Monday, March 28, 2011

368. Motherhood Is Orange

Orange is a bright and cheery color, an attention grabber. Psychologists say it is the color of vitality, strength, and endurance. It’s been called a mood-elevator. Orange is also the color prisoners wear in jail.

Children are attention hogs. Even before they are born, they are showing off (“Look—I made mommy’s tummy the size of a giant basketball! Ha!” or “Look—I made mommy really sick! And tired! Score!”). Once they make their official debut in the hospital, they have high-paid highly-trained doctors basically posing as their own personal servants (“Doc, could you get me another blanket? And how about some eye drops?”). Next, relatives who never used to visit suddenly appear (cameras in hand) in the recovery room to fawn all over the precious eight-pound star.

The above scenario is exactly like the color orange. Oh, sure, you have your home decorated in a soothing Ralph Lauren-inspired palette of sophisticated greys and navy. And then one day, a well-meaning friend has the audacity to say, “You know what this room needs, MOV? A punch of color. Maybe orange.”

Like a fool, you listen to her advice (“I think you’re right. I’m going to zip out to Target right now and pick up some new orange throw pillows,”) because you trust her judgment (her house looks magazine-cover immaculate), and you are well aware that orange is high-impact.

Indeed, the orange pillows look amazing. Everyone says so. But what you didn’t plan on is that the accessories have now become the focal point. Even your pal the gay UPS guy notices (“Love those tangerine pillows!”). No one appreciates the subtle charms of navy and gray anymore, for they are merely the backdrop. Like parents.

Short and Tall are our orange pillows. We weren’t 100% convinced when we got them home that they were the wisest investment for the room’s décor, but now we can’t imagine our lives without them.

Orange symbolizes vitality, strength, endurance. Yep, you sure as hell better have all three of those if you’re going to make it as a parent. Every day, I discover energy reserves I didn’t even know I had. And although I would’ve described my pre-baby days as more of a sprint (work-travel-shop-socialize), motherhood fully qualifies as an endurance-testing marathon. And we all know that sleep is for sissies.

Orange is a mood-elevator. My sons continually impact my mood (but not necessarily in a good way). I typically don’t find my mood improving when my sons are, say, wailing. I do, however, find my nerves’ perceptive ability to be dramatically enhanced. Maybe orange is really a nerve augmenter?

Finally, orange is the color our penitentiaries have selected as the utilitarian choice for prison garb. Motherhood severely limits your freedom, and can feel like a prison sometimes (I sense my mommy parole officer instantly dialing the phone to reprimand me for writing that: “That’s not nice, MOV, comparing mommyhood to jail. Take it back, and apologize to all those nice readers.”). But you know what? I won’t apologize, because I chose this prison. I’ve even become good friends with my fellow inmates (other parents); we realize we’re all in this together.

And in what other prison are you surrounded with Legos, finger-paints, goldfish crackers, and sticky hugs? In what other prison do you get to relive your own childhood, try to erase the bad parts, take the good parts, and make it all better?

Orange is my new favorite color.

(“My Orange Variations”)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

367. Motherhood Is Loud

I am a peaceful Virgo-type person. The TV is not on for background noise in my house. I don’t automatically turn the radio on when I get in the car. I have disabled the sound feature on my computer. I often daydream about permanently relocating my family to a library, museum, or church just to be engulfed in mandatory silence. So it came as an unwelcome caffeine-like jolt when the loudness of motherhood consumed my life.

Oh, sure, infants scream with unpredictable car-alarm frequency. I’m not complaining about a baby crying to communicate hunger or tiredness. Books about “expecting” warned me to expect that. No: I’m referring to the constant push-pull dynamics of two young brothers who poke and prod one another, then race around the house in an atomic shifting energy ball of dust, candy wrappers, sporting equipment, and Legos. They produce … noise.

Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I worked for United Airlines. As a flight attendant. For a decade. I was a person who knew her way around jet-engine-loud occupational hazards. You’d think this would have prepared me for my current triple-digit-decibels lifestyle. Here you would be wrong.

The Husband and I have coined a phrase (one that you’ll surely adopt in everyday conversation): “Laughter precedes crying.” When the boys start giggling and having a great time, we know that inevitably there will be a loud bang (perhaps a thud) which will immediately be followed by shrieking and wailing. It’s gotten to the point that if The Husband and I hear laughter close by, we’ll look at each, then initiate a countdown (“I predict crying in 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …”).

Sometimes the children’s theatrics must be shared with others, say, at the check-out lane at Target. What is the proper protocol in that situation? Abandon the cart and immediately leave the premises (which is what the so-called parenting “experts” would recommend)? I stare wistfully at my ruby-red shopping cart full of shampoo, paper towels, Band Aids, laundry detergent, kitty litter, Tylenol, and Star magazine—who exactly is being punished here if I don’t complete my purchase?

I frequently socialize with some acquaintances who have perfectly-behaved little angel children, children who sit quietly, read, draw, and do what they are told. The Husband and I have a special secret code name for these Stepford kids: girls.

Mommies of girls have no inkling that the rest of us inhabit an alternate tornado universe of chaos, confusion, and noise. These well-meaning Parents Of Obedient Females (POOFs) will say things like, “Gosh, the house was so quiet today when Jessica was reading to Hayley!” (and the equally cruel follow-up, “I got sooooo much done!”).

When familiar POOFs spot me and my sons at the grocery store, and approach to say a cheery hello (accompanied by adorable little Hayleys in ironed white linen dresses napping in clean strollers), I duck down the wine aisle and pretend I don’t see them. Of course they find us though: the noise Tall and Short produce makes it easy for people five states away to find us.

I would love to be BFF with these POOFs, I really would … it’s just that we don’t have a lot in common. Oh, sure, we’ve both changed thousands of poopy diapers, subsisted on a steady diet of cold pizza and stale Chips Ahoy! cookies, and yet … it’s like I’ve lived in a foreign country for seven years and now I’m fluent in that language (say, French)—not merely conversational, but native-speaker-fluent—and the POOF says, “Oh, wow, what a coincidence because I totally speak French, too!” and then it turns out all she can say is, “Bon jour” or “ballet.” I want to scream (see, the being-around-boys has rubbed off on me), “That doesn’t count, POOF!”

I’m bracing for more than a few angry emails from POOFs right this second, armed with their tales of woe (precious little Jessica banging on the piano for two minutes, or Hayley screaming at Halloween and piercing an elderly neighbor’s eardrum). Ha—I don’t believe you. And, anyway, so what—one eardrum casualty on a holiday? That’s the best you can do? We have our eardrums pierced nightly in our boisterous household. (And as an aside: shouldn’t that be spelled “boysterous”?)

So. I would love to finish this essay, but it will have to wait. I hear some laughter in the next room.

(“Motherhood: Obscenely Vocal”)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

366. Goal Achieved!!!

I started writing mothersofbrothersblog last June, with the intent that I would write one essay per day for an entire year. Yes, it is only March, but owing to the obsessiveness of my Virgo personality (writing two or three posts some days), I am ahead of schedule and am presently at 365 blog entries. Personal goal achieved!

I feel just like The Husband must’ve felt when he completed that marathon he had trained so diligently for (well, minus the over-hydration, 911 call, ambulance trip, and overnight hospital visit—other than that, EXACTLY the same). I have looked my goal in the face, and said, “Ha! I can do that!”

But where does that leave us now, you and I?

Good question. I have discovered a huuuuuuuge love of writing (I must love it, I’ve done this all for free: I’ve never advertised any products whatsoever), and I cannot walk away from that. After much soul-searching (well, like an hour or so) and a couple of glasses of wine, I’ve reached a decision: I plan to write my blog once a week and post it every Sunday morning.

This way, I will get back hours of time that were previously devoted to writing, and that now can be invested in more important creative pursuits, like, uh, laundry. You still get to laugh at my quirky essays, and my family gets clean underwear. Win/ win for everyone.

And, unlike some of those “other” blogs that only post randomly every once in a while and readers never know when that might be (you know who you are, Hyperbole and a Half), I promise I will post an original and entertaining new essay for your reading enjoyment every Sunday morning. (If you need more of a MOV “fix” than that, you can always go back and read or reread some of my older posts; and, I am currently working on getting my best essays compiled into a book.)

Still need convincing? If I have a solid week to work on one piece, imagine how funny it will be! (And if you think you have a fabulous topic for me, feel free to suggest it.)

Finally, I would like to give a big thank you to all my loyal and devoted fans. You have stayed with me through my countless anecdotes about Tall and Short, their school, The Husband, my freighbors, my job at the high-end kitchen store, and my cult-like adoration of Target. I started with about two followers (Hi, Hobbes!) and now by the miracle of the internet, I have 121 followers and over 20,000 hits in the lifetime of my blog. I could not have done this without each and every one of you, championing my cause (laughter) and telling your friends about my blog.

Thank you! And I’ll see you next Sunday. 


Saturday, March 19, 2011

365. Rules Of Being A Parent

When I was pregnant with my first child eight years ago, I was arrogant enough to think that I already knew everything there was to know about parenting. After all, I had entertained my nieces and nephews for long stretches of time (think several hours), and that was practically the exact same thing.


No one bothered to tell me the true rules for being a parent. I had to, like everyone else, just figure it out on my own. Now, for the first time ever, I will share some of that hard-earned wisdom with you.

