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 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.

J-J-Jacked, J-J-Jacked, J-J-Jacked… Jacked the Heck Up.

Not all of the clichés are true, it turns out. My life did not flash before my eyes. There was no Enya or Hendrix music montage accompanied by blipping mental pictures of me as a toddler, clutching my older brother in abject fear as he carried me through the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum (those things scare the crap outta me to this day), or escaping my older sister’s clutches at bathtime to streak through the living room. No whirring visions of me as a kindergartener, staring into the mirror and bawling my eyes out after my first haircut left me looking like a boy (I am also still afraid of hairdressers). No psychedelic scenes of me and my Middle School BFF, getting busted by my mom as we, bathtowel-turbaned and bejeweled, performed a VooDoo ritual on a doll resembling a girl we hated. Not one single fleeting spectre of me in my sixth-grade Halloween costume (step off, Vanessa Williams I, though unrecognized and unsung, was a black Miss America nearly a full year before you were, dammit!), my fuzzy-hatted high school band uniform (I also made a damn fine black Q-Tip before anybody knew about A Tribe Called Quest), my blazing red wedding dress, or my tear-away hospital gown, supine and stirruped, at the moment my son was born.

Basically, I was ripped off.

What I did get was a crystal-clear understanding of the fact that I am really kinda jacked up in the head, because all I remember going through my mind in the moments right before I drove head-on into the Ford F-150 that pulled out into my path a couple of weeks ago is, What? OH. !@#$%&!&^#%$!#@! And in the moments immediately following the collision, as I struggled to see and breathe amidst the plumes of airbag dust that had filled my car, my first thought was, How good can I make this story when I write about it (because I will totally write about it)? My next thought (because as I left work which was only about two blocks in my rearview when I wrecked that day, I was weighing my exercise options for the evening) was, Damn guess I won’t be running OR going to Bikram tonight . . . 

See? Told ya. Jacked up.

But my head wasn’t the only jacked up thing about the whole affair. Not by a long shot. First of all, the guy I slammed into was jacked up. Not, like, in a CRUNK way (though I have no way of knowing that for sure), but rather in a wholly oblivious way; I remain convinced that, for whatever reason, he simply did not see me as he pulled out of a parking lot and into the street in front of me I was WAY too close for him to have actually seen me and thought, Screw this bee-yotch, I’m going! So I imagine that having a gal in a Hyundai Sonata plow straight into his truck without even braking (thus knocking him unconscious, which I’d say also constitutes jacked up) was as enormous and shitty a surprise for him as the sudden appearance of his big-ass truck smack-dab in my path was for me.

Then things got surreal; before I’d even formulated a single pithy adjective in my head to describe the experience, I was surrounded by a gaggle of men in bright orange safety vests who looked, through the air bag haze, like some weird tribe of ersatz (old school) Oompa-Loompas. As they swarmed both cars to determine if I and my partner in crash were OK, I actually started to laugh, partially because now the damn Oompa-Loompa song was in my head ( Who. Do. You. Blame. When your kid is a . . .BRAT? ) but mostly because WTF? Where did these people come from, and why the matching outfits?1

Then, before I knew it, I’d gone all Paulina. You can probably disregard this whole paragraph if you were born past 1975 or so, but for those folks who are old like me, remember the video for the Cars song Drive , where the model Paulina Porizkova is in a padded cell and spastically alternates between laughing and crying? Well. That was me in the first few minutes after the wreck (and purely by coincidence, I was in a car, and wondering, Who’s gonna drive me home . . . tonight? OK, that was bad), only without the youthful, perfectly-chiseled features or the love thang for Ric Ocasek. So by the time the orange-vested man who seemed to be in charge of the group pried open my car door (which was stuck shut) to prevent me from sucking in more lungfuls of airbag powder (because I didn’t have sense enough to roll down the window), I had swung clean away from maniacal laughter and was all worked up into a bawling frenzy. Unfortunately, that was the moment when it occurred to me to call Pretty Bad Dad, which means three things:

1. I utterly confused my husband by freaking out into his ear. (When I said wreck , he was thinking fender bender and could not figure out why I was crying SO. HARD.)

2. I totally dropped the F-bomb in front of my boss. Upon learning from my coworkers that I’d been in a wreck just down the street, he sprinted (at least that’s the story I got) to the scene to find out if I was OK. He arrived just in time to catch my phone freak-out with PBD, and yes. There was cussing.

3. Here is the jacked-up Insta-Princess protocol for totaling a car: Crash. Begin crafting amusing story in head. Lament inability to exercise. Laugh at the Oompa-Loompas. Re-enact 80s video. Call husband. Cuss in boss’s face. My priorities are messed up, y’all.

Second of all, of course, our cars were jacked up. Don’t know about the other guy’s truck, but my car was totaled. I still don’t have the police report, so I can’t be sure what exactly happened, but one thing that initially bothered me about the whole thing (besides being deprived of the music montage of my life) was that I couldn’t figure out how I didn’t even brake! I mean, sure, my mind may have been on Bikram, but my eyes were open, for cryin’ out loud; how did I not even react? However, once I saw my car (the next day) . . .

. . . I developed a theory (based on the front-end indentation, which looks to me like the corner of something like, say, the driver-side front corner of an F-150 smooshed straight between my headlights) that could answer that question AND the question of why the other guy didn’t see me. I believe that basically the guy turned left into me as he came out of the parking lot on my right. So basically, we were driving towards each other, for double-fantabulous crash momentum hence no time to brake. Also, if my theory is correct and he was turning left, he probably had his eyes to his right, to make sure the lane he was turning into was clear completely unaware that I was hurtling toward him on his left, loaded for bear. As I said, it’s just a theory but it makes perfect sense to me. But I digress.

