Archive for the ‘best of SO’M’ Category

The spider story

November 15, 2013

My son has always been a sensitive little thing.

When he was 5, he helped me paint his room before we moved into our first house in California.

We stood side by side on his desk while we readied the window up high. I reached into the corner with my brush and cleared out a spiderweb.

“Oh, Mama!” He pointed to a spider on the wall. “He just watched you destroy his home!”

So I picked up the newspaper, rolled it and smashed the homeless spider.

“There. Now he’s not sad anymore.”

Are you all glad I’m not your mother?

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My mother and the blind guy

October 9, 2013

My mom once ditched a blind guy cuz he was scary.

When she was in college, she signed up to read books to him.

She didn’t know anything about him, save he had no sight, when she went to meet him in the university’s library.

He made a dramatic entrance.

He was large and tall, and he came in roaring and waving and banging his cane. He wore a big black cape and a spy hat. His arms were replaced by hooks at the elbow. His eyes were hollow sockets, but he had on one eyepatch. His facial skin had been mostly been blown apart.

I’ve always pictured one of those monsters Abbot and Costello met.

No way was she identifying herself, and how handy was this? She could just get up, and walk past him and out the door.

Naturally, she felt terrible. She had the back and forth of pity and justifications.

On one hand he didn’t have to dress and act that way. Surely he noticed the reactions, the women screaming.

But maybe he didn’t realize people don’t wear capes. And it was the ’60s. All the sighted people were expressing individuality. Didn’t he have the right to jump on the non-conformist bandwagon?

She made a new date, and saw it through.

It became a regular thing, and they became friends. She said he was interesting and smart.

He would tell her to highlight a sentence, then later when she was typing up his term paper, he would say, ‘In this spot insert the thing you underlined on page 43.” 

She learned that when he was 12 he was playing with a chemistry set and it exploded.

I respect that she gathered her courage to meet him again, prepared that go around for his frighteningness.

But I say as a rule, if you’re gonna make those kinds of choices in appearance, learn Braille.

The playland tubes story

August 25, 2013

I recently heard tell that the ball pits that were popular when my kids were babies have been removed from all fast-food playlands.

I once sneaked into one as an adult — they didn’t have stuff like that when I was a kid — and regretted it. I took a flying leap into the pit. The balls are hard. It hurt everywhere.

Being a California native in Boulder, Colo., I struggled with preschoolers and snowy days. I used to call my friend Katherine up, and we would drive to Broomfield for a field trip. There was a McDonald’s there with the biggest Play Place I ever heard of.

It was indoors, but the walls were all clear plastic, so you could see all five stories of colorful crawl paths from the freeway. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the tubing structure had its own ZIP code.

I was such a rude costumer, I would feed the kids at home, and then just take them to play. I knew it was wrong, but it was 10 degrees below freezing and I felt wronged by the world. I spent winters feeling indignant.

The structure was intimidating, both in size and population. My son was pretty shy about it. He lingered around the little-people area, popping peek-a-boo through cut outs in padded plastic, or throwing the little balls that escaped the pit of pain.

One afternoon when I was almost nine-months pregnant with my daughter, he braved up and went into the maze of tubes.

For reasons passing understanding, he waited until he was in the center of the topmost tube path to decide he was frightened.

He called to me through the windows of his tube. I called back, “Crawl out!”

He could neither figure out how to turn around, back out the four miles he had traversed nor understand that going forward meant a short downhill path to freedom.

I had no choice. I crawled in to get him.

Picture an eight and a half-month pregnant woman in several layers of thermals and wool sweaters wriggling through a habitrail lined with dry, gummy ketchup.

The McEmployees were not pleased.

They scolded me, “The Play Place tube maze is for children only.” I supposed it was for customers only, too, but didn’t mention that.

Since then I’ve seen many things, such as the Internet, and learned that those playlands were said to be chock full o’ dirty diapers, vomit and used hypodermic needles. I read terrible tales of children getting trapped and killed in the depths of the ball pits.

The moral here is plain: never live where it gets cold.

A cell-phone beating

August 13, 2013

I ended my post the other day saying I wanted to beat Michael with my cell phone.

The trio on my talk radio station told a story about a kindergarten teacher who beat a child with her cell phone. Let me tell you, after my year of subbing, I am less sympathetic to this child than probably you are.

The talk jockeys invited people to come up with a punch line to the story for tickets to Universal Studios. All of the callers’ entries were dumb.

I couldn’t get through, but I tried.

My entry would have been: She totally misunderstood the function of the pound key.

A restaurant review

July 28, 2013

Every summer I gotta go to Big Bear. It’s a couple hours away from me, but I will get up and drive there to eat bacon-and-cheese waffles for breakfast at The Teddy Bear Restaurant, or to roam The Village for jewelry and boots.

