Archive for the ‘i am an idiot’ Category

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 carpet tack story

August 26, 2013

I’m terrified of carpet tack, which I once lost a fight with, and which is now exposed around the perimeter of my living room.

Our new house, which we’ve lived in a little more than a year, is tacky and gross. The elderly women who sold it to us probably considered it chic, but its day has passed.

The window dressings and wallpaper make the biggest early-’60s statement, but the carpet may be the oldest thing in the house.

For the first month we lived here my son said, “It smells like old people.”

Like teenage boys smell good.

In fall I brought a kitten home from the grocery store for my son. It peed in the living room. Fine, cut that corner of the carpet out.

In June my daughter chose a kitten from the pound for her birthday. By the beginning of August our living room carpet was half missing. Not half all together, mind — half cumulatively.

Before my birthday party I made the kids pull it up from the whole room. There’s a nice wood floor under there. And tack strip.

Here’s why I’m terrified of it.

I was running late for work at the ’50s restaurant shortly after I had flooded my parents’ house. Tack strip lined the threshold between the living room and the enclosed porch I had stashed my uniform in.

As I ran by, I sliced open the bottom of my right foot, long and clean.

My grandmother took me to the emergency room. There was a lot of waiting. We played Scrabble together, but then I was alone with my thoughts after they led me into the exam room.

This is when I began to consider what would happen when I finally saw a doctor. He was going to want to stitch me with a needle.

Oh nuh-uh.

I tried to leave.

First my grama, then the doctor caught me before I made it past the desk.

I argued. “I changed my mind. I’m fine. It’s so silly. I don’t know why I came. I’m sure I overreacted.”

They probably thought I was in shock. “As long as you’re here, let’s have a look.”

More arguing. I lost that fight too.

“I need to stitch this.” Knew it.

“No, thank you.”

“No, really. You’ve sliced it clean open. Everytime you step, even if you tiptoe, you’ll re-open it as it tries to heal.”

“That’s OK.” I grabbed my purse. “I have to go to work now. I won’t step on it.”

“What do you do?” I was a hula-hooping dancing waitress. I had to wear saddle shoes. He didn’t think much of my good sense.

In the end, I was 19, and he could not make me get stitches. I stayed off my foot as much as possible, and it healed fine and quickly.

It didn’t even scar me, unless you count my fear of tack strip.

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.

The bikini story

July 22, 2013

According to my friend’s car, it was 111 degrees here at 6 p.m. We’re having a hot spell.

Early today I took my to-do list out and crossed off everything I couldn’t carry out to the pool to accomplish.

Wearing clothing was asking too much. In fact, I’ve been in nothing but my bikini for three days.

Luckily, I have not needed to go to the post office.

I went into public in my bikini once 17 years ago. It did not go well.

When we lived in Boulder I cross-country skied almost every day. I would schedule my fall and spring classes with a gap between, so I could scoot up to Eldora between courses and run a couple of trails. I was totally isolated up there. It was glorious.

By March the trails were sunny. Even in winter I was warm when I skied, because I was working my arms and legs so much. With actual warmth, I was roasting.

One afternoon all my girlfriends were going to the park to study and tan. I hate to be out-tanned, but couldn’t not ski.

I had a great idea. I would ski in my bathing suit and get a pretty bronze tan on the mountain.

I was shy getting out of my car and trudging out to the track, shouldering my skis in nothing but a bikini and Nordic boots, but as always, there wasn’t another person anywhere.

After a short trek into the trees I forgot about being self conscious and enjoyed the cool on my skin. I was usually all sweaty.

Then things got ugly.

I was halfway down an expert slope — Gandy Dancer, I’ll never forget — and I fell. Skiing on snow in a bikini is a totally different thing from sitting on the snow in a bikini.

I couldn’t get up.

Everytime I tried to stand, my skis slid out from under me. Four times I ended up all the way on the side of the trail, and had to scoot backward into the middle to try again.

Wait. I left something out. As soon as I fell, lots of people started going by.

