Wednesday, February 29, 2012

688. Leap Blog Day Guest Blogger: Clay Baboons!

(And away we go with my second guest blogger, the lovely and BEYOND talented Miss Stephanie of Clay Baboons fame.  And I do mean fame.  She is going to be famous in the realm of "Hyperbole and a Half" and then I can say that I used to know her when she was still speaking to me, er, emailing me.  You know what I mean.  Enjoy!  And then click over to Stephanie's blog after and FOLLOW HER!!!)    

Thanks to the always funny and charming MOV for inviting me to guest post on her blog! I have big, big shoes to fill. (Errrr...that's not to suggest that MOV has abnormally large feet. I'm sure that her feet are just lovely and perfectly proportional.)

The Z Factor

This is me at a dance-based fitness class:

I get this big goofy grin on my face. The more I notice my grin, the wider it gets. I avoid mirrors, because if I see myself grinning like a maniac, I'll burst into giggles, which is even more embarrassing.

Sometimes, however, group fitness classes aren't funny at all. Sometimes they're serious and intense.

Consider, for example, the BodyCombat class that I used to take when I lived in the city. It was a combination of dance, yelling, and martial-arts inspired kicks and punches. During my favourite track, we had to fight 5 opponents and - this is the best part - gut the last one with our imaginary samurai sword.

Punch opponents one and two.

Elbow opponent four.

I took the sword-fighting track very seriously.

I took it so seriously, in fact, that the instructor called me out on it with a laugh: "That's what I like to see! Someone who's getting angry. Someone's who's taking them down."

I didn't tell her the truth:

I was invincible.

Which leads us to the central thesis of this post:

Inserting zombies into workouts can help you motivate yourself to push harder, farther and faster. I call this motivational tool the Z Factor.

Take running, for example. I like to watch episodes of The Walking Dead while I'm on the treadmill.

The tenser the scene, the faster I run.

What better motivation to run than hordes of the undead snapping at your ankles?

Best of all, the Z factor can also be applied to less aggressive physical activity, such as dance.

The Z Factor. It's infallible.

You're welcome.

Thank you so much Stephanie!  And for my regular readers, there is another guest post by Marianne, so please scroll down to it and keep reading.  If you are looking for me, MOV, today, you can find me in two spots:  one, at Kirb Appeal and two, at Haley's Comic.  Thanks for joining our hop, and please check out all the other talented bloggers on the froggy list.   

687. Leap Blog Day Guest Blogger: We Band of Mothers!

(After months of planning and preparation and secret emails back and forth, I step aside on this, Leap Blog Day, and give you the first of my two very special guest bloggers, Marianne from We Band of Mothers.  When you are finished reading these two posts, please hop on over to Marianne's blog to read the posts by her guest bloggers.  About forty different bloggers are participating in the hop!  and then come back in a couple of hours and I will be posting my second mystery guest blogger!) 

I have been taking anti-anxiety medication since MOV asked me to guest-blog. I’ve embarked on about a dozen different blog entries and systematically scrapped them all. At first, I was going to offer an homage to MOV using my beloved collection of vintage Fisher Price Little People:

<><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><>
MOV as career woman

<><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><>
MOV as Mom

I was then going to juxtapose those images with my slightly different take on motherhood:

<><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><>
Marianne as Mom

Yet every time I set up another “scene,” my camera batteries would go dead or my youngest would start stealing my Little People. I saw it as a sign from God to move on.

I then veered into the world of boring introductions (“Hey! I’m Marianne from We Band of Mothers and I am SUPER COOL!”). Totally not funny or interesting. This was harder than I thought.

I tried next to pick up on some of MOV’s favorite topics (Target, imagined relationships with famous people, etc.). Yet in reviewing my work, I found that MOV did it better, funnier, and first. I didn’t even bother saving those drafts.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a hard time. MOV had given me weeks and weeks to come up with something brilliant. I had no problem writing two other guest posts for other bloggers. Yet for whatever reason, I hit a mental roadblock every time I sat down to write for Mother of Brothers Blog. That’s when it dawned on me.

I totally had a blog crush.

You bloggers know what I’m talking about. You build these cyber-relationships with people you have never met. Yet for whatever reason, you click. You get each other. You share bonds, similarities, and countless stories.

Trying to write for MOV’s blog was like trying to decide what to wear on a first date with a guy you really like. You want to look good, but not like you’re trying too hard. You want to be yourself, but yourself without the snorkel laugh and big zit on your chin. You want to be cool.

I am not cool.

But I do have a knack for making everybody else around me feel better about themselves. I’m 6 feet tall, so I am always the biggest dork in the room. I wore maternity clothes for years after I had kids because they were just so darn comfortable. I still think Donny Osmond is the sexiest man to have ever lived (even though he won't return my calls and his security people know who I am).

You see where I’m coming from.

So thank you, MOV, for this awesome opportunity to share my own brand of Blog Geek with your devoted followers.  It's always a special day when the big girl gets invited to the prom. 

Because even big girls like to dance.

** This piece written especially for Leap Blog Day (list of blogs HERE) by the brilliant and über-talented Marianne, famous writer for Chicago Parent Magazine and also the founder of the hysterically funny blog We Band of Mothers.

*** So where is MOV blogging today?  You can find me guest-writing in two spots:  Kirb Appeal and Haley's Comic.  Enjoy the hop!  And please consider "following" some of these new blogs!

Monday, February 27, 2012

686. The Horror, The Horror!

My own personal Heart of Darkness was upon me. I threw my back out and was on some serious pain meds. But excruciating back pain worse than childbirth was nothing compared to the hideous situation I would find myself in last Sunday morning: The Husband was going to Target.

That’s right: he was going on the two-week overdue Target run instead of me, because of silly incendiary wording on the side of my plastic prescription bottle, wording like Danger: May cause extreme drowsiness and DO NOT under any circumstances operate heavy machinery!!!  Apparently, in The Husband’s creative mind, a car was a piece of heavy machinery.

“Okay, Honey. That’s fine. You drive, then,” I acquiesced, stifling a yawn. “We’ll just all four go together. We can have fun family time.”

The Husband suppressed an involuntary gasp, as his eyes absorbed my pajama-clad and un-showered appearance.

“Are you out of your mind?” he queried, as I tried five times to get out of my chair, each time resulting in a fresh stabs of scream-inducing back torture. “You are not going to Target. You’re not going anywhere. You will lie here on the couch and get better. I know you’re not used to that, but … wait, what am I saying? It will be just like any other day for you.  Minus the bon-bons.”

Ha, ha. The Husband was, of course, right. (About me not going, not about the bon-bons.) I had Tall get me a piece of paper and a pen so I could draw up the list/ map for The Husband.

It was making me depressed to think of The Husband going to The Happiest Place On Earth without me. Plus, to him, it wasn’t THPOE, it was merely a store. It was as if I had handed my unusable ticket to the Philharmonic Symphony to a deaf person—it would never be appreciated or even fully comprehended. Sure, the deaf person would sign thank you and pretend they were happy, but you and I both know it is an inappropriate gift.

The Husband glanced at my list. “Oh, god,” he cringed, “I forgot about you and your list maps.”

That’s right; so what? I write my list in store map form so no back-tracking would be required. This is exactly what I mean by underappreciated and not fully comprehended. “My list will save you time since I did it this way,” I proclaimed confidently, “you’ll be happy I drew it as a store diagram.”