Thirdly, I was jacked up. And not just in the head, it turned out. As the vested men swarmed, I assured one after the other of them that I was fine. Nobody would let me get out of my car, however, so I sat trapped, waiting for paramedics, watching as more safety-orange-clad men tended to the other guy. Is he OK? I asked over and over again, while people more or less ignored me. Finally, I heard someone say that he was unconscious, which started me bawling all over again, until at last I saw him, foggy and confused but awake, being escorted from his truck. As he walked (assisted) past the front of my car, our eyes met for a second but his were pretty much visibly  bobbling around in his face, so I knew that as far as he was concerned, I could easily be Barry White in bird feathers, singing sweet, sweet, a capella polka songs just for him and his special someone. Even later, when I (still in my car, awaiting the arrival of paramedics) inquired again as to his condition, I was told that he basically had no idea what was going on. But I digress again.

At last, lights and sirens arrived on the scene, and that’s when I got the second-biggest shitty surprise of the day (the first being the wreck itself): Contrary to what I told the nice men in uniform, I was not, in fact, able to walk to the ambulance. When I (finally!) got out of the car and stood up, I found I could not put any weight on my left leg. I’d felt pain in my left knee as I waited in my car, but I thought, OK, I must have thumped it on the dashboard no big! Similarly, my chest and hips hurt from the seatbelt, and my forearms were red and itchy from the airbag. But not for a second did I think I was incapacitated in any way! I guess the silver lining here is that I can say I got the whole ambulance experience, stretcher and all which I think spared me from having to share an ambulance ride with the guy I hit, because I heard one of the paramedics who was tending to him ask one of the paramedics tending to me if I was able to SIT in the ambulance so that the other guy could use the stretcher and we could ride to the hospital together (AWK-wurrrrrd . . . ). My paramedic said no, which meant that we ended up waiting for another ambulance (with another stretcher) to arrive for the other guy. For the record, though, I did offer to give up my stretcher and take the second ambulance myself (because the other guy was still stretched out in the grass at the side of the road, and it was cold outside), but was told to stay put. So I did. And I cried.

As I blubbered, one paramedic after another tried to talk me off the ledge by reminding me that it was just a CAR, that the important thing was that I was OK, that I could always get another CAR, but there would never be another ME, yadda yadda . . .

. . .which only made me start laughing again, because seriously who cries over a Hyundai? Really, I wasn’t crying or even thinking about anything in particular; it was just a weird, automatic reaction, the way you get goosebumps when you’re cold, or like how your foot swings up when the doctor thwacks you on the knee with his little rubber mallet, or how you start twitching and rocking back and forth with your hands over your ears and mumbling, No. BAD noise! BAD noise! the second you hear the opening strains of Starship’s We Built This City. Or maybe that’s just me. Nonetheless, the pep talks snapped me out of it, and back into Paulina Pourizkova mode. So there’s that.

Anyway, when we arrived at the ER, my stretcher went in first, but the other guy got a bed immediately, whereas I was transferred to a wheelchair and rolled into the waiting room, where I waited for an hour or so for a bed. The boys (PBD and our son) arrived just as a bed opened up for me. PBD’s own dad was kind enough to come and fetch the wee boy from the hospital, feed him dinner and take him home, so that PBD and I were able to spend a romantic evening together while I retold the story to a thousand different medical professionals and got examined and tetanus-shotted (since I broke skin as a result of the wreck) and pain-pilled and X-rayed (chest and leg, both looked good). Then we began the long 45-minute drive home ( Mommy, you should have gone to a hospital closer to our house, admonished my four-year-old son), during which the pain pills kicked all the way in, and I abandoned the constant swinging between laughter and tears, and instead took up wavering between stoner-like love for all the special little light-filled beings of the world, and post-bender-alcoholic-like nausea.

After a late dinner of Taco Bell, PBD somehow got my gimp ass up the stairs and into bed, and that was all she wrote.

Almost three weeks later, I have been to Texas (where I managed to make it to the Texas State Fair mere days before The Night They Burned Old  Texy Down) and back, and to work on most of the other days, so you’d think that means I’m all better but I still can’t run or do Bikram, stairs are not my cuppa tea, and the pain comes on pretty strong if I don’t stay on my 3 x 3 (three pills, thrice daily) Advil regimen.

Still, I’m trying to stay grateful that nothing was any worse. Both the other guy and I are still walking and breathing, my child was not in the car with me, and nobody at either the scene or the hospital was singing Starship. So I have a lot to be thankful for, right?

But that’s another cliché that’s not exactly true. Or maybe it’s a cliché that goes hand in hand with one’s life flashing before one’s eyes, like a two-fer, and since I didn’t get the first cliché,  I didn’t get the second one, either. Because as much as I know *logically* that I am incredibly fortunate . . . well, just in general, really (awesome family, great friends, good health, decent job, a foot size that nets me awesome shoe-sale shopping coups, etc.), but especially with the outcome of the wreck, I just, don’t . . . feel it. I guess I sort of expected some grand epiphany, some new, Grinch-like lease on life, wherein my heart would sproing out of its confines and henceforth  I would be dancing around with bluebirds  as I got ready for work in the morning (even though I am afraid of birds flappy little freakshows is what they are), smiling a cheery, love-filled hello to every passerby throughout the day, and randomly embracing strangers I found crying in sewage tunnels before handing them baskets of homemade baked goods and skipping on my super-thankful way. But so far, not so much with the gratitude2 OR the skipping.

