Empty Nest

Another guest post, this time from Kim! Thanks for volunteering!

This is not what you think. “Empty Nest” by definition, signifies the time when a mother bird has done her job of teaching her hatchlings all there is to learn so they leave the nest to start their own individual lives. I am promoting a new definition of “Empty Nest”. This one signifies the time when a parent who has been around their child 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with only the occasional exceptions, such as date night with daddy, fun night with friends, trips to the grocery store, or balling up in a fetal position in the closet hiding from humanity now sends this child into the big, bad world of public school.

I am a stay-at-home mom of three boys. I worked full time until my first son was 3 and part-time until our 2nd son was 2. I heeded the call of being a full time mom in November of 2005. In November of 2006, our 3rd son was born and my life has never been the same. I spent the next 5 years devoting every moment to watching all the little things I missed out on with our first two children. Then, in the fall of 2010, I attempted to home school two of our children who were in 1st and 4th grade at the time. This only lasted four months before surrendering and reluctantly sending them back into the public school system. I wish I could say I did it to save my sanity, but the truth is, I had already lost it. So it more like an attempt to get my sanity back. It went back to being just me and my little snuggle bunny during the day and I loved it.

Then the fall of 2011 rolled around. August 5th to be exact, which by definition is still summer, but because school was starting, we default into saying “fall”. His first day came and went, but not without many tears. All mine. Not a single one came from my independent, self-sufficient four-year-old. My husband tried his best to console me, but all I wanted was my baby back…any of them. I just needed to be needed. I now had an empty nest. I spent the whole day thinking about him. Wondering what he was doing. If he was ok. If he needed me. Every time the phone rang, I jumped to my feet just knowing it was the school and they were calling to tell me I needed to come up there because he wanted to come home and wouldn’t stop crying. That call….never came. Three o’clock finally rolled around and I eagerly headed to the school to pick the boys up and find out how their first day was. The older two came bounding out the door with smiles and hugs. My snuggle bunny came out with his head drooped, and his shoulders slumped. When he finally reached me, he just held his arms up to me and said, “Will you carry me?”

Yes, I indeed, have an empty nest. But it only temporarily empty, and I am, absolutely, still needed.

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Marthas and Caitlins

Thanks again to the tiedyednotebook for letting me repost!  For more TV reviews and musings, go to www.watchwithmai.com!

Originally posted at: http://watchwithmai.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/marthas-and-caitlins/

My initial reaction on viewing last night’s The Good Wife was, “Why isn’t there more Kalinda?”  It’s a totally valid question, because Kalinda is the bomb and, IMO, waaay more interesting than watching Lisa Edelstein do this female version of House that you can tell she’s kind of been dying to do for YEARS.  My second reaction was to wonder about the episode title, ‘Marthas and Caitlins.’  The title refers to the C plot in last night’s episode, a minor storyline that might have even been a pointless time-waster and kind of an odd place for Alicia to spend a good chunk of this episode.  Martha and Caitlin are the two finalists for a first-year Associate position at Lockhart Gardner and Alicia is a little too excited at the opportunity to hire and then mentor the winner.

Alicia or Celeste? or Martha and Caitlin?

But, after the episode was over, I realized why the episode was titled that way. See, Martha and Caitlin are two very different types. Presumably, they are in all academic respects equal, otherwise they wouldn’t be neck and neck for the coveted job. As we see snippets of their interviews, we get to the heart of the matter: the real difference is one of personality and style.
Martha is a veritable Good Wife 2.0. She looks professional and sober, serious and put together in an understated way. Her hobbies are foreign film (Fellini, anyone?) and her answers were all interview-proof and perfect. She can work on her own, but is happy to be part of a team. The perfectly balanced answer to show a prospective employer that you can take initiative, but you do work well with others and you are not a credit-hog, glory-hound.

By contrast, Caitlin is bubbly and seemingly immature. Her interview answers were good, and she was also put together very well, attractive and professional. But, her persona was a little chipper and over-friendly. Her hobby was something involving skateboards without wheels and
trampolines. She used vernacular phrases like, “cool” and said that litigation “turned her on.” You can practically see Alicia thinking, “Really? THAT’S how you wanted to say that?” in the stilted way she then asks Caitlin, “The University of Chicago – what ‘turned you on’ there?” Trust me, the quotes were there in the way Alicia said it.You can see where this is going right? Alicia wants Martha, only to realize that some nepotism is at play and the decision was never really hers to make. Enter Caitlin.