He and Tall left (I told him he had to take at least one kid with him), and I was immediately overcome with the plummeting feeling that he would Buy The Wrong Things. I had given very explicit (read: Virgo) instructions on which type of paper towel to buy, but what if he bought a 50-pack of ones with little bears on them? Ugh. I would be stuck mopping up spills with cutesie smiling-bear visages for the next three months.

Or how about a simple instruction like plain bottled water? Would he purchase Perrier by mistake? “Sweetie,” I imagined myself saying later, “we’ve never, ever, ever, ever, in the history of the world bought sparkling, so why would you buy it today?”

Would he mess up on the most basic thing—Mint Milano cookies? Surely that was self-explanatory. Was it even possible that there was some sort of generic kind that he might buy to save a few bucks, a chocolate impostor cookie packaged similarly but labeled Mint Detroit?

In the end, I worried for no reason. It was true, he did come home with all the wrong products … but then, just as the heavens started to open to release an ominous black downpour of epic emotional proportions, dazzling sunlight blinded me instead as he reached in one of the bags and handed me a beautiful foreign object.

Us Weekly?” I inquired cheerfully, as I snatched it out of his grasp, eager to read about Cameron Diaz’s latest romance, “I didn’t put that on the list!”

He laughed, the hearty laugh of a wise husband who knows his soul mate well. “I realized that if I screwed up every single item on your list, you’d never even notice as long as you were distracted by trashy celebrity gossip magazines.”

If Joseph Conrad were alive today, he surely would never have finished writing Heart of Darkness because he, too, would have been distracted by the likes of Us Weekly or People. The horror, the horror, indeed.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

685. Things To Avoid Doing If You Are Me: A Primer

First, if you have a friend named Angela, a dear friend that you marvel at your good luck for knowing, and she is kind enough to line up a job interview for you through her lofty connections for a job that pays extremely well, try not to throw your back out the day of the interview. If you wake up at 6 AM and it feels like a good, regular, normal kind of day, do not be tricked into casually rolling over like you have done every day for the past 43 years without incident.


And then, when piercing demons of evil pain rip through your lower back like feverish electrical jolts of Satanic cruelty for no apparent reason, on this day of all days, interview day, try not to beg The Husband to drive you to the interview anyway.

“Are you out of your mind?” he might say, in a tone that would be best described as the opposite of calming or supportive, “You’re not going anywhere.”

And then when your unhelpful and selfish husband goes into the kitchen to make your breakfast, suppress the urge to pout and obsess about the situation.

When he returns with your latte and oatmeal and a handful of extra-strength Tylenol, don’t whine about how you will never get the job now because you yourself as a boss would not consider (not for one second) hiring someone who cancels a first job interview, even if their house burnt down. “Do you have the insurance claim paperwork or the newspaper reporter photos showing the fire as it was happening?” you would ask the prospective employee.

“Well, it’s a good thing that most people are nicer than you, because I’ll bet this Donna lady gives you another chance. Go ahead and call her right now and tell her what happened and why you can’t get over there.”

When you call Donna, refrain from mentioning the specific names of chemical substances that you are intimately acquainted with from childbirth and oral surgery, drugs with names like Vicodin and Percocet and Codeine-laced Tylenol. She might not appreciate your conspicuous familiarity with the Narcotic Family like you are familiar with the names of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

When the Voice of Donna is understanding and sympathetic (“The same thing happened to me last year, I totally get it,”) vow to yourself that you will keep her genuine kindness a secret from The Husband so he cannot gloat.

When The Husband walks back in the bedroom and inquires how the phone call went, say in a breezy yet enigmatic tone, “About like expected.”

The Husband, unfortunately, knows you, and knows precisely how to decode such a statement. “Ha! I knew it! You mean like I expected, not like you expected. She let you reschedule!”

When your friend Angela calls later to see how the job interview went, tell her you cancelled it. She will laugh, because she thinks you are joking, what with your twisted sense of humor. Explain the situation to her, and then wait for her to say soothing words of friendship balm, words like, Oh you poor thing and I will tell Donna this is not like you or finally Do you need anything?

When Angela says that last part, the part about “needing anything,” feel your face form a wicked hopped-up-on-painkillers jack-o'-lantern grin, because that is precisely what you were predicting she would say. You needed her to say that. You don’t actually consider it to be taking advantage of your seven-year-friendship to merrily chirp the one thing you really do need.

When she shows up at your house half an hour later with three bright green boxes of her daughter Mai-Lin’s leftover Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies in hand, give her $12 and marvel at your good luck at having a dear friend like Angela.

(“Mom’s On Vicodin”)

684. Map of My Heart (Sunday 1)

Hi Blog Friends!  I have decided that in addition to Design Weekends, I will also have Map of My Heart Sundays where I show pictures of Tall or Short when they were tiny or anything else special and wonderful that makes my heart sing.

To kick us off, here is Tall at about 8 months old.  He loved his little giraffe toy and would chew on it non-stop (like a puppy).  The giraffe had the funniest tail (not shown) that was like a cord with a pom-pom ball on the end.  I (as a new mommy) was scared to death that Tall would chew that pom-pom off and choke on it the way he was constantly chewing on it and sucking on it (teething I guess).  One day, when he was napping, I did the unthinkable:  yep, I cut the pom-pom part of the tail off.  Of course Tall is so smart that he totally noticed.  I am a bad mommy and the pom-pom tail is just more proof.  *sigh* 

I have no idea how to turn this photo 90 degrees.  Please tilt your head instead, it's easier for me. 
I remember being quite worried that Tall would fling himself out of this chair while I attempted to take this picture.  I am amazed you cannot see my left hand in the photo overprotectively bobbing about to prevent imminent disaster. 

Have a great day! 


Saturday, February 25, 2012

683. Design Weekend 1

Hello, and welcome to Design Weekend! 

Today I will introduce you to my kitchen renovation (not the house we live in now).  But first, it is important to take a peek at the floorplans from the Before and After.  We moved the refrigerator (well, it actually stayed in the same location but it turned 90 degrees, which involved taking off the frig door and making it open in the other direction) and we moved a cabinet.This was because there are two doors to other rooms (back patio, and also basement rec room) right next to each other and it was very congested before.  The simple swap on the floorplan improved the flow tremendously. 

BEFORE  This is a picture of our old kitchen at our first house in Crazy Town (when we moved here from California).  We were stuck with this sad excuse for a kitchen for over two years before we ponied up and tore it all out.  As you can see, the cupboards do not touch the ceiling.  Also, the sink is ugly.  And the countertops were cheap laminate.  There was not much we liked.   
Before, kitchen sink area

AFTER  Shazam!  We changed all those things!  Undermount stainless sink (do you LOVE the new sink faucet?!?  It was a splurge, but worth it).  Black honed granite counters.  All new semi-custom wood cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling, and maybe even the sun.  Fun fact: new microwave had vent hood built in. 
After, kitchen sink area

BEFORE  As you can see (below), there was nowhere to set a hot pan on the left of the stove.  Who designed that-- a guy?? 
Before, ugly stove area

AFTER  Not only is there a counter to put things to the left of the stove (designed by my new best friend Jason, ahem, a guy-- but most likely a gay guy-- at Lowe's kitchen design center), but also the cupboard below the counter is a new pull-out trash!  Yay!  And, check out the black paint on the door to the back screened porch!  Totally my idea!  Fun fact:  that corner cabinet on the bottom right is one of those secret lazy Susan things.  Best idea ever.  Fun fact two: that upper cabinet on the far left with no handle? actually a fake-out because it is really a cookbook shelf (open shelving) on the side (if you were standing by that black door and faced that cupboard sideways). 
After, improved lovely stove area

BEFORE  Go back up to the floorplans (way at top of blog) and look at the Before drawing where the refrigerator and cabinet are.  This is what you are looking at.  That door on the right there is the door to the basement.  It is a shorter door than the black door (pictured above).  And yes, there is an open bottle of wine sitting out on the counter in broad daylight.  Don't judge.  
Before, area on side where basement door is

AFTER  As you can see, we changed the layout of the space. 
Fun fact: those great pics on the wall are from (where else?) Target.  
Fun fact two:  those hydrangeas on the counter were from our garden!     
After, hardly recognizable, same side with basement door

BEFORE  This is the wall looking back toward the formal dining room. Ack, you can really see the hideous tile floors in this picture.  
Before, the red paint seemed like a good idea at the time ...  

