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Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass


Author: toni

~ 05/01/19

There are moments in life that define you.  You don’t always know those moments as they occur. Sometimes it takes years, introspection, and retrospection.

I remember the moment I decided to leave the Catholic Church. It is one of the clearest memories of my childhood. Yes, I said childhood, because I was in 4th grade when I made that decision. You might say that a 10 year old does not have enough understanding of the world to make such a huge decision. But I say that depends on the 10 year and the situation.

My mother was Italian. She grew up in a Roman Catholic household in Lucca, a little town outside Pisa, and had a deep faith in the church. So deep that, despite marrying an American Southern Baptist who brutally commanded obedience in virtually all matters (that is another story of male toxicity) she somehow managed to convince him to raise us kids in the Catholic Church. And so from the time of our births we were exposed/subjected to all the rituals of Catholicism. Baptism, weekly church, catechism classes, first Communions, etc.

There were four of us all in a row. Me, then three brothers. One after another. You can guess why, given the church’s stance on birth control. Every eighteen months or so, with regularity, my mother gave birth. The last two births were difficult ones, resulting in C-sections and had profound and lasting effects on my mother’s health.

You see, she was a child of WWII. In Italy, she grew up among the bombings and poverty. She knew the fear of hiding in the dark recesses of the catacombs of the wall that surrounded her medieval hometown to escape the bombings. She knew what it was to go hungry and traveled the countryside with her mother, older brother and uncle, artists all, eaking out a living by performing marionette shows and songs (she had a beautiful soprano voice) and collecting coins thrown their way. She told stories of sleeping in abandoned, bombed out villas, playing dress up in the elegant gowns that were left behind in the panic to run from the invading forces. She watched an uncle, a Partisan who fought against Mussolini and the Nazis, slowly die from a gunshot wound to the eye. And she recalled joyously the liberation by American troops, signalling the end of the war as they passed out Hershey bars to the jubilant children.

And in the midst of the horrors of war, living in less than sanitary conditions, unable to get medical care, she contracted rheumatic fever which damaged her heart and gave her mitral valve prolapse from which she suffered for the remainder of her days, through three open heart surgeries and which would eventually lead to the congestive heart failure that killed her at the age of 74, one day before her 75th birthday.

So by the time I was 10, a fourth grader, I had seen my beautiful young mother struggle with her health and heart issues. I had more than a few times been the one with her when she passed out in the course of the day,  while doing housework or caring for her brood. And I was the one to call the ambulance,  my brothers running around in diapers in the background.

By the time she had my fourth brother, the pregnancies had taken such a toll on her already damaged heart, that her cardiologist sat her down and advised her against ever getting pregnant again, as it could kill her. He advised her to go on the birth control pill to avoid the life-threatening pregnancy. I think you know where this is going.

I came home from school one day to find my mother weeping. I went to her to ask her what was wrong. And she told me.

Now some would argue that and adult woman had no business telling a 10 year old girl what she told me. But you must understand that I had long been in a role of a responsibility in our home. My mother, who learned English late in life, had trouble navigating the English speaking world. And I was often thrust in the role of translator. No other family around, and an often absent and disinterested father, I helped my brothers with homework. I filled out the paperwork for school. I walked them into their first day of class. So in reality, in our reality, it was natural that she would confide in me.

She explained that she had just come from our church where she had gone to see our priest. She explained to him her dire, life-threatening situation and asked if she might have permission to use birth control.

And the priest told her no.

But, she explained, she had four young children at home, and a husband who was gone for work a lot, and did not want die and leave them without a mother.

And the priest said, “If that happens, that is God’s will.”

God’s. Will.

God’s will that my mother should die rather than be allowed to use birth control. That four children would be left motherless rather than use birth control.

