Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My Childhood Breaking & Entering Spree Helped Craft My Expert Stalking Skills

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of young women (this is called sponsoring in Alanon) as they go on and on about one heartbreak or another. I've been in 12 step programs since I'm 18, so I have a good understanding and a lot of patience and time, particularly now, given our present worldly circumstances.

These young women are primarily struggling to be heard. None of them want actual advice or practical guidance. But I don't mind. There was a time I did exactly the same thing.

Like me, most come from broken homes, dysfunctional family dynamics, etc, and the prevalent condition they share, or something they all have in common, is fear of abandonment. I know all about that because I was abandoned, emotionally, then physically then altogether.  A special breed of orphan that has living parents but neither one seemed to think they had to take care of their children. As a child, I had no real expectations of either my mom or dad mainly because they told me, "don't ever get your hopes up about anything," so I didn't, but that didn't stop me from being envious of kids that had parents who had cottages at the lake, bought their kids bright red Mary Jane shoes, or took them to the Dairy Queen for chocolate swirly cones.

I did experience a sense of family to a small degree during my toddler years, but once my young mother had her sixth child, all pretense of family life flew out the window.

But one learns coping skills, and as a kid, wandering into stranger's houses was quite high on my list. At age five, I started venturing down our tree-lined suburban block, hugging my stuffed bear, a security blanket trailing behind. I'd look at all the houses and was so curious about who lived there, were they like us, a family of eight with a strict father who kept a false sense of control with his incessant schedules, chores, charts, and colored graphs. Every day was the same. We were rotation children, all lined up by height wearing our Catholic uniforms marching off to school, then home for some vacuuming, sweeping, scrubbing, folding laundry, and saying endless Hail Mary's. My mother, God bless her, wanted nothing of this lifestyle and was mostly lodged in the basement oil painting, writing purple poetry, smoking Virginia Slims, and listening to rock music my father forbade.

In any case, back to my criminal behavior, I'd simply walk in the front door. Front doors were always open back then. One home, in particular, I quite liked, a two-story brick affair that belonged to a young, shiny couple that had salon hair and wore colorful outfits I'd only seen in magazines. So glamorous. They were never home, no doubt visiting people like the Kennedy's and their house smelled clean and lemony.  I'd plop down on a fluffy chair and pretend for a while I was an only child, home alone, while my parents worked interesting jobs that required fine minds somewhere off in the big city. They didn't believe in traditional education and allowed me to eat whatever I wanted. Which I did. I ate their Oreos, would often make a ham sandwich.

This would continue until my parents divorced and my mother,  having zero interest in our neighborhood, dragged us off on her journey, one filled with music, laughter, hippies, and Patchouli incense sticks. So would begin our five-year odyssey of adults-only apartment hopping until my mother decided to move to California (where she was from) and as much as she loved her kids, it was just not feasible to take them along.

By the time she decided to drive across the country and make a true break from Michigan, I was now 14 and there was no way in hell I wasn't going to California so I told her I'd drive half the way, make sure we ate properly and I'd be an asset in Marin County because I could work. But I digress.

During the apartment hopping, breaking into people's homes became a regular thing. And much easier since I could just walk down the hallway. But now it was out of necessity. Since my mother was never home (work, school, dating, protest marches, sit-ins) I had to feed her younger kids. These apartment folks were never home, so I'd jimmy the door, get inside, and help myself to their food, mainly bagged rice, canned soup, peanut butter. Basic survival stuff.

We had no money so instead, I'd leave thank you notes in their refrigerators. Looking back, I'm certain these folks knew it was me because sometimes they would save me the trouble and leave prepared meals outside our door.

A few years later, when my mother managed to score an actual house, my sisters were by now heavy into their drug exploration and hanging out with various hoodlum types, the heroin addicts, the hungry musicians, the street fighters. These guys broke into places for a living. Like it was their actual job. They would "pull a B&E" then fence whatever they found.

I only accompanied them once because a member from the J Giles band was going and I thought he was cute. He never noticed me, no one did actually. My sisters were older, taller, prettier, and tougher. They could shoot heroin, chug a six-pack, and shave their legs all before leaving for school.

The targeted home was a few blocks away. In fact, I knew the house because I sometimes babysat the kids who lived there. By now I was twelve and earning money on my own. Between babysitting and doing various student's homework, I always made sure my little sisters ate dinner.

In any case, the B&E gang knew the family was on vacation so while they were loading up stereo equipment, jewelry, and televisions, I was throwing Hamburger Helper and loaves of bread into my bag.

Okay, so you get the idea.

I stopped all this business when I was in high school because I was making plenty of money in Marin County, as I said I would, working two jobs while going to school. Between pumping gas and selling area rugs I was making some great bank.

My mother was having her own adventure, redoing the adolescence she never had. Somehow she became a high-end interior decorator and was dating all kinds of fancy men; architects, lawyers, psychiatrists.  Her shenanigans were really bothering me though, drinking Pouilly-Fuisse all day at the yacht club then dancing to Fiddler on the Roof on 40-foot sailboats into the night.

She was just embarrassing as hell, so I got my own place a few miles away. I just loved having my own apartment. When you come from a  home with no rules or supervision, you give yourself extra restrictions. I worked hard, made good grades, and was in college by 17.