What I Now Know That I Certainly Would Not Have Believed Had I Not Lived It:
  • You must own approximately one million small plastic Lego pieces (this will still be deemed “not enough” by the principal Lego builder in your household).
  • You will use phrases like “Get your toes off of him” or if in the next room, “Put the cat down” (you will become amazed, as will all your non-mommy friends, at your burgeoning clairvoyance skills).
  • You will interpret your husband doing the dishes as a bold romantic move (on par with what your 23-year-old self would interpret a weekend in New York City or tickets to a U2 concert).
  • You will now brag to your girlfriends that you completed seven loads of laundry this morning, and you will later tell your husband that it “was a good day” without a trace of sarcasm.
  • You will nod when other mothers talk about pacifiers and bottle nipples and diapers and solid foods and you will find this conversation fascinating (and you might even contribute a little gem yourself, such as “our pediatrician told us to start with pureed pears”).
  • Your ears will perk up when you hear a mother having a nervous breakdown and yelling at her small child in your local Target. But, instead of calling Child Protective Services (like you would have when you were single), you now rush to the aid of the mother and ask if she’d like to join you for a glass of wine in the parking lot.
  • You will not mind if you have smears of paint on your bottom (for this is not your “good pair” of sweatpants).
  • You will not cry when you see a balance of $39 in your checking account. Instead, you will rejoice.
  • You will wake up at 6 AM and thank your husband profusely and sincerely for “letting you sleep in.”
  • You will not alter your work-out routine in any way whatsoever. You will still run (after your children), lift weights (bags of groceries and kitty litter), go dancing (with your child in Kindermusic class), and go for regular walks (to the mailbox to look for your child’s special edition Lego magazine).
  • In a pinch, in a situation where you have no tissues or napkins, you will let your child wipe his runny nose on his sleeve. Or your sleeve. (Maybe not even in a pinch.)
  • You will find yourself speaking a strange foreign language that only other parents understand, for example, uttering things like, “If you wear this shirt for picture day, I will buy you two packs of Pokemon cards. And if you don’t, you cannot play Club Penguin for a week.”
  • You will jump up and down and do a silly little dance on the front lawn when you realize that your children are fully potty-trained (even at night) and you will never have to buy diapers again (this is the exact same dance you did when you got your big promotion at your last job, a job where you got to wear suits and go out to lunch and use grown-up words like “acquisitions” and “mergers” and “capital gains tax”).
  • You will seriously consider cashing in all your hotel points for a free night’s stay at a nearby hotel just so you can sleep uninterrupted.
  • You will no longer dread your mother-in-law’s visits; instead, you will say, “Thank God, hold the baby!” and you will walk right out of the room. To bed.
("Miscellaneous Other Virtues")

364. Daylight Savings Time Has Ruined My Life

Why can I not live in Arizona or Hawaii where clocks never get changed for Daylight Savings Time? I can barely make it to things on time as it is (on a normal day), now I am expected to run around my house and change the 70 or so random clocks we have in every room of the house (Don’t forget the microwave!) to reflect one hour’s disappearance? It would take me three hours (minimum) to change them all, so I would lose eight and a half hours all together.

In a (shortsighted) moment of rebellion, I decide not to change any of the clocks right now. Okay, it’s not so much rebellion as laziness. Well, not so much laziness as perfectionism.

Let me explain. We own one fancy digital clock (a gift from father, who loves clever gadgets) that communicates via satellite with the national atomic clock in Colorado to tell us the exact time, to the millisecond, that the world observes. This clock wisely sets itself. Obviously, the intelligent thing to do is to traipse around the house holding the “control” clock and (perfectly) set each individual clock from that.

Ugh, who can be bothered? Not me. Since Daylight Savings Time happens on a Saturday night and initially only affects Sunday, I decide to postpone modifying the clocks.

On second thought, I must change my watch because I have to go to work on Sunday. The Boss might have an expectation that I would be on time, due to the fact that they are paying me.

All right, so at least the watch is correct. I can zip around the house later, maybe after work tonight, and do some of the other clocks then.

Instead, when I get home, I immediately pour myself a glass of wine (it’s been a long day) and start regaling The Husband with witty anecdotes from today’s foray into selling pans at the high-end kitchen store. There was the bride-to-be who came in to register with her sister, her best friend, her mother, her future mother-in-law, and her neighbor—but no groom in sight! There was the well-dressed elderly man who kept walking in and out of the store every 10 minutes to sample food from our cooking demonstration, to the point that—clearly—this was his big meal for the day. There was the snobby woman who bought a very large crystal bowl and expected me to gift-wrap it in two seconds (I should have used the time change excuse on her—“It will take me longer, uh, due to Daylight Savings Time. I’m sure you understand.”)

The Husband listens patiently to my stories; I’m sure he looks forward to these moments all week (ed. note: he does not). Then I happen to glance at the clock on the fireplace mantel. Uh, oh, it says eight. Is it really eight? Or is it actually nine (or, optimistically) seven?

“Is that clock right?” I ask The Husband, as I point to the offending cube of silver and glass. “Did you change it?”

“I didn’t change it,” he scoffs, “you told me not to. You said you were going to change them all because you wanted to set every clock five minutes fast.”

Did I say that? It does sound like something I might say. Huh. I do like the clocks to all be precisely five minutes fast (even the clock on my car dashboard) because then I have that five minute built-in cushion so I can be my punctual Virgo self.

“Are you going to change them all right now, then?” prods The Husband. “It might be a good idea.”

“Ugh. No. I’ll do it tomorrow, when I have a little more energy,” I say, my shoulders wilted.

Monday morning I wake with a start. I grab the only correct timepiece (my Timex wristwatch) in the entire house and look at it: 7:45. If this were yesterday, it would only be 6:45. And if it were yesterday, we would be 15 minutes early waking up. As it is, we are 45 minutes late.

I hate math.

In a whirlwind of shouting and throwing clothes on small children and hurling Cheerios and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and half-finished homework in their general direction, I miraculously manage to get the boys  and their backpacks out the door and to the school bus on time (the new time, that is).

I crawl back to the house, ready for my first cup of coffee (the one that was omitted, courtesy of Daylight Savings Time). I look at the kitchen clock: 7:32. My brain is stuck in the mode of calculating the matrix that is time: that should really say 8:32, but if it were yesterday, then 7:32 would still be right. It is a lot darker—no, lighter?—no, darker now in the morning with the time change.

All day long, I slog along in this limbo land of maybe-I-should-break-down-and-change-the-clocks-after-all. In the laundry room, I see the clock says 12:32. Lunch. Wait, am I hungry? Am I not hungry? If this were yesterday, would I be hungry now, or would I be hungry in, say, one hour?

I timidly stick my foot in the water of time, and ultimately change a few of the clocks. Ah, much better! This should confuse everyone, especially me!

The fireplace clock is correct, as is the clock on the TV cabinet (the Colorado clock), my alarm clock (but not The Husband’s one on his side of the bed), the stove clock (but not the kitchen wall clock), and the clock in the study (but not the one in the children’s toy area). I am suddenly Alice In Wonderland, drinking the tea of too early and too late and never right-on-time.

The Husband gets home from work late early and sighs. “You’re not going to believe this, MOV, but not all the clocks at our office got changed over the weekend! Do you have any idea how frustrating that is, to look at a clock and realize you can’t even trust it to do its basic clock job—tell the time? Ugh, I just hate being late, and all day long, I kept looking at these clocks and wondering which one has been changed and which one hasn’t …”

I know exactly how he feels.

(“Movado, Omega, Victorinox”)

363. Chirp

I’m in the living room when I hear it: chirp! I look around, trying to place where the noise is coming from. It is squeaky and high-pitched and apparently originating from the smoke detector. I climb up on a dining room chair to get closer to the offending sound. Nothing.

I pause to listen again. There it is: chirp! I’ve just finished making cookies, perhaps I left the timer on by mistake? This fancy digital timer (purchased at the high-end kitchen store) is actually composed of three separate timers, so it takes me a minute to click on each one individually to see if any of them are responsible for the chirp.


Maybe I am hearing things? Maybe there is no chirping?

Chirp, chirp! There it is again. Now I am beyond frustrated. Is it the washing machine? Is it my cell phone? Camera? Computer? TV? What is making that incessant chirping sound?

In an act of utter desperation and futility, I turn to Short and ask, “Do you hear that chirping?”

He nods, his face solemn. “Of course I hear it, Mommy,” he confirms.

“Do you know what it is, Short? Do you know what is making the noise then?” I ask, trying to pry the secret information from him.

He points to the open kitchen window. Sitting on the ledge is a small—

“Bird, Mommy. It’s a bird.”

Of course. His little birdy beak opens and closes and chirpy bird music comes out. It’s Spring.

(“Music, Ostensibly Verse”)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

362. Netflix

So The Husband and I finally succumb to rampant peer pressure and sign up for Netflix. (Yes, I am well aware Netflix has been around for over a decade … obviously, we are fairly good at resisting peer pressure.) We make the mistake, my darling and I, of signing up together, as in: at the same time on the same account just under my name. This spells disaster for all concerned.

First, The Husband and I cannot agree on even basic information like a secret password for our account (I want something easy to remember, like “Netflix”; whereas he favors using the same password he has used for all his accounts for the history of time: 94kr2$mWp*fT45 (yes, that is a fun one to type in at the drive-thru ATM machine).

Once past that hurdle, Netflix wants to know which year I was born (I assume so it can suggest movies that appeal to my contemporaries). Depressingly, 1968 is not an option. I suddenly feel ancient.  The Husband laughs, then searches for his much-more-recent year of birth instead. Ha ha, 1969 is not listed either! He gives up and goes to the next set of questions.

Next, we must fill in a simple questionnaire to help Netflix determine our movie preferences so it can offer recommendations that are tailored to our specific likes and dislikes.

This is where things go violently south. The Husband is still at the keyboard, giving 5-star ratings to movies like the instant classic Hot Tub Time Machine and the prim and proper Meet the Fockers while I am poking at him to “go back, go back!” to Shakespeare in Love and give it a 5.

“I’m not giving that a 5!” he says, not even attempting to conceal the contempt in his tone, “That was a stupid movie!” He rolls his eyes, and goes to the next page of choices.

I tug at his sleeve like an impatient preschooler. “You liked Splash—don’t you remember? Hey!” I gasp as he clicks 5s for Caddyshack and Independence Day, “You can’t give everything a 5! The computer will be confused!”

And indeed, the computer is confused by our schizophrenic clicking. Netflix is spitting out movie recommendations with titles like Terminator 8: A Love Connection, Wedding Bells Massacre, and When Harry Met Sally in Outer Space. What kind of stupid movie options are these?

As if that’s not bad enough, The Husband says helpfully, “Oh, I just remembered: we should choose some movies that Tall and Short might like, maybe some animated features?”

Netflix gags and sputters to keep all our choices straight. Apparently, MOV likes action-adventure-cartoon-romance-raunchy-dramas (but not in a foreign language with subtitles, thank God there is one thing we can agree on).

