Monday, February 20, 2012

Only Slightly HYSTERical

I have been embroiled in a love/hate relationship with my uterus since November 1976.

It was a lovely fall Friday as I recall, or as close to “fall” as it gets in Sparks, Nevada, when I first became truly aware of its existence. The tumbleweed was at its autumnal peak as I sat in the principal’s office at my tiny little religious school, doubled over in pain and waiting for my father to pick me up from school. “We think she may have appendicitis,” the teacher told my dad as he put me in the back of the car to take me home to rest. But emerging from my bedroom a few hours later, looking like Carrie on prom night, it became instantly clear that it wasn’t my appendix that had burst.

Since we’d just moved across the country from the rest of our family, my mother, proud as a peacock about my induction into womanhood, rushed to the phone and called my grandmother back in Philly to have me relay to good news. “Grandma, I just got my period,” I told her after some prodding. “That’s wonderful dear,” I recall her reply. “Just so you know, though, you don’t have to call me every month. From now on it’s only news if you miss one or when it ends.”

In that first “womanly” weekend, puberty hit me like a ton of bricks. I think I went from a training bra to an underwire by the time I returned to school the next Monday. “How’s your stomach?” my teacher asked when I returned. “Fine,” I replied, although I really wanted to answer: “I’m on the rag, moron. Now, get me some chocolate.”

For the next year, I was in excruciating pain every 28 days. By 7th grade, the doctors had me on the pill and by 8th I was the go-to-info-girl for the classmates who had just started menstruating. When the most popular girl in school was surprised with her first period in the middle of class, the teacher (a guy mind you…blech!) pulled me aside and dismissed us both from Bible study so I could convince her she wasn’t dying and show her how to use a pad. My fearless attitude over helping her scrub her skin-tight, bloodied white 1978 jeans in the church kitchen sink got me an invitation to her “cool girls only” sleepover…to this day, it still wasn’t worth it.

Despite its early inauguration, this uterus of mine has never managed to get its act together. It’s given me years of painful cramps and “Psycho”-worthy moments. It made my 30s torturous, letting me get pregnant over and over only to pull the rug out from under us at the 12-week mark. Not once, not twice, but FIVE times before Evan was finally born. Then another four “Telfon pregnancies” before Ben came along. Yes, being as persnickety as it was, it insisted on my having preeclampsia, weeks of bed rest and early/emergency C-sections both times. But once it allowed me to successfully carry the two greatest sons ever conceived to term, all was forgiven.

Until now.

This P.I.T.A. organ apparently has a wicked sense of humor. It didn’t want me to carry 9 out of 11 of my pregnancies, but it’s very enthusiastic in its support of this huge-ass cluster tumor it’s decided to impregnate me with. I look, and feel, 5-months pregnant. I’m anemic. Some months, it makes me faint. Sometimes it hurts to walk. And now it’s sprouting friends. So, it’s time to go.

Before all of you have finished breakfast Tuesday morning, I will have bid a less-than-fond farewell to my girl-gizzards. You would think that it was a no-brainer decision, but trust me, it wasn’t. I’ve been told time and time again that I have a “guy brain,” but it got very girly when it came to making this decision. Logically, it made perfect sense to agree to a hysterectomy. At 46 (yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m 46), I had no intention of having any more children. I’m in pain. I’m bloated and ballooning, with a main tumor that’s bigger than a newborn’s head and shoulders. “Cut that sucker it out” seems perfectly logical. But somehow, despite myself, there’s more emotion than logic swirling in this “guy brain” lately. Will I feel less like a “whole” woman when it’s over? Will I go bald and spout a beard? What lies ahead?

Fortunately, I have great friends, including one who went through this whole shebang years ago. We’ve known each other since high school, and I instantly knew I could turn to her for advice and comfort, despite the 3,000 miles between us. I asked questions that were extremely personal in nature, and she readily answered them with ease, support, and unbelievable humor. “We still got our boobs and a clit, right?” she said. How can that not make you smile? Funny how people you’ve only seen once in the past 20 years can shoot to the top of your “faves” list with once single sentence. Love ya, M.

Being the selectively anal-retentive lunatic I am, I’ve filled our deep freezer with soups and casseroles and washed/ironed every article of clothing in the house lest the Stanley manfolk become Ramen-dependent Clampetts during my hospitalization and recovery. Generous neighborhood moms are on alert for kiddie car rides. And my mom is chomping at the bit to help cook/clean/care at a moment’s notice.

I’ve been accused of being overly frank and open about things in my life. But that’s how I roll. I could shy away from subjects that many would consider embarrassing or uncomfortable, but that’s not my style. Way I see it, unless I’ve done something wrong, there’s no shame in answering people’s questions or being upfront about your life. Need to talk childhood trauma? Gimme a call. Female troubles? If I can be of some comfort, you’ve got my number. Lucky for me, there’ve been people along the way that could do the same for me. They’re cutting me hip-to-hip and yanking out my giblets tomorrow. I’m gonna hurt, I’m gonna get emotional…and I’m gonna get over it. Plato and his posse thought uteruses ruled the bodies and brains of us broads. ὑστέρα, schm-ὑστέρα (loosely translated “uterus, schmuterus"). The support of friends, family, loved ones and online simpatico strangers (props to are what you need to get you through…not organs and tissue.

So I'll see you on the other side, people.

(Just bring good beer)

Monday, May 9, 2011

La Vie en Rose....AVEC les Enfants!

I don't watch much TV, which is odd considering my dream is to write for it. But tonight I watched three consecutive hours flipping between non-cable channels. The most I've watched straight in the last five years, probably. So excuse me if what I'm about to write is old-hat to most of you, but it's completely new to me because of my just emerging from a television coma:

Pfffft, Bayer. Pardon me. More specifically, Pfffft "Beyaz," Bayer's birth control pill.

Just saw your ad for the first time ever. A bunch of young women in a "store" choosing between all the wonderful things life has to offer. Hot car. Dream job. Buying a house. Trip to Paris. Or... a manic stork trying to drop a bundle at your feet. If you want one of the first four, you'd better stay well-clear of the bundle of joy that pesky diaper bearing ciconiiforme is dying to unload at your Manolo Blahnik's.

Mind you, I'm well aware that I'd be in a completely different place if I'd opted to NOT have kids. Yeah, this twin would probably be a single. On a bigger plot, in a better part of town, with a newer/better/leased foreign car parked in an attached three-car garage. I'd probably be waking up nights worrying about my investments instead of my kid's algebra test and bill collectors. And I'd be plotting how to get rid of my corporate competition instead of piece-mealing my share of the family's coffers. But a huge UP YOURS to Bayer for suggesting that nothing good can be obtained from that "store" if you opt for the stork's bundle.

I've been to Europe, several times before kids and once after. The trip after took a lot more pinching/saving/ebaying, but was the most memorable of the lot. Yeah, my car is extremely used, leaks oil and shows numerous traces of kids' wear-and-tear in the backseat. But I wouldn't trade a single crayon mark, sticky soda stain or smudge mark. My kids made them. My messy, fabulous kids. (Remind me to make them clean my car for a late Mothers Day present)

We own our house. It's not huge and it's not new, it's not in a "hot" neighborhood...but we bought it, despite the parasitic stork that Bayer's commercial blasts. So pardon my French, but va te faire foutre, Bayer et Beyaz. Life doesn't necessarily automatically suck if you have a kid or two.

Yeah, there aren't as many goodies. Some of your goodies may have to be second-hand, smudged, or domestic instead of imported. But every year on the second Sunday in May I get something awesome made from a handprint in art class. And every Christmas morning I get two amazed faces descending the staircase (even though one of them is faking it). And every day I get to know that I've had some small part in creating and shaping two kickass boys who'll do something decent and leave this trash heap of a planet a little better than they found it.