Jumping WAY ahead, I didn't break into another house until I was in my early 20's.  And here is where the Alanon girls come in. They tell me how they cyber stalk their exes and obsess over what their exes "like" see who they "follow" and where they "comment." They read into emojis like they are tea leaves looking for any kind of explanation as to why they were dumped.

I totally get it. When my ex dumped me I simply could not believe it. I'd never been dumped before, mainly because he was my first boyfriend.

Well, I was not having it. I was furious. I needed clues. Why the hell did he dump me? I was the perfect girlfriend. Independent, yet attentive, sexually conservative yet nonplussed over his porno addition. And so on.

First I just started following him in my car. Where in damnation was he going anyway? What could possibly be more important than spending time with me? I was way above his pay grade, to begin with, completely out of his league. I only agreed to date him so he would stop pestering me and okay because he was rather handsome. When it came to men, I knew nothing. I worked with many of them, we got along fine, if they took an interest in me, I rebuffed them gently. I had no interest in a relationship and figured after I had accomplished all the heady things I wanted to do, maybe then I would play house with a man, give that a test run.

But this guy had abruptly entered my life and because he seemed genuinely sincere about his affections toward me, I opened up to him, basically handed over my deepest secrets, and he shared his hidden bits with me. I'd never done that before. He knew my past and did not judge me. And I knew his. I did not lie to him. So in that sense, it was quite his duty to never leave me. He had seen my inside world.

But alas, I guess it wasn't as interesting as I thought.

After a few stakeouts, watching him walk in and out of various restaurants and theaters, I grew bored. I didn't know what he was actually up to. So when he went out of town, I cracked open his bedroom window pretending to the neighbors I had lost my key. Once inside, I went to work. I read every one of his 500 journals, went through every drawer, collected various tubes of lipstick, (a brand one of his girlfriends had developed, a hideous red that caused severe chapping of the lips). I read all of his mail and listened to his voicemails. It took a good five hours but it was not satisfying because I didn't learn much.

Out of all those journals, the only new information I gleaned was about some girl he was dating and had decided to not sleep with her because he sensed she might have a bear trap in her "cunt."  Given what I knew about his fear of commitment this made total sense.

I was NOT that girl, the fool. I gave him so much space he probably thought I didn't care about him. Oh, you're going to Two Bunch Palms alone? Have fun...fuckhead.

Then I would sit home and visualize him having mud orgies.

This went on for two years. That is how long my stalking continued. I'd call my best friend and we'd exchange stalking stories. Annie was more into the "hide behind his palm tree and peak in the window" type of stalking. We'd exchange stories at night and dissect our adventures.

I remember the exact moment I was done. I decided to do an "I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop by and I happened to get us yogurts." Then I would provide specifics about what I was doing in that part of town, a part of town I hated actually and would never be in. But, as it turns out, my new boyfriend JACK, lived just around the corner, in the newly refurbished Craftsman, you know, the one with the Harley parked in front of the koi pond.

Well, after I did all the exhausting explaining he sheepishly told me he had "company." For fuck sake, the lipstick lady was cooking chicken in his kitchen. He smiled and gently closed the door in my face. I stood there holding two yogurt cups.  As I was leaving I took his yogurt cup and pitched it with great strength against his window. I watched it splat and dribble down the cheap glass. The lipstick lady was staring at me, startled, maybe panicked.  There was no way to explain my behavior so I just left.

I was mildly horrified driving home. He must think I'm psychotic. No wonder he dumped me... and somewhere between Highland Avenue and the 405 as I was mentally beating the shit out of myself I just stopped. My mind went calm. The months and years I spent stalking him I realized had nothing to do with him. It was just an easy way to quell my anxiety, the 24/7 stalking merely shifted mental focus. If I had put half that effort into something productive I'd have won the Pulitzer, in a category that had never existed. I was that special! I swung from facedown in the fishtank scum self-esteem to you're such a genius we can't even figure out this level of superiority! Over the years I'd find my middle ground.

That was the last time I broke into someone's home and the first and last time I obsessed over another human.

So when relaying some of my stories to these young women who cyberstalk, I tell them what amateurs they are. If they really want to stalk someone, get off the computer, go to their home, break a fucking window, and do a thorough investigation. Go to their parent's house if need be. Buy some top of the line surveillance equipment. Soon you'll discover this person has no exciting secrets and is just a regular person with typical if not pedestrian imperfections.

But you! Look how resourceful you are! All these dormant skills! Look at all this time on your hands that could be exploring parts of yourself that actually are exciting. Then I tell them to put their sleuthing abilities to better use. Dig up your inner self. Start journaling. Soon you'll have 5000 entries, dozens of unique stories, an entire book, a masterpiece.

I've recently offered my services to one of these young girls for a modest fee. "Do you want me to find out why he dumped you? Do you want me to discover who he is sleeping with? Who he really loves? Because I'm better than any detective you'll hire. Just be prepared for what I might find because it's a mathematical certainty that 99 % of what I discover has nothing to do with you. That's the good news and the bad news."

I hear a heavy sigh.

