Thank you for dropping by!

I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tap Dancing Fool

Yes, I tap dance.

Last year while I was signing up my daughter for dance class (a rite of passage for every suburban little girl),  I asked a simple question-- "Do you offer adult tap classes?"  I'm not even sure why, at 40, overweight, I decided to ask.

"Yes, we do.  At 8 pm on Thursday nights.  The teacher is great.  Her name is Millie."

Without a second thought, I signed up.  The studio is across from my house.  The kids go to sleep at 8.  No one would miss me.

I called my friend Lyn.  We took belly dancing together about 8 years ago.  She is the friend that I call when I want to do something completely insane.

She signed up, too.

When I went to the first class, I was amazed at how much I remembered.  This was not my first shuffle by any means.  I started tap dancing when I was 7 and didn't quit until I was a freshman in high school- way beyond when it was cool.  But still, it had been awhile.  My feet, however, miraculously started tapping as if it had only been a few weeks.  Well, my right foot did.  My left foot had some issues.  If you tap, you understand.

The best part- I couldn't think about anything else while I was dancing.  When I take the dogs for a walk, my mind races.  Like most moms, I have 10,000 things on my to-do list and all of them running through my head non stop.  But when I'm tap dancing, it all stops.  If I think of anything else while I'm dancing I tend to trip.  It's not pretty.  I realized this about 5 minutes into the first class.

When I got home my husband asked me how it went.  I told him my face hurt.  He looked suprised.

I explained that I had smiled for an entire hour.

No joke.

I literally had cheek pains from smiling.

What a great issue to have to deal with.

The next day, I was a little sore but happy.

We danced at the Christmas show and I felt like a complete ass.  So did my friend, Lyn.  An adventure is one thing.  Public humiliation is another.

However, after the show, we were mobbed.  We were the hit of the recital.  And not to brag, but when we saw the video, we looked pretty darn good.  Me, Lyn, the boys, the new tapper, the former attorney- quite a motley crew of "mature" tappers.  It helped that we tapped to Burt Bacharach and not something cheesy.  It was funky and fun.  Black outfits.  No tutus.  And my kids were the most impressed.

In the spring, the class grew significantly.  My friend Shelley joined in.  I joked with Millie that the reason everyone signed up was because they figured if the fat chick could do it, so could they!

It was fun to be inspiring.

And then my back went out and I couldn't tap.  Honest to goodness, that was the catalyst for me to get my breast reduction surgery.  Not the back pain as much as the fact that I couldn't tap dance. It was the last straw.

So I've healed up and now I'm back tapping.

And my face hurts from smiling.

People always ask me why I am taking tap dancing.  They assume it's to lose weight.  Get in shape.  Exercise.  It's not.

It's to make my face hurt.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mama Bean's Big Choice

I hate school fundraisers.

I always have.

When I was a kid they would always pump us up, show us this shiny new bike we could win and send us out to hit the pavement hawking our wares.

And you know who won?

The kid whose parent sold the most stuff.

And today, it's worse.  They tell the kids NOT to go door to door for safety reasons.  So what does that mean?

Hey, Mom and Dad, you get to sell stuff to all your friends and co-workers! 

Which would be great except that I have 2 co-workers and 1 is my employee.

And my husband is a teacher and most of those kids are selling stuff.

As are my friends's kids.

Which means that I will shell out $200 to buy stupid sh*t that I don't need.  I have enough wrapping paper to gift wrap our house.  And for some reason, it comes in sheets that are smaller than a toilet paper square.

But this year it's worse.

I now have 2 kids in school.

Two Salesmen of Tomorrow.

Sort of.

The kids went to their motivational seminar, came home with their packets and this is what happened:

My son sat at the table and dreamily stared at all the great prizes he could win.  For $100 worth of sales he could get a bouncy ball.  Wow.  He was pumped.

My daughter immediately opened up the brochure and said "Mommy, this necklace is so pretty.  I think it would look really good with your purple sweater."

"Why yes, it would."

"And the ring matches-- you should get both.  And they have shopping bags with designs.  You use shopping bags... you would LOVE these...."

Within 20 minutes, she had sold me 10 items.

No joke.

She's good.

My son, however, was still sitting at the table dreaming of his bouncy ball, the parties his class would win.... he reminded me of the kid in "A Christmas Story."

When we sat down to dinner, he was still looking at the prize brochure, he asked me what I was going to buy.

