Category Archives: humor

More on Alligators and Unwilling Self-Exposure

One thing most women of a certain age know is that the search for a bathing suit requires extensive online research (going to an actual shopping establishment is torturous and laughable), along with a potential bank loan to finance the cost of the suit. You have to pay for coverage, slimming and enhancement, and no price is too high.

alligator1A year or two ago, when I knew I had to deal head-on with the burdensome weight problems caused by my anti-nervous-breakdown pills, I suffered through the purchase of two bathing suits. Or bathing costumes, really. They cost approximately $8,000 each. When I went down to visit my parents in FL last month, I knew I’d need them because my son would want to go in the water and I would, against all my desperate longings, have to accompany him.

I forgot the suits at home. Mostly because I packed at 4:00AM on the day of the flight, and my head wasn’t quite right. But I arrived in Naples with a dilemma. I needed a suit, but was highly unwilling to pay the exorbitant fee one involves, nor could I face the trying-on process.  So my mother, who accused me of forgetting my bathing suits at home on purpose, which was ridiculous because they are worth more to me than gold, frog-marched me into Wal-Mart to acquire a bathing garment, along with, I desperately hoped, a large cover-up.

The first cover-up met with maternal disapproval: “That looks like a shroud!” “Perfect,” I thought, and tossed it into the cart. As far as the bathing garments…suffice to say that when you are looking for something well-cut and flattering, Wal-Mart is the last place you should even consider going. Unless you are a 16-year-old size 2, it’s best to interpret the old person’s greeting at the door as, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

When it was time to go to the water park, I lathered Gabe up and then retired to the bathroom to squeeze, yank and shove myself into the horrible Wal-Mart bathing garment. On went the shroudish cover-up. And then, in the car, the final humiliation came.

I was wearing sunblock, but as I had not been exposed to sunlight for six Midwestern winter months, I was looking forward to “getting some sun.” “You need a hat, ” my parents said. “The sun is very strong, you need something to keep the sun off your head and face.”

“Absolutely not,” was my first thought, as I have a number of gorgeous and exotic beach hats at home, and could see nothing like them within reach. But no sooner could I turn around when a white GOLF visor was being shoved on my head. A golf visor. A white one. Not even black. I felt like a land manatee in a bad disguise.

When we got to the water park, I slunk into the water with Gabe, and it was actually quite fun, the playfulness, the pleasure he was experiencing. However, out of the corner of my eye I was stealthily watching my father, who seemed to want to capture these moments on film, and I knew without question that if I saw him even reach for his iPhone, I would slap it out of his hand in a heartbeat, right into the 4-foot deep kiddie pool.

alligator2There were no alligators at the water park, but their repulsive, fearless presence from the day before haunted me. People In Florida say, “They are more afraid of you then you are of them. No. No, they are not. (click to watch).

Now, the thing about alligators is that they give occasion to experience a deep, primal fear. Alligators can and will come after you. The bad thoughts in your head about the size of your stomach or thighs will come after you too. But they don’t have to kill you. The time that I spent in the water with Gabe made me feel light and free and playful. My body felt like my body again.

Alligators are a constant reminder of the predatory nature of depression and desperate, panic-ridden thinking. It’s said in research literature about self-development, fear, and growth, that the worst decisions we can make come from the “reptilian” part of our brains. That is our basest level, the one most preoccupied with self-preservation. The poet John Donne said that “When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.”

My parents, who are tremendously great sports, got in the water also, especially my Dad who took Gabe down the waterslide tons of times. We all went on the lazy river, which was very relaxing, except for the weird 20 year olds with multiple tattoos whose tubes kept bumping into mine. (At public pools you are practically naked at very close proximity to total strangers and this is not okay with me.)

Dad1I had been feeling quite down earlier in the day. Having to “be on,” i.e. go to a water park dressed as an entirely unfamiliar version of myself seemed beyond my comprehension and psychological capacities. But it turned out fine. Seeing Gabe smile and play, and feeling the love and effort of my parents was a type of buoyancy. As I said, my dad went down the water slide over and over with Gabe while I stood on and watched with pleasure and gratitude (and fear of the trips to the chiropractor if I myself went down.)

If love alone could cure any of life’s problems, I would be running marathons and writing novels. But swimming in the kiddie pool with my son was a triumph of love and fortitude that was made possible by the steadfast presence of my parents.

