Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Even His Computer Needs a Garmin

We've all heard--or shared--our "my husband won't ask for directions" stories, so I won't bore you with mine (well, unless you want to hear about the time we decided to take a "shortcut" to the Los Angeles Coliseum only to find ourselves driving past the aftermath of a drive-by shooting, but I digress...). This little update is about how 'not asking for directions' extends to 'not calling tech support,' or also known as "how my husband (didn't) spend seven hours fixing the wireless because he was going to figure it out on his own."

Last night, while I feverishly attempted to catch up on work, my ISP (that's Internet Service Provider to those who haven't had to deal with such issues) went down. As in: flatlined. No Internet access means one thing: more sleep!! So this morning, when I awoke actually refreshed, I was hopeful and excited to get back online and continue on the hamster wheel that has become my life. No such luck. Somehow, between the modem and the router, our Internet access was messed up. As in: take your business elsewhere, because you are now living in a dead spot.

With no time to do more than the perfunctory modem reset boogie (which didn't work) I grabbed the remaining kids, dropped them at school and headed to the mecca for all who do not pay for Internet access (ie. anyone under 28): Starbucks. Five hours later, I'll share three things you probably don't know about Starbucks: 1. Their machines are really loud; 2. They blast the A/C (probably so that you'll buy more hot beverages if you stay there for any extended period), and 3. They have totally pissed me off by putting their holiday music favorites on a loop a week prior to Thanksgiving.

Having left Starbucks over-caffeinated, frozen solid and smelling of burnt coffee beans, I picked up all kids, routed them to their next destination and set up shop at my second Starbucks. Sort of a lather, rinse, repeat, only with coffee beans, whipped cream and holiday music.

Upon returning home after 7+ hours at various wi-fi hotspots, I anticipated two things: warm pajamas and Internet access. I got neither. Seems the "better" half (debatable) decided to try to resolve the jacked up wireless on his own. And, seven hours later, still had a great big F+ in the "solved" column.

If only men were women. Within one minute, I had all three computers lined up in the office. Within five, I had tech support on the line. Within 15 I had my issue escalated. Yes, it did take a senior technician and myself more than an hour to sleuth the problem. But you know what? It's solved. And I'm in my pajamas. And I'm online. And I even had time to wash the burnt coffee bean smell out of my hair.

Bottom line: Asking for directions or assistance can save you six hours of shivering in a cold retail establishment listening to contrived versions of holiday classics while downing over-priced cups of java. C'mon guys: ask for directions, help or tech support!!!

**Note: I have one last thing to add: Starbucks' Skinny Peppermint Mocha is about the best thing to happen to a cup since the lid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Smiley Face for the Win

The teenager was giving me a bit of lip this morning. Stressed and on deadline (these two go together like peanut butter and jelly, btw) and hopeful to get a bit of sympathy, I handed her a print-out of my latest from-the-client request. I followed up with "Integrate these insights with my original data and provide me with a comprehensive doc, maintaining everyone's original comments and have it to me by 5:00."
To which the teenager offered "I have absolutely no idea what you want, but instead, how about I draw you a big smiley face. Everyone loves smiley faces."

Perfect.

I'm sure everyone will appreciate that much more.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's my lawn, not your dog's.

The dog was in the process of defecating. On my lawn. And it's not my dog.

We've all had moments when our dogs have had to "go." And we've all cleaned it up and moved on. Quickly. But not this time. And not this family.

"Hi!" my husband says, as cheerily as possible, given that he's just pulled up into our driveway and wasn't expecting a family of four, with a defecating dog, on my lawn. "Could you not have your dog on my lawn?"

Note that he did not use the words "GET THE HELL OFF MY LAWN" or "YOU'LL BE CLEANING THAT UP!!" he just politely asked for them to remove their fur friend from my grass.

The mother (I'm guessing) turns and says, in an exasperated and incredulous tone, "He's a male dog."

I'm not following. Is there a rule that all male dogs get carte blanche on your neighbor's lawn? And what is this "get out of pee free" law called? "If you're a bitch, the world is not your urinal"?*

"I'm sorry?" I stutter. "Male dogs don't MARK,"** the unpleasant owner of the, er, bitch continued.

As if this makes it okay for some strange dog to urinate or defecate on my lawn. Because it won't leave a mark? I was still shocked that, instead of saying "oh, sorry" I was getting an "in-your-face" what-for from an arrogant woman, her two smirking daughters and her bemused significant other.

