Wednesday, August 31, 2011

498. Holy Guacamole!

School starts in exactly seven days, and, as usual in our household, we are woefully unprepared. Oh, sure, the school supplies have been purchased, and the teachers’ names have been revealed, but we are still not ready. I’m talking about, of course, our sleep schedule.

Anyone with an elementary school-aged child knows that the bus swings by at 8:15 AM, and school starts promptly at 8:45 AM. This is very, very bad if you have slacked off and allowed your children to stay up until, oh, say midnight on a regular basis, and sleep in until a nice, summery hour, like maybe 10 AM.

Very bad indeed.

To counteract this badness in my family, I have implemented a new program, which I call simply, “Go To Bed Now!” or “Bed Now!” for short. This is how it works:

At about 7:15 PM, just as we are sitting down to dinner, I say to the kids, “Bed time in five minutes!” to which they laugh hysterically and respond, “But we have not even eaten yet!”

Half an hour later, when the dinner dishes have been cleared, and the hands of the clock creep toward eight, I once again announce (with slightly more authority this time), “Go to bed! Bed time!”

My children ignore me. I pour myself another glass of wine.

The Husband and I plop down in front of House Hunters International, and dream of buying a house in Spain or Australia or Antarctica, or anywhere else where we can maybe be alone and not have to deal with children’s bed times.

At 9:30 PM, we go into their room to find them still in day-time clothes, with un-brushed teeth, playing with LEGOs. I firmly tell them they must go to bed this very instant. I stand there with my hands on my hips, in what can only be described as a semi-menacing mommy-pose.

They scurry into bed, and The Husband and I declare project “Sleep Soon!” (see? we can’t even remember the name of our new program) a success.

Ten minutes later, the kids pop up, begging for water or Pok√©mon cards or a million dollars or some such. We hear them popping up every 15 minutes or so for the next two hours. We consider it a great improvement that they have passed out waaaaaaaay before midnight this time, probably more like 11:45 PM.

On the flip side of my freshly implemented plan is the wake-up routine. At 7 AM on the dot, I barge into their room, and flip the lights onto full bright.

“Time to get up! Up-up-up!” I say, like a deranged rooster on crack.

“Nooooooooo!” squeals Tall, “You are ruining our last vestiges of summer!”

“Up! We have to practice! Practice getting up!” I walk over to their windows, and open the bamboo shades, revealing blinding sunlight.

“Stop! Why do you despise us so?” says Short, placing a pillow over his eyes, “What did we ever do to you?”

I make a mental note to not let them watch the Disney channel anymore, as this is obviously where they are picking up their surly attitude and new vocabulary words.

“All right, fine,” I say to the two lifeless mannequins posing as my children, “You can have 10 more minutes, then that’s it!” I say it with emphasis and vigor to underscore the importance of them waking up on time. They need time to use the bathroom, brush their teeth, finish their homework, eat breakfast, get dressed, tell me what they want packed in their lunchboxes, walk to the bus-stop, and any other things that I am forgetting right now. That takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes, minimum.

I walk upstairs to my study, coffee in hand. I mentally calculate, okay, they might not need that much time, maybe one hour is plenty. I will go back down and check on them in five minutes.  I sit down at my computer and work on my blog.

Next thing you know, it is 10:15 AM. Yikes! They are still asleep! Wow, I got a lot done though. Hmmm, maybe we’ll try our new system again next week. No dress rehearsals for this family.

(“My October Vision?”)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

495. That Time I Knew Everything

It was my very first week as a new freshman in college, orange leaves littering the ground, when I saw a poster up in the main cafeteria: “Summer Study Program in London, details this Sat from 10—noon.” Waking up before 10 AM was against my new religion (College-ism), but I would definitely have to make an exception for this.

I showed up, like the throngs of other students, at 9:45, hoping to get a good seat. I brought a bright green notebook so I could take notes about the cost and the classes. Imagine my surprise when the cost turned out to be the same as a regular semester, just add airfare and shopping sprees at Harrods. I immediately signed up, got the address to mail the deposit check, and called my father.


