Tuesday, December 30, 2014

No Answer

As my now seventeen-year-old daughter moved from childhood into her tweens and teens, I attended a handful of parenting workshops. These were offered, free of charge, by her elementary, middle and high schools. The PTO would invite a speaker and all the concerned moms (and a couple of dads) would dutifully attend "How to Raise a Resilient Child." Or "Helping Your Student Handle Middle School Stress." Or "Don't Panic, It's Just Puberty."

One thing we heard over and over was that we were — in essence — heading back into the "Terrible Twos." Becoming a teen and becoming a toddler had much in common. So we were advised to lock dangerous substances away, teen-proof the house as we once child-proofed it. And, most important, set firm rules and stand our ground.

The problem was — and has been — that I'm not very good at it.

When my daughter was about eighteen months old, her wonderful pediatrician explained what was in store.

"First of all," he told me, "The 'Terrible Twos' is a misnomer. It lasts longer than a year. It's more like the 'Terrible One-and-a-Half to Threes.' She'll be testing her boundaries all the time." His advice? "Only say 'No' when you mean it. If that means that you say 'Yes' 99% of the time, that's okay. Just make sure that when you do say 'No,' you follow through."

That's what I've done. As advised, I've followed through on the "No's," but they've been few and far between. In my defense, it's been very easy to say "Yes." My daughter was a remarkably well-behaved little girl. She was good-natured and compliant. There was really never any reason for so-called "Tough Love." She rarely asked for anything inappropriate and I simply said "Yes."

Sadly, what was a successful strategy for my toddler has proven to be an enormous stressor where my teen is concerned.

These days, my daughter tends to make announcements rather than asking for permission. Eight months into her driver's license (Lord help me!), she's mobile and independent. I was never really big on curfews anyway. We agreed that I'd stop micromanaging her homework and studies this year. And, like most kids in suburban America, she's wired and connected pretty much 24/7.

You can understand her utter shock, her sheer incomprehension, when she can't do what she wants with whom she wants, where and when she wants.

But, sometimes I have to say "No."


Before you call Social Services, let me assure you (and myself) that in the grand scheme of teenage things, my daughter is a very good girl. She doesn't drink or do drugs or endanger herself in other ways. I do think she drives a bit too fast, but she (and my husband) claim that I drive too slow.

I should be grateful — and, truly, I am — that we haven't fought over the really big stuff. Still this year has been difficult. The push-me/pull-you of her growing independence (and her age-related incomprehension of the concept of consequences) has been really tough.

What she doesn't (or won't) understand is that as her mother, I do have to step in sometimes. Its my job. And it's no fun for me, let me tell you. This includes making her go to bed when she's overtired or catching a cold. It includes at least a semblance of moderating the use of electronics. It includes assuring that her grades stay at the excellent level they've always been.

Would it be nicer to take the easy road, never say "no," never disagree?

Hell, yes!

That's not my job. My job is to help her succeed and become the best possible version of herself. Really.

Sometimes my job sucks. Really.

Right now, I'm being punished for the one percent of the time that I actually say and mean "No." Someday, maybe, I'll get credit for the other 99%.

For a Christmas surprise, my daughter wrapped her PSAT scores and placed them under our tree for me. She achieved absolutely respectable scores across the board, but one of her lowest marks was part of the Critical Reading section, specifically "Determining the meaning of words." 

Apparently they must have asked her to define the word "No." 

You see, we're having some trouble with that one.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Teenage Wonderland

It's their world, we're just walking in it.

Cell phones ring, texts are texting
And your parents, you are vexing
It's here, Christmas Day,
So put your iPhone away,
Pissed off in a teenage wonderland.

Put away, is the backpack.
Why do you look like such a sad sack?
Tons of homework, it's true,
But you've two weeks till it's due.
Sulking in a teenage wonderland.

Holidays can be kind of boring —
Sorry your BFFs aren't around.
After lunch, Daddy will be snoring
So when you use the iPad,
Please turn down the sound.