A new message flashes across the screen: “Split Account Option.” Evidently, Netflix has dealt with married couples before.

(“Movies Or Videos”)

361. Boycott

Today it finally happened. The appliances conspired against me to all break down simultaneously.

I should have anticipated this, for we were given clues. First, the ancient computer was stricken with a rare case of Computzheimers last December, and after much denial (mine) and angst (The Husband’s), had to be replaced.

Next, the refrigerator starts grumbling to the stove (“Are you happy in this house? Or do you feel taken for granted?”), and before I even have a chance to start adding a few dimes to the savings account, the frig is leaking water (out of places that don’t normally even have water). The stove whispers conspiratorially to the frig (“I think MOV is planning a Disney vacation at the hotel-the-monorail-goes-through … this would be the perfect time to break because she’d have to throw a lot of money at your repairs or replacement, and then she’d realize in retrospect how valuable you truly are!”).

Yesterday the washing machine started to smell vaguely of ... gasoline?  I am terrified to wash our clothes now, and we are going through the remaining clean ones at an alarming rate.  I anticipate the kids will be wearing swim suits to school by the end of the week, and I will be forced (once again) to don an ill-fitting taffeta ball gown and tiara to go pick up the boys at the bus-stop.

This morning, The Husband routinely turns on the TV to check news and weather, and—voila!—no sound. He walks into the bedroom where I am pretending to sleep. “The TV has no sound?” he says, half question/ half statement. “Did you do something to it?”

“Uh,” I stammer, not really thrilled to be woken with this latest development in household anarchy, “I didn’t do anything to it. Maybe it’s on mute? Did you try to press the mute button to, uh, un-mute it?”

“Press the mute button? Wow, I never thought of that!” says The Husband sarcastically. “Of course I pressed the mute button.” Now he’s mad. They probably showed footage of tornadoes and hurricanes and floods and heavy traffic and multiple accidents on the news, but he has no idea which particular freeways he needs to avoid on his way to work (possibly freeways in Greenland or Australia) because he couldn't hear what the reporters were saying.

“Well, it worked fine last night when I was watching part one of the Top Chef finale,” I offer. Even as the words are cascading out of my mouth, I am saying a prayer of thanks to the Television Gods for courteously waiting until I got to watch my show before deciding to cease working properly for other members of my family.

The Husband departs for work (probably leaving his raincoat and umbrella at home, and driving on the accident-filled “bad” freeways), and I promptly forget what he has told me about the TV. “Hey, Short,” I chirp merrily, “wanna watch Penguins of Madagascar while I get your cereal?”

He answers affirmatively and I turn on the television. There are penguins jumping around, fighting crime or whatever cartoon TV penguins do, and … silence. Oh, yeah, I think to myself, this is what The Husband was just telling me about 10 minutes ago.

Luckily for Short, this is an episode he’s seen before (let’s be honest: seen 1297 times to be exact) so he doesn’t even really need the sound. “Maybe we should unplug it and plug it back in again?” Short suggests helpfully. We give it a try, but it still doesn’t work. The animated penguins continue to move their mouths but no words come out.

I am mentally calculating the precise age of our (dying) TV. Let’s see, we had it before Tall was born, uh, wait—it’s all coming back to me now! We happened to buy it right before 9-11 because I clearly remember watching the horrors of that day unfold and wishing that I could bury my head in the sand like an ostrich and not have to witness any of it, but instead we had really really good picture quality and could see everything happen as it occurred and then be replayed by all the channels in a never-ending loop for the next several weeks. I could see the exact pattern of Tom Brokaw’s tie (orange, with tiny green paisley swirls) and the precise shade of Katie Couric’s lipstick (garnet shimmer) as they informed the world of the devastation in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.

Let’s see, 9-11 happened in 2001, so that means my TV is two years old, oops—10 years old! Yikes, how did that happen? How did a decade slip by from when we bought a new TV and the twin towers fell? A decade?

We do not have money for frivolous expenses like a refrigerator, or a washing machine, or a computer, or a television.  We have spent all our money on crucial necessities such as Italian espresso machines and embroidered linen tablecloths and crystal candle holders and French porcelain serving platters from the high-end kitchen store. (When I started working there almost four years ago, I was convinced that I would save all my earnings. Ha. The temptation of being surrounded every shift by beautiful things coupled with a deep employee discount proves too great for my non-existent willpower.)

I call The Boss to figure out a way to get more money from my job. “Uh, Boss?” I say sweetly to her answering machine, “We had a few unexpected expenses this month, so I need you to cut my hours.”


360. Twins

Okay, so there I am at the greasy spoon place with a bunch of mommy friends. We are all talking and laughing and having a good time, when I spot this random woman (not part of our group) that looks EXACTLY like Christine, who is in our group. (Christine who is sitting right across from me, in fact.)  I want to walk up to random woman and say, “Hey, do you mind walking over here because guess what—you look just like Christine and everyone will believe me more if you maybe stand next to Christine to prove it.” This scenario plays out in my head with random woman saying, “Sure, no problem, I completely understand and I am happy to cooperate,” whereas in real life, I know that A. I’d be utterly embarrassed to ask her, and B. one or the other (Christine or the impostor) would be somehow offended that they are compared to the other one because they would think that they are so much prettier/ skinnier/ tanner/ younger-looking than the other one.

Sigh. What’s a manic blogger-looking-for-new-material-for-her-next-blog to do?

I look at the real Christine. Then Impostor Christine. Now Real. Impostor. Real/Impostor. RealImpostor. Realpostor. Until the real and the other go from a tennis match of back and forth to morphing into one and the same.

The real Christine happens to look to her left, so I get a nice profile image of her. Impostor (who is kind of behind her and diagonal at another table) looks to her right. I close one eye, then the other. Blink. They are practically the same person.

Both have pale pale vampire skin (sorry, Christine, if you’re reading this: but it’s true). Both have teeny tiny ski-slope noses. Both are around 30 years old (my 42-year-old fingers have trouble typing that). Christine has blondish-brown hair though, and Impostor has more like brunette with soft blondish highlights.

Are they sisters? Shouldn’t Christine be inviting her clone to come sit with us?

This is tres tres bizarre. I want to tap on Sonya’s shoulder (Sonya is sitting to my left) and say, “Sonya: check it out—doesn’t that lady look exactly like Christine?” But the problem is, Christine is precisely in earshot (so close, in fact, that she might be able to hear me chewing my french fries) and she would hear me say that.

How would I feel if there was a MOV look-a-like sitting close by? I would be excited. I would ask if she had two sons and if she worked at a high-end kitchen store like me and if her favorite flavors were chocolate and more chocolate and then she could be my new best friend. Send MOV Imitator right over!

As it is, Fake Christine stands up (with her much-younger boyfriend) and walks out. How dare she leave when I haven’t had a chance to point her out to Authentic Christine yet!

My brain is spinning. Maybe this is all a dream? Maybe I am really at home in my comfy toasty bed and am dreaming about these people?

Just then, Sonya hands me $5. “I forgot, I owe you $5 from the last time we went out and I didn’t have enough money to tip!” she giggles. (This is how I know I am awake: no one in my dreams ever gives me money, owed or otherwise.) “Uh, okay, thanks,” I mutter semi-gratefully.

Now I pout. This is, I think, a funny story, a story I would actually tell my friend Christine (if it didn’t, you know, involve her directly). Now I have no one to tell it to.

Oh, hi there, Blog World!

(“Mysteries Of Vision”)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

359. Gwyneth Envy

I hate Gwyneth Paltrow (okay, when I just tried to type that, I accidentally wrote “I gate Gwyneth Paltrow” so even my computer knows that I really don’t hate her; I just envy everything about her). Her life is too perfect: two precious children, rock star husband, great acting career, drop-dead gorgeous looks, several beautiful houses (one in London), lots of money, staff of too-many-to-count, and oh, yeah, did I mention she’s gorgeous?

I also have two precious children, but from the photos it appears that Gwyneth’s little Apple and God (or Peach and Noah or something fruity and biblical) never have smears of chocolate on their porcelain white chins nor muddy boots on their tender royal feet nor tears spurting from their cerulean blue eyes. Unlike my sons, who will barely stand still to pose for a simple photo or worse, get their hair brushed. (And as an aside, is it just me or does digital photography need to improve to the point where there is not a multi-second delay between pressing the button and actually capturing the by-now-blurry shot?) Gwyneth’s little angels are well-groomed and probably reasonably quiet (oops, maybe not—I forgot about the “rock star” gene).

Which brings me to my next topic of envy: a rock star husband. Yes, my husband is fabulous in myriad ways (you gotta read this one later! post on grocery shopping), yet to my knowledge he has never, ever, sung in a rock concert (and air guitar in the bathroom yesterday most certainly does not count). He has a very boring job, which is … something having to do with numbers and computers and maybe, uh, math? He is not a rock star.  I’m sure I would remember if he was, well, on second thought, maybe not (another one you'll like about my brain turning to mush).

The great acting career. Yes, let’s talk about that now. I am not a great actress, unless you count that time last week when The Boss at the high-end kitchen store asked me if I would like to wash 800,000 dishes from the cooking demonstration and I said, “Sure! I’d love to!” (to be fair, I thought she was asking if I wanted to eat some samples from the cooking demo; that’s what I get for not listening). Another Oscar-worthy turn that springs to mind is when I told my future mother-in-law that I loved-absolutely-adored-worshiped the color pink (she was wearing a pink sweater at the time), only to ensure myself of pink presents for the next 11 birthdays and Christmases (for the record, I now detest pink).

What’s next? The drop-dead gorgeous looks. I looked as good as Gwyneth at one time, and that time was for about 15 minutes when I was 20. I do have one lovely beach photo from that time period. It has been blown up to maximum poster size and hangs above our fireplace to serve as a constant reminder that when you are 20, you look damn good. (Some people see that as narcissistic; I prefer to see it as a tribute to my past.)

