Lessons in Social Media

“The worst parent award goes to these people”
“This must be a really old picture, check out the phone cord and the ratty floors”
“That kid is f*cked for life.

This is my Olivia, she was probably 5 or so. Olivia hears her own drummer and Olivia does Olivia. She wanted to be Pee Wee Herman, not for Halloween…for life. To live in a playhouse with amazingly wacky friends, sing, watch cartoons, scream magic words, and dance. The first doll Olivia asked for was not Barbie, it was Pee Wee. We obliged and I admit, I was kinda proud. She was not a follower, marching to pick up her brother in a floor length purple sequined tutu or dressed like Elmo, she just did her thing. I admire kids who just do themselves and don’t worry about what others think, it is not an easy path, but it is a path built on truth.

The comments above were posted on Pee Wee’s FB page. We had sent in the picture for his “dress like Pee Wee album” and honestly we had no idea how it would explode. Last time I looked, which was many many years ago, it had over 35,000 likes…hates…loves. The comments go from very complimentary to downright ruthless. Messages so mean I was hysterical laughing while also in fear for our lives. These people had decided we were horrific, for letting our kid…be a kid. While waiting for child services to arrive and take us away for unfinished floors and costuming out of season…we read the thread of hate, resisting the urge to respond. The best thing I ever did… was not respond.

I spent many of the past few years feeling the need to respond, to reason, plead, and convert those who did not see the big picture. Not about preferences or likes…about facts. I grew up understanding that people with different opinions could easily live in one house, they could even love each other. My dad a Republican, numbers guy, introvert…my mom a Democrat, artist, extra-extrovert. They respected each other, listened to each other, and read newspapers every day…so even when they didn’t agree on something, they agreed that facts were facts.

People see facts differently these days. Social media created the crazy situation where the people commenting on Olivia’s picture were speaking the truth they saw, so to them it was fact. To be fair, sometimes Greg and I are the worst parents…the rotary phone was old school…the floors were from 1920 (in the process of being replaced). What they got 1 million percent wrong is that my girl was anything but spectacular, there, they crossed the line.

We never know which comment might be the one that crosses the line. This is why I gave up my quest to chat with people with different interpretations of reality. I unfollowed, they unfollowed, somehow we just don’t see each other, and maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. Maybe we should just follow our own paths, and if we find each other again, it will probably be in a place where we are united in good for some reason or another.

This world is not always so kind to those who follow their own paths, to those who love what they love, to those who find joy in things that others do not understand. We need to change that and to embrace the beauty of a little girl in a red bow tie.

Life is good. Actual facts are important. Doing you…is amazing.

You work?

You work? Yes, I am a graphic designer. That answer usually leads to an all knowing look which to me has always translated to… oh (smirk) she does art. I have always let it go because people who know me know how hard I work, they know my client list, they know I will work day and night to get it done. The thing that I have never said is yes, I am a designer, a mom, a wife, a volunteer. I wish I had said that…it is all work.

Work. I just went to a retirement party for one of my favorite clients. I will miss him so. He is old school… a gentleman, a hard worker, a team player, an organizational dream, and a master of the English language. He gives me edits over the phone and they go something like this…we need to add a modifier to the noun so that the preposition is valid…clearly those are not his exact words (because they are insane)…he is a teacher, he knows his stuff. Files come from him and I need to unlock no mysteries…they are structured and clean, there is a narrative that I can illustrate. I can do what I do, sit down and design. I grow very fond of my clients. I love to work.

The other day, my son begrudgingly agreed to do a freelance job for me. It is out of my scope, I needed a young brain. I offered to pay him what the client would be paying me. He has a full time pretty intense job, but agreed to help his mom. He said would charge half the amount, because… “it was easy and he had enough money”. Who is this child? What on earth has California done to him? Didn’t he see his parents working multiple jobs to afford the life he was given? Who has enough money? Jeff Bezos, Oprah, Reese Witherspoon…they probably have enough money. A twenty-five-year-old renting an apartment in Los Angeles one year into his first real job…you, my dear, do not have enough money.