Now, my father is a reasonable man. He heard the part about it costing the same, and he calculated out listening to me beg to go to London for the next eight months vs. saying yes right away and having me thank him for the next eight months instead. He chose the latter.

This essay has nothing to do with my summer in England. It also has nothing to do with my subsequent summer in France. This is all merely backstory. The travel bug bit, and it bit hard. I was only months from graduation, when I stumbled upon yet another study abroad program: Italy.

“This is not through your school,” my father said wisely, as he leafed through the stack of brochures, “and I have never heard of University of Educational National International Adventures. Is that a real school?”

“Of course it is,” I replied, pointing to the logo at the top of the ad.  “Fake schools don’t have logos.”

“You are graduating in June,” he said, not even looking at the calendar once to confirm, “You don’t need these credits.” He shrugged.

I did the only thing I could. I called my mom. Long divorced, they rarely spoke.

“Mom, I really need you to pay to send me to Italy.”

“I already spoke to your dad. No.”

That was only her first reaction. This was followed by several weeks of No-No-No-NO-NO-No-no-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-no-No-forget it-No-No-Not gonna happen-No-No-okay all right yes.

I had worn her down.

Do not be fooled. This essay is not about me convincing my mom to send me to Italy, nor about some whirlwind romance over there (that would be nice though), this essay is about my, shall we say, “over”-confidence in nearly every possible situation.

I immediately settled into some wonderful friendships with a group of girls on the program. They, much like me, did not need the credits either, but did need the opportunity to travel.  Our program included many side excursions away from Florence to explore other beautiful parts of Italy: Venice, Rome, Pisa, Bologna, Perugia, Torino, Orvieto, and Genova. Strangely, Naples and Capri were not on our itinerary.

We took it upon ourselves to plan a weekend jaunt to Naples and Capri. In only three and a half hours (and a quick change of trains in Rome), we were in Naples. Unfortunately, we had no idea what we were doing, as this was our first time without a tour guide/ group leader/ translator.

The people of Naples like to drive fast. On the sidewalk. They think of stop signs and signal lights as “helpful reminders” and in no way obligatory.  We were almost hit five times within our first 10 minutes there.

My friend Melinda had her purse stolen at a gelateria. Yes, her passport was in it. Yes, this was the in the days before cell phones. (In retrospect, Melinda was a very forgetful person. It is quite possible she forgot her purse somewhere along the way, maybe even on the train.) We panicked, but there was really nothing we could do until we got back to Florence and talked to the director of the program. Miraculously, she had her train ticket in her pocket, so we were still able to get back to Florence.

We decided, under the circumstances, to cut our trip short and not go to Capri after all (do not be sad for me, I was able to go at a later date!). We spent a few hours wandering around Naples, and then finally got back on the train to Rome and Florence. When the conductor on the second train asked for our passports, we had to beg him to not throw us off.

When we returned to school, the director helped Melinda get a new passport (he had a Xerox of everyone’s passport, which made it somewhat easier with the American embassy). She had a new passport within three days.

Which was just enough time for us to plan a trip to Prague.

We enjoyed traveling all over Italy for four months, but we wanted even more stamps on our passports (and let’s face it: Melinda wanted one stamp).

We took the overnight train. It was me, Melinda, Michelle, and Becca in a compartment that held six people. We were hoping that they would not fill up the train so we’d have the extra space to stretch out for the long journey. Our wish came true. We changed trains the next morning in Vienna (passport stamp number one for Melinda!) and settled in for the long ride to Prague. We were thrilled when, just minutes after getting our seats on the sold-out train, we heard American accents.

Two good-looking college-age guys plunked down next to us. They both had a sharp Texas twang.

A strange thing happens when you travel far from home for a few months. You are no longer “Texan,” you are “American.” And, in a pinch, you can even bond with someone who is Canadian because it is practically the same thing.

“You’re from Texas!” I blurted out. “Me, too! Well, California!”