And my darlings set forth on their journaling adventure.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on adventurous childhoods, survival, breaking and entering, growing up, boyfriends, heartache, stalking, mental anguish, becoming whole.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

How Julianne Moore Saved Me From Carpooling, Forever!

After a long grinding week of work, juggling schedules, family activity and what seems to be nonstop carpooling, I took myself to a matinee to see the film Gloria Bell. After pulling into the dark, underground lot, I parked beside a dark car with darkened windows and noticed they had forgotten to turn off their headlights. I felt bad knowing they may return to a dead battery, but who hasn't?

Me and five other people in the theater quite enjoyed the film, there was even applause. And per usual, I wept tiny tears. Dark, empty movie theaters seem to be the place where I like to cry because it happens all the time. I'm guessing because 1) I'm alone 2) No one can see me 3) I see movies with characters resembling actual people, their problems and struggles. Also, Julianne Moore.

For example, I've seen Still Alice at least five times. Weep every time.  I cried in The Kids Are Alright, The English Teacher, The Hours. I cried in Crazy Stupid Love! I see everything Julianne Moore is in, and every time I cry. I even wept in Hannibal.

Oh, as a side note, I have a story about that movie as I played a big role in changing the ending. There is NO way Julianne was going to run off into the sunset with Anthony "cannibal" Hopkins. Here is that-- No to Hannibal.

In any case, I returned to my car and noticed this poor person's headlights were still on. Maybe they were seeing two films. I felt so bad. I thought the right thing to do was, at the very least, to see if the car was open so I could turn the lights off.

I peered into the back window and noticed a purse and sweater. My eyes were fixed on this purse, with all the possibilities running through my mind. Did this person just take her money, but left the purse? What woman does that? No one I know. Had she gotten to the theater, and realized no purse, but the movie was about to start so her companion paid? I assumed she wasn't alone like me because I also notice two coffee cups in the console holder.

Then I thought, jeez, someone could steal this purse, sitting there so vulnerable. I ought to take it and give it to security, they could find the rightful owner and all would be well.

Just as I noticed the car was idling, the front passenger window cracked open. An angry man was staring at me, aghast.

"What the hell are you doing staring into my car? What do you want? Step away!"

I was completely startled.  "No. No... let me explain When I arrived, your lights were on and I noticed they still were and then I saw the purse.... but then realized..."

"What? That someone was in the car. Get the fuck  out of here."

At which point even I realized how crazy I sounded and any further do-gooder explanation was simply making me seem worse. He rolled up his window and I got into my car.

As I was about to press the ignition button, I noticed a phone charging cord hanging from the dashboard and various Scientology pamphlets on the passenger seat and realized this wasn't even my car. Not even close. I drive an SUV and this was a Honda sedan. I was so flustered I had just jumped in without looking. Weirdly the door was unlocked.

The man is still looking at me. I sheepishly slink out of the car and head down toward mine.

He cracked his window again.

"What the actual fuck, lady!"

Okay, it wasn't Henry Cavill, but this was his EXACT facial expression.

I pick up my pace, then sort of jogged toward my actual car, in sandals, which is why I tripped in a kind of kick the cement action, smashing my big toe. But no matter. Was I even on the right floor?

Finally, there it was, my car, a good block down the corridor!

Prius man, and rightly so, must have thought I came to parking lots and just rifled through cars all day long. He was probably calling the police!

In my defense, it was dark, I was wearing sunglasses, I had just come out of a dark film filled with dark scenes in disco bars, with people wearing dark clothing dancing under mind-altering lights. I was disoriented.

I quite liked the film, loved Julianne Moore but was all in my head about the plot. Why did she like John Turturro? Was she that desperate? Where was her daughter-in-law? Was her ex still in love with her? Who got married? I still don't know.

I was wandering around the parking lot in a film synopsis daze. A Julianne Moore dancing daze. The song Gloria was still blasting in my head.

But still, how could I have mistaken this idling car, a Prius, with two people sitting in the front seat, to the car that really was next to mine: an enormous, empty Flex?! Nonetheless, these things happen.

Dark, right? ^ ^ ^ ^

I, fortunately, had a podiatrist appointment to deal with various issues I had developed with my toes due to having been a long-distance runner while in college. In any case, the timing was good, so I stopped thinking about Mr. Prius Man.

During my podiatrist session, my doctor addressed the stubbed toe, which was fine but he seemed gravely concerned with something else.

"Your left foot is so swollen."
"Oh?" And it was.

He went on about how he'd seen this before and sent his patient to the ER and by golly he was right. The ER intervention prevented her from dying due to a blood clot. He told me it could happen to me.

"That is ridiculous. I don't have a foot clot. If it's still swollen on Monday, I'll go to my doctor."
"I wouldn't wait. You'll worry all weekend. I'd go to the ER now."

But I wouldn't worry. I wouldn't even think about it. Then he said:

"Better safe than dead. You're not 35 anymore."
"I'm not?"
"This kind of thing you have to take seriously once you're over a certain age."
"Okay, thanks doc."

He handed me a slip of paper to give to the ER.

I had no intention of going to the ER or even to my own doctor, but "better safe than dead" kept going through my head... to the beat of GLORIA.

Sure, I was over a certain age whatever that age is according to my podiatrist. But I'm also incredibly healthy. I mean I hike on average 20 miles a week and make healthy green shakes every morning (with my Ninja, which I still love in case anyone was wondering).