Santa's come, stop your whining.
So many gifts, now you're shining!
A saddle, some clothes ...
And what else who knows?
Smiling in a teenage wonderland.

Finally smiling in a teenage wonderland.

Under the tree, smiling in a teenage wonderland.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Speak the Speech, I Pray You

Did you watch The Brady Bunch when you were growing up?

Wait, what am I saying? Of course you did. 

Remember how Carol and Mike were always shaking their heads, bemused, over the hip teen slang that Marcia and Greg (and Jan and Peter and eventually Cindy and Bobby) used? Phrases like "Outta Sight," "Groovy"  and "Far Out!" 

Some words we used in the 1970s are still all right. "Cool," for example, in its laid back minimalism, hasn't really lost its relevance. "Neat" also works, in moderation.

Like any generation, though, my teenaged daughter and her peers have come up with a whole new glossary of terms for us. Many are shaped by the 21st century phenomenon of texting. So, for example, you don't just see the acronym "WTF" on your mobile, you hear people say it. The initials themselves, I mean. Not the complete (and colorful) phrase they allude to.

Language is a living thing. Sarah Palin will be the first to point out that Shakespeare himself invented words and turns of phrase as he wrote his wonderful (or should I say "amazeballs?") plays. In fact, without him, we wouldn't have such common colloquialisms as:

All's well that ends well
Brave new world
Come what may
Dead as a doornail
Eaten out of house and home
Flesh and blood
Good riddance

I could keep going (after all, there are another 19 letters in the alphabet and at least five times that many sayings purportedly coined by the Bard).

Who knows? Will one of today's teenagers come up with the next "What's in a name" or "Wearing my heart on my sleeve?"

Um ... doubtful. 

But, let's stay optimistic and embrace change anyway. As the mother of a teenager, I long ago (l-o-n-g ago) gave up trying to be "with it." As a writer, though, I enjoy staying abreast of our evolving tongue. To that effort, I've compiled some current teen slang for your reading pleasure. Remember, slang changes at the speed of ... well ... at the speed of a seventeen-year-old texting. It's tough to stay au courant, but I'll have a go here:

Bae - Special person, acronym for "Before Anyone Else," also short for "Babe"

I Literally Can't - Truncated exclamation for something that's so fantastic you — literally — can't finish the thought

Thirsty - Desperate for attention (not for water or Diet Coke or anything liquid)

Yaass - Emphatic synonym for "Yes"

On Fleek - Adjective meaning penultimate, exactly on point

Ship - Verb that means to support a relationship

OTP - Acronym standing for "One True Pairing," as in Katy and Russell (or not), or Justin and Selena (or not), or Taylor and Taylor (or NOT)

Turn Up - To get excited and prepared to party, related to post-partying "Turnt," which conveniently rhymes with "burnt"

Basic - A dismissive description for someone who is so unoriginal that the only place they shop is The Gap and the only music they listen to is One Direction

Throw Shade - To give someone the evil eye, particularly effective on the red carpet

Ratchet - An adjective for mean, annoying, gross or just plain nasty

There are countless others and more invented every day. In fact, if it's on my radar at all, it's probably way past its expiration date. Should we applaud their creativity? Or wring our hands in despair?

Oh, my young friends, speak the speech, I pray you. 

Because I literally can't ...

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

All These Brother and Sister Creatures

Did you know that at midnight on Christmas Eve, animals are given the gift of human speech? 

In many European cultures, this lovely superstition has children sneaking downstairs and into barnyards and stables, hoping to witness the miracle for themselves.

The tradition probably sources back to the nativity. As you probably remember from Sunday school (or the creepy Little Drummer Boy "Gift of Love" TV special from the 60s), in the story of Jesus's birth, his parents could find "no room at the inn." So they settled into a "lowly manger" and it was there, among farm animals, that Mary delivered. Those creatures, blessed to be present, passed the gift of speech down to their descendants two thousand years later.

