Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Friends

2012.  Nice to almost meet you. 

I've been preparing for this for a while now; would you mind if we could just get down to business?

I don't make resolutions, because I don't follow directions well, even if they're from me to begin with.  Understand?  I will make changes, because that's me, but I will not label them as New Year's resolutions or anything.  Don't try to put me in a box; I will resist.  I will be making changes all year long.  Some will be Summer Resolutions, or even Back-To-School Resolutions.  I've even been thinking about Christmas Resolutions already.  Just hang back.  Changes will come.

Throw anything crazy at me, and I will fight back with anxiety, tears and complaining.  No one wants that, so could you please just let me slog through this life the best way I know how?  Throw me a bone here or there, and that'd be just fine.

About all the facial lines and gray hair that 2011 brought:  I realize that I am at an age where I can reaonably be considered "middle-aged," so the the daily affirmations of aging are overkill at best and cruel at worst.  Do you really want to be known as The Year I Started To Look Old?  You can come up with a better name for yourself than that.  How about The Year My Talents Were Recognized?  Or what about The First Year I Made A Million Dollars?  Those are just some general suggestions.

I don't really have a plan for you yet.  I guess I should admit that I don't often have a plan for much.   But if you stick with me, and be polite, and encourage me to spread my wings a little and try some different things, I'll keep the complaining and crying to a minimum.  Thanks, and I'll see you tomorrow, and every day for the next 365.


Friday, December 30, 2011

There's No Place Like It

In the past 24 hours, I learned the following:

My grandfather can't eat Milky Way bars anymore.  The story of why this is involves a Marine and a storm at sea.

My grandmother's kitchen cabinets hold enough old liquor to fill a set on Mad Men.

One of my kids loves driving through muddy cornfields in an ATV.  The other is afraid she might die before she has a boyfriend.

Going home.  It is so sweet.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

True Love

Ah, Christmas break. A time where families all over the nation stay home and spend uninterrupted time really getting to know each other again.  The level of family bonding is unparalleled during this time of year, except perhaps during trips to Disney World.  It’s a wonderful time.

During the week between Christmas and the New Year, my family typically spends time together tucked away indoors, where we relearn each other's idiosyncracies and endearing habits. We might also find out one or two new things about each other, which is lovely and can only serve to bring us closer.

This week, I am getting a fresh new perspective on my son’s laser-sharp animosity towards every single thing I announce for dinner.

I also realized that my daughter has not only one hiding place which she uses to escape from us regularly for hours on end, but three.

My husband is in love with Bradley Cooper.  This truth was uncovered just today, when he was on his fourth hour of his own private Bradley Cooper movie marathon.

My family members are learning some things about me, too.  Red before white wine, and only white when desperate.

Cheers to you and your families.  May the New Year bring new and exciting treasures for you and yours to uncover.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Battle of Wills

Maybe if I just sit here quietly, the urge to go to the gym will pass and I will miss my yoga class.

And maybe I won't feel guilty about it.

And maybe the eighteen pounds of candy in my pantry will magically turn into vegetables.

And maybe my body will tone itself.

And maybe all my clothes will fit correctly.

Or maybe not.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Holy Crap

My family has gone nuts.  The kids are crying, the husband is hiding, and I'm guzzling wine like Santa's bringing me a truckload of it in two days.

Despite the wreckage, I have glittery fingernails, so there's that. 

I have two words for this picture:
 Hand Lotion.

Cheers to you all, and a very Merry Christmas ~!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friend

It's been nice, Santa.  But my kids got wise this year, and we're moving on.  Sorry, man.   


Monday, December 19, 2011


Yep, that pretty much sums up what’s going on in my head these days.  All that’s rattling around in there is garbage like appointments, get-togethers, kids’ activities, shopping, and Christmas.  Each day and night this week is jam-packed with stuff to do before Christmas.  It all points to Christmas, and it’s making me nuts.

My husband told me a week ago that I needed to change my attitude about Christmas.  He’s right.  He knows it.  I don’t even care that he knows it.  I am too worn out and strung out on Christmas to care.

When will I learn that Christmas is a time for joy, love, peace, and goodwill?  But mostly peace?

I have been unable to truly enjoy this season for years.  My main complaint is that everything seems to intensify the week before the actual holiday.  Each day that goes by finds me a little more stressed, a little more frantic, a little more unable to function adequately.  Why does the calendar fill up the week before Christmas?  I want to enjoy these days.  I started Christmas shopping two weeks before Thanksgiving so I could enjoy these days.

Each year I try to change something about the way I approach Christmas so that it wouldn’t seem so stressful.  Last year I programmed my DVR to catch Christmas specials on TV so I wouldn’t have to remember to watch them with the kids, thereby making wonderful Christmas memories.  The result was that my constantly at-capacity DVR required me to filter through and delete watched and unwatched Christmas specials daily.  Maybe I watched one Christmas special with the kids last year, and I’m sure it was punctuated with me screaming at the kids to “come and watch this show with me, we have exactly one hour before we have your band concert/shopping for Daddy/Christmas baking to do!!”  This year I realized that I don’t have many memories of watching Christmas specials on TV as a kid, and my kids have watched them on DVD so many times at other times of the year that they don’t even care about them anymore.

A few years ago I gave up Christmas cards.  I weaned myself off of it, only sending to those people from whom I received one.  The problem is that there’s always a friend or twenty who wait until after the holidays to send their cards, and I ran out of cards and patience long before then.  The next year I quit cold turkey, and I don’t even give them a second thought until they start arriving in the mail each year.  The guilt of not sending Christmas cards looms larger each time I open a card from one of my caring friends and neighbors and family members who obviously were granted extra hours in the day to do Christmas cards.

The cleaning, the house guests.  The traveling and being a house guest.  Both my and my husband’s families are from out of town.  Which means that if we want to see family for Christmas, we either travel or they travel to see us the weeks leading up to Christmas.  We have awesome families and we have an awesome time with all the members of each of our families.  The people are not the problem.  It’s the time spent traveling, or preparing to travel, or preparing to have travelers.  This all needs to be done at the exact same time all the other end-of-year stuff is happening.  For instance, during a normal busy time of year, the housecleaning is the first thing to go.  However, when Christmas is coming, I like the house to be somewhat clean, because I know my relatives don’t want to use my bathrooms in the same state that my family and I use them.  Like, in that what’s-this-stuff-all-over-the-mirror, and are-you-planning-on-using-this-hair-on-the-floor-to-knit-a-sweater kind of state.

