Posts Tagged ‘february’

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 complaining bracelet

June 1, 2013

On Wednesdays I get together with a group of girls for a couple of hours. We talk about our children, our husbands, our mothers and, probably more than we should, other women.

We’ve been doing this for years. We call it our therapy group. We bag on one another with wild abandon, and laugh ourselves healthy.

One day Tessa was telling us about something she had seen on TV. She called it a complaining bracelet.

It’s one of those rubber wrist bands people wear to support cancer research or the military. The idea is to put it on your wrist and then go 21 days without complaining.

If you complain, you have to switch it to the other wrist and start again. According to the program, 21 days is how long it takes to create or break a habit.

Someone on the show said to the project’s founder, “I have a friend who should do this.” He told her that was a complaint, and she had to move her bracelet to the other wrist. This bracelet is strict.

Tessa said the people who made it to 21 reported being happier and healthier. She said we don’t realize how much we complain, or how unnecessary it is, until we do this. She, herself, had no interest in doing this.

I loved the idea. I stole my kid’s school football wristband and announced, ‘One.’

The first Wednesday I showed up wearing it I was mostly quiet. I felt like a guard at Buckingham Palace.

The girls asked me questions: Didn’t you go dress shopping with your daughter? How’s the remodel going? What did your husband do for your birthday? I just smiled and shrugged.

Then they broke me, “How was your trip to visit your mother-in-law?”

I sighed and took the bracelet off. No point in wearing it on Wednesdays.

The experiment was wonderful. I was aware. I was positive. I was getting extra affection from my husband.

I still moved it from wrist to wrist occasionally, but I was different. I felt happier and healthier.

Then I started substitute teaching.

I never made it past ‘Three.’

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.

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.

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.”


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 home showing disaster

November 13, 2012

Today I had lunch with two friends, one of whom is a Realtor.

My Realtor friend said of this site, “When you read her blog, it’s like looking in a mirror. You can see yourself in her stories.”

I hope he doesn’t see himself in this one.

I used to be a licensed Realtor myself. I was especially bad at it. Possibly I was cursed.

This was during the two-year period my husband was the stay-at-home parent. I was concurrently working at the paper.

I achieved my license through the sponsorship of my broker, who promised handholding throughout the career launching.

I got a desk and a nameplate and the code to the office lockbox key.

One afternoon a man, woman and baby came into the office and told me what they were looking for in a house. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like “We would like a big, expensive house, please.”

This was it — my first commission was about to happen.

I made an appointment to take them looking at several addresses the next afternoon. I called the sellers to have them leave the houses vacant and clean.

In the meantime, I bought a new suit, rented a nice car and printed a list of homes that met their specifications.

I had a meeting with my broker for advice. He handed me the lockbox key, which was like a cell phone keypad. His advice: Don’t tell them you’re new at this.

I met the family at the office.

We were off.

At the first three houses I couldn’t get the lockbox open. The husband was getting that wants-to-flee look.

I couldn’t reach the broker by cell phone, so I apologized to the family and drove them back to my office for support. No one was there.

I went to the brokerage across the street and asked for help. They checked my key and said the code’s activation had lapsed.

One of the agents showed me how to reactivate it by phone.

We were off again.

It still didn’t work.

The next day two things happened. The family called to thank me for my time. They wouldn’t be needing any more of it, however, becase that evening they found a house with another agent and bought it.

And the broker ripped me a new butthole for outting his breaking the rules. Turns out, brokers aren’t allowed to let staff agents use their keys, which he knew.

The helpful agent across the street had reported him.

At that moment and this one, I hated him. I hated that I had invested money I didn’t have on a doomed mission. I blame him thoroughly.

My broker was forced to discontinue providing a key for new agents, and was forever angry with me about it.

This may be a result of my having a small fit.

I got a key of my own, but seldom had opportunity to use it — me being an especially bad Realtor, and all.

The near suicide

November 8, 2012

I had a friend who called me one day. “My husband left me. I’m not OK.”

I went to get her, her baby and lots of her stuff, so they could stay with us for a few days.

She was a wreck.

After a few days, she returned home. Two days I didn’t hear from her.

Then she showed up one morning with a relaxed, but dazed face — like a zombie. “It’s all going to be fine now. I’ve got everything taken care of.”

Oh, big alarms here.

She handed me the baby. “This is the last thing. I just needed to bring you my baby.”

Frantically I searched my mental archive for dos and don’ts I’ve heard about. The pointer settled on this item: You can tell if a person is serious about suicide by asking about plans. The serious ones have thought out the details.

“Come in,” I said, taking the baby, “and tell me what you’ve planned.”

There were details. She not only had it all worked out how she was going to run her engine in a closed garage, she’d been up all night clearing out a spot for the car, getting important documents laid out on the kitchen table and packing the baby’s things.

She couldn’t tell me the last time she’d slept or eaten, but tried to ensure me she felt at peace since she found this solution.

I strained to hide my panic.

I felt like I might say exactly the wrong thing and crack the ice under her feet. Surely there are words that are exactly right. I didn’t know them.

I tried reason: What about your son?

She dismissed me: He’s got his dad and stepmom.

What about the baby?

That’s why I’m here. The main thing stopping me was the idea she’d end up as a foster child. I wanted to choose who raised her. I thought about taking her with me.

Well that upped my panic. I was getting dizzy and couldn’t think clearly anymore. I was going to screw this up.

I grabbed at one last idea, “Have you said goodbye to your father?”

She looked suprised. “No. I should.”

While she was on her cell phone, I was in the kitchen sneaking a call to my mom’s minister — not because either of us is spiritual, but because she did her thesis on suicides. She said to call the police.

