now you’ve lost credibility. Either go back to your point, calmly, or end the interaction.

In the end, pity the man* who has nothing to offer to the world or to your discussion other than insults. And rest comfortably in the knowledge that you’re better than that.

Thanks for your attention to my Masterclass. 😋

#thanksforcomingtomytedtalk

Next topic: when your opponent has no sources, just “opinions”…

*”man” used generically in reference to mankind. Don’t come at me with your “you’re a reverse sexist” bulldoodoo.

Reflections From a Pandemic Teacher: Let’s Learn How To Argue

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Lesson #1: The Red Herring

In any debate of ideas, it’s necessary to stay on-topic, otherwise you’ll never get to any understanding whatsoever. A tactic sometimes used by individuals in an argument is to shift the subject matter in an attempt to make the argument easier on them. The Red Herring logical fallacy happens when one debater mentions an idea, then the opponent pivots in an attempt to make that argument about something else.

It’s flawed logic (well, really it isn’t logic at all) and it’s a sign of a weak position.

For example, leading up to the 2016 election, Donald Trump, in a televised debate with Hillary Clinton, was asked about the statements he’d made that were caught on tape. When moderator, Anderson Cooper, asked if Mr. Trump understood that his comments about grabbing women’s genitals were comments about sexual assault, Mr. Trump first said that it was “locker room talk,” but then said that he was going to defeat ISIS. “Defeating ISIS” was off-topic. It’s a pivot away from one idea to an idea the speaker would rather discuss.

When this happens, if you’d like to respond, you need to insist that the conversation pivot back to the issue at hand. Do NOT begin discussing ISIS in this case.

OMG. I searched the word “idiot” on Unsplash for an image to use in this article, and this came up. I am NOT making this up.
Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Here are a few things you could try:

1. Play the “I’m just innocently trying to learn” game. —- “I’m confused, but interested in your thoughts. So, does this all mean you do or you do not understand that you were bragging about sexual assault?”

2. Find common ground and let your opponent win just a little—- “I agree that ISIS is a very big concern, but I would still like to know if you understand that your comments were about sexual assault.”

3. Play dumb (this one works particularly well if you’re already being spoken to as though you are actually an idiot)—- “Hmm… I don’t understand. When asked about sexual assault, how does defeating ISIS figure in to that? I’m so silly. I don’t get it. Haha.”

4. This is dangerous territory and I don’t necessarily recommend it because it may lead to a fight rather than and argument, but call the speaker out—- “Excuse me, sir, but I think we’ve gotten off-topic here. Let’s get back to the question of whether you understood your words to be about sexual assault or not.” *note the use of “we” since there are two people in the debate. Sure YOU didn’t go off-topic, but “we” is gentler when we’re trying to have a rational and civil discussion.

This is my Masterclass (my version of it, anyway, but mine’s FREE, y’all!). 🤣

This “Masterclass” I built was the product of my weariness from missing my “on duty” job as an English teacher in the spring of 2020 as the pandemic ripped our profession from us. Check back soon for more!

#thanksforcomingtomytedtalk

Next up: when someone makes an argument personal…

I Think I’m Supposed to Buy a Sportscar or Something

Eleven years ago, I was all, “hey, I should write stuff on the internet and people might care or whatever.” And, I blogged about Snoop Dogg and baby poop and wine and poetry and some people were like, “cool” and the rest of the world was like, “Off Duty Who, now?” and it’s all good either way. I probably don’t read your blog, either.

But, as my kids grew up a little, I lost myself a bit and I slipped slowly into some low-grade depression without even realizing it. I didn’t know that was what was happening to me because I’ve never lost my dark and (for some folks) off-putting sense of humor. I guess I figured that as long as I was (dryly) cracking myself up, I was probably ok. But, ya know, I really wasn’t.

When Off Duty Mom started, I was dabbling in a world where mommies all over were thinking about the honest truth about how hard this job was and I enjoyed sort of venting to the void. It was therapeutic. Ok, in retrospect, maybe letting the blog go was a catalyst for the depressive slide and wasn’t a result of it. Hmmm…gotta bring that one up with the therapist next session…

At any rate, I am reigniting the old flame of Off Duty Mom and inviting you all on my new adventure: the Midlife Crisis! It’s super fun! And is helped along the way greatly by sarcasm.

We’re all effed up in our own special little ways, right? But, please know that as you journey through life when life is most difficult, you are (cheesy and played-out as this sounds) NOT ALONE. So, take my hand and come with me and let’s explore the challenges of work, motherhood, aging, mental health, weird pop-culture references, and dark humor. Welcome back.

A change is brewin’

I’m 39.

That might be really old or really young depending on who and where you are.  I have to admit that most of the time it feels kind of old, especially when I look at how much energy my kids have comparatively.

A little over a year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to be 40 and fat.  I knew I had no control over the 40 part, but the “fat” part of it was a different story.

Going back about 8 years now, I decided to become “Off Duty Mom” when I felt that too few people were talking about the ugly side of motherhood or parenting, for that matter.  I needed more people to be open about hemorrhoids, varicose veins, tantrums, post-natal constipation, potty-training, the obnoxiousness of Caillou and the vast abyss of Thomas the Tank Engine and Minecraft into which so many kids fall.

But, it seems that people are talking about those things now.  I am really happy that new mothers now won’t have to deal with what I did:  believing that everyone else had an easy go of it while I was over here crying every night at 7 PM for NO REASON WHATSOEVER (aka:  hormones) after giving birth.  Had my dear friend not said to me, 3 months before I delivered, “when I had my daughter I was not prepared for that much bleeding.  I mean there was blood everywhere,” I might not have known that sleeping on a bed that looks like it was prepared by a serial killer ready to dismember his neighbor and a small elephant or that those giant mesh undie things would be so very, very necessary.  Oh, the joy that was the icepack panty pad.  What a motherfucking fantastic invention.  And, had my mother not given me fiber pills when I came home from the hospital and just said, “TRUST ME,” I wouldn’t have been prepared for the colossal fucking ass-rip that was trying to poop after delivering a baby.