It's a lovely story, whether you consider human speech a gift or not (I certainly know people in whom that gift is wasted — to quote my mother-in-law (and many others), "If you can't say something nice ..."). Those of us who make animals part of our families speak with them year-round. And they find ways to answer, Christmas Eve or not.

In our greater family, this season has marked the passing of several beloved animals. My brother's family lost a special cat about a month ago. My business partner and his husband lost a beautiful dog. And, just this week, an older equine at my teenage daughter's stable, a retired race horse, ran wildly around the paddock only to collapse and die.

We comfort ourselves as well as we can. "He lived a long life." "She was adored and knew it." "He died doing what he loved to do."

But, despite kind words and common sense, there's a hole in our hearts. St. Francis called animals our "Brother and sister creatures." I would add "Son and daughter."

This year marks our first Christmas in eighteen without our own Boogalie (that's Cajun for "Swamp Monster"). Boogalie was a very little dog with a very big personality. He joined our family a year and a half before our daughter did and passed away in July. He has left an empty place in the kitchen (my husband calls it our "Tiny Tim corner"); after five months, I've finally stopped calling to him when I get home.

The trouble is that these animal family members become completely human to many of us. But, they don't enjoy human lifespans. With any luck, we do, so we must rebuild without them. Find new ways to love them even though they've left us.

The other day, after "General" died, my daughter's stable posted a beautiful poem to help heal all the young equestriennes who were mourning his loss. It's called "Don't Cry For The Horses" by Brenda Riley-Seymore.

Don't cry for the horses that life has set free.
A million white horses, forever to be.
Don't cry for the horses now in God's hands. 
As they dance and prance to a heavenly band. 

They were ours as a gift, but never to keep
As they close their eyes, forever to sleep.
Their spirits unbound, forever to fly. 
A million white horses, against the blue sky.

Look up into Heaven. You will see them above. 
The horse we lost, the horse we loved. 
Manes and tails flying, they gallop through time. 
They were never yours, they were never mine.

Don't cry for the horses, they will be back someday. 
When our time has come, they will show us the way.
Do you hear that soft nicker close to your ear?
Don't cry for the horses, love the ones that are here. 

It was strange to do my Christmas shopping this year without picking up boxes of treats, rubber  balls and squeaky toys (Boogs was so ferocious; toys typically lasted about ten minutes, rarely making it out from under the tree). When I pulled out our stockings earlier this month, there was a particular one, red plaid and bone-shaped, that I kissed and put back away. 

We'll pass it on to another little family member next year.

This year, we'll just remember.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hollywood's Bottom Line is Biased, Big-Time

They say World War III will be fought digitally.

Think about it. If someone could hack into the Department of Defense or hospitals or nuclear power plants or every major bank, we would be crippled. Until that happens, we'll have to settle for nude pictures stolen from celebrities and ill-advised email rants. 

If you've been watching the news lately, you've heard a lot about the recent security breach at Sony Pictures. Stars' aliases are out there now (Jude Law is "Mr. Perry," Natalie Portman is "Lauren Brown"). Unreleased films may or may not have been leaked. And, Angelina Jolie was referred to as “a minimally talented spoiled brat.” It's all very entertaining. 

Well, maybe not to Angelina.

What bothers me most is the monetary gender divide that's surfaced. It's no secret that men make more money than women — not just in Hollywood but across all industries. But, now through the leaked emails, there's very specific proof that movie studios are compensating their male stars more than their female ones.

According to an email stream between top executives at Sony and Columbia Pictures, the director and five stars of last year's American Hustle were given backend deals as follows:

David O. Russell, 9 points
Christian Bale, 9 points
Bradley Cooper, 9 points
Jeremy Renner, 9 points

Do we see a pattern here? Now, let's take a look at the film's celebrated actresses:

Amy Adams, 7 points
Jennifer Lawrence, 7 points

Ah, there's a pattern here too. For the record, both women were nominated for Academy Awards. So it wouldn't appear that their performances were in any way sub-par. In case you're wondering just how significant (or in-), a two-point (which means two percent) spread is, the movie has earned more than $250 million worldwide.