Several beautiful houses. Why does anyone need more than one? I mean, really. One house to live in, and then if you are that wealthy that you don’t know what to do with all that money, you can certainly blow it on overpriced hotel suites when you travel. (I’ll bet when Gwyneth goes to Disney World, she even springs for the hotel the-monorail-goes-through.) To be honest, I am sick of looking at Gwyneth’s dozens of houses every time I happen to pick up Elle Décor or Architectural Digest. Isn’t it bad enough that I have to see you on the big screen at the movies, Gwyneth? Now I have to see what kind of couch you prefer (Ralph Lauren, leather) and how many cashmere blankets you have “casually” stacked next to the guest bed (appears to be four) and what type of crystal wine glass you prefer (Baccarat)? Enough.

I am also quite envious of the “lots of money” part of the equation. Big house plus adorable well-behaved kids plus rock star husband plus acting career PLUS tons of money? Equals major resentment from MOV.

The nail in the coffin: staff. Or as the British like to say, “staff.” If I had staff, I would most certainly have a chef. We would dine on mince with slices of quince which we’d eat with a runcible spoon (sorry, channeling Edward Lear there for a moment). My chef would make scallops and lobster and chocolate mousse cake. Daily. Maybe hourly.

Which brings me right to my next new-hire: a personal trainer. Gwyneth didn’t get that rockin’ bod by sitting around watching the telly. I would work out six hours a day (just like my nemesis) and, what’s more, it would be fun!

It would be fun because I would be on some serious drugs. Yes, add pharmacist to the payroll.

Maid. That’s a given. Nanny. Duh. Chauffeur? Not if I own a Porsche—I wanna drive those curves all by myself, thankyouverymuch.

Gardener? Check. Therapist? Not necessary, now that I have all of the above (really, what is there to complain about: “When the bank teller gave me all those stacks of hundreds, it was just too heavy to carry?” or “I think my hairstylist took me a little bit too blonde this week?”).

A quick Google search reveals Gwyneth’s documented generosity to a plethora of worthy charities, including cancer research and starving children. Can we hate her a teeny bit more now please?

I hop over to Gwyneth’s blog (GOOP) just to see what type of material I would be responsible for maintaining if I had an identical life to Gwyneth. Looks interesting (if a bit intimidating), but then I come to find out almost every article on her lifestyle blog is written by someone else! Aha! A crack in the veneer! “Guest” authors!

On second thought, I can’t be Gwyneth. My fans look up to me and my perfect writting skills. They know I put lots of though and ebnergy into getting every singl blog posting just right, and they wouyld be so very sad to miss a single day of MOV. I can’t farm out my writing. That level of perfectoin is attainable only throught my personel dedication and meticulous attention to detale.


358. Propaganda

My son is gullible. If the side of the cereal box proclaims “Best Cereal Ever!” he’s convinced we have to buy it. If a video game is advertised on TV as “life-changing,” he immediately hammers at me to include that little morsel in my next Target run (never mind that we don’t own—nor do I want to own—a video game system in which to play said video game). Specific sporting shoes cast their allure. Certain snacks must be procured. It is hard, as a parent, to remain immune to the constant infusion of “must-have” items.

Here is a transcript of a typical conversation in our home:

Tall: Mom! Mom! Come quick!

Me: (running down stairs and almost slipping and breaking neck due to obvious urgency of situation) Here I am! What is it? Are you okay? (breathless)

Tall: (pointing excitedly at TV commercial) Look! Here is that Lego/ Pokemon/ Club Penguin/ Best New Toy Ever thing I was telling you about! You have to buy it for me!

Me: That’s why you called me down here?

Tall: (unfazed) Yes. What do you think? Isn’t it cool?

Me: Huh. Well. Do you want to spend your own birthday or Christmas money?

Tall: (flabbergasted) What? NO. Of course not. You can just write a check and then it doesn’t cost anyone anything.

Me: Wait—what? A check IS money. The money is in the bank and writing the check gives the bank permission to give the money to whoever you wrote the check to.

Tall: (dumbfounded) Are you sure?

Me: (dumbfounded at what he must not be being taught in first grade) Of course I’m sure!

Tall: Oh. (slight pause) Well, can you buy it for me anyway? I need it!

Me: Why? What does it do?

Tall: It spins/ jumps/ does my homework/ drives me to soccer! I must have it!

Me: No. I can think of better uses for our money. Like food.

Tall: You are so mean, Mom. All my friends have (insert name of unlikely product here) and I am the only one who doesn’t! (runs from room, pouting)

I have decided to take matters into my own hands and address the real instigators of this mess that has become my life, a life of perpetual battle with a seven-year-old over useless garbage that will be in the landfill in a matter of days. Here goes:

MOV’s Open Letter to Advertisers Everywhere

“Please leave my sons and their impressionable brains alone. My older son believes everything you say, even the blatant lies (‘hours’ of fun? who are you kidding? we finished that game in about five minutes). And the younger son wants to BE the older son, so it’s only a matter of time before he falls prey to your guerrilla advertising tactics.

Go pick on someone your own size (uh, on second thought, please leave my husband alone as well). At least an adult might have a fighting chance, or a modicum of willpower and resistance. On behalf of tired mothers everywhere, I beg you to just make your product and quietly sell it. If it’s truly any good, I’ll be happy to buy it—you don’t need to manipulate my child into pressuring me to spend a week’s pay on some random junky thing that he’ll forget by next week.

You could adopt a new ‘truth in advertising’ approach. This is how your new ad could look:

‘Our product is pretty good. Most of the time. If it’s something you need, by all means, please buy it. If not, well, think about it for next time.’

See? That wasn’t so hard.



I made 20 copies and sent the letter out to the worst offenders (Disney, Kellogg, Hasbro, Pillow Pet, etc). I have already heard back: they all apologized and sent me coupons. Guess who helped me open the mail that day? Yes, Tall. Now we have yet another reason to buy their products—discounts! I can’t win.

(“Mother Of Victims”)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

357. Selling The House

(About two years ago, we decided to move. This post is a flashback detailing that time period.)

You wake up one sunshine-soaked morning and decide that your life is relatively calm and stress-free. Because you are an adrenalin junkie, you confer with your husband over double lattes and cinnamon rolls to come up with a Plan. The Plan involves putting your house on the market, losing lots of money, and ultimately moving to a different house about four blocks away with a slightly bigger yard. Ah, yes. This fabulous Plan will change your life.

And your life does change. Immediately. You must now clean your house not when you “feel like it” or when your “mother-in-law is coming over” or even when it gets so dirty you “can no longer stand it”: no. Instead you must clean your house Every. Single. Day. Sometimes twice a day.

This is a different category of cleaning. This is Olympic caliber. Floors must be obsessively swept (“No more spills,” you beg the toddler as he flings his spaghetti across the room, ignoring you). Dishes in the sink are beyond unacceptable: they will incur a stern “helpful reminder” call from your own realtor later (“Keep in mind that the way you actually live day-to-day is not necessarily the best way to show a house when you're trying to sell,”). Even the closets must be organized, because they, too, will be inspected with military-precision-awareness by Potential Buyers.

You have seen enough TV house-hunting shows (and their endless spin-offs and mutations and imitations) to know that you are required to be absent when the Potential Buyers stream through your home, dissecting every decorating and design choice you’ve ever made (“She sure has weird taste in patio furniture!” or “Those pillows do not match that bedspread at all!” or “How many pairs of shoes does she own?”). When the phone call comes, you must scoop up the toddler (who was napping quite happily, thankyouverymuch) and the preschooler and whisk them away somewhere, somewhere you can spend large chucks of time without arousing suspicion or scorn, somewhere like: the mall.

You wander the giant mall aimlessly, and you even take a quick peek in Pottery Barn because you know (you just know) that your house would sell instantaneously if only you had some pretty candles on chunky wood pedestal holders displayed on the fireplace mantel. You tell the girl you’ll take four in various heights, and as she wraps them all up in pastel plaid tissue paper, your confidence soars.

Next, you stop at Barnes and Noble to buy a few books on home staging (as you suspected, the books do confirm that candles on the fireplace mantel are of utmost importance).  You hand the clerk your credit-card and do your best to mentally block out the nasty thing she just said to you: “That will be $87.52, please.”    

You look at your watch. It has only been 20 minutes. How much more time do you need to waste, you wonder while the toddler tries to knock over the decorative fake trees and the preschooler tries to pull away from you to inspect the glass elevator. You stop to buy a snack of overpriced pretzels and drinks (this home selling business is starting to get expensive, you think wryly to yourself as the toddler “accidentally” dumps cranberry-grape juice all over your white blouse), and “enjoying a snack” slowly kills another 10 minutes.

The weekends are worse, much worse. You and your husband must dream up endurance-building activities to keep you all gone for the entire afternoon during the Open House. Of course it is March, the month known for rain, and the only thing that looks mildly attractive is the Boat Show at the Expo Center. You have never been to a Boat Show in your life, and it seems odd to look at boats (something that belongs in water) inside a large, dry warehouse while it is wet outside. It seems discordant, like shampooing dry hair.

Before you can leave, you scurry around the house, frantically shoving diapers in the trash and toys under the beds. You are calling out to your husband “How much time do we have before they get here?” but he can’t hear you over the din of crying children and the overzealous vacuum cleaner. “Did you pack a snack for them?” your frenzied husband shouts back to you from the next room. “Don’t forget to pack some snacks, and hurry!”

You and your family abandon the house just as the realtor is pulling up, a flurry of balloons defying the rain and peeking out the back of his Lexus. You smile, thinking how great it is that he is going to hopefully sell your house today, and then you realize you forgot to brush your teeth.

Lookie-loo neighbors brandishing soggy umbrellas are walking up the sidewalk in muddy boots as you drive away. You ask your husband to stop at 7-11 so you can buy some toothpaste. You mentally add yet another $6 to the moving tab in the column of “hastily-made unnecessary purchases”.

The Boat Show is packed. Your sons have a ball climbing into every sleek expensive boat to check out “where the captain sleeps” and begging you to buy them a boat. Your younger son (age two) is a bit confused and makes observations such as “Boats need water. When will they bring the ocean in here?” while your husband reads boat literature. He is now bandying about terms like “slip fees” and “Coast Guard documentation” and “rigging lines” and “marine insurance” with various salespeople, and you are becoming increasingly worried that you might not sell your house after all, but your husband might be buying a boat.