Yes, I gave up a LOT by deciding to have kids. But I got a lot in return. For Bayer/Beyaz to suggest that it's a dreams-or-genes alternative is infuriating to me. Unfulfilled dreams? Yeah, I've got some. But so do a lot of those "shoppers" who picked the house/trips/career over kids. Life isn't that black-and-white Bayer. Awesomeness and fulfillment are subjective. It's not up to some 50-something white guy at the corporate office in north Jersey to tell women that it's one or the other. Schmuck.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to research "European vacations" online with my boys. We may have to save for five years to get there, but we will. And we'll send you a postcard. Postage due.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Smoth...I Mean Mothers Day!

It’s Mothers Day Eve Eve. Or in layman’s terms, Friday night.

We’re back from Lansdale’s First Friday night, the boys and I have settled into the living room and are flipping through our limited non-cable channels for something to watch; they with their diet colas and “cheesy poofs” and me with my glass of cheap white wine and little dish of pistachios. As baseball fans, we all agree on the documentary-in-progress on PBS, a re-airing of Ken Burns series on Baseball that none of us has seen. It’s 30-minutes into the “Fifth Inning” when we turn on the television. This episode covers 1930-1940... Babe Ruth. Bob Feller. Joltin’ Joe. Dizzy Dean. The Negro Leagues and Satchel Paige.

As a family of baseball nuts, it’s the perfect choice to end the evening. We’ve just had a lovely stroll down our town’s Main Street, listening to mediocre musicians, popping into thrift stores and coin shops, and splitting desserts and fried pickles at the town’s Irish pub. As we settle in for the night, and the boys stop fidgeting and actually listen to the script being read by John Chancellor, 2nd grader Ben starts asking questions: “Why couldn’t the black player play with the white players?” … “They really couldn’t stay at the hotels or eat at the restaurants when they toured? Why not?” … “How come? I don’t get it.”

And with that “I don’t get it” … suddenly I do.

I may be a so-so sister. I may be an occasionally iffy friend. And I’ll admit to being a less-than-perfect wife. But that “I don’t get it” made me feel like a kick-ass mom.
That four-word sentence made me realize that I’ve done a decent job raising a color-blind, non-judgmental, all-accepting pair of sons. What’s to “get”? Treating people as inferior simply because they’re a different skin tone isn’t something you SHOULD “get.” It’s stupid. It’s illogical. It’s wrong. The fact that it’s beyond their comprehension makes me proud.

Sure, one of them may be floundering in algebra, and the other may be considering making competitive eating a vocation once he finishes 3rd grade. But they’re both two of the most decent, loving, unbigoted human beings on the planet. And I think/hope that I’ve somehow had a shred of influence on their becoming that way.

Mind you, I’m not exactly Mother Theresa and I freely admit it. I have a problem with people as a whole. I’m rather intolerant at times. Arrogant/ignorant drivers. People who talk on their cells loudly in public. Folks who act/feel like they have a sense of entitlement that sets them a notch above the rest of creation. Anyone who drives a Hummer. And anyone who has to punch a code into a gated community to make it to their driveway or lives in a “community” named after the species they wiped out to make room for their four-car garages…I could do without. But none of those prejudices are based on race, ethnicity, sexuality or religion. They’re based on your being a pompous asshole.

However, listening to my boxer-clad boys ponder why on earth anyone would object to a person of another color sitting/drinking/eating/residing or playing baseball alongside them flushed me with maternal pride. For all my Hummer-hating shortcomings, I have somehow successfully managed to rear two awesome sons who see people for what truly matters. Sure one of them can’t spell worth a hoot and the other one is a wee bit too cocksure for an 8-year-old. These are two boys who know what’s important; who know what’s right, what’s wrong, and know how to bait a hook without getting squeamish. I think that rocks. Happy Mothers Day to me.

I tried explaining in 2nd grade terms why some people during that time period treated people of a different color that way. Why mediocre white boys were paid quadruple-plus what players like Satchel Paige were paid. I thought of blaming it on the times, or blaming it on the South…but just one block away from our little three-bedroom-one-bath twin is a more expensive single home that proudly flies a Confederate flag in their front yard. And we live WELL above the Mason-Dixon. In 2011. So I told them it’s not about “the times”…and it’s not about “the South”…it’s about some people from the beginning of time having the need to feel better about themselves by looking down on someone else.

And they got it. They “get” it. They know in their heart/gut that the guy living behind us is making some sort of “I’m better than them” statement by flying that thing in his yard. Just like they know that the “old guy owners” in the documentary were making an asinine “We’re better than them” statement by keeping non-white greats out of the “real” leagues back in the day.

So I don’t care if I get any macaroni art or wilting flowers this Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed, a quarrel-free day, a Hallmark card…I can live without ‘em. Just knowing that I’ve had a tiny part in raising two awesome boys who know that people’s worth has nothing to do with their race/gender/religion/orientation tops any brunch or bouquet.

(But a mug of hazelnut with cream and 3 Splendas would still be nice come Sunday morning. I’m just sayin’….)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

For the Love of Man...or a Frying Pan

For the first five years that we lived in this house, we lived with a defunct dishwasher. Oh, we thought we had a working appliance when we bought the place. In fact, we were thrilled at the prospect of not having to hand-wash everything after years renting non-washer abodes. But we were hoodwinked. For legal reason I won’t tell you about the scam that was pulled on us, but needless to say, we were quite disappointed when we ran that very first load as homeowners through its cycle, and the floor flooded.

Being “young” (a relative term) parents, we watched (still do) every penny and decided we could keep living without a dishwasher for a while. “A while” became years, and our dishwasher basically became a cabinet for seldom-used cookware and appliances. But one year, after helping wash up after a particularly dishy Thanksgiving dinner, my in-laws surprised us with the delivery of a brand new Maytag dishwasher…and we’ve never looked back.

Tonight however, after a fabulous dinner, we had to wash most of the dishes by hand because we were completely out of dishwasher detergent. As I was scouring the pans and scrubbing the glasses, I looked about our tiny galley kitchen at the years of accumulated crockery, flatware and culinary paraphernalia we’d accumulated. Some of it was sentimental: items we’d inherited or had purchased to recreate our childhood kitchen comfort zones. But most of it was/is totally expendable. That being said, there are a few items around this place that are indispensable. The Kitchen Trifecta, if you will.

The Potato Ricer

This device is basically a hand-press for boiled potatoes, guaranteed to turn a cooked spud into a lump-free puree that would satisfy the fussiest of Thanksgiving guests. But it’s so much more. I think mine comes in contact with tuna far more often than it does with tubers. Ever open a can of tuna and find yourself pressing the detached can lid down against the fish flesh so hard that the lid eventually buckles, your thumbs ache, and the tuna is still too moist to turn into salad? Two seconds in a potato ricer, and you’ll have every last drop of liquid squeezed from Charlie. Yes, it makes perfect potatoes. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. How about homemade baby food? And let’s talk spätzle! If your love of noodles has advanced beyond spaghetti and mac-and-cheese in a blue box, then you’ve heard of spätzle, an egg noodle popular in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and beyond. The recipe has few ingredients and seems simple enough. I’d tried making it a few times from scratch, pressing the dough through a colander as many cookbooks suggest. But I’ve always ended up swearing and returning to store-bought boxes. Then a friend suggested I try using my potato ricer instead. Done and done. Take that, Knorr!

