Sunday, October 31, 2010

180. I Choose Candy

So, unfortunately, I have become one of Those Mothers. You know, the ones who wait until the very last second to buy the Halloween candy because of their (in my case, justified) fear that they will eat all the candy themselves?

Last night, The Husband and I had the same conversation we have every October 30th. It went something like this:

The Husband: Did you buy Halloween candy yet?
Me: No. And why is it my job anyway? You can’t drive to Target?
TH: Oh, come on, don’t be ridiculous! You know I’d buy the wrong kind and then you’d be mad.

It’s true: he would buy the wrong kind. I drive to Target and am immediately sorry—there is not a parking place to be had. Uh-oh. When I finally do park on top of someone else’s car, I walk in and realize that every customer in the store is doing what I’m doing: panicking. Moms and dads and toddlers and babies and grandmas and teen-agers and twenty-somethings—everyone is here and accounted for, shoving each other out of the way in a futile attempt to locate the “best” costume or the “best” candy. It is October 30th; let’s not fool ourselves, there is no “best” left. There is not even a “second-best” or “eight-best” or “fifteenth-best”: no. There is only worst.

I maneuver past a man holding what looks like a giant beetle-goat-hybrid costume (“Sweetheart, they’re out of StarWars Luke Skywalker costumes for Jacob, can he be a beetle-goat-hybrid instead?”). I stare at the vacant shelves in disbelief—is this the first sign of the Apocalypse?

The next aisle over, I find the distinctly unappetizing leftover candies, the ones No One Else Wanted. There are a few ripped jumbo bags of Easter Skittles (I am well-aware that that is the wrong holiday), some sort of generic brand licorice that is clearly a knock-off of “Good-N-Plenty” (“Great-N-Abundant”), Organic pepper-flavored gummy balls (not surprisingly, there are several bags of these languishing on the shelf), some sad little mini chocolate bars with images of skeletons wearing devil costumes, and an abandoned bag of pretzels. As I consider the bag of pretzels, a woman clutching a tree costume grabs them out from under me.

Sigh. What am I going to do?

Target has never let me down before. I push my way through the hordes and back to the front of the store. I quietly ask to speak to a manager. A small boy all of fourteen years old steps forward and says politely, “I’m Toby, the week-end evening Shift Manager,” his voice has not changed yet, it’s high and squeaky and sounds like my six-year-old’s voice, “how can I help you, m’am?”

I explain my situation (summed up in four words: “desperation; name-brand candy”) and he nods sympathetically. Then he turns to a tiny girl who I assume must be his little sister and says, “Heather? Can you radio back to Carl and find out what’s going on with remaining pre-packaged candy in Pumpkin-Land?”

I’m liking Toby more by the minute. After a brief pow-wow with Heather about the crisis that they are now referring to as the Candy Situation, I’m whisked away to some secret back warehouse room entrance. I don’t know if this is a good idea. It’s kind of like seeing Mickey Mouse take his giant (fake) head off: disconcerting. Maybe we should forget about Halloween this year and turn all our house lights off and pretend we’re not home? Could we get away with that, or would genius neighborhood children see through our flimsy sham and retaliate by toilet-papering our house?

Carl, in all his pimply glory, meets us at the door. Toby leans in and says Something Important to Carl, who now looks very somber and serious. Toby turns back to me, hands me a coupon for 20% off and a free popcorn at their snack bar, and says apologetically, “I’m so very sorry for the inconvenience. Carl here has located a last shipment of a few boxes of candy; I hope you’ll find what you’re looking for there.” He smiles, and I notice he has what looks like a Reese’s Piece stuck in his braces.

“Thank you, Toby,” I murmur admiringly. Carl leads me back to the main receiving area, which is stacked full of cardboard boxes. We come upon some boxes that someone (Carl?) has hastily torn open, and there—lo and behold—are several giant bags of Peanut M&M’s and KitKat’s tumbling out. I gasp. It’s like Target had reserved special boxes of candy with the words “MOV’s Favorites—hold thru Sat!” emblazoned on the front.

Carl shakes his head. “I am so sorry, m’am, this is absolutely all we have left. I hate to say it, and don’t take it the wrong way, but maybe next year you might want to consider shopping for your candy a little bit sooner than October 30th…….. say, maybe August or September so you’d have the best selec…..”

I cut him off. “Carl, I appreciate your concern, but this is perfect. I’ll take all the M&M’s and KitKat’s you have.”

After I pay, I drive my SUV around to the back loading dock. Carl meets me at the curb with ten enormous boxes that could each fit a couch. I guess I’m all set for next Halloween, too.

("Mother Of Vampires")

Friday, October 29, 2010

179. The Curse of Virgo

So there I am, shopping at Macy’s. Suddenly, I notice that of the three navy blue cashmere sweaters I am pawing through, one is out of order. It should go S-M-L, and instead, SOMEONE (not me) has relocated M to the front, so now the order is M-S-L. This is (obviously) unacceptable. I move M back to the middle where M belongs. A woman (cute, young-ish, wearing a silver top and tight brown skirt with a ruffled hem) taps me on my shoulder. “Ma’am? Do you work here? Can you tell me where to find the Ralph Lauren section?”

This is the Curse of Virgo.

I don’t want to put all the cashmere sweaters back in order; I’m compelled to, whether I like it or not. I decide I do not want to be mistaken for a Macy’s employee: clearly it’s time to leave. The Sock Department is on the way out, right next to the door. There are three stray pairs of suicidal socks that have jumped from their respective overcrowded hooks to their demise on the dirty floor. Of course I must pick them up and re-hang them (tell me, what choice do I have? it’s the right thing to do). This time it’s a man that taps me on the shoulder. “Selena? You need to get back to the Shoe Department, stop wandering into Socks.” (I am picking up on a distinct hierarchy here, with Socks being waaaaaaaay below Shoes in the pecking order. The way he says “Socks” is exactly like someone might say “expired cottage cheese” or “poopy diapers.”)

I look him in the eye (he has “manager” written all over him) and I say what anyone would say under the circumstances, “No problem, it won’t happen again. Oh, and it’s Serena, not Selena.”

He smiles at me. We understand each other.

I hightail it out of Macy’s and over to Chowder City to get a cup of yummy clam chowder. As I walk up to the counter to place my order with the “To Go” girl, I notice that the stack of paper menus has not only tipped over, but some of them (gasp!) have fallen on the ground. Queen Virgo picks them all up, and arranges them neatly (some were upside down) and sets them precisely on the counter. The waitress notices. She says, “Are you Lisa? Is today your first day as hostess? Manuel was looking for you.”

I laugh, and shake my head no, all the while thinking, If I make small talk with Manuel and he finds out I picked up all the menus, will that maybe get me a free chowder?

(And as a quick aside, what's with me being mistaken for retail clerks and hostesses all the time?  Why am I never mistaken for a doctor or lawyer or Gwyneth Paltrow or someone like that?  Is it time to ditch the "Hello, Kitty" barrettes that were always meant to be ironic anyway?) 

The Curse of Virgo follows me. I try to leave my Virgo-ness at home or in the car, but no. The Virgo Tendencies cling to me like a cheap fleece jacket straight from the dryer sticking to, well, everything else in that load of whites. Virgo-Virgo-Virgo. Nothing messy, nothing out of place.

As you can well imagine, this Virgo Hypermania did not go over so well when I was a flight attendant for United Airlines. The other flight attendants and I would finish up the service and then have a little time to relax in the back galley. One flight attendant might, I don’t know, decide to drink a coke. She would pour about half of the can into her cup of ice and sip it, enjoying the sweetness and the necessary jolt of caffeine. Then, maybe, a passenger would call her over to ask her something important (like, May I have a pillow or Are we passing over the Grand Canyon right now?). I personally had no time for fruitless pillow searches or ho-hum scenic distractions: no. I had enough distraction right here in my own back galley: she had left her coke on the counter.

Was she coming back for it? If so, when? Who knew? Was she done? Your guess is as good as mine. I stared at the (hypothetical) soda (but it wasn’t that hypothetical as this scenario in its countless variations played out on almost every flight). I watched the remaining fizzy bubbles ... stop ... fizzing. The ice had melted down to tiny reflective shards.      

Honestly, what choice did I have here? The choice had already been made for me, and most likely had absolutely nothing to do with being Virgo. That’s right: I threw it away. Blip! Gone. Into the trash.

She would (predictably) come back. Her name was Suzette (or Sophie or Lucy or Frank or Diane or Jeannie or J.J.) and she would say (barely masking the dismay in her voice), “Did someone throw my soda in the trash?! I wasn’t done with it yet! Who did that?”

I would look away. Queen Virgo, guilty again.

Don’t think it ends there; the passengers didn’t much care for my Virgo-ness either. “Can you help me lift my small tote bag into the overhead bin?” a kindly older woman might ask. “Not before you zip it closed and get that stray dog-fur off of it—wow, your dog is a shedder!”