It just goes on and on.  I’ve already spent too much time writing about it, because I’ve got Christmas stuff to do.  Peace and goodwill, y’all.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping My Ham Trap Shut

I am trying this new thing where when someone says something that I disagree with, or think is stupid, or am totally offended by, I shut my mouth and keep it tight until the urge to speak passes.  This has not always been something I’ve been good at, nor something I’ve particularly put into practice much.

Don't say it.

The good news is that I have less guilt over my thoughtless riffing.  It’s not nice to talk back to anyone, including family members, the elderly, other people’s children, the checkout guy at Walmart who visibly rolled his eyes and groaned when he saw me coming with my overflowing cart and a dozen reusable shopping bags.  In cases where children are involved, an urge to say what’s on my mind might actually do some psychological damage or have legal repercussions, and who needs that noise?

The bad news is that my head might explode.  This is hard, people.

The other bad news is while life might be nicer on the outside, I’m seeing what’s really going on inside.  It’s tough.  As the times a day that I am silent when my real instinct is to bite back add up, I realize that that I have a real problem with judging.  Thinking that I am above all the things other people do that irritate me is wrong.  Truth is, I’m just as capable of being irritating, and in so many different and creative ways.  Probably even in some ways no one else has ever been irritating.

And you know what?  People are nice to me.  Tolerant at worst.  Which makes me feel even more like the Capital B Judgment Police and firms my resolve to try even harder to change my mind and heart about being judgy.  It’s sobering that so many others are so much better than I am at keeping their judgments to themselves.  I must have the worst manners ever.

So try me.  Say something annoying, or stupid, or offensive.  I need the practice.  I can’t promise I won’t snap back, but I will do my very best to keep quiet.  In addition, I will try not to judge you for your ineptitude.

How am I doing so far?


Monday, December 12, 2011


What goes through the minds of those little winter birds that fly in close-knit flocks?  About thirty of them dip and glide in one motion; their wings start and stop together, swirling around and around with what I am assuming the changes in wind currents, landing on one of the trees in the line of trees in my neighbor’s backyard.  They roost for a moment, making a noise that causes me to stop what I am doing and look out the window at their racket.  They stop long enough only to take off again, circling; some break off in smaller groups and make their own formation that echoes the original, larger one.  They always land in that one tree, over and over.

Why that tree?  Is this activity for fun, for practice, for defense or community?  Is it a mating ritual, a clubbing scenario – a meet market?  Maybe some of them are making plans to hook up later.

They are mysterious, these little birds.  At once, I’m not interested in motives.  They’ve got my full attention.  They fascinate me as I sit at my desk and watch them swoop around outside my window.  They distracted me from my chores, and I am happy to be their audience, if only for a few minutes.  Their graceful freedom is desirable as I return to emails, the boxes on a calendar, newly dried clothes that should be folded.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Continuing Education

At one point today I had brown stuff all over my hands.  I hate that this wasn't the first time I've had brown stuff on my hands, but at least it was just chocolate this time.  And no, I didn't lick it to find out what it was.  That's one of those life lessons you only have to learn once. 

There are other lessons I’ve learned, some more useful than others.  Here are a few: 

  • When I was in college I worked at a shelter for abused women.  What surprised me most while working there is that you do not have to be friendly to work in social services.  What I also learned there is that you should not ask a woman when her due date is if you are not absolutely positive that she is pregnant. 

    • You cannot be friendly with a non-pregnant social worker after you asked her when her due date is. 

  • After I had my first child I looked back in awe at how much of the process of childbirth (and OMG AFTER childbirth) I was totally unprepared for.  I learned that you can tell some people the details about birthing a child, and they will become your best friends.  You can tell other people about these details, and they will never speak to you again.  You might get a Christmas card from them every year, but they will avoid all attempts to meet up again.   

    • You should not divulge the gory details of childbirth while slightly tipsy at a wedding reception among people whom you’ve just met. 

  • I learned to refrain from telling a person that they look like any well-known person that isn’t obviously handsome or universally beautiful.  Telling a man that he is a dead ringer for Steve Buscemi, although you have a mad crush on him, is not a good thing.  A woman won’t think it’s a compliment when you tell her she looks like Shelley Duvall in Popeye.  Gushing over a favorite celebrity won’t work if the person thinks that celebrity is a troll. 

    • Don’t mix the sexes.  Don’t tell a man he looks like a famous woman, or vice versa.  And especially don’t tell someone they look like a transsexual person or a drag queen, no matter how attractive you think they are.  Trust me. 

  • Be smart about clothing.  Do a mirror-check before leaving the house.  Make sure the garment you have on is meant to be worn alone and is not a layering piece.  Rule of thumb: if a top has less than two buttons holding it together, it is probably a layering piece.  If it has only one button and you are wearing it alone, you are pretty much half-naked. 

    • If you misjudged a wardrobe piece, leave immediately to get something more appropriate to wear, especially if you’re at your boyfriend’s parent’s house for a family picnic. 

  • Don’t rush while in the kitchen.   I learned that if you are making lunch for 12 people and you feel crunched for time, you may hurt yourself, and you can end up in the ER.  Give yourself extra time if you will be wielding sharp objects, like an apple slicer. 

    • You will learn graciousness if the people you were preparing lunch for are your best friends, because they will tease you mercilessly about your kitchen prowess, or lack thereof.

  • When in doubt, shut your mouth.  Let someone else say something stupid for once.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


This past week I haven't been feeling well.

I've had the Grinches,

a mild Scrooge,

the Bah Humbug,

and a pretty major case of the crabs.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Strange Days

My husband has crazy stories to tell about his real life away from this house.  You see, even though he comes home nearly every night to his family, the man has a job and friends and peers – a whole other life – away from this place.  It’s weird, right?  He works in another town and has all these other experiences that I may never know about.  He could be Don Draper, with a total double life, and no one knows he’s married or even has a family, I don’t know.  Whatever.

