I married for tech support

monkeywrenchThis morning, my husband informed me that the landscape lights at the end of the driveway were burned out. I told him I’d email the landscaper and let him know. Maybe I was reading too much into the tone of his breathing (I do that) but I detected a hint of “Gee honey, I could do that myself.” In return, I breathed back “Why don’t you, then?” picked up my Iphone and fired a quick note to the company I paid a small fortune to install the aforementioned lights.

I feel bad for my husband sometimes. He’s the only person in the household that takes any interest in how things actually work. He has a scientist’s mind and an engineer’s soul. He can rewire the house and build a computer from spare parts. He reads Maker magazine and built a model that predicts how long a power outage will last based on prior performance. I think he should sell it to Dominion Power. His assessments are pretty accurate. Most importantly, he ensures the cable and internet work no matter where we are in the house.

The Dude and I, however, have no interest in the inner logic of the universe. My general troubleshooting mode is turn it off/turn it back on/get the hubby. If he’s not home, I might try Googling the problem. I was quite tickled to have figured out how to turn off the shake-to-shuffle option on my IPhone all by myself. The Dude is even less adept at all things mechanical. It took him awhile to figure out that the basement lights weren’t broken–the dimmer switch was turned down.

Yesterday, my husband was doing some plumbing work and asked my son if he thought the water heater would empty with the intake valve shut.

“Yes, he said. I mean no. Yeah. No. No?”

“Do you know why?” my husband asked.

“Because it sounded like the answer you wanted me to give you.”

The Dude is nothing if not honest. I knew the correct answer, but only because that’s why the extra-large Tide bottle has a vent along with a spigot.

It’s not that I don’t understand basic scientific principles. I just don’t care to remember them. This is why I have a masters in business and not nuclear physics.

My husband knows this about me, yet when repair people come to the house, he has a million questions about how they performed the work we paid them to complete. It’s hard to explain how the plumber fixed the upstairs shower leak when I spent the entire time in my office on the first floor. He once asked me if I was even the least bit interested in what the people were doing in our house.

Exactly how big is the micro**** I don’t give? Let me think about that. I’m the woman who loves a robotic vacuum.  If I push the button and it works, I’m happy. If he wants a play-by-play, he married the wrong gal.

I know my husband appreciates me for who I am–Luddite tendencies and all. I’m unlikely to change at this point, and he doesn’t know how to cook. Since I have to do that every day, I consider it more than a fair trade.

That being said, I understand my husband’s efforts to educate the Dude on the basics before we send him out into the world.  One can’t always rocket an email a third party to solve their problems for $100 an hour plus parts. The Dude will need to know enough to assemble IKEA furniture someday and shouldn’t be as clueless as his mother. Since he’s majoring in business, however, I’ve taught him how to cook just in case. Find yourself an engineer, Dude. Trust me on this one. You’re welcome.

Photograph : “Monkey Wrench” by Shaggy © 2009 Creative Commons/Flickr


The Principal’s Welcome to the New Year

backtoschoolWelcome to the new school year, Eastland High School Chipmunks!

We’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few details in order to make your educational experience and safe and happy one.

Enclosed is a packet of information for your parents (who are we kidding? Give it to your Mom). It includes the annual PTO appeal, along with flyers from a raft of organizations selling tee-shirts, candygrams, bumper stickers, and other items specifically designed  for maximum child embarrassment. Nothing says parental support more than the “Mommy loves her Chipmunk” yard sign.

Please remember that we have a dress code. Enough with the mini-skirts and micro shorts, ladies. Fingertip length–and we don’t believe you have exceptionally short arms, nor do we see bra straps as a fashion accessory. Gentlemen–banning baseball caps is not an infringement on your religious freedom, and contrary to popular opinion, we do know the difference between a marijuana leaf and the Canadian flag.

