Tater Tots

Long, long ago…when I was young, naive and didn’t even want children, I remember hearing a pregnant friend of mine, who was also my boss and I thought was soooo much older than me, (in reality she was only about 5 years older than me) saying that her children were not going to be “spaghettio’s children”. I loved that term. And I thought it summed up my holier than thou, save the earth, I’ll be greener than you attitude perfectly. She was so cool, a liberal in our conservative state, a vegetarian, and a feminist when it was not cool to be a feminist. She kept her maiden name and only wore a wedding band, no fancy diamond engagement ring.  She had lived in New York, practiced yoga and despite being raised Christian had married a Jewish man and converted.  As many of you know, I have always wanted to be Jewish- so she was basically living the life I so wanted to have.  And if she is reading this now- she knows exactly who she is- if she doesn’t well than she isn’t as smart as I thought she was.

The thing is, I’m just not cut out for this life. I’m Catholic and though I want to be Jewish, my Catholic guilt will forever keep me entrenched in the cult…until, like my father before me, I decide its all a bunch of bullshit and just go with atheism. I love cheeseburgers, steak, chicken, fish…basically all types of delicious dead animals- so vegetarianism is out.  One puzzling enigma I can never seem to get over is people who claim to be vegetarian, except they eat fish. WTF? Since when is fish not meat??  These are what I call, (I know I may be treading in dangerous territory here) “non-vegetarians” – they are stupid people (sorry to actual stupid people- I know you don’t want to be lumped in with the “non-vegetarians”) just trying to put on a cool front and are probably sneaking cheeseburgers on the side.  I tried to be a vegetarian in high school- but that only lasted about a week before I discovered that the amount of vegetables I like are rather limited…oh and I was dying for a burger.  I like diamonds and shiny things- so an engagement ring was a must.  And although I consider myself a liberal democrat, the fact is I live in an extremely conservative state where I must walk a fine line so as not to alienate anyone who could be a potential business ally etc.  In fact, my very best friend in the world is a Republican (poor thing), but she and I agree to disagree.  If only more people could do that, our country and the world would be a much better place.

I’ve always had an endless fascination with the sixties and the whole counter culture movement.  Secretly, I still want to live on a commune, with flowers in my hair, no bra, off the grid, raising chickens, carrying my baby in a sling, and sharing everything with my fellow weirdos.  But, I hate birds, so chickens are out and I don’t know shit about farming or weaving shit on looms so my contribution to the commune would be limited. I like camping- which is about as close to living on a commune as I’ll ever get, but only in limited amounts of time, because eventually I have to get back to the 21st century- mostly because I’m a TV addict and I need to catch up on what’s going on with the Amish Mafia or Gator Boys or some other mindless crap.

In reality, I like taking showers. I like wearing a bra- my boobs are way too big to be just swinging around hitting people in the face.  And honestly, without a bra holding them up, it gets all sweaty and uncomfortable with them just hanging against my chest.  I like living in a house with air conditioning and heating.  I like having money to buy things, things that I need or just because I want them. I like owning a car and taking vacations. When I eventually had children, I tried every sling known to man in my desperate attempt to be organic, green and cool- but that shit hurt my back.  Not only did those things hurt my back, but they’re super complicated to figure out and I was always afraid I would suffocate the baby. Then I would be brought up on murder charges all because I was too stupid to operate a simple sling.  So, even though all the experts were and still are saying the closeness that the sling brings for mother and child is of great benefit….my kids had to ride in the stroller. One more strike against me in my quest for non “spaghettio’s children”.

In college, I so wanted to change the world, but only if it meant I got to carry big signs and sit on the shoulders of hot hippie guys at cool protests where people chanted, passed joints, and sang folk songs on guitar.  But, this was the 90’s, as a generation we didn’t have a cause to protest, we had never really experienced war, we were raised under the high rolling Reagan administration and were really more concerned with how big we could get our hair, the cute boys at the fraternity house and accumulating debt on credit cards they gave out like candy on campus to stupid 18 year olds. There were hippies on campus, probably many more at the liberal arts institution I attended than others at that time, but still, try as I might, I was not and never will be hippie material.