I have no idea where they came from. It was an endless stream of skiers, gliding down Gandy Dancer about five at a time. This throng of witnesses comprised people of all ages. That was the worst part, hearing children ask Daddy why that woman was sitting mid-hill in a bikini.

I got looks that said, ‘Well you’re bizarre.’

After a humiliating several minutes of failure, my butt was suffering. I tried to balance my cheeks on the skis because the snow was beginning to sting. I gave up, pressed my feet as close together as possible, sat on my heels and paddled myself right through two upright families to the foot of the slope.

Guess who was there, and on the rest of the trail. Nobody.

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 dance story

June 5, 2013

This is the anniversary of my daughter’s eighth-grade formal.
Her father had taken her shopping for a new dress. They found a breathtaking one. It must have stopped the music. She was a picture in it.

I have a memory from my first night dance.

My children hate this story.

When I was a kid I was sure I was the only girl in the whole junior high who had never kissed a boy. The prospect scared me. I was sure I would do it wrong. I would be taunted and hated.

Once a boy tried to put his arm around me and I jumped up with a transparent excuse. I didn’t want him to notice I was shaking. After that, he and the other boys sang Cheap Trick’s “She’s Tight” when I walked by.

The night before my dance, my father took me shopping for a new dress. I got a turquoise-and-white striped stretch top with matching mini skirt and braided headband to go across my forehead. I wore white tights and gold ballet flats. I thought I looked better than anyone ever had or would.

And I must have, because early in the evening Barry Sparks asked me to dance. Surely he could hear my heart thudding over the opening notes of “Heat of the Moment.”

This is the boy I was head over heels for. Still, I shook my head like a wet dog and said, “No way!”

I wanted to dance with him more than anything.

I was in pain over this for years.

My children hate this story because their hearts break for Barry.

I hate that their hearts don’t break for me.

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 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.

I went to a bar

March 20, 2013

I was kidnapped on St. Patrick’s Day.

Three amazing men, John, Paul and George — the top reporters from the paper where I worked as a copy editor; the top poker players in my league; the people living in my other house — showed up after dinner to take me out to a pub.

I refer to them as ‘The Beatles.’

One minute I was on the phone with My Oldest Friend and the next I’m drinking Guinness in a bar that used to be the corner drug store — the very building where The Playboy Story took place.

I’ve been a wife and mom for about 17 years. The bar scene has changed a lot since I’ve been in it.

In the late ’80s there was always a dance floor and a disc jockey. Often there were pool tables. We would find a table, drink and dance with anyone who asked. It was a blast.

Now there’s a big empty room packed with bodies and a jukebox, if they still call it that.

I didn’t know what to do.

We stood there for a few minutes. Young people with fresh skin and hip clothes were everywhere. I was thinking I felt old.

John “Scotchie” said, “I feel old.” Yeah, well.

He said, “All I can think is that this crowd is a fire hazard. And the music is too loud.” Amen.

I watched a juvenile bartendress make some shots that looked like Shamrock Shakes. She squirted whipped cream on the top and handed them to giggly 20-somethings in tight green tank tops.

I looked down my nose at this. I thought those sissy girls were drinking that foo-foo because they can’t shoot whiskey with the big boys.

I have no idea why I thought I could. I’m the size of the average sixth-grader.

I ordered shots of Jameson, and clinked with The Beatles. “Sláinte.”

One Guinness and I think I’m a hardy Scotswoman.

Suddenly I didn’t care that there was neither dance floor nor room to move. I was dancing and singing along with Tom Petty, “… make it last all night.”

Suddenly I thought everyone in the bar was interested in hearing The Playboy Story. I showed everyone the window where it happened, as if it were the balcony John Wilkes Booth jumped over.

Now you know that I know that two drinks is my limit. But I had a second Guinness.

I felt old that night, but it was nothing compared to my age on March 18.

The sniper story

March 9, 2013

When I was in high school a sniper came to my town.