I’ve even had lessons in gratitude recently; several months ago, I landed a (freelance) gig writing cover stories for a local magazine (each of which has focused on a single local she-star), and because of it, I’ve met a bunch of amazing women two of whom have embraced precisely the fresh lease on life (in the wake of an Occurrence) that seems to have evaded me. One lost both breasts and a good portion of one shoulder to desmoid tumors, and the other discovered (the hard way) a serious heart condition at a way-too-young-for-this-crap age. And though I didn’t know either of them before these things occurred in their lives, and so cannot speak directly to an exact percentage increase in their respective awesomeness as a result of these circumstances, they both possess such incredible clarity about their lives and priorities, and appreciation for damn near everything, that you just want to be them when you grow up (although all bets would of course be off if you should for some reason be granted the opportunity to become Sheila E. instead, because, you know. SHEILA E.).

And OK. I realize that in comparison to what these women went through, totaling a Hyundai and being able to (sort of) walk away is small potatoes. It’s not even potatoes, it’s like a single, stale instant potato flake. However, shouldn’t that fact, coupled with knowing women (one of whom is now my Facebook friend, so we’re like, practically besties) who’ve faced and survived ginormous mutant potatoes inspire even MORE gratitude in me? I mean, I have NOTHING to complain about, right? But alas, not much has changed. I’m still kinda cranky and impatient and self-pitying and selfish and burned out, and most days I still don’t really care what’s going on with my hair.

I know some of what PBD calls my despondency has stemmed from lack of exercise (and when did I turn into one of THOSE people?). I have been walking our dogs more often than they’ve ever been walked before, but that’s not really doin’ it for me (though the pooches are thrilled).  So this past Saturday, in desperation, I ventured to the Y and hopped aboard an elliptical machine for 45 minutes (the knee annoyed a little bit, but not enough to warrant stopping), and it made me want to kiss everyone (ask PBD), so I think exercise is definitely the key to a better mood. However, by Monday, my euphoria had given way to what is shaping up to be a booty-kicking cold, so I haven’t  exercised since. (Neither have I kissed anyone since.) Instead, I’m subsisting on Halls cough drops and trying to buoy my mood with the little pep talks on the wrappers. I’ll letcha know how that works out. In the meantime, it IS good to be back . . .


1. Turns out they were coworkers of the guy with whom I collided, and they had been outside loading a truck when the whole thing went down, hence the fact that they were on the scene with lightning speed and all gussied up for the occasion.

2. I did make a conscious effort to inspire gratitudinal feelings by seizing a small opportunity to do something nice for someone I don’t know. Last Sunday morning, my son and I headed to Wal-Mart to pick up a cheap slow cooker to replace the one I broke a couple of weeks ago (dropped the damn insert in the sink and it chunked in three), and Mama is all about the slow cooker dinners these days (because how awesome is it to come home to dinner that’s pretty much ready–and so easy to chew?)! Anyway, there was an older gentleman in a military uniform outside the entrance, talking to people and handing out some sort of flyer. Pathetically, my initial intent for good deeding was merely to hear what the dude had to say instead of avoiding eye contact and shuffling my child on past him as if he were wearing a tinfoil hat and flashing us while singing God Bless America.

Turned out that he was collecting care package items for troops in Afghanistan, and the flyers he was handing out had photos of some of the soldiers, along with a categorized wish list of stuff they needed (non-perishable food items, razors, socks, etc.). I nodded politely and started to shove the flyer into my purse, but then I thought, What the heck? and so handed the flyer to my little fella, who is learning to read. I explained to him what it was for, and told him I wanted him to read the list and choose one thing for us to buy and donate to the soldiers.

It took him about three seconds to find a word he recognized: CANDY! he bubbled enthusiastically. Since Candy was merely the category heading, I asked him to look at the list below the word and choose one KIND of candy to send. Instead, he chose two Skittles and Gummy Bears so we bought a couple of bags of each, and he carried them through the store himself (even though we had a cart), put them on the conveyor at checkout, and asked the cashier (unprompted by me) for a separate bag for them. Then he put them in the donation box outside the store, and had a pleasant conversation with the gentleman in uniform about how he, like our soldiers, enjoys Skittles and Gummy Bears. Then he kept the flyer to show PBD the photos of his newfound candy comrades.

And that kinda cheered me up for awhile. It does even now, when I think about it. I guess you take it where you can get it, even if it comes from causing cavities in the teeth of our troops.

Bless Me, Father . . . I’m a Flippin’ Mess.

OK, so first some housekeeping details—well, one, really: my beloved SkipFitz has undergone yet another identity transformation (when I met him, he was a heartbroken country singer with a hook for a hand; from there, he became a British schoolboy with unusually bushy eyebrows, and then a cafeteria lady with questionable morals; after that, I lost track). Henceforth (or until he morphs again), he shall be known as Pretty Bad Dad (or PBD, for short). You should read him. He rocks.

Second, (and speaking of dads), another little piece of inspiration (for me, anyway, and perhaps for you) from the interwebs:

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party (and Single Dad Laughing is not, of course as foxy as PBD), but I thought it was a pretty good piece, and I was inspired by his challenge to combat Perfection by confessing one’s IMperfection, because I do love me a good confession. And children, I have lots. For example:

  •  I sometimes fantasize about my husband’s (highly-insured) death, which would allow me to have my way with his office. No, not his office mate—his office. In our house. It’s the best room in the whole joint; it’s huge (the same square footage as the two-car garage that sits directly below it) with a cathedral ceiling, window seats, and a stained-glass window at one end. Oh, sure, he’s offered to *share* it with me, but who wants to share? I want the whole thing to myself. Badly enough to kill my spouse? Absolutely not. Bad enough to fantasize about him succumbing (quickly) to a terminal, yet painless, disease? Hell, yeah.


  •  Even when a person is a total jerk who hates everyone and treats them like crap, I am still secretly happy when that person likes me. I try to pretend that I have somehow unlocked the secret vulnerability behind this person’s ass-hattery and that perhaps s/he sees a level of acceptance and love in me that allows for the dissolution of his or her Shield of Mean. But in reality, sometimes people are just plain assholes, and it doesn’t matter why they’re not picking on me. They still suck. I’m just not ballsy enough to tell them where to get off and walk away1.