Because I am busy with all this Christmas nonsense that descended on me like a black cloud lately, and hating in general, we haven’t been able to catch up on things like normal.  For example, on a usual evening, he tells me about all the zillion-dollar decisions he makes during the day, and I tell him how many seconds I shaved off my personal record for toilet scrubbing.  It’s amazing.  This week, we haven’t done this because there’s other stuff going on.  Like my hating.

So tonight, I was quiet, and he was fairly busting with stories to tell.  He said they were Seinfeld-esque.  Well, maybe not quite that good, but I admit, some are horrifying.  The ones that are most horrifying involve the gym.  OF COURSE.  Here’s one.  Enjoy.

So, after my workout, I was in the steam room.  You know how weird stuff always happens in the steam room?  It does.  A lot. 

I’m in there, minding my own business being quiet and sweating, and this big guy is in there.  Now, this room is not very big.  There’s only about enough room for maybe six people to sit comfortably.  So, this guy is standing in there, shirtless, making all kinds of noises, and like, doing sit-ups against the wall, and then stretching out his huge gut.  He’s grunting like “UNNNHHHHHH!” and moaning like “OOOOHHHHHHHHH!” like he’s giving birth or something.  He’s really making a scene, rubbing his head and moaning and stretching out his gut and pushing against the wall with his hands and grunting and thrusting his hips forward and I’m sitting like two feet away from him.  He’s standing and sitting and grunting and thrusting and rubbing and sweating.  I’m trying to ignore him this whole time.  I feel like I should say something, but what?  Is he okay?  Do I need to get a doctor?  I don’t want to talk to this guy. 

After a few minutes of this business, he decides it’s time to leave.  He looks at me, smiles and yells, “WELL, ENJOY.  I HEATED IT UP FOR YOU IN HERE!  HEH HEH HEH.”

What did he mean by that?  I felt like I was on an episode of Seinfeld.  Why do these things only seem to happen to me?

My husband has all the luck.  The weirdest thing that happens to me away from home is when an old lady asks me to reach stuff for her on the top shelf in the grocery store.  Then any grunting I experience is my own.  Bor-ing.

All the good stuff?
Happens to THIS guy.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I’m no Pollyanna.

Which is why I think that if I hear the words “Bucket List” one more time in casual conversation, read it online, or find it referenced in any context whatsoever, I think the part of my brain which houses tolerance may spark and fizzle out quietly yet furiously, like a blown fuse or when you use an old hair dryer in a super-steamy bathroom.  Trust me.  It sparks and fizzles and dies, and gives you a little jolt of electricity just to be mean.

I won’t hurl things, or punch anyone, or try to launch myself off a bridge, but these words are so overused (and are a little morbid, I mean, doesn’t this term indicate the stuff you want to do before you die?) that each time I hear them, I wilt a little bit.  I don’t care what you want to do before you die.  You know what I want to do before I die?  I want to LIVE. 

Also, the word “absolutely.”  How many conversations have I had where someone uses the word “absolutely” as a response to anything?  “The weather is so nice today.”  “Absolutely.”  “I have to go home and clean my house.” “Absolutely, me too.”  “Last night I forgot to lift the toilet seat when I peed and it got all over the floor.”  “Absolutely.  What a mess.”  Why are you agreeing with me completely, in every context?   Are you a stalker?  You don’t know me.  It’s maddening.

“That’s good stuff” makes me cry a little inside.  Unless you’re talking about a great bottle of wine, or a revolutionary glue that adheres anything together FOREVER, or if you do so many drugs that you notice the difference between good ones and bad ones, “that’s good stuff” is such a general description that you might as well not say anything at all.  “My kid took his first steps today.  That’s good stuff.”  Well, I guess so.  Pass me the salt for the bland conversation you’re serving.  Your kid’s walking.  Shouldn’t you be documenting this moment in a scrapbook or getting today’s date tattooed somewhere?

“Text me.”  You're making things way too hard.  Howzabout I TELL YOU?  We’re standing right here.  Are you saying that whatever I have to say is meaningless unless you’re looking at it on your phone?  Which, by the way, isn’t going to give you the meaning of life, so stop staring at it, because I’m starting to get a little worried about what you’re putting your faith in.

“Git ‘er done.”  No.  What does that even mean?  It’s almost encouraging, but it isn’t.

“I’m gonna get my drink on.”  Last time I got my drink on, my dry cleaning bill was outrageous.  When someone says this, I imagine them changing their clothes into a drinking costume of dirty jeans and a sweater.  That smells of vomit.

Humph.  Pollyanna can suck it. 

Suck it.  There's another one.  What are we sucking, exactly?


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Falling Off

The trouble with falling off a horse is that you’ve got to get back on it.  And everybody knows that getting on a horse is the hardest thing in the world to do.

Unless you’re trying to write a blog and you’ve taken a few days off and want to start up again but Christmas is coming which freaks you out because everyone in your neighborhood is fully decorated for Christmas and even Hanukah and you aren’t and you realize that you threw out many of your old Christmas decorations last year because they were getting shabby and you swore you’d make time to buy new ones this year and you’re wondering why you make promises like that to yourself and you still have Christmas shopping to do which is OMG TORTURE and you need to spend every extra minute at the mall or online shopping or sending Christmas lists to grandmas and aunts and uncles or at the gym or cleaning your house or putting away Halloween decorations and you volunteered to help out at school and you should really get your hair cut and maybe do something about all that gray and EVERY SINGLE charity is sending you donation envelopes which leave you racked with guilt because you can’t give all your money away because you need to save some for the gifts for friends and family that you haven’t yet bought but somehow have to and then you have to wrap them all OMG YOU HAVE TO WRAP THEM ALL and you have to find at least six babysitters from now until January and you need to call those friends and change the date of your get-together because your husband’s work party is that night and you have to have that talk with your husband where you tell him that if he wants to send Christmas cards then it is all on him and you realize that your kids both have basketball practice and dentist appointments and band concerts and special assemblies and your husband’s work travel schedule goes until December 23 so it’s really all on you and you’d like to take some time to slow down and maybe make some Christmas cookies or at least a giant bowl of eggnog into which you’d like to drown yourself or at least somehow get into the Christmas spirit that you remember from your childhood or maybe even your twenties before you became that crazy Christmas lady who listens to Christmas music three weeks before Thanksgiving and talks about how stressful the holidays are.

