Who’s that lady (who’s that lady . . . )? Oh, shit. It’s me.

Welp. After about a year of being cooped up at home with all the children in the world, SkipFitz and I made a big decision . . .

We bought scooters.

Well. We ORDERED them, anyway, about a month ago; they won’t be here until early July. And as much as that news jacked with my need for instant gratification, it did give me time to suck my act together and get licensed to ride mine (whom I’ve already named Shirley).

So I got busy and signed myself up for a beginners’ motorcycle safety course at the local community college. With the sacrifice of a single weekend (6-10 p.m. on Friday night, and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday), I could walk away with greater knowledge about motorcycle safety, several hours of hands-on (and butt-on) motorcycle riding practice under my belt and, most importantly, a certificate that would allow me to walk into the DMV and get an M slapped onto my driver’s license (which SkipFitz already has, having taken the class years ago).

The class took place a couple of weekends ago; I joined two other women and seven men for an evening of classroom instruction, followed by two more mornings of classroom work and two afternoons spent practicing motorcycle skills out on “the range” (i.e., a designated parking lot).

The classroom work was a piece of cake; mostly workbook exercises, done en masse and peppered with anecdotes from our instructors—and also from one guy in the class who already had his license, but was taking the class with his 30-something son, with the plan that soon they’d be hitting the road Easy Rider-style on a coupla phat hawgs.

But I digress.

The point is, the actual riding part was, erm . . . more challenging.

Oh, I started out strong; the initial exercises on the range were simple enough (owing in part to my ability to drive a manual transmission car, which gives you a leg up on learning to shift motorcycle gears) that I immediately started thinking maybe I wanted a motorcycle instead of a scooter—an inclination (complete with overconfidence) unwittingly supported by one of the instructors. On the first night of class, each of us had shared, by way of introduction, what kind of motorcycles we had or were getting, so I told the class about the little red scooter in my near future; the next day, as I finished one of the riding exercises and rolled up to the instructor for feedback, he said, “So you’re going to forget the scooter and get a MOTORCYCLE, right?”

Awwwwww, yehhhhh, baby. I had this shit DOWN. Mama was HOT Stuff . . .

. . . and then Mama wiped the [BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEP] OUT during an exercise toward the end of Saturday’s practice. I know exactly what happened: I’d been having some trouble shifting from first to second gear (I kept kicking it into neutral instead), so during one of the exercises, as I attempted to build speed, I kicked up HARD on the gear shift to make sure I bypassed neutral—and accidentally sent the engine from first to THIRD gear. As the bike started to sputter and the engine threatened to stall, I panicked, and grabbed what I (in my twirliness) INTENDED TO BE the clutch lever on the left handlebar, to quickly downshift . . . but was in reality the lever on the RIGHT handlebar—aka the FRONT BRAKE.

Next thing I knew, my entire field of vision had rotated by 90 degrees, my head hurt (thank God for helmets!), and people were running toward me.

Several minutes later, I was bandaged up (once I’d assured everyone I was fine, one of the instructors pointed out a brand new hole in my brand new jeans, complemented by a big fat raspberry on my knee—and once I’d gone to the Ladies’ to drop trou and slap a giant Band-Aid on that sucker, I discovered a roughly five-inch bruise blooming up my right thigh to go with it) and back on the bike. I wasn’t even that afraid, really (although the achy stiffness that took up residence in my neck and shoulders later that night revealed some residual anxiety . . . my body rats me out like a toddler on the phone with Grandma EVERY TIME), and for the rest of that day’s class, I rode high (and upright, hallelujah) on the fact that the father/son duo in the class had cut out during our second riding exercise, because the son noped tf out (Dennis Hopper dreams be damned) once he got a taste of actually RIDING a motorcycle—and here I was, back on that bad boy after having dropped it on my own leg!

But Hot Stuff was gone, and in her place was the sudden realization that in this scenario, I was THAT LADY.

You know the one: the kind middle-aged lady (in fact the oldest person in the class in this case, due to the father/son departure) wedged in amongst the young’uns, who all like her and are rooting for her, but who also secretly feel a little bit sorry for her.

I have encountered That Lady at least twice in my own life:


In my late teens/early 20s, I worked at Old Spaghetti Factory (aww, yehhh, baby, mizithra cheese FOREVAHHH), and one of our semi-regular customers (an apparent Lady of Leisure) decided to apply for a job there as a hostess, “just for something fun to do.” Although I questioned her idea of FUN, she was right about one thing (which she declared matter-of-factly to me just before she quit): she didn’t need the job. But it’s not like I didn’t already know that; she and her husband rolled up all bougie in their BMW about once every couple of weeks, dressed to the nines, ordered wine, joked with the servers, and (rumor had it) tipped extremely well. Everything about them (except, perhaps, for their taste in Date Night fare) oozed money. To boot, they were just really lovely people (who, for some reason, really dug a relatively cheap pasta dinner that included spumoni for dessert).

But I digress.

The point is, Fancy Nancy got the job—but she fit in with us broke-ass college kids, working for rent and beer, about as well as a t-rex in a pteranodon nest. (I mean, sure, Buddy’s family thinks he’s great now, but once he hits puberty . . . .) She showed up to work in her ritzy car, wearing posh, expensive evening wear she’d bought especially for the gig (the dress code called for black or khaki pants/skirt and a white blouse or button-down top), and lasted about 3/4 of a shift before she came to resent criticism from a trainer half her age (who was not evil, but who took her job very seriously—and who’d commented politely but pointedly on Fancy’s failure to adhere to the dress code). She hugged me sweetly and thanked me before departing mid-shift, and we were all a little sad to see her go . . . but really, what was she thinking? Although we’d all liked her OK, nearly everything about her whole endeavor became mildly pitiable, from thinking Old Spaghetti Factory seemed like a fun place to work, to dressing up for a minimum-wage job, to—and this was really the crux of it—choosing to work at all, when she could already afford all the beer she could possibly drink.


In my mid-20s, I started grad school. Because my mother had used the entirety of the four years I spent working in restaurants and bookstores between undergrad and grad school to express her profound disapproval of this little “break”—every moment of which was apparently doubling the probability that I’d end up living in a van by the river—I was convinced that I was WAYYY late to this party, and that I’D be the older outsider in my Master’s program.

But as it turned out, most of my peers were pretty much exactly my age . . .

. . . aside from that one (even older) lady enrolled in my Cultural Criticism class. Again, she was kind—parlaying her extra years of life experience into a maternal role, advising us on the importance of proper nutrition (in those days, “fat-free” ruled the diets du jour, and she reminded us that we needed some fat, for the sake of our hair), making sure we had safe ways to get back home when the evening class was over, etc.

And we liked her. But she . . . didn’t quite “get it”—not like we, replete with the spry intellect of youth, did.

During our unit on blues legend Robert Johnson (complete with Faustian narrative), we were assigned a CD of his works for our aural edification. When we showed up for the class following our listening homework, she unabashedly declared that she didn’t see what the big deal was—she didn’t find Johnson’s music to be impressive at all. In fact, she thought it sounded pretty horrible.


I mean, HELLO—what advanced scholar worth a grain of salt disparages Robert Johnson?

(Now, at this point, if I’m being completely honest, I should admit that much of my horror at her declaration was due to the fact that I’d been assigned to lead that evening’s class discussion, and I was afraid it had just become MY responsibility to convince her of Johnson’s talent. As it turns out, the professor was a guitar player, and so was able to demonstrate the technical difficulty of some of those chords Johnson managed to pull off (with Satan’s help). I still don’t think she was convinced—but the important thing was that her dismissal of Johnson’s work didn’t become MY failure to effectively articulate his greatness.)

Because we liked her, we simply sat silently, giving one another secret “YIKES” looks on the DL. But we all felt mildly embarrassed for her in her unenlightened state.

Anyway. You see what I mean: THAT LADY.

And now, in this motorcycle class, I was THAT LADY.

I was the lady who’d shown up on that first Friday night of class as a walking homage to my own youth (now decades in my rearview mirror), in an extremely oversized sweatshirt (emblazoned with the name of my undergrad alma mater), capri-length leggings, and brand new sparkly Doc Martens (which I could never afford during my actual youth) purchased especially for the occasion (sound familiar?).

I was the lady who, that same night, was the only one NOT getting a bad-ass motorcycle, but rather a scooter that would see no highway miles.

I was the lady getting the sincere-yet-still-kinda-patronizing high-fives from the rest of the class for getting back on the bike that day I fell.

And the next day, when a rumbling and raging morning storm resulted in a practice range replete with standing water, I was the lady who damn near quit.

Like the day before, we started the day with classroom instruction. But because the storm hadn’t let up during the time we spent taking our written tests, our practice on the range was postponed by almost an hour. When we finally got a break in the downpour, we geared up and straddled our bikes . . .

. . . but the mojo with which I’d begun the previous day’s riding practice was gone, replaced by a vicious snowball of doom: the fear of wiping out again (I mean, I’d managed to do a pretty good job of it on dry pavement, so imagine what I could do in this puddle of a parking lot) caused me to fail miserably at the first few exercises (especially those involving tighter turning maneuvers at higher speeds), which in turn caused me to become twirly with frustration, thereby failing harder at each subsequent attempt. Finally, my hands shaking like two young Tina Turners decked out in fringe, I steered my bike toward the “staging area” (i.e., where we returned our bikes between exercises), parked it, dismounted, removed my helmet, and told the teacher (who approached with a look of confusion and concern), “I think I’m going to have to go.”

She didn’t argue, but in the process of answering my questions about what this meant (yes, I’d have to start the class over from the very beginning if I wanted to take it again; yes, it was possible to forego another class and do written and driving tests at the DMV (possibly even on my own scooter, but I’d have to ask); etc), she told me I was welcome to sit out for awhile, then rejoin the class if I wanted to, just to get some more practice in.

After a couple more minutes, my hands stopped Rollin’ on the River, so I opted to get back on the bike and see how it went (I mean, at that point, I’d already quit, so the pressure was low). When she saw me climbing back on the bike to rejoin the class, she stopped the class and sent me through the current exercise on my own a couple of times (this was an exercise where everyone was riding follow-the-leader style in a giant oval), while everyone cheered for me (see? THAT LADY). In the end, I stayed for the rest of the day and passed the driving test, all with copious high-fives and encouragement from my classmates—which I went on ahead and leaned into, because by that point I’d fully accepted my That Lady role.

And y’know what I’ve learned about That Lady? She doesn’t need anyone’s pity. Or, perhaps more accurately, she doesn’t really care; she’s hit the age where both her feet are firmly planted in the No Fucks zone, so she will rock the clothing that makes her feel good (whether it’s sequins in an Old Spaghetti Factory or sparkly Doc Martens on a motorcycle). She will walk away from the job (or the motorcycle class) if she doesn’t feel like it’s working out for her. She will say what she feels (whether it’s that Robert Johnson sucks, or “Hell, yeah, I’m scared shitless to fall off this bike; these bones are more brittle now!”) without needing you to agree that she’s right to feel that way. SHE IS NOT EMBARRASSED (which doesn’t mean she’s incapable of embarrassment, I mean nobody wants their skirt to blow up into the air when they’re wearing their laundry-day underwear (or none at all)—but rather, she’s not embarrassed by who she is, so nobody else needs to be embarrassed for her when she’s expressing exactly that . . . but if you want to be, you do you; no fucks given).

Like Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes, she’s older and has more insurance.

I kind of love her.

And I especially love her scooter.


Tales of a 5th Grade Someone

So part of the reason I’m returning to this blog (aside from having been inspired by my friend Paige’s blog; check out Paige in the Shed (I wonder if she realizes the acronym there is PITS . . . a huge irony, because both she and her blog are friggin’ awesome . . . but I digress) when you have a minute) is because I kinda left y’all hangin’ right? I mean, five years ago, I went and told the world (or at least the seven people who read this blog sometimes) that I was a middle-aged woman about to have a BABY, and then . . . crickets.

Sorry about that. I’ve been busy raising a child. A child who is now five, and ohhhhh, ya gotta meet him. He’s a real butthole, but he is worth every bit of pain in my old ass.

But more on him (and my other pain in the ass, who is now 13) later, because my third impetus for returning to this blog is that earlier this week, I found out that my best friend from 5th grade (and part of 6th) passed away last month. After I got the news, I spent the afternoon feeling sadder than I had any right to be, given that, aside from the occasional thumb or emoji or birthday wish (her birthday—November 18—has remained emblazoned in my brain) on Facebook, I was not really in touch with her (although I really wanted to be better at that, because based on her Facebook presence and a couple of private messages, she seemed like she’d somehow become an even better person than she was before we had armpit hair—and the two years (TWO YEARS; how did I miss this?) of Caring Bridge posts she wrote during her epic battle with cancer (which I spent an evening reading) support this theory; she is going to leave a huge gap in the good around here).

But I remember her. I remember so many things about her that fall into the category of Why do I remember THIS so clearly, but routinely forget that my poor dogs are outside in the rain??? that my spouse suggested I compile some of those memories, in case someday her husband might want to share them with their four perfect-faced children.

So I’m gonna do that here. You’re welcome to come along for the ride (I’ll drive and deejay). Here goes . . .

“Four days later, floatin’ down the Delaware, chewin’ on his underwear, lookin’ for another pair . . . “

I remember, before we were friends, seeing her with her best friend at the time—a spindly, petite girl named Diana. When I left school to walk the single block home to my house, they’d be walking to the bus together; sometimes she carried Diana piggy-back, and they’d be singing scandalous kid versions of “Row Row Row Your Boat” and cracking up. I was so jealous of a friendship that seemed like so much fun (and of kids who got to ride the bus, but that was just my own weirdness).

“Shinin’, gleamin’, streamin’, flaxen, waxen . . . “

Also, she had amazing hair. She wore it daily parted down the middle, and held back on either side with those little metal barrettes—the kind some girls (including Yours Truly) wove ribbon through, and attached beads to the dangling ribbon ends, which resulted in an attention-grabbing, beaded-curtain-type clacking sound at the flip of a head; but this girl kept it humble and simple, and let her lovely, thick, long hair do the talking. Sometimes, she’d bump it up a notch and do a side part with a single barrette on the more voluminous side, which I always thought made her look amazing, like a stewardess or a waitress (occupations which, in my little 10-year-old mind, were about as glamorous as you could get if you lacked the chops to become a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader). But later—after we’d become friends—when she got a haircut and got it FEATHERED?

Done. I was done. I would never have hair that amazing.

“I feel like bustin’ loose, bustin’ loose . . . “

What really made me want to be a part of her life though, was that she had boobs. I mean, not that I could see, exactly—but I took her word for it. I remember being a part of a circle of girls, huddled together in conversation on our classroom floor (our school was incredibly groovy; 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms were all together in what was called “The Big Room”: one huge, orange-carpeted open space that had pillows, beanbags, and three-dimensional x-shaped nooks strewn about in common areas for reading and hanging out, and what basically amounted to a sunken living room—called the Drama Pit—in one corner (there was no furniture, but it boasted a few levels of steps for sitting and lounging) . . . but I digress). The topic of discussion (on which not one of us was anything even close to an expert) was bras and bra sizes. I remember her complaining that her parents wouldn’t get her a bra, but declaring that she needed one; gesturing towards the western-style brown plaid shirt she wore that day, she insisted: “I have boobs! You just can’t see them, because this material is pressing down on them.”

I mean. Undercover boobs, y’all. That right there was enough for me to think she was pure magic.

