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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The beauty behind failure

I have kind of had a dirt sandwich kind of day.  It's amazing how one little thing that doesn't go as planned can leave you feeling like a complete loser.  And if you let that one thing bother you, it can cast a shadow on everything else that is going right.
When I was in college I auditioned for a the MFA program at school in San Francisco.  I prepared for months, selecting the perfect monologue. I traveled there alone and auditioned.  I really thought it went well.  I nailed it. I even went out that night to celebrate.  The next day the call backs were on the door,  I read the list. My name wasn't on it. After re-reading the names again and again and again (and again).  It didn't magically appear.  I. WAS. DEVASTATED.  My entire life plan had just been deleted.
What the hell was I going to do now?  I returned to the hotel and cried on the bathroom floor.  Just to give you an idea of how devastated I was. I would never in my right mind even sit on a hotel bathroom floor, I wouldn't even lay on MY bathroom floor. Yet there I was in a heap of tears and fetal position agony.  The next day I awoke and ordered room service and cried some more.
I let someone else's decision determine my destiny. I thought, well hell, if the panel of 3 people I don't know, don't like me, then the entire world won't like me either. Therefor I am a big ass loser and I might as well just be a waitress for the rest of my life.
I'm not exaggerating here. I really could not see past the overwhelming sense of rejection. I actually went through a mourning period.  Mourning the one school I wanted to go to which had rejected me.
Some would suggest getting back in the saddle and trying again. Not me. I wanted nothing to do with the people. I threw a self pity party of one where I felt like everyone hated me and thought I sucked.
Rejection stinks.  Even if its something you didn't really care about.
Today my dirt sandwich was delivered in the form of the rejection of an idea I had.  I really thought it was a good idea. Granted I didn't change my whole life plan like I did with my audition, but I at least thought it would benefit my career and make my job better.
Today, rather than crying on the bathroom floor at work. I buried my feelings in Starbucks.  It is an old security blanket that I turn to when I need comfort.  I hope to God that doesn't sound as pathetic as it did when I just re-read it.  But I'm just being honest.  I have said this before, and people disagree with me up and down, but I am shy.  Terribly. To go out on a limb and suggest something is hard for me.  Even worse is if I am going into a situation where I don't know who will be there, I will always go to get a coffee before hand. Even if I feel super awake.    That way, if I'm in a situation and don't know what to say, I can put the cup up to my mouth and drink coffee so I don't have to talk.
This has worked for me all through college and numerous meetings and social functions.
The only problem is, is when I don't have a coffee and the only beverage available is alcohol.  That results in me drinking too much and then becoming way wAY WAY too chatty.
So as I stood in Starbucks trying to not jump over the counter for my personalized security blanket, I stopped thinking about my rejection.
I started to look over the photos in my cameral roll and remembered how I had snapped this photo.

I took it this morning as I was trying to get dressed.  In an effort to be close to us, yet not get taken back to his room, Oscar found the perfect nesting spot on our bed. I must admit, I felt his little breath on my foot last night, but was too tired and (too comfortably happy) to take him back.

I smiled.  It came full circle.  I'm not a failure at all.  If I had gotten into the MFA program I would probably still be a waitress only with a higher degree.  I would have never met my husband. And never been able to look at my bed and snap a picture of this bed bug.

This latest rejection isn't any different despite my immediate tendency to feel like I should quit and start a job as a professional coffee consumer.

Ironically, the audition that I felt changed my life forever, I read my favorite Shakespeare monologue from  As You Like It.   This quote isn't from that work, but if Shakespeare had written about my life, this just might have been a quote.

"Maybe love won't let you down.  All of your failures are training grounds and just as your back's turned you'll be surprised… as your solitude subsides."
- William Shakespeare

