Wednesday, November 30, 2011

589. Famous Author Writes To Me

So, not sure if I mentioned it or anything, but I wrote a book. The other day, I was thinking about all the people that had inspired me to write in the first place, and I kept circling back to this one really famous humor author. She has written about a dozen books, all on the NY Times best seller list. She uses ten dollar bills as coasters.

Anyhow, I was thinking (okay, I was drinking) and I thought, I should maybe email her! Yeah! Great idea! She has never met me, but I will offer to send her my book and maybe it will make her laugh!  And then we can be famous author friends!  And we can drink lattes together and laugh about how successful we are and how famous!  

Then Smart Part of my brain spoke up (this doesn’t happen often, so I did try to listen): “MOV, you have never even met Famous Author You Idolize, she might view it as cyber-stalking so I think it would be best to—”

This was right when that third (okay, fourth) glass of Chardonnay kicked in, so I clicked SEND.

I was really feeling woozy (what with it being Thanksgiving and all, did I mention I harassed Famous Author on Thanksgiving? No? I left that part out, oh well), so I went to bed and took a quick little cat-nap and promptly forgot all about Famous Author and my “Hi I want to be your new best friend you are so great I love you and do you wanna read my new book? I hope I am as funny as you, or maybe as funny as your shoe.” That is not exactly word-for-word verbatim precisely what I wrote, but you get the gist.

She. Wrote. Back. Immediately.

It was totally not the restraining-order-type of email I am used to. It was friendly. See for yourself:

Dear MOV—
Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! Congrats on the book, it feels wonderful to accomplish something of that magnitude, doesn't it! Thank you for being so kind, and I am delighted if I had anything at all to do with your inspiration. If you'd like to send me the book, I'd be happy to get it, but I should tell you one thing right away, and that is that I don't offer any sort of critiques or anything like that. There is only one person who has to be happy with the book, and that's you--your name is on it. I learned a long time ago that if you're going to get rejected or fall flat or out and out fail, it had better be your failure and no one else's. I've had editors change punchlines and no one catches the shit for a bad joke with my name on it but me. If you're really looking to workshop it, although I'm not really a big believer in that, either, there are plenty of online groups and probably a writer's group in your area. But the last thing I will do is give advice. Ever. Because I could be wrong. Humor is very subjective. And you shouldn't lose out on something because I'm a dipshit. But if you like, you can send me the file over email to this address. I'm swamped with my own deadlines right now, and will be for some time, but hopefully I will have some down time soon. So if you want to send your book to someone who won't give you any feedback because it's against her religion, I'm your girl.
Have a great holiday,
Signed, Very Famous Author that you could figure out who it is by looking on my Acknowledgement Page

Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod. I ran to the kitchen to find a paper bag to breathe into before I passed out. Tall walked in.

“What are you doing, Mommy?” His little face looked aghast.

“I can’t breathe. A really famous author wrote me back!”

His eyes lit up like Christmas lights when you first plug them in to test to make sure none are broken.

“Mom! Was it Mark Twain?!”

Mark Twain! Why would he say that?

I shook my head at him and replied, “Yes.”


Sunday, November 27, 2011

587. Virgo Vertigo

Can I trade in my Zodiac sign? All this Virgo perfection stuff is making me dizzy. I cannot just buy cupcakes for Tall’s birthday celebration at school, I have to bake the cupcakes myself. I can’t just use a grocery store mix, I have to bake them from scratch from a Martha Stewart recipe. One type of frosting? Please. My Virgo nature forces me to offer the options of chocolate or vanilla icing, and then decorate them in a kaleidoscope of swirly sprinkles.

My Virgo brain is not satisfied to merely volunteer for a supporting role for a fundraiser at my sons’ school. No. I must be in charge of the whole event. Who cares that my week-ends are gobbled up with drafting emails and making enough phone calls that my charger is perpetually plugged in? As long as Virgo has control, things will get done.

Virgos are overachievers.

