Sunday, January 29, 2012

646. I'm a Little Bit Famous

The day I've been waiting for has finally come, the day that instead of me locking myself in the bathroom so I can rehearse make-believe interviews in front of the mirror for hours on end, I have been asked to do a REAL interview. Fellow-blogger (and truth be told, my idol) Marianne at We Band of Mothers approached me, saying something about Donny Osmond not being available. Not to worry, I was prepared to channel my inner Donny, but then Marianne gave me the classic Proust questionnaire (which, sadly, did not address the bathroom mirror questions I had painstakingly practiced and memorized).

Click on over to read the interview. And then when you're done reading it, please click on the “Follow” button for Marianne. Tell her Donny sent you.

(“Marie Osmond Variation”)

645. 33 words

The nurse handed him to me, so tiny and perfect, the blue blanket wrapped around him tight. His older brother leaned in to kiss his tender head, whispering, “Let’s leave him here, Mommy.”

(A note to my regular blog readers: I stumbled upon this cool website called trifecta writing challenge and todays’ challenge was to write a “love story” in just 33 words. I suppose it is my kooky family's version of a love story, anyway—ha!  You should totally check out the website and participate in future writing challenges, it’s super-fun.)


Saturday, January 28, 2012

643. Do You Like Syrup?

So I walked into Starbucks like I normally do and ordered my usual tall, extra-hot latte. “Do you want syrup in that?” asked the starista helpfully. I had not had my coffee yet (duh) so my mind was grabbing at words like maple, blueberry, or high-fructose corn. Before I had a chance to respond, she was pointing behind me to a Do-It-Yourself Syrup Bar. “We moved all the syrups over to that side, so you can help yourself now,” she explained, “Check it out. There are also a few new ones you may not have tried.”

I had never seen anything so fancy, not even on the transatlantic cruise my grandmother took me on that one time. There were a dozen tall bottles of exotic syrups standing at attention, like syrup soldiers ready for battle.

I picked up my latte off the counter and walked over to see the syrups. Imagine my surprise when I read the name on the first one: Tall. That’s my older son’s name! Why would a syrup be labeled “Tall”? Out of loyalty to my son, I put a drip of the flavor in my coffee and sipped it cautiously. Nothing. It tasted like nothing. I turned back toward the direction of the starista to tell her something was wrong with this syrup when I hit my head on the light fixture. I didn’t remember it being that low. Or the starista being that short.

“Excuse me, miss? Is this one, Tall, supposed to taste like anything? Because it doesn’t.” I made a face, the type of grimace when the mailman hands you your mail and it’s all bills and junk mail.

“Oh, it doesn’t really taste like anything. But it did work.” She smiled up at me. “Go ahead and try ‘Really Smart.’ That’s my favorite.”

I went back over to look for Really Smart, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe some other customer had taken it to their table. I scanned the names of the other ones. Rich. Why not?

I poured a bit into the coffee and took another swig. I felt like Alice in Coffeeland, anxious for what would happen next.

“I think you dropped this,” said a man as he handed me a crisp $100 bill.

“No, that’s not mine,” I said.

The starista appeared behind me. “Yes it is,” she said firmly as she handed me a $50 bill as well. “So is this one.”

Rich was good. I liked Rich. It was my favorite so far.

“I’ve tried two syrups already,” I told the starista conspiratorially, “but is there a limit? Can I try more?”

The starista wiped down the front side of the baked goods case with a wet cloth. “You can try them all, there’s no limit.”

I noticed one of the syrups was called Frantic. I picked it up and examined the bright orange label on the bottle. Who would want to drink that? Frantic was like the lima beans of the syrup world, completely unnecessary and destined to be thrown away in a napkin under the table or fed to the dog when no one was looking. A woman pushed past me as I was setting Frantic back down.

“Do they have any more Model?” she asked in a tone that made me think she had tried the syrup I just put back. “My sister recommended that one.” She pointed to her sister across the leather chairs and small wooden café tables up near the front window. I didn’t see her sister, but I did see Heidi Klum.

The woman found the bottle, but then clumsily knocked it on the floor. The bottle broke and an iridescent blue liquid went everywhere. “Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no,” said the woman, clearly upset, “I really wanted to try it.”

A different starista appeared, mop in hand. “I kept telling corporate that the syrups shouldn’t be out here, that only the staristas should pour them, but no,” he mumbled under his breath.

I hovered nearby waiting for him to finish mopping. I wanted to inspect the other choices. He finished quickly and I picked up various bottles and set them down again. I liked Tall, I liked Rich, and Model seemed to work fairly well. Frantic was a waste of a bottle. Famous beckoned, as did Gainfully Employed. Remember Everything made me shudder. Travel sounded appealing, as did Real Love. I considered Luck, but it didn't specify if it was Bad or Good.  What else did I want to try?