In college, I wanted nothing more than to traipse about campus with the hippies, playing hacky sack, smoking weed and following The Dead and Phish every summer.  But, hacky sack…well, I’m not good at any sports so even this hippie dippie sport was way out of my league. I didn’t have any money to follow anyone around in the summer…I’m assuming all of these ragged looking hippies secretly had rich, stupid parents financing their escapades.  The one hippie thing I did exceedingly well was the weed part. It really doesn’t take much to be good at that and I could still have my nice air conditioned apartment, clean clothes, a job and sort of be a normal part of society.  Perhaps if I wasn’t wasting money on weed, I could’ve followed those bands around each summer, but then without weed, what fun would that have been?

Moving right along, I graduated, got married, got a job and followed the straight and narrow.  Despite the fact that the first 7 or so years of our marriage was a haze of smoke and alcohol, we had fun and were for the most part responsible.  Then we had the novel of idea of having children.  I swear we must’ve been drunk when we made this decision.  When I found out I was pregnant, I was all at once, happy, sad, eager, scared, basically every emotion all at the same time.  At first I thought we would have a natural birth with whale songs playing in the background as the baby so gently slipped from my vagina with rainbows and doves.  Then I started reading.  Reading every book about pregnancy.  Everything was dangerous.  Natural child birth held dangers, assisted child birth held dangers, c-sections held dangers- its a wonder any child is born healthy.  I also gorged myself on sub sandwiches and Diet Coke, that is until half way through my pregnancy I found out you aren’t supposed to eat deli meats because of listeria (which I didn’t know what that was and am still not sure). But, I couldn’t give up the Diet Coke- sorry kids.  And so began motherly guilt.  I hadn’t even had the child yet and I was already feeling guilty for my shortcomings.  Every mother knows there is no guilt like a mother’s guilt, because you can never do enough, never be there enough, give them too much freedom, never give them enough freedom, never live up to all the pie in the sky ideals “so called” experts tell you you should be doing.  I suspect most of these “so called” experts are not parents themselves- because its obvious they don’t know shit about kids.

So when my child was born via emergency c-section, the postpartum depression was overwhelming.  Not only had I failed my vision of the perfect child birth complete with saving the placenta to bury under a tree in our back yard- but I also had gone completely insane.  I was intent on using cloth diapers- until I changed my first diaper. So that plan went right out the window before we’d even left the hospital.  Prior to giving birth, I envisioned myself buying all organic foods and transforming them into all organic baby food.  But, A. organic food is fucking expensive, and B. I have a job and don’t have time to be mashing up carrots and shit.  Thus, Gerber and I quickly fell in love.

Fast forward to today, and my whole fantasy about having non “spaghettio’s children” is a complete, utter and epic failure.  I am not a cook.  I don’t enjoy cooking and most of my cooking ends in disaster.  I also work a full time job and volunteer for everything under the sun because I’m a fucking idiot.  So cooking time is limited.  Furthermore, my kids hate everything.  One day I find something they like, a week later I fix it again and now they refuse to even sit at the same table with it or throw themselves on the floor as if I just threw hot acid on them.  We rely heavily on frozen food and restaurants- and since they hate everything that basically means chicken nuggets, tater tots, and canned green beans.  And again, even the green beans are a crap shoot.  Some days they proclaim it to be their favorite thing in the whole world and the next they act as if I’ve put rat poison on their plates.

Hence, I am not a hippie, not a vegetarian, not Jewish, don’t play hacky sack, live lovingly on the grid, and eat highly processed foods that are full of all kinds of chemicals I’d rather not know about. I do recycle and am all for wind power, gay rights and wish I could afford solar panels on my house- so I guess that’s about as “out there” as I’m going to get.  I’d love to compost- but that seems way too time consuming and the garbage disposal is so much more convenient.  As much as my young, full of hope self would’ve like, my kids are, in fact, “spaghettio’s kids” but I prefer to call them “tater tots”.

