Posts Tagged ‘2008’

The sign from God story

June 11, 2013

For many years I was on the board of a local art show.

At one meeting we were trying to figure out what to do about a troublesome artist. Our ombudsman was getting complaints from other artists that she was harrassing them. They said her gossip was unwelcome, and that she wouldn’t stop calling them to organize a mob of discontent.

As we discussed this artist, it came up that she was imposingly religious.

It’s touchy talking about someone who’s always making with the ‘Praise the Lord’ and ‘God’s blessings on you.’ We were trying to show respect for one another’s varying piety. We each gave a disclaimer before commenting on her ways.

We were beginning to conclude we would have to kick her out of the art festival, which we had no precedent for. We were all founding members, and hadn’t foreseen the need to oust an artist when we wrote the bylaws.

We wanted to protect her dignity and the complainers’ privacy. It was a delicate and uncomfortable night as we tried to sort it all out in our treasurer’s living room. The whole matter was just a mess.

Finally Terrie, who had disclaimed earlier that she’s not religious but has no problem with people who are, shook her hands heavenward and said, “God, help us. What do we do?”

We started to chuckle at her joke, but the lights immediately began to dim. In about four seconds they were off. Two seconds later they snapped back on, at full brightness.

Five of us grabbed our purses as someone called, “Meeting adjourned.” We abandoned our treasurer without looking back.

Our treasurer discovered it was some wiring misfire. Nonetheless, we never discussed religion at a meeting again.


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.

My memory

February 21, 2013

My grama used to ask me, “Did you see Oprah yesterday?”

I told her I didn’t watch that show, but she always asked, so I started recording it.

The first episode I watched shocked me.

There was a woman who could tell you how she celebrated every birthday, what she wore every Halloween and who all of her teachers were in school. Can’t everybody do that? I can totally do that.

They threw dates of major headlines at her. My daughter walked into the kitchen to find me sitting on a stool, yelling at the TV. “Lennon was shot. The space shuttle exploded. Baby Jessica fell in a well.” I could play this all day. I was having a blast.

Then this woman started to speaking to me. She said she was lonely. No one else shared her memories.

She said she wanted to forget. Me too. I take baths instead of showers so I can prop up a book, because if I shower I will stand there remembering. I will remember every disappointment, insult and fearful moment of my life.

This is also why I don’t go running.

Ok, that’s not why I don’t go running. But it would be if running were easy.

This Oprah guest who talked about feeling alone made me feel less alone — but more like a freak. I had no idea I was a freak. It’s a good thing I watched.

The next day I was eager to discuss it. I picked up Nana from her Scrabble club. “Did you see Oprah yesterday?”

“No,” she said.

The Secret

January 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner talk

January 13, 2013

My son reports that his high school drama department announced this year’s musical.  It’s called, ‘Once upon a Mattress.

“I know that one,” I said. “It’s the story of The Princess and the Pea.”

“It sounds like a porno,” he said.

“That version would be the story of The Princess and the Penis,” I said.

My jury duty

September 19, 2012

I waited for my kids after practice today with another parent. He was my jury foreman. We reminisced about the case.

His son went through elementary school with my daughter, and his nephew with my son. I know his wife well, and knew him for years — as long as he was with her.

My jury summons came last fall. I used to love a jury summons.

It may have said, “Report to serve, as is your duty as a citizen of the United States,” but I read, “Come and spend several hours reading your novel in peace before being dismissed.”

I reported for my day of heaven, took my seat among 300 strangers and opened my book.

A man was looking at me, smiling. I smiled back, nodded and made my best effort to look absorbed in my story.

He kept with the giant smile, and when I looked up — because who could resist looking up? — he threw in an upward chin jerk.

Now I was getting a little scared.

He stood up and walked over to me. He was 7 feet tall if he was an inch. The lady next to me took a powder and he took her seat. Thanks, Lady.

Then he said hi to me by name. Ah. We knew each other. That’s a horse of a different color. I would have to play pretend-to-recognize-while-frantically-thinking-through-all-the-places-I-know-people-from.

I suck at this game. I made him identify himself.

I ended up grateful to have a friend sharing the experience. The trial tried my emotions.

The defendant was a paranoid schizophrenic drug addict who completed his sentence in a mental hospital after robbing a bank. He did this by lying that he had a bomb in his backpack.