I discovered this place when my husband had a three-day conference there on my birthday years ago. I tagged along, intending to stay in the hotel, as I always do when he has a conference. I spend his conferences in the tub with a book.

We stayed at the Northwoods Resort, which borders The Village. I wandered out looking for breakfast and found a row of small businesses that could have been planned for me as a birthday surprise.

First there was a bath shop. I bought bath oils, bath beads, soaps and lotions. These are my favorite things — right up there with chocolate and books.

Then I looked down the street and saw several coffeehouses and chocolatiers. There were three bookstores, too. I may have cried.

After a quick morning buying myself gifts, I climbed into my oiled bath with a novel and some tri-tip. An hour later I was by the fire with red wine and chocolate-dipped things like strawberries and pretzels. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

My husband returned to find a wife with a totally balanced chi.

My husband had this conference every August for a few years, but last year there was nothing. It was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. We went up on our own twice. I just needed to smell the place.

Today I couldn’t stand it. I’ve been missing that town so much I can’t concentrate, so at 1 p.m. I put the kids in the car and went.

About 4 o’clock we walked past a small, tucked-back door that said “Pizzeria.” I was Book-and-Bean bound, and didn’t give a fig about the pizzeria, but I noted that I didn’t remember seeing it there before.

Then around 5 the kids got hungry. They said they had a craving for pizza. I was surprised by this, because we almost never eat it. More surprising, they were both in the mood for the same thing.

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Last night we had pita, stuffed with vegetables, chicken and cantalope and topped with a tarragon mayonnaise. I guess I understand why they were in accord.

So I pointed them toward the doorway I’d noticed. It was Saucy Mama’s Pizza. We walked past some umbrellaed tables in the narrow space between two buildings, and entered the place, which was mostly behind an ice-cream and fudge parlor.

It had a great atmosphere. I love a pizzeria with red-checkered tablecloths. A guy was tossing a big circle of dough in the air. We chose the table with tall stools.

My daughter ordered a vegetable calzone, and my son and I split a Hawaiian Delight pizza, which had Canadian bacon, pineapple and regular bacon chunks on it.

I have rambled on all this time to get to this sentence: This was the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life.

We packed up half the calzone and two slices of pizza for Daddy. My son and I almost wept, denying ourselves those last two slices.

Back at home, we presented the food to my husband like begging dogs at his feet.

He shook his head at us, “I can’t believe it’s as good as you guys are saying. It’s just pizza. You three have built it up so much, there’s no food can live up to your description.”

He bent over his plate and took a bite. Then he looked up, met my eyes, and nodded.

“Oh my God.”

The kids and I started cheering and hugging. We were crazed with the greatness of this food.

Then the dam broke, and my husband would not shut up. “The crust is sublime. These people must be from New York. This sauce is fantastic….”

So there it is, my first post as an amateur food critic. Get on a plane, wherever you are, and fly here so you can eat at Saucy Mama’s Pizza.

If you want my family to sit at your feet and watch you take your first bite, we’ll be happy to make the drive up the mountain.

The palm tree story

June 25, 2013

My husband loves to torment me by saying a palm tree is not a tree.

I am a native Southern Californian. We’re sentimental about our palm trees.

He is a native New Yorker, and a biology teacher.

“They’re not trees. They have no cambium and no bark.” He calls them palms.

I say, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

This has gone on for years.

I roll my eyes at him vigorously, but I do respect the man and his knowledge. Secretly I used to figure he knew what he was talking about.

One night when I was a copy editor, I got a story that referred to a palm tree. It pained me, but I struck the word ‘tree.’

The editor next to me looked at my screen. “Why did you do that?”

“Palms aren’t trees. Morphologically, they’re more like grass,” I regurgitated.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard,” he said. I didn’t know how I felt about that.

He pulled out an encyclopedia. Under ‘palm’ it said ‘tree.’

I went home ready to crack my husband’s ass the other way.

Because I considered him an authority, I embarrassed myself in front of my colleagues. (More accurately, I was angry at myself for not looking it up before changing the story.)

Tonight at dinner he started in again. Our new place has about 30 palm trees in the yard. We were eating under the wisteria arbor, and he pointed one out to say a thing. I forgot what.

Then he said, “Of course, it’s not a tree.”

This makes me crazy. I said mad things at him.

As I stormed into the house I heard him say, “Wind her up, and watch her go.”

The tornado story

June 10, 2013

Five tornados touched down in Colorado the other day. This reminds me of two months before we left Boulder, when a tornado was a block from my house.

I was home alone with the kids, who were 2 and 4.

There were siren horns in every neighborhood, and of late they had been testing them, in anticipation of the 100-year flood. In an actual flood, the sirens would sound continuously, alerting us to get as high as we could, (which in Boulder meant different things to different people.)

Suddenly the sky went dark. I was folding laundry in the living room, which had a whole wall of windows and had been awash in natural light. Within a moment I could see only the flickering of The Magic School Bus.