“Up like a rosebud, high on the vine . . . “

At last—I no longer recall how, but I may have found my foothold when I somehow became a part of the talent show act she and Diana conceived (a group of 4 or 5 girls performing a dance to Hey, Look Me Over; and although Diana (being the only one of us who took dance lessons) was responsible for the choreography, it turned out that it was my future BFF who executed the best leprechaun kicks . . . but I digress again)—I finally worked my way up to inviting her and Diana to my house after school. I wasn’t looking to wreck this girl’s most cherished friendship; rather, just to get a piece of her orbit. As it turned out, though, the two of them got into an argument at my house and, well . . . maybe I used that to my advantage a little.

“Fightin’ the system like two modern-day Robin Hoods . . . “

At some point after that, Diana scooted out of the picture, and I. WAS. IN.

I was now the bestie (a privilege I’d later abuse, but at this point, all was good). What I remember most about those halcyon days are her favorite things:

The Dukes of Hazzard. More than a few sleepover nights at her house—far preferable to sleepovers at my own house, because her room had the coolest feature I’d ever seen: she and her dad had hung her bed from the ceiling of her room (against one wall, with thick ropes run through holes they’d drilled in a wooden base); I had never known such ingenuity in a person my age (but she had it to spare, at one point even making her own braces out of wire, although she got the real deal a couple of years later . . . but again, such digression)—were spent in her basement with the Duke boys*.

The song “Centerfold” by the J.Geils band which, on the occasions when she slept over at my house and my parents took us to the pizza joint I loved, we always played on the jukebox and waited with bated breath for the “ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!” after the second bridge. Once, we missed it because we’d been playing video games. That was a tough moment for both of us.

Horseback riding, which scares me a little now, but back then, with my preteen sense of invincibility, I was totally game to tag along for the adventure when her parents bought her a horse (what I specifically remember about that, so very clearly, is how she approached me at first recess—with a grin so wide it’s a wonder she made it through the door to get outside—and said, simply and quietly, her eyes lit up like a Christmas display, “I GOT HIM”). I remember his name (but I may butcher the spelling): Prince Charlie Quodiyaque. And I remember how pretty he was, but mostly I remember how in awe I was of her ease with these FLIPPIN’ GIGANTIC CREATURES THAT COULD REALLY JUST FLATTEN YOU IF THEY WANTED TO; she showed me the proper way to walk around the back of a horse in order to avoid getting kicked . . . but in my mind, touching anyone (a horse included) on the butt seemed MORE likely to get you kicked, so instead I just allowed like a city block’s worth of berth each time I had to walk in the vicinity of a horse’s behind. She also tried to teach me how to post, but I sucked at it, so I typically wound up with a sore toot by the time the ride was over (which maybe explained my sensitivity to butt-touching).

* I actually thought of her, years after high school (which was really the last time I ever talked to her until the advent of the interwebs) and before Facebook (which is how I found her again), when I was working as a waitress in Atlanta (funny . . . I enjoyed my job, but waiting tables did not turn out to be nearly as glamorous as I’d anticipated it would, decades earlier) and John Schneider walked in for dinner. I wasn’t his server, but happened to overhear a conversation in the kitchen amongst my coworkers, who were trying to figure out whether he’d played Bo or Luke Duke.

I mean.

HOW DID NOBODY KNOW THIS? This is Early ’80s Television 101, people! I thought, giving silent props to my 5th grade bestie as I put a definitive end to the mystery . . . which resulted in Mr. Schneider’s server writing “BO” in sour cream atop his dinner. So I may have some regrets about sharing that wisdom, but I’ll never regret how I came to have it.

“Wake up, all the teachers, time to teach a new way . . . “

I also remember a few things she taught me (aside from how to do a good leprechaun kick):

What a peppernut was. In the years of worldly wisdom I’d amassed by 5th grade, I’d never heard of them until I met her. As part of a school assignment to write instructional copy, she wrote instructions for making these cookies (which her family did at holidays)—and brought a batch to share with the class. I remember when she received her paper back, the teacher had written “I tried it—it works!” so perhaps she educated him, too.

What a sequoia was. I believe this was in 4th grade, before we were really friends, but I recall our teacher telling us about huge trees that grew on the west coast, and asked if anyone knew what they were called. As she’d recently moved to Kansas from California, her hand shot up. And, well. How amazing of a new word was “sequoia”? I immediately integrated it into the stage name I had concocted for myself. Now, when I grew up and became famous, I wasn’t just going to change my first name to Raquelle; I was going to change my WHOLE name to Raquelle Sequoia (a plan which is not entirely off the table; watch out!). So really, this lesson wasn’t just about California dendrology; it was also about the beauty of words (which I’ve kinda carried with me since). And on that same note, she also taught me . . .

The classy way to pronounce “Hallelujah.” At Girl Scout camp, we sang “Thank You Lord for Giving Us Food” as grace before a meal. Only we born-and-bred Kansas girls put a midwest twang on that sucker the likes of which her tender west coast ears had probably never heard:

Thaaaaaaaaank yew Lord, for givin’ us fewd,
Thaaaaaaaa-AANK yew Lord, for givin’ us fewd . . .

But it was the “Hallelujahs” that really did her in:

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaah-luh-lew-yuh, praise thuh Lord,
Haaaaaa-AAAAAAAH-luh-lew-yuh, praise thuh Lord . . .

“It’s ALL-eluia,” she insisted in a whisper, and (I swear) with a slight shudder.

And whoa. That kinda blew my mind. ALLELUIA. So new. So classy. So much more invocational, so much closer to divine than our hick little Hallelujahs.

(She brought the same kind of class to calling people out for saying, “Oh, my God.” Whereas another girl in our class would spit, “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain!” (actually slapping someone for it once), she chastened gently and with humor: she’d drop her voice an octave and pretend to be The Big Guy himself, asking, “Were you calling me?” At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but now it occurs to me as a pretty clever way to call people out without making enemies in the cut-throat world of preteen girls. At any rate, it beats a slap across the face.)

“A present from you . . . strawberry letter 22 . . . “

Because we were in two different classes for at least part of our closest friendship, we were unable to pair up on projects, critique one another’s artwork, or even just sit next to one another and bask in the glow of our friendship. But we were at least able to communicate, because remember how ALL the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes were in that one giant open room? That stroke of 70s progressivism was a great facilitator of our note-passing.


That and the brass-monkey audacity we both had, because I recall that we’d legit just get up and blatantly walk over to one another’s classrooms/desks to deliver notes (a subsequent bestie, who arrived new to the town and the school sometime during 6th grade, told me years later that she’d been shocked by our chutzpah).

At one point, I do recall both of us being called on the (literal) carpet about our note passing. By that time, however, we’d become so devoted to the art that we (well, SHE, being the brains of the operation) had developed a special, coded alphabet, to prevent nosy would-be interlopers from knowing our deepest thoughts. (I daresay I could still write it today, although I’m less confident in my ability to read it.) And though ultimately we weren’t able to communicate with quite as much impunity as we initially enjoyed, we continued our correspondence—sporadic though it was in later years—through middle and high school.

I’m suddenly stricken by another memory: I was sitting immediately to her left in Mrs. North’s middle school classroom (by then we each had a different best friend, but as I said, we never didn’t get along, due largely to her huge capacity for forgiving asshole behavior . . . but as usual, I digress), and we were passing a note back and forth. I have absolutely NO recollection of what we were writing about (a skinny, awkward boy or two, perhaps), but I remember that as she replied to whatever message I’d just passed her way, she paused mid-written-sentence, looked up at me with a puzzled expression and, when I turned to meet her gaze, asked:

“How do you spell—” and then she puckered up and made a kissing sound.

It took a bit of (written) discussion, but eventually, we agreed that it was spelled, M-B-W-U.

Again: sometimes I accidentally leave the dogs out for HOURS, and I routinely forget to give my 5-year-old a bath, but damn if I don’t distinctly recall the moment I figured out how to spell a kissing sound.

“Right smack dab in the middle of town, I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof . . . “

So although I didn’t have a bed that hung from the ceiling, one of the cool features of my house was the back patio. My dad had poured the concrete, added a roof over it, and adorned it with a barbecue pit he built out of bricks. And WOO-WEE, his ribs were mama-slappin’ good. But that’s not the point; what really made the back patio cool was that once you got tall enough, you could hoist your way up onto its roof by standing on an adjacent retaining wall that separated the patio from the rest of the back yard.

One day, when she was over, my brother (13 years my senior) took us to the public library and checked out books for us. Once we returned home, I—in the vain hope that I and my house could offer her even a shred of the amazement she offered me at her house—showed her how to get up on the patio roof. She hadn’t had as much practice as I had, so I had to give her a boost, but once we got up there with our library books, we huddled up (I remember it was cold and overcast) in the wedge-shaped nook where the roof over the middle level of our side-to-side split met the upper level roof, and tucked into an afternoon of reading.

I remember that I had chosen And This is Laura from the library, and she was reading The Pistachio Prescription. (Seriously, don’t ever tell my dogs about this.)

Eventually, we got cold, or hungry, or maybe had to pee, and so decided to climb down and go inside. Again, lacking the experience I had at getting onto and off of the roof swiftly, she got stuck trying to get down; her feet couldn’t find the retaining wall, and she clung, frightened, to the edge of the patio roof, the gutter digging into her gut. And my mom just happened to peer out the kitchen window at the PERFECT moment to see our guest’s legs dangling helplessly in the air.

I pretty much caught pure hell after she left. But it was worth it for what I remember as just the most glorious afternoon.

It just so happens that my childhood home has been on the market recently, with concomitant real estate photos; and although the patio roof and the barbecue pit are long gone, and the patio is now a deck, I can still offer a visual of where we huddled with our books that day 40 years ago. I remember it as delightfully cozy, but boy, does it look uncomfortable now:

“Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend . . . when people can be so cold?”

So I’ve hinted a couple of times that I wasn’t the kindest BFF a gal could have had in my younger years (or hell, even now, although these days it’s more a function of forgetfulness and time (or lack thereof) than of pre-teen hormones and the thrill of cruelty and drama). And really, it’s the same boring story that has played out in multiple 6th grade classrooms, between countless girls (and a buncha boys, too) forever: I met her openness, kindness, authenticity, and generosity with insecurity, pettiness, and power plays. Sometimes I hurt her feelings just because I could. Eventually, she sought greener pastures in a fellow horseback rider named Elizabeth (they got matching Sasson t-shirts and jeans, AND a set of those heart-puzzle “Best Friends” necklaces . . . this was the real deal), and I became part of a friendship trio with The New Girl at school and another girl I’d envied for years on account of her role as Suzy Snowflake in our 2nd grade Christmas program. I mean, that costume . . .

BUT. The point is that my sweet 5th grade bestie was unfailingly kind and forgiving, and continued to be a friend to me until we both ran off to college.

We didn’t hang out or talk a whole lot in high school, but despite that, she was more than willing to help out when my mom charged me with corralling volunteers among my friends to sell toffee at a pop-up booth in the mall to raise money for a non-profit my family staunchly supported.

I also remember that she led our high school’s Christian club . . . and although I attended her church (where her dad was the pastor) regularly as a kid (I was agog that people wore JEANS to her church . . . so flippin’ cool, as the women at my own church wouldn’t even wear PANTS in the house of the Lord), I never took part in the high school Christian club (having started inching down the path toward agnosticism); however, I somehow remember that the meetings were held at 7:17 p.m. And to this day, I consider it a little wink from the universe if I happen to glance at a clock that reads 7:17. Hey, agnosticism doesn’t preclude the HOPE for the existence of a little magic . . .

And I can’t think of better magic than the fact that I saved my first draft of this blog post at 7:17 p.m. That little sparkle, of course, has been slightly squandered by the hours of obsessive editing and such . . . but I kinda think there’s still a little wink in there.

So Back to this Blog Business . . .

(Re)starting Things Off With a Bang Back-dated Post

OK, this is kind of cheating, since I originally posted this story on Facebook, lacking (at the time) access to my blog (until my fancy IT husband got me back in). But I figure posting it here is a good way to dip my toes back into this blog . . .

[Cue Wayne’s World Flashback Doodle-oodle-oos]

So a few weeks ago, Auggy and I took a little road trip a deux (given the choice of taking the trip with the entire family, or with just me, he chose a brother-free escape, go figure).

Poor kid had a rough summer: sleepaway camp cancelled, no pool visits (in previous years, he went almost daily), no visit to the Texas cousins (which we try to do every summer), and very few friends (limited as he was by social distancing restrictions), since during the hotter days, nobody really wanted to stay outside for any length of time just to hang out with him. So about a week and a half before the start of school, he and I headed off for a few days of R&R in an Arkansas AirBnB.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I wasn’t entirely sure I wouldn’t cancel it; and after the trip (which caused my mother to stop speaking to me, because she thought it was a bad decision), we launched into two weeks of post-trip quarantine, and simultaneously into figuring out what preparations to make for the beginning of the Most Bizarre School Year Ever (TM). In the meantime, I told my sister over the phone about the trip, and she told me I should commit the story to writing. This morning, I finally found the time.

Settle in and read away if you’d like. If not, the TLDR version is this: If you’re not accustomed to spending time in a curtainless house surrounded by woods, maybe skip the scary movies.

The Story

The three-hour drive down to Northwest Arkansas (apparently commonly abbreviated as NWA, but that just makes me think of Easy E) was:

  1. uneventful (aside from the SUV we passed somewhere in the Missouri boonies, that had stuff like “No more masks” and “Masks are stupid” written in white shoe polish on all the rear windows)
  2. quicker than we thought, and
  3. not actually pretty in the least until about 20 minutes before we reached our destination in the late afternoon.

The house, though, was awesome! Nestled into a twisty-roaded, heavily-wooded neighborhood, it wasn’t TOO remote (there were neighbors), but still seemed very secluded (the folks were far outnumbered by the firs). Lots of light inside (a wall of curtainless windows and sliding glass doors at the back of the house looked out on trees forever) and gorgeous mid-century furniture (which is my jam). Two bedrooms upstairs and, to Auggy’s delight, a small, shotgun-esque basement area (accessible via spiral staircase) with a queen-sized bed, a twin day bed, a couch, a small game table, and a TV.

“I’m sleeping down here!” he declared, and although there was no bathroom down there, and it wasn’t nearly as posh as upstairs (the owners had certainly made an effort, but they were working with a cement floor, cinderblock walls, and only a couple of small windows), I figured that at his age, I’d have probably dug the idea of having my own little “suite,” too. So I shrugged and went back upstairs to call Skip Fitz and tell him we’d arrived.

(There had been some concern about the timing of our trip, as it coincided with the threat of hurricanes/tropical storms affecting parts of Arkansas; we consulted a weather map right before we left, and saw that our destination was outside the path, so we decided to chance it, and just head home if at any point it started to seem like a bad idea. Once we got to the house, and Skip mentioned the possibility of strong winds even in our area, I reasoned that hey, I could always sleep in the basement with Auggy if stuff started whipping around upstairs. But I digress.)

As I talked to Skip, Auggy went about lugging ALLLL of his stuff downstairs (suitcase, pillow, books, and the roughly 5,112 electronic devices he’d brought). When I got off the phone, he called, “Hey, Mom! Come check this out!”

Right next to the queen-sized basement bed, it turned out, was a dead-bolted door. A night stand had been shoved against it, but a curious 12-year-old ain’t gonna be discouraged by no stinkin’ nightstand.

He had, of course, moved the nightstand, and unlocked and opened the door. Behind it was the hugely expansive but not-even-close-to-finished rest of the basement. Even with our phone flashlights, we couldn’t really see where it ended, but didn’t go into it, because it didn’t even have a floor—just a bunch of rubble with tarp over it. Plus there were copious cobwebs, and my elder son does NOT do spiders. Aside from the cobwebs, the only indication of any type of residency in there was a mattress propped against a wall.

