Friday, July 28, 2006

No joke...another science experiment aka Glowing Mommy Moment #5382 aka Grills Gone Bad



Let's set the scene. It begins this week, a few days ago on Tuesday. My frugal friend who always happens to pass along great sales tips let me know that a grocery store a few miles away offered awesome deals ending that day.

So I strapped in the kids and we headed north. The whole way there was one question after another, "Where are we going?" Why are we going there? Didn't we already go to the store this week? Are there toys there? Mom? Mom? Are you listening? If you don't listen then...then...no donuts for you today."

Normally, I'd say, "Oh, okay...please, throw me into the Briar Patch."

But on Tuesday, the thought of "donut" made me groan in want and need.

Still I remained silent in response. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. This (a) enables the other person to fill the dead air in their own way (which is usually much more inventive than anything you could actually say) and (b) keeps my ass covered.

We passed by the bakery, where the kids began to badger me for cookies and donuts, their usual MO. I agreed to the free cookie, but no more. I reached in and got one for Patience, one for Persistence and then...beyond my control, my hand reached in again, and grabbed one for me too.

Yes, that's right. You heard what I said.

I grabbed a free supermarket kid cookie. And I ate it.

I understand, you can't be seen with me any longer. I'm the mom who steals cookies from kids. Free supermarket cookies. The two day old stale ones. Not even worth the sin, atonement, special place in hell, and calories.

I want you to know...this is not a habit. I'm usually very committed to not snaking candy from kids. Thus, my children watched me shove that cookie into my mouth with gaping astonishment.

"Did you just take a kid cookie, Mom?" Patience inquired, aghast.

I held true to my principle of silence. At least I had one principle left.

Still, despite the cookie, I found myself walking through the store, suddenly starving...starving for foods on the Not Approved for Weight Loss list. Gingerbread, donuts, angel food cake, coffee cake, potato chips. It was all I could do to bypass them...and pausing by the cookies? I lost control.

In the meat department I went hog wild---pun intended---over 99 cent per pound pork chops, and $1.29 per pound steak. Inexplicably, I got both, and a huge brisket too.

I began to feel a little sick afer I filled my basket, and had a couple walk by, point and laugh. The kid cookie sat uneasily in my stomach and I contemplated that I probably had about half a cow and three-quarters of a pig in my basket.

It was all to the good of the budget. But I wondered. What was the whole cookie incident about, and all this meat?

Was I losing my mind dieting?

The next day all came clear to me. Karma is a red headed witch, in this case. The crabbiness, the cookie craving, the meat...my evil aunt came to visit. In other words, I went surfing on the crimson wave.

Most of you women out there are thinking, is she stupid? Don't you get this every 28 days, or otherwise chemically prevent it? Can't you recognize PMS, or at least have a fair guess of its timing?

No my friends, it has been years since I had a cycle. Years. I was starting to think, actually, that I was scot free. I saw no reason to get drugs to induce cycles. I thought I'd just slide gracefully from child-bearing to menopause.

And I was happy thinking of the savings in feminine hygiene products. Products I began a frantic search for on Wednesday morning. To no avail.

So back to the store we went.

Where I succumbed, although thankfully with full understanding of why, to a Dove ice cream bar. My kids couldn't believe their good fortune: cookies and ice cream two days in a row!

Did I look like the PMS queen or what at checkout: three Dove ice cream bars (I'm not foolish enough to buy a box! Just one for each of us.), package of tampons, package of pads (no wings thanks, I'm old fashioned that way), romance novel, buy one get one free baby powder, feminine wipes, bottle of Advil, bottle of Aleve, bottle of flavored non-carbonated water (x3) and package of toilet paper.

I was feeling mean and crampy enough to try to get the young man but he saw me coming and went on break, so I got the usual older lady instead. "Having one of those days, are we," she asked kindly. I just nodded.

This is all relevant, trust me. Hang in there.

So move forward to Thursday. Ummm, nothing. Cleaned house, like a madwoman. Researched brisket recipes, wondered how many ways you can prepare brisket since we'll be eating it for the next month (but hey! It was only $7!!).

Okay so. Here we are. Finally. Today.

You can understand why I pulled out the Rancher's Reserve steaks (only $5, with enough for dinner tonight and fajitas tomorrow night!) to thaw tonight. I felt the need for whatever it is that red meat gives back to a body. Steak and corn, I STG, this was my dinner plan. Earlier in the week we had grilled low-fat pork with Udon noodles and steamed vegetables. You see the contrast? This is what being a WOMAN! does to me.