Let the flirtfest begin. No matter that we had not had a decent night’s sleep nor brushed our teeth in 10 hours, we were not going to waste this opportunity to chat with handsome guys from North America.

We chatted merrily for a good half an hour. Then, talk turned, as often does, to Where To Go Next. Becca was complimenting Lake Como, as her Italian host family had taken her there for a long weekend. Michelle and I were enamored with Orvieto, while Melinda was more adamant (for obvious reasons) about where not to go:  Naples.

“I would never go back to Naples,” she said with stern conviction, “I had my purse stolen there.” She clung tightly to her new purse as she said this.

“Really? That’s so strange, because—” said Texan #1 before I cut him off.

“It was filthy city. I hated Naples. And the drivers! Terrible! They practically run you off the sidewalk! I would never go back. I had the worst time of my life there,” I scowled.

My friends nodded in solidarity.

“But—” began Texan #2, trying to get in a word edgewise.

“Never! Never go!” I continued my rant. “You will hate it! The people are mean! The place is disgusting! They live like cannibals!” My lack of sleep was clearly showing at this point.

“You know, MOV, we are going to Naples next week because—”

Melinda shook her head. Michelle and Becca laughed. I said what we all were thinking:

“Change your ticket now!”

“My dad’s family lives there, my dad is Italian,” replied the very tall, blond, blue-eyed, now half-Italian Texan, “we go to Napoli every summer. It's my favorite place in the whole world.”

I could feel the color drain from my face.  “Oh, well, uh, I'm sure that once you get to know Naples, it must be really great.  Soooo great.  Really molto bella mucha.  Huh.  Yeah, our bad experience is not indicative of anything.  Or nothing.  Niente.  Niente bella molto.  Wow.  I would mostly likely love to go back to Naples, to, uh, you know, give it another chance.  Because we did not give it a chance!  We only gave it, like, half a chance, and clearly that's not enough!”

It was no use. We stared out the window in stony silence for the remainder of the four and a half hour journey.

I no longer strike up conversations with strangers on a train.

(“Me, Overseas: Vienna”)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

494. That Time I Worked At The Jewelry Store

True story. I had just graduated from college, yet could not find a job. This was a shocker to me as I was a liberal arts major and had a solid “B” average. Why were the big companies not knocking down my door and offering me six figures? The only figures in my life were the following six:  rent, electric bill, phone bill, water bill, car payment, and my American Express bill. I needed to find a job, and fast.

There was a very nice independent jewelry store about three blocks from where I lived (this would be a good place for me to work if my car was repossessed from lack of payment).  One day I noticed a “Career Opportunities Within” sign posted on the front window. I walked in and applied for a job.

No one was more surprised than I when they offered me the job. I knew absolutely nothing about diamonds, except that they cost a lot.

No matter. Mike trained me, and in a matter of weeks I was spewing out information like “I wouldn’t go any lower than a ‘J’ on color if I were you,” or “Our diamonds cost more because they are not riddled with inclusions,” and “The cut means the CUT, not the shape.” I knew so much about diamonds, people thought I was a certified gemologist or at least the owner’s daughter.

As I have been known to do in the past, I quickly started pointing out everything the shop was doing wrong, from window displays to record-keeping (this was pre-computer era). Rather than have to fight with me, Mike told me I could do the window displays, which I merrily took on. My creative tendencies bubbled to the surface, as I arranged model airplanes (borrowed from my mother’s basement) with ruby bracelets draped off the wings, or Rolex watches peeking out from piles of Halloween candy corn, or pearl necklaces dangling out of oversized seashells and propped next to real starfish with matching pearl earrings. I had a natural talent for window displays.

Our store policy was to change the windows about once a month. Princess Virgo (I was only 22, not yet Queen Virgo at this point) decided that once a week would be better. I was constantly sketching out ideas for my windows, to the point of ignoring the real live customers that my fabulous windows were bringing into the store.