And my mom sobbed and said she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to die and leave us, but she did not want to go against

 I don’t remember what I said to my mother in response. After my initial horror and disbelief that the church, that God, would demand such a thing, I think I comforted her the best I could.  And then, I do remember getting very angry. And thinking that if these men and this church really believed they had the right to sentence my mother to death, then I wanted no part of it. And from then on, I refused to be a part of it. I refused to go to church or catechism or choir practice. And, to my surprise, they did not make me. I’m not sure why. I didn’t wonder then. I look back on it now and think maybe they were afraid of what I would say at church, to the priest even, if made to go. But from that day forward, the rest of my family attended and I stayed home.

I still, to this day, don’t believe that a god would make such a horrible demand of a young mother. But I know men would. We have seen it. The level of male toxicity in the Catholic Church has been brought to light. In their treatment of women…of children… I don’t say all in the church are guilty. There are good people. Good priests. But there are some men, men in power, who are more concerned with the preservation of institutions than the suffering of human beings. And it is wrong. Even as a 10 year old girl I knew it.  And that is why, to this day, I choose to celebrate my spirituality outside the confines of organized religion.

My mother never told me what she chose to do. I suspected it when 18 months later I did not have another sibling. Or even eighteen months after that. She did regularly attend confession. You know the saying, better to ask forgiveness than permission. The church is good that way.

Author: toni

~ 12/07/10

 

Have you ever been involved in a mommy carpool where you switch off with another mom for drop-off or pick up at school? And if so, have you ever been ONE BOOSTER SEAT SHORT because you forgot it in your husband’s car or forgot to switch back with the other mom?

If you’re like me, you HAVE at one time or another found yourself short on a car seat. And not only are the safety implications overwhelming. You are also faced with the horrific dilemma, pondering the most dreaded of all questions.

WHAT KID GOES WITHOUT THE BOOSTER SEAT?

Oh yeah. You’ve been there. I know you have. And it’s a tough decision, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not like the days when we were kids and we called dibs on riding shotgun at age 4. Or we battled over who got to lay down in the back of the station wagon while on that 400 mile car trip to Grandma’s. Heck, forget child safety seats. We didn’t even use seat belts! I don’t know about you but our seat belts were nothing but an space-consuming annoyance (we had 4 kids!) and pretty much ended up stuffed inside the crack of the seat only to emerge on the rare occasion when one of us rooted around in there in search of a lost quarter.

Nowadays we mommies know better. Because we have been bombarded with (and by “bombarded with” I mean we have obsessively GOOGLED) statistics about child survival rates in car accidents where a child WAS NOT in a child safety seat. So we’re pretty much horrified at the prospect of any child going without.

So what do you do when you’re one car seat short and you can’t get ahold of another mommy to bring you a spare?

If you are like me and every mommy I know, the answer, while not simple, is obvious.

OUR OWN CHILD GOES WITHOUT!

It’s true, in the couple of instances it happened to me, my daughter went without. And I’m not the only one who has made this decision.

My MAMMAKAZE carpooling friend did the same recently. When she forgot to get the booster seat back from me after I did drop off, she put my daughter in the booster and her SON  went without! This is in spite of the fact that my kid is only 2 inches away from legally being without one and her son is more along the line of 6 inches away. And we’re not the only ones! I’ve polled other moms and they’ve made THE EXACT SAME DECISION!

Crazy, isn’t it? Despite the fact that nature has wired us to protect our children at all costs  (I mean who wouldn’t choose to give the seat on the lifeboat to their kid instead of taking it themselves?) this car seat situation is one instance in which all those millions of years of biological hard-wiring are COMPLETELY OVERRIDDEN.

Why is that? Why would a parent choose the safety of another’s child over theirs? Well the answer is simple.

We don’t want to seem rude.

No kidding. The horror of being whispered about in coffee klatches around town behind our backs – of being labelled “that selfish mom”, it’s enough to short-circuits the synapses. 

Okay. It’s not as simple as that.  The truth is, this choice is all about the question:  Could we live with ourselves if something happened to the precious child of a good friend entrusted to our care? On the flip side is: Could we live with ourselves if something happened to our own child? I mean, not since ABRAHAM has a parent had been faced with such a dilemma! Okay, I exaggerate. At the very least, it’s a maddening CATCH 22 with no good solution!