At last, you extricate yourselves and return home to find out the results of the Open House. As you approach your house, you realize there are still cars in your driveway, Potential Buyer Cars, so you must circle the block a few times. After five slow loops, you finally decide to park down the street. You are cursing yourself for forgetting to stock binoculars as a normal item in your glove compartment. Who are these people wandering around your (immaculate) house? You start to feel strangely … violated.

The Potential Buyers linger but ultimately leave, and you and your family casually walk through your front door as if you just arrived mere seconds ago. You nonchalantly ask your realtor, “How’d it go?” as if you are discussing his routine dental cleaning instead of your entire financial future.

He slowly mouths the words you have been hoping for, “It looks like we’ll be receiving an offer later this evening,” and you start jumping up and down like a deranged kangaroo on crack. “It’s all going to pay off for us!” you think, prematurely.

The offer does indeed come, and the back-and-forth negotiations begin, and an acceptable number is mutually agreed upon. The home inspection goes well. Then the buyers' financing falls through and you are back to more boat shows on rainy Sundays.

Three more months and two more low-ball offers elapse and you wonder if any of this is worth it. Yes, you live in a model home now, a home where the lights are always on and the kitchen always smells like Williams-Sonoma mulling spices and the cat is always at the vet and soothing music is always on the radio. It seems like it isn’t even your home anymore, it is more like a fantasy Barbie Dream House that you played with as a child. Every picture hung just so, every vase arranged with permanent fresh flowers.

Just when you are beaten down and discouraged, the phone rings and the realtor’s scratchy cell-phone voice is saying, “We have a solid offer!” This offer goes through. And you have sold your house. And you prepare to move.

And as you are packing every infinite possession that you and your family has ever owned, you are thinking to yourself, Ah, selling the house was easy; it’s the packing and moving part that’s hard.

(“Moving Out Veteran”)

Friday, March 11, 2011

356. Why I'm Not Allowed To Go To The Grocery Store By Myself Anymore

The Husband does 99.9% of our grocery shopping. This is just plain silly. He somehow doesn’t trust me to bring home the crucial things on the list—things like eggs, butter, milk, fruit, vegetables, bread, cereal, juice, water, pasta, turkey, and cheese. He goes to the store once a week and buys what we need to make 21 meals (and assorted snacks) for four people.

I, on the other hand, prefer to wing it. Sure, I’ll take a list, but I’ll forget it in the car. I’ll commandeer a cart and start perusing the aisles aimlessly, grabbing whatever item inspires me. In typical I-am-the-best-grocery-shopper-ever fashion, I glance down proudly at my potential purchases while I am in the check-out line. I have
  • one gallon of milk
  • two apples
  • a bunch of grapes
  • one roasted chicken (already cooked!)
  • brie
  • French bread
  • two bottles of Chardonnay,
  • a bottle of Pinot Grigio
  • a Reisling
  • a Sauvignon Blanc
  • a box of chocolate s’mores cookies
  • a giant deluxe bag of peanut M&M’s
  • lavender soap
  • a few greeting cards
  • a small notepad with a retro illustration of dancing hotdogs 
  • popcorn
  • waffle cookies
  • a quart of vanilla ice-cream
  • six magazines (two on travel and four on home décor and design) and
  • a giant bouquet of purple tulips.
Yikes—I realize I forgot something essential that was on the original list. I ask the lady in front of me if she can watch my shopping cart for a second. She reluctantly agrees (“I guess,”) and I sprint over to seize a bag of Oreos.

All set!

When I get home, I casually put everything away (making room for various chocolate confections in the freezer by removing unnecessary objects like “ice”). The Husband walks in the kitchen, pleased that I have taken the initiative for once to go to the store and give him a break. He takes one look at my overflowing bags and gasps in horror. He starts pawing through them like a bear at an abandoned picnic.

What did you buy?” he says, implying that something is gravely wrong. “You bought nothing!”

“Are you kidding?” I respond, motioning to the six bags on the kitchen floor. “I bought a lot,” I confirm, beaming.

“How much did you spend?” demands the cost analyst.

“Uh, I think it was around $128…” I say sheepishly.

“Magazines? Wine? Chocolate?” he says, lifting up the various culprits for closer inspection. “What are you, single?”

“Huh?” I say, momentarily distracted by the Frank Gehry creation on the cover of Architectural Digest.

“I said, you didn’t buy any actual food. This is supposed to be our food for the week, and you wasted it on this!” He pulls out the roasted chicken and holds it in the air, like a sacrifice.

“What could possibly be wrong with buying chicken?” I ask.

“For $17? I can cook my own chicken for about $4. That is a total waste of money. It’s easy to cook a chicken.”

“Fine.” I say, deflated. “I just bought what I, uh, I mean our family likes to eat.”

“Two apples?” he asks, exasperated. “I can eat two apples myself for breakfast. I normally buy about 15 apples.”

“You do?” I query, dumbfounded. “We eat that many apples?”

“Well, apparently not you. You eat 15 Oreos.”

I realize he’s right. I open my bottle of Chardonnay, pour myself a glass, and get a vase for my tulips. “Okay, my love,” I offer, “you’re right. Next time I’ll buy 15 apples.”

He shakes his head. “There won't be a next time.  Face it, MOV: I’m better at grocery shopping. From now on, I will do ALL the grocery shopping. When two people in a family do the same task and one is infinitely better at it, it only makes sense that the person who excels at it should do the task. Really, it’s an efficiency thing.”

You know what else he’s good at? Laundry. I can’t wait to tell him.

(“M&Ms Or Vino”)

355. Mush

My brain has officially turned to mush. This is the threat I always say to my children if they are watching too much TV (“Your brain is going to turn to mush!”), but now it has happened to me and it has nothing to do with television and everything to do with being 42.

We walk into a restaurant and the hostess seats us near the window. We get settled at our table, and seconds later, a waiter appears announcing, “Hi! My name is Bryan/ Rick/ Jason and I’ll be taking care of you tonight!” I am forgetting his name as he is saying it. I am thinking about scallops and whether they will be cooked right this time (like they were two times ago), or if they will be raw and mushy (like they were last time).

I am at home in the study, writing. I remember I need to go to the basement for something, so I walk down the two flights of stairs. The moment I get there, I have zero recollection of what I went down for. I go back upstairs. Once back up, I remember: Oh, yes, I need to transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer before they get mildewed and mushy. Sigh.

I answer the phone. It is not a number I recognize. It is not a voice I recognize. The merry person who dialed apparently remembers who she is and who she is calling because she chirps, “Hi MOV! How are you?!” I have to sit there making benign chitchat (“Good, really good—but how are you?”) while my brain is doing backflips trying to figure out who this is. Please, God, let her mention her child’s name, or some common function we attended, or where she works out: give me some crumbs here, some mushy crumbs.

I am at work at the high-end kitchen store (and truly, it’s a miracle that I remembered my schedule and that I’m actually supposed to be here right now instead of yesterday or tomorrow). The Boss hands me some new “Shift Guidelines” and one of them seems to be that I am now responsible for a certain section of the store depending on the day (today is soaps and linens) and each shift I will need to focus on maintaining my specific area to our corporate standards. I start to feel panicky as I look over the list. Do I have to memorize it? Will there be a quiz later, and if I fail will I be fired?

“Uh, Boss?” I squeak, “Do I have to, uh, memorize this?”

After four years, The Boss knows who she is dealing with. “Are you kidding, MOV? We are going to laminate that sheet and keep it right here by the register for new hires—and you—to refer to. Of course you don’t have to memorize it.” She is obviously harkening back to last week when she sent me to the back stock room to retrieve more cookbooks and I returned empty-handed but with chocolate brownie crumbs on my face (thanks for making brownies again, Stacey; but they were a tad bit mushy).

I want to be that person with the amazing memory, the person who can instantaneously recall every detail of your last conversation together (whereas I say things like, “Janelle, how is your grandmother feeling now?” and she replies, “MOV, she died two years ago—you came to the funeral.”). Why can I not remember anything?

It is because my brain is already full, full of things that don’t matter anymore like my first grade teacher’s name (hi, Mrs. Link!), or my childhood phone number (454-7388), or which tube stop for Harrods in London (Knightsbridge on the Piccadilly line), or the exact floor-plan of every house or apartment I’ve ever lived in (including closet placement) and even a few hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. Is it useful to know where the bathroom was located when I spent a semester in France? Yes, at the time, obviously, but now it might be more helpful to remember how to pronounce my next-door neighbor’s name (is it Mrs. Gillian with a hard or soft “G”?) instead of continually saying the-weak-imitation-and-getting-old “Well, hey there, neighbor!”

I vow to do Sudoku puzzles (if I could just remember where I put them), I vow to do crosswords (but the same-page comics are infinitely more appealing), I vow to really listen to people when they tell me their name (that means you, Bryan/ Rick/ Jason).

And if none of that works out, I know a very nice apartment in France I could rent (as long as they haven’t relocated the bathroom).

(“Mush Or Vicinity”)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

354. Thursday's Brand New Blog

Remember?  I am on a computer diet.  No computer for 24 hours, every other day.  On the "on" days, I can have my fix and have as much computer as I like.  On the "off" days-- cold turkey. 

Thursday this week happens to fall on an "off" day.  Cold turkey.  No new blog for you.  You have to go back and read yesterday's (which is, truly, quite amusing) or just wait for tomorrow's. 

You can do it.  I am saving up some really good material.  I promise.  (Yikes, now the pressure is on!)

("Mondays On Vacation")

353. Clean Up (A Dream)

(The following is a kooky DREAM SEQUENCE, one of many that grace my nocturnal hours. This did not happen in real life—it is only a dream!)

So there I am in my friend Sandy’s kitchen, drinking a glass of wine. I hear people in the next room laughing and talking, and I am immediately overcome with feelings of extreme self-consciousness and the realization that I am not supposed to be here. I accidentally drop my wine glass, which breaks into large shards on the tile floor. Shoot! What now?

I find a small broom and dustpan in the pantry, and I start sweeping up the broken glass. I hope it was not too expensive, or part of a set that has been discontinued. Now I hear footsteps coming toward the kitchen; it turns out to be Sandy’s husband, whom I’ve never met.