Other signs sit back and soak it all in, wanting to help but being ever-so-slightly intimidated by the tornado of Virgo energy that silently swirls. Did you follow up on—of course. We need to do—already done. What about—check, check, and check-mate. No need to worry, Virgo will make it happen.

When I get tired of fundraising and volunteering and need a break, I go online to that website I heard about: After much thought and consideration, I fill out a formal request to officially rescind my Virgo status. I carefully study the other eleven signs searching for one without a penchant for extraneous commitments. I make a detailed spreadsheet of the pros and cons of the other Zodiac signs (the Virgo status has not been cancelled just yet). I write my obligatory five-page essay, explaining why another sign would be a better fit for me. As I am proofreading and editing, I am slightly alarmed to notice that three of my paragraphs start with the phrase, “I am exhausted.”

I am almost ready to submit my application. I drag the mouse and get ready to click on the one sign that might make my life a little less hectic: Procrastiquarius.

("Momentarily Over Virgo-ness")

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

585. Why Thanksgiving Is The Bestest Holiday Ever

I woke up this morning and said, Is today the day—is it Thursday yet? Alas, it was not. It was still dumb ol’ Wednesday, mocking me. Ha! said Wednesday, Fooled you again!

Bizarre dialogues with rude and unwanted filler days like Wednesday aside, I wanted to write a special post about Thanksgiving and why it is the premier holiday on the calendar.
  • New Year’s Day is all about hangovers and resolutions. Thanksgiving is all about dressing, pumpkin pie, and football. Point to: Thanksgiving.
  • Valentine’s Day focuses on if you have a love interest. Not Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving focuses on turkey. Point to: Thanksgiving.
  • St. Patrick’s Day is all about hanging out with friends, drinking beer, and wearing something green. Thanksgiving does not have a dress code (and I do not look good in green). I do like to hang out with friends and drink for no good reason though. Point to: Tie.
  • Easter celebrates Jesus, God, and cute bunnies. Thanksgiving celebrates grateful atheists or grateful religious people. Thanksgiving is non-discriminatory. Point to: Thanksgiving!
  • Mother’s Day and Father’s Day highlight the sacrifices parents make, while simultaneously making them work hard on the specific day to put together a brunch or something and entertain the kiddos that are supposedly so grateful for mom and dad. Personally, I would like to have a day off. Conclusion: Mother’s Day sucks. Point to: Thanksgiving.
  • July 4th. It’s all about celebrating our independence with illegal fireworks, hamburgers, and cheap wine. Hmm … Point: Tie.
  • My Birthday. Not a legal holiday in most countries* (*well, any country), yet fun nonetheless. I get to eat cake and choose what flavor. However, the whole USA does not get the day off, so this results in: Tie.
  • Halloween dwells on fake mummies, stale candy, and over-sugared children who won’t go to sleep because they are busy being amped up or throwing up. Point to (clearly): Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas reminds us to spend time with our families and simultaneously guilts us into buying them gobs of gifts and then stressing out because we worry if they’ll like them. Thanksgiving also involves time with loved ones, but no presents are required or expected, and plus you get to eat turkey. Point to: Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is the day we can sleep in, eat turkey, eat more turkey (did I mention eating turkey?) and not feel bad about it, say what we are thankful for, and play Junior Monopoly with our kids for five hours. As an added bonus, Thanksgiving is paired with a freebie extra day off and lots of football.  It’s my favorite holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 18, 2011

581. Round People and The People Who Love Them

My Idol and I have something in common: I am a HUUUUUUUUGE fan of Fisher Price Little People.

Sadly, I do not have any now. But, when I was growing up, I had dozens! Probably millions!

My sister and I called them “Round People.” I hate to burst My Idol's bubble with our superior and original name, but I didn’t want her to be in the dark. Yes, they could be considered little. But look closer for different identifying characteristics: They are round! (And unlike their evil nemesis and impostor wannabes—Weebils—Round People are too good to wobble. They stand up like God and factory workers in China intended.)

