Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christian Grey, Housewife

There are moments, between corks, when I think about the limits of my patience. I think about strategies for maintaining my composure when things go completely haywire. Like when I’m sitting in the car, waiting for someone to find his or her shoes, and thinking about the admonishment handed back to me in a snotty tone just twenty minutes earlier for reminding said person to watch the clock because it’s almost time to go. I can hang in there for awhile, but I’d like to be able to stay really cool – Christian Grey cool, even when just below the surface I’m about to go fifty shades of crazy.

It makes me wonder: How would my family stand up to a mom version of Christian Grey? Would they fear her? Would they be drawn like a moth to a flame and eventually yearn for the punishment? Not like Ana’s yearning, of course, but a decidedly more G-rated yearning, similar to the way they drool at the mere mention of the phrases water slide park, or NFL Ticket!  Would they all think twice before rolling their eyes at me, not making their bed before leaving for school, or leaving their backpacks strewn about the dining room?

The fact is, my household is a virtual Disneyland for maternal sadists.

I can see it very clearly. Just like those tense moments in 50 Shades, when Ana steps across an arbitrary and imaginary line, my family members would sense the sudden energy shift in the room. Of course, I wouldn’t have a long list of ridiculous infractions to avoid, like Christian does. You can bet Mama Grey’s  No-No List would make Christian’s look like, well, child’s play—no pun intended. In fact, one of the first ways my family would probably become ensnared in the fine print would likely concern the most grievous and punishable offenses of all: not cleaning up after oneself in the kitchen.

First, the merest shadow of a hint of dissatisfaction would eclipse my normally sunny demeanor; somebody would notice, and the tension would start to build. Then, a cock of the head, and an innocent beckoning to “come closer.” Next, a gentle, yet direct inquisition.

 “Is that your mess?”

“Um…it’s stuff from…uh, breakfast,” the submissive would say, eyes downcast.

“Is that your mess?”

“Well, it’s dishes on the counter….by the sink.”

“What else?”

“Pans on the stove from breakfast.”

“What else?”

“Stuff on the counter.”


“Crumbs and jelly on the counter.”

“I see. Pots and pans stretching from the stove to the sink and goopy countertops is called a mess, where I come from.”


“Does that mess belong to you?”




“Now, tell me, if I asked you whose job it is to clean up a mess like that, would the first, second or even third name that pops into your mind be mine, the only person who did not have a hand in making it because I was working all day while your greatest challenge was taking snack breaks between dips in the pool?”


“Perfect. Now, do you see that bungee cord over there—the one that’s been sitting in the corner of the living room for three weeks because someone, again, not me, tied the dog up to the front porch with it because someone else other than me lost the leash?


“I want you to go and get it and bring it here. I’m going to go get my thongs.”


“Silence!” I’d say, lips set in a thin line.

After returning from the red room of pain, a.k.a., my closet, with a box labeled, “Punishing Childhood Memories,” we would begin.

“W-w-what’er those?”

 “When I was a kid, thongs were hard rubbery contraptions, more like plastic really, that you wore on your feet. The unforgiving little thingy between your toes first caused raw, red divots, and then calluses formed, which compelled one to rub his toes together incessantly.”


“Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m not going to allow anyone to do any dishes tomorrow, or the next day, which shouldn’t be too difficult. Then, I’m going to pile them in the kitchen sink, which will be filled with soapy water. Then, you’re going to stand in front of the kitchen sink.”

“Wearing the thongs?”

“I’m impressed.”


“Did you just roll your eyes at me?”


“I didn’t think so.”

“What’s the bungee cord for?”

“That’s a very good question. You see, I’m going to hook the bungee cord to your back belt loop and the other end to the cabinet drawer on the other side of the kitchen island, directly behind you. I figure you’ll be about two feet shy of easily being able to reach the sink.”

Slowly, the mental lights will flicker to life...Constant straining against the stress of the bungee in order to reach the sink, hard rubber thingy between toes, sinkful of dishes….Yoooowwwie!

“But that’s going to hurt.”

“Almost as much as my feelings when I walk into the kitchen and see messes that anyone old enough to wipe his or her own butt can clean up for themselves, but has chosen instead to leave for the next person who needs to use the kitchen, and by use, I mean make a home-cooked meal for her family.”

“I promise never to do it again?”

“Yes, I know.”

“You’re my favorite mom?”

“Yes, I know.”

“Dad, can you get me out of this,” the mini-submissive will call out to his father, like poor old Tessio to Tom Hagen in The Godfather, just before he got snuffed out.

“I don’t think so,” my husband will say, eyes downcast, shaking his head.  “See my shoes over there? I left them in the doorway and she tripped over them yesterday.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude Platitudes Make My Ass Itch

I’m so bored with reading about people who are thankful for the stuff that’s easy. It’s easy to sit around and dreamily think up universal, corny sounding things to be thankful for (“I’m thankful for nature’s bounty,” or “I’m thankful for the love of my children”) or worse, give someone else the credit for what we have (I’m thankful to [insert favorite deity here], for bringing [insert name of special person] into my life. Those drive me crazy. Are those same people thanking their favorite deity for the first spouse he/she brought into their life? The one who didn’t work out? Or that endless string of loser boyfriends they almost married, but didn’t, simply because not a single one asked them to? God gets the credit for the winning moments, but not the crushing defeats? Who gets the credit for that? Oh, I do? Then I’m taking the credit for the wins and the losses, thank you very much. I’m thankful that I finally got my shit together enough to attract the greatest man I’ve ever known. I did that.)