Anyway... after relaying this story to the father of my teen children, who repeated the "better safe than dead" narrative,  he eventually convinced me to go.

I don't like the ER and haven't been to Cedars since I had my daughters 16 years ago. Anyway, it wasn't bad, very few people... was in and out with a lot of laughs.

Usual questions:
Have you been on an airplane for over eight hours? No.
A car? Oh, YES! Carpool.

I told the doctor just to amputate the fucking thing because now I'm missing my Saturday night routine. Which btw, is none of anyone's business.

After some tests, no blood cot, no nothing.

Doctor: Well, it has been hot.
Me: Exactly!
Doctor: I would suggest you cut down on the carpool driving. Sitting in a car for hours, especially in the heat can become a potential clot situation.
Me: Can you write a doctor's note because I would love nothing more than to get out of carpool!

So all in all, everything went well. I saw a lovely film, spent time with one of my favorite actresses, had my feet fixed up so I could receive a proper pedicure just in time for beach season, and had some laughs in the ER. Most importantly, now I have a rock-solid reason to get out of my dreaded carpool.


Rhonda Talbot weighing in on Gloria Bell, Julianne Moore, blood clots, emergency rooms, podiatrists, potential car theft, carpools, and sunshine.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ninja Your Way Into Gratitude

Given that life has turned into a surreal world even David Lynch couldn't conceive, I really have no business being so damn excited about my new blender purchase. What I mean by that is I sometimes feel guilty when I'm happy. Because:

My old Ninja finally died sometime in the middle of last night. Therefore I could not make my frothy breakfast. I resorted to putting my potions in a cup and shook really hard. Not the same. But it gave me the energy I needed to go one of my all-time favorite stores, Bed Bath and Beyond.

I hadn't been there in a while, actually, the last time I attempted to go, everything went south because some crazy lady going 80 mph decided not to stop at a red light just as I was turning left. It's such a crazy story you can read it here under Halle Berry. This is why we all have insurance because of assholes.

Speaking of assholes that blow through red lights, here is a video from last week I took while out for a stroll.

Yeah, this guy had his entire family, including a baby, in his car, and maybe he was thinking, fuck that red light, the soccer game is on, then he smashed into this lovely old lady. I hope she is okay. We carefully pulled her out of the passenger side. She seemed fine, but off to the hospital because weird ongoings happen to your body the day after a car accident. Out of earshot of the police, I said to the driver, channeling my mother: "Shame on you, risking your entire family! A small child no less! You could've killed them all and this poor elderly woman.  For shame!! Slow the fuck down moron. Red means STOP!"

What passes for "normal people" lately:

I'm certain my admonishing him will have ZERO impact on his future driving skills but it sure made me feel good. Since there were so many witnesses maybe he will lose his license. I know they don't do this in the US, but it ought to be a law-- channeling my father. If you run a red in Germany, for example, you lose your license for life! But they get the autobahn! Fair trade.

Back to the blender. Here's the thing. I use this baby for everything. Not just my incredible shakes and smoothies --

(How awesome am I that I made that? ^ ^ ^ )

--which I began making after this interloper crashed one of my bbq's.  But Cesario changed my life. And apparently, many others read here -- nutrition. 

I use it to make everything free-banana bread, sugarless cookies, Gochuchang sauces, Pomme purees, lentil nut butter, coral worm dips, giraffe weevil floats, metallic eyeshadows. It's endless. I hate cooking so if all that is required is dumping the ingredients into this sucker, a pinch of witchery then watching it whirl, my entire family is seriously indebted to me.

Given they all have different food plans... lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, meat intolerant and just generally intolerant of my cooking, it's opened up a magic door. They will eat what I make, as long as I use this blender. My daughters believe since I use the Ninja to create food, I had no involvement, therefore eat they shall! Better still, they make their own damn food. Because it requires so little effort, not one snapchat story or Tana Mongeau video will go unmissed.

Look, the world has gone mad, mad! It's been so severely tilted I lost all my bearings and food is one of the few constants I find comforting. Until I see this happen to the madman---

--I really need my blender. The level of gratitude I have for Ninja, which then leads to a mental compilation of many things I am grateful for, is immeasurable. I take it when I travel, even if just the valley because what if I get stuck there?

Other tricks of the Ninja ----and unbeknownst to anyone, I can also toss about say, Chia seeds, Flax,  Maca, Tumeric, Smart Paste.  They never know and never will because they will never read anything I write. So it's win-win.

I used to laugh at parents that "snuck" spinach in their kid's pasta sauce. First of all, gross. But you can easily drop a tablespoon of green powder into an apple shake.

I should mention I bought a super cheap one, on sale, this thing of beauty. Why on sale? Because a newer version is out. They do exactly the same thing. Plus I can't stand all those buttons, dials and instructions. Jesus.

This young cute boy was helping me and I saw one for $17.00. A Kitchenaid.

Me: OMG! Look! It's so retro. I had that in college. How cute is that!!
Boy: Oh, that doesn't work very well. I wouldn't get that.
Me: It's vintage!  I'm having all these incredible college memories. I can't believe you still sell it.
Boy: No one buys those. It's really cheap and bad.
Me: Stop putting it down! I want a new salesperson.