  •  On a similar note, I frequently experience a rather assholish level of schadenfreude.


  •  Also similarly, I sometimes throw people under the bus. It’s not usually pre-meditated, but in a fight-or-flight moment, Honey, I will put tire tracks on your head. And then feel guilty and tell you I did it, like that fixes anything.

Whew! I feel better already. And worse. I kind of suck, don’t I? I have people coming over this weekend; I hope they still show after they read this.

Because it gets worse. I did a pretty crappy thing back in my youth (read: mid-20s), and I still feel bad about it.

Her name was Marguerite, and she was the stuff of nightmares. Nightmares and movies where people split up and venture alone into the basement at night to figure out what that sound was. She was pure, unadulterated evil. And the ridiculous thing was that I knew that she was horrid—and yet I let her move in with me anyway, because my friend Lisa cried.

Lisa was staring straight into the face of her lifelong dream to become an architect. She’d been accepted into an elite architecture program in New York and, beckoned by both big city and Beaux Arts Ball, she was ready to leave Atlanta behind and begin her Life. There was just one problem; she couldn’t take Marguerite to New York . . . and nobody else wanted that thing. Too many of her friends had consoled her through previous rounds of tears—days when she’d sob, “my cat hates me,” and regale us with tales of midnight Marguerite attacks, brandishing fresh scratch marks from the battle. (She employed the strategy typically recommended for bear attacks to avoid outright altercations with the beast: she’d play dead. Sometimes, she said, this resulted in an uneasy peace, wherein Marguerite would curl around the top of Lisa’s head and sleep, and Lisa dared not stir—even as she felt fleas disembarking from the cat onto her own scalp—for fear of retaliation.)

And yes. Despite all of this, I actually agreed to take the cat. Lisa painstakingly hand wrote two pages of instructions for the care and feeding of Marguerite, and left me with ample bedding, toys, litter and food to get us through our first month together. It turned out, however, that what I needed was Kevlar, because my relationship with Marguerite was, predictably, volatile; each day when I arrived home from work, the dance of enmity would begin. The cat would come flying towards the door, hissing and clawing at my legs. My part of this complicated choreography involved a grand jeté over the cat and into my apartment, simultaneous with an in-air slam of the front door, and culminating in a bedroom landing and subsequent slam of the bedroom door, behind which I’d stay safely sequestered until morning (thank God for attached bathrooms).

I took to keeping food in my nightstand; human sustenance so that I could survive the long evenings trapped in my bedroom, and kitty kibble because I’d discovered I could buy myself time to get out the door for work, or to the kitchen and back with perishables, by flinging food across the hardwood floors to the far corner of the living room as a temporary distraction. Needless to say, household visitors became an impossibility; a close friend and her boyfriend arrived in town, and although I had a pull-out sofa in the living room, I felt as though I had no place for them to sleep, because sleeping in the living room was tantamount to trussing up in a meat bikini and diving into a vat of tigers.

Even my sister, official Cat Lover Extraordinaire for ten years running, hated Marguerite’s ass.

When Christmas arrived that year, I gratefully hopped a plane to my parents’ cat-free abode, leaving my then-boyfriend (a long-haired, underwear-free, semi-dirty, ex-military quasi-hippy who rode his bike everywhere and wore clothing he’d acquired from other people’s garbage, including a single pastel-flowered ankle sock for which he never found a match . . . but I digress) to watch over my apartment, and Marguerite.

I have no idea what happened.

All I know is that when I came back, Marguerite was officially an outdoor cat. As it turned out, though, she seemed to love it; I still kept food for her, and every once in awhile (maybe twice a week or so), she’d stop in for a bite, sticking around perhaps long enough to weave affectionately through my legs, or jump onto the bathroom counter for a head-butty nuzzle as I . . . well . . . did things that you do sitting down in the bathroom. After an initial adjustment to her new loving demeanor (during which I waited, half-flinching, for the potential discovery that the whole thing was a ruse on Marguerite’s part to gain my trust so that she would be granted uninhibited access to my unprotected eyeballs), I grew accustomed to our new relationship. It was . . . nice (not least because this pretty much alleviated litter box duty . . . I just said duty).

Then one evening, after a neighborhood transformer blew, the majority of residents in my apartment complex were driven out into the courtyard to compare notes on what activities had suddenly been curtailed by the big boom and subsequent darkness. That’s how I met Chad.

Chad was an upstairs neighbor, whom I’d seen and greeted on numerous occasions, but I never actually had a conversation with him  until the Night of the Blown Transformer, when Marguerite showed up to the impromptu darkness party. “Marguerite!” I exclaimed, crouching down to pet her. Chad spoke up.

“Is that YOUR cat?” he asked, in a tone that was somehow friendly and accusatory at once (similar to the tone parents use when trying to get a toddler to confess to drinking his own bathwater), a combination of both good cop and bad.

“Sort of,” I replied, already feeling like I should have rehearsed a good cover story. I explained the situation.

“Well, you should know,” replied Chad, still accusatory but somehow more softly so, “that she waits for me when I come home. She races me to my door and claws at my ankles and tries to squeeze past me when I’m trying to get into my apartment. If I manage to get inside without her, she meows outside my door until I let her in and give her food.”

Before I could react, other neighbors spoke up. One had taken to keeping hot dogs in stock for when Marguerite came around demanding food. Another said that Marguerite had a kitty cohort with whom she roamed around the complex, taunting indoor cats through screen doors.

