A Day in PA

It was a great bookend to a very bizarre weekend that involved a new car and a fire, both of which I am not authorized to discuss publicly. Not to mention a shocking Superbowl win for the Patriots.

My mom had oral surgery yesterday morning and everyone knows you need a driver for that kind of stuff and as the daughter it’s my job to get her there. And take pictures.

So after a series of extremely fucked up dreams I fell into after each blood sugar check, all of which clearly indicate a very disturbed subconscious – including being detained at the airport because I was carrying pump supplies which weren’t authorized and another dream about being summoned by a mean spirit who lives in the restaurant who meant to harm me – I got two kids off to school without missing any busses and twenty minutes later I was on my way to PA.

Anyway, the drive was mostly uneventful, at least until I got to a major intersection where my right turn lane had the green arrow and I was following the cars in front of me into that turn when all of a sudden, this car from the other side of the highway does a complete U-turn right into me. Slammed the brakes, she slammed the brakes, and I could literally see the whites of her eyes while I lost my shit through my closed window.

Fact: U-turns are ILLEGAL in Pennsylvania. I know this because – born and raised – and lived 44 years (minus 3 in New York) in Pennsylvania. Had I not been on a tight timetable, I might have let her hit me. Just because I’m crazy enough to teach the little bitch a lesson in driving safety and another little something called, The Law.

So Mom goes to the oral surgeon. Except I’m driving and she keeps telling me where to go like I haven’t grown up in this town and don’t know my way around, and then she doesn’t even know where his office is, except I do because I’ve already been there with Opac. She gets out of the car and notes the concrete steps she’ll have to navigate on the way out when she’s all loopy. I told her I’d move the damn car after she went in. No, it’s okay, she said. I give her a pass, since she’s been up for 3 hours and hasn’t had coffee yet and I know how that feels.

So the procedure took about an hour or so and then she was in recovery and they come get me. I know many people have been there with their parents and/or have lost parents, but I have been doubly blessed to have both of mine and they’re healthy, so my eyes watered when I saw her. She was still coming out of the anesthesia so she was sleepy-eyed and her right cheek was bulging with gauze. She looked over at me and I held up my phone and, say cheese! Her eyes narrowed and I told her I was just kidding, because I was.

She was lucid enough to talk, and she was saying stuff to me I couldn’t understand – one, because I’m hard of hearing, and two, because her mouth is stuffed with gauze and so all I hear is wuh wuh wuh wuh ah buh wuh unh huh. And I’m pissed, because she is still in recovery and maybe I’m missing some really good shit here. But eventually she told me to go ahead and take the pic, and she posed with the bulging gauzed-out cheek and her eyes shut and her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth. We sent it to a friend and I captioned it, they said it’ll be another 2o minutes or so until she can get her tongue back in her mouth. And I started laughing so hard I was crying, and then Mom started sniggling and it was hard because she couldn’t feel the right side of her face which was even funnier.

We eventually got the all-clear and she got her exit papers. We made a drug run to CVS where she made new friends as she waited with this giant ice pack pressed to her cheek, and I repressed my desire to blurt out that she was in a bar brawl, and then I took her home and made my way back to Maryland. But I can’t do this without passing through part of my old hometown, which is full of wonder and excitement that only the fully initiated can appreciate. I passed a woman standing on the side of the street in a camouflage bathrobe and flip flops, a winter hat with the ball on top that was bright blue with white snowflakes on it and a scarf wrapped around her face so only her eyes were visible. She was pacing back and forth. This is Pottstown at its finest, folks. I just can’t make this shit up.

I made it back home with 10 minutes to spare before the kids got there…by some miracle after being cut off, tailgated, and narrowly avoiding what should have been a 10-car pile-up on Route 100 in Lionville (for those who know) when this woman threw on her right turn signal and just merged without ever looking. Thank God for the car in front of me and their quick reflexes, because otherwise we were all going down.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland…

Ever have one of those days where you’re sure the universe is trying to tell you something? I think yesterday was that day. Besides the rainy day and the PA drivers living up to their stellar reputation for dangerous driving, I rushed home to find our garage door open – which has done so spontaneously now 3 times and so it’s been disconnected. I was gone all day, and I have no idea when it opened.

Then the kids descended on the house with their own level of chaos, ransacking the kitchen and scaring the dog and the cat, whose tail puffed out like a deployed airbag. And then they’re arguing with each other, which seems impossible when they’ve been apart for 8 hours. And then I get the news that the toilet is clogged again. And no one knows how it happened.

Rush hour here looks like: hurry up and make dinner, feed the pets, drag the kids out of their bedrooms where they’re both practically asleep, clean up dinner and dishes, process two loads of laundry, unclog a toilet and finish the vacuuming started by Veruca, who was ordered to clean up her mess under the counter. Fruity Pebbles are the annoying glitter of the cereal world.

