Reality Bites…and leaves teeth marks

(NOTE: Brian just started a new office job that requires he leave early in the morning and get home after 6 at night. This, after many, many years of both of us working out of the home office. I can’t decide if this was a deliberate move to get some “alone” time on his commute – and mess with my sanity – or if it was a legitimate career move.)

A typical night…

The nanny leaves.

Lola sees me taking laundry I’ve washed and folded to her room. She decides she no longer wants to wear the princess dress she picked this morning, but wants to – instead – change into one of the dresses that are freshly laundered that I am about to hang in her closet. I explain that the dress she picked this morning is perfectly fine. She wails, “I WANT MY KITTY DRESS!” as she strips off the princess dress. I have to pick my battles.

While we’ve been in Lola’s room changing, Harlowe has managed to open an IMPOSSIBLE drawer in my grandparents antique secretary.  Aha!  A white acrylic marker! I come out of Lola’s room to swirls of acrylic marker across the hardwood floors. I take the marker out of Harlowe’s hand.  She cries.  I lock the acrylic marker in a desk drawer.

I clean up acrylic marker swirls on the hardwood floors.

Lola goes into the kitchen to watch her (my) ipad. She is currently on a “Barbie’s Dreamhouse” kick, which is “totes brain-numbing and horrendous.”

I quietly curse Brian under my breath for loading Netflix on my ipad.

The dog barks incessantly at something I can’t see out of the front door window. I explain to her that there’s nothing there.  She is undeterred.

“Color!  Color!” The twins stomp around yelling “COLOR!” as if in protest that crayons and paper have not magically appeared in two seconds.

Since we’ve had – several – instances of crayon graffiti on the walls, I tell the girls they’ll have to color in their highchairs.  Rowan goes with it and climbs into her highchair.  Harlowe protests and stubbornly sits at the dining room table.  I pick her up to put her in her highchair.  She shrieks and holds her legs rigid, refusing to bend them. I try tilting her backwards so I can get straight, rigid legs in the holes.  She jerks violently from side to side.  I wrangle her in.  Red-faced, she shrieks like a banshee as I put her tray on. I get each a page from the My Little Pony coloring book. Rowan begins coloring peacefully.  Harlowe throws her crayons and shreds her My Little Pony picture.  (Spike, I think?)  I tell her she’s getting a break in her room to calm down.  I put her in her crib.  I shut the door.  She continues to shriek like a madwoman.

The cat meows to be let out of our master bedroom, where he hides out most of the time. (His food is not in there, so he must emerge on occasion lest he starve to death). I open the door. He stands, frozen, in the doorway – terrified. I try to talk softly and encourage him to be brave. Rowan rounds the corner, shrieking “KITTY!”.  The cat darts under the bed. I close the door.

Malone cries. He is hungry.  I heat up a bottle of breast milk for Malone.

The dog is barking. She needs out. I open the back door and let her out.

Lola points out a piece of poop in the living room.  Harlowe has dislodged this from her diaper at some point, as she is known to do.

I rush back to Harlowe’s room.  It is quiet now.  This is not a good sign. She has stripped down and taken off her diaper.  She is playing with poop in her bed.  I yell that PLAYING WITH POOP IS NOT APPROPRIATE!

We wash our hands, put on a new diaper and clothes.

I do yet another load of laundry.

I give Malone his bottle in a genius bib that my mother-in-law got me that holds the bottle for him so I don’t have to.  Hands free, baby!

The dog is BARK BARK BARKING!!! outside. I’m going to get another lovenote from the neighbors. I open the garage and call her in.

Lola screams from the kitchen “I poo-pooed!”.  We go to her room to change her diaper. I explain that she is a “big girl” and that she should use “the potty”. She seems unimpressed. “Change my poop, wench! And ENJOY it!”

We head back to the kitchen.  Harlowe shrieks.  Rowan has bitten her on the back, leaving perfect teeth marks.    I get down on their level and explain the we do not BITE our sister – we LOVE our sister.  I get up and walk away.  Harlowe clocks Rowan in the head with a wooden zebra.  I take the zebra.  There is protesting.  I get down on their level and explain that we don’t HIT our sister – we LOVE our sister.

The cat meows to be let out of the master bedroom. I open the door and try to coax him out. He stands, frozen. For the love of God. A toddler squeals.  He darts under the bed. I shut the door.

I burp Malone.  He spits up, his aim impeccable – the spit up runs, warm and sticky, down my shirt and between my boobs.  I wet a paper towel and do what I can.

I take Malone to our room and put him in his crib so he can rest away from the constant din in the living room and kitchen.

I have got to get dinner started at some point.

I head back to the kitchen.  Harlowe grabs my leg “Me, me, me!” Holding her arms up at me. I pick her up and go into the kitchen.  She wriggles and says “Down.”  She wants down in the kitchen because the kitchen is blocked off.  Forbidden.  I set her down.  She immediately opens cabinets and begins pulling out plastic bowls.  Rowan sees Harlowe in the kitchen and shrieks. SHE wants in the kitchen, too.  SHE’S being short-changed.  She cries real tears.  I let Rowan in the kitchen.

Lola’s licking the side of the kitchen counter.  I ask her what on earth she is doing.  I explain that licking the counter is yucky, much like when she licks the outside of the car after it’s been raining or the cart handle at Target.  She laughs and twirls in circles.

The twins are hitting each other with plastic bowls.  I banish them from the kitchen.  There is much protesting.  And shrieking.  And hanging on the baby gates.

Lola gets dizzy from twirling and kicks over the dogs water dish.  It. Goes. Everywhere. “I didn’t mean to, Mama”.  I go get a garage towel to sop it up.

Lola goes back to the ipad.

“Chip!  Chip”. I get Harlowe a small bowl of chips.  “Tank you!”  I take chicken out of the fridge.  Rowan yells, “Chip!  Chip!”  I get Rowan a small bowl of chips.  “Tank you, Mommy!”  I go back to dinner prep.  “Mommy, I want chip, too.”  I get Lola a small bowl of chips.  I ask her what she says.  “Thank you.”

The dog wants out again.  “You were just out.  Did you forget to poop when you started barking?”  The dog forgot to poop when she started barking.  I let the dog out.

Someone throws an empty chip bowl at me.  I explain that the appropriate response, when one is out of chips, is to SET THE BOWL ON THE COUNTER. “Wadder!” Rowan requests.  I get them both sippy cups of water and a refill on chips.

Lola requests lemonade. In a “big girl cup.” With a pink straw. Oh, god. No.

I get Lola a lemonade. In a big girl cup. With a straw. I explain that she needs to be careful and not spill it. “I not spill it, Mommy!” she assures me.

The cat meows to be let out of the Master Bedroom. I open the door. He bravely darts out of the bedroom and into the childproof kitchen (save Lola, who can bypass anything childproof at this point). He eats a few bites of cat food, spastic from the danger surrounding him.

I take the chicken out of the package and season it.

I hear giggling from the living room.  Harlowe and Rowan are dumping water into their chip bowls.  I wrangle the soggy chips and greasy sippy cups away from them and set them next to the kitchen sink, where there are a half dozen sippy cups and kid bowls and baby bottles waiting to be washed.

The dog is barking.  Again.  Christ.  I go to clap my hands and call the dog in.  Rowan stands at the back door and claps her hands with me.

The cat meows to be let into the Master Bedroom. I tell the cat to shut up. The cat glares at me.  There will be a poop streak on my side of the bed in retaliation later.

I begin pre-heating the oven. Lola gasps. “Uh-oh!” She has spilled her lemonade.

I get paper towels to clean it up. Lola begins to cry. “Why are you crying?!” I ask. “I got lemonade on my dress!” she wails. She is right. There is a TINY DROP of lemonade on her CLEAN dress that we JUST put on. I explain that it will dry. She wails, “My dress is RUINED!!! I NEED TO CHANGE MY DRESS!!!” I explain that we have already changed her dress.  We don’t need to change again, unless it’s into pajamas.  “I WANT A NEW DRESS!!!”

I take her to her room to change her freshly laundered dress that has a speck of lemonade on it into yet another princess dress. We change.

We head back to the kitchen.  The cat is on the counter, licking the chicken.

I throw the chicken out and order pizza.

On Jill’s 50th Birthday

My sister, Jill, would’ve turned 50 today.

I’ve thought a lot about this the last few months. I’ve wondered how we would’ve celebrated, how much Jill would’ve grumbled, and whether or not we would’ve all found a way to be together in spite of the spinning chaos that is life.

I think people often show love in the way they most feel loved. Let me say that again. I think people often SHOW love in the way THEY most feel loved.

Think about it – if you put a lot of thought into picking out a unique and fitting gift for your loved one, and you continuously get an Amazon gift card with a pat on the back and a “pick out something you’ll like” in return, you’re bound to feel let down. Or, if on your birthday weekend, the husband takes the kids to the aunt’s house so you can “have some space”, and “having some space” includes you having to go buy your own birthday cake and flowers because no one else gave it a thought and left you all alone on your birthday weekend…well. Perhaps that means the husband most feels loved when you take the kids and give him some space, and that he doesn’t understand that you don’t feel loved the same way.  But I digress…

Jill showed love uniquely.  Like the time she came up with “Sister’s Day”, a combination of our birth dates every April when we would get something for ourselves and buy the same thing for the other two sisters – usually something that reminded us of a certain memory, or shared experience.  (A framed “Will Rogers” postcard since we all went to “Will Rogers Elementary School”, a “Dartmouth” t-shirt since we all grew up on “Dartmouth Dr.”, a hand drawn “Family Tree” with the names as the trunk and branches of the trees – because I used to actually have something called “time on my hands”).  The year after she died, I bought “The Pirate Movie” for our Sister’s Day gifts, because it was one of Jill’s favorite movies.  She once saved Christopher Atkins plastic fork for me when she waited on him at Barnie’s in Orlando, and sent it to me in a plastic ziplock bag with a note instructing me “not to lick it” because I didn’t know where he’d been.  (Thanks, Jill.  I would’ve licked it otherwise.  Ick).

