Archive for the ‘husband’ Category

The terrified cell-phone salesman story

November 19, 2013

In April of 2006 my husband took me downtown to replace my cell phone before I left for a road trip to Sacramento.

The 20-something ringing up my new Back in Black Razr looked anxious. I thought he had to pee.

He said to my husband, “You’re a teacher, you said? I need some advice.”

No one ever said this to me. Instead people say, “You’re an editor? I don’t ever want to talk around you or let you see something I wrote.”

But I’m not bitter. Try to stop me from giving advice.

The kid proceeded to tell us that a friend of a friend had cornered him in a bar the night before asking to buy 999 of the $10 pre-paid cell phones, cash. He asked for anonymity. The would-be customer was Middle Eastern.

I asked the kid if large transactions raised red flags, triggered investigations.

Yup, any sale $10,000 or more attracts attention.

The kid started sweating and shaking.

“What should I do? I think I need to call the FBI, but if he gets caught, he’ll know it was me.”

He was making me nervous.

“Have you talked about this with your mother?”

Yes, she told him he should do whatever he thought was right for him.

Thanks, cell-phone mommy who made it my problem. Next time remember I never want to be a knower of this kind of business.

I told him I thought it was his duty to report anything he thought was suspicious. I implored the child to imagine how responsible he would feel if something went down because he kept mum.

My husband said, “Yeah.”

We left.

At the post office, our next stop, I was playing with my new phone, which wasn’t working.

We went back.

The kid was pacing behind the counter, and his hair was pasted straight up with sweat.

“I did it. I called the police,” he said.

My eyes went wide. Good for him, but now I wanted to get lots of distance between us.

“I used a pay phone and didn’t give my name, but he’ll know.”

The guy looked positively rabid. I said something about not wanting to stand in front of the windows and earned an elbow jab in my side.

My husband was calm. He said, “The Razr won’t make calls.”

I gotta hand it to this kid. He was the AT&T Employee and Mr. Hyde.

“Let me see it.” He gave it his full attention — even chuckled when he realized he hadn’t put a SIM card in it.

I told him he was the bomb. No one thought I was funny.

I don’t know what became of the boy or the call, but when I got back from Sacramento, the business was gone.

Advertisements

My husband’s student’s death

October 22, 2013

My husband teaches in a high poverty, high crime high school in Southern California.

He’s told me stories about the kids’ not having toilet paper, hunting dinner out of dumpsters, raising siblings.

There’s also a lot of gang activity. One afternoon he called me upset, because one of his students — a 14-year-old boy — had been shot in both knees. The counselor had sent an e-mail to excuse tardiness. The child’s walking was slow.

Another day he was calling me on his cell phone, telling me it was slow getting off campus. “Oh here’s the problem, a child has been stabbed.”

I pictured him stepping over the body with his Razr to his ear and briefcase in hand, but it probably wasn’t like that.

I don’t think a year has gone by when his roll sheet hasn’t decreased because of a shooting.

But this story isn’t about a gang killing. This is about a teacher killing a kid.

A few years ago the basketball coach took her team for a hazing exercise. She tried to drop the girls in a bad neighborhood in the middle of night and have them find their way back to her house during a sleepover.

This would help them bond.

One player didn’t want to get out of the back of the van. She was afraid.

The teacher drove forward and back, slamming the brakes, until the child fell out. She landed on the back of her head on the street.

Coach waited an untoward while before calling for help.

This was the second time in my husband’s then 15-year teaching career he planned to go to one of his best students’ funerals.

He took this one hard, and needed to tell me all about it.

This would lead to some trouble for us.

He told me that this teacher would have lost her job the year before for violent behavior in class (I think she broke a clipboard in a rage or something), but her aunt was a member of the school board, and vouched for her.

The staff had been told not to talk to the media. I pictured them looking at him when they said this. They knew he was married to media. The administration was trying to control the story.

I was in a bad spot.

This is exactly the kind of news the public has a right to know. People send their children to school trusting there is some core concern for providing safe supervision.

Tattling on people abusing power is our job. Protecting the community is why many of us are in the business. I couldn’t not report this. I couldn’t be an accomplice.

I called it in. He felt betrayed.

The parents pulled the plug on the girl Sunday. The injury happened on Friday.

By then, it was a big story without my help. Likely the girl’s family had a thing or two to shout, school reputation be damned.

My husband gave a eulogy at the service, and was on the TV news saying what a promising future the girl had.

