Monday, December 20, 2010

Here We Come A-Modeling!

After the experience in my last post, you would think I would have given up modeling. You would think.

A few weeks after the video fiasco, my phone rang (this was before caller ID) so I answered it. Before I could even say hello, the modeling manager said he had another job for me. It would be fun, I didn’t have to audition, and he needed my husband, too. Well, that last part certainly caught my interest. I said yes.

So, on a sunny October morning, we headed to the address. We were more than a little surprised that the location was a house. We were greeted by the photographer, who led us to a lower level room. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace and just to the left of the fireplace stood a completely decorated Christmas tree. Across the room was a free-standing wooden door, solid at the bottom, with small panes of glass in the top half. It had been propped up and the camera was on a tripod on the other side of the door. Before I had a chance to ask questions, the photographer’s assistant took us to another room, where our “wardrobe” was, provided by Dillards.  My husband’s outfit was a striped night shirt and dark blue knee length robe. I giggled when I saw it. Then she pulled mine out of the garment bag. I would have taken back the giggle if I could. Full length plaid flannel night gown and dark green chenille robe. Did I mention that it was seventy degrees that day?

The concept: family of four on Christmas morning. The children arrived, accompanied by their moms--boy, age seven or so, and girl, not a day over three. Really, I was going to be a mom of a three year old? I had a flashback to an incident that happened a week before...

My daughter had been hired to model western wear in a catalog. One of the outfits also came in adult sizes and the owner of the company wanted a mother-daughter photo. My daughter’s manager told him “Don’t worry, her mother's here.” He agreed to meet me. I walked in, and he asked me if I had any photos, which of course, I didn’t. He then told me to take a seat outside his door and he called the manager back in. I couldn't help but hear what they were saying. “She’s too old, we’ll go with someone else” was all I heard. I wanted to throw the door open and demand to know how I could be too old to be my own daughter’s mother! But instead, I slumped down in my chair deflated.  I drove to the location of the shoot and watched my daughter pose and smile at her new “mother” who I later found out was seventeen years old. I did the math. Her teenage mom would have given birth at the age of eight. Oddly, I felt better.

The children changed into pajamas and robes, and we were told where to stand. My husband stood in front of the fireplace with a coffee cup in one hand and his leg up on the hearth. The boy sat on the floor in front of him. I got to sit on the hearth and the little girl was going to be standing in front of me with my arms around her. Piece of cake, right? There were two things I was reminded about three year olds. They can’t stay in one place for long, and they don’t like to be held by strangers. We were in our poses for a good ten seconds before she burst out crying. I tried to comfort her and she looked at me like I was the boogie man. Her mother said soothing things to her from the sidelines, but she really wanted her mother to hold her. That went on for fifteen minutes. Did I mention I was wearing flannel and chenille and sitting less than a foot from the crackling fire? The photographer decided to shoot the photo while she was winding up for the next outburst. The only other direction we got was for my husband to take his foot off the hearth. I turned to look at him. Heehee. I’m sure he didn’t want my husband’s hairy leg in the photo and risk scaring small children. The photographer either got the shot he wanted or just gave up, but we were finally finished. As we drove away, I remember wondering what the photo was for, and if we would ever get to see it.

Two weeks before Christmas, it was a Sunday morning and we were sleeping in. The phone rang, but we let it go to voicemail. The phone rang again. And, again. Starting to wonder if it was the same person and something was wrong, I got up to check our messages. “Who was it?” my husband asked, as I listened to the third message. “Go get the paper” was all I could say. He handed me the Sunday edition of The Rocky Mountain News and I started ripping through the sections. OH MY GOD was all I could say when I got to a magazine section and the photo of us in our pajamas was on the cover. There we were, in all our flannel glory. The photo was taken through the panes of glass, as if to be peeking in on a family Christmas.  The first thing I noticed (no big surprise) was my hair, which had two inches of black roots. That was odd. I’ve heard a camera can add five pounds, but black roots? Next, I looked at my husband’s leg. They used a shot where his leg was on the hearth, but it was completely blackened out. Smart editing. The boy was holding a box that was not wrapped on the bottom, and the huge excitement on his face looked odd because he hadn’t opened the gift yet. The little girl had her hand on my knee and I hoped it wasn’t obvious that she was pushing my leg to get away. She was looking at her “real” mother and I was holding on tight so she couldn’t leave the shot. Great. It looked like I was abusing her.

The phone calls continued all day as friends and neighbors found us in the newspaper. “Is that really you?” was the question we heard the most. I wanted so badly to say “No, natural blondes don’t HAVE dark roots, and my husband has two legs, not just one.”

The newspaper insert was about ten pages long, advertising different stores at our local mall. We were so relieved when the commotion died down, and the ad with our photo was probably used to line birdcages, catch paint drips, and ignite logs. I was very happy to put that experience behind me, and I would live a happy life if I never saw that photo again.

Two days before Christmas, my husband and I decided to do some last minute shopping. We headed to the mall, found a parking space, and ran to the doors to escape the cold. There in front of us, as we entered the mall, was a poster size version of our photo. At the same time, we both groaned and pulled our coat collars up. It was everywhere--on the directory, hanging from the ceiling, outside the movie theater.

A few days after Christmas, my husband surprised me with two of the posters. I still run across them every once in awhile. That was the end of my modeling career. Most of it was fun, some was tough on my ego. Even if I get a call tomorrow, I’d have to say no. I don’t think I could take being told I’m too old to be a grandmother.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Me? A Model Mom?

“Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?” –Derek Zoolander

When my daughter was nine or ten, she did some local modeling. Since I took her to weekly classes, I got to know her manager pretty well. One day he called, saying he needed a big favor. He had gotten a call from a company looking for adult models, and he only managed children. Would I be willing to meet with them? I tried to make excuses, but finally relented.

The day of the “meeting” I tried on every item of clothing I owned, and settled on a tweed suit with wide black belt and simple black pumps. I was ready to go. My husband agreed to drive me. As I arrived and stood at the office door, I looked down at my outfit and felt confident. I entered the receptionist area, and looked at the two women already seated. I can only describe them as head-to-toe chic. In a matter of seconds I went from being Audrey Hepburn to Tammy Faye Bakker. I grabbed a magazine and pretended to read as I scoped them out. I was guessing they were old enough to vote, but not old enough to drink. I was thirty six years old. I was screwed. The other thing I noticed was that they both had black leather books, no doubt their fabulous portfolios. If they asked me for photos, all I had was my driver’s license and my Sam’s card. I was so screwed.

When they finally called me in, I was unprepared for the amount of people who would be witnessing my humiliation. Four men and two women were seated at a long table. No, I have no photos. No, I have no experience. You want to see my WHAT? My runway walk? Good Lord, I had to walk from one end of the room to the other without tripping. I tried to remember how models turned. My feet tangled. I looked at them sheepishly, and in unison the group said “That’s enough, thank you.” I practically ran out of there, and once I was back in the car, I looked at my husband. Before he had a chance to ask, I said “THIS…NEVER…HAPPENED. We are NEVER to speak of this. EVER.”

Life returned to normal, and I continued my not-so-glamorous real role as a mom. I put the whole modeling fiasco out of my mind…until I got a call. “They loved you!” my daughter’s manager told me. My first reaction was “What is wrong with those people?” “They did suggest you get some runway training, so someone on my staff will help you.”

It turned out that the job was a video for a line of women’s clothing. They hired two other women, and we sat together as the director explained the concept. We would model the clothes on a runway, complete with fog machine and “fake” audience and photographers. As each of us came down the runway, the video would cut to scenes of us wearing the same outfits, but in our “regular” lives. The director told the redhead that she would be in a board room, giving a presentation to a group of men. He told the brunette that she would be a traveling business woman, briefcase in hand, checking into a hotel. Of course, my mind wandered and I imagined myself as a lawyer, or a politician, or possibly a college professor. He turned to me. “You will be a mom.”

The day we taped the fashion show was a lot of fun. I sat and drank coffee (we started very early in the morning) as I waited for my turn with the hair stylist and the makeup artist. An hour later, I had huge hair and more makeup than I had ever worn, complete with brown lipstick. I had to trust that they were trying to make me look good. Finally, the clothes arrived. The redhead was to wear burgundy separates, and the outfit for the brunette was a black knit dress with a matching jacket. My outfit? A purple and turquoise jumpsuit. Apparently, I was a circus mom.

The second day of shooting took place at a furniture store. They had taken a living room display and decorated it for Christmas. I was to sit on the sofa, and my two “daughters” would bring me presents from under the tree. We would hug and I would open the gifts and laugh delightedly. I was told to keep the boxes tilted away from the camera since they were empty. The two little girls were adorable in their holiday outfits. The sofa where I sat was plush and gorgeous. And, then there was me. Nothing says Christmas like brown lipstick and a purple and turquoise jumpsuit.

A few weeks later, a copy of the video arrived in the mail. Just as I was slipping it into the VCR, the kids got home from school. Perfect. I really wanted their opinion because I knew they would be honest. When the video was over, I waited anxiously. My daughter said “You look pretty, Mom. Who were those girls?” I guess it was strange for her to see me with other daughters. Now, the real test. My son. “I liked it. It looked like a real fashion show.” I was so relieved. I just didn’t want to look like a fool. My son was still looking at me. “What?” “You’re not going to show this to anyone else, are you?”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Remembering Thanksgiving BPT (Before Pop-up Timers)!!!

