Wednesday, August 31, 2011

498. Holy Guacamole!

School starts in exactly seven days, and, as usual in our household, we are woefully unprepared. Oh, sure, the school supplies have been purchased, and the teachers’ names have been revealed, but we are still not ready. I’m talking about, of course, our sleep schedule.

Anyone with an elementary school-aged child knows that the bus swings by at 8:15 AM, and school starts promptly at 8:45 AM. This is very, very bad if you have slacked off and allowed your children to stay up until, oh, say midnight on a regular basis, and sleep in until a nice, summery hour, like maybe 10 AM.

Very bad indeed.

To counteract this badness in my family, I have implemented a new program, which I call simply, “Go To Bed Now!” or “Bed Now!” for short. This is how it works:

At about 7:15 PM, just as we are sitting down to dinner, I say to the kids, “Bed time in five minutes!” to which they laugh hysterically and respond, “But we have not even eaten yet!”

Half an hour later, when the dinner dishes have been cleared, and the hands of the clock creep toward eight, I once again announce (with slightly more authority this time), “Go to bed! Bed time!”

My children ignore me. I pour myself another glass of wine.

The Husband and I plop down in front of House Hunters International, and dream of buying a house in Spain or Australia or Antarctica, or anywhere else where we can maybe be alone and not have to deal with children’s bed times.

At 9:30 PM, we go into their room to find them still in day-time clothes, with un-brushed teeth, playing with LEGOs. I firmly tell them they must go to bed this very instant. I stand there with my hands on my hips, in what can only be described as a semi-menacing mommy-pose.

They scurry into bed, and The Husband and I declare project “Sleep Soon!” (see? we can’t even remember the name of our new program) a success.

Ten minutes later, the kids pop up, begging for water or Pokémon cards or a million dollars or some such. We hear them popping up every 15 minutes or so for the next two hours. We consider it a great improvement that they have passed out waaaaaaaay before midnight this time, probably more like 11:45 PM.

On the flip side of my freshly implemented plan is the wake-up routine. At 7 AM on the dot, I barge into their room, and flip the lights onto full bright.

“Time to get up! Up-up-up!” I say, like a deranged rooster on crack.

“Nooooooooo!” squeals Tall, “You are ruining our last vestiges of summer!”

“Up! We have to practice! Practice getting up!” I walk over to their windows, and open the bamboo shades, revealing blinding sunlight.

“Stop! Why do you despise us so?” says Short, placing a pillow over his eyes, “What did we ever do to you?”

I make a mental note to not let them watch the Disney channel anymore, as this is obviously where they are picking up their surly attitude and new vocabulary words.

“All right, fine,” I say to the two lifeless mannequins posing as my children, “You can have 10 more minutes, then that’s it!” I say it with emphasis and vigor to underscore the importance of them waking up on time. They need time to use the bathroom, brush their teeth, finish their homework, eat breakfast, get dressed, tell me what they want packed in their lunchboxes, walk to the bus-stop, and any other things that I am forgetting right now. That takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes, minimum.

I walk upstairs to my study, coffee in hand. I mentally calculate, okay, they might not need that much time, maybe one hour is plenty. I will go back down and check on them in five minutes.  I sit down at my computer and work on my blog.

Next thing you know, it is 10:15 AM. Yikes! They are still asleep! Wow, I got a lot done though. Hmmm, maybe we’ll try our new system again next week. No dress rehearsals for this family.

(“My October Vision?”)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

497. How Do You Know That?

So there we are at the toy store when I spot my friend Sandra. Even though we live mere blocks from one another, I have not seen her nor spoken to her since the end of school three months ago. “How goes the job hunt, MOV?” she chirps.

Wait—how do you know about that? I was (am) happily employed by the high-end kitchen store the last time I saw you at a mutual friend’s backyard barbeque in June, a new job was not even on my radar. I start to flip through my mental Rolodex to find people we know in common, people that might be gossipy enough to announce to Sandra my plans to find a new job during school hours. Would Sammi tell her? Why would she care? How about Jessica? Who have I told? Laura? Wendy? Who could I have possibly told?

Oh wait … blog about interview, come back and read later

Sandra must have read my blog.

It is a strange strange world where strangers know your innermost thoughts and feeling that you have recorded for all posterity in a daily diary in cyberspace … it is even stranger when it is not a stranger, but a friend. Sandra knows about my job hunt! She must know I picked up the wrong cake for Short’s birthday! She must know about my special needs passenger from my flight attendant days, the one I forced to walk into low-hanging TV screens repeatedly! That I think I can speak Spanish! That Short thinks he’s adopted! That Tall thinks he’s a pro-soccer player! That we painted our last kitchen neon blue! That I forced Oakley’s ex-boyfriend to buy her jellybeans even though they make her sick!

Sandra knows everything!

We chat for a minute about the weather, about school starting up, about fading tans and reduced pool hours. She turns to leave, and I call out,

“I’m so sorry about your leg injury during your vacation and how you can’t compete now in the marathon!”

I read Sandra’s blog, too:  click here to be magically transported to her funny blog 


496. Disconnect

Yesterday I had a “Disconnect” day. I unplugged the phone (okay, it’s a cell, so I pushed the “off” button), unplugged the computer, and never turned on the TV. It felt good. It felt Amish.

I have done this before. There have been times when I feel overwhelmed with media, and end up declaring a “Media-Free” day, and I always (ironically?) come back the next day with my batteries feeling re-charged.

The computer/ email/ my blog holds a bizarre magnetic trance on me, calling me from other rooms in the house. I am transferring laundry from the washer to the dryer, when the Electronic Demons beckon: “MOV … MOV… MOV… now would be a good time to check your email! You haven’t logged on in at least 10 minutes!”

I zip up the stairs, eager to comply with the Electronic Demons. There are three crucial new emails: “Amazon: 10% off coupon” and “ProFlowers: LAST CHANCE” (notice the threatening ALL-CAPS) and “Pottery Barn: Sale ends today!” Really? This is the email I was so anxious to read?

My phone is no better. It will ring in the middle of a nice phone call with The Husband at work, and I (stupidly) will take the new call. It is a tape-recorded voice calling to tell me “important news about your DirectTV account!”

The boys and I made good use of our day without Electronic Demons. We went to a new park. We went to the pool. We read books. We drew pictures. We basked in the intrinsic beauty that is being “unplugged” and “unwired.”

Why do we not do this more often, I wonder to myself the next morning at 5AM when I plug the computer back in and log on, Oh look Eddie Bauer sent me a coupon.

(“Media On Vacation”)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

495. That Time I Knew Everything

It was my very first week as a new freshman in college, orange leaves littering the ground, when I saw a poster up in the main cafeteria: “Summer Study Program in London, details this Sat from 10—noon.” Waking up before 10 AM was against my new religion (College-ism), but I would definitely have to make an exception for this.

I showed up, like the throngs of other students, at 9:45, hoping to get a good seat. I brought a bright green notebook so I could take notes about the cost and the classes. Imagine my surprise when the cost turned out to be the same as a regular semester, just add airfare and shopping sprees at Harrods. I immediately signed up, got the address to mail the deposit check, and called my father.


Now, my father is a reasonable man. He heard the part about it costing the same, and he calculated out listening to me beg to go to London for the next eight months vs. saying yes right away and having me thank him for the next eight months instead. He chose the latter.

This essay has nothing to do with my summer in England. It also has nothing to do with my subsequent summer in France. This is all merely backstory. The travel bug bit, and it bit hard. I was only months from graduation, when I stumbled upon yet another study abroad program: Italy.

“This is not through your school,” my father said wisely, as he leafed through the stack of brochures, “and I have never heard of University of Educational National International Adventures. Is that a real school?”

“Of course it is,” I replied, pointing to the logo at the top of the ad.  “Fake schools don’t have logos.”

