Friday, December 30, 2011

Wimpy vices don't qualify.

Ah, New Year’s resolutions. It’s the only time I ever wish I could slam my hands on the table and shout, "ENOUGH! This year, I will stop shooting heroin." (If you’re a real druggie and you're actually supposed to sniff or smoke heroin, keep the criticism to yourself. I don’t really need to know.) Or, "This year I will finally lose half my body weight!" or "This year I will stop stealing from my company!" or "This year I will stop torturing small animals!" or anything equally as dramatic.

No. Any resolutions I make will be positively pathetic in comparison.
I mean, sure, I could lose five (okay seven) pounds. I could be a little more tolerant of my husband/kids/friends/siblings/father who lives in the basement. I could say I’m not going to drink any wine FIVE nights of the week instead of four (but in that case, it might be best to concentrate on getting to the four before I up it.) I could say I’m not going to just eat chocolate for lunch, but maybe that’s a corollary to losing a few pounds and not a standalone resolution. I could resolve to redo a bathroom or write more or organize my digital photos into books but those aren’t really resolutions, they’re to-dos.

So the idea of a New Year’s resolution makes me feel sort of inadequate. I mean, we’re talking a whole year...that’s a huge commitment. It’s worthy of a huge gesture. I just don’t have a huge gesture.

Now, I like Lent, personally. 40 days. For 40 days, I can give up wine or chocolate and oh, boy, do I feel every minute of that sacrifice. It’s like a ten-mile race: short enough to be doable, but long enough to count. And the payoff, be it a medal and a new personal running record or Easter brunch, is worth savoring. Lent requires a smaller gesture, so those of us who have smaller issues have a sacrificial home. Leave New Year’s resolutions to the big boys with serious baggage.

My husband says he likes three-day resolutions. You know, work out for three days, note that you’re not really sleeping better and your ass hurts from the bench presses, and bag it. Or eat really healthily for three days and then note that pizza and beer actually are food groups and bag it. So there’s another option.

Hey, maybe my New Year’s resolution could be to develop a really bad habit just so next New Year’s Eve I could resolve to break it, and then I’d get that satisfaction that I had really overcome something.

Maybe it could be to seek psychiatric help because I think these weird thoughts and then publish them on the internet.

Oh, well, bottoms up. Happy New Year. And good luck with your resolutions, whether they’re huge, Lent-sized or the long weekend type.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oooh, Santa screwed this one up...

I have a good friend whose daughter also asked for one thing, and one thing only, this Christmas. No, not an iTouch, that would be my daughter. Her daughter’s request is worse. She wants a hamster. Badly.

So, ahem, "Santa" dropped off a hamster, just like this little girl wants. But it arrived yesterday. (I just know my kids will find this blog some day, so play along.) So my friend, the mom, has had to hide and care for this hamster until the big reveal on Christmas morning.

Yesterday, she called me. “Oh, it’s not a rodenty little thing, it’s cute. He has a cute little nose and a nub of a tail and OH I think he likes me! Oh, you cute little hamster! I think I’m in love!”

“No, wait, he just pooped all over me. He is using me as a toilet. Not loving the hamster right now. I’ll call you later.”

So, later: “My husband is threatening to call an exterminator. He thinks the hamster looks like a mouse and said he will not lift a finger to take care of it.”

Then, today: “Holy shit! Holy shit! The hamster chewed through its wooden box (damn dumb Santa) and it ran away. It’s somewhere in this house. Oh shit. What do I do?”

Later: “We found it. Hiding in a little crawl space under the Jacuzzi. It won’t come out.”

“It won’t even move toward us if we hold food.”

“If we beg.”

“If we offer hamster cash.”

“Julie, this fucking thing is going to DIE under my bathtub.”

Then, later: “Oh, no. Oh no oh no oh no. I told my husband to get the leaf blower to get it out. He tried, but the leaf blower is gas powered, and now we’ve all been asphyxiated and had to leave the house.”

“I’m on my way to PetSmart. I need a backup hamster.”

Then, on the way to church, my cell phone rang.

“Juuuulie I just remembered there are mouse traps all over the basement. Even if she gets the backup hamster, she might see a little dead hamster the next time she comes down to play with her Polly Pockets. What do I do?”

