Friday, December 31, 2010

281. Time-Share

(a flashback)

So The Husband and I are on vacation in Hawaii. We’re celebrating our second anniversary and no small children have been born yet, so we are ignorant and happy. I scored us a screaming good deal with a combination of my good looks and witty repartee free United flight passes and some Marriott Hotel points.

After our five hour flight, we arrive exhausted and exhilarated, ready to hit the beach. We have, by some Divine Intervention on the part of the Vacation Gods, been upgraded to an ocean-view suite, complete with mini-kitchen. As the hotel front desk clerk swipes my Amex card to prepay for the week ($300 for the entire seven days, did I say screaming good deal???), he shoves some paper in my face for me to sign and mumbles something about “attending the potential time-share buyer seminar”.

Whoa, there, what? As I glance down at the fine print (font size .6), I vaguely remember something about being required to go to the 3-hour seminar in order to get the cut-throat discount. Yikes. Not sure how The Husband’s going to take that. I glance over at The Husband and notice that he’s doing what he always does in times of stress or uncertainty: he’s checking the football scores in the local newspaper. He’s completely oblivious to what the desk clerk and I are whispering about.

I decide to tell him later, maybe after a few Mai-tai’s.

There’s really no need for me to put this off, as the phone is ringing by the time we enter our room with our suitcases. Yep, it’s the front desk, calling to verify which seminar time slot we would like to sign up for. I am somehow bullied into accepting the 10 AM appointment for the next morning (Clerk: “Madam, would the 10 AM appointment accommodate your schedule? Free drinks will be served.” Me: “Yes, please, that would be fine, I'm looking forward to it.”)

10 AM comes far too quickly, and by this point I have briefed The Husband on our obligation to attend (Him: “Why do we have to do this?”, Me: “Because otherwise the room is $875 per night instead of $300 for the whole week.” Him: “Can I wear my swimsuit?”). We decide ahead of time that since our Powers of Mental Telepathy are weak at best, we should devise a simple code so the other one knows exactly how we feel about stupid idiotic time shares (essentially that they’re stupid and idiotic).

The code phrase we agree on is: “that’s interesting”. The direct translation is: “I would never in a million years buy one”.

Things start out well. Our Personal Agent of Doom Sales Rep is named Corey and he's probably in his mid-50’s with salt-and-pepper gray hair and a well-cut suit (suit, in Hawaii? for some reason, yes that's what he has on).  He lays out all the numbers of why time shares actually pay for themselves (???) in only 6 or 7 years, and how you can trade for other resorts, blah-blah-blah. I am hoping The Husband is paying attention because my mind keeps wandering back to this cute seashell jewelry box I saw in the hotel gift shop ($42, and velvet-lined).

Now it’s time for a tour. Corey takes us to the Owner’s Level, and the Husband wisely asks if this would be where we would stay (“Yes, depending on which Tier of Ownership Investment you select,”). The view is mesmerizing—we can see dolphins and surfers and future sunsets. My brain has woken up enough to transfer from its happy place ($42 seashell box) to stare at the Cold Hard Truth (timeshare cost per month: $719 plus activity fee). That is more than our rent. Now, I am not very good at math, but after scrunching up my face and thinking hard, I realize that this equates to roughly $200,000 per year, which is money we just don’t have.

The Husband is being sucked in by the spiel. He is nodding-nodding-nodding as Corey goes on and on about dolphins and fresh ocean air and pineapple burgers. In an act of sheer desperation, I pull out the code phrase: “That’s interesting! That’s very interesting!” and The Husband goes pale. He looks at Corey and then back at me, and then he asks Corey if he can talk to me alone for a minute.

Corey graciously steps out of the room. I panic and say, “Are you insane?!? We can’t sign up for this garbage!” and The Husband replies, “Me? You are the one who’s ready to get her checkbook out!”

Huh? After further discussion, I am beginning to realize that my darling husband of two years has swiftly forgotten the Secret Code Phrase. It is so top secret, it's even a secret to him.

“Hon, ‘That’s interesting’ does not mean ‘That’s interesting’. That was the special code, remember?” I say patiently, as if trying to train a deaf dog.

“Code? Code for what?” Not only has he forgotten the code, he has apparently forgotten the discussion leading up to the necessity of said code. One day of unfiltered sunshine has fried his brain.

“The. Code. The code means ‘no’.” I look at him.

He starts laughing. He gives me a big hug. “Thank God! I thought you were really interested and I was getting ready to tell you that we do not have that kind of money!”

I smile back at him. “I know, I know........... Uh, do we maybe have $42 for a seashell box, though?”

("Maui, On Vacation")

279. What Is Facebook?

I’ll admit it: I’m Amish. Well, not Amish Amish, more like Amish-Lite. For ten years, I did not own a television (by choice!). Cell phones make me nervous, and I only broke down and bought one last year. Email is a relatively new phenomenon for me. So why should it surprise you that I don’t do Facebook?

For the longest time, I didn’t know what Facebook was. I thought it was some sort of special computer notebook for college students to keep track of their coursework (sort of a cross between a laptop and an I-Pad).

Obviously, my friends mock me for my lack of awareness. They say things like, “MOV, you need to get on Facebook so you can find out what everyone is up to!” I don’t particularly want to know what everyone is up to. I’m still trying to keep track of what I am up to.

Then, as if they are Facebook Ambassadors or Facebook Sales Reps (working on commission, natch), they say, “MOV, you can re-connect with friends from high school and college!” to which I think, if I haven’t stayed in touch with someone, there is probably a good reason, like maybe they turned out to be a serial killer (did I forget to mention that I went to high school with Andrew Cunanan, murderer of Versace, and that Andrew and I ran on the cross-country team together?).

Facebook. My cynical friends say, “You know, you’re probably better off without FB,” (they abbreviate it to ‘FB’ to sound more hip), “because I literally can spend two hours a day on it! It’s crazy!”

Two hours. Where do they get that two hours? Did the Universe bestow them with 26-hour days, because I’m still trying to cram everything into my meager allotment of 24 hours and failing miserably. Maybe they skip lunch? Maybe they don’t bother to shower and dry their hair? Maybe they just get six hours of sleep instead of eight? Where do those extra two hours come from?

The other thing I don’t get is the whole Facebook Friending Thing. Yes, “friend” as a verb. Apparently, you can friend someone and then you can leave messages on their “wall” and they can look at your Facebook Portfolio as well. I have heard of great drama stemming from someone rejecting or ignoring a “friend” request. Parents tell me their kids won’t respond to their “friend” inquiries. (Heck, my kids won’t be friends with me in the real world, you think I want to risk that kind of rejection in cyberspace too?) 

It hurts people's feelings to delete their friend requests--it's like not inviting someone to a party, but even more blatant:  you do not qualify as my friend;  I can do better than you, I can be friends with some random person I just met on the airplane and never ever have to talk to them or hear their voice or see them.  Sounds distancing to me.    

Excuse me, I have to run:  I'm meeting a girlfriend for lunch in person.  We're going to gossip and eat chocolate cake (last I checked, their is no "eat chocolate cake" option on Facebook; ah, well, something to strive for). 


(P.S. Yes, I saw the movie "Social Network".  Loved it.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

269. December 25th

Acceptable Phrases:

Christmas time
Christmas Eve
Santa Claus
Christmas tree
Christmas gifts
“Have you finished your Christmas shopping?”
Christmas decorations
Christmas vacation
Christmas special
“We’ll be closed on Christmas day,”
Ugly Christmas sweater
“I can’t believe you’re flying on Christmas!”
Christmas spirit
Christmas carol
“What did you get for Christmas?”
Christmas theme
Christmas cookies
"My birthday falls on Christmas,"
After-Christmas sale
“I love Christmas.”


“Merry Christmas!” (substitute “Happy Holidays” instead, as they might not celebrate Christmas and they would be very offended).

(“Merry Ostensible Villain”)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

268. Believe

So my 7-year-old son announces at the breakfast table, "There's no such thing as Santa."  As you can imagine, this catches the 4-year-old's attention pretty quickly.  "WHAT?" says the 4-year-old.

I grab Tall by his sleeve and yank him out of the room.  (Okay, maybe not my proudest Parenting Moment.)  "Tall, who told you that?" I demand. 

"Older kids on the bus," he confesses timidly.  Those damn Older Kids.  Always ruining everything for everyone else. 

"Well, then I guess Santa doesn't come to their house," I say, channeling my mother or Bing Crosby or Carol Brady or someone-who-knows-how-to-handle-dissension. 

In the next few seconds, all the childhood myths cloud my brain:  Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, Tooth Fairy.  We tell our children to believe in Santa Claus and they do.  They trust us.  Until one day, the fable explodes, and then they say: 

"Mommy?  Does God exist?"

("Mashing Our Values")      

267. Christmas Present

So The Husband and I have spent all our money on renovating our house, Christmas presents for the boys, and my plane ticket to California to see my mom. That leaves no money for the two of us to exchange gifts.

At first, I thought this would be fantastic: we’re not materialist! we’re above all this blatant commercialism!  But the more I work at the high-end kitchen store and the more I see people buying things for their sweethearts (“I think she might like a whole new set of copper pans. Three thousand dollars? That’s it? Okay, let’s add some cookbooks and kitchen tools too,”), the more bitter and jealous I become.

I decide to take matters into my own hands. The Husband and I will exchange gifts after all, material expensive gifts, and lots of ‘em.

How do I plan to pull this off without incurring debt? (No, not stealing.) I tell The Husband to go around the house and choose 10 things that I already own and wrap* them up and put them under the tree (*my sister Oakley sewed fabric reusable gift bags for us last year, so we are not wasting wrapping paper). I told him he could choose things like my grey cashmere sweater or my gold bracelet I got for college graduation or a silver frame with a photo of the boys….. whatever he wants.  The surprise will be in seeing what he picks. 

As is typical, he was not on board at first. But having dealt with me known me for over a decade, he knows that I am relentless in getting my way. He finally saw the silliness logic in my proposal and is resigned eager to participate.

What he doesn’t know yet is he’ll be receiving not only his favorite leather jacket, but also his alarm clock. And possibly a butter knife.

