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Downward Dog? I DON’T THINK SO.

Downward Dog? I DON’T THINK SO.

So. I’m supposed to be returning from a trip to Colorado right about now. It started out as a week-long road trip for SkipFitz and me . . . then turned into a family road trip (with a 4-year-old who HATES the highway—thus taking “Are we there yet?” to a whole new level of DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP) . . . and at (quite literally) the eleventh hour, we decided not to do it, for several reasons. On the Friday night before our departure, I arrived home from work, to be greeted by the stench of dog poo. Seemed our elder dog had once again (for the third inexplicable time that week) pooped in her crate (and SkipFitz comes home for lunch every day, so it’s not even like she has to hold it for an entire work day, so really, it’s just pissiness on her part . . . or, er, poopiness, I guess . . .). But still, what the heck was going to happen when we were out of town and our sweet neighbor-kid was coming over to take care of her, as he’d agreed to do? We couldn’t ask him to be her damn orderly every day!

And I was already cranky, because after WEEKS of struggle with a painful, infected tooth that turned her into Rocky Dennis for an entire weekend, my 82-year-old mother had called me earlier in the day to say that she was finally going to go to the dentist, and would probably have to have the tooth pulled, and was not going to do it (a) alone, or (b) without copious anesthesia, so I was going to have to drive to her house (an hour and a half away) and go with her, and WHEN was I going on my trip, again . . . ?

Suffice it to say that a whole bunch of issues came crashing down on our heads that evening, and we ended up, mostly for the sake of MY sanity (thank you, sweet husband) deciding to turn our Colorado week into a STAY-cation. It’s actually been fun! We made that night Fright Night: we put spooky decorations (including a skull candelabra) on the mantle, lit candles, and watched The Haunting (and then wound up sleeping with our kid—who did, in fact, find the film quite haunting—wedged between us). Saturday (a day of rain), we made cookies, divvied them up into baggies, and delivered surprise chocolate chip goodness to seven of our neighbors. Sunday we went to the Irish Fest. Monday we had some buddies big and small over for a playdate and grilling. Tuesday we went bowling. Wednesday we had a picnic lunch, and then went to a movie (more on that later).  Thursday I returned back to work, in order to save paid time off for my mom’s upcoming dental adventure. But overall, I found it a lovely and relaxing time.

And what better way to relax than with a little yoga? Our road trip abandonment provided me the opportunity to start taking advantage of my sparkly new Bikram yoga Groupon, which was originally going to have to wait until our return from Colorado.

I have done hot yoga at several studios in town and, though each studio does it a little differently, I have always enjoyed it tremendously. In fact, when I first started, I extolled the virtues of hot yoga to anyone who’d listen, and tried (never successfully) to figure out how I could manage to do it the recommended 3-4 times a week, what with a full-time job and a family.

My super-awesome massage therapist, Julia (who is probably reading this and thinking I’m acting awfully posh and possessive for someone who ends up canceling every other appointment I make with her—and since I only make appointments, like, twice a year to begin with, she probably couldn’t pick me out of a line up . . . unless maybe it was a line up of people lying prone on cushioned tables) was concerned. “I’ve been to hot yoga classes where they push a little too hard,” she said. Examples she gave included instructors telling students they should be looking at the wall behind them during the “backbend” part of half moon, or telling them that if something didn’t hurt, they weren’t trying hard enough.

And. Well. I thought she had gone plumb crazy. Which I was willing to tolerate, mind you, because when you find a massage therapist with her kind of magical talent (seriously, the woman’s a bona fide miracle worker), she could spend every Wednesday afternoon scooting around the perimeter of her upstairs bedroom, gnawing on the bed and ripping down the wallpaper to free the woman trapped inside it (all the while complaining about its cloying “yellow smell”)—and by golly, you roll with it. Still, I was curious: what kind of seedy, scary-clown yoga underworld had she experienced in which yoga teachers did not spend 100% of class time alternately praising students for sharing their beautiful spirits with the class, and encouraging them to be ever so gentle with their bodies?

Well. Now I know.

I arrived at the Bikram studio 15 minutes early, as instructed, for “orientation”—which consisted of the day’s bubbly, smiley, bright-eyed instructor introducing herself and asking a few questions of me. Had I been to Bikram before? “No,” I answered, “but I’ve done hot yoga.” She boingily (if you could meet her, you’d completely accept that as a real word) informed me that Bikram was going to be a little bit of a new experience for me, so my only goals for the session were to “stay in the room and breathe. That’s it! Just stay in the room and breathe!” (Grinny Grinny Boing Boing.)

“Whuuuuuuuuuutevs,” I thought. I was no neophyte when it came to sweatin’ to the OM-ies. And I’ve always been a fan of research (unless I have my eye on a highly impractical but stunningly beautiful used car, a disclaimer I’m adding only to avoid my husband’s ruefully raised brow), so I knew what to expect. I knew it would be more challenging than the hot yoga I’d done before in some ways (a 105-degree room with 40% humidity, as opposed to a 90-some degree room with a draft coming under the door; a structured sequence of poses, as opposed to the instructor’s whim; an hour-and-a-half long class, as opposed to an hour)—but I was ready. The only thing she told me that I didn’t already know was that unlike other yoga teachers, she would not be doing the postures with us, but rather talking us through them from the front of the room—so as a newbie, I should find a spot on the back row, in order to watch and learn correct form from others in the class. That, and that I should leave my hand towel (which I’d brought along with a beach towel, thinking that 105 degrees might call for both) in the locker room, because I wasn’t going to need it. “Huh. Interesting,” I thought, making my way to the locker room, as Bubbles chirped out behind me: “Just stay in the room and breathe!”

When I entered the studio, everyone seemed (a) kinda naked (women in sports bras and tiny shorts, men in just the tiny shorts), and (b) really focused on finding some elusive spiritual “center”: some stretched; some lay in savasana; still others sat upright with closed eyes, breathing deeply and (apparently) meditating. But aside from the audible breathing of the Bod Squad, the hum of the heaters and the hissing of the humidifiers, the room was utterly silent.

After a few minutes, the instructor entered the room. Everyone instantly jumped to attention as Bubbles, following a brief greeting, instantly morphed into Cujo (from the lesser-known prequel, Cujo Goes to Vietnam).

Y’all.

That woman became a straight-up drill sergeant. She yelled at us! She clapped her hands at us! She told us several times that we should be pushing “BEYOND THE LIMITS OF [OUR] FLEXIBILITY,” that we SHOULD be feeling pain, SHOULD be feeling dizziness, SHOULD be feeling nausea—that meant we were doing it right! When I was forced by a wave of nausea (accompanied by a Flashdance-inspired hallucination) to drop out of camel pose and come down on all fours for a few seconds, she assured me (LOUDLY!) that the more I came to class, the more I’d learn to work through those feelings and stay with the posture. The woman next to me, a redhead whose face had flushed such a deep red that her freckles were beginning to look like glow-in-the-dark stars, tried to leave the room, and was told to stay  and sit down on her mat until she felt like she could join us again. Fearing for that poor gal’s life, I gazed out the studio window and tried desperately to blink a morse code message to the couple returning to their car from the Subway next door. Knowing NO morse code, however, I probably actually communicated something like, “I’ve got potatoes in my chest, and both radios are in the sun, so it’s all out for the trees!” No wonder they slammed their doors and drove off.

And for the record, I now know why I was told to leave my hand towel in the locker room: we were not allowed to wipe away our sweat. “It’s just a distraction!” we were told. “Resist the urge!” Actually, we were told to resist several urges, particularly during the mountain pose phases between postures: no fidgeting; no scratching; no adjusting clothing (and, speaking as one of the folks in the back row, let me tell you—ADJUSTMENTS WERE NEEDED, particularly following some of those forward bends). No punching the instructor.