My dear husband gets home in time to grill the steak. This is our deal...it stemmed from all my years of being vegetarian. Meat is allowed at the house, but not IN the house. It must be grilled outside. And I have nothing to do with it.

So all our meat is grilled.

My daughters don't even know alternative preparations I think.

(Little Aside: Now down here in the Republic, summer is iffy grilling weather because you might die of heat exhaustion. However, on the whole, it is pretty much grilling weather year round, without your neighbors doing the little finger twirl by their temple when they see you...like we got in New England.)

My husband takes the steaks---which he is still in shock that I not only bought but chose to eat---out to grill. I pulled out the corn. We wondered whether we ought to grill in the husk or out. We even googled...and YES, there are fierce debates on this topic. Being competitive debaters by nature, we each felt compelled to take one side of the argument and fight for it...meaning the corn got split down the middle as the only fair outcome.

He retreats outdoors with the food, a bottle of cold water, and a sweat rag. I am piddling around in the kitchen before it finally dawns on me I ought to crack the Cabernet, snag a glass and go laugh at some entertainment news. Before I can make good on this little fantasy (and isn't this always the case) Persistence is hanging on my leg, whining, begging for food and drink. All of which means, OMG woman, end my misery, put me to bed.

So up we go.

Patience trails us upstairs and goes into the playroom to play while I get Persistence ready for bed. She goes down pretty quickly and easily, and I sneak into my bedroom for five minutes of R&R before dinner. Patience is playing nicely in the playroom, dinner is grilling (hey, low mess, that!) and Newscaster Barbie is telling me all about Carnie Wilson going on some diet reality show. I have another "OMG all the fat I ate this week!" flash, compounded by "OMG it was a KID cookie," guilt, but before I can get too deep into the angst, Husband calls me down with, "HEY! Food's READY!"

I quietly call to Patience and we go down together.

As we all start to sit at the table, Patience says with a tone somewhere between Pride and Trepidation, something about when she grilled her meat. Dh and I freeze. I keep my back to her, eyes closed, praying to the Gods of parenting that I am not about to pay for my five minutes of R&R. DH starts the Inquisition, using his careful, don't frighten the child (but not snowing her anyway) tone and word choice, "What meat, what grill Patience?" I heard all I needed to when she said, "Blah blah blah toy bacon blah blah blah lamp..."

I raced up the stairs and this is what I saw still in the lamp:



The lamp? Was off.

At least when the things began melting around the light bulb she had the presence of mind to turn it off.

But what amazes me is HOW LONG it took her to come clean, despite the "Tell the truth, be wise and ask for help when you need it, and get out of jail free" policy we have.

Anyway...even she can't explain why she did it. The entire dinner conversation was first a quiz, by her, of possible motivations, along with how she chose the exact plate to use, and exact piece of meat. Next she explained the experiement to us, and the step-by-stage results. She knew it had gone awry, actually, when it "didn't smell like Dad's meat."

Oh.

My.

Stars.

All I can say is...the worst thing that happened was a lost plate, play bacon and ligt bulb.

Thank all that is holy.

In these moments...I understand the jaw clenching and teeth grinding my parents did my entire childhood.

And as for the results of the experiment? DH is putting it in a little box in Patience's keepsake box. He says it's to remind him how the apple desn't fall far from the tree, and to remind her later, with her own kids, that she did it once to us.

HA!

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hey! My conscious and subconscious minds really are linked! The Andrea Yates post.

(Sorry...no image today...they all seemed wrong somehow...)

What do you know. How freaky weird.

Mommies in trouble (see last post) must have been on my mind. And I mean beyond my little range of friends and family.

My mind must have registered the local trial of Andrea Yates, even if I assiduously avoid the local news (which sucks rotten, green eggs if you must know. OMG the local news is godawful bad...well beyond if it bleeds it leads. Either this is the most violent city in the US or it likes to think it is. Car chases? Every damn day. Dead kids? Every damn day. And let me tell you...the news leads with and beats that rug dead. The only thing likely to supplant it is the Weather. As in, Hurricanes. And the only thing worse than the local news? Is the local radio. It's enough to make a penny pincher buy satellite radio for the car. Sheesh. And for the record, I've lived and been to MANY places on earth and trust me, here? Is the worst.)