("Mirthful Offbeat Vicissitudes")

266. Proactive

So Tall is sick and stays home from school.  It’s my one day off from the high-end kitchen store, so we're going to make the most of things and have a relaxing day watching cartoons and making brownies.

The Husband gets home from work at 6:30 PM and immediately comments about Tall’s attire and my worthiness as a mother: “Wow! You already had Tall get undressed, take a bath, and put on clean pajamas! And you’re even in your pajamas too! Way to be proactive, MOV!”

The Husband’s tone is upbeat and cheery. Whatever previous Work Stress he had brought home with him has dissipated. He smiles at me, looks over at Tall and smiles at him.

Then it hits him. “Uh, those are his Rocket jammies….. he wore those same ones last night..…. Did you do laundry today too, MOV?” (hopeful now), “or is he just wearing the same thing…...” (starting to dawn on him), “He never even got dressed today, did he?” (surprised and a little bit mad) “And actually, neither did you,” (puzzle finally solved).

“Nope!” I chirp, “Today was a ‘sick day’ and we just lounged!”

I mean, come on, really.  The Husband has known me for almost 14 years, how can he not know me?


Monday, December 20, 2010

262. DNA Scramble

So today I receive my cousin Francesca’s Christmas card, complete with a photo of her darling five (count them, five) children. The kids range in age from a two-year-old toddler to a nine-year-old third-grader. It’s easy to look at them and say, yep, that one looks like their dad Doug, or wow—Maisy has Francesca’s red hair! What’s not so easy to decipher from the photo is their personalities. Does Bryce talk back? Is Elliot aggressive? And is Lucinda gregarious like big brother Michael?

My own two sons are an interesting composite of me and The Husband. Purely by looks, Tall is me (blond, slim) and Short is The Husband (darker hair, broad shoulders). Then things get murky. Tall is a natural athlete (thank you to The Husband’s good genes) and an avid reader (that would be me). He’s also a great artist (me) and has lots of friends (The Husband). So who do we blame his quick temper on?

Short is determined (The Husband) and has a fabulous sense of humor (uh, me?). He is kind and genuine (not sure where he gets that) but hates to lose in games (his Aunt Oakley?). We stick these labels on our children, trying to compartmentalize their personalities, so we know what to expect and how to deal with them.

But they change. Every day.

I look at Francesca’s card again. Oh, wow. I thought that was Maisy in front of Michael…. it’s not. Lucinda just looks exactly like her.

(“Mirror Or Variant”)

Friday, December 17, 2010

259. Why I Can Never Twitter

Oh, so many reasons. Where do I begin? First of all, I don’t have a special device for twitting like a blueberry or iPanda or anything like that. Second, and most importantly, I am not a movie star/ nor Hollywood wannabe who actually has a life others would want to monitor every 15 minutes. My life might be, uh, a bit of a snoozer for the uninitiated.

Just for kicks, let’s compare and contrast Tori Spelling’s Typical Day a la twitter with MOV’s Typical Day. (Go ahead and guess which one sounds like more fun.)

Tori: 6:45 AM ___________________ (still sleeping)
MOV: running around like a crazy person trying to get breakfast/ laundry/ kids up/ kids dressed/ homework done/ everyone out the door in time for school bus.

Tori: 9 AM Hi Guys! Just roled out of bed, decided not to sleep in today after all. Meeting persnel traner/ yoga instructer in a few couple minutes. First, a big cup of herbal tea (from Paris!).
MOV: just polished off 3rd double espresso after doing 8th load of laundry—already behind. None of the socks are in the right pairs. = (   

Tori: 11 AM Now I’m at Fred Segal trying on skinny jeens—they’re all too big! LOL. My hubby tells me I should get some custim-made, looks like he’s right.
MOV: Crying tears of desperation as I remove fat jeans from dryer and realize they have shrunk from extra-hot setting. I do not have time to go to Target to buy more.

Tori: 2 PM Geting ready to meet up with my agent, she will let me know if we’re on target for my newest book’s sales! (last 2 were on NY Timz Best Seller List!)
MOV: Scrambling to finish buying groceries and running errands before kids get home. Dawns on me that Tall left his homework about New York on the dining room table. Again.

Tori: 4 PM Tragidy struck. Evening part-time nany. Called in sick. Not realy sure I believe her her. This sucks becuz wer’e supposed to go to Gala Red Carpet event tonite in a few hours.
MOV: Kids just got off the bus. I have a little time with them to play and do a snack (hey! who spilled something red on the carpet?) before I have to zip out the door to my part-time job at the high-end kitchen store.

Tori: 6 PM Hubby’s mom saves the day. Coming over to babysitter. Thank God. I'll show her what we have in the kitchen to make for the kids’ dinner later.
MOV: Late for work again.

Tori: 9:30 PM The evening is just getting started and we have been doing vodka shots! So much fun!
MOV: We are open late for holiday hours; I’m not having fun—feel like I’ve been shot.

Tori: 11 PM Yikes! Just realised forgot to reschecule my manicure apptmt with Misty for tomorow!
MOV: Yikes! Just realized I have to get up and do all this over again tomorrow!

Okay, other than the fact that Tori has atrocious spelling and grammar (really, Tori? Your book is on the New York Times Best Seller List and you can’t be bothered to spell “Times” correctly?), I’d say she’s leading the more glamorous life today. So she can twit all she want, and I will just keep my thoughts where they belong: to myself.

P.S. Of note: I looked up “twit” in the dictionary and it's defined as “a reproach or taunt”. Sounds about right.

(“My Only Victory”)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

239. A Slice Of History

So I’m standing in the living room of our first President, and the whole time I’m thinking, huh, I would arrange the furniture differently.

The Husband and I made the trek with our two sons to tour George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon. At Christmas time, they put on a special evening candlelight tour complete with actors in period garb, which we thought would be spectacular.

It was. If only I wasn’t daydreaming the whole time about where to buy that dental molding they used in the study. And, is the secretary desk original (and if not, where can I buy one just like it)? or, who chose that obnoxious shade of turquoise for the dining room? better yet: I love those high ceilings, I want those.

All the time, I’m vaguely aware of someone talking (a guide?), saying Important Historical Things, things like “1797” and “Potomac River” and “Valley Forge” and “blah blah blah history something-or-other” while I am mentally blocking him out thinking “yes, I would like to live on a river……I would use a different kind of patio chair though…..”.

Is it rude to simply nod along and pretend you’re listening? I ask this because so much of my day-to-day life depends on that: Nod-nod-nod:  

“I said that is a Carmel Macchiato and you ordered an extra-hot latte: it’s not yours,”
“Your husband already picked up the dry cleaning, I don’t have that ticket number,”
“M’am, I said you owe $43 in late fees to Crazy Town Library and we do accept credit cards. Hellooooo?”

I walk around Mt. Vernon in awe. I am in awe of the architecture, but mostly I am in awe that the kitchen is set apart from the main house. No. Kitchen. In. The. House. In case you don’t know what that means, I will spell it out for you: no Haagen Daz at midnight (I mean, really, is life even worth living at that point?).

We walk out of the grand house. I turn to my two sons and see their smiling faces. I can practically witness The History creeping into their impressionable brains. We are just outside the mansion now and I turn to Tall to verify that he has absorbed the full scope of exactly where we are and what it means (the home of our first President, the founder of Democracy and the Free World). He turns to me, and in my Greatest Moment, a moment when I truly truly know that he is indeed my son, he says,

“Mom? Where's the gift shop?”

(“Mt. Otherworldly Vernon”)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

237. Dressed To The Eights

Raise your hand if you’re tired of seeing people wear jeans to weddings, shorts to funerals, sweats to job interviews, and pajama pants to Starbucks. I mean, come on. Really. Why can’t they at least throw on a pair of khakis for a wedding? Is it that hard? I understand that These Comfy People feel better if they are wearing something, well, “slouchy” for lack of a better word, but……………you don’t see ME grocery shopping in my underwear.

When did society spiral this far out of control? When did the memo go out: “Oh, hey, everyone, guess what? Suits are too restrictive. Ironing is passé. Who has time to go to the dry cleaners? Tell ya what,” (apparently, Memo Writer is sort of casual with her grammar, too), “from now on, EVERY day is Casual Friday, including Christmas. Enjoy!”

I did not get that memo. Neither did anyone I work with at the high-end kitchen store. No. We actually take pride in our appearance and dress neatly for (wait for it…..) work. Yep. Wanna look good for work, what a concept!

Now, I know you think I’m making it up about the “jeans at wedding” thing, but I assure you I am not. Jeans. At. Weddings. And (unfortunately), I’m not talking about a Sunday barbecue wedding or an impromptu elopement on the beach. No. I mean full-blown, Catholic church wedding, 250 guests. Jeans! (And of course, if they are dressed this way for what should be a formal affair, that begs the question: what kind of gift did they bring for the lucky couple? a 6-pack of beer? a velvet Elvis painting? a left-over gum wrapper?)

Do they not realize how disrespectful their choice of attire is? They are sending a subliminal message that they just don’t care about the event or the person being honored.

I’m not saying they have to dust off the tiara and fluff out the taffeta skirt, but how about a simple black dress? And give the tennis shoes the day off? Maybe even brush the hair?

I have had enough of These Comfy People. Call it jealousy (hey, if I can’t wear gray sweats to a party, then neither can you), call it self-righteousness, call it me wanting to dictate my standards to the world (that sounds about right). I've decided to write a special letter to These Comfy People, to wake them from their happy slouchy trance. Here goes:

“Dear These Comfy People,

It has come to my attention that you think it is okay to ‘dress down’ for all occasions. It’s not.

If you are not wearing a pretty dress to a sit-down wedding or a meet & greet at the White House, then when ARE you wearing a pretty dress? Get the pretty dress out! (I know it’s in your closet.) Please wear it.  You’ll look better, and, as a happy little side effect, you'll feel better about yourself, and (surprise!) people will treat you better.

It’s the damn truth. Now, go online and buy some black pants, and don’t let me catch you at great-aunt Harriet’s funeral in pajamas (I don’t care if they were your ‘dressy’ pajamas).