But I did it. I stayed in the room. I breathed. I did most of the postures as well as I usually do (I am nobody’s king dancer, but I can hold an eagle pose with the (maybe third- or fourth-) best of them. I did not wipe my sweat, even as my own personal Niagara Falls tumbled straight into my eyes. I did not fidget. I did not scratch. I did not die.

And I went back.

Twice so far—two days after my inaugural experience, and again (at 6 a.m.!) the day after that.

Interestingly, the instructors have gotten progressively nicer (and for the record, Bubbles did return to her normal, boingy self after class, complimented me on a job well done, and led the class in a round of applause for me and the redhead, who was also a first-timer). I’ve had a different instructor each time; first Bubbles, then another woman (who kept to the anti-fidget rules and the “BEYOND THE LIMITS” stuff, but spoke more softly, and encouraged us to have fun with our practice), and then a man (who did not clap at us at all, and actually made us laugh a couple of times).

So I think I’m going to keep it up—at least until my Groupon expires in two months. For one thing, every time I walk out of there, I weigh at least three pounds less than I did going in! Water weight, I know, but do you think that stops me from running home and trying on my old Seven jeans after each class? (So far, I wouldn’t call them comfortable, by any means, but the hope is alive.)  For another, I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of that Groupon. And best of all, Bikram has made me kinda badASS.

Case in point: Wednesday, on my last day of staycation, the husband, boy, and I went as a family to see ParaNorman. And for those of you who’ve never been in a movie theatre with my husband, just know that people texting in the movies is a HUGE pet peeve of his. We’re talking special circle of Hell (with hordes of thumb-devouring fruit flies, nose-hair-plucking crabs, and running commentary by Joan Rivers). And for good reason; I mean, it’s distracting, you’re supposed to be watching the movie, and seriously, it is NOT THAT HARD to put the dang phone on vibrate and keep it in your pocket or purse. Not to mention that even the most Podunk theatres have gotten with the times and begun to include admonitions against texting during the film along with the ages-old gabbing/crying baby shtick. Trouble is that there is inevitably one schmuck in every movie who is either illiterate or apparently exempt from movie theatre rules. But I digress.

When we walked in, we had the WHOLE. ENTIRE.THEATRE. to ourselves. GLORY! We let our little dude choose where to sit, and so settled into the center seats in the very back row to enjoy our private screening . . .

. . . which only remained private until about five minutes before the start of the show, when a family came in that we just knew would be trouble. You know how you just know, sometimes? And we were right; I am convinced that not one of them saw more than 40 minutes of the movie, because they were constantly getting up (either individually or in groups of two) and leaving the theatre, only to come back a few minutes later for someone else to have a turn. A small child ran up and down the entire flight of stairs stretching from the front of the theatre to the back, chased by a man who made an occasional half-ass attempt to cajole him back to their seats (meanwhile, MY small child sat dutifully in his seat watching the movie, having never been allowed out of it during a movie, except to use the restroom accompanied by me or his father). All of this, we ignored with gritted teeth.

But then.

Then the texting started.

As usual, my husband leaned forward in his seat and called out his typical imperative: “Turn your phone off, please.”

Still, the little square of light shone brightly, wavering slightly with the pressure of texting thumbs.

My husband repeated: “Turn your phone off.”

This little light of mine, came the silent reply of our fellow movie patron as s/he kept texting, I’m gonna let it shine.

Usually, during these exchanges, I sit silently, hoping (against hope, in most cases) that the offender shows some consideration for his/her fellow moviegoers and abandons the text obsession. Because anyone who knows me knows that I generally avoid confrontation like the stupid buzzing fly trapped in your car on the highway studiously avoids every single one of the four wide-open windows AND the open  sunroof, while still managing to fly straight into your ear every eight seconds. But on this particular day, Mama’s three days of Bikram survival kicked in, and I went all Don’t F@#$%CK With The Babysitter on everybody, issuing forth a thunderous command from the depths of my being:

 

 

 

 

My husband and son turned to look at me as if they’d never really seen me before, like they were just now discovering that I was not, in fact, the wife and mommy who’d accompanied them to the show, but had suddenly POOFed into a chupacabra wearing bright orange lipstick and a crown made out of gold-dusted Band-Aids.

I like to think that I sounded somewhat like [WARNING: NOT SAFE FOR WORK] Sigourney Weaver telling an alien queen where to get off, or Demi Moore telling a commanding officer to perform on her an act which until recently still constituted sodomy in several U.S. states (even though she lacked the proper, er, “equipment” to enforce the request).

My husband says I sounded more shrill, but definitely loud; “kinda like a witch’s cackle,” he added helpfully.

But I’ll be darned if Dorothy didn’t surrender.

For awhile, anyway; the phone reappeared about 20 minutes later, and eventually, my husband was forced to walk down to the offender’s row and state, politely and quietly, that we’d speak to someone about having the family ejected from the theatre if the disrespectful refusal to follow stated movie guidelines continued.

But still. BadASS, right? ME, right? I was even prepared for the post-movie confrontation—but my husband says that never actually happens.

Dang. I had a coupla zingers ready for the occasion.

But I don’ t think they’ll go to waste; after a couple more months of this Bikram thing, I’ll be ready to take on the world! Those people who park in the “New/Expecting Parent” parking spaces when they’re not pregnant or carting around an infant? They’re MINE. People who don’t return their shopping carts to the corral? Send them over here. People who throw cigarettes out the car window? They will know a fresh hell the likes of which they have never seen. And don’t even get me started on people who speed on past when the little schoolbus stop sign comes flinging out.

Bring them on. I am ready.

Namaste.

 

 

For Mike, Biter of Butts and Bestower of Boogie.

For Mike, Biter of Butts and Bestower of Boogie.

Yeah.  So the whole “Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess” was an OK idea in theory, but so far the execution sucks, wouldn’t you agree?  For that reason, I’m taking a little hiatus from that project and making this post in honor of my long-ago friend Mike.

What?

No, he’s not dead.  He just disappeared for a long, long time, and has recently reappeared thanks to the miracle that is Facebook which, as we all know, gives us a gift as close to a time machine as we may ever get.

So journey with me on my own time machine, y’all, back to a time when I was a spry young thing.  I was just out of college.  I was skinny (Lord, so skinny).  And broke.  And braless (and, for that matter, boobless).  And all sorts of other things that go along with being young and carefree.  I used to stay up all night long and toast the sunrise with a Red Stripe.  I used to wear boys’ jeans from the thrift store.  I used to eat giant hamburgers slathered with mayo, melted cheddar and bleu cheese, and then slurp up every last fry without guilt.  I used to smoke.  I used to kiss all of my friends on the lips (except for Mike– his standard greeting was to sneak up behind you and bite you on the butt; I was always a little bit flattered that he managed to find mine). 

And I used to dance.  Oh, children, Mama used to dance!

Damn near every Tuesday night that the good Lord sent,  I could be found in a little place called the Star Bar for its Funk Night, shaking my . . . er . . . little-boy-booty and singing silent praises to the Tuesday night DJ, Romeo Cologne, for his fine, fine taste in music. 

And Mike was the best dance partner ever.  All he needed was a little “Love Rollercoaster” and that man was a bona fide boogie machine.  Ahh, I remember it like it was yesterday.

Then one day, family duty called my little-boy-booty back to Topeka, Kansas, where I spent the better part of a year with no boogie.  Of course I wrote to Mike to lament my funkless fate, and in response he wrote for me a little disco ditty to get me through the dark times, a ditty I’ve kept for all these years.  (And if you know me and my rabid propensity to purge the artifacts of my life, you know what a miracle it is that I’ve managed to hold on to Mike’s  letter for . . . holy crap . . . 15 years now.)