A good friend would have come up with a plan. A good friend would have googled “hamster whisperer” and found a solution. A good friend would not have suggested letting my dog loose in her basement so the little hamster would have a heart attack when a big wet nose sniffed him out.

I did none of that. I laughed, and offered to say a little hamster prayer when I got to church.

Secretly, I called PetSmart, and asked them to relay this message to their hamsters: if you see a crazy blonde coming into the store at midnight tonight screaming about needing a Plan B, then run. Very fast. Or play dead.

‘Cause that’s how you’ll end up if she takes you home.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hum Jingle Bells. NOW.

Whiny. That’s what I am on the eve of Christmas Eve. And I’m whiny because I’m trying to be festive and no one will cooperate. Usually there’s no forced festivity around here because I traditionally hold an annual Christmas Eve party that consumes us with Christmas and excitement and WORK and fun. I’m not having it this year, so I need festive.

And Whit’s sick and that’s not festive. It’s boring. I get it, he’s really sick. Yesterday the doctor told him if it was 1920 he’d be dead. But could I get the guy to raise a glass and toast the power of antibiotics? No. He’s now a teetotaler who goes to bed at 8:00 and can only drink Gatorade. Bo-ring.

So I’ve been baking. Like I am in some Pillsbury bake-off and I can win a million dollars if I can produce a record volume of homemade cookies. I brought in a tray of cookies for the school secretaries that was so enormous it guarantees my children will never actually get a tardy slip, they’ll just be waved on through for the rest of elementary school. I have delivered plates of cookies to my neighbors every single day. The kids are so sick of the gingerbread men with creative expressions that they’ve banned them from their lunchboxes. I actually had a thought that I needed to find a charity to which I could donate all my cookies but then I ate a lot of them and started to get depressed about feeling fat. So baking didn’t work.

Then, I tried to recreate the way Whit and I like to sit in front of the Christmas tree and have a glass of wine and talk about our days. But then I started to feel slightly nervous. I was some crazy lady sitting in the dark, drinking and talking to herself. Thank God I don’t have a cat or that just would have been cliché.

Then I tried shopping but the mall irritated me because everyone was frowny and rushed and definitely not festive. And the sales were all sneaky, like "90% off *select* styles" but those select styles were all ugly and unrealistically weird sizes. Even the Santa looked like he wanted to ditch the snotty kids on his lap and hit a bar. He was definitely not feeling festive.

Then I tried wrapping but I’m very unhappy with my wrapping paper this year. I’m particular about my paper and usually do a big wrapping paper shopping trip but I waited too late and they only had Hanukkah paper left so all my presents are silver and blue and white and that’s not festive. (I mean, if I was celebrating Hanukkah it would be crazy festive, but I’m not.) There’s one paper I found that I liked but they were out of it and I’m trying to get Whit to drive two states over to pick some up from another store but he’s playing the "I have pneumonia, you moron" card and saying no.

Then I tried to get my brothers and sister to come over to make me laugh but my sister had an emergency appendectomy and my brother’s family all got strep and my other brother’s got "issues" so they are all damn far from festive.

Then I tried to mail out my Christmas cards but the picture, which is cute in real life, is dark and yucky and the cards look dumb so I only mailed out about 20 to people who might actually die of old age in the next 365 days and really do want to see what we all look like before they go. (If you’re not old and you get a card, no, you’re not going to die, you just slipped in. Okay?)

Then my car wouldn’t start because the battery got in a bad mood. Is a car dealership festive with its tinsel and limp Santa hats? I think not.

Bah humbug, you non-festive people. I’m going to go drink wine and talk to myself. Anyone got a cat I could borrow??

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A sneeze is just a sneeze. And then it’s not. Damnit.

(This is the post I wrote at 5:00 this morning. When I was feeling quite like a superhuman superstar. Hey, at 5:00 in the morning, there’s no one around to argue with me, okay??)

When my husband sneezes, he’s catching the mother of all colds. When I sneeze, it’s dusty.

When Whit gets sick, no symptom is minor. “My entire body aches like it’s going through a meat grinder. It’s awful. It’s so painful. I can barely move.” When I get sick, no symptom exists. “Oh, that raised red rash all over my body? My swollen tongue? Perhaps anaphylaxis, perhaps I’m just tired.”