I said I had bought all kinds of things--- from his sister.

"WHAT?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes, your sister. Rather than think about all the items she would win, she sold me a bunch of items."


Clearly his master plan to get the bouncy ball had been foiled.  He had forgotten about the competition.

His sister beamed. 

My husband backed me up.  He had been hit up by Saleswoman of the Year as well.  She was really good.

Skip was devastated.

"You seriously aren't going to buy anything from me?"

"Well, I don't think I have any money left.  Your sister Zoe got it all."

So then he started to try to sell us.

Let's just say, I hope he gets a nice salaried job some day.

Not good.

But I'm still a little torn-- whom do I buy from?  It's not exactly Sophie's choice, but it's still difficult.

Zoe worked hard, had a plan.  She should be rewarded.

Skip relied on the past history that I had always bought stuff from him.  Should he be punished for assuming something after 10 previous fundraisers?

In the end, I'd rather just write a $200 check to the school and let them keep the crap.

However, I am wrestling with the dilemma.

In the end, I think I will buy a few things from Skip, so he can get his ball.  Zoe, however, is going to make out.

And I think I'm going to hire her to do my marketing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Real Me

Monday I had the wonderful experience of hearing people talk about me, unaware I could hear, and they said very nice things.  It was a fantastic way to start the week.  I even posted it on Facebook, I thought it was so cool.  It was followed up by many of my friends saying other nice things.

I honestly didn't post it to get comments  (thank you for those of you who did say nice things), I simply wanted to share one of those "Wow" moments.  I had been to the doctor's office and he told the new nurse, outside the door, how much he enjoyed when I came in because I was always so upbeat, funny and positive.

Here's the scoop folks...

I ain't always so nice.

Not even close.

And my kids, not perfect.  Well, they are pretty spectacular- it's more my parenting, not great.

While I don't post too many negative comments on FB (but again, let me thank those of you who do air your dirty laundry online-- it's like watching a car accident- I can't look away), my life is not always sunny.

For instance, right now, I have a giant bandage on my stomach.  I burned it.  How?

I was making fish stock, of course!

Isn't that normal?

With my new, fabulous multi-cooker.

We had lobster tails and shrimp for dinner (don't be too impressed- they were the tiny, frozen ones, $4.50 each at Albertson's last week).  I steamed them in the wonderful multicooker.  With the leftover water I thought I would make stock.  Fish stock is one of those things that I sometimes need.  The recipes usually say "Use fish or chicken stock."  You can't buy it.  It really does make seafood dishes taste better.

ANYHOW, I threw in some celery, some onions, some carrots, some additional water, all the shells, some seasonings, let it cook for a few hours- smelled great.  I THOUGHT I had let it cool enough to pour it through the colander.

Oops.  My bad.

It hit one of the little lobster tails and circled back and landed on my stomach.

And burned the sh*t out of it.

It hurt a great deal.

I couldn't scream because I would have dropped the remaining stock and caused more damage.  Oddly, I was concerned about breaking the crock.

It also smelled really good (the stock, not my burning flesh) and I didn't want to waste it.

So, a few minutes later, I sat down on the couch with the hubby who thought I was exaggerating, and said "I just burned the sh*t out of my stomach." He grunted or something.

I pulled up my shirt to see how bad it was, it was already blistering.  This caused him concern.  He suggested that I maybe go to the ER.  I told I would slap some antibiotic ointment on it, a band aid and if it looked scarier the next day, I would do something else.  I should also point out it was Friday.  I only get sick on Friday's after 2 pm.  Too late to see my real doctor and I'm not willing to risk going to whoever is at the quick care on a Friday night.  Besides, I knew I was going to see the plastic surgeon soon and he would help me out.

Having a FB update "Just burned my fat gut making fish stock" seemed inappropriate.

The good part of it, if I had my old boobs, I probably would have fried my nips.  Or, if I was thinner, I would have burned my hoohaw.  Thank goodness my big fat gut was there to stop it!

This is why my surgeon was laughing.

I mean, seriously, who on earth gets second degree burns on their stomach making fish stock?


And then I tripped my daughter with the broken leg.

No joke.

When she was about 2, she started this IRRITATING habit which we referred to as "noodle arm."  We would be walking, holding hands, and she would drop like a rag doll to the floor, no notice or forewarning.  She thought this was HYSTERICALLY funny.

