Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What does your mom do for a living?

My daughter volunteered me to be the "class mom." All you parents of school age kids out there may know this job by a different term, but essentially it is the mom in charge of all volunteer activities and needs for the classroom. I was shocked and surprised to learn that she had sacrificed . . . er . . .offered me up as the Class Mom.

You see, by sheer luck of address, we happen to be zoned for a public school that is literally crawling with moms whose full-time job is to be a school volunteer. Our rather affluent school population has an overabundance of stay-at-home moms and, bless their hearts, they take their "job" as school volunteer very seriously. I have to give them props. They could be playing tennis, getting pedicures, shopping and working out all day. But most of them spend all day long at the elementary school helping in the classroom, in the library, the cafeteria and organizing one fundraiser after another. Bless their hearts! Really.

My daughter is in third grade and by now I've learned to stay out of the way on "meet the teacher day" when the professional volunteer moms practically climb over each other to be first in line for the coveted "class mom" duty. So I never had to worry about this responsiblity fallling on my shoulders. That is until now. I asked my daughter why she volunteered me for the position of class mom and she said no one else had signed up. Seems that somehow the other third grade class has three "class moms" all grudgingly sharing the title while my daughter's third grade class has no one clamoring for the job. Including me.

So I was summoned by the teacher the following morning. "Your daughter says you would like to be class mom," she said with a phony smile. Oh yeah. I was onto this one. She knew I wasn't into the job. Heck, one look at me with my jeans, Bike Week t-shirt and hair stuck hurriedly in a pony tail and she knew she was dealing with a mom who had literally no experience and, quite frankly, no business taking on this responsibility. "Didn't you have anyone sign up yet? There always seem to be so many moms who want the job?" I asked trying to subtlely back away from the classroom door. The teacher stepped into my path outside (darn!) and said, "Well, it seems all the other moms this year have jobs and Isabel said you stay home so I thought you might be willing to help out." Houston we have a problem.

"Actually, I have a job, it's just that I work from my home office." I pause. I wait. Long silence ensues. She's still standing in my path with that smile on her face. "Well, um, I guess I could help with a few things."

I quizzed my daughter when she got home after school. "So, when you told your teacher I could help out in the classroom, did you happen to mention that I work?"

"I told her you stay home" she replied matter of factly.

"But honey, I work from home. I have a job. You know this, right?" Blank stare. "Honey, do you know what mommy does for work?"

Without missing a beat, "You type a lot on the computer?" And that is how I became one of the worst class moms this school has ever seen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Florida Flambe

I'm a native Floridian. Not one of those "natives" who claims to be a local because I moved here when I was a child. My family has been born and raised in Florida for generations. This is one of the things I am most proud of. Not that it's really an accomplishment. You can't exactly do anything about where you were born after all.

But I love my home state. As the name of my blog suggests.

I've seen a lot of changes in the last 30 or so years in Florida. And I'm not talking about urban sprawl or the proliferation of high-rise condominiums, strip malls and the disappearance of native species. No, this is a change that's more on a "global crisis" scale.

It used to be said that Florida had two seasons. Summer and winter. If you can call temperatures dropping to a low of 35 degrees a few times in a month "winter." Instead of living by the change of seasons, native Floridians lived by a different calendar. There's Hurricane Season, Love Bug Season, Winter and Summer.

It seems to me we can now count a new season in Florida. It comes along after winter but before summer. It's Wildfire season.

In 1998, thousands of acres in Florida burned for weeks and weeks. Everything you owned smelled like smoke - your car, your clothes, your home, your workplace, heck even the dog. You traveled along roads with fire burning on either side. Grandmothers baked casseroles, cakes and pies and delivered them to fire stations. Kids gathered bottled water and their dads drove them to the closest fire crew to deliver the water to to weary firefighters. There was the constant buzz of helicopters hovering overhead weighted down by giant "water balloons." They dumped water snatched from nearby ponds and lakes onto hot spots. Everyday conversation was peppered with terms like "55 percent contained," "hot spots," and "fire breaks." It was normal to have all your family photos, files with legal paperwork and overnight bags packed inside laundry baskets and boxes stationed by the front door, ready for evacuation at a moments notice.

Right now, a fire has been burning more than 400 acres for several days now. It is about 5 miles from my home. When the wind shifts the right way you can smell the burning timber. I have friends who have evacuated their home, while the rest of choke a sigh of relief that it's not our neighborhood . . . yet.

I guess between hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, the odd tornado and 100% humidity for 5 months a year, you might wonder why I live here?

Natives adapt. Non-natives move.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Comfortable in your own skin

I've noticed that as women get older, they get more assertive. Perhaps it comes with the confidence of figuring out who you are and what you want. Maybe, as we age, we get more "comfortable in our own skin." That's a phrase you'll hear more and more on shows like Oprah or in women's magazines.

