Taking Back Tuesday #’s 8 and Niner: See you after I crush the GRE

I’ve decided my brain and my mental well-being can only hack so much.   I’ll be “Taking Back” this Tuesday and next by studying for the GRE.  I’ll look forward to sharing my experience with you when I return to momsaidwhat on June 11th.  Please come back!


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Taking Back Tuesday #7: Mastering Middle School Math

It’s Tuesday, Readers, and I’m taking back Humpday Eve by doing something reeeeeeeaaaaally wild and crazy…I’m studying basic math.

A few months back I took the first step toward enrolling in a PhD program by registering for the GRE exam.  Step number two has proved to be far more difficult in that now I actually have to study for the test which is rapidly approaching in two weeks. (Hello, May.  Where the hell did you go?)

I’ll be honest, I’m a complete, neurotic nerd when it comes to studying, grades, tests, papers, etc.; so I’ve been hitting the GRE study guides on a semi-regular basis for the past six weeks.  I have vocabulary flash cards literally stashed in every orifice of my being, because anytime is a good time for learning 🙂


That being said, I’ll also have to admit that I have only been studying for the verbal portions of the exam; well, because I’m good at the verbal.  Math is a whole different story.  I haven’t taken a math course in at least a decade.  Needless to say, I’m a bit rusty.

When I say rusty, I mean:

-I’m that checkout girl who has to close down her register when the computer goes down.  How could I make change

-I use my fingers under the table when doing basic arithmetic so that I won’t embarrass myself.

-I know how much a new outfit at Macy’s costs when the sale is 50% off, but take another 30% off…thank God for those strategically placed, price check scanners.

-If someone asked me what time a train leaving Pittsburgh at 9:42 A.M., travelling westbound to Chicago at a rate of 62 mph would arrive in the Windy City?   I’d have to take a flight instead.

That bad.

That rusty.

That pathetic.

Today on Taking Back Tuesday I’m going to make my math teachers of yesteryear proud.  I’m going on YouTube to download every basic math concept the Khan Academy is willing to teach a math idiot like myself.

And what they can’t teach me…I’m calling my seven-year-old nephew William.  He can math circles around my sorry self, right from the front row of the first grade.



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Did Something Crawl Under There and Die?

Something died in my car.  Now I just have to find it.

I opened my car door this morning to put the baby in his carseat when I was hit in the face by hot, moist death.  It was that bad.  So bad I could taste it.

I became a bloodhound, smelling my child, his filthy, crumb-laden car seat, every inch of upholstery, to no avail.

I checked all four tires to see that I hadn’t unknowingly ammassed any road kill points.

All clear.

I opened the trunk to see if Jeff had stashed a corpse when he drove my car last week.


This leaves me with just one other place something rotten could be hiding…under my seats.

I’ll tell you that the thought of exploring just what may be causing the noxious odor under my seat is frightening to me.  I’m just glad that both the baby and our family dog have been ruled out.  Yup, that bad.

Unfortunately for me, I was running late this morning and did not have time, nor proper hazmat gear, to stick a hand under there.  I figured I’d have to deal with whatever it might be after work, after it had marinated in a hot car for eight hours. 

I rolled down the windows and turned up the radio.  Problem solved.

Today at work, I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities

Best case scenario: a sippy cup full of milk that Jeffrey threw to the floor in protest.

Worst case scenario: the neighbor kid.

I’ll keep you posted.


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Taking Back Tuesday #6: Having an Ugly Cry

I’m not exactly sure what my problem is today, but I just want to have a good, hard cry today.  Not necessarily because I’m sad about one particular thing or another, just feeling completely overwhelmed, frustrated, and a tad bit blue.

Since Taking Back Tuesday is a day to replenish myself and make productive my most unproductive, blah day of the week; I’ve decide to let ‘er rip. 

So here I am, alone in my room with my computer, just letting it all out and letting it go…and it feels really freaking could.  There’s just something about a good cry from time to time, and I mean a GOOD cry–the ugly cry. 

I’m sure you’re familiar with the ugly cry.  It’s not like you see in the movies where the acresses makeup remains on her eyes and the teardrops fall evenly and perfectly from her mascara rimmed eyes.  The ugly cry is the face contorting, makeup running, sounding like the possessed, whole body spasm producing wail.

