Monday, March 28, 2011

The Best Things in Life are Free

Wear Sunscreen - most people know of it as Kurt Vonnegut's commencement speech at MIT, but apparently it was actually written by a Chicago Tribune columnist, Mary Schmich.  It was later recorded in 1998  by the Australian film director, Baz Luhrmann, his version being the one that most people are familiar with.  If you have ever heard it, and I'm sure you have, it contains great advice and in my opinion it should be read or listened to rather frequently.

"Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday."  Mine actually came this past Saturday at 6:30 pm.

It was the end of my work day and I was just moments away from placing a call to my favorite Thai restaurant for some take out.  My best friend Virginia was visiting as we were planning to leave the next morning for a girls day out with my sister Pam and friend Patty to Santa Cruz.  Yeah, good times.  When through the front door runs Nicole, the project manager for our gallery, and also, unbeknownst to me, our HR Director.  She looked like she had just seen a ghost or was running from the law, I couldn't tell, I just knew that she looked extremely disheveled and anxious.  Small talk.  Me: "We need more Windex, and some note pads."  Her: "Okay, okay.  But I also came by because I have some not so good news."  Or maybe she said bad news, I just know that I felt that filmy cloud form over my eyes and my mind.  Her again: "We have to let you go.  The gallery is having money issues, and someone has to go.  Because of seniority Kim it will have to be you.  I'm so so sorry to have to tell you this."

She hands me my paycheck.  Confused, I'm waiting for her to tell me I will have two weeks or perhaps a small severance pay coming, instead she tells me to go ahead and shut things down, then asks if I have any personal belongings I need to take with me . Wow, I'm being fired.  Am I being fired?  "No, no, you haven't done anything wrong, it is a matter of finances."  Well, it sure feels like fired to me.

As we were escorted to the front door, we, as in me and my dear friend who had to witness this humiliating "we have to let you go",  I felt like schoolgirls that had been caught shoplifting and now were being escorted to the waiting room, either to wait for our parents or the proper authorities.  And unfortunately, I do have experience with that, somewhere around my 16th birthday, and no, I'm not proud of it and neither is my mother.

Stunned, we get in my car, heading over to the restaurant but now I can't think clearly and my car seems to be driving me.  My appetite seems to have followed suit with my job and completely disappeared, causing the car to bypass the restaurant entirely and heads instead to the liquor store, not for liquor, but a pack of cigarettes.  We are both closet stress smokers.  When we enter the store, the clerk (a nice Indian man, our age, but of course we think he looks much older than us) makes the mistake of asking "How are you?" Instead of answering with the canned "Good, thanks", I say, "I just got fired."  I also start crying.  There are customers in line.  "Deepak" as my friend Virginia later calls him, started dispensing his sage advice.  "Don't worry.  You have nothing to worry about.  Start meditating.  Me, I've never smoked in my entire life."  Meanwhile, Virginia is busy pandering to the other customers, with hands cupped and open, "money for the poor, any change", as she is definitely a "glass half full" kind of person and can find humor in most any situation. This caused me to start laughing and crying in unison which made me look like an even bigger mess, and I'm sure the customers or staff considered calling Napa State Hospital to see if there were any padded rooms available.  The customers sadly shook their heads, with a "Sorry, no" to her plea for help.  Perhaps they saw the BMW parked out front and couldn't quite garner up the necessary sympathy.

The next day in Santa Cruz we were walking down Pacific Avenue and saw a sign, Palm Reader, and in our state of ambiguity decided that this might be just the thing we needed on our, "where, when, why and how" kind of afternoon.  As we approached the stairway to the psychics second floor office, a homeless man leaning up against the psychics sandwich board sign, with a sample size cup of very berry frozen yogurt in hand, said to me "you really want to know  your future?"  "Well,  yes I do", I replied.  "Give me you hand, your right hand."  He looked hard at the lines that documented my birth, life and death, and did declare that I would find the love of my life by September.  "Where?" I asked.  That he didn't have the answer to.  He didn't say anything more, nothing about new jobs, new careers, hitting the lottery.  But he was sure about the love.

We left disappointed since we had hoped to have our  magnificent futures affirmed and awaiting us.  Walking off in search of a coffee joint I turned back in time to see my homeless very berry psychic turning the corner.  And as strange as it might seem, he gave me enough, a bit of hope and it didn't cost a cent and neither did his free sample of yogurt.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Royal Icing on the Cake

There is the traditional countdown till Christmas which usually takes on its serious ticking about 45 days or so prior to the 25th of December.  We are reminded on a daily basis how many days we have left to finish, or for some unlucky sot, days we have left to begin getting ready for the big celebration and festivities.  Now, here in America, we are being treated to the daily countdown until the Royals wedding.