Lean Cuisine

Let’s face it…all Lean Cuisines, no matter the “flavor”, all smell the same cooking in the microwave.  No matter where you are… at home or in the office you can identify from one wiff, that it is indeed a Lean Cuisine.  It doesn’t matter what you’re cooking, the classic French Bread Frozen Pizza or the Butternut Squash Ravioli, it all smells the same. No run of the mill low cal frozen dish here…but the premier, crème de la crème of frozen diet letdowns:  Lean Cuisine.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Lean Cuisine.  I eat it all the time.  I’ve just decided that it is so much better when I add my own little twist.  And then I’m still eating well, because it’s a Lean Cuisine!  But, it tastes much better thanks to all the fattening, heavenly crap that I put on top.

I’ll get on to my killer recipe in a skinny minute, but I must preface it by saying Lean Cuisine is my favorite of all the “table for one” frozen dishes.  I’m sure I’ve tried them all.  Nothing says depression, more than a single serving of bland, tasteless diet frozen food.  They make it look so delicious on the box, golden brown, on a beautiful plate complete with parsley garnish.  You follow the instructions thoroughly in feverish anticipation of that beautiful dish that will also make you skinny.

First, remove frozen dinner from box.  Done.  Next, cut one slit about 2 inches long in the plastic film covering frozen loneliness dinner to vent.  (This part is tricky because I’m never sure if my slit is exactly 2 inches- too small? Too long? Maybe this is what it feels like to be a guy?). Step 2 Done.  Step 3: Microwave entrée for 3.5 minutes at 25%. (Shit, how the hell am I supposed to program the fucking Microwave for 25%??  Screw it, I’ll just combine it with Step 4). Step 4: Rotate frozen loneliness dish.  Wear protective hand wear as the gourmet delight may be hot.  Continue microwaving on 2 minutes. (Okay- so that combined with Step 3 should equal about 5 minutes on high?). Step 3 & 4 Done.  Step 5: Remove Film. Stir so-called vegetables. Return to microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Let stand in microwave for one minute after cooking. Enjoy!

Jesus Christ, that is a lot of instructions!  I might as well be cooking if I have to do all this rotating and film removing and shit.  The whole “remove from box” part- is why I love America.  We are so dumb, you have to tell us to take the crap we’re going to nuke out of the flipping box.  I also love America for being the home of the free and the brave, the crazy, the sane, the rich, the poor, the disenfranchised, the franchised, reality television, public television,  hot dogs and hamburgers, IROC Zs, all the Back to the Future movies and Chevy Chase.  I’m sure there’s more, but that sentence had long past the run-on statute of limitations. Oh and I’m writing about Lean Cuisine.  Ok- next blog entry will be about zesting up your Memorial Day festivity- which you’ll probably be doing by yourself- with an all American tribute Lean Cuisine Recipe!

So you’re really starting to wonder about the Lean Cuisine recipe du jour?  It’s really quite simple.  And genius is born from stupidity.  Is that a quote from someone?  If it isn’t, it should be.  I’m not really sure if it’s a compliment or an insult- but it does sound profound.  Anyhoo, I learned all my cooking secrets from no one else than dear, old Mom.  To say she was a whiz in the kitchen is like saying Stephen Hawking is an awesome figure skater.  Some people hate “diet” food, but that’s the only kind of food she served- and if it could just be microwaved or heated up as is- all the better.

Mom was always on a diet- probably is now- I don’t know.  I try not to get that “engaged” on the phone.  She may think we’re pals and want to talk every day.  As it is, I have her convinced that we have to rush the conversation since its, “long distance and all”.