Sometimes life just gets a bit overwhelming and you have to open the floodgates to clean out the emotional system. 

That’s how I’m taking back Tuesday.

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Mondays with the Working Mom: Aunt Dot Speaks

It’s funny how when you least expect it, you hear a voice from the past that sets your mind straight and puts it all in perspective.  On Monday mornings, I let my mind wander wherever it pleases during my dreaded morning commute.  This morning, for reasons only known by the Universe, my subconscious resurrected my long deceased Aunt Dot.  God rest her soul.

I’m sure you have an elder like Aunt Dottie perched atop your family tree, chain-smoking Kent King 100’s and griping about what a waste of money the space program is.   You wanted an opinion on something, Aunt Dot had one, and you better believe it wasn’t wrapped in so much as a shred of political correctness.  If nothing else, she was an honest woman.

Aunt Dot never showed up to our house empty-handed; tucked in her “grip,” her name for luggage, was always a bag of chocolate licorice and a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle to keep us occupied.

Knowing that I was completely devoted in my love for Michael Jackson, Aunt Dot came loaded with a stack of National Enquirers, which she referred to devoutly as “The Paper.” In fact, it was Aunt Dot who spent hours removing a comb tangled in a rat’s nest of my hair after I tried to give myself a jheri curl just like Michael’s.  I would have been the person in lily white Pleasant Hills to rock a jheri curl.

Part of me still just doesn’t believe she’s gone, even after all these years.  She passed away during exams in my first year of college.  I didn’t come home for her funeral because she never wanted anyone gawking at her dead body, and I knew I was respecting her wishes.  She would have wanted me to stay at school.

I guess I was just missing her today, wondering what she would think of her baby all grown up.  I wish she were here to give me advice, to meet my son, to tell me not to worry about money, to scratch my back until I fell asleep on her lap.   Some days I just want to be that worry-free kid again.

If I breathe deeply enough I can still smell the faint scent of Dove soap and stale cigarettes, just like the old days…




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A Mother’s Day Tribute to “the Captain”

My mom, the Captain, has repeatedly cancelled Mother’s Day do to the thoughtless actions of her ungrateful children.  The years that she actually permits the observance of the blessed day are usually, by coincidence, the years that Mother’s Day falls on my dad, Mr. Wonderful’s, birthday.   The Captain spends the entire day  pissed off that Mr. Wonderful, once again, gets to shade her moment in the sun.

Because I only post Monday through Friday, today is my day to pay tribute to the woman who reminds me on a daily basis of the nine months plus 35 years I have been sucking the life out of her.  Today is Mr. Wonderful’s birthday.  I figure I’ll get extra points for writing about her on his special day.  (Yes, there are points assigned to Mother’s Day niceties in the McClelland Family, where even breathing is a competition.)

Last year my sister and I were shut out by my brother, the Golden Child and his touching photo montage.  This year the bastard grew a tumor to gain the sympathy vote, and my sister, the Duchess, is about to become a mother for the first time; so I figured I better go hard or go home.  Here are a few ideas I’ve been toying with to honor the Captain should she allow us to observe Mother’s Day this year:

1.)  The Golden Kegel Award 

For years the Captain has cautioned me of the dangers of a weak choo choo.  Think it’s funny?  Try walking around with your bladder hanging out, like a grapefruit between your thighs.  Not so funny is it.  Next time you’re in the bathroom, think about taking a few seconds out of your busy day to stop your urine flow.

2.)  The Roofie Awareness Lifetime Achievement Award

Since I left for my freshman year of college in 1994, the Captain has waged a fierce, fearless battle against the date rape drug Rohypnol.  Through her wide-reaching campaign cautioning women of the perils of leaving their drink unattended when they went to the ladies’ room, so many have been spared from an unthinkable crime.

I was always confused by the number of times she hit me with this message, because I was always in the library.  Silly Captain, they don’t serve drinks in the library.

3.)  The Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free Award

For every parent of a daughter, this one is pretty self explanatory.  I’m still claiming Jeffrey to be conceived by immaculate conception, alien insemination, or the stork.

Or we can just spend all of Mother’s Day playing the Captain’s favorite party game, “Let’s Go Around the Room and Say One Nice Thing About Me.”  Who doesn’t like a forced compliment every now and again?