Yes, getting back on that horse is a tricky, tricky thing.  Especially if you’re not a cowboy.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.

I've said before that I feel bad for turkeys on Thanksgiving not because we eat them, but because they don't know how delicious they are.

Today, instead of feeling bad for turkeys, I will try to focus on the things in life that I am thankful for: the blessings of home, loved ones, and the beautiful world that we live in, the laughter of my children, the health of my family and friends, the forgiving and wonderful God who made me.

And turkeys.  I can't help but love them. 


Monday, November 21, 2011

Tell Me About My Life

My mom and I were together recently, sharing anecdotes about the children in our family and circle of friends. It’s no secret that kids are wondrous forms of entertainment. They say silly things, do silly things, have powerful observational skills, and never edit themselves. Kids have a never-fail recipe for comedy.

My children were listening to us giggle over who said what, who did what, who learned a new word or gesture. We went on and on, and at a pause in the conversation, the kids piped, “Tell us some of the things we did that are funny.”

We hesitated. My mind went blank with the pressure of an on-the-spot demand for a story about their early shenanigans.

I’ve got hundreds of stories, thousands of memories. But most of them are fleeting, snippets of a time we went to an amusement park, the time one of them got a minor injury.

They know the story of when our son called his sister a “brave little soldier” when she was a baby getting a shot at the pediatrician, how our daughter painted herself with a dark burgundy lipstick. They have laughed at the stories we have told them in the past. This time, I had a hard time coming up with new material.

I don’t want to tell them about when mommy was so overwhelmed with taking care of two babies at home that she called daddy at work and demanded his presence IMMEDIATELY. They don’t want to hear about how she and daddy argued over whose turn it was to change the next diaper.

My Facebook wall testifies about the funny stuff my kids do and say. But those memories are recent. The memories of the kids when they were small and totally dependent are foggy, like they existed in a dream or only for a short time. I’d like to see those times again, but not many of these dream-state memory scraps are captured on video or film. The memories emerge when I’m in a familiar place, or when I find a long-lost photo in the back of a picture frame.

When new parents share stories about their kids, they are often encouraged to write them down, to preserve them. The smart ones who recognize that they may want to relive these precious moments – these people will record daily memories. They understand that memories come so fast that they will never be able to remember them all.

And when they hear, “tell a story about me,” they will have a memory to share that hasn’t been warmed up countless times, a new memory to be passed on to laugh about and to cherish.


Sunday, November 20, 2011


I love babies.

This week, I got a new niece. 

Welcome, little sweetie

She is beautiful.  Plus, she is teeny, which makes her, to me, even all the more appealing.  Something about a perfect, tiny little being who is brand new to our world... sigh.

She doesn't know me yet.  She doesn't know that Aunt Andrea loves her and cannot wait to hold her and hear her cry and watch her little limbs jerk and kick and feel her little hand grasp around my finger.  She doesn't know that I can't wait to flip her upside down when she is three.

For each new life in my family and circle of friends, I have experienced the happy anticipation of their arrivals.  Each new person is wonderful to meet.  But we have been waiting for this baby for a long time.  She came at the end of a difficult pregnancy.  She is complete joy, a miracle beyond the miracle of life.

I can't wait to meet her.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Facebook is Good

It’s been well-documented about how Facebook has ruined relationships and lives: some people post terrible pictures of their loved ones and relationships are strained, others report how they did body shots off their boss’s girlfriend and relationships and careers end. 

I am careful about what I post online, and stay away from controversial issues upon which I have no business sharing or commenting.  Plus, I don’t think my boss even has a girlfriend.   For me, Facebook has served not to strain relationships, but to fill in the blanks of events in loved ones’ lives that I miss due to distance or laziness.  

I’m not the best keeper-in-toucher.  Months go by without giving people a call or a card to say hey, what’s up?  So many years have passed in some friends’ lives that I have to stop and think about how many kids they have.  This is not my best quality.  I care, but I am not good at connections.  Being better at this is a constant work in progress. 

Yesterday I was Facebooking with some loved ones who I see once a year, family members and people who I grew up with and love like family.  If Facebook didn’t exist, none of the closeness and sharing that occurred would have happened, and that would be sad.  Here’s a sampling of the important details of our lives that we shared, which would have gone unknown had Facebook not existed (names have been changed): 

Hector: Occupy(major US city) is planning to occupy the light rail to share stories of economic injustice and are encouraging commuters to do the same. Yes, the wage slaves who are already pissed off about a packed train at rush hour are going to stand in solidarity with you assholes while you make their commute even more unbearable. How does this help anyfuckingbody? The light rail is going to be awash with blood tomorrow morning. 

On a brighter note, if it's still going on tomorrow afternoon, I can't wait to verbally abuse some people! 

Me: Ewww. Wear your rubber boots. 

Hector: Can't wait to see you! I was fuming till I read your comment... brought a smile to my face :) 

Zo:  I wish I were riding this train tomorrow morning 

Jo:  At least they are occupying a huuuuge waste of tax dollars to prove the point instead of a shitty park no one cares about. 

Flo:  Jeeez that’s worse than puke on the light rail 

Me: I can't wait either! Yeee haw!!! 

Max: Yeee hawww is right!! Andrea, did your mom tell you about Sunday? 

Me: No. What's going on Sunday? 

Max: Bocci and bacon party at Dulcie’s house:)

Hector:  Please ignore the last 4 comments... back to Occupy: F those guys!

Max: If you get arrested for said blood bath, I know a good attorney ;) 

Hector: I’ll be at work long before then. I'm worried about the afternoon commute...

Me: Mmm bacon. 

Hector: Dammit Andrea!  It's about Occupy not Bacommm...bacon *drool* 

Me: On Sunday, Bacon will be occupying my mouth. 

