Tuesday, October 30, 2012

869. Sad News

Dear Friends,

I have some very sad news to share with you:  my mother died yesterday.  She had battled breast cancer for two and a half years and finally her frail body succumbed to the disease.  She was 70.

My sister had called me on Wednesday to tell me to fly out because my mom had taken a turn for the worse.  I flew out to California immediately.  Thank God I was able to be with her for her last five days on this planet.  

My brother, sister, and I were extremely blessed and privileged to be in the room with our mom and holding her hands as she took her last breaths after a tough few days with round-the-clock Hospice care.

I doubt I will be writing in this space for a few weeks.  I hope to be back writing before Christmas.  Thank you for your thoughts and well wishes.

Julie (MOV)
ps-- if you feel so inclined, it would be lovely of you to make a small donation to Hospice or Cancer Society.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

866. I don't even have a title for this one

So I was driving Short to go watch Tall’s football game and we were waiting in traffic over by Giant, you know the one?  The one on the corner by the new bank near the high school?  Yeah, that one.  So anyway, there was this woman dressed in full Indian garb, I mean like she is from India, not Native American.  You know that I am not prejudiced, I don’t care what country you come from or how you’re dressed, but it is a tiny bit relevant to my story so I didn’t want to leave it out. 

She was standing there on the sidewalk with her back to the line of cars, we were stopped at the signal light and about three cars back from the intersection.  Where the construction was last week?  That is the spot.  Remember how there are all those rose bushes right there?  The miniature red ones?  Yeah, those.  This woman was doing something to them, not sure what, but Short and I were beyond curious. 
I stared at her, trying to figure out what exactly she was doing.  She had two white plastic bags with her, like grocery bags, that kind.  She was putting something into the bags.  At first, I willed myself into thinking that she was picking up trash to make the roses look better, getting rid of any abandoned cigarette butts or stray gum wrappers.  I kept watching.  I knew what she was really doing, of course I knew at this point, but I willed myself to believe that she was not doing what I suspected. 

Oh, you still don’t know?  Really?  Well, here is a hint, and this is what cemented it for me:  she had scissors in her hand. 
Yep, she was cutting the roses. 

Does she work for the City?  Is that what you just said?  Are you kidding me?  Ha!  No. 
So of course Short was seeing this whole thing play out and he was mesmerized because he had no idea that people were allowed to just help themselves to public property like that.  He said, his tone full of wonder, “Mommy, what is that lady doing?” 

And I had to tell the truth, there was no getting around it.  I said, “She is stealing the flowers.”   
The car got very quiet, well it was already pretty quiet, but it got even more quiet and I could tell that Short was waiting for me to take action, to be a role model.  He was waiting for me to do something.  I was also waiting for myself to do something.  I was wondering what I would do.  And all the while in the back recesses of my brain, I was realizing that the signal light could turn green at any second and I would have to drive. 

What should I do? 
I rolled down the passenger window.  I heard a loud firm voice, which turned out to be my own, yell out, “Hey!  Why are you cutting those flowers?” 

She heard me, how could she not, and she froze.  Then she turned around and for the first time, I could see her face.  She was young, about 22.  She was beautiful, too. 
She flashed me a gorgeous cover-model magazine grin, and before she even said what she said, which she had obviously rehearsed just in case some busy-body nosy person like me, or perhaps a policeman, stopped her, it was painfully clear to me that she uses that awesome smile to get whatever she wants in life, including free roses.  

She said in perfect English with no trace of an accent …
Wait for it …

“They’re for Buddha.” 
This, as you can imagine, did throw me off for about two seconds, it was not really the explanation that I was anticipating.  Actually, I have no idea what I had expected her to say, but it wasn’t that. 

I spoke again:  “I don’t care who they’re for, that is stealing!  Stop stealing!  Those flowers are for everyone to enjoy.  That is public property.  You should go buy your own flowers.” 
I knew in this moment that she thought I was some ignorant person who does not know who Buddha is, her God.  The way I said I don’t care who they’re for was as if she had told me a random person’s name, like the name of her brother or her ill grandmother.    

