A Note from a Terrible Housekeeper

I’ve never been a very tidy person. Truth be told, when both my husband and I worked full-time, before having a baby, our apartment was usually much messier then I would ever let our house get now. When we moved into our first house (still sans baby) I used to joke that when we had kids at least I’d have an excuse for the mess. But the truth is now that I’m a stay at home mom, I feel more guilty than ever for not keeping a neat house.

The odd thing is that I don’t think other moms should be expected to keep their houses clean. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest when we go over to another persons house and it’s messy. Especially when both parents work I think “how can they possibly keep the house clean, take care of kids and work full-time?” And even though I feel like since I stay home, I should be able to keep things sparkling, I certainly don’t expect the same from other stay at home moms (or dads for that matter).

Of course there is a limit to how messy a house can be, you can’t raise kids knee-deep in filth, so some housework must be done. Since I don’t work outside the home I do most of the cleaning and even cook on occasion (if i have too). Although, I’m lucky to have a husband who not only doesn’t expect me to keep an immaculate home, he also helps out quite a bit when he can (he only has to work when needed so he’s often home during the day). He does other stuff too. He fixes things, does projects around the house and yard, mows the lawn, builds toy chests, cooks and sews (you know manly stuff). But the point is, yes I do clean quite often, it just never seems like enough and I get all this mom guilt that I should be a Martha Stewart (not in the white-collar criminal way but in the crafting and cooking way) and Mary Poppins hybrid.

Then I had a realization, an epiphany if you will. I am not a housekeeper. I am a stay at home mom. To clarify, my job isn’t to clean, it’s to care for, teach and raise my daughter. If it wasn’t for her I would have a job that pays monetary paychecks rather than hugs. Did this realization free me from all house work related guilt and cause me to spin joyfully, arms open, on a hilltop? Not so much but it did make me feel a little better about myself.

In college I took a Human Development course in which the professor informed us that many stay at home moms spend less time directly and constructively interacting with their children than many working parents. I knew right then and there that I never wanted to be that kind of mom. I can see how it would be easy to slip into that pattern, moms are crazy busy and when you’re with the darling angels all day every day you start to go insane and want nothing more than some time away. While working parents are away from the kids all day and cherish the time they do spend with the little dears even though they’re tired and busy too. (Of course these are generalizations and every family is different). Personally, I believe all parents regardless of gender or work status should make their family their first priority. (Not that moms and dads aren’t allowed to have jobs they care about or personal lives).

So sure, I could spend most my day cleaning but I don’t. I spend it (sentimental list alert) hiding and seeking, blowing bubbles and finding ladybugs, pointing out shapes and colors, building towers and sipping imaginary tea, drawing, chasing, ticking and cuddling. I read the same books (many of which I’ve memorized) and sing the same songs (along with making up my own) thousands of times. I set boundaries and avert tantrums (sometimes) and try to use the modern-day babysitter, aka tv, as little as possible. Not to mention taking care of her basic needs (diaper changes anyone?).

I’m not saying that if you take the time to keep your house clean you’re a bad parent. Some people don’t function well in mess and clutter. They are happier, better parents when they keep things tidy. I, myself, need to take a few minutes here and there to look at Facebook or punch out a paragraph of this blog or even play whatever silly game I’m hooked on that day on my phone (even if I’m still watching my energizer bunny out of the corner of my eye) or I turn into crabby, quick-tempered and just plain angry mommy. (And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry). It’s doesn’t really matter what I do exactly, it’s just about taking a moment to do something for myself.  Sometimes I even read or watch an hour or two of tv while she’s asleep (I watch less tv in a week then I used to watch in a day). Technically, I could spend every waking moment I’m not directly interacting with my cuddle bear cleaning but then I wouldn’t be a functional human being much less a good mom.

Sometimes the clean laundry sits in the basket or even the drier for a few days before I get to folding it. My floors often needed vacuuming yesterday and there is always some random clutter about. Our cat and two dogs don’t exactly help with the whole cleanliness thing. Although, I guess in a way they do. They take care of crumbs and spills but they leave behind enough hair and drool (and sometimes other bodily fluids) that I doubt it evens out. But despite the mess I have a very happy little girl. So if you’re like me and your house is a mess but your family is happy, don’t be too hard on yourself. Are you going to look back when your little ones are grown and cherish the memories of cleaning your house? The long and short of it is I’m a lousy housekeeper but I’m a pretty stinking good stay at home mom. And I’m starting to be okay with that.