A Cast Iron Skillet

These black beauties are good for more than just conking men on the noggin. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is the working mule of any cook’s kitchen. I found mine at a thrift store for $2. It was black as tar, crusted and disgusting. But it was solid, had a sturdy wood handle, and the promise of many awesome meals to come. I snatched it up, brought it home, and sprayed it with oven cleaner to remove the years of caked on gunk. While you don’t want to “wash” a cast iron skillet, you do want to clean it, and its previous owners apparently didn’t know the difference. Once it had the charred on, caked on remains of myriad meals removed, I knew the pan had to be re-seasoned. This being my first cast iron skillet, I wasn’t sure how exactly to go about that task. Fortunately, the monkey-friendly Google came through for me, and entering “How to re-season a cast iron skillet” yielded the desired information. Grease, heat, cool, wipe, repeat. Voila. That was five years ago. This baby hasn’t seen soap since, and is better than any Teflon-coated piece of crap you could buy at Target. Best $2 my kitchen has ever seen. Anyone want pancakes?

A Good Knife

I have a lot of knives. Paring knives, boning knives, butter knives, “chef” knives…I could stab, smear or spread the crap out of any of you. But for people who truly enjoy cooking, it all boils down to ONE good knife. Just as some parents may have a “favorite child” (Bastards! I love my children equally!...That’s my story and I’m sticking with it), all cooks have a “favorite knife.” It’s the one that will slice through a tomato without dimpling it, will open a package of bacon, or butterfly a chicken breast like it were made of butter. I have a relative who paid $80+ for their “favorite knife.” I bought mine for $7.49 at Marshall's. I think I could de-bone the mailman without having to resharpen this puppy. (Chill out, Mailman Mark. Purely a figure of speech.) I miss it when it’s in the dishwasher and I’m forced to use its ugly stepsisters to chop and mince. I would sleep with it under my pillow were it not for my fear of my husband filing for a restraining order.

Speaking of husbands, mine just came home from the store with dishwasher detergent pellets. So I can stop going all pioneer bad-ass on these pans and treat them the way God intended, with “normal wash” and “economy dry.” Except for my baby. Mommy’s gonna hand wash and dry you, lil’ cast iron skillet. I may not always know how to treat my fellow man, but I ALWAYS know how to treat my cast iron.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


If you know either of these songs,

you're alright by me, Jack.
(not many do...)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bring It On! ... with a few exceptions

As I've frequently
shared, I grew up living with my grandmother, my English/Welsh grandmother. The English/Welsh are known for many wonderful things, but culinary experimentation was not one of them in the 1970s. My grandmother, and her mother and mother's mother before her, believed in cooking things until they were D.O.N.E. done. Meat was cooked until it was brown, through-and-through. Vegetables were cooked until they were barely able to still be considered a "solid." At 433 West Upsal Street, things like wontons, sloppy joes or spaghetti were simply unheard of.

After we left Grandma's house, things got a little more interesting in the food department. Out went grandma's pressure cooker and in came the savior of 1970s working mothers' kitchens: the crockpot. I remember awesome all-day crockpotted (it's a word if I say it's a word) sloppy joes. And "barbecuing" became part of our vernacular. My father once even brought home and cooked blowfish. We survived.

When we moved west, we had our very first Mexican food when a Mexican family we befriended came to our house and prepared a feast. I remember thinking that guacamole looked revolting. But I was either willing or forced to try and was instantly addicted. Tamales hand-wrapped in husks, black beans, mole was like a suburban white kid's version of a Mexican Babette's Feast. And it was the birth of my adventurous spirit when it comes food.

Today, I love "exotic" food, foreign food. Indian, Thai, Vietnamese...heaven. Spicy food? If it makes your nose run and your eyes water, bring it on. I pride myself on my willingness to try just about anything once, an attitude I've passed on to my boys. Over the course of my two-score-and-a-few years, I have eaten some very unusual foods. Sometimes I just wanted to try what the locals were eating (a giant haggis in Scotland). Sometimes I was trying to be polite (spicy raw crab in Los Angeles). I may not always enjoy what I'm offered, but I'm willing to try it. Scrapple, monk fish liver, beef tongue...sure, why the hell not. But despite my love of the exotic and my adventurous spirit, there are certain things that I simply cannot bring myself to even try. Some are foods that others I know adore. Others? Well, you decide....

Raw oysters. I cannot bring myself to slurp one of these down. To me, it feels and looks like I'd be swallowing whole a giant gob of salty phlegm topped with Tabasco and lemon. I'll take the Tabasco and lemon, but in a Bloody Mary. You can keep the snot-on-the-half-shell, thank you.

. Nope, not gonna. I lived on a religious commune where one hippie mother fed her infant son calves brains. Blenderized brains to boot. We had tubs of them in our freezer. I'll never forget the look, smell and sound of her preparing them. I don't care if you cover them in Godiva chocolate or batter-fry them...I firmly believe that if it was encased in a skull it was not meant to be eaten. Which leads me to...

Head Cheese and/or Souse. This is a double whammy of things I don't "dig." Face meat and aspic. I can understand and appreciate its origins. It makes complete sense to use every available part of an animal if you can, including their cheeks, jowls, ears...Hell, I willingly eat scrapple and it has pig bits I don't even want to know about! But the inventors of scrapple knew what they were doing by grinding the bejeebers out of things then mixing them with cornmeal. It looks disgusting, but at least it's uniformly disgusting. (And delicious, BTW). The guy who invented head cheese, however, took the exact opposite approach. "Let's make every chunk visible and identifiable, then let's pack 'em in jelly! Make them jiggle a bit! I know, let's get Mikey to try it!" Pass.

Balut. This boiled egg is a treat in the Philippines that you can occasionally find in larger U.S. cities. It's no ordinary boiled egg. A balut is a duck (or chicken) egg with a nearly developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten right from the shell. Yeah, you read that right. Look... I love eggs. I love chicken. I love duck. I don't love the idea of boiling and eating an unborn baby duck. I guess that makes me a poultry pro-lifer. I say let 'em hatch, grow up for a few months, then eat 'em!

If you're an oyster, brain, souse or balut fan...well, the more power to ya. I'd actually love you to leave me a comment below. Do your best to persuade me to reconsider my disdain for any of the above. I may be able to be swayed to try two of the four. I'm pretty sure you can guess which two.

"Chili Sauce" by Louis Prima

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

They're Baaaccckkkk

Today I did the rarest of things for adult: I took a nap.

A medication I’m on is causing a dry cough that keeps me (and my husband) up half the night. Last night was so bad I think I slept a total of three hours, in 20 minute segments, between the coughing spells. I was so tired this morning as I readied for work that I didn’t notice until I started to get dressed that I had forgotten to rinse the shampoo out of my hair while I showered. So tired I spent five minutes looking for my reading glasses, which I had been wearing like a headband upon my freshly rinsed hair. So tired I had to drive back home when I was but blocks from the office, because I had forgotten my cell phone and my lozenges (which have left a permanent yellow spot in the center of my tongue from two weeks’ worth of sucking).

So as soon as I finished this morning’s work at the office, I had to lie down for a couple of hours before exhaustion made me iron the rabbit and put the laundry back in its cage. My husband gave his blessing (why do adults feel the need to ask permission to nap?), and I headed upstairs while he de-Christmased the rest of the house. Although I coughed half the time, I did manage to catch 34 ½ glorious winks…until the tornado blew in at exactly 4:01 p.m.

“We’re HOOMMMEE!!....What’s for snack? Can I eat this is or it for lunch? Can I have a juicebox? Where’s the remote?! Where are you?! MOOOOMMMM!!!!”