The first time I was written up, unpleasant words like, “judgmental” and “disrespectful” were bandied about, as in “The passengers are complaining that you are being judgmental.” I would roll my eyes and sigh, “They're wrong, I'm not being judgmental, and by the way, I resent you writing me up, and your pencil is not very sharp, why don’t you sharpen it?  Also, I'm curious:  did you even go to college, because I don't see a degree on that cubicle wall.”

The Curse of Virgo, as you can ask any of my many friends born between August 22nd and September 21st is: we like everything perfect. No, it’s more than that. We demand that everything be perfect. If things aren’t perfect, well, then you’re just lazy.

Fear not, though, my lazy friend! Queen Virgo is here to save the day, organize your kitchen and purge your files: it’s what I do. I have this innate sense of the way things should be, the way things could be, the way things must be (hint: they're all the same way—my way). It takes every ounce of my being, every fiber of my soul, to not pick up the dollars in the Starbucks tip jar and line the George Washington visages up the same way and put the dollars back into the jar. (Really? You would give the poor girl a wrinkled dollar that looks like it went through a particularly defeating spin cycle? Why not a crisp dollar? I’m not saying you have to iron it, but please think about it for next time ... ).

You know what would make my life soooo much easier? If everyone were a Virgo like me. My friend, M, who is my co-worker at the high-end kitchen store, is also a Virgo. He tells me there are classes for “Former Reforming Virgos.” Huh? (I guess one good thing about a class full of Virgos is: no one’s late.)

What do you mean, I ask M, reforming Virgos? I happen to like myself and all my quirky (some would say “cute”—that would be what I would say, while others might use a word similar to “annoying”—The Husband might say that if polled) ways.

“Well, I don’t know how to break this to you, MOV, but not everyone is as enamored of Virgos as we Virgos ourselves.”

“I don’t really understand where you’re going with this ... ”

M leans in; he has a secret to share.

“MOV, you know I think you are great, but other people, they just, well, they mock Virgos.”

“What?!?” I screech. My mind is numb: why would someone purposely ridicule a Sweet Helpful Virgo like myself? I can’t fathom it.

M continues, “You know how Virgos are obsessed with order and neatness? Well, I hate to tell you, but the rest of the world seems to be consumed with chaos and messiness.” He frowns an exaggerated frown to get his point across.

But is he making it up, the part about the class, I mean? If there is a class, should I take it? Would that be akin to a self-imposed intervention? What is so horribly wrong about being a Virgo?

"You know, MOV, I took the class, twice.  It would really help you.  I have completely let go of that whole clean/ neat/ perfect Virgo thing.  It's like I'm a new person."  He smiles broadly then does his best "Price Is Right" spokesmodel gesture, showcasing himself to reinforce that, yes indeed, he is truly a New Person. 

This lovely and exquisite hand gesture violently knocks M's scalding hot coffee all over the back counter and immediately drenches a stack of important fliers (10% Off Coupon!). I do what I do best: grab a sponge and clean up the mess that has now dripped onto the floor. M doesn’t notice: he’s too busy frantically drying the fliers with paper towels, one-by-one, lifting the fliers into the air and flapping them around like warning flags in a vain effort to make them pristine and dry once again.      

("Messy Or Virgo")

Thursday, October 28, 2010

178. Politically Corrected

So my friend Donna mentions that she started volunteering every morning at a public school in an adjacent town. I ask what her specific job is at South Depressingville Elementary, and she says she's the Parent/ Teacher Liaison (her task is to get more parents directly involved in the education process). Donna is originally from Barcelona, so she’s fluent in Spanish which is the main reason they need her: to translate.

When she's done telling me about this latest selfless philanthropic venture, I say, “Donna, I’m so impressed. What a great thing to do. What exactly inspired you to take this on?”

Without hesitation, Donna replies, “I’m doing it because the kids are poor.”

I am nodding and understanding, but then I think: Wait! Did she just say POOR? Are we allowed to say poor now? I thought we were supposed to say economically challenged or financially disabled or underprivileged or a victim of the current financial crisis ... but poor? Poor’s acceptable now? Huh. Poor does sum it up, doesn’t it. Poor is a powerful word for a powerless people.

The next thing I think is, Woohoo! I guess I can say poor now! And not just as in poor me or Tall, stop hitting your brother—that’s a poor choice or even in the old-stand-by-fall-back poor timing. No. Now I seem to have permission to use the dictionary definition, which is “lacking worldly goods, penniless, moneyless, destitute.”  Imagine: I can say what I mean. I feel liberated.

Wait.  Donna, does this apply to everything in my life now? Has the Earth just had a major shift on its axis and so now people won’t be offended by me talking? What should I do with black? is black okay? Colored must still be bad (I know colored used to be okay). African-American? That always seems silly to me, because unless your parents just moved here from Ghana 5 seconds ago, you’re pretty much American-American. (That’s what I’m going to say from now on when people ask me my original nationality: American-American!) Chances are, most people who go around saying I’m African-American have lived here their whole lives, as have their great-grandparents.

I didn’t even mention Mexican yet. Is Mexican all right? Or do I have to go with the multi-purpose catch-all Hispanic? My sister Oakley gets so mad at me whenever I say the word Mexican (as in, “I asked the Mexican gentleman standing outside the U-Haul place if he could help me move my new couch for 25 bucks”); she says How do you know he’s Mexican? (uh, the Mexican flag on his t-shirt gave it away?)  She says He could be from Uruguay or Puerto Rico or Bolivia or El Salvador, you're insulting him, MOV. So next time I ask the person in question (“De donde es Usted?”); he answers, predictably, “Mexico”.  (And honestly, would I be pissed off if someone thought I was from Canada? eh, no.) 

I am told that even though I think Mexican is a good idea, I am wrong.  Mexican is still, under no circumstances, okay. No. The word I am apparently looking for is Latino. Sigh. Does that mean my Mexican mover-guy is from Latin? As I asked in 7th grade when I was required to take “Intro to Latin”, where, exactly, is Latin? I can’t find it on any map. Am I allowed to say that I'm Atlantic because I live near the Atlantic Ocean? (Granted, I wasn’t born in the Atlantic Ocean, but at least it’s a place I can find on the map.)

What about fat?  Is fat okay? I’m kind of tired of saying heavy or heavy-set or curvy or weight-challenged or even the Ultimate Lie: big-boned. I just want to say fat. I'm not trying to be offensive. Heck, I have days when I feel fat, days when only my “fat pants” fit. I don’t go around saying, “Wow, I feel extra voluptuous today, I will wear my anorexic-averse pants”. Oh, and that begs the question: are we allowed to say anorexic? As in, “he is a skinny little skeleton person, he looks anorexic”? Or is that still off-limits?

Ugly. I guess ugly is never good. We'd better stick with unattractive.

I'd like to have the word lazy back, please.  Not tired, or unmotivated, or lacks initiative, or energy-depleted, or even likes to lounge.  In some cases (okay, many), the right word is actually lazy

That brings me to stupid. Can stupid work? because sometimes stupid is just the word I’m looking for (“that driver who just cut me off is stupid!”). We tell our sons not to use the word stupid. We make them substitute the generic and totally-wrong-word-choice “silly” instead. But silly is happy or absurd; silly is not strong enough to be stupid.     

How about mean? “That girl was mean,” seems to be treading into forbidden territory. I have always been trained to say, “that girl was a tad bit unpleasant” or “I think that girl’s not having a good day” or “that girl was in a bad mood”. No one ever tells me it’s okay to say what I’m really thinking: what a bitch.

Greedy. I love that word! When a small child at the park last year kicked my son Short and grabbed a cookie out of Short’s hand and immediately ate it (causing Short to cry, no surprise there), the child's mom shrugged and said matter-of-factly, “Victor is not a good sharer.” Victor is not a good sharer?!? Victor is greedy!

And Victor's mom?  What a bitch.

("Mostly Offensive Vitriol")

Monday, October 25, 2010

177. The Kid Plays Soccer

So I did not set out to be a Soccer Mom, and I still resist the title. I could be Art Mom or Writing Mom or Watches Too Much Reality TV Mom, but Soccer Mom? The fact is: Tall is fabulous at soccer.

After his game last Saturday—the game where he scored 5 goals in the first quarter—he yelled out at the top of his lungs, “I’m fabulous at soccer!” As you can imagine, this did not go over very well with a number of people, namely:
  • all members of the opposing team (and their parents)
  • all (now disgruntled) members of his own team (and their parents)
  • his coach
  • his little brother (Short)
  • his own parents
  • random people who happened to be sitting in the adjacent park enjoying the day
I try to tell him after the game that he is bragging. I tell him to stop bragging right this second. Then, as an afterthought, I add, “You do know what the word bragging means, don’t you?” To which he responds,

“Of course. It’s like being a tattle-tale.”

No no no no no. “Tall, bragging means saying how great you are, saying that you are the best person on the team….”

“I am the best person on the team,” he says matter-of-factly.

“Tall!” I glare at him.

“Everyone tells me I am. They walk up to me at half-time and say, ‘Hey, Tall, you’re the best person on the team.’ Then I say, ‘Yeah, I already know that.’ See, Mom? Everyone knows it’s true.” He shrugs: case closed.