But I digress.

I’m sure all of the “I’m thankful-for…” posts that people throw up on Facebook are heartfelt, but are they real? What I mean is, are they honest and revealing? Are they representative of how we’re feeling on any given day when we’re in the weeds of life, amid the confusion, frustration, anger and resentment that knocks on our mental door all day long? Sure, these feelings are fleeting, with a shelf-life of about two seconds, but that doesn’t make them any less exhausting, which makes the moments when they are lifted from our shoulders something we truly should feel gratitude for—right there in the moment when it counts the most. Like, yesterday, for instance. My husband just cut me off as I was merely suggesting things he can make the kids for lunch, on the first day of Thanksgiving break. I was at my desk upstairs. He was downstairs in the kitchen. I’m thankful for open floor plans, so that I can boss everyone around while I’m busy working in my home office. Anyway, he cut me off! I was just trying to point out that I went shopping and that there was plenty of soup in the cupboard that the kids requested, and leftover breadsticks, and they don’t have to have the soup, because there’s also ham in the fridge…

I was thankful, at that moment that he cut me off, right after I finished my mental reaction, the one with the F-bomb, that I have a husband who is not only capable of finding the kitchen, but isn’t afraid to use it. I turned it into a positive, thankful moment. Later, when I find out they had crackers and butter for lunch, I’ll be thankful for duct tape as I finish reciting the entire contents of the cupboards and the fridge to him, just like my mom taught me to do.

So today, when you go around the table stating things you’re thankful for, don’t forget about the little things—the feelings of gratitude that bubble up and prevent our brains from running out of our ears and pooling on the carpet. While you’re at it, be honest. What are you really thankful for but afraid to admit out loud?

I’ll go first.

I’m thankful that murder is frowned upon in our society, to the extent that I’d have to spend the rest of my life in prison if I acted on impulse and offed one of my kids. Sometimes, that’s all that’s standing between me, a heavy frying pan, and the back of one of my kids’ noggins. Like, just yesterday, my 15-year old son was resisting the fact that he had to address the envelopes for the thank-you notes he has yet to send out for the gifts he received on his birthday three weeks ago. Among the questions he asked me were:

1. How do you do this?
2. Where does the address go?
3. What’s Grandpa’s last name?

At that moment, I was thankful for the death penalty, (see paragraph above) but I was mostly thankful that he is the kind of kid who, once presented with an alternate option (“Write the freakin’ thank you notes today or send back the birthday money) immediately sees the error of his ways and complies, complete with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry mom.”

I am always thankful for solitude. On any given day, especially right before I cook dinner, I am thankful that they’re all at basketball practice, or busy setting the dog on fire and can’t talk to me while I’m reading a recipe.

I’m thankful right at this moment while I’m writing this that it’s not even noon and my husband has cracked a beer because his brother told him via text that it’s ok to do so. I’m thankful I don’t have to carry around a bunch of guilt for sneaking some Irish into my coffee this morning.

I’m constantly thanking the unknown force in the universe that makes working from home a reality. In my pajamas recently, I was thankful that I could hit the sack during a conference call with my boss and not have any explaining to do. And that very same day, I was thankful that the co-worker I was instant messaging couldn’t see me rolling my eyes at her dumb idea. And almost every day I’m thankful for the ‘microphone mute’ button that allows me to pee during a company meeting, when I’m supposed to be listening to someone talk about something I don’t really understand  or give a shit about anyway.

Being thankful is easy when you have time to reflect, and/or want to impress others with gratitude platitudes like, “I’m thankful for freedom” or “I’m thankful for the food on this table.” Yawn. Try it at the dinner table today: Share your gratitude for the little things that keep us sane, loving one another for another day, and out of prison. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Can you hear me now?

In life, there are a few situations where grey areas just don’t cut it. For me, two things jump to mind immediately: Listening and bartending. We’ll start with listening, an ever-evolving challenge for most people, including this gal. I think it’s obvious why there is no grey area for me with regard to bartending. I want what I want and I want it ten minutes ago. I don’t have six hours to kill anymore, like I did in college. Has anyone noticed how short softball practices are getting these days?

Here’s an example of how I feel about listening. If your face is buried in your iPhone while a fresh face with sound coming out of it is pointed at you, you aren’t listening. There is no “kinda” paying attention. I know because I try it all the time and the little buggers are now old enough to spot an epic fail from five syllables away:

One of them: Blah, blah, blah, blah….

Me: Wow. Really. Then what?

One of them: Mom, I said thanks for buying Eggos.

Me: Really? Wow. Then what?

One of them: MOM!

Me: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and salad! 6:30!