My kids are school-aged now and that comes with new challenges for me.  But, when I hit my don’t-be-40-and-fat “eureka” moment, I knew that I wasn’t just all about the kind of vanity that comes with wanting to lose weight in your 20’s.  It wasn’t about a goddamn thigh-gap.  It was about living a long and healthy life with my family.  I wanted to be strong and fit.  But, most of all, having struggled with depression and anxiety for so long, I wanted to stop the incessant message in my head that said about so much:  “I can’t.”

I repeated the ugly “I can’t” message to myself probably a few dozen times each day, every day.  It related to what I felt was utter exhaustion about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. around me.  “I just can’t stay up any later.”  “I just can’t run and play with my kids outside.”  “I just can’t walk to the park.  We have to drive.”  The list went on and on.  There seemed to be no end to the things I told myself I couldn’t do as a mom, as a teacher, as a wife, and just as a living, breathing human.

So, I am moving on to talk about something else now that I don’t thing enough people are honest about:  aging gracefully.

Actually, cosmetics companies, fashion magazines, celebrities and other people I don’t particularly want to hear weigh in on the subject are talking about it plenty.  But, I am not hearing a dialogue about what matters to me.

So I am going to start one.

Ever seen a video online of some amazing 65-year old bodybuilding and being all “If I can do it, anyone can!  I’m 65!  Get off the couch!”

Fuck you, 65-year old.

I started CrossFit almost exactly one year ago.  I am most decidedly NOT starring in videos, lifting 150 pound over my head and telling people to get off the couch.  I am in no position to tell anyone a friggin’ thing about fitness.

When I tell people I do CrossFit, I get one of two reactions: awe or confusion.  Some people have never heard of it.  But, most think that I am fucking nuts.  They think I throw tires and run 5Ks with kegs of beer on my back.  Actually, I do push-ups on my knees and I get lightheaded after running 100 yards.

That fit, smirking 65-year old in the videos started small, too, I am guessing.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, y’all.

So, I am recharging Off Duty Mom.  I can’t talk legitimately anymore about how annoying Elmo is because

  1.  I am no longer in a place where Elmo is in my world.  It’s all K.C. Undercover and Avengers movies ’round here now and
  2. It’s been done and overdone.  Blah Blah Blah Being a Mom is Hard.

I mean, being a mom is still hard.  But, what I am finding hard at this point in my journey is how to be better to myself for my family.  How do I increase my life span and breathe in life with more joy and less exhaustion?

I will be sharing with you now the Off Duty Mom journey of growing older, becoming stronger, finding more positive headspace and not being 40 and fat.

Thanks for your readership up to this point.  I hope you’ll be interested in opening conversations about how we can (and must) take better care of ourselves not so we can compete with the 22-year old moms at the pool whose bodies just sprung right back into magazine-cover shape post-partum (“it was so easy!”), but so we can grow from our former selves.

Join me.

Be better

FUCKING MILLENNIALS.

I swear to all that is good an holy that if I have to listen to one more twenty-something complain about bills and college and, you know, LIFE, I am going to lose my damn mind.

I’m an ageist.  I admit to totally being completely and unabashedly discriminatory against the under 30 set.  And, I admit to hating this generalized demographic even while having many friends, colleagues and other people I generally respect, fall into this category.

It is absolutely not that I am out of touch.  I get it.  I’ve taught for long enough that the first few graduating classes of seniors I worked with are now squarely in their 30’s.  So, while this makes me super old, it also means that I have watched teenagers grapple with the educational system since the 90’s.  I understand that everyone tells you that you HAVE to go to college, then you go broke once you do the thing that everyone insisted you do, but weren’t sure you really wanted to do in the first place.  But, you marched along with the other lemmings and filled out your FAFSA and got your degree in French Literature and now you fold sweatshop clothes at the strip mall.  I know.  We all know because you have told us about a million times on Twitter, but perhaps you may have forgotten to take responsibility for your own actions, decisions and life.

My 9th graders are working on a research project right now in class.  I would estimate that only about 30% of them have accepted this challenge by digging in and really pouring through resources.  That 30% is going to the library, using databases to find periodicals, and utilizing scholarly websites and journals to find high-quality information for their writing.

The other 70% says something like, “can you help me?”.  Now, it is totally my job to help kids.  But, when I would come over to the desk of one of these 70%’ers, I would usually say, “What can I help you do?”.  This is usually met with blank stares.  Or, with a generic, “I don’t know how to start?”  or just “I don’t understand.”  If pressed  with, “what don’t you understand?”, I either get “all of it” or a shoulder shrug and more blank staring.

See, the thing is that for years and years, we’ve tried to protect our children from failure, doubt, mistakes and disappointment.  And, as a teacher who has seen a generation of kids who cannot struggle in a healthy way terrifies me.  There are millions of young people who are incapable of dealing with heartache, with rejection and with broken promises.

Is college too expensive?  Yes.  But so is just about everything that we actually want.  When we told all the kids that they needed college, they listened.  The demand went up.  It got more expensive.  This is how things work.

Are there too few jobs out there and is the majority being suffocated by the so-called “1%”?  I dunno.  Maybe?  But, so the fuck what?  Do something about it.  Change your world.  Change yourself.  Change your perspective.  Just don’t write a letter to your CEO about how you can’t afford your rent.  It’s not his problem.  It’s yours.  Figure something out.  Struggle.  Sweat.  Overcome.

I want my children at home to be independent.  I don’t want them just to make awesome independent decisions about getting mermaid hair or listening to 21 Pilots be Just. So. Avant-Garde.  (Look at us and how avant-garde we are!)  I want them to tell me, “It’s okay mom.  I can do it myself” when I offer to button a shirt or cut a banana.  I’ll cry that my babies are all grown up, but I do not want to raise boys who cannot or will not try something that is hard, maybe even do it wrong or just shitty or even get a little bumped and bruised in the process, but the come out on the other side with a product that they can own entirely themselves.

In the words of one of my favorite fashion gurus, “Make it work,” people.

Day 7 of the Whole Life Challenge, or What I am Proud of

This still sucks.  Honestly.  Everyone said it would get better.  Now, I am not technically crying anymore, but nevertheless, I still fricking hate this.

I am staring at a chocolate bar.  There is longing in my heart.  I yearn.

I am hungry.  I have decided that I hate water.

I am NOT proud of my willpower.  I do have some kick-ass willpower, though.  But, I don’t feel an emotion that cancels out all of the other negativity that emanates from my belly.