From now on, dress to the nines. Dressing to the eights just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Your Fashion Maven,

(“Messenger Of Valentino”)

236. Paradigm Of Lateness

So I’m just stepping into the shower, getting ready for a freighbor’s party, and the husband is calling out to me, “We have to go! We have to go!” like some deranged night-time rooster. I peek out of the shower to view my watch on the sink counter: 6:15 PM. The party starts at 7.

I do what I usually do when he panics: ignore him. I take my relaxing shower (well, as relaxing as it can be with a loop soundtrack of “hurry-up-hurry-up-come-on-you’re-making-us-late” playing in the background). When I get out, I throw on a towel and I confront The Husband, who is already dressed and back from dropping the kids at the sitter’s house. The Husband sits in a chair near the front door, loudly tapping his foot.

“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?” I say in a non-accusatory tone (but what others might possibly consider to be mildly accusatory). “The party doesn’t even start until 7.”

“Exactly. And now, because of you, it’s 6:30. We should be leaving right now and, instead, you’re dripping wet.” He is not sporting a Festive Holiday Smile. He is sporting a Holiday Lateness Scowl.

“What are you talking about? We’re walking to the party! They only live five houses down! It’s not going to take us thirty minutes to get there,” I say, barely masking my exasperation.

Then he says it. The phrase that makes me question whatever it was that made me marry this man: “We need to be early to the party.”

I ask you: what kind of bad manners are these? Who is early to a party? I personally hate it when guests arrive early, as I’m always running around like a crazy person, trying to vacuum, or put on lipstick, or possibly re-plan the entire menu.

“You know what, Sweetie? Etiquette dictates that you get to a party approximately 20 to 30 minutes after the start time on the invitation,” I explain patiently, like I’m talking to my 4-year-old.

“20-30 minute after it starts?! Do you want to offend our friends?” he says, incredulous. This from a man who does not know what a hostess gift is and always seems surprised when I take a bottle of wine with us or a box of chocolates (“why are you bringing that? they invited us, remember?”).

The more I think about it, the more I realize that The Husband is Clock Challenged. It’s not that he's always early or always late; no. It’s that his idea of what time to get to things is diametrically opposed to mine.

Here is a handy-dandy reference chart of what I deem acceptable arrival times for various events:

Baby shower: 10 minutes late
Wedding: 30 minutes early
Party: 20 minutes late
Airplane take-off: 2 ½ hours early
School appointment with teacher or principal: 5 minutes early
Job interview: 15 minutes early
Ballet or theater: 20 minutes early
Pick up friend at airport: 10 minutes early
Dentist appointment: 5 minutes early
Hair cut appointment: 10 minutes early
Coffee with a girlfriend: on time
Work: on time

Now that I stop to consider it, The Husband obviously has his own cheat-sheet as well:

For any and all events listed above: 20 minutes early. (Standard.)

Whenever we're driving to the airport, I'm sweating bullets. Whenever we're going to a party, I'm trying to stall by yelling at him to stop somewhere and get gas. He just takes the specific time listed, and, in his usual Cost Analyst logical approach, subtracts 20. One size fits all.

I blow dry my hair. I put on my black tights and sparkly beige dress. I apply mascara. When I look at the clock, it’s now 7:10.

Come on come on come on come on!” like a Mantra. “We’re late!”

We walk quickly to NeighborMom’s house. We ring the bell. She answers the door, one hot roller still stuck in the side of her hair. I hand her a bouquet of red and purple flowers.

“Thanks! Welcome! Wow—uh, you guys are the first ones here.”


Thursday, December 2, 2010

235. Cupcakes Cookies Brownies

So I wake up in a cold sweat this morning realizing that today is the day I said I would bring Tall’s birthday treats to school. Still in my pajamas, I dart into the kitchen like a crazy person. Let’s see, do I have all the ingredients I need: Butter? No. Flour? Nope. Three hours to make something fabulous? Negative.

I flashback to the (stupid, pointless) well-intentioned email I had sent to Tall’s teacher only days before: 

“Dear Miss Teacher,
I plan to bring homemade cupcakes to class on Thursday to celebrate Tall’s 7th birthday!

What the heck was I thinking? Homemade cupcakes? Way to establish expectations, MOV.

*Persuasive Disclaimer: I’ve been working insane holiday hours at the high-end kitchen store lately. I am not just a complete lazy loser (well, sometimes I am, but in this instance, I’m just time-deprived).

Anyway, I’m realizing that brownies would be infinitely easier than my original plan of the Martha Stewart cupcake extravaganza. No, wait. Brownies are still too hard. They involve melting chocolate and probably stirring. WhatshouldIdowhatshouldIdo? I am clashing around the kitchen, looking for essential ingredients or at the very least a small jar of inspiration.

The Husband walks into the kitchen (it is 6 AM after all, his normal time to get up and go to work and not have to stress about a child’s birthday treats and the child’s subsequent rise or fall in the elementary school pecking order depending on the success and popularity of said treats).

“Whatcha doing, Sweetie?” he leans in for the hug and I feel like smacking him with a rolling pin.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M DOING?!? I’M HAVING A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.” I say in my typical affectionate morning greeting. Then, I quickly give him the particulars of my sad and dire situation.

“No problem,” he says in a voice that is way too perky for 6 AM, “Remember we have cookie dough in the extra fridge in the garage.”

This new information has earned him a hug. Yeah! Cookie dough in the other refrigerator! Who knew?

I had completely forgotten that my very nice neighbor, A, had asked me to store about 15 tubs of cookie dough for her daughter’s school fundraiser. (Looks like I will be buying one of those tubs myself: I mean, this is what anyone would consider an emergency situation.)

I pre-heat the oven. I retrieve the dough. Oatmeal cookies. Huh. Not my favorite, but 6 AM beggars cannot be choosers. I decide to liven up the boring dough by adding some chocolate chips. Not bad.

I dutifully make four batches in rapid succession. Amazingly, they taste great: they could almost pass for homemade.

Right about this time, Tall is drawn into the kitchen by the scent of the warm cookies baking. “Mmmmm. What are you making, Mommy?” He is smiling the kind of smile you smile when you are seven years old and wake up to fresh-baked cookies.

“Cookies. For your class. For your birthday.” I offer.

“My birthday? Oh, wait,” pause, “I thought you were going to do cupcakes? I thought you said cupcakes?” he queries.

I can’t read him. Is he mad? Is he happy? Does he like cookies better? Is he going to jump up and down cheering, or will he start crying and throwing things?

He does none of these things. He shrugs. He picks up a banana off the counter and walks out.

I put all the cookies in a large Tupperware container (well, when I say “all”, we know that I am just using the term in its loosest sense. “All” here really means “all minus three”). I congratulate myself on finishing in time at the 879th event in the Mommy Olympics.

Tall goes to school. I am sitting at the computer, wondering what to write for my blog today. I get an email.

“Dear MOV,
Thank you so much for sending in the special treat with Tall for his birthday! Those cookies were absolutely delicious, and I was wondering if I could get the recipe?
Best Regards,
Miss Teacher”

How do I respond to that? Should I be upfront and tell her it was a frozen mix? Honesty is the best policy, so I dash off a quick email back to her:

“Dear Miss Teacher,
Thank you. I am so glad everyone liked the treats! I’m happy to give you the recipe, except that it is my great-grandmother’s special secret recipe and she made me swear when she was dying not to ever give it to anyone. The ghost of great-grandma coming after me for dishonoring her wishes is not a good image. I’m sure you understand.

Good thing Short’s birthday is not until July. I have a little more time to prepare.

(“Mom’s Oatmeal Variation”)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

234. The Card

So I’m going through some random papers that are stacked precariously high in my study, and near the bottom of the sedimentary layers I unearth a black folder full of Tall’s artwork. From four years ago. Not that I let things go around here, it’s just……..

Yeah, four years ago. Not four weeks, or, like a halfway decent mom, four months. No.

Anyway, I must have saved this crap memorabilia for a reason, so I decide to look through it. Sure enough, one of the “projects” his overly-helpful preschool teacher had him do was an endearing little Mother’s Day questionnaire. Let’s take a peek, shall we?

Happy Mother’s Day to My Mommy
My mom is      50      years old
The color of my mom’s hair is   black
Her favorite thing is to take me to the park or watch House Hunters      
Mommy's job is selling pasta pans at the kitchen place
Her all-time favorite food is    pizza  
My mom’s favorite drink is    vino  

(Of course, this was accompanied by a full-color over-sized drawing of black-haired Mommy looking surprisingly like a praying mantis.) Ah, yes, all those fun memories are flooding back to Mommy’s 42-year-old blonde head. And by the way, when he answered these “get to know you” questions, I was only 38!

The thing I am most mortified about is, of course, the “vino” comment. I very very much was hoping the teacher would just pass right by that, that it could go unnoticed, like a preschooler hiding his half-eaten sandwich behind the couch. But, like the half-eaten sandwich (most likely egg-salad), this “vino” thing would have to be addressed sooner or later.  In my case, sooner. 

I remember the precise moment Ms. Giraldi was handing me the backpack with the offending Mother’s Day card inside. “MOV, just so you know, there are, uh, a couple, uh…. ‘interesting’ comments that Tall made about you in your special Mother's Day card.”

Having not yet read The Card at this point, I could only imagine what she was referring to (my eBay addiction?  me getting up early to go to the gym but then actually going to Starbucks?  me stealing borrowing five dollars out of Tall’s piggy bank to go for an emergency-run to Baskin-Robbins by myself?).

“Ms. Giraldi, preschoolers say such cute things, don’t they?” I offered as a preemptive strike, my Inner Coward doing what she did best:  panic and overreact.

“Ha ha ha ha, yeah they do,” she gave a fake laugh. “Let me just start by saying that at least he got your job right. There's this other boy in his class, Benji, who, when asked what kind of work his mom did said, ‘She doesn’t do a damn thing.’ I. Was. Dying. Hilarious! Of course, that's the typical response when we get to the dad’s line of work…..”

Would it be rude of me to open Tall's little backpack right now and just get it over with? I wondered.  I acted as nonchalant as the situation would allow. “What, uh, I mean, could you be more specific on the ‘interesting’ part?”