It’s not just kids who deserve the undivided attention of the person they are speaking to. Spouses need auditory love, too. If you have one eye on the phone (remember when phones were for ears?), one on the TV, and one on the pasta pot, you aren’t really listening to your man tell you about this week’s epic fantasy football trade. Plus, you have three eyeballs.

With children, you listen for obvious reasons: an innocent child wants to share, which they have the right to do without sharing you with something else. And when the recounting of last night’s incomprehensible dream is going on for five, then ten minutes, with no end in sight, they still need you to listen. Why? I have no idea and I’m really terrible at it. Sometimes I just want to start crying, loudly, like I did when I was six to avoid shit I didn’t like.

Now, listening to husbands is a little different. With husbands, listening is active, as in actively squirreling away valuable information to be used later, during key negotiations:

“C’mon, baby, please….I heard every word you said about your trade earlier….Ochocinco for Palamalau…Are you sure you’re too tired?”

It works both ways. Kids and husbands need to listen also. They need to plug into what we moms are saying. Case in point: the other day, my 12-year old daughter caught up to me while I was reading a book, my most favorite time to listen to stuff:

Landry: Mom! (While most children put a question mark at the end of that word, she does not; it’s an abrupt, roll-call-like exclamatory statement that leaves no room for anything but the following loving response:

Me: Again?

L: Can I get my own roll of pre-wrap for softball this year?

Me: Sure.

L: Cuz….you got the girls one for basketball and I’d like one for softball.

Me: Yep. Sounds good.

L: So, I can get my own roll?

Me: Simon says, YES! Are we good now?

It was like she just couldn’t stop unpacking that hobo-pouch-on-a-stick full of logic she had prepared in case I denied her request; but I didn’t. I agreed, quickly and easily. Was she listening? It was like conversing with one of those pre-recorded voice-mail-tree instruction ladies who tell you to say or spell your name:


It: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Please repeat that.

Me: L-I-S-A

It: Okay, Lima. Is that correct?

Me: NO!

It: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Could you repeat it?

Me: F-U-C-

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life is Anything but Short

Who are these people who believe that life is short? Life is a long ass time. Name one other activity that you might do that could be categorized as short, if it lasted as long as an average lifespan does. Think about it.

“Mom, I’m going out to ride my bike.”

“When will you be home?”

“Uh, in about 72 years.”

“Take a sweater!”

And you’d never hear this conversation, for that matter:

“Honey, my parents are coming to stay with us.”

“For how long?”

“Just a short visit—maybe a year or two.”

“I’m going for a bike ride.”

A movie is short. A red light is short. A marriage is sometimes even short, and in many cases, not short enough. But life? Life is not short, unless it ends prematurely. That is, before you’ve had a chance to burn your diary. A normal lifespan of between 65 and 80 years is not a short amount of time, unless you’re sitting on life’s bench, watching it being played without you. And don’t try and tell me “length is relative.” People who think length is relative ought to get out more. Short is short, long is long, and size matters.

My point is that there is plenty of time to do plenty of things. In fact, life is so long, there is even enough time to balance out the bad times with good times. Today sucks? Don’t look now, but it’s almost tomorrow. Week from hell getting you down? Next week’s coming, baby. Having a bad month? Flip to the next page of the calendar. See the big box with the number "1" in it? Have a better month starting on that day! Make a list of all the crap that didn’t work for you this month and implement some changes. Was last year a total bummer? Get ready, because more than likely, you’re about to get—wait for it—a brand new year!

Shitty childhood? Don’t look now…but you get adulthood! Unpack those bags and be a grown up!

I’m not suggesting that life can be undone. I’m merely pointing out that for virtually any increment of time, there is still enough time for a do-over. Until, of course, we get to The End. That’s when you’re either looking back and saying, “What? But I didn’t….and I forgot….and I was afraid to….” Or, you’re marveling at the epic nature of your 50, 60, 70 or 80 years with your mouth hanging open, wondering, “Wow. I did a lot of shit!”

There’s a management technique that is often used in manufacturing, as well as many other industries, known as Kaizen. It’s the practice of examining one’s processes and systems and making continuous improvements, or “good change” at all levels of an organization. It works for individuals, too. Be on the lookout for the energy and productivity dams clogging up your world. If it's a simple letting go, then as my kids say, “Build a bridge and get over it.” Note: Some bridges are a wooden plank thrown down between two creek banks. Others take engineering, sweat and toil. Or if it's a little more complicated than that - if there is something that needs to not just be "gotten over," but changed, then face it. What didn’t work today? Last month? This year? Kaizen it right out of existence, baby. But you have to be willing to look—continuously. You have to be able to face what isn't working and make a change for the better, no matter how small of an issue it is.

Getting back to time, and how we perceive it, I’m also not plugging into the “my kids are growing up so fast” mindset. They’re growing up, period. I did, you did, and now they get to. Be present in each moment (wine optional) and you’ll be surprised at how long they seem to last. I am, however, bracing for the day my kids leave by reminding myself of all the fun I’ll have while they’re out in the world having all the fun they can have. My fun will be a little different than theirs, because I’ve already had the kind of fun they’ll be having, and it made me tired. My fun will be napping, and reading, and eating without interruption, and traveling at a moment’s notice, like I did when I was 20. Jumping into the car and just going. I’ll clean something, and it will stay that way until I decide it’s time to mess it up with my own stuff. 