When Whit gets sick, his schedule is cleared so he can lie in bed and moan. When I get sick, I *might* skip the 6 am run I had planned.

When Whit gets sick, he needs a prescription. Written by a doctor. Even sugar pills will cure him as long as they come from behind a pharmacist’s counter. When I get sick, I dig a dusty Advil from the bottom of my purse and swallow it dry.

When Whit gets sick, he issues a self-imposed quarantine. "Can’t get you kids sick. Stay away. I’m not sure what I have, but it could be bad." When I get sick, I cough into my elbow, purell my hands often and kiss the tops of little heads rather than their cheeks.

When Whit gets sick, he needs the sick comfort groceries of his childhood. Gatorade. Ginger Ale. Doritos. When I get sick, I’m still the one doing the grocery shopping.

When Whit gets sick, he wants meals served in bed. When I get sick, I skip meals and then step on the scale with delight.

So I wrote that. Feeling quite satisfied with my toughness and his baby-ness.

Then, at 7:00 this morning, I got tired of all the above.

Then I started googling meningitis. And a few other diseases. You give me NIGHTMARES,

Then I suggested he head down the street to our friendly neighborhood ER.

I thought they would say "viral" or "faker" or "strep" and we’d be done with it.


Pneumonia...they want to admit him...IV...flu?...dehydration...blah blah blah...


Is "neglectful and arrogant wife" grounds for divorce?

Sorry, honey. You just lie there. Can I get you some more Gatorade? Make you some soup, perhaps?? Fluff your pillows?

Yeah, I’ll never live this one down. And next time I get sick, you know I can't complain, even once.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hey, look!

Bet you thought I had been taken hostage by one giant louse since I've been silent this week...but alas, no. It's just called "that magical time of the year in which I'm so busy I forget to wear underwear unless I put a sticky note on my mirror." "Or unless someone dares me." "Or unless I lost it somewhere questionable in college." But those are all other posts for other days.

Today I'm psyched because BlogHer, the publishing network that promotes women in social media (which sounds so much better than "moms who write about poop"), syndicated an old post of mine. This means they'll promote it for me, which ROCKS.

So yay! Please take a look by clicking here!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

So long, suckers.

Okay, back to the regular blog, and me offering up all my weirdness to make you feel like you’re normal. (P.S. You’re probably not, because none of us are, and I happen to like all my friends a little weird. But that’s beside the point.)

Where am I the weirdest, you might ask? Then someone who knew me well would say it. The L word. Lice. Lice and ticks are the two things that just freak me out. I don’t like things that stick on and multiply. (Stop laughing. Some people are afraid of house plants.)

So this week I found out that I (not my kids) had been exposed to lice. Not like sharing-a-pillow exposed. Not like rubbing-heads-together exposed. Not like we-used-the-same-headrest-in-the-car exposed. Meaning a little girl I was near ended up with a relatively mild case of lice.

I took the news well. I was calm, shrugged my shoulders, furtively scratched my head and said, "Well, it happens." The picture of maturity, right?

Mmm hmm. Until I got home. At which point all of my clothes and my jacket went in the dryer on high heat. Twice. I ran upstairs and threw open the door to the closet where I’ve stockpiled lice remedies for years, just in case. I found the sharpest, meanest looking lice comb in there, and I proceeded to remove my scalp. Literally. I combed every inch of my head and hair, looking closely for anything that could potentially be lice. I found nothing. Thank God I don’t have dandruff or I would have freaked out and chopped my own head off.

Whew. All’s clear.

But...what if I missed something? What if, right now, there’s an egg on my head and it’s hatching? What if I have bugs all over my head by the morning? What if they take over my whole house? I got itchy again just thinking about it.

So pulled out the Big Daddy of chemical treatments. The Whopper. The Be-Glad-You-Already-Got-Your-College-Degree-Because-I-Will-Fry-Your-Brain box of stuff. The Leave-No-Louse-Behind-And-Take-Brain-Cells-Too treatment.

And, in my defense, it was about to expire (I bought it three years ago) and I would have had to throw it away anyway. And I can be a bit frugal.