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Penis Envy

Water Weenie 
When I was five years old my mom told me I asked her for a penny to throw in a fountain.  She said I was very deep in thought moments before I made my wish.    The next day I came to her crying because my wish hadn't come true. I had wished for a penis.  Little did I know that my wish would come true four (or five, including my husband) times over 30 years later.
 I had a serious case of penis envy that any Freudian psychoanalysts would have loved.  Let me preface this that I didn't actually know what a penis was, other than a handy device to pee from.  I would watch my neighborhood pals pee against a tree with admiration.  I tried several times, even leaning my pelvis so far forward it could touch the bark, only to give in to the squat.
I thought that if I started acting more like a boy I would grow one.  I got a really short hair cut,  I wore any t-shirt with a number on it.  I played with cars, rode a boy bike ( which I learned that if you fall on the bar with your girl part it hurts just as much as if you were to hit it with your boy part).
Regardless of my efforts, it didn't happen.  I had several water weenies that I would stuff my pants and pretend I was a boy.  I often wondered how boys even left the house when they had a built in water weenie to play with all day.   But like any childhood wish, it became all to clear it was a fallacy. (Cheap pun)
Around fourth grade when we started learning about anatomy is when my love of penises came to a crashing halt.  I. Was. Horrified.  I had it all wrong,  it looked more like Gonzo and less like a sparkly water wiener.
Obviously, a lot happened between fourth grade and now, lets just say I have a new respect for the male organ.   But because I made that wish 30 years ago, the fountain fairy placed me in the middle of a big circle…(family circle.) What were you thinking?
A day does not go by that I am not flashed a penis.  It is a topic that comes up often in our house.  It doesn't matter on the age. Often I would find one of my sons with his hand in his diaper while watching Higglytown Heroes.   I try not to seem alarmed when a toddler proudly shows me how he made his wiener grow.
As a little girl I promised that if I only had one I would never lose it or want for anything else.  What I didn't realize is there isn't a chance any guy could lose it because they are constantly feeling for it to make sure its still there.
I have been in the presence of a male in a professional setting that doesn't have a clue he just adjusted himself  all while never breaking eye contact.  If you are a man,  it seems to be completely socially acceptable to grab your goods and drag it to the other side of yourself, or tying it in a knot, or whatever the hell you are doing when you manhandle your pants while doing everyday tasks, like sitting.
When a women does it, she is either, a pop star or someone you would run away from.
I have learned a lot being the mother of four boys and male dogs.   There is solidarity in the penis.   There is empathy. After the boys were taken by the doctor to get circumcised I unknowing participated in Don's moment of silence.  When our dog was neutered we said a prayer for his penis at dinner.  I didn't feel like explaining that it had nothing to do with his penis.  The topic of the beans will eventually  make its way as the supporting actor, but for the time being I will let their focus be on the frank.
There are days when I grow tired of the penis talk, but when the boys are around Don has learned to limit it.  I get it. Men are proud of their manliness and by all rights they should be.   Women get the credit for giving birth but it wouldn't be possible with out our men and to think how they responsibly took care of it, prior to that moment.
If I could go back in time to that fountain I would tell my five year old self to wish for a big brain instead. and not to worry. You don't need a penis of your own.  That when you are a women, you will be able to find plenty of men that are more than happy to share theirs.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

That's not my name

Thats not my name
That is not my name.

I suffer from a terrible case of mistaken identity.   I thought it was because growing up there was a Nicole in my class (it was a long 12 years).  However, she has since moved on, but I am still called her name. By anyone and everyone from my employer (of 6 years), colleagues, my boss, neighbors, of course the Starbucks barista. all the way to my *husband. People continue to call me by an erroneous name. Even if they get it right, they spell it horribly wrong. I would like to think it was because I have one of those rare exotic names if there wasn't that Darned Christmas song which translates to the same variation in every single language and repeats itself over and over and over.. 
I'm so grateful that my parents continued the "N" tradition with naming all of my siblings an N name. Perhaps they ran out of ideas and chose my name despite my birth not being anywhere near Christmas.  What I cannot understand is when people email me with my name clearly typed in the address and STILL get my name wrong. My favorite, not pictured is Louellen, a little old lady I know calls me that.    She is just so nice, and I figure she is not long on this Earth anyway, why correct her? It doesn't help that I married someone with the last name Elliott. Now my name can be combined into one name: Noelliott.  I may adopt this as my new name because like many celebrities, it works for them. Beyonce, Madonna, Fergie. The only difference is, that they are famous, I'm not and all of their names are 400 times cooler. 

* This only happened once and we were not married yet, he learned his lesson. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Mamalogues

 I recently read my most personal blog post in a production I created called The Mamalogues. It was a great show and the majority of the readings were hystercial but this one needed to be heard and was deeply personal. All  the women who performed were all very talented and it was a great event.  Here is my account of my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bring it on.

I was in a battle of wills this morning with a 3 year old and I lost.  It all began last night at a school potluck.  A school that my husband teaches at and that all four of my sons attend. A school that promotes peaceful resolutions. A school that prides itself on respect for the child.

I was not a good example of this.

The potluck was at 5:30 immediately following work. I had prepared our side dish the night before by opening a bag of organic greens and dumping it into a bowl.  Last year I embarrassed my husband because I arrived with styrofoam plates and chips. Not this year, I brought our home dishes.
Oscar (3) is new to this environment and decided to lay flat on the floor right in the middle of the foot traffic. I ignored him.
He then discovered the dessert table before dinner had started.  He took 2 brownies. I ignored that too.
By the end of the evening after he spit in my face on the playground I took him to the hallway and made him sit in the naughty spot.  A naughty spot I created.  Don was socializing and despite my efforts to communicate with him by burning a hole in his skull with my eyes, it wasn't until he heard Oscar's scream that he realized what was going on. Oscar's scream is an entire body scream. He clenches his fists and shakes until  he boils and a loud screech is propelled out of his mouth.  A babysitter once told us she had never heard anything like it in her 75 years of life on this Earth. 

