Tuesday, January 31, 2012

648. Triple Threat

Well, this has been a really great week for me. First, I came in third in an online writing contest over at trifecta (truth be told, I would rather type in “Third, I came in first,” but I will take what I can get). Next, my dear bloggy pal Tuna (that’s Mrs. Tuna to you) gave me a blog award called Versatile Blogger. I have no idea what this means, but I think it means I can type something up while my kids are screaming in the background and the macaroni and cheese is burning on the stove (does macaroni even burn? or does it just boil over? shows how much I cook …). And last but not least, Kirby over at Kirb Appeal (uh, you spelled curb wrong, hate to tell ya) gave me the Liebster award. Again, no idea what Liebster means, but I think it’s German for “Modern-Day Shakespeare.” Thank you, Kirby!

As you well know, I have been practicing my generic acceptance speech for just this sort of opportunity. But then I had The Husband read it over and he said, “Didn’t someone else kinda famous already use that line? The part about, ‘You like me, you really really like me’? I thought it was illegal to plasticize thing on the Blog Web.”

Stick with cooking, Sweetie, is what I wanted to say as I snatched the speech back out of his hand. Clearly he knows nothing about plasticizing or the Blog Web.

Anyway, thank you dear readers, for following my blog! I am grateful to you for reading this drivel I call “My Best Essays,” and I always have you forefront in my mind as I write (well, maybe secondfront right after the screaming kids).

In thanks, I am going to make up my own award to give to a few fellow bloggers I am crazy about. I toyed with calling it the “Good Karma” award or the “I Love Your Words” award, or even the “Positively Obsessing Over People” award (but the acronym on that last one was not so good), but ultimately I settled on the MOV award. Lest you think I am completely narcissistic naming it after myself, I must tell you what MOV stands for in this case: Moms Ordering Vino.

So, without further ado, the first ever MOV awards!  (And, to be like those way-trendy magazines that like to give everyone a catchy label, I am copying that idea too.) 
  • The Savant  A nod to the über-talented Mrs. Tuna, who only writes once a week, which is about six days too few.
  • The Girl Next Door A wave and a kiss to the awesome Kirb Appeal, who, if she lived next door to me or even in the same zip code would clearly be my new best friend.  (And by the way, she confesses that her personal goal is to get her Follower number up to 100.  She is currently at 78.  Come on, we just need 22 people!  Help her out!)
  • The Jokester  Marianne at We Band of Mothers. You will love her if you have not discovered her yet.  And if you already have discovered her and her bizarre Donny Osmond addiction, you know exactly what I am talking about.  (And she is strangely underappreciated ... another great blog with only 75 Followers.  Let's push her up to 100 also.)    
  • The Talent  Kelly at Southern Fried Children. I think Kelly is my clone (well, if only I was ten years younger and ten times prettier and ten times more talented at writing, then YES, Kelly and I would be the same person).
  • The Comedienne Haley's Comic. Talent is oozing out her pores. Check out her brilliant and hysterically funny drawings!
  • The Artist  Julie at Feeding The Cat. The type of girlfriend you would want to sit and drink coffee with for three hours. (Or tea.)
  • The Cool Girl  Mary at Just Inappropriate.  The type of friend your parents actively discouraged you from having when you were growing up, which is exactly why you like her and need her in your life.  She is not afraid to say what's on her mind.      
  • The Royal Gem  Mollie at OK in the UK.  Wow, can she write.  You will thank me later for this link.  Read some of her older pieces.  
  • The Rebel  Lily at The Incoherent Ramblings of a Moose.  She shocks me every time I read her writing.  In a good way.      
  • The Down-to-Earth Angel  Skwishee at Just A Mum.  Another mommy I can relate to.
  • The Outsider  And last but not least, Gweenbrick, who is not a Mom Ordering Vino, but totally could be if he was a woman. I mean this in a complimentary way, not a kooky cross-dressing Nathan Lane in Birdcage kind of way.  (But ol' gweenie already has, like, eleventy gazillion followers.  He might not have room for any more.)  
This is what you do to accept your MOV award. You link back, send me a million dollars, give the award to five other bloggers (or maybe two if you’re lazy) and answer one question: What made you write?

Here is my answer: I was running out of space to put the words in my brain, and someone recommended storing the words on random slips of paper. Wish I remember who it was so I could thank them (or shoot them).

(“Moms Ordering Vino”)

Monday, January 30, 2012

647. Welcome to Virgopolous

I walked into the store and told myself I wouldn’t buy anything this time. “I’m just looking,” I informed the greeter. “That’s okay,” she replied, handing me a bright blue plastic basket with metal handles, “you’ll find it’s easier to look with this.”

Stupid girl. Ten minutes later, I was setting the now-full basket back by the door and swapping it out for a cart.

I glanced down at the items I’d selected so far: High Standards, Strong Work Ethic, Ability to Argue. Who wouldn’t want the Ability To Argue?

The next aisle over produced even more treasures: Loyalty, Intelligence, Practicality. I had to move Good Conversationalist over in the cart to squeeze in Beauty. There was still enough room for Organized, right by Hates To Be Late.

After about half an hour of methodically going up and down every pristine row in the store, I made my way to the check-out lane. The uniformed man called out, “Next, please!”  I started to place Perfectionism on the conveyor belt but he stopped me.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” he asked.  

I was mildly irritated. I’d never laid eyes on this guy, yet he was telling me what to buy?

“Excuse me?” I said, barely masking my annoyance.

“Based on the items you’re purchasing today,” (he was looking right at Pessimism and Attention To Detail when he said it), “I think Judgmental would be a good selection for you.”

Geesh, he was right.

“Of course! What was I thinking? Which aisle is it on? I don’t remember seeing it,” I started to get out of line and turn back.

“We have some right there, behind you. See? Above the Discerning.”

That was smart marketing. Judgmental was definitely an impulse buy. I picked it up and handed it to the checker. Then I grabbed a box of Discerning as well. You never know when it might come in handy.

“Are you part of our bonus rewards program?” he asked, “You’ll save 10% today.”

“No, no thank you,” I smiled.

He wrote down my total on a slip of paper, rather than announcing out loud it for all the other shoppers to hear. I liked this special courtesy about Virgopolous, and, truth be told, it was a major reason why I shopped here. I handed him my credit card and waited for him to swipe it through.

“Ack, is it too late to add Patience?” I asked.

“Sorry, ma’am, we’ve never sold Patience here,” he shrugged.

I was skeptical. “Are you sure? I think I’ve seen it here before, somewhere toward the back of the store? Are you sure you’re not just out of Patience?”

“I know my stock. No. No Patience,” he said firmly.

“But …”


“Are you sure?”

“I said no.”

“Could you have someone check?”

“Won’t do any good.”

“I have small kids! I need Patience!”

He stopped bagging my items and looked me in the eye. “I agree, Patience is a great product, especially for parents. Maybe it’s something we’ll carry in the future, but to be perfectly honest, it’s way too expensive for us to get, even wholesale.”

I wanted to prove I was right. I wanted to have a newspaper ad tucked in my purse that confirmed Patience On Sale, This Week Only at Virgopolous, to show him. I wanted to demand to speak to the manager or owner or buyer or anyone, but there was a long line of customers behind me.

“Okay,” I sighed.

“Sorry,” he said, with a tone that said he wasn’t really.

I took my receipt and my twelve bags and walked out to my car. As I was loading the things into the trunk, Must Have The Last Word rolled out.

Damn it. Where were you five minutes ago?

(“Magnificient Otherworldly Virgopolous”)

*this one's for Paul

Sunday, January 29, 2012

646. I'm a Little Bit Famous

The day I've been waiting for has finally come, the day that instead of me locking myself in the bathroom so I can rehearse make-believe interviews in front of the mirror for hours on end, I have been asked to do a REAL interview. Fellow-blogger (and truth be told, my idol) Marianne at We Band of Mothers approached me, saying something about Donny Osmond not being available. Not to worry, I was prepared to channel my inner Donny, but then Marianne gave me the classic Proust questionnaire (which, sadly, did not address the bathroom mirror questions I had painstakingly practiced and memorized).

Click on over to read the interview. And then when you're done reading it, please click on the “Follow” button for Marianne. Tell her Donny sent you.

(“Marie Osmond Variation”)

645. 33 words

The nurse handed him to me, so tiny and perfect, the blue blanket wrapped around him tight. His older brother leaned in to kiss his tender head, whispering, “Let’s leave him here, Mommy.”

(A note to my regular blog readers: I stumbled upon this cool website called trifecta writing challenge and todays’ challenge was to write a “love story” in just 33 words. I suppose it is my kooky family's version of a love story, anyway—ha!  You should totally check out the website and participate in future writing challenges, it’s super-fun.)


644. Kid's Got Game

So we went to Tall’s basketball game yesterday, like we do every Saturday. I flashed back to a situation from last year when Tall first joined the team. There was this one kid, I’ll call him Marv, who was really, really bad. Picture the worst player ever in the history of elementary school basketball made-for-television movies, and Marv made that child-actor look like an NBA All-Star. Imagine a boy who does not understand in the least the bare fundamentals of basketball (dribbling, shooting, that there are two teams involved, where the basket is located) and exhibits zero interest and even less talent … and that would be Marv after practicing five hours daily with a professional coach for the next several years. To say Marv was bad at sports would be like saying the ocean is wet or the surface of the sun is hot. An indisputable fact.

Marv’s family moved away to Guam last summer, and I often wonder about them now. I wonder if, to avoid further sports-related humiliation and failure, his mother threw all the balls they owned into the trash and then lied to her family about it, saying, “The balls? What balls? They must’ve gotten lost in the move. Too bad they don’t sell balls in Guam.”