Before I could think about it too much longer, the woman who had spilled Model pushed past me, grabbed the sole bottle of Happiness, and stormed off. “If they won’t give me Model, I’ll just take Happiness away so no one else can have it,” I heard her say.

It didn’t bother me because at that precise moment I located the one special bottle everyone seeks when they walk into Starbucks in the first place:  Inner Peace.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

640. My Blind Date With Caffeine

I can’t even remember who set us up, it doesn’t really matter at this point. I was living in San Diego at the time. We decided to meet at this little lunch place that had recently opened across the street from the jewelry store where I worked. The restaurant was called “Starbucks,” and apparently was pretty well-known in Seattle. I wasn’t sure how I would recognize him (this was back in the pre-Facebook days), but he said he knew what I looked like just from my voice.

That was a sexy thing to say, because he said my voice on the phone sounded like Cindy Crawford. He was going to be looking for Cindy Crawford!

I got there a few minutes early and sat down. Sure enough, he walked over to me and introduced himself, all smooth and no bitter. “I’m Caffeine,” he said, winking. “I’ve been out with a few of your friends, too. I should warn you, I’m addictive.”

I should have listened to him; did he not tell me the moment we met that he was addictive? But no, that only added to the intrigue.

Our relationship moved fast. I’d only known him for a few weeks when I asked him to start spending the night regularly (mostly so I could be with him first thing in the morning).

He’d go to work, I’d go to work, but then 3 o’clock would roll around and I’d be dialing his number. “Caffeine? It’s me. I really need to see you. Can you meet me in half an hour?”

That was the thing about him, he was so accommodating. And I always felt better after our rendezvous.

I knew it wasn’t a healthy relationship because I was obsessing about him all day long: when I would see him again, how he made me feel when we were together, how I wanted to spend more time with him and perhaps even introduce him to my family. But I was under the impression that he could live without me, that he had lots of other girls waiting in line for their chance.

I remember the day I ended it. I stood him up for our normal afternoon meeting. I thought I was so smart, but about a half an hour later, I had a throbbing headache. I went running back to him. He didn’t seem alarmed in the slightest. “I knew you’d show up eventually,” he grinned, his teeth looking like a dental whitening ad’s “Before” shot.

This pattern went on for months—get together, break up, get together, break up. My mind was racing, and my heartbeat was a little bit, too.

“Why do I need you so much?” I recall saying to him on the phone late one night. “It’s a very one-sided romance.”

The other thing is: I was spending money on him like crazy. He never spent a dime on me, although I found out later he had a trust fund. He’d merely sit there, staring off into space when the check came, waiting for me to get out my wallet. I didn’t complain, our dates were relatively cheap—five dollars here, five dollars there. But over time, it adds up.

Eventually, I moved away. I left no forwarding address, but he found me in Chicago, training with United Airlines to be a flight attendant.

“You think you can ditch me now, after everything we’ve been through?” he demanded. “You’ll be needing me on those red-eye flights.”

As usual, he was right.

We continued our relationship amidst my protests. It got to the point where I simply accepted his presence in my life, like air or water—he wasn’t going anywhere.

Then one day, I met someone new, someone who would change my life forever. I told Caffeine I would still always love him, that it was me not him, that he deserved someone else who loved him unconditionally. Not surprisingly, he was not happy.

“Who is it?” he yelled. “Who? You can’t break up with me and not tell me who my replacement is!”

That is the exact moment my new love walked through the door.

“Him?!?” said Caffeine, pointing. “You would rather be with him?!”

My new love was the confidant sort, not easily intimidated by ex-boyfriends. “Hello, nice to meet you,” he said politely, putting his hand out to shake, “my name is Chocolate.”


PS—and thanks to Marianne at We Band of Mothers for the inspiration (with her longing for sugar)

639. How To Get A Job and Change Your Life Forever

My good friend Grace sent me a magazine article on how to find a job. She knew I wanted a job where I made a lot of money, liked what I was doing, and oh yeah only had to work Monday-Friday from 9-3. And got out early on Wednesdays. And was flexible enough that I could take various school holidays off. And summer. And work from home. And did I mention get paid well?

Grace recently started a new job herself, so she knew this particular article would help me in my search.  I sat down with a hot cup of coffee and the article in hand, giddy with excitement that my Future Job was awaiting me, as were the thousands of millions of dollars I would be making!

Here’s the article:

Helpful Strategies For Finding Your Dream Career

When you are looking for a job, it can be a stressful time. But, these tips. Will definitely help you to find the dream job of your dreams that you have been dreaming about.

(At this point, I was thinking a Japanese foreign exchange student might have written the article, but I soldiered on.)