Nerd is the New Cool

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The other day I read a Cracked.com article entitled The 7 Most Ridiculous Things About Calling Out Fake Fangirls. I largely agreed with the article although I can understand how it can be frustrating when someone takes something you love, that they know nothing about, and calls themselves a fan. (Major run-on sentence alert). Case in point, I had to roll my eyes at a girl I used to work with, who in the past had proudly declared “I don’t read,” (not everyone has to be a bookworm but I don’t think not reading is something to brag about) when she came over to me while I was reading a Harry Potter book and said “I just became a Harry Potter nerd.” I told her that was cool then she said “yeah, I saw the third movie and liked it, then I saw the first two and liked them too.” It was all I could do not to full on face palm right in front of her, so I get that can be frustrating but who’s the judge of true fandom? The whole article got me thinking, what constitutes a “fake” fangirl/boy or nerd and am I one?

Before we proceed I should clarify a couple of things. I’m going to use terms like geek and nerd interchangeably, even though many argue there are differences. I’m also talking about geeks/nerds in the sense of being fans of things deemed geeky (which I consider myself) and not in the really smart, good at math and technical stuff sense (which I am not). These different definitions often overlap but you can certainly can be one without being the other. Also, I’m apologizing in advance, it’s going to be really hard for me to stay focused on the point and not just go off on a million tiny nerd tangents (maybe “a million tiny nerd tangents” should have been the title of this post). I should also apologize to those readers who may not be predisposed to geekiness, hopefully you won’t get totally lost in all the references.

The above article mostly focuses on the claim that there are “fake fangirls” who go to conventions in revealing costumes just to get attention. Most the complaining about poser nerds only calls out girls and women (sexism anyone?) as if only girls pretend to be something they’re not to fit in. This assumes that being geeky is now cool. I’m not going to say that’s not true, the stigma attached to nerdiness has definitely diminished in the last several years. It’s hard to argue that things that use to be considered nerdy aren’t popular now, when comic book movies are often the highest grossing movies now days. And graphic tees that use to hard to find outside of Hot Topics are sold at department stores like Macy’s. However, there are certainly those who still look down on all things geek and many people think there’s only an acceptable amount of nerdiness. Some people might enjoy comic movies but would still consider collecting said comics beneath them. Also, certain types of things are often considered nerdier than others, example being, World of Warcraft (and other MMORPGs) is generally considered geekier than Halo (and other first person shooters). I still get occasional sideways glances when I show up to a mommy and me class sporting a Firefly tee-shirt. That’s not to say geek sheik hasn’t come a long way, 15 years ago I doubt anyone would be trying to defend their nerd status.

I can say with some certainty that I am not one of the aforementioned scantily clad girls at conventions (whether they are seeking attention or sincere fans). Mostly, because I’ve never been to a convention (hold for gasps of shock). Unless you count Disney Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars Weekends as a convention. Do you need to go to conventions to be a nerd? It’s not that I have anything against conventions, I would probably really enjoy them, they’re just expensive and before becoming a stay at home mom, I usually worked weekends. I do regret that we were in Orlando during two Star Wars Celebrations and didn’t make it to either. I’ve also never cosplayed out side of Halloween. Again, it looks fun but I’m just not a crafty sort of person that is good at putting together awesome costumes. I’m lucky if I pull together a half decent Halloween costume (usually with a lot of help from the hubby). I’m also a perfectionist and it always drives me crazy when I can’t get my costume to be exactly like the original character’s and I’m too cheap to spend the money it takes to make a costume look just right. The picture at the start of this post? That’s from a Halloween party at our house.

Oh, side note, I did go to A Comic Shop in Orlando to get comic book writer Daniel Way’s autograph. There we are, pictured below (it was St. Patrick’s Day and I’d just had a root canal).

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There are so many different things to geek out about now days. Some people have a wide variety of interests while some tend to focus on one. For example some people are science fiction and fantasy fans, while some are just one or the other. More specifically, some people are just into Anime while others love Anime and Star Wars and comic books and possibly ten or twenty other nerdy past times. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being focused or more broad in your fandom. I tend to dabble in a lot of different things and to focus on individual things I like and not broader genres. I wouldn’t consider myself a general Anime fan but I am a big Cowboy Beebop fan (I like a few others too). I do read comics but only collect a few titles (although, I’m about 18 months behind on reading them, guess how old my daughter is?), mostly because there are just so many titles. I’m sure some would ask me to turn in my nerd card just based on that.