All that took 2.3 seconds to come out of mouths as they speed yelled in unison. By the time I descended the stairs literally one minute later, it looked like a bomb went off in the coat closet of my husband’s freshly cleaned living room. Coats, shoes, backpacks, lunchboxes, socks, THEIR JEANS…were all strew about the floor. Son #2 was hopping about yelling that his new pants had given him a rash on his thighs and he needed “itch goo.” Son #1 was yelling at Son #2 to put on some pants and that the “itch goo” (which by the way is prescription hydrocortisone…should you be wondering) was HIS and telling me he now refuses to use it on his neck if I allow Son #2 to put it anywhere near “his thing.” I may be dating myself with this reference, but this is the exact moment when I want to look into the imaginary camera that films every moment of my life and say, “Calgon, take me away!”

It’s not Calgon, but a large mug of “dreg” (reheated coffee from this morning’s pot….we’re out of wine) took the edge off just long enough for me to slather second grade thighs, pour drinks, dole out cookies (NEVER let them get their own), rinse out lunch boxes and point to the pile of outerwear in my trademarked “move it or lose it” gesture.

Once Son #1 and Son #2 were sated, settled and sitting on the sofa sipping soda (Can you say ‘alliteration’? I knew you could) I was able to look at them and remember why it was I wanted kids in the first place. But from 4:01 p.m. to 4:08 p.m., I had been cursing myself for not opting to raise cats.

Cats like naps.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Family Plot

Yesterday while I was grocery shopping, my sons successfully managed to talk their father into letting them combine their $50 in Christmas gift cards and purchase a Chinese dwarf hamster. They met me in the frozen foods aisle with huge smiles on their faces, a bag full of rodent paraphernalia, a small box with airholes punched into the side, and $5 in change. There was no need for a cage, since they knew we already had one in the attic. WHY did we have a hamster cage in the attic? Well, that leads to the point of this entry.

"Nugget" is now residing in the former home of "Hammie." Hammie was a Black Bear hamster Evan got for his birthday about four years ago. Very sweet, and a bit of an escape artist. One day about six months after we got him, I came down stairs in the morning and started yelling at the kids for leaving a wet sock on the living room floor. Only, it wasn't a wet sock. It was Hammie. He'd pulled a noctural Houdini act, only to be found and "played with" by Daisy the Dalmatian.

Hammie rests in peace ( and just one piece, fortunately) in "Poopy Park," a small dog-walking park around the corner from our house. But Hammie is not the only occupant of the "Stanley Family Plot" at Poopy Park, for Hammie was preceded in death by Sponge Bob and Patrick. Sponge Bob and Patric were parakeets who met their doom one afternoon when someone accidentally bumped a knob on the stove and heated a Teflon frying pan on low for an hour. (Apparently, Teflon fumes are lethal to parakeets.) Sponge Bob, Patrick and Hammie were later joined by Bubbles the goldfish.

Yes, we buried a goldfish. Bubbles was no ordinary fish. We won him at the local church carnival, and he proceeded to grow as big as a tennis ball. This was the kind of fish who would swim to the edge of the tank to greet you in the morning and who, when he knew you were about to clean his tank, would swim INTO your hand as if to make your job easier and say "Thanks!" Bubbles lived a long life, and when he finally floated to the top, he was just too noble of a creature to get the customary "burial at sea." So Bubbles rests his fins alongside his furry and feathered counterparts in Poopy Park.

Daisy the Dalmatian and Pudding the cat have also passed on since we moved into the house of pet death, although they both lived long and happy lives (Daisy, 11; Pudding, 18) and neither was flushed or buried in the park. All we have now are two freakishly large goldfish (we apparently rock at raising fish); "Hopscotch," a dwarf rabbit who thinks he's a dog (we had two, but one was a psychotic, biting rapist and had to go); and now "Nugget."

Goldfish have been known to live up to 20 years. This is not acceptable. I do not want to be scraping algae off the sides of a tank well into my 60s. I'm giving "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil" until Ben hits high school, and then they're going into our friend's koi pond where they can grow to the size of shoe boxes and eat their weight in flakes. I'm not necessarily telling my friend they've gone in either. Let them think it's spontaneous generation.

The lifespan of an indoor rabbit could be 10-12 years, which means I'll be finding rabbit droppings on the sofa until Ben is a freshman in college, or Evan marries a woman who likes rabbits (unless he's living in his "basement apartment" when he's 24...which he won't be...)

Nugget isn't going to be a problem. Hamsters live 2-3 years. The Guinness Book of World Records says the world's oldest hamster made it to 7. Either way, Nugget will live a happy life running his wheel at 3 a.m. until his time comes, and then there's plenty of space at the family plot down the road. And the cage'll go back into the attic when it's vacated, just as before. Until it's time to give the unborn grandkids a hamster.

Or two.

*Ben by Michael Jackson.
About a kid and his pet rat named Ben.
I have a kid named Ben.
He has a pet hamster.
Close as I could get.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Mind#$%@

Merry Christmas!

Hopefully, you have all found your lost gift cards after digging through the gravy soaked garbage bags, have dug yourselves out of your driveways (east coasters), figured out what that wet stuff coming down from the sky is (west coasters) or managed to shoot/stuff/mount somethin' (the middle bits).

I myself am hiding up in my bedroom office playing on the computer because I can't take one more minute listening to the background music that comes with the Wii. I hope that "composer" made a fortune, because I'm pretty sure there's a bounty on his head by now.

Christmas used to be a lot easier when my kids (two boys, 8 and 14) were younger. It wasn't so much about the content of the boxes under the tree as it was about bulk. Giant box? Good! Didn't matter to them that it was filled with $10 fake Legos. As long as the box took up half the living room, they were happy. Then something clicked in their little consumer brains, and they figured out that the "good stuff" came in smaller packages. They figured out the difference between name-brand and knock-off. And yet, they still expected bulk under the tree. I've heard I'm not alone in this. And I expect that Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Wachovia are pretty much expecting everyone's January mortgage payments to include a late fee.

Despite the "gotta wait for the next paycheck" shopping on Dec. 24, and the "cross your fingers and hope it goes through" credit card transactions, most of our kids probably had an awesome Christmas morning and are already plotting their wish lists for next year. The thought of that got me thinking about some of the best Christmas presents I've given, and gotten. (It's a real conjugation...I looked it up!)

Gotten: Hands down easy answer.

My parents were divorced for several years, then remarried each other and soon after moved my younger brother and I clear across the country from Pennsylvania to Nevada. Sparks, Nevada to be exact. Never heard of Sparks, Nevada? Yeah, well, why the hell should you have? It's in the middle of nowhere and it was butt ugly (at least in the mid-to-late 70s). Tumbleweed was their local flora. Their local fauna were truckers, commuting hookers and religious least in our neighborhood.

I was 11. I knew no one. I missed everyone back east. And I'd been told, against my will the year before, that Santa was "a lie, and did not exist."
Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much that dusty Christmas. A cyanide pill would have been a welcomed stocking stuffer. But I got this little box under the tree that 6th Grade Christmas. In it was 20 business cards. No, I hadn't been franchised. They were all cards for a nearby ranch that sold horses and offered trail rides with Arabians. Each card was signed on the back by the ranch owner and was good for a one-hour trail ride.