An important thing to think about it is what type of job or career you would be interested in applying for. (Ah, now we were getting somewhere!) Is yours the type of personality to seek out fulfillment from the type of job where you work traditional hours or the type of personality that is more fulfilled from a non-traditional work environment with the types of hours that range around the clock at varying times? (Huh?) Would you prefer the stimulation of a job where you are constantly: learning something new; being around new people, helping others, being challenged; making important decisions that could affect a wide range of people; or is a job just merely a paycheck and not necessarily what you live for?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and this applies in this case. Loving your job is the key to finding happiness, a rewarding calling, and also a job or career that makes you proud. Human Resources experts recommend finding a job that brings you happiness because then you will look forward to going there.

Have you ever woken up to go to a job you don’t really enjoy? A job that you might actually dread but it is primarily a source of income? We’ve all been there. I recommend writing down a list of pros and cons to help you get the job of your dreams. (Wait—huh?)

Make sure you have a quiet time without the distraction of everyday concerns such as the dog barking or other types of minor annoyances such as a cell phone or other thing. Really focus on the task at hand. Dedicate this time to you and your new ideas of how to get what you want.

Here are my recommendations.
  • Polish your résumé (have a friend poorfread it for you)
  • Research jobs in your field
  • Wear an appropriate interview suit for your field
  • Have your hair cut in a flattering style
  • Consider going online for job openings in your field
These tips have been proven to work for a variety of people in a variety of situations. I hope this helps you to accomplish your vision of your future career. It is rewarding when we have a job that makes a difference.

I sat there dumbfounded. Why had Grace sent me this stupid magazine article? Was this a joke? I was mentally downgrading Grace from Good Friend status to Mere Acquaintance. “Wear an appropriate interview suit for your field”? That was the advice that was going to change my life?

I desperately wanted the previous 28 seconds of my life back. How dare Grace waste my time with this inane article! It told me absolutely nothing I didn’t already know. Every single item was completely obvious to anyone who had been a human being for longer than a week. It’s like the article was written for a Martian for his arrival on Earth to give him suggestions on how to assimilate into our culture.

I did what I always did when I was angry about something trivial: I called The Husband at work. Luckily, he was on his lunch break and had an extra 28 seconds to spare, so I read him the article.

“Who sent you that again?”


“I thought she was a good friend?”

“Yeah, me too. Not anymore.”

“Oh, maybe that’s an outline, and the continuation of the article is on the next page? That list at the end sounded like an outline. Maybe you should flip it over and see if there is more to it?”

I hadn’t thought of this. This is perhaps why The Husband had a really good job that he enjoyed and where he learned something new and was challenged making important decisions, while I stayed home and got to wash the dishes and fold more laundry.

I flipped it over. It was just and ad for lipstick with some model who resembled Drew Barrymore. Maybe it was Drew Barrymore.

“Sweetie, it’s a make-up ad. That was the whole article.”

“Wow. And some magazine published it. Huh. I think Tall could write a better article. Or Short.”

“Short doesn’t know how to read.”


We hung up the phone. This stupid essay was taking up more than 28 seconds now. I was becoming obsessed with the bad writing.

My mind wandered and I thought of some other magazine articles this awesome writer/ so-called “job expert” might write.

How To Take Down Your Christmas Tree

Do you have trouble saying goodbye to your Christmas decorations after the holiday is over? Follow these simple guidelines to get the job done.
  • Remove the ornaments, packing them well and safely (don’t forget the lights!)
  • Get someone else to help you lift the tree
  • Consider wrapping the tree in an old sheet that you have kept on hand for this purpose. This will prevent tree needles from poking you
  • Find out what the tree protocol is in your neighborhood as far as trash and pick-up. This may vary from different locations
Taking down the tree in a timely manner is the key to making your home look nice for the new year. I hope these tips help you to accomplish the removal of holiday decorations easily and safely.

I was not done yet. I thought of another essay:

How To Go To Bed At Night

Are you the type to fall asleep in front of the TV and then not wake up rested the next day? Here are some guidelines that can help.
  • Make sure to put on your pajamas. If you follow a simple ritual of getting ready for bed, this will make things easier.
  • Consider wearing fuzzy socks to bed. This has been proven to keep your feet warm.
  • Make sure you brush your teeth and floss your teeth to avoid future dental issues from arising.
  • Fluff the pillow. This is a nice touch that hotels do and you can incorporate into your life as well.
  • Make sure to set your alarm clock. This can make all the difference from getting up on time or over-sleeping.
I hope these ideas and suggestions help make going to bed something to look forward to.

I thought about emailing Grace, but in the end I just called her.

“Grace, hi! I read the article you sent me, the one about jobs …”

“What article?”

“The article you sent me, I just got it in the mail yesterday?”

“I never sent you an article.”  Grace was 34 years old.  Early-Onset Senility was kicking in. 

“Grace, I am holding the envelope in my hand.  It has your return address.”

“I sent you a picture of Drew Barrymore.”

“You did?  Why?”