Hector: Bwah haaahahahahahaaahahhaha!

Sigh.  I *heart* Facebook.  It brings us all closer.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011


It’s close to Christmas, which means my annual resolution to get all the shopping done quickly is in full swing.   I’ve been shopping like a maniac, friends.  Maniacally.  I’m determined to get it done before December, to get it out of the way so I can enjoy the holidays for once.

The trouble with Christmas, for me, has always been the shopping.  Cold weather, never-ending social events, even the heightened baking expectations – stressful elements of the holiday season, all of them – pale in comparison to how I experience the shopping part of it.  

I am a terrible shopper.  I remember school shopping as a kid with my mother, idly sifting through racks of clothing that overwhelmed me with too many choices.  I’d choose one thing and pronounce my love for it just to buy something, only to get it home and never wear it. 

Shopping for me has always been a means to an end.  I need socks – I get socks. I want sneakers – I get sneakers.  I don’t go to five different stores to get the best deal.  I go, I see, I buy.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t – I’ve bought many things that didn't fit right, or were too expensive, or I didn’t really need, only to have them loom larger than life in the back of my closet and find themselves in the donate pile at season’s end.

Buying gifts for others – forget it.  Will they like it?  Will it fit?  Do they already have it?  Is it appropriate?  Did I pay too much?  Did I spend enough?  There are too many variables.  Who am I to know just what a person desires?  I’ve ruined many a birthday and Christmas present by asking “so, what should I get you?” 

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me.  I think I care too much.  What do I expect, the recipient to turn cartwheels after opening my gift? 

Well, why not?  That would be the best Christmas gift EVER. 

In fact, maybe I’ll give out cartwheels this year, and see what happens.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just Throwing It Out There

I was a graduate student, and hated speaking in front of crowds.  But I was appointed the task of database organizer for the pool of volunteers that our psychology department maintained to perform student research projects, and I had to do it.  And I had to make the idea of taking part in student research projects fun and interesting.

If you took psychology in college, you probably had to participate in one or more research studies run by student researchers, receiving credit in Psych 101 for performing often boring and meaningless tasks in student research projects.  Likely no one did a test on the effects of marijuana use on anything, which was probably why you took Psych 101 in the first place.  Yeah, I was disappointed too.

It was the first time I had to make the speech to a crowd of bored, judgmental undergrads.  I went to a pretty highbrow school for my graduate degree, and the undergrads there were privileged and smart.  As a graduate student, I was certainly not privileged.  I may have been smart, but there’s something about a roomful of National Merit Scholars that makes you doubt how to spell your own name.  Okay, that’s just me.

I practiced my speech dozens of times, memorized it a couple of different ways, and entered the large classroom with my classmate, who would be handing out information to the students and providing moral support for me.  I stood at the front of the auditorium, hands in pockets, silently willing the internal butterflies to leave.  The professor got the students’ attention, introduced me, and waited for the room to quiet down so I could speak.

I raised my hand to start speaking.  I regretted this decision immediately as the tampon that I had stashed in my pocket just moments before launched into the air in a high arc.  Time slowed as two hundred pairs of eyes focused on its trajectory, one pair in horror.  I recoiled as the offensive object landed with a light thud.  Time stopped, along with my heart.  I wanted to run, cry, vomit.  I wished for a natural disaster, a heart attack, a diversion other than the embarrassing feminine hygiene product that now gleamed, mocking, from its resting place at my feet.

My classmate, hero, savior, shot out a foot quick as lightning to cover the beast, discreetly dragging it away from my shocked form.  She gave me a little nudge, and I proceeded to give the quickest “please sign up for research projects” speech that school has seen before or since.  We tore out of there.

Once outside, we gaped, amazed at what had transpired: me, troubled and wide-eyed; her, proud and clearly tickled.  At once, we howled with laughter.  I mumbled what a stupid thing to happen, thank you for saving me.  We laughed again.

That semester marked the largest percentage of Psych 101 students ever to keep their appointments for student research projects at my school.*  Do research on THAT.

El Diablo


*totally made up

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Home Sweet Home

About every other November, I give in to the pressure of the “National Change Your Clock, Change Your Smoke Alarm Batteries” campaign and check my smoke alarm batteries to make sure they still work.  When performing this task, I am reminded that my smoke alarms are hard-wired and do not require batteries.  Instead, I do the monthly required test that happens only during this biennial chore.  Afterwards, the smoke alarms chirp for hours, because I don’t know how to properly operate them.  I should consult the manual, but who knows where that is, and besides, what kind of maroon needs a manual to test a smoke alarm?

I do, especially since I stupidly do my testing at night, when late-night smoke alarm chirping would earn a Tibetan monk a one-way ticket to the padded room in my basement.  Eventually I figure it out by wildly pressing the ONE button that our smoke alarms present and they stop chirping.  Did I mention that I do this every other year?  We’ve been in our house for 11 years.  This translates to me performing this progressive comedy show roughly five times.

The other week, I made an appointment for a check of our home heating system to make sure it’s up to speed, because everyone knows if you don’t get your heating system checked, it will quit on you the first day the outside temperature hits zero.  I warned the technician that I hadn’t changed the air filter on the system for a while, maybe about a year.  Actually, I have no recollection of changing it ever, but I’m sure someone did at some point.  After the service, the technician told me that my air filter was completely black, but he replaced it, and that it was all better now. 

I asked him to check the home humidifier filter.  I was all like “We have a Home Humidifier System.  Could you check the Flux Capacitor Filterage Element?  I’m sure it’s fine.”  I pretended not to notice when six inches of calcium dust (from years of neglecting to change said Flux Capacitor Filterage Element) blew in his face when he took the cover off the humidifier.

The friendly and tactful technician said that I shouldn’t be embarrassed at all about totally ignoring my home-ownership responsibilities.  Okay, he thought it.

You could say I’m not one for home maintenance.  The day that we “winterize” the yard is the one day of the year that my whining exceeds that of my kids’ on the days I make fish for dinner.  I feel that shoveling snow is man’s work.  If I could get someone to change light bulbs in our house, I would.  I would even love someone to just tell me what kinds of light bulbs are required for all the different light fixtures we have in our house. 

