Thursday, June 30, 2011

453. I Know A Shortcut!

So Tall, Short, and I were driving home from some errand or other, when all of a sudden, Tall blurted out, “Mommy, turn here! I know a shortcut!” Tall is super-smart (he routinely uses words like, “delusional,” “ennui,” “vilify,” “diatribe,” and “television”), so I was really excited to discover his own version of Mapquest: Tallquest.

I made a right. Then a left. A u-turn. Another left. I circled around the block. I was getting dizzy. What should be a three minute jaunt turned into a 20-minute epic journey/ scenic tour of every street, alley, boulevard, or cul-de-sac within a two mile radius of our home.

What the heck were they teaching my kid in first grade in public school, I wondered to myself, because it certainly was not navigational skills.

For the first time in seven years, I was having serious doubts about my child and his future as an airline pilot. If the tower told him to fly from Denver to San Francisco, who’s to say he wouldn’t take a little detour to New York and perhaps Canada first? He would get fired on his very first day.

Don’t panic, MOV, don’t panic. It’s a joke! He’s messing with you!

“Tall,” I began, trying not to sound delusional, “uh, who taught you this shortcut? Was it Grandpa? Because he lives in Colorado and he doesn’t really know our streets that well. If you drove this way with him, he might’ve actually been lost.”

I looked at Tall’s genius face in the rearview mirror, searching for clues, or at least the little North-South arrow image thing.

“Mom, don’t vilify me yet! I know exactly where I’m going. Trust me.” And then the kicker: “I’m trying to do YOU a favor and show you a new way home.”

Maybe he was unclear on the true definition of “shortcut”? Maybe he thought it meant something about wasting time and making other people in the car lose patience?

“Sweetie, uh, what do you think the word ‘shortcut’ means, exactly?”

Duh, Mom, it means ‘a shorter way home’.” And then to his brother in a whisper, “Why does she have to be so pedantic?”

Right-left-left-turn-right-across-back-right. I glanced at the gas gauge: it was almost on empty now.

“Look, Mommy!” piped up Short, “We’re almost home now! You’ll recognize this next street. Just look around and think hard.”

All I did was look around and think hard. My whole life was look around and think hard. I was afraid my brain would explode.

“Okay, Mom, last turn,” said Tall triumphantly. “There’s our house. This is precisely the way our school bus goes.”

(“Michigan, Oregon, Vermont”)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

452. Picture Perfect

So Father’s Day was over a week ago, and in MOV-Procrastiland I thought that today I still had plenty of time to get a nice present for The Husband. What better gift than a professional photo of our two sons, maybe even in black and white, sepia tones, or not-hitting-each-other hues.

I told the boys first thing this morning what our Action Plan was (that is special lingo I picked up at the high-end kitchen store, it means “plan of action”). I informed them they would need to put on a very nice outfit of my choosing and comb their hair for once. I was laying the groundwork for unhappiness: mine, theirs, and the unsuspecting minimum-wage mall photographer.

First, Tall decided to take a shower using all of the city’s water supply, and possibly the entire state’s as well. I thought this was a teenager trait, or a girl trait, but apparently it’s a stall-long-enough-and-mom-might-forget-about-photos tactic. When he finally stepped out of the shower, it was almost 3 PM. We were running out of time.

I selected a jaunty navy and white checkered shirt that would be making its debut wardrobe performance with khaki shorts for Tall, and a bright green polo with an adorable pristine white sweater vest and navy shorts for Short. The theme was preppy/ uncomfortable/ Martha’s Vineyard wannabes. Short was none too thrilled about wearing a sweater vest in 95 degree heat, but hey—we all must suffer in the name of fashion.

After much bribery involving promises of bakery cupcakes with sprinkles, and stops at the Lego store at the mall after the photos, we were at our front door, keys in hand. At this very moment, a tiny (smart) angel tapped on my shoulder and said,

“MOV, don’t you think you’d better Google this photography place and find out their hours and prices first?”

I zipped upstairs to the computer and clicked a couple of keys. Sure enough, the mall photographer had closed up shop permanently. (I immediately felt a pang of guilt: Did they quit because of the horrible ruckus Tall and Short caused last time we went there, you know, the time they broke all their darling props of sailboats and wagons, and that super-expensive camera was “accidentally” knocked over?)

What should I do now? The boys were standing in our front entry hall, looking the cutest they’ve looked, well, probably ever. I could not waste this cuteness. I’d found another photography place online, but it was an hour drive away. By the time we got there, I knew the boys’ (temporary) good moods would unravel.

I did the only thing I could: grabbed my camera.

“Boys, good news!” I announced, as if I was about to tell them they’d won the lottery. “We don’t have to go to the photo place now!”

“WHAT?” Short was outraged. “But you promised us cupcakes and Legos!”

Where was that smart (stupid) angel now? I was going to have to think of something fast.

“I know, I know,” I said, buying time, “You will still get treats, uh, mystery surprise treats! I just need you to cooperate and pose for photos in the yard instead.”

“Wait, our yard?” asked Tall with obvious disdain. He said the words our yard like you might say raw sewage.

“What’s wrong with our yard? We have a nice yard. Let’s go.”

We went out the back door and I started scouting potential Kodak moment spots. I consider myself to be an excellent amateur photographer, so I was quite concerned with the location of the sun and the shadows it was casting.

I’d like to tell you I got the perfect shot in the first two minutes. I’d like to say that the boys cooperated and actually enjoyed the experience. Both of those statements would be outright lies.

We were instantaneously eaten alive by mosquitoes and swarmed by gnats. This was not part of my Action Plan. Short dutifully turned his lips up and approximated a “cheerful” look, all the time he was probably telling himself, “Mystery treats! I will get mystery treats!”

Tall, however, would not hide his growing irritation.

“This is so stupid, Mom! Why are we doing this? Pop already knows what we look like.” Then, through clenched teeth, “Ugh, these bugs are killing me! I hate these bugs!”

I captured several lovely shots where he is swatting at some invisible thing and ends up hitting his brother in the nose. Yes, these candids are the real deal.

The mystery treats for their “cooperation” turned out to be a trip to the neighborhood toy store to scope out the latest Pokemon cards. Next, we went to our favorite local diner to order old-fashioned milkshakes. The restaurant was air-conditioned and not crowded. Tall started telling us silly jokes and laughing. His laughter was contagious, and soon Short and I were giggling, too.

As I looked at their genuine happy smiles, I had only one thought: Great, my camera’s in the car.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

451. I Love My Job

I love my job. Not sort of like, it’s okay, I guess I’ll go if I have to, but LOVE. I bounce out of bed in the morning, and if it happens to be a day that I am scheduled at the high-end kitchen store (I only work there part-time), then I am already super-excited. Work! Yay! Sincerely! Yay!

Other people (The Husband for one, my sister Oakley for another) seem flabbergasted by this revelation:

Me: I love my job!

Oakley: That’s nice, why—because you get a discount?

Me: Well, the discount is good, but I just love going there.

Oakley: You love going to the kitchen store? But you don’t even cook.

Me: I know! But it’s a really fun place to work! The products are great, the customers are great, the people I work with are great …

Oakley: My job is going okay right now, but I’m still applying for 16 other jobs that I might like better.

Me: I’m not! I love this one!

I have always loved every job I’ve ever had. Even what other people would consider the bad ones. There is just something very gratifying about getting ready for work, clocking in, and doing a good job at something you enjoy.

In high school, I adored my job as a restaurant hostess. Pacifica Moon was a very elegant restaurant right on the ocean, and it was the kind of place where you make your reservation two months in advance and tip the guy who parks your car $20. I loved working there. Every time I would walk the happy customers to their table (“Watch out, there’s a step down right here,”) I would get to stare at the waves lapping up on the windows. Another great perk was I got to eat a gourmet meal every night. For free. This is quite compelling when you are 16 and flat broke and get home too late to enjoy a meal your mom made for your siblings.

In college, I worked as a bank teller for Bank of America. I was passionate about my job. I became obsessed with lining up all the bills in my till facing the exact same direction, and pretending the money was really all mine. I also became obsessed with the “mutilated” bills.

We were required to pull out any dollars that were torn, taped, had holes in them, excessive writing on them, had gone through someone’s laundry five times, or were otherwise old and worn out. It didn’t matter if it was George Washington’s face on the front or Benjamin Franklin’s, if it was mutilated, it had to go. (The bank would send them back to the Mint and be reimbursed.) You would give the manager, Tammy, all your mutilated bills secured together by a metal paperclip, and she would give you an official-looking green slip of paper with the words “Exchange for damaged bills” at the top. She would scribble the amount ($687) on the pre-printed green paper and you put the paper in the till in lieu of the cash so you would balance at the end of your shift.