A retired woman was shot in the early morning walking her small dog. A man was shot having a lunch break in his truck. Everyday there was another death. No one knew who it was. There was no apparent motive.

After about four days of this came the weekend, and my friends and I went out as usual.

I think this was ill-advised. I formed this idea when my car broke down next to an orange grove.

Then I said my idea out loud. This was also ill-advised. I suddenly had a car full of panicking girls. That’s a fun Friday night, right there.

We knocked on a nearby home and called my dad. We piled into some poor stranger’s living room and waited, away from the window.

Saturday night I stayed home.

Sunday morning my girlfriend was freaking out. They had gone to the party spot overlooking the city, where teen-agers parked, turned up their stereos and hung out. It was an off-road labrynth of dirt paths in the hills.

It got chilly early, and my friends climbed in their car to warm up. Seconds later a burly man in fatigues waving what looked like a broomstick jumped on the hood of the station wagon.

As fast as they could, they locked their doors and peeled out of there.

So there’s my girlfriend on the phone Sunday, saying the guy on the front page of the paper under the word ‘Captured’ was the burly man. He seemed to have survived the fall from the car.

I don’t think he was waving a broomstick.

The standing on my desk story

March 5, 2013

During the year I subbed, or as I refer to it, Hell, it was on this date I finally got a job for my daughter’s class.

My daughter wasn’t there.

She was with her teacher at the school’s talent show.

At the end of the day, her friends said, “Your mom told us a story about standing on her desk.” She told me she heard this 30 times. 

As many times she said, “Yeah, I know that story.”

My daughter doesn’t think I’m as entertaining as I do.

I had to tell it after I introduced myself, because one of the children said, “Instead of calling you by name, can we just stand on our desks to get your attention?”

Middle school kids think they’re entertaining.

The first week of high school my geometry teacher was beginning a lecture on finding the measurement of an angle when I butted in, “Can’t we just subtract the other two angle measurements from 180?”

In hindsight I get that his point that day was to show us a different way to get the answer. His response to me was “I never said the angles equal 180.”

Yeah, but don’t they?

“Show me where it says that.” Silly me, I thought he really wanted me to.

He went back to his lecture.

I found it in the book and raised my hand.

He went on with his lecture.

Undaunted, I stood on my chair.

At this point it was a showdown. I sat toward the front. He couldn’t pretend not to notice me.

He pretended not to notice me.

I stood on my desk.

He no longer had the class’ attention. He dropped his chalk hand to his side and shrugged as if to say Uncle.

“Yes Miss C?”

“Page 94!” I was proud.

He didn’t seem proud of me. He went on with his lecture.

I never did learn the other way to find the measurement of an angle.

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.

The phone cord story

March 1, 2013

I can’t go having an I-am-an-idiot category without telling this story.

Like most babies, my son used to like to play with the phone. Maybe today’s babies play with cell phones; their mamas can’t tell this kind of story.

To prevent calls, I would slip the cord out of it.

One night he was doing this on the couch with Uncle Jer and me.

The baby abandoned the buttons and reached down to the cord, which was still plugged into the wall. He put the end in his mouth.

Then he gaped, ready to wail. It was one of those wails you know is going to be bad, because the sound follows the expression about five seconds later. Usually the delay of sound was proportional to the loudness of the wail.

I was puzzled by his reaction. I knew phones worked when the power was off. Surely there was no electricity.

I closed my mouth around the end of the cord. It hurt.

I pulled it out and went, “AAAAHHHHHH.”

“Really?” asked Jer, who picked it up and put it in his mouth.

Idiocy loves company.

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 Playboy story

February 24, 2013

Headlines say Seth Rogan will be on the cover of Playboy magazine. He will be the eighth man to do this.

I’m excited about this headline, not because I like Seth Rogan, but because I have a Playboy magazine story.

When My Oldest Friend and I were about 11 we were on our town’s tree-lined, Main Street-type strip. We were in the corner drug store. It was an old-fashioned store, not like the corporate chains you see today.

