Wednesday, December 26, 2012

881. You Go First, No You

We all have a friend like Katarina:  the one friend who you can truly be yourself around, the one person you can tell anything and she won't judge you, the one friend who makes you giggle for no reason.  I have known Katarina for about four years, and I am kicking myself that I did not meet her decades ago.  Where has she been hiding?     

So Katarina calls the other day and casually says she needs to stop by with a “little something for Christmas.”  I pride myself on being a great gift-giver, so I am super-excited for her to come over because I have something for her, too. 

She arrives and we immediately dive into conversation, the type of conversation that never ends but just temporarily stops until the next time I am lucky enough to see her.  We talk about everything and nothing, our words punctuated with bright confetti laughter.    
She hands me a rectangular shaped box, exquisitely wrapped in thick gold paper and finished off with a green silk ribbon.  I hand her a square box with cartoonish reindeer wrapping paper.  There is no bow, as my kids used all my ribbon to set a trap for the cat two days ago.    

“You go first.”
“No, you.”

I begin to tear into the paper and I see beautiful note cards with an ink drawing of a sweet little cottage.  Wow, I think, that house looks so familiar.  After a few minutes, the worn-out synapses in my brain reach full capacity and I blurt out,  

“Katarina!  That is MY house!” 
That's right.  She hired a professional artist to come over and draw my house and THEN have the drawing made into notecards. 

My house.  Drawn by a professional artist.  Who does this for a living. 

I am flabbergasted at her creativity and generosity.  I am completely speechless. 

Her voice breaks the silence.  “Shall I open mine now?” 
I want to snatch the inferior gift I gave her out of her hand and immediately search around my house for something worthy to give her instead, like stacks of cash or perhaps a diamond tiara.  It’s too late.  She already has it open. 

“Oh, MOV, how wonderful!  It’s a … candle.” 
Her face registers only joy and gratitude, yet I feel compelled to justify the candle.    

“Yes!” she nods. 

“Soy-based!  No chemicals!”

“Fabulous!” she agrees.     

“It’s from the high-end kitchen store!” I offer, grasping at anything to make the candle be better than a candle. 
“I know!” she enthuses appreciatively.  “I love the high-end kitchen store!” 

I stare at the notecards.  Of my house.  That a professional artist has drawn. 
“Katarina, I have to tell you:  that is one of the nicest, most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.  I feel bad.  I should have gotten you something better …” 

Why did I not get her a new car?  A car is a good gift.  She could not top that. 
“MOV, don’t be ridiculous!  I love candles, and lemon is a great flavor.” 

“Whatever.  Anyway, I adore lemon!  I do.”  She smiles sincerely. 

“Oh, okay, then.  Good.  I’m glad you like it.”  I grin back at her, almost convinced that a generic candle is as good a gift as cards of my house.  Drawn by a professional artist. 
“How did the artist do this?” I ask. 

“Well, he drove over here to your house and took pictures.  Then he drew from the pictures.”  She shrugs, as if she is saying, Then I emptied the dishwasher, no big deal.
My mind flips back to that day at the end of summer when that strange stalker-ish person was camped out in front of my house with a camera.  I had called the police. 

I decide not to tell Katarina about that. 
“Katarina, thank you.  I love the cards of my house.” 

Maybe now is not the best time to tell her we are only renting? 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

879. Throw It All Away

This time of year does it to me.  When I am in the mall frantically looking for the “perfect” present for all those people on my gift list, I have this overwhelming desire to throw it all away.  I mean, just ditch my list, walk out of the mall with my pocket full of (unspent) cash, go home and throw away all my possessions. 

Do I need two TVs?  Do you?  Does anyone?  How many TVs can you watch at one time?  Do my sons “need” any more Legos?  Does The Husband “need” another scarf/ shirt/ tie? 

Do I “need” a Starbucks card?  Does my best friend? 
My house is cluttered right now.  Since my mom died a month ago, my sister has been mailing me boxes, boxes of old photo albums or faded letters or chipped plates or vintage dolls.  I open the boxes and then immediately get paralyzed.  The boxes are currently stacked in the corners of various rooms, waiting for me to do something with them, something constructive like put the contents away or make a decision about things. 

The only decision I can make is this:  NO MORE STUFF. 
I am feeling clogged. 