If you have the waiters sing "Happy Birthday" to me again, I'm going to stab you in the hand with my fork.

If you have the waiters sing “Happy Birthday” to me again, I’m going to stab you in the hand with my fork.

Like the time I visited her in Orlando around my 16th birthday – every time we went out to eat, she secretly told the waiter it was my birthday.  Every. Time.  (I got to the point that I’d hear clapping, and I’d just put my head down on the table). We have umpteen pictures of an awkward 16-year-old Jamie (braces included!) in some humiliating restaurant hat with a cake in front of her. Don’t kid yourself, she did this in part to embarrass me – and it worked – but it was also Jill showering me with attention.  Just like the sign she held up at the airport that said “JAMIE: Have they grown yet?” as I got off the plane.  I walked past her and pretended I didn’t know her.

She handed this to me as I was about to board my plane to go home.

She handed this to me as I was about to board my plane to go home.

Like the time she surprised my Grandparents for their 50th Wedding Anniversary.  She flew in to Iowa, where Jodi was doing an internship, and drove down to Kansas with her.  Jill covered up with a blanket in the backseat, and Jodi asked Grandma and Grandpa to come out to the car to help her get their gift.  (“Aw, you shouldn’t have!  You’re doing an internship…”)  When Jill jumped up from the blanket, Grandpa got tears in his eyes.  Milestones were a big deal to Jill.

And I’ve been wondering if we would have disappointed her on her 50th birthday.

When our Mom turned 50, Jill was the one who came up with a plan to do something really special. Like many people, Mom wasn’t particularly thrilled with turning the big 5-0 and was feeling pretty “blah” about the whole thing.

What you have to remember here is that this was before Facebook and social media. Heck, this was in the dawn of the internet – it was 1993, and the commercialization of the internet didn’t happen until the mid-90’s. (Source: Wikipedia).

Jill got our Grandma to dig up old class reunion contact lists and highlight those that were good friends with our mom in high school. She then contacted these people, asking them to write down a memory of our mother. She got a lot of responses.  One man wrote back that he’d had a huge crush on our mother and always regretted not asking her to prom. She’d had no idea.

I had a menial task assigned to me, at 17 – I was to color Madeline L’Engle pictures of Americana (Mom liked Madeline L’Engle) without our Mom seeing them and send them back to Jill covertly.  I dutifully colored these pictures on breaks at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute where I was studying theatre, and sent them back with our mom being none-the-wiser.

Jodi can’t remember what menial task she had.  (When I asked her, she said, “How the hell would I know?  Sorry, I’m old.”)

Regardless, we both know that Jill carried the bulk of the responsibility.  She took all of the collected goodies – notes from former classmates, notes from us, Madeline L’Engle pictures, etc. (etc. = whatever Jodi did), and put together a bulging scrapbook for our mother, which was presented at her 50th birthday dinner.  It was an awesome tribute.

Mom with Dad, her 50th Scrapbook, and her girls.

Mom with Dad, her 50th Scrapbook, and her girls.

One time I think I came close to making Jill feel loved the way she felt most loved.  Her older cat, Scratch, got sick with a thyroid issue and was dying.  He needed a treatment that would cost $1000 and, with Jill’s medical expenses for her depression, they didn’t have the money for it.

I was a poor college student and didn’t have much, but I donated $100 towards Scratch’s treatment.  I then put together flyers, had Jill open a PO box, and listed where people could send a small donation towards Scratch’s treatment.  I explained that my sister was already dealing with long term depression and that it would be heartbreaking to lose Scratch because they couldn’t afford the treatment.  I posted flyers in grocery stores and community boards in Norman, and then sent them to relatives and asked them to post in their neighborhoods.

Our Aunt Shirley called me and said she would get the money from other relatives and that we didn’t need to rely on strangers.  And she did.  She called and cajoled and got donations from her brothers and kids and we sent Jill a check for the remainder.  Scratch had his treatment and got better.  And Jill felt loved.

The 90's-style flyer I made for Scratch's treatment.

The 90’s-style flyer I made for Scratch’s treatment.

Two months before her death, Jill was in Dallas for treatment at the Meier Clinic.  Brian and I had just moved to Dallas a day before, and Jill and I were sitting in my new (old) duplex among moving boxes and disarray.  (One of my favorite memories is that Jill grabbed a recycled gift box packed with things, and this box had pictures drawn all over it by Hailey.  When she noticed it, she was over the moon).

I had been waiting tables since college, acting, and was generally broke and worried about bills all of the time.  Jill mentioned that Scratch was sick again, five years on, and likely needed treatment.  I was more world weary, five years on, and I shook my head and said something like, “I’m sorry”.  I didn’t offer money. I didn’t offer to round up the troops and figure out a way to get him treatment again.  I just said, “I’m sorry”.  And I undoubtedly let her down.  She was gone two months later.

I didn’t call her on her last birthday.

I worked a double at the restaurant that day, and didn’t have much of a break to run home and call.  (No cell phone).  Anyone who knows my family knows that a phone call is an investment of time – we like to talk – and I didn’t feel like I had time to run home, call, and get back to work in time to have a breather.  I’d sent her a card and a gift, so what was the big deal, right?

Wrong.  When I talked to my mom later that week, she told me Jill was really hurt that I hadn’t called her on her birthday.  I was ashamed.  Jill ALWAYS called me on my birthday.  I resolved to do better and call her on every birthday from that point on.

She didn’t have any more birthdays.

I hope we would’ve celebrated her appropriately on her 50th birthday.  I hope that she would’ve felt truly and deeply loved by our efforts.  I hope that she knows how much we still love her, how much we wish she and Hailey were with us to celebrate milestones and ministones, and how much her way of loving others is missed.  She was something else…

 

 

The Joys of Parenting

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Last week was…rough.

First, I’m 34 weeks pregnant. It’s hot. I can’t walk from one room to another without getting winded and needing to sit down and “take a break”. From walking 24 feet.

Second, there’s the emotional WAHOO zinger of a roller coaster. I can be calm one moment, and irrationally shrieking, “STOP SWINGING FROM THE DRAPES LIKE TARZAN!!” the next.

One night, I was running a bath for the kids. Brian – ever helpful – got them undressed and undiapered. I shut the bathroom door so I wouldn’t be bombarded with kids elbowing each other out of the way to get into the water – I swear, you’d think the bathtub was Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  I needed a moment to make sure plenty of towels were strategically placed.  (More water ends up on the bathroom floor – and on me – than in the tub).

Suddenly, I heard Brian squawking “Mayday! Mayday!” from the hallway. I opened the door. Naked babies were everywhere!  He was futily trying to hold them at arms length to keep them from splashing in and through the pond of urine in the middle of the hallway. Rowan, sans diaper, had left her room, squatted, and peed everywhere – spreading the wealth generously.

We shuffled them into the tub. I stopped Brian from grabbing one of the good towels and pointed him to the paper towels. As we cleaned, I reminded him that this happened when he put Harlowe in her crib without a diaper recently. I was changing Rowan and he thought he’d corral Harlowe until I could diaper and dress her, too. Giggling, she peed all over her sheets, and I got to do a “surprise!” load of laundry at bedtime.

I explained scientifically: “You can’t let babies run around with no diaper on.  Something happens when air hits their hoohaa’s. It’s like ‘Pavlov’s dogs’ when they hear a bell, only – instead of salivating – there’s urinating.  It’s a proven fact.”  (I do my research).

The next night, I was too tired to cook, so we ordered out. Chili’s. I got the Fajita Chicken Nachos with a side of salsa (pregnancy craving – they know this is what I need when I call).  Looking at my order history, some witty Chili’s employee said, “Let me guess.  Fajita Chicken Nachos with a side of salsa??”

Once dinner was picked up and we had wrangled the kids into their highchairs to eat grilled cheese and fries, we could finally eat.  Brian was sitting down with his brisket tacos and beer, and I had just finished getting my food together and was heading out of the kitchen. I stepped over the child gate, partially tripped, and dropped my food – facedown – on the floor. Salsa was everywhere – all over me, all over the floor, splashed up the wall.

At first, Brian just looked annoyed at the mess.  (He has picked three things he cares about keeping clean – his car, the dishes, and the living room floor.  He had just swiffered).  But then – those irrational emotions kicked in; I just started sobbing uncontrollably.  Brian, alarmed, hopped up and tried to rescue the nachos.

Brian: “There’s still some good one’s in here.  They aren’t ruined!  The ones on the bottom are edible!”

Me: (between sobs) “I’m not eating Dog Hair Nachos!!”  (In spite of the recent swiffering, there is ALWAYS dog hair).

Lola: (concerned from her highchair) “Wha’ happened?  Wha’ happened?  Mommy’s crying!  Mommy make a mess??  Wha’ happened?”

Let me say, though, that all of this is nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – compared to when Brian goes out of town and I’m on my own for two nights.