“No, Tall,” I hiss, as I pull his sleeve to get him closer to me, “That’s not nice. Cut. It. Out. Do you understand me? Other people on the team are good, too.”

“Really? Who?” he asks in earnest.

“Uhh, uhh, your friend, Player. Player is quite good. Player made several goals today too!”

“Not as many as me,” he shrugs again. If he were 16 instead of 6 he’d say, “Are we done here?” Now, he says, “I gotta go practice my moves, Mom.”

He waves to Player. “Player! Come kick the ball with me! Come on!”

Player comes running over. They immediately start a mini-scrimmage. The two of them are a force to be reckoned with.

I walk over to Coach. She has her Blackberry out and is quickly punching tiny buttons (to me it looks like she is playing PacMan, but she could very well be transferring stocks and or/ buying a new car). “Hey, Coach, uh, can I talk to you?”

“Sure, sure, hold on one sec…..” beep—beep—boop—ring! “Sorry about that, what’s up?” she smiles a big cheery grin, revealing the type of teeth Orthodontists use in their advertisement photos to represent “After”.  

“I just wanted to, uh, you know, apologize for Tall because, he, uh….” I start.

“Apologize?!?” she says, alarmed. “That kid is fantastic! Player and I were just talking about him,” (Coach also happens to be Player’s mom), “and I really hope he continues because he truly has natural talent.” She is nodding now, nodding, nodding, willing me to nod as well.

I start nodding. “Uh, yeah, uh, that’s great, but the part I am worried about is, well: the bragging. I was never very good at sports, so I didn’t have much to brag about in that arena, so to speak, no pun intended, but I just don’t want him to alienate people and, you know, not have any friends.”

Her Blackberry chooses this moment to beep, and she ignores it (thank you, Coach, I can be your new best friend now). She puts her skinny arm around my shoulder and says, “MOV, Tall is a great kid. If you just explain to him that it can hurt other people’s feelings, I’m sure he’ll stop doing it. Honestly, it’s such a Catch-22 because I hear you and your husband tell him he’s good all the time, probably to build up his self-esteem and motivate him, and now that he feels confident, you are sending him the opposite message.”

Damn. She’s good.

“You should be a shrink on the side, Coach!” I say, laughing.

Coach is laughing with me, rich peals of laughter. Then she stops cold, tucks her dark brown hair neatly under her baseball cap with the eagle on the front, and says completely deadpan, “I'm a psychiatrist, I thought you knew?”

Now I am laughing so hard that tears are streaming down my cheeks. That Coach! Funny funny funny! Gotta love her!

She fumbles in her Levi's pocket (for her Blackberry again?) and hands me a small piece of paper, maybe a coupon for sports equipment or Taco Night. I wipe the tears and smudgy mascara out of my eyes and look at the little card. Huh. It’s about the size of a business card.

Coach Swanson
Crazy Town
By appointment
Most insurance plans accepted

“When did you get these printed?” I say, still not understanding.

“What do you mean?” Coach asks.

“I thought….. I thought….. I thought you were a…… crossing guard at the school?” as the words tumble out, I am realizing how ridiculous they sound. In retrospect, I am sure she was thinking, eight years of med school versus a two-hour training seminar and a multiple choice test to be a crossing guard and no one can tell the difference?

Coach, thank God she is a nice person, says very patiently, “I volunteer as a crossing guard on Monday and Wednesday mornings right before I go to work. I am a shrink. I specialize in life coaching, such as job transitions and changes in family status, like adopting a baby or things like that.” She smiles again, and I think wow, all my friends are really really smart and I’m kinda……………not.

“Mom! Mom! Can Player come to our house for the rest of the afternoon?” Tall comes running over, his face full of sunshine.

I look at Doctor Coach. “Fine with me,” she says.

I turn to Tall. “Okay, Player’s mom said it’s fine.”

Tall taps my arm and motions for me to lean toward him so he can tell me a secret. “Mom, you know what? You were right: Player is very good at soccer, too.”

And if the bragging behavior returns………….. I guess we'll know who to call. 


176. Why I Wouldn't Make A Good Psychiatrist

Because the whole time the so-called “patient” (henceforth to be referred to as “The Whiner”) is going on and on about his oh-so-terrible “problems”, I would most likely be thinking about something else, things like how-that-might-make-a-good-blog later, or if I did completely plagiarize The Whiner’s story (uh, is that breaking Important Privacy Laws? if yes, should I care?) would The Whiner possibly read my blog later and be mad at me? Also, I would be wanting to dress up his story a bit, any parts that I was not totally in love with, how could I make his whiny version of the story better, and actually should I make it more like it happened to me and not to him (“the waiter spilled a whole octopus on my head, but even though I was mad, it was okay because they ended up giving me a free dinner and then a gift certificate for a future free dinner”—The Whiner obviously is more focused on the octopus part and I, Dr. MOV, am more focused on the free-dinner-aspect)?

If I was zoning out and ignoring The Whiner’s rants, I might be thinking about the next car I would buy (I have heard, and since found this to be true, that a beginning psychiatrist can expect to make approximately $350,000 per day. I think that is more than adequate, and I could afford to buy at least one new car a week if I had completed—or even started—actual psychiatrist school). I would buy a red car, most likely a vintage Corvette. I would get special personalized license plates: GR8LSNR.

When it would be time to write out a prescription, I might write something in secret code to the pharmacist (it would read “take 4 Xanaxmyphonaglycose every two hours” which the pharmacist would realize means “this patient is a total wack-o! oh, and check out his goofy haircut too! Luv ya, MOV”). But, before I would hand out the piece of paper so The Whiner could get his drugs, I would practice signing my name over-and-over-and-over-and-over on the special little notepad, until my secretary would come in and tell me that we were being audited and had to account for the prescriptions that were not filled (is she for real? can’t I just order more? My name is on there! And speaking of my name, that’s the thing that’s troubling me: should I do a loopy “M” for the first part of my name, or would a jagged and sharp “M” look more respectable?).

Now my next patient comes in and starts whining about her problems too (she is Whiner 2.0). I’m sleepy. I sit there nodding like I am so very entranced by Whiner 2.0’s situation, but honestly, I’m working just to keep my eyes open. If I close my eyes for maybe, what? a minute, two minutes tops? can I pull that off as if I’m actually concentrating really really hard? Think of cars, MOV, think of the red Corvette, wake up before you get fired (again)!

The other thing is: I hear they (doctors) set their own hours. How cake would that be? And herein lies the problem: I would set my hours for, oh, 2 PM—4:15 PM. Yep, that should cover it.

As for what the various Whiner and Whiner 2.0’s talk about, instead of being sympathetic and offering support and good advice (“What do you think you should do?”), I would most likely do what I have perfected to a fine art form: judge. As in, the-reason-you-are-not-able-to-meet-anyone,-Whiner,-is-because-you-live-in-your-mom’s-basement-and-you-smoke-pot-every-day,-Loser! This is probably not The Most Helpful Thing Ever to be thinking when you are someone’s psychiatrist, and, in fact, it probably did not even make it to the Top 10 List of Essential Psychiatrist Phrases (these, by the way, must be committed to memory). Oh, the Top 10 List? well, since you asked:
  1. How does that make you feel?
  2. What would you have done differently?
  3. Did you get anything out of that experience?
  4. What would you do next time?
  5. Why were you sad?
  6. Why were you mad?
  7. Why were you feeling guilty?
  8. Can you forgive him?
  9. How do you interpret that?
  10. You know payment is due today, and I don’t take your insurance?
I want to be nicer, I do. I decide to practice on various people in my life. When my son Short accidentally kicks The Husband in his, ahem, “privates”, I immediately switch into My New and Improved Compassionate Psychiatrist Self and ask The Husband with genuine love and concern, “How does that make you feel?”

I don’t receive what I believe to be an appropriate response. Huh. This is going to be more difficult than I thought.

Later, in a fit of anger, Tall rips up a drawing that Short was working on. Short (predictably) goes ballistic. After I spend a good twenty minutes restoring peace and order to our household, I say with compassion in my voice, “Can you forgive him?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” yells Short, about two inches from what’s-left-of-my-now-pierced-and-shriveled-in-protest eardrum.  Psychiatry is not for sissies.

I decide I’ll have better luck at work. I’m at my job at the high-end kitchen store when The Boss is in the breakroom complaining to Celeste about a customer who is a suspected shop-lifter but has the audacity to keep coming back and trying to return the stolen items. I interrupt their private conversation and say to The Boss with as much earnestness as I can muster, “What would you have done differently?”

She looks at me, throws her head back and laughs a hearty laugh. “You want to know what I would do differently, MOV? is that what you just said? I’ll tell you what I would do: I would send YOU to deal with her! Ha! In fact, she is waiting for me at the cash register with yet another phony return, so since YOU seem to have all the answers, she’s all yours.” The Boss smiles a big (shall I call it “sinister”?) smile, winks at Celeste and then looks back at me, and finally adds in a saccharine tone, “Let me know what happens.”

Glad my decades of Psychiatric Improvised Training are paying off, I march on out to the cash register, and pull the next helpful phrase out of my hat, “Why were you feeling guilty?” The woman does not react as I had anticipated. She does not offer a full-blown confession and then give back all the stolen goods; no. Instead, she says, “Are you calling me a thief????????????”