Then the sirens sounded — continuously. I called the newsroom to find out what was going on, and learned a funnel cloud looked about to touch down around 30th and Iris. That’s where my house was.

I was told to get under my house. Fine system they have, I thought, where the same siren either means to get on or under your house.

I called my husband and unfairly begged him to come home. He was in the middle of getting a sixth-grade science class into the hallway in the center of the school.

I sent my kids into the area that was too deep to call a crawlspace and too shallow to call a basement. They took the cordless phone and a flashlight while I scurried to gather supplies. I tried to pretend this was a fun adventure. I showed up in one minute with kid chairs, shoes, books, snacks and the potty.

I read to them by flashlight, but could barely contain my fear. It was so totally dark, and the sirens were so loud.

After a half an hour of books I shone the light around. I had never been under there before. There was a lot of space. We had dining chairs stacked that I had forgotten about, and some old baby furniture.

My son said, “Want to see where Daddy and I fixed the pipes for the bathtub?”

“I do,” I said as I offered him the flashlight.

“I don’t need that.” He walked past me and flipped the light switch.

For Pete’s sake, I should have put him in charge in the first place.

The mom translator

June 7, 2013

Saturday Night Live last week aired a commercial parody. “Moms are great,” the narrator says.

“They love you; they cook for you; they’re always there,” I’m paraphrasing.

“But they can’t remember celebrities’ names.”

Wow. Has he been to my house?

“Call now to order the Mom Celebrity Translator. Type in what Mom said, and the translator instantly shows you the celebrity she meant.”

I often say having a conversation with my grama is like being on a game show. She loves to talk about what she saw on TV, but she can’t remember a single star’s name.

I’m not making this up. We were visiting with my aunties and she said, “I watched that movie on TV last night with that one guy from the big romance movie, that blonde lady and the woman who’s married to that famous actor.”

I nodded, “I didn’t know that was on! I just got the karaoke version of the soundtrack.”

Everyone looked at me.

Chicago.”

I speak Nana.

Suicide

May 23, 2013

I run a dead pool, you know, and keep track of  celebrity death. On this date in 2009, I got up to check the latest, and there were a bunch, and every one of them was a suicide.

First, 54-year-old gay rights activist Rodger McFarlane ended his life, according his note, because of constant back pain.

Right after him, 28-year-old Spiderman 3 actress Lucy Gordon was found dead by suicide in her Paris apartment.

And rounding out the set, former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death from a 100-foot cliff while on a hike. He was 62. Roh Moo-hyun was elected on an anti-corruption platform, but was presently exposed having accepted $6 million in bribes. The scandal was too much for him, according to the suicide missive he left on his home computer.

Statistics claim there are almost twice as many suicides as homicides.

I can’t get past wanting to organize these people.

A headline on CNN that very morning read, ‘Would-be suicide jumper pushed off.’

This is what I’m talking about.

Doesn’t it just make sense for the  homicidal to choose their victims from a pool of volunteers?

The penis-on-the-front-page story

May 8, 2013

I volunteer guest-teaching journalism for various school newspaper programs. Today I gave my popular ethics presentation.

I show photos that may or not be ethical to run. They deal with issues like invasion of privacy, gore and the moment before death. I give them what-would-you-do scenarios.

And we talk about the difference between libel and ethics. I have lots of newsroom stories where my paper violated ethical standards, but not the law.

One ethical guideline that’s pretty much universal in newsrooms is avoiding photos of dead or nude people.

When I worked at the paper in Boulder, we would get the paper to bed about midnight and wait about an hour to proof the first copies off the press.

Each proofer took a job — page numbers, jumps, headlines, etc.

The longer the proofs took, the less thorough we were.

If they came to us after 2 a.m., we did was called a ‘f**k check’: We were to scan for the F word and approve the edition in its absence.

When we proofed with care, it seemed we never found anything that needed changing, but when we ran a f**k check, we ran a lot of corrections.

One such time got us into hot water.

The centerpiece photo on the front page went with a big feature we did on health care for the elderly. I remember glancing at it and thinking the photo felt washed in orange. I didn’t like the way it made the page look.

At a glance, it was an old man on a bed or gurney in a busy facility.

At a post-lawsuit-threat inspection, it was an old man inadequately covered by a thin sheet. His penis was exposed.

To add insult to infirmity, the man died during the night we were printing that paper.

The family’s grief was met first thing in the morning with this ignominious final photo.

With one feature, we proved both Murphy Law’s and Andy Warhol were right.

The streaking story

March 26, 2013

This is the story about when my grama streaked her knitting club. I tell it in honor of her birthday today.

I don’t know when it happened. She said she thinks she was in her seventies. I think she means it was during the ’70s, but she says no.

She says it was when everyone was ‘doing all that streaking.’