Unless you've been purposely avoiding news feeds of any kind, you are probably aware that William and Kate's wedding will be on April 29th of this year. At the moment I am writing this, the wedding will be in 39 days. So will my 55th birthday.  It seems that now and forever more my birthday will be celebrated in the shadow of the wedding and anniversaries of the Royals.  I will now become part of that self-sacrificing group of people who have long had to share their birthday and take a back seat to Christmas Day, Fourth of July, New Years Eve, 9/11, Halloween, their twin sister, or worse yet, one of the six belonging to Jon and Kate (plus 8).

But it is okay really.  I feel like the Royals are family. Like Ellen, I am sure that if I were to dig up my family tree I would find that somewhere rooted deeply I have a royal connection in that distant cousin kind of way.

Even though I am a third generation American I do have some Welsh blood running through my veins.  In a historical stone house somewhere in Wales, in the attic, I am sure there is a dust covered family photo album with pictures of my family members, along with, if not the Prince of Wales, then some of my family and the Jones. Possibly Catherine Zeta Jones family but I'd also settle for the family of  Sir Thomas John Woodward, better know by his stage name as Tom Jones.  Wales is a small country so I am certain that one of these has to be a twig on a branch on my family tree. If I do my homework, I might get an invite to the wedding, perhaps an invitation to a Hollywood movie premier, or if all else fails, front row seats at a Vegas showroom.

It's funny that as Americans, as young a country as we still are, and so proud to be Americans, we still ache to find our roots, to know where our ancestors originally came from.  I guess this is in part due to the fact that it is one of the few things we can take grasp of, get cold hard answers to.  And we like cold hard answers.  There are too many of those other questions floating about that toy with our minds endlessly, like "Why am I here, Who am I, Where do we go when we die, Is that all there is, Is it buck or butt naked?" But where are ancestors came from is factual. It helps explain and understand ourselves a little better. The name Kimberly for example, English in origin, meaning; Glorious or noble leader.  Of course, it is all starting to make sense to me now.

So I'm happy for William and Kate and at the same time feel a bit sorry for them, but I guess this is why marrying a prince requires a nine year engagement.  Making sure you can hold up under the scrutiny, the pressure, with all eyes upon you, and not just your own countrymen, but the entire world.

I guess on the positive side of this birthday thing for me is that I now will always have somewhat of a distraction.  I won't be so focused on myself,  I'll be more engrossed in what designer Kate will be wearing to the anniversary party, are they still happy, and when can we expect their first child.  The negative side is that for most of us as we age and get older we try to keep those birthdays at bay, not make a big thing out of each one, just let them quietly slip right by. They come up on you so fast, you can hardly keep up.  It's like one of those games at the county fair, "Whack the mole", you barely take care of one and another pops up.  But now I will always be well prepared in advance, thank goodness no more sneaking up on me, I'll have the countdown, the day by day, letting me know when April 29th is fast approaching.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh, for Peet's sake!

I don't typically turn the TV on first thing upon waking, but yesterday morning after I climbed out of bed, sprayed my face with a fine mist of Evian and filled my coffee cup, I turned on the morning news to get the latest update on Japan.  Like everyone else I have been following the events closely, feeling it so deeply in fact that I broke down crying last night while watching some of the families dig through the rubble that was once their homes, their families, their lives.  I turned the channel and watched more head shaking, sickening news, Gaddafi's killings, the protesting in Bahrain.  Twenty years after the the Rodney King police brutality incident in L.A., I can still hear him, "Can't we all just get along?" - I guess not.  And I will never understand.

Acquisitions, ownership, borders, be like me, give to me, always wanting more, is there ever enough?  As the ticker tape ran across the bottom of the screen I swore I saw something that looked like "Starbucks to buy Peets".  No, no, say it isn't so.  On the scale of tragedies, I get that this probably doesn't even merit mentioning.  Nothing more than a mere bug smudged on the bottom of my shoe.  It's like asking for a raise when the company has just filed Chapter 11 or praying to God when he has put all of his phone lines on hold.  "Excuse me God, I know you are really busy right now, but if it's not asking too much and you happen to get an extra minute or two while dealing with all of the death, destruction and utter devastation going on in the world, could you please help me to lose this extra ten pounds by summer?"  You know it's selfish and wrong, but you still have to ask.