“I’ll be right with you,” I’d call out to a potential customer standing near the front door, while putting my hand over the phone receiver, “I'm just trying to figure out where I can get a small model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

One great perk of the job was an employee discount of 75%. When Mike informed me of this benefit during my initial training, I quickly fantasied about all the wonderful jewelry I would buy: emerald rings, gold earrings, antique charm bracelets … but 75% off of $10,000 is still $2,500, and $2,500 was still a lot of money.

I was despondent. I would never be able to afford anything in the store. The best I could hope for was the jar of jewelry cleaner that retailed for 15 bucks.

So a new little obsession developed during my tenure at the high-end jewelry store: trying on all the jewelry, sometimes all at once. My boss walked in after his lunch break one day to find me wearing approximately $200,000 in merchandise.

“No, MOV, no,” he said, unsupportively, while reaching for the vintage diamond and platinum tiara on my head, “It's one thing to model an engagement ring for a man shopping for his girlfriend, but you do not need to wear 12 bracelets at once. Take them off.”

I started to pretend the jewelry was all mine, the entire store was my jewelry box. Who cares that the tanzanite choker was $18,500? I already owned it! The Patek Philippe watch? All mine. The diamond and sapphire lariat necklace that had supposedly belonged to Jackie O? Oh, please.

One evening I left work, walked home, reached into my purse for my apartment keys, and was mortified to see a 5.5 carat marquis cut diamond engagement ring still on my middle finger. I had somehow forgotten to put it back after one of my many modeling sprees. The ring was priced at $99,000.

How had I been so stupid?  This ring was hard to miss.  It was blindingly huge and gorgeous, and produced little prisms of movement and glittery rainbows from every angle.  Even in the dark.  Especially in the dark.  It was exactly like a fortune teller's crystal ball, only a million billion times better.  I could see my past in the facets of this ring, my hyperventilating and nauseous present, and my (surely unemployed) future.   

I felt like I would throw up any second. I had plans to go out with some friends, which I immediately cancelled. My evening would be spent alternately guarding this ring that cost more than I made in five years, dreaming up safe hiding places for it, and wishing that it really was mine. I tried to call my boss to see if he wanted to drive back over and get the ring, but his answering machine kept clicking on: “This is Mike and Donna. We’re not home, so please leave a message at the beep.”

It would be bad enough to tell Mike in person or on the phone that I accidentally wore the ring home, but to have his wife Donna know, too?  I hung up.  Twenty-six times. 

Please-don't-fire-me-please-don't-fire-me-please-don't-fire-me, I prayed to the pretty ring.  And please don't have me arrested for grand theft diamond. 

I hardly slept the entire night. I had horrible dreams that someone broke into my place and stole the ring. I need not have worried, though.  I had hidden the ring in the back of the refrigerator in a Tupperware container behind some strawberries. If a thief was going to find the ring, he would have to be hungry enough to stop for a snack first.

The next morning, I got to work early. I stood pacing by the back entrance of the store, suspiciously eyeing the linen delivery guy for the restaurant next-door. Mike finally showed up, and I immediately told him what had happened. Instead of firing me or yelling at me or even shaking his head in disappointment, he laughed.

“No big deal, MOV,” he smiled, “I would never worry about you.” He pushed up his sleeve to show me something: he was wearing two Rolexes.

P.S. And thank you to Nola for the great blog idea! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

492. The Interview

Now that Short will be starting kindergarten in September, I have taken it upon myself to look for full-time employment. I started thinking about all the wonderful jobs I have done in the past, and I also thought about my interests: writing, travel, joking around, baking cookies, photography, reading magazines with House or Beautiful in the title, rearranging furniture, staying in hotels, shopping, and eating at gourmet restaurants. Also. I like anything creative. Anything like museums, art, and theater. So I decided to write all my interests down on an 11 x 14 legal pad, and it immediately became clear the type of establishment I should be working in:

A bank.

I went right down to all the banks within a three mile radius and applied. When I filled out the applications and got to the spot where it said, “Which position?” I wrote in:  any. But between you and me, Bank President would be good.

The first bank (coincidentally, named “First Bank of Crazy Town”) called me back right away. They thought I would be a good fit for the teller job. I have been a teller before, so it was not too much of a stretch.