This discrepancy isn't limited to the talent in front of the cameras either. The hacked documents included a spreadsheet of 6,000 Sony employees and their salaries. Out of the seventeen who earned more than $1,000,000 a year, only one was a woman. And, a co-president of production for Columbia Pictures, she makes nearly a million less than her counterpart, someone who does exactly the same job but happens to have a penis.

Sorry, I'm pissed.

The actresses (and other under-paid Sony employees involved) haven't said much yet. My hope is that their silence is the result of good counsel from attorneys. My hope is that they're getting ready to sue.

And, if that happens, if Jennifer and Amy become the Lily Ledbetters of Tinseltown, I'll be the first to applaud the hackers for a job well done. Certainly, shedding light on gender inequality wasn't their objecctive. But what a wonderful byproduct.

We live in a digital world, and online reputations — personal and professional — are easily damaged and difficult to rebuild. Eventually some evil programming wunderkind may start WWIII.

Until then, can't we please stop the war on women?

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ghosts of Christmas Parties Past

This weekend, I had my annual tree-trimming party, and something unexpected happened about halfway through the afternoon. I was talking to a small group of adults by the fireplace in our dining room. We were sipping wine and nibbling mini quiches. 

Suddenly everything in the room was shaking.

No, I don't live in California; this wasn't an earthquake. It was two boys, the sons of good friends of ours, running across the second floor of our antique house. Talk about a blast from the past! My own offspring is now seventeen years old. She and her friends hang out in her room sometimes (when they're not buried in homework), but they don't race around. They're way too laid back for that. 

But they used to.

Our holiday party tradition predates my teenage daughter, my handsome husband, my grownup house ... pretty much everything. It started in 1985. I had a one-room apartment on Beacon Hill and a tall, virtually empty Christmas tree. I invited college friends, a handful of neighbors and the other women who worked at Talbots (my survival job while I job-hunted, which was great fun and where I scored a Coach briefcase I still use a quarter of a century later). "Make or bring an ornament" read the invitation. I still have some of the wonderful trinkets from that first year: glass icicles; a little wooden Santa; handmade seashells glued together, hanging from green yarn (they're much prettier than they sound).

I had a Christmas party every year and once I moved to the suburbs with my boyfriend (soon to be fiance and eventually husband), we continued. The ornament collection grew and included everything from vintage baubles found at antique marts to gorgeous original works (it really helps to be in marketing and have so many friends who went to art school). One bona fide artiste crafted an ornament out of a deer's thigh bone and some wire. Another spray-painted a dried artichoke and decorated it with pearls and cat teeth. Two women spent the day before one party bar-hopping through Boston; they pinned matchbooks from each stop to a styrofoam ball, hung by a red ribbon. The same enterprising ladies gave us a rather suggestive (and well-endowed) ornament: a particularly long pinecone wrapped in a protective latex sheath with two glass balls (blue ones at that) dangling from the top. This particular piece fell apart after a time, but we still hang the balls each year — and get a knowing grownup chuckle from it.

Eventually, with four trees full, we had to request no more ornaments. In later years, we had guests bring hats and mittens or donations to Toys for Tots.

Of course, the nature of our parties changed when our daughter was born. She attended her first at just three months old. That may have been the year one of our trees fell during the festivities. Not on her or any other young guest, thank goodness, but into the arms of a stalwart friend who maneuvered it back into its stand with nary a decoration lost. 

As our daughter started to grow and attend preschool and elementary, the house was filled each year with dozens of little girls in party dresses. And that's when the racing across the second floor began in earnest. They were like a herd of miniature velvet-clad elephants. "Please stop running!" I'd beg them, but as quickly as they stopped they'd start up again. Whether it was the excitement of the season or all the sugar they were ingesting, they couldn't help themselves.