What’s interesting is that the Caitlin and Martha dynamic to an extent pervades the other female-female relationships in this episode. Diane
and Celeste (the aforementioned Lisa Edelstein), and Alicia and Celeste are both set up to show Diana and Alicia as the Marthas, while the irreverent Celeste is meant to be the eccentric and odd Caitlin. It does seem a little forced, especially in the way that she tries to be cool and maverick-like. I particularly rolled my eyes when Celeste went off on one of her rants about not being able to be friends with girls (I was half waiting for her to say, “Because, like, all other girls are so JEALOUS of me!”) and boldly announcing her desire to interfere in Will and Alicia’s relationship.

But, the Martha and Caitlin dynamic shows up in another place as well. It shows up in the relationship between Alicia’s daughter Grace and her
tutor, Jennifer. Jennifer is way more of an odd duck than any other character that I am talking about here. A college student whose hobby is making Youtube videos where she basically assaults people with her dancing…I don’t even know what it’s called. But eventually, over the past few episodes, Grace has warmed up to her. Alicia doesn’t care for it when Grace shows up in one of the Youtube videos and asks Jennifer to stick to tutoring Grace and leave it at that. The parallels between the two conversations is apparent as Alicia carries the exact same look on her face, as if wondering WHY anyone would choose to spend their time dancing on Youtube or skateboarding on a trampoline. She only gets to ask Jennifer that question aloud, and Jennifer doesn’t really have an answer.

All this is pretty straightforward until the turn at the end. Alicia confronts Will about why he chose to go over her head and hire Caitlin, along with the rest of the hiring committee. Will owns up to the fact that he owed someone his vote because, “There was also a Martha when we hired you,
Alicia.” In that instance, he was the one pressuring his people to go with the more eccentric candidate, the less obvious choice. It’s a nice turnaround, because throughout the episode, we have been set up to believe that Alicia is the Martha. She is the straight down the middle, proper and appropriate choice and instead we are made more aware that a determination like that is almost always based on your point of view. And, as Will says, “The Caitlins often surprise you.”

P.S. – I also figured why there was no more Kalinda in this episode. Because this episode was about Caitlins and Marthas. Kalinda is always, only ever Kalinda. Thank god and the makers of leather knee boots!

My Mother and the Hooker

In order for the story I’m about to tell to make sense, I have to first tell you a little about my mother. Think a very intelligent Edith Bunker. While my mom is seriously one of the most intelligent people I know, when it comes to ways of the world, she’s a little naive. It’s always been fun to introduce her to things that she’s never done before. Like the family vacation where we taught her the proper way to shoot tequila. She generally has that “a-ha” moment when it all makes sense, but sometimes it takes a minute to get there. You see, in her world everyone is shiny and happy and we all live a pretty vanilla existence. It’s not that she doesn’t think this unseemly side of the world isn’t out there, she just doesn’t have opportunity to interact with it much. So recently she and my stepdad took a trip to New Orleans. I did my best to prepare her for all that would happen there. I cautioned her not to try and take down a whole Hurricane by herself, etc. I didn’t, however, warn her from talking to strangers. You see, with my mom that’s just not going to happen. She’s going to talk to everyone she meets and will have their whole life story in the course of a half hour. Seriously, the CIA should hire her to get background information on people. She talks to everyone and she’s so likable that people talk to her too! So on this trip, they had to go to a drugstore. My mom was the one tasked with going into the store while the people they were vacationing with waited in the car. When she came out she remarked that the car was gone which prompted this scantily dressed, heavily tattooed woman to make a comment to her regarding the missing automobile. This then led to my mom asking the woman how long she had lived in New Orleans, which led to the woman disclosing that she had lost her job and that she now was a hooker and this was her corner, as if my 5’1″ mother in her glasses and mom jeans was there to move in on her turf. About this time the car pulled up and my mother was so flustered that she nearly walked into the car. It’s very reminiscent to me of the episode of “All in the Family” where Edith and Archie contacted a pair of swingers in an effort to broaden their social circle. If this had happened in Macon my mother might have possibly invited the woman out to lunch and assisted her in getting an invite to the Junior League! It’s just the kind of person she is. She will always see the good in people until she has a reason not to. She’d rather just believe that everyone is out for the betterment of themselves and the world around them than spend time thinking of all the bad things that people may be thinking and acting on. This is what I learned from her. To always see the good in other people until you have a reason not to. My grandmother was the type who felt that doing her part for civil rights was eating lunch with her housekeeper on the porch, but my mom didn’t raise us to feel that way. I learned not to judge people for what they look like or what they might choose to do with their lives. I judge people on their character, not who they love or how they dress. I have been lucky to meet people from all walks of life and do my best to get to know the person for who they really are. It’s this philosophy that has enabled me to meet some of the coolest people I know. I credit my mom with teaching me this lesson.