I'll leave you with this. I'm not full-on Paleo, but this website is great for ideas on mixing and matching all things smoothie.

Since my gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free banana bread is gone in two days, I've upped my game. Onto Zucchini, shredded cauliflower, chocolate chip, cranberry, any berry, guess the berry bread.

Until I have my beach house, and the horse is out of the hospital (thank you comic genius John Mulaney) this definitely helps get me through, and as a bonus, the family is getting healthy without their permission.

Rhonda Talbot on life, family, children, politics, food, comfort, health, smoothies, blenders, John Mulaney, gratitude.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

How House Cats Get Super Glued

Every morning I wake up in a state of shock. I'm still here? The world has still gone mad? And also I feel kind of crazy. Wait... this shit is still going on? That lunatic is still in office? And this is still my life? I'm still raising kids? It's been 28 years? Does it ever end? NO!

How do I know? Because some teenage girl is asking me to do something. At 7:30 a.m.! After a few seconds, I realized, oh, yes, that's my daughter, Audrey, this is my bed, I have to get up and start life.

Audrey: Mom, wake up. I've covered in bug bites. Or fleas.
Me: What? Who? Do I have to get up?
Audrey: It's pretty bad. I have bites everywhere. Maybe you should look at them.
Me: No, that's okay. Just try not to sweat today.
Audrey: Oh, and I used all the Calamine lotion so can you get some more?

My head was back under the pillow. How is this a thing? She's an indoor cat. I hate fleas. Fuck fleas.

Before I even attempt life, I have to have coffee. Stumbling down the hall zombie mom fashion, suddenly feeling all itchy, I'm sure I was grumbling under my breath, "If one person says good morning I will stab them."

I was pissed off and on a mission. All I wanted to do is put that flea repeller on the cat. It must be done immediately. I boil water for the coffee then open the junk drawer. This particular drawer is actually very organized. There are a few handy tools like a peen hammer and the cat crap.

I yank the cap of the tube, scoop up Socks and slather it all over the back of her neck. One crisis solved.  I know I will have to wash/boil all the bedding, but coffee, paper, and a pathetic attempt at meditating and then maybe.

I notice the cat is squealing but I figure that's normal. But then Socks gives me this death glare.

I notice my fingers have a sticky substance on them. Gross. I try to wash off the cat back poison and it won't come off. Weird. For a second I thought it might make a good facial mask.

The cat is still howling. My daughter is now getting upset. The cat is going berserk.

Audrey:  What is wrong with Socks? She's jumping all over. Why is her fur so hard?
Me: I put that flee stuff on her back. That's a normal reaction.

This daughter never trusts anything I say, so she checked the organized junk drawer.

Audrey: Mom, it's super glue. OMG! She's going to die!

Just then her twin (Evelyn) rambles out of her bedroom. This girl is usually long gone by now, off in her carpool. I rarely see her in the morning because she's gone before I wake up.

Ev: Mom, I overslept and missed the carpool.


Ev: It happens. Can you drive me? Also, fill my lunch card.

Me: No! I'm having my coffee and need to calm down. Everyone leave me alone.

Meanwhile, Audrey has been Googling "what happens when a cat gets superglued?" Apparently, there are tons of websites, examples, it must happen a lot.

Audrey: Mom, Socks could die! It's toxic. Dad!! Mom maybe killed Socks!

Normally their father is already gone, but for some reason he overslept! I didn't even notice him.

Dad enters. "Why is Evelyn here?"

Me: Okay okay I superglued the cat and Evelyn missed the carpool. Can you quick drive her to school and drop the cat off at the vet.

Dad is a calm presence and also knows I'm the worst kind of morning person so he treads lightly like this is no big deal. Maybe he once glued a cat. He checked the packaging.

Dad: Yep. Super glue. I can't believe this doesn't happen more often. They look exactly the same.
Me: See!  The tubes look exactly the same!

Audrey: No they don't! You are just both blind. Put your glasses on. Oh my god!
Me: Well, they should make the print bigger!
Dad: I can barely make it out with my glasses on.
Me: See! Also, that's the flea repellent drawer, not the glue drawer.

Ev: Well, the fleas are probably dead in that one hard spot.

I'm still in denial about even needing glasses. I wear reading glasses. But I don't put them on when I wake up. I take them off after I'm done reading for the night, then collect them around 8:00 the next morning after everyone is gone and I can read the paper.  Who puts their glasses on first thing?

Nobody! And that's how cats get glued.

Anyway, I'm sure Socks is fine, getting a lovely bath and shave. Meanwhile, I'm getting the hell out of here before the kids get home.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on parenting, cats, sleep deprivation, sight deprivation, teenage girls, superglue, mornings, life.

PostScript - Socks is home, fine, washed, happy... and has a little bald spot. Plus, bonus, she was incredibly happy to see me. I thought she'd be mad but she's a good sport.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What Does Raising Teenage Girls Have To Do With Dylan O'Brien?

Apparently Everything. He is Everything. But who knew? First, I had to figure out who he was. There was a popular TV show Teen Wolf, then other stuff, then a movie franchise concerning running through complex mazes, which I thought was a form of parkour.  But I see this and get it. Every teen girls poster dream boy.