Ours was to determine whether he should be released in the face of his total lack of rehabilitation.

To extend his sentence, it had to be proven beyond doubt that he was seriously mentally ill and a danger to others.

The rub was that he was the gentlest person I’d ever heard of. It came down to the gray area of what danger meant.

He was unstable and unpredictable. He believed he received messages from the CIA, sent through household electronics to the chip in his eye. They told him they controlled tsunamis and earthquakes.

He robbed the bank because he needed money to save people from the tsunamis. He was awfully sweet.

It was argued he would never hurt anybody. It was argued he created dangerous situations.

His mother cried. I stayed strong.

But when his father cried it was too much. After the verdict, I scurried to the elevator and let flow when the doors closed.

I’m still bothered by it, mostly for the loss of looking forward to a jury summons.

I was dismissed from the PTA

August 23, 2012

Today is Gloria Steinem’s 77th birthday.

My mother grabbed the women’s lib movement of the early seventies with both hands and held on tighter than John Travolta to a mechanical bull.

She didn’t wear dresses. I was taught “housewife” was a dirty word. My bedtime stories came from Ms. magazine. At 3 I knew what ERA stood for. I knew Gloria Steinem’s birthday.

Naturally, I spent my childhood dreaming of taking my husband’s last name, wearing an apron and being an H-word.

When I refused to live with my boyfriend before we got married, my mom said, “Where did I go wrong?”

It was sheer rebellion that had me specify ‘I now pronounce you man and wife’ was the phrase to be used at my wedding. (Although it was sheer sassiness that had me specify ‘You may now kiss the groom’ follow it.)

When I quit my job and joined the PTA my mom gave me a bitter speech. “That’s just a clique for moms who don’t work. I tried to be in it, but they treat you differently if you have a job. And they schedule meetings so working moms can’t attend. They disapprove of moms who aren’t H-words.”

I heard this lots. I figured it for outdated if not emotionally skewed information.

When the kids moved from elementary to middle school, I ignored the PTA and joined band boosters. Go ahead and brag about knowing me — I was the vice president.

For my youngest child’s last year there, I joined the PTA on the hospitality committee. The PTA president — a close friend and fellow band booster — asked me to do this, based on my cooking or baking all the food for several band events.

I would be doing things like the welcome-back faculty breakfast and baked goods for teachers at Christmas, right up my alley.

There was another change at the beginning of that school year. I started working as a substitute teacher.

I know you think I’m about to concede my mother was right. I’m not quite that big a woman.

But I’m going to suggest it.

Several weeks before the Christmas break I did what the committee chairwoman asked: I pulled out my recipes and made a 15-item list of items I thought would be great for faculty gifts.  I was excited to do this. The previous year they had made Rice Krispy treats, half-dipped in chocolate.

I told the committee chair to pick two items. I would make them both.

I didn’t hear back for a long time. Then on Dec. 5 I got this e-mail, which I cut and pasted without altering:

I was talking with Sally today and she told me all that you have going on right now, with Substituting and all. You sound overly busy at an already too busy time of year. So I can’t in good conscienciousness ask you to make anything, let alone 400 of a bake item. And since we need to have them packaged and ready by the end of next week…  I think we will just go with the simpler idea of the dipped pretzels this time around.  Thank you so much for thinking about all this and in a less hectic time of life it would have been perfect to have your yummy treats.  I hope you agree.

I was gobstopped. That H-word had dismissed me because she found out I had a job.

Now, I’m not saying my mother was right, but I may give my daughter the same warning when her time comes.

My husband cracks me up

July 30, 2012

Every night at dinner we go around the table, taking turns sharing something about our day.

Last night Nana had come over. Her dinner news was that a couple of her youngest brother’s daughters and their kids were at MaryAnn’s visiting.

Nana’s brother, the baby of the nine siblings, died unexpectedly of a stroke two New Year’s back. The span of the siblings’ ages was more than 25 years. No one expected Marguerite, the eldest, to outlive the baby, but she did.

When Uncle Donny died, I had that ambivilant feeling of sorrow and anticipation, because a death always means out-of-town family will come, and we will have a big get-together. It means there will be a funeral, and I will get to hear stories about the loved one I’m grieving. I’ll get to sit with cousins and aunts and uncles, with my husband, and clasp hands in comfort.

But there was no service.