I am a card-carrying uber-Virgo, which means I like things neat and pristine. I gave Tammy any bills that were not only torn, taped, or written on with marker … I also attempted to exchange any bills that I considered “too wrinkled or bent.”

“No, MOV,” Tammy would say in that exasperated tammy-tone of hers for the 800th time that week, “these bills are not mutilated enough to turn in. They’re fine.” She would hand the stack back to me, and I would attempt to trade them later with Don, who was the next teller over.

“Hey, Don,” I’d say sweetly, “Can I get a couple rolls of quarters from you? And, oh, yeah, do you mind trading $687?”

I only lasted one summer there (“It’s not you, MOV, I swear, it’s just we have waaaaay too many tellers right now,”) which was kind of like having the guy you’re dating break up with you, even though you already knew he was never really crazy about you to begin with. It still hurt.

My rebound job was at a department store. Another job in my long list of jobs I loved. I worked for the now-defunct I.Magnin, which was similar to Saks or Neiman’s. Everything was very beautiful and very expensive: it was the perfect job for a Virgo.

I liked to walk past the dress department and pet the silk dresses while pretending I was just smoothing them or arranging them by size to be helpful. I liked to pick up the Lalique crystal vases and guess the price before I flipped one over to read the tag ($2049—right, again!). But mostly I loved the shoe department.

I would go into the shoe stockroom on my break, and try on shoes. The average shoe price was $600 (per shoe). I would put on the magenta suede lace-ups from France and pretend I was a super-model, just like I used to play dress-up in my mother’s closet, until Sheila, the shoe manager, would come back and tell me to put everything away and stop trying all those shoes on if I was never going to buy any.

I worked there off and on for three years, and even though I could never afford to buy the shoes, I nonetheless loved every second of it.

When I got out of college, I still did not find what my parents, or any of their friends, or any of my friends for that matter, would consider to be a “real” job: I worked at a gym. I was the front desk girl, and I (surprise!) loved my job. I loved getting there at 5 AM when it was still dark out, I loved getting the just-delivered clean white towels out of the clear bags and setting them in neat stacks by the entrance, I loved turning on the music and being the one who decided what we were all going to listen to and at what volume.

I also loved that I had a free membership at the best, most expensive gym in town, and that I could work out any time I wanted. Which was all the time.

I lasted at that job one year. Other gym rats constantly asked me “What event are you training for?” while I caught sight of my perfectly chiseled size 4 body in the mirror and said, “Discus.” 

Next job on the list was the fancy jewelry store, Shine. I loved working at Shine. I had upgraded from pretending Bank of America’s money was all mine to pretending the Patek Philippe watches and 11 carat cushion-cut ruby rings with baguette diamonds were mine. I never tired of trying on all the jewelry, sometimes all at once. If we were having a slow day, I would rearrange the window displays a thousand times, always clicking the window shut with the old-fashioned brass key and a satisfying loud “click.”

I loved the fact that I was only 23, and yet I had the keys to a million dollar inventory right on the very same key chain as my Toyota Camry and my $500/ month rental apartment. Richard (the owner) trusted me.

At the same time I worked for Shine, I was applying for a job as a flight attendant. I thought it would be fun to travel and get paid for it. After interviewing with four different airlines, Continental ultimately called me back.

“MOV? We’d like to offer you the job. Training starts next Tuesday in Houston, and you will most likely be based in Newark or Denver. Welcome!” Her voice said authority, perky, and well-traveled all at once. I wanted a voice like that.

Is it any surprise that I loved being a flight attendant? I loved working first class, I loved ordering room service in the nice hotels, I loved going to musicals or museums or one-of-a-kind shops on my layovers. I even enjoyed setting up the back galley on an MD-80 on a short flight and serving scalding cold soup at 35,000 feet.

After I was furloughed due to the economy, I applied to work at the front desk of a boutique hotel.

I was crazy about that job. The hotel was a historical property in Seattle, and a lot of famous people stayed there. I was surrounded by elegance, opulence, rain, and celebrity all day long.

I missed the friendly (sunny) skies, however, so I applied to United. They hired me and (wait for it!) I loved this job, too. It was to be my decade-long perfect dream job, and I eventually transferred to the Los Angeles base (after serving brief stints in D.C. and San Francisco).  Even if my flight was delayed five hours, re-routed, or canceled, none of that seemed to matter when I'd be sitting on the beach a week later on my Maui trip. 

When I finally became a mom, I quit flying to stay home with my first son. I never regretted my decision, although I did miss my flight passes and my interaction with adults.  So, when my younger son was just over a year old, I decide to get a part-time job at the high-end kitchen store. Which I love.

I am always mildly shocked if someone confesses to me that they hate their job. Really? Then why do you work there? Life is too short to be unhappy.

I woke up last night in a cold sweat. I was dreaming that I was one of the dolphin trainers at Sea World and I couldn’t remember the commands for the dolphins. They were swimming away from me and I started to cry, ruining my waterproof make-up. I tried everything I could think of to get them to cooperate, including promising them crisp $100 bills and free first class tickets to Sydney. The dolphins suddenly disappeared altogether, and the next thing I knew, I was in the police station, still in my scuba gear. I overheard the police in the next room talking about how I might have to go to jail for making the dolphins disappear. Then, one of the officers mentioned something about contacting a special Dolphin Detective.

Huh, I thought to myself in my very coherent dream state, Dolphin Detective. I’ll bet I would love that job.

(“Multiple Optimistic Vocations”)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

450. That Time I Looked Exactly Like Jennifer Aniston

So we joined a pool. We were on the waiting list for three long years, and this year they finally decided to accept our money. I was overjoyed and immediately went out to buy waterproof make-up to celebrate.

I walked into Sephora and zipped up to the register girl for help.

“Excuse me? Can you tell me where to find waterproof make-up?”

For some reason, the girl thought this was really funny. Looking back, I am guessing it is because I wasn’t wearing any make-up at all, waterproof or otherwise.

Then, because I was feeling slightly facially naked at this point, I launched into this whole dissertation of why I needed the make-up.

I don’t think the girl was really questioning why I needed make-up, I think she was questioning why I had waited 40 years to decide that this would be the day I would buy any.

She handed me off to Regina, the Waterproof Make-Up Specialist, and I started wondering if this is what her business card said.

Regina walked me over to a make-up wall that was equivalent in complexity to the cockpit of a 747. There were jars and tubes and wands and bottles and brushes and sponges. I didn’t even know where to begin. I was suddenly very grateful to have Regina at my side.

“What exactly will you be using the make-up for?” asked Regina.

“Uh, to look pretty?”

“No, I mean swimming-pool swimming, lake-swimming, jet-skiing, boating, snorkeling, fishing, water-skiing, sailing, ocean-swimming, diving, racing, canoeing, kayaking, white-water rafting, synchronized swimming performances, yachting …”

Did I look like a synchronized swimmer? Or a yacht-owner?

“Uh, just basic splashing? With my kids?”


This apparently was not the answer Regina was looking for. She wanted to sell a lot of make-up to someone who would use it. She could already tell I was a lost cause.

“Regina, I just want to buy some waterproof mascara and eyeliner. Something kind of… neutral.”

Up until this point, rap music had been blaring over the store stereo. Make-up selling girls had been talking to clowns. Everyone had been laughing and chatting and having a great time, but when I uttered the word, “neutral,” the store went silent as the mall on December 25th.

“Did you say … neutral?” Regina’s face was aghast, as if I had told her that a new law had been passed banning lipstick.

Another salesgirl within earshot walked over for damage control.

“I’m Caroline, the manager,” she said to me, extending her hand for me to shake, and then to Regina she whispered, “I’ll take it from here.”

Regina scurried off, happy to be away from the crazy customer they had surely dubbed “Neutral Lady.”

“Ma’am, you don’t mean neutral neutral, do you? You meant earth-tones, right?”

I didn't know what the heck I meant.  “Uh, okay, earth-tones would be fine. I just want to swim a little bit and not look like a dead person.”

“Got it.” Caroline confidently went to the 747 cockpit and grabbed about eight products. “This,” she said, gingerly handing me the tiny tube as if it was made of glass, “this is a wonderful lipstick.”  She said the word wonderful like I might say the word Godiva

“How much is it?”

“It’s on sale. It’s only $33, regularly $38.”

Yikes. That was about $32 more than I normally spend on my stand-by Chapstick.

“Maybe no lipstick?” I said nervously, handing it right back. “What about some sort of product for my eyes? Eyeliner?”

“Then this,” she said, procuring another important tube, “this is my absolute favorite eyeliner we sell. This is the exact same one that Jennifer Aniston uses.”

“Does Jennifer Aniston swim? I would prefer to buy the same one Dara Torres uses?”


“She is one of the top women swimmers of all time?”

Long silence as both of us blinked up at the glittery 747 cockpit wall.