Yikes! What am I going to do now? Play it off like Sandy invited me? I look down to verify what I am wearing: nice gray pants, black cashmere sweater, black ballet flats, my chunky turquoise bracelet—I could maybe fit in with this party. But what if this is an extended family gathering, and clearly I do not belong?

I do what I do best in these situations: panic. Don walks into the kitchen, takes one look at me, then looks back in the direction of his guests. My heart is beating very fast, wondering what will happen next. Is he going to yell at me for the broken glass? What about the general trespassing and standing around in his kitchen without being invited?

I give a weak smile. “Hi,” I squeak, “you must be Sandy’s husband.” For some reason, I don’t actually introduce myself.

“Oh,” he says, gesturing to the broom and the broken glass, “uh, what happened?”

“The glass broke,” I shrug, employing a maneuver made famous by my younger son: talking in a passive way (the glass broke, never I broke the glass).

He turns away from me. What is he going to do?

He yells up the stairs. “Sandy! Sandy!”  He seems like he might be mad, but I don't know him, so I'm not sure. 

I feel like I am six years old and about to cry. I know Don is a lawyer, maybe he is going to have Sandy call the police and have me arrested for trespassing, stealing wine, and breaking his expensive Williams-Sonoma wine glass.

Sandy does not walk down the stairs. Who knows where she has gone. Instead, five or six other party-goers materialize in the kitchen and they are all staring at me.

“Well, looks like you are almost done there, huh?” says Don finally. “I’ll tell Sandy you’re done then.”

Ah, he is giving me the opportunity to leave, like it never happened. This is an opportunity I am going to take.

“Yes, yes, I’m done,” I say accommodatingly, setting the broom back in the pantry, “I will go ahead and leave now.”

“Let me get my checkbook,” says Don weirdly.


Don’s guests are standing around the kitchen, nibbling on cheese and crackers, ignoring me.

Don reappears with his checkbook. Now it is becoming clear to me that he is going to be writing a check to me for some reason.

This is all very mysterious to me. I decide I won’t argue with him, I will just graciously accept the check (for not suing him for almost cutting myself on his faulty wine glasses and possibly bleeding to death at a party I was not invited to?).

He signs the check with a flourish and hands it to me. I smile, say “Thank you,” and head toward the door. He nods, then murmurs, “See you next time.”

I glance at the amount of the check: $300. Wow! Cool! I can buy something great!

Then I read the “memo” part of the check: he scribbled in the words “cleaning services.”

He thinks I am the cleaning lady. I’m not the cleaning lady, I think, outraged. I’m not exactly sure why I’m in their house drinking their wine, but I certainly don’t want to scrub their toilets or clean behind their refrigerator.

Who does he think he is, assuming that I am the maid? I need to correct him and give the check back.

I do the only thing I can: I fold the check neatly and slip it in my pocket. I turn back to Don and say, “Tell Miss Sandy I’ll be back next Wednesday!”

(“Mistaken Other Version”)

Monday, March 7, 2011

352. On Fire

So there I am at my mommy dinner group (we call ourselves MOD—Moms Out Drinking) and I am chatting with this mommy I never met before, Zinnia. (This is her real name. She knows I write a blog and she gave me permission to use it.) I find out she is an orthodontist, and for some reason, my slightly tipsy self thinks this is a great little tidbit to grab onto. I start introducing her to other moms at the table, and I am insistent on making her job into part of her name: “This is my new friend ZinniaTheOrthodontist.”

She smiles through her clenched (very straight, very white) teeth and whispers, “Do you think you could stop introducing me that way? Just good ol’ ‘Zinnia’ would be just fine.”

I do what I always do in this type of instance (which happens more frequently than one might think): ignore what she said. Instead, I start telling her all about my blog (did I mention the name of our group? the drinking part of Moms Out Drinking? I’d had about three glasses of wine by this point. I was officially not the designated driver.)

ZinniaTheOrthodontist recounts a funny story and then she says if I stop calling her ZinniaTheOrthodontist, I am welcome to steal this amusing story for my blog and pretend like the story happened to me.

No dice, ZinniaTheOrthodontist. I do not pretend other people’s stories have happened to me. Do you think blogs are fiction?!? No. Every word of every blog must be 100% true and accurate (maybe, dear ZinniaTheOrthodontist, if you had gone to law school instead of orthodontist school, you would know that).

So I will recount ZinniaTheOrthodontist’s story, but I will let you know up front it happened to her.

(Told in the first person as if ZinniaTheOrthodontist is telling it, not me):

I had just graduated magna cum laude from college, when my dad generously gave me a choice of graduation presents: a summer in Europe, or his vintage 1962 black Corvette. I believe that memories are something sacred you hold in your heart for a lifetime, but I believe even more strongly in making memories by zipping along Pacific Coast Highway in that sports car. Yeah, yeah—I picked the car. Can you blame me?

I was blonde (I’m a redhead now), I was 22, I was living in Santa Barbara, and I drove a convertible Corvette. Let me tell you, it was a pretty hot summer.

I’d had the car exactly two months when it happened. I was driving on PCH and a cute guy in a green truck pulls up next to me, waving frantically. I knew a lot of people in Santa Barbara, but I couldn’t recall anyone who owned a green truck. He's waving like he knows me, so I wave back. About a minute later, a red Honda starts honking at me. I was used to this kind of attention (see above: 22, blonde, vintage Corvette), so again, I just waved back. The more I smiled and waved, the more he seemed, uh, well—agitated. I sped up. He caught up and then passed me. He continued to wave and honk.

I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror. I had just recently gotten my hair cut, so I was confirming that it looked good. It did.

A new car pulled up to join the fun. A police car. He clicked his sirens on and motioned for me to pull over. Now, I had had a lot of guys hitting on me at this point in my life, but never a cute policeman! I was on fire!

Yes, literally, I was on fire. When I pulled over, the policeman yanked me out of the car; the underside of my dad’s beautiful Corvette was on fire, flames shooting out both sides and the back. Just like a movie.

I stood there, transfixed and horrified, not knowing what to do (“Run” was a thought that sprang to mind). Somehow, firemen appeared (again, like a movie) and put the fire out. I was grateful to be alive.

But a teeny tiny part of me was just a little bit disappointed that those young men were not really flirting with me after all; they were merely trying to save my life.

The End.

(as told to MOV by ZinniaTheOrthodontist)

351. Eat Chicken Now

So there I am, walking into my local “Eat Chicken Now” restaurant, when I spot him. He is wandering around sort of in the vicinity of the counter where you order, squinting at the menu board above. He’s wearing wrinkled khakis and a navy blue blazer. At first, I’m not sure it’s him—I haven’t seen him in a while—so I ask him, “Sir, are you in line?”

He turns to face me, startled. I realize, yes, yes, it’s definitely him. “I am in line,” he says politely. “I’m next.”

I am face to face with Mr. I-Stand-Too-Far-Back-When-I’m-In-Line. I used to see him a lot when I was a flight attendant. There I’d be at the airport Starbucks, getting ready to order my triple latte when he would walk up and tap me on the shoulder. “You just cut in front of me,” he’d say accusingly.

Huh? What? I’d think. Where the heck did you just come from? And if you were in line, why were you standing 15 feet back, way over there?

(I’ve met his cousin once or twice, usually at line at the movies. Her name is Miss I-Stand-Too-Close-To-Other-People. She likes to pretend she might kiss the back of your neck at any moment, or at least pick stray hairs off your sweater for you.)

So. Back to “Eat Chicken Now.” I say, “Oh, okay,” and then get behind him in line (if you can even call it that, we are practically pressed back by the newspaper machine about a million miles from the actual register).

You know what happens next. Of course you do. The thing I feared. Two teenage girls walk in, ignore me and my buddy I-Stand-Too-Far-Back (we are on a first name basis now), and waltz right up to the register.  The teenagers are ready to place their order and are completely oblivious to the fact that we have been waiting.

On cue, my buddy walks up to the girls and says, “Uh, I was over here waiting.” The girl wearing ripped tights looks embarrassed. The other girl, with a visible tattoo of a green snake on her neck, looks ready to pick a fight. I am wondering which one is going to win.

“Oops, I’m sorry!” giggles Embarrassed Girl, “I guess we didn’t see you.”

Fight Girl looks him up and down and says, “Really? You were waiting in line? Dude,” (yes she called him dude and right then I am wishing my cell phone could make short movies, or if it can, that I knew how to use that function), “then why were you way over there? Do you need glasses or something?”

Embarrassed Girl laughs nervously.  My jaw has dropped to the ground. I am exhilarated to find out what will happen next, almost like I am watching a play or TV, and I'm forgetting that I'm right there in the center of the action.

Fight Girl turns to me. It is becoming immediately clear that she thinks Stand-Back and I are together (husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, something). “Why are you and he standing so far away from the register? Do you have, like, the flu or something?”

I am weighing my options. She has given me an out (the flu)—I could start pretending to sneeze or cough (ironically enough, the identical strategy I employ when confronted with Miss I-Stand-Too-Close). Before I have a chance to say anything, my buddy throws me under the bus:

“I’m not with her!” (said with such contempt that it seems I have stolen his parking place or possibly run over his cat), “I have no idea why she is standing this far away from the register.”

I am so flabbergasted and flummoxed by this unexpected turn of events that I do the only thing I can: I cut in front of everyone and place my order. To go.

(“Mayonnaise On Viennoiserie”)

350. Christmas Tree Story

So I never told you this story before. I’m living in San Diego with my then-boyfriend Paul (this is about a million years ago, I think I must be 25). We live in a tiny apartment by the beach. We’re both working in hotels (different hotels though) and he’s a banquet captain—so he basically works a lot of parties.

This party is different though. This is a wedding, the wedding of Andre Agassi’s brother.

(This is waaaaay before Steffi Graf; this is when Andre’s still married to Brooke Shields.)

According to Paul, Andre Agassi’s mom is a bit of a control-freak when it comes to planning the wedding. Paul: “She is very demanding, but in a nice demanding way.”

The mom is walking through the banquet room with Paul and the catering manager and going into an elaborate description of how she wants everything decorated. Since the wedding will be taking place early December, she wants about a gazillion Christmas trees everywhere. Live trees. Decorated trees. Flocked trees. (You know—that fake puffy white snow somehow glued to the branches?)