Later, I try my last phrase on a random stranger at the café where I’m standing in line to buy my lunch. She is telling the cashier that Macy’s is having a really great sale. I lean in and say, “What did you get out of that experience?”

She practically hugs me as she wrestles with her giant shopping bags and starts pulling out shoes and scarves and toys and picture frames. “I got a lot out of it! My Christmas shopping is all done now!”

I obviously have a new best friend, for this random stranger has given me a magnificent idea for those on my Christmas list: coupons for Meaningful Psychiatry Sessions with yours truly (at a reduced rate, of course).


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

170. The Letter "S" Broke Off My Keyboard

So it finally happened: the letter “S” broke off my keyboard from overuse. This, as you can imagine, was quite frustrating. I called the technician immediately but as it’s a common occurrence, he told me I’d probably have to wait several days before he could help.

I thought, how bad can it be? I’ll just keep typing and emailing and going about my daily business without the letter “S” until the service guy has a free hour or two to fix it.

The first thing I needed to do was send an email to my girlfriend Tammy to see if she wanted to meet up for coffee and shopping:

“Hi Tammy!
I heard about a _ale at the mall. The ad indicated a _ample _ale. Do you want to meet up around noon or even earlier? I really want to get new _hoe_. You know me, I love to _hop!  And _hopping when there'_ a _ale, perfect! 

Of course, Tammy was confused, and now thinks I’m an alcoholic who likes to garden.

Speaking of gardening, my next order of business was an email to my landscaper, Mr. Kerr.

“Mr. Kerr,
Can you _top by on Wed? You don’t have to bring your whole team, only your _elf. It’ll be a _mall job. I think you can handle it by your _elf.
I would do the job on my own, but I can’t find my _hovel. I thought the _hovel wa_ located in the backyard, but I looked for it and found nothing.
And, I’d like you to _pray for bug_. (Do you do that? _pray, I mean. My neighbor told me he noticed you _praying, _o I thought I would go ahead and have you _pray for me too.)
And, don’t bother to _weep when you are done. I can do all the _weeping needed.
Thank you.

I was so surprised when he didn’t email me back. Still in full-blown “home repair” mode, I thought I’d send a quick email to my contractor, Roberto.

I have a problem with my kitchen _ink. The _pout'_ leaking. Can you fix the _pout? I think the _pout'_ ugly anyway, maybe you can _witch it? Bring _crew_ with you (the cabinet door'_ falling off, it definitely need_ _crew_).
(Oh, and if I’m not here, go ahead and take a _eat on the porch and wait for me.)

Huh, never heard from him either.

A little while later, I posted my latest blog:

“199. Boy_ At Play

I am watching my two _on_ playing and I wonder: why are they _o violent? I don’t remember playing that way with Oakley when we were little. My boy_ really love to do a mock _word-fight. ‘On guard!’ they bellow to one another, ‘on guard!’ Then they hop around, with their fake vinyl _word_. I want to yell, you don’t need _word_! What i_ the allure of _word_ and gun_ anyway?

When we are out in the yard, they take any kind of _tick they can find and make it into a _pear. ‘Look, Mom, I have a _pear!’ They want to _how me their new weaponry. I try to _idle up to them and recommend they put the _harp object down. I make up an excu_e, but they know it’_ a _ham. ‘Why don’t we kick the ball?’ I query.

No. My boy_ don’t want to do that, they would rather _talk an innocent little chipmunk. I watch them follow the tiny animal; the chipmunk doe_n’t realize he’_ being _talked yet. Tall _lip_ quietly next to the chipmunk, and accidentally land_ on a _lug. ‘Yuck!’ he yell_, ‘Mom, what happened to that poor _nail? Look, no _hell.’

I hate _nail_, and I hate _lug_. _hell, no _hell, I can't really tell the difference.  But I have to be _aint Mom, and do a funeral for a _lug. We bury it in the _and. We are all _eeking a quiet moment to reflect, and Tall whi_per_ in a _oft tone, ‘Maybe we can go to the _nail _hop and buy a new _nail?’

Great, I think, that’_ what I need: another pet.

(‘Murdering Other Varmint_’)”

Afterwards, I decided to email my good friend Gracie who just had a baby.

“Hi Gracie!
Congrat_ to you and Tom! I am dying to meet the new baby. Do you put him in the baby _wing I gave you? I hope you like the blanket I knitted with the dolphin and whale. I wa_ going for a beach theme, I hope you like the _hell motif, too.
What fun to _waddle him up and hold him to your _kin. I’ll bet your family want_ to _coop him right up. What a joy to watch him _mile and _mile all day long.
I_ your _car from your C-_ection very noticeable? I’m lucky, I never had a _car. I think I would hate to have a _car, I really hope you don’t have one.
Remember, life with a new baby might not be a _nap. When you’re running out of _team, give me a call. I’m happy to _it for you, e_pecially if your nerve_ are _hot. (I forgot to tell you I love the photo where you have on the _age color jacket! The _age look_ great on you!)
Much love,

Next, I emailed my sister Oakley to firm up our Christmas plans and find out more about my brother-in-law’s bike accident:

“Hello Oakley,
I’m looking forward to meeting up with everyone for the holiday_! Maybe we can do a fun winter activity like playing in the _now? If the weather’_ really cold, I’d love to _kate. Or _led.  I really love the _now!   
Do you think there’_ enough _pace for the entire family to be there?
Hey, did I tell you I joined a _printing group? We get together every morning at 5 AM to work on our _printing. I am a great _printer now! I run by, and Zoom! In fact, I am very very fa_t. _o very fa_t! I love how I feel, now that I am really fa_t.
By the way, Mike called and told me about the accident. He told me he wa_ all _hook up. Were you in _hock when it happened, Oakley? Did you _cold him for not wearing a helmet? Next time he goe_ out for a _pin, _imply tell him to put one on. I had to have a _tiff drink after he told me the new_. I’m glad he’_ in _table condition now.
Love to you both,

She emailed back right away, asking who Kate was and had I been drinking? She also attached an article on dieting. I totally don’t get her sense of humor.

Then, I sent an email to my bank to let them know I was having difficulty with my ATM card:

“Dear Crazy Town Bank,
My ATM card i_ not working again. Whenever I _wipe it, nothing happen_. I have tried to _wipe it over and over, but I think the magnetic _trip i_gone? Can you _hip me a new one? You can _end it UP_ if you want.
Thank you.

They replied that they’d be happy to send me a new debit card, but they cautioned me not to over-handle it.

Later, when my computer technician finally called back to set up a time to fix the broken “S” on my keyboard, I told him I didn’t need it repaired after all. Might as well save a little money, as I'm obviously getting along fine without it.

(“Moratorium On Vowels”)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

169. You Can't Go Home

So we spent the weekend in Pennsylvania revisiting my childhood home and I have just one question: did I really live here? because I remember almost nothing.

We drove to 819 Featherstone Court where I (supposedly) lived from age 5—10; this was the primary purpose of our multi-hour car trek. Somehow I was magnetically drawn to return to this era of my ordinary and uneventful youth; I needed to come back.  As we approached the house, I searched in vain for something I would recognize—a tree, a patio, a garden—anything.

I turned to the Husband (who lives so close to his childhood home that he can drive past it daily if he wanted to) and said, “Maybe there’s another 819 Featherstone? Maybe we have the wrong one.”

It’s not that the new owners had changed the house drastically (comparing the Real Life version to the blurry Photo Version my mom had taken many years prior), it’s just nothing about it seemed familiar. I had expected, wanted even, to feel overcome with emotion, but instead my brain tricked me: I was overcome with neutrality.

If my chronological memories were sheets of paper and every day was a page, here were 1825 pages to paw through from my youth in Pennsylvania. After I had unearthed the correct pages, I found the once-vibrant ink was faded to the point of being illegible.

I berated myself: why could I remember the Maui hotel and yet Pennsylvania could not be found amongst the torn pages of my mind? We had vacationed in Maui eight years ago, for one week. A mere short story of seven days compared to the unedited manuscript of 1825 days, and yet I could recall in excruciating detail the exact texture of the bedspread, the precise arrangement of flowers in the wallpaper, the surly attitude of the bellman, the refreshing temperature of the pool, the taste of the fresh mango I ate for breakfast.

These 1825 days in rural Pennsylvania: did they happen to somebody else? Where did they go?  I close my eyes and see the papers stacked neatly in front of an open window—a sudden gust of wind scatters them, they cannot be retrieved. 

(Adjacent to the house was a large hill, the hill we would go sledding on.  I remembered falling on that hill, twisting my shoulders and landing hard and bruised in the freezing snow.  Success!  A memory!  But why did I remember only the bad things?) 

The house itself was unremarkable at best, an ordinary split-level relic of bad architecture from the 1970’s. It had been painted an unfortunate shade of blue. I could see a wooden deck tacked haphazardly onto the side, a weak afterthought:  maybe-we-can-sit-out-here-and-enjoy-the-view. 