Our marriage survived the conflict of loyalties, and the coach was fired.

If anything like this has happened since, I wouldn’t know.

Even in pain, I’m a smartass

September 24, 2013

I once broke my wrist.

I had been put under the day before, to have a cyst taken off my uterus. I was supposed to be spending the day in bed, but an old acquaintance from Boulder was in California for the week and insisted on visiting that day.

I was pissy. I had wanted to visit on Tuesday, but they decided to do Sea World Tuesday. I felt like these people were forcing themselves on me on Friday. It was Friday the 13th, even.

My husband had taken the day off to pamper me. Instead of ringing a bell for some peeled fruit, I was trying to keep two toddlers I’d never met from being bored.

I walked the children and their mother to the neighborhood park, smiling and struggling to keep up my end of the conversation. We had the dogs, which is always good for avoiding quiet moments.

When we got to the playground, the older girl, who was maybe 4, wanted to take my bigger dog’s leash. This is an Akita-husky mix. He’s smart and gentle, but large and strong. He’s used to children.

I told her that if she became uneasy at any point to just let the leash go.

She took this to mean, ‘Walk him all the way over to the lawn past the bridge and let the leash go.’

Fine.

I usually leave both dogs off leash anyway. They’re trained and good.

Then I espied a dog on a leash yonder where my dog was free. I understand enough about dog politics. This was not fair.

I kept my eye on Lamont (yes, we named him after Big Dummy) while I walked in his direction.

As I passed close by the water fountain I tripped on the concrete step at its base.

Instantly I was on my back with a bloody knee. One glance at my wrist was my last. I almost threw up from the sight. There was no alignment. If it weren’t encased in skin, my hand would have come clean off.

I calmly asked Katherine to call 911. Unfortunately , she fancied herself a medic of sorts, having 20 years ago had some minor job in an ambulance, and instead sent an onlooker to a nearby house for a towel and ice.

Oh, that would not do. I wanted a man in a uniform with a syringe full of morphine, please.

Meanwhile the boys track team from the high school showed up. I was immobile on my back, afraid to move and jostle my wrist, so they had to bend over me to show me their faces.

You know from my previous posts what a small town I live in. I knew all of these children. Several were graduates of my journalism program, two were brothers of my kids’ friends, and one was the son of my Jazzercise instructor.

The Jazzer-son was working toward Eagle Scoutdom. He took charge by asking me questions.

“Are you in pain?”

“Yes, but it’s not as bad as your mama’s morning class.”

“Are you beginning to feel chills?”

“Yes, they’re multiplying. And I’m losing control.” He didn’t get it.

At this point, I was unbearably cold. My body began an involuntary trembling, and I was desperately trying to keep my arm still. I was going into shock for sure.

The Boy Scout was getting nervous. “Are you shocking?!”

“Well, I was pregnant when I got married,” I said through my teeth, which at that point were violently chattering.

My husband showed up then, and called me an ambulance.

I don’t know who was more relieved to see him, me or the poor boy I wasn’t cooperating with.

click here for photo

The paging story

September 23, 2013

This is a story I could not tell you in person, because the memory of it sends me into fits of laughter. I’m sure it will not come across as as funny as it was to me at the time, so I’ve put off including it.

It’s time.

One night my husband had gone to the supermarket for something or other. We mostly didn’t shop at the supermarket. We went to the groovy bulk organic hippie store on the corner. But now and then we needed something like Tylenol or Oreos, and it was off to King Soopers.

So my husband was gone to get a thing and Jer and I were at home talking about how it’s been 20 years since we had Tang.

Suddenly we had to have some Tang.

This was before cell phones, and we were thinking it was tragic we didn’t have this thought 10 minutes earlier.

Then we thought, hey, they have phones at King Soopers. Let’s call him there. They can page him.

This struck us as both brilliant and hilarious. We imagined his face when we told him we paged him because we wanted Tang.

While we waited for him to respond to the page, it occurred to us that it would be even funnier if we said we just called to say hi.

So we scrapped the Tang request and went with our new plan.

He didn’t even laugh a little.

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 three-little-words story

July 11, 2013

A month after I met my husband I flew out to spend Easter weekend with him in Colorado. I ended up calling my professors and declaring illness. I stayed a week, adding a day at a time.

The only one who seemed to care was a photographer assigned to an untimely story I hadn’t written yet.