To an average girl, a box of business cards instead of makeup or Donny Osmond posters would have seemed like crap. But these cards became, to this day, one of my most memorable gifts.
These twenty hours on horseback were twenty hours I wasn't at home living with strangers. They were twenty hours spent on "Blackjack." Blackjack was my horse of choice. Not too tall, not too short, not too fast, not too slow, Blackjack knew the trail like he'd blazed it himself and was my Saturday companion for the rest of 6th grade. I dreamed of buying him for my own one day. When I got to know the ranch owner, she let me use my hour-long cards for two half-hour sessions instead, which enabled me to invite neighborhood girls to join me. Yeah, it was an 11-year-old transcontinental transplant's attempt at bribing kids into liking her. I knew it, and they knew it. I don't remember any of their names anymore, but for at last 30 minutes on each Saturday, I had a friend on my new coast. And I had Blackjack.

My last six hours or so, I didn't want to share with pseudo-friends. I just wanted Blackjack and the trail to myself. I knew I'd never own him, but I just wanted to savor the bladder-bursting gallops with him by myself. Blackjack's long since dead, but I'll always remember that winter/spring riding the barren trails of Sparks, Nevada with him as one of my favorite childhood Christmas gifts.

Given: Hands down easy answer.

I have two sons, Evan (now 14) and Ben (now 8). Evan is me. Ben is his father.

"Me" at Christmas is hooked on "A Christmas Story." The movie completely resonates with me, having grown up in my grandparents same-era house in West Mount Airy, Philadelphia. I've replicated some of the sets in our own house. The push-bottom radio with the chrome bowling ball liquor dispenser on top? Got that. Bing playing on Christmas morning as the kids descend the stairs? Done that. Pink, footed bunny jammies with hoodie and ears?....Well, I'm not psychotic, I've never done that to my kids. BUT the movie is ingrained into my brain, and into my son Evan's.

When Evan was 9 he still firmly (as far as we could tell) believed in Santa. Without consulting my other/better/wiser half, during a shopping trip in the Amish country I purchased at a dry goods store a "Red Ryder Official BB Gun." It didn't have "a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time," but it was as close to the real deal as they made. I wrapped it in plain paper. And Christmas Eve, after the kids had finally fallen asleep and when my husband wasn't looking, I hid it in the living room. Behind the desk.

Once all the presents were opened, somehow Evan was subtly (OK, maybe not so subtly) directed to look toward the desk. When he opened it, he was stunned. Something that he didn't even know he wanted and had never even asked Santa for instantly became his most treasured gift that year. He shot cans from our recycling bin, still dressed in his jammies. He schlepped his oiled steel beauty to New Jersey that afternoon and turned my in-laws backyard into a rifle range, much to the chagrin of their Home Owners Association I'm sure.

You don't get to many chances to blow a kids Christmas mind (in the good way) as a parent. I don't think my parents knew they were blowing mine when they stopped by that ranch and asked its owner to sign a bunch of 2x3" cards. But they accidentally did. And I don't know if that unexpected pediatric weaponry blew my son's mind, but that memorable look of amazement and surprise makes me hope it did.

I don't really relish growing older, but I do look forward to one day blowing my grandkids' minds, and maybe ruffling my daughter-in-laws' feathers, with one or two memorable Christmas gifts somewhere in the far future. To me, nothing would be cooler to Grandma Suze than knowing my sons' kids were drifting off to sleep, pringing ducks on the wing and getting off spectacular hip shots.

"Christmas Everyday" by Latch Key Kid on playlist (Yup, always pimpin')

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hell....The Wonder Years My Ass!

Despite my parents best efforts and years of religious schooling, I turned out completely non-religious. With one exception. I'm a firm believer in hell. I know for a fact it exists. Hell is the place you go to be tormented by Satan's minions. A place where you live in fear and agony. A place where those around you thrive on finding ways to pick you apart and feast on your emotional carcass like ravenous vultures.

Middle school.

Something happens to kids (girls especially, I hate to admit it) that turns many of them pure evil between the ages of 11 and 14 or so. Maybe it's hormones, maybe it's actually their own insecurities, maybe it's an inbred instinct to attack the weakest members of the herd. Or maybe they're just little bitches. But middle school is the definition of "hell on earth" for many of those who don't fit into the popular, "jockular," beautiful cliques. We all survived it, some with more scars than others (literal, and figurative). And now a lot of us are going through it again, as observers.

This morning I had a flashback to those horrible years thanks to my nearly 14-year-old son. An eczema sufferer, the dry winter air has done a real number on his arms and has spread its damage to his face. Yesterday he started a new treatment, but until it kicks in, he's an itchy, patchy, flaky mess, slathered in prescription ointment. This morning, when I went to wake him up for school, he down at me from his top bunk and simply said "Please don't make me go."

Ever seen one of those television moments where the background blurs and zooms by, and suddenly the main character is standing there in their own past? In an instant, I was lying in my own 1978 bed, covered in chicken pox scabs, begging my mother not to send me back to school: "Tomorrow's Friday. Just let me stay home until Monday. Please!"

Sure, I'd managed to get by so far in middle school, buy only by the skin of my teeth. I went to middle school in three states on two coasts. I was perpetually the "new girl." The chubby new girl. The chubby new girl with the huge rack. Becoming the class clown with C-cups got me by, but not even a self-deprecating sense of humor and mastery of a filthy vocabulary could spare this funny, "Rubenesque" chick from ridicule once they saw me covered in Calamine and pox. So I begged. "If your temperature is normal in the morning, you're going." Thanks be to God I still had a fever the next morning. Well, actually, thanks be to the Thermos full of boiling water I kept under my bed that night. The minute she left the room with the thermometer under my tongue, I went into action. Thermos open, thermometer in, swearing that it instantly got up to 112 degrees, and shaking it as hard as I could until she came back. "That's odd. You don't feel like you've got a 101. I guess you lucked out. Stay in bed."

So when I heard "Please don't make me go" this morning, he didn't have to ask twice. I could see the pain in his face, anticipating being tormented for his splotchy cheeks and swollen eyelids. I'm a good mom. I'm not evil. And since federal law prevents me from going to school with him and shoving the tormentors into their lockers or giving them swirlies, he was allowed to stay home for the day.

And made to clean the living room.

Maybe I am just a
little evil.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Putting the "URGE" in "Urgent"

I do it.

I confess.

Yes, I'd rather someone else do it to me.

But sometimes, the urge is just there. So strong.

And either there's no one available to help me vanquish it, or I simply need the job done as quickly and easily as possible.

So I admit, I frequently quell the desire all by myself.

With my own hand.

Or any number of purposely designed or make-shift devices I have laying about for just such an occasion.

I have them throughout the house, for whenever the need arises.

There's one next to my bed.

There's one in the bathroom.

There's the cheap thing I bought in Chinatown.

There's the thing in the utensil drawer.

Hell, I've even been known to use furniture or wall corners in a pinch, the urge is sometimes that strong.

I have the world's itchiest back.

(And you're all a bunch of perverts, BTW.)

If Heaven is a place filled with nothing but things designed to bring us pleasure, than Suze Heaven consists of walls made of coarse sandpaper to rub against, people with long fingernails willing to do my back's bidding, and Eucerin waterfalls.

I don't know if it's dry skin, excessively sensitive nerves or what-have-you, but I derive such pleasure from a good back scratching that I've been accused of having secondary and tertiary clitorises (clitori?) in my shoulder blades.

If I were to be captured by the enemy, I'd be able to stick to "name, rank serial number" if subjected to water-boarding, "the box" or sleep deprivation. But so help me, I'd give up every thing I had on each and every one of you if they teased me with a light scratching across my back.

So out of all the bloggable things going on in the world today...TSA screenings, Tom Brady's hair, Kardashian kredit kards, Leslie Nielsen's passing...what made made me write a stupid blog entry about my neurotic/erotic/psychotic love of a good back scratching?

I'm home alone.

Everyone's at Lansdale's Christmas tree lighting.