Hm. Seemed that Marguerite’s newfound affection for me had less to do with happiness in her newfound freedom than it had to do with having a slew of fresh torture targets. I felt guilty. So I carried Marguerite in my arms back into my darkened apartment that night, and once again attempted to make a go of shacking up with her.

This time, she wasn’t so much EVIL as she was . . . miserable. She meowed forlornly at the door day and night, stopping only to eat, drink, and then puke or poop forlornly at the door. Eventually, I took pity on both of us and let her back outside (resolving to treat my neighbors to homemade cookies more often), thus resuming our previous pattern of occasional visits.

But enough of that. You get the picture, and you’re still waiting for the bad thing, right?

Well, here goes: I left her.

I mean packed up a moving truck and hauled my cookies five states away. I mean left her with (figurative) tire tracks across her head. I mean “Marguerite WHO?”

My grandfather had passed away roughly a month previous, leaving behind both my Nana and a family awash with concern about how Nana would fare living alone. Mind you, she was perfectly capable of taking care of both herself and her business, but there was still widespread chagrin about the fact that she would be in the house by herself. Having minimal career obligations (read: a waitress job—which I loved—but still, a waitress job), AND having recently had my little heart smashed to pulpy chunks by Little Hippy Flower Footy (I know, right? TOTALLY thought I was going to be the one to break up with HIM, so imagine my surprise to be not only the dumpee, but the genuinely heartbroken dumpee, in this situation), I volunteered to move back home to Kansas and be Nana’s roommate (which was a blast, by the way, but that’s a whole other story).

But Nana didn’t want a cat. And nobody wanted this cat. So during the handful of weeks I’d allotted to gather my things and say goodbye to some amazing friends before donning my ruby slippers and clicking my heels, I made some feeble attempts to find a home for Marguerite, but ultimately I think I’d made up my mind about the futility of the endeavor before I even started. When moving day came, then, I hopped in that U-Haul and left her licking herself in my bathroom sink. I didn’t look back.

I like to think that maybe she found some kinship with the apartment maintenance man, from whom I also fled that day2, and that the two of them lived as companions for many years.

In reality, she probably choked on a hot dog and died alone, wondering what ever happened to me, and what she did to deserve getting left behind like that.

And although I have always been much more of a dog person, I kind of don’t really like cats much at all now. I’m sure a psychiatrist would say that they make me uncomfortable because each cat encounter carves the memory of Marguerite and my abandonment of her deeper into my psyche.

I don’t know that I’d disagree with that.

But I still have no desire to have a pet cat. They try to make you look at their anuses all the time. That’s not charming, with or without cat abandonment guilt.



1. For the record, neither can I walk away from nice people. Case in point: last night, I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of pounds of cod for tonight’s dinner. The friendly lady behind the counter asked how I planned to cook it. I told her about the (broiled cod) recipe I’d found, and her face registered polite disapproval (like when your friend gushes about a new love interest who sounds like kind of a butt nugget, but you don’t dare say anything, so you force your eyebrows and cheeks upwards into a facial expression you only sort of hope doesn’t look like the fake enthusiasm that it is). So with my own fake enthusiasm, I asked how she cooked cod, and she said she liked to fry it. I told her I certainly loved the taste of fried fish, but not the work and time involved in making it, at which point she gave me step-by step instructions, assuring me that it didn’t take more than a few minutes, really . . . She recommended (and pointed out) a particular kind of pre-made batter she likes to use and, not knowing how else to escape the situation, I bought it. So. Yeah. Apparently I’m only a badass when people text in the movies.

2. Please note that I was not fleeing the maintenance man because I left the apartment trashed; rather, I’d gotten myself into a “fish-batter” situation with him, too, only there was no way I was buying it, so in this case, I basically grabbed my shopping cart and ran.

He was a friendly guy, so he and I had exchanged pleasantries on several occasions when I saw him around the complex. However, we were not close, by any means, so imagine how odd it was when he saw me loading up my U-Haul in front of my apartment and, upon learning that I was moving away, BEGGED TO GO WITH ME.

To Kansas.

I tried to laugh it off. “NOBODY wants to move to Kansas,” I (only half-) joked.

“Any place is better than here,” he declared somewhat desperately.

“I don’t even know you,” I said, trying to come off as a LITTLE more serious, but still emitting bursts of nervous laughter. “I could wind up chopped into pieces and stuffed into a beer cooler.”

He swore he’d NEVER do that. “You might end up MARRIED,” he said a little too sincerely, “but you wouldn’t end up hurt, I promise.”

(Holy shit.)

Finally, I became a little desperate myself. “I don’t have room in the truck for your stuff,” I tried.

“I don’t care about any of it,” he said. “I have everything I need on me right now.”

(Shit shit shit.)

My saving grace turned out to be one thing he didn’t have: money.

All he needed, he said, was to pick up one last paycheck from the apartment office. He’d head up there RIGHT NOW. “Don’t leave!” he called behind him as he began to jog up the hill towards the office, “I’ll be back in just a few minutes!”

You think I didn’t burn rubber outta there? Strangely, I have no guilt about that—and I do still like maintenance men, in general (though I still have no desire to have one as a pet).

I’m Mad As Hell, and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore!

OK, not really. But a friend posted a link to an article called “Disappearing Mothers” on her Facebook page yesterday, and wanted to know how other parents felt about it. I posted a comment in reply, but found myself going back repeatedly to either edit what I’d said, or add more to what I’d said (thank you, Facebook ‘Edit’ feature!). At that point it occurred to me that clearly I have some feelings about this issue. And what better place for feelings than a blog with a regular readership of three? So here is a link to the article:

And here are my feelings about it—let’s break the article down bit by bit, shall we?