We would play with them for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and days. So. Much. Fun. Of course, a good chunk of that time was spent bickering over who got which people and which accoutrements (as we all know, sharing is overrated). We came up with a system where we would lay out all the Round People and their round people sofas and beds and campers and patio furniture all neatly in rows (Princessa Virgo in her early days) and then the Choosing would begin. The Choosing could easily gobble up more time than the actual Playing. All hell would break loose if I picked the “good” mommy with the smooth face and Oakley was stuck with the crappy mommy with the chewed-on face and broken hair (Oakley and I did not have a dog who did this chewing. We had a toddler younger brother with very sharp teeth and a penchant for disturbing our playing time.).

Then, the next step in a successful Round People playing session was to name all our people. I am 43 years old. I was born in 1968. I distinctly remember naming my people Olivia and Isabel and Madeleine and Caroline, so I was waaaaaaaay trendy before my time!!!  (Of course, the Universe got me back by giving me sons in real life, when I was ultra-prepared to name daughters.  Hence, original names like Tall and Short now grace our family tree.)   

My mom would sometimes give us these gorgeous gift boxes from Saks Fifth Avenue that maybe originally held a sweater or a pair of flannel Christmas pajamas. These boxes were THE BEST. We could stack them and cantilever them and make our Round People have the best modernist houses ever.  Frank Lloyd Round would be proud. 

I went on eBay and almost had a heart attack when I saw what Round People cost now.

Not to worry. I know Mom still has everything (including the school, garage, town, gas station, and airport) in her garage. It would break my heart if she gave them away.

("My Other Vice")

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

578. That Shirt Is Mine

When you have two sons that are close in age, you can get double the use out of the clothes, effectively cutting your clothing bill in half. $88 for a Janie and Jack sailboat sweater? No problem, it ends up being $44 for each child. Overpriced down winter coat, not on sale? Here’s my Amex card, and let’s get the matching gloves. Halloween shark costume made of real shark imported from Hawaii? Done.

So it should come as somewhat of a surprise that Tall is in Short’s clothes instead of the other way around.

Paint the scene: Tall (age 7 ½) has a favorite shirt, a shirt with a surfer on it. This shirt fit him two years ago. Now it is too small. However, he refuses to give it up.

In the meantime, I am feeling guilty about poor Short only getting hand-me-downs. In a moment of weakness, I buy him a brand new Target shirt with a grizzly bear. Short is not with me when I buy the shirt. I grab some random kid and hold it up to him.

“Excuse me?” I hear myself say. “How old are you, can I hold this up to see if it might fit my five-year-old?”

He tells me he is twelve, and I, being the obstinate person that I am, hold it up to him anyway and guestimate.

This is what I end up with when I get home:

When I ask them to switch shirts, they balk.

“This is MY special grizzly bear shirt, Mom! I love it!”

“You bought me this surfer shirt two years ago on my birthday, I’m keeping it!”

The Husband walks in on our wardrobe battle.

“I guess we know what you’ll be blogging about later.”


Thursday, November 10, 2011

575. My Swimsuit and I Broke Up

I never saw the warning signs:  the stretched-out elastic at the legs, the fading color, the pilling at the bottom. Oh, sure, some might say Swimsuit was frumpy, conservative, and old-ladyish, but I knew the truth:  Swimsuit had a playful side! What about that time I dove off the ledge of the deep-end at the local pool and the top of Swimsuit went down to my navel for anyone with underwater goggles or a mask to see? That was not old ladyish—that was frisky!

I had not seen Swimsuit in weeks, maybe months. I was shoving some wool socks into the front of the dresser drawer, and that’s when I caught sight of Swimsuit hiding in the way back.

Swimsuit! How’ve you been?!” I asked, enthusiastic.

Swimsuit cringed. “Don’t touch me.”

“What? You’ve never said anything like that to me before, what’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you what’s going on: I’m leaving. I’m too good for you.” The frayed strings at the top of the straps were not helping Swimsuit’s case any.