How did it end? On the couch with V – watching old episodes of X-Files. Todd finally rolled in around 10 and I might have been awake for a whole 20 minutes after.

 

 

 

 

 

Three Years Later

It happened again. Another anniversary crept up on me before I even realized it was happening. It turns out today is the 3rd anniversary of our move to Maryland. If this is news to you, and you really want the back story, there are links at the end of this post. For the purposes of this post, however, I had to go back and revisit Two Years Later just to see how things have changed.

Three years later, our lives have seen some big changes and we’ve said some goodbyes. We said goodbye to elementary school, as Veruca “graduated” the 5th grade. We said goodbye to Neph, who decided to move back home. We said goodbye to Pi. She lived a long and happy life, but she was ready long before we would ever be. So, we now have just one dog and one cat, and no plans to add to the brood. Some extended-family dynamics changed as well, which are better left unsaid.

Three years later, Opac has returned to football after a broken collarbone acquired during practice tackling drills last year. He is starting this year as a JV defensive lineman. I heard his name and jersey number announced for the first time last night, when he ran the ball runner out of bounds. Proud momma moment! He’s still an honor student… nothing new to see here. He still likes his rap music, but he has recently discovered the WWF of the 1980s and loves replaying videos of his favorites, Randy Savage and Rick Flair. I wish I could just explain the irony of this.

Three years later, Veruca has started middle school. It was a much easier transition than I expected. I was much less emotional about it than I was when O started. This year, V has met two other girls in her grade with Type 1 diabetes, and it’s had a very interesting and positive effect on her. And, after much deliberation, she returned to cheer this year, but I think this is going to be the last year. She’s ready to try something new, and I admit I’m ready to put an end to six days a week of running kids to and from practices/sports.

Three years later, we didn’t do any major renovations around the house, but we did some minor things in preparation for my in-laws’ 50th anniversary party. Which we hosted here. It was a bit stressful in the month leading up to it, but the party itself turned out great and we had gorgeous weather. We had a tent, live music, and a neighbor hollered at one of our guests parking on the street.

Three years later, Todd is still a professor. He’s taken a step back from more intense responsibilities but if you ask me, I think he’s now climbing the walls. He is still working on that personal and potentially very lucrative project that I mentioned briefly last year. Breath held. Meanwhile – and I know this will come as a shock to those who know me – I’m still working in the restaurant business. Somehow I think I will die there, and they’ll bury me under the bar. However, I am also doing some grant research and writing – I’m really enjoying it and I’m hoping to see it develop more in the coming year.

Three years later, the apartment we said we’d never rent – is occupied. No worries – it’s a good thing. A good friend of ours was in need, and the timing was good. You know the family you get and the family you choose? He’s the family we choose. There’s a lot of trust there, and for that I’m grateful.

Three years later, and this is a big one – Todd and I finally got that vacation. It was shorter than we would’ve liked, but it was longer than a weekend and we were alone.

Three years later, I’m a Marylander. I’m not just visiting, I’m not a new resident, I LIVE HERE. I no longer feel like an outsider, I truly feel like I belong here.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Changing Places – The Prequel

Changing Places – Moving Day

Changing Places – We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

**Disclaimer: I don’t use the upgraded service; therefore, you will see ads at the bottom of my posts (ads I don’t see because I’m not you). As it has come to my attention that certain ads may not align with my world views – I am compelled to add the following statement until further notice.

I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP. NOT YESTERDAY, NOT TODAY, NOT – EVER.

 

 

 

Dad

 

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It’s taken me a very long time to sit down and write this. It’s difficult to explain – it’s not anything bad or to suggest indifference, but I just can’t seem to put this relationship into words. Or, maybe, I just don’t want to share it with anyone else.

In brief public statements, I have often said he’s the first man who ever loved me. It’s cute – and meant to be – but it is also the truth. To a little girl, the first man to love her will set the standard for all her expectations in the future. It is an awesome responsibility and, while there are a great many who met the challenge, there are also many who fell short whether by intention or by virtue of being broken themselves. I wanted to acknowledge the latter, because I have a few friends who feel let down by the first man they put their trust in. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I was an accident. Accident – because my mom and dad were dating and they were 19, and “apparently” they weren’t thinking about the consequences of certain actions. They were in love, I guess, and in the late 60s people got married under these circumstances. To make a short story even shorter, the marriage didn’t last.

Statistically, divorced fathers of children under the age of 5 are at a very high risk of not being involved in their children’s lives, or abandon them altogether. I was lucky.

The first man who loved me, loved me from the start. (And if he didn’t – no one ever told me any different.) I was lucky.