For starters, Lola likes to sleep in Mommy’s bed when Daddy is out of town.  And by “sleep”, I mean cram herself right next to Mommy in spite of the king size bed, kick Mommy in the side, heat butt Mommy in the face, complain that “it’s too dark” (no nightlight, unlike her room), refuse to go sleep in her room if “it’s too dark”, ask for a “sip of water” every 2-4 minutes, sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at the top of her lungs just as Mommy has nodded off, and say “Goodnight Mommy” about 800 times between 10 and Midnight.  I also “slept” for the majority of the night with a head in the middle of my back, since Lola sleeps perpendicular when she does eventually sleep.  All the while, a baby is kicking me in my guts.

Yesterday, I got a delivery from Target of some baby stuff – big ole box taken up mostly with those air-filled plastic bags and two relatively small (and non-fragile) bedding packages in the bottom of the box.  I’d removed those, but hadn’t yet taken the box out to recycle.

Lola was eating yogurt-covered raisins and playing on my (her) ipad.  At some point, while I was cooking dinner, she got up and wandered over.  I’m assuming she thought the box was sturdy and was still taped together, because she tried to sit on it – and folded accordian-style in two as she sank backward INTO the box full of plastic air-filled bags.  Yogurt-covered raisins went flying everywhere.  When I realized she was okay, I – laughing hysterically – scrambled to pick up yogurt-covered raisins, since raisins are toxic to dogs and Sadie does not listen to reason when there is food on the floor.

Lola continued to struggle, trying to extract herself from the box.  I could not stop laughing.  She was grumbling one of her favorite phrases, “Not funny”, on repeat, which made me crack up even more.

This was a good release because, not ten minutes later, when I went to pee (which happens every ten minutes), I came back out and found that the twins had wiggled partway under the kitchen child gate, pulled Sadie’s dog food/water mat over to the gate, grabbed her dog water, spilled it EVERYWHERE, and were splashing in it gleefully.

I ran for towels, pushed the dog dishes out of arms reach, cursed under my breath like a bloody sailor, threw down the towels, picked up a twin, stripped her, wiped her down with antibacterial wipes, put new clothes on her, repeated steps 1-3 with the other twin, moved them to the living room, and continued cleaning up the slobber/water mess in the kitchen and hallway.

And successfully burned dinner.

We had McDonald’s last night.  If one person says anything about “how could you feed your kids that crap?” – I swear – I will sock them in the eye.

(Mortifying) Memory Lane

Last weekend, I attended my 20-year High School Reunion.  (First and foremost, WTF?)

While we were touring our old high school and trying to piece together the details of our lives that far back, my friend Sarah pointed out the memories that she recalled were only the embarrassing ones – like the time she squatted by her locker and her pants split from the top of her butt to her crotch.  Or the time she was rushing out the door to get to school and grabbed a pair of pants out of the dryer.  Only in second period did she realize there was a pair of (freshly laundered) underwear hanging out of the bottom of her pant leg.  She quickly stuffed them back up…

Later that night, as I tried – unsuccessfully – to get the “dance” part of the reunion going, I thought about how great it is not to care what anyone thinks anymore. Take one part age and one part alcohol, mix well,  and inhibitions melt away. I was one of three people on the dance floor for the entire night – I have some mad dance moves reserved for just this type of occasion – and it didn’t matter that the rest of the adults chose to be dignified and socialize rather than shaking a tail feather.  (Thank you Bo and Luke Duke from the “Bartlesville Party Specialists” for digging up the Tone Loc, Mr. Bigg, The Outfield and EMF.  And for wearing the trendy flannel shirts with the arms cut off.  YOU KNOW HOW TO GET THE PARTY STARTED!)

Sarah’s recollections got me thinking about some of the embarrassing moments in my life – I’m afraid there are many that are cringe worthy.  So, for your entertainment and my mortification, here are a few from my storied past:

*Falling out of the bus into the mud at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute.  Picture this: it’s raining.  There is mud.  I’m wearing a short “babydoll” dress spattered with sunflowers (popular in the 90’s) and clunky black heels a la Doc Marten.  As I’m walking down the bus stairs, I think “Hmm.  What would I do if I fell out of the bus?”  At that precise moment, my heel catches on the rim of the step, the heel breaks off and I FLY out of the bus into the mud, bus fumes blowing up my short dress, and the bus driver (a cute camp counselor, no less) leaning out yelling, “ARE YOU OKAY?? ARE YOU OKAY??”  I semi-crushed my “basket purse” when I landed on it, but it hadn’t fatally stabbed me – like I wished it had. (The basket purse was also a fad at this time; mine was decoupaged with Victorian images.  See “Victorian Phase”, below) One of my fellow actors picked me up, handed me my heel, grabbed my elbow and led me to the bathroom, whispering sweet nothings like, “No one will remember this in a little while.  Most people didn’t notice.  It’s okay. Here’s your heel.” On the return trip, as I was exiting, someone yelled, “Don’t trip!”  Teenagers are a hoot.  Later that afternoon, I managed to dump my pot roast gravy on some poor unsuspecting camper as I squeezed between tables in the cafeteria, tilting my tray inadvertently.  Clearly, it was not my day.  (Or his).

Bus fumes + short dresses = not dignified.

Bus fumes + short dresses = not dignified.

*When I made up “Ghost Land” in the sky and acted like it was a totally normal – and very real – place where ghosts lived and wore different colored sheets.  And that I traveled there occasionally.  No, really.  And the ghosts had names based on colors and/or foods.  My best friend was Blueberry.  I would connect with Blueberry when we had to fight the evil spirits – who lived in Dragon Land, which were clouds that were shaped in a loose interpretation of a dragon.  When I was in Ghost Land, it looked very similar to my own backyard. I would let friends I trusted know that we had crossed into another sphere and were actually on a cloud …. You might guess that I didn’t have many friends.  You might be right.

*The time in 7th grade I had a wart on the end of my nose and everyone thought it was a booger.  This was particularly mortifying because I kept catching people talking about it.  (And, really, is it better that it was a WART than a booger?  I don’t know.  That’s pretty gross.)  Stacy, who sat behind me in choir, asked me to turn around and – when I did – she said “I like your…” looking frantically around my being to find something to compliment me on “…shirt color.”  I thanked her, with an I-know-what-you’re-up-to look, turned back around and heard whispering and snickers.  In Biology, Bubba said “Hey, Jamie…” so I’d turn around.  Bubba never spoke to me in school – that didn’t happen until the joy that is Facebook united us years later and we became fast, insubstancial friends – so I knew this was a ploy.  He, too, tried awkwardly to find something to say to my while his cronies stared at my nose.  “It’s a beauty mark.”  I said, flicking at my wart.  (My mom had told me to say it was a beauty mark.  I will never, ever tell my daughter to say her wart that looks like a booger is a beauty mark.)  Silence.  They stared at me.  “It’s a wart.”  I said, flicking at my wart.  I kept flicking at it so they could be sure that it was firmly adhered and wasn’t, in fact, a booger. The next day, my mom took me to the doctor to have the wart frozen off. Thank YOU, discoverer of Liquid Nitrogen.

Note the boogeresque wart on the end of the nose...

Note the booger-esque wart on the end of the nose…and the jelly bean earrings.

*Ripping the toilet dispenser – and wallpaper – off the wall at my friend Karen’s house.  Karen was from China and her parents were very nice, somewhat formal by culture, and spoke Chinese at the dinner table.  I figured out quickly that I was to remove my shoes upon entering the house and leave them at the front door.  Their formality made me a little nervous.  I was spending the night and wasn’t sure I would make it through without being banished and having to walk home 14 blocks, barefoot.  So, what do I do?  I excuse myself (formally) to the bathroom to nervous pee, grab the toilet paper to pull a piece off, and manage to rip the entire dispenser along with the wallpaper off the wall clear down to the baseboard, where toilet paper pooled in a heap.  I sat there fretting.  Could I super glue it back?? Would they be suspicious when they noticed the toilet paper dispenser was ripped off the wall later that night?  (I imagined saying, “Wow.  How did that happen?”)  Could I feign illness and have my mom pick me up before they clued in that something was amiss?  No.  I could not.  I tried one more time to balance the dispenser on the protruding screws from the wall. It fell back to the floor with a clang.  I grabbed some tissue off the floor, wiped, washed my hands, and went to Karen, shame-faced, to admit what I’d done.  She came in the bathroom to see.  Her mouth hung slightly open.  She and her little brother, Stanley, looked at each other.  Then they both looked at me.  They started cracking up.  After wiping tears out of their eyes, she and Stanley led me back out to the dinner table where her parents sat finishing dinner to explain to them in Chinese what had happened as I stood quietly in the corner and stared at my bare feet.  They listened patiently.  They asked a few questions back in Chinese, glancing sideways at me.  Karen answered, smiling.  At once, their faces cracked into grins and they laughed.  And that is how I learned that senses of humor translate across cultures…

*Giving myself a hickey in the exact middle of my forehead.  It’s not what you think.  Do you remember those little rubber half circle “poppers” that came in cereal?  You turned it inside out, set it down, and it would “pop” back right side out and fly up to the ceiling?  Well, I had a blue one.  I was a theater kid, so my highly intellectual mind found creative uses for objects.  Before play rehearsal (Bye Bye Birdie), I was killing time and sticking this thing on me and putting theater makeup over it to see what kind of effect I could get.  I stuck it to my hand and ran out into the living room, clutching my wrist and shrieking, and my Mom shot from her cross-legged place on the floor to the ceiling in two seconds flat, thinking I’d electrocuted myself.  She was pissed when I laughed and pulled it off my hand.  (Don’t worry.  She got retribution.)  After my hand, my highly intellectual mind thought it would make a great “bump” on the noggin in the middle of my forehead.  So, I stuck the blue thing on, threw some foundation over it, and walked back out to show Mom.  She looked at me for a second – still not amused – and suggested that maybe putting that suction thing in the middle of my forehead, where the skin was very thin, wasn’t the brilliant idea I thought it had been.  I ran and pulled it off, but it was too late.  I had a perfectly round hickey in the middle of my forehead.  And I had 30 minutes until play rehearsal.  It wasn’t fading.  Theater makeup was doing a half-assed job of covering it up.  My lame excuse for bangs refused to be organized to hide my forehead.  My mom laughed and laughed and said that, no, I couldn’t skip play rehearsal.  I came up with some unconvincing story about running into a cabinet knob in the kitchen.  I don’t know if any of my fellow actors bought it, but – once I commit – I’m all in.  (Again: see “Victorian phase,” below).  For a number of years, my oldest sister referred to me as “Hickey Head.”  Later, in high school, my dear friend Maggie led me into the girls room and said, confidentially, “Don’t laugh.”  She lifted her bangs to reveal a perfectly round hickey in the middle of her head. She had done the same thing with a suction-cup arrow in an effort to entertain her younger brothers.  I never felt such a kinship to someone.