“Come on, let’s be reasonable,” I whispered softly to Swimsuit. “We’ve been through a lot together, through thick and thin—”

“Mostly thick,” muttered Swimsuit.

I could not believe this was happening. Before we first met years ago, I had literally spent hours looking for a swimsuit that would fulfill my needs, to no avail. Friends recommended I go online, but that seemed so impersonal.

“Trust me,” said my friend Anna, “I found the absolute best swimsuit on the L.L.Bean website. And it was on sale! Online is the way to go.”

I ignored Anna’s advice and asked The Husband what I should do instead.

“I think Anna is right. I always order mine online.” He was no help whatsoever.

Luckily, Gina happened to call the next day. I told her my situation and she had a solution.

“Go to Solar Eclipse at the mall. I’ll tell them you’re coming. Just mention my name.” This felt very clandestine, like a secret blind-date with a Lycra astronomer, but Gina was always ultra-fashionable so I did as I was told.

That was the day I met Swimsuit. Swimsuit was hanging behind the counter at the trendy swimsuit salon, Solar Eclipse, waiting for me.

I approached the petite saleslady cautiously and said, “Hello, uh, Gina told me—”

“You must be Congresswoman MOV. A pleasure.” The lady shook my hand, then she handed me a small bottle of chilled Perrier.

She pulled five various swimsuits, all size 12, from behind the counter for me to inspect. As soon as I saw Swimsuit, though, I knew it was meant to be.

Swimsuit and I went into the dressing room together and I pulled the purple velvet curtain closed. Swimsuit was sleek, stylish, flattering—a master of illusion. All my big areas looked small. All my small areas looked big. My iridescent ghost skin appeared tan. My 5’8” frame morphed to 5’11”. Not only was I going to buy this swimsuit, I was going to wear it everywhere.

“Yes, I’ll take it,” I said to the obsequious saleslady.

“Certainly, Congresswoman MOV,” she nodded as she gingerly took my American Express card out of my hand. “Would you like to maybe take it off first and I can wrap it in tissue paper for you then?”

Swimsuit and I had an affair, no, relationship, for many, many years. Swimsuit basked in the attention and the never-ending string of compliments we received when we were out together.

Until today.

“You’ve changed,” Swimsuit sneered at me. “We don’t fit together the way we used to.”

“Give me a break, Swimsuit! We just had Halloween! I just started a new job! Sure, I may have put on a few pounds, but it was from stress-eating. I can stop anytime I want.”

Swimsuit knew it was a lie. “I want to leave now. Don’t try to change my mind. We both know it’s over.”

I was not one to beg. If Swimsuit wanted to go, fine! So be it! I took Swimsuit out of the drawer and put it in the Goodwill box next to the front door.

“Farewell, my friend.” I gave Swimsuit one last quick kiss on the spandex to show that I still cared.

Swimsuit said nothing.

I walked away and went upstairs to the study. I turned on the computer and clicked on the L.L. Bean website. Maybe a rebound relationship was exactly what I needed.

(“Mom Or Venus?”)

574. Inventory

Tall walks in the door, still in his “costume” of his basketball uniform. He takes the orange plastic pumpkin and unceremoniously dumps the contents on the living room carpet. Rainbow hues litter the floor, their electric labels fighting for visual dominance: Twix! Starburst! Almond Joy! Snickers! Baby Ruth!

“Now we will sort them,” says Tall, making his Virgo mama proud while simultaneously causing his father to wonder if we need to have our older son tested for OCD tendencies.

The shorter child, still in his shark attire, readily agrees. Within minutes, the candy is lined up picture perfect, most closely resembling an ad for television special on Lifetime called American Consumerism: The Warning Signs.

The shark begins to dig into his stash, while his mother hyperventilates about melty M&M’s ruining the expensive shark outfit.

The basketball player disappears into the other room, then comes back a few moments later with his homework assignment. He takes out a pen and begins to inventory his candy.