Happily, Andrea Yates is from literally around the corner. How cool is that.

Not at all.

It's stomach turning sickening.

I get sick thinking that she did what she did. And yes, I avoid writing it. Just skimming by the thought of it is enough to make me keep my kids awake all night kissing them and swearing to never go that stark raving mad. And as a recently completely non-functionally sleep deprived mom, that's saying a lot.

But I want to revisit the "stark raving mad" point I just made. Because sincerely, I believe she was quite stark raving mad.

Listen, I know from post-partum depression, and what's worse, I know from multiple kid sleep deprivation along with post-partum depression. People...in this state of being we should not even be allowed to drive a car. Much less...anything else. It's a scary state. I scared myself.

I scared myself so badly---while everyone around me was in total denial or ignorance---that I took myself to my OB (who had wanted to put me on anti-depressants during my pregnancy my symptoms were so bad) and could say NOTHING AT ALL. I could only sit there and SOB and say, "I'm so afraid and I can't sleep or eat or breathe and I just want everything to END."

And that? Was enough. He put me on meds right there in the office.

Why did I do that? Probably because of Andrea Yates. Probably I took my symptoms and feelings seriously, and got help. Because of her. And what happened. And all the press, and media and talking heads expounding on PPD and how serious it was. I didn't think how I felt was OKAY or NORMAL or I'd get over it.

I didn't think (thank goodness Tom Cruise hadn't opened his ugly blathering mouth yet) that diet or vitamins or exercise would fix it. I ate well, exercised regularly, and took my prenatal like it was candy.

What fixed it was Zoloft.

And I got labeled by my insurance company. Who called me weekly as if they did that for everyone...to make sure I hadn't gone all Andrea Yates on anyone.

You see? She is more than just a person.

She's a syndrome now.

I think she was---had to have been---post partum psychotic. Seriously, I was only diagnosed as post partum depression and THAT was scary enough. I can't even fathom PPP.

It makes what she did...a little well...I can't say understandable...but I will say...I have sympathy.

I don't think prison was the right place.

I don't think the criminally insane need to be jailed. I think help in a mental health facility is justice.

What she did was HORRIFYING. Really, it makes my stomach turn. And I don't mean in the "I forgot my Pepcid and digestive enzymes" kind of way. I mean in the "OMG I wish I had a time machine and could INTERVENE NO NO NO THIS did NOT happen!" kind of way.

But putting her in prison makes my stomach turn too.

Here I blog about my experience. My husband 100% disagrees with my point of view and is appalled and repulsed by the outcome of the trial. I do understand what the jury foreman said about wishing he could have found her "guilty but insane." I also understand why he broke down and sobbed while saying he had to bathe his children after looking at photos of the Yates' kids...after. And lost it. And was nutso at the pool that weekend.

But back to my husband...I'm not sure what he thinks of his wife admitting publically she was bonkers after having baby #2. I never even told family.

But in light of this? I'm coming out of the closet. Silence apparently gains nothing.

Maybe...maybe others will be helped here too..maybe Andrea Yates' lawyer is right and this will turn the justice system, modernize it, fix it so it can actually undestand and accept both horrifying guilt, but also insanity.

I don't think Andrea Yates is off scot free, like I've heard some say. Oh no. That woman will suffer every day of her life. Actually, her own family said the good days are the ones when she isn't lucid and asks about the kids. The bad days are the ones when she is lucid and knows what happens and suffers the torment of the ages.

That right there is more punishment than any court can ever dole out.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Monday, July 24, 2006

There's An Animal in Twouble



There's something going around. I can sense it. It must be the dog days of summer, and like pets gone wild in a storm, the kids have all gone stark raving mad. No, wait, that's the mommies.

I can't tell you how many moms have recently wondered---and I don't mean in an existential way---about their state of being in the universe of motherhood.

I know one mom who has a bag of essentials packed, stowed in her closet. Just in case. She says it makes her feel better, like she isn't a rat in a maze, trapped.

I'm not sure whether that is hilarious or tragic.

Ahem.

I say to each her own, whatever gets you and the kids through each day. And like any step-by-step program, mommyhood is truly a day-to-day deal. An all day deal. An every day deal. An every minute of every day deal.

My husband recently admitted to being somewhat peeved at being expected to don his father mantle the instant he stepped through the front door of the house.