"I'd appreciate it if you'd move along," I say. "This is what the greenbelt areas are for." (I'm just trying to be helpful).

"What are YOU," she replies. "My TEACHER?"***

Her significant other, looks up, surveys my lawn, and adds "Well, and if you cut your grass..."

So now my gardening skills are taken to task? Long grass**** is the neighborhood morse code for "Take fantastic doggie craps over here--no need to pick up!!!"

That's news.

Here's more news: Do it again and I will use your doggie's doo doo to write "I don't pick up after my dog" on your front door.

I'm sure that it's the correct and proper thing to do.

Lesson over.

* Forget "My Life in Really Small Words," this is now the title for my currently unpenned, but sure-to-be-classic new tome.

** Note, had she allowed me to get a word in edgewise, I would have taken her on a tour of our backyard, where our MALE dog has complete and total domain, which has caused it to become a bespotted wasteland of urinary death circles.

*** Personal note: If I were your "teacher" I'd reinstate the "run around the gym until your guts explode" and the "hold-the-bowling-pins-out-to-your-sides-until-your-arms-want-to-fall-off" punishments for mouthy students, just like my elementary school gym teacher used to do.

**** Special thank-you to the lovely young man at Lowe's who pointed me in the direction of a lawn elixir that did, indeed, make my lawn exceptionally green and lush--so lush, in fact, that it requires two-a-week mows, the side effect of which is that it attracts nasty bitches (apologies to the pomeranian) who feel the need to pollute its gorgeous greenness with urinary death circles.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Art of Saving School "Art"

It's that time of year again. The one every kid loves and most moms dread. The "cleaning of the classroom" aka last days of school. Most days for the past week my son has brought home a backpack filled with paperwork, art and "treasures."

Today, while he is outside playing (note: this is my ticket to success--if you involve the child NOTHING gets tossed), I am quietly organizing this mound of "stuff" into three organized piles: toss, review and save. Over the years (and over the kids) I've gotten increasingly picky about what I keep. With my first, I kept everything she made, from macaroni necklaces to fingerpainted portraits. When I quickly ran out of storage options, I began to cull through her masterpieces to keep my favorites.

Now, as I wade through my son's fourth grade year, I am wondering: Keep the Mission Report AND the Santa Barbara report, or just the painted tile. Hang on to the Year Planner or not? And where do I store all of these "treasures"?

But most of all, I remain amazed by how much paper still comes home. It would definitely make my life easier--and save more than a few trees--if most of this daily coursework was conducted electronically. Looking at the mound of materials on my kitchen table, I can't help to dream of the day I could store it all on a thumb drive.

Until then, it's off to Target for another bin.

What do you do to solve the "artwork" dilemma?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Moving Forward, Not On

For more than 12 years, the most visible area of my closet has been dedicated to one task: the storage of uncompleted Creative Memories albums, along with acid-free paper, a variety of exotic paper cutters, acid-free pens and pencils in a rainbow of shades, acid-free stickers corresponding to just about any occasion, and a host of other scrapbooking accessories.

For over a decade, they have been my shelves of guilt.

Daily, as I selected from dwindling array of shoes (chasing kids will decimate the finest of shoe collections), I was reminded of my parental neglect as it pertained to all things photographic. As I selected a work outfit (home-bound outfits are always workout clothes, easy and not in the closet), when I looked up, I would see perfectly stacked plastic bins, each containing each child's photographs, awards and artwork--the very items that were supposed to be encased in those lovely Creative Memories albums stored with my shoes.

I started with the right intentions. With the birth of my firstborn, I set out not only to be the perfect parent, but also the ultimate historian, cataloguing her perfect upbringing. I invested in tools that would transform acid-free, survive-for-decades-or-at-least-the-lifespan-of-said-child paper into perfect concentric circles, that, when perfectly assembled, would look like a pistachio-spumoni-vanilla layered ice cream cone, complemented with circular-cut photos of my child's smiling face affixed upon each scoop.

I purchased acid-free albums into which I carefully documented everything from each of my ultrasound appointments (side note: as the years progress, they look more like ink blot tests than fetuses to me), to all of her firsts, seconds, thirds, and so-on. As parents of multiple children can attest, my first-born has the lion's share of albums. I believe, on current count, she is the proud owner of at least 10, including one devoted entirely to her Kindergarten year and one devoted to teaching her her ABC's solely through pictures of her family and her pets.

My second-born currently owns five albums, including his personalized ABC album, but no Kindergarten-devoted tome.