Finally, Caroline offered, “Well, Jennifer Aniston is our spokesmodel. See?” She pointed helpfully to an oversized poster of Brad Pitt’s ex-wife frolicking in ocean waves, presumably wearing Sephora products all over her wonderful face.

I had to admit, her eyeliner looked really flattering.

“How many eyeliners would you like to buy, then?” Caroline asked, closing the sale.

“It won’t smear?”


“I guess I only want one then. And I also need some mascara.”

“Also waterproof?”

This was just about the dumbest question I'd ever heard. Who would wear waterproof eyeliner but then buy regular mascara?

“I think I need both to be waterproof.”

Twenty minutes and $48 later, I walked out with the waterproof eyeliner and the waterproof mascara and the special waterproof make-up remover. My new make-up was absolutely guaranteed by Sephora, Regina, Caroline, and Jennifer Aniston to not smear, smudge, flake, run, or swim off my face under contact with water or even rain.

My wallet was in shock at spending so much money on make-up. I was usually a Target or drug-store kind of girl. But, I knew that wearing the high-quality make-up would make a difference. I might not be able to swim like Dara Torres, but I could at least look like I had eyeballs.

The next morning while the kids watched cartoons, I put on my new waterproof products.  I even added a festive little orange hair clip. 

As I examined myself in the mirror, I was instantly regretting that I had not invested in some sort of lipstick, too, as Caroline had initially suggested.  But, overall, I was pleased with my look.

I took the boys to the pool and helped them swim. Tall is fairly confident in the water, so he dogpaddles up and down the length of the pool while I mostly try to pry Short's four-year-old death grip off the wall so that I can hold him and help him move around the pool.  I must convince him over and over that I won’t let go of him. For this reason, I did not get to do what I, or Jennifer Anniston for that matter, would consider “actual” swimming. My hair did not even get wet.

We had a good time, and then the boys were getting hungry so we decided to walk home and make lunch. I had forgotten all about my new make-up until we got back to the house. Then I took a quick glimpse of myself in the front entry hall mirror to assess how well my new make-up worked.

This is what I was expecting to see:

This is what I actually saw:

I looked like I had been beaten up in some dark back alley by Jennifer Aniston’s body guard. I was not happy.

Luckily, I had the excellent make-up remover that Caroline had sold me, so I soon looked like my normal self again.

Luckily, too, I had saved my Sephora receipt. 

“Come on, kids, we’re going to the mall.”  The boys and I had an important errand to do, an errand involving a refund of $48 for false advertising.


Friday, June 24, 2011

449. To Bag Or Not To Bag, That Is The Question

So I read this jaunty blog post by "Confessions of Cashier" (come back later and CLICK ON THIS to discover CC's hilarious blog) and CC said that it’s always preferable to refuse to bag a customer’s items than to help them out by bagging them. CC admits to actually clustering all the items together on the counter so it appears that the customer does not even need a bag.  This is so absurd to me because my personal motto is “Give them two bags! Or three! Four is better!” Even if they only bought a tiny container of polka-dotted cupcake wrappers.

At the high-end kitchen store, I unabashedly adore our bags (as does Oprah, they were just featured on her Favorite Things List).  Our bags are really pretty bright white paper bags with the lovely company logo on the side, and sort of twine handles; I love the sensory appeal of fluffing out the bag so it makes that gratifying “whoosh” sound, and then wrapping the purchases in periwinkle tissue paper for the customer.

I probably wouldn’t feel that way if they were slimy sticky plastic bags (like the kind from Target) that stay glued together like teenagers in lust.

My sister Oakley is a hard-core environmentalist who would rather balance five bottles of Merlot, twelve locally-grown oranges, and a few boxes of organic Cheerios on her head than ever ask for a bag. I have seen her do this at her local Trader Joe’s, all the while glaring at the poor clerk for even suggesting she might want a bag.

“I understand your position, but you can recycle the bag,” says Trader Joe Guy helpfully, “or even just take it to your car, and then bring the bag right back in right now!”

I biked here,” she retorts through clenched teeth, tucking a stray orange back behind her ear.

She is mortified that my job requires that I wrap miniature boxed Italian crackers in crinkly tissue paper. And a sunshine-colored velvet ribbon.

When a customer brings his own bags into my store, I’m slightly let down when he politely insists,

“Oh, no thank you, ma’am, I don’t actually need a bag.” Then he proceeds to get out one of those bags they sell at the grocery store for $3, you know the kind: ugly.

My internal Virgo sensor goes off, offended.  I feel dejected, and I want to shout,

“But, sir, our bags are prettier! They have a purple bumblebee on the side! Plus I already fluffed it out for you! Look, it’s a quality bag! Take it! You’ve already paid for it in the ridiculous mark-up on the plastic iced-tea tumblers! Maybe you can use if for packing your lunch tomorrow and advertise to the world what good taste you have by shopping here!”

Unfortunately, by the time I have gone through all the relevant power points in my head, he's already gone to the bike rack outside to retrieve his eco-friendly bicycle and then head on home without polluting anything.

Sigh. Everyone’s a better person than me.

(“Me: Offended Virgo”)
*with apologies to Confession of Cashier for stealing your fab idea!

448. Postcard From The Trenches

I have survived the first week. Barely.

My children were released from their eight-hour daily commitment of Project Mommy Sanity (a.k.a. “school”) exactly seven days, five hours, and 38 minutes ago (but who’s counting?). They've been given time off for “good” behavior—which some (myself included) may dispute. In any case, they will be under my full-time tutelage for the next 76 days, and I am already out of ideas as to how to fill that time.

As per a dear friend’s suggestion, I wrote down a list of fun activities that would easily get us through the entire summer. I went to a local art supply store and bought glitter pens, paint, wood picture frames, canvases, paint brushes, stamps, paper, models of the Eiffel Tower, clay, and dozens of other expensive art-type things I am forgetting right now. My inner Martha Stewart was quite pleased with all the paraphernalia, and I knew that my sons and I would create beautiful glittery memories to last a lifetime, or at least make decent birthday gifts for the grandparents.

Wrong. We carved, we stamped, we painted, we rolled, and we zoomed through 76 days worth of art supplies in half an hour when both kids simultaneously lost interest. As a special bonus, our formerly pristine dining room now resembles news footage after an especially devastating tornado.

That’s okay, there’s always the pool. I had the idyllic vision that we could go to the pool quite a bit to soak up some sun and learn how to not drown. Every day we wanted to go, it rained. Yesterday, we went anyway. I figured rain is wet, the pool’s wet, what’s the difference? I learned it’s not much fun to play with your kids in the pool when one is clinging onto you for dear life while the other one is yelling, “I’m getting wet! I want to go home! Did you bring money for ice-cream?”

We set up multiple playdates. Playdates seem like a great idea when they are staring at you from your email inbox, “Playdate for Short and Dylan on Tue?” but in reality playdates mean you have to clean your house so the guest mom won’t think you’re a total unsanitary loser with no hygienic standards whatsoever. You must clean-clean-clean, and when you run out of time to clean, you must shove anything left over into the (now bulging) hall closet.  Then, when the guest mom makes an offhand comment about how clean your house always is, you must laugh self-deprecatingly and pretend like it's true. 

We went to the movies. Again, great in theory, but in reality only two quick hours that cost $83 in entrance tickets and stale, overpriced popcorn. Another perk of going to the movies is the previews, that special time when your kids will see every other kid movie coming up in the next year so that they can now pester you nonstop to take them to those movies too. Let’s see, that’s $83 multiplied by 20 new movies ….

The library seemed like a safe bet. Wrong again. We chose three heavy bags full of books (approximately one million books per child) only to have my speed-reader child gobble up all the words in just one day. Sigh. Looks like we’re destined to go back to the library again tomorrow.

Television. Always my last resort anyway, I stupidly sabotaged myself on the very first day of summer break by establishing “MOV’s New TV Rules,” the main rule being that they can only watch a total of one hour of TV per day, which can be all at once or broken up into half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon. Sure, their brains are not turning to mush now from overexposure to the 95th re-run of “Penguins of Madagascar,” but my children bicker when they are not engaged in an activity. I am adjusting to lots of bickering.

Going out to lunch at a nice restaurant. Okay, admittedly, this excursion was my idea and the kids were not even asked for their opinion on which restaurant. It only cost $48 and made me very, very happy. I didn’t even hear the kids bicker once, mostly because they were still at Dylan’s house and I was by myself.

(“Momentarily On Vacation”)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

447. Motherhood Is Cabernet

Robert Mondavi famously said, “Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living. When I pour a glass of truly fine wine, when I hold it up to the light and admire its color, when I raise it to my nose and savor its bouquet and essence, I know that wine is, above all else, a blessing, a gift of nature, a joy as pure and elemental as the soil and vines and sunshine from which it springs.”