I’ve seen so many comments on the above article and others with people boasting about “knowing their s#%^*.” I often wonder how much knowledge you need about something to be a “true fan.” Do you need to stay up nights studying so you can prove your love of something to others? I really love Star Wars, they’re just plain awesome movies. My knowledge of Star Wars is somewhere between your average casual viewer (you can’t be married to my husband and not learn something about Star Wars) and your hardcore, always wins Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, fan. Does that mean I’m not a Star Wars fan? I know there are much, much bigger fans but does that somehow negate my fandom? I don’t believe it does. Even with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and no one, I mean No One better question my Buffy fandom), I don’t know the name of every random side character in every single episode.

Another criticism I often see and hear is the “you jumped on the bandwagon late and I’ve been a fan for years” argument. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to brag about how long you’ve been a fan of something. I love to tell people how I started watching Buffy first season (although it was part way through first season and I stopped watching for a while but that’s another story). Now I’m not new to nerdom, I grew up watching Star Trek The Next Generation and remember watching old school Dr Who when I was so young all I really remember (vaguely) are the beginning credits. I watched X-Files from the very beginning (although not through the bitter, terrible end) and kept up with all the black oil twists and Krycek turns. Granted it’s been so long now I wouldn’t know The Smoking Man from Sunday (note to self re-watch X-Files). I’ve always been a fan of fantasy literature, long before Harry Potter. However, I’m not very good at keeping up with the latest thing and am often late to watch/read something amazing. There have even been times I’ve seen a movie and then after loving it read the comic or book (Scott Pilgrim, Watchmen). Sometimes, I even love a movie without ever reading the book or comic (scandalous, I know). I also have a long list of things everyone tells me I’ll love that I still haven’t tried (new generation of Dr. Who). My point is (I know this post has a lot if rambling), when someone discovers something really doesn’t affect how much they love it. I mean, I wasn’t alive when The Lord of the Rings was published, it doesn’t make me like it any less. All those people just discovering Joss Whedon after The Avengers? I welcome them and hope they watch and read some of his less recent works. If anything, his new popularity makes me feel vindicated, like “see, I told you he’s awesome” (whoever took him off Wonder Woman must be kicking themselves). Even if you didn’t discover the joys of hardcore fandom until yesterday it doesn’t make you a lesser fan in my opinion (although perhaps a tad less experienced). One of the best things about nerd culture is that it has always provided a place for the social outcasts to be accepted, so let’s not start turning people away at the door.

Sometimes I question if I’m some kind of nerd wannabe. I occasionally wonder if I’m a poser for wearing my Batman shirt when I don’t collect any Batman titles (although, I don’t wonder about my Harley Quinn shirt since I love Batman the Animated Series and she was created for the cartoon originally). I see people who really devote they’re lives to fandom and think I might fall short. One of my pet peeves is when people pull the “if you were a real fan…” card. At one point Logo had a fan voted top 100 Buffy episodes count down. Of course they listed the result on their website as well and many people including myself were leaving your typical “I think this episode should have been on there instead if that episode” comments. Then someone had to chime in with an “if you were true fans you wouldn’t be arguing about this. You would see that all the episodes are masterpieces…blah blah blah” comment. First off, I believe I’ve been clear about how I feel about people questioning my Buffy fandom. Second, real, true fandom (like friendship) isn’t about blind devotion but about seeing the faults and loving something anyways. So feel free to cast aspersions in the comments as to my nerdiness. I may not be the biggest baddest geek around but I love my obsessions passionately and isn’t that what fandom is all about? So (wokka wokka alert), can’t we all just geek along?

And now just because it’s fun, here’s a picture of Boba Fett with refrigerator magnets stuck to him.

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Too Cool for Life After High School