“Because that would be a cute haircut for you.  I wrote a note on it.” 

I opened up the envelope again and shook it upside down.  A yellow post-it note fell out and landed in my lap.  It read: “MOV, this would be a cute hairstyle for you!  Love, Gracie.”

The original article did say a flattering hairstyle would help me get a job....

ps--and thanks to wonderful reader and fellow-blogger Julie Hutchinson who gave me a much better ending than my first one

Sunday, January 22, 2012

637. Words For Sale

Last night was my book party. More than 70 people showed up. That is about five more than came to my wedding.

There were people my age, older people, kids, and even a few babies. There were friends from the high-end kitchen store, friends from my moms’ group, friends from PTA, friends from my neighborhood, friends from the kids’ bus stop, many people I’d never met before, and of course my family. I kept noticing my friend Rachel’s darling little girl (age 3 ½) weaving in and out of teetering book displays and searching for her friends. Her name is Katherine, and she was dressed in a black sweater, houndstooth check skirt, opaque white tights, black ballerina flats, and a crimson flower head band. She looked like a French puppet.

Everything was Virgo perfect: delicious gourmet cookies, Pinot Grigio, upbeat music, silver and clear  balloons, and a sea of smiling faces. And oh, there were books! People started buying my book, and the next thing you know, they were crowding around me, standing in line waiting to meet me and have me sign their books. I felt exactly like Charlize Theron.

Or Santa.

The owner of the bookstore started clinking her wine glass to get people’s attention. I read a chapter from my book (this one HERE). They laughed, they cried, they cheered, they took photos, a few people fainted (not really on that last part). As I was reading, a surreal thought washed through my brain: These people are paying for my words. Words. They are writing checks to the bookstore for words on a page, words from the Oxford Dictionary, words that anyone has (free) access to, but that I have rearranged and written down.

I was reading out loud (which I had practiced in my kitchen with a timer, did I mention I’m a Virgo?) and trying to make eye contact with the crowd, but I kept seeing that children’s classic book, Caps For Sale, in my mind. Except it was Words For Sale, Words For Sale, fifty cents a word! 

The crowd applauded and cheered, and then I told them, “Thank you so much for coming!  The book retails for $15, but as a special promotion for you tonight, it's just $20.”

The evening was absolutely perfect. Everyone went away feeling that they had a great time and got what they came to get.

Except one person.

Toward the end of the evening, adorable tiny Katherine approached me to—I thought—give me a congratualtory hug. No. She tapped insistently on my skirt and said in a mild panic,

“Excuse me, ma’am? Where is the cake?”


Saturday, January 21, 2012

635. Yesterday's Phone Call

Let me start off by saying he’s fine. Better than fine. Everything is fine.

I had just sat down with my sandwich when the phone rang. I toyed with not answering it, but on the fifth ring decide to pick up. “Hello?”

It was the nurse from Short’s school, never the voice you want to hear on a Wednesday during school hours. “Hello, Mrs. MOVela? I hate to tell you this: Short was injured at recess.”

In the two seconds she paused between that and her next sentence (“But he’s fine,”) my brain already had him in a wheelchair and blind. Or hooked up to life-support machines. And deaf.

Mowing right past the one bright flower (“he’s fine”) in a garden full of monster weeds (“was injured”), I tried to backtrack.

“What happened?”

“Well, I’m not really sure, I wasn’t there and—”

Short was a verbose child. He took after his older brother this way. If his mouth was sore, he might say, “The number 7 tooth on the lingual side is bothering me, let’s go see a dentist,” or if he had a stomach ache, he might complain, “My lower intestines are acting up, I hope I don’t have Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” or if we’d been swimming he might offer, “This ear infection is troublesome, I wonder if my Eustachian tube is blocked.” He never had an issue pinpointing the problem. If the nurse did not know by now what exactly had happened, there was only one logical conclusion: All his teeth had been smashed out of his face and now he couldn’t communicate.

I heard the words escape my lips before I could stop them: “Is there blood?”

“Oh, no, no blood. I, uh, I don’t see any blood. Umm, well, I don’t think so.”

Were we going to have to have a discussion about what blood looked like? What kind of nurse was she, anyway? Was this just a high school student volunteering for college credits? Either you see blood or you don’t see blood. You shouldn’t have to think about it too much. Red and oozy, not red and oozy. Done.

She interrupted my internal monologue. “A ball hit him.”

Oh, God, everyone knows balls can be lethal. WHO THE HELL LET MY CHILD PLAY WITH A KILLER BALL?!? That’s it, I’m writing to my Congressman right now, balls need to be outlawed.

My mind, never one to sit and relax and shoot the breeze with some wayward neurons or ask a couple dead cells how they were killed (“Alcohol? Or did having kids do that to you?”) chose this moment to bounce ahead like, well, a ball.