These things are the devil.

These things are the devil. Especially the blue ones.

*Missing a cue in “Bye Bye Birdie” and falling backwards off the riser.  This was a different rehearsal…I think.  There was a part in the choreography when all the girls were fainting because Colonel Birdie (think Elvis) was singing to them, and the actors playing our boyfriends caught us mid-faint.  I thought it was time to faint.  It wasn’t.  Hence, my fake boyfriend, played by Carl Crane, didn’t catch me.  I just fell backwards off the riser.   Dazed, I looked up into Carl’s concerned face bent over me, his brow furrowed.  The director (not a camp counselor) yelled “ARE YOU OKAY?? ARE YOU OKAY??”  I was never again able to convincingly fake-faint… Luckily, the University of Oklahoma didn’t require fake fainting to earn your BFA in drama performance.

*My Victorian phase.  My husband got to hear the phrase “back when your wife was shy” several times last weekend.  He was perplexed.  I told him I wasn’t shy, I was being Victorian.  He was even more perplexed.  Knowing women like he does – he claims to have a keen sense of the way the female mind works – he asked what movie inspired my Victorian phase.  I told him it was a book and that my Victorian phase lasted roughly two years.  He told me that’s not a phase – that’s psychosis.  (I, personally, like to think of it as an acting exercise.)  I had lots of flowing dresses and skirts, wore my hair up like a Gibson girl, spoke demurely, and used words like “lovely” and “beau”…. For the record, this apparently was not what teenage boys were into, so I rarely got asked out and I didn’t have a beau. But I spent a lot of time pining about it in my Victorian garb.  Writing poetry.  Drinking tea.

My Victorian decoupaged basket purse.  Notice the damage on the bottom from when I landed on it when I fell out of the bus...

My Victorian decoupaged basket purse. Notice the damage on the bottom from landing on it when I fell out of the bus…

*When Chris took me to the movies and tried to make a move.  The movie, “Memoirs of an Invisible Man”, sucked.  But, I was there with my would-be beau, and that was all that mattered.  (I probably told him the movie was “lovely”).  As the credits rolled, I looked at him and he looked at me and got a “serious” look (sultry? complex?  did I have a wart on my nose he thought was a booger?)  Whatever the look was, it made me nervous and I turned my head – just as he leaned in to kiss me.  He got my earlobe, and then he nervously laughed and squeezed my shoulder.  Mortified, I couldn’t look at him again.  Then, my mom drove him home. (Hey.  We didn’t have our licenses yet.  Give me a break.) I walked him to the door, hoping for another shot.  My mom – subtle as she is – turned off the headlights.  He looked back over at the car and nervously laughed again.  That was our only date.  We never kissed.  He broke my heart and moved to Houston two months later.  (More pining and Victorian poetry followed).

*Screaming at the substitute (who was a pastor) in Drama class.  PMS and teenage angst are a dangerous combination.  This particular day, it was raining and I killed a bird on the way to school.  I got out and checked on it.  It was dead.  I cried.  Then, in second hour, I got in a fight with my friend Jimmy about existentialism – but it was probably more of a fight about unresolved feelings.  After lunch, two different groups of kids in Drama class started bickering while we were playing charades.  Our substitute teacher – a pastor, no less – wasn’t sure how to handle it.  “Shut up.  I’m charading.” said one. “Don’t tell me to shut up.  You shut up.” said another.  And on and on and on.  Somewhere in the back of my brain, a gasket clicked over.  And I – who was still in my “quiet” Victorian phase – blew a fuse and screamed, “No, really.  SHUUUUUUUT UUUUPPPPP!!!!!!!!!“….. You could hear a pin drop.  Rena clamped her hand over her mouth.  No one knew what to do.  Nathan started nervously tittering.  (He probably thought I might grab a fake drama sword and start stabbing people.)  I got up, kicked my desk out of the way, stomped to the front of the room, and said to the substitute, “I need to leave.”  He nodded.  His eyes were saucers.  I grabbed the Drama hall pass – we had two of them, cut out of plywood and painted Bruin Sooner Blue – the “happy” theater face and the “sad” theater face.  I grabbed the “sad” theater face – which was as large as a small window (Drama folks aren’t subtle) – and headed to the first floor bathroom to hide.  At some point, a counselor came to find me and took me to her office.  She asked if everything at home was going okay.  I told her I killed a bird.

Drama folk are not subtle.

I had the same pastor substitute in English about a month later.  He looked petrified.

*Having food poisoning hit in the middle of theater movement class in college.  We’d been doing a movement exercise where we were pretending to walk through a sand storm in the desert.  Afterward, I looked in the mirror (all theater and ballet rooms are surround with mirrors), and noticed my eyes were red.  Impressed, I thought, “Wow, I really ‘felt’ the sand blowing in my eyes.”  Then, the stomach cramps hit.  I shot a look at the professor as I stepped out of class, letting her know I wasn’t feeling well.  I made it halfway down the hall before darting to the nearest industrial trash can and barfing in front of the modern dance room while dancers sprung across the floor and gracefully ignored me.  After a few minutes, I crawled back towards my drama room to get help just as class was taking a break.  Carlton ran back into class and grabbed my inhaler, thinking I was having an asthma attack.  I didn’t get to properly thank him because, as soon as he held it out in front of me, I had to get back up and run to the trash can to continue barfing while Professor Shaughnessy held my hair back and discreetly asked if I might be pregnant – (OH MY GOD!) – and classmates ran to get me wet paper towels.  Luckily, the diarrhea didn’t kick in until after two classmates drove me home.  I thought I was going to die, but I would have truly died had I not only barfed in front of my peers, but shat myself, too.

 

All The Buzz

Bainesville was a small town.  A proud town.  It sprung up in the middle of Nowhere, America, and spurred a unique art culture inconsistent with the surrounding geography.

Born from the oil boom, old wealth spread to new generations. Disdainful looks passed from grandmother to granddaughter, and old feuds smoldered on, reasons long since forgotten.

There was nothing Bainesvillians were more proud of than supporting the arts.  They flew in guest artists from around the world, hosting artists in residence for the summer oil festival, “Boom!” They clinked champagne flutes with New York socialites (who scratched their heads and wondered how they ended up in Bainesville), rubbed elbows with Nashville musicians, and generously poured compliments on up-and-coming actors, pointing out their flaws to one another as they framed their headshots to hang on the walls of the local community center.  “He ought to think about doing something about that nose…” or “She has a ‘pinched’ beauty; it’s really disarming.”

So, when one of their own – an aspiring and admired playwright, Morrison – was showcasing an original script in the spirit of Halloween, anyone who was anyone planned to be seen attending as a supporter of the arts.  To make it even more appealing, a well-liked drama teacher with a reputation for being a bit of a hellion was directing.  Heath regularly got in trouble with the school board for cursing in front of students or challenging the school curriculum, preferring grittier plays than most respectable parents preferred.  Mostly harmless (with a bit of a Wild Turkey problem), Heath added a certain spice to the performances – you could never tell when he was going to do something inappropriate, and everyone wanted to be around to witness it when it happened.

On a warm October evening, they showed up in droves to the musty high school auditorium, in pearls and fine furs, in spite of the unseasonal warmth.  (Indian Summer be damned, this was a night for furs!)  They politely ignored the fact that the “coat check” consisted of an old rolling costume rack, complete with broken plastic hangers and desiccated chewing gum from students who had long since succumbed to the dull existence of cubicles and corporate America.

The theatre was packed!  Warning signs spattered with fake blood decorated the theatre doors and box office window where two bored drama students pulled Will Call tickets from manila envelopes, suggesting this was not a show for the faint of heart.  Or asthmatics.  Mr. Hamilton turned his walker right around when he saw there would be strobes, smoke and sound effects – his pacemaker wouldn’t take that.  But, “no, no, keep the money for the ticket.  Happy to be a member of the arts community.”  (Mr. Hamilton was secretly glad for the escape home where he could watch the Andy Griffith marathon).

Before the show, murmurs floated up to the catwalk above the stage where Morrison was operating the lighting.  He always operated the lighting for his scripts – it gave him the best vantage point to watch the action onstage and listen to the reactions from below.