So without further ado, I will now keep today’s Facebook promise to my old friend Mike, and publish his song in all of its funk-filled glory:

My Baby’s Stuck in Kansas

I can’t boogie
I can’t boogie
I can’t boogie (high falsetto) NO MO!
Just can’t shake my groove thang (high falsetto) ON THE FLO!
When my baby’s stuck in Kansas,
my booty’s stuck in park
Since she can’t dance in Kansas
I don’t disco after dark
Don’t point my car to Star Bar
I ain’t dancin’ on my owns
With my baby stuck in Kansas
I got a Cleopatra Jones
I’m talkin’ (high falsetto) COLD TURKEY!
Not (high falsetto) JIVE TURKEY!

(Needless to say, Mike’s songwriting skills far surpass my own.)

From my disco-deprived year in Topeka, I moved even further away from my life o’ funk, to San Francisco for grad school.  But I never forgot Mike or, more importantly, The Boogie.  Both of ’em still possess a little bitty chunk of my soul.  The chunk now resides in a body that goes to bed at 9:30 and wears bigger lady pants than I’m willing to admit (which gives the term “booty shaking” a whole new meaning), but it’s there.  It’s a full-on funk chunk, and it’s memories of Mike and his disco ditties that keep it alive.

Thanks, Man.

The Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess, Part II

The Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess, Part II

First of all, since this blog was born at Thanksgiving three years ago, let me take a moment to acknowledge the one that just passed. As usual, it was lovely and stuffed with grace, and we again avoided any near-death experiences, even despite the fact that my Mother-in-Law sat next to my precious baby boy at the Thanksgiving table and FED HIM BUTTER WITH A SPOON.

Basically all the boy ate for Thanksgiving dinner was butter and sweet potatoes. But he managed to live through the torture to his tiny little arteries, and continues to be one of the most perfect things I’ve ever encountered.

Now on to the continuing story of my own IMperfections:

***WARNING: TMI BEGINS HERE.***

OK, so we’ve discussed the beginnings of my lifestyle fabrications. Let’s move on to early adolescence, shall we? While early adolescence for most people is probably rife with falsehoods and pretense, I chose a particularly challenging pretense to try to uphold—or rather, it was chosen for me.

The Adolescent Deception: I am so cool I’m exempt from bodily functions.

Again, this deception was more the result of opportunity than cunning. When I was around the age of 14, my younger cousin (whom I’ll call Joey for identity-concealing reasons that will become clear later), who was roughly half my age, commented (in that wonderful forthright and openly curious way that cool kids have, because he was a very cool kid) that he’d never heard me fart.

Before I go on, let me just say in my own defense that I was 14 years old, people—at that age, you’re not mature enough to deal with certain bodily functions in that practical, all-part-of-being-human way that adults (well, most of them, anyway) do, so you usually go in one direction or the other: you look for any and every opportunity to flaunt your functions in everyone’s face and laugh about it, or you deny their existence altogether.

I’m sure you can guess which direction I chose.

It wasn’t really deliberate—it’s just that I was so mortified by the idea of discussing anything that came out of my ass with a 6-year-old, I responded only with stunned and idiotic silence, thus unintentionally encouraging him to draw his own conclusion: the Insta-Princess simply did not ever pass gas.

It could be true, right?

So I decided to roll with that. And it worked, for awhile, until Joey started sharing with other people the fact that his cousin Insta-Princess did not ever pass gas, at which point I was outed by an adult family friend, who insisted that of course I did—everyone did, or else we’d all get very sick!

Traitor.

But still—it was her word against the solid evidence of my silence and odorlessness (at least in Joey’s presence), so I still managed to hold on to my ultra-cool, body-functionless persona until the following summer . . .

As we all know, girls around the age of 15 are just beginning to have one particular very special bodily function that only applies to the female population, and I was no exception. And tho’ I wasn’t all Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret about the situation (crying and thanking God when IT finally arrived), I was certainly OK with the situation, considering that the alternative was to be a teenage girl who DID NOT have IT yet, and never mind the medical freakiness that could have gone along with that—the REAL trauma would have been trying to fake my way through sleepover conversations about it with other girls! I mean, my divorced-parents deception aside, I’m not known for being a good liar, so I can just see my 15-year-old self trying to get by on what scant info I’d gleaned from my two older sisters, which consisted primarily of three key facts:

1. Nothing related to menstruation should ever, EVER be discussed, alluded to, or even hinted at within 300 feet of anyone who has a penis.
2. Teeny tiny 1970s track shorts and gigantic 1970s maxi pads are not a good combination (though both were probably invented by people with penises).
3. When you have cramps, you’re allowed to cry about any damn thing you want.

But I digress. The point is that although I accepted my feminine fate, I certainly counted it among the bodily functions that should be kept secret from (most of) the masses.

And then.

Remember Joey? Ever-so-smart and inquisitive little boy cousin? Well. Joey had an older sister. An older sister who, though still younger than I am, was close enough in age to me to be somewhat more aware of Things Private and Girly.

Which is why I don’t buy for a second that that beeyotch (let’s call her Jezebel, shall we?) didn’t know exactly what she was doing on that fateful summer evening when, as we all relaxed in our grandparents’ family room with Grams AND GRAMPS (please refer to Fact #1 above so that you can truly appreciate the magnitude of this next bit), she slyly left the room and returned a moment later, breathless with excitement as she reported to EVERYONE that there was “something BLOODY in the bathroom trash!”

Now before you even ask, OF COURSE I DID. Of course I wrapped it, sufficiently I thought, in toilet paper before depositing it into the trash.

Apparently my mummification of the damn thing didn’t take.

And poor Grams. Her mind was quick, so it only took a second for her to surmise what exactly was going on. It took a lot longer, however, for her to get to her feet to try to remedy the situation, by which time Joey had launched himself off the sofa and flown halfway to the loo as if powered by jet fuel. She called fiercely after him to come back, using her best threat, reserved only for truly spectacular offenses: “I’LL SLAP YOU TO SLEEP!”

So bless her. She tried. Which is more than I was doing, frozen as I was in adolescent horror and disbelief (which, as we all know, is far more intense and deadly than regular horror and disbelief) at the scene that was unfolding before me as a result of Jezebel’s betrayal.

But, alas, her efforts were in vain.  Next thing we knew, Joey came strolling back into the room (in which sat, as you may recall, MY GRANDFATHER), holding my used tampon—WHICH HE HAD FULLY UNWRAPPED—between his bare fingers like a cigar, and casually declared, “It doesn’t SMELL like blood—it smells like mascara.”

Go ahead. Throw up a little if you want. I’ll wait.

Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened after that. I think I passed out from sheer mortification.

At any rate, when I came to (with a fresh and burning hatred for Jezebel that lasted well into my 20s), I gave up on keeping my normal bodily functions a secret. I mean, what could possibly be worse than my grandfather (my GRANDFATHER, people!) knowing I had a period? Hell, I might as well go ahead and start audibly farting at job interviews and having diarrhea in white pants on first dates! It was all lost now.

So I gave up on that deception, and moved on to more deliberate deceits, which I shall have to tell you about later, because Season 1 of Mad Men beckons . . . .

The Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess, Part I

The Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess, Part I

OK. I do not intend for this blog to be all about unemployment. For one thing, it’s boring; I mean, aside from what I said about it in my last entry, there’s really not enough material here to entertain anyone. And for another, I’m certainly hoping that it won’t last, so eventually I’d have to come up with a new topic anyway.

One more thing I’ll say about it, however, is that it allows me to be privy to much more gossip than I was when I was still employed. Strictly a time issue, I’m sure; now that I’ve got the time to listen, folks have got the dirt to share. However, as much as I like a little scuttlebutt, I have to say that it’s just a reminder about the rampant deception that people create about their lives on the internet. Oh, hell, I do it, too, either by omission of certain details in a story (like how my unemployed endeavor to cook dinner every day for my family resulted last week in the explosion of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish that sent bits of glass tinkle-plinking all over the first level of my home, requiring a full hour of cleanup, despite which my husband found chunks of blue glass in his shoe the next day), or by slight manipulation of facts in order to create a better story (the truth is, that Scotch Egg I got at the Ren Fest is probably completely innocent of causing the horrible illness I suffered later that night, but come on—near death from a Scotch Egg is such a better story than a mere virus).