When we bought our house, my husband and I thought that it would be a stepping stone to a larger, grander affair.  These days, I watch House Hunters International and judge my favorite home as the one with the least square feet.   “Pick Apartment #1 – who cares if it backs up to a nuclear waste storage pond?  It’s only 500 square feet!  You can clean that sucker in twenty minutes!”

Despite all this, our home is where our kids were born, where we’ve made tons of memories, where our families meet for holidays, the comforting haven where I spend most of my time.  For that, I love it.  I will whine and cry and put off certain “important” services, but it is the place where my life is currently anchored.  Maybe I should think of that when I’m out spending a small fortune on light bulbs and smoke alarm batteries.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ain't Nuthin' But a Number

My parents are young.  YOUNG.  When I tell people how young, they are stunned.  Sometimes I am offended when I mention my parents’ ages, because their reaction can be a little extreme, and I know it means that they think I’m much older than I really am.  And that just stinks. 

It's scary to think about how young some people are when they start out. What’s even scarier to me is that my parents had a house and children almost immediately after they got married at nineteen.  Let’s compare this to what my life was like at this age.  I was in college, and my roommates and I furnished and decorated our apartment with things like abandoned construction spools and stolen street signs.  One day, we found a baby turtle.  We let it loose in our apartment and it was gone forever in like, three hours.  A baby in my full-time care, at age nineteen?  That’s outlandish.  When I was nineteen, my biggest concern was if my fake ID was going to work in the bar that night, and which belly shirt I was going to wear as back-up in case the ID failed.  At nineteen, I was a stone cold fool.

I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I had had a child any younger than I did, let alone when I was nineteen.  Holy crap.  I still wonder who dropped the ball in the first place by deciding that I should be responsible for raising kids.  I won’t even go into how much of a nightmare marriage would have been if I had gotten married any younger than I did.  Marriage is hard.  Hard for me, hard for my husband, but mostly hard for me.  My parents, who got married virtually out of the womb, had it hard, too, though they make it seem easy.  They seem to be as in love today as the day they met.

Unlike me, my parents, at age nineteen, were grown-ups.  Whether or not they were much different than me at that age, they were of a generation from whom it was expected that at age nineteen, you are an adult, and you better darn well act like it.  Wanting to be an adult at nineteen, or even being expected to act as one, was not true for me. My husband and I got married when we were 26, not old by today’s standards at all, and I was barely functioning as an adult then.

What about my kids?  I'm not thrilled with the idea of them growing up.  YET.  My friends with teenagers tell me that will change.  My daughter says she will never leave home, that she will live in the house next door when she grows up, and if we move, she will find us and move into the house next door to THAT house.  She threatens me with this.  I tell her that she has to be 40 before she is married, and that I won’t watch her animals when she goes on vacation.

My children know that I don’t really want them to grow up.  I press down on their heads and tell them to stop growing.  I like them as children because they are fun and loving and smart, and they make me feel young.   I probably am doing something gravely wrong by telling them not to grow up until they are 40.  Whatever.  All I know is that when they are 40, my husband and I will be 70, and I hope that when they tell people our ages, they will be amazed at how young we are.

photo credit

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You Don't Know Who You're Dealing With Here

Some might consider me a little bit of a mean mom.

I don’t scrapbook, take hundreds of pictures, make homemade birthday cakes, or even volunteer much at school.  My kids do the chores that I hate to do; they vacuum and dust, and pack their own lunches.  I don’t leave them loving notes in their backpacks or brag about their latest bowel movements on Facebook.  If they want to buy something, they use their own money.  I don’t plan weekly educational excursions.  If they balk at something I plan on doing, I ignore their whining and tell them to get their shoes on RIGHT NOW.  I do not like crafts.  When they say, “I want to do a craft,” I direct them to the “craft cupboard,” where they can find some printer paper, a couple of stubby pencils, and a container half filled with dried-out markers.  I don’t let them play until they finish their homework.  I don’t make them separate meals at dinnertime - If they don’t like what we’re having, they can either eat it or there’s a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in the pantry.

What I DO is make sure they have a clean home, healthy food to eat, and love and hugs and kisses and fun and jokes and a stern warning when I am about to laser-morph into Mommy Dearest.  I confide in them that I make a lot of mistakes and that sometimes, they know more than I do about things.  I let them sleep in on Saturdays.  I make them hold hands when they fight too much, because it makes them giggle. I make them read books and turn off the TV and their electronics and say “for the love of PETE, that’s enough candy!” even if it really isn’t enough candy.  There’s never enough candy.  But that’s another story. 

Do my kids appreciate all of this, despite the mistakes?  Do they know to?  I hope so.  I think I’ve taught them that.  The best way to know if I’ve taught them is if I model it for them.  Do they see me appreciate all that I have?  I hope so, but I can do better.

I love my kids.  Most parents do.  Sometimes we get confused about what that means – we think it means we need to “do” and “be” everything for them.  I have clear personal limits that dictate how much I can do and be for my children.  I have tried, and I have found that I cannot do or be all for them.  I hope I am teaching them how to do and be for themselves.  I hope they are happy with my role in their lives, and understand that even though I might be the Meanest Mom Ever at times, I have taught them mostly good stuff.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Spoiler Alert

My daughter lost a tooth this week, and put it under her pillow before she went to bed that night.  She wondered aloud how much money she thought the Tooth Fairy would leave her.  I tucked her in and kissed her goodnight.  Within five minutes she was asleep, dreaming of a flitting pixie dragging bags of bloody teeth and a wad of cash.

I made a mental note to put on my Tooth Fairy hat before I turned in, and retired to the living room to watch TV.  I woke up the next morning and realized with a sinking feeling that the Tooth Fairy had dropped the ball.

My daughter didn’t say a word that morning, no tearful lament about why the Tooth Fairy shunned her, how she failed at her one duty of trading cash for teeth.

Later that day, my daughter mentioned that the Tooth Fairy didn’t show.  I mumbled something lame, like maybe the Tooth Fairy didn’t see the tooth under the pillow.  My daughter suddenly asked, “Are you the Tooth Fairy?”