She considered this for a moment, and then she replied, “Okay, I’m sorry.  I’ll stop.”  Her words had a sliver of sincerity to them.    
I continued my rant anyway, because I am never satisfied even when someone admits they're wrong.  “You know you are wrong!  You know you are!  Stop stealing!” I yelled out again. 

She walked in the opposite direction, back toward the gas station on the other corner, and for a moment I thought she might be brazen enough to keep clipping some roses or at least write down my license plate number and try to stab my tires later with her sharp scissors. 
I put Short on patrol.  “Can you see her still?”  I asked him.  “Is she cutting more flowers?”

“No, Mommy, she’s walking away now.” 
So the light finally clicked green, it is a long light, isn’t it?  And then we drove on.  The instant replay section of my brain showed the cutting roses scene over and over and over again.  I was second-guessing myself, writing a new script.  What should I have said differently? 

“Buddha does not want you to steal!” 
“Buddha made those flowers for everyone, not just you!” 

“Buddha hates thieves!”
I know, you’re right, I guess I handled it relatively well after all.  If I had done nothing, I would be kicking myself later.  Oh, and guess what?  When we got to the game and Short and I were walking out to the field where The Husband and Tall were already practicing, Short looked right up at me and said with confidence,  

“Mommy, when we see somebody stealing, we tell them to stop.” 

Friday, October 19, 2012

865. Target Loves Me

Today is a happy day, the day I have been waiting for.  No, I am not getting married today nor giving birth:  a new Target just opened by my house.    

I went over there and gawked at New Target.  Where have you been all my life, you in your pristine red and white Targety goodness and splendor with your lovely double circle logo?  The counters were unsullied.  The lamp supply was endless.  The staff was sincerely happy.  It was exactly like my normal Target, but with free kittens and mint-chip sundaes and glitter.    
I should have been tipped off right when I walked in and the girl handed me a map.  A map!  To Target!  What a Virgo thing to do:  I am in love. 

I studied the map and realized that something in my DNA already knew where everything was.  It was as if I had drawn the map myself.     
At this point, you might expect that I woke up from a dream, but it was actually real life. 

I figured out a way to buy less, because my wallet likes to spend $300 every time I am within a three mile radius of Target:  don’t get a cart.  Or basket.  Or take a list.  Instead, just wander aimlessly. 
I meandered up and down the rows, looking at Christmas items that I don’t need, all the while whispering, I love you, New Target.

I only bought one lamp this time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

864. Tsunami of Sleep

All growing up, I was a night owl.  I adored staying up until 1 AM, and then sleeping in late the next day.  I could feel the creative part of my brain click into high gear right around midnight, and that was always when I wrote my best term papers. 

As a flight attendant, my schedule was around the world and around the clock.  I could work a red-eye to London or have an o’-dark-thirty flight to Boston.  I rarely knew in advance, and the mystery and suspense kept my work life exciting.  I rationalized that I could always take a quick cat nap to refresh myself when I got to my destination.  Sleep was never the priority.     
So it should come as somewhat of a surprise that I now go to bed every night at 8:30. 

I have no choice in the matter.  After the boys get home from school and we do homework and eat dinner and take baths and get ready for bed, a wild tsunami of sleep punches me in the face.  I am overwhelmed with a need to lie down right now.  I glance at the clock:  8:30.    
I don’t know how this happened.    

The Husband asks me if I want to watch the Presidential Debate with him tonight—of course I do!  But (realistically) he’d better TiVo it so I can watch it tomorrow afternoon instead.  A neighbor invites us to a Halloween party, which sounds very appealing … until I find out it is from 7 – 10 PM.  It might be considered rude to take a nap under their dining room table in the middle of the party. 
I see a vision of my former self—you know, the awake one?—and she is but a shadowy black figure in the distance.  She wants to put on a red flamenco dress and dance all night … but only if “all night” conveniently ends at 8 PM. 