I never really became friends with Marv’s mom when I had the chance, but we would sort of wave at each other or tilt our heads in that gesture of recognition that other parents do at sporting events, as if to say, “We’re all in this together,” or “Our kids are friends,” or “You look vaguely familiar.” This one particular day, Marv’s mom happened to be sitting right next to me.

“I’m Marv’s mom,” she said sweetly, extending her hand to shake as if we hadn’t met before, “and I guess you know who Marv is.”

I squelched a laugh. I knew exactly who Marv was. If ever a foreign exchange student was learning new English slang and was not sure what the word “spaz” meant, he need only watch Marv for five minutes to have a crystal clear definition. Marv would fall down for no reason. He would lay there for an extended period of time, and then finally get up. He would run the wrong way toward the other team’s basket when all the remaining players were on the other side of the court. He would unintentionally block his own teammates. He would haphazardly pitch the ball up in the sky hoping for a basket, only to have it knock over the water station on the side of the court.

His arms darted up and out periodically, as if set to their own internal alarm clock. His shoes were constantly untied.

The very ball, new and pumped full of air, seemed somehow defective in his grasp. If you put a fuzzy blue costume with a lopsided chicken head on Marv, he could easily pass for a comical team mascot. Marv was not surprisingly the last one picked for mini-teams during practices, and the only one his teammates silently cheered for when he was stuck at home sick in bed.

I tried to focus on my own son playing basketball, but Marv kept distracting me with his goofiness, like a very effective John Hughes movie extracting the highest level of sympathy. I would shake my head and think, Good God, poor Marv, I feel soooooo sorry for him!

There was a simple reason I felt so bad for Marv, and it had nothing to do with gloating about Tall’s prowess at basketball: I reluctantly recalled my own ill-fated and short-lived elementary-school sporting career—I was eerily familiar with Marv’s bumpy world because I myself had been a girl version of Marv. Marv with pink hair ribbons and matching socks.

Yep, swap out the word “basketball” for “softball” and change “fell down for no reason” to “tripped on her own feet repeatedly” and then trade “run the wrong way” for “accidentally threw bat and knocked out teammate,” and you can understand why witnessing Marv’s moves was like watching a long, painful video clip disaster of myself as a gangly, awkward child attempting to play sports. It was Titanic set to hard round softballs, regulation metal bats, and overweight yet well-meaning umpires.

As much as I hated to admit that I had absolutely anything in common with kooky Marv, I knew we shared this childhood trait of a contemptible lack of athleticism. God had frowned on us and made us trip. Over and over again.

Tall had informed me that Marv and his family would be moving to Guam in June; why could they not go sooner so I wouldn’t be subjected to this form of relentless sentimental abuse reliving my own childhood Sports Hell, week after week after week? Why had they not put Marv’s antics on You-Tube already and made a million dollars?

The irony was that Marv’s parents were extremely proud of Marv. And vocal. “Go, Marv! Go! You can do it, buddy!” his dad would shout for the 100th time when Marv had the ball stolen away from him. Toward the end of one specific game where Marv played even more pathetically than he ever had, Marv’s mom leaned over and mumbled something shockingly dismal to me: “We had him tested.”

Tested? I did not know what to do with this information. Tested for what?

She started rattling off a bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo of all kinds of nerve diseases and degenerative bone disorders, and I could feel my stomach clenching up. Had she taken a page out of my transparent brain, a page with the headline of “That Kid Is Not A Good Player,” and read it and now felt she had to respond and address my busybody concerns? I instantly felt remorse for ever having had an opinion on Marv one way or another.

I bobbed my head up and down, then offered compassionate yet sporadic eye contact, bracing stoically for the inevitable. Marv was going to have Polio or Parkinson’s or heart cancer, or all three. I just knew it. Why had I not suspected this very thing? Obviously there was a problem, a big problem. I should be sympathetic. I should feel guilty. My own kids were healthy. What was wrong with me, internally judging sad little Marv and comparing him to the rest of the children playing basketball when he was born with something so dramatically wrong with him, something no doctor, no matter how talented, could ever dream of fixing?

How were Marv’s parents going to cope with this new development on a day-to-day basis? How many parts of their lives would they have to adjust to accommodate his blatant (and most likely life-threatening) disabilities? How was I going to respond to Marv’s mom when she finally revealed the bad news to me, a random mom of one of her son’s classmates, who had never before faced this type of adversity?

“… and that is when the doctors said Marv is 100% normal.” She shrugged. “Normal,” she repeated, as if I hadn’t heard her the first time, “All five specialists said Marv is completely normal.”

Marv’s mom delivered this analysis the way one might say, “They were out of Windex so I had to buy the generic brand,” or “I thought my favorite TV show was on at 9, but I missed it because it came on at 8.” Just fact-of-life-no-big-deal.

“That’s great,” I heard myself say, “normal is always great.” I nodded emphatically as Tall sank another three-point shot and Marv ran into a wall.

“I used to worry,” said Marv’s mom, “but I tell you, Marv is super-smart. Genius level IQ. He is so good in school! If sports are not his thing—so what? There are plenty of other things he’s good at. He loves history, he loves reading, and he comes up with these wild stories. He has a vivid imagination.”

“Yay!” I cheered, as Tall rebounded and scored and Marv did a clumsy version of a backwards somersault in the middle of the court for no apparent reason.

“And besides, we can’t all grow up to be Olympic athletes, and anyway …” her voice trailed off.

I turned back and faced her again, she seemed like she wanted to confide something.  

“Marv doesn’t want to be a pro-athlete when he grows up,” she lowered her voice and leaned in, as if she was about to divulge an important secret. “He. Wants. To. Write.”

I wanted to give Marv’s mom a conciliatory hug. She had no idea yet—how could she know?—what was in store for her and her family and people they knew or had met or would meet in the future.  Relatives, neighbors, friends, acquaintances, teachers, coaches, potential employers—no one would be immune from the pen of Marv because writers write about everyone they know, every experience they have, no matter how dull and mundane … and then they twist it until it is unrecognizable. They twist broken chunks of rusted scrap metal into shiny magical pieces of literary gold.

Good luck, Marv’s mom: Writers lie.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

643. Do You Like Syrup?

So I walked into Starbucks like I normally do and ordered my usual tall, extra-hot latte. “Do you want syrup in that?” asked the starista helpfully. I had not had my coffee yet (duh) so my mind was grabbing at words like maple, blueberry, or high-fructose corn. Before I had a chance to respond, she was pointing behind me to a Do-It-Yourself Syrup Bar. “We moved all the syrups over to that side, so you can help yourself now,” she explained, “Check it out. There are also a few new ones you may not have tried.”

I had never seen anything so fancy, not even on the transatlantic cruise my grandmother took me on that one time. There were a dozen tall bottles of exotic syrups standing at attention, like syrup soldiers ready for battle.

I picked up my latte off the counter and walked over to see the syrups. Imagine my surprise when I read the name on the first one: Tall. That’s my older son’s name! Why would a syrup be labeled “Tall”? Out of loyalty to my son, I put a drip of the flavor in my coffee and sipped it cautiously. Nothing. It tasted like nothing. I turned back toward the direction of the starista to tell her something was wrong with this syrup when I hit my head on the light fixture. I didn’t remember it being that low. Or the starista being that short.

“Excuse me, miss? Is this one, Tall, supposed to taste like anything? Because it doesn’t.” I made a face, the type of grimace when the mailman hands you your mail and it’s all bills and junk mail.

“Oh, it doesn’t really taste like anything. But it did work.” She smiled up at me. “Go ahead and try ‘Really Smart.’ That’s my favorite.”

I went back over to look for Really Smart, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe some other customer had taken it to their table. I scanned the names of the other ones. Rich. Why not?

I poured a bit into the coffee and took another swig. I felt like Alice in Coffeeland, anxious for what would happen next.

“I think you dropped this,” said a man as he handed me a crisp $100 bill.

“No, that’s not mine,” I said.

The starista appeared behind me. “Yes it is,” she said firmly as she handed me a $50 bill as well. “So is this one.”

Rich was good. I liked Rich. It was my favorite so far.

“I’ve tried two syrups already,” I told the starista conspiratorially, “but is there a limit? Can I try more?”

The starista wiped down the front side of the baked goods case with a wet cloth. “You can try them all, there’s no limit.”

I noticed one of the syrups was called Frantic. I picked it up and examined the bright orange label on the bottle. Who would want to drink that? Frantic was like the lima beans of the syrup world, completely unnecessary and destined to be thrown away in a napkin under the table or fed to the dog when no one was looking. A woman pushed past me as I was setting Frantic back down.

“Do they have any more Model?” she asked in a tone that made me think she had tried the syrup I just put back. “My sister recommended that one.” She pointed to her sister across the leather chairs and small wooden café tables up near the front window. I didn’t see her sister, but I did see Heidi Klum.

The woman found the bottle, but then clumsily knocked it on the floor. The bottle broke and an iridescent blue liquid went everywhere. “Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no,” said the woman, clearly upset, “I really wanted to try it.”

A different starista appeared, mop in hand. “I kept telling corporate that the syrups shouldn’t be out here, that only the staristas should pour them, but no,” he mumbled under his breath.

I hovered nearby waiting for him to finish mopping. I wanted to inspect the other choices. He finished quickly and I picked up various bottles and set them down again. I liked Tall, I liked Rich, and Model seemed to work fairly well. Frantic was a waste of a bottle. Famous beckoned, as did Gainfully Employed. Remember Everything made me shudder. Travel sounded appealing, as did Real Love. I considered Luck, but it didn't specify if it was Bad or Good.  What else did I want to try?