For a minute or two, I feigned more interest in the “secret room” than I actually felt—then I walked away, leaving him to close the door and replace the nightstand before coming upstairs to discuss dinner.

Because of COVID, I’d pre-planned (and brought stuff to make) most of our meals for the 4-day trip; I’d planned for our first dinner to be one of two take-out meals, but Auggy decided instead on the chicken salad sandwiches I’d slotted for the next day’s lunch, so I got my mouth and mind all set for an evening in.

But that didn’t end up happening.

You see, I had ALSO pre-planned (and purchased) our snacks, but I did that thing where I decided we were going to be HEALTHY on this trip (hiking every day! healthy food! nature! air! glory!), so all I’d brought for snacks was fruit (*YAWN*) . . . and then once we’d settled down after dinner to watch a thriller movie (as has become our custom these past couple of months), I found myself yearning for more satisfying (read: bad-for-you) snacks than plums and nectarines.

Auggy got up and ran downstairs, reappearing with a small bag of candy he’d brought from home (a little goodie from our friend Rachael, who loves sending us candy and cute gifts; I’d stashed the candy away to hide it from my children, but Auggy found it right before our trip and, because it contained a few pieces of his favorite kind of candy (those little strawberry candies that are hard on the outside and chewy on the inside, with the wrappers that look like strawberries), he begged to bring it with us on our trip), and dumped it out on the coffee table as an offering.

“You can have a strawberry candy,” he offered, in a grand show of generosity. “We have three of them, so that still leaves two for me.”

“Aww, thanks, Babe,” I said, “but that’s OK, I’ll let you have all those—I know they’re your favorites.”

Besides, while I appreciated his generosity, I wasn’t really feeling the strawberry candies, OR the chocolate coins that came with them; rather, I wanted something chippy/dippy/salty/crunchy. Looking outside, I surmised it would be dark soon, and given the twisty, woodsy neighborhood roads and the fact that I didn’t know the area, I figured we’d better jump on it if I was going to find my way back after procuring Pirate’s Booty, so we paused the movie, popped our shoes on, gathered our masks, and headed out to a nearby grocery store.

By the time we arrived back at the house, it WAS dark—and as we fumbled to figure out the electronic lock on the door (having only unlocked it once before), we discovered that we had actually failed to lock it when we left, so the house had been unlocked for about half an hour.


After a quick check to make sure nothing was amiss or missing in the house, we opened a bag of chips and a tub of dip, tossed them onto the coffee table between us, and settled back in to watch Mira Sorvino hunt down an escaped serial killer, who was himself busy hunting down men he’d kidnapped and tortured as boys (who had managed to escape from HIM—so meta), in order to finish the business of killing them.

When the movie was over, Auggy quietly declared that he was no longer sure he wanted to sleep in the basement.

Secretly glad that I wouldn’t have to sleep upstairs alone (remember those curtainless windows? Yeah, they’re great in the daytime when you can see OUT, but ULTRA CREEPY at night, after you’ve watched a scary movie and can’t see who’s possibly out there peeking IN), I offered to help him haul all his stuff back upstairs, AND offered him the master bedroom (since part of the appeal of sleeping downstairs was that he wanted “a big bed”), taking the second bedroom, with two twin beds, for myself.

As we lugged his stuff up the narrow winding staircase from the basement, he continued to justify his decision: “I mean, it’s a little creepier down here at night, and there’s that door into the weird part of the basement . . .”

“Well,” I countered, feeling the need, in Skip’s absence, to appear to be a logical, non-alarmist parent, “that door has a deadbolt on it, so as long as it’s locked . . . ”

“Oh, there’s a key on the other side,” Auggy replied matter-of-factly.

Cue the alarm bells in my psyche (which suddenly ramped up my interest in the secret room): Oh, shit. That is NOT COOL.

On the outside, though, *I* tried to play it cool, and set about the business of relocating my stuff from the master bedroom to the second bedroom, folding up our couch throws, and moving the leftover chips and dip from the coffee table back into the kitchen, etc.. As I headed toward my bedroom to call it a night, Auggy (who’d been getting his stuff all set up in the master bedroom) came back into the living room to say goodnight.

“Oh,” he remarked casually. “You decided to have a strawberry candy after all, huh?”

“No, I didn’t. I told you you could have them all.” I looked at him.

He was looking down at the coffee table, where the candy was still strewn.“Then why are there only two left?” he asked warily. “We had THREE of them, and I haven’t eaten any.”

A beat.

We stared at one another in silence.

The house left unlocked. The secret room. The mattress. The key in the door. The woods. The windows. The darkness. Serial killers.

By then, the alarm bells were jangling in both of our psyches (like mother, like son . . . ).

Then, of apparently one mind, and with zero words, we both instantly started looking around the coffee table for the missing candy. Eventually, unable to find it, we dropped to our knees, peering and patting under the couch.

Still nothing.

Once again, I tried to take a rational approach: I mean, what—the killer who’s now hiding in the basement and giddily anticipating the warm splatter of our blood on his face as he takes a hatchet to us in our sleep has a SWEET TOOTH?

I wasn’t entirely convincing myself, but for the sake of my kid, I put on . . . well not a brave face as much as an apathetic one.

I stood up. “OK, well, we’ll have to find it in the morning,” I declared as casually as possible given my impending murder. “I’m exhausted.”

“Yeah, me too,” Auggy said, apparently feeling obligated to roll with this “whatever” vibe.

“Are you gonna be OK?” I asked, still feigning lack of abject fear, while hoping he felt enough of it to take me up on the offer I was about to make: “I mean, if you want to sleep in my room tonight, that’s totally fine.”

“Nah,” he said, stubbornly holding his own in this (for real) game of chicken. “I think I’ll be fine. But if YOU want to sleep in MY room, you can.”

Both soundly defeated, we retreated to our respective rooms . . .. . . where Yours Truly lay awake ALLLLLLLLLL. NIGHT. LONG.

No joke; when I last looked at the clock before FINALLY drifting off, it was 4:41 a.m.

I woke again around 7:30 and, knowing Auggy to be a relatively early riser, I forced myself out of bed, figuring he’d be up soon, and not wanting to disappoint him by spending the whole day crashed out.

I shuffled to the kitchen to make coffee . . .

. . . and what to my bleary eyes should appear but the previous night’s bag of chips, propped dutifully next to the coffee maker—and adorned with one wrapped strawberry candy, which was stuck to the side of it (and also with about 20,000 ants, swarming both the candy outside the bag, and the chips inside . . . but again, I digress; the point here is—)


I crumpled to the floor, cracking the hell up.I couldn’t wait to tell Auggy when he woke up, and in fact left the whole mise en scene exactly as I’d found it, ants and all, to give him the full effect.

More than three hours later, I was still waiting.

I spent most of that time reading (which was a GLORIOUS treat, given that my home life is replete with Interrupting Toddler), but then when he still hadn’t made an appearance by 11:00, I started to think, “What if I’m sitting here happily chilling with my book, while he’s in there floating in a pool of his own blood?”

I went to his bedroom, knocked, then opened the door. He sat up, rubbing his eyes.

“Just checking to make sure you’re OK,” I said. “You’re sleeping really late.”

After inquiring as to the time, he confessed: “I couldn’t sleep all night; I was up until FIVE IN THE MORNING.”

Like mother, like son.


For the remaining days of our trip, we were able to sleep just fine, but without actually discussing it, we mutually agreed not to watch any more thrillers until we got back home, and not to go back into the basement, even during the daytime. And we triple-checked the locks any time we left the house.

Overall, it was a good trip, but because of COVID, I had told Auggy to manage his expectations and bring a lot of books, as there would be no shopping, no restaurants (except take-out), no museums, nothin’. Basically just hiking, eating, sleeping, and reading (with a sprinkling of TV and board games). And for the most part he got it, but he was still pretty bored by the end of it—although once we’d spent a day back home with his brother, he wished aloud that we could have stayed until school started.

And by the way, hurricane-schmurricane; save for about an hour on our third morning, it didn’t even rain.

Where AARP Meets Kindergarten Roundup

I’m rarely one to begin a sentence with, “At the risk of dating myself . . .” (There are so many reasons for that, most of which exist at the intersection of ageism, feminism, American standards of beauty and value, and plain old stubbornness. And I’d love to discuss it, but that kind of digression would take a few years – and at my age, I don’t have that kind of time.) But essentially, that’s what I’ll be doing when I begin this story by referencing a 1981 Saturday Night Live sketch featuring George Kennedy, of Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Airport (1970) fame, singing an off-key lament about being “53 at Studio 54.”

For those who didn’t grow up in the 1970s (or earlier), Studio 54 is the short-lived-yet-long-revered New York City nightclub that opened in 1977 and boasted all-star clientele during its roughly 5-year heyday: the Warhol crowd, Liza Minelli, Baryshnikov, Diana Ross, Elton John, Calvin Klein, Cher . . . pretty much anyone a regular, 70s-era, Kansas-bred schlub like me wanted to be when he or she grew up – including one particular person I’d venture to say everyone wanted to be (surely it wasn’t just me): the stunningly gorgeous Bianca Jagger, who was famously photographed atop a white horse inside the club. (Despite decades of ensuing lore, Jagger denies having ridden the horse into the club, which is too bad, because if anyone could have pulled off that kind of bad-assery, it would be her; however, whether or not she actually went Lone Ranger that night was of little consequence to those of us who knelt at her proverbial feet – or maybe at her horse’s proverbial hooves.) But again, I risk serious digression.

Back to SNL. Kennedy’s woes, put to music, detail the reasons his age makes him an ill fit for a “hip joint” (and of course the SNL writers make use of that double entendre) like Studio 54, including lines like

Once I get down, I can’t get off the floor
It’s no fun to be 53 at Studio 54


It’s no kick to snort and smoke and joke with artists and their models
when you wheeze and cough and only take your drugs from plastic bottles 

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate an online video of the sketch (what gives, YouTube? I can watch a thousand videos of Justin Bieber doing and saying idiotic things, but I can’t get some old-school SNL?), but if your cyber-sleuthing abilities are better than mine, and you can find it, I highly recommend it.

Why, though, do I bring up a 1981 SNL sketch about a nightclub that fizzled out (under new ownership) not long thereafter, you ask? Because Kennedy’s dirge about his – to borrow a quote from Danny Glover as Lethal Weapon’s Roger Murtaugh (which reference dates me once again, I know) – “too-old-for-this-shit” situation is one of the first things that popped into my head after I, at age 45, huddled awkwardly over my own lap in a Target bathroom stall to hold that famously prophetic white stick in a stream of my urine . . . and read the word “Pregnant” in the results window.

Let me repeat: Age 45. This is the age where most of my college friends are sending their kids off to college; when maybe some of them are slightly saddened (or perhaps invigorated) by newly empty nests; when a handful of them are even welcoming grandchildren into their arms and hearts and spare bedrooms. And here I am, readying my “spare” room (which I recently redecorated and set up as an in-home office for myself, but so much for that) for a child from my own aging loins. Granted, I’m no stranger to late starts; I gave birth to my first (surprise!), and so far extremely spoiled only child (boy, is he in for a rude awakening) at age 37, when most of my friends were already lamenting the fact that their once sweet, innocent, and loving babies had suddenly reached the infamous eye-rolling age, and were beginning to look upon their parents with more disdain than a Studio 54 doorman on a C-list actor. So I’m well aware of both the advantages and the pitfalls of what the medical community calls “Advanced Maternal Age.”

But this time I am beyond “advanced,” y’all. And unfortunately, moving beyond “advanced” in this case doesn’t mean I’ve achieved “expert” level. In fact, it more or less implies I’ve aged out of the damn contest (the chances of a woman my age conceiving without medical intervention are somewhere around 2%).

At this point, however, I’m nearly halfway to D-Day, so I’ve made peace with the whole idea, and – after a slew of nerve-wracking tests to ferret out potential chromosomal abnormalities (which so far have shown none) – have actually come to be a little bit excited about this impending new addition to our little tribe.

But there are still moments. Oh, there are moments. Moments when the reality of all this really sets in – like when I overhear a conversation between my mother (who is exactly 40 years my senior – I was a surprise to her, too) and my best childhood friend, who are busy tsk-ing and tutting with one another about my “old eggs.” Or like when I toddle precariously on cushioned flats, with aching hips and one hand poised for back support, towards the break room at work . . . and cross paths with another expectant mother, further along in her pregnancy than I am in mine, who struts jauntily by in cute skinny jeans (skinny maternity jeans, which to me is a total oxymoron) and three-inch pumps. Or perhaps most of all when my husband and I make the requisite cutie-booty Facebook pregnancy announcement – which features our 7-year-old son in a “Big Brother” t-shirt, along with a couple of pithy Godfather movie references – and the hundreds of responses range from expressions of excitement and congratulations to those of a couple of bravely honest souls, who reply simply, “WHAT???” or “STFU.”

And don’t even get me started about kindergarten. It was what I call the “Kindergarten Realization” that nearly knocked me on my ever-widening ass. For you see, when this precious bundle of joy and tears and snot and puke and giggles and wails and love I’m carrying starts kindergarten, I will be over half a century old. I will be eligible for AARP. The year will be 2021 (frankly, up until this realization, I truly believed any year beyond 2019 only existed in science fiction movies). My child will be five. I will not quite be 53 in Studio 54, but I will be 51 at Kindergarten Roundup – which is, in many ways, the same. I have already begun to imagine the far-hipper-than-me regulars I’m going to find in this club:

The 7-Months-Pregnant Mom. You know, the one who is wisely and carefully planning her family so that her kids are far enough apart in age that she only has to deal with one daycare bill/diapered butt/2 a.m. wailer at a time – but close enough in age that they don’t end up being virtual strangers when they’re adults who will be required to share in her and their other parent’s care and feeding. As a bonus, she has managed to hold on to most of the key baby items from her first child, so that she doesn’t have to buy (or beg for) every. single. solitary. thing she’s going to need for her second baby all over again.

The Barely-Out-of-Her-Teens Mom. This is the mom who has also experienced a “surprise!” baby – but at the other (read: teenage) end of the age spectrum, so she is a virtual font of youth and energy. Her child will be whip-smart and full of confidence, because not only has she had the unending adolescent energy to engage with him non-stop, she also has a youthful disdain for conventional parenting advice – which means she’s talked to him and treated him more as an equal than as a ward. It’s kind of admirable, really – but still, playdates will be awkward, because she doesn’t get the pop-culture references of the Over-50 crowd (after all, that’s, like, her parents’ generation).

The Hot Mom. This is the mom who is a little older, maybe, than the two aforementioned moms, but looks at least 7 years younger than her real age, thanks to daily runs, yoga, and a low-carb diet. (While I may look good as well, I won’t hold a candle to this mom, because just running across the living room to save my child from concussing him/herself on the fireplace bricks is a likely to be all the workout I can handle at that point.) She’ll be extremely warm and friendly, but her deep knowledge of the latest health foods and fads will make every other parent silently insecure about serving hot dogs and store-bought cupcakes (which her kid probably won’t even eat) at birthday parties.

The Cool Dad. He’ll show up for the first day of school with his ball cap on backwards. He and his kid will arrive in matching sunglasses (or perhaps matching piercings) and engage in whatever the 2021 version of the fist bump is as the kid takes his seat in the classroom. This dad will casually drop the name of whatever video game all the kids LOVE at that moment – with promises to play it with his kid after school. He and his mohawked offspring (will mohawks ever go out of style for cool kindergarteners?) will not hug goodbye, but rather throw horns at one another (again, this particular expression of “cool” seems timeless) before Dad ducks out to rock out on his motorcycle ride home. This dad will like everyone – and everyone will like his kid – but nobody will quite trust him to properly supervise a birthday party.

