Well-Intentioned Poster Child

A circa 1880’s poster with a picture of a can-can dancer in the midst of a high kick hung above my white-canopied bed, on the green checked wallpapered walls of my girlhood bedroom. Every night, in the hours spent dreaming, these words hung over my head:

Come See
Karen Suzanne
Can-Can Dancer Extraordinaire
She Dances, Recites Poetry, Tells Jokes
She does it all!
Bucket O’Blood Saloon
Virginia City, Nevada

I’m Karen Suzanne. I basically became a can-can dancer, an actress, and a writer of poetry and slightly amusing anecdotes.

On the walls of Palmer Chinchen’s childhood house in Africa was a tapestry of the last supper.

Palmer became a pastor.

My husband’s boyhood bedroom walls were covered in all things Star Wars.

While my husband resembles Mark Hammil, remains jealous of Harrison Ford, and still gets a little disoriented when you mention Carrie Fisher and gold bikini in the same sentence, that’s where the imprint ends. He does kind of look like Mark Hammil though…

In my oldest daughter Hannah’s room hangs a painting of stripes in various lengths and colors with the words “Be Original” along the bottom, a poster of 12 distinctly different cupcakes, a few monkey posters and an autographed poster of the Rockettes. Oh, on the wall opposite her bed, so the last view she sees at night and the first thing she sees in the morning is a mural I painted on her wall of a castle high in a cloud with the words Once Upon A Time…

Hannah wants to be Cinderella. She is hoping to attend Chapman University when she graduates, partly because it’s a 10 minute train ride to Disneyland. Where she could get a job as Cinderella. (Ultimately, she wants to be an occupational therapist…and a Rockette.)

Talia, my youngest daughter has the word hope in various sizes, shapes and forms all over her room. Her middle name is Hope. Hanging directly above her head board is a mirror that is surrounded with pictures of her friends, the little pictures that you take in photo booths. Not one of them is serious.

Talia wants to be a neuro-biologist and a photographer, but after she is married and has 3 kids. It’s not incredibly likely that one of the kids will be serious.

On the top of the mirror in their bathroom is a quote by Ghandi “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m not sure they’ve ever seen it. They’re teenage girls… their focus is on who is staring back at them. As it should be at this point. But, I have hope that one day they will look up.

When I was preparing their nursery, I agonized over paint swatch colors for weeks. I asked anyone who seemed to have a reasonable handle on humanity what color meant in the years spent forming an individual. I sincerely wanted a color that would be both soothing and stimulating and would help guarantee the inhabitant of the room acceptance into Julliard. The last person I asked for input replied “I think you’re asking too much of a color.”

I settled on a kind of blue/gray with a classic Winnie the Pooh wallpaper border. Pretty much the room became the hundred acre woods of Christopher Robin’s (and my) imagination. So far, my girls alternately resemble Tigger and Eeyore with the occasional Rabbit thrown in during finals.

It seems to be critical what we hang on the walls of our homes, what we surround our children with during times of innocence and rest. I’m pretty sure my parents just thought that can-can dancer poster was funny. I loved it. For about 12 years it hung right over my head every night as I drifted to sleep. If my parents had hung a tapestry of the last supper over my head would I be closer to God? A pastor?

Can these seemingly innocent acts form the course of our destiny?

If Palmer had had a can-can dancer poster in his home growing up would he be throwing in a high kick every once in a while?

If my husband hadn’t seen Star Wars…well, I don’t have a comparison here…

It’s too soon to know the lives my children will lead. I hope Hannah is original and sweet and creative and delighted with small creatures, just like Cinderella. She actually is already. I hope the best things happen to her before midnight. I hope Talia never loses her hope to be – my hope, the hope of her generation. She has the capability. And the humor.

I guess as parents we are just doing whatever we can to not only keep our children alive, but guide them into the lives we hope they will lead. And maybe all the kids have to do is survive through our preconceived notions as to what will make a difference beyond survival.

Just to be clear, Julliard is off the table.

Money To Go

Stock pic,  not an accurate depiction….

It seems to me that if you have money, there aren’t any inconveniences or problems to overcome.

Plumbing emergency? Call now. Fix now. Do not wait and cause more damage trying to save on the cost. 

Drive one-day-old-brand-new-uninsured-car-you-never-in-a-million-years thought you could afford into the garage door while garage door is still opening? Buy new garage door next morning, fix car at the same time – do not fall apart, throw things, scream obscenities into the night and lay sleepless wondering how to pay for – anything ever again.

Sustain concussion while working coupled with stomach/intestinal virus? Go to the emergency room immediately, no waiting for a week trying to self-diagnose to see if it’s worth a trip to the emergency room on Memorial Day weekend. AND! Frank, the ultra-sound tech would not keep asking you if you we’re retired or if your 20 year marriage was your second marriage, because a face-lift would have already occurred at this humiliating life moment.

Throw back out trying to empty a kiddie pool? Just stop and hire someone else to do it.  Or better yet, have a built-in pool already. With a pool cleaner.

There is no need to nag/threaten/bribe teenage children to study for finals in the hope of one day getting a scholarship so that college is even a remote possibility. No. All you have to do is feed them and let them do as they will. You can pay for college. Even if it’s community college.