Before I could think about it too much longer, the woman who had spilled Model pushed past me, grabbed the sole bottle of Happiness, and stormed off. “If they won’t give me Model, I’ll just take Happiness away so no one else can have it,” I heard her say.

It didn’t bother me because at that precise moment I located the one special bottle everyone seeks when they walk into Starbucks in the first place:  Inner Peace.


Friday, January 27, 2012

642. Hop To It!

So, have you signed up for Leap Blog Day yet? If you want to participate, just click on the link on the side over there - - - - - - - -  > with the picture of the hoppy frog. The idea is, you ask another blogger to write a guest post for you, and hopefully someone will ask you to post as well (does not have to be the same person).  All the guest blogs will be posted on Leap Day, which is on Wednesday, February 29.

Please do it now. The deadline to have your essay written for the other person is February 15.

Someone has already asked me to write for them (hard to believe, but true), but I know there are MANY bloggers out there waiting to be contacted!

Okay, thanks for doing it!  It will be great cross-exposure for all different types of bloggers.  Can't wait! 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

641. Martha Stewart Stopped By Again Today

I almost called this essay “Martha Stopped By Again Today,” because we are that close. I pretty much never refer to her by last name. In fact, I use her nickname.

She parked her helicopter, walked up my front porch steps, and knocked on the door. As much as she likes to pretend she’s into “manners” and “etiquette,” guess who didn’t call first? That’s right: she just showed up.

I hate people that just show up. It makes me physically ill. I panic and think, Oh my God, I didn’t clean the bathroom this year, or When is the last time I put the recycling out, or Is my bed even made?

She knocked on the door (because the doorbell is broken) and I answered immediately (I’d heard the helicopter). She was wearing what looked like a cashmere poncho thing in sort of an apricot-orangey color, khaki pants, red shoes (but it worked), and all topped off with a chunky, vintage-looking, sterling necklace. I was in my pajamas. The flannel ones with the skiing ducks.

There was no time to be embarrassed, Martha was standing on my front porch. “Come on in!” Honestly, she’s seen me in worse.

“MOV, I love the seashell wreath on the front door! How much did that cost?”

I briefly thought about lying and saying I made it, but she’d see right through that. “More than I should have paid, ha ha,” I replied lamely.

She leaned in for a hug. I inhaled her perfume, which smelled like a Neiman Marcus counter with a dash of cherry cough drop thrown in. “It’s been a while, MOV. What has it been? A week?”

She was right. It had been a week, maybe five days since I’d seen her last. I braced myself for what was coming next.

“MOV, what is the deal with these dead worms on your front porch?” It was exactly what I expected her to say, because it’s what she said last time. She surprised me, though, and said something else: “Do you have any freshly squeezed orange juice?”

I ushered her in, past the front console table littered with mail, catalogs, unfinished homework, library books, old magazines, batteries, keys, cat toys, and stray gloves. I was internally saying, Don’t comment on the entryway, Martha, don’t do it, and she didn’t seem to notice it this time.

Once in the kitchen, I was berating myself for not offering to take her poncho thing and hang it up for her. It initially seemed like it was part of the outfit, but now she just looked hot. She kept fanning herself. On the bright side, though, maybe her keeping the poncho on meant she wouldn’t stay as long.

“Here you go, Mar-Mar,” I said, handing her a juice box left over from one of the kids lunches. “It might be lemonade flavor. Or apple. I can’t read that teeny tiny writing.”

“Who can?” she laughed, taking her reading glasses out of some crevice in her poncho. “Ah, white grape. That will do.”

She sat down at the dining room table, and I was now chastising myself for not refinishing it, painting it, or at least clearing off last night’s dishes. She was a trouper, though; she merely pushed aside the plate with the dried-on spaghetti (I think it was Tall’s plate, he always picks out the olives) and dove right into why she was here.

“You need a job, MOV, a real job.”

I cringed. Who likes to be criticized? It was like she was trying to tell me what to do, like my boss, or husband, or mom, or next-door neighbor, or the check-out guy at Target. Why did everyone have to be such a busybody?

“I know, Mar-Mar, I know … you’re right.” I wanted to give her a million excuses, I wanted to say, I’m a mom! Isn’t that a job? or I used to work at the high-end kitchen store, or You know I just wrote a book, but none of those words came out of my mouth.

She looked at me expectantly. “You could get your own TV show,” she suggested. 

Oh brother, was she going to go there again? “Mar-Mar, really?” I gave a big, overly-dramatic sigh. “Unlike you, I don’t have my own production company.”

“True. True.” She gave a Mona Lisa smile and took another sip of her juice box.

The silence filled the room, like the scent of last night’s oregano.

“But … you could …” her voice trailed off.

“I could what?”

“I forgot.” She sounded exactly like Short when I asked him what they did at school that day.

My cell phone rang. I looked around for it, not remembering where I had put it last. It didn’t matter, because it turns out it was her phone anyway.

“Martha Stewart Multimedia Omnimedia Inc, this is Martha,” she answered.

I waited for a few minutes while she gave detailed instructions to some underling on the phone about next month’s magazine layout. “That is not the font we discussed,” she said tersely, “Put Annalise on the phone.”

I felt like an extra on a stage set, like there was not really anyone on the phone with her and she was only acting in a play.

She slammed her phone shut.

“Sorry, MOV, I gotta go. It’s an emergency.”

Everything was an emergency with her; it was annoying. But I was used to it by now.

She walked toward the front door and now I was glad I had not hung up her poncho after all. She probably would’ve had me iron it, knowing her.

“MOV, I will email you.” She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Hey, Mar-Mar, don’t forward any more of those prayer chain-mails, or political emails, or jokes I don’t get.” I forced a tight smile.

“I know, I know, you told me last time,” she rolled her eyes.

“I’m going to miss you,” I squeaked.

“No, no you won’t, MOV. I’m always right here with you. In here,” she tapped the side of my head for emphasis. “Anytime you think you are doing something wrong, I will point it out.”

She turned and stepped on a dead worm. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to.

("Martha Or Variation")

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

640. My Blind Date With Caffeine

I can’t even remember who set us up, it doesn’t really matter at this point. I was living in San Diego at the time. We decided to meet at this little lunch place that had recently opened across the street from the jewelry store where I worked. The restaurant was called “Starbucks,” and apparently was pretty well-known in Seattle. I wasn’t sure how I would recognize him (this was back in the pre-Facebook days), but he said he knew what I looked like just from my voice.

That was a sexy thing to say, because he said my voice on the phone sounded like Cindy Crawford. He was going to be looking for Cindy Crawford!

I got there a few minutes early and sat down. Sure enough, he walked over to me and introduced himself, all smooth and no bitter. “I’m Caffeine,” he said, winking. “I’ve been out with a few of your friends, too. I should warn you, I’m addictive.”

I should have listened to him; did he not tell me the moment we met that he was addictive? But no, that only added to the intrigue.

Our relationship moved fast. I’d only known him for a few weeks when I asked him to start spending the night regularly (mostly so I could be with him first thing in the morning).

He’d go to work, I’d go to work, but then 3 o’clock would roll around and I’d be dialing his number. “Caffeine? It’s me. I really need to see you. Can you meet me in half an hour?”

That was the thing about him, he was so accommodating. And I always felt better after our rendezvous.

I knew it wasn’t a healthy relationship because I was obsessing about him all day long: when I would see him again, how he made me feel when we were together, how I wanted to spend more time with him and perhaps even introduce him to my family. But I was under the impression that he could live without me, that he had lots of other girls waiting in line for their chance.

I remember the day I ended it. I stood him up for our normal afternoon meeting. I thought I was so smart, but about a half an hour later, I had a throbbing headache. I went running back to him. He didn’t seem alarmed in the slightest. “I knew you’d show up eventually,” he grinned, his teeth looking like a dental whitening ad’s “Before” shot.

This pattern went on for months—get together, break up, get together, break up. My mind was racing, and my heartbeat was a little bit, too.

“Why do I need you so much?” I recall saying to him on the phone late one night. “It’s a very one-sided romance.”

The other thing is: I was spending money on him like crazy. He never spent a dime on me, although I found out later he had a trust fund. He’d merely sit there, staring off into space when the check came, waiting for me to get out my wallet. I didn’t complain, our dates were relatively cheap—five dollars here, five dollars there. But over time, it adds up.

Eventually, I moved away. I left no forwarding address, but he found me in Chicago, training with United Airlines to be a flight attendant.

“You think you can ditch me now, after everything we’ve been through?” he demanded. “You’ll be needing me on those red-eye flights.”

As usual, he was right.

We continued our relationship amidst my protests. It got to the point where I simply accepted his presence in my life, like air or water—he wasn’t going anywhere.

Then one day, I met someone new, someone who would change my life forever. I told Caffeine I would still always love him, that it was me not him, that he deserved someone else who loved him unconditionally. Not surprisingly, he was not happy.

“Who is it?” he yelled. “Who? You can’t break up with me and not tell me who my replacement is!”

That is the exact moment my new love walked through the door.

“Him?!?” said Caffeine, pointing. “You would rather be with him?!”

My new love was the confidant sort, not easily intimidated by ex-boyfriends. “Hello, nice to meet you,” he said politely, putting his hand out to shake, “my name is Chocolate.”


PS—and thanks to Marianne at We Band of Mothers for the inspiration (with her longing for sugar)

639. How To Get A Job and Change Your Life Forever

My good friend Grace sent me a magazine article on how to find a job. She knew I wanted a job where I made a lot of money, liked what I was doing, and oh yeah only had to work Monday-Friday from 9-3. And got out early on Wednesdays. And was flexible enough that I could take various school holidays off. And summer. And work from home. And did I mention get paid well?