Did I learn nothing from the pandemic? I work because I love love love to work. Time with nothing to do is a living hell for me. Maybe my kid gets joy from not working 24/7. Maybe he would rather sit in his backyard with friends than work his ass off to afford a trip to the Star Wars Hotel. Maybe I should work on just sitting back and watching my kids figure out their own lives and what brings them joy. Maybe I should be proud that my kid wanted to help me out…to do me a favor.

Work. During a recent Zoom I noticed how ugly the binders of finished jobs looked behind me, I controlled my urge to turn off the video and re-stage my background mid meeting. 2018-2020, three years of my life, each piece of paper an invoice for a job done. Sheet after sheet representing client interactions, problems solved, brainstorming sessions, and completed projects that hopefully made the the lives of the users easier. I pulled them from the shelf and felt the weight, and I felt proud.

Work…I love my job, I am so happy it’s back.

Dogs, Dads, and Coconut Bras

Lately I have been thinking about time…not time as in, it is 10:23…time like in, there was a time when I walked my own kids to school each morning. A time when my husband was one of the few dads who worked from home. A time when Fall meant guessing what the high school musical would be. Scenes from another life.

I think one of the keys to aging gracefully is the ability to realize we are only here for a blip. That as much as things matter at the moment…they really don’t matter in the long run. The ability to appreciate each day is all that counts. Walking with a five year old is window into the life we should all be living. He says things like “let’s run…just because we can”, he is right, we can…so we should. He screams up the block to complete strangers “I think your doggie is SO COOL”, after a pause, they reply thank you, to which he screams “YOU’RE WELCOME”. Smiles all around. He can even break middle schoolers fully embracing their ennui. As we approach on the narrow sidewalks, no room for escape, he screams “I like your backpack”…their icy faces melt for a minute. He is magic.

The magic of embracing each moment for the goodness that is…don’t focus on too far ahead and don’t look back with visions of it being perfect. It wasn’t.

I have tucked away a few bits of magic, near perfect parenting moments. One of them was when my daughter got her period. She called from the nurses office hysterical. “MOM COME GET ME NOW!” I did not ask questions I just got there. When she told me the scoop we decided to cut out of school and ditch work. We had a lovely afternoon just us…a visit to the drug store, a cute haircut, topping it off with an ice cream. One should look and feel good when cramping. Another moment I was just reminded of thanks to a FB memory alert…my son as senior in high school, playing Luther Billis in South Pacific. He was loving life, dog tags, a coconut bra, and some hysterical moments on stage…a rare, near perfect creative experience. It was opening night, there would be 6 performances, then his acting career would most likely be done. I went to him in a quiet moment and said “enjoy it, enjoy every single minute, this kind of goodness does not happen often, take mental snapshots and remember it forever”. My youth group leader gave me the same advice before I walked down the aisle. I am forever grateful.

Doggies and backpacks… compliment them. Dads…embrace how many of them are now around for the day to day goodness. Dog tags, coconut bras, and other special once in a lifetime moments…recognize their beauty and appreciate them while you are living them.

It is so hard to live the moment, to avoid comparing, to just embrace the now.

I am, we are, it is…a constant work in progress.

why

Why are we going to the living room? Why does she bark? Why did you get a new blue house? Why is there no Greg? Why do you play with me? Why is the cat? Why do you have so many Legos? Why do we walk to school? Why is there no sidewalk? Why don’t I ride a bus? Why are we on line? Why is my mask rainbows? Why are there germs? Why is that girl in front of me? Why is that boy going behind us? Why am I in Kindergarten? Why does it rain?

Why?

Up until this morning at 7:20am my list of “all things why” consisted of things like… why do my dear friends keep experiencing such hardships…why didn’t we put my wedding dress on a high shelf when our basement tends to flood…why don’t people believe in climate change when the evidence is so so so very clear…why is it so hard to stay committed to hard stuff…why can’t I appreciate both the quiet and busy, knowing it will not always be one way?

Why?

I like my new little guys list of “all things why” better than mine, most of his have answers. Because…that’s where the toys are…that is how she says hi to you…I was tired of the color beige…he is in the shower…I like you…we like cats…Legos are the best and should fill every house…driving in Pleasantville is insane…they are building a house and the construction vehicles crushed it…people who live close by don’t get busses, a perk and a curse…to check in…your mommy wants you safe and thinks rainbows are pretty…no clue, I have no clue why there are germs, but we need to respect them…she got here before us…he is polite and getting on line behind us…you are a big guy and Kindergarten is for big guys…so the grass, the trees, and the flowers can grow.