She leaned in and whispered, “He said your favorite drink was ‘vino’.”

Long uncomfortable silence.     

She continued, choosing her words carefully. “I've noticed your son has a slight lisp sometimes, so I thought I’d better ask him again, just to make sure I heard him right.  Then he explained to me: ‘vino—you know, Ms. Giraldi, it comes in a bottle and you drink it? There are different kinds like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio?’”

(Ms. Giraldi was just out of college and seemed like a fun girl.  If one were to cast her in a Hollywood production, Scarlett Johansson would be the top choice for the role of Anna Giraldi.  I tried to keep this "fun-loving, college-girl" persona in the back of my mind as I was thinking please-don't-call-Child-Protective-Services-and-report-I'm-a-lush.)          

I’m not sure if it was the pure raw embarrassment or the residual vodka left over in my system from the previous night, but I could feel my cheeks turning a blotchy Valentine of red and pink. “Kids! Those kooky kids! Ha ha ha, ‘vino’! What a kidder!” I threw out in desperation.  This was no mere save. This was a flop.

Then I flashbacked to what I had given Ms. Giraldi for a Christmas present only 5 months earlier: a bottle of Merlot. I had asked The Husband what I should get her, and he (wisely, for once) answered, “MOV, she might like a gift certificate to Pyramid of Books. Then she can choose a book she likes; teachers always love books. Maybe buy, like, a $25 gift card?”

What had my lovely response been to The Husband?  I had laughed uncontrollably and said (and I am paraphrasing here), “Sweetie, she's hanging around screaming 3-year-olds all day. What she really needs is a good bottle of wine.” Which is just what we gave her.

So, getting back to today and the one-of-a-kind Mother’s Day card. Do I throw it away, or do I possibly frame it? I ultimately decide to tuck it into the pages of Tall’s Baby Book: one day, his children can appreciate that their dad drove his HGTV-watching, pan-selling, Domino's-loving mommy to drink.  Cheers!    

(“Merlot Or Vodka?”)

233. My 4-Year-Old Helps With The Blog

“Mommy,” says Short, his squeaky voice full of innocence, “what are you doing?”

“I’m just typing my blog, well, I should say, struggling to type my blog because I'm not sure how I should edit this; I need to re-work it a bit ... ”

“Can I help?” he offers sweetly, setting down his Lego truck.

I laugh. “Oh, honey-bun, maybe another time.” I give him a quick conciliatory hug.

“Really, Mommy, I’d be good at it.” How can I resist those sincere blue eyes and those chubby cheeks with dried-on blackberry jam from breakfast? To placate him, I print out my blog and hand him a red marker. “Short, you can make any corrections you want.”

This ought to keep him busy for ten minutes, I think to myself.

He’s in the next room for all of two minutes. It is very very quiet in there. He walks back out. “Mom, did you forget to use spell-check? Because ‘meticulous’ does not have an ‘e’ at the end. Also, where you said ‘frequently,’ I think ‘often’ might have been a better choice.”

He hands the papers back to me and also the red pen (he forgot to put the lid back on). I glance down to see what other corrections he’s made—there are smears of red all over the pages. I see that where I have typed “disparage”, he has crossed my word out and written in “disparate.” I notice he has capitalized the word Francophile. He deleted my entire second paragraph, and has written in the margin in all caps: WORDY.  He has also crossed out a phrase I wrote (“fit like a glove”) and scribbled next to it: cliché.

I’m on the second page now. I misused “there” and he circled it. I was attempting to do a stream-of-consciousness thing for part of it and he has made a large “X” through it and has written simply “run-on.” Two sentences later, I make a quick and entertaining analogy about a zoo, and he’s written “good—expand.

I don’t know how much more I can take. “Short,” I begin, “Come on! You corrected all this? I ... I ... well, this is preposterous!”

Short shakes his head and looks me right in the eye. “Mommy,” long pause for it to all sink in, “the only thing that’s preposterous is that you didn’t ask for my help sooner.”


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

232. All Those Parties

Every year, we throw lots and lots of parties (I'm being facetious here: think two). When the Husband and I are preparing for said party, words like “paper plates” and “plastic cups” and even “cooler of beer” are bandied about.

The high-end kitchen store where I work would have you think otherwise. High-end kitchen store believes in crystal for the children’s instant-powdered orange juice and $250 platters from France to lay out some stale Chips Ahoy cookies for an after-school snack. At the high-end kitchen store, no event (read: morning coffee) is considered too mundane to get out the real linen napkins.

So the Princessa in me (she’s in there, hi P!) lovingly walks around the high-end kitchen store pretending to “work”, saying hi-may-I-help-you to random shoppers, all the while stopping to pet the holiday table display with the 12 Days of Christmas plates and Nutcracker napkin rings. Princessa thinks this would work well for her next sit-down dinner party for 12. Yes, yes, there’s that formal dinner party on the calendar:  the day after never.

Princessa ignores the calendar. She goes right back to ogling the beautiful merchandise that the high-end kitchen store buyers on the West Coast have deemed Desirable this year, or better yet, Must-Have. Princessa adores those West Coast buyers, and firmly believes that this entire crystal/china/linen section is necessary to her complete well-being and happiness.

Princessa’s itty-bitty Paycheck ($132.77) begs to differ. With the brutal honesty Paycheck has been known for in the past, Paycheck spells it out for Princessa by phone (although Princessa likes the idea of online-banking, it’s so easy to just dial the automated system and punch in a few numbers). Paycheck rudely leaves off a few crucial zeroes.

On behalf of inner-Princessa, I boldly and confidently confront The Boss when she doesn't look too busy (she is only calculating the store's profit margin for the past 3 months and making a grid chart with units-per-transaction sold ratio compared to number of employees scheduled to present to the Regional Director who will be here in 10 minutes), “Excuse me, Boss? Uh, when I called about my paycheck, it turns out...... I mean, ummm...... I think the amount is, uh, wrong?

She nods at me; she understands this horrific situation. Then, she kindly looks up my hours in the computer, only hesitating to roll her eyes once or possibly twice this time.

“You are absolutely right. It’s wrong,” she confirms in her no-nonsense tone (the same tone she tells employees they will be working at 4 AM the day after Thanksgiving and until midnight on Christmas Eve).

I smile for myself and Princessa. I knew it!

“We overpaid you by about 1.5 hours. But you know, MOV, it’s not a big deal. You deserve it.” Now she is nodding at me, nod-nod-nod, the same nod she gives customers when she demonstrates the espresso machines, you-really-need-this-so-buy-it-today. I am nodding, too. I don’t need a new espresso machine, but I do very much need the extra hour-and-a-half of pay.

Princessa is pouting. “But, but, but what about the new silverware I need for all those parties?” she wonders to herself, her blue Princessa eyes filling with tears.

After work, Princessa and I stop somewhere and purchase the much-needed silverware: plastic, $4.99 for a set of 20, from the corner drugstore by my house. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

229. Accolades

So Tall’s first-grade class is doing a Dramatic Reading and all the parents are invited. Since I’m obsessed with punctuality, I show up about 10 minutes early. The other parents and I are waiting patiently in the school lobby when I see it out of the corner of my eye: a bouquet of flowers.

A random dad I’ve never met before is clutching a huge bouquet of mixed flowers, a symphony of red and purple and orange and pink, the likes of which I’ve never seen before (not even at my own wedding). He's smiling and nodding and chatting with some other parents and I notice he's laughing a little too loudly and gesturing a little too grandly during whatever story he's telling. His very own personal Mini-Dramatic Reading.

A school employee with a photo badge appears.  Deep in my very soul, I'm praying that she is with the Floral Police and has been sent here to put an immediate ban on floral creations of any kind.  Sadly, she has paste in her hair and a piece of construction paper stuck to her elbow (I'm guessing she’s a teacher). Paste-hair Lady has us line up single-file and then ushers us into the classroom. Flower Dad barely fits through the door due to the sheer girth of his floral extravaganza.

My friend Kalla, who is standing behind me in line, taps my shoulder persistently. I turn around to look at her and she motions to Flower Dad with a look of contempt on her face.

“Not. Cool.” she says under her breath. She shakes her head in a cocktail of disgust and disbelief. She continues in a stiff whisper, “I didn’t bring flowers for my daughter. She’s gonna see those roses and say ‘Mommy, where’s my gift?’ and I’m gonna be all, ‘Honey, me showing up is your gift. Look, I brought your sister. Happy Dramatic Reading Day! Love ya!’”

I know exactly what she means. Way to raise the bar, Flower Dad. What were you thinking? Flowers in first grade for a Dramatic Reading? We’re not even sitting in the auditorium, for goshsakes: we’re on tiny doll-sized chairs in the classroom.

Where can we possibly go from here? When my kid makes it to the Olympics for soccer or Kalla’s daughter is on Broadway performing ballet or Tina’s son is playing violin at the Sydney Opera House, what then? No mere bouquet of roses will do at that point. Should we just throw new cars up on the stage?

Flower Dad’s little angel is up in front of the class, about to do her best rendition of “Hickory Dickory Dock”. I have to admit, with her blond ringlets and missing teeth, she's absolutely adorable.  Now she’s reading. Wow—she’s good. Hey, Disney Corporation, you should be sending a talent scout to Crazy Town Elementary right about now. I think your next Hannah Montana is in Classroom 6 talking about mice and clocks.

When Disney Child finishes, her dad claps wildly. The little girl in her brown and orange polka-dot dress and pink tights returns to her seat and her father gives her a quick hug then hands her the bouquet. The flowers are bigger than the tiny girl. She sneezes.

Tall is next. He’s reading a “math poem” and does a fantastic job. He never once mispronounces “prism” or “parallelogram”. When he’s finished, the audience claps politely and Tall walks over to sit with me. I pat his shoulder and say, “Sweetie, I’m proud of you.”

He looks at my empty hands. He leans in and says accusingly, “Mom, you don’t have any flowers for me?”

I smile a weak and panicked faux-smile. Is he going to cry? What should I say now: uh, Leighton’s mom didn’t bring her flowers either? or, your flowers are out in the car, let me run and get them?

Half a second later, he finishes his thought: “Thank you so much for not embarrassing me by bringing flowers.”