Grace recently started a new job herself, so she knew this particular article would help me in my search.  I sat down with a hot cup of coffee and the article in hand, giddy with excitement that my Future Job was awaiting me, as were the thousands of millions of dollars I would be making!

Here’s the article:

Helpful Strategies For Finding Your Dream Career

When you are looking for a job, it can be a stressful time. But, these tips. Will definitely help you to find the dream job of your dreams that you have been dreaming about.

(At this point, I was thinking a Japanese foreign exchange student might have written the article, but I soldiered on.)

An important thing to think about it is what type of job or career you would be interested in applying for. (Ah, now we were getting somewhere!) Is yours the type of personality to seek out fulfillment from the type of job where you work traditional hours or the type of personality that is more fulfilled from a non-traditional work environment with the types of hours that range around the clock at varying times? (Huh?) Would you prefer the stimulation of a job where you are constantly: learning something new; being around new people, helping others, being challenged; making important decisions that could affect a wide range of people; or is a job just merely a paycheck and not necessarily what you live for?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and this applies in this case. Loving your job is the key to finding happiness, a rewarding calling, and also a job or career that makes you proud. Human Resources experts recommend finding a job that brings you happiness because then you will look forward to going there.

Have you ever woken up to go to a job you don’t really enjoy? A job that you might actually dread but it is primarily a source of income? We’ve all been there. I recommend writing down a list of pros and cons to help you get the job of your dreams. (Wait—huh?)

Make sure you have a quiet time without the distraction of everyday concerns such as the dog barking or other types of minor annoyances such as a cell phone or other thing. Really focus on the task at hand. Dedicate this time to you and your new ideas of how to get what you want.

Here are my recommendations.
  • Polish your résumé (have a friend poorfread it for you)
  • Research jobs in your field
  • Wear an appropriate interview suit for your field
  • Have your hair cut in a flattering style
  • Consider going online for job openings in your field
These tips have been proven to work for a variety of people in a variety of situations. I hope this helps you to accomplish your vision of your future career. It is rewarding when we have a job that makes a difference.

I sat there dumbfounded. Why had Grace sent me this stupid magazine article? Was this a joke? I was mentally downgrading Grace from Good Friend status to Mere Acquaintance. “Wear an appropriate interview suit for your field”? That was the advice that was going to change my life?

I desperately wanted the previous 28 seconds of my life back. How dare Grace waste my time with this inane article! It told me absolutely nothing I didn’t already know. Every single item was completely obvious to anyone who had been a human being for longer than a week. It’s like the article was written for a Martian for his arrival on Earth to give him suggestions on how to assimilate into our culture.

I did what I always did when I was angry about something trivial: I called The Husband at work. Luckily, he was on his lunch break and had an extra 28 seconds to spare, so I read him the article.

“Who sent you that again?”


“I thought she was a good friend?”

“Yeah, me too. Not anymore.”

“Oh, maybe that’s an outline, and the continuation of the article is on the next page? That list at the end sounded like an outline. Maybe you should flip it over and see if there is more to it?”

I hadn’t thought of this. This is perhaps why The Husband had a really good job that he enjoyed and where he learned something new and was challenged making important decisions, while I stayed home and got to wash the dishes and fold more laundry.

I flipped it over. It was just and ad for lipstick with some model who resembled Drew Barrymore. Maybe it was Drew Barrymore.

“Sweetie, it’s a make-up ad. That was the whole article.”

“Wow. And some magazine published it. Huh. I think Tall could write a better article. Or Short.”

“Short doesn’t know how to read.”


We hung up the phone. This stupid essay was taking up more than 28 seconds now. I was becoming obsessed with the bad writing.

My mind wandered and I thought of some other magazine articles this awesome writer/ so-called “job expert” might write.

How To Take Down Your Christmas Tree

Do you have trouble saying goodbye to your Christmas decorations after the holiday is over? Follow these simple guidelines to get the job done.
  • Remove the ornaments, packing them well and safely (don’t forget the lights!)
  • Get someone else to help you lift the tree
  • Consider wrapping the tree in an old sheet that you have kept on hand for this purpose. This will prevent tree needles from poking you
  • Find out what the tree protocol is in your neighborhood as far as trash and pick-up. This may vary from different locations
Taking down the tree in a timely manner is the key to making your home look nice for the new year. I hope these tips help you to accomplish the removal of holiday decorations easily and safely.

I was not done yet. I thought of another essay:

How To Go To Bed At Night

Are you the type to fall asleep in front of the TV and then not wake up rested the next day? Here are some guidelines that can help.
  • Make sure to put on your pajamas. If you follow a simple ritual of getting ready for bed, this will make things easier.
  • Consider wearing fuzzy socks to bed. This has been proven to keep your feet warm.
  • Make sure you brush your teeth and floss your teeth to avoid future dental issues from arising.
  • Fluff the pillow. This is a nice touch that hotels do and you can incorporate into your life as well.
  • Make sure to set your alarm clock. This can make all the difference from getting up on time or over-sleeping.
I hope these ideas and suggestions help make going to bed something to look forward to.

I thought about emailing Grace, but in the end I just called her.

“Grace, hi! I read the article you sent me, the one about jobs …”

“What article?”

“The article you sent me, I just got it in the mail yesterday?”

“I never sent you an article.”  Grace was 34 years old.  Early-Onset Senility was kicking in. 

“Grace, I am holding the envelope in my hand.  It has your return address.”

“I sent you a picture of Drew Barrymore.”

“You did?  Why?”

“Because that would be a cute haircut for you.  I wrote a note on it.” 

I opened up the envelope again and shook it upside down.  A yellow post-it note fell out and landed in my lap.  It read: “MOV, this would be a cute hairstyle for you!  Love, Gracie.”

The original article did say a flattering hairstyle would help me get a job....

ps--and thanks to wonderful reader and fellow-blogger Julie Hutchinson who gave me a much better ending than my first one

Monday, January 23, 2012

638. Helicopter City

My dad and step-mom were visiting this past weekend for my Book Signing Party. My dad loves books, as does Nichole, but she and I are primarily bonded together by our innate love of shopping and bargain hunting.

Nichole told me about this new clothing store located in Denver, called Helicopter City, that sells super-trendy outfits for about the price of a hamburger. She has no idea how the clothes are so cheap (the store is based in France, not exactly the headquarters for consumer–friendly prices), and yet, Helicopter City is a mecca of cheap and lust-worthy garments, like a hybrid of Gap and Neiman Marcus.

A quick trip to the Google library revealed there is a Helicopter City that just opened right here in Crazy Town.

Nichole had seen the ads for Helicopter City, as well as the catalog, but she had never actually shopped in the store. We decided to drive right over first thing Saturday morning to check it out. They opened at 10 AM and we were at the door, Starbucks in hand, five minutes early. I was giddy as Christopher Columbus when he told Queen Isabella he was setting off for the New World.

The doll-sized salesgirl finally unlocked the door for us. “You can’t bring those in here,” she said, gesturing to our coffees.  I noticed she had a Starbucks of her own sitting on the counter.

No matter.  As soon as we saw the prices we were like rabid starved dogs at a live rat giveaway, grabbing armloads of clothes to take into the dressing room.

“Oh, that flared skirt is darling!” exclaimed Nichole when I held up an orange and navy striped concoction with an asymmetrical ruffle at the hem. “Uh, is it your size though?”

I glanced at the tag for the first time: Small. She was right, it was not my size. I’m typically a Large, or a size 10 or 12. I hadn’t taken my clothes off yet to try things on, so I casually walked out from the dressing room area back to the Hypocritical Coffee Nazi to ask for her help.

“Excuse me?” I interrupted her as she was flipping through a magazine, chatting on her cell phone, and licking cappuccino foam off her upper lip. I continued, “I picked up the wrong size by mistake? And, if you’re not too busy? I was wondering if you could help me? Uh, to find the correct size?”

Why was I intimidated by Hypocritical Coffee Nazi when she was as harmless and skinny as a broken twig?

She took the skirt out of my hands and looked at the size. “Oh, you grabbed a Small! What size do you actually need?”

I told myself to own my size. Just like I own my age, which is 21.

“Uh, uh, ummmm … I usually am a size Small, that is the funny thing, but I just had a baby,” (five years ago), “and so, uh, I am temporarily a Large. Or Extra-Large.”

Hypocritical Coffee Nazi smiled her best plastic smile back at me and said, “We carry size Small, Smaller, and Smallest.”

“Yes, I need a Large.”

“We don’t carry …” here she whispered, like she was saying stolen goods or clothes made of human hair, “larger sizes.” She scrunched up her ski-slope nose as if she was smelling raw sewage.

“Well, I am not a larger size, I am just a size Large.” Shrug. Bonus shrug for emphasis.

“Helicopter City considers that to be a larger size. The designers,” her she said the word with a reverence normally allocated to Nobel Peace Prize Winners and dead astronauts, “feel the sizes that do the most justice to their vision are Small, Smaller, and Smallest.”

Now, I am a tough cookie. I have had disgruntled customers try to punch me, drunk passengers on the plane try to get me fired, unruly guests at the hotel I used to work for demand to see the owner so they could complain about me, and of course my own kids try to have me deported back to California. I could handle a little verbal assault.

But something in me on this particular day just snapped. Maybe it was the fact that I was already wearing my skinny (skinny!) jeans, or the fact that I did not have ice-cream after dinner the night before, or the fact that I had gone running three miles that very day at 6 AM. Something in me snapped, and I demanded to speak to the manager.

The manager appeared, and clearly she was one of these people that was not a size Small, Smaller, or Smallest. She was a size Teeny Tiny. I could almost see right through her bones.

“May I help you, Madam?” she asked politely.