So in order to cope, in order to prevent being frozen in our tracks, incapable of doing anything, we simply BOIL IT DOWN to … not wanting to be RUDE.

After all rude behavior is well, RUDE! Plain. Simple. Easy.

And while Emily Post may have never written rules on the subject, in the unwritten book of Mommy Etiquette it is the appropriate thing to do. You know, like letting the mommy with the green light pull into the drop-off lane because SHE HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY instead of making that right turn on a red and cutting her off to get into that drop-off lane first! (Are you reading this mommy in the white Mercedes?!)

Anyway, I don’t know what the answer to the problem is. Hauling an extra car seat around seems extreme. But then crossing your fingers and hoping for the best on that 1.5 mile car ride home is pretty iffy. Especially if you’ve read the statistics stating that most car accidents happen within five miles of home – which I know you have because GOOGLE is a mommy’s worst best friend – next to WEBMD.

I can’t think about it right now. I need to hit the internet and try to self-diagnose this patchy area on my right forearm before pick-up. Wait. Where did I put the extra booster?

WHO DO YOU CHOOSE WHEN YOU’RE A BOOSTER SHORT?

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Author: toni

~ 08/16/10

 

Let me begin by apologizing for my sporadic posting on MAMMAKAZE of late.

As a freelance blogger who gets paid the grand total of nil, I am at the mercy of other pressing issues that also don’t pay but make Randy the perfekt husband very happy when I deal with them. For example, the leaking dishwasher that damaged the hardwood floor near the fridge, caused mold all over the drywall beneath the center island and required the shopping around for the best deal on a dishwasher that matched our other appliances (Lowe’s NOT Sears by the way – who knew?).  Finding plumbers, drywallers, and painters (that was me) — all major but necessary life time sucks.  

Then there was the back-to-school prep which required marathon shopping to find the ideal lunchbox, first day outfit, and an entire restock of socks and undies. You MAMMAKAZES know the drama involved in that. If you have a girl there’s endless perusing and comparing and deciding. If you have a boy, well, they couldn’t care less about shopping and endlessly complain that they’d rather be home playing their Wii.

Finally, however, and the biggest reason I have been missing from the blogosphere –

I had LASIK  surgery done to both my eyes!

How was it, you ask? Well, there are a lot of fabulous things about it –  like the fact that I can see for the first time since I was 8. Unfortunately, the downside is the fact that I can see for the first time since I was 8.

TOP TEN WORST THINGS ABOUT LASIK

10.     Seeing how much body hair I have previously overlooked during the shaving process (sorry Randy)

9.      Big ol’ bags under the eyes (not as a result of the Lasik, but formally hidden by glasses).

8.      The ability to  see gray hairs = more frequent visits to the salon = more money

7.      Two vacations we won’t be having

6.      Constant (and pointless) poking at the bridge of my nose with my right index finger!

5.      The fact that I don’t look as good without my glasses as Angelina Jolie (whom my doc also zapped)*

4.      That’s what I look like in a compromising position?!?!  (again, my apologies Randy)

3.      My kid feels self-conscious that she’s the only one in the family wearing glasses (yet another thing mommy can feel guilty about!)

2.      Now I look as smart as Kim Kardashian (whom my doctor did too)

1.       Holy #!%*! Is the shower really that  dirty?

 

Well, there you have it. Hey,  if you can’t find humor in having a thin layer of your cornea slit off and folded back while the remainder of your cornea is ablated, well, then what’s the point of anything?

In a few days I’ll do a post about the whole experience for those of you who may be considering it.  Stayed tuned!

* I re-read the fine print of the pre-op form and nowhere does it guarantee that I will look as good as Angelina Jolie without my glasses.  Therefore, I will not be pursuing the lawsuit.