As I fight my way through the grocery store, equipped with yet another cart that won’t make left turns, I find myself reminiscing about Thanksgivings past.

Turkeys and I have a love/hate relationship. LOVE cooking them, HATE thawing them. One year, after two days in the refrigerator, the turkey was still frozen solid. I immediately called the Turkey Hotline. Fortunately, Mom was home and answered the phone. “You need to put it in cold water” she said. “If you don’t have a big enough bucket, it can go in your bathtub.” So, the turkey and I went upstairs to the master bath. When I thought it was filled enough, I dumped the turkey in. Now, I could barely get this thing upstairs, it was so heavy. But, darned if it didn’t float. I could already see the e-coli forming on the part of the turkey exposed to the air. I looked around for something heavy, but everything I tried eventually slipped off and the turkey would pop up again.

After trying everything I could think of, I settled on a cookie sheet with a stack of pots and pans balanced on top of that. Success! I went back downstairs to start on the pies. A few hours later, the kids and I heard a crash from upstairs. Darn it, I thought. We ran up, and couldn’t help but notice wet footprints going down the hallway. I followed the footprints and the kids went to check on the turkey. Well, apparently, Kitty decided to leap from the edge of the tub onto Turkey Island, and was immediately immersed in very cold water. I found her under the bed, completely soaked. Needless to say, I knew she would never try that again. But, just in case, every year since, I close the door.

The very next year, our family was sitting around the dining room table, enjoying the bounty of food. At the end of the meal, I brought out the pumpkin pie. Everyone groaned, so we decided to watch a movie, and then have dessert. About twenty minutes into the movie, there was a lull in the action, and I noticed a sound I didn’t recognize. I asked if the kids heard it and they said yes. We listened for quite awhile, and then something clicked in my brain. I knew that sound! The kids followed as I rushed to the dining room. There, in the middle of the table, tongue deep into the pumpkin pie was our Lhasa Apso, Teddy. Not too concerned because I had made two pies, I marveled at what this dog had accomplished. The table was still set with plates, silverware, candles, wine glasses and water goblets. He had managed to get to the pie without disturbing anything on the table. I could just picture him moving one paw at a time, stopping to make sure we hadn’t heard him, and then proceeding. I think we all had a little more respect for him after that.

My favorite story goes way back to the first Thanksgiving dinner I ever made. For years, we spent the holiday with my in-laws, but we had moved to another state. I was on my own. My biggest concern was getting it all done by early afternoon. I wasn’t sure how long the turkey would take, and I needed the oven for the pies and various casseroles. I figured I needed to start cooking at 5 am. So, there I was, up before the sun. By the time dinner was ready, I had used every bowl, pan, baking sheet, measuring cup, and spoon we had. I brought the food out and placed it on the table. Wow, I thought, this looks like a meal you would see in a magazine. I finally sat down for the first time that day. I quickly drank half a glass of wine while the food was passed around. I stood up and excused myself from the table. I climbed the stairs to our bedroom, and collapsed on the bed. I slept for four hours. I missed the meal. I missed Thanksgiving.

I still struggle. The turkey never seems to thaw in time, and I am forced to put my hand into the icy cold cavity to retrieve the goody bags inside (I think I had cooked two turkeys before I even knew about the bags). No one has invented a turkey anchor so I am still piling things on top of the bird to hold it down. I still need a bolt cutter to get the stupid wire thingy off the legs. And, I still do my shopping two days before Thanksgiving. Which reminds me…I am next in line to check out. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

There's No Place Like Home!

People say to me “Elaine, most of your stories happened a long time can you remember back in such detail?” Well, sometimes I don’t have to go very far back. Like today, for instance.

I can’t say it started like any other day, because due to a serious brain fart three weeks ago, I scheduled a dentist appointment for a Monday morning. Two hours…that’s how long I was in the dentist chair. The entire lower half of my face was numb. I’d never been so happy to leave a place in my life. I got home, and the first thing I did was let the dogs out. As I passed through the kitchen I noticed a spider floating in the dog’s water bowl. When I was completely confident that it was dead, I took the bowl outside to dump it. Because we have an obnoxious kitten (yes, some kittens can be obnoxious) who tries to escape every time there is a door open, I pulled it shut behind me. Dumped the water bowl, turned to go back in, and the door was locked. I immediately had that this is bad feeling.

I knew the front door was locked, because I had just locked it. We have a hidden spare key, but I had given it to our painter so he could get in while we were out of town. He returned it, but did I put it back in the hiding place? I already knew the answer, but I checked anyway. No key. I sized up my situation. Both doors locked and no phone. I checked all the windows and they were locked tight. The only person who could help me was in a meeting on the other side of town.

I saw my neighbor’s front door open. A neighbor I have been waving to for over five years, but never met. I knocked on her door, trying not to drool out of the side of my mouth. I introduced myself and asked to borrow her phone. It went to voicemail and I tried hard not to sound completely pathetic, but I left a message that I needed him to come home. I went back to our house, found a sunny spot in the backyard to sit, and the dogs and I waited. When an hour and a half had gone by, I started plotting how I could break in. Then, I was reminded of another horrible situation I had gotten myself into....

About six years ago, when I lived by myself in a condo, I decided to go out on the balcony to see what the temperature was like, so I could decide whether to wear a coat or not to work. Just as I closed the sliding door, the safety bar slips down into place, and I am locked out...on my second floor coat...wearing a skirt and heels. I figured it wouldn’t be long before someone would go by walking their dog and I could get help. An entire hour went by and there was no one. A neighbor I knew who worked at home had a ground floor unit, and I thought if I yelled loud enough he would hear me. Nope, that didn’t work either. I looked in the little storage closet, and noticed there were some drop cloths. I could tie them together, attach them to the door handle and shimmy my way to the ground…wearing a skirt…and heels.

By then, I knew they were probably worried about me for not showing up at work. I pictured a city-wide search, and how silly I would look on the news, when they discovered I hadn’t been abducted at all...I was just locked out on my balcony. I got mad. What happened next was one of those bursts of strength that mothers have when their child is trapped under a car. Using nothing but my bare hands, I pulled at the door frame until it started to bend. Then I slammed my body against the door, creating a gap large enough for my hand to fit through and lift the stupid safety bar.

Now, my present situation wasn’t as bad as all that. But, I had been waiting two hours now. The numbness of my face was wearing off, and I desperately wanted a Tylenol. What I needed was my inner MacGyver to kick in. We have a tool chest on our patio and I looked to see what there was. I decided to break a window in the back door, stick my hand through and unlock the door. But, I was worried about the obnoxious kitten because I knew he was probably parked right on the other side of the door. I remembered seeing people preparing their homes for a hurricane by putting tape across their windows in an X pattern. I found a roll of duct tape and covered every square inch of the window. I then went to another window, called out to the kitten, and when I knew he was safely out of the way, I took a heavy tool (couldn’t find the hammer I had pictured myself using) and started slamming it into the tape covered window. I couldn’t believe how hard I was hitting it, and it wasn’t breaking. I knew I only had a few seconds before the kitten would come back to the door, so I swung hard. It started to break.

Now, on TV they always wrap their arm in a jacket or something before they stick it in the jagged opening, but the only thing available was my Coldwater Creek sweater which I had miraculously saved from the rag bin, when I managed to get the nail polish I spilled out of it. There was no way I was going to endanger that sweater again. So, I just stuck my bare arm in. Unlocked the door, put the dogs in their crates, tossed the kitten in my office, and swept up the broken glass. They are coming to replace the window tomorrow. I can’t wait to tell the glass guy that I broke it myself. He’ll either be very impressed, or replace the glass quicker than he’s ever done before, and get the heck out of here. I’m okay with either.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ten Things I Never Thought I’d Do

When I decided to do this list, I started writing down all the things I could think of. It was quickly apparent that my list had a theme, so I am calling this “Ten Things I Never Thought I’d Do Regarding Food.” There will be more lists forthcoming.

1. Eat at the mall. For decades, I just shopped and went home. Now, I am a slave to the food court. I blame Cinnabon. There are 750 Cinnabon franchises and I have eaten at 428 of them.

2. Reminisce about past meals. I can’t remember the password to my bank account, but I can describe (in detail) meals I had four years ago.

3. Stash candy. My grandparents had a crystal candy dish, and to children who only got candy at Easter and Halloween, it was truly a glorious thing. My mother had a taste for candy and we knew it was in the house somewhere, but the same woman who hid our Christmas presents in the same spot in her closet every year, managed to find a perfect hiding spot for candy. And, I’m convinced she ate the wrappers, too. I am sorry to say I have a candy drawer. And, it’s a big one.

4. Eating one meal while planning another. I try not to, but while I am eating breakfast, I am thinking about lunch and dinner. That scares me.

5. Eat standing up at the sink. I do this after clearing the table of dishes. Now, I could talk about researchers claiming that food, while eaten standing up, has fewer calories. But, I know those researchers weren’t scientists. They were just women like me. In self defense, I only eat those things that would be a terrible waste if they went down the garbage disposal.

