Parenting, Snark, Writing

Goodbye, linear phone conversations

I was never a huge fan of talking on the phone.  I’m a highly distracted person to begin with and walking around with a phone attached to my ear is not something I enjoy.  However, I never knew how much I’d miss a straight forward phone conversation until I became a mother.  No one understands that more than your friends who have children.   Other moms have gotten the pass to the club and the secret decoder ring that makes linear phone conversations as stimulating as decaf coffee.

Just the other day I was on the phone with my writer friend Sarah Cottrell.  She has two young boys so she is totally a member of my tribe.  We were talking writing and the conversation went like this:

Sarah:  Just checking in to see if everything is alright……Hey, I’m on the phone.  Remember, we talked about this.

Me:  Oh, yeah.  I’m fine……. Tony, stop putting your face so close to Rosie’s.  Do you want to get bitten? Again?……  I’m just taking a short break to get focused on my writing goals.

Sarah: Is Rosie your dog?….Who wrote on my wall?!

Me:  Yeah, She’s ten years old and grouchy……I’m not going to yell at her for biting you if you don’t. Get. OUT. OF. HER. FACE!….I haven’t written anything new in weeks.

Sarah:  I was wondering…..Finn, you need to keep that in the Kung Fu Corner, do you hear me?…because I saw your Facebook post…..IN. THE. CORNER, MISTER.

Me:  Yeah, I just get overstimulated….Seriously?  Jimmy, did it occur to you to just ask?…by social media sometimes.  You know what I mean?

Sarah:  Yeah, I can see how that would happen. (Muffled talking that I can’t comprehend)  We probably all should take a break.

Me:  It’s crazy, isn’t it?  I should be concentrating on the essays……..Where did I put my pen?  Jim, have you seen my pen?.…….. with deadlines that are coming up anyway.

Sarah:  I have so much writing to do.  I’m swamped…..Alright, now you have to sit on the bottom step and think about what you did.

Jim:  Hey, is that your friend from Maine?

Me:  Yes.

Jim:  Good, she can kick you in the butt and get you back on track.

Sarah:  Is  that your husband?……..Yes, I love you, too.

Me:  Yes.  He and the kids are equal opportunity annoyers…..Geez, Rosie!  Just step all over my feet!  Ow!

Sarah:  That’s funny….Oh, don’t cry……Hey I’ve got to go.  Poor, Max is crying.

Me:  Aw, poor guy.  Talk to you soon.

You see, it’s phone conversations like that that make private messaging on Facebook so much easier to follow.  Granted, I have to write down my every thought, but the person I’m chatting with doesn’t have to be exposed to the mundane details of my life.  I recently chatted with my best friend, Renee, about an upcoming event that I’m excited about, and she missed out on me having to remind Tony for the nine millionth time to use a pot holder when pouring the water for hot chocolate.  She also missed out on me reminding Jimmy that it was trash night and the cans needed to go to the street.  And she didn’t have to be exposed to Rosie’s vocal stylings while Tony practiced the clarinet.  That private message made me sound so much more together and with it.  So much more like a real person.

Oh, well.  I’m a writer so text messaging should be right up my alley, right?

For more about my antics as a mother to this crazy brood, check out my book Lemonade and Holy Stuff sold at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow me on Twitter @MirandaGargasz or on Facebook at Miranda Gargasz, Writer.

Serious stuff

Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee is released!

April 30, 2015

Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee is finally here!trollops

I am delighted beyond belief to be one of the lucky few authors whose essays were picked to appear in this anthology.  It’s a collection of hilarious and heartwarming stories about what we’ve learned from our mothers.

Let’s face it.  We’ve all got some story somewhere about what our mothers taught us, whether is was about shaving, parenting or dealing with bullies.  This collection is sure to make a great gift for Mother’s Day!

Be sure to run out and grab a copy or two of this book.  You can find it on Amazon here.  It’s available in paperback and Kindle.