A few years ago, I went on a self-imposed spending “diet.”  For Christmas that year, instead of spending money on meaningless junk, I gave everyone a handwritten letter of why they mattered to me.  Granted, the mailman and my sons’ school bus driver might have preferred the cash, but I like to think that they were ripping up my letters in front of me in an effort to respect my privacy and also to not make other mailmen and school bus drivers jealous.
My point is:  stop buying stuff. 

Tell people you love them.  It is enough. 
("Materialism Overshadowing Values")

Monday, December 17, 2012

878. So What Does MOV Really Stand For Anyway?

People ask me all the time what my pen name, “MOV,” means.  They think it is something mysterious and glamorous, or possibly illegal. 

The truth is, “M-O-V” are the initials of my great-great-great-grandmother once removed on my paternal aunt’s cousin’s side of my mother’s family.  Her name was Mildred Orian VanSprakenhausenoyster.   I was almost named after her, but at the very last minute, it was determined that it might be bad luck since she had died on the Titanic immediately after having given birth to triplets three days prior.  All five of the triplets died.  It is not something we talk about in my family.  Ever. 
Until now.   

Mildred was quite a woman, having come over to America on the Mayflower and then having fought in the Revolutionary War, dressed as a man.  She was one of those people that sets an example for others by fighting for human rights and what is right, and prevailing over wrong when she knows that what she believes is right even if she might be mistaken (which she never was).  Also, besides having discovered the cure to the Bubonic Plague (a big problem back then, what with all the rats and everything), she used to date Benjamin Franklin.  Just think, she might have been Mildred Orian Franklin. 
But the relationship was frowned upon by my distant relative Queen Victoria.  Alas. 

Anyway, the point is, I have been writing this blog for two and half years now, so you deserve to know the truth.  I have HUGE respect for my great-great-great-grandmother once removed on my paternal aunt’s cousin’s side of my mother’s family, so that is why I use her initials in my fiction writing. 
And if some so-called “friend” of mine wants to tell you that MOV stands for “Mistress Of Vodka,” I hope you will know that she is just making it up.  Vodka tastes icky.  Especially in apple martinis.   


Thursday, December 13, 2012

877. Hint

"That Time We Thawed the Ice-Cream Cake for Two Hours." 

You're welcome. 


(And while you are here, maybe read my last essay too.  It's funny.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

875. Long-Distance Hoarding

“What about the dolls?” 

It should be an easy question, right?  When your sister asks you about your deceased mother’s dolls and you have no daughters and no real attachment to porcelain dolls in wrinkled satin dresses from the 1940s. 
“We should keep the dolls,” you hear a voice say, and you realize it is your own voice into the phone. 

“Really, MOV?” your sister asks quietly, tenderness in her tone.  “There are probably five dozen dolls.” 
What are you planning to do with five dozen dolls?  Or even two dolls, or one? 

Where will you put them?  Your brain spins, like a child’s toy top, which come to think of it your mom might have collected, too.  You have no room for dolls.  You also have no room for rocks, but your sister just sent you your mom’s collection of geodes and crystals for your sons.  You have no space for extra Christmas ornaments, but a similar phone call last week produced two boxes full of vintage ornaments from your childhood. 
“I said, do you want me to mail them?” 
Your aesthetic could best be described as “Virgo Zen.”  You have a couch, two chairs, and some paintings.  Your whole house would be paintings if you could help it.  You would like to live in an art gallery or museum and lose yourself in the paintings. 

“Dolls are like art, right, Oakley?” you whisper. 
“MOV, I don’t have time for this, I’m exhausted.”  The words float away from you.  She does not sound impatient, just tired.  “The estate guy will be here this weekend to sell everything.  I went on eBay to compare prices and get an idea of their value based on their condition.  All together, we can probably get around $300 for the dolls.” 

What did you expect her to say?  Three thousand?  Three million?  And yet …
“Can you email me a picture of some of the dolls?  Can I have a few?” 

A few minutes later, your phone beeps and you see a Native American doll peering up at you.  She stands next to a broken china doll in roller skates and a Dutch doll with long blond braids and wearing wooden clogs.  There are twenty more photos like this.  Your phone cannot load the photos fast enough.           

You call your sister back.  She answers on the first ring. 

“Well, what did you decide?” 

You want them all. 

You want none of them. 