I hadn’t mentioned my friend’s considering taking the baby with her. I was sure if the law got involved she would lose her baby. What a mess.

I went back into the living room. My friend was crying. That was a good sign. She was nodding, “OK, Daddy. OK.”

She flipped her phone closed and looked at me, all red and puffy. “He said no.”

No? The exactly right thing to say was no?

I kept the baby for a week while she got a room at a recovery center.

A few weeks later, her husband came back.


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.

The ditching story

September 8, 2012

I have to write something that makes me smile tonight, as therapy. I am so angry with the employees of Barnes & Noble in Riverside that I feel violent. They have no kind of concern for their customers.

So here is one of my favorite stories. Even in my fuming state, I’m chuckling thinking about it.

One day in high school I played hooky. I had no choice. I had cut school the day before, and the Laverne & Shirley episode I watched was to-be-continued.

At the end of the episode I called Mike to chat.

He scolded me. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

I lied. “I’m in the library. We’re here for the whole period. My English class is supposed to be picking out a monologue, but I already picked mine out.”

There really was a pay phone in the school library. I really had already picked out my monologue.

We talked about whatever we used to talk about. Then I feigned distracted.

In the middle of one of his sentences I said, “Hold on. Dude, hand me that book. I’m sorry, go ahead.”

He started cracking up.

I’m no kind of liar.

Fetal attraction

August 8, 2012

One of my favorite girlfriends just had a baby.

My husband and I spent the day in the hospital waiting room with her family and other friends, waiting for the  birth. It was wonderful. We cried. I got to hold her.

I must admit, my first thought as she snuggled against me was that I wanted to have another one.

This was not my husband’s first thought. It was not his second, third or last thought either.

I had originally wanted a bigger family — at least three kids, but seven would be better.

As I swayed my girlfriend’s newborn daughter, my maternal urges were strong. I had to put myself back in the moment when I decided I didn’t want to have a third child. I had to take a mental trip to Disneyland.

We moved to California from Boulder when the kids were 2 and 4. Everybody in Colorado said the same thing to them: You’re gonna get to go to Disneyland all the time.

One morning, after we’d been here a few months, the kids, by then 3 and 5, bounded into my room saying let’s do it. They had decided it was a good day to make good on everyone else’s promise.

It was a Monday, and I was off work because I had gone in on Saturday. It was a good day to go.

I threw PB&Js and some fruit into my backpack, grabbed three windbreakers and we were off.

Here’s my life-changing moment.

We were waiting in line for the park’s railroad ride at the Toontown station. We waited behind a family with an infant.

The baby was in the beginning stages of a fuss, and the mommy was jostling it to no avail.

I could see her stress grow as time passed with no train. I could feel it myself. Minutes dragged out. If only that train would come.

The train kept not being there.

There was diaper checking, rattle wiggling, singing, more jostling. The baby just got noisier.

That train comes every 10 minutes, but ultimately it was too long. The mommy lost the contest and pulled out of line.

She struggled with the bulky diaper bag slipping around on her shoulder as she maneuvered her stroller with the arm that wasn’t managing the squirmy, noisy baby. In that hand she also held a bottle, which she had been fruitlessly trying to stick in the kid’s mouth so they could make it to the glorious moment when the train would arrive.

Her husband had their 5-or-so-year-old in tow, a balloon, a souvenir cup, a heap of sweatshirts and the camera.

I checked myself. I had a backpack.

I was in a totally different place now, I realized, and didn’t want to go back.

I was done.

And of course, as soon as they left, the train arrived.

My friend, the dirty old man

May 15, 2012

I have a friend who just turned 84. Shame on me for not running this on his birthday, which is one month gone.

He is probably the most interesting person I know. He is a published author of fiction, photography and a memoir; a celebrated photographer (Those famous photos in LIFE magazine? His.); and a survivor of Nazi Germany.

He once told me a profound story of his childhood at the beginning of the Holocaust, which would have made my greatest post to date, but he won’t let me blog it.

He told me, “It’s not your story.”

What can I do? He’s my most faithful reader; I’m at his mercy.

But this story is mine:

One night my poker league was over for our weekly game. The table was down to three players. Several of us were  in the kitchen area, dancing to “Shake, Shake, Shake Senora.”

Fred called me the next morning, as he usually did, to tell me a joke. I’m pretty sure it was about a matador and his balls.

Before he hung up he said, “I tell ya girl, the way you were shakin’ around that kitchen, why, if I were two years younger… .”

A student’s rabbit

April 3, 2012

I taught science at my old high school that awful year I was subbing.

The teacher’s note to me was ominous. Period by period it listed the kids I should expect to send to the principal.

Some children’s names were annotated with “keep on an eye on him; he likes to write on things (not paper);” or “takes things that aren’t his.”

I can’t remember if I just inferred, or if he outright said, “These are a bunch of thugs.”

A large man popped his head in before first period to tell me he was nearby if I needed help.

Point taken. I hate subbing.

Early in the day, after everyone was done with the assignment, I asked the children questions. I’ve learned that children of all ages love to answer questions, and I have about 20 at the ready.

I always start with “What’d you have for dinner last night?” followed by “Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?”

I was about on my fifth question — What pets do you have? — when a little ruffian told me had a rabbit. He said it’s always sneezing.

“He has snuffles,” I diagnosed. I once had a rabbit with snuffles, name of Cyndi Lop Ear. The sneezing is adorable, but serious. He promised to take his rabbit to the vet.

The boy behind him, with a shaved head and cut-off sleeves, interjected, “I once had a rabbit. I ate it.”

This child was on the teacher’s list with two asterisks. I ignored him.

I was about to ask a child what her dream car was when he interjected again.

“It was a chocolate rabbit.”

OK, sometimes I like subbing.