And too much can give you a really bad headache.

Motherhood implies passion centered on one’s children. Family and friends encourage mothers by saying endearing things like, “Isn’t he adorable?” or “She looks exactly like you!” They sometimes will help out by babysitting, but then they inevitably end up bringing the kid back after only a few short hours.

Motherhood is warmth and generosity. Moms cheer their children on even when they have inherited their mothers’ pitiful athletic genes and are obviously very bad at something, like t-ball. They keep standing there repeating to their uncoordinated progeny, “You can do it! Go, Bears!” even though the name of the team is Alligators. Moms are generous with their time and money. They waste two hours at Target and then online looking for the perfect “LEGO Master Builder Academy Kit to Boost Intergalactic Building Skills” that a certain someone had to have for his birthday even though he will build it and lose interest a mere 15 minutes later.

Motherhood means art. It means accepting art made by chubby fingers and rainbow colors mixed with glitter and love, but actually resembling a mud swirl and regurgitated eggs. It is posting the art on the refrigerator until hopefully someone forgets about it and it can be mercifully removed and placed in a “special folder” in the garage or basement right next to the expired canned goods and wrinkled Christmas wrapping paper.

Motherhood is culture. And by that, we all know I am referring to the verb “culture,” as in “maintain tissue, cells, bacteria in conditions suitable for growth.” Oh, yes. Because kids are surrounded by all kinds of bacteria and therefore get sick a lot, and moms must establish a first-name familiarity with all the nurses at the pediatrician’s office, often baking them cookies or asking them about their dog or their trip to Florida.

Motherhood is the essence of civilization ... if you define civilization by focusing on “the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions.” Because in the Mother Olympics, mothers must be able to locate a birth certificate, Social Security number, library card, and baby wipes in a 30-second time frame. Mothers are also required to write everything down, things like carpool schedules, playdates, swim meets, lest everyone forget and (Heaven forbid) actually have an enjoyable “free” Saturday with no activities whatsoever. Moms are also intimately acquainted with the complex political and social aspects of family life, complete with phrases like, “That’s not fair!” or “His piece of pizza is bigger!” or “Why does he get to stay up later than me?”

Mothers have noses, noses that work surprisingly well. This is a training tactic first developed in pregnancy when moms-to-be can suddenly smell barbeques six blocks away. (amusing blog on covert mom skills, come back and read later)  Moms know the difference between clean hands and dirty hands just by smelling (even if they heard the water running, it is likely actual soap was not involved). Moms can sniff out dirty diapers three rooms away. Moms can also detect chocolate their spouses may have hidden in the back of the extra refrigerator in the garage.

Motherhood, when swum in constantly 24/7 without a break, can induce headaches and, sometimes, fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of little people getting hurt on playgrounds. Motherhood is a dangerous place, and women need to be mentally prepared before attempting such a (foolish) endeavor, an endeavor that will last a lifetime, not just 18 years like those alluring ads promise.

But most of all, motherhood is “a blessing, a gift of nature, a joy as pure and elemental as the soil and vines and sunshine from which it springs.” Thank you, Robert Mondavi, for putting it into words. I will never look at a glass of Cabernet in quite the same way now.

(“Motherhood Or Vineyard”)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

446. Jet Menu

Before I was a flight attendant for United, I was actually briefly employed by Continental. I fondly view them as my “Starter Airline.” One thing Continental really liked to do was impress passengers with their sophisticated culinary prowess (who cares about a missed connection if you’re eating filet mignon, right?). I was lucky enough to be the galley flight attendant on some of these adventures. Let me tell you about this one time …

It was my first week flying, I was 23 years old, and I was desperately trying to remember everything I’d been taught in training. I was in the back of the MD-80, setting up. It was a two hour flight from Houston to Denver, the flight was overbooked, and the flight crew was challenged with serving a hot meal and a beverage. Not only that, some marketing genius in his spacious office in his luxury high-rise had determined that it would be great to serve a soup and sandwich combo for the meal.

Now, I love soup and sandwiches as much as the next person, but the idea of scalding hot soup at 35,000 feet plus a little turbulence thrown in was not my preferred recipe. I had absolutely no veto power in the situation, so I was going to serve what Continental had planned.

Knowing I was a new-hire and that I would most likely make some inept transgression with the meals, the purser told me no less than three times that I absolutely MUST start the ovens before we even took off. “Two hours is nothing,” she said dramatically, “You will want that soup ready to go the second you’re in the air.”

She looked older than my dead great-grandmother, so I trusted her judgment and turned on the ovens. The red light clicked on; and the ovens made a loud whirring noise reassuring me that important airline cooking was happening.

One of my teachers at flight attendant training had a nasty scar on her left arm from an oven door swinging open and burning her. This would not be happening to me. Concerned that Continental might not provide the necessary tools (oven mitts), I had gone right out on graduation day to Williams-Sonoma to buy the thickest, best insulated oven mitts they sell.  You could touch the surface of the sun with these mitts, the perky salesgirl assured me. I bought two in every color.

The timer went off on the soup. I was absolutely neurotic about not spilling boiling soup on a passenger, or myself. I decided to double up the mitts, just in case. It would not have been out of the question for me to wear some sort of protective eye wear, such as goggles, if I had thought about it ahead of time.

I gingerly took the little soups out, one by one. The other flight attendant, Lori, stood out of my way as I set them on their respective trays in the cart. She was also afraid of getting burned.  Just then, we hit a patch of turbulence. I did not spill anything, and even if I had, my oven mitts were protecting me! They were well worth the $17 each in scars avoided.

A minute later, the air was smooth again. I finished loading the cart. Lori and I had a long discussion about whether or not we should remove the tinfoil tops on all the soups before serving them.

“I think we should take them off,” said Lori emphatically. “Otherwise, you know the passengers will be putting those damn sticky soup lids in the seat pockets.”

She had a point. And yet,

“Lori, if you were the galley person, which you opted to NOT be on this flight, then it would be your decision. But, you made the junior person, me, do all the hard work when I have no clue what I’m doing. So, for that reason, I get to decide, and therefore the lids stay on because it is easier and the soup will stay hot longer.”

That is what I was thinking. What I actually said, was,

“Sure, Lori, whatever you want.”

She paused for a split second. “MOV, you know what? I changed my mind. Too much of a hassle to take the stupid lids off for them. Leave ‘em.”

We guided our cart into the aisle carefully, trying to avoid running into people’s elbows and feet.

“Excuse-me-cart-excuse-me-cart-excuse-me-cart-excuse-me-cart,” chanted Lori over and over again, like a mantra.

We pulled up to the first row of coach. Lori took the passengers’ drink orders while I (still in mitts) pulled out the trays and started handing them out. The passengers were obviously surprised to see such a lovely lunch of a turkey sandwich and tomato soup on an airplane.

“What kind of soup is it?” passengers asked me repeatedly.

“Tomato!” I chirped in my best official flight attendant voice.

“Gazpacho?” someone asked.

I nodded yes. I had no idea what gazpacho was.

I was so very speedy that I ended up about 10 rows ahead of Lori. I went to help her catch up on drinks so we wouldn’t be so out of sync (the training center had stressed the importance of the meal and drink being served simultaneously whenever possible).

“Would you like something to drink?” I started asking my rows.

For some reason, Lori was handing me trays already.

“What’s this?” I asked, perplexed.

“I guess they’re done? People keep giving me their trays back.”

Maybe the purser had told them that two hours is not a lot of time and that they’d better hurry up and inhale that soup and sandwich.

After Lori handed me the seventh tray, I told her to stop.

“Lori, tell them they have to wait. I’m still serving new people. This is going to throw the whole service off.” I made a face.

A passenger tapped me on the arm.

“Miss? My soup is cold.” 

“Oh, I'm sorry.  Uh, do you think it cooled off a little due to your air conditioner vent above you here?” I asjusted his air conditioner vent for him, thinking how clever I was to have resolved his problem so quickly.  

“No,” he said.  “I don’t mean ‘cooled off a little’ cold,” (here he did a gesture of air quotes), “I mean ice cold.”

Sure enough, he held up his soup and it was like a block of ice. Had I forgotten to put one of the soups in the oven?

“I’m so sorry, sir, I had no idea! Please, let me take that from you. I’ll get you another one from the back right away.”

This Denver flight was only my third assignment ever and I already knew I was going to be fired for serving a passenger ice-block soup.

I quickly scooted back to the galley to retrieve a back-up soup. I took another soup out of the still-whirring oven. This time, I carefully slid the lid off to see how much steam was rising off of it.


I panicked, and finally removed my fluffy thick oven mitts for the first time. The oven was as cold as a glacier. In Alaska. In December.