But I digress, we’re here for cooking tips!  So you too can take your depressing dish of microwavable loneliness and jazz it up! One of my personal favorites: Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans by none other than Lean Cuisine.  Apart from not resembling anything on the box and tasting a lot like the actual box, the best thing I could say is the low calorie count was right.  But, really, how do I know it’s really right?  Can I test that?  Aren’t we just using the honor system and hoping they tell us the truth?  Shit, we may be on to a major conspiracy by frozen depression delights to keep us ensnared in their wicked web of frozen diet cuisine addiction.

Alright- here goes.  Just to recap, the Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans- follow all microwaving instructions thoroughly as demonstrated previously.  Gaze upon the pile of mush that comes out in the half melted cooking container and take in all its glory.  Because, gurl, it is about to get a whole lot better!  Step 1: Walk to the refrigerator. Step 2: Retrieve Sour Cream. Step 3: Get a big spoon. Step 4:  Take a huge, spoonful of that creamy goodness and plop it right in the middle of that bland, cardboard tasting so called food.  Step 5:  Stir that shit up and throw some s&p in already.  Step 6: Truly enjoy because when someone asks what you had for lunch you can honestly tell them you ate a Lean Cuisine. And then act all passive aggressive, high and mighty about how you’re sticking to a diet.  Recipe: Complete!

What will my children say?

If you’re a loyal reader or are new to my blog, you’ll find that I talk a lot about my parents, their shortcomings, their divorce, their impact on my psychosis- you know the usual crap we’re all dealing with.  You’ll also know that I know, even though they drove me and continue to drive me bat shit crazy, that they love me.  Since I started a few months ago, I’ve had friends ask me on more than one occasion, “what do you think your kids will be blogging about you?”  Yikes!  I’m sure it will be filled with things like, “yeah, she sure yelled a lot” and “that woman could put away some vodka” and “all the cuss words I know I learned from dear old mom” or “she wasn’t real good at filing”.  I can only hope they remember that despite the yelling, drinking, cussing and paper piling bullshit, they will also remember how much I love them.

The one image I hold in my mind of my mother is of her asleep on the couch.  The woman was depressed, beyond depressed and downright tired ALL THE TIME.  She was always “resting her eyes” on the couch.  I am quite certain that when my children look back, their mental image of me will be of me standing in front of the dryer, folding clothes- because that seems like ALL I DO EVERY SECOND OF MY LIFE!!!  Grant it…I have a full time job, I write this amazing blog, I am an actor, a runner, a Girl Scout Leader, a mom, a wife, Bigfoot Hunter, tv addict, ghost whore, Alien chaser and all around busy gal.  But, that damn laundry basket is NEVER empty.  I mean come on people- if you’ve had something on for less than an hour, fold it up and put it back in the goddamn drawer, for Christ’s sake!

And don’t even get me started on clothes that are inside out.  Why do you have to turn a shirt or socks or underwear or fucking anything all the way inside out to take it off?  I don’t do that- but for some reason everyone in my family seems to think that turning it inside out is the only way to remove clothing from their bodies.  So then I’ve got to not only, wash and dry the flipping clothes, but spend extra time turning them right side out so I can fold them and distribute them to their rightful owners.

Now, I know, I’m a complete idiot when it comes to this whole laundry thing.  As soon as I was tall enough to see over the machine, my mother had me doing my own laundry, her laundry, my sister’s laundry- really anything that needed to be washed.  And my oldest is plenty tall enough to take on this task herself.  But, with all the yelling, drinking, cussing and paper piling I do- I feel like this is one of the few ways I can show my children I really love them.  (I know, I just looked back and read that- and I’m a total lunatic- one day my kids are certain to say, “yeah, mom was a total bitch, but I know she loved me because she did the laundry”).  Ahhh….my head is hurting from my eyes rolling so far back in my head.