If, from beyond the grave, Betty Friedan were to review the Facebook habits of the over-30 set, I am afraid she would be very disappointed in us. By this I mean specifically the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles. You click on a friend’s name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted toddler running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favourite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some earnest future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about “the construction of women’s identity” at this particular moment in time?

My guess is that this hypothetical future historian will likely think just as much about “the construction of men’s identity,” at least if s/he encounters both my and SkipFitz’s Facebook pages, because my husband is just as likely, if not more so, to substitute our son’s face for his in his FB profile photo. Now, don’t get me wrong; I can certainly see the value of using my own photo on my Facebook page, rather than one of my child, for practical reasons (how else is my 7th-grade boyfriend going to know it’s me when he looks up my profile?) but I hardly think it’s crucial to the maintenance of a healthy identity. What about someone who uses a photo of his or her cat/favorite painting/favorite photo of Alfred Hitchcock? Is that just as bad? Does it imply that one identifies oneself as Alfred Hitchcock (or worse . . . a cat)?

Many of these women work. Many of them are in book clubs. Many of them are involved in causes, or have interests that take them out of the house. But this is how they choose to represent themselves.

Why is a book club, job, or stint as President of the Tax the Churches League a better representation of a woman’s identity than her relationship with her child (a person who in some cases shot straight out of her cooch)—arguably a bigger part of her everyday life than most other things?  I agree that a parent (of any gender) should have various interests in addition to his or her children, but ultimately, I don’t see any single one of them serving as a better or more worthy representation of a person.

The choice may seem trivial, but the whole idea behind Facebook is to create a social persona, an image of who you are projected into hundreds of bedrooms and cafés and offices across the country. Why would that image be of someone else, however closely bound they are to your life, genetically and otherwise? The choice seems to constitute a retreat to an older form of identity, to a time when fresh-scrubbed Vassar girls were losing their minds amidst vacuum cleaners and sandboxes. Which is not to say that I don’t understand the temptation to put a photograph of your beautiful child on Facebook, because I do. After all, it frees you of the burden of looking halfway decent for a picture, and of the whole excruciating business of being yourself. Your three-year-old likes being in front of the camera. But still.

OK, seriously? It’s Facebook. Yes, you’re creating a social persona, and the choices you make (the status updates you write, the links you share, the photos you post) all serve primarily to define that persona for your audience of “Friends”—but does anybody for a second think that a profile photo is the sum total of who a person is? Do we really lack such imagination that we can’t handle this one little piece of a person’s Facebook identity being anything aside from a literal rendering of that person’s actual face?

These Facebook photos signal a larger and more ominous self-effacement, a narrowing of worlds. Think of a dinner party you just attended, and your friend, who wrote her senior thesis in college on Proust, who used to stay out drinking till five in the morning in her twenties, a brilliant and accomplished woman.

Think about how throughout the entire dinner party, from olives to chocolate mousse, she talks about nothing but her kids. You waited, and because you love this woman, you want her to talk … about … what? A book? A movie? Something in the news? True, her talk about her children is very detailed, very impressive in the rigour and analytical depth and verve she brings to the subject; she could, you couldn’t help but think, be writing an entire dissertation on the precise effect of a certain teacher’s pedagogical style on her four-year-old. But still.

How does drinking until 5 a.m. constitute “brilliant” and “accomplished”? The Proust part, sure; but what if that same friend spent the same dinner party talking about nothing but Proust? She’d likely come across as a pedantic schmuck who was still clinging to her college laurels, even though they’d grown dry and crusty and carried the faint scent of mildew. Although I agree that talking for an entire evening about one’s child(ren) is in poor taste, I’d argue that talking exclusively about any one thing during a dinner party makes you pretty bad company, and that “a narrowing of worlds” can happen with regard to any singular focus. My thing is that whatever you’re talking about should be engaging for both you and your interlocutor. If it is, you’re golden, no matter what the topic.

You notice that at another, livelier corner of the table the men are not talking about models of strollers. This could in fact be an Austen or Trollope novel, where the men have retired to a different room to drink brandy and talk about news and politics. You turn back to the conversation and the woman is talking about what she packs for lunch for her child. Are we all sometimes that woman? A little kid-talk is fine, of course, but wasn’t there a time when we were interested, also, in something else?

Huh. Looks like I’m attending the wrong parties, then, because when Skip and I get together with our friends (with kids), join our hands and step into our own version of an Austen novel (because I do agree that once we’ve all left the dinner table, the conversational circles that form do tend to be gender-based—but I ain’t nobody’s Trollope), the fellas are just as likely to be talking about the kids. Sometimes moreso, in fact: often after the party’s over and Skip and I are having our post-party debrief, he has gleaned much more information about our friends’ kids from the Dad Discussion than I have from the Meetin’ in the Ladies’ Room. So I think there are some unfair and untrue assumptions being made, here—either that, or this gal needs some new friends . . .

The mystery here is that the woman with the baby on her Facebook page has surely read The Feminine Mystique, or The Second Sex, or The Beauty Myth, or the websites DoubleX or Jezebel. She is no stranger to the smart talk of whatever wave of feminism we are on, and yet this style of effacement, this voluntary loss of self, comes naturally to her. Here is my pretty family, she seems to be saying, I don’t matter any more.

Or maybe she’s saying, “Dude. Is my family the shizz-nit or WHAT? I mean, LOOK AT THEM. I did this bizness, yo.  I friggin’ ROCK.”  (And I’m sorry, reading that paragraph just makes me think of Terri Gar as Sandy in the movie Tootsie: “I don’t care about I love you! I read The Second Sex! I read The Cinderella Complex! I’m responsible for my own orgasms!”)

I have a friend whose daughter for a very long time wore squeaky sneakers. These sneakers emitted what was to adult ears an unbelievably annoying squeak with every single step she took. I asked my friend once why she put up with the sneakers, and she said, “Because she likes them!” Imagine being in this new generation, discovering with every joyous squeak of your sneakers that Galileo was wrong: the sun is not the centre of the universe, you are!