(obviously this continues on the back of the page; not sure what a "gift basket" candy is)

I am horrified. What kind of mean teacher takes the opportunity of Halloween to have the children chart and graph their trove of candy? How long is this stupid assignment going to take? Couldn’t the kids have even one day off from homework to just enjoy being kids and devour cavity-inducing candy on a meaningless holiday?

I resign myself to the fact that I will have to help Tall with his project.

“Okay, Sweetie!” I cheer, trying to impersonate an upbeat person. “Should I get a ruler? What exactly do we need to do here?”

“What are you talking about, Mom?” he asks while unwrapping a lone Bit O’ Honey.

“Your homework,” I nod toward the piece of paper he has filled in so neatly.

“That? That’s not for school. That’s for me. I need to have an accurate record.”

My mind sings. My son is so smart! So organized! So talented! He’s creating new work for himself to do, to stay challenged! I smile wide, impressed with his genius abilities.

“ … because otherwise you might eat it all. This way I can keep track.”

Did I mention he was smart?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

572. The Blond Monkey Society

So I haven’t been completely honest with you about my Top-Secret Job (not my New Better-Paying Top Secret Job, but the one I did right before that for, like, a week … the one where I got to wear scrubs—try to keep up). I told the Top-Secret Job when I was quitting that the reason I was quitting was because I was offered a better job—which is true to an extent. I mean, who wouldn’t want to earn more money? But, the real reason I left is because the manager called me a blind monkey.

I have nothing against monkeys. Sure, they’re cute in a spontaneous-looking sort of way. They always seem to have an awful lot of friends, and who am I to begrudge them if they want to eat 28 bananas in one sitting? But when it comes right down to it, I would mostly prefer not to be compared to a monkey, blind or otherwise.

Flashback to my second day of training. The manager was training me about special invoicing codes on the computer. I was entering the numbers and he was literally looking over my shoulder to make sure I did everything correctly. Then he took a break to zip out for coffee.

I kept clicking away, code-code-code.

When he got back, he said, “I need to double-check everything you just did.”

Now, a normal person might be offended by this statement. Not me. Ever since I quit the one thing I was good at (flight attendant-ing), I have been more than grateful to have someone check my work.

He glanced through my folders and cross-referenced the accounts on the screen. “Wow! You did it right!” said the manager, the same person who had initially hired me. And then he had to go and add, “But this job is really so easy. A blind monkey could do it.”

At first I laughed. A blind monkey! What an image! But then I thought—wait, did he just call me a blind monkey? Should I be offended here? Should I have a human rights (or monkey rights) lawyer on speed-dial right about now?

I did what I usually do when somebody insults me: nothing. Because I have a sense of humor.

I thought it was funny. I don’t take myself or managers hurling around strange new terminology like “blind monkey” too seriously.

I went to work the following Sunday at the high-end kitchen store where I immediately over-shared and told my friend Nate about the blind monkey comparison.

Nate is a great guy, but he just became fixated on the phrase, which in turn made me become even more fixated on the term than I had previously been. We were like two junior high kids sitting next to each other in Algebra class making fun of the teacher and ignoring everything else. Every transaction became an opportunity to use our new phrase:

Me: Nate, can you get The Boss for me? I have a question on this special order.

Nate: You need her for that? Even a blind monkey could place a special order!

Me: Hey Nate? Are we out of lemon dish soap refills?

Nate: MOV, they’re tons of them left. They’re on that back feature next to dish towels. Even a blind monkey could’ve found them!

Me (in the back gift wrapping a package): Hey Nate, what time are you going to lunch?

Nate: (completely ignoring my question): You call THAT a gift wrap? Ugh—what a mess! Even a blind monkey could do a better job!

Me: I made pancakes on Saturday morning, but I totally tried something new! I grated some orange peel and cinnamon into the batter. It was fantastic.

Nate: Even a blind monkey would try that recipe!

Nate sent me an email the other night. He had designed a t-shirt online with (guess) a blind monkey on the front.  The monkey had on oversized dark glasses and he held a walking stick.  The back of the shirt had the words: “Even a blind monkey could do that …”

I ordered mine is size large. Should be here next week.