Storytime with the Loud Librarian: Book Reviews

Please share your own reading picks and pans in the comments. Click on the book titles and enter your zip code to find the book in your local library.

I’ve been on a humorous nonfiction jag for the past few years, partly because I’ve always loved trivia, but mostly, I think, because my life has gotten so crazy that it’s hard for me to find the time I need to get sucked into a novel (although I miss that). I find nonfiction books easy to pick up and put down. I can really only absorb so much information at a time anyway. So I’ve been happy to have found a number of hilarious, yet brilliant authors in that genre, especially Mary Roach, A.J. Jacobs, and, most recently, this author:

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Riverhead)

Do psychopaths rule the world? That’s the question that haunted Jon Ronson (author of Men Who Stare at Goats and Them), who began to wonder if this disturbing group of people, which comprises maybe one percent of the population, wields an enormous amount of influence in the world.

He interviews the people who study psychopaths, learning that, among other things, they have no physical stress response to the threat of receiving a painful electric shock, and are intrigued, rather than repulsed, by images of extreme gore. He enrolls in a course on how to spot psychopaths, based on a checklist created by the instructor, Bob Hare (a man who seems to regret that he’s no longer allowed to use painful electric shocks in his research). And then he becomes an amateur psychopath-spotter, even going so far as to confront people he suspects might fit the profile, and asking them if they think they might be psychopaths.

For most of this book, I found myself trying my hand at being a psychopath-spotter too, and wondering about various people I knew or had read about. Ronson explains that psychopaths gravitate towards powerful positions, and that current researchers suspect that three percent or more of the world’s CEO’s might fit the profile. He interviews Al Dunlap, who as the former CEO of Sunbeam, delighted in firing 13,000 people. Ronson asks him point-blank if he might be a psychopath, and reads him the checklist. And Dunlap proudly admits to having most of the attributes, reframing each of them as good business tactics.

This creates a frightening picture of the world, and yet one that makes a certain amount of sense: psychopaths seek out power, and are not afraid to make the ruthless choices and take the big risks that make most people squeamish. Is it any wonder that they would be at the top of the corporate food chain? (Ronson points out though, that Sunbeam’s stock skyrocketed every time Dunlap closed a factory, raising the question of who, really, are the psychopaths? Dunlap, or the investors who gleefully supported him).

The book doesn’t stop there though. Ronson is a funny, thoughtful writer, who is always questioning everything, even himself. So he begins to wonder about the business of diagnosing people with psychological checklists, and decides to investigate the psychiatrists themselves. He finds that the psychiatric profession seems to have gone checklist-mad, labeling people (especially children) with all kinds of newly-minted psychiatric disorders, usually with the encouragement of the pharmaceutical industry.

I really enjoyed reading this book, partly because I love to play amateur psychiatrist myself, but mostly because it was such an entertaining read. Ronson has a knack for ferreting out bizarre stories and people, and has neurotic personality quirks of his own, which lead him to constantly turn the psychopath checklist back on himself. Instead of writing a serious treatise on how to identify psychopaths, who may or may not be running the world, Ronson takes you on a wild ride through the “madness industry,” where everything he learns raises new questions.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin; Art by James Dean (Harper Collins Childrens)

If I’m honest about what I’ve been reading lately, it is this book over and over and over and over and over… My two-year-old NEVER gets tired of it.

It’s a simple story. Pete the Cat is walking in his white shoes, which he loves so much that he sings this song: “I love my white shoes… I love my white shoes…I love my white shoes.” But then a tragedy occurs! Pete steps in a pile of strawberries (this happens to me all the time). Now his shoes are, horror of horrors, RED! Does Pete cry? Goodness no. (I have to admit that I never get tired of reading this book, because I love hearing my daughter say, “Gooneh no.” He just keeps walking along, this time singing, “I love my red shoes… I love my red shoes.”

I won’t give away the rest of the plot, although there’s a surprising twist involving a bucket of water. But the book ends with the phrase, “It’s all good,” which my daughter also loves. I’ve read this book at several storytimes, and the kids all fight over who’s going to get to check it out, and then ask for it again the next week, so I’m calling it a hit. There’s a new sequel out called “Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes,” which isn’t quite as memorable, but was probably inevitable.

Wordless Wednesday

yesterday I was a blonde, today not so much…

2 Broke Laugh Tracks

thanks to the tiedyednotebook.com for allowing me to mirror my latest Watch With Mai post!