(“Mothers Of Violinists”)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

228. Gratitude

So we're sitting at the table, just the four of us, for our Thanksgiving dinner.  My family has this unconventional tradition that before dinner, we go around the table and everyone says what they are thankful for (I know--bizarre!).  Listen in:

Tall:  I'm thankful for my family and all the animals and the world and outer space.
The Husband:  I'm also thankful for my family and that we all have good health.
Me:  I'm thankful for my family, and also that we have good jobs that we love, and that we are all together right now enjoying this wonderful meal.
Short:  I'm thankful for the dinosaurs and the animals from New York.  Amen.  

Is it considered rude to laugh at one's 4-year-old son when he's attempting to have a Serious Moment and share what he's thankful for?  Luckily, I didn't have a gulp of wine in my mouth (because I surely would've had to spit it out).  The Husband and I did our best to suppress smiles. 

(Dinosaurs, I can maybe understand.  But animals?  from New York? We have only one animal, our cat named Kitty who hails from California.  And we've never taken the kids to New York--although we'd like to, it's not on the agenda any time soon.  But it's good to be thankful anyway.) 

("Monkeys Or Velociraptors?")

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

226. Therapy With Excuses

I called a therapist who had been recommended by my another friend, Balance. She said Dr. Cass specialized in relationship issues. I was hoping she could help me resolve the drama with a former chum, so it was worth a shot. After a lot of back-and-forth, we figured out a time that worked for the three of us:

Dr. Cass: MOV, pleasure to meet you. And it’s a pleasure to meet you as well, Excuses.
MOV: Thank you, Dr. Cass.
Excuses: Likewise.
Dr. Cass: Now, MOV, I know we talked on the phone, but why don’t you fill us in on why Excuses is here?
MOV: I want her to be more responsible. Right now, the way she act towards others……… it’s not acceptable.
Dr. Cass: Can you elaborate on that?
MOV: Well, it’s to the point where people avoid her. Teachers, especially, hate her. Back in school, any time homework was due, she conveniently “lost” it or “forgot” it……..
Excuses: I’m just really really busy. I’ve been swamped at work; I have a lot of papers I need to catch up on.
MOV: Why don’t you consider this as sort of an “intervention” to put you back on the right track in your life. How many people do you alienate on a daily basis?!
Excuses: You know, I forgot to put money in my parking meter, I should run.
MOV: This office is on a residential street! There are no meters!
Excuses: Dr. Cass, do you have any Tylenol? I don’t feel good. I think I’m coming down with something.
Dr. Cass: (gets up to find Tylenol) Here. Here you go. Have a sip of water too.
Excuses: Thank you.
Dr. Cass: Sure.
MOV: (mocking) Oh, I’m so sick, poor me, I think I’m coming down with something.
Dr. Cass: I’m sensing some hostility. Excuses, care to respond?
Excuses: You know, traffic will be bad this time of day, and I have to be somewhere at 2:30; I’d better get going.
Dr. Cass: What’s going on with you two?
MOV: Dr. Cass, Excuses seems to appear when I have my hopes up about something, or if I’m meeting someone, or if I have something important planned or if I’m relying on someone. Whenever she’s around, things fall apart.
Excuses: You’re mean. Maybe people just don’t want YOU around.
MOV: I’m “mean” because I’m telling the truth? At least I say “no” instead of leading people on with “sure, yeah, I’ll do it” and then later change my mind and leave them in a lurch.
Excuses: I just remembered I need to pick up my dry cleaning and they close early on Tuesdays. I’ve gotta get going.
MOV: That’s fine. I can’t say I’m surprised. Oh, and one more thing: you will NOT be invited to any more of my parties. You are the worst at parties, RSVP-ing yes and then at the last second not showing up. You inconvenience a lot of people, and I’m sick of it!
Dr. Cass: Well, this was a very short session. Shall we reschedule?
MOV: I can do any day next week, after 1 PM.
Excuses: Oh, I’m taking a yoga class, and it’s every day at 1 PM. Sorry, that won’t work for me.

So there you have it. Another day ruined by my old archenemy, Excuses.

("Ministry Of Vengeance")

Monday, November 22, 2010

223. Picking Up The Art

So I take Short to our local paint-your-own-pottery place to pick up his latest completed art project. My sister Oakley just flew in for a visit last week and was nice enough to take him to paint. However, she was not nice enough to help him actually write his name on whatever he made or provide a receipt. Which brings me (and the cashier girl and the manager and the owner) to our current dilemma: what did he paint?

Luckily, Short is with me. He can identify his own ceramic piece.

The manager smiles broadly at him. “Short, can you show us and your mommy what you made?”

He nods excitedly (delighted to have this audience of four) and walks right over to a gigantic dragon that was clearly painted by an adult with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts.

We all laugh. Four-year-old Short pouts, his feelings hurt.

I clarify, “Short, I’m not asking what you like or what you would like me to buy for you; I’m asking you what you painted when you came here with Auntie Oak. Can you please show me?”

“I know which one I painted, Mom,” he says, “that one,” pointing to a large platter with an ornate design of little gingerbread people all over it. If Fine Arts person did not make this, then clearly her even-more-talented twin did. Big sigh.

I ask the teen-aged cashier if she was here when Short painted with my sister. The cashier surprises me, “Why don’t you just call your sister and ask her what your little boy painted?”

Genius. Gives me hope for the next generation.

I pull out my cell phone, curse the 3-hour time difference, and dial anyway. Oakley answers on the second ring.


“Oakley! Sorry to call so early, hey, I’m at the ceramic place with Short and we have no idea what he painted, so do you…..”

“A tile,” she says, groggy, “a square tile.”

“Thank you! I’m so sorry I woke you, okay, go back to sleep.”

“Yeah. Bye.” The phone clicks.

The manager and I walk over to the tiles, triumphant. There are only 300 tiles here. One must belong to Short.

“Was it a handprint? Do you know what colors you used? Did you paint a truck?”

“This one!” Short grins as he hugs a very ugly tile, a tile that looks like green and brown and grey paint threw up on it. I gingerly take the tile out of his hands for closer examination. This looks like something an angry two-year-old might produce, not my much-much-older son.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to take home the wrong one….” I say cautiously.  I turn towards the manager. “Lynette? I think Short would paint better than this, don’t you? Do you think this could really be the right one?”

She shrugs. “Honestly, MOV, I don’t know.”

I hold out the tile at arms-length distance. We are both scrutinizing it as if it could be a counterfeit 100-dollar bill. “It’s pretty bad,” I whisper.

At the bottom of the tile, I notice some semblance of a name in smeared black paint. It does not say “S-H-O-R-T”. It looks like it says “S-A-M”.

I shake my head and address the would-be artist directly. “Short, this does not say your name. It says, ‘Sam’. It belongs to another little boy.”

I make a face to indicate that the offending tile is icky and he wouldn’t want it anyway.

Short mirrors my face: Yuck. Dog poop. Wouldn’t want it even if it were free.

The owner decides to add her opinion, “I think you should call your sister again.”

“Yes, me too,” chimes in the (formerly helpful, now merely annoying) cashier.

I hit re-dial.

“Hello?” says Oakley.

“Me again. Soooo sorry. Do you know what is on the front of Short’s tile? We can’t find the right one.”

“Geesh, MOV,” she says, starting to sound peeved, “It’s like, 7 AM here. I dunno, it was a swirl of brown and green paint, he was trying to paint some leaves or a tree or something. Oh, yeah, I remember, he tried to write his name at the bottom, but it doesn’t look so much like it says ‘Short’…. It probably looks more like ‘Sam’. Does that help?”

Oops. “Thanks, Oak, we have the right one. Love ya!” I click my phone shut and turn towards my son.

“That’s it! That’s the right one! Beautiful!” Only I exaggerate the syllables to sound more like beeeeee….YOU….teeeeee…..full.

Short still has the “ick” face on. Dog poop, remember?

No, no, masterpiece! Rembrandt now! Happy!

Short looks at the tile and back at me. “I made this?” he inquires, perplexed.

“Yes?” I offer tentatively.

Long pause.

“I LOVE IT!” he beams.

And so do I, now, too.


Friday, November 19, 2010

219. Chance Encounter With Regrets

Today started out rainy and gloomy, so I decided to take Short to the library to pick out some new books. We found a great spot right in front and parked the car. As I was wrestling with the Spiderman umbrella and helping Short put his yellow raincoat hood up, someone called out to me.

“MOV!” said someone-who-knew-my-name, “MOV! It’s me! How’ve you been!” It was more a statement than a question.

Of course I recognized the voice. Oh, God, do I have to talk to him right now? What’s he doing at the library?

“Gosh, it’s been, like, forever,” he winked. “Hi Short! You are almost as big as Tall, huh, buddy?”

“What do you want?” I cut him off, impatient. “I really don’t have any time for you right now.”

“Sure you do,” he said, falling in line with our steps toward the library entrance. “While Short looks at books, you and I can have a little ‘chat’.”

What choice did I have? The library is a public place. We all walked in, with Short insisting on pressing the automatic door-opener.

“Who is that, Mommy?” Short looked up at me, his little face expectant.

“It’s my old friend, Regrets,” I replied with a weariness in my tone.

Short made himself at home in the children’s section of the library and Regrets motioned for me to join him near the window.

“What do you want? I thought we were through,” I whispered, my voice full of venom.  

“You know what I want to talk about: why you never return my phone calls or emails……..” he shook his head, disappointed. “We used to hang out together! What’s going on? Why do you avoid me?”

“Newsflash, Regrets: no one wants you around. You make people feel bad.”

Feel bad? Are you kidding? I’ve always been there for you, through thick and thin. When you dropped out of Architecture school, who offered you a shoulder to cry on—that’s right, me, Regrets. When you decided to move to Spain for a year but then came back after only a month, who was there to pick up the pieces? Regrets! Big time! Any job you ever applied for but didn’t get because of something stupid thing you said in the interview—who did you call to rehash and dissect the entire interview for hours upon hours? Me! Regrets! I listened patiently, I stood by you like a true friend. Now you’re telling me that I make you feel bad?”