So, in an attempt not to bring everyone down, I will list for you instead things I AM proud of.

rem

  1.  I know all of the words to “It’s the End of the World as We Know it” by REM.  I break this out at, you know, parties and other social gatherings where I am high on life (or vodka).  This one shows my age, just like the realization that internet research didn’t really exist until after I had graduated from college.  I had to read BOOKS.
  2. I can do “The Carlton.”  This one shows my age, too.  carltonNo, I do not perform this sacred dance on command.  I gotsta be in the mooood for it.  But, I rock at it.  It is one of the many ways I am awesome. (Note:  Working out and eating right are not typically ways in which I am awesome, hence my loathing of this challenge.)
  3. skull I can Hamlet my ass off.  When kids leave my class, they lurv this play and I can’t blame them.  It’s the bomb-diggity.  Best work of literature ever.  And, I am magical at it.  I seem to have some sort of witchcraftery I can spin on unsuspecting young minds.  Follow me into the darkness and despair of Shakespearean tragedy, little ones…
  4. I am super good at embarrassing my kids.  That “Carlton” dance ain’t the only moves I got in the ol’ repertoire.  My oldest HATES to see me dance.  So, naturally, I do it as much as possible.  I get professional-grade eyerolls every time.  Bazinga!dancin
  5. I am a beast at Taboo.  Come at me, bro.  I will destroy you.  My husband and I make a fearsome team.  You do NOT want some of this.  We will embarrass you.  This actually makes us no fun to play with at all.  We’re crazy competitive and will trash talk you at this simple party game until you want to take back that hostess gift you brought and go the hell home.taboo

Feel free to comment and tell me what cool tricks and talents you have, too!  If you rock at the Whole Life Challenge, though, and think it is super easy and chocolate is not even that hard for you to avoid, you can keep that shit to yourself.

Day 5 of the Whole Life Challenge, or An Interview with Myself

Interviewer:  So, how is the Whole Life Challenge going?

Off Duty Mom:  I hate it.

Int.:  I bet it’s tough being so awesome at everything:  parenting, teaching, snark…

ODM:  It is.  That is exactly why the Whole Life Challenge is difficult for me.  I am so fucking fabulous at everything else.  It wouldn’t be fair to all of the un-awesome people if I dominated at this.

Int.:  How are your workouts going?  The Whole Life Challenge is all about a holistic approach to wellness, after all.

ODM:  I work out.  That is all I have to say.

Int.: What do you usually do after a workout?

ODM:  I fall over.  Usually.

Int.:  How do you recover?

ODM:  I’m supposed to recover?

Int.:  Right.  Yes.  What do you do to help your body get rid of lactic acid and retain the benefits of your workout?

ODM:  After the gym, I normally like to eat junk food and drink beer, but the Whole Life Challenge is kinda effing that up for me.

Int.:  Aren’t you proud of yourself for taking on this fabulous challenge?

ODM:  No.

Int.:  But, seriously, it has to feel good to know you are doing such good things for your body.

ODM:  Is that a question?

Int.:  Fine.  Aren’t you pleased with yourself to know you’re improving your health?

ODM:  I’d be more pleased if by “improving your health” you meant “eating french fries.”

Int.:  It’s Day 5, how do you feel?

ODM:  Like a truck hit me.  I am tired and sore from a workout two days ago.  I feel worse instead of better.

Int.:  I hear that if you stick it out, you will feel fabulous.  Can you stick with it?

ODM:  Look — I have the willpower.  That isn’t the issue.  I just hate everyone and everything right now.  The question is whether the people around me can stick with me while I detox from caffeine and sugar.

Int.:  Well, thanks for your time.

ODM:  I hate you.  And, you’re welcome.

Day 4 of the Whole Life Challenge, or Please Make it Stop

I actually kind of fucking hate this challenge.

For those of you who do not know, the Whole Life Challenge is an 8-week fitness, health and wellness program that challenges you to treat your body well.  You are encouraged to eat right, get good sleep, drink lots of water, stretch, work out and be well.  There is a list of foods you can and cannot eat.  Let me break it down for you:  you can eat, like, celery.  You cannot eat any of the things that make you happy (dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, soda, chocolate, etc.).

Today I am especially grumpy and I really want to quit.  Like, a whole lot.  But, I won’t, even though water tastes like unhappiness.  Yes, I have tried “detox waters” and I have put lemon in my bottle and, no, it doesn’t fucking help.  If it isn’t Diet Coke or beer, I don’t really want it.  While I am allowed one glass of wine per week, that doesn’t do much to make me feel better.  I haven’t partaken in this for the first week yet because I am afraid to waste it, should a day arise where I need that small glass of comfort later in the week.  But, nevertheless, it is not Diet Coke, nor is it beer, so it will only be a small comfort.

Look — I am terribly overweight and I need to take better care of my children’s mother.  For far too long I have sought asylum within the beautiful confines of junk food and chemical additives.  It is no good at all.  But, I wonder if this is any way to live.  A long life without chocolate is not necessarily a better life, amirite?

Everyone keeps telling me that it will get better.  But, my muscles hurt from my workout, my tastebuds are mad at me and I am tired despite getting enough sleep.  I want to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself.

So, there is your little ray of sunshine from me today!  Please comment and tell me something happy in your life so I can live vicariously through you.  Or comment with a picture of french fries or with a story of how fit and healthy you are so I can be happy for/hate  you…

 

Day 2: Whole Life Challenge, or I Already Want to Murder People

Going “cold turkey” off of Diet Coke was a terrible idea.

And, after only two days, I want to quit and, really, the diet is not that hard. I mean, you get to eat bacon.

It’s an awful mental challenge. I haven’t had cheesecake in like a year. But, now that you TELL me I can’t have it, I obsessively want it. I feel like I’d push old people out of the way if cheesecake were within ten feet of me and grannies were in the way. I’d push ’em hard. I don’t care.

I feel sluggish and my head hurts  and everyone around me is annoying to me.

I want to quit but I am not going to.

I cried a little today when I reflected on how much weight I have gained since having kids and how I am pretty much the fattest woman at my gym.  And I cried when I realized my hands were shaking a little from caffeine withdrawal.

I remembered from those early days as a new mom that hot showers could cure some of the worst feelings.  So, I took my dog for a walk, stretched while listening to Portishead and then took a hot shower that wasted tons of water, I’m sure.