My third has none. No, wait. In a weekend of extreme guilt and desperation, I recall that I whipped up the ABC album.

Since then, I have diligently compiled all photographic evidence into lovely stackable plastic containers (Thanks, Target, for your co-dependent support!) and have purchased, on random vulnerable occasions (like trips to the Orange County Fair, where I've seen an entire booth devoted to Creative Memories) materials to keep my guilt trip on track.

That is, until yesterday. I am not sure if it was an epiphany, a deep need to Spring clean, or a sudden and comprehensive revulsion of Creative Memories hoarding. Twelve years of materials were moved to my dining room table, along with every photo container. My goal: Everything in the bins goes into an album. Anything left over goes to eBay (the materials, not the photos). It could take me five weeks or five months, but I see a financial upside in my future.

What am I going to do with all of that newly opened up space? Return it to its original designation: a home for my shoes. And in my most Carrie Bradshaw of moments, I carefully dusted the shelves and lovingly placed my tallest, most impossibly non-mom shoes (five-inches of peep-toe, sling-back creme perfection) to get things started.

At that moment, I admired how far I have traveled, both as a parent and as a person. My kids and I have walked together for 15+ years. Now, they're traveling their down uniquely singular paths, and they no longer need me to hold their hands. My days carrying baby wipes and Goldfish crackers in my purse are long gone. My days of having time for new adventures lie ahead.

Now, when I walk into my closet, I don't feel guilty about what I didn't accomplish; I feel elated about the days to come. From volunteering for my daughter's marching band, to spending time at my son's daycamp, to attending events that have nothing at all to do with any of my children, I will be both well-heeled and happy.

Eventually those albums in my dining room will be filled with memories. But, starting today, my closet will be filled with the opportunity to make many more.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guacamole on the side, please

I quit waiting for my "Mother of the Year" certificate to arrive long ago. It only took a few months for me to shift from "I am going to be the best mother who ever lived" to "I am going to be the best mother I can be" after the birth of my daughter. I'd say that, to be honest, I've since downsized to "I will try to be the best mother I can at this particular hour" on many a day.

And I don't always succeed.

Like tonight. As usual, all hell broke loose sometime between after-school pick-up and dinner. You know those calm, lovely family dinners you've seen portrayed on TV? You won't find one of those at my house. It's usually an all-out food fight, complete with a battle as to who gets the most mashed potatoes and a stern reinforcement from me as to why it's important to use napkins, even if they're paper.

So it should come as absolutely no surprise that the phone should ring in the midst of the chaos. And that my kids should choose to answer. Caller I.D. is a lovely thing: it enables us to ignore people we don't want to speak to, and identifies who we DO want to talk with. And when "Private Caller" comes up, we all know who that is: GRANDMA. Only this time, "Private Caller" wasn't grandma. And the person on the other end of the phone had NO sense of humor.

"Tomas's Taco Stand," yells my son. "How many tacos you want????" No answer. "'ELLLOOOOOOOO.....HOW MANY TACOS YOU WANT??? WE HAVE GOOD TACOS TONIGHT!!!!" exclaims my son, with added emphasis on "good tacos". No answer. "YOU NO WANT MY TACOS???????" My son, clearly positive Grandma is giving as good as she gets, is not going to take stoic for an answer.

Frustrated, he hands the phone to me. "Hello?" I say, cautiously, positive I'm not going to enjoy the next few moments.

"Hello, Mrs. Wildrick."

Yep. Not my mom. And not someone with a sense of humor. I'll leave it there.

'Cause I know any of my friends would have jumped on that and requested two fish tacos, guac on the side.

And, no, I won't expect the doorbell to ring with my special "Mother of the Year" award. But be warned: you call my house, you're likely to get a side of tacos.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Enjoy the Ride

I can't believe I haven't posted since Halloween. It's no surprise, really, given the rollercoaster of a year I've experienced. Perhaps your life has been in turmoil, as well. If so, I am sorry to hear it, but know that I am walking shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
In the span of that time, I have contributed to some of the most exciting--and visible--marketing campaigns of my career; I have watched my children achieve amazing new levels both academically and artistically; I have watched my friends take on serious crisis, and do well. All while hitting new lows in my personal life that I had hoped I would never experience, but did. Whoever said you can't have it all wasn't kidding.
But I walked through that fire and I've come out the other side. Wish I hadn't have had to make the trip, but that option wasn't offered. I have emerged a bit tired, but definitely stronger.
And, despite the heartache, there's been a lot of humor. Those posts coming shortly.

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