Archive | April 2013

Who Cheesed My Move?– Why You Shouldn’t Hire A Mover Named Cheese

“Name’s Luther,” he said, extending his mitt of a hand out for me to shake, “but you can call me Cheese.”

Ok, Mr. Cheese, I thought, trying to think of a joke about that stupid book Who Moved My Cheese?

I felt unsettled by how long he held my hand and then winked at me.  Before he picked up so much as shoe box, there was a puddle of sweat pooled around the top layer of his neck flesh.  I wondered if he was diabetic because I once read a book about a girl who realized she was diabetic because she sweat all the time. Please don’t die until you load the truck, I prayed because I am a good-hearted person.

I watched Luther-Cheese and his two helpers hoist all of my possessions on their backs with nothing but a frayed mesh rope. I didn’t watch them closely.  For one thing all the sweat grossed me out.  Plus, my possessions were grad school chic– the nicest thing I owned was a third-hand bookshelf that was crap to begin with.

I couldn’t wait to get settled in my new place 80 blocks north. Like my childhood hero George Jefferson, I was moving on up. My “deluxe apartment” wasn’t exactly in the sky– it was on the third floor of a walk-up.  I was most excited to leave behind my grad school roommate who was “finishing up his dissertation” by guzzling Folgers coffee by the pot and playing solitaire all day long in his bathrobe.  I judged him because I am not a perfect person.

I was going to be living alone outside the cocoon of student housing for the first time. I saw Luther-Cheese’s smallest helper– an almost-infirm 65-year old man– drop my computer on the stairs. When he looked up and saw me watching him, I saw in his toothless grin an expression I hated. “Whatcha gonna do about it?” he dared me.

We both knew I wouldn’t do jack about it, because I was 25 and couldn’t think of anything to do.

Luther-Cheese found me when they were done loading up. “You’re gonna take care of my guys, right?” Did he mean blow jobs?  My face betrayed that I had no idea what he meant.

“We should each get a generous tip. Cash.” He winked again.

Jesus, maybe he did mean blow jobs.

I’d like to report I had the good sense to be pissed off. Or afraid. Or that I had burly friends who would meet me at my new place to play the bigger cheese to Luther-Cheese. None of that happened.

I stopped by the ATM machine to withdraw enough money to give them each a $50.00 tip, even though they had broken my computer and a dining room chair.

They refused to unload the truck until I paid their tips.  As I handed the Cheese trio their $150.00 in tips, I prayed they would think it was enough.  Luther-Cheese counted his wad right in front of me, then hurled my bed onto his back and disappeared up the stairs.  They unloaded boxes with the care that two-year olds hopped up on candy corns treat their toys.

“Can I have a hug?” Luther-Cheese asked as he finished.  I hated him, but was four years from learning I didn’t have to hug a sweaty old man.

I hugged him and then bolted the locks behind him– because I am a good-hearted person but not perfect.

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Bouncy Houses Bring Out My Hate

As I stood at Pump It Up staring up at my 2-year old calling my name across the crowded room filled with motorized inflatable slides, I had an A-HA! moment.  We were at our fifth jumpy house birthday party in about as many weeks and I’d been trying to deconstruct my distaste for the experiences since week 1.

Paging Dante. Time to update your rings of hell.  Image credit: http://growingupfortcollins.com/pump-up/

Paging Dante. Time to update your rings of hell. Image credit: http://growingupfortcollins.com/pump-up/

I gave my jeans an upward yank to spare the parents a view of my mom thong and headed up the “stairs” to help Simon get down from the slide that scared the bejesus out of him just enough to cry for me but not enough to keep him off it.  It was my third trip up to “rescue” him.  Little kids were pushing past me and stepping on my head to get up before me.  At one point I had a Spiderman shoe in my cheek, while another kid dressed as Batman grabbed my ass (surely just to have a good foundation for his next step up the ladder).

As Simon and I swooshed down the slide together– my hair doing that really hot static-y thing that happens when you slide around all morning on inflatable nylon surfaces– I knew exactly why I hated these things.

They make me hate children.

All children, including mine and yours and everyone else’s.  It’s at the bouncy houses that I feel every inch of our evolutionary past.  The violence.  The struggle.  The hunting. The gathering. The survival of the fittest.