It wasn't.  It actually hurts and makes you trip.

So flash ahead three years, and for whatever reason, she decides to start lunging, no notice or forewarning, and go dead weight.

It is very annoying.

It is also very heavy when she has on a giant, walking cast.

Especially when it's unexpected.

You know that team building exercise when everyone catches someone falling backwards?  Imagine that game, but the rest of the team has no idea when the person is falling.  Say, perhaps, it's while they are out grocery shopping and Bill from Accounting just decides to fall backwards... that's what it was like.

So we were leaving The Red Velvet Cafe (awesome restaurant), I had on sweatpants (because I'm so glamorous), and I feel this heaving object come from behind and grab on to my waistband and start pulling my pants down.

I naturally yell and shove.

I shoved my daughter with the broken leg into a small table.

I swear, it was a kneejerk reaction.

But, of course, I'm pissed that she tried to pull down my pants. So I'm yelling at her as she falls into a chair.

I completely and totally suck.

My husband's expression was one of "My Wife Has Lost Her Marbles."

Keep in mind, for about 3 days, I had been dodging "Zoe bombs." 

The couple at the table that she crashed into gave me that "You Are Going to Burn in Hell" look.

Ooops.  Facebook status:  "Took out my 5 year old daughter with a broken leg in public."

I swear, it really was an instinctive reaction.  She was behind me.  I didn't see her.

This is right up there when I accidentally kicked Skip when he was two.  I was working at my computer and he snuck up and pinched my leg.  I reactively kicked him, thinking it was a bug biting me.

Oops.  Facebook status: "Thought my son was a bug, so I kicked him."

And I've stepped on my poor, old dog more than once.  This week.  And been less than comforting when I pick up his poop that he has a hard time controlling but really tries.

Facebook status:  "I think I broke my partially paralyzed dogs back leg."

And my son Skip who is very smart is going through a Cliff Clavin phase.  Wow.  THAT's annoying.  I've lost it more than once with him in the past 2 weeks.

Facebook status:  "I'm going to b*tchslap my son if he doesn't stop yammering facts about robotics."

And my fabulously creative daughter interrupts almost non-stop these days with "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom... well great, now I forgot what I was going to say and it's all your fault."

Facebook status:  "Will my daughter ever shut up?"

And she has also taken to saying "Oh my God!" which makes me completely nuts and I don't find remotely cute coming out of her mouth every 5 minutes at Target (blame it on the residual Catholic in me-- I just don't like messing with the Big Guy).

Facebook status:  "My daughter is using the Lord's name in vain to express her love of shiny, pink shoes."

And Skip has been bugging us about where we hid his birthday gift so much that I'm about ready to ship the freaking thing back.

Facebook status: "Just shattered my son's new robotics kit with a sledgehammer."

And my husband and I are bickering about too many activities for my son who NEVER QUITS ANYTHING.  A wonderful trait.  I suppose.

Facebook status:  "I hope my kids suck at (insert activity) so I don't have to keep driving them to practice/class."

And the list goes on.  None an appropriate Facebook status update.

So this is me.  Giant bandage on my stomach (by the way, the doctor said to put antibiotic ointment on it and keep it covered), ingrown chin hairs manifesting by the minute, frizzy hair out of control from the humidity, counting my stupid Weight Watchers points, and blogging in my sweats.

Smoking hot.

Don't you wish you were me?

But chances are, if you read this, it's probably because you are a lot like me.

This is my real life.  Not always sitcom worthy.  Often imperfect.

And I love it.

Facebook status:  "I'm really very happy."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

To the Victims, Survivors and their Families on 9-11

I am so sorry.

I am so sorry that the single most tragic day in American history has been commercialized, politicized and compromised.

I'm sorry that politicians and officials used your tragedy for their own political gains.  In all parties.

I'm sorry that scam artists preyed on people's good will and created phony charities.  I'm sorry that they preyed on the family members of victims.

I'm sorry that it's taken so long to place a real memorial at the three sites.

I'm sorry that we used your tragedy to divide us as a nation, rather than bring us together as great nations should.

I'm sorry that the hatred that caused this tragedy is more intense today.

I'm sorry that as a nation, we have forgotten. 

We have forgotten the compassion and unity we felt. 

We have forgotten how simple the world seemed on September 10, 2001. 