All students are prohibited from going into the Forbidden Forest. Same goes for under the bleachers, the book storage room, and the teacher’s lounge. Especially the teacher’s lounge. I don’t care what you’ve heard, we don’t have an espresso machine, ESPN, a minibar, or a ball pit. We have a copy machine, a formica table, a table, a dirty microwave and a refrigerator full of Tupperware containers. That’s it. No big mystery. All we ask is for one child-free space besides Latin class.

Speaking of off-limits, lay off the freshman. All those swirlies are a waste of water. Just in case, we’ve installed panic buttons in the bathrooms and escape latches in the lockers. If you’re caught harassing underclassmen, I will invite your mother to hug you at our next assembly.

On that note, I’ve received your petition. While obtaining 3,000 signatures from a student body of 1,200 is an impressive feat, we will not be changing the “Kiss and Ride” area to the “Be My Chauffeur While I Pretend You Don’t Exist Zone.” It won’t fit on the sign.

A gentle reminder–All student absences must be called in by a parent to be excused.  We do not accept texts from prepaid phones, notes written in crayon or messages left by SIRI. I’m not beyond calling parents for verification. I will not call you sir and I know you aren’t Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago. Any unexcused absence will result in a robocall to your parents, which they’ll mistake for a political solicitation or Rachel with an important message about their credit card.

To create time for the new state-mandated Health and Nutrition class, we’ve cancelled lunch. Always efficient, we’re reducing childhood obesity and exposure to food allergy lawsuits in one fell swoop.  From what we hear, you only eat the cookies anyway. To ensure you’re getting sufficient exercise, we’ve cut the period between classes down to two minutes. So get a move on, just remember–no running in the halls. Brisk walkees, my little chipmunks, brisk walkees.

Let’s work to make this the best year yet! Have fun (but not too much), learn a lot (at least what’s on the test) and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for all of the latest Eastland news @chipmunksqueaks.

Best Regards,

Your Principal

Photograph : Reason by Capture Queen © 2005 Creative Commons/Flickr

Need a job done well? Hire a Mom to do it.

wordleRemember that old yarn–a woman over 40 is more likely to get killed by a terrorist than remarry? Try being a 50 year-old mother returning to the workforce after a ten year hiatus.

I’m thinking of going back to work, so I did some research. There’s this thing called Google. Who’s antiquated and behind the times? Not me. I have mad skillz.

Articles describing the post-motherhood job market all indicate that having voluntarily left my seat at the table, I’m not welcome to come back. Employers, however, are advised to bend themselves into a pretzel to hire Millennials, who, according to these same articles come to the meal with the eating habits of a toddler. No onions, mushrooms, or green things. The food must not touch. The crusts of the PB&J must be cut off and only cut diagonally.

In the interest of balanced press, here are a few reasons employers should consider hiring a Mom returning to the workforce.

1) We are the market. Studies show women control 80-85% of all consumer purchase decisions. The millennial market is estimated at $200 billion. The Mom market? $2.4 trillion. No one understands the mind of a mom better than another mom. These are my peeps, yo.

2) We are the embodiment of can-do. A mom will never say “that’s not in the job description.” Sometimes you just have to get shit done. The job might be messy, demoralizing, or just plain disgusting, but in my house, the cat vomit is invisible to everyone but me.

3) We are used to working without appreciation, validation, or any form of recognition for working above and beyond the call of duty. One glitter and macaroni covered card a year and I’m good to go. The cats don’t even do that much, and I still feed them.

4) We have long attention spans and a high tolerance for pain. Ever hear a 5 year-old give a synopsis of the Spongebob Movie? It’s longer than The Odyssey and has no periods. A monthly forecast meeting is a cakewalk in comparison. As for my pain tolerance, walking on coals is for wussies. Try walking on Legos. I dare you.

5) I bake cookies. A cheap ploy, yes, but we’re talking cookies, people.

6) We are fast learners, and even faster re-learners. I get it. I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been away from high school even longer and managed to relearn logarithms well enough to tutor the child. I suspect he’ll need them just as much in his life as I have in mine. As for social media, even my son’s friends find my feed amusing from time to time. I also have more followers than they do.