He listened to the audience contemplate what they were in for.  Werewolves?  Vampires?  The Undead?  Or would the focus be on the serial killers that couldn’t be killed from pop culture films?  The show was cloaked in mystery.  Morrison intentionally published very little in the program other than the names of the actors in the cast and “Be forewarned”.   This thrilled the audience, who loved the element of surprise – and an excuse to be politely condescending to one another in public.

“Gertrude!  So good to see you!  You look tired.  Are you tired?  Your eyes look tired.  Maybe it’s the lighting…”

“How very kind of you to be concerned, Mabel.  I’m fine.  And what about little Prudence?  She’s looking awfully healthy these days!  It’s so good to see how…comfortable…she is with her body image.”  Tsk, tsk.  “So many eating disorders out there.  It’s refreshing, really.”

Withering smiles, faux invitations to brunch.

A small ensemble was set up in the makeshift “orchestra pit” cordoned off in front of the stage.  The conductor took his place and made the mandatory announcement to silence cell phones and watches.  On cue, someone’s cell phone rang and the conductor cleared his throat.  Nervous laughter bubbled up.  150 people rustled through purses and pockets.

The first act delivered some seat-squirming, one woman audibly murmuring “Look out!”, louder each time, until her husband finally whispered in her ear that the actors “aren’t allowed to hear you, honey.”  Titters.  At least three actors died and were resurrected as other characters.  The headless horseman showed back up, head intact, as Jacob Marley shaking chains in an interesting twist of “Scrooge” where the three ghosts were on a mission to admonish Scrooge for his lame attempts at cruelty from the past, present and future.  In the end, Scrooge defaced Tiny Tim’s grave into “Grimy Tim”.  There was an offended gasp from the audience.  Morrison smiled to himself.  Nothing left an impression like innocence defaced.

At intermission, designer perfume mingled, nauseatingly.  Some people bought refreshments from the same two bored drama students who “volunteered” (got assigned) to support the show.  Mrs. Reynolds picked out a Snickers bar, botox smile tight, then dropped it in the trash can around the corner out of view.  (She wouldn’t be caught dead eating a Snickers bar…what would the ladies at bridge club say?)  Instead, she stepped into an empty classroom and took a swig from a small flask hidden in her purse and returned to her seat, hiccupped, and begged her pardon as the faint smell of bourbon lingered.  The two women behind her looked at each other meaningfully.

The stage door was propped open, a couple of cigarette tips glowing in the dark as actors and crew smoked, the actors holding their cigarettes out far from their costumes.  (A rogue burn hole and the costumer would kill them!)  The stage manager announced places, but left the stage door open for some breeze – the lighting always made the backstage steamy.  A solitary mosquito, still common in Bainesville in October, buzzed in after her and landed on the arm of an actress standing in the wings.

The lights dimmed twice in the lobby.  Time for act two!

The thunder guy in the orchestra pit shook his sheet of metal. A few minutes in, a vampire seductively drew in a victim with a creamy white neck, startled when she turned and sunk her teeth into his neck instead.  He howled.  Blood began pouring from the wound and he grasped at his neck, fighting the girl off with his cape as she continued to lunge at him.  What a twist!  The audience was beside itself.

Morrison looked down at Heath, observing from stage right. Heath was looking at his script, brow knit in confusion.

Lightning flashed.  The stage manager, headset and one arm dragging behind her, staggered onstage and began attacking the vampire from the opposite side.  They fell into a heap on the stage as the audience collectively shifted to the edge of their seats.

The thunder guy shook his metal sheet on cue, eyes upturned in question to the conductor.

Heath stormed onstage, slipping in the blood spatter.  “Scene!  Cut!!  What the fuck…” – sheepish smile to the audience – “ what the frick are you doing?!?”

He was promptly torn apart.

The audience was delighted!

One woman near the front clapped, blood spraying across her face.  The effects were spectacular!  Much better than Act One!

The thunder guy quieted his sheet of metal as the conductor, perplexed, leafed through his copy of the script.

The stage manager and vampire, losing interest in Heath, turned towards the smorgasbord before them. One shambled offstage directly into the orchestra pit, crashing into cymbals before grabbing the conductor by the collar, his teeth sinking into the Conductor’s eye.  The Conductor shrieked and batted at him ineffectually with his little baton.  The thunder guy shook his metal sheet at the approaching vampire, to no effect.

What was left of Heath pulled himself into the transfixed audience.  They hadn’t realized this was an interactive play! And how did Heath create the illusion of leaving his legs behind?  Astonishing…

One lady in the front row laughed, delighted, as the director picked her out and grabbed her ankle.  He took a bite and, after a momentary look of shock, she squawked and began kicking him in the face.  The audience applauded, elbowing each other, impressed with her authentic reaction.  More people near the front began offering their arms to the approaching ensemble, eager to be a part of the action!

Mooney, with the big boobs, came out of the dressing room backstage, wondering why she hadn’t heard her cue.  Upon seeing a crew member run repeatedly into a full length backstage mirror, she began laughing and snorted. (Mooney could get away with snorting.  Because of the boobs).

The snort drew the crew members attention.  He approached her and sank his teeth into her bust, a fantasy of his.  She screamed, “OH, GOD!!” – also part of his fantasy – and two more crew members joined him in the slippery orgy.

Morrison observed all of this, frozen on his perch above the stage, heart hammering.

The screaming in the auditorium crescendoed, but there was another sound registering now.  What was that?  A low moan?  A growl?  Whatever it was, it drew the rest of the reanimated crew out into the audience.

One of the bored drama students, smacking a wad of gum, approached the auditorium doors to see what the commotion was about.  He peeked in the small door window into the auditorium.  He barely noticed the spray of blood across the glass – Heath went all out with the gore.  The cool blue light onstage – mimicking moonlight – provided the backdrop for hundreds of figures moving slowly around in the dark, bumping into one another.  It seemed the whole of the theatre was on its feet. Maybe Heath had the audience doing some kind of weird, experimental theatre exercise.  These people loved that crap.

He pulled the theatre door open.

A hundred plus theatre patrons stopped moving and looked his way.

A hundred plus theatre patrons roared with hunger.

A hundred plus theatre patrons, eyes crazed, made for the bored drama student.

The bored drama student inhaled sharply, sucking his gum down his throat and choking, as he backed up into the lobby.  The theatre doors burst open and a rush of undead art enthusiasts pushed through, trying to fit all at once. The bored drama student ducked into the box office, slammed the door, and trapped himself without an exit.  The patrons began beating on the door and trailing bloody fingers over the will call windows.

Morrison crept down from the catwalk unnoticed, slipping out the side exit and shutting the door quietly, but securely, behind him.  He took a deep breath and used his shirt to mop the sweat from his eyes.  He was certain of two things.  First, his was the most terrifying play ever shown on any stage and would go down in history.  Second, he needed to get the hell out of there, fast.  He fled towards the back parking lot.

Out front, the night custodial crew arrived.  One of them swatted at a mosquito buzzing around his nose.  The mosquito flitted away in the October night as the custodial crew opened the front doors.

The Moth-Eaten Mother Movement

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.”

I used to think this rhyme was silly.  Why would an old woman have children?  Mothers are supposed to be young, full of energy and zest, not old and haggard.

I read recently about a woman who just had her first baby at 50.  She and her husband had tried multiple rounds of IVF cycles with no luck and had just implanted her last frozen embryo.  And it worked.  My pediatrician then told me about a friend of hers who married late in life and had her first child at 50…and her second child at 54.  Unassisted.

I know this is disturbing, but I don't really think it's all that more disturbing than most naked pregnant pictures.

I know this is disturbing, but I don’t really think it’s all that more disturbing than most naked pregnant pictures.

It’s a different time we live in than the moms that came before us.  Many women are finishing college and establishing our own professional careers before ever considering marriage, let alone children.  We’re not necessarily marrying our high school sweethearts, settling in our hometown, and having Dick and Jane and Spot complete by 25.  Instead, we’re having kids when we’re a bit more…worn…by life.

This “old mother” thing is personal for me.  About a year ago, I attended a baby shower for a friend of mine.  I had recently had Lola at age 35 and my reproducing friend was a year or two younger.

While we stenciled giraffes and clever sayings on onesies (my giraffe was saying “Yo, G” – because I’m a gangsta), another friend and I talked about Lola, and I gushed about how great it was to finally be a mother (even though I was very, very tired).  And then, my friend left the room.

Another woman who was a bit older was sitting at the table and decided to voice her opinion.  “I don’t know how you’re doing it.  I had my babies at 24 and 28, and I was exhausted.  And, let’s face it, you’re no spring chicken.

I was stunned into silence.  Who was this woman?  And why did she want to hurt me?!?

My look must’ve tipped her off, because she immediately back-pedaled and said, “Not that you’re OLD, or anything” – unconvincingly – “I just can’t imagine starting out at your age”.

The truth was, Brian and I had been trying to have a baby since I was 29.  And it wasn’t happening au naturel.  Had there not been the miracle of modern medicine, and had there not been jobs that allowed us to afford the miracle of modern medicine, it’s unlikely that we would’ve become parents.  (There is no white sale on the miracle of modern medicine).  Fortunately, we were blessed with Lola – albeit a bit later than planned.

Still, I’d never thought of myself as an OLD mother.  Not until that fateful day, with a half-stenciled giraffe staring me in the face and a vocal stranger at the table telling me I was no spring chicken.  (If you look up “elderly” in the thesaurus, one of the synonyms is “no spring chicken”).

Since Brian and I would like to have another baby before my eggs dry up and blow away in the wind, I began thinking of this “old” mother thing in a new way.  There had to be benefits to having a child a little later in life that you don’t get to experience when you have a child fresh on the heels of high school, broke and unseasoned by life’s ups and downs.