That might still give her time to brush her teeth. 
trifecta writing challenge:  333-word essay, the challenge word is "black"-- the 3rd definition, which is "dressed in black"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

863. Déjà New

So you are at the bookstore and you see a book by one of your favorite authors.  Aha, you think, this author rocks!  You impulsively grab the book off the shelf and start flipping through it.  How is it that you have never seen this book?  Is it new?  You decide to look at the copyright:

The smart part of your brain says that you have most likely read this book.  The part of your brain that really really wants to buy a new book ignores the smart part. 

It is possible that you might not have read it already as you had a lot going on in 2003, for example your oldest son was just an infant.    
Nah, you’ve never read it! 

You ignore the fact that it is in paperback, which again emphasizes how long the book has been out.  You stand in line with your new old book, and you think it might be good to read a page or two just to verify that none of it sounds familiar. 
Your older son is pulling on you and tells you it is your turn.  You pay for his book and your book, and you are very excited to go home and start reading. 

You get about halfway through the book and the very smart part of your brain that you completely ignored today in the bookstore (and most times and places, to be honest) starts predicting plot developments. 
Smart brain is right. 

Smart brain not only predicts very specific plot developments, but now predicts the names of new characters yet to be introduced. 

You have read the book before.  It is still a good book the second time around, but it is no longer deniable that you have already read it back in 2003.  You hate to read books twice, especially when there are so many new books in the world that you have not read yet.      
You are now mad at yourself for wasting $12 and three hours on a book that the smart part of your brain warned you not to buy.  You briefly wonder if it is ethical to return the book, seeing as how you bought it (and read it in its entirety) by mistake.  You decide it is not ethical (there is a place to return books, and it is called the library), but you put it back in its plastic bookstore bag and find the receipt and go back to the bookstore anyway. 

Once in the bookstore, the ethical part of your brain (directly adjacent to the smart part) reminds you that it is not actually ethical to return the book, so the guilty part of your brain (below the ethical part) decides to keep the book after all. 
You walk over to the magazine display while you are here, you might as well, to look at a few design and décor magazines.  You have subscriptions to some of them, but not all.  You notice a lovely magazine called House Beautiful with a blue couch on the cover.  You would like to read the article about the blue couch.  You pick up the magazine and take it to the counter to pay. 

You hand over your $5 while the smart part of your brain is screaming:  THAT MAGAZINE LOOKS FAMILIAR! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

862. Mirror, Mirror, Off the Wall

I’m not a vain person.  I don’t obsess about my appearance.  Sure, I briefly cared for just a few years (ages 14 to 36).  But once I became a mom, time I might’ve formerly wasted curling my hair or applying eye shadow seemed better spent napping. 

However, when we went to Disney World last week, the slightly narcissistic 25-year-old buried deep within me surfaced.  She whispered, “Check your lipstick.”  Who am I to argue with my former self? 
Imagine my dismay upon walking into the ladies’ room and discovering mirrors were conspicuously absent. 

No mirrors?  What?  Was Walt Disney secretly Amish? 
After noticing the lack of mirrors in five bathrooms in a row, I mustered the courage to confront a janitor.    

“Excuse me? Why are there no mirrors in the restrooms?” 
She laughed.  “We used to have them, years ago.  But in summer, the sinks were congested so we took them down.  There’s one mirror on the wall by the door.”

I glanced where she was pointing and saw the tiny mirror.  What was Disney so worried about?  It’s not as if I planned to set-up hot rollers and a cosmetics station to embark on a two-hour make-over.  I merely wanted to know if I had lettuce in my teeth or if my hair was sticking up funny.  You’d think The Husband would notify me of such visual defects.  Here you would be wrong. 
I was silently outraged.  How could Disney not have mirrors by the sinks?  Wasn’t Disney the one who had professional photographers lurking everywhere throughout the park? 

I did what I always do when upset:  complained to The Husband.  “Don’t you miss the mirrors?”  
“What are you talking about?”   

I filled him in on my extensive research.    
He shrugged.  “MOV, the men’s room has mirrors.” 