What does that mean exactly? "Comfortable in our own skin." I may be more confident now than I was in my 20s or 30s. But I was much more comfortable in my 20-year-old skin, I can tell you that! My 20-year-old skin was smooth, tight, not a wrinkle or a dimple. I had a great butt! My 40-year-old skin? Well, it's not bad, but I'm not so comfortable with my butt anymore. Not to mention that stuff that has started to jiggle underneath my arms. And what are these reverse freckles I'm getting on my chest, arms and legs? Are these age spots? Sun damage?

Just the other day I was griping to a friend about some persistence headaches. And I've been really hot lately. I'm usually the one that has to wear a sweater if it's less than 80 degrees outside. Now I seem to sweat more often.

"You know what it could be," my friend W said with a wry look on her face.

"No, what?"

"Perimenopause," she breathed in a conspiratorial whisper.

"Perimen Palsy? What's that?"

"NO, PERIMENOPAUSE," she said much more loudly this time.

What the hell is that? I had never heard of such a thing. But, apparently perimenopause is the new women's health crisis du jour. W is practically obsessed with the idea and has already read several books and online posts about it. Perimenopause, W has learned, is probably responsible for everything that's wrong with her life right now. Her tension, lack of energy, sleeplessness, and general bad attitude.

I was afraid to suggest that she might be tired, cranky and tense because she's not SLEEPING.

W explained that perimenopause is the life cycle women experience before menopause. And it can last for up to 10 years and be WORSE than menopause itself.

Who comes up with this stuff? Women in their forties now have to deal with up to 10 years of general malaise as our eggs slowly die before the full-blown hell of menopause! This has got to be one of those illnesses made up by the drug companies to get women approaching middle age to buy more vitamins, supplements and new feminine products in an effort to keep our Pikachu "young" and "dewy."

We may be assertive, confident and comfortable in our own skin, but we sure are gullible and obsessed with youth.

Not that I'm immune. Last Christmas when my husband asked me what I wanted, I whipped out the brochure I'd gotten earlier that week from the dermatologists office. "I want Laser Rejuvenation!"

"What's that" my Beloved asked with a look on his face like he smelled something rotten.

They knock you out, put this goo all over your face and laser a layer of skin off. It gets rid of sun damaged skin, gives you a fresh look and takes years off your face by making wrinkles less noticeable I explained.

"Why would you want to get your face lasered? There's nothing wrong with your face. And you don't need to look younger, you don't look old now."

Anyway, I got my wish. That's right, I willingly forked over $2,000 to have my face burned off. What was I thinking?

Like I said, gullible and obsessed with youth. Maybe this irrationality is a symptom of perimenopause.

Do they make mother's day cards for stepmoms?

"Do they make mother's day cards for stepmoms?" my mother asked me yesterday. That's a silly question. Why would Hallmark make a card for a stepmom? Who woud buy it?

I've been a stepmom for more than 5 years now and I can tell you that the position of stepmom is not often celebrated.

Considering that Disney, that bastion of family friendly entertainment, has never created a stepmom character that didn't try to kill her stepdaughter (snow white) or doom her stepdaughter to slavery (cinderella), stepmoms get a bad rap in the American culture. Thanks Walt!

No, us stepmoms are basically evil and don't deserve cards much less thanks or celebration.

Did any of you other stepmoms out there go into this "faux motherhood" thing as naively as I did? I should have taken it as a sign when I told my 3-year-old daughter that when I married, she would gain stepbrothers and a stepsister.

"No!" my precious bundle shreiked at hearing this news, her face turning red and her eyes wide with terror. "I don't want a stepsister!" Hmmmm. This was not the reaction I was counting on. She loved having the "big kids," as they'd come to be known, around. And my daughter and my soon-to-be husband's kids had always gotten along just fine. Which I thought was a good sign that blending the family would be possible.

"But honey, you love the big kids. I thought you'd be happy?!?"

"I don't want stepsister and stepbrother!" she reinforced much more strenuously this time.

"Ok," what to do. "Why not?"

"The stepsisters were mean to Cinderella! They'll be mean to me!"

Again, thanks Walt!

Once I explained that, in fact, I had made an error, things improved. "When Mommy gets married you'll be a full-blood, extra strength, all American, true-blue REAL sister to the Big Kids. Did mommy say 'step'? I didn't mean that at all."


I mean, I know my three stepkids like me and appreciate me. Not sure they'll ever LOVE me with the big "L" if you know what I mean. But actually hug me or give me a card? Not happening.

I mean, I'm not that evil, although I do have my moments. But celebrating me would mean a betrayal to their mom in their world. And frankly, at this point, it would seem so out of character and so strange that if it did happen I would wonder if the stepkids had been replaced overnight by pod people (or need money). Not that they are bad kids or ungrateful. They've just been through the wringer these last few years.

So, this weekend is Mother's Day. And I've got a lot to be thankful for. Just don't plan on sending a Happy "Step-Mother's Day" card.