“I am a new customer for Helicopter City, and I really love the clothes,” I began. She used this opportunity to silently judge the outfit I was currently wearing (the wrinkled skinny jeans with a small hole on the right hip, a red turtleneck from Target, and a stretched-out black sweatshirt that was unintentionally faded to a muted shade of dirt). “Surely you must have something that would fit someone of my, uh … dimensions?”

“Of course, Madam, Helicopter City aims to please all its customers.  Now I understand your situation, and I will find something that is perfect for you.” She smiled wide and I marveled at her endearingly crooked teeth, like an ad for something real and non-tooth related, like floor cleaner.  “I will be right back.”

I gave Hypocritical Coffee Nazi a look, a look that said, Ha! You didn’t really know who you were messing with, did you?

The crooked-toothed manager returned, her arms full of assorted items. “Which would you like to try on first, the scarf or the hair bow?”

I took the hair bow. My neck was feeling a little bit chubby.

(“Marseilles Or Versailles”)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

637. Words For Sale

Last night was my book party. More than 70 people showed up. That is about five more than came to my wedding.

There were people my age, older people, kids, and even a few babies. There were friends from the high-end kitchen store, friends from my moms’ group, friends from PTA, friends from my neighborhood, friends from the kids’ bus stop, many people I’d never met before, and of course my family. I kept noticing my friend Rachel’s darling little girl (age 3 ½) weaving in and out of teetering book displays and searching for her friends. Her name is Katherine, and she was dressed in a black sweater, houndstooth check skirt, opaque white tights, black ballerina flats, and a crimson flower head band. She looked like a French puppet.

Everything was Virgo perfect: delicious gourmet cookies, Pinot Grigio, upbeat music, silver and clear  balloons, and a sea of smiling faces. And oh, there were books! People started buying my book, and the next thing you know, they were crowding around me, standing in line waiting to meet me and have me sign their books. I felt exactly like Charlize Theron.

Or Santa.

The owner of the bookstore started clinking her wine glass to get people’s attention. I read a chapter from my book (this one HERE). They laughed, they cried, they cheered, they took photos, a few people fainted (not really on that last part). As I was reading, a surreal thought washed through my brain: These people are paying for my words. Words. They are writing checks to the bookstore for words on a page, words from the Oxford Dictionary, words that anyone has (free) access to, but that I have rearranged and written down.

I was reading out loud (which I had practiced in my kitchen with a timer, did I mention I’m a Virgo?) and trying to make eye contact with the crowd, but I kept seeing that children’s classic book, Caps For Sale, in my mind. Except it was Words For Sale, Words For Sale, fifty cents a word! 

The crowd applauded and cheered, and then I told them, “Thank you so much for coming!  The book retails for $15, but as a special promotion for you tonight, it's just $20.”

The evening was absolutely perfect. Everyone went away feeling that they had a great time and got what they came to get.

Except one person.

Toward the end of the evening, adorable tiny Katherine approached me to—I thought—give me a congratualtory hug. No. She tapped insistently on my skirt and said in a mild panic,

“Excuse me, ma’am? Where is the cake?”


Saturday, January 21, 2012

636. The Two Me's

When I became a mom, a strange thing happened at the hospital. Right after Tall was born and they weighed and measured him, the nurse approached me with some paperwork.

“What’s this?” I asked, drugged and groggy.

“Oh, just a little form we have all the new mothers sign. You are required by law to leave the Original You in the hospital when you take your new baby home.”

“Wait—what? I don’t understand.”

“You know—the Fun You? That one. I can walk her down to the third floor if you want, so you can feed the baby. But you cannot take the Original You home under any circumstances.”

I started to cry. I absolutely did not remember them talking about this on the hospital tour we went on with my Lamaze class. I liked the Original Me! Sure, she was a bit lazy and irresponsible at times, but who isn’t?

“New moms,” continued the nurse, who I was hating more by the minute, “always want the Original Me as a souvenir, but that’s just not our policy.”

“Nurse, what exactly am I supposed to do without Original Me?” I whimpered. “I need her.”

“Mrs. MOVetto, look at the bright side: you’ll have Revised You! Honestly, that is the better one to have. Look, why don’t you have a little strawberry jell-o with Original You, take a few pictures, and say goodbye? The sooner you get this over with, the better.”

Revised Me smiled.  Revised Me and this damn delivery nurse were obviously in cahoots.

I’d been in labor for 14 hours. I was in no mood to argue.

As usual, The Husband was not standing up for me. In fact, he was snoring in the chair next to my bed.

“Fine.” Original Me got up and walked out the door. She didn’t even look back. Revised Me wished her luck finding the third floor.

Two days later, I brought my new baby home and was instantly relieved and thankful that the hospital made me bring Revised Me home instead of Original Me. Revised Me knew how to change diapers and make bottles.  (Original Me wouldn't have been able to figure out how to turn on the dishwasher.)  Revised Me could get by on four hours of sleep.  (Original Me would've considered four hours a mere cat nap.)  Revised Me always had plenty of film on hand to document all those special baby moments.  (Original Me would've forgotten where she put the camera.) 

Revised Me was efficient. 

Things went well the first four months or so, with Revised Me virtually taking over my household. Then one afternoon after I had just laid the baby down for a nap, I heard a knock at the door. Revised Me was pissed off that whoever was knocking had ignored the “Baby Sleeping” sign posted clearly on the front door.

Of course it was Original Me standing there. She looked great. She was really skinny—a lot skinnier than Revised Me!—she looked rested, and (this was the thing that stood out the most) she didn’t smell like poop or baby spit-up.

“What are you doing here?” whispered Revised Me.

“I just came by to say hi.” She smiled wide, and I noticed she had lipstick on.

“Oh, uh, then come in.” This was getting more awkward by the minute. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“No, no, thanks anyway.” Original Me looked around at all the baby toys strewn about. “Hey, umm, is The Husband home?”


“I wanted to see The Husband.” She was absent-mindedly twirling her (clean) hair around her (manicured) finger. “I miss him.”

“He’s at work,” replied Revised Me.

“Well, I can wait. I got us a hotel room for the night.”

This was just like Original Me, traipsing in here to steal The Husband away. Lately I’d found The Husband looking longingly at old pictures of Original Me and saying wistfully, “Wow—you sure looked young.”

“He hates hotel rooms,” sneered Revised Me, “and it’s time for you to leave.”

“He LOVES hotel rooms,” grinned Original Me, “but I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that.”

I was getting the feeling that besides being incredibly brazen, Original Me was something else: rich.

I finally got Original Me to leave, but not before taking her old stilettos out of the hall closet (“It’s not like you ever use them,”), and she told me she’d call The Husband later.

When The Husband got home that night, I mentioned that Original Me had stopped by and gotten a hotel room for them. His eyes flickered bright for a moment, but then he gave Revised Me a weak hug and said,

“I’m too tired. Tell her to call Original Husband. He might have the energy to keep up with her.”

("Mentally On Vacation")

635. Yesterday's Phone Call

Let me start off by saying he’s fine. Better than fine. Everything is fine.

I had just sat down with my sandwich when the phone rang. I toyed with not answering it, but on the fifth ring decide to pick up. “Hello?”

It was the nurse from Short’s school, never the voice you want to hear on a Wednesday during school hours. “Hello, Mrs. MOVela? I hate to tell you this: Short was injured at recess.”

In the two seconds she paused between that and her next sentence (“But he’s fine,”) my brain already had him in a wheelchair and blind. Or hooked up to life-support machines. And deaf.

Mowing right past the one bright flower (“he’s fine”) in a garden full of monster weeds (“was injured”), I tried to backtrack.

“What happened?”

“Well, I’m not really sure, I wasn’t there and—”

Short was a verbose child. He took after his older brother this way. If his mouth was sore, he might say, “The number 7 tooth on the lingual side is bothering me, let’s go see a dentist,” or if he had a stomach ache, he might complain, “My lower intestines are acting up, I hope I don’t have Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” or if we’d been swimming he might offer, “This ear infection is troublesome, I wonder if my Eustachian tube is blocked.” He never had an issue pinpointing the problem. If the nurse did not know by now what exactly had happened, there was only one logical conclusion: All his teeth had been smashed out of his face and now he couldn’t communicate.

I heard the words escape my lips before I could stop them: “Is there blood?”

“Oh, no, no blood. I, uh, I don’t see any blood. Umm, well, I don’t think so.”

Were we going to have to have a discussion about what blood looked like? What kind of nurse was she, anyway? Was this just a high school student volunteering for college credits? Either you see blood or you don’t see blood. You shouldn’t have to think about it too much. Red and oozy, not red and oozy. Done.

She interrupted my internal monologue. “A ball hit him.”

Oh, God, everyone knows balls can be lethal. WHO THE HELL LET MY CHILD PLAY WITH A KILLER BALL?!? That’s it, I’m writing to my Congressman right now, balls need to be outlawed.

My mind, never one to sit and relax and shoot the breeze with some wayward neurons or ask a couple dead cells how they were killed (“Alcohol? Or did having kids do that to you?”) chose this moment to bounce ahead like, well, a ball.

“What kind of ball? Tennis ball? Football? Soccer ball?” (oh, please do not let it be a heavy soccer ball, those things were like cannons) “Golf ball? Basketball …”

“It was a basketball …”

“But, but, but …” (why did I continue to interrupt her? why could I not let the poor woman with no medical training whatsoever finish a sentence and tell me exactly what was wrong with my child? “Nurse, please tell me one thing, just one thing: did the ball hit him in the … head?”

I said head in a terrified whisper. I would rather have a child in a wheelchair who could not walk but still was mentally sharp than a vegetable child.

The school nurse could sense my agony through the phone wires.

“Mrs. MOVina, no need to worry! The ball did not hit his head … it hit his eye.”