The good news is that I hate the adults too.  I hated the dads for being able to sit back and feign cluelessness about what exactly is supposed to happen during those parties.  Hey, Chuck, Ervin, and John, you are supposed to get your ass up on these stupid things and help your kids.

I was totally jealous (which is the Southern version of hate) of the other mothers who (1) forgot their socks so couldn’t get on any of the “equipment” (freaking genius move) or (2) were out walking on the lake while their husbands manned the birthday party or (3) somehow were able to stand around in cute ballet flats while I flailed around trying to keep their children from sexually molesting me.

When I finally caught my breath and struck up a conversation with one of the other mothers, guess who showed up all needy and wanting to cuddle.  Yep, both of my kids. Moooooommmmmyyy, when do we get cake? Hold me.

I really wanted to say, “Don’t touch me.  Go play.”

They, of course, were having none of it. I wandered around holding both of my kids and whispering in their ears to please, please go play or we’ll leave before cake.

I also play this sick joke on myself every time: I tell myself it will be fine once we get to the food part. Just hang on, they are about to feed the kids pizza and cake; you’re home free. Honest to goodness, it’s like I’ve never done this before.

When the food comes out, I have to keep both of my kids from body slamming other children so they can steal their juice boxes.  Or face planting into the cake.  One of them always falls off the bench, so I end up cradling a crying child while trying to scoop their leftovers into my mouth with dignity.

Then, as if Satan hadn’t had enough fun, we are given a balloon on our way out.  What does a fragile, sugar-poisoned mother child NOT need? A balloon.  You know what balloons do? They fly away in the parking lot so now I have one child with a balloon and the other with a balloon-shaped hole in her psyche. It’s so awesome to drive with a helium balloon bobbing in my rearview mirror.  By awesome, I mean safe.

So, for those of you keeping track those parties make me hate: children, adults, ballet flats, cuddling, pizza, cake, balloons.  What’s next? Ryan Gosling?

Mom, Tell Us That Story About Poop Again

I don’t mean to brag, but I tell the most enchanting bedtime stories to my kids.  For my age group, I bet I am in the top 500 of story tellers for young kids.  Every single night my kids are subjected treated to my original-ish tales spun from the depths of my being– that nook in my soul where my heart and imagination overlap. Into each story I weave morals and whimsy and bubblegum.  There’s always bubblegum.  And unicorns.  Gotta have mythical horned equines.

I’m proud of the body of work in my bedtime stories portfolio.  I call myself Hans “Christie” Andersen.

But, no matter how fantastic the tale, or how many packs of gum my plucky protagonist buys at the local drug store before riding her unicorn to the chocolate water slide park, my kids always prefer the stories that feature poop. They don’t care about my use of alliteration, foreshadowing or magical realism.

They want the poop.

Mommy, tell the story about the time the armadillo pooped on your legs.

Um, ok.  Sometimes I am too tired to fight, so I surrender my dignity and my agenda.  “Ok, guys.  Once I was a camp counselor and this super hot counselor fell deeply in love with me so he captured an armadillo by the trash dumpsters and waved it in front of me.  Unfortunately, the armadillo was so scared that it’s anus opened up and out poured– poured– armadillo crap all over my legs.”

Again, Mommy! Again!

If I am feeling feisty or if I just ate, I refuse to give them what they are begging for.  Like an aging rocker who refuses to play the hits that made her famous, I force stories they could care less about down their throats. Here’s a new story I’ve been working on!  They groan and try to leave the room.  But I make them stay because I am sure the story about the brave young girl who used a lightsaber to conquer evil with her best friend, a hairy kindergartener named Chewbacca (FN1), is going to become their new favorite . . .  even though there’s no poop in Star Wars.

Spoiler alert: Their favorite stories must feature poop.  And not poop-as-a-bit-player.  They want a story were poop is the star with its own trailer and hairstylist and a three-page list of imported snacks it wants.

Their fascination with fecal matter grows stronger everyday.  I made the mistake of talking to my dad on speaker phone in the car the other day.  He told a charming story about how my nephew Thomas had explosive diarrhea in Chipotle.  “We got him to the bathroom just in time,” Dad explained, assuming for some reason I needed any of those details.