He was painfully oblivious to the implications for the other 50% of the population.  Vanity was dead.  Death swooped in to scare us, not at the Haunted House like promised, but in the ladies’ room. 
trifecta writing challenge:  333 word essay, the word is "Death"

861. Travel Pics from Disney

Today I thought I would post a few photos from our trip.  Hope you like them! 

getting ready for take-off

view from seat 18B

that famous castle

view from restaurant California Grill

Disney Hollywood Studios restaurant called Sci-Fi Drive In (we ate here)

view from our hotel room at Port Orleans French Quarter

stunning mosaic at EPCOT

World Showcase

me playing around with my camera and photographing the sky and palm tree

also went to Legoland for one day
this city is all made of Legos!

last day of trip-- at Animal Kingdom

we got to pet an elephant! (no, not really)

this is the "mouth" of the waterslide at the hotel pool-- fun!

at the airport getting ready to fly home

flight back


Friday, October 5, 2012

860. Southern Fried Children

I read mom blogs because I am a mom.  Sometimes I read design blogs because I like anything having to do with design.  But mostly I read funny blogs because I like to laugh.

Every once in a while, I stumble across a blog post that is so poetic, so effortless, so beautiful, that I feel utterly ashamed to call myself a writer.  If she is a writer, than I am just a sorry impostor, I think to myself.  Today was one of those days:  I read my friend Kelly’s blog.
Go see how it's done:  read Southern Fried Children today.  Then follow her.  She is awesome. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

859. Disney World Is Virgo

We walk into Disney World and are instantly engulfed in a very strong smell, a smell that we are not used to in our everyday lives.  That smell is:  soap. 

No gum on the ground.  No muddy footprints, even after rain.  We notice that the trashcans gleam in their own freshly-Windexed splendor.   
I turn to The Husband—it is obvious from the look on his face that he is thinking the same exact thing I am. 

He exclaims, “We could move here!  We could work at Disney World and everything will be clean and shiny forever!” 
Actually, I was thinking of getting the name and phone number for their cleaning service, but his idea might be a lot easier.

Walking around Disney makes us want to be neater and cleaner, too.  We see someone drop their receipt on the ground, and instead of handing it back to them or stopping to examine it and try to memorize their credit card number like I might normally do, I throw it in the trashcan.  When my younger son “accidentally” kicks mulch onto the sidewalk, we make him put it back in a neatly patterned formation, the way God and Disney intended.  When I feel beads of sweat threaten to drip down my face from the nuclear-melting powers of the Florida sun, I reach to wipe them off with a tissue before they can get on anything, anything that might make Disney World less than perfect. 
Because that is what Disney is, right?  Perfect?  The workers are friendly to a fault, and just when we think it is all fiction, one of them will say that he is also from San Diego and where did I go to high school, or another will say that her oldest son is also named Tall.  These people want to be our friends, and I suddenly feel compelled to invite them over for dinner next week. 

But that would require cleaning the house …
Mosaics at EPCOT that I saw a worker scrubbing with a toothbrush ... I can't compete with that


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

858. The Cult of Mickey

I wasn’t originally planning to write about this, but … there is some hero worship going on at Disney World, and Walt is not the focal point.  I am talking, of course, about Mickey. 

When I arrive at Disney World, everyone immediately starts pointing out the “hidden” Mickeys that are, apparently, everywhere.  Oh, look, there is one in the bottom of the aquarium at the Finding Nemo observation deck.  Did I catch a glimpse of the three Mickeys painted into the background of the skyline outside the Backstage Hollywood Tour?  No?  What about the one in the table arrangement at the Haunted Mansion ghost dance scene?
After the hundredth time in a half hour span that someone wants to show me a hidden Mickey, I begin to see them where none exist.  Like the cracks in the cement sidewalk.  The water fountain drain.  Shadows.  Pretty soon, the cloud formations in the sky are all about Mickey, as if God Himself is on the Disney payroll. 

And the t-shirts!  Every family (except for mine) seems to be in matching Mickey t-shirts.  I finally get my nerve up to ask a random mom what the deal is.  I frame my question in the form of a compliment, a technique that always works when used on me: 
“Excuse me, ma’am?  I love how your family is all coordinated!  What inspired you to do that?” 

The woman looks at me as if I have, well, a hidden Mickey growing out of my nose. 
“Safety reasons, obviously!” she squeals.  “If someone in my group gets distracted and separated from us at a gift shop, all we have to do is look for the fluorescent orange shirt with the Mickey logo.” 