AFTER Does it make more sense now?  The frig and cabinet are flipped to that other wall.  Those lower cupboards open up to reveal a full-on pull-out drawer extravaganza to house all my baking stuff.  I love love love to bake.  Fun fact:  MOV likes hardwood floors.    Fun fact two:  that is a really old coffee maker.  From Target.  (We have a new one now.)  Fun fact three:  all the drawer and cabinet pulls are from Restoration Hardware. Fun fact four:  yep, that was a baby gate (for Short!).
After, I loved my new kitchen!  Yay! 

AFTER  Another after shot, this time a close-up of those gorgeous counters.  Fun fact:  that crystal bowl was a wedding gift from Tiffany's.  I kept the blue box.  Fun fact two:  the entire reno, from tearing out 100% of the existing kitchen down to the bare walls and then putting in all new everything (plumbing, floors, cabinets, counters) took under 14 days.  I kid you not.   Fun fact three:  we ate a lot of take-out food for those two weeks, not fun with a toddler and baby.   
After, close-up
I hope you enjoyed the MOV tour of our old kitchen.  The new owner Polly lives there now, and I hope she likes all the little touches that I put into it. 


ps--In case you are wondering, the paint color (on the walls) is by Benjamin Moore, "Wheeling Neutral."  It is the ideal beigey tan color to use in any situation as it has zero peach to it, no greenish tint, no yellow.  It looks absolutely fabulous in ANY light.  It is the perfect neutral to go with a nice jet black or with a crisp white, or even a dramatic red.  It is a very flattering "non"-color.  You literally cannot go wrong with this color.  We have even painted the study at our new house this same color, with the windows trimmed in black.  FYI:  the cabinets came the color you see, an antique ivory.  We did not paint them.    

Friday, February 24, 2012

682. There's Nothing To Buy There (and Not Much Food Either)

The call came in at 5:30 AM on the dot. Fourth grade. Did I want to teach today? Yes.

The day went smoothly. The students were perfect angels—smart, happy, quiet—and they did their work; they all deserve A+’s.


About halfway through the day, I noticed a big, big, problem. A problem that I cannot believe (in retrospect) I had not anticipated. At this so-called “school,” there was absolutely nothing to buy.

No linen table cloths with embroidered harvest leaves on the border. No decorative ceramic bread baskets imported from Italy. No overpriced stainless steel vegetable choppers. No crystal wine glasses hand-blown by artisans in Germany. No state-of-the-art espresso makers. In short: nothing.

While the students wrote in their journals for 20 minutes about where they would like to travel someday, I was forced to familiarize myself with lesson plans on multiplying and dividing fractions. Creaky parts of my brain were seeing use after years of dormancy.

To be honest, I was not used to spending my “down time” like this. When I worked at the high-end kitchen store and there was a brief lull in customer foot traffic, I would obsess over which color Le Creuset pans I should buy next: Dune or Aubergine, or should I stick with the Classic Red? Down time at the high-end kitchen store resulted in me spending money.

Not only was I not spending money here at Crazy Town Elementary, I was stretching brain cells to the point of pain.

When the students went to art class, I had another 45 minutes to myself. Forty-five minutes to ponder that, if the school did in fact decide to offer up some merchandise for sale, there is nothing I would actually want.

Broken pencils with teeth marks? Please. Tiny desks that I cannot even attempt to fold my knees under? No thank you. A political map of China? Pass. Some white board erasers and non-permanent markers? I don’t think so.  Bent paperclips that are not even Virgo color-coordinated?  What's the point?   

Lunch time was no better. The last time I’d subbed, I’d made the (rookie) mistake of walking the students to the lunch room and then getting in line with them. The lunch lady (complete with hair net, was this the exact same lunch lady of my youth?!) said, “Teachers do not buy lunch.”

Well, thank God, because I didn’t bring any money. I stood there smiling a goofy smile, a smile that was supposed to send the mental telepathy message: Please hand me my tray of food, then.

No such luck. The principal took pity on me and pulled me aside. “Teachers bring their own lunch, didn’t you read the Substitute Food Policy when you signed the Confidentiality Information Agreement? Here, MOV, you can have half of my sandwich.” I could feel my cheeks blushing five shades of crimson. “Oh, no problem, I forgot! I have an apple in my bag, no problem!” I slunk away and gobbled up my pathetic apple, complete with pathetic bruise on the side to match the one on my ego.

This would not happen today. Today I packed my own healthy lunch. I sat in the classroom by myself eating my Thin Mints and Samoas, and I added “no lunch to buy” to the Nothing To Buy List I was mentally accruing.

I daydreamed of the lunches I used to eat at the high-end kitchen store. Cobb salad with choice of dressing. Fresh fruit smoothie. Four choices of gourmet pizza. Freshly made clam chowder with French bread. Pasta made to order. Yes, the high-end kitchen store was located in a mall, a mall with lots of great restaurants just a few yards away. I ate well every day. My bank account, however, suffered.

When I got home from school, I helped Tall and Short with their homework (talk about taking your work home with you) and waited for The Husband.

“How was teaching today, Sweetie?” he asked as he walked in the door. “How does it compare to the high-end kitchen store?”

Tears popped out of my eyes like stray bullets. “I earn more money! I can’t spend it there! I’m losing weight because there’s no food!”

He moved in closer to give me a conciliatory hug. “Oh, MOV,” he cooed, “things will get better.”

“You don’t understand,” I pulled back, looking in his eyes, “I love it!”


Thursday, February 23, 2012

681. No Post For You

Okay, so I have to sub today. I don’t have time to post something creative and original and hilarious so you can start your day off right. But, wait! Look over there at those archives on the right! Come on, surely you haven’t read all of those yet? Take a minute and read one of those. You’re already here, why not? You’ve been meaning to do it, so do it now.  They're over 600 funny, clever essays to choose from.   

And just think—I might have some really great material for tomorrow (or maybe I’ll just post pictures of our old kitchen) …


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

680. Mrs. Bad Taste

Do you ever wake up one day and suddenly hate every single possession you own? Your clothes—even the ones that still fit—mock you, saying, “What were you thinking?!” You find yourself hating your picture frames (so pretty in the store), your dish towels, your formerly endearing alarm clock. It’s like you have (with no prior warning) inhabited someone else’s world, and that person’s name is: Mrs. Bad Taste.

Mrs. Bad Taste wears a space rocket long-sleeved t-shirt from the men’s section at Target. The shirt is meant to be ironic, but it is coming across as pathetic. Mrs. Bad Taste also has a fondness for slightly cracked tortoise-shell hair clips, as well as faded black sweatpants that have a weird bleach spot near the elastic waist and a small hole in the pocket.