My dad was there for me. I never had a doubt of this – at any part of my life. I have snippets of memory of a life lived with him, when I was very small – more mundane than worth writing about, and mostly snapshots of the home I don’t remember.

He gave me the greatest, most enduring gift a father can give, besides his own love and support – he gave me my family. I am 75-and-one-quarter percent who I am because of them. They are my most valuable treasure.

Dad and I spent every Sunday together. We spent time with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. He taught me how to swim before I could walk. He taught me how to play pool and basketball.

He took me on wonderful adventures. He took me on a twin-engine plane ride. We went ice skating. We visited Washington, D.C. and New York City. We spent many summers at the Jersey Shore, and he posed for an Old-Time photo with me when I was 13.

We went away a couple of times to spend long winter weekends in the Catskills at a friend’s house, where I fed birds and deer from my hand, went tobogganing with the other kids, and walked across frozen ponds on rope bridges.

For my 10th birthday, he took me on my first jet plane to Orlando – to visit the wonderful world of Disney. The following year we drove to Orlando, making stops in Colonial Williamsburg and South of the Border, where I got a toy toilet that squirted water when I lifted the lid.

My dad took me to my first day of college, where he and my mother put aside their decade-old acrimony to smooth my transition. He supported my decision to transfer to a big city university two years later. He gave me the freedom to have no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up, so long as I chose something, which of course would never be set in stone forever.

He taught me to never be a quitter. He tangled with the tantrum years and the teenaged angst. He showed me his vulnerability when his father passed away, and it never scared me – but made me realize he was still just a [hu]man with a dad he dearly loved. He showed me how to honor family, by being there for his mother.

He walked me down the aisle of my first wedding, and gave me away to a man who wasn’t half the man he was. And when that marriage imploded, he took me into his home and gave me a sanctuary, held me when I cried, and talked me down off the ledge. He sat in the courtroom behind me. He is my greatest defender, perhaps eclipsed only by Todd today, and I know he is grateful if that’s a fact.

On the day I married Todd, he was there – silently standing at the back of the district courtroom. He didn’t walk me down the aisle, not because I didn’t want him to, but because he had taught me that I could stand on my own. On the day of our celebration, he hugged me and with a tear in his eye told me he loved Todd and was so glad he was my husband – and I knew to the core of my soul that he meant it.

We don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like, but we have frequent phone calls that I cherish for the laughter we share in those moments – the humor I inherited from him – we never have to explain what’s funny to each other.

I suppose I haven’t written about him because I cherish him so deeply, and I don’t really want to talk about it. Those who know me well, know the nature of our relationship, and I don’t have to explain it. It’s amazing. He has this ability – which I don’t think he’s aware of – of knowing when I need him, and he just shows up.

I don’t know what else to say. There’s so much more and I ramble too much. I also worry that I can’t do him justice.

He is my dad. I love him more than anything, and I am so blessed that God chose him for me.

 

Present State of Mind

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Written to the sound of my dove calling, a cool breeze coming through the window, and Todd on the phone doing damage control on his software program.

They drove me to drink. We have a community yard sale coming up this weekend and I decided to spend yesterday organizing my crap for that, rather than wait until the night before like I always seem to. I dug in to our “office,” where I had been hiding all this stuff during the party. I’m quite proud of myself for getting this done in light of my present apathy. And, during what sounded like an airstrike coming from above in the form of my two kids already pissing each other off less than a week since school ended.

The screeching sound of Veruca’s voice, coupled with the slamming of doors and dog’s nails running across the floors above me, sent my blood pressure aloft. I took a deep breath and ignored it. Tried to ignore it. Her voice, relentless as diabetes always is, reached a fevered pitch whereby I was sure she was in some imminent danger. I stalked upstairs and there they were, in the hall, Opac wielding a hand towel, and she – standing in her doorway – red-faced and angry as a rattlesnake.

What IS it with siblings? I just don’t get it. They regularly needle each other until one is certifiably homicidal, and in summer they like to take it to the next level. I was an only child, with the exception of a stepsister during my youngest years – and we did totally “hate” on each other, though it was never violent. I have a stepbrother who is 11 years my junior, who attempted to terrorize my 20-something self with practical jokes like removing all the screws from my bed frame and stealing my remote control, and at age 23 I got a baby brother. I was never really in a position to fight with the two of them – given my adult status. Nor did I care to. Occasionally I’d like to slap my little brother, but for reasons I don’t care to elaborate on today.

Meanwhile, back in the Cuckoo’s Nest, Veruca – as expected – was climbing up my ass and, apparently, looking for a time-out. Her constant interrogations left me feeling stabby and by 6:30 last night I snapped for the second time after I told her I was not going to discuss it anymore (it was a specific topic I answered once – about 8 hours before). It is times like this she is 100% her father and I just want to scream.