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Author: toni

~ 07/27/10

 

Ever heard the saying “looking at life through rose-colored glasses”? Then you know it refers to someone who looks at life with a rosy optimism. I wish I was guilty of that. I’ve always envied people who manage to be endlessly upbeat and full of optimism and hope. You know them, they’re the ones who make lemonade when handed lemons. When I get handed lemons I suck on them and make a sour face.  Anyway, Melanie in “Gone With The Wind” was one of those lemonade-making characters. No matter that the Civil War stripped her of everything, no matter that she was starving, no matter that Scarlet was so mean to her and secretly on the prowl to steal her husband Ashley – although heaven knows why she wanted that man pansy when she had Clark Gable  – that Melanie, she could find the good in everything and everyone. I hated envied her.

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that I’m guilty at looking at life THRU something all right.  But it isn’t rose-colored glasses.

I’m guilty of looking at life through a Canon digital camera viewfinder. And as I only recently came to realize, there’s nothing rosy about it.

I was at the Hollywood Bowl a couple of weekends back. It was the first trip for my daughter Julia (who is eight) and we took her to the Bugs Bunny show where the L.A. Philharmonic plays along to the cartoons projected on big screens. And as I was videotaping the fireworks finale at one point I turned the camera toward my daughter, you know, to capture her expression. I could see her there, in profile, her wide eyes lit by the flashing fireworks in the sky, her face filled with awe and the joy of the moment. I paused for a moment, sort of taken aback by the utter rapture  she seemed to be experiencing. I mean, what we were doing was cool, but was it truly that amazing? 

At first I attributed it to the fact that she was only 8 and at 8 one is experiencing so many things for the first time. And as we all know, the first time is the most exciting. After all, it had been that way when we took her to Disneyland for the first time. So thrilled was she by the sights, the sounds, the magic of it all that it even rubbed off on jaded old me who had been to Disneyland too many times to count – for whom the magic had completely worn off.

But when I put down the camera that night at the Bowl and I looked at what she was looking at, I mean REALLY looked at it, through my very own eyes, not the viewfinder of my camera – I realized, her feeling of awe had nothing to do with being 8. I looked up at the fireworks in the sky, big and beautiful and sparkly, shattering light over the dome of the Bowl. At the crescent moon that hung in the distance on that crystal clear summer night. At the 18,000 upturned faces all experiencing this moment together. And you know what? To my amazement, it truly WAS amazing!

And I realized, I hadn’t been seeing it. I mean, I was  seeing it on the tiny video display but I wasn’t seeing  it seeing it.

And in that instant, it also occured to me that this has been the case for the last 8 1/2 years of my life! Why 8 1/2 years exactly? Because that’s how long my daughter’s been in the picture – figuratively and literally.

Since she was born and I got my first high quality digital camera, I have chronicled every move, burp, smile, gurgle, and later dance recital, talent show, piano recital, etc.  It’s the reason  Randy the perfekt husband gave me the nickname MAMMARAZI. And while I have recorded all these moments in her life for posterity, I never really experienced them first hand because I was separated from these events  as they were happening – by the camera!  So busy was I  making sure the images were centered, that no one was walking across the frame, that the focus was right, that there was enough head room – that I never truly got to enjoy them. Because I was never, not once,  in the actual moment – watching my little girl sing joyfully at the top of her lungs, tap dance to the perfect rhythm of a song, or even smile shyly as she was handed an award for being an exceptional student.

And suddenly I was very sad. Suddenly, the loss of the last 8 1/2 years hit me like a ton of bricks.

And I realized we have become photo obsessed, we parents these days.  That’s right. It’s not just me. There isn’t a single birthday party or school event I go to that doesn’t feature dozens of parents jockeying for position to get the perfect picture or video of their kid.  It’s such chaos and madness you’d think Brangelina was on the red carpet announcing another adoption! One MAMMAKAZE joked about the fact that whenever her one year old heard the word SMILE, he immediately struck a pose, even if there wasn’t a camera around! This is how conditioned our kids have become to having a camera in their faces.