Now, my grama is too proper and modest to run naked past anyone, but she hates to be left out of the fun. She reconciled this by getting a flesh-colored body suit and stitching dark yarn in the appropriate patches.

When time came in the evening to have tea and dessert, my grama excused herself to the bathroom, doffed her street clothes and ran through the shocked clutch.

Nana laughs everytime she imitates her oldest sister yelling her name out in shame. Auntie Eggs would have been in her seventies in the ’70s, and in her eighties in my grama’s seventies, so either way, she was old and appalled.

My grandmother’s biggest concern was driving to and from. Once she got on the road, she was seized with the panic that she might get in a car accident and die.

What would the emergency workers think when they saw those brown felt nipples?

My grandfather never knew any of this happened.

Destiny

March 12, 2013

During our big kitchen remodel my potpourri disappeared. The bowl was there, but all the little citrus slices and nuts and stuff were missing.

The mystery was solved when I swept behind the couch in the parlor. There were mice droppings and dried citrus rinds. About this time my daughter yelled from the powder room that she saw a huge mouse scurry into the game closet when she turned on the light.

We found a hole going to the driveway where the electrician had run new wires.

My husband wanted to get traps. The ones that cut the mouse in half made me sad. The ones that glue the mouse to a board until he starves made me sad. Poison made me nervous. I closed the game-closet door.

After about a week my husband and I were in the kitchen space. It was bare but for wood floors and wood counters, which we were leaning against.

A big rat sauntered in, brave as you please.

A screaminger, hoppinger woman you never saw. I tried to get up on the counter, but my husband was yelling at me to get out of the room. I think he just wanted a minute of quiet.

He told me the rat could climb up on the counter. But the rat was by the door. I was trapped, hopping from one foot to the other, going, ‘Ah ah ah. I don’t like it.”

The next day I asked the contractor to fix the hole, put out those traps that cut the rat in half, put out the gluey boards, and sprinkle poison everywhere.

And on my way home from my daughter’s school I went to the Humane Society to get a great big cat. I would come to regret my choice of companion.

She went straight to the cage that held a pair of black-and-white kittens.

Oh, no, we’re not.

Here’s where my fear of destiny screwed me. My daughter asked the bad lady who was telling her that little kittens’ scent would keep rats away what their names were.

I ended up taking those stinky, useless kittens home.

They were News and Paper.

link to photos

Tormenting

March 11, 2013

For all of my son’s life, when he said from the back seat, “Hurry home, I need to go to the bathroom,” his parents would torment him.

If he was doing the pee-pee dance, we would say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t think about a waterfall.’

If he was doing the squirm, we would say, ‘Remember this morning when you were sqeezing the toothpaste out of the tube?’

Tonight I helped my son avenge his dad. My son was in the bathroom, and my husband was banging on the door in urgency.

Now before you feel sorry for him, he could have used my daughter’s bathroom if he had to go that bad. He could not go where I was about to take a bath.

I called out, “Honey? Don’t think about the log ride.”

This made him buckle over. Now he’s clenching and laughing at the same time.

“Remember when I gave birth, and the head started coming out?”

Harder banging on the door.

“Honey?”

He stopped me right there. He started heading for my bathtub room. He had all the power.

The beauty of this family is that no one ever takes vengeance on me. The miracle of this family is that no one has ever ruined his pants.

The special day class

February 26, 2013

Here’s how I learned the hard way to be careful which sub jobs I accepted, during that awful year I waited to get back into the newsroom.

Usually the Web site lists the teacher, grade range and subject. When it’s a two- or three-hour job it just says ‘IEP.’ This is secret code for ‘meeting.’

When I get to the office I have to ask what grade or subject I’m teaching. I also have to ask where the bathroom is. Otherwise they just hand me keys and say ‘F-7 is over there.’

In this case, the office employee (I don’t know what they’re called; I only know I will never use the ‘secretary’ word again,) said there was a variety of grades. “It’s a special day class,” she said.

This turned out to be secret code for ‘Children with extreme emotional or behavior disorders.’ But at this point in the story I didn’t know that.

I got to the room and saw a teacher, an aide, a Braille instructor and 20 assorted special children who were not behaving predictably.

I soiled my underpants.

The teacher said, “When I go, tell them to partner up and quiz each other with these telling-time cards. Have them get in a line at 1:45 and walk them to the bus.” She left.

The aide grabbed her coat too. This was not going to be good. She introduced me to the class, then said something to effect of, “They can’t tell time, or partner up or work independently in any way. Bye.”

The Braille instructor took the blind girl into a little room and closed the door.

I stood in front of the children and had many articulate thoughts of panic. What I said was, “Um.”

I pulled out the telling-time cards. A boy in the front row walked over and took them from me. He pulled one out and sat on the rest. This was exciting because he had evidently sat in water at recess. He put the other card in his mouth.

I didn’t know what to do.