The Clingy Parents. Bless their hearts. This is their first “sending a kid off to school” rodeo, and they won’t be ready to let go. They’ll both show up on the first day of school, take 1,000 photographs (kid in front of house, kid from behind as she walks to school, kid in front of school, kid in front of classroom door, kid at desk), and stay long after the other parents have left, just to get in one more hug. (Finally, the teacher will be forced to fake a seizure and, when they run for help, lock the classroom door behind them.) They, too, will be incredibly nice – but it will be obvious that this is the first kid they’ve sent off to school, because they don’t yet realize what this means in terms of their own freedom. The good news about playdates at their house is that the snacks will border on gourmet, and there will likely be Pinterest-worthy craft projects, for both kids and adults.

OK, I confess: with my first kid, I was the latter type of parent (I mean, I thought he was going to be my only child, right?) – but when the next one heads off to Kindergarten, I’ll likely fit into this club about as well as poor George Kennedy among the Warhol/Jagger crowd, because I’ll have at least a good 10 years on the eldest among them. What I hope I will also have, however, is my original set of hips (in good working order), more stories to tell . . . and gratitude for the ride thus far.

Wish me luck.

Free Failin’.

Wow. OK. Been awhile, no? Well, I have a good reason: between March 14 and April 5 of this year, I trussed myself up, combed my hair, spit-shined my eyebrows and tried like heck to be impressive as I interviewed with not one, not two, but FOUR different companies (with multiple interviews at a couple of places) for a position involving writing and/or editing (which are pretty much my only two skills besides eating and flipping my tongue over). Although I have no idea why that particular feast occurred, I am delighted to report that I was lucky enough not only to land one of those gigs, but to land my favorite one (all other things being equal—since all other things are rarely equal, however, I might have actually taken the job that’s less than two miles from my house had it been offered to me, because sometimes the ability to hock a loogie from your home to your place of employment trumps the work that’s the most interesting to you . . . but I digress). So that’s what’s been going on with me for the past month or so.

Actually, if you want to get technical, the whole situation really only ended this past Friday, which officially goes down in the (Face)books as the official start to The Weekend of Epic Failure—about which I was woefully unspecific on my Facebook page. And there’s nothing I hate worse than a vague Facebook post. (Well, OK, I probably hate black licorice and the smell of Estee Lauder Youth Dew body powder worse, but you catch my drift.) Yet I posted one, which is another way I failed over last weekend. But I’m here to make up for it now, with an itemized explanation of the weekend’s copious moments of “GAHHHHHHH!” Read on:

The Friday Fumble

OK. So remember how I said I was interviewing with four companies? Well, the fourth company was a little late to the game; shortly after I scheduled my first interview with Company #4 (but before I actually went), I got a job offer from Company #1. Still, I kept my interview with Company #4, because:

A.  I’d been a wallflower for so long, I got sucked into the heady rush of having so many suitors at once, and so became a walking After School Special: The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No.

B.  Although I was incredibly excited about the job I’d been offered, I couldn’t stop wondering what Company #4 would offer in the way of pay and benefits. What if this company paid double what I’d already been offered? What if they gave me use of the company jet, six months of vacation and my own real, live special unicorn named Raquelle? (Yes, for a Copywriter position—it could happen.) While I seriously doubted they’d be able to offer me enough to back out of my promise to join Company #1 (even if they offered slightly  more than Company #1), how would I know for sure unless I turned over that one last stone? And besides,

C.  Even if a 9-to-5 at Company #4 didn’t work out for me, it’d be a good networking opportunity, and maybe result in some freelance work—who knows? Also,

D.  I had already suffered greatly just to get the PTO (Paid Time Off) from my current job to take the interview1, so by golly, I was taking it.

After my initial interview with Company #4, I felt even more convinced that Company #1 was the place for me– but technically, I still didn’t know anything about what Company #4 had to offer in the way of salary. So when Company #4 called for a SECOND interview, with the hiring manager—by which time I had accepted the job at Company #1, given notice at my current job, and told everyone (including my Facebook universe) that I was going to Company #1—I said YES.

(I know. It’s a sickness.

And now it’s reached Lifetime Movie proportions: YESsing Herself to Death.)

So two days after I gave notice at my current company, I sent an e-mail to my boss and department, letting them know that I was going to take ½ a day of PTO this past Friday.

That’s when I found out that once you give notice at my company, you’re not allowed to use any more PTO. They pay you in your final paycheck for whatever PTO you have left—but they “want you there” in the interim. So then I went through days of emotional sturm und drang; should I just call off the interview, since I didn’t want the job anyway (unless there was a unicorn on the table)? Ask Company #4 if I could meet with the hiring manager after hours? Sneak out and hope nobody noticed?

Finally, I had an epiphany: Why on earth would I even consider letting a job I’m leaving dictate my ability to pursue future opportunities? So I decided I was gonna go on witma bad ass, take the interview at the scheduled time, be upfront about it, and let the chips tumble if need be.

For the record, when the HR person at Company #4 originally called me to request the second interview, I tried to pump her for salary information at that point, saying I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time on a second interview if salary was going to be a deal-breaker on either side. She fished up my application while I was on the phone, and confirmed my salary requirement, but she was unable to tell me anything—said I’d have to talk to the hiring manager. I agreed to come in for the interview, and she promised to send me an interview confirmation e-mail later that day. An hour or so later, I received an e-mail from her, and all was well.

So come last Friday, I made myself presentable, headed to work for the first half of the day, and then left my office around noon for Interview #2 with Company #4.

Turns out I left a little too soon, because I ended up with a little over half an hour to spare once I arrived in Company #4’s parking lot. Therefore, I did what anyone would do in such a situation: pulled out my phone to putz around on it until such time as I felt I could make a respectable entrance (being 30 minutes early would seem a little too “leg-humping Jack Russell,” whereas I wanted to come across more like “eager-but-independent Border Collie”). In the putzing process, I pulled up the confirmation e-mail from the HR person.

The confirmation e-mail I never bothered to open previous to that moment.

The confirmation e-mail that was not, in fact, a confirmation e-mail at all, but was instead a message from the HR person, saying that Company #4 would be unable to meet my salary requirement, and to let her know if I still wanted to meet with the hiring manager (the implication being that the appointment would be considered cancelled unless I told her otherwise).


I immediately called Pretty Bad Dad and led with this: “I am a complete idiot.” He was kind enough to hold his tongue. And kinder still to invite me to lunch with him, his boss and his department. On the way to meet him, I called the HR person and offered abundant apologies to her voicemail for not having responded to her e-mail about the salary. Then I went and had some Chinese food with some nice fellas, went home and took a nap, and hit the reset button for the weekend (which the boy and I were spending at my mom’s house) . . . or so I thought.

The Saturday Super-Suckage

About once a month, my son and I make a weekend trip to visit his Grandma, who lives about an hour and a half away. Since I generally plan these visits in advance, based on the kid’s crazy birthday-party schedule, and my mom’s more predictable church and bridge-playing schedule, I usually know way ahead of time when I’ll be there next.

A couple of weeks before this past weekend’s visit, I somehow discovered that there was going to be a 5K race happening in my mom’s city on the Saturday I planned to be there, and decided on a whim to sign up. I wasn’t ready by any stretch for any sort of PR—heck, I hadn’t even run on pavement since early October of last year (first there was a car accident, which jacked up my knee for awhile (actually, it’s still a little jacked up, but that’s beside the point), and then there was winter, which has kept me confined to the treadmill at the Y)—but I figured what the heck? It would let me get my feet wet, so to speak, and since it was the inaugural occurrence of this particular event, there was a chance there wouldn’t be many participants, and therefore a (slightly more remote) chance I might actually win something.

When the boy and I arrived at my mom’s house on Friday evening, though, I just felt incredibly exhausted (despite the afternoon nap). So over dinner, I started to whine about not wanting to do the race the next day.

My mother, who has never been a big proponent of exercise (and in fact has been known to actively discourage it2), reminded me that I didn’t HAVE to do it. In fact, she said, it might be better if I didn’t, especially if I hadn’t run on pavement for several months, because I could hurt myself, etc., etc.

I went to bed, still feeling puny about the whole thing, but thinking that in the morning, I’d have renewed ambition…

That didn’t happen. When I woke up, I checked the outside temperature online, and was immediately chagrined to see how flippin’ cold it was. Once again, I whined. I knew I’d be fine once I started running, but the long wait for the start, in just my little track jacket and tights, would be annoying.

My mother agreed. “I think you’d better just sit this one out,” she said.

Didn’t have to throw a brick at ME.

So we made a lovely breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast, because what the heck—once you fall off the wagon, may as well roll yourself right on into the deepest part of the ditch), and planned a morning of errands instead.

As my mom was showering for our errand outing, my cell phone rang. It was Pretty Bad Dad.

“Where are YOU?” he asked in a chipper voice tinged with concern.

“At my mom’s house,” I answered.

“Why didn’t you do your race?” asked he.

“How do you know I didn’t?” I wondered aloud.

Ahem. Here’s how: Because he was waiting for me at the finish line.

With flowers.


When he saw the people with strollers (who’d been put at the back of the pack at the starting line) cross the finish line, he knew something was up. Despite the fact that I’ve lost a bit of speed because of the car accident—and wasn’t by any means fast to begin with— he thought surely I couldn’t be THAT slow.  Had I fallen? he wondered. Was I hurt?

Nope. I was in my mom’s bed, licking bacon grease off my fingers.

I felt so awful I burst into tears. Mostly I felt horrible because he’d woken up early, on his “bachelor weekend” and driven an hour and a half to cheer me on—and I’d completely ditched the race, (unwittingly) standing him up in the process. However, I was also sad for myself (they don’t call me InstaPrincess for nothin’), because HOW AWESOME of a surprise would it have been to cross the finish line right in the middle of the Guess Who’s “Share the Land” (I’d worked out my playlist a week in advance, and saved “Share the Land” for the end, because I’m telling you—it is more inspirational than you’d think) and see him standing there with his face and everything?

He ended up coming by my mom’s house (that’s how I found out there were flowers, too) for a little while, and then drove all the way back home—and although he thought the whole thing was funny, I was still heartbroken by my own petard (I know that doesn’t make any sense, but roll with me, here– I’m emotionally delicate).

It sucks having nobody to blame but yourself.

Oh, and P.S. Only about 100 people participated, so Dude. I totally might have won something.

The Sunday Say WHAAAAAAT?

So I returned home Sunday, tail still firmly tucked, and set about getting ready for houseguests we have arriving tonight for a five-day stay. Over the weekend (since I didn’t do shit else), I’d planned out a few dinners to make while they’re here—including a pot roast—and so headed for the grocery store soon after I arrived home to buy the goods for the first couple of dinners.

When I got to the checkout, I put the meat (I’d bought the pot roast and a buncha chicken parts) on the conveyor last. When the cashier had rung up all BUT the meat, I noticed the total and thought, “Wow—I’m getting off really cheap!” because at that point I was only out about 30 bucks.

So imagine my surprise mere seconds later when the cashier, having rung up the meat, gave me a total of EIGHTY-SOME BUCKS.

OK—not horrible, considering it was going to feed six people two days’ worth of dinner, but still—WTH?!!?!? How did the last two items end up more than doubling the bill?

Turns out that I’d spent THIRTY-FIVE BUCKS on the pot roast alone. When I picked it up, I paid attention only to the weight on the sticker. I was looking for a three-pounder, so once I spotted a tasty-looking 3.25-lb. chunk of beef, I grabbed it and ran, completely ignoring the $10-per-pound price.


Part of me feels like such an expensive roast deserves better treatment than my ages-old, tried-and-true, so-much-easier-than-pie pot roast recipe (beef broth + cream of mushroom soup + onion soup mix + slow cooker). Like maybe a fancy red wine marinade with gourmet mushrooms or something. But another part of me doesn’t really want to try anything new, because I will poke my own eyeballs out if I screw up a $35 piece of meat. And I’m not confident that I’m entirely past this period of failures. Let’s hope I get past it soon, though—I’m starting a new job next week!



1. OK, so the Wednesday afternoon before my first interview with Company #4—and the day before job offer came from Company #1—I .sent an e-mail to my boss and others in my department around lunchtime, saying I would be taking a couple of hours of PTO that coming Friday morning. Usually, I make up an excuse, because I’m such a SHARER that I knew everyone would instantly be suspicious if I didn’t say WHY I was taking the PTO. However, on that particular day, I just got tired of making things up and trying to keep stories straight (contrary to what my husband believes, I’m a bad liar), so I just simply said I was taking PTO, and would be in around 10:00. . .
 . . . which is when my boss’s red flag went up. First, I got the casual drive-by: he stopped at my desk, and said, “Wow, you’re really burning through the PTO lately.”

Although my heart rate instantly doubled, I pretended I didn’t catch any subtext there and replied, “I know—I think I still have enough, though . . . “

“Oh, you do,” he said, “but I always get a little concerned when people burn through a lot of PTO in a short time.”

Again, I ignored the implications. “Oh, well,” I sighed, “we’ve already decided we’re not taking a vacation this year.” Then I started rambling about how our car blew a head gasket (true), which was an unexpected expense (true), and that sucks (true), but what are ya gonna do (true)—even though none of that would actually prevent us from taking a vacation. Deflect, deflect, deflect.

Then, 5 minutes before quittin’ time that afternoon, I got an e-mail from my boss, asking me to stop by his office on my way out, to “touch base” about my PTO status. Shit, shit, shit.

Long story short, I went in, and he began by looking up—and remarking on the enormity of—the number of PTO hours I’ve taken so far this year. And then there I stood for half an hour (which meant then I had to call Pretty Bad Dad to pick up our kid from preschool) while my boss asked if I was OK? Was I SUUUUUUURE? Was everything hunky-dory? (Yes; he actually said “hunky-dory.”) Was I happy? I didn’t seem like my usual happy-go-lucky self lately. Was I SURE everything was OK? He just wanted to make sure everything was OK with me, because I am SUCH a valued employee—he tells the company owners all the time what a great asset I am to the team! Why, one of them called just the other day to ask who wrote that article about our Convention keynote speaker, because she loved it so much, and he told her it was me, and that I am such an incredible writer!

Not sure I’ve ever been so uncomfortable in my life. And when I’m really nervous, my right eye waters, so I was basically half-crying through the whole thing.

At any rate, it became clear to me that he wasn’t buying my assurances that everything was OK, and I felt like I had to give something up. So I ended up throwing my entire department in front of the bus, by telling him that we’re all getting a little frustrated because our projects are all stalled in the approval process (true)—mainly because since November, our COO has been in the office maybe a total of 10-12 days (true), and there’s no delegation of authority to keep processes moving (true). And because so many of our projects are on hold, basically, none of us has anything to do (true).

He agreed that it was a problem, and seemed satisfied with that little confession . . . but needless to say, the job offer I got the next day could not have come soon enough, because when he FINALLY let me out of his clutches that day, I went home thinking, “Dang, if I don’t get a job out of all of this, I’m going to have to lay low for awhile, because he is totally on to me.”

It was actually a relief, five days later, to confess everything as I gave my two weeks’ notice.

“I knew it!” he said, when he learned I’d been taking PTO for job interviews. “I was going to just come right out and ask you, but I thought that might be crossing a line.”