6. Become a recipe junkie. It’s the photos. If I see a photo of a scrumptious meal, I have to have that recipe. I will drool as I read off the ingredients, rip it out of the newspaper or magazine, scan it and send it to my recipe junkie friends, and put it in my “recipe file” knowing that I will never make it. And, I need the recipe for everything I eat at a party, even though I know it only tastes good because I didn’t have to cook it.

7. Forage for food. If I get stuck somewhere and miss meal time, I will eat anything I can get my hands on. A lint-covered cough drop from the bottom of my purse is not off limits. I would suck the mint flavoring off a toothpick, and not think twice.

8. Forget about sharing. I have convinced myself that you only have to share when the other person is aware there is something to be shared. Let’s say a relative sends a small box containing half a dozen chocolates. You mentally determine that three of those are yours. You eat your three. Then it occurs to you that the other person isn’t home, so doesn’t know how many there were, so you eat another one, ready to claim that there were only four in the box. Then, it really gets ugly as you realize they have no idea anything arrived, so you eat them all and take the empty box outside to the trash can and bury it under something else. This is hypothetical, of course.

9. Give into urges. I was shopping alone; there was no one to tell me not to, so I bought ten packages of Marshmallow Peeps for ten dollars. How could I pass up such a good deal? And really, each box of fifteen peeps is one serving.

10. Eat on the way home from the grocery store. I only started to do this recently, and this is what motivated me to make this list. I put the bags of groceries in the back of my Jeep, start to close the door, and then suddenly I will rip through all the bags trying to find the box of cookies. Once I find it, I throw it through the car to the front seat. That way I am keeping my shame to myself. Then, I will proceed to eat half the box on the trip home. The really sad part is…I only live half a mile from the store.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting “Stung” by Love!

Even when I was young, I didn’t like first dates. There’s the stupid nervousness and trying to learn about each other without it sounding like an interrogation. Wait…let’s not forget the pre-date issues, like getting a big zit in the middle of your forehead! Or discovering two minutes before you’re getting picked up that the shirt you want to wear is missing a button; the one at your chest. So, you find a guy who doesn’t make you nauseous, you get married, and never have to worry about first dates again. Right?

Then why, at the age of forty eight, did I find myself standing in my bathroom getting ready for a first date? The interrogation had been done online, but now I was going to come face-to-face with a man who seemed so great, I knew there was surely something very wrong with him. I danced in my bathroom to “It’s Raining Men” to get me in the mood for the date. I chose a turtleneck sweater and dark jeans. Every inch of me was covered. I guess I didn’t want to give off any kind of signals—like I was a woman.

My daughter drove me to the art museum where I was meeting him. In a weird role reversal kind of thing, my daughter told me to “go have fun” and call her if I needed a ride home.

The lobby was full of people, so I searched all the male faces to see if I recognized him from his photo. I spotted him leaning against a wall, and worked my way through the crowd. Now, what happened next had everything to do with my age. I can see objects which are miles away, but I can’t see anything within three feet of me. That causes a problem with my depth perception. When I walked up to him, I accidently pressed my body against his. He told me many months later that he thought I was very friendly--so much for not sending signals.

The date was incredibly fun. My only embarrassing moment was when I was pointing to a certain area of a painting, and a guard jumped out of nowhere and told me quite seriously to step away from the painting. I guess I was trying to break the tension, so I stuck out my wrists so he could cuff me. I don’t think the guard got it, but my date was amused.

After we left the museum, we walked downtown to get dinner. The conversation was great, he was smart and witty, and there was definitely chemistry. But, I had reached the point in our date where I started to wonder how this fantastic guy could possibly be single. I knew there had to be something wrong with him, I just hadn’t figured out what.

Our nine hour date—yes, I said nine—was coming to an end. We walked through a city park to get to the parking garage. I couldn’t believe I was having romantic thoughts, and this was our first date. Maybe when you’re in your forties, everything is speeded up. Anyway, I was starting to give up on finding something wrong with him. The hour was late and the garage looked empty. We got to his level and his car was the only one in the whole garage. As we got closer, I could just make out the shape of his car. I suddenly froze. Actually, I was still walking, but my brain froze. Directly under one of the lights sat a bright yellow Gremlin. With black stripes. Like a bumblebee. I just couldn’t grasp in my brain that this guy I was just feeling so attracted to, would choose to drive this car.

I told myself I had to act like the mature woman I was, and not be judgmental. I had come a long way from the teenage girl who got back with her boyfriend when he bought a Camaro. I searched my brain to come up with a comment about the car that didn’t sound at all sarcastic. I had just opened my mouth when I realized he was walking past the Gremlin. WHAT? This wasn’t his car? We went around a bend and sitting there was a dark blue Jeep Grand Cherokee. This mature woman wanted to jump up and cheer! This was exactly the car I thought he would have.

After years of being together, I still wonder if I would have gone on a second date with him, if the bumblebee on wheels was his car. Thank goodness, we’ll never know.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dirty Laundry Exposed!

Six years ago, I fell in love. How did I know it was love? Was it the thundering explosion of fireworks, trumpets screaming from the heavens, my heart welling up in my chest until I was sure it would burst? No. I knew I was in love the first time I did his laundry. For me, to love him was to love his dirty clothes.

I treated those cotton T shirts like they were made of the finest silk, spun from the rarest silkworms. I folded them with military precision, and stacked them to the standard of the most elite menswear store. I couldn’t wait to see his face when I presented to him this symbolic offering of my unfathomable love. “Awe, you did my laundry…aren’t you sweet.”

Fast forward twelve hundred and forty eight loads of dirty laundry. “Honey, do I have any clean white socks?” I mumble “I don’t know.” He searches the laundry basket with no luck, and finally discovers white socks in the washer. What he doesn’t know is they have been there for a week and a half. They are in a holding pattern until the dryer gets freed up, which won’t happen until I change the sheets on our bed. I like to put clean sheets on straight from the dryer for that fresh smell. Yes, I know the fresh smell dissipates after sitting in the dryer for so much time. But, it’s not like I’m fanatical about it. I decide to pull out the sheets and put them back in later. His precious socks get tossed in the dryer. I set the dryer to “incinerate.” He tells me he can’t wait and he’ll have to change his clothes so he can wear black socks. Yes, there are black socks in his drawer. And blue and gray, and several shades of brown. Just not white.

One day, as he eyed the mountain of his clean laundry stacked on his side of the bed, he asked me why I sorted it, washed it, dried it, and folded it, but I didn’t put it away. I didn’t even have to think about this one. “Because, I want you to see the laundry and realize for just a split second that I worked hard to get this pile of clothes clean. If I put it away in your drawers, you might just pull out what you need each day and take it for granted that somehow you have clean clothes.” That was the end of that conversation.

Weeks later when I was looking for a sweater on the top shelf of our closet, I made a discovery that shook my world-- a never-opened package of white socks. When he got home, I threw the socks on the bed, and said “Explain THIS!”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Price of Winning!

We all like to have our way, but there are some drawbacks.

The other day, we stopped in at Petsmart for cat and dog food. He headed to the dog section, leaving me to ponder the difference between “Mixed Grill” canned cat food and “Supreme Supper.” He was finished first, and pushing a cart with eighty pounds of dog food, he joined me. “I’ve been looking for you. I thought you might be looking at the kittens.” He knew immediately he had made a grave error, but at that point, it was just too late. He cringed as he saw my face light up. “They have KITTENS?”

I’m sure the cart left skid marks as he tried to keep up with me. I was in heaven as I perused the bevy of fluffy kittens, each one cuter than the last. I always have to read their little stories that the shelter provides, even though they usually make me cry. Now, at this point, it’s important to know that I am drawn to the most pathetic animals which have the least chance of being adopted. That day, it was a little striped kitten named Edgar. His sheet said that he had fallen on his head, developed a seroma (build-up of fluid) and they didn’t “think” there was any long term damage. Now, I’m all for being honest, but this little disclosure was probably keeping anyone from adopting him. Who would want a brain-damaged kitten? Hmmm. “Let’s get going,” I heard through my kitten-induced fog. I begrudgingly said goodbye to Edgar and headed to the checkout.

The next day, after a decent amount of discussing, reasoning, and begging, he relented and told me I could go get Edgar. The shelter had to approve me, which amounted to one phone call to a reference, and deciding I “looked like a nice person.” It helps to look horrified when they ask if you plan to have the cat de-clawed. So, Edgar got to come home with me.

Elaine, you got your way and have a new kitten. How can there be any drawbacks? Ah, this is where the price of winning comes in. I have lost the right to complain. So, when Eddie (Edgar was a little formal) runs amuck through our house, all I can do is shrug my shoulders. When he skidded across the dining room table taking the silk floral arrangement with him, I just watched silently. When he dashed across the loveseat where I was sitting, jumping into the bowl of popcorn I was eating, causing half the popcorn to fly up in the air, I knew I wouldn’t get any sympathy. And, when I noticed the “toy” Eddie (I was calling him Eddie Haskell by this time) was playing with on the kitchen floor was actually my four hundred dollar pair of sunglasses, all I could say was “Gee, I need to remember not to leave those out.” When he systematically sent every flower pot on the windowsill crashing to the floor, I knew it would be my job to clean up. And, when sixty-five-pound Bear walked by with Eddie wrapped around his back leg, all I could do was mouth the words “I’m sorry.”