Sadie could not let this go.  “What were you talking about?” she asked the second I got off the phone. I know she heard every word.  And I knew it would become her new favorite story.  “Tell me about when cousin Thomas almost pooped his pants in Chipotle.”

I always stall.  “That’s so boring. Everyone on the world has that experience in Chipotle. Let me tell you a story about Wagnerian opera or the origins of chess or how Calliou lost his hair.”

Nope. She wants a poop story, so unless the Ring is really about an epic, 15-hour crap, she’s not interested.

But, I’m still fighting the good fight– trying to tell my tales without talking about good old number 2.  I’m losing, but I am still fighting.  It’s such a shame that all my staggering talent is going to waste.

* * *

FN 1: I said my stories were original-ish.  It’s a staple of my repertoire to reimagine well-known stories with all female characters.  Pin that on your “Feminist Ideas” page.

Getting My Woo Woo On And Going To A Vision Workshop

I’ve been looking for a silver bullet.  Not a real silver bullet.  Metaphorical, strictly metaphorical.

I want that thing that will make all my dreams come true and fix the noise in my head. Are you familiar with noise? I’m taking about the noise that whisper-shouts You’re not doing it right! You should be doing that other thing!  Cagey bastard that it is, as soon as I pick that other thing it shouts something new, like You took too long get to this! It’s too late!  You’re never gonna get it right!

So I want a silver bullet to make the noise stop.  Here’s what I’ve tried just this year:

  • meditation
  • exercise
  • going to bed earlier
  • abstaining from TV (except Mad Men)
  • cutting out ice cream
  • distracting myself with busy-ness
  • shopping
  • returning the things I bought shopping
  • new hairstyle
  • decluttering
  • going back to work
  • being nicer to my husband
  • eating less animal products
  • washing my hands more often
  • coloring with crayons
  • gratitude lists

So far none of those have “worked” to my satisfaction, though I could certainly pursue some of them with more commitment. *cough* Meditation *cough*  Certain wise, spiritual leaders have counseled that I accept that the relentless voice is inside me and may be there forever.

I am all about acceptance.  (No I am not.) But before I go and do something certifiable like actually accepting my life (and my brain) exactly as it is, I have one more trick up my sleeve.

Martha Beck on Oprah discussing Vision Boards (image from http://marthabeck.com/2008/07/the-subtle-tricks-to-building-an-effective-vision-board/)

Martha Beck on Oprah discussing Vision Boards (image from http://marthabeck.com/2008/07/the-subtle-tricks-to-building-an-effective-vision-board/)

A vision workshop.  Yessiree, I am going to dip my toe into the woo woo this weekend and attend a vision workshop that is designed to help bring clarity to my vision and move me further from “vision to reality.”  The directions say to bring scissors, glue stick and magazines to make a “vision board.”  Also $25.00 for the cost of the workshop.

It’s the latest incarnation of my silver bullet thinking.  I am not treating this as an exercise as part of a larger mosaic of mindful living or intentionality.  Nope. I want this to be the thing that magically quiets the noise and brings about a lasting peace in my soul about every last thing I do.  For starters, I want this vision to help me understand my confusing relationship to the legal field and why I am so yell-y at the end of the day with my kids.

Oh, I’m going to need a roll of butcher paper to make my vision board because I want it all.

There are tangible things I want to materialize in my life. Like a literary agent who will be New York-y stylish and passionate about my writing.  Or a solution to my fears about commuting next school year and some guarantees around my and Jeff’s work.  And I’m vain, so I want these unfortunate bangs to grow out already.

But there are also immeasurable, internal shifts I would like to see in myself.  Like patience– with myself, my kids, the process of healing my own heart and that of this fractured world.  I can’t picture what I’d cut out of a magazine that would represent how I want to feel inside but it would have to be a picture of something vast, sturdy, expansive and unknown.

What’s the picture that says all this: I want to be more comfortable in this almost 40-year-old skin of mine; I want to let go of seeking every solution under the great blue sky to make Simon sleep past 5:30; I want to read, write, laugh and love more; I want more freedom, self-assurance, and availability to serve others.

I’m going to spend hours some time on Google Images– let me know if you have any tips.

Top 8 Mistakes People Shouldn’t Make When Setting Up Single Friends

You’ve got a single friend and you want to set her up.  I get that.   I want my single friends to have their plus ones, feel sexually sated, and enjoy walking through life with their best friend slash partner.  Just like I am.