“I’m sorry, Oakley, I don’t know why this is so hard for me.” 
You choke back tears, you sitting at home in your pristine Virgo living room with your art, while your sister goes through 70 years of someone else’s possessions. 

“MOV, it’s okay.  I will box them up for you.” 
You are paralyzed by indecision.  Why do the dolls affect you so much?  They are not your mother.  But they belonged to her.  You struggle to untangle the emotions from the dolls or the Christmas ornaments.  None of it matters, really.  In the end, they are just things.    

“Oakley, wait—can I think about it and tell you tomorrow?” 


Monday, December 10, 2012

873. Meet My New Girlfriend: Siri

I finally buckled and bought myself an iPhone.  After years of sharing a single flip phone with The Husband, it was time to catch up on the evolutionary tech-fest journey that even my neighbor’s kindergartner had made.      

What I was not prepared for was Siri.  Oh, sure, I’d seen the Martin Scorsese commercials about Siri, but that made me afraid, not informed.  When the guy at the Apple store told me Siri was included on the new iPhone 5, I briefly considered backtracking to the iPhone 4 or even 1.  In the end, he talked me into the iPhone 5 for a variety of reasons (“It’s cool and your friends who are not yet eligible for an upgrade will be super-jealous”). 
At first, I ignored Siri.  I had lived for 30-something years without her (okay, 40-something); why did I need her now? 

But then the Apple store sent me a friendly email informing me that they offered a free iPhone class for Beginners. 
I called the Apple store to sign up, and a chirpy girl name Terri (eerily similar to “Siri”) assured me that there was no level before Beginner (“No, ma’am, we do not offer a Pre-Beginner class or iPhone classes for English as a second language, and by the way your English sounds pretty good to me”), so I was stuck.  I showed up and sat next to a college student who I was fairly sure should have been teaching the class, not asking questions about “How to store my virtual photos in albums” or “How to send my contact a contact” (?) or “What is the fastest way to delete multiple texts”.  He was like that annoying A+ student who always sits in the front making the rest of us feel like idiots. 
“Don’t you just love Siri?” he whispered to me and then gave me a quick pat on the back like I was a puppy. 

I gave a weak nod, and then the teacher Dhan (“Like ‘Dan’ but with an ‘h’,”) said we should “meet” Siri. 
“Press this button, and then you can ask Siri anything.” 

Anything?  Like if the fiscal cliff is real or if it is just a bunch of media hype? 
“Siri, what is the population of Atlanta?” asked the woman to my right. 

A no-nonsense voice replied, “Let me check that for you,” and next thing you know, a screen popped up with all kinds of interesting facts about Atlanta, including the population.  Too bad Siri was not around in the days of Trivial Pursuit because I might have actually won with her assistance. 
Next, I heard Dhan say, “Take a note, Siri” and Siri respond, “What would you like the note to say?” 

Finally, Mr. College Know-It-All requested that Siri give him directions to the closest Starbucks.  Now Siri was speaking my language.  She told Mr. College that “There are 17 Starbucks near you, which one do you want?” and then he selected the one that was inside the Apple store. 

I was puzzled how Siri knew our precise location, but then Dhan told us there was a global locating feature, and if you enabled it, then Siri could give you directions.  Mr. College gingerly took my phone out of my hand, pressed a few keys, and voilĂ !  GPS enabled. 
“You have to be careful, though, because the GPS can be a real drain on your battery.”    

I smiled like I knew what that meant.   

On the way home, I thought I would test Siri and ask her for directions back to my house.  Sure enough, Siri gave me a new route I had never tried that actually ended up saving me 15 minutes. 

Now Siri and I are inseparable.  I whisper blog ideas to her, dentist appointment reminders, and Target lists.  She dutifully writes everything down.  I tell her to call Jennifer, and she asks which one.  If she does not have an immediate answer for me, she coyly stalls by saying, “Let me check that for you.”  And if I miss a turn when she gives directions, she pretends we were supposed to go that way and she adjusts the route (without even once complaining or saying, “How did you not see that sign?!”). 
The only thing she can’t do:  help me find where I left my new iPhone in my house. 

Siri?  Siri?      


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

872. Safe Keepings

My mother was a quirky sort.  You either loved her or you hated her, sometimes both simultaneously. 