When my son was nine, I felt a startling sadness because I realized that my time with him was half over. It kind of freaked me out. I don’t like being freaked out. Now, at 15, he’s just a few years away from not living under the same roof with me. If I cling to that, feeling like it’s almost over, I’ll go crazy.

Instead, I'm trying to look at it like this: I get three more years with him. I get four to five more years with my other children. I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do for that long. Not even this:

“Honey, I’m going to make love to you.”

“For how long?”

“Three years.”


Or, this:

“Want to go to happy hour?”

“Sure. What time does it end?”


See what I mean? Life is a really long time. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dirty is a Relative Term

Just when I think, “I’ve really got nothing to write about,” I trip over a conversation with my son, at bedtime, when I “tuck” him into bed. I don’t actually pull his covers up and smooth them out across his chest, ala June Cleaver, as she did for Wally and The Beav in their little single beds. That’s because my son climbs into a cluster-fuck mound of sheets, comforter and pillows. The feather bed under his bottom sheet is generally half-hanging off the edge, like a giant, bed-sized tumor that really needs to be seen by a specialist. This, because my son is far from motionless during the night; if he’s not walking around, taking things like his clock off the wall for no apparent reason, he’s wrestling with an invisible, nocturnal sasquatch—at least that’s what it looks like in the morning. I really don’t want to get too close to his sheets, anyway. I really don’t want to get too close to his room at all, but I do, and I’ve lived to tell the tale, as documented in this blog from time to time.

In my opinion, more parents should be tucking in their teenagers, at a decent time, with a wish for a good night’s sleep, a little rub of the head and a promise that tomorrow, there will be more pain and suffering until eventually, you die. Wait. Scratch that. I simply mean that I enjoy helping my kids complete the long day’s journey into night. And from what I can tell, they like it too. A quick convo, and all of the day’s grime is washed away—mental grime, that is, as I was reminded of recently.

 “Mom, I’m going to bed.”

“Ok. Be there in a minute.”

I padded through the kitchen toward his bedroom, wondering if I’d actually get any writing done, or instead settle in for a little TV. Turning the corner into his room, I had my answer.

“Oh my god. What are you doing?” I put my arms straight out, hands flexed, knees slightly bent, like a cop directing traffic in a busy intersection. If I had a whistle, I’d have blown it—hard. There he sat, on the side of the bed, preparing to snuggle in for the night. Toes lifted off the ground, ready to rotate 90 degrees onto the bed, where he would do the little foot wiggle so he could burrow his long legs under his covers.

“Getting into bed,” he said calmly—referring to the very same bed that just one hour prior I had put freshly laundered sheets on, right in front of him as he did his homework. Clean, white, fresh-smelling sheets. The problem? Soccer practice was climbing into bed with him, in the form of mud-crusted, grass-stained knees and shins, not to mention the very same soccer socks that he had worn at practice earlier that evening.

“How can you crawl into bed like that?” I said, barely able to mask my horror, bringing my hands up to my cheeks, ala Munch’s The Scream.


“Your knees! And your socks! You’re going to put those socks into the bed with you?” (They still had grass particles stuck to them, and more than likely, gobs of flesh-eating bacteria.)

“I’m so tired, mom.”

“I know, but….well, oh god, all right. Never mind,” I surrendered, feeling all of the mom-tension flow out of me and the resignation seep in: He’s a boy.

“No, that’s ok, you’re right,” he said, as he climbed out of bed. I surged with a rush of relief. I had won, and it was easy! He won’t wallow in his own filth like the rest of his people seem content to do. My boy is different.

“I’ll wipe them off with a wash cloth.”

“What? Wait! What about a shower?”

“I’m tired,” he said again.

I didn’t argue. Shit, I was tired too. What the hell? It’s just dirt. It reminded me of when he was three, and he still used a pacifier. Someone asked me if I was concerned. I said that I was not—that I had not as yet seen a high schooler, much less a Kindergartner, walking to school with a pacifier in his or her mouth. In other words, this too shall pass. A little dirt never killed anyone.

Edvard Munch's The Scream
A moment later, an alarmingly brief moment later, he re-entered the bedroom and stood holding the once-white wash cloth, looking….confused.

“What should I do with this?”

“Geez, I don’t know, put it in there, maybe?” I said in my gentle-only-because-it’s-bedtime snarky tone, as I pointed at his laundry basket.


“Whaddya mean, ‘Ewwwww.’ It’s the dirty clothes basket.”

“Noooo. I don’t want to put it in there on my clothes.”

“But that’s where dirty clothes live. What’s the problem?”

“I might need to get something out of there tomorrow.”

And there you have it: no such thing as dirty, just varying degrees of clean. I’ll try to remember this the next time I walk into the kitchen and see not my countertops, but snow-drifts of crumbs, jelly smears, dried egg yolk and butter glops.

Next Up: Christian Gray, Housewife

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Going, Going, Gone: 14-year Old Boyness

Like most modern families, we were sitting around watching Tosh.O recently, waiting for a teaching moment to come along. It was a short wait. Our friend on the TV mentioned “spooning,” and Wonder Boy at the other end of the couch, with all of 14.75 years under his belt, so to speak, spoke up.