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For a while in college I worked as a public safety officer (security guard) for a local mall in Salt Lake City Utah (where I’m originally from). If you know me you’re probably thinking this was an odd job for me to have and you’re mostly right. I never really thought of myself as the security guard type but really the job was mostly customer service. I liked the job in some ways, helping people out, catching people doing inappropriate yet hilarious things, playing jokes on coworkers and so on. In other ways I hated it, patrolling (walking around) parking lots by myself (bored out of my mind) in all-weather. I often hoped something would happen so I’d have something to do. Not something bad like someone’s car getting broken into or someone getting injured. Just something like a panhandler I could politely ask to leave property or even someone asking me for the time.
Anyways, this post isn’t actually about my job at the time but a conversation I had while working there (don’t ask me why I explained the job then, I just felt like it, so there). I was talking to another safety officer, let’s call him K, (we probably shouldn’t have been talking since we were generally supposed to be split up and each patrolling a different area, we’ll pretend we had a legitimate reason to be in the same place) about high school. When he asked me if I would go back to my high school days if I could. I believe my response was something to the effect of (mild profanity alert) “hell no!” To which K responded ” you must not have been popular then, if you were popular you would want to go back.” At the time I just shrugged it off. I though it was an annoying response but I didn’t initially realize why. My feelings were hurt a little at his assumption but that wasn’t it. I wasn’t particularly popular in high school but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like high school. I really did. Of course I liked my friends and although I wasn’t “popular” I had quite a few. I liked getting good parts in most of the plays I auditioned for (unlike college where I got tiny parts in a tiny percentage of plays I auditioned for). I even liked a lot of my classes. I have countless awesome high school memories.
So why, even when I’d only been out of high school for a few years did I not want to go back? The answer is in the question really, I didn’t want to move backward, I wanted to move forward. I’d already done a fair amount since high school. I was at least half way through college and already dating the wonderful man I would marry. Of course there were negatives to high school too. The biggest being that my mood each day was determined by whether the boy I liked at the time talked to me. I also have countless bad memories from high school to go with the awesome ones. But every stage in life has its bad points (as well as good) and that’s not why I was glad to be done with the awkward teenage years.

I don’t want to bash poor K for missing high school so much. He was a couple of years younger than me and had been out of high school for no more than a year. It wasn’t surprising that he hasn’t done much since graduation. It’s the adults, in what should be the prime of their lives, still pining over high school that make me sad. It’s a clear indicator that you haven’t done much with your life if you honestly want to go back in stead of ahead. I don’t mean nostalgia, I get nostalgic a lot. And I’m sure a lot of patents can relate, when sometimes I think how nice it was to just be able to go out and see a movie spur of the moment without finding a babysitter. But of course I don’t really want to go back to my life before my beautiful girl was born, (well maybe for a few hours occasionally) she’s everything to me now. If you find yourself constantly thinking you want to go back to the way things were at some point in your life, my suggestion is to get out and do something with your life now! It doesn’t have to be something huge and world-changing, just do something. Also, really think back to your glory days. Were they really as perfect as you remember them? Somehow I doubt it.

I hope I haven’t been insensitive. I realize there are people whose current situations are so bad or who have had something so awful happen to them that they have totally legitimate reasons for wanting to go back to the past. And yes, I see the irony that my first post was about wanting to be a kid again (but just for 10 minutes). I really miss times, places and people from my past and I’m sure sometimes I get so caught up in past events I don’t stop to enjoy the here and now. I just can’t imagine living my whole life like that.
I hope K has grown up and stopped wishing for his popular high school days. Maybe he made billions with a life changing invention or saves lives everyday as a brilliant surgeon. Okay, probably not but I’d be happy just to know he has a job he enjoys and friends and maybe even a nice family of his own. As for me, I don’t care that I wasn’t popular in high school, I had fun. I know I won’t live happily ever after because no one does. The stuff that t-shirt (you know the one with the smiley face) says “happens” is always going to happen. I guess what it comes down to is you can’t go back, life is a one way track. So why keep looking back? You’ll just miss all the scenery you’re passing right here and now.

Please Rain on My Parade: Disney Parades and Friendship

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Once upon a time (as recently as last year) I was a performer at a certain popular theme park in central Florida. And yes (magic spoiler alert) I was one of THOSE performers, wink wink (I’m forgoing the “nudge nudge, say no more” so it doesn’t sound like an innuendo. If you thought it was an innuendo, shame on you). Did I enjoy my job? Yes. Do I miss it terribly and sometimes tear up watching Disney travel commercials or even Mickey Mouse Club House? Embarrassingly, yes. In the end however it was a job. A complain about your managers, count down the hours till quitting time job.

The Disney World Entertainment department is vast and complicated. Spanning all four theme parks, two water parks, special events, resorts, parades, shows and probably more things I’m forgetting. When I started there I had just moved to Florida and didn’t know anyone besides my boyfriend (now husband) who I’d moved there with. It’s hard to make good friends in Disney entertainment since a performer could find themselves in a completely different area everyday. If you’re full-time you’re allowed to “bid” a location for the season. This helps but even if you are scheduled your bid location everyday (there’s no guarantee you will be) it’s still only temporary. I found myself making friends in each new bid only to end up at a different location then all of my new-found friends for the next bid season. So for the first several years I worked there I didn’t make any really close friends.