The hotel ends up getting 25 of the most gorgeous Empire-State-Building-tall trees you have ever seen in your life. Someone drives to Greenland to retrieve them all. The trees cost $3000 each. You can barely walk through and see the ocean view outside because of this dense forest of Christmastravaganza.

The wedding goes off without a hitch. Brooke Shields is exceedingly nice (I ask Paul what she drinks: strawberry daiquiris.  I make a mental note to order a strawberry daquiri in the near future.). The general manager is very proactive in asking the mom what she wants done with all those trees (I think he’s hoping she'll let the hotel just keep them for their own holiday decorating purposes and save a considerable chunk of the December budget).

But, no. The mom says (and, luckily, there are witnesses), “It is my fondest wish to let each banquet or kitchen employee have a tree.” There are 25 trees, and 50 employees.

It is decided (after the wedding) that there will be a lottery to determine which employees will get the coveted trees. Everyone is so excited, you’d think they're giving away new cars.

You know what happens next: Paul wins a tree. Our apartment can barely hold a couch and a table, let alone a tree of Nutcracker Ballet proportions (see “tiny apartment,” above).

Conveniently, my mom and her 20 foot ceilings live close by. In a gesture of generosity and common sense, Paul gives her the tree.

It is a strange kind of nostalgia, when an event happens and as it is happening, you say to yourself, This is the best it will ever be. That is how putting that tree up is. We all look at the glamorous Andre Agassi’s brother’s wedding tree and give a big collective sigh. We will never ever have a tree this beautiful again. (And I'm not even a fan of flocked white trees, as I deem them “cheap” and “tacky.” Not this tree. This tree is “perfect” and “classy.”)

We all take turns posing for too many pictures in front of the iconic tree. It is a wonderful and magical Christmas, with this extravagant souvenir of Wimbledon and Hollywood taking residence in the center of the room near the window.

We leave it up ‘til April.

(“Magical Optimum Vision”)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

349. Dinner Out

So I’m sitting at the table this morning bouncing blog ideas off The Husband. “Why do you agonize about this?” he asks, “I could write your blog in about two seconds.”

“Have at it,” I challenge. “Today’s topic is dinner with Charlotte and Jeff last night.”

He goes upstairs to the computer, and I hear a whirlwind of clicking and tapping. Less than five minutes later, he comes back down.

“See? Not as easy as it looks, is it? Do you need my dictionary? I left it on the shelf by—”

“Nope. All done,” he says like a toddler after inhaling Cheerios.

I go upstairs to see what he wrote. This is what I see on the screen:

“We went out to dinner with Jeff and Charlotte. It was fun. The end.”

“Are you kidding me?” I call down the stairs. “That’s all you got? A first-grader could’ve done a better job than that.”

“Do you want help with something?” calls out my first-grade son, Tall.

“Uh, no, Tall … uh, never mind.”

I go back downstairs and grab a cup of coffee. “Sweetheart,” I say to The Husband, “the blog is not just a diary of my life, it’s funny little stories that I have to spin into this web. It’s not just, I did this, I did that. There’s more to it.”

He shrugs.

I go back to the computer and sit down to write. Here goes:

So we’re out to dinner with Charlotte and her husband Jeff. I launch into what I think is an amusing anecdote about Short at the museum, and Charlotte cuts me off.

Escalator. I know. I read your blog.” She takes another bite of her cheese.

Oh. A few minutes later, the table talk has turned to exercise, and I decide this is a good time to tell them about The Husband’s experience running a marathon.

Hospital,” nods Jeff, “I read your blog, too.”

Charlotte is charming us with a story about their recent flight to Miami and how she saw Julio Iglesias Jr. at the airport and he was mobbed by fans wanting his autograph.

"I thought it was Johnny Depp!" she exclaims.  We are all giggling and sipping our wine.

“That reminds me,” I begin, “about this time I was working a flight to Hawaii and—”

Jeff Bridges,” Charlotte interrupts, “Read it.”

This is getting ridiculous. I can’t even tell my own stories without feeling like I’ve been abducted by aliens and they have already opened up my brain, gobbled up all the information, and spit it back out again.

“Did Jeff tell you? We got a puppy!” squeals Charlotte. “The kids love her. They chase her around the backyard. It’s so cute. And the puppy has this funny habit where she likes to hide behind this one lawn chair and then jump out at you. It’s sort of like stalking. She gets me every single time.”

We all laugh, and then I say cautiously, “Some of my co-workers were talking about their dogs the other day and—”

Crystal water bowl,” say Jeff and Charlotte in unison. Jeff winks at me. “We don’t need to hear that story again.”

I realize this must be what Tom Cruise feels like when he calls his mom to share some cute anecdote about Suri, and his mom says, “Tom, I already read that in Star.” Or Julia Roberts calls her brother to let him know about her next movie gig and he says, “Oh, please, Jules. I watch Entertainment Tonight. Tell me something I don’t know.”

I sit there silent for most of the meal, watching Charlotte and Jeff and The Husband interact. I’m chewing my chicken cordon bleu when Jeff says, “MOV, are you going to make this into a blog? Because can I choose my own name? I want to be ‘Victor.’ I had a friend in high school named Victor, and he was super-cool. It would be kind of an inside joke.”

“I probably won’t write a blog about dinner tonight,” I confess, “I’m just having a good time relaxing.”

Charlotte looks up from her ravioli. “Come on, MOV, this will be in your blog. Something about dinner tonight, you will write about it.  You know you will! Hey, in that case, can I pick my name too? I want to be ‘Michelle.’ That fits.” She grins, happy with her new identity.  

“You don’t look like a ‘Michelle,’ Charlotte,” The Husband interjects. “You look like a ‘Nicole.’ Jeff, what do you think?”

Jeff squints his eyes, considering his wife’s new name. “She could be a ‘Nicole’ or a ‘Michelle,” but why don’t you make her be a ‘Norma’ instead?”

“‘Norma?’ Where did you get that?!” asks Charlotte, scrunching up her pretty face.  “I am not a ‘Norma.’ People named Norma are, like, about 100 years old!”

“My mother’s name is Norma,” says The Husband quietly.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I had no idea! It’s a lovely name!”

The Husband is cracking himself up. “Her name’s not really Norma. I’m just messing with you.”

And there’s my blog. We went out to dinner with Jeff and Charlotte. It was fun. The end.

(“Michelle Or Victor”)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

348. Project Blog

So I’d like to be serious for a moment and tell you about my project. Last summer, I was mentioning to one of my co-friends at the high-end kitchen store that I really need an outlet for my crazy little writing ideas and quirky stories. She suggested I start a blog.

Instead of being grateful for her fantastic suggestion, I laughed. It was sort of a multi-tiered nervous laugh because I am a huuuuuuuuge technophobe and there was no way on Earth I could start a blog. Sure, I love to write, but blogs were for really smart people who knew how to do computery things, things like program their cell phones and TiVo machines correctly. I’m lucky I can figure out the coffee maker.

But co-friend pushed, and then she said those fateful words, “It’s easy.” (I recall other friends uttering those identical words about parenthood. Other friends with no children themselves.) Like all things that are “supposed” to be easy, it was a mix of easy and not-so-easy. The writing part was easy (I love to write! Almost as much as I love to shop or eat chocolate, or shop for chocolate.). However, the part that was not-so-easy was the marketing aspect. How do you let the world know about your little blog? Heck if I know. (I still don’tany tips, please, dear readers?)

I started out with about two followers (hi Mom!) and some reluctant non-followers (direct quote from The Husband: “Are you really going to do this? Do I have to read it? What if I don’t want to—is that going to cause a fight?”). Now, I am up to 119 followers (thank you!!!) in only 10 months. Not too bad for absolutely zero advertising and only word of mouth exposure.  (I don't even know 119 people!  Only 75 people even showed up to my wedding.)

So, to let you know about the rest of my project:  I thought I would challenge myself to write one blog per day for 365 days. I started on June 1, 2010, and my goal was to complete the experiment on June 1, 2011. As of today, I have written 347 blogs. I am only 20 posts away from my goal, and I still have the luxury of almost three months! (I know what you’re thinking: overachiever. Yes, it’s true.)

Some of the blogs have been good. Some have been, uh, so-so (ones from my early days spring to mind).  A few have been hysterically funny, so funny, in fact, that I laughed as I typed them. My goal is to make these next 20 that kind of funny.

I have learned a lot from writing in this space. Mostly I’ve learned that I love it, and I have no plans to quit.  Another thing I've learned is how much I value my audience's feedback.  I adore reading your comments!  Keep 'em coming!  And rest assured, when that writing odometer flips over to the magical 365 number, I will continue to post (I might drop down to a weekly post, however).

Where do we go from here? A side effect of this writing-a-blog thing has been that now I am inspired to gather it all into book form (which I have actually accomplished). I am hoping to get a literary agent and sell my book!

I have a small favor to ask you (no, not to buy my book—it doesn’t actually exist yet anyway): if you like my blog, could you please tell everyone you know about it? Okay, maybe not your mailman or your 3rd grader’s music teacher, but everyone else? You know, maybe “like” my blog on your Facebook page or forward my link to your entire virtual address book? Something like that?

I would love to get my follower count up to a really big number, like infinity plus one (the number my first-grader likes to say when asked how much I love him).  

Thank you for reading my blog, loyal readers!  I hope you have enjoyed a laugh or two along the way. 


MOV   :)

347. Museum

So I take Short and his buddy Gavin (both age 4) to the Impressive Museum. They are on their absolute best behavior due to a very enticing bribe—brownies—after our visit (sorry, Gavin’s mom! I mean, uh, that part of the story is fiction!). We see artwork by all of my favorite artists: Calder, Miro, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Gauguin. We look at sculptures and wood carvings and paintings and mobiles. The boys are attentive and observant and I overhear them saying things like, “This is an inspiring use of color,” or “I believe Georges Braque was heavily influenced by Picasso,” or “Doesn’t this one just ooze symbolism?”