Late one night we had put on Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, opened a bottle of wine and were slow dancing by candlelight. My boyfriend said something that I was 80 percent certain was “I’m in love with you.”

It was muffled by my hair.

Though we had said things like, “You’re the one;” “I’m done looking;” and “I’ve never felt like this before,” the word “love” was as yet unuttered.

I was in a fix. What if he had said something else, like, “I’ve an oven flue,” and I said, “I love you, too”?

I would sound dumb.

I didn’t want to sound dumb, so I said, “Huh?”

“I wanna live with you,” he repeated.

Ah! Good thing I asked.

“Yeah, no.”

Things need to be said in the right order.

(For anybody getting ready to disapprove, we did not live together before we were married in 1992.

. . . When I discovered I was pregnant.)

The trip to the emergency room story

June 29, 2013

My Oldest Friend’s baby took a random toddler spill and ended up in the E.R. with a broken nose and battered mug. Today there is also a gruesome black eye.

Mr. Oldest Friend is across the country on a business trip.

I feel for her, balancing an injured baby on one knee and keeping her preschooler from feeling ignored on the other; and for Mr., seeing ghastly photos of his little girl on the monitor — unable to be there offering strength, comfort and protection.

I’m an hour away from her, and I feel helpless, so I’ll bet he’s crazy with it.

Being a parent is much more painful than being a kid in pain, I say.

Here’s how I know.

One afternoon we bought a steam cleaner. That year we had adopted a puppy.

My 8-year-old son saw an opportunity in the empty box, which, as it happens, slid beautifully over the carpeted steps.

And which, he discovered with delight, he fit inside.

He went up to the landing halfway between the third floor and second, climbed into the box with his bed pillow and rode belly down and feet first to the bottom.

When the box hit the landing, the top swung over. The back of my son’s head hit the hardwood floor with a sound like when you drop a watermelon.

He lay there, noisily. 

I had been making chocolates when I heard the launch. I ran to him, but didn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t lift his head. I’m not good in a crisis, it turns out.

I called my husband, who was shooting pool in Uncle Mike’s garage.

I told him our son went down the stairs in the steam-cleaner box. My husband laughed. “That’s hilarious!” he said. I was in no emotional state for his not getting it. He proceeded to say the wrong thing: He told me to calm down.

Then he said something productive: Check his eyes to see if the pupils are the same size. They were.

“Let me talk to him.” I handed the phone to my son on the floor. He had calmed, and wanted to hear about Mike’s new pool table.

He’ll be fine, my husband said. He’s just stunned.

After lying there a while my boy got up and started moving around the house. He ate a few chocolates, but he wasn’t right.

At 6:30 p.m. he lay on the couch and said his vision was blurry.

That was it. We were off to the emergency room.

My husband met me in that little room where they check blood pressure, weight and temperature. My son got off the examining table, puked my chocolates into the sink, and lay back down. He went promptly to sleep. We couldn’t wake him.

A doctor was summoned. He said something about checking for bleeding on the brain and used the word ‘fatal.’ We were off to a CAT scan.

It was much ado about nothing. My husband was right. After about 15 hours of sleep the blurry vision was gone and so were the rest of the chocolates.

I wasn’t so quick to recover.

Thinking of my girlfriend sitting in the emergency room from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. brings it all back.

So I write this in empathy for her, so she knows I know that sometimes, you just gotta hang your head and cry.

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 kayak story

June 17, 2013

There’s a house in my neighborhood with a kayak on the front lawn. According to the sign, someone’s asking $400 for it.

This reminds me of a story that ends with me getting in a lot of trouble.

I moved in with my husband immediately after the wedding. It wasn’t great. He had refused to ask his friends who rented rooms in his house to move out.

One of the guys was particularly unaccommodating. He insisted I park around the corner so the guys could use the driveway. He told me I wasn’t welcome to use the grocery bags with the handles on them.

One day a kayak showed up on the front lawn. The place was disgraceful enough, what with the couch and broken stove on the porch. I took a stand against the kayak.

Unaccommodating Guy said he was keeping it for a friend, and there it would stay.

A couple of weeks later I was playing poker, and a guy I had never met commented that he really needed to win, because he was saving up for a kayak.

How fortuitous.

I shared that there was one for the stealing on my front lawn, and I implored him not to let this opportunity pass him by.

Two days later Unaccommodating Guy ran in the front door and dialed the police. This made me extremely uncomfortable. I hadn’t thought of that.

Then my husband ran in looking distressed. “Someone stole the kayak!”