I had brought children’s books with me. I didn’t suspect they would sit and listen, but I guessed it would pass some time with the trying. It went better than I had hoped. It was a visually miraculous book about color, and they got to see colors change through layered transparencies.

They were fascinated. I was brilliant. I’m Super Sub. Give me a cape.

Next I offered to teach them a song. The first song that popped into my head was “The Little Green Frog.” This was a tragic idea.

It starts out “Ah-ump went the little green frog,” with a tongue sticking out and popping back in on the “Ah-ump.” Little kids love it.

I got as far as the word ‘little’ when all hell broke lose. 

A child in the center of the room stood up and pulled on his hair with both hands. He was yelling, “I’m angry! I’m so angry!”

I went there, squatted in front of his desk and asked him to tell me what he was feeling.

“I’m so angry!” he was almost sobbing at this point, pulling hard on his hair.

“Can you tell me why you’re feeling angry?” I tried to sound soothing and calm. I was not feeling calm.

“Because you’re crazy!” he yelled. Then he ran out the door.

In isolation this would have been bad, but when he had first stood up, two other children got out of their seats — one chasing the other with a rolled up paper in laps around the cluster of desks. Bad I could have handled. This was beyond bad.

When Angry Boy ran out the door three other children ran out after him. Once outside, they scattered and hid.

I had to leave the room unattended while I corralled them. This took about until the end of the day.

I was late getting them headed toward the bus, and they were in no kind of line. I didn’t care. I was walking toward the bus and in a general way they were kind of following me.

My biggest accomplishment that day was waiting until I was in the car to cry.

I called my husband as I drove to pick up my children from their schools and told him the whole thing, blow by blow.

He had the gall to laugh heartily throughout the telling.

“Honey?” he finally said. Good, here comes my sympathy.

“Will you tell me that story again tonight? I loved it.”

Click.

The Devil?

February 25, 2013

We’re a Texas-Hold-‘Em family. I’ve been playing with a group from my newsroom for years, and my children each started playing with us at about age 10.

When my daughter was 11 she and I participated in a charity tournament at my mom’s church.

There were 41 players, who were allowed to purchase more chips when they got knocked out.

Everytime she sat at a table she took all the chips there. She cleared out three tables before my league’s leader, Scotchie, labeled her The Devil.

By the time she was at the final table it was her official nickname.

She took first place. Scotchie took second. Another from our league, who had just played in the World Series of Poker, came in third.

Almost a year later Scotchie organized a heads-up tournament for our league. This means instead of sitting at a table of players, all games are one on one until only one is left standing.

I outlasted about half of the players before my daughter eliminated me. From there she sat down against Scotchie’s brother.

Scotchie came up behind her and teased, “Look out for this one, she’s The Devil.”

“I’m not afraid of her,” Scotchie’s brother was all smiles. These boys taught her everything she knows.

She rolled her eyes and dealt out three cards face up — 6, 6 and 6.

Scotchie’s brother’s smile dropped. “Maybe I’m a little afraid.”

He folded.

The ski trip story

February 20, 2013

My kids are gone tonight with their school ski clubs. They’re great snowboarders. They didn’t get it from me.

Two cool guys, both named Steve, invited my high school best friend and me skiing once.

We were excited. We bought outfits. We looked great.

It turns out, this is not the important part of preparing for a ski trip.

It was still dark when the boys picked us up. We bopped in our seats to the Beastie Boys all the way up the mountain, flirting, laughing, looking great.

The Steves got on the lift in front of us. Our plan was to watch what they did and copy it.

First they glided off the lift. They unbent their knees and stood. Got it.

We had less finesse. Our skis tangled together and we were lucky to fall in a heap clean of the lift chair.

I don’t know if our inexperience was evident at that point, but I know we were no longer looking great.

The jig was up quickly enough, though, because we couldn’t get up. In fact, the lift attendant had to scoot us out of harm’s way by the armpits.

After lots of humiliating sliding we came to be upright. It didn’t last.

It was dusk when we got to the bottom of the mountain. We got there through a combination of sitting on the skis and gripping the fence we discovered abutting part of the trail.

Occasionally the Steves would call  to us from overhead as they ascended for another run. There was nowhere to hide from them.

We didn’t do any bopping on the drive home, but half of us did a lot of laughing.

The habanero story

February 4, 2013

Tonight’s story is my husband’s choice.

When we lived in Boulder, there was a gaggle of college boys  — who were old enough to be called men but not mature enough — who were our friends. They all lived in our house on and off, and were like uncles to our babies.

One afternoon we were having a barbecue and Matt brought out a bag of habanero peppers. These are the hottest peppers in the world.

These stupid boys ate those peppers.

Once one of them ate one, they each in turn tried to look more macho.

The barbecue ended fairly early, and it was an ugly night for most.