Or at least twin E and her group. I guess Dylan would be to the equivalent crush I had on Neil Young when I was 14.

Okay, now that the girls are rapidly approaching 15, I need to figure a few things out.

So I thought I'd read a quick "How to Raise Teen Girls" post to make sure I'm still on top of things. After Googling, I settle on the first one on the search bar.

The thing is parents never know if they are doing a good job. If they boast having a strong handle on parenting skills, they are lying. But love to them. Perfect parenting does not exist. Imperfect parenting is the best we can hope for.

This post is about girls because that is what I'm raising at the moment. I'm sure these strategies can be applied to boys, I think.

I already raised a boy, and sort of forgot how I did this so I recently asked him. He really deserves his own post, but for time management, he's a tech engineer computer science type working up in Seattle. He has lots of other interests from playing drums to competing in Mario Smash Bro contests and everything in between. He was super fun to raise, but also I was super young. I even enjoyed Disneyland back then. Not so much, now.

Me: On a scale 1-10, how did I do in raising you, or subtext "How do you rate me as a mom?"
H:  Eleven.

See, he knows if he had said, say eight, I would have kept him on the phone. "Why? What did I do so wrong? Did I forget something? I never lost you in the park! ... ad nauseum." He knows how to stay ahead of the people crazy curve; so there's that. He'll sometimes tag me on one of these.

Big ups.

Anyway, back to the teenage girl twins.  Might I just say, I'm delighted they are healthy and they are doing just fine? By that I mean, my own personal philosophy regarding children is to keep them safe, alive and try to create a world where they can have a better life than you. Or as Diane Ladd so eloquently said:

Let them stand on your shoulders so they can see further than you did.

Pretty simple. Yet this requires an extraordinary amount of sacrifice because you are no longer the priority. Your kids are. And my belief is if you're incapable of lifting your kids up to your own possible detriment, in every possible manner, then reconsider having them. For the love of god, don't have kids because you think they will keep you young. Addressed here. 

Back to article:

It would be irresponsible of me to move forward until we address the obvious;  they are the first generation of kids growing up where "gun drills" have replaced the more innocuous "fire" drills.

This is something we parents can't actually comprehend, but when talking to kids, YES, they are highly anxious. In case anyone is wondering.

But this is only one small part of their forever increasing anxiety. Forget the normal teen angst, social issues, hormonal insanity and educational pressure, this added layer also has to wedge itself into their developing brains and somehow they have to be okay with it.

In any case, let's see how I'm doing.

Here are the suggestions to best raise teenage girls.

REMAIN CALM  --  The idea being when they freak out over something or say something "crazy" don't react. In fact, the article suggests, count to five. -- Okay, will do. As in this has never happened.

First, I could not think of one time my kid said something so whacky I blew a gasket, started foaming at the mouth and then set my hair on fire.  Plus, for me, I'm already super chill. I wish sometimes I could get more amped, about anything, but no. I must like being calm. Even when I'm upset. Okay, I'm basically water.

Like all kids, they occasionally complain and with good reason; the insane piles of homework or a  difficult teacher or some jackass at school that interrupts class all the time. If they didn't I'd be concerned. Also, I happen to agree with the girls. I hate homework. I really do. All that busy nonsense when they could be working on their own interests, or cleaning my house. Plus, I have no love for the apathetic teacher or the class clown with fire ants in his/her/they pants. So vent away.

Nothing these two girls say I would interpret as "crazy," an overused word that's lost all meaning.

I was raised in real crazy. We were not concerned with homework, we were concerned with when the eviction notice was about to arrive or what sister would overdose on heroin that day. Yet my mother did not react. She was always calm. When my 16-year old sister said she was moving to Florida with her Hells Angel boyfriend, my mother yelled: "Wear a helmet!" When my other sister suggested she wanted work at a bank so she could steal money,  my mother said: "What a great idea. Why didn't I think of that!"

To date, the most outrageous statement my girls recently uttered was probably:  "I've never seen a cloud shaped exactly like an elephant. I'm calling bullshit."

Whatever the goings on, I retreat to my sanctuary; my beloved bedroom filled with soft pillows, clean lines, and perfection. This is my personal space and everyone knows it, so they only enter when they consider their situation a true emergency. Like, "I'm starving!"

LET HER SOLVE HER OWN PROBLEM:   Yeah, no pushback on that one. For example, go make your own dinner. As if I don't have enough of my own problems to solve!

These two rarely ask for my advice. They might ask for some help, as in, "Could you collate these 11,500 pages for me?" or "Can you spell check this 450-page poem and don't change one word, thanks."  I'm basically their assistant that does busy work we all hate to do. Including me. But I love them, so I do their busy work.

The last time I offered advice, one of the girls was upset about a friend who was ''beefing" her. (what?) Of course, I want to make her feel better, so I go on about how girls are so immature, clearly, she's giving you the cold shoulder because she's jealous or something along those lines.

E: "No, she's pissed because I stole her phone and threw it in the trash at school, as a joke but now it's gone. Also, she's British! This is beyond anything you can help with!" This daughter has a predilection for British folks, but also loves all peoples;  mixed peoples with various combinations of Asian, African-American and Santorini Greeks but with a British accent.