“What’s spooning?” he said tentatively.

“Snuggling,” said his dad.

I was impressed. He didn’t even try and pass that one to me. I liked the confidence. Or maybe, he was just afraid of what I’d say….

“Oh,” my son said with a confused look on his face. “I thought it was….”

I decided to step in at that point, as my son’s voice faded away.

“Well, actually, it can lead to….” I said, voice trailing off as I got The Look (head tilt, one eyebrow raised, nose pointed at the floor) from my husband. I decided to adjust. “But, it can just be platonic also.” At this point, it’s all platonic for him, I believe, from a practical standpoint, that is. Additionally, thanks to my word choice, he’d probably think we were now talking about the lovable, long-eared dog from Disney. Spooning is hugging your dog. We’re good to go now.

The next day, all of the usual things happened: my son used his new vocabulary word in a sentence; it was both innocent and inappropriate; I found it funny; my husband not so much; my son laughed hysterically but he didn’t know why.

 “I’m taking Jackson to get that milkshake I owe him,” my husband said.

“And then we’re gonna spoon,” my son said, big-ass grin spread across his face.

We all froze. I laughed first. I had absolutely nothing to add and settled in for a nice, long chuckle. So did my son.

“Oh my god, Jackson, we’re not going to spoon,” said my deeply horrified husband.

“Ahhh, that’s sweet!” I said.

“Mom, can three people spoon?”


Finally, somebody said something.

“Oh….my….god…..” I yelled as I gasped for breath, laughing, snorting, and holding my ears to stop the bleeding.

14-year old boys.

It’s a bittersweet time of life. There is an end to 14-year old boyness. It’s not adulthood. It’s not childhood. It’s the change of boy to man; it’s running around and splashing in a pool with buddies, oblivious to everything but the game they’re playing one second, and waiting impatiently for the right girl to message them the next. It’s the mingling of boyhood, manhood, and everything in between, which any mother or father of young men recognizes as familiar. The duality of this stage of life can be appreciated by mothers also, as well as fathers. While fathers were once living it, mothers, as young women, were studying them. Carefully.

Many times this summer, my son could be found in our pool with a couple of buddies. Eventually, they’d decide to spend the night. I always said yes to these multi-person sleepovers. I liked knowing they were together, under my roof, where I could revel in the remaining time I have to enjoy them enjoying being home. I knew what to expect. After the pool, they’d disappear behind the door to my son’s room, surfacing only for food and an occasional trip to the bathroom.

They'd camp in front of the PS3, settled in for a marathon that generally carried them into the pre-dawn hours. I’d find them mid-morning, three across the bed, feet hanging off, controls slipped from their hands, snoozing in a fog of morning breath. They’d be in their clothes from the night before, or even still in their bathing suits.

Should one of them shift, even slightly, they’d be spooning.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Many Faces of Motherhood

I have a favorite quote. It goes like this: People are a lot of things. Oprah said that. I don’t know who said it to her; probably her mother. Anyway, I like it because it helps me understand the world. It explains a lot of peculiar behavior, my own included. Like when I’m generous, kind and compassionate one moment, and sharpening my talons the next, just waiting for the next poor sucker to cross my path and ask me what’s for dinner. Then there are times when I’m laid back and kind of boozy, caring only if I might get lucky or not.

I remind my kids that people are a lot of things. All. The. Time. Best friend in the world give you snotty glares all day? People are a lot of things. Sweetest 8th grade girl in the universe now going out with the biggest jerk in the school? People are a lot of things. I tell them that no one is all good, or all bad, or all that. Now, if they show you they’re mostly rotten most of the time, it may be time to throw in the towel, or at the very least, watch your back; likewise, if they’re mostly good, most of the time, you can probably count on them to have your back. However, when they throw you a curve ball, remember that you already have the answer to the question, “How could they do/say/screw (maybe not this last one, yet) that??” People are a lot of things.

Sometimes I’m brave enough to add, “Give it a day or two,” but only if they’re at their lowest of low points. If there’s any fight left in them at all, they’ll fire back with “It won’t matter, MOM! She hates me!” or “No, MOM, they’ve been going out for over a week!” By Friday, the ex-BFFs will be planning a sleepover and the sweetest girl in school will be dating someone else, crying on my son’s shoulder, or dating my crying daughter. It’s anyone’s guess.

Yep, people are a lot of things. Mothers are no exception. I should know, because I’m one of them. If you’ve hatched at least one, then you’re probably made up of equal parts Saint Catherine of Siena, Linda Blair ala The Exorcist, Mrs. Robinson (can’t think of any other sexy moms at the moment) and even Marion Cunningham. (Why is that last one the hardest to admit?)

 Take, for example, the time I risked my own life to save two others, and one of them wasn’t even my own flesh and blood. That day, my mom channel was set to Mother Teresa.

“Mom, can you help me get my shade up?” my son yelled from downstairs.

“I’m really busy, J. Can it wait?”

“No, it can’t.”