We all need a distraction from the pain and suffering in life.  We have many diversions to choose from; drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, shopping, Nutella, or perhaps praying for the frivolous, take your pick.  I am a sinner like the rest of mankind so I indulge in a couple of those on occasion, but my main distraction right now is my coffee.  Either the coffee I am drinking or the company that is selling it. That said, I don't want Starbucks to buy Peets.  I think Peets coffee is better than Starbucks. The physical place still attracts a more mature crowd, people actually sit longer, meeting friends or business associates, and read the paper on Sunday morning.  And I'm not talking about reading it on their iPad (though some do), they also read the real "what's black and white and read all over" version.

Logos through the years

If you've read any of my past blogs, you know my love/hate relationship with Starbucks.  In the yin and yang of life, my attitude towards Starbucks is getting out of balance.  The hate side actually seems to be expanding. It might have something to do with the changes associated with their 40 year anniversary.  The new logo, which I don't like, but I do understand.  Howard Schultz says that the new logo "embraces and respects their identity plus evolves the company to a point that's more suitable to the future."  No kidding.  The future of multiple takeovers. Now with only the vixen displayed on the logo they are not limited to coffee  - yes we can already see that.  With the new drinks and "petite" menu, coffee mugs, books, CD's, stuffed animals, party games and other seasonal merchandise, who knows what will be next.  But I will admit, I too gave in.  I couldn't resist.  After seeing the ad for the "new" cocoa cappuccino I had to try it.  And I loved every last sip of it.  I didn't want to love it, it wasn't planned, it just happened.  Like those books, Bad men and the women who love them.  That's me and Starbucks.

Starbucks Cocoa Cappucino
Starbucks has inflated itself to the point where it is no longer a coffee house, they are now really nothing more than a fast food restaurant.  Oh yes, I know, a very profitable, successful one at that.  As I stood waiting the other morning for my "coffee" I watched in amazement how people kept filing in one by one, getting in the ever growing coffee line.  It looked just like a McDonalds, a Burger King or a school cafeteria lunch line. They were coming in droves.  And I thought to myself how nice it would be if just a handful of those customers would visit the local coffeehouse downtown to spread the wealth a bit.  And then I realized that I myself was standing in this ridiculous cattle call of a line.  Why wasn't I at the little locally owned coffee house down the street?  It was the Newman of coffee drinks, damn that cocoa cappuccino!

"Hello Newman"

But seriously, all the little coffeehouses are being brewed right out of business.  So since God is extremely busy right now I'll go straight to the source.  "Peet's, hear my plea, I know this must be tempting and probably a very smart business move, but if possible, think of all the "little" people, your fans, your loyal supporters, who have managed to stay true to you - please don't go to the other side."  Just resist, if you can.

Soon to be a thing of the past?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Basking in your warm sun

Towards the Sun, Follow the Sun, Sunshine on my shoulder, we all crave the sun, need the sun, run away to vacation in the sun.  Why then, would I even be considering a move to Portland, the land of gray skies and little sun? No doubt the sun warms our skin, warms our souls, gives us a healthy glow, and nourishes us with necessary Vitamin D.  But my sunny life here in Napa is depleting me of many other nutrients, like laughter, love and the energy to jump out of bed each morning, excited to see what each day will bring. I don't think I am in need of a prescription for Zoloft or Lexapro, nothing that drastic, but it is obvious that I really do need to examine my life, decide what is important, what inspires me and in general, how I want to live the rest of it. I think it was a Cheerios commercial on TV, where the man makes birdhouses and wants to keep his heart healthy so he can continue doing what he loves, and he loves making birdhouses.  What do I love?  Hmm.  My interests change as often as spring turns to summer, or sometimes as quickly as day turns to night.

But what never changes is my love of home life, family, friends, and for me, Napa seems to have a shortage of all of those.  With my family and friends scattered across the country, I'll admit, the number one reason I'm thinking of a move to Portland is because my daughter lives there.  And as corny as it sounds, she is my external and internal sunshine.  I wasn't one of those mothers who had a baby, reared them until the ripe old age of 18, and then kicked them out the door, so that I could be off and running to live the second half of my life on some cruise ship to the Caribbean or some retirement community in Florida.  I still want to be part of her life, and really, I'm not a stalker or a helicopter mom, I just want to attend her performances, take an occasional early morning walk in the park, meet for lunch, have tea at the Tao, once in a while snuggle up together and watch a movie, and lucky me, she wants that too.