She pissed off waiters but the mailman adored her.  Her doctors stopped taking her calls but the gardener would bake her banana bread.  When I met people over the past six weeks that knew my mother, they either rolled their eyes with unmasked exasperation and said, “Oh, your mother,” or they gave me a tight hug and said, “Oh, your mother,” in a tone that is normally reserved for nuns and people who walk on the moon.     
She was a study in contrasts. 

A few days after her death, my brother found her small wooden jewelry box in the dresser next to her bed.  Inside was her vintage charm bracelet, her great-grandmother’s pearls, and some silver coins from the 1950’s.  My siblings and I divided up these items according to sentimental value.  My sister Oakley looked overly-glamorous that afternoon wearing the pearls while changing the cat’s litter box. 
Imagine our surprise a few weeks later to find a large steel safe in the back of my mother’s closet. 

When had Mom bought a safe?!  How had none of us seen it before?  Why had she not told my brother, nor given my sister a key or the combination?  What was in there? 
After weeks of cleaning and clearing out the house, the safe was one of the last things left to deal with.  We would need to open it at some point. 

I called a locksmith.  “What is involved with breaking into a safe?” I heard myself ask on the phone.  As the words escaped my lips, I imagined the locksmith alerting the police moments after we hung up. 
In the end, my brother-in-law convinced us to save the $150 locksmith fee because he could break in with a large drill.  My siblings and I stood around watching him for 20 minutes, his safety goggles flecked with dust and specks of metal. 

I found myself wondering what my eccentric mother had hidden inside, her most precious and treasured possession.  Would it be a gigantic file of previously unknown stocks worth billions?  Her grandmother’s famous apple pie recipe?  The Hope Diamond?  The number of a private Swiss bank account?  Keys to a secret Porsche parked elsewhere? Photos of her puppy from childhood? 
The tension was palpable.  I looked at my sister.  I looked at my brother.  All the mysteries of my mother’s life were about to be revealed to us when we would find out what mattered most. 

My brother-in-law slowly removed the safe’s heavy door.  We leaned in.  For a moment, I was scared we might find a dead cat. 
Oakley reached in and pulled out a single piece of cardboard.  Plain, brown, no writing. 

We fell on the floor laughing.  We laughed until we cried, my mother’s sense of humor reaching us from heaven. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

871. It's Hard

It’s Wednesday morning and the phone rings and it’s your sister and it’s That Call, the one you have been dreading but knew would come at some point.  You are at work, of course you are at work, and you try to talk discreetly into the phone. 

“What did the doctor say?”
Now you are standing in the doorway of your boss’s office and you are calmly telling her that you have to go, you are holding your keys and then you drop them.  They make a loud clanging on the marble tile. 

You are in the parking lot making calls, calls to airlines and rental cars and your husband, and everyone is helpful and efficient while you desperately try to hold it together.  “Please don’t die before I get there,” you whisper to no one. 
The flight is five hours, the longest five hours of your life.  Your insides have been stretched and rerouted and knotted in an uncomfortable way, making food impossible. 

You get there and your sister looks drawn.  Your mom is alive and talking, but she is on her knees hunched over in bed, like she is praying.  That is the only way she can breathe. 
She is lucid, her mind is sharp, it is her body that has deteriorated these past two years, eaten from the inside out by cancer.  Your sister tells you privately that the last x-rays show cancer in 90% of her body, little cancer spots everywhere looking like reverse Christmas tree lights.  You wonder how someone can still be alive this way, but looking at your mom you know that it is sheer force of will. 

You stay with her you talk to her you hold her hand you feed her yogurt.  She says a few words.  Your brother comes then your uncle and lots of neighbors and a handful of random cousins and friends.  They are here to say their goodbyes. 
The Hospice lady gives you a pamphlet called, “When Death Is Near,” and you stare at the title wondering why it can’t be called, “When Death Is Lost and Has No GPS.”  You don’t want to read it, but you do. 

The next few days are a blur with unusual words like morphine, coma, and mortuary tossed around. 
On Monday morning, she dies.    

You were able to reconcile with her four days ago, to say what you needed to and have her nod, but it’s still hard.  She’s your mother and now she’s gone. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

869. Sad News

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

865. Target Loves Me

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

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

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

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

I only bought one lamp this time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

859. Disney World Is Virgo

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

858. The Cult of Mickey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



857. Mickey Likes Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

You don’t need a camera for that.   

Monday, October 1, 2012

854. There Is No Substitute

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

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

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

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

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