So I know that the internet is no court-o-law as far as the truth is concerned, but that doesn’t stop me from being surprised when I learn from other people about a person’s crappy marriage or pot-head kid or career failures or near-psychosis, when his or her blog or Facebook page is full of nothin’ but glowing reviews of his or her spouse, offspring, work, or life in general. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect everyone to air a bunch of dirty laundry all over the web every day, but I still forget how convenient the internet is for creating an entirely different picture of your life. Which is perhaps a little ironic, since for most of my life I have been the champion of trying to concoct the public image of a life or personality that I haven’t actually had.

And this is where the examples start.

The Childhood Deception: I am a child of divorced parents.

Yep. I seriously pretended that my parents were divorced when they weren’t. I was a weird kid. And I had so many classmates whose parents were divorced that, even though most of those kids hated the fact that the parents with whom they’d begun their lives were no longer together, I still wanted to be one of those kids. Every year, as soon as the school directory was published, I’d scuttle it home and pore through it to see which kids had divorced parents, which was made obvious in the directory, because the kids of divorced parents usually had “last name issues” that were revealed in the booklet. So if your parents were still married, your entry would look something like this:

Student: John Dough
Address/Phone: 1234 Main Street / 555-4321
Parents: Robert and Mary

BO-O-O-O-ORING, right? But if your parents were divorced, you got something like this:

Student: Jimmy Dough
Address/Phone: 1234 Main Street / 555-4321
Parents: Patricia Biscuit / Stanley Dough (555-6789)

. . . or this, if your custodial parent (who was usually the mom at that time, it being the ‘70s and all) had remarried:

Student: Jane Dough
Address/Phone: 1234 Main Street / 555-4321
Parents: Steven and Sandra Muffin

Oh, yeah. All of your business was out in the street like that, for everyone to see and—if everyone = Little Insta-Princess—for everyone to envy. Really, the kids I envied most were the ones whose parent(s) had remarried, because those were the kids who got to call adults in their lives by FIRST NAMES (which I was NOT allowed to do in any circumstance). How cool was THAT?

Me: Hey, Jane, what did you get for your birthday?

Uber-cool, disaffected Jane: Oh, my mom and Steve got me a bike, and then my dad and Diane took me to the circus.

(See? SO cool. Plus, DOUBLE PRESENTS for every occasion! Who wouldn’t love THAT? Having parents who’d been married for over 20 years, on the other hand, was SO gauche! So old-fashioned! So . . . so . . . woefully un-hip!)

So in my pathetic attempt to join the leagues of the rebellious, embittered step-kids, I totally disowned my poor, sweet father.

It wasn’t some sort of pre-meditated plan; like my songwriting skills, my cunning is kinda lacking. But when I stumbled upon the opportunity to make everyone think that my dad was actually my stepdad, I jumped on it.

See, my father and I were awfully good pals, and used to play a charming game in which he was my butler/chauffeur/servant. (Ahem. In case you were wondering why I’m known as Insta-Princess … ) And it was, as I mentioned, the ‘70s—the height of the Love Boat era. I never missed an episode. So in one episode, a rich woman took a Love Boat cruise with her butler, whose name was Bertram.

Well.

I thought Bertram was a simply divine name for a butler (/chauffeur/servant), and so started calling my dad Bertram. Of course, the Love Boat lady and HER Bertram wound up in a romantic relationship, which was either too gross for me to contemplate (so I didn’t), or went straight over my head because I was too focused on the sheer perfection of Bertram as a butler name. But I digress.

The point is, I started calling my father Bertram, and he thought the whole Bertram thing was sorta cute, so he went along with it, not knowing that one day I would use it against him. But somewhere around my 5th grade year, the moment came. Bertram had given me a really groovy pen of some sort, that squirted water, or changed colors, or morphed into a hippo in a tutu or something—who remembers? At any rate, one day I brought the pen to school, at which point one of the girls in my class eyed it covetously and asked where I’d gotten it. Without thinking, I replied, “Bertram gave it to me.”

“Who’s Bertram?” she asked, and that was when the pathetic wannabe light bulb went on over my head.

“My dad,” I sighed, which was certainly not a lie per se, but I did my damnedest to say it with that special tone of step-kid ennui, hoping that my simple two-syllable truth would also manage to convey a “my-mom-insists-that-I-acknowledge-him-as-my-father-but-I-am-in-no-way-related-to-that-annoying-bastard” message.

It worked.

Why, I’m not sure, because you’d think that other kids would, as I did, check the directory, which would have kicked my jig straight up. Turns out, however, that OTHER KIDS WERE APPARENTLY NOT TOTAL NUTBALLS LIKE ME, so nobody ever knew or, at any rate, never called me on it. And so I was part of “the club,” at least for awhile and among the kids who never actually came to my house or interacted in any way with my family. And that was when I discovered that the club really wasn’t that much fun. Who wanted to walk around every day resenting someone with whom you actually had to live?

My charade pretty much ended a couple of years later, anyway, when I graduated from Elementary School and headed to Middle School, where I had bigger issues than the tragic fact that my parents were still married. The Middle School period is, I think, a tragedy in itself. Don’t you? But I digress again.

I did continue to call my father Bertram for the rest of his life (he passed away when I was in my mid-20s), but more out of habit and affection than anything else. I also succeeded in pulling an unintentional fast one on the friends I made in High School and beyond, because although those people (who called him Bertram as well) knew that he was my actual father, they thought that his name really was Bertram. Only upon reading his obituary did they discover the truth.

As to the truth about my intentional “Divorce” deception of years past, I did confess it to my mother a few years ago. She thought it was pretty funny.

Anyway, here’s where Part I of my Multiple Personality Confession comes to an end; I’m spending today with my baby boy (who is home from day care with a little bug), in hopes that he will not one day try to disown ME. Stay tuned . . . .

Required Skills: Must have Lord-and-Savior Certification, five years experience walking on water and managing disciples, and be an expert at healing the blind and at Microsoft Excel. Salary: Barely enough to feed your goldfish. Better to mine that sucker for caviar and try to sell THAT for a living.

Required Skills: Must have Lord-and-Savior Certification, five years experience walking on water and managing disciples, and be an expert at healing the blind and at Microsoft Excel. Salary: Barely enough to feed your goldfish. Better to mine that sucker for caviar and try to sell THAT for a living.

Hey, Y’all!  I’m back, and since things have been doing that thing that they do (you know, happening), of course I have news.  The biggest news of late is that I am unemployed.

Yep.

Exactly 3 weeks ago I sat down in a tiny office with my manager, an HR representative, and a complimentary pack of Kleenex and bottle of water, to be told that my company was downsizing and there would no longer be a place for me within it.

All in all, it ain’t been so bad (but talk to me in a few months, when my severance runs out).  I’m in good company (a lot of fantastic people also got let go), I have had wonderful support, and  I’ve already got a little daily routine worked out:

 Wake up at 6:45.

Coffee and online job searching from 7:00-8:00.

Baby (well, OK, more like toddler-going-on-adolescent boy) wake-up time sometime around 7:45-8:00.

Day-care drop-off from 8:15-8:30

(Note: Latter two agenda items are subject to time change if I elect to walk the baby the 3-mile round trip to day care instead of driving him.)

Shower between 8:30 and 9:00

More job-hunting, more coffee, breakfast and lunch and Facebook putzing all scrunched between 9:00 and 1:00

And then, as a reward for sending off at least 2-3 job applications per morning, I spend each afternoon cleaning.