Why did I agree to watch another little man before school?

Yesterday, I would have rolled my eyes and said because I am a sucker for wonderful parents who need a break. Today, I have a different answer. I think it is because deep down I know there is nothing better for my soul than to see the world through the eyes of a 5-year-old.

Swoon.

Cleaning Legos after the flood…and before little guy 2.0 shows up

Mama Wama

I took this picture of the Fire Island fridge to remind me to breathe and regroup. It is from my Ella…Ella who sees, Ella who takes in, Ella who gives both subtle and not so subtle loves to all around her. She is my son’s girlfriend or better yet, partner. My cozy names for Ella are little bit and Ella Ella Ella, she calls me Mama Wama. I love that.

After evacuating Fire Island in preparation for Henri I planned a luxurious lazy morning… social media catch up, reading, getting some work done, and hopefully swooning. A FB post by my friend April, moved me to the point of insta swoon…the rest will wait. April is a Renaissance woman, a teacher, gardener, musician, podcaster, and visual artist. She is one of those women who inspires others, always trying new things, always game for an artistic adventure. Her morning poem touched my soul… here are a few of my favorite parts…

the rain is coming
after borrowing mom’s car
leave the windows open

a nice fresh towel
mom hung up in the bathroom
gets the toothpaste off

let’s adopt a cat
it’s not hard to take care of
when mom does it all

we know how to clean up
we bring all the dishes back
leaving them near the sink

Oh my gosh, every mom I know has been there. I will never understand any human would puts dishes in or next to a sink. What is with that?

My glorious Fire Island week, with a full nest and constant guests, with abundant moments of gloriousness, and ridiculous amounts of work…three days in I was on the verge of a meltdown. Ready to make the next meal I entered the kitchen, and there on the refrigerator was the Ella hug. The one not raised in the home, she could see, she noticed. Meltdown averted through a display of public appreciation. I went back to doing what I love…what I choose to do…what I watched my mom do in that very same house…creating a safe space where everyone can enjoy a bit of bliss, no worries or outside stress.

I go back and forth about how much we do for our kids…by we I mean the very hard working (yet privileged) people I am peers with. We did a lot for our kids, was it too much? Then I watch our kids go off to their jobs, to pay triple the rent we used to pay, understanding that the earth we are leaving them is broken, and that the political division is probably not fixable. When I see all that they deal with, and how well they adapt to their work environments and living situations I think maybe all we did for them rubbed off, maybe it is all ok.

I choose to cook for the masses, to create comfortable spaces…to be a superior carpenter of homemaking. I am blessed with also running a design firm and getting satisfaction from volunteering. Life is about choices and balance, and when it gets overwhelming, a little appreciation goes a long way…thanks Ella.

Rainy Days and Sundays

I know the name of the song is Rainy Days and Mondays. I thought it was a catchy title…but it really makes no sense and is wrong in every way. I love rainy days and I especially love rainy days in the summer. They are a break, a catch up day, a day to be.

It has been the summer of doing…of life turned up to 11. I am loving it. Reunions, house improvements, weddings, cocktails, funerals, and concerts. Life.

Last week we went to a funeral for the mom of a bestie from childhood. One of those bittersweet situations…her mom was no longer in pain, but she would be very missed by her five kids. As we hugged my friend said, “I feel like an orphan.” Nobody can replace your mom. Mary’s mom was a woman who knew how to live. When you rang the bell she met you with a megawatt smile and a “why didn’t you just walk in”. There were two choices upon entrance…run up the winding stairs to Mary’s room and avoid her older brothers launching Jets trivia at you…or visit the kitchen for some goodness, where her mom was always cooking, reading, or hanging with a friend. I always wanted to take the kitchen option…but the idea of dealing with older brothers was so foreign to me, I ran up the stairs each time. I mourn the loss of Mrs. Gallagher, but also mourn the loss of that house. The house was always hopping and full of life.