And as someone who was set up a billion many times, I have some advice for you would-be match makers.  Your single friends will thank you for keeping the following guidelines in mind.  Do it for them. Do it in the name of friendship.  For the love of Chuck Woolery, just do it.

Chuckie W!

Chuckie W!

  1. If you set someone up with a man who has recently recovered from a traumatic brain injury– one that left him literally comatose for a year– you should let your friend know.  That way when she’s asking him about his life, say what he did during 2004, she’ll understand when he says, “I don’t know.”
  2. If your lady friend is sober and says she wants to date men who do not drink alcohol, don’t set her up with the boozer who’s been on a “straight Tequila diet” since his mother passed away three years ago.  Also, don’t send him over to your friend’s house after he’s had 4 tall boys while watching the Cubs all afternoon.
  3. If your friend is a card-carrying member of the ACLU and stridently supports gay rights, think twice — hell, think four times– before you set her up with your red-state bestie who thinks his “Texas is for steers not queers” t-shirt is a good choice for date numero uno. Or ever.
  4. If your friend happens to be named after the savior of the Christian world– say “Christie” or something like that– do not set her up with a man who will only marry a woman from another religion.  Think long and hard about setting her up with a man from your temple who only wants to date a nice Jewish girl.
  5. It’s awesome if you have a male friend who has a boat and is looking for a nice lady friend.  But when you go to set him up with your single girlfriend, you could mention to her that the boat is his sole remaining possession after his house was foreclosed and his car was repossessed.  That way she’ll understand why he can’t give her a ride home and it will answer the peculiar riddle where does he live? (On the boat, of course.)
  6. Who doesn’t love a sensitive man?  I know I do.  If you have one in mind for your single friend, feel free to set ‘em up.  However, if Mr. Sensitive is just coming out of a break-up, say 7 hours earlier in the student lounge of his elite law school, maybe take a step back.  It’s gonna get awkward when Mr. Sensitive cries during the salad course because he misses the woman who dumped him after Constitutional law class hours before.
  7. Your single guy friend loves down-to-Earth women.  Your single lady friend could not be any more down-to-Earth unless she was buried alive.  You can picture dancing at their wedding.  But hold off on drafting your toast to the happy couple if your male friend has a policy that he hates certain professions bitterly– law, for example– and can’t seem to get through dinner without telling her every single lawyer joke he knows.  He’ll end up laughing, but it won’t be funny to her.  Not every girl wants to defend her profession during dinner.
  8. Don’t set your single girl friends up with men you know are gay.  That includes men you know who have male lovers with whom they dress up like superheroes for Halloween.  It happened to me a friend of mine and it wasn’t pretty when she fell for him, but he was not really looking for her to be Robin to his Batman.

How A 10-Year Old Plans To Renovate A House

“Dad, can we please go get some paint today?” I asked for the 43rd time since I hatched my renovation plans.  I knew I was whining, but I couldn’t stop myself.  I was tired of trying to reason with him.  Why was it so hard for him to understand that a 10-year old has dreams, big dreams, and it was his job to support them?

Dad adjusted his baseball cap and gave me the answer I dreaded most, “We’ll see.” Translation: No.

He didn’t get it.  I thought about my upcoming babysitting gigs and calculated the money.  I’d earn about $7.00 per night, and I had three gigs lined up.  Was $21.00 enough to score 4 gallons of paint?

Very similar to the "$200 house" (Image credit: http://www.fotothing.com/CountryRoads/photo/226891b1d0de666511d3bd732f10c365/)

Very similar to the “$200 house” (Image credit: http://www.fotothing.com/CountryRoads/photo/226891b1d0de666511d3bd732f10c365/)

What Dad– and no one else– could see was the picture in my mind.  I had a clear vision– I was going to transform the rotten shack behind my Grandma’s farmhouse into a cottage.  Dubbed the $200 house by everyone in my family for its apparent value, it had become my obsession.    All they could see were rusty nails, rotten boards, and rat turds.  I saw freshly painted walls, repaired windows, and a newly shingled roof.

I would do it myself.  I had a multi-step plan and the first step was paint.  I’d hit several roadblocks, namely my dad and my inability to ride my bike as far as the nearest Benjamin Moore store.