The store’s side facing our cozy downtown was window from floor to ceiling. There was a magazine stand that ran along this.

At her suggestion we spread open Playboy magazines all along the display rack facing the window and ran out of the store.

Good times.

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.

How I came to learn Spanish

February 9, 2013

I once was a long-term substitute in a Spanish class. I can speak the language pretty well, but most of the words surprise me by sight. I often say, “Is that what that word looks like? I would have spelled it completely differently.”

This is because I have never studied the language.

When I was 19 I worked in the office of a college. How I came to work in that office is a whole story in itself. I will tell it soon.

One afternoon the Hot Guy I had been trying to figure out how to meet walked in to ask for an application packet for a semester in Mexico.

“I’m going on that,” I said. I had never heard of this program.

I went to my mom and gave her one of the packets to sign. She didn’t even lift a brow, which makes me wonder how she stood me.

She said, “It says you have to be able to speak Spanish. You checked ‘Yes.’ ”

“I’ll figure it out by June. I took French in junior high.”

She signed the form and wrote a check. It was mid-March.

How cool is this? I called my grama to tell her about my upcoming trip, and by bedtime my grandparents, two of their friends and I had plane tickets for spring break in Mexico — a 10-day crash course on location.

My grandparents both spoke Spanish fluently. This is how they communicated when they didn’t want their kids to know what they were saying.

We went to Mexico City, San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque.

We saw ancient pyramids recently discovered underneath forests, with hidden sarcophagi. We hitched a ride to a village on a sideless VW bus, and when we got there we met a woman making tortillas on the ground and children who had never seen sunglasses. At night we ate fresh blueberry pancakes from a vendor with a griddle on wheels outside a cathedral.

I learned Spanish by hanging out with children trying to sell me little things they made. I taught them some songs, and they taught some to me.

Before I left, I gave a little girl my sunglasses.

By June I spoke broken Spanish, but I could make myself understood. I was able to survive living with a family and attending the university there.

I dumped the Hot Guy after a week for the Smart Guy. That’s another story too.

link to photos

The trumpet story

January 24, 2013

My son is walking around humming “Dust in the Wind.” I told him I have the sheet music, and that it’s fun to put the synthesizer on the violin setting and play the instrumental solo.

This reminds me of something I tried to get away with when I was 18.

I had gotten that keyboard for my 18th birthday. It’s a Roland HS-80, and has great tone quality and can do many things. I am not tech savvy enough to appreciate most of the features, but I have always had fun playing Jingle Bells in fart sounds.

There was a busboy at work who was calling me. We were getting ready to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and were in that talking-on-the-phone, finding-out-we’re-perfect-for-each-other-because-we-both-know-how-to-get-Oxy-back-in-the-tube stage.

He told me he played the trumpet.

“I can play the trumpet!” I lied. “Wanna hear me?”

I put my keyboard on the trumpet setting and played him a song. After a few measures I said, “Here’s my favorite part.”

“Hey! How can you talk while you’re playing a trumpet?”

Busted.

The mansion

January 18, 2013

My goddaughter called me this afternoon. She’s planning her wedding and wanted to know the name of the mansion where I married. She was 3 then, and served as my flower girl.

I loved the opportunity to tell her the story of that mansion, because it stars her mother.

In the late ’70s Linda Blair and Vincent Van Patten filmed a movie at this mansion. It was called Hell Night. There wasn’t much story. College pledges had to spend the night in the mansion, where a family was rumored to have been massacred. They don’t survive. It’s a slasher film with generous impalings and decapitations.

My goddaughter’s mother and I shared an apartment when we were 18. We had this plan that we were going to watch the movie at night, then drive over to the mansion, get out of the car and walk around the grounds.

The mansion is technically in a park, but it’s not the kind of park with a lawn and swings; it’s a forest with walking paths and a clearing up a winding drive for the mansion and gardens.

It always went the same way. We rented the movie, (at some point the video clerk started rolling his eyes at us.)  We watched the movie. We put on our jackets. Even if it was warm, we put on our jackets. It was part of the ritual.