So I had a brief moment of silence and bid my brand-new blonde highlights a heartbreaking farewell, and then slathered the stuff all over my head.

The directions said not to leave it on for more than 10 minutes. At 25 minutes, Whit walked by. He saw my hair wrapped up in a towel turban, smelled the air surrounding me, and saw my eyes tearing like I had been pepper sprayed by renegade college cops.

"Someone mentioned lice to you, huh?"

Sniffling, I nodded. He just shook his head.

At 30 minutes, I couldn’t do simple addition in my head anymore. (Whit will argue this had nothing to do with the chemicals.)

Finally, I rinsed it off.

My head smoking like Chernobyl, I could finally rest, knowing I didn’t have lice. Especially because I didn’t think I had it to start with. But then I was sure.

The end.

Except this, because I'm wordy: Caroline went to a day of this rugged outdoorsy camp on a school day off in October. She came home and regaled me with stories of her day. At one point, she told me about a long zipline through the forest. She told me the counselors made the campers wear helmets.

"But Mom," she said, nodding wisely, "I pulled my hoodie up BEFORE putting on the helmet." She gave me a thumbs-up.

I was so proud. A chip off the old neurotic block. What more could a mother want?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book review: The Lake of Dreams

As you may have noticed (to the left), a little while ago I joined the BlogHer Publishing Network. Doing this allowed me to join a community of bloggers that could inspire me and promote my blog. Another benefit is the BlogHer Book Club, in which a publisher sends me a book (always a treat!), which I get to review. In the next few weeks, I’ll also join some online discussions about it. This is a paid review, plus I get the book for free, but it’s all my very own opinionated opinion.

The Lake of Dreams was written by Kim Edwards, who also wrote the wildly popular The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. It tells the story of Lucy Jarrett, living a somewhat unsettled life in Japan. Though she lives with a boyfriend she loves, he’s caught up in an exciting career while her own career has stagnated and she’s between jobs. She’s also still reeling from her father’s sudden death. When she finds out her mother has had an accident, she heads back to the States and her hometown of Lake of Dreams, where she’s plunged into both the past and the future: it’s a life that’s intimately familiar and yet changing rapidly. While poking around her mother’s house, she also gets caught up in a tantalizing and complex ancestral mystery. The story is both the resolution of the mystery as well as Lucy confronting her own past, and how she tries to release control of her family’s future while also trying to determine her own.

The book has a lot of layers, but two of them spoke to me in particular. The first was the theme of change, and how Lucy was resistant to so much of it. When she returns to Lake of Dreams, she is stunned to see land being sold and developed, her mother dating, and her brother doing a very uncharacteristic u-turn in his life. She doesn’t like or understand why things are changing so much and her family must gently remind her that she left Lake of Dreams and doesn’t have too much room to judge their actions. I could relate to how Lucy wanted so many things from her childhood to stay the same, even though she had moved on. I can’t drive by the village stores of my childhood without yelling at the kids, "That bank used to be The Happy Pickle!" or "There was an old bike path I loved, right where these houses are now!" and I feel irrationally angry when schools or churches I loved are torn down and replaced. I’m constantly perplexed that certain kids aren’t, in fact, three years old and are now headed to college, or that my parents' friends have become senior citizens. Though I’ve moved on with my life, there are times I wish I could step right back into the comfort of the childhood I remember.

Another layer that spoke to me right now was the mother/daughter dynamic. Lucy was willful and somewhat critical of her mother, and I’ve certainly been on both sides of that coin. The ancestral mystery contains a mother/daughter bond that was destroyed, and story lines like that always give me pause and help me get through some of the trying moments with my nine-going-on-sixteen-year-old daughter. At the end of the day, and the end of the book, the mother/daughter bond holds tight in all cases, and that’s how I believe life usually ends up as well.

In my opinion, this is a good book for quiet winter evenings. You can’t rush through it or you’ll never get the characters straight, and, similar to the Memory Keeper’s Daughter, you need to pay attention to the nuances of the story so you experience the book fully. I also feel that if you rush through parts of it – which I confess I occasionally did – all the characters won’t be as well developed as the author likely intended.

And as you read it, see if you start having some really weird dreams. I did.