Friday, September 3, 2010

Actual Conversation

Back story. The Matron is on the phone with her mother-in-law, just checking in.

Matron: "Yes, that's right. Things are really busy. I feel like I'm doing half of everything -- half teaching, half writing the book, half parenting. Three kids, tenure track, book contract, theater for Scarlett, new high school, new junior high, the 60 lb puppy who eats laundry--- but I have about four hours a day for the domestic stuff because of the job. And then there is cleaning. I'm also co-chair of the Parent-Teacher Organization. I'm totally strapped. Does that sound as pathetic as I think it does?.

Here, the Matron waits for support and sympathy. Like, ' wow, I know you have so much on your plate.' She really wants someone to say '' Oh, honey, you're amazing. You're doing so much -- you ARE the rock star!! hang in there." That's what she wanted to hear. And maybe be handed a beer and a pill of indiscriminate origin.

Instead. . . .

MIL: "When I was 26 years old, I had a 3 year old, a 14 month old and a husband who thought 'helping' meant putting his beer bottle in the sink. And there were many beer bottles. Then I gave birth to twins -- one boy, one girl(reminder, you're married to the boy). So here I am with a 3 year old, 14 month old, and twin newborns. Remember, this is when men did nothing. But drink beer, in my case. I was lucky if he scraped a plate or patted a child's head. One week into the four children, with 2 hours of sleep and up off and on all night with the twins --and the 14 month old who was scared and sleepless -- I feel to my knees at 4 in the morning without any sleep for two days and no food --and a baby crying in the background and the toddler awake again -- and prayed to St. Anne, the patron saint of mothers. I begged her for help and strength. I begged. I was on the floor, crying for the strength to continue. You know what happened? The spirit of St. Anne came and descended upon me, filling my heart with the Holy Spirit and my body with strength. I stood up and was never tired again.

Significant Pause wherein the Matron understood she was to fully appreciate the significance of this moment, both for her MIL and for her considerably lesser self (as someone who has no direct line to saints).

Matron: "You stood up and were never tired again? With a 3 year old, 14 month old and newborn twins? Never tired again?"


Matron: "Do you have a cell phone or email address for that saint?"

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Blethic = Blog + Ethic. She should copyright this.

Regular readers know that the Matron rarely misses more than one week day of blog posts, so she's certain that the dearth of commentary on Tuesday and Wednesday was traumatic for all involved--it certainly was for her!

But Tuesday was a big work day, and yesterday?

The Matron had every intention of pithy commentary, perhaps following up Monday's post with more diagnostics. In the end, she was side-tracked by several things.

1. Back to School Frenzy: this involved emergency shopping trips, some hysteria from Scarlett's quarters ("NOBODY IS HELPING ME GET READY FOR SCHOOL AND I'M STARTING JUNIOR HIGH AND I'M NOT TRULY OLD OR MATURE ENOUGH FOR THAT!"). There were several hours of this.

2. HWCBN: decided he needed a family meeting on communication skills. This would involve largely critiquing the Matron's method of conveying information. It turns out that she has multiple flaws. As the teenage years progress, he has promised to document and delineate those flaws in great detail and is decidedly not interested in surveying his own landscape. Thank you, honey.

3. The 55 lb puppy: who is now named BOC (short for Big Old Canine). Here's what Boc destroyed yesterday -- four pens, one shoe, two small stuffed animals, a tube of acne cream, a fork, two library books, one set of head phones, a pillow, three pair of athletic socks, the tea pot (yes, because he is big enough to reach onto the kitchen counter and knock this off in the interest of FOOD), Satan's Familiar's sense of safety and the Matron's sanity. There was also a general attempt at Merrick, who, in Boc's opinion, appears as a giant chew toy. Merrick is unfortunately whole-heartedly supportive of this perspective and offers himself up with abandon.

4. The Weird Al Yankovic concert: a two and a half hour event, preceded by four hours at the Minnesota State Fair.

Matron: "I know school hasn't started yet, but does anyone here remember that I have a full-time job and might not have time to spend six and a half hours at the State Fair, two of which will be spent watching a middle-aged man prance around in funny-colored pantsuits and strange costumes?"

She spent some time considering reasons she absolutely could not go to the concert: migraine? Dog bite? Actual student email or phone call?

John: "It's either the State Fair and Weird Al or nine hours on Friday at Valley Fair. Pick. They want you to go to at least one of them."

Actually, the concert was highly entertaining.

They got home at 11 pm last night.

Matron: "Everyone, right to your rooms. Bed!"

WHCBN: "We need to revisit that communication discussion. I have a few more things to say."


Merrick: "Can I watch some TV when we get home?"

Conveniently, she went to bed at 12:45 only to be awakened by a 3 a.m. thunderstorm that also aroused the other hysteric in the house.

Scarlett: "ARE WE GOING TO DIE?"

And Boc decided 5:00 a.m. was an ideal time to invite the Matron on a play date.