The last few parties have been oddly civilized and quiet. My daughter has stepped back from some of our traditions. ("No tree in my room this year," she insists with a world-weary sigh. "It's just too much.") As parents, we shake our heads and marvel at how quickly time has passed. We compare notes about college applications, and the handful of her friends who show up tend to keep to themselves. 

This year, my daughter had a conflict during our party, but I asked her to come for the last hour after she closed the shop where she works. Everyone was happy to see her and she didn't roll her eyes once. I'm so proud of the woman she's becoming, and I have to admit that spending a few festive hours with other adults was delightful.

But, I still smiled when I heard the two young pachyderms upstairs. Christmas is about family and friends and cherished memories.

And I certainly didn't ask them to stop.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Settling Down

Our school district sends out class assignments in late August. They claim that the "master schedule" takes that long to negotiate. In reality, I think they postpone the mailing until the last possible moment to minimize the number of calls — and complaints — they get prior to each new school year. We live in a fairly affluent community with a lot of, shall we say, "active parenting." 

How will Muffy and Biff get into an elite college if they don't get the best teachers?

I remember several summers ago, when my now teenager was heading into fifth grade. We received the much anticipated packet and my daughter was absolutely thrilled. In our lower middle school, the kids are assigned to two-teacher teams. Each group of fifty or so students splits its time between one faculty member for math and science, and another for English and social studies. It's an effective preview of middle and high school when they'll have a different teacher for each subject. 

My daughter had scored the much coveted team called "ATM." (One teacher's last name started with an A; the other with a hyphenated T and M — cute, n'est-ce pas?) We had heard good things and any mom will tell you that having your child actually look forward to the first day of school is a rare and wondrous thing.

On that first day, the two teachers showed up at assembly with a big "ATM" sign (probably hand-made, but I'd like to think they snuck out late at night and — in a selfless act of education-inspired vandalism — stole it from some unsuspecting automated teller machine). They had a chant, the sort you would hear at a pep rally, something about being "the best, better than the rest," blah blah blah. The lucky ATM kids fell in line, excited and motivated and driven and spirited and enthused and ... and ... and ... 

You get the picture.

All good, right?

Apparently not. A and T-M were taken aside and respectfully asked not to crow about their team anymore. The sign must be put away, the rallying cry forgotten. You see, the lower middle school powers that be were concerned that the kids in the other teams would feel left out. So, the two teachers were asked to stop making their kids feel special.

Wouldn't a better solution have been to ask the other teacher teams to come up with a way to make their own groups feel special too?

This struck me at the time as a very silly exercise in dumbing things down, in settling for homogenous mediocrity rather than striving. The school was so concerned about making sure things were equal that they lost a chance to make things extraordinary.

As far as we know, we only get one shot at this life business. With any luck (and some attention to homework), fifth graders will only be fifth graders once. The same is true for high school juniors. I hope my daughter's teachers remember this, and I hope she herself makes the most of every moment.

Don't settle down.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Parenting Teens? There's An App For That!

Growing up in New York City, I had a lot of autonomy. With my monthly bus pass (in the coolest bus pass holder ever — trust me — bright purple, bought at a tiny stationery store on 61st and Central Park West), I was pretty much my own keeper. As long as I stuck to the MTA's web of 150 or so bus lines, I could go anywhere, anytime ... anonymously.

It's not so easy for my daughter here in our tiny town north of Boston. Oh sure, she has a driver's license now, which does mean more freedom for her (and more free time for me), but there's always the discussion around which car she should take. "I think the Acura's getting a flat, take the Miata." Most days I still pick her up after school, and her schedule is so densely packed that there's very little opportunity for her to go all Thelma and Louise on me. Basically, she drives a half hour to the stable, a half hour back. Otherwise she's either working with her horse, working at a part-time job, or working on homework.

(BTW, do we see a theme here? With all that "working," it's no wonder she rolls her eyes if anyone implies that high school should be the time of her life. I just hope she hasn't burned out completely before she heads to college.)