Our parents, I can’t help thinking, would never have tolerated the squeaky sneakers, or conversations revolving entirely around children. They loved us as much and as ardently as we love our children, but they had their own lives, as I remember it, and we played around the margins. They did not plan weekend days solely around children’s concerts and art lessons and piano lessons and birthday parties.

Why, many of us wonder, don’t our children play on their own? Why do they lack the inner resources that we seem to remember, dimly, from our own childhoods? The answer seems clear: because, with all good intentions, we have over-devoted ourselves to our children’s education and entertainment and general formation. Because we have chipped away at the idea of independent adult life, of letting children dream up a place for themselves, in their rooms, on the carpets, in our gardens, on their own.

OK, here I totally agree; not that I’m not guilty of placing my gorgeous boy on a pedestal every once in awhile, and it’s true that SkipFitz and I attend a damn lotta birthday parties, play dates, and activities designed to be fun for our child. (I mean, he is part of our family, after all; he gets a vote. Our votes trump his, sure, but we do consider him (as we do each other) when we make decisions about how to spend our time.) We are also, however, the parents who teach our son to say, “Excuse me, please” if we’re talking to each other or to other people and he wishes to interrupt. (We’re also trying to teach him that he should only interrupt if it’s important, but “important” is a tough notion for a 4-year-old to grasp, so quite often, his “Excuse me, please” is followed—after confirmation that yes, it IS important—by “I just saw a muscle car!” or “How do you make cotton candy?”) We’re the parents who are teaching him to be polite and considerate of others in restaurants, movie theatres, and bookstores (which even some adults haven’t learned, as we all know). Are we perfect parents? Not by any means, and quite often we make the wrong damn call. But we do try our best to raise a child who realizes that neither his immediate world, nor the world at large, revolves around him. And by the way, those playdates? Quite frankly, they’re not really about my kid at all. They’re pretty much all about me. And wine.

Facebook, of course, traffics in exhibitionism: it is a way of presenting your life, at least those sides of it you cherry-pick for the outside world, for show. One’s children are an important achievement, and arguably one’s most important achievement, but that doesn’t mean that they are who you are. It could, of course, be argued that the vanity of a younger generation, with their status postings on what kind of tea they are drinking, represents a worse or more sinister kind of narcissism. But this particular form of narcissism, these cherubs trotted out to create a picture of self, is to me more disturbing for the truth it tells. The subliminal equation is clear: I am my children.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a photo of one’s child simply means “I think my kid is pretty cute.”

Facebook was pioneered for a younger generation, of course. It lends itself naturally to strangers who run into each other at parties and flirtations struck up in bars. Part of what is disturbing about this substitution is how clearly and deliberately it subverts that purpose: this generation leaches itself of sexuality by putting the innocent face of a child in the place of an attractive mother. It telegraphs a discomfort with even a minimal level of vanity. Like wearing sneakers every day or forgetting to cut your hair, it is a way of being dowdy and invisible, and it mirrors a certain mummy culture in which it’s almost a point of pride how little remains of the healthy, worldly, engaged and preening self.

OK, I have all kinds of problems here. I may as well itemize:

  1. Um, is it really so bad to subvert the purpose of Facebook—especially if said purpose (purportedly) revolves around flirting in bars?
  2. Though my husband, who has seen some of my most cherished underwear, might argue that my sole goal in life is to leach myself of sexuality, I’m not sure that’s even possible for a person to do without straight-up removing his or her genitals. Furthermore, I disagree with the notion that using a photo of one’s child on FB is a “clear and deliberate” subversion of sexuality. First of all, let us not forget that sex is one of the main ways to make children. The mere fact of having a child, in many cases, basically means you put out. Even if your child was conceived via IVF, turkey baster, people you’ve never even met, or some other means (and as tempting as it is, let’s not bring Todd Akin into this discussion), it’s probably fair to say that you have put out at some point, or at the very least that you don’t hate the idea. This whole argument smells weirdly of the whole Madonna/Whore dichotomy, like sexuality and children are mutually exclusive. (Obvious disclaimer: NO WAY IN HELL am I advocating the integration of the two in the manner of Jerry Sandusky—but I would still say that sex and children are related concepts.) And besides—even if a woman DOES choose to “leach herself of sexuality” by way of her Facebook profile picture (whether by posting a photo of her child, or of herself clad in fencing gear, a Richard Nixon Halloween costume, or my favorite underwear)—so what? Is the author implying that open displays of sexuality and vanity are the only means by which a woman can/should express herself?
  3. As far as “putting the innocent face of a child in the place of an attractive mother” . . . Well. Show of hands: who here thinks ALL mothers are attractive? Beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder (can I get a witness?), so I’d venture to say that nearly everyone is attractive to SOMEONE (as it should be). But if you honestly think that being (a) a mother, and/or (b) a woman automatically makes a person attractive in any sort of general sense, you must not watch much reality TV (which is also as it should be, but still, you should really get out more).
  4. I just can’t get comfortable with what the author seems to be implying with this whole paragraph, which is that a woman is somehow less of a woman, or is failing to adequately express herself as a woman, if she fails to wear cute shoes (as opposed to “sneakers every day”), make regular visits to the hairdresser, and get herself all preened up.  (For the record, I’ve been known to go years without a haircut, and while I wouldn’t advise it, I resent the idea that I’m less “hot” (which apparently equals “less female”) because of it. Also, I don’t wear makeup. I know, right? I’m practically John Holmes swingin’ it up in here. Watch out lest I spin around too quickly.) I realize (or I think, anyway) that what she’s getting at here is that you should think you’re  beautiful enough to use your own picture on your FB page—not a photo of your child. But I’m here to tell you that I think I’m a total hot tamale (hel-LO-oh, does the name InstaPrincess tell you NOTHING?)—and any “failure” of mine to use my own face on my page does not diminish or negate that fact, but rather is merely an indication that I’ve lucked upon a photo of my (equally beautiful) child that I really, really like and want to share. As soon as someone takes another awesome photo of me that I feel trumps the kid photo, I’ll update.