“Yes, Regrets, that is exactly what I’m saying. It’s time for you to leave,” I insisted, my voice sounding shrill.

“Excuse me, Miss? Is there a problem? Is this gentleman bothering you?” said my-new-best-friend, the librarian.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, do you think you could call security and….” I began.

“No, everything is fine,” Regrets interrupted. He caught her eye.

“Oh, it’s you! Regrets!” she swooned. “How are you? You look fantastic! Have you lost weight?”

Regrets stood up and gave the librarian a hug.

“Regrets, I really need to talk to you,” she pulled at his sleeve urgently, “I was offered a job up in Boston near my family, but I turned it down. Now I realize I made the wrong decision.” She started to tear up.

Regrets turned to face me. “MOV, I have a real friend who obviously needs me. Good day.” And with that, he took the librarian’s hand and the two of them walked towards the History section, talking like old pals.

("My Only Vendetta")

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

217. 10 Reasons Why I Am More Qualified Than Kate To Be Queen

So after channeling Princess Di to get her take on this disastrous turn of events, I thought I’d compile a list of why I am infinitely more qualified to be Queen of England than Kate Whatsername. William, take note:
  1. I don’t have a phony British accent (I think an American accent is so refreshing!)
  2. I know how to act in any situation (except maybe when meeting Important Heads of State or Nosy Reporters, but thankfully, that wouldn’t be part of the job description, would it?)
  3. I have impeccable manners (and I hardly ever swear, unless it is absolutely the right situation—think maybe once per week at most)
  4. I write a mean thank you note (wait—I don’t mean “mean” mean, I mean “really awesome and perfect” mean)
  5. I never offend anyone ever (as long as you don’t count the UPS guy yesterday when I made that joke about how they must not pay him very well because he always wears the same thing or, basically, anyone who has ever read—or been the topic of—any of my previous blog postings)
  6. I love diamonds (perhaps Kate does too, but I assure you, I love them more)
  7. I look really really good in diamonds
  8. I would be very grateful to have a personal chef (and as a devoted fan of “Top Chef”, I could talk for hours to the chef and give him my good advice and opinions and even critiques—I know he’d love that)
  9. Did I mention I am willing to move to London?
  10. Castles don’t bother me (in fact, I often refer to my 800 sq. ft. home as a “castle”)
  11. I am willing to travel to other countries as part of being a Princess/ Queen (I’m a former flight attendant, so I’m, like, totally prepared)
That's actually 11 reasons. See? Overachiever.

("My Overseas Villa")

216. I Am Supposed To Be the New Queen of England

So Princess Diana calls me from the grave and we are having one of our semi-annual chats. I am totally stressed out, and being the sensitive type, she can tell something’s wrong.

“Di,” I begin, “I just heard the news about Kate. You said William was going to pick me, for goshsakes…..”

She interrupts (death has made her more brazen), “MOV, I said no such thing. First of all, you are like, what, 20 years older than he is?”

“But 42 is the new 24,” I claim.

“No, it’s not. Also, you ARE married, and you have two kids!”

“Well, so were you when you and Charles hooked up!” I challenge.

“Umm, no, I wasn’t. I was like, 15. So, anyway, MOV, you just need to get past it and realize that my son doesn’t even know you exist.”

Ouch. I don’t like this side of Di-Di. Dare I tell her that when she was marrying Charles, I wanted to BE her, not to get married to Charles per se, but just to be a princess. In my new (improved) fantasy, it’s all about marrying William. Plus I would definitely rock that tiara.

“MOV….. what are you thinking? Whenever you get silent like that for too long, I know it can’t be good,” Diana probes.

“I was just thinking how I should have moved to England all those years ago, that maybe I could have actually met William. If he'd have had a chance to get to know me, I surely would’ve won his heart.”

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda,” she offers.

“Amen to that, sister.”


Monday, November 15, 2010

212. Cop-out

So you know what I hate?  A blog that is supposed to be good quality writing and then BOOM--dumb photos everywhere!  You know what?  If I wanted to look at pictures all day long I would just flip through my old albums, thankyouverymuch.  When I see artsy photos in a WRITING blog, I know the writer is just one thing:  lazy.  I consider photos a complete waste of time and, truly, the ultimate cop-out. 

Oh, look, I forgot to show you the pretty red leaves on the tree in my yard: 

("Mastering Optional Views")

Sunday, November 14, 2010

208. Why I Hate Ads

Okay, I admit, I don’t really hate ads. Hate is a very strong word. In fact, just the other day as I was drinking my (Starbucks) latte and reading my latest (House Beautiful) magazine while I was lounging in my comfy leather chair (from Pottery Barn), I was thinking how much I actually enjoy those very clever commercials I see on TV (Sony, purchased at Best Buy) when they air during the Super Bowl. I am not even a huge hockey fan (baseball? lacrosse? remind me which sport they play for Super Bowl) but when The Husband is watching the Super Bowl, I admit that I watch it too, but primarily for the entertaining and funny advertisements (such as the highly effective commercial with the squirrels running in Pamplona, like the running of the bulls, but instead of bulls it was squirrels! get it?  they were selling, uh, uh..... maybe they were selling squirrels?).

Ads do serve their purpose. They hopefully get you to go to the place (for a random example, perhaps a high-end kitchen store) and spend your hard-earned dollars buying something you may or may not need (like a salad spinner or a $2500 espresso machine). I totally get this.

What I don’t get is WHY when I want to be on the computer and read someone’s blog, then SHEBANG! this stupid ad pops up. Why can’t I just read the funny thing (or research what type of red-leafed tree is in my backyard or learn how to make origami paper airplanes—my 6-year-old’s latest obsession) without being visually assaulted by unwanted ads? The ad is never something helpful, like how to care for red-leafed trees that might be growing in your yard or where to buy cheap books that show origami step-by-step; no. The ad is inevitably do you want to know your Credit Score (not really; I prefer to run and hide from my Credit Score……… why? does my Credit Score want to know me? did it, you know, call and ask if I was available to get together or if I thought it was cute?). Or, the ad might be: buy this really expensive car right now! (Hey, Marketing Genius? If I had the money to buy that really expensive car, do you think I would be here looking at Craig’s List for a new coffee table?).

The bottom line is: advertisements don’t work on me. Like that time the other day when Shutterbug popped up and offered $10 off plus free shipping. Who cares? (Although, I truly did need to place an order for Christmas cards, but I, like, was totally planning to do that anyway.)

Okay, that one doesn’t count.

As I was saying, I am not just one of these nameless little sheep that just do whatever the advertisers tell him/her (it?) to do. I don’t need new business cards (Got Ink), thankyouverymuch. Uh, actually, their business cards do look super cute. And wow, 2 day shipping, that’s impressive. 33 cents per card, do they even break even on that? it would be kind of criminal not to order the cards, I mean, they are practically paying me.

So, my message to all you advertisers out there is: please leave me and my poor antique computer alone. I abhor your ads, especially the crazy ones that move around the page and follow me. Makes me a little nervous and uncomfortable. If I want someone to follow me, I’ll just tell my 4-year-old that I might share my M&M’s with him.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some really expensive cars I need to go look at.

PS--What I forgot to say, which I meant to is:  I will never sell out.  You will never see ads here in my blog, even if it happens to be a favorite product of mine.  I Absolut -ly will not do ads!  There is no Gap between my integrity/morals and the way I live my life.  I think it's safe to say we are all United on that front.  So, go enjoy some (Baskin-Robbins) ice cream and kick back and read my ad-free blog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

205. An Open Letter To Architects Everywhere

Dear Architects Everywhere (but specifically Crazy Town architects),

Please consider the VIEW when you are planning a new house. So many new houses that I have toured (uh, trespassed) in the framework stages do not focus on the view at all. This is disheartening to say the least.

The other day I walked through a construction site and the lot was magnificent—almost half an acre with stunning mature oak trees. Guess where the best view was? From the upstairs walk-in closet! This is ridiculous. Even in Architecture 101, beginning students learn the critical importance of tailoring a home to the site.

I’ve seen houses with huge windows overlooking a parking lot, master bathrooms looking out to a busy street, teeny tiny kitchen windows facing a gorgeous yard, and unnecessary 3-car garages taking up the entire backyard.  Common sense dictates that the most important rooms take advantage of the view