All the ovens were cold. I ran back up to Lori and leaned across the cart to get her attention.

“Lori! Lori!” I whispered loudly through clenched teeth. “The ovens are broken! None of them heated anything!”

“I guessed that by now. Why do you think I’m giving the trays back to you?” She might as well have added, “Dummy.”

“But Lori, it’s not my fault. I checked them on the ground and they seemed fine. I turned them on right away, just like Margaret said to.” I was fighting back tears.

“Don’t worry about it, MOV,” said Lori, a hint of compassion in her voice.

We finished serving the drinks and picking up the trays. The passengers seemed annoyed about the soup situation but thankfully the turkey sandwich proved popular.

When we got back to our jumpseat for landing, Lori turned to me and said,

“Just out of curiosity, how did you not notice that the soups were still ice cold, and that the oven was still cold, too?”

“I guess Williams-Sonoma just sells very good mitts.”


Monday, June 20, 2011

445. Sex Ed 101

I knew that my sons and I would have to have the awkward sex talk at some point. I just didn’t expect it to be this morning at breakfast. And I didn’t expect it to be with the four-year-old.

“Mommy,” he began innocently enough, “How did I get to be a baby?”

I cleverly bought some time by choking on my toast.  “Uh,” (cough, cough) “What?”

“You know, a baby? Was I an egg first?”

(Feeling fairly comfortable with this rudimentary explanation) “Yes, yes, that's it.  You were an egg.” Smiles all around.

“Uh, huh,” murmured Short, while staring intently at his older brother eating scrambled eggs, “How did I get in your tummy? Did you eat me?”

More choking. More toast crumbs spewing across the table.

“No, Short, I did not eat you.”

“Then how did I get in your tummy?”

Long pause.  Too long.  “God put you there.” 

(He seemed happy with this answer.)

“Okay. Hmm ... how did I get out?”

“The doctor got you out.”

His eyes lit up. “Oh! You went to the doctor’s office, and he got me out!”


I was really wishing it was a Saturday or Sunday and that The Husband was there to help me with this.  And that’s why I won’t make scrambled eggs for breakfast anymore during the week.


444. New Refrigerator Syndrome

Our refrigerator was dying a slow and painful death. If it was a person, it had the Black Plague. Virtually every morning would hear The Husband or myself say, “Oh, no, not again!” upon opening it to retrieve some milk or juice. Essentially, some important part of the refrigerator was broken, and so water was leaking down from the freezer part (even though we had no ice-maker and it was not hooked up to any water source) and mysteriously flooding the main part of the fridge and dripping all the way down to each and every shelf drenching the hidden bags of Mint Milanos and overpriced packages of Brie.

For those of you not familiar with official refrigerator terminology, the broken part was called $$$. Seems almost every refrigerator repair place you call does, in fact, carry $$$, and they are happy to bring it over right away.

After much consultation, The Husband decided to fix it himself. He did this by employing a quite famous fixing strategy called Ignore It And Hope It Goes Away. I would wake up in the morning, walk into the hall still in my pajamas, and grab a big, fluffy towel out of the linen closet.

“Are you going to take a shower?” The Husband would ask.

“No, Sweetie, I’m just going to look for some strawberries in the fridge.”

After five long months of soggy food, one day The Husband and I decided that we just couldn’t take it anymore.

We had a coupon, we went to Lowe’s. The next day, they delivered our fabulous new refrigerator. I would like to tell you it was an ordeal getting the old refrigerator out and the new one in, or that I hadn’t measured the doorway and the new one didn’t fit. That would make for a funny story. But Queen Virgo does indeed own a measuring tape (four, in fact), so everything fit just fine.

The first few times I opened the door, I was ready.

I had completely forgotten that most normal refrigerators are dry.

I developed an unnatural fixation/ love affair with our new refrigerator.

I would walk by it several times a day and pet it, so thrilled with my good luck.

“You are all mine,” I would whisper to the new fridge, and then I'd give it another smooch.

The Husband knew I had crossed the line when I got out my camera.

“What are you doing?!” he said accusatorily.

“I’m just taking a couple photos of the new fridge, you know, so I can maybe frame them and put them on my desk upstairs. That way, even if I’m not in the kitchen, I can always see our new fridge.” I grinned, oblivious to my ever-growing psychosis.

The Husband took my hand gently, and led me out of the room.

“MOV, come with me.”

We walked into the living room and sat down on the couch. He gave me a little hug, like he might be worried about me.  Then, he reached for an envelope on the coffee table. He opened it up, and handed the contents to me.

He smiled broadly and said, “I already got a couple of shots printed.”


Saturday, June 18, 2011

443. One-Night Stand

I am a commitment kind of girl. I went to the same hairdresser for 15 years, I worked for United Airlines for a decade, I have been a lifelong devotee of Baskin-Robbins mint-chip ice-cream. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to all concerned when, barely two years into our marriage, I had a one-night stand.

Oh, sure, The Husband knew about it. He actually introduced us. He subtly encouraged me as we stood there looking at paint chips at Home Depot.

“What about this blue?” he offered enthusiastically. “You said you were attracted to something really bright.”

He held up a paint chip that was the exact shade of ocean and tears and sky and hydrangeas and blue jays all rolled into one. It was cerulean perfection:  I wanted to dive into this color and swim.

“Yes, that’s it!” I cried. “What is the name of that color?”

And thus began my ill-fated and torrid fling with “Big Sky Blue.”

I walked up to the so-called paint expert slash Home Depot employee. I held the chip out for him to admire, like a Princess Diana sapphire engagement ring.

I must have this,” I said, breathless.

He didn’t even question my judgment, or try to stop me, or beg me to reconsider. He just shrugged.

“How much do you need?” he queried.

“I'll take all you’ve got.” I always wanted to say that, like Oprah.

“Uh, I have to custom mix it for you. You need to tell me how much.” He was already bored with me and my newfound Blue partner in life.

I was really really bad at guestimating paint amounts.

“Twenty buckets, uh, I mean cans?” I squeaked, hoping it might be right.

The Husband overheard me. “Hon, I think we need three gallons.”

“Right. Yes. Three gallons should do it.”

“Which room is it for?” asked the clerk, all of sudden being all nosy and in our business. Why did he care now? Was he planning to copy my decorating brilliance in his own house?

“Kitchen,” I said proudly. “We are looking to make a statement.”

Oh, it will make a statement all right. A statement of what the hell were you thinking,” he mumbled under his breath.

“Excuse me?” 

“I said, do you want an egg-shell or satin finish?” he replied. 

“Uh … satin?” How was I supposed to know? Why did buying paint have to be like being a contestant on Jeopardy?

“Okay,” he said robotically.

He grabbed a couple buckets of paint off the shelf behind him, and shook them. I watched him key top secret code numbers into the computer to achieve the correct formulation for “Big Sky Blue.” He opened the first paint can up and set it under some sort of metal tubes where the pigment drips into the base color of white.

Now, I had studied art in school for one whole semester, so I knew that different shades are mixed together to create the perfect color. I was waiting for burgundy to drip in, or a hint of yellow, perhaps some black for depth, and maybe a touch of green. No. All that dripped in was blue, blue, and more blue. When the paint bucket was full, my corneas were already sizzling.

“Sir, stop!” I pleaded before he had a chance to open the second can. I was immediately regretting this dalliance with an unfamiliar color. “Uh, uh, let me just buy one gallon of paint to, uh, to make sure it looks okay.”

“No problem.” He was still uninterested in my now-faltering relationship with Blue.

Maybe it will look better when it's up on the wall, I kept telling myself on the short drive home. To The Husband I said, “I adore that color!”

We immediately got to work cutting in and rolling. The paint was like a neon assault on all our senses. If that color blue had been a noise instead of a color, it would be a jet-engine vacuuming at a rock concert while jack-hammering and simultaneously holding a crying baby.

And that was just the first coat.

“Oh, dear,” I groaned, “I’m not so sure about this ‘Big Sky Blue’ after all.  What do you think?”

The Husband took off his sunglasses for a moment to study the color. “Maybe it will dry darker?” he said helpfully.

Nothing he could say would console me. We started calling “Big Sky Blue” “Big Mistake Blue.”

“How late is Home Depot open?” I asked The Husband tentatively.

“I think until 11?”

I grabbed my purse. “Let’s go.”

I now realized that my fling with “Big Mistake Blue” was destined to be only a one-night stand, a fluorescent memory of good intentions gone very wrong.

We pulled into the parking lot of Home Depot at 10:55 PM. We zipped into the paint department just in time before they turned out the lights. I thrust a paint chip at the beleaguered employee, and said,

“I’ll take three buckets of ‘Barely Beige,’ please.”