I decided to move on to step 2.

Curtains.

I was going to make curtains for those windows that had been blown out by the Texas prairie winds.  Because my father didn’t care about my future in design I approached my mom.

“Mom, can you take me to a fabric store to get material for curtains?” I acted nonchalant, because mom wasn’t a huge fan of me hanging out where the likelihood that I would end up needing emergency tetanus shots was almost guaranteed.

“What for?” she asked.

Screw her.  She was already giving me the third degree about my window treatments.  She was a dead-end just like Dad. My Grandma could get me some material but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by rejecting her country kitchen patterns. I wanted something fancy.  Something from Dallas.

I took matters into my own hand and pedaled to TG&Y to get some material.  All I could find was plastic tablecloths, which I decided would be good.  It’s only temporary until I’m allowed to bike all the way to a real curtain store.

Eventually, my dad agreed to get me some paint.  I spent hours slathering coats of pale blue paint on top of the half-papered walls.  The picture in my mind grew more vivid as I refused to accept that the $200 house was never going to look like a cottage.  I was never going to have sleepovers there.  It was a shack and that’s all it ever would be.

Grandma joked, “Save your energy. The only thing that old house needs is a match.”

No! I wouldn’t give up.  Maybe a rug? Maybe some air freshener?

I grew despondent.  “Dad, how come I can’t make the $200 house look beautiful? I can see it in my mind!”

“Sweetie, maybe your mind is more beautiful than the world knows how to be.”

Saying Goodbye To Teaching: Take Three

If you played with me from the years 1976-1981 we would have played school. I would have been the teacher.  And because I was a great teacher, you’d have been my pupil, because good teachers have students; the great ones have pupils.

Every birthday I asked for my teacher supplies to be replenished: chalk, paper, red apples for my desk. Every professional dream I had until I was in my 20s was to be a teacher.

You can buy this on Etsy, but not for me. Wah! (http://www.etsy.com/listing/124252898)

You can buy this on Etsy, but not for me. Wah! (http://www.etsy.com/listing/124252898)

I remember the day my mom told me that I didn’t have to be a nun to be a teacher, which was my mis-impression from years of Catholic schooling. I almost choked on my Tang. Why didn’t you tell me? I can teach and marry Tad Martin from All My Children?  It was the best day of my first decade of life.

My career path was settled.  Eventually, I honed in on my discipline– English. I could picture my future Christmas trees decorated with hand-painted apples that my students made for me.  I’d have a whole jewelry box full of education-themed charms and brooches.

And yet twice I’d walked away from the profession.

After a student teaching stint in rural Texas I got cold feet. The students were bigger than I was, and it seemed like there were hundreds of them crammed into desks. There weren’t enough books!  I couldn’t believe the state of public education. I couldn’t stomach the penury of teaching in a private school.  Subjectively, it didn’t feel like I always thought it would.  Real life teaching had to live up to two decades of fantasies and dozens of influential teachers like Sister Annel, Senora Benke, and Ms. VanHoozer.

So I bailed. I dashed off to graduate school so I could become a professor. Maybe if I teach at the college level it will feel “right.”  But it didn’t. There was too much reading, loneliness, and pressure.  Everyone I knew was depressed about the publish or perish mandate. I fled the ivory tower faster than I fled that over-crowded classroom in Texas.

Today I’m bailing for the third time. This time, I am stepping away from teaching legal writing.  If teaching was Jesus, I’d be Peter and a cock would be crowing.  I’m teaching my last legal writing class and feeling that familiar mix of relief that the interminable grading and lesson planning is over but sadness for the realization (again) that teaching isn’t for me.

Because it’s not. Not now. Students deserve more than I have to give; I deserve to follow the barely visible trail of my true bliss; my husband deserves a life without me whining about grading papers.

I can see teaching in my rearview mirror and the little girl in me is mystified that we are breaking up again.  She’s annoyed that I don’t like it and that I don’t think I should do things I don’t like.  I am consoling her as we prepare our goodbye remarks and prepare to live different dreams.

It’s going to be ok, I remind her.  You deserve to do something you love today not something you thought you would love when you were a little girl.  It’s ok to outgrow your old dreams.

I hope I’m right!