Yes, cleaning.  As a reward.  I’m a little odd that way.  In fact, I also have a weekly cleaning schedule, but because (a) in the three weeks since I’ve been laid off, I have yet to actually adhere to the schedule, and (b) I’d like for people to keep reading this blog, I’ll spare you the details.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes.  Jobless.  So I guess this is what they call a turning point, when you look deep within yourself, take stock of your life, and move forward with some kind of greater knowledge about something.

Huh.

Well, then.

THINGS I’VE LEARNED SO FAR FROM BEING UNEMPLOYED:

1.  Aside from the whole concern about finances, I like staying at home. 

I could totally be a housewife.  Pathetic, I know, but the satisfaction I get out of cleaning and preparing dinner for my little family is pretty yummy for me.  Of course, part of what affords me the opportunity to DO all of that cleaning and cooking is the fact that I am not a Stay-at-Home MOM; the kid still goes to day care, at least for now, so that he can keep his place, and so that I can have time to devote to my job hunt.  If he were around all the time, I wouldn’t get anything done at all, except maybe brushing a hell of a lot of teeth, because he is really into tooth-brushing right now, and if he had his way we’d do it once every 20 minutes or so.

2.  I apparently made an insane amount of money considering my skill level.

Seriously, man—I feel like so many jobs that are out there require what in my opinion are incredibly impressive skills, yet pay about half of what I’ve been making for my remedial ones; hence the title of this blog post.  Haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do about that, but I have, unfortunately, discovered that:

3.  Songwriting is not a viable career path for me.

I suppose I’ve known for awhile that I don’t have much ingenuity when it comes to songwriting; usually I just make up alternate lyrics to existing tunes, and tend to have a limited selection at that– recurring tunes in my made-up-lyrics repertoire include the refrain from “Jungle Fever”, the tune from the “My Buddy” commercial jingle, and the chorus of “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat” from The Aristocats.  Some tunes just lend themselves to a variety of alternate lyrics, y’know?

And of course, having a baby has made it worse: the tune to the “Woy yoy yoy, woy yoy-yoy yoy” part of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” has been repurposed for such lyrical gems as “Stinky Little Feet,” and “Change the Baby’s Pants” (which mostly consist of a twice-repeated refrain, followed by a line about how the topic of the song is either loved by all or known by all—as in, “everybody loves the baby’s stinky little feet,” or “everybody knows you’ve got to change the baby’s pants”).

Now, sometimes, I do dream up new tunes in my sleep, and for the 8-10 seconds that I still remember the tune after I’ve woken up, I convince myself that I’m damn good – that I could really make a go of it as a songwriter.

Today, though.  Today, I have come to see the light, during my “reward” cleaning time, part of which I spent, er . . . I believe the euphemism is “picking up after” our three dogs.  During that time, I succeeded in making up THEEE crappiest (pun entirely intended) song of all time, complete with original tune AND lyrics.  I did not go as far as to dignify the song with an actual title, but let’s just say that I spent the better part of an hour this afternoon belting out a little ditty I like to call, “I’ve Got a Turd With Your Name On It” . . . and leave it at that.

So there goes that dream.  Lesson learned.  And now on to . . .

THINGS I AM TRYING REALLY HARD NOT TO DO NOW THAT I’M UNEMPLOYED:

1.  Wear pajamas all day. 

This one really isn’t too hard so far; the most challenging part, really, is that so many of my clothes also function quite well as pajamas, so I have been forced to draw some line of distinction.  To that end, I have enacted what I like to call the Crate and Barrel Standard:  If I’d wear it to Crate and Barrel, it counts as “getting dressed”.  As to how I chose Crate and Barrel as the metric for this particular edict, I’m not sure.  I guess I was just looking for something somewhere between Wal-Mart and Neiman-Marcus on the decency-worthiness scale.  And that automatically ruled out anyplace with a pharmacy, because haven’t we all gone to the pharmacy looking a little skanky at some point in our lives?  So I thought a halfway-decent specialty store, but one with cheap enough stuff that you don’t feel compelled to wear every single pearl you own into the store just to prove to the salespeople that you can afford something there.  Hence the Crate and Barrel Standard was born, which essentially means that red velour Juicy Couture stretch pants are totally allowable during the day, but perpetually wrinkled red cotton Gap pajama pants that feature a pattern of dogs wearing scarves?  Not so much.

2.  Eat all day long.

This one is a little harder, since I have set up a little “home office” for myself in our dining room, which is RIGHT NEXT TO THE KITCHEN.  Where there is ice cream.  And bananas.  And LIFE cereal.  And leftover rosemary-roasted potatoes (and it’s admirable to eat leftovers, right?).  And all kinds of stuff you can smear with peanut butter.  So here’s where the whole idea of making dinner every day comes in handy, see, because if I know there’s going to be, say, pot roast tonight, then I’ll hold off on inhaling everything within a 20-foot radius during the day, with the idea that my yummy, gravy-coated reward will come at dinner time.

Then by dinnertime, I’m so hungry that I stuff myself silly, and then I spend the rest of the evening hating myself. 

Then I have ice cream.

3.  Re-live my 8-hour high school phone-talking marathons.

This one is actually the hardest one, because during my life thus far as a working mother, I have basically ignored practically everyone with whom I do not share a residence or within whom I did not once reside.  And even some of THOSE people got short shrift every once in awhile.  So I’ve spent the last year and a half feeling really guilty about being a really bad friend to a whole lotta people.  Sure, there’s Facebook, which sort of allows you to both let people know you’re alive, and acknowledge the living-breathing status of others in roughly 60 words or less, but it’s not really the same as TALKING, is it?  So now that a whole lotta people (who apparently forgive me for being a bad friend ) are calling to see how I’m doing, it’s incredibly easy to fritter away a whole day just . . . talking.  I suppose I could argue that it counts as “networking”, but if the person already knows, loves, and wants to help you, AND if you’re talking about things like cellulite, potty training and your failed attempts at songwriting, does it really . . . ?    

THINGS I’M ESCHEWING WITHOUT MUCH EFFORT:

1.  Deodorant.

I know.  You’d think that this one would fall under the Crate and Barrel Standard, wouldn’t you?  But quite frankly, my relationship with deodorant has always been characterized by some ambivalence.  I get those painful armpit lumps, and the icky buildup makes it hard to shave . . . I guess this is one area of my life where I’m OK letting the stinky little adolescent hippy boy who lives inside my soul have a small victory (but I draw the line at rolling in patchouli in lieu of a bath).  And I gotta let myself off the hook on SOMETHING, right, or where’s the fun in being unemployed?   One other discovery that has resulted from my unemployment, however, is the irony of the fact that really, it would have been much easier to go without deodorant when I was actually WORKING.  I visited my old office last week, to bring birthday goodies to a friend still employed there, and was caught completely off guard by the number of ex-coworkers who suddenly felt the need to HUG me and my stink-proud self.  I’m sure more than one of them walked away thinking, “Phew-WEE, I think I know why they let HER go . . . “

2.  Daytime television.

Ever since we had a kid, we’ve been trying to avoid gratuitous TV watching, but I always sort of thought that, given the chance, I’d fall off the wagon like a meth addict behind a pharmacy counter.  Turns out I haven’t.  Of course, the fear of running out of money before I find a job is a definite impetus to stay away from the remote, but DUDE.  So is daytime television.  I swear, if I hear one more crabby judge yell, “What were you THINKING?” at a hair-gel-encrusted plaintiff (whose angry ex-girlfriend ran over his dog on a bicycle and then refused to pay the vet bill), I will try meth my damn self.