And with all my talk about laundry, you’d think I’d have the whitest whites, all our sheets would be pressed and every drawer neatly organized.  Boy, are you a dumb ass!  I don’t treat stains unless it is on my own clothing.  I figure if you’re not smart enough to either point it out to me as I’m putting it in the machine (not two days before when it happens) or better yet- DO IT YOURSELF, then I’m not treating it.  You can live with that stain on your clothes for the rest of your life.  A scarlet letter of what a sloppy eater you are for all the world to see.

Secondly, if you’re pressing your sheets, you are wasting your life.  Please just fold that shit up and shove it in the linen closet like the rest of us lazy asses.  You’re going to lay down on it to sleep, why the fuck do you need to iron it?  I find once I stretch it out over the mattress, the wrinkles pretty much take care of themselves. Furthermore, you’re going to put a comforter or blanket or something over them- so even if someone does mosey through your room- they will not be aghast at your wrinkly bed sheets- because they won’t fucking see them, asshole.

And lastly, everyone in this family has way too many clothes.  And despite all my good intentions of cleaning out the closets and drawers with each season to update our wardrobes for the appropriate weather (like Martha Stewart tells me to do)- let’s get real here- that’s never going to happen.  So I basically just keep shoving shit in until either the drawer breaks- or I have a mental break down because I can’t close the fucking drawer anymore.  Then I’ll start flinging shit out of the drawer, cussing with every shirt, sock, and worn out, pilly bra I come across until its complete- I’m organized for at least 2 days- or the next load of laundry gets done.

Ok- so this post started out as some kind of altruistic, introspection of who I am and how I want my children to remember me.  And it turned it to a rant about laundry.  My kids are so fucked.

Broken Window

My parents split when I was 7 and it was tough.  I don’t mean Kramer vs. Kramer tough, but tough nonetheless.  There is a silver lining to divorce in that if done right, you get to spend more time with your parent (back then it was usually weekend Dads) than you would have if they stayed together.  When they were married, he was mostly on “business trips” or had “important meetings” he had to attend every weekend.  Once they were divorced, he had no choice but to take me on the weekends and spend time with me.

My sisters are both much older than me, so they did not have this lovely opportunity.  Not to make him out to be a saint or anything…he was far from it.  I do have lots of special memories.  Although, his probably aren’t quite as crisp as mine, since he was pretty much drunk all the time.  But, hey, drunk people are fun!

In 1983, Dad was forced into early retirement at the age of 49.  Ronald Reagan was downsizing the federal government and as a high ranking IRS bullshitter, he got the ax.  I was 9 years old and he decided a good, long summer vacation would be great for both of us.  We took a whole month and drove his beat up VW Rabbit down the backroads of the east coast to see the biggest hustler in the world…Mickey Mouse.  Now, I know you think I’m going to start talking about the magic of Disney- but I’m not.  Because this post is about a broken window, idiot, hence the name.

It truly was a wonderful experience, we would only drive for 2 or 3 hours a day and then stop at luxurious hotels (ahem, motels) that had all the amenities a 9 year old could dream of…  a pool, a vending machine, a bed with magic fingers- it was freaking awesome!  We ate fast food, stayed up late and watched CABLE TV (it hadn’t come to our town yet).  It was a great adventure that we were sharing, just the two of us.

Of all the special parts of this trip, including the fucking magic of Disney, there is one memory that will stand out in my mind FOREVER!!  We stopped at a gas station in a podunk town outside Savannah.  It was hot!  The drippy, humid, steam rising from the highway kind of hot.  My dad left me in the car (for you youngins, you used to be able to do that back then- or maybe he was just drunk) either way he went inside to pay.  All the windows were up and the doors closed- because you know, who cares if your kid dies of heat stroke.  He had more important things to worry about like getting a cold beer and some beef jerky for us.

Now, before I go any further, you need to know that there was a problem with the window on the passenger door.  When you rolled it down (with a crank- no we were not rich and didn’t have fancy power windows), it would sometimes slip down in the door and you’d have to push it back up very carefully with your hands.  So instead of getting that fixed, I was given strict orders to NEVER roll that window down.