I have since put in place a self-imposed ban on stepping into Petsmart. Did I mention that Eddie was the second kitten I adopted from there? That’s right; there are two cats in our home I cannot complain about. The vet looked over Eddie and gave him a clean bill of health, with no sign of brain damage. I wasn’t surprised…but there are people in this house who think it's time for me to get a check-up.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Give Me the Suburbs! Part 2

I think my least favorite thing about living in the country was the close proximity to wildlife, or, as the country folk say, varmints.

One day I woke up to a very bad smell. After a quick sniffing-sweep of the house, I realized it was coming from our bedroom closet. Using a set of kitchen tongs (I never claimed to be brave) I removed one shoe at a time from the bottom of the closet. There, among the last couple of shoes, I found a dead mouse. I had no idea the smell of one mouse corpse could fill an entire house. I had so much to learn. Rubber gloves and a snow shovel later, the mouse was removed. If I had owned a haz-mat suit and goggles, I would have put those on, too. I sat on the bed feeling pretty good that I had handled the situation myself and not resorted to a frantic phone call to my husband. Then, I heard a sound...

It was coming from the pile of shoes. My first reaction was to stand on the bed and scream, and the second was to look around for a weapon. The muffled sound continued, and I realized the pile of shoes was between me and the door, so there was no escaping. I had to face whatever it was. As I got closer, it became apparent that the sound was coming from one of my boots. I decided that it might be another mouse mourning the loss of their friend. I turned the boot upside down and shook. A large ball of fluffy boot-lining fell to the floor. Inside the ball were half a dozen tiny mouse babies.

My first instinct was now I have to raise them as my own. I was thinking mouse milk, an eyedropper, maybe a heat lamp…I realized that was unrealistic, so I had to find another alternative. I couldn’t stand the thought of watching them slip away one by one. I knew I should have put them outside to be food for some other animal, you know, circle of life and all, but I just couldn’t do it. It may sound cruel, and I still have nightmares about it, but I flushed them. As I was putting shoes back in the closet, our cat showed up looking curious. I glared at her, and asked her what-the-heck kind of cat was she, who couldn’t even do basic cat things like keep our house free of mice. I made a mental note to cut back on her cat chow.

So, after three months of living in the middle-of-nowhere, isolated, varmint-riddled, prone-to-flooding country, we put our house up for sale. One very interested buyer came back to see it a second time. It was a father with his two year old daughter. He wanted to walk the backyard to see where the property lines were, and he talked about what a great yard it was for kids. We stood talking  for quite awhile, the man holding his daughter, and me trying not to look too anxious. I wanted out! We told the man how much we loved living there, and how we would really miss the peace and quiet. My eyes drifted around (which happens when I lie) and I caught some movement in the grass behind the man.

There, coming in our direction, was a five foot long black snake, which I instantly nicknamed “the deal-killer.” Now, I like to think that if the man had chosen to put his little girl down, I would have stopped him and pointed out the snake. I’m almost sure of it. Thankfully, my scruples were not to be tested, because the man and my husband started walking towards the house. I followed behind, trying to look nonchalant.

Eventually, the house sold, I kissed the country goodbye and headed back to the suburbs. Ah, the sound of barking dogs and bickering families, the sight of trash cans all lined up on the curb, the smell of burning burgers on a grill. I was home.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Give Me the Suburbs!!! Part 1

I have been obsessed lately with the idea of living in a refurbished farmhouse on a couple of acres, and raising chickens and pygmy goats. That way, our grandchildren (of which we have none) would love to visit us. The catch is I don’t want to live out in the country. I’m afraid of the country. I tried it. Sure, I like nature as much as the next person. I just don’t want it in my backyard, uninvited.

When I was in my early twenties and a newlywed, my husband and I decided to buy a home out in the country. We had tired of living in the city where we went to sleep every night to the sound of police sirens. I couldn’t wait for some peace and quiet, and the feeling of being safe. It was about a week after we moved in, when I started to question our decision. My husband left for work, and I was going to wash the dishes before showering and heading to work myself. One of the features I loved about our new house was the large window above the kitchen sink. I could look out past our yard, across a gully, and all the way to a new housing development about a quarter of a mile away. On this particular morning, my eyes didn’t go past our yard. It was filled with cows. They were just milling about, you know, the way cows do. Now, I’m from the suburbs, and I only know very basic things about cows. My husband grew up in a semi-rural area, so I called him.

“We have cows…what should I do?” I was very disappointed, because he knew nothing about cows. "I thought you grew up in the country?" I said accusingly, suddenly wondering how well I really knew this man.  "Maybe you can just shoo them away.” Great, I was on my own. I went out on the deck with a saucepan and a spaghetti pot and banged them loudly together. I kid you not; I don’t think I got a blink of an eye from any of them. Not only were they lost, but they were hard of hearing, too. I refused to get any closer to them because I kept seeing this scene in my mind of being trampled to death in my own backyard. Our dog was barking in the house, and I thought about letting her out, but I knew she couldn't help.  She was a sled dog.  Why the heck did I move to the country with a sled dog, when what I really needed was a herder?  I had so much to learn.

It was time for plan B. I grabbed my car keys, with the brilliant idea of finding the farm where they belong. And, how would I know which farm it was? Easy, it was the one without cows. I smiled at my genius. After an hour of searching, I finally had to give up and drive home. Hmm…I didn’t even have a plan C. Then, it came to me. I just had to figure out which of them was the leader, and if I could coax that one out of the yard, the others would follow. Yes, that was an extremely lame plan, but it turns out, I didn’t have to use it. The backyard was cow-less. I strutted back and forth on the deck with a new air of confidence. Next time, I told myself, I would bravely leave the safety of the deck, and slap their rumps with loud instructions to vacate my yard. Looking back, it was probably a good thing that the cows never appeared again.

Coming soon—Give Me The Suburbs!!! Part 2

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Someday, You’ll Pay!

I guess if you made up a job description for children, high on the list would be embarrassing Mom and Dad. Though, I’m quite certain I never embarrassed my parents. I think it skips generations like twins. The first time my son discovered how much fun it was, we were visiting my parents the summer he was three. We were all seated around the dining room table, passing serving bowls, and chatting away. Once our plates were full, and the room was silent as we started to eat, my darling little cherub of a son said “This tastes like sh--.”

Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at him as if they were seeing him for the first time. He looked very pleased with himself. I glared at my husband, knowing full well where he had heard that word. I  had to break the silence, so I told them he had never said that word before, which was the truth. Even my mother, who desperately wanted to believe me, looked skeptical. Well, I thought, always the proud mom, at least he used it properly in a sentence.

My daughter would never have embarrassed me on purpose. She just had a habit of blurting out the truth. You can’t get mad at a child for that. But, you can die from it. She was three, we were at the grocery store, and just as we came out of the bakery aisle, a man weighing about four hundred pounds walked by us. I tried hard to distract her, but her eyes locked on him, and lit up like headlights. Please, I pleaded silently to the universe, please keep my child from saying the man is fat. Two seconds before he would have been out of earshot, she looked at me all excited, and said louder and clearer than any toddler in the world, “Mama, that man has REALLY BIG PANTS!”

As my son got older, he learned exactly what embarrassed me the most, and used that knowledge like a gleaming sharp sword. When I was in my thirties, I had rhinoplasty, otherwise known as a “nose job.” My son thought the whole thing was hysterical and would bring it up at the worst possible moments. “Hey Mom, did you get to bring your old nose home in a jar?” he would blurt out in front of friends and neighbors. “Hey Mom, did you get to pick your own nose, or did the doctor pick it for you?” he would yell, and then collapse into a fit of laughter.

Even as adults, I never completely relax around them. Recently, we were out to dinner with a large group which included my daughter and her boyfriend. I was just sitting there enjoying my salad, and I heard my daughter say from the other end of the table, “Hey Mom, he doesn’t believe that isn’t your real nose” while pointing to her boyfriend. Every eye was on me as they waited for my response. My son told me his wife didn't believe I wasn't a real blonde, "So could you send her photos of you as a brunette. Maybe something with your old nose, too."

What they don’t know is that the older I get the less I care about being embarrassed. And, eventually the tables will turn. I will dedicate the last years I have on this planet to being a complete embarrassment to them. I will dye my hair bright red, wear lipstick smeared from ear to ear, and leave the house with my bra on the outside of my shirt. I’ll teach their children every swear word I know. Yes, I have it all planned….

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

East Meets South...I Mean North!

What do you get when a woman from New Jersey and a man from South Dakota meet and fall in love? Two people who do NOT want to visit each other’s home state. But, of course, we did. “I grew up in a small town” I told him on our first date. He grew up in the capital of his state. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my small town had a bigger population than his capital!

But, I visited his overly large, desolate, bleak, godforsaken state with an open mind. We chose to drive, since flying there consists of many stops, the last of which involves boarding a crop-dusting plane. Halfway across Nebraska, we decided to eat the roast beef sandwiches I had packed. The last bite was still in my mouth when we passed what he called a feed lot. A nice term for several hundred cows corralled into a twenty by twenty foot space. I called it the worst stench I had ever experienced in my life. I could not swallow my last bite of sandwich for at least two hundred miles. Perhaps, those cows would have gotten a giggle that I had gagged on roast beef.

The landscape became more and more barren, and I could see nothing for fifty miles in each direction. He told me we would be driving through an Indian reservation once we crossed the state line. I thought that might add some excitement to our trip. Now, I knew better than to expect teepees, but apparently the Indians now have these expansive structures called ca-si-nos. I learned a lot.