It flashed through my mind to try to look surprised, but I’m no kind of skilled liar. I’m too afraid of getting caught. “I invited a guy to steal it.”

It got quiet. All eyes were on me.

I acted brave and sure, “It’s my house. No tenants have the right to use it to store other people’s things against my say so. Show me more respect next time.”

The police showed up and made a report. Our homeowners insurance replaced the guy’s kayak.

I’m a different woman now, and there’s a lot I would do differently if I could go back to that part of my life.

But not this.

The yelling story

June 12, 2013

Happy happy birthday to my favorite girl in the world, my beautiful wonderful daughter.

This is my favorite story about her, because it shows how very cool she is and always has been.

We moved to California when she 2 and a half. My husband became a stay-at-home dad and I left to work two jobs.  

Something happened one night. I don’t know what. I wasn’t home.

My husband apparently lost his temper at The Baby. He said he just blew his top and yelled himself out at her. She had never been yelled at before.

She stood there unblinking, looking up at him throughout his tirade. 

When he stopped, she put her index finger against her lips and went, “Ssshhhh.”

She had him trained in no time.

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 dog-in-the-street story

June 9, 2013

You cannot unread this story. Probably you should surf to another blog today, or read one of my better stories, like The Special Day Class or The Pregnant Teenager Story.

This will conclude my three-day series of stories non gratae.

We were about two blocks from home when my son looked out the window and saw a little dog running alongside our car. “He’s racing us.”

The dog’s legs were short, but he was fast. We thought it was funny.

We lived on a wide, busy street. As we pulled in front of our house, my husband said, “We oughta get that dog before he runs into traffic.”

My son ran to the sidewalk, crouched and patted his thighs. “C’mere b–”

We heard thu-thunk.

My son says the dog turned and looked at him just as a truck caught him. The truck drove off.

I held my son while he repeated, ‘Oh no.’ I hated that he saw that.

The kids and I went in the house while my husband went to see if the dog was alive.

When he hadn’t come back after an hour I called his cell phone. He was sedate, “Yeah?”

“Where are you?”

“In the garage.”

The dog had looked dead, but when my husband moved it to the sidewalk it started jerking.

Silence. Then, “I’m looking for something to kill it with, but I can’t do it. I don’t think I can do it. I’m just standing here. The dog’s on the sidewalk. It’s thrashing. It’s in too much pain.”

I was so worried about my son, it hadn’t occured to me to worry about my husband.

I called the animal hospital for advice. They told me to bring the dog in.

By then the dog was dead. Can I bring my husband in? He needs a shot of whatever you were gonna give that dog.

The ranting waiter story

June 8, 2013

My husband hates this story. Everytime it comes up, he gets angry. 

I figured since I wrote the story my children hate, I’d make a trilogy. Tomorrow I will post the story I most hate. You will hate it too.

One afternoon I had a lunch date with my mom and Nana at an expensive restaurant in our quiet Main Street-style downtown. It went badly.

When we got there the place was barren.

For some reason we were neglected. Some people came, ordered, ate and left while we waited.

I said, “When this is over we will have paid about $35 each for a miserable afternoon.” That kind of ticket is a splurge for me. I can’t afford to spend that casually.

We left.

Our waiter found us two doors down at a fifties-style burger joint.

We had just ordered and were standing in the middle of the dining room looking for a place to sit when he burst in, insisting we go back. “This isn’t fair! I’ll have to pay for all your food.”

He didn’t apologize. He argued those that ate had gotten there first.

My grama looked like she was trying not to cry. “Let’s just go back. People are looking,” she kept saying.

Everyone was staring. They listened to the waiter yell at us in front of the jukebox until the Betty’s Burgers manager brought out our order and offered to find us a table.

When I related this to my husband he turned red. He said, “He treated you that way because you’re women. If I had been there, he never would have done that. Makes me so angry.”

I think it’s sweet that my husband gets so worked up. I tell this story a little more often than I need to.

The James Bond theme

May 19, 2013

My son and husband just rented Quantum of Solace. They’re doing their guy thing in the living room, while my daughter and I make baby clothes for my brand new niece.

We have Grey’s Anatomy on. It’s making us cry. We are not doing the guy thing.

I have never seen a James Bond movie. It’s my son’s first.

One Christmas I got the game Cranium. My son and I were a team, and I drew a name-that-tune card. It was the James Bond theme.

Shoot, I didn’t know the James Bond theme.