3.  Bitterness.

I had a great job.  Now I don’t.  It kinda sucks.  But really, what is there to do but keep on keepin’ on?  (For the record, I know that “I’ve Got a Turd With Your Name On It” certainly SOUNDS like it denotes some sort of vengeance plan against my former employer, but I assure you, it ain’t the case—the song is just not that good.)  Don’t get me wrong—I’m not some Pollyanna-wannabe who thinks that there’s a ray of sunshine to be found behind every cloud (for example, I find absolutely no good in people causing pain to puppies).  In this case, however, I genuinely do not see the point of wasting energy on any ill will toward anyone, especially since I really don’t feel any, so why manufacture it?  As one friend put it, how often do you get the gift of a few months off with pay to get your shit together?  So here I am, holding in my hands the gift of time and opportunity, and ready to open up this box.  Wish me luck!

It all started with how we roll.

It all started with how we roll.

Well, actually it started with how we apparently get stood up, because the story began Saturday morning, when a friend of ours, with whom we’d planned to attend the Renaissance Festival, totally flaked on us apparently disappeared from the planet (ahem – you know who you are).  (Yeah, so um, Mr. Flaky Dude?  Don’t be, like, dead or in traction or anything, because then I’ll feel all guilty for talkin’ about you like this.)

But, see, SkipFitz and I HAVE to attend the Ren Fest.  It has become a Tradition of Our Love (much like manacles and various foul odors; but those are stories for another time).  The first year that we dated, he drove the 80-some miles from his city all the way to my city to pick me up and take me to the Ren Fest (which was 60-some miles back towards his city), and then bought for me a sparkly crown of stars to wear at the Fest. A couple of years ago, he pushed me into the mud at the Ren Fest and then bought for me the Scotch Egg that would, later that night, result in gastrointestinal distress (some of which I also wore) that made Linda Blair’s Exorcist performance seem like the starring role in a kindergarten class production of Little Mary Sunshine. 

So yeah.  The manifestation of said love has undergone a few transformations.

But the tradition stands.  We ALWAYS go.  So what, we wondered, were we to do about having been stood up for Saturday’s Renaissance Extravaganza?  Should we go by ourselves, to keep tradition alive, or should we wait and see if we heard from Flaky McFlakerson our missing friend?  (Dude, PLEASE still be alive and healthy!)

Ultimately, we decided to do both; we’d skip the Ren Fest on Saturday, to give our flaky-ass probably really busy friend a chance to get with the program  (Dude, seriously– you’re alright, aren’t you?) and maybe attend with us on Sunday.  After a brief Saturday morning run to pick up my new prescription glasses (and an equally brief return to the optometrist’s office when, approximately 7.8 minutes after arriving back home with my new specs, I broke the summa bitches), I insisted that we HAD to do SOMETHING, because it was an absolutely gorgeous day!  So we opted to pack up the babe in the car and spend some time in a quaint little shopping area about 20 minutes north of us, where Skip could get a haircut (which embodies another tradition, since this is the barbershop to which he’s gone for haircuts since he was a kid), and where I could get cheese.

Oh, yeah, Baby.

CHEEEEEEEEEEEEESE.

You see, in the same shopping area is this little shop that sells a gazillion super-licky varieties of cheese; I am only stopped from consuming the store’s entire inventory at one sitting by the fact that I do not have a bajillion dollars (well, by that and the fear that if I ate all that cheese, I’d never poo again).  But on Saturday I did have about fifty bucks, so with that SkipFitz and I purchased four chunks of cheese in a variety of flavors (one of them was goat cheese flavored with honey . . . how, I wonder, did they get that goat to swallow a buncha bees? . . . but such is the magic of cheese).  After that and the aforementioned haircut,  we wandered back towards the car, eager to head home, dig into the cheese, and commence the constipation.  En route we passed the outdoor dining area of a cute little French joint.  Just as I opened my mouth to ask Skip if he’d ever eaten there, a strange (as in heretofore unknown to us, not as in weird) voice called out:  “Hey– you have the same stroller we do!”

We turned to see a smiling couple sitting, with their baby in the stroller beside them and nearly empty plates before them, at one of the tables of the French joint.  And almost as if it had simply been waiting for that cue, my mouth opened completely of its own accord and blurted out, “OK, so does your stroller have the wonky front wheel?” 

(It’s a jogging stroller, see, so it’s got three wheels instead of four; only the one wheel in front sometimes wobbles and makes the whole stroller vibrate, and you’re forced to pop wheelie after wheelie in an attempt to get it to restabilize.  It’s a pain in the butt, really.)

“YES!” came the reply, and then we were off and running– or chatting, rather, as easily as if we’d known each other for 20 years.  They were in town from a nearby smaller, farm-y town, in order to satiate their yen for a little urban living.  They’d recently relocated to the Midwest from Houston.  Their baby, a girl, was about three weeks older than Auggy.  The dad worked at a university.  The mom was a stay-at-home mom with previous experience in TV production.  But perhaps most importantly of all . . .

 . . . they were looking for a good sushi place.

So we recommended our favorite local sushi joint which, I may as well confess now in hopes that nobody notices this little tidbit in the midst of such a fascinating story, we love so much that we chose to skip that recent Earth, Wind & Fire concert for which we had tickets, in order to have dinner there.

They seemed pleased with our recommendation, and invited us to join them for dinner.  We did that thing that couples do, which was to evade the question and say our goodbyes to the nice couple, then walk away and consult each other in private about the invitation we’d both pretended not to hear (because neither of us was willing to be the Bad Spouse who consented for both of us to a social event that one of us did not want to attend).  When we found that we both actually DID want to join them for dinner, we concocted some lame and transparent excuse to return to their table and accept the invitation.

(Of course, by the time we returned to the table, our new Mom friend had run off to change the baby’s diaper, so our new Dad friend was forced to demur until HE could check with HER, in order to avoid being the Bad Spouse.  So we walked away again, leaving our cell number; about 10 minutes’ worth of phone tag later, we had a (double triple) date.)

Which means that I have officially become One Of Those People, the ones who make friends with other people based merely on a common biological experience, i.e., a baby. 

I always hated those people.

In fact, I was only able, with clear conscience, to befriend my friend Cat after we swore a blood-oath that we would, like, TOTALLY have been friends BEFORE we had babies, if we’d ever, y’know, actually had a conversation with each other back then.  (I think there was also a clause in the oath that requires us to seek each other out and become friends if we ever both happen to travel back in time.)  But, see?  By NOT having actually spoken to each other when we were both normal, non-Mommy people, Cat and I spared ourselves all that insignificant introductory chit-chat, and moved straight into deep, intimate discussions about nipple soreness and poo.  And good or bad, these are apparently the kinds of conversations that foster friendships for me now.

So here I am, one swirl deeper into the Parenthood Potty, having broken yet another of my sacred parenthood covenants: Thou Shalt Not Succumb To Mommy-Bonding.  But what the hell, I’m too exhausted these days to actually put effort into being a scintillating conversationalist with a fascinating life (or hell, even to put effort into being well-groomed and free of unidentifiable crust)– so if I can make cool new friends based merely on my choice of stroller, Honey, watch me roll.

You can’t shake me, the way I feel today

You can’t shake me, the way I feel today

Oh, yeah, Baby.

Earth.

Wind.

And Fire.

Coming here to see me tonight.

OK, in reality they have no idea who I am.  But by the time I was five years old, I knew the names of all nine of them (in the 1975 lineup; now I think there are maybe three of these guys left in the band):

Maurice White, Verdine White, Fred White, Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, Al McKay, Johnny Graham, Andrew Woolfolk . . .

. . . and Mr. Larry Dunn on piannah — give ’em SOME!

(Y’all “down-deep” EW&F fans (among the three people who read this blog) will get that last little tidbit (and more that shall probably come henceforth), but if you don’t, no worries; just Keep Your Head to the Sky . . . oh, I’m on a roll now . . . )

When I was in Kindergarten, I requested an Earth Wind and Fire album (Gratitude) for my birthday. 

And I got it.

And I took it for Show and Tell.