Now, I myself have not been to medical school. My extensive background in health and medicine was pretty much gleaned from nine weeks of flight attendant training, one entire week of which was devoted to How To Fold Linens to Look Like Swans for first class service. But I do know that an eye is part of a head. Unless his eye fell out of the socket and was dangling somewhere back on the playground, maybe from the monkey bars.

“Short,” I heard the nurse say, addressing my deaf/ blind/ crippled/ life-support youngest child for the first time in the conversation, “Short, Honey, come over here and talk to your mom on the phone because she sounds hysterical.” She didn’t really say that last part, but her tone said it for her.

A tiny corner of my brain rejoiced: he could walk! he could possibly talk!

“Short, Sweetie? It’s Mommy. What happened, are you okay?”

“The basketball hit my eye, so the pediatric surgeon gave me some ice.”

Was now the time to set him straight that the pediatric “surgeon” was not a surgeon, nor probably even a registered nurse, and that she was not really sure what blood was or where eyes were located.

“Short, Darling, put the nice surgeon back on the phone with me.”

“Mrs. MOVetterson? Can you come pick him up, then?”

“Sure, sure, I will be right over.”

Fortunately, we live a three-minute drive from the school. I made the drive in approximately 22 seconds.

“Wow, were you driving on this street when we called you?” said the “nurse” be way of greeting. “You got here awfully fast.”

Short limped out of her office with a small ice pack on his ruddy face.

“May I see your eye?” I murmured. He took the ice off and his face looked okay. I could finally breathe again. “Let’s go then, Short.”

I picked up his backpack and we headed for the door. The part of my brain that likes to have the last word and say inappropriate things and ask annoying awkward questions and exhibit blatant disregard for social niceties such as avoiding awkward confrontations chose this moment to quench her curiosity thirst.

“Excuse me, nurse?  Thank you for helping Short and all, but, uh, are you a real nurse? I mean, I am just wondering what kind of training you have?” We were at least by ourselves so I was not calling her out in front of all the office employees or teaching staff.

She laughed. “Oh, gosh, no. I am not a nurse. For the position of school nurse, once you’re hired, you just have to get a basic certification. I have that.”

“So,” continued Nosy Brain, “you did not go to an actual nursing school.”

She smiled her most sincere smile and replied kindly, “I was not trained as a nurse. I am a lawyer.”

I hope she doesn’t sue us about the blood in her office.


Friday, January 20, 2012

634. YOU are invited!

(Not sure if I ever mentioned this before, but I wrote a book.) 

YOU are cordially invited to my book launch/ signing party for my newly-released instant classic “Mom’s Had A Rough Day,” which debuted at #3 on the NY Times best seller list! (Okay, I kind of made up that last part.)  The event is tomorrow evening

The details:
  • When: Saturday, January 21
  • Time: 7 PM
  • Where:  One More Page Books, 2200 N. Westmoreland St, Arlington, VA 22213
If you live anywhere in the Washington, D.C. area, please come!  I would love to meet you.  There is absolutely no pressure to buy a book.  Feel free to just come to the party and have a good time.  Children are welcome.

Here is the book store's phone number if you need directions or more information: 703-300-9746.

There is metered parking in front, neighborhood curb parking a block away, and also indoor underground parking in the garage connected to the bookstore (look for spots marked "Retail"). 

Thank you for your support, and I hope to see you there! 


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

633. The Name Game

I have always been terrible with names. I lie and pretend I’m not. I turn to my best friend for validation and I say, “I’m great with names! Right, Lisa?” “It’s Shelley.”

The problem is, when I first meet someone, I have a million random thoughts buzzing through my head like so many annoying mosquitoes trapped in a screened porch in July, each demanding attention: Is this person having a good first impression of me, Have I already met this person before, Do I have broccoli in my teeth, Do I have bad breath, Did I put enough quarters in the parking meter, Did I accidentally park in the handicapped spot, Does this person have kids the same ages as my kids, and Did I already say what my name is?

That last one is a big part of the problem. I have a name that is quite similar to another (popular) name, so people are forever misunderstanding me when I introduce myself. “Hello, my name is MOV,” I’ll say as clearly as possible while shaking the woman’s hand, and then she’ll lean in and mumble, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, MOVela. I’m (Some Name), I think your son is in my daughter’s class.”

The resultant noise in my brain is overwhelming, what with having to correct her about her misinterpretation of my name (I certainly don’t want her to continue calling me the wrong name) as well as the brand new information that Short (or Tall? which one!?) knows her child (are they friends? is this an opportunity here? do I need to attempt to set up a playdate now?).  A simple introduction has become a complicated game of mental chess where I have already ricocheted five moves ahead.  I ignore the basic premise of meeting someone, which is to learn their name.  I know I need to concentrate, but then I am distracted by her pretty scarf or distinct accent or some other completely irrelevant detail that has absolutely nothing to do with her preferred moniker and how the hell I am going to remember it. 

You can see how I get into trouble. All the books on improving memory suggest repeating the victim's new person’s name back to them, as in Stephanie, it is so nice to meet you! I’ve heard wonderful things about you, Stephanie! I am happy to finally put a face to the name, Stephanie!  (Although, as an aside, doesn't the overzealous parroting of someone's name make you sound like an exceptionally eager and over-caffeinated bank employee desperately trying to win the customer's loyalty and convince her to open a CD or refinance her mortgage?)  Or, failing that, the helpful books advise coming up with imagery you associate with the person, like if her name is Lily, you visualize a lily across her forehead so that every time you see her you remember, Yes of course—Lily!

I search the Google of my mind for an image of a lily to mentally graffiti onto her unsuspecting face. Oops—I think that’s a daisy. What do lilies look like, anyway? Tulips? Roses? And what color are they, are they always white? Or can they be blue? What is the name of that blue flower I like, is it iris? Wait—did she actually say her name was Iris?

She is moving on to the next person she is meeting here at school, or work, or a party, or wherever, and she turns and says, “Great meeting you again, MOVela! We should get together for tea sometime!” and there I am stranded: Again? Why did she say again? Again as in right now again, or again as in she met me last week again? And do I look like a tea person? Maybe most MOVelas drink tea? Is MOVela a British name? Does she think I’m British? I could be British, but I hate tea. I have tried tea with sugar or without, with milk or without, hot, cold, with lemon, and you know what—I am just not a tea person.

Yes, yes, let’s get together for tea or coffee sometime, that would be lovely! Thanks, Iris! er, I mean Rose?

I fare no better at events with name tags, as messy penmanship is involved. The worst is when I am suddenly required to introduce two people who I supposedly know to each other. “Milk, this is my dear friend, uh, Tennifer.” They both wince and then re-introduce themselves with very boring versions of the names I just said, like Mike and Jennifer. Then learn how to write your damn names, Mike and Jennifer! Do they take a perverse pleasure in making me guess? How hard is it to write legibly? Set the glass of wine down and focus for five seconds.

The Husband approaches me and leans in to whisper something. “How are you doing with learning everyone’s name?” he asks slowly, like he's talking to a four-year-old.  

“Awful,” I confess. “I hear them say their names, but it’s like I forget the name as they are saying it. I swear, I am really trying!” I am relieved that he has taken the time to come over and help me, so I gaze up at him with my eyes full of admiration and love. He confuses this look for drunk.

“MOV, I have an easy way to remember people’s names. Just listen to them. Without distractions. Set the glass of wine down and focus for five seconds.”

Oh, that Gusband. He thinks he’s so smart.


Monday, January 16, 2012

632. Now Everybody Knows Everything

My upcoming book signing event made it into yesterday's Washington Post Sunday Paper (Outlook Section) next to the Book World column.  Yes, a highly-acclaimed and respectable newspaper with actual readers lists my event as important newsworthy, uh, news.  I am not sure exactly how this happened, as my publicist is terrible and has virtually no background in publicizing anything except the date of the next children's park playdate or moms' night out drinking (okay, I am my own publicist). My suspicion is that the very kind and extremely tech-savvy book buyer lady from the local bookstore hosting my book launch pulled a few strings. Or maybe she just typed up the event and submitted it to the newspaper before the deadline.

The point is: my name is in the Washington Post! And not even with the other graffiti taggers, car thieves, or arsonists in the criminal section like last time.

Here, in its entirety, is what the newspaper blurb says:

Literary Calendar January 16—21, 2012

21 Saturday

7 PM   MOV, flight attendant turned mom and author of the popular Mothers of Brothers Blog, reads from and discusses her new book, “Mom’s Had A Rough Day: A Collection of Humorous Essays,” at One More Page Books, 703-300-9746.

In case you haven’t noticed, seeing my name in print is pretty much equivalent to me drinking eight cups of espresso in a row. I started jumping up and down, and hyperventilating.  The last time my name was in print (that was for anything good) was way back in high school. I went to a small private prep school in the San Diego area, and I was mentioned in the sports section of the school paper, The Final Word. Here is the article:

“The Really Great Religious School ranked number nine overall in the state divisionals for cross-country running. Of special note is senior MOV who finished 15th, which is about 100 better than everyone thought she’d do (editor’s note: yes, I lost my bet. Don, I owe you $20). MOV impressed everyone not just with her speed, but also with her ability to not pass out this time.”

I know you are wondering exactly how I remember word-for-word what they wrote in that article. It’s because the article is framed and hanging right here next to my desk. I look at it often because it gives me confidence when no one thinks I can accomplish anything. I look at it and think Hey, 15th is not that bad.

("My Other Victory")

Sunday, January 15, 2012

631. Diary of A Wimpy Hair

My step-mom, Nichole, was a high school teacher for many years, and I remember that she liked to give her students a quirky writing assignment on the first day of school: “Give me the history of your hair,” she’d say. “Can we draw pictures?” they all wanted to know. “Sure, but the main thing is an essay.”