Then something changed, something I had mixed feeling about. Since I first got the job I’d wanted to get trained in a show or parade. I finally got scheduled parade training, unfortunately it was in a parade and role I really didn’t want to learn. I was going to learn a role that had a reputation for being very physically taxing in the Magic Kingdom daily parade as well as general training in the night parade (which I wasn’t as worried about). Now you need to realize I was one of those kids who barely finished the mile run in gym and always brought up the rear. (I’m not sure how I ever survived my job, really). I somehow completed the training then wasn’t scheduled to perform my new role for months.

When I finally did it for the first time….I hated it. Not only was it physically exhausting but I found I actually preferred having one on one interactions with the guests (Disney speak for theme park customers). Many performers prefer parades and shows because they love dancing or they like performing for a larger crowd but mostly because they don’t like the one on one guest interaction. That sounds terrible but I don’t blame them. This might burst your bubble but guests can be annoying, obnoxious and flat-out rude. Let me get something straight it’s NEVER okay to pull, poke, grab, push, hit, grope or physically or verbally abuse ANYONE no matter what they are wearing or what job they are doing. Also not okay to encourage you’re children to do those things, for that matter. Yes, sadly, it’s totally common for performers to be mistreated besides the standards annoyances. Can you really blame people for not wanting to deal with that? Not that I was perfectly patient or impervious to rude guests. For me the magic just outweighed the bad. The moments of playing peekaboo with babies, making a little kid’s day just with a high five or the middle aged women with autograph books exclaiming as excitedly as any child “it’s our first time at Disney World!” All these little magical moments were worth the prodding and obnoxious questions (not to mention the dripping sweat and sore muscles).

Okay, tangent over, back to the story. At first I was rarely scheduled parade shifts, mostly just on overtime days. Then after a couple of years they revamped the parade, meaning they changed the music and choreography and gave the floats a makeover. At first I wasn’t scheduled to train for the new incarnation and I was ecstatic. Then, the week of training, they added it to my schedule and being the good cast member (Disney speak for employee) I was, I didn’t call in sick. This time it was different because they didn’t train very many people to start with so I was scheduled it constantly. Then the worst happened. They “cast” me in the parade. Casting is different than bidding in that you have no say in if or where the powers of Disney will cast you. Then part way through the season they trained me in an even worse role for the night parade, which up to this point had been the easiest part of my day. I have a theory that if you show up to work and do your job well they train you in all the crap no one want to do because they know you’ll show up and do it.
Parades weren’t all bad. In a ten-hour shift I only was actually performing for less than 2 1/2 hours. (Of course there was costume prep time and such as well). Entertainment cast members always get a lot of down time (you know, so they don’t pass out or get heat stroke) but even by those standards that’s a lot of break time. Don’t get me wrong you need the time to recover from performing parades but it’s still pretty awesome. It also gives you time to get to know people. In fact I made most my best friends doing those parades. Even after they changed the parades again and I wasn’t trained in the new ones, we stayed friends. Even now that I’ve moved half way a crossed the country we’re still friends and I miss them fiercely. No offense to the friends I’ve made here but it takes years to build the kind of friendships I had in Florida.
I got use to performing in the parades after doing it every single day, though I can’t say I really liked it, at least most of the time. Have you ever tried doing the same routine to the same short clip of music over and over for 30-45 minutes 5-6 times a week? It’s monotonous to say the least and it was still exhausting till the end. I hoped for rain every day, particularly for the night parade since my unit didn’t go out in even light rain. But now when I look back at my time in the parades department, I don’t think of the sweat, exhaustion, aching back and even bruises. I think of stopping for ice cream in the cafeteria, chatting at lunch and walking from the tunnels (yes Magic Kingdom has tunnels under it. No they’re not very interesting) to the production center with friends. The backstage board games and inside jokes are what I take from those years and I wouldn’t trade them for an easier shift. I hate to say my point is that every cloud has a silver lining because sometimes something just sucks. But sometimes clouds do have silver linings and something that sucks turns out to be kind of wonderful.
Disclaimer: I’m sorry to people who have never worked at Disney if this wasn’t the scandalous tell-all account to were hoping for. I’m sorry to Disney cast members (current and former) if this blog entry revealed too much magic. (We can be very serious about preserving the magic). I tried to only give as many secrets away as I needed to tell the story.