Opac had football practice last night, simultaneously with a cheer meeting for the junior league Veruca is in, and I spent two hours of my evening in a car with a daughter on crack – she didn’t stop talking for HOURS. It doesn’t seem so bad until she initiates every single God-forsakened sentence with “mom” or “I have a question.” And she requires acknowledgment that you heard her. I finally got home by 8 and decided that it was five o’clock, everywhere.

So, on this 4th day of summer vacation:

Football practice has begun with a bang – Opac reported nearly half the participants threw up during runs on the soccer field. He was “able to keep it together.”

Both kids’ bedrooms were thoroughly cleaned yesterday after mom’s meltdown. (Surprisingly, they took the threat of going nowhere that day seriously.)

I’ve coughed up $55 so far for cheer stuff and there’s more to come, but I got a $10 refund from the football coaches for a cancelled 7-on-7 at the YMCA.

I’ve been living on party leftovers – jerk chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, fresh mozzarella, hummus, and poached salmon. There’s still more left – so much so that I’m taking a detour today on my way to work to drop off some to my girlfriend.

I completely forgot Opac’s physical yesterday at the doctor’s.

Veruca has been watching The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I sat down with her to watch last night and was surprised to see Molly Ringwald, Bo Duke (!!!!), and Shailene Woodley. There’s an awful lot of conversation about sex on this show. Too much, if you ask me. But – she and I have an ongoing open conversation about this subject, so questions get answered on the regular. Recently, I corrected her pronunciation of testicles (it was hilarious), whereby she repeatedly asked me to stop saying the word with even more hilarious results. The whole thing left me punch drunk and I couldn’t help repeating testicles several times, once to Todd, which left her mortified.

Go ahead, say testicles out loud. Try it. I dare you not to laugh.

 

Being Jewish

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Above photo copyright The Tara Chronicles.

Yesterday I attended a Bat Mitzvah. In case you were wondering, I’m not Jewish. Half of my family is – the half I married when I married Todd. Todd is Jewish. He was Jewish when we were 16-17, and it meant absolutely nothing to me. That is, until his mom invited me to Passover. But that’s another story for another time, if I ever heal the scars of having to try to politely eat gefilte fish.

I wish I could tell you that he was Jewish and I was Catholic  – the religious Romeo and Juliet – stereotypical star-crossed lovers whose parents wept at the very thought of us staying together and destroying a family culture deeply rooted in tradition. It would make an exciting and dramatic screenplay. But, alas, we are not those two people, and our parents are not those parents. However, today as 40-somethings, we two are deeply spiritual people who still carry those very basic traditions that were instilled in each of us from childhood – but not so stringent as to separate us. I was born into a Catholic family who left the church and call myself a Christian who believes in Jesus. He is not. And it doesn’t matter to us, because we both believe that all people are children of God and OUR God doesn’t dictate to us who we should be. He loves each and every one of us. Okay – enough said.

So yesterday we drove an hour and a half to attend the Bat Mitzvah of his cousin’s daughter. I was eager to meet more of Todd’s extended family – those I hadn’t yet met from his mom’s side. But, secretly weary, after having attended Nephtoo’s Bar Mitzvah three years ago. I was going over what to wear, trying to encourage Veruca to wear something appropriate that wasn’t sports leggings and a sweatshirt. I was anticipating “the rules” of this event. At Nephtoo’s Bar Mitzvah, which was conducted in a Modern Orthodox synagogue, the men and women sat on opposite sides of the sanctuary. As this event took place during Shul, I was initially surprised that people were coming and going throughout the FOUR hours we sat there. As Veruca was just 7 years old (not to mention a Type 1 diabetic), we got up a handful of times for bathroom breaks and boredom busters.

I felt like a fish out of water. And not just a fish out of water – but a fish who just realized he made a wrong turn and ended up at a fish-fry. I tested Veruca’s blood sugar while we were sitting and, as is habit, dug through my purse to write it down on my little notepad. A stern looking woman two seats to my left was making hissing and spitting noises in my direction and I quickly learned I wasn’t “allowed” to be writing in Shul. I felt embarrassed, and a little bit indignant.

Later, at the Kiddush luncheon in the adjacent hall, a woman stopped Todd halfway across the room because he was holding Ava’s scale – and informed him that these video games were not permitted. Todd turned to her and curtly informed her it was a scale for weighing our type one diabetic daughter’s food. I watched her mouth snap shut, but the scathing expression never left her eyes.