Really love it?  Join the Facebook page for Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee!


8 Reasons to Love Your Introverted Friend

I make no bones about it.  I am an introvert.  I prefer a night alone, doing my own thing to just Quiet is might.Solitude isabout any other option.  My husband and many, if not most, of my friends are extroverts.  They enjoy people and networking and always being in the spotlight.  It took them years to realize that the spotlight is the last place I want to be.  Once they realized that I wasn’t like them, they began to see that introverted people make some of the best company.

Here’s a list of eight reasons you should love your introverted friend.

1.  They are low maintenance.

Seriously.  They don’t require your constant attention.  Consider them the cats of the human world.  As long as they have what they need, they are pretty quiet, content people.  You could literally not speak to them for weeks and not only will you not damage your friendship, they probably won’t even notice that you weren’t speaking to them.

2.  No matter what, life is almost always calm around them.

Introverts don’t like drama or noise or chaos.  They don’t thrive on commotion.  They bloom when all is quiet and they can take the time they need to process life.  If you are having a stressed day and just want calm, call that introverted friend and hang out.  It’s like a spa rolled up in a person.

3.  They don’t mind when you cancel plans.

This is a big one for me.  I have zero sadness when you cancel plans with me.  You know why?  Bras.  If I had plans with you, chances are I have a babysitter.  A babysitter usually means Grandma or Auntie time.  Grandma or Auntie Time means empty house.  Your canceled plans equal jammie time and a good book.  Jammie time curled up with a book equals no bra required. It’s like freaking Christmas when you cancel, so don’t feel bad.

4.  If you want to know if you’ll like that book everyone’s been talking about, you almost never have to research it.

The majority of my time that isn’t spent carting teens from A to B is spent reading and writing.  As I age, what I read is becoming more diverse.  So save the data on your phone and just text me.  I’m quicker than Amazon when it comes to book reviews.

5.  They make excellent listeners.

Because they need to observe and process, introverts are the best listeners.  They will allow you to ramble on as long as you like without interruption.  Most of this is because they just can’t do the small talk thing.  They don’t care that the weather is too hot or too cold and they have no opinion on what the local sports team is up to.  They do, however, care that you are hurting and need someone to help you through a crisis.  In this way, they are the dogs of the human world, with less drool.  If you’re lucky.

6.  You are guaranteed a level of “special.”

Let’s face it.  When it comes to making friends, introverts are not the people you go to for advice.  They are pretty awful at it simply because they are deep end of the conversation pool people.  They are not comfortable with shallow relationships.  Count yourself very lucky to have an introvert as a friend.  If they call you friend, you must be pretty darn special.  And you will be that special friend for life.  Introverts do not invest time in someone they don’t intend to be around for a while.  And by “a while” I mean “until death.”  It’s a marriage of sorts.  Consider it an investment.

7.  They make excellent spies.

Introverts are the world’s most observant people.  Not much gets by them.  If you have a special someone you aren’t quite sure about, make them spend some time around your introverted friend. Introverts are people watchers by nature and they log all those little peccadilloes they see for later use, whether it be to help a girlfriend know she’s about to date a douchebag or to save for later when they write this shit down.

8.  They are great storytellers.

Alright, maybe not storytellers, but definitely writers.  All that listening, people watching, and down time results in a truly beautiful thing.  If you’re lucky, your introverted friend will pen an essay about that time you helped her peal out of an ex-douchebag’s driveway, spraying gravel to the four winds. She’ll tell you she loves you not on a phone and maybe not in person, but she will write you the most dazzling love letter you’ve ever received.

From their low maintenance demeanor to the “big picture” way their minds work, introverts truly make the best friends. You’ll have them for life.  They will always love you.  They may screen your calls until they can handle the chatter, but they will always be there for you.  What more could a friend ask for?