I typically do know where my teen is, but I know a lot of other mothers who don't. Maybe their kids aren't as over committed as mine. And it can definitely be a worry. The world is big and our children are small. Well, at this stage, they're not really. But, we still think of them that way.

Microchipping is tempting, but not readily available yet. 

Calm down, my conspiracy theorist friends. I'm only kidding. 

Not that the concept is far-fetched or even unlikely at some point in the future. Reality-show host Troy Dunn (“APB with Troy Dunn”) says “I only support GPS chip monitoring for convicted felons while in prison and on parole; for sex offenders forever; and for children if parents opt in. I am adamantly against the chipping of anyone else.”

Phew! I feel better now. (WTF!)

So what's a nervous mother to do? Fortunately, we live in a world of ubiquitous smartphones and countless apps. There are several designed to help us keep tabs on our offspring:

Find My Kids — Footprints
Real-time GPS tracking of your teens and their movements. You can track them individually or coordinate with the locations of other (also tracked) teens. Creepy.

Family Tracker
A similar system lets you track the entire family. It includes built-in messaging and "a loud annoying siren" feature if you need to get someone's attention. Whoa!

This takes GPS tracking to another level (and one, admittedly, that may be of great interest to those of us parenting new drivers). Not only do you know where your kids have gone — you know how fast they drove to get there!

Of course, you can't always be home when they are. This is a webcam video streaming app that lets you spy on ... er, I mean ... monitor your teens in their rooms, your kitchen, or anywhere you put a camera.

'Don't know whether it's because I'm a liberal or because I've read too many dystopian novels. But, to my mind, all of these fairly reek of "big brother." Plus, my daughter already has enough reasons to roll her eyes and resent me. There is one app that struck a chord though. Heres' why.

I'm not a control freak. Not really. (Okay, I am, BUT I generally do control those control freak controlling tendencies.) What I really want is to be able to connect with my teen. To ask where she is and when she'll be home. Because always I care and because sometimes I actually need to know. The problem is, my daughter doesn't always "hear" my call or sometimes "see" my text. (Um, right, okay, if she says so.) That leads me to the app:

Ignore No More
No tracking, no spying. This app hits kids where they live ... on their phones! It's very simple. If your teen doesn't answer when you call them, you automatically and remotely disable their phone. They can't make or get a call (except to 911). They can't text. They can't use Facebook or Instagram. Once they call you back, they're back — to smartphone business as usual.

Bottom line? They're at your mercy. Bah ha ha ha ha ha ha. (Insert evil mom laugh here.) The name says it all. They can ignore you no more. And the beauty is, in a world with so few consequences, you can actually follow-through. "Call me back or else ..." 

Or, you can always go ahead and get that microchip.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What To Say To (Really) Annoy Your Teen

This afternoon, as per usual, I picked my teenage daughter up a couple of blocks from her high school. We went through the usual meaningless chit chat. 

"How was school?" 

"How's your cold?"

"How's your homework sitch?"

She told me that she was planning to "spin right out" and head to the stable. I quickly responded that the stable was fine with me, but I didn't like the idea of her "spinning out." She even more quickly pointed out that I'd made the same lame joke yesterday. "It isn't funny anymore," she said.

"You didn't think it was funny the first time!" I answered. Ha! Got her. Sort of. Um. Nevermind. At any rate, it led me to thinking about all the annoying things she hears from me day in and day out. 

Lovin' the Alien is usually written from my perspective and focuses on the trials and tribulations of being a teen's mother. Today, I'll give her equal time and highlight some of the trials and tribulations of being a teen's mother's teen.

In no particular order, here are the things that I say each day that probably — all right, definitely — drive her nuts ...

"Good morning."

"Put down your phone."

"How many times do I have to tell you ... ?"

"How did everyone else do on the test?"

"Put down your phone."

"Drive safe."

"Text me when you get there."

"Did you see what I posted on Facebook?"

"Have you started studying?"

"Have you finished studying?"

"Put down your phone."

"You may not believe this, but I was seventeen once too."