Happy Mother’s Day, Captain.  Thank you for all of the wisdom, both solicited and unsolicited, you have shared so openly with your three ungrateful children.  You help me everyday to be the best woman and mother I can be.  You are the standard.

Oh, and one nice thing about you…You’re girls still haven’t dropped one bit.  What more do you want?

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From the Archives….My Brother is my Mom’s Favorite Child

Mom thought the Golden Child would want to attend Dad’s birthday party.

On the cusp of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d re-post last year’s reflections on the sacred day.  Tomorrow I’ll share with you the new ways I will be canonizing the Captain in honor of the blessed event this Sunday.  Be sure to tune in and wear a panty liner.  I’m bringing the funny…

It’s official.  My brother is my mom’s favorite child.  He sealed the deal and took the crown with this year’s Mother’s Day gestures.  My sister and I were left in the dust.  Lost by a landslide.

We hate him and his photo montage.

I think it’s important to note that last year Matthew’s card was late, forcing “The Captain” to declare an end to the Mother’s Day holiday forever.  She wrote her congressman, and the CEO’s of Hallmark and American Greetings, in a one woman effort to strike down this painful event once and for all.

She burned her bra in the front yard in an act of silent protest.

Imagine my surprise when “The Captain” called in tears, barely able to speak with emotion.  She had just received my brother’s card in the mail, three days BEFORE the- holiday-formerly-known-as Mother’s Day.  The card portrayed a young, tow-headed boy riding away on his bicycle with some sappy-assed saying about how she was always there for him, and how she still is there for him. Wamph wamph waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamph.

She wept as she read his well-crafted words:

Dear Mom,

To the most incredible woman I know.  I couldn’t have asked for a better mother or grandmother for my children.  I know that distance separates us, but always know that you are close in my heart.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Love, Matthew


He didn’t stop there.  All day my Facebook account is blowing up, people commenting on photos my brother had tagged me in.  I log on to find a photo montage paying tribute to “The Captain,” celebrating years of childhood memories, God-awful fashion, and some of the greatest moments of bad hair history.

Suddenly and without warning my gift to “The Captain” faded into obscurity, and with it my hopes of winning the title of favorite child. (In my humble opinion, nothing says “I love you” like IPad for Dummies for Seniors.)

Atta boy, Matty.  You are the favorite.  You are the star, her prize, her baby boy.  You win the battle, but not the war.  I’m banking on your procrastinating ways rearing their ugly head just in time for mom’s birthday.  I’m working on a custom macaroni necklace that will bring “The Captain” to her knees.  You’re done, Matthew.  D-O-N-E!

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You know I named this blog “momsaidwhat” as a nod to my mom, the Captain, who is quite possibly the most straightforward, straight shootin’ human being I have ever encountered.

She can’t lie.

When she tries to sugarcoat or tactfully dress up her honest opinion, her entire posture changes; and her face contorts in a way that makes it seem as though she may have suffered a mini-stroke or some sort of viral palsy.

The Captain simply tells it like it is.

Mom said WHAT???!!!!

So, I find myself perpetually running things by the Captain for an honest opinion.  Sometimes after she responds,  I wonder why and when I became such a glutton for punishment.  It’s like I seek out the rake in the yard, anxious to step on it, only to have it kick up and blast me in the face.

You see, when you ask…You will get an honest answer.

You just better be ready to take it.

I think the Captain was really ahead of her time.  Somehow she knew this whole self-esteem movement was a big sham, and the bottom would eventually fall out.  Lead children to believe that they are THE BEST at everything, and watch them crumble when they meet a little criticism in the Land of the Adults.

She was right.

I know the Captain will have no recollection of this fond childhood memory of mine, but I thought I would share it so highlight my mother’s war on inflated self-esteem…

I was in second grade, Mrs. Hrishenko’s class.  I had just come off a landmark first grade year where I didn’t miss a spelling word for the entire year.  I had developed a little swagger.

There was a creative writing contest being held at McClellan Elementary that would award prizes to the best submissions from each grade level.  The winners of the school-wide contest would then have their work submitted to a district-wide competition.  I fancied myself a shoe in.