Architect, this probably leaves you wondering what else people want in the new houses of today? The answers might surprise you (hint: square footage isn't everything). It’s difficult to answer for every individual, but I’ll tell you what I would want:
  • A formal entry. Chances are, you ripped down a 1940’s Cape Cod to put up a McMansion, so the least you can do is make it worthwhile and provide a foyer. No one wants to walk straight into the main living space; people need a transition space, a place to set their packages and keys and hang their coats.
  • Laundry room upstairs. And I don’t mean a closet-sized space. There is absolutely no excuse for the laundry area to be treated as an afterthought. At my house, we give a lot of thought to laundry on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and usually Sundays. No one wants to trudge down to the basement 50 million times (give or take). Make it convenient and put the laundry room where the laundry is generated where it should (ideally) return to: the bedrooms.
  • Views. The house should be all about the view. Take the main view (typically the backyard, but in some cases it might be the side or front yard) and arrange all the critical rooms (living room, kitchen, master bedroom) facing the most appealing view. What defines a “good” view? Think trees, yard, patio, flowers. The neighbor’s brick wall does not qualify.
  • Windows.  The more the better, the bigger the better.  I have never heard someone say "Wow, that window is just too big."  As a corollary, I have heard people say, "This room feels dark; I wish there were more windows in here."    
  • Let’s talk about internal views. What the heck is an internal view? I’m referring to what you see when you’re looking from one room into another. You look through a doorway and get an inviting glimpse of a lovely painting or a dresser or a window or archway. I also call these “sight-lines” and I give them the utmost importance. Here’s a classic example of what NOT to do: don’t place the toilet so you can see it straight from the bed in the master bedroom. There’s no excuse for that! If I was an Architecture Professor, I would give the plan an “F” based solely on that one mistake.
  • Hallways. Make ‘em wide: think 4 feet or even a little more. ‘Nuff said.
  • Basements. A basement is something that might be nice to have, but not at the point of sacrificing the main house. What I am talking about here is the insane tendency to dig out a basement and then this makes the house so high from the outside that it is necessary to put 12 stairs to get to the initial front entry way! That’s crazy. No one wants to walk up a flight of stairs while carrying groceries (or a small child) trying to maneuver their way into their home every day. Two stairs, seven stairs, that might be acceptable. Not 12, certainly not 20.
  • Formal dining and living room. These rooms are a relic of an era gone by; most people don’t live this way. Do yourself a favor and make a large open family-friendly kitchen/ eating area/ family room. It is silly to waste space on a formal dining room and then 5 feet away have another table that the family eats almost all their meals in (called the breakfast nook or eat-in kitchen). Why? What purpose does that serve? Honestly, it just makes it so the owner has to buy more furniture. I would much rather have one large family room then two small rooms (living and separate family room).
  • Stairs.  Do you know why we have adopted the characteristic of placing the stairs near the front door?  It dates back to the times when the grand old houses had servants' quarters on the ground floor level while the wealthy owners used the second floor primarily for the main entertaining and living quarters.  There would be a grand entry and the guests would immediately go upstairs.  The stairs were welcoming and inviting and suited this purpose well.  Nowadays, most of us do not have servants and the private bedrooms are located upstairs.  In a modern home, it is a bit jarring to have a large staircase right at the point of entry ushering you into what is essentially intended to be a private space.  I think architects should make more of an effort to place the stairs in a convenient and logical spot elsewhere in the house, and not just automatically (or by default) place them by the front door.    
  • Garage entry. Please please give this some thought. If you are planning to 99% of the time come in the house through the garage, then have the interior garage door open into the exact same space as the formal entry. The space should be warm and inviting, not full of muddy shoes and sports equipment. You can easily plan a “mud-room” small hallway that leads from the garage directly to the formal entry for that purpose. What I am saying to avoid is having the garage entry put you right into the kitchen or the back of the house or a completely separate space than where guests come in.  Shouldn't the owner get to enjoy the nice areas of the house too?   
  • Kitchen. Unless the ceilings are 20 feet high, the upper cabinets need to go to the ceiling. Islands are great. Pantries are divine. Butler’s pantries are gifts from heaven. Buy an undermount sink (this makes it so no yucky stuff accumulates around the rim of the sink). Everything below waist level should be drawers. Everything about waist should be cabinets. Plan cookbook storage (think open shelves). Install a pull-out trash so it is hidden. Splurge and get a slab countertop (not tiles)—choose granite or marble or whatever you like, but get it as a slab (no cleaning around grout lines). Stainless steel appliances are only a trend (just sayin'). 
  • Electrical outlets. Sure, code dictates how many, but a smart architect takes it to the next level and places the outlets in the appropriate spots: an extra outlet in the bathroom by the counter for a hairdryer, or maybe a double outlet where a desk will probably go.
  • Closets. Lots of 'em.
  • Eastern/ Southern exposure. Think about the sun. You can change where you position the master bedroom, but you can’t change that the sun rises in the East. Does the home-owner really want the sun coming in their bedroom window every morning at 5:30 AM? This actually goes for all the rooms; consider the pattern of light at different times of day and different times of year. This matters.
  • Built-in shelving. This should be standard. It’s great to have somewhere to display your grandmother’s china or all your books, and it’s even better when this has been planned from the get-go.
  • Trees.  If you are lucky enough to have them, please don't cut them all down.  Even if you plant replacement trees, it will take several years for them to grow very tall.     
  • Patio/ Deck/ Screened-in Porch. Outdoor spaces provide extra living space in good weather. They should not be ignored.
The main problem I see with new construction is that an architect designs a generic floorplan and applies it to a lot without giving any thought to the specific site.  Adjustments should be made for the lot.  Every house should be tailored and customized to its surroundings.

Floorplans need to make sense. As an architect, you should imagine walking through the space, rounding every corner, looking out every window. See yourself in that blueprint.

("Master Of Vision")

Friday, November 12, 2010

204. Definition Of Fun

So we have a few bags of Halloween candy left over, namely Peanut M&M's.  I open up the microscopic bag and two (2) M&M's roll out.  Are you kidding me?  Two?  That't it?

I take a closer look at the packaging and sure enough, right on the label it clearly says, "FUN SIZE".  Huh.  There is nothing fun (to me) about a them forgetting to put the other 19 M&M's in the bag.  Two M&M's is, frankly, insulting.  I decide to look up the word "fun" in the dictionary in an effort to obtain more insight into The Mars Corporation naming it thus.  There in black and white, I read, "fun: pleasure".

See?  I am right:  this candy is misnamed.  There is no pleasure in eating only two M&M's.

Then I read further:  "make fun ofto ridicule".

Oh.  I guess they named it right after all.


203. My 6-Year-Old Explains Basic English

So we’re sitting at the dinner table and Tall takes it upon himself to explain to us how to categorize the letter “Y”.

“Pop,” he begins, innocently enough, “did you know that in a lot of cases, the letter ‘Y’ is considered a valve?”

“A what?” I interrupt, trying hard not to smirk.

“It makes a sound like the ‘I-E’ combination, so therefore it is considered not to be a continent.”

“A continent?” Hand covering face now.

He ignores me. “Pop, do you know what year they declared the letter ‘Y’ to be both a continent and a valve? Was it 1997? I know it was a long time ago.”

The Husband cannot help himself and nearly snorts milk out his nose. He says the first thing he can think of. “Tall, I believe it was longer ago than that.”

“Oh, you’re right. Yeah, yeah, I think it was 1992. Does that sound right?”

I must hear him say these things again. “1992 was the year for what exactly, Tall?”

Heavy sigh. Mom is so stupid. “Moooooooommmmmmm. You KNOW what I was talking about! Why do you do that?! 1992 was the year that the letter ‘Y’ was offensively considered to be both a VALVE and a CONTINENT! I wish you would pay attention and get it right the first time so you wouldn’t have to keep asking me!”

Don’t worry, Tall. I’ll wait until tomorrow to ask you again. I’ll just keep playing it over and over in my brain until then.

("Magnitude Of Valves")

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

198. What Desperation Looks Like

So Tall’s teacher decided it was good and time for him and his fellow first-graders to learn all about the United States. Little did I know that it would soon be time for ME too to learn all about the United States.

Tall came home with what was probably his 788th Parent Communication & Information Sheet (PCIS) this month. I gingerly placed it in the teetering stack with the other 787 PCIS’s. A week, possibly four weeks, went by, and I decided it might be a good idea to read it. Here’s what it said:

“Dear Parent/ Caregiver,” (editor’s note: never ‘Reluctant and Harried Caregiver’—have they never met me?)

“Here at Crazy Town Elementary, we place great importance on teaching our children about the world in which they live, specifically the United States of America. To that end, we will be sending home worksheets every night (for 50 nights, plus 1 extra for Puerto Rico, which is technically a U.S. territory) for you to help your child with. Please have your child write down one interesting fact about the particular state chosen for that day (ex. Massachusetts became the 6th state in 1788). We will read these fun facts aloud in class!

Thank you in advance for your continued involvement and participation in your child’s future as a bright and shining Star!

Best Regards,
Miss Teacher”

Oh, brother. Here we go again: more homework for Mom.

Okay, MOV, let’s put aside the negative attitude and get involved, just like Miss Teacher already thinks we are.

First, I start going through the recycling bin, as I think the first 20 states or so might have, ahem, inadvertently been thrown in there. No luck. (Damn The Husband, taking out the recycling in a timely and reasonable manner!)

That’s okay, I tell myself, there are still 30 states to go, plus Puerto Rico.

When Tall gets home, I greet him at the door, ready to assist with difficult homework assignments.

“What’s with the goofy grin, Mom?” he sneers.

“Let’s do your state homework!” I say enthusiastically. “Which state did you get today?”

The next three days go, I think, quite well. On the 4th day, Miss Teacher sends a special PCIS not for all the parents, but specifically aimed at me (my name is even scribbled hastily into the “Dear ___________” section at the top of the page).

“Dear   MOV                    ,

I think it is great that you are choosing to actively participate in your child's learning experience. However, I would like to stress the necessity for the State ‘facts’ to, in fact, be factual. Although I appreciate your helping your child with this section of the homework, you might want to just have him Google some facts on the computer. In the meantime, I have taken the liberty of sending home an atlas from our school library for you to peruse. You might want to consider possibly investing in an inexpensive atlas like this, or if that is a financial hardship, I can look into donations from the Scholarship Fund for this purpose.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing your child do the kind of work that I know he is capable of.

Warm Regards,
Miss Teacher”

Scholarship Fund???? Has she never seen me wear my $249 jacket from Talbot’s?! or Tall use his $43 StarWars backpack from Pottery Barn Kids? We don’t need financial assistance from the Scholarship Fund!

I re-read the letter for the 3rd time. Huh. That is really what she wrote. I go through Tall’s backpack to reacquaint myself with whatever “facts” Tall and I dreamt up for this assignment.
  1. “Texas is really really really really Big.” (included is a drawing on a piece of paper, and Texas looks the size of a small mouse)
  2. “I think Arizona is where the Grande Canyon is lokated.” (I can't remember if he asked me if "Grand" had a letter "e" at the end; surely that can't be my fault?) 
  3. “Alaska is a state that has a lot of snow and cold ice and glaciers, and also my mom wants to go their on a cruz somedaay.”
Those are all facts. I do want to go on a cruz (perhaps with Tom Cruise?) to Alaska somedaay. Maybe the Scholarship Fund can help pay for that.

(“Mom’s On Vacation”)

Monday, November 8, 2010

197. Why Target Is My BFF

After Our Computer’s near brush with death, it got me thinking: who is important in my life? who do I love and cherish and want to spend more time with? It didn’t take me long to think up an answer: Target.

Target has been my best friend for, oh, about twelve years now. I try to think back to the time before Target was a valuable member of my inner circle of friends, and, honestly, my memory goes all hazy. Was I even alive before I discovered Target? Could you even call that living?

I think not.

My best friend Target has enriched my life in so many ways (and I don’t just mean material ways, although she has always come through for me there too). Target is one of those pals who seems to somehow know just what you are missing in your life (say, a trashy celebrity gossip magazine or a new sports-watch or perhaps a jumbo bag of peanut m&ms) and then provide it.