Our buddy Tug had had his preschool-age son that weekend. The morning after, he was delivering the boy to his mother when the boy was trying to form the story in his mind to report back home.

“Dad, what were those things you were eating last night?”

“Not now, honey.”

Repeat as necessary.

Finally Tug tried to answer. He got “Haba-” out before he puked on the steering wheel.

Tug was the most macho.

Disneyland

February 2, 2013

Recently I went to Disneyland with my mom and grama, because my daughter was performing there. Fun fact: My daughter spotted Orlando Bloom in line for Grizzly River Run, and then to her surprise he was seated with her on the ride.

My daughter’s marching band kicked off the parade. She was right in the center of the front rank, and I had to cry a little bit as they went by.

She’s still itty-bitty, but at least she’s allowed on the rides now.

In 1999 we took all my son’s friends to the park to celebrate his 7th birthday. My daughter had turned 5 the week before, and was a wee 3 feet, 3.75 inches.

This little girl loved to be sped, scared and startled, but she didn’t meet the height requirements for the exciting rides.

Disneyland insists you reach 40 inches to ride Star Tours. Now, I understand not wanting to put a wisp of a child in a Space Mountain seat, but Star Tours is basically a movie. The ride is the illusion of movement.

It broke my heart for her to stand waiting at the entrance, watching younger children run excitedly toward their place at the end of the line.

She never complained once that day, but when I turned back and looked at her, she was watching the boys at my side in line,  and I saw tears in her eyes.

She would have done me a favor to whine and stomp.

She was so close to reaching the requirement, I was cursing myself for not teasing her hair. You wouldn’t have fit a slice of cheese between her head and the bottom of Mickey’s glove. My husband tried to persuade the attendant to let her through. No go.

But halfway through the wait, a tiny hand slipped into mine, and I looked down into a huge smile.

“Daddy put folded park maps in my shoes,” she whispered.

My husband had seen a new attendant start her shift and took action.

The force was with us.

link to photos

The map story

January 30, 2013

Tonight’s story was my son’s choice.

When I was in seventh grade I had Mr. Snodgress for social studies. Mr. Snodgress was one of the best teachers I had, and I remember many things he taught or said.

But he was funny about maps.

Every week he passed out a blank map with a couple of continents on it. We were to get Color-Rite pencils, color at a 30-degree angle with a light touch and rub over the finished product with a Kleenex to soften the lines.

Fine.

The he started going on about the compasses. Mr. Snodgress wanted compasses with more pizzazz. We were slow to learn he didn’t want a plain cross with N, S, E, W at the points.

Cheeky punk that I was, I drew an elaborate full-figure Popeye, arms outstretched toward east and west. It took up the whole Atlantic Ocean.

It was a masterpiece. It was shaded and detailed from pipe to shoes. It was rubbed with a Kleenex. Vigorously.

The next Monday he was handing back the maps. He made it plain he recognized the sass, but he chuckled and breathed deeply before clarifying his compass request.

I don’t remember all the words. He started with something like, “When I said to make your compass nice…,” and ended with something like “not what I meant.”

But I remember the middle exactly: Probably the best drawing of Popeye I’ve ever seen.

Holding hands

January 28, 2013

My son is 16.

When he was an infant in my arms, I showed him off to one of my husband’s co-workers. Her son was 16 at the time.

Teary-eyed she told me she had realized the other day that he doesn’t hold her hand anymore.

“I wish I had known, that last time, that it was the last time,” she said.

This haunted me.

When my son was old enough to hold my hand, I ordered, “Warn me before you stop holding my hand.”

Everytime he held my hand he would say, “Don’t worry Mama, this isn’t the last time.”

I just realized the other day, one of those times was a lie.

The homeless guy story

January 21, 2013

Starbucks is running a new campaign, inspired by President Obama’s call for service. If you pledge five hours of community service of any kind, you get a free coffee.

Here’s my first experience with community service. It was unplanned.

When I lived in the Bay Area, I drove into San Francisco to meet a friend after work. My friend worked in a fancy hotel. Though I lived a few minutes from The City, I avoided it because of the homeless. It tormented me. I couldn’t sleep at night when it was cold for thinking of them.

So I grimaced when my friend said he wasn’t off yet. There was a man with a guitar and a turned-up hat sitting on the sidewalk by the hotel entrance, where I was to wait.

He sounded pretty good.

I stood there a minute trying not to be noticed, but he shouted at me. He wanted to know my name.

He wrote an impromptu song about my beauty. This was his shtick, but it wasn’t very effective, based on the coins in his hat.

I didn’t have any money to give him. So on top of the pity, I had guilt.

Out of panic, I asked if he knew ‘Proud Mary.’ I thought I was brilliant. I was distracting him from noticing I wasn’t giving him money.

“Do you?” he asked. Shoot. Don’t insult me. “Sing with me,” he said.

So I sat on the ground next to him, backs against the wall, and said, “Left a good job in the city….”