I mean, my stepdad was a professional photographer and he never took as many pictures of the four of us kids the whole time we were growing up as I have taken of my one, single, only child in the past 8 years!  

I don’t know if it’s the ease and cheapness of taking pictures now – the fact that we can immediately see what we’ve taken and delete what’s bad without having to wait a week and pay a fortune for images that feature closed eyes, a partial thumb over the lens or some wise-acre sticking two fingers up behind someone’s head.

Whatever it is, we’ve created a whole generation of parents that will have a lifetime of memories of taking pictures of their kids , but not of the moments themselves. Very sad.

So I have VOWED that next time Julia gets an award or does a performance or blows out a birthday candle I will sit back, relax and take it in, burning it forever on that brilliant little hard drive known as the cerebral cortex.  Well, I mean, as long as Randy is taking the pictures with the Canon. Oh. And my brother John is doing video on that amazing Nikon he has with the super long lens. That thing captures images like nobody’s business!

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Author: toni

~ 06/14/10

I was going to do a post today about the hidden horrors of orthodontia…to the parent. However, my attention has been drawn to yet another horrific example that has popped up this week of bad parenting.

I don’t know if you’ve seen this video that’s going around of the 2 year-old INDONESIAN BOY with a 2 pack a day smoking habit, but if you haven’t you should take a gander.

WHAT THE WHAT THE?!!!!!

I mean, did you see that kid? The leather jacket, the way he flicks that cigarette around. What is he? The reincarnation of Charles Bukowski or something? The last time I’ve seen that kind of behavior  it was 50ish and sitting next to me at a blackjack table in Vegas.

And the toddler lights his own cigarettes. Julia’s 8 and I still won’t let her handle fire! I’m pretty sure Child Protective Services would be against it too. Apparently they don’t have that agency where this kid lives.

And his dad thinks he’s healthy?! Is he kidding? If the lung cancer doesn’t get the kid, the obesity will. And the whole thing about the dad not being able to take the cigarettes from him because he’s pitches a terrible tantrum. Well, I DO remember the nightmare it was taking the bottle away from Julia. Yikes! Toddlers CAN be terrifying. BUT YOU’RE THE PARENT! TAKE SOME FREAKING RESPONSIBILITY!

Then again, maybe the cigarette smoking is the least of the kid’s problems. Because if you look closely at the end of the video when he’s settling down for his afternoon nap with his ba-ba after a long morning of chain smoking – I’m pretty sure that’s a GUN that other little kid is waving around his head.

What a tragedy. What idiot parents.

Well, next time you’re being eaten away by rot-gut guilt over the fact that your kid didn’t eat a green veggie all day, or that you’re two weeks behind on their annual well child checkup, remember that at least you’re not spending their college education on cigarettes … for them! And at least that  checkup won’t have to include a chest X-ray screening for lung cancer.

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Author: toni

~ 06/01/10

 

Welcome to Mommy Confessions, where I confess my mommy sins for all to read in the hopes that it will make other mommies feel less guilty and/or lame about their failings in the area of mommyhood.

My Confession for Today:

I suck as a cook.

 

Okay, I have always sucked. That is no big news or secret. Especially amongst the members of our household who are reliant on me for nourishment.

I am not, nor have I ever been one of those women who can whip up a gourmet meal from the handful of items around the kitchen. And I HATE watching those shows on TV where they do that and make it seem so easy. They make me feel inadequate, even though I know that behind the scenes they have 20 people doing the prep work. I’m not instinctive that way. Or ever prepared enough.

I have wanted to try recipes, but I never seem to have the right ingredients or spices hanging around in my fridge or cupboard. And it REALLLY bugs me to have go out and buy an expensive bottle of spice only to use one teaspoon on a recipe I will probably never make again because it sucks because I am unable to focus for long enough to keep track of how many cups or ounces I have put in. Yeah, that’s right. I can’t even follow a recipe. I get really, really distracted when I cook. Probably because my heart is not in it. Or I’m missing the gene. Yeah, that’s it.