Olivia and Bryan - aka Suckerforlights
I've always believed that it is the people that make a place.  I've said it before but maybe I need to hear it again, you can live in paradise, but if you live there all alone, your little paradise can become your own little run down strip mall. To me, Napa is like the great *pretender.  I have lived here for the past 20 years and watched the wine industry take over the valley, completely.  We now have over 400 wineries.  We have some of the countrys' most upscale restaurants and sought after chefs, Thomas Keller and his French Laundry, Iron Chef Morimoto and the new Morimotos on the Riverfront, Richard Reddington of Redd in Yountville, Tyler Florence, Michael Chiarello and Cindy Pawlcyn are just a few others that staked a claim in the Napa stew of celebrity chefs.  From the newer architecture to the popularity of Bocce ball, Napa is a mix of French and Italian wannabes.  It can be a wondrous place if you own a vineyard, a winery, an upscale restaurant or work in an industry that profits from tourism.  Napa is definitely a small town that caters to its visitors and not the local residents.  An upscale Mayberry, all polished and perfected, for all the world to see, an image to uphold.  Food carts are few and hard to find, we have about 4 total and for those 4 I'm sure the permits and licensing were a nightmare to get.  They are located off by the railroad tracks, out of sight.  In Portland they occupy it seems like most every corner, giving the people who live there the opportunity to eat great food at a great price, at perhaps a small bistro or picnic table next to a trash can.  Ah, please, Napa would have to give their eyes an eyewash of antibiotics after witnessing that!  There is a great little book out about the food carts in Portland that my daughter bought me last Christmas,

And yes, in Napa there is the sun, the weather definitely makes life easier.  No ice to scrape from the windshield, no snow to blow out of the driveway, only seasonal rain fall that makes you remember, Yes Virginia, there is a season called winter.

Food carts in Portland - gotta love em

People in Portland seem to be satisfied earning enough money to get by, but truly value their free time much more than a large paycheck and a substantial savings account.  They love to meet up with friends, eat out, drink wine and beer, attend festivals, listen to music, get involved in the community and in general live a kick back, unpretentious lifestyle.

Of course for me Portland has more than great food, it is home to the neighborhood coffee house. Coffee, coffee coffee.  You have the Stumptowns and the Starbucks, but you also have a multitude of home grown coffee houses and roasters.  On our outing to Sellwood last weekend, a neighborhood in the Southeast, we came upon the Blue Kangaroo.  Best mocha I ever had, with Red Square on Belmont coming in a close second.  This has truly become one of my joys in life.  Trying every coffee house I come upon and rating their product and baristas.  And I have met some of the happiest and seemingly content baristas around in Portland.

So far, our favorite and happiest Barista in Portland!

To sum it all up, we can get all the sun and shine we need from that actual bright burning star or we can get it from people, places, things, family and friends.  You might get it from a friendly barista serving a great cup of coffee, a little schnauzer excitedly taking you on a walk, an awesome dinner at a cheap Thai food cart, acknowledging what is important to you, or just plain relaxing, simplifying and enjoying your way through life. Finding whatever it is that lights and warms you up inside, and it might be something as simple as making birdhouses, but once we find it, it can be like a strong dose of pure sunshine.

Little David Bowie waiting patiently outside Blue Kangaroo in Sellwood while we grab a coffee- best mocha ever!

Jackson Browne - The *Pretender
I'm gonna be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
though true love could have been a contender
Are you there? Say a prayer for the pretender.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flying the heavy skies

I've got some extra poundage hanging around, no doubt about it.  I hate it and am always trying to do something about it.  But on a positive note, at least I can still fit into an airplane seat without my extra layers seeping over and encroaching on the party sitting next to me.  To be fair, in a world of tall, grande and vente sizes, the coach airplane seat on most airlines is the meager "tall" - there is not a lot of extra leg room, or for that matter , much space for your hips, thighs or shoulders either.

I am in Portland today.  Flew up yesterday morning.  I had debated driving, it is a ten hour drive, which when I have plenty of time and guaranteed good road conditions, I prefer.  Those ten hours are usually like a gift I give to myself.  Similar to perhaps spending the day at a spa, or at the beach.  It is where my head clears, fills with new thoughts, then clears again.  A much needed mental binge and purge.  But this time I decided to fly.  I didn't want to use up two full days traveling and it is early March after all.  Checking the weather forecast all I could see was rain for the week ahead, and for me, when I see rain it translates as snow over the mountains.  And snow is definitely not my best friend, actually not a friend at all.  Also with gas prices soaring I didn't want to be reminded of it on my many trips to the gas pump both coming and going.  So, Southwest it is.