So, after this experience, I was prepared for anything yesterday. Turns out – I didn’t have to be. This Bat Mitzvah was in a Reform synagogue, still rooted in the basic principles of Judaism but not Orthodox. The shul was lovely. There was music and singing and a cantor who played guitar and, as we were seated behind the immediate family, we were blessed with the beautiful singing voice of Emily’s oldest sister (who, it turns out, is an accomplished opera singer). The Rabbi was eloquent and humble, easy-going and humorous at times. The two hours went by nearly without notice, except for Veruca’s occasional question as to what time it was. And Emily was flawless and a lovely young lady.

I left feeling a renewed sense of family and community. Everyone was kind, warm, and welcoming. I have nothing against Orthodox – I just really felt like I had no place there and self-consciously (and maybe a bit paranoid) like I wasn’t welcome. Not by the family, not by any means… but by the congregation. Yesterday, it felt exactly the way Emily’s family said it felt to them – like a home.

Miscellaneous Tidbits…

According to Urban Dictionary, shul can be used to describe something cool, in a Jewish way. Those bagels with lox yesterday were totally shul(I think I like this way better than on fleek.)

According to the Talmud, one can be defiled by contact with or exchange of genital fluids and be considered unclean. This is what Todd and I were reading during the end of services. I whispered that I do believe I have been defiled. These fluids include semen and menstrual blood, by the way. A new way of thinking about your sex life, ya’ll.

And while we’re at it, a [married] woman’s right to sexual intercourse is called 0nah. Sex is the woman’s right, not the man’s. It is his duty to provide her with sex and make sure it is pleasurable for her. He is also obligated to decipher that she wants sex and to give it to her without her asking for it. Hot damn! Who’s converting??!

Wait a minute – not so fast! Orthodox women are considered unclean for two weeks surrounding their period, and cleanness is obtained by immersing in a kosher mikvah, otherwise known as a ritual pool. It is a ritual cleansing, rather than a physical one. It is also used in conversion. My mother-in-law (who, for the record, doesn’t do the mikvah) says the women are totally nude for this mikvah. Whoa! That’ll be all, thank you.

 

Grown up, But Not Fully Grown

I had to go out today because Opac forgot to take his medication. So I drove to the high school with impeccable and completely unplanned timing (since I can never remember his schedule), as he was in the middle of lunch. The office has a window looking out into the cafeteria, so I saw him coming from the other side of the room. His gait was tall and serious, like an FBI agent moving stealthily through a crowded airport. Of course he had no idea why he was being paged to the office, but I can’t imagine he’d be worried given that he’s, like, never in trouble.

He came in and was all business, took his pill and bid me goodbye in a formal way like a boss ending an interview. As I walked out the front doors, I giggled to myself. He’s so different in any school-related environment… cutting an austere figure with his mother in the presence of his peers. I wish I could say he’s trying to be the cool dude, but I don’t really believe he’s trying. I think he’s more just trying not to look like a doofus.

At home where he is relaxed, he is silly, loud, obnoxious, cool, and occasionally emotional and sensitive. He was home sick for 3 days last week and, while he usually is hiding out in his room, he spent most of those days on the couch hanging with me. I absolutely love the moments I can spend one-on-one with him, because they are fewer and farther between. He’s fifteen now. He’s in high school. He’s already anticipating being 16 this year and driving.  A car. In just three short years, my baby boy – the little man who snuggled against me for the first four years of his life, whose big brown eyes and long dark lashes gazed at me with love and wonder – will be looking ahead to college and moving away. I’m sure I’m not the first mother to announce that I’m not ready.

I took the opportunity to finally rent Straight Outta Compton because Veruca was in school and I’m that mom. He’s totally a rap addict, and was looking forward to seeing this since the day it opened in theaters. I bought the other movie he hadn’t seen – Star Wars: The Force Awakens – which he’s been dying to see… one, because he’s been a huge fan since I introduced him to the original trilogy when he was 4, and two, because everybody else has seen it and he’s been unwillingly exposed to a handful of spoilers. I popped that DVD in and periodically watched his face for reactions. When the first shot of the Millennium Falcon appeared, I watched the slow smile spread from his lips to his eyes and it filled me with the exact same joy and heart-rush that I felt every time we watched Star Wars together. It was like watching that four-year-old boy’s thrills, one frame at a time.

I’m glad he likes to share with me. He shares every last detail and thought about the music he listens to, what happened at Death Row Records (not like I wasn’t sitting right next to him watching the movie), how his Biology test went today, how many deadlifts he did in weight training yesterday, and all the God-awful-stoopid videos he finds on You Tube. I don’t want the conversation to stop. I hang on to those moments like I held on to my Todd’s gazes across the gymnasium in high school. He won’t talk to me about girls. I ask occasionally, and he quickly brushes it off like a nagging mosquito. He will still occasionally take my hand, absentmindedly wrapping his fingers around mine, and then just as quickly drop it like he suddenly remembered he’s 15. When he got in the car to go home last weekend, he picked up my makeup bag from his seat and asked what it was. And then he asked me why I wear makeup because I don’t need it. Sigh.