Mrs. Bad Taste makes you want to trade in everything—every glass, every tray, every placemat, every sock, every lamp—all of it. You look around your house, the house you were very comfortable in—was it only yesterday?—and want none of it. Who bought this ugly throw pillow? you want to know, because it certainly does not look like anything you’d pick out.

You want to gather up everything and put it in a big box marked, Never Want To See It Again. In fact, you are feeling depressed and simultaneously industrious, so you scoop up some of the offending items and set them by the door in a big cardboard box.

That is right when your friend Angela rings the doorbell. “Ready to go for coffee?” she chirps, when you open the door, and then by her expression you can tell that she is not onboard with Mrs. Bad Taste’s current get-up.

“Gah! I forgot!” you hear yourself say apologetically, “Gimme two seconds to change.”

You zip to the bedroom and throw on something else: jeans and a navy sweater, topped off with a red baseball hat to cover the messy hair.  Boring.

You reappear and notice Angela trying not to go through your Goodwill box. “What’s this?” she asks hopefully.

“Just a bunch of junk I’m getting rid of,” you shrug. “Do you mind if we stop by Goodwill on the way to Starbucks so I can drop it off?”

“Sure.” She smiles a tight grin, and the grin tells you she wants to say something else.

“It’s okay, Angela, if you don’t have time, I can stop by there later, no worries.”  You kick the box out of the way and slide your black loafers on. 

“No! No, it’s not that! I just … I just really like that picture frame, the one with the seashells, and if you’re getting rid of it,” (now her voice changes to a near-whisper), “can I have it?”

You take the frame out and hand it to her. “It’s yours! Of course you can have it! Take whatever you like!” You hold out the box enthusiastically, and you instantly regret it. She likes everything in there.

You now like everything in the box, too. Through the Angela-filter, everything you hated a mere 10 minutes ago in now quite attractive. The seashell frame is very nice, actually, you always did like it. You might’ve even received it for a graduation gift. You see Angela currently holding a set of marble coasters. Why on Earth did you put those in the box? You are having a serious case of Donator’s Remorse.

It was all a big mistake! Put down the Nordstrom woven tote bag with the red leather handles, Angela! Step away from the book on Art Deco Architecture! Unhand the black plastic beaded necklace!

“Hey, uh, I’m dying for that coffee,” you prod, “Let’s get going, shall we?”

You and Angela walk out the front door without the Goodwill box, and without your keys. You accidentally lock yourself out of the house. Oh, that is really too bad.

“I’ll just call a locksmith,” you say in a breezy tone to Angela, to which she responds,

“You’re in luck! Remember, you gave me a spare key when you went on vacation at Christmas? We’ll swing by my place and get it.”

You now like all your possessions after all, but you might need to re-think some of your friends.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

679. Memory Is A Game

Did you ever play the Memory Game? We bought it when Tall was still in diapers (okay, he wasn’t even crawling yet) so he could hone his memory skills from the crib.

It worked.

I sit down on the couch to play the Memory Game with him. We lay out all 100 square tiles (50 matching pairs) on our large wood coffee table, face down, and mix them up. I let him go first, because I want him to win. It will help boost his self-confidence. Turns out, I didn’t really need to worry about that.

He randomly flips over two squares, no match. I methodically flip over the two closest to me, stare at them, and will myself to memorize them. I go so far as to announce them out loud, as if we are at a wedding announcing the new bride and groom: “Introducing for the first time ever, the happy couple Zebra and Mouse! Congratulations!” Zebra and mouse zebra and mouse zebra and mouse, far left and next to it, zebra and mouse.

Wait, what did Tall have again? Did he have pony and grasshopper? Or was it horse and ladybug? And were his right in the middle, or slightly above the middle? What did I have again? One was gray. Did I have armadillo?

Tall flips over two more tiles, one is a zebra. Aha! I place my hand on it the second he removes his. One zebra and one … mouse? No! Nooooooooo! I just did that square! What happened to the other zebra?

Tall’s turn. Two zebras. Yay for him. He gets a bonus turn. A cat and a dolphin. My turn. I methodically flip over the squares on the bottom row. Dolphin and dinosaur. Wait, what kind of dinosaur is it? Is that a T-rex? Or triceratops? Maybe it’s a pterodactyl. Are there more than one kind of dinosaur mixed in this game? Should I just say “dinosaur”? Is that good enough?

“Mom, it’s my go. Flip your stegosaurus back over. Hurry up.”

I reluctantly do as instructed. He (unsurprisingly) gets two dolphins. He flips another new card to reveal a grasshopper and then he remembers where the other one was (naturally) and makes another pair. “Yes! I found both centipedes!” he cheers.

The game progresses in this fashion until his stack of tiles is teetering and mine is, well, mine I can count on one hand. Where did my memory cells go? This is an easy game, I should be good at this.

The problem is, my memory is already full. It’s got that semester in Italy crammed in there, right next to all the stuff I learned in flight attendant training. Stacked on top of that is the floorplan of my old house in California, including where to get parts for that vintage stove we used to have. I can see what I wore to dinner the first night of our honeymoon. I can still taste our wedding cake (chocolate). There is that memory of me playing Barbies with my little sister. I remember where I hid my mom’s cigarettes so she wouldn’t find them. I remember losing the spelling bee on a simple word (bicolor—yes, I spelled it with a “y”). I know my locker combination from 6th grade. I can vividly recall the precise chemical smell from the first time I got my hair highlighted. I remember the poster I bought at The Tate Gallery in London. I remember realizing later that I'd inadvertently left it on the train. I remember how it felt to hold my infant son for the first time. What it felt like to listen to him breathe. I remember the name of the doctor who delivered him. And the nurse.

My brain is full, so full, names of doctors, teachers, my teachers, my sons’ teachers, friends, neighbors, faces, places, houses, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings. I remember so much. Except where the dolphin tile is.

I tell myself I am letting him win. Yeah, that’s it.

(“Mom’s Other Victory”)

Monday, February 20, 2012

678. A New Direction: Design Weekend

Hi Loyal Blog Readers,

I was overwhelmed with all the positive and wonderful things everyone said about the design and decorating of my house in California! Wow! So nice!  Thank you!   

And, because of that, I was thinking that I would start a new feature on my blog called Design Weekend. I will still write my normal kooky life stuff/ humorous essays Monday thru Friday, but on the weekends I will change my focus to the following:
  • Photos of house design that I have done
  • Before and After’s
  • Our house in L.A.
  • Our first house in Crazy Town
  • Our new house in Crazy Town
  • Write about design
  • Also, I am happy to answer design-related questions and give design advice



Sunday, February 19, 2012

677. Check Out Our Old House in California!

This is our old house in California.  We sold it when we moved across country to Crazy Town almost eight years ago. 