Hmmmm… given my confessional nature, I wonder if I would have answered honestly if he had.

2. Though she is staunchly and quite vocally opposed to my pursuit of hot yoga (“It can’t possibly be good for you,” says she) and tries to stop me from going every chance she gets, my mother has lately been a little more focused on putting the kibosh on my running. Not ALL of it—for example, she’s OK with my doing short, slow runs on a treadmill—but if it involves (a) the outdoors, (b) the dark, (c) more than three miles or so, and/or (d) the potential for injury, she’s gonna have somethin’ to say about it.

And the recent unbelievable news about the Boston Marathon has not helped.

I was at my desk yesterday, training one of my soon-to-be-former coworkers to take over one of my current duties after my departure. My desk phone rang, and I saw it was my mother, but rather than interrupt my tutorial, I let it ring, figuring I’d call back later.

20 minutes later, she called again.

Since we were just wrapping up the lesson, I let it ring again.

As soon as the coworker/trainee left my desk, the coworker in the next cubicle turned to me and said, “I didn’t want to interrupt you guys, but come look at this—there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon!”

As I read and absorbed the news over her shoulder, it hit me: This was why my mother called.

When I stepped back over to my desk, my phone rang yet again—and yet again, it was my mom.

I picked up, and said, “Before you say anything, I know why you’re calling.”

“WELL?” she scolded, clearly shaken, “Has this TAUGHT you to leave that mess ALONE?”

As if it mattered AT ALL, I pointed out that I have never had any desire to run a marathon.

“WHAT,” she demanded, “do you call what you were supposed to be doing last Saturday?”

“A 5K,” I replied. “A 5K is three miles. A marathon is twenty-six. My stuff is small potatoes compared to a marathon—and even SMALLER potatoes compared to the Boston Marathon!”

“Still,” she insisted, “you KNOW there are crazy people everywhere, and there are going to be copycats. You NEED to leave all of it ALONE, or at least stay on the treadmill!”

More conversation ensued, where she all but called me stupid for taking the wholly unnecessary risk of running in the first place.


Looks like I won’t be signing up for any more races in HER city, for fear of imprisonment in her basement. But at least I won’t have to worry about completely jacking up another sweet surprise from my husband . . .









The Big Payback

Y’all, I been sold out for chicken change. Oh, it’s a long story, and it’s not nearly as interesting as a single trial or tribulation of James Brown (oh, no!), but suffice it to say that my wonderful husband, Pretty Bad Dad, totally promised a friend I’d write a blog post in her honor, in exchange for $1.5984 (I gotta getta better agent). And the check—in that exact amount—arrived a few days ago.

So in honor of both the Godfather of Soul and our beloved check-writing Kendra (not to mention that fat chunk of change!), I give you:

 Five Ways Kendra is Totally Like James Brown (Only Even Cooler and Far Less Dead).

But first, a word from our sponsor:

OK. Now on with the show. Kendra is totally like James Brown because:

1. She’s got soul….

Let me make one thing clear: I knew I was going to like Kendra the moment I met her. Well, OK, that’s not entirely true. Technically, the moment I met her took place during a mass family Skype session on my boy’s 3rd birthday; all of the local family squished up into my living room like D-cup boobs into a B-cup bra and stared at our TV, where Kendra, the yet-unmet love of our favey boy Jake’s life, made her flat-screen debut from our mutual Mother-in-Law’s Arizona abode.

At that point, she was only moderately impressive; I mean, sure, she seemed unfazed by the tribe of roughly 876 folks who sat in curiosity and judgment on the other side of the screen (which is key to survival in this family), but what else did she have? Could she cook? Tap dance? Make a free throw 94% of the time?

Actually, as I eventually discovered, she had something even better (two somethings, actually, and no, not THOSE, get your mind outta the gutter): a killer wit, and a solid knowledge of correct grammar (both of which I discovered later, via Facebook friendship). I mean, seriously? Those are the reasons I married my husband, so needless to say, Kendra won my heart with her well-placed adjectives and immaculate subject-verb agreement.

It wasn’t until her wedding to Jake, a year and a half later, that I discovered something else she has: a kick-ass set of pipes. At her wedding reception (and at her family’s request) she moved us all to clutch hands with our neighboring table mates, chins aquiver, and vow to be better people—all with her gorgeous rendition of Amazing Grace. So it turned out that not only does Mama have brains… she’s got soul to boot.

2. …and she’s super bad.

So Kendra’s love affair with Jake has basically had her poinging back and forth across the country like a rabid squirrel on a racquetball court: from Arizona to Pennsylvania and, eventually, back again. When the two love squirrels began, in the midst of a Pennsylvania winter, to plan their future together, they decided that in addition to making MY cutie-booty son the ring bearer at their wedding (a decision I’m sure has resulted in some regret, because the kid stuck his tongue out in every single photo, and then spent the latter half the reception wearing the garter—which he’d caught—around his head) they’d also be making Arizona their long-term home.

Part I of that plan involved Kendra blazing the cross-country trail ahead of Jake, to seek her fortune and to set up camp. And honey, our girl did it in style; not only did she pick up a classy new ride for the occasion, Sister also got herself a gun (which she named Clarence, at my suggestion). Then, with her best Clint Eastwood “Mess with ME, Motherf!@#$%&%#er!” face at the ready (for those of you who rely heavily on mental images, please conjure more of a Dirty Harry-era face, and not a 2012 Republican National Convention face… although if she’d gone for the latter, that empty passenger seat would have provided some great road trip conversation for our heroine), she set forth like the bad-ass she is.

3. She’ll say it loud—she’s black and she’s proud!

Wait . . . what? She’s not? Oh. Well, I’m sticking with this one, because honestly, I’d give her an honorary membership in the club of my people any day, if I were in charge of that sort of thing (which, unfortunately, I’m not any longer, after an early-90s debacle in which I accidentally sent a congratulatory letter of honorary membership to David Koresh instead of David Bowie—but can I just say that it was an understandable mistake, given that they’re both pretty, pretty men who are (or were, in one case) kinda out there?). As it is, she’ll either have to wait until my 20-year probationary period ends (on Juneteenth of this year), or complete a rigorous exam that includes full memorization and one-woman performance of The Wiz.

4. She don’t know karate…

Actually, I have no idea if this is true. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kendra does know some serious karate moves, and is just keeping them under wraps until such time as she is called to bust ‘em out—like if she should happen upon someone in the midst of a ritual puppy-kicking, or catch a mofo purposely using an apostrophe to denote plurality (actually, this grammatical atrocity may not have the same effect on her as it does on me (in short, it makes me want to rip out the nearest six sets of eyeballs—and if it’s on a billboard, television, or some other display that I know will result in at least a thousand people seeing that business and perhaps beginning to believe in their hearts that it’s OK (it is SO NOT OK), then also a few uvulas to boot), but I would like to think that in the name of grammar pedants everywhere, she’d have my back on this one). Because she’s bad-ass, I tell ya. She does Cross-Fit. You don’t want to jack with her. She will sit, all calm and Zen, through whatever petty tyranny you think you’re gangster enough to dish out—but then, like Mr. Miyagi, she will bust out some surprise black-eye-makin’ moves on your ass without even ruffling her mustache. Or she would. If she knew karate. However, for the purposes of this blog, post, she doesn’t…

5. …but she knows ka-RA-zy (yes, she does).

Now, don’t get me wrong: I think crazy—except when it borders on the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer or Fred Phelps—is a good thing. Frankly, I kinda have to feel that way, because crazy people love me. Seriously. LOVE MY ASS. When I lived in the Bay Area, California (which is replete with all kinds of insanity), my friends would marvel, as we walked together to the BART station, at the (apparently invisible) come-hither beacon that drew every left-of center being within a two-block radius straight to my bosom. Guy who’d peed on himself in the grocery store? Hither he came, in response to my silent siren call, to engage in a lengthy conversation about the hoisin sauce he spotted in my cart. Dude who spent his days hunched gutterside in his special-issue FBI suit (which, according to him, kept his body absolutely pristine for top-secret missions; “Check out my hands,” he said, floating them near my face, “they’ve been in the pockets.”)? Ran straight to my side daily to protect me from aliens on the way to the BART station. Doughnut shop clerk who changed his name weekly to evade government flunkies who’d been dispatched to dispose of him and his classified knowledge about the Great Microwave Conspiracy? Dropped to his knees before me and offered me free doughnuts, in recognition of me as the Queen of his people.

OK, that last one is an exaggeration; I did get the free doughnuts, but I was never officially crowned. Point is, I got no problem with crazy, as long as it’s accompanied by kind. That said, I have one crazy family. So far no FBI consorts with rampant incontinence—but we’re still pretty far left of center ourselves. And Kendra has squished in among us nutballs like it ain’t no thang—as evidenced by the $1.5984 check she actually wrote, signed, and mailed—which is all the more reason to love her crazy ass (as if being cooler than James Brown weren’t enough).



Breaking (Bread With) Amish

It starts on a Monday, and there is no mercy for six more days. Every year, at the end of January, comes the day when I pile into a van with a gaggle of my coworkers and head to the heart of the Ozarks for my company’s annual convention, armed with a week’s worth of underwear and muttering a fervent prayer for survival (and for a cooperative gastrointestinal system, because not only do corporate employees double up in hotel rooms, but our roommates are chosen FOR us—which means there’s always the possibility that I’ll get a roommate with whom the last thing I want to share is what my bowels are up to).

It’s a BIIIIIIIIIIIG production put on by a small staff (and a small production company), so it’s a 90-hour work week1 that runs from 8 am on Monday (when we hit the road to get there) thru about 2 pm on Sunday, which is when we arrive home, exhausted to the point of hallucination, collapse gratefully onto our partners and kids and dogs and sofas and piles of dirty Ozark-scented laundry, and try like hell to stop dreaming about people in bonnets.

Oh, didn’t I mention? The majority of our sales force consists of people of the Amish and Mennonite faiths. So the whole shindig is a sea of bonnets, suspenders, bowl cuts, and beards. Different communities, of course, so the attire varies—and there comes a point in the week when you’re starting to get so tired that you find yourself trying to decide which attire you’d rather wear. For example, I find myself partial to these bonnets:





. . . over these:





. . . and definitely over this look:






On the other hand, I have discovered that the latter headwear is often worn by women who have a little more latitude in their sartorial options; for example, this year, one such woman rocked a (long, loose-cut) green glitter dress, a cute cardigan, low heels, and light makeup to the big-deal formal banquet that wraps up the whole event. On the other hand, the women who get what in my opinion is the best headwear usually have the least-flattering dresses and shoes. So I wonder: can one mix and match? Because I would want to mix and match. Like maybe a long jean skirt (like some of the women wear) with a more “old school” bonnet . . .  SEE what I mean? You’re not careful, you can lose yourself in these kinds of thoughts.

And in the babies. Ohhhh, the babies with their little bonnets and rounded collars and little pink cheeks! So stinkin’ cute. But I digress.

Point is, it’s a long, hard, crazy week, and every year, there is (emphasis on the capital S) Something.

The first year I went, I grabbed an Amish man’s b’doobies2.

The second year I went, I captured a butt-load of conference attendee testimonials on video (a job I hated with the fire of a thousand fart-lighting Satans; contrary to what most people believe about me, I’m an introvert, dammit, and the worst thing you can do to someone like me (besides POOFing me into a set of conjoined octuplets) is force me to spend an entire week chasing down people who would rather eat glass than talk on camera (WHICH I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND) and trying to coax them into recording a video about why they love our company) . . .

. . . and over half of them wound up being unusable for one reason or another.

This year . . . nothing happened. Well, OK—that’s not to say that everything went perfectly; the first general session of the conference was a skin-of-our-teeth adventure in dancing disaster backstage3 (although nobody on the flip side of the stage seemed any the wiser), and the Friday night entertainment was a ventriloquist who apparently didn’t catch on to the caliber of his audience, and started telling some, er . . questionable jokes (meanwhile, there I was backstage, sitting right next to Howdy-Dirty’s wife, and hoping like hell that I had suddenly and miraculously developed a convincing poker face, or that she had suddenly and miraculously been stricken blind and deaf, because I’m pretty sure I gasped and clutched my pearls a couple of times).

And then there was the culminating event—a fancy-schmancy awards banquet that lasts four hours and parades more coin across the stage than Flava Flav rockin’ his priciest grill. Usually, corporate employees have a designated table at the event (some of us, anyway; others elect to ditch the hose and heels in favor of jeans and sweats and spend the evening packing everything up for the move back home); this year, however, because of a dramatic increase in conference attendance, the employee table was forfeited at the last minute, and we were told we’d have to just mingle amongst the conference guests and find seats where we could.

What resulted from this occurrence will forever go down in my personal history as One of Those Moments When Dammit, I Should Have Followed My Instincts. Oh, it won’t be alone in that particular kitty, that moment. Pretty much every damn day I have such a moment. But the moment that I (after learning that employees would have to share tables with conference guests) eschewed my original plan to just eat my dinner backstage with the production guys in favor of banding together with a handful of my coworkers and trying to find seats together amongst the conference attendees is not one I’m likely to forget, because Y’ALL. We wound up at a table with a man who had such shocking body odor it was damn near visible. As we all sat there blinking in the funk fog and trying to make polite conversation with our table mates for the evening (without opening our mouths too wide for fear we’d get a taste of that business), the coworker next to me fought valiantly to hold down her lunch. Eventually, I found saving grace in the fact that I was due backstage just as dessert was being served—I grabbed my plate of exotic chocolate debauchery and hightailed it away from the Stanky Stud as fast as my four-inch heels could carry me.

And, finally, there was my roommate, who spent the week slowly dying in her hotel bed. On the drive to the convention, she and I were both complaining of sore throats. Because she had not been sick at all during the previous two years (for which she credits a daily regimen of apple cider vinegar shots), she tried in vain to convince herself that she was not *really* sick; instead, she explained, her obsessive worry about getting sick had caused her psyche to create symptoms of illness. But sick? No. Not her.

Meanwhile, InstaPrincess-cum-Insta-Drama-Queen woke up that same morning with a sore throat, and immediately commenced maudlin predictions of my imminent gloom, despair, and agony. I whined to anyone who’d listen that I was going down, and that nothing, but NOTHING (save the resurrection of Tupac) could prevent my impending death.

By two days later, however, I wasn’t feeling sick at all, and my roommate spent every day dizzy with chills and exhaustion, every night hacking up a lung (which I guess means she has six of them), and every moment looking like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in one of those Faces of Meth billboard ad campaigns. It was painful to watch, so I can only imagine how much it sucked to live through.

Despite all that, though, I have to say that this was my least traumatic convention so far. Enjoyable? That’s pushing it. In fact, despite the lack of abject trauma, this year’s convention was still enough of an ordeal to result—as they all do—in the development, deep within my soul, of profound appreciation for Pretty Bad Dad: for how well he takes care of me when I’m in physical or emotional distress; for how safe he makes me feel; for his consistent willingness to make me macaroni and cheese; for the comfort of his freckled hand flung across my shoulders in bed.

And my kid? The smell of the back of his head? His gappy little mischief grin when he farts in the bathtub? His chunky little Barney Rubble feet grazing the edge of the couch when he watches TV? Pure glory.

By the time I get back from this gig every year, I’m so in love with my little family I think I might puke if they don’t ask me to prom. And that—for the week or so that it lasts—somehow makes it all worthwhile.


1. OK, 90 hours is a slight exaggeration. On the way home from the most recent convention, my coworkers and I tallied our work hours, and discovered that each of us had actually only worked 88 hours that week.