You know, if your shade is up, sunlight will come in. You know that, right?”

“Mom, really?”

As I started down the stairs toward his room, careful not to smudge my toenail polish on the carpet, he dropped another bombshell:

“You need to open the windows, too.”

“You understand that fresh oxygen will come in through the screen, right?” I said as I rounded the corner toward the hall leading to his room.

“It’s really bad in here.”

I froze. When a fourteen year old boy notices the olfactory funk of his own room, it’s serious. Like so many times before, he had just spent twelve hours closed up in there with his buddy, farting, breathing, sleeping, playing video games, sweating (If you think playing Mortal Combat and shouting, “Freakin’ crap!” every six seconds doesn’t burn calories, think again.) This was the first time my son had ever raised the white flag, and it gave me pause. I stopped ten feet from the bedroom door and peered into the darkness that the black-out shades provided. My favorite Mother Teresa quote popped into my mind and then out of my mouth:

“Holy freaking crap.”

My son was sitting on the floor with his back against the bed, knees bent, elbows resting on them with his head in his hands. Our visitor, the one I was expected to return to his parents in a condition other than dead in less than an hour, sat on the edge of the bed, feet resting on the floor next to my son. He was listing at about a 45-degree angle. His eyes were open, staring into the darkness. Like those climbers on Everest who have to be left behind on the mountain, he was probably still alive, but couldn’t respond. I made a split-second decision.

Inhaling deeply and holding my breath I darted into the blackened, festering wound of a room. After hurdling the skateboard that is never supposed to be lying on the floor, I clawed at the first tricky shade until it snapped up. Sliding the window open, I moved to the second shade. Bam! Then, the window. It's stuck! Why won’t it open?! Images of my other children, and my husband, sitting sadly at my funeral flashed before my eyes: I saw my parents, burying their favorite child; the grandchildren I'd never ruin; the laundry that would never get done if it wasn't for me. I moved faster. My lungs were beginning to ache. Finally, success! The latch gave way, and the window slid. I turned to face my POWs, readying myself for the dash back out.

Like pasty-faced prisoners who had just spent several self-imposed months living in a dank, underground cellar, the boys’ eyes met those of their liberator, me.

“Nexttimecrackawindow!” I squeaked, clenching my jaw, knowing it still wasn’t safe to inhale. I sprinted out, through the high pressure system forming in the doorway where the fresh house air mingled with the noxious cloud creeping like mustard gas along the floor.

A week later, it was a different story and another mother entirely.

On a Sunday evening, during a friendly family game of (spoiler alert) barefoot soccer, another mutha emerged. The boy stubbed his toe, hard, down into the lawn. There were facial contortions, and blood, but not from the normal spot at the top of the toe. It was funneling out from the base of the toenail, under the cuticle. The nail appeared intact. Can a nail break under the cuticle, I wondered to myself? Turns out, it can, and did, along with a bone in his toe, which the X-ray confirmed a few days later. Quickly donning my Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman persona, I sprang into action and approached the patient.

“Eww, god, that’s gross!” I moaned when he took his hand away. His face grew even whiter as he watched the look on my face. Oops! I was the mom. Or Dr. Quinn. I wasn't sure. But I had to be strong for him.

“I mean, it’ll be fine, but you’ll lose the toe.”


“I mean the toenail!”

“You mean you’re going to pull it OFF?!”

“No, no, no. I mean it looks like it must have torn away from the bed of the nail below the cuticle where we can’t see it. The nail will eventually fall off,” I said, turning away so he couldn’t see me gag.

Fast forward to the next morning. I offered to drive The Toe, as I now called him, (remember, Mother Teresa is long gone) to school. Poor guy was walking with his left foot pronated at a 90-degree angle to keep any weight off the front half of his foot. His toe was throbbing, still seeping blood and wrapped up like a little pedi-burrito. Unable to fit his foot into his shoe, he was already stressing out about how much trouble he’d get in at school for wearing a flip-flop.

At 8:25, he said he was ready. I began looking for my keys. And I kept looking for them, right up until the moment he sadly mumbled that he better start walking….and off he went across the court, Quasimodo and his 35 lb. backpack over his shoulder and me feeling like the worst excuse for a mom, ever. He wasn’t even mad, which made me feel worse. He was just bummed.  

Mommy Dearest had let him down again, minus the couch and empty bottle of scotch.

Two hours later, my husband called— and apologized for accidentally grabbing my keys when he left the house. He’d just found them in his pocket.

I couldn't wait to pick up my son after school and throw my husband right under the front wheels of that bus – the one being driven by  Mother freakin’ Superior!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Come Here Often?

Practiced by many, perfected by few, cussing is one of my favorite things, as Maria von Trapp said in The Sound of Music. The second my kids are gone for the weekend, it’s like Custivus around my house, at least for me. I know that “Dang!” may get my point across when my husband short pours me, but “What the fuck?” ensures that he doesn’t do it again.

I don’t cuss in front of my kids, for the most part, and I really don’t know why. Cussing isn’t exactly any worse than a few other things I expose my kids to, like the proper way to deliver a beer poolside (gently, like a butler would), as opposed to the wrong way (rolling it on its side, across a hot patio).