And, now I don’t want to kill EVERYONE, so there’s that.

I will blog again tomorrow and hopefully feel a little better.

Fingers crossed…

 

Whole Life Challenge, or This Might Suck

In an effort not to be Forty and Fat, I joined a CrossFit gym about half a year ago. I am not a worker outer, so I was terrified and fairly certain I’d fail at it.

At this particular gym, though, the environment is supportive and the energy is powerful. We cheer for each other. People are genuinely happy when they see each other reach goals. And not once has someone screamed at me a la Jillian Michaels.

So, when the gymsters were all “let’s do a wellness challenge,” my initial reaction was, “fuck you. I love potato chips and beer and naps.”

Then I remembered not wanting to be Forty and Fat. And I’m knocking on 39’s door. So, game on.

Four hours into day one, I had peed five times.  And, the cafe I went to for lunch had not one single thing on it that I was allowed to eat.

It’s dinner time on day 1 now and I hate this mother-bitching challenge.  I want mozzarella sticks.

But I am hanging in there anyway and I will be blogging my whole first week.

Join me here again tomorrow to hear of my suffering.

 

 

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bear Hunters and Future Whores

The bar for overzealous geekery has been raised.

While watching an episode of “Cosmos” (which, by the way is A-freaking-mazing) I became giddy with nerdtastic delight when I heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson refer to an Event Horizon as a place “from which no traveler returns.”

For my fellow book-snobs, you, too, may recognize that as a quote from Hamlet.

My nerd cup runneth over.

And, my brain hurts as I sit and ponder whether our Earth could really just be contained inside of a universe that was pulled into a black hole and only exists because the properties of physics in the external universe changed in such a way as to construct our existence.  And, I think about Kurt Vonnegut’s message in Slaughter-House Five when he wrote about the possibility of human understanding of time to be insufficient to the reality of it.

You see, geek though I may be, I do seek to increase my understanding of that which is around me.

Books (though much more so as an adult than they were when I was younger) open my mind to understanding reality in new ways.  It’s so empowering and exciting.

It would be important to note, however, that not all books have this impact.  In fact, some, I might assert, actually make humankind stoopider.  God (or Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) help our children.  Literature for little ones is a minefield of suck.

For example:

1. The Rainbow Fish – My kid loves this book.  He has little cut-outs of fish all over his room now and he loves to look at and play with them.  But, this highly-regarded book really burns my ass.  Lemme lay it out for ya:  The story revolves around a pompous rainbow fish who has sparkly scales.  Personally, I believe that the sparkle is really what attracts kids (and some parents) to the book.  Nobody likes this fish because he (or she — I don’t care enough to remember) has such beautiful scales.  Many other fishes ask him if they can have just one scale and he says “no.”  Fast-forward to the end of the book when he gives away each of his sparkly scales one-by-one and then people like him.

So, let me get this right:  I am teaching my kid to give up parts of himself to others so he can buy friends?  Thank God I don’t have a little girl.  I would have a serious problem with the idea of selling your body for popularity.  I venture to say that this is a slightly less terrifying message for the moms of boys, but perhaps not.

2.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt — A family inexplicably goes, you know, on a bear hunt.  Pardon me for taking this to mean that they intend to catch, see, kill or meet a bear.  They even take their toddler to go visit one of Earth’s greatest killing machines.  They are subsequently shocked and terrified once they actually find a bear.  No one thought to bring any sort of protective gear.  They were gone all damn day and trekked through all kinds of treacherous bullshit and didn’t even pack a granola bar or a bottle of Dasani.

The final page, though, is what really pisses me off.  You see, the family runs away from the bear once they find it.  The bear, by the way, apparently lives at the beach, so I do question the authors’ understanding of environmental science, but whatever.  But, on the very last page, the bear looks completely melancholy with shoulders slumped as he skulks back to his cave not having been able to chase the ridiculously unprepared family into their home.  My nerdessness reminds me of Frankenstein’s monster and I wonder if the illustrator might have been trying to make some sort of philosophical statement about seeking someone/thing out just to reject it.  The pop-culture weirdo in me thinks of that scene from “Never Been Kissed” when Drew Barrymore is hit with raw eggs while she awaits her nonexistent prom date.  People are assholes.  That’s what I learn from this book.

3.  Harry by the Sea — A family of dickheads takes their dog on vacation with them.  Harry, the dog, is the only one of them cloaked in a permanent fur coat, but that does not seem to matter to them.  They banish him from the shade of the umbrella they brought with them.  Even the kids give Harry shit for wanting to play with them.  Excuuuuuuse Harry for wanting to be, oh — I don’t know — A DOG.  Harry wanders from his family, is mistaken for a sea monster, gets yelled at by a fat lady, is nearly trapped by two Keystone Cop-esque beach patrol numbnuts and suffers temporary deafness.  Only once a food vendor feeds him (perhaps because his asshole family wasn’t going to bother to) do the kids come and find him (where the fuck are the parents?), claiming that they miss him and want him to come back.

Keep in mind, folks, that the family nooooooow decides to get a new umbrella so Harry doesn’t have to die of heatstroke while on the beach in the motherfucking middle of the summer.  So, the lesson we are teaching kids is:  When irresponsibly taking your family pet to a place that is inherently unhealthy for him, don’t wait until some stranger feeds him processed meat products before you start giving a shit about him.

Maybe that actually isn’t the worst one, then.

Have a children’s book you’ve read (hell — ANY book, really) that doesn’t seem to resonate with you the same way it did with critics or others who read it?  I’d love it if you shared.

A Shout-Out to my Homies Rockin’ it on a 19th-Century Farm

This morning, while watching the news, I was struck with a thought:  What the hell is happening to this generation?

Y’all know I’m a mom.  And, I am a high school teacher.  In my tenure in both of these important jobs, I have seen some sees.

But, lemme just tell you that what made me wonder about current culture wasn’t the fatal shooting I heard about that happened within the city limits of the school district where I worked for a decade before taking my current job.  It wasn’t the entertainment news that seemed to make it everyone’s business to care whether Beyonce is pregnant or not.

It was a car commercial.

This commercial was for a vehicle that boasted that it had “125 horses.”

It irked me for a number of reasons.