For years I have regretted our choice of perpetuating childhood myths and weaving tangled webs of silly lies.  We’ve made fools of our kids, taking advantage of their innocence to tell tales about how Santa, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy exist to make them happy.  It eats at my conscience.  Plus, it’s exhausting.  It’s one of those “I didn’t know it would be this much maintenance” decisions that I question, like coloring my hair, having a pet, buying dry clean only clothing.

This was my moment to come clean about the whole business.  I could at least put the Tooth Fairy to rest.  Maybe even the whole lot.

“What do you think?”

“I think that you are the Tooth Fairy.”  She held her breath.

“You are correct.”

My daughter exhaled, and a huge jack-o-lantern grin lit up her face.  “I knew it.  I knew you were the one.”  She giggled a little.

“Is it okay?”

“Yeah.  It’s okay.”

I said that we taught her about the Tooth Fairy because it’s what parents do - it’s just for fun. 

An hour later, my daughter came to me, her smile gone.

“I wish I didn’t know you are the Tooth Fairy.”

Uh-oh.  “Why?”

“It’s fun to believe.  I like to wake up and find my tooth missing and money under my pillow.”

I told her that I’d put the money under her pillow that very night.  She was okay with this, and seemed to be relieved that even if I knew she knew, that I was willing to continue the fantasy just for the fun of it.

That night, she put the tooth under her pillow again.  We played the game - I made a point to ask her how much money she thought the Tooth Fairy would bring her for the tooth, and that she better get to sleep so the Tooth Fairy could visit.  I tucked her in, kissed her goodnight, and went to watch TV. 

Through this experience, I learned that children do not see childhood myths as lies when they know the truth, that they intuitively feel our love through the myth.  The lies are secondary to the love we give them through Santa, the Tooth Fairy, even the stupidest myth of all, the Easter Bunny.  I also learned that if you’re a slacker like me, when you choose to tell your kids the truth about the Tooth Fairy, you better have hands quick as lightning to lift a tooth and slip cash under a pillow when you drop the ball again.


Thursday, November 3, 2011


When I was little, we lived in the country and only Trick-or-Treated at a few houses: our two neighbors, our grandparents, sometimes our parents' friends. It was a magical time, and we'd always come home with a small stash of something or other: cookies from Grandma, a couple of Snickers bars, sometimes a dollar.

Now, we live in the suburbs. We live in a big neighborhood with a hundred families, and on Halloween night, it's a huge block party. Half the parents walk the kids around while the other half stay home to hand out treats, play spooky music and keep costumed kids from going ablaze as they stumble by driveway firepits, their capes and princess dresses swinging in the wind. Halloween night is just as magical now as it was when my mom used to drive from our house to Grandma's and we'd giggle under our plastic masks as she would try to "guess" who we were before handing over the goods.

The only possible thing wrong with Trick-or-Treating is that it's only for kids. When teens get frowned on for going door-to-door and begging for candy, you can imagine the reaction that an adult trick-or-treater might have. I've only heard about this phenomenon - adult trick-or-treating - but never experienced it myself. I'm not sure that I would mind if I gave out candy to a grown-up or two on Halloween night. My thought is that a person must really have it bad for sugar if they dress up and go door-to-door for Tootsie Pops once a year, and that they shouldn't be judged.

I'm just saying.

I have a mild obsession with candy, and I stay home to hand it out to the neighborhood kids every year because I do not trust myself to keep from Trick-or-Treating along with the kids.   I do not eat any of the candy I am handing out, for I know that my time will come. My kids are compassionate, and when they come home from Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, they allow me to inspect their treat bags like a bomb-sniffing dog. I am a baboon mother looking for lice on her babies' heads, but instead of lice, I am picking treats. For later, for me. In the past, my kids would bring home a few things that I like, and we'd throw away the stuff that nobody will eat, like Gummy "severed" body parts, weird or broken lollipops, loose jellybeans, half-wrapped Hershey's kisses, questionably-aged hard candies, anything scarily sticky. This year, we threw nothing away - my kids got some pretty awesome candy, and a lot of it. Every piece is someone's favorite; my personal stash contains a full-size Butterfinger.  Full-size.  It was a Halloween miracle.

Thank you, neighborhood, for really pulling through this Halloween. You made this candy fanatic a happy lady.  Happy Fall, indeed.

Right after this picture was taken, I dove in.
About half is left.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It Happened to Me

When I was twenty-two, I moved across the country to work for some dear family friends.  They helped me set up my life, from where I was going to work out to how to get home from the grocery store without getting stuck on the freeway.  They also referred me to their own doctors, who were reputable and best of all, time-tested. 
When I was twenty-two, I cared nothing about who would be performing my professional health exams, including, but not limited to the fields of dentistry, dermatology, and gynecology.  I didn’t yet have a preference of male vs. female doctor or age of said doctor.  I didn't care about the kindness of office staff.  For me, the details were of no concern.

It was during one particular medical visit that I began to understand what going to the doctor really means.  You must have a rapport with your medical practitioner to feel comfortable divulging your health concerns.  He or she should not be crazy, or worse, a pervert.  You should always pay very close attention to what your doctor is telling you during an exam.  These lessons about being an informed patient culminated in one very important doctor visit when I was twenty-two: my annual gynecological exam.

It was during this first meeting with my gynecologist, who was highly regarded and recommended by our friends, that I found myself in a very awkward position, more awkward than lying naked on your back with feet resting in metal stirrups, with only a thin paper sheet for modesty while two other fully clothed people stared at and poked at your private parts.  Yeah.  More awkward than that.

So there I was, all laid out awaiting examination, and the doctor, nurse and I were chatting and getting to know each other.  I decided that in spite of the run-of-the-mill horrifying embarrassment of this kind of exam, I really liked this doctor.  I was glad that our friends had recommended him, relieved that I wouldn’t have to find another doctor.  He was good.  Plus, he was young and married, not bad looking, and not creepy in any way.

Then things started to get weird.