We were on a winding road, and I couldn’t help but notice there were no trees, no houses, or buildings of any kind, and I hadn’t seen another car in twenty minutes. I turned to him and said “Remember when we were driving through the New Jersey wilderness” (I had to stop here and wait for him to stop laughing) “and you still felt claustrophobic? Well, I’m having an anxiety attack. What if our car broke down or one of us had a heart attack, or even worse, what if I needed a restroom? Where are all the rest areas?” “We don’t get enough traffic” was his reply. Well, build them, and they will come, I thought to myself.

Then I started spotting pheasants by the road. Believe me, when there is nothing else to look at, a beautifully colored bird is a welcome sight. We had probably passed our thirtieth pheasant, and I had shouted “Look, another pheasant!” thirty times, when he mentioned that they are the state bird, and pheasant hunting was big in this area. I sat there stunned, my mouth dropped open. I looked at him incredulously “You eat your state bird?” “Of course, they’re delicious. They taste like chicken except a little stringier.”

When we checked into our hotel, I noticed a painting of pheasants behind the desk. “You eat your state bird!” I said accusingly at the desk clerk. Without skipping a beat, he said “My grandmother makes the best pheasant gravy. Pheasant tastes like chicken except a little--” I know, a little stringier, I thought. “--gamier.” he finished. Gamey? That’s gross. I turned to grab my suitcase, mumbling to myself “New Jersey might not be the greatest place in the world, but you don’t see us eating our goldfinches.”

I have been to South Dakota five times now. We have actually talked about getting a cabin in the Black Hills, the beautiful part of the state. He has made the trip to New Jersey exactly once. Perhaps I should mention to him that we have salt water taffy…it tastes nothing like chicken.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Branded For Life!

If you walked through my house right now you would see a Sony television, GE appliances, a Dell computer, Gap jeans, Kellogg's Rice Krispies, and Reynolds aluminum foil. What do these items have in common? They are all name brands everyone has heard of. And that is not a coincidence.

I grew up with a father who did not believe in buying name brands. I’m still not sure whether he was making a statement about commercialism or he was just looking for bargains. I’m guessing it was a little of both.

No Magnavox, Zenith or Motorola TV set for us. He always seemed to come home with some off brand, with names close to well-known names, like instead of RCA, the brand would be ACR. Or, they would have some hokey name like a dishwasher brand called Scrub-o-Matic. Every once in awhile, he would bring something home that had no visible name at all—as if the company was embarrassed by their own product.

I happened to be at a friend’s house when her father came home with their first color television. Word got out quickly and all the neighbors on the block were lined up to check it out. A far stretch from when my father came home from work one day declaring that we would be joining those with color TVs. He unrolled a sheet of clear plastic with rainbow stripes, and taped it to our TV screen. I’m not sure on what planet that would be considered color TV, but my dad sat back in his chair and beamed.

My siblings and I suffered the ultimate humiliation when he came home one day driving a pea-green German car manufactured by (you guessed it) a company no one had ever heard of. It took us a long time to get over the embarrassment that our father wore bow-ties in an age when all the other men were wearing regular ties, but now when he dropped us off at school, his attire was the least of our worries. Thankfully, on our first trip in the new car to our grandparent’s house, the car decided to launch it’s windshield wipers into the air onto the rainy interstate. We had to pull over while my dad ran back half a mile in the rain to fetch them. It wasn’t long after, that the car disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.

So, as soon as I became an adult consumer, it was brand names or nothing. My father? Right now, he’s probably grumbling about the slowness of his Byte-o-matic computer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm Just Glad It Wasn't MY Birthday!

Over the weekend, I went into our basement storage room to look for a three-pronged plug. I never find what I’m looking for in there, but sometimes what I find instead is even better. I found two type-written sheets of paper containing a post for Elaine’s Wonderful World. This would have to be my very first post, because I wrote it twenty-one years ago!

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. It started out like most days, with little warning as to what was ahead. After the daily mad rush to get the children out the door to catch the bus, my morning chores began. After making beds and cleaning the kitchen, I tackled the bathrooms. Little did I know, this would be the high point of my day.

Shortly before noon, my five-year-old walked in the door with a huge welt on her face and a reminder that school pictures were the next day. She had been bitten or stung, and as the day went on, my daughter’s cheek got bigger and bigger. Last year when she was due to have her picture taken at preschool, she developed a bad case of pink-eye. The day before we had our annual Christmas family portrait taken, she walked into a counter at a department store and got a fat lip. I think if we really love her, we should stop having her picture taken, and ensure her of a trouble-free life.

Things got worse when my nine-year-old came home. He had a schoolbag full of workbooks which needed to be finished before school the next day. When I questioned him about it, he blew up at me saying that he wasn’t ever going back to school and he wanted to run away. I told him that if there was a place where you never had to work, I would gladly run away with him. He gave me one of those “But, don't moms love to scrub toilets?” looks. We talked things over, and after much anger and tears (some his, some mine) I agreed to go in and talk with his teacher the next day.

Then, the birthday boy came home. He was in a good mood when he left that morning, after our daughter guessed his age to be sixteen. Wanting in on the fun, I asked her how old she thought I was. She said sixty-four. I didn’t even know she knew numbers that high. Daddy’s mood had deteriorated considerably. He had just heard that an airline had gone bankrupt and was cancelling all flights. This was the same airline which was supposed to fly us to Disney World in three weeks. In our twelve years of marriage, every vacation had been a disaster. I started feeling like this bankruptcy was our fault. Thousands of employees were losing their jobs because we booked our vacation with them.

My husband decided to go to the gym and work out, which was his only normal reaction to a birthday. He came home an hour later swearing off sweets, just as I finished icing his cake. So, in one day, my husband became a year older, our Florida trip was ruined before it began, my daughter looked like a hamster storing food in her cheek (soon to be immortalized on film) and my son gave me a chance to do something I rate right up there with going to the dentist—a parent-teacher conference. Add the fact that my kitchen sink got clogged because I wanted to make my husband…..

Hmm...I don’t know what I was making for my husband, because the third page was missing. Or maybe there never was one, because I had to get ready to go to my son’s school. We’ll never know. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post from the past!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Only Hair...

I am obsessed with hair. I know, it’s frivolous, superficial, shallow, and all those other words created to make me feel bad. But, I didn’t choose this, I was born with it. I was giving my Thumbelina a trim (which wasn’t easy with those safety scissors) at age six. I could braid before I was allowed to cross the street by myself. All of my Barbies were naked, but had killer hairdos. In high school I was convinced an ex-boyfriend came back to me because I had put blonde streaks in my hair. Hair was power.

Thanks to Dorothy Hamill and Farrah Fawcett, the nation finally sat up and took notice of hair. Dorothy’s cut was not an option for me, because I was convinced that with short hair, I would be mistaken for a boy. Plus, if I kept my hair long I could trim it myself. To say I didn’t trust anyone with my hair would be an understatement.

But, I fell in love with Rene Russo’s hair in The Thomas Crown Affair. I quickly made an appointment to get my hair cut before I chickened out. I showed up with my little photo ripped from a magazine, ready to believe that magic was going to happen. And, it would have to be magic because Rene Russo had thick, naturally curly, auburn-colored hair. My hair was blonde, stick-straight, and super fine. When I refer to my New Jersey roots, I am referring to my hair. I had to work hard to get my hair big enough for the standards of my state. It took time, and many appliances, and many products. The woman who cut my hair swore I would have the right volume to pull the look off.

When she was finished, and I saw the final cut, my heart hit the floor. In my mind I looked more like Pierce Brosnan than Renee Russo. That’s when my chant was born. It’s only hair, it's only hair. I managed to get home, where I shut myself in my bedroom. That was the beginning of three straight days of crying. You would have thought I had my limbs cut off the way I was acting. I know my wiring isn’t right, but changing my blood type would be easier than changing my obsession with my hair. It was only after I tried a dozen times to get my hair big again, that I felt it was enough like me to go back to work. My friends were great, giving me pep talks about how quickly it would grow back. And, it did.

And, like childbirth, the memory of the experience faded, and many, many years later I got another haircut-- this week. I’m not sure how the communication between me and the hair stylist broke down, because I have replayed it in my mind over and over again. Somehow, "I don’t want the sides cut because I am growing them out to match the back length" means cut the back to match the sides. Well, my hair is now shorter than it’s ever been. No amount of time or product can make it look big. I am trying to be mature. I am trying to make peace with this drowned-rat look. And now the chant, which hasn’t been necessary in a very long time--it’s only hair, it’s only hair. I wonder if Samson used the same chant…

Monday, April 12, 2010

Driving Miss Ditzy

I have a confession to make. I suffer from ADD. That’s right—Attention Deficit Driving. And, it’s inherited.

I’ll never forget the last time I went somewhere with my mother driving. We went to see a movie during the day, and on the way home (the theater was less than ten minutes away) SHE MISSED THE TURN INTO OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! The same neighborhood we moved into when I was six and she had lived in for thirty five years! When I pointed it out to her, she became very flustered and I thought she was going to make a U-turn on someone’s front lawn. I’ll never forget what she said. “Oh, it’s all your fault.” It’s true, I had been talking to her, but I didn’t know I had to choose between conversing or getting home.