2. Yes. That’s right. I molested a man of God.

Because it was my first experience with the company convention, my boss wanted me to get as much exposure (yuk yuk) to as many facets of the event as possible. Therefore, I was asked to assist with several breakout sessions during the conference: distribute handouts, make sure the room temperatures were adjusted properly, run like the wind to find help if the A/V equipment imploded, etc. The final breakout session for which I played flunky turned out to be standing room only, so rather than cuddle-up wallflower-style with a bunch of bearded and bowl-cut fellas (although it sounds like fun, doesn’t it?), I chose to stand outside the room and periodically peek in to make sure everything was going OK.

Which it was, until the end of breakout period drew nigh. Knowing that I would be required to hand out evaluation forms at the end of the session, I decided to go ahead and sneak back into the room for the duration. I opened the door, tiptoed into the room, and stretched my hand backwards, just behind my butt, in an effort to catch the door behind me and prevent it from slamming at my back. Within seconds, my hand cupped something soft. “Hmmmm,” I thought numbly, fully encased as I was in my scratched plexi-glass bubble of exhaustion. “That’s not a door.”

I shoved my hand further into it, still mentally adrift, yet somewhat fascinated by the mystery of what spongy surprise now rested in my palm. A tiny, fabric-encased newborn kitten? A pastry-filled pillowcase? A handkerchief full of moldy cheese curds?  By the time my cerebral capacity kicked all the way in and slapped me awake with a HOLY MOTHER OF GOD I AM TOUCHING TESTICLES, I’d say I’d been groping the globes for a good three to four seconds (which doesn’t seem like a lot, but child—get a stopwatch, time it out, and imagine YOU’RE touching a stranger’s goodies that entire time; it becomes a tragic eternity). In sheer horror, I turned, face aflame, to the elderly bearded gentleman with whom I’d just publicly shared a moment typically reserved for truck stop restrooms, and uttered a shaky, lightning-speed apology before squeezing past him back out the door, sprinting back to my hotel room (evaluation forms be damned!) and collapsing face-down onto my bed. There I remained, hiding, until it was time for the big, fancy evening banquet where, as luck would have it, out of over 100 tables in the giant banquet hall, Grab-it Gramps and I were seated at tables right next to each other. For FOUR HOURS. Talk about a tragic eternity.

3. This was my third year at the convention, but my inaugural year performing backstage functions. In years past, I have served as a stage assist for the general sessions, which basically means seeing to it that folks ascending to the stage to accept awards (and subsequently descending with gorgeous, heavy chunks of credenza candy) don’t wipe out and go pantied-ass-up on the stairs.

And I thought THAT was nerve-wracking.

But this year, it became my duty to make sure the correct PowerPoint slide appeared for the enjoyment of the crowd at precisely the right moment during each general session. I also wound up running teleprompter slides for big-wig company execs during their speeches—including one particular executive who is well-known for crippling stage fright which causes her to freak out and ping around between her talking points like the errant toothpaste cap that boings around the bathroom, laughing at you (you know it’s true) as you try desperately to catch it  before it plunks into the open toilet.

So yeah. Little more stressful.

But all in all, despite some cringe-worthy “oops” moments, the whole thing didn’t go too badly—I even got hugs of thanks from Stage Fright Sally after two of her spotlight moments onstage! And it was still better than doing those damn video testimonials again.


Damn the Cubbies.

Happy New Year! And yeah, I know it’s not really new anymore, but I’ve been busy, y’all. And really, the only thing I have to show for it is a little extra nugget of (in?)sanity, because as of yesterday, I have an official plan for my little dude’s birthday. Which is in March (but what can I say? I love birthdays, and Pretty Bad Dad never wants anybody to do anything for his, so I get a little . . . exuberant . . . when the kid’s birthday nears).

And yes. A person’s sanity (or lack thereof) absolutely CAN ride on something like that.

But the truth is, it’s my fault. Remember how I said that when I was a brand-new, shell-shocked, questionably-groomed parent, I started a club (if not, click here and skip to Item #2 in the EPILOGUE)? Well, let’s just say that foresight has never been my strong suit, because now that those families are firmly implanted on my Friends list, social calendar (we get together not only for birthdays, but also for holidays, playdates, and impromptu field trips), and official list of Favorites, my kid (who will turn 5 in a couple of months) has decided to make new friends.

What the heck is that about? Isn’t it enough that he no longer lets me choose his outfits—now he has to go all Fight the Power with his friends list, too?

So the upshot is that while PBD and I were busy making kiddo birthday party plans involving the usual suspects (totaling 16 kids and 22 parents), our boy was making his own birthday party plans involving his entire preschool class (which is 10 more kids). “I’m going to put an invitation in each cubby!” he informed us with glee-clenched fists and an ear-to-ear grin. Damn those cubbies.

And it does seem like we’ve reached the age of “school friend” parties, because he has been invited to three of them within the last month and a half. So PBD and I were faced with a few choices:

1. Continue with our party plans, and screw the school kids (hey, it’s important to get all options out on the table—even the mean ones).

2. Try to find a party venue that would allow us to invite 26 kids without ponying up the cost of a new Cadillac (which is harder than you’d think; many places set incredibly low guest limits (like, 10) and then “generously” offer you the opportunity to pay six months’ salary for each “additional” guest—while still others make you count parents as guests, too, which really drives up your guest count!1)

3. Continue with our party plans and take treats to school so that our kid could celebrate with his school friends there. (This was actually my vote; mostly because I despaired of ever finding a good venue for 26 kids, but also because I had the most kick-ass theme idea for the party at school! Well, OK, “most kick-ass” if you ask me; “hella em-effin dorky” if you ask PBD, or any of my coworkers, or that guy who sleeps under the bench at the bus stop. But don’t listen to them. Listen to me.2)

4. Ditch our usual party friends and just invite the kid’s classmates (Yeah, RIGHT, like that would happen! What, you thought this party was about the KID? InstaPrincess Rule #32: The party is NEVER about the kid.)

5. Ask the kid to choose just a couple of his classmates to invite to the party. (Other parents have done this; I know, because when we go to these school-friend parties, I always manage to corner one of the birthday kid’s parents and casually ask, “So did you invite the whole class, or what?” And two out of three parents have told us that no, they didn’t—their kid handpicked only a handful of guests from school. However, PBD and I don’t really trust the discretion skills of a bunch of four- and five-year-olds, owing in part to our own foot-in-mouth party invite indiscretions as adults. Plus, the kid is really into that whole damn “invitation in every cubby” idea.)

6. Disappear to the Canadian wilderness, learn to make our own flour from tree bark, and start over.

In the end, and after copious internet research peppered with a few inquisitive phone calls, we were actually able to pull off Option 2, thanks to a local community center that offers birthday party packages for up to 25 kids. Hallelujah! (Hallelujah, that is, assuming we have at least one kid who can’t make it.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t this the problem with kids these days? That parents bend over backwards to give Wittle Pwecious Schmoopie Face anything his or her (wittle) heart desires?

And I can’t disagree with you. I mean, when I was a kid, many of my “birthday parties” included my family only. When I turned five, my mom considered it a milestone birthday, and so invited about eight kids who belonged to families we knew. (I’m still good friends with one of those kids, and at one point, a couple of decades later, he and I looked back at the one Polaroid still remaining from that day (or perhaps the only one that was taken) and realized that every kid therein was either his cousin or mine. But I digress.) Otherwise, aside from a slumber party in middle school, my birthdays pretty much consisted– at their most elaborate– of having a couple of friends over for ice cream and cake.

So when did kids’ birthday parties become a whole, thriving industry involving giant inflatables and even bigger senses of entitlement on the part of the pee wees? When did the notion of celebrating a kid’s existence on the planet become contingent on a theme, a $100-per-hour booking fee and an RSVP list ten times as long as the number of years the kid’s been around? Honestly, that’s research I’d love to do—and write about—but I have a big-ass birthday party to plan. (In the meantime, we’ll try to keep the kid’s ego in check in other ways: stocking his dresser with highwater pants; feeding him nothing but cold beans for two weeks straight; pointing and laughing at him while he’s on the toilet. The usual stuff.)

And yeah. This is the kind of stuff that passes for blog-worthy news in my life. Well, that and the fact that I spent the other night in the Emergency Room, most likely due to some highly adversarial ham and beans, which managed to convince me that I was developing heart problems. I suppose it’s not fair to blame the ham and beans entirely; I mean, I probably would not have felt so panicked had I not lost my dad, brother, and sister to heart attacks over the last two decades. My sister was 52. My brother was 42. I am now 42. Perhaps now you understand why I had a little moment of “Oh, shit!”

So I had just embarked upon the long (40-mile) commute home from work, and was tooling down the highway when I was hit with some mild pain in my chest (a tiny bit left of center) and on the underside of my left arm (from armpit to elbow).

It was the arm thing that got me freaked out.

Or, rather, got me periodically freaked out; the pain would occasionally ebb, during which time I’d calm down and think, “yeah, probably just indigestion (which also runs in my family, but I have never been a sufferer), jeez, calm down, Bessie.” (Sometimes I call myself Bessie. Other times Raquel. Because if I don’t, who will?) Then the pain (which, again, was only strong enough to be moderately annoying; it was never stop-you-in-your-tracks pain) would return, and I’d start freaking out and bawling. Mind you, I was not for one second convinced that my last sight on this earth would be the rear end of a Toyota Tacoma embellished with a “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker. Mostly, I just feared that this was going to turn out to be some sort of new Condition (note the capital C) that would somehow prevent me from living the way I want to (and heck—my income bracket already prevents me from living the way I want to, so who needs a health factor tying me down even more?)—and I had juuuuuust gotten back to being able to exercise after The Accident That Set the Tone for Sucktober.

So yeah. Intermittent crying all the way home. When I finally got home, I was no longer feeling the pain, so I was back to the Indigestion Theory, and had made up my mind that I would just take some Pepto and lie down for awhile. Unfortunately, I’d already told PBD earlier in the day that I wanted to go to the gym, so when I got home, he was dressed and ready. I’m not particularly good at lying, so when he wondered why I was no longer interested, I spat out the truth. Then I told him that no, I did NOT want to go to the hospital, because I didn’t want to force all of us to spend what was bound to be our entire evening in the ER—nor did I want to spend what was bound to be the cost of live His and Hers camels from a Neiman-Marcus catalog in medical bills—just to find out that nothing was wrong with me.

Which is pretty much what we did. (“With YOUR family history,” said PBD, “you betta get your ass in the car.” Or something like that. So I did.) The EKG, the chest X-ray, and what seemed like 17,932 blood tests due to my fear and loathing of needles(but was really more like two) all came up clear, and after another romantic ER evening (during which our son kept his face buried in an iPad, and PBD entertained me by looking up angina symptoms on his phone, and reading aloud to me from his findings), I was sent home.

Theories as to what caused the pain (which came back briefly on the next morning’s commute, but hasn’t returned since) range from the ham and beans to my recent return to the gym (I told the doc I’d done some chest presses on the weight machine, and he said that the last remnants of the resulting muscle soreness could have manifested as “heart” pain). Anyway, yeah. That’s pretty much all I have for news so far this year . . .

. . . except, of course, for what happened the other morning, which was basically a groggy 4-year-old shuffling into the bathroom (where I was doing my hair for work) with a sleep-smashed frown and asking, “Who was making those noises I heard last night? They were coming from you and Daddy’s room . . . ” and then proceeding to demonstrate said noises.

But I’m not quite ready to talk about that.

Psyche totally scarred.



1. So far, we’re still at the point where most of the birthday parties to which our kid gets invited are also attended by at least one, but usually both, of each kid’s parents (who are just as likely to be seen flooshing down the giant inflatable slide, or battling to the death with an inflatable Light Saber, as any of the kids). And frankly, I’m not ready yet for it to be any other way. But I think it’s coming; less than a month ago, our boy was invited a 6th birthday party. The birthday kid’s dad is a childhood friend of PBD, and we have hung out with him and his wife on several occasions. So when we arrived for their kid’s birthday party (which was at their home), it never occurred to us to do anything but stick around. We like them, and besides—it’s how we roll.

Imagine my surprise, then, when other parents escorted their kids to the front door, introduced themselves, and left. Only one other parent actually stayed for the party; I assumed, therefore, that she must be friends with the birthday parents, too. Turned out, though, that she’d never met them before, which brings up an interesting irony: When our kid is invited to a birthday party by a family we count among our friends, we stay because we know and love the parents (and the kid(s)); and when he’s invited to a birthday party by the family of one of our kid’s classmates, we stay because we don’t know those people! Why the heck would we just leave our kid with them?

2. Y’all. Seriously, does it get better than an Around the World theme? It just sort of built itself; I was putzing around online, and came across some cardboard favor boxes shaped like little suitcases. I liked them, so I started hunting for party favors that would go along with that idea. I found some little “Passports” (complete with stickers) that were cute, some beach-ball-sized inflatable globes, some foil-wrapped chocolate candies made to look like little globes, and some international flag stickers. By then, I was completely enamored with myself and everything else (I love it when a party theme comes together), and set off in (cyber-) search for planes, trains, and automobiles to use as cupcake toppers. That’s when I found these!

I mean, come on, how perfect is that? Obviously, I’d have to weed a couple of those out, because I don’t think the Pyramids, for example, would work on a cupcake, but the Eiffel Tower? That summa bitch was MADE to be a cupcake topper!

Oh, I was so excited about this plan—even, as I said, when my coworkers laughed at me, and begged me to let my kid just have a SpongeBob theme like other kids. Then PBD called, and I eagerly shared my plan. Even as I (practically) heard him shaking his head on the other end of the line, I remained devoted. But he said he really wanted to try to give the kid his wish to invite his classmates to his actual birthday party. These are, he pointed out, the kids he sees every day, and he’s so excited about putting invites in the cubbies (again: damn the cubbies!) . . . .

And while he was right, that pretty much precluded my precious Around the World theme (because pulling it off for 25 kids, as opposed to just 10, would be a little cost prohibitive). Perhaps, said PBD helpfully, I could keep the theme in my back pocket for now, and then use it the next time I host an ADULT gathering?

Honey, don’t think I won’t.




Playin’ the Dozens… Insta-Princess Style.

OK, so two things happened:

1. I kinda failed at that whole daily gratitude thing I meant to do for November. Interestingly, though, I actually felt quite a bit of it. And OK, if you take a hot-air-balloon look at my life, I certainly SHOULD feel it, but HOO-WEE, by the end of October (otherwise known as Sucktober, 2012), I was really feeling some cacophony in my Kum Ba Ya. However, once November began, seriously, y’all—it was like a magical page turned, and suddenly the sun came out again. Such a good mood, pretty much every damn day. Still, I was mired under mounds of freelance work I didn’t get done in October when I hated everyone, and so did not get time to post even one of the things for which I am grateful. Also,

2. An amazing girl who has her pointy finger right on the slightly-teary-ear-to-ear-goofball-grin trigger smack dab in the middle of my heart hit a very important, crotch-related milestone last week.

And nobody is thrilled.

She’s not excited. Her father is freaking out. Her grandma is sad. Her mother is OK, but was really hoping it wouldn’t happen for another year or two. Nobody is celebrating. Shouldn’t somebody celebrate?

I think so. I mean, this is BIG! Sure, it happens every day, and to every girl, but so what? Millions of people bring millions of babies into their families every day. Millions of couples get married every day. (Even more of them now that states are coming to their senses and letting love, rather than gender, determine nuptial suitability . . . LET LOVE RULE, MAN! OK, Lenny-Kravitz-scented PSA over, moving on . . . ) And hell, the fact is that many of those marriages won’t last, and some of those kids will grow up to be assholes (you know it’s true)—BUT DON’T WE CELEBRATE THOSE THINGS ANYWAY? Yes, because BIG CHANGES call for celebration!