Oscar was born the day after my birthday. He and I are the same sign in the zodiac which is known for strong wills.  Ram is the animal and is accurate in his an my interactions. We lock horns…. a lot.

How can a 3 year old have so much anger pent up towards his mother? Already?
This morning I felt that things were ahead of schedule.  One son was helping with the dishes. One was practicing the violin, one was playing and Oscar appeared to be reading a book on the couch.  All was well.   However in closer observation, he had removed his pants and underwear and was resting my phone on his "parts".   He had also removed his shoes and socks.

By the time I finally put all his clothes back on I had broken a sweat. The harmony that had existed in the background was now chaos.   When I took my phone back he decided to declare war.

Is there such a thing as toddler bullying?  If not, this will be his legacy.  He is calculated and has been methodically breaking me down since before he could talk.  When he was just an infant he would shun my left boob.  It wasn't good enough for him. only the right one. Which immediatly resulted in my chest looking like Barbie on one side and Ken on the other.

Yesterday he walked in on me changing and screamed.

At the pool he asked me how I got my stripes on my belly.  He knows very well they are from him.

He hides my phone in an effort to make me believe I have lost my mind.

He sneaks into our bed at night and wets my side of the bed. 

This morning on the car ride he had convinced his brother to get him a bowl of veggie straws. Before we had even backed out of the garage they looked like confetti being thrown in my review mirror because he didn't like the bowl.  I stopped the car, collected them off the floor and left them in our drive way.

He then decided to scream which I ignored.

His next attempt was to throw his shoes at the back of my head. I kept driving.  Next were his socks. That was it. Again, I pulled over the car.  Got out, and opened the back door.  Our horns locked.  He stared deep into my eyes and spit.

What is with this SPITTING THING? Is he part camel?  Its not like he has aim. It usually dribbles down his chin, but it all began when we told him he couldn't hit, so he decided to spit.

The rest of the boys who witnessed this let out a collective gasp. At this point I wanted to lay in the middle of the traffic. I was not going to let him win and his brothers witness it.  That is how coups d'├ętat get started. 

I used his sock to clean up the spit from his chin.  Shoved his Fred Flinstone feet back into them and velcro-ed his shoes back on so tight that he may be wearing them until he is 4.  He screamed. It was all he could do, because he hasn't mastered the unbuckle task.

I got back into the drivers seat. A tear streamed down my face from under my oversized sun glasses.  My oldest son who now sits in the front seat and who I forget is there sometimes, handed me a kleenex.

"I think he needs anger management or something" said someone in the backseat.  I nodded and proceeded in the 5 minutes ride to school which was now taking 20.

The tear formed out of complete frustration, but I was able to collect myself and suck it up.  I was not going to let this break me.

We arrived at school and the three older ones gave me long hugs goodbye. As if to say, "you really lost that one". But in a nice way.  By the time I drove Oscar to his door, he had silently removed his socks and shoes… for the third time that morning.

As the teacher approached to take him, I couldn't hand him over soon enough. I did all I could to act calm as I put his shoes and socks back on. But I sensed his silent satisfaction.   I said goodbye and as I was driving away I heard him yell "Mommy! Hug and Kiss". So I stopped, yet again and hugged my little tyrant.

It doesn't end there. Why? Because he had gotten into my head!  I rolled down the windows, turned up the music and drove to work.  I thought I had shed the anger/defeat/loserness by the time I was walking into work.  That was until I ran into a neighbor who was walking in the opposite direction. I don't know him that well.   He asked how the boys were.  It was at that moment I lost it.  Yep.
I started crying and said that our last child was impossible and that he threw his shoes at me. Poor guy, he was just saying hello. 

If the mascara running down my face didn't freak him out. I'm sure my ability to suck the tears right back up in my head and smooth my hair and act like that never actually happened most  certainly did.  He said he had to make it to a meeting and was off. But before his goodbye he asked, "are you going to be ok?" "oh sure," I said with a smile. Trying to not look as crazy as I actually am.

I admit it,  this morning got the best of me.  It took four sons, over a course of 10 years, but this little guy is going to be my tough cookie. By lunch I am sure he has forgotten this even happened, but mama's don't forget. (My mom still yells at me for climbing on our roof as a kid like it happened yesterday.)  The black mascara that has been washed away and puddled under my eyes has only giving me my game face.  So bring it on sweet child o mine. Bring. It. On.