I once wrote about how surreal it is to be hugged by your own flesh and blood that is now larger than you. How he can pick me up. He still hugs me every day. I make him. Well – it started out that way – I told him he has to hug me once a day, every day. He hasn’t forgotten and some days when we’re really busy he will come to me for it before I’ve had a chance to even think about it. And I’m grateful. These are all the things I’m holding on to… hoping they will always overshadow the other 50% of who he is. I’m still getting used to the stubble on his face when I kiss his cheek. I will never get used to him growing up.

Potato, Potahto

Nephtoo has been missing of late. Not missing missing… just missing around here. Admittedly, both Neph and Nephtoo have been missing, and I miss them. Opac and Veruca have been missing them too. We must fix this. Especially if I am to not continue to embarrass myself with my mispronunciations.

Herewith follows a snapshot of a conversation I was not a part of, but was inspired to share secondhand. Mostly because apparently I was accused of being stuffy. More on that later – let’s get down to the dirty details.

Nephtoo – a scholarly young man who knows just as much as he knows not – recently questioned whether the word vase was vah-z or vay-z, and his mother said – and I would have to agree wholeheartedly – that [we] don’t make enough money to own a vahze. So, middle class masses – it is VAYzes for you! Or, if you’re like me, you have amassed a cloudy collection of florist vases from all the flower deliveries ever received since 1989, and have stored them under the kitchen sink.

Still, it does raise the question – how much do we have to make to own a vahze? I need to know this. Today. Because I’m adding it to my bucket list. I will one day buy a vahze. And I will put fresh cut flowers from my gardens in it, and place it on the dining room table. Or maybe on my bedside table. Maybe I’ll carry it from room to room. Or would that be too eccentric? You’re laughing – and it’s not because I would carry my vahze from room to room. If you know me, really really know me, then you are laughing at my gardens. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back in Nephtoo’s world, the conversation segued into how I pronounce “fondant.” Nephtoo asked if I was stuffy for pronouncing it fon-DONt. Stuffy?! Confession – this is a word I’ve always been uncomfortable saying out loud – kind of like the word “sherbet.”

So I Googled the pronunciation of fondant. In English, the proper pronunciation is FON-dunt. I always thought it was fon-DONt. And actually, in French it’s pronounced fo-ndaw. So I was half right. And no one at the restaurant ever corrected me, which is surprising since Andy wastes no time correcting my speech in the kitchen – though he would let me walk around with spinach between my two front teeth all night.

The pronunciation of “ramen” became an endless source of laughter one evening a few months ago at my expense. Apparently I’ve been saying that wrong too. I said RAY-men and Neph thought this enormously funny. The correct pronunciation is as the Japanese say, RAH-men. And now I have to constantly correct Veruca’s pronunciation of it every time she asks for it and, like the diva she is, she refuses to be corrected.

This brings to mind a waiter we had – back in the days where we had to recite the evening’s specials – who insisted on pronouncing basil, baa-zil (baaa, as in sheep) instead of BAY-zil. This was a guy who marched to the beat of his own tackle box, like the night he marched it in from his trunk and over to a table to show them all his fishing gear. Which had absolutely nothing to do with basil.

 

 

 

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

There’s a new circus in town. It starts at 3 a.m. Whether you want it to, or not. Where the big top is the oversized t-shirt I sleep in – and we don’t have a clown. I hate clowns. Really. I was ruined for life, not by a childhood excursion to the circus, but by the stuffed clown in Poltergeist. That and large, dark, twisty trees too close to the house on stormy nights. Which is why I had them all cut down. Just kidding. I’m not completely batshit crazy. We don’t have any trees near windows.

But we do have poodles! Our poodles do tricks, like strutting the hallway runway in the dark, tap-dancing tapping their fancy nails on the hardwood floor, jumping through imaginary hoops to go outside and pretending to do their business for the coveted Pupperoni reward*. The water-guzzling contest is by far the most exciting.

We also have a cat. Do they even have cats in the circus? Our cat, weighing in at an impressive 16 pounds, performs a desperately hungry falsetto the minute my feet hit the floor for what I thought was the intermission bathroom break.

It all started last night with a blood sugar check that warranted a complete insulin pump set change. At 3 a.m. This always sucks – one, because I will end up fully awake and two, because Veruca will end up fully awake. But it was necessary and the pay-off three hours later was a near-perfect blood sugar. Yet, I found myself wide awake for over an hour, trolling Facebook and pretending not to notice that our senior dog was once again roaming the hallways in search of…. food? Water? The light? There’s a sort of domino effect that occurs on these nights: blood sugar check, cat hears me and thinks it’s chow time, senior dog hears the cat and assumes it’s catfood time! and she’s gonna get some, and younger dog jumps up so she doesn’t miss anything.