Husband leaving at 3 AM to drive to California with 80 high school seniors for the class trip leaving spewing/injured wife at home to deal with teenagers, car, garage door and plumbing? Well, that just wouldn’t happen to begin with…if enough money were to be had elsewhere.

Money solves everything.

Money is the root of all evil.

Money is elusive. Even if you work to earn it.

That’s it.

A quandary.

And this was just Memorial Day weekend at our home.

Money cannot buy the gratitude that said home, car, family, were not lost in a tornado. No, that just comes from being a human being –  even a human being living with the suburban blues.

We are grateful for our home – so we can run our car into it – and our children out of it.

(not really on the last one) (well, the last two)

The 1 % Legacy

Mom is caught between who she is and who she wants to be
I was supposed to be a trophy wife. It’s what my mother trained me to do. (I hope she unknowingly trained me in this and did not purposefully only give me the skills I’d need to trap keep a man.)
(I’ll never know.)
(I suspect it was intentional.)
(I can’t blame her though, growing up I gave no indication I could survive on my own.)
I learned how to chemically improve my hair, exploit the purpose of make-up, flirt…and take the path of least resistance. 
Unfortunately, trophy wife-ism is the only thing I fully trained for and now I’m too old to be one. I missed my calling AND since I’m not doing it, I’m drowning in a world I have to run because I have only useless skills to draw from. Smiling gratuitously does not help balance a budget.
It’s possible I have this all wrong, but the thought process of the moment is:
Perceived Trophy Wife Skills
Maintain Improve Appearance
I am very good at this on any budget level (currently I buy the fabulous $2 NYC nail polish at Target, the wonderful store where a spray tan in a can is $8 on sale…impossible to apply evenly, but it keeps me busy trying). However, I could actually look like a trophy wife with a professional manicure, pedicure, spray tan, eye lift, regular micro-dermabrasion and a daily massage. Now I use 20 gage sand paper in an “at-home” dermabrasion technique along with Scotch tape to lift my eyelids out of my eyes. 
My point is though – I have the skills to stand in a spray tan booth and sit with a manicurist.
I am very good at staying in hotels. Plus, I speak French – which is useless unless you’re a trophy wife who travels. (Oh!! My mother suggested I take French!)
Thoughtful Consumption
Drinking poolside, ordering dinner from the chef for children who are elsewhere, very discerning with fine chocolate, wine, Tuscan cuisine. I’m pretty sure I can do this.
Additionally, starving myself when the above get out of hand. 
Good with men
I can make a man feel – good. about himself. about me. That’s the true calling of the trophy wife. I think. We didn’t get that far in my training. I did learn how to dance, laugh and smile gratuitously,  and flirting with men are the only areas in which I have found these skills to be useful.
Exciting previous career
I was a Rockette and something like 99% of Rockette’s marry millionaires. Seriously. I am in the 1%. I did not marry a millionaire. 

That’s it. 
How did I miss what I spent my entire life preparing for?
I know actually.  I said no to all the men who could give me a trophy life and married the confident boy who wisely made me laugh out loud and learn to like who I was underneath the $2 nail polish and $8 spray tan. And he’s younger…I guess that actually makes me a cougar
I said yes to genuine laughter and joy – and a lifetime of luxury avoidance. I guess I’m deeper than my mother and I thought at the outset. And my life is not completely devoid of hedonistic richness, in fact, compared to most other countries – I live in the lap of luxury. A small, comfortable lap. 
So, what do I do with the skills I have, but don’t need? How do I get the skills I do need? Is it possible that I already have everything I need to be the wife of a teacher and a mother of two girls, just not the capacity to recognize it?
Am I just confusing a trophy wife with white trash? Am I just a white trash cougar? Probably.
Because if I was really trophy wife material I would 1) be one and 2) yeah, I don’t have a 2). Trophy wives are amazing now – they start multi-million dollar businesses. Gone are the days when they only looked good. Damn! Again, I say, I missed it!!!
Ultimately, my soul is torn between gratitude for our sweet, warm lives and the desire for lazy luxurious days. I am so very grateful for all I’ve been blessed with and haven’t yet destroyed by ignorance. Nothing changes that. Scared though, that the legacy I’m leaving my daughters is the same soul-searching struggle.
My girls are almost grown. It’s time. It’s just time, for me to become something more than a white-trash-cougar-trophy-wife-wanna-be. I wanna be something good. And where do I go from here? I’m still floundering around looking for something else I’m trained for. 
Where is the job that calls for a lazy, un-evenly tan, laughing woman with peeling nail polish and Scotch tape above her eyes? 
Is it possible the job is still at home, guiding two teenage girls to come into their own 1%? 

I hope I’ve trained them to say yes to good things. To respect themselves enough to consciously choose their path, not fall into it, maybe to find the boy who will help them change the world, or make $30 million his first year out and still be able to genuinely make them laugh – at themselves, and their mother. But, kindly, and while handing her a glass of Château Lafite and a box of Godiva chocolate- in Paris (and by “her” I mean “me”).

My girls are going to be leaving home soon and I will have to find a paying job. 
Where do the 1% go back to work? 
I am seriously asking. Please feel free to suggest.