“What kind of ball? Tennis ball? Football? Soccer ball?” (oh, please do not let it be a heavy soccer ball, those things were like cannons) “Golf ball? Basketball …”

“It was a basketball …”

“But, but, but …” (why did I continue to interrupt her? why could I not let the poor woman with no medical training whatsoever finish a sentence and tell me exactly what was wrong with my child? “Nurse, please tell me one thing, just one thing: did the ball hit him in the … head?”

I said head in a terrified whisper. I would rather have a child in a wheelchair who could not walk but still was mentally sharp than a vegetable child.

The school nurse could sense my agony through the phone wires.

“Mrs. MOVina, no need to worry! The ball did not hit his head … it hit his eye.”

Now, I myself have not been to medical school. My extensive background in health and medicine was pretty much gleaned from nine weeks of flight attendant training, one entire week of which was devoted to How To Fold Linens to Look Like Swans for first class service. But I do know that an eye is part of a head. Unless his eye fell out of the socket and was dangling somewhere back on the playground, maybe from the monkey bars.

“Short,” I heard the nurse say, addressing my deaf/ blind/ crippled/ life-support youngest child for the first time in the conversation, “Short, Honey, come over here and talk to your mom on the phone because she sounds hysterical.” She didn’t really say that last part, but her tone said it for her.

A tiny corner of my brain rejoiced: he could walk! he could possibly talk!

“Short, Sweetie? It’s Mommy. What happened, are you okay?”

“The basketball hit my eye, so the pediatric surgeon gave me some ice.”

Was now the time to set him straight that the pediatric “surgeon” was not a surgeon, nor probably even a registered nurse, and that she was not really sure what blood was or where eyes were located.

“Short, Darling, put the nice surgeon back on the phone with me.”

“Mrs. MOVetterson? Can you come pick him up, then?”

“Sure, sure, I will be right over.”

Fortunately, we live a three-minute drive from the school. I made the drive in approximately 22 seconds.

“Wow, were you driving on this street when we called you?” said the “nurse” be way of greeting. “You got here awfully fast.”

Short limped out of her office with a small ice pack on his ruddy face.

“May I see your eye?” I murmured. He took the ice off and his face looked okay. I could finally breathe again. “Let’s go then, Short.”

I picked up his backpack and we headed for the door. The part of my brain that likes to have the last word and say inappropriate things and ask annoying awkward questions and exhibit blatant disregard for social niceties such as avoiding awkward confrontations chose this moment to quench her curiosity thirst.

“Excuse me, nurse?  Thank you for helping Short and all, but, uh, are you a real nurse? I mean, I am just wondering what kind of training you have?” We were at least by ourselves so I was not calling her out in front of all the office employees or teaching staff.

She laughed. “Oh, gosh, no. I am not a nurse. For the position of school nurse, once you’re hired, you just have to get a basic certification. I have that.”

“So,” continued Nosy Brain, “you did not go to an actual nursing school.”

She smiled her most sincere smile and replied kindly, “I was not trained as a nurse. I am a lawyer.”

I hope she doesn’t sue us about the blood in her office.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

633. The Name Game

I have always been terrible with names. I lie and pretend I’m not. I turn to my best friend for validation and I say, “I’m great with names! Right, Lisa?” “It’s Shelley.”

The problem is, when I first meet someone, I have a million random thoughts buzzing through my head like so many annoying mosquitoes trapped in a screened porch in July, each demanding attention: Is this person having a good first impression of me, Have I already met this person before, Do I have broccoli in my teeth, Do I have bad breath, Did I put enough quarters in the parking meter, Did I accidentally park in the handicapped spot, Does this person have kids the same ages as my kids, and Did I already say what my name is?

That last one is a big part of the problem. I have a name that is quite similar to another (popular) name, so people are forever misunderstanding me when I introduce myself. “Hello, my name is MOV,” I’ll say as clearly as possible while shaking the woman’s hand, and then she’ll lean in and mumble, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, MOVela. I’m (Some Name), I think your son is in my daughter’s class.”

The resultant noise in my brain is overwhelming, what with having to correct her about her misinterpretation of my name (I certainly don’t want her to continue calling me the wrong name) as well as the brand new information that Short (or Tall? which one!?) knows her child (are they friends? is this an opportunity here? do I need to attempt to set up a playdate now?).  A simple introduction has become a complicated game of mental chess where I have already ricocheted five moves ahead.  I ignore the basic premise of meeting someone, which is to learn their name.  I know I need to concentrate, but then I am distracted by her pretty scarf or distinct accent or some other completely irrelevant detail that has absolutely nothing to do with her preferred moniker and how the hell I am going to remember it. 