We made more than a hundred bucks.

The Secret

January 17, 2013

Monday afternoons are girls’ time at my mom’s house. We sit around the table with coffee and something fattening. Some work on scrapbook albums, some just visit.

A few months ago my grandma was telling us about a book she had just read, called The Secret, (and by ‘read,’ I mean bought, put on the bookshelf and learned all about on Oprah).

She was explaining to us that you have to decide what you want and behave as if you already achieved your dream. She said we are magnets for positivity when we put positivity into the atmosphere.

“You attract what you put out,” she said.

“It’s true,” I said. “I attracted my husband by putting out.”

Archery

January 14, 2013

Three years ago I was substitute teaching some for extra money, (my real job is as a copy editor.)

One day I was at my old junior high school taking over a friend’s English class on what I still think of as the archery field.

The children were fascinated to know PE class used to include a week of archery. I was fascinated that anyone would think this was a good thing. Archery terrifies me.

And as so often happens, I started explaining, and it started sounding ridiculous to me….

Every year in spring Mrs. Tilson marched us across the campus in our little white shorts and bright yellow — which they cooled up by calling ‘gold’ — striped T-shirts. We stood with our backs to the busy street, facing blocks of hay with targets on them, and heard about the dangers of the feathers.

That’s right, the feathers.

‘Don’t get your fingers in the way of the feathers,’ is how the speech began. ‘When they whiz by, they’re like razors. They will cut your fingers.’

And then came the worst part. Mrs. Tilson told about the kid who held the arrow too close to his face, and when he released it, a feather sliced his eyeball in half.

In preparation for writing this entry, I Googled ‘archery dangers,’ ‘feather dangers’ and ‘archery safety tips.’

Guess what. Mrs. Tilson is the only one who knows about the feathers.

The fight story

January 11, 2013

As far as fighting siblings go, I’m a lucky mom.

But last night while I was in the kitchen I could hear those voices that get right under the nerves between my shoulder blades. They use these voices when they’re doing their little dance between outright being bad and not making any effort to keep peace. It involves a ridiculous volley of saying the other person’s name in a warning tone, and making an overly innocent expression.

I can deduce what was going on. My son adores his sister, but he makes sport of annoying her. I’m pretty sure he was doing something with her calculator he thought was funny. He’s funny, but she doesn’t always think so.

My daughter is calm, patient and smart. She stands a lot of button-pushing before she responds, and that she does with flair.

The first time she lost her temper she was 4. Her brother was 6. I don’t know what they were on about, but I walked in the room to see her tiny hands fisted and her face red.

“That’s it!” she exploded. “The next time I have poop on my finger, guess who I’m gonna wipe it on.”

Clarifying

January 10, 2013

The saying, ‘righty tighty; lefty loosey’ always confused me.

Regardless of which way you turn something, either the top or the bottom is going left, and the other is going right.

So I raised my children with this handy saying: Clockwise tighty; counterclockwise loosey.

A new expression

November 9, 2012

When I was a kid, we would say, “Oooh. You got burned!”

When my kids were little, they would say “You got told!”

About a month ago my son said, “Oh! He took your five dollars.”

I thought I knew the root of this, but it couldn’t be. It’s too obscure.

It is. He remembered it, and coined an expression.

Many years ago I told him a joke I am embarrassed to tell you I told him.

Two deaf guys were sitting around. One signed to the other, “What will we do tonight?”

This joke is really better with the visual aid of hand signing, which I do poorly, but which makes the joke better nonetheless. Please imagine signing with this.

“Let’s pick up some chicks and park at the point.” And that’s what they did.

The deaf guy in the back seat tapped the one in the front. With his hands, he indicated a problem — no condoms.

“No problem,” signed the one guy. “I’ll drive us over to 7-Eleven.”

The back seat guy goes in the store. A few minutes later he taps on the front window.

“There’s a problem,” he signs. “The condoms are behind the counter, and I can’t get the guy to understand what I want.”

“Just put $5 on the counter and pull out your penis.”

A few minutes later, tap tap tap.

“Did you get the condoms?”

Shaking no.

Then, with hands: Here’s what happened. I put the money on the counter, just like you told me. Then I pulled out my penis. He put $5 on the counter. He pulled out his penis. His was bigger. He took my five dollars.”

I hope I didn’t offend any deaf people. Blogging blind jokes is probably safer.

Mom’s voice in my head

August 20, 2012

I cleaned my house the night before my birthday party.

Our other house took days to clean. It was like painting the Golden Gate bridge.  I really appreciate having half the space and a more modern home when I clean.

My son came home in the evening, and every time he went into a room, he said, “It looks great in here!”

I used to say this to my mom when the house looked good, but she would always say, “No thanks to you.” So I stopped.

I thought of this, and how nice it was to hear that my work was noticable, and I just said, “Thank you” to my boy.