“You are graduating in June,” he said, not even looking at the calendar once to confirm, “You don’t need these credits.” He shrugged.

I did the only thing I could. I called my mom. Long divorced, they rarely spoke.

“Mom, I really need you to pay to send me to Italy.”

“I already spoke to your dad. No.”

That was only her first reaction. This was followed by several weeks of No-No-No-NO-NO-No-no-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-no-No-forget it-No-No-Not gonna happen-No-No-okay all right yes.

I had worn her down.

Do not be fooled. This essay is not about me convincing my mom to send me to Italy, nor about some whirlwind romance over there (that would be nice though), this essay is about my, shall we say, “over”-confidence in nearly every possible situation.

I immediately settled into some wonderful friendships with a group of girls on the program. They, much like me, did not need the credits either, but did need the opportunity to travel.  Our program included many side excursions away from Florence to explore other beautiful parts of Italy: Venice, Rome, Pisa, Bologna, Perugia, Torino, Orvieto, and Genova. Strangely, Naples and Capri were not on our itinerary.

We took it upon ourselves to plan a weekend jaunt to Naples and Capri. In only three and a half hours (and a quick change of trains in Rome), we were in Naples. Unfortunately, we had no idea what we were doing, as this was our first time without a tour guide/ group leader/ translator.

The people of Naples like to drive fast. On the sidewalk. They think of stop signs and signal lights as “helpful reminders” and in no way obligatory.  We were almost hit five times within our first 10 minutes there.

My friend Melinda had her purse stolen at a gelateria. Yes, her passport was in it. Yes, this was the in the days before cell phones. (In retrospect, Melinda was a very forgetful person. It is quite possible she forgot her purse somewhere along the way, maybe even on the train.) We panicked, but there was really nothing we could do until we got back to Florence and talked to the director of the program. Miraculously, she had her train ticket in her pocket, so we were still able to get back to Florence.

We decided, under the circumstances, to cut our trip short and not go to Capri after all (do not be sad for me, I was able to go at a later date!). We spent a few hours wandering around Naples, and then finally got back on the train to Rome and Florence. When the conductor on the second train asked for our passports, we had to beg him to not throw us off.

When we returned to school, the director helped Melinda get a new passport (he had a Xerox of everyone’s passport, which made it somewhat easier with the American embassy). She had a new passport within three days.

Which was just enough time for us to plan a trip to Prague.

We enjoyed traveling all over Italy for four months, but we wanted even more stamps on our passports (and let’s face it: Melinda wanted one stamp).

We took the overnight train. It was me, Melinda, Michelle, and Becca in a compartment that held six people. We were hoping that they would not fill up the train so we’d have the extra space to stretch out for the long journey. Our wish came true. We changed trains the next morning in Vienna (passport stamp number one for Melinda!) and settled in for the long ride to Prague. We were thrilled when, just minutes after getting our seats on the sold-out train, we heard American accents.

Two good-looking college-age guys plunked down next to us. They both had a sharp Texas twang.

A strange thing happens when you travel far from home for a few months. You are no longer “Texan,” you are “American.” And, in a pinch, you can even bond with someone who is Canadian because it is practically the same thing.

“You’re from Texas!” I blurted out. “Me, too! Well, California!”

Let the flirtfest begin. No matter that we had not had a decent night’s sleep nor brushed our teeth in 10 hours, we were not going to waste this opportunity to chat with handsome guys from North America.

We chatted merrily for a good half an hour. Then, talk turned, as often does, to Where To Go Next. Becca was complimenting Lake Como, as her Italian host family had taken her there for a long weekend. Michelle and I were enamored with Orvieto, while Melinda was more adamant (for obvious reasons) about where not to go:  Naples.

“I would never go back to Naples,” she said with stern conviction, “I had my purse stolen there.” She clung tightly to her new purse as she said this.

“Really? That’s so strange, because—” said Texan #1 before I cut him off.

“It was filthy city. I hated Naples. And the drivers! Terrible! They practically run you off the sidewalk! I would never go back. I had the worst time of my life there,” I scowled.

My friends nodded in solidarity.

“But—” began Texan #2, trying to get in a word edgewise.

“Never! Never go!” I continued my rant. “You will hate it! The people are mean! The place is disgusting! They live like cannibals!” My lack of sleep was clearly showing at this point.

“You know, MOV, we are going to Naples next week because—”

Melinda shook her head. Michelle and Becca laughed. I said what we all were thinking:

“Change your ticket now!”

“My dad’s family lives there, my dad is Italian,” replied the very tall, blond, blue-eyed, now half-Italian Texan, “we go to Napoli every summer. It's my favorite place in the whole world.”

I could feel the color drain from my face.  “Oh, well, uh, I'm sure that once you get to know Naples, it must be really great.  Soooo great.  Really molto bella mucha.  Huh.  Yeah, our bad experience is not indicative of anything.  Or nothing.  Niente.  Niente bella molto.  Wow.  I would mostly likely love to go back to Naples, to, uh, you know, give it another chance.  Because we did not give it a chance!  We only gave it, like, half a chance, and clearly that's not enough!”

It was no use. We stared out the window in stony silence for the remainder of the four and a half hour journey.

I no longer strike up conversations with strangers on a train.

(“Me, Overseas: Vienna”)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

494. That Time I Worked At The Jewelry Store

True story. I had just graduated from college, yet could not find a job. This was a shocker to me as I was a liberal arts major and had a solid “B” average. Why were the big companies not knocking down my door and offering me six figures? The only figures in my life were the following six:  rent, electric bill, phone bill, water bill, car payment, and my American Express bill. I needed to find a job, and fast.

There was a very nice independent jewelry store about three blocks from where I lived (this would be a good place for me to work if my car was repossessed from lack of payment).  One day I noticed a “Career Opportunities Within” sign posted on the front window. I walked in and applied for a job.

No one was more surprised than I when they offered me the job. I knew absolutely nothing about diamonds, except that they cost a lot.

No matter. Mike trained me, and in a matter of weeks I was spewing out information like “I wouldn’t go any lower than a ‘J’ on color if I were you,” or “Our diamonds cost more because they are not riddled with inclusions,” and “The cut means the CUT, not the shape.” I knew so much about diamonds, people thought I was a certified gemologist or at least the owner’s daughter.

As I have been known to do in the past, I quickly started pointing out everything the shop was doing wrong, from window displays to record-keeping (this was pre-computer era). Rather than have to fight with me, Mike told me I could do the window displays, which I merrily took on. My creative tendencies bubbled to the surface, as I arranged model airplanes (borrowed from my mother’s basement) with ruby bracelets draped off the wings, or Rolex watches peeking out from piles of Halloween candy corn, or pearl necklaces dangling out of oversized seashells and propped next to real starfish with matching pearl earrings. I had a natural talent for window displays.

Our store policy was to change the windows about once a month. Princess Virgo (I was only 22, not yet Queen Virgo at this point) decided that once a week would be better. I was constantly sketching out ideas for my windows, to the point of ignoring the real live customers that my fabulous windows were bringing into the store.

“I’ll be right with you,” I’d call out to a potential customer standing near the front door, while putting my hand over the phone receiver, “I'm just trying to figure out where I can get a small model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

One great perk of the job was an employee discount of 75%. When Mike informed me of this benefit during my initial training, I quickly fantasied about all the wonderful jewelry I would buy: emerald rings, gold earrings, antique charm bracelets … but 75% off of $10,000 is still $2,500, and $2,500 was still a lot of money.

I was despondent. I would never be able to afford anything in the store. The best I could hope for was the jar of jewelry cleaner that retailed for 15 bucks.

So a new little obsession developed during my tenure at the high-end jewelry store: trying on all the jewelry, sometimes all at once. My boss walked in after his lunch break one day to find me wearing approximately $200,000 in merchandise.