So, my island of f*cked up dreams becomes disjointed and nearly nightmarish as I slip in and out of bizarre scenarios where I’m working in the restaurant and there’s never enough staff (this is known as a waitress’s nightmare, and it’s REAL) or someone else is stepping on my toes behind my bar (which, IRL, everyone knows I hate). Or – I ordered a birthday cake for Veruca from Pizza Hut, which I paid for in advance, and they totally screwed it up and the frosting was smeared and sloppy and they actually thought I’d accept it that way. I demanded a refund, after yelling about how shitty their bakery is, and the manager told me I’d have to go online to apply for the refund, but here’s a bottle of Asti Spumante for your trouble. That was a nightmare, because I actually drank it.

And then there was… being Donald’s daughter. Okay, I wasn’t really his daughter, but I was part of “the family” and so he said he was buying a house for me and my kids (no clue where Todd was in all this, which is always disturbing) to live in and I kept telling him no –that I couldn’t accept such a gift from him – because in my mind it’s wrong to accept if I completely wish he’d be wiped from the planet. But he was insistent – no, no, this is gonna be great (you can hear him saying it, can’t you?) – since we will need protection from the masses of reporters, the public, and … assassins (surely). Apparently my mom was his “other” wife and THAT’S how we’re connected… and he needs to keep us all safely tucked away. And all I could think was I don’t want to be associated with him, and what happens when the world finds out? Thankfully, I didn’t have to live through that, since my overactive bladder had better ideas.

I know. Mind – Blown. There are others, too, though much less hallucinatory, that – were I to write about them – would invite psychological analysis from some of my more discerning friends who think I might need an afternoon of introspection with a professional. I’m thinking perhaps no more nachos before bed.

 *No, I do NOT give out Pupperoni rewards in the middle of the night.

What? or, I Didn’t Hear That?

Another blessing of being middle-aged – hearing loss. I’m simultaneously being sarcastic, and serious. Most of the time I find it annoying, since people who inherently speak in lower tones will be speaking to the deaf if they’re talking to me. Here’s how you can tell when I’m not hearing you: I lean in slowly and I smile and nod a lot. Those I’m familiar with I’m happy to say, what? Those I don’t know well, I take the road silently traveled and pretend to hear every word. This is bad. I know it’s bad, the same way retrospect reminds me how bad it was to ignore what I didn’t understand in 9th grade algebra and never asked any questions.

At home, it’s become a growing problem that ultimately pisses me off. My kids will say something to me, and I’ll respond with a hmmm? or a what?  And then they say – nevermind. This is a problem, because they’re frustrated that I can’t hear them, and I’m frustrated because I’m afraid I’ll miss something important they’re sharing with me like, the house is on fire or …that I’m on fire. I don’t want to stop the dialogue, especially when my 15-year-old son is sharing with me. It’s the crumb I will jump at like a squirrel on a birdfeeder.

This morning Todd was working on programming and so I settled into my chair with my laptop and a cup of coffee, content to read Facebook and emails quietly and not interrupt him. But he got up and wandered into the kitchen, presumably to refill his own coffee, and then he started talking. I listened intently, as often I’m trying to determine whether he’s texting someone, thinking aloud, or actually talking to me. It’s anybody’s guess. This time, he was talking to me. But then he’s wandering around the kitchen, and ultimately into the dining room where he mutters something unintelligible.

I said, what?

Nevermind, he said, sighing heavily with what I interpreted as frustration.

Now it’s my turn to be frustrated. I can’t help that I can’t hear, and everyone in this house just gets mad at me when I ask them, ‘what?’!

Apparently if I say, “I didn’t hear that,” it instantly translates to, I didn’t hear that. Which, apparently, is less offensive than saying, “what?” because apparently “what” translates as, I wasn’t listening. Which apparently IS offensive.

I need a rule book on communicating with hearing loss. Perhaps I should write it.

The first rule is to tell everyone – I don’t hear well. Which I already do, most of the time, especially when I’m having to ask someone to repeat something – like how they want their filet prepared (this is life and death, people!) – or when I’m getting instructions on writing a specific grant application. Details! Details! Very critical.

The family already knows I don’t hear well, but apparently they have memory problems. Which creates one big angry circle of words lost in the Bermuda triangle between my ears and their lips. Perhaps a sign? I could wear a sign around my neck.

The silver lining to the hearing loss is not hearing the bitching that accompanies growing adolescents. A whining voice (which I can decipher) I can meet with a “what?” and when they choose to not repeat it? WIN.