("Monkeys Of Veritas")

Monday, November 7, 2011

570. My House Is A Person

I just found out today. All this time, over two years now of living here, I thought my house was just a normal house made of walls and bricks and electrical-type wires, but no. My house has personalities, quirks, and moods. My house is a person.

The front entry is that guy at work who has a million projects going simultaneously, and he always knows precisely where everything is and what is going on, even if it seems like chaos. There are shoes hopelessly strewn about, crying out for their wayward mates who have hidden in the closet. There are teetering stacks of Tall’s school papers mixed with Short’s library books. Mail lounges on the table with its friends, Unnecessary Catalogs. Yet somehow, when pressed, I can find exactly what I need (permission slip for the field trip, dry cleaning receipt, coupon for toothpaste) in under two minutes, tops.

I walk into my living room, and I see a very disheveled Aunt Charlene, trying hard to be stylish, but really just a mess. There is the ornate Oriental rug (if you could see it underneath all the LEGOs and Pok√©mon cards), the leather couch (please try to ignore the strange stains from grape juice or, more likely, wine), the “distressed” wood coffee table from Pottery Barn (it was not marketed as such), and the cute glass lamp with the red shade from Target. The cheapest thing in the room somehow has the most longevity and looks the best (the lamp), just like Aunt Charlene wears the retro-hip tortoiseshell glasses she bought for 10 bucks at a garage sale (and then had them refitted with her own prescription).

My kitchen is that pushy salesgirl from the high-end kitchen store, the one who convinces you that you need everything they sell for your fantasy world of IF. The slow-cooker is great IF you are the type of person to plan in advance and have all the ingredients all chopped up and ready to go before you leave for work; the Cuisinart food processor is a must-have IF you make your own bread from scratch daily; the egg poacher pan is divine IF you cook up Eggs Benedict every weekend. (The bridge to IF is a shaky one.) Unfortunately, I whisper to the pushy salesgirl, I do not plan ahead like that when it comes to food. She doesn’t hear me. I end up buying everything she suggests.

The dining room is my very elegant great-grandmother. Perfection. The chandelier sparkles, the hardwood floors are pristine, the table is empty (save for a crystal bowl of apples), there is no clutter. Great-grandmother winks at me and says, “Good job! At least one room in your house looks like it should.”

The bathroom is that scary guy who works at the Chevron station. Say no more.

The boys’ bedroom is that fun teenager who works part-time at the toy store. Cars, trucks, and airplane patterns on the sheets, cranberry red paint with cotton-ball white wainscoting on the walls, white wooden shelves filled to capacity with books, a comfy red pinstriped chair, a snuggly navy quilt with white stars, cute baby photos sitting on the antique dresser, two big windows that look out at the yard. Who wouldn’t want to be in this room?

The study is that nice neighbor who says hi to you at the bus stop. You have never had a conversation longer than three minutes, and it usually involves the weather. The study is all function: book shelves, computer, printer, a small storage closet. The study says “I am just what you think I am, and just what I am supposed to be.”

The basement is that girl you went to high school with. The super-smart one you sat behind in Algebra class. You always wanted to give her a make-over: to tell her that green was not her color, to recommend (nicely) that she might look better with bangs, to mention that a little eyeliner goes a long way. She was full of potential, you could see it.

The garage is that cousin you only see at weddings and funerals. Remote. Not talkative. Seems nice, but could be a serial killer.

The back patio is your college roommate. All fun. There are soccer balls, baseball bats, basketball net, Frisbees, scooters, and golf clubs, all waiting to be picked up and used daily, sometimes more often than that. There are a few pieces of metal lawn furniture for lazy/ tired parents to watch the fun from a comfortable distance. And like your college roommate, the patio has its moods depending on the weather. “Yeah, it’s snowing out. I’m not going to class today. I think I’ll sleep for 15 hours straight.”