“No, MOV, no,” he said, unsupportively, while reaching for the vintage diamond and platinum tiara on my head, “It's one thing to model an engagement ring for a man shopping for his girlfriend, but you do not need to wear 12 bracelets at once. Take them off.”

I started to pretend the jewelry was all mine, the entire store was my jewelry box. Who cares that the tanzanite choker was $18,500? I already owned it! The Patek Philippe watch? All mine. The diamond and sapphire lariat necklace that had supposedly belonged to Jackie O? Oh, please.

One evening I left work, walked home, reached into my purse for my apartment keys, and was mortified to see a 5.5 carat marquis cut diamond engagement ring still on my middle finger. I had somehow forgotten to put it back after one of my many modeling sprees. The ring was priced at $99,000.

How had I been so stupid?  This ring was hard to miss.  It was blindingly huge and gorgeous, and produced little prisms of movement and glittery rainbows from every angle.  Even in the dark.  Especially in the dark.  It was exactly like a fortune teller's crystal ball, only a million billion times better.  I could see my past in the facets of this ring, my hyperventilating and nauseous present, and my (surely unemployed) future.   

I felt like I would throw up any second. I had plans to go out with some friends, which I immediately cancelled. My evening would be spent alternately guarding this ring that cost more than I made in five years, dreaming up safe hiding places for it, and wishing that it really was mine. I tried to call my boss to see if he wanted to drive back over and get the ring, but his answering machine kept clicking on: “This is Mike and Donna. We’re not home, so please leave a message at the beep.”

It would be bad enough to tell Mike in person or on the phone that I accidentally wore the ring home, but to have his wife Donna know, too?  I hung up.  Twenty-six times. 

Please-don't-fire-me-please-don't-fire-me-please-don't-fire-me, I prayed to the pretty ring.  And please don't have me arrested for grand theft diamond. 

I hardly slept the entire night. I had horrible dreams that someone broke into my place and stole the ring. I need not have worried, though.  I had hidden the ring in the back of the refrigerator in a Tupperware container behind some strawberries. If a thief was going to find the ring, he would have to be hungry enough to stop for a snack first.

The next morning, I got to work early. I stood pacing by the back entrance of the store, suspiciously eyeing the linen delivery guy for the restaurant next-door. Mike finally showed up, and I immediately told him what had happened. Instead of firing me or yelling at me or even shaking his head in disappointment, he laughed.

“No big deal, MOV,” he smiled, “I would never worry about you.” He pushed up his sleeve to show me something: he was wearing two Rolexes.

P.S. And thank you to Nola for the great blog idea! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

493. My New Career

So I applied for some jobs recently. Jobs working at banks. However, I realized that working at a bank might involve actual work. Ugh. I decided to apply to some hotels instead.

My hotel job interview went quite well. They asked several hotelish questions, like “Have you ever stayed in a hotel before?” Duh! Did they not even read my resume?! Of course I stayed in hotels, I was a flight attendant. I am reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally good at staying in hotels, the expensiver, the better.

My job at this particular hotel would be primarily answering the phone and taking reservations. The ad said, “Phone operator/ reservation agent.” Obviously, that is not what I want to do for the rest of my life: I am a college graduate, plus I have mucho experiencia and plus I am even bilingualo. I told them I would take the job, as long as I could change my job title. They hesitated, but then (out of curiosity?) asked what job title I would prefer. I told them: General Manager.

They had the nerve to say that that particular job was already taken, and the person doing that job was doing quite well at it and (furthermore) had no intention of leaving (!). Blah blah blah, who cares? I don’t actually want the job of GM, I just want the title.  It would sound nice at parties (“Yes, I am the General Manager at Fancy Schmancy Hotel.  You have permission to talk to me.”)

They said they had to get back to a few (hundred) other applicants, but they would let me know very soon.

That’s okay, I can wait.

("Marriott Or Viceroy?")

Monday, August 22, 2011

492. The Interview

Now that Short will be starting kindergarten in September, I have taken it upon myself to look for full-time employment. I started thinking about all the wonderful jobs I have done in the past, and I also thought about my interests: writing, travel, joking around, baking cookies, photography, reading magazines with House or Beautiful in the title, rearranging furniture, staying in hotels, shopping, and eating at gourmet restaurants. Also. I like anything creative. Anything like museums, art, and theater. So I decided to write all my interests down on an 11 x 14 legal pad, and it immediately became clear the type of establishment I should be working in:

A bank.

I went right down to all the banks within a three mile radius and applied. When I filled out the applications and got to the spot where it said, “Which position?” I wrote in:  any. But between you and me, Bank President would be good.

The first bank (coincidentally, named “First Bank of Crazy Town”) called me back right away. They thought I would be a good fit for the teller job. I have been a teller before, so it was not too much of a stretch.

However, it has been a very very veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery long time since I have interviewed for anything. I was a bit taken aback at some of the (obviously illegal) questions they were asking. Things like, “What did you like about your last job?” (duh, discount, I am so not answering that question), “Where do you see yourself in five years?” (living on the beach in Hawaii after I become the star of my own reality series: MOV’s World), “Why do you want this job?” (very inappropriate, I thought—I mean, it's none of their business!!!!), and “Can you please put back all the free lollipops we just saw you put in your purse?” (strawberry swirl! I know! how could I resist?).

Here I thought I might have to do some bankish things, things like count, or demonstrate pretending to count, or looking over a (fake) check and scrutinizing it like it might be fake, or jangling important keys around, or trying to talk all garbled-like on the drive-thru teller window microphone: no. They did not ask me to do any of those things.

Instead, the main interview guy just kept looking over my resume and saying things like, “Huh. So you were really never fired from any of your previous jobs?”

The next 15 interviews went about the same. Yesterday, I got home and stared at the phone, willing it to ring. That bank guy at First Bank had not said that he would call, but he had not ripped up my resume in front of me like so many of the others had. Not only did the phone not ring, but there were no new emails awaiting me to let me know of my glorious new career as Bank President awaiting me. Sigh.

The Husband just got home from work a few minutes ago. He was going through a stack of mail, and he came across something addressed to me. Something official-looking. From a bank. I snatched it out of his hands so I could be one sheet of paper closer to my dream.

“Dear MOV,” the letter began innocently enough, “We regret to inform you that you bounced a check for $17.22 to the high-end kitchen store. The check was returned unpaid, because you have no overdraft protection. Please pay this amount, plus fees of $82 immediately. Thank you for banking with us, we appreciate your loyalty. Sincerely, Crazy Town National Bank.”

That was the strangest job offer I ever received.


Friday, August 19, 2011

491. Monsooned Into Rite Aid

So Oakley is in town again. You know what that means: long walks. Oakley is not merely a fitness “nut,” she is the entire nut forest. “Oh, MOV, did I tell you about my latest fitness regime?” she innocently asks as she flexes her Linda-Hamilton-in-Terminator biceps, all sinewy and movie-starish, “It’s called the Hourly Zone, and it’s about isolating one muscle group every hour during the day and tensing it up and releasing.”

I feel tense just talking about it. “I don’t know how to do all that exercise-y West Coast kinda stuff, Oak,” I say with caution, “How ‘bout you and I maybe go for a walk instead?”

She takes another swig of her yogurt-banana-wheat-grass-vitamin-protein smoothie, and reluctantly agrees.

We have been walking a grand total of five minutes when our Hourly Zone is disturbed by Mother Nature unceremoniously ripping open the sky and pouring buckets of water on our heads for no good reason. Excuse me, did I say buckets? I meant swimming pools. When the word “monsoon” is bandied about by meteorologists on TV, this is what they are referring to. The sky was a revolting shade of bruise, and it was obvious the monsoon would not abate any time soon.

“Run for cover!” Oakley yells out, as if she is the Wicked Witch of the West who might melt at any second, “Go to Rite Aid!”