There's a mantle? And fathers get to TAKE IT OFF??

I'd like to get me some of THAT!

I'm mommy all the time, at least in some part of my brain. And I know full well the instant I walk through the door I am back on duty.

Maybe this is why all the articles are about maternal depression and not paternal depression.

Maybe this is why no fathers ever call me, nearly in tears.

Maybe this is why no fathers ever call me and sing the Wonder Pets theme song.

My sister does this. It's hilarious.

In a sort of desperate, grabbing a lifeline of sanity, reaching out for a saving hand, the kids have gone MAD, mad I tell you sort of way. She's a pretty funny chick (must run in the family ha ha AHEM) and usually has humor about parenting. On Those Days sometimes she calls me and sings the Wonder Pets theme song, or the "There's An Animal In Twouble" bit from the show as the caged animals put on their superhero gear (I am not making this up...this is a real show...I'm not CLEVER enough to make up this stuff) and escape with Team Work (what's gonna work, TEAM WORK!) to go rescue animals in twouble.

(By the way...Bad talk and spelling in kid's things make me wiggedly piggedly bonkers. Really. Why TEACH it wrong? I should find it cute, but I can't. I love Pooh. I do. But...I'm so sick of the "Why do they call elephants heffalumps, mom?" conversation, followed by the "There must be something called a heffalump mom, maybe you can google and find it. They wouldn't have a heffalump if there weren't really heffalumps." accompanied by the patronizing arm pat. From my pre-schooler. God help me. I, of course, resort to the Stellar Parenting Technique of Sarcasm---Dr. Sears would be so proud!---and suggest something like maybe there is a school for mommies who don't believe in heffalumps or some such.)

When my sister leaves the Wonder Pets song message, I know exactly what sort of day she's having. I have those days. It's the "My gray matter is melting away and I'm actually starting to take notes with Steve and Blue and hum the "Come on vamanos" song as I drive to the store and if I have to watch Wonder Pets one more time and the kids won't stop and what I really want to be is single and childless, eating chocolate on a break from my fabulous job before heading home to my '13 going on 30' loft full of designer clothes that always fit because my metabolism isn't all wonky from pregnancy and breastfeeding for years and lack of sleep and stress that compound weight gain and WAIT no, I'm cool, I take it back, it's fine, I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids...I'm blessed. This is...funny. See? Funny? I'm not punchy," day.

The song?

It's not an animal in twouble.

It's the mommy.

Issuing a cry for help.

Sort of like...a ransom call.

The balance has tipped. Someone is in control in the house, and in that moment, it's not the big people.

We get the control back, somehow, or a better balance if the word "control" skeeves you when used in relation to childrearing. But sometimes we have to step out of the box, just a bit, just for a minute. A sort of "mommy time out." Even if it is just to sing "There's An Animal in Twouble" on a sister's answering machine.

Some days my job as mom is "thumb in the dam" person. I don't feel too good about any of us on those days...but I don't feel too bad about any of us either.

I guess the point is to be, simply, good enough. And do what works, in that moment.

I have to share the inspiration for this post, what made me think of all my recent real-life experiences. Go read Sarah and the Goon Squad.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What Bank of America Can't Tell You



Does Sisyphus eventually collapse under the weight of the stone? Lately---as I try to fix everything that has been broken from the move and other life events---I wonder.

Today's was Bank of America.

I'm not sure whether I mean Bank of America as the stone or the moutain.

But it's definitely an obstacle, either way.

Possibly it's better to go Latin than Greek in my analogy here.

Perhaps Bank of America, like late Rome, is collapsing under the weight of its own empire and bureaucracy.

Because they certainly seem either very confused, utterly untrained, or totally out of control in the Electronics Claims Services division. You know? Those aren't mutually exclusive. It could be all three.

I cite the "shifting date game" and the "semantic challenge" I've been playing with them lately.

Let's go back to April. Back then, my husband and I hired---after due diligence, mind you---a web designer to design our business web site. We paid him a down payment to begin work. We had a very specific task list, deadlines, and so forth. We got suspicious when this guy---known as Spoonfuck to the point I can't recall his true name without looking at his driver's license and/or the contract---pretty much did nothing other than try to gloss over his nothing with lots of glib words and excuses.

People like this...I don't trust they'll just gleefully hand back my money.

So I checked. I had 60 days, Bank of America Electronic Claim Services Specialists told me. I have their names, but will protect the idendity of the guilty.