We sat in front of 819 Featherstone Court for what seemed like a long time but was probably three minutes.  The Husband prompted, “There’s a lady staring out the window at you; maybe you should knock on the door?”

I could see her, too, sitting in what I knew to be the living room—the same living room where my sister Oakley had vomited all those Easter jelly beans years ago. 

Knock on the door?  Huh.  This was not in my Original Plan, but it seemed like an idea. Not a good idea, not a bad idea, just a neutral idea to go with my overall neutrally-themed mindset.

I knocked, and then to prove that I had not been watching her watching me, rang the bell. An average woman a little older than me answered. “Yes?” she queried politely, as if she had been disturbing me instead of the other way around.

“I grew up in this house,” I blurted out, willing tears to come but instead being washed over by a startling wave of neutrality, “my name is MOV and I haven’t been back in 30 years.”

Now if we were in a movie, this is the part where the dramatic music would reach a crescendo as The New Owner would open the door, reach out and hug me, and usher me in as if we were long-lost soul sisters, the missing pieces of each other's puzzles.

This is what happened instead:  she said, "Oh."

Long awkward silence.

And then finally, with a tone indicating she was unimpressed and underwhelmed, “I’m Becky. When did you live here, then?”

We chatted pleasantly enough for a few minutes while The Husband and our sons grew restless in the car, but it wasn’t like I was talking to the woman who cooked on my stove and took baths in my tub. It was more like I was talking to the checker at the grocery store. “Beets are on sale, toothpaste's on aisle three, that coupon has expired.”

Which begs the question: if I don’t remember it, can I just reinvent it? Later we drove by a stunning brick Colonial in an adjacent neighborhood: can I just claim that one for my own? It’s much prettier than the split-level. If I don’t recall it anyway, can I go ahead and trade in my memories, sort of upgrade them?  I can imagine myself living there, I can imagine playing in the yard.  Is imagination better than memory?

What purpose does memory serve anyway? 
The town itself is well-known as the home of Famous University. Everyone in Famous Town assumes that’s why you’re here: to visit Famous University. They don’t expect that you lived here when you were five.

“Would you like to buy a Famous University sweatshirt, maybe in green or navy?” the hotel front desk clerk chirps while she shoves one across the counter towards me.

I glance at their mascot emblazoned on the front of the sweatshirt, Big Animal. He looks mean.  “Uh, no, no thank you,” I smile weakly.

“You know, Ryland’s Souvenirs doesn’t sell them any cheaper, if you’re comparing prices.” She blinks, daring me to argue.

“I’m not. Comparing prices I mean. I just don’t want one.”

“Oh, you already have one. I understand. I forget that most people already have a shirt from Famu.” That’s what the locals call it, Famu, but they say it like “Fay—moo”. “You can always order another one, maybe as a gift for someone special back home?”

“Yeah, I’m all set for now,” I confirm.

The clerk nods at me, she’s happy now. Sure, sure, I have one, if that’s what you want to believe, just give me my damn key so I can check in.

Later that evening, we try to replicate more wrinkled pages of my childhood by dining in the café my mom and I used to frequent, Magnolia Grill. The four of us walk in and ask the hostess for a window booth.  The Husband searches my face for some expression, “Well?” he whispers, leaning in. He’s looking for legible ink, at least a few vague scribbles.

My memory is Switzerland: no opinion, no preference, no distinction, just utterly and painfully neutral.  The pages, what's left of them, have turned a grubby shade of beige.  I give a non-committal shrug. I face a new and pressing question: am I a victim of amnesia? or early-onset Alzheimer’s?

The server takes our order and proceeds to lose it (aha—maybe the lost order is cozying up somewhere with the lost pages of my mind). We re-order and after a long wait, we finally receive our burgers which are practically oozing grease. The check comes to $73 for the four of us. We walk out of Magnolia Grill into the cool night and I’m actually relieved to finally have an impression of something, even if it's bad.

If it’s true that we have selective memories, why wasn’t my brain selecting any of these memories?  I realize that Pennsylvania was merely the backdrop for my childhood, the set design, if you will.  But not remembering the set design for "Miss Saigon" or "The Phantom of the Opera"—isn't the set design the whole point?  Why had the pages of my personal script disintegrated to the verge of the unrecognizable?  Was I merely a reluctant participant in the events of my own life?  

Being a mother of two small boys, I immediately project my situation on to them. If I remember zilch from these so-called “impressionable” years, would they also remember virtually nothing from their childhoods?  Why was I working so hard to give them a charmed life, a Norman Rockwell existence full of fun and laughter and books and museums and summer camps and sports?  Why? Why did I do it?

Will they notice? Will they remember? Or will their pages be ripped and faded too?

(“Mustn’t Overanalyze Vacation”)

Friday, October 15, 2010

168. Jellybeans Are Delicious

When I was growing up, my mother loved to decorate for various holidays. When December rolled around, she would do an installation-like piece of wall art composed entirely of holiday cards forming a giant Christmas tree. Valentine’s brought with it a multitude of cut-out hearts for mobiles, not just in the de rigueur crimsons and fuchsias, but in unexpected color combinations of pale mist green and neon orange. Birthdays were an extravaganza all their own with balloons, banners, and enough confetti to make a cruise ship proud.

Is it any wonder that we gobbled up the special edibles of the seasons, too? Cookies decorated like flags, pumpkin cupcakes loaded with candy-corn-dotted icing, cakes resembling Santa’s reindeer, mini-pies shaped like four-leaf clovers. My sister Oakley and I eagerly turned the pages of our Holly Hobby calendar looking for the next holiday, the next candy fix.

Ah, there it was: Easter.

One year I remember helping my mom get all the bunny decorations out of a big musty box that was stored in the closet of the catch-all guest bedroom. My heart soared as I saw the painted eggs, luminescent green plastic grass, and our hand-woven baskets. My mom smiled and said aloud, but more as a reminder to herself, “Oh, I need to put out the jellybeans—I bought several large bags yesterday.”

I gleefully followed her to the kitchen to retrieve the colorful chewy jewels. My mom had an intricate hand-cut crystal bowl that my grandmother had given her, and she deemed this a Worthy Enough Occasion to get it out. Oh, the excitement! Oh, the anticipation! As she expertly cut the plastic bags open with a small pair of kitchen scissors and began to fill the giant bowl, one thought dominated my brain: can-I-have-some-candy-right-now-please-please-please?

He mind-reading skills coming into play, my mom offered, “MOVee, do you want a jellybean right now? You like the licorice ones, right?”

“Yes! Can I have three?” It was more a statement of fact than a question as I was already busy dipping my grubby paws in the bowl, sifting for the elusive onyx-colored ones.

“Sure, but really, you don’t need to touch them all. Try not to get germs on every last one of them.” Her critique didn’t faze me, it just meant I would have to eat all the ones in the way, too. Small price to pay for licorice.

My mother (wisely) lured me away with lunch, and I soon forgot about the sugarfest that sat waiting on the living room coffee table. Oakley, about four-years-old at the time, had just woken up from a nap. She wandered into the living room and was playing contently with the stuffed rabbit decorations for a good twenty minutes.

It was painfully quiet. My mother went to retrieve my sister for lunch but there was no need: Oakley wasn’t hungry anymore. Instead, her little mouth was ringed with unnaturally bright streaks of pink and green and orange and blue and purple. She had eaten all the jellybeans in the bowl. Every. Last. One.

Clearly in denial, my mom looked near the heavy bowl, which was overturned at this point. “Oak?” she began softly, “Did you spill the bowl and then, uh, kick all the jellybeans under the couch?” Then my mom actually got on her knees and bent down to look under the couch. Even at the I-still-believe-in-Santa age of nine, I knew there would be no jellybeans under the couch, unless a half-eaten one had possibly rolled out of Oakley’s mouth during her gorging.

“Yesh, Mommy,” said the terrible-liar-with-teeth-the-color-of-rainbows, “they mostly fell somewhere.” And then, “I don’t feel very good. I feel kind of…… sick.” She clutched her bloated tummy while I shook my head in a cocktail of disbelief with a schadenfreude chaser.

I didn’t eat them all, Mom,” I gloated, ever the competitor (or in this case, the non-competitor), “I only had four or five, like you said I could.” Why not get in a quick moment of kissing-up to help secure whatever the Next Great Prize would be in my 4th grade life?

“Yes, I know,” she uttered, swatting me out of the way like an annoying fly, “I think your sister is going to throw up.”

“No, I won’t throw up, I don’t feel that—” following this tumble of words was a torrent of Easter vomit, both pretty and ugly at the same time, all sparkly fluorescent colors of undigested shiny little pebbles. The sticky mess coated the front of Oakley’s floral dress as well as my mom’s unfortunate left sleeve. Now when we see the image of Christ suffering on the cross, my sister wonders if jellybeans were involved. 

After that fateful day, she couldn't bear to look at jellybeans, let alone eat one. Well-meaning friends, neighbors, and clueless teachers would provide them, and not wanting to revisit this lovely piece of her personal history, she would wordlessly turn a whiter shade of pale.