Open Mic Night: The part of being a writer that terrifies me

Our local library

Our local library

Let’s face it.  We all have preconceived notions.  Most people, I’m willing to bet, think that writing is a pretty easy gig.  You just sit in a chair, make things up for a few hours a day, and, if you’re any good, you get published and become famous, raking in cash like Stephen King.  You probably think writers have “people” who do the mundane things like marketing and setting up speaking events. You would also be unbelievably wrong.  We, the writers do all of it.  Unless we can afford publicists, only our own sweat equity goes into making the publication ball roll and keep rolling.  Even with a publicist, an editor and a publisher, writers are expected to put in their fair share.

Tuesday night I attended my second speaking event as a writer.  The first one went well and I didn’t feel like I did terrible, but definitely felt like I had some room for improvement.  I was one of seven authors there to hock my book. I took what I learned from that event and applied it to Tuesday. My second speaking event, Open Mic Night at our local library, featured the members of my writers’ group as well as one brave soul who came to share.  I was first out of the gate because our leader thought my writing was the most relatable to the audience (I write mostly essays about being a mom or how I have a tendency to screw up even the most mundane of tasks) and would make a good opener. Silly man.

I prepped for the event in all the usual ways: reading out loud until I was hoarse, timing myself to get the pacing right and so I didn’t sound like Seabiscuit on his way to a photo finish. I also took my prescribed, extra anxiety meds. Without those, I’d be in the bathroom and nowhere near a podium.

Almost stone....

Almost stone….

Nothing prepares me for those terrifying moments in front of a room full of people expecting me to be awesome. There’s no way to set that bar a little lower. As I stood there, racing through my essay, I heard my voice begin to quiver. My throat began to run dry. The worst of all were my muscles. I could feel them systematically tightening up, threatening to turn me to stone. All I could envision was falling over, right where I stood. I hated it. All that prep for nothing.

When I was done I raced to my seat and snatched up my husband’s hand. He kissed me and reassured me, but I still felt like a rabbit facing down a cat. What was I thinking? I can’t do this.

Then I listened to all my writers’ group members. And I realized something. I am surrounded by crazy talented people. They all did so very well, causing goosebumps to form on my arms, bringing audience members to tears. I heard a few gasp.  All I could think was, “What the hell am I doing? I do not belong among these people.”

I know that you’ll say that I shouldn’t be comparing myself, but you know what?  Everyone does.  But the simply fact remains for me that I do not feel like I’ve earned my place at the table.  I went to my truck afterward and burst out crying because I felt like a fraud.

Jim told me one thing that bolsters me, but just barely.

He said, “Miranda, the worst writers are the ones who are convinced of their talent.”

I don’t know if he’s right.  I don’t know if I have what it takes to do anything more than entertain my family with my writing.

What I do know is that I want to do more.  I want to be more.  I’ve got the gumption.

Do I have the talent?the worst writers are the ones who are

So what say you?  Ever have that crisis of conscience?  Ever doubt what everyone else says is true?  How do you lift yourself above those moments and keep on keeping on?





On Mother’s Day, give her the gift she can take with her

I was in my early twenties and single. Mother’s Day had rolled around that year and I found myself broke, with no gift for my mom.  Growing up, my family was poor so store-bought gifts were not something we really did.  I remembered Mother’s Days from when I was a kid, handing over crafts I’d made in school to give her as gifts.  One particularly nice one was a leather key chain that I punched shapes into and then painted.  Others were just malformed pinch-pots painted crazy colors, hideous things.  I was not yet a mother, so the beauty of those pathetic little dishes was lost on me.  All I knew was there was no time to make her anything of any significance that would be worthy of Mother’s Day.

I remember it was a bright, sunny day, the perfect weather.  I woke up early and decided that, even though I had my money earmarked for bills, I was going to use it to buy my mother flowers for her special day.  Flowers weren’t something my mother ever got.  I drove down to the florist and waited in line behind all the other procrastinators.  As I stood I thought about what I’d buy her.  Roses?  No.  I surely didn’t have enough money for those.  Carnations?  No.  I wasn’t sure she’d like them.  She lived in an apartment where she got little sun exposure so potted plants were out.