Here’s the really disturbing thing—that face I made when my mother missed the turn—I have seen that on my own children. I hear that same tone in their voices when my daughter tells me I just ran over a cone or I’m entering an exit. But, instead of blaming my children for distracting me, I just pretend “I meant to run over that cone” or “good, now I am already familiar with the exit.” This frightens them even more.

The first time I knew I had a problem was when I was driving a girlfriend back from lunch to our office. We were stopped at a light, and the woman sitting in the car next to us was trying to get our attention. I gave her a smile and a wave while lowering the window. “Oh, I must know her from somewhere!” I told my friend. Eyes bulging, and mouth foaming, that woman let loose with a vicious stream of swear words, and from what I could decipher, she didn’t think I was a very good driver. And, I should rot in hell.

I would love to say that this was an isolated incident, but that would be a lie. Eventually, none of my friends would get in the car with me. And, I developed a complex. I finally figured out the problem one day, when I had driven home from work and could not recall if I had stopped at any of the lights. Here is what I did remember from the eight mile trip home:

The movie I wanted to see was no longer playing at the two dollar theater.

Gas was three cents cheaper at the station on the west side of the road.

Walgreens had Rogaine on sale.

The brick home with the green shutters was finally under contract.

The blonde in the silver convertible needed to touch up her roots.

The radio played the song that sounds like they’re saying “dressed up like a douche.”

The gas light came on several times indicating I should switch cars with my husband.

I used my cell phone to make an appointment for a manicure the next Saturday at eleven.

The Taco Bell reminded me I had a new recipe for an enchilada casserole I wanted to try.

Oh yeah, and a guy in a BMW flipped me off for no reason whatsoever.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Knows How to Cook...CHECK!

I know women who don’t cook. That statement used to give me heart palpitations. No one…I repeat…NO ONE…told me that not cooking was an option. When I was opening wedding presents and Aunt Eleanor gave us a set of mixing bowls, I didn’t sit there and say “Who is going to use these?”

I didn’t go to cooking school. My mother didn’t teach me how to cook. I cooked because my husband and I were hungry and we wanted to eat. Lord knows, he couldn’t cook. But little did I know, from that moment of cooking our very first meal, I WOULD BE COOKING FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!

To be honest, there was a time when I thought there was something really wrong with these women. But NOW, I think they’re geniuses. What foresight! I was up at five in the morning making snickerdoodles for my daughter’s class, and these women were sleeping in and stopping at the grocery store for a package of Chips Ahoy! And, guess what? The kids didn’t care. And, the mommy who didn’t cook was showered and smartly dressed, and I had on a hat and a raincoat to cover up the evidence of a cinnamon explosion in my kitchen.

Many years later, as a divorced woman getting back into the dating scene, there was only one thing I wanted in a man. Can he cook? I didn’t care if he was unemployed, on parole, or grew up with the circus. I just wanted someone who could cook. I wasn’t expecting him to cook every meal, but I just wanted to know that if I broke both arms or suddenly went blind, we would not starve to death. I wanted the thirty year tradition of baking my own birthday cake to end…just once.

The sad thing is I didn’t warn my daughter. She would call up for a recipe, and my first thought was how proud my mom would have been that she is learning to cook. But, if I was truly a good mother, I would have told her to take every cookbook, toss them out the window, and replace them with take-out menus. Then SHE could be the smartly dressed mom with a paper plate of Oreos. Oh well, I did do her a favor, though…I never taught her how to sew.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Goals? No, I Said I Have Rolls!

I think of myself as an idea person. Not in the sense that I have ideas…I just like ideas. For instance:

I like the IDEA of going to the gym. Getting up at the crack of dawn. Throwing down a wheat-grass smoothie. Putting on the latest fitness-wear engineered by NASA for the astronauts. Slipping my feet into uber-expensive cross trainer shoes custom-made after having my run, walk, and stance analyzed by a computer.

But, the REALITY is I’m a sleep-late kind of person, who enjoys a cup of coffee and a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. My morning attire consists of a well-worn robe and half-chewed slippers. The only thing I have analyzed is my weight, but my scale is broken and says I weigh twenty pounds more than I know I do.

I like the IDEA of yoga. Cute little yoga pants. Sipping herbal tea and listening to New Age music on the way to the studio. Finding my Zen place, as I stretch my leg behind me, over my head, until my toes touch my navel.

But, the REALITY is I bought a beginning yoga DVD, couldn’t do any of the twenty pre-beginner positions, blamed the whole thing on not having yoga pants, which I would never wear because I look like a bratwurst in them. I pulled a muscle putting the DVD on the highest shelf of my closet, right between Pilates and Belly Dancing.

I like the IDEA of running in a marathon. Eating proteins. Training for months. Raising thousands of dollars for some worthy cause. Hearing my family and friends say “She is such a dynamo!”

But, the REALITY is the only running I do is chasing the dog when he has my slipper. One time when I had to unload some boxes from my car, I drove across my front lawn so I could back up three feet from the front door. I’m waiting for someone to invent a wallet on wheels.

So, as you see, I am an idea person. A friend of mine was telling me about a fitness camp she goes to. You learn about eating healthy. Go on hikes. It’s a great way to lose some weight, while having fun. We could go together. I told her “I LOVE that idea!”

Monday, March 29, 2010

NEVER Say Never! Part 2

Okay, RECAP! Walked dog, dog chased rabbit, became a human kite, hit the ground, heard bones break, now on the way to the hospital.

Of course, the first order of business once I arrived at the hospital was how the treatment was going to be paid for. So, I got pushed in a wheelchair to a little office. The money lady started to ask me questions, suddenly stopped, and said “You look a little shocky…are you feeling shocky?” “I don’t know,” I thought, “by shocky, do you mean outrageously annoyed that I am sitting here holding my own bone in place as you fill out a form?”

Finally, it was my turn to be wheeled back to the examination area. Of course, I was embarrassed to tell the ER doctor how I got hurt, and I waited for some kind of reaction. “That makes you the third today” he said flatly. “In fact, there is a broken wrist three beds down that just came in. She was walking a Great Dane.” That’s terrific; I wasn’t even the most interesting dog walking case. Now, I felt shocky and mediocre.

I was taken to radiology, then back to the exam room to wait for the ER doctor again. “Your collar bone is broken in several places” he said as he walked in and held up the X-ray for me to see. My once solid collar bone now looked like a game of pick-up sticks. Wow, I thought, this was going to take some extensive surgery to put it back the way it was. “You are going to need to wear a sling for several weeks, and I will send you home with some pain meds.” “Wait,” I said, “how are my bones going to heal on their own?” “Bones are very amazing, they actually remember where they are supposed to be and will create new bone.”

No way. I wasn’t buying this. If my bones' memory was anything like the rest of me, I was in trouble. Take my butt, for instance. I was sure it didn’t remember where it used to be when I was in my twenties. And, after having children, my abs had no clue how to return to their pre-pregnancy condition! “I tell you, Doc, we just can’t rely on this body!” I wanted to shout at him.

A nurse came in to show me how to use the sling, and after a quick trip to the pharmacy, we headed home. As I was getting out of the car, Mr. Macho Firefighter, who lived next door, was just leaving for the station house. After a quick exchange about my accident, he said to me “If you need help putting your makeup on, I would be happy to do it for you. I do my wife’s every morning.”

It took a lot of time, a whole lot of Percocet, and a lot of help from friends and family, but I did finally heal. Life returned to normal, and the experience became a distant memory. The only real lasting effect are the haunting visions I have of my neighbor with an axe in one hand and a mascara wand in the other. Ugh…makes me feel a little shocky.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NEVER Say Never! Part 1

It all started at a party. I ran into a former co-worker I hadn’t seen in a long time and she was sporting a large cast on her right arm. She told me how she broke it, and I just looked at her incredulously and asked “How do you do your hair and makeup?” “I don’t” she replied. I resisted a quick glance at her hair. My head started to spin, and I said “Well, that could never happen to me, because I wouldn’t be able to leave the house.” She just smiled.

Just a few days later, I was watching TV and our black lab, Skye, came into the room and laid her head on my lap. I realized she hadn’t been walked that day and it was already ten o’clock at night. I asked my husband to do it, and he said he was waiting for a phone call. I asked my son, and he was right in the middle of a computer game. “Okay, Skye, you’re stuck with me” I told her. I don’t usually like to walk her after dark, but I figured I would just go around our block a few times.

I wrapped the leash around my wrist to keep her close to me, and we headed out. At the end of the block is a park where the pool and tennis courts are. We were just passing the parking lot, when I saw a dark shape dart across our path--a rabbit. The next thing I knew, I was airborne. Now, I don’t really understand how a seventy pound dog can pull a one hundred and twenty pound woman behind them like a kite, but I think it has something to do with drag and thrust, or some kind of physics thing. Skye stopped, and something I’m more familiar with, gravity, caused me to hit the ground hard. I heard a crunch.

I was laying there on my stomach, and I reached with my left hand, which still had the leash, to my right shoulder and I could feel my collar bone, which is supposed to be mostly horizontal, was now mostly vertical. I begged Skye not to move, and she sat about a foot from me. Every time I tried to get up, the pain in my shoulder increased. I lay motionless for a very long time, wondering how I get into these messes.