However, it has been a very very veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery long time since I have interviewed for anything. I was a bit taken aback at some of the (obviously illegal) questions they were asking. Things like, “What did you like about your last job?” (duh, discount, I am so not answering that question), “Where do you see yourself in five years?” (living on the beach in Hawaii after I become the star of my own reality series: MOV’s World), “Why do you want this job?” (very inappropriate, I thought—I mean, it's none of their business!!!!), and “Can you please put back all the free lollipops we just saw you put in your purse?” (strawberry swirl! I know! how could I resist?).

Here I thought I might have to do some bankish things, things like count, or demonstrate pretending to count, or looking over a (fake) check and scrutinizing it like it might be fake, or jangling important keys around, or trying to talk all garbled-like on the drive-thru teller window microphone: no. They did not ask me to do any of those things.

Instead, the main interview guy just kept looking over my resume and saying things like, “Huh. So you were really never fired from any of your previous jobs?”

The next 15 interviews went about the same. Yesterday, I got home and stared at the phone, willing it to ring. That bank guy at First Bank had not said that he would call, but he had not ripped up my resume in front of me like so many of the others had. Not only did the phone not ring, but there were no new emails awaiting me to let me know of my glorious new career as Bank President awaiting me. Sigh.

The Husband just got home from work a few minutes ago. He was going through a stack of mail, and he came across something addressed to me. Something official-looking. From a bank. I snatched it out of his hands so I could be one sheet of paper closer to my dream.

“Dear MOV,” the letter began innocently enough, “We regret to inform you that you bounced a check for $17.22 to the high-end kitchen store. The check was returned unpaid, because you have no overdraft protection. Please pay this amount, plus fees of $82 immediately. Thank you for banking with us, we appreciate your loyalty. Sincerely, Crazy Town National Bank.”

That was the strangest job offer I ever received.


Friday, August 19, 2011

491. Monsooned Into Rite Aid

So Oakley is in town again. You know what that means: long walks. Oakley is not merely a fitness “nut,” she is the entire nut forest. “Oh, MOV, did I tell you about my latest fitness regime?” she innocently asks as she flexes her Linda-Hamilton-in-Terminator biceps, all sinewy and movie-starish, “It’s called the Hourly Zone, and it’s about isolating one muscle group every hour during the day and tensing it up and releasing.”

I feel tense just talking about it. “I don’t know how to do all that exercise-y West Coast kinda stuff, Oak,” I say with caution, “How ‘bout you and I maybe go for a walk instead?”

She takes another swig of her yogurt-banana-wheat-grass-vitamin-protein smoothie, and reluctantly agrees.

We have been walking a grand total of five minutes when our Hourly Zone is disturbed by Mother Nature unceremoniously ripping open the sky and pouring buckets of water on our heads for no good reason. Excuse me, did I say buckets? I meant swimming pools. When the word “monsoon” is bandied about by meteorologists on TV, this is what they are referring to. The sky was a revolting shade of bruise, and it was obvious the monsoon would not abate any time soon.

“Run for cover!” Oakley yells out, as if she is the Wicked Witch of the West who might melt at any second, “Go to Rite Aid!”

We bang on the automatic doors to open faster, and the video monitors catch two very drenched Hourly Zone participants (well, one participant and one wannabe impostor) on tape.

“Honestly, there are worse places to be stranded,” sighs my only sister, the same sister who did not receive the shopping gene as part of her initial DNA package. “Let’s pretend we’re 13 and wander the aisles and discuss all our prospective purchases in detail!”

This is so unlike her. Wander? Thirteen? Prospective purchases?

Since when does Oakley channel Barbie and the Disney Glam Clan?

But hey, if she can do it, so can I. “Let’s rate all the nail polish choices and decide which one is the sluttiest!”

“Let’s read our horoscope in every single magazine!”

“Let’s try on Halloween masks!” (It is, after all, August. We must be prepared.)

“Let’s read all the greeting cards and guess which ones the other one would pick!”

“Let’s see who can pick the most unnatural hair color kit!”