I shall list them for you not so much because I feel as though you have been waiting on the edge of your seat since July for me to post something fabulous, but rather because I loves me a good list.

1. Why “horses” and not “horsepower”?  Is this a sign of our getitdonenow times that signifies we are now just too George Jetson to be bothered with saying two extra syllables?  Is this a sign that the Orwell-ocalypse is upon us and we are paring down our already paltry American vocabulary?  Are Big Motor companies just going to start calling things “double-plus good” from now on?

2.  Why are we even referencing horsepower at all anymore?  Is there anyone on the non-Amish parts of the planet that can even identify the physics of the power of a single horse, thereby being able to fathom the force that can be generated when this energy is multiplied to represent 125 horses?  How relevant is this as a reference and what does it even mean.  I defy even ONE carbuyer to explain to me, plainly, what horsepower is in basic terms of force.

3.  Who really cares about horsepower, anyway, unless you are currently somehow living in 19th-century West Virginia and are tending to your crops?  When you know that a vehicle’s weight, the amount of friction that can occur, and basic torque are other (and perhaps better?) factors on which to judge how well a vehicle pulls, what is even the difference?  I get that some of you gun-rackers need them horsies to haul home your kill of buck for yer kin, but realistically, how much does horsepower even factor in to the average buyers’ concerns?

4.  Marketing sucks.  Big donkey balls.  Tricky wordsmithery, flashy bullshittitude, empty language, meaningless boasts:  I can’t even figure out if I really want a Diet Coke anymore or if the evil elves at Fancy Pants DoubleTalk Advertising Agency, Inc. have crept into my subconscious psyche and have fooled me.  “125 horses?” Bah.  I shant be swayed by your reference to the earth’s most majestic creatures.  (But, if it had “125-unicorn power” I might be sold.)

5.  Finally, Big Car Company:  you’re not cool.  The cool kids are all abbreviating their words so that shit is barely recognizable anymore.  Things are “totes adorbs,” and if you don’t get it, you’re probably just “jelly” of those of us who do, aight?  But, srsly, you, BCC, are comprised of a boardroom full of fat white men with whitish, thinning hair, blah-colored suits and eyeglasses.  Y’all ain’t turnt up and popular.  Stop acting a fool and use regs words, else I keep throwin’ shade at y’all.

 

Now that I have gotten that all out in the open, I do feel a tad better.   I mean, not about the world in which I am raising my children, but just better because I got to rant for a bit.  Thanks for the indulgence.

 

Miley Cyrus is just trying to f#(k me

WordleI guess every generation of kids has the same essential goal:  to piss off “authority.”

I came to this bombshell of a conclusion the other day when I stumbled upon a video posted on Facebook by an old friend.  It was a segment of “Donahue” (what a damn terrible show that was) from 1995 that talked about the horrifying dangers of the new trend of slam-dancing.  One whole child DIED when he (shockingly) fell down.  I mean, he FELL, you guys.  There are absolutely NO other circumstances, Phil Donahue seemed to suggest, under which a 17-year old could fall and die.  THESE MOSH PITS MUST BE STOPPED!

Enter Marilyn Manson and two other yahoos from his band that I probably could once identify, but now at my age just look like assholes.  Mr. Manson, as he agreed Donahue could call him, suggested that indeed, throwing one’s body into a crowd of hyped up concert-goers could be dangerous, but that it was the danger that made it appealing.  It’s a thrill of a different sort — fueled by adrenaline, hard music, camaraderie, and maybe just a teensy bit of weed.

As a 37-year old adult, I kinda wanted to punch that Twiggy fucktwit next to Manson who only “spoke” via a tiny Walkman with some weird recording on it that he occasionally held up to his stage mic.  As a kid who was 18 in 1995 when this moshing phenomena was rolling along (and who MAY have partaken in a pit or two herself) I thought that this whole thing was just goddamn ridiculous.  Take your fear-mongering elsewhere, 20-years-ago-Donahue, you look like a douchebag right now.

But here’s the thing:  all of the adults in the audience were shocked — SHOCKED, I SAY! — that kids would call this abomination of God’s earth “dancing.”  They were about 30 seconds away from getting the town pastor to abolish all dancing altogether (except for one brave kids who would save the day after a long routine of gymnasti-boogie in a warehouse, I assume).

shock rockAnd, Donahue commented that Manson’s “look” reminded him a bit of Alice Cooper.

Indeed.  And that’s the thing, right?  Since pretty much, like, forever (or at least since my parents were born, which was sooooooooooooo long ago — Hi, Mom!  Love you!), the goal of youth culture is to fuck the establishment, right?  Nirvana throwing their guitars in the air, NWA even having the name “NWA,” Madonna dry-humping a stage, Pink Floyd shaving eyebrows (and nipples, do I remember?  I try to block it out.  I was traumatized by “The Wall”), Ozzy eating bats, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” “NOT” being about hallucinogenics, Elvis’ hips, and so on — it was all just so youth culture could separate itself as much as possible from the established adult “normalcy.”

In the aforementioned video clip, Donahue mentioned, as he looked at the shirt-and-tie-clad father of the young man who had died in a mosh accident and the leather-clad Marilyn Manson seated next to him, that never before had there been such a sharp contrast between generations.

I disagree.  If you put a guy in slacks and JC Penney neckwear next to, say, Flavor Flav, Robert Smith, Iggy Pop, Sid Vicious, or any of the members of KISS, you might notice that there are some differences.

mileyAnd, I, of course, am a mom and a high school teacher.  I roll my eyes when my students say they like Miley Cyrus or Lil Wayne because, you know, I don’t personally love overexposed brats or misogyny, but their goal is likely the same as was the goal of Henry Rollins, Tupac or Rage Against the Machine.

Only, now I am the establishment they’re trying to fuck.

Reality as a Geezer

There is no doubt I have lamented the aging process.  Having small children reminds me of how much energy I don’t have anymore.  And being a teacher of early high school students reminds me of how uncool I am.  These kids don’t even use the word “cool” anymore.

I am much nearer to 40 than I am to 20 (and to 30, for that matter).  I had never pictured myself at this age.  It’s kinda weird.