We bang on the automatic doors to open faster, and the video monitors catch two very drenched Hourly Zone participants (well, one participant and one wannabe impostor) on tape.

“Honestly, there are worse places to be stranded,” sighs my only sister, the same sister who did not receive the shopping gene as part of her initial DNA package. “Let’s pretend we’re 13 and wander the aisles and discuss all our prospective purchases in detail!”

This is so unlike her. Wander? Thirteen? Prospective purchases?

Since when does Oakley channel Barbie and the Disney Glam Clan?

But hey, if she can do it, so can I. “Let’s rate all the nail polish choices and decide which one is the sluttiest!”

“Let’s read our horoscope in every single magazine!”

“Let’s try on Halloween masks!” (It is, after all, August. We must be prepared.)

“Let’s read all the greeting cards and guess which ones the other one would pick!”

“Let’s see who can pick the most unnatural hair color kit!”

“Let’s model every single pair of sunglasses they sell!”

“I know, let’s go down every aisle and make fun of everything!” (that one was me)

We. Had. A. Blast.

Turns out, “Golden Glitterazzi” is the sluttiest nail polish (but perfectly acceptable for feet). September will be a month of frustrated romantic intentions for Aquarius (Oakley’s sign), while Virgo (moi) will be proving herself at work. The best Halloween mask for me is the skeleton, while my sister looks very attractive as Darth Vader. Oak thinks that my favorite greeting cards have puppies and kittens (hint: they don’t), while I somehow chose the exact cards she said she would’ve picked (maybe she was just done with my silly game and wanted me to shut up?). The worst hair color was jet black with an unnatural bluish tint, although we both agreed it would be suitable with either the skeleton mask or Darth Vader, especially when combined with the Jackie-O sunglasses.

And the “make fun of everything” part? That’s easy: it’s in my DNA.


490. The Gods of Wine and Chocolate

I know that I have been very very good and somehow paid into my cosmic piggy bank when Target has my favorite type of chocolate in stock. It is called Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Marzipan. I think those are the six most beautiful words in the English language (even better than “MOV, we’re giving you a raise!” Well, almost as good.).

Why don’t I get this over with right here and now? Here is the link for the best chocolate of the Universe:  **here** . Click on it, then come back. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Okay, so this chocolate is divinely magnificent on so many levels. Level One: the price. Ignore that $3.99, that’s a lie; Target, my BFF, sells it for $2.19. That is exactly why they are always sold out. I buy all 20 bars on the shelf.

I put them in the refrigerator when I get home. I have to ration them.

Let’s talk about the goofy name. I guess this would be Level Two of the magnificent levels. Ritter. Who knows what that means. Is it a place in Germany? Maybe. I would research it if I owned an encyclopedia or a computer or things of that nature, but research equals lots of work.  I personally think of John Ritter from “Three’s Company.” I loved him, I loved that show, I am happy my favorite chocolate is named after him.

Sport. How is chocolate sporty? It’s not. But I feel sporty when I eat it because I read the part on the label where it says clearly, “Sport,” and it makes me very happy. I am sporty just sitting here on my couch and watching re-runs of “Top Chef”! Yay, me! I could be a professional volleyball player tomorrow, and I probably already am in my sleep! That would be Level Three.

Dark Chocolate. Please do not email me saying that milk chocolate is better. You are wrong. So dark chocolate is Level Four of magnificence.

Levels Five through Nine: Marzipan. Which do I like better, sugar or almonds? Wait, how about both? I don’t have to choose!

I hoard my special chocolate. When my beautiful sons, Sugar and Almond, oops, I mean Tall and Short, walk into the kitchen and ask what I am eating and can they have some, I politely hold it up and say, “This is Mommy’s wine-chocolate. Sorry, kids aren’t allowed to have it. It’s against the law.”

Then I shrug. It’s a good thing Short cannot read yet, and it’s a really good thing that Tall believes me when I tell him that “marzipan” is German for Chardonnay.

("Marzipan Or Valrhona")

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

489. Spanish Alzheimer's

So the boys and I were just getting back from running some errands when we saw her: The lady from Maids On The Move. She was walking out of that house across the street, lugging a vacuum.

Queen Virgo started to do some advanced brain-type calculations. The house is messy. There is a maid. If I pay her, she will clean.

I ushered the boys into the house, then I zipped over to catch Maid On The Move before she, well, made her move.

“Excuse me? Hello! How much do you charge to clean a house? My house is about the same square footage as Mrs. Johnston’s house.” I smiled at the lady, trying to give off my best vibe of “My house is messy, but not really that messy.”

Maid On The Move lady stared back at me as if she was from somewhere else, say, another country, a distant country, and did not understand English and, in fact, spoke another language entirely.

I quickly decided that she might speak Spanish, which is lucky because I do, too. I took four (long) years of it in high school, plus two (long) years of it in college, plus I traveled around Spain for several weeks. Yep, I’m fluent.

“Uh, senorita, quisiera saber si puede limpiar mi … uh … mi …”

I totally blanked out on the right word for house. I would like you to clean my cabeza? No, no, that means head.

“Cuartos?” Rooms. Close enough.

“Ah, muy bien! Usted habla espanol! Entonces, si, yo puedo limipiar los cuartos en su casa.” She smiled wide, revealing two gold teeth. She reached in her purse and produced a business card. “Aqui tiene mi numero de telefono.”

I looked down at her card. I wanted to comment, “Oh, you have cards!” but I could not locate the word for card. My (perfect) Spanish was buried deep in the back (locked) storage room of my brain, behind the entire history of the Wusthof knife company, and underneath the specifications of All-Clad copper-core pans, and next to the details of the Nespresso espresso machines.

I remembered the word. “Usted tiene tenedores! Muchas bienvenidos!” I told her she had forks. Many welcome!

She smiled that sympathetic smile you give someone when you genuinely feel sorry for them. Forks. Stupid American.

Well, enough with the small talk. I needed to find out her prices.

“Cuanto cuesta?” I waited for her answer.

“Es que el precio depende, esta muy sucia su casa?”

It sounded like she was hungry and she was not going to give me a price until I gave her some cookies. We were all out of cookies.

“No hay cookies. Soy una madre de hijos hambres que eaten todo mucho. Lo siento.” I shrugged. The lady looked more confused than ever.

She rallied. “Es possible que you puedo ver la casa ahora mismo o mas tarde? Para mi, es necesario ver todos los cuartos. Prefiero mirar primera porque es possible que la casa esta muy sucia, y entonces costaria mas.” Her gold teeth sparkled.

I was mentally transported to my senior year Spanish class. It sounded to me like she had said, “My prices are fair.” In Spanish, sometimes they like to ramble on and on and on and on about non-related things just to keep the conversation going. Those Spanish people like to chat.

I knew exactly how to respond: “Si! Como no!”

She smiled. I smiled. We were having a little smilefest in front of my house on the lawn.

“Mismo!” I exclaimed. The same!

“Pues, yo no entiendo?” she replied, a puzzled look washing over her face. I don’t understand.

“Yo voy a lluviarte!” I will rain on you! I held up her card, pointed at the number, then mimed like I was calling her on the phone. “Lluviar! Pollo!” Rain! Chicken!

“Uh, si. Muy bien. Pues, tengo que ir. Usted es loca.”


I think things went really well. I will call her next week.

(“Muchacha Ole Venidos”)

488. That Time We Went to Target for School Supplies

First thing this morning, Tall and I go to Target armed with the list Crazy Town Elementary gave him. At the top in bold letters it says,

School Supplies Required (*Recommended to purchase NO LATER than June 30th).

I see the little asterisk part and laugh and laugh. When I’m done laughing, I laugh some more. School just finished on June 17th, why on Earth would I go to the store in June? I had all summer!

Obviously, the schools and Target are in cahoots.