Five or ten minutes later, I saw my neighbor across the street come out his front door and start calling out for his cat. I yelled his name, and he looked out into the darkness. I identified myself to him and he headed in the direction of my voice. Now, what happened next is a real mystery to me. Skye is the kind of dog, who if confronted with a masked burglar breaking into our house, would go to get her ball to see if he would play. But, something instinctual must have kicked in, because as my neighbor approached, she growled and bared her teeth. We decided he should get my husband. Now, this next part is even more of a mystery. I could see my house from where I was, and my husband walked, not ran, chatting away, probably asking my neighbor if he knew of anyone thinking of selling or buying a house. Finally, they got to me and between the two of them; they managed to get me to our driveway, where I crumpled to the ground to wait for my husband to pull the car out of the garage.

My daughter came running out to see me, and it was great to have company, SINCE MY HUSBAND TOOK OVER TWENTY MINUTES. My daughter stopped worrying about me when I asked her to bring my purse outside so I could freshen up my lipstick before going to the emergency room. I mean, really, I was injured, not uncivilized! Finally, the garage door went up, and I got in the car. Turns out Hubby didn’t know what hospital to take me to, so he called our insurance man, who didn’t answer, and took fifteen minutes to call back. Good thing I wasn’t bleeding to death. We headed to the hospital….

Look for “NEVER Say Never! Part 2” coming soon…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Child Rearing: Are There Lullabies in Lockdown?

I think we have established that I was never a candidate for Mother of the Year. But, in my own defense, I do believe that some of our children’s behavior is out of our hands.

After having my son, I did some research in order to determine how much time should pass before having another child. Okay, that’s a lie. I decided to have another child when my memory of childbirth went from “Holy Hell, I’m never doing that again!” to “It wasn’t that bad.” That took three and a half years.

During my second pregnancy, I gave my son as much attention as I could. I wanted him to feel secure, and not threatened by the arrival of a sister or brother. By the time my daughter was born, I was feeling pretty good about my efforts. On the day the doctor said she could start having visitors, I was amazed at my son’s behavior. He would greet our friends and family, introduce them to his new baby sister, give her a tender little kiss on her forehead, and go to his room to play.

After the last visitor left, I started gathering up the baby gifts, and my son came into the room and offered to take them upstairs to the nursery. I just beamed as I thought “This is my calling. Being a mother is what I do best." I went into the kitchen to wash some dishes.

When I came back into the living room, I noticed there was a leaf on the floor. One of my friends had brought a plant for the baby’s room. I looked around to see where it was, and my eyes went to the coffee table. Sitting there was the plant, or should I say what was left of the plant. Every single leaf had been cut off. Next to the naked stub of a plant was a pair of little scissors....shaped like a stork. Hmmm.

My instincts told me not to make a fuss about it. I was sure this was more about him being four, and less about the baby. Until, I went upstairs. One of the items my son volunteered to take to the baby’s room was a basket of bath products. I was stunned to see that he had shaken baby powder on every square inch of the room, including in the crib. The empty container sat on the changing table. It took four days of vacuuming to finally get rid of the powder. I couldn’t even bring the baby in there until the last of it was gone. My son’s explanation of why he did it? “I don’t know” was all he said.

Weeks later, with no further problems, I was convinced that whatever aggression my son felt, he had dealt with it. He was back to his sweet self. My daughter was in her infant seat, my son was lying on the floor pushing around a little toy car, and I was folding laundry. “What a perfect little family I have,” I thought. I went downstairs to get another load of laundry out of the dryer, and I heard the baby start to cry. “What happened?” I yelled up to my son. “I don’t know, she just started crying!” I ran back upstairs. My son was still pushing the car around, and there in the middle of my daughter’s forehead was a perfect little red handprint. “Okay, this is serious” I thought, and called the pediatrician.

“This sounds pretty normal to me,” he assured me, but suggested I don’t leave them in a room alone together. “Have you ever had a case where one child really hurts the other?” “No, never” was his answer and I breathed a little easier. “Except the once.” And there was a long pause. “I did have an older brother stab his younger brother with a fork.”

I got light-headed. I tried to remember if there was a chapter on murder in any of the child-rearing books I had read. I couldn’t recall ever seeing a handcuffed four-year-old being led to a police car and then strapped into a booster seat. I thought of the Clue game I played as a child. It was Junior in the nursery with the stork scissors.

It was that day that I grew a second pair of eyes in the back of my head. I am happy to say there were no more “incidents” and brother and sister learned to peacefully co-exist. So well, that after a few years we started using real silverware again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What if Facebook was Real?

I think we would all agree that the world of Facebook is an amazing place. It has so many great features to offer, I think we tend to tolerate the negatives. But, what if Facebook became our real world? How much would we tolerate then?

It’s ten o’clock, and my day is winding down. I’m trying to catch the newest episode of Hoarders, when there is a knock at the door. I answer it and an old colleague is standing there.

“Well, this is a surprise” I say. “Is everything okay with you?”
“I know it’s late, but I just had to share my news. My wife and I were playing Scrabble tonight and I had my highest score ever! I knew you’d want to know!”
“Hmm…that’s great. Thank you for sharing.”

I close the door and sit back down just in time to see the second dead cat pulled out of the hoarder’s house. Yuck… The phone rings.

“Hello friend, I just wanted to invite you to a webinar on implementing sinuous boondogles into your business.”
“Uh…no thanks.”

I hang up. The hoarder is sobbing over a piece of thread that was accidently thrown out. The doorbell rings. The guy who dumped me in high school is now standing on my front porch.

He smiles his still-wicked smile and asks “Do you have something you want to say to me?”
“Not really” and I slam the door shut.

This time I don’t even have a chance to sit down, and there is a knock. A stranger is at my door.

“May I help you?”
“Hi there, I sure hope so. I’ve lost my yak and I wondered if you would distribute flyers to help me find it?”
“I don’t know…it’s kind of late.”

I slam the door shut, just in time to hear my cell phone ring.

“Hi, I wanted to know what time book club is meeting tomorrow night.”
“Do I know you?”
“Sure, my stepsister gets her hair done by a woman whose cousin plays softball with your daughter’s ex-roommate. Should I bring some wine?”

I snap my phone shut. This time I just walk to my front door and open it. The guy who gave me a home loan fifteen years ago reaches towards me and sticks a finger in my belly.

“What the heck was that?” I demand to know, and he runs off.

This is too much! I dial 911 and explain what just happened.

“Oh, so what you’re saying is he “poked” you? That’s not against the law. I’m sure he was just being friendly.”
“Yeah, well it felt like menacing poking to me!”

I give up. I finally sit back down just in time to see the hoarder reunited with her husband who left her three years ago, though she only noticed last week he was gone. Dang it, there’s the doorbell again. The guy who dumped me in high school is back.

He asks the same question “Do you have something you want to say to me?”

So, thank goodness Facebook isn’t real. It isn’t real, right? I'm just not sure. Should I start a group for people who are asking this same question? Yeah, that's what I'll do! I better go now…I have to write five hundred and seventy eight invitations!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stuff-less in Denver

There was a movie that came out in the ‘80s called “The Right Stuff.” The title was referring to what the Mercury 7 astronauts were made of. These were exceptionally brave men, calm, cool, and dependable in the most dangerous situations. Well, if a movie was made about me in the ‘80s, it would be called “The Wrong Stuff” or better yet “No Stuff.” Let me explain.

The year was 1986. At a routine checkup with the pediatrician, it was discovered that my two year old daughter had a cyst in her neck. Though completely benign, it was recommended she have it surgically removed to prevent it from growing bigger and interfering with her swallowing.

The day of her surgery, we arrived at the hospital very early in the morning. It was tough knowing how much to tell her, but my husband and I did our best. I’ll never forget the sight of her being wheeled away from us, flashing her big trusting smile while clutching the little stuffed cat we had given her the night before.

I was a basket case, pacing up and down the halls waiting for word from the surgeon. Finally, after two hours, he came out to give us the news that everything went as planned. She would be in recovery for awhile yet, so he suggested we go to the cafeteria and grab some breakfast, and by the time we were done, she would be back in her room.

I was so relieved, and could finally relax for the first time in days. I was actually hungry, and after eating a very large breakfast, we headed to our daughter’s room. I had it all pictured in my head. She would be lying there asleep like a little angel, and her eyes would flutter as she became aware that we were in the room. She would give us a weak smile and pull her kitty closer.

What I wasn’t ready for was a very unhappy two year old, kicking and screaming the moment she saw us. I tried to calm her down, but her eyes were just wild. Before I had a chance to grab her arms, she reached up to her throat and tore off the bandages. Okay, I thought, now my breakfast is going to come up. I yelled for my husband to hold her because I was going to be sick. Well, I was almost to the bathroom, when apparently I blacked out, cracking my head on a sink as I went down. According to what they told me later, my husband was so confused which of us needed him more, he just stood in the middle of the room with his hands on his head. A nurse heard my daughter screaming and came to help. I’m sure she was wondering why mom was snoozing on the floor.

Now, when I finally came to, I thought I had been hit by a car and was lying on the side of a road. I had no recollection of being in a hospital at all. I just kept saying “I’ve been hit, someone help me.” But finally, my daughter’s screams cut through the fog, and I opened my eyes to the sight of a hospital room ceiling. By this time, I had acquired my own nurse, and she helped me up to a sitting position. One look at the back of my head, and she called for help to get me to the emergency room. Wasn’t that convenient? I was already in the hospital when I became injured.