Mom called.

“Shall I come over and clean your house?”  At 8 p.m.?

“I cleaned it already.”

“Since you got home from work? It can’t be very clean.”

“Well my son came home and said the house looks great.”

“No thanks to him, I’m sure.”

I actually did not see that coming.

Getting arrested — a love story

April 7, 2012

I’ve started putting photos on a site called Photos O’ Mine, if I’ve got them, relating to the stories on this site.

It’s not going well. I think the site is a little screwy. When I click save, fonts change, captions merge or move, pictures disappear. It looks wacky right now, but I’m diligent. Bear with me.

I was putting in pictures for How we met when it occurred to me I never wrote about the arrest.

So far I’ve taken you through the first two days. (See How we met, continued for day 2.)

On the third day there was a Save the Rainforest festival. My new boyfriend and I walked hand in hand and learned about each other. We seemed to be made to be together. At nightfall he said, “People say when you meet the right person you just know. I always thought that was stupid. But I met you, and I just know.”

The fourth day was the protest. More than 1,000 people met at the chain-link fence True Geothermal Energy Co. had erected in the Wao Kele O Puna rainforest. It was the biggest demonstration of its kind.

The first night of our stay we had ridden over to see where the demonstration would be. Mr. Blue Eyes had hopped out of the truck bed first and approached the fence. When he put his hands on it, he made like it was electrified. ‘Note to self: gorgeous eyes, environmentally proactive and funny.’

The protesters were not anti-geothermal power. It’s in fact a clean source of energy. The gripe was that True had bought different land for its drill site, but Mount Kilauea erupted and buried that site in hard, black lava. The allegation was that True then made an illegal land swap, taking without permission the last lowlevel rainforest in North America, which was also sacred religious ground to the natives.

So there we were, drowning in a tie-dyed throng in an emotional embrace, watching people squeeze one-at-a-time through a break in the fence. From there they were handcuffed, identified and put on a bus.

Hundreds were children. My boyfriend tried to point this out to me, but he choked on the words with tears. ‘Note to self: senstive. Take this one home.’

We took our turn as accused trespassers, then took our turn to reject the charge, based on our being on public land. Into the bus we went, joining the singing, “This is land is your land; this land is my land….”

One hundred thirty-three people were arrested. We didn’t fit in the Hilo jail, so they put us in a storage garage.

We sat on the cement floor and discussed our strategy of solidarity. By law, I learned, they had to arraign us within a certain amount of time. We had the right, the leader said, to remain incarcerated until that time.

With our numbers, this was impossible. They would have to release us until our court date. We were instructed to refuse to leave. “When they hand you your ticket, don’t reach for it,” King Hippie said. “Do not walk out of here.”

As luck would have it (or because I’m little, and they didn’t want to start with a child), I was the first one they went after.

I didn’t take the ticket, so they shoved it down my shirt. I wouldn’t stand up, so two large men scooped me by my elbows and knees and carried me out of the building, unceremoniously dumping me on the grass.

This was met by wild cheering. I couldn’t see anyone, though, because of the bright lights: the crowd outside included news cameras.

Eventually we were all out — after a few oustings people gave up the solidarity plan — and back at the Big Island Rainforest Action Group camp.

I had come under ridicule for showing up to an environmental action camping trip with a battery-operated television (I didn’t want to miss General Hospital,) but was suddenly popular. As many as could gathered around to watch my squinting form being dumped on the grass.

I had about seven rolls of photos from this adventure, but they belonged to the newspaper, and I didn’t get to keep them.

I kept something else, though: a blue-eyed, funny, sensitive man and a new understanding of solidarity.

link to photos

I fought with a nurse

July 27, 0010

This weekend we went to a party to welcome my new baby niece. I love holding newborns, but my birthing stories would scare anyone off getting pregnant, me being at the top of the list.

I gave birth to my son throughout the night. He was stuck.

At 6 in the morning he finally made it out and I wanted to sleep.

‘Look at your new son!’ someone said.

I closed my lids. They were blackish purple all the way to my brows because my pushing had broken all the blood vessels in them. ‘Just plug him on my breast. I’ll see him later.’

They did and I went to sleep. I was sleeping blissfully when a new nurse came on duty.

She shook my arm roughly and yelled, ‘Wake up and pee!’

Bitch.

I didn’t open my eyes, but I murmured, ‘I don’t need to pee.’

‘Yes you do.’

She wouldn’t go away. She said, ‘You have to pee, and if you don’t, you’re going to wet the bed. Then you’ll have to go find someplace to sit while I change your urine sheets. Get up and pee.’

‘I don’t have to pee.’

My husband, who was sleeping next to me, said, ‘Just go. We could have been back to sleep by now.’

But I didn’t have to pee.

I threw back the sheets with a huff, gentled the baby closer to Daddy and stood up.

And peed all over the floor next to the bed.