A decade later, when Oakley was fourteen and I was nineteen, we were engaged in some sort of teen angst/ drama. She had “borrowed” and ruined one of my favorite outfits and I was set on revenge. I didn’t have to look far. There was a boy from school that she had a huge crush on. The phone rang one afternoon while Oakley was at swim practice and I answered it.


“Is Oakley there?” said The Crush.

“No, this is her sister though, do you want me to give her a message?”

“Oh, actually, can I ask you a question then, if you don't mind?” he began, his nervousness practically seeping through the phone wires. “I, uh, I……. I sorta want to get her a little, uh, a small gift...... for Easter, and uh, do you know what she might like?”

Without hesitation, I replied, “She adores jellybeans.”

(“Malnourished Over-sugared Vixen”)

167. When Google Tries To Boss You Around

So I’m trying to do a simple Google search for the best type of maple syrup to buy and guess what? Google tells me what I really want is Mapquest. No, I said maple syrup, you fool, not Mapquest. This is a disturbing trend: the oh-so-helpful-Google, like that friend-that-always-tries-to-finish-your-sentences, wants to guess what I want ahead of time.

Stop it. I’m looking for angel food cake recipes, not Angelina Jolie. And just because I type the promising t-r-a, don’t assume I want to book a trip with Travelocity when I’m merely checking traffic. Look out if you make the mistake of innocently typing the letters p-e-n-i in a vain attempt to find the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. Some interesting ideas pop up, so to speak, and none involve five-star hotels.

Too bad if you are looking for macaroni and cheese recipes, because Google decides It wants you to shop at Macy’s. Hunting for some great quotes by Fred Flintstone? It thinks why not take a peek at your free credit report. Searching for random facts on Shamu, the killer whale from Sea World? You must really be comparing various brands of shampoo, at least according to Google.

When did Google turn so Orwellian?

Project Runway fans want to go to the Project Runway website? Not without a detour to Progressive Auto Insurance. Gardening services? How about facts on the Garden State instead (that would be New Jersey, and, as I just learned, a movie starring Zach Braff). Ah, these interesting tidbits you pick up in your (silly) endeavor to look up what you want.

Surf boards morph into the kitchen store Sur La Table. Your desire for astronomy is better suited to astrology. Who needs moving services when you can go see a movie? Looking to translate something with language translations? Oh, why bother when you can just order a new sweater from Land’s End. Prefer to get rid of pesky mosquitoes? Not before reading about the controversy of the mosque at Ground Zero.

That’s it, Bossy Impatient Google, enough I say! I just want to type what I want to type. Don’t tell me what I want: just give me five seconds to finish my thought. Grrrrrr.

And my day is complete: I request information on the miracle cleaner called Goo Be Gone, and instead the presumptuous and narcissistic Google gives me its best choice: “Google”.

(“Maneuvered On Vectors”)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

166. Just Pretend You Don't Know Me

Apparently, my very presence embarrasses my 6-year-old son, Tall. I drove my younger son to preschool today (no bus, as we were running errands and simultaneously running out of time). By some inexplicable miracle of clocks and physics and the precise alignment of multiple moons of Jupiter, we arrived on time. Early, even.

Short and I pulled into the parking lot, which is adjacent to the playground shared by the preschool and the elementary school. As we got out of the car, I casually scanned the faces of the playground kids to see if I recognized anyone. I was somewhat surprised to notice Tall running around (as the reigning Queen-Of-Clueless-Parents, I have no idea what time my kids go to recess nor art nor lunch nor library nor anything else). Short and I did a quick detour and approached the gate. “Tall!” I waved at him enthusiastically, “Tall! Hi! How are you!”

One of Tall’s (soon-to-be-“former”) friends tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the Nuisance that was mom and little brother. Tall finally glanced in our direction and immediately gave a look that can only be described as the look you would give if a garbage truck dumped a full load of smelly trash all over your front lawn, during a monsoon. The look was: disgust, mixed with inconvenience and dismay. But mostly disgust.

Tall sauntered over, laced his fingers through the chain-link fence and whispered (lest anyone hear us) through gritted teeth (lest anyone attempt to lip-read), “Do not embarrass me again, Mom. I am playing soccer with my friends.” Emphasis on friends, equivalent to I-can’t-talk-on-the-phone-with-you-now-because-my-boss-is-standing-right-here.

Wait, the friends were the boss now?  I thought I was the boss.  Since when had I been demoted?

And what’s with the “again”? How many times had I embarrassed him this week? Or were we just talking about today?

“Oh,” I stammered, with no hope of a better response springing to mind, “Uh, we, uh, we just wanted to say hi.”

I took Short’s hand (after enduring a lifetime of Tall’s withering attitude, he was somehow immune to his condescension). I started to think about my appearance. Was my shabby outfit the culprit for the “embarrassing” comment? I was wearing a mostly clean purple t-shirt, unwrinkled khaki pants (not too tight), and my new denim jacket with silver snaps. Huh. As far as I knew, that was acceptable. And for once, I had actually washed my hair, brushed it, and accessorized with a chic black barrette—no baseball cap here! Lipstick was even involved. The overall indisputable verdict: I looked fine, possibly even semi-attractive.

Later that day when Tall came home from school, I asked him what was going on. I decided to forgo the accusatory tone that I have perfected so well in the past six years. “Tall?” I began calmly, “Why didn’t you want us to say hi to you today? Why would that be embarrassing?”

“Huh? What are you talking about?” he said, distracted, as he threw his red fleece jacket and StarWars backpack in a heap.

“At the playground. When Short and I said hi.”

“Wait…. so you just wanted to say hi? That's it?  You weren’t going to come on the playground and actually try to play with me?”

Why would he have that bizarre notion? Since when did I show up at school unannounced and join him for an impromptu game of tag on the playground? and certainly not ever in my new denim jacket that I did not want to get sand all over!

“No, Tall, we were not going to come in the gate….. I don’t think people are allowed to come in that way anyway without signing in at the office. We just wanted to say hi to you.”

“Oh,” he murmured, “I didn’t know that. Huh. I guess that would’ve been okay, you know, if you didn’t try to give me a hug or make a joke or meet all my friends or take a picture of us or anything……….” his voice trailed off as he considered all the other Potential Ways Mom Could Cause Embarrassment. “Saying hi is all right,” he finally determined after lengthy consideration, “just don’t do it again.”

(“Mores Of Vastness”)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

164. Counseling Session With Excuses

I called a therapist who had been recommended by my friend, Balance. She told me that Dr. Cass was excellent and specialized in relationship issues. I was hoping she could help me resolve my situation with my former chum, so I decided it was worth a shot. After enough planning to stage a military coup, we finally settled on a time that worked for all three of us for the appointment. Here, you can listen in on our session:

Dr. Cass: MOV, pleasure to meet you. And it is a pleasure to meet you as well, Excuses.
MOV: Thank you, Dr. Cass.
Dr. Cass: Now, MOV, I know we talked briefly on the phone and at our initial private consultation, but why don’t you fill us in on why Excuses is part of this meeting?
MOV: Well, honestly, she and I have had encounters in the past, and whenever I see her, she just complicates things.
Dr. Cass: And you, Excuses? How do you respond to that?
Excuses: MOV, I thought we were friends. I’m not really sure why you wanted this meeting, what I’m doing here, what the problem is.
MOV: I want you to be more responsible. I want you to be nicer to people, and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Because right now, the way you act towards others……… it’s just not acceptable.
Excuses: Well, I try to be nice to everyone, but lately it’s like, no one seems to want me around.
MOV: Yeah, duh. What do you expect? Frankly, Excuses, I’m surprised you even made it here today. What, is this like the 8th time we’ve had to reschedule?
Excuses: That’s not really fair. My car was broken, and then my dog was sick….
MOV: That’s exactly what I mean: you give your word on something, and then you try out wriggle out of it. What’s up with that? Do you know that people don’t even trust you anymore?
Excuses: What do you mean, they don’t trust me?
Dr. Cass: Yes, MOV, can you elaborate on that a bit?
MOV: Well, it’s to the point where people avoid you. They see you coming, and they cross the street to get out of your path. Teachers, especially, hate you. Back in school, any time homework was due, you conveniently “lost” it or “forgot” it…….. there was always something.
Excuses: I’m just really really busy. Like right now. Maybe I should just go. I’ve been swamped at work, so I have a lot of papers I should get caught 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: The office is on a residential street! There are no meters! Another example of your kooky behavior. Don’t you think people see right through you? Even my six-year-old wants nothing to do with you.
Excuses: Dr. Cass, do you have any Tylenol? I don’t feel good. I think I am 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, poor me, I think I’m coming down with something.
Dr. Cass: I’m really sensing some hostility here. Excuses, would you care to respond?
Excuses: You know, traffic will be bad this time of day, and I have to be somewhere at 2:30, so I’d better get going.
Dr. Cass: What is going on with you two? What is really at the base of all this?
MOV: Here’s the deal, Dr. Cass: Excuses just seems to pop up right when I might have my hopes up about something, or if I am supposed to meet someone, or if I have something really important planned or if I’m relying on someone. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just, whenever she’s around, things fall apart.
Excuses: You’re mean. Maybe people just don’t want to be around YOU.
MOV: Wow, I can’t believe you just said that. I’m “mean” just because I’m telling the truth? At least if I can’t do something, I just 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 that I need to pick up my dry cleaning and they close early on Tuesdays. I really have to 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 really 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 is every day right 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, October 11, 2010

163. Hurry + Rush Interview

I received a lot of positive feedback from yesterday's Fun interview. It got me thinking: who can I interview next? I decided to see if brothers Hurry and Rush were available. They didn’t have a lot of time for the interview, but they did stop by briefly.