You 2 Girls only get ONE. Choose wisely…

I know I am with most folks who complained ad nauseum about the
laugh track on 2 Broke Girls. But, on another site today, a comment from a
person who was…let’s just say not
a fan of 2 Broke Girls commented that they didn’t mind it. After all, there is
a laugh track on The Big Bang Theory and that doesn’t seem intrusive because
(and I am just imagining the snarky tone) Big Bang is actually funny. So, that
got me to thinking. Being a huge fan of Sheldon and the Shel-bots, I had to admit
to myself that I really don’t mind the laugh track on the Big Bang Theory
either. In fact, we might as well acknowledge that CBS ain’t gonna ever let
that go….a pretty sizeable chunk of their demographic would be lost without
it. How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, they all have it. I think Two
and a Half Men has a live audience, but How I Met Your Mother isn’t.

But I do find the laugh track obtrusive on 2 Broke Girls. So, why
this show and not the others? I think the reason comes down to my real
complaint with the show…the supporting cast of characters. First of all,
there are three (or four, if you count Max’s other boss, the Manhattan
Socialite with twins named Brad and Angelina) and each is separate from the
others, despite a common setting (the diner). They trot each one out in turn to
interact with one of the leads and then they go back into the background. There
is Oleg, the Russian short order cook. He is the one I would be happiest to see
go. He has one ‘joke’ and it’s not funny. Like, at all. There is Earl, the
cashier. He is the most ‘blah.’ I don’t much care if he’s there or not. Han,
the diner owner, is the one I like the best, even though he is portrayed as the
most William Hung stereotype of Asian ever. He is at least cute and a little
endearing. These characters are more caricatures and their “jokes”
fall so flat that the laugh track that accompanies them really feels jarring by
comparison.

By contrast, while The Big Bang centers around Sheldon, Leonard
and Penny, the supporting cast has always fit in seamlessly, while adding
layers and dimension to the show. If you’re a fan of The Big Bang, you know
that each of these supporting characters has come into their own in a way that
shines. Howard and his mother, Raj and his parents and sister…the addition of
Bernadette and Amy Farrah-Fowler have rounded out this cast so that it’s clear
that The Big Bang has a lot of depth on the bench. And that doesn’t even taken
into account the great recurring characters like Kripke (with the speech
impediment where he cannot pronounce ‘R’s’), Stewart, the comic book store
owner and Wil Wheaton who is always good for a couple of episodes per season.

2 Broke Girls really needs to get some depth of their own otherwise
the two leads, Caroline and Max, will quickly run out of steam. I feel like
they should pick one of the existing three and move on. If I were to judge by
last’s night’s episode, it seems that the powers that be are kind of coming to
the same conclusion. While the A plot revolved around the Girls and their latest
money making attempt (throwing a 90’s theme party), the B plot revolved around
Han and his attempt to hook up with a willing girl. It was fairly predictable
and one-dimensional, but Matthew Moy is kind of adorable and he made it work.

Also? They totally need to bring Brad and Angelina’s mom back. She
was vapid, but funny in her self absorption.

For more of my “fabulous” insights on your favorite shows, check out my blog www.watchwithmai.com

Crushes

by Laura Siegel

High School physics was never easy for me. Still isn’t 50 years later.

I was a good student and loved math and science but physics stumped me. I tried to understand electromagnetic fields but with no success. I don’t know what it was about ergs and mols but they were a foreign language I could never understand.

That’s why it was so great when Louis, a boy who sat next to me in physics class, asked if we could do our homework together. He was smart and helpful and more importantly he “got it.”

Pretty soon we were discussing voltage and currents regularly, and I was even beginning to get excited about little metal balls rolling down an incline. Well, maybe not excited. Perhaps I was more excited about a boy calling me on the phone almost every day.

Louis was handsome, gentle, and smart. The thing was though, that I totally missed the signals. I was so busy focusing on how heat makes electrons move faster, that I didn’t really notice Louis’ smile or the way his voice got soft over the phone.

After awhile, my mother asked about this boy who was calling me almost every day. I told her we were studying physics. Well, we were. She asked a bit more about him and somehow I must have mentioned that he was black. I had nothing to hide after all; it wasn’t a secret I was trying to keep. I actually hadn’t thought that much about his skin color.

My mother told me she wanted the phone calls to stop immediately. She said I would have to tell him or she would.

I was furious. We were only studying physics! He was so sweet. How could I tell him to stop calling me?

I was 16—so I did the easiest thing I could. I followed the laws of inertia  (the tendency of a body to resist acceleration), and I stopped answering the phone. I did not return his calls. I have no memory of how I avoided him in class but it must have been very painful for me. And him.

Also my physics grades plummeted. And though I graduated high school with math honors, I nearly failed the state physics Regents exam.

There is a photo of us in physics class, taken for the high school yearbook. I am placing a metal rod through a wire coil, demonstrating an electro-magnetic field. Louis is looking at me adoringly.

I believe that today I probably would have a crush on him.

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