Actually, I do know why. I have probably kept this charade up this long because my husband isn’t a cusser, and I totally respect that. He’s a teacher, and works with teenagers. For him, there’s just something about a 14-year old kid telling another 14-year old kid to “Eat shit!” at 7:45 in the a.m. on a sunny May morning while crossing the quad that can be a bit disconcerting. Birds are chirping, lessons are planned, copies are made and BAM! It’s just a little sickening to see the disrespect – kids know adults are close by and can hear them, and they just don’t care. What I’d like to know is who is raising these little fuckers?

At this point, I’m afraid I’ve missed my window to begin cussing in front of my kids. I still get ragged on when I let even the slightest little thing slip. I can’t even get “ass” out of my mouth and I’m screwed. Wait, that didn’t sound right. Here’s what I meant:

“That a-hole needs to stop tailgating me!”



In my opinion, cussing isn’t bad, but poor timing is. It’s just plain disrespectful. That’s the part I haven’t yet shared with my kids, but I will. I’m going to let them ride the non-cussing train for as long as it works for them. If they take it up in the jr. high school courtyard tomorrow, my advice to them is, “You better not let a grown-up hear you.” However, I’ll never tell my kids this lie: “You’ll never find a nice boy/girl with a mouth like that.” It’s simply not true. I was raised by cussers, and I found a nice boy. Maybe it’s because I wore my cusstity belt for the first six months we dated in order to keep getting more dates. Pretending to like football probably helped, too.

To be clear, I’m no professional when it comes to cussing, but I know someone who is. She takes cussing to the next level – raising it to a verbal art form.

Her delivery is poetic. Uttered with as much emotion as one typically lends to words and phrases like “porch” or “grilled onions,” her F-bombs slide in, hit their mark, and exit stage right, leaving the listener both shocked and impressed. Best of all, she pulls it off while at work, and she works with the public

More than once I’ve caught myself wondering, “Did she just drop an F-bomb while pleasantly greeting me?”

The answer is, yes. The question is, how?

She’s a bartender, that’s how. Another lost art with which I am ever-so-slightly familiar.

Her working environment is a place where people go to enjoy some booze. To be clear, they aren’t thirsty. If they were, they’d drink a glass of water at home. I know this because I, too, have earned a living as a bartender. Not only that, I once enjoyed a drink at a bar.

I have tended the full range of bars, from three-story college bars with flooded bathrooms, sticky floors and stickier doormen, to four-star dinner houses where people like to pretend they’ve never been to a sticky bar.

Of course, I did the bartending thing a little differently than my local friend does. For starters, I wore more clothing, covering fewer tattoos. I’m not judging; a girl’s just got to know her limitations. And mine were tits and tattoos, two pivotal requirements if one is to cuss and make money at the same time.

If a gaggle of nuns toddled into the bar at 2 p.m. on a Sunday, her song would remain the same. Cheery voice, breasts pointing toward heaven, huge smile, and this:

“What the fuck, sisters, what’ll you have?”

“Five iced teas, thank you.”

“You got it,” she’d declare, strolling off to the far side of the bar.

As it turns out, this bar happens to be annexed to a restaurant, so nuns as customers are not out of the question. Of course, the regular afternoon group of electricians, landscapers and shift workers have yet to see the food side of the menu. They still believe in the power of their dreams – that they’ve died and gone to rehab heaven.

Nuns and menus aside, it seems to me that if you walk into a bar, you’re stating indirectly that putting some alcohol into your body is the priority, to be replaced later by either sex or vomiting or both. Nobody is pulling any punches when they walk into a bar.  

Who am I to pretend any differently?

Considering our world is vastly different than our local bartending friend’s is, our conversations with her are bittersweet – and personal. Take, for example, a recent one we had after not seeing her for awhile. We shuffled in for happy hour, late on a Friday afternoon. She was right there to greet us, staring at us with her big eyes, and big smile, ready to make our obvious state of dehydration her top priority.  

Hey, there! Where the fuck have you guys been? Haven’t seen you in forever!”

“Oh, well, we’ve just been working, and tending to our four kids….”

“Holy shit, you guys have four kids?”

“Uh, yeah,” we say as we smile and nod, wondering what kind of parents we are for hanging out at a bar instead of sitting home and looking through family photo albums all weekend long while our kids are gone.

“So, what’ll you have?”

“A pitcher of vodka.”

“Hahaha. I bet!” she shoots back with a grin.

“We’re not kidding.”


“Just kidding!”

“You fuckers got me!” she announces, tilting back her head as she strolls away laughing.

We smile, looking at one another fondly. I speak first.

“Did she just call us….”


“We need to come here more often.”


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parental Guidance Suggested

Just cleaned off my desk in my home office/loft/shit mitt and lo and behold, there actually is a flat surface underneath it all. After two days on the couch with my laptop on my lap, to give my back a break from my chair, I’m back to work at an official work space. All ready to conquer a mountain of writing about tiny computery parts and the companies who make them, I run into a problem: the next door neighbor is jackhammering his walkway into rubble. Until now, working from home has been a great test for my capacity to ignore. I can ignore a dripping faucet, a dog obsessed with licking himself, a woodpecker determined to break into the attic from outside my window and even the buzz of the dryer alerting me to fact that there are clothes to be folded, but I can’t ignore a jackhammer.