You can see how I get into trouble. All the books on improving memory suggest repeating the victim's new person’s name back to them, as in Stephanie, it is so nice to meet you! I’ve heard wonderful things about you, Stephanie! I am happy to finally put a face to the name, Stephanie!  (Although, as an aside, doesn't the overzealous parroting of someone's name make you sound like an exceptionally eager and over-caffeinated bank employee desperately trying to win the customer's loyalty and convince her to open a CD or refinance her mortgage?)  Or, failing that, the helpful books advise coming up with imagery you associate with the person, like if her name is Lily, you visualize a lily across her forehead so that every time you see her you remember, Yes of course—Lily!

I search the Google of my mind for an image of a lily to mentally graffiti onto her unsuspecting face. Oops—I think that’s a daisy. What do lilies look like, anyway? Tulips? Roses? And what color are they, are they always white? Or can they be blue? What is the name of that blue flower I like, is it iris? Wait—did she actually say her name was Iris?

She is moving on to the next person she is meeting here at school, or work, or a party, or wherever, and she turns and says, “Great meeting you again, MOVela! We should get together for tea sometime!” and there I am stranded: Again? Why did she say again? Again as in right now again, or again as in she met me last week again? And do I look like a tea person? Maybe most MOVelas drink tea? Is MOVela a British name? Does she think I’m British? I could be British, but I hate tea. I have tried tea with sugar or without, with milk or without, hot, cold, with lemon, and you know what—I am just not a tea person.

Yes, yes, let’s get together for tea or coffee sometime, that would be lovely! Thanks, Iris! er, I mean Rose?

I fare no better at events with name tags, as messy penmanship is involved. The worst is when I am suddenly required to introduce two people who I supposedly know to each other. “Milk, this is my dear friend, uh, Tennifer.” They both wince and then re-introduce themselves with very boring versions of the names I just said, like Mike and Jennifer. Then learn how to write your damn names, Mike and Jennifer! Do they take a perverse pleasure in making me guess? How hard is it to write legibly? Set the glass of wine down and focus for five seconds.

The Husband approaches me and leans in to whisper something. “How are you doing with learning everyone’s name?” he asks slowly, like he's talking to a four-year-old.  

“Awful,” I confess. “I hear them say their names, but it’s like I forget the name as they are saying it. I swear, I am really trying!” I am relieved that he has taken the time to come over and help me, so I gaze up at him with my eyes full of admiration and love. He confuses this look for drunk.

“MOV, I have an easy way to remember people’s names. Just listen to them. Without distractions. Set the glass of wine down and focus for five seconds.”

Oh, that Gusband. He thinks he’s so smart.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

631. Diary of A Wimpy Hair

My step-mom, Nichole, was a high school teacher for many years, and I remember that she liked to give her students a quirky writing assignment on the first day of school: “Give me the history of your hair,” she’d say. “Can we draw pictures?” they all wanted to know. “Sure, but the main thing is an essay.”

Nichole said the boys, especially the boys, always got into it. They had mohawks and buzz cuts and sideburns. They had slicked back Hollywood hair and spiky rock star hair and ponytails. And most notable of all, they had “product.”

Boys care about their hair?” I asked her, my voice full of disbelief.

“Oh, you just wait, honey, until you have boys.”

Tall and Short care about their hair as much as I care about lima beans, which is to say: not much. They both entered the world bald, but those tender naked heads soon grew coverings of soft fluff, like stray pieces of cotton blown in from a field.

I washed that delicate hair with the special baby shampoo and inhaled its baby perfection scent. As the hair filled in, longer and thicker, there I was with the camera to chronicle every haircut and every style change (bangs brushed straight down, or bangs brushed back). For a long time, I was a huge fan of the “surfer/ skateboarder” haircut so popular in California:  long on top, short in the back. This is the basic cut my fairly compliant elementary-school-aged sons still sport.

My own diary of hair is not much different: straight long blond with bangs, straight long blond without bangs, a brief dalliance with red, chop off all the damage from the red, grow it out, straight long blond with bangs again. My hair is my defining feature, the signature of my appearance. People see me from a distance and know that it’s me: “There’s MOV,” “Are you sure it’s her?” “Of course—look at the hair.”

Hairdressers try to persuade me to go for a chic bob, but I always resist. “This is my look,” I say, as if hair were a non-negotiable. I walk out of the salon looking the exact same way as when I went in: straight long blond hair with bangs.

A friend stops me in the parking lot. “MOV, your hair looks great! Is something different?”

No, nothing’s changed. I just paid $75 to look like me.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

626. My Rebound Fling With Santa

Did I ever tell you about this? It was years ago. I was recovering from a bad break-up, and that’s when we started dating.  

What first attracted me to him was his positive attitude—he was always in a good mood. He just had this way about him, he could light up a room, so to speak.

Kids, in particular, loved him. My mom has always said you can tell a lot about a guy’s character by how children and pets react to him. I didn’t have a child or a pet, but I could see other people’s kids adored him.