We pull into the parking lot today, August 16th. A few stray tumbleweeds blow by. I briefly feel overjoyed that we will be shopping peacefully by ourselves and avoiding the crowds for once. The joy I feel is quickly replaced by Procrastinator Dread upon walking into the area previously known as the “Back To School” section.

I see a leftover display of a few forlorn highlighter markers, an abandoned purple notebook, and, as an afterthought, a small bin of crayons (Crayola World Pack 1000—that’s right, 1000 crayons in every color imaginable, including Valentine Swirl and Iced Salmon, or the lovely three pack of Craywannabe Prime—an economically wise choice if you only need red, blue, and yellow crayons) surrounded by …

wait for it …

Christmas ornaments. We skip right past that day on the calendar called Halloween, and we are onto the cash cow that is Holiday 2011. Santas and reindeer and snowmen sporting black felt hats blink up at us, smiling, as if to say, “Hey, dummy, good luck finding the cobalt blue notebook that was on the list! Ha! Put it on your wish list for Christmas, and maybe Santa’s elves will take pity on you!”

“Mommy,” Tall whispers, “I think Target might be out of all the school stuff.”

I look at his face, a circle of smooth white skin sculpted by angels and dotted with eyes the color of summer lakes. Was he about to freak out about Mommy’s procrastinator tendencies?

“You’re right, Tall, we might have to improvise.”

This is the part where Tall confuses the word “improvise” with “not bother going to school for the rest of your life, or at least all of second grade.”

“Yay! You mean it, Mommy? I really don’t have to ever go to school again?”

What just happened?

“Tall, of course you have to go to school. We are buying your school supplies. We will figure it out. Come on.”

Crazy Town teachers, though I love them, have a bizarre tendency to (how shall I put this gently?) make parents jump through hoops to prove their worthiness. The hoops include things like “Folder must be KELLY green, not moss green nor forest green nor mint green.” (Why?) Or, “Scissors must be Fiscar brand, no other brand will be accepted.” (Again: Why?) And the kicker: “Ruler must be in American.”

Be in American? What does that even mean? No rulers from China? No metric system? Please bring Barack Obama to school with you the first day?

No red pens.

No folders with Brads (how about Jennifers or Angelinas? Are they permitted?).

No college-ruled paper (you mean college has more rules than elementary school?).

No notebooks with any characters on them whatsoever.

All pens must be ballpoint. All tape must be clear. All glue sticks must be Elmer’s.

I do the only thing I can: I call Sammi. Sammi is my dear dear friend who also happens to be the Vice-President of the PTA.

“Sammi, it’s me. I’m stressing out, and I need your help. I’m here at Target, and, the thing is, well, uh, Sammi, uh …” here I switch to a whisper, lest other shoppers overhear my anxiety, “they are 100% sold out of school supplies! What am I going to do?”

“Oh, MOV.” Long very long still longer silence. “I was expecting your call.”

Am I that predictable?

“MOV, I have an important secret for you.”

“Tell me!”

“You know that dollar store right by Target?”

“The one called ‘Four Quarters= Bliss’? Is that the one?”

“Yes. Now, go in there. Go to the way back, near the ice-cream freezers and the mannequin with the fur coat on. Behind there, about ankle level, is a display called, ‘School Fun.’ Pick up one of the packs and take it up front and pay. EVERYTHING on that school list is in there.”

Sammi was a genius. This is exactly why I was friends with her: so her geniusness would rub off on me at some point.

“How do you know these things, Sammi? And how can Four Quarters make a profit by selling the school packs?”

“Who knows? Don’t question it. Just do as I say.”

Tall and I went right over there.

They were closed for renovations. Until October.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

487. How to Write

I walked into the first day of the Writing 101 seminar, taught by Professor Broysen. He waited patiently for us to take our seats, and then he started writing something on the chalkboard.

At the top, he scribbled “TOOLS FOR WRITING.” This was good. I was going to get a lot out of this class, I could already tell.

When I had been a bank teller, the tool I used every single day was money. The bank supplied this. When I was a hostess at the seafood restaurant, the main tools I used were the reservation book and the phone. Again, provided by my employer. When I worked at the department store doing gift-wrapping, guess what my tools were? That’s right: wrapping paper and scissors, courtesy of the management.

I craned my neck to see what he had written so far. He was a large man, and his broad shoulders blocked the board. I tried to guess what it could be: pen? paper? typewriter? pencil? dictionary?

He finally stepped to the side. He had written

A.................................. W

..................C ...................F .......................Z

......R..................... B .............X ..........N........ V

Q ..............J ...............O .............L

..D ..................H ......M ..................Y

S............... I................ E.......... G

.............................K ........................P

U..................... T

As far as I could tell, these were just letters, not even real true words. I looked around to gauge others’ reactions. They appeared as shocked as I was. I raised my hand.

“Yes, you in the red shirt,” he pointed at me.

“Professor, uh, my dad just wrote quite a large tuition check, and on behalf of him, uh, I am expecting more material to work with. Maybe some actual words like palaver, or redundant, or angst? These letters, well … did you get them on sale or something? They don’t even have anything attached to them.”

A murmur went through the group. I could tell everyone agreed with me.

“What is your name?” Professor Broysen asked me.

“MOV,” I replied.

“MOV, my point is that under our current parameters at this university, and, to be frank, budget cuts, we are only able to offer you the basics. Twenty-six of them, to be exact.”

I started to cry. I didn’t want to, but I could feel hot tears of despair on my cheeks.

Someone else spoke. “Professor, what do you expect us to do with these letters?” He said these letters like you might say nuclear waste.

“Well, that is the beauty of these letters: their versatility. You can make any words from them. And, as you might already know, words are the building blocks of books.”

I hated it when teachers did this. Went from the introductory thing—ZOOM—to the advanced part. Letters … books!

Arms shot up around the room.


“Excuse me!”


“I have something to say!”

Then someone blurted out what we all wanted to ask: What about sentences? and paragraphs? stories? chapters? Huh? What about those?

“You will figure it out,” he winked, “This is college, people. Take these tools, these alphabet letters, and create something great.”

I walked out, depressed. I went straight to the Administrative Office.

“Excuse me?” I said to the secretary. “I would like to petition to change my major. To accounting.”

I hear they give out numbers.


Friday, August 12, 2011

486. Pinktini: A User Manual

Go to the liquor store. Take your kids with you because it is the middle of the day and they are off for the summer and your husband is still at work. It’s okay, the liquor store guy remembers you from last time.

Read his name tag because you cannot even remember whether you fed the cat this morning, let alone what the liquor store guy’s name is. The tag will say “Bob.” He is Korean and does not look like a “Bob,” but what do you know about how exactly a “Bob” should look? He says hi Dr. MOV and you say hi Owner Bob, and you both smile at each other.

Walk to the back of the store where they keep the Absolut. This is a mean trick that it is in the back because that is all you ever buy. Well, except for Bailey’s. And Kahlua. And tequila. Except for that.

So it is a mean mean trick that they (the marketers, distributors, owners, Bob’s wife, whoever) make you walk waaaaaaaaaaay to the back of the store to find the Absolut.

Bob will run after you. This is unexpected. “Dr. MOV! Dr. MOV! We move the Absolut you like! Now different spot! I show you!”

While Bob tries to re-route you to the proper location, your two angel sons will become possessed by the devil (is this not why you drink in the first place? Mental note: get large bottle this time) and will circle around the Pina Colada display with the Johnny Depp life-size pirate cut-out and will yell out to no one in particular, “I am Captain Jack Sparrow, matey!”

Bob kindly (quickly?) will usher you back up to the front of the store, and there right by the front door is an entire feature (feature—yes, you know the correct lingo from working at the high-end kitchen store) of Absolut. Who knew that Absolut came in all those variations?  Lemons and raspberries and pears, oh my!