Less overlapping PMS in the house.

I know what I’m talking about here.  My parents had three girls, a female cat, and a female dog.  (That’s a lot of estrogen floating around in a small space).

My Dad was a jogger.  I’m convinced he realized early on, when three girls popped out, that he had better cultivate this skill in preparation for the “perfect storm”.  The “perfect storm” occurred approximately once a year when my mother and my sisters would be PMS’ing at the same time.  (I was the youngest of the three and had not yet experienced the ‘joy’ of being a woman, but even I could sense something sinister was afoot).

When the “perfect storm” hit, the air in the house became charged and heavy, pressing down on all of us.  No one spoke at dinner.  Any rogue sound – a fork scraping a plate, a loud slurp – caused time to stop as everyone glared at the culprit, who averted his or her eyes.  Sometimes, someone would drop their silverware on their plate, scrape back their chair loudly and storm out of the kitchen, followed by a bedroom door slam.  No one was sure why, and no one asked.  This was nature, and nature was cruel.  And a little psycho.

As the youngest, I was still at the point where skating around the kitchen with maxi pads stuck to the bottom of my feet was appropriate and good for a chuckle.  I thought they were shoe sole inserts and was always confused that the woman on the package was walking barefoot in the ocean.  Even at a very young age, I knew this was a marketing miss for shoe soles.  (Later, when I understood what these things were, I still thought it was a marketing miss.  It would’ve been much more accurate to show her shoving a man’s head underwater as she smiled into the sunset).

Man Marketing

What kind of jackass looks at a maxipad and thinks “Ah – a peaceful walk in the ocean, barefoot”? I’ll tell you what kind of jackass. A man.

I considered myself Dad’s lookout in those days. He worked a lot and was usually in bed by 9:00 so he could get up and train (jog) at 5 a.m.  During those quiet dinners, I watched carefully for warning signs and was prepared to scream “RUN, DAD, RUN!!!” should anyone’s head begin spinning a la “The Exorcist”.

When Lola hits that age, I’ll be on my way into menopause.  I’m not saying that will be all rainbows and butterflies – but Brian’s knees aren’t very good in his mid-thirties, so I’m not convinced his jogging skills would do him much good should the “perfect storm” occur in our household.  He’d have to curl up in a fetal position in the corner and try to avoid notice until it passed.

You change my diaper, I’ll change yours.  I think this transition is much easier if the time lapse between the two events is shorter.  When the inevitable time comes that Brian and I need Depends, the innate sense of obligation will be harder to ignore because it really wasn’t that long ago that her diaper leaked mustard poop down my side in the middle of Target.  (I plan to continually remind her of this to keep it in fresh perspective).

You can expand this concept into avoiding the nursing home entirely.  If you time it right, your kid will be ready to leave the nest when you start needing assistance feeding yourself, grooming yourself, and pooping.  (You gave them gross, mushed up prunes to help them with constipation.  Old people love prunes.  Coincidence?  I think not).

No more separation anxiety for child or parent!  They move out of your house, you move into their guest room.  Everyone wins!

Think of the possibilities: You helped them brush their little bitty teeth as they squirmed and fought you.  Now, they get to help you soak your dentures!  You clipped their little fingernails as they cried and cried.  Now, they can clip your hardened, yellowed toenails and dodge rogue toenail bits flying towards their eyes! You force-fed them vegetables – now, it’s YOUR turn to throw the brussel sprout on the floor and scream “NO!” through the frustrated tears rolling down your red, wrinkled cheeks.  It will be nothing for you but macaroni and cheese, by God!!!

Your midlife crisis will coincide with their awkward early teens.  Around age 12/13, I went through a midrift phase.  I wore a LOT of halftops. My sisters used to give me a lot of crap about this one gray halftop, a favorite of mine.  They’d say things like “Are you ever going to wash that thing?” or “That thing could stand up on it’s own by now.” Or “Do you have a gray halftop I can borrow?  Oh, no.  You don’t.  Because you’re wearing it.  Again.”  I know they just said these things out of sheer jealousy…that shirt was badass.

I also had a half top that sported black and white stripes and said “NAVY GIRL” in sparkly rhinestones on a silver pleather background stitched on the front.- I used to wear this shirt to the skating rink on Friday nights.  Man, I wish I still had that shirt.  I would so ROCK THAT in my 50’s.

See, my goal is for the second coming of my midrift phase to coincide with my daughter’s awkward teenage years.  (While the thought of showing my middle makes me cringe right now, by then, my mind will be going – so sharing my fupa with the world will feel like I’m doing everyone a favor).

I can see it now – I’ll pull up in the carpool lane at school, jump out in my teensy top and lounge against the hood of my minivan, blaring “Ice Ice Baby”, letting it all hang out.  When she comes out with her friends, I’ll wolf whistle and say stuff like “The boys can’t keep their eyes off me.  Looks like your Mama still has it!”

She’ll grit her teeth, orthodontia headgear going tight, acned cheeks going redder.  She’ll slink over and crawl into the backseat, curling up on the floorboard.  Mortified.  But, in the end, she’ll thank me.  She’ll thank me for using my golden years to raise her instead of wearing designer fanny packs and going on cruises to Cozymel.  She’ll thank me for listening to my Walkman way too loud when I was young so I blissfully couldn’t hear her sass.  She’ll thank me for accepting myself as I am, so she could learn to accept herself.  She’ll thank me for being an old mom.

The Heartbreak Kid

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I can’t help it.  I look at my beautiful, defiant little redhead and I know that someday, somewhere, some stupid boy is going to break her heart.  And I already want to throttle that boy with every fiber of my being…even though he probably can’t even talk yet.

When I was little, man oh man, did I want a boyfriend.  The boy who lived down the street became the target, primarily because of proximity.  (Convenience has always been an important part of my life).  I used to force him to put his arm around my shoulders as he cringed and made vomit noises.

Look at that perm!  Look at that spandex!  How could you resist this?!?

Look at that perm! Look at that spandex! How could you resist this?!?

I had a chalkboard, and scribbling “Do you love me?  Circle one.  Yes.  No.  Maybe.” was commonplace. I’d run off to let him find my query.  He would circle “Yes”, but then chalk scrawl next to that “in God’s way”… Soooo, you’re telling me there’s a chance!

This same boy is the only person – ever – to punch me in the stomach.  To be fair, I was giving him noogies and refused to let up no matter how many times he yelled “stop it!”…until he finally retaliated with his fist.  And I learned what it felt like to be punched in the gut.  This was a valuable lesson.  I’ve had an aversion to giving noogies ever since.

Luckily, my standards improved with age and the boy had to do more than live four houses down to be considered “boyfriend material”.

A younger, happier man-free Jamie - except for the big wart on the end of my nose that everyone in 7th grade at Madison Middle School mistook for a booger...

A younger, happier, man-free Jamie – except for the wart on the end of my nose that everyone in the 7th grade class at Madison Middle School mistook for a booger…

As my taste in the opposite sex improved, so did my chances of stirring up feelings for someone who might not return those feelings.  There were a few disappointments here and there, but I had my heart actually cracked about two or three times that I would consider significant.  Significant enough that sometimes mundane things trigger an emotional memory and I find myself taken back to a place in my life complete with pangs in my gut that make being punched in the stomach sound like an appealing alternative.

Take, for instance, a few years back when I was reading “New Moon”.  (Yes.  Of the “Twilight” series.  Shut up.)  For those of you who have a life and did not read the series, a quick summary: Bella and Edward break up and Edward moves far away.   Bella completely withdraws into herself, barely taking notice of family or friends or seasons passing.  She is in that hole.  (If you’ve ever had your heart truly broken, you know that hole).  Reading about her despair so struck a chord with the memory of my first real, heart-wrenching break up that I found myself blubbering inconsolably on my couch, an utter wreck – completely aware of how ridiculous I must look.  What was the matter with me?!?  I never even dated a vampire!

This over-the-top emotional reaction may have had something to do with sleep deprivation, seeing that I – a grown woman with a full time job – would stay up reading what was technically a young adult book until 2 in the morning and still have to get up and function as a contributing member of society the next day.  But still.

I remember the break up I associated with Bella and Edward vividly. Running out my front door after him in the November cold, barefoot, not able to catch my breath, heart pounding wildly against my chest, in a complete panic.  My mother awkwardly following a few moments later with a pair of shoes, which she silently sat on the ground nearby before heading back indoors.  The boy looking miserable and embarrassed, trying to escape the situation.  Oh, man.  Did that suck.  Two months of misery followed before he and I got back together only to experience a much more significant – and legally binding – break up seven years later.

Way ahead of my time, a self-portrait of my suffering. (Bulging lips due to braces).

Way ahead of my time, a self-portrait of my suffering. (Bulging lips due to braces, not collagen injections).

Another memory is triggered when I hear Bonnie Raitt belt out “I Can’t Make You Love Me”.  The year was 1991, and my 15-year-old self sat out on our covered patio in the rain, boombox in my lap, playing my mix tape over and over in misery.  My mix tape was recorded off the radio and, as such, had annoying DJ voice overs at the beginning or end of songs that disrupted my gloom.  Or – my masterful recording technique showing – on some songs I would wait until the DJ chatter subsided to hit “Record” so the song would start abruptly on the second stanza.  Didn’t matter.  The rain would drizzle and I would mope.  Pause.  Rewind. And mope.  Sometimes, my dad would stick his head out the door to ask, awkwardly, if I was alright.  I’d nod glumly.  He’d go back inside to watch “The Andy Griffith Show” and wish he lived in a fictional and less-complicated Mayberry.