What if Facebook pages are only the beginning? What if passports and driver’s licences are next? What if suddenly the faces of a generation were to disappear, and in their places were beaming toddlers? Who will mourn these vanished ladies, and when will Betty Friedan rest in peace?

Weren’t Betty and her cohorts fighting for women to have more freedom? Including, one might suppose, the freedom to express themselves however they might choose? Would it really help Ms. Friedan rest more peacefully knowing that women are being told that their only choice for proper self-expression is to set their sneakers ablaze, shove their “girls” into push-up bras, and smile for the webcam? The irony burns.


Now. Here is why you can take what I’m saying with a grain of salt:

  1. You can pretty much take anything with a grain of salt. In fact, you should probably take most things with a grain of salt, except then you’d get all bloated and unattractive which, if you’re a woman, might cause you to grow a penis, depending on what shoes you’re wearing.
  2. Confession: I did not plan to have children. Liked (some of) the ones other people had, but did not want them for myself. When I realized, based on the prophetic powers of my urine combined with a small plastic stick, that I was going to have a kid, I knew that I was going to want to talk about it obsessively—because that’s what I do when something (big or small) happens to me. So I started a club. Not officially, of course—there are no dues or secret handshakes—but I just started inviting other people who had recently become parents to bring their kids to my house and hang out with me. In order to seem less transparently needy and desperate, I called them play dates (and sometimes even came up with a cute theme or activity for the kids, like a bug hunt or a backyard movie) but seeing as I started hosting them before any of the kids in question could move or even see more than a foot ahead, let’s be real: they were (and are) all about finding an appropriate audience for my endless blather about parenthood—and happily offering full reciprocation (and booze!) in return. Yes, I work outside the home. Yes, I read books. Yes, I enjoy running, reading, yoga, and pretending to be Sheila E. But dammit, sometimes I just wanted to talk about my nipples and the things I found in my son’s diaper (and know that I wasn’t alone in my horror over what happens when you feed a toddler too many blueberries)—or, lately, the hilarious things he says* and the sheer insanity that ensues when you’re trying to choose a good day care facility. Doing this makes it possible for me to engage socially at other times with people who don’t want to hear ALLLLL about my kid. But for the record, I could conceivably be one of those dinner-party boors.
  3. I do have a particular aversion to the idea that certain interests/topics of conversation somehow trump others when it comes to Living a Life Worthwhile. And it’s a hill on which I’ve been dying for quite some time. When I was in my late 20s, I spent every Friday night at my mom’s house; we ate bad food, watched worse TV, and chatted about whatever random topics struck us as worthy of discussion. Inevitably, the end of the week would roll around;  one or another of my friends would invite me somewhere on a Friday night and, upon being turned down, give me a hard time about it, insisting that I should be out LIVING! Discussing literature over wine! Checking out this or that new band! Doing tequila shots and grinding up against my girlfriends on the dance floor! Etc.! LIVING!  Etc.! Not lying around in my PJs with my mom! But . . . why? Why is a drunken argument about Infinite Jest or getting my butt rubbed by a tipsy “WOO-girl” while Sir Mix-a-Lot booms at a deafening volume somehow better “living” than spending time with someone I love? I have never understood that. So my feelings on this particular issue may be somewhat biased, owing to years of self-defense against those who judge me for how I choose to spend my free time.
  4. Confession #2: I would love to be a SAHM. Well, OK, not a stay-at-home MOM, exactly, because dude, my kid is four. People talk about the Terrible Twos, but honestly, I feel like the amount of time I’m able to tolerate unlimited exposure to him is inversely proportional to his age (a trend I’m sure will reverse at some point, but so far I feel like I was a much more patient Baby Mama than I am as the mother of the 4-and-a-half year-old Endless Inquisitor With Attitude that he’s become). So ideally, I’d get to take him to preschool about three days a week, and spend that precious time writing, cooking, and cleaning. That’s right; I LOVE TO COOK AND CLEAN. In fact, recently SkipFitz was considering applying for a (pretty lucrative) job that would have taken him out of town three whole days a week; and while I was initially hesitant about the whole situation (contrary to what he believes, I do like having him around most of the time), it didn’t take long for the fantasies to kick in about quitting my job and spending my days organizing our pantry, vacuuming closets, shining my husband’s dress shoes (oh, yes—I make a mean bootblack, Baby) and planning and preparing five-star meals for his weekends at home. And OK—maybe spending a couple of summer afternoons a week at the pool with the boy . . .  but I digress.) The point is that one could perceive me and my love affair with Mr. Clean as about the most anti-feminist sentiment there is. I still maintain that feminism is simply about women being able to choose—their lifestyles, their careers, their healthcare options, what they do for fun, their shoes, and for God’s sake, their Facebook profile photos—for themselves. But your mileage may vary.

And, in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

*Last weekend, the boy, his father, and I spent the day at a local amusement park. This was the boy’s first visit wherein he was tall enough to eschew the super-duper-slow-moving kiddie rides and enjoy some of the more intermediate rides (with an adult). After he and his father exited a ride most frequently known as the Octopus, I asked him if it had been fun; he informed me (LOUDLY) that it had “made all the air come out of [his] penis.” I’ve been looking for a way to work that into this blog, because come on; that is poetry, right there.

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).


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.