7) We can manage complex assignments. Assembling Cybertron Primus requires PhD level skills and the patience of Job. So do most PTO assignments. Triage isn’t just another skill for mothers, it’s a way of life, and we’re used to putting other people before ourselves. As for complaining, we only do it behind your back.

8) We invented multitasking. Don’t even try going there. I have a can of multi-purpose whup-ass in my purse and I know how to use it.

9) It’s one less person on Social Security. I’m trying to be part of the solution, but I need someone to hire me first.

10) Finally, and most importantly, if you want to test my managerial skills, meet my son. He’s the best, most amazing thing I can ever take credit for, and like most things in life, we made the rules up as we went along, because that’s how life, and business, rolls.

I did what was right for me, and my family, and I have no regrets. Not once, however, did I stop being a badass. I did not put my brain in a lock box or my ambitions on the shelf. I did what every good manager does. I trained my son to do the job without my help, so now I’m free to do the same for someone else.

So next time you see my resume cross your desk, take a chance and call me. I’m worth the risk. There might even be cookies in it for you.

Getting your child through their summer reading assignment

IMG_0726August is almost over and if your family is like mine, you’re making the most of those final carefree summer days by locking your children inside and forcing them to finish their summer reading assignment. It’s time for them to crack open that paper anvil you purchased in June and delve into whatever moral-drenched tome the teacher has chosen to put the wet blanket on your child’s personal picnic. Here’s a few tips to get you from Once Upon A Time to The End without it turning into a Who Done It.

1) Divide the number of pages by the number of days your child has left for a handy pages-per-day goal. Do the same calculation using the total number of days in their entire summer vacation. This provides your child with perspective on just how much their procrastination has cost them. When they complain, remind them. They love it when we do that.

2) Feed strategically and only when page goals are met. In the interim, Neccos are a great source of energy in a handy wafer form and can be doled out in small doses. Manage the water intake–bathroom breaks kill productivity.

3) Say things like “Have you gotten to where…never mind. I won’t spoil it for you.” The key is to sound really excited. No matter where they are, assure them they are almost to the really good part. When they’ve finish and ask you what good part you were referring to, say “You’re done. That’s the good part.”

4) Skim Wikipedia to find the main characters names and ask them which “team” they are on. “You’re reading Brave New World? Are you team Bernard or team John?” Tell them you’re surprised the school chose the title. Promise them it’s sort of “inappropriate.”

5) Don’t bother telling them it’s a great book, that you loved the book, that it’s a classic, or one of the best ever written. My son is reading The Poisonwood Bible. It’s one of my favorite books. It’s beautifully written, poignant and powerful. It’s also 576 freaking pages long and sort of depressing. Summer reading books are always depressing. It prepares them for the school year.

6) Here’s a radical idea. Go to a library. I hear people can read there. Some even have a Starbucks!

7) Play the audiobook in the car and drive until it’s done. I asked the Dude if he wanted to go to Chipotle. I took him to one in Iowa. Hard to execute with more than one child.

8) Quiz them during dinner to make sure they’re internalizing what they’re reading. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book. That’s what Spark Notes were invented for.

9) Set up a book discussion group with their friends, just like your own book group. Make them actually talk about the book, however. Just like most book groups, a couple of them will have read the thing and will teach the others how to fake it. They can’t drink wine, but you can.

10) Prepare for the all-nighter. Coffee and M&M’s are my standard go-tos. Sometimes I even let the Dude have some. My husband and I join in the fun. We both love reading. My son says he must have been switched at birth and somewhere there is a family at Atlantis begging their kid to put down the book and get in the pool.

Finally, resign yourself to the fact that this will happen again next year, no matter how many times you swear it will be different. No matter what the task is, we all prefer doing what we want to do rather than what we have to do. Speaking of which, I have two loads of dirty laundry to wash and a garden full of weeds. I think I’ll go read a book.

Our tour at Come-here-U

squirrelWelcome future Hedgehogs! My name is Ryan and I’m your tour guide for today. I’m a senior studying Medieval Organizational Strategy, with a minor in walking backwards while dressed like an academic Best Buy salesperson. I congratulate you on your wise choice in considering this wonderful university. After all, we’re the first land-grant medium-large institution in cities beginning with the letter T!