We drove to the park. At the entrance to the estate, we looked at each other and held hands. We drove up the winding drive. We parked in the deserted lot.

We never once got out of the car.

Finally one of us would suggest we weren’t going to get out of the car.

We went home and watched The Three Stooges.

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.

Another PTA, another ousting

January 6, 2013

When my children were in elementary school, I ran an after-school journalism program there, and taught kids how to make their own newspaper.

Based on this, the PTA made me the publicity chair. This would prove to be a mistake.

One of the first events of the year was a fund-raising effort wherein every child was told to sell lots of wrapping paper. I’m against this. It happened every year.

Children who got at least 10 orders were treated to a pizza party with a magician.

At the PTA meeting the year before, the principal — about whom I have nothing nice to say — mentioned that the party was going on in the cafeteria when she took the regular lunch kids through, and she pointed out to them that if they had sold their share, they would have been enjoying pizza and disappearing quarters.

I found her strutting distasteful. I hadn’t let my kids sell anything that year, because it embarrasses me to put friends and neighbors on the spot. That stuff is expensive. I went home from the meeting and asked my son if the principal had done and said that.

“Yeah.” He didn’t care. I make good lunches. I always put a comic strip in there.

Back to the following year, when I had a position on the board. I let my kids participate in the thing because they wanted to earn the little portable TV they could get if they got 100 orders. They were going to pool their sheets and split the prize.

My friend from work ordered some peanut brittle, and I said jokingly that his order would save them from being paraded through the party, being the 10th.

I forget my collegues have the power of the press. This particular friend was no longer at my paper. He was now a section editor at the rival one.

He wrote a section-front editorial on the shameful goings on at my children’s school.

Well, I was in charge of getting the place publicity….

The Little League coach story

January 4, 2013

During the years my husband was the stay-at-home parent, he coached our son’s soccer and baseball teams.

Another father was a Little League coach of badness. He demeaned the boys, and encouraged bad sportsmanship. When they were in the outfield they would boo and yell insults at the batter and pitcher.

He was friendly to my husband and me, but I always dreaded playing his team. It made me sad.

One cold night I was watching practice before one of these games. His team had already warmed up on the diamond. Parents were beginning to fill in the bleachers.

One of the dads sat next to me and made small talk. “Big game tonight.”

“Yeah, and the mood will be crabby over here, you know, with the usual tsking about how mean that coach is, and how negative the team is.”

I should really look at who I’m talking to. It was the other coach, come over to wish me and mine luck.

I’m a snubber

January 1, 2013

I see people I know, and I don’t say anything.

My mother scolds me.

Here’s my longer-than-it-needs-to-be defense.

I remember everybody.

People use my services. For instance, My Oldest Friend is on Facebook. She remembers nobody. I get e-mails everytime someone tries to friend her that say, “Who is this? Tell me everything.”

Her yearbook is no good. She doesn’t want a face. She needs me to say, “She was in our English class in 10th grade. She was a little odd and always came over with her hand out when we had food. You’ll remember her from the eighth-grade dance when her nipple was exposed.”

The problem is that most people don’t remember me.

When I go into my tiny town, I recognize everyone. Today I stopped at Rite Aid on my way to work because I lost my sunglasses. I knew the name of the lady standing next to me choosing candy, and the name of the guy ringing me up.

I see my kids’ classmates, my own high school classmates, friends of my parents, and other parents from sports teams, PTA and band boosters everywhere. I remember their names.

I don’t always remember where I know them from, which is the other problem.

Also, I’m shy.

So people in town, hear me out. I would love to say hi to you, but I don’t think you know who I am. Please say hi first.

I swear I’m friendly.

I don’t want to be a snubber.

Translating

December 16, 2012

Whenever we see or hear something in another language, I can count on my husband’s leaning toward me and asking what it means.

Sometimes I know, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I make something up.

It goes something like this. “Robert says he has to go to Aliso Viejo tomorrow. What does Aliso Viejo mean?”