I still have that tape, even though I haven’t owned a tape player in years…

Radio Recorded Love Songs 1991

Radio Recorded Love Songs November, 1991

Yellowed index card with list of recorded love songs - Side A

Yellowed index card with list of songs – Side A.  Lots of “Piano Music”.  “Piano Music” is apparently a good choice when you’re feeling down and out.

Around this time, I was also going through my “Victorian” phase.  You know the “Victorian” phase, right?  The phase where you dress like you’re from the Victorian age and attempt to talk and behave as if you live in another century?  No?  You didn’t go through that phase?  Well, I did.  And it lasted about two years.

I wondered why no one wanted to date me while I spoke softly (to seem genteel) and said things like “Why doesn’t he wish to be with me?”  or “If only I could find a gentleman who would weave wreaths of flowers into my hair whilst reciting Tennyson”.  My best friend, Stephanie, gave me – and still gives me – a lot of crap about my Victorian phase.  She was convinced that I wanted to date a gay man, and had no trouble telling me so.  My mom refers to this as the time that I spoke in my “soft voice”…as in, “Remember?  I think that was when you were speaking in your soft voice”.  *Cringe*  And my sister just laughs if this phase ever comes up.  The “Victorian” phase would take up an entire post, so I’ll leave you with just a taste for now.

Thing is, I know that you don’t need a man to be happy.  But having a partner to share life’s ups and downs is…well…comforting.  And I’m grateful that I found Brian.  We might annoy the crap out of each other now and then, but we’re mostly happy.

Hard Rock Tee (tucked in and poufed out), high waisted, stonewashed jeans, gold chain, big earring orbs - Brian REALLY wishes he knew me when I had this look.

Hard Rock Tee (tucked in and poufed out), high waisted, stonewashed jeans, gold chain, big earring orbs – Brian REALLY wishes he knew me when I had this look…

And, while I want Lola to know that a man does not define her, I don’t want to set her up to be so bound and determined to prove her independence that she misses out on love and ends up lonely, either.

But, mostly – as I watch her sleeping peacefully – I dread the day that she has the giant empty pit in her stomach that won’t go away.  The day she wonders why “he” doesn’t love her.  The day she doubts her self worth.  The day she loses her appetite and hides in her room and cries into her pillow.  Oh, my God.  Do I dread that day.  Because I love this little being so much I cannot imagine anyone or anything causing her pain.

And I realize that is the day that my heart will be broken once again, too.

Hoarders: New Years Special

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Let me begin by saying I do not watch “Hoarders”.  Reality TV makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork.  I do everything in my power to avoid the Kardashians and their vapid stares, swamp people with dialects requiring subtitles, and anyone who cries because some jackhole with a British accent tells them they sound like a water buffalo in pain.  Ugh.  I should have my own reality TV show about how much I loathe reality TV.

That said, I do know the titles of several shows and am not opposed to exploiting them for my own blog.

Brian often accuses me of being a hoarder.  (Not true).  He complains that every inch of our walls is covered with something.  (Major exaggeration).  He says we need to move to a bigger house just so we can walk around without getting injured.  (Nope)

Just because I have a small cardboard box with cat whiskers I’ve saved from our pets – some of which are no longer with us, God rest their souls – does NOT make me a hoarder.

Okay, so the cat whiskers are a little creepy.  I’m sure none of you reading this save anything that might be considered quirky or morbid by other people.

This is a trashcan at my hairdresser's.  While it skeeved me out, someone with a hair fetish is going cross-eyed right now.

This is a trashcan at my hairdresser’s. While it skeeved me out, someone with a hair fetish is going cross-eyed right now.

Truth be told, I think Brian would be perfectly comfortable living in the state I found him in when we were first dating – mattress on the floor, semi-bare apartment, bathroom soap dispenser partially filled with water to extend the few sorry suds left clinging to the bottle.  Let me just say I didn’t fall for him because of his swanky decor…

Brian’s big-money idea is the “bed room” – a room that is actually wall to wall bed.  You enter it, and you’re in bed.  I’ve explained that I already hate making the bed, and having to make a full room would really chap my hide.  Plus, the logistics, man!  (Who makes sheets that size?!?)  But he insists that this is a winning concept.  And he thinks my complaints about the “bed room” are really based on the limitations for storing my stuff.  No under-the-bed storage.  No armoire.  No dresser. Because only hoarders store things under the bed.  Or in an armoire.  Or in a dresser.  Obviously, I have a problem.

I have a few weaknesses, yes.  I like antiques (an acquired taste from my mom’s side of the family), I’m sentimental (which makes it hard to let things go, even if their purpose is limited), and I’m drawn to the macabre (Halloween decorations take up the bulk of our attic storage space, complete with lifesize skeleton, witches cauldron and antique formaldehyde box.)  When my Dad was helping me put up Christmas boxes over the holiday, the skeleton startled him.  I saw the flash of “my daughter’s a serial killer” cross his face for just a moment.

Come on.  If you stumble across this treasure in an antique store, you BUY it!

Come on. If you stumble across this treasure in an antique store, you BUY it!

In spite of these “weaknesses,” I donate a number of things to Goodwill each year, which I have to point out in great detail to Brian.  He is especially concerned because my parents house is overflowing with a lot of stuff – antiques they’ve bought and refinished, a creepy doll collection (the eyes follow you, I shit you not), and various treasure my mom finds at the thrift store where she volunteers her time.  Creepy dolls aside, I LOVE the stuff.  Brian sees it and has mild heart palpitations.  He knows that one day we’ll have to go through it and that I’ll be sentimental and want to keep it all.

When I point out that I don’t have as much stuff as my mom, he says that’s like me saying I’ve broken the law, but I’m not as bad as Ted Bundy.

Oh, look!  Something to do with that broken childhood doll you can't bear to part with! Ted Bundy probably made this...

Oh, look! Something to do with that broken childhood doll you can’t bear to part with! Ted Bundy probably made this…

I’m less concerned that Brian thinks I’m a hoarder, and more concerned that the neighbors might be beginning to get suspicious.

We missed the trashmen last week.  I know, I know.  “Last week was a holiday week, Jamie.  You might’ve checked the city of Frisco website to find out if trash collection had shifted and to what day.”  Yeah, well, hindsite… Our trash and recycling bins were ignored, and are now sitting beside the house literally OVERFLOWING with garbage.  The recycling bin is shoved full of cardboard boxes from infant toys – dear God, the amount of infant toy packaging alone could comfortably furnish a shanty town, and I only have one small child.

We have four FULL garbage bags that cannot be crammed in the teetering bins and are laying in our garage, reeking and leaking used coffee grounds and egg shells.  The remaining infant cardboard packaging is piled on top of the garbage bags, inclusive of a large Radio Flyer Wagon box and miscellaneous bath toy boxes.  (Evidently, nine month olds go insane for the latest bath toys…)

Hidden behind the garbage bags and the boxes are three full paper sacks of Goodwill donations.  I would’ve donated these items at the end of 2012 for the tax break, but I kept envisioning myself drowning is a sea of old spaghetti and coagulated chicken and dumplings to reach them – no tax break is worth that.

I was debating not scooping the litter boxes until we got this trash mess straightened out – I have no where to put the poop! – but the clumping litter had turned into one giant, impenetrable clump and the cats were beginning to eye my side of the bed suspiciously.   The bag covertly made it into a neighbor’s bin under cover of darkness.  Don’t judge.

Dear God, please let the trashmen come tomorrow.

Happy hoarding!

Put Another Dime in the Jukebox, Baby!

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So, now we venture into the world of Jamie’s childhood. Prepare yourself. We’ll focus on one endeavor at a time. The first, you ask? My rock band.

Yes. I had what could loosely be described as a “rock band”. (Loosely described by me).

It was 1986. MTV was at the height of popularity (Martha Quinn, anyone?) and still showed music videos. Jem was Truly Outrageous. I, being the epitome of ‘cool’, decided I needed to be on the forefront of this rock n’ roll phenomenon.

Wait.  Is that Cyndi Lauper on a small trampoline in my childhood home?

Wait. Is that Cyndi Lauper on a small trampoline in my childhood home?

I gathered my nearest and dearest friends and told them we were forming a rock band. No tryouts. No arguing. No search for real talent. Done.

So what that no one played any instruments other than me? (I played the piano and sang lead vocals). Luckily, I had a Casio keyboard (thanks Santa!) and could choose from “beats” that would play in the background as we worked through a song. Pages of old lyrics feature scrawl at the top that says stuff like “Bossa Nova in G” and “16 Beat”.

One-handed rock goddess!

One-handed rock goddess!

I was also the fortunate owner of REAL maracas with classy palm trees painted on them from a family trip across the border into Mexico. (Nikki usually got to play the maracas.) I had one of those cheapy wooden flutes from some theme park. You know, the one with four or five holes that filled up with spit faster than you could say “spit”? This was pawned off on some band member each time we met for practice. Rachel would bring her Dad’s acoustic guitar – that she didn’t know how to play.

We were a force to be reckoned with.

We were “The Lightning Kids”. I have trouble remembering if this was because lightning was cool – or if it was because lightning was easy to draw and I wasn’t much of an artist in the pen-and-paper sense. I have blueprints (blue construction paper) with a lightning bolt drawn with chalk – our “would be” back drop if we ever had a gig… And no.  No, we did not.