As he started to get down to the business of introducing my dramamama to the speculum, I inititated my mental defense mechanism of zoning out for the duration of the all-encompassing discomfort that is a Pap Test.  That’s when I heard the doctor ask,

“Now Andrea, tell me this:  Have you ever had an Oral Pap?”


My mind snapped to attention and my heart thudded to the pit of my stomach as I wildly tried to grasp the meaning of his words.  Oral Pap?  Is that a thing?  Surely he means to swab the inside of my mouth.  Yes, that’s it.  Something in my mouth has something to do with my gynecological health.  Somehow, my saliva holds a clue about whether or not I am prone to yeast infections, or if I have uterine cancer. 

Or or or or or or or Oh My God, OR.  He means to swab me *orally*

Oh God, why did I move here, away from my safe, familiar, and conservative home state to a wild and foreign place where sexual vulgarity is the norm, orgies are expected everywhere, and even the GYNECOLOGISTS OFFER ORAL PAP TESTS?  Which one of them is going to do it?  And Where Are My Clothes?

I said nothing for about two seconds, or maybe 12 minutes.  Just as things started getting even MORE awkward, I did the most genius thing I could think of:  I giggled weakly.

The doctor and nurse sensed the strain in the room, and fell silent and businesslike.  I had tensed up so much that my fingers and toes were curled up into fists, and the doctor was starting to have trouble inserting the speculum into my lady parts.  No oral exams for this girl, Buster.

“So, have you?”

“Have I what?”  Depraved quack.  Please oh please oh please get me out of here.  Maybe my head will explode and end this nightmare.

“Uh, ever had an abnormal Pap?”

All the blood rushed out of my head.  “Did you say abnormal Pap?”   Abnormal.  Not Oral.

By now, the doctor is thinking that I am an idiot. “Yes.  Have you?”

“No.”  A minute passed as I relaxed and let the nice, good-looking, non-perverted, totally normal gynecologist do his job of swabbing my uterus the old-fashioned way.

As he was finishing up the exam, I had to come clean.  “By the way, do you know why I got so weird back there?  Because I thought you said ‘Oral Pap.’”

I can still hear them laughing.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lyrical Gangster

Ah, nuts.  I was all ready to write a post about all the horrible music I love and am not ashamed to admit, when I read over there on Aiming Low a similar post.  It wasn’t the first time I imagined something and then saw it out there in Internetland, as if my brainwaves were somehow sucked into my laptop screen and filtered through the brains of others looking at the same content at a particular time.  Our thoughts intermingle and filter back to our respective brains with the same idea, and I came around too late, probably because I was too busy diatribing about the sluttiness of Milk or something else utterly idiotic.  Anyway, I still have that list of terrible music I love, and the reasons for this love, which is so wrong but feels so right.

  1. Copacabana (Barry Manilow):  I’m a total sucker for a song with a story.  Barry Manilow’s disco saga encompasses everything I love about a song: a strong latin beat, love and loss, an old lady drinking herself blind in a disco wearing a faded showgirl dress.  Timeless; classic.

  1. Dinosaur (Ke$ha):  This song turns me into a nineteen-year-old with a short skirt and fake ID who thinks she is the toast of the bar she snuck into.  I’ve listened to it so much that my family has heard “Hittin’ on me WHAAA?  You need a CAT SCAN!” about twelve too many times.

  1. Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You (Frankie Valli, also Lauryn Hill): This is the ultimate lounge lizard song.  I’d like to say that I kill this at karaoke, except I’ve never done it.  Love the raw emotion of this one, which pairs well with white patent leather loafers and an open-collar shirt, lots of gold chains and possibly a velvet jacket.  I guess I’m also a 70’s-era cross dresser when hearing this song.

  1. Party in the U.S.A. (Miley Cyrus):  I love, love, love this song.  When it came out, I immediately fell in love with it and downloaded it from iTunes and listened to it endlessly and without shame, because my kids were as awed of it as I was.  I even have my own little internal video of me singing this song, complete with winking and hip-jerks. Now, when I kick it up into high gear, my kids roll their eyes.  Sorry kids.  I don’t care if your friends are with us.  Mommy’s playing her jam.

  1. Dental Care (Owl City):  I especially love this ode to the dentist visit because I hate going to the dentist, stemming from a particularly torturous appointment where I was stabbed in the mouth five times with Novocain and ended with me sobbing uncontrollably and with a massive pounding headache and a numb face that lasted several hours past the norm.  I listen to this song when I have an appointment, and it makes my teeth hurt, it’s so sweet.  A friend said that it makes her ears hurt because it’s so bad.  But I still love it.

  1. Livin’ La Vida Loca (Ricky Martin): I’ll never forget seeing Ricky Martin perform this song on the Grammys before he became popular again, years after Menudo.  I was like, “Whaaaa…? Whooo…?  And drooled just a little bit on my green moleskin jeans.  I couldn’t get enough of older Ricky, his dazzling smile and big brown eyes. Excuse me for a moment while I remember that moment again.

  1. Rocky Raccoon (The Beatles):  Another song with a story.  I love it because it’s mostly talking, sharing a good story with a little bit of singing.  A good campfire song.  Which would be awesome if I liked campfires, or being outside, but since I like neither one of those, I like to sing it in my car at the top of my lungs, inflecting in all the right places.

  1. Praise You (Fatboy Slim): This isn’t really a terrible song, but it’s also not one that too many people would herald as one of their favorites.  I love this song because it played at our wedding reception after my husband and I left for our honeymoon. This was a big mistake, because it was when all the action took place.  When we watch the video of our guests dancing to this song, a wide shot shows so many drunken people doing so many questionable dance moves and activities that we cannot show it to any of them.

  1. The Promise (When in Rome): One of my favorite terrible 80’s songs.  It takes me back to high school and the wish for that perfect 80’s John Hughes moment that included Andrew McCarthy wanting me back after ditching me at prom.

  1.  Round and Round (Ratt): Something about the simple nature of crashing guitars and repeating tune of the lyrics in this song knock me right out.  It’s so tough, yet it talks about shooting arrows through hearts – pure love, I just know it.

So that's my top ten.  There are others that I enjoy on the sly, but they’re too embarrassing to admit.  What terrible music are you listening to, o sneaky one?