My husband and I tried valiantly to make a go of it with Spoonfuck...and then tried valiantly to get our refund.

You'll be surprised to hear our efforts were a failure, won't you. ;)

So we filed an affidavit with Bank of America (BOA) to retrieve our money. By force. We and some other valiant BOA local employees worked hard to ensure that we filed the claim by the deadline BOA told me.

When we followed up a few days later...

Well let's just say it's like that movie...our call automatically entered us in the Shifting Dates Game and Semantics Challenge.

First, we spent about two weeks doing the "it was the 15th no it was the 17th no it was the 15th no it was the 17th...it's too late, oh wait no, you're right, it's not, we'll re-open the claim...oh we closed the claim, it was the 15th so it's too late...oh I see, you are right it was the 17th, we'll reopen the claim..." round. (Dates have been changed to protect my bank account.)

Next...came today. The Semantics Challenge. I called an spoke to Lauren, a most uncompromising lady. She concurred that the charge was 17th, as I said, but stated they got the affidavit the day after I sent it (so which matters...when it is sent...or when they receive and know they received it?) and anyway, it was past the 57 day period.

57 day period? WTF?

Ignoring the fact that 57 days sounds like a very freaky odd number and not one you normally run into in business...this was the absolute first time in a month of talking to BOA Electronic Claims Specialists I had ever heard it.

Person after person said...60 days. Not a single one deviated. I had letters. Documented phone calls with names, times and notes.

And this lady, Lauren, was so doggedly sure of herself that she asserted her co-workers, her camarades in arms, as well as me...were all wrong, and more than a little nuts. No such thing as 60, she assured me.

I had one response: NACHA.

Oh, she told me, well, okay yes, NACHA gives us 60 days.

And 57?

Basically? She pulled that out of her ass. I know, you are shocked.

When I found myself in a near yell repeating, "No more official language! No more excuses! FIX IT...FIX IT...FIX IT..." I forced myself to calm down and in a more reasonable tone asked to speak to her boss.

See here's the thing: they have sixty days to work within, not sixty days to hear from you *by.* Sixty closes the door, window and shutters even. Period. The employees clearly don't get this, and as a result, neither did I. I thought it was a "file by" date, not a "window of opportunity that closes on Day 60" date. They "request" that we file at least a few days ahead of the 60th day so they have time to review and file the claim by the 60th day.

In the end, it makes sense, but it absolutely was NOT what we were told. And "requesting" isn't "requiring."

He won the ultimate war---basically I am SOL here---but I won the Semantics Ultimate Challenge Battle.

Like a dog with a bone, I seized on every little subtlety, nuance, mistake, change in language. 57, 55, request and prefer versus require and stipulate in a policy. BOA had a big responsibility here, and they blew it too.

However, he knew, and I knew. You can't fight NACHA...

Sensing he had won and I was backing down, weakening, he reached into his training from hostage negotiators, adding in some flattery and "I'm on your side" tactics.

It worked for a second---because who doesn't want to be recognized for the talented, intelligent, interesting person we each know we are?---but then he overplayed his hand and mentioned how my bank accounts show I am successful.

I laughed and laughed and laughed and...

And then I said to him...FIX IT.

I said, write a memo and distribute it to your employees so they don't arbitrarily make up numbers on the fly, make sure they understand a clear and concise policy. And have one for products (which is a black and white matter) and one for services (more gray). They have some wiggle room here.

I also said, write this in an article as a service for bank customers. Post it to your web site.

I said I'll be checking back in to make sure that it is done. And I will.

Maybe I am screwed but maybe I can prevent some other poor schmoe from the same fate.

I might be a fool who was soon parted with her money, but there are clowns to the left and jokers to the right of me.

Note: Art by Guercino, approximately 1650s, red chalk. For more information about the artist and this piece, please visit, this drawing's site at artnet.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What You'd Think I Know



The shadows trick my eye, with their hint of illumination,
making me think white is blue.
My mind knows reality but my eye is easily fooled.
When my eye leads, that is
And I can end up missing the mark for lack of thought.
A common---or is it normal---mistake.
I rarely---or is it hardly---know the difference.
And you'd think I'd know the difference
Between white and blue, I mean.
But the truth is---
and what is truth? Do I really mean truth, or do I mean in my experience?---
they are closer than you think.
And in the dark, you can easily mistake one for the other.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.