I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  Calling 24 hours prior to boarding landed me in that prestigious group of "A" boarders.  Hooray, I am pretty much guaranteed space in the overhead compartment for my carry-on.  As I boarded the plane, walking down the aisle where it seems that all pre-seated eyes are upon you, you scan quickly from side to side, looking for someone that doesn't look like a crazed Gary Busey or a drunken Lindsay Lohan type to sit next to.

The male flight attendant was on the loudspeaker, "This is a full flight folks, just take a seat and we will be able to get you where you are going much faster".   Feeling a bit pressured, I took the next aisle seat I came to.  There was already a passenger seated by the window.

After I stuffed my small suitcase overhead, shoved my large purse underneath the seat in front of me, I buckled my belt, glanced quickly at my row mate and then saw that he was a very large man, so large that I prayed no one sat in the middle seat or if they did they would be no larger than the size of a four year old child.

"This is a full flight folks" - he started up again.  "Take the first seat you see, as all seats will be filled" -  Now I was eyeing every oncoming passenger, thinking "who the hell will want this seat?"  I felt that icky feeling of being picked for the softball team - knowing my row was probably coming in last.  But no, the 250 lb+ woman barreling towards me, with luggage that should've been checked at the gate, must have felt the pressure that I had felt just moments earlier.  "Can I sit there?" she sprayed all over me .   Now, in the past, I would have moved over in to the middle seat to make the whole thing easier.  This is, after all, only a one and a half hour flight. But I'm getting tougher in my old age.  Quickly my mind revisited how just 24 hours earlier I made the effort to go online, making sure to get a boarding number as soon as allowed.  She obviously didn't do that.  She must have been in the "C" or "D" boarding group.  And this time I decided she would have to suffer more than me for it.  She was going to pay dearly for both not pre-checking in and also for that large wad of gum in her mouth that she couldn't seem to keep there.  Her Wrigley's spearmint was like an unruly spitting child that she didn't have control of.

As she settled into the middle seat, I had to sit with both of my legs angled off towards the aisle, trying not to trip anyone as they went by.  Why people always need to use the restroom the moment the "fasten seat belt" sign turns off, I will never understand.  It is as if they wait, "No, that's okay, I'll use the bathroom once we get on the plane."  Who thinks like that?  All I think about is that if I can avoid it, I will.  If this plane goes down, I want to die with some dignity, I surely don't want to be found with my pants down around my ankles.  Anyway, back to my misery and pain.  I have a pinched nerve in my lower back and this twist of my body didn't help things.  Our thighs squished together and each time she moved contact was reestablished and it was almost embarrassing, like a first kiss.  I don't sit this close to people I know and now not only do I have to sit next to a complete stranger that is sloppily chewing her gum, but also adding to my discomfort, she is now sniffing and sneezing with wadded up tissues in hand, while our thighs are joined in holy matrimony.

We can all agree that people are getting bigger, massive might be the right word.  Not just overweight, but downright obese.  And sadly, with all the diet aids, plans and gimmicks, it has only made a whole lot of industry people wealthy instead of making their consumers thinner.  With each can of Slimfast we just seem to get a little bit bigger.
  • Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the United States
  • 60 million Americans, 20 years and older are obese
  • 9 million children and teens ages 6-19 are overweight

Instead of joining Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig,  I think my new choice of weight loss tools will be to fly more frequently.  Flying the friendly skies inspires and motivates me to get in shape, to try and stay healthy (hearing all the coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing just kinda does that to you), and even causes me to "pass" on the bag of delicious peanuts they are serving.  So all in all I guess this flying thing can be a win/win situation.  You get to your destination much quicker than any other mode of travel and you leave with a new found commitment to losing a bit of weight (like you never want to eat again) and in general, just taking better care of yourself.

Friday, March 4, 2011

God couldn't be everywhere and that's why he created Child Protective Services

We all have our own way of doing things and more often than not, we think that our way is the right way.  At least I do. Now being born under the sign of the Fire Monkey it is hard for me to sit back and not be judgmental since it is a trait I was born with.  It is a known fact that monkeys have superiority complexes.  This is not our fault.  It is like being born with freckles, or brown hair, it just is what it is.  I like to think though that I do have an open mind, that I make an honest attempt to look at both sides or perhaps many sides of a story.  But when it comes to children (and animals) my superiority complex comes into play and tunnel vision sets in.  There is no room for peripheral vision.