I was put in a wheelchair and off we went. Nurse Blabbermouth had to tell everyone we passed what had happened. “Is this the fainting mom?” the emergency room nurse asked, as a small crowd gathered to gawk at me. It took twelve stitches to sew my head back up. I could only guess at the amount of brain damage I had sustained. I just knew that the part of my brain that felt humiliation was completely intact.

My daughter was sent home, and I was given an appointment to come back in a week to get the stitches out. So, am I made of the right stuff? No, I don't think so….because, quite frankly, there is something wrong with my stuff.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Dog Made Me Do It!

I’ve certainly had a lot of pets over the years, but I’ve also had my share of run-ins with wild animals, too. One example is when a prairie dog managed to get trapped in our fenced-in back yard. I had no idea how he got in, but I watched for hours as he tried to get back out. I knew I had to step in to help when he fell into the five foot deep window well.

My inner MacGyver came out as I devised a plan to get him out. I needed a box and a length of rope. I ran to the garage, found the right size box, and started searching for rope. Nothing. I could hear my father saying “What kind of man doesn’t have rope in his garage?” Dad had rope, twine, string, cord, wire, and chain all in various lengths and thicknesses. I was wondering what kind of man, too, as I grabbed my daughter’s jump rope out of desperation. I attached one end to the box itself, and the other to one of the flaps, and lowered it down into the window well. Using a broom, I nudged the little guy into the box and pulled the flap closed. I pulled the box up and tied the rope around the box. Now what, I wondered. I decided to release him on the golf course which surrounded our neighborhood. That meant putting him in my car.

So, prairie dog and I were driving up a hill, when he decided to pop his head out of the box. I screamed, and not wanting to get bitten, I groped around under my seat until I found an ice scraper, which I used to slam the lid closed. This was getting ridiculous, I thought. I just wanted to save the guy, not play whack-a-mole in my Lexus. Thankfully, there was no traffic, as I knew I had crossed the center line several times. Finally, I saw some fellow prairie dogs on the side of the hill. He was happy to be released, and it felt good to watch him run off. On the way home, I started imagining what could have happened…

“Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”
“No, Officer…I know I wasn’t speeding.”
“No, but you were driving erratically. Have you been drinking today, Ma’am?”
“No, I haven’t been drinking. It’s because of the prairie dog.”
“Ma’am, if you swerved to avoid hitting an animal, you wouldn’t be careening for half a mile.”
“Oh, the prairie dog wasn’t in the road.”
“It wasn’t… and just where was it?”
“In my passenger seat.”
“In your…ma’am, I think it’s very dangerous to pick up a wild animal on the side of the road.”
“Yes, I’m sure it would be, but he wasn’t on the side of the road….he was at my house.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask, but what was he doing at your house?”
“I have no idea.”
I would tell him the entire story. He would stand there looking at me incredulously.
“Ma’am, I’m not going to give you a ticket, but that is an unbelievable story.”
“I know.”
He would shake his head, back away towards his car, still looking at me.
“Unbelievable…you say your husband has no rope in his garage.”
“I know…isn’t it crazy?”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Have You Slept With Your CPA Today?

No, it's not a bumper sticker like "Have you hugged your kid today?" I just wondered if others were sleeping with their CPA, because I am. And it's worked out really well. I haven't had to pay to have my taxes done in six years.

Now, before you make any hasty judgments about me, I want you to know that my accountant is the only person I am sleeping with. I'm not sleeping with the cable guy or my drycleaner. If my only goal was to save money, I would be sleeping with my mechanic and my dentist.

Having been in a close relationship with a CPA for six years now, I have made a few discoveries. Did you know that during tax season they often work 12-18 hour days, seven days a week? Were you aware that October 15th is fast becoming as big a deadline as April 15th? And that for a full service accountant, preparing tax returns is only a small portion of what they do? OK, I'm done quizzing you.

My CPA has clients who own multi-million dollar businesses. When I asked him one day, whose return was the most difficult or time consuming, he replied "Yours.” Now, how could that be? My income is consistently in the four figure range! I always have the majority of my bank and credit card statements. I have a Quickbooks icon on my computer desktop! Sometimes, I even open it!

But, then the memory of last year comes flooding back. The phone this one:
"Elaine, according to your records, no one paid you after August, is this true?"
"Oh, I'm sure that's not true, I would have noticed that."
"Then, why do you have seventeen outstanding invoices?"
"Oh, I guess I got so busy I forgot to enter it when I got paid. Would chicken be okay for dinner tonight?" (Not so clever attempt to distract him, since between January and April 15th, the only meal we share is dinner on Valentine's Day)

I have this recurring nightmare that starts around the end of February every year. I come home one day to find all my belongings packed in a suitcase (you know this is a dream if all my belongings fit in one suitcase). He says he doesn't love me anymore. Sobbing, I drag my suitcase to the waiting taxi (apparently, I don't own a car in this dream either) and I turn to look at him one last time. His lips part, and I think he's going to tell me it's all a mistake, that he can't live without me, that I'm the only person in the world for him. "Oh yeah," he shouts from the front porch, "and good luck finding someone to do your taxes!"

So, maybe sleeping with your CPA isn't possible for everyone, but the least you should do is give your CPA a hug. Not because they work incredibly long hours, not because they don't see the light of day for six months out of the year, not because they have to deal with the IRS on a regular basis...but, because they may be sleeping with someone like me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pets-How NOT to Damage a Child for Life Part Two

There have been very few times in my life when I have been at a loss for words. Quite often my responses are not very intelligent, but I still come up with something. Here are two examples when my brain and mouth abandoned me:

Many years ago (pre-hamsters) I took my kids to the pet store and let them each pick out a fish. My son chose a black one and my daughter chose an orange one. I told them they could pick out names for their fish, and with no hesitancy (and little imagination) my son shouted out “Blacky!” My daughter’s face was blank, so I asked her if she knew the difference between people names and pet names. She replied “I think so.” A few hours later, she came up to me with a big grin on her face. I asked her if she had a name and she said “Fluffy!”

So, Blacky and Fluffy lived together in a fish bowl in my son’s room. One day, while the kids were at school, I was doing some last minute cleaning before the bus dropped them off. I was coming down the stairs and I noticed some spots on the entryway floor, which was odd because I had just cleaned it an hour before. I bent over and picked up a piece to examine it closer. It was less than an inch long, thin, almost like paper, black, and had lines through it. What the heck, I thought, as I picked up another piece. This piece was similar to the first, except it was orange.

OH…MY…GOD!!! I was holding fish fins, and still remaining on the floor were two fish tails! Then I noticed the puddle of water, and little wet footprints on the stairs. I followed them right to my son’s room, where an empty fish bowl sat, the screen cover on the floor, and water everywhere. Apparently, cat met fish and fish lost. By all indications, Blacky and Fluffy had put up a valiant fight, but they didn’t stand a chance. I hadn’t even bought them a little castle to hide in. As I stood there, still holding the last remains of my children’s pets, I heard the school bus. In a frenzy, I mopped up all the water with a towel, gave the remains a burial at sea (you know what I mean) and jumped on the couch and grabbed a book. My head spun as I tried to think of a way to tell them that their beloved fish had been devoured by their beloved cat. They walked in the door, laughing and smiling. I watched with dread as they went upstairs. Minutes later, my son called down…

”Mom, where are the fish?”

Fishing season ended in our house, and hamster season began. Hamster number three for my daughter was a cute little Golden named Peaches. All was well with her, until one day we noticed a bald spot on her back. We didn’t get alarmed until more bald spots showed up, and her bare little hamster skin looked red and irritated. My daughter was adamant, “Mama, she needs to go to the vet.” Apparently, a hamster patient was rare, because we got a whole lot of attention when we brought her in. The vet was wonderful as he performed a thorough examination under the watchful eyes of my daughter. We left with no definitive diagnosis, just a bottle of drops, and some skin cream. He also provided me with rubber gloves to wear whenever I handled her. Over the next few weeks, I donned the gloves three times a day, picked Peaches up, administered the drops, and gently applied cream to her sores. All I can say is patient and nurse developed a strong bond.

Unfortunately, her condition continued to deteriorate. One day, when there wasn’t much life left in her, I picked her up and she bit me. The plastic glove was no protection, and she left me with a little break in the skin. “It’s okay, girl, I don’t blame you” I told her. By the next morning, we found her under her bedding, her bright little hamster eyes never to open again. I was devastated. Laura was sad, I was devastated.

I called the vet, with my daughter by my side, to tell him Peaches was gone. When I mentioned I had been bitten, he got very concerned. He said that rabies was not common in hamsters, but there have been cases. I asked him what I should do. He told me that the hamster needed to be tested, and I should bring her in. “Sure, I can do that.” And then he said five words I will never forget. “I only need the head.” I froze as these words sunk in. Stunned, I hung up the phone. My daughter looked up at me, all big-eyed and innocent, and asked…

“What did he say, Mama?”

NOTE: Of course, I couldn’t chop Peaches’ head off. I wrapped her in a handkerchief, zipped her up in plastic and placed her into the cryogenic chamber in my kitchen. I delivered her the next day, in one piece, to the vet’s office. And no, I didn't get rabies.