I’ll be showing you the highlights of our beautiful campus. Feel free to ask me any questions along the way. Chatting up the tour guide probably won’t help you get you the fat envelope, but it doesn’t hurt. Some of us have student loans, wink, wink.

Where are you all from? Come on people, this isn’t an AP exam. Wherever you’re from, you’re not alone. We have students from every state in the Union, including Alaska and Hawaii. Our representative from Montana graduates in June, however, so if you’re from Big Sky Country, our admissions office has an extra-large swag basket with your name on it.

Our tour begins here on the Academic oval, or as we call it, “The Beach.” Hel-lo Ladies. How are you doin? I love the smell of Hawaiian Tropic in the morning. Whoa! Watch out for the ongoing hacky sack tourney! One hundred thirty-two days and counting.

We have over 500 clubs here on campus , so there are plenty of diversions from actually studying. We even have a squirrel watching club, Quidditch team, and the autumnal leaf rakers. There’s plenty of grass to go around! The legal kind, of course.

For our more musical students, we have 67 a capella groups. They battle outside of the Union every afternoon.  My personal favorite is the Thelonius Monks—they use cue cards. That way they’re always in tune. Come on you stragglers, get those feet moving!

Our campus covers over 5000 acres. We have a transit system that can take you anywhere you want to go. Just show your student I.D. It’s all free!

Gather round, peeps. This is a statue of our first dean, Millard J. Phillpot. It’s a hedgehog tradition to goose his booty after you’ve graduated. No one leaves campus without a squeeze and a selfie. Don’t try it until you have that sheepskin—legend has it that if you jump the gun, Millard’s ghost will make sure you end up living in your parent’s basement until you’re thirty. Just ask my brother. Let’s roll!

This is the undergraduate library. There are books around here somewhere. At least that’s what I’ve been told. There is, however, a Starbucks and a Chipotle on every floor. Just swipe your student I.D. It’s all free! Guy’s gotta fuel up, know what I mean? But not today, we’re just passing through.

While we walk to McCready Hall, I’ll tell you about our study abroad program. There’s nothing like spending a semester in a foreign land. I myself spent a term in Belize, and my roommate studied French in St. Martin. Welcome to our university, now get out! Just kidding! I know you’re thinking, “what kind of Medieval Organization Strategy did they deploy in Central America?” All kinds! Who knew? Just pack your sunscreen.

Here, let me hold the door. Come on through. This is McCready Hall, home of our humanities department. You can tell by all of the marble busts of writer dudes. The main auditorium holds 600, but don’t worry—our average class size is 15. You’ll only have a large lecture hall for classes that end in a 0 or 1. And sometimes a 2. Or if it’s required for your major.

I hope our dean of admissions told you that we’re a premier research institution. Starting from freshman year our students have the opportunity to work for work for free for someone they aren’t related to. One of my buds got lost on the way to class and ended up on an archeological dig. He sends his laundry home on a weekly basis. The University has a shipping office in every dorm. Just swipe your student I.D. It’s all free!

Speaking of dorms, that’s our next stop!

We offer several housing options. Freshmen are typically placed on South Campus, which we affectionately refer to as Troll Village or The Sauna. The rooms are coed by floor, theoretically, with a communal bathroom. If the showers are full and you’re pressed for time, just flush a toilet. In universal student language, that means “sober up and get out.”

All dorms have wireless access to satisfy even your most avid Call of Duty operative, and we allow any appliance smaller than a convection oven. You can also rent a fridge so you have someplace to store your…mineral water. The building isn’t air conditioned, but every room is equipped with at least one functioning window.

After freshman year, we offer suite-style housing where two units share one bathroom. Each unit houses four students and includes a kitchenette and common area. It’s just like living at home—only Mom doesn’t nag you about the dirty dishes in the sink or the state of your bathroom. Over the summer, the university brings in a hazmat team to ready the rooms for another year of academic exploration.