As hard as it can be to even, as Andrew Solomon, author of Depression: the Noonday Demon, says, to take the concept of other people’s suffering on board when one is in its depths, I truly believe that is the only way out. Being aware that there is pain in the world, and that our own suffering gives us something to offer back to others in the “same boat” (or the same inner tube) is what helps us pull each other out. It brings us back to life.Gabepool

 

 

 

The Green Alligator
By Sidi J. Mahtrow

There’s a green alligator.
Lying on the bank out of the water,
His (or her) hide, a bilious green
And as it dries has a certain sheen.

Some would say that’s most un-natural
But I reply that’s colors, factual.
Brought about by being in a water that’s
Filled with chlorophyll bearing plants
And as the gator swims along,
He can’t help but being tagged upon
By those single celled organisms that live there
In the primordial soup we all share.

‘Haps, this is his way
Of disguise from his prey,
But I prefer to believe
He’d much rather have a reprieve
From the pollution
In his watery bouillon
That coats everything large and small
From snout to tail and all.

But as he sleeps along the shore,
Covered by this slime and more,
I wonder if evolution will raise her head
And make all alligators green instead.
Then no one will notice this one apart
From others with the same colorant.

Regardless, it’s best to avoid the alligator, green
Lurking there, grey-black, or some shade in between.
He knows not why you’re there,
But for him, maybe you’ll become the daily fare.

One agator, Two agator, Three
Green alligators neath the tree,

Slipping, sliding, slopping,
Never stopping,
Green gators neath the tree.

Mouth open, teeth, a showing,
Just a grinnin
Green gators neath the tree.

Hides a glowing green
Doesn’t seem so mean,
Green gators neath the tree.

Into the water he’s a slippin
Just a dippin
One green gator’s not neath the tree.

Silent swimmin, easy going
Eyes and nose only showing
Green gator’s gettin close to me.

One agator, Two agator, Three
He’s after m….

Welcome to Florida!

Sidi J. Mahtrow

 

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Filed under depression, family life, happiness, humor

10 Things Not to Leave on the Counter for Your Babysitter to See

Hello everyone!  It’s been a while since we’ve visited here and I’ve missed you!  Has it been a busy spring for you so far?  Did you enjoying watching the world becoming green again?  It seemed to happen overnight here in east central Illinois and there was more lushness to take in every morning. 

I hope to have some exciting writing news to share with you soon, and a longer blog post is on the way as well.  In the meantime, below is a little list you may find useful.  (One of the blogging advice articles I read recently said that “readers love lists,” and this one occurred to me as I was rummaging through the area of our kitchen counter that we call “The Bermuda Triangle”). 

[Note:  Not all of these pertain to my kitchen counter; however, I have personally encountered each one of these items, so this is sort of a PSA.]  Feel free to write in with any additions!

10 Things Not to Leave on the Counter For Your Babysitter to See

1.  Bills for therapy. Of any kind.

2. Prescription medications except for antibiotics that have been prescribed for a child, and preferably only for common ailments such as ear infections.

3. OTC medication except Tylenol or ibuprofen, and particularly not anything related to digestion or skin rashes.

4. Naked pictures.  Of anyone.  Not even artistic ones, or ones of you when you were pregnant.

5. Bottles of alcohol, particularly not very large ones that are nearly empty.

6. Report cards with bad grades on them, or any other school communication pertaining to your child unless it has the words “award” or “honors” on it.

7. Bills stamped “Past Due,” and anything with the words “collection agency.”

8. Greeting cards with personal messages inside, especially not those with intimate details about how you plan to celebrate a particular holiday.

9. Laboratory/test results, or any other medical communications, especially not those related to your weight, white blood cell count, or any communicable disease.

10. Self-improvement and/or advice literature of any kind, particularly nothing related to: infidelity, sexuality, addiction, mental illness, divorce, or “raising difficult children.”

If you’d like to send in your ideas for things to add to this list, I’ll post them here!

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Filed under family life, humor

Confusion Endurance

On the same day that I was thinking about confusion and how often I feel plagued by it–on the exact same day–I read this following passage.  It’s from a book I’m using for a creativity class I’m teaching this semester.  “‘Confusion endurance’ is the most distinctive trait of highly creative people, and Leonardo probably possessed more of that trait than anyone who has ever lived.  Principle number four–Sfumato [Italian for “nuance”]–guides you to be more at home with the unknown, to make friends with paradox” (Michael J. Gelb, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, 10-11).