Pretty lame, huh? Well, it gets worse than that. And this is where the real confession comes in.

This last weekend Randy the Perfekt Husband accompanied me on a trip to Trader Joe’s. He rarely does this as I do most of the grocery shopping. But he does love him some Trader Joe’s. He feels about this place the way he does about Costco - like a kid in a candy store- because they have so many fun and interesting items.  And when he goes to either place we always end up buying a lot more stuff than we plan on.

Anyway, as we were going down the aisles at TJ’s he spots these overpriced stuffed chicken breasts. They were stuffed with some kind of fancy cheese and cranberries and ingredients I’m certain I don’t have anywhere in my house. You know, the kind of thing I could do at home for a lot cheaper if I had any clue or inclination – which I don’t.

Well, here they were, this overpriced pack of 2 fancy stuffed chicken breasts, and Randy said he thought those looked good. So I thought, what the heck. I’ll get them. It’s like making a gourmet meal without me making a gourmet meal. And all I had to do was bake them for 40 minutes or 165 degrees. I couldn’t screw that up, right?

WRONG!

So last night I go to make these lovely overpriced gourmet chicken breasts that someone else has done all the hard work on. I heat the oven, remove them from the packaging and put them in a shallow pan covered with aluminum foil per the instructions. I set the timer for 20 minutes. BEEP! I remove the foil and set the timer for another 20 minutes.

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself at this point because while this was going on I managed to whip up some whole wheat couscous (microwave instructions 3.5 minutes) and edamame (stove top 5 minutes). I’m thinking, my family’s going to be doing some gooooood eatin’ tonight.

BEEP! Chicken’s done. At this point I stick the thermometer we got for a wedding present and have never used (why not, as long as I was being uber domestic, right?) into one of the breasts. I watch the temp climb but it never gets past 140. What the what the? How can this be? I have followed the instructions to the letter. And I know for a fact that my oven runs hot so it can’t be a temperature issue.

Perplexed, I stuck a fork in one and started to turn it over. And that’s when I saw it .

A SHRIVELED, PARTIALLY MELTED PIECE OF PACKING PLASTIC!

You know what I’m talking about. Those little liners they put between meat and the styrofoam packaging. I’ve encountered them before, in packages of turkey or beef. Usually however, they are large and VISIBLE! Not squares smaller than the chicken breast under which they sit! Completely hidden from view! And yep, upon further investigation, there was one under each breast!

AAAAAGGGHHHH! I mean, how was I supposed to know they were there, sticking to the bottom of my overpriced piece of stuffed chicken?!

I know, I know. If I was a better, more experienced or even caring cook, I would have known. I would have at least known to look.

I felt like a total idiot. A complete and utter mommy moron in the kitchen. And the worst part was confessing it to my family who looked at me with word-filled eyes but who said ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! (Definitely the best way to go given my emotional state).

Naturally I couldn’t feed the chicken to my family. Not after all the articles I have read about toxins that are released from plastics into food when they’re heated. And then there was Randy’s proclamation “I’m not eating that!” which also greatly influenced my decision.

In the end, after a period of mourning during which I spent a little time with the breasts imagining the meal that could have been, I dumped them uncermoniously into the trash.

Yep, I threw out those breasts and threw some sausages on the grill (organic, no preservatives, natch!) and my poor family was deprived yet again of anything resembling a special meal.

And though it’s not in my nature, I’m trying to look at the bright side. Had I not decided to use a thermometer for the first time in my life, I might have assumed those breasts were done. I would have then scooped them onto plates and served them up, only discovering AFTER A MOUTHFUL, that there was an unwanted ingredient in them.

Then I would have felt lamer. Nah. I couldn’t have felt lamer. Just maybe more guilty. Yeah, that’s it. Guilty. From now on, I’m sticking to what I know. Boiling pasta noodles and heating sauce from a jar. You know, for my family’s sake. SIGH.

HOW ABOUT YOU? ANY EMBARRASSING MOMMY MOMENTS IN THE KITCHEN?

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