So I hummed the Mission Impossible theme.

My son yelled, “The James Bond theme!” and we won the game.

Yeah, we’re that good.

This is what’s in a name

May 17, 2013

I was born with an unusual name. It’s not an uncommon word, but it was spelled differently so teachers mispronounced it.

I hated the way kids and some adults felt they had to make a comment when they were introduced to me.

Often people would say, “That’s your name?” which was always followed by “Where are you from?” or “What nationality are you?”

I was from here, same as Jennifer and Suzy.

Once, in elementary school, I was getting a drink at the fountain and a boy I had a crush on said loudly, “See that girl? Her name is  (insert name here.)” The boys laughed and I cried.

I started trying to get people to call me different names at age 3. I was Rose, Mary, Linda and Dianne. At age 10 I found one that fit, and it’s my legal name today.

I had a normal name for 13 years, and then I married a man with a last name people giggle at. It was destiny, I guess.

My children are great sports.

Last week my daughter performed in a concert. There were thousands in the theater.

The woman to my left said, “Look at this kid’s name.”

Her son looked at her finger on the program and read my daughter’s name aloud. They tittered.

I imagined identifying myself, which made my ears hot and my heart pound. I am a great big chickenpants.

An hour later my daughter’s group took the stage.

The woman said, “Here comes that kid with the funny name.”

The boy said her name. This was my chance.

I turned to her and said, “That’s my daughter.” My heart was thudding and I was breathing funny. I’m not cut out for confrontation.

“Who?”

“The child you’re laughing at.” I faked calm.

“Chivus?”

What? “No,” I said my last name.

She effected a puzzled face. “We were talking about Chivus.”

She’s insulting me with denial now?

I didn’t respond. She turned toward her son, put an arm around him and kissed his hair.

I debated telling the children what happened, but I can’t have a story inside me and not tell it.

They took it well. They asked, “Where was she from?”

Here, obviously, but I wish I had asked her anyway. Meow.

The chandelier story

May 8, 2013

The only department store in my small Southern California town is going out of business.

Every day the teens on the corners with signs are showing a larger percentage discount. The store still looks full through the glass, but apparently ‘everything must go.’

It was a pricey store. If others are like me, they’re waiting for that percentage to get to 85 before biting.

This happened once before here.

We had a decoration-type place called ‘House to Home.’

My favorite Realtor had given us a gift certificate for sending her business.

My husband and I went to spend it — meaning he went to look at stuff he wished we could get, while I decided we would get throw pillows, a light-switch plate and a plant stand.

The living room of our craftsman home sported a gaudy dripping-crystal chandelier that we both thought was comical, so I wandered lustfully through the lighting section as I looked for my husband.

When I found him, I said, “I found the chandelier of my dreams. I can’t believe how much I love it.”

He said, “I’ll go check it out” — not ‘Which one is it?’ or ‘What does it look like?’

Then he returned to my side at the checkout. “I love it too, but it’s 500 bucks. You need to find Rhonda four more homebuyers and put those throw pillows back. Plus there’s tax.”

It was 500 bucks. It was the only one that was 500 bucks. Amazing.

Months later teens appeared on the corner with signs. The percentage off was 40.

Suddenly I was quick with math. “Honey, that chandelier now costs about 300 bucks.”

“Wait,” he said.

“But I love it really bad.”

“Wait,” he said.

Everyday I drove past those teens with the signs twice. Sometimes the percent on the sign was lower on my way to work than on the way home.

I kept doing math. My husband kept saying, ‘Wait.’

When the sign said 65 percent off I stopped to make sure they still had my chandelier. There was one left, in an unlabeled box. I took it to another department and hid it under some bed frames.

A friend of ours offered advice. He said, “If it’s worth $200 to you, then it’s worth $200. Go buy it.”

I waited.

Finally, it was down to $100. I went in and bought it.

We took down the crystal tear-drop monstrosity and put up my new lighting fixture of love.

I was positively giddy.

My immediate thought was that if I’d known how good it was going to look there, I would never have risked its being sold.

I would have paid the 500 bucks.

Click here for photo.

The blood-drive story

April 29, 2013

My son called me Friday at work, asking to forge my signature on a permission form for the blood drive, going on that minute. In the few weeks before I was kicked out of my law class, I learned that signing someone’s name with permission — and a witness to the permission giving — is not forgery. I gave him my grace by speaker phone and had done with it.