But, here are some realities I have come to understand about the aging process:

  • My body is older than my mind.  When I see a long hallway, I still want to do cartwheels all the way down.  I don’t, however, because I’d have to stretch for a half an hour beforehand and then take a bottle of Advil afterward.
  • My concept of time has shifted dramatically.  The concept of “a long time ago” has changed quite a bit.  I remember when Friends first came on the air.  It doesn’t seem that long ago.  It was 20 years ago, though.
  • My concept of “young” has shifted, too.  I once cried when I turned 24 because I felt so OLD.  Now, I work with people who have advanced degrees but are not old enough to remember the Challenger explosion.
  • I feel less grossed-out by plastic surgery.  I once wondered why people didn’t just “grow old gracefully.”  Now, I sit in front of a mirror and pull my face up manually and sigh as I wonder what it would cost for a nip and a tuck.
  • I actually care what I eat.  In high school, I came home almost every day and ate an entire family-sized back of potato chips (or an equivalently-sized snack of another type).  I wore a size 6 that my mother tailored smaller through the hips for me.  Now, I still love my potato chips, but each crunch comes with a side order of guilt, self-loathing and fourteen more pounds on the bathroom scale.
  • Nobody likes my music.  Two decades ago it wouldn’t have been hard to find someone who liked The Pixies, LL Cool J, Blondie, Nine Inch Nails, and who knew how to do “The Hustle” and understood that you were never supposed to “trust a big butt and a smile.”  Nowadays, we’re harder to locate.  Some of us came to enjoy modern music.  Some are stuck with the soundtrack to “Frozen” on repeat.  Some people switched over to “Adult Contemporary.”  Yeesh.
  • I’m okay (for now) with my glowing pale legs.  This time of year in my twenties, I was running to a tanning salon on rainy days and spending every damn minute outside to alter the color of my skin when it was sunny.  Nowadays, I don’t really have the time or the patience.  So, I just revel for now in the idea that I am staying away from skin cancer and/or wrinkles for one more day.
  • I don’t feel old.  This one is weird.  I don’t know what old is supposed to feel like.  I mean, I feel weaker and slower and fatter and more tired.  But, those things don’t alone signify an elderly status.  Are my knees supposed to ache when it rains?  Am I supposed to forget what day of the week it is?  Am I supposed to wear white button-down sweaters on 80 degree days?  I am not sure if I am doing this right.
  • I still feel like I am in high school — emotionally.  When all the stay-at-home moms gather to pick up their kids in their Lululemon or their Hunter rain boots and their big diamond earrings — and completely ignore the existence of those outside of their social circle, I remember feeling like this before:  for four straight years.

I still want to learn how to surf and speak a foreign language and read more books and run a 5k (no — actually RUN it this time — like, the whole time) and get a PhD. and a six-pack and a nose-piercing.

And I wonder if I will do any of those things.  Or even if I should

*Poop*

Why don’t people want to talk about diarrhea?

No one ever has diarrhea, you know?  I mean, people have “stomach problems,” but never just the shits.

I know that it’s gross and smelly and sometimes painful and embarrassing.  But, so was childbirth and every vagina-owner who has ever pushed a baby into the world wants to tell you the details:  vomiting, water breaking, perineal tearing, stretch marks, back labor…you name it, baby mamas wanna share it with you.

These same moms have been peed on, kicked, farted on, have strained peas thrown into their hair, and have cleaned up more bodily fluids (and not-so-fluids) than any HazMat worker will in a week.  But, still no one ever wants to admit to ever having the squirts.

I have seen some of my friends get blind-drunk and vomit all over themselves.  But, none of those people EVER had the green-apple-quick-step.  Supposedly.

Now, I am not necessarily proposing that we all come out of the shart closet and start sharing the details of these unpleasant experiences.  In real life, I am actually fairly modest and truly value my privacy.  There is a reason why I don’t share my real name when I blog.

But, I just find it really amusing that the only thing that is truly off limits in conversation (even among your better friends) is diarrhea.  Religion, politics, abortion, capital punishment, our diseases, our surgeries and our mental health issues are all far less taboo than this thing that occasionally happens to every human on the planet.  I mean, all kinds of yahoos want to espouse their so-called knowledge on the education/justice/healthcare/political/environmental/immigration systems in this country, but no one really wants to talk about something they actually KNOW.

 

Go figure.

Mother’s Day Post #2

“Embarrassing Things I Hope My Mother Hears About Me.”

by Meredith Bland

from Pile of Babies

I was walking the dog when I slipped on a manhole cover while crossing the street and fell right in front of a car that was stopped at the light. I tried to do the “mime climbing stairs” move when I got up to entertain the driver, but don’t think I pulled it off.

My son started screaming at a puppet show. I went to the front to rescue him and slipped on the wet floor right in front of a person-sized cat puppet. I landed in a perfect split, so I raised my arms over my head like a gymnast after a back handspring. No one laughed.

My husband served me a tamale last week. I didn’t know how to eat it. I had to ask him if I should eat the husk.

I love these stories. These are the moments of my life that I treasure like rare, exquisite gems; gems that most likely fell off the back of a truck and into a pile of cow manure being shoveled by a man in capri pants – they’re that special to me. And when these things happen to me, the first person I want to tell is my mom.

My mother raised my sisters and me to be humble. It was made clear to us while we were growing up that the world did not, in fact, revolve around us (she almost has me convinced.) That has turned me into an adult who does not take herself seriously. At all. In fact, I revel in my mistakes and stupidity – those things we do that connect all human beings because they are moments without planning or pretense. Moments where, more often than not, I make a quick and awkward descent to the ground.

And there is no better audience for those stories than my mother.

I love telling my mom about embarrassing things that happen to me. Whether she groans with me or laughs at me, it is one of my greatest joys. It’s one of the main reasons I started writing humor – I’m always chasing the high I get from my mother’s laughter. That’s especially true because she has a lot of laughing to make up.

My mom has not had the easiest of lives – though she loves me deeply and always has, I was part of the reason for that while I was growing up. I’m a pretty good person now, but I was a terrible, horrible child. I mean, I did not make that woman’s life easy. Not by a long shot. But I could, from time to time, make her laugh. And to this day, when I can make my mom laugh, it feels like the acceptance of a long-overdue apology. I still have a long way to go before I’ll be able to compensate for the time when I was seven-years-old and ran across the street in front of the UPS truck so I could show her how fast I was, or the mean things I said to her as a teenager, or all of the tattoos and bad boyfriends of my early twenties. But I’m going to keep trying.