We have forgotten so many of the heroic stories of every day people, saving lives of people, risking their own lives- because we are all too busy holding our hands out asking for our piece of the pie.

You and your families will never forget. 

On this anniversary, I promise that I won't let myself forget again. 

We are one country, united in values of family, equality and liberty, and I will not let the media lead me to believe we are anything less.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mama Bean's World: The Shame Upon Our House

Mama Bean's World: The Shame Upon Our House: My daughter started kindergarten last week. She is a pip to say the least. First, she has a broken leg. Fortunately, she's in a walking ...

The Shame Upon Our House

My daughter started kindergarten last week.

She is a pip to say the least.

First, she has a broken leg.  Fortunately, she's in a walking cast, but we've taken the wheelchair to school, just in case.

Second, she's not like the other kids.

Honest. She isn't. 

She is beyond creative and artistic.  And I know every parent says that about his/her kid.  Trust me, on this.  I didn't think much of it until her pre-school teachers showed me her art work and then her peer "norm" work. 

She is also very left handed.  By this I mean, she doesn't just happen to write left handed.  She is a completely mirrored kid.  She steps with her left foot first.  She turns to the left in dance.  She had trouble with bottle caps and door knobs because she kept tightening, rather than loosening things.  On the positive side, she is very easy to show things to- just sit in front of her and she can mimic- it's very convenient.

She also likes to chat and she has a big a brother, so she can stand up for herself.  She doesn't have an issue with sharing.  She is, however, a master of conserving- you know, fighting to keep what's hers.

Kindergarten is going to be a bit of a challenge.

In her first week. she already received 2 yellow cards and then finally the big one-- the red card.

Now before you go off on the teacher and say "Well, she needs a more understanding teacher..." we love her teacher.  Her teacher is fabulous.  Her teacher is wonderful for her.  My baby girl just needs to learn to conform when appropriate and then sparkle and be herself when she can. 

When she got her red card, she was almost laughing.  She had a whole list of reasons why it wasn't her fault.  The kids were asking about her cast.  The little boy took a toy from another girl and she was getting it back for The Girl Club.  And on and on.  I had thought she would be an artist.  Apparently, an attorney is also an option!

We put down our feet:

Were you talking.


Did you pay attention?


We gave her a time out after school to think about it.

(To be honest, our son had gotten 1 red card in three years; we really had no idea what to do.  Oh, and being the AWESOME parents that we are, we shared this with her.  Comparing siblings is such a great tool.  We suck.)

And then she started the big alligator tears.

Naturally, we felt like crap.  Had we come down too hard?

We came up with a good incentive, rather than punishment, plan.  For every day she got a sticker (no red or yellow cards), she would get to pick the 2 books we read at night.  For every day she got a yellow, she only could pick one.  For every day she got red, Mommy picked.  And trust me, they would NOT be Barbie books. Blech.  I hate those things....


It seemed to work.  She lit up.  She likes to read and be read to. 

On Tuesday, I told her I felt good about the day.  I could see a day without any cards.

She looked me right in the eye and very seriously said, "I will not bring shame upon our house."

I almost peed.

During her summer on the couch due to her broken leg, she had watched "Mulan" a few times.  It stuck.

I think perhaps she was taking it too seriously.  Or was she?  She really shouldn't get red cards.  I know she will definitely talk more than her brother.  It's her nature.  But she shouldn't be disrupting the class.  She has a fun, fabulous teacher and she needs to listen to her. 

She was right.  We do not want shame upon our house. 

We also don't want her to get labeled during the first week.  The only label we want her to have is Smart Creative Girl.  Not Chatterbox Troublemaker. 

So far, no more red cards.  No more shame.

I am Mama Bean.   I am Tiger Mom.  Roar.

Oh, and thanks Mulan!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The American Laborer

Today is Labor Day.  I love this holiday.  It's the end of summer, my least favorite season (too humid in the midwest when I was a child, too hot to breathe in the desert as an adult).  It's a quick break after the teaser of school starting.  It signals the beginning of fall, my favorite season (perfect no matter where you live). 

I also am a graduate of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.  My primary focus being labor economics.  Before you start yawning, let me tell, in today's economy, an intimate knowledge of how labor markets work is a plus.  When I listen to candidates talking about cutting corporate taxes to stimulate the economy and promote job growth (which worked sooooo well the past 12 years... no), I roll my eyes.  There's much more to it.  And on that note, I must stop as I am governed by the rules of FINRA.  So back to Mama Bean's World...