“That’s a man who has sex with goats.”

“Really?” Yeah.

This has been going on for 20 years. I have always suspected he didn’t believe me, and he has always suspected I’m full of nonsense, but I’m busted for sure now.

I have started answering too fast. I should have made it practice to stop and think.

The other day “Just Can’t Get Enough” came on the radio. My husband asked, “What does Depeche Mode mean?”

“That’s French for ‘Captain and Tennille.’ ”

“It is not either. You’re full of crap.”

Whoops. I went too far.

The funeral story

December 14, 2012

It’s been pouring rain here. My kids are about to go on winter break, and it’s cold, windy and pouring.

One day My High School Best Friend and I were home from school on a day like this. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t break.

We were kneeling against of the back of the couch, watching the rain for boredom, when we saw black-clad people begin to file out of the church across the street.

What terrible weather for a funeral.

We started guessing who the people were. One of us grabbed the newspaper, and learned it was a 48-year-old man being mourned.

We went like this: That must be the wife. I’m thinking those are the parents, and that’s his sister, Lily. Everything we needed was in the obituary.

After about 15 minutes the funeralgoers made their way to their cars, where an attendant was putting neon ‘funeral’ stickers on windshields.

My Best Friend said, “Let’s go.”

OK.

We raced up to my room and changed into black dresses, then jumped in my car. We drove across the street and around the block so we could come in the back of the church lot. As we came toward the front, we got a neon sticker.

We inched our way to the cemetery toward the back of the procession. When we got there, we put on our somber faces and made our way to the gravesite, heels sinking in muddy ground and rain pelting our hair. It occurred to us we should have grabbed an umbrella.

By the time the service was over, we were both depressed. It felt like we knew the guy.

We joined in the post-burial mingling, offering condolences to the widow — called it — and her family. We hugged cousins, co-workers and the guy he played racquetball with.

Back at my house we changed out of our sopping clothes and cried.

We heated up some canned soup and tried to get over the loss of whats-his-name.

The Christmas tree story

December 13, 2012

Today we got our Christmas tree.

This is one of my favorite parts of the holiday. I always make a pot of spiced cider, (which turns into hot buttered rum for my husband and me), and put on my Cyndi Lauper Christmas CD. When she sings the Christmas Conga, we abandon our ornaments and conga around the house.

This one was my 24th tree. Which leads me to tell you about my first.

When I turned 18 I got an apartment in Riverside with two of my girlfriends. One of them was dating a paramedic named Chip.

We got a call. Chip was volunteering at a Christmas tree farm in Rancho Cucamonga for one night. If we went there, he would sneak us a free tree.

Sold.

We listened to the radio as we got all cute, which seemed important at the time. The radio told us to stay home.

“There are record-breaking winds blowing trees out of the ground and cars off the road. Unless you absolutely have to go somewhere, stay home.”

Unfortunately, we absolutely had to go steal a tree.

We climbed in Kelly’s Volkswagon Rabbit and held on tight as we made our way across the overpass. We were strugging to stay in our lane as we banked, high in the air. We had to shout to hear one another for the battering roar of the wind.

As people do, we picked out the biggest one we thought we could fit under our ceiling. Chip chopped it down and strapped it to the Rabbit’s roof.

We had an even harder time getting home. By then the winds had reached 90 mph, and we had the windows slightly open for the ropes that Chip had wrapped through. That one-day storm was whipping right through the back seat.

Through the power of our screaming, panicking and making unfullfillable promises to greater powers, we made it back to our apartment. We even managed to get that tree up the stairs and into the warmth, where we collapsed on the floor, all of us amazed to be alive.

The tissue story

November 12, 2012

When I was in junior high I went to my Auntie Martha’s after school. She lived across the street from campus.

Auntie Martha was one of my grama’s older sisters.

I would snack on the Frosted Flakes she kept hidden in the bottom cabinet and watch General Hospital on her little black-and-white kitchen TV. After that I would push the chairs aside and jump on the Linoleum under Richard Simmons’ guidance.