Mom, you are not going to believe what just happened to me…

 

 

Mother’s Day Series #1

Guest Post

by:  Anonymous Blogger

 

“I Hope My Mom Never Knows…”

It rained in October and where I live this in itself is not unusual.  But, it felt like it had been raining ever since forever ago started.

I was 19 and bored.  I had no good reason to be, mind you, since I was into my 2nd year of college at a fairly prestigious university my parents were all too quick to brag had accepted me just two rainy fall seasons ago.

My girlfriends and I bundled up into cozy cable-knit sweaters and decided to go shopping in one of the trendier sections of our city’s downtown area to relieve our doldrums.

We wandered into a small boutique that had a mysterious “back room.”  The boutique itself was rather pretty and had lots of things that were pink.  Mostly comprised of high-end lingerie, we weren’t off-put either by the salesclerk (who was an ordinary 30-something woman with curly hair and a satin blazer over expertly-ripped jeans) or by the products.  Everything seemed to be on the up-and-up.

My friend, Jasmine (no, not her real name, but a moniker she actually did adopt later that day), was very feminine and was drawn in the front door by a pretty crystal necklace and full-length satin robe-thinga-ma-jig that was hanging in the window.  When we looked around the store, though, we didn’t see the necklace anywhere.

Jasmine asked the clerk who smiled and let her know that it wasn’t actually a necklace, but was really a belly chain.  It was the 90s and this alone wasn’t terribly weird, though I had never seen a belly chain that ornate.

The clerk invited us to see the “other” merchandise in the back room and we thought what you are probably thinking:  there’s sex toys and weird crap back there.

There actually wasn’t.

Instead, there was a slew of rather risque, but altogether uncreepy, Middle Eastern garb fit for what we assumed (and we were right) were bellydancers.

The city where our school was located is known for being somewhat conservative.  I mean, it wasn’t too conservative to have a lingerie store right on a main street, but it was a little too conservative to openly cater to clientelle who were interested in objectifying women in a way that was historically relevant but altogether insensitive to the more modern sensibilities of Middle Eastern culture.

It turns out that this was something of a costume shop that catered to fetishists interested in involving themselves in ancient “art” and was THE place where the bellydancers outfitted themselves for their gigs at the local Egyptian hookah bar and restaurant.

Now, none of us knew that this place had bellydancing.  This is because it was an…unadvertised service.

Jasmine and I over the course of just a matter of maybe 20 minutes found ourselves signing up to perform at what later became a strip show disguised as a “cultural event.”  What cultural event takes place in the basement of a bar and grille, I will never know but it all sounded very unboring at the time.

Jasmine and I performed together a very amateurish strip show where we went full-monty in a room full of middle-aged foreign business travelers.  There was no pole in the room and no stage, but there were interesting things done with finger cymbals.

Thank god there was no such thing as camera phones and Twitter.

I am not entirely embarrassed by this totally out-of-character foray into the seedy underbelly (ha!  see what I did there?) of exotic dance.  But, my mom would fucking murder me if she ever knew about this.

I swear I became a totally normal adult with two Master’s Degrees and 4 kids.  I have a good job and this has somehow not come back to bite me in my now very jiggly ass.

Yet.

Don’t tell my mom, though, K?

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Conversations with my Post-Baby Body Parts

 

This might help.

This might help.

1.  EYES —

Me:  Hey!  Let’s stay up on Friday night and watch Gravity on Blu-Ray.

Eyes:  Sounds great.  We’ll be done with our job by like 8:30, though, right?

Me:  Well, no.  I will need you until the movie is over.

Eyes:  We can’t promise that.

Me:  Come on.  8:30?

Eyes:  We’re already tired of this conversat—-

 

2.  BACK —

Back:  I hurt.

Me:  I know.  I am not gonna tell anyone, though, because they’ll think we’re old.

Back:  But you groan every time you stand up and you sigh ridiculously loudly every time you sit down.  Who do you think we’re fooling?

 

3.  SKIN —

Me:  Discoloration, zits AND wrinkles?

Skin:  Yeah, and the kids’ college funds have made us too poor for surgical solutions.  If only you could exchange sarcasm for collagen…

 

4.  HAIR —

Me:  I am sure glad I had 9 months of prenatal vitamins that made my hair glossy, thick and luxurious.  That was nice while it lasted.

Hair:  It is so fun when we all jump out of your scalp at once and then the poor schmucks we leave behind all start to turn gray!  Good times!

 

And, it just keeps getting worse.

And, it just keeps getting worse.

5.  BOOBS —

Me:  What the hell?!

Boobs:  Hey, look!  We’re still here!  No.  Down here.  Hello?

 

6.  BRAIN —

Me:  Ugh.

Brain:  Totally.  Hey, let’s worry every minute of every day forever now.  I am totes going to make you cry at greeting card commercials and shout like a lunatic when your kid scores his first soccer goal.  Don’t delay the anti-anxiety meds, lady.  Get me the good stuff, too.  I have a lot going on up here.

 

7.  UTERUS —

Me:  I hate periods.

Uterus:  I hate not having a baby in here.  It’s lonely.

Me:  Hey, um, I put two babies into ya.  That was good, right?

Uterus:  Fuck you.  I want more babies.  Give me more babies!  Every month you don’t give me a baby, I’m going to tear down these walls and make your life a living hell.  I am going to make it feel like there is a giant fist inside your gut grabbing and twisting your vital organs like you’re being juiced.

 

8.  KNEES —

Me:  Hey, what the hell?  You guys never hurt before.  Now all of a sudden I can tell when it is about to rain.  What’s up with that?

Knees:  You’re old.  And chubby.  It’s hard to carry you around.  Less chocolate.  More kale.

 

9.  LEGS —

Me:  Wow.  That’s ugly.

Legs:  So’s your face!  Ha!  Ha!

Me:  No, seriously, veins?  They’re everywhere.  I can’t possibly need that many transport lines for my blood.  Can’t we do some rerouting or something?

Legs:  They got doctors for that, you know.

Me:  I know.  But that shit hurts.  Why can’t you all just straighten up and fly right?

Legs:  Why can’t you embrace our newfound blue beauty?