My cat drifts around room to room to room. At least I know that when I'm out running errands, she’s never lonely.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

569. Writing Is My Refuge

The kids are screaming. There is nothing to cook for dinner because you should have gone to the grocery store yesterday. You screwed up at work. Your sister is mad at you because you never called her back. When life growls at you, you seek refuge.

Everyone has that safe place where you can get away and step off the merry-go-round of madness for a few moments. Whether it be a friend’s living room sofa, the gym, the piano bench, the mall, a country club, the garden, the bike path, you have a place that you yearn to go to center yourself and restore the calm. My haven is staring at a blank computer screen, as a latent story makes its way onto my keyboard.

When my brain is frazzled, I zip upstairs to our computer and press the power button. Only the computer is not the one empowered, I am. I start clicking at the keys, grateful for that typing class in 10th grade and for the inventor of the ultra-helpful spellcheck feature, and I bang out a story or two all the while banging the stress away with each new word.

I have something to say and I like having an audience to confirm that I am not crazy, that my words make sense. Sometimes I need the validation like I need that second cup of coffee.

Every once in a while, someone will pull me aside at work and instead of saying, “That last customer complained about you,” or “The Boss wants to see you in her office—again,” he will say, “I love your blog.  The one you wrote the other day, the story about volunteering, totally made me laugh! How do you do it?”

And instead of saying, Oh, it was nothing I am not really that great of a writer because half the time I don’t even know what I am blabbing about it's just sort of a hobby and I can’t believe anyone even reads my posts and I think my stories don’t make much sense are you just saying that to be nice … instead of saying that, you say

“Thank you. I’m a writer.”


Friday, November 4, 2011

568. Volunteering Is My Life

After Tall adamantly declared he did NOT want me ever volunteering in his school again, I did what any mother would: I volunteered at Short’s school instead.

I showed up at the office for whatever type of helper job they would throw my way. I found myself on the black-top distributing kickballs and jump-ropes. Indeed, as I had walked up at 11 AM to the security camera/ intercom system and buzzed, smiled, and waved, I could audibly hear the Office Lady say, “Oh, God, it’s you.” This was followed by a shuffling of papers, and then a long




still waiting

time before she buzzed me in. In her defense, it was very likely that she had been on an important call with the President of the United States. Or not.

“Hi!” I chirped in my best chirpiest chirpy voice as I approached her desk. “I’m here to volunteer. I’m Short’s mom, MOV and—”

“We know who you are.” She looked up at me and sighed.

“Great!” I smiled, trying to show off years of orthodontic work and unsuccessful teeth-bleaching. “Well, then I guess I will just head down to Room Four, because Short—this is so funny!—is convinced that he’s in fourth grade because the room number is—”

“Change in plans!” said Office Lady, “You’re going to be on the playground.”

Office Lady had one of those demeanors that said, “This is how things are done.” Her demeanor did not say, “There is room for negotiation,” or “That’s a cute story about Short and by the way he’s my favorite student at this school,” or, “Maybe you would rather volunteer in art because that is super-fun.” No. Her demeanor said, “Office Lady dictates how it’s done.”

I was very very worried at this point that if I did not comply with Office Lady’s instructions, my son might be kicked out of the school (it is, after all, a public school). I nodded at her and asked for the keys to the kickball storage unit.

Once on the playground, things were actually pretty easy. The kids ran around, and every once in a while, one would come up and ask for assistance in tying a shoelace. Even though my own shoes were slip-on types and I favored Velcro closures for my own sons, I was more than happy to oblige.

The Playground Director walked up and introduced himself.

“So glad you could stop by today!” he beamed at me. This was a complete 180 from the vibe Office Lady had given me. Either Playground Director had not spoken to Office Lady about me yet or he was being sarcastic. I chose the former.

“Well, of course! I’m glad to help out anytime! I even know a couple sporting-type recess kind of games, like, uh, hopscotch and … kickball? so if you need more, uh, more detailed and specific type of help, you know, with recess-type activities or things of that nature, I can help. Really. Let me know what you want help with.” I smiled wide.