This is a typical University Dining Hall. As you can see, they offer absolutely anything you can think of. We have a kosher section, vegan section, and the lacto/gluten/peanut-free section. And over there is the Nostalgia section, which serves hot chili fritos and hash seven days a week, and our ever-popular grill, The Freshman Fifteen.

During exams, the snack bar stays open all night for our hardworking students with a hearty supply of Red Bull and Pixie Sticks. Say it with me. Just swipe your student I.D. Yup, you got it. Free!

This is the study lounge. Don’t you love the leather sofas and the stone fireplace? It’s just like Hogwarts without the students. Imagine your son or daughter cozying up with a book around a roaring fire. Go ahead. Imagine it. Denial is healthy.

Each campus has its own recreational facility complete with basketball courts, an inside running track, a climbing wall, unisex hot tub, and 24/7 personal trainers. Just swipe your I.D. That’s right. Free!

Greek life is another option for post-freshman housing. I’m a member of Alpha Got Good Gamma, dedicated to good works, scholarly pursuits and rocking the weekend. We also have a number of students that rent apartments off-campus. Most apartments are furnished. Just sign a lease and move in. Don’t look under the cushions.

This brings us to our final stop—the Placement office. Because that’s what we’re all looking for, am I right? Rest assured, our placement rate is well over 90%, not including those students going on to graduate school.

What’s that? My major again? Medieval Organizational Strategy. Of course I have a job.  In the admissions office.

Thanks again for visiting us, and make sure to fill out the evaluation form in the back of your welcome packet. Good luck with your senior year, and I look forward to reading all of your applications! Go Hedgehogs.

Photograph : Squirrel on Campus by Corey Seeman © 2010 Creative Commons/Flickr


The Ten Commandments for Using My Car

tencommandmentsI am the car owner, thy mother, and I have brought you out of my lady parts after eighteen hours and limited access to pain medication into the land of motor vehicles.

1. Thou shalt not drive when your judgment is  impaired in any way. At this rate, you might get to use the car when you’re thirty.

2. Thou shalt keep your hands on the wheel at all times. This includes texting, eating, and fondling your girlfriend or yourself. I know how well you multitask.

3. Your passengers shalt keep their hands off your wheel at all times (if you catch my drift). That only turns out well in the movies. In reality, say hello to the ditch. Not that I have personal experience with that.

4. You shalt not drink Caramel Frappuchinos in the vehicle.  Last week my steering wheel was stickier than a movie theater floor after The Spongebob Movie. This is especially true if you don’t have a Grande Skim Latte for your mother.

5. After picking up food at McDonald’s, thou shalt air out the car and spray with Febreeze (provided in trunk).  The same goes for dining at Chipotle, or after playing basketball in 90 degree heat. No, Axe does not take care of that.

6. Thou shalt not leave the radio turned up to 11 to scare the crap out your mother when she starts the car. If you do, when your friends come over, she will pipe NPR through the household audio system. Upon the second offense, she will rap Snoop Dogg. On the third, look out Beyonce–girl can dance. Or at least she will.

7. Thou shalt not leave discarded chewing gum in the cupholder. The same goes for straw wrappers, sunflower seed shells and used tissues. If you do, I shall instruct the cats to deposit their hairballs on your pillow.

8. Thou shalt not use my trunk as your laundry bin. If I find wet towels in my backseat, you will find your Dad’s dirty underwear in your beach bag.

9. Thou shalt not return the car on fumes. It’s only like leaving an empty Cheez-it box in the pantry, if running out of Cheez-its left you stranded on the shoulder of I-495. You have a gas card. Use it for something other than buying beef jerky from the convenience store.

10. The Golden Rule – Thou shalt treat the Prius as if it was your own, because someday, it may be. Because if this family gets a new car, it’s mine.

Just remember, if you want the keys to the kingdom, they’re in my pocket. My will be done.

Photograph – The Ten Commandments, by John Taylor © 2010 Creative Commons/Flickr