Naturally, I have a story about giving blood.

I’m afraid of needles, and have been delighted always to be ineligible to participate. You have to weigh at least 115 pounds and not be pregnant.

One evening I came home with a Band-Aid on my krelbow. Fun fact: The word ‘krelbow’ is the word in my house for the inner elbow. I came home to Boulder from a visit with my family in California showing off this new term. My husband, who taught anatomy at the time, laughed at me. ‘Where did you get that?’ I learned it playing Scrabble with  my aunties. ‘How much is the K worth?’ I was suckered, but my pride demands I continue using the word.

My husband pointed at the Band-Aid and raised his eyebrows.

“I gave blood today.” The blood bank used to hold drives every season in the conference room when I worked at the paper.

“Sure you did.”

I did. I lied about my weight, because I wanted the free booklight. Also the cookies were chocolate chip.

My husband shook his head chucklingly. “And how did it go?”

After some sadist with gel in his hair took the needle out, I stood up and swooned. They made me lie down for a half hour with cookies and my novel. I liked that part.

Imagine, after all I went through, my husband having the nerve to tell me the booklight was too bright.

The hair-in-the-shower story

March 28, 2013

I lose a handful of hair everytime I wash it. To keep it out of the drain, I stick it to the wall during my shower, then throw it in the trash after.

My husband one day accused me of sticking it to the wall and leaving it there.

“I have never.”

Now, obviously he was right, or how would he know I stuck it to the wall? But I felt sure I never left it there.

I had the nerve to hold my ground.

The next night during my shower I got an idea that struck me as terribly funny. I wrote “HI” on the shower wall with my hair.

And left it there.

I came out of the bathroom and told the kids what I had done.

When my husband went to take his shower, the kids and my goddaughter, who was living with us at the time, ran with me into the office. It was across the hall from the bathroom.

My daughter giggled, “Wait for it…”

We were rewarded with a chuckly bellow, “Oh, you are such a pig!” 

Marriage is fun.

How I met my husband, continued

March 23, 2013

This is the 21st anniversary of my becoming my husband’s girl.

The story I told before happened on March 22. Here’s what happened the next day.

From the airport in Hilo we were taken to the Big Island Rainforest Action Group headquarters, a building/campsite area in the forest. Many people had tents, but I had never camped before, so I slept on the floor of the main room indoors.

The Aries with the blue eyes slept in his friend Matt‘s tent.

In the morning someone with a car announced he was taking all of these hippies to the beach. I put on my neon one-piece and away we went.

We piled out on the side of a road. The driver pointed to steps and drove off.

I froze at the top of the steps. Everybody down there was naked. Hippies were running down the wooden steps whooping and peeling off their tie-dyes.

The beach was gorgeous. All the sand was black, because it was from the volcano. The ocean was clear aquamarine in front of us. We had palms and papayas behind.

I spread out my towel and lay there in my suddenly louder-than-neon one piece, watching naked hippies play Frisbee.

The Aries and Matt came to sit with me. We ate papayas and watched dolphins frolick close to shore. Later a humpback whale swam over and waved its fluke at us.

Back at the campsite all of those protesters had sunburned privates.

I had gotten to know the Aries pretty well by now. So well that Matt suddenly wanted to sleep outside, which left a vacancy in the tent if I wanted it. He said this in front of a nasty guy who had offered me tent space earlier, so I had to turn him down to protect feelings.

The Aeries asked if I would rub lotion on his burned back. He suggested I bring my baby oil over and give him a lube job.

I said, ‘I know your type, lube ’em and leave ’em.’

I think he hasn’t left me yet just to prove me wrong.

The dirty water story

March 13, 2013

My husband will eat or drink anything not in someone’s hand. I have almost no complaints about this man, but I have this one.

Tonight my daughter had a cup of chocolate pudding. I don’t know where it came from, but she was excited to find it in the cabinet. We made a deal: She could have it if she made the sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunches.

She opened it, put a spoon in it and set it down to get to work. Then my husband walked by and picked it up to eat it.

Spoon in hand he denied my accusations. I was forced to remind him of the time he got what he deserved.

My babies were born at Christmas time, and winter in Boulder was brutal. Our house was always cold. Instead of baby wipes, I used to fill a plastic cup with warm water and dip a washcloth in it. I did not use a cup from the kitchen.

I had changed a chunky diaper and ended up with a sleeping infant in my arms, the dirty water stranded on the table.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

In walked the reason I only ever got half a cup of coffee. He saw a cup with liquid in it and couldn’t resist. It had to be his. Fine.