And he was thoughtful. I’d mention I had a tough day at work, and he’d give me a little felt penguin to cheer me up. My room-mate and I had a fight, and Santa would show up with a tiny plush snowman. One time I called him when my car died to ask if he could pick me up. Of course he said yes. I smiled to see he brought a small fuzzy moose with faux suede antlers.

The longer Santa and I were together, the more shelf space I needed for my stuffed animal collection.

But it wasn’t the materialism that drove us apart, nor the binge eating.

Oh, I didn’t tell you about Santa’s weight issues? He had a sweet tooth. In fact, he liked to joke that he had his dentist on speed dial. (This was way back in the days before cell phones and iPads, I guess everyone’s on speed dial now.) He’d have cake for breakfast, cookies for lunch, ice-cream for dinner. It was the Sugar Channel, 24/7. At first, that was great. I crave sweets, too. But aren’t you supposed to be with someone who makes you a better person, not an obese one?

The thing that came between us, though, was Santa’s insatiable appetite for attention. People recognized him everywhere we went, and it got to be a bit much for me. But S.C. (that was my pet name for him) thrived on attention. He needed it, like I needed a trip to Hawaii.

There you have it. Another of our fundamental differences. When things started to get serious, we would talk about where we should live, as the long-distance thing was killing me, but he loved the cold and snow. He’d say, “How about Montana? Or Alaska? Do you like Northern Canada? Have you ever been to Russia?”

I’d suggest Miami or San Diego and he’d cringe. He’d say (in that upbeat way of his), “Wow! Miami is fantastic! But you know what’s even better? Greenland!” There was just no arguing with him.

He bought me a new winter coat, or I should say he had a friend make it for me. He had a lot of “friends” that worked for him, he never told me his exact line of work except that is was “seasonal” and involved “import/ export.” Frankly, the way he hid the details of his life, I thought he might be involved in dealing drugs or embezzling funds or something shady like that.

Turns out he was married.

He had been upfront about things when we met, saying that he was separated. His wife was a bit of a control freak, and the other thing was that they couldn’t have babies. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but Santa was really crazy about kids. It broke his heart to think he might not be able to have any of his own. He brought up the topic a lot:

Santa: MOV, how many children would you like to have someday?

Me: Oh, I don’t know. I never really thought about it. One. Maybe one, or I guess I could have two. Definitely no more than two.

Santa: I want 15.

Me: Did you say 15!? Are you out of your mind? How would you pay for 15 kids?

Santa: Oh, I’m pretty financially secure. Money is not a problem.

See? There was that secrecy thing again.

He showed up on my doorstep one morning with a giant toy polar bear. That’s when I knew something was wrong.

“MOV, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Carol and I are getting back together. I’ve really enjoyed our time together. You’ve made me feel young and merry, but I miss Carol and I need to give our relationship a chance. You are a wonderful person, MOV, and you deserve someone better than me.”

That was it. That was his whole explanation. But instead of feeling like I’d been kicked and dragged by reindeer, I actually felt good. That was part of S.C.’s charm, allure, and charisma: he would take his idea and make you think it was your idea. How could you be mad at someone like that?

I haven’t thought about Santa in years, but the other day I found an old Polaroid of us. I was sitting on his lap, and we looked happy.


Monday, January 9, 2012

625. My Christmas Tree and I Are Getting Divorced

I thought this relationship would be different, less prickly. I was wrong. Christmas Tree and I started out like most couples do, enamored with each other in a twinkly-lights-sort-of-way. I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Christmas Tree, I just knew he was The One: tall, regal, quiet. Some might’ve interpreted his quietness as stupidity—but I knew he was just shy.  And I prefer shy over fake.   

Our marriage lasted less than six weeks, which is equivalent to a decade in Hollywood Years. Too bad we live 3000 miles away from Tinsel Town. 

When we first moved into together, things progressed quickly. “You turn me on,” he said in that dreamy husky voice of his. “Excuse me?” I responded, thinking he was a little forward for my taste. He cleared his throat, “I said, you need to turn on my lights.”

And that’s who he really was deep down: demanding. The first day it was his lights, the next day he had me running to the kitchen to get him more bottled water because he was “thirsty.” We all know thirsty is code for lazy.  And I often found him acting drunk, leaning to one side, threatening to fall down. 

Wait, there’s more. He was a mess. Sure, when we met and he was in the snow hanging with all his friends, he seemed robust and “outdoorsy”; I didn’t necessarily notice the trail of needles behind him. Anyone else would’ve thought, “Who leaves a trail of needles? Druggies, that’s who,”—but what can I say? I was blinded by love.

I couldn't get enough of him.  I would walk past him just so I could inhale his scent.  He smelled like childhood dreams. 