Who was there for me at 9:55 PM to offer brand new pacifiers when my infant would not stop screaming? Target. Who found me a new soft and fuzzy red cardigan sweater when The Husband ruined my old favorite by tossing it in the dryer? That’s right: Target. Who came through in the end with last-minute school supplies for Tall when we waited until the day before school started to shop? You guessed it! Target.

Like most great friendships, this one did not develop overnight. It began as a sort of innocent crush from afar. One day I happened to pick up House Beautiful magazine, and there on page 132, was a small silver and white birdhouse with three little drawers in it (I know it sounds kooky, but you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was exquisite). The fact that I did not own a bird, nor a yard in which to attempt to capture a potential bird, did not stop me from coveting said birdhouse. In fact, there was no deterrent at all, as the price was listed as a mere $19.95 plus tax.

Having never heard of Target before that day, I immediately asked my elderly landlady if she knew where the closest Target was (she did), and I got directions and drove there.

I decided to use my new birdhouse to put mail in. Junk mail in one drawer, bills in another, and my new subscription to House Beautiful in the third. (Today I admit that the drawers were a little small for this purpose, but like any new infatuation, it seemed like a great idea at the time.)

Flash forward to now. Target and I meet up almost weekly for our special “girl time”. Like that trendy girlfriend she is, Target will helpfully point out special new jeans I might like to try on. Or maybe a new throw pillow for the living room couch. Target has her finger on the pulse of all that is new and hip and fun.

Additionally, my best friend Target is very thoughtful. She sends me things in the mail, like coupons or a $50 "Limited Edition" Buzz Lightyear two days before Christmas even though they were back-ordered. Yep, good ol’ Target comes through once again.

(Friendship, as you know, is a two-way street, and to that end, I have shared with Target too, namely a portion of each and every paycheck.)

The other great thing about Target: she doesn’t judge me. You’ll never once hear her say something like, “Don’t you already own three full sets of dishes?” or “Those purple suede boots don’t match anything in your closet.” No. Target is supportive.

Oh, sure, we’ve had our tiffs over the years, who hasn’t? Like the time I tried to return that navy blue jacket (tags attached) without a receipt. Target took one look at me and rolled her eyes (tough love). You know a receipt is required on all returns, I remember her saying with more than a bit of impatience and condescension in her tone. She ended up giving me a store credit knowing full well that I would use that store credit in about 15 seconds. But that’s the kind of thing that girlfriends go through—we laugh about it now.

The only thing (there’s always one thing, isn’t there?) that annoys me just the teeniest tiniest bit about my best friend Target is: she seems to have other friends besides me. I’m talking A LOT of other friends. She can be a Party Girl; I have to compete with everyone else to get her attention, and I’m just not 100% comfortable with that. We used to have so many good times together, just the two of us. It makes me sad. I wish Target would think back to what a loyal and devoted friend I have been over the years, and, well, maybe Target could make an effort to spend more quality time with just me. Say, open the store an hour early for me to just shop by myself—yes, that would be nice.

Maybe I’ll mention it next time I see Target, but for now, I have some coupons to go through.


196. It's That Time Again

  • wall clock in study; 
  • wall clock in kids’ toy room; 
Main floor:
  • decorative clock on fireplace mantle in living room;
  • thermometer/clock combo on top of TV;  
  • no less than four (4) clocks in kitchen, including stove, coffee maker, timer, and wall clock;
  • master bedroom contains two bedside alarm clocks (one for each of us);
  • several wristwatches on dresser (minimum two each);
  • each son has his own watch (not that they know how to tell time, but it’s good to own one, don’t you think?);
  • clock on dresser;
  • plus wall clock in laundry room (why?);
Outside (?!):
  • my car has one dashboard clock as does 
  • The Husband’s truck.  
Grand Total: 19 (or more) time pieces.

Late Sunday evening, I spent approximately 48 minutes re-setting all the clocks and watches we own, which begs the question: Daylight Savings Time? Really, Savings? Or is Daylight Losings Time a little more accurate?

(“Musing On Validity”)

195. When Grief Sneaks Up And Punches You In The Face

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but The Husband and I are having to deal with something that we’ve been avoiding. A beloved and valued member of our family has become very, very ill. Annoyingly so. I’m talking about, of course, Our Computer.

We adopted Our Computer in happier times, when we lived in California. Our life was uncomplicated back then; it was all about an empty (high-capacity) memory waiting to be filled and yes, I admit it, speed-speed-speed. With just a click of a mouse, we could be on virtually any virtual site within milliseconds.

It was not to last. Nine years flies by, and the next thing you know, evil words are being whispered (words like, “replacement” or “something new” or “gotten our money’s worth”). The Husband and I finally sat down and had the much-needed conversation about Our Computer, and it became painfully obvious that we were in different stages of the grieving process. While The Husband oscillated back and forth from the Anger Stage (“I hate Our Computer! I want to toss it out the window!”) to the Depression Stage (“I’m sad. I used to type a simple email and send it in less than seven hours,”), I was clearly stuck in a different stage: Bargaining. I found myself patting Our Computer on its cute little monitor (just like in the old days) and saying, “If you can just find it in your heart to let me finish typing this one short blog, I promise to clean the dust out of your keyboard more often!”

I often blamed myself for ignoring the warning signs of what The Husband and I eventually dubbed Our Computer’s version of Alzheimer’s: Computzheimer’s. We didn’t give much notice when Our Computer would not do simple commands (commands like “Turn On”). We became increasingly alarmed when Our Computer would forget bigger things (things like, “How To Save A Crucial Work Document”or "All Your Tax Records From 2002--Now").

In a valiant effort to save Our Computer, The Husband recommended drastic measures like erasing extraneous data that was apparently clogging the memory tubes of our precious dinosaur. We got to work. First, timidly, we deleted a couple files of blurry photos that we knew we also had on back-up discs. Next, we got rid of four thousand (give or take) emails that we had saved but knew we could most likely live without. Pretty soon, we were on a roll with our purging, and we got Our Computer back down to its binary roots, saving only basic email capacity and Google.

It was still not enough to breathe life back into Our Computer. Strangely, I reverted back to the Denial Stage (“this can’t be happening! anything but this!”), while The Husband pole-vaulted ahead to the Acceptance Stage (“Hon, should we maybe get a Mac this time? did you want a laptop?”). How could he so easily discard Out Computer without so much as a quick trip down (RDRAM 4-magabyte) memory lane? Had all those times ordering new shirts (not available in stores: size XL Tall) through L.L. Bean online meant nothing? How about my (former) eBay addiction? Playing computer solitaire when insomnia strikes at 3 AM? And who can forget the many MANY emails from CBS Fantasy Football Reports?

I feel like somewhat of a traitor as I type this, because I am (yes, still) typing this (through tears, though) on Our Computer. If you are able to read this blog, we are temporarily triumphing over Computzheimer’s for one more day, patiently awaiting The Husband’s Christmas bonus so we can give Our Computer a proper funeral.

(“Missing Our Vanguard”)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

194. Green-Bean Casserole (The Unpublished Blog)

So I get home from work last night at 10 PM after selling espresso machines and crystal goblets all day and I’m starving. I innocently ask The Husband if there’s any food left over from whatever he made for dinner. He says, "Sure. I made a green-bean casserole." That sounds (ahem) less than appealing, so I ask him what on Earth possessed him to make that and he says that they were sampling it at Trader Joe's. Oh, yeah? Well they are also giving away free puppies and kittens outside the Crazy Town Pet Store right next to Trader Joe's and I don't want those either.

Then, if that’s not bad enough (green bean casserole!!), The Husband adds insult to injury and say, "Honey, I don't think you will like it because," (get ready for this part), "I used canned green-beans." If a Judge Chef were here giving this dish a rating, maybe the concept or idea of green-bean casserole (GBC) would get a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best—equivalent rating for, perhaps, lobster thermador), and the 3 rating the Judge Chef would give is for creativity with a little pity mixed in. Since I now know that it is canned green-beans (frozen would be just as bad), the rating drops to a minus 2.

(Author's note:  if the fates have smiled upon you and you've had the extremely good fortune to never see nor know what goes into a GBC, besides canned green beans it also has canned mushroom soup.  In fact, there are probably some mystery ingredients too, as GBC enjoys the retro 1950's nickname of Casserole Finis which translates roughly to "Whatever's About To Expire In The Pantry" casserole.)

Then, The Husband has the strange idea to say, "You know what, MOV? If I had to make it over...." (oh, God, please don’t!), "I would not have put the cheese on top." Not have put the cheese on top?!? How about not have gotten the can opener out or even bothered to turn on the oven. How about, if I had to do it over again, I would have called Domino's.

The Husband kept emphasizing that he made it from scratch (when, in fact, he should have scratched the whole idea). There are certain items that one should buy from Trader Joe’s, and that list does not (ever) include canned green beans. (Hint: list should include the wide range of foods found in the friendly Chocolate Family and/ or the grape family—think Napa Valley).

(warning:  full-color photo of GBC below)


(my sincere apologies to Le Creuset company, as it is obvious that my beautiful French pan is calling out in agony at this unacceptable form of cooking abuse/ torture)

 Between you and me, I would rather starve or at least go to bed hungry than put anything even mildly resembling that GBC in my mouth.  I think you are pretty much guaranteeing you will have multiple visits to the “facilities” at inconvenient times if that creation touches your tongue and teeth.  (I did go to bed hungry, by the way.  Please feel sorry for me now.  But at least I can still go to the bathroom like a normal person in a normal fashion and not have to spend 6 hours in there.)   

I do not have the heart to tell The Husband all this (and/or take the risk that our marriage might indeed be held together by gooey cheddar cheese), so that is why I am telling you. Luckily, The Husband prefers CNN and Sports Center to my blog, so I am hopeful he will not read this. If I see that GBC photo end up on YouTube or your Facebook page, I'm comin' after ya (and oh, yes, I'll have a recipe in my hand).

(“Melting Only Velveeta”)
PS--thank you to The Husband for making GBC.  I had Writer's Block, but now I don't!