Now it was all beginning to make sense.  I have had this same difficulty finding members of my group in gift shops.  There are expansive gift shops everywhere I look, so it is easy to get lost in one.  Right when you step off a ride, still basking in the adrenalin and exhilaration of the special effects, there is a conveniently located gift shop!  Sometimes I am even the person that gets lost in the gift shop. 
The gift shops have all manner of t-shirts, key chains, hats, and refrigerator magnets. Suspiciously absent are the postcards that were familiar from my youth (much to my dismay, a teen-aged cashier tells me that “Postcards don’t sell well here, everyone just texts nowadays”).  The gift shop also stocks cheaply-made rain ponchos with a giant Mickey logo on the back. 

The Husband and I scoff at the over-priced plastic ponchos.  Twenty bucks!  Ha!  What a waste of money.  We congratulate ourselves on our blatant superiority for not falling for a marketing gimmick such as this … until the sky opens and it rains for one hour straight.  We decide that $80 (we are a family of four) is actually an “investment in our health and wellbeing” (my words) and that “the exorbitant profits are most likely going to Wildlife funding” (The Husband’s new hopeful theory).  We buy the ponchos (no lay-away plan is mentioned or offered).  The ponchos keep us bone dry for approximately 22 seconds.  No, they do not leak … the storm passes and the bright sun returns.  We fold up our ponchos and carry them in a plastic bag with Mickey on the side.  The bag is considerably heavier than those four 20s that used to be in my wallet mere moments ago. 
My eight-year-old son, Tall, and I decide to ride the cars in Tomorrowland.  He starts driving and I start taking photos. 

Next thing you know, he stops and points out a few hidden Mickeys of his own. 



857. Mickey Likes Pictures

You have been planning and saving for your Disney vacation for months.  Books are purchased.  Websites are researched.  Reservations are made.  Then, the day finally comes:  the day the American Express bill arrives in the mail (oh, yes, you have selected a package that you have to pay for in advance).  After a stiff drink or three, you write the check that is approximately equivalent to what you paid for your first car.  Or house. 

You thoughtfully and strategically pack your suitcases the night before your departure.  Okay, who are you kidding?  You go around like a crazy person the morning of the flight throwing clothes in a pile on the bed, saying “This shirt looks clean!” 
You may be new to Disney World (one visit at age 11, and another as a flight attendant for a brief layover), but you grew up going to Disneyland.  Your parents were divorced, and your dad lived in Anaheim.  The Disneyland map is permanently encrypted in a special part of your brain called “Need to know forever.”  Matterhorn is to the right, New Orleans Square is to the left, eat lunch at the Blue Bayou.      

Except that Disney World’s Main Street is the mirror image of Disneyland, and the park has several completely different rides and is somehow missing others (like The Indiana Jones Adventure).  You walk into Magic Kingdom with your family and are completely disoriented.
One critical difference that you notice right away is the professional photographers lurking everywhere.  Of course!  Why had you not thought to bring your own personal photographer along on the trip?  Obviously, these other vacationers are very smart.  And photogenic.  And rich.  Then you realize that the uniformed photographers are actually Disney employees and that anyone can have their picture taken.  The photographer scans your special photo pass (looks like a credit card), takes your family’s photo, and then you can look at it on your computer when you get home from your vacation.  Genius!  Gone are the days of handing your fragile camera to a French-speaking stranger and praying he doesn’t stick his thumb over the lens.      

You vaguely remember that Disney had sent you your own personalized photo card along with your itinerary several weeks ago.  But you left it in a very secure place in your hotel room:  next to your return airline tickets in the wall safe—there are sure to be lots of photo opportunities in there.  Not to fear, though, you ask the photographer if there is anything that can be done (short of returning to the hotel room to retrieve it), and he assures you that you can combine a new photo card with your preregistered card.  You are good to go!  You can now have photos taken in front of the castle, like your own personal backdrop. 
You decide to make the photographer work hard.  You posing on the left, okay now The Husband on the left.  You in front, The Husband with his arm around you.  Oops, you blinked, please take another one.  And maybe you should probably get at least one photo with the kids in it. 