our house in Los Angeles
Here is some info about the house: 
  • It was a Craftsman style house built in 1913.
  • It was painted a weird teal green when we bought it, so we changed it to navy (click HERE for that blog post).  This navy was a Ralph Lauren color (cannot remember the name--sorry!) and it looked black on the chip.  
  • We put in that new walkway, and also new grass.  
  • There had been some sort of wall enclosure thing on the left side of the porch, which we removed.
  • I handpainted the house number up there while standing on a very shaky ladder.  Because I am so smart like that.  (Fact:  #1 household injury cause is falling off of ladders.  Fact:  I just made that up.) 
  • That little cross design you see painted on the columns was there in the bricks, but had been painted over.  We chose to highlight it.  
  • I took this photo in such a way as to block the front door because it was really ugly and we never had enough money to replace it and it was a perfectly good door, just ugly, so hard to justify buying a new one.  
Here is a picture of our living room/ dining room in that house:

such a Virgo living room; by the way, had to stand on chair to take this photo 
We made a lot of changes in here:
  • We stained the floors dark.  
  • We painted the walls a very soft lavender with white trim.
  • The biggest transformation was that we ADDED those divider cabinet/ bookcases you see.  We are pretty sure something similar was in the house originally, but when we bought it, they were not there.  We hired a carpenter to build them. 
  • Next, I took a book of 1920's design pictures to a stained glass place and the lady duplicated the lovely glass design.  New, but made to look old!  That was my favorite part.  I really loved it when people would say, "Oh, the original built-in's!"  That was very gratifying.  I always felt like the house was giving me a big hug for putting those back in. 
All right, here is another favorite thing from that house.  Our blue stove in the kitchen:

pretty stove
When we sold the house, the new owners wrote that stove into the contract. 
  • 1952 O'Keefe & Merritt stove
  • Came with the house when we bought it
  • Was white, we had it re-enameled cobalt blue at Antique Stove Heaven
  • They also completely re-built it and refurbished it
  • Best stove we ever owned
  • We would like to get a red one for our current home at some point
Here is a pic of our back deck at that house: 
    I was in a lavender phase
The nice thing about that house was that we had a lemon tree.  It produced enough lemons to probably sell at a Farmer's Market.  Mostly we made lemon bread or lemon pancakes or lemonade.

Okay, are you bored yet?  This is Tall's cute little baby room.

was this clean once, for this photo when we were selling house
 Last photo for today:

Tall, age 7 months
 Hope you liked the tour!


676. This Is Not A Design Blog

But if it were, I would certainly post this picture of our front entry and tell you that I designed it.  When we bought our 1942 Cape Cod, this entry was essentially a skinny hallway.  We stole two feet from the adjacent bedroom (knocked a wall down) to make this nook/ arch thing so we could put a console table.  I decided to go for the moody gray look.  It was white initially, but when The Husband was gone at work one day, it mysteriously got painted a color that he had not "pre-approved."  (He pretends to like it now.)

the one time you will see this entry looking this clean

  • The paint color is by Martha Stewart and is called "Seal."  Seal as in seal swimming in the ocean, not as in Seal, Heidi Klum's ex.  (Although with Heidi leaving him, his mood most likely is this gray color, poor Seal.)  The paint looks brown on the chip, but goes up gray on the wall (it is available at Home Depot).  Not really sure why it is photographing so black.  Trust me, it is a charcoal gray.  My friend Sammi was the guinea pig of this color because she used it in her guest bathroom and it looked great, especially with a stark white trim for contrast.  Thanks for saving me Paint Angst, Sammi!   
  • The front door is original and we stripped about a gazillion layers of paint off of it to get back to the pretty wood.  Now I am thinking about painting it red (kidding!).    
  • The table is (supposedly) an antique.  I doubt it.  Antiques are built to last.  With this piece, the drawers fall out if you sneeze near it.   
  • The little balls in the glass container are spongey Earth globes from a local toy store ($3 each).  The kids like to throw them at each other. 
  • The glass container is from the high-end kitchen store, bought on sale and at a nice discount when I worked there.
  • The wood (silver color) tray for the mail is from West Elm. 
  • The Paris poster is vintage. 
  • The airline map is a United Airlines board game from the 1930's.  How cool is that? 
  • Almost forgot, the "crystal" lamp and fabric shade are (of course) from Target. 
  • The seashell wreath is from San Diego from last time I was visiting my mom. 
I like the entry way a lot.  What you can't see in the picture are all the boys' shoes which are shoved in the closet on the right (behind the front door there)-- ha ha!  


675. Our Cat

Here is a picture of our cat, Kitty (not her real name ... she is part of the Witness Protection Program).  She looks like an Oreo cookie. 
Damn paparazzi, photographing my every move! 

674. Soccer

Here's Tall playing soccer last season (guess I am in a photo mood today!): 

lucky number 21

673. Bubbles

Found this picture of Short from last summer:  

come back, summer! 

672. Frijoles, Part III (Conclusión)

(This is the exciting conclusion to Part I and Part II of my story.  It will not make sense unless you read those first.)  

If I was not restricted by the school's CIA (Confidentiality Information Agreement) rules that I had (evidently) signed (under duress), I might take a moment here to explain how typical students react when a teacher, real or impostor, proves in front of them all while they are watching her intently that she has no clue about what she is supposed to be doing, such as simply turning on a video (the irony of course being that I can speak Spanish! I can teach Spanish! Quite well!), but since my autograph is in my permanent file next to words that promise not to “publicize incidents,” I will say that the students were perfect angels—smart, happy, quiet—they all deserve A+’s. Let’s say that my perfect angel students pretended not to notice my deficiencies regarding basic technology.

I spent the next several minutes fiddling around with three remote controls (three!) and pressing buttons, plugging and unplugging, opening and closing, on-ing and off-ing, hoping for the magical combination of the technological equivalent to randomly winning the lottery.

It was not to be.

If I had not signed the previously mentioned CIA form, I might spend another paragraph or five going into excruciating detail about the kinds of things typical students at a typical school (not Crazy Town Elementary) might say or do in such a situation. If this situation happened in say, a John Hughes movie, most likely the teacher in question (me, played by a dressed-down Charlize Theron, or if Charlize was not available, then a slightly-frazzled Reese Witherspoon) would be an object of ridicule and contempt, and even pity. The students might whisper disparaging things about her, things that she and the audience could clearly hear. The teacher in a movie like this might blush, cry, or even try to leave. Or she might break that fourth wall and look directly into the camera to say, Why is this happening?  

But this was not a movie, this was my life, and these were not child actors, these were real people who need their privacy respected, and so I repeat: the students were perfect angels—smart, happy, quiet—they all deserve A+’s. 

I pressed more buttons, and lovely sounds of happy cartoon chickens conversing in Español could finally be heard … with the inevitable accompanying grainy picture of static. Then, after even more clicking of keys and praying (by me, in English): at long last, a familiar (albeit, this time mute) chicken.

In the end, I may or may not have asked one of the students for help (I legally cannot divulge which one, but let’s just say he looked a LOT like Tall and he may or may not have called me “Mom”). We were able to watch the video after all, although it may or may not have been cut short due to my not rewinding it. We may or may not have had 10 more minutes to kill, where I may or may not have called on different students to conjugate irregular verbs.

A perfect easy day.

("Maestro's On Vacation")
P.S. This scenario may or may not have played out in an identical fashion five more times in the next six hours.

P.P.S. *Disclaimer: The above is a work of fiction, any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental, and the above story is for entertainment purposes only, and does not imply anything other than the fact that all students at Crazy Town Elementary are perfect angels—smart, happy, quiet—they all deserve A+’s.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

671. Frijoles, Part II

(This story is the continuation of yesterday's Part I.  If you haven't already done so, you might want to read Part I first so that this makes more sense.)

The school called me yesterday morning to teach Spanish. Although in the past on my blog I have joked about my dismal lack of foreign language skills, in reality I am actually fluent (claro que si) in Spanish and have no trouble teaching it. (Come on, I studied it for six years in high school and college, travelled extensively in Spain, and lived in California most of my life.)  I bounced into school thinking, What a perfect easy day!

Would the regular teacher have me conjugating the future perfect tense of –ar verbs with the students? Would we be writing essays about what we did last weekend in the preterite tense? Would I be quizzing them on new vocabulary words, such as useful words to say in airports? Would we be discussing the differences between por and para? No matter: I was mentally prepared.