I wanted to break off and go solo at the fifth grade talent show, singing lyrics from a song I had written with the Casio playing behind me, Samba in B-flat. The song was “Your Place”:

“I’m on a case of love / I wear a detective’s glove
I found a clue / And, baby, it is you…
Let’s go to your place / Brighten up my face
Let’s go to your place / Figure out this case”

….

I was 10!

I assure you, I had never been to anyone’s “place” – unless you count smootching behind a shed with Lance during a round of “Truth or Dare”. I assume I picked the phrase up from TV and thought it sounded risque. When I expressed my desire to sing “Your Place” in front of God, my peers and the Principle, my mother looked rightfully mortified. She diplomatically encouraged me not to perform the song, which she said was a bit ‘mature’ for the crowd. (By the way, Mom – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!). I would’ve lived with the reputation of 10-year-old slut for the rest of my formative years in small town Oklahoma.

Incidentally, we figured out the case and the song ended with me throwing away the detective glove…but I don’t have these lyrics copyrighted. I would be a fool to publish this gold here and have Miley Cyrus steal the lyrics for her own profit…sneaky little bitch.

Ruth was in charge of choreography. Much to my chagrin, she was a better dancer than I was. I admit, I was petty and jealous and convinced I should be the best at everything. This led to me challenging her to many a dance-off. She always won.

Ruth would practice Janet Jackson moves in her room at all hours to the album “Control”. Years later, she could do “Rhythm Nation” blindfolded. She wrote songs including “Teddy Bear Heart”, which erupted into an argument when I didn’t think a song about a guy having a teddy bear heart really fit into the edgy “Lighting Kids” image. She came back with not every song having to be about “detective gloves” or a “heart being stabbed like a knife,” or some such absurd argument. (Bands fall apart every day due to creative differences – “The Lightning Kids” were no different).

Truthfully, I trusted Ruth and left everything to her in my will. My will was handwritten and stuck in a Manila envelope behind my dresser. It contained photo copies of The Lightning Kids songs and our blueprints. She also got my hamster, Tuffy, should something happen to me…

Lucky for all of you, I’m still here!

The second time we got approached about doing a talent show was in sixth grade. One of my teachers, Mrs. Korn, heard that I had a rock band and was stoked. (She failed to ask how many of us played actual instruments. Poor Mrs. Korn.) We were having a talent show for our “group” of classrooms at the end of the hall. Ruth, Rachel and Nikki’s teachers at the other end agreed to excuse them to perform.

We practiced “Time Goes By” for several days leading up to the talent show.

“Time goes by
Like a rocket shooting into space
Yeah, time goes by
But it doesn’t make me want to eray-ray-ray-ray-rase.” (erase)

The “erase” effect was plagiarized directly from Duran Duran’s successful deployment of this effect in “The Reflex”. I know a good idea when I hear one.

At the last minute, we completely chickened out. Our faux instrument skills were revealing major holes in our plan, and we didn’t want to ruin our social lives for the next six years by sucking.

We convinced Ruth to choreograph a dance/lip sync for us to perform instead.

I will never forget Mrs. Korn’s face when Nikki hit “play” on the boom box and “Nasty Boys” (by Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty) came on. We gyrated and mimed sitting in a movie show thinkin’ nasty thoughts. Her eyes were like saucers, her teeth were clenched – she was probably envisioning calls from pissed off parents. There were snickers in the back of the room. Someone wolf-whistled. We nailed it.

The boys of sixth grade showcased their talent, as well. They played “Heard it through the Grapevine”, donned sunglasses, and conga lined in like the raisins in the “California Raisins” commercial.

Oh, look.  We can put on sunglasses and walk in a line.  This is TALENT, by God!

Oh, look. We can put on sunglasses and walk in a line. This is TALENT, by God!

To be fair, putting sunglasses on correctly was probably a challenge for some of them, so this was no small feat. But to declare them the winners!?!?  My nasty comrades slunk back down the hallway to their classrooms, heads hung in shame.

One of my favorite things to do is to get out a bottle of wine after a tough week and pull out the yellowed folder of our old songs. Soon, I have tears rolling down my face and wine spit-up on my chin.

Our rules for songwriting were simple. Four line verse, four line chorus, four line verse, repeat chorus, four line verse, repeat chorus twice. And, scene. Another rule? Everything must rhyme. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense. As long as it rhymes, you are a brilliant lyricist.

I’m going to end with some memorable verses, Miley-be-damned:

Recurring theme 1 – phone calls:

“Telephone”
I need to hear your voice / Aren’t you gonna make a choice?
You better dial that number / Or you’re gonna be choppin’ lumber

Didn't I warn you?  Didn't I?  Didn't I warn you to pick up the phone?!?

Didn’t I warn you? Didn’t I? Didn’t I warn you to pick up the phone?!?

Other songs had a sense of quiet desperation, like this one by Rachel:

“Call Me Up”
Will you call me up tonight? / If you don’t I will not call you
My phone number is 339-8081* / Yes oh yes, call me up!
Please don’t forget to call me /Oh please don’t forget to call me
If you need someone, call me / If you need me, call me
*Rachel’s real phone number

Recurring theme two: killers mingled with love

“The Killer Strikes Tonight”
It’s twelve o’clock at night / The stars are somewhat bright
The lights have just gone out / And there is a killer about
Yes, the killer strikes / He’s the killer of love
All these nights / He’s the killer of love

Recurring theme three: Bovines

“Magic in your eyes”
There was magic in your eyes / The night the moon was full
A silent glow of lies / A red-colored bull

“What About Love”
What about love (count 2) / you say you love me (count 3)
What about love (count 2) / you say you love me (count 3)
Just pretend that I am your cattle
Just pretend that I am a target for you

You’re welcome!

Soaring on Wings of Death

I have a friend, Reed, who is a field engineer with my company. He travels more than anyone I know, and we swap travel stories on the rare occasion that we have time for a phone conversation that isn’t a fire drill or for dinner when our paths cross.

Before I started with my company, I was terrified of flying. I savored soaring above the clouds when I was a kid but, at some point, I became too aware of my mortality. While I know the stats (“You’re 800,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash!”), I didn’t like the odds of recovering from something going wrong at 30,000 feet. I also tend to be a little controlling – shut up – and ceding complete control of my life to two strangers bumping fists in the cockpit didn’t set well with me. (I always imagine pilots bumping fists, saying things like “Smooth takeoff, bro! Hey, why don’t we simulate some violent turbulence and freak the passengers out for a laugh. Aw, yeah.” *Fist bump*)

Of course, during my interview when I was asked if I minded traveling up to 75% of the time, I lied my ass off and said, “Of course not. That sounds lovely,” and thought I would just deal with it if I got the job, which was unlikely. No point in alerting my potential employer of my paranoia for no reason.

I got the job.

The first year or so, I had a lot of cocktails on a lot of flights. (A statistic for you: at the rate I was going, my liver would likely give out before my plane fell out of the sky). I am happy to say I have evolved and can travel clean these days without the need for booze.

In one of our early conversations, I mentioned my fear of flying to Reed. He proceeded to throw out additional statistics about how most people survive plane crashes or emergency landings, quoting scenarios from a program about plane crashes on the history channel. He told me about Aloha 243 in the 80’s which, until then, I was blissfully unaware of. He said the roof blew off and only one flight attendant died when she was swept out of the hole. He then cheerfully mimicked sitting in a plane seat and looking all around you as if there was nothing there – no wall, no little plane window, just sky- and said “can you imagine?”, shaking his head and laughing.

My eyes were the size of saucers. No. No, I cannot imagine. Thank you, Reed. I know better than to watch plane crash shows on the history channel but, after his description, I had no choice but to google Aloha 243 for pictures of the plane. Oh. My. God.

Holy shit! Are you KIDDING me?!?

Reed said some passenger had noticed a crack in the fuselage when she was boarding on the jetway, but didn’t think it was a big deal and didn’t mention it to the crew. As a precaution, Reed spends his time in line to board doing a thorough visual inspection of the plane – I imagine Reed running his hand over bolts, squatting down to check a different angle, and sticking his head in the cockpit saying, “Guys, I found something I think you need to see. Come with me.”

I spend my time on the jetway staring at the console at the end, biting my lip and talking myself out of pushing the tempting big red button. (“Don’t do it, Jamie. It’s not worth it. You’ll be arrested, never allowed to fly again, lose your job as a result, and become destitute and smelly. No, you can’t get away with pretending the kid behind you tripped you and you just ‘fell’ into the console. There are witnesses. Think. THINK!!”)

Thanks to Reed, the big red button is no longer my biggest distraction. I now catch myself looking out the plane window in flight, and having heart palpatations if I think one of the flaps isn’t flapping correctly or – worse – wondering if some careless airline worker has stepped where it says “NO STEP”.

“Er…I probably shouldn’t tell my supervisor about this…”

I hope that guy can’t sleep at night when a plane goes down with his footprints on the wing! There should be a “CSI: Plane Crash” where they dust for footprints on any delicate parts of the plane that survive the blazing inferno – I picture them storming into the unassuming airport guy’s room in the middle of the night to place him under arrest, ending the episode with some smartass quip.

“There’ll be no more safety wand action for you, buddy!”

While my paralyzing fear of flying has ebbed and I no longer have to drink heavily to stop myself from yelling “We’re all going to die!!!” when the plane hits a particularly bumpy patch of turbulence, I do still occasionally break into a cold sweat and fight the urge to grab the arm of the stranger next to me. And, when that happens, I think of Reed. I think of the likelihood that he has inspected the very plane I’m on. Keeping the skies safer for all of us…