Gratefully nod at Bob, then grab the largest bottle of Original Absolut they sell. Whoa, $65. That might be too big of a bottle. Your husband might notice that on the Amex statement. Carefully reconsider and get the $22 bottle instead (practice saying, “It was for a recipe,” so you will sound genuine later when you explain it to him).

Now your sons will decide to roll on the floor. You will be mortified. You will hiss at them to get up this instant, and then instead of that happening, the instant is the same one when your older son’s principal will walk in. Great. Apparently she drinks, too, but you will most likely not be turning her into Child Protective Services.

Greet her warmly (“Hello, Principal Jones! Soooooo great to see you! I am picking up some alcohol for, uh, for a recipe! Oh, you too?”).  Pay.  Leave fast.

Yell at your kids when you get in the car about how embarrassed you are about their terrible behavior. Wave at Principal Jones when you realize she is parked right next to you.

Drive home. Put that vodka right in the freezer where it belongs.

Go upstairs and Google “how long for vodka to get cold in freezer?” Decide that half an hour is not really that long, that you can make it. Half an hour will be 4 PM anyway.

Set the timer. Wait for it to go off.

When it does, take your perpetually pre-chilled crystal martini glass out of the fridge. Root around for something to mix with the Absolut. Cranberry juice? No. Pina Colada mix? No. Apple juice? Wrong. Then, in the back of the refrigerator, spot something new: Trader Joe’s Pretty-in-Pink Lemonade (mentally inventory all the clever names that Trader Joe’s gives everything).

Get that lemonade right out. Retrieve your special metal drink shaker (purchased from Target). Try to remember the correct ratio: 2 to 1, 1 to 2, 4 to 1. Argh! What is it?

Pour 3 shots of pink lemonade into the shaker, over big cubes of ice. Then, add 2 shots of Absolut vodka. That’s right! Now you remember: the ratio is 3 to 2.

Shake it. More. Shake it until your arm feels like it might fall off. Take off that special metal top-part-thingy and pour the drink through the part with the holes. Marvel at how beautiful your new drink looks. Notice that the top looks ice-y and almost not-even-real, like a commercial about ice-skating on a frozen pink lake. Dub this new creation the “Pinktini,” because, well, because you are very creative when it comes to naming things.

Be happy for planned surprises, like Pinktinis.

Drink up. Yum. Mention Sarah in your blog and how she is your new best friend and how you will share any recipe she wants, just maybe not the one for your special peach Bellinis.

(“Mistress Of Vodka”)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

484. Call Me Queen (Everyone Else Does)

I love magazines. Unabashedly so. I am what is referred to (lovingly) as a Magazine Whore. House Beautiful, Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Coastal Living, Traditional Home, Town & Country … if it features pretty houses, I wanna see it.

My little, er, newsstand habit was gobbling up my Target budget faster than you can say, “Dummy, get a subscription!” So I did.

I figure I have saved over $400 annually, possibly hourly.

Now, when I subscribed to Town & Country, I might not have been what is commonly referred to as “sober.” No. I was, uh, quite tipsy on my homemade concoction of pink lemonade martinis that I have dubbed “pinktinis” (although in my house, they ain’t so teeny). There I was, trying to think of some entertaining blog topic for YOU (‘cause I’m a giver) and being distracted by my need to subscribe to 1000 shelter magazines.

I clicked on Magazines For You Yes You dot com, and lo and behold, there was Town & Country for like, five cents per copy. I signed up for seventeen years (duh).

Now here come the, uh, remorse (?) part:  I changed my name. Yeah, I am not particularly proud of it, I don’t even have a super-good reason for it (other than that I thought it might be easier to track junk mail that was generated by my subscription to Town & Country).

My new name is: “Queen.”

“Queen MOV,” to be exact. To clarify, Queen is not written as a title (like Ms. or Mrs.), but rather as my actual first name, and MOV as my last name.  I always wanted to be royalty, and since I was not born into it, nor did I marry into it (damn you, Duchess of Cambridge Catherine!), I thought, What the heck.

I mean, is the Royalty Police gonna come and arrest me?

Turns out the answer is no. Town & Country thinks I am “Queen,” Renovation Style calls me “Princessa,” Dwell fondly refers to me as “Countess,” and Us Weekly thinks I am “Doctor MOV.”

I just got invited to my first medical conference yesterday. Apparently, I’m a dermatologist.


Monday, August 8, 2011

483. How To Plan A Virgo Summer

First, before the end of the school year, get out your pristine white calendar and set it on your desk. Stare at the blank grid and think of all the blissful things you can do to fill it.

Next, brainstorm. On a separate sheet of paper, make a list of fun childhood things like
  • Museums
  • Petting zoo
  • Water park
  • Vacation travel
  • Soccer camp
  • Book store
  • Art projects (to include home-made wooden models, clay figures, ceramics, mosaic glass, mini-canvases)
  • Gardening
  • Swimming
  • Bowling
  • Miniature golf
Suddenly remember that you hate crowds, and the museums near you are high-caliber and attract visitors from all over the world. Cross out “museums.” Tell yourself that you can go in the fall. Or winter. Or spring. But not now.

Smile when you think about the petting zoo. Picture your sweet children petting a miniature pony and feeding some geese. Gasp as you remember how that fierce goat tried to eat your younger son’s socks (and by default, his feet, toes, ankles, shins, and knees) the last time you went. Cross “petting zoo” off the list. You have a cat, and she is soft. The kids can pet her.

Water parks are refreshing and a perfect place to go on those blisteringly hot summer days. Envision your family enjoying summer fun at the water park. Google the water parks closest to you to find out the prices. Read and re-read the part about it costing $55 per person. Wonder if that is a typo and really says $5.50. Call. Get put on hold. Talk to Sharla who confirms (very nicely) that $55 is indeed the daily rate. “Each?” you hear yourself say. Ask her if there are any promotional deals. Cry when she tells you that IS the promotional deal.

Cross “water park” off the list.

Call your husband at work to ask him what kind of travel budget you have for summer. Hang up on the fifth ring because you already know the answer: negative $400. Sharpen your pencil and cross “vacation travel” off the list.

Call the local rec center to sign up your older son for soccer camp, which is only $25 for the week because it is funded by some sort of grant. Smile at your good fortune and your sons’ good fortune to live in a city that offers such things. Frown when the rec center girl informs you that the camp is already full and was filled up the first day registration was available (which was way back in February), dummy. She does not actually say the word “dummy,” but her tone says it for her.

Draw a squiggly line through “soccer camp,” just to have some variety on the page.

Circle the next thing on the list: book store. Remember that you have an email coupon for Borders in your in-box. Laugh to think you almost deleted it, but for once your procrastination is paying off. Call Borders to see when their story times and special events are. Realize you must’ve dialed the wrong number, because it says “disconnected.” Repeat, say, four more times. Google it. Read the depressing little article about how your local Borders branch recently closed due to the economy. Erase “book store” and write in “library” instead.

Art projects! This you can do. Start writing on the calendar for the first time. Mondays: painting; Wednesdays: mosaics; Fridays: ceramics. Ha—this will be the summer of Art! You can’t wait to tell your sons all about their new activity.

Move on with the rest of your ideas. Gardening. Okay, there is the minor setback that every green thing you have ever owned has died. On the way home from the gardening center. Write “gardening” neatly on the calendar anyway. For your husband to do with the kids on Saturdays.

Swimming. Well, you did join a pool, so that one is covered. Decide to alternate the swimming with the Art days. Write in Tuesdays: swim; Thursdays: swim; Sundays: swim. Your family is so athletic! Well, except for your younger son who can’t actually swim yet and clings to the side of the pool screaming. Except for that.