I got there 15 minutes early and looked over the lesson plans. Imagine my crestfallen reaction when I saw lesson plans that may or may not have said, “Distribute worksheets. Students will work independently for first half hour. Last half hour, play video.” The same lesson for all six classes.

I picked up the video in question, which may or may not have been about a certain cartoon chicken name Guermo and his adventures with his farmyard friends. I read the back of the video box, and it looked (truly) like a wonderful teaching aid. I was impressed with the high quality of the worksheets and the video.

The problem was, even though I am gifted in Spanish (so much so that a little girl in my third class who may or may not have been Hispanic and may or may not have been born a native speaker, may or may not have said to me, “Your accent is fantástico! Did you learn Spanish or did you just speak it?”), I am not gifted in technology. I did not know how to work the video recorder.

I was becoming worried that this might be an issue. I had only 10 minutes to figure it out before the students arrived, I needed to focus. I turned the power on, always a good start. I put the tape in. I forgot to rewind the tape (this would haunt me later). Then I pressed “Play.” The Spanish Gods of Educación and Buena Suerte were smiling on me, because it started playing immediately. I could see and hear the happy chicken making little pollo jokes and teaching new vocab words along the way. I breathed a (premature) sigh of relief.

The first class of students arrived on time. Here comes the CIA (Confidentiality Information Agreement) part. So I will say, the students were perfect angels—smart, happy, quiet—and they did their work; they all deserve A+’s.

Now comes the part I can write about. We were finished with the worksheets, so I pressed “Play” on the video.


Remember, I had just tried it, I knew it worked. But now, nothing. Just black. Then, a neon blue screen of blank nothingness. Then a very unhelpful menu screen. Things were deteriorating from mal to peor.

to be continued ...

Friday, February 17, 2012

670. Time To Spill The Frijoles

I am a substitute teacher at my sons’ schools. That is my latest job. I would love to write about it (face it, I write about everything else, and the high-end kitchen store certainly gave me good fodder to work with, so why not this job?), but it turns out, I signed this pesky official document called a Confidentiality Interest Agreement.

When someone who may or may not have been the principal was interviewing me, she (or he) may or may not have said, Working in a school is like being a doctor or lawyer—you are not allowed to talk about the students.

I’m confused. Which part is like being a doctor or lawyer? Because it isn’t the pay part. But I wanted the job, so I sat there nodding-nodding-nodding, like a little bobble-headed plastic doll, Please hire me because I am good with kids and also so I can work the exact same hours that my sons are in school all day.

The next thing you know, he or she may or may not have said, “I would like you to read over the Confidentiality Interest Agreement (CIA), tell me that you understand it, and sign it. I am a registered notary on the side, so I will notarize it and then we will keep a copy in your permanent file.”

I grinned a fake grin, the kind you might grin if your dentist told you that you had three cavities when you thought he was going to say you have the best teeth he’s ever seen.

Trembling and flashing back to my own school years (“permanent file”?!), I read the CIA and signed it. I vowed to “respect the privacy of all individuals I may come in contact with,” (this next part was in a different font, obviously added in recent years) “and refrain from publicizing any related incidents about such individuals via current advanced technological means. To clarify: no facebook, no blogging, no twittering, no social media-ing.” Social media was now a verb here at my older son’s school.

“Excuse me?” I squeaked, “I need to let you know: I blog. It’s what I do.” I shrugged, as if saying, My third toe is shorter than the rest—I was just born that way. I can’t help it: I blog.

She or he may or may not have ignored my comment. She or he may or may not have said under her (his) breath, “Look, we’re really short on subs.” I took my yellow copy of the signed CIA form, got three blood tests and a TB shot, passed a nationwide criminal background check, and started subbing the very next week.   

I’ve never blogged about my intermittent substitute teaching—even though I was hired way back in October—until now. I found a loophole.

The CIA applies to me writing about other people, there is nothing in there that forbids me from writing about myself. As long as I do not say anything negative about the students, we’re good. So here we go.

to be continued ...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

669. Evil Girl Scout Cookies

As you may remember, Tall was very sick the other day. Now it was my turn. What was it with our family? Tall, sweet innocent second-grader, eats some tainted thing at a restaurant, and WHAM—throwing up all night. Me, sweet innocent mommy, eats two boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and WHAM—my tummy feels icky.

Why? Whhhhhhhyyyyyyyy? Do you think maybe the Girl Scout cookies were tainted? That was my first thought too, after I bit into the first sleeve of minty goodness, I remember thinking, These cookies taste fantastic! and then a little while later, I remember thinking, We did not buy enough boxes to get us through next week.

I typed an emergency email to my friend Angela, whose daughter had sold us the cookies in the first place. She had accused me lately of making my emails way too short. I think she was taking it personally. My emails with her were usually about logistics: “Still on for Thursday?” or “Will pick up kids at 8:20” or “Yes—can feed your cat this weekend.” I knew she would get mad if this email was what she considered too blunt, so I tried to write in complete sentences:

“Dear Angela,

How are you?

Any more Girl Scout cookies left to sell? Please drop off 15 boxes.


Angela has an iPhone, so she emailed back right away:


So so so sweet of you to offer to sell some cookies for Mai-Lin! She would be thrilled! But, honestly, it is not necessary. We absolutely cannot accept your generosity to sell extra boxes for us (plus I think it is against the Girl Scout rules). Thank you though!


She had completely misunderstood my email. I did not want to sell 15 boxes; I wanted to buy 15 boxes. Now I was embarrassed. Plus my tummy felt sick.

So, this story does not have much of a point, I guess, unless it is as a cautionary tale, to let you know to avoid Thin Mints. Next time, I’ll buy Samoas.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

668. Up All Night

In college these words meant two things: parties and papers. Fun parties, where you meet new people and end up talking and drinking and having a good time until three in the morning. Or, conversely, term papers that you should have finished weeks ago, but in reality did not start until yesterday. Ah, yes, up all night.

In my twenties, I flew for United as a flight attendant. Up all night meant a red-eye flight, most likely with a tantalizing reward at the end that did not involve a hangover or a B+ final grade: a 24-hour layover in Paris or a 56-hour layover in Sydney. This kind of up all night clearly paid dividends.

Then up all night stopped. Married, no term papers, no wild parties, and enough seniority to fly during the daytime. Nights were for sleeping.  Only vampires and security guards stay up all night, not me.    

Two babies changed all that, with their midnight cries and aching hunger. This was the variety of up all night that you say is worth it (when your kids are five and eight years old) but at the time you whisper, “When will you sleep 12 hours straight like all the parenting books promised?”  You survive on coffee and moral support, most likely given to you by well-meaning mommy-friends or perhaps your husband. 

Last night we were up all night. Tall had a nasty case of food poisoning, the type where six hours to the minute after ingesting the suspect food (“It did taste funny at the restaurant, Mommy, but I was hungry,”) all the food comes back up, along with any trace of anything resembling food or liquid that has the misfortune of being in the intestinal tract.  He threw up not once, but five times, each incident worse than the last. The Husband and I got him wet washcloths and new bags to vomit in, and we took turns staying with him.  We would just start to doze, when his rebellious stomach would attack him yet again. 

In the morning, Tall felt tired and sleepy, but his body finally felt better, normal. I placed my hand gently on his forehead, the ever-accurate Mommy Thermometer, and he smiled and whispered to me, “You’re a good mommy.”