Nichole said the boys, especially the boys, always got into it. They had mohawks and buzz cuts and sideburns. They had slicked back Hollywood hair and spiky rock star hair and ponytails. And most notable of all, they had “product.”

Boys care about their hair?” I asked her, my voice full of disbelief.

“Oh, you just wait, honey, until you have boys.”

Tall and Short care about their hair as much as I care about lima beans, which is to say: not much. They both entered the world bald, but those tender naked heads soon grew coverings of soft fluff, like stray pieces of cotton blown in from a field.

I washed that delicate hair with the special baby shampoo and inhaled its baby perfection scent. As the hair filled in, longer and thicker, there I was with the camera to chronicle every haircut and every style change (bangs brushed straight down, or bangs brushed back). For a long time, I was a huge fan of the “surfer/ skateboarder” haircut so popular in California:  long on top, short in the back. This is the basic cut my fairly compliant elementary-school-aged sons still sport.

My own diary of hair is not much different: straight long blond with bangs, straight long blond without bangs, a brief dalliance with red, chop off all the damage from the red, grow it out, straight long blond with bangs again. My hair is my defining feature, the signature of my appearance. People see me from a distance and know that it’s me: “There’s MOV,” “Are you sure it’s her?” “Of course—look at the hair.”

Hairdressers try to persuade me to go for a chic bob, but I always resist. “This is my look,” I say, as if hair were a non-negotiable. I walk out of the salon looking the exact same way as when I went in: straight long blond hair with bangs.

A friend stops me in the parking lot. “MOV, your hair looks great! Is something different?”

No, nothing’s changed. I just paid $75 to look like me.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

630. The Bathroom Index

I stop by Lainey’s house to say hi without calling first. I hesitate for a millisecond, but her house is right on the way back from my doctor’s office.

When she answers the door in her pajamas (it’s noon), I instantly regret my decision to show up without giving advance notice.  

“MOV!!! How the hell are you? Wow—I haven’t seen you in ages. Come in!”

“I’m sorry I didn’t call first,” I begin, embarrassed by my rudeness, “did you just fly in on a red-eye flight? Did I wake you up?”

“No, no, I’m off today. I’m just lounging around at home. Dylan is sick, though.” Her voice drops to a whisper, “I think what he’s really sick of is A.P. Art History.” On cue, Dylan pads across the room with a laptop folded under his arm. He nods at me with a glint of recognition, like I’m a clerk at Starbucks that he might’ve seen once or twice instead of someone who was in the hospital delivery room with his mom fifteen years ago.  

Lainey offers me some orange juice, and my anxiety about not calling starts to melt away. We sit down and get right to business, gossiping and catching up as if we haven’t seen each other in years instead of weeks. The hour hand darts across the face of the clock like a scared lizard being chased at the beach.  

“Oh, geesh, Lainey, where does the time go when I’m with you? I have to pick up the kids soon.”

I excuse myself to the bathroom and am appalled by what I see. The bathroom looks as if it has never been cleaned, ever. A colony of dead spiders lie huddled in the corner, having given up on the will to live.  The mirror is smudged with hardened toothpaste flecks and black dots of indistinguishable origin, the sink is host to some sort of wicked science experiment, the floor is sticking to my shoes, and the toilet mercifully closes itself and announces that I’m better off finding a deserted Chevron station. The violent odor causes me to involuntarily wince, and I see malicious little amoebas everywhere, evilly smiling up at me.

I think, What happened to Lainey?! I knew she wasn’t a Virgo, but I was not prepared for this.

I gingerly flush the toilet even though I didn’t use it so that Lainey will hear the sound of it flushing. I make a mental note to cut my hand off later or at least bleach it.

I scurry back into the kitchen to say goodbye.

“Lainey, it was great seeing you. Hey, uh, I really owe you an apology, though. I should’ve called first instead of just dropping by. I know for me, personally, I hate it if people don’t call first, you know, if they just show up.” I offer a weak smile, as if to say, Your bathroom is really bad.

“No worries, MOV! Seriously, you are the only one who thinks like that. I love it when friends stop by, all spontaneously and impromptune. It’s fun!”

I cannot let it go. “I guess what I’m saying,” (besides the fact that you are going to contract Bubonic Plague and die), “is that, for me, I clean the bathroom for company. But you didn’t know you were going to have company. So is that good company or bad company? I’ll tell you what it is, it’s inconsiderate company, because definitely I should have called first. It was rude of me.  It absolutely won’t happen again.  I'm sorry.”

“Stop!  You’re crazy, and I love you for it.” She leans in for a hug. “I’m not that way—I don’t stress about friends coming over, I mean, if it’s a good friend. MOV, listen: even if you called first, I wouldn’t have cleaned! You’re like family! I know you don’t judge me, so I can just relax and be myself. To hell with the bathroom. So what, Dylan forgot to put the cap on the toothpaste and might’ve left his hairbrush out or a towel on the floor? He’s a teenager! Who cares?”

She grins wide, revealing shiny teeth from an expensive dental brochure’s “After” shot. How do her teeth look so good with a bathroom like that? Where does she brush them—on the airplane?

As soon as I get home, I take a long shower. Then I rinse off with water as hot as I can stand. I tell The Husband my story later that evening.

“MOV, you should take it as a compliment that she didn’t clean up. That’s how she meant it—she isn’t trying to impress you. Come on, Lainey is one of your oldest friends, way back from your United days. She loves you!”

“Well, I guess I see what you mean …”

“Anyway, we gotta go. We’re supposed to pick up Tom and Kelly and go out to dinner.”

“We’re not driving separately?”

“No, parking is really tight. It’ll be a lot easier if we carpool. We already had this conversation, remember?  Hey, do you smell soap?”

We drive over to Tom and Kelly’s, and Kelly meets us at the door with a tray of appetizers in her hand.

“I thought we could have a glass of wine here before we go,” she says by way of greeting, “because I couldn’t get us a reservation before 8:30.”

I sip my Pinot Grigio.  My mind keeps wandering back to Lainey's filthy bathroom while I try to listen to Tom and Kelly tell funny stories.  I force myself to focus on Tom's gravelly voice and Kelly's winsome laugh.  We don’t know them well; The Husband only recently met Tom while out playing basketball.

I politely ask to use the powder room. “Sure, second door on the left,” says Kelly helpfully.   

I walk in and see a ten foot square magazine page come to life, the magazine being called simply “Model Bathrooms To Strive For,” or “Blissfully Beautiful Bathrooms You Can Dream of Emulating,” or some such.  It is a retro 1920’s bathroom that has been updated in all the right spots. The white pedestal sink is classically beautiful, the gilt-framed  mirror reflects the bright overhead light, glass shelves hold soaps and decorative bottles, the penny-round floor tiles scream vintage charm, and the walls are freshly painted a fun shade of bubblegum pink. Beyond the décor, though, what I notice is how pristine and sparkly everything is.

All the surfaces glow like I imagine the surface of the sun does, blinding me, while swirling fumes of Windex and Comet dance in the air. The floor is so incredibly clean, you could not only eat off of it, you could perform surgery on it.  This bathroom makes a statement, and that statement is: My owners spent four hours cleaning in here.

Tom and Kelly obviously hate me.


Friday, January 13, 2012

629. Worshipping at The Altar of Target

Every Sunday, or most Sundays if I have any money, I drive on over to Target to begin my worship ceremony. I don't have to bother taking a shower or dressing up because Target is not superficial like that.  I pray on the way there, pray for a good parking spot (maybe right next to the entrance but not a handicapped spot), and usually my prayers are answered.

I converted to Targetism many years ago after being raised a strict Chocolatetarian.  I realize that my former religion might be right for some, but it left me with an aching sensation in my head, specifically my toothular region.

Target is my religion now.  Since being baptized a Targetarian (you should have seen the ceremony!  I got to wear a special shirt with the bullseye logo!), my life has been a non-stop festival of happy.  If, for some reason, I start to feel a tiny bit blue, I merely zip out to Target and my spiritual equilibrium is instantly restored.          

I take my Targetism very seriously.  It's not just aimless wandering like some people think.  I have memorized the 10 Commandments of Target, and with express written consent from their corporate offices, I have reprinted them here for you.
  1. Thou shalt have no other stores before me, I am the divine store where you can buy everything
  2. Thou shalt not worship false idols, like K-Mart, Britney Spears, or Lady Gaga
  3. Thou shalt not take the Target name in vain
  4. Remember Target days, to bring your whole paycheck
  5. Honor the parent company of Target (formerly Dayton Hudson Corporation)
  6. Thou shalt not fantasize about killing other shoppers who rudely grab the last pair of Missoni rain boots in size 8
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery by ever setting thy foot in Wal-Mart
  8. Thou shalt not steal the pair of Missoni rain boots (size 8) out of another shopper’s cart when she is momentarily distracted by the sale on toilet paper
  9. Thou shalt not brag about the great deals one gets at Target (editor's note:  this is a hard commandment to adhere to
  10. Thou shalt not obsessively count the minutes until one can go back to Target next week
I walk the aisles of Target, my happy place, my soul salvation, and I think how lucky I am, lucky to be born in American in a time when Target exists. What if I was born in 1928? Or 1873? Or what if I was born in Russia or China? (Although, if I was born in China I would most likely be working in a factory manufacturing the very things that the American version of me buys from Target. I ponder this for a moment and then worry my brain might explode, which would most likely be messy and painful.  Instead, I search in my purse for the coupon for hairspray.)

There are no hymns in Target, no music of any kind. Target is a quiet, solitary place to focus on spiritual enlightenment and the replenishing of dish-soap.