After about one thousand photos, give or take, you decide to go on your first ride:  Splash Mountain.  And guess what:  since it is hard to take a picture of yourself screaming in terror as you barrel down a water track at a physically impossible 90 degree angle, the thoughtful folks at Disney take on for you.  At the scariest moment of the ride when you need your wits about you most, a neon-bright flashbulb goes off in your face, and then when you get off the ride, you get to see how silly you look.  Some people even buy the photo.  Others stand there with their iPhones taking a photo of the photo. 
And you stand in lines to go on more rides.  You eat ice-cream sandwiches shaped like Mickey Mouse.  You find a great spot on the bridge to watch fireworks.  You overhear your younger son say to the older one, “I love this day.”  And you realize that you are permanently encrypting memories in the section of their brains called “Need to know forever.” 

You don’t need a camera for that.   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

856. Confessions of a Disney World Neophyte

I have a confession to make:  I just spent the past seven days at Disney World.  Wowza, go there with a child or two, and you see Disney in a whole new light (or, in the case of blistering 95 degree so-called “fall” days in Florida, a whole new neon strobe light the temperature of the sun). 

So, the point is:  I have lots of new blog material.  LOTS.  Oh, yes, just you wait.  MOV, the writer (as opposed to MOV, the ice-cream eater), is overjoyed to have at least one whole week’s worth of essays about Disney.  I made sure to pack the fancy leather journal my brother gave me, and instead scribbled my notes on gift shop receipts like I always do. 
Disney Mania, Day 1, starts tomorrow.  Fasten your seatbelt, give a tug on the yellow safety strap, and hold on tight!  See you then.


855. Let's Talk About the Weather

I live in a part of the country that is famous for its long hot summers and its equally brutal winters.  In fact, The Husband and I have noted that there are only two seasons here:  hot and cold.  Where fall should be is an extension of summer, and where spring should be is a continuation of winter. 

So it should come as somewhat of a surprise that I notice the leaves are turning a gorgeous orange color. 
“Sweetie,” I say to The Husband, “we might actually get a fall this year!” 

Of course, I have jinxed it.  The next day, the sky has a tantrum and spits rain at us for hours. 
But it is better than snow. 


Monday, October 1, 2012

854. There Is No Substitute

Lately I have been a tad bit depressed because both of my sons have eight-months pregnant teachers.  Yes, I am thrilled for these young, beautiful teachers and I am ecstatic for their happy families.  But to be perfectly honest, I am not fully embracing the idea of long-term substitute teachers for my sons. 

They just got into their routines.  They just got acclimated to the teacher’s systems.  They just figured out where the water fountain was. 
And now everything is about to change (probably not the water fountain location though).  A new teacher is going to come in and meet my sons for the first time and try to make sense of everything.  And then in three or four months, the original teacher will be back.  

My sons thrive on consistency.  They love knowing that Monday is macaroni and cheese, Tuesday is soccer practice, and Friday is go out to dinner.  They expect the expected. 
I started to think if we (as adults) suddenly had substitutes in our lives.  What if you went to Starbucks just like you do every day, and instead of Starbucks there was some sort of juice bar inside.  The guy would say, “Yeah, we’re gonna sub out coffee and have orange juice smoothies.  Hope you don’t mind too much, it is just for today and tomorrow, then your regular Starbucks will be back.” 

Or if you walked into work and some random guy in a suit was sitting at your boss’s desk, looking at his watch.  “Hi, you must be MOV.  Your boss will be back the Tuesday after next, but she did leave me this giant folder of new assignments for you.  She said she might need you to work some overtime.  Oh, yeah, she also said no more coming in to work late.”
Or, you go to call your sister and some other woman answers.  “Sorry, Oakley is going to be off for a few days, my name is Stephanie and I will be filling in for her.  Did you want to jump right in with emotional issues from childhood, or would you prefer to fight over money?”

I don’t want to think about it anymore, it is making me mad.  I grab my purse and zip out to my local sandwich place.  I walk up to the counter and place my order: 
“One sub, please.”