(“Mauve, Orange, Violet”)

Friday, June 17, 2011

442. New Bike Syndrome

Crazy Town is not located in California, and therefore is not exactly a mecca of physical fitness and activity. I, myself, though, am in excellent shape and work out consistently (I go for a fifteen minute walk at least once a week). I recently decided to further improve my health by cross-training (for those of you who don’t know what cross-training is, it means something like “Cross that bridge when you get to it,” or “Cross, as in mad” or even, “Why did Jesus not work out more, because he was bearing a cross,”). So it should come as no surprise that I am now impressing everyone with my superior biking skills and savvy of all things bicycle-related.

When I walked into the bike section of LLBean to purchase my new bike, the LLBean employee knew he had a seasoned pro on his hands.

“What kind of bicycle are you interested in, ma’am?”

“Oh, you know, uh, the kind that has two wheels and maybe they go round. And it would be good if I, uh, didn’t fall off.”

“Hmm. Right.” He definitely knew what kind of customer he was dealing with. “Have you ever owned a bike before?”

“Ha ha! Sure! Of course! Have I owned a bike before! I am just looking to, uh, upgrade a little bit.” Big smile.

“Good, well, we can help you with that. Can you just tell me what kind of bike you last rode?”

“Umm, it had a longer seat? And streamers?”

“A banana seat? Like a kid’s bike?”

“Yes!” Blushing now. “I guess it has been a while since I’ve owned a bike.”

“That’s okay. You’re never too old.”

Wait—did he just say I was old?

He showed me a bunch of bikes, and then he started throwing out advanced biking terminology like “derailer,” “pinch bolt,” “adjusting barrel,” and “tires.” I nodded politely and pretended I was listening.

“Oh, pretty! Turquoise! This one comes in turquoise! I’ll take it!”

My American Express card groaned audibly as he swiped it through the credit card machine. I was now the proud owner of a bike, helmet, lock, bell, basket, blinking front and back lights, reflectors, reflective wrist bracelets, cargo holder, tote bag, and water bottle holder. The pushy LLBean employee tried (unsuccessfully) to sell me a bunch of useless other junk I really didn’t need, like an elaborate air pump and hole patching kit.

“These cost $3 each.  You need to buy them in case your tires go flat or you drive over a sharp piece of glass,” he explained, like I was not smart with my money.

“Well, the tires feel pretty firm and fat to me, and I normally avoid broken glass, but thanks anyway.”

Stupid LLBean employee!

After I paid, and he went into a whole diatribe about warranties and maintenance and upkeep and rust-proofing and biking social clubs, I was finally able to escape out to my car with my new bike and all my new loot.

This is the part where you expect me to say it didn’t fit in my car. This is the part where you go back and read my blog about me transporting a piano. amusing piano blog, come back and read this later

I got my fancy turquoise bike home and introduced it to its special spot in the garage. New bike took one look at the dusty spot where Elliptical Machine used to live before we donated it to the Goodwill, and said, “You will use me, though, right?”

The very next morning, I woke up at 5 AM, ready to ride my beautiful LLBean bike. I adjusted my lovely helmet, rang my loud neon pink bike bell, and was underway.

We are fortunate enough to live very close to a bike path. I decided that since I had not ridden a bike in a while, this would be a very safe way to go for me. I zipped along for many many feet, yards, and perhaps even miles. It was fun! Why had I not bought a bike sooner?

I didn’t crash, not even once. If you are waiting for the part where I crash, you can stop reading now. Because I did not crash.

I passed a lot of other people on that bike path, mostly geriatric walkers with dogs. But it still felt good to pass someone.

I noticed some bikers with no helmets. My helmet only cost $22. Isn’t $22 worth it to not become a vegetable if you get run over? I passed the non-helmet bikers, feeling very smug about my protected brain and pitying them for their future mushed vegetable brains.

I realized a lot of bikers, the ones who look like they know what they’re doing and maybe bike every day, were wearing special biking attire (in addition to their helmets). I just had on normal shorts and a t-shirt. My biking wardrobe said, “casual, relaxed,” not “uptight, show-offy.”

A lot of these so-called Lance Armstrong-types passed me. “On your left!” I heard over and over again. “Onyourleft-onyourleft-onyourleft-onyourleft!!!!”

In sum, my first bike ride was a positive experience. The weather at 5 AM is still cool and refreshing. I felt like I had a good work out, and I felt energized to start my day.

The Husband was just taking the trash out when I got home.

“Hi, Honey!” he gave me a little hug. “How was your first ride?”

“Great! I love it! I think I might train for a race—it was awesome! Riding a bike is so easy, you never forget how. It all came back to me, and it was like I’d been riding my whole life.”

“Good. Uh, what’s the deal with your helmet? Hey, you know you have that on backwards? Why do you have it on backwards?”

“It’s not on backwards, this is how it goes.” I pointed to the back.

He laughed. “You’re wrong. Try this.” He unfastened my helmet like I was a kindergartner, flipped my helmet the other way, and clicked it back on. “See?”

“Oh, yeah, I guess you’re right. Huh. Well, that must be a common mistake. They should label these things …”

“MOV, when I get my mountain bike fixed, we can go biking together!”

“Okay, Sweetie, that’ll be fun! We’ll get a sitter and then we can go for a long ride and then maybe stop at a Starbucks on the way back.” I beamed at him. We were just like a biking commercial, the two of us, bike-savvy, in shape, having fun, and making other people envious of our new bike-centric lifestyle.

“Oh, MOV, did your gears shift easily?”

“My bike has gears?”

("Mistress Of Velocity")

Thursday, June 16, 2011

441. Road Rage (a companion piece)

(Okay, here is my disclaimer: I blatantly stole the idea for this post from my hilarious and very clever cyber-pal blogger Mary at Truth be told, she might not be my cyber-pal, because I don’t think she knows I exist. But. She is very funny, and I know good blog material when I see it, so I’m gonna write about the same topic. So there. Sue me.)

When I was first out of college, I used to date this guy named Allen. Allen was as sweet as saccharine cake and Hello Kitty sparkle rainbows all the time, except when he was behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

If we were sitting in his living room, fine—nice quiet conversation. If we were sitting in the movie theater watching the latest Hollywood rom-com, fine—nice quiet staring at the screen. If we were sitting across the table from each other at an expensive restaurant, fine—nice quiet chewing of over-priced trendy food.


If we were sitting in a car with the keys in the ignition and turned to “on”—nice screaming at random stranger until police might feasibly become involved.

I’m not making this up. When he would get behind the wheel, all his pretenses of being a normal human being were just peeled away until all that was left was a gas pedal and a shouting match.

I should have learned early on that I should not get in a car with him. But no. I was under the impression that THIS time would be different, THIS time, Allen might show respect and common courtesy to his fellow road-sharers. That never happened.

One afternoon, we were zipping along a curvy stretch of road in southern California. A big black pick-up truck (inadvertently?) cut us off.

Like the Incredible Hulk, Allen went through a frightening transformation. His skin did not turn green, but his eyes did bulge out, and he grumbled profanities under his breath.

Game on!

Allen was on that poor guy’s tail faster than a NASCAR racer. Our screeching tires alerted any lucky pedestrians to stay out of our way.

“Allen!” I pleaded, with dread in my voice, “What are you doing?! Slow down!”

“I’ll show him!” Allen exclaimed, ignoring me.

We zipped up to the red traffic light where the black truck had the misfortune to be stopped. Allen reached around behind the passenger seat that I was gripping onto for dear life.

“It’s here somewhere,” he said, frantically feeling around. He grabbed onto a heavy metal crowbar, and shifted the car into “park.” I could tell he was planning to jump out and confront the driver.

“Stop it!” I yelled. “That truck was not trying to upset you!”

Allen took a deep breath. We both stared forward at the black truck. It had a UCLA emblem and a Tri Delta sorority sticker on the back bumper, and a daisy garland hanging from the rearview mirror. There were two surfboards in the back of the truck. The driver flipped her make-up mirror down and checked her pink lipstick. She swung her blonde ponytail. She was probably all of 19 years old, and most likely wearing her life-guard sweatshirt.

“Oh,” said Allen, realizing his mistake. “I … I … I thought it was someone trying to get me.”

We only dated a few more weeks after the incident; our relationship crashed and burned.

*apologies to Mary for this blog not being nearly as good as hers, and no pictures
** double apologies to Mary for taking down original post because I thought it might make her mad that I was blatantly plagiarizing her funny idea

440. Thank You, No, Thank YOU

Thank you notes have always been my forte. Growing up, the importance of writing a prompt and sincere thank you was poured into my brain (politely) by not just my mother, but also my grandmother, and my step-mother Nichole. (Nichole has been known to keep extra thank you notes and a sheet of stamps in the glove compartment so she can write them on the way home from the event. “That way all the details are still fresh in my mind,” she chirps). Apparently, I have triple the genetics of a normal person on my side enforcing the Thank You Code.