I let him drink it.

He didn’t change. So much for learning through natural consequences.

And he didn’t get a kiss for a week.

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 movie date story

March 8, 2013

When the biopic The People Vs. Larry Flynt, came out in theaters, my husband and I went to see it on a date.

We’re big into dates. When we’re out, my husband refers to me as his best girl.

The theater was nigh on sold out, and we had to sit in the middle of the front row.

In one scene Mr. Flynt made a return appearance in a courtroom where he’d been scolded for disrespectful behavior.

He wheeled his chair in and took his place behind the defendant table. His T-shirt said, “F*** this court.”

The movie in no way addresses the shirt.

My husband and I were consumed with laughter.

Throughout the scene we would settle down when the camera cut away, only to start up again when it showed him presenting his defense in that shirt we were bending our necks to see.

Today we refer to that as the night we knew we were growing old with the right person.

Because throughout that whole scene, in that crowded room, no one else laughed.

My son took his best girl to the movies this afternoon. He came into the kitchen with wet hair, buttoning his cuffs and smelling like Axe.

He was ready.

Sonnets

March 4, 2013

Two years ago on this date I taught eighth-graders how to write sonnets, and I told the children what I know best about sonnets: They have 14 lines.

Here’s why I will never forget that.

A month after the magical week of meeting my husband in Hawaii he flew to my family reunion to declare his intentions to my clan.

My grama was one of nine children, none of whom had died at that point. They were all there. Piling on all of their offspring made a big gathering.

My boyfriend and I had jumped in on a Trivial Pursuit game with two of my cousins and my mom. I was trying to look smart.

He read from a card, “How many lines are in a sonnet?”

I answered “five” and grabbed for the die. I was feigning confidence.

“Wait,” he seemed reluctant to tell me I was wrong. “A sonnet has…”

“Oh a sonnet,” I interrupted. “Seven.”

I made for the die again.

“Fourteen.”

“Oh a whole sonnet.”

That afternoon of fun was a pack of trying-to-catch-a-mate lying.

I was pretending to be a knower of things, and he was pretending to be a liker of games.

Our pants were aflame.

A ribbing

March 3, 2013

This morning my husband screwed something up, and my son and I were having fun at his expense.

We wouldn’t have ganged up on him, but my husband let his pride goeth before he attacked the whole system he failed at.

“Honey, you’re just wrong,” I said. He argued.

I called for a vote.

This sent my son and me into giggles.

My husband played along, “We need our daughter here for quorum.” He pronounced it ‘corem.’

My son said, “What’s corem?”

I said, “It’s an apple-orchard term. You’ll find it in the technical book with juicem and pickem.” We were all cracking up.

My poor husband tried to join in, “And sellem.”

We stopped laughing. Then my son and I spoke at once.

“You went too far.”

“That’s one more than we needed.”

We started laughing again. I said, “And if you say ‘eatem,’ I’m leaving.”

“Eatem.”

I left to take a bath, but I could hear my husband add, “Thank God that’s over,” and my son respond, “Well Dad, we still live here.”

I would hate to be teased so. Thank goodness for the double standard.

Smoking

February 27, 2013

One summer a few years back my husband followed in my footsteps. He spent a summer semester in Mexico.

He did it to learn Spanish, though, not to chase some hot guy.

In Cuernavaca he lived with a wonderful family, whom I have since met. The son is now living in Costa Mesa. The mom of this family has come out to visit several times, and is out visiting now.

We last saw her in August, when we went to Long Beach to see them both. The son was competing in an archery tournament.

During a break in the shooting the son took my son to a target and let him try out the bow and arrow. The mom waved my daughter and me away from the field to keep her company while she smoked a cigarette.

Her cigarettes had come from Mexico. They were Marlboros, but they didn’t look like the Marlboros sold here. The bottom half of every side of the box had bold black letters saying ‘This will kill you.’

It said this in English.

We chatted, the three of us, about how much she likes Disneyland and how hot it was on the archery field. Mostly we were talking in Spanish, and my daughter couldn’t follow.

Then she addressed my daughter directly.

“You shouldn’t smoke,” she looked somberly at my daughter’s face and pointed with her smoking cigarette to the area where our chairs were, “over there.”

I burst out laughing.

“Really,” she defended. “They will make you leave.”

Aye caramba.