Later that day we drove to Citi Field to see Green Day. A day in the life of a 55 year old…funeral in the morning and concert in the evening. Spectacular. After asking for directions numerous times, a tour of the bowels of the stadium, and the complete lack of knowledge of the seating system by employees, we were given the coveted red bands… access to the field section. Once we proved to the staff that we did not belong on the field…the guards would not allow us access to the steps to our correct seats. You can’t make this stuff up. So we accepted the gift…we sang, we jumped, and we danced for hours. Early on Billie Joe requested the crowd live the moment instead of watching it through lenses. Put your phones away, put your phones away and live…we have waited a year and a half to live. It was five hours of sweat, smiles, and life affirming goodness.

It is raining and we are in a tiny house at the beach…but I have my family together for a bit, I have them all to myself. This is bliss, even if we are a bit soggy. Swoon.

It happened!

I have the neck. The neck Diane Keaton hides wearing turtlenecks in July, the neck my mom “took care of” when she got her lift, the neck even my older sister (with a body better than many in their 20s) can not escape…the neck.

I was in a Zoom meeting the other day with some young ‘un techies. My computer screen was tilting up, rather than the ever flattering camera from above, and there it was…the neck. Being 5ft, not many people get to see my wrinkles in all their glory and most prepubescents really do not give a hoot about the necks of their pint-sized elders. This Zoom was like being thrown into a hall of mirrors, self awareness galore, there was no turning away or fixing “the situation”… girl you have the neck and it is front and center to all in this meeting…your age is showing.

To be fair and not be a Debbie Downer…I also noticed my clavicles were appearing a bit after years of being covered in layers of comfort, and that my shoulders were a bit more defined, I noticed my jawline was not so bad for a woman of my age. These are all rewards of a lot of hard work, and I am proud of the weight I have lost and the muscle I have gained. It is not easy and every day I keep up the hard work is a day I am proud.

I held my own in the meeting, admitting that I was not the person to make their animated gif but happy to provide the branding details and assets needed for them to do it on their own…I find being honest is a very good thing in the business world. The “kids” were appreciative of my willingness to let them do their thing and I appreciated them not having condescending attitudes towards their loose necked elder. Win win.

Aging with class, appreciating the minds of the young, respecting the beauty of collaboration between generations, and embracing my ever changing being are goals of mine. Each chapter has new surprises, I hope I can accept them gracefully.

So y’all…check out this chapters neck. Swoon.

Photo after some time at the beach, thus the hair…yes I wear sunscreen.

Feeling Blue

Not sad blue…color blue. I am so feeling the color blue.

It is time to paint our house, actually, it was time many moons ago, but the pandemic hit and blah blah blah you know the scoop. I would have let this go another year if my contractor had not shown up in my driveway with two arms full of rhubarb from his garden. I love my contractor. Seeing him reminded me that we probably should not go one more winter with cracked and missing stucco. Last time Andy worked with us we were on a tight (insane) deadline, major renovations with six weeks soup to nuts to get it done. He got it done. This time I said just let me know when you have time…whenever you are ready, we will be ready. On Wednesday night at 7:30pm he called and said I will be there tomorrow am…pick your colors. I love a challenge.

At first I wanted a fairy house…which meant I wanted to paint the house green, a puke chartreuse, a color seen in nature. The house one with the trees. I changed my mind on the drive by tour of childhood memories Greg took us on in Des Moines. His elementary school was cute… but I focused on houses, and there it was…a bright blue house with so much color you could not ignore it. Blue it was…Dad blue, Yeves Klein blue, blue with a touch of red so it sings. I want the little blue house on the corner.

Dad blue. My dad had five categories of shirts… shirtless, Fruit of the Loom white undershirts, tennis polo shirts (no alligator, he did not “advertise for free” by wearing logos), white business oxfords, and… dad blue shirts for dinners out or special occasions. He looked so gorgeous in blue. Swoon.

My first introduction in color theory was from my sister. Allison is five years older than me which means nothing now…but when she went off to RISD I was still a kid and in complete awe of her…she basically knew everything…about everything. Music, fashion, art, she was the master. Allison came home for Thanksgiving from art school wearing two different shoes with a completely new thrift store wardrobe. My father (who was probably wearing a blue shirt because it was an occasion) was a bit confused to say the least. I was mesmerized. That Thanksgiving she wore blue patent leather Mary Janes with a delightful little heel, I loved them and when I expressed my love she said “that is surprising, I think of you as more of a red blue person, these have so much yellow”. Mind blown. What did that mean? They were blue shoes, where on earth does yellow or red come in?