"You need to wear a scarf."

"Don't leave your jacket on the floor."

"Why don't you see if your friends want to come over here for a change?"

"I love you."

"Put down your phone."

"Good night."

"Did you finish your homework?"

"Why does everything have to be so dramatic?"

"Why aren't you and whatshername friends anymore?"

"Who are you texting?"

"Put down your phone."

"You wouldn't be so tired if you went to bed earlier."

"No, you can't have any more cookie dough and ice cream."

"Bring the bowl from the cookie dough and ice cream down from your room, please."

"Once and for all, PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE!"

And, the ever timeless ... "Because I said so. That's why."

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Productive? Bah humbug!

Gentle readers, let me warn you about something. In a way it falls under the category of "truth in advertising." In a way it's more about semantics and euphemisms and saying what you mean. In yet another way, it .. well ... it just SUCKS. 

Sorry. No pretty pretense or delicacy about it, folks. We've got a big ol' suckfest going on here.

My teenage daughter got sick the day before Thanksgiving. As is my way, I like to share things with my teenage daughter. So, I got sick the day after Thanksgiving. And, when I say "sick," I mean sick, sick, sick. S-I-C-K. (Not "sick" in a modern, good way, like "sick nasty." Simply sick.)

In the past 72 hours, we've had, in no particular order, fevers, headaches, stuffed noses, running noses, red and raw noses, hacking coughs and horrid sore throats. These delightful symptoms necessitated a speedier than planned removal from New York City, vast amounts of herbal tea, and a trip to the local CVS for an assortment of over-the-counter cold and flu medications. (My husband, so far, hasn't caught the bug and has been instrumental in all of the above.)

One box promises to clear our heads and (I quote) make our coughs "more productive."


The word "productive" is not one that we take lightly in this house. I'm the mother of a teen and I run a business. My husband commutes up to three hours a day to work at a company thirty miles away (trust me, this math makes sense to anyone who lives in the greater Boston area). My daughter juggles homework, horses, family, friends and two part-time jobs. We know from "productive." It is something to which we strive. Bottom line, "productive" is a good thing. 


At least not when it's a cough. A "productive cough" is one with phlegm. Lots and lots of phlegm. (Gross word, I know. Would you prefer mucus? Or sputum? So glad I'm not a doctor!) In theory, a productive cough is less painful. In theory, a productive cough aids in shedding irritants, whatever it is that you caught in the first place that's making you sick in the second place. In reality?

It's disgusting. And, for the record, it still hurts.

Why, oh why, didn't I invest in Kleenex?

So now my cough is "productive." It's thoroughly unpleasant and the word itself takes me back to another unpleasant experience. I'm reminded of a little drug I took seventeen-plus years ago at the Salem Hospital Birth Place. You see, my water broke at about midnight and we checked in at about 2:00 am. They told me to try to sleep (Hello? I don't think so. Labor, people!!!). They would check on me in the morning. Apparently I hadn't progressed enough overnight, so they started a Pitocin drip "to make the labor more productive."

Guess what "more productive labor" means? Pain, pain and then more pain, that's what. 

To add insult to injury, after several hours of pain er, I mean, "productivity," an obstetrics nurse brought in a birthing ball. The giant rubber sphere was purported to make my labor ... you guessed it ... "more productive." Let me tell you, there's only so much "productivity" one pregnant woman can take. Not only did I refuse to try it again after the first agonizing time, but I made the nurse take the torture device out of my room entirely. (To this day, I can't take a Cardio Sculpt class if it uses a stability ball.)

So, does this blog post have a point? (It may not; I'm on a lot of medication.) "Productivity" isn't always an entirely good thing. Sure, it may get you where you want to go (cold-free or new baby), but it can be pretty un-pretty along the way.

Then again, I lived through Pitocin, the birthing ball, fourteen hours of labor and about ten tons of ice chips. I can live through this cold too. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Or produces a lot of phlegm. I can't remember which.

Please pass the Kleenex.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.