The lasagne story

February 14, 2013

Tonight in honor of Valentine’s Day I am making tomato soup with parmesan cream. It’s a beautiful red soup, in which you put a circle of cream dollops. Drag a knife through them and you have a ring of white hearts in your bowl.

No matter what I make, it won’t be as memorable as my first Valentine’s dinner with my husband. This dinner has become family legend.

I was a college student, and I didn’t have much experience cooking.

My mama, however, is a miracle in the kitchen, so by phone she led me through making a lasagne. She gave me her secret recipe.

My boyfriend and I had been together for almost 11 months.

When he got to my apartment he was met with candlelight and the smell of toasting garlic bread. Vivaldi was in the cassette player. My legs were shaved.

That lasagne was the best tasting meal in the history of good-tasting meals. My day of toil was pulsing with reward. I was both sexy and domestic. We were in love.

I was imagining how we would clink our glasses and slow dance. I was totally high on the romance of it all.

Then my boyfriend went to the oven to get another piece of lasagne. The pan was hot. He dropped it on the floor. Food was everywhere.

There went the rewards of my toil. My date was angry.

We pull this story out periodically, because my husband forgives us our mistakes, but when he makes one, we duck and cover.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned to put the food on the dinner table.

The safe story

February 8, 2013

I’m writing in the middle of the night. I just got home from dealing a poker championship tournament in my other house.

A couple of years ago we did a major remodel there. The first step in that long process was to empty out the massive laundry room.

The laundry room in that house was ridiculous. It was so big we turned it into the family room. It had had a walk-in pantry, two large closets, three tub-style sinks and lots of empty space.

As roomy as it was, they still had an ironing board that tucked into the wall. We had a dining table in there, for Pete’s sake.

There was no logic. The kitchen was tiny. Both had ugly wall-to-wall carpeting.

While emptying the closets, my husband stood in one for the first time. He said, “Honey, the floor feels different in here.” He started pulling up the installed carpet.

“Oh my God, there’s a false floor.”

I perked up at this. Two owners ago, a police officer and his wife lived in that house. He was a repo man or narcotics officer, we can’t remember exactly. What we know for sure is he was killed on duty. The wife let it go into foreclosure. Maybe something was hidden there she didn’t know about.

Bingo. Under the false floor, there was a safe. It was shiny and blue.

The week we had to wait for an appointment with a safe cracker was agony. Finally he came on a Wednesday at 2 p.m. My husband had left work early. I was videotaping.

By 2:15 people were calling, but I had no news. They guy was struggling with it. He said he had never had such a hard time opening a safe. “Whoever bought this one really didn’t want anyone at his stuff.”

Good gory hurry up.

He cursed and drilled violently. I was panicking, “Don’t break my new jewelry!”

My husband said to brace myself. It could be drugs, cash, guns or graphic photos. It could be a small body.

My uncle suggested we sell it unopened on eBay. I thought this was brilliant, but I’m a slave to my curiosity.

At 3:30 p.m. we were still getting calls from family, friends, and the parents of our kids’ friends. Our kids, then in fifth and seventh grades, had announced our find. My husband was furious.

Finally, at 5, it opened. I had run out of videotape. My husband was angry with the kids. The safe cracker had hurt his finger. Everybody was crabby.

We found we were the owners of a souvenir program from “Gone With the Wind,” and an old newspaper announcing Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. It was a second run edition. According to the Internet, the whole booty was worth about $70.

The safe cracker cost $200.

link to photos

The shower

February 6, 2013

Today it rained. It was the heavy, wind-driven rain that draws people to the windows to stare.

It was the kind of day that has me running for a hot bath, cocoa, a novel and a fire.

My most memorable rain storm was on a summer night in Boulder. We lived on the busy passage that linked the Flatiron mountains to the town. With the exception of one snow day on which I trudged knee-deep up the center of it, it bore the most traffic in town.

On the night of this story, the rain was coming down like they describe in tall tales, and I knelt backward on the couch watching it in the headlights of cars coming down off the mountain.

In my peripheral vision I could see my husband watch it for a minute from the open front door, which was on the side of the house, facing the dark driveway. There were many trees lining the driveway, and it gave the illusion we were set farther back from the busy street. We were right up against the busy street.

He closed the door, went upstairs to the bathroom, and came right back out with a bottle of shampoo and a towel.

“Might as well conserve water,” he said. Then he flipped off the light, stripped naked, went out the door and showered in the driveway.

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