Just when I thought Target couldn’t get any better, Target went and did something so revolutionary, so divine, so benevolent for its customers … well, if you weren’t converted before, you will be now:

There is now a Starbucks inside of Target.

See you next Sunday.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

628. The February Edition

I just received the latest issue of my favorite magazine, House Beautiful, or as I like to call it, House Lust. The February edition did not disappoint: page upon page of stunning makeovers, whispering, Hey, you could do that—if you just add a few more zeroes after that 22 cents in your savings account, you could totally do that.

What is it about “Before and After” that lures us in? I see the designs and I think, Well of course! Anyone would know to move that couch over there and paint that wall brown! It just makes sense. But to be honest, the couch did look okay near the window, and who doesn’t like the simplicity of white? The room actually looked okay before.

The great thing about designers is: they’re fearless. They have an unflappable confidence we mere mortals (or “homeowners,” in designer slang) don’t possess. The moment they graduate from Design School and have those business cards printed (“Amanda Josephine Phillips, Designer”), their confidence level automatically skyrockets.

Orange pillows? Sure, the designer said it looked good. Stain the hardwood floors black? Why not. Knock that wall down? Absolutely, it has to go. Paint the ceiling in the hallway lavender? Why had we never thought of that before. The point is, designers give us permission to release our inner whimsy.

The Husband got home from work early today. He took one look at the dining room filled with paint buckets, brushes, tarps, painter’s tape, and rollers, and groaned audibly. “Sweetie, turquoise stripes?!”

I told him it matched my Inner Whimsy.

(“Magenta Or Violet?”)

627. That New Red Sweater

Yesterday, the UPS guy delivered a padded envelope containing a cute sweater that I bought from the Garnet Hill catalog. It was marked down from their after-Christmas sale, so it was practically free.  It’s red, cashmere, fitted, and has a boat-neck collar and ¾ length sleeves. It’s also magical, because I put it on and when I looked in the mirror, I swear I saw a 25-year-old version of myself standing there.

I went right to the closet and accessorized it with this kicky little silk scarf I have. I had bought it years ago from Nordstrom on sale, and had never really worn it. I tied it around my neck in the way those Parisian girls do.  The color palette was red and black against a white background, and the pattern looked like something Jackson Pollack might have come up with: aggressive streaks of color and bold use of haphazard lines and squiggles. The scarf and the sweater pretty much eloped the second they met.

I felt very smug about my new look. The new look needed to be shared with others. Luckily, Short was home.

I interrupted his crucial cartoon-watching to rake in a few compliments.

MOV: Short, Sweetie, do you notice anything different about Mommy?

Short: You’re blocking the TV.

MOV: (fumbling with remote control to freeze his show) There. Now take a look.


MOV: (beginning to strut like a supermodel on the catwalk) Well? Do you like it?

Short: Why are you walking that funny way?

MOV: Just look! The sweater! My new sweater. What do you think?

Short: It’s very stylish—it’s not right for you at all.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

626. My Rebound Fling With Santa

Did I ever tell you about this? It was years ago. I was recovering from a bad break-up, and that’s when we started dating.  

What first attracted me to him was his positive attitude—he was always in a good mood. He just had this way about him, he could light up a room, so to speak.

Kids, in particular, loved him. My mom has always said you can tell a lot about a guy’s character by how children and pets react to him. I didn’t have a child or a pet, but I could see other people’s kids adored him.

And he was thoughtful. I’d mention I had a tough day at work, and he’d give me a little felt penguin to cheer me up. My room-mate and I had a fight, and Santa would show up with a tiny plush snowman. One time I called him when my car died to ask if he could pick me up. Of course he said yes. I smiled to see he brought a small fuzzy moose with faux suede antlers.

The longer Santa and I were together, the more shelf space I needed for my stuffed animal collection.

But it wasn’t the materialism that drove us apart, nor the binge eating.

Oh, I didn’t tell you about Santa’s weight issues? He had a sweet tooth. In fact, he liked to joke that he had his dentist on speed dial. (This was way back in the days before cell phones and iPads, I guess everyone’s on speed dial now.) He’d have cake for breakfast, cookies for lunch, ice-cream for dinner. It was the Sugar Channel, 24/7. At first, that was great. I crave sweets, too. But aren’t you supposed to be with someone who makes you a better person, not an obese one?

The thing that came between us, though, was Santa’s insatiable appetite for attention. People recognized him everywhere we went, and it got to be a bit much for me. But S.C. (that was my pet name for him) thrived on attention. He needed it, like I needed a trip to Hawaii.

There you have it. Another of our fundamental differences. When things started to get serious, we would talk about where we should live, as the long-distance thing was killing me, but he loved the cold and snow. He’d say, “How about Montana? Or Alaska? Do you like Northern Canada? Have you ever been to Russia?”

I’d suggest Miami or San Diego and he’d cringe. He’d say (in that upbeat way of his), “Wow! Miami is fantastic! But you know what’s even better? Greenland!” There was just no arguing with him.

He bought me a new winter coat, or I should say he had a friend make it for me. He had a lot of “friends” that worked for him, he never told me his exact line of work except that is was “seasonal” and involved “import/ export.” Frankly, the way he hid the details of his life, I thought he might be involved in dealing drugs or embezzling funds or something shady like that.

Turns out he was married.

He had been upfront about things when we met, saying that he was separated. His wife was a bit of a control freak, and the other thing was that they couldn’t have babies. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but Santa was really crazy about kids. It broke his heart to think he might not be able to have any of his own. He brought up the topic a lot:

Santa: MOV, how many children would you like to have someday?

Me: Oh, I don’t know. I never really thought about it. One. Maybe one, or I guess I could have two. Definitely no more than two.

Santa: I want 15.

Me: Did you say 15!? Are you out of your mind? How would you pay for 15 kids?

Santa: Oh, I’m pretty financially secure. Money is not a problem.

See? There was that secrecy thing again.

He showed up on my doorstep one morning with a giant toy polar bear. That’s when I knew something was wrong.

“MOV, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Carol and I are getting back together. I’ve really enjoyed our time together. You’ve made me feel young and merry, but I miss Carol and I need to give our relationship a chance. You are a wonderful person, MOV, and you deserve someone better than me.”

That was it. That was his whole explanation. But instead of feeling like I’d been kicked and dragged by reindeer, I actually felt good. That was part of S.C.’s charm, allure, and charisma: he would take his idea and make you think it was your idea. How could you be mad at someone like that?

I haven’t thought about Santa in years, but the other day I found an old Polaroid of us. I was sitting on his lap, and we looked happy.


Monday, January 9, 2012

625. My Christmas Tree and I Are Getting Divorced

I thought this relationship would be different, less prickly. I was wrong. Christmas Tree and I started out like most couples do, enamored with each other in a twinkly-lights-sort-of-way. I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Christmas Tree, I just knew he was The One: tall, regal, quiet. Some might’ve interpreted his quietness as stupidity—but I knew he was just shy.  And I prefer shy over fake.   

Our marriage lasted less than six weeks, which is equivalent to a decade in Hollywood Years. Too bad we live 3000 miles away from Tinsel Town. 

When we first moved into together, things progressed quickly. “You turn me on,” he said in that dreamy husky voice of his. “Excuse me?” I responded, thinking he was a little forward for my taste. He cleared his throat, “I said, you need to turn on my lights.”

And that’s who he really was deep down: demanding. The first day it was his lights, the next day he had me running to the kitchen to get him more bottled water because he was “thirsty.” We all know thirsty is code for lazy.  And I often found him acting drunk, leaning to one side, threatening to fall down. 

Wait, there’s more. He was a mess. Sure, when we met and he was in the snow hanging with all his friends, he seemed robust and “outdoorsy”; I didn’t necessarily notice the trail of needles behind him. Anyone else would’ve thought, “Who leaves a trail of needles? Druggies, that’s who,”—but what can I say? I was blinded by love.

I couldn't get enough of him.  I would walk past him just so I could inhale his scent.  He smelled like childhood dreams. 

In the initial haze of love, I was surrounded by close family members and went through the ritual of putting the angel on the top of Christmas Tree—that’s when things became official. He was Mine. Well-meaning friends came by later to meet Christmas Tree and they all said the right things, Oh, that tree is perfect for you, and Wow, you are so lucky, and How did you fit Christmas Tree through the door?

Sure, there were presents, hastily wrapped presents that were all the wrong color and size.  Presents that would have to be returned.  Presents with no gift receipt that the clerk would give you a hard time about and ultimately call a manager and then tell you they weren't originally purchased there or if they were that they were now 70% off.  They were the type of presents that were bought on sale in a hurry with an expired coupon.      

I woke up on December 26th with a cruel hangover that tasted like Pine-Sol and stale shortbread cookies, and a startling realization that shook me to my core: It. Was. Over. I was no longer in a festive mood.

Christmas Tree could not take the hint. Christmas Tree just moped around through New Year’s while trying to hijack that holiday as well. Every time I went in the living room and saw him standing in the corner weeping silently to himself while wearing New Year's confetti, I just cringed. “Oh, you’re still here?” I asked. “I’m not leaving,” he insisted with as much enthusiasm as a wet mop, which is exactly what he could’ve used to clean up all those discarded needles and wilted streamers that lay around him. “And you can’t make me.”

I didn’t want to argue with him. I simply pretended he wasn’t there. Things went on like this for days, both of us refusing to speak.

This morning I looked out the front window and saw a whole army of neighborhood Christmas Trees littering the curb, more holiday divorces up and down our street.

It made me sad. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t just end things with Christmas Tree the way I had been planning. It would be too cruel.

I'll wait 'til Valentine’s Day to kick him out. 

(“My Only Valentine”)