Picking paint colors brought this all back, gray blue, yellow blue, red blue…so many choices. What looks great on the chip might not translate, a 1 inch square of color is so very different than covering the side of a house. Light changes color, trees change color, how on earth could a decision be made in 15 hours. It gets done because it needs to get done…and three sample-size cans of paint later we have a winner…at least Greg and I think it is a winner.

One neighbor finds the color bold. That? For the whole house? Well, it certainly is BOLD! I am thinking her meaning of bold is a bit different than mine, to me bold is secure, bright, brilliant, and fun. Another neighbor found it a bit shocking but warmed up to it, and another screamed I LOVE THE COLOR!

So many opinions start to make me nervous. I became annoyed with myself, stop caring what others think! Luckly I have a friend who is a visually brilliant soul, she is a costume designer, sells vintage finds on Etsy, creates wreaths for Biden’s home at Christmas (nice little friend brag there)…and she knows me well. She agreed to pop over at talk me off the ledge of should I or shouldn’t I. It took her 10 minutes to go from sipping coffee in her pjs to being in my driveway reacting to my color choice with class. My guess is there is no way she liked the color for her house, but she completely calmed me from caving on our choice…supportive and not judgmental. Swoon.

I am at peace with the color, it reminds me of my daddy, it feels like the Greek blue houses by the sea, it is alive and it is joyous. While my paints were in the mixer the older gentleman behind the counter helped another customer. When done he said “young man, you have a wonderful day, live your life to the fullest, it goes by too fast”. Spectacular advice.

Congratulations!

There is so much to congratulate my husband for…rebuilding the ceiling that was falling into our living room…surviving teaching high school art during a pandemic…sticking it out with me for 30 years…raising two lovely, smart, stand up for what they believe in humans…being a completely swoonie son to his parents and mine…for these things and more he deserves so so so many congratulations.

What he deserves no credit for..our new car.

Our lease was almost up. I researched options…on buying it out…getting a new lease from a different company…car options from the same company. I spoke with sales people on the phone and in person…which I hate. I really am not a fan of car salesmen. I mean do they take classes like Sexism 101 and Condescending Behavior for Beginners? I have no patience for it. So anyway, I do my due diligence and after 4 trips to Toyota, personally signing all of the paperwork (it is a business car)…it is time to actually get in the car and drive away. There on the dashboard is the sign…Congratulations! Mr Nemec. I kid you not. I saved it. Shoot me in the head, what on earth is wrong with these people? I literally just handed them numerous checks and signed every single piece of paper as my husband scrolled through his phone. They checked MY credit the day before, the previous lease was in my name. So very many clues as to who was buying this car, yet every clue missed.

I would like to think maybe they meant Congratulations Mr Nemec…you sure married a smart woman…but the rest of the note went on to say “Thank you for YOUR business”, sigh.

I get that this sounds petty, but it really bothers me, I think it bothers a lot of women. Most of my friends are working women, working women who raised beautiful families. They have lovely husbands, husbands who in many cases do not make as much money as their wives, if keeping track of that stuff matters. These women are rockstars, who keep their homes, offices, and communities in sync and running. They make this world better. Why is this so hard to grasp? Why in 2021 would there be a sign that says anything other than…Congratulations on your new car! Why does it have to be sexist?

Thankfully my husband is really funny…he can make me laugh like no other person on this earth. As we walk up to the car we both notice the note. The moment could go either way, and he picked the right path…completely deadpan he said something like “Oh nice, they are congratulating me on my new car, I hope you appreciate me”.

Congratulations to you Kat Nemec…you do have a delicious husband…and a kick-ass, do what you can to save the world, hybrid/electric car. Swoon.

NOTE: This is not about bashing this dealership…I LOVE this dealership and my salesperson was wonderful, that is why I went there. What I do not love is the assumption by the person printing out the notes that it is a man buying each and every car. Thank you for listening.