That’s when a great idea occurred to me.  I’d buy her fake flowers.  She wouldn’t have to commit to keeping them alive and, frugal as I was, she would be able to enjoy this gift of flowers forever.  I puffed up my chest and turned to the fake flower section.  I spied the most beautiful silk, pink peonies I’d ever seen.  They came in a huge bundle.  I kept my eyes on those peonies, worried that some other person would steal my idea and get them before me.

When my turn at the counter came, I told the clerk which flowers I wanted.  She looked at me with this sad look in her eyes.  I thought it must be horrible working customer service in a flower shop on Mother’s Day morning.  It was very packed, customers snatching up everything that wasn’t nailed down.  Her misery would end soon, I thought.

She brought me the peonies and I was dismayed to see that they came in a truly plain, bordering on ugly, green pot.  To make matters worse, the pot had two big spikes on the bottom.  I thought, How are these things ever going to stand up?  No matter.  Mom and I would fix it.  We’d just pop those spikes off with a pair of pliers so they’d stand nicely on her dining table.  I handed over my cash and left the store.

I drove to her place with my chest puffed up, proud that I got the most beautiful flowers for my mom and she could keep them forever.  They lay on my passenger seat, unable to stand because of those darn spikes.  So filled with pride was I that it never occurred to me to spend any time thinking about the significance of those spikes.

Mom buzzed me in to her complex and I rode the elevator to her floor.  I spent my time waiting really observing those flowers.  They truly didn’t look fake.  They were very pretty and I was convinced that she would love them.  As I walked down the hall to her door a sneaking feeling began to creep into my spine.  My head started adding the plain green pot and the two peculiar spikes together.  As I knocked on her door, I swiftly hid the flowers behind my back.

Oh, no! I thought, and burst into tears.

My mom answered the door to a runny-nosed, sobbing mess of a daughter.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

Unable to speak, I slowly pulled the flowers from behind my back and handed them to her.

She looked at them with a confused expression.

“Are these for me?”

I nodded.

“Um, Miranda, you do know that these are flowers one normally places on a grave, right?”

“I do now!” I wailed.

She pulled me close and hugged me.  And laughed a great belly laugh.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay,” she said.  “I can at least say that I got to enjoy my funeral flowers while I was still alive.”  She laughed again.

I was still crying, but I giggled, too.

I went inside and explained the whole story to my mom, who did not successfully stifle one bit of laughter the whole way through.  I apologized a million times, so embarrassed that I would do such a stupid thing.

Later, as I lay in bed and replayed my awful choices in my head, a thought occurred to me.  My mother had always told us that we should never be attached to the material things in life because you can’t take your stuff along for the ride.  I had somehow managed to prove her wrong.  I gave her the gift that Mother’s Day that she really could take with her.  So, top that, daughters everywhere.

Parenting, Serious stuff

EMBARRASS THEM, PLEASE #1000Speak Building from Bullying

  While my youngest son was at physical therapy, I read a People magazine.  I know, it’s no great literary endeavor, but it helps to pass the hour of coma inducing waiting.  There was an article about some of the families that have recently lost their children to suicide over bullying.
    A few weeks ago, we had conferences at Jimmy’s school.  When I spoke to the teachers I told them about Jimmy constantly telling me that the kids at school don’t like him.  His face instantly went scarlet and I thought maybe I had overstepped my bounds.  The teachers ensured Jimmy that he was a model student, that they wished more of their students were like him.  While I know Jimmy is a really good kid, I couldn’t shake the fact that I probably embarrassed him, so I apologized the minute we got home.  He didn’t say anything more about it.Take a stand

    I read the article that day with tears in my eyes.  The gist of it was simple:  Open a dialogue with your kids.  Make bullying something they can talk about.  Give them the place they know is safe to air their troubles.  Let them know that they are not alone.
    I handed it to Jimmy and said, “I embarrass you because I don’t want to be these people, who question whether they did enough to help their kids.  If anything happened to you, I’d be devastated and unable to rest at night if I thought for one second that I didn’t do everything I could to help you.”
    Jimmy read the article and turned to me.