I don’t mind up all night.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

667. Happy Birthday to Oakley!

Today is my little sister Oakley’s birthday. I was emerald green with envy growing up that she had the coolest day on the planet (Valentine’s) to rightly claim as her special day. Her birthday was always an explosion of hearts, cherubs, candy, stickers, and everything glittery, cutesy, little-girl good. As an adult, I scour the Hallmark racks looking for a Valentine’s birthday card, because they are difficult to find. Not utterly impossible, but usually buried on the side somewhere, next to such “non-specific” top-sellers as “Congratulations on your triplets!” or “Happy 19th Anniversary!” and “Wishing you a speedy recovery after you broke your toe (again)!”

This year, Tall drew a special card to send to his beloved Aunt Oakley in California: 

His school mascot is the tiger, so tigers slink their way into a lot of his artwork
 Happy Birthday, Oakley! We love you and miss you!

(“Magnificent Oakley Valentine”)

Monday, February 13, 2012

665. Hyperventilating With Famousness

So there I was, reading the blog of my new Bloggy Crush, Stephanie at Clay Baboons. She does these super-funny little clay scenes and then writes ultra-creative hilarious stuff to go along with it, and basically I laugh a lot and then go back and re-read it to make sure I didn’t miss any punch-lines or humor nuances and subtleties (note:  that is supposed to say subtleties, I’m sorry if spellcheck corrected it to subtitles, but please be aware that Stephanie does not write in a foreign language even though she lives in Canada where everyone speaks French, but she is quite fluent in the language of Bwahahahaha, that is actually her native tongue). But I digress. The point is, I was reading her latest post, and she recommended a few other bloggers and I thought, “Oh, cool, let’s see if I have heard of any of them,” and there I was, scrolling on down, and KABOOM! My blog! She recommended my blog!

Now, this is not the very first time this has ever happened to me. I have received a few Versatile Blogger awards, the Liebster Award, I came in third once in a Trifecta Writing Challenge, plus I was interviewed by Chicago Parent Magazine online, and I even won a Pulitzer Prize*(*this award I gave to myself, so it might not “officially” count). But what made this such a unique experience was there was a picture of my book cover, too.

I fainted. Well, I didn’t faint faint, in the traditional sense of me falling out of the chair and losing consciousness, but my head did get a little woozy and I thought I might hyperventilate. I did what I always do in scary unfamiliar situations: reached for that bag of M&M’s on my desk and dove in.

Oh, Stephanie, Stephanie, does any of your clay look like M&M’s?

Thank you for recommending my blog. Right back at you (in an infinite loop of mutual admiration).


Sunday, February 12, 2012

664. Count Me In

(Overheard conversation between Short and his buddy, also age five.)

Short: How many trees are in the world?

Buddy: I don’t know. How many?

Short: I’m asking you. How many?

Buddy: Tell me.

Short: (exasperated now) I don’t know! I’m asking you! How many trees in the world?

Buddy: Uh, I don’t know. How many?

Short: I think 3000.

Buddy: (silent agreement)

Short: How many dogs in the world?

Buddy: 10,000.

Short: I think so, too.

Buddy: Short, how many Santas in the world?

Short: How many what?

Buddy: Santas.

Short: (confident) ONE!

Buddy: Cor---rect! Good job.

I need to be the carpool-driving mom more often.

*amendment:  At breakfast this morning, Short told me how Santa gets through locked windows and doors.  "He's kind of like a ghost, Mom, that's how it works."  So great to have a resident Santa expert in the house to explain these things to me.........................

663. A Kinder, Gentler Wells Fargo

I do not bank at Wells Fargo. I bank at Crazy Town Bank—I write checks, they give me money, end of story. I have never liked Wells Fargo because they ask for 15 pieces of ID, your mother’s maiden shoe size, your cat’s Social Security number, your thumbprint and nose-print, an EKG, the name of your firstborn son, and a notarized statement proving that this is really your signature. And then they call the bank manger over, and then they call the bank president over, and then they call the janitor over, and finally they all scowl at you and say, “Your money is no good here.”

And that is only to cash a $10 check. Imagine if I was trying to cash a $10,000 check.

So it should come as somewhat of a surprise when I find myself in the drive-thru teller lane at Wells Fargo.

Oh, crap, I think as I notice for the first time these bright red letters spelling out “Wells Fargo,” Since when is The Husband’s bank Wells Fargo? The Husband has always banked at First Bank of Crazy Town even though I myself bank at the far superior Crazy Town Bank, but now I realize that obviously First Bank must’ve been acquired by Wells Fargo.

Since the drive-thru teller line is long, I do what I always do in any uncertain situation: call The Husband at work. I flip my cell phone open, punch in his number, and wait. He answers just as I am about to hang up, on about the sixth ring, as if he has actual “work” to do.

“Sweetie,” I say, “it’s me.”

“MOV, I’m working,” he says the word working the way one might say curing cancer or eliminating global warming or negotiating world peace, instead of his real job, which is crunching numbers.

“I have a question for you,” I say, ignoring his work-related urgency, “What happened to your bank? I am cashing that check for $40 you gave me for Target, and I saw the sign says Wells Fargo now. When did this happen?”

“Oh, yeah, I didn’t tell you because I know you hate Wells Fargo. The one in California—you always complained about it. But, yeah, they bought my bank.”

The visual of a bank buying another bank makes me giggle. I’ll give you one million dollars for your building full of half a million dollars, Make it two million dollars and free parking and you have a deal.

“Well, that settles it. Crazy Town Bank is further away, but I’ll just drive over there.” I look over my shoulder to see if I can back out of the line or if I am blocked in.

“MOV, no need to do that. They’ve changed: it’s a different Wells Fargo now. A kinder, gentler Wells Fargo.  Trust me.”

Because I love The Husband more than anything on the planet (and also because I am boxed in), I listen to his advice and stay in line. We hang up because it’s almost my turn at the window.

I recognize no one. The few times I have driven through here with The Husband, I have observed the same three or four tellers working. Not today. Today it is a completely different crew. First Bank most likely took its employees to that great safe deposit box in the sky.

I pull up to the window, and hand the teller my check and my driver’s license. I brace myself for what I know is coming next.

“This bank is too good for you, you need to go back to Crazy Town Bank,” is what I expect him to say. Instead, he surprises me with a cheery, “Hello, Miss, welcome to Wells Fargo!”

He called me “Miss”! I am liking him already!

“Wow, great driver’ license picture,” he enthuses, and for a moment I wonder if he is flirting with me. “You look like you are about 16 in this shot.”

I am mentally closing my account at Crazy Town Bank and transferring all $17.62 I currently possess over to Wells Fargo.

“Do you have any fun weekend plans?” he grins wide.

“No, no, same ol’, same ol’.” I shrug. Laundry, cooking, watching re-runs of Project Runway.

Then it happens. I notice the car next to me is sending the airlifted plastic-tube-thingy across over my head and the teller is going to wait on him simultaneously.

“Great driver’s license picture!” I read his lips, and then, “Do you have any fun weekend plans?”

So this teller says the same thing to everyone! And it was only Tuesday, why are we discussing weekend plans?

He winks at me. “How would you like your cash, Dr. MOV?” he inquires in his faux-cheery Prozac-induced Stepford teller-tone.

I give a brief moment of thought to the question. The check is for $40.

“Oh, I dunno, hundreds are fine.”

He starts cracking up, as if he has never heard that joke before in his long career with Wells Fargo. “Good one! Ha ha! Hundreds! I love it!”

He takes two crisp 20’s out of the drawer and slides them with my license into the envelope. The metal drawer opens up with a clanging sound. “Is there anything else I can help you with today then, Dr. MOV?” His smile could light up a power plant in a black-out.