I got itchy.

I saw the bread knife...

and now I desperately need a Band-Aid.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Web and Flow

This is another one of those blog posts that requires a warning right up front: If you're one of those wussy men who can't handle the words "puberty" or "period" without having blood trickle from your ears or running away screaming, you should probably move along.

Of course, I've already said the words, I'm sure they're already fled the room.

I recently got an unexpected phone call from my very first ever boyfriend from the summer between 7th and 8th grades. It was really sweet and we laughed a lot remembering the past and catching up on the present, our kids, jobs, etc. Since we hung up, I've been mentally going back to that period (the other use for word, fellows) remembering every little thing or other. A lot of my childhood is a blur because we moved around so much. But that period (again, you're safe) when we lived in Middle-of-Nowhere, Nevada is pretty firmly fixed in my gray matter. Why? Puberty.

Here's where it starts getting ugly.

We moved to Nevada shortly after I began 6th grade. I was maybe 11 and a month. Something about the sagebrush and slots affected my hormones and puberty hit me like a ton of bricks, all in one afternoon. I'd already developed quite a bit in 5th grade, much to my horror. How do I remember it was in 5th grade? Oh, when your evil ex-nun school teacher loudly announces in the middle of your co-ed game of hopscotch "Suzanne, tell your mother that Miss Harris says it's time you start wearing a bra to school" you kind of remember that day. She'd be about 65 now, unless one of her former students has murdered her.

My family wasn't exactly the "let's talk about the facts of life" set, so when I was sitting in class that one November afternoon in 6th grade, my barely 11-year-old body doubled over in agony, the school nurse called my father and told him to pick me up: "She may have appendicitis." After lying down at home with a heating pad for two hours, it was suddenly well evident that I did indeed NOT have appendicitis. I was mortified. My mother was thrilled. I was a woman. "Let's call Grandma and tell her!"

*Now, I should explain a little something here. We were living in the outskirts of Reno, and Grandma, Grandpa and every other person we knew was back in Philadelphia. And we were living on a religious commune to boot. So there was a lot of praying over me during those 2 hours before the medical truth was revealed. Zealots lose their interest once they see you're not dying ~ just on the rag. (How many of you did I lose with that one?)*

So for some bizarre reason, I complied and called my grandmother back in Philadelphia and told her the "good" news. "Grandma...Mom wanted me to call you and tell you I just got my first period." I'll never forget her response. It was classic Grandma H. "That's WONDERFUL dear! Now, you don't have to tell me every month. This one should cover it."

So there you've got the background. Puberty hit me like a ton of bricks, all in one week. By that Friday, I think I had to start shaving my legs. Within a month, I was in an underwire. So by the time I hit 7th grade, let's just say I stood out even more from the other girls. My school picture is downright comical. Sitting behind an old fashioned desk, flag by my side, fake bookcase backdrop behind me...and all you really notice is a huge set of breasts on a mortified 12 year old girl. I out-racked some of the teachers. There was only one other kid in the entire school who'd been hit as hard and as early as I. He was in 8th grade, and had a full mustache. It was inevitable that we'd connect. And that summer we were inseparable.

I don't know what his folks had told or taught him about sex. I know my "knowledge" at that point was mostly that it would send me to hell. So there was a lot of innocent exploring and not-so-innocent "Oh, so that's what that does!" results that summer. Relax...we never did "anything" major really, but I did go farther with G. than I did with most boys in high school...And this is today's lesson folks: If all you tell your kids about sex is that it's wrong, hoping to curb their interest, well you'll get the opposite results. Guaranteed.

Half my friends have kids my older son's age, and we're all in the opposite end of the puberty boat now. Dealing with THEM dealing with puberty. Some of our kids have long crossed that bridge. One of my son's classmates has a mustache and sounds like Barry White. And others are years away. But we parents are all at the point where we've got to decide how far to take "the talk" (if we haven't already had it). I'm not saying we should start running out and stocking up on condoms and talking about the pill. But we can't be ostriches burying our heads in the sand and hoping they'll figure out their burgeoning bodies and urges on their own. No way in hell am I going to be a "Grandma" in my 40s. (Not thrilled about the prospect in my 50s either...or just the prospect of my 50s quite frankly).

Sex is awesome. It's right up there with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And kids aren't stupid. All it takes is the first kid who's rounded the bases to tell all the others...and we're toast. I just hope that I'm being a good enough coach during spring training that my kid takes his sweet time and doesn't attempt to bat until he's completely ready to handle the outcome of the game.

Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good"...first concert/date I went to that summer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Back to the Future?

This week, one Stanley
has decided to leap into the future and another is diving into the past. Let me elucidate...

When I was a communications major at Temple University, one of my journalism professors (who I happened to have a crush on...but I digress) was also an editor at my local daily newspaper. He got me a job in the summer of 1990 as a freelance writer, or "stringer." Being an overeager journalist-in-the-making, I took whatever assignment they'd throw my way, even if it meant working every weekend. Which it did. Being a small paper, many times I was the only person in the newsroom during my shift. One afternoon, a staff photographer I'd never met came into the newsroom, told me his car battery was dead and asked if I could give him a jump start. I didn't have cables...but I did end up jumping him several months later. Or he ended up jumping me, depending on whose side of the story you believe. One thing lead to another, and 20 years later we've got two kids, a mortgage and 9-year-old car with the "check engine" light constantly on.

While I left the paper eons ago, he's been working there in various capacities for 22 years. Until now.

Early this week, my husband was offered a job with the newspaper's parent company and will be leaving The Reporter's newsroom. He's worked there longer than it takes a person to be born, educated and become of legal drinking age. For the first time since 1988, there won't be a Stanley working at the local paper.

Strike that.

On the same day corporate offered him his new position, the paper's editor asked me if I'd be willing to come back part-time for a little while and help out while an employee was on disability. With Christmas right around the corner, and Apple products on someone's wishlist, I naturally agreed. So as my husband is packing up his desk of 22 years, I'll be sitting down to do the exact same job I left 15 years ago. Walking into that newsroom, with a new computer system I've never used, is going to be like 1990 all over again. Except this time I'm not the fresh-faced 20-something in a room full of seasoned staffers...I'm a good decade-plus older than most of their current writers. God, that's depressing.

All this got me thinking about how much all the little things have changed since 1990, and whether I'd pick the current over the past.

Lansdale itself looks extremely different. The elaborate and ornate Hotel Tremont that once welcomed folks into town and dominated Broad and Main for more than 100 years was razed to make way for our new centerpiece, a butt-ugly Rite Aid. Welcome to Lansdale ~ you want child-proof caps? Other landmarks are gone. Restaurants have opened, closed, reopened, reclosed and then become credit unions. "I Got It At Gary's" became Vidilia, Vidalia became Food Town. Parking meters cropped up like Main Street weeds. But a farmer's market, Oktoberfest and killer pub compensate, somewhat. Still, I think I'd take 1990 Lansdale's backdrop. Today, we just look like every other pharmacy-riddled Philly burb.

I myself look pretty different. 1990 Suzanne had really really long, thick, awesome hair. 2010 Suze has the post-kids, thinner, shoulder-length "mommy" thing going on. Too old for the "Grab my ponytail and drag me to your cave, Thag!" look. 1990 Suzanne was also 80 pounds heavier than 2010 Suze, however. So go ahead, keep the hair 1990. Reading glasses, blood pressure medicine and the one varicose vein aside, I think I actually prefer 2010 Suze. She's more interesting and seasoned than 1990 Suzanne. She's got a killer tattoo. And a secret wild side that only a lucky (?) few know about. When she's not depressed or dieting, she can rock.