I was sick at home from school and felt the best way to exorcise my sick was to spin a cult classic from my parents’ couch.  It was an emotional tale:  a young girl whose parents are in the throes of a nasty divorce throws herself into her writing to take her mind of her troubles at home.  After the split the lonely girl write a story a day to ease the pain.

The first day she wrote a story about a koala, the second day a tale about a family trip to the seashore, the third day a chronicle of the life of a  child star, and on, and on, and on.

I had the Captain read my chef-d’oeu·vre, my masterpiece.  I teetered on the edge of my seat waiting for the adoring praise of the most influential woman I will ever know.

“It’s alright,” she said with her face screwed like she has swallowed a rotten peanut.

ALRIGHT?  She thinks it’s just alright?  Come on, Captain, it’s a literary gem

I made no changes, turned it in, and got the “thank you for submitting” certificate…the booby prize.  Should have listened to the Captain and her palsy face.  It sucked.

It completely blows my mind how detached from reality our over-inflated self-esteem can lead us to be.  I meet people everyday who need credit and adoration for putting their pants on correctly, or a trophy for rinsing all the shampoo from their hair.

I’m sorry, but you just won’t get it from me.  I am self-aware with a healthy self-concept, and yes…my poop does stink.  Just ask the Captain.

In light of my need for honesty, please feel free to shoot me your comments good or bad.  I promise I can take it.

Thanks for reading!


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Taking Back Tuesday #5: Singing in the Rain

Ever notice the magnetic draw that a puddle of water has on a child?  It’s as if they have absolutely no bodily control over their little legs when they’re in any proximity to a puddle; like they’ve been possessed by an extraterrestrial pull that compels them to test the waters.

Doesn’t matter what type of cesspool they come into contact with.  A child doesn’t discriminate:

Little puddle?  Check.

Big puddle?  Yes, please.

Muddy?  Even better.

Covered in green sludge?  Sweet Jesus, like hitting the motherload.

There is no hesitation.  There is no time to think about the new shoes they are wearing, or the mud that will splash on their pristine dress clothes.  There is no self-restraint, nor a moment of regret in the aftermath.

Why can’t that be me?  When did I lose that inhibition, that spirit of freedom, that reckless abandon?

You know what today is?  It’s “Taking Back Tuesday,”  so I’m tacking back my childhood self.

It rained all day like Noah was about to set sail.  I’m sure I can find a nice, deep, hopefully warm, and definitely clean puddle to jump in.  (No cesspools for this grown woman.  I’m just too old to get past the green sludge.)

I’m going full speed, two-footed, and regret free.  Cause it’s “Taking Back Tuesday,” and that’s how I roll.

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Nothing Wrong with Getting Yourself a Nice College Degree

On Mondays, I write about whatever pops into my head during the dreaded first commute of the week.  Today, the entirety of my morning commute was wrapped in a goofy, ear to ear grin.  Smiling away like a Cheshire cat.

I’m quite sure that you would have recognized me, as I was the ONLY Monday morning commuter smiling so widely.   Seemed to be quite a bit of hatred trapped in motorized vehicles this morning, EVERYBODY was looking like they were itching to start a street fight or ram the car in front of them.

I just felt good this morning; silly, punch drunk hung over from two college graduation parties I attended yesterday.  No, Mom, I wasn’t literally hung over from too much drink; I was hung over with pride.

Both of the individuals being celebrated had come through some pretty tough times to earn their paper; and knowing that their difficult circumstances would have made a lesser person crumble, I felt overwhelmingly blessed to know them and to share with them this incredible day.

At times I have been disillusioned by the state of education in our country-the inequities, the shortcomings, the failures, and the injustices.  Yesterday, my confidence was restored.

Education is transformative.  It changes lives.  It has the power to take the underdog, the broken, the lost, and the insecure to a place of security, of power, of confidence, and achievement.

I speak to you today as one of the formerly lost, as one of the once broken, as one of the onetime insecure.  I speak as one who was saved by the great power that is knowledge and learning.

Education saved me.

That is why I smile today from the depth of my soul.

Congratulations to all who are graduating this spring, and to the families and loved ones they carry across that stage with them.  I am so proud of each of you.  Promise yourselves you will never stop learning.  There is always more to know.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for instilling in me the value of education.  It truly is the greatest lesson you’ve ever given me.  Let’s go get that PhD!

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