In the initial haze of love, I was surrounded by close family members and went through the ritual of putting the angel on the top of Christmas Tree—that’s when things became official. He was Mine. Well-meaning friends came by later to meet Christmas Tree and they all said the right things, Oh, that tree is perfect for you, and Wow, you are so lucky, and How did you fit Christmas Tree through the door?

Sure, there were presents, hastily wrapped presents that were all the wrong color and size.  Presents that would have to be returned.  Presents with no gift receipt that the clerk would give you a hard time about and ultimately call a manager and then tell you they weren't originally purchased there or if they were that they were now 70% off.  They were the type of presents that were bought on sale in a hurry with an expired coupon.      

I woke up on December 26th with a cruel hangover that tasted like Pine-Sol and stale shortbread cookies, and a startling realization that shook me to my core: It. Was. Over. I was no longer in a festive mood.

Christmas Tree could not take the hint. Christmas Tree just moped around through New Year’s while trying to hijack that holiday as well. Every time I went in the living room and saw him standing in the corner weeping silently to himself while wearing New Year's confetti, I just cringed. “Oh, you’re still here?” I asked. “I’m not leaving,” he insisted with as much enthusiasm as a wet mop, which is exactly what he could’ve used to clean up all those discarded needles and wilted streamers that lay around him. “And you can’t make me.”

I didn’t want to argue with him. I simply pretended he wasn’t there. Things went on like this for days, both of us refusing to speak.

This morning I looked out the front window and saw a whole army of neighborhood Christmas Trees littering the curb, more holiday divorces up and down our street.

It made me sad. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t just end things with Christmas Tree the way I had been planning. It would be too cruel.

I'll wait 'til Valentine’s Day to kick him out. 

(“My Only Valentine”)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

620. My Last Day at The High-End Kitchen Store

If you’ve followed this blog for longer than 30 seconds, you know that I work at a high-end kitchen store. Correction: worked. That’s right—I quit.

I love the high-end kitchen store, and the high-end kitchen store loves me. Why, oh why, you ask, would I quit?

Well, way back in September, I celebrated my birthday. Birthdays are usually a time of reflection and contemplation, a time to take stock of your life and focus on the year ahead. It got me thinking about why I work. Here’s the list I came up with:
  1. I get to dress up
  2. I get to leave the house and have The Husband watch the kids
  3. I like my co-workers and we get to gossip about the customers after they leave
  4. I get to walk around the museum of pretty things that must not be used (e.g. “merchandise”)
  5. I get a HUUUUUUGE discount on all the pretty things, plus a discount on all the pretty things at the high-end kitchen store’s sister brand, the fabulous furniture place
  6. Every once in a while (about twice a month), The Boss at the high-end kitchen store will hand me a blue envelope and inside that envelope is a little piece of paper with magical numbers on it, numbers like “$25.13”
  7. That is exactly the amount (after discount) of the new blue-striped oven mitts I want to buy
Even though it was not his birthday, I asked The Husband what his list was for why he worked. He thought about it for a while, then gave me some gobbledygook about making a difference and new challenges and respect and engineering-type stuff and using his mind (I was starting to yawn at this point) and then an hour into his spiel, my beleaguered ears signaled to my overloaded brain that he was now talking about money:

   471. And I like to get a nice paycheck

I agreed with him that paychecks are a pleasant little side effect of working. But THEN (wait for it) he had the audacity to say that that should be one of the reasons I work, too!!!!!!!!!!!!

As you can imagine, that kind of ruined the rest of my day. Happy Birthday to me!

The next morning, I thought about it some more. I realized he was right after all. A paycheck (for more than $25.13) would be a nice benefit of having a regular-type job. I gave The Boss my final notice (a four-month notice, we Virgos are nothing if not polite and very good planners).

My last day was December 24th. It snuck up on me. I saw it on the calendar, but it seemed so far away, like the apocalypse, until it was right there. The Boss said, “We’ll miss you!” to which I replied, “Do you need someone to work on January 1?” (The high-end kitchen store pays overtime on holidays.)

So on December 24th, all the employees gave me hugs and said they enjoyed working with me and have a nice life and see you around.

And then I boomeranged back on January 1, like an envelope that your forgot to put the stamp on.

“What are you doing here?” queried my (former, well she thought she was former) co-worker. “I thought you quit?”

“I did, yes. I quit. Today is my last day.” I smiled enigmatically.

“But The Boss said December 24th was your last day?”

“No, ha ha ha, that was my first last day. This is my real last day.”

I brought my camera in so I could take pictures of my co-workers and someone could take pictures of all of us standing together pretending to sell things. I forgot to get my camera out of my purse all day so the pictures are in my head instead of on a digital memory card.

It was 7 PM and the store was closed. This was for real. I had been at the high-end kitchen store for four years, it was the end of an era. I thought I might cry.

As The Boss locked the door, she turned to me.

“Do you want to work one more day on January 30th for Inventory?” she asked.


That will be my last last day.