As I sat there roasting in the 100 degree Southern heat, watching the Spanish moss sway in the breeze, I decided I could take it no longer.  And I did it.  I ROLLED DOWN THE WINDOW!!!!  Just as I was taking a breath of fresh air and starting to regain consciousness, Dad came bounding out of the gas station yelling at the top of lungs, “I told you not to roll down the fucking window!! What the hell is wrong with you??”

Well of course, I thought he was a total lunatic and just rolled my eyes.  “I was hot.  What did you want me to do, open the door?”  Then I started to roll up the window and it happened.  The crash heard round the world.  The whole window slid down into the door and smashed into a million pieces…and we hadn’t even made it to Mickey yet.

Well, of course, he was mad.  This was my fault entirely.  How dare I want to cool off?  How dare I be so stupid as to not just open the door?  How dare I break the fucking window???  So we stopped at a hard ware store and did the responsible thing, duct taped the whole window closed so that no rain could get in.  Of course, he also couldn’t see out that window, but at least the beautiful vinyl interior would be protected.

A few weeks ago, my car was in the shop and I asked him if I could borrow his car for the day.  Being the great dad he is, he gladly obliged.  As I was getting into the driver’s seat, he lodged himself between the car and the open door and said, “Now, I have to tell you one thing about this window.”  Oh for the love of GOD- not AGAIN!!  He explained that sometimes it doesn’t always roll back up when you roll it down and kindly suggested that I not roll it down.  Thanks, Dad.  Believe me, I will NEVER and I mean NEVER roll down one of your windows again.

Diving In

Ok…deep breath…hold my nose…and jump!  My first blog post into the deep end; we’ll see if I sink or swim.  I’ve been babbling away (like a flipping brook) on social media for years about anything and everything:  the aggravations of parenthood, my bad cooking, running, and not running, Catholic guilt, my secret desire to be Jewish, my acting career and the lack thereof, middle-aged acne, my television addiction and just about anything that pops into my head.  So now its time to start laying it all out there.

I’ve titled the blog “Swimming Upstream” because that’s how I feel about my life.  Always swimming against the tide in hopes of something better just over the next waterfall.  Sometimes I make it and sometimes that damn water just pushes me back into the pool.  But either way, I figure I end up where I’m supposed to be.  (Wow- that sounds so deep and whatnot).  But, mostly its because I’m a Pisces and I just thought it would be neat.  I’m pretty much a nerd at the end of the day.

Today is a great day, one where the planets are aligned, I’m feeling rested and super creative.  Not all days are like this- but you’ve got to grab hold when you can.  Thus, the start of this blog!  My energy has been super charged lately, ran a 10k on Saturday, I’m rehearsing for a show, starting a new job I created from scratch, raising a family, raising a husband, raising my voice….well you get the picture.

I was born a poor black child….wait no…that’s the start of my favorite movie (The Jerk with Steve Martin- you really should see it).  I was born a middle class white girl in the suburbs of DC.  There we were, my two sisters, an alcoholic father, a depressed mother, chain smoking grandparents and me all in one big fucking mess of a house!  A perfect Norman Rockwell painting, if he were smoking crack, that is.   Don’t get me wrong, we all loved each other, in that crazy, “you get on my fucking nerves and I’d like to kill you” kind of way.  But it was normal to me and taught me to laugh at the world around me, inside me, above me, below me, next to me…”if you can’t go under it, you’ve gotta go over it.”

You’ll find this blog full of random references to pop culture and other trivial things that make sense to me, to others but maybe not to everyone.   You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m a bastion of trivial knowledge and it comes out in the most unusual times.  Not always appropriate or opportune…but usually hilarious.  So I look forward to sharing them with you.

So, put on your swimmies and come wading in the pool with me.   Your beer goggles may help too.