Her "dream" guy, the one she'll consider dating when she's in college, is a racial collage, a pinboard of sorts.  Equal parts Asian, African-American, a bit Italian and this splash of ancient Greek. And of course, the British accent.

I thought these fellows looked interesting, but a funny thing happened when I put all of that info into the Google. I came up with this guy, Laurence Coke. I mean, come on! How cute is he?

In carpool today, I was telling the girls I was in search of a mixed race teen boy for my blog and I came across this guy. They were "shook." (Again, what?) Then screamed and laughed.

"Mom, how did you find him?! He's so-and-so's cousin! You met him at their BBQ! He came up on Google? OMG!"

What a bizarre coincidence. In any case, my daughter was rightfully mortified, as she is by everything I do. But her friend liked that I was writing this article. She is the sweetest.

When it comes to boys, again, they will solve their own problems. We aren't there yet.

I retreat to my room.

COMPLIMENT REGULARLY:  --  As opposed to what? Criticizing them? Passive aggressive needling? Also, I think it's a mistake to compliment your kids all the time. They grow up thinking that shit is real.

If I told my daughters how pretty there were, how smart they are, how amazing they perform at everything, they would go into the world so ill prepared that the first critical remark might send them into a clinical depression.

Instead what I do is evaluate their progress, and praise that, or not. I also might compliment a certain way they handled a situation or how they carried a difficult school project all the way through. When I do complement their appearance, it's with extreme caution. This is an area, particularly for girls, filled subterfuge.

I once suggested, "Maybe you should stop brushing your hair so much. I love the curls, you flatten them." Well, what she hears is --  You think I don't know how to take care of myself? You think I'm not taking pride in what I do? You think my hair is ugly? THEN: "Well I hate curls. Plus it's my hair and I'll do what I want. Don't comment on my hair. Ever."

I retreat to my room.

TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY:  That is, when they have an issue, don't just say, "Oh, it's high school, it will pass, it won't mean a thing in a few years. The most popular girl, also the main cheerleader and homecoming queen now pole dances at a strip club."

Okay, I would never say that and have never heard other mothers say it. Just no. It's some sort of weird parenting throwback go-to. Who wrote this thing? Plus, who would say this to their daughters?!

If there is a super popular girl at school who also runs the Latin club, is the star of the drama club and excels at everything, good for her! As long as she's enjoying this and not doing it to please some helicopter parent, good-for-her.

Of course, I take my daughters seriously. Do I care if those pants at Buffalo Exchange are no longer available? Hell no. But the girls do. They also both know this is not of import to say, me. Or anyone else, not their age. But I do have a car. This is where I come in handy. We'll find those damn repurposed pants if it takes all day.

Believe it or not, every pair is different ^ ^ ^. How do I know this? Because she tried them all on while I deleted 5000 emails on my phone. Five hours later, she "accepted" one, albeit not her first choice, then later slashed them with a razor blade. When I was 14, I had exactly two pairs of jeans. They had holes, not by design.  Hanging around in vintage warehouses all day with my daughter is love. That is love!

By the way, there was nothing in this article about trick questions. Which is what I get, more than actual conversation. Just yesterday my daughter asked, in a long, drawn-out whistful way,

"Mom, didn't you just love being a teenager?"

Okay, this is fraught with all of it, trip wires, hidden explosives, poison darts and flat out trickery. If I say, oh sure I loved it; she will think there is something wrong with her because she was probably hating her life at the moment, which is why she lobbed that at me. If I say, it sucked, she will no longer trust anything I ever have to say.

So, I answer like this: "I must admit, I've loved all my years.  Teens, 20's, 30's  40's and after that, I stopped rating."

Then I retreat to my room.

LISTEN MORE:   Okay, now I'm just getting pissed off. All I do is listen. Not because I'm so incredible and patient but because when they are in a chatty mood, they never stop talking. They invade my private space and talk and talk and talk. Until they figure out what the hell they are going to do. If I go to my office and shut the door, they come in and talk.

If I put up a sign that says I'm working, they come in and talk. If I teach them boundaries about that, that's ignored because it's considered urgent talk.

I don't listen to validate or affirm her feelings, I listen because I'm trapped. But by the very nature of listening, I am validating their feelings. But I must admit, I do enjoy their trips into chatty-ville.  There is no better way to learn about your daughter than to be on the receiving end of a long-winded rant. Or an epic observation about well, anything.

Unless... Unless... their conversation-at-me takes a deep dive into uncomfortable waters, like,

"I'm not as smart as my friends in MATH."

Well, then I break all the above rules.

I fly off the handle, say crazy shit, throw dishes, try to solve the problem by figuring out which horrible girl said this to my beloved daughter, or was it one of the evil nun teachers?

In which case I email that pest and ask ---

"What's up? You want my daughter to go into the world and think she's stupid at math? Where is your female empowerment!"-- Then I resort to complimenting the daughter. ---"You're a goddamn genius. A goddamn genius! The rest of the world is stupid. Give me the math problem, I will figure it out myself. Then I will get that kid expelled and the teacher fired. This math is insane! Who can do this?"