This is where the conversation went last night. I started complaining.

“Why do people do that?” Usually, when there’s no service, it’s because there isn’t really any family left. Donny had seven kids and a whole grip of grandkids. “Why would anyone with such a big family say ‘No service’?”

My husband said, “Maybe he had no shirt and no shoes.”

The Candy Lady

July 7, 2012

The school year started today for the area’s year-round schools. This means I could be called in to sub again.

Somehow my stories have given Uncle Mike the impression that I like subbing. I’d like to take this opportunity to disabuse my reading audience of that ridiculous notion.

There’s irony in this story, so I’m starting with a seemingly unrelated scandal.

One of my girlfriends was the PTA president for my daughter’s middle school. We were sitting around at the school one afternoon when I mentioned I didn’t participate in the membership drive because of the reward.

Kids who sold memberships were given candy by the PTA.

By coincidence, the day after my grousing, I got an e-mail from one of the teachers, who also happens to be an old friend.

She reported that somebody called the principal to complain about teachers’ giving candy.

I wasn’t he, but I agreed with the complainer. When I tried to take my son off food coloring, I painstakingly read labels at the store, only to have him come home with pockets full of Jolly Ranchers. Teachers doled them out for correct answers.

The principal told the caller she wasn’t about deprive her teachers of this effective incentive. The parent cited the education code violation and threatened action.

The principal was forced to issue the moratorium, and was bound by policy to protect the caller’s identity. This was bad news for me.

According to my friend’s e-mail, the faculty believed I was the offender. She said she didn’t believe it.

If this is confusing, I’ll clarify some distinctions: The PTA and the school are separate entities. A complaint about the school was a can of worms I did not want to open. What I made was an unofficial mom-to-mom comment about what the PTA was doing, by way of explanation as to why such an involved parent did not buy a PTA membership. Sadly, this was in front of a witness.

I was trapped. The person who knew I was not the guilty party was mum. The person who suspected I was the culprit was telling everybody. The teachers hated me. I was The Anti-Candy Lady.

At the same time, this was going on:

I worked my second day as a substitute teacher — which, please remember, I hate.

The teacher left instructions. ‘There is candy in my desk. Give it to the kids who are helpful.’ I kept this to myself, meaning not to do it.

These second-graders were perfect. They were helpful, sweet, enthusiastic and full of personality, the lot of them. At the end of the day they asked where was their candy.

I was running the reading table, and the autistic boy’s aide got the little candy bars out for the class.

A week later I was on that campus again to drop something at the office. It was recess time.

Children came running to throw their arms around my knees and proclaim their love. They had a sub that day. They told me they begged their teacher to request me instead.

Their teacher told them I would never sub at that school again, because I gave them candy. She labeled me “The Candy Lady.”

At least I’m balanced.

The grocery store story

June 24, 2012

I love to cook. I plan every week’s menu on Saturday morning and tape it to the refrigerator. Tonight we’re having chicken marsala, watercress and citrus salad, and pecan rice pilaf.

My husband usually comes home, leans against the fridge and says over the crumpling sounds of my menu, “Smells wonderful. What’re we having?”

Then I have to move my complaining bracelet.

He also stands under the calendar and asks if we have any plans today.

There. Now my complaining bracelet is back where it started.

My point is I put work, time and love into nutritious meals for my family, and am proud to make almost everything from scratch. (Please pretend you did not read the post that begins, ‘My son and I were at McDonald’s.’)

Last summer, I got it in my head to teach my son how to make his favorite dish, his being only three years from going off to college. I pulled out the recipe and had him make a grocery list.

We set out to shop.

This happened to be during my husband’s trip to visit his mother in Pennsylvania. My kids and I were whooping it up in his absence. We went to the beach, played board games and watched reruns of “Good Times” in our camping tent, which took up the whole kitchen.

This wild abandon infected our trip to the store. We were throwing all kinds of crap in the cart. There was Chef Boyardee, Ben & Jerry’s, Dino Nuggets and Pasta Roni in there. Whatever. Looks good. Toss it in.

We rounded the corner by the cheese and saw a girl I knew in high school. She was and is a beautiful, popular blonde. She was and is sweet and friendly.

After an enthusiastic round of ‘You look great,’ I introduced her to my kids and headed for the checkout.