I am the granddaughter of a coal miner.  My grandfather worked diligently in the mines in West Virginia.  For his service, he developed black lung.  After my grandmother passed away, he moved his family- five young boys and a new wife to Ohio to work in the factories in Akron.  I don't know all the details of it, he was retired before I came along. I  know he also smoked, so I'm sure that didn't help, but I do know that most of memories of my dad's father involved an oxygen tank (which oddly was near as he smoked... I think that's a bad idea...).

I am also the granddaughter of a former steel worker.  My mother's father suffered an industrial accident at the steel mill, lost his teeth and eventually lost his job.  My grandmother's version of this story is somewhat full of intrigue and since I cannot verify any of it, I won't repeat it. 

And as for me, I've worked since high school for a variety of bosses, some good, some not so good. I remember working at a restaurant and the boss convincing my fellow waitresses if they didn't clock in, he wouldn't pay them our base of $2.10/hour, but they could keep their tips and not report them.  They all thought that was great.  I was 17 and went nuts.  "And if someone slips and falls?  Then what?"  This is the same jackass that made us fill the ketchup bottles with expired ketchup he had bought from a restaurant that was going out of business.

I also worked at a fast food place that sold chicken out the front and other, um, items out the back.  When the owner got busted for drug trafficking when I was in college, my mom was stunned. I just laughed and waited for my subpoena.  I didn't get one.

Not so shockingly, this lead to a degree in labor relations and after realizing I did not want to be an economist, I started working in the field of human resources, specializing in employee relations.  This was not a great choice for me.  I will say, my three positions in HR were with very good companies and I had some wonderful bosses.  I will also say, that in my two last HR jobs the words "don't forget who signs your check" were spoken to me when I advocated on behalf of employees. 

Clearly, not the career choice for me (although I would like to add that I had a VP who put his neck out for me on one of these issues-- he ended up suspended-- a rarity for someone in his job-- and even though it was after I left, I heard about it and was very impressed.  We were right and the company was out of line and we saved them a gigantic lawsuit.)

Now on the flip side, a career with unions was not to my liking either.  I'd seen horrible employees reinstated due to paperwork errors.  I will say, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I saw a lot more crap on the managerial side.  By far.  I would never work in an unskilled job, especially in hospitality, without union representation.  And it's not a reflection on the companies-- it's a reflection of a lot of mid-level supervisors who work their way up through the ranks and don't know what they are doing.  I want to be clear on that.  By the time it reached a VP's desk, they were usually stunned and horrified.  But without the unions, it never would have made it there.

And in my personal experience, I was told to not bother to apply for a management position because I had" no natural leadership or training skills."(I would like to point out that I am now a contracted national trainer for the firm).  It was straight out of an EEOC "What Not to Do" video.  They gave the position to a lesser qualified male colleague- who they interviewed at a strip club- dead serious.  He lasted 9 months and was replaced by a very competent woman.  The hiring manager left the firm, came back and recently hired me as a consultant. No sh*t.  He even told my office partner that he had handpicked me to be a manager.  What???  How different my life might have been had he actually done it.  Oh well.  My life has turned out much happier and for the better.  Oh, and there was a $32 million class action gender discrimination lawsuit.  I guess it wasn't just me.  And the men in the office bugged me to sign on since I had, to quote a colleague "really gotten screwed over."  I used the funds to pay for graduate school.

So at the end of the day, when people ask how I could ever be a Democrat or support unions or workplace legislation, I hope this explains it.  It is there for a reason.  A company's sole purpose is to create a profit, not provide you with employment.  A third party helps to make sure they do it without harming or risking people's lives.  Yes, some companies do this without union representation, but ask people who have given their lives to companies only to get a pink slip and 6 weeks severance.  There are a lot of people to poll out there now. 

The world is not a fair place.  Not even close.  The labor movement helped to create a middle class in the United States.  In an era where CEO's have outlandish compensation packages, workers are being let go and companies have record profits, we might need to rethink how labor rights are protected.  Without a thriving middle class, our country will fail. 

I am a capitalist.  I am a business owner.  I am as American as apple pie.  I am also a realist.  I think people need to be treated as more than an ID number.  I think it ripples across into the economy and benefits all of us.

So today, thank you to the labor movement.  You have provided me with so much more than a three day weekend.