After my red rage rant-a-thon, having not listened at all to the girls, they lead me to my room, tell me it's no big deal, and also none of my business.  "Take it easy, Mom, calm down, we'll work it out. Why don't you watch one of those Sandra Bullock comedies you like. Where she's super mean but then becomes super nice."  Which is pretty much all of her romantic comedies but I do love them.

After I'm calm, but kids. ^ ^ ^

I retreat to my room.

Here is the thing. When in doubt.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on teenagers, girls, motherhood, parenting, emotions, love wins, Happy Birthday.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

My Downward Insulin Spiral to Near Death!

Not too long ago, I had a BBQ gathering, stuffing my face, making jokes, while getting into the spirit of the upcoming outdoor Karaoke contest. Then seemingly out of nowhere, a lovely fellow whom I had never met must have overheard me say, "Ugh, I feel so bloated," as I chomped into another burger.

Here is what I heard:

"Well, that's because you're on a downward insulin spiral! You're about to become a major diabetic. Chances are you'll have to have your gallbladder removed! Then develop liver cancer! Say hello to the Grim Reaper. He's standing beside you!"

This lovely man, Cesario Tio, probably did not say anything like that, but that's what I heard. First, why is this stranger talking about my gallbladder? Also, do I really need a gallbladder?

To save you trouble, readers, yes you need it.  You want to keep this thing happy. If you care, you can see more here -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallbladder

Nonetheless, who was he to tell me anything about my life? He was about to get an earful.

Most likely he said, 'Maybe you feel bloated because of all the refined sugars you consume.'

I looked at Cesario, who is incredibly fit, runs marathons, and is devoted to clean eating/living otherwise known as Paleo. In addition, he's very kind, helpful, incredibly educated on all matters of food and he's entrepreneurial. He just wants people to understand what they eat is actually very important. More on Cesario here
But I knew nothing of this person so I thought he was judging me, and insulting me and I was furious. 
"Well, Mr. Paleo guy, I happen to eat very wisely. This little BBQ is a one-off. So I had a burger. And pie. And cookies. But I don't drink, I exercise and I eat healthily."
"What do you eat for breakfast?"
Who was this guy? Now my girlfriends are leaning in, seeing how I'll handle this nutrition-freak interloper.
"I'll have you know I eat a trough of plain yogurt, covered with oatmeal, sunflower butter and a pile of fresh fruit. And some almonds. And coffee." 

I was waiting to be congratulated on my excellent food choices but:
"Then what do you do? For activity after breakfast?"
"Activity after breakfast? All the action happened before breakfast, kids, carpool, possibly stopping for gas. After I eat, I write. For hours." 
Technically that's true, but often there is more sitting and staring than actual writing. Still, how was this Cesario's business?!
"So after consuming over 150 grams of sugar and probably 2000 calories, you sit down for hours?"
A trick question, this menace of a man.
I went into some red rage and stalked off into my kitchen. One of my gal pals, Sydney, followed.
Me: "What the actual fuck? Who invited that guy? Fuck Paleo!"
Sydney: "He has some serious issues. Why is he attacking your breakfast? It sounds great by the way and super healthy."
Me: "Right? And I didn't even mention that I drink five glasses of whole milk a day. Not to mention bread. Loads of bread. Am I getting a gut?"
I was pulling on my excess stomach material.
Sydney: "Oh for god's sake, no. That's just baby fat leftover from the twins."
Me: "They're 14. I can't keep using that excuse."

We dissected this poor guy, conjuring up some imaginary life he had with other Paleoites as they ate root vegetables then ran uphill for 500 miles. Pathetic!

Sydney and I went back and forth, putting down the entire Paleo concept, community and decided Cesario was simply stuck in a cult.

The night ended up being really fun, lots of bad singing, dancing, and more pie.

The next morning I was still angry. Out of sheer spite, I made a "green" protein shake, something I found off a Paleo website. I have to say it was delicious. Then for lunch, no bread, just chicken. For dinner, fish, yams, and spinach.

I did this day after day until I forgot why. Suddenly I was off of dairy, white bread, most bread actually, and sugar, save a few gummy bears. And I felt amazing. My pants started to fall off, my stomach shrank, everything shrank. I had more energy than I had had in years. 
Like this but not me: And I don't have an earring in my belly.

I learned a lot about myself that night. 1) I'm can be overly sensitive to anything. 2) I can create entire scenarios about people to suit my own perceptions of who I need them to be. 3) I can be a dismissive bitch. 
Okay, so none of this is new. I've been working on improving myself since birth. It's a slow process.
But like so much in life, we only see what we want to see, and that's not a great thing. At least for me. Deep down, I knew my food plan was lacking, but I just didn't want to hear it. So thank you, Cesario, for having the 'gall' to call me out. It changed my life. This one small BBQ inspired me to learn about food, find new ways to consume food and live a healthier life. Because I'm now practicing better eating habits, so are my kids. It's a win for everyone. 

An interesting anecdote -- In the Chinese language, gallbladder 膽 -- is associated with courage, boldness, bravery, heroism and apparently is where you make your best decisions. Where you chart your life's actual path! Who knew?
Still on course to that big white beach house that awaits me.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on health, diet, Paleo, BBQ, random men, inspiration, gallbladders, beach houses and the kitchen sink.