My son wrapped his arms around me. “I’m so sorry, Mom. Of all the times….”

Do I look bad? What?

“I tried to block the cart,” he looked genuinely sorry, “but I think she saw the Pasta Roni.”

I hadn’t thought to be embarrassed, but once he’d mentioned it I like to died.

If anyone sees Jill, please make excuses for me.

A smaller earthquake story

June 22, 2012

My mother asked at our Fathers Day dinner tonight, “Did you feel the earthquake this morning?”

I came home and looked it up. It was a 3.3 at 7:30. Is she sleeping on a seismograph? I don’t think I would have felt that if I was expecting it.

I’m glad she brought it up, because it gives me the opportunity to tell you another earthquake story.

Last summer I was sitting in the breakfast nook, which has a flimsy-feeling floor, when my husband stood behind me dancing or some such.

I felt a jiggle.

I made my this-might-be-the-beginning-of-The-Big-One face, half standing with my palms flat on the table, and said, “Did you feel a little earthquake?”

My husband shook his head like I’m an idiot. “I did that. Here, I’ll do it again.”

He bent his knees and bounced. As he did this, I felt the floor roll and shake under me.

“Stop it!” I yelled, because for a minute I believed he was shaking the breakfast room.

No. He just happened to do that as a 5.5 earthquake struck.

The pool

May 5, 2012

I love to lie on a raft with a book. This is the first time I’ve ever had a pool, and I’m enjoying it every chance I get.

I was puzzling over why my raft always goes to the shallow end. I have to shove myself back toward the deep end, but it just goes right back.

This is bad, because the shallow end is shady. I don’t understand wanting to be in the shade.

I finally figured out why it does this.

The pool is tipped.

More dinner talk

April 18, 2012

My son let his hair grow when he started high school.

One night my son was able to pull it back. He showed up to dinner in a ponytail.

I couldn’t get over how much he looked like my husband did when we married, and told him so.

“Daddy had long hair?”

“Longer than yours is now,” I told him.

“How long was it?”

I gave a glance to my man, who was nodding. I was going for it.

“All the way down to his bra strap.”

You hate to hear it

April 5, 2012

I’m fixing to stuff plastic eggs with candy and other goodies for a hunt at my pad. The kids and their friends’ families are coming for a pre-Easter potluck.

Filling those plastic eggs reminds me of a tragic story I heard on the radio last year. It’s a you-hate-to-hear-it tale.

A family matriarch died shortly before Easter. The offspring canceled the celebration on account of the grief.

They set to emptying the home for sale. Among the belongings they sent to the Salvation Army were the plastic Easter eggs, baskets and decorations meant for the skipped holiday.

Months later the oldest daughter had calmed enough to read her mom’s diary. The final entry was the morning of her death.

It detailed her plan for Easter. She knew this would be her final one, and wanted to make it special for the kids and grandkids. She had said to herself, ‘Why wait until I die to give them their inheritance? I want to see them enjoy it.’

She liquidated her assets, withdrew her savings from the bank and filled the eggs with $1,000 bills. I don’t remember how much they said it was, but I remember calculating how many houses it would buy. It was a lot.

The family rushed to the retrieve it, but the donation was long gone.

There are many morals to this story.

And a dye pun in there somewhere, but you’d hate to hear that, too.

The gay wedding

April 4, 2012

I’ve been following the news regarding whether a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

I have friends and family members who married that year — in the window of their union’s being sanctioned by the state — and am eager to hear what California will rule on Proposition 8.

That summer my daughter and I attended her choir director’s wedding. There were two grooms.

It was a beautiful ceremony. The church was decorated with white tulle and fresh flowers. One of the choir members — a member of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera — sang a song written by the director’s betrothed.

I was nonplussed. My daughter was looking at the emotion on my face and rolling her eyes. She was clearly plussed.

I tried to play it cool, but it struck me during the hymns and sermon that I was attending a gay wedding, recognized by church and state, while a black man ran for president. Wow.

My daughter elbowed me. “Why are you making such a big deal?” she whispered.

“I’ve never been in a world like this before,” I said dramatically. “This is earth moving.”

Just then the grooms, who had been seated in pews on either side of the aisle, rose simultaneosly to take their vows.

As they stood, we had a small earthquake.

Guests exchanged glances and grave nods.

That was what it took. My daughter crossed over into camp nonplussed.