MOV: Welcome, gentleman! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with…
Rush: (interrupting) Is this going to take long?
MOV: No, uh, sorry. Okay, so my first question is, are you guys twins?
Hurry: We get that a lot, but no, we’re not twins. I’m two years older.
Rush: Plus, I think we look completely different. I would say that I’m more polished, whereas Hurry here is a little more… disheveled.
Hurry: Hey! That’s not a nice thing to say!
Rush: True, though.
MOV: Moving right along. Hurry, I wanted to address your, uh, driving record.
Hurry: (heavy sigh) What is there to talk about? So I’ve gotten a few speeding tickets. In the big scheme of things, I mean, who cares?
Rush: (under his breath): If you call a thousand a “few”.
Hurry: (squinting his eyes at Rush) I heard that. Anyway, as I was saying, my driving record is a non-issue.
Rush:  (quietly) That's because you've had your license revoked. 
Hurry:  I'm not deaf, you know.  Next question, please.
MOV: How were you as students back in high school and college?
Rush: Well, I was captain of my track team! We set all kinds of new records. Then, I competed in the Olympics in Beijing, which was always a lifetime dream.
MOV:  Wow!  The Olympics.  That's quite an accomplishment:  I'm impressed.  Did you earn a medal? 
Rush:  No, there was some amazing competition, so, no, I didn't medal.  But just the honor of competing and representing our......
Hurry:  (under his breath) He was disqualified.
MOV:  Excuse me, what was that? 
Hurry:  I said, he was disqualified
MOV:  What happened, Rush? 
Rush:  I had, uh, two or three false starts, so they, uh, they pulled me from the competition. 
MOV:  Oh, I'm so sorry.  I didn't know. 
Rush:  It's okay, that was a long time ago.       
MOV: All right, new topic.  Hurry, I hear that you have issues getting up in the morning?  You find it difficult to remember to set your alarm clock?
Hurry: Ugh. That’s true. At night, I’m tired, I just want to go to sleep, so it’s really the last thing I’m thinking about.
MOV: Hurry, how does your “personality type” affect your every day life?
Hurry: What do you mean, “personality type”?
MOV: Someone that never allows enough time for things? Someone who has unrealistic expectations for how long things will take? Are you late a lot?
Rush: I can answer that. The whole thing is: we try not to be late. I know I’m guilty of trying to squeeze too many things in to my day. For both of us, we try to be realistic, but something always pops up that you can’t control. For example, besides traffic, which we already touched on with the whole driving thing, just standing in line makes me crazy.
Hurry: Me, too! Hate it!
Rush: Standing in line just strikes me as such a huge waste of time. I read somewhere that the average person spends nine years of their life waiting in line. 
MOV: I have to admit, Hurry, I have been in line behind you at Starbucks and it’s not a pretty sight. You seem to roll your eyes and make exaggerated sighs like all the other customers are purposely trying to hold you up………….
Rush: Ha ha ha! That’s true! Bro, you do that! Ha! She nailed it!
Hurry: (sheepish) I’ve been known to cut in line.
MOV: That’s what I was just getting to: you cut in front of me that day. You said, “I am really running late here, can I go ahead of you?” and before I even had a chance to say yes or no, boom, you were ordering!
Rush: Dude, that’s rude. You should apologize.
Hurry: Oh, like you’ve never done it, Mr. Perfect?
Rush: You owe the girl an apology.  Make it snappy. 
Hurry: Sorry.
MOV: I accept.
Hurry/ Rush: (in unison) Are we almost done here?
MOV: Yeah, uh, sure. Just one more question: Hurry, you have a reputation for not liking kids. Care to comment?
Hurry: MOV, I see by the photos around your living room that you do have kids, so I want you to know I am not trying to offend you. But, yes, kids drive me insane. They want to stop and pick up things. Every. Single. Dandelion. Ugh! Or rocks! Or sticks! Stop and look, stop and poke at something, shoelace comes untied, forgot his sweater…..
Rush: We do avoid kids, for the most part.
Hurry: I’ve had to baby-sit my niece, Lollygag, a couple times and I thought I would have a nervous breakdown. She wanted to watch a video, and she kept having me rewind back to the funny part. I’m all, like, come on! You just saw it! It’s not funny anymore the 17th time!
MOV: You have a niece?
Hurry: Well, I call her my niece, but she’s really my cousin’s daughter. Close enough. My cousin is really really great with kids. She looooooves kids, could just hang out with them all day.
MOV: Have I met your cousin?
Hurry: Of course, everyone has. Her name is Play.
MOV: (impressed) Play is your cousin? I love her! Gosh, I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. I’m always so busy. I need to have her over. When we were kids, she used to come over all the time! She always has such great ideas of activities we could…..
Rush: (pointing at watch, and starting to stand up) MOV, we gotta go.
MOV: You’re right. That’s all the time we have. Thank you, gentlemen, for talking with me today.

Stay tuned for more interesting interviews with some of your favorite people.

(“Montage Of Voices”)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

162. Fun Interview

Fun has gotten a lot of press lately. Everyone is looking for Fun, and everyone wants to have Fun. I decided to interview Fun for myself to try to get the inside scoop.

MOV: Hello, Fun. Thank you for granting me this interview slot! You are hard to get a hold of; some might even call you “elusive”.
Fun: That’s so funny that you say that! I’m not, though. Elusive I mean. Hey, you know what would be great right now? A cappuccino. Will you make me one real quick? No sugar.
MOV: Uh, sure. (Pause to make cappuccino.) Here ya’ go.
Fun: Perfect! Yum! You know who makes a great cappuccino?  Angelina Jolie.  She's a close personal friend.   
MOV: Wow.  You hang out with her? Okay. So the purpose of this interview, really, to me I mean, is to figure out exactly where you live, Fun, and how ordinary people can have you around more often.
Fun: (Big sigh.) Geesh, you really make this too hard. I'm everywhere! Just look up and there I am!
MOV: I don’t think that’s true. You weren’t there the other day when I accidentally backed into that guy’s car in the parking lot by Crazy Town Bistro……
Fun: Well, that’s true. I was there, but as soon as I heard that crunched metal sound, yikes, that’s like my cue to move on.
MOV: Why do you have to leave when things get a little rough?
Fun: You better watch yourself, MOV, I might leave right now.
MOV: Oh, sorry! Okay, don’t leave. Getting back on track here, why don’t you give me some good ideas where people can look for you?
Fun: Sure. Uh, I’m usually at the mall. Love to shop, love to spend money.  I like to go to the movies. Oooh, I know! Amusement Parks are a biggie for me, especially Disneyland. You can always find me there. Where else? Parties, parties are always great.  Just not the first half hour of a party, you will never see me get there early.  Love to run, love to work out. Love to go to soccer games and play. Spending time with friends is always cool. Travel! I love to travel. Gosh, I like to do a lot of things. I’ll tell you what I don’t like: work.
MOV: I’ve heard that. There was a rumor that you don’t particularly like work. Huh. So that’s true then?
Fun: Well, I can be found at work sometimes, you know, if my co-workers are cool, just not, like, every single day.
MOV: Can you tell me some other things that you don’t like, you know, things that you avoid?
Fun: Sure. There are a lot of things. I am definitely gone on April 15thI do not like taxes.  Nor screaming babies in strollers—won’t find me there! And really, if someone says, “Oh, but that toddler is just the cutest thing”, he may in fact be, but if he is screaming at the top of his lungs and his face turns all red and his features are all contorted: Ugh!  Like, I got a basketball game to go to, like, yesterday!
MOV: You’re right, babies are usually cuter when they’re smiling.
Fun: Exactly. That’s when I’m around.
MOV: Any thing else you're not a fan of?
Fun: Well, to be honest with you, I used to really like dogs. In fact, part of me still does.  They can be all jumpy and animated and really affectionate……… it’s just, well….. you're kind of required to take them for walks and then you have to clean up after them and the next thing you know: you’re carrying a little bag of poop with you. Ugh! That is pretty much the opposite of me and my personality:  bag of poop.  No dogs for me!  Forget itI'm outta there! 
MOV:  You’re not really committed then, are you?
Fun: What do you mean?
MOV: You’re not really there for the good times and the bad? When things get uncomfortable, you leave?
Fun: Oh, absolutely. I admit it.  I only hang out for the good times. I’ll tell you another place you won’t find me: hospitals! I have never been sick a day in my life! Never been to the dentist either! Oh, and I drink chocolate milkshakes, like, a lot. Every. Single. Day. Yum-o!
MOV: Okay, well, thank you for your time, Fun, it was a pleasure getting to spend so much time with you. I know that you're a busy individual, so I'll let you get going.
Fun: Great. I have a flight to Italy in a couple hours, First Class! George Clooney invited me back again to stay with him at his villa on the lake.  I do need to finish packing. But on second thought, packing is kind of dreary, so maybe I'll just buy all new clothes when I get there. 