 

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

10.  BUTT–

Me:  Holy shit.  I think I could put a can of soda under my ass cheek and hold it there against my thigh.  When did you get so droopy?

Butt:  I started heading South during Baby #1.  You were too busy designing a nursery motif to notice.  Ever hear of Prenatal Yoga?  Come on, now.

Me:  Sorry.

Butt:  You are sorry.  In about three more years you’re going to have to start getting your drawers at Sears.  SEARS!

Me:  Are you sure?

Butt:  And, they won’t be called “panties,” anymore.  They won’t make “panties” in your size.  They will be “underpants.”

Me:  That sounds awful.

Butt:  And, stop having kids.  With your constant expansion and refusal to do Kegels, you’re going to be a fatty who is also, charmingly, incontinent.  Then, you’ll be on to adult diapers.

Me:  That sucks.

Butt:  Yuppers.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

11.  FEET —

Me:  Hey, guys.  My shoes hurt.  I don’t ever remember complaining about that before having a coupla babies.  What gives?

Feet:  Oh, so you thought we’d go back to “normal” size after your babies were born?  That’s cute.  Hey, Cankles, that sparkly boutique downtown called and said they had shoes in our size.  You know the place.  They also cater to guys like Larry who stocks lumber at the Home Depot by day, but who by night hosts a cabaret show under the name of Hillary Clit-Ton.  Sure, Larry’s alter ego’s typical footwear choices make Gaga look more like Amy Farrah Fowler, but whatevs.  They have your SIZE.

 

 

body

 

Join the Off Duty Family

Please consider sharing your embarrassing stories for our Mother’s Day series.  Deadline for entry will be April 30.

What have you done that makes you want to shake your head at your former self?

For Mother’s Day this year, we are looking for stories you don’t want your mamma to know.  (We won’t tell her your story came from you!)

Let the fun begin!

Visit our submission page to send in your story.

Seeking Writers

We haven’t done a guest-post series in quite some time.

The world is long overdue for a great series like the one we did on infertility about a year and a half ago.

We had a number of amazing, funny, heartbreaking submissions and I think that it is time to showcase some serious talent again.

The next Off Duty Mom Guest Series will feature articles about the topic of

Embarrassing Stories I Don’t Want My Mom to Know

So, did you do something stupid/hilarious/dangerous/moderately legal in your younger years that our readers would find endearing, funny or adorable?  Did that ridiculous thing you did result in embarrassment, shame or imprisonment that we can all laugh at together?

Have you been in a situation that is funny now, but was mortifying then?  Would your mama slap you silly if she knew you stole that/ate that/went there/dated him/failed that class/drank that Kool-Aid/posed for that picture?

Let’s laugh and cry together.  Share your funny and embarrassing story to be posted in a Mother’s Day series.  Let us be glad that you’re not our kid…

 

Babies, boobies, bosses

If you’re expecting, you have probably read What to Expect When You’re Expecting to help you know what you can expect while you’re expecting, except nothing can prepare expectant parents or help them better accept the truth about what happens after the expected baby arrives.

Fo’ real, though.

If you are pregnant right now, you may or may not be joking with others about how “crazy” you are.  You probably have heard of “pregnancy brain” and have lost your car keys a few times.  Your mood swings may either be cute and quirky or fully alarming.  You probably complain about things like swollen feet, missing ankles, blue veins, hemorrhoids, stretch marks, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, heart palpitations, blood sugar, back aches, head aches and an inability to drink alcohol to make you forget all of this nonsense.

If you are pregnant right now, you probably hate skinny people.  You probably lament the fact that no one makes a decent business suit for pregnant women and/or no one makes “maternity shoes” or “maternity bras” for temporary size changes.

Your boobs probably hurt.

You’ve no doubt noticed that maternity clothing is no less expensive than regular clothing (and sometimes is much more expensive) and you HAVE to fucking buy it because you can’t be naked and the Belly Band doesn’t help your pre-pregnancy pants fit over your pregnancy-ass.

If you wore high heels before your pregnancy, you are probably now wondering who the FUCKBALLS invented high heels and what giant ASSHOLE bought so many of them and put them in your closet.  Why doesn’t the Shoe Fairy come bring you some nice, sensible footwear from Lands End?

And, I hate to break it to you…

YOU’RE SCREWED.

With science what it is these days, if you are pregnant, you may not have been screwed, per se, but you are screwed in a more metaphorical and less fun way.

You’re gonna have a BABY.

They make you CRAZY.

You will actually feel like a real lunatic a few weeks after that baby is born.  You may cry for no reason.  You may feel completely incompetent.  You may be completely overwhelmed.  You may be super-duper pissed that your significant other’s life and body were not as completely RUINED by this tiny, beautiful, precious, angelic, life-destroying animal.

You will have nothing that is yours:  not your body, not your clothes, not your space, not your time, not your food, not your one-goddamn-minute-alone-on-the-fucking-toilet-in-silence.  That baby is the boss of you.  He decides when you sleep, what you eat, when you pee, whether you shower, and whether your clothes stay clean or vomit-laden.  He is your warden.  And you love him.  And kinda hate him (or maybe just the situation) soooooooooo much.  And then you feel enormously guilty for the “hate” part and you’ll cry and be certain that you’re the worst parent who ever parented in the whole universe of parents ever.

You will want to say (or even really say out loud and everything) “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” more than one time.

You will meet several “good” moms who have their lives in perfect order and just “love” being a mother and who have no idea what you mean when you say that it is a really hard job.  You will want to murder these women, but please don’t because your boss baby needs you.

Look:  this is going to suck.  Being a parent sucks.  But, people don’t really want you to know that.  And THAT sucks, because when the baby arrives and you realize it all just sucks so much, you will feel like a complete asshole because no one else talks about how much it sucks, so you are left to believe that it only sucks for you which means that you are a bad parent and an even worse person.

But, for all of its suckitude, one day you will realize that you are no longer just treading water.  You’ll be swimming.  And your kids will be able to care for themselves.  And, you’ll not have to change diapers or wipe up sour-milk-vomit or buckle anyone in but yourself when you get in your car.

And, you’ll cry because you will wonder what happened to your beautiful babies and you’ll look back on those days that sucked with such fondness and gratitude and bliss.  And you’ll miss holding a lavender-scented sleeping infant in your arms.

And you’ll have absolutely no desire to do it all over again.

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