That photographer I told you about? Well, the jerk looks almost exactly the same in 2010 as he did in 1990. (We've been together 20 years, so I can use the term "jerk" as an expression of affection.) Despite the fact that he has WAY more gray hairs than me (I have five. I counted), as I'm getting the insultingly polite "Ma'am" on occasion, HE still gets carded on occasion at the state store. On one photo assignment not too long ago, someone actually asked him what school newspaper he worked for. Obviously, they were drunk and/or myopic.

I may have rambled a bit, as people of my advanced age sometimes tend to do. I'm not even sure what the original point of this belated blog was, but I'm going with this: Times change, and like it or not, you've gotta roll with 'em. Hopefully that means taking a giant, risky leap forward. Sometimes it means taking a necessary, temporary step backward. Buildings, jobs, pounds and hairlines come and go, but what keeps us young is the company and attitudes we keep. There you go. I think.

By the way, I'm only 37 and will deny any age to the contrary.

And if you happen to see a reprinting of this blog entry in a future issue of "Cooks Source" magazine...please let me know.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Splitting Hairs

The following blog entry should not be read by the easily embarrassed, the easily offended, the overly judgmental, the Amish, anyone who may see me at the grocery store or PTA meetings or my relatives…

I haven’t blogged in ages. Between entertaining the kids during summer break and working, I just haven’t had the time. But now that everyone’s schedules are back to “normal,” I’m finally carving out a little time every day to write. In fact, I’m working on a script, and as is my custom, I dove into research before putting the proverbial pen to paper.

In researching a story I’m working on about middle aged women, dating and sex, I have recently found myself required to visit some online porn sites. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) I must say, adult “films” have changed significantly since I watched my first one back during the Reagan administration on the $600 Betamax VCR I bought with my babysitting money. Back in the day, you had to pay an annual membership fee to join a video club. Once inside, you’d look left-right-left as if you were about to cross a busy intersection, to make sure no one you knew noticed you entering the red-bulb-lit “naughty room” in the back of the store. You’d read the back of the tape boxes, trying to find a movie that had at least a semblance of a storyline (or maybe that was just me), and avoid making eye contact with anyone else who may have crossed the threshold into adult territory. Today, thanks to the internet, I don’t know if they even rent porn anymore. But I digress.

Like I said, everything’s changed since that first Beta tape, which I still remember vividly. I think the plot involved a lone guy on a sailboat who shipwrecked on an island conveniently inhabited only by women who’d never seen a man before. Or maybe he was a pilot. Or a pizza delivery guy….OK, I don’t remember it that well after all. But I DO remember one thing. Pubic hair still existed back in the 1980s.

If an alien were to tap into the internet and judge us solely from images he saw in today’s porn, he would assume that the human race has been genetically altered to the point that short-and-curlies no longer exist, on women OR men. He’d also assume that human females are all born with butterfly tattoos on their lower backs and that our species now propagates through dermatological osmosis (that was the most polite way I could say what I think you know I’m talking about.)

Other changes I’ve noticed? Well…acts that were considered edgy or even shocking back in the “Luke and Laura,” Duran Duran days are now de rigeur and don’t even raise an eyebrow. Of course, eyebrows aren’t what they aim at raising. Men are no longer required to be even slightly attractive, only freakishly well-endowed. In fact, not even all the women are required to be attractive anymore, just willing to push the limits of the human anatomy. I know that porn isn’t truly my “thing” since I mostly find myself judging the dialog, noticing the men’s butt acne and the women’s dental fillings. There is a lot of bad dentistry among porn “actresses”!

Of course some things remain the same. No one plays pool on pool tables, although there are usually plenty of racks and balls on the felt. Coeds still manage to convince their professors not to fail them. Police, plumbers and pizza guys are still willing to accept the bartering system for payment. And boobs are still defying gravity.

Porn has been around since the first caveman drew a pair of Neanderthal breasts in the dirt with a stick, and has evolved with the changing technologies and public tastes. And porn will still be around a thousand years from now, when we’re all living somewhere in space. Maybe by then pubic hair will even reappear.

I could go on and on, but I’ve got to go. The Domino’s guy just pulled up, and I can’t find my wallet.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm Feelin' the Urge...The Urge to Purge

When my husband and I first started dating 20 years ago, I was very excited when he invited me over to his apartment for the first time for dinner. Looking around his mini one-bedroom place, which bore mostly the remnants of his college days, I quickly realized he was a minimalist. His bedroom furniture consisted of a one-man futon, a “table” that was actually an old electric cable spool and a typewriter table to hold his turtle tank. His living room held an old desk chair and arm chair from his parents’ house and his tv sat on his childhood nightstand. And in the kitchen was a two-man table from Ikea and an ironing board. “I never want to own more than I can fit into my Honda Civic because you never know where an opportunity may take you, or when,” he said. I had to laugh. By 23, I already had a storage unit, having moved from my apartment back in with my parents so I could go back to college. I thought to myself, "Well, this attitude is going to change!" And sure enough, it did.

When we moved in together, we discovered a joint love of flea marketing. He now loved to collect vintage radios and televisions (didn’t matter that none of them worked, they all looked cool). And I felt the need to recreate the comfort zone of a tortured childhood: my grandparents kitchen. As our now two-bedroom apartment filled up with my old furniture, old RCAs and every 1940s utensil we could get our hands on, it started to feel like a home…a very cluttered home. When we got married, rented a tiny house and had our first son, we felt the natural need to nest. “Nest” coming from the Latin word meaning “to collect crap.” We became very sentimental and whenever a relative was going to give away some item from our childhoods, we felt the need to become its caretakers. Dining room set, dressers, desks, paintings, books…we were doing our lineage a service by minding the mess.

When we bought our own home and had our second son, this naturally progressed. We have more rooms! Look at all the cabinet and closet space! Let’s fill ‘em! Aunt Mildred’s gone. Sure, I’ll take the bureau and sofabed. Grandma’s gone. Sure, I’ll take the dressers. Ooooo, look at that 1950s oven! It’s just like Grandma’s! Bring it on! When both of our parents downsized their houses, guess who took a lot of the overflow.

Now, something in me has either clicked or snapped (the verb depends on if you’re an optimist or a pessimist). Recently I began feeling the urge. The urge to purge. In the month since I’ve been back from my last trip to Los Angeles, I’ve purged probably half of my personal belongings. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, books…if I didn’t wear, walk in or read it in the past year, it's outta here. Same with the kids’ room. And this morning, since I’m childless for the rest of the week, I decided to tackle my “hot spot.” The kitchen. I started writing this blog in my head after I pulled my third fondue set from a cabinet. This is not 1974. There are no fondue-based key parties in my future. Bye-bye skewers and pots. Why the hell do I have seven pie plates? I have never baked more than three pies at one time, even on my biggest Thanksgiving. So long 9” Pyrexes. There are only four of us in this house. Why do I have 11 coffee mugs? Three crockpots? I have never made homemade French onion soup. And yet I have the crocks. I have the internet, I don’t need 12 cookbooks (at one time I had over 40, so only having 12 now is already impressive but I’m only keeping three). I think I now have two Honda Civic’s worth of crap to get out of this kitchen. If you’re looking for a gravy boat or vintage cake plate, better call me before my husband gets back from work!

I admit that when under stress, when I’m feeling a lack of control, I have the tendency to rearrange the proverbial deck chairs. I have arranged the furniture in this house in every possible configuration at one point or another, short of putting the only-semi-functional 1950s Norge oven in the living room. But as my next September birthday looms, I’m feeling a deep need to lighten loads, metaphorically and physically. I’m obsessed with shedding weight, shedding clutter, shedding stress. So far, I’m two-for-three.