So, there you have it, Reader. If you are looking for Fun this week, looks like he's vacationing in bella Italia

(“Milan Or Venice?”)

Friday, October 8, 2010

160. Paper Airplanes Take You Where

Again; this time
Papers. They are
Reminding me of my
Stubborness to toss them out.

Bogged down
Oppressed by scraps
God! I hate this mess of papers!

Mystified by why I
Ever kept them.

Dig down deep
Out they go
Wow! Liberated! This feels

("Manuscript Of Variables")

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

158. Euphemisms

What To Say When You Don’t Want To Offend Anyone:

  • pushy = “has initiative”
  • smells bad = “fragrant”
  • not talented = “working on developing his potential”
  • clumsy = “physical in surprising ways”
  • messy = "collector with varied interests displayed in a non-structured style"
  • eavesdropper = “always in the know”
  • nosy = “extremely interested in others”
  • late = "not confined by traditional time restraints"
  • tacky dresser = “brave wardrobe choices”
  • gossipy = “creative story-teller”
  • thief = "unclear on proper boundaries of possession"
  • bratty = “energetic”
  • watches too much TV, couch potato = "unwinds through meditation, or sometimes with media outlets"
  • emails too much = "likes to stay connected"
  • wastes time = "sometimes a tad bit unfocused"
  • fat = "appreciates delicious food, somewhat of a gourmet"
  • horrible driver = "risk-taker"
  • won't leave the house = "risk-averse" 
  • lazy = “tired”
  • mentally unstable, possibly dangerous = "confused"
  • interrupts constantly = “wants to be involved in the conversation”
  • loser = “second place winner”
  • no = “sure, let me get back to you”
  • I don't have time for that = "What a great opportunity for someone else!"
  • ugly = “plain, but in a good way”
  • ugly= “wholesome, all natural”
  • unattractive = “earthy”
  • tastes bland = “I’m sure some people like it, my palate is just not very developed”
  • poison = see above
  • disgusting = ditto
  • rip off, waste of money = “cost-prohibitive”
  • piece of junk = "mass-produced"
  • hung-over = “touch of the flu”
  • hung-over = “stomach bug”
  • obnoxious = “really social, almost what I would consider too social”
  • loud = “bothering my ear-drums a little bit”
  • old = “not really that old”
  • old = “what do you consider old?”
  • yucky interior of a house, including 1970’s avocado-green shag carpeting = “slightly dated décor”
  • ready to gut entire house = “might need some minor updates”
  • mean, not helpful = “seems busy”
  • downright ignores you = "distracted"
  • bitchy = "not that friendly"
  • hate her, can’t be in the same room with her = “I don’t know her that well”
  • opinionated = “likes to blog”
("Melee Of Verbiage")

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

157. Other People's Stuff

If it belongs to me, or used to belong to me, or someone gave it to me at some point, I can part with it. That’s not hard at all. The trick is: deciding what to do with other people’s things. Other People’s Stuff is what poses a problem. Would the Other People rebel if I got rid of their Stuff? I was about to find out.

The other day, we got a phone call from the local chapter of S.A.J. (Services Against Junk). I happened to be the unlucky one who answered the phone. The conversation went something like this:

SAJ: Is this Miss MOV?
Me: (panicking, after recognizing the SAJ name on the caller ID) Uh, how did you get this number?
SAJ: That’s irrelevant. This is Stacey Wiggums from the Crazy Town Services Against Junk. Are you familiar with our agency?

SAJ: I can tell by your long uncomfortable silence that you are. Well, then you probably have heard our mission statement before? “Treat the Junk Like a Skunk, Get it Out Before We Shout!” Catchy, isn’t it?
Me: But, I don’t understand. I don’t have any junk. I'm a Virgo.  My house is pristine and spotless. You obviously have me confused with someone else. This is all a big mistake.
SAJ: Ah, Miss MOV, that’s where you’re wrong. We’ve had some complaints filed against you lately.
Me: (outraged) Complaints? Against me? By whom?
SAJ: We are unable to reveal our sources, but let’s just say, between you and me, I’d be a little bit more careful who you invite to your next wine and cheese party.
Me: Was it Linda? I saw her open my closet, to “put away” a coat, that’s what she said she was doing. Or Vic? He seems nice, but maybe he was one of those tattle-tale kind of kids in grade school. Or Nanette? She “accidentally” walked in the garage, saying she was looking for the guest bathroom—ha! I’ll bet it wa....
SAJ: M’am! It doesn’t matter! What matters here right now is that the truck is on its way over.
Me: (panicky) Truck? What truck?
SAJ: The Services Against Junk truck. I need you to go get all your junk as soon as we get off the phone and take it out front.
Me: (in denial) I don’t know what you’re talking about. I'm telling you, I don’t have any junk. I need everything that's here.
SAJ: Those large Lego pieces that don’t go to anything? The broken vase that you “might” glue back together? The old videos, on Beta for goshsakes? The two dozen or so extension cords? The weird metal clip thing that you can’t remember what it goes to?
Me: But, but, but ... those aren’t even mine. Those belong to my husband or my kids. Why should I be punished for their stuff?
SAJ: (exasperated) Look, ma’am, do I need to get my supervisor on the phone? You know what the problem is. You have about an hour and a half to deal with it. The truck has been dispatched.

As soon as I got off the phone, I cried. Then, I did what Stacey told me to do. I started gathering up the specific items she had named, plus the broken crayons, the itchy socks, the lamp that needed re-wiring, the books with pages ripped out (thanks, Short), the chair that was missing a leg, the toy elephant with the stuffing coming out, the suitcase with the broken pull-up handle, the endless supply of home décor magazines, the left-over dried-out paint from two houses ago ... I placed the items in boxes and bags and put them on the front porch.

Ninety minutes after I'd hung up the phone with Stacey, the truck pulled up. Three guys in dark green jumpsuits walked towards the house. “We’re with Services Against Junk,” said one. He had an accent. Services came out like “sir—veeces.”  I nodded. What else could I do?

The Husband, known primarily for his skill at coming-home-right-when-I-bake-cookies, chose this moment to return from work. But instead of fresh-baked cookies, he was coming home to his junk being tossed forever, right along side the excess junk formerly belonging to Tall and Short. 

“MOV?” he said, as he walked up the front stairs, “did you bake cookies? and who are the guys in green jumpsuits?”

“Let’s go for a quick walk,” I replied hastily, grabbing my keys before the Jumpsuit Guys could throw those away as well, “and I’ll explain everything.”

(“My Optimistic Void”)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

154. 3 AM

Things You Can Get Done From 3 AM--7 AM: 
  1. You can finish reading that book you started several weeks ago (book not that great, shouldn't have bothered)
  2. You can get caught up on TiVo'd shows and watch about 17 episodes of "House Hunters" back-to-back-to-back (including International episodes!)
  3. You can delete any TiVo'd shows that you don't really plan to ever watch, specifically show that The Husband and Tall might have taped (sorry, guys--the TiVo memory was getting low) 
  4. You can polish off half a container of champagne-flavored gummy candies that you bought last shift at the high-end kitchen store (realize after the fact that was not the best idea ever)
  5. You can read any emails that might have come in mostly from Old Navy and Amazon, and you can spend 45 minutes deleting old emails that you saved for no apparent reason (emails with titles like "I can drive tonight" dated 6-24-08, or "Game cancelled" dated 9-12-09)
  6. You can pet cat on your lap for a long time, because she obviously is not a victim of insomnia 
  7. You can look through about 436 old catalogs and magazines (hello? Purge-O-Rama time!)
  8. Can make about a million lists:  lists of places you want to travel to, list of Christmas presents you might buy for people, lists of favorite restaurants  
Things You Cannot Do From 3 AM-- 7 AM (because it will cause too much noise and wake up poor unsuspecting sleepers of household, namely everyone but you):
  1. You cannot work-out with fun energetic new work-out video set to pop music
  2. You cannot work-out on expensive exercise bike in basement because the wheels go around in a noisy way
  3. You cannot vacuum even though living room really needs it
  4. Ditto dishes
  5. Can't make brownies or cupcakes (mixer is too loud)
  6. Can't do any cleaning
  7. Can't talk on phone (uh, who else is awake?  have friends in Australia?)
Overall, general conclusion is that the best activity to accomplish at 3 AM is, in fact, sleeping

("Mom Overtired? Very")

Friday, October 1, 2010

151. School Mornings

Scrambling around like
Hoping we remembered the
Odd bit of homework (most likely
Overlooked in the
Last-minute dash out the front door).

Not getting organized the night before.
I tell myself that this
Night will be different-- I'll
Get everything prepared ahead.  Instead, I
Sit and watch a new episode of Top Chef.

("Mornings Of Valor")