And I asked the teacher to play Reasons for the class.

Which she did . . .

 . . . for approximately 20 seconds, before curtly zipping the needle from the record and asking me to take my seat so that the next kid (who probably brought something dumb, like one of those freaky stuffed monkeys with the rubber face, hands, and white sneakers) could share.

Well.  She obviously was not feelin’ the Philip Bailey vibe.   She clearly had no insight into [her] inner self, hammercy! 

*Sigh* . . . That’s the Way of the World, I guess.

Alas, poor Philip (who, I’m sure, was the ONLY reason for Miss Crum’s tragic curtailment of his signature song; she simply was not pickin’ up the love my man Phil was layin’ down). 

So maligned, so misunderstood (and, quite possibly, so overshadowed by Maurice White’s manly man-parts) . . .  so reviled by macho-man chauvinists like my father, who felt he did a disservice to his gender with his lovely high falsetto.  But we the initiated, we the Yearnin’ Learnin’ , have never let our love for Philip die, even during Sun Goddess when he and the other EW&F fellas weren’t even singing real words (but still moved us in our souls) . . . even during the tragic Easy Lover era!

Oh, Philip.  Come back to us tonight.  Sing a Song. Tell the story, mornin’ glory, all about the Serpentine Fire.  Give us a Happy Feelin’.  Give us deliv’rance from the fruits of EE-VAL.  Write a song of love, my baby, write a song of love.  We are your faithful followers.  We are the other kind that has been in search of you.  We await you. 

Please wear sequins.

Love,

InstaPrincess

I’m BAAAA-aaaaaaaack . . .

I’m BAAAA-aaaaaaaack . . .

And tell you what, I’m just going to pretend that this blog had readers who’ve been wondering where I’ve been.

No, I did not die during the last . . . holy cow . . . damn near two years. So where, you ask, have I been? What have I been doing? Well, let’s see . . .

I had another Thanksgiving, which was again lovely and yummy and full of grace. It was a smaller gathering, this time, and the day brought no near-death experiences for any of our dogs. But then again, we avoided any chocolate contributions to the feast, just in case.

Let’s see, what else . . .

Oh, yeah. I had a baby.

For those of you who are now trying desperately to jiggle out of your head what you’re sure is a hallucination brought on by repercussions from your college years (I’m not here to judge, but come on—you know what I’m talkin’ about), let me repeat:

I HAD A BABY.

A tiny human being came caterwauling out of my hoo-hoo. Well, OK, that’s not entirely accurate, because that summabitch was not exactly TINY; he weighed TEN POUNDS (my OB/GYN predicted a 7-8 lb. baby—LIE! LIE! LIE!) and emerged, as they say, “sunny side up”. Luckily I had no idea, going in, how anything was supposed to work, so I didn’t know that a gigantic, face-up baby was, in the most clinical of medical terms, a “HOLY CRAP!” kinda deal. So I just did what I was told, and pushed the sucker on out.

But more on that later. Right now, those of you who know me AT ALL (even to the extent of only having had a single conversation with me in the checkout line at a 7-11 during a moment of tampon desperation) are sitting there screaming, “OK, HELLO! Slow your roll, Sister! Who are you and what have you done with the Insta-Princess? Because no way was the Insta-Princess I know EVAH going to issue forth fruit from her loins!”

And indeed, you’d be right about that. I wasn’t. Until the day I peed on a stick and stood, crammed side by side with my husband in our tiny first-floor powder room, staring at a small purple line on said stick and trying (due primarily to the danger of conking my head on the toilet and causing a permanent scar through one of my freshly waxed eyebrows) not to pass out.

So exactly a week prior to my 38th birthday, at 4:50 p.m., I became the mama of a gigantic and stunningly hilarious baby boy by the name of August.

AND IT’S AWESOME. Seriously. Who knew I’d love motherhood so much? Not to sound all “Kum Ba Ya”, but for me so many of the clichés turned out to be true: I did fall in love with him at first gooey sight; I was amazed at the latent mama capabilities that came springing forth in me (hell, the capability to live with sleep deprivation alone is a small miracle – again, if you know me . . . ); and I am amazed at how quickly the time is flying. He’s already six months old – going on 76 years:

And heck, I’m even amazed that I’ve managed to love this boy as much as I do despite my gag-inducing aversion to saliva.

I’m still working full-time, as is SkipFitz, and Auggy is cared for during the day by my mom.

And OK. I know (I KNOW!) how lucky I am to have a daycare provider who (a) works for free, and (b) actually LOVES my kid. I know how lucky I am to live close enough to my mother for her to be involved in my kid’s life. I know that if I lived far away from her, I’d be sad not to have her around.

However.

As it stands, she’s a LIVE-IN nanny; she stays at our house (in our guest room) during the week, and goes home (a little over an hour away) on the weekends.

And I am here to tell you people that nothing, short of a bona fide time machine, can transport you back to Middle School faster or more thoroughly than living with your mother.

Case in point: Last week I had TWO Middle School Moments in a single day. The first came when my mother deemed it too cold outside for me to wear sandals to work. As I stood there arguing over my sartorial decisions for the day, the 38-year-old in me was thinking, “When is the last time I had to argue with somebody over what I wanted to wear out of the damn house?”, while the 13-year-old in me was thinking, “Uh! Ma! Gawd! Mom! You are, like, SUCH a total spaz! Bag your FACE!”

Or something like that.

But guess who won out? Yup. My inner 13-year-old drug my outer 38-year-old off to put on sneakers as soon as my mother threw down her argumental trump card: “YOUR HEAD IS HARD!”

Yup. She wins every time with that one.

The second Middle School Moment of that day came when I left work early to take my baby to a Dr. appointment. It was a Friday afternoon, which meant that when I arrived home to pick up the baby and take him to get stabbed in his big, fat, juicy thighs, my mom would leave our house and head back to Topeka . . .

. . . and this was the moment on which I counted in order to execute the tiny act of rebellion with which I would once again claim the kingdom: I changed my baby out of the (UGLY!) outfit my mother had selected for him to wear to the doctor (what he wears to the doctor is Very Important to Grandma). I knew what she’d planned to put on him for the appointment because she’d laid it out the previous evening and, knowing that it was an outfit I hated and never planned for him to wear, declared that he NEEDED to wear it (a) because it had long sleeves and pants, and the weather was cold (too cold, if you recall, for a 38-year-old woman to wear sandals), and (b) in order for him to “get some wear out of it” before he outgrew it. Rather than risk another Valley Girl moment, I schemed instead to change his outfit after she’d left for the weekend, and before we left for the doctor. As soon as that moment arrived, off came the gingham stretch pants and matching onesie, and on went his Pink Floyd t-shirt and jean shorts. Then I snuck some Aziza eye shadow and Bonne Bell lip gloss into his diaper bag, and put it on him in the bathroom of the doctor’s office.

Oh, yeah, Baby.  That’s just the kind of badass I am.

And don’t even get me started on what it’s like having someone point out every. single. thing you’re doing wrong in raising your child every. single. day. Suffice it to say that Auggy has a grandma who loves him very, very much, and is very, very . . . INVOLVED in his life, and very, very concerned about his well-being. And that’s a good thing, right?

At any rate, she’s signed on for a year of nanny-ship, and we’re halfway through it already. Wish me luck, y’all, in making it through another six months . . . .

LYLAS,
The Insta-Princess

P.S. Longer Letter Later

It’s the day after my 37th Thanksgiving. Seems like as good a place as any to start . . .

It’s the day after my 37th Thanksgiving. Seems like as good a place as any to start . . .

So I’ll start with the fact that I love Thanksgiving. I love it so much that I can remember every Thanksgiving I’ve had (even the bad ones) since 1988. (I can’t even do that with birthdays.) Go ahead. Try me.