With Charlie Sheen dominating the headlines I couldn't help, along with all of America, but get a healthy dose of what was going on, even though I tried not to read any of the articles.  But you couldn't go online without being hit between the eyes with something like this; Charlie Sheen Talks Unfounded Addiction Accusations; Leave it to Charlie Sheen to upstage the Oscars or Charlie Sheen is served with restraining order, children taken away.

I was one of the first to jump on the "bash Charlie Sheen" bandwagon.  I mean how could you not?  This is straight from the script of a Lifetime Movie, full of sex, lies, drugs, alcohol, violence, ex-wives, manic rantings, and sadly, children.  Now I do not profess to know what goes on in the Charlie Sheen household.  For all I know those children are the most loved and well adjusted children to ever come out of Hollywood.  And Charlie, compared to many other parents you are probably not so bad, a bit freaky (some might say out of his mind crazy), a spoiled brat, a little too full of yourself, but in reality, you just happen to be in the public eye.  And right now all eyes are on you.  So we get to watch your circus tent fall - and the whole freak show is somewhat entertaining, if you can forget momentarily that there are little children involved.  And I'm not talking about Charlie and his little angels.

Along with the drunkenness and disorderly conduct, there are the women, porn stars, prostitutes, "models", waitresses, you name it.  I mean Charlies current little angels look nice enough, after all, they are goddesses.  And there is no doubt that having two "moms" around must make things easier.  Oh wait, I heard the "goddesses" just sometimes play with the boys, they have nannies to do the actual caring for them.

The ugly and scary truth is that how Charlie is raising his children might possibly be a whole lot better than the way many parents are raising their children, parents we don't even know, we don't see or we don't want to acknowledge. I don't even think the word "raise" should be used in that sentence. Someone needs to look behind the closed doors. Actually, take them off their hinges. " And if it can't be family, friends, concerned teachers or neighbors, well then so be it, enter CPS.

I remember years ago in my Lamaze class the instructor said to all of us expectant parents, "remember, this child is joining you in your life, you are not joining theirs."  At the time I thought, well, that makes sense, try not to lose yourself.  But the minute that baby was born I had joined her life.  She had changed me and the way I looked and thought about most everything.  Even the way Madonna dressed.  Simple things, that when you were childless had no real impact on your life.  But now  you were "raising" a child.  It was up to you to introduce and help instill values, compassion, kindness and all of those other virtuous qualities by your own actions.  It was important that this child wasn't just "joining" or being dragged along as an accomplice in your existing life.  Things were suppose to change.  Parenthood was supposed to change people.  For the better.  It was about putting others before yourself.  I am now sure that at the time, that Lamaze teacher wasn't a parent.

You see it all the time, parents using their children as pawns, as weapons for getting back at one another.  Neglecting children for our own selfish desires has to be one of the most damaging things we can do to those little souls that we have been entrusted with. I think for many divorced or separated parents it is a major concern what goes on when the child is in the care of the other biological parent, but almost more worrisome is who that biological parent may drag home.  And I'm not talking stray kittens or puppies here.  Who are these strangers that are now going to have a great influence on your child?  How are they treating them, what are they teaching them?  Mother/Father, it doesn't seem to make a difference, one can be as selfish as the other. Once a person is back on the "market", for many it seems that the mating instinct again becomes much stronger than any maternal/paternal instincts or to the responsibilities that we had decided at one time to take on. 
Parenting is a serious undertaking.  The most serious thing any human can do.  There are no tests, no exams, no studying required.  No mental health evaluations that need to be taken.  No home or background checks. If you want a foster child or to adopt a child, the CPS will come out and check your home, do a background check, fingerprint you and give you educational materials, but if you want to procreate on your own, well it is your God-given right.  Go for it.  Wing it.

But if you give parenthood a moment's thought, and even hesitate momentarily about parting with your freedom, maybe you shouldn't do it.  If you can't give a child the attention, time, and love that he/she will require and are not ready for your life to change, and it will as sure as day turns to night, then maybe you shouldn't do it.  Maybe you can find a different way to inflate your ego.  Maybe just get yourself some fish. Show off your fish tank. You can't do too much damage if you at least remember to clean the tank occasionally and feed them on a regular basis.  Or perhaps on your way out the door, you can remind one of your goddesses to take care of it for you.