    “Mom, there’s a kid who is doing the same thing to me at school.  He calls me fat and gay every day.  He won’t leave me alone.”

    I was never so happy to have been reading a garbage magazine in my life.  I told Jimmy we’d talk to dad and tomorrow I’d call school.  I also told him that if the school doesn’t have the correct response to him, Monday would be the day Mom goes to school and literally shows her ass.

    “That’s why I hate telling you stuff.  You’re overprotective of me.”  I felt pain like no other stab my heart.  Have I overstepped again?

    Tony took that moment to comment.

    “Jimmy, I like that about Mom.  She’s willing to come down on people like a ton of bricks, even if it makes her look stupid and overprotective, because she loves us so much.”

    Jimmy, for the first time in Tony’s short life, said nothing to his brother.  He only looked at him.

    When we got home, I had to cancel plans I had made in order to talk with Jim (he works bizarre hours and our time together is very limited).  This morning I called the school.  They said they’d talk to Jimmy.

    When Jimmy got home he said, “The school counselor came to get me today.  I thought I was in trouble, but we talked about that kid and she told me, that no matter what time of day, if I have to be late to class or miss a class altogether, I could come to her immediately the second he bothers me.  She said she’d give him a warning this time, but next time he goes straight to the assistant principal.”

    “How does that make you feel?  Better?”

    “Yeah.  Better.”

    I didn’t say anything further today.  But a little while after, in true Jimmy fashion, he quietly gave me a hug.

    “Thanks, Mom,” he whispered in my ear.

    Thankfully, he couldn’t hear the tears falling down my cheeks.
*****This piece originally appeared in Lemonade and Holy Stuff:  Collected Essays.

He called me “writer”

Like many writers I know, I have periods of massive self-doubt.  My latest dance with this particularly bad partner left me blocked for weeks on end, unable to write a single word and feeling every moment of the failure I was convinced I was.  I reached out to my equally neurotic writer friends online.  They all assured me that they, too, suffered from the same malady from time to time.  They all reassured me that it would pass.  One of my writing cohorts even shared the fact that the last time she felt that way she found an acceptance to be in an anthology in her email.  She told me the same thing would happen to me.  I’d read her work.  I was not her.  Who was I kidding?

Most of what I do as a writer is just me banging around inside my own head, fingers flying over a keyboard.  All of the blood, sweat and tears I pour into my writing is done in the wee hours of the morning, before I go to bed.  The kids don’t see it because they are sleeping.  My husband doesn’t see it because he’s usually working.

The only job any of them see me do is what makes me a Mom.  They see me cook dinner, do laundry, scrub toilets and cart their butts around from place to place.  I am Mom and that’s all that I would ever be to them.

Or so I thought.

I was sitting in the lobby of a DoubleTree Inn when I felt my chest swell a little.  I was overhearing my husband talk with the man at the counter as he checked us in.

“So what brings you to Pittsburgh, sir,” the man asked.

“Oh, my wife has a conference or audition or something,” Jim said.  “I’m not sure what it is, exactly.  I just know it’s for writers.”

“Here?” the man said.

“Yes,” Jim said.  “It’s a big step for my wife.  She’s a shy woman and she’s very brave to come here.”

“What is it for?”

“I’m fuzzy on the details.  I’m just the chauffeur,” Jim laughed.  “All I know is it’s a big deal for her.  She’s a talented writer.  Very talented.”

With that, the man gave my husband the room key and we were on our way.  It was late.  We were tired and I was misty-eyed.  We rode in the elevator and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.  I couldn’t stop smiling and crying at the same time.

Because he does get it.

Because he called me something other than Mom.

Because he called me by the most coveted of labels in my world.

Because he called me “writer.”