So why is nobody making a big hoo-hah (pun kinda sorta intended) about THIS?1

And OK, I kinda get it. I mean, on the practical side, she can officially get pregnant now, which nobody wants to happen at this point, for various reasons (I mean, good LORD, she’s 11). And for another, this is big, face-slapping proof that our baby girl is growing up! And growing up for some reason makes people sad, or anxious, or cranky. And I’m not saying there’s not good reason for that, because there are some things about being a grownup that kinda suck (can you say DMV, boys and girls?).

But I for one am glad to be a grown-up. So in honor of my sweet girl, the holiday season (read: The 12 Days of Christmas), and 12-12-12, I give you:


You get your own room.

Well. This is not entirely true, in many cases. A lot of people get their own rooms throughout childhood . . . and a good chunk of adults, myself included, don’t actually have their own rooms. But I’ve always thought that was weird. I mean, I began life sharing a room with two sisters (whom I’m sure found the whole arrangement far more annoying than I did, being 9 and 17 years old when I was born). Then one sister moved out, and I shared with the other. Then THAT sister moved out, and SWEET BLISS! MY OWN ROOM for, like, nine years (being a late, “surprise!” baby certainly had its perqs)! Then, when it came time for college, I backslid a little, and shared a dorm room my Freshman year, but by Sophomore year I was off-campus in my own apartment, and have pretty much had my own digs—or at least my own space—ever since. Then I got married, and . . . what? I’m not only back to sharing a room—I’m sharing a BED! How does that make sense? It’s like learning to drive a car, and then pedaling out the majority of your adulthood on a tricycle! However, at least I can say that sharing a room, and a bed, with Pretty Bad Dad (PBD) is a choice I’ve made for myself, and my “roommate” was not forced upon me by circumstances outside my control. So there’s the adult advantage.2

You get the jokes.

Again, perhaps not entirely true, because getting—ahem—THOSE kinds of jokes is dependent on many factors (namely, the level of both intellect and depravity in both you and the joke), but for the most part you at least know the terms for certain special anatomical features, and exactly how they operate.

The trouble—if you’re like me, anyway—is lack of a time machine (or a reliable memory) to take you and your new naughty-parts-educated bad self back to those moments when you DIDN’T get the joke, and all the other kids laughed at you, but NONE OF THEM WOULD EXPLAIN IT TO YOU (you now suspect that the reason none of them threw you a bone was because they didn’t get it, either), so you went home to ask your sister, who sputtered and struggled to keep her eyeballs firmly planted in her skull before sending you to ask your mom, who avoided eye contact altogether and promised to tell you when you were “older”.

And so now you’re older, and on the OTHER (read: geriatric) end of cluelessness3, and have forgotten all of those jokes you didn’t get as a kid (you also now suspect that your mom STILL wouldn’t explain them to you, even if you could remember them). But the bonus of being an adult is having enough wisdom to know that those jokes were as lame as the ones people tell you (or send to you and 47 other “close friends” via e-mail) today.

You get to pick the music.

This? This is huge. Now, don’t get me wrong: if I had not, as the baby-most member of a fair-sized family (two parents, four kids), been routinely deprived of the opportunity to choose the music, I would likely not know or appreciate the OMG of Stan Kenton, the WHAAAAAT? of Herbie Hancock, the pure YEAH, BABY of WAR, or the unmitigated GLO-REH of Earth, Wind, and Fire (y’all know I love my fellas). Maria would never have taken a letter in my life. I would be completely oblivious to the thin line between love and hate. My soul would be completely void of Makossa. But still, the moment when the tables turn and YOU are the one who gets to decide what the family will listen to in the car, or dance to in the living room? Pure gold.

And the moment when your preschooler climbs into the car and asks to hear Stevie Wonder? Flippin’ GOLD-HELMETED MAGIC MONKEYS DANCING IN THE SKY.

You can eat whatever the heck you want.

That’s right; you’re calling the shots, Baby! You don’t have to eat those green beans (or find clever ways to transport them to the toilet to be flushed after dinner, risking the possibility that your mom is going to find a stray bean smooshed inside your underpants when she does the laundry, and slap you into therapy). You don’t have to clean your plate to earn that chocolate cake! You eat WHAT you want, WHEN you want, by golly, and if that means pork rinds (which are practically bacon, right?) and candy corn (why would they call it corn if it didn’t at least have SOME health benefits?) for breakfast, who’s gonna stop you?

Well. Your digestive system might, actually, which is one of the reasons people curse adulthood: it has an uncanny knack for proving that your parents were right about a whole buncha stuff, and didn’t enforce certain rules SOLELY for the purpose of trampling on every bit of fun in the universe. But I digress. Point is, when you grow up, YOU have control over your own potential gastrointestinal distress! You own your bowels, Baby, and it’s nobody’s business how you run that show.

You can buy yourself things you want, even if it’s three days before Christmas.

You remember how it used to be, don’t you? In May, you could be out shopping with your mom, and find a small trinket you liked (a Snoopy eraser, say, or a key chain emblazoned with a sparkly Yorkshire Terrier drawing), and if you were lucky, and she hadn’t found any vegetables in your pants lately, she might buy it for you (or, if you were a kid who got an allowance, she might let you buy it for yourself)! Then suddenly, somewhere around November, the purchase of ANY fun thing was curtailed on the premise that “Santa might want to bring you that!”

Well, screw Santa. How was I supposed to count on a guy who misspelled my name every year? He checks his list TWICE, he spies on me in my sleep, he eats my damn cookies, and yet he still can’t get it together to realize that my first name begins with a C and not an S? Oh, I knew it wasn’t all his fault; mostly, I blamed my grandma. (I mean, Santa was an older guy, right, and my grandma was old, too, so I figured the two of them were probably pretty tight (they even had practically identical handwriting, so maybe they went to the same elementary school). And Grandma, who not only pronounced my name as if it began with an S, but also spelled it that way herself, was allowed to stay up later than I was on Christmas Eve, so she probably got a chance to chat him up when he arrived. Therefore every Christmas, as he was writing out his thank-you note to me for the milk and cookies I left him, he probably found it easier to just ask my grandma how to spell my name rather than check his list a THIRD time. Busy guy. I got it. And when Christmas morning came, he’d always managed to leave me at least one really good thing off my list (I mean, he could have gotten more than my NAME wrong, if ya know what I mean), so I was never a hater.) Nonetheless, I never fully trusted him. So you can see why it works better for me—as an adult—to just be able to buy what I want, WHEN I want it, and let Santa put his energy toward keeping other people’s lists straight. Also, the “Insta” part of Insta-Princess (hell, for that matter, the “Princess” part, too) might have something to do with a desire for instant gratification . . .

You can bring home strays . . . and keep them!

There’s really not much more that needs to be said about that, except that, like the concept of eating nothing but cotton candy and spray-cheese for dinner, keeping strays turns out to be another thing your parents were right about (says the gal with a stain on her bedroom carpet, left there a couple of weeks ago by a stray she brought home a decade ago—and no, I’m not talking about PBD). Still, everybody deserves the opportunity to dictate the occupants of his or her own household, and being a grown-up gets you there.

You get to boss other people around.

Actually, this is one I quite often forget, even as a mother. I once told a friend that I’m so accustomed to having been told what to do—to the most minute detail—my whole life (if you’ve met my mother, you totally understand4) that being bossed around actually makes me feel loved. Not bossed around in a “fix me a Turkey Pot Pie!” kinda way; more like in an unsolicited advice kind of way (unless, of course, you’re PBD, because sometimes when HE offers unsolicited advice in response to a dilemma I’m having, I want to poke him in the eye, because why can’t he just LISTEN and not try to SOLVE everything? . . . hey, I didn’t say it made sense).

You’d think that in turn, I would boss OTHER people around in order to SHOW love, but that’s not really how I roll. I mean, do you show love to the person who enjoys cooking big, elaborate gourmet meals by bringing a vat of Hamburger Helper to the table? No. You grab your fork, sit your ass down and EAT those truffle-oil-basted, pepper-crusted quail eggs with raspberry foam. Similar thing with people who like to tell you what to do—you don’t try to reciprocate, you just listen. And quite honestly, I am still semi-secretly convinced that I know less about everything than everyone else (partially because everyone else speaks with such authority). So the idea of telling people what to do—and having them LISTEN—is a pretty big thing for me. Hell, the idea that I DON’T HAVE TO DO WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY (and don’t even have to justify not doing it) is still kinda new for me (again, unless you’re PBD . . .), so as you can imagine, this adulthood thing is one big, heady ride for Mama!

You get to own pretty stuff.

At first, it’s enough of a thrill to invite that one-eyed, half-bald cat to stick around, have a meal, and mark your backpack. Soon thereafter, the mere fact that you keep a supply of real tissues (instead of wiping your nose with toilet paper) and have six matching plates and a fondue pot makes you feel grown-up. But when you really get there, it is so glorious, because you get the serious household bling, like silver chafing dishes and tiered serving platters and crystal champagne flutes and gorgeous sauce boats—lovely things you coveted for years, back when a box of Kleenex, a latte and a Real Simple magazine could put a serious dent in your budget. Or maybe you’re more into flat-screen TVs and sleek, pretty gadgets that begin with a lowercase i. The point is that when you grow up, stuff like this becomes part of your reality. Not to encourage materialism, but there’s something to be said for having a pretty life, and whatever that means to you, adulthood gives you the power to make it happen. Score.

You don’t get in trouble for coloring outside the lines.

Maybe this one doesn’t seem that important, because how often do you color these days, anyway, right? But as someone who has spent most of her life thinking she has to do what other people say, it can be really refreshing to let a little red crayon loose, y’know? Or give people green hair. It’s just a good reminder that we don’t always have to follow the rules, especially when they’re so arbitrary. The laws of traffic, sure. The rules of etiquette, absolutely (this from the gal who never sends thank-you notes on time). The tenets of basic human decency, RIGHT ON (says she who does not flush the toilet in the middle of the night—it harshes my sleepy-sleep buzz, man, and besides, with all that racket, how am I going to know if the Boogie Man is sneaking up?). But whatever rule that says you have to sleep with your head on the headboard end of the bed can go. The draconian axiom that says cowboy boots have no place under a formal gown? Who needs it? Whatever useless edict says a blog post should be succinct? Fuhgeddabout it!


People often express surprise that I, a Major (and partial Master) in English, like to cuss so much. But first of all, being an English major is not necessarily about loving words; mostly it’s about loving to take a piece of literature, pluck it apart bit by bit, get your pointiest finger all up in it and wrangle out the guts in slimy, quivering chunks. Second of all, because I (coincidentally) DO love words, I embrace damn near ALL of them (well, OK, I’m not crazy about spoon, and I can’t pronounce brewery to save my life, or spell terrific without help), and let’s face it; the naughty ones are some of the most expressive and, therefore, the most useful, in my opinion.

‘Course, having a kid has thrown a wrench into a good chunk of my lexicon. I can’t tell you how many times PBD has bored holes into my forehead with his, “LANGUAGE, Mommy!” look because in the process of speaking passionately about something, I bust out with an ill-advised word in front of our son. (One day, I was feeling particularly passionate (read: pissed) about something as we were driving in the car, and so when PBD warned me about my choice of words, I whipped my face his way, bore two of my OWN burn-holes into HIS head and, after a brief pause to consider the consequences (at which point I decided it would be far more harmful to my child’s psyche to have parents who don’t love each other, or who think boys shouldn’t take ballet, than it would to hear a bad word), spat, “SHIT FUCK ASS!” right into his face. The kid cracked the heck up.) Still, I believe cussing has its benefits. So YAY for growing into the privilege of doing it without risking a mouth full of soap.


Though it’s often billed as a corollary to cussing, I’d say drinking stands on its own merits, wouldn’t you? Also, while it tends to be undertaken with the most vigor before one becomes an actual grown-up, I am here to tell you that (responsible) drinking is, for me anyway, one of the most valuable privileges of adulthood. For one thing, by the time most of us are grown-up, we’ve done enough juvenile drinking to know—and adhere to—the threshold at which drinking causes us to part ways with our charm (and sometimes our pants)5. For another, how often could you have USED a (legal) drink when you were, say, 15 years old, and you thought the world was on the verge of collapse because your BFF was mad at you/you heard your crush made out with that girl Heather last weekend at the basketball game you missed because you had strep/you thought you might get a C on that Algebra quiz/you just found out you weren’t invited to Tina’s party/you farted trying to spike the ball on that slut Heather in gym class volleyball/etc.?

Ultimately, of course, nothing but years of shit und drang (see? Useful cussing!) can get you to that place of wisdom and peace wherein you realize the triviality of those kinds of incidents . . . but being able to kick back next to the fireplace with a glass of wine or two (as opposed to camping out in that guy Kyle’s basement hovel on a mildew-scented blanket with half a bottle of the Peach Schnapps his older brother kyped from a 7-11) would have helped, no? I mean, don’t we all get through some of our Heather debacles that way now?

So hooray for the ability to self-medicate with a little more dignity . . . and on the right side of the law!

You no longer have to wonder what you’re going to be like when you grow up.

That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? I mean, sure—maybe you never became a veterinarian (or, in my case, a stewardess) like you planned, but when you think about it, were your childhood dreams really about your occupation? Probably not. Most likely, your ultimate goal was simply to be awesome. Because awesome = happy, right?

But think about what constituted “awesome” when you were, like, ten years old. Awesome was having boobs. Or touching boobs. Or both. Awesome was being able to drive a car. Awesome was having really cool friends (though the definition of “cool” back then may have had more to do with Gloria Vanderbilt jeans than it does now). Awesome was being able to determine your own bedtime. Awesome was having people want to hang out with you. Awesome was owning a leather jacket. Awesome was having a really amazing skill (again, the definition of “amazing” was probably different then—I mean how much does it really matter NOW how many dill pickle slices you can fit into your mouth at once?). Awesome was feeling like you could make the world better by being in it.

So think about it: you’re pretty awesome, aren’t you?

As a bonus, maybe you’re even awesome in ways you hadn’t anticipated! Maybe you’re a good parent. Maybe you throw kick-ass parties. Maybe you’ve survived cancer. Maybe you have a knack for choosing the perfect gift. Maybe you get paid to do something your kid-self didn’t even know you could get paid FOR (get your mind outta there, I mean like drawing or making clothes for dogs) And see? YOU KNOW THAT NOW. You don’t have to wonder IF you’re going to be awesome when you grow up! You are so totally awesome! Perfect? Lawd, NO. But happiness never had anything to do with perfection. Happiness is all about making the best possible thing you can out of whatever circumstances you’re in. So by golly, when life gives you your first period, why not celebrate? It’s one more step on the road to AWESOME.



1. For the record, I made an effort to celebrate the news; I instantly began scouring the internet for some super-awesome commemorative gift I could send to my sweet girl that wouldn’t make the whole deal into a big maudlin mess.

Also for the record, my husband thought I was nuts. “A GIFT? For menstruation?” he said, and wondered aloud if HE should be thinking about giving our SON celebratory gifts for his first armpit hair, or his first hookup.

Dude. I would TOTALLY celebrate a first armpit hair. As for the hookup, I would be willing to celebrate that, too, but (a) PBD is convinced that no way is our son going to tell us about it (me, I’m still holding out hope that I will be such an incredibly cool mom that HE WILL TELL ME EVERYTHING . . . however, the jury’s still out on whether I really want to KNOW everything), and (b) how DOES one celebrate first booty? Does the partner get a gift, too? Would a gift certificate be appropriate? But I digress.