1993? Lived in a condo in Atlanta with my roommate Ericka and my boxer puppy Otis; Ericka went out of town, and I was looking forward to a long weekend alone with Otis. Instead, our neighbor’s semi-creepy brother, who was visiting from out of town, kept coming over to invite me to Thanksgiving dinner with his family. When I kept refusing, he grew desperate and, lacking any other means of enticement, grabbed my puppy and ran back to my neighbor’s place with her, forcing me to follow. When he got us both inside, Otis promptly peed on the carpet. GOOOOOD GIRRRRRRL!

2001? Spent Thanksgiving at my mom’s place, where my sister had brought her 5-month-old twins for a month-long visit. My mother kept trying to feed the babies mashed potatoes and gravy. And kept trying to get them to drink Pepsi. AT FIVE MONTHS OLD. Why do people do these things to babies who have not yet developed the motor skills to defend themselves or even give you the finger?

But I digress.

So yesterday goes down in the books as A Good Thanksgiving With A Rocky Start. You see, my mother had come up (from roughly an hour away) to spend Thanksgiving with me and my husband, and where there are mothers, there is always a little bit of twirliness, no? (She has this thing, see, where the older she gets, the more and more she becomes like a toddler in one particularly annoying way: when she wants something, she pays no mind to whatever else you might be doing before interrupting you to demand attention to her (comparatively minor) need. Trying to extract your leg from the jaws of a hungry lion? Well, you’ll just have to finish that later, because she needs you to come cut the tag off of her new blouse, because she forgot to remove it before putting the blouse on, and it’s much easier, you see, if you and the lion cool your jets a moment and tend to this problem than it would be for her to have to go to the trouble of removing the blouse, cutting the tag off herself, and putting it back on. Giving birth to alien triplets? Well, that will just have to wait, because she can’t figure out how to get Maury Povich on your TV. But I digress again.)

My husband escaped early in the day to pick up a friend at the airport; my mother and I would meet him later and we’d all share Thanksgiving with the friend’s family, whom I adore.

But first my mother would make sweet potatoes, I’d make a rhubarb tart and cookie mix (to put inside of cute Santa Claus cookie jars I’d bought for each of the women in the friend’s family), and we would try to kill one of the dogs.

Or, rather, would stand idly by while she tried to kill herself, because we’re all “Live and Let Die” like that.

You see, before he left for the airport, my husband had prepared a lovely chocolate bundt cake and left it in the oven for me to remove from the oven when the timer went off, dump out of the pan, and plate up to bring to our Turkey Day festivities. Thing is, he chose yesterday to test the truth of the “non-stick” label on the bundt pan (which was brand new) by not putting any sort of grease in the pan before dumping the cake batter in.

And guess what?

The pan LIED.

So only half of the cake (the half closest to the Exit) came out of the pan. There remained a roughly 2-inch-thick ring of cake clingling stubbornly to the bottom of the pan. I swear I heard it laugh at me. My mother, ever the trooper, insisted that we could fix it, and began scraping out the stubborn, bottom-clinging cake in large chunks, and fitting them onto the rest of the cake like a spongy chocolate 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. All we’d have to do, then, she insisted, was concoct some sort of sauce or glaze to drizzle over the cake to hide its rather Frankensteinian qualities. Since I needed to go to the store anyway, to get the ingredients for the rhubarb tart I’d promised to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, I happily agreed to pick up some chocolate chips and light corn syrup while I was at it, in order to concoct the Concealer Glaze.

Only then I couldn’t find any damn rhubarb. (What IS rhubarb, anyway? It’s like someone soaked celery in pink food coloring and convinced their gullible younger cousin to make pie out of it. Only the gullible younger cousin grew up to be, like, Julia Childs or something and so managed to convince everyone else that it was a good idea, so it never went down as the forgettable childhood prank it was meant to be. But oh, the digression.) So I went to another store. And then another. FINALLY I found some in the frozen food section of the grocery store that I should have tried in the first place. It’s dingy and cheap-looking and has crappy-looking produce, but is THE place to go around here for extra-thin pork chops, Coke made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, and obscure ingredients.

At any rate, by the time I found the rhubarb, I was a little behind schedule, especially with the whole FrankenCake debacle, so I arrived home, huffing and puffing and all stressy-poo . . .

. . . only to find that my mother seemed to have disappeared . . .

. . . and so had nearly HALF of the FrankenCake!

What the hell has gotten into that old woman? I thought. But then I remembered . . .

THE DOG.

Woof!

You see, when I entered the blissful state of matrimony (in the blissful state of Nevada), I had two (perfect) dogs, and my husband had one. One bad-ass little mutha who’s got about a 180 IQ and an attitude that could reduce Martha Stewart to a crumbling heap. You know, if they spoke the same language and the dog had opposable thumbs that would allow HER to make centerpieces out of pine cones and cud. But since neither of those things is actually the case, the dog is satisfied just to be a bitch to pretty much everyone except my husband and, occasionally, me. So she and my mom don’t get along so well. However, yesterday, they seemed to have made amends in the name of Pilgrims and Native Americans everywhere . . . OK, actually, the dog was only being nice to my mom in hopes that my mom would give her a piece of sweet potato, but a gal can dream, can’t she?

Anyway, because the dog and my mom seemed to be getting along, and because I wanted to foster this new friendship, I let the dog hang out in the kitchen with us, while my two (amazingly-perfect-sweetie) dogs retired to (read: were cajoled, with the help of dog treats, into) the basement for the duration of the cooking. And when I left for the Rhubarb Hunt, I left the dog alone in the kitchen with my mother, figuring it would give my mom and the little Martha-Menacing-Mutha a chance to bond further.

Apparently I was wrong.

It seems that as soon as I pulled out of the driveway, Little Mutha turned on MY Mutha, and started barking and growling at her! So my mom shut herself in the guest room, leaving Little Mutha to her own devices.

And that’s when Little Mutha found FrankenCake.

CHOCOLATE FrankenCake.

And for any of you out there who don’t have dogs, there are three cardinal rules of dog ownership:

1. Dogs should be given food and water if you want them to live.

2. You also shouldn’t let them play, like, on the highway and stuff. If you want them to live.

3. Chocolate is lethal to dogs. So don’t feed it to them if you want them to live.

Simple, really.

So you can imagine my concern at arriving home to find FrankenCake half missing. As I mentioned, I did, for an instant, suspect my mother, but I knew that if she were going to go face first into the cake, she’d have waited for the glaze first. So it had to be the dog. The dog who would probably die now.

And in my anguish, I issued forth a plaintive cry not unlike the one I uttered earlier this year when the ONE tomato I managed to grow this summer (I loved him and watered him and named him Nate and visited him daily; we were considering starting a bridge club, he and I) was viciously slaughtered and brought, riddled with toothmarks and oozing pulp, to my feet one sunny afternoon by THIS SAME DAMN DOG.

Only as much as I might have wanted to kill the dog over Nate’s murder, the idea that she might REALLY die from the dismemberment of FrankenCake had me totally flipping out. And making rhubarb tart. And flipping out. And making cookie mix. And flipping out. And catering to my mother’s demands. And flipping out.

Luckily, the dog doesn’t even seem to have gotten sick from the chocolate cake, which proves that she is made of pure, indestructable evil. And since she seemed to be holding up like a champ, my mom and I went ahead with our plans and made our way to Thanksgiving Dinner, which was wonderful and filling and full of grace. Especially after all of the wine I consumed upon my arrival.

After my dinner, my husband and I took a lovely walk, hand in hand, replete with crunching leaves underfoot and petting of horses and scenic ponds (oh, yeah – this family got some PROP-uh-teh!), and I had one of those moments where you step outside yourself for a minute and think, “If this moment weren’t my life, I’d be so jealous of it.” And then you step back into yourself and keep on walking. And you suddenly realize that life ain’t so bad after all.

Happy Thanksgiving!