“No, no, I’m good,” I say. “Thank you, though.”

“No, thank you,” he replies, with special emphasis on the you. “Thank you for banking with Wells Fargo! We appreciate your business! Have a wonderful and blessed weekend! And rest of your day! It was a pleasure to see you! We are so glad you bank with us!” He is waving now, and as I pull my car up out of line, I look for the first time in the envelope. Two strawberry lollipops fall out along with my cash and ID.

My mind is spinning. First, he does not hassle me at all. Second, he is unbelievably nice to me. Third, he is unbelievably nice to everyone else. Fourth, he laughs at my lame joke. Fifth, he gives me lollipops, in fact, my favorite kind.

That’s it. Banks are not supposed to be nice. Banks are supposed to be hostile—everyone knows that. It symbolizes professionalism. If a bank is ultra-nice like this one, that most likely means they are either:

A. In deep financial trouble
B. Giving all my money away to other people when I least expect it, or
3. All of the above

I shudder. From now on, I will drive over to Crazy Town Bank. No one is very nice to me over there, and frankly, a little mean goes a long way.


Friday, February 10, 2012

662. Why We Fired Her

This morning, in a fit of domestic capability rarely glimpsed in my household, I decided to make scrambled eggs. I know what you’re thinking: On a school day? Yes, friends, on a school day, my precious darling sons got something other than soggy cereal and orange juice from concentrate—they got yummy eggs and even slightly burnt toast.

After we ate our gourmet breakfast, we went to the bus stop like we do every day. I chatted with the other parents, while feeling very smug about our Top Chef-like morning. I kept hoping one of them might mention how they had inhaled a granola bar because they were in a hurry—I was eager to share the fact that I, Mother of The Year (self-)Nominee, had made scrambled eggs, from scratch.

Sadly, the conversation did not naturally migrate in this direction. Nor did it absent-mindedly veer in this direction. Nor did it drunkenly crash into the highway divider of the topic What People Ate For Breakfast. No. I was forced to take drastic measures and completely hijack the conversation that these so-called “friends” of mine were having with one another, merrily discussing their latest Netflix preferences: “Hey! We had scrambled eggs for breakfast! From scratch!

Sadly, my egg-cooking proclamation was abruptly overshadowed (or should I say, drowned out) by a big, fat, yellow, noisy school bus that appeared at just about this time. I slunk home, dejected and defeated. If you don’t get to brag about being healthy, then really, what’s the point?

I knew exactly what would cheer me up: a trip to Target. And, as luck and fate and the second Friday of the month would have it, today was The Husband’s payday. Yippee! I could buy paper towels, shampoo, kitty litter, AND look at all the new magazines!

I hightailed it over to The Altar of Target and spent a blissful hour (okay, who are we kidding—two hours) perusing each and every aisle. Then, after stocking up on everything and nothing, I decided to stop by my favorite coffee shop on the way home for a well-earned latte.

Around 11 AM, I returned to the house, unlocked the front door, and walked in. That’s when I saw it. I recoiled in shock and disgust, like someone in a horror movie discovering a dead body: dirty dishes everywhere!!! Three plates sat on the dining room table, caked in fossilized egg remnants. Three forks sat there, weary accomplices to the egg hardening. Three matching glasses mocked me, each blanketed in a thick film of un-rinsed milk. Toast crumbs clung to every surface, not sure of their role in the crime. I gasped.

The maid! The maid had not come today!

I was an emotional wreck. The 5 stages of grief thrust themselves upon me, like a mean dog that thinks you might have raw meat in your pocket.
  • Stage 1: Denial. No, this can’t be happening. My house is not filthy. Maid will be here any minute.
  • Stage 2: Anger. Damn Maid. I hate her!
  • Stage 3: Bargaining. Please come back, Maid. We might actually pay you this time.
  • Stage 4: Depression. Oh my God, my house is so dirty, I will never be able to have friends over again!
  • Stage 5: Acceptance. Filth and squalor are not that bad. Friends are overrated.
The stages occurred in order, and then simultaneously, and finally in reverse order. Queen Virgo is nothing if not thorough.

I walked in the bathroom to wipe my tear-stained, mascara-smudged face. That’s when I saw her. The maid—she was hiding in the bathroom mirror!

Ha! I found you! I yelled at her, Get back in there and clean that kitchen!

She did what she always did when I got mad at her in the bathroom mirror: shrugged nonchalantly.

Next thing you know, Maid was upstairs. Vacuuming? No.


(“Maid’s On Vacation”)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

661. Direct TV Is Mean

As you may remember, The Husband and I were exploring options for saving money by doing without unnecessary things, things like food, water, and cable. (Just kidding about the cable.)

I called Direct TV and spoke to their Customer Service Specialist (not Representative, Specialist) about cutting back on some of our service options (come back and read THAT POST later). Anyway, we determined that I could save eleventy gazillion dollars if I got rid of almost all of our channels.  I told them we had to keep Cartoon Network and HGTV. 

The Husband, of course, freaked out right away. “We MUST have sports,” he said, like someone (normal) might say air to breathe, “sports are a non-negotiable.”

Funny, turns out sports were, in fact, very negotiable, as Zaprana and I had just negotiated sports away. I had to call Direct TV right back and speak with Daniel about reinstating sports.

Crisis averted. Later that evening, I settled in with a nice bowl of popcorn and a glass of white wine, ready to watch the almost-season finale of Top Chef. Imagine my horror (yes, that’s the right word) when I clicked on 273 and the screen was black, except for a little box in the lower right corner that read, “Channel Unavailable.”

Oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no. I started hyperventilating like I was on an airplane that was nose-diving into the Pacific Ocean. Okay, that’s an exaggeration: Atlantic Ocean.

My show was scheduled to start in 15 minutes, how was I going to fix this catastrophe?! I dialed the (by now memorized) number and spoke with Tiffany. She assured me that she could fix the problem and add the Bravo Channel to my existing plan that Zaprana had set up for me, which as you may recall, was The Skeleton. After speaking with Daniel earlier, I was already up to the Bronze Plan, and now this latest chat with Tiffany was pushing me into (most likely) Platinum territory.

“Tiffany, I don’t care what it costs, get me Top Chef.”

“Yes, ma’am, no problem.” I could hear much clicking of keys and much draining of my bank account. “Try the channel now.”

I did as instructed, and felt vaguely illicit, as if Tiffany had just suggested I meet her on a street corner with a briefcase full of unmarked bills. “Yes, yes … I see it … yes, it’s back!  They're making pancakes for Pee Wee Herman!” It took every fiber of my self-restraint to not leap up and scream for joy.

I hung up on Tiffany so I could watch my beloved Chef-testants compete for the ultimate title of Top Chef top four.

The thrill of this moment would wear off soon enough. The very next morning, to be precise.  

I turned on the TV, innocently enough, to Boomerang so the kids could watch some cartoons (hey, TV police, it was NOT a school day! Okay, so it was actually a school day). Imagine my dismay when I noticed the channel name was in faded light blue (instead of the normal dark blue) on the menu option selection, and black all together when I clicked on it. There was that dreaded message again: “Channel Unavailable.”

Here’s the deal, Direct TV: if I cannot have a channel because I am too cheap to pay for it, I do not want to see any reminder of it! Do not leave a ghost version of the channel behind to mock me (“Oh, if you only had more money, you could have these channels, too! Ha! Too bad you don’t!”).

My sons and I have long chats about a scary issue in school called bullies. Bullies are mean, and bullies taunt people for no reason. That’s right:  Direct TV, you are a bully.