Bowling and miniature golf. These will be fun activities that you can work into your schedule at some point. You don’t really stop to consider the very non-Virgo part about renting shoes. Shoes that other people have worn a million billion times before you, and maybe not washed their socks. Their socks that could have been licked by goats. Ick. Nor do you contemplate that miniature golf involves your sons brandishing weapons known as “golf clubs.” You will wise up later, but for now, you write it in on the side of the calendar: Rainy day activity—bowling; and miniature golf—when? Which you underline to add emphasis.

When the kids get home from school, proudly show them your calendar and how your summer is going to pan out. You have taken the initiative to color-code all the activities and write them in for the different days. Your older son (the Picasso of the family) looks at all the art projects planned and his eyes glaze over, like in a trance or a very bad coma.

The preschool son (who cannot read yet, just what are they doing for four hours every day at that school anyway?) sees the cute little blue “wave” motif you have sketched in for swim days and recoils in horror: “Does that mean swimming?!?” he screeches, as if you’d written in “manual labor and shoveling manure” instead of “lounge around and swat inflatable beach ball.”

Reassure him that swimming is fun, and he will take lessons. Tell him you will hire the nicest swim teacher on the planet, someone who really knows his stuff.

“Shamu?” asks your younger son in earnest.

“No, uh, I don’t think he teaches kids,” you respond reasonably about the famous Killer Whale.

Fast forward to mid-August. On your fireplace mantel sits exactly one (count it: one) completed wooden model of the Eiffel Tower, painted. A bag of dried out Play-Doh inhabits the coffee table, mocking you. (The clay they sold at the art supply store was too “mushy and oozy,” according to your younger son.) The swim lessons have gone surprisingly well, except for the two ear infections. And you did manage to combine bowling and miniature golf in the same day and not come down with any foot diseases nor broken bones caused by stray flying golf clubs.

You look over your calendar and feel a slight tingle of accomplishment (or possible this could be a sneeze coming on). You managed to do a few of the things on your “dream” list. A few is good. You reach for the remote control to see if TiVo has saved any new episodes of House Hunters International. The remote does not work.

“Mom,” says your older son, not unkindly, “I think the batteries are dead. You know, from us using it too much.”

(“Manages Others’ Vacations”)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

482. Hi, Daddy!

I just found out my dad reads my blog. This, right on the heels of finding out that my own son Short was adopted. As you can imagine, I am in double shock.

Now, my dear father is literally the kindest person on the planet. Think Gandhi. Then think how Gandhi is actually my dad’s twin, but Gandhi is called “the mean one” by his family. Okay, you have an idea of how great my dad is.

So, due to circumstances beyond my control (uh, the cruel realization that my dad is one of my regular—gasp!—readers), I am forced to change the general content of my blog and its overall “vibe.”

Lucky for you, you get to read one of my first new, kinder, gentler, less offensive blogs. Here goes:

I was driving and saw a rainbow. It made me happy until I ran into a telephone pole because I wasn’t paying attention. (*Note: this is just a rough draft, I am still working out the kinks.)

Thank you for reading my blog! May your day be filled with sunshine and kittens but not dead kittens mangled by coyotes like we found in our yard recently.

The End.


Friday, August 5, 2011

481. Turns Out, Short Was Adopted

I just found out today. Imagine my surprise when he told me. All this time, five years now, when I looked back fondly at my pregnancy with him (not to mention the photos of me looking like a giant Russian nesting doll with the little doll inside, and then the subsequent photos taken at the hospital when the doctors helped get the nesting doll out), I remembered it being me who was the birth mother. The insurance bills tell me I am. The stretch marks tell me I am.

“You’re not,” says Short, in a voice of authority, “I was adopted.”

“Really?” I reply, wondering if Tall was also adopted and I dreamed that pregnancy, complete with morning sickness and peanut butter cravings, as well, “How exactly did you find this out?”

“I just knew it,” he shrugs, like he’s explaining the fact that the sun and the moon are in the sky: everyone just knows. “My real family is in Antarctica.”

I drop the stack of neatly-folded t-shirts I am holding. Antarctica! At least he didn’t say Mars.

“Wow, that’s great.” I pick up the t-shirts and smile at him, not wanting to disparage his Eskimo heritage.

“So I don’t have to do what you say, because you are not my real mother,” he says firmly, as he pushes back the crumpled pile of his freshly-laundered pajamas and swimsuits that he was supposed to help me fold.  Do it yourself, you mommy-impostor!

“Short, come on, Sweetie,” I say, already weary of the charade, “I have photos of us together at the hospital. You’ve seen the pictures a million times, the ultra-sound ones where you are inside my tummy, and then where you are born at the hospital.” The voice of reason.

“Yeah, well, the doctors thought you were pregnant, Mommy, but actually you were just fat.” Another shrug. Sun/ moon/ sky/ fat mommy. Poor, poor delusional mommy, ignoring reality once again.

“Why didn’t your other family take you with them to Antarctica, then?”

“They don’t have babies in Antarctica! They would freeze to death!” He shakes his head at Mommy’s stupidity.

I study my sweet boy.  His gray-blue eyes are mine, his wide smile is The Husband's, his pale skin:  all mine.  His broad shoulders scream The Husband, as does his gravelly laugh.  

“Short, come on.  Help me match up your socks.  Here.”  I hand him some white socks. 

“Do you want to know more about my real family?” he inquires. “They are invisible!”

Which is how I feel once again.

(“Mom: Other Version”)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

480. Why I Am A Bad Therapy Patient

When I was in my 20’s, I was going through a rocky time so I decided to seek out a therapist. Oh, boy, was that a mistake. Here, listen in:

Me: So that’s the deal. What do you think I should do?

Therapist: What do YOU think you should do?

Me: Uh, I don’t know. That’s why I’m here. What should I do?

Therapist: My role, MOV, is to help you find the answers within yourself. What path are you leaning toward?

Me: No idea. What are the choices?

Therapist: What do YOU think the choices are?

Me: Uh, I dunno. Can you give me a hint?

Therapist: (long uncomfortable silence while she looks at her watch)

Me: I said, I’m not sure what to do. What would you do?

Therapist: What I would do is irrelevant. It’s what you will do that matters.

Me: I want to know what you would do.

Therapist: We all make our own choices.

Me: Sure … but I want to make the choice you recommend.

Therapist: I recommend following your heart.

Me: As opposed to my head?

Therapist: Follow your head, too.

Me: My heart and head are saying different things.

Therapist: Follow both.

Me: Then I will be cheating on my head with my heart?

Therapist: (shifts in seat, shifts back)

Me: So what should I do?

Therapist: What do you want to do?

Me: I want to strangle you for charging me 100 bucks an hour and not giving me an answer!

Therapist: What are you so angry about?

Me: I’m angry that I don’t know what to do!

Therapist: Oh, look, time’s up. That will be $100 cash or check, please. No insurance plans accepted.

I felt like I was on some sort of reality show where they answer every question with a fortune cookie: “The key is within your line of vision—you know what you should do.”

Duh! I don’t know what I should do! If I knew what to do, would I be in therapy?

In an effort to reduce expenditures, I eliminated therapy from my budget. I replaced it with alcohol. My new mantra: “A great bottle of wine is still cheaper than an hour of bad therapy.”

(“Mistress Of Vino”)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

479. That Time That Chef Scared Me

So I walk into work last night, and who do I see but some eight-foot tall, overly tan, 50-year-old Viking woman in a crisp white chef's uniform standing behind the demo stove at the high-end kitchen store. “Hello! I am Ingrid!” she says predictably. She flashes me a smile that walks the fine line between Hollywood starlet teeth and dentures. I vote dentures. “I will be cooking for the party of 10 people!”

What party, I wonder to myself, and why am I always the last to know?

“You will be my sous chef and also dishwasher!” she cheers, as if I’ve won free First Class tickets to Sweden, “So please get me a cutting board and some sharp knives!”

I smile a tight plaster smile, a smile that plays hide-and-seek with my emotions, a smile that says, “Wow, I love to wash dishes, how fun!” while my brain thinks, “Oh, crap, why did I trade into this shift?”