So, I do what any legal adult would do when they need to check out of the present moment and it’s prior to noon; I reach for my iPod. I always go with my initial, gut feeling as I scroll through the menu. Today, of all the 43,972 selections to choose from, it was Pink Floyd that caught my eye. Now, I’m listening to the sound of jackhammering and getting angry for the orphans of London.  Why can’t they just leave the kids alone? Crap. This really isn’t working for me…

Maybe I’ll just do a little daydreaming. That ought to kick start the creative juices I need to begin writing about solder pastes and tin whiskers with the sort of flair our clients expect. In other words, I’ll try not to drive anyone to pull a Foxconn. (In case you haven’t heard, Foxconn, the China company who contracts with Apple to put iPads and other gadgetry together, installed nets around the massive, dormitory-laden factory because employees keep jumping to their deaths. Turns out, 35-hour shifts at 31 cents an hour is pushing people to the brink – literally. Check out the report by Jon Stewart here.

Ok, back to surreality. Let’s see… what is there to daydream about on this fair, almost-February morning? Aha! I’m eligible for my phone upgrade tomorrow and I’m throwing it all in for an iPhone – albeit last year’s model at the sweet price of $50. 3G is good enough for me. I just want to be able to find out where I’m going when I’m lost, how I can get my hands on some sushi when I’m out of town, and of course, play Words with Friends. I don’t really know how it works yet, but I plan to modify it into Dirty Words with Husband.

As technology goes, I’m not one to camp out in front of the Apple store. I had my Classic iPod for three years before one of my students informed me that I could download movies. That was three years ago and I still haven’t done it. Then, my brother told me about podcasts. Right now, I’m just thrilled that I finally have something to replace my Sony Walkman, which replaced the beige Realistic transistor radio that I used to toss into the white plastic basket on the front of my purple Schwinn bicycle — the one with one gear.

My kids and their relationship with technology is another story. It’s all they know. They will never walk across a room to turn a channel. Heck, they’ll never experience the satisfaction of successfully talking a sibling into getting up and turning the channel for them. They’ll never know what it’s like to not be able to see the TV while having an important phone conversation while holding a toaster-sized, two-headed “receiver” to their ear, while standing two feet from the phone base that is attached to the wall with a little curly cord that can be endlessly stretched and twisted, or wrapped around your leg until your foot turns a cool shade of blue. They’ll never know the supreme joy of FINALLY getting a princess trimline phone in any color they want, with its sleek, ultra-modern design that can actually  travel all the way across the room with them because someone has finally made a 20-foot phone cord! Oh, the joy!

Modern technology at their fingertips robs them of precious critical thinking opportunities.  For example, gone is the opportunity to feel the terror of making the decision to wait until the moment they are supposed to be home to call and ask for more time at the park with their friends. I could have left the swings, or climbed down from the tree in plenty of time to walk home, ask for more time, and then walk back. Instead, it was the same dilemma, weekend after weekend:

“Let’s see, do I run home right now and get there ten minutes late, or spend five minutes begging a dime off a stranger and then five minutes searching for a pay phone that works? Then, if she says no, will I still be in hot water for not being home on time?”

By the way, the answer to that last question was yes.

 Yep, cell phones sure do take a lot of stress off kids. On the flip side, they sure do have the potential to bring more stress into their lives if they aren’t handled with maturity. It’s one more way to get into trouble in class, one more distraction that discourages homework, or walking across the street without tripping, or walking at all because they are content sitting on the couch texting their friends. Like Tosh.O, or Cialis commercials, or anything else kids have access to these days, with a little parental guidance it can all be put into perspective.

I sure did enjoy those days of having no ties to anything. My parents couldn’t call me and ask me what I was doing, or tell me to come home early because I didn’t clean my room before I left. Once I left the house, at the tender age of 10, or 11 or whatever, I was gone, baby, gone, until the designated be-home time. I loved the feeling of being off everyone’s radar.

Kids didn’t need cell phones to stay safe back then. My friends and I had a plan in case some pervert started chasing us down the street. Again, critical thinking in action: The plan was that we’d run up to the nearest house and ring the doorbell. No, wait; we’d just blaze right into the house and explain what we were doing in the middle of some stranger’s living room. Then, they could call 9-1-1, just as soon as they were done dismembering the last fool who walked in their front door.

Luckily, we never ran into too much trouble, except for the time a guy pulled up in his car next to us as we crossed the street in front of the neighborhood ice cream parlor and asked for directions to the local high school. As I politely gave him the left-right-left deal, my friend noticed that his johnson was hanging out of this shorts. As I said, “So, then you pull into the first parking lot and —“ she yanked me by the arm and we ran, laughed and screamed all at the same time.  A block away, we stopped running and I asked her what was up. 

Then, she told me.

A cell phone probably wouldn’t have done much good at that moment. Sometimes there’s only time to run. Not a bad life lesson. Sometimes, your feet are the best tool at your disposal. Just ask Fred Flinstone.