“Let’s model every single pair of sunglasses they sell!”

“I know, let’s go down every aisle and make fun of everything!” (that one was me)

We. Had. A. Blast.

Turns out, “Golden Glitterazzi” is the sluttiest nail polish (but perfectly acceptable for feet). September will be a month of frustrated romantic intentions for Aquarius (Oakley’s sign), while Virgo (moi) will be proving herself at work. The best Halloween mask for me is the skeleton, while my sister looks very attractive as Darth Vader. Oak thinks that my favorite greeting cards have puppies and kittens (hint: they don’t), while I somehow chose the exact cards she said she would’ve picked (maybe she was just done with my silly game and wanted me to shut up?). The worst hair color was jet black with an unnatural bluish tint, although we both agreed it would be suitable with either the skeleton mask or Darth Vader, especially when combined with the Jackie-O sunglasses.

And the “make fun of everything” part? That’s easy: it’s in my DNA.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

487. How to Write

I walked into the first day of the Writing 101 seminar, taught by Professor Broysen. He waited patiently for us to take our seats, and then he started writing something on the chalkboard.

At the top, he scribbled “TOOLS FOR WRITING.” This was good. I was going to get a lot out of this class, I could already tell.

When I had been a bank teller, the tool I used every single day was money. The bank supplied this. When I was a hostess at the seafood restaurant, the main tools I used were the reservation book and the phone. Again, provided by my employer. When I worked at the department store doing gift-wrapping, guess what my tools were? That’s right: wrapping paper and scissors, courtesy of the management.

I craned my neck to see what he had written so far. He was a large man, and his broad shoulders blocked the board. I tried to guess what it could be: pen? paper? typewriter? pencil? dictionary?

He finally stepped to the side. He had written

A.................................. W

..................C ...................F .......................Z

......R..................... B .............X ..........N........ V

Q ..............J ...............O .............L

..D ..................H ......M ..................Y

S............... I................ E.......... G

.............................K ........................P

U..................... T

As far as I could tell, these were just letters, not even real true words. I looked around to gauge others’ reactions. They appeared as shocked as I was. I raised my hand.

“Yes, you in the red shirt,” he pointed at me.

“Professor, uh, my dad just wrote quite a large tuition check, and on behalf of him, uh, I am expecting more material to work with. Maybe some actual words like palaver, or redundant, or angst? These letters, well … did you get them on sale or something? They don’t even have anything attached to them.”

A murmur went through the group. I could tell everyone agreed with me.

“What is your name?” Professor Broysen asked me.

“MOV,” I replied.

“MOV, my point is that under our current parameters at this university, and, to be frank, budget cuts, we are only able to offer you the basics. Twenty-six of them, to be exact.”

I started to cry. I didn’t want to, but I could feel hot tears of despair on my cheeks.

Someone else spoke. “Professor, what do you expect us to do with these letters?” He said these letters like you might say nuclear waste.

“Well, that is the beauty of these letters: their versatility. You can make any words from them. And, as you might already know, words are the building blocks of books.”

I hated it when teachers did this. Went from the introductory thing—ZOOM—to the advanced part. Letters … books!

Arms shot up around the room.


“Excuse me!”


“I have something to say!”

Then someone blurted out what we all wanted to ask: What about sentences? and paragraphs? stories? chapters? Huh? What about those?

“You will figure it out,” he winked, “This is college, people. Take these tools, these alphabet letters, and create something great.”

I walked out, depressed. I went straight to the Administrative Office.

“Excuse me?” I said to the secretary. “I would like to petition to change my major. To accounting.”

I hear they give out numbers.


Monday, August 8, 2011

483. How To Plan A Virgo Summer

First, before the end of the school year, get out your pristine white calendar and set it on your desk. Stare at the blank grid and think of all the blissful things you can do to fill it.