What’s New Under the Sun

As my youngest rapidly approaches the end of her elementary career, I am reminded of not only how young she is, but also how fast she’s growing up. And I’m not ready.
Several nights ago, Veruca got her first phone call from a boy. She was all cool and simultaneously silly – and he’s “just a friend” and he bet her $5 that if he called her, her mom would answer the phone. If that isn’t the biggest crock of bull to get a girl’s phone number… and she fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Whatever the exchange was, they kept getting cut off (you know, cell phone service being what it is) and he kept calling back, and eventually she turned her phone off so he couldn’t call again. Ha!
Last night at dinner she told us that he didn’t give her the five bucks he bet her, and she was pissed. Okay – not really. More like, not fair – that’s not how the game works. Todd told her to ask him for it – you know, a bet’s a bet and she won fair and square. She said, can you tell him? We joked about him calling on her behalf as her “attorney.” We had a good laugh before I looked at her and said, seriously – he likes you – why do you think he asked for your number? Which apparently hadn’t been considered.
There’s an awful lot of liking being circulated through the fifth grade. This one likes that one, that one wants to date this one… wait, date? Who dates in fifth grade?!
Annnndd… apparently the principal knows the answer. Yesterday Veruca told me Mrs. Fitz came to the classroom to talk about some big problems they’re having in school. In Veruca’s words, some kids are “having sex in school.” Cue screeching brakes. (We were in the car.) I said WHAT?! Just how is that even possible? I don’t know, she said, probably in the bathroom. This was her guess – and by now I’m wondering just exactly what Mrs. Fitz said. Did she actually use the word “sex”? She did. Still – I found myself thinking out loud… just how is that even possible? You know – mechanics, people! Meanwhile, in her usual way of ignoring and talking over me, Veruca speculated it could’ve been anyone from kindergarten through fifth grade, though probably 3rd or 4thor 5th graders. Huh.
Coincidentally, there was an incident about 10 days ago where Veruca heard a boy in art class tell her friend to “suck my —k” and she was upset about it. She said she told the teacher and she did nothing. This is where it pays to be a sleuth – because you absolutely cannot take anything a 10-year-old says at face value without some digging. (She only told the teacher that he said a bad word.) Needless to say, I told her that he cannot talk that way to a girl – or anyone. It’s wrong and in some parts of the grown up world it’s considered sexual harassment – which is a crime. So, the next day she took it to the assistant principal, who thanked her for coming forward.
So another big issue in school is profanity. Well, now there’s a surprise. Veruca tells me that the back of the bus is Grand Central for misdemeanors of the elementary kind. Meanwhile, back in school… Hunter dropped the f-bomb in the adjacent classroom and everybody’s talking about it.
My son, whom I will now refer to as Opac (OHpock), is learning how to fine tune his communication skills not only by texting me when he wants to stay after weight-training to play a little b-ball with his friends, but also by not spontaneously exclaiming the f-bomb at his sister. It’s a work in progress. The dollar in a jar isn’t working with him, primarily because he has no money. Next offense will result in grounding. And it won’t be pretty.
Veruca couldn’t wait to tell him what her principal said. She said, guess what my principal said to our class today? And then she looked at me and said, you tell him. Like it’s my story to tell. Opac shared that all kinds of stuff like that was happening in middle school last year, which really did nothing to ease my discomfort about the whole matter. Who remembers this stuff??
When I was in elementary school there was liking going on, though in nearly all circumstances it was one-sided, and mostly boys on the receiving end. I remember liking a boy in first grade who lived in my apartment complex. I wrote him love letters which he received and graciously tore up. Next boy was in third grade and surely unrequited, though I never told him.
Middle school was quite different. I found myself both the target and the huntress, but my first grade lesson had taught me to be more cool.  As in, act completely indifferent to anyone who shows interest. I was “going with” a boy in 6th grade for no other reason than that he asked me, and we never even held hands, let alone saw each other outside of school. There was that girl who was luxuriating in the rather obvious signs of puberty that made her an unfortunate and unintended reputation. I flew obliviously under the radar with my underdeveloped body. My first somewhat real date came years later, in 10th grade, again with a boy I had barely noticed until he’d asked. I was 15. Fifteen! My son is fifteen. He’s shown no signs of interest in anything not tied to a football. And for that – I am grateful.
Veruca, on the other hand, is acutely aware of the boys. A rumor circulated back to her that Steven likes her, and she was on a search and destroy mission to find out who started it. I suggested that she focus on her studies, and less on someone she’s not interested in. Probably fell on deaf ears, like almost everything else I tell her. And last night before she went to bed, she told me that cell-phone-boy is her boyfriend. Since when? I suppose it doesn’t matter, at least until he walks over from his development and knocks on the door.
I’ll let Opac answer it.
Keeping watch on the neighborhood.