So it came as somewhat of a surprise when my friend Sandy tried to out-thank you me.

I threw a party last week. It was outside on our back patio and it spilled into the yard. It was a huge success: the guests all had a great time, the food was fabulous, the décor was nice, and the weather cooperated. In a word: perfection.

Imagine my reaction when I opened my mailbox the very next day and saw a stamped thank you note from Sandy sitting there.

Did I mention it was the very next day?

What did she do, mail the card the day before the event even happened (hoping/ praying/ guessing that the party would be fun, and that it would not be canceled for any reason)?

Here is the lovely note in Sandy’s lovely script:

See? Perfect. That perfect Sandy is giving me a complex.

Not to worry, though. I sent her a quick little follow up note:

I am waiting by the mailbox for her thank you of my you’re welcome letter.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

439. Above and Beyond

When I was a flight attendant, I used my flight passes. A lot. New restaurant in Chicago? Let’s go. Play I was dying to see in New York? I’m there. Sale at my favorite boutique in Seattle? Sign me up. Need a haircut/ highlight in San Diego? Yes, please.

You get the idea.

A drawback of free travel is that it is always “space available” or stand-by. Now, I got very very good at “checking the loads” which means seeing in advance on the computer how many people are booked for a flight and what my chances are of getting on or getting upgraded to Business or First Class.

I became somewhat of a First Class snob.  I loved the extra attention and helpful service. 

I remember saying more than once to The Husband, “Sweetie! Let’s go to Wichita on Tuesday!” and when he’d ask why on Earth I wanted to go to Wichita, I’d reply, “The flight’s wide open—we’ll get First Class!”

The first time The Husband and I ever traveled internationally together and he got upgraded, he was like a 6-year-old at Christmas: “Yes, now that you ask, I would like more champagne and sugared pretzels!”  He marveled at the complimentary First Class kit at every seat, loaded with anything the United Airlines marketing department deemed necessary: moisturizer, eye mask, hybrid sock-slippers, headphones, nail file, earplugs, toothpaste, mini-toothbrush, notepad, and, inexplicably, airplane stickers and crayons (maybe his kit was accidentally mixed with a true 6-year-old’s kit?). He laid out the items on his tray table, like he might sell them.

“Put your things away,” I cautioned, “They’re going to think it’s your first time in First Class.”

“But it is my first time in international First Class!” he replied as he fluffed his down pillow, and pressed the buttons on the side of his seat converting his chair into a sleeper bed and back again, “And I can tell you, it won’t be the last.”

The flight attendant came by to check on us. “Magazine?” she offered, displaying a cart full of glossy European selections and newspapers in five languages.

“How much do they cost?” said The Husband as he reached for his wallet.

I could feel my face glow red. “They’re free,” I whispered.

The flight attendant laughed. “They’re free!” she confirmed, “But you can’t take them into coach and try to sell them,” she was nodding toward the contents of his complimentary in-flight kit still lined up in neat row on his tray table.

“Just seeing what’s in there,” laughed The Husband without the slightest trace of self-consciousness. I could be self-conscious enough for both of us.

A few minutes later, the purser came by to take our dinner order.

“Good evening! Welcome to United!” he said in a thick German accent. “For dinner this evening, would you like steak—”

“Yes, steak! Okay, great!” interrupted The Husband.

“—lobster, chicken cordon bleu, pork chops, roast duck, poached salmon, or pasta primavera?” he continued as if he hadn’t been cut off by the First Class novice.

The Husband turned to me in a slight panic. I could tell his brain was overloading with information and champagne.  He wanted to be the easygoing passenger, the one that caused no problems.

“Oh, sorry,” The Husband corrected, not understanding the German accent and looking at me for proper flight attendant cues, “yes, I’ll have one of each.”

“Steak for both of us,” I overruled him, “that will be just fine.”

During the flight, the captain came out to use the restroom. The Husband acted as if he just saw Mick Jagger.

“The captain! The captain!” he exclaimed excitedly. He was tugging on my sleeve and pointing; I could tell that his two glassed of French Cabernet, chocolate soufflé with blueberry sauce, and double cappuccino were kicking in simultaneously. I saw he was reaching for his camera.

“Sweetie, stop,” I said firmly. “No pictures.”

“I just wanted to make sure my camera was fully charged for Germany,” he said innocently.

When we got to London, it was time to change planes. I was taking no chances with his star-struck attitude this time. I would handle everything. While he carried our tote bags, I took our passports and chatted politely with the customs official. At our next gate, I instructed The Husband to have a seat while I got us checked in for our connection. The only seat in the waiting area was right next to the gate agent’s desk and by a family with four small children running in circles and playing tag. The mother was trying to calm them down and get them to read some picture books.

I approached the gate agent and handed her our tickets and my airline ID when it was my turn.

“You understand I will need his ticket as well?” she motioned in the general direction of The Husband.

“You’ve already got it in your hands,” I offered helpfully, “it’s all right there.”

“And his passport?” she asked with British authority.

“Right there,” I replied, pointing at the stack of documents.

“Do you know if he’d prefer a window or a—”

“He’ll take a window seat, please. A window will be just fine.”

I could tell the agent was not used to such an efficient passenger as myself. She kept glancing toward The Husband and back to me.

I turned around to look. It had been such a long flight, he had started to doze. His hair was matted in some places and sticking up in others. He was drooling. I now noticed for the first time that he had spilled some of the blueberry sauce down the front of his shirt during turbulence. There was a nasty smeared stain, and he had nothing to change into as all his clothes were in his checked bag.

“Miss, I do need to ask him some security questions directly.”

“Sure, okay, let me get him for you.” I walked over to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Sweetie? The gate agent has some questions for you.”

Apparently, I had startled him. Couple that with the disturbing fact that one of the small children had tied his shoelaces together, and you have one 6’4” man jumping up and tipping over. In the shuffle, he managed to knock over the small stack of books the mother had next to her. He went to pick them up. He was clutching Dr. Seuss’s universal classic, “Hop on Pop.”

“Yesh?” he said, wiping the sleep drool off his chin, “You need me?”

The gate agent stared at him for a very long time, then turned back to me. Her voice was full of sympathy and compassion when she asked me in a soft whisper, “Miss, when you both arrive in Frankfurt, are you his trained helper companion or will he need special assistance?”

("Mockery Of Vacation")

Monday, June 13, 2011

438. How to Not Lose Your Luggage

When I was 13, we went to Switzerland. My mom had parlayed a decade of frequent flier miles, three savings accounts, and a lifelong dream of spending Christmas in the Alps into a sublime and snowy white reality. So, even though we were not the type of people who jet off to Switzerland for two weeks, that particular December we jetted off to Switzerland for two weeks.

There's something you should know about my mother: she is not a very good packer. If you asked her directly, she would scoff and say, “Why would MOV say that! I'm a fabulous packer.” Truth be told, her motto is “I might need it, so I'd better bring it with me.” If that motto fails her, her other motto is, “More is better than less.” If informed she can only have two mottoes, she’ll dig in her bottomless tote and locate several more mottoes, like “Always be prepared,” and “Why spend money if I already own a black sweater/ scarf/ pair of skis? I’ll just squeeze it in.”

We had a dozen family members and friends on our scenic journey through Switzerland, and they all shared my mom’s packing philosophy: “Bring it!” Now, this would be fine if, say, we were going to hang out in Zurich for 14 days, but my mom (accompanied by a large stack of travel guides and related magazines) had mapped out a trip so schizophrenically full it made the Tour de France look like a leisurely stroll to the corner store. If the city or town had a castle/ chocolate factory/ ski slope/ historic museum in it, it made the itinerary.

We stayed in 10 places in 14 days: this made for a lot of packing/ unpacking/ and re-packing.

I didn’t know at the time that I would someday evacuate a simulated burning airplane full of flight attendant new hires-in-training; it was not even on my radar that I would own a photo badge that read, “In-flight. ID # 9277640. LAX-based.” But prior to that Swiss vacation, I showed blossoming talent at packing.  I rearranged the contents of my suitcase on my bed over and over, being ruthless in determining what I could take.  I brought only one small bag.

Instead of my fellow family members looking to me as the good example of Bag Packing 101, they viewed my “traveling light” as an opportunity: MOV’s bringing just one bag! That means I can bring five bags because her hands are free to carry more!

You already know the Swiss are famous for their trains. The trains are clean, well-appointed, and above all, punctual. The joke is, you could set a watch by a Swiss train. We took the trains everywhere, along with our 72 suitcases.

Now, my poor beleaguered step-father, Doug, was in charge of any additional suitcases that anyone (read: everyone) might need assistance with.  He was solely responsible to get the suitcases from whatever train we were disembarking, then through the snow, up the stairs, across eight platforms, down the stairs, and onto the new train departing in six minutes. In 20 below zero degree temperatures.  Poor Doug.