I have a dear friend named Christina, a kindred spirit whom I’ve never actually met. She recently turned 30 and I’ve sometimes made fun of her for becoming overly reflective and worried about her life’s direction so early. And I really shouldn’t have. It’s never too early to reflect. Never too early to start sorting through your life. Whenever you’re facing transition, whether it’s a milestone age, a career change or some personal drama…it’s never too early to want to do something about it and think about where you’ve been and where you’re going. Sorry Christina. Keep on thinking and doing something about it. And let me know if you need a fondue set.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Versus Verses

  • When a man says “I’m going to bed,” he takes off his pants, (if they already haven't been off for the past three hours), turns off the light, gets into bed and falls asleep. When a woman says “I’m going to bed,” she rotates the laundry cycle, checks on the kids, makes her “to do list” for the next day, checks her emails, pays the mortgage online, washes off her makeup, gets undressed, turns off the light, gets into bed, turns the light back on, takes the medicine she forgot, turns the light back off, gets into bed, and lies there for two hours wide awake.

  • When a man says “Nothing’s wrong,” he actually means: “Nothing is wrong, why are you asking?” When a woman says “Nothing’s wrong,” She actually means: “I am so pissed off right now, and your not knowing why is half the reason I’m pissed, so you’d better figure it out for yourself because I’m not going to tell you and if you don’t figure it out soon, be prepared for no sex for a while.”

  • When a man says “I’ll be home at 6,” he actually means: “I will be home sometime between 6 and 7:30.” When a woman says “I’ll be home at 6,” she actually means: “I’ll be home between 5:58 and 6:02.”

  • When a man says “She seemed very nice,” he either actually means: “She seemed very nice” or “Oh my god, that was the best rack I’ve seen in AGES.” When a woman says “She seemed very nice,” she either actually means “I could take her or leave her” OR “Oh my god, those were SO fake! And I SAW you looking!”

  • When a man says "I bought you a present. I hope it fits," he actually means: "It may be too small because I know if I accidentally bought one too large, you'd get depressed and accuse me of thinking you're fat." When a woman says "I bought you a present, I hope it fits," she actually means : nothing. No woman has ever said that sentence. We know every size of every member of both sides of the family.

  • When a man says "That guy's really good looking, don't you think?" he actually means: nothing. No (straight) man has ever said that sentence. When a woman says "That guy's really good looking, don't you think?" she actually means: "I think you should eat more salads, dear."

  • When a man says "I'll be ready to go in five minutes," he actually means "I'll be ready to go in five minutes. I may not remember where we're going, how to get there, or to be dressed appropriately, but I'll be ready." When a woman says "I'll be ready to go in five minutes," she actually means "You may as well turn on the television and make yourself a snack."

  • When a man says “That woman’s beautiful, don’t you think?” he actually means: “I am a very brave and possibly quite stupid man who is willing to take my life into my own hands by pointing a woman I find attractive out to you.” When a woman says “That woman’s beautiful, don’t you think?” she actually means: “That woman’s beautiful. I’m feeling frumpy. I’m subliminally asking you to tell me you find me attractive. You get one shot at answering correctly. If you fail, please refer to the consequences of example #2.

Feel free to add your own below.

"Nothing’s wrong."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pros at Prose

I love writing.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the 8th grade, when my jackass teacher refused to submit a short story I’d written to a contest, saying: “This must have been plagiarized from somewhere. You’re too young to write about an alcoholic matador so realistically.” What can I say? I had a vivid imagination and a decent vocabulary at 13. And a thing for drunken bullfighters apparently.

There’s just something about being able to combine words in such a fashion that you tell a story in a way someone else can’t. In a way that makes someone want to keep reading, and then talk about it after. I don’t care what the format is, I just love the process and the outcome. Even if it’s only 140 characters at a time.

This week I’ve written pages and pages about music licensors, DVD replicators, golden-haired minstrels and inbred homicidal psychotics, only three of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve “tweeted” about tattoos and Facebooked about horny hares. And I’ve dusted off long-shelved words like “Sapphic’ and “minstrel.” This is the stuff that floats my boat. Now if only this sailor could just reap some serious booty from the wordsmithing.

The point of this entry? Well, like “minstrel” and “Sapphic” (great word, made two people run to look it up so far), I let my love of writing sit on a shelf too long. I’ve know for close to 30 years that it’s what I was meant to do. And I got paid to do it for a while, but then stopped. Now that I’ve recommitted to it wholeheartedly, I sometimes worry that it’s too late. It’s hard to compete with kids 20 years younger in any field, let alone a creative one. But I’m busting a hump (not every turn of phrase has to be poetic) to make things happen.

I see both of my sons developing talents very early, things that I can see them doing as a profession. My 13-year-old spends hours drawing everything from Fenway to a portrait of his brother. I can totally see him becoming an artist or an architect. And I can see his 7-year-old brother becoming the President of the United States...or a highly successful used car salesman…or both. One’s an illustrator, the other an orator. I just hope that when the time comes for them to decide which paths to take, that I remember my floundering years and don’t try and make them pick something “safe” instead, like I did for a while. I’d like to think that I’d encourage them to go with their gifts rather than the safe road. Because I would love to see Evan design a building one day. And I would love to see Ben get Congress to make gay marriage legal in every state. Or at least get me a really good deal on a previously owned BMW.

"Lady Writer" by Dire Straits

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

3:00 p.m., Saturday June 12:

Blogging quickly from the USAirways gate, about to board a flight to Los Angeles. I was originally slated to fly out at 2 p.m., stopping in Phoenix for an hour. They screwed up and made it impossible to catch my connection. But by some twist of fate, the airline paged me and offered to put me on a later, direct flight that would get me to LA at my original landing time. Awesome. Then I look at my new ticket and see it says, 1D "First Class." I look at the woman at the counter, and she simply whispers "You were a sweetheart, you never saw me, don't mention my name or I'll get in trouble." Awesome! "I was never here, I never met you, but I love you" I tell her. Feeling full of luck and with a bit of swagger, I ask at the information booth if USAir has a first class lounge. Yes, I'm a rube whose never flown first class, and I plan on milking this ticket for all the perks it's worth. I'm directed to take a secret elevator to the third floor. WHO KNEW the airport had a third floor! The doors open, and the elevator is immediately filled with the aroma of gardenias and orchids from the lounge's reception desk. "I don't know if I'm allowed to be here, but I thought I'd try," I say to the size 0 supermodel behind the desk. She looks at my ticket, asks if I arrived from Europe, and then denies me entry upon getting my answer. *Note to self: whenever a skinny broad asks if you've arrived from Europe, say "yes." I return to the aromatic lift (that's British for elevator, you peasants) with my head hung in shame, as Eurotrash in ripped jeans and sweat-pitted T's look on in disdain. "Bugger off" they seem to be saying in their minds (British for F.U., you peasant!). So now I sit at the gate, with my prized golden ticket, waiting to board and sink my suburban housewife ass into a plush, extra-wide window seat with extra leg room, built in TV screen, free dinner and wine served on real plates in real glasses...typing to the background noise of two SCREAMING and kicking toddler twins sitting behind me, kicking my chair. Their mother is oblivious, talking on her cell about Milan and D&G. Crap. No on in coach talks about Milan and D&G. Yep. First class. I see her ticket. First class, seat 2D. Right behind me, with her screaming tantrum twins. I'm thinking of spending $12 for a bottle of Benadryl at the airport shop, slipping it into her purse, and hoping she gets the hint. Karma's a bitch.