Next, brainstorm. On a separate sheet of paper, make a list of fun childhood things like
  • Museums
  • Petting zoo
  • Water park
  • Vacation travel
  • Soccer camp
  • Book store
  • Art projects (to include home-made wooden models, clay figures, ceramics, mosaic glass, mini-canvases)
  • Gardening
  • Swimming
  • Bowling
  • Miniature golf
Suddenly remember that you hate crowds, and the museums near you are high-caliber and attract visitors from all over the world. Cross out “museums.” Tell yourself that you can go in the fall. Or winter. Or spring. But not now.

Smile when you think about the petting zoo. Picture your sweet children petting a miniature pony and feeding some geese. Gasp as you remember how that fierce goat tried to eat your younger son’s socks (and by default, his feet, toes, ankles, shins, and knees) the last time you went. Cross “petting zoo” off the list. You have a cat, and she is soft. The kids can pet her.

Water parks are refreshing and a perfect place to go on those blisteringly hot summer days. Envision your family enjoying summer fun at the water park. Google the water parks closest to you to find out the prices. Read and re-read the part about it costing $55 per person. Wonder if that is a typo and really says $5.50. Call. Get put on hold. Talk to Sharla who confirms (very nicely) that $55 is indeed the daily rate. “Each?” you hear yourself say. Ask her if there are any promotional deals. Cry when she tells you that IS the promotional deal.

Cross “water park” off the list.

Call your husband at work to ask him what kind of travel budget you have for summer. Hang up on the fifth ring because you already know the answer: negative $400. Sharpen your pencil and cross “vacation travel” off the list.

Call the local rec center to sign up your older son for soccer camp, which is only $25 for the week because it is funded by some sort of grant. Smile at your good fortune and your sons’ good fortune to live in a city that offers such things. Frown when the rec center girl informs you that the camp is already full and was filled up the first day registration was available (which was way back in February), dummy. She does not actually say the word “dummy,” but her tone says it for her.

Draw a squiggly line through “soccer camp,” just to have some variety on the page.

Circle the next thing on the list: book store. Remember that you have an email coupon for Borders in your in-box. Laugh to think you almost deleted it, but for once your procrastination is paying off. Call Borders to see when their story times and special events are. Realize you must’ve dialed the wrong number, because it says “disconnected.” Repeat, say, four more times. Google it. Read the depressing little article about how your local Borders branch recently closed due to the economy. Erase “book store” and write in “library” instead.

Art projects! This you can do. Start writing on the calendar for the first time. Mondays: painting; Wednesdays: mosaics; Fridays: ceramics. Ha—this will be the summer of Art! You can’t wait to tell your sons all about their new activity.

Move on with the rest of your ideas. Gardening. Okay, there is the minor setback that every green thing you have ever owned has died. On the way home from the gardening center. Write “gardening” neatly on the calendar anyway. For your husband to do with the kids on Saturdays.

Swimming. Well, you did join a pool, so that one is covered. Decide to alternate the swimming with the Art days. Write in Tuesdays: swim; Thursdays: swim; Sundays: swim. Your family is so athletic! Well, except for your younger son who can’t actually swim yet and clings to the side of the pool screaming. Except for that.

Bowling and miniature golf. These will be fun activities that you can work into your schedule at some point. You don’t really stop to consider the very non-Virgo part about renting shoes. Shoes that other people have worn a million billion times before you, and maybe not washed their socks. Their socks that could have been licked by goats. Ick. Nor do you contemplate that miniature golf involves your sons brandishing weapons known as “golf clubs.” You will wise up later, but for now, you write it in on the side of the calendar: Rainy day activity—bowling; and miniature golf—when? Which you underline to add emphasis.

When the kids get home from school, proudly show them your calendar and how your summer is going to pan out. You have taken the initiative to color-code all the activities and write them in for the different days. Your older son (the Picasso of the family) looks at all the art projects planned and his eyes glaze over, like in a trance or a very bad coma.

The preschool son (who cannot read yet, just what are they doing for four hours every day at that school anyway?) sees the cute little blue “wave” motif you have sketched in for swim days and recoils in horror: “Does that mean swimming?!?” he screeches, as if you’d written in “manual labor and shoveling manure” instead of “lounge around and swat inflatable beach ball.”