My manager Holden pulls me aside. He also sports the hide-and-seek smile, his faux smile is the exact same one I exchange with the nurse at the pediatrician's office right before she administers three painful shots to my sons while saying, “Shots don't hurt!”

Strange words come tumbling out of his mouth:  “Good news, MOV! We are hosting a special private party, and you will be assisting. Our other store in Popular Town called and their hot water heater broke. They were supposed to do this party, and now they have, uh—” (pawned it off, stuck us with, dumped it on?) “… asked us to help them out, and of course we, uh—” (were forced to, were obligated to, had no choice?) “… readily agreed to step in and host their event here.” Stucco smiles all around.

Now, we do not host parties at the high-end kitchen store. We sell spatulas. From time to time, we will have cooking demonstrations which consist of one of my co-workers chopping up some chicken and throwing it into the slow-cooker with one of our pre-made sauces in an effort to sell the pre-made sauce. This whole “party” thing was brand new for me and for Holden.

We are not set up to cater parties. We have no dishwasher (which means that all dishes and pans are washed by hand), we only have a few random ceramic plates and pieces of non-matching silverware that inhabit our employee break-room/ kitchen. And yet on this specific evening in question, we are expected to make it look like we cater private events every day.

Queen Virgo pouts in the backroom as she searches for a cutting board and knives. I hear her whine to Holden, “But I don’t understand? Why are we doing the party?”

“MOV, I already told you. Popular Town gave us this party. We just found out this afternoon.” He shrugs.

“I know, I know, I get that part. But why did Popular Town ever agree to do a party in the first place? Since when do any of our locations do parties?” I cannot let this go, the not-knowing part of the equation, the part of who-can-I-ultimately-blame for tonight when I replay my story for The Husband later.

“MOV, I don’t know either. Who cares? It doesn’t really matter. We have a job to do, and we have to do it. We’ll figure it out.”

Holden always was more optimistic than I.

I bring the items that Ingrid requested just as the first guests begin to arrive.

“Coffees! Coffees all around!” bellows Ingrid to no one in particular.

“Yes, that would be great!” confirms a guest.

“Fantastic!” cries another.

“You’re reading my mind!” enthuses a woman in a green sweater.

I consider getting $5 out of my purse so whoever is doing the Starbucks run can pick me up a latte as well. Then it occurs to me that these women are all looking at me, the dork in the bumblebee apron, to make them coffee.

We do not have a coffee maker. I am curious as to why Ingrid is trying to torture me so. I have only just met her, and I have never done anything to her to make her mad.

“We do not have a coffee maker,” I whisper to Ingrid.

“Sure you do!” she replies loudly, motioning to the 17 different coffee makers we sell all displayed neatly on the shelves.

“Uh, Ingrid, those are to sell.” I give her yet another tight smile, and worry I might be using up a month’s worth of my quota of tight smiles.

“Oh, well, then, cappuccino is fine, or espresso. Whatever. Bring us whatever you think.”

Ten pairs of eyeballs blink up at me (11 if you count Ingrid). I immediately have flashbacks of my flying days and working in First Class, except for that tiny detail that UNITED ACTUALLY GAVE US COFFEE FOR THE PASSENGERS (oh, and plates, and advance notice).

“I can make some espressos with our demo machine?” I squeak out, more a question than a solution.

“Perfect!” roars Ingrid, who winks at her 10 new best friends, then swats me away like an especially annoying mosquito. “Ten of those then!”

I go over to the machine and make the shots in rapid succession. Then, I walk around and offer the espressos to the guests.

“Oh, do you have any cream?”

“I take cream, please.”

“Me, too. Or even milk.”

“Ugh, this coffee is way too strong. I don’t like it.”

More sets of eyes, staring at dimwit high-end kitchen clerk, and questioning how they got stuck with such an inept loser as their designated server.

“Uh, I apologize, but we do not have cream.” I want to add, “We are a STORE, for goshsakes! I thought I was going to explain blenders and juicers and maybe sell some tablecloths to actual customers this evening, like I normally do … I had no idea I was going to be the Tuesday night impromptu barista.”

Tight, chipped plaster smiles.  On their faces, and mine.  

I feel the spackle that holds my perma-grin in place slowly crack. 

The night devolves from bad to worse. Chef Scandinavia decides to make the menu into a multi-course extravaganza, which means I must clear the pans and plates, scurry to the back as fast as I can and wash and dry them all, then reappear as if these are brand new plates that I am just too stupid to have brought out in the first place. I do this four more times. Remove plates/ wash plates/ dash back before the chef is ready to serve the next course. 

At one point, one of the guests turns to me and inquires, “You don’t have to wash all the plates, do you?!?”  Her tone says, Fairies wash the dishes, right?  Or perhaps cheerful magical kitchen gnomes?    

I give her my 73rd fixed smile of the evening, force a laugh, and reply, “Oh, no. We just throw them away.”

The clock mercifully strikes nine, and in a reverse Cinderella moment, I am set free. We are now closed.  The customers must leave, and since I have been washing dishes and pans all night, the task is complete. Ingrid (unbelievably) gives me a sincere hug, and says,

“How would you like to work for me full-time?”

(“Meals Of Variety”)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

478. Motherhood Is Swim Lessons

I take Short to the pool. He is a wishful fish: wishing he could swim like his brother, but that minor complication of fear bordering on terror preventing him from becoming the beautiful racing fish I know he can be. I try I try I try but if I mess up I drown.

Motherhood is exactly the same, except instead of a wishful fish, I am a wishful magazine mom. I watch the magazine moms, perfect as an airbrushed/ re-touched magazine cover. These moms have swum in the deep end of the parenting pool for years, and now they make it look effortless. They obviously never yell at their children, nor do they forget to sign them up for soccer team before the deadline. They don’t watch TV, and their kids do crossword puzzles for fun.       

Why can’t I be them? I wonder to myself as I search in my ripped tote bag for the SPF 50 sunblock and Speedo goggles that I forgot in the car yet again. A serene calm envelops the magazine moms as it simultaneously hits me over the head with the blunt edge of envy.

Bottled water? Check. Yogurt raisins? Check. BPA safe plastic dive toys not-made-in-China? Duh! Trendy flip-flops and a superior attitude? Double check! The magazine moms chat with each other, and it appears to me that they were born 35-years-old with two children. They were never young, they will never be old, they are just the happy-and-have-it-all-together mommies. They have it all under control, over control, beside control, and on top of control. Their maiden name is Control.

I write illegible little notes to myself in my special (non-waterproof) notebook: Swimming pool check-list! Laminated! Do it! Today!

This should be easy for a Virgo like me.

Short gets in the pool with his teacher for a private lesson. Her name is Miss Evelyn, and she smiles and says something amusing to him, making him laugh. He does what she tells him to and he no longer clings to the wall, like a stubborn barnacle. Instead, he pushes off the wall, his slippery body full of a confidence I have not seen before. Confidence that Miss Evelyn gave him, back on that first day when I handed her the check with “swim lessons” written in the memo section.

Where is my personal Miss Evelyn? I could use a boost of confidence in the mom skills department, and I would gladly take another check out of my wallet to make this happen. I constantly compare-compare-compare myself to the magazine mommies and come up lacking. I grip the side of the parenting pool with fear bordering on terror, preventing me from being the beautiful serene mommy I know I can be.

(“Mom On Verge”)

Monday, August 1, 2011

477. Best. Day. Ever.

For my regular readers, you know that today is a very special day for my family: Brother’s Day. We invented this little holiday because, well, because no one stopped us.

The day started off with bowling, followed by miniature golf (our first foray into that—success!), followed by swimming at our local pool. Swimming was cut short by an impromptu thunder storm, which is actually threatening to cut off my computer as I type.

Time to post!