I don’t really get confused by large life unknowns, but small things confuse me more and more, and I’m worried that it’s a sign of deteriorating mental capacity.  The irony of this is that I am becoming more physically fit than I’ve ever been in my life, and I have very fast reflexes.  But I sometimes forget how to spell words like peave peeve.  The other day, I had to read the word “speach” three or four times before I was completely sure that it was spelled incorrectly.  Maybe you only get one or the other–you can be mentally sharp and physically sluggish, or confused and athletic.  I don’t know, and I’ll probably forget that I wondered about it by the time I finish writing this sentence.

Below, random observations on the issue of confusion:

  • If you are confused by your own skin care regime, something has to go.
  • Many people often do not know the date.
  • Perhaps you can remember EITHER your child’s principal name OR that she buys her shoes at Talbots, not both.
  • I’m never sure which set of lights will come on when I press the light switches in the kitchen.  
  • It’s okay to respond “I don’t know” to your child’s question, even if you do know but lack the mental stamina to answer.
  • My kids and I continue to go to the Baskin Robbins “drive-thru” even though they never get our order right.  Ever.

    The doors that lead to my classroom. Does anyone understand this?

I understand the value of embracing ambiguity and paradox.  In fact, I appreciate it and find it very liberating.  But not when it has to do with forgetting where I stored my $700 anti-teeth-grinding device.

Is it aging?  Hormones?  Stress?  A brain tumor?  Something I thought about this morning on my way from the car to my office but can’t think of now?  Do other people experience the sensation of your brain being about a nanosecond behind the rest of your body?

It would be so kind of you to let me know if you do.  But if you don’t, and really think this is the sign of a brain tumor, please don’t write to me.

The poet Rumi understood confusion, which is fine if you are a Sufi mystic who twirls around in circles reciting poems, but not so great if you are a middle-aged woman trying to remember the location of your son’s track meet.  But, as Rumi reminds us, on the other side of uncertainty is kindness, tenderness, compassion.  And also, I would assume, remembering Michael Gelb’s quotation, creativity.  Potential.  “So, it’s okay, my poor overtaxed brain.  I’ll try hard to love you anyway.  Just please remember to pay the mortgage because that really sucked last month when you didn’t.”

What confuses you?


Zero Circle 

Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
     to gather us up.

We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.

So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.

Rumi

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Filed under confusion, creativity, humor

You’ll Be Embarrassed That You Read This

I thought my self-esteem had bounced (literally) back from the Spanx debacle, but this morning, a little boy at Gabe’s daycare asked me if I was having a baby.  And I WAS WEARING stomach slimming underwear!  It took all my strength not to drive home and go back to bed.

So just to make myself feel better, I am posting this repulsive image of Khloe Kardashian and her Spanx misfortune.  And then I am going start taking up a collection for liposuction.

But before that, let me share with you a much more forgiving and self-affirming perspective than I can muster from American writer Janet Burroway:  “Why, I say, should I ever have bitterly blamed [my body] for such trifles as I have blamed it for: for having too much flesh in this spot, too little muscle in that, for producing this wrinkle, that sag, that gray hair, or this texture?  Dear body!  My dear body!  It has gone about its incessant business with very little thanks.”

P.S.  Thank you, arms and legs, for not pushing that little boy over and making him cry.

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Filed under humor, real life, self esteem

My Garden is Nicer Than Yours. And I Have the Name Badge to Prove It.

Yesterday was the annual Garden Walk in our fair cities, where gardening is a religion.  The Garden Walk is an event where you pay lots of money to walk through other people’s gardens that are much nicer than yours will ever be.  Like many religious ceremonies which purport to inspire you to transcend your human flaws and encourage you to be a better person, this one shows you examples of what you should aspire to be, highlights your sins (envy, sloth, greed), and leaves you feeling grovelly and inadequate. 

To combat this, my sons and I made fun of the plethora of floppy straw hats and unflattering khaki shorts.  Also, as a defense mechanism against my feelings of inadequacy, we made a little list of the ten most inappropriate things you can do on a Garden Walk, which you can read below, and possibly use if you are ever in this situation.

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Filed under gardening, humor, real life, self esteem