Reassure him that swimming is fun, and he will take lessons. Tell him you will hire the nicest swim teacher on the planet, someone who really knows his stuff.

“Shamu?” asks your younger son in earnest.

“No, uh, I don’t think he teaches kids,” you respond reasonably about the famous Killer Whale.

Fast forward to mid-August. On your fireplace mantel sits exactly one (count it: one) completed wooden model of the Eiffel Tower, painted. A bag of dried out Play-Doh inhabits the coffee table, mocking you. (The clay they sold at the art supply store was too “mushy and oozy,” according to your younger son.) The swim lessons have gone surprisingly well, except for the two ear infections. And you did manage to combine bowling and miniature golf in the same day and not come down with any foot diseases nor broken bones caused by stray flying golf clubs.

You look over your calendar and feel a slight tingle of accomplishment (or possible this could be a sneeze coming on). You managed to do a few of the things on your “dream” list. A few is good. You reach for the remote control to see if TiVo has saved any new episodes of House Hunters International. The remote does not work.

“Mom,” says your older son, not unkindly, “I think the batteries are dead. You know, from us using it too much.”

(“Manages Others’ Vacations”)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

482. Hi, Daddy!

I just found out my dad reads my blog. This, right on the heels of finding out that my own son Short was adopted. As you can imagine, I am in double shock.

Now, my dear father is literally the kindest person on the planet. Think Gandhi. Then think how Gandhi is actually my dad’s twin, but Gandhi is called “the mean one” by his family. Okay, you have an idea of how great my dad is.

So, due to circumstances beyond my control (uh, the cruel realization that my dad is one of my regular—gasp!—readers), I am forced to change the general content of my blog and its overall “vibe.”

Lucky for you, you get to read one of my first new, kinder, gentler, less offensive blogs. Here goes:

I was driving and saw a rainbow. It made me happy until I ran into a telephone pole because I wasn’t paying attention. (*Note: this is just a rough draft, I am still working out the kinks.)

Thank you for reading my blog! May your day be filled with sunshine and kittens but not dead kittens mangled by coyotes like we found in our yard recently.

The End.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

480. Why I Am A Bad Therapy Patient

When I was in my 20’s, I was going through a rocky time so I decided to seek out a therapist. Oh, boy, was that a mistake. Here, listen in:

Me: So that’s the deal. What do you think I should do?

Therapist: What do YOU think you should do?

Me: Uh, I don’t know. That’s why I’m here. What should I do?

Therapist: My role, MOV, is to help you find the answers within yourself. What path are you leaning toward?

Me: No idea. What are the choices?

Therapist: What do YOU think the choices are?

Me: Uh, I dunno. Can you give me a hint?

Therapist: (long uncomfortable silence while she looks at her watch)

Me: I said, I’m not sure what to do. What would you do?

Therapist: What I would do is irrelevant. It’s what you will do that matters.

Me: I want to know what you would do.

Therapist: We all make our own choices.

Me: Sure … but I want to make the choice you recommend.

Therapist: I recommend following your heart.

Me: As opposed to my head?

Therapist: Follow your head, too.

Me: My heart and head are saying different things.

Therapist: Follow both.

Me: Then I will be cheating on my head with my heart?

Therapist: (shifts in seat, shifts back)

Me: So what should I do?

Therapist: What do you want to do?

Me: I want to strangle you for charging me 100 bucks an hour and not giving me an answer!

Therapist: What are you so angry about?

Me: I’m angry that I don’t know what to do!

Therapist: Oh, look, time’s up. That will be $100 cash or check, please. No insurance plans accepted.

I felt like I was on some sort of reality show where they answer every question with a fortune cookie: “The key is within your line of vision—you know what you should do.”

Duh! I don’t know what I should do! If I knew what to do, would I be in therapy?

In an effort to reduce expenditures, I eliminated therapy from my budget. I replaced it with alcohol. My new mantra: “A great bottle of wine is still cheaper than an hour of bad therapy.”

(“Mistress Of Vino”)