A week and a half into our postcard-perfect vacation, we had the whole wake-up/ eat breakfast/ pack/ taxi/ train/ change trains/ check-in at new hotel thing down to a science. Doug kindly lined up the bags upon arrival as if we were on a royal tour.

“MOV,” he said slightly worn out and impatient on about the 11th day of our trip, “Please get your bags and take them up to your hotel room.” He was pointing to two large blue bags that no one had claimed yet.  

“Those aren’t mine,” I shrugged. “They must be Mimi’s.”

Mimi was enjoying hot chocolate next to the fire in a grand public lounge area overlooking the mountains. “No, I already unpacked.”

Next, the bags were given to my younger sister Oakley. “Dad,” she said, laughing, “You already brought my bags in. Remember? I gave you a five dollar tip this time.”

One by one, we were consulted by Doug and reprimanded for forgetting our bags in the lobby. One by one we told him that we already had our bags, thankyouverymuch, and can we have another chocolate bar before dinner?

Doug was losing his mind. He called an emergency meeting of the entire group, including my mom’s cousin Brenda already in her flannel checkered pajamas and wooly Santa Claus socks. All of us stood in the ice-cold lobby shivering and staring at the two mystery bags.

“Are you absolutely sure they’re not yours?” he prompted my mom.

“Doug, I think I know what my own suitcases look like.”

A million seconds went by. We could hear the tick-tick-tick of the synchronized Swiss clocks in the lobby.

Finally, my younger brother (age five) spoke up for the first time:

“Maybe we should read the name-tags on the suitcases?” he offered helpfully. Clearly he was the genius in the family.

Doug approached the first bag cautiously, as though it might contain a nuclear bomb and explode at any moment, like in a Tom Cruise movie. (Keep in mind, Doug had been lugging these two bags all around Switzerland for the past 11 days, but now they were suddenly a code-red danger to us all.) He poked at it tentatively.  Ultimately, he flipped over the tag. It read:

“Nena News,” he said glumly. “Is anyone here named Nena News?”

He said it with a delicate snowflake glimmer of hope, as though one of us might possibly have a secret identity that we had been hiding from him for two weeks (or perhaps a lifetime), even though he was also responsible for all our passports and would already be aware of any aliases we might be traveling under.

Brenda, always the one to see humor in a given situation, started laughing. “Poor Nena!” she howled, “Has she been wearing the same outfit all this time?” Tears were streaming down Brenda's face.

We were all laughing in that punchy-not-enough-sleep-too-many-trains kind of way. Nena, Nena, Nena News! We inadvertently stole your suitcases!

In between giggles, my little brother was once again the voice of reason. “How will we get Nena back his bags?”

“I think Nena is a ‘she’, Sweetie, not a ‘he’,” said my mother, wiping the tears out of her mascara.  She was still heaving with laughter.

Doug, ever practical, rubbed his head, chuckled, and said, “I sincerely hope she wasn’t here on work and had some important meeting or presentation or something. That would be tough.”

“You know what’s tough?” I couldn’t help myself, “Carrying someone else’s suitcases for two weeks, someone who’s not even in your group!”

I felt sorry for Nena. Her suitcases had gone to castles and ski resorts, while she was probably still arguing with some uniformed airline representative about its whereabouts and her necessary compensation.

You’d think that the whole experience would have made me more compassionate toward my future United Airlines passengers who would complain to me about their lost bags, but no.

“We never lose bags,” I'd explain matter-of-factly, “The real problem is theft.”

("My Original Vacation")

Sunday, June 12, 2011

437. Why They Hired Me

I work part-time at a high-end kitchen store. I originally applied for the job because I thought being around all those cooking gadgets would magically transform me into a chef, like osmosis. Instead, it transformed my checkbook into a single digit wasteland, and my kitchen into a repository of useless kitchen gadgets. People come into our store for cooking advice, and I have none.  The best I can do is say, “You should buy this—it’s pretty!” and then they inevitably ask, “But is it chip-resistant?”

I never have the right answer to those complicated questions.

Today, I was helping a customer with knives. After he’d looked at a few, he politely said, “I’ll think about it,” which is the retail equivalent of “I’ll call you.”

He walked away from me, and I turned to walk the other way to approach another customer. Now, this is the part where I tell you I’m not klutzy. Not klutzy, not ever. Very graceful, in fact. I took ballet lessons for many years during my childhood. Most people—friends, neighbors, UPS guy, Starbucks barista, whoever—would say, if you asked, that the animal I am most like is a gazelle.

So it came as somewhat of a shock when I knocked over an entire display tower of cast iron Le Creuset pans. That’s right, an Eiffel Tower of very expensive Le Creuset came crashing to the ground in an angry clatter due to your truly.

It was not one of my prouder moments. But the funny thing is: as soon as I bumped into it and I knew that the entire thing was about to collapse, I did nothing to stop it. It teetered for about two seconds, and I realized I could either try super-hard to save all the pans and end up with 10 Le Creuset pots pummeling me from all directions (have you picked one of these up? they’re very heavy), or I could jump out of the way and hope for the best.

Guess which option I chose?

You know how sometimes something bad is happening to you and it’s almost like it’s not even happening to you, but actually to someone else?

That’s what that moment was.

I was watching myself, like watching an actor in a play, and wondering what would happen next:
  • Would the girl/ star/ me be severely injured (perhaps brain-damaged, killed, or permanently humiliated) by the rogue Le Creuset pans?
  • Would some heroic customer/ angel/ alien jump in to save her/ Reese Witherspoon/ MOV?
  • Would the Hollywood sound stage be able to accurately reproduce the type of sound that 10 Le Creuset pans make when dropped simultaneously?

People five states away heard the pans fall. Immediately afterwards, CNN reported a minor earthquake in our area, but we knew the truth.

If this sort of thing had happened to me at home, I could do what I do best: blame my young sons. The thought crossed my mind, but I realized they weren’t at work with me. I couldn’t blame the customer, I couldn’t blame the earthquake (we don’t even live in California); I had to think fast.

The Boss saw the disarray of pans, and she was approaching quickly. I could see a genuine look of concern on her face.  I'm sure my face registered adequate concern for the (broken) merchandise as well.

What would I say? What would Reese say?

“I’m sorry,” I squeaked out.

She asked if I was okay, and then she helped me scoop up the pans. One by one, we inspected them all: they were fine. Only the tea kettle that had been at the very top of the tower was chipped and had to be thrown away, but everything else was pristine.

The Boss held up the last pan to put back in the tower. “MOV,” she said, “Amazingly, this one’s fine, too! You know, I think this might be a very attractive selling feature: chip resistant.”

Yep, that’s why they hired me: product testing.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

436. Tall's Summer Plans

After my Summer Phobia post, my BBF (best blogger friend) contacted me. “MOV,” she typed helpfully, “I have a great idea for you! You and your kids can write down fun activities and then choose a different one every day! Your summer will fly by, and you’ll all get a lot out of it.” She signed off with a cute little smiley face. =)

Her idea sounded very very Martha Stewart to me. I was 100% on board. Yesterday over breakfast, I started to tell my seven-year-old son, Tall, about the concept.

Me:  So my friend mentioned a cool thing that we can do! We all write down ideas of things we would like to do this summer! Then, we can look over the lists and choose things together!

Tall:  Wait, what is this for?

Me:  For us. For the summer. We all come up with ideas of fun things, then we write them down and decide which ones to do. That way, everyone—

Tall:  Nope. I don’t want to do fun things.

Me:  (puzzled) What?

Tall:  (suspicious) Who gave you this idea?

Me:  My friend.


Me:  So, like I was saying, Tall, you can tell me what you want to do, and I guess I can help you write it down?

Tall:  I’ll think about it, and let you know tomorrow.

Me:  Let me know the fun things you want to do?

Tall:  Let you know if I want to participate.

That afternoon after school, Tall asked me to help him with something.

“Mom,” he said sweetly, “I need to write your name here in cursive.”


“Because, uh, you know how I want to learn cursive? I can practice by writing your name.” He smiled up at me, big gummy holes where his teeth should be.

Honestly, I was flattered. My name! He didn’t ask me to write out the entire alphabet, he just wanted to practice his own mother’s name! This pretty much erased his negative attitude from earlier.

He handed me a piece of paper that was folded down in some strange way (I didn’t notice this important clue at the time), and I wrote in my best loopy script, “MOV.”

Later that evening, my neighbor came over to babysit the boys so The Husband and I could go out to a rare dinner by ourselves.

The next morning, I noticed this little gem taped to the TV cabinet:

I don’t know which was more impressive: his budding forgery skills or his preferred choice of summer activity.