Next, we decide to hit the gift shop so we can buy some commemorative magnets and souvenir "I'm A Real Artist" coloring books. Short starts in with his typical I’m-hungry-I’m-hungry-I’m-hungry mantra (to the point where random strangers are staring at my chubby child and shaking their heads thinking I am starving him when, in fact, he ate an entire apple 23 minutes ago on the drive over here). “Yes, Short,” I say through clenched teeth, “we are leaving right now and your brownie is waiting for you in the car.”

“Yay! This is a great day!” he sings out, and he and Gavin start jumping up and down like happy human pogo sticks.

“Let’s go,” I say nervously, cringing at the strategically placed Henry Moore sculpture that is in our immediate path of destruction. We swerve past the sculpture and out toward the vicinity of our car.

Fountains!” squeals Gavin in delight, “Let’s make all our wishes now!”

We detour to the gurgling fountain for wishing and more jumping (“I wish we could jump more!” shrieks Short as he hurls his penny into the bubbly water), and finally I convince the boys we need to go to the car (“Brownie time!”). We buckle our seatbelts and the chocolatefest begins. The car is silent in a haze of cocoa beans and sugar. Shreds of paper napkins lie haphazardly around like abandoned confetti.

About halfway into our journey home, my alter-alter ego, Teacher MOV (she doesn’t pop up very often in my normal day-to-day life like Queen Virgo does) emerges with some make-you-think questions.

“If you could take one thing from the museum and put it in your house, what would it be?” Teacher MOV asks earnestly.

Gavin doesn’t hesitate. “The fountain!”

Short carefully considers his various options, then declares, “The ceiling!”

“Huh,” I murmur. “Those are great answers. Now, tell me what your most favorite thing was: did you see one piece of artwork that you really really loved? Maybe the one with the boats next to that bridge?” I prompt, “Or the one with all those buildings painted black like night?”

Short ignores me. I glance in the rearview mirror and see that he has found a stray piece of brownie that was lodged near his collar and he’s attempting to eat it without using his hands. He is darting his tongue to try to reach it: he looks like a lizard. Obviously, all this immersion in high culture has rubbed off on him.

“My most favorite thing?” Gavin clarifies, “In the whole, giant, Impressive Museum?”

“Yes,” I nudge.

“That’s easy! The escalator!” His tone tells me he is quite happy with his answer, like Bob Barker just told him he guessed right and won the Showcase Showdown.

Brownies, high ceilings, fountains, and escalators. Next time we’ll skip the museum and go straight to that other Impressive Place: the mall.

(“Masters Of Vision”)

346. Post Office

So Isabella Rossellini shops at my post office right here in Santa Monica. Okay, not really “shops,” per se, I mean mails packages and buy stamps. And not really “Isabella Rossellini,” exactly, more like her much younger twin. And not really “Santa Monica” in the strictest sense, more along the lines of Crazy Town which is merely millions of miles from Hollywood.

Picture the scene. There I am, in line behind Famous Gorgeous Person (uh, that would be the Isabella Rossellini impersonator) and all I could think was, I have that same coat she’s wearing. I glance down at myself as inconspicuously as possible to verify if I am indeed wearing it right now (I am not). The coat is from Target (dark green with a subtle gold vine design and black buttons). Isabella Rossellini-clone shops at Target, just like me! This small brush with (semi-) fame thrills me.

My phone rings. My Isabella bubble has been popped. The four or five other postal customers glance in my direction, annoyed. I am wondering why they are not all staring at Isabella instead of at me. Great beauty is in your vicinity, people, and she is not wearing a baseball cap over greasy Mom-ponytail-hair!

I will my phone to stop ringing. Like the whiny child at the grocery store check-out line sensing disapproval and dismay but loving a potential audience, the phone ignores me and keeps on ringing. Normally, this would not bother me so much; I would simply not answer and wait for the caller to hang up in frustration. However, I can see by the caller ID that it is my sister calling and I know she will leave a long detailed voice-mail and (this part is important) I have a very terrible chime for my voice-mail and I would much prefer that Isabella didn’t hear it.

When I say the word “chime” I obviously mean long drawn-out song. Yes. The chime is some sort of disco redux that the lovely Phone Store Guy installed (possibly as a very unfunny joke) way back when I bought my cell phone. The chime is not one I would’ve personally chosen; in fact, the store was very crowded that day and I just wanted to get my new phone and get out.

The original ring was obnoxious as well (I think the standard setting song for my particular choice of telephone was “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen). I begged the Phone Store Guy to change that tune for me, and after much attitude and Olympic caliber teen-age condescending eye-rolling, he reluctantly agreed (“Fine. I will change the ring tone for you, but it will cost an extra $25. Honestly, though, m’am, it is so incredibly simple to do, you could do it yourself. Even my grandma can figure it out, and she is, like, about your same age, maybe even a little younger.”).

So my basic ring is a fairly generic one that approximately 97% of the population shares (imagine my phone ringing in the doctor’s office or at the bank—ah, yes, everyone fumbles for their phone, too). But my voice-mail reminder? This is where Phone Store Guy decided to have a little fun with me. Disco.

I used to be excited when someone would leave a message (I have friends! Friends that cannot wait to talk to me and tell me important things, and they are leaving me messages right this second!), but now I was … embarrassed.

I can feel the doctor or bank teller silently judging me (Disco is so not cool, who does she think she’s kidding?) and so I usually leave the phone in the car. The glove compartment has grown accustomed to the sound of my Disco boogie beat and rarely complains anymore.

I forgot to forget the phone in the car. The phone is in my purse. Ring ring! Persistent ring! Angry why-don’t-you-answer-me ring!  Threatening if-you-don't-answer-quickly-it-will-be-disco-mania-time ring! 

I fumble to unzip my purse and I flick the phone open with my thumb. “Hello?” I say cautiously, as if it is not my sister on the other end and instead someone has stolen her phone and I am talking to the potential thief.

“MOV! How are you? Where have you been?” she asks breathlessly. “I have been trying to call you all afternoon!”

“I can’t really talk … do you think, uh, would it be okay if I call you back in 10 minutes?”

“Sure, no problem,” she chirps, “but I just had to tell you who I sat next to on my flight this morning.”

“Flight? Did you go somewhere?” I ask, completely obtuse to my sister’s recent jet-setting ways.

“Remember I told you I had to fly down to L.A. for that UNICEF fundraiser? So, it was great, I met a ton of great people, we raised a ton of money, but then I was getting on my flight back home and it turns out someone else was in my seat. The flight attendant said there was a problem with my ticket and then she got the gate agent lady over there and they were discussing it for a minute and next thing you know, we are out of time and the pilot comes on the speaker and he’s all, we have to push back from the gate right now or we’re going to lose our place in line for departure and—”

“Next!” the postal clerk motions to me.

“Oakley, I have to go …”

“But anyway, I will tell you real quick, here is the absolute best part: they put me in first class—” I can practically hear her grinning through the phone satellites.

“M’am, it’s your turn, may I help you?”

I do the universal “I am giving crucial life-saving instructions to my intern on how to perform the surgery in my absence while I am away from the hospital to run my important errand” sign so the post office clerk knows I am not blowing her off with some lame unimportant and trivial phone call that doesn’t really matter.

“And then I am smack dab right next to Isabella Rossellini!”

That makes two of us.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

345. What I Learned Today

“In Texas they don’t have beds so they sleep on horses. That’s what they do.”

Courtesy of my son, Short. When pressed, “We learned that in school.”


344. To Do

Unlike normal people’s “To Do” list, mine does not shrink nor boast heavy charcoal lines striping through mundane tasks. No. My list grows, like a weed that you thought might be a plant but have now confirmed (after a quick Google search on a “no computer” day) is, in fact, a weed after all. A weed that needs absolutely no water, no food, no sunshine, nothing—yet, this weed (my “To Do” list) grows and grows and grows and towers over the “real” plants, the ones you paid good money to have a landscaper put in.

Okay, enough with the out-of-control weed metaphor. You get the idea.

As soon as I write down an item, I think of four more “related” items that should be added to the list. The main problem with my list is: it is not really even my list. It is the list of Tall and Short and The Husband and Kitty (“make vet appointment—yearly check-up”). Back when I was young and single and unencumbered by children and Adult Responsibilities (hello, Mortgage!), I could write a quick list and (miracle!) get a couple things, maybe even most (maybe even all) accomplished in a relatively finite amount of time (for example: one day).

Now, I am lucky if I can do even one thing on the list, let alone all 500 of them. It has gotten so depressing to look at “The List” that now I find myself writing things on it that I have just done solely for the thrill of being able to cross something off (“drink coffee” found its way onto yesterday’s list).

Sometimes, right when I wake up in the morning, I will go into the study and optimistically take out the list just to see if perhaps something got accomplished in the middle of the night while I was sleeping (nope—“buy new batteries for kitchen smoke detector” still remains on the list, undone).

Lately, I have been on this kick to clean out all my closets and drawers. Again, this is not just MOV’s personal list, this list is done by me but involves doing the work of four family members and a cat. So, that means it is not only my closet. My list says
  • Front coat closet (and each member of the family owns no fewer than 62 coats)
  • Entry hall table (amazing how much you can cram into five little drawers and forget that it was ever there until you need to file your taxes)
  • Linen closet
  • My closet
  • My dresser
  • Tall and Short’s closet (luckily, a shared space)
  • Laundry room (yes, it seems like a blessing to have an entire room devoted to laundry … until that room fills up with miscellaneous junk that you don’t know what to do with)
  • Closet in study
  • Closet in kids’ playroom (full of expensive toys they never play with but you can’t bear to part with and are holding onto for no good reason)
  • Pantry shelves in kitchen
  • Guest room closet (if something didn't fit in the laundry room, then it has traveled across the hall to this location
  • Storage closet (already too full to fit excess stuff from laundry room or guest room)
  • And the grande dame of storage closets: the garage (which has not housed an actual vehicle in over a year, but instead is home to more useful items like free rowing machines and abandoned pianos)
Add to this fun list the equally fun tasks of “buy milk” and “mail Kim’s birthday present” and “email Short’s teacher” and “make dentist appointment for Tall”; you can see how the list never goes away.

Well, at least I wrote today’s blog (oops, I’ll have to go back and add it to the list so I can cross it off).