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.”