That's why the blog was quiet. And why there are some rather significant craters under her otherwise lovely eyes.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Friendship and Other Laments

The Matron has rather tried and true rules regarding blogging about friendships: Don’t. She has a great big slew of friends, men and women who sustain and inspire. One lovely friend comes immediately to mind. When Merrick was a toddler, yours truly was the campaign manager for a St. Paul mayoral race! Do you know what being a campaign manager for a mayoral race in a large city (okay, medium city) means? You work from 5:30 a.m until midnight every day for several months. Plus, there might be children you have to care for while your husband works his full-time job. And you don’t get paid!

The Matron has long been a political animal and her children started carrying signs and chanting the minute they were ambulatory. She’s sure that HWCBN will be a Tea Party member, just in the spirit of opposition. This is a rather long and winding way of saying that just days before the election, while she in the midst of constant crisis, panic, media frenzy and negotiation, Scarlett’s birthday happened to get in the way.

Scarlett: “Mom? Did you remember to buy the invitations for my 10 friends, the cake, the banner, the ice cream and make all those gift bags?”

Matron: “Uh, sure sweetie.”

Of course, she had completely forgotten about the Diva’s Big Day.

Matron on cell phone (to which she was physically connected for five months) to Really Good Girlfriend (sobbing): “How am I going to do all this work for the birthday bash? I have 15 meetings a day, forty press releases, 100 volunteers to manage and a skittish candidate!! Do you have any wine? Is this a good time to experiment with abusing prescription drugs?”

Girlfriend: “Don’t worry. The birthday is done. I’m on it.”

And readers? The day before the birthday party, this friend dropped off two boxes of stuff: party bags (stuffed and ready to go), cake, paper plates, napkins, party games, soda, paper cups, crepe paper streamers, plastic table cloth for the picnic table, candles, plastic forks—and wine. She had a local grocer deliver the ice cream the day of the event itself.

These are the kinds of friends the Matron has. And regular readers may notice that a post about a friendship, especially problems involved therein, are rare. So forgive her the wee bit-o-vent. Know the parties involved do not read this blog.

She tries to return the favor and goodwill modeled by her friend who saved the birthday (right down to a disposable camera for documentation, just in case). So when the Matron discovered – nearly two weeks ago—at 10:50 pm on a Wednesday night that Scarlett had lice, she declined to allow her daughter to accompany one of her best friends on a camping trip to Canada—a trip without a washing machine and with communal sleeping and living arrangements. They were scheduled to leave Friday afternoon. She had just one solid day, Thursday, to assess the situation and decide. Scarlett, on her end, gave up several callbacks and acting opportunities to take this trip. Sometimes bad things happen and lice was certainly one of them. She could not, neither as a friend or supporter of good public health, dump this problem on someone else.

Here’s the take-away question: do you treat lice on a Thursday morning and send your child off on a camping trip with another family the next day, expecting that they will do all the combing and retreating that lice require? Or do you empathically help the children involved deal with their great disappointment and let another family off the critter hook?

That is really a rhetorical question because she thinks it’s a no-brainer. Scarlett didn’t go (and cried for hours – one more reason to fully believe her mother is indeed set on ruining her life).

But the other family – who have one child and truly wanted a friend (who wouldn’t!) lobbied hard to take Scarlett. They offered to treat, to comb, to care for her. The Matron melted under pressure. Her no became a ‘well, maybe.’ She hawed and hemmed; she hemmed and hawed. She should have stuck to her immediate no but she’s weak in the people pleasing department. But when she found that last liquid, live egg on Friday morning? Clearly, the answer had to remain no. She made the hard call and cancelled.

Later that day, on the eve of the departure, the Matron called the parents to reiterate her concern for their daughter and her own apologies for the unfortunate situation. Scarlett’s friend answered the phone.

Matron: “Bethany, can I talk to your Mom?”

Bethany (so not her real name): “She has a headache.”

Matron: “Your Dad?”

Bethany: “Dad, can you talk to Mary?”

Father in background: “Tell her I have a headache.”

Upon their return, the father in question sent the Matron an email message in which he informed her that she created “three days of Crisis and Panic” for no reason, handled the situation poorly (okay, she will admit she should have stuck to her no instead of waffling) and otherwise ruined their trip. Surprise! He didn’t inquire as to whether or not the lice were gone or how that whole week of laundry and toil went –just made sure she knew she was a very bad person.

Although the Matron is working either toward sainthood or a really good gig during the next round of reincarnation, she did reply with a conciliatory message that sunk to one clearly sarcastic line thanking him for his ‘supportive and thoughtful’ message. After all, who got to go on a vacation and who combed lice out of hair two hours a day for a week at the start of the fall semester?

Then he emailed her this link, without comment.

Thank God-Buddha-Oprah-Allah-Universe that Reason grabbed the Matron by her shoulders and firmly moved her away from the computer until she had calmed down enough not to offer her own friendly links for various psychological disorders. Instead, she ignored it. And blocked his email.

Damage, done. Friendships, altered. Someday there may be an apology? Until then –and because this is such good material (sorry, she’s wired that way) – she is considering this relationship blogging fodder and, alas, something from the past.

Of course, HE doesn’t have a blog wherein he gets to be the center of attention – uh oh! Maybe she better click on that link, after all!! She sort of likes living life out loud and in front of others (unlike HWCBN).