Auntie Martha watched Guiding Light and then Phil Donohue in the den.

After my workout I went in where Auntie was. We would play gin or backgammon. She taught me to sew.

Then in the evening my dad would pick me up. Sometimes he would sit on the patio and have a beer with Uncle Phil before we left.

One afternoon I went in the living room and she was pulling wadded balls of pretty paper out of a new gym bag and ironing it.

The bag had come stuffed. My mom had just bought a bag like this. I was fascinated by the whole scene.

“This will make nice wrapping paper.” She was making a pile of the ironed. Each sheet was different.

I couldn’t get past that she was ironing wrapping paper.

My dad showed up just as she told me that she also irons her tissues and reuses them.

Dad was in a hurry.

This was too much. We went back and forth with ‘You really do?’ ‘I really do’ as he dragged me out.

I never knew Auntie Martha to be cheap, and that was disgusting. My incredulity was consuming.

The next afternoon it was the first thing I wanted to talk about.

“Auntie, I want to buy you clean tissues. I think it’s gross you iron and reuse them, all full of mocos.”

I wish I hadna said that.

I’m sure you’ve deduced she meant tissues for gift wrapping, not Kleenex. I’ve been teased it about it these past 28 years. This kind of embarrassment spreads fast through my family.

And 28 years later, I’m still using the wrapping paper I went home and pulled out of my mom’s new gym bag and ironed.

The audition story

October 28, 2012

My kids are watching South Park. I can hear they’re parodying A Chorus Line.

The song people call “Tits and Ass” from this musical is my signature song. When I was younger I could sing the hell out of it. I usually use it as my audition piece when I go out for musicals.

Once I was auditioning for The Music Man. I stood there in my bright orange sundress and tights covered in photos of fruit — my high school drama teacher advised us to wear something memorable — and started in, voice a-tremble.

I get nervous.

At that point I had sung that song maybe a thousand times, but all of the auditioners were in the room staring at me, and I was reliant on the sheet music.

This is bad. I wanted to make eye contact and move around.

I looked up.

Bam. I forgot the words.

“Sorry,” that’s what directors like to hear, excuses. “I’m nervous.”

I turned to the pianist. “Can we take it from ‘tits’?”

Laughter. Whoops.

“That’s it!” said the director. Crap. “You’re in!”

That was easy.

I have become the old lady who complains about change

October 15, 2012

Several factors are working against my enjoying Hollywood entertainment.

Tonight I was headed home thinking I had the house to myself for a few hours, and I wanted to rent a movie.

But Blockbuster, in its efforts to thwart my being entertained by Hollywood, had closed, and I didn’t want to drive into the next town for a rental.

So I pulled into the grocery parking lot and ran in to try the Redbox I’ve heard so much tell about.

I knew what I wanted, kind of. I wanted to rent ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,’ because I read an article by Ellen Burstyn about the experience of producing that flick; and I wanted to rent some movie about Virginia Woolf with Nicole Kidman in it that I don’t know the name of, because I’m currently reading ‘The Diary of Virginia Woolf.’

I am not the guy the Redbox was made for.

But I had decided to try the damn thing, and I’m stubborn, so I got a Robert Downey Jr./Marissa Tomei movie from the early ’90s and went home.

I will have to return it unwatched, though, because I cannot figure out how to watch a DVD, and it will be months before I have the house to myself again. For a moment I considered going out and watching it from the back seat of my car.

It’s not that I don’t know how to use the DVD player. It’s that there are lots of other things hooked up to my TV, and my son went off to college.

He warned me this day would come. He wanted to teach me the ways of the remotes.

I told him all I needed was for him to teach me to Skype.

He said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to wait until I’ve gone and then teach you to do it over the computer.’

Of course not. That would be silly.

‘I just need you to rent the movies I want to watch and turn your computer in that direction.’ Duh.

He won’t do it, because he is working against my enjoyment of Hollywood.