“Gosh, that is so nice! I wish more parents would come out and volunteer more often like you. Hey, if you really mean it, what would be the most help today is if you could call the classes in, one by one, on the megaphone. I hate carrying this thing around, and that way, I can play a quick game of basketball with some of the kids.”

I nodded enthusiastically and took the megaphone out of his hands.

“Have you ever used one before? Let me just explain how—”

Happy to take the opportunity to let Playground Director know that I was a former flight attendant and had been taught to use a megaphone in an emergency, I said, “Sir, I am a former flight attendant and have had been taught to use a megaphone in an emergency.”

“That’s great, but this one might be a tad different, so let me go over—”

Really? He had to explain the megaphone? There was an on-off switch and a volume control. He seemed very intent on explaining it to me, and then I realized he was surrounded by kindergartners all day, so he was used to explaining things. I swallowed my pride and listened to a 10-minute tutorial on megaphones.

“… and then be careful here, on this part, because see? the back where the batteries go in is broken, so they fall out sometimes. Just put your hand over that part. I used some duct-tape, so I think you should be good.”

Even though he was finished, I was relieved when a small girl approached Playground Director to ask to go to the school nurse for a band-aid. He took her little hand and walked her to the school door.

I walked the opposite direction with my megaphone. I got to try it out a few minutes later when the teacher for Room 22 came out and wanted my help.

“Room 22!” The megaphone did a fantastic job amplifying my voice. For a split second, I considered using one of these at home. Where did they sell them? Why did United Airlines not give me one as a souvenir when I quit?

“Room 58!  Line up, room 58!”  Why were these room numbers so out of order? Were there 58 rooms in this building?

“Room 41!”

I was really getting the hang of the megaphone. Kids seemed to like me, and a couple more wandered up for shoelace assistance (word must’ve gotten out on my crucial skills in this area).

“Room 17! I said, Room 17!”

Out of nowhere, a siren like an air raid went off. The teachers, students, and other volunteer parents froze. This must be the real deal. Not a drill, but a real fire. Why did I choose to volunteer on the one day when there was a fire?

It was so obvious that it wasn’t planned. Children covered their ears and cried. Some had dropped to the ground and put their hands over their heads, most likely mimicking what they’d been taught to do in a real emergency. I looked around for the source of the siren. It had to be coming from the cafeteria area. I glanced around for Playground Director to tell us all what to do next. People were actually looking at me like I was possibly in charge (must’ve been the air of authority with the megaphone). And that was another thing: Playground Director would surely want his megaphone back to call everyone. Where was Playground Director?

No one was lining up. The noise was deafening. Where were we supposed to go? Who would save the children? Who would help us?

It dawned on me that the siren noise was coming from my megaphone, too. That is so weird, and so technologically advanced, that the siren could come from the cafeteria and they could somehow wire it (remotely?) to the playground special equipment. The noise was way too loud. I tried to turn it off, but it the switch was stuck and wouldn't move.  I fumbled to turn down the volume. Still shrieking. I struggled to take out the batteries. They fell out in a heap, and the noise stopped.

All the noise.

I was the source of the noise.

There on the side of the megaphone, it said in teeny-tiny letters “Siren function.” I had accidentally hit the siren function.

I shot Playground Director the look of death. After all his explaining, he had never once mentioned anything about the siren function.

He laughed at me as he walked up. “Well, that’s one way to get their attention.”


Thursday, November 3, 2011

565. Here's An Example

Why do little children often sound like miniature drunk people?

Overheard at the school bus-stop at 8:15 on Monday morning (yes, Halloween):

Tiny Cute Blond Girl, age 3, sibling of first-grader: “Mommy, why is it light out here? You told me we were going to go trick-or-treating this day, and it has to be dark for that! Why is it light right now? Where is the candy? What is going on?!?”

Now, take that same phrase and stick it in an adult’s mouth. What do you have? Wasted.