Anyway, as far as finding a good gift for my favorite girl, I sort of floundered. I mean, what—jewelry? I can just imagine THAT school bus conversation:

“Oh, is that a new necklace?”

“Yeah, it’s my menstruation gift.”

“Oh, so you wear it every time you . . .?”

“Dude, I am never wearing this necklace again.”


“Who sent you the roses?”

“Oh, I got them from InstaPrincess.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“The blooming of my womanhood.”

Yyyyeah. NOT.

Ultimately, I went practical. Baby Girl (oops, I mean Baby Woman)’s mother told me that she’d had to fish around for a cosmetics bag to send supplies to school with the girl the next day, so I thought, “Oooooh, she needs a cute wristlet! It’s fun, fashionable, AND practical (a trifecta that’s hard to come by)!” So I scoured ebags.com until I found this cute, yet reasonably-priced, number. If I lived closer to her precious face, I would have taken her out for lots of chocolate things and to have our toes done. But as it was, I settled for the bag. I briefly considered adding a copy of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (because come on—SUCH a good book). . . but if I have ANY hope of fulfilling my “cool mom” dream, I gotta practice refraining from shit like that.

2. Another adult advantage, if you can afford it, is the ability to live in a home that allows for you to at least have your own office, which is one of my goals for 2013. It was actually my PLAN in 2005, when we moved into the house; we bought four bedrooms, which we thought would make for a bedroom, a guest room, and His and Hers offices . . . but my office ended up becoming a nursery (there is a specific hazard to room-sharing as an adult), and I didn’t want to give up having a guest room.

I’m over that now. Bring on the InstaPrincess Chamber!

3. Case in point: I think I accidentally wrote an obscene message in my four-year-old son’s homespun (read: pulled-outta-my-ass-because-I-didn’t-get-it-together-in-time-to-actually-BUY-him-an-) Advent calendar.  I am old and woefully unfamiliar with the slang the kids are using these days! So in an effort to come up with clever, semi-poetic phrasing for the countdown to Christmas, I wrote, “15 DAYS UNTIL THE BIG WINTER WHAT-WHAT!” which, I am now given to believe (thanks to a few 20-somethings I know), means that on Christmas, my baby boy will be anally penetrated. (Am now refraining from making any bad jokes about “stocking stuffers.”)

4. Case in point: Here are some examples of things my mother dictated when I was a kid:

  • The candidate for whom I would vote in the mock presidential election put on by my 4th grade class.
  • How I would hold my hands during an elementary school Christmas performance. (The music teacher had told us—in an effort to prevent offputting kiddy body language as well as mitigate the possibility of pinched ears and pulled pigtails—that we could either clasp our hands in front of us, clasp them behind us, or hold them straight down at our sides while we sang. I WENT HOME AND ASKED MY MOTHER WHAT TO DO. And without a millisecond’s hesitation, she told me.)
  • That I would take Russian, not Photography, as my elective for the semester. Oh, wait, that was COLLEGE . . . Senior year.

5. Caveat: for me, all bets on my ability to maintain any semblance of drinking decorum are off If I don’t eat. For instance, a few weekends ago, PBD and I were invited to a lovely evening gathering/baby shower for friends of ours, that took place at the home of one friend’s parents. On our way there, PBD (who’d spent most of the day on an extended bike ride) mentioned a new taco joint he’d tried earlier that day. Knowing that Mama loves Mexican food (and ALSO knowing how Mama likes to get her grub on), he said, “Try not to fill up on food at the party, and I’ll take you there afterwards!”


Despite an hors-d’oeuvre table laden with utter decadence (shrimp-filled phyllo things, guacamole, this amazing cheese that still invades my dreams, etc.), and also despite the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day, I refrained from filling up on food . . .

. . . and instead filled up on wine—which not only made me love EVERYONE (as it usually does), it actually made me feel up someone’s retirement-aged mother.

After a few minutes of polite, “How do you know the happy couple?” chit-chat, my eyes dropped to catch the lick-tastic red pants this gal was sporting. Red is my absolute favorite color.

“GIRRRL!” I slurred conspiratorially. “You are ROCKIN’ THOSE PANTS.”

“Thank you,” she smiled. Then, raising one knee as a visual (and, as far as I was concerned, hands-on) aid, she struggled to think of the type of fabric from which they were made. “They’re, um . . . they’re. . .”

Upon closer inspection, I saw that the pants were made of the most velvety fine-wale corduroy, and so interrupted her to:

a. exclaim, “They’re CORDUROY!” (with a gleeful gasp for emphasis), and


PBD got me outta there—and got some tamales into ME—pretty quickly after that. Luckily, another part of being a grown-up is having lived long enough to suffer far worse embarrassments, and to know that they all soon pass.



The entire room reeked of gorgonzola. Luckily, that part was relatively easy to explain. However, the explanation for the smell only added to my list of imperfections: first Housekeeping, now Parenthood. But maybe I should back up a little.

So we had some friends over for brunch last Sunday, mostly because we like them, but also partially because every once in awhile I just need an excuse to cook food that I know Pretty Bad Dad will hate. (Although I could certainly do it—and, in fact, sometimes do—for, like, an ordinary Wednesday night dinner, I do make some effort to consider his taste for everyday meals, because I don’t want to wind up eating ALL the leftovers by myself . . . er, I mean, because I love him.) To wit: pear and gorgonzola mini-pizza appetizers. So easy (especially if you don’t make your own crust, which I do not, because I have been unable to achieve homemade pizza crust that doesn’t taste like a butt made out of particle board), and yet slightly more shi-shi-poo-poo than throwing some cubed cheddar and grapes onto a tray, so that your guests feel like you made a special effort for them. But I digress.

As I was prepping the pizzas (so that they’d be ready to pop into the oven as soon as our guests arrived), our inquisitive young son came down from the guest room (where he’d been watching old Electric Company DVDs, because who doesn’t love Easy Reader?), saw the tub of gorgonzola crumbles on the kitchen island, and inquired as to what was in there. And when it comes to food, such questions are usually immediately followed by a request to taste whatever it is (and we’re not necessarily talking finished product, here; the kid has tasted baking powder, baking soda, flour, paprika, seasoned salt, buttermilk . . . Dude is not afraid—and as much as I love that about him, I just know that one day I’m going to turn away for a second, and then turn back to find him licking a raw pork chop or chugging Liquid Smoke straight from the bottle). So I was ready for it—but gorgonzola is, in my opinion, somewhat of an acquired taste, so imagine my surprise when he immediately LOVED IT and asked if he could have some in a bowl to eat. Not one to discourage adventurous tastebuds (or adventures in constipation), I fetched him a small bowl and put a couple of spoonfuls of gorgonzola crumbs into it for him. He happily wandered away with his “treat”.

Soon guests arrived, and the nosh-and-gabble got into full swing. The kid came down to greet our guests—and brought with him his empty bowl, requesting more gorgonzola. At that point, since a full-on-meal was imminent, I told him he’d have to wait until after brunch.

Why did I think that was going to be the end of it?

So anyway, we all gathered ‘round the table for eggs, bacon, stuffing-and-fake-sausage casserole, and various pastries, and the kid enjoyed his fair share. Heck, he even cleaned his plate before wandering back off to play. As the visit progressed, the discussion turned to quilting, because our friend Nancy, who was one of our brunch guests, is a quilter. This led to a discussion about the key differences between traditional and modern quilting, for the benefit of the quilt-ignorant peons among us (namely, PBD and Yours Truly). Some of it, of course, was obvious for anyone who’s taken a high school art course. Still, as I listened to Nancy talk about the tenets of traditional and modern quilting, I wondered: how would one categorize a quilt made in a traditional pattern . . . out of scraps from a thousand 1970s leisure suits?

Because Baby, that’s what I’ve got.

Child, willya LOOK AT THAT THING? It is incredible merely by virtue of being so WTF!

It’s what would happen if Mary Ingalls got it on with Huggy Bear and gave birth to bedding. Stare at it for 30 seconds, and visions of Granny Clampett doing The Hustle completely co-opt your brain.

How, you may wonder, does one acquire such a treasure? It was made a few decades ago by two of my great-aunts, and shortly thereafter wound up in the possession of my parents, who added a groovy orange and brown border so that it would fit their king-sized bed. Then, a handful of years ago, when my mom (temporarily) became a semi-resident of my house (so that she could provide day care for my infant son), she brought the quilt with her, to put on her bed in the guest room. And there was NO WAY I was letting her take that bad boy back home with her. I mean, come on—would YOU?

Anyway, I had to show it to Nancy, right? You don’t keep this kind of magic under wraps. But here’s the thing about me: as pathetic as it is, one of my major goals in life is for my house to regularly exist in such a state of cleanliness that I could welcome unexpected visitors into my home without having to apologize for anything. (As a corollary to that goal, I would also have to have unexpected visitors, which doesn’t really happen in the age of cell phones, but honestly, it would be enough just to have a home free of clutter, dust bunnies, and crust-based mystery splatters.) However, I have two dogs, a four-year-old, a full-time job and a freelance gig on the side (in addition to a spouse who also has all of the above), so you understand that I’m fighting an uphill battle against an avalanche of mountain goat poo. Lately, then, it’s pretty much all I can do to rid the “visitor areas” of our house (kitchen, living room, dining room, and half bath—basically the first floor, with the exception of the laundry room, because I can close that door) of the top two layers of ick before an invited guest arrives.

Even more lately, however, my son has begun taking his buddies upstairs to his room to play when they come over (which often means their parents wander upstairs to fetch or check on them), and that not only adds another room to tidy up, but also requires the closing of EVERY OTHER DOOR UPSTAIRS. (I don’t think it’s obvious we’re trying to hide something—do you?) But since I’m not blessed with Rosie the Robot, it’s an M.O. with which I have grown comfortable (though it did bite me in the toot once when, having found the downstairs (read: visitor-friendly) bathroom occupied, a guest blithely wandered upstairs to seek out another one… suffice it to say, the therapy was pricey—MINE, not HIS, because although I’m sure he was traumatized by the sight of (a) the petri dish that is my shower, and (b) every flippin’ bra I own hanging from a single doorknob, I was even more traumatized by the idea of someone finding out how I really live). But as usual, I digress.

Point is, I had to show Nancy this quilt. Which was on the bed in the guest room. Which had not been adequately prepared for visitors. So guess what I did.

I took her in there anyway.

I took her all the way in there, knowing that the entire chamber was in a state of Hoarders-level degeneration: there was laundry explosion (clean laundry piled high in baskets, and “maybe-I-can-eek-one-more-wearing-out-of-these” pants completely obliterating the antique chair), with clumps of dried dog-paw dirt decorating both dog beds and carpet, the gaping maws of recently-emptied suitcases strewn across the rest of the floor, and copious pairs of shoes treating the whole joint like a swingers’ club—and every bit of it was blanketed with a fuzzy coating of dog hair and dust. What I did not anticipate, however, were the candy wrappers, dirty dishes, orphaned toy parts, random discarded costumes, and other chaotic flotsam that had apparently resulted from allowing a 4-year-old to spend all day in there watching Electric Company by himself.

And then, of course, there was the smell. As I mentioned (a long, long time ago), the entire room reeked, when we walked in, of gorgonzola. And while it was true that I’d allowed the boy to enjoy a small cupful of stinky cheese upstairs before our guests arrived, at this point, that was HOURS in the past, so why would it still smell like . . . ?

I’ll tell you why. Because somehow, while the grown folk kicked back at the dining room table discussing centuries-old handicrafts, our dear son had managed, over the course of several stealth trips to the fridge to refill his little cup, to consume the ENTIRE TUB OF GORGONZOLA (as evidenced by the empty tub I found on the kitchen island upon returning downstairs). Sure, I’d used some of the cheese on the pizzas, but seriously, it was just a sprinkle, so the kid easily sucked down a good 85% of that mutha all by himself, in our guest room (and that’s accounting for a coupla cheese chunks I found smeared into the pillows on the guest bed). That right there is stellar parenting. But getting back to my point:

I took her in there.

Y’all don’t realize what a huge thing that is for me. My husband does, because when I arose from the table and bade Nancy follow me to see The Quilt of Pure Polyester Winning, he didn’t even try to hide his shock: “You’re taking her UPSTAIRS?” he inquired with sky-high brows. Granted, part of his surprise stemmed from his own horror at the idea of someone seeing the state of our guest room, but another part of it was because he knows how I roll, and was probably wondering at that point what kind of alien shape-shifter had inhabited his beloved wife’s persona. Nonetheless I, with not a single drop of liquor coursing through my veins, replied, simply, “Yes.” and bravely marched upstairs.

And here’s why: because October sucked. The entire month was replete with mishaps. In the wee morning hours of the very first day, I went ass-over-teakettle on my morning run. Apparently that was a portent of things to come, because the next morning, I fell again. The morning after that, I made it through the run (dangit, here comes Barry Manilow: “I made it throuuuuugh the ruuuuuuun . . .”) without taking any tumbles . . . and then totaled my car that evening. Since then, ongoing issues from the car accident have made any type of physical activity into a total crap shoot (case in point: two blocks of Trick-or-Treating had me gimping for a week, and just the other day I threw my back out drying my hair).

So yeah. October was not exactly a special fuzzy month for me. So far, November hasn’t been so bad, but in the process of recovering from Sucktober, I have made a few decisions, influenced in part by inspiration (I have met some really cool people lately, and am also in the middle of my second Isabel Gillies memoir, whereby I have arrived at the belief that a brain identical to mine actually lives in someone else’s head… and if they made TWO of these suckers, they must be worth something, right?) and in part by sheer exhaustion. And one key decision that has come out of my “inspiraustion” (look for it in Webster’s in about seven years, because it is totally a thing) is just to be FOR REAL. Y’know? And for someone like me, who has spent her life hoping that other people never find out she farts, it’s not easy. It’s kind of a big deal. In fact, after several twitchy moments spent standing in the midst of my guest room grossness with Nancy as she checked out my Pimp on the Prairie quilt (paying no attention to the mess, bless her), I ended up scuttling her out of there as quickly as I could (without seeming anxious about it, because in addition to flatulence, anxiety is another thing I like to make people think I don’t have). But by golly, I took her in there. Baby steps.

This new lifestyle is definitely going to take some practice; I have some habits to unlearn. (I spent so many years coveting other peoples’ lives that the second I got my first heady whiff of what it feels like to be on the other side of that fence, I began doing everything I could to encourage more of THAT—hence  a decades-long attempt to coat my entire life with glitter paint and candy). But I am ready to let my For Real flag fly–for real this time (I have tried it in the past, when I was young and impetuous and clueless, and what resulted was just my idea of what it meant to be “real”… which basically amounted to needlessly insulting people by sharing unsolicited opinions ineffectively disguised as “truths”– I hope to be far less rude this time). Glennon Melton, who writes the Momastery blog (which is my new uber-favey next to PBD), calls it “Living in the Light.” And that is certainly quite poetic and inspirational, but for me, it’s more like what my son says when he takes his shoes off: “I’ve got my stinky feet in the wind!”

So get ready, y’all. I’m putting my stinky feet in the wind. Or maybe “stinky cheese” would be more accurate. But at any rate, I’m ready for people to know who I am, and yes, how I live. I’m ready to stop closing doors to hide my out-of-control laundry situation (figuratively, that is; I will probably still actually close certain doors in my home when